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William Cobbett, Selections from Cobbett’s Political Works, vol. 6 (Political Register May 1820 to June 1835) [1835]

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William Cobbett, Selections from Cobbett’s Political Works: being a complete abridgement of the 100 volumes which comprise the writings of “Porcupine” and the “Weekly political register.” With notes, historical and explanatory. By John M. Cobbett and James P. Cobbett. (London, Ann Cobbett, 1835). 6 vols. Vol. 6.

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Volume 6 of a six volume collection. Vol. 6 contains essays from the Political Register between May 1820 to June 1835.

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London: Printed by Mills and Son,

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  • To Mr. Baring, on the Workings of the Taxing and Paper Systems . . . . . . Page. 1
  • To the Solicitor-General, in answer to his Speech against the Queen . . . . . . 11
  • Letter from the Queen to the King . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 33
  • A Passage from a Letter to Earl Grey, on the Distresses of the Nation consequent on Mr. Peel’s Bill; on the President Munroe’s Message, and on the expected Revival of Commerce . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 38
  • A New Year’s Gift to the Farmers, explaining the Causes of their Present Embarrassments . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 47
  • To Mr. Huskisson, on the Poor-Laws and Poor-Rates . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 60
  • To Mr. Attwood. The manifold Blessings of a large Loaf . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 66
  • To Mr. John Hayes, on Lawyer Scarlett’s Poor-Law Bill . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 87
  • To Mr. Coke, on the Question of Large Farms and Small Farms . . . . . . . . . . 115
  • The Landlords’ Fortune-Teller . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 132
  • Cobbett’s Letters to Landlords. Letter I. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 136
  • ———————————— Letter II. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 144
  • ———————————— Letter III. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 155
  • ———————————— Letter IV. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 167
  • ———————————— Letter V. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 177
  • ———————————— Letter VI. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 190
  • ———————————— Letter VII. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 196
  • ———————————— Letter VIII. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 204
  • ———————————— Letter IX. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 211
  • To Mr. Huskisson, on the Effect of Taxation on the Affairs of the Farmer and the Landlord; particularly addressed to the people of Chichester . . 228
  • The Farmer’s Wife’s Friend. Addressed to English Farmers’ Wives . . . . . . 232
  • Late Banker Coutts . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 251
  • To any Ploughman, on the recent Report of the Agricultural Committee . . 259
  • To Mr. Western, on the Consequences of Repealing Peel’s Bill . . . . . . . . . . 273
  • A second Letter to Mr. Western, on the Consequences of Repealing Peel’s Bill . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 286
  • To Sir Francis Burdett, Bart., on the Injustice on the part of Landlords, in holding Tenants to their Leases under the present circumstances . . . . . . 299
  • To Mr. Brougham, on his Doctrine relative to the Privilege of Parliament with regard to Publications respecting Reports of the Speeches made in the two Houses . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 317
  • To Mr. Ricardo, on his Proposition for Dividing the Land, in order to pay off the National Debt . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 325
  • To Parson Malthus, on the Population of England . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 335
  • To William Wilberforce, on the State of the Cotton-Factory Labourers, and on the Speech of Andrew Ryding, who cut Horrocks with a cleaver . . 351
  • To the Chancellor of the Exchequer, on his Speech in the House of Commons on the 23rd Feb. 1824 . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 367
  • To Sir Francis Burdett, on the Project for Colonizing the People of Ireland 383
  • To Sir Francis Burdett, on the same. Letter II. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 394
  • To Lord John Russell, on the Report of the Committee of the House of Commons appointed to Inquire into the Practice of Paying the Wages of Labour out of the Poor-Rates; and to consider whether any, and what Measures can be carried into Execution for the purpose of Altering the Practice. Letter I. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 405
  • To Lord John Russell, on the same. Letter II. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 418 Edition: current; Page: [iv]
  • To the Landowners, on the Evils of collecting Manufacturers into great Masses . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 430
  • To Mr. Frederick Robinson, on his bragging Speech of last year, &c. . . . . . . 443
  • Corn-bill . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 452
  • Appeal of the Catholics of Ireland to the People of England . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 464
  • To the Ministers, on the Breaking of the Devonshire and Cornish Banks; and on the silly Bubble about Exchanges . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 470
  • A New Year’s Gift for the Right Hon. Frederick-Prosperity Robinson . . . . 482
  • To Sir James Graham, Bart., on his pamphlet, entitled “Corn and Currency.” Letter I. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 493
  • To Sir James Graham, Bart., on the same. Letter II. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 503
  • Corn-bill. To the Distressed Manufacturers . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 516
  • To the King, on the Intrigues now on Foot, and on the Measures necessary to restore the Nation to Happiness, and to secure the Stability of the Throne . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 525
  • To the Duke of Wellington, on the great Good which will arise from his Measure relative to Small Notes . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 547
  • To the Cobbettites, on their present Triumph . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 558
  • To the Duke of Wellington, on the Small-note Bill . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 570
  • Rural War . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 576
  • State of England a Warning to France. Letter I. To the Editor of La Revolution, at Paris . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 577
  • ———————————— Letter II. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 578
  • ———————————— Letter III. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 581
  • To the Hampshire Parsons, on the Blame ascribed to Me with respect to the Disturbances . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 583
  • A Letter from the Labourers of the Ten Little Hard Parishes to Alexander Baring, the Loanmonger . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 596
  • To Mr. O’Connell, on his Speech against the Proposition for Establishing Poor-laws for Ireland . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 602
  • Mr. Hume. Profligacy Unparalleled . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 620
  • To Peel’s-Bill Peel, on his Speech on the Effects of Taxation, on Reduction of Taxes, on Currency, on National Faith, on Colonies, and on Foreign Affairs . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 624
  • To the Earl of Radnor, on the Resistance of South Carolina to the Custom-house Laws of the United States . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 639
  • To the Earl of Radnor, on the same. Letter II. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 646
  • Popay, the Police Spy . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 652
  • To the President of the United States of America . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 683
  • To the same . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 693
  • To Lord Althorp, on the American Paper-money . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 700
  • Corn-bill. To the People of Glasgow . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 707
  • To the President of the United States of America . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 715
  • To the same . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 717
  • To the Earl of Radnor, on his Reported Speech in the House of Lords, on the 21st July, on the Poor-law Scheme . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 724
  • To the Earl of Radnor, on the same. Letter III. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 741
  • To the Earl of Radnor, on the same. Letter IV. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 750
  • To the Earl of Radnor, on the same. Letter V. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 764
  • To the Editor of the Standard . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 771
  • Mr. Cobbett’s Speech in the House of Commons, on his Motion for a Repeal of the Malt-tax . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 781
  • Poor-law Struggle . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 792
  • Mr. Cayley’s Motion . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 800
  • Poor-law Struggle . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 803
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Selections from Cobbett’s Political Works


William Cobbett
Cobbett, William
17th May, 1820

The mind that is calculated to produce effects on other minds, and thus to be of consequence in the world, catches hold of every occurrence that offers an opportunity for its exerting itself. It does not droop under untoward circumstances; but waits patiently for events to combat on its side. Amidst calumnies, persecutions, imprisonings, hangings, quarterings, and all the tiger-like pranks that power may play, the mind which has truth for its guide feels no discouragement, knowing well that truth and justice will and must prevail at last.

If we look into the history of the convulsions and fall of states, we shall find, that, though the actually bursting out of revolutions, has generally been owing to some insignificant thing, almost always accidental, too; yet that the causes have been long at work on the community. I hope that nothing of the kind that is usually denominated revolution, will take place in England; but it is now universally acknowledged, that the country is in a state of great peril; and that no man is thought wise enough to be able to say what may, and what may not happen.

The causes of this peril are, nobody will now deny, the Taxing and the Paper-Money systems. How these have worked thus far, we now see and feel. How they will work for the future is evident enough to me; but it is less my object, at this time, to engage in new predictions, than to point out to the public, to this deluded, credulous, gulled and cajoled public (from whom I except the lower orders), the confirmation of my former predictions; and the reason for my addressing myself to you is, that you have been the first to acknowledge openly, that those predictions are fulfilled. You have not, indeed, named me; that you took very good care not to do; neither have you said, that any one foretold that which has now happened; but you have said, that that which I said would take place, has taken place.

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Your speech, in the House of Commons, on the 8th instant, together with that of Lord Milton, during the same debate, have given me pleasure, which I cannot describe, and of which an idea can be formed by no man who has not, for years and years, had to endure every species of obloquy, reproach and persecution, on account, and only on account, of his having promulgated those truths which, at last, he has seen acknowledged by even his persecutors. To be right is the wish of every man: to be proved to have been right, in opposition to bitter persecutors, is an enjoyment far beyond any that wealth can bestow: to be right in opposition to the repeated assertions and solemn acts of legislative bodies, aided by all the light that immense power is able to command; this is my lot: and, it is my duty as well as my pleasure to make the facts known to the world.

The taxing, funding and paper-money system has always, with me, been an object of hatred. From the moment I understood it, I detested it. It was in 1803 that I began to examine into it. In that very year I predicted that, unless it were put a stop to in time, it would make this the most miserable, enslaved, and contemptible nation in the world. From that day to this, I have been at war against this all-corrupting and all-degrading system. And, I have lived to see the system pushed along to its utmost extent, and to see the consequences in a greater mass of ruin and of human wretchedness than was ever before witnessed: while, as to the liberties of the country, there is scarcely a man to be met with who thinks them worthy of any care or attention. I have seen the affair of the 16th of August, and the measures subsequent to it and connected with it; and I have seen a man taken up and held to bail, for announcing to his townsmen, that “William Cobbett was arrived at Liverpool in good health.”

However, I shall, on the present occasion, confine myself to matter more immediately, suggested by the speeches, which have given me so much pleasure, and which related to the consequences of the Bill, passed last year, to produce cash-payments at the Bank in Threadneedle-street, which, for brevity’s sake, we will call the Old Lady; and the Bill, or rather Act, we will, if you please, call the Cash-Act.

I have, all along, contended, in opposition to speakers, writers, resolution-makers, and act-makers, that “the Old Lady never could pay in cash, without a reduction of the interest of the Debt.” And I have contended, that, “an attempt to make her do it, would plunge the country into ruin and misery indescribable.”—These distinct propositions, together with arguments proving their truth, I have repeated so many times, that I have been ashamed of my repetitions. All the grounds, all the causes, all effects, all the various workings of the thing; all the whole history and mystery of this grand delusion; all its branches and twigs; have been so fully and so frequently subjects of my pen, that I have really very often been disgusted at the thought of saying any thing more about the matter. Yet, it is necessary to persevere; and now there is life again; for my doctrines begin to be fathered even in Parliament.

The embarrassment, the ruin, the misery are come: that is to say, in part; but they have not arrived at a tenth part of their height, if the Cash-Act be actually carried into effect. Mind that! However, the misery is come. I was called a deluder, when I said, that the country was in misery; when I talked of the sufferings of journeymen and Edition: current; Page: [3] labourers, and ascribed them to the taxes. For doing this, I was represented as a stirrer-up of sedition. But, now, what do I see? Merchants, manufacturers, tradesmen, farmers and landowners, all coming forward and telling the Parliament that they are ruined; and that, if there be no remedy, they must perish. The Six Acts have silenced the sensible, public-spirited, and unanimous Reformers; and now petitions are pouring in from the ignorant, selfish and warring bodies of trade and agriculture, who seem to be anxious to over-reach one another, but few of whom have sense or spirit enough to state the real cause of their sufferings. Nothing can exceed the pleasure I enjoy at beholding this strife. The sufferings of the parties are a just punishment for their conduct towards those who have been endeavouring to obtain a real remedy. These petitioners have been, and yet are, the enemies of reform, and they have been the cause of preventing it. Let them suffer: let them settle their opposing claims in their own way; according to their own notions of expediency and justice. Being at war against each other, they may, perhaps, vent their malignity in that way, and have little left to bestow upon the Radicals. These petitioners call themselves “the loyal;” they cry out against “the disaffected:” well, let them be “well affected,” then; and let them give a proof of it in submitting patiently to their sufferings. They abuse others for being discontented: let them, then, be contented. They say that this mode of governing the country is good. Let them enjoy its goodness, then. They like a standing army in time of peace; they say it is necessary for their protection; but an army eats and drinks as well as stands; and it must be paid: and, do these loyal men grudge, then, to pay the army? What unreasonable people! The army costs ten millions a year; and it is paid, too, in money of high value. Well, what of that? It ought to be paid in good money. But, what an unreasonable thing is it, then, to complain of the weight of taxes! All the world must know, that the soldiers are paid out of the taxes. What! do these people want the soldiers to live upon the air? The “Ladies of Huddersfield,” those amiable females, think far otherwise. They give grand entertainments, the Courier tells us, to the non-commissioned officers and soldiers, who have kept the Radicals in awe. These ladies think, I suppose, that fighting, like kissing, comes out of the cupboard. Sagacious dames! It is no such foolish thing, I dare say they think, to be beloved by a couple of thousand of lusty young fellows. Women are very sharp-sighted, especially in cases of this kind; and, I would have the curmudgeons, who are petitioning against taxes, to look at the example of the “Ladies of Huddersfield.

To return to the subject before us, I had about five hundred times asserted and proved, that the Old Lady never could be made to pay in cash, unless the interest of the Debt were reduced. In spite of this, the last Parliament, after a long and voluminous inquiry upon the subject, resolved first, and then enacted, that she should be made to pay in cash; and, they said nothing about the interest of the Debt. As soon as I, who was then in Long Island, heard of this, or, rather, read of it, in an English newspaper, I put my hands together, lifted up my eyes towards the straw roof of my tent (the walls of which were made of Chronicles and Couriers), and exclaimed: “God be praised! The end of delusion is at hand!” The bullion story did not cheat me. I saw clearly, that the bullion payments would be, and were intended to be, no payments at all; but I also saw, that they would compel the Old Lady to draw in her Edition: current; Page: [4] paper, and that that would produce prodigious misery. I had no idea that the Old Lady would ever pay in cash, unless the interest of the Debt were reduced; but, I saw her now clearly and safely pinned down. There was no room left for any shuffling. Any man might, after the next February, go to the Old Girl and demand a lump of gold. I knew well how much she would have; I knew that she had no means of getting any gold worth naming; and, of course, that all she could do was to draw in her paper; and I knew, that drawing-in would cause such misery, such clamour, such an outcry, amongst the farmers, merchants, and manufacturers, as the world had never heard before.

I was not long before I put these thoughts upon paper; and, when I had done that; during the months of August and September, I set off home in October, to witness the fulfilment of my predictions and then to point out the suitable and effectual remedies: that is to say, if I were in Parliament; and, if not, to stay and see the thing work under the remedies of others. This I am now doing. I am looking on, while the thing is working; and work it does like new beer in a vat.

In the debate of the 8th instant, Lord Milton said, “that he ascribed a great part of the suffering to the measure of Cash-payments, passed last year; that few persons, he believed, had had an idea of the pressure, with which that measure was likely to be accompanied. In fact, they were afraid to look the thing in its face. They were afraid to alarm the people as to the embarrassment that that measure would produce. They were willing to shut their eyes as to the consequences of that measure: he thought an opposite line of conduct would have been the wisest.” To which, were we not afraid of incurring the charge of bad manners, we might ask his Lordship, why he did not say this last year, before the bill passed? But, what a pity it is, that he did not read the Register! How clearly would he have foreseen all these consequences, if he had read that poor little, dear little “Two-penny Trash,” against which the Six Acts levelled no small part of their force! Trash is the stuff to give light. Oh, no! Lord Milton, it was not the fear of alarming the people that prevented the last Parliament from looking the thing in the face: it was the fear of alarming themselves! The people have nothing to fear; for, very few of them have any thing to lose. But, the fundholders and the sinecure placemen and pensioners have a great deal to lose. And, of course, they would be easily and greatly alarmed. If Lord Milton had read the “Two-penny Trash,” instead of the stupid lucubrations of the whig-oracle, the Morning Chronicle, he would not now have had a discovery to make of the ruinous consequences of the Cash-Act. However, he has made the discovery; and that is something.

You, Sir, are more explicit. Your long speech about the imports and exports, about free trade and restrictions; this is not much. It is of doubtful policy and doubtful philosophy; much of it may be disputed, and much is of little interest. But, your short speech about the currency is all pith: it is as well worthy of attention as if you had quoted it, word for word, from “Two-penny Trash.” You say, that “the value of money is risen; that we are paying too high an interest; that this is a VITAL POINT; that it is necessary for every gentleman to make up his mind upon the subject; that the change in the currency was one of the circumstances that weighed the country down; that we now had to pay our creditors a higher value than we received from them;” and Edition: current; Page: [5] that you intended to make bullion-payments perpetual instead of coin, a plan of your Honourable friend, Mr. Ricardo, for which the country was infinitely indebted to him.

Yes, this is a “vital point” indeed. It means this; that the Old Lady never can pay in cash, unless the interest of the Debt be reduced! And this is what I have said a thousand, and, perhaps, ten thousand, times. But, come, Sir! I will stand this no longer! I will not suffer the truth to come out, at last, and to pass as being of other people’s discovering. I will have my own. The Parliament shall not creep out of this thing unseen. They cannot be right, without coming to my doctrine; and they shall not come to it without the world seeing them come to it. I know, that there are men, who would almost as soon lose their estates as save them by my means. They hate the very name of Cobbett. But, they shall hear it, constantly hear it, during the remainder of the existence of the system. They shall hear it the oftener because they do not like to hear it. “I will buy a starling, and teach him to cry Cobbett in their ear,” from one end of the year to the other.

Subjoined to this letter, you will find, Sir, a Letter to the Prince Regent, written at New York in September last. I had, at that time, lying before me, the speech of the Speaker to the Prince at the close of the session, during which the Cash-Act was passed, together with the Prince’s answer. The Speaker very pompously described the Cash-Measure as one of great importance, and as the result of most laborious investigation and most mature deliberation. And the subject of my Letter is, as you will find, a commentary on this famous measure.* Read it, Sir; and then say, whether I did not know, last September, having been two years and a half out of the country, a little more about the effects that would arise out of that measure, than any of you did, who had had a hand in the renowned and most important work. I beg you, Sir, to read this letter, and to bear in mind, that the Radicals have read it long ago. You will see the true doctrine. You will, when you come to the end of this letter, be no longer at a loss to know what will be the end of the Cash-Act. That famous work of the Six-Act Parliament will, be you assured, long be remembered in England.

I remember that, when I first proposed a reduction of the interest of the Debt, that wise man, Mr. Perry, called it a swindling proposition; and false old Sherry suggested, even in the House of Commons, the propriety of prosecuting me! I have lived to hear Mr. Curwen (on Friday last) say, in that same House, that “the only means of alleviating the distress was lightening the burden of taxation, which could only be effected by a diminution of the interest of the National Debt.” Thus you are coming over to me by degrees! No one said anything in answer to Mr. Curwen. The Ministers never opened their lips. It is very strange what wondrous improvements time and suffering produce!

However, this diminishing the interest of the Debt, is not so easy a thing as Mr. Curwen may imagine. It may be done by an Act of Parliament; but, it will make other, and far more troublesome measures necessary. For, does he imagine, that mortgages, bonds, and all sorts of debts must not be reduced too? Here is a pretty budget to open! Unless Edition: current; Page: [6] these underwent a revision at the same time that the Debt was reduced, the ruin would be increased instead of lessened by a reduction of the interest of the Debt.

Besides, are the army and navy to remain with unreduced pay? Are Judges and other persons with salaries to retain their high pay? Are the Sinecures, Pensions, and Grants, to retain their present nominal amount? Are the annuitants on insurance offices still to be paid to the full? Oh, dear no! There must be a general, a total, a clean-sweeping pecuniary revolution; or a reduction of the interest of the Debt will only add to the general distress. And here I think I hear the “good, loyal, peaceable people” exclaim: “Ah! you Radical villain, you want to ruin us all.” No: gentlemen and ladies, I really do not. I really do not wish you to have my medicine forced upon you. Keep on in your present way with all my heart. It is your own affair, not mine. If you would rather let the cancer kill you than undergo the inconvenience of a cure, God forbid that you should lose your beloved cancer.

To reduce the salaries, pensions, grants, officers’ and soldiers’ pay, sinecures, and all the other incomes of the tax-eaters, will require what Lord Milton calls a looking in the face, and a pretty bold looking too. And yet this must be done, and the mortgages must be reduced also; or else a reduction of the interest of the Debt will only tend to add to the ruin and confusion. Your plan of making bullion-payments perpetual, is neither more nor less than the declaring and enacting, at once, a complete bankruptcy; for what is payment? It means giving money for the bank-notes, to be sure; and not the opening of a shop to sell bullion. Payment means, the paying of every body, and not the selling of gold to a few Jews. But the plan means, that none even of the bullion should ever issue. So that it is all a deception; all a delusion; and it means, that there shall always be a paper-currency, which shall not be convertible into coin, and which shall be a legal tender. This is bankruptcy; and this, if the report of your speech be correct, you mean to propose to make perpetual. I have said, many times, that if the Old Lady pay in cash, without a reduction of the interest of the Debt, I will give myself up to the carriers-on of the system, and let them, if they choose, broil me alive. I know that broiling alive is very bad; that it is worse than hanging and cutting off the head; that it is worse than ripping up the bowels and quartering the body. I have had a burn now-and-then, and I know how sore it is. I know what pain the fire produces. I am very sure, that the supporters of the system would like to broil me alive. And I thus again, with my eyes open, declare, that I will, if the Cash-Bill be carried into effect, without a reduction of the interest of the Debt, give myself up to be broiled alive. I am watching, as a cat watches for a mouse, to see what you will do. The moment any law is passed to put a stop to the Cash-Bill, I shall begin to shout out victory! There will be no bounds to my exultation, and there ought to be none. But what will your perpetual bullion project do? What relief will it bring? Will it mend things? Will it lower the poor-rates, give high prices to the “gallant yeomen,” and make trade brisk? Why, no: to be sure it will not. All that it can do is to make the misery perpetual. That is all. And that is your mode of relief! If, indeed, you fix the price of the bullion at six or seven pounds an ounce, that will do. That will shave the fund-men, sinecure men and women, and the judges, soldiers and the rest, pretty close. That will really relieve the howling farmers and the Edition: current; Page: [7] grumbling merchants. But, if you fix the price of bullion at the standard of gold and silver, what relief will you give? What is wanted is to lower the expenditure; to take off taxes, and your scheme would tend to no such end.

Then, again, your project is essentially a perpetual paper-project. And do you not see, that the country can never be safe in war with a paper-money? If it be true, that notes have been made even in Spain, and sent and passed here, as the newspapers inform us, what do you think will take place if we should be engaged in another war? A hundred thousand pounds, employed in this way, would soon put an end to the war, unless there were a real money circulation in the country. So that your scheme is not only inefficient for relief, but it is completely ridiculous.

However, you disclaim the honour of having invented this scheme, and generously ascribe it to your honourable Friend, Mr. Ricardo, of Gatcomb Park in Gloucestershire, and Member for Portarlington. This gentleman was, last session, called an oracle by Mr. Brougham, and by Mr. Wilberforce, he was described as a political economist, worthy of the esteem and admiration of his contemporaries. This gentleman, during the last session, broached another plan, which, amongst other things included a paying-off of the Debt! This was truly oracular; and we will here take a look at the words in which it came before the public.

“With respect to the National Debt, his recommendation of the plan for its liquidation was pronounced chimerical; it may be so, but nevertheless he still held it, and thought it a good one. The particular promise of its reduction which was held out by Government, he thought unwise; that opinion he had invariably entertained. He lamented upon this point the state into which the country had fallen, but it was not in idle and unavailing lamentations that they were to spend their time; they were rather called upon to see how they were to get out of the difficulties of this state. (Hear, hear.) The only wise and economical way of getting out of the difficulty was, in his opinion, to pay off the Debt. Why did he think so? Because he saw the state of things daily drawing capital from the country. The obvious effect of this was, to absolve the capital so removed, from its liability to pay its proper share of the National Debt. It not only, in this manner, absolved itself from its responsibility, but it threw an additional burden, pro tanto, upon the capital not so withdrawn; and did not this aggravate the evil? What appeared to him wise to be done in the present time was, that not a moment should be lost in taking an account of the capital, while yet it remained in a considerable and adequate portion in the country, and that the amount of the capital so estimated should be assessed, so as to get rid of the Debt. He would willingly bear whatever imputation of extravagance was cast upon this recommendation, but he did not see any great insuperable difficulties, if once fairly and fully entered into, of its accomplishing its ultimate end, and giving relief to the country. It was a gigantic plan, he admitted (hear, hear), but he saw no better way of meeting the evil. The payment might be extended to four, five, or more years; it might even be done through the medium of a paper-currency, issued for the specific purpose. Suppose a cheque were given to each of the public creditors, and that this were payable for the taxes, no great demand or variation would then affect the regular circulating medium of the country.”

Bravo! Very simple, however. Only to take away the estates of the landowners, and give them to the fundholders. That is all; and it is very true, that if this were done, there would be effectual relief; for the taxes might be very greatly reduced, and the labouring classes would be wholly relieved. Capital would remain in the country; the poor-rates would come down to what they were seventy years ago; and all would be right; especially as there would then be nobody to object to a Radieal Edition: current; Page: [8] Reform of the Parliament; and, of course, England would then be as happy as you represent France now to be. As to the Farmers, they would merely change landlords; and, I dare say, that, when Mr. Ricardo looks at Gatcomb Park and its vicinage, he finds that the estates and tenants and neighbourhoods would lose nothing by receiving new Lords from ’Change-alley and Botolph-lane.

The only difficulty in the way of this plan appears to be the reluctance which the present owners may have to make the surrender. I know that their loyalty and devotion will lead them very far; but without attempting to disparage their disinterestedness, I may venture to think, that they will not like to turn out. Mr. Ricardo’s plan gives them, I see, four or five years to reconcile their minds to the change; but still, I think, that they will consent to the scheme with reluctance; and yet I do not know that their adherence to “national faith” may not finally prevail.

This scheme is a great favourite in Fenchurch-street, and all about Cornhill, where the inhabitants are become extremely impatient to see something done. That they are tired of what they call patching. They say, that they are willing to give up a part of their property. In short, they are in a hurry to get into the parks and mansions! This is a matter with which we Radicals have nothing to do, except that we want the taxes taken off, and we want a Radical Reform, which we are very sure a liquidation of the Debt, and especially in Mr. Ricardo’s way, would give us. We do not desire to meddle with other folk’s affairs. We have had nothing to do in borrowing the money, except virtually; and we are quite willing that the liquidation should be done virtually. We have no desire to interfere between the parties. So that they settle the thing; so that the taxes be taken off, we care not who have the parks. If the landowners and fundholders please themselves as to the manner of doing the thing, they are sure to please us. Now, is not this amiable? What can we say more? Indeed, sir, we are not that turbulent crew that you seem to think us.

I, for my part, am, I must confess, much disappointed that so many days of the session have passed, without our hearing of any proposition from Mr. Ricardo upon this “gigantic subject.” I assure you, that the people at the ’Change are looking out very sharply for the execution of the plan. The farmers (those who rent) would like it too. So that there is very great and general disappointment.

You said, last summer, that it was monstrous in us to ascribe the distress of the country to the organization of the Commons’ House, seeing that the country had flourished under a House of the same organization. As a general argument this is not worth a straw, even supposing the premises to be true. A system requires time to produce its bad effects. A cancer is nothing at first. A tooth is partly rotten long before it produces pain. The funding-system is, as Paine so happily described it, strength at the beginning, and weakness at the end. But a paper-system is never prosperity; and this country has never known prosperity since the paper-system and borough-system began. There has been an appearance of it; and so there is in a trade, carried on by accommodation notes. But a trader who always owes more than he can pay, though he may shine, though he may have his carriages and his villa, though he may give claret and Burgundy, though his coachman may have gilded cords hanging from his shoulders, though his footman may not dare to hand a plate without a napkin twisted round his thumb; though he may Edition: current; Page: [9] show away thus, yet, if all these signs of riches be obtained by accommodation paper, the man cannot be called prosperous. His affairs must wind up at some time or other, and then he has to allow, that, upon the whole, he has not been a prosperous man.

This is precisely the case with this nation. Its apparent prosperity arose out of the use of accommodation paper. In proportion as the paper increased the apparent prosperity increased; but now the bubble has bursted. The rope-shouldered coachman, and the napkin-thumbed footman are gone, and ruin, beggary, and starvation have come in their stead. Therefore, the foundation of your anti-reforming argument fails. It is worth nothing, and we persevere in saying, that a radical reform, and that alone, can save this nation from utter and irretrievable ruin.

And now, sir, before I conclude, pray let me beg you to read the letter before alluded to. It is well worthy of your attention. You see, that I understand more about these matters than you do. You ought, therefore, to read and correct yourself. You gave your approbation to the Cash-Act. I wrote home to say, that it would not do. You ought to learn, therefore, of me, upon this subject. You understand exchanges and price of metals, and how to calculate interest better than I do; but these have little to do with political economy. That great ass, Perry, observed, the other day, that the inquisition being at an end in Spain, science would take a spread in the country; for that a Spaniard might now have “a Blackstone or a RICARDO in his library!” A Ricardo, indeed! But, this Perry is, at once, the most conceited coxcomb and the greatest fool in this whole kingdom. He is a true representative of the Whig party, of which he is the organ. “A Ricardo!” The empty, pompous fool, when it has taken but a few months to show that “a Ricardo” is a heap of senseless, Change-Alley jargon, put upon paper and bound up into a book; that the measure, founded upon it, must be abandoned, or will cause millions to be starved, and that it has since been proposed, even by the author himself, to supplant it by a plan for paying off the Debt! “A Ricardo,” indeed!

Mr. Judge Garrow told a witness, the other day, that he “could not read a worse book than Cobbett’s Register.” I am not offended with Judge Garrow for this; because I am sure, that he founds his opinion upon hearsay. If he had time to read the dear little Twopenny Trash, and would read it, he would soon change his opinion. He would say, that it was the best book that a man could read. And, if his brother Bailey had read it, before last summer, he would not, I am persuaded, have pronounced, in his charge to the Grand Jury at York, that memorable eulogium on National Debts, which I read in America, and which made us all there laugh most immoderately. Now, though I will not, like Mr. Hunt, offend these gentlemen by praising them; though I will not say that they are “fathers” to us, I can venture to say that they are discerning, clever, acute, discriminating men, and men of great experience in the world, amongst the most knowing part of which they have always lived, and across crowds of the most knowing and most active they have passed to arrive at their present station. Yet, they will permit me to say, that they lose by not reading my little books. They hear them spoken ill of, and they think ill of them. This is contrary to the usual practice of lawyers, who are not apt to believe things upon hearsay; who are not apt to be content with anything short of proof. I therefore, hope Edition: current; Page: [10] that these gentlemen will read my little books; and I can assure them of this, that they will never see peace and tranquillity in England, that they will never see the people happy any more, unless those measures which these little books disapprove of be abandoned. It is now rung in our ears from every seat in Parliament, that it is the Debt which is the cause of our calamities. This is now said by everybody. I said, many years ago, that the Debt would produce this state of things. But you all now say that it has produced it. And, yet, Judge Bailey told the York Grand Jury, that a National Debt was a good thing! If he had read my little books, he would not have committed this error.

I was particularly pleased to hear you speak of the prosperity of France, and to say, that employment was plenty, and that the people were happy in that country; because this shows that the effects of getting rid of national debts, of tithes, and of petty tyranny are good. The French are not so happy as they might be, and as they will be, but they have a real representation in one of their Houses of Parliament, and this is the great security for their not being reduced to misery. The late long contest against the people of France has led to a curious result. Before the French Revolution began, France was weighed down by an enormous Debt, and was so overrun, tormented and pillaged by tax-gatherers and priests, that beggary and almost famine, everywhere stared the traveller in the face. England, at that same time, had but a small Debt, her taxes were light, her trade was flourishing, and her people were happy. France has now hardly any Debt, her taxes are light, she has no tithes, employment is abundant, trade is flourishing, and the people are happy. What England now is, I leave to you and the other Members of Parliament to describe. And, when you have taken a view of the contrast, I ask you whether we have come victoriously out of the combat? And I beg you, and all of you, to bear in mind, that it was not the Reformers, who began, or carried on, that combat. To that war we have to ascribe all our present sufferings; all our present difficulties, out of which none of you pretend to see your way. That war caused the Debt; that war caused the stoppage of the Bank; that war caused all the evils that we now endure. And that war was opposed by the Reformers, many of whom were most severely punished for that opposition. I beg you and all of you, to bear this in mind; and, if you do, you will not be surprised that we feel singular pleasure at hearing your account of the happy state of the people of France.

It is curious to observe, how civil we are become in our language towards the French and Americans, and how very silent about Spain! Formerly our bullying and insolent newspapers, imitating or taking the hint from great, empty-headed, blubber-cheeked, fox-hunting fellows, who are not less distinguished by their insolence than their ignorance; formerly, our newspapers, in imitation of these bluff-headed sots, would have talked away at a fine rate about the cession of Florida; about the manufactures of France; and about the democrats of Spain. Now, they are as meek, as modest, and as silent as girls in their teens! You hardly ever hear them say a word about those countries; and, when they do mention them, it is with “great respect.” Mr. Madison, whom Sir Joseph Yorke talked of our deposing, has lived to see us a nation with good manners. This is a strange, but a very good change. Long may we find it prudent to be mannerly. The happiness of France particularly; Edition: current; Page: [11] the prosperity of France; this is what the people of England ought to rejoice at; because it shows what are the effects of a government where the people are represented, and where there is no state religion; but, where all men are freely allowed to be of what religion they please, and are compelled to pay to no religion.

Your most obedient,
And most humble servant,


Note by the Editors.—The incident of the trial of Queen Caroline took place in 1820, and, as Mr. Cobbett had before, taken a conspicuous part in the discussions relative to that unfortunate lady (see vol. iv. pp. 185 to 251 of these Selections), he was now called on to resume his part. We have, however, confined ourselves to two papers, one is, Mr. Cobbett’s answer to the speech of the then Sollcitor-General, now Lord Lyndhurst, and the other is the Queen’s Letter to the King, which, though written by Mr. Cobbett, was never acknowledged by him. The reader will find an able detail of the Trial in Hansard’s debates, year 1820.

William Cobbett
Cobbett, William
12th September, 1820

I am not one of those, who think that much danger to her Majesty’s cause is likely to arise from Mr. Brougham not having been permitted to open his case; because I am convinced, that if the matter were now closed; if not another word were to be heard on the subject, in the House of Lords, the public, this whole nation, the whole world would pronounce her Majesty innocent of the charges preferred against her, and would also pronounce those charges to have originated in a long-premeditated and slowly-matured conspiracy. But the press has its rights, and amongst these is the right of expressing what men think on subjects connected with the national welfare, whether such expression be necessary, or not, to the safety of individuals. I am of opinion that your summing up was sophistical, and was intended to assist in accomplishing an unjust end, by giving countenance to that contemplated and expected end. I, therefore, submit to the public my answer to that summing up.

In doing this, I shall in some degree invert the order which you thought proper to adopt; that is to say, I shall begin where you left off. You, after all your efforts to produce a belief in the soundness of your case itself, think proper to conclude with professions as to motives and wishes. Voluntary professions and asseverations always excite suspicion as to the sincerity of those who make them; but I recollect no instance, in which offerings of this kind have been made with a worse grace than Edition: current; Page: [12] those made by you. In this case you not only profess for yourself, but for all those concerned in the prosecution; Attorney-general, Ministers, and Milan Commission; you are Professor-general; and, as you thought it necessary to make the professions, it will, I trust, be deemed not improper that I inquire into their sincerity.

You conclude in the following words:

“He begged now to be allowed to revert to what had been said yesterday, that the case had fallen infinitely short of the opening of his hon. and learned friend, the Attorney-general. He asked if the case now in evidence was not as strong in the facts and the details as the opening had been, and if it did not justify all which his hon. and learned friend had stated in the discharge of the duty which their lordships had imposed on him? It was impossible for him to sit down without alluding to what had been dragged into every cross-examination, and had been rung in their ears, not only from the beginning to the end of this case, but from the first moment any mention was made of the subject, and for the purpose of involving in reproach every individual who took any part in the proceedings. It was quite impossible for the persons at the head of his Majesty’s Government not to have established some mode of inquiry: it was quite impossible that they should not have inquired into reports in the highest degree derogatory to her Royal Highness, and in general circulation in most parts of Europe. He asked them whether it was not their duty to inquire if those reports were or were not true? There was only one mode of doing this: that mode was, to select persons eminent in point of character, of great character for integrity and knowledge, to make that inquiry. Accordingly, as judicious, as proper a selection as could be made, had been adopted. At the head was one known to be a man of the highest respectability—known to possess unimpeachable integrity, and of great skill and knowledge in the laws of his country. He had been at the head of the commission—if commission it was to be called—for the purpose of obtaining, not idle rumour, but evidence of facts, such as could alone be admitted in every court in this country. He asked if any fairer selection could have been made than another gentleman, of whom mention had been made in the course of the proceedings, who possessed great practice in the law. A third gentleman, Colonel Brown, he was not acquainted with; but he was told that his character stood as high as that of any of those who had dared to traduce him. Was he justified, then, in saying that it was a duty upon Ministers to have instituted an inquiry into the reports circulated? And was he justified in saying that Ministers had exercised a sound discretion, liable to no imputation whatever, in selecting persons to conduct the necessary inquiry? He begged pardon if he had occupied their lordships’ time too long. He hoped he had fairly stated the evidence in the case. He had been anxious not to have tortured or discoloured any fact or circumstance. If he had tortured or discoloured in any degree, he regretted it; for he had been desirous only to do his duty, and not to misrepresent; and he hoped he might be allowed in conclusion to say, and he said it from the bottom of his heart, and in the utmost sincerity; he sincerely and devoutly wished, not that the evidence should be confounded and perplexed, but his wish was, that it should be the result of this proceeding, that her Royal Highness should establish, to the satisfaction of their Lordships, and every individual in the country, her full and unsullied innocence. Whether this was likely or not, it would be unbecoming in him to offer any opinion. He had only to say, that the preamble of the bill was proved, unless the proof should be impeached by evidence, clear, distinct, and satisfactory, on the part of her Majesty.” (Hear, hear! Order, order.)

Thus, then, we have from you the profession of a sincere and devout wish, coming from the bottom of your heart, that her Majesty should be fully and clearly acquitted. This is a matter which, taken in connection with the rest of your speech, amounts to a great deal. It is the test of your sincerity and your character. If her Majesty be clearly acquitted, what follows? Why, amongst other things, the everlasting shame and ignominy of the inventors of the Milan Commission; of the parties belonging to that Commission; and of all those who have taken part in Edition: current; Page: [13] the instigating, and in the carrying on of this prosecution. To suppose that the present Ministry could remain in power after such an acquittal, is impossible; and, therefore, to believe you sincere in this wish, we most first believe that you most anxiously, most sincerely, most devoutly, and from the bottom of your heart, wished to be turned out of office, and to see blasted for ever all hope of obtaining those emoluments and honours which were the naturally expected reward of that political apostacy, which no man ever falls into without being actuated by a motive sufficient to overcome all the ordinary feelings of our nature.

Give me leave, therefore, to say, that I not only doubt of your sincerity here, but that I doubt of it as to every part of your statement. I believe you to wish, from the bottom of your heart, that the Queen may be degraded, sunk, ruined in public estimation; and that you may profit from this destruction of her Majesty.

I shall by-and-bye speak as to the nature of the evidence generally, and shall here remark only on your assertion with regard to the opening speech of the Attorney-General. You assert that your case is as strong in facts and details as it stood in that opening speech. There was no one who doubted, that the swearing would go as far as the opening. But, there was one part of that opening, which was of so odious and hideous a nature, that it was not to be expected that even an attempt would be made to establish it by evidence. The passage of the opening to which I allude is given by the reporter in the following words:

“On the return of the Princess from the East, she brought in her train a man named Leone, of the most brutal and depraved manners. This person used to exhibit himself at the Villa Branchi in the most indecorous and shameful manner, the Princess and Bergami being present. The circumstances are so shocking, so disgusting to the mind, that I cannot without difficulty bring myself to mention them to your Lordships, but it is necessary. The painful situation in which I am placed, requires that I should make your lordships understand the nature of the disgusting exhibition, which shall appear by the testimony of various witnesses. This man, in the situation I described, used to IMITATE, amongst other things, in the most indelicate manner, the SEXUAL INTERCOURSE, before the servants in the presence of the Princess.

Now, let it be observed, that, with this odious and detestable charge, thus introduced with apparent trembling reluctance, thus painfully forced from the humane and modest Attorney-General; with this charge, thus introduced, that pious advocate closed his long string of accusations, asserting that it should be supported by the testimony of several witnesses. And how has it been supported even by your own witnesses? Why, after all the attempts that you were able to make to get this most horrible falsehood down in the shape of evidence, it turns out that Leone was an ITALIAN BUFFOON; or, as we call such persons as Grimaldi, a CLOWN; and that he exhibited before the Princess and numerous other persons, upon numerous occasions, that which the witnesses called a BUFFOONERY. Nothing more could be extracted than this. It will be proved, I dare say, that the Queen was no more guilty of crime here than ladies in this country are when they see the clowns on the stage, particularly at the fairs throughout the country. It will be found, I dare say, that she took no particular delight in these exhibitions; but, at any rate, was it not monstrous to accuse her of having had exhibited before her an imitation of the sexual intercourse; to send forth that accusation, premeditatedly to send it forth all over the world, knowing that it must Edition: current; Page: [14] lie for many weeks uncontradicted by evidence; is it not now monstrous in you to say, that the facts and details of the Attorney-General have all been made out by evidence? And after this is it not a monstrous attempt at imposition to attempt to give force to your statement by asseverations of your sincerity in wishing from the bottom of your heart that the Queen might be acquitted?

Your next attempt in this closing string of professions is, to acquit the Ministers of all blame in sending out and supporting the Milan Commission. You assert that it was “quite impossible” that the Ministers should not have established some mode of inquiry into the truth or falsehood of the reports circulated in most parts of Europe derogatory to her then Royal Highness. You ask whether it was not their duty to institute such inquiry.

This is going very far back; it invites us to a discussion which you would have done well to leave unprovoked; for, if the reports were so widely circulated, why have you not dared to produce any of those persons, who were the bringers of the reports; for those persons must have possessed some knowledge beyond that of mere rumour; and before any proceeding was adopted upon their intelligence, that intelligence ought to have been seen to be well grounded. Besides, if the Ministers had heard such reports: and if they really had had a desire to preserve unsullied the honour of the Royal Family, if that had been their object, they would have sent out some well-known friend of her Majesty to give her information of the reports; to warn her of her danger; to beseech her to be more prudent. In short, they would have acted as friends and not as enemies. But, what do they? They listen to all informers, they keep the information secret, they send out spies to watch for turned off servants. They send out lawyers to collect depositions; they make all their preparations for striking the blow; and when they are ready they threaten her with a prosecution if she dare come to England; and at the same time tender her a princely income if she will remain out of the kingdom!

Did this look like anxiety to preserve the honour of the Crown and the Royal Family? Did this show a deep sense of duty towards the Crown and towards the people? Did all this look like fair, honest and friendly dealing; or did it look like a premeditated plan for her Majesty’s destruction as Queen of this kingdom?

The next band that you take under your protection are the members of the Milan commission. In your praises of Mr. Cooke, it would be unjust to suppose you either more or less sincere than you are in your wishes for the acquittal of the Queen. For my own part I know nothing of him; and shall only say, that I judge of him from his acts; and that his voluntarily taking upon himself such an employment is quite sufficient to make us acquainted with the character of the man. As to Mr. Powell, whom you represent as possessing great practice in the law, I have known nothing of him since the year 1806. He is what the West Indians call a Musti, or a Quartaron, I forget which; and he unites the vivacity of the one race with the keenness of the sharpest race of white men. He was a very efficient fellow-labourer of mine in that great and Holy work, the demolition of the Aristocratic influence in the City of Westminster. He was the clerk of Mr. Paull’s attorney during the memorable struggle of that brave little man against the haughty and insolent noblesse, and which struggle actually put an end to their power. Mr. Edition: current; Page: [15] Powell laboured, not merely in his profession, but as a sincere and able friend of the cause. He wrote placards, he wrote songs; he gave life to the duller mass that we had to deal with; and, in short, he earned what he received, the praises of us all. Not knowing that Mr. Powell had changed his politics, I was at first surprised when I heard his name mentioned in connection with this affair. That change having taken place; he, Sir, having like you, and, doubtless, from motives as honourable as yours, undergone a conversion, I could at once perceive that a fitter man upon the face of the earth could not have been found to take a part in the Milan Commission. With regard to Colonel Brown, whose character, you say, you are told stands as high as that of those who had dared to traduce him; I have to observe, in the first place, that, being an officer in the army, he is wholly dependant for his bread on the breath of the prosecutors in this case. He can, at any moment, be dismissed from the service, and thus be stripped of all means of existence, unless, like your witness, Sacchini, he was to change his character of officer for that of subaltern menial servant. On the other hand, it is in the power of those prosecutors to make him a general in two days; to load him with honours in his profession; to make him a knight of the Bath; to make him Governor of an Island or Garrison; and, in short, to elevate him to any degree. To be a spy upon the actions of another man’s wife; to hunt out for witnesses against her; to be associated with a lawyer and an attorney, to get together the furniture of a green bag: these are offices not very compatible with the character of a soldier; and, therefore, it requires something a little more than you have ventured to say in order to give us a high opinion of this Colonel Brown.

The persons constituting this secret and lurking junto were well aware of the purposes to which their information was to be applied. They had all lived in England; they had heard of the treatment of the persecuted Queen; they knew in what manner she had been driven from her husband’s house; they had heard of the perjuries aimed against her life in 1806; they were well acquainted with all the unparalleled atrocities committed against her: they must have known of the adventure of the Baron D’Ompteda: and, with all this knowledge in their minds, they undertake the office of hunting up turned-off servants, and of raking together every thing that any Italian, however infamous his or her character, would swear against this deeply injured and long persecuted woman. These are facts that nobody can deny. These facts are notorious as the sun at noon-day; and knowing these facts to be true, we want nothing more to give us a correct opinion of the motives and characters of these three men. We want nothing more to enable us to judge of the characters of those, whom the Ministers selected for this memorable undertaking.

You conclude your speech by asserting that the preamble of the Bill is proved; and, having thus concluded, the report states that there was a cheering in the House! That is to say, Sir, some, at least, of her Majesty’s judges and jurors applauded you! It is not for me to question the propriety of conduct of the persons who compose the House of Lords; but I may venture to say, that this is the first time that ever any one heard of judges cheering a counsel at their bar. I should as soon expect to hear a judge cheer a good tough swearing witness for the Crown; or, to see him descend from the bench and shake such witness by the hand! If Edition: current; Page: [16] their lordships had done either of these things during the trial, it would not have been more odious than to cheer you; and, therefore, I am bound to believe, that, as to this matter, the reporter must have committed a mistake.

Having thus been led by you, to take a view of the origin of this affair, and to inquire a little into the character and motives of the parties concerned in it, I now go back to the beginning of your speech, where you state the line of conduct that you and your colleagues pursued upon receiving directions to support the Bill. But, though it might be convenient enough to you to blink all the previous transactions, from the sending out of spies to Italy, to the commencement of the trial, it becomes not us to be guilty of such blinking; for, on the conduct of the prosecutors, previous to the trial, a great deal depends.—That conduct serves to elucidate their motives; and, if we find that conduct to be such as to argue a most anxious desire to produce the degradation of her Majesty, we are to carry that important fact in our minds when we are contemplating the evidence that they have finally produced. I, therefore, shall go into these previous transactions; and, if I show that the real object all along has been to keep her Majesty from the country, or to drive her from it, I must necessarily view the evidence brought forward as having that for its object; and if that was the object, I must look at every tittle of evidence with something a great deal more than suspicion.

In the first place, I think it as clear as day-light, that it was at first intended never to give her Majesty any trial at all. If such had been the intention, why were green bags sealed up sent to the two Houses of Parliament? There were precedents enough for sending Green Bags: for referring these to secret committees; and for passing Bills, at once, upon the report of those Committees. But, for admitting the accused party to trial after such reports, there were no precedents at all. When the Reformers were put in dungeons in 1817, the Bill was passed upon the sole ground of the Report of Secret Committees. The Reformers prayed to be heard in their defence before the passing of the Bill. They presented Petitions praying to be heard before they were condemned. They declared the Reports to contain falsehoods, and prayed to be permitted to produce evidence at the bar to prove those falsehoods. Their petitions were rejected; and the horrible Bill was passed. I can see no reason, therefore, for supposing that, in the first instance, any trial at all was intended; and my belief is, that the trial was suggested to the prosecutors solely by the loud expression of the public voice.

A trial, a fair, open impartial trial, was what the Queen had no right to object to, and it was what, indeed, she had always courted. But what sort of trial is this to which the Queen has, in the face of her repeated protests, been subjected? To enumerate the circumstances, without any comment on them, will be quite sufficient to give posterity a correct opinion of the nature of this never-to-be-forgotten Trial.

First, the pretended evidence is laid before the Houses sealed up, accompanied with a proposition to submit this evidence to secret committees; which committees consisted of the prosecutors themselves, and some other persons of their choosing.

Second, the Ministers describe the evidence as amounting to scandalous and heavy charges against the Queen.

Third, these same Ministers enter into a negociation with her Edition: current; Page: [17] Majesty, offering her perfect impunity, a splendid conveyance to the continent, an introduction, as Queen of England, to a Foreign Court, and a princely income for the remainder of her life.

Fourth, the House of Commons send a deputation to her Majesty, containing their declaration that she may accept of those terms, without leaving any stain upon her character. And declaring, also, at the same time, that a trial, terminate how it may, “must be derogatory to the dignity of the Crown, and injurious to the best interests of the country.

Fifth, the Queen having resolved not to accept of these terms; not to be banished from England, the House of Lords (who had suspended the operation of their Secret Committee) resolved to go into that Secret Committee.

Sixth, their Secret Committee make a Report containing heavy charges against the Queen.

Seventh, upon this report, a Bill is brought in by the Ministry, called a Bill of Pains and Penalties, containing the most grievous accusations against the Queen, charging her with an adulterous intercourse, and sentencing her to degradation and divorce.

Eighth, this Bill is not proceeded upon directly; but this Bill, together with the Report on which it is founded, are sent all over the world; are placed under the eyes of the nation, as containing facts which the prosecutors solemnly declared they were prepared to substantiate by evidence. These documents are thus placed under the eyes of the nation, there to remain for six weeks, without any opportunity afforded to her Majesty to produce any thing in refutation of these outrageous accusations.

Ninth, her Majesty, in order that she might be prepared to rebut charges founded on evidence, or pretended evidence, collected by the means of Cooke, Powell, Brown and others, in the manner that we have seen, applied to be furnished with the names and descriptions of the persons who had sworn against her. This, which is uniformly granted in every case of divorce; and was the more necessary in this case, because the home of the witnesses was at so great a distance, and because they were utterly unknown in the vicinage of the Court; this was refused to her Majesty!

Tenth, her Majesty next applied for the names of the places where her alleged crimes had been committed. These, too, were refused her. So that, she was left for the whole of the six weeks, without any possible clue by which she could come at the means of cross-examination, or at facts and circumstances to develop the characters, connections and motives of the witnesses!

Eleventh, the Court, as it is called, opens. And how is it composed? Partly of the prosecutors themselves! It is composed, not of twelve men, taken promiscuously from a long pannel; the judges are, at once, judges and jurors, and part of them are the accusers; and these accusers are also the Ministers of the King, from whom it is proposed to divorce the Queen. How these judges, jurors and accusers are situated relatively with regard to each other; how all, or any part, are situated with regard to the King, I leave the public to judge; but, in this case, unanimity is not required in the decision, as is the case with a jury; in this case, the jury are not all required to be present during the whole of the proceedings; in this case, any part of the jury may excuse themselves for non-attendance; in this case, the trial may stop whenever the prosecutor pleases, and may be revived again, at any future period; in this case, all, Edition: current; Page: [18] you say, is right and fair, but, in this case, we find nothing that we find in that species of trial to which we have been accustomed, and to which species of trial alone her Majesty has appealed; while against the present mode of trial, she has constantly protested.

Twelfth, the witnesses are finally brought to the spot by night. They are shut up in a fortress, from which they are drawn, one at a time, to be produced at the bar. The Court itself is guarded not only by numerous soldiers, horse and foot, but by a species of gens d’armes, armed with swords and pistols, mounted on horseback, and yet, in a sort of dress other than that of soldiers. The streets leading to this Court have been cut asunder by barricadoes, leaving only narrow passages, guarded by armed men; so that the public have been forcibly prevented from getting even a view of the outside of the building! Even the parks have been closed. All these barricadoes and obstructions are so many open and daring breaches of the law. They are so many indictable acts. They are so many acts which are punishable by the well-known laws of the land; and being perpetrated by the means of absolute force, they argue a total suspension and absence of the laws. Men have been knocked down; the gens d’armes have presented their swords and pistols at divers citizens who attempted to pass along those public highways, along which they had a right to pass.

Thirteenth, the trial begins on the 17th of August; the Attorney-General opens his case. This opening, together with the evidence of the first witness, lies before the public for three whole days without the possibility of anything being produced to counteract their effect. Then follows a three weeks detail of evidence drawn from the fortress. The Queen has no knowledge of any witness that is coming forth. She has no knowledge of any of the places where the alleged acts are said to have been committed. Her counsel has no means of effectual cross-examination; and thus this long string of swearings are sent forth to the world.

Fourteenth, at length you have run out your witnesses, and ask for time, in order to obtain a relay. This shameful, this scandalous, this atrocious application, is not, indeed, granted, but it obtains two things; first, two days more for the evidence to work against the Queen, and, next, a pretence for saying that if this new relay of witnesses had come, your case would have been more complete. It also obtains, in this mode of trial, a pretence for reviving the proceedings, hereafter, in case the present proceedings should fail of their ultimate object.

Fifteenth, as a compensation, or equivalent, for not having a list of the witnesses, her Majesty was to be allowed time to prepare for her cross-examination of your witnesses. But what time was allowed her? What time was allowed her to inquire into the characters, way of life, connections, motives, temptations and other things belonging to these witnesses? No time at all; for her counsel were compelled to cross-examine the moment you chose to close your evidence, or were to forego all the advantages which inquiry might give them, at any future time. They were compelled to say that they at once abandoned all future cross-examination; or, to go, at once, into that cross-examination, before it was possible for them to obtain a quarter part of the information necessary to enable them to put the suitable questions to your witnesses! And this, too, you will observe, was imposed on them by the Court, at once judges and jurors, and consisting partly of accusers, who, be it observed, too, if they fail in their accusation; if they fail in obtaining conviction of her Majesty, have Edition: current; Page: [19] on their own shoulders the responsibility of having caused these proceedings, and of having expended immense sums of the public money in the enterprise. The House of Commons has declared, by a solemn vote and resolution, that the trial, terminate how it may, “must be derogatory to the dignity of the Crown and injurious to the best interests of the country,” but if the decision make it known to the world that the accused party is innocent, what then will be the responsibility of those prosecutors! And, let it be never forgotten, that these prosecutors were amongst those, who refused the Queen’s Counsel that which they called an equivalent for the denial of the list of witnesses and the list of places.

Sixteenth, and last, comes your summing-up, a thing wholly unknown in an ordinary court of justice, where the summing-up is the act of the judge, and not of the counsel; and where the judge has his place for life, unless he be impeached, and convicted of misconduct in his office.

Now, Sir, before I proceed to comment on this summing-up, have I not a right to call upon the public to consider well these sixteen circumstances, or parts, of the transaction? It is impossible to arrive at any thing like a correct opinion of the thing altogether, without keeping the whole of these circumstances constantly in view. You are not to be suffered to take us into your case, as if it were a case of an ordinary nature, as if it were a case where party and party met, and where the disinterested judge and promiscuously chosen jury were called upon to hear and determine according to the usual forms and on the settled principles of law. You are not to entrap us into a hearing of your summing-up, without retaining, all along, in our minds, those impressions which all these sixteen circumstances are so well calculated to make. You talk of evidence, witnesses, the Court, and so on; but we should do great injustice to her Majesty, if we were to take these words in their usual acceptation. In this case, the proceeding is neither civil nor criminal; there is neither declaration nor indictment; the party accused is neither traitor, adulteress, nor trespasser. It is a mode of proceeding unknown to our minds; and to come at a just decision, we must constantly bear in mind the character, the conduct, the motives of the parties to the prosecution, and every other thing, by which the proceedings have finally been produced.

When we speak of a witness, do we not always mean a person that has come out of the community? Do we not always mean a person known to many people in the community? Except in cases of adultery and high treason, lists of witnesses are not furnished before-hand. But, in cases of indictment; in all cases, other than for acts of high treason, the names of some of the witnesses are endorsed on the Bill of Indictment; and, be it observed, that there is, in criminal cases, a previous examination before Magistrates. At any rate, when we talk of a witness, we mean a person that has lived openly somewhere; that is known to somebody within the reach of the Court. We do not mean a person imported into the country by night, brought up the water by the means of muffled oars, put into a fortress guarded by land and by water, seeing the face of no creature except the agents employed to bring him and produce him; and, at last, drawn out of the fortress to be clapped into the box. This is a thing that we never mean when we talk of a witness. It is a secret witness, which is a thing unknown to the laws.

There is in this case, too, another most material circumstance. When we talk of a witness we mean a person that has to live in the community Edition: current; Page: [20] after he has given his testimony. Not a person that is to be sent away to some foreign country and never to see England again. There are many men who would fearlessly take false oaths enough if they were sure of being sent away to live in safety and comfort for the rest of their lives without any human being to reproach them. By a witness, we mean a person that is destined to live and show his face in the community where he has given his testimony; and not a person that is to be immediately shipped off in improved circumstances to his distant native country, where he may live free from all reproach.

These are our ideas with regard to witnesses; and, therefore, previously to our entering into any inquiry as to what your witnesses have sworn, we have to ask ourselves whether your witnesses answer, in the smallest degree, to what we have always considered as the true description of a witness. Without this previous inquiry, we should be misled. We should fall into the notion, that we have here, before us, witnesses of the usual stamp, Let us ask ourselves, whether, if our neighbour were accused of a crime, no matter what, if his prosecutors were the most powerful persons in the world; if they had countless millions at their command; and if they were to bring against our neighbour witnesses that nobody knew; that none of us had ever seen or heard of; that were to be sent away as soon as the trial was over, never to be seen more by us or any body in the country: I ask any man whether he upon his oath, would find his neighbour guilty upon evidence coming from the mouths of such witnesses, however positive their swearing, and however consistent their story? I, for my own part, should look upon myself as the most wicked of villains, if I were, upon such evidence, to find my neighbour guilty.

I should now follow you, point by point, in your endeavours to make out the truth, consistency, and coherence of the evidence against the Queen, and in your most miserable attempts to uphold the characters of the witnesses, who really come out of your hands much blacker than they went into them; but, I am restrained from going into detail here, by two reasons: first, I do not wish to be “laid by the heels;” and second, I must necessarily fall short of doing justice to those celebrated characters, which can be done only by her Majesty’s Counsel when he shall come forth with that statement, which, in my opinion, he ought to have been permitted to make, unless you had been restrained from proceeding with your summing-up. Here, too, I may remark on the enormous disadvantage which you intended to throw upon her Majesty the Queen. It was not enough for you, that the ex-parte statements against her Majesty; that the King’s message; that the abusive speeches of the Ministers; that the report of the Secret Committee; that the Bill of Pains and Penalties; that your worthy fellow-labourer’s opening speech; that the swearings of Majocchi, Barbara Krantz, the Countess Colombier, and Count Milani, commonly called Sacchini, together with the swearings of the high-paid master and his mate; it was not enough that her Majesty’s character, that her fame as a Princess, that her feelings as a woman, and a disconsolate mother; it was not enough for you that all these should be exposed to the effect of ex-parte assertion and pretended evidence, from the 6th of June to the 7th of September; it was not enough that all this work, this series of ex-parte evidence should be going forth for three whole months without her Majesty being afforded the smallest chance of legal or official contradiction; but your summing-up must be added to the Edition: current; Page: [21] series, and then, even then, her Majesty’s Counsel were not to open their lips in the way of reply, unless they would pledge themselves immediately to go into an examination of that evidence, of the necessity of sending to the Continent for which they could not have been apprized much more than twenty-four hours before you began that summing-up!

I shall not, as I said before, attempt to analyze the evidence. I shall not attempt to describe the characters of the witnesses in the manner in which they ought to be described, and will be described by Mr. Brougham. I shall content myself with remarking generally on the degree of credit which ought to be given to swearings such as those which you have produced; and also with remarking on some of the salient parts of your very feeble, though very insidious, and, I may say, hypocritical harangue.

No man, who contemplated the strength of the motives or the power and influence of the parties to the prosecution; no man that took these into view could possibly doubt of a sufficiency of swearing. Neither, if he considered the length of time that had been employed in preparing and arranging the materials, the immense sums of money expended by the Milan Commissioners, the strong motives by which those Commissioners had been induced to undertake the task of collecting the swearers: no man who kept these circumstances in his eye, could entertain the smallest doubt of your being ready to produce oaths in support of all that the Bill, the Secret Committee, and the Attorney-General had asserted. In short, that there would be swearings in abundance, no man of sense ever doubted. But, as to a belief of the swearing; as to the credit to be given to what should be sworn; that was quite another matter; and I believe that every just person in the kingdom was prepared, beforehand, not to give credit; not to give the smallest degree of credit to any particle of what you might call evidence, unless it came from, or was corroborated by, testimony other than that collected by the Milan Commission. This I take upon me to assert was the firm ground upon which every English mind rested. It was the ground which reason pointed out, too; for, before we came to discuss the question of the credibility of the witnesses, there came to be discussed by us, the question of Conspiracy or no Conspiracy. This you seem wholly to have overlooked. If you had bent a little of your attention this way; and had endeavoured to show that the general opinion as to a conspiracy, was unfounded, you would have rendered your employers much greater service than you rendered them by those professions and asseverations, by which you endeavoured to cajole the public into a belief that, from the bottom of your heart, you wished her Majesty the Queen to be acquitted, and to come out white as snow after three whole months spent in endeavours to make her as black as the Devil himself. Upon the supposition that to preserve the morals of the country has been the care of your employers; upon the supposition that the dignity of the Crown, the happiness of the people, and a strict love of justice; upon the supposition that these have been their objects, their actions have all been unnatural and preposterous from the beginning to the end. Upon the supposition that they had these objects in view and had not been misled by sinister workings of any kind, nothing can be more absurd and monstrous than their proceedings; nothing so foolish, nothing so likely to defeat the ends they had in view. But, on the contrary, if we suppose a conspiracy to have existed, then the sending out of spies, rummagers for witnesses, hunters after the Queen’s turned-off servants, offers of a brilliant fortune to De Mont, having Majocchi Edition: current; Page: [22] and Sacchini incog. in England; all these explain themselves, at once; every thing is natural, every thing consistent, fitting and in regular order of succession.

Therefore, you ought to have endeavoured, as a prelude to your other efforts, to remove this impression about a conspiracy from our minds. This ought to have been amongst your premises; but you leave this material question behind; jump into the middle of your case, which you choose to regard as an ordinary case, and take your witnesses, one by one, just as if they had been discovered by ordinary means, and had been examined but a day or two before, instead of their having been hunted up by spying commissioners, at an enormous expense, and having been bringing on to a state of maturity for the space of two years. Mr. Brougham congratulated you upon your monopoly of the knowledge of the law; but, really, you are not to be congratulated upon your knowledge of the public opinion; for in that opinion a conspiracy was the foundation of the whole; and not one word did you utter tending to remove this deep-rooted opinion.

The credibility of a witness that has been in a state of progressive preparation, and that has actually been in the pay of the party, on whose side he is brought forward, for a considerable length of time; whose pay can be stopped at any moment or continued for any length of time; who can be punished by immediate dismissal in a country far distant from his own; who can further be punished, at the sole will and pleasure of the party in whose pay he lives, by being driven out of the country, under the Alien Act, at a moment’s warning; who, if unable or unwilling to remove, can be seized and forced away, or shut up in a prison, and this, too, by law, the execution of which is in the hands of his employer: the credibility of a witness so situated, placed in such eminent peril on the one side, and under such great temptations on the other side; the credibility of such a witness, be his character what it may, is not, in my opinion, worth a single straw. Were I a juror between the King and one of my fellow-subjects, and such a witness were to be produced before me, his swearing would have no more effect upon me than the whistling of the wind.

It is said, that, people could not swear to so many things, unless some of them were true; that such things would never have occurred to them, if wholly untrue. You say, that it is monstrous to suppose, that all these witnesses could think of such strange things, if none of them had ever happened. You ask how such things could have come into their heads, if they had no foundation in fact. This is a poor and contemptible way of reasoning. Did it not occur to you that things might be put into people’s heads? And was there not plenty of time for this during the space of two years? God forbid that we should assert any such thing as this. God forbid that we should imagine that the Countess of Colombier had any thing put into her head by the kind gentleman that found her out, and that offered her a brilliant fortune in England. God forbid that we should suppose that so virtuous and grateful a lady, as she in her letter describes herself to be, should have undergone the vulgar operation called tutoring, during the eighteen months that her ladyship resided in England; and occasionally, nay frequently, condescended to honour with a tete-a-tete that amiable gentleman, Mr. Powell. God forbid that we should imagine that this estimable personage, who had written a journal full of anecdotes proving the amiable character and virtuous conduct of Edition: current; Page: [23] her Majesty. God forbid that we should imagine that any part of the eighteen months which this lovely little Swiss had subtracted from the days of her innocent enjoyments at Lausanne, could have been employed in new modelling that journal, which had given so much delight in the sentimental circles of those cantons where the simplicity of the people is such that one brother sells his carcase to fight for one sovereign, while the other brother sells his carcase for the purpose of carrying a gun to shoot at the other. Oh! delightful simplicity! God forbid that we should suppose that the Countess had been tampered with, or that her name had been changed from De Mont to the Countess Colombier from any other motive than that of keeping her mind in that state of naiveté, the manifest existence of which was so well calculated to produce crowds of admirers to come with half-conquered hearts to shake her by the hand. God forbid, once more, I say, that I should assert this woman to be a bribed, suborned, perjured wretch. I assert no such thing, I can know nothing of the matter. But this I am not afraid to assert, that if I had thought her to be such, your speech would not have had the smallest tendency to remove the impression from my mind.

You assume, that, because the things have been sworn to; because they are numerous; because, in short, many things have been sworn to, some of them must have happened. Is not this the most miserable attempt at sophistry? It is not sophistry. It is not worthy of the name. Admit this, and then there can be no such thing as false swearing in the world. If the incidents be numerous and the witnesses many. Admit this, and then every man may be hanged that cannot prove, by oral testimony, the negative of what is sworn against him. According to this account of yours, Susanna was guilty. The judge ought to have concluded, at once, that the elders were to be believed. The woman had no proof that they had sworn falsely. Nevertheless, the old bucks were caught out; and though they had sworn positively to her guilt, she was acquitted and they were punished. They were guilty of a base and infamous conspiracy; not a more base conspiracy than we ever heard of, and, perhaps, not quite so base. Yet conspiracy it was; but, according to your mode of reasoning, there never could be such a thing as a conspiracy in the world. When, indeed, you had to defend Watson and Thistlewood against the swearing of Castles; when, indeed, you had upon that memorable occasion, to show the Ministry that you were a man worthy of notice! The French call it se faire valoir; that is to say, make oneself worth something. When, upon that memorable! occasion, you were acting the part of a defender, how you tore the ruffian witness to pieces. Now mark me: his recent rags, his present good clothes, his being seen frequently with the agents of the Treasury, his going under a false name, the pay he had received from his employers, his having been kept incog., his being brought from a prison to a witness-box: mark me well, I say, every one of these circumstances was dwelt upon by you and Mr. Wetherell as being of great importance in the case; and the sum-total of these circumstances was, that the witness was an indescribable villain, wholly unworthy of the slightest credit; and the result, the result at which every one rejoiced, was, an acquittal of the prisoners! The evidence of Castles was, however, as to several points, and those essential points, too, corroborated by other witnesses, and those, too, credible witnesses; yet, you insisted, and the jury determined, notwithstanding the charge of the judge which pointed a contrary way, that no man ought to be found Edition: current; Page: [24] guilty upon evidence, which at all rested upon the “indescribable villain,” Castles.

Come, then, let me ask you, what witness have you produced, upon the present occasion, who was not recently clothed in rags, who was not, when produced by you, dressed in clothes purchased by the prosecutor, who has not been frequently seen with the agents of the prosecution, who has not gone under a false name, who has not long been in the pay of the prosecutors, who has not been kept incog., who was not brought from a prison to the witness-box? You know well that all these circumstances precisely fit the present case; and yet, so far are you from calling your present witnesses indescribable villains, that you hold them forth as witnesses entitled to full credit, and call upon the House to condemn the Queen upon her testimony, though uncorroborated by that of witnesses of any other description; and, at the conclusion of a speech in which you do this, you have the unparalleled hypocrisy to put up a solemn prayer for the acquittal of the victim, whom you are pursuing with such deadly malignity.

To hear you, one would suppose, in good earnest, that every fact sworn to, though the devil himself were to swear it, must have some foundation. To hear you, one would suppose that there was no such thing in the world as the hatching of a charge. The history of the world abounds with instances of such hatchings. Is there a man in England who does not believe that the charge against Ann of Bullen was wholly destitute of truth? Have we not, in the story of Naboth, an instance of pure falsehood, of taking away a man’s life in order to confiscate his estate? The King wanted the man’s estate. The Queen, in order to procure the man’s death, hired false witnesses to swear, that Naboth had blasphemed God and the King. Upon what ground, then, would you have us suppose, that there must be some truth in this statement against the Queen, merely because it has been supported by swearing. There was no truth in the charge against Naboth; yet Naboth was convicted, condemned, and put to death.

Indeed, you may say, that we live in an age of uncommon purity; that false-swearers are not now to be found in any part of the world; and, that, as to men in power, they are known ever since the prosecution of the tinman of Plymouth, to be above every thing resembling bribery and corruption, in the most distant degree; that their consciences are so clear that they wish us to look into their very bosoms; and, that, lest we should not do this, one of them in particular, is everlastingly making appeals to his conscience. We have, indeed, heard of seat-selling being as notorious as the sun at noon-day; we have also heard a system of blood-hunting spies openly defended; you remember Castles yourself, and the rest of us have not forgotten Oliver, Edwards, Vaughan and a great many others. Therefore, notwithstanding the uncommon purity in public men of the present age, we are not to be persuaded that to hatch a conspiracy is absolutely impossible; that to hire false-swearers is a thing out of all compass of belief; and, therefore, we are disposed not to believe any part of the facts merely because they have been sworn to.

But why should we travel far and wide to discover the possibility of false swearing against her Majesty, the Queen? If her Majesty had never been attacked by false swearers before, even then we should not have been ready to subscribe to your doctrine. But we know that she has. We know that perjured witnesses were brought against her fourteen Edition: current; Page: [25] years ago. This we have the proof of; and, as in all other cases, we reason from the known to the unknown, we conclude that that which was known to have taken place fourteen years ago, may possibly now have taken place again.

In 1806 was there not a conspiracy against the Queen? Was there not a conspiracy against her at that time? What should have induced the Douglas’s and others to come forward and perjure themselves? Pray let me put this question home to you; for we do great injustice to her Majesty if we separate this proceeding from that. What, then, I say, should have induced the Douglas’s and others to come forward and perjure themselves in evidence they gave against her Majesty? They could not hope to supplant her Majesty. They must have well known, that at the very least, they would expose themselves to great public hatred on account of their perfidy to their benefactress. They must have seen that they should place themselves in great danger; and yet they came forward to perjure themselves. Clearly then, they must have been prevailed upon to do this by some powerful motive, by some promises of great reward; and here, then, is the proof of conspiracy. They profess themselves, as you now profess yourself, and as the Ministers profess themselves, and as I dare say, Cooke, Powell, Brown, Varmaceti, D’Ompteda, will all profess themselves, to have been actuated by nothing but a pure and ardent love of public duty. Well, then, if this pure and ardent love induced the Douglas’s to perjure themselves in 1806, why may not that same love of public duty have produced similar effects upon the present occasion. Your witnesses may possibly be the best sort of people in the world; but your argument, that there must be some truth in the statement, because they have sworn to it, is not worth a rush.

Majocchi, for instance, may possibly be one of the most worthy men alive. He may have been actuated by nothing but a disinterested desire to promote the preservation of the morals of England. This desire may have produced his trip from Vienna to Milan; his trip back again to Vienna; it may have brought him acquainted with the Embassy of Castlereagh’s brother; it may have brought him to England, after his conferences with Brown; it may have led him to his snug incognito at Gloucester; it may have made him remember so minutely so many things that so many other persons would have forgotten; and it may have made him forget so many things that almost any other person would have remembered. I will not say that it may have led him to Carlton-house, for, really, when we find him there, what other inducement could he have had, than that of an humble endeavour to preserve unsullied the honour of the British Crown and the morals of the British nation!

You are pleased to skip over this important fact, or rather to endeavour to slide by it with an undervaluing sneer. “Where is that palace,” says Shakspeare, “into which foul things will not sometimes creep?” There were here, it seems, two things that crept into the palace. There was Mr. Powell as well as Mr. Majocchi! Pray let us mark the time. The late King was just dead. Majocchi and Powell meet at Carlton-house. That they should meet one another, and that frequently, too, was, considering their relationships, not at all surprising. But, why should they meet in the King’s palace? That is the question which the public want answered. Powell and Majocchi, dear companions and co-operators, could have met at Mr. Powell’s; they could have met at the Countess Colombier’s; they could have met any where. Why, then, did they meet at Edition: current; Page: [26] the King’s palace? There must have been some other person for them to see there? Why could not that person go to Mr. Powell’s chambers? What person could it be that they could prevail upon to meet them nowhere but in that one place? Slight, therefore, as you were pleased to consider this circumstance, it is a circumstance which, with the public, has weighed heavier against the prosecutors, than the swearings of all your witnesses against her Majesty, the Queen.

Let it be recollected, that the facts relating to this memorable visit, were drawn out of Majocchi, during a cross-examination, suggested by persons who had known Majocchi at the time of the visit, and who had given to the Queen’s advisers information with regard to that visit. When Majocchi came out of Carlton-house, he confesses that he showed his companion eighty guineas, or sovereigns, and he forgets whether he did, or did not, show him more. He will not swear that he did not count 150 pieces. Thus, then, we have this fellow, who was living incog. in England, meeting Powell at the King’s palace, and coming out of that palace with his hands full of gold! And what does he say he was to do with this gold? What does he say that it was given him FOR? Why, to bear his expenses to Vienna. Twenty pounds would have been a plenty for this purpose; and he will not say that he did not count 150! But why send Majocchi to Vienna? and why send him, too, just at the time that her Majesty was become Queen! he was going with dispatches to Lord Stewart. What! were there not enough of regular King’s messengers to carry these dispatches? What were all these about, that this Majocchi should be fixed upon as the only person to carry dispatches to the British Ambassador at the Austrian court? And what had Mr. Powell to do with dispatches to the Ambassador at Vienna? Could not these dispatches be prepared without the assistance of this busy Attorney, who is not even yet made a Right Honourable Privy Councillor? In short, even before we hear the evidence of the persons who made the discovery of this memorable visit, can there be a doubt in the mind of any impartial man living as to the object of the visit, and as to real relationship, which existed between Majocchi, Powell and Powell’s employers.

You complain that Mr. Brougham, in his cross-examinations, said little to the witnesses with regard to the facts that they had sworn to, but asked them what money they had received; what money they had been promised; where they had been; what names they had borne at several times and at several places. And were not these the proper topics? What was the use of his asking them any questions about facts that they had sworn to over and over again, during the space of two years? He was not such a simpleton as to suppose, that witnesses brought forward in such a way, and examined so scrupulously so many times; he was not simpleton enough to suppose, that such witnesses would contradict themselves as to facts, with regard to which every one of them had been questioned, in legal form, probably fifty or sixty times. Mr. Brougham knew, that the whole corps of adroit lawyers had been at work in this affair for a great length of time; and how was he to hope to catch such witnesses tripping upon the main facts brought out in regular succession, by those who had looked the witnesses in the face, and put the same questions to them so many times? To get from them the amount of their pay, was of the greatest importance. Was it not of use to ascertain, that the mate of a vessel received more per month, besides board and lodging, than the amount of Edition: current; Page: [27] the hire of the vessel in which he had served, together with the hire of himself and captain and twenty-two seamen, including, besides, the provisions of the crew? Was it not of importance to ascertain that this man and his captain were receiving more per month than the wages of two hundred and fifty British sailors? Was not this of great importance? Yes, or else why did you lay so much stress upon the mere clothing and food which Castles acknowledged to have received from the Government, while he was held incog. as a witness against Watson and Thistlewood?

You and your employers soon experienced the effect of this part of the cross-examination. The high pay of these witnesses was a heavy blow to the prosecution; and, therefore, the subsequent witnesses had received nothing, and were to receive nothing! This was altogether the other way. We were now to be made to swallow the fact, that the sweet Countess de Colombier, that amiable and simple creature, that shepherdess of Frith-street, so frequently visited by the gentle swain, Mr. Powell; we were now to be made believe, that this dear and simple little creature, to squeeze whose hand the shattered beaux are said to have been ready to press each other out of existence; we are to be made to believe that this sincere and grateful creature, whose letter to her sister lets out the fact, that she had been offered a brilliant fortune if she would come to England; we are to be made believe this paragon of purity, who took such uncommon pains to get her young sister into the house of the Princess, after this paragon of purity had seen, with her own eyes, that that house was as bad as a brothel; we are to be made to believe that this modest and most virtuous creature, who, out of pure naiveté, had dropped the name of De Mont, the chambermaid, and taken that of Countess de Colombier, and who lived in the style of a Countess, too; we are to be made to believe that even this precious commodity imported, through the agency of the Commission at Milan, had received no reward, was to receive no reward, and had confined her demands and receipts simply to the amount of her actual expenses. You would have us believe this; and, indeed, she positively swore it; and which swearing I believe to be of precisely the same value as all the rest of her swearing.

We find that all the principal witnesses are servants turned off by the Queen. Now, in the first place, a married woman, who knows that servants are in possession of secrets such as those detailed by your witnesses, takes special care not to turn off such servants. In the next place, such turned-off servants are very apt to be extremely vindictive, while it is well-known that Italians are not less vindictive than other people. Such turned-off servants are, at least, excellent materials for a commission to work upon. In this case there is a double motive. When Macbeth seeks for men to murder Banquo, he looks out for such as Banquo has offended; and, indeed, such has almost uniformly been the first movement in every conspiracy that has ever been heard of against men. Here we find, then, that Majocchi had been turned off; that De Mont had been turned off; that Sacchini had been turned off; that the cook had been turned off; and we find, also, that the master of the polacre had had a quarrel with Bergami, on account of the latter having refused to comply with his pecuniary demands! Why these people were turned off; what was their conduct and what was their character, we have yet to learn, and a pretty account we shall have of them, I dare say. But, without anticipating this, I say that this turning-off, always, observe, through the instrumentality Edition: current; Page: [28] of Bergami, and this quarrel about money, between Bergami and the Captain of the polacre; I say that these circumstances alone, even without including all the other circumstances relating to rewards and promises; without the circumstances of living incognito, changing names, shifting places of abode, and the rest of the traits that make up the disgusting picture; without any of these, the turning-off, and the quarrels about money, are quite sufficient to throw much more than suspicion on every particle of the evidence of these persons.

Viewing, then, as I do, these witnesses to be as little worthy of credit as Castles was, how can you have the conscience to suppose that we are to give credit to their evidence. He was an indescribable villain, you said; and upon what did you ground your assertions? Why, that he had been recently clothed in rags, that he appeared before the jury in a good suit of clothes, that he had been frequently seen about with the agents of the Treasury, that he had gone under a false name, that he had been kept incog., and that he had been brought from a prison to the witness-box. Upon these facts, and upon the additional one that he had been the inmate of a brothel; upon these facts you founded the assertion that he was an indescribable villain, and that no person ought to be found guilty upon his evidence, though that evidence had been corroborated, in several parts of it, by witnesses perfectly credible. And yet you would now have us believe, that, unless the Queen can distinctly prove the negative of the swearings of all these your witnesses, we ought to pronounce her guilty! Such a monstrous proposition as this; anything so unfair and impudent, never before found its way from the lips even of a Crown lawyer.

Having nothing but such witnesses to produce is the strongest proof in the world that your case was not only bad, but that you knew it to be bad. Your worthy fellow-labourer took occasion to mention the names of several English gentlemen and ladies who were about the person, and actually living under the same roof with the Princess upon land, and some of whom accompanied her even in the famous polacre. I assert it to be impossible for the facts, related by these witnesses of yours to have taken place, without those gentlemen and ladies knowing something about them. You may say that the amorous works might all be going on upon land, and the English gentlemen and ladies never even hear of them. You may say, that these amorous goings-on might have been observed by the master and mate in the polacre, and they might wholly escape the knowledge, never reach the eyes or the ears of either of the two English gentlemen, who were penned up in the same polacre. You may say this, and Cooke, Powell, and Brown, may produce a thousand witnesses to swear it; but, when you have so said and they have so sworn, not one man, woman or child, will believe eithert he saying or the swearing.

No, and the question, the universal question is, Why do they not produce some of these English gentlemen or ladies? And, the universal answer to this question is, They dare not do it! You ask, with simplicity enough, Why do they not produce the Bergamis? I do not know what they will do; but this I know, that the Bergamis, or, at least, Bergami himself, could not be possibly brought as a witness for the Queen, seeing that he is a party accused; but this I know, too, that you might have brought him, and that he would have been a very good witness Edition: current; Page: [29] for you, provided that he could have been prevailed upon to swear anything against her Majesty. But, the not calling of the English gentlemen and ladies, would, of itself, have destroyed your cause, even if the preparatory proceedings and the circumstances attending your own witnesses had not destroyed it. It is impossible to ascribe the not calling of these witnesses to any other than one cause; and that is, the certainty in which you were that their evidence would falsify the swearings of the gentlemen and ladies from Cotton Garden.

You ventured to call only two witnesses of a character different from those of your Italians, and your Swiss Countess; namely, Captains Pechell and Briggs. The latter swore that he knew of no impropriety of conduct on the part of the Princess, now Queen, and the swearing of the former falsified the assertion of the Attorney-General with regard to her Majesty’s conduct when she went on board of the Clorinde. The Attorney-General asserted, that her conduct was tame; that she put up with an insult from this Pechell.—This is false. She resented the insult by not suffering Pechell to sit at the same table with her, and by refusing to see him when he made a request to that effect by Captain Briggs. Pechell’s father was, at that time, gentleman usher to the late Queen; his uncle was Receiver-General of Customs; one of his cousins was a captain in the Navy, as well as himself! another cousin was a judge in India; another cousin was the wife of the Dean of Worcester, who is a cousin of Lord Liverpool. This Captain Pechell stood, therefore, very peculiarly connected: and, yet, when Captain Pechell comes, at last, he is able to produce no one fact against the Queen; though he clearly shows that he behaved towards her in a most unbecoming and insolent manner. This she punished in the only way that it was in her power to punish it; namely, by refusing to sit at table with him, and by refusing him an audience which he endeavoured to obtain. By what motives he might have been actuated in his conduct towards the wife of his sovereign, as the Prince then was; whether he felt himself secure from all harm in acting as he did; whatever might be his motives, upon that occasion, no one will say that he was a witness friendly to the Queen; and yet, out of his evidence, there comes not one single particle to corroborate, even by insinuation, the swearings of Majocchi and the rest of the tribe from the fortress.

Thus, then, your Italian production; the production of a Commission established for the purpose of getting at facts to make the Queen appear guilty; these witnesses stand wholly unsupported by any thing in the shape of corroboration. If it be asked why, upon the supposition of the whole originating in a conspiracy; if it be asked why, if the thing were hatched, more plump swearing, more bed-and-bolster work was not introduced: if it be asked why the witnesses were not, upon this supposition, instructed to swear that they actually saw, with their own eyes, the thing which it is the object to cause to be believed was so frequently done; if this be asked, the answer is perfectly ready. It is a rule in all courts of law that numerous strong and well-connected circumstances, are worth more in producing conviction than any fact positively sworn to. Upon the supposition that this evidence was the fruit of a long-laid and slowly-matured conspiracy, nothing could be so well contrived as to abstain from positive oaths as to the real fact itself. Such abstinence would naturally give an air of scrupulousness to the prosecutors as well as to the witnesses; and, if the prosecutors could make out, by a concatenation of circumstances, the certainty of the fact, it would be ten Edition: current; Page: [30] thousand times better for them than to have the fact positively sworn to by eye-witnesses. So that this beating about the bush is what deceives nobody; but, on the other hand, has tended strongly to produce that universal conviction which prevails, that the whole thing has originated in a conspiracy; for, this over-strained caution, as to swearing to the positive act, has led to this question: How is it possible that this incessant adulterous intercourse, could be going on, day and night; for so long a time, and in so many and such different situations; and no one single person should, upon any occasion, ever have witnessed the act itself?

This over-strained caution, therefore, has not at all tended to strengthen your case, but has assisted in strengthening the conviction that the whole originated, in that desire, which has been so clearly discovered in every stage of the proceedings, namely, to keep or get her Majesty out of the country, let it cost what it might.

In conclusion of your speech, you say, that the preamble of the Bill; that is to say, the charges against her Majesty are fully made out; and that the Bill must accordingly pass, unless she be able clearly, distinctly and positively, to prove your evidence to be wholly false. This I deny. I say that she is called upon for no such proof. To prove a negative was never yet required of any human being. How is the Queen to bring any body to swear that De Mont did not see what she has sworn that she saw? All that the Queen’s advocates have to do is to show that these witnesses are unworthy of credit. This is all; and, as the case now stands, the public think that this has already been done by the witnesses themselves, viewed in connection with all the circumstances attending the Milan Commission, and those other circumstances which I have stated at the outset of this letter. Mr. Brougham might have safely gone on instanter; his statement, together with the evidence of a few witnesses of credibility, would have been much more than sufficient for the satisfaction of the public. The trial might have been concluded before now; and we might, on this very day, have been waiting to see whether, upon such evidence as you have produced, the House of Lords would have passed this unparalleled Bill.

As to the case of her Majesty, in the public opinion, it was decided when you closed your case, which case had produced disgust in the public mind; had produced a feeling towards the prosecutors and their agents that I shall not venture to describe; and had produced a degree of affection and attachment towards her Majesty, such as I believe never was before felt towards any human being. You have closed your case: your charges and your evidence are before the world; and the warm-hearted addresses, pouring in upon her Majesty from every town and every village, form the appropriate answer to those charges and to that evidence.

Feeble, indeed, was your attempt to apologize for the prosecutors and their agents. We could discover, however, from that apology, that you were not insensible to the weight of your present troubles, and not blind to those greater troubles which you behold in prospect. You appear to see that your patrons and employers are beset with difficulties on every side; and you make a lame attempt to cause it to be believed that the difficulties were unavoidable. But, who then was it that compelled the Ministers to send out the Milan Commission? Who was it that compelled them to expend our money upon Cooke, Powell and Brown? Who was it that compelled them to send the far-famed Hutchinson to St. Omer’s? Who was it compelled them to send down the Green Bags? Who was it compelled them to instruct your dear brother of the law to Edition: current; Page: [31] promulgate throughout the world that the Queenhad witnessed an imitation of the sexual intercourse? Who was it compelled them to go into a trial which the House of Commons had declared “must, terminate how it might, be derogatory to the dignity of the Crown, and injurious to the best interests of the country?” Who was it that compelled them to do any of these things; for, if they have not been acting under some compulsion, the proceedings are all their own.

They cannot have been deceived. They well knew the nature and extent of the evidence. We find Majocchi, the simple Countess, and the disinterested Sacchini all residing in England for a long time. The Ministers must have been well acquainted with the circumstances relating to the witnesses; and, what is more, they had all their swearings down in black and white in the green bags. All that we know now, they knew before; and, as to their expenditure of money in this business, they have not condescended, even yet, to give us a glance at an account. Therefore, there is no excuse for the Ministers. The whole of the proceedings is their own voluntary act. They are responsible for that act; and, I trust, that you will find that you have to bear your share of that responsibility.

I pretend not to say whether the Bill will be passed or not. But, this I know, that one or the other will take place; and I am of opinion that it matters very little, with regard to the ultimate consequences, whether the Bill pass or be rejected. “Either way the system is sped.” It never will recover this blow, be you well assured. If the Ministers could have ventured to pass the Bill simply upon the report of the Secret Committee; run it through the Houses in twenty-four hours, and put it in execution the next minute, as was the case with the Reformers, in 1817, putting into it a clause of banishment as well as of degradation and divorce; then, indeed, their object might have been accomplished. But, when once they hesitated; when once they began to negotiate; and especially when they began to talk of trial, their defeat was certain. It was then; it was, from that very moment, clear as daylight to me, that they had sealed the doom of themselves and the system. I never for one moment doubted of the perfect innocence of her Majesty. I was well aware of all the means that would be made use of to make her appear guilty; but I was also well aware of the enlightened state of the public mind, of the integrity of the people, and of the still powerful force of public opinion. I was not aware of the pre-disposition of a certain description of our fellow-citizens and fellow-sufferers whom I do not choose more minutely to describe; but I was quite sure, particularly when I saw what was passing in other parts of the world, that this description of our fellow-citizens would not long remain uninterested spectators of the scene.

My anticipations have been fully verified. The state of things is such now, that, let the Bill pass or let it not pass, the system never can recover the blow that it has received; and for your consolation, I offer you this concluding remark, that your employers have dealt this deadly blow with their own hands.

Edition: current; Page: [32]
R. Caroline
Caroline, R.
Aug. 7, 1820



After the unparalleled and unprovoked persecution which, during a series of years, has been carried on against me under the name and authority of your Majesty, and which persecution, instead of being mollified by time, time has rendered only more and more malignant and unrelenting, it is not without a great sacrifice of private feeling that I now, even in the way of remonstrance, bring myself to address this letter to your Majesty. But, bearing in mind that Royalty rests on the basis of public good; that to this paramount consideration all others ought to submit; and aware of the consequences that may result from the present unconstitutional, illegal, and hitherto unheard-of proceedings; with a mind thus impressed, I cannot refrain from laying my grievous wrongs once more before your Majesty, in the hope that the justice which your Majesty may, by evil-minded counsellors, be still disposed to refuse to the claims of a dutiful, faithful, and injured wife, you may be induced to yield to considerations connected with the honour and dignity of your crown, the stability of your throne, the tranquillity of your dominions, the happiness and safety of your just and loyal people, whose generous Edition: current; Page: [33] hearts revolt at oppression and cruelty, and especially when perpetrated by a perversion and a mockery of the laws. A sense of what is due to my character and sex forbids me to refer minutely to the real causes of our domestic separation, or to the numerous unmerited insults offered me previously to that period; but, leaving to your Majesty to reconcile with the marriage vow the act of driving, by such means, a wife from beneath your roof, with an infant in her arms, your Majesty will permit me to remind you, that that act was entirely your own; that the separation, so far from being sought for by me, was a sentence pronounced upon me, without any cause assigned, other than that of your own inclinations, which, as your Majesty was pleased to allege, were not under your control.

Not to have felt with regard to myself chagrin at this decision of your Majesty, would have argued great insensibility to the obligations of decorum; not to have dropped a tear in the face of that beloved child, whose future sorrows were then but too easy to foresee, would have marked me as unworthy of the name of mother; but, not to have submitted to it without repining would have indicated a consciousness of demerit, or a want of those feelings which belong to affronted and insulted female honour.

The “tranquil and comfortable society” tendered to me by your Majesty, formed, in my mind, but a poor compensation for the grief occasioned by considering the wound given to public morals in the fatal example produced by the indulgence of your Majesty’s inclinations; more especially when I contemplated the disappointment of the nation, who had so munificently provided for our union, who had fondly cherished such pleasing hopes of happiness arising from that union, and who had hailed it with such affectionate and rapturous joy.

But, alas! even tranquillity and comfort were too much for me to enjoy. From the very threshold of your Majesty’s mansion the mother of Edition: current; Page: [34] your child was pursued by spies, conspirators, and traitors, employed, encouraged, and rewarded to lay snares for the feet, and to plot against the reputation and life, of her whom your Majesty had so recently and so solemnly vowed to honour, to love, and to cherish.

In withdrawing from the embraces of my parents, in giving my hand to the son of George the Third and the heir-apparent to the British throne, nothing less than a voice from Heaven would have made me fear injustice or wrong of any kind.—What, then, was my astonishment at finding that treasons against me had been carried on and matured, perjuries against me had been methodized and embodied, a secret tribunal had been held, a trial of my actions had taken place, and a decision had been made upon those actions, without my having been informed of the nature of the charge, or of the names of the witnesses? And what words can express the feelings excited by the fact, that this proceeding was founded on a request made, and on evidence furnished, by order of the father of my child, and my natural as well as legal guardian and protector?

Notwithstanding, however, the unprecedented conduct of that tribunal; conduct which has since undergone, even in Parliament, severe and unanswered animadversions, and which has been also censured in the minutes of the Privy Council; notwithstanding the secrecy of the proceedings of this tribunal; notwithstanding the strong temptation to the giving of false evidence against me before it; notwithstanding that there was no opportunity afforded me of rebutting that evidence; notwithstanding all these circumstances, so decidedly favourable to my enemies, even this secret tribunal acquitted me of all crime, and thereby pronounced my principal accusers to have been guilty of the grossest perjury. But it was now (after the trial was over) discovered, that the nature of the tribunal was such as to render false swearing before it not legally criminal! And thus, at the suggestion and request of your Majesty, had been created, to take cognizance of and try my conduct, a tribunal competent to administer oaths, competent to examine witnesses on oath, competent to try, competent to acquit or condemn, and competent, moreover, to screen those who had sworn falsely against me from suffering the pains and penalties which the law awards to wilful and corrupt perjury. Great as my indignation naturally must have been at this shameful evasion of law and justice, that indignation was lost in pity for him who could lower his princely plumes to the dust by giving his countenance and favour to the most conspicuous of those abandoned and notorious perjurers.

Still there was one whose upright mind nothing could warp, in whose breast injustice never found a place, whose hand was always ready to raise the unfortunate, and to rescue the oppressed. While that good and gracious father and Sovereign remained in the exercise of his royal functions, his unoffending daughter-in-law had nothing to fear. As long as the protecting hand of your late ever-beloved and ever-lamented father was held over me, I was safe. But the melancholy event which deprived the nation of the active exertions of its virtuous King, bereft me of friend and protector, and of all hope of future tranquillity and safety. To calumniate your innocent wife was now the shortest road to royal favour; and to betray her was to lay the sure foundation of boundless riches and titles of honour. Before claims like these, talent, virtue, long services, your own personal friendships, your royal engagements, promises, and pledges, written as well as verbal, melted into air. Your cabinet was Edition: current; Page: [35] founded on this basis. You took to your councils men, of whose persons, as well as whose principles, you had invariably expressed the strongest dislike. The interest of the nation, and even your own feelings, in all other respects, were sacrificed to the gratification of your desire to aggravate my sufferings, and to ensure my humiliation. You took to your councils and your bosom men whom you hated, whose abandonment of, and whose readiness to sacrifice me were their only merits, and whose power has been exercised in a manner, and has been attended with consequences, worthy of its origin. From this unprincipled and unnatural union have sprung the manifold evils which this nation has now to endure, and which present a mass of misery and of degradation, accompanied with acts of tyranny and cruelty, rather than have seen which inflicted on his industrious, faithful, and brave people, your royal father would have perished at the head of that people. When to calumniate, revile, and betray me, became the sure path to honour and riches, it would have been strange indeed if calumniators, revilers, and traitors had not abounded. Your Court became much less a scene of polished manners and refined intercourse than of low intrigue and scurrility. Spies, Bacchanalian tale-bearers, and foul conspirators, swarmed in those palaces which had before been the resort of sobriety, virtue, and honour. To enumerate all the various privations and mortifications which I had to endure, all the insults that were wantonly heaped upon me, from the day of your elevation to the Regency to that of my departure for the Continent, would be to describe every species of personal offence that can be offered to, and every pain short of bodily violence that can be inflicted on, any human being. Bereft of parent, brother, and father-in-law, and having my husband for my deadliest foe; seeing those who have promised me support bought by rewards to be amongst my enemies; restrained from accusing my foes in the face of the world, out of regard for the character of the father of my child, and from a desire to prevent her happiness from being disturbed; shunned from motives of selfishness by those who were my natural associates; living in obscurity, while I ought to have been the centre of all that was splendid; thus humbled, I had one consolation left; the love of my dear and only child. To permit me to enjoy this was too great an indulgence. To see my daughter; to fold her in my arms; to mingle my tears with hers; to receive her cheering caresses, and to hear from her lips assurances of never-ceasing love; thus to be comforted, consoled, upheld, and blessed, was too much to be allowed me. Even on the slave-mart the cries of “O! my mother, my mother! O! my child, my child!” have prevented a separation of the victims of avarice. But your advisers, more inhuman than the slave-dealer, remorselessly tore the mother from the child.

Thus bereft of the society of my child, or reduced to the necessity of embittering her life by struggles to preserve that society. I resolved on temporary absence, in the hope that time might restore me to her in happier days. Those days, alas! were never to come. To mothers, and those mothers who have been suddenly bereft of the best and most affectionate and only daughters, it belongs to estimate my sufferings and my wrongs. Such mothers will judge of my affliction upon hearing of the death of my child, and upon my calling to recollection the last look, the last words, and all the affecting circumstances of our separation. Such mothers will see the depth of my sorrows. Every being with a heart of humanity in its bosom will drop a tear of sympathy with me. And Edition: current; Page: [36] will not the world, then, learn with indignation, that this event, calculated to soften the hardest heart, was the signal for new conspiracies, and indefatigable efforts for the destruction of this afflicted mother? Your Majesty had torn my child from me; you had deprived me of the power of being at hand to succour her; you had taken from me the possibility of hearing of her last prayers for her mother; you saw me bereft, forlorn, and broken-hearted; and this was the moment you chose for redoubling your persecutions.

Let the world pass its judgment on the constituting of a commission, in a foreign country, consisting of inquisitors, spies, and informers, to discover, collect, and arrange matters of accusation against your wife, without any complaint having been communicated to her: let the world judge of the employment of ambassadors in such a business, and of the enlisting of foreign courts in the enterprise: but on the measures which have been adopted to give final effect to those preliminary proceedings it is for me to speak; it is for me to remonstrate with your Majesty; it is for me to protest; it is for me to apprize you of my determination.

I have always demanded a fair trial. This is what I now demand, and this is refused me. Instead of a fair trial, I am to be subjected to a sentence by the Parliament, passed in the shape of a law. Against this I protest, and upon the following grounds:

The injustice of refusing me a clear and distinct charge, of refusing me the names of the witnesses, of refusing me the names of the places where the illegal acts have been committed; these are sufficiently flagrant and revolting; but it is against the constitution of the Court itself that I particularly object, and against that I most solemnly protest.

Whatever may be the precedents as to Bills of Pains and Penalties, none of them, except those relating to the Queen of Henry the Eighth, can apply here; for here your Majesty is the plaintiff. Here it is intended by the Bill to do what you deem good to you, and to do me great harm. You are, therefore, a party, and the only complaining party.

You have made your complaint to the House of Lords. You have conveyed to this House written documents sealed up. A secret committee of the House have examined these documents. They have reported that there are grounds of proceeding; and then the House, merely upon that report, have brought forward a Bill containing the most outrageous slanders on me, and sentencing me to divorce and degradation.

The injustice of putting forth this Bill to the world for six weeks before it is even proposed to afford me an opportunity of contradicting its allegations is too manifest not to have shocked the nation; and, indeed, the proceedings even thus far are such as to convince every one that no justice is intended me. But if none of these proceedings, if none of these clear indications of a determination to do me wrong had taken place, I should see, in the constitution of the House of Lords itself, a certainty that I could expect no justice at its hands.

Your Majesty’s Ministers have advised this prosecution; they are responsible for the advice they give; they are liable to punishment if they fail to make good their charges; and not only are they part of my judges, but it is they who have brought in the Bill; and it is too notorious that they have always a majority in the House; so that, without any other, here is ample proof that the House will decide in favour of the Bill, and, of course, against me.

But, further, there are reasons for your Ministers having a majority in Edition: current; Page: [37] this case, and which reasons do not apply to common cases. Your Majesty is the plaintiff: to you it belongs to appoint and to elevate peers. Many of the present peers have been raised to that dignity by yourself, and almost the whole can be, at your will and pleasure, further elevated. The far greater number of the peers hold, by themselves and their families, offices, pensions, and other emoluments, solely at the will and pleasure of your Majesty, and these, of course, your Majesty can take away whenever you please. There are more than four-fifths of the peers in this situation, and there are many of them who might thus be deprived of the far better part of their incomes.

If, contrary to all expectation, there should be found, in some peers, likely to amount to a majority, a disposition to reject the Bill, some of these peers may be ordered away to their ships, regiments, governments, and other duties; and, which is an equally alarming power, new peers may be created for the purpose, and give their vote in the decision. That your Majesty’s Ministers would advise these measures, if found necessary to render their prosecution successful, there can be very little doubt; seeing that they have hitherto stopped at nothing, however unjust or odious.

To regard such a body as a Court of Justice would be to calumniate that sacred name; and for me to suppress an expression of my opinion on the subject would be tacitly to lend myself to my own destruction, as well as to an imposition upon the nation and the world.

In the House of Commons I can discover no better grounds of security. The power of your Majesty’s Ministers is the same in both Houses; and your Majesty is well acquainted with the fact, that a majority of this House is composed of persons placed in it by the peers and by your Majesty’s Treasury.

It really gives me pain to state these things to your Majesty; and, if it gives your Majesty pain, I beg that it may be observed, and remembered, that the statement has been forced from me. I must either protest against this mode of trial, or, by tacitly consenting to it, suffer my honour to be sacrificed. No innocence can secure the accused if the judges and jurors be chosen by the accuser; and if I were tacitly to submit to a tribunal of this description, I should be instrumental in my own dishonour.

On these grounds I protest against this species of trial. I demand a trial in a Court where the jurors are taken impartially from amongst the people, and where the proceedings are open and fair. Such a trial I court, and to no other will I willingly submit. If your Majesty persevere in the present proceeding, I shall, even in the Houses of Parliament, face my accusers; but I shall regard any decision they may make against me as not in the smallest degree reflecting on my honour; and I will not, except compelled by actual force, submit to any sentence which shall not be pronounced by a Court of Justice.

I have now frankly laid before your Majesty a statement of my wrongs, and a declaration of my views and intentions. You have cast upon me every slur to which the female character is liable. Instead of loving, honouring, and cherishing me, agreeably to your solemn vow, you have pursued me with hatred and scorn, and with all the means of destruction. You wrested from me my child, and with her my only comfort and consolation. You sent me sorrowing through the world, and even in my sorrows pursued me with unrelenting persecution. Having left me nothing but my innocence, you would now, by a mockery of justice, deprive me Edition: current; Page: [38] even of the reputation of possessing that. The poisoned bowl and the poniard are means more manly than perjured witnesses and partial tribunals; and they are less cruel, inasmuch as life is less valuable than honour. If my life would have satisfied your Majesty, you should have had it on the sole condition of giving me a place in the same tomb with my child; but, since you would send me dishonoured to the grave, I will resist the attempt with all the means that it shall please God to give me.

(Signed) CAROLINE, R.


What is the principal cause of that ruin and misery which now pervades the land, and which makes the life of the industrious man hardly worth preserving? What is the principal cause of the discontents which have furnished us with the best possible means of urging on the cause of Reform? This cause is the existence of a paper system, by the means of which the incomes of the landowners, and earnings of the industrious, are taken from them in proportions so large as to leave to the farmer, the trader, the journeyman, and the labourer, so perfect an inadequacy of means, as to deprive the two former classes of the possibility of making suitable provision for their children; and as to produce, with regard to the two latter classes, that monster in civil society, starvation in the midst of abundance.

My Lord, is it to be arrogant or presumptuous, to differ in opinion with, or to call in question the wisdom of, those who one year ascribed the distresses of the country to a superabundance of food, and the very next year ascribed it to a superabundance of mouths? Is it to be presumptuous, my Lord, to assert that there must be something radically wrong in a system under which good harvests as well as bad harvests are an affliction to a nation? Is it to be presumptuous to discard as unworthy of attention the opinions of men, who declared the distress to have arisen from a sudden transition from war to peace, and who, at the end of six years of peace, have seen nothing but a constant increase of distress, and have then avowed that they have no remedy to administer, and no remedy even to suggest? Is it to be presumptuous to venture to set forward Edition: current; Page: [39] one’s opinions in opposition to those of men, who tax one part of the people to furnish another part with the means of emigrating, at the very same time that they pass laws to prevent the importation of food, and, of course, the exportation of manufactures in exchange?

I think it is not to be presumptuous to do this. I have all along disapproved of the measures which have been adopted with respect to this great matter. In my last letter I took the liberty to call your Lordship’s attention to what was passing in the United States of America relative to the subject in question; and I shall, by-and-by, have to notice the recent speech of the President, and again to avail myself of it in the way of illustration.

But, in justice to myself as well as in justice to the subject, I must first trace the cause from its root to the extremity of the branches. It was in the year 1797 that the first step was taken towards our present state of ruin and misery. It was then that that memorable Order of Council was issued, out of which have grown twelve Acts of Parliament, the last of which goes by the name of Mr. Peel’s Bill; to which Acts we have to ascribe a long train of suffering and a hideous mass of present danger.

The first of these Acts suspended cash payments at the Bank; the last of them has enacted, that cash payments shall be resumed; and has provided for the adoption of certain measures preliminary to that resumption. Here is the great cause of the distress; and now, in justice to myself, I will simply set down a very short account of my endeavours to prevent the existence of this cause of calamity and of danger.

At a very early period after my return to England in 1800, I clearly perceived the dangers of this paper system; and I perceived not less clearly that payments in cash could never be resumed, without a destruction of a great part of the Debt, or, without producing, first, general ruin and misery; and last, a convulsive revolution. During the years from 1803 to 1810, it was very seldom that a month passed over my head without an endeavour to inculcate these opinions, for the inculcation of which opinions I was repaid, in speech, in print, and in conversation, by every species of abuse, and in certain other ways, by the severest of persecution and punishment short of absolute killing. If ever man was martyr to anything, I was a martyr to these opinions, which are now put forth as their own by thousands upon thousands of men, who then persecuted me, or who heartily applauded the persecutors.

I now come to the memorable epoch of 1810, when the discussion upon this grand subject, upon the decision as to which I well knew the fare of England was to turn, assumed a more regular and official form. The party to which your Lordship belonged, took the matter up, on the motion of the late Mr. Horner, and obtained a committee of inquiry, which committee was called the Bullion Committee, and which Committee reported, that an Act ought to be passed to compel the Bank to resume cash payments at the end of two years from that time. The Ministerial party contended that the Bank was able at any time to resume cash payments; but that it would be inexpedient that it should do this until peace.

Thus stood, in 1810, the opinions, declarations, and propositions of the two parties in Parliament. Each party had its partizans out of doors. More than two hundred pamphlets were published on the subject; I stood alone, and, in my work written at that time, entitled Paper against Gold, I asserted, and I think I proved to demonstration, this position: “That cash payments never could be resumed, without a large reduction of the interest of the Debt, or, without the utter ruin of all persons actively Edition: current; Page: [40] engaged in trade of every description, and in agriculture.” In repayment for this new and extraordinary effort of mine, I had to receive a fresh and extraordinary quantity of the foulest abuse that ever was poured forth upon mortal man; but, as I have most satisfactorily experienced, abuse, misrepresentation, calumny, have no effect in enfeebling the body, or in relaxing the efforts of the mind, especially when the latter is supported by a consciousness of its rectitude. I knew I was right: I knew that time was constantly working for me and against my calumniators: in that knowledge I was gay, while I knew that their bosoms were filled with apprehension, or, at least, were the habitations of uncertainty.

Peace came; that long-looked for peace; that peace which was to remove every obstacle to the resumption of cash-payments, and upon the arrival of which, even the law positively said, cash-payments were to be resumed! Now was the time when that which one party had proposed to adopt, and which the other party had said would at once take place in peace without any danger; now was that long-looked-for time arrived, and it came too with the unexpected good luck of the restoration of the Bourbons, and of the chaining of the “arch enemy of our finances” to a rock!* Now, then, arrived the time for the cash payments to be resumed, or for me to exult in my triumph, and to repay my calumniators with scorn! Were cash payments resumed, my Lord? O, no! my prophecy was fulfilled. An Act was passed to continue the suspension for a year. When that year expired, another Act was passed to continue it for another year. When that year was expired, another Act was passed to continue cash payments for two years longer! I could hold no longer! Triumph would burst forth, whether I would or not, and out it came in the following words, which I insert here, however, not so much in justice to myself, as in the way of present warning to my country, every man in which country I beseech to pay attention to these words, for I am sure every one of them has full as much interest in the thing as I have myself.

“The Parliament, and, indeed, the country, were, as to this question, divided into two parties: one said, that the Bank would be able to pay in specie in two years; the other said that the Bank was always able to pay, but that it would not be prudent to suffer the Bank to pay, till peace came. I gave it as my opinion, that peace would not enable the Bank to pay; or, at any rate, that her ladyship would not pay in gold and silver when peace should come. Thus far, then, time has proved me to have been right.

We must now wait for TIME again; but, happily, we shall not have to wait long. Peace is now again come; and come in a way, too, that seems to defy even chance to interrupt its duration. Not only is Napoleon down, but he is in our hands; he is banished to a rock, of which we have the sole command and possession; he is as completely in the power of our Government as if they had him in the Tower of London. Therefore, this great obstacle to gold and silver payments is swept away. The Capets, or the Bourbons, as they call themselves, are restored. Spain has regained that beloved Ferdinand, in whose cause we were so zealous, and he has restored the Inquisition and the Jesuits. The Pope, to the great joy of loyal Protestants, is again in the chair of Saint Peter; has again resumed his keys and his shepherd’s crook. In short, our Government, so far from dreading any enemy, is in strict alliance with every sovereign in Europe.

Now, then, are come the halcyon days. Now, John Bull is to sit down in peace under his own vine and his own fig-tree with no one to make him afraid. Now there will be, there can be, no need of armies or navies. Now, then, my good neighbours, we shall, surely, see gold and silver return. Which of you will bet any thing on the affirmative of this proposition? My Edition: current; Page: [41] opinion is, that we shall not see it return; that we shall not see the Bank pay in gold and silver; that we shall not hear the Minister say, that the Old Lady is ready with her cash. In short, my opinion is, that another and another Act of Parliament will convince even the most stupid and credulous, that, as long as the dividends on the National Debt are paid, so long will they be paid in Bank-notes, so long will the law protecting the Bank against demands in real money remain in full force: for, the man that needs more than two more Acts of Parliament to produce this conviction in his mind, must be an idiot.

Let us wait, then, with patience for two years more; but, let us keep our eye steadily fixed on the movements of the Ministry and the Bank. Let us listen quietly to all they say, without seeming to take any notice of what they are about. If they do pay in cash at the end of two years, and still continue to pay the dividends, or the interest of the debt, I will frankly acknowledge, that I ought to pass for an ignorant pretender all the remainder of my life. If they do not pay in cash at the end of two years more, then, what they ought to pass for I shall leave my readers to decide.

As to giving them a longer tether, that is wholly out of the question. Twelve years, is the average length, it is said, of the life of man. I have already given them four. I will allow them two more; but, as the grey hairs begin to thicken very fast upon my head, as my sons and daughters begin to walk faster than their father and mother, I certainly shall not lengthen the tether; but, at the end of two years from this 1st day of the month of September, 1815, I shall, if I still hold a pen, and the Old Lady does not pay the dividends in cash, assume it as a notoriously admitted fact, that she never will and never can.

I must confess that I did revel a little upon this occasion; but, if I had revelled ten times as much as I did, I should have been fully justified in so doing. I laughed at the confusion of my enemies, of my stupid and base traducers; but I had a right to laugh. It was, after all, but a moderate satisfaction for the sarcasms of the Edinburgh Reviewers and for the revilings of the London press.

Well, my Lord! The two years expired, and this new prophecy was fulfilled. No cash payments came, but another Act was passed to continue the suspension for another year; however, this Act provided that the Bank might resume! Yes, this Act graciously permitted the Bank to resume, upon giving due notice of its intention, to the Speaker of the House of Commons. This Act was to expire in July, 1819; but, alas! before that time arrived, another Act was passed continuing the suspension until the 1st of May, 1823!

O, delusion! Was there ever delusion like this since the world begun? Twenty-six years of putting-off, and twelve Acts of Parliament appointing the time of resumption! Call the reformers a set of deluded people, indeed! Have their leaders ever been deluded themselves, or have they ever attempted to delude others to an extent like this!

So much for the past, my Lord; and now we come to the present and the future. The last of the twelve Acts was what is called Mr. Peel’s Bill; and this Bill, in only four pages, decides the fate of England, if it be persevered in; and it does as much for the public character of its rulers whether it be persevered in or not. This Bill is not like the former Acts, merely to suspend the payment of cash at the Bank; but it provides for payments in bullion, between the time of passing it and the 1st of May, 1823. The substance of the provisions are as follow: From 1st February to 1st October, 1820, the Bank is to pay its notes, in sixty-ounce pieces of gold, at eighty-one shillings an ounce. From 1st of October, 1820, to 1st of May 1821, it is to pay in sixty-ounce pieces, at seventy-nine shillings and sixpence an ounce. From 1st of May, 1821, to 1st of May, 1823, it is to pay in sixty-ounce pieces at seventy-seven Edition: current; Page: [42] shillings and tenpence halfpenny an ounce. From the 1st May, 1823, it is to pay in specie as it did in former times!

The moment I saw a newspaper account of this Bill, I said, and I put the saying into print, that if this Bill were carried into complete effect, without a reduction of the interest of the Debt, I would suffer myself to be broiled alive. I now deliberately repeat the saying. To carry this Bill into effect, is even physically impossible; and yet if a stop be put to its progress, where will then be those two Houses of Parliament who passed it by an unanimous vote?

Here is the cause, my Lord. Here is the great cause of the distresses of the country. Here is the cause of the falling-off in the means of the landowner; of the ruin of the farmer and the trader; of the swelling of the poor-rates and the filling of the poor-houses; and of the starvation in the midst of plenty of the journeyman and the labourer. It is to be observed, however, that the distress begun before the passing of this Bill. It begun the moment that peace was seen to be certain; and it did so begin, because the paper-money makers knew that they would be called upon, or that they would be liable to be called upon for cash, when the peace arrived. The renewal of the Suspension Act, from time to time, did not give them sufficient confidence to enable them to keep their paper out in the former quantity, and therefore the distress begun long before the passing of Mr. Peel’s Bill. But this Bill has insured a regular increase of the distress, until the month of May, 1823; and when that time arrives, if the Bill be not before repealed, it has insured the blowing-up of the system, if not a convulsive revolution. It is not necessary for me to explain to your Lordship the manner in which this Bill operates. Not that I should be afraid of offending you by going into such matter; because your Lordship would well know that I meant the explanation for others and not for you. It will be sufficient just to state some of the effects of this Bill. Before this Bill arrive at the termination of its provisions, it will cause wheat to sell for four shillings a bushel or less. It will ruin every man who has borrowed money even to the fourth part of the amount of his property. It will ruin every man who trades, to any considerable extent, on borrowed capital. It will ruin every man who has taken a lease of a farm for three years to come. It will ruin a great many thousands of persons who have annuities, rent-charges, ground-rents, marriage settlements, and other things to pay. It will disable the Government from raising taxes sufficient for more than half the demands upon it. It will totally ruin commerce and manufactures. It will convey three-fourths of the estates of the nobility into the hands of fundholders and stock jobbers.

Now, my Lord, I was very confident in my predictions in 1810 and in 1815. I am not less confident now. But, I never shall see this Bill carried into full effect. O! no! This is one of the things that a Parliament, which has been called omnipotent, cannot do. This is one of the things that it cannot do, though it passed the Bill by an unanimous vote. It can do many things that I shall not take the liberty to mention. It can pass a law to prevent the people hearing even my prophecies; but it cannot prevent the prophecies from being fulfilled.

Gagging Bills and Dungeon Bills, and Banishment Bills, and even Censorship Bills, it can cause to be carried into effect; but to cause to be carried into effect Mr. Peel’s Bill, is beyond the stretch of its power. Before I come to speak of the difficulties which this Bill presents to a Edition: current; Page: [43] change of the Ministry, give me leave, my Lord, to draw your attention for a few minutes to the American President’s speech, which has just been received and published in this country. In my last letter to your Lordship, I took occasion to assure you, that, what was called distress in that country was by no means removed, nor, upon the point of removal; and that I imagined that loans in time of peace would, in that country, as well as in this, be resorted to.

In another part of this number, your Lordship will find the whole of the President’s speech or message.* You will find that the American debt amounts to about a hundred millions of dollars, which requires about six millions of dollars to pay the interest of it. You will find that last year, they made a loan of three millions of dollars; and that the whole of the income (including the three millions borrowed) was sixteen millions seven hundred thousand dollars, while the expenditure was sixteen millions eight hundred thousand dollars. Here is a deficiency of more than three millions of dollars upon an expenditure of sixteen millions. How different is this state of things from that of 1817! In that year, there was a large surplus, and the President then announced his intention to recommend to the Congress to show its generosity towards the old men who had served in the war of the revolution.

Having thus stated the simple facts, let me now beseech your Lordship’s attention for a moment to the manner in which the President endeavours to plaster them over; and I think you will find, that when republican rulers do take the trowel in hand, they can plaster as well as the rest of us. The passage which I am about to quote, is rather long; but if the instruction it gives do not compensate for its length, a man must have very little laughter in him that does not find his trouble of reading repaid by the diversion he will receive.

“In communicating to you a just view of public affairs, at the commencement of your present labours, I do it with great satisfaction; because, taking all circumstances into consideration which claim attention, I see much cause to rejoice in the felicity of our situation. In making this remark, I do not wish to be understood to imply, that an unvaried prosperity is to be seen in every interest of this great community. In the progress of a nation inhabiting a territory of such vast extent, and great variety of climate, every portion of which is engaged in foreign commerce, and liable to be affected, in some degree, by the changes which occur in the condition and regulations of foreign countries, it would be strange, if the produce of our soil, and the industry and enterprise of our fellow-citizens, received, at all times, and in every quarter, an uniform and equal encouragement. This would be more than we have a right to expect, under circumstances the most favourable. Pressures on certain interests, it is admitted, have been felt; but, allowing to these their greatest extent, they detract but little from the force of the remark already made. In forming a just estimate of our present situation, it is proper to look at the whole; in the outline, as well as in the detail, a free, virtuous, and enlightened people know well the great principles and causes on which their happiness depends; and even those who suffer most, occasionally, in their transitory concerns, find great relief under their sufferings from the blessings which they otherwise enjoy, and in the consoling and animating hope which they administer. From whence do these pressures come? Not from a Government which is founded by, administered for, and supported by the people. We trace them to the peculiar character of the epoch in which we live, and to the extraordinary occurrences which have signalized it. The convulsions with which several of the Powers of Europe have been shaken, and the long and destructive war in which all were engaged, with their sudden transition to a state of peace, presenting, Edition: current; Page: [44] in the first instance, unusual encouragement to our commerce, and withdrawing it in the second, even within its wonted limit, could not fail to be sensibly felt here. The station, too, which we had to support through this long conflict, compelled, as we were finally, to become a party to it with a principal Power, and to make great exertions, suffer heavy losses, and to contract considerable debts, distributing the ordinary course of affairs by augmenting, to a vast amount, the circulating medium, and thereby elevating, at one time, the price of every article above a just standard, and depressing it at another below it, had likewise its due effect.

It is manifest, that the pressures of which we complain have proceeded in a great measure, from these causes. When, then, we take into view the prosperous and happy condition of our country, in all the great circumstances which constitute the felicity of a nation—every individual in the full enjoyment of all his rights—the union blessed with plenty, and rapidly rising to greatness, under a national Government, which operates with complete effect in every part, without being felt in any, except by the ample protection which it affords, and under state governments which perform their equal share, according to a wise distribution of power between them, in promoting the public happiness—it is impossible to behold so gratifying, so glorious a spectacle, without being penetrated with the most profound and grateful acknowledgments to the supreme author of all good for such manifold and inestimable blessings. Deeply impressed with these sentiments, I cannot regard the pressures to which I have adverted otherwise than in the light of mild and instructive admonitions; warning us of dangers to be shunned in future; teaching us lessons of economy; corresponding with the simplicity and purity of our Institutions, and best adapted to their support; evincing the connection and independence which the various parts of our happy union have on each other, thereby augmenting daily our social incorporation, and adding, by its strong ties, new strength and vigor to the political; opening a wider range and with new encouragement to the industry and enterprise of our fellow-citizens at home and abroad; and more especially by the multiplied proofs which it has accumulated, of the great perfection of our most excellent system of government, the powerful instrument, in the hands of an all-merciful Creator, in securing to us these blessings.”

You see, my Lord, that though the President is aware that he is about to announce the existence of distress, he begins by saying that he has much cause to rejoice in the felicity of the nation, which is so much like something that I have frequently read in our king’s speeches, that I really thought at first that I was getting amongst the documents of St. Stephen’s. However, he gets on; and out it comes that pressures have been felt. I did not know before that pressure had a plural. Let that pass, however, and now we come, after some high compliments to the people, to the ticklish point, namely, “from whence do these pressures come?” Aye! Aye! I say; whence do they come?—And now hear him, my Lord; you will certainly think that it is Lord Liverpool that is speaking.—“Not from the Government,” oh! no, no, no! Not from the Government to be sure!—“Not from the Government, which is founded by, administered for, and supported by the people.” Come, come, Mr. President! This is being “a little tricky,” as they call it in your country. This is shocking logic. It amounts to the full of our doctrine, that the King can do no wrong, and it goes a great deal further, too, for it does not leave the people even a nominal responsibility in any set of persons whatever. But, let us hear now, whence the “pressures” have come: “we trace them to the peculiar character of the epoch in which we live, and to the extraordinary occurrences which have signalized it. The convulsions with which several of the Powers of Europe have been shaken, and the long and destructive war, in which all were engaged, with their sudden transition to a state of peace.” Who would not imagine that it was Lord Castlereagh himself that was speaking? Edition: current; Page: [45] Here is all the old empty stuff, that has long been worn out here, gatherered carefully up to deck out a presidential speech on the other side of the Atlantic. By-and-by, however, Mr. Monroe comes to something like common sense, and speaks of the vast increase of the circulating medium that took place at one time, and of its great subsequent domination. This is sense; and why could it not have been uttered clearly and simply, and not to be attempted to be buried in a heap of nonsense.

The last part of the above-quoted passage is one of the most complete instances that ever came under my view of the art of bewildering. The solemn acknowledgments to God do very little credit to the President’s taste; while the whole piece presents a confusion of ideas, a defiance of logic and of grammar, such as I find it impossible to pass over unnoticed, though I have very great respect for the character of Mr. Monroe.

The truth is, that he is a very honest man; much too honest ever to have approved of a funding system; but that he is fairly entangled in it; and that, meaning to be President a second time, he dares not speak of it in the terms which it merits, for, if he were to do this, that caucus, on whom his re-election depends, would take care that he should never fill the President’s chair again.

It is from the Government, then, that the “pressures” have come; and it was the Government that, by establishing the National Bank in 1816, entailed the curse of paper-money upon America. At the conclusion of the war, the whole might have been swept away. That was not only my advice, but the advice of many most enlightened men in that country. Instead of getting rid of the plague at once, it was rendered permanent by the establishment of that Bank; and in spite of the President’s flowery picture, my opinion is, that that very paper-money will finally produce a dissolution of the Union. The American farmers will not, I am convinced, suffer themselves to be robbed in order to fill the pockets of stock-jobbers. The interest of the debt has hitherto been paid out of the proceeds of the Custom-house. The taxes so raised fall indirectly in part upon the farmers; but if they attempt to go to the homesteads of the farmers to get the money to pay the interest of that debt, away goes in one instant all security for the existence of the general government. Indeed, the thing will never be attempted. It is unjust in itself, and it will have to meet with an opposition, of which no one not well acquainted with American farmers can have the smallest idea.*

But, my Lord, the interesting point for us is the proof that we here have of the fatal effects of paying in gold what was borrowed in paper, even in a country like America. They do there actually pay in specie now. There are no internal taxes worth notice. All the taxes of a considerable farm, including poor-rates, road rates, and school-rates, amount, in a whole year, to not more than seven or eight days wages of a common labourer; and yet, in a country thus situated, with a superabundance of land; with a degree of ease and comfort amongst the common people unknown in any other country; with an orderly, peaceable, sensible population: with all these advantages, and with only a debt of about twenty-eight Edition: current; Page: [46] millions sterling, the change from paper to glod has produced what the President calls “pressures.” Yet, this unjust, this unnatural, this really wicked compulsion to pay in gold what was borrowed in paper, has produced pressures even in America; and, if the loaning system be persevered in, instead of resorting to a reduction of the debt, and especially if an attempt be made to make the American farmers pay the interest of that debt, my opinion is, that this accursed system will produce a dissolution of the Union.*

However, there is another view to take of this matter, and a view which, to us, is of very great importance. Your Lordship has doubtless attended to the curious notion of the promoters of Mr. Peel’s Bill, that commerce would revive, and that the revival of commerce would be one of the means of enabling the Bank to pay in specie without injury to the country. A notion may be so completely absurd, as to set all commentary at defiance. And this is precisely one of that sort. But, though we cannot comment upon the thing, we sometimes find the means of showing the contrary of its assertion by facts which transpire. Now, my Lord, please to observe, that, a few years ago the revenue of the American Custom-house amounted to nearly a third more than it does now; and I believe that more than five-sixths of it arose out of imports from England, Ireland, and Scotland. The cause of the diminution has been the diminution of the imports; and that has arisen principally from the rising of the value of money in England; or, in other words, from the increasing inability in English merchants to give credit to merchants in America; which inability in English merchants has principally arisen from the drawing-in of the paper of the Bank of England, which paper was drawn in preparatory to the return to cash payments! And, therefore, this Bill of Mr. Peel, which was to be rendered harmless partly by the revival of commerce, contained within itself the efficient means of preventing that revival!

So happy are we, my Lord, in heads to guide us in the conducting of our affairs; and so true it is, that it is sheer power, and not wisdom, by which, in general, mankind are governed! Loan-jobbers and stock-jobbers, and brokers in silver and gold, are very clever in managing their affairs, and in the making of money; but of all the scourges that God, in his wrath, ever permitted to be laid upon the back of a nation; the severest, the most odious and most degrading, is, the suffering of its affairs to be placed, even in the smallest degree, in the hands of persons of this description. Princes and nobles may be blunder-headed; may commit hundreds of follies; but the effects of these are open, visible, they strike all eyes, they give offence, the errors are corrected, and the nation is to rights again; but the minings, the sappings, the underminings of the muck-worm, are carried on unseen and unapprehended, till all is hollow, all is false, all is treacherous to the feet: the hour of destruction suddenly comes, and learning, wisdom, patriotism, loyalty and valour are all unavailing.

If I have succeeded in convincing your Lordship that the attempts to return to cash payments have been the cause of the ruin and misery; Edition: current; Page: [47] and that those attempts, if they be persevered in, must increase that ruin and misery, you will agree with me, of course, in opinion, that one of two things must be adopted; the repeal of Mr. Peel’s Bill; or, a reduction of the interest of the Debt.


William Cobbett
Cobbett, William
January 1, 1821

There is a Scotch lawyer who has accused me of proscribing men by whole classes. This is a very greedy hunter after place, and he dislikes me as naturally as a rat dislikes the cat which guards the cheese and bacon. This accusation of his is false. I never marked out any class of men for proscription. If I have an antipathy to stock-jobbers or seat-sellers, my antipathy is warranted by law as well as by reason. These men are continually acting in open violation of the law; and they are much more proper objects of attack than thieves and pickpockets are, because these latter, though they violate the law, do not carry on the violation openly, confessedly and boastingly.

To complain of the misconduct of whole classes of men, is not to proscribe such classes. In surveying the different classes; in making a comparative estimate of their public conduct; in taking a view of the effects of that conduct: those who do this, and who choose to put the result of their observations upon paper, have surely a right to give the preference to one class before another; to praise those deemed worthy of praise, and to censure those deemed worthy of censure.

Proceeding upon these principles, and taking a fair view of the conduct of the persons of different classes in this kingdom, I have often said, and I still say, that the farmers form the class who have conducted themselves in the worst manner. In talking of classes, however, I am not to be supposed to include the traffickers in seats and the jobbers in stocks; because these are really proscribed by the law; they are two sets of criminals; and are by no means to be confounded with classes who have been guilty of political offences, whether of commission or of omission. You, the farmers, have not only been deficient in point of public spirit; you have not only shown a willingness to support a system, which has at last brought even yourselves to the verge of destruction; but you have voluntarily aided and abetted those by whom the system has been carried on; and, what is still worse, you have appeared to take pleasure in the persecution of every man, whose zeal has urged him forward to oppose that system. You are, therefore, not proper objects of compassion; all of us suffer, but you merit your sufferings.

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I speak here with numerous very honourable exceptions; and if I did not in the most marked manner make these exceptions. I should be guilty of crying injustice; for, I know many farmers, who are amongst the most ardent friends of freedom and of justice, and who are also amongst the most enlightened men with whom I have ever had the honour to be acquainted. If I personally know many such, the whole number of such farmers must be great. My natural partialities, my liking for your calling and state of life, the pleasure I derive from participating, though it were only by books, in your pursuits; all these naturally dispose me to see in every farmer a man of public spirit, of ardour in the cause of freedom, as well as to find in him, what are very seldom wanting, a clear understanding, and soundness of judgment. But (always speaking with numerous exceptions) I am constrained to confess, that, as to public matters, I have always found you miserably selfish and destitute of feeling; the causes of which it would not be very difficult to point out; but the effects are manifest in the continuation of a system, which has been productive of a greater mass of human suffering than, as I believe, was ever before experienced, in a like space of time, in any country in the world. And, I am really of opinion, that this system will continue until you shall feel very nearly what your miserable labourers now feel.

Considering your past conduct, I can deem nothing due to you in the way either of instruction or advice. I do not, in addressing you upon the cause of your ruin, act from a hope or even a desire to relieve you, or render you assistance in any way whatever. You and your affairs are a subject of pure speculation with me. I write about you with as little feeling as a chemist writes about the things that pass through his crucible. But, you form a curious subject for the political philosopher; and to develope the nature of your concerns may be of use to the nation at large, not only at the present time, but in times yet to come.

It is now about six years since you began to feel the pinchings of distress. This feeling filled you with the desire of seeking a remedy through the assistance of a legislative measure. For nobody did you feel as long as you were thriving; but, the moment you ceased to thrive, you flew to the Government for that assistance and protection, which you had never called for in behalf of any other human being. Your prices fell; and the notion got into your minds, that the sole remedy was to make the prices rise again. The means of accomplishing this object, was, as you thought, to prevent the importation of farm produce from other countries. Hence the Corn Bill, which not only with your approbation, but agreeably to your pressing entreaties, was passed with troops drawn up round the Houses of Parliament! After this there was nothing that ever could arise that would leave you just ground of complaint: for in this one thing, we see you deprived of all claim to the compassion of any part of your countrymen.

From that day to this day, your affairs have been upon the decline; your embarrassments have been increasing; your final ruin has become, daily, more manifestly unavoidable. Still you cry on for Corn Bills and Wool Bills; still you call out for what you call protection; and during the last two years, or thereabouts, you have been forming yourselves into combinations (far less clearly lawful than the clubs and societies of Reformers), in order to produce an extension of the effect of the Corn Bills. At last, however, the Government and the Parliament have told Edition: current; Page: [49] you, that they can do nothing for your relief; that the “healing hand of time” can alone effect your cure; while time, your true and faithful councillor, tells you that it has no remedies in store.

I should suppose, that, within the last five years, you must have expended amongst you, on writers, printers, publishers, secretaries, club-rooms, agents, and one thing and the other, a quarter of a million of money, at least, in order to effect a rise in the price of corn. All this money has been wholly thrown away. It has answered no purpose but that of keeping up the deception in your own minds, and of giving offence to the rest of the community. If you had followed the advice which I gave in the years 1814, 1815, and 1816, how different at this time would be your situation!

In explaining to you the causes of your ruin, first let me endeavour to get out of your minds the erroneous notion that high price is, in itself considered a good thing. If wheat were sold for a shilling a bushel, the farmer might be better off than if it were sold at twenty shillings a bushel. If a man give a hundred shillings an acre rent for his land, and sell his wheat for twenty shillings a bushel, he is not so well off as the farmer who gave three shillings an acre for his land, and who sold his wheat at a shilling a bushel. If one shilling would buy a yard of broadcloth, the farmer who got that shilling for a bushel of wheat, would be a richer man in that respect than the farmer who had to give thirty shillings for a yard of broadcloth, and who must sell his wheat for twenty shillings the bushel. It is not, therefore, you see, mere high price that can be any good to you. You should make a distinction between positive amount and relative amount. By positive amount I mean the amount in itself considered. And then, as mere amount, twenty shillings is better than one. But when the amount is relative; that is to say, when it is to be considered relatively to, or in comparison with, other sums; then one shilling in this case may be better than the twenty in the other. For, if I can buy a greater quantity of useful things with one shilling, than I can with twenty shillings, it is clear that the one shilling is better than the twenty. Therefore, it is not at the sum received that you are alone to look; but also at the sum which it is required that you should expend.

Keep these things in mind, and you will soon discover that it is not an augmentation of your receipts that you ought to have been seeking for; but a reduction of your expenses. The first thing that strikes you is a falling off in the prices of your produce; and, therefore, the first thing which an unreflecting man does, under such circumstances, is to seek for a rise in the price. To seek for a lessening of the outgoings does not occur to him so quickly. It appears to be a matter of greater difficulty, and much slower in the accomplishment. Besides, he does not perceive any hope of success in this way; especially when he reflects that his outgoings consist, for the greater part, of rents, tithes and taxes. The first he is generally bound to pay by lease; the second he is also bound to pay by lease, except in a few cases where tithes are taken in kind, to avoid which mode of payment, he will make almost any sacrifice; and from the fourth he sees no more possibility of fleeing than from death itself. He looks upon the tax-gatherer as inflexible, irresistible and immortal. To cope with such a power he has no hope. He, therefore, looks to the remedy of an Act of Parliament, the effect of which shall be to raise his prices, and to keep them up. He sues for a compromise Edition: current; Page: [50] with his landlord, his parson, and the tax-gatherer, and he says, “secure me high prices, and I will pay you your rent, your tithes and your taxes.”

This has been the line of conduct pursued by the farmers. Acts of Parliament have accordingly been passed; the objects of those Acts were to raise the price of farm produce, and to keep it up, and still the ruin of the farmers has proceeded steadily on. They have not perceived the real cause of their ruin; and, therefore, I will now, for about the hundredth time, explain to them that cause.

When, in any community, the quantity of money, or of circulating medium, is great in proportion to the number and magnitude of the dealings in that community, then prices are high. When the quantity of money or circulating medium in such community is small, then prices are low. The reasons of these are very clear, and need not now be stated.* It is of no consequence to a community, or to any part of it, whether there be much or whether there be little money in circulation within such community, provided, mind, that there be no fluctuation in the quantity. But, if there be fluctuations in the quantity; if there be a change from a small quantity to a great quantity; or, from a great one to a small one: then all the affairs of the community experience disturbance: instead of a fair chance of gain or of loss, distributed promiscuously amongst the several members of the community; and leaving to ingenuity, industry, skill, economy, and providential foresight, all the advantages which they naturally secure to their possessors; instead of this, a circulating medium, fluctuating in its quantity, divides the community into classes; and of these classes it ruins some and enriches others; or it diminishes the wealth of some, and betters the condition of others. Let us suppose a community with a money, or circulating medium; and it will be best to call it money at once, it being all the same in this respect whether it be paper or gold. Let us suppose a community with money to the amount of ten millions of pounds. Let us suppose that wheat sells for five shillings a bushel, while this quantity of money is afloat. If this money be (by any means whatever) augmented in quantity to twenty millions instead of ten, wheat will necessarily sell for ten shillings the bushel. It will sell indeed for more; because the latter ten millions will cause the whole mass to move quicker from hand to hand, and any given piece of money of the twenty millions, will have much greater power than any piece of the ten millions (the pieces being of the same nominal amount) has ever had.

It is very clear, that all the time that the augmentation of the money is going on, prices will go on rising; and the farmer will go on reaping advantage from such rise. Suppose he has a lease for seven years, when the augmentation of the quantity of money is beginning; and suppose his rent to be a hundred pounds a year. It will then require 400 bushels of wheat to pay his rent; but when the quantity of money has been augmented to twenty millions, it will then require, to pay his rent, only 200 bushels of wheat at the most. The same cause will produce the same effects with regard to tithes, which he takes on lease, and also with regard to taxes.

On the other hand, all the time a diminution of the quantity of money Edition: current; Page: [51] is going on, prices will go on falling; and the farmer will go on suffering from such fall. His rent which, at first, demanded four hundred bushels of wheat, would go on every year demanding more and more, till at last, when the quantity of money has been lessened by one-half, his rent will demand eight hundred bushels of wheat per annum. His tithes, if he has them on lease, will oppress him in the same way; as will also his taxes.

If you keep this clearly in your minds, you will soon perceive that it is not Corn Bills that can relieve you; and though I, by no means, wish to prevent the presenting of those petitions which you are again, I understand, preparing for the Parliament; and which, while they cannot possibly do the mass of the people any harm, may serve to amuse you, and to produce long botheration speeches, which are a great diversion to me. I by no means wish to prevent you from sending these petitions. They will give employment to clerks, printers and paper-makers. These are rather unproductive labourers, to be sure; but their employment is as beneficial, at any rate, as the digging of holes one day and filling them up the next, a mode of employment suggested by the profound Castlereagh, to whom you have given your cordial support; and in defence of the system of which he is one of the conductors, you so gallantly drew your swords on St. Peter’s-field at Manchester. I by no means wish to prevent you from presenting these petitions to a Parliament which you so much approve of; but, that I myself may not, from my silence, pass for a fool, too, I think it right to tell you, as I told you in 1814 and 1815, that Corn Bills can do you no good; that all they can do for you, is to assist in adding to your ruin, while they expose you, at the very same time, to the hatred of the rest of the community.

The cause; that is to say, the immediate cause, of your ruin is, fall in prices. The cause of that is, a diminution of the money in the country. The cause of that diminution is, an endeavour, on the part of the Parliament, to compel the Bank to pay in gold and silver, instead of promising to promise to pay, for so many years, and paying, in fact, in bits of oblong material, consisting of oil, lamp-black, and ground rags. The cause of this endeavour to return to cash-payments is of a mixed nature: partly moral and partly political. The men in the Ministry, and in Parliament, who conduct the affairs of this happy nation, began to be ashamed of not returning to cash-payments, agreeably to the declarations and enactments. They began to be ashamed to look one another in the face; and there were not wanting persons to taunt them with the failure of their promises. But, besides this, they saw (for even an idiot must have seen), that, until the country returned to cash-payments, it never would dare to go to war; and this for two reasons, first because the expenses of a new war would compel them to make new and enormous issues of paper-money; and, second, because in a state of war, no man could answer for the credit of the paper-money for one single day, seeing that any foreign nation might, according to our own example, in our conduct towards France and America, render our circulating paper as worthless as so many pieces of those rags which you fling over your land for the purpose of manure.

Here, then, brother Jobbernoles; here brother chewbacons; here brother clodthumpers; here are the causes, immediate and remote, of your ruin; of your removal from farm-houses to workhouses; of your change from big plump cheeks and swelled-out bellies, to lantern jaws and herring paunches. Take a good look at these causes. Think a Edition: current; Page: [52] little about your bankers and your banker’s book. Recollect how easy you used to get money from your banker; and pray mark well that your stock now belongs to him much more than to yourselves.

It is the diminution of the quantity of money circulating in the country, which has been the cause of your ruin.* The Ministry, and that Parliament which you like so well; these good gentlemen did, for the reasons above-stated, wish a return to cash-payments. In order to return to cash-payments, it was necessary that the Bank should reduce the quantity of its paper-money. The Bank reduced its quantity of paper-money; the country bankers did the same. Prices fell in consequence of this. Wheat came down from twelve shillings a bushel to eight or seven. You had still the same nominal sum of rent to pay, of tithes, in many cases, and of taxes in all cases. Your corn having fallen in price nearly one-half, you have now to give nearly twice the quantity of it to the landlord, the parson, the tax-gatherer, that you gave before. So that, your ruin must be inevitable. Your labourers, indeed, and servants in husbandry, you have compelled to lower their wages in proportion to the fall in your prices; but in pinching them to the utmost of your power you have been unable Edition: current; Page: [53] to keep employed the same number of hands as before. Still the poor creatures must continue to exist. They cannot be knocked on the head. It would not be safe to suffer a million or two of persons in one country to be without food. They would break out, and, thinking that they were not born to starve in a land of plenty, would take the food; therefore, they must be fed, in a way sufficient to keep them alive. Hence comes a dreadful augmentation of the poor-rates; and that, too, just at the very time, when, even without this new charge, you are upon the point of becoming paupers.

Do you understand this? Can you misunderstand it? Indeed, to suppose you capable of misunderstanding what I have here written, would be to suppose you less rational than the horses or the oxen that drag your ploughs and waggons. Nevertheless, I will place the matter in another point of view; for, the salvation of the country depends, and it wholly depends, upon this matter being clearly understood.

You will observe, that, while the regular diminution in the quantity of money in the country ruins you, it does great good to some other classes of the community. We have seen how it must benefit a landlord who let his farm some time back. We have seen that it gives him four hundred bushels of wheat in place of two hundred. We have seen that this is the case when corn has been brought down to half the price at which it was when the farm was taken. And, by-the-by, corn is, at this hour, taking barley, oats and wheat together, at less than half the average price, which it brought for many years previous to 1814. We have seen, then, that the landlord in such a case, gets twice as much as he got before. But, so also does the fundholder, the placeman, the pensioner, the sinecurist, the army, the navy, the tax-gatherer himself, and every other creature who lives upon the produce of the taxes.

Now, suppose you were to agree at Michaelmas to give your servant-men twenty-four pounds a year a-piece, and your servant-women twelve pounds a year a-piece. Suppose they were to board themselves, and were to receive their wages monthly. Suppose that, just after you had made the bargain, a law were to be passed to compel you to pay them these wages, and an addition to them, regularly increased from month to month, in such proportion as would make the last month for every man four pounds, and the last month for every woman two pounds. I am supposing the increase to have been gradual from the first month to the last; and, in that case, you would at the end of the year, have paid each man thirty-six pounds, and each woman eighteen pounds, instead of the twenty-four pounds and the twelve pounds that you had agreed for.

Now, how should you relish a law like this? How should you relish such a law, and how should you act while Dick and Bess were pocketting your money and laughing in your faces? Would you not swear and stamp, and kick the dogs about the house, as you do in a rainy harvest? Would you not bellow like your calves and roar like your bulls? Yet, this is precisely what has been done by that Parliament which you so much love, with regard to the wages of placemen, and the pay and income of all others, whose income and pay come out of the taxes. You can see clearly enough that you pay the landlord and the parson more than you ought to pay. You grumble, and pretty loudly, too, with regard to them; and you vent your ill-humour most copiously upon the poor; but the fundholders, the placemen, the sinecure gentlemen and ladies: these you take special care never to offend by your unmannerly complaints and reproaches. To Edition: current; Page: [54] support these, you not only give your money freely; but, upon all occasions, you come boastingly forward with offers of your services and your lives.

There are some of you who have borrowed money, by mortgage, bond, annuity, or under some other shape. If you did this five years ago, you must now pay twice as much interest as you did the first year after the loan was made; just in the same way that you, if a renter, must, as above proved, pay a double rent to the landlord. You must sell twice as many bushels of corn to get the money to pay your interest as you had to sell to pay your interest during the first year of the loan. Now, let us take a simple case: suppose a farmer has borrowed on mortgage a thousand pounds, and suppose his farm to have been worth two thousand pounds when he borrowed the money. Suppose the loan to have been made to him six years ago. The interest of the thousand pounds then required about seventy bushels of wheat. This was what he, in fact, bargained to pay. Now, suppose a law be passed, or a series of laws to be passed, to compel him to pay more than he had bargained to pay. About ten pounds more the first year. That is to say, nearly sixty pounds, instead of fifty pounds. Nearly twenty pounds the next year, more than the fifty. And so on, till, at this time, he has to pay a hundred a-year in place of the fifty; or, which is the same thing, has to sell a hundred and forty bushels of wheat, instead of seventy bushels of wheat, to pay the interest with. Suppose, I say, that a law had been passed just after he had made the loan, to compel him to make payments in this increased way; and suppose, further, that the same law authorized the mortgagee to enter up his mortgage, and to sell the farm, which farm, observe, will now sell for only one thousand pounds instead of two. Suppose the farm to sell for less than a thousand pounds, and the mortgagee to seize the goods of the farmer, and to take the very bed from under his wife to make up the deficiency. Suppose a law like this to be passed, suppose the law to say that these things shall take place; what would the farmer; what would the ruined monopolizer of loyalty say? Would he not rail a bit? Would he not begin to think that his boisterous and blackguard execrations against the Radicals had been improperly employed? Yet, this is precisely the effect of the laws which have been passed, and the measures which have been adopted, to cause a return to cash payments.

If, therefore, you have not completely taken leave of your senses, you will cease to clamour about Corn Bills. You will no longer be the laughing-stock of men of sense. You will no longer be objects of hatred amongst the other classes of the community; but will join with the rest of your countrymen in calling for a remedy which is pointed out by common sense. Before, however, I speak of that remedy, it may be necessary, or, at least, it may be useful to notice, what is going on amongst you, in the several parts of the country. Time and experience do not appear to have had any effect upon you. I have, before me, an “Address from the Huntingdonshire Agricultural Association, to the Occupiers of Lands.” This Address appears to have proceeded from an association of landlords, who are calling upon the occupiers to come forward again with petitions; and this they do in the following curious manner. They put thirteen questions to them, which, they say, must all be answered in the negative; and, then, they most earnestly exhort them to come boldly forward and petition. They tell them to petition boldly and peaceably. They tell them that they are the most industrious and most useful Edition: current; Page: [55] class of the community; and that they ought not to suffer themselves to be borne down by the senseless cry of the manufacturers, or by the clamour and violence of a mob. They bid them, in short, to petition away, as gaily as ever, for Corn Bills and Commercial Restrictions; and this, too, precisely at the time when commerce and manufactures are crying aloud for a repeal of the present Corn Bill. They invoke them to leave violence to their opponents, and to rest their cause upon argument. The questions which they put to them, are such as very weak and very greedy persons would naturally put, upon such an occasion, and under such circumstances. It is altogether a most contemptible and ridiculous document; but I will insert it just as I find it; and then make a few remarks upon it.

“The Parliament being shortly expected to assemble, your attention is most seriously called to a few important questions, which, if answered, as they cannot fail to be, by men of plain understandings, you will, no doubt, think it high time loudly to call on the Legislature to take your grievances into their most serious consideration, under the pressure of which, if not speedily redressed, you must soon sink to rise no more.

1. Will the present prices of agricultural produce pay the expenses of growing it?

2. Do you, when at market, perceive the times are mending?

3. On passing the last Corn Bill, did the Legislature say that wheat could be grown to remunerate the grower, under ten shillings per bushel?

4. Are your expenses less now than they were when the last Corn Bill was passed?

5. Is it just that foreign nations, who bear no share of the burdens of this country, should be suffered to undersell you in your own markets?

6. Will you patiently suffer yourselves to be undersold by foreign nations?

7. Do the merchants, or manufacturers, bear their proportion of supporting the clergy, the church, the poor, and the roads?

8. Have very many of you experienced much benefit from your rents having been lowered within the last four or five years?

9. Can you, if the present prices continue, occupy your poor lands, rent free?

10. If occupied rent free, will the ruin of the landlords benefit you? Or do you think it just they should be so occupied?

11. Can the landed proprietors bear their proportion of the burdens of the State, if they get nothing for their estates?

12. Can you bear to see the condition of your labourers getting worse and worse every day, from your inability to support or employ them?

13. Will you, the most industrious and useful class of the community, suffer yourselves to be borne down by the senseless cry of the manufacturers, or the clamour and violence of a mob?

If to these questions you answer No; surely you must be anxious, without delay, boldly and respectfully to come forward to petition the Legislature to redress your grievances, as the only rational method of averting the ruin which will so speedily overwhelm you. If you ask, as you probably may, what did you get by your petitions last year? the answer is obvious: much was gained, by its having ascertained that many, who before opposed your claims, after reading your petitions, acknowledged your grievances, and in the House of Commons advocated the justice of your cause. For what do you petition? You petition only that your grievances may be inquired into by the Legislature of your country; surely no proceeding can be more reasonable, more moderate. Proceed, then, as you have hitherto done, leave violence to your opponents, ‘let them sound the tocsin of alarm;’ they have no arguments to oppose to your well-founded complaints; petition boldly and peaceably, and you will ultimately find that justice and reason will prevail over clamour, folly, and self-interest.

The first four questions are childish; purely childish. The next two tend to a demand for a new Corn Bill. They ask you whether it be just that foreign nations, who bear no share of the burdens of this country, Edition: current; Page: [56] should be suffered to undersell you in your own markets; and, then, they say, will you patiently suffer yourselves to be undersold by foreign nations. In answer to this you might say, that, as to suffering patiently, you have no more patience in your natures than other people; but that there is no way of showing your impatience, except that of resistance; and, that you would be glad to know whether that be a mode of prevention which your landlords recommend. Because, if it be, you have got horses and uniform and swords, only you must wait, till the landlords come and put themselves at your head. They tell you that foreign nations bear no share of the burdens of this country. By which they mean, I suppose, that foreign nations pay no part of the taxes of England. This is not quite so clear a point as these jolter-headed landlords appear to imagine. They cannot, indeed, pass laws to enable an English tax-gatherer to collect taxes in France or in America; but wise men would know how to pass laws which would make foreign nations contribute, and contribute largely too, towards the taxes of England. Suppose, for instance a master cutler, with twenty men, employed at Birmingham in making knives for the use of the people in Mr. Birkbeck’s settlement. Suppose the knives sent out to amount to two thousand pounds a-year. Suppose Mr. Birkbeck’s settlement to send over to Portugal or Spain two thousand pounds worth of flour, and as much more as would pay all expenses that would arise from the turning of it into money. By the means of bills of exchange, this two thousand pounds finds its way to Birmingham, where, after paying the twenty men excellent wages, affording the master and his family the means of excellent living, and the means of putting a little by, it circulates in all directions, and the far greater part of it finally passes through the hands of the farmer, in exchange for his flour, meat, and wool. It is clear that this sum of two thousand pounds would enable the parties into whose pockets it would come, to pay the more taxes, on account of having received it; and thus, as clearly as that two and two make four, Mr. Birkbeck’s settlement would bear a share of the burdens of this country.

This is a very plain and simple case. Such a case is seldom seen in practice; for, commercial transactions are complicated; and can only be illustrated in this sort of way. But, now, to come closer to your affair: suppose the flour to come to England under the present circumstances, instead of going to Portugal or Spain. It is put into warehouse: it is re-shipped, after a time; and then it goes to Portugal or Spain. You would prevent this; for you say that the warehousing does you harm. The American ship has to pay lighthouse duty, pilotage, wharfage; the flour has to pay warehousing. The English merchant gains at every step. An English ship is employed to carry away the flour, when it goes away. The final consumer of the flour pays all this to English merchants, shipowners, sailors, and workmen; and the American ship that brought the flour takes back a cargo of English goods to America, amongst which, perhaps, there is another two thousand pounds worth of knives. This cargo is bought by an English merchant, who has another cargo to receive by-and-by, in payment for the cargo which he has here sent away.

Now, do you not see, in all these operations, the means of making America and Portugal contribute towards English taxation, and English prosperity? If you do not, I would advise you to give over thinking about the matter.

Edition: current; Page: [57]

However, let us suppose the two thousand pounds worth of knives to be paid for in part by American food. That, say you, is our case. Suppose the whole to be paid for in flour to be consumed in England. That is not your case, nor anything like it; but suppose it to be your case. Even then, the importation of foreign produce can do you no harm; but, on the contrary, good; for, after all, the food that was brought from America would have come in consequence of means, which means would never have existed, if the flour had not been ready to come. The flour would be consumed in the country, but it would be consumed by mouths which never could have consumed yours; because the persons having those mouths would not, had it not been for the Americans’ taking their knives, have had the means of purchasing any flour at all. If this be not clear, take another supposition. Imagine ten men and a master dropping down from the clouds, setting to work, with the tools that they had brought down with them, and making knives, as in the other case. Suppose them to receive in exchange, not only all the food that they lived upon, but all their clothing into the bargain. There they would be without eating any of your food or using any of your wool or leather, or flax. Even then, the operation would be to the advantage of the nation; you must participate in that advantage; while it is impossible for you to say that the introduction of American produce, in this case, did you any harm.

The truth is, that, to prevent the importation of foreign produce, is merely to injure commerce and manufactures without any possible benefit to the land. The food which is imported from foreign countries is, and must be, paid for in the use of English ships, in the products of the labour of English manufacturers, in the products of English mines, and in the products, too, of the land of England. In exchange (to continue the American illustration) for English cloth made out of English wool, and in exchange for the other things above-mentioned, there come amongst other things, American flour; but this flour does not come unless something be sent from this country in exchange for it; so that, when the flour does come, it comes to mouths which would not consume yours if the American flour did not come.

You and your landlords never take into consideration the important circumstances of diminished consumption. You appear to imagine that the people will continue to eat as much bread and meat, whether they have commerce or manufactures or not! This is your conclusion, but the conclusion is not only false, but ridiculous. Can a man who earns seven shillings a week, lay out as much upon food as he used to do when he earned twenty? If not, how can a manufacturing town or city be expected to consume as many oxen and sacks of flour, when the workmen in it earn seven shillings a week, as it did when its workmen earned twenty. The great cause of your ruin is, as was before shown, the change in the value of money; but this cause works in various ways; and in one way, it diminishes the consumption of food, and in this it is assisted by the Corn Bill, which, by diminishing the export of manufactures, diminishes the means of the manufacturers to purchase food. Immense, therefore, has been the falling-off in the demand for food, as the butchers in and near all manufacturing towns, can, I am sure, most amply attest. The difference, in the mode of living, amongst the most numerous classes, is quite surprising. I believe that there are millions who now have not more than a third part of as much as they could eat, and who formerly Edition: current; Page: [58] had a bellyfull. I believe if all the people of England were taken and weighed, they would not weigh so much, by one-third, as the people weighed seven years ago. Yet, this is a matter that your wise landlords never appear to take into consideration.

The seventh question is just what one would expect from a set of grumbling, grunting, growling, half-landlord half-farmers. It is this, “Do the merchants and manufacturers bear their proportion of supporting the Clergy, the Church, the Poor, and the Roads?” You are told that you must answer this question in the negative; and ought, thereupon, to step boldly forward to avert the ruin which must speedily overwhelm you. Now, I say, that if you do answer this question in the negative, you must have little more sense than a rat or a cat; and, perhaps, not so much. If Mr. Walter, who pays, probably, sixty thousand pounds a-year, in stamp-duty, were to come out, one of these days, and call upon his customers to thank him for this enormous contribution towards the revenue, do you think that there would be nobody to be found to tell him, that it was not he who paid the sixty thousand pounds a-year, but the people who purchased his paper? And, do not those who purchase your corn, meat, wool, hides and flax, do not these pay their share towards all the expenses which are incurred in the raising of those articles of produce? When they were at it, I wonder the wise-acres of Huntingdonshire, had not included the rent, the taxes, and the labour, of their farms; which they might have done with full as much reason. It may be very well for Mr. Curwen, Mr. Western, and such very shallow men, to talk about the land supporting the church, the poor and the roads; but every man of sense will laugh at such trash; and will see that not only the merchant and the manufacturer bear their due proportion of all these; but that a due proportion is also borne by the labourer and the journeyman, and by every creature that eats bread of his own earning.

The eighth question is, at once, insidious and silly. I will only ask you to look at it again. If it does not make you laugh, misery must have rendered your risible muscles immovable.

The ninth question may with truth, I dare say, he answered in the negative. And this answer is the best possible commentary that can be made upon the former bragging and boasting about the great number of Inclosure Bills that were annually passed. I can readily believe that poor lands, even though rent free, will not enable an occupier to pay the poor-rates and the assessed taxes; and, if Castlereagh wants a better proof than this of the prosperity of the country, let him find it where he can.

Under number ten, there are two questions which are unworthy of notice, except on account of their exquisite silliness.

The eleventh question is of a description not to have been put even to you. But still, plain as the landlords may think it appear, I venture to give it an answer, contrary to the one they anticipate and regard as inevitable. The question is this: “Can the landed proprietors bear their proportion of the burdens of the State, if they get nothing for their estates?” I say they can; for, if they get nothing for their estates, they then become labourers; and we know well that every labourer is compelled to contribute his proportion of the burdens of the State. He is compelled to pay taxes upon an infinite number of articles that he uses, and he is also compelled to come forward in person, to take arms and to Edition: current; Page: [59] fight for his country. This is contributing his proportion of the burdens of the State; and when the landlords are placed in this situation, they will doubtless cheerfully submit to burdens, which they have had no scruple in imposing upon him.

The twelfth question is rather of a pathetic description: “Can you bear to see the condition of your labourers getting worse and worse every day?” This is pointed at your tender feelings; but there is a tail to this question; namely, “from your inability to support or employ them?” O! no; I can easily believe that you cannot bear to think of your inability to support or employ them; but, when I reflect on the observations which I have heard from some farmers relating to their labourers, I am almost disposed to believe, that to make such farmers feel as much as they ought for the poor, they must themselves be reduced to the condition of paupers.

The thirteenth, and last, question compliments you, as the most industrious and most useful class of the community. This is vulgar stuff that has neither sense nor decency in it. In a well-ordered state, all classes are equally useful, because they are all equally necessary. To say that a dull, slow ploughman or shepherd is more industrious than an intelligent, active, bustling shopman, is ridiculous, upon the face of it. Yet the calling of the one is as much an industrious calling as is that of the other. Slowness of motion is not only habitual, but proper, in the one case, as nimbleness is in the other. All classes are equally industrious, if the comparison be made as to the people of the same country; and, therefore, to cry up one class, as the most industrious, is to discover a great degree of that “senseless cry,” which, in this very question, is ascribed to the manufacturers, who are here accused of a “senseless cry,” while the people, under the name of mob, are accused of clamour and violence. Violence might, indeed, be pretty fairly imputed to those who are at all times ready to cut and slash. But what violence has been committed, or attempted, or even talked of, towards the farmers, I am at a loss to discover. The Corn Bill was passed in spite of the petitions of almost the whole nation; and in no part of the kingdom have there been any violences (since the passing of that Bill, and in consequence of it), committed against the farmers; though, since that period, the sufferings of the people, from actual hunger, have been greater than any ever before experienced by any people in the world. It is curious enough, that the wise men, who drew up these questions and observations, seem never to have thought about the 44 millions a-year raised for the National Debt and Sinking Fund. They complain of church, poor, and roads; but say not a word about the great burden of all. They complain against the merchants and manufacturers, who suffer as much as you do; but make no complaint against fundholders, placemen, pensioners, and army and navy. The truth is, they are afraid. They dare not open their lips upon this subject! If they were to touch here, they would be joining the Radicals; and that would not do! However, they and you and all other complainants must join the Radicals at last, or, you will get no redress.

As to the remedy for your ills, I have not room to speak of it here. I may probably address another letter to you; and, in the meanwhile, I sincerely hope, that your produce will go on falling in price, till your eyes be completely opened. If Peel’s Bill be not repealed, your wheat will, very likely, be at five shillings a-bushel before the end of this year. That Edition: current; Page: [60] would make you Reformers; but, perhaps, it must come down to four shillings before you will become downright Radicals. It is not, as yet, either treason or blasphemy to pray for cheap meat and bread; one cannot be banished for putting up such a prayer; and, therefore, put it up I do with all possible fervor and piety.



William Cobbett
Cobbett, William
20th February, 1821
William Huskisson
Huskisson, William

You and I stepped on upon the political theatre about one and the same time. I began a flaming Royalist, at Philadelphia, and you a member and orator of a Jacobin club, at Paris. We have both changed, and, whatever other sins we have to reproach each other with, we must be mute upon that of “inconsistency,” that cuckoo-cant, set up against me by every knave and every fool, whose roguery or folly I find it my duty to expose. In our “inconsistency” we have, thank God, great me enough to keep us in countenance; and, therefore, having congratulated you on this score, I shall proceed to the subjects of my Letter; namely, the Poor-laws and Poor-rates; and, upon these subjects I address myself to you, because, as to them, you have recently expressed sentiments in which I do not agree.

Those sentiments to which I allude, respecting the Poor-laws, were expressed by you in the House of Commons on the 19th inst. on a Bill for extending the Poor-rates in Hull to the shipping belonging to that port. You disapproved of this Bill; and, perhaps your objection to it was very good. It certainly is very great nonsense to suppose that the town of Hull would gain any thing, or obtain any relief whatever, by the proposed Bill. Just as great nonsense as it is for Mr. Curwen and others to talk of the Poor-rates falling wholly on the farmer. In some parishes a couple or three farmers pay the whole of the Poor-rates of the parish; but is any man foolish enough to suppose that these taxes fall finally upon these two or three persons? With full as much reason might it be said, that the whole of the tithes fall upon the farmer. Suppose a farm let free of tithes and Poor-rates, will not the landlord demand the amount of these in additional rent? Lay Poor-rates upon the ships at Hull, and will they not be finally paid by all the persons, whether shipowners or others, who are, in any wise, affected by the trade of Hull? In fact, the town of Hull and its precincts, would lose just as much in one way as it would gain in another.

Therefore, I agree with you perfectly in objecting to the Bill; but, then, I wholly disagree with you as to the sentiments which you expressed Edition: current; Page: [61] with regard to the Poor-rates generally. You are reported to have said, that, “It was agreed on all hands that the Poor-rates were an evil which ought, in every possible manner, to be repressed; that the Poor-rates were a cancer which spread throughout the country; and that it was not for Parliament to encourage the growth of an evil so monstrous.

Now, Sir, I am at a loss to discover the ground for these declarations on your part. It is very strange that this cancer should never have been discovered until the profligate and wasteful administration of Pitt. The Poor-laws have existed about two hundred years; but, never till within about five-and-twenty years have they been talked of as an evil;* much less have they ever been called a cancer. Before I proceed further let me quote Mr. Frankland Lewis, who also spoke in this debate. He said, that, “the Poor-rates would ultimately eat up all property; that there was no hope of safety from them; that it was impossible to save any thing that came within their clutches; that there was no danger so great as that which arose from the Poor-rates; that every species of property that was assessed to the Poor-rates was sure to be eaten up; and that the only thing the country had to do was, to defend itself wherever it could.”

This is a horrid picture, to be sure. But, first let me observe that Mr. Lewis appears to have dipped but very shallowly into this great subject. What can he mean by property being eaten up by Poor-rates? What can he mean by representing the particular property assessed to the Poor-rates as suffering from that cause more than any other species of property? If this were so, it would be a fair and strong argument in favour of the Bill which he was opposing; for that Bill proceeded upon the notion that the shipping of Hull did not now pay any thing to the Poor-rates. The notion, however, is completely false; it is so absurd, and the absurdity is so glaring, that one wonders how it could have found its way into the head of any man of sound understanding. In answering the arguments; or, rather, in refuting the assertions of a person like Mr. Lewis. I am almost ashamed to resort to illustrations such as would seem excusable only in cases where children are the parties addressed: but, what is one to do, when one finds such notions coming from the lips of grown-up men?

Let us suppose (for the thing is possible) a parish consisting of one large farm and of divers houses inhabited by persons, none of whom are assessed to the Poor-rates. In short, let us suppose for argument sake, that a law were passed to prevent any body but the farmer being assessed to the Poor-rates in this parish; and let us suppose all the produce of his farm and no more than that, to be consumed in that parish. Now, is it not clear that all the people in the parish; that every creature who eats bread or meat, would, when they purchased the bread and meat from the farmer, pay him back the amount of what he had paid in Poor-rates? If there be any person to whom this is not clear, such person must believe, that the tax paid upon the paper, of which this Register consists, falls wholly upon me; and that I have a right to say that my Register is “eaten up” by the tax. Upon just as good grounds; and, indeed, better, Mr. Edition: current; Page: [62] Lewis might complain that the land is “eaten up by tithes;” but there requires but very little reflection to convince any rational man, that every one who eats bread, assists in paying tithes.

Having, and I trust quite sufficiently, exposed this error, let me now remonstrate a little with you and Mr. Lewis. To hear you and this gentleman, one would imagine that the Poor-rates were not a tax, or rent-charge; but that they constituted some big, hideous, voracious devil of an animal, that was let loose upon the country, and that was actually tearing it and eating it. Or, at the very least, one would suppose it to be an impost laid by some cruel conqueror, whose desire was totally to destroy the property and happiness of the people. At any rate, who, from the picture here given of the Poor-rate, would suppose that it was a rent-charge, imposed upon the land in order to prevent any part of the community from perishing for want of food? Who would suppose that it was a thing to which the poor had as good a right as the rich have to their estates?

To hear some persons talk, one would imagine that the holders of the land had a power over it as complete as that of God himself; that they had a right so entire to it as to form a complete exclusion with regard to all other claimants. This never was the case in any community in the world; and the absurdity here is, that, while these famous land proprietors very quietly suffer their rents to be taken away under the name of property-tax; while they suffer large portions of the worth to be taken away under the name of legacy-tax; and while they even suffer a part of the land itself to be taken away under the name of redemption of land-tax: while they very quietly suffer all these things, they cry aloud against the poor-rate as something monstrous; as something that they must get rid of or else be devoured! The truth is that they are more bold, when the poor are the objects of attack, than they are when they have to look at the Civil List, the sinecure placemen, the pensioners, the grantees, the clergy and the Fundholders! They put on a modest look when they turn their eyes in any of these directions. They appear not to see the forty millions a-year to the fundholders, but the Poor-rate of eight millions a-year they can represent as a monster that is eating up their very dirt.

The Poor-laws are, as Blackstone says, founded in the first principles of society; for, it never could have been in the contemplation of any people to suffer a few individuals (comparatively few) to have the complete, absolute and exclusive possession of the land, even to the producing of the starvation and destruction of other persons. The basis of the social compact must have been this: that every man shall have a right to live, to enjoy the use of his limbs and faculties, and to receive, either from land of his own, or from labour performed for others, a sufficiency of food and of raiment.* Society can exist upon no other basis than this. It never could have been in the contemplation of human beings to enter into society, and to acknowledge proprietorship in the soil, upon any other presumption than this. The laws of England have proceeded upon this principle. They have provided by positive enactments that no man shall perish for want of the necessaries of life. They have Edition: current; Page: [63] said: To you proprietors of land shall your lands be secured; but, recollect, that your proprietorship is not so absolute as to enable you to refuse the means of sustenance to those who are unable to provide for themselves: you are landowners; but recollect this condition.

And, pray, Sir, are there no other reasons why the land should come to the assistance and comfort of helpless and destitute persons? Pray, Sir, upon what ground do the landowners call upon the labouring man to come forward, to take up arms, and to risk his life, if necessary, either in posse, or in the more regular manner of a soldier? The labouring man is compelled to do this by the laws; and why is he so compelled? Because his appearance in the posse, or in military array, is necessary to the keeping of the proprietors in quiet possession of their property; or to the defence of the whole realm, which is made up of parcels of that property. As things are; as the laws stand altogether, this claim upon the labouring man is just enough; and why is it just? Because the laws give him an interest in the land: the land is at last his security against suffering for want of raiment or of food. But if you take away this his claim from him; if you say that this his claim is unjust; if you stigmatize it as a “cancer;” if you call it a “monstrous evil;” if you say that it is eating up property; how flagrantly unjust, how detestably cruel, are those laws by which he is compelled to abandon his aged parents, or his wife and his children; to take up arms to venture, and perhaps to lose, his life, in defence of the land!

I wait (and I shall wait a long while, I believe) for an answer to this question, which, by the by, I have put many times before; and I proceed now, to observe that, amongst all these attacks upon the Poor-rates; amongst all the long speeches upon the subject, I in vain look for some acknowledgment of the cause of the increase of the Poor-rates. I know that the increase is fearful enough. Perhaps, you may do me the justice to recollect that when Pitt and Old George Rose and Addington and Hobhouse, the worthy successors of Pitt and Old George: perhaps you will do me the justice to recollect that, when these immaculate personages used, about sixteen years ago, to be bragging about the flourishing state of the country, and used to be exhibiting their masses of figures about imports and exports, I used to tell them to look at the Poor-rates! This is what I used to tell them. Every one of their bragging statements was answered by me with, “look at the Poor-rates.” I used to tell them that the Poor-rates were the criterion of happiness or misery, of prosperity or adversity; and not the silly lying stuff about imports and exports. Was I not right, then? And were not these men either very great deceivers, or, which I take to have been the fact, extremely empty and shallow persons?

I am tired of hearing people rail upon the subject of the Poor-rates. I am tired of hearing them talk as if the increase of the rates was the fault of the poor! It is indeed but too common to see anger against the sufferer supply the place of that compassion which ought to fly to his relief. He who wants the disposition to relieve, seeks a justification of himself in some charge or other against the sufferer. This is but too common a thing all over the world; and, therefore, I am by no means surprised to hear reproaches cast upon the poor. But, is their misery their fault? Have they themselves been the cause of the increase of the Poor-rates? Is it they, who have borrowed a thousand millions of money; and have imposed that which the fundholders call their mortgage upon Edition: current; Page: [64] the land? Is it, truly, the labouring part of this community that have called for an army of ninety thousand men in time of peace; and is it they who have passed Acts to restore a depreciated paper to its value in gold?

If the labouring classes have not done these things, how are they chargeable with the increase of the Poor-rates? For, that these things have caused the increase, you will not, I think, affect to entertain a doubt. In Paper against Gold the progress of the Poor-rates is clearly shown to have kept an exact pace with the progress of the Debt and of taxation. And, indeed, must it not be so? Can it possibly be otherwise; is it not in the nature of things that, taxation produces poverty; is it not in the nature of things that, misery must inevitably be the effect of taking from those who labour and giving to those who do not labour? This has been so often proved by me; the matter has been elucidated in so many ways; that I will not insult you, who are a person of great experience and understanding, by a renewal of any of my former illustrations. But, when you talk of the increase of the Poor-rates, which is truly frightful, especially when we consider the present comparative high value of money and low value of provisions; when you talk of this increase of the Poor-rates, you do not seem to advert to the very material circumstance of a considerable portion of the labourer’s wages now having assumed the name of Poor-rates! You are to know, then, if you do not already know it, that every labourer, in almost every part of the country; that every labourer who has children, is now regularly and constantly a pauper! A price for labour is fixed for the single man as well as the married man. They all receive in a certain place, we will say, nine shillings a-week. Upon this the married man and his family must starve; therefore, to him is given every week as much more than nine shillings as will just keep his family from starving. The nine shillings you will observe are only just enough to enable the single man to perform his labour. The scale for supporting human existence is made out with great nicety. So that, the single man is mulcted of a part of his wages in order to be given to the married man to prevent actual starvation.

Instead of this how did the thing stand before Pitt, Addington, Perceval and their followers together with their prompters and abettors and supporters had loaded the nation with a thousand millions of debt? How did the thing stand before? Why, when you and I were boys; and, indeed, when you were a Jacobin and I was an Ultra-Royalist; in those times the wages of a labouring man were sufficient to maintain, not only himself but his wife and his family! He was a labourer; he lived by the sweat of his brow; but he was no pauper, nor could he, properly be called a poor man; as, indeed, no man can who earns a sufficiency to support himself and family in a manner suitable to his station in life.

In those same days; before Pitt began his deadly works upon us, the single man received, as he ought, as much wages as the married man. He lived as well. He dressed, perhaps, a little better; and as he naturally would have something to save, that something gave him the desire in most cases of having a little more; and, at any rate, he was enabled to begin as a husband and as a father, without beginning at the same moment to be a pauper; which is now almost universally the case, thanks to that degrading; that soul-degrading system, the praises of which insult the country in the toasts and songs and speeches of those knots of impudent men called Pitt Clubs.

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I cannot help stopping here, just for a moment, to observe on the fatal effects of this paying of wages in the shape of Poor-rates. That shallow and savage fellow, Malthus, has his project for what he calls checking population. One magistrate, contributing to that famous and memorable volume of letters to the Board of Agriculture, has a proposal to prevent early marriages; while another proposes to whip with additional severity the mothers of bastard children! These two last propositions put together, would, with a suitable glossary, make a pretty decent sum total. But, what says common sense and the experience of mankind upon the subject? What do these point out as the most effectual means of making the labourer careful; restraining him from indulgences tending immediately to poverty; making him look forward; making him provident in the steps that he takes as to matrimonial connections: what do these point out? Why, to put good wages into his hands; to let his labour bring him something to preserve; to enable him to have a little store; to make him desirous that his wife and children, when he have them, shall be well provided for, shall have a sufficiency of food and shall be dressed as well as their neighbours in the same rank of life. These are what wisdom, and justice, too, point out as the only means of checking population. The check which these will give is proper and productive of happiness; any other check; a check given by any other means is unjustifiable, cruel and beastly.

When the single man sees that he is no better off than the married man; when he sees that single or married he is to have the bare means of existence and no more; and especially when he sees, that part of his wages is deducted to go to the maintenance of the married man’s family; when he sees this, Parson Malthus may preach till he is as hoarse as I was at Coventry; but never will he find a labourer to listen to his doctrines of “moral restraint.

Thus then, the whole of the evil; the evil in all its parts, arises out of the Funding and Taxing Systems. The farmer, from the burden of his taxes, is compelled to deduct from the wages of his labourer. In the making of this deduction, he resorts to the scale before-mentioned, taking from the unmarried man and giving it to the married man. To be a pauper ceases to be a shame; and the unmarried man, sensible of the injustice exercised towards him, and of the utter inutility of the smallest restraint upon his natural inclinations, hastens to become a father, in order to be enrolled upon the poor-book, knowing well that, in any case, his lot cannot be worse than it is. Thus, by premature marriages, the number of paupers is increased; and the evil, adding to itself in every possible way, at last is becoming so great as to threaten a total overthrow of every sentiment of independence and even of decency; and the English people, were this abominable system to last another twenty years, would be little less degraded than the slaves in Jamaica.

Blame not, therefore, the labourers. It is not their fault that they are paupers. The fault is in that thousand millions of Debt, which the Pitt system contracted, and in those thundering establishments necessary to collect the taxes, to pay the interest upon that Debt. Here is the great cause of all the wretchedness and all the danger. Away with the empty talk about immorality, irreligion, sedition and blasphemy. It is a base and infamous lie from the beginning to the end. Those are impostors, who pretend that the misery of the people arises from a falling-off in their morals; and what miserable stuff is it to hear this charge preferred at the Edition: current; Page: [66] very moment when boastings are put forth of the distribution of millions upon millions of bibles and testaments and prayer-books and religious tracts! You and I can remember, Sir, when none of these things; none of these Bible-Societies and Tract-Societies were in existence. We can remember when newly-erected chapels did not stare us in the face, at the corner of every street in London, and in some part of every little village in the country. We can remember when no clamour was made about Lancaster schools and Bell’s schools; and when Royal Dukes were not seen cheek-by-jowl with Methodist parsons hatching contrivances for giving instruction to the poor; and we can also remember when the labouring man had his clock, his pewter-plates and his barrel of beer; when he had meat for his dinner, and when his wife would have thought herself dishonoured to have been seen in the house of an overseer of the poor.* The misery and the cant and the education, as it is called, have all gone on increasing together; and continue to increase they will till the cause shall be removed, by a reduction first, and gradually by an annihilation, of what is called the National Debt.

This, therefore, is the thing, on which Mr. Frankland Lewis ought to bestow his invectives. The Poor-rates are forty times as ancient as the Pitt System. They did no harm. They have nothing of harm in their nature. They have everything that is good, on the contrary; and, at the present time, they are the only security which millions possess against actual starvation in a land of plenty.

I am, Sir,
Your most obedient, most humble servant,



William Cobbett
Cobbett, William
1st May, 1821
Thomas Attwood
Attwood, Thomas

This very day Peel’s Bill reaches its third stage, and we shall now see how it will go on to the end of its eventful journey. This day I have chosen for writing to you, on the subjects treated of in your speech, delivered in the House of Commons on the ninth of last month; and, before I conclude, I shall, I think, convince you, that there are manifold blessings belonging to a large loaf, and that your opinions, as to this point, are erroneous. When I addressed my letter to Tierney, I foresaw, Edition: current; Page: [67] that some scheme of cash-payments was on foot. I was anxious to anticipate the measure, and to put on record, beforehand, my opinions as to the consequences. I put Tierney’s name to the Letter, as I then said, that it might be distinguished from other essays on the same subject, and that it might be, as I knew it would, referred to when the predictions it contained should be fulfilled. I put your name to this Letter, because you have taken an open and decided part in the great question now at issue; and, further, because I really have great respect for your knowledge and talents.

It has been my misfortune to be doomed to chop blocks; and having been warned by Swift (the first author, after Moses, I ever read) of the misery of “chopping blocks with a razor,” I have generally employed a tool better suited to the skulls that I had to work upon. It shall be my endeavour, in the present case, to operate gently and smoothly; and, if you should find me, now-and-then, laying on more like a hewer than a shaver, I beg that you will be pleased to ascribe it, not to any rudeness of disposition, but merely to that hardness and heaviness of hand, which my long and laborious chopping of blocks has naturally produced.

Before I begin, let me congratulate the country upon hearing, at last, plain common sense distinctly articulated in the Honourable House, upon the subject of paper-money. How all the Barings and Peels and Grenfells and Maberlies and Broughams and Tierneys and the disciples of St. Horner; how all the deep and dark gabblers about “Mint price,” and “market price,” sink before you! And, as to the poor Oracle he really seems to have become the jest even of his former worshippers. But, Sir, take care! Remember what the wise man says of a fool’s wrath; and remember also, that that wrath is never so heavy as when his folly is exposed! You think, perhaps, to make converts and to find co-operators. You will neither make the former nor find the latter. Your sound sense and clear reasoning are upstarts and interlopers, which, happen what will, must not be encouraged. I give you this warning, because I perceive you, in one place, go out of your way to express your “respect” for “a noble lord in another place.” Sir, I know the people of Whitehall better than you do, though I never was within its doors, while you frequently have been; and, I know that, to manage them, you must work by the shoe; that is to say, you must either lick their shoe, or make them feel the point of yours. You may think to win them over to sense and sound measures by treating them with mannerly deference, by seeming not to perceive their native folly, while you are proving to them that they are acting the part of fools. They are much too cunning to be caught in this way. Their pride takes the alarm; and they become obstinate as hogs. You must be their slave or their master: no middle course will ever succeed with them. Lick, or kick is the maxim; and, as you are able to kick, kick by all means.

Leaving you to follow your own taste as to this matter, only reserving to myself the right of laughing, if I should see you baffled in a temporising attempt, I now proceed to my remarks on your able and impressive speech, which, with your own notes subjoined, I have now before me, in a pamphlet published by Ridgway, and which ought to be in the possession of, and to be attentively perused by, every gentleman in the kingdom.

The propositions, maintained in your speech, are these: 1. That the existing distresses have arisen immediately and wholly from the measures Edition: current; Page: [68] adopted with a view of returning to cash-payments, and particularly from Peel’s Bill. 2. That, of this distress the labouring class suffers in as great a proportion as any other class. 3. That an effectual and permanent remedy would be found in a repeal of Peel’s Bill, and a new putting forth of paper-money, so as to make the quantity in circulation equal to what it was in 1818. To the first of these propositions I say, aye: to the two last I say, nay.

The third I shall dismiss, at once, by referring you to my first Letter to Lord Grey [See page 38 of this vol.], in which I spoke pretty fully of the shame, the disgrace, the infamy, that must attend a repeal of Peel’s Bill and a sending out of the paper again; and, in which I also spoke of that terrible convulsion, which such a measure must produce in the end. Your first proposition shall not detain us long; but your second proposition, namely, that the fall in prices has injured the labouring classes, demands, and shall receive, when I come to it, my best attention; it being a proposition, not only at war with truth, but aiming at a most mischievous and cruel end.

To the first I may, indeed, easily assent, seeing that it expresses, not only what I have laid down as to the actual effects of Peel’s Bill, but also what I predicted with regard to the effects of any such measure. “My New Year’s Gift to the Farmers” [See p. 47 of this vol.], familiarly explains the whole progress of this set of measures, intended to bring about payments in cash. It clearly points out the cause of the distress, and as clearly shows that no new law about corn can possibly afford any relief to the farmer. You have, therefore, done no more, as to this part of the subject, than I had done before, and that I had done, too, in Long Island, whence I even sent a petition to the honourable and most pure and enlightened body, of which you are now a member, which petition the member to whose charge it was committed, declined to present, because he thought, that that immaculate assembly would not have the patience to listen to a petition so very long! Bless their delicate organs of hearing! A pity, indeed, it were to subtract from those moments that they employ in lending, or, rather, bending, those organs to the dulcet and wisdom-shedding voices of Castlereagh and Van, Grenfell and Ricardo!

I say this much in the way of justice towards myself; and, I must take care of that, or nobody will take care of it for me. I see enough public writers now to steal my opinions, who abused me for uttering those opinions. I see some, who are honest enough to quote the words: but still rogues enough to disguise the source whence they quote. I see even you quoting Locke, when you might have quoted Paine or me, and especially Paine, who had foretold, with the utmost precision, the stopping of payment at the Bank, and who, while he himself was an outlaw, devoted the profits of that celebrated work to the relief of the debtors in Newgate! You might have quoted this true Englishman and true patriot and matchless writer, instead of the placeman Locke, who, compared with Paine, was, as to subjects of this nature, a mere babbler. Here was a fair opportunity of showing that you held canting calumny at defiance; and, if you had availed yourself of it, you would have frightened Whitehall out of its wits.

However, Sir, I by no means confound you with the Barings, the Perries, and the Ellices, the latter of whom has even begun to prattle away about “the war between the land and the funds.” I believe, that your own mind would have been sufficient to guide you in this case; and I Edition: current; Page: [69] have before done you the justice to observe, that you wrote to recommend the pushing out of the paper in 1817; and also, that you manfully opposed the passing of Peel’s Bill, and even petitioned against it, making, at the same time, a speech relative to its consequences enough to convince any body but a born idiot. I have never stolen the thoughts of others, were they alive or dead. I have never withheld due homage to talent or knowledge or merit of any kind when I have profited from them. In return for this fair and honourable dealing I have been incessantly plundered; but, the plunderers shall no longer proceed with impunity. My way is the only way in which a horrible convulsion can be avoided; and that convulsion will take place, or it shall be clear to all eyes that it is I who have shown the way to prevent it.

My petition of 1818 was too long for the Honourable House, and Charles Wynne, the brother of the Saxony Ambassador, has lately instanced the wearisome effects of another long petition of mine. But (and this I thank you for) you made them hear you; and though you were a new man, and were, with your good sense, a sort of rebel; a sort of bolter; a good slice of your speech got into the newspapers; and you, by repeating and filling out, have taken care to have your forewarnings upon record. This is highly commendable. Pursue this course, Sir, and faction will not be able to mullify your efforts.

How the Honourable and enlightened House stood your taunting I cannot imagine. To be told plump and point blank, that they could not carry their grand measure into effect; to tell them to their heads, that that measure could not be carried into effect and the present debt and taxes exist, and that “it was folly and rapacity alone that could think of attempting their union;” to look in their faces and tell them, that their grand measure, which had been so eulogized by the Speaker of the Six-Acts Parliament, had “overwhelmed the people of this country with greater calamities, severer sufferings and more extensive ruin than had ever before been brought on any civilized people by any government;” to remind them of all solemnly sage sayings and anticipations as to the happy efforts of this measure; to call the Acts of 1797 acts of “fraud,” and that of 1819, “an act of greater fraud;” and to conclude, at last, by foretelling, to the very teeth of the Honourable House, that their measures would “terminate in a sudden and violent catastrophe, too sudden and too violent for resistance or remedy, which will prove destructive to the public credit, and dangerous to the safety of the state:” to tell them all this to their very heads, to sound it in their very ears, to poke it under their very noses, and that, too, at a time when they have passed laws to banish us, if we say any thing even tending to bring them into contempt! O! It was so good! By ———, if you were a lady I would kneel and kiss your hand!

Pray, Sir, agree to take the chair when we hold our Feast of the Gridiron! Whole flocks of geese will be sent up for us by the big farmers’ wives, those amiable Abigails of England. Two or three hundred gridirons will be at work all at once. You shall have one, as big as a harrow, suspended over your head as a canopy. We will have a tragi-politi-comi-farcical exhibition.—We will have all our actors dressed out in paper-doublets and fool’s-caps and bells. Some shall dance about, crying “Old rags for ever, the solid system of finance!” Others shall step one foot forward, and with smiling air and soft accent, assure us that we are merely in a transition from a happy state to one more happy; and this Edition: current; Page: [70] buffoon shall add, that, in order to make the transit pleasant, we ought to amuse ourselves with digging holes and filling them up again. Then shall come a swaggering, hectoring, brass-faced bully, bellowing out: “Poh! ’tis all a lie! It is not night, you grumbling villains. It is only a rascally cloud that has got before the sun. He shall re-appear in a moment and put your eyes out with light.” This actor shall be, as it were, an upstart upon the theatre. He shall bolt at once out of the green-room. Then shall come a Dutchman, who shall swear, as occasion demands, that black is white, and that white is black. He shall bring an old rag in his hand, and swear that it is as good as a guinea. Then the buffoons shall set up a shout, “Huzza for old rags! huzza for Mynheer!” This idiot-like roar shall hardly have ceased, when Mynheer shall come forward again, and, flinging down the old rag and holding out a guinea, shall swear, in a voice of thunder, that the guinea is worth all the old rags in the world. Whereupon the buffoons shall set up a shout louder than the last: “Down with old rags! huzza for the guinea! huzza for Mynheer!” Amongst the rest we will have a parcel of Jews, the spokesman of whom shall step forward and comfort us with fortune-telling. He shall say: “Neva mind, neva mind, ’tish oney dree per centch; dat ish all; ’tish vera easy ting.” Then all the whole band of buffoons shall dance and caper, and flock about Moses and cheer him and pat him on the back till he is black in the face, and till his big round eyes are ready to bolt out of his head. Then shall come a long, gaunt, greedy-looking hound of a fellow in top-boots, and with a negro-driver’s whip in his hand; and he, in most solemn accent, and laying his other hand to his breast, shall assure us, upon his honour, that pure humanity induces him to wish that bread may be dear. This actor shall have at his elbow a theatrical Satan with an amazing tail and horns and with a prompter’s book in his hands. When the humane advocate for dear bread has finished his speech, Old Nick shall set fire and brimstone to his paper-doublet; to escape he shall run amongst the rest; and the whole botheration band shall go off burning and blazing like so many faggots at an auto-da-fé.

To return from this anticipated scene of fun, let me thank you for having well exposed the monstrous folly of measuring the effect of Peel’s Bill by the standard of the price of gold. Nothing, surely, was ever equal to this in point of folly. I pointed it out in my second Letter to Mr. Peel (Pol. Reg. p. 455, vol. 38. Feb. 17, 1821); but, contempt, joined, perhaps, to a little laziness, prevented me from going into the matter in the elaborate manner that you have. Whether Mr. Perry will still continue to exult in the circumstance, that the Spanish legislator, may now, without any fear of the Inquisition, take down from his shelf “a Blackstone or a Ricardo,” is more than I can say; but, if the Spanish legislator do take down the latter from his shelf for any purpose but that of lighting his fire or his pipe, I have no hesitation in saying, that there ought to be an Inquisition, or something else, to deprive such an ignoramus of the power of laws.

Before I come to your second proposition, let me observe, that you are likely never to receive any answer to your first. You received none in the House, except we look for it in that foolish remark of Van, in which he referred to the distresses of other countries, and asked, particularly as to America, whether Peel’s Bill produced the fall of prices there. If you had been informed of the facts, and could have spoken a second time Edition: current; Page: [71] in the debate, how completely you might have closed up his mouth! You had completely proved what I had years before asserted, that our distress was not produced by a transition from war to peace; because, as you showed, the “prosperity,” as it is called, came and visited this country a second time in part of 1817 and 1818; and that was three years after the peace took place. And you showed, by the amount of bank-notes out during this period of secondprosperity,” compared with the amount out before it, and after it, that the prosperity kept pace with the bank-notes. But, had you known the history of the American distresses, what an answer you would have had for Van, who really seems to understand nothing at all about the affairs of the country over the finances of which he has been chosen to preside.

Now, Sir, the fact is, that all was high-flying prosperity in America, notwithstanding war and invasion until the peace, the news of which reached that country in February, 1815. I beg you to mark the epochs. Flour was, in some cases, so high as twelve dollars a barrel. The peace, the “sudden transition,” brought down flour to about six dollars a barrel. But, was it the peace? No; it was certain Acts of the Congress for collecting the duties in specie. This made the banks draw in their paper; and the merchants, and even farmers, tumbled about like rotten sheep! Mr. Mathew Carry, of Philadelphia, published a little work on the subject, a copy of which he sent me to England. It was lost, or sold, at Botley, after my departure in 1817; and, I am sorry I have it not; for the picture he drew of the distress was so precisely suited to our present state, that it would be valuable at this time. He wrote his book about May 1816. The Congress, however, in that year, established by law (a fatal law) an infernal National Bank. Out of this sprang other banks, State banks, private banks, and banks of all sorts, to such an extent, that, in Kentucky, the Legislature passed no less than forty Bank Charter Bills in one week in the year 1817; Need I say, that “prosperity” came back again? That it revisited the American States as it did England, at that time? All was flourishing; but, how long did the flourish last? Curious coincidence! Until the winter of 1819! Then money became a little less plenty; and it kept on getting more and more scarce till I left the country, in November, 1819, hastening home to participate in the blessings of Peel’s Bill, which was passed by the Six-Acts Parliament in the preceding month of July; and, I find, that the “distress,” as it has been called there too, has been increasing ever since. And what was the cause of this second distress? Precisely the same as that of the former distress, a large contraction of the paper-money. Two hundred banks, or thereabouts, broke between October 1818 and October 1819. The general government received its custom-duties in specie, or in bills of its own bank; and the circulation became contracted. This was the cause, and the cause still remains at work, and will, I hope, remain, until the American people rid themselves of that degrading curse, a public debt.

So that Vanny might have been met and put down upon his own ground. The good of it is, too, that the prices of gold and silver remained the same during the whole of these several periods; and there was no law to authorize a refusal to pay in specie. Any man might, at any time, during the whole of these years, refuse to take payment in notes of any sort. What, then, becomes of Mr. Ricardo’s doctrine? Van appears to have put on a smile, when he said, “can the distress in America have Edition: current; Page: [72] been occasioned by an English Act of Parliament.” Yes, Van, notwithstanding that sweet self-complacent smile of yours. Yes, Van; and, be it known to the English Chancellor of the Exchequer, that, as the currency in London cannot be contracted without producing a proportionate contraction at Liverpool, the currency of this kingdom cannot be contracted without producing a contraction of the currency in America, proportioned to the extent of the commercial transactions carried on between the two countries; and, I believe, that it is very well known, that of the commercial transactions of America nearly two-thirds of the whole are with England! There Van; pretty smiling Van; you see there is something in the world that requires knowledge besides those Scotch herrings of which you were once a Commissioner!

Yes, Van, and in both these cases of “American distress” a part, at least, of the cause was, “English Acts of Parliament.” It ought to be known to a Chancellor of the Exchequer in England, that much of the means of giving credit and of putting forth bank-notes in America is derived from credit obtained there from merchants here. Now, can the merchant, who has a capital of 100,000l., and who is in the habit of having 30,000 of it in America, let that 30,000 remain there, if, by an English Act of Parliament, his capital be reduced to 50,000l.? O, no, Van: a merchant cannot work by hocus-pocus, nor can you, if you really give us payments in gold. There was a merchant at New York who had two banks, one in town and one in the country. His means consisted of his credit in London. That was curtailed in the spring of 1819; and, in the August after, his notes were at a discount of 50 per cent.!

Thus it is, Sir, to have to do with self-complacent ignorance! One must, in a dispute with it, lose one’s temper or give up one’s good manners. It is impossible, without self-abasement, to treat it with respect; and yet it is beneath one to be seriously angry with it. Talk of banishment as long as they please, there is no punishment equal to that of being compelled to chop such blocks with a razor! And yet, “God forbid” (to use the words of Judge Best) that the affair should (as yet) be taken out of the hands of Van!

You are a staunch “ministerial man,” as people call it. You hate us Reformers. You wish for the thing to exist. You will, I dare say, support even Van against the Reformers. But, the true men will never forgive you for this act of rebellion. They will look upon you as a self-hunting dog; and they will never suffer you to feed with the pack. But, how are they to forgive your taunts! Your reminding them of their ignorant sayings; their wild, their mad calculations! How are they to forgive you for repeating to their faces, to their very blocks, the substance of my Registers, on this subject, for three years past! However, we are in a state of things, which makes a man like you an object of fear to ignorance in power. The great blazer, Pitt, had the first skimming of the nation’s resources. Addington and Perceval skimmed the pan pretty clean. The present gentry are got to skim-milk. It is nearly sky-blue. And, therefore, they will be more tame, and are more tame, than any of their predecessors, with regard to those who have the courage to contradict them. The whole nation is beginning to recognize the truth of my doctrines; and those doctrines, as far as they relate to the effects of cash-payments, I have, at last, in your excellent speech, heard openly and ably maintained in the Honourable House itself.

Thus, and no farther, however, do I agree with you. Your two last Edition: current; Page: [73] propositions I dissent from. The third I have already dismissed, and, with regard to the second, I am now going to endeavour to convince you of your error.

Your second proposition is, “that the labouring class suffers from the distress of low prices as much as any other class.” This I deny; and I think I am able clearly to maintain my denial.

I know, that, upon a subject like this, facts must be very good indeed, very complete, to be worth anything at all; because they are so difficult to come at with accuracy; and, because, if capable of being bent, bent they will be, to assist the man who has an argument to support.

Your argument, that the labourer is not to be benefitted by the diminution of the demand for labour is, generally, and supposing a not unnatural state of things, true. With this qualification it is also true, that the labourer cannot be benefitted by the ruin of his employer. But, a forced, an unnatural, a violent process, may be adopted, which shall increase the demand for labour, shall increase the quantity of labour: and yet, that shall make the labour lower-priced, and the condition of the labourer worse. For, it is not to be denied, that a Virginia or Jamaica negro-driver, if he ply the lash with additional activity, will increase the quantity of labour, though he give his negroes no more food than he did before. And, it will hardly be pretended, that this his increased demand for labour is beneficial to the unhappy drove.

Now, if something very much resembling this has taken place with regard to the labourers in husbandry in England, Mr. Huskisson, whom you treat rather sarcastically, may be right, after all. Indeed, I am convinced that he is right: and that unquestionable facts, as well as the reason of the case, are on his side and against you.

You, Sir, are a banker, and, without imputing to you any motive particularly selfish, I may fairly suppose, that you view with favourable eyes the effects of bank-paper. You uniformly take it for granted, that the showy effects of rags turned into money, is “prosperity.” This is full as great an error as the measuring of the effects of Peel’s Bill by the variation in the price of gold. You say, that, at this moment, the nation is in the deepest distress; that the concerns of agriculture, manufactures, commerce, all are involved in the deepest distress. And what you say is true. Will you tell me, then, how it happens, that about ten thousand new houses are building at this moment for the reception of rich men and their suites in the villages round this monstrous place? Are these new-comers arrived from the clouds, or from El Dorado? The fact you may ascertain by getting upon a horse and opening your eyes. Is it commerce that brings these gentry here? O, no! for the wharfs are deserted, and the ships breaking up to be turned into paddock-fences and coach-houses for these odd sort of gentry. Now, Sir, answer me, I pray: Is it “prosperity” that brings these gentry forth? Yes, assuredly, it is “prosperity” with them. They come into these new and fine houses to enjoy that good fortune, which the rise in the value of their funded annuities and fixed salaries has given them! This, to them, then, is prosperity, and, you acknowledge that, at this very time, the concerns of land, manufactures and commerce, are in a state of ruin!

Well, then, there may exist prosperity in one class and misery in another, at one and the same time. These annuitants and salary-people profit by the fall of those who profited before. These houses, this unnatural prosperity, this fungus, comes out of the pockets of the big-farmers, Edition: current; Page: [74] the landlords, the lords of the loom, and the lords of the anvil, many of whom you know to be now under a sweating process at Birmingham and Coventry. These gentry do not call our ten thousand new houses a sign of “prosperity.” No, say they, it is robbery of us. We suffer for your fine new houses and all your pretty gardens and paddocks. We suffer for your Regent-Street and Regent-Park and your Circusses and Squares and Bridges. They say very truly.

Now, Sir, just as the big-farmer, the bull-frog-farmer, is suffering under this prosperity of the annuitant and salary-man, so the labourer suffered from the prosperity of the bull-frog. The bull-frog’s house changed its form. His garden became a paradise. He had white paling and paddocks. Out he drove his carters and threshers, whom he began to call “the peasantry;” and that empty impudent follow, the younger Ellman, actually calls them so now, in a Letter to Lord Liverpool. He could no longer, polished gentleman, sit at table with such “lower orders,” But, he took good care, that they should not overfeed elsewhere. He took good care, that they should not participate in his “prosperity.” He, by means that the greediness and injustice and cruelty of an insolent upstart at once suggested, took care, that, while his prices rose, the price of labour should be kept down to the lowest possible standard. He violated all the principles of free trade, by fixing the amount of wages, and by bringing to the poor-book, all those who could not exist upon that amount! And, if the miserable wretches mutinied, he had his horse, his carbine, and his sword!

You talk of labour being carried to market! What market had the labourer to go, when, in fact, there was a book kept in every parish to fix the price of his wages? He was to have just as much as would sustain life in a single man and no more. To prevent actual starvation, the married man was to have more in proportion to the number of mouths. Do you call this carrying labour to market? Was there any more freedom here, than the Virginia or Jamaica slave enjoys? Was the increased demand for labour, under such circumstances, a benefit to the labourer?

Your comments on Dr. Copplestone’s facts are, perhaps, no more than just. You should, however, bear in mind the calling of the Doctor, which necessarily implies an unreservedness of faith, which he may be excused for carrying into profane disquisitions, and which, if it do not absolutely justify his believing that a woman labourer used to earn what would now be equivalent to forty shillings a week, forms, at least, an apology for the Divine Doctor. However, the thing is by no means so wholly incredible as you would have us believe: for, the women labourers or helps, as they call them in America, do not receive much less, and that too, when wheat is at a price much lower than our present price. A man labourer has there five shillings, at least, of our money, a-day, in harvest time, and sits at table with his employer! And that, too, when wheat is not above five English shillings a bushel. So that, though the Doctor’s authorities to prove that our labourers have suffered by high prices, be not quite unexceptionable, the facts drawn from them are by no means so incredible as you would represent them. The state of England at the times to which the Doctor refers was, in all probability, as to agricultural matters, somewhat like that of America now: the farmers very numerous, and the labourers comparatively few in number. The funding system, by drawing money into large parcels, necessarily reduced Edition: current; Page: [75] the number of the farmers; and Pitt’s infernal system of paper-money, by enabling a banker, an attorney, or some one who would dash into the discounting line, to take farms over the heads of small farmers, swept away that race of men, brought them down to be mere labourers, put them upon the parish-book kept for the fixing of wages, and made them very nearly, excepting colour of skin, resemble the labourers of Virginia and Jamaica.

It is not high price simply that hurts the labourer; for, if he have six shillings a week when wheat is three shillings a bushel, and twenty when wheat is ten shillings a bushel, and if the rise in wages keep pace weekly with the rise in the price of wheat, he is as well off in the latter case as in the former, if there be no other circumstance attending the rise in prices. It is not, therefore, simply the high price that hurts him, if prices of wages and of wheat keep on the level. But, in the first place, they do not keep on the level. The wages do not rise with the wheat. A long time takes place, even in a natural and unforced state of things, before the labourer can get even a small augmentation of wages. Every rise in price, therefore, gives the employer an advantage over him; for, observe, labourers in husbandry are more restricted in their choice of employers, than labourers in manufacture and crafts are. They cannot go to next shop. They are under engagements as yearly, or monthly, servants, and are bound by very strict laws. The married ones generally inhabit the houses of their employers, and even the single ones out of house, must remove to some considerable distance, perhaps, in order to get employment. They must go from home; and there is “mother” to be left! There are mother’s remonstrances to hear; and, it would require another thirty years’ progress of the hellish Pitt-System, to eradicate the power of these from the breasts of home-loving English sons. But, there is one plain case, that settles the point, and that requires no knowledge of country affairs to make it clear to every man; and that is this: it is a notorious fact, that nine-tenths of the labourers are either in house as yearly servants, or engaged for the year at so much a week for all the weeks except the harvest-month, and so much for that month. Now, let us take the case of the carter in house. At Michaelmas he hires for seven pounds for the year, and wheat is seven shillings a bushel. Out comes the atrocious, the hellish paper-money; wheat rises to 14 shillings a bushel before his year expires, and he receives ten bushels of wheat, instead of the twenty that he contracted for! Is he not, then, a loser by the rise in prices? Can any man living deny this? It is the same, in a different degree, with the men out of house. They suffer still more severely; for they have to purchase their food, which the man in house has not. You will observe, that the law gives them the choice of sticking to the letter of their engagements, or going to jail!

Well, but the year ends at last. They live it out; and then they have new bargains to make. Now do you think, that they will get their wages doubled? Do you think that a year of oppression will have made them bold? Do you think that being pennyless and shirtless will make them stout in standing out for a rise of wages? If you do, pray do not affect to laugh at Dr. Copplestone any longer; for your faith in wonders is much larger than his.

Thus, then, clear as is that accursed thing, which is, you know, “as notorious as the sun at noon-day,” is the conclusion, that the labourer in husbandry suffers and the employer profits by a rise in the prices of Edition: current; Page: [76] produce of the labour, in spite of any augmentation that may take place in the quantity of labour in demand.

We have yet, however, but an imperfect view of the effects of a rise of prices. The landlord raises his rent. The taxes rise in nominal amount. But the consumer pays these back to the farmer. He neither gains nor loses by high prices as far as rent and taxes are concerned. His gain comes solely out of the blood and flesh and bones of the labourer. The labour upon a farm makes more than the half of its outgoings; judge, then, how the farmer must gain by the same process that depresses the labourer! Will you say, that what the farmer does not pay in wages he must pay in poor-rates? O, no! for, when the man comes to that book, that record of degradation, he is a slave. He then must take what is given him. What he receives, he receives as an alms; and the sum total of the rules of that book is, to allow as much as will sustain life, and no more!

At every stage of a rise of prices of food, the employer gains upon the labourer, till, at last, the former becomes a foxhunter and yeomanry cavalry man, and the latter a rack of skin and bones. Pride seizes hold of the upstart, and insolence intolerable. He soon finds, that it is inconvenient, in fact not attended with so much gain, to have men and boys and maids in his house; for there he cannot starve them. He, therefore, banishes them from beneath his roof, and brings them to a regimen of the parish-book. Thus while he prospers, the labourer is ruined; while he rises the labourer sinks, and exactly in the same proportion. All, in the eyes of such men as you, Sir, appears to be “prosperity.” All is flourishing and shining. The big-farmer is decked out in gay attire, horses, carriages, footmen, come where they never were before. The farm-houses resound with the notes of the piano, and the decanter and glasses sparkle upon the table. But, in the midst of all this, and of all the “improvements in husbandry,” the labourer, the real husbandman, is pining and starving:

  • “And, while he sinks, without one arm to save,
  • The country blooms: a garden and a grave.
  • “Ye friends to truth, ye statesmen who survey
  • The rich man’s joys increase, the poor’s decay;
  • ’Tis yours to judge, how wide the limits stand
  • Between a splendid and a happy land.”

If our state be not here truly described, never was description true. Dr. Goldsmith, if he used a little of poetical license, only anticipated the literal and melancholy truth; except that we should in vain look for “statesmen,” to whom to address with propriety these beautiful lines.

Now, Sir, I think I have shown, that the labourer in husbandry; and it will hold good with respect to smiths, wheelwrights, collar-makers, and country-shoemakers, tailors, and almost every other kind of handicraft-men, who are, in effect, labourers in husbandry; I think I have proved that they were injured, that they were oppressed; because I have shown, that they must have been injured and oppressed; and that, too, while their employers were benefitted from the very same cause; an unnatural, a forced, rise of prices. I might, therefore, without more ado, go to the other side, and show how the labourer must be benefitted by the fall of prices. But, you have been pleased to say, that this is an “important question;” that it is of the greatest moment to ascertain, whether it can be true, that “the depreciation of money and the consequent Edition: current; Page: [77] rise of prices are injurious to the labourer.” I will, therefore, though I have, I think, proved the affirmative of the proposition, add some facts, which, of themselves, without any reasoning at all, would have answered the purpose.

You have said, and you wish to have it taken for granted (but, mind, without any proof), that the labourer prospered during high prices. How, then, did it happen, that during the rise of prices, the Poor-rates rose in amount from two millions and a quarter to eight millions? This is not drawn from one of Dr. Copplestone’s authorities, though the Doctor’s may be good too, for any thing that you have proved to the contrary. This fact is drawn from the archives of that renowned assembly to which you now belong. In short, the fact is certain; and will you tell me that it is possible that the labourer could be in a prosperous state, during the time that this augmentation of Poor-rates was taking place? “The country was prosperous; all the great interests flourished.” Aye, aye! That is another man’s matter! What you may think “great interests,” I may think great curses. You may call banking and loan-jobbing and cotton and anvil aristocracy and yeomanry cavalry “great interests;” and they certainly were prosperous; but the increase of the Poor-rates from two and a quarter to eight millions, during the rise of prices, is what you can never get over. It is complete and conclusive as to the point, that a depreciation of money and high prices, while they benefit the higher classes destroy the labourer, by enabling them to throw all the public burdens upon his back.

Dr. Copplestone has, you state, referred to ancient authorities, and such as are suspicious from their origin having been a desire to establish an argument. Now, I will appeal to one clear of all suspicion of every kind; and one that is conclusive and complete in all its parts. Tull, in his “Horse-hoeing Husbandry,” chapter xix. pages 122 and 123 of the folio edition, states the price of seed-wheat at three shillings a bushel; wages of the ploughman at one shilling a day, and of the ploughboy at sixpence. This was in the year 1743, mind. And Tull was, when he wrote his book and was practising his drill-husbandry, living at Shalborne in Berkshire, which is just close upon the borders of Wiltshire.

This authority is unquestionable. Tull’s husbandry was making a great noise at the time. Some accounts of his practice, which he had published before he published his book, had been roughly handled by the critics of the day. He was a lawyer by profession. A person likely to be very accurate in his statements. And, besides, he had no end to answer by misstatement as to prices. He was not writing about prices, but about the mode of tilling land; and the statement of prices comes out incidentally. It is that sort of circumstantial evidence, which is always, and always must be, regarded as better than positive records and oaths.

What have we here, then?—Why the fact, that the English labourer in husbandry was, in the time of this fine writer, and great enlarger of science, living a happy life, having an abundance to eat, let his family be as large as it might. You will observe, that Tull speaks of seed-wheat, which is always about a tenth of price above the average of wheat for grinding. Observe also, that, at the time when Tull wrote, nine gallons to the bushel was the only measure in use all through Surrey, Berks, Hants, and all the counties to the West. However, to take the thing with the least possible advantage to me, here is the common ploughman Edition: current; Page: [78] receiving two bushels of wheat a week, and the common ploughboy one bushel a week.

Here, taking the bushel at eight gallons, and not at nine as I fairly might, the man had (the offal paying for grinding) ninety pounds of flour a week: that is, a quantity of flour sufficient to make twenty-six quartern loaves! I say, twenty-six quartern, or half-gallon loaves; and the boy enough to make thirteen half-gallon loaves. Now, Sir, compare this with what they received in the times of your “prosperity.” In your flourishing times. In your times when “all the great interests” were in a state of “prosperity.” What did the ploughman get then? Did he get one bushel of wheat? And did the boy get two gallons? Is it not notorious, that they did not? “No,” say you, “it is not notorious.” Well, then, I will give you an authority, that you will not venture to call in question. In 1814, Mr. Benett of Wiltshire, and now a member of your famously Honourable House, came as a witness before a Committee of that most renowned corps, and, to that Committee, he gave the following evidence:—

“We (the magistrates) calculate, that every person, in a labourer’s family, should have per week, the price of a gallon loaf, and threepence over, for feeding and clothing, exclusive of house-rent, sickness and casual expenses.” This Report was ordered by the House of Commons to be printed, on the 26th of July, 1814.

Here we have it! Here is the result of the progress from low prices to high! Here we have, at last, the lowest figure on the scale of human misery and degradation. Here are the effects of the Pitt “prosperity.” Here lie the wretched crowds, prostrated by the hellish system of banking, funding and paper-money! And yet, Sir, now that you see a glimpse of hope for the labourer, you would pass on him the sentence of despair!

But, we have not all the parts of the contrast here. In Tull’s time, and long and long after, it was the custom, the universal custom, to give all labourers in husbandry, out of the house, as well as in, beer as regularly as the day came. It made, within even my memory, a part of their daily wages; and that has now been wholly discontinued. Besides, though I have stated the wages in bread, English labourers, in former times (before these times of “blasphemy” came on) believed, that man was not to live “on bread alone; but, on every good thing that the earth produced;” and that it was the devil only that wished to condemn man to dry bread. They thought it, too, no sin to use untaxed salt, soap, candles, and shoes. The tax, then, on the malt and beer was a mere trifle. And, if you deduct for what the labourer now pays out of his week’s wages in taxes upon these things, more than he paid then, you will find, that he does not actually receive (or did not till prices came down) more than one-third of what he received in the time of Tull! And yet, you call this “prosperity!” And yet, you would “save the nation” by making it impossible for the most numerous class ever to taste of happiness again! I thank God, Sir, that you and all the bankers in the world put together, have not the power, even if you had the Government and the yeomanry cavalry at your back, to accomplish so cruel and so nefarious a purpose!

I leave out much. I might mention numerous other things which demonstrate what the labourer has lost by high prices. However, I have said and brought forward more than enough to establish the point. And, Edition: current; Page: [79] Sir, surely (especially after my two letters to Gaffer Gooch) I need not say much to prove, that they have gained, do gain, and must continue to gain, by a fall of prices?

Their engagements, as I observed before, are for the whole year so much; or so much a week for the year through, except the harvest-month, and so much for that month. Now, need I say, that they must gain by any fall of prices that shall take place during the year? Especially after I have shown how they must lose by a rise of prices during a similar period? Then, you will say, “but this can be only for one year.” I beg your pardon: it must go on year after year, at any rate, as long as the falling keeps on. But, you will say that this must come to an end, and that the employer will bring them finally down to the standard of wheat: yes, but not in the proportion of the fall. For, now the ploughman is upon the gain, he gets a little bolder; mind that; and the employer gets by degrees, to cast off his insolence. It is as difficult to bring down the price of labour by direct means as it is easy to do it by indirect means. It is, indeed, done by indirect means, without the labourer perceiving it. He is cheated by the name of the sum being the same after the sum is, in reality altered. But, talk to him about taking so much less, and you may as well talk to a post. As to turning them off, it is nonsense. You will find them, as the employers were before, all of a mind. And, in the end, you must let them by degrees, gain that, which by degrees, they have lost.

You talk, Sir, of the “lands thrown out of cultivation.” You say, you hear of this in all directions. This is an assertion, and nothing more; and it is one that I do not believe. Have the witnesses before the Committee said this? Come, come, Sir, I know that they have said the contrary! Gaffer Gooch’s Committee have indeed kept their proceedings from the public eye; but a little bird has whistled in my ear, that the very first witness expressed his alarm that future scarcity might arise from the “over-cropping that is now taking place!” Is this the “throwing of land out of cultivation” that you hear of “in all directions?” Never mind the future, I should say to such a bull-frog: it is time, as the Yankees say, to jump over the ditch when we come to it. Let us live well now, and we shall be the better able to stand a little fasting, if the sun should happen not to shine another year.

You, indeed, hear of no more new enclosures, and, I hope, most anxiously, that we shall hear of many of the late new enclosures being thrown again to common. They were, for the most part, useless in point of quantity of production; and, to the labourers, they were malignantly mischievous. They drove them from the skirts of commons, downs and forests. They took away their cows, pigs, geese, fowls, bees, and gardens. They crowded them into miserable outskirts of towns and villages, for their children to become ricketty and diseased, confined amongst filth and vermin. They took from them their best inheritance: sweet air, health, and the little liberty they had left. Downs, most beautiful and valuable too, have been broken up by the paper system; and, after three or four crops to beggar them, have been left to be planted with docks and thistles, and never again to present that perpetual verdure, which formerly covered their surface, and which, while it fed innumerable flocks, enriched the neighbouring fields. Lord Liverpool, in a speech made last spring, observed, that some persons thought, that the enclosure-system had been carried too far. Who were they, my Lord? I never Edition: current; Page: [80] heard of any body but myself who, in a public manner, expressed any such opinion. I, indeed, when Old Rose used to be boasting of the number of Enclosure Bills, as a proof of “prosperity,” used, now-and-then, to show how beastly the idea was; and I proved, over and over again, that (taking in a space of eight or ten years) it was impossible to augment the quantity of produce by new enclosures; to say nothing about the mischievous effects as to the labourers.

However, the breaking up of the commons and downs was a natural effect of the forced increase of money; and, in this way, amongst the rest, that increase worked detriment to the labourer. It was out of his bones that the means came. It was the deduction made from him by the rise of prices and by the not-rise of his wages: it was the means thus raised that enclosed the commons and downs; and that put pianos into the farm-houses, and set the farmer up upon a cavalry-horse. And these, and such as these, have been the effects of that accursed paper-money, that seven vials of wrath, which you wish to be poured out upon us again!

You ask Mr. Huskisson, and with an apparent air of triumph, how we are to expect the condition of the labourer to be improved. He will tell you, one of these days, for he has brains in skull: he is not a block; and, that you may be somewhat the better prepared for the combat, I will give you a little foretaste of that which is to come. But, as this is, apparently, the part of your argument on which you chiefly rely, let me do you the justice to quote your own words fully. “How, then, Sir, in the midst of this diminution in the demand for labour, of this frightful destruction of the funds by which labour is supported, are we to expect to find the condition of the labourer improved? It is contrary to every principle of political economy that has ever been received, to all reason, and to all experience. It has never happened at any time, nor in any country, that the condition of the labourer has improved, except by an increased demand for labour, and an increase of the funds by which labour is supported—the productive capital of a country. It has never happened in any country,—nor it never will in this,—that a permanent reduction in the demand for labour can take place, without this further consequence following—that the supply of labour must become proportioned to the contracted demand.

There is a good deal of the dark and deep here: a good deal of the Audem Smeth, who, if Paine had been a canter and a crawler instead of a man of sincerity and spirit, would have been laughed off the stage years ago. I do not clearly comprehend what you mean by “productive capital of a country,” and by “the supply of labour.” And, Sir, though it is possible that my not comprehending may be owing to my want of sufficient powers of penetration, still my not comprehending is a proof that this is a badly written passage; because writing is good for little if not to be clearly understood by persons of common capacity. In all cases clearness is the first quality in writings and in speeches. It is useless to have good matter, if people do not see it; and how are they to see it, unless you put in the light?

However, let me try. You mention “funds” twice in this passage. The “funds,” you say, “by which labour is supported.” You talk about a “frightful destruction” of those funds. Now, what do you mean by funds here? Do you mean paper-money? Do you mean, that the funds are less abundant, because prices are low? Upon the supposition that wages come down with wheat, are not the funds the same as to Edition: current; Page: [81] their power of paying the man that tills the field in which the wheat is grown? You have so long had your eyes bent on, and your mind wrapped up in, paper-money, that, at last, I verily believe you look upon it as being not less necessary to man’s existence than air is. Look at the bushel of wheat, Sir. Leave the banking-house for a minute, come with me to the barn, and hear what the thresher will say about the “destruction of funds.” He will tell you, that the funds consist of the produce of the farm, and that, paper-money or no paper-money, there will be no want of funds, till there be a want of sun and rain. Suppose there were not only no paper-money, but no money at all. Would the people starve, think you? No; and, as to the labourer in husbandry, he would experience but little inconvenience. To talk, therefore, of “the destruction of funds,” is, in such a case, very little better than the prattle of Van or of the Oracle.

But, to come as near as I can to your meaning, the funds, that is to say the money, that is to say the share of food, due to the labourer, he has, for years, been receiving only in part. The funds which ought to have “supported” labour have been purloined from it silently and clandestinely by those high-prices, which a forced increase of money produced; and this I have, some pages back, proved as clear as day-light. What! will the demand for produce fall off, think you, because the most numerous class get a bellyful of bread and meat, one-half of which they have not had for years? And, will the demand for labour fall off, because the most numerous class demand and get this additional share of the fruit of labour? In all probability neither more nor less produce will be raised; but its distribution will be different: more will go into the mouth of the labourer, and less into the mouth of him who has so long gauged the poor creature’s bowels by the rule of the parish-book. Comfort yourself, therefore, my good Sir; for there will, in low prices, be no “destruction of the funds that support labour;” though there has been, and will be, I hope, a great, and, to some persons, “frightful destruction of the funds,” by which labour has been robbed, degraded and insulted.

To pretend to say precisely how the thing will work, to pretend to delineate with precision the path and all the various windings and twistings of a great and all-affecting cause like that which is now operating upon the concerns of a people like this, would be the height of presumption in me or in any man, but we may easily, I think, foresee some of the effects that will be produced by a resolute adherence to the plan of returning to cash-payments. The first visible effect will be, and now is, the pulling down of the country bankers and discounting farmers. The agricultural societies, those nests of conspirators against the labourer, will all be dissolved, as, I see, that of Cambridgeshire has been, from a want of “funds” to pay their premiums, one of which (the gold cup) was for “him, who shall, with the fewest hands, cultivate the largest quantity of land;” to which ought to have been subjoined a general and pressing invitation to the negro-drivers of Virginia and Jamaica. These “funds” will now go to the labourers, who, as I have shown, will be constantly gaining by the low-prices.

The tax-collectors near Lewes, in Sussex, have sent a memorial to the Treasury, representing the impossibility of collecting the assessed taxes, unless time be given; and, in the same newspaper that tells me this, I see that the farmers’ subscription pack of hounds, at Beddingham, Edition: current; Page: [82] are advertised for sale! More “funds” for the labourer! Come, Sir, do not despond! We shall find no “destruction of funds.” The same newspaper refers, in a paragraph, to this advertisement as a proof of the “distress of agriculture;” a prettier illustration of the true import of which phrase need not be wished for! Is it not clear as day-light, that the labourer will now have to eat that which was eaten by “the Beddingham hounds?” And is it not better that he should have it than that it should go down the throats of that “well-scented pack?” And will it not be better for the “gentlemen” of the hunt to keep off the gout by kicking the clods about at plough than by galloping over fields, hedges and ditches?

This is the way the thing will work all over the kingdom. Food having become lower in price; fetching little comparatively at market; and money having become a precious commodity, the farmer will, as far as possible, make his payments in kind; this is invariably the effect of a lessening of the quantity of money in circulation. Where there is no money all is carried on by barter; and when there is little compared with the number and magnitude of the transactions, barter is the mode of dealing to a certain extent. Labour, as I said before, makes, even with all our taxes, more than half the outgoings of a farm. That, therefore, will be met, as far as possible, by payments in kind; and, as the natural and easy mode of paying in kind, is, to board and lodge the person to be paid, the labourers will come back again into the farmhouse, and sit down at the same table with the master and the dame, the good effects of which I have pretty fully detailed in my letter to Gaffer Gooch [Pol. Reg. p. 713, vol. 38]; and, if you can have read that letter without wishing for such a change, your heart must be harder than a stone, and your morality must be the most scandalous hypocrisy. I said, in that same letter, that it was the high prices which drove the men and boys and maids from the farm-house. And, it is curious enough, that, since that, a little bird has whistled in my ear, that one of the witnesses, who has been examined by the Grand Committee of Gaffer Gooch, has confessed, that they were put out of the farm-house when the high prices came and not before! And, with evidence like this before them, will that Committee report in favour of any measure tending to reproduce high prices! If they were to do this, and if such a report were to be acted upon, what should we then say of the Honourable House? Where would it then look for a defender? But, be you assured, that this will not be done.

From the same cause will return the custom of furnishing beer to the out-of-house labourers. The farmer can brew cheaper (besides the saving in tax) than the alehouse-keeper can sell. The farmer has, in many parts, wood that costs little. It is a part of his produce; and the brewing is done by his maids, under the direction of his wife. And he will, in this way, pay in kind as far as he can. The married labourers will brew at home also for their wives and children; and some ale for their “groanings” and christenings, as they used to do universally. The spiritless enfeebling slop, the materials for which are flogged out of negro slaves, or screwed out of the miserable wretches of Asia, and which are almost wholly tax, will give way by degrees to the invigorating produce of our own soil. And, what should you think, now, if the Committee of Gaffer Gooch have evidence to this point too! My little bird has whistled in my ear, that they have it in evidence, and, what is monstrously Edition: current; Page: [83] good, from the mouth of the Elder Ellman! who has told them, that, forty years ago, when he became a farmer, every married labourer in his parish brewed his own beer; and, that, now, not a man did it, except he himself, in charity, gave the poor fellow the malt! And, will the House, upon evidence like this, pass a law to reproduce and perpetuate high-prices? Will the House do this thing!

From the same cause many farming bankers (for really they are not husbandmen) will be totally ruined, and their big-farms will become untenanted. Others will be afraid to embark in so large a way. Farming will not be (as it ought not to be) a fortune-making affair. Rich men will not want to be farmers. The speculating, discounting farming will wholly cease. Few men will be found (as it ought to be) to take to farms of large extent. Hence these enormous farms will be divided; or, rather, they will be what they were before the infernal Pitt-system began: there will be upon an average, in a very few years, about four farmers where there is now one. The little industrious, decent, rural hives will come back to be again the basis of that English community, which, only forty years ago, was really “the envy of surrounding nations and justly the admiration of the world.” In many cases, tenants will not, at first, be found on any terms. But, the owner will not let the land lie to produce thistles and brambles. He will put a skilful and trusty labourer into the farm, and will furnish the stock himself, till he can find a tenant. This will be a sort of “farming upon shares,” so commonly practised in America. Some of these labourers will become farmers; and they must, in order to occupy all the farms. And, Sir, you will see the Poor-rates come down in great haste, without any of the projects of that ignorant and hard-hearted fellow Malthus, or any of the contrivances of that son of a parson, Mr. Sturges Bourne, who is the Chairman of the Hampshire Quarter Sessions, and who merely speaks the voice of the Hampshire Parsons. Wheat at four shillings a bushel will hang all the schemes of this “amiable friend,” as Canning called him, up to dry, and to be ready preserved in the archives of the Pitt-Clubs, to be brought forth for use, if the devil should ever again have the power of causing the Pitt and paper system to return.

The farmer being taken from his cavalry-horse, having again put on the smock-frock, and having, along with his wife, taken seat at table with his ploughman and his maids, his son will, now-and-then, marry a servant-maid, and the carter will sometimes marry the farmer’s daughter. Thus will come back that community of interests and feelings which the infernal Pitt-system of paper-money has driven away. Here is the cure, and the only cure, for the evil of pauperism. The good things of the land, the food and raiment, will be more equally distributed. The class of labourers, and that of farmers will be so blended as to leave but very few, nothing but the mere helpless and profligate, to become paupers. The “prosperity” of the paper-money people; the gay cavalry farmer; the show; the false glare; these will disappear; but the misery and pauperism will disappear along with them. England will be what it formerly was: a less splendid and more happy land. And, this, Sir, is what you are endeavouring to prevent; but, thank God, you labour in vain.

But, say you, “you confine yourself to the labourers in husbandry, and have no care about other labourers: do you care nothing about craftsmen and manufacturers?” Yes, just as much as I care about Edition: current; Page: [84] the labourers in husbandry. They are all objects of attention; and, I appeal to my writings for the whole of my life for proof, that their welfare has always been the main object of my labours; that it has never ceased, for a day, to be an object of my most anxious solicitude. Here, at any rate, I may bid defiance to the empty and lying cry of “inconsistency.” Born amongst husbandmen, bred to husbandry, delighting in its pursuits even to the minutest details, never having, in all my range through life, lost sight of the English farm-house and of those scenes in which my mind took its first spring, it is natural that I should have a strong partiality for a country life, and that I should enter more in detail into the feelings of labourers in husbandry than into those of other labourers. But, in my wishes and endeavours I have the welfare of all in view; and that is to have in view the welfare of my country; for, if that class, which is twenty times more numerous than all the others, be depressed, be miserable, be degraded, the country can have no honour, no permanent power; and it is infamous to call it happy.

The labourers in husbandry, strictly so called, form, indeed, a very considerable portion of the whole of the population of the kingdom. Then the smiths, wheelwrights and collar-makers, and village tailors and shoemakers, are, in fact, labourers in husbandry; for, if they do not work upon, they work for, the farms. Now, what have low prices done for them? My little bird has come to me from Gaffer Gooch’s Committee, and told me, that the witnesses one and all declare, that they have not yet been able to bring down the prices (that is the wages) of these retainers of husbandry! They say, that they have tried to bring them down; but have not yet succeeded. One of the witnesses being asked, whether these people were not bettered, then, by the fall of prices, answered, that they got more than their masters; and, being asked, who he meant by their masters, he said, the farmers. Now, this is what my little bird tells me; and I have never found him to tell me stories. If, therefore, this be true, here is another numerous class of labourers benefitted by “agricultural distress.” And, in the face of all this, will this Committee report in favour of a measure to reproduce high prices?

Well, but is this all? What effect has low price had upon that numerous class the house-servants of all descriptions, male and female, old and young? Why, to be sure, to add to their wages. Have you lowered the wages of your men and maids? Very little, I believe. Have they not gained, then? Can they not clothe themselves better than they did, and save some little money too, to be laid by, not in old rags, or deposited in Savings Banks and moonshine; but in that gold which we must have, if the Ministers persevere? Now, either house-servants’ wages have been reduced nearly one-half, since 1818, or they must have been gaining ever since that time. It is notorious, that their wages have come down but a very little; and, therefore, it is clear, that they are gainers by low prices. This class is very numerous. It includes gardeners, butlers, coachmen, grooms, footmen, housekeepers, cooks, and all the long train of female domestics. Here are boys, girls, persons of all ages; and here we must include stage-coachmen, ostlers, post-boys, and all the servants at inns, all belonging to the labouring class, and all gaining by low prices.

Mr. Baring has complained to the House, that the fellows “out of doors” (the phrase is a good one), particularly the post-boys and stone-sawyers (at Scrip-Castle, I suppose) will not come down in their wages! Edition: current; Page: [85] He may tell the House of it again, without producing any effect! The labourers mean to get “in doors” once more. They have been “out of doors” long enough. And, is it not the same with carpenters, masons, brick-makers, and all the labourers employed in building? Yes is it. Even printers have not budged an inch, and I rejoice at the circumstance. It is certain, that the wages of all the labouring classes will come down something in time; but, it will be slowly; always keeping at a respectful distance behind the bushel of wheat; and, therefore, never coming down in the proportion of wages against wheat at high-price times. This is so, because it must be so: because it is in the nature of man, and in the nature of things. If the wheat were to stand where it is now, which is much about the mark of the average price of the period of ten years immediately preceding the crusade against the people of France, and if the taxes on their salt, malt, and so forth, were to be reduced to what they were at that time, wages might come down, in the long run, to the standard of that day; but no lower. And, it would be in the long run, too, mind; and the young men and women of the next ten or fifteen years would, all that while, be gaining back a part, at least, of that, which has been purloined from their fathers and mothers by the infernal paper-system.

There remains only one class of labourers to be noticed: those engaged in manufactures, and collected in large bodies. Now, here we may, in a few particular instances, find exceptions; but, I am persuaded, that we shall find them few, and, though the sufferers are entitled to our most anxious solicitude and to every possible exertion for their relief, we shall find that even their suffering, however acute, is not, for one moment, to be put in comparison with the well-being of millions! The whole of the population strictly manufacturing does not amount to half a million of persons, in the whole; while the strictly agricultural population (I am speaking of Great Britain only) amounts to nearly five millions. And, why should this half million suffer from low prices? I am well aware, that the labouring manufacturers of Birmingham are suffering severely, and I am very sorry for it, though I take pleasure in the ruin of the “big ruffians,” who have been, so long, such bitter enemies of Reform and justice. But, Birmingham is by no means a fair specimen. Its manufacture depended, in a great measure, essentially upon war; and, of course, must be depressed by peace. War must not be carried on for ever, lest the makers of arms should want employment and should therefore have to endure sufferings, however severe and unmerited. This, therefore, is an exception, which, upon the whole, makes not the weight of a straw against my argument. As to the cotton and wool manufacture, I am satisfied, that the lot of the workmen is bettered by the low prices. The average wages of a cotton-weaver is now nine shillings a-week; and that is better than twenty shillings a-week during the time of high prices. It is not enough, considering the deduction made by the taxes, more than was made on that account before the Anti-Jacobin war. But, still it is better than twenty shillings a-week, when wheat was at fourteen shillings a bushel. The wages of the clothiers I do not know; but, I hear from Yorkshire, that they are better off than they were in times of high-prices. The stocking-makers are in a state of “turn-out.” They get 6s. 6d. a-week for a man, and they demand eight shillings, and which, no matter by what means that are lawful, I wish they may get. Still the six-and-sixpence is better than Mr. Benett’s high-price allowance: “a gallon Edition: current; Page: [86] loaf and threepence a week to each person in a labourer’s family:” that horrid sentence of the Wiltshire parish-book! The stocking-makers say, that the labourers in husbandry, in their counties, receive double what the stocking-makers get. This, then, is a good thing; for, they are, even in those counties, ten times as numerous as the stocking-makers; and if, whether from a falling-off in foreign trade; or, from any other circumstance, the stocking business should continue to be bad, no more persons, or few, will be bred to it; the boys and girls will go to the land; and even of the present stocking-weavers some will go to work in the fields; for, it is beastly nonsense to suppose, that there will be too much food raised. Let things take their fair chance; let there be no force, no restraint, no false money, no false credit; and the labourer in every line of life will have that portion of food and of raiment and of enjoyment of every kind which is justly his due.

The landlords would persuade us, that it was high price that fed the manufacturers. Yes, the lords of the loom, and of the anvil; but not the labourers, who were continually losing by the rise in prices of food, in the same way generally, only varying a little with particular circumstances, as the labourers in husbandry lost by the rise in those prices. They would fain persuade us, that, if the high prices do not return, there will be no demand for manufactures. No? Why not, conjurers and disinterested gentlemen? Why not? O! why, we landlords and banker-farmers shall not have a quarter part so much to lay out in manufactures as we had before. Indeed! But, will not the price of the goods come down with the price of your wheat? Yes; but, we shall not have the money to buy them nevertheless. Why, what will become of your money? Why, the labourers, and smiths, and wheelwrights, and collar-makers, and the rest of them, will get, all together, so much more from us than they did formerly. The devil they will! But, then, good Jolterheads, will not they have that same money to lay out on manufactures that you had before? Aye, aye! But there is the fundholder and the judge and the placeman and pensioner and the soldier and the sailor that we have to pay in still the same nominal amount as before. Very true, I know you will have to go barefooted, and to wear ragged shirts; but the fundholder and the judge and the placeman and the pensioner and the soldier and the sailor will have the money to lay out in manufactures, if you have not. How are manufacturers to lose, then, by the means of purchase being merely transferred from you to others.

Thus, then, Sir, I have, I think, clearly proved, that a fall in prices is beneficial to the labouring classes, composing, at least, nine-tenths of the nation; and, therefore, I do hope and trust, that neither you nor any other man will endeavour to cause measures to be adopted which shall tend to restore those high prices, the horrible effects of which we have so long been doomed to witness. In answer to a question, ready to start from your lips, whether I think that the interest of the Debt can be continued to be paid without a return to high-prices, I say, beforehand, I know it cannot for any length of time: I know, that Peel’s Bill cannot be carried into complete effect without a reduction of the interest of the Debt; no, not even if all the estates be first taken from the landlords by the lords of the funds. But, what is that to this great question? All that I am anxious about, is, to see the suffering and degraded millions once more with bellies full and persons erect. The landlords, or the fund-lords, must fall, I know, by those means which will restore plenty Edition: current; Page: [87] and spirit to the labourer; but, as the labourer had nothing to do in the producing of this necessary alternative, and, as it has arisen out of the mutual and cordial co-operation of the landlords and the fund-lords, to these it justly belongs to endure the consequences, be those consequences what they may.

I am Sir,
Your most obedient
And most humble servant,


Who was imprisoned for ten weeks by the Magistrates in Lancashire, for having, in November, 1819, gone round the town of Bolton, in that County, with a Bell, to inform the people, that their Countryman, William Cobbett, was arrived at Liverpool in good health;


“Open thy mouth, judge righteously, and plead the cause of the poor and needy.”

Proverbs, chap. xxxi., verse 9.
William Cobbett
Cobbett, William
May 14, 1821
Friend Hayes,

You could see no crime, no offence against the laws, no offence against a Constitution, which, as the venerable Judges tell us from the Bench, “is the envy of surrounding nations and the admiration of the world:” you could not imagine, that, basking in freedom like this, there was a crime sufficient to put you in jail for ten weeks, and then to turn you out without trial or indictment; you could not suppose it possible, that this punishment could be inflicted, under so “glorious a Constitution,” merely because you went round with a bell to announce to your townsmen the safe arrival of an Englishman in England. You could, perhaps, as little comprehend by what law it was, that the Boroughreeve and Constables of Salford and Manchester, sent one of their runners to inform me, that, if I attempted to enter Manchester publicly (that is not secretly), they should “interfere;” and that they, at the same time, made grand military preparations, not leaving out the cannons. What law they had for these things a day may come, perhaps, for inquiring in a lawful way. At present, we will “stick a pin there.” Fasten so much up in your and my memory: and, in the meanwhile, watch the progress of events, which we shall soon have a chance of doing with a bellyful, and therefore coolly and patiently. The blessings of “Agricultural Distress,” Edition: current; Page: [88] if they have not already reached you, soon will. The labourers in husbandry taste those blessings, and they cannot long be withheld from the manufacturing labourers.

In this work of watching the progress of events, it shall be my duty to assist as much as any man in the kingdom. The events are now becoming truly interesting. Peel’s Bill is finely at work. The Bank is actually (for the present) paying in gold; and, if there be not another stoppage, all will be right before the end of two years. If there be another stoppage, that will only put off the day of salvation for a few months; and, may be, not for a day. The thing has now, by the act of our calumniators themselves, been brought into a state that it cannot, work how it will, prevent us from obtaining every jot that we wish to obtain. The THING (for, really, it is not to be described) struggles very hard.—“O! methought it was so hard to die!” exclaims some rascal in a play that I have somewhere seen or read. And so the THING appears to think; for it jumps and bounces and kicks and flings about like drunk or mad. I dreamed, the other night, that I was fishing on the Grand Bank of Newfoundland, and that, having got a couple of sailors to pull in my lines, while I looked down into the sea to see what I had caught, I thought I saw Corruption coming up, safely caught by my hooks, her head covered with vipers, a rod of scorpions in one hand, and a bundle of paper in the other. She kicked and tore and foamed like fury, I thought; and, fearing that she might be saved, by some chance or other, unless she were suffered to spend herself under the waves, I cried out to the sailors, “Don’t pull her up! Don’t pull her up! Let her down to the Bank! Let her get smothered in the Bank! Down with her, paper and all! Down with her to hell, rather than save her life!” This bawling awaked my wife, who awaked me; and, the good of it was, she thought I meant the Grand Bank in Threadneedle-street, instead of the Grand Bank of Newfoundland!

And now, friend Hayes, let me come to the subject, on which I proposed to address you; the Poor-law Bill of Lawyer Scarlett; and I have that vanity to think, that, before I have done, you will find some reason to satisfy you, that that return to England, which gave you so much pleasure, and for the expressing of which pleasure you were so severely punished, is likely to be found worthy of the feelings which you so honourably displayed on account of it.

That a lawyer, who has gotten him a seat in the Honourable House, should have a bill in hand, of some sort or other, seems to be the fashion of the day. Lawyer (I beg his pardon, Sir James) Mackintosh has his bill; Lawyer Brougham has his bill; Lawyer Onslow has his bill; Lawyer Phillimore has his bill; Lawyers Horner and Romilly had their bills. But, as these bills never passed, never were, and never are expected to pass; and as they related and relate to matters of Scotch speculation, such as that of Lawyer Giddy, which contains a scheme for regulating the stone weight and the bushel measure by the movements of a pendulum, or by the degrees of latitude, they have always, by me, been treated as subjects for fun. If they had no possible good in them, they appeared to have had little of harm. I thought that the time of their several authors was very well employed, and, indeed, luckily employed, in so inoffensive a way.

But, the Bill, which Lawyer Scarlett has in hand, and which he introduced Edition: current; Page: [89] into the Honourable House on Tuesday last, the 9th instant, is of a very different description; for, in my opinion, it strikes at the root of the labourer’s remaining rights; dooms him, in case of returning high prices, to misery indescribable, from which he would have no possible escape except in a convulsion that would shake society to its centre.

I hate Lawyer Scarlett, mind. It is impossible that hatred can be greater, or, in my judgment, more just. And, this personal animosity, which I take pride in avowing and proclaiming, ought to make you particularly careful to believe nothing, on this occasion, which I do not prove. However, this hatred makes neither for nor against the facts and the reasonings which I shall produce against his bill; and, more especially when it shall clearly appear, that the conclusions I now draw are the opinions of my whole life; that the arguments now used against Lawyer Scarlett are in perfect accordance with those (as far as they went) used against the schemes of Mr. Whitbread twelve years ago, and are consonant also with my own uniform practice towards labourers employed by myself. The author of the Bill I here, therefore, leave out of the question. “Gentleman Opposite,” in the Honourable House, and, in the North, Acting “Attorney-General:” “Gentleman Opposite,” and, at the same time, prosecutor ex-officio of some of those who were not killed on the memorable 16th of August, 1819: these let him be. They have nothing to do with this Bill, which I shall treat of as wholly distinct from the character and the general conduct of its author. It, in my opinion, aims, in a state of high prices, at a greater mass of injustice and cruelty, and tends to the producing of greater and more lasting mischief, than any measure I ever yet heard of; and, therefore, if it should finally become a law, it shall not arrive at that state without my solemn protest against its being put upon record.

This Bill you will find in the Appendix, No. I. The blanks are not filled up; but the Lawyer explained them in his speeches. Read the Bill first; and then read the Speeches, No. II. I must beg you to read those attentively, otherwise you cannot clearly understand what I have to say upon the subject. The debate was short. It was not a grand debate: it was only about the poor: it was only about a scheme for preventing the labourers from marrying. That was all. It was not about Mr. Croker’s three hundred a year, which Lord Milton made such a grand matter of. It was not about the conduct of a Sheriff, who had put the “Constitution in jeopardy” by putting the vote in a wrong way, at a county-meeting, at one of those farces, as the Great Captain truly called them. It was only about a plan for checking the population of labourers; and, therefore, it was short and animated; and you will read the Lawyer’s speeches through in ten minutes.

Well: now you have read the Bill and the Debate. You see, that the Bill contains three Provisions, as follows: 1. That, after the passing of the Act, no larger sum shall, in any parish, be levied in Poor-rates, than was levied during the year, which ended on the 25th of March last. 2. That, after the passing of the Act, no relief shall be given to any unmarried man, unless he be afflicted with infirmity of body or old age. Nor to any married man, for himself, wife, or children, unless such man was married before the passing of the Act. 3. That no person shall be removed from one parish to another on the ground of such person being chargeable to the parish where residing at the time of becoming chargeable.

Edition: current; Page: [90]

The first of these Provisions seems to be nonsense, or, at least, of no use, if it were possible to make the second law. The third is of nearly the same character. It is very bad, for many reasons; and might produce great injustice to towns and villages, to which people flock in consequence of some fleeting cause of prosperity. But these two provisions are no more than the tasteless flour that surrounds the deadly pill which we find in the second Provision, which is neither more nor less than the scheme of Parson Malthus moulded into the shape of a legislative enactment.

This scheme denies relief to a man who is starving for want of employment, if he have no children; and, it condemns to starvation even the children of those who are out of work, if the children be the fruit of a marriage which has taken place since the passing of the Act! This is to check population; at a moment when the landlords are wanting food to be dearer than it is; and, while immense sums are, without a single dissenting voice, voted yearly out of the taxes (paid by the labourer) for the relief of the poor clergy of the churches of England, Ireland and Scotland, and for the relief of the poor French and other emigrants!

I have numbered the Paragraphs of this Bill; and you will find the scheme, the pill, in the 7th Paragraph. To warrant the broaching of a scheme like this, a man should be prepared with good and sufficient grounds. He should be able to show, that the thing was just, and not only just but necessary; and Lawyer Scarlett did neither of these; and, I think, I shall be able most clearly to prove, that it is both unnecessary and unjust.

We find the Lawyer’s grounds stated in the first and second paragraphs of the Bill. We find it there asserted: 1. That the Poor-rates have increased in amount; 2. That, if a check be not put to the increase, the lands in many parts of England, will not be worth cultivating; 3. That it is the facility of obtaining relief by men able to work that has produced the evil.

Now, friend Hayes, I deny all these propositions. I say that not one of them is founded in truth. I say, that the Poor-rates, or, in correct words, the money, given to the poor by others, has not increased, but, on the contrary has been wholly withheld, and that the whole amount of the rates has been deducted from the wages of the labourer, including craftsmen and manufacturing labourers. If this proposition of mine be true, the first proposition of Lawyer Scarlett is demolished, and his second and third fall of course.

Let us see, then, how the lawyer goes to work to show the necessity of his scheme; or, in the “in-doors” cant of the day, “to make out his case.” He proves, from some report laid before the Parliament, that the poor-rates have been going on increasing, in peace (as he says) as well as in war, ever since 1750. That this is an evil no one denies. It is a horrid thing to think of. But, if it be not at all Poor-rates; if it be not sums paid by others to relieve the poor; and, if the sums of increase have consisted of a deduction from wages by means of a false and constantly increasing paper-money; if this be the case, though the thing is still more shocking to real, and not sham, humanity, it is not so much an evil in itself, as it is the sign and proof of an evil cause.

Not an idea of this kind enters the head of Scarlett any more than it did the head of Malthus. These two worthies, whose minds seem to Edition: current; Page: [91] have been cast in the same mould, look only at the increase of the sum, without penetrating into the cause of the increase. They snuzzle about the stem of the accursed tree without being able to get down to its root. They see the sum of Poor-rates increase; they see relief demanded by men, women, and children. “O! make the number of these less;” though there be only just enough now to get in the harvest! “How shall we make them less in number?” “Prevent them from marrying: check population?” No inquiry into the cause of the increase: no reflection: no thought: an evil is seen, and, to put a stop to it, coercion.

The increase of the Poor-rates the Lawyer, in his speech to the people in-doors, states to have been as follows: In 1750, taking in an average of three years, the Poor-rates of England and Wales amounted to 689,971l.; in 1776, they amounted to 1,530,804l.; in 1783, they amounted to 2,437,000l.; in 1803, they amounted to 4,267,963l.; and in 1815, they amounted to 6,129,831l.; and, therefore, unless some measure were adopted to put a stop to the evil, it was but too much to be apprehended that it would go on increasing until there would be no maintenance left for the poor! Bless us! what neither land nor cattle nor grass! Nothing left for the man to eat who raises the food! What a queer state of things that must be!

What an absurdity, upon the face of the thing, to say, that the sums given out of the produce of the land, to those who perform the labours on the land, will be so great as to leave nothing to give out of the produce! O, no! Lawyer Scarlett! No reason at all to apprehend this, I assure you. But, as you seem to be in great anxiety and tribulation on this account; as your tender heart seems to be sinking within you, lest the produce of the lands should not yield the means wherewith to relieve the wants of the labourers, I will, in a moment, show you how they may be amply relieved without the aid of your Bill, even supposing your notion as to causes to be as correct as it is erroneous. Cut off the 100,000l. a year, granted by the people in doors to relieve the poor clergy of the rich Church of England; the 10,000l. to the poor clergy of Scotland; the 30, or 40,000l. a year to the clergy of the Irish churches; the enormous grants to make roads and canals in Scotland, to prevent the Scotch from emigrating, while you propose to check the population of England! O Lord! Cut off the 50,000l. a year, granted by the gentlemen in doors for the relief of French and other foreign emigrants, to which grants Peter Moore and Edward Ellice never object. Cut off the 90,000l. a year granted by the gentlemen in doors, for secret service. Cut off the 200,000l. a year, granted by the same gentlemen, to yeomanry cavalry in Great Britain and Ireland. Cut off the grants to the British Museum, to the Monument and beautifying and embellishing Committee. Cut off the bill of the printer to the gentlemen in doors. Thus, in mere odds and ends, a great deal more might be saved than would pay the whole of the poor-rates, great as they are. Therefore, keep these in your eye, good Scarlett, and your compassionate bowels will no longer ache for fear of wanting the means of feeding the poor. Besides, recollect, that, since 1750, more than twice the amount of the whole of the present poor-rates has been ADDED to the taxes on salt, soap, candles, beer, and shoes, of the working classes. Bear this in mind, worthy compeer of Parson Malthus; and you will easily see abundant means of relieving distressed labourers without preventing them from marrying; without making a law in the teeth of the law of God, as explained and enforced Edition: current; Page: [92] by the Liturgy of the English Church, and not less in the teeth of the laws of nature and the dictates of humanity.

But, my friend Hayes, though this might suffice for Scarlett, I must not, in addressing you, confine myself to this vulgar view of the matter. I must explore the subject, and come at the obvious cause of the increase of the sums paid out under the name of poor-rates. And, here, before I enter further into this matter, let me explain the nature of poor-rates properly so called. They have their origin, in their present form, in an Act, passed in the reign of Queen Elizabeth, when the poor (properly so called) had been robbed of the means of relief by the several acts of confiscation of Church-and-poor property, and by the establishing of a wife-having-clergy, in the reigns of Henry the Eighth and Edward the Sixth, confirmed by the Acts of Elizabeth.

In all times the really poor had a right to relief out of the produce of the lands. Blackstone says, that the Poor-laws are founded in the very principles of civil society. And, certainly this is the case; for, when men consented to give up their natural rights, the object must have been the good of the whole; and, as misfortune, weakness of body, derangement of mind, orphancy, infancy, old age, and helplessness, are naturally incident to man, the good of the whole could never contemplate a state of things, in which a man in good health should be exposed to starvation, and in which help was not always to be at hand to relieve persons truly helpless. Therefore, when the lands of England were placed by law in the hands of some persons to the exclusion of others; when the lands became property, they carried with them necessarily the charge of providing for those who had no lands, and who were unable by their labour to earn a sufficiency of food. As long as the mass of the people were vassals, or slaves, to the proprietors, those proprietors took care of them of course. In later times, when men had become more free, and when Christianity was introduced, the proprietors got rid of the charge of immediately providing for the indigent, by setting apart, for that purpose, a portion of the produce of their estates. And this was done in the following manner: The proprietor of an estate built a house for a priest, built a church for the people, endowed the house with glebe, or land, and endowed the church (not the priest) with a tenth part of the annual produce of his estate. And, then, this estate was called a parish; that is to say, a district in the charge of a priest.

Now, mind, the endowment was not of the priest, but of the church. It was not for the sole use of the priest; but, a fourth only of the tithes were for him; a fourth to go to the support of the church generally in the diocese; a fourth to keep hospitality with; and a fourth to go to the support and assistance of the poor. Will Lawyer Scarlett deny this? Then let him explain, if he can, the meaning of two Acts of Parliament, one passed in the reign of Richard the Second, and the other in the reign of Henry the Fourth.

These Acts are silencers of the clergy and the landlords; and, therefore, pray attend to the cause of the passing of them. You have seen that churches and parishes arose out of the piety and benevolence of the proprietors of estates. You have seen that they had made a provision for the poor by allotting to them a fourth part of the tithes. But the proprietors held in their own hands the power of always choosing the priest, and that power they left, of course, to their heirs. In time, however, monks and friars, and nuns came and lived in monasteries of Edition: current; Page: [93] various descriptions, founded and supported by pious and very foolish or very wicked persons, who thought that these monks and friars and nuns could by their intercessions, either keep them out of purgatory, or get them out of it very quickly. Rich people gave money to these monasteries; others left them estates in house and land; and, in time, the cunning creatures of monks and others prevailed on a great part of the proprietors of estates (now become parishes) to leave to the monasteries, and not to their own sons and heirs, the power of choosing the parish priests!

This was a grand stroke; and now, mind the effect of it. A monastery, having got a power like this, chose for a parish-priest one of their own body; sent him to live in the parish; but made him send the whole produce of the tithes to the monastery, except a small part which they allowed him to keep for himself. Thus, of course, the poor of the parish had no means of relief. The evil having arrived at a great height, the above-mentioned two Acts were passed, to compel the monasteries to leave in the parishes, in such cases, enough to maintain the poor. Therefore, all the denials of the clergy and landlords are vain. It is clear, that a portion of the tithes belonged to the poor.

And now we come back to the origin of the Poor-rates. Henry the Eighth suppressed all the monasteries and gave away their estates to his greedy courtiers. He, of course, took away the power of the monks to choose parish priests. He gave that to his courtiers too; but he made no provision for the poor. His son and successor put the finishing stroke to the thing; for he introduced the Protestant religion and allowed the priests to marry, and, of course, they had families to eat up the share of the poor. Mary, in her short and mad reign, endeavoured to bring things back again; but, when Elizabeth came, she settled the Protestant clergy, and consolidated the robbery of the poor. However, she found that something must be done to provide for the indigent; and, not being able to do any thing with those who had robbed church and poor in the reign of her father, she gave up the tithes, at once, to the wife-having-clergy and the lay-tithe owners, and made a law to raise rates upon the whole of the occupiers of house and land; and these are what we now call the Poor-rates, and which, as Sir Robert Wilson manfully observed, are the right of the poor as clearly as the land is the right of the landlord.

Now, then, that we know what the Poor-rates are, let us proceed to inquire into the cause of their increase in amount. Lawyer Scarlett says, that this “relief is scarcely considered in the light of a charity.” “Scarcely!” The man is an ass that ever suffers the thought to come into his head! It is a right, “founded,” as Blackstone observes, “in the very principles of civil society.” And, we shall presently see, that, at the present time, the labourers receive, under the name of relief, only a very small portion of what has, by the workings of taxation and the accursed paper-money system been deducted out of their own wages.

It is the misfortune of every country under a lawyer-like government, that is to say, where a lawyer-like mind has the sway, to meet every evil, not by an inquiry into the cause of the evil, but by some measure of check, or coercion, breathing the spirit of chastisement. When such a Government perceives an evil, it faces it with its power, instead of hunting out its origin, and circumventing it by a patient process. Lawyer Scarlett says nothing about the cause of the evil; and yet, one would think, that that ought to have stood foremost in his statement. Like Parson Malthus, he is wholly silent upon that head; and yet, when he had Edition: current; Page: [94] showed, that the Aot of Queen Elizabeth had been in force for two hundred and fifty years without producing a charge for rates of more than about forty pounds a year to each parish, that is to say, not more than the amount of the then wages of two able labouring men; when he had showed this, one might have expected him to endeavour to account for the change, and to show why it was, that the rates, since 1750, had risen to six millions, instead of remaining at their then amount of 600,000 and odd pounds. This, which is every thing; this which is the all-in-all in the case, the lawyer wholly omitted; and this, therefore, I shall supply.

The cause of the increase, as it is called, but which, in fact, it is not, as I shall clearly show by-and-by: the cause has been the measures of an unwise and extravagant Government laying enormous taxes, and using, at the same time, a paper-money system, which has continually been oppressing the English labourer more and more heavily; deducting from his wages, the means of carrying on wars, of paying pensioners and placemen, of paying the interest of loans, of paying even the very Poor-rates themselves, and, in addition to all the rest, making him contribute largely, as I shall show fully another time, towards the support of the poor in Scotland.

The lawyer begins with the year 1750. Then the Poor-rates amounted to 689,971l. in the year, And, the whole of the taxes of that year amounted to 9,250,501l. Was not this, even this, a thing to be stated, when a man was wanting to put a stop to the “evil” of increasing Poor-rates? The Poor-rates in 1815 amounted he says, to 6,000,000 and odd pounds: and did not the taxes amount to more than 60,000,000 of pounds.

Now, then, let us see how the labourer has been affected by this taxing and paper-money system. I have recently shown, in my Letter to Mr. Attwood, how the labourer has been robbed since the days of Tull; but, I will now take a little later period. It will be seen by a reference to that letter, that, in the time of Tull, the labourer received 6s. a week, and that wheat was then 3s. a bushel. Now, in 1815, the wages had not been doubled in the same county; and the wheat, on an average of years for many years before 1815, had been at about 12s. a bushel, which is four times the price in the time of Tull. But, besides this, his taxes have been tripled. The detail of the effects of this infernal system of paper-money upon the labourer will be seen in Appendix No. III., which was written by the late Mr. Baverstock of Alton, Hampshire, and who took the materials from account-books of his father’s, in his possession. It was published in the Register of 14th of Oct. 1809. The following table from it will show how the English labourer has been treated, and will also show the true cause of the increase of the Poor-rates:—

1760. 1809.
£. s. d. £. s. d.
Week’s Wages 0 7 0 0 10 0
Flour per bushel 0 5 10 0 16 8
Bread per gallon 0 0 8 0 2 4
Bacon per pound 0 0 6 0 1 2
Butcher’s meat per pound 0 0 4 0 0 8
Cheese per pound 0 0 4 0 0 10
Malt per bushel 0 3 6 0 12 0
Butter per pound 0 0 6 0 1 6
Soft sugar per pound 0 0 3 0 0 10
Soap and candles per pound 0 0 6 0 1 3
Pair men’s shoes 0 5 0 0 12 0
Pair women’s 0 3 0 0 7 6
£1 0 5 2 16 9

Here is the truth; here is the real cause of the increase of the Poor-rates. Here, you see, that, in 1760, when the late King came to the throne, the husbandry labourer had to work not quite three weeks to get this list of articles; but, when the Jubilee was kept, the labourer had to work almost six weeks to get this list of the necessaries of life! I beg you to read the whole article, in No. III. of the Appendix, and to join me in revering the memory of the humane author, who put upon paper these proofs of the oppression of the infernal paper-money system. Observe, that a man does not want a pair of shoes so often as he wants a bushel of flour and a pound of bacon and a bushel of malt. These, and the cheese and butter are his living. In summer he wants no candles, and in winter little in amount compared with his bread and meat. Now, then, observe.

1760 1809
s. d. s. d.
Bushel flour 5 10 16 8
Pound bacon 0 6 1 2
Pound butter 0 6 1 6
Pound cheese 0 4 0 10
Bushel malt 3 6 12 0
10 8 31 2

So, you see, to get these, a man had to work, in 1760, when the late King came to the throne, NINE DAYS AND AN HOUR. But in the Jubilee year, he had to work, to get the same articles, almost NINETEEN DAYS!

Thus, then, in the year 1809, the English labourer was in such a state that he was robbed of one-half of his earnings, compared with his state of 1760. Talk of increase of Poor-rates indeed! The thing now called Poor-rates is a fund first taken from the labourer’s wages, and then given back to such poor souls as would actually perish without relief. Neither landlords nor farmers nor any body but the labourers of various descriptions have suffered from war and taxation and loans until now. And now, when the labourer begins to take a step back again towards happiness, we have project upon project for the cure of “Agricultural Distress.” The farmers got rich, the landlords got rich, the fund-lords, the lords of the loom and of the anvil; they all got rich; and, oh, what a “rich nation” it was! What a “deal of capital.” But all came out of the flesh and blood and bones of the labourers, and particularly the English labourers in husbandry, who were chained to the spot and the plough, and who had no means of combining, of turning out, or of making, in any way, a stand against the horrible oppression.

The whole number of these labourers, taking in the labour of women and boys and girls, and allowing a certain portion of their labour to be reckoned as the labour of a man, does not amount to less than 2,500,000. Edition: current; Page: [96] Then there are the smiths, wrights, collar-makers, and country handicraftsmen, who have all been kept down in the same proportion. These two classes make more than four millions, if we allow something for the rather less oppressed handicraftsmen in towns, and the rather less oppressed manufacturers. And all these have been receiving, one with another, on an average of the last thirty years, or thereabouts, nineteen pounds a-year each less than he ought to have received. Here are nearly eighty millions a year deducted from the wages of labour! No wonder, that Mr. Benett of Wiltshire (now a gentleman in-doors for that county) came, with other landlords and farmers in 1814, or 1815, to a resolution (afterwards put into a petition) that they had cheerfully paid all taxes, and were willing still to pay all taxes, Income-tax and all, if the Government would but secure them “remunerating prices!” No wonder; for, as long as they had those prices, and gave “a gallon loaf and 3d. a week to every person in a labourer’s family,” they well knew, that the taxes all came out of the labourer’s bones.

I beg your attention, my friend, to this remarkable circumstance. Never did the farmers, never did the landlords complain of the taxes, until now. “Give us remunerating price,” said they! That is to say, in fact, enable us to continue to deduct one-half from the wages due to labour. I have talked to many many farmers during the last twenty years, and I never could get but a comparatively few of them to listen to me on the subject of the taxes and the Debt. There answer was, “government must be supported, or else what is to become of our property.” I used to endeavour to convince them, that, sooner or later, that property would go to cram the maw of the monster. They were always for the war: they laughed at reform: and the main mass of them were always ready to persecute, even to death, any one who endeavoured to obtain that object. In short, their constantly increasing riches naturally made them like the thing that puffed them up; and they felt most viciously and malignantly towards every man who ever made use of words in disapprobation of the system; aye, that same system which is now bringing them down upon their very knees. They were the forwardest in every thing calculated to uphold the infernal paper-system. Jubilees, rejoicings of all sorts, Pitt-Clubs, hunting down, first Jacobins, and then Radicals; in every thing of the kind they took the lead, having the parsons and landlords for prompters and backers-on. “Government must be supported” was their motto; and their motive was, riches to themselves. The sort of government that was going on gave them gain; and, as to the labourer’s perishing, they cared nothing about that.

Their viciousness, their spite, their malice, their brutality towards every one who showed a disposition to put a stop to the ruinous system were carried to lengths perfectly monstrous. The week after I had been sent to prison, in 1810, for remarking on the flogging of local-militia men, at Ely, under a guard of Germans, with a sentence upon my head of two years in Newgate, a thousand pounds fine to the King, and bonds for seven years, five of these big farmers were spanking along the road to Fareham Market, cracking their whips, and bawling out their big talk to each other, when, coming to a spot where a man of mine was putting up a fence to protect a little plantation that I had made in the spring of that year, they bawled out to him: “Where be the hiron bars!” And then set up a horse-laugh to be heard for a mile. Four, out of the five, of these vagabonds, who hated me, because my conduct towards my labourers Edition: current; Page: [97] was a reproach upon them, have, since that day, passed through a jail, and are now crawling wretches, who would think themselves happy to be in my service. The fifth vagabond staggers, I hear; and certain I am that Christmas will see him brought down.

However, let me be just all through. If I have known brutes like these amongst the farmers, I have known, and I still know, and am sure I always shall know, many of a different description. Amongst farmers I count my best and most beloved friends. The most sensible and best men that I have known, either in America or in England, were and are farmers, and large farmers too. Their pursuits I delight in. The natural turn of their conversation is what I prefer to all others. Their very calling and state of life are calculated to make strong and wise and good men; to put a sound mind into a sound body. Such the farmers of Old England were, and, nothing but the infernal Pitt system of paper-money could have changed their character. It is with great satisfaction that I state, that those farmers whom I have had the happiness to have for friends, have not been brought down, and will not be brought down, by this change in the state of things. They are all of them firm as rocks. The truth is, they have profited from my warnings: they have been upon their guard: they have seen that the infernal system could not last for ever. Many, doubtless, whom I have never personally known, have been friends also, and will have profited in like manner.

To return from this digression, let me beg you, and all the Reformers, to bear in mind, that the landlords and farmers never said a word against the Debt and taxes as long as high prices lasted; that is to say, as long as the taxes came out of the sweat of the labouring man. Paper-money was the finest thing in the world. It created such “prosperity.” It made roads and canals and bridges and new enclosures. It found out such lots of new manures. It enclosed all the wastes. And, so it did; but, not by conjuration; not by witchcraft; but by deductions made from the meals of the millions; by making the millions go half-naked; by making the millions sit shivering in the cold; by making the millions creep under rugs laid on beds of straw.

As for the correctness of the above table, we all know that the part relating to 1809 is correct; and, we have only to look at Tull’s prices of 17 years before (see letter to Attwood) to be satisfied that Mr. Baverstock’s prices are correct; and, indeed, they are much less favourable to the labourer than Tull’s were. In fact, I myself remember almost all the prices. I remember the gallon-loaf at 9d., and I was not born till 1766. I remember mutton at 4d. I remember bacon at 6d. And I never knew the wages so low as 7s. Hundreds of thousands of men, now alive, know, from memory, the thing to be true. But, if this be not true, let some lawyer or some parson show us the contrary. They cannot, and they dare not attempt it.

No wonder, then, that the big farmers mounted their hunting horses, and that pianos got into their houses. No wonder, that they never sought, and do not now seek, for a reduction of taxes or for anything but high price. No wonder that they were “loyal,” and that they were ready to run their swords down the throats of all the poor creatures that were “disaffected.” No wonder that they burnt “Tom Paine” in effigy, and felt such a holy zeal against “blasphemers.” No wonder that the upstarts called the labourers “the peasantry,” and made them stand, cap-in-hand, trembling before them.

Edition: current; Page: [98]

Lawyers, attorneys, parsons, landlords, lords of the loom and of the anvil, bankers and fund-lords, all throve. New houses rose up everywhere. Scrip-castles started out of the earth. London was enlarged and embellished. The wars went on. Subsidies boundless were squandered. Even the printing for the Parliament has cost a million or two. Secret Service grants have amounted to millions since the war began. The world wondered, and we ourselves wondered (I never did after 1803) how such prosperity could co-exist with such taxation. But these wonderers did not go, as I did after an absence from the scenes of about twenty years, into the labourer’s dwelling, and see the misery, which had there come to oust the neatness and happiness which I had, in those dwellings, formerly beheld! The clock was gone; the brass kettle was gone; the pewter plates were gone; the beer barrel was gone; the brass candlesticks were gone; the warming-pan was gone; the brass-topped dog-irons were gone; the half-dozen silver spoons and the two table-spoons were gone; the feather-bed was gone; the Sunday-coat was gone! All was gone! How miserable, how deplorable, how changed that labourer’s dwelling, which I, only twenty years before, had seen so neat and so happy!

Some will say, and they have had the assurance to say, that these pictures of misery are false; or, at least, greatly exaggerated; and that the labourers are as well, or nearly as well off, as they formerly were. Now, then, observe, that, in 1743, we have indubitable testimony, the lowest labouring man earned two bushels of the best wheat in a week; and that this was his common pay. Pray mark what I am going to say. This was the state of the labourer in 1743. When we come to 1760, then we find, from Mr. Baverstock’s table, that the labourer earned in a week only a bushel and two-fifths of wheat. Now, mind, in 1743, there was but very little paper-money; for, no notes had ever been issued under twenty pounds! (See Paper against Gold, Letter I. page 12, new edition.) But, a war came on before 1760; and that brought out notes so low as fifteen, and, afterwards, ten pounds. Prices, therefore, rose; but, you see, the labourer’s wages, though they rose a shilling in the seventeen years, did not keep pace with the rise in the price of food. Now, mind again, when Pitt’s Burke-war began, out came notes to the amount of five pounds, country-banks having begun to grow up in the meanwhile. Here was another pull at the labourer, and, accordingly, the Poor-rates began to rise in an unusual degree. Mark this well. Then, in seven years afterwards, came the one pound notes, and, by 1815, up went the Poor-rates to SIX MILLIONS, from the SIX HUNDRED THOUSAND POUNDS, that they were at in the time of Tull!

This is what Lawyer Scarlett should not have omitted. This is what a man having anything to do with making laws should have gone, upon such an occasion, very fully into. This should, with such a man, have been subject of inquiry, before he brought in a bill to check marriage amongst the labouring classes; a bill in direct violation of the laws of God, as explained by the Liturgy of our Church; a bill so harsh in its tone, and so full of violence.

The lawyer states, and I suppose correctly, the amount of the Poor-rates. But, he says nothing about the deduction from wages. Let us see, now, how the matter stands. I shall suppose, that the Poor-rates were about the same in 1750 as they were in Tull’s time, that is in Edition: current; Page: [99] 1743. Let us divide the whole time, from 1743 to 1815, into ages, distinguished by the amount of the lowest bank-notes that were issued.

Wages a week. Bushels of Wheat. Poor Rates.
s. s. £
20l. note age 6 3 689,963
15l. note age 7 5 1,530,804
10l. note age 2,437,963
5l. and 1l. note age 10 12 6,129,000

Was not this a matter that Lawyer Scarlett ought to have taken into view before he proposed an Act to prevent the labourers from marrying! His Bill, he said, “was not a thing hastily taken up.” It had been the subject of his meditations for years! Bless his head! And is this all he could hatch in all that time? Could he not find a moment to look after the cause of the evil? Nay, could he not see it, when it stared him so directly in the face! When it came and stood right before him, and said, “Look at me, lawyer!” Strange perverseness of mental vision! Did cause and effect ever so obviously appear? Was cause ever so visible before? And did effect ever so clearly follow cause? For the ten-pound note age I have no sure source to get at prices of wages; but, we see the Poor-rates keep pace with the note; that is to say, we see the note lowered, we see that more paper-money got out, and we see the Poor-rates rise. The wages, observe, are taken for the common labourer in husbandry, and that, too, in the western counties. The wages were sometimes higher of late in more populous parts; but there rents and everything else were higher in proportion. Tull’s county was Berkshire, on the borders of Wiltshire; and there, for that very Wiltshire, Mr. Benett, before quoted, has furnished us with the labourer’s bill of fare in the glorious time of high prices: “A GALLON-LOAF AND THREE-PENCE A WEEK FOR EACH PERSON IN A LABOURER’S FAMILY!” That is to say, about eighteen ounces of bread a day, no meat, and nothing else of food, and THREE PENCE to find drink, clothing, washing, fire, light, and lodging for the week! Gracious God! And is this England! And was this what was allowed by English magistrates to English labourers in husbandry! And, at this very moment was Mr. Wilberforce receiving incessant plaudits for his humane exertions in favour of the black slaves in the colonies! And, did he never utter one word in behalf of the poor creatures, the wretched human beings of Wiltshire, who did, and do, boil the tea-kettle at each other’s houses alternately, not being able to get fuel even for that miserable purpose each in his own house! What an “Englishman’s castle” that must be where the kettle is not boiled! Talk of security; talk of freedom; talk of rights and liberties; talk of glorious constitution to a people in this state! It is the grossest mockery, the basest insult, that ever was offered to the mind of man.

But, have we no other recent undeniable proofs, that the high prices have ruined and starved the labourer? Listen, then, Lawyer Scarlett, gentle, amiable Scarlett, pray listen! One witness has told Gaffer Gooch’s committee, that the servants in husbandry were turned out of the houses, when the high prices began. Another has told the Committee, that, forty years ago, every labourer in the parish brewed his own beer, and that, now none do it. A third has told the Committee, that, in Somersetshire, the labourers eat little, or none, Edition: current; Page: [100] even of bread; and that they carry cold potatoes to the field to eat! God Almighty! Again, I ask, is this England! Is this the country of roast-beef! Is this that same nation that used to laugh at the frog-eaters of France! And shall we have another proposition for making corn dear, whether by corn-bills or new issues of paper-money? If we do . . . . . . . . . . but I dare not utter what my heart suggests.

If Lawyer Scarlett had taken this view of the matter, would he have talked, or thought of such a miserable thing as his bill? Seeing that the evil had arisen from causes such as I have proved it to have arisen from, would he have thought of putting a stop to it by checking the marriage of labourers? We call the nation “rich” and “great:” we hear everlasting boasts of prosperity; and, at the same time, we have propositions before us, seriously made, to check the increase, actually to check the breeding of the people! Nations have hitherto boasted of their increase of population; and good ground of boast it is, when all are well fed and well clad out of their earnings. Something, therefore, must be radically wrong, when any man, not absolutely a fool or mad fellow, can talk and be heard talk, too, about the necessity of checking population. And this becomes tenfold more outrageous, when, at the same time, the Government boasts, and the nation itself boasts of prosperity. We have had thirty years of prosperity and glory; and, at the close of the thirty years, there is a man found to bring in a bill to check the breeding of the labourers, lest the land should not yield enough to feed them.

It was not prosperity; it was not national wealth. It was a tricky, showy, false thing altogether. It was means of happiness taken from the labouring classes to enrich the other classes. It was a stripping and gutting of the labourer’s dwelling, and keeping him in a state of half starvation, to enable the others to build fine houses and live sumptuously. This is what it was; and this was effected by the means of a false money, in which the wages were paid. National wealth it was not. Augmentation of capital it was not. That which made a show in the hands of the thousands had been deducted from the labour of the millions. The labourer’s clock was gone; his feather bed was gone; his beer-barrel and his bacon were gone; his Sunday-coat was gone; even his bread was gone, and as it is in evidence before the Committee of Gaffer Gooch, he was “eating cold potatoes in the field.” But, these were not gone out of the kingdom. Assuming new shapes, they appeared in the splendid mansions, the luxurious furniture, the rich attire, and “grand dinners,” of the gainers! With them all was prosperous. With them the system was a blessing. The paper-money enabled them to extract profits as well as taxes from the labourer’s bones.

We are now, my good friend, come to the proof of all this. Gold is come. It will soon get about the country. The labourer is about to be paid in true money. Well, and come. The labourer is now paid in a true money. And, what do we hear? Why, that the landlords, the farmers, the loom-lords, and the anvil-lords, are ruined! They have now begun to discover, that economy and retrenchment are wanted. They now begin to discover, that the taxes are too high. They now begin to think and to say, that the fund-lords have too much! We heard of none of these complaints as long as the vile paper-money enabled them to deduct the taxes and their own immense gains into the bargain out of the wages of labour! All was then right, according to them; and every man who said that it was not right was hunted out of existence.

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Is it not a curious thing to behold: the landlord, the farmer, the loom-lord, the ship-lord, the bank-lord ruined by the very measure that fills the labourer’s belly, clothes his back, and makes his heart glad! It was not augmentation of capital. It was a deduction from the wages of labour; and that deduction, if Peel’s Bill be persevered in, is now put an end to; and, therefore it is, that that Bill is ruining all the descriptions of persons just mentioned. But, mark the punishment now falling upon the heads of those who have thriven by this deduction from the wages of labour. Mark this. Immense sums were borrowed. No matter to them; for, as I have shown, the interest came out of the bones of the labouring classes, by the necessary operation of a false money. But now, who is to pay the interest? The labourer, in his taxes, will still pay his full share; but he will get his just wages; and will pay no more than his share. Then, there is a great army and great half-pay, and monstrous establishments of barracks and the like. What did these arise out of? Why, out of the discontents of the people! This is notorious. It has, a thousand times over, been asserted in Parliament, and Lawyer Scarlett himself, in his speech against the poor silly Rump-tool at Lancaster, the other day, said that “a larger army than formerly was necessary.” He said that, “during seasons of public distress and calamity, it too often happened, that those who were not the best judges, though they were the most numerous and severe sufferers, adopted opinions which led to consequences most dangerous. It became necessary, under such circumstances, to check the measures which these persons might be pursuing. Occasional symptoms of discontent might require the presence of the military.

What do we want more than this confession? Here is the great standing army, in a time of profound peace, traced, at once, to the sufferings of the most numerous class; and we have only to look at Tull and at Mr. Baverstock’s table of the effects of the paper-money to see what was the cause of those sufferings. And here let us stop a moment to remark on the Lawyer’s observation as to the want of judgment in the sufferers. What did they ask for? Why, a reform of the Parliament, and such a reform as would put it in their power to choose persons to speak their wishes; to make laws for their good. They were laughed at, and asked, whether voting at elections would give them more food and better clothes. They answered, yes; and, well they might; for, is it to be supposed, that men chosen by themselves would have enacted the combination-law, or have suffered the combination-law to remain in force? Is it to be supposed, that men chosen by themselves would not have put a stop to a system that was deducting half their wages from them, making them bear all the expenses of the war and of the loans, and reducing them to cold potatoes and to rags? Faith their “judgment” was sound enough, Lawyer Scarlett, and this has been now most amply proved by events.

But, to return: the approach to real money and the consequent check to the deduction from the labourer’s wages are placing the saddle upon the right horse; and how this lately high-mettled steed winces and capers and jibs it is quite curious and diverting to behold! He pranced about gaily before, and snorted, as if in a fright, when the poor, plodding, bare-boned cart or pack-horse came near him, approaching by stealth to pick up the orts from under his rack and manger. But now, that gold is bringing things to rights again; now, that the payment of the army is Edition: current; Page: [102] coming, in fair proportions, on the shoulders of all the community, it will soon be discovered, that the army is too large. And, observe, that the soldier and sailor gain along with the labourer from the rise in the value of money. They are the sons and the brothers of the labourers. It is impossible, that the soldier and sailor should, in this way, be benefited, without that benefit being felt by their kindred and friends. So that, as the paper-system worked in all sorts of ways against the labouring classes, the gold system, the honest system, the truly loyal system, will work in all sorts of ways for those same classes. Even the gallant yeomanry cavalry will soon be found unnecessary; for now the expense of maintaining them will not come out of the sums deducted from the wages of labour. This burden amongst others will fall upon all classes alike, except the class of fund-lords and others who live on the taxes; and though the labourer will bear his full share, still that will not much hurt him. The gallant yeomanry will have nobody to keep down, if the honest gold-system be persevered in. Nay, it is quite within the compass of possibility, that the Government will have to rely on the labouring classes for the means of being able to set the gallant yeomanry’s threats at defiance, which threats have actually begun to make their appearance in print.

This is a thing well worthy of particular attention. It is a striking corroboration of the correctness of my statements and reasoning. Indeed, what can be more striking than the fact, that those very yeomanry cavalry, who were quite pleased with a state of things, in which they paid much heavier taxes than they pay now, and which state of things enabled them to deduct half the wages of labour, are become raving mad, and even threaten the Government, when they see danger of being no longer able to make that deduction! The publication which I more immediately allude to, is one by the younger John Ellman, a big farmer in Sussex and son-in-law of another big fellow of the name of Boyce, whom Pitt used, they say, actually to associate with during his Walmer excursions. This Ellman, about three weeks ago, addressed a letter, in print, to Lord Liverpool, which, after a long and senseless heap of stuff in favour of another and more efficient Corn-Bill, he concludes in the following words:

“My Lord, there is also another subject, which is a delicate one to touch on; but a sense of duty compels me to remind your Lordship, how frequently we see the most loyal of men, driven by loss of property (even though occasioned by their own imprudence), into despair, and attributing all their misfortunes to the Government of the country. If then, my Lord, we see such daily the case, where misfortunes have arisen from a man’s own acts, is it not to be feared that many of the yeomanry, whom ruin, not chargeable on themselves, must overwhelm, unless relief be given, will charge their ruin on the Government? Can your Lordship suppose that the yeomanry alone are free from natural infirmities? If there is any one class of society to whom we are indebted for the safety of the empire, during the most eventful period of the late war, it is to the yeomanry, who, ever loyal to their king, by their example and influence with the peasantry, rendered the attempts of instigators of mischief at once nugatory and hopeless. But, my Lord, I hope better things. I cannot believe that their services are forgotten, and will be so requited as to suffer them to fall without one single effort to save them. I have this very day attended our weekly market at Lewes, and to hear the universal complaints and predictions of speedy ruin, is enough to appal the heart of any one who has embarked his property in agriculture. There is but one general inquiry—Will Government do anything for our relief? To this I answer, that it is, in my opinion, impossible to believe that the Government will not assist us. And although ruin has already overtaken so many, I cannot believe but that Edition: current; Page: [103] Parliament will interpose its powerful arm, and save the remainder from destruction; in which case, I boldly assert, that however the feelings of some may have been temporarily changed, when occasion calls, the Government of this country will ever find the yeomanry at their post, ready to repress disaffection, preserve our invaluable Constitution, and defend that property which Government is so imperiously bound to interpose and save.

It is not worth while to waste time on this variegated bunch of stinking flowers, taken from the parterre of ignorance and impudence. These fellows “saved the empire,” did they? Why, then, though they staid at home, armed cap-a-pied, to keep down the labourers’ mothers, wives, sisters and children, while the labourers were abroad shedding their blood for their king and country; why, then, I say, if these fellows “saved the empire,” the “empire” is saved, and a pretty sort of salvation it is! But, mind, this agricultural-ass fears that “many of the yeomanry may charge their ruin on the Government,” if the Government do not give them relief; that is to say, high prices; and, in conclusion, he says, that some of them have been “temporarily changed;” but, that, in case (this is the condition, mind!) the Government give them high prices again, he “boldly asserts,” that the yeomanry will be found at their post. Aye, at their post! That is to say, at their old work of deducting wages from labour, galloping over “disaffection” for cold potatoes and water, and preserving the “invaluable constitution” of paper-money, which gave them that “property” which consisted of gains extracted from the labourer’s bones. “Bold” Ellman; “loyal” Ellman, who have been “temporarily changed” by the change from high to low prices; lofty agricultural-ass, Lord Liverpool will give you no answer to carry to Lewes, but I will give one in his Lordship’s stead: “Bold” Ellman; “loyal” Ellman; the Government has the people, the millions, at its back; and it can “boldly” bid you go to the devil, and make to the King of Hell a tender of that “loyalty” which depends upon a continuation of a privilege to grind and insult the labouring man; and, if you want an introduction to his Majesty, here’s a lawyer, long acquainted with the Court, who, I’ll engage, shall give you a character, if you will give him a fee.

Friend Hayes, have I not said enough, and more than enough, to show, that the very foundation of Lawyer Scarlett’s scheme is wholly rotten? Have I not shown, that there has been no increase of poor-rates properly so called? Have I not proved, that whatever has been paid in that shape, has come out of the wages due to labour? Have I not proved, that it is, in fact, the deductions from labour, that has paid all the taxes for many years past? Have I not proved, that it was from this fund, and this fund only, that came the expenses of the war and the interest of the debt? Have I not proved, that it was the drawing of the food and apparel and goods of the millions away, and putting the amount of them into the hands of the thousands that gave the false glare of prosperity? Have I not proved that all this, and all the degradation of the labouring classes, and all the consequent temptation to crime, proceeded from, and were the natural and inevitable effects of, the accursed paper-money, and were in nowise connected with that wise, humane, and just code, called the Poor-laws of England, which, as I have shown, did no more than restore to the labouring classes rights and property of which they had been robbed? All this I have proved; and, therefore, I might, if I pleased, leave Lawyer Scarlett and his Bill to go quietly and silently Edition: current; Page: [104] off the stage, and let them sink into that oblivion, to which assuredly they are finally destined.

But there is something, which, as to point of time, gives this Bill a peculiar character of absurdity; or, else, a character of cruelty equally peculiar. Of all times in the world, why choose this time for the introducing of such a measure? It is notorious, that the labouring classes are better off than they were. It must be that this change has been worked by the fall of prices. Those prices are still falling; the deduction of wages is ceasing; the labourers are getting their due again. And, behold, just at this very time, when the bubble of paper-money has bursted, forth comes Lawyer Scarlett with a “Whereas,lest the relief given to the poor should finally leave the poor without relief! Upon the very face of things, without supposing Lawyer Scarlett at all capable of entering into an inquiry as to causes; this was the time, if he really had been thinking about the thing for years, for waiting a little longer, to see what turn things would take; to observe that “general working of events (beautiful, statesman-like thought!) of which my good Lord Castlereagh so very recently talked. But, no! in true lawyer-like way, the brief was ready, and out it must come.

If the Ministers hold firm to their solemnly-declared resolution (and, if they do not, everlasting shame will fall upon them, while what is called “public credit,” will be blasted, and blown to air); if the Ministers hold firm, the labourer in husbandry will be as well off this day twelvemonth as he was forty years ago; for, though he will still have to pay heavier taxes than he paid then, this will, in some degree, be compensated for by the higher wages; for, mind, the master will never be able to get him down in proportion to the fall in the price of food. Only this very morning a chimney-sweeper, who had swept my kitchen chimney, came to my study (none of the rest of my family being up) to be paid eighteen pence.

“Eighteen pence! Is not that a good deal?”—“I have had that price for years for sweeping that chimney.”

“Yes; and that’s the very reason why you ought not to have so much now.”—“Why so, Sir?”

“Why? Why eighteen pence will now buy twice as much bread as it bought then.”—“I don’t know anything about that, Sir; but, then think of the soot!”

“Soot! what is the soot to me. You have it now, and you could no more than have it before.”—“Aye, Sir; but I used to sell it for 20d. a bushel. I used to have it bought up faster than I could get it; and now I have got waggon-loads, and cannot get 7d. for it.”

“So, then, as sweep you gain, and as soot-merchant you lose?”—“Just so, Sir.”

“Here, then, take your 18d. But (calling him back), what do people do without your soot now?”—“I don’t know I’m sure; but, I ’spose they have got no money now things be low, and that they pay men in victuals, and till the ground more and don’t buy soot.”

“There! there!” said I, “say no more: you are no sweep: you’re a philosopher. Go; go to Scarlett! for God’s sake go to Scarlett!”—“Scarlett!” said he.

“Aye,” said I, “it is not anything of that colour; it is a man; and his dress very much resembles yours, except his wig, which ought to have under it a little of what you have got in that black head of yours.”—“O!” Edition: current; Page: [105] said he, drawing down his chin, turning up the whites of his eyes, and smiling, “I ’spose you mean a lawyer!” And, giving himself a gentle turn, as much as to say, “no thank ye!” off he walked to his soot-bag with his 18d. in his pocket.

For proof of the truth of this anecdote, and, indeed, for instruction in matters of political economy, I refer Lawyer Scarlett to Mr. James Mitchell, a very respectable chimney-sweeper, No. 7, Jennings’s-buildings, Kensington.

However, there needs no positive evidence; there needs no matter of fact, to convince us, that the wages will keep behind food, while the food is going down, as they did while the food was going up. This is so clear, it is so obvious, it arises so directly out of the nature of things, that it must be so. Things certainly will, in consequence of this, be in a disturbed state for awhile. The breaking of farmers; the transfer of real property and of occupation; the shifting of the profits of labour from one class to the other: these will necessarily occasion a sort of unfixedness and a species of silent struggle; but, before next November; after the harvest has brought all hands into play once more, all will be to rights. Thousands upon thousands of young men and women and boys and girls will be taken into farm-houses next Old Michaelmas Day. They, at any rate, will no longer be “the people out of doors;” and I do not think that that contemptuous appellation will be given to the people of England for one year longer! Wheat in Darlington Market (County of Durham) sold, on Monday, the 7th instant, at from 4s. 6d. to 4s. 9d. a bushel. At Norwich it does not bring more, I believe, on an average, than 5s. In Sussex it scarcely exceeds 5s. 6d. In Hampshire little is got beyond 5s. I said, long ago, that, if the Ministers stood firm, wheat would be at 5s. a bushel by the first of June; and I am satisfied, that the average price of the kingdom does not, at this moment, exceed the five shillings. Is any man, is even Lawyer Scarlett, stupid enough to imagine, that wages will come down in this proportion? O, no! The tables are turned; and the lately gaining employer and landlord will find, that they never can bring down wages in any thing like the proportion of the fall in the price of food. His affairs will not wait! The work must be done. Cattle must be fed, corn must be cut, housed, and threshed; land must be ploughed and seed sown. Dinner must be cooked at gentlemen’s houses. Affairs cannot wait; and wages, in their fall, will keep far behind provisions. Many of the present farmers will be broken up by the struggle. But, as to the main part, they will accommodate themselves to the times. The very rich ones, who have made such a show, will be too proud to come down and to do justice to the labourer. They will retire, as a prudent winner does from a gambling-table. There will be no more gambling farming; no more adventurers; no more anticipation and accommodation work. And, from a stoppage to these will arise a dividing of the farms, which, at the moment that I am writing, is actually going on. The new farmers must come out of the labouring classes; and thus things will work their way back. There is, at present, in large towns, a struggle between the retailers of food and the consumers. Flour is sold to the London bakers at about 40s. a sack, and yet, the quartern loaf is kept up to 9d. almost generally. We have a man here who sells at 71/2d., but this is not general. For my own part, I would, as we did once in New Brunswick, bake my bread in the ashes, or live on puddings, rather than give 9d. while I ought to give, at most, Edition: current; Page: [106] no more than 6d. However, this is a matter that will settle itself in time; but, here again is a proof of the difficulty of bringing down, by direct means, the prices of any thing of which labour forms a part. We must have the baker. We cannot wait. And so it goes all round; ploughman, cook, footman; they must be had; and, if one be turned off, another must be got immediately; and all are of the same mind.

Thus, then, things are working to reduce the Poor-rates; those rates must, from the nature of things, be reduced. Even they will fall slowly at first; but, in the course of two years they will be so small as to be, as in former times, unworthy of attention. Therefore, Lawyer Scarlett comes too late with his celibacy-bill; his bill for checking breeding; or, at least, for keeping up the population by “love-children,” as the country girls very delicately, feelingly, and justly call them. When Henry the Eighth persisted in forbidding priests to marry, somebody told him, that “if the priests could not have wives, the wives would have priests.” This, under the operation of Lawyer Scarlett’s Bill, would be very much the case with the young fellows and the girls. His Bill, therefore, to be of any effect, must go further, and make England as famed for singers as Italy. He must, at once, declare the labourers to be live stock, and authorize those operations upon them, to which male and female pigs are compelled to submit; and, in that case, I think, Parson Malthus might with propriety be made operator-general.

O, no! Lawyers may sport, and they have sported, with our civil rights and liberties; they can sport with the laws of the land; but Lawyer Scarlett cannot abrogate or explain away the laws of nature. He cannot stifle the fire of youth: he cannot still the emotions of the heart; he cannot arrest the progress of the propensity of those emotions. His rough and harsh lawyer-like mind may conceive the idea; but, here coercion will fail, and the attempt, if the Ministers were weak enough to adopt it, would cover them also with that ridicule, which is at present the projector’s exclusive possession. Yet, even the attempt, absurd as it is, yields, in that respect, to the point of time chosen for making it! The Lawyer came too late; the Ministers had adopted a train of measures that must of necessity render the Bill wholly unnecessary, null, and void of all effect and meaning: and, in this state of things, when the cause, and the only cause, of the evil was doomed to cease, out comes Lawyer Scarlett with his “Whereas, and for remedy thereof!”

  • “Like Martin Marr-all, gaping on,
  • When music and the song were done.”

Dryden thought, I dare say, when he had invented a lover, whose mistress was fond of good singing, and who, in giving her a serenade aided by the voice of a disguised singer, while she looked out of the window, opened his own mouth and stretched it about to make her believe the voice was his, but who let her discover the cheat by his forgetting to cease to wag his chaps when the song was over; when Dryden had got this character upon paper, he thought, I dare say, that he had pushed credibility to its utmost extent: but, Dryden had never heard of a Lawyer Scarlett and a Bill to put a check to the breeding of the labouring classes.

Let us hope that this Bill is the last of the unnatural offspring of that accursed paper-money system, which has, as I have clearly proved, starved and degraded the labouring classes of England. Many thousands, Edition: current; Page: [107] who have supported this system, have not been aware of the manner in which it worked, and from these I will not be so unjust as to exclude the Ministers themselves, Pitt and all; for, it is impossible to believe, that human beings could have intentionally invented and fostered so cruel and hellish a system. The Ministers are now doing all they can do to restore us to happiness; for, to talk of happiness, national prosperity and happiness, while the millions are in a state of starvation and degradation, is almost blasphemy. The Ministers, in spite of all the base endeavours to intimidate them, have given us gold and a return to a just balance for the labourer. This it was their duty to do. If the landlords pay too much to the fund-lords, let them obtain a law for their relief. If they find the army, the pensions, the salaries, the grants to clergy, to emigrants, to military academies, to yeomanry cavalry; if they find these too expensive, too high to be paid in gold; let them appeal to the Parliament for relief. But, let them make no attempts to bring the labouring classes back under the harrow, the lacerating, the torturing harrow of paper-money.

As for me, who has so much to forgive as I have? Who has been so persecuted by this long train of Pittite Ministers? Yet, so grateful do I feel for the good now done to the labouring classes, that I freely forgive them; yea, Sidmouth and all; and I am not a little pleased at the thought, that he who made a jest of “the revered and ruptured Ogden” has withdrawn himself from all participation in this forgiveness-demanding merit. The Ministers may, nay they must, have been deceived: they were dazzled with the splendid effects of a plunder of the labouring class. I myself, in the early part of my writing life, was deceived in the same way; but, when, in 1814, I re-visited the English labourer’s dwelling, and that, too, after having so recently witnessed the happiness of labourers in America; when I saw that the clock was gone; that even the Sunday coat was gone; when I saw those whom I had known the most neat, cheerful, and happy beings on earth, and these my own countrymen too, had become the most wretched and forlorn of human beings, I looked seriously and inquired patiently into the matter; and this inquiry into the causes of an effect which had so deep an impression on my mind, led to that series of exertions, which have occupied my whole life, since that time, to better the lot of the labourers. The unprincipled, malignant, and brazen villains, who fatten under the wings of corruption, have accused me of inconsistency. There are the thirty-eight volumes of the Register. Let them say, whether I have not constantly been labouring for nineteen years to effect such a change as should tend to restore the labouring classes to a state of happiness. Let those volumes say whether I have been fickle; whether I have changed and chopped about. Let those volumes say, whether the great and ever-prevailing burden of my complaints has not been, the ruin, the starvation, the degradation of the English labouring classes by the means of taxation co-operating with an infernal paper-money system. For many reasons have I hated and detested the system. I have hated it because it gave a predominance to suddenly-acquired wealth; because it caused Jews, jobbers, loan-mongers, East India adventurers, and all sorts of vermin, to come and domineer over the people; becaused it destroyed English hospitality; because it took from the people their natural magistrates, and put unfeeling wretches in their stead; because, to answer its fiscal purposes, it took away, in numerous cases, the trial by jury; because Edition: current; Page: [108] it hardened all the laws; because it made thousands the victims of irresistible temptation to imitate the base fabric of paper-money; because it engendered a race of spies and informers so abhorrent to the English heart: for these, and many other reasons, I have detested the system; but, my great and never-ceasing subject of complaint has been, that it starved and degraded the labouring classes of England. To this great sin of the system I have hung like a bull-dog: for the whole nineteen years I have never once quitted my hold. And, at last, I see the object of my labours about to be accomplished. I have never been actuated by any party motive; never have felt hostility to the Government, as government; never have I desired to see, but always have desired not to see, a revolution in the bad sense of that word. But, I have been, and I am, for anything that will restore the labouring classes to that happiness, which I, in my youth, saw them enjoy, and which I enjoyed with them. If the labouring classes be to perish, perish, I say, the whole nation!

Neither will take place if the Ministers hold firm. The labouring classes will again be happy, and then my happiness is complete. Not as a straw in comparison with the stack do I think of all my own sufferings and losses. Let the Westminster Don, let “England’s Glory” chuckle at the comparison between his three months’ walk in the King’s Bench, and my two years in Newgate and thousand pounds fine and seven years recognizances; let him hug himself in the thought that the seventy thousand pounds earned with my pen have been squeezed from me and my family by those various acts of oppression and fraud, which afforded him the occasion to promulgate through the newspapers, as soon as my back was turned, an insinuation that I had decamped on account of a debt, the very existence of which he was bound in honour to keep secret; let him and his satellites, at their approaching Rump Dinner to celebrate “purity of election,” congratulate each other on the pluck that they had at my skin after the feathers were stripped off; let him promulgate private letters; let him write answers and not send them, but place copies of them to be shown at a shop in the Strand. Born to an immense estate, loaded with the accumulating wealth of ages, wallowing in money, holding, to use his own words, an enormous “retaining fee” in the cause of the people, let him pass another five-and-twenty years of big words and little deeds; and let him, if again placed before a jury of landlords and big farmers, endeavour to save himself by saying that he was a friend of the Corn Bill. Let him do all this over again, and anything further that his mind, or the kindred minds of Place and Adams, Cleary, Jackson, and Wright, can suggest: let me see the labourers happy; let me be rewarded by an approving silent look from them; and let him, O God! let him slide out under the apologies, and be loaded with the praises of Scarlett!

I am, friend Hayes,
Your faithful friend
And most obedient servant,
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1. Whereas the Rates for the Relief of the Poor have of late years greatly increased; and if some timely check be not provided to prevent the further increase thereof, there is reason to apprehend, that the lands in many parts of England, over-burthened by the charge of maintaining the Poor, will not be worth cultivating.

2. And whereas the habits of industry and frugality are most essential to the well-being, comfort, and independence of the Labouring Classes; but the too great facility of obtaining relief, by those who are able to work, is calculated to encourage idleness, extravagance, and imprudence—the sure forerunners of poverty, misery, and vice.

3. And whereas also the Removal of the Poor who are unable to maintain themselves to the places of their settlement, is attended with great oppression to them, as well as great expense, trouble, and litigation, to the different parishes and townships from and to which they are so removed; and it is not reasonable that those who have by their labour contributed to enrich one place, should be removed to another, and often very distant place, where there is no demand for their labour, there to be maintained in sickness, and in seasons of scarcity and distress.

4. For remedy thereof, and of the several matters aforesaid; be it therefore enacted, by the King’s most excellent Majesty, by and with the advice and consent of the Lords Spiritual and Temporal, and Commons, in this present Parliament assembled, and by the authority of the same, That from and after no greater sum shall be assessed, raised, or levied, for the Relief of the Poor, in any parish, township, or place, in England, for any one year, than the sum assessed for that purpose in such parish, township, or place, for the year ending on the

5. And to the end that the amount of the sum so assessed for the last year, ending as aforesaid, may be better ascertained; be it further enacted, That the Constable or Constables of every parish, township, or place, maintaining its own poor, shall, at some Quarter or General Sessions of the Peace, to be holden within after the passing of this Act, bring and deliver to the Clerk of the Peace for the district within which such parish, township, or place shall be, a Certificate in writing, signed by the Overseers of the Poor of such parish, township, or place, or some of them (who are hereby required, upon demand, to sign the same), of the aggregate amount of the sum so assessed for the last year upon such township or place, for the relief of the Poor; which Certificate the Clerk of the Peace is hereby required to receive and cause to be entered fairly in a book to be provided for that purpose, for which entry he shall be entitled to have, and take from the Constable bringing such Certificate, the sum of and no more, to be allowed to the Constable in his accounts; and the Clerk of the Peace shall, and is hereby required, at all times hereafter, upon application of any person whatsoever, to furnish a copy of any such Certificate as may be required, upon receiving the fee of for his trouble.

6. And be it further enacted, That before any Rate, hereafter to be made for the Relief of the Poor, shall be allowed and signed by any of his Majesty’s Justices of the Peace, such Justices are hereby authorized and required to inquire into the amount of the rate or rates already made for the current year, and to ascertain that the same, together with the amount of the Rate so to be allowed and signed, does not exceed the total amount limited by this Act; provided always that in case it shall be made to appear to such Justices, that there is any increased charge in the County Rates which are payable out of the Poor Rates, which may require an additional assessment beyond the assessment for the relief of the Poor for the year last past as aforesaid, it shall be lawful for such Justices, in that case, to allow of such excess only as shall be equal to such increase of the County Rates.

7. And be it further enacted, That it shall not be lawful for any Church-warden, Edition: current; Page: [110] Overseer, or Guardian of the Poor, or any other person having authority to administer relief to the Poor, to allow or give, or for any Justice of the Peace to order, any relief to any male person whatsoever, being single and unmarried at the for himself or any part of his family, unless such poor person shall be actually, at the time of asking such relief, by reason of age, sickness, or bodily infirmity, unable to obtain his livelihood, and to support his family by work.

8. And be it further enacted, That from and after the it shall not be lawful for any Justice of Peace, or other persons, to remove, or cause to be removed, any poor person or persons, against the will of such person or persons, from any parish, township, or place, to any other, by reason of such person or persons being chargeable to such parish, township, or place, or being unable to maintain him or themselves, or under colour of such person or persons being settled in any other parish, township, or place, any law or statute to the contrary notwithstanding. Provided always, That nothing in this Act shall in anywise be deemed to alter any law now in force for the punishment of vagrants.


Mr. Scarlett rose and said, that as the House seemed disposed that he should then state the grounds of the Bill which he intended to introduce to amend the Poor-laws, he would do so as shortly as he could. He was aware of the great magnitude of the subject. No subject, indeed, could call for more deliberate consideration. Any measure on a subject so important, was certainly deserving the support of a liberal and enlightened Government, and he was not without apprehension in bringing forward the present Bill without the previous sanction or countenance of Ministers. If he had thought that the measure, or any thing like it, would have been brought forward under the sanction of Government, he would not have obtruded it on the House. If he had any reason to believe that any member of the Committee appointed some years ago to inquire into the state of the Poor-laws, and whose Report contained so much valuable information on the subject—if any member of that Committee had shown any disposition to act upon the suggestions contained in the Report, he (Mr. Scarlett) would have altogether abstained from the subject. The subject of the Poor-laws had for many years occupied his attention. The measure which he proposed was not the result of hasty consideration, nor the effect of any deliberation of his since the Report of the Committee had been published. He had not an opportunity of seeing the valuable information which they had imparted on the subject until after he had proposed his Bill; it was, however, a matter of great satisfaction to him to find that the views which he had taken of the question were supported by the Committee. The great evil which resulted from the Poor-laws was, that an unlimited provision was settled for the poor. (Hear, hear.) The effect of that unlimited provision for the poor, to reason on it a priori, was, that it operated as a premium on poverty. (Hear.) The House would not be at a loss to see that it would necessarily create idleness, licentiousness, and immorality. (Hear, hear.) It was the condition of human nature to labour; nothing could be more unfortunate to a country than a system of law which disconnected the ideas of labour and profit; yet such was the immediate effect of the Poor-laws, they gave refuge to indolence, they operated so as to remove inconveniences which should always be allowed to follow vice; they degraded the character of the man who received relief under them, because they lowered him in his own estimation. They certainly had the tendency to involve in their fatal circle the whole population of the country. The House had but too much reason to fear that this evil would go on rapidly increasing; the time would come, it was fast approaching, when parishes would be found not sufficient to support their population. Indeed, at the present moment, there were parishes in England where the land was not worth more, after paying parish-rates, than the price of the labour expended on it. He would now proceed to state the result of the inquiries which he had made, and first as to the effect of those laws on the feelings of the people. The relief was scarcely considered in the light of charity, there was nothing of grace about it; it was bestowed without compassion, and received without gratitude. (Hear, hear.) There was another consideration which was paramount to all others, namely, it dissolved between the poor Edition: current; Page: [111] and the rich—those ties which had formerly bound together the different orders of society; there was no longer gratitude on the one hand, or real charity on the other; the poor received without thanks what they were entitled to receive, and the rich gave without compassion what they were compelled to bestow. On looking to the result of the law, the House would find that the increase of the poor-rates was so rapid, that unless some check was given to them, they must ultimately, and that at no very distant period, absorb all the landed property of the country. By the Report of the Committee on the Table of the House, he found that in the years 1748, 1749, and 1750, the average for the three years amounted to 689,971l. In 26 years after, the poor-rates increased to 1,530,804l.; in 1783, they increased to 2,437,000l.; in 1803, they increased to 4,267,963l.; in 1813, they increased to 6,129,000l. Thus, during the period he had stated, the poor-rates increased half a million for the first thirteen years, half a million for the next seven years, one million for the seven succeeding years, and one million for the five subsequent years. In 1815, the last year included in the Report of the Committee, the amount of the poor-rates was 6,129,831l. It was an important fact that both in peace and in war, the poor-rates went on progressively increasing; and if some measure were not adopted to stop the evil, it was but too much to be apprehended that it would go on increasing, until at length no maintenance would be left for the poor. The honourable and learned gentleman next read an extract from a Report of a Committee of the House of Lords, on the state of the parish of Namptwich, in Cheshire. In the year 1816 the parish-officers addressed a public letter to the inhabitants, in which they stated that the increase of resident paupers from 1781 to 1815 was from 50 to 90. The increase of out paupers for the same period was in the same proportion. In 1781 there were six bastard children charged on the parish. In 1815 they increased to thirty-seven. Yet the price of corn was nearly the same at both periods, and wages considerably higher. The House, he was satisfied, would agree with him in thinking, that a dependence on parochial relief caused a diminution of individual exertion, an inattention to economy, and a relaxation of morals. It was remarked, that in proportion to the liberality of the parish was the increase of paupers, the increase of vice and dissipation. Parochial aid extended to persons supposed not able to find employment, was found to be attended with consequences most injurious, most destructive of the best habits and the moral character of the people. It took away the necessity of labouring—men to indulge in idleness became paupers. Thus the feelings of the people were gradually blunted, and the labouring class, formerly considered with so much justice the very strength and pride of the State, were in danger of becoming a disgrace and a burden. The evil was one of the most alarming kind—an evil which Parliament would be anxious to remove, unless in removing it the country should be exposed to still greater danger. The evil consisted in an unlimited provision for the poor; the obvious remedy was to limit that provision. The first measure, therefore, which he would wish to submit to the House was, to declare a maximum; the rates of the last year, though not the highest, were nearly so; and it was perhaps the best period to select, because the nominal value of money had more nearly approached its real value than in the preceding years. He would therefore propose to fix as a maximum, the rates of the year ending the 25th of March, 1821, and accordingly to declare it to be unlawful to pay any larger sum for Poors’-rate than was assessed off the land for the year ending the 25th of March, 1821. The next question was, the propriety of enforcing a different system in administering relief. It never was the intention of the Parliament that passed the Statute of Elizabeth, to relieve persons who were able to work and who preferred a life of idleness. The object of the statute was to relieve those who, by age and infirmities, were unable to labour. That wise and humane principle was departed from in modern times, and incalculable mischief was the consequence. At the present moment, persons who were married, and had large families depending in some degree on parish relief, could not be fairly deprived of that relief. Time should be allowed to enable those persons to recover themselves; but the evil had been carried to so great an extent, that persons marrying looked forward as a matter of course to have their second child supported by the parish. He would be glad to know why such persons ought not to practise those industrious and economical habits which all other persons in society were compelled to practise. It was for the purpose of stopping the progress of this evil, that he proposed as the second part Edition: current; Page: [112] of the Bill, that after the passing of the Bill, no parish officer or justice of peace should be authorized to give relief to any person who, at the time of the passing of the Act, should be unmarried, either for himself or for any member of his family, unless such person should be afflicted with infirmity of body or old age. The poor and industrious man was now obliged to provide for the idle, and the natural effect was, that he was inclined also to become one of the idle class, whom he saw often provided for better than himself. His third measure was one respecting which there was likely to be a great difference of opinion, though he had given it so much consideration that he did not think his own mind could be shaken respecting it. It was to repeal the laws authorizing the removal of persons chargeable to a parish. (Hear.) The present system originated with the 13th and 14th Charles II., the effect of which was to restrict the free circulation of labour, and subjected the labourer, if he could not from any temporary cause, find bread in the parish where he resided, to be removed to the parish where he was born, or where his father or grandfather was born, though perhaps there was a certainty that he could not find employment there, and that he must remain a pauper all the days of his life. A more oppressive law was not to be found in any code in Europe. (Hear, hear, hear.) It in fact made poverty a crime. If a law was now proposed, specifically and avowedly subjecting a man to be banished from one place to another, because he could not find employment from sickness or any other cause, or could not get enough to feed his family from the dearness of provision, the man would be deemed not only mad, but inhuman. (Hear.) Yet this in reality was the law as it existed under another name. (Hear.) This law had been found so oppressive, that many attempts had been made to modify it by exceptions—as, for instance, when a man had been hired for a year in a parish, or rented a tenement of 10l., or paid parish rates or served parish offices. It was said by Dr. Burn, that there were more decisions on this Act than on any law in the statute-book. The Doctor might have said—more litigation. (Hear.) There was probably more litigation created by this law than by all the laws from Magna Charta downwards. An artificial, absurd, and oppressive system had been created, and it became half the business of society to execute it. He (Mr. S.) therefore proposed to make a provision, that it should not be lawful to remove any man from the parish in which he resided, as the ground of his being chargeable, or likely to become chargeable. He expected that the manufacturing towns would object to this, as they had done to the provision for making two years’ residence a settlement. Under the present system, when there was any cessation of employment in a manufacturing town, the labourers were scattered all over England. From Manchester, for instance, he had seen loads sent to London by the coach, and some even to the West of England. He should take the town of Manchester as an example, because he was best acquainted with it, and because the Poor-laws were very exactly administered there. The effect on that town was, that in Manchester the rates were less than in any agricultural parish in England. Their highest rate, which in 1816 was 8s. 6d., and at the same time a great mass of county rates from the northern part of the county was thrown in the town. Their rates now were 4s. 6d., or four-fifths of the rent, while many parishes in the south and west of England, with agricultural population, paid 20s. in the pound. This effect, leaving the poor entirely out of the question, was not just. The poor, who had enriched the town of Manchester by their labour, were sent away on any cessation of trade, to burden agricultural parishes that had derived no benefit from them. (Hear, hear.) By abolishing this system, the strongest motive would be given to economy in the administration of the Poor-rates. He knew an instance of a large factory at Manchester, where not a man had ever become chargeable to the parish, because a regulation was made by which all persons employed there subscribed to a fund to protect themselves against casualties. But what would be the effect even upon Manchester? In 1815-16, Manchester paid for the poor of other townships which it maintained, 2,527l., of which probably great part would be returned to it. But, on the other hand, Manchester paid to other towns 1,472l.: 272l. for removals; 200l. for a charge, he should be tender of counsel’s fees: 200l. for solicitor’s bills and other expenses, which with these, amounted to 2,332l., leaving a balance of only 192l. in its favour; and in the next year, which was the greatest ever known, the balance only amounted to 600l. This was an approximation to the increase of charge which might be thrown by his measure on such a town as Manchester; but even if it were Edition: current; Page: [113] 10,000l. a year, it was but fair that it should pay for the maintenance of the labourers by whom it was enriched. The law for the removal of the poor of other countries he did not now intend to meddle with, though he had an opinion respecting it; but he should remark, that on account of the injurious manner from which the settlement-laws operated upon the English labourers (for in the manufacturing towns all expedients were resorted to to prevent them from getting settlements), a great population of Scots and Irish had been collected at Manchester. The Irish poor formed a large body, and the sums applied to their maintenance varied from 1676l. to 9000l.; but it was remarkable, that from the habits of that excellent and industrious people, the Scots, there were only four families that had ever required relief. The Honourable and Learned Gentleman then recapitulated his three measures:—1. To fix a maximum of the Poor-rates; 2. To deny relief, except to the impotent; 3. To take away the oppressive laws of settlement and removal. He knew, he observed, that it had been held out that the fear of removal operated as a check to pauperism. This check would not be needed when his other measures were adopted. The proper check was the fear of poverty. That there would be times when there would be need of relief for poverty, beyond what his measures would supply, he admitted, but to remedy this, they might trust to what had never been known to fail—the benevolence of the country. Temporary distress should be met by temporary remedies, but they should not perpetuate a law which went on increasing the evil which it professed to remedy. He concluded by moving for leave to bring in a Bill to amend the law relating to the relief of the poor in England. (Hear, hear.) Leave was given to bring in the Bill, which Mr. Scarlett accordingly brought in; and on moving that it should be read a first time, the learned gentleman took occasion to animadvert upon some observations which had been made as to the principle of the measure. A gallant friend of his had observed, that it was calculated to affect the rights and interests of the poor; but he could declare, that if it had any such tendency, or if it was calculated in any degree to interfere with the independence of the poor, no man would be more unwilling to introduce, or to support it than himself. But he had quite a contrary impression; and as to the rights of the poor, he thought it a most fatal maxim to inculcate, that the poor had an unlimited right to parochial aid. (Hear, hear, hear.) The propagation of such a maxim was indeed but too likely to interfere with that object which his gallant friend desired, and which he was anxious to promote, namely, an advance in the wages of labour, by a reduction in the Poors’-rate; for it was a remarkable fact, that in proportion as the Poors’-rate was low, the wages of labour were high, as appeared from a comparison between Yorkshire and Lancashire, and the counties of Surrey and Sussex. In the two former counties, it was a fact, that while the Poors’-rate was only 2s. in the pound, the average wages of the husbandman were from 18s. to a guinea a week; whereas, in the latter counties, where the Poors’-rate was from 12s. to 15s. in the pound, the wages of the husbandman were comparatively very low. There was also this remarkable distinction between those counties thus differently circumstanced with regard to Poors’-rate, namely, that land of pretty much the same quality sold upon much more advantageous terms in the two northern counties, than in the counties of Surrey and Sussex. Here the learned gentleman read a statement which he had received from a Mr. Walker, who had resided for four years in a parish near Manchester, where the Poors’-rate, under proper management, had been so materially reduced, that there was reason to hope the parish would be subject, in some time, to no rate at all, if that system of management were regularly pursued.

The Bill was read a first time, and ordered to be read a second time on the 24th, and to be printed.



Having often heard my father expatiate on the happy times at the beginning of the reign of the present King, I have been led to look a little into the price of the necessaries of life at that period, and to judge for myself; and though, often as it has been dinned into my ears by the lives-and fortunes, last-drop-of-blood, and last-shilling men, that nothing was ever so delightful as living under our glorious and happy Constitution, and our beloved king, and Edition: current; Page: [114] existing circumstances, I cannot help thinking that my father was right, and that my neighbours, nay, the great and valuable majority of the nation, who know nothing of the riot and luxury in which their turtle-fed superiors (as they are called) live, will, after they have perused the subjoined comparative table, agree with me in opinion, that the sons have not half the real comforts (I am not here speaking of the loss of political rights and comforts) their fathers possessed; but have begun to suffer; are in an actual state of suffering, and will continue to suffer even unto the third and fourth generation, unless there be a speedy and general radical Reform of all abuses in Church and State. That no reasons may be wanting why the approaching accession should not be considered as a memorable era, I wish to call your and your readers’ attention, and to impress on your minds, the state of things when George the Second died, when George the Third came to the throne, and when he enters into the 50th year of his reign. I am for marking the day as it ought to be marked. I would have my table read in every parish-church in the kingdom, and, by the king’s permission, printed at the back of the Form of Prayer.—George the Second left us it is true, a debt of about 90 millions. It is now upwards of 600. Since that time we have had twenty years of peace, and thirty years of war. And we have spent in the last year only (of which 70 millions were raised by taxes), more than the national debt was in the year 1760. Then, see how the poor-rate and paupers, state and parish paupers, have increased. The number of parish poor was then about 280,000, and the Poor-rate about 1,200,000l. The number, in the 49th year of the reign of George the Third, in that part of the United Kingdom called Great Britain, is upwards of a million, and the Poor-rate upwards of five millions—both increased, and are still increasing in an equal ratio with the national debt. But here comes the pinch. It now costs a labourer in husbandry ten days’ labour to buy a bushel of flour, costing 16s. 8d. taking the average of wages at 10s. per week. In 1760 it cost him only five days’ labour, the bushel of flour then being only 5s. 10d. and wages 7s. a week. Oh! but say the Jews, and Jubilee-men, and fat-headed contractors, he lives as well as he did heretofore,—the parish makes it up to him; and so it does, as the nation makes it up to you, but he loses his independence, his comfort, and his happiness; his very nose is brought to the grind-stone,—while you, Sir Balaam, fare sumptuously every day, gain what he loses, and turn the handle of the grindstone. Luxury and dependence are more cruel scourges than the wars which beget them, whatever the whole crew of bloodsuckers, bloated, three-guinea-gormandizing gluttons, who with Mawworm and the rest assembled at Merchant Tailors’ Hall on the 25th of October, may think, if they ever think at all, to the contrary.

Comparison of the Price of the Common Necessaries of Life in the Years 1760, 1809.
1760. 1809.
*The duty is now 4s. 4d. per bushel.
Wheat per quarter £2 0 0 5 0 0
Malt per quarter 1 8 0 4 0 0
Flour per bushel 0 5 10 0 16 8
Bread per gal. 0 0 8 0 2 4
Bacon per lb. 0 0 6 0 1 2
Pork 0 0 4 0 0 9
Butchers’ Meat 0 0 4 0 0 8
Cheese per lb. 0 0 4 0 0 10
Malt per bushel* 0 3 6 0 12 0
Butter per lb. 0 0 6 0 1 6
Soft Sugar, per lb. 0 0 3 0 0 10
Soap and Candles, per lb. 0 0 6 0 1 3
Pair Men’s shoes 0 5 0 0 12 0
Pair Women’s 0 3 0 0 7 6

Rejoice, O! ye people! Let us throw up our hats, and bawl out toasts and songs!——Z.

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“Woe unto them that join house to house, that lay field to field, that there be no place, that they may be placed alone in the midst of the earth.

Isaiah, ch. 5. v. 8.
William Cobbett
Cobbett, William
May 22, 1821

I have lately been accused in that herald of stupidity, conceit and impudence, the Morning Chronicle, of exciting a prejudice against large farms as being a cause of oppression and misery to the labouring classes. If, by prejudice, the “unaccountable” Mr. Perry mean dislike, he is so far right; for, it is my object to excite a dislike to large farms as a system. This “unassailable” gentleman, as he is called by his brother Scotchman, Sir James Mackintosh, blames me also for not wishing for an abolition of the Poor-laws; and bids me look at Scotland as an example for us to follow!

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It is my intention, Sir, to address you upon these subjects; and I choose your name on this occasion, because you are, I believe, the best landlord and the best husbandman in England, which, after all, contains the best of both that are to be found in the world, not excepting dear, generous, ingenious, industrious and moral Scotland! In 1815, I addressed you in a very angry tone;* and I had a right so to do; for, you, in standing forward for a Corn-Bill, though actuated by no selfish motive, lent your name and all its weight to support the accursed system of paper-money. You and Mr. Western did this, too, in the face of all my proofs; not my assertions, but my proofs that a Corn-Bill could do the husbandman no good, while it must of necessity expose him to hatred. And what did I see as the consequence of your rejecting my advice? I saw you hooted by the people; and Old George Rose, yea the old purser himself, greeted as “the friend of the people!” I told you, then, that the Old Lady of Threadneedle-street was at her tricks. I bid you look to her works as the only cause of the ruin of the farmers. This truth is now become clear to all men; and it would have been clear to all men long ago, if men like you had spoken out, and made your attacks upon the real, and not the imaginary cause of the nation’s calamities. Now it is, thank God, impossible to disguise the cause any longer. Now every one sees, that it is the infernal Pitt-system of paper-money that has turned all the natural manifold blessings of England into just so many curses.

It is the natural and inevitable tendency of paper-money, no matter of what description it be, to draw property into large masses. Not to create property, as the Scotch Baronet, Sir John Sinclair, and as the deep and dark Scotch Reviewers, with their aids, the dunderheaded Scotch Economists, Chalmers and Colquhoun, have pretended: no, not to create anything valuable; but, to draw valuable things into great masses. One of its effects, therefore, is to lessen the number of occupiers of land; and this effect it has produced in England to an extent of about three-fourths; that is to say, where there were about fifty years ago four farms, there is now only one. More than three-fourths of this change has been produced since the Pitt-paper became afloat. And, if we could make the enumeration, we should, I am convinced, find, that paper-money, large farms, fine houses, pauperism, hangings, transportings, leprosy, scrofula and insanity, have all gone on increasing regularly together.

That paper-money, and, indeed, that money of no sort, can create anything valuable, is evident; and that it cannot cause it to be created, on a general scale, is also evident; for, all valuable things arise from labour, and, if an addition to the quantity of money sets labour in motion in one place; it draws it from another place; that is all that it does. If its nature and operation be such as to cause new and fine houses and carriages and “grand dinners” to make their appearance, it takes away the means of furnishing the houses of the most numerous class, robs them of their bedding, their food, their drink and their raiment. Nothing is created by it. It is not value in itself; but merely the measure of value, and the means of removing valuable things from one possessor to another.

But a paper-money, while it removes things from one possessor to another, is a false measure of value. It is always a false measure; but it is Edition: current; Page: [117] in some states of it, more false than in other states of it. When not convertible into gold at the will of the holder, it is false altogether; and, as I have shown, in my Letter to John Hayes, is a robber and despoiler of the labouring classes.

By its amassing quality it has drawn many farms into one. It has taken from useful industry, particularly in husbandry, its fair chance. It has given to dashing adventure that which naturally, and of right, belonged to patient labour. This is the manner in which it has worked: as it became, from its quantity, depreciated, it gave unusual gains to the occupiers of land at the expense of the labourer, as I have demonstrated in the Letter to Hayes, on Scarlett’s Check-population Bill. These gains were a temptation to covet the occupation of land. Those amongst the then farmers who were the largest gained most, and more than the small ones in proportion too, because the small as well as the large had families to support, and while the former required a considerable portion of their produce to be consumed by themselves, the latter required but a small portion of theirs for that purpose; for, as to house-servants, the large farmers soon ridded themselves of them, while the small farmer’s own family were his principal servants. In short, the small farmer was half a labourer, and suffered, in the one character, from the foul and fraudulent workings of the paper, very nearly as much as he gained on the other.

The necessary consequence of this would be, and was, the small farms, as their leases expired, falling into the hands of the large farmers, who grew over the small farmers by degrees, till, at last, they totally destroyed them; just in the same way, as naturally and as regularly, as the strong wheat plants overtop, shade, and finally kill, the weak ones. Some of the small farmers stood it longer than others; and some few still remain; but, they are the little and almost grainless under ears of the crop; and, if the infernal system had lasted a little longer, these must have been destroyed too.

That this was the fact you know well; but, another word or two as to the process. The head-farmers not only availed themselves of the powers of their necessarily accumulating gains, they further availed themselves of the powers of anticipated gains. The paper-money system enabled them to borrow, at any moment, to retard their sales; so that the little farmer always sold cheaper than the large one. This must always be the case to a certain extent; because it is a very true saying, that money makes money; but, formerly, neither little nor big had a paper-money-mill to go to, and now the big had and the little had not; for, besides the natural timidity of the little farmer, his means and his connections were of a kind not to enable him to borrow.

The paper-money-mill was always ready at hand to enable the large farmer to take the farm over the little one’s head. Stock, capital; none were wanted. All was ready at the paper-money-mill in the neighbouring town. No hesitation was required. The thing was done in a moment; and, as all taxes and all additional rents came out of the deduction which the depreciation continued to make in the wages of labour, the new tenant made the old one his labourer, added another hundred a-year to his profits, and reduced the former farmer and his family to be “labouring poor;” or, as Ellman calls them, “peasantry.

But, besides this, a new race of farmers sprang up. Attorneys, bankers, merchants, big manufacturers became farmers, and not a few of the Lords and Gentlemen, owners of lands, who had, certainly, a legal Edition: current; Page: [118] right to do what they pleased with their estates; but, who will find, in the end, that they did not pursue the wise course. Even fashion helped the accursed paper-money system in this its pernicious work. The cattle-shows, the sheep-shearings, had good motive; but were unwise. Those lords and gentlemen did not recollect, that the sheep-shearing, at which they assisted, was instead of a thousand sheep-shearings that formerly took place! Their sheep-shearing was a brilliant thing. It dazzled. It was magnificent, and, in itself, munificent; but, if the hospitable host, in retiring from the festive board, had been met in his bedchamber, by the ghosts of only a hundred thousandth part of those who formerly held sheep-shearings, and who had been brought to the death of paupers by the system which created the grand sheep-shearing, he would, unless his heart were as hard as a stone, never have tasted joy again. I assure you, Sir, that I say this without any desire to aim a blow at you. You have been deceived by the false glare. You saw assembled around what you thought the effect of improvement in agriculture, when it really was the effect of a false, fraudulent, amassing paper-money; that brought before your eyes the prosperous tens, and that kept the starving hundreds carefully hidden from your sight.

So much, then, Sir, for the suppression of small farms and for the cause of that suppression. And, pray, Sir, what compensation can be found in any of the effects of the change for the moral evils; to say nothing of the starvation and misery, which the change has produced, and of which, perhaps, I shall speak more fully by and by? Suppose the present farmers to be in number 100,000; what compensation can their skill and improvements give the nation for the breaking-up of 300,000 small farms, and reducing the holders to the state of paupers? If it had, forty years ago, been proposed, in Parliament (or, at least, in any other assembly in the world) to adopt measures for raising up one hundred thousand families to wine and made-dishes, and, for that purpose, to reduce three hundred thousand families to water and potatoes, would the proposer have escaped instant indignation and abhorrence? It is supposed (and, I think, falsely) that large farms produce more, in proportion, than small ones. But, if we were to admit this to be true, what compensation is here for the desolating, for the mighty mischief which that addition to the produce occasions? If the additional produce take away a great part of the former produce along with it, and both go into the mouths of the idle and leave the labourer to starve, is not this additional produce a dreadful evil? But, even this additional produce is imaginary, as I shall now endeavour to show.

If you take ten farms of a hundred acres each, and allot to them a given number, say 50, labourers, and a given number of horses, say 50 of them also, the land will (with equal skill, care and industry in the farmers) certainly produce less marketable food than if it were all in one farm, having employed upon it the 50 men and 50 horses; for, leaving capital out of the question, great strength can, in the latter case, be brought to bear upon any particular point at any time. As in the case of an army, ten fives embodied into fifty have more than ten times the force of any one of the separate fives. And this is the view, which the Scotch Economists have taken of the matter. They have never cared a straw about anything but the “head manufacturer of corn” (as they call him) and his gains, his quantities brought to market.

But, if we consider, that here, on the ten small farms, there are ten Edition: current; Page: [119] wives and about forty children, all living upon the farms, and all bestowing, in this case, labour which they would, otherwise not bestow; if we consider, that a woman, though she cannot leave home, can do something at home; if we consider, that even small children, not fit to go to work for hire, can do some little thing about a farm-house or garden, with their mother at their elbow; if we consider, that poultry, eggs, bees, seeds of various sorts, fruit, herbs, and many other things, are the produce of care and almost of care alone; if we consider these things; and if we could take all the stock, all the poultry, all the eggs, all the stalls of bees, which were formerly to be found on the ten farms, and carry them to the yard of the one farm, we should quickly discover, that, even as to the quantity of human food produced, the ten very far exceeded the one, even leaving out of the amount the good living and the morals of the ten-farm system.

So long ago as 1804, I went round a little common, in Hampshire, called Horton Heath. “The better day the better deed,” and, on a Sunday I found the husbands at home. It was when the madness for enclosures raged most furiously. The Common contained about 150 acres; and I found round the skirts of it, and near to the skirts, about 30 cottages and gardens, the latter chiefly encroachments on the Common, which was waste (as it is called) in a manor of which the Bishop was the lord. I took down the names of all the cottagers, the number and ages of their children, the number of their cows, heifers, calves, sows, pigs, geese, ducks, fowls, and stalls of bees; the extent of their little bits of grounds, the worth of what was growing (it was at, or near Michaelmas), the number of apple-trees, and of their black cherry-trees, called by them merries, which is a great article in that part of Hampshire. I have lost my paper, a copy of which I gave to Mr. Windham; and, therefore, I cannot speak positively as to any one point; but, I remember one hundred and twenty-five, or thirty-five stalls of bees, worth at that time ten shillings a stall at least. Cows there were about fifteen, besides heifers and calves; about sixty pigs great and small; and not less than five hundred head of poultry! The cattle and sheep of the neighbouring farmers grazed the Common all the while besides. The bees alone were worth more annually than the Common, if it had been enclosed, would have let for, deducting the expense of fences. The farmers used the Common for their purposes; and my calculation was, that the cottages produced from their little bits, in food, for themselves, and in things to be sold at market, more than any neighbouring farm of 200 acres! The cottages consisted, fathers, mothers, and children, and grandfathers, grandmothers and grandchildren, of more than two hundred persons.

Why, Sir, what a system must that have been that could lead English gentlemen to disregard matters like these! That could induce them to tear up “wastes” and sweep away occupiers like those that I have described! “Wastes” indeed! Give a dog an ill name. Was Horton Heath a waste? Was it a “waste” when a hundred, perhaps, of healthy boys and girls were playing there of a Sunday, instead of creeping about covered with filth in the alleys of a town, or, at least, listening to the ravings of some weekly-penny hunting hypocrite? Was it a “waste?” No: but, it would have been a waste, if it had been “improved.

Small farms, compared with large, are, in a great degree, what these cottage-establishments were compared with the land of Horton-heath, if Edition: current; Page: [120] it had been enclosed. If the 150 acres had been moulded into a farm, the produce, when all brought to one homestead, would have made a considerable show. There would have been waggons going to market with corn; there would have been barns and ricks and stables; and unreflecting persons, as they rode along the road, would have exclaimed, “What improvement! This was a barren common only three years ago!” They would not have thought of the two or three hundred pounds, paid to Old Rose and others to pass the Enclosure Bill, nor of the expense of fencing. Nor would they have reflected, that the fencing materials, and that all the labour, brought to this spot, must have been brought from some other spot. And, as to the two or three hundred head of cattle, horses, sheep, pigs and geese, to which the barren common afforded an outlet, and a part living, that would never have once come into their heads; while the sweeping away of the cottagers and all their property would, if possible, have been still less thought of.

It is precisely thus with the large-farm, or paper-money-farm, system. It maks a show. It pulls down several farm-houses, or guts them, and turns them into hovels; and it brings the materials, or the means of keeping up repairs, and heaps them upon one spot. It makes new roads and canals and fine hedges and rows of trees; but, it does not add to the quantity of human food produced. There are many articles, which are the produce of care only, poultry and honey especially. Poultry, indeed, must have some corn; but, they need comparatively little, and geese want none for the far greater part of the year. It is care that chiefly creates poultry and eggs; and, as to honey, it is wholly the produce of care. But, remove the care from the scene whereon it is to be employed, and, of course, its effects cease. Hence it is that honey, formerly so great an article of produce in England as to make Metheglin, the object of an important tax, is now produced in quantities comparatively contemptible. The Metheglin, which used to cheer the farm-house and the cottage, has been abolished, and, for fifty who used to have that, there is now one who has port wine.

And, can any man look at these things with complacency? I am sure that you cannot. It is very laudable in you, and in other great landholders, to condescend to attend personally to the improvements in agriculture; I mean improvements in the true sense of the word. It is a mark of good taste, and it is a pursuit attended with more pleasure, perhaps, than any other. But, if the thing pursued cannot be accomplished without producing the fall, the degradation and the misery of millions, it is not improvement. The land may, and will, look finer, and the country may present a blooming face; but, the nation is in a state of decay.

To enumerate the moral evils of the rise of large farms would require the pages of a very large volume. There were always some large farms: it was not only natural but beneficial. There ought to be ranks and degrees in husbandry as well as in trade and in all the other classes and callings which make up a community. The greatest farmer ought to approach nearly to a gentleman, and the least nearly to a labourer. But, we have now a thing out of order, out of nature, a thing created by a monstrous cause, and monstrous in itself. Instead of an agricultural population connected, the highest with the lowest, by links almost imperceptible, and having interests and feelings in common, we have now a Edition: current; Page: [121] few masters and a great number of slaves, each having an interest directly opposed to that of the other, and as distinct, to all intents and purposes, as the Virginian, or Jamaica, farmer and his slaves.

I shall be told, perhaps, that many large farmers treat their labourers very kindly, and even take care to see, that they are supplied with a sufficiency of food and raiment. I believe this, and I have heard, that your estates are remarkable for this kindness and benevolence. But, Sir, the Jamaica farmer does the same by his slaves. From a different motive, perhaps; but he does it. This renders slavery less cruel; but, still, a state of life which contains a compulsion to work without a moral possibility of saving something for old age, is slavery, call it by what name you will; and, one of the consequences of such a state of things, is, that a large standing army is required in time of profound peace. The social tie being broken; the tie of content being no longer in existence, its place must be supplied by force. Hence our two armies, the army constantly on foot, composed of labourers who have sought bread in the ranks; and the army of farmers, landlords and traders, who are called yeomanry, and one of whom has recently openly avowed, in a printed letter addressed to the Prime Minister, that, if the Government will give these yeomanry high prices, they will still be at their post, ready to chop down the “disaffected.”

Here we have the cause, the real cause, of the existence of these immense armies. And, therefore, it is nonsense to complain of the amount or the expense of these armies, without complaining of that state of things which has produced the necessity of having them. It is little better than cavilling to make motions and speeches about the armies, as long as that system exists of which these armies essentially form a part. Out of this system, this false system, this dazzling and degrading system, have also arisen the police and the secret service departments. These are novelties in England. Can it have been “prosperity” that gave rise to these and to all the new prisons, with “governors” instead of jailers? Can it have been “prosperity” that caused votes of a million of money out of the taxes to build and support a single “penitentiary”? Can it have been “prosperity” that has filled England with mad-houses upon the palace-scale? Can it have been “prosperity” that has caused a thousand volumes to be published on “prison discipline”? O, no! It was paper-money, co-operating with taxation, that caused all these things. And, there is no return to happy days for England, but through the extinction of the cause. Pitt boasted of “prosperity” when he saw big-manufacturers and bankers swelling into Baronets and Lords; and Mr. Curwen boasted of “prosperity” when he met five hundred big farmers at a Holkham sheep-shearing. Neither seems to have reflected, that it was false glare, and that it engendered police, secret service and army establishments as necessarily as putridity engenders maggots. It was the painted sepulchre; and this is what neither seems to have thought of. If we approve of large farms and all the glare of the system; if we call those proofs of prosperity, we have no right to complain of the other parts of the system. Paper-money is the common parent of the whole brood, large farms, enclosures, fine houses, cotton lords, anvil lords, banking lords, army, yeomanry cavalry, police, secret-service, Power-of-imprisonment Acts, Six-acts; all spring from the same cause; all must go on “prospering” together, or all must fall.

Now, then, Sir, how are they to fall? How are we to return, or is Edition: current; Page: [122] return impossible? These are questions of infinite moment. My opinion is, that we MUST RETURN. I am of opinion, that a return is not only to be wished for; but that it will and must take place, in spite of every thing that can be done to prevent it. The system has reached its highest possible point; and its own weight is now bringing it down. We are not in “a transition from war to peace;” but in a transition from paper-money to gold money. And, as the transition from gold to paper was the cause of big farmers, cotton and anvil and banking lords and fund-lords, palace-like houses and streets, “grand dinners,” pauperism, immense armies, police things, secret-service things and Six-Act matters; so, this new transition will cause them all to disappear, and, perhaps, in much about the same order in which they arose! Here will be, then, when the return has been completed, an everlasting lesson to all the nations of the earth!

The return has already been commenced. The big-farmers, the cotton and anvil and banking lords, are falling. The fund-lords will follow. The palace-like houses and streets will be uninhabited. The “grand dinners” will cease, and, indeed, are fast ceasing. Pauperism will go; it cannot live without the former. It is already going. The farmers, unable to deduct the rates from the wages of labour, cannot pay them; and, what is quite as good, the labourer will receive four times their amount in additional quantities of wheat for his work. Accordingly, I hear, from very good authority, that the rates, in the country, are falling very fast; and I read, in the Brighton Herald of the 19th instant, that the overseers there are about “to make the present quarter’s poor-book a three-shilling one; though the last was a nine-shilling one.” Aye, to be sure: labourers are now getting directly, in the fruit of wages, what they before got back from those rates, which consisted of deduction from their wages!

This, this, Sir, is the thing to look at! Let there be no more stoppages at the Bank; let the Bank be compelled to pay for ever after this time, and you and I shall see the Poor-rates vanish, without the aid of profound Lawyer Scarlett’s Check-population Bill! We shall see all the attorney-farmers and banker-farmers and cotton-lord and anvil-lord and ship-lord and fund-lord farmers fall out, or creep out, of a connection with the once more honest pursuits of husbandry. We shall see the colonel-farmers and general-farmers and admiral-farmers and commissary and contractor-farmers and purser-farmers; we shall see all the right honourable and most noble farmers; we shall see them all leave the tilling of the land to the husbandman; and which will not be the least honourable part of the change, we shall see compassionate and profound parsons and lawyers, whose genius may lead them that way, giving surgical lectures to the operator on pigs, lambs, colts, and calves.

This, this, Sir, is the thing to look at! The Poor-rates, and not the rents and the Government revenue! The meal of the labourer; and not the “grand dinner:” potatoes and water; and not the turtle-soup tokay: the labourer’s cottage; and not scrip-castle and Regent-street: the labourer’s Sunday coat and his shirt and his wife’s gown and stockings and shoes; and not the silks, laces and diamonds of enormous London. Away will go, as the poor-rates fall, all the new race of farmers; all the “counting-houses,” and “clerks,” and glove-wearing “apprentices” on farms! Good God! that such things should have arisen! And, that, too, out of little bits of paper with an old hag’s picture at the Edition: current; Page: [123] corner of them! Away will go all the paradings and “roll-callings” of the labourers on the farms. Away will go the surveyors and land-agents; and, though last not least, away will go the Scotch bailiffs, who have already swallowed the last of those daily bottles of port-wine that Arthur Young allowed to each: away they will go, with their heavy-thonged whips, not back to dear Scotland, but to Virginia, Jamaica, or Hindostan.

The fall in the amount of the Poor-rates is the grand matter; and this we shall assuredly see by Michaelmas, if the Bank continue to pay in cash; for all depends on that! By next Easter the Poor-rates will have fallen one-half in amount, unless we have a very unseasonable summer so as to make a scanty crop of wheat; and even that will not keep them to within two millions of the present mark, if gold continues to come out fairly. This will be the proof of the nature and tendency of the late system; for such I hope I may venture to call it. Let us but have the gold; and the fall in Poor-rates will unravel the mystery of folly and iniquity.

And then what will follow? Why, an end to the big standing army in time of peace and the gallant yeomanry army will moulder away too! They will no longer be wanted. Young Ellman will find no “disaffected” to keep down; for his wretched “peasantry” will disappear, as Mr. Birkbeck found they had disappeared in France. They in that country, went off with the Debt and the Gabelles and the feudal tyranny. And they will here go off with the paper-money, banker-farmers and Scotch bailiffs. And the wretched “peasantry” having disappeared, the big army and the gallant yeomanry cavalry will follow pretty quickly. Nay, I have this upon the word of a king, and of our own king too; who has told us, in his speeches, that the people have been made discontented and refractory by “a few designing and wicked men who took advantage of the distresses of the people to inflame their minds.” His Ministers have sworn this a hundred times over; and have said, that the armies, and even the secret-service branch, were rendered necessary by the discontents caused by those designing and wicked men, who took advantage of the distresses. Now, what did I say, in answer to this: “Put an end to the distresses; and then the designing rogues will have nothing to work upon.”

The Ministers are now, at last, following my advice. They are causing gold to come out. They are causing prices to fall; they are putting a stop to the deductions from the wages of labour; and, of course, they are removing those sufferings, of which the “designing” and “wicked” trash-merchants “took advantage.” Consequently the designing men will now design in vain; for, however some persons may despise belly-discontents, they are, after all, much more easy to work on with effect than the discontents of the mind; and this is not only the fact, but it is reasonable and right that it should be so. The army, therefore, and the gallant yeomanry will not be wanted. Their situation will be like that of cats in a country where there are no mice and rats: (poor pussy!) or, like that of priests amongst a people who have cast off the devil; and, what that is, the French clergy know pretty well. In short, to keep them up would be nonsense, and would not and could not be; for no Minister upon earth would desire to expend millions a-year upon a thing that could, in no possible way, be of use to him.

Here, then, Sir, would be a saving! This would be worth talking of. Edition: current; Page: [124] The Policers would drop off in like manner; for, be you assured, that there would be less crimes, just in proportion to the addition to the labourer’s meal. To see so many “governors” become mere jailors again; to see so many Olivers and Edwardses thrown out of employment; to see so little work going on in the Old Bailey; to see such a “frightful destruction of capital” (to borrow a phrase from Mr. Attwood) as would be occasioned in the trade of the law by a thousand or two of Acts about printing and publishing and contriving and training and meeting and dispersing and conspiring and forging and treasoning and smuggling and commissioning and stamping and auditing, all becoming a dead letter; to see the player-men and player-women, no longer supported by “prosperity,” ceasing to keep footmen and ride in landaus and treated as “vagrants according to the Act;” to see the “poor clergy” of the rich Church of England no longer “relieved” by taxes arising out of the labour of others; to see the French emigrants no longer fed and clothed from the same source; to see hundreds upon hundreds of Jews, with their big arched noses and big round eyes, sailing off, being no longer able to convert the sweat of English labourers into gold: to behold these things, and, in addition, to see no more sums raised out of the labour of “loyal and dissolute” English labourers, to be sent to create work for the “industrious and moral Scotch:” to behold these things, to see such a change, may, perhaps, shock the minds of many; but come it will, if the Ministers adhere to their virtuous resolution, and give us the gold.

This is all that is wanted. I ask for nothing more. But, this is an indispensable condition: it is that on which everything turns. This, therefore, is a matter as to which I am uncommonly anxious. A correspondent reminds me, that Lord Liverpool said, in a late debate, that “the question of paper-money or gold-money was still open to Parliament; and that the present Bill (the one-pounder Bill) was merely an experiment.” I did not (God knows my heart and soul!); I did not want to be reminded of this. I saw the words but too plainly in print, and they made an impression upon me which I would fain have disguised even from myself. A nasty article in the Courier has tended to add to my alarm. But, at any rate, there is the Bill which is to immortalize Mr. Peel, Member for the University of Oxford! That is not “open to Parliament” I hope. That, for God’s sake, is not, I trust, “an experiment.” If it be, all that I can say, is, that confusion, uproar, horrible convulsion will be the end of the drama! My wish has always been to let the thing end quietly; and this is the way in which it will end, if, as we approach the close, the millions shall be well off. Castlereagh said (the report says) during the debate on “England’s Glory’s” unaccountably-delayed motion, that (in the year 1819), “the danger of treason had disappeared before the THUNDER of Parliament.” O, ye gods many (for to thunder ye must be gods)! if ye thunder, pray let your bolts be made of gold! He said, that “England’s Glory” would “never be able to revive the confusion, if the manliness and wisdom of Parliament continued to manifest itself as it ever had done.” Now, if, instead of these last words, he had said, “as it is now doing by causing gold to come out,” he would have been perfectly correct. For, what materials for “confusion” can there be, if the millions become well off? Make them well off; let them have two bushels of wheat for a week’s work in husbandry (other branches will give more in proportion); and the very elements of confusion Edition: current; Page: [125] are annihilated. Taxes will press still; but bread and meat are the main things, and, if a labourer in husbandry have the price of two bushels of best wheat for six days of labour he will be content. Handicraft and manufactures will soon afford more; and they ought; because the husbandman has many advantages, in which the labourers at the loom or the anvil do not participate. He has (or would have), garden, pig, sometimes cow, poultry, bees, and many other things which they can seldom have.

This, then, is the true way to prevent “confusion.” This is the way to “thunder” upon us. This is the way to crush “treason.” It is the belly that grumbles. Thunder on it, ye gods, loaves as big as a bushel! It is the paper-money that sets the “designing men” in motion. Thunder down, O, ye gods, bars of gold and boxes of sovereigns! This is the true and only way to go to work with effect; for, as to thundering out paper, whether in oblong snips or in folio volumes; whether in notes or in acts, it is of little use; and, can, at best, only obtain a chance of tranquillity, and that only for a limited time. But, give us gold, that will give labour its due; that will keep the belly-full and the back warm, and I, who by some, have been supposed to be classed amongst the designers, would as soon undertake to move Portsdown-hill as to bring to that hill a tenth part so many people as were assembled there in February 1817.

I have always not only avowed this, but I have always put it in the foreground. Why did we cry for Reform? Because the people were suffering, and because no hope was entertained that the Parliament, as now constituted would afford us relief. I never signed any petition, with others, or by myself, to Parliament, relative to Reform, which did not contain a prayer for a reduction of the interest of the Debt; and, I have always ascribed all the evils of the country to paper-money. In the Reform petition which I signed on Portsdown-hill, the sufferings from the paper-money are clearly set forth, and redress as clearly prayed for. And that petition will be found in the Journals of the House of Commons. To be sure it was the sufferings of the people, that I, for my part, took advantage of; and that it was my duty to do, with a view of inducing them to labour for their deliverance; and not for mine; for I was not in a situation to suffer.Taking advantage, indeed!” This is pretty talk. You see the degradation of the people long going on; you see them silently sinking into the deepest misery; you, at last, see them beginning to be roused by the acuteness of their suffering; and, because you explain to them what you, at any rate, deem to be the cause of their suffering, and call upon them to apply for redress, you are to be accused of “taking advantage of their sufferings.” Advantage! A pretty advantage to be thundered up!

However, in spite of the thunder, I am quite sure, that I did not “take advantage” in vain! “No well-directed effort is lost;” and I now see the effects of all mine. I am satisfied, that, had it not been for me Peel’s Bill would never have been passed, or thought of; and, I only repeat the general sentiment “out of doors,” when I say, that, had it not been for me, that Bill would have been repealed months ago. I only am the echo of thousands when I say, that it was my writings about the May-morning that produced the present gold payments, and, that, if they continue, I shall have been the cause. This is “egotism,” is it? Well, then, let it be such: and I will laugh at those who thus call it. I have as much right Edition: current; Page: [126] to claim the merit of those measures as ever father, or (more safely) mother, had to call a child her own.

And is there anything wrong in my having this influence? What is the press for, if not for such purposes? I do not pretend to say, that I recommended or dissuaded from, any one of these very important measures. That was not the way to go to work. Suffice it that I caused them to be adopted, and of this I am thoroughly convinced. So far am I from blaming the “thunderers” for adopting them, that I applaud them for it; and, whatever I am able to do in support of them shall be done, being convinced, that if these measures be persevered in, we may safely leave every thing to Lord Castlereagh’sgeneral working of events.” And, if they be not persevered in, the end of the drama will come almost as soon, only the catastrophe will be of a different sort, a sort that I should greatly dislike. I hate the dark and deep, the gloomy and sublime. My taste is farce, and I wish to see this famous piece close with the “gods” in good humour.

We are got, Sir, very far into the fifth Act. Incidents, all tending to help out the plot, crowd in upon us apace. The thing that engages us at present is, the question, whether the interest of the Debt shall be reduced, and to what extent, if at all. The big farmers, the cotton-lords, the anvil-lords, the bank-lords and the ship-lords, seem to be pretty well provided for. They have all fallen, dead as herrings, before the fund-lords, and the tug is between the fund-lords and landlords. About this struggle, as far as the parties themselves exclusively are interested, I care very little. The labouring classes, if gold keep coming out, may stand and look on, and cry “Pull devil! pull baker!” as we used to do at the puppet-shows. But seeing that gold cannot continue to come without making the battle dreadful, and decisive one way or the other, there is some reason to fear, that the Ministers, in order to avoid the danger that this deadly fray might create, may be induced to give up their public-spirited and just resolution to make the Bank pay in gold. If this should be the case, all our calamities will return, for a season at least. The labourer whose head is just getting above the mire, would be replunged; and something very far from a farcical catastrophe would be the consequence.

Without, therefore, caring one straw about the interest of the two parties; without caring one straw which of them sinks and which swims, I certainly think it would be best for the nation at large if the interest of the Debt were to be at once quietly reduced. I know that the thing is just. I have always contended that it was just. I have, beginning with the year, 1803, had to endure nineteen years of abuse for having endeavoured to convince the nation of the justice, and to prepare it for the adoption, of this measure. I have now re-published, under the title of “Preliminary part of Paper against Gold,” my arguments, published between 1803 and 1806 inclusive, to show the justice and necessity of this very measure. But, faith! I must be quick in my motions now, or I shall see others very far outstrip me in the race. Converts are proverbially zealous; and I should not be at all surprised, if some of them were soon to represent me as a poor chicken-hearted half-way going fellow.

In a late Register I mentioned a parson, who had begun to thunder away for a reduction of the Debt; and that too, in a “cheap publication,” coming out from Mr. Hatchard’s in Piccadilly, who is also the bookseller Edition: current; Page: [127] of the Prime Minister. This was pretty well! I have now before me a publication by a “Barrister,” coming out from the shop of Mr. Ridgway in Piccadilly. This barrister is not so personally bold as the parson; for he does not put his name, which the parson bravely does. But that which he wants in personal bravery, he amply makes up for in boldness of mind; for he comes, souse, to the point at once. He insists that the fundholders have no legal right to any interest at all, and out of mere favour, he would, for the present, allow them two-thirds of what they now receive. His arguments in support of his proposition against the legal right of the fundholders, are, in my opinion sound and good; and I think that the allowance of two-thirds, even to begin with, is a proof of this lawyer’s generosity.

It is, therefore, Sir, perfectly true, that, as Mr. Perrylaments to say,” this notion of the necessity and justice of a reduction of the interest of the Debt is daily gaining ground, “in doors” and “out of doors” too. But, why does Mr. Perry lament to say this? He used to be a great stickler for the “patriots of the soil.” However, that was when they had the power of giving him a place of twelve hundred a year; and a man, especially a Scotchman, is allowed to change sides with the change of his interest, without being liable to the charge of “inconsistency;” which charge, if I may judge from the language and conduct of Mr. Brougham, is applicable to those only, who change their opinions without being paid for it.

Sir James Mackintosh, during the debates on the Six-Acts, wished for certain provisions in the Bills, which would have made a distinction between certain writers and publishers; between these sedition-mongers and his friend and brother Scotchman Mr. Perry, and all that “respectable” class, amongst whom was to be found Sir James’s own brother-in-law, Daniel Stewart, principal proprietor of the Courier. But Sir James particularly named his worthy countryman, Mr. Perry, whom he described as an “unassailable, unaccountable being, exercising almost despotic sway over the minds of his readers.” And, now, Sir, this “unassailable being” is one of that hopeful fraternity, the East India fundholders; and in that capacity he very lately seconded, at the India House, an address to the jocund describer of the “revered and ruptured Ogden.” This address, which was, in all probability, written by the “unaccountable being” himself, was in the true Scotch style; obscure as far as the language went; but gross and fulsome in the flattery, resembling nothing that one can form an idea of, except the words uttered by an Austrian boor before he licks the dirt from the shoe of his Lord.

From this little circumstance, however, and from knowing that this Mr. Perry has a son in India, together with a knowledge of the circumstance that the former partner of Perry, a Scotchman named Spankey, is now in the very high office of Advocate-General at Bengal; from these facts we come at something like the probable motive for Mr. Perry’s having turned from the “patriots of the soil,” to join the patriots of the ’Change; for it is very easy to perceive that all the fund-lords, whether English or Indian, or Jewish or Arabic, or French or American, are embarked in one and the same boat. Let us hope, however, that this “unaccountable” Scotchman has not the “despotic power” over men’s minds which is ascribed to him by the Honourable Scotchman “in doors.” Poh! he has no power at all! Those who do Edition: current; Page: [128] not think him worth despising, shrug up their shoulders when his wishings are mentioned, as much as to say, “’tis a poor literary dotard.”

Having my parson and my barrister at my back, coming forth to join me, one from the bookseller of the Prime Minister, and the other from the bookseller of the Whigs, I may surely now go boldly on! The two parties in the struggle seem to be surveying each other with steady countenance, though with anxious heart. All that we have hitherto heard pass between them has been nothing but an exchange of long shots, which persons not skilled in this species of warfare, might mistake for salutes! It will not long go on thus. We shall soon see the hostile squadrons bear down upon each other. Perhaps the report of Gaffer Gooch’s committee may be the signal for fight. Just at present the parties seem to be clearing the decks and watching the winds, each wishing if possible to get the weather-guage. To give you my own opinion, Sir, I do not think that there will be any thing like a general engagement during the present Session. It is the next Session that will be interesting! The landlords will then come up, some riding and some on foot, properly charged, properly primed and loaded; and then you will hear speeches in praise of “public credit” and of “national faith” sufficient to put in motion the risible faculties of a stoic. At last, however, the heroes of national faith will, I think, have to give way, and to see a reduction of the interest of the Debt take place.

Yet, this will be such a blow to the whole system. It will make such a noise all over the world! It will give such a shock to the whole thing all taken together. It will so completely annihilate the bait which now retains the money of foreigners in the funds, that, one can hardly believe that the Ministers will be brought to do it, if, by any means whatever, they can possibly avoid it. It will be a trying session, Sir, such an one as this country never saw; and such you may be assured, as it never will afterwards see.

With such terrible dangers and difficulties staring them in the face, whether they reduce or do not reduce, I am really afraid, that the Ministers will recoil; that the two parties will shake hands; that Peel’s Bill will be repealed, and that, “the paper-system for ever,” will once more become the cry of the day. It is true that there will be the feast of the gridiron to endure; but what is shame compared with a danger that menaces life itself. For, the system dies, and almost instant death, unless the Bill be repealed. I know that even the repeal of the Bill will give it a most terrible shock. It will be like No. 2 of the apoplexy. But, it may receive No. 2, and yet linger along a good while, and thereby, retard the nation’s restoration to freedom and happiness.

However, time will tell us all about it; and in the meanwhile, let us, like prudent men, enjoy the good that we possess. There is some gold; and there is bread tolerably low-priced. These things are valuable. Let us enjoy them; and let us also, console ourselves with the reflection, that while we have good reason to hope, that we shall be better off than we are, and we are sure that we never can be worse off than we have been. I say WE, because I never do and I never can separate myself, in this view from the labouring classes. I never can think myself well off while they are oppressed. I never can be contented, never can be easy, must be “disaffected” and “designing”; always “rebelling,” as my good Lord Castlereagh calls it, as long as the millions of Englishmen are degraded and in misery. And what man can think that he ought to be contented, Edition: current; Page: [129] while nineteen out of twenty of his countrymen have just cause for discontent? Of what value is abundance in the midst of famishing millions? There may be men, though, I trust, the number of them is small, who can enjoy themselves in such a state of things; but, from all I have heard, Sir, you are not a man of that description. Nay, I will not think so badly of any part of my countrymen as to suppose that even the parsons, generally speaking, can have viewed this degradation and misery of the millions without pain. As to the gentlemen “in doors,” in both places, they have never, until now, seen the cause that was at work to degrade and starve the people. If they had, they would, long ago, have directed their “thunder” against that, and not against its victims. They, like Pitt and his successors in office, have been dazzled with the glare. They have thought that it was a picture of real prosperity that they saw. A considerable part of them have been born since the system had produced much of its mischiefs; and nearly the whole of them are yet too young to have attentively observed, and to be well acquainted with, the state of the millions forty years ago. Then, again, the men of business, the real managers, and, in fact, the rulers, have been the Roses, the Longs, the Addingtons, the Percevals, the Hobhouses; old navy-pursers, small lawyers, stock-brokers, and the like. So that there is little room for wonder, that we have gone on increasing in “prosperity,” till, at last, we are beset with difficulties and dangers from which there is no escape without cutting our way through.

A very fair specimen of the notions that have prevailed was given by Lord Harrowby, when he brought in the Report about Peel’s Bill. He said, that the paper-money had saved us, had obtained our victory over Napoleon. It did obtain that victory; for without it a million of foreign bayonets could not have been hired for the fight. But, are we saved, Sir! Ask Gaffer Gooch! He will say we are far from being saved. Is it being saved to owe a debt, the annual interest of which absorbs more than twice the whole of the rental of the kingdom? It is now that the great begin to see, because they begin to feel, the deadly effects of a paper-money. “Strength it is in the beginning,” as Paine said, “but weakness in the end.” Could this nation now go to war? And, what, then, is the figure that it makes in the world? Do we think that we can disguise our state from that world? The world is much too sharp-sighted not to see through all our attempts at disguise, and much too curious not to enjoy the circumstances that induce us to make such attempts.

The danger, and the only danger, is, that we shall continue making these attempts too long. To cut our way through at once is the wise course. I am well aware of the effects. I know it would leave thirty thousand houses tenantless in and around London! But, I also know, that three hundred thousand farm-houses would arise again out of the same number of hovels. I know that the rich would diminish greatly in number. Many thousands of them would be no longer rich; but, from the same cause, millions would rise up to competence. I know that Bible-societies, School-societies, and Tract-societies would disappear; but I also know, that mendicity, hypocrisy, misery, and crimes, would be reduced to the standard of forty years ago; and, perhaps, to that of seventy years ago; nay, perhaps, to that of the reign of Queen Anne. What! cause the nation to retrograde a century! Who, Sir, and especially what proprietor of a large estate, would not, at this moment, give one of his limbs to see England in the state in which Queen Anne left it? England Edition: current; Page: [130] then had her numerous farms and her happy husbandmen. She was then really strong: she is now really weak. The strength of a country consists, not so much in the number of her people as in their ability and their public spirit; not so much in the amount of its valuable things as in the distribution of them. If our rulers had viewed the matter in this light, they never would have expended seventy millions on the last war against America. It was not the numbers, it was not the masses of commercial wealth, that saved America. It was the easy circumstances, the public-spirit of the yeomanry, the real yeomanry. The traders of Baltimore were ready to surrender to the army of Ross, when the farmers from the back part of Pennsylvania arrived, after having rode, some of them, two hundred miles at their own expense. The traders of New Orleans even wished to surrender to Packenham; but the yeomen from Tennessee and Kentucky, coming from, at nearest, two hundred miles, took possession of the city, punished many of its inhabitants for their cowardice, made others work to assist in the defence, and quickly destroyed, or drove away, the enemy. Perhaps, and I have, indeed, good authority to state the fact, there was not a dollar given to these yeomen, in either case, whether for coming or returning. Horses, arms, clothes; all were their own. But, if America had been a country of large farms and a poor and wretched “peasantry,” how, with an empty treasury, and with two thousand miles of frontier, was the country to have been defended?

Frightful, therefore, as it may, at first sight appear, to think of whole streets and squares of lofty and elegant mansions uninhabited and crumbling down, it is to me, at least, more frightful to think of the necessary final consequences of a perseverance in a paper-money system; in a system which draws wealth into masses, and spreads misery over the land; which gives the Government the support of the thousands, and alienates from it the hearts of the millions; which calls for an enormous standing army in time of peace, and which makes the nation tremble at the thought of war. Cut our way through! That is the only wise course; and, if we have not the courage to do that, instead of being the “envy and admiration of the world,” we shall become an object of its scorn and contempt.

In conclusion, Sir, let me observe, that, as to the fault, the blame, there is no political party to which a share does not belong. All have supported, and even applauded the system, except the Old Tories, who have long been extinct. All, indeed, of late years, have been deceived. The great deceiver, Pitt, deceived himself. The Lord Chancellor has recently observed, that he several times talked with Pitt about Catholic Emancipation; but never could get from him “any clear explanation of what he meant, or wished, to do, or have done!” I’ll warrant him he could not! And the same may be said as to all Ministers, for forty years past, with regard to the paper-money system. It served them; it served their turn; it caused revenue to flow in; it gave an appearance of “prosperity;” and, as to ultimate effects, they never thought about them. One would have thought, that the increase of the size of London, coupled with the increase of the poor-rates, were sufficient to set a Minister a-thinking, at any rate. But, the glare dazzled them all; and the character of the Government, its very mind, became totally changed. Solidity used to be the great characteristic of everything belonging to England. Plenty, great store of good things, and little Edition: current; Page: [131] outside show. To think nothing gained, unless it was made fast and to last for ever, appeared to be the turn of the minds of all Englishmen, and to be the ruling maxim of their Government. What a metamorphosis have they undergone under the hands of Dutch fund-makers, Jews, and all sorts of paper-money vermin.

All, therefore, have a share in the blame; all political parties, and every man who has been in Parliament for the last forty or fifty years; for no one of those men has ever made an attempt to eradicate, or even to expose the true cause of the evil which is at last come upon us. The disputes have been as to the more or less, but all have, expressly or tacitly, given their support to the thing itself. Now a step has been taken towards its destruction and towards a return to national happiness and to the English character; and I hope that men like you will not be found to endeavour to impede the march of the Ministers in this direction. To carp at their expenditure is not only useless, but inconsistent, as long as they are to pay the interest of the Debt, and as long as high prices grind the labourers to the earth, fill their hearts with bitterness, and make them a barrel of gunpowder that only waits for the match. To go on with paper-money system, there must be a great standing army in time of peace, which, besides its direct repulsive force, is necessary to draw off, and to clothe and feed the most sturdy and resolute part of the suffering labourers. It is in vain, therefore, to find fault with the expenditure. It is demanded by the system, and must be made as long as the system lasts.

Lord Grey said lately, and he said truly, that a change of Ministry would be of no use, without a total change of system. It was a pity he did not explain himself. But, if he meant anything short of a total change of the money-system; if he meant anything short of turning the paper-system into a gold-system, he certainly did not mean enough. That change has begun, and a million times more important it is, than army estimates, Six Acts, or anything else. Let Peel’s Bill go into effect, and it must produce a destruction of the Pitt-paper system. This will, indeed, bring “woe unto them, who have joined house to house and laid field to field;” “of a truth, saith the Lord of Hosts, many houses shall be desolate, even great and fair, without inhabitants;” but, the small farms will again rise up, the cottages will smile, and England will be once more happy, tranquil, safe and truly great.

I am, Sir, with very great respect,
Your most humble and most obedient servant,
Edition: current; Page: [132]


William Cobbett
Cobbett, William
August 7, 1821

I can wait no longer for the Evidence, taken by the Committee, who were appointed to inquire into the allegations in the petitions of the agriculturasses. The Committee made their Report to the “Grand Council of the Nation,” to the “collective wisdom,” as Mr. Perry calls it, and the “collective wisdom” resolved to have the Report printed, at once, and to leave time for Luke Hansard to print the Evidence. Luke prints at a low price, I suppose; and, therefore, has not been able to make much dispatch. The “collective wisdom,” separated before Luke could finish the job, which I could have got done in forty-eight hours! And now, the collective wisdom will hardly be able to see this Evidence before the wisdom is in a state of collection again.

Nevertheless, this Evidence is a matter of great importance; for, whatever might be the character and views of the parties giving it, they suffered a great deal to leak out. They, at any rate, described their state and that of their labourers; and, before any sound opinion can be given on the Report itself, the Evidence must be read, or, at any rate, its substance must be stated. Viewing it in this light, I notified to my readers my intention to republish the whole of the Evidence, and to write a couple of Registers on the Report, referring, as I went on, to the Evidence. But Luke not having got on with the printing, I have been compelled to give up this design; and to betake myself to my little bird, who has given me a great deal of intelligence about this same Evidence, and, from his bill, I have made minutes of the greater part of it. So that the effect of Luke’s slow-printing, will be found, at last, to have thrown no bar in my way as to this discussion.

I shall take the Report and the Evidence, and, from them, tell your fortunes as true as a hair. I shall show you, not the way downwards, for that you must see, or feel, if you be as blind as a dobbin; but, shall show you the depths into which you are descending, and the torments you have to endure. “Ye have set at nought all my counsel, and would none of my reproof. I will, therefore, laugh at your calamity, and mock when your fear cometh. For the turning away of the simple shall slay them; and the prosperity of fools shall destroy them.” Proverbs, ch. i. v. 25, 26, 32.

These words, as applicable to you from me, I quoted at the time when the “stern-path” men had compelled me to flee to a foreign land. At that time you laughed. You laughed when the Lancashire Reformers were dispersed by a military force, or marched into a prison, only for being assembled to petition for Reform. You laughed and applauded at the Manchester and Oldham affairs of 1819. You laughed when JOSEPH Edition: current; Page: [133] SWANN was sent by the Justices of Cheshire to be imprisoned for FOUR YEARS AND A HALF. You laughed when the Lancashirers threatened to interfere if I attempted to enter their town. You laughed when a man was sent to jail for ten weeks for going round a town to announce that I was come home in good health. You laughed when Six-acts were passed. O! how you laughed, how you mocked, how you showed your bright wit, upon all these occasions! Well: I never cried: I was sure that the time would soon come for me to laugh: that time is come: laugh I do, and laugh and mock I will.

However, I shall discuss your case with seriousness, with this express reservation, that, when I speak of the sufferings of you and your petitioning understrappers, it is, if you please, to be clearly understood, that I rejoice at those sufferings for two reasons, first, because you have been enemies of reform; and, second, because I am convinced, that those sufferings are absolutely necessary to the well-being and the freedom of the nation at large, and to the stability and security of his Majesty’s throne.

I am by no means going to take part with the fund-lords (except on certain conditions); but, I mean to argue the case fairly, to do which no man, as far as feeling goes, is better qualified than myself, caring, as I do, not one single straw, which class suffers most. I hate the muck-worm; but, I am to consider, not my own natural propensity, in this case, but, what is best for the King and that part of his people who get their living by honest means. In one short phrase, I am to consider, under the success of which of the two classes we are most likely to obtain a repeal of Six-acts and an abolition of the boroughs. And, really, when I look at the cause of these, I do not see so clearly the efforts of the muck-worm. I cannot trace these, and especially the latter (which is by far the greatest evil of the two), to the muck-worm. Therefore, in this respect, I must, in my conscience, say “Good muck-worm, harmless muck-worm; I will not hurt thee, muck-worm.”

It is now evident to all of you, even the most silly (and, God only knows how silly that is), that you must be wholly broken up, or that the interest of the Debt must be reduced, and “public credit and national faith,” become the subject of farces and ballads. This is now evident to all of you, except, indeed, those against whom statutes of lunacy have already been issued. The question, therefore, is, whether under these circumstances, it be better that you should be wholly broken up, or not. And to answer this question, we have simply to ascertain, if we can, whether your being wholly broken up, will, or will not, tend to give us a reform.

To answer this last question we shall want a little time: time to see how the physic of manifestly approaching ruin and misery works upon you. If it make reformers of you; then, indeed, we may lend a hand to keep you from being wholly broken up; but, mind; mark it well; ponder well on my words: if you do not become reformers, every stroke that can be given in favour of the fund-lords, will be given, and that, too, with hearty goodwill.

I can see your wishes clearly enough. You wish to see some reduction of army, salaries, places, sinecures, pensions, and the like; and then, to turn to the fund-lords, and say; “Come: we have seen other things reduced: and, now, you must reduce.” I beg your pardon! This will not do. The money has been borrowed. Your lands are pledged for the interest. None of your shuffling. Deduct one single farthing you cannot, Edition: current; Page: [134] until every thing else be taken off that is not absolutely necessary to the bare existence of Government. The clergy begin, for instance, to complain, that they are paying too much to the fund-lords. Now, let us see how this matter stands. The clergy (besides all their tithes and other income) have had given to them about a million and a half of money since 1800. Perhaps it may be nearly two millions. Whence did this money come? Answer me that question. Where did this money come from? Out of your estates? Out of the revenue? No such thing. Loans have been made every year all the while. There was not money enough arising from the revenue to pay with; consequently that which was given away, came out of the loans! Ah, ah! What, you start, do you, Mr. Parson!

Now, look at this matter, and say, whether the nation will ever bear to see the clergy keep this money, whilst those who have lent the money shall suffer a reduction of the interest of the million and a half lent! This would be so flagrantly unjust; it would be such an outrage on all the principles of justice and honesty, that it never could be tolerated. O, no! Before the interest of the Debt can be touched, the church must refund, to be sure!

This is only one item amongst hundreds. It is easier for you to talk, then, than for you to do, in the way of causing a reduction of the Debt. Suppose, for instance, a man, have, in the course of the last thirty years, had thirty or forty thousand a year given him, and has been getting together an enormous estate with the money. It is, as in the former case, clear, clear as day-light, that this estate has come out of the loans. And, can it be possible, then, that the interest of those very loans would be reduced, while he kept the estate?

These, my lords of the soil, are little spices, little foretastes, of what you have to expect from us of the reform school. We shall never, be you assured, sanction any reduction of the interest of the Debt, until we see the matter clearly settled with Burke’s executors, who have now received, since his death, fifty-five thousand pounds of principal money, on account of pensions granted to him to be payable after his death! What! are these fifty-five thousand pounds, which, for the reasons before stated, must have come out of the loans to be kept by these executors (who are not named to us), and, while they keep the principal, is the interest on the loans to be reduced?

It is quite surprising what we shall be able to do, when we come to look things up a little. We are not so poor as we think ourselves. At any rate, until we have hunted up all our odds and ends; till we have made a muster of our means, I, for my part, shall never be for a reduction of the interest of the Debt; that is flat and plain, and that I will stand to; and I ought to have as much, at least, to say and do in this matter as any two hundred of the very best of you. If you talk about reform of Parliament; and talk about it, and begin to call for it too, BEFORE you call for a reduction of the interest of the Debt; that will, in my view of it, alter the case altogether. A sacrifice that we might be willing to make for the general good; a sacrifice in which all would participate, and by which all would be ultimately benefitted, would be cheerfully endured, while a sacrifice made of great numbers for the benefit of a few only would be intolerable.

Mr. Baring was thought “rather strong,” when he compared the Horse-tax repealers to a “band of robbers;” but, really, if there be Edition: current; Page: [135] persons, who, after having borrowed, or approved of borrowing, money to carry on what has been carried on, and who now expect to get out of the paying the interest in full, without a reform of the Parliament, they must, if not very dishonest, be very great fools. The case is this: the money was borrowed of the fund-lords for the purpose of keeping down persons accused of having designs on rich men’s property: falsely accused, but that is no matter. Money was borrowed, for instance, to defray the expenses of keeping down the Radicals. Very well. They have been kept down; but, will those who approved of the loan and of the object, think (now the desirable object is obtained) of refusing to pay the interest of the money borrowed for that object?

Thus, you see, my lords of the soil and boroughs, there is a great deal to be said upon this subject. I have always been, and I am now, for a reduction of the interest of the Debt, the reasons for which I have, over and over again stated; but, I am not for it for the benefit of a few, and those few the most opulent too! Rather than this, let Jerusalem triumph; let the orange-boys walk over the fox-hunters: for, as I once before said, we, the mass of the people, should have a better chance with the orange-boys. I dare say that the orange-boys would be for a reform; but, at any rate, I know this, that, if they were not, we should lead them the life of a dog: and all your money-loving fellows like quiet. They will wink at, and even assist in, severities and cruelties of any kind and to any degree. The wretches have approved of every act of injustice and cruelty committed within the last five years. They would see a whole people flayed alive for the sake of obviating a chance of losing their money, or any part of it. But, they are less vigorous than you: equally cruel, but less vigorous: the difference is that between the cuckoo and the kite.

This Number of the Fortune-Teller is intended merely as introductory to those that are to follow. I intend, that the Numbers shall extend no further than four, in the course of which I shall examine the Report and also the Evidence; and shall tell your fortunes with great exactness. This Number, therefore, is merely a flourish previous to the charge. Though even here I have been unable to refrain from touching on matters that might have been reserved for a future stage of my work. In my next I shall take the Report by the throat, and show how little is required to satisfy the singularly moderate desires of the “collective wisdom.”

Edition: current; Page: [136]


William Cobbett
Cobbett, William
1st September, 1821
Worth, Sussex



1. In a former Register I opened this subject, in what I called the first Number of a series of articles. Since that day, I have obtained a copy of the Evidence, subjoined to the Report of the Agricultural Committee, of which Committee Mr. Gooch was chairman. I had, before, obtained extracts, and had made minutes; but upon examining the Evidence, at full length, I find what I before possessed to be very imperfect as to some weighty particulars. Indeed, the papers now before me furnish, if my mind be equal to the task, matter for the most instructive essays, on the management of a nation’s affairs, that writer ever penned and people ever perused. We have here, though mixed up pell-mell; though throwed together like all sorts of grain with all sorts of chaff, with the addition of dirt and dust and muck and dung; all the materials for showing, how it is that a people is rendered happy or miserable, contented or discontented, loyal or disaffected, by the measures of a government.

2. Will you, the Landlords, read these Essays with attention and patience? No; not you, indeed; but, the Essays will live to bear witness of your great injustice and of your greater folly; and, the historian, when he is giving an account of the revolutions of these times, of the sappings, the underminings, the explosions, of these days, and especially of the silent fall of the old and silent rise of the new, proprietors of the land, will, for the causes of so apparently unaccountable an event, refer to these very Essays.

3. The Report and Evidence make a closely-printed folio volume of 479 pages. These have been laid before the House of Commons by a Committee, appointed, in March last, to examine into the allegations of numerous petitions complaining of distress in the affairs of agriculture, which Committee made their Report and brought in the Evidence on the 18th of June. The Members of the Committee were,

Mr. Gooch. Mr. Estcourt.
Lord Castlereagh. Mr. S. Bourne.
Mr. F. Robinson. Mr. Tremayne.
Lord Althorp. Sir Wm. Rowley.
Mr. Bankes. Mr. Calthorpe.
Mr. Brougham. Mr. Hunter Blair.
Mr. Huskisson. Mr. Irving.
Sir E. Knatchbull. Sir T. Lethbridge.
Mr. S. Wortley. Mr. Littleton.
Mr. Baring. Mr. Alderman Bridges.
Sir H. Parnell. Mr. N. Calvert.
Mr. Wodehouse. Mr. Ricardo.
Mr. Western. Mr. Curwen.
Mr. H. Sumner. Mr. D. Browne.

4. Now, before I proceed to an examination of these papers, which are, on account of the subject, of the greatest possible public importance, it seems necessary to give a general description of the Report and of the Evidence, if any such description can reach things so uncommonly heterogeneous in their matter and confused in their manner.

5. What the Report ought to have been is clearly enough pointed out by the tenor of the petitions, which complained of distress amongst the farmers, and which prayed for relief generally, or, particularly, by means of a tax on imported corn. Now, the first thing to ascertain was, whether the distress really existed, and, if it did, to what degree. Next, whether the distress were temporary, or permanent, and this should have brought out a clear explanation of the cause, or causes, of the distress. Then would have followed, whether any relief at all could be given by the House, and if it could, whether it ought to be given; and here would have come in a clear view of the manner in which the several classes of the community were affected by the return of low prices, and in which they had been effected by high prices; and the causes of those low and those high prices ought to have been clearly laid before the House; in order that it might have seen, what ground there was for hope, that relief would come from the mere operations of time; or, if it could see no such hope, what measures, other than those called for by the petitioners (if those were not proper to be adopted) it would be necessary to take into its consideration.

6. Instead of this, what have we? Numerous statements, many of them foreign to the subject, a set of arguments and opinions, not at all tending to the elucidation of the matter in question, but manifestly in mere opposition to the opinions, the apprehensions, and the prayers of the petitioners; a smoothly-written and badly-arranged essay on prices of farm-produce, as affected by seasons and by currency, and on the degree in which property, and landed property especially, is affected by those prices. As to the objects, they manifestly are, to prevent the passing of another corn-bill; to create a belief that the distress is less than it has been represented; to cause it to be believed that the distress is merely temporary, that it has reached its highest point, and will speedily pass away; to lull the farmers (and more especially the landlords) by a hope of a reduction of taxes sufficient to afford them relief; to excite horror against all attempts to obtain relief by a reduction of the interest of the Debt, and, above all things, to cause it to be believed, that the evil, be it what it may, is not to be ascribed to the Government.

7. The manner of the Report, its way of going to work and of proceeding, is such, that, to take the paper in its own order would be to give rise, not to any clear comprehension of its matter, but to a confused mass of ideas respecting that matter. So true it is, that a man may write smoothly, and even with clearness when we look at the several parts of his performance in a detached state; and, at the same time be destitute of compass of mind sufficient to place the thing, as a whole, Edition: current; Page: [138] clearly in the mind of the reader. Such is the case of the writer, or writers, of this Report; for, like a being mentioned in the Scriptures, they seem to have been many. Probably Mr. Huskisson, under the direction chiefly of the stern-path politicians, though there is, here-and-there, a passage, which seems impossible to have come from the brain of any living soul, save that of the hole-digging thunderer himself.

8. Clearly to state in detail the meaning of such a performance is no easy matter; and it is still more difficult to give to its errors and absurdities a full exposure. The divers matters are so mixed up; they are made to run so much into one another; there is, in short, such confusion, that it requires no common degree of labour to separate them in such way as to reduce the assertions contained in the mass to any thing like distinct propositions.

9. This, however, is what I must endeavour to do; or, it will be wholly useless for me to attempt an exposure of the errors and the fooleries that lie so thickly spread before me.

10. Come, then, landlords, let us state the case: let us ourselves rise above the fog. The case is this: the farmers in name, and the landlords in fact, complain of distress; that is to say, of a falling-off in their gains, or incomes. They ascribe this to low prices, and seek a remedy in a tax on foreign corn. The Reporters, that is to say, those who concur in views with the Ministers, say, that the remedy will be found without a new corn-bill; without a repeal of Peel’s bill; and without that which they call a breach of national faith. I say, that a tax on foreign corn, and that a new corn-bill of whatever description, would do you and your farmers no good; but, that, without a repeal of Peel’s bill, or, without what is called a breach of national faith, the present landlords must lose their estates.

11. The Ministers are aware of the great extent of the belief in the soundness of my opinions. They are well aware of the many thousands of sensible men, who think precisely with me upon the subject. They are not ignorant, that many, and even a great many, even of the landlords, while they piously wish the prophet at the devil, do, nevertheless, firmly believe in the prophecy. Therefore, the great object of the Report is, to persuade you into the belief, that the prophecy is false, and that Peel’s bill, full interest of the Debt, and all may still go on, and that you, the present landlords, will not lose your estates.

12. I am happy in the thought that I am able to prove to you, that the contrary is the fact; notwithstanding the uncommon pains that have, for years, been taken to quiet your alarms on this score, and the pains not less extraordinary that have been taken to excite your alarms on another score. Acquired cunning has long been co-operating with native ignorance and impudence for the accomplishment of this combined object, which, if it be accomplished, will hardly be able to tell, to which of the three it is most indebted, seeing that I myself should, without great time for making the estimate, be very loth to say which, in my humble opinion, has been most conspicuous in this series of efforts, lack of sincerity, lack of modesty, or lack of brains.

13. However, sufficient unto the day is the evil thereof; and, therefore, without looking further back than the bulky book before us, let us now see what this production contains. It contains, expressly or in substance, certain assertions. It will be of advantage to state, as briefly as may be, all these assertions, before I proceed to remark upon any one of Edition: current; Page: [139] them; and, that you may clearly see your fate, and begin by times to enjoy a foretaste of your ultimate degradation, I shall endeavour to separate the divers sorts of seed and grain and pulse, or, more properly speaking, the divers sorts of chaff and husks, that I here find mixed up together, and to place each sort in a parcel by itself.

14. Observe, the tendency of the Report, its direct tendency, the point of which it never loses sight, is, to persuade you, that, though Peel’s Bill be not repealed, and though the interest of the Debt be not reduced, you will not lose your estates. In support of this there are divers statements and arguments amounting to certain assertions. Some of these are correct and many more erroneous. These assertions I shall first state; then make my remarks on them, one by one, in regular order; and, by the time that I have done, you will, I think, find your fortunes told to a hair.

15. The Report itself I have published before, in the form of the Register. I have, in that publication, numbered the paragraphs, for the sake of easy reference when I came to write on it; as I now number the paragraphs of these Essays, or Letters. In stating the assertions, just alluded to, I shall put against each figures denoting the paragraphs of the Report, which, expressly or substantially, contain the assertion against which the figures are placed. This will save a great deal of room and time which must otherwise be spent in quotations. The assertions are, then, as follows:

  • i. That the Farmers and Landlords are of a manly character, and a most meritorious class of the community. 5, 83.
  • ii. That, at present prices, an arable farm can yield no profit, but must be productive of loss. 2.
  • iii. That consumption and revenue have not fallen off. 3.
  • iv. That the distress is not so great as has been imagined. 4, 5.
  • v. That abundant harvests have contributed to the distress. 12, 13, 21, 22, 23, 24, 25, 26, 27, 34, 84.
  • vi. That sudden transition from war to peace is not yet over. 20.
  • vii. That other nations suffer in the same way that we do. 19, 20.
  • viii. That distress of this sort is nothing new in our history. 14, 15, 16, 17, 18.
  • ix. That taxation does something, but not much, in creating this distress. 60, 61, 62, 63, 64, 65, 66.
  • x. That the interest of the Debt ought not to be reduced, and that the fundholders have a right to what they get. 85, 86, 87.
  • xi. That Peel’s Bill ought not to be repealed. 87.
  • xii. That rents will not fall so low as some expect; that prices will not fall so low as some predict; that agriculture will not decline; that our prosperity in war has added to the capital to feed agriculture with; that things will right themselves; and that the Landlords will be as prosperous as before the late wars. 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 54, 58, 87.
  • xiii. That the ascendancy of the landed interest, as evinced by the practice of the Constitution, is most beneficial to the country. 55.

16. Such are, in substance, the assertions of the Report. I have purposely omitted all that it says, pro and con, all its pros and cons, about Corn-bills I have omitted, as being wholly unworthy of the notice of any Edition: current; Page: [140] rational being. And, as to the “evidence,” relating to Corn-bills, that is to say the opinions of farmers, landlords and corn-dealers upon this subject, I should no more think of commenting on them than on the chattering of so many pies. Leaving this shocking gibberish aside, let us proceed to examine these assertions one by one.

I.: That the Farmers and Landlords are of a manly character, and a most meritorious class of the community. 5, 83.

17. This would, at first sight, appear to be a mere instance of coaxing; a thing quite beneath a Committee of the House of Commons, to be sure, and unworthy of serious notice. Nevertheless, I cannot let it pass; for, I think it as little deserved as any praise that ever was bestowed in the world, not excepting that which, I, in my days of darkness, used to bestow upon “Glory.” What, I should be glad to know, makes this the “most meritorious class of the community”? Have they greater merit than manufacturers, artisans, sailors, soldiers, or any other class? In what does their peculiar and pre-eminent merit consist? This, therefore, is mere vulgar parlance; and unworthy of any document having an official character about it. It is familiar, common, low, unseemly, and if not absolutely mean, wholly destitute of propriety. And, as to the manly character of the Farmers and Landlords, where are we to look for a proof of that? Is it to be found in their crying petitions; or in any part of that conduct, which, by supporting the several sets of Ministers for forty years past, through thick and through thin, has been the principal cause of that long series of unwise, thoughtless, desperate, and, in many cases, unfeeling measures, which have at last produced this very distress of which these men complain? If other classes have been guilty of the same tame and dastardly acquiescence; even that does not justify this eulogium, which, as it was wholly uncalled for, wholly unsuited to the occasion, is also wholly unmerited by the facts of the case.

18. It is possible, but I am almost afraid to entertain a supposition that reflects so little credit on the writer of the Report; it is possible that this eulogium; this manliness, this merit, might refer to the conduct of these persons as armed men! If this be the case I deny the thing in still more positive terms. Against whom did they arm? Was it against the enemy? Was it to fight in Spain or in Flanders; in Egypt or in Holland, that they mounted their untaxed horses, and received out of taxes in great part paid by their labourers, from two to four hundred thousand pounds a year? In short, who did they ever fight with; who did they ever draw their swords upon; against whom did they ever defend anybody, and if they did ever defend anybody, who was it they defended? They have, in this their military capacity, occasioned the expenditure of millions of the public money; and have thus received and swallowed up, a part of the loans, which have so accumulated into that Debt, of the oppressive effects of which they now feel only a part of their share. I deny, therefore, that we possess any proofs of any particular manliness of character in them; and I am persuaded, that, taking them as a body, and allowing largely for honourable exceptions, they are the least, instead of the most, meritorious class of the community.

II.: That, at present prices, an arable farm can yield no profit, but must be productive of loss. 2.

19. This is a very strange assertion to make! Upon the face of it, it Edition: current; Page: [141] cannot be true. But, I will take the very words of the Report here. The Committee state the proposition in the following words:—“That, at the present price of corn, the returns to the occupier of an arable farm, after allowing for the interest of his investment, are by no means adequate to the charges and outgoings; of which a considerable proportion can be paid only out of the capitals, and not from the profits, of the tenantry.”

20. This is really very bad writing. There is an affectation of that mysterious technicality, which, in plain English, is neither more nor less than slang, and which is incomprehensible, without great trouble, to men of common understandings. It is difficult to know, indeed, precisely what the Committee do mean here. From the concluding part of the sentence, one would be led to suppose, that the charges and outgoings of a farm ought to be paid out of the profits of the farmer; but, the profits consist of that which remains clear, after all the outgoings of every description are satisfied. This, therefore, is a blundering description of the case; and the meaning is, as stated above, that an arable farm, at present prices of corn, yields no profit, but is productive of a loss.

21. Even, however, with this explanation, the description here given by the Committee is very inadequate. The “investment,” as it is here affectedly called, but, which, in better language, would be called, the live and dead stock of the farm, must bear an exact proportion to the price of corn and other produce; and, observe, the rent must bear the same proportion too, that is to say, if the farm be now to be entered on; and this we must infer is the case supposed; or else, it should have been stated, that, at the present price of corn, no profit could be made; and a loss must be sustained, with a high-priced stock and with high rents fixed some time back. For, without this inference, or this qualification, the representation is not only manifestly untrue, but altogether ridiculous; seeing that it amounts to this: that, though the farm-stock and the rent be in proportion to the price of produce; and though the farmer only bear along with the consumers, his share of tithes and taxes, he cannot farm to any profit, but must farm to a loss. Now, if this be the case with him, at this time, it must be the case with him at all times; and thus the statement becomes downright nonsense.

22. If I take a farm to-day, it matters nothing to me whether farm produce be high-priced or low-priced. If my fat sheep, when I have them, will sell for only twenty-five shillings a-piece, my lean stock of sheep that I have to buy will cost me only fifteen or sixteen shillings. If my best wheat will sell for only four shillings a bushel, four shillings a bushel is all that I have to give for my seed wheat. Thus, when my produce is low-priced, there requires little to expend in that stock, which is here affectedly called my “investment.” At whatever price I shall sell my produce, I feed and pay my labourers and keep my family till my crop comes in. My wagons, carts, harness, horses, in short, all my stock, and my rent too, all bears, and must bear, an exact and just proportion to the price of that which I shall produce upon the farm.

23. I am heart-sick, then, when I hear the Committee talk of the price of corn being too low to pay me interest for my stock and to defray the outgoings of my farm. If a thing like this were possible, a farm would be worth nothing; a freehold estate would be a burden; chaos would be come again. Therefore, the Committee must mean, that the farmer must lose, if he be bound to a high rent, and if he have Edition: current; Page: [142] bought his stock in when it was at a high price. Yet, even in this case the Committee would not be correct; and this brings me to speak of those payments which the tenants are here said to make out of their capitals. Several of the witnesses were asked about their losses. The greater part of them asserted that they had been great losers of late years; and upon being asked how they found the means to get along with all those losses, they said they made up their payments out of their capitals. They were not frequently asked how they came by those capitals; but some of them volunteered in observing, that they were poorer than they had been by many thousands of pounds. This was a great deal too much for a farmer to lose; and I do hope, that the times are coming when we shall hear of no more such heavy losses, sustained by husbandmen, who have lately been perked up into “agriculturists.

24. But, what were these same capitals, out of which the losses were made up, and which losses occasioned the complained-of poverty? Why, when the thing comes to be inquired into, we find that the losses of men who had any thing of their own, were merely imaginary. That it was not loss, in fact, but cessation of enormous gain. We find that the loss was on the stock; not that there was less stock; less horses, less cows, less sheep, less wheat, less hogs, or less any thing else, but that these were estimated at a less amount by these same losers. Mr. Wm. Ilott, for instance, of Milton near Blandford in Dorsetshire, who presented to the Committee, ruled and figured accounts, which, in small print, fill ten and a half folio pages, and which are surpassed by nothing except those masses of figures which go annually from the Houses of Parliament to the trunk-makers; this Wm. Ilott; this jewel of all bullfrog farmers, had been a great loser. Being asked at what period his losses commenced, he said from about 1814. Then followed this: “Can you at all estimate what your aggregate loss has been?”—Answer: “I think, in the year 1813, I could have retired with ten thousand pounds, or from that to twelve thousand pounds; and now, I should think, not more than half the sum, or, at least, not two-thirds.”—Question: “This loss has occurred on your own farm?”—Answer: “Yes; and in the diminution of the value of stock!”

25. Here we have it. This is very nearly what they all said, under one form of words or another form of words. They were poorer, they said, because their stock, if valued now, would not amount to so much nominally, as it would have amounted to, if it had been valued five or six years ago.

26. Now, if one can speak comfort to such disconsolate persons, does not Christian charity demand a performance of the duty? Mr. Wm. Ilott, will you not forgive me for all that I have said about bull-frog farmers, and will you not say, that the Radicals, to keep whom down, I dare say, you have an untaxed horse, a sharp sword and a well-loaded pistol; will you not say, that, after all, the Radicals, though everlastingly guilty of “sedition” and “blasphemy,” are not such bad sort of fellows, if I who am deemed the prime apostle of Radicalism, can console you, can heal that wounded heart of yours, by convincing you that, you are just as rich as you were before 1814; and that the eight thousand pounds which you confess your stock and capital are now worth; that those eight thousand pounds are just as good, if not better, than the twelve thousand pounds which you think you possessed in 1813?

27. Mr. Wm. Ilott, the most disconsolate of all disconsolate farmers, Edition: current; Page: [143] listen for one moment, and I will give peace to your distressed soul. You have, I dare say, many scores of pretty long-tailed ewes. Now, if one of those ewes will sell for thirty shillings at Apple-Shaw Fair; and if those thirty shillings will purchase as many and as good stockings for your wife, as forty-five or fifty shillings would have purchased for her in 1813; and if the thirty shillings will go as far now in the purchase of all the necessaries, conveniences and elegancies of life, as forty-five or fifty shillings would have gone in 1813; if the thirty shillings will now buy as much malt and hops, and even as much land (equal in quality) as the forty-five or fifty shillings would have brought in 1813: if this be the case, are not the thirty shillings of this day as good as the forty-five or fifty shillings were in 1813! You will take a moment to think; you will turn your head on one side; you may, perhaps, blush a little at your folly; but you will not have the grace to leave off calumniating the Radicals; much less will you think of sending me a score of ewes as an atonement for your sins of political hostility and Agriculture-ass ignorance.

28. Thus, then, this is a very gross error which the Committee have adopted. They have proceeded upon the notions of these vulgar men, who had nothing but the money-price of their stock in their eye, and who wholly left out of view the powers of exchange against commodities, possessed by that stock. An ox is an ox; and is he not of the same real value now that he was four or five years ago? What signifies it whether you call him fifty-pound ox or twenty-pound ox, so that he still be of the same age, and has still the same weight? Thus it is with regard to every kind of stock; and the change in prices makes not the smallest difference in the real value of the property of the farmer.

29. If, indeed, the farmer be in debt, when the low prices come; if he be bound to a high nominal rent; then the low prices operate against him; for then he has to give a larger quantity of his produce than he expected to give, and than he contracted to give, in payment of such debt and such rent. He must go on hastily to his ruin, if the rent be very great in proportion to his means; or if the rent be on the scale of very high prices, and of long future duration.

30. This, however, was a view of the matter which the Committee do not appear to have been disposed to take, and for reasons which one may, perhaps, be permitted to conjecture. To have laid down the distinction between a farmer in debt and a farmer not in debt; between a farmer now entering on a farm and a farmer already bound by contract of some years date: to have laid down this distinction would have been at once to open the sores, the deadly though disguised wounds, inflicted by the paper-money system. This was a thing not to be done at any time, and particularly when “the healing hand of time” was, in the close of the Report, intended to be so pathetically invoked.

31. If the Report had said, that, under no circumstances, the farmer could gain so much now as in times of high prices, the statement would have been correct enough; because, as I shall have most amply to prove hereafter from the Evidence itself, the principal part of what the farmer gained before, the system of paper-money enabled him to squeeze out of the flesh and blood and bones of the labourer; but to say that a farmer must now necessarily lose, is to say that which upon the very face of it is, to the last degree, absurd and perfectly monstrous; for, if the fact were such, nobody would rent a farm, and the lands must be thrown up for a Edition: current; Page: [144] scramble. Scramble, did I say? Why should people scramble for that which would be good for nothing when they have got it? Why prosecute poor SPENCEANS? They were accused, and so were the Reformers, too, most falsely and most maliciously, to be sure; but no matter for that, the accusation against them extended no further, than that they aimed at a division of the lands, declaring the lands to be “the people’s farm.” To what tremendous uses were these harmless though wild expressions turned! How were they trumpeted forth! What alarm were they made to spread! How many thousands of riders did they bring forth capering upon untaxed horses! And, now, here we have a Committee of that very Parliament, who enabled the Ministers to commit the Spenceans to the Tower, upon suspicion of high treason; we have a Committee of that very legislative body, presenting to it a Report that sets out with a proposition, which, twist it and turn it how you will, declares the lands of England incapable of being cultivated, except at a loss to the cultivator; that is to say, declares those lands to be good for nothing!

32. In the next Letter I shall proceed with the rest of the propositions, or assertions. I have numbered the paragraphs of this letter, in order that I may, as I proceed, refer to them with facility. It is my intention to make these Letters form a part of each succeeding Register (unless something arise which demand immediate attention), till I come to the close of the subject, I shall, for the future, have the Essays of the Register stereotyped, that they may never, hereafter, be out of print; and, when this series of Letters is concluded, I intend to have them bound in a volume by themselves, so that they may form a distinct work, and may be had without encumbering the purchaser with other matter that he may not want.



William Cobbett
Cobbett, William
18th September, 1821



33. At the close of the last Letter, being paragraph 32, I gave the reasons for numbering the paragraphs. I should now proceed with my examination of the propositions contained in the Report of the Agricultural Committee, which propositions are all distinctly stated in paragraph 15 of Letter I. [Selections, p. 139 of this Vol.] But something has occurred, Edition: current; Page: [145] which demands immediate attention; and something, too, which appertains to the very essence of this most important subject.

34. In Worcestershire there has been a meeting of the YEOMANRY, belonging to the Agricultural Association of that county. These gentlemen, with Sir Thomas Winnington for their chairman, have passed certain resolutions, which resolutions I look upon as of such great importance that I shall insert them here at full length, and then add such remarks of my own as the case appears to me to require.

35. It will be seen that the resolutions not only relate immediately to the subject of agricultural distress; but that they contain some very pertinent strictures on that very Report, to elucidate which these letters of mine are intended; and that, in short, these resolutions go at once to the root of the evil. That which goes to the root of an evil, may with strict propriety be called radical; these, therefore, are Radical resolutions. I insert the whole of the advertisement as I find it in the Worcester paper; begging my correspondents at Worcester to accept of my best thanks for having transmitted me copies of this paper. I applaud their discernment, upon this occasion. They saw at once the importance of the thing; they also saw how exactly it corresponded with my predictions; and their justice urged them to put me as soon as possible in possession of the facts.

Thomas Winnington
Winnington, Thomas
September 8th, 1821

At a numerous and highly-respectable Meeting of the Yeomanry belonging to the Agricultural Association of the County of Worcester, held at the Crown Inn, in this City, pursuant to public advertisement, Sir Thomas Winnington, Baronet, in the chair:—

i. Resolved unanimously,

That the Committee of the House of Commons, to which the Agricultural petitions were referred, has admitted the existence of the evils, complained of by the Agricultural interests, to have been fully proved.

ii. Resolved unanimously,

That while the Committee thus admits the evil, it denies the efficacy of, and the propriety of granting, the remedy sought for in those petitions; and it more than insinuates, that the change in the value of the Currency, brought about by the Act of the 59th Geo. III. commonly called Mr. Peel’s Bill, is the principal cause of the Agricultural distress; and, at the same time, clearly expresses an opinion, that the prices of produce and labour, and consequently rents, will go back to the level from which the paper currency raised them.

iii. Resolved unanimously,

That this Meeting is of opinion, that the prices of produce and labour, and also rents, became, generally, doubled during the existence of a depreciated paper currency; that the increased taxation of the country was founded upon such doubled prices, and that the great bulk of the National Debt, and of all private debts and obligations, were contracted in property and labour measured in those doubled prices.

iv. Resolved unanimously,

That the Committee, contemplating this reduction of prices, ruinous as it has already been to thousands, and overwhelming as it must ultimately prove to all, attempts to justify it on the ground of rigidly adhering to good faith, a principle which this Meeting at once recognizes; but this Meeting is at a loss to understand, how it consists with good faith, that the property of the landowner and cultivator, and the prices of produce and labour, should be brought back from the level to which they had been raised by a depreciated paper currency to the ancient bullion standard, while the charges to the fundholder, the sinecurist, and the placeman, contracted in a similar paper currency, are exempted from a similar reduction.

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v. Resolved unanimously,

That it appears to this Meeting, that not only will good faith be violated by attempting, under such circumstances and in so partial a manner, to return to the ancient bullion standard, but that the measures in progress for accomplishing this object will be found as impracticable as destructive; inasmuch as the ruin of the productive classes of society must, in the end, recoil upon the unproductive, by making it impossible much longer to pay either the interest of the Debt or the charges of the Government.

vi. Resolved,

That while we consider a great part of our distresses to have originated in the foregoing causes, we are still of opinion, that the admission of foreign grain, duty free, in this country, adds grievously to the difficulties of the landed interest, by allowing the foreign grower to reap the benefit of supplying our markets, without contributing any share of our taxes and burdens.

vii. Resolved unanimously,

That this Meeting, duly impressed with the value of the zealous endeavours and meritorious exertions of George Webb Hall, Esq., beg to return him their sincere thanks.

viii. Resolved unanimously,

That the thanks of this Meeting be given to Thomas Sherlock Gooch, Esq. M.P.; Sir Edward Knatchbull, Bart, M.P.; J. C. Curwen, Esq. M.P.; C. C. Western, Esq., M.P.; and to those other Members of the Legislature who with them have eloquently and ably advocated the cause of Agriculture.

ix. Resolved unanimously,

That the cordial thanks of this Meeting be also given to the Committee at Henderson’s, for their great and valuable services.

That these Resolutions be inserted in the two Worcester newspapers, and also in the Farmers’ Journal; and that a Petition, founded on the above Resolutions, be presented to the House of Commons by the Members for the County.


The Chairman having left the Chair,

Resolved unanimously,

That the best thanks of this Meeting be given to him for his kindness in taking the Chair, and for his able conduct in the same.

36. Landlords, I hope you will have read these resolutions with attention, and if you have, can you forbear to exclaim, “What! forget Cobbett! Not thank him, without whose writings these resolutions could not have been passed and promulgated, without exposing the Association of Yeomanry to be knocked in the head with stones torn up from the pavement in the streets of Worcester! What! not thank him, who and who alone, has taught the principles upon which these resolutions are founded; who has put into the mouths of this Meeting, even the very words that they make use of; who has taught the country to be prepared for the passing of such resolutions, and for the grounding of petitions on them! Not thank him, on whose pen these Yeomanry must still rely for success in their endeavours to preserve themselves from ruin; and who has only to take part against them to cause their petitions to be blown to the devil, and themselves to be hooted to a degree that would make them glad to follow those petitions! What! thank Gaffer Gooch; thank those poor gentlemen, Sir Edward Knatchbull, Mr. Curwen, Mr. Western, Mr. Webb Hall, and the Committee at Henderson’s Hotel! Thank these poor inefficient things that have failed in all that they have attempted; that have brought ridicule and contempt on the cause of the Landlords and Farmers; these men who did not dare to utter even a whisper relative Edition: current; Page: [147] to the real causes of the distress, as stated in these very resolutions; to thank these puny insignificant creatures, who have no more power to sustain the cause than so many mice; to thank them, while not a word is said of him, who has the power to make that cause succeed, or, so to mar it as to render the distress of the complaining parties a hundred times greater than it now is, before any relief should be applied!”

37. There appears to be an inveteracy, an absolute incurableness in the stupidity and false pride of this description of persons. However their thanks would have been received by me with much less satisfaction than I derive from beholding one of their labourers with an increased bulk in his hunch of bread and cheese; and, at any rate, I shall not, in the part which I shall take in this great matter, be influenced by any considerations of a private or personal nature. My great object is, as it always has been, since I have understood the subject, to better the lot of the labouring classes. Provided that be done; provided that be the natural tendency of events, or of measures, I care very little what other effects those events or those measures may produce. I wish not to belong to a nation, of which nineteen-twentieths are “poor.” I think myself dishonoured by being one of a nation of paupers. The people of England are, I know well, the most industrious and persevering in the world. They deserve to live better than the people of any other nation. Until of late years this has been their way of life. And never will I cease my efforts, as long as I am able to move a pen, to restore them to that state of merited pre-eminence.

38. Provided this object be accomplished, I care little about the other effects of the events and measures which are at hand; and, the whole of my conduct during the approaching struggle, will be regulated by the answer which reason, at the several stages of the struggle, will give me to the following question: “Which is best; what is best, for the labourer and the artisan and their families?” The answer that reason will give me to this question shall be my guide. If reason tell me it is best for the landlords to fall, fall they shall, as far as I have the power to send them down. If the decision be that the muck-worm ought to come down, the muck-worm shall have the heaviest blows that I can deal him. At present, I confess that I have not sufficiently considered the matter, to be able to say decidedly and with satisfaction to myself, whether the millions would be most benefited by the fall of the landlords or by that of the fundholders. One or the other must come down. Not Omnipotence itself, without abrogating its own laws, could preserve both in a state of prosperity. This, therefore, is impossible. But I am very diffident in deciding which of the two we ought to wish to see fall; for, if the landlords be resolved to relax in no degree that power which they now hold in excluding the people from their political rights; then I should say, that, it would be better for us to try our luck with a new race; for how can Jews or Turks or anything else, deal more hardly by us than we have been dealt by for many years past by the present arrogant owners of the soil!

39. Leaving, therefore, my decision as to this momentous question to be dictated by further experience and further reflection, I shall now beg the reader to observe well the substance of the five first of those resolutions of the yeomanry of the county of Worcester, which I have before inserted.

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40. These yeomen have read, I am very certain, my Registers for some time back, and particularly my New Year’s Gift to the Farmers. [Selections, p. 47 of this Vol.] Of this Register two large editions have been sold; and it has doubtless been read by many thousands of the parties interested. I hold it to be impossible; completely impossible, for any Farmer or Landlord, even of the meanest capacity, to read that Register with common attention, and not arrive at the conclusion, expressed in the resolutions before us, that it is Peel’s Bill, which is the principal cause of what is called agricultural distress. God knows how long I had been endeavouring to din it into the ears of the nation, that it was the rise in the value of money which was ruining the Farmer and Landlord. From the beginning of the year 1814, up to the month of December 1820, I had been at work in all manner of ways, to endeavour to impress this doctrine upon the minds of the nation. In 1814, when the Corn Bill question was first agitated; in 1815, when that Bill was passed; in 1816, when a Bill was passed to add to the import-tax upon seeds; in every one of those years how often did I tell the nation, that it was the Bank that was at work; that it was the Old Hag that was playing her tricks; and that it was not the importation of corn and superabundant harvests. How often did I appeal to the common sense of Mr. Coke, Mr. Curwen and Mr. Western; how often did I tell them that there was no real remedy but in a reduction of the Debt, the sinecures, the pensions, the grants, the salaries, the army, the staff, the barracks and the monstrous establishments of military academies, so abhorrent to the laws and usages of England! How often did I tell them, that to ask for a Corn Bill as a remedy was to disguise the real evil, and was, in fact, to give the Ministers, the most efficient support. In 1817 I drew up that petition, which was signed on the Hill of Portsdown by four thousand men, who prayed, in that petition, for a reduction of the interest of the Debt, and also for a reduction of the barracks, the staff, the army, the salaries, grants, pensions and sinecures. In 1818, though absent from my country, I sent a petition to the House of Commons, which a very great landholder thought “too long” to be presented; and in that petition I prayed for a reduction of the Debt and of the salaries and other things above mentioned.

41. In short, from the moment of the first appearance of what is called agricultural distress, I traced it to its true causes, laid those causes clearly before the nation, and called aloud for the adoption of such measures as would have prevented that immense mass of ruin that we have witnessed already; that greater mass which we have yet to witness; and that indelible national disgrace, which we now exhibit to the sneering world, in the notorious fact, that we are unable to go to war, even if a French ship were to sail up the Thames, and batter down the Docks of the Royal Yards of Woolwich or Deptford!

42. Amongst the rewards, that I received for these services, which millions could not pay me for upon any just principle of valuation, have been implacable persecution by the whole body of the Government; laws brought in avowedly to crush me; malignity without a match from individuals even of the party opposed to the Ministers, one of which opposing party having been base enough to propose the punishment of transportation, to be made applicable to a case which was notoriously and peculiarly mine! To enumerate all the acts of implacable, mean, dirty, dastardly, shameless hostility, practised against me, would be to all a volume; Edition: current; Page: [149] nay, fifty volumes would not suffice. One particular instance of this horrible baseness I must, however, mention here in detail.

43. In the month of March I was at an inn in Warwickshire, staying a little while for the benefit of change of air: during that time, the landlord of the inn was threatened several times, as he told me, by the Landlords and Farmers of the neighbourhood, unless he turned me out of his house, they would take their custom from him! When I had stayed as long as I pleased, I went away; and directly afterwards the following advertisement appeared in the Coventry newspaper:

44.Merriden, 18 March, 1820.—We, the undersigned inhabitants of Merriden and its neighbourhood, in order to manifest our abhorrence and detestation of the principles of Cobbett and his adherents, do hereby publicly express our astonishment and disgust at the conduct of the proprietors of the Bull’s Head Inn, in having entertained him for so long a time, contrary to our general feelings and loyal spirit; and further declare that we neither have nor will have any connexion with Cobbett.”

“Aylesford John Dodwell
E. Finch Samuel Thompson, sen.
W. Somerville Samuel Thompson, jun.
Thomas Smith Thomas Phillips
Joseph Gibbs John Loveitt
John Beaufoy Thomas Oldham
Robert Bunney George Proctor
William Zachary George Downing
Humphrey Harper S. Large
Thomas Johnson Elizabeth Wiggin
Benjamin Lees Thomas Shuttleworth
John Sabin William Gibson
J. Alsager John Guise
H. B. Bellison John Perks
W. Sabin Wm. Taylor, Constable
William Repton Robert Taylor, Constable.

45. It is hardly necessary to say that the first fellow upon this list is the Earl of Aylesford; that the second is his uncle Edward Finch, and who is a groom of the bedchamber, with a salary of five hundred pounds a year, while, at the same time, he enjoys the emoluments as a colonel of a regiment in a standing army in time of peace. One of the others was adjutant of the Warwickshire Yeomanry Cavalry. The rest are a parcel of farmers, and I see that there is one who is a farm woman. In consequence of this advertisement, I addressed a letter to this fellow Aylesford, which I concluded in these words: “You would do well, I believe, to shift your fears from me to the Fundholders, who, if I mistake not, will soon let you see, that there is something in the world more dangerous to you than ‘the principles of Cobbett.’ If my principles had been acted upon, instead of the principles of my bitter foes, you would, at this day, have had no cause to fear that which is to come. My principles, long ago upon record, would have effectually prevented all the present dangers. But you ‘abhor and detest’ those principles: take, therefore, the consequences, while I stand by and laugh. Good bye. Look after your hares and pheasants; and wait for the visit of the Fundholders.

46. How prophetic! This fellow is now receiving the visit of the Fundholders; he is now taking the consequence of his abhorrence of my principles; and I am standing by laughing! It is all come true. It is all accomplished; and that, too, in the short space of eighteen months. We are told that we are to love our enemies; but there is a condition Edition: current; Page: [150] attached to this: they are to repent, and make atonement first; for, otherwise this would be the most immoral maxim; the most unjust precept that ever was inculcated. God says: “An eye for an eye, and a tooth for a tooth;” and this is the rule; the plain unmystical rule that I pursue.

47. However, to dismiss the fellow and his crew of undersigners, little did they imagine, that, in far less than eighteen months, the yeomanry of a neighbouring county with a Baronet and great landowner at their head would publicly meet at the county-town, and there discuss, adopt and proclaim, in the most solemn manner, “the principles of Cobbett;” those very principles that this thing and his wretched followers had denounced as objects of their abhorrence and detestation!

48. The Worcestershire gentlemen appear to have come to their senses. They say this, that prices became doubled during the existence of a depreciated paper-money; that the Debt was principally contracted on the scale of those double prices; that the “good faith, of which so much has been said, is not intelligible to them, if the Fundholder, the sinecurist and the placeman be not to experience a reduction; that the Bill, commonly called Mr. Peel’s Bill, will be found as impracticable as destructive; and that, an attempt to enforce it will make it impossible much longer to pay either the interest of the Debt or the charges of the Government.”

49. Well said! out with it, dears! come; take t’other glass of warm water, and bring it all up! You have been ill for a long time with this overloaded stomach. Let us have it all out now since you have begun. Don’t be ashamed. I’ll stand by you if you behave well, and swallow your physic kindly. However, I must say that here is a pretty good beginning; and I venture to predict, that, before this day twelvemonth, the dose and the vomit will go round. If they should, let the Fundholders look to their affairs; for, though you could not carry a Corn Bill; that foolish, that unpopular, that odious measure, which was sure to raise up merchants, manufacturers, and all the labouring classes against you; though you could not accomplish this, you will, if you go rightly to work, accomplish the other, and that, too, amidst the cheers of those, who, in the other case would have hooted you, and, if they could, have knocked out your brains; that is to say, of those of you who had any in your skulls.

50. Landlords, these Worcestershire gentlemen have learnt from me to ridicule thatgood faith,” which, as you well know, I have been ridiculing for something more than nineteen years, and which “good faith” meant neither more nor less than this, to give the Fundholders three bushels of wheat and three pounds of bacon for every one bushel of wheat and one pound of bacon that they had lent them! It was time, long and long enough ago to put an end to such “good faith” as this. Nevertheless, I was abused like a hang-dog for proposing to put an end to it; and, upon one occasion, Castlereagh called it a treasonable design, in speaking of the resolutions of the Reformers respecting the necessity of putting an end to this cormorant devourer. It is curious enough, that one of the charges against the Reformers, contained in the Lords’ Report, which was the prelude to the ever-memorable Power-of-Imprisonment Bill; it is curious enough, that, in this Report, the Reformers were accused of representing the Fundholder as a “rapacious creature;” and that, during the last Session of Parliament, Mr. Littleton, who is a great landholder, represented the Fundholder as a “monster Edition: current; Page: [151] of consumption.Monster of consumption is a little more violent than rapacious creature, and yet Mr. Littleton was not even called to order.

51. The gentlemen of Worcestershire come to this conclusion; that Peel’s Bill ought to be done away, or, that the interest of the Debt, the sinecures, and salaries ought to be reduced. This is what I have been saying ever since the Bill was passed; but I have also said that the Bill cannot be carried into full effect unaccompanied with such reduction. This is also now said by these gentlemen of Worcestershire; for they say, that the Bill is impracticable without the reduction. This is precisely what I wrote home the moment I read the substance of the Bill. These gentlemen, therefore, are pledged to the GRIDIRON as well as myself. I give them a general invitation; or, rather, I hereby summon the whole body, with Sir Thomas Winnington at their head, to attend me at the Feast of the Gridiron, whenever, and in whatever part of the kingdom, I shall choose to hold that feast. Sometime before it takes place I shall depute persons, of which Sir Thomas Winnington shall be one, to hold my court of claims. I will have one man to hold my pen; another my paper; another my ink and so on; and I’ll utter and publish such parcels of bombast as the world has scarcely ever witnessed before.

52. Mind, this festival is to be held in any of these three cases: first, if Peel’s Bill be repealed; second, if the interest of the Debt be touched in any shape whatever before the month of June 1823; third, if the whole thing go off like a barrel of gunpowder at any time before that month. These are the cases in which the Feast of the Gridiron is to take place. I wish this to be clearly understood: because I do not wish to keep my disciples with their horses saddled for any great length of time. If they hear of a change of Ministry; not through the Morning Chronicle, for Mr. Perry is so keen of place; the scent is so strong in his nostrils, that he goes breast-high and often over-runs his game. Or, rather, he resembles a too-tender-nosed dog, that stops at a lark. Whipping has proved wholly unavalling; and, therefore, we must wholly disregard him. But, if we see the old lurching slouch of the Courier, make but the slightest stop; if we see him only hang back a little upon his haunches, and begin to step cautiously, and slowly turn his head up towards the wind: then we must prepare; for, if a change of Ministry take place; if a splicing, or patching, or anything at all of the kind take place, it must be, and it can be, for no other purpose than that of repealing Peel’s Bill, or of reducing the interest of the Debt. Therefore, watch the Courier; and the moment this Scotchman, brother-in-law of Sir James Mackintosh, begins to hang upon his haunches, put on your saddles and your boots; be upon duty day and night, for my summons will come upon you swift as the post can bring it.

53. The Worcestershire Yeomanry do not appear to have made up their minds which they ought to apply for; a reduction of the Debt or a repeal of Peel’s Bill. The former, by all means, gentlemen, if you please. The latter would only put off the evil day; and that, perhaps, for a very short space of time. Until the interest of the Debt be reduced; and that more than one-half, too, this nation never can go to war; and the landlord will never have an acre that he can call his own. This has all been proved over and over again by me. The safety of the country and of the King’s throne demanded such reduction twenty years ago. To be convinced of the justice and necessity of such a measure, no one has anything Edition: current; Page: [152] to do but to read “Paper against Gold;” and especially the PRELIMINARY PART of that work. I wished the measure to be adopted nineteen years ago. In 1806 I communicated a distinct and detailed plan to the then Ministry; and if that plan had been adopted, the present difficulties would never have existed. In this PRELIMINARY PART, I have not supposed (for who could suppose) anything so monstrous as an attempt ever being made to compel the productive classes of society to pay the unproductive classes three times the amount of what had been borrowed. I have not, in that work, entertained the supposition that there ever would arise men to make the bees give the drones three times as much as they then gave them. I take the thing as it then stood; and, with a full knowledge of the then depreciated state of the paper-money, I prove, as clear as daylight, that justice and necessity demand a reduction of the interest of the Debt. In that work is contained the whole argument; an argument that has been a thousand times abused, but never has been once answered. I there stand upon the ground of the justice and necessity of the thing before so monstrous a thought was entertained by any human being as that of trebling the interest of the Debt by so augmenting the value of money as to reduce prices to a third. And, if my argument was good in that case, what must that argument be in this case!

54. In the course of these Letters to the Landlords, I shall unveil, lay bare, and scatter to the winds, all the miserable delusions contained in the Agricultural Report, relative to the relief which the landlord is to receive from a rise in the price of the funds. The rise in the price of the funds may tend to relieve some of those who have Israelitish annuities fastened upon their estates; but how is this to relieve the mortgager; the man bound by marriage settlement; the life-holder; and the various other descriptions of encumbered persons; and if all these could be relieved, or destroyed and got rid of wholly; what is to take from the land the all-pervading mortgage of eight hundred millions, which, though not recorded against the separate states upon parchment, bilks the landlord of his income; bilks the merchant, the tradesman, the farmer, of their fair profits; and, which in my eyes is a great deal worse than all the rest, bilks the labourer and the handicraftsman of a large portion of their earnings, strips them of their hustlement and their wearing apparel, makes their homes desolate, pinches them in their meals, deprives them of everything worthy of the name of pleasure, makes them discontented, and justly discontented, fills their minds with habitual anger against the whole state of things under which they live, makes them impatient under all subordination; in short, makes them impute to the very form and nature of the Government all those sufferings which the Debt alone inflicts upon them, and thus compels the Government, for the purpose of enforcing subordination, to resort to a monstrous standing army in time of profound peace, which, while it adds to the jealousy and irritation of the people, makes a large addition to the taxes, to the drain from the fruits of the labour of that very people, and, thereby, augments the danger against which it is intended to guard.

55. This is then, indeed, a monster of consumption. A monster, to furnish which with food other monsters are resorted to. It cannot be the wish of the Landlords of England that there should be a thundering standing army in time of peace. It can hardly be the wish of any set of Ministers; for, if it give them patronage, they must be compelled to give Edition: current; Page: [153] it, out of their own hands, and leave it to the distribution of others. This enormous expense, therefore, of about seven millions a year, over and above what it was before the French war; this seven millions a year is a sort of retainer to the Debt. The necessity for this expenditure is created by the Debt, and the same may be said of the police, the secret-service money and various other articles of expense. Therefore, to get rid of this Debt; or, at the very least, to reduce it down to a mere trifle, is absolutely necessary previous to any considerable reduction of the army. The Debt is the nation’s devil. It is the cause of all its calamities. And reduced it must be, by some means or other, or this nation will never again know the blessings of internal peace, any thing to the contrary in Mr. Judge Bayley’s financial creed, notwithstanding.

56. Yet, to accomplish this great purpose, the people must be on the side of the reducers; and to have the people on their side, the Landlords must act a part very different indeed from that which they have lately acted. It is very true, that I have no taste, and I know well that the people have no taste to live under the domination of the Israelites; but it is not easy to imagine, that the Israelites, even if left to themselves, would go much farther than Absolute Power-of-Imprisonment Bills, Sidmouth’s Circular, Six Acts, Manchester affair, and Bill of Pains and Penalties. I have a great personal dislike to the Jews; but I am not aware of any very great additional inconvenience that would arise to the people from their possessing the soil. John Swann would find four years and a half of imprisonment full as pleasant under them as under those that sent him to that four years and a half imprisonment: in short, if it is to be merely a transfer of the lands from the present possessors to the mushrooms of the ’Change; if the people are to gain nothing by this being prevented; I can see no reason why they should endeavour to prevent it, while I can see many reasons why they should endeavour to let the law take its course.

57. It is impossible to believe that we shall suffer such an occasion to pass, without an effort to regain our lost rights; those rights for which we have so long been contending. In my Leave-taking Address, when I sailed for America, I said, that there would, at last, be an “open struggle between the land and the funds; that, if, in that struggle we did not obtain a Reform we never should.” That struggle is now come. The resolutions which I have above inserted form a sort of declaration of war. This declaration will be imitated, I am very certain; and if those who have the power to do it, give the people their rights, the nation is safe, the King’s throne is safe, and we have before us, a long course of happy days. But unless we have those rights, unless we be suffered to raise our heads; if we are still to be marks of persecution and of obloquy, why should we give our consent to any measure that is to relieve the landlords and save their estates?

58. As to the sort of Reform. As to the more or the less; I am not for quarrelling with any body about a mere name. There are some that talk of a moderate Reform. It is nonsense; but even of this nonsense they only talk. They do nothing. They still beard us with their parchments, and tell us we are scum if we have none; though we contribute towards the maintenance of the Government, the army and the debt-people; and though our persons are liable to be forced out to be employed in defence of their lands. Why not give us their moderate Reform, and Edition: current; Page: [154] take from us the possibility of desiring to get at justice through the means of a convulsion? Why not give us that same “moderate Reform,” and not entertain the wild and ridiculous hope of being able to keep us at bay while they disembarrass themselves of the Fundholder?

59. One thing I will never depart from, and that is this: that I will never cease to oppose, never cease to annoy, as far as I legally may, any man, or any body of men, who, having the power to do it, shall refuse or shall neglect to do justice to the memory of the Queen, and to the persecuted Reformers of 1817, 1818, 1819, 1820, and 1821. To this will I hold. From this I will never depart. If justice be not done to these men, I care not who suffer. Until that justice be done, the distress, the anguish, the ruin and racking torments of the persecutors give me pleasure. Divers other things I would yield. I lay wholly out of the question all redress for myself personally; for God has blessed me with health and spirits to weather the storm; but this is my solemn determination, that, under all circumstances, at all times, and in whatever situation I may be placed, I never will cease to endeavour to obtain justice for the basely persecuted Reformers of the five above-mentioned years. Upon this score I submit to no compromise; and, if I see no disposition in those who have the power to do justice, to do that justice, I hereby pledge myself, that those persons, be they who they may, shall experience at my hands all the thwarting, all the annoyance, all the injury that it shall be in my power lawfully to bring into play against them.

60. In the next letter I shall pursue my examination of the propositions contained in the Report of the Agricultural Committee. Before I have done with those propositions, the Landlords that read me will see their fate as clearly as they can see their faces in a glass; and, though that fate is by no means consolatory, I shall point out to them how they may rescue themselves and their country from the terrible curse that now hangs over them. I am aware, that I have said many provoking and irritating things. I am also aware that stubbornness and pride are as excusable in others as they are in myself. If I have been deeply injured, I have taken deep revenge. I by no means wish to live in strife to the end of my days. If I could see complete justice done; that is to say, full compensation made, to the persecuted Reformers of the above five years, I should be ready to declare, that I felt no enmity towards any human being, always save and except the hell-hound private-letter party. I am as desirous as any man to see peace restored to the nation. I can have no interest in convulsions of any kind. In short, no man is more anxious than I am to contribute towards the removal of the present difficulties; and yet, I am compelled to see them with pleasure, because, I, at present, see in them the only possible chance of the people obtaining fair play, and of the abused, insulted and persecuted Reformers obtaining redress.

61. Some gentleman has just sent me the Edinburgh Review, which I find takes part with the Fundholders, applauds Peel’s Bill, says, with the ORACLE, that the monish has been raised only four and a half per cent., and concludes, that, if, to keep “good faith,” a quarter part of the lands be transferred to the Jews, it will give us national prosperity! Ah! here these feelosofers are in their true character! They are the mouth-piece of the Whigs, mind; and, therefore, Messrs. Landlords, take care of that faction. These Edinburgh fellows take Mr. Mushett by the hand. They prate away about retrenchment and economy as the Edition: current; Page: [155] effectual remedy, and say, that, if four or five millions are cut off from the annual expenditure, the nation will bound forward! Wretched drivellers! why, that amount has, in fact been added to the taxes, since May last, by the rise, since that time, in the value of money! These coxcombs call themselves “statesmen!” Miserable is the nation that is under the guidance and control of such “collective wisdom” as this! These feelosofers eulogize the Government on account of Peel’s Bill, and well they may; for, it was, in fact, the work of the Grenvilles and the Whigs more than of the Ministers. However, I shall, in the course of these Letters, take in the doctrine of the feelosofers as well as the statements of Mr. Mushett; and I shall, I fancy, convince the Landlords, that they have no hope but, in the support of the people, who are, though not in the same degree, also interested in the reduction of the Debt.



William Cobbett
Cobbett, William
September 26, 1821



62. I now proceed to examine the third Proposition of the Report, as stated in Letter I, paragraph 15, thus:

III.: That consumption and revenue have not fallen off. 3.

63. This is one of the grand fallacies of governments. They prosper when they collect great sums of money; and they have the folly, or the impudence, or both, to regard it as a thing taken for granted, that, so long as they prosper, all must be well; or, in other words, that a nation means only a parcel of people, made to work for the greatness and splendour of those who are, in any way, engaged in carrying on the Government.

64. The Committee, proceeding upon this notion of the revenue being the standard of prosperity, takes care not to advance into the main subject of the Report, before they state, as an answer to the complaints of the farmers and of the tradesmen connected with them, that, “it appears, by official returns, that the total consumption of the different articles subject to duties of excise and customs have increased in the last year, compared with the average of the three preceding years.”

65. It is a strange thing, but not more strange than true, that, in this country, a minister of state, or a Committee of the “Collective Wisdom,” seldom (I may say never) puts pen to paper without making some gross grammatical error; and, if the writing be of any considerable length, Edition: current; Page: [156] several such errors. Accordingly they abound most luxuriantly in this Report; and, in the sentence before us, we are told, that the “total consumption have increased.” If the writer of this Report, or, indeed, if any of the members of the Committee, had read my little Grammar, and had attended to what is said in paragraph 239, this error, so disreputable to the Committee and to the country, would not, could not, have been committed. But, alas! They will not read useful books. We shall find, by and by, that the Committee had read Burke and Adam Smith, in order to discover in what degree the present agricultural distress may have been produced by the stars. They would have done much better to read my Grammar; and, indeed, there does seem to require some sort of national establishment for teaching their letters to persons, who, like a cub that I have in my eye, was, with great pains-taking, on the part of men who called themselves patriots, put into the representation of a county at the last election. This is really a serious evil. It reflects disgrace upon the whole of us; for if such be our learning; what must our ignorance be? However, I must not make this a critical essay; and, therefore, I proceed with my subject.

66. Revenue is no standard of prosperity; that is to say, except of the prosperity of those who live upon the taxes. The speeches of our Kings, ever since the Whigs first predominated in England, have always, when it was possible, boasted of an increase of the revenue; of the large produce of the revenue; of the flourishing state of the revenue; just as if a nation could be benefited by an increase of its burdens; just as if a farmer and his people can be better off, because a taxgatherer comes and takes away a part of their earnings! The thing is too monstrous, in this view of it, to be the subject of reasoning for a moment.

But, now let us consider this assertion of the Committee as it applies to the state of things at present. The process that is going on, is that of taking estates from one class and giving them to those of another class. Now this the Committee are very anxious to cause it to be believed, is not the case. They are anxious that the landlords should not look upon their estates as being in danger, and to assist them in this their endeavour, they bring forward the assertion that revenue and consumption have not fallen off. In a moment we shall see, that this is wholly fallacious; for there can be no reason why the “total consumption,” should not continue as great as before, and, with respect to some articles still greater, though a transfer of all the estates in the country be going on at the same time. My Lord De Bombasteville (the Norman, who came in with the Conqueror), has, for instance, mortgaged his estate to Moses Oraculo, the Jew, who came in with the Dutch and the devil. The estate, when mortgaged in 1812, was worth two hundred thousand pounds, and Moses lent a hundred thousand upon it. Peel’s Bill passes in the memorable year 1819, and in 1821, the estate is the Jew’s and the Norman has no estate at all.

68. Now, this is the process that is going on. But this produces no diminution of consumption. This produces no falling-off of revenue. What the Norman had before the Jew has now. The rents, which the Norman spent, are now spent by the Jew, who lives in the square of London where the Norman lived before, and whose hooked-nose wife and daughters have as low bows made to them as ever were made to the wife and daughters of the Norman. The land is just what it was before. It yields the same produce; it requires the same labour; and the labourers require the same quantity of victuals and drink.

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69. Viewing the thing on a larger scale: that which the landlord consumed the fundholder now consumes; and the change is much for the better; because the labourer participates with the fundholder, and is getting back from the farmer a part, at least, of that which he was robbed of by the depreciated paper-money. So that by this transfer of property, consumption may, possibly, be increased, instead of diminished, seeing that the millions have an increase of means from the very operation of those causes which take the great gains from the farmer, and, which must, in the end, take the estate from the landlord of the present day. I should think it likely that more malt, beer, spirits, leather, candles, soap, sugar, tea and tobacco, would be consumed, in consequence of the fall of prices. The stamps, the post-horse tax, the assessed taxes, perhaps, will all decline; but I do not see any reason why there should be a diminution upon the total of the Excise and the Customs; I do not see why any such diminution should arise out of a fall of prices. It is true that the tax remains the same, per bushel and per pound; but, the article is lower in price; it costs less; and it costs less, too, in proportion to the amount of wages. And, therefore, if the landlords will be content to deem an increase of the revenue a proof of their own prosperity; I think it is likely that they may keep prospering more and more every year till they have not a hedge-stake left, or a bit of ground wherein to drive it.

70. Let us now proceed to the fourth proposition of the Committee, which, in Letter I., paragraph 15, is stated as follows:

IV.: That the distress is not so great as has been imagined. 4, 5.

71. In the two paragraphs of the Report, here referred to, the Committee make a great effort to describe away that distress which, as stated in my first Letter, paragraphs 19 and onwards, they acknowledge to exist. They say here, under this fourth head, that they find that, generally speaking, the rents are well paid; and that they trust they have a ground of hope, “that the great body of the occupiers of the soil, either from the savings of more prosperous times, or from that credit which punctuality will generally command in this country, possess resources which will enable them to surmount the difficulties under which they now labour!”

72. Well! God bless us! Here are crumbs of comfort for the chicken of agriculture! But, how; where; what; when: good God! what does all this mean! Let us steady our heads a little if we can, and ask the Committee how the difficulties are to be surmounted, if their first proposition be true; namely, “that, at present prices, an arable farm can yield no profit, but must be productive of loss.” If this be true, and if it be true that the Committee does and can hold out no prospect of a permanent rise of prices, how are the farmers to surmount their difficulties? How are they to surmount difficulties under a continued loss; and how, under that continued loss, and that being known to be their state, are they to obtain the credit on which the Committee depend as one of the means for helping them out of their difficulties? As if this were not sufficiently preposterous; as if this did not smell strongly enough of ’Change Alley, we are told that they have a resource, in the “savings of more prosperous times,” which really is a thought which one could not have expected to come into the head of any one more elevated in point of station than the keeper of a chandler’s shop.

73. Let us try it by common sense, and see how it will work. Here Edition: current; Page: [158] is Old Grub, the tenant of a large farm, taken five years ago, and the lease of which will expire in two years to come. Grub has saved the worth of the farm; that is to say, the paper-money has enabled him to squeeze so much out of the bones of his labourers during the last twenty years. But he now pays a rent of a thousand a year, and he loses seven hundred a year. He has already lost in this way twelve or fifteen hundred pounds; and he has 1400l. more to lose. Grub knows this very well. If the landlord will not reduce his rent, Grub will quit the farm! That is the way that Grub will surmount his difficulty. If his lease be out now, he quits at once, and then his difficulty is surmounted. If he be a very ignorant man; if he understand nothing but merely the getting of money together; if he be totally blind to the real cause of the fall of prices, he may hold over, and hang on for a year or so, under the notion that things will come about again: but he will take no new lease; he will enter into no new engagement for time; he will have the farm at last for 300l. a year; or he will leave it to another that will give but a very little more.

74. This is the way that difficulties will be surmounted by savings; and as to credit, what a pretty state must that man be in, who has to borrow the means of carrying-on that which is notoriously a losing concern, and which is declared to be such by the Committee itself! And, as to the assertion, that rents have been collected, “without more arrear than has occurred on several former occasions,” I am quite at a loss to discover where the grounds of it have been found by the Committee. One of the witnesses declares his belief that the far greater part of the farmers within his knowledge are insolvent; other witnesses give numerous instances of sales for distress and total ruin; and the evidence of Mr. Wakefield alone is quite sufficient to prove, that, if rents, at their present amount, have been collected, they can be collected no longer from persons who depend upon the produce of their farms. And this must be the sole dependence for rent; for, the idea of farmers with spare money, and of farmers, too, with a disposition to lay out spare money in the way of gift to the landlords under the name of rent; such an idea is worthy of no place but Bedlam.

75. As to the proposition, however, that the “distress is not so great as has been imagined;” this is true enough, if the word distress be applied to the situation of the whole body immediately connected with husbandry. It is by no means distress with the labouring millions. They are getting back to prosperity. With the renters there can be no permanent distress; for, first, they will be sold up, and then they cease to be renters; or second, their leases are about to expire, and with them ceases their distress; or third, they are in the situation of Farmer Grub above-mentioned; and, therefore, though the landlord filch them a little, it cannot be for a very long time, and they are rich enough besides not to feel any thing worthy of the name of distress. With respect to the business of the farmer in future, it will be less profitable; the gains will be smaller; a larger share will go to the labourer, between whom and the farmer a greater degree of equality will prevail. There will still be farmers to make large fortunes; but the work will require two or three generations instead of one, and the cases of this kind will be fewer in number. The distress will belong solely to the landlord, in a very short time. His devil, the fundholder, never dies, never lets go his grasp; never ceases to torment him. Rides him incessantly with merciless Edition: current; Page: [159] spurs; is continually driving him harder and harder; and will never quit him while he has a drop of blood in his body. The farmer creates something out of himself; he lives along with the rest of the community. But there stands the landlord, without any means for making up on the one hand for losses on the other, and he daily sinks lower and lower from the very weight that pushes the fundholder above him. They are like two well-buckets, and the landlord is at present going down.

76. Poor comfort, therefore, it is to him to be told, that the distress is not so great as has been imagined. The Committee seem not to be wholly insensible of the inadequacy of this comfort; for, they next endeavour to ascribe the distress, in part, at least, to superabundant crops, as you will find, my lords of the soil, by looking into the Report in the paragraphs pointed out by the figures here below.

V.: That abundant harvests have contributed to the distress. 12, 13, 21, 23, 24, 25, 26, 27, 34, 84.

77. To hear of distress, occasioned by abundant harvests, is something shocking to common sense. We have, in our common prayer-book, a prayer for fine weather, a prayer to be preserved from dearth and famine; a prayer for moderate and refreshing showers; a thanksgiving for joyful rain; a thanksgiving for fine weather; and a thanksgiving for plenty, which I shall here transcribe word for word, without, I hope, any danger of being accused on this account of sedition and blasphemy:

“O Most merciful Father, who of thy gracious goodness hast heard the devout prayers of thy Church; and turned our dearth and scarcity into cheapness and plenty; we give thee humble thanks for this thy special bounty; beseeching thee to continue thy loving-kindness unto us, that our land may yield us her fruits of increase, to thy glory and our comfort; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.”

78. Amen! say I, and particularly as to the cheapness. Besides this settled thanksgiving of the Church, there was in 1810 a particular thanksgiving put up in all the churches by order of the King; in which, I remember, we offered our thanks to God, for that he had been graciously pleased to fill our valleys with corn. The bible, from one end of it to the other, describes plenty as a blessing, and scarcity as a curse, with which offending nations are frequently threatened. Pharaoh was punished with a famine; and amongst all the plagues with which he was tormented and distressed, “redundant production” never seems to have been thought of by Him who was inflicting vengeance on him. It remained for this bright age and nation to produce men capable of talking of a “remedy” for a redundant crop!

79. The Committee, in the paragraphs above-mentioned, ascribe a part of the distress to the general abundance and good quality of the last harvest; to the improvement in the extent and growth of wheat in this kingdom. They speak of “redundant production,” and observe, that this admits of no “adequate remedy,” except that of diminution of supply or increase of demand. They further observe that “no relief” from exportation can be expected, till there be a scarcity abroad, or a “failing crop here, either of which will restore the markets to their natural level.” They speak of the “inconvenience” arising from “abundance,” and, observe, that this cannot be “alleviated” by any legislative provision. Now, was ever language like this made use of before, in any part of the world, since the world was a world? Did ever man before hear of abundance being an inconvenience? Did ever man before hear the word redundant, Edition: current; Page: [160] applied to the products of the earth? Did ever man before hear of a remedy being wanted for an abundant crop? Did ever man hear, since the world began, of a wished-for alleviation of the effects of abundance? It required this state of things; it required the nation to be under the effect of the measures of Pitt and his successors; it required the existence of a system of paper-money to put it into men’s minds to venture upon paper such combinations of words. Instead of prayers for gentle showers; for plenty and for cheapness, we ought, according to these notions, to pray for floods, blights, parching droughts, blasting winds, the fly, caterpillars, grubs, wire-worm, lice and locusts. Sunshine in harvest ought to be hateful to our sight; and, oh! what pleasure to see the wheat growing in the ear, or coming home to the yard soaked and sopped in the wagon! Redundant production! No remedy for this! Redundant means too much. Remedy means the getting rid of an evil. And these words we have lived to see applied to the harvests of England! But, the system of paper-money is full of monstrousness. It destroys the very mind and thoughts. It makes good evil. Like Satan, it says, “Evil be thou my good.” However, it is waste of words to talk thus. This question presses itself upon every mind: What! how wretched; how troubled; how unnatural; how everything abominable, must that state of things be, where abundant harvest can be called a redundancy, and where men can talk of a remedy for such redundancy!

80. Leaving the thing in the abstract with what has been here said of it, let us now inquire a little how the farmers can be injured, either temporarily or permanently by good harvests. In the first place, every one of the witnesses, without a single exception, to whom the question is put, says that a large crop and good harvests are best for the farmer. To be sure, they are; they are best for the whole country, and the farmer participates in the blessing with others. If he have ten bushels of wheat and sell them at five shillings a bushel, is it not the same to him in point of money as if he had five bushels of wheat and sold them at ten shillings a bushel? If his harvest be fair, it is, in all respects, better for him than if it be foul; for though his additional expenses be repaid him in great part in the end, he has first to encounter those additional expenses.

81. What, then, can the Committee mean by ascribing part of the distress of the farmers to abundant harvests? The low price, indeed; the depression of price, may partly arise from an extraordinarily abundant harvest, and such, indeed, must be the effect of great abundance; but it is impossible; I say completely impossible, that from a cause like this, the farmer should suffer injury even in the smallest degree; and, of course, it is impossible, that there should arise to him from this cause, the smallest degree of incapacity to pay his rent; and this, you will observe, is the point at which the Committee everlastingly labours; because the object is to assign reasons for the present difficulties of the farmers; their present embarrassments or distress; that is to say, their present incapacity to pay rents; if the Committee had gone upon the sensible, clear, state-of Mr. Wakefield; upon his opinions, fortified at every step by undeniable facts, with names, dates, sums and every thing else necessary to constitute something worthy of the name of evidence; if the Committee had gone upon this evidence, they would not have wasted their time in talking about remedies for redundant production, nor amused themselves and the House and the public with the curious conundrums of Mr. Tooke and the astrology of Burke and Adam Smith, which I shall notice only Edition: current; Page: [161] because I would not have it be believed that such things can pass under my eyes without exciting my ridicule.

82. The ingenious Mr. Tooke has discovered (and the Committee “entirely concur” with him); this ingenious person has discovered that the people do not eat more bread in times of abundance than they do in common times; and that the increased consumption in times of abundance, “can amount to little more than waste.” Nothing so monstrous as this was, surely, ever put upon paper before; and yet the Committee say, that experience warrants them in concurring with Mr. Tooke in opinion, that even redundancy; that is to say, too much produce, adds very little to the increase of consumption! O! monstrous, as every farmer can swear, and as all experience proves. In America, let the crop be what it may, the corn is always a fourth cheaper in October than it is in June. Nothing can more clearly prove, that the stock has been diminished by a greater consumption than ordinary taking place, while the barns and granaries are full. Indeed, what absurdity can possibly be greater than that of supposing that the mass of the people really do not leave off eating till their bellies are absolutely full. The question with them is, not how much they ought to eat, but how much they can eat. Or rather, how much they can get to eat. The mass of mankind; that is to say, the millions of the labouring classes, know nothing about dieting. They eat as much as they can get; and, if the kingdom were to produce twice as much next year as it ever has produced before, Mr. Tooke and the Committee would find, that the stock in hand, at the end of the year, would be very little greater than it is at this moment. Reason says that it must be so, unless it can be made appear, that the people have, at present, as much as they can eat, and that the food is as fine as they wish it to be; a state of things that never yet existed and never can exist in any country in the world. Nevertheless, this pretty doctrine was necessary to account, or to help to account, for the distress of the farmer, without ascribing with Mr. Wakefield, the whole of the distress to the paper-money. Yet, it was only absurdity upon absurdity; for, if this redundancy of corn was not consumed, it was still in hand. Consequently, the farmer had it to the good; consequently, he had not yet offered it for sale, and, consequently, it could not have tended to lower the price! So that, after all, Mr. Tooke’s conundrum makes against, rather than for, that “ground of hope,” which the Committee say they have, that the great body of the occupiers of the soil will “surmount their difficulties;” that is to say, recover their capacity of making good with their landlords their present engagements.

83. We now come to the astrologers, Burke and Adam Smith. The former of these discovered, from the aspect of the stars, I suppose, several years ago, that taxes were like dews, which, rising up and forming themselves into clouds, fall again over the country in refreshing showers. This was so delightful a discovery that this philosopher has, from that hour to this, been a great favourite with every set of Ministers, and with the whole of the “collective wisdom” in both branches, and whether in leaf, flower and fruit-bearing state, or in the winter of opposition. They all, from Mr. Benett to Lord Castlereagh, call him that “great man;Canning calls him “the departed sage;” and you frequently hear them quoting his words with as much reverence and solemnity as a Methodist parson quotes the Bible. This “great man” made the discovery about the dews just after Pitt had caused a most refreshing and fructifying shower to Edition: current; Page: [162] fall upon this great Irish adventurer himself, who, for a pretty long life, had been opposed to, if not outrageously abusing, Pitt and his predecessors; but who, having become the most fulsome eulogist of Pitt, found fall upon him the contents of a cloud, sucked up from the dews of taxation, and consisting of three thousand pounds a year pension for himself, during life; twelve hundred pounds a year pension for his wife, during her life after him, and two thousand five hundred pounds a year to be paid to his executors after his death, one-half of it for three lives, and the other half of it for two lives, one of the lives on each half being still in existence; and, of course, the two thousand five hundred pounds being still paid to those executors!

84. About seventy thousand pounds of principal money have dropped out of this cloud, collected together from the dews of taxation! Well may the astrologer be called a “great man!” Well may his doctrine have such an abundance of disciples! Well may the Committee appeal to him with regard to another branch of astrology, connected with Agricultural distress.” This doctrine is “that years of scarcity or plenty do not come alternately, but in pretty large cycles, and irregularly.Doctor Adam Smith (most interesting to know!) has made the same discovery. Only think of a “pretty large cycle!” Well; but that is not all. These “cycles” or rounds of years, do not come regularly, it seems; but irregularly. You will observe the word pretty before large. You will remember that a cycle means a periodical space of time; you will then observe that these periodical spaces of time come irregularly; that is to say, not periodically; and, then, you will, I think, my good lords of the soil, have a jumble in your heads, a confusion of ideas, a bewildering so complete, as to drive out, if any thing can, all thoughts of the fundholder. Good God! to talk about cycles of scarcity and of plenty; to talk about unperiodical periods; to send you to the stars under the guidance of great Irish and great Scotch philosophers; when you are wanting to know when and how, in God’s name, you should get at your rents.

85. Let me hand you down from this dazzling height, and endeavour to direct your attention to something a little less at war with common sense. The Committee tell you that abundant harvests have had something to do in producing the distress. They say that the last was a harvest of general abundance and good quality. But, was there nothing of low price but corn? Was there nothing else of which the produce of the land consisted? They appear to have forgotten that farmers raise sheep as well as corn; or if they had recollected it they would here, perhaps, have discovered that there had been also a redundant production of sheep, and that a remedy could be found only in a hoped-for barrenness of the ewes. In this part of the business they had a conjuror to assist them, and a conjuror, too, with a broad brim to his hat. They had friend Hodgson, of the partnership of Cropper, Benson, and Co. at Liverpool; and friend Hodgson came, not only with an account of the corn crops for many years past in England, but with very elaborate accounts about flesh, hides, and skins, from Liverpool, Manchester, Leeds, and Sheffield. These Quakers are far more searching than the Jews.

86. This conjuror appears to have been out, for once, in his calculation. Brother Nicodemus appears to have been a very favourite witness; and I shall advert to him more particularly another time, when I develop a little the nature of the pursuits of a fraternity who make shift to live upon the fattest of the land without ever doing any work. Brother Edition: current; Page: [163] Nicodemus seems to have been a sort of oracle; I mean a second oracle. He had these positions to submit to the Committee: that there had been of late years a diminution of the consumption of butcher’s meat in the kingdom; that there is a scarcity of cattle in the country; that the cultivation of land has been increased by this; or that, in other words, a considerable part of the land, formerly appropriated to pasture, had been brought into tillage.

87. Brother Hodgson was a capital witness, faith! What interesting facts; how authentic; how minute; how lucid and neat the statement; how logical and natural the conclusion! Unfortunately for brother Hodgson, this prig-like account was given on the twelfth of April; and it was hardly given before the butcher’s meat begun to tumble down! And, now, at Norwich Fair, where about a hundred thousand lambs were sold about a month ago, the lambs of the Duke of Grafton sold at fourteen shillings in place of the twenty-six shillings that they sold at last year. The Register of the eighth of September contains a statement of the sales of all the principal flocks at the Fair, and the average but a very little exceeded one-half of the price of last year. At Wilton Fair, about ten days ago, the average price of South Down lambs did not exceed eleven shillings; and that of breeding ewes did not exceed fifteen shillings. These lambs sold last year, at Wilton Fair, for about twenty and the ewes for about twenty-eight. At Lewes Fair (in the very home of the South Downs) the lambs scarcely fetched fourteen shillings upon an average. They were last year twenty-two shillings; and the year before thirty shillings. The ewes at Lewes Fair, fetched from eighteen to twenty-one shillings, last year they fetched more than thirty and the year before they fetched nearer forty than thirty. Now, mind, all this is with such a crop of “rowen,” and such a crop of turnips, as never before stood upon the earth within my memory. If the “rowen” and the turnips had been short, I have no question that the lambs at Wilton Fair would have sold for five shillings a-piece.

88. Now, then, what becomes of the deep research and profound remarks and logical conclusions of this prig of a Quaker? Are the cattle scarce now, Brother Hodgson? Happy, indeed, must be the nation, whose lawgivers receive lessons from lips like thine! Pasture land had been broke up for tillage; and this was assumed upon no other earthly ground than that this prig’s observations and the miserable blocks of figures that he had put down upon paper, represented butcher’s meat as low-priced, and cattle scarce!

89. The Committee will do well another time to make Luke Hansard despatch his printing more quickly; for, it has so happened this time, that Norwich Fair had decided that cattle had fallen one-half in price, before Luke could get Brother Hodgson’s evidence from the press. Barnet Fair has seen beasts sold for eight pounds, which only last year fetched twelve; which is another excellent commentary on the prig’s profound speculations. At Lewes Fair they penned about five-and-twenty thousand sheep. At Wilton Fair about eighty thousand. So that, from these two fairs the farmers took home about fifty thousand pounds less than they took home last year, and about a hundred thousand pounds less than they took home the year before. Mighty is this Bill, O! Mr. Peel, and honoured and magnified be thy name throughout the dwellings of all the labourers in England! Let friend Cropper bellow as long as he will, for everlasting paper, thou hast smitten the whole tribe in the Edition: current; Page: [164] bowels, and we shall see them reduced to that state to which they had reduced millions.

90. But observe, how this sheep-story completely upsets all the doctrine of the Committee, and Mr. Tooke, and the sages of the “cycles!” Who, after this, can treat otherwise than with scorn any one who would affect to ascribe the ruin of the present race of farmers to any other cause than that of the rise in the value of money? Should any one be weak enough to subscribe to the doctrine of redundant harvests, is there an idiot, dry mouthed or slavering, without leader or with leader, who will suffer himself to be persuaded, that there has been a redundancy in the breeding of ewes and of cows.

91. Having done its best with redundant production, the Report next resorts to the transition from war to peace, as is briefly set forth, in the sixth proposition, in these words:

VI.: That sudden transition from war to peace is not yet over. 20.

92. The words which the Committee make use of are these: “It would seem that the influence of that general derangement which the convulsions of the last thirty years have produced in all the relations of commerce, in the application of capital, and in the demand for labour, is not yet spent and exhausted, and that neither the habits and dealings of individuals, members of the same community, nor the transactions and intercourse of different communities with one another, have hitherto altogether adjusted themselves to that more natural state of things, which we may now hope is likely to become again the more habitual and permanent condition of society.”

93. No. They do not, I see, actually call it a sudden transition from war to peace. It would have been a little too much to call that a sudden thing, which has now been going on for seven years and a half. But, it is no other than a continuation of that pretty talk which the hole-digging philosopher began in 1816, and which was revived and brought out as fresh as if it had been only an hour old by Lawyer Scarlett in his loud cries for justice on the poor silly Rump-ite Evans. Very sudden, indeed, the thing has not been; and if the “derangement,” have not “spent” itself in seven years and a half, when are we to expect it to spend itself? Strange sort of “derangement,” this must have been! What was it? It was war. It lasted just twenty-one years, and not thirty as it is here stated. But it was only war; and, bear in mind, my good lords of the soil; that it was gloriously triumphant war! Ending in a battle, which gave us the “greatest Captain of the Age;” which decorated so many thousands of heroes with medals; and in a peace, dictated to the French at Paris, and the negotiating of which peace caused Castlereagh to be received with clapping and shouting by the “collective wisdom” of the nation. Is it possible that a war like this can produce derangement? Amongst the defeated parties it may; but can it produce a derangement in the affairs of the victors, to last seven years and a half after the war is over, and even then, to be “not yet spent?” If this be the case, we should be better without glorious victories; better without having the “greatest Captain of the Age;” better without such a peace as covers the ambassador with cheering and caresses.

94. However, to speak in plain sense, what a hunting about is here Edition: current; Page: [165] after causes, when the cause is as evident as the sun at noon-day. There was only a space of about nine years between the American rebel war, and the antijacobin war. During the first three of those nine years, the nation had completely recovered itself; and, before the end of seven years, its prosperity astonished the world! Ah! but that was a war of defeat and disgrace; that gained us no “greatest Captain of the Age.” So that, it really would appear, that glorious wars and great captains, tend to produce sudden transitions and lasting derangements. However, this is all nonsense. When the American war ended, there was, as there always had been, settled gold and silver money. During the war, the nation had been heavily burdened; and, at the end of it, there was a sudden transition, indeed, but it was a transition from a heavy burden to a light one; whereas, at the Waterloo Peace; at the Great Captain Peace; at the glorious Peace, it was a sudden transition, from a very heavy burden to a heavier burden still. This constitutes the only difference of the two cases. This makes that transition an evil now, which, in 1784, was a good. The paper-money system, as I said before, says with Satan, “Evil be thou my good; and good be thou my evil!” During the American war, there was no depreciation of money, except in a very small degree; there was no Bank Restriction Act; no deduction from the wages of the labouring classes; no false prosperity; and, of course, at the conclusion of that war there was no preparation for return to cash payments; no drawing in of paper-money (of which there had been none under notes of ten pounds); there was no such thing as rag-bag country bankers in the kingdom! not a farmer in England at that time knew the meaning of the word discount, and very few had ever even spelled the word accommodation. There was no thrusting out and drawing in of the paper; no everlasting hangings for forgery. No Peel’s Bill came then to double, if not treble, rents, taxes and the interest of the Debt. Therefore, the nation, relieved from the expenses of war, assumed at once its wonted march in prosperity and improvement.

95. The reverse of all this is now before us, and has been passing before us for the last seven years and a half. In each of the two cases, the effect has, naturally and directly proceeded from the cause. That cause is so plain that none but a hood-winked landlord can miss seeing it; and, if he suffer himself to be hood-winked any longer, we have the consolation of knowing, that, in the end, he will receive the merited reward of his willing blindness; and that no one will be punished but himself.

96. The Committee next proceed to teach the landlords to draw comfort from the miserable state, that is to say, a derangement like our own, in which other nations are placed. This is the seventh proposition or assertion.

VII.: That other nations suffer in the same way that we do. 19, 20.

97. It is cold comfort, to be sure, to be told that others are as bad off as we; and the Committee (aware, perhaps, that the observation would be made) expressly disclaim all expectation of alleviating our sufferings by presenting to us the contemplation of a corresponding pressure, as they call it, and they go so far as to express their regret at the embarrassments existing in other countries; nay, they go farther, and say that this liberal feeling of theirs is confirmed in their minds, “by reflecting upon the intimate connexion which must exist between the advancement Edition: current; Page: [166] of other nations towards wealth and improvement, and the growing prosperity of our own.” This is very kind, but very foolish; for if all prosper, it is not prosperity to any one. If all have riches alike, there are no riches. So that this is merely a parcel of unmeaning words; which the Committee might have spared, for they may be very well assured, that their motive, in this case, “will not be misconceived,” by any living creature, foreigner or native. Well, but how do they make it out? What do they make the thing amount to, here? They tell us that prices have fallen in the American States; that they have fallen in the West Indies, that they have fallen on the Continent of Europe; and then they come to what they deem the gist of the matter; namely, that some of the causes which have been operating here cannot be considered as operating in those countries.

98. Now I beseech you to mark this! Do, I pray you, forget your empty purses for one moment, and hear what I have to say about this. You see, that the object is to persuade you, that there is some general cause at work all the world over; and, therefore, that you are not to suppose that the distress here arises from Peel’s Bill; for that is the short and long of the matter. They bid you look at America, at the West Indies, at the Continent of Europe; they bid you look at the low prices there; and as there is no Peel’s Bill there, you are to look upon it that the mischief is produced here by something other than Peel’s Bill, and that, therefore, you must be content till the general derangement has spent itself.

99. Now, one very short answer to all this pretty matter is that Peel’s Bill, and the drawing-in measures previous to that Bill, have been just as much and as directly the cause of the reduction of prices in the West Indies as in England itself. To a considerable degree the same measures have produced the same effect in the American States, which are very nearly as much affected by English operations of this kind as the Banks in Liverpool are affected by the measures of the Bank in London. The money connexion, or, rather, the credit and paper connexion, between the two countries is little less close than that between consigner and consignee. In addition to this, the Americans had banks in greater numbers than we. The drawing-in of paper took place there in 1819, and, in the space of about twenty months, brought the bushel of Indian corn down from 125 to 25 cents! What could have produced this, but a change in the value of money? There had been no sudden transition from war to peace there, between the fall of 1817 and the spring of 1819. The fact is, that the moment the news arrived of the discussion of Peel’s Bill, a shaking of the banks there began to take place; and before the Bill itself had been in the country a month, prices were reduced nearly one-half. How provoking then was it to hear, just after my return from America, the two great Ministers of our day, Lords Liverpool and Castlereagh, speaking of what they called the distresses of America, wisely observing, that our distresses arose partly out of them, and expressing their hope that the American distresses would soon cease, for that then, ours would be removed! I have more patience than any other man that ever existed in this world, or, as I told these Lords at the time, this talk would have driven me out of my senses. What! Why it was their own measure that had caused this distress in America in great part; and yet, relief was to come to us from America; and that, too, while this very measure was going on full swing! Certainly there never was a nation in Edition: current; Page: [167] the world committed to hands such as those to which this nation has been committed.

100. So much for the West Indies and the American States. Austria, Russia, and several other States on the Continent, have been drawing in paper and reducing interest since the close of the war; and, perhaps, to a very great extent; and besides, what rule can we have to judge by in the cases of such Governments as those, and where the press is under the immediate superintendence of the Government? And, do the Committee imagine; or, rather, can any man in his senses imagine, that the diminishing of the currency in England, and in the American States, has not produced a diminution of currency upon the Continent? It is manifest that it must have produced such diminution. Money all over the world has been recovering its value, and prices, of course, have been falling. This, of course, must have everywhere produced great injury to borrowers, private as well as public; great benefit to tax-eaters of all descriptions; but it is in this country alone where the debt is so great as to make this cause be continually in operation till it swallow up the estates of the present generation of landlords, unless in those particular cases where fundholding and landholding, or landholding and tax-eating go hand in hand.

101. Thus you have no comfort, then, to draw from the alleged distresses of other countries. The same cause that is at work here has been at work there: the differences are these: there they have been temporary (except as far as relates to the American public debt), here it will be permanent: there it has swallowed up here and there a borrower; here it will finally devour the great mass of the owners of the land.

102. The next topic of comfort with the Committee is, that this sort of distress is nothing new in our history; but here I must break off for the present, being quite satisfied that I have thus far dissipated the mist, and that before I have done I shall leave you a clear view of the desperateness of that situation from which you will endeavour in vain to extricate yourselves, unless you have the people at your back.


William Cobbett
Cobbett, William
October 1, 1821



103. In my last letter I concluded my remarks on the seventh proposition, or assertion, of the Committee. I now proceed to the eighth, as stated in my first Letter, paragraph 15, namely:

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VIII.: That distress of this sort is nothing new in our history. 14, 15, 16, 17, 18.

104. Wonderful are the resources of the mind of man in the discovering of comfort; in the finding out of circumstances to cheer his spirits, and to allay his fears. The old proverb, that “drowning men catch at straws,” was, perhaps, never more aptly illustrated than in the proposition now before us. When a friend is afflicted with any malady, we seldom fail to find comfort for him in assuring him that his case is nothing new; that others have been afflicted with the same malady; that they have got the better of it, and have lived for many years afterwards in health and happiness!

105. Precisely such is the conduct of the Committee with regard to the proposition immediately under our view. Indeed, as I have frequently had to observe, the main drift of the whole of the Report is to comfort the landlords; to persuade them that the malady is temporary. First, consumption and revenue had not fallen off; then, the distress was not so great as had been imagined; then abundant harvests had contributed to the distress; then, the sudden transition from war to peace had not yet wholly spent itself; then, other nations suffered in the same way that we did; and thus, while the paper-money and Peel’s Bill were kept wholly out of sight, and while the distress was pushed far away from all causes under the control of the Government, there was to remain, in the minds of the landlords, a hope that things would come about. At last, after all these endeavours to afford comfort, comes the assertion, that distress of this sort is nothing new in our history. The landlords were, upon this assertion, to reason thus: O! it is nothing new; the country has been in the same state before; and, as we have seen great prosperity of late, so we may again; and, as the Funds remained untouched upon former occasions of distress, we may now recover our prosperity without the Funds being touched.

106. Such was intended to be the reasoning of the landlords, and such their conclusion. Let us see, then, how the matter stands with regard to the basis of all this fine reasoning. Let us see, whether the Committee be correct in the fact; that is to say, let us see whether distress of this sort be nothing new in our history.

107. We must here quote the words of the Committee a little more closely than we have sometimes done. They make this branch of comfort a principal head in their Report, and they open it with these words: “Your Committee feel it an important part of their duty to recal to the recollection of the House and the country, that, in the years 1804 and 1814, a depression of prices, principally caused by abundant harvests, and a great extension of tillage, excited by the extraordinary high prices of antecedent years, appears to have produced a TEMPORARY pressure and uneasiness among the owners and occupiers of land, and a corresponding difficulty in the payment of rents and the letting of farms, in SOME DEGREE similar to apprehensions and embarrassments which now prevail; and, also, that in many earlier periods, similar complaints may be traced in the history of our agriculture.” After this the Committee allude to two complaints of this nature made between the middle of the seventeenth and the middle of the eighteenth century, and say that arguments and alarms were then current, similar with those which prevail in many quarters at this period. “Yet,” the Committee adds, “those Edition: current; Page: [169] alarms were only temporary, and the fears of those who reasoned upon their continuance and increase were soon dissipated by the natural course of seasons and events.” But they say it is “impossible to look back to the years 1804 and 1814, and more especially to the evidence taken before the Committee appointed by the House on the latter occasion, without being forcibly struck with the conformity of the statements and opinions then produced, respecting the ruinous operation and expected continuance of low prices, with those which will be found in the evidence now collected. Indeed these statements, in some instances, come from the mouths of the same witnesses.” The Committee hang on, tooth and nail, to this straw: for, not content with the above, they add, that they “trust that this reference to past experience will not be altogether useless and unavailing to allay the alarm, and to dispel some of the desponding predictions, which, by a necessarily increasing anxiety for the future, tend to aggravate the severe pressure of our present difficulties.”

108. Here, then, we have the motive for this hunting back into history. It was to allay alarm, and to dispel desponding predictions. This may be, in some cases, a very sensible motive; but the present, I take it, is by no means a case of this kind. The demands of the fundholder are eating away the estate of the landlord; and, therefore, the argument of experience is wholly worthless, unless you can show, that this cause was at work in those ancient times, to which you refer; and that you cannot show, unless you go back to the paper-money of New England, which was called old wack.

109. We have nothing within our reach here but the complaints of 1804 and 1814; and what are we to gather from them? In those two years the same cause was at work, only in a less powerful degree, that is at work now! Mark that, I pray you! gentlemen of the collective wisdom. And, as I shall presently show, the distress, as it is called, was, in those two cases, removed; that is to say, high prices were brought back again, by a pouring forth of the paper-money! These two periods were, in fact, two periods when the paper-money had been drawn in. Thus we shall soon “dispel,” not the “desponding predictions;” but the efforts made by the Committee, to allay the alarm.

110. We will begin with the year 1804. The years 1800, 1801 and part of 1799, a small part of 1802 was a time of great dearth, owing to a bad crop in 1799 and to the wettest harvest ever known in 1800, when it rained every day, in almost every part of England, from the fourteenth of July to nearly about the first of September. The harvest was, too, very forward; so that the crop was not, in point of eatable matter, the half of an average crop. At one time, that is to say, in the year 1801 from January to September, the quartern loaf in London was eighteen-pence-halfpenny. During the whole of the year 1800 it was seventeen-pence. In the last three months of 1801 it came down to eleven-pence-halfpenny. In 1802 it came down to ten-pence-halfpenny. The crops of 1802 and 1803 were most abundant, and the harvests singularly fair. These delightful circumstances were the subject of a little poem by Mr. Canning, wherein he endeavoured to immortalize the fame of the “Great Doctor,” to whom he ascribed the sunshine, the showers, and the happy harvest-home. These crops brought down the loaf to ninepence-halfpenny in 1803; and in the early part of 1804 they brought it down to eight-pence-halfpenny.

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111. I beg you to keep these dates and prices in mind. No doubt so very great a disparity in the harvests was one of the causes, and, in this case, a principal cause of the disparity in prices; but the Old Lady in Threadneedle-street was also at work. She had been issuing her paper up to the end of the year 1801, and until the month of March, 1802, under the Act which protected her against the demands of her creditors. But, that Act was to cease in one month after the conclusion of peace with France. And this peace was concluded on the 25th of March, 1802. There was, at that time, some little remnant of shame existing. The Bank-protecting Bill had existed only six years; and, therefore, as peace had been talked of from the foregoing month of October, the Bank naturally looked forward for a resumption of payments in cash, agreeably to the Act of Parliament. The Protecting Act, however, was not repealed; or, rather, it did not go out of effect; but another Act was passed to continue it in force for a year longer; that is to say, until March 1803. Before that time came, another Act was passed to continue it in force till six weeks after the commencement of the then next Session of Parliament. All the pretty workings upon these occasions; all the pretty reasons given for these Acts, will be seen by a reference to Paper against Gold, Letter xix., which work, it is now more than ever necessary for the politician to have constantly in his hand.

112. In the early part of 1804, these combined causes of good crops, fine harvests, and the drawing-in of paper-money preparatory to cash payments, had brought down the quartern loaf to eightpence-three-farthings, as we have seen before. The landlords, who, in consequence of the high prices, had, where they could, raised their rents enormously, began to cry out for a Corn Bill, which is their old-established trick. The vapouring empty-skulled Minister, Pitt, who had turned out Addington and shoved himself into his place, said that corn was now too low. A Bill was brought into the House of Commons, and passed that House in the early part of 1805; but the war had now begun again; a Bill had been passed to put off cash payments till six months after the end of that war; the paper had come tumbling out again; and, before the beginning of the harvest of that year the quartern loaf had risen to a shilling, and before the month of December it had risen to sixteen-pence, up to which mark it kept upon an average until the passing of Peel’s Bill.

113. Now, here was sudden relief, indeed! The “alarm” was “allayed” here presently. The “desponding predictions” were soon “dispelled;” but how were they “dispelled?” By the tumbling out of the paper-money; by a new series of rise in prices, and by a new train of robberies committed upon the labouring classes. This was the way in which the “desponding predictions” were “dispelled;” and, if the Committee had recommended a repeal of Peel’s Bill, and a consequent pushing out of the paper-money again, then, indeed, the case of 1804 would have been a case in point, and the landlords might have derived something like comfort from the experience of that period. But, to refer us to the experience of 1804, and, at the same time, to tell us that the means then made use of to remove the distress are never to be made use of again: to tell the landlords that they made similar complaints in 1804; to tell them that the subject of those complaints was of short duration; to leave them to recollect that the distress was then removed by an Act which put cash payments off to a long and indefinite period; Edition: current; Page: [171] and to tell them (as the Committee do in another part of their Report) that cash payments shall now take place; this is, surely, a most singular way of going to work, to “allay” the “alarm” and “dispel the desponding predictions!”

114. As to the other period, the experience relative to which, is to cheer the hearts of the landlords, I mean the period of 1814; how, in all the world, could the Committee take it into their heads, that the distress of that period was either more or less than a beginning of the present distress? And how could they imagine that there was any other cause at work, than that very cause, which, though in a different degree, is at work at this hour?

115. Is it not notorious, that it was, not the peace, as fools imagined it to be, that made what was called the plenty of 1814; but, that preparation for cash payments which was the consequence of peace? As the law stood, previous to the peace, the Bank was to pay in cash, at six months after the definitive treaty. Before the hour came, a Bill was passed that put off the cash payments for another year. Before that year expired, another Bill was passed to put off the cash payments for two years longer; and thus the thing went on; but, at every renewal there were solemn protestations; and, the Bank was always compelled to be cautious in issuing the paper.

116. In 1814 the pinch began; and it only began. The landlords, as usual, began to cry out for a Corn Bill, the moment that prices began to fall. They would not look at the Bank. They would not look at the real cause. They did not want prices to be low. They had felt the sweets of high prices. They saw the labourers perishing. They knew well enough the cause. But then they, as now, sought for no remedy, other than that of some law that would compel the people to purchase food at high price. Not a word did they say about National Debt; about taxes; about depreciation of money; about the robbery of the labourer. They had found their rents rise three, four, five and six fold; and, therefore, all they wanted was high price; they, though in opposition to the Ministry, as to other matters, cordially supported them here, and even pushed them on to action; and Sir Francis Burdett, “Westminster’s pride,” himself, in the teeth of the petition of his own constituents, setting both their instructions and their prayers at nought, declined to oppose this Bill, and has since made a merit of his conduct in this respect, in pleading for an acquital on a charge of libel, to a jury of landlords and farmers at Leicester; nay, he, on that occasion insinuated a charge of deluding the people, against those who had laboured in opposition to that Bill.

117. The landlords had tasted the sweets of high prices; and they wanted something to keep those prices high. The Corn Bill, however, had no such effect. The prices declined; for the Bank, always in a state of uncertainty, was compelled to draw in her paper. In 1817 the landlords got a short relief; and how? Why, by the Government borrowing many millions from the Bank, and thus increasing the circulation. What was the consequence of this? Why, the few millions of gold that the Bank had put out, instantly took their departure from the country!* Edition: current; Page: [172] Are not these facts notorious? Is it not notorious, that, the moment the gold began to disappear, that moment the farmers and landlords began to flourish? And is it not also notorious, that this flourishing continued until the Government began to entertain the design of passing Peel’s Bill?

118. As soon as that design was formed, the Bank began to contract its issues at a great rate, of which the landlords very soon tasted the sorrowful effects. Those effects increased upon them continually; and, therefore, they have now again applied for their old remedy, a Corn Bill, not having, in any one of the petitions, I believe, said a word about either the taxes or the Debt. But, if the petitions were silent upon this subject, their tongues have not been silent; and, therefore, it is, that the Committee have taken such infinite pains to quiet their alarms: “to allay the alarm and to dispel some of the desponding predictions.”

119. What, then, has the Committee done? It has referred to two specific instances of “past experience:” it has shown that complaints like those of the present day were made in 1804 and in 1814. It has shown, that the low prices of those days were followed soon after by high prices; but it has omitted to state that, in neither of those cases was a return to cash payments certain; and it has also omitted to state, that, in both those cases, the return to high prices was accompanied with a great increase of the circulating medium.

120. With this before our eyes; with this clear view of the matter; these evident causes, and these necessary effects, staring us in the face, what ineffable nonsense do not the following observations of the Committee appear! “The reflections which such a retrospect is calculated to excite may lead the occupiers of the soil, as it has led your Committee, to infer, that in agriculture, as in all other pursuits in which capital and industry can be embarked, there have been, and will be, periods of reaction; that such reaction is the more to be expected, in proportion to the long-continued prosperity of the pursuit and to the degree of previous excitement and exertion which that prosperity had called forth. They must add, as a further inference from the experience of former periods, to which the present crisis bears no distant resemblance, that there is a natural tendency in the distribution of capital and labour to remedy the disorders which may casually arise in society from such temporary derangements, and (without at all meaning to deny that it is the duty of the Legislature to do every thing in its power to shorten the duration, and to palliate the evils of the crisis) that it often happens that these disorders are prolonged, if not aggravated, by too much interference and regulation.

121. We have just seen what the “retrospect” is. These gentlemen talk about “periods of reaction.” What do they mean by this newfangled word, as applied to political matters? A curious thing, indeed, that reaction, that is to say, distress, is naturally to be expected to follow prosperity; and that it is “the more to be expected in proportion to the long-continued prosperity of the pursuit;” which is, bad grammar in the first place, and in the next, most ridiculous philosophy. A pretty thing, indeed, to tell us that a man cannot be prosperous in any pursuit, without being exposed to subsequent distress! If this were true, prosperity would require a remedy in like manner as the Committee say, a redundant harvest does. This is, however, nonsense too gross to pass even with landlords, to whom, besides, it is but cold comfort to know that their present distress is the cause of foregone enjoyment.

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122. As to the latter part of the observations in this paragraph, namely; that the disorders of this sort tend to remedy themselves: and are often prolonged by too much interference and regulation: If the Committee mean, that prices, whether very high or very low, arising from natural causes, tend to remedy the little disorders that may arise out of them, I perfectly agree with the Committee. I perfectly agree that disorders of this sort are often prolonged, if not aggravated, by too much interference and regulation. And well I may agree with the Committee in this; for, at all the Bills passed by the collective wisdom, for the last twenty years; corn bills, import bills, export bills, bounty bills, brown-bread bills, bolting-cloth bills, potatoe bills, herring-soup bills, and pilchard-stew bills, I have uniformly laughed. But with the leave of their worships, the present case, is not a case of natural causes. It is a case where the cause is that of interference itself; for, if Peel’s Bill had been in these words: Whereas, it is expedient that Farmer Grub, who rents a farm of Lord De Dunceville should pay a thousand bushels of wheat annually, instead of the five hundred bushels that he contracted for, may it please your Majesty that it be enacted, that the said Grub pay to the said De Dunceville, for this year, and for every year henceforward unto the end of his lease, the price of a thousand bushels of wheat: if the Bill had been in these very words, it could not have been a more direct act of interference between Grub and his landlord.

123. The Bill ruins Grub; and nothing can save him but a Bill, which shall, under one form or another, repeal this Bill. The Government has begun with its interference. There has been direct interference all through, from the date of the Bank Stoppage Act to the date of Peel’s Bill; and, therefore, for the Government to deprecate interference now, is being delicate and squeamish just at the wrong time. It should not have interfered at all. It should not have interfered in the first place between the Bank and its creditors, which was, perhaps, an instance of the most sturdy interference that ever was heard of in the world. It interfered with the property of the whole country. It disturbed all contracts. It caused the meaning of every contract, every settlement, every bargain, every will, to be perverted. It said to the dead father, you left your son a thousand pounds, and he shall have only seven hundred; and now it says to the dead father, you left your son an estate, subject to legacies of half the amount of it, your son shall pay the legacies and he shall have no estate. This is what the laws that you have passed say in effect; and yet when something is called for to counteract this effect, you muster-up a doctrine applicable only to a case of natural causes, and deprecate all interference and regulation!

124. So much for the assertion, that distress of this sort is nothing new in our history, and now let us proceed to the ninth proposition; namely,

IX.: That taxation does something, but not much, in creating this distress. 60, 61, 62, 63, 64, 65, 66.

125. The Committee acknowledge, what no part of the collective wisdom has ever before acknowledged: namely, that taxes tend to diminish the enjoyments of the people. But here is a curious observation brought in; namely, that, during the American war, prices were lower than during peace; and that at the same time taxation was very heavy, and was accompanied with an annual diminution of revenue. The Committee Edition: current; Page: [174] further observe, that during the last war, the national capital must have been greatly increased.

126. One can hardly make out the real purpose for which these observations are introduced, unless it be that of communicating comfort to the landlords, from the reflection that they survived the effects of the American war; and that of the assumed fact, that, if we have a great deal more to pay now, than we had after the American war, we have a monstrous deal more to pay with; so that, after all, our taxes are not heavier now than they were after the American War; and that, therefore, the landlords ought not to be so much alarmed.

127. The Committee confound things in a very strange manner; or, they would perceive, even from their own showing, the wide difference in the two cases. They would perceive, that during the American war, farm produce was lower priced than it was after the war; whereas, in the present case, it is upon an average, taking cattle, corn, timber, underwood and all together, at a price far below one-half the average price of the war. The Committee would perceive, if they were but to open their eyes, that the stagnation of improvements, as they call it, which took place during the American war, was the natural effect of withdrawing, by the means of taxes, the profits from agriculture and trade; and they would further perceive, that, in proportion as such withdrawing was diminished, improvements would recommence; as they notoriously did.

128. If the Committee’s eyes had once been open, for only a few minutes, they never would have talked of the increase of capital, during the last war; if by capital they mean things of value. If, indeed, they mean an increase of bank-notes, they are as right as Monsieur De Snip was, the other day, who said that we had added, during the war, six hundred millions to our capital; thereby meaning our debt. In any other way than this, an addition during the war was impossible. Granted that fine houses, fine bridges, fine streets, fine rows of houses have been raised; but have these been created by bank-notes? O! no! they have been created by those unjust deductions from labour, of which deductions the bank-notes have been the cause. This infernal system of paper-money has demolished two or three hundred thousand farm-houses, and annihilated their furniture and the wearing apparel of their inhabitants. It has made so many holes and dens of misery of four millions of labourers’ dwellings. Regent-street, though a tenth part finished, and though manifestly destined to be, like Waterloo-bridge, a monument of the fooleries of this at once wicked and despicable system; this street alone has pillaged many a hamlet and village. Call you this making an addition to our capital? Capital means money. It means gold, or things that can be exchanged for gold, and readily exchanged for gold, too; and, how then, can there, taking the nation as a whole, have been an increase of these proceeding from bank-notes?

129. This word capital is made use of, it appears to me, when men do not know what they mean. In the foregoing observations relative to the American war, the Committee say that a part of the taxes of those times “must have been paid out of the capital and not out of the income of the nation.” Now what in God’s name does this mean? Let us try it by the test of plain words. Taxes are the things to be paid. Very well. These must be paid in money. Very well so far. This money then, the Committee say, did not come out of the income of the people. Watch me here, reader—did not come out of the people’s income; that is to say, Edition: current; Page: [175] out of their rents; out of the profits of their trade and business; out of the produce of their trade and business; out of their wages, daily, weekly, monthly, or yearly; out of any earnings whatsoever; out of the fruit of any sort of labour or skill; out of none of these did the money come to pay the taxes with! O! Good, good. But what did it come out of, then? It was money, mind you; and the money must have come from somewhere. “Why,” say the Committee, “have we not told you that it came out of the capital of the people?” And what is the capital, then; why, it must be hoards that the people had! Nothing short of this: nothing else will answer your purpose; for, if you mean that the people had to sell part of their property, let me ask you where they were to find a customer? Let me ask you where a whole people were to find a customer. Some might sell their property to pay their taxes; but then there must be others to buy it with their incomes; so that, at last, the taxes came as all taxes must, out of rents and out of labour; unless we go upon the monstrous supposition that every man according to his means has a hoard; and, that, at the mere invitation of the Government, without any possible compulsion, he will liberally put his hands into that hoard.

130. If, then, this notion of the Committee be nothing short of most astounding nonsense; if it be utterly impossible that taxes can be paid out of anything but the rents and the labour of a country; how false is the notion, that, by the terrible humbug of paper-money, the people’s means of paying taxes have been increased? There has, in fact, been no such increase of means. There has been an increase of splendour and an increase of luxury on the one hand, and an increase of beggary and misery on the other. The thousands have been glittering in gold; and the millions have been shivering in rags.

131. So much for this word capital, which, as I said before, is a word made use of by those that have no definite idea of their own meaning. The operation of the paper system was to draw away the wages of the labouring classes, and to place them in great masses in the hands of bankers, attorneys, Jews, jobbers, contractors, commissaries, nabobs, pensioners, commissioners, and all that host of creatures which was created by paper-money, war and corruption. The landlord profited, the parson profited, the big farmer profited; for they also kept drawing from the wages of labour a sufficiency to compensate them for the depreciation in the value of money, and they continually drew something more than what was sufficient for this purpose. Struck with horror at the idea of never seeing specie again; petrified with affright at the vision of everlasting compulsory peace; their hair standing on end, their mouths gaping open, and their eyes ready to start out of their head upon being awakened from their dream of security, and told that they might at any moment be deprived of the means of keeping a bayonet in pay: thus scared out of their wits, the Bouroughmen cried, Give us gold!

132. It was decreed that they should have gold; but they did not ask for low prices; they did not ask for a cessation of the profits which they derived from a deduction from labour; they did not ask to have a million of money less brought them home from the sheep-fairs, alone, than they were accustomed to have brought them home. They were amused with those “oracular belchings” which told them they would lose only four and a half per cent. This they could endure: this, liberal and public-spirited souls, they would gladly sacrifice for the honour of Old England, Edition: current; Page: [176] little dreaming, that half rents and double mortgages would be the inevitable effects of the measure. And now, for their consolation upon this hideous discovery, the Committee reminds them that they survived the American war, and that, the “capital” of the nation is now prodigiously increased. They do not positively say with Monsieur De Snip, that it is increased in the amount of six hundred millions of pounds sterling; but that it is increased in an extraordinary degree.

133. Having mentioned Monsieur De Snip, it occurs to me to mention, that I hear, that he has prepared his pedigree against the time that he is to become a lord. I hear, that he means to say, that his family “came in with the Conqueror;” and that his ancestors cut a grand figure “at the battle of Hastings.” He means, I understand, to hoist the escalop, the griffin, and the bare and bloody arm, and to sink for ever the needle, the cabbage, the goose and the louse; and, as to contract, he intends to have the word expunged from the dictionary, and to have “capital” inserted in its stead, with a quoted illustration after the man-of old Dame-Devil, thus: “Capital.—Money taken away from the labouring classes, and, being given to army tailors, and such like, enables them to keep fox-hounds, and to trace their descent from the Normans.”

Leaving Monsieur De Snip to go on with his pedigree, let me for a moment, before I conclude this Letter, return to the Committee, for the purpose of again making them my sincere and humble acknowledgments for having confessed that taxes are an evil; that they do deduct from the comforts of a people; that they do retard improvement; that they are burdensome; and that their weight is a thing to be lamented. I am sincerely grateful to them for confessing that this is the nature of taxes; because it contradicts the assertion of the hole-digger, made in 1819, that, if all the taxes were taken off, the labouring classes would not be in the smallest degree the better for it; and that I was a deluding and seditious rascal for telling them what they suffered from the taxes. This confession of the Committee, must, however, give pain to that famous political economist, Mr. Judge Bayley, who, in his “charge” to the Grand Jury of York, in 1819, assured them that national debts and taxes were a blessing; and no one thought to ask him, whether it was a blessing to take from a labouring man twenty shillings a year in tax on his salt, when, without this, he would have twenty shillings more to lay out in bread. Taxes are, indeed, a blessing to the Judges, as things now stand; for, since 1797, their salaries have been doubled, and wages and provisions, are as low-priced as they were in 1797; aye, and as to provisions, clothing, and materials for building, lower priced. Taxes, to persons thus situated, are great blessings; but, far otherwise with those who have to pay them.

135. In concluding the present Letter, leaving the aforementioned comfortings of the Committee, together with my commentary, to produce their natural effect on all but addled brains, let me just observe, that, if the landlords be not really born-idiots, they will prate no more about Corn Bills, but will set on upon the taxes, and take them away. The malt, salt, and leather taxes, ought to be taken off directly. This would produce retrenchment in a twinkling, without any addresses to the King, which is a poor way of going to work. However, I beg leave to be understood as expecting no such thing as this. My opinion is that we shall have a good deal of talk, and some stir; but, that, the landlords and Edition: current; Page: [177] parsons are so much afraid of the Radicals, that, rather than make an opening for them, they will go on paying double and treble interest for the Debt. Let them: they will only secure their own ruin; and will not keep off the Radicals after all, who will have a great deal less trouble in grappling with the Jews.

136. In my next Letter I come to the assertion, that the interest of the Debt ought not to be reduced. This is a grand point. It is, indeed, the question; and I shall endeavour to settle it in the minds of my readers.



William Cobbett
Cobbett, William
October 16, 1821



137. We now come to a great point in our subject; namely, the opinion, stated by the Committee, as to the interest of the Government’s debt. But, before I proceed on this point, I beg leave to look back for a moment, to Letter III., paragraphs 63 to 69. I there noticed the statement of the Committee, that the revenue and consumption had increased. I, for argument’s sake, admitted the fact, and I clearly showed that it was a fact to afford no sort of comfort to the landlords. Now; that is to say, within this week, an account of the Quarter’s Revenue has been published in the newspapers, trumpeted forth by the Courier and criticised in the Morning Chronicle by (as it is said) the profound and vigilant John de Snip, of Cabbage-Hall, in the county of Surrey, Esquire, who (without meaning to pun) I may say watches Mr. Vansittart with the sharpness of a needle.

138. According to this account, the revenue has increased, during the quarter of a year which ended on the 5th of October; and it is stated that the increase is principally in the produce of the Malt-tax. Now, in the first place, I never believe any of these statements. They come forth under no responsible authority. If false (as I believe they always are) there is no detection possible. In short they are statements such as the parties putting them forth choose to put forth; and who is to believe, that they will not put forth that, be it what it may, that is best calculated to answer their own purpose, be that purpose what it may. How false these statements are, upon an average, must be evident to every person of the smallest reflection. For more than thirty years past, there has, according to these accounts, been a constant increase going on. “The last was good, but this is better.” And thus has this nation been cajoled along from year to year, by the instrumentality of the newspapers, who choose to regard these statements as true, and to dispute about them Edition: current; Page: [178] accordingly. At the end of every quarter of a year, they amuse their dupes, for a week, with this kind of sham disputation; and thus, for these seven days, keep their minds at the distance of leagues from every thing like fact and common-sense.

139. However, upon the supposition, that there really is an increase in the amount of the Malt-taxes received during the last quarter of a year, the fact only confirms my doctrine, laid down in Letter III., paragraphs from 63 to 69. And, indeed, nothing can well be more plain, than that low prices of food and raiment tend to increase the amount of consumption. For, though the tax on the bushel, the gallon, the yard and pound remain the same, the article still costs less, and costs less, too, in proportion to the amount of wages.

140. I must here take another look back. In Letter III., paragraph 71 and onwards, I discussed that proposition of the Committee, which attempted to lessen the amount of the distress. I have all along contended, that the word distress does not apply to the state of the far greater part of the persons employed in agriculture. How can it? In the Western counties people buy mutton at 31/2d. a pound. I hear from Hampshire, that bacon is bought for 4d. a pound, where I never knew it bought for less than 10d. or 1s. of the same quality. Wages never can come down in this proportion; and the fact is, they do not. Therefore, it is not distress with this class, but an approach towards the absence of distress. But, it is far otherwise with farmers bound by lease and with landlords. From every part of the country I hear that the main part of the farmers are ruined. I know they are a race that cry out soon enough; but, when, from the Norwich papers and Bury papers which my correspondents have been so kind as to send me, I see, that the farming stock and household goods are actually now for sale by auction (or have been within this week), upon more than FOUR HUNDRED FARMS in the counties of Norfolk and Suffolk; when I see this with my own eyes, and when I see from a catalogue of a sale that has taken place on a farm where the stock was of a description rather superior to the ordinary run even in Norfolk; when I see from this catalogue, that the milch cows sold for seven pounds on an average, and that other things sold at a proportionable price; when I see these things, I must be convinced, that a farmer, bound by a lease, must, as farmer, be ruined; and, that, whatever may be the immediate effect, the ultimate effect must be the loss of a large part of his estate, and that right speedily, to the landlord.

141. The foregoing observations form no unsuitable preface to what is to follow here, the next proposition of the Committee being in the following words:

X.: That the interest of the Debt ought not to be reduced, and that the fundholders have a right to what they get. 85, 86, 87.

142. It does not appear very evident, that the Committee had much business with this matter. The Committee was appointed to inquire into the allegations of certain petitions, and to report their observations thereon. Now (and I beg the fact to be borne in mind) in no one of these petitions was there a word said about the interest of the Debt! The Committee, therefore, would, if I had been a Member of the House, have received a rap that would have made their fingers tingle, for having thus gone out of their way to obtrude upon me their opinions relative to a matter not at all referred to their examination. They might, with full Edition: current; Page: [179] as much propriety, have reported upon the colour of my hair or that of my eyes; and, indeed, with less impropriety; because, in touching upon the question of the interest of the Debt, they were calling upon the House to sanction, by a side-wind, doctrines, which, before they were adopted, required to be discussed; and doctrines, too, of the most fearful moment.

143. However, report upon this they did; and, in the 85th, 86th and 87th paragraphs of their Report, they say what amounts to a declaration, that the interest of the Debt ought not to be reduced. SO SAY I; but, only CONDITIONALLY: that is to say, right, between the parties; right between the landlords and the fundlords demands a reduction of the interest of the Debt to a very great amount. But, then, there is the rest of the nation; there is the mass of the people, who have a demand upon the landlords; namely, to be restored to their right of choosing their representatives in Parliament, which those landlords now withhold from them. The good of the whole nation is, therefore to be taken into view. And, as I am convinced, that the people will never be permitted to have their just share of weight, in choosing Members of Parliament, if the interest of the Debt be reduced before that share be given to the people, I shall do my best to oppose such reduction, until the landlords consent to the people’s possessing that share.

144. It is not to be supposed, that I am here to enter into an argument to show, that, under a Constitution which says, that no man shall be taxed without his own consent, the people who pay a third of their earnings in taxes have a right to have a voice in choosing the men who impose the taxes and expend the amount. Nor is it to be supposed, that I am, at this time of day, and with all the present scenes before us, to set about to show by argument, that the House of Commons, as at present constituted, is not calculated for the purpose of putting an end to those difficulties and that distress, the existence of which it so loudly proclaims and the cause of which is notoriously to be found in its own acts. It is not to be expected of me, that I here enter into discussion on these points, which have been long settled in the minds of the nation at large. I assume the positions, as I have a clear right to do; on them I ground my opinion, that the interest of the Debt ought not to be reduced, until the people obtain their undoubted right of choosing those who are to lay taxes on them; and on that opinion I shall act.

145. “What,” some landlord will say, “because you are deprived of a right, would you support others in taking my estate away?” Stop! You have not fully stated the case. Your question should be this: “Will you, because I withhold your right from you, support others in reducing me to a state of impotence?” My answer is that of common sense: “To be sure I will.” If the landlord rejoin, and say: “What, then, though you allow the claim on me to be unjust, you will give your assent and support to that injustice, out of revenge against me?” No; but for my own preservation. My object is the recovery of my rights from you; if you suffer from my assent in favour of a third party who presses on you unjustly, the fault is yours, not mine. If I am wronged by a powerful neighbour, if he use his power to oppress and insult me incessantly without cause and with perfect impunity, if he make me pay to support him and to supply him with the means of keeping me in a state of degradation and of suffering; and, if, in this state of things, I see others urging on him an unjust claim that tends to enfeeble him first, and finally to remove him wholly from out of my way, is there, in morals or Edition: current; Page: [180] religion, any law that forbids me to wish success, and even to lend my aid, to those others? It is for myself, and not for them, that I act: it is justice, and not injustice, that is the object and end of my wishes and my efforts. If a robber have taken my purse; if I see him fallen upon by other robbers; shall I endeavour to rescue him that he may quietly keep my purse; or, shall I assist them in rifling him with a chance, at any rate, of obtaining my own again?

146. The case is as clear as daylight. The path for the Reformers is, therefore, plain as the King’s highway. It has in it nothing dark, devious or dirty. They must see their interest clearly; and their conduct ought to be, and I trust it will be, as fair and as open as their view. They know, that to reduce the interest of the Debt is just; and, if it be accompanied with a restoration of the people to their rights, it will be their duty to join the landlords in calling for such reduction; but, if it be not thus accompanied, it will be their duty to oppose it with all their might, and to disregard the circumstance, that, in this opposition, they may happen to give support to the Ministers; yea, even to Castlereagh and Sidmouth!

147. Now, then with this condition constantly in our minds, let us turn to the Report of the Committee, and examine a little the grounds of this opinion of theirs, that the interest of the Debt ought not to be reduced. I shall suppose, that the landlords, bled and sweated as they will have been by their old friends, the fundlords, will have come a little to their senses at last, and will have ceased to accuse of “sedition and blasphemy” every one who disapproves of the selling of seats. I shall suppose them ready to put a stop to Burke’s posthumous pensions, and that they have resolved to abolish all sinecures, all unmerited pensions and grants; that they will have no scruple to resume grants of property in numerous cases that I have in my eye; and that the church will have refunded what it has been, for a long while, annually receiving out of the loans. I shall suppose all this and a great deal more; and upon this supposition I proceed to show, that the uncalled-for opinion of the Committee, upon this subject, is erroneous.

148. The Committee say, that the departure from the ancient standard was injurious to the fundholders, and that the restoration of that standard has, in its turn, been proportionably disadvantageous to the landholders. If this were all true; and if this were all, it may well be asked what sort of government that is, which has sported thus with people’s property? It may well excite surprise, that such effects should be produced by the Acts; by the deliberate Acts, in black and white, of a Parliament that needs no reform, and that acts under a Constitution that is “the envy of surrounding nations and the admiration of the world.

149. But, this doctrine of the Committee is all a fallacy from first to last. There were some few fundholders, who were, in 1797, compelled to keep their money in the funds. All the rest could sell out at any moment that they chose. No matter, therefore, what was the state of the currency. The funds were still the best security and gave the best interest; or the holders would have removed their stock. They, in fact, gained, and did not lose, only they gained much less than they gain now.

150. It has frequently been said, and truly said, that the far greater part of the money that was borrowed was depreciated money. In answer to this, out comes Mr. Mushet with a book from the Mint, to show, that Edition: current; Page: [181] the money was not depreciated when the far greater part of the loans were made. This book is the war-horse of the fundlords. Every body of lords ought to have a body of esquires; our landlords have theirs, and, God knows, we frequently see them on benches and injury-boxes! Accordingly the fundlords have theirs too, and the author of this book, who is a clerk in the Mint, calls himself Robert Mushet, ESQUIRE. This ’Squire’s book consists almost wholly of columns of figures, marshalled in very regular order, supported with head and tale lines, and with the words “national faith,” inscribed on their banner, enough to frighten a poor rentless landlord out of his wits.

151. Nothing is so true, or so false, as figures. If true, nothing can be so perfect; if false, the falsehood is monstrous. The ’Squire’s book, though, I dare say, nice to a hair in all its hideous calculations, leads to a conclusion too monstrously false to admit of an adequate description. Yet, this being the grand battery of the Lords of ’Change Alley; yea, their very citadel; it being so well calculated to impose upon the much-talking and little-thinking multitude, such as those who rely for knowledge on the paradise of fools; this being the case, I must not let it pass from under my hand without clearly developing its utter destitution of truth.

152. The ’Squire sets out with a declaration, that his object is to show, that the fundlords have not been gainers by the changes in the value of money; and to produce in the country one heart and one mind to come to the support of the Government, who have, so honourably to themselves and so consistently with the national dignity and integrity, rejected every attempt to break faith with the national creditor! This, too, is the language of our Agricultural Committee, whose business it was to inquire into the alleged distressess of agriculture, and who conclude their Report with advising the Parliament to “manifest to the world” . . . . . . What, think you? . . . . . . Why, “the inflexible determination of this country” . . . . to do what? . . . . . . Why, “rigidly to adhere to that good faith of which the moral character of the people is the sure guardian, and which, with that character, has placed our greatness and our power upon the foundation, hitherto unshaken amidst all our viscissitudes, of public credit and national honour.

153. Was there ever such shocking bombast! And, not a word about agricultural distress! The Report seems to have wholly forgotten its own subject, as I shall the ’Squire’s book, if I do not make haste back to it. The ’Squire, by his tables of figures, makes it out, that, upon the whole, for the last twenty years, the fundlords have not gained by the changes in the value of the currency; and he asserts, indeed, that they have lost, rather than gained. Some general questions will occur to every one to put to the ’Squire upon this point; but, let us first hear his preliminary observations. He says,—

“The object of the following tables, is, to place before the reader the advantages and disadvantages which have arisen to the fundholder, from the state of the currency, since the year 1800. The utility of this inquiry, I think, cannot be questioned, from the constant attempts now made to represent the situation of the fundholder as highly advantageous, arising from the circumstance of his now receiving in a currency of standard value, the interest of the capital which he lent to Government in a currency considerably depreciated. Besides the utility of this investigation, as a matter of curiosity, it is impossible not to attach considerable importance to it, from the wish, not secret, but expressed, of a considerable party in the country, to break faith with the fundholder, and to compromise their Edition: current; Page: [182] own and their country’s honour; and, that, too, in the absence of any proof, that the fundholders, as a body, have derived any gain whatever in consequence of the depreciation which has existed upon the currency since 1800. The Government, highly to their honour, have discouraged every attempt that has been made; and I feel persuaded, that those who wish to interfere with the property of the fundholder, do so from a belief, that he is actually deriving great advantages from the increased value of our currency; though even upon this ground, I should differ in opinion from the party in question; for the fundholder certainly lent his capital to Government in periods of great exigency, and upon an express understanding that, at six months after a definitive treaty of peace, the currency was to be placed upon its ancient footing as to value. As no respectable party, however, in the State, can wish for the destruction of their country’s faith and honour, let us hope that the attempts that have been made to affect the property of the fundholder, have taken place in the absence of facts; and when his case is more fully and perfectly understood, there will then be but one mind and one spirit in the country, as to the obligation to maintain sacred those engagements, to which the Government and the country at large are parties.”

154. Were we to stop here, we might certainly be permitted to ask the ’Squire how it has happened, if the fundlords, as a body, have gained nothing; how it has happened, that they have been able to lend a sum very nearly twice as great in amount as the worth of the fee-simple of all the lands, houses, woods, and waters in the kingdom? One of my boys, about two years and a half old, when the nurse introduced him to a newborn sister, asked the old granny: “Where did un tum fom?” The nurse said, of course, “O! out of the parsley-bed.” “Aye,” said he, “but were did un tum fom?” laying a strong emphasis, and stronger and stronger every time, upon his word fom, till the granny was compelled to get out of the inquiry as well as she could. He knew well enough that the baby came out of the parsley-bed; for the nurse had told him so; but he wanted to know how the little girl got into the parsley-bed: that is to say, where she came from first of all. I am, at this moment, very much in the situation of this philosopher in petticoats, whose vehement interrogation has so often been a subject of mirth with us; and I now, with all possible earnestness, put it to granny Mushet: where did these thousand or eight hundred millions of pounds sterling come from? I know very well that they are written down in the great book, that parsley-bed of our nurse of a Government; I know, too, how they came there; I know all about loan-acts and Exchequer-bills: all about scrip and omnium, and the devil knows what besides: but, what I want to know from granny Mushet is, where the eight hundred millions of pounds sterling were first got to be lent to this unhappy nation, while, at the same time, it was paying from 60 to 80 millions of pounds in taxes annually?

155. I may ask in vain. The Botley-granny could have answered more easily than granny Mushet can. What then, should we want more than this to induce us to treat as a farce the calling of such a thing “property?” And to treat those as impudent knaves who would persuade us, that it stands upon a level with property in house and land? What was a loan? Was it the bringing of so much real money, or so much of valuable things, and delivering the same to the Government? It was no such thing. It is notorious, that the writing of a name constituted the loan, in the first instance; that, afterwards, a shuffling of paper-money took place; and, that after the bonuses and discounts and allowances of one kind and another, the thing amounted to little more than the lending of the gains arising from the various workings of the Edition: current; Page: [183] thing. What was more common than to give newspaper editors and clerks in the offices what was called a slice of a loan? And is it not on the records of Parliament, that Pitt, out of his own head, without authority of Parliament and without the assent or knowledge of his colleagues, Dundas only excepted, lent Boyd and Benfield a sum of the public money to enable them to make good an instalment upon a loan made by them to that very public! Is not this notorious; and is it not notorious, that the statute-book contains an Act to indemnify him; that is to say, to screen him from punishment for having committed this unlawful deed!

156. To treat such a thing, therefore, as something sacred; to talk of the national faith and honour holding the owners of the soil to such a thing is impudence unparalleled. Is it not notorious, that hundreds of beggars have swelled up, during the last thirty years into millioners? We used to read of the running and squeezing and suffocating and tearing of clothes off people’s backs to get a chance of lending the Government money on Exchequer-bills. Did men ever do this, or such things as this, for the purpose of really lending money? Did orange-boy ever in this world get half a million of money by any thing that was fair and honest? Can four or five thousand fellows all be getting money and living like lords by merely jobbing about upon the thing called the funds, and can this be a fair and good thing for the nation; and, can the national faith and national honour be bound to uphold such a thing?

157. It is impossible, physically impossible, that any people in this or any country, can have had eight hundred millions of their own money to lend to the nation. It has been the nation’s own money, raised in taxes and lent to itself. Give a gamester five guineas to begin with, game with him, and he will win your whole estate, then lend you money to play on, and finally get your promissory note and put you in jail for debt. This is, in substance, the sort of thing that has been going on. There are unquestionably great numbers of individuals who have actually lodged real money, or things of real value, with those that have given them, in return, some sort of document, authorizing them to receive interest of what is called the National Debt. But, however the thing may have changed hands; however the participators in it may have been multiplied; the thing itself has always remained, and always must remain, essentially the same. How often have we seen, that the scrip, as it is called, and, sometimes, the omnium, has sold for 10 or 20 in the hundred more than the loan-maker had contracted to give for it? How often have we seen the whole of it disposed of in this way before the loan-makers had paid a farthing? And whence did this arise? Why, from the mass of paper created, and the great consequent depreciation of the currency, of which for the time, at least, the scrip formed a part. Thus the Government got something, but not what it agreed to have; and, it is evident, that, in the course of four or five loans, the loan-makers, as a body, had gained enough to lend, in future, the nation its own money.

158. Besides this, how do we know how many transactions like that between Pitt and Boyd and Benfield may have taken place? Pitt lent these people 40,000l. out of the public money to enable them, as he alleged, to make good an instalment upon a loan which they had made to that public. The money was got from the elder Dundas, who was then Treasurer of the Navy, who afterwards took the name of Melville. But mind, this matter lay as snug as murder from 1796 (mark the time!) to 1805, when Lord Saint Vincent (first Lord of the Admiralty in Addington’s Edition: current; Page: [184] ministry) had been furiously attacked by Pitt and his crew, and had, with Addington and his set, been turned out of office. Addington, the gentle Sidmouth, would have put up with a good deal; but the old sailor, never forgiving to a fault, pounced upon Melville (who by the bye, became his successor at the Admiralty), which he was enabled to do with great effect, the books of Dundas, as Treasurer of the Navy, having, of course, fallen within his reach. Dundas finally escaped all punishment, except that of being put out of the Privy Council for awhile; but, the inquiry did a prodigious quantity of good. Amongst other things it brought out the loan to Boyd and Benfield; and, which was not less curious, it brought out the fact, that, when the “loyalty loan” was raised, that “glorious proof of public spirit,” as Pitt called it, Dundas lent 10,000l. of it, and that he lent it, too, kindly and generously assisted the nation with these 10,000l. out of its own money, deposited in his hands as Treasurer of the Navy!

159. Come, come, granny Mushet, we begin to get a glimpse at the probable whereabout that the eight hundred millions CAME FROM. We are here got much further back than the parsley-bed. Let it be observed, too, that Pitt was a “heaven-born” being! That he was brought up in a sort of celestial way; that a man who is now a bishop, had, as it were, the cure of his soul! If, then, a heavenly creature like this stands recorded in Act 78 of the 45th year of the reign of the late king of most virtuous memory; if he there stands recorded as indemnified; that is to say, as screened and protected, for having unlawfully lent the public money to loan-makers, without interest, while the nation was charged with interest upon this very sum, what are we to suppose has been the case with others, mere mortals, with no pretensions to heavenly origin? If Dundas could lend the nation ten thousand pounds of its own money, shall we suppose, that others, who had constantly immense sums in their hands, in the way of arrears, were not equally generous? Was this species of generosity, think you, confined to the breasts of these two individuals? O, no! granny Mushet, this excessive generosity was a general foible, be you assured; and this, and this alone, together with the bonuses, discounts, premiums, allowances, charges of management, and the rollings over of interest, account (for nothing else can account) for the nation having had lent to it a thousand millions of money, while the fee-simple of its soil is not worth half the sum.

160. Upon the face of the thing, therefore, and without any investigation of the matter, we might decide against any claim whatever of the fundlords on the landlords. If a mere common shopkeeper were to go into a court and swear, that he had lent his rich neighbour half a million of money, would not a jury decide, at once, that the demand was unjust, and ascribe it to madness? And is the demand of 800 millions of money on the part of any body, no matter who it is, to be seriously listened to and reasoned about? However, bearing in mind this real character of the thing, let us, for argument’s sake, and in order to show the shallowness and silliness of granny Mushet, suppose (and, mind, it is a mere supposition for the sake of exposure) that the thing called the national debt is a real thing, and that it arose out of money really lent to the Government. This is what no man in his senses can believe, and it is what none but a knave will pretend to believe: but, merely for the sake of argument, let us suppose it to be so.

160. Proceeding upon this supposition, there are two questions that Edition: current; Page: [185] present themselves: First, Is it, if the good of the nation require it, right to sweep away the Debt altogether; that is to say, to pay no more interest at all? Second, Is it right, under the present circumstances, to reduce the interest of the Debt?

162. As to the first of these, I have, long ago, proved the affirmative of the question. The preliminary part of Paper against Gold, which I have lately republished, contains the whole of the argument. I there prove, that it is the bounden duty of the Government to sweep the whole of the Debt away, at once, if the good of the nation require it. I prove that it is a mere matter of expediency, as much as the making of war or of peace, or as any possible condition or stipulation in a treaty with a foreign power; that there is no obligation to hold the nation to Loan-acts, any more than to Acts for the raising of taxes or for the building of barracks; and not quite so much obligation as there was to hold it to the Act of Settlement and the Act regulating the residence of the clergy.

163. If it would be right to take away the whole, it cannot be wrong to take away a part. But, now, in coming to the second question, namely, “Whether it be right, under the present circumstances, to take off part of the interest,” we agree, though in the teeth of reason and common sense, to regard the Debt as a real debt, arising from money really lent to the nation and coming out of the pockets of the fundlords.

164. The object of inquiry, in this narrowed view of the matter, is, whether the fundlords are, or are not, now receiving a larger interest than they ought to receive. Granny Mushet says they are not: I say, that, admitting them, for argument’s sake, to be real creditors, they are receiving more than three times as much as they ought to receive. I say, that the money they lent was not worth a third part as much as the money they now receive. I say, besides, that they did not lend as much even in nominal amount as they claim interest for. I say, moreover, that they have been already paid back the principal of a full third of what they regard as a debt due from the nation. And, now, we will proceed to inquire, how granny Mushet makes out his position.

165. Granny Mushet sets out thus:—“I shall now proceed to state the principle upon which the following tables are constructed.” Now mark! “To ascertain the value of the interest of funded property from 1800 to 1821, we must take it in relation to the market-price of gold; because, when the interest was paid in paper, under a price of gold, higher than the Mint-price of 3l. 17s. 101/2d., the fundholder, though nominally receiving the same number of pounds, was, in fact, receiving a less value. So that, to ascertain the actual value of the interest paid to the fundholder from 1800 to 1821, we must value it in the market-price of gold during those years, by reducing the nominal value of the 100l. to its value in bullion.”

166. Now this is the very “principle” upon which the Parliament proceeded in the passing of Peel’s Bill, which, to cite the expression of the most accomplished rogue I ever heard or read of, when detected in fabricating false accounts, said it was the principle of mistake! As granny Mushet takes the thing on both sides, the market-price of gold, during the age of depreciation, is fair enough; for, though it is no criterion at all as applied to the present state of things, and though the only true criterion is, the price of the necessaries of life, it is as broad as long as far as granny Mushet goes. The fact is, that the fundlords could not, for a long while, buy with a pound more than they can now buy for Edition: current; Page: [186] about seven or eight shillings; but, then, the pound that they lent was worth only about seven or eight shillings of the present money. While the paper was depreciated and the prices high, one was a balance against the other. And, if the account had been closed when Peel’s Bill was passed; if a new valuation of the Debt had taken place, all would have been right enough; but, then, that valuation must have been made, not on granny Mushet’s principle, but upon this principle; that the fundlord should receive, for every pound lent, a sum sufficient to purchase as much of the necessaries of life as that pound would have purchased at the time that it was lent. This was the principle that should have been adopted; and that man must be besotted or perverse indeed who can contend for any other principle.

167. To refer to the market-price of gold as a standard, is exactly what the Oracle did; the oracle of the “collective wisdom.” Gold, says he, being the standard of all things in the world; every price depending on that of gold; and gold now being within four and a half per cent. of its lowest possible price, the prices of other things cannot, by this measure, be brought down more than four and a half per cent.; and, of course, a Southdown lamb, at Norwich Fair, which now sells for about 30s., will lose in price only 1s. 53/4d. and a fraction; and will, of course, sell, in future, for 28s. 61/4d. This was a mere trifle. The farmers could stand this: and the landords, always as wise as their tenants, chuckled and hiccupped with delight at seeing gold about to return, the puff-out rendered impossible, and the Radicals put down for ever. Nought but glee filled their “manly” hearts. They embraced the Oracle with the fervency of pardoned penitents, and bedewed his beard with the overflowings of their gratitude. O! how they licked him and slobbered him over, and how my Lord Folkestone called him his honourable friend!

168. This was the ground upon which Peel’s Bill was passed! This queer, this ’Change-alley, this jew-like notion of the price of gold being the standard. However, this was no new notion: it had been harped on by Oracle Horner and his Bullion Committee; by Lord King; and by a great many others, long before the Oracle by excellence spouted it forth. When I read this, in Long Island, how delighted I was! I not only saw that the Borough lads were caught; but I saw how they had been caught: and, we always lose half the pleasure belonging to such a thing, unless we know how it has taken place. When the farmer’s men bring him home a fox that has long escaped his toils, he cannot stir from them till he has learnt from their lips, while they drink his ale, where they found him, how they outwitted him, and where and how they got the old rascal at last; who shot him, what dog first laid hold of him, how he fought, and how he died. Thus it was with me, when I got the Morning Chronicle containing the “debates,” as they are drolly enough called, on Peel’s Bill. And, when I saw how the Power-of-Imprisonment Bill gentlemen had been noodled along so neatly by such a man as the Oracle, I was ready to go crazy with joy. Some friends have told me, that they thought me in jest, when I said, that I sent for my son to New York to come up twenty miles to help me laugh; but, I do assure them, it is perfectly true. He had a right to his share of the sport. I skimmed the papers over; and the moment I saw the grave assertion, that the fall in prices and rents would be only in proportion to the fall in the price of gold, I bursted out a laughing, threw down the paper, packed off my man and horses for my son, before I set to for a regular reading and laughing.

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169. That I did not laugh without reason the event has fully proved. I might have doubted as to the ultimate views of the “collective wisdom;” I might have supposed, that they intended to reduce the interest of the Debt; but, when I saw that they relied upon prices and rents falling only in proportion to the fall in the price of gold, I was sure that their difficulties would be as great even as they have proved to be. If there be any persons to blame me for my joy and my laughter, let them tell me their names, and I will laugh at them.

170. To suppose, that the market-price of gold is, or can be, any standard at all, in a case like this, is monstrous. For, if such were the case, prices would be always the same in times of a settled currency. Gold is an article bought and sold like other things; and, of course, must, in many cases, be affected by causes which have no influence at all as to rents and prices of things in general. Besides, the notorious fact; the fact known to every man above the mere labourer; that the actual price of gold for any series of years, shows this in figures. The “collective wisdom” had before it at least a score of official documents to show, that gold had been cheapest when corn and meat were dearest; and that gold had been dearest, when corn and meat were cheapest. It had documents to show, that in the terribly dear year of 1800, the price of gold was at 77s. 101/2d. the ounce; and that, in the cheap years of 1802, 1803 and 1804, gold was at 82s. the ounce. It had documents to show, that, in the dear year, 1812, gold was at 95s. 6d. an ounce; and that, in the cheap year of 1814, it was at 104s. the ounce. How, then, could the “collective wisdom” imagine, how could it dream, that the price of gold was the standard of rents and prices generally; and how could it hail as an oracle the man that called upon it to pass, upon such a notion, an Act affecting all the contracts and all the property in the kingdom? But, when I reflect, why should I ask such a question!

171. Granny Mushet’s principle is wholly erroneous, all his reasoning is erroneous, and his columns of figures not worth a straw. Besides, he brings the amount down only to the end of 1820. Up to that time, he says, the fundlords have lost as much by high prices as they have gained by low prices; or, in other words, they have only recovered by the rise in the value of money that which they had lost by the fall in the value of money. Thus, then, according to his calculations, the landlords and the fundlords were even at the end of last year. Well, now, suppose this to be the case, are the fundlords now to go on for ever receiving two or three for one? And, is it a breach of faith to reduce their interest so as to give them no more than their due? Is it a breach of faith to repeal a bill, which has, in fact, broken all contracts and all faith, or, to reduce the interest in such a way as now to put a stop to this course of injustice? Granny Mushet seems to have overlooked the circumstance, so awful to landlords, that these were going on losing, and must, unless the interest of the Debt were reduced, lose their all in the end. The granny looks only at the past; he is blind to the future; though it is in the future that the whole of the injustice to the landlord lies. This is like the “collective wisdom,” who thought, and who said, that the distress would be over when cash-payments came; not considering, that the distress would only then come to the point at which it was to remain! This was a grand mistake of the “collective,” and into a similar mistake granny Mushet has fallen.

172. The fundlords are now receiving more than three for one. Take Edition: current; Page: [188] the average of prices, during the time that the money was lent, and you will find, that, taking all the articles of farm-produce, in all parts of the country, that one pound will buy as much as three pounds bought, during the time that what is called the lending was going on. You are not to take corn and meat only, but timber, underwood, and all the numerous little things, which now fetch next to nothing. Hops do not form a very extensive article to be sure; but, a crop is absolutely an evil. It is not worth the direct tax imposed upon it; and possibly, it never may be again, until a part, at least of the tax, be taken off. And yet, while the grower actually pays to the fundlords a tax equal to the amount of his crop, the Committee encourage him to hope, that things will regulate themselves; and granny Mushet says it will be a breach of national honour to give the fundlord less than he now receives!

173. But, granny Mushet omits one very material item; no less in amount than about three hundred millions that the fundlords have already received over and above their interest! He talks about redeemed debt; but, he makes no allowance to the nation for the 300,000,000l. raised on the nation in taxes, and given to the fundlords under the pretence of “redeeming the Debt,” which pretence is, even in the “collective” itself now called a “humbug,” though it was the joint child of Pitt and Fox! This mass of taxes has been ludicrously called the sinking fund. But, in plain truth, what has it been? An enormous sum of money, raised yearly in taxes, to be carried to ’Change-alley, and there laid out in weekly sums in order to make the stock of the fundlords constantly saleable at a good price! Was ever such a thing as this heard of before in the world? So here was this silly nation borrowing with one hand, and, with the other, buying up, at the same time, its own debts! This was a humbug, indeed, if ever humbug there were; that is to say, with regard to the nation, for, with regard to the fundlords, it was a most solid advantage. It was, in fact, so much money paid to them every year over and above their interest.

174. If you have a house to sell, and I expend money to make it sell, have I not paid so much money to you, and am I not to be repaid out of the price of the house? The fundlords may say, that they did not agree to make any deductions on this account. But, far be it from me to propose to go to law with them. Law is out of the question. We know very well what the loan-bills say; but we are here talking of the equity of the thing; because we know very well that the matter is to be settled by an Act of Parliament; and surely those who could pass Acts to screen the Bank from paying its creditors on demand; those who could pass an Act to set aside the most important part of the Bank Charter, that part which gave protection to its creditors; surely those who passed an Act to suspend actions commenced in the courts against the clergy, which actions were founded on the clear law of the land; surely those who could finally pass an Act to quash those actions and to take from the informer the benefit of his suit; surely, those who could pass Acts giving immense sums out of the taxes to the clergy of the church and foreign emigrant princes and clergy; surely that same body can pass an Act to deduct from the fundlords the three hundred millions that have already been paid to them under the colour of sinking fund, which is now acknowledged to have been a humbug. It would be a pretty collective wisdom, indeed, to be able to pass all the Acts that we have seen passed, and yet to be unable to pass this one Act. To say, therefore, that the fundholders Edition: current; Page: [189] have the law for them, is saying no more than that an Act has not yet been passed to reduce their interest; and that is saying but very little, indeed, when we know very well that such an Act may be passed long before next April.

175. I trust it is necessary to say no more on the equity of reducing the interest of the Debt. It is against the principles of natural justice that the labour of the child unborn shall be taxed to pay the debts of the father, or, as the thing now stands, of the great great grandfather. The scripture expressly forbids compelling the child to pay the debts of the father, and especially to make the child a bondman for those debts; and what is he but a bondman, who is compelled, for life, to labour for the creditor of his father? Talk of civil society, indeed! It would be pretty civil society that would allow of one generation making bondmen of another generation; and that, too, by the means of a claim the origin of which is as dark as any of the dealings of wizards.

176. The equity of reducing the interest of the Debt is clear; and, as to the expediency of it, who can doubt of that, that considers for a moment the unavoidable consequences of rejecting such reduction. It is manifest that a revolution is now silently going on; that the far greater part of the real property must change hands; that a new set of proprietors will arise; and that, in the meantime, innumerable families will be reduced to ruin and misery. Then, with regard to foreign nations, is it not manifest, that to talk of war; to talk of national power, while this millstone hangs about the neck of the nation, would be to give sure and certain signs of incurable insanity. The Debt says to the King of England, “Thou shalt never go to war again, as long as I am in existence!”

177. Yet, I wish to hold out no expectation that the interest will be reduced, at least during the next session of Parliament. It may, and it will, be talked of; but, there will be too many to hang on to the thing in the hope of “better times.” It is an evil day to be put off. It is an operation to be performed; and we know how fertile we are, in such cases, in excuses for postponement! I had been, for seven years, perfectly convinced that the tumour on my head must finally be cut off; but, I had put it off from year to year, from month to month, from day to day; and, at last, when the operators came, happening to say something about seeing the garden, and asking whether they should go and see it before or after the operation, I said, “before, by all means!” This is just the case with the landlords. But, undergo the operation the nation must, or, like a tumour, the thing will burst, and then the cure, if accomplished at all, will be accomplished with infinite difficulty.

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William Cobbett
Cobbett, William
23rd October, 1821



178. We are drawing towards the close of our examination. The eleventh proposition of the Committee is, as stated in Letter I., paragraph 15, in the following words:

XI.: That Peel’s Bill ought not to be repealed. 87.

179. Before I proceed with this proposition, I should state, that, since I wrote Letter V., I have, by the favour of a gentleman who has lent me the book, seen the Edinburgh Review of June last, in which Mr. Mushet’s Tables are noticed with great approbation. I observed, in my last, in paragraph 171, that Mr. Mushet has brought the account to a balance; that is to say, that he had made it out by his calculations, that, up to the end of 1820, the fundholders had neither gained nor lost by the changes in the value of money. But, I learn from this Edinburgh Review (odd as it is that one can learn anything from it) that Mr. Mushet, upon second thoughts, found he had made a mistake; and so he published a new edition, giving compound interest to the fundlords; and, by this means, made it out, that they had lost a large sum by this miserable debtor nation! But, the good of the thing is, to hear the grave remark of the feelosofers upon this point. “Thus (say they) there is a permanent annual loss to the fundholder of 72,704l.Permanent mind! He has lost the principal; and, of course, will continue to lose the interest; and, accordingly they then set down the value of 72,704l. at twenty years’ purchase, just as they would the rent of an estate! Now, if, notwithstanding all that has been said in Letter V. about the manner in which the Debt was contracted; about its very suspicious origin; about the impossibility of so much money having been really lent to the nation; about all the pretty works of Pitt and Dundas: if notwithstanding all these, we regard the Debt as a real thing; and if we believe, that, from the alteration in the value of money, the fundlords did, up to the end of 1820, lose a sum that was worth to them 72,704l. a year; if we suppose this, is that any reason for their now gaining 20,000,000l. a year? Is that any reason, I say, for their now gaining twenty millions a year, and for their continuing to gain it for ever? These twenty millions a year they now receive unjustly; for it is notorious, that they now receive, taking all commodities together, three for one. And yet the feelosofers say, that Mr. Mushet has settled the question for ever! If he have, he has settled you, my lords of the soil; for, it will require but a very few Edition: current; Page: [191] years for me to see the far greater part of you as poor as those “Radicals” whom you have hunted like wild beasts. You will find something else for your sapient heads to think about than inventing crimes like that of “radicalism.” Forty millions a year; for, mind, the sinking fund, as the humbug is called, is only so much given to the fundlords; forty millions a year, ten or fifteen of which come out of your estates, directly or indirectly, will soon eat you out; and, in the meanwhile, we shall have you gentle as doves! Not but you will spit your spite out upon us as much as you can, as an ill-tempered coward kicks a dog, when he would wish to kick his servants; but, you will not have the power; you will grow poorer and poorer every day; and, as you grow poor, you will grow feeble: and as impotence, as all philosophers agree, is the very best possible security for continence, so poverty is the best possible security for your good behaviour.

180. Leaving the Edinburgh Reviewers for the present, in order to return to them hereafter, let us now come to the Report of the Committee as to Peel’s Bill. The Committee do not name this precious monument of “wisdom collective.” They allude to it in the 87th paragraph, thus: “They” (the Committee) “look forward to this mode of easing the incumbrances of the landlord” (we shall see this mode hereafter) “with the more anxiety, as, amidst all the injury and injustice, which an unsettled currency,—an evil, they trust, never again to be incurred,—has, in succession, cast upon the different ranks of society, the share of that which has now fallen upon the landed interest, is the only one which, without inflicting greater injury and greater injustice, admits (now that we are so far advanced in the system of a restored currency) of no other relief.”

181. To understand the meaning of this sentence, even at a third reading, demands a steadyish head. But, we do learn from it that “injury and injustice have been cast upon the different ranks of society by an unsettled currency.” Now, this is something, at any rate, in the way of acknowledgment. Who is this unsettled currency? What is he? Is he a Radical! Is he one of those sedition and blasphemy fellows whose crimes called so loudly for Six-Acts? Is he a two-penny-trash man, who, as the Doctor lamented, had not written anything that could be prosecuted with a chance of success? “Why, you fule!” I hear the Edinburgh Reviewers exclaim, “It is nae mon: it is a theng!” O! thank you, feelosofers: it means the raising and lowering of the value of money! I thought it was licentiousness-of-the-press man, at the least, if not Bonaparte, or some great four-legged monster capable of eating up half a nation at a meal! Now, I understand the thing clearly enough. It is an “evil,” it has “inflicted injury and injustice on the different ranks of society,” and the Committee trust they shall never see this evil again!

182. Well, then, how did the “evil” come? Who created the “evil?” Who did the injury and the injustice to the different ranks of society? Why those who made the unsettled currency. And who made that? Why, the Parliament; that very Parliament that stands in need of no reform, and that is the envy of surrounding nations and the admiration of the world! Now, either the Parliament did this injury and injustice to the different ranks of society intentionally, or it did not: if the former, I must, with Six-Acts in my eye, leave the reader to characterize the Parliament: if the latter, every one to his taste, but, for my part, I can have no expectation that that same body who created an evil of such magnitude, Edition: current; Page: [192] who cast injury and injustice upon the different ranks of society without intending it; I have no expectation, that that same body will ever intend to do that which is calculated to get the nation out of its difficulties. They may intend to do that which they think will have this effect; but, with their present acknowledgment before me, what reason have I to suppose, that those will think correctly now, who thought so erroneously before?

183. Nay, they seem to doubt and to be half afraid of what they have already done; for, observe the words: “now that we are so far advanced in the system of a restored currency.” As much as to say, that they cannot now retract. That they cannot repeal Peel’s Bill. They are in the mess, and they must go through it! Yet, there is a misgiving here; and, when we take this in conjunction with what the “prime” minister (and a prime cock he is!) said, towards the close of the last session; namely, that the question of a paper-currency or a metallic currency was still open to Parliament; when we look at these together, we ought not to be too sure, that when Mr. Perry’s “collective wisdom” shall be again collected, there will not be some little talk about a measure, that would cause the feast of the gridiron. Indeed, I am perfectly satisfied, and so are thousands and thousands besides, that if it had not been for the picture of the gridiron at the head of my Register, last winter, the Bill would have been repealed before the month of May. But, that picture! The horrid disgrace; the triumph on the side of “sedition and blasphemy;” the never-ending jests on the “collective;” the noise all over the world, these, seen in prospective, made the “stern-path” men brace up their nerves; and they seem, though their lips quivered and their teeth chattered all the while, to have resolved to go on, neck or nothing.

184. I say too, “that Peel’s Bill ought not to be repealed.” I was half dead with fear, when it was a matter of doubt. It would have covered the whole thing with disgrace and infamy, to be sure; but, it would, perhaps, have put off the day that I wish to see come. It would have lightened up the jolterheads, and have made them prance and gallop and cut and slash more than ever. It would have given them a new lease of the privilege of being oppressive and insolent. Thank God and the King, they are now coming down to their proper place. They are growing mild and civil. One can be within a yard of them without having one’s eyes put out with the haze proceeding from their puffing insolence. I thank the King for choosing the stern-path men to push the Bill on, and I thank God for disposing the heart of the King to make such a choice. This Bill will do every thing for us in time; but, above all things, it will lay sprawling upon the earth thousands upon thousands of the most unjust, oppressive, cruel and cowardly vagabonds that ever strutted about upon the face of that earth.

185. If this Bill were to be repealed, we should soon feel the savage effects of it. The power of robbing the labouring classes would then be looked upon as made perpetual; and there would be nothing left for them but real, personal slavery, or open resistance. Fraud, now so completely held in check, would again start forth, and with more vigour and confidence than ever. As to the violation of all contracts for time, that would be nothing new. But, there would, out of the repeal of the Bill, arise so many advantages to the paper-fraud, that the country would become a scene of general gambling and swindling, a perfect “Pall-Mall Hell” of fraud and villany. The Bill has already given us gold; it has Edition: current; Page: [193] banished the one-pounders, and is banishing the five-pounders. And thus we are come to the ten-pounders. They will, I trust, disappear too; and I do not care one single straw from what cause. The rag-men in the country must follow the main spring of paper; for the Debt will continue to draw away even their paper, which they must diminish, mind, in proportion to the diminution in London paper. Gold will go creeping over the country. If the forgers cannot work upon the Mother Bank, they will fall upon her country litter; and, in this way it will be, that we shall need no corn-bills; for the corn will be as cheap in England as in any other part of the world.

186. This Bill, this blessed Bill, which was passed when the “collective” was in one of its happiest moods, will, in the end, be the salvation of England. It will “put down the mighty from their seats;” and, therefore, with the Committee, I say, that “Peel’s Bill ought not to be repealed.” In this one point, too, I have the happiness to agree with the Edinburgh Reviewers, who are stout advocates for this Bill; and well they may, for it originated with their faction! It was the relics of the Bullion-Committee. But, no matter for its origin: it will set all to rights!

187. The Edinburgh Reviewers do, indeed, seem to have some qualms; for, they do not positively say, that the Bill can be adhered to without a reduction of the interest of the Debt. They lay about them on all those who contend for the reduction; but, still, they do not assert, that it may not be found unavoidable, at last. They call those “open and bare-faced robbers” who propose to do the thing; but, still they talk, as if they thought the thing must be done in the end. They come in with a “but” after their imprecations; and with a “though we were wrong.” And, then they say, that; if the thing be done, they prefer the doing of it openly to a debasing of the coin, on the plan of the Attwoods, which is a real Birmingham plan, a clipping and sweating plan; yet this was, too, the plan of the “Liverpool merchants,” who petitioned last winter. Yes, I do not like the clipping plan; for that would repeal Peel’s Bill, which I regard as the sure means of our regeneration.

188. These Reviewers say, that they would prefer Mr. Ricardo’s plan of dividing the lands, to a reduction of the interest of the Debt. Why, so should I; for, this would be a proper punishment of the landlords for their hypocritical outcry against the poor Spenceans. What the feelosofers say upon this subject is really curious; and, as a fine specimen of grave nonsense, I will insert it: “A measure of this bold and decided character ought not to be adopted, except as a dernier resort, and after all other less hazardous and more practicable means of relieving the national embarrassments have been tried. But, if our choice lay only between public bankruptcy and the transfer of 20 or 25 per cent. of the capital of the country to the fundholders, we could not, unless we had determined to trample on public faith, and to commit an act of gross and shameful injustice in the face of the world, hesitate about making such a transfer. That it would be attended with considerable temporary hardship and inconvenience, cannot be denied; but, at the same time, it would preserve the national honour and character unimpaired, while, by relieving the country from above thirty millions a year of taxes, it would go far to render us the most flourishing and happy people in the world.

189. Well! Thank God there are not many such fools as these! What will a fifth or a fourth part of less than thirty millions a year, pay off a Edition: current; Page: [194] debt, the interest of which is more than thirty millions? Do these men not know, that the rental of the kingdom is not thirty millions a year? And do they not know, that, if a measure like that of Ricardo were attempted to be put in execution, the whole lands would not fetch a quarter part of the principal of the Debt? Or do they mean all capital; that is to say all property? They must: and then, what a muster of chairs and tables and frying-pans and porridge-pots and old shoes, to be exchanged for stock! It is a real madness. Let them attempt this, and I am satisfied.

190. These reviewers again resort to “retrenchment.” Very good; but will they agree to the lopping-off of Burke’s posthumous pensions of 2500l. a year? Will they agree to lop off the pensions and sinecures granted by the Whigs? Will they agree to the taking off of the pensions which the Whigs granted to foreigners in direct violation of the Act of Settlement? O, no! come to the pinch, and they will agree to none of these; nor to the rescinding of any of the grants, which they, in the language of Fox, call “freeholds,” &c.! Foh! for such Whigs! They mean by “retrenchment,” the taking of money from others to give to themselves. And, when these Edinburgh reviewers met to petition the King to turn out his Ministers, they, with the most bewitching simplicity and modesty declared, that they would never take any office that they were unqualified to fill; and, I’ll engage that the King has no office in his gift, no, not even his own, that they do not think themselves better qualified to fill than any other persons in the world.

191. But, why this vague talk about “retrenchment?” Why do they not tell us in what? There are the salaries of the judges. These have been doubled since 1799. The last addition was, too, made upon the motion of Saint Horner, one of these very reviewers. Do they propose to reduce these salaries? Ah! they know better! They are a group of lawyers; and, it was so decent, so independent, so impartial in Lawyer Horner, though in “opposition,” to propose an addition to the salaries of the “venerable persons,” before whom he had to plead and to obtain decisions for his clients as often as he could! Foh! for such “opposition.” No wonder the Whigs regard Horner as a Saint. No wonder that both sides of the “collective” chant his praises à pleine tête, or, as we of the vulgar call it, open-mouthed! These are the things that have disgusted the people, and made them sick of parties.

192. What is the “retrenchment,” then, that these men are everlastingly harping about? Do they not know, that patronage is the oil of the wheels of the system? Do they not know, that, if it were not for that, there would be no obstacle to reform? Do they not know, that the system could not stand a day, or, rather, could not move another inch, without this oil? Where is their sincerity, then, in calling for “retrenchment,” when they know that real retrenchment, that the putting of an end to unnecessary expenses must put an end to the system, which they labour with all their might to uphold?

193. I shall conclude this letter with an extract from the Norfolk Chronicle and Norwich Gazette, not, indeed, immediately relating to Peel’s Bill, but not foreign to the matters of the Report, it being one of those humbugs by a succession of which, regularly served out at stated periods, this nation has been deluded and noodled along for the last thirty years; till, in the end, we find a Committee of the “Collective” itself proclaiming, that it is in a state of embarrassment and distress. Edition: current; Page: [195] The following is the article I allude to; and, if anything more gross was ever attempted to be palmed upon the Peruvians by the Padres whose object was to filch their gold and debauch their wives and daughters, the Padres must have been still greater impostors than they have been represented:—

British Empire.—The population of Great Britain at the census in 1811, was 11,800,000, exclusive of the army and navy, then about 50,000. From the returns, so far as published under the present census, it appears the increase is about 15 per cent. This will make the population of Great Britain at present to be 14,000,000 of souls. Ireland contains about 6,500,000 people, making the population of the British dominions in Europe 20,500,000. The population of our North American Possessions cannot be less than 1,500,000; the population of the West India Colonies, 800,000; Africa, about 130,000; in the Mediterranean, 150,000; colonies and dependencies in Asia, 2,040,000; and our other extensive territories in the East Indies, perhaps 70,000,000 of souls. The whole population of the British Empire, will, at that rate, contain 95,220,000 of souls. The Russian, the next highest in the scale of civilized nations, contains 50,000,000; France, 30,000,000; and Austria an equal number. The Roman Empire, in all its glory, contained 120,000,000, one-half of whom were slaves. When we compare its situation with that of the British Empire, in power, wealth, resources, and industry, in the arts, sciences, commerce, and agriculture, the preponderance of the latter in the scale of nations and empires is great and most remarkable. The tonnage employed in the merchant service is about 2,640,000 tons, for Great Britain: the exports 51,000,000 (including 11,000,000 foreign and colonial); the imports 36,000,000. The navy, during the last war, consisted of 1000 ships of war; the seamen at present in the merchant service are about 174,000; the net revenue of the state 57,000,000l. The capital of the empire contains 1,200,000 persons, the same number which Rome contained in the days of her greatest strength. The value of fixed or landed property in Great Britain, as calculated by Mr. Pitt, in 1797, was 1,600,000,000l., and it may now be fairly taken at 2,000,000,000l. The cotton manufactures of the country are immense, and reach in the exports to 20,000,000l. or one-half of the whole. In short, taking everything into consideration, the British empire, in power and strength, may be stated as the greatest that ever existed on earth, as it far surpasses them in knowledge, moral character, and worth. On her dominions the sun never sets; before his evening rays leave the spires of Quebec, his morning beams have shone three hours in Port Jackson, and while sinking from the waters of Lake Superior, his eye opens upon the mouth of the Ganges.”

194. Well, then, how came two of this mighty empire’s fleets to be beaten and captured by two Yankee fleets of inferior force? How came her fleets and armies to be driven from America in utter disgrace? But, if such be her resources, why talk of the paltry expense of her Sovereign’s Coronation? Why talk of “retrenchment?” And, above all things, why talk of her difficulties and distress?

195. The hired fellows who write these things are no fools. They know how to turn the vanity of the stupid to account. They know, that the most sordid of wretches, who have no feeling for their poorer neighbours, and who never even thought of a public-spirited act, are still to be tickled by statements like this; and that the conclusion they will draw, is, “What a wise and good government we must have to have gained us all this power and all these riches!” Even the half-broken farmer or tradesman conceits, for a moment, that he has a part in these immense riches; and is, perhaps, to be awakened from his dream only by a tap on the shoulder by the hand of the bailiff.

196. Only think of reckoning the land at a fourth more than the worth of 1797, when it is notoriously not worth in nominal amount so much as it was then! And only think of omitting to state, that there is a mortgage on this for more than it is worth according to the present rental! Edition: current; Page: [196] Only think of saying that the land alone is now worth twenty hundred millions, when, according to the Property-tax returns, it never, at the highest times and in the most base paper, was worth more than about twelve hundred millions, and cannot now be worth more than six or seven hundred millions, though charged with a mortgage of nearer ten hundred than eight hundred millions! Only think of reckoning 70 millions of people in India as forming part of our strength, when we are drained of the fruit of our labour to carry on wars to enable a company of merchants and their underlings to make a part of these people work to get them money!

197. But, if we be this mighty empire, how came we to be so cursedly afraid of the French as to stop cash payments at the Bank upon the alarm excited by a few old women, in Wales, having their cloaks mistaken for French soldiers’ dresses? Look at “Paper against Gold” and see the fright the “mighty empire” was in at that time! If we be this “mighty,” this Mammoth of an “Empire,” how came we to be so shamefully in fright as to send for a parcel of German soldiers to defend us against the French, and to give the German officers the command of whole districts in England! Poh! ye impostors! None of your drams to drown our senses and our sorrows!

198. However, my lords of the soil, be you assured, that this is amongst the devices to gild the pill that you have to swallow. It is to dazzle your poor brains, and to make you believe, that it is impossible that you should be ruined, belonging, as you have the honour to belong, “to the greatest empire on the earth.” Nevertheless, suck down the dram; gulp it all to the very dregs: swallow “Lake Superior and the Ganges:” and then awake, and find the Jews in possession of your estates: just as the cully who has fallen asleep in the elysium of a brothel, awakes stripped to the skin and bitten with fleas. . . . . . . I am, my lords of the soil, with the most profound respect,

Your most obedient and most humble servant,


William Cobbett
Cobbett, William
October 31, 1821
Newbury, Berks



199. We now come to the main thing, the 12th proposition, or, rather, string of propositions, of the Committee; namely,

XII.: That rents will not fall so low as some expect; that prices will not fall so low as some predict; that agriculture will not decline; that our prosperity in war has added to the capital to feed agriculture with; that things will right themselves; and that the landlords will be as prosperous as before the late wars. 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 54, 58, 87.

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200. If you look at the several paragraphs of the Report pointed out by the above figures, you will find, that they contain all these assertions. The thing aimed at here, as in every other part of the Report, is, to cheer you up; to make you believe, that you will be as well off as you, or your fathers, were thirty years ago. Upon the very face of the thing this cannot be, seeing that the Debt is now four times as great as it was then, and seeing that the interest of this Debt has, in part at least, to come out of the land. It, therefore, becomes us to endeavour to discover how it is that the Committee have deceived themselves.

201. The Committee, in paragraph 11 of the Report, say: “Under circumstances favourable to the prosperity of the country, which they trust may fairly be anticipated from the continuance of peace, they are disposed to HOPE, that this diminution (of rent) may not be carried even to that extent;” that is to say, to make rents as low as they were in 1793.

202. Now, in the first place, why do the Committee associate with peace that which they call prosperity? It is peace that has put an end to what is called prosperity! When the Committee, in other parts of their Report, talk of “prosperous times,” they always allude to war-times. But, here, they choose to think peace favourable to prosperity; a word, by-the-by, to which, before I go any further, I must endeavour to affix something like a meaning. When the crops of a country fail, the hoarders of corn call it prosperity; when the drought stunts the cabbages and turnips, the black grub is in a state of prosperity; when the yellow fever, or the plague, visits a city, it is a season of great prosperity with the physicians and undertakers; the rot which strews the fields, lanes, and hedge-rows with dead sheep, brings uncommon prosperity to the birds of prey; and, the paper-money, which deducts from the wages of labour, which degrades the labourer, which strips his cottage of its goods piece-meal, which makes him look like a moving bundle of rags, which reduces his carcass to a skeleton; this accursed thing, together with long war and heavy taxation, bring great prosperity to big farmers, landlords, parsons, bankers, attorneys, lawyers, placemen, pensioners, grantees, sinecure people, and to tax-eaters of all descriptions. But, by prosperity, as applied to the state of a nation, we mean the happiness of the whole, or of the great mass; and, when we are talking of happiness in a case like this, we allude, as a matter of course, to the well-being of the bodies of the people, to their having plenty to eat, drink and wear. This is national prosperity; this comes very naturally by peace; but, it does not come along with high prices and high rents. So that, as appears to me, the Committee has in view, when it talks of prosperity, prosperity like that which, as before-mentioned, occasionally attends the corn-hoarder, the undertaker, and the birds of prey. The gay looks and lively movements, glib tongues of the bankers and tax-eaters, always put me in mind of the fluttering and skimming and skipping and strutting about of the magpies round the carcass of a rotten sheep. “Mack, mak, mak! chac, chac, chac!” And then up they flutter, and down they drop again; and look as merry and as saucy as any flock of Whitehall, feeding upon “cheese-parings and candle-ends.

203. Now, in the first place, might one, with Six-Acts in one’s affrighted eye, be so bold as to ask this Committee of the “collective wisdom,” whether even a hole-digging philosopher would be able to give any good reason for “hoping” that rents will not fall to their old mark? Edition: current; Page: [198] I can discover none. I can remember when very good arable land, very capital farms, let for 10s. an acre; and I began myself moving my feet about upon land that let, and that was well let, for half-a-crown an acre. But, come: let us look at the Evidence here. “John Elman, Esquire,” and who has become an esquire since he took his farm in 1790, then gave for 440 acres of arable, 484 of meadow and pasture, and 350 of Downs (South Downs, mind), 680 pounds a-year; that is to say, 13s. 9d. an acre; and, mind, here are 484 acres of meadows and pasture! I have been, lately, expressly to see this farm; and, God bless me, what a fine farm it is! I do not grudge Mr. Elman his prosperity by any means. It gave me great pleasure to see his beautiful fields and prodigious crops of all sorts; and his beautiful cattle in the meadows. But, am I not warranted in saying, that the average price of good arable land did not, before the war, exceed 10s. an acre?

204. Now, in 1790, the nation was in a state of great real prosperity. We heard then of none of these distresses and these Corn-bills and this hole-digging work. We heard then of no emigrations; no overstock of people and overstock of food at the same time; of no persons petitioning to be transported! Of no new jails and “improved prison discipline;” of no county-hospitals for the insane. All these signs of “prosperity” have made their appearance while rents were trebling. I, therefore, can see no good reason for the Committee hoping so anxiously, that rents will not come back to the old standard.

205. Their reason, however, is this: that, if the rents do come back, it is clear as day-light, that the present landlords, if encumbered, must lose their estates right speedily; and, if not encumbered, the landlords must be brought down, and will soon be insignificant creatures compared to the fundlords, who are daily rising over them: and who, in a short time, will, and must, have a complete ascendancy.

206. So much, for the hopes of the Committee. Now for the grounds of those hopes. They say, that the rise in rent was partly owing to improvements and partly to the depreciation of money. But, this is so vital a part of our affair, that we must here take their own words from paragraphs 6 and 7 of their Report.—“Your Committee cannot allude to the state of rents in this country, without observing, that a large proportion of the increase of the rent which has taken place within the last twenty years, is owing to the capitals which have been permanently vested in improvements, partly by the owners and in part by the tenants of the soil; by the judicious application of which capitals, in many instances, great tracts of land, theretofore waste, or comparatively of little value, have been brought into productive cultivation. A further proportion of the increase of rent is, unquestionably, to be ascribed to the diminished value of our currency, during a great part of the period when this rise took place. It may be difficult, upon an average of the whole kingdom, and still more difficult in specific cases, to determine what part of the increase of rents may have arisen from this cause; but it is certainly not inconsiderable, and was, during the war, sufficient probably to compensate to the landlord the effects of the derangement of the currency. The restoration of that currency will necessarily lead, as existing engagements lapse, to new arrangements between landlord and tenant; in the adjustment of which the permanent effect of that restoration, however difficult exactly to ascertain, will have its practical effect.

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207. Now, though a plainer manner of writing would have been a great deal better, even here; yet, we may make this out. In the first place, a large part of the increase in the rent is ascribed to capitals permanently vested in improvements, and especially in new enclosures. Which means, if it mean anything, that, in consequence of the more than usual quantity of money laid out upon them during the war, the lands became more valuable than they were before the war, and especially the new enclosures. And, that, having become more valuable than before the war, they will continue (as the Committee afterwards say) to let for more, in proportion to this increased value.

208. This we can understand; but, we may ask the Committee (or, we would, if it were not for Six-Acts), some questions here that might excite a good deal of laughter. However, with the sword suspended over our heads, it becomes us to behave in a respectful manner. “Capitals permanently vested in improvements.” What a phrase to describe money laid out upon chalk and lime and marl and hedges and ditches. But, this money was laid out. Its effect, in many cases, must have been anything but permanent; for, even as to enclosures, a great part have been thrown up again. But the money was laid out in this way; but, whence came this money, and have not the lands contracted a debt to the poor equal in amount to this increased value, whatever it may continue to be?

209. In Letter IV. paragraphs 128 and 129, this silly word capital (used in this way) was fully explained. It is money; and, now, whence did this money come? To go about proving here what I have so often proved, would be irksome to myself and wearisome to my readers. I appeal to the Letter to Mr. Attwood [see page 66 of this vol.]; to my Letter to Mr. Hayes [see page 87 of this vol.]; to my Letter to Mr. Coke, [see p. 115 of this vol.]; and, upon the proof, the unquestionable proof, contained in those three Essays, I here state, as a thing taken for granted, that, whatever addition was made to the value of the land, during high prices and depreciated paper, was so much deducted from the wages of the labouring classes, in the manner that I have a hundred times shown. And, therefore, whatever portion of this increased value shall remain in the land, will and must leave a proportionate charge on the land in the shape of augmented poor-rates, compared with the poor-rates previous to the high prices and the robbing of the labourers.

210. It is not all gold that glistens. The gay farm-houses with pianos within were not improvements. The pulling down of 200,000 small farm-houses and making the inhabitants paupers was not an improvement. The gutting of the cottages of their clocks and brass-kettles and brewing-tackle was no improvement. And, I ask, where is, or where will soon be found, the landlord, not to wish that his estate and the poor-rates, independent of all other taxes, were what they were in 1790?

211. Thus, then, the land has made no permanent gain here. If prices do not come back to the standard of 1790, poor-rates will not; and, indeed, they cannot. So that rents (if gold continue to be issued) must come back to the old standard; or, at least, there is no reason that they should not, to be found in this observation of the Committee.

212. We now come to the other cause of the increase in rents; namely, the paper-money bales. And this was the cause and the only cause. And, observe, that, in speaking of the “diminished value of the currency,” the Committee seem to go by the Jew-standard; that is to say, to suppose that the value of the currency was diminished only in proportion to Edition: current; Page: [200] the difference between the price of gold and that of paper in the metal-market! It is notorious that rents were augmented threefold upon an average. But, was gold ever up to 233s. 71/2d. an ounce? Yes, the landlord, and so with the parson, found, in high prices a compensation for the “derangement,” because both of them shared in the deductions from the wages of labour, which sharing (and this is the real pinch to them) both of them have now lost.

213. With this view of the matter before us, how good it is to hear the Committee gravely observe, that “the restoration of the currency will lead to new arrangements between landlord and tenant;” and that here the restoration (that is Peel’s Bill) will have “its practical effect.” To be sure it will! The thing will “adjust” itself with all imaginable truth. No joint of a spinning-jenny ever fitted better. One farmer goes from 300l. a-year rent, and another comes at 100l. a-year. One landlord loses his estate, and another takes it. Or, the landlord sinks down into comparative insignificance, while the fundlord becomes a great and important personage. The far greater part of the lands will actually change hands and owners. But, if the lands could all remain, those valuable, those precious chattels, the SEATS, would soon change masters; and they are by far the best part of the inheritance.

214. The Committee having given us their brilliant ideas as to the causes of the rise of rents, they next proceed to treat us to those which they entertain as to the causes of the fall of rents; and to explain why it is, that they “hope” that rents will not fall so low as the standard of 1790. Why they “hope” that the “practical effect” of the new arrangements between landlord and tenant will not be so unpleasant as some anticipate. I have said, that I understand the Committee in the foregoing quotation; but, I cannot omit to notice here what I hope will be a warning to all future Report-makers. They say: “in the adjustment of which the permanent effect of that restoration, however difficult exactly to ascertain, will have its practical effect.” Here is an effect having an effect. And, then, what is it that it is difficult to ascertain? Is it the permanent effect? If it be, what is meant by ascertaining it? The Committee meant this: “In the adjustment of which that restoration will have its practical and permanent effect, however difficult it may be to ascertain the degree of that effect.” But, the Report was to be fine; and to be fine, it must be obscure.

215. Proceeding, now, to inquire into the grounds of the Committee’s lively “hope,” that rents will not fall so low as they were in 1790, we must again quote their own words. These grounds are unsolid, indeed, as we shall see in a moment, seeing that the chief of them, is an opinion, a mere opinion, that we had, when the Report was made, too little currency afloat. The reader will do well to be cool and provide himself with great steadiness of head, before he enters upon the passage that I am about to quote.

“But, your Committee cannot omit to state their opinion, that any attempt to determine that effect at this moment, would give an erroneous, and possibly an exaggerated measure of its prospective influence. Having been long below, the currency appears now to be forced above, its standard. In making this remark, it is by no means designed to offer an opinion upon the precautions which have been taken, and the preparations which have been made by the Bank, for the resumption of cash payments. But it must be obvious, that if the effect of those preparations has been to contract, in any considerable degree, the amount of coin previously circulating in Europe, by withdrawing it from that circulation Edition: current; Page: [201] into the coffers of the Bank, the value of money must have been raised generally on the Continent; and if, coincident with that operation, the separate currency of this country has also been contracted, not only in the degree necessary,—first, to restore it to its relative par value with the metallic currency of other countries, but further, to place it at a permanent premium above that metallic currency; (itself enhanced in value in proportion to the amount withdrawn by the purchases of the Bank,) it would seem to follow, that the proportion of our circulation is now somewhat below, and the value of the currency somewhat above, what would be requisite to maintain that currency upon a level with the diminished circulation, and consequently, with the increased value of money in the other countries of the world. The present price of standard silver in bank-paper, the very high course of the foreign exchanges, and the immense influx of bullion for the last nine months, without any decline in those exchanges, now higher with all countries than at any former period, all concur strongly to warrant this conclusion.”

216. This is a puzzler, faith! This is really bad writing; and, I do hope, that Mr. Huskisson did not write this part of the Report at any rate; for I have always entertained a high opinion of his clearness of head, and these sentences do not justify that opinion; for, nothing can be more true, than that he who thinks clearly will write so as to be clearly understood. There is in all the official writings of the present day, an affectation of singularity; a sort of aristocratical reserve; an apparently constantly-prevailing fear of being too familiar. And yet, when on subjects of this sort, they condescend to borrow pretty freely from the slang of ’Change Alley. This passage, however, is a perfect “nest of pill-boxes,” as Swift would call it. The third period (beginning too with the words, “it must be obvious”) is, as far as I recollect, the most obscure that I ever read; and I appeal to the reader, whether, even after a third reading, he have not found this sentence difficult to understand. When there is so much matter to lie in so small a compass, distinct propositions, though plain and homely, are always best; and to them I must resort, even now, in order to state what I look upon to be the meaning of this sentence, which is a very important one.

217. The meaning, then, I take to be this: “That, if the preparations for cash-payments at the Bank have drawn to the Bank a considerable part of the coin, before circulating on the Continent of Europe, the value of money generally must have been there raised by such withdrawing; that, if, at the same time, the paper-money of this country have also been diminished in quantity in a degree necessary to bring it up to the value of the coin of other countries, and, further, to make it higher in value than that coin, which coin had already been raised in value by the withdrawings from it by our Bank; if these premises be admitted, it follows, that the quantity of our present circulating medium is smaller, and the value of it greater, than would be requisite to keep it of equal value with the money of other countries.”

218. Such is the meaning of this famous sentence: and, now, for the opinion which it expresses. The object is, you see, to inculcate a belief, that the quantity of our circulating medium will not further diminish; and, of course, that PRICES and RENTS, will not fall lower than they are at present. Nay, that, as our money is less in quantity and greater in value than it need to be, there is reason to expect, that it will become greater in quantity and less in value than it now is; and that, therefore, prices and rents may be expected to rise something, rather than to fall lower than they now are.

219. Such is the object of the passage above quoted. But, before we agree in opinion with the Committee, and, of course, before we take their Edition: current; Page: [202]hope” into our bosoms, we must look a little at the grounds of that opinion.

220. Nothing can be more true, than that cash-payments here must raise the value of real money in every other country, and even of paper-money convertible at pleasure into real money; for it takes away a part of the money of every other country. But, I should be glad to ask Mr. Huskisson (and to get an answer) on what it is that he founds the supposition, that our paper-money is now higher in value than the coin of other countries. This strange supposition appears, from the concluding sentence of the above-quoted passage, to be founded on the market-price of silver and on the state of the exchanges. But, these depend upon circumstances not at all connected with this matter; and, it remains for the writer of the Report to show, if he can, how the market-price of silver can possibly warrant his conclusion. It was upon just such ground as this, that the House of Commons resolved, in 1811, that the paper-money had not depreciated; for, though even Rose and Vansittart allowed that the market-price of silver was then above the paper, they contended, and they proved, that, when the quantity of the paper-money had been greater, the market-price of silver had been less; and, that in some cases, the silver had fallen and the exchanges had risen with the increase in the quantity of the paper-money.

221. So that, I think, that there is nothing here to found a “hope” on. And, indeed, all is deception when you make the price of the metals a standard to judge by in a case like the present. It is a notorious fact, that almost the whole of the circulating medium of this kingdom is paper-money yet. If the Bank have issued five millions it is as much as it has. The gold is slowly creeping about the country, and, if it go a distance from London, it goes, in most cases, into hoards. It bears a premium in many places; and, in the degree that it creeps along, the country bank-paper will make way for it. This country paper; these despicable rags, which frequently rest upon no security at all, and which are beset by forgers on every side, do, however, for the present, shut out coin; make it stay in other countries; and keep up prices there, though not so high as our own. This is the thing for a statesman to look at. No matter what the market-price of silver and what the exchanges say: so long as wheat is, upon an average of years, much dearer in England than it is in France; so long are our prices and our rents above the mark to which they must finally come.

222. I wish these gentlemen would talk less about silver and more about wheat! I wish, with all my heart they would; for, their Jew-like standards puzzle me. I am told here, that our money is of a higher value than the money in France; and yet I know, that prices are much lower in France than they are here! Money is nothing but a thing to measure by; and, surely, that is the greatest measure that will hold the most wheat. If a sovereign will buy more food and raiment and lodging (of the same quality) in France, than it will buy here, is it not of higher value there than it is here? Jews may gabble, Oracles may speak, and Committees may send forth nests of pill-boxes to all eternity, about prices of silver and about exchanges; but this everlasting truth nothing can shake; namely, that in that country, where, upon an average of years, food is highest in price, in that country is money the lowest in value.

223. Let him deny this who can find assurance to do it. And yet, if Edition: current; Page: [203] this cannot be denied, what becomes of the opinion of the Committee? View the matter in this light: take produce as the standard, and you see, at once, what is wanted, and all that is wanted: you want to make produce as low in price (measured by gold) in England as it is on the Continent; and, then you want no Corn-bills nor anything of the kind. And, until you do this, you will never have one moment’s peace at home, and never can again show your nose in war.

224. The Committee seem to think that a Corn-bill of some sort is necessary to “protect” the English farmer. Strange thought! When they think at the same time, that English money is higher in value than the money on the Continent! For, if this latter were the case, it is as clear as daylight, that corn would be, on an average, higher-priced on the Continent than in England! However, it is useless to dispute with ’Change-alley. It has in it all things monstrous; all things roguish, and all things foolish.

225. I think we have now torn up this ground of “hope.” We have seen, that it is a sad delusion to suppose, that money is higher in value here than it is on the Continent, and that an augmentation may be made to our paper while we are issuing gold. But besides this, the real time of trial is not yet come; though we are now, thank God, within fourteen months of it. It is when the Bank shall be compelled to pay in gold: it is when the thing shall be done that preparations are making for; it is then that the ragmen in the country will be put to their trumps! But, in short, a diminution of the circulating medium must go on, until prices of produce in England come down to the average mark of prices on the Continent; and, if I am asked how the present taxes are, in such case, to be paid, my answer is that I leave that to the “collective wisdom” who contracted the Debt, and who best know how to settle the matter of payment.

226. Here lies all the mischief! What is more unnatural than to “hope” for high rents, and consequently high-priced food? Do we not well know that these high prices drive thousands upon thousands of people out of the country to spend their incomes with our rivals and perhaps secretly ploting enemies? The Committee, in another part of their Report, see, and notice this evil; and their words are remarkable. They speak of “the necessity of guarding, as much as possible, against creating, by artificial means, too great a difference between the cost of that subsistence here and in other countries;—not only in regard to the people themselves, but also from the risk which must be in proportion to that difference, of driving much of the capital, by which their industry and labour are supported, to seek employment in other countries. For there cannot be a doubt that this difference operates, in the same manner as taxation, to diminish the profits of capital in this country, and there can be as little doubt, that though capital may migrate, the unoccupied population will remain;—and remain to be maintained by the landed interest, upon whose resources, diminished in proportion to diminished demand, this additional burden would principally fall.”

227. Very well, then; what better reason can be given for wishing our produce to come down lower than it is; and, of course, wishing rents to be lower? And yet, as we have seen, in paragraph 201, they “hope,” that the rents will not come down! But, what do the Committee mean by “too great a difference?” Any difference is “too great” that can drive people to go and live and spend their money in Edition: current; Page: [204] France; where there are, at this time they say, more than a hundred thousand English living on incomes derived from English labour; and yet the Committee tell us, O, good God! that money is higher in value here than it is there! And they “hope” that it will be of lower value here; that rents will keep up here; that prices will get up too; and, at the same time, O, heavens! they talk of the care that ought to be taken to prevent people from being driven abroad to spend their money!

228. Well! talk of inconsistency, indeed! Here is blowing hot and cold with the same mouth over the same mess. Here is all that is inconsistent, self-contradictory, wild and childish: here is all manner of emptiness of mind conveyed in the most ridiculous pomposity of language. Such a Committee was, surely, never before heard of in this world; and, as Six-Acts do not, I believe, reach to our thoughts, I will leave the reader to form his own opinion of this select and celebrated body, not liking to put into words my thoughts upon so ticklish a subject.

229. In my next, which will be the last but one (for I must notice Mr. Webb Hall’s remarks on the Report), I shall have to explain the nature of the grand remedy, which the Committee have in store for the landlords’ distress.



William Cobbett
Cobbett, William
Nov. 5, 1821



230. You will please to bear in mind, that, in the last Letter, we had the 12th set of propositions before us, and that we showed very clearly, how the Committee had deceived themselves into an opinion, that rents and prices would not come down to, and remain at, the standard of 1790. But, we did not, in that Letter (for fear of tiring ourselves) come to the passage in which the Committee conclude their statement upon the subject. They do this in the following words: “Whatever may be the ultimate operation of the restoration of the currency upon the nominal rental of the kingdom, your Committee incline to believe that it will fall far short of some of the exaggerated predictions to which the present alarms have given rise; and they see no reason to apprehend that the diminution can ultimately exceed that proportion of the increase which, during the war, grew out of the depreciated value of the currency.”

231. Now, what does this mean? Why, that the Committee do not know how low Peel’s Bill will bring prices and rents; but that they incline to believe, that it will not bring them so low as some persons (that is William Cobbett) have predicted; and that they see no reason to fear that the fall of prices and rents can ever exceed that portion of the increase of prices and rents, which, during the war, grew out of the fall in the value of money.

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232. Well! and what then? We have seen before that the increase of prices and of rents arose wholly out of the fall in the value of money; and, what have I predicted more, than that the fall will be equal to the increase, and that things will, of course, come to the mark of 1790? The Committee speak, however, in very faltering accents here. They only “incline to believe;” which is not very much unlike a Yankee’s saying, “that he expects he shall guess.” What would a Methodist parson, or indeed, any parson, or any priest, say to his flock, who should be only “inclined to believe” in the truth of the Gospel, and who could only “see no reason to fear” damnation? This is, in fact, very feebly expressing an opinion; but, it is as strongly to do it as the nature of the case warranted.

233. However, if, for argument’s sake, we were to allow, that prices and rents will not come down quite to the mark of 1790, what comfort is there here for the landlords? They have now to face a Debt that requires forty millions a year instead of the nine millions of 1790, when, too, observe, there was a real diminution of the Debt going on. This is the grand delusion; namely, that things will come to about the same state altogether, that they were in before the late wars against freedom and for the Bourbons and the priests, were begun by Pitt and his associates. Now, if this were to be, all would still be well with the landlords. But, this cannot be; for, before the wars, the whole amount of the year’s taxes was only sixteen millions; whereas there is now required annually much more than fifty millions; and, when money come (for it is not yet come) to the value of the money of 1790, is it not evident that the landlords must suffer by this state of things? The additional thirty-four millions must come, in great part, out of the pockets of the landlords. The wages of labour cannot come down to the standard of 1790, because these wages have to bear their proportion of the taxes laid on since 1790; and, if wages do come nominally down to the standard of 1790, pray mark, that they cannot really come down to that point; for, a part of the wages must come out of the poor-rates! And, a large part of the poor-rates must, in fact, be paid by the landlord, seeing that, in the first instance, they are invariably just so much deducted from rent. Suppose land tithe free: is it not higher in rent? And, suppose a farm poor-rate free, is not the rent higher in proportion? It is true, that, in the end, rates and tithes fall upon the consumer; but farmers and landlords are consumers as well as others; and, at any rate, the rent is lowered in proportion to the amount of the poor-rates.

234. There is, as to the injury now to be sustained, a great deal of difference between landlord and tenant. The tenant gets rid of his lease in time; but, the landlord cannot get rid of that which binds him. If a tenant be in debt, or if he be level with the world, and have a lease three or four years old, and that lease have some years to run and he be held to it, he must be totally ruined. If a landlord have his estate encumbered by mortgage, rent-charge, annuity, bond, or otherwise, and to any considerable extent, he must be ruined; that is to say, if he looks upon loss of estate as constituting ruin. If his estate be wholly unencumbered by private engagements, still he must lose it in time, or, he must live in a way so low and degraded as to make it a question with all around him, whether he be, or be not, a gentleman; for, observe, he cannot get rid of the public encumbrance; that is to say, the interest of the Debt. He cannot, like the farmer, take a new lease! He cannot now come in afresh with the fundlord!

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235. I beg you, my dear lords of the soil, to keep this in your eye! In the eye of those enlightened minds, that have approved of Power-of-Imprisonment Bills and of Six-Acts! And here let me caution you against an error, that the general stupidity of the farmers is well calculated to lead you into. They hang on. They do give rents, and pretty high rents, in many cases, even yet. They are reluctant to quit; and they are men who know their interest well, in most cases, and, as Mr. Paine truly said of the Quakers, “pursue it with the steadiness of time and the certainty of death.” But remember what it is to quit a farm; remember what it is to sell off stock; remember what it is for a farmer and his family to be without occupation. And, above all things, remember, that the main body of farmers, though so keen as to their own particular interests, know really nothing of the causes that are at work to ruin them. How should they? The far greater part of them have been bred up amidst paper-money and high prices. Scarcely a man of them knows, that gold coin was once the money of England. They have no knowledge of the effect of Peel’s Bill. They think that war gave high prices and prosperity; and, if they were to read the Report, they would not discover their error, though the Committee tell us, that the American war did not produce high prices, and produced the opposite of prosperity. They do not, in short, know anything at all of the causes of the present low prices. And, is it, then, any wonder, that they should hope, that the present prices will not be stationary; and that they should take, or keep, farms upon a quite inadequate reduction of rent? They have nothing to assist their judgment. They, in general, read nothing but newspapers, and all these, instead of enlightening them as to these causes, serve only to keep them in the dark.

236. When, therefore, we consider these circumstances, is it any wonder, that the farmers hang on; that they take or keep farms in the hope that things will come about? Peel’s Bill says, that “things shall not come about;” but the main body of the farmers do not understand the language of this Bill, any more, nor half as much, as they understand the language of rooks and magpies. In short, this is their state; those who are renters and are poor will be speedily reduced to common labourers; those who have anything beforehand will lose it; and this loss going into the landlord’s pocket, he will not feel his real pinch, till the main body of the farmers be reduced to something very little short of what is properly called poverty.

237. But, this pinch will come, mind, and then the landlord sinks too, or loses his estate. It is not to be supposed, that the fundlords will come “with force and arms,” as the law calls it, and put men out of their estates. If the estate be heavily encumbered, it goes at once, or very shortly. If not, the thing will work in this way. Here is Sir Booby De Nincompoof with a clear estate of 3000l. a year, and with a couple of sons and a couple of daughters. His three thousand falls to two, and, by-and-by, to one. He will have his bread and meat at prices of three for one. But, Sir Booby and “my Lady” want something besides bread and meat. They want servants (a great article!) and their wages will not come down with bread and meat. They want “wines;” and they want numerous things, more than one-half of the cost of which is tax; and taxes do not fall with rents. They want horses and coaches and dogs and windows and a house. Here the tax remains the same, though the rent is come down one-third. Sir Booby must come down Edition: current; Page: [207] very low indeed, in his way of living, or he must mortgage. But, suppose him to come down so low as to live within the thousand! That is bad enough. But, what is he to do when his daughters are marriageable? Will young fundlords take them off his hands without a penny? Fundlords are not very apt to fall in love with faces. And, the sons, too! No places, mind, in times of “retrenchment!” No war; no posts; no commissaryships even to satisfy the borough-voters! Well, there the family lives along, till the sons are old bachelors and the daughters old maids. Sir Booby dies! The estate is divided; that is to say, sold to some fundlord; and, away goes the family of the De Nincompoops, who “came in with the Conqueror,” and whose arms and crests stare you in the face outside and inside of the church, on the portal of the almshouse and on the sign of the neighbouring inn!

238. This is the march of things. This is that profound statesman, Castlereagh’s “general working of events.” And, thus, quietly and silently, will a revolution be accomplished, as complete, as radical, as ever revolution was in this world. Nothing can prevent this but the speedily taking off of about thirty millions of taxes; and that cannot be accomplished without a reduction of the interest of the Debt; and that cannot be accomplished without a reform of the Parliament!

239. Now, what do I wish for? The latter: and then the family of De Nincompoop may remain, and will be harmless. But, if we have not Reform first, let us have no reduction of interest. Let the revolution come, say I; for it will be, not only a thing just in itself; but a great blessing to the people. These silly, haughty, insolent “comers-in with the Conqueror” will be pulled down. We shall see them, first in a state of degradation, and then we shall see them dispersed, scattered, annihilated as persons of authority. The new proprietors cannot arrive at their pitch of insolence and cruelty for ages; and Englishmen will, for a century, perhaps, once more know what it is to exist without Power-of-Imprisonment Bills, Six-Acts, and Sidmouth’s Circulars.

240. If, indeed, Sir Booby has any share in a borough, that may save his family. The sons may, in that case, come in for some of the “cheese-parings and candle-ends,” that “retrenchment and economy will leave.” As the feeders on cheese-parings diminish in number, they will become select as to quality; and, we shall soon find, that whatever there is left of “good things” will be bestowed on those only who have a something or other to do with that famous affair which the grannies call “the envy of surrounding nations;” that is to say, they will be bestowed on those who have something to give in return. The tutors of the Normans, the offspring of happy ladies’ maids, and those of nurses, confidential footmen, or of butlers who are the creditors of their masters, must take their chance in the world; and the good things must be kept for those who have something to give in return for them. Those of the Normans who have these good things to give in return may hold their ground; for they will have what “retrenchment” shall leave. But, if, by any chance, they let go these things. If they give up, for value received, these precious things to the fundlords (as some of them have), away they go for ever. Taking a trip to the Continent will not save them long; and, besides, who knows them there? Who will crawl before them there? While the grass is growing up between the steps of the door-way of Nincompoop Hall; while the jackdaws are breeding in the roof thereof; while the De Nincompoops are living “for their Edition: current; Page: [208] health” in some stinkhole of France, it is clear enough, that the hares and other wild animals, and a great many other good things, will fall to the share of the people in the neighbourhood of Nincompoop Hall. They are, in fact, for the time, as effectually delivered from their petty tyrant, as if he were transported by due course of law. His going away throws additional burden upon those landlords that remain, and this helps to bring them down, and to make them “travel” too; so that the thing, “the general working of events,” will, even in this way, produce great relief, ease, comfort and quiet, to the main body of the people.

241. So much, then, for the assertion of the Committee, that prices will not fall so low, and that rents will not come down so much as some people predict. Then, as to the assertion, that “agriculture will not decline,” who denies it? But, what is meant by agriculture declining? Agriculture does not decline when it gives a good living with moderate labour to all that are engaged in it. The English fields and meadows are gardens compared with those of America; but, where the English labourer gets an ounce of meat, the American labourer gets half a pound. And, in any rational view of things, agriculture flourishes more there than here.

242. But, I imagine, that our Committee have in view nothing but the gain of the landlord and that of the Government. And, as to this, agriculture has declined, does decline, and will decline. The Government, indeed, receives more than it did, in reality, for the taxes have more than doubled by the rise in the value of money; but then, the gain of this goes to the fundlord, the soldier, the sailor, the judge, the placeman, the pensioner, the grantee, and to all who receive money out of the taxes. What has been called the flourishing of agriculture has arisen, as I have over and over again proved, from the robbery committed on the labourer by the means of paper-money. That flourishing has, in great part, ceased; and, if Peel’s Bill go on, it must wholly cease; and the prices must, as was shown in Letter VII., come down lower and lower, till they be on a level, upon an average of years, with those of France. So that, thank God, we shall see no more “flourishing;” and, if we do not, we shall see no more Six-Acts, which, together with all the other terrible measures of the last thirty years, are no more than the natural effects or concomitants of “flourishing.

243. It is truly curious to observe the “working of events,” and I am here enticed a little out of my way to observe on it. How did Pitt and his understrappers exult, from 1790 to 1800, at the pillaging of France by the seigneurs and priests! How did they brag of the barrels of gold and silver which were shipped from that country to England! How rich did we become at the expense of France! What malignant, what base, what cowardly joy was expressed upon this subject! Very well, then, that which we then gained, the half-broken-up landlords and the half-pay people created by the war against France, are now carrying back to that same France, to avoid the high prices and taxes growing out of that war! Nay, the placemen and pensioners and grantees, also created by the war, are carrying back too, and repaying France with double interest! So that, every day of our lives, we are enfeebling ourselves and strengthening our rival, who, unless human nature is a liar, can never forgive us for the injuries and insults of 1814 and 1815. And, I beg the reader to bear in mind, that America has a fleet, which she had not in 1800! She has now 74-gun ships. As a maritime state Edition: current; Page: [209] she must desire to put us down a step or two. France grows in strength hourly. The longer the peace, the more are we unfit for war. Nothing, in short, can prevent the humiliation and utter degradation of England, but her ridding herself of her debt. This it is that does all the mischief. This sends forth the bands of taxgatherers; this creates the necessity of a standing army in time of peace; this drives the De Nincompoops and whole swarms of officers and placemen and pensioners to carry the fruit of English labour to France; this drives another and better class of persons to carry the fruit of that labour to America; this makes a discontented and miserable people; and, it does all those things, which every good man and sensible man must lament to behold.

244. The Committee tell us, that our prosperity in war has added to the capital to feed our agriculture with! Alas! for the heads in which such an idea could have been conceived! But, let us quote the Committee once more. “Under such a system there can be no apprehension that either will permanently retrograde (except in so far as rents may be nominally affected by the resumption of cash payments) or even be for any time stationary,—so long as our institutions continue to afford, to capital and industry, that superior degree of security and protection which they have hitherto found in this country,—so long as public credit and good faith keep pace with that security and protection, and as we avoid any course which, in a time of peace, and possibly of improving confidence in the stability of the institutions of other countries, might drive capital to seek a more profitable employment in foreign states.

245. Now, in the first place, the words within the parenthesis give the lords of the soil but poor comfort. But, the main thing to look at here, is, the notion of the Committee, that our not keeping good faith; that is to say, the landlords and others not paying the fundlords three for one, will “drive capital [read money, read fruit of labour] out of the country to seek a more profitable employment in foreign states.” Why, pretty, pretty gentlemen, this is just what the Debt does! This is just what your “public credit and good faith” are doing! What drives Sir Booby and “my lady;” what drives Parson Pinchum and his whole tribe; what drives these to France with their “capital;” that is to say, with the fruit of the labour of the parish; what drives them to carry this to France! Why, they find a “more profitable employment” of it there than in England. It hides them from richer rivals; and it gives them more food, more clothing and more waiting upon for their money. And why does it give them more? Because prices are lower in France than in England. And why are they lower in France than in England? Because money is higher in value in France. And why is money higher in value in France? Because there are no ragmen there, and no paper-money. And, why do we not, then, get rid of the paper, and make our money as valuable and our prices as low as the money and prices in France? Because, if we do, the whole of the rental of the kingdom will fall down to less than twenty millions, and to collect enough to pay the bare interest of the Debt will be impossible, while not a penny will be left to pay soldier, judge, or police-officer! So that it is the Debt, and the army which the Debt has engendered, and which it now requires to cause it to be paid; it is the Debt; it is “public credit and good faith” that drive away the fruit of the labour of the people; and, what absurdity, Edition: current; Page: [210] then, to suppose, that they are to be the only means of keeping that fruit to emigrate ourselves!

246. The concluding part of the string of propositions, stated under No. xii., and at the beginning of Letter VII., and in Letter I., paragraph 15, is, that the landlords will be as well off as before the late wars against the people of France and those of America. I have before touched upon this, but, let me again here remind the landlords, that they have now a large share of thirty-four millions a year to pay on account of debt and army, which they had not to pay before the late wars; and that, as I have clearly shown, whatever permanent nominal value the lands may have acquired during the war, they must now lose; because the poor-rates must remain permanently augmented, unless wages keep much above the mark of 1790.

247. How, then, is the landlord to be placed in the situation in which he was in 1790? If prices come down and rents come down to the standard of 1790, the landlord, like Sir Booby Nincompoop, must dwindle, even if his estate be wholly clear, and for the reasons before clearly stated. If prices do not come down quite so low; nay, if they stand where they are now, wheat on an average, at about 5s. a bushel (for a great deal of it is wholly unfit to make flour), and wether sheep at about 2s. 8d. a stone of eight pounds, and fat hogs at about 7s. 6d. a score; if the prices were to continue even thus, the rents must fall down to the standard of 1790. Not just immediately, for the reasons that I have before given in this letter; but, for those same reasons, down the rents must come in a year or two or three; for, the farmers’ heads will grow clear in just the degree that their purses grow empty. So that there is no hope for the landlord, except in the taking off, somehow or other, of about thirty millions of the taxes; and, as this cannot be done without a “breach of public faith;” and, as he is so honest and “honourable” a gentleman, he will, of course, yield, after the manner of Sir Booby, his estate, his armorial bearings, his manor and his hounds to the Jews and the De Snips.

248. The next letter will close the series, and will be a commentary on the REMEDY which the Committee hold out to the landlord for his DISTRESS, which I shall show to be no remedy at all, but the grossest delusion that ever weak mind practised upon itself first, and then upon other weak minds.


P.S. There is, I see, a Mr. Thomas Attwood, a “Brummagem” banker, figuring away in the “Brummagem” newspapers, about the effects of Peel’s Bill. This is a brother of the Attwood, on whose single speech, in the “collective wisdom,” I commented in May last. These gentlemen are sporting upon my manor, which I hereby desire them not to do any more without leave; and, I beg them to take this as a regular and legal notice, which, if they disregard, I shall, agreeably to the statute, proceed against them as “malicious trespassers.” When did they, I pray, obtain a right to inveigh against the paper system? I have had the exclusive enjoyment of this right for now nearly twenty years, during a great part of which time they have been paper-money makers. What right have they to pretend, that they have discovered the effects of Peel’s Bill, when it is notorious that I pointed out the effects of the Bill, a year before the dear good little Bill was born. They, indeed, wish to Edition: current; Page: [211] stop the Bill, and to get the paper-mill to work again; but, these “loyal” Brummagemites shall not carry this point; if they do they shall be dragged to the feast of the gridiron! Another Brummagem gentleman wants little shillings; but, he shall not have them. No: we will have none of your “Brums,” as the bad half-pence used to be called when I was a boy. None of your “Brums,” gentlemen: let us have the Bill, the immortal Bill; let us see it go into full effect, without a reduction of the interest of the Debt (for that is the condition, mind!) and then I will surrender myself to be broiled alive. We have but a little better than a year and a half to wait; nay, only eighteen months from the 1st of November, which is now past. I once more beg, civilly desire, these Messieurs Attwoods to desist; to cease their unneighbourly, and, I might call them, poaching practices. If they ask leave, they shall have it; but, if they persist in their present course, I will visit them with that species of punishment which the laws of literature award to impudent coxcombical plagiarists.


William Cobbett
Cobbett, William
November 8, 1821



249. We now come to the Committee’s grand remedy for your distress. We now come to the “landlords’ last hope;” and, therefore, let us deal fairly by it. Let us give it our best attention; let us endeavour to understand it in the first place; and let us endeavour to ascertain whether there be here any possible remedy or not.

250. Let us take the whole passage from the Report, paragraph 86 and 87.

“That restoration must also be accompanied with embarrassment to the landowner, in proportion as his estate is encumbered with mortgages or other fixed payments, assigned upon it during the period when land and rents were raised to an artificial value, in reference to the impaired value of the money in which those encumbrances were contracted.—From the cessation of public loans, the probability of large accumulations of capital, and the constant operation of such a sinking fund, as in the present state of our finances, may, henceforward during the continuance of peace, be regularly appropriated to the reduction of the public debt, your Committee trust that the rate of interest of money, may, in a short time, be so far reduced below the legal maximum, as to make those encumbrances a lighter burden upon the landed interests of the kingdom. It is an alleviation which former intervals of peace have produced, at periods in many respects less favourable to its attainment; and if, in the present instance, the want of that alleviation is become more urgent, your Committee venture to hope, that from the greater accumulation of capital in the country, co-operating with the effects of Edition: current; Page: [212] a positive and steady reduction of the public debt, this salutary result will also be more speedily brought about. They look forward to this mode of easing the encumbrances of the landlord with the more anxiety, as, amidst all the injury and injustice which an unsettled currency,—an evil they trust never again to be incurred,—has in succession cast upon the different ranks of society, the share of that evil which has now fallen upon the landed interest, is the only one which, without inflicting greater injury and greater injustice, admits (now that we are so far advanced in the system of a restored currency) of no other relief. The difficulties, great as they unfortunately are, in which it has involved the farming, the manufacturing and trading interests of the country, must diminish in proportion as contracts, prices, and labour, adjust themselves to the present value of money. That this change is now in progress, and has already taken place to a considerable degree, is in evidence before your Committee. They are satisfied that it will continue until that balance is restored, which will afford to labour its due remuneration, and to capital its fair return.”

251. Here is another of those blocks of words (resembling a “nest of pill-boxes”) of which I gave a specimen in Letter VII. Now, I ask the reader, be he who or what he may, whether, even after a third reading, and that, too, before breakfast, he really does comprehend the meaning of all this? The use of words, is, to communicate our thoughts to others; but, if they be employed in a manner not to effect that purpose, we may as well refrain from speaking and writing. To twist together great parcels of words in this manner is no mark of talent, but the contrary. And, really, when we look well at this Report, and consider it, as we must, as a specimen of the greatest ability of the Government, are we to wonder that a nation, which has so long been under the management of that Government, should be entangled in a combination of conflicting difficulties from which even the clearest head can discover no possible means of escape?

252. There are no less than three grammatical errors in this passage of the Report, rather than have suffered any one of which to go from under my hand, in a writing like this Report, I would have hanged myself. What confusion is here with “progress” and “change,” and “a change continuing!” However, not to waste time upon the manner, let us come to the matter: let us, for the present, at any rate, leave the words, and come to the thoughts.

253. And here I must, to do justice by my readers, and to show my own superiority, as I have a right to do, over the writer of this Report, proceed as I did in Letter VII.; that is to say, to reduce this passage to distinct propositions; to open the nest of pill-boxes; to place the boxes before the reader one by one; then inquire into the nature and worth of each; and, lastly, to see what the whole amount to.

254. The passage that I have quoted means as follows: 1. That Peel’s Bill (by raising the value of money) must pinch the landlord whose estate is mortgaged (or otherwise encumbered): 2. That the masses of money, now gained by the fundlords, will (the Committee trust) be lent to landlords at a reduced interest, so that the mortgager may get rid of the five per cent. interest, and have a lower interest to pay: 3. That the Committee venture to hope, that the accumulation of capital in the country, co-operating with the reduction of the Debt by the sinking fund, will bring about this lowering of the interest of money more speedily than at former periods: 4. That the Committee look forward with the more anxiety to this lowering of the interest of money generally, as it is the only means which they can discover, without lowering the interest of the Debt, of giving relief to the landlord.

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255. There are two propositions remaining; but those will find a fitter place by-and-by. We will first take these four, and try to ascertain what they are worth.

256. First, that Peel’s Bill must pinch the landlord whose estate is mortgaged is clear enough; and, if mortgaged to any thing approaching half its value of 1813, must take it wholly away, as the proceedings in the Court of Chancery now must prove to every person of common sense. The mortgagees are at work, taking away the estates as fast as the forms of the law will allow them; and nobody can blame them for so doing. This is the way in which the insolent Normans are to be brought down and made to feel, in their turn, the evils of a system, which has hitherto oppressed only the labouring classes. And, pray, “Mounseers,” when the stock-jobber comes and bids you walk out, and, as you cast “one longing, lingering look behind,” do recollect, that this Debt was a debt of your own contracting; that the Radicals wanted you not to contract it; that they warned you of the consequences; that I, a Radical to the back-bone, have been twenty years, come January, warning you of these consequences; and, that you contracted the Debt for the sole purpose of preventing a Reform in the People’s House of Parliament: pray remember all this, “Mounseers,” when the Jews come to oust you from your mansions, and to pull down and laugh at those arms through which you trace yourselves back to “the Conquest.

257. Second. But, you are, the Committee say they “trust,” not to be ousted! Come, then, cheer up, “Mounseers!” Your estates are, though actually mortgaged, to be saved by a fall in the interest of money. That is to say, the accumulation of gains in the hands of the fundlords, will induce them to lend you money at a lower interest than five per cent.; so that, if for instance, you have a thousand pound interest to pay annually now, you will if money come down to four per cent., have only eight hundred pounds to pay; and if money fall to three per cent., you will have only six hundred pounds to pay. Now, this is the most curious way of getting relief that ever was heard of. In the first place, it is remarkable enough, that the Committee should wish for a lowering of the interest of money, seeing that, whenever and wherever it take place, it is a sure and certain sign that all persons engaged in productive labour, and all persons owning the materials (of which land is one) of that productive labour, are in a state of depression and decline. Suppose I am a tradesman and am gaining greatly by my trade. I wish to extend it. I borrow, and can afford to give a high interest; but, if my trade be not profitable, I do not wish to extend it. I do not borrow. Less money is wanted on loan; and the money that is lent must bring a lower interest. It is, therefore, queer enough, that a Committee of a “collective wisdom” should wish for a lowering of the interest of money, But, the Government is sick; it is in ill health; odd as it may seem, the “restoring of our currency to a healthy state,” as the slang was in 1819, has made the Government unhealthy; and we all know how capricious the appetite is when the party is out of health, a remarkable instance of which is daily witnessed in South Carolina, where consumptive young women chew by stealth a sort of clay or marl, and, indeed, actually eat it!

258. But, it is the masses of money collected by the fundlords that is to produce this lowering of interest. Now, whence are these masses to come? Why, out of the taxes to be sure. And, if they come out of the taxes, must not you lose in exactly the same proportion that the fundlords gain Edition: current; Page: [214] and amass? Must not your loss precede the lowering of the interest of money? And must not your estates sink in value in proportion to the lowering of interest from this cause? Must you not lose in your principal in proportion to your gain by the lowering of the interest of the money which is first to go from you to the man who lends it? Good God! is it, can it be, necessary to say any more upon such a subject to men whose ancestors came from Normandy, proverbial for the keenness of its inhabitants! The plain state of the case is this: you owe the fundlord a thousand pounds of money of 1810. You are now to pay him, in his capacity of fundlord, one hundred and fifty pounds a year instead of fifty, as you actually now pay him three for one. Of the money thus gained from you and accumulated by him he will lend you, in his capacity of mortgagee, some money on your estate, and will take from you only four or three per cent.; and then, when he has got some more from you in his capacity of fundlord he will lend you some more in his capacity of mortgagee. He grows richer and richer, and you poorer and poorer; and yet, O Lord! this is the only means that the Committee has to relieve you! Come, come, “Mounseers,” you will act wisely to let us have our rights; for nothing but a Reformed House of Commons can save you!

259. Third. But the Committee say, “That they venture to hope,” (how modest! how bashful!) “that the accumulation of capital in the country, co-operating with the reduction of the Debt by the sinking fund,” will accelerate this happy reduction of the interest of money to be lent on mortgage, and thus gratify more speedily this Carolina girl-like appetite. How the capital will accumulate we have just seen; that is to say, that it will be great parcels of money carried up and given to the fundlords in taxes raised in part upon you. But the sinking fund is to lessen these taxes. It is to reduce the Debt, and, of course, the interest of the Debt; and thus, it is to cause you to pay less taxes! Now, pray, if you have brains in skull; if your heads be anything better than pumpkins and calabashes: if you be not the most perverse as well as the most stupid brutes that ever dishonoured the human form, listen to me, and I will make the foolishness of this as plain to your understandings as the daylight is to your eyes.

260. What is the sinking fund? What is it? In Paper against Gold, I, twelve years ago, traced it from its seed-root up along its trunk, then along its limbs, its branches and into its very leaves. I proved the utter impossibility, not only of its reducing the Debt, but of its having any other tendency than that of augmenting the Debt. I proved it to be a flagrant humbug, the child of the most profound knavery or the most degrading imbecility. Since that time, this favourite child of the joint efforts of Pitt and Fox, has, in both Houses of Parliament, been called “a humbug” a hundred times over. And, yet, we now hear this Committee putting it forward as a thing to assist in affording the landlords relief! This I think really does surpass anything we have hitherto heard of, even of this Committee. To tell us anything that could be taken in by any body; that any creature could swallow; to do this might be excused: but to trump up this sinking fund, which has almost become the subject of ballads and epigrams, is going farther than ever I could have expected.

261. But, despised, laughed at, flouted as this thing is, as a thing to reduce the Debt, it is, as a thing to help to empty the landlords’ pockets and rid them of their estates, by no means a thing to be laughed at. What, then (coming back to my question); what is this sinking fund? Edition: current; Page: [215] Why, my lords of the soil, it is composed of taxes. Aye, of taxes. It is not made up of money which the Bourbons or the Holy Alliance send here. It is not found on the King’s highway. It does not drop down from the clouds. It is a parcel of money, raised annually to the amount, they say, of five millions a year. Now, mind, I do not say, that it is five millions; for, trust in no account, no paper, no statement made by any one belonging to that body of men, who, in 1797, managed the affair of the Bank Stoppage. I never give credit to anything that any of them say: others may, for aught I care: I do not.

262. However, on the supposition, that what they say is true; on the supposition that they do collect five millions a year for a sinking fund, then five millions is so much money raised from the nation in taxes. And, does it not appear very odd, that any body, and especially a select Committee, and, a Committee too, of a “collective wisdom,” should think that the landlords could get relief by means of their paying taxes! Did ever even tax-gatherer tell poor plucked pigeon of tax-payer, that the payment was for his relief! That it was to tend to make his fortune! No: he used to tell him, that it was to preserve him from the French, and, at one time, that it was to preserve him from the devil, seeing that the devil was coming on with the French to take away his religion: and it is well known, that nothing was more common, than to hear the people called upon to fight for their King and their God! George Rose, who had been a ship-purser, called taxes a salvage, which the people paid; that is to say, a portion of the cargo given up in order to preserve the remainder, amongst which remainder George reckoned “the blessed comforts of religion.” This was all well enough; but, never until now were taxes held out as the means of RELIEF to the party paying those taxes! If this language be proper, we have, all these ages past, been in great error as to poor-rates. We ought to call them a sinking fund; but, at any rate, we ought to look upon them as giving relief to those who pay them, and not to those who receive them.

263. These five millions of taxes are just so many pounds paid annually, or, rather, given annually to the fundlords, for no value, and even no pretended value, received. The thing is this: the fundlords have stock, as it is called. They receive, out of the taxes, interest on this stock; and, in order that they may at all times be able to sell the principal, five millions a year are raised in taxes to be laid out (a part of it weekly) in stock! Now, is not this sum of five millions just so much added annually to the amount of the interest paid to the fundlords? And do not these five millions come out of the taxes? And does not the landlord help to pay the five millions? And, O monstrous! these five millions are to help to relieve the distressed landlord!

264. The five millions are divided into 52 parts, and are laid out in the purchase of stock in weekly parcels. This gives a higher value to the stock than it would otherwise have. This keeps the Funds up; but in whatever degree it do that, is it not clear that it must pull land and labour down? Suppose I were to lend you a hundred pounds, on your farm, and you were to pay me an interest of five per cent.; but, besides this, suppose you were to be compelled to give one pound every year to some third party to be laid out in buying up my mortgage; would not my mortgage become thereby more valuable; would not you be losing the pound a year, and should not I be gaining it; and must I not go on very fast to swallow up your estate? Is not this as clear as day-light? Can you Edition: current; Page: [216] be relieved by my taking the additional pound a year from you? And, yet, this is the very way that, as the Committee tell the landlords, these latter are to be relieved by the sinking fund!

265. Let us put the thing in another shape. Suppose these five millions of taxes were laid out every year upon land! Ah! you start back, do you, my lords of the funds! And you my, lords of the soil, lick your lips! Suppose these five millions of taxes were laid out yearly upon land? Would not land rise in price directly? To be sure it would; for, though the landlords would then, as they do now, pay a part of the five millions, others would help to pay, and the land would be the gainer. This would make the land worth five per cent., and would bring the Funds down to twenty, perhaps, instead of their being at eighty. This, indeed, would bring the landlord relief. A sinking fund of this sort would afford hope to him; but, the present sinking fund is an addition to his loss and to the fundlord’s gain. It is accelerating the fall of the former and the domination of the latter.

266. And, why are the Ministers so partial to the fundlords? They are not partial to them. They do not care a straw about them. But, they know, they feel, as the lawyers and parsons know and feel in the case of the gold. They feel that if the fundlords fall, they themselves fall and the THING falls. They smell this, as pigs do the wind. But, let us be just. It is not the Ministers: it is the seat-gentlemen: it is this body that fear to shake the Funds; and a great part of these have the means of indemnifying themselves for their share of the taxes. These gentlemen see the danger to them, and especially to those precious things which give fatness; they see the great danger that would arise from a shaking of the Funds. The Funds now form an integral part of the system. Indeed they are the key-stone of it. It must fall if the Funds give way. Seats and funds are now mutually dependant. Liver and lights are not more closely connected. And this is the reason, and the only reason, why the land and the labour are taxed at this rate for the support of the Funds.

267. A very sufficient reason it is, I grant; but, then, let us not be bamboozled! Let us not be made to believe, that we, who have no share of the taxes, are to be relieved by our paying the fundlords five millions a year in addition to the three for one that we are paying them in the shape of interest! Let us not be fools enough to swallow this. Let us not, unless we have the strange ambition to pass for idiots, suck this down, as a turkey takes in its cramming.

268. Having disposed of this point; having made this matter plain to the eyes of every one who is not blind, let us proceed to the remaining points.

269. Fourth. “That the Committee look forward, with the more anxiety, to the lowering of the interest of money generally, as it is the only means which they can discover, without a reduction of the interest of the Debt, of affording relief to the landlord.” Well, then, here we have the REMEDY!

270. The Committee do not say, in so many words, “without reducing the interest of the Debt;” but that they mean it by the words, “without inflicting greater injury and greater injustice,” is evident enough; and then they, as we have seen before, conclude by an appeal to public faith and national honour. Now, we may dismiss this at once by referring to Letters V. and VI., where the origin and nature of the Debt are fully set Edition: current; Page: [217] forth, and where the justice of reducing it is fully proved. This part, therefore, of the proposition just quoted we may pass over without further notice.

271. What we have now to fix our attention on, is, the assertion of the Committee, that the lowering of the interest of money generally is the only means that the Committee can find out of relieving the landlord. God help him, then! say I; for the poor soul, unless he be a tax-eater as well as a landlord, is in a fair way of exchanging his title-deeds for a place in the poor-book; and of exchanging his hunter for a stool to sit on to pick oakum. We have seen before, that the interest of money becomes low only in proportion that labour and materials of labour become of less value; and, that the lowering of the interest of money generally is a sure sign of a decline of means and of gains generally. But, here we have the monstrous proposition, that the landlord, who is to pay the fundlord at the rate of five per cent., is to be relieved by the depression of things being such as to reduce all other interest to three per cent.!

272. Need one say another word upon such a subject? Need one to enter into any argument; need one use any illustration, in the way of controverting a proposition so monstrously absurd as this! If, indeed, ALL interest were reduced to three per cent., there might, and would, be some relief. All interest on mortgages, and other private engagements, and on the Debt, the everlasting, all-devouring Debt, at the same time. But, to make the landlord pay the fundlord five per cent. interest, while every body else is getting only three per cent., and to tell the landlord that he is to get relief in this way, and that this is the ONLY REMEDY for his distress, is, surely, something more outrageously insulting to the understanding than any thing that was ever before seriously addressed to any class or description of rational beings.

273. There remain two points to be noticed: Fifth. “That the difficulties of the country will grow less, as contracts, prices, and labour adjust themselves to the present value of money.” And, Sixth: “That this change is in progress, and that the Committee are satisfied, that the progress will continue, till labour shall obtain its due remuneration and capital its fair return.” And, I am satisfied of it too! The change is in progress; that is to say, things are working to this end: the breaking of the farmers and the loss of estate to the landlords. All will be relieved at last; but the present race of farmers, and also of landlords who are not tax-eaters, will go off with the paper-money. Another race will arise; and the change will be greatly beneficial to the country in the end. All these matters I have fully discussed in former Letters, and need not repeat the discussion here. I will only just add, that, while the Committee state, and, apparently with exultation, that contracts are adjusting themselves to the present value of money, they seem to overlook the GREAT CONTRACT; that with the fundlord! That is not to adjust itself. That is to remain, though it gives the fundlord three times as much as he ought to receive, even if his title were the best, instead of being the worst, that ever was heard of in the world. This contract, if contract it can be called, is to be “rigidly adhered to,” while all other contracts are to adjust themselves to the present value of money!

274. Well: but let it be adhered to, for me. I do not wish to see it altered, except the people have their rights at the same time. However, I will say more about this presently, when I have made my observations on the 13th and last assertion, or proposition of this ever famous and Edition: current; Page: [2