« 前へ次へ »
General aspect of the times.- Commercial disiress, and its causes.-Sources of public discontent.--Views of the democratic writers.—Radical reform-Parallel between the British constitution at the time of the Revolution, and at present-Royal authority.- Parliamentary representation.
The aspect of the political world, at little benefit to the consumer, who had the commencement of the present year, not wherewithal to pay even its reduwas, in several respects, dark and pain- ced rate. The payment, by the rich, ful. Never, perhaps, had there been of an income tax of ten per cent., was more splendid hopes, followed by a an evil of very different magnitude from gloomier disappointment, than at the the fall of the labourer's wages from close of the great war, which Britain fifteen to five shillings a week. The brought to so glorious an issue. The suffering, most serious in itself, was era of peace, so much longed and greatly aggravated by ignorance of the scarcely hoped for, coming now under cause, and by total unconsciousness of such triumphant circumstances, was that ignorance. When men suffer, expected to usher in a happier era, and they look eagerly for a remediable to heal all the wounds under which origin ; they are ready to do and to the nation had groaned. Instead of hazard much in efforts to shake it off. this expected felicity, peace was fol- A bad harvest raises insurrection even lowed by a distress much more wide- in China ; much more may the distress ly and inly felt, than any which had of the lower orders be supposed to arisen from the most extended war. operate, among a people so much less fare. A general stagnation pervaded trained to habits of subordination. It every branch of industry. The loom is, accordingly, too true, that national stood still ; the merchant was involved poverty, and the ebullitions of disconin difficulty or bankruptcy ; the pro- tent excited or fanned by it, have formduce of the earth sunk to a price ruin- ed much the most prominent feature in ous to the farmer, while it afforded the history of this and the following years. These observations have led and artizans. Britain, at the peace, us to consider seriously the causes and was a reformed spendthrift. That large grounds, both of this suffering and portion of her capital, which she had this discontent; and a few remarks, been in the annual habit of taking up such as our reflections have suggested, and spending, had maintained through. may, perhaps, form no unappropriate out her population a fevered and arti. preface to the history of this period. ficial plenty. The loans paid a large
Strange as it seems, that peace, body of soldiers, yielded a market to usually hailed as the harbinger of pros. extensive manufactures, and took off a perity and abundance, should have been large proportion of the landed prothe direct means of plunging the na- duce. If we average their amount at tion into such a depth of distress, a thirty millions a-year, and allow 201. little consideration will shew it to have to each individual, (which, admitting been the necessary immediate conse- the natural majority of women and quence. The extraordinary expence children, seems very ample,) we shall of this war, as of every one in which find them providing subsistence for a Britain has long been engaged, was million and a half of British subjects. chiefly defrayed by loans. We do not Allthese, by the peace, were thrown out here discuss the political expediency, of employment, became superfluous that is necessity, either of the war, or hands, and ought indeed to have been of this mode of supporting it; these sent away, if there had been any place questions are gone by, and have no to which we could send them. There longer any practical bearing. We are being none, at least on a requisite scale, viewing the subject merely economi- they had no resource but to thrust cally ; and, in this light, the nation themselves into the already overstock. has long been acting the part of a ed employments at home, and, by their spendthrift, who maintains an esta- competition, reduce the wages of lablishment greatly beyond his income. bour to a rate which scarcely affordBy so doing, he is plainly acting a ed a bare subsistence. The evil is renmost imprudent part, and placing him. dered much heavier by the great length self on the high road to ruin. Still, of time during which the system had while this extravagance lasts, plenty been persevered in, extending over a reigns in his household; he keeps more whole generation, and probably giving servants, pays higher wages, and af- occasion to the rearing of a consider. fords more employment to all the able new population, dependant on these neighbourhood than he could other. forced and temporary funds. This wise have done. Suppose now, that body, when the great machine of sohis eyes are opened ; that he sees the ciety sunk into its natural state, be. gulf into which he was plunging, and came quite a surplus population, and begins a new establishment, in which a burden upon the community. Anhis expences and income are placed on other aggravation arose from the habits a level,-nothing can be more laud. generated among the mercantile classes, able ; – at the same time, it is certain, by the feverish prosperity of war and that a general poverty will be felt monopolized trade." There had been through his establishment; abundance
80 many instances of fortunes raised and comfort will no longer reign there; from pothing, and by one happy spe. the wages of his servants will be re- culation, that universal hopes of simiduced, and some must be dismissed ; lar success were excited.
To earn a nor can the same employment be af- competence by a life of industry, was forded to the neighbouring tradesmen now regarded as a mean and paltry aim; all were in chase of something rapid the same time, we canuot help remarkand brilliant. Under the influence of ing the total mistake under which the this spirit, every new opening which mass of the nation has laboured, in the continual shifting of the political ascribing their sufferings to the degree scene afforded, was filled to treble its of expenditure which remains, and in extent; and all the markets of the furiously demanding further reduction, world were glutted with British goods as the means of immediate relief. Reselling at half their prime cost. The duction is no doubt an excellent thing same immoral avidity of making a for- in the main ; but its further adoption tune, displayed itself by the manner could have no effect but to increase in which competitors in trade sought that existing and urgent pressure unto run down each other, by selling der which we labour. Its benefits their commodity at a losing price, and would be certain and important inthus obliging their rivals to do the deed, but they would be future and same, till, one party being ruined, the even somewhat remote. other was enabled to establish a mo. If it be now asked, what remedy nopoly against the public. By such may be hoped for these narrow and processes, commercial capital was de- distressed circumstances in which the stroyed throughout the kingdom to nation is involved, we are obliged to a great extent, particularly in the answer that we know of no immediate hands of those whose knowledge would one, except patience. This is, indeed, have best fitted them to conduct the the main result, with a view to which concerns in which it was embarked. the present discussion was undertaken.
From the very grounds upon which It would be a great good, if the nawe have endeavoured to prove the ex. tion should be weaned from delusive isting pressure to have arisen from the hopes, and should cease to expect recessation of the profuse war expendi- lief from any violent and desperate efture, it must be evident that we would forts it could make. Certain measures, be the last to advise seeking a remedy particularly those connected with an by the renewal of that profusion. This extension of the freedom of trade, may would procure present relief indeed, be calculated to produce some degree but at the expense of final ruin, of of improvement ; but it would be chiwhich the system had led us perhaps merical to expect from any new opennot far from the very brink. Some ing, such sudden profits, as could in plausible arguments might have been any degree fill up the great blank left urged for making the transition a gra. by the cessation of the war expendidual one, and for not throwing at once ture. This can only be effected by out of employment so vasto a body the gradual operation of those causes of persons. We should hesitate very which lead to the increase of national much, however, to give any such ad. wealth ; the most powerful of which vice, or to recommend a plan, which, consists in the constant exertion of falling in perhaps with the inclinations every individual to better his outward of many concerned, would be so liable circumstances, provided equal laws asto be extended beyond its proper li. sure him of reaping the fruit of his lamits and period. We should be sorry bours. Britain, indeed, is not suscepeven to see any intermission in those tible of that rapid growth, observable efforts to enforce public economy, in some infant societies ; still the natuwhich form one of the main legitimate ral advantages of the three kingdoms, objects of a British opposition. At joined to the skill, capital, and enter