ページの画像
PDF
ePub

POLE.-Where he may chance to see our swine devouring the wheat, for want of which the children of this country are pining. At least, he will implore the Government, in parting, to withdraw the restrictions which have proved so disastrous.

ENGLISHMAN.-Not he. He has always been told that these restrictions were formed for men of his class. He hears of them under the term protection, and he is afraid of not being protected, and therefore prays to be made poorer still,

POLE.—How much power there is in a name. Not only is Lord W.seduced by the term protection, but many tenants by the word agriculture, as I have reason to know. I heard much of the “protection of agriculture,” in answer to my pleas, that the wheat of my country might advantageously be brought hither; and when I inquired into the truth, I found that “ agriculture” meant “landlords,” though tenants are still disposed to think it also means “ farmers." These are strange uses of terms.

ENGLISHMAN.–Very puzzling to a foreigner, no doubt; though it can be scarcely less so to an experienced farmer, to find out how the protection he clings to never fails to bring on ruin, though there may be occasional intervals of prosperity. It is somewhat the same sort of protection that is given to fowls which are cooped for the killing. They have twice as much given them as they can pick up; and so, each fowl of the poultry yard, hoping to have his turn, crows and claps his wings to the story of the protecting system, though it goes on to be fatal to the greedy ones.

POLE.—Indeed, it is too difficult to a foreigner to understand your terms, whether in your courts of justice, or in your Parliament. I lately asked what was meant by “ death recorded,” and was told “transpor-tation.” I asked what was meant by “transportation,” and was told “imprisonment,” in gaol or on board the hulks. I ask what is meant by “ agriculture," and am told “landlords.” Truly, yours is a difficult language. But what is the charm about dear landlords, that your nation should prefer them to cheap corn ?

ENGLISHMAN.–Nay; you must ask the landlords. They are the most sensible of their own charms, I believe. Meantime, you can tell us a good deal, I know, about cheap corn.

POLE.—Alas! yes; and, in the same breath, of dear clothing. In our country you may see our cattle fed with grain ; our peasantry shivering, half-clad, while they consume and waste twice as much corn as they need, if they had a supply of other things. You may see large tracts turned into pasturage, and others forsaken, after two or three years' tillage; and all this for want of a market; while in yonder great town, there are multitudes pining for bread, your warehouses being overstocked with cloth, for which you want a market. What folly is here! If cheapness be good, why should not you have cheap corn, and we cheap clothing, to the advantage of every party concerned ?

ENGLISHMAN.—Because not only our landlords fear a reduction of their rents, but our farmers dread being obliged to change their occupation. If we were freely supplied with corn from abroad, a large proportion of these fields would become sheep-walks, you see.

We should want more wool to make your coats; and this very scene may present a verdant down, speckled with flocks, instead of stubble fields, rich in sheaves, or an expanse of uncut grain.

POLE.—And why not, if thus your peasantry may be well fed, and your agriculturists lifted out of ruin? There might be fewer farmers, some becoming shepherds, and others manufacturers or merchants; but is it

not better to flourish as a manufacturer, than to drown one's self in one's own ditch, as a farmer?

ENGLISHMAN.-It certainly seems to me that this country is destined, by nature and circumstance, to be a commercial rather than an agricul. tural country; and it would in no wise trouble, but rather rejoice me to see her supplying every region of the world with her manufactures, and receiving, in return, from east and west, the produce of wider and more fertile fields than she can boast.

POLE.—Then would cease the lamentable cry, that your people are too many for your food. Then would there be work for all, and work would bring a sufficiency of bread. How is it that one class dares to stand in the way of such an arrangement? How is it that a few are permitted to intercept the good of all ?

ENGLISHMAN.-Because this one class has hitherto had a disproportionate share in the making of our laws. Not that this should rightly have prevented a rectification of our system ; for it has been proved to them a thousand times,—and that the proof should have been so long re. jected, is unaccountable,—that their own interest requires the throwing open of our ports for the importation of foreign grain. This has been proved to Lord W. and to his tenant, the cultivator of these fields, not only by reasoning, but by experience. Yet they will not have the Corn Laws touched ; the one speaking for himself in the Upper House; the other through his representative in the Lower. The labourer, in the field or at the loom, who needs no further proof than his gnawing hunger, has no voice in the matter,

POLE.-His case, indeed, is clear. Even the first apparent increase of wages, from the rise of prices, profits not him, since that which his wages must purchase has also risen in price. Then when the farmer's profits are lowered by this increase of wages, it must follow that wages will again fall, while prices remain high. This is a clear case.

ENGLISHMAN.—Then what is that of the farmer? He suffers both from his profits being lowered, and from the dearness of the corn he eats. It is only while his lease is current that he has any compensation for this dearness. When the time for renewal comes, he hands over to his landlord all that arises from this increased price.

POLE.-It seems, then, that the landlord should be the gainer : by robbery, I grant; but still a gainer. What is it that obliges Lord W. to

go abroad?

ENGLISHMAN.—Not merely that he cannot at present get in his rents. It is the tremendous fluctuation in their affairs which ruins both land. holder and farmer. This fluctuation is owing to our dependence on our own soils for food, and can be no otherwise guarded against than by having some better dependence. During the succession of bad seasons, which took place during the late war, the price of corn rose higher than the deficiency of supply warranted; for, corn not being an article which people think of doing without, they bid against one another in their fear of not getting it, till none but the rich could pay the market price for it ; and thus the farmers profited enormously while the poor starved, for this was not a rise of prices of that permanent kind which raises wages. At this time the cultivator of these fields flourished, and flung his money about bravely; taking in new land, which he has since been obliged to give up, after a large outlay of capital upon it; sending his sons travelling, portioning his daughters, and so on; and, of course, punctually paying his rents, and agreeing to a large increase at the expiration of his lease.

POLE.-Ah ! I see. And when good seasons come, not only must his sons cease to travel, and his daughters to look for portions, and Lord W. to receive his rent in full ; but the slightest excess over the average supply would lower prices as unduly as a slight deficiency had before raised them. There is little security of property in this case. Lord W. can never tell how much he is worth, any more than the speculator in the funds; however much may be said of the stability of landed property.

ENGLISHMAN.—Hence also the apparent generosity of remitting a por. tion of his rents when it is impossible that he should be paid the whole. He knows that his rent is fixed too high ; but instead of lowering it, he takes the chance of a bad season or two occurring before the expiration of the lease, and parades his liberality in the newspapers, where it is told, year after year, how generously Lord W. has returned or remit. ted one-third or one-fourth of the rents due. Meanwhile, that which he does receive comes out of his tenant's capital ; the farm-buildings go out of repair, and the hedges, gates, and ditches, are presently seen in the condition of these about us.

POLE.-And all this fluctuation might be prevented by a free trade in corn! Certainly there would not then be so much alarm at a small deficiency; so much joy at a trifling excess. Where the whole world is looked to for a supply, there is pretty good security against a famine ; for the whole world may be considered to yield an average crop.

ENGLISHMAN.-Besides this, the supply being constant, would be well regulated ; whereas, at present, a large quantity is sometimes hurried into the country, on a bare rumour of a scarcity, and its arrival is the signal for a fall of price equally ruinous to the foreign speculator and the home land-owner. We are thus liable to be overstocked, or to believe ourselves so, which is much the same thing to the agricultural interest; and to be in a perilous panic when we are a very little understocked.

POLE.-Surely, then, it would be a benefit to the land-owner to have the country regularly and sufficiently supplied with grain, that so he might know what he has to depend on; instead of being one year rich in substance, and the next only in arrears. As for his permanent interests, they must be safe ; for land can never become a worthless pos. session,

ENGLISHMAN.—And least of all in a thriving country. Whether the land be laid out in sheep-walks or corn-fields, it will always be in request while manufactures are extending, commerce flourishing, and the population increasing its productive consumption. If rents are nomi. nally lowered, their payment will be secure, and the means of life and luxury will be much less costly. The same may be said, or nearly so, for the farmer. He may bring up few of his sons to be farmers, but there will be a better opening for them in other occupations. They may all live for less; and be no longer doomed to bury their capital in had soils, till they have no capital left to bury. Instead, therefore, of dreading the fall of price which would follow a free importation of corn, farmers ought to see that it would bring its advantage in a fall of wages and of rent;-a fall which will occasion a rise of profits to them, without injuring their landlords, or those who deserve much more consider. ation, their labourers. The worst that could befall them is less mischievous than the present system, under which the poorer class of families are breaking, the next preparing for bankruptcy by paying their rents out of their capital; and the richest perplexing themselves to account for the rapid diminution of their wealth, and to anticipate the issue of the present pauper system.

POLE.—Ah! that fatal pauper system! It seems that your farmers have more to pay to paupers than they can keep to live upon themselves.

ENGLISHMAN.—Just so. The tenant of the ground we stand upon made terrible complaints a few years ago on having to pay £50 a-year to the parish. He now pays £190, while actually in the state of distress and despondency I described to you.

Pole.—Surely he deprecates the continuance of the sytem under which he suffers so cruelly.

ENGLISHMAN.-He protests against any change, unless it be the imposition of a further duty on foreign grain. He calls out for more protection, not seeing, that the protection he really needs is, to be shielded from his own prejudices. An extraordinary infatuation ; is it not?

POLE.-It makes me melancholy to find infatuation every where. Some unhappy persons in my ruined country called in the protection of the Russian despot; and bitterly have they suffered, and made others suffer by their blind appeal. But no despot, not even he of Russia, can tyrannize so fatally as bad laws. Let your landlords and farmers take this to heart.

ENGLISHMAN.--I wish we could so persuade them. A despot's rule is short, and the consequences of his tyranny easily repaired in comparison with the influence and issues of bad laws. If a just ruler were to succeed to Nicholas, I should have hope of seeing your country even yet lift her worn brow to be again crowned with plenty, and smile once more in the face of him who would redeem her ; but bad laws corrupt the very sources of prosperity. Their repeal brings evils almost as tremendous as their continuance. Ages will not repair the grievances inflicted by the system we have been condemning.

POLE.—True; for ages will not obliterate the moral stains which injustice and hardship leave. You should hasten, then, all the more eagerly, to rectify the errors of those who, for whatever reason, made these bad laws.

ENGLISHMAN.—They will be rectified; they must soon be so, in the face of any opposition that can be brought. Then may we cease to feel shame in looking on such a scene as this,-in perceiving how much Providence has given to man, and how much man has done to stint his brethren of their share of these gifts; and, by grasping too much for himself, to ruin all.

POLE.—Would that your people would learn from us,—pilgrims from a ruined land,—how to prize what is in their own hands; how to be happy while the means remain. We would say, look to the equal distribution of your wealth while it exists. If, as a nation, you would be strong, knit your ranks together, as the interests of all classes are knitted together by the primary laws of your social state. If, as a nation, you would be free, let your higher ranks release themselves from the bondage of prejudice and groundless fear, and call up your indigent classes out of the slavery of hardship and discontent. If you would be happy as a nation, let the gifts of heaven be made as welcome to the heart as they are beautiful to the eye. Then shall these sloping sun. beams meet no scowling brows; for there will be few guilty where none are poverty-stricken. ' Then shall fruitfulness cease to be a curse to any; and harvests like these shall be an actual possession to each and all. Then shall these stealing shadows, which now serve to hide too many tears, settle down on millions of dwellings tenanted by repose.

THE SEABOY OF ST. EUPHEMIA.
Soft rose the beam of morn on hill and cape,
And leafy bay, that verge thy golden shores,
Italia, land of dreams! The gushing light,
Warmed with a mellowing glow the purple peaks
Of the far-stretching Appenines, and bade
The prowling Brigand seek his rocky cave,
Down in the misty gorge.

But gradual rose
The kingly sun, and bathed the awakened earth
In floods of glory. From each mountain nook
The curling mists retired_each cliff stood out,
And from the holy silence of the grove
Upsprung the darts of song. To their sweet toil
The vintagers went forth-and the fresh dawn
Breathed health and cheerfulness into their souls !
On this fair morn, along Calabrian seas
A stately vessel glided—from the land
Seen like a silver cloud, by light winds borne
From the golden East. But soon, distinct, appeared
Her giant masts, her swelling sails, her prow
Clearing the hissing tide ; and ere had sunk
The breeze, gliding majestic o'er the wave,
She bore her course into Euphemia's bay.
Now died the wind, and the tall stranger bark
Slumbered in breathless calm. The infant waves
Climbed in disport her billow-cleaving prow;
And her gigantic sails, that curbed the winds,
Flapped slowly, like the wearied sea-bird's wing,
When wheeling to her nest. Meanwhile her crew
Thronged the wide deck at noisy sport, or tales
Of marvellous style, such as the sailor loves :
But one young SEABOY on the giddy mast
Hung, like a second Icarus, in act
To wing the sky. Far different were his thoughts
From the wild mirth of his rude comrades : joy
Was in his youthful heart ; but 'twas a joy
Too deep for laughter--which seems more akin
To sorrow than to gladness. His dark eye
Gazed with wild rapture on Euphemia's walls,
Sweet city of his birth! He had returned
From his first voyage and his heart did bound
With mingled hopes and fears. He marked the hill,
Of gentlest slope, flower-clad, that overhung
His widowed mother's cot, and deemed he saw
The smoke light-curling from the mossy roof.
Oh ! how he longed for the wild sea-bird's wing,
To waft him to that dear and gentle scene
Of infant bliss ;-to his fond mother's arms,
Thanking kind Heaven for her brave boy's return,
And all his tender sister's warm caress,
Weeping for joy! Then, seated by the door,
He would recount his youthful dangers past,
And all the wonders of the distant land
O'er the wide sea. The soul-transporting thought
Brought to his eye the long-forgotten tear
From the warm fountain of his heart, congealed
By cold neglect, and freezing apathy,
And chilling glances of the stranger's eye,
That never glowed in sympathy with his.
In fondly nurtured dreams like these his mind
Was wrapt; and though o'er many a fairy scene
His eye wandered delighted, yet his thoughts
Were in that lonely cot, in the green nook
Of his own valley.

« 前へ次へ »