« ΠροηγούμενηΣυνέχεια »
and sold through the manufacturing districts at a halfpenny or penny each. The effusions of the hot city orators, and the most incendiary paragraphs of the anarchist journals are circulated in the same inanner.
• Give me the press,' said Mr. Sheridan, against venal lords, comnions or princes--against despotism of any kind, or in any shape-let me but array a free press, and the liberties of England will stand unsbaken.' And what if the press in abuse of freedom, and to the eventual destruction of freedom, its own as well as all other, should be arrayed against king, lords and commons, and governments of kind ? What would remain unshaken then? The press, like all other powerful engines, is mighty for mischief as well as for good, and little must they be aware of the force of this artillery who imagine that any government can suffer itself to be bat tered in breach by it with impunity. Look to the facts, and see what the licentiousness of the press has already produced. The armed associations of Nottingham and Yorkshire adding to the secrecy and combination of the United Irishmen, the coolness and regularity of the English character, and disgracing that character by the principles which they hold, the end at which they aim, and the assassinations which they have committed; even these conspirators against life, property, and social order are less alarming in their acts and in their purposes, thran are the symptoms which manifested themselves among the mob upon the death of Mr. Perceval. Who does not know that men and women and children paraded the streets of a populous city in the heart of England, with flags in honour of that event-in honour of the murder of one who carried into public life the gentleness of bis individual character, and in his private station was the model of every virtue? The victories of a Nelson or a Wellington would not have excited more overflowing joy in them when their natural feelings were uncerrupted, than was displayed upon this accursed occasion. Bonfires were kindled to celebrate a deed by which the peaceable part of the community were shocked as at some unwonted visitation of heaven, and for which, when they had recovered from the first stunning sensation, they grieved as for a private and peculiar calainity. The same un-english, unchristian, inhuman spirit displayed itself in Cornwall; and in London tlie indication of the temper of the populace was yet worse.
These then are the feelings of the pot-house politicians who have for years past been sucking in the venom and 'virulence of the demagogue journalists with their daily potations. When Sir Francis Burdett heard how the wretches who would have rescued Bellingham huzzaed his name, we certainly believe that no man regretted it more than himself. At that hour, and in these rejoicings their
temper disclosed itself without disguise, the temper of that rabble who vociferate for purity of election, throw up their hats for him, and lackey the heels of his processions. They ratified the murder; they made it their own act and deed, and even contracted in it a degree of guilt which did not attach to the perpetrator. For that unhappy man, though never was the forfeiture of life more imperiously required for the sake of society, it was iinpossible not to feel something like compassion ; but what shall be said of those writers, who by their pestilent perseverance in preaching evil, prepared the people to rejoice in his deed, and who have been wicked enough to hold up the victim as a warning, iustead of the murderer!
Mr. Sheridan has said that there are three ways of destroying the liberty of the press ; one is by oppressive acts of parliament, another by' Ex oljicio informations and the upconstitutional banishment of printers to distant gaols, and the third by raising the price of cheap publications. In this country, heaven be praised, the press is in no danger from either; but there is a fourth, and far more effectual way, which Mr. Sheridan overlooked, -by giving full play to its licentiousness. Among the truths of universal application which history teaches to those who are capable of receiving its lessons, there is none more certain than that the abuse of liberty is always followed by the loss of liberty: it is not more the rightful puuishment than it is the necessary consequence of the crime. Check the abuse of the press before the crisis is produced, and its inestimable blessings will be preserved; but if the anarchists be suffered to carry on their sapping and mining, and to keep their batteries in full play, the liberty of the press would not indeed be destroyed by their triumph, but it would be perilously endangered after their destruction. The immediate horrors of the Jacquerie would be our portion; the fatal consequences would be felt by our children, and our childrens' children. “As for those persons who,
misunderstanding this, or misrepresenting it, would take shelter in the common-places of their orators, and tell us that the freedom of the press is like the reputation of a woman, not to be touched without injury; that it furnishes always its own remedy, and conveys the antidote as well as the bane--such reasonings, if they were not likely to proceed sometimes from well meaning men, would be too silly to deserve refutation. A word suffices to refute them. What reason have you to suppose that they who swallow the bane will be persuaded to take the antidote? and would you suffer books of obscenity to be distributed in your family, because you can give your boys and girls sermons and treatises of morality to counteract their effect?
The incendiaries have succeeded in kindling a flame; it is in the power of the laws to prevent them from extending it, and adding
fuel to the conflagration. There are other causes which tend to shake the fabric of our prosperity, over which government indeed has no controul. The wide-spreading defection from the national church is one; another is to be found in those attempts to reform the English laws, which, if they were successful, would change the very principle upon which those admirable laws have been founded, and which even now loosen their hold upon the hearts of the people. More direct mischief is produced by the paltry proceedings of those save-all politicians, who boast of their economy in banishing newspapers from the public offices, and who calculate to the fraction of a pen what quantity of quill-barrel ought to be allowed for a clerk's daily consumption. This pitiful spirit courts popularity by addressing itself to the meanest feelings of the multitude, and the anarchists need wish for no better assistance than that which is given them by these mole-eyed and unintentional coadjutors. But the more these causes, which are not within reach of the executive government, aggravate the existing danger, the more necessary is it that speedy and vigorous measures should be taken for removing such as are under its controul.
The first duty of government is to stop the contagion; the next, as far as possible, to remove the causes which have pre-disposed so large a part of the populace for receiving it. We shall do little if we do not guard against a recurrence of the danger by wise and extensive measures of prospective policy. The anarchists may be silenced, and the associations of their disciples broken up; but while the poor continue what they are, coutinuing also, as they must, to gain in number upon the more prosperous classes, the materials for explosion will always be under our feet.
The first and most urgent business is to provide relief for those upon whom the pressure of the times bears hardest. Charity is no where so abundainly and munificently displayed as in England, not even in those countries where alıs-giving is considered as a commutation for sin; but mere charity is not what is needed in this emergency. The various plans which have been devised, and the local and partial experiments which have been made for bettering the condition of the poor, as reported by the society embodied for that purpose, are highly honourable to the members of that society, and to the land in which they exist. The society which has been formed under the auspices of the Duke of York, for the immediate purpose of affording assistance to the distressed counties, is doing much; and there is cause to hope that the benefit which must result from its encouragement of the fisheries will continue after the emergency is past. The food which is thus brought into the market is so much clear gain; it is nutricious; it is the cheapest which can possibly be procured; it is drawn from a
VOL. VIII. NO, XVI.
source of supply which is inexhaustible, and the mode of procuring it adds to our best defence, by keeping up a nursery for our fleets.
There is another way by which employment might be provided for many of those whom want of work renders not only burthensome, but dangerous to society, and from which perinanent good would ensue to the community. These ends might be attained, if our great landholders could be persuaded, instead of adding estate to estate, till they count whole districts, and almost whole counties within their domains, to apply the capital, that is thus directed, to the better purpose of doubling the value of the lands which they already possess, by bringing them into the highest state of cultivation of which they are capable. How many are the marshes which might thus be drained, the moors which might be reclaimed, the wild and lonely heaths which would be rendered productive, and where villages would grow round the first rude huts of the labourers! Great indeed is the present relief which might thus be afforded to those who need it, the permanent advantage to the country, and ultimately to the principal landholders themselves: but that they should thus see their true interest, and act upon it, is rather to be wished than expected. Of all the maxims of proverbial wisdom which experience has bequeathed to mankind, there is none which is so seldom practically applied, and few which are so widely applicable, as that which is contained in the old Ascræan's exclamation,
Νήπιοι, εδ' ήσασιν δσω πλέον ήμισυ παντος. It may seem, perhaps, paradoxical at first to assert that a season of pressure like the present, is a fit season for undertaking national works; yet nothing can be more certain, than that the public must in some form or other, support those who are deprived of their usual employments; and that it is better to administer this relief in the form of wages, than of poor-rates. The mouths cannot be idle, and as the great object is to prevent the hands from being so, a time when there are many hands out of employ is, of all others, the time for such labours. One way or other, be it remembered, the men must be maintained : it is therefore more wholesome for the community to have the advantage of their labour, and for themselves to feel that they earn their own maintenance, than that they should be fed gratuitously, and that we should have a race in England half Luddite, half Lazzaroni. No time, therefore, can be so proper for national works, for making new naval stations and improving the old, for cuiting roads, draiming fens, and recovering tracts of country by embankments from the sea. Better is it to engage in works of ostentatious convenience,-better would it be for the state to build pyramids in honour of our Nelsons and Wel
lingtons, than that men who have hands, and are willing to work, should hunger for want of employment.
Things of this kind (and many such might be devised) are palliatives, which in this case are all that are required; this part of the evil being but for a season. The radical evil can only be cured by a course of alteratives. Discussions and speculations upon first principles of government and abstract rights, with a view to the formation of some New Atlantis or Utopia, have au effect upon men analogous to that which novel-reading produces upon girls: as long as the inebriation lasts, it unfits them to bear their parts in the realities of life, which appear. stale, flat and unprofitable' to their heated and high-fed faucies. They become dissatisfied with the society in which they are placed, and because they cannot remodel its institutions according to their own notions of perfection, instead of endeavouring to lessen the quantum of evil in the world, they increase it by their factious or querulous discontent. The good which may be done in this country is immeasurably great, the disposition to it in our rulers cannot be doubted; the means are in our own hands; the invention of printing did not come inore opportunely for the restoration of letters, and the blessed work of reformation, than Dr. Bell's discovery to vaccinate the next generation against the pestilence which has infected this. The greatest boon which could be conferred upon Britain (avd this is of such paramount importance that we cannot enforce it too earnestly, or repeat it too often) is a system of national education, established by the legislature in every parish, as an outwork and bulwark of the national church; so that instruction should be given to all who cannot pay for it: that as none can die for want of food in England, (the poor rates not having been commuted for wedding sermons against procreation,) so none should be suffered to perish for lack of knowledge. Reverting to immediate relief, as well as permanent good, why should not government extend its military and naval seminaries, so that every body who needed an asylum should know where to find one? Would it not be better that ibe workhouses should empty themselves into our fleets and armies, than that they should pack off children by wagyon-loads, to grow up in the stench and moral
contagion of cotton mills while the trade flourishes, and to be thrown out of employ, and turned upon the public when it meets
with any sudden revulsion ? Seminaries of this kind may be so conducted as to cost little more than well-regulated workhouses. Bors become useful at sea at a very early age. There is no danger of overstocking ourselves with seamen; in peace the merchant service 'will require all that the navy can disiniss, and in war we know what is suffered from the difficulty of procuring hands. Train up children for the land and sea service, instruct them ton in their moral