Sidor som bilder
PDF
ePub
[ocr errors]

of the subject on which I trouble you, will induce you to pardon the liberty I am about to take. :?

“ Having very nearly attained the age of man, I have no more time to lose; and being anxious to do some good before I go hence, and having no power myself, I can only hope to succeed by applying to those who have.

“ Convinced that no nation can prosper unless its morals can be preserved, and that none but Christian morals deserve the name, I with this view have joined in a request to the Earl of Liverpool, that he would take into his consideration the great want of church room for the lower classes in most of our populous parishes. With a similar view, I now beg leave to state some things which appear to me productive of much evil, and which I hope it is in your power to reform.

“ The greatest of these is Lotteries. Oh! that I were endowed with power to paint in their true colours the numberless dreadful mischiefs they occasion! But let a man look at every paper he reads, at every wall he passes, and at every errand cart that passes him, and he may judge of the extent of the evil, and of the class of those whom it principally affects. And to judge of the height to which it has risen, he need only examine the scheme of the present Lottery, which, while it impudently asserts that there are not two blanks to a prize, does not, in truth, allot one prize to 280 tickets. Nay, it is evident, that the prize of 25,000 guineas in gold is almost exclusively the object of the great mass of those fools and profligates who give 241. for tickets not worth 101. .“ When gambling has risen to this extent and height, and is thus encouraged by government, can we wonder that servants rob their masters, and clerks their employers ?

Two things are urged in defence of Lotteries,--that they produce revenue without taxation, and that gambling will exist, and therefore government may as well profit by it.

66 That they produce revenue is true; but could a full and fair account be taken of all the loss and expense which falls on the country, from the crimes caused by lotteries, I question if one shilling of that revenue would remain. And at the last general audit, what minister will dare to state that, for the sake of a paltry revenue, he promoted sin ?

66 The chief blot in the public character of your great and good predecessor was, that he continued and multiplied lotteries. When the time shall come that your epitaph must be written, what nobler praise can you wish than

Here lies the man who abolished Lotteries,' who checked the tide of gambling, and preferred godliness to gain ?

“ That gambling (like other vices) will continue, may be literally true, but that, like others, it may be checked by wise laws, is no less certain. At least let us try the experiment. Let it be the declared intention both of ministers and the parliament to abolish all public lotteries for ever ; and let new laws (for such are better observed than old ones) be passed against all private lotteries, and every species of gaming, at St. James's as well as St. Giles's; and let the police magistrates and their officers be encouraged and supported in putting those laws in force; and I have no hesitation in asserting, that great and good effects will ensue. Indeed I see no reason to doubt that similar effects will always ensue from any measure originating in a sincere desire to promote the glory of God and the real good of man. This is uncommon language in an address to a minister; but this is an uncommon administration. Not esteemed superior to its predecessors in talent, all admit

its superiority in success, and until some more probable cause can be assigned, I shall attribute this to its containing (beyond all comparison) more religious principle than any within the last hundred years.

“ If I am correct in this opinion, I may surely hope for support in my wish to check (at least) the daily increasing breach of the third commandment, by the multiplying oaths to such an extent, and on such paltry occasions, as to render custom-house oaths no longer proverbial. The evil is such, its consequences so fatal, and its remedy so obvious, that it seems strange they should have escaped the observation of any zealous Christian. Thousands (I might almost say millions) call on the Almighty to witness facts which they know to be false, or do not know to be true, or which they themselves consider as utterly unimportant.

“ Let all oaths be abolished except in courts of justice, or other solemn assemblies; and let them there be administered with all possible solemnity, the whole court standing uncovered. In all other cases (or at least in as many as possible) let the party now required to swear sign a declaration, and let the penalties attending perjury be annexed to that signature; and let these penalties be extended to all those numberless cases in which extra-judicial oaths are now taken without the least reluctance, because liable to no punishment.

“ I will mention only one other source of national immorality,—The profanation of the Lord's day, particularly by Sunday newspapers and stage coaches. If these cannot be prohibited, surely their rapid increase might be checked, in the latter case by an additional toll, and in the former by an additional stamp.

“ Newspapers contribute so notoriously, and to so great a degree, to the propagation both of immoral and unconstitutional tenets, that no means should be omitted which can lessen their circulation, and the taxes on them should, therefore, be augmented as often as practicable; not with a view to increase the revenue, but to lessen the evil. Sunday tolls on travelling come within the same predicament. But the turnpikes themselves might be made, I conceive, a very efficient source of revenue as well as useful regulation, if parliament would permit them to be put into the hands of government. The roads in general are now in good order, but some improvements on those leading to the principal dock yards, &c. would be highly beneficial in times of war, and can only be executed by able engineers, and at greater expense than any local trust can supply. To find employ at this time for disbanded soldiers and seamen, and discharged workmen from Woolwich, &c. &c., . is a most important object; for their distress is great, and its consequences alarming. W“ Many individuals suffer by having lent money on unproductive turnpikes, to whom it would be a great relief to have their loans secured on the tolls of the whole kingdom. And if the tax on leather, or others that bear hard on the poor, could be commuted for additional tolls on travellers, it would be both popular and highly advantageous. Thus employment and food might be provided for those who have neither; and few would grudge to pay a shilling instead of sixpence, if they found their stage shortened and their delay lessened. · " If any of these crude ideas, improved by your talents, and supported by your power, can tend to promote the real good of my countrymen, I shall be amply rewarded. If not, I still hope you will pardon the attempt. ..

“ I have the honour to subscribe myself, . . ....

“ Sir, ... "Your faithful humble servant,

56 J. BOWDLER."

The manner in which the Chancellor of the Exchequer received this letter was highly gratifying to the writer. He replied to it on the following day at considerable length, stating that the name and character of the writer had long been sufficiently known to him to insure a respectful attention to any suggestions he might have been pleased to communicate, even without the pleasure of a personal acquaintance; and that the importance of the subjects now touched upon had brought them frequently under his consideration. He proceeds to remark successively upon every point mentioned in the former letter ; stating on the subject of accommodation in churches, that he hoped another session would not pass without a proposition being made for remedying, to a considerable extent, this great and increasing evil; that Mr. Perceval had bestowed much attention on the subject, and it had never been lost sight of since; but the magnitude of the expence to be incurred, though by no means the greatest difficulty to be encountered, would have indisposed parliament to entertain such a proposition till the conclusion of the war. With respect to the multiplication of oaths in extra-judicial proceedings, he states that much has been done to lessen the evil, care having been taken in modern statutes to avoid the introduction of new oaths, and suppress such as before existed ; in consequence of which many thousand oaths less are now taken at the custom-house than

ar

e

n

« FöregåendeFortsätt »