Sidor som bilder
PDF
ePub

old rhymer, shews that iuns in those days were upon the same plan in this country as they now are upon the continent.

At meals, my friend, who vitleth here, and sitteth with his host,
Shall both be sure of better cheer, and 'scape with lesser cost;
But he that will attendance have, a chamber by himself,
Must more regard what pains do crave, than pas of worldly pelf.

It is obvious, that the labourer, who lodged in one of these houses, would be little likely to lay by any part of his earnings: they could be no schools of frugality; but it is equally obvious, that he would not be tempted to riotous expenditure. He was, in fact, one of the family; it was essential to their comfort that his habits should be sober and decent, and it was more directly essential to his own also; because, according to his conduct in this point would be the respect and kindness with which he would be treated. The landlord counted upon his regular payments, and therefore to have encouraged him in drunkenness, for the sake of a little more immediate gain, would have been like killing the goose with the golden eggs. The landlord, we may be sure, would remember the old stave:

Give us old ale and book it,

O give us old ale and book it;

And when you would have your money for all,

My cousin may chance to look it.

But this system is entirely out of use in the country, and in large towns there are no other remains of it than may be traced in the ordinaries and the cook-shops. The eating and drinking houses are now, in a great degree, separated, the one being as useful as the other is pernicious. For the labouring man, the ale-house is now a place of pure unmingled evil; where, while he is single, he squanders the money which should be laid up as a provision for marriage, or for old age; and where, if he frequent it after he is married, he commits the far heavier sin of spending, for his own selfish gratification, the earnings, upon which the woman, whom he has rendered dependent on him, and the children to whom he has given birth, have the strongest of all claims. The diminution of these houses is one of the most practicable and efficient means of real radical reform.

The lower orders may be divided into the large classes of persons employed in agriculture, manufacturers, handicraftsmen, miners, day-labourers, and domestic servants: there is, likewise, a very numerous body in great cities, which the wants of a great city create, draymen, hackney-coachmen, porters, butchers, &c.: the army and navy are supplied from all these classes; the unfortunate, and still more, the improvident, compose the great army of paupers, while the outcasts and reprobates are those vagabonds and ruffians

who

who annoy and endanger the rest of the community. The Spanish Census, which was taken before we had any thing more than mere conjecture to proceed upon in this important part of statistics, distinguishes the different employments of men with a minuteness which is highly curious, though, in our complicated system of society, it would be hardly attainable. We have however before us some tables, formed with great knowledge and singular ability, whereby it appears that the number of families employed in agriculture, throughout England and Wales, are, upon an average of all the counties, thirty-six in a hundred. Manufacturers, it is obvious, must always be exposed to great and sudden fluctuations, arising from causes over which neither they nor their employers have any controul: there is a bare possibility that those which are occasioned by the humour of fashion might be removed, if they who lead the fashions were made sensible of the severe injury which is often done to large bodies of men, by the capricious disuse of any article for which there has been a considerable demand: he, however, who should expect this, must be a sturdy believer in the perfectibility of women; and indeed, in general, the demand which ceases in one quarter is only transferred to another, and the same quantity of industry is put in motion by the same expenditure. But the stoppages which arise from political causes bring with them no compensation of this kind; they are more extensive, and they are, in their very nature, irremediable. In this respect, therefore, the situation of the manufacturers is worse than that of any of the other labouring classes, for whose services there is, generally speaking, a certain and equal demand, and that demand almost wholly independent of any but local circumstances. On the other hand the difference of wages is sufficient to compensate for this, though the chances of ill fortune do not usually enter into our calculations for so much as they ought. Wages, of course, must always differ according to the quality of the work, and the dexterity or strength of the workmen; but the wages of every handicraft man throughout this kingdom are more than sufficient for his maintenance, in ordinary times; it is only in agriculture that they are unjustly depressed by the injurious effect of the poor laws. What then are the causes of pauperism?-misfortune in one instance, misconduct in fifty; want of frugality, want of forethought, want of prudence, want of principle;--want of hope also should be added. But hope and good principles may be given by human institutions;—it is the interest, it is the paramount duty of government, to see that they are given; and if they are not followed by prudence and prosperity, as their natural consequence, the evil will be of that kind for which the sufferer has nothing to reproach himself. Weak as we are and prone to sin, it is not often that we murmur against the dispensations

of Providence. The privations, the sufferings, the bereavements which come from God, are borne humbly, and patiently, and religiously:-it even seems as if the heart were like those fruits which ripen the more readily when they are wounded. But if affliction soften the heart, adversity, too often, tends to harden it: the injuries of fortune affect men with sense of injustice, and are resented like wrongs; and when they proceed from misconduct, any feeling is more tolerable than that of self-condemnation. Men seek to justify themselves against the inward accuser, and set up the standard of their own morality against the law. Guilt is a skilful sophist: the veriest wretch who subsists by pilfering, or closes a course of more audacious crimes at the gallows, forms for himself a system which is, in its origin and end, the same as that of Buonaparte, and the other philosophers of the Satanic school.

It is among the lower classes that those miseries, as well as those diseases are found, which become infectious to the community. The vices to which they are prone are idleness, drunkenness, gambling, and cruelty: gambling is the least frequent, and might almost wholly be prevented, were the magistrates to exert themselves, and the parish officers to do their duty. Cruelty is less within the cognizance of human laws, and yet we trust those abominable sports, which tend to foster it, will be prohibited; this indeed is a bestial principle which no moral and religious alchemy can transmute into any thing good: the others are only perversions of the great springs of human action; which, when they have their proper direction assigned then, operate immediately to the benefit of the individual and the public. They proceed from self-indulgence, or that love of excitement which man retains as a distinguishing characteristic from inferior animals, when, in all other respects, he has, as far as possible, degraded himself to their level. Where this is the case it is not always the fault of the individual, even in civilized and Christian countries—even in our own. Animals go rightly, according to the ends of their creation, when they are left to themselves; they follow their instinct, and are safe: but it is otherwise with man; the ways of life are a labyrinth for him; his infancy does not stand more in need of a mother's care, than his moral and intellectual faculties require to be nursed and fostered; and when these are left to starve for want of nutriment, how infinitely more deplorable is his condition than that of the beasts who perish!

Herein it is that our Reformation was left imperfect. No blame for this is imputable to those good and admirable men by whose learning and labour it was effected, by whose martyrdom it was sealed. They felt and urged the necessity of providing good education for the people; and that most excellent prince, Edward VI., reckoned it first among the medicines which must cure the sores of

the

[ocr errors][ocr errors][ocr errors][ocr errors]

6

6

the commonweal: he reckoned it first in order, as first in dignity and degree.' Men,' said he, keep longest the savour of their first bringing up; wherefore, seeing that it seemeth so necessary a thing, we will show our device herein.' Every thing* indeed which a good and judicious mind could desire as tending most surely to the improvement of his country and his kind, seems to have been contemplated by this extraordinary youth-1. Good education. 2. Devising of good laws. 3. Executing the laws justly without respect of persons. 4. Example of rulers. 5. Punishing of vagabonds and idle persons. 6. Encouraging the good. 7. Ordering well the Customers. 8. Engendering friendship in all parts of the commonwealth. These be the chief points that tend to order well the whole commonwealth.'- Nevertheless,' he says, when all these laws be made, established, and enacted, they serve to no purpose except they be fully and duly executed. By whom? By those that have authority to execute; that is to say, the noblemen and the justices of peace. Wherefore I would wish that after this Parliament were ended, those noblemen, except a few that should be with me, went to their counties, and there should see the statutes fully and duly executed; and that those men should be put from being justices of the peace that be touched or blotted with those vices that be against these new laws to be established: for no man that is in fault himself can punish another for the same offence.' With due allowance for the little which is not applicable to our present state of society, every thing is here noted which is required for a thorough reformation of the people,-sound instruction for all, wholesome chastisement for the dissolute, wholesome encouragement for the well-disposed, and the watchful execution of those minor laws, upon the proper observance of which the general weal is not less dependent than domestic comfort and happiness are upon the minor morals. Time passes on, manners and customs change, institutions are modified; some ripen in the course of age, and others fall to decay; but the great principles of politics and ethics, of public and private morality, are fixed and immutable,—-fixed as the order of the universe, immutable as its Creator.

The platform of general instruction was not laid (as it should have been) when we passed from popery to protestantism. Funds wrested iniquitously from the church, and which, if justly applied, would have provided for this most important object with a munificence of which no age or country has ever yet seen an example,

·

* I could wish,' says King Edward, that when time shall serve, the superfluous and tedious statutes were brought into one sum together, and made more plain and short, to the intent that men might the better understand them; which thing shall much help to advance the profit of the commonwealth.'-If this were to be desired in his days, how infinitely more needful must it be now!

"

F4

were

were dilapidated by the profuse expenditure of Henry VIII., and the rapacity of his favourites: and perhaps if his saintly son had at tained to longer life, he might have found his best intentions frustrated by the opposition which they would have experienced from selfishness, cupidity, and contending parties. But unhappily while little was done, the easier work of undoing had proceeded with its natural rapidity. Such as the instruction of the Romish church is, it was amply provided by the Romish establishment: its outward and visible forms were always before the eyes of the people; the ceremonials were dexterously interwoven with the whole habits of their usual life; the practice of confession, baleful as it is, and liable to such perilous abuses, had yet the effect of bringing every individual under the knowledge of his spiritual teacher, while a faith, blind indeed, and grossly erroneous, was kept alive in the most ignorant of the populace by superstitious observances, the scaffolding and the trappings, the tools and the trinkets of popery. In addition to all these means, the country was filled with itinerant preachers, actively employed in co-operating with the secular clergy to one general end, (however opposed to them in individual interest,) and in supporting and strengthening the influence of the church establishment. Under that state of things, every person in the kingdom was instructed in as much of Christianity as his teacher, erring himself and ignorant of its true nature, thought necessary for salvation. He was well taught in certain legends, and knew perfectly the romance of his patron saint, and the fable of his favourite idol: he had a lively faith in purgatory, and had learnt when to kneel and when to cross himself at a mysterious and unintelligible service; and he could repeat certain prayers, with a full persuasion of their devoutness and of the utility of repeating them, though he did not understand the meaning of one syllable. Great superstition was inculcated, and implicit faith, and it has been wisely and charitably observed by John Wesley, that God makes allowance for invincible ignorance, and blesses the faith notwithstanding the superstition!'

6

This was the religious state of our common people before the Reformation; the point of instruction was reached at which their teachers aimed, and which their rulers thought necessary. And this is the condition of the common people in Catholic countries at this day, where they have not been infected by the pestilence of revolutionary impiety. Its effect in attaching them invincibly to the old institutions of their native land has been nobly exemplified in La Vendée, in Portugal, and in Spain. It is accompanied every where with a lamentable ignorance of the real nature of Christianity, and with a most adulterated system of morals as well as of faith: but if the same diligence had been used in these kingdoms for in

structing

« FöregåendeFortsätt »