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Modern times exhibit most discordant phænomena. Notwithstanding our admired and vaunted improvements in agriculture, commerce, and the arts, burdens accumulate on the great mass of the people, and the sphere of indigence is every where enlarged. Bills of inclosure are multiplied, waste lands are brought into cultivation, forests are cut down and floated on the ocean ; the East and the West, the North and the South, are laid under contribution to supply our real and imaginary wants; yet Bread has been scarce, the Poor labour under hardships hitherto unknown, and an unprecedented portion of the community is fed from the reservoirs of paro. chial charity. The inclosing system has not obviated the necessity of importation : the Poor-Rates have increased with the growing opulence of Farmers : labour, which once conferred on the industrious peasant a humble independance, has been insufficient to secure him from absolute want; and that Bread, which honest Poverty once enjoyed in the lowly cottage, must now be sollicited within the walls of a Work-house.
These circumstances, which we here mention not to excite discontent but to awaken reflection, indicate the existence of some radical evil. " To scatter Plenty o'er a smiling land” is the object of every enlightened politician; who will estimate the wisdom of public systems from their operation on the whole mass of society, and will pronounce that nation to be under the influence of delusion, which can be elated by the partial diffusion of wealth and splendour, while every day adds to the classes of squalid mendicity.
It may be said that Mr. Pratt has made the Poor a rich and interesting subject, in its relation to the pressure of the times; and his work, (the composition of which is said to have beguiled the moments of a dangerous illness,) though far from being polished to that degree of elegance which true poetry requires, has many passages indicative of the author's feeling and genius, It thus opens :
• I sing the Poor! for them invite the lyre,
For them alone I ask the poet's fire ;
• And thou blest muse of Sympathy! again
Teach avarice to feel the social sigh,
For every muse should be the poor man's friend.? The picture of the Poor in former times, and particularly of the Cottager's return from labour to his little home, is too good to be witholden from our exhibition:
Ah lead me back, ye muses, to the bower,
• Then was the poor man rich, and fondly smild,
Alternate rul'd, was govern’d and obey’d.' Many other sketches of simple rural life occur; some of which are executed in the pastoral style, and may please those who can excuse little negligencies. With the pictures of old times, those of the new are contrasted, not much to the advantage of the latter : but here, in defiance of the poet's resolution, Imagination will assist in the drawing :
• Not such I sing ! ah, no! a different race,
• No petted lamb is theirs to sport around,
Nor balmy-breathing cow, nor swine appear,
• Behold the hamlets, where unroof'd they stand,
To seize the hard-earn'd morsel of the poor.' After having thus depicted the miserable state of the Poor, Mr. Pratt adverts to what he deems the cause of such wretchedness, Here, perhaps, he has not inquired so deeply as a politician may do, but has taken the popular racher than the philosophic view of the subject. --Farmers, and farmers' wives, converted into Birmingham Gentlemen and Ladies, are subjects of the Poet's ridicule : but, in his attempt to delineate Vulgarity affecting Refinement, he seems to have forgotten that he was writing a work which, in its denomination, aspired to the praise of harmony and elegance. Within the space of two pages, these lines occur :
- To all but to himself and her, a fright.
• Really unpleasant ! and that scarcely heard." Towards the conclusion of the poem, Mr. Pratt offers the following advice:
O give the heirs of poverty their cots,
Amidst their thorny paths entwine a flower-
The grateful rustic's hand and heart thy own.'
The Notes are added to justify the writer's representations : but we apprehend that the anecdotes of the farmers at Stratford on Avon will induce Mr. Pratt's readers to observe that, if occasionally he be prosaic in his poetry, he sometimes compensates by being poetical in his prose.
An account of Mr. Prate's last volumes of Gleanings was given in our 36th vol. p. 421.
ART. XV. The Income Tax scrutinized, and some Amendments pro
posed to render it more agreeable to the British Constitution. By
John Gray, LL.D. 8vo. 25. Symonds. 1802. VARIOUS objections may be and have been alleged against the
tax on income. Of all our imposts, indeed, it is the most irritating; and, in addition to its numerous disagreeable effects, it may be questioned whether it be established on a right principle. During the pressure of war, however, when the great majority of the people were convinced of the importance of sustaining the contest with firmness, this tax, under all its hardships, was paid without much murmuring : but it is not likely that it will be cheerfully sustained on the return of peace, unless it receives considerable modifications; and, indeed, it was originally imposed as a war-tax. Government, we understand at the moment of writing this, are disposed to re-consider the subject; and in the mean time the hints of wise and judicious men should be gratefully received. In this view, the reflections and suggestions of Dr. Gray, in the pamphlet before us, are intitled to no small share of consideration; since his general principles are not only excellent in themselves, but are calculated to detect and place in a true light those false though splendid estimates of national wealth, with which the public have lately been amused.
We agree with the Doctor in a leading position, that one of the great sources of the political, and it may be added of the moral evils, which have afflicted the world for more than one hundred years, is the miscalculation of statesmen, in regard to the comparative importance of the Income from Agriculture and the Income from Foreign Commerce. By preventing false reckonings on these subjects, and by discrimi. nating between the true and factitious sources of national wealth, we are inclined io hope that some good might be effected. It is the object of Dr. Gray to ascertain what is properly National Income, and to expose those fallacies which great authorities have sanctioned. He denies that either the interest of Funds, or the profit of home trade, forms any part of this income: observing that the receipts of individuals, in their mutual dealings in society, are only portions of the original annual supply, and afford no gain to one individual without a proportionate loss to another; and as to the Funds, they no more enrich the community than private debts enrich the individual who owes them. The Territorial Income and the National Income are said to be nearly synonimous ; and the Doctor pronounces it to be an impossibility to obtain any tax, in fact, except from this income. He estimates the National