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plied. It is scarcely too much to affirm, that beneficence was never more liberally, more generally, or more strenuously employed, than it is at this time in Birmingham, where all who have any thing to spare from their own necessities, are doing whatever can be done by human and Christian charity for the relief of those who are in need. And it is to the journeymen and poor of this town at this time that Mr. Cobbett addresses himself, seeking to irritate and infame them, by the most seditious language, and the most calumnious falsehoods, and telling them that they are coaxed and threatened, with a basin of carrion soup in one hand, and a halter in the other!'
Why is it that this convicted incendiary, and others of the same stamp, are permitted week after week to sow the seeds of rebellion, insulting the government, and defying the laws of the country? The press may combat the press in ordinary times and upon ordivary topics, a measure of finance, for instance, or the common course of politics, or a point in theology. But in seasons of great agitation, or on those momentous subjects in which the peace and security of society, nay the very existence of social order itself is involved, it is absurd to suppose that the healing will come from the same weapon as the wound. They who read political journals, read for the most part to have their opinions flattered and strengthened, not to correct or enlighten them; and the class of men for whom these pot-house epistles are written, read nothing else. The Monthly Magazine asserts that from 40 to 50,000 of the twopenny Registers are sold every week, and the editor thinks it his duty to assist the sale by recommending it to his liberal and enlightened readers.' The statement may probably be greatly exaggerated,—this being an old artifice;-but if only a tenth of that number be circulated among the populace, for it is to the populace that this ferocious journal is addressed, the extent of the mischief is not to be calculated. Its ignorant readers receive. it with entire faith: it serves them for law and for gospel-for their Creed and their Ten Commandments. They talk by it, and swear by it;—they are ready to live by it; and it will be well if some of these credulous and unhappy men are not deluded to die by it; they would not be the first victims of the incendiary press. We have laws to prevent the exposure of unwholesome meat in our markets, and the mixture of deleterious drugs in beer. We have laws also against poisoning the minds of the people, by exciting discoutent and disaffection;why are not these laws rendered effectual and enforced as well as the former? Had the insolence of the French journalists been checked at the commencement of the Reyolution, those journalists would not have brought their king to the guillotine, and bave perished themselves among the innumerable victims of their folly, their falsehood, their extravagance, and
their guilt. Men of this description, like other criminals, derive no lessons from experience. But it behoves the Government to do so, and curb sedition in time; lest it should be called upon to crush rebellion and to punish treason. The prayer in the Litany will not deliver them from these things, unless they use the means which God and man have entrusted to them for delivering us and themselves.
How often have we heard that the voice of the people is the voice of God, from demagogues who were labouring to deceive the people, and who despised the wretched instruments of whom they made use! But it is the Devil whose name is Legion. Vox Po puli, cox Dei! When or where has it been so? Was it in England during the riots in 1780? Has it been in France during the last six and twenty years ? Or was it in Spain when the people restored the Inquisition ?-for it was the people who restored that accursed tribunal, spontaneously and tumultuously-not the government, which only ratified what the people had done ; still less were they assisted by that base engine of our corrupt statesinen, the standing, army,' by which is meant the soldiers who fought and conquered with Wellington, as some of the city resolutioners have asserted with equal regard to truth, and to the honour of their countryWhat will not these men traduce! Vox Populi, Vor Dei!-Was it so in the wilderness when the people gathered themselves together unto Aaron and said unto him, Up, make us Gods which shall go before us? Was it so at Athens when Socrates and Phocion were sacrificed to the factious multitude? Or was it so at Jesusalem when they cried, Crucify Him! crucify Him! The position is not more tenable than the Right Divine, not less mischievous, and not less absurd. God is in the populace as he is in the hurricane, and the volcano, and the earthquake!
What then are the prospects of the country under the awful dispensation with which it is visited ? and what is the course which the government and the parliament are bound, or competent to pursue ?
Of distresses, such as now pervade the mass of the community, small indeed is the part which parliaments or governments either create or cure. The causes of them, as we have abundantly shewn, either lie without the limits of human controul, or have been carried beyond our reach by the tide of time. We cannot command the seasons whose unkindness has aggravated the pressure bequeathed us by a long and exhausting war; we could not annul the consequences of that war even if we were unsteady enough to recant its policy, or recreant enough to repudiate its glories. But what little might have been in our power (may we venture to say it ?) has unhappily, perhaps ipadvertently, been thrown away. In passing from
a state of war to a state of peace, the shock of the revulsion might not improbably have been lessened to all orders of society by somewhat graduating the transition. The die is now cast-the results, be they what they may, must be abided; and we speak therefore with the freedom of history, when we say that had the government been left a short time longer in the possession of the extraordinary resources confided to them during the war, some of the evils which (to the surprize of so many well meaning persons) have been found associated with peace, might possibly have received mitigation. To speak words of kind omen-of hailing and farewell—to the spirit of the departed Property-tax, is, we know, to incur the anathema of those who have been shouting over its grave. But it did good service in its time : and though he would be a mad politician indeed who should now think of reviving it, we suspect that there are not wanting some among the persons that laboured most eagerly for its extinction, who doubt whether the use of it, or of a portion of it, during the present year, might not have been attended with advantages to the country. It might not have been unwise to ascertain by a little experience, on what portion of our system the pressure of a new state of things would be most sensibly felt, and where relief might be most usefully administered :-and to have made this experiment with the means of such relief in our hands.
If stagnant manufactures, and languishing agriculture, and a population suddenly turned loose from the military or naval services of the country, produce a supply of hands for which there is no work, a partial and temporary remedy might perhaps have been found in undertakings of public utility and magnificence-in the improvement of roads, the completion of canals, the erection of our National Monuments for Waterloo and Trafalgar-undertakings which government might have supplied, if the means had been at their disposal. To attempt to raise money for such a purpose in
the present state of the country would be, indeed, an adventurous · policy. The clamour against the new burden would be echoed from the very mouths which it was intended to provide the means of filling.
The sudden reduction of establishments cannot well be denied to aggravate in a degree, and for a time, some of the evils, which it is ultimately to cure. It throws, as has been already observed, Bew hands into the overstocked market of labour. By a singular and whimsical injustice, it brings a new odium upon the government, exactly the opposite of that which they had incurred from the suspicion of a desire to prevent or avoid reduction. Parliament cuts down the naval estimates, and then the Mansion-house cries shame upon the Admiralty for the distresses of the discharged seamen!
These These consequences of peace, however, it will be said, are unavoidable. True : but they are the consequences of peace, they are produced by that transition from war to peace which has at once taken a customer for millions sterling out of the market of labour and consumption, and thrown into it thousands of competitors for agricultural and manufacturing employment. They are as clearly the consequences of that revulsion which is asserted to have had no operation in producing the present derangement in all sorts of prices and property--as the absolute inability of the Government to come to the aid of the suffering classes is the consequence of that defalcation of their means which was forced upon them by the House of Commons, and upon the House of Commons by the clamours of the country. |
Whether Parliament can devise the means of alleviation, is what we would not willingly decide beforehand in the negative; though, we confess, our hopes are very faint of any immediate and sensible good from legislative interference. The revision of the PoorLaws—a work now of crying vecessity-may lead to such corrections and improvements in that system, as shall at once extend its efficacy and lighten its almost intolerable burden. But this is an operation for distant-comparatively distant-effect. To the actual pressure of the moment, what remedy could even a reformed House of Commons apply that would not ultimately resolve itself into taxation ?
Of this we may be tolerably sure: that if, after the most anxious consideration of every plausible suggestion, Parliament should reluctantly come to the conclusion that there is nothing effectual to be done till the tide shall turn in our favour; the House of Commons will be held up to detestation, as insensible to the distresses of their constituents : while, on the other hand, indications are not wanting that all the batteries of political economy are ready to open against any plan of relief which may be found liable (as what plan for such a purpose opust not be?) to objections of theoretical science, and that any assistance which should be proposed to be given to individuals on the part of the public, would be stigmatized as a project of corruption.
In the midst of all these difficulties, however, one duty there certainly is which Government and Parliament are both competent and called upon to discharge. They cannot stay the pestilence; but they can take care that, while it rages, the city is not plundered. They cannot (would to God they could !) charm away the embarrassments of the rich, and the privations of the poor; but they may, and they must, save both the poor and rich from the common curse and inisery of a Revolution.
*** Mr. David Hume, nephew to the historian of that name, has written to us respecting the anecdote of his kinsman, extracted, in our last Number, from Mr. Silliman's Travels. That anecdote he has shown to be false, by unques tionable dates, and by a circumstance related in the Manuscript Memoirs of the late Dr. Carlisle, an eminent clergyman of the Scottish Church,' and friend of the historian. The circumstance, interesting in itself and decisive upon the subject, we transcribe, in the words of the Manuscript, from the letter before us: “When David and he (the Hon. Mr. Bogle, brother of the late Earl of Glasgow) were both in London, at the period when David's mother died, Mr. Boyle hearing of it, soon after went into his apartinent, for they lodged in the same house, where he found him in the deepest affliction, and in a flood of tears. After the usual topics of condolence, Mr. Boyle said to him, « My friend, you owe this uncommon grief to your having thrown off the principles of religion: for if you had not, you would have been consoled by the firm belief, that the good lady, who was not only the best of mothers, but the most pious of Christians, was completely happy in the realms of the just." To which David replied, “ though I throw out my speculations to entertain and employ the learned and metaphysical world, yet, in other things, I do not think so differently from the rest of mankind as you imagine."
Mr. Silliman relates the anecdote on the authority of a very venerable and respectable man to whom he was introduced at Edinburgh, who was an early and intimate friend of Dr. Witherspoon,' and to whom those letters on the education of children which are printed in Witherspoon's Works were originally written.' This person, who may probably be easily recognized at Edinburgh, is stated to have been well acquainted with Hume. Oo his authority Mr. Silliman contradicts the received opinion of the composure with which the sceptical philosopher died. Mr. D. Hume expostulates with us for having lightly given credit to the anecdote which we extracted, as if we had acted from bigotry. We believed the anecdote, and in that belief quoted it,—not to detract from the character of Hume, but as showing in what manner the philosophy which he sent abroad restored the sting to death. The story concerning his own death we did not extract, knowing, whether true or false, how very little such stories are worth, how often they are feigned, and how easily delirium is interpreted according to the notions of the bye standers.
Mr. Hume requires, as he has a right to do, that we shall repair the wrong which we have done to his uncle's fame. The publicity which we gave to the anecdote, we cheerfully give to the refutation of it: this refutation will reach America; when Mr. Silliman will see that he has been misinformed, and will doubtless correct the statement which he has sent into the world.