Page images

“ But,” says the minister, “ their assistance in the lower house is not sufficient, we must have able men in the house of lords; therefore we must have new men; and they must be selected from a profession accustomed to public business, and which gives those who belong to it opportunities of making an open display of their abilities.” This is a sad eompliment to the hereditary nobility ; as it seems to argue that they are totally unfit to conduct the business that comes before them, without attornies and solicitors from below, who are ennobled merely to save the credit of the peerage. But the truth is, the minister wishes to have some sharp and tractable tools, by which he may do his dirty work, uninterrupted by the interference of those who, possessing a constitutional right to examine it, would perhaps often censure it, if they were not overawed and overborne by those who pretend to be initiated in the mysteries of law.

In consequence of this management, a whole profession (always happily, with a few splendid exceptions,) extremely busy both with tongue and constantly enlisted in the service of a minister. A great number of attornies and solicitors, besides the gentlemen officially honoured with those names, are constantly retained on the side of the court, and consequently lean, for their own sakes, and with a hope of making their families, to the extension of crown influence and prerogative. A set of men, so subtle, so active, so attentive to interest, must serve any cause which they choose to espouse; and there is no doubt but that they greatly serve (in the hope of serving themselves) the cause of despotism.

Let any one who is unacquainted with the pains taken by modern ministers to retain the lawyers on the side of prerogative, inspect the court calendar,

pen, is

and remark how great a portion of the modern peers have owed their coronets entirely to their profession as lawyers, to their qualifications as mere men of business in detail, with very scanty knowledge of any thing else, and with small claims to excellence as patriots, philosophers, or philanthropists. Mere men of business commonly fix their eyes on objects of private lucre or temporal elevation alone. They are apt to laugh at the names of patriotism, liberty, and disinterested virtue. They have commonly been too long hacknied among the lowest of mankind, not perhaps in rank only, but in spirit, knowledge, liberality, to retain any very scrupulous delicacy in their own bosoms, or to believe its existence in others. They consider the good things of the world as a scramble, where every man is to get what he can by address, and bold pretension, since the law will not allow the use of violence. Certainly there can be no hope of reform, while men so versed in corruption, so enriched by it, and so well pleased with it, bear sway in senates, and direct the councils of princes.


Poverty, when not extreme, favourable to all Virtue, public and

private, and consequently to the Happiness of human Nature; and enormous Riches, without Virtue, the general Bane.

SUPERFLUITY of riches, like superfluity of food, causes sickness and debility, Poverty, or mediocrity of fortune, is the nurse of many virtues; of modesty, industry, sobriety. But, in this


very name of poverty is odious. Poverty is a haggard phantom that appals half the world, and drives them over seas, into torrid zones, to disease and death! Life itself

is thought by many a gift fit to be thrown back again into the face of the Almighty Donor, if it is not accompanied with the means of luxury, the means of making a figure beyond others; in a word, the means of indulging the spirit of despotism. Things are so managed, in a state of deep political corruption, that the honours due only to virtue are paid to money; and those who want not riches for the sake of indulgence in pleasure, or from the love of money itself, grow complete misers, in the hope of obtaining, together with opulence, civil honours, seats in the senate-house, and royal favour. They hope to make themselves of consequence enough to be corrupted, or rather purchased, by the state. ::

What is the consequence to the people, the labourer, the manufacturer, the retail trader, to poor families with many children, women with small patrimonies, annuitants, dependents, and all the numerous train of persons who are compelled to live, as the common phrase expresses it, from hand to mouth? Their gains or means are fixed, and by no means rise with the rising price of necessaries. But, in consequence of this rage for riches, the necessaries of life become not only dearer, but worse in quality; less nourishing, less commodious, and less durable. Landlords raise their rents to the utmost possible extent; each determining to make his rent-roll as respectable as some opulent neighbour, favoured by a lord lieutenant for his influence. They will not let their farms in little portions, to poor industrious tenants; but to some overgrown monopolizer, who is in as much haste to grow rich as the landlord himself; seeing that as he becomes rich he becomes a man of consequence in the county, and that not only esquires, but even lords, take notice of him at the approach of a general election. He is a wholesale farmer,

and will breed but few of the animals of the farm-yard, and those only for his own family consumption. His children are too proud to carry the production of the hen-roost or dairy to the market. He scorns such little gains. He deals only in a great way; and keeps up the price by withholding his stores when the market is low. The neighbouring rustics, who used to be respectable, though little farmers, are now his day-labourers, begging to be employed by the great man who has engrossed and consolidated half a dozen farms. The old farm-houses are pulled down. One capital mansion is sufficient for a large territory of meadow and arable land, which used to display smoking chimnies in every part of a cheerful landscape, with a healthy progeny of children, and tribes of animals, erlivening the happy scene. The tenant now reigns over the uninhabited glebe a solitary despot; and something of the ancient vassalage of the feudal system is restored, through the necessities of the surrounding cottagers, who live in hovels with windows stopt up, hardly enjoying God's freest gifts, light and air. A murmur will exclude them even from the hut, compared with which the neighbouring dog-kennel is a palace.

The little tenants of former times were too numerous and too inconsiderable to become objects of corruption. But the great tenant, the engrosser of farms, feeling his consequence, grows as ambitious as his landlord. He may have sons, cousins, and nephews, whom he wishes to provide for by places ; and therefore it becomes a part of his prudential plan, to side, in all county elections, and at all public meetings, with the court party, and the aristocratical toad-eaters of the minister.

In like manner, the great manufacturer, finding that riches tend to civil honours and political conse

quence, as well as to plenty of all good things, cannot be contented with the slow progress of his grandfathers, but must whip and spur, in his career from the temple of Plutus to the temple of Honour, His workmen therefore, are paid, not by the day, in which case they would endeavour to do their work well, though slowly, but by the piece. The public, perhaps, must of necessity purchase his commodity, however bad ; and it is probably as good as others fabricate, because all are pursuing the same glorious end, by similar means. The materials, as well as the workmanship, are of inferior quality. For, the great monopolizers and dealers can force a trade, and get vent among the little retailers, by giving credit, and by various other contrivances, for the most ordinary ware. The great man, whose forefathers felt little else but avarice, now burns with ambition; and, as the honours he seeks are bestowed by ministerial favour, he must be devoted to the minister, and carry all the little traders and artisans to second the views of a court at the general election, or at public meetings, appointed for the promotion of a minister's project to keep himself in place.

These, and a thousand similar causes, visible enough in the various departments of manufacture, commerce, agriculture, are at this moment urging on the great machine of corruption, and diffusing the spirit of despotism. The revolution of France will indeed ultimately check it, throughout Europe, by the influence of principles, favourable to the freedom and happiness of man; but at present, even that event is used by short-sighted politicians, to increase aristocratical arrogance, to depress popular spirit, and to give unnatural influence to the possession of money, however acquired and however abused.

An indignant writer of ancient Rome exclaims :

« PreviousContinue »