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For FEBRUARY, 1817.
Art. I. 1. On the Present Distresses of the Country, and suitable Remedies. By William Harris, Minister of the Congregational Church, Wallingford, Berks. Maxwell. London, 1816.
2. A View of the Causes of our late Prosperity, and of our ■present Distresses; and of the Means which have been proposed for our Relief. Exeter, 1816. Longman and Co. London.
3. Thoughts on the Poor Laws; and oji the Improvement of the Condition and Morals of the Poor. Hatchard. London, 1816.
4. Further Observations on the State of the Nation; the Means of Employment of Labour; the Sinking Fund and its Application: Pauperism; Protection requisite to the Landed and Agricultural Interest. By Richard Preston, Esq. M. P. Longman and Co. London, 1816.
5. An Inquiry into the Causes of the Increase of Pauperism and Poor Rates; with a Remedy for the same, and a Proposition for equalizing the Rates throughout England and Wales. By William Clafkson, Esq. (Printed in the 16th No. of the Pamphleteer.)
6. A Letter to a Friend in Devonshire on the Present Situation of the Country. By A. H Holdsworth, Esq. M. P. for Dartmouth. (No. 16, of the Pamphleteer.)
1. An Address to her Royal Highness the Princess Charlotte, on her Marriage; shewing the Cause of the Distress of the Country, and pointing out a safe and effectual Remedy. (No, 16, of the Pamphleteer. )
TfltfTTH regard to the existence of the distress there is but one TM TM opinion. As long as it was possible, all the numerous tribes of those who are profiting by the causes of national calamity, denied the existence of any distress. They described our country as the most flourishing upon the face of the earth. They declaimed upon the felicity of our people. They bitterly reviled the men who informed the nation, that powerful causes of mischief were at work, and that the time would come, when their effects, at first, and for a long time hardly perceptible, would make themselves cruelly felt. They abhorred the warning voice. Vol. VII. N. S. K
They detested the men from whose virtue and sagacity it arose. They exerted every muscle and strained every nerve, to make them appear detestable to the whole world. There is scarcely a mischievous design which they did not ascribe to them; scarcely an opprobrious epithet which they did not apply to them. They were enemies of their country I And why? Because they would not join with the men whose conduct was working out its misery, in proclaiming that it had attained the highest pitch of happiness, and never could descend from it. They were anarchists, and enemies of human nature! And why? Because they beheld the causes of evil at work, and refused to delude the people, by asserting, that in this happy country, no causes were at work but causes of good.
The time has come, when these who, if tbey durst, would even now deny the existence of misery, are borne along, but with the utmost reluctance, with the torrent; and who see,that if they were to deny the existence of the evil, the very supposition of the possibility of which they heretofore treated as a libel upon the Government, they would only heighten the dangers with which their own corrupt and profligate advantages are now surrounded. They now, therefore, affect a readiness to allow the existence of the evil. That to which their next efforts are assiduously directed, is, to mislead the people with regard to the cause.
In all this, the motive which guides the persons whose interest it is to mislead, is sufficiently obvious. They are persons, who derive advantages from the things which are the causes of evil to the rest of the community. It is their endeavour to preserve the things from which their advantages are derived. For this purpose, it is desirable, if it can be done, to persuade the people that there is no evil at all; nothing but happiness; and, of consequence, no cause of evil. When this becomes impossible, every effort must then be made, to persuade the people that any thing is the cause, rather than any of the things from which they derive their dearly-cherished advantages.
In our strictures on this great and important subject, we shall endeavour, in the first place, to describe the different shapes in which the evil presents itself; and, in the second place, to discover, if possible, the causes or cause. One practical question will thenremain; namely, What is the best mode of effecting our deliverance from such cause?
Taking the evil, all at once, as a whole, it seems to be a great and sudden fall into poverty, either absolute, or comparative, of all classes of the community; those alone excepted, who live upon the taxes. The condition of those who live upon the taxes, has become more affluent, while that of all the rest of the community, has been declining towards poverty.
Excluding these who live upon the taxes, that is, upon the burthens of other people, the community consists of three very distinct classes: 1st. those who live upon the rent of land; 2d. those who live upon the profits of stock; and 3dly, those who live upon the wages of labour. All these three classes are suffering, and suffering in an extraordinary degree. Of course the term suffering, means a very different thing, when we apply it to those who live upon rent, or profit, and to those who live upon wages. To the former, at least to a great degree, suffering means the deprivation of some customary enjoyment. To those who live upon wages, suffering means the deprivation of the necessaries of life. The first species of suffering is not, and never ought to be, considered as a dreadful evil. In the last is included an awful combination of the very worst of all the evils of which human nature is susceptible.
The calamity first began with the manufacturing and commercial classes. For years there had been a great diminution of trade. By consequence, the two classes employed in that branch of industry; namely, those who lived on the profits of stock, and those who lived on the wages of labour, were then reduced to suffering. We heard of great distress in the manufacturing and commercial towns. We all recollect the dreadful tales which assailed our ears, at the time that the discussions respecting the Orders in Council were carrying forward in Parliament; and we all know how completely these statements have been proved. In many places, the people who lived by the wages of manufacturing labour, for which now there was no demand, were hurried into the unhappy excesses of insurrection.
For two or three years longer, those who lived by the land, that is to say, those who lived by the rent of land, those who lived by the profit of farming stock, and those who lived by the wages of agricultural labour, seemed not to feel any effects from those causes of evil under which the rest of their countrymen were already suffering. Their prosperity, however, soon proved to be more apparent than real. At last, the calamity came down upon them; and it fell the more unexpectedly and the more severely, from having, by accidental causes, been a little deferred. It soon appeared, that high prices, though they had enabled the farmer to struggle on for a while, had laid no solid foundation of prosperity. It is now proved by sad experience, that they had not enabled him to enlarge his capital. They had enabled him to pay higher rent and heavier taxes, but not to lay by any store, to support him when difficulties came. The consequence was, that, in many cases, the very moment that difficulties began, he was unable to endure them; he sunk under them. He was found to be already impoverished, and the first diminution of bis ordinary receipts, made him unable to fulfil his engagements. Improvident and luxurious habits may have contributed to the ruin of individuals; but high rent and the taxes had really prevented the farmer from accumulating; the taxes had kept him poor.
It thus appears, and we see no other possible mode of accounting for the alarming fact, that a great defalcation of capital has taken place in both branches of production, in the mercantile, and the agricultural branches. The consequences are, the misery which we behold: manufactories shut up, and the. fields deserted. Those who lived upon the profits of stock, have less stock, and, by consequence, diminished incomes. Land which formerly yielded rent, now yields it no longer, because there is no capital for its cultivation; and land which formerly yielded a great rent, now yields but a small one, because a great portion of capital which formerly was employed upon the land, is consumed and destroyed.
Of all the orders of those who live upon the profits of stock, the sufferings of the farmers, taken as a body, have been the most severe, because their obligations were the most onerous. If the market became unfavourable to a particular species of manufacture, the manufacturer could easily diminish the quantity of his produce, without any farther detriment than the diminution of his accustomed profits, by the amount of his capital unemployed. Not so was the case of the farmer. He had rent to pay; and if he lessened his produce, his loss was much greater than tbat of the accustomed profits upon his capital unemployed. It was not till he had exhausted a part, sometimes the whole of his capital, that the owners of rent could be persuaded that he was unable to pay. A considerable proportion of the farmers, then, have been driven down from the class of those who live upon the profits of stock, to the class of those who live upon the wages of labour; and a still greater number are hastening towards the same situation.
But when we talk of sufferings, the sufferings of all other classes sink into insignificance when compared with the sufferings of those who live by the wages of labour. No pen can describe the miseries which at this moment are pervading the great mass of the people. It is dreadful to think of 30,000 individuals in only one district of only one town, perishing for want of the necessaries of life! Allowing this to be an extreme case, how near is every town, and every corner of the land, to the same dreadful situation! The heart-rending delineation of Mr. Fowel Buxton, consisting of little more than a faithful statement of facts, may be applied, mutatis mutandis, to the whole country. The case of Spitalfields is a case where the people are totally deprived of employment. A very large proportion of the people all over the land are in the same situation. The misery of this great proportion is every where nearly equal; every where as deplorable as the misery in Spitalfields. .-
Even where employment is not wholly cut off, the amount of superabundant hands has reduced the wages of labour to a miserable pittance, altogether insufficient for the maintenance of the labourers. The whole of that part of the population, then, who live upon the wages of labour, may be regarded as divided at present into two classes; the one consisting of those who have none of the necessaries of life; the other, of those who have too little. The difference of the two cases is this: the total want of the necessaries of life, operates like a poison which kills in a few days; a want of the proper quantity of the necessaries of life, operates like a poison which produces a lingering, suffering existence for weeks or months, and then destroys: the last a more dreadful doom, if possible, than the first.
Whence comes it to pass, that miseries which affect so large a proportion of our fellow countrymen, should be treated by many people so lightly, should have excited among those who are exempt from the suffering a sensation so much inferior to that which was excited by the sufferings of the distressed Germans?
The question is a very obvious one: no less obvious is the answer. People are not apt to make much stir about sufferings to which they regard themselves as in no respect liable: they make a terrible outcry about those which excite apprehensions for themselves.
The people who can exclaim the most loudly in this country, are, of course, as in other countries, the people of power and wealth; the people who speak in courts and in parliaments; the people who can do most good to those whom they favour, most hurt to those whom they dislike; the people, therefore, whose favour the greatest number of persons are desiring to catch, by echoing the sentiments which they wish to have disseminated, by repeating them in assemblies, repeating them by the press, advocating them by writing, advocating them by speech, decrying all those persons who express opposite sentiments, imputing weakness to their understandings, wickedness to their hearts. This is the mode in which a cry is raised, and with the utmost ease, by a sort of natural and spontaneous process, in favour of or against any thing, towards which the love or the hatred of the great men is very strongly declared.
Those who are now suffering, in this country, the most dreadful of human evils, are people whose voice is not easily heard. They have only one mode of making themselves be heard, that is, by assembling in great numbers. But when they do assemble in that manner, they excite the apprehensions of the people of wealth and power, and no small exertion is made to drown their voice. In such a state of imbecility, indeed, have their understandings, by