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"Thai expenditure," quoth Montesinos, "gives employment to half the industry in the kingdom, and feeds half the mouths. Take, indeed, the weight of the national debt from this great and complicated social machine, and the wheels must stop."
From this passage we should have been inclined to think that Mr. Southey supposes the dividends to be a' free gift periodically sent down from heaven to the fundholders, as quails an! manna were sent to the Israelites, were it not that he has vouchsafed, in the following question and answer, to give the public some information which, we believe, was very little needed.
"Whence comes the interest 1" says Sir Thomas.
"It is raised," answers Montesinos,"by taxation."
Now, has Mr. Southey ever considered what would be done with this sum, if it were not paid as interest to the national creditor 1 If he would think over this matter for a short time, we suspect that the fc momentous benefit" of which he talks would appear to him to shrink strangely in amount.- A fundholder, we will suppose, spends an income of five hundred pounds a year, and his ten nearest neighbours pay fifty pounds each to the'tax-gatherer, for the purpose of discharging the interest of the national debt. If the debt were wiped out, (a measure, be it understood, which we by no means recommend,) the fundholder would cease to spend his five hundred pounds a year. He would no longer give employment to industry, or put food into the mouths of labourers. This Mr. Southey thinks a fearful evil. But is there no mitigating circumstance'! Each of his ten neighbours has fifty pounds more than formerly. Each of them will, as it seems to our feeble understandings, employ more industry and feed more mouths than formerly. The sum is exactly the same. It is in different hands. But on what grounds does Mr. Southey call upon us to believe that it is in the hands of men who will spend less liberally or lessjudiciously? He seems to think that nobody but a fundholder can employ the poor; that if a tax is remitted, those who formerly used to pay it proceed immediately to dig holes in the earth, and bury the sum which the government had been accustomed to take; that no money can set industry in motion till it has been taken by the tax-gatherer out of one man's pocket and put into another man's. We really wish that Mr. Soulhey would try to prove this principle, which is, indeed, the foundation of his whole theory of finance; for we think it right to hint to him, that our hard-hearted and unimaginative generation will expect some more satisfactory reason than the only one with which he has yet favoured it—a similitude touching evaporation and dew.
Both the theory and the illustration, indeed, are old friends of ours. In every season of distress which we can remember, Mr. Southey has been proclaiming that it is not from economy, but from increased taxation, that the eout.try must expect relief; and he still, we find, places the undoubting faith of a political I UiaJoiros in bis I
"Bciaignare, rrpurg.irc, et reclystertzmre." "A people," he tells us, " may be too lieh, i but a government cannot be so."
"A state," says he, "cannot have more wealth at its command than may be employed I for the general good, a liberal expenditure in national works being one of the surest means for promoting national prosperity, and the benefit being still more obvious of an expenditure directed to the purposes of national improvement. But a people may be loo rich."
We fully admit that a state cannot have at its command more wealth than may be employed for the general good. But neither can individuals or bodies of individuals have at their command more wealth than may U employed for the general good. If there be no limit to the sum which may b'- usefully laid out in public works and national improvement, then wealth, whether in the hands of private men or of the government, may always, if the possessor choose to spend it usefully, be usefully spent. The only ground, therefore, en which Mr. Southey can possibly maintain that a government cannot be too rich, but ihat a people may be too rich, must be this, that governments are more likely to spend tlieir money on good objects than private individuals.
But what is useful expenditure! "A liberal expenditure in national works," says Mr. Soulhey, " is one of the surest means for promoting national prosperity." What does he mean by national prosperity 1 Does he meau ihe wealth of the state? If so, his reasoning runs thus:—The more wealth a state has the belter; for the more wealth a state has the more wealth it will have. This is surely something like that fallacy which is ungallantly termed a lady's reason. If by national prosperity he means the wealth of the people, of how gross a contradiction is he guilty! A people, he tells us, may be loo rich; a government cannot; for a government can employ its riches in making the people richer. The wealth of the people is to be taken from them, because they have too much, and laid oul in works which yield them more.
We are really at a loss to determine whether Mr. 8ouihey's reason for recommending large taxation is that it will make the people rich, or that it will make them poor. But we are sure that if his object is to make them rich, he lakes the wrong course. There are two or three principles respecting public works, which, as an experience of vast extent proves, may be trusted in almost every case.
It scarcely ever happens that any private man, or body of men, will invest property ir canal, a tunnel, or a bridge, but from an expectation that the outlay will be profitable to them. No work of this sort can be profitable to private speculators, unless the public be willing to pay for the use of it. The public will not pay of their own accord for what yields no profit or convenience to them. There is thus a direct and obvious connection between the motive which induces individuals to undertake such a work, and the utility of the work.
Can we find any such connection in the case of a public work executed by a governmcrst. If it is useful, are the individuals who rule the country richer 1 If it is useless, are they poorer? A public man may be solicitous for his credit: but is not he likely to gain "nore credit by a useless display of ostentatious architecture in a great town, than by the best road or the best canal in some remote province 1 The fame of public works is a much less certain test of their utility, than the amount of toll collected at them. In a corrupt age, there will be a direct embezzlement. In the purest age, there will be abundance of jobbing. Never were the statesmen of any country more sensitive to public opinion, and more spotless in pecuniary transactions, than those who have of late governed England. Yet we have only to look at the buildings recently erected in London for a proof of our rule. In a bad age, the fate of the public is to be robbed. In a good age, it is much milder —merely to have the dearest and the worst of every thing.
Buildings for state purposes the state must erect. And here we think that, in general, the atate ought to stop. We firmly believe, that five hundred thousand pounds subscribed by individuals for railroads or canals, would produce more advantage to the public than five millions voted by Parliament for the same purpose. There are certain old saws about the master's eye, and about everybody's business, in which we place very great faith.
There is, we have said, no consistency in Mr. Southey's political system. But if there be in it any leading principle, if there be any one error which diverges more widely and variously than any other, it is that of which his theory about national works is a ramification. He conceives that the business of the magistrate is, not merely to see that the persons and property of the people are secure from attack, but that he ought to be a perfect jack of all trades, architect, engineer, schoolmaster, merchant, theologian, a Lady Bountiful in every parish, a Paul Pry in every house, spying, eaves-dropping, relieving, admonishing, spending our money for us, and choosing our opinions for us. His principle is, if we understand it rightly, that no man can do any thing so well for himself, as his rulers, be they who they may, can do it for him; that a government approaches nearer and nearer to perfection, in proportion as it interferes more and more with the habits and notions of individuals.
He seems to be fully convinced, that it is in the power of government to relieve the distresses under which the lower orders labour. Nay, he considers doubt on this subject as impious. We cannot refrain from quoting his argument on this subject. It is a perfect jewel of logic.
*• Many thousands in your metropolis," says Sir Thomas More, "rise every morning without knowing how they are to subsist during the day; as many of them, where they are to lay their heads at night. All men, even the vicious themselves, know that wickedness leads to misery; but many, even among the ftood and the wise, have yet to learn that misery is almost as often the cause of wickedness."
"There arc many," says Montesinos, "who know this, but .believe that it is not in the power of human institutions to prevent this misery. They see the effect, but regard the causes as inseparable from the condition of human nature.
"As surely as God is good," replies Sir Thomas, " so surely there is no such thing as necessary evil. For, by the religious mind, sickness, and pain, and death are not to be accounted evils."
Now, if sickness, pain, and death are not evils, we cannot understand why it should be an evil that thousands should rise without knowing how they are to subsist. The only evil of hunger is, that it produces first pain, then sickness, and finally death. If it did not produce these, it would be no calamity. If these are not evils, it is no calamity. We cannot conceive why it should be a greater impeachment of the Divine goodness, that some men should not be able to find food to eat, than that others should have stomachs which derive no nourishment from food when they have eaten it. Whatever physical effects want produces, may also be produced by disease. Whatever salutary effects disease may produce, may also be produced by want. If poverty makes men thieves, disease and pain often sour the temper and contract the heart.
We will propose a very plain dilemma: Either physical pain is an evil, or it is not an evil. If it is an evil, then there is necessary evil in the universe: if it is not, why should the poor be delivered from it 1
Mr. Soulhey entertains as exaggerated a notion of the wisdom of governments as of their power. He speaks with the greatest disgust of the respect now paid to public opinion. That opinion is, according to him, to be distrusted and dreaded; its usurpation ought to be vigorously resisted; and the practice of yielding to it is likely to ruin the country. To maintain police is, accoiding to him, only i ne of the ends of government. Its duties are patriarchal and paternal. It ought to consider the moral discipline of the people as its first object, to establish a religion, to train the. whole community in that religion, and to consider all dissenters as its own enemies.
"Nothing," says Sir Thomas, " is more certain than that religion is the basis upon which civil government rests; that from religion power derives its authority, laws their efficacy, and both their zeal and sanction; and it is necessary that this religion be established for the security of the state and for the welfare of the people, who would otherwise be moved to and fro with every wind of doctrine. A state is secure in proportion as the people are attached to its institutions; it is, therefore, tho first and plainest rule of sound policy, that the people be trained up in the way they should go. The state that neglects this prepares its own destruction; and they who train them up in any other way are undermining it. Nothing in abstract science can be more certain than these positions are.".
"All of which," answers Montesinos, "are nevertheless denied by our professors --I ihf arts Babblative and Scribblative, some in the audacity of evil designs, and others in the glorious assurance of impenetrable ignorance."
The greater part of the two volumes before lis is merely an amplification of these absurd paragraphs. What does Mr. Southey mean by saying, that religion is demonstrably the basis of civil government? He cannot surely mean that men have no motives, except those derived from religion, for establishing and supporting civil government, that no temporal advantage is derived from civil government, that man would experience no temporal inconvenience from living in a state of anarchy. If he allows, as we think he must allow, that it is for the good of mankind in this world to have civil government, and that the great majority of mankind have always thought it for their good in this world to have civil go"vemment, we then have a basis for government quite distinct from religion. It is true, that the Christian religion sanctions government, as it sanctions every thing which promotes the happiness and virtue of our species. But we are at a loss to conceive in what sense religion can be said to be the basis of government, in which it is not also the basis of the practices of eating, drinking, and lighting fires in cold weather. Nothing in history is more certain than that government has existed, has received some obedience and given some protection, in times in which it derived no support from religion, in times in which there was no religion that influenced the hearts and lives of men. It was not from dread of Tartarus, or belief in the Elysian fields, that an Athenian wished to have some institutions which might keep Orestes from filching his cloak, or Midias from breaking his head. "It is from religion," says Mr. Southey, "that power derives its authority, and laws their efficacy." From what religion does our power over the Hindoos derive its authority, or the law in virtue of which we hang Brahmins, its efficacy? For thousands of years civil government has existed in almost every corner of the world, in ages of priestcraft, in ages of fanaticism, in ages of epicurean indifference, in ages of enlightened piety. However pure or impure the faith of the people might be, whether they adored a beneficent or malignant power, whether they thought the soul mortal or immortal, they have, as soon as they ceased to be absolute savages, found out their need of civil government, and instituted it accordingly. It is as universal as the practice of cookery. Yet, it is as certain, says Mr. Southey, as any thing in abstract science, that government is founded on religion. We should like to know what notion Mr. Southey has of the demonstrations of abstract science. But a vague one, we suspect.
The proof proceeds. As religion is the basis , of government, and as the state is secure in proportion as the people are attached to i<s in(tituttuns, it is, therefore, says Mr. Southey, the first rule of policy, that the government should • rain the people in the way in which they •houlcl go; and il is plain, that those who
train them in any other way, are undermining the state.
Now it does not appear to ns to be th< first object that people should always believe in the established religion, and be attached to the established government. A religion may be false. A government may be oppressive. And whatever support government gives to false religions, or religion to oppressive governments, we consider as a clear evil.
The maxim, that governments ought to train the people in the way in which they should go, sounds well. But is there any reason for believing that a government is more likely to lead the people in the right way, than the people to fall into the right way of themselves! Have there not been governments which were blind leaders of the blind? Are there not still such governments 1 Can it be laid down as a general rule that the movement of political and religious truth is rather downwards from the government to the people, than upwards from the people to the government! These are questions which it is of importance to have clearly resolved. Mr. 8outhey declaims against public opinion, which is now, he tells us, usurping supreme power. Formerly, according to him, the laws governed; now public opinion governs. What are laws but expressions of the opinion of some class which has power over trie rest of the community? By what was the world ever governed, but by the opinion of some person or persons 1 By what else can it ever be governed? What are all systems, religious, political, or scientific, but opinions resting on evidence more or less satisfactory! The question is not between human opinion, and some higher and more certain mode of arriving at truth, but between opinion and opinion, between the opinion of one man and another, or of one class and another, or of one generation and another Public opinion is not infallible; but can Mr Southey construct any institutions which shall secure to us the guidance of an infallible opinion? Can Mr. Southey select any family, any profession, any class in short, distinguished by any plain badge from the rest of the community, whose opinion is more likely to be just than this much abused public opinion? Would he choose the peers, for example? Or the two hundred tallest men in the country! Or the poor Knights of Windsor? Or children who are born with cauls, seventh sons of seventh sons? We cannot suppose that he would recommend popular election: for that is merely an appeal to public opinion. And to say that society ought to be governed by the opinion of the wisest and best, though true, is useless. Whose opinion is to decide who are the wisest and best?
Mr. 8outhey and many other respectable people seem to think that when they have once proved the moral and religious training of the peopje to be a most important object, it follows, of course, that it is an object which the government ought to pursue. They forget that we have to consider, not merely the goodness of the end, hut also the fitness of the means. Neither in the natural nor iu the political body have all members the same office. There is i surely no contradiction in saying that a certain section of the community may be quite com- . petent to protect the persons and property of j the rest, yet quite until to direct our opinions, or to superintend our private habits.
So strong is the interest of a ruler to protect his subjects against all depredations and outrages except his own, so clear and simple are the means by which this end is to be effected, that men are probably better olT under the worst governments in the world than they would be in a slate of anarchy. Even when the appointment of magistrates has been left to chance, as in the Italian republics, things have gone on better than they would have done, if there had been no magistrates at all, and every man had done what seemed right in his own eyes. But we see no reason for thinking that the opinions of the magistrate are more likely to be right than those of any other man. None of the modes by which rulers are appointed, popular election, the accident of the lot, or the accident of birth, afford, as far as we can perceive, much security for their being wiser than any of their neighbours. The chance of their being wiser than all their neighbours together is still smaller. Now we cannot conceive how it can be laid down, that it is the duty and the- right of one class to direct the opinions'of another, unless it can be proved that the former class is more likely to form just opinions than the latter.
The duties of government would be, as Mr. Southey says that they are, paternal, if a government were necessarily as much superior in wisdom to a people, as the most foolish father, for a time, is to the most intelligent child, and if a government loved a people as fathers generally love their children. But there is no reason to believe, that a government will either have the paternal warmth of affection or the paternal superiority of intellect. Mr. Southey might as well say, that the duties of the shoemaker are paternal, and that it is a usurpation in any man not of the craft to say that his shoes are bad, and to insist on having better. The division of labour would he no blessing, if those by whom a thing is done were to pay no attention to the opinion of those for whom it is done. The shoemaker, in the Relapse, tells Lord Foppington, that his lordship is mistaken in supposing that his shoe pinches. "It does not pinch, it cannot pinch; I know my business, and I never made a better shoe." This is the way in which Mr. Southey would have a government treat a people who usurp the privilege of thinking. Kay, the shoemaker of Vanbrugh has the advantage in the comparison. He contented himself with regulating his customer's shoes, about which he knew something, and did not presume to dictate about the coat and hat. But Mr. Southey would have the rulers of a country prescribe opinions to the people, not only about politics, but about matters concerning which a government has no peculiar sources of information, concerning which any nan in the streets may know as much, and thiuk as justly, as a king—religion and mo
Men are never so likely to settle a question rightly as when they discuss it freely. A government can interfere in discussion, only by making it less free than it would otherwise b<*. Men are most likely to form just opinions when they have no other wish than to know the truth, and are exempt from all itfUuence, either of hope or fear. Government, as government, can bring nothing but the influence of hopes and fears to support its doctrines. It carries on controversy, not with reasons, but with threats and bribes. If it employs reasons, it does so not in virtue of any powers which belong to it as a government. Thus, instead of a contest between argument and argument, we have a contest between argument and force. Instead of a contest in which truth, from the natural constitution of the human mind, has a decided advantage over falsehood, we have a contest in which truth can be victorious only by accident.
And what, after all, is the security which this training gives to governments! Mr. Southey would scarcely recommend that discussion should be more effectually shackled, that public opinion should be more strictly disciplined into conformity with established institutions, than in Spain and Italy. Yet we know that the restraints which exist in Spain and Italy have not prevented atheism from spread-. ing among the educated classes, and especially among those whose office it is to minister at the altars of God. All our readers know how, at the time of the French Revolution, priest after priest came forward to declare that his doctrine, his ministry, his whole life, had been a lie, a mummery during which he could scarcely compose his countenance sufficiently to carrv on the imposture. This was the case of a false, or at least a grossly corrupted religion. Let us take, then, the case of all others the most favourable to Mr. Southey's argument. Let us take that form of religion which he holds to be the purest, the system of the Armenian pan of the Church of England. Let us take the form of government which he most admires and regrets, the government of England in the time of Charles the First. Would he wish to see a closer connection between church and state than then existed 1 Would he wish for more powerful ecclesiastical tribunals? for a more zealous king? for a more active primate? Would he wish to see a more complete monopoly of public instruction given to the Established Church? Could any government do more to train the people in the way in which he would have them go! And in what did all this training end? The Report of the state of the province of Canterbury, delivered by Laud to his Master at the close of 1639, represents the Church of England as in the highest and most palmy state. So effectually had the government pursued that policy which Mr. Southey wishes to see revived, that there was scarcely the least appearance .-^f dissent. Most-of the bishops stated that all was well among their flocks. Seven or eight persons of the diocese of Peterborough had seemed refractory to the church, but had made ample submission. In Norfolk and Suffolk all whom there had been reason u> suspect hai' made profession of conformity, and appeared lo observe it strictly. It is confessed that there was a little difficulty in bringing lorae ot the vulgar in Suffolk to take the sacrament at the rails in the chancel. This is the only open instance of nonconformity which the vigilanreye of Laud could find in all the dioceses of his twenty-one suffragans, on the very eve of a revolution in which primate and church, and monarch and monarchy, were to perish together.
At which time would Mr. Southey pronounce the constitution more secure; in 1639, when Laud presented this report to Charles, or now, when thousands of meetings openly collect millions of dissenters, when designs against the tithes are openly avowed, when books at-, tacking not only the Establishment, but the first principles of Christianity, are openly sold in the streets 1 The signs of discontent, he tells us, are stronger in England now than in France when the States-general met; and hence he would have us infer that a revolution like that of France may be at hand. Does he not know that the danger of states is to be estimated, not by what breaks out of the public mind, but by what stays in it! Can he conceive any thing more terrible than the situation of a government which rules without apprehension over a people of hypocrites; which is flattered by the press, and cursed in the inner chambers; which exults in the attachment and obedience of its subjects, and knows hot that those subjects are leagued against it in a freemasonry of hatred, the sign of which is every day conveyed in the glance of ten thousand eyes, the pressure of ten thousand hands, and the tone of ten thousand voices I Profound and ingenious policy! Instead of curing the disease, to-remove those symptoms by which alone its nature can be known! To leave the serpen: his deadly sting, and deprive him only of his warning rattle!
When the people whom Charles had so assiduously trained in the good way had rewarded his paternal care by cutting off his head, a new kind of training came into fashion. Another government arose, which, like the former, considered religion as its surest basis, and the religious discipline of the people as its first duty. Sanguinary laws were enacted against libertinism; profane pictures were burned; drapery was put on indecorous statues; the theatres were shut up; fast-days were numerous; and the Parliament resolved that no person should be admitted into any public employment unless the House should be first satisfied of his vital godliness. We know what *-as the end of this training. We know tha* it ended in impiety, in filthy and heartlesf sensuality, 'n the dissolution of all ties of honour and morality. We know that at this very day scriptural phrases, scriptural names, perhaps some scriptural doctrines, excite disgust and ridicule solely because they are associated with the austerity of that period.
Thus has the experiment of training the |if<-ple in established forms of religion been twice tri«d in England on a large scale; once liv Charles and Laud, an.l once by the Puri'uis. The High Tories of our lime still enter
tain many of the feelings and opinions of Charles and Laud, though in a mitigated form; nor is it difficult to see that the heirs of the Puritans are still amongst us. It would be desirable that eaah of these parties should remember how little advantage or honour it formerly derived from the closest alliance with power; that it fell by the support of rulers, and rose by their opposition; that of the two systems, that in which the people were at any time being drilled was always at that time the unpopular system; that the training of the High Church ended in the reign of the Puritans, and the training of the Puritans in the reign of the harlots.
This was quite natural. Nothing is so galling and detestable to a people not broken in from the birth, as a paternal, or, in other words, a meddling government—a government which tells them what to read, and say, and eat, and drink, and wear. Our fathers could not bear it two hundred years ago; and we are not more patient than they. Mr. Southey thinks that the yoke of the church is dropping off because it is loose. We feel convinced that it is borne only because it is easy, and that in the instant in which an attempt is made to tighten it, it will be flung away. It will be neither the first nor the strongest yoke that has been broken asunder and trampled under foot in the day of the vengeance of England.
How far Mr. Southey would have the government carry its measures for training the people in the doctrines of the church, we are unable to discover. In one passage Sir Thomas More asks with great vehemence,
"Is it possible that your laws should suffer the unbelievers to exist as a party?
"Vetitum est adeo •ceteris nihil 1"
Montesinos answers. "They avow themselves in defiance of the laws. The fashionable doctrine which the press at this lime maintains is, that this is a matter in which the laws ought not to interfere, every man having a right both to form what opinion he pleases upon religious subjects and to promulgate that opinion."
It is clear, therefore, that Mr. Southey would not give full and perfect toleration to infidelity. In another passage, however, he observes with some truth, though too sweepingly, lhat "any degree of intolerance, short of that full extent which the Papal church exercises where it has the power, acts upon the opinions which it is intended to suppress like pruning upon vigorous plants, they grow the stronger for it." These two passages, put together, would lead us to the conclusion that, in Mr. Southey's opinion, the utmost severity ever employed by the Roman Catholic chirch in the days of its greatest power ought to be employtd against unbelievers in England; in plain words, lhat Carlile and his shopmen ought to be burned in Smiihfielil, and that every person who when called upon should decline to make a solemn profession of Christianity, ought to suffer the same fate. We do not, however, believe lhat Mr. Southey would recommend such a course, though his language would, in the case of any other writer, justify us in supposing this lo be his meaning. His opinions form no system at