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General aspect of the times.-Commercial disiress, and its causes. Sources of
public discontent.–Views of the democratic writers.-Radical reform-Pa. rallel between the British constitution at the time of the Revolution, and at present.-Royal authority.-Parliamentary representation.
aspect of the political world, at little benefit to the consumer, who had the commencement of the present year, not wherewithal to pay even its redu. was, in several respects, dark and pain- ced rate. The payment, by the rich, ful. Never, perhaps, had there been of an income tax of ten per cent., was more splendid hopes, followed by a an evil of very different magnitude from gloomier disappointment, than at the the fall of the labourer's wages from close of the great war, which Britain fifteen to five shillings a week. The brought to so glorious an issue. The suffering, most serious in itself, was era of peace, so much longed and greatly aggravated by ignorance of the scarcely hoped for, coming now under cause, and by total unconsciousness of such triumphant circumstances, was that ignorance.
When men buffer, expected to usher in a happier era, and they look eagerly for a remediable to heal all the wounds under which origin ; they are ready to do and to the nation had groaned. Instead of hazard much in efforts to shake it off. this expected felicity, peace was fol- A bad harvest raises insurrection even lowed by a distress much more wide- in China ; much more may the distress ly and inly felt, than any which had of the lower orders be supposed to arisen from the most extended war- operate, among a people so much less fare. A general stagnation pervaded trained to habits of subordination. It every branch of industry. The loom is, accordingly, too true, that national stood still ; the merchant was involved poverty, and the ebullitions of disconin difficulty or bankruptcy; the pro- tent excited or fanned by it, have formduce of the earth suok to a price ruin. ed much the most prominent feature in ous to the farmer, while it afforded the history of this and the following
These observations have led and artizans. Britain, at the peace, us to consider seriously the causes and was a reformed spendthrift. That large grounds, both of this suffering and portion of her capital, which she had this discontent; and a few remarks, been in the annual habit of taking up such as our reflections have suggested, and spending, had maintained throughmay, perhaps, form no unappropriate out her population a fevered and artipreface to the history of this period. ficial plenty. The loans paid a large
Strange as it seems, that peace, body of soldiers, yielded a market to usually hailed as the harbinger of prog-, extensive manufactures, and took off a perity and abundance, should have been large proportion of the landed prothe direct means of plunging the na- duce. "If we average their amount at tion into such a depth of distress, a thirty millions a-year, and allow 201. little consideration will shew it to have to each individual, (which, admitting been the necessary immediate conse the natural majority of women and quence. The extraordinary expence children, seems very ample,) we shall of this war, as of every one in which find them providing subsistence for a Britain has long been engaged, was million and a half of British subjects. chiefly defrayed by loans. We do not Allthese, by the peace, were thrown out here discuss the political expediency, of employment, became superfluous that is necessity, either of the war, or hands, and ought indeed to have been of this mode of supporting it; these sent away, if there had been any place questions are gone by, and have no to which we could send them. There longer any practical bearing. We are being none, at least on a requisite scale, viewing the subject merely economi- they had no resource but to thrust cally; and, in this light, the nation themselves into the already overstockhas long been acting the part of a ed employments at home, and, by their spendthrift, who maintains an esta- competition, reduce the wages of lablishment greatly beyond his income. bour to a rate which scarcely affordBy so doing, he is plainly acting a ed a bare subsistence. The evil is renmost imprudent part, and placing him. dered much heavier by the great length self on the high road to ruin. Still, of time during which the system had while this extravagance lasts, plenty been persevered in, extending over a reigns in his household; he keeps more whole generation, and probably giving servants, pays higher wages, and af- occasion to the rearing of a consider. fords more employment to all the able new population, dependant on these neighbourhood than he could other forced and temporary funds. This wise have done. Suppose now, that body, when the great machine of 80his eyes are opened ; that he sees the ciety sunk into its natural state, be. gulf into which he was plunging, and came quite a surplus population, and begins a new establishment, in which a burden upon the community. Anhis expences and income are placed on other aggravation arose from the habits a level,—nothing can be more laud. generated among the mercantile classes, able ;— at the same time it is certain, by the feverish prosperity of war and that a general poverty will be felt monopolized trade. There had been through his establishment ; abundance 80 many instances of fortunes raised and comfort will no longer reign there; from nothing, and by one happy spę. the wages of his servants will be re culation, that universal hopes of simi
and some must be dismissed ; lar success were excited. To earn a nor can the same employment be af- competence by a life of industry, forded to the neighbouring tradesmen now regarded as a mean and paltry aim;
all were in chase of something rapid the same time, we cannot help remark. and brilliant. Under the influence of ing the total mistake under which the this spirit, every new opening which mass of the nation has laboured, in the continual shifting of the political ascribing their sufferings to the degree scene afforded, was filled to treble its of expenditure which remains, and in extent ; and all the markets of the furiously demanding further reduction, world were glutted with British goods as the means of immediate relief. Reselling at half their prime cost. The duction is no doubt an excellent thing same immoral avidity of making a for- in the main ; but its further adoption tune, displayed itself by the manner could have no effect but to increase in which competitors in trade sought that existing and urgent pressure unto run down each other, by selling der which we labour. Its benefits their commodity at a losing price, and would be certain and important inthus obliging their rivals to do the deed, but they would be future and same, till, one party being ruined, the even somewhat remote. other was enabled to establish a mo If it be now asked, what remedy nopoly against the public. By such may be hoped for these narrow and processes, commercial capital was de- distressed circumstances in which the stroyed throughout the kingdom to nation is involved, we are obliged to a great extent, particularly in the answer that we know of no immediate hands of those whose knowledge would one, except patience. This is, indeed, have best fitted them to conduct the the main result, with a view to which concerns in which it was embarked. the present discussion was undertaken.
From the very grounds upon which It would be a great good, if the nawe have endeavoured to prove the ex. tion should be weaned from delusive isting pressure to have arisen from the hopes, and should cease to expect recessation of the profuse war expendi- lief from any violent and desperate efture, it must be evident that we would forts it could make. Certain measures, be the last to advise seeking a remedy particularly those connected with an by the renewal of that profusion. This extension of the freedom of trade, may would procure present relief indeed, be calculated to produce some degree but at the expense of final ruin, of of improvement; but it would be chi. which the system had led us perhaps merical to expect from any new opennot far from the very brink. Some ing, such sudden profits, as could in plausible arguments might have been any degree fill up the great blank left urged for making the transition a gra. by the cessation of the war expendidual one, and for not throwing at once This can only be effected by out of employment so vast a body the gradual operation of those causes of persons. We should hesitate very which lead to the increase of national much, however, to give any such ad- wealth ; the most powerful of which vice, or to recommend a plan, which, consists in the constant exertion of falling in perhaps with the inclinations every individual to better his outward of many concerned, would be so liable circumstances, provided equal laws asto be extended beyond its proper li. sure him of reaping the fruit of his lamits and period. We should be sorry bours. Britain, indeed, is not suscepeven to see any intermission in those tible of that rapid growth, observable efforts to enforce public economy, in some infant societies ; still the natuwhich form one of the main legitimate ral advantages of the three kingdoms, objects of a British opposition. At joined to the skill, capital, and enter
prize of her citizens, afford scope for ditional force. The habits of reading, improvement, to which it would be and the productions of the press, have presumptuous to set almost any limit. been diffused in an unprecedented de
Having made these observations on gree among all classes ; while the ex. the subject of the national distress, we tended facilities of travelling and comcome to those equally unwelcome re munication have conveyed the habits flections inspired by its action upon of metropolitan society to the remotest the public mind. Yet, though this has districts. Noble causes ! from which, certainly been powerful, it were too we fear, some unhappy effects have much to ascribe to it alone that blaze arisen. The first and favourite use of popular discontent, which has been which the multitude have made of 80 remarkable during these recent these benefits, consists in the habit of years. It was prepared at least by inquiring after news, and of reasoning some more secret principles in the and judging on public concerns. This structure of society. There is a flux is a natural habit, and which we should and reflux in human affairs and feel. be slow to condemn. The human mind ings. Frail mortals, once involved in justly seeks to extend its sphere of exthe political vortex, seem unable to istence beyond those narrow local li. take any steady or moderate view of a mits which originally enclose it. The subject, and are perpetually tossed be- man, who feels sympathy and interest tween opposite extremes. That blind in the welfare of a large portion of his and daring spirit of innovation, which species, is a being of a higher order, was generated by the first spread of than he who is wholly absorbed in his the revolutionary system, gradually private concerns and connections. Yet gave place to the reign of anti.jaco. it so happens, that even in minds not binism; a system of bigotry hostile wholly uncultivated, we do not always alike to the freedom of thought and observe what is called politics to have action ; which treated as sedition every the most improving effects on the temdoubt as to the expediency of every per and disposition. Too often does it measure of the existing administration, appear rather as an arena for the disand which sought to give to the esta- play of all the most furious and maligblished church an almost popish sway nant passions which can agitate human over the consciences of men. Men nature. If these are its effects, even on gradually grew sick of this, and events not uninformed minds; with the vul. occurred which obtained for the pro- gar, politics are little more than a conscribed name of liberty a reception even tinued system of abuse and invective in courtly circles. The undisguised against those who happen to be the obdespotism established in France, the jects of their enmity. combined independence and loyalty in A democratic body forms perhaps the efforts of the Spanish people, had a necessary, and even, within certain equally this tendency. So far all was limits, not a hurtful element in a mixwell, but it had been too much to ed constitution. Ever since the orihope, that men should stop here. The gin of popular government in Eng. tide, once set in on the popular side, land, a number of persons may be obflowed with a continually increasing served, eager for change, and not scrucurrent, till at length all the landmarks pulous as to the means of effecting it. of reason and experience began to give Hitherto, however, unless upon extraway. Other circumstances, almost new ordinary occasions, this body remainin the history of the world, gave it ad- ed drawn up behind the regular parlia