« AnteriorContinuar »
mere men of letters, wherever they exist as a separate class, a large proportion are always enlisted in hostility, open or secret, against the established order of things. From the first their bias is on the wrong side; vanity, presumption, and half-knowledge, make them believe that they are wiser than their elders, and capable of reforming the world; add to these errors by which youth is so easily beset, false philosophy to which they lead, and irreligion in which that philosophy ends, and you have a revolutionist complete. 'Loose principles,' says Stillingfleet, bad practices, and extravagant desires, naturally dispose men to endeavour changes and alterations, in hopes of bettering themselves by them; and the prevalency of vice doth unhinge government and weaken the strength and sinews of it.'
The progress of society also, which tends naturally to overstock every profession, and to crowd all the middle walks of life with unsuccessful adventurers, is continually increasing the number of persons who are discontented because their fortune has not corresponded to their desires. The acute observer who asked of Maecenas why no man was contented with his destination was in this instance less accurate than usual in his remarks. It is not with their way of life that men are dissatisfied, but with their success in it; and in whatever way they may be placed they usually contrive to keep upon excellent terms with themselves. The dissatisfaction which would have its seat at home if they had courage or virtue to look into their hearts, and set about the rigorous duty of self-examination, is projected by an easy effort of self-love; they impute their failure in life to any cause rather than to the want of talents, or of discretion, or of character; the game has gone against them, and they wish to shuffle the cards and cut for the winning seats. As early as the days of the Prophet Samuel we know who were the men who have always been found ready to embark in desperate designs,- every one that is in distress, and every one that was in debt, and every one that was discontented.' Talleyrand has said that hope is the counterpoise of discontent; with more truth may it be said to be the heaviest weight that discontent casts into the scale.
'States are secure in proportion as the great body of the people are contented with their situation, and attached to the institutions of their country:'-no axiom in geometry can be more incontestable than this. Wherever this attachment is loosened and a spirit of discontent has gone abroad, convulsions must be expected, and revolutions will ultimately follow, unless the evil be averted by wise preventive means. While the endemic moral maladies of the last half-century have been tainting the middle classes,-while a false philosophy, sapping the very foundation of religion, has made a
breach through which unbelief and atheism have come in;—and while crude and erroneous notions of policy have substituted a cosmopolitan liberality as it is called, and a spurious patriotism in place of those old English virtues which our fathers called loyalty and love of our country, changes more alarming only because they act upon a wider population, have been taking place in the condition of the populace. The direct tendency of the manufacturing system has been to raise up among us a class of men who are exposed to every imaginable circumstance that can render them dissatisfied and dangerous, and who are removed from all those local and personal ties, all those soothing and genial influences, which bind the peasant to his superiors and his country. They have been trained up in a manner of which it is not speaking too strongly to affirm that it is alike pernicious to the body and to the soul. All means of instructing them in their moral and religious duties have been neglected, while the wickedest writers that ever converted the press into an engine of mischief have used every means for engrafting sedition and impiety upon vice and ignorance. So long as manufactures flourished, and the wages of the week sufficed for the expenses of the week and for the week's debauchery, all seemed well to the superficial observer, and there appeared no further evil upon the surface than the increase of crimes in manufacturing districts, and the continual increase of the poorrates. The revenue however prospered, and it was even boasted in parliament, as a cause for national exultation, that the labour of children during the present reign had been made productive to the state. Alas! they who mistake the wealth of nations for their prosperity, and, in pursuit of it, lose sight of their virtue and their happiness, are woefully ignorant of all upon which the strength of nations and the security of governments must be founded. · Governments that found it upon manufactures sleep upon gunpowder.
But the system bore in itself the seeds of its own destruction. It was not possible that improvements in machinery should always be confined to ourselves. Men equally ingenious were at work upon the same object on the continent, (where indeed they were stimulated and encouraged in every way by the government,) and no laws, however severe, could prevent the emigration of artificers. The journeyman who, in defiance of laws, carries his labour where he can obtain the highest reward for it, is no object of moral indignation; but the fact that many of the most flourishing fabrics which were established under Buonaparte's patronage have been erected or conducted by subjects of Great Britain, is one melancholy proof how entirely the British are capable of expatriating themselves. While the continental nations have thus been taught to manufacture for themselves, a cause upon which it is more humi
liating to reflect has contributed to their success, and probably to the permanent diminution of our foreign trade. Flimsy goods have been fabricated for the sake of immediate gain; the arts of chemistry have been fraudulently employed by unprincipled speculators, and rapid fortunes have thus been accumulated by these nefarious means, at the expense of the national character. There was a time when English goods were sufficiently warranted by their name; but the foreign customers upon whom a trick of this kind has once been practised, will look to some other country in future for their supply.
That our manufactures should ever again flourish as they have, is neither to be desired nor expected. From the commencement of the present century the cotton manufacture, which Mr, Brougham calls the great staple of the country, has been declining, and at this time it is chiefly supported by the exportation of cotton yarn, from which other nations now fabricate their own piecegoods. The propriety of permitting this exportation is just now a subject of warm discussion, and the legislature has been called upon to prohibit it, by short-sighted reasoners who never look beyond their own private and immediate interests. The truth is that these other nations will begin to make the yarn for themselves also, as soon as they find it more advantageous than buying it from us; and any interference on the part of the government would only accelerate this result, which sooner or later is inevitable. Home restrictions are not necessary to hasten the downfall of our manufacturing system. Some of the continental nations rival us in those branches wherein we are most expert, of course it is impossible that we should force our goods there. Others are rapidly advancing to a competition with us;-there it is the duty and the manifest interest both of the government and of the people to favour their own produce by excluding ours. In others which are less advanced, and where a want of industry, as in Spain, is the national disease, the great object of the statesman will be to stimulate industry, and the most obvious means of effecting this is by discouraging foreign manufactures for the purpose of forcing their An opposition orator, if he pleases, may call this ingratitude in our allies, and ring changes upon the folly, the incapacity, and the wickedness of ministers for not making impossible commercial stipulations in peace, with as much reason as he rang the same changes during the war. He may affirm also if he pleases, a's Mr. Brougham has done, that' from all our exertions to serve the continental powers, whether looking after honour or profit, we have been fated to reap nothing but loss and disgrace.' But the sound part of the public know how to appreciate such assertions and such authority. As for profit, we were not looking for it in
VOL. XVI. NO. XXXII.
the pounds, shillings, and pence meaning of the word: and if there be an Englishman who can indeed believe as well as assert that we have reaped nothing but disgrace from our exertious in the war, the disgrace is upon himself, upon his heart, and his understanding: he had no share in the counsels which led to our success, and it is his proper punishment that he should have had no communion in the joy, no participation in the honours of the triumph. The progress which manufactures had made on the continent was very little understood while the war continued, and meantime our adventurers, in the eagerness of speculation, seemed to think it impossible that the markets which were open to them should ever be overstocked. Instead of cautiously proportioning the supply to the demand, they acted as if the demand would always keep pace with the supply. The more their gains, the more they were désirous of gaining; with them increase of appetite had grown by what it fed on but unfortunately they reasoned, that as it was with the manufacturer so it would be with the consumer. Thus they converted their very prosperity into the means of ruin, increasing the quantity of produce by every possible improvement in mechanism, till machinery at length has come in competition with human labour, for which during the first part of the process its tendency had been to produce an increased demand. The multitudes who have been thrown upon the public are now to be fed, means for employing them are to be devised, and the recurrence of any similar calamity is, if possible, to be prevented. Nothing but a thorough reformation, moral and religious, of the labouring classes can accomplish this; such a reformation as shall in its direct and immediate consequences improve their physical condition, increasing their comforts as it increases their respectability,—nothing short of this can restore security. It is not the fault of this or of that administration, of any man or set of men, or of any pre-concerted order of things that such is now the condition of society; the evil has unavoidably arisen from the prevalence and extent of the manufacturing system: yet while we acknowledge the evil in all its magnitude and in all its bearings, we ought not to be unmindful of the good which that system has produced and the benefit which will eventually be derived from it. That system supplied the resources which enabled us to support the most arduous, the most necessary, and the most glorious war in which Great Britain ever was engaged, a war which has entitled her to the gratitude and admiration of all succeeding ages. And in its remoter consequences whatever diminishes the necessity for bodily labour will be a blessing to mankind. But when the evil has come upon us, when its presence is painfully and alarmingly. felt, its causes distinctly perceived, and all its perilous tendency, clearly apprehended, then indeed if any means of remedy should be
neglected, the neglect will be a sin for which all who are implicated in it will stand arraigned not alone before posterity, but at the most awful of all tribunals!
If we compare the present disaffection with that of any former age, it will be apparent that the danger differs as much in kind as in degree. The party in the legislature who staud opposed to the measures of government were never at any time so little formidable either for talents or for their credit with the people. They staked their characters as statesmen upon the issue of the war, and forfeited it both abroad and at home, now and for ever. They have neither leader, nor bond of union: and were the government even to drop into their hands, they would be found incapable of occupying it; for they have neither the confidence of the Sovereign, nor of the people, nor of each other. This, however, is the more alarming to the commonwealth. On all former occasions the discontented part of the public have looked to a party in the legislature, and fixed their eyes upon the men by whom the change of measures which they desired was to be brought about: and the Opposition themselves have always till now been ready to assume the command of the ship whenever they could get on board, and unanimous in their opinion which course to steer. But in the present crisis they are as much at variance with each other as with the ministry: east and west are not more opposite to each other than those statesmen who supported Mr. Pitt in the whole course of his foreign policy, and who have now supported the present government in those strong measures which were absolutely necessary for the public weal, are to the anacephalous Foxites. The ultra Whigs again hold these latter in utter contempt and hatred as moderates; and the thorough-paced revolutionist spares no effort to persuade the discontented part of the people that their superiors are their natural enemies, and to excite and exasperate them against all who are raised above them by the advantages of birth and fortune. The interests of the great,' says the Examiner,' are so far from being the same as those of the community that they are in direct and necessary-opposition to them: their power is at the expense of our weakness; their riches of our poverty; their pride of our degradation, their splendour of our wretchedness, their tyranny of our servitude.' Such are the doctrines and such the language which this convicted libeller sends into the pot-houses of manufacturing towns and of the remotest villages!
The prospectus of Mr. Hone's Register is now before us. This man is the publisher of those irreligious parodies which have ex-, cited such just and general indignation; and since the abdication of King Cobbett, being ambitious of reigning in his stead, he advertises