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rized the magistrate to commit lo immediate imprisonment whomever they thought proper to charge with selitious language, or behaviour, in any popular meeting. This they asserted was to constitute them, at once, judges and jury. The earl of Moira took pointed notice of an expression that had been used by the carl ot Westmorland. The words of that nobleman were "iend the people to the loom and to the anvil, and there let -them earn bread instead os wasting their time in seditious meetings." This, said lord Moira, was degrading men below the condition assigned to them by the Almighty, who certainly could not have intended that any pnrt of mankind should be doomed merely to work and eat like the beasts of the field. They too were endowed with the faculty of reasoning, and had certainly the right to use is.
Strong and cogent arguments were produced by,lord Thurlow, to prove that the government of England could not, injustice to the nation, fetter it with new laws, merely to prevent the possible consequences, in this country, of those principles, the importation of which, from France, was apprehended. Aster signifying his general disapprobation of the bill, he pointed out its variations from the provisions of the acts ofCharles II. and George I. respecting seditious proceedings. By the latter, known by the name of the riot-act, people unlawfully assembled did not, howe\ er, expose themselves to capital punishment, unless they persisted in actnig in a disorderly and tumultuous manner during a whole hour after the act had been reid to them. But, by the present bill, if people were assembled, in order to like a subject relating to the public into consideration, and con
tinued together, however peaceably to the number os twelve persons, an hour after proclamation made, they were adjudged guilty of felony;without benefit of clergy; and the presiding magistrate was authorized to use violence, even to death, in apprehending them. This clause was Ib unjustifiable, that he thought himself bound to oppose the bill, were, it solely from this motive.
The lord chancellor made a long and elaborate reply to lord Thurlow's objections, without advancing, however, any thing new in support of the bill. The question for its going into a commitlc; was carried byone-hundred and nine votes against twentv-one.
The house of lords went, accordingly, into a committee upon the bill, on the eleventh of December, when the u.ike of Norfolk opposed the clause extending the operation ol the bill to three years, and moved that it should be limited to one. H<; was seconded by lords Scarborough, Darnley, Radnor, and Romney. But Hie term of three years was support--ed by lords Grenyille, Spencer, and Mulgrave.'a'nd voted by forty-five; to eight. On the fourteen of December,' 1795, the bill was read a third \ time and finally passed.
No law, enacted by the British legislature, was ever received by the nation with such evident and general marks of ill will and disapprobation as thele two celebrated bills, on which the public bestowed the appellation of the Pitt and Gren- ■ ville acts, in order to let a mark upon their authors, and hold them out lo the odium of the people.
Thele two acts were consider-, , ed the most restrictive of any that have be'jn palled by an hnglisb parliament sir.ee the reigus ot the. Tudo:s j a family of which the remembrance
inembrance is far from being agreeable to the people of England; notwithstanding that it produced an Elizabeth, whose tyrannical disposition and maxims tarnished the lustre of all her great qualities. The despotism of that house Was indignantly recalled to notice on this occasion) and the severity of the two acts in question, compared to the most arbitrary and oppressive proceedings of the sovereigns of England, previous to the commencement of the seventeenth century.
It was owned, at the fame time, by every candid mind, that if, on the one hand, there was danger to be apprehended, from measures tending to despotism, there was on the other, clanger in allowing an unrestrained freedom of haranging the populace; a freedom that tended (o anarchy and confusion. If, on the one hand, it be the nature of power to mount, with hasty steps, into the throne of despotism, it seems to be inseparable from liberty, on the other, to push its claims bevond a just and reasonable degree os freedom. Amidst a scarcity of grain; an accumulation os taxes; an unsuccessful, not to fay unnecessary, war; difficulties abroad; distresses al home :— when the elements were troubled, and'.a storm so greatly threatened, silence was imposed on the (hip's crew, and each man was fixed to his particular station.
The danger to be apprehended from the operation of those laws did cot consist ib much in any immediate, restraint they might impose on a reasonable freedom of discussion, and presentation's petitions1 to the legiflatuVe, whether for the redrefj or the prevention of grievances, as in the tendency they had to enervate the spirit of liberty. The consequences
of many, nay most, innovations are not prevented at first: otherwise they would, in many instances, be immediately resisted. By the time that pernicious innovations arc perceived, custom and habit have rendered them less odious and intolerable. Precedents, growing into authorities, rife into absolute dominion, by flow degrees: by accessions and distant encroachments, each of which, singly considered, Iccmed of little importance. The vanity of resistance at last breaks the spirit of the people, and disposes them to unreserved submission. Their political importance being wholly gone, they are degraded, more and more, and subjected to greater and greater oppressions and insults.—U was observed by many, even of those who were disposed to admit the temporary expediency of the two unpopular and odious acts, that the greater part by far of our new laws have a reference, either to public revenue of to the security of tjhc monarchical/patst of the constitution: and that few, fcs any extensive operation, are of the class that may be denominated popular and paternal.
The only alleviation that accompanied the two acts, was the time limited for their duration. This kept upthespiritsand hopes of the people, that however their representatives might liave been prevailed upon to suspend the exercise of those privilege*, on which the national freedom depended, they were too wife,' as well as too honest, to trust them ih the hands of the executive powers any longer than they might be convinced was requisite for the fermentation of the times to subside/ and for die people to reveff to their former temper. ;:' 'T(..';;^',,
■ ■>"■-: i i. n Jo :nvs
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CHAP. III. '• i . , .
In the House of Commons, Regulations respecting the Sale *>f Flour, and the Making of Bread.—Motions by Mr. Lechmere arid Mr. Whitbread, reJc rcling the Causes of the Scarcity of Ifhealen Flour, aud the Hardships incident to the Labouring Poor —Negatived.—Bill for Encouraging the Cultivation of Waste Lands.—Motions for the Support of the Land and Sea Service.—Strictures on the Conduit of Ministry in the War Department.— Replied to by Mr. Wyndham.—Debates on the Lrcftio?t of Barracks.— A Statement of the Expences of 1796, amounting from ttcenty-Jeoen to tvxnty-eight Millions sterling.'—Debates c&tcerning the Terms of the Loan\ —yote approving the Conduct of the Minister on this Subjccl,—Net? Taxes.—Debates thereon.—Message from the King, intimating his Disposition to enter into a Negociation with' the present Government of France. —An Address moved, expressing the Readiness of the House to concur in such a Measure.—Amendment thereon, ?noved by Air. Sheridan.—This rejected, and the Address carried.—Motion for Peace, by Mr, Grey.— Negatived.
DURING these parliamentary proposed at the same time several and popular agitations, the regulations relating to the (ale ot' houses were not unmindful of the flour; and the making of bread, critical state of the country, through It was observed by Mr. Lech* the alarming scarcity or com that mere, that no remedy could be aphad prevailed for some time. On plied to the security without inveliithe thirtieth os October, 1795, the gating its causes; the principle or' second day of the session, Mr. Pitt which he believed to b;; the momoved, that the bill, allowing the nopoly of farms,* and the jobbing importation of corn, duty free, should in corn. Public granaries ought,' be extended to another year. He he (aid, to be erected, where e*ery
* It is one et the most pleasing as well as important tastes imposed on (lie journalist to record, with due approbation, and point out as much as possible, such public counsels and actions as originate in sound patriotism, and are eminently conducive to the public good. We wish that Mr. Lechmerc's observation onithe baneful effects of monopolization of land had met with more attention, and been made a subject os parliamentary inquiry and regulation. It is with great satisfaction that we notice the effort* of seeling and enlightened men, who, whether by speaking or writing, recommend atttorion to the labouring poor. Whoever peruses' " Mr. Newte, of TivertonV Tour m England and Scotland," and "An Essay on the Rijrht of Property in Land,'"' ascribed to professor Ogilvie, of Aberdeen, will be abundantly satisfied, that by a due encouraged nwntof agriculture and the si/heries, which may be onsuhr'd as a species of aericul<*::, sousecs of unfailing prosperity might be opened to this island, amidst all the possible;
one might purchase without the therefore moved for an inquiry into intervention of corn-dealers. He the causes of the scarcity.
veerings of commerce, and even under progressive taxes. But the best stimulant to agriculture, according to the just observation and reasonings of the very worthy, as well as ingenious and well-informed authors just mentioned, that could possibly be devised, would be to invent some means, whereby the actual lalourer might be animated wit!i the hope of rising to the situation of an actual cultivator of the soil; such as restraints on the excessive monopolization of land; long, and in some cases perpetual leases; a judicious distribution of waste lands, and various contingneies improveable by the legislature in favour of the peasantry of this country, witiiout injuring the great proprietors of land, but even pnmoting their interest in particular. That this is practiahle has been experimentally proved by the duke of Bedford, the- earl of Winchelsea, the earl of Suffolk, and other real patriots and benefactors to t.eir country. There is a strong temptation to throw different farms into one, in the circumstance, that by this means the landlord avoids the expence of keeping up different farm-steads. In order to counteract this inducement, to the excessive enlargement of farms, it was wisely enacted, in the reign os king Henry VUI. that i!.e landlord should be at liberty to dispose of his lands as he pleased, but that he must nevertheless keep up in good repair all the ancient mansions and farm-steaHs. The preamble to this law, which has now unfortunately become obsolete, is worthy of serious attention at the present day.
It is a melancholy consideration, that the most prosperous career of arts, manufactures, and commerce, in any individual nation or empire, (not their migration into different countries,) carries in itself the seeds of corruption. Mechanical arts and manufactures, bringing together great crowds of people into factories and great towns, confining their bodies to close and narrow spots, and their minds to a very lew ideas, are prejudicial to the health, the morals, and even the intellectual powers of a people, 'there is more strength, self-command, natural affection, and general knowledge and contrivance among tillers of the ground, pastoral tribes, and even savage nations; all of which conditions of men are accustomed to employ their cares, and to turn their hand to a vast variety of occupations.
While the wants of men are encreased by luxury, their natural resources are di ■ niinished: they become inactive and slothful, less and less fitted to hear up under hardships, and to adapt their labour to different exigencies and circumstances. They know but one art. The manufacture in which they are employed fluctuates with the artificial state- of society, out of which it sprung. The enervated artisan is thrown on the mercy of the public. A similar ratio holds with regard to nations; each succeeding generation becomes more luxurious than the last; each becomes less capable of exertion. There is for a long time a curious struggle between the wants and exertions of men and of nations i but the exertions at last yield to the enervating influence of luxury, and hence we may" fay of the reign of the arts, what Sallust observes of political empire, "tliat it is in the course of things always transferred from the bad to the good." The immensity of our national debt, which imposes on the hand of industry the fetters of immoderate taxation, added to all these considerations, casts an air of melancholy over our political horizon.
Tlus gloom, however is not a little brightened up by three circumstances.
First, there is yet a very large scope in this island for the extension and improvement of agriculture, which breeds a race of men innocent, healthy, and hardy.
Secondly, there is still a greater scope for the extension and improvement of our fisheries and navigation, which nourish a hardy race of mortals, maintaining great activity and virtue, amidst occasional excesses.
While any land remains to be cultivated, cultivation is better than manufactures, not only in respect of the health, happiness, and morals, of the people, but of public revenue. This reasoning is confirmed by the wife economy of America; by the economists of France, aiv' the writings of their disciples in tlus and other countries. Sve particularly " The VJcntial Principles of the Wealth of Nations, illustrated in opposition to some J alfc Doctrines ot Or. Adam Smith; aud other*."
Aster.a long discussion os the causes of (lie Icarcily, they were siunl lo he of lo complicated a nature, that it proved difficult to remove them. A bill was however Drought Id to prohibit the manufacture osstarch from wheat and other pain; to lower the duties on its Importation, to prevent the distilling from it, and all obstrmiions lo ii« free transportation through every part of the kingdom.
If appeared, in the mean time, from the information laid before llto committee of" inquiry into the high price us corn, that, with an exception to wheat, the harvest had been very productive: thus by mixing Hour of disk-rent grains good bread mighf he made; a measure the more indispentible, that from a variety os causes no sufficient supplies of corn could be expected from abroad; a bounty of twenty shillings was however agreed to for every quarter imported from the Mediterranean, until the importation amounfed to Ihree hundred thousand; a bounty of fifteen (hillings a quarter upon dial from America, till it amounted to five hundred thousand; and five shillings a quarter on Indian corn, till it amounted also to five hundred iliousand.
The hardships incident to labourers, tradesmen, and manufacturers, were, on the twenty-levenlh of November, brought before the consideration of the house by Mr. U'hilbrcad, who observed, that the nigSicst extent of Wages to husbandmen was sixable by the magistrate, but not the lowest. .On the ninth of December he brought in a bill t> authorise justices of peace to repilale the price of labour at every Qarler session. Herein he was supported bv Mr. Fox, Mr. Jekyll, Mr. Honcvwood, and other mein
hers; and opposed by Mr. Burdon> Mr.' Buxton, Mr. Vanfittart, and Mr. Pitt. The latter was of opinion, that in a matter of this kind the operation of general principles ought to be attended to, preferably to uncertain and precarious remedies. It was dangerous to interfere, by regulations, in the intercouse between individuals, engaged in the various businefless of society. Many of the distresses complained of originated from the abuses that had crept into ihe execution ofthe laws relating lo the poor, which required much amendment.. They did not sufficiently discriminate between the unfortunate and the idle and dissipated. All application for relief should be (bunded upon unavoidable misfortune, and, if possible, the relief sliould consist of employment, which would not only benefit the individual applying, but the community itself, by an increase of labour and industry to the common stock. He recommended the institution of friendly societies, to relieve poor families proportionally to the number of their children, and the loan of small sums, payable in two or Ihree years. After a laborious discussion of this subject Mr. Whilbread's motion was negatived, as vs'ell as that which had been made for the benefit of the actual labourers, or cultivators'of the foil, by Mr. Lechmcre.
The opinion of the public did not coincide with that of ministry. The wages of labourers and of workmen in all situations ought, it was universally affirmed, to bear a due proportion to the price of the necessaries of life. This alone would prevent distress, and ultimately diminissi the number of poor to be provided for according to law. In order to alleviate the wants of the indigent
[ E ] daises,