Sivut kuvina
PDF
ePub

day of his restoration. This progress, having, continued during many ages, became at length, about the middle of the eighteenth century, portentously rapid, and has proceeded, during the nineteenth, with accelerated velocity. In consequence, partly of our geographical and partly of our moral position, we have, during several generations, been exempt from evils which have elsewhere impeded the efforts and destroyed the fruits of industry. While every part of the Conti. ment, from Moscow to Lisbon, has been the theatre of bloody and devastating wars, no hostile standard has been seen here but as a trophy. While revolutions have taken place all around us, our government has never once been subverted by violence. During a hundred years there has been in our island no tumult of sufficient importance to be called an insurrection. The law has never been borne down either by popular fury or by regal tyranny. Public credit has been held sacred The administration of justice has been pure. Even in times which might by Englishmen be justly called evil times, we have enjoyed what almost every other nation in the world *ould have considered as an ample measure of civil and eligious freedom. Every man has felt entire confidence that the state would protect him in the possession of what had been earned by his diligence and hoarded by his self-denial. Under the benignant influence of peace and liberty, science has flourished, and has been applied to practical purposes on a scale never before known. The consequence is, that a change to which the history of the old world furnishes no parallel has taken place in our country. Could the England of 1685 be, by some magical process, set before our eyes, we should not know one landscape in a hundred or one building in ten thousand. The country gentleman would not recognize his own fields. The inhabitant of the town would not recognize his own street. Every thing has been changed, but the great features of nature, and a few massive and durable works of human art. We might find out Snowdon and Windermere, the Cheddar Cliffs and Beachy Head. We might find out here and there a Norman minster, or a castle which witnessed the wars of the Roses. But, with such rare exceptions, every thing would be strange to us. Many thousands of square miles which are now rich corn land and meadow, intersected by green hedgerows, and dotted with villages and pleasant country-seats, would appear as moors overgrown with furze, or fens abandoned to wild ducks. We should see straggling huts built of wood and covered with thatch where we now see manufacturing towns and seaports renowned to the farthest ends of the world. The capital itself would shrink to dimensions not much exceeding those of its present suburb on the south of the Thames. Not less strange to us would be the garb and manners of the people, the furniture and the equipages, the interior of the shops and dwellings. Such a change in the state of a nation seems to be at least as well entitled to the notice of an historian as any change of the dynasty or of the ministry. One of the first objects of an inquirer who wishes to form a correct notion of the state of a community at a given time must be to ascertain of how many persons that community then consisted. Unfortunately the population of England in 1685 cannot be ascertained with perfect accuracy. For no great state had then adopted the wise course of periodically numbering the people. All men were left to conjecture for themselves; and, as they generally conjectured without examining facts, and under the influence of strong passions and prejudices, their guesses were often ludicrously absurd. Even intelligent Londoners ordinarily talked of London as containing several millions of souls. It was confidently asserted by many that, during the thirty-five years which had elapsed between the accession of Charles the First and the Restoration, the population of the city had increased by two millions.” Even while the ravages of the plague and fire were recent, it was the fashion to say that the capital still had a million and a half of inhabitants.f Some persons, disgusted by these exaggerations, ran violently into the opposite extreme. Thus Isaac Vossius, a man of undoubted parts and learning, strenuously maintained that there were only two millions, of human beings in England, Scotland, and Ireland taken together.; We are not, however, left without the means of correcting the wild blunders into which some minds were hurried by national vanity, and others by a morbid love of paradox. There are extant three computations which seem to be entitled to peculiar attention. They are entirely independent of each other: they proceed on different principles; and yet there is little difference in the results. One of these computations was made in the year 1696 by Gregory King, Lancaster herald, a political arithmetician of great acuteness and judgment. The basis of his calculations was the number of houses returned in 1690 by the officers who made the last collection of the hearth money. The conclusion at which he arrived was, that the population of England was nearly five millions and a half.” About the same time King William the Third was desirous to ascertain the comparative strength of the religious sects into which the community was divided. An inquiry was instituted; and reports were laid before him from all the dioceses of the realm. According to these reports the number of his English subjects must have been about five million two hundred thousand.t Lastly, in our own days, Mr. Finlaison, an actuary of eminent skill, subjected the ancient parochial registers to all the tests which the modern improvements in statistical science enabled him to apply. His opinion was that, at the close of the seventeenth century, the population of England was a little under five million two hundred thousand souls.} Of these three estimates, framed without concert by differ. ent persons from different sets of materials, the highest, which is that of King, does not exceed the lowest, which is tha of Finlaison, by one twelfth. We may, therefore, with confidence pronounce that, when James the Second reigned, Eng land contained between five million and five million five hun dred thousand inhabitants. On the very highest supposition she then had less than one third of her present population, and

* Observations on the Bills of Mortality, by Captain John Graunt (Sir William Petty), chap. xi.

* + “She doth compreherd
Full fifteen hundred thousand which do spend
Their days within.”— Great Britain's Beauty, 1671.

# Isaac Vossius, De Magnitudine Urbium Sinarum, 1685. Vossius, as we learn from St. Evremond, talked on this subject oftener, and bonger than fashionable circles.carad to listen, co-o-o

* King's Natural and Political Observations, 1696. This valuable treatise, which ought to be read as the author wrote it, and not as garbled by Davenant, will be found in some editions of Chalmers's Estimate.

t Dalrymple's Appendix to Part II. Book I. The practice of reckoning the population by sects was long fashionable. Gulliver says of the king of Brobdingnag, “IIe laughed at my odd arithmetic, as he was pleased to call it, in reckoning the numbers of our people by a computation drawn from the several sects among us in religion and politics.”

{ Preface to the Population Returns of 1831.

less than three times the population which is now collected in her gigantic capital. The increase of the people has been great in every part of the kingdom, but generally much greater in the northern than in the southern shires. In truth a large part of the country beyond Trent was, down to the eighteenth century, in a state of barbarism. Physical and moral causes had concurred to prevent civilization from spreading to that region. The air

was inclement: the soil was generally such as required skilful

and industrious cultivation; and there could be little skill or industry in a tract which was often the theatre of war, and which, even when there was nominal peace, was constantly desolated by bands of Scottish marauders. Before the union of the two British crowns, and long after that union, there was as great a difference between Middlesex and Northumberland as there now is between Massachusetts and the settlements of those squatters who, far to the west of the Mississippi, administer a rude justice with the rifle and the dagger. In the reign of Charles the Second, the traces left by ages of slaughter and pillage were still distinctly perceptible, many miles south of the Tweed, in the face of the country and in the lawless manners of the people. There was still a large class of mosstroopers, whose calling was to plunder dwellings and to drive away whole herds of cattle. It was found necessary, soon after the Restoration, to enact laws of great severity for the prevention of these outrages. The magistrates of Northumberland and Cumberland were authorized to raise bands of armed men for the defence of property and order; and provision was made for meeting the expense of these levies by local taxation.” The parishes were required to keep bloodhounds for the purpose of hunting the freebooters. Many old men who were living in the middle of the eighteenth century could well remember the time when those ferocious dogs were common. f. Yet, even with such auxiliaries, it was often found impossible to track the robbers to their retreats among the hills and morasses. For the geography of that wild country was very imperfectly known. Even after the accession of George the Third, the path over the fells from Borrowdale to Ravenglas was still a secret carefully kept by the dalesmen, some of whom had probably in their youth escaped from the pursuit of justice by that road.* The seats of the gentry and the larger farm-houses were fortified. Oxen were penned at night beneath the overhanging battlements of the residence, which was known by the name of the Peel. The inmates slept with arms at their sides. Huge stones and boiling water were in readiness to crush and scald the plunderer who might venture to assail the little garrison. No traveller ventured into that country without making his will. The judges on circuit, with the whole body of barristers, attorneys, clerks, and serving men, rode on horseback from Newcastle to Carlisle, armed and escorted by a strong guard under the command of the sheriffs. It was necessary to carry provisions; for the country was a wilderness which afforded no supplies. The spot where the cavalcade halted to dine, under an immense oak, is not yet forgotten. The irregular vigor with which criminal justice was administered shocked observers whose life had been passed in more tranquil districts. Juries, animated by hatred, and by a sense of common danger, convicted housebreakers and cattle-stealers with the promptitude of a court martial in a mutiny; and the convicts were hurried by scores to the gallows.t Within the memory of some who are still living, the sportsman who wandered in pursuit of game to the sources of the Tyne, found the heaths round Keeldar Castle peopled by a race scarcely less savage than the Indians of California, and heard with surprise the half-naked women chanting a wild measure, while the men with brandished dirks danced a war dance.f Slowly and with difficulty peace was established on the border. In the train of peace came industry and all the arts of life. Meanwhile it was discovered that the regions north of the Trent possessed in their coal beds a source of wealth far more precious than the gold mines of Peru. It was found that, in the neighborhood of these beds, almost every manufacture might be most profitably carried on. A constant stream of emigrants began to roll northward. It appeared, by the returns of 1841, that the ancient archiepiscopal province

m. Statutes 14 Car. II. c. 22; 18 & 19 Car. II. c. 3; 29 & 30 Car. . c. 2. t Nicolson and Bourne, Discourse on the Ancient State of the Border, 1777.

* Gray's Journal of a Tour in the Lakes, Oct. 3, 1769.

t North's Life of Guildford. Hutchinson's History of Cumberland, parish of Brampton.

# See Sir Walter Scott's Journal, Oct. 7, 1827, in his Life by Mr. Lockhart.

« EdellinenJatka »