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high prices of the war. Immense districts, which in our recollection were purple with heath, or golden with furze, have now yielded to the steady efforts of laborious industry; and the abodes, within these few years, of the hare and the lapwing, are now teeming with luxuriant and successive harvests. In spite of the terrible difficulties arising from the change of the currency, and the adaptation of rents to a new scale of prices, the aspect of the country and the condition of the farmers demonstrate that the spring of agricultural prosperity is yet undiminished : while the remarkable facts, (fatal to the Malthusian paradox,) that, with a population doubling in an old state every forty-two years, the produce of the soil has augmented in a still greater progression, and that the era of the most rapid increase of our population is the same with that which has witnessed our total emancipation from any dependence on external nations for subsistence; and the universal complaint of farm produce being redundant in the hands of the cultivators, encourage the pleasing hope, that the vital resources of the country are yet far from having approached their ultimate limits.
What renders this rapid and extraordinary increase of general prosperity the more remarkable is, that it has taken place under circumstances which would have weighed to the earth the industry of most other states. Without descending to details, it is sufficient to enumerate three, fully adequate, one would have thought, to put an entire stop to the growth of industry among any people.
The first of these is the National Debt. The annual payment of from eight-and-twenty to thirty millions to the public creditors, is a burden far greater than ever before was borne by any nation. The annual charge of the national debt of France in 1789—the magnitude of which was the immediate cause of the Revolution—was only £11,000,000 sterling annually, by far the greater part of which was in the perishable form of life-annuities.
The second is the extraordinary Change of Prices which has resulted from the suspension of cash payments during the war, and their subsequent resumption by the Act of 1819. Without involving ourselves in the questio vexata of the currency, it is sufficient to mention the admitted facts, that prices were more than doubled by the first act, and again nearly halved by the second ; that all the lasting contracts of individuals were formed on the basis of the war, and their payment left to be provided for by the diminished resources of the peace prices ; and that the national debt, contracted when money was at its lowest value, requires now to be provided for, when prices have so altered that it has risen to almost double its original amount. What fatal ravages has this rapid and unparalleled change made in the fortunes of individuals ; how many old families has it levelled to the dust; how much meritorious industry has it extinguished for ever! Yet it is in the midst of this widespread suffering, produced by these changes, that the national opulence has made such unprecedented progress.
3. Though last, not least, our labouring classes have, during all this period, had to sustain the competition, bear the burden, and withstand the demoralisation arising from the incessant Immigration of Irish—an evil peculiar to Britain, and perhaps greater than any which now afflicts any civilised state. Humboldt was the first who brought to light the important and almost incredible fact, that between the years 1801 and 1821, a million of Irishmen settled in Great Britain,* being at the rate of 50,000 a-year; and, since the introduction of steamboats, the numbers have been probably still greater. There is no instance of the influx of barbarous settlers on record to such an extent, even when the Goths overwhelmed the Roman empire.
Nor has the national strength of England during this period been unworthy of the extraordinary prosperity which she had attained, or the unparalleled burdens which she bore. In the midst of profound peace in Europe, she has sustained in the East the character of a mighty conqueror; the Mahrattas, the Ghoorkas, the Pindarrees, have successively yielded to her arms; and, at the same time that the strength of the Indian empire was engaged in an arduous struggle in the Burmese invasion, the force collected a thousand miles above Calcutta, for the siege of Bhurtpore, exceeded the native English who conquered at Waterloo.
When all these things are considered, and the result proves to have been that the vital changes were adopted by
* HUMBOLDT'S Voyages, Statistique, vol. ix.
a majority of the Commons and the nation, it will afford matter for profound meditation, and open up new views as to the destiny of Europe and the government of the world.
The moralist who attends to the influence of excessive prosperity upon the individual character ; who has observed how it corrupts a once noble nature, generates guilty passions, and induces deserved misfortune, will perhaps be inclined to consider this very prosperity as the cause of the disasters which followed. He will observe, that longcontinued success renders nations, as well as individuals, blind to the causes from which it has flowed ; that the advantages of present situation are forgotten in the blessings by which it has been attended, and the miseries of change disregarded by those who have never experienced them. As the individual, ruined by excess of enjoyment, is allowed to taste the bitterness of adversity, and learn, in the wretchedness of want, the magnitude of the blessings which he has thrown away; so nations, corrupted by a long tide of prosperity, are allowed to plunge into years of suffering, and regain, amidst the hardships of a distracted, that wisdom which they had lost under the blessings of a beneficent government.
The religious observer, who is impressed with the reality of the moral government of the world; who recollects how this Island has been preserved, like the Ark of old, amidst the floods of revolution—what an extraordinary combination of circumstances was required for its deliverance, and how little would have sunk it for ever in the waves ; who remembers the fate of the Apostate Julian, and compares it with the recent catastrophe of Napoleon ; who has seen all these blessings forgottenall the principles which led to them abandoned—all gratitude for them extinguished; who has witnessed the spread of revolutionary ambition among so many millions of our people, and sighed over the march of infidel fanaticism ; who reflects on the corruption of the higher, and the profligacy of the lower orders; who has seen British enthusiasm applaud the convulsion which tore down the cross from every steeple in Paris, and effaced the image of our Saviour from all its churches ; who beholds all that is sacred or venerable in our institutions assailed by an infuriated multitude, and the bulk of the nation calmly awaiting the work of destruction ; who recollects that we have conquered in the sign of the cross, and perceives how any allusion to religion is now received in the Legislature --will probably conclude that Heaven has withdrawn its protection from those who were unworthy of it; and that, in return for such signal ingratitude and marked dereliction of duty, we are delivered over to the fury of our own passions.
The historian, who has reflected on the rise, progress, and decay of nations—who has observed how invariably a limit is put to the extension of empires, when the destined purposes of their existence have been fulfilled—who recollects that it is the progressive which is the comfortable, and the stationary which is the melancholy, condition of mankind—who surveys the magnitude of our empire, embracing every quarter of the globe, and the density of our population, not yet allowed to find a vent in those immense possessions—who looks back on the majestic career of British greatness, and considers what our people have done for the advancement of knowledge, the extension of civilisation, and the increase of happiness, will perhaps arrive at the melancholy conclusion, that that line of splendour is about to terminate ; that the sun which has for so many ages illuminated the world is sinking in the west, and that a long night of suffering must precede the aurora of another hemisphere.
It is the strength of the arguments which have been so often adduced, and are so utterly disregarded by the majority of the people, which confirms us in these melancholy presages. If the matter were at all doubtful—if, as on the Catholic question, important arguments could be urged on both sides, and facts in history appealed to in confirmation of either view, there could be no reason to despair of the commonwealth, because the opposite side to that which we had espoused proved successful. But when the overwhelming strength of the arguments on one side is contrasted with the overwhelming mass of proselytes on the other—when recent equally with ancient experience warns us of our fate—when the slightest acquaintance with history, as well as the smallest observation of the present times, lead to the same conclusion—when thought, and talent, and information have been so strenuously exerted in the cause of order, and yet all is unavailing—the conclusion is unavoidable, that we have arrived at one of those eras in human affairs, when a universal passion seizes mankind, and, for purposes at the time inscrutable to human wisdom, reason generally gives way to frenzy.
The circumstances which render the present Reform utterly fatal to every interest of society, and totally inconsistent with the durability of the empire, are its being based on a uniform system of representation ; the overwhelming preponderance which it gives to numbers over property ; the undue majority which it confers on the inhabitants of towns over those of the country; and the total absence of any means of representation for our colonial possessions.
Uniformity of representation, beautiful in theory, is the fatal rock on which all theoretical constitutions have hitherto split; and, to the end of time, must render them unfit for the government of mankind. The French established one uniform system of representation in 1790, by which every man worth three days' labour had a vote. It was speedily merged in the Reign of Terror. Taught by this dear-bought experiment, they established, on the fall of Robespierre, a representative system founded on a much higher qualification, and guarded by the protection of a double set of electors. It was terminated in five years by the sword of Napoleon. The constitution of Louis XVIII. conferred the right of voting upon all persons paying 300 francs a-year of direct taxes; and the public discontents under it went on accumulating, till, to resist immediate destruction, Charles X. was driven to the hazardous expedient of abolishing the right of representation in one half of the electors—an act of violence which immediately led to his overthrow. All the other nations who have attempted the formation of similar constitutions have done the same, and all these constitutions are already extinct.
Such similarity of effects cannot be ascribed to chance. It springs necessarily from the fatal principle of uniformity in representation; because that uniformity necessarily excludes a great proportion of the nation from the legis