Page images

and lean fowls for four-and-twenty shillings, -- fowls for which two years ago tho samo man would not have given a shilling apicco. IIo sold them afterwards at Uxbridge, and thoy wero taken to London to receivo the last hand.

As to the operation of the war in causing the scarcity of provisions, I understand that Mr. Pitt has given a particular answer to it; but I do not think it worth powder and shot.

I do not wonder the papers are so full of this sort of matter, but I ain a little surprised it should be mentioned in Parliament. Like all great state questions, peace and war may be discussed, and different opinions fairly formed, on political grounds; but on a question of the present price of provisions, when peaco with the Regicides is always uppermost, I can only say that great is the love of it.

After all, havo wo not reason to be thankful to the Giver of all Good ? In our history, and when “the laborer of England is said to have been once happy," we find constantly, after certain intervals, a period of real famine, by which a melancholy havoc was mado among the human race. The price of provisions fluctuated dreadfully, demonstrating a deficiency very different from the worst failures of the present moment. Never, since I have known England, have I known more than a comparativo scarcity. The price of wheat, taking a number of years together, has had no very considerable fluctuation ; nor has it risen exceedingly until within this twelvcmonth. Even now, I do not know of one man, woman, or child that has perished from famino : fewer, if any, I bclicve, than in years of plenty, when such a thing may happen by accident. This is owing to a caro

[ocr errors]


and superintendence of the poor, far greater than any I remember.

The consideration of this ought to bind us all, rich and poor together, against those wicked writers of the newspapers who would inflame the poor against their friends, guardians, patrons, and protectors. Not only very few (I have observed that I know of nonc, though I live in a place as poor as most) have actually died of want, but we have scon lo traces of those dreadful exterminating cpidemics which, in consequence of scanty and unwholesome food, in former times not unfrequently wasted whole nations. Let us be saved from too much wisdom of our own, and wo shall do tolerably well.

It is one of the finest problems in legislation, what has often cngaged my thoughts whilst I fullowed that profession, - What the state ought to take upon itself to direct by the public wisdom, and what it ought to leave, with as little interference as possible, to individual discretion. Nothing, certainly, can be laid down on the subject that will not admit of exceptions, --- many permanent, some occasional. But the clearest line of distinction which I could draw, whilst I had my chalk to draw any lino, was this: that the state ought to confine itself to what

of the state : namcly, the cxterior establishment of its religion; its magistracy; its revenue; its military forco by sca and land; the corporations that owe their existence to its fiat; in a word, to everything that is truly and properly public, the public peace, to the public safety, to the public order, to the public prosperity. In its preventive police it ought to be sparing of its efforts, and to employ means, rather few, unfrequent,

[ocr errors]

regards the state or the crcatura


[ocr errors]

and strong, than many, and frequent, and, of course, as they multiply their puny politic race, and dwindle, small and fooble. Statesmen who know themselves will, with the dignity which belongs to wisdom, proceed only in this the superior orb and first mover of their duty, steadily, vigilantly, severely, courageously: whatever remains will, in a manner, provide for itsell. But as they descend from the stato to i province, from a province to a parislı, and from a parish to a private house, they go on accelerated in their fall. They cannot do the lower duly; and in proportion as they try it, they will cortainly fail in the higher. They ought to know the different departments of things, --- what belongs to laws, and what manners alone can regulate. To these great politicians may give a leaning, but they cannot give a law.

Our legislature has fallen into this fault, as well as other governments : all have fallen into it more or less. The once mighty state which was nearest to us locally, nearest to us in every way, and whose ruins threaten to fall upon our heads, is a strong instance of this crror. I can never quote France without a foreboding sigh, --'ELLETAI 'HMAP! Scipio said it to his recording Greek friend amidst the flames of the great rival of his country. That state has fallen by the hands of the parricides of their country, called the Revolutionists and Constitutionalists of France : a species of traitors, of whose fury and atrocious wickedness nothing in the annals of the frenzy and depravation of mankind had before furnished an example, and of whom I can never think or speak without a mixed sensation of disgust, of horror, and of detestation, not casy to be expressud.

[ocr errors]

These nefarious monsters destroyed their country for what was good in it: for much good there was in the Constitution of that noble monarchy, which, in all kinds, formed and nourished great men, and great patterns of virtue to the world. But though its enemics were not chemics to its faults, its faults furnished them with means for its destruction. My dear departed friend, whose loss is even greater to the public than to me, had often remarked, that the leading vico of the French monarchy (which he had well studied) was in good intention ill-directed, and a restless desire of governing too much. The hand of authority was seen in cverything and in every place. All, therefore, that happened amiss, in the course even of duimestic affairs, was attributed to the government; and as it always happens in this kind of oflicious universal interference, what began in odious powor ended always, I may say without an exception, in contemptible imbccility. For this reason, as far as I can approve of any novelty, I thought well of the provincial administrations. Those, if the superior power had been severe and vigilant and vigorous, might have been of much use politically in removing governinent from many invidious details. But as everything is good or bad as it is related or combined, government being relaxed above as it was relaxed below, and the brains of the people growing more and more addlo with every sort of visionary speculation, the shistings of the scene in the provincial theatres became only prcparatives to a revolution in the kingdom, and the popular actings there only the rehearsals of the terrible drama of the Republic.

Tyranny and cruclty may make men justly wish

the downfall of abused powers, but I believe that no government cvcr yet perished from any other direct cause than its own weakness. My opinion is against an overdoing of any sort of administration, and more especially against this most momentous of all meddling on the part of authority, - the meddling with the subsistence of the peoplo.

« PreviousContinue »