Edward Gibbon Wakefield.

England and America. A comparison of the social and political state of both nations online

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18 34.


The following pages are intended for publication in
America as well as in England. They have been written
with two objects in particular : first, to lay before Ameri-
cans a sketch of the political condition of England, and
before the English an explanation of some peculiarities in
the social state of America ; secondly, to point out the
means of removing those causes which are productive of
great evils to both countries.

For the satisfactory performance of such a work, powers
are required which the author does not possess ; command
of language, a style calculated to engage the reader, and a
name which should give to every statement or suggestion
the weight of authority. But on the other hand, he has
had peculiar motives for examining the condition of Amer-
ica, and he is so far partly qualified to treat upon that sub-
ject ; he believes also that he is enabled to make Americans
comprehend the state of England, which hitherto has been
described to them only by Englishmen, writing, not for
America, but for England. The English and Americans
know very little of each other's affairs. Now, the present
writer has looked at America with English eyes, and at
England with American eyes. It was a consciousness of
this advantage, that prompted him to undertake the task of
describing to each nation the chief social peculiarities of the

Another advantage which the writer fancies that he pos-
sesses over many Englishmen and Americans who might


have written on these subjects, is the want of any patriotic
prejudice in favour of either country — of any motive for
concealing or perverting the truth. His opinions, he be-
jieves, have been formed, and are stated, without affection
or fear. Plain-speaking must nearly always be disagree-
able to somebody ; and in this case it will offend many, be-
cause large classes, both in England and America, are
mentioned without any regard for their selfish interests,
their mean passions, or even their honest prejudices.

The following Notes are not to be considered as so many
discussions on distinct subjects ; but each of them is more
or less connected with all the others. In fact, they all re-
late to the social state and political economy of England
and America.

What, it may be asked, has the political economy of Eng-
land to do with that of America, or that of America with
that of England ? What relation can there be between the
political prospects of the English, and the origin, progress,
and prospects of slavery in America? To such questions
these Notes supply an answer. Comparison is the easiest
way to truth. In many cases, the Americans and the Eng-
lish may have an equal interest in the same subject, though
they may have very different objects in view. Of this com-
mon interest with different objects, the subject of coloniza-
tion is a good example. Admitting that the three ele-
ments of production are land, capital, and labour ; suppo-
sing that the chief social evils of England arc owing to a
deficiency of land in proportion to capital and labour, and
those of America to an excess of land in proportion to
capital and labour (whatever great advantages she may
owe to a sufficiency of land), in that case, the Ameri-
cans and the English have a common interest in under-
standing the art of colonization, though the object of the
Americans should be to have less, and that of the Eng-
lish to have more, of one of the elements of wealth. So,


also, if it be for the interest of the English to buy cheap
corn of the Americans, and of the Americans to buy cheap
manufactured goods of the English, the two nations have a
common interest in the repeal of the English corn-laws and
of the American tariff. In every subject treated of in
these Notes, the Americans and the English have more or
less a common interest.

The statements and arguments contained in these Notes
might have been supported by reference to numerous au-
thorities ; but, though the writer wished, for his own sake,
to adopt that course, still he was afraid that, by doing so.,
he might render his work too formal. To one book, how-
ever, he has referred pretty often ; Mr. Stuart's Three
Years in North America; a production which may be
termed a storehouse of facts concerning the United States.
If Mr. Stuart had seen fit to develop the causes of the
facts which he has collected, to give reasons for the chief
social peculiarities of America, these Notes, or at least such
of them as treat directly of the United States, would not
have been published.




First signs of wealth observed by a foreigner — Proofs of wealth in L.ondon
— In the country — Superior enjoyments of the English — Large propor-
tion of the English who enjoy much wealth — Immense capital invested
— Abundance of capital ready to be invested — Overflow of capital — Causes
of the great wealth of England — Combination of power — Division of
capital and labour a cause of poverty — Effects of combination of product-
ive power on the agriculture, manufactures, and commerce of England —
Some conclusions from the principle, that production depends on the
degree in which men help each other — Constant progress of wealth and
civilization in England Page 17



Who are the bulk of the people — Misery of the bulk of the people a favour-
ite topic in England — Proofs of misery — What is a pauper — Factory chil-
dren — Irish wages — Increase of gin-shops — Cheapness of English chil-
dren — Trade in the Murder of parish apprentices — Other trades in
pauper children — Climbing boys — Prostitutes — Cheapness of women —
Degradation of the common people — The common people are too cheap
to be happy 39



Who compose the aristocracy — Particular distresses of the middle class

Uneasiness of farmers — Of manufacturers — Of dealers — Low profits

Uneasiness of professional men — Of several classes possessing the com-
mon run of knowledge, or superior knowledge — Of persons having fixed
incomes and families — Primary cause of prostitution — Domestic life
among the English middle class 60



Theories of the English economists — A dream of Robinson Crusoe's island

The field of production an element of wealth — Argument with the econo-
mists — Argument with the Archbishop of Dublin — America and England,
as to the field of production — Cases of various proportions amono- the ele-
ments of production — Peculiar case of England — As wealth increases
many individuals are less rich — Moral and strictly political effects of the
various proportions which the field of production bears to capital and
labour — Peculiar effects in the peculiar case of England 74




Retrospect — The constitution of 1688 — Its merits and defects — Maintained
by corruption — Populace subservient to the ruling class — Ellects of
knowledge — On the middle class — On the poor — History of the late
change in the constitution — New constitution obtained by the physical
force — New constitution described — Not likely to last — Dangers in the
prospect of change — Democracy or worse, apparently inevitable — Dangers
of democracy — Possible means of avoiding the probable evils of change —
Christian legislation — Means of improving the physical condition of the
bulk of the people, and of removing the uneasiness of the middle class 90



Subject of this note stated — Wide difference between facts in America and
the English theory of rent — American theory of rent — Various kinds and
degrees of competition for the use of land — Facts — Effects of a free corn-
trade on the several kinds of competition for the use of land — With cheap
bread the rental of England must be greater — Gradual repeal of the corn-
laws hurtful for a time to land-owners and farmers, and not useful to any
class of labourers — Sudden repeal of the corn-laws beneficial to all
classes 131



Object of the English in a free corn-trade — Very cheap corn not raised ex-
cept by slaves — Why so — Direct trade between English manufacturers
and the producers of cheap corn must be very limited — Indirect trade for
procuring cheap corn, by means of direct trade with the Chinese em-





Interest of the Americans in this question — Chinese restrictions on trade —
The Chinese people more inclined to commerce than the English or
Americans — Chinese government dislikes foreign trade on political
grounds — Restrictions lead to a free trade - Description "I the free trade
which actually takes place in China— Obstacles i" the extension of ibis

free trade — Several modes of removing those obstacles- Hue mode will

endanger the trade between America and China Safest, cheapest, and
best mode, commercial stations near the coast of China To be tunned,

if Dot by Englislunen, then by Americans 169

NOTE l\.


Peculiar slate of religion C • of superstition will I bigotry Or f'anali-

dam—Inquisitivenest— Rudeness of the backwoodsmen Bigotrj in pa-
triotism — Neglect of learning l'JO




Declamation against slavery — History of the origin and progress of slavery
in America — Cause of slavery — Prospects of slavery in the British West
Indies — In the United States — Possible means of abolishing slavery in
the United States without a servile war 201



Opinions of Englishmen respecting the tariff — Moral advantages of the
tariff — Economical advantages of the tariff — Difference of feeling be-
tween the Southern and Northern States respecting the tariff — The
tariff good, upon the whole, for the people of America, and therefore a
work becoming democratic government — When the tariff may be repealed
with great advantage to America 224



Introduction — Nature and limits of the subject — The ends of colonization as
respects the mother country — The extension of markets — Relief from
excessive numbers — Enlargement of the field for employing capital —
Ends of colonization as respects the colony — The means of colonization
— The disposal of waste land — The removal of people — Co-operation of
the mother country — The foundation of colonies — The government of
colonies 231


No. I.

Proofs of the industry, skill, and commercial disposition of the Chinese
people 383

No. II.

Proofs of the rapidity with which waste land rises in value, wherever people
congregate, in new colonies 346

No. III.

Part of a correspondence between the English government and a body of in-
dividuals desirous to found a colony 357



First signs of wealth observed by a foreigner — Proofs of wealth in London
— In the country — Superior enjoyments of the English — Large propor-
tion of the English who enjoy much wealth — Immense capital invested
— Abundance of capital ready to be invested — Overflow of capital — Causes
of the great wealth of England — Combination of power — Division of
capital and labour a cause of poverty — Effects of combination of product-
ive power on the agriculture, manufactures, and commerce of England —
Some conclusions from the principle, that production depends on the
degree in which men help each other — Constant progress of wealth and
civilization in England.

An American citizen visits the continent of Europe, and
on his way home passes some time in England. Here he
finds the roads in every direction far better than any he
has seen before, and he sees more of them on a given space
than in France or America. The cross-roads are kept in
far better order than those of any other country. By the
side of nearly all the great roads, he sees, for the first time,
a well kept foot-path. In many places, the foot-paths across
fields are as dry, and smooth, and trim as walks in plea-
sure-gardens. All the carriages on the road are stronger
and lighter, more useful and sightly, than those to which
he is accustomed ; and the vast number of those carriages
strikes him with astonishment. The strength and beauty
of the horses, the quality and neatness of their harness, and
the very whips with which they are driven, excite his
wonder. The uncommon speed with which he travels
raises his spirits and inclines him to look favourably at
every thing. He exclaims, what magnificent crops —
what beautiful meadows — what fine cattle and sheep — what
skill and care in the mixture of wood, arable and grass
lands — what noble trees — what regularity and neatness in
the fences ! even the ditches and gate-posts are admirable !
The mansions are palaces, the farm-houses mansions, the
merest village of cottages has an air of peculiar comfort ;
while the number of those mansions, farm-houses, and vil-
lages gives to the country the appearance of a scattered
town. But then the towns : many of them are so extensive,
the houses in them are so well built, the shops have such



a display of rich goods, the streets are so well paved, and
contain so large a proportion of good houses ; these towns
are so full of well-dressed people, that each of them might
be taken for a city. Even the smallest towns appear like
sections of a wealthy capital ; and the number of towns,
large and small, is so great that, together with the great
number of good houses by the road side out of town, one
seems to be travelling all day through one street. This,
the foreigner imagines, must be the most populous road in
England ; there must be something peculiar in this part of
the country which attracts rich people. By no means.
He is told that, so long as fourteen years ago, the length
of the paved streets and turnpike-roads of England and
Wales was about twenty thousand miles ; and he soon
learns that nearly all the great roads show marks of wealth
like those which he has so much admired. He therefore
supposes that the wealth of the country must bear a very
large proportion to that of the metropolis ; but on this point
he is undeceived on reaching London. Here the crowd is
so great, the objects which attract his attention are so many
and so different, that, for a while, he is bewildered and
incapable of arranging his thoughts so as to draw conclu-
sions from what he sees. At length he begins to observe
methodically, and to compare his observations with those
which he has made in other great cities. Until now he
has conceived New-York or Paris to be the place in which
the greatest amount of wealth was enjoyed by a given
number of people; but he is now convinced that the in-
habitants of London obtain a greater quantity of things
necessary, useful, or agreeable to man, than the inhabitants
of any other city in the world. The quantity of flour and
meat consumed, in proportion to people, he finds not much
greater in London than in Paris, and even less than in
New- York, where the working classes live better than in
London ; so also the proportion of looking-glasses he knows
to be greater in Paris, and the proportion of rum drank
to be greater in New- York than in London; but he cannot
doubl th '."li the whole, more good things are enjoyed in
London, by a given number of people, than any where else
out of England. It is not in his power, indeed, to compare
the quantities or rallies of all necessary, useful, or agreeable
things enjoyed in London, with the quantities or values of
inch things used in other gn at cities ; but he is convinced
of the superior wealth of London bj the same mode of
observation which has satisfied him that the people of


New- York drink more rum, and the people of Paris own
more looking-glasses than the people of London. In Lon-
don one meets with every thing the immediate produce of
agriculture, such as meat, bread, sugar and tea, of the very
finest quality. Of manufactured objects used in London,
scarce one can be mentioned which is not brought to
greater perfection than similar objects used in other
capital cities, while the variety of such objects is yet
more striking. The fittings and furniture of a third-
rate house in London are of a better quality than
those of a palace in France or Germany ; the doors and
windows answer their purpose better; the chairs are
stronger, lighter, and more convenient to sit upon ; the
tables, if not more useful, are far more beautiful ; the glass
is more transparent, the knives cut better, the fastenings of
all sorts, the corkscrew and the toasting-fork, are better
suited to their purpose, and composed of superior materials.
In every London house, excepting those of the poorest
order, one finds many useful and agreeable objects which
are either scarce or unknown in Paris, New- York, and
Vienna. The inhabitants of London pay, it has been reck-
oned, about 50,000/. a year, — being the fourth of 200,000/.
which the nation pays, — for what 1 for blacking advei tise-
ments — that is, for the faciiity of choosing between differ-
ent kinds of blacking. The number of kinds of horses
used in London, though very striking to a foreigner, is less
remarkable than the forethought, pains, and skill required
for making each variety — the Lincolnshire dray horse, for
example, the Cleveland coach horse, the high-bred nag, the
cob, and the trotting hackney — so obviously distinct from
all the others. The variety of carriages, whether for busi-
ness or pleasure, and the fitness of each sort for its peculiar
purpose, whether that purpose be determined by the wea-
ther, by the fortune of him who owns the carriage, or the
business of him who uses it, — are equally deserving of ad-
miration. At night, when other great cities are in darkness,
all London is brilliantly illuminated ; nay, the beautiful gas
lights extend for some miles into the country, in all direc-
tions. The pavements of London — but the list of exam-
ples might be continued through a volume. Still, the
foreigner is less surprised at the quantity, variety, and per-
fection of useful and agreeable objects used in London,
than at the great proportion of the people who enjoy in
abundance the most perfect of those objects. That the
houses of the high aristocracy should be large, fine, and


richly furnished, is nothing strange ; but the houses in many
quarters which the aristocracy despise, are as large, fine,
and well furnished as those of the most aristocratic quar-
ters. The best houses, for instance, in Bloomsbury, Fins-
bury, and Lambeth, and in such villages or suburbs as High-
gate, Hornsey, Tottenham, Hackney, Peckham, and Clap-
ham, though a lord would disdain to live in one of them, are
as large, fine, and well furnished, as those of Mayfair, or of
such aristocratic villages as Roehampton and Wimbledon.
The shops, too, in many of those " low" quarters, though
stocked for the supply of persons engaged in some in-
dustrious pursuit, are as full, and as rich, as those of
Bond-street or Regent-street. The number of carriages,
also, kept for pleasure in those despised quarters greatly ex-
ceeds the number of such carriages kept by the high aris-
tocracy in and about London. In the quantity and quality
of good things which he uses, in his own dress, and that of
his family, in his table, furniture and books, or in whatever
mode of expense he may prefer, a prosperous lawyer or
merchant is not far behind the richest duke ; and the num-
ber of rich people in London who pursue an industrious
career is very much greater than the number of rich lords.
But it would be improper to measure the wealth of a so-
ciety by the enjoyments of its richest members alone.
Dividing the inhabitants of London and Paris into the same
number of ranks with respect to the consumption of wealth,
every London rank enjoys more good things than its cor-
responding Parisian rank. A second-rate merchant in Lon-
don spends at least twice as much a sa second-rate Pa-
risian merchant ; a third-rate London advocate spends, per-
haps, three times as much as a first-rate Parisian advocate ;
a fourth-rate London attorney spends six times as much as
a second-rate Parisian notary ; a physician in London, a
surgeon, a dentist, a tradesman of whatever description, a
servant from the butler to the scullion, a mechanic in what-
ever line, a porter, or a common labourer, spends more, and
in most casesa greal deal more, than one or a correspond-
ing rank in the Parisian scale. But this is not all. In Lon-
don there are more first-rate merchants, law yers, and trades-
men in proportion to Becond-rate ones, more second-rale
on<:-> in proportion to third-rate ones, and so on all down the

scale. In a word, turn which way \<>n will, London

abounds with proofs of its enormous wealth.

Tims th^ foreigner is apt to fall into another error; to
imagine that a very large proportion of the wealth of Eng-


land is collected in London. He is undeceived again by
visiting some great provincial towns of different descrip-
tions, such as Bath, Liverpool, and Leeds. Each of these
resembles a large section of the metropolis ; Bath being
like Marylebone, Leeds like manufacturing South vvark, and
Liverpool like the commercial Tower Hamlets. In point
of size and general character Liverpool bears some resem-
blance to Bordeaux or New-York, and Leeds to Lyons ;
but in America there is no town like Leeds, nor, either in
America or France, any town like Bath. England abounds
with such towns as Bath — mere pleasure towns, they may
be called — such as Leamington, Hastings, Margate, Chel-
tenham, and Brighton ; with more of the same kind, though
of smaller extent, such as Tunbridge Wells, Worthing, Har-
rowgate, Aberystwith, Southend, Lowestoft, and Sidmouth.
Of towns like Leeds, while in the United States there is not
one, and in France but few, there is in England a number
without end, such as Macclesfield, Sheffield, Nottingham,
Coventry, Birmingham, and Manchester. Of towns like
Liverpool, though there be several in the United States,
there are many more in the United Kingdom, while neither
in the United States nor in France are there any towns of
a mixed character, like Norwich and Glasgow. Again,
neither in France nor in the United States are there any
great provincial capitals like Edinburgh and Dublin. But
after all, that for which, in respect to towns, England is
most distinguished, — even more so than for the number and
size of her pleasure towns, — is the vast number and great
size of her smaller provincial capitals, which are neither
seaports nor the seats of manufactures ; such as York,
Canterbury, Gloucester, Exeter, Shrewsbury, Reading,
Colchester, and Bury St. Edmund's. And now, further, let
the wealth of any English town whatsoever, be compared
with that of a town of the same character in any other
country. With a single, and no doubt very important ex-
ception, England has greatly the advantage. In the United
States every labourer, not being a slave, obtains more and
better food, more and better clothes, as well as a better
lodging, than a labourer of equal skill in England. With-
out any further exception, the inhabitants of English pro-
vincial towns enjoy a greater quantity and variety of good
things, approach nearer to the inhabitants of the capital in
respect to the consumption of wealth, than people of a
similar rank in the provincial towns of other countries. A
merchant of Liverpool or Bristol, a manufacturer of Bir-


mingham or Leeds, be he first, second, or third-rate, in-
dulges in expenses for his house, his table, the education

Online LibraryEdward Gibbon WakefieldEngland and America. A comparison of the social and political state of both nations → online text (page 1 of 45)