James Johnson.

The recess, or Autumnal relaxation in the Highlands and Lowlands; being the home circuit versus foreign travel, a serio-comic tour to the Hebrides online

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Online LibraryJames JohnsonThe recess, or Autumnal relaxation in the Highlands and Lowlands; being the home circuit versus foreign travel, a serio-comic tour to the Hebrides → online text (page 27 of 28)
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them and their families !


In JOHN BULL'S tastes and amusements, too, there has been a won-
derful revolution. Formerly, he kept a very large menagerie of bears,
vultures, black eagles, muscovy ducks, foxes, jackalls, camels, crocodiles,
and various other exotic animals, on which he expended immense sums
of money. But, latterly, his menagerie has presented no other foreign
pets than a Flanders' mare, a French baboon, and a pretty little Brazi-
lian parroquet.

To the bear and the eagle, John Bull has taken a decided aversion,
on account of some preternaturally savage dispositions which these crea-
tures have recently evinced towards some of the more spirited and
interesting inhabitants of the old menagerie.

As several of the other wild and domesticated animals shewed an
inclination to imitate the bear, some from instinct, others from fear,
John Bull bundled the whole of them overboard, (with the exceptions
above-mentioned,) and left them to return to their native haunts, and
pursue their instinctive propensities.

But it is not merely in zoological matters that John Bull's taste has
become revolutionized. Formerly, he kept in pay a great number of
gladiators and prize-fighters for the benefit and amusement of his
foreign friends the English being little inclined to sights of this kind,
though very fond of reading bulletins of the exploits performed by these
mercenaries, in other countries. Of late years, John Bull lias tied up
his purse turned almost a Jew in money-matters and, from being at
the head of the FANCY, in all outlandish boxing-matches, has become a
veritable QUAKER, in everything pugnacious ! !

John Bull, too, and most of the younger branches of his family, have
lately begun to doubt the truth of that philosophical dogma which
assures us that the natural state of mankind is warfare. Some of the
juniors in John Bull's household have even gone the length of ques-
tioning the hitherto undisputed maxim transmitted from father to son,
time immemorial, that the channel, deep though narrow, which sepa-
rates Calais from Dover, was placed there by nature, as an unequivocal
proof and indication that France and England could never be united,
either geographically, politically, commercially, or amicably but that,
on the contrary, Frenchmen and English are, by nature, and conse-
quently by necessity, as decided enemies to each other, as cats are to
rats : In fine, that Gauls and Britons flew at one another, and must
always fly, from the same irresistible instinct that impels two bantam
cocks to engage, on the instant of meeting !

These sentiments are entertained by a considerable number of the
elder branches, male and female, of John Bull's extensive establish-
ment. They were taught by their forefathers, and they firmly believed


in the creed, that the Calmuck and the Ostrogoth the Cossack of the
Don, and the Croat of the Danube the pagan and the Pope the
Israelite and the Islamite the Caffree and the Columbian the savage
of Labrador and the Tartar of the Celestial Empire \vere all natural-
born friends and allies of old England while France and its inhabitants
were their deadly and implacable enemies ! It is said, that " the
nearer the church, the farther from God ;" and so it has been with
us : the nearer the French, the farther from friendship !

It is, however, to be acknowledged, that JOHNNY CRAPAUD was not
far behind his neighbour, JOHN BULL, in these anti-social creeds, if we
are not allowed to call them prejudices. He was taught to believe that
the pride and the pelf of the aristocracy and shopocracy were incom-
patible with the dignity of the " GRAND NATION " and that the lustre
of the imperial sceptre, or the majesty of the people, was insulted, on
the south side of the Channel, so long as the trident bore sway in the

It is not at all improbable that these hostile feelings of mutual rivalry
and jealousy contributed to aggrandize the power of both nations. But
a time has arrived when such feelings must cease or, at least, be
smothered. Nothing forms so strong a bond of union, in this world, as
FEAR. Master and slave, brigand and prisoner, Mahommedan and
Christian, will unite together in self-defence against the bear and the
tiger, if menaced by such animals. It is to be hoped that less potent,
but more noble feelings than those of FEAR, are beginning to draw
closer the ties of friendship and reciprocal benefit, between two great
and neighbouring countries. It may yet turn out that the stormy strait
that divides France from England, shall form a link or bond of union,
which no power, from the north or the south, from the east or the west,
may be able to break. Let the RAIL-WAY of FRIENDSHIP be once firmly
established between London and Paris and woe to the bruuo's paw
or black eagle's pennon, that shall venture to cross the path of the
Anglo-Gallic engine ! The BEAR would be very likely to go back to the
White Sea on three feet and it would be miraculous indeed if the
spread-eagle had not one of his crowned heads carried off in the col-
lision !

A surprising change has taken place even within the present century,
in John Bull's sentiments and dispositions towards his friends at home,
and his " relations" abroad. Within these fifty or sixty years, John's
family has tripled or quadrupled in number, while his landed estates,
though perhaps better cultivated, have not increased in their dimensions.
The consequence has been, that immense numbers of his children,
grandchildren, and great-grandcliildren, having abandoned the spade


and the plough, the sickle and the scythe, the crook and the flail have
betaken themselves to the hammer and the file, the shuttle and the lathe,
the bellows and the drill together with a thousand other implements
and handicrafts, but little cultivated by their ancestors. The effects
have been " prodigious !" Whenever men or women either have
been congregated into large masses in confined spaces, mischief has
been engendered. In the first place, MONEY is rapidly made in these
laboratories and though poets generally deal in fiction, they have
spoken truth, for once, when they tell us that riches is the root of evil
the irritamenta malorum.

The money thus quickly made by certain numerous branches of John
Bull's family, introduced a taste for finery and luxury, with all their
consequences and these tastes were ultimately communicated to their
country cousins. The cities infected the towns the towns infected the
villages and the villages infected the farm-houses, with the ambition of
living beyond their means, however ample those means might be !

This ruinous propensity was fostered and increased by a monopoly
which John Bull's family obtained, at the expense of four or five hun-
dred millions sterling, for supplying half the world with cotton and
cutlery for the space of ten or fifteen years, during which, John Bull
was to have a turnpike-gate on the high seas, for the purpose of pre-
venting smuggling, and levying a toll on the manufactures of other
countries. All things have an end and so had the contract or mono-
poly. When John Bull's charter was taken away, by the conflagration
of Moscow, the capture of Paris, and the battle of Waterloo, the whole
family of BULLS awoke one morning, and found themselves BEARS, with
a deficit of seven or eight hundred millions sterling and what was
worse with " Hamlet's occupation gone ! ! " Like bears, with sore
heads and empty stomachs, they have, ever since that period, continued
to growl ! But this is both a digression and an anticipation.

There was a worse evil or, at all events, a more efficient agent, than
MONEY, engendered by these congregations of mankind in the prosecu-
tion of arts and manufactures. This was KNOWLEDGE. We are told,
by the highest authority, that " men run to and fro, and knowledge
is increased." In my humble opinion, that precious commodity is
more speedily manufactured at home and by concentration rather than
dispersion by centripetal, rather than by centrifugal force. But the
knowledge to which I allude, is not the common knowledge " de omni-
bus rebus;" but the knowledge of COMBINATION. The old classical
illustration of the bundle of rods was unknown to, or ill understood by,
the myriads of unwashed artizans. They had more familiar examples
constantly before their eyes. They saw, for instance, that a rope-yarn


might be snapped in twain, by the arm of an individual. But they also
observed that a certain number of yarns, when twisted together, assumed
the new title of CABLE, strong enough to hold fast a LINE-OF-BATTJ.E-
SHIP in a gale of wind at Spithead. Ten thousand other illustrations of
the wonderful effects of COMBINATION (intellectual combination) were
perpetually presenting themselves to the civic and manufacturing masses
of society; while their agricultural relations were literally held together
by " a rope of sand." Power has two sources moral and physical
the force of opinion, and that of animal muscle. Now, COMBINATION
engendered and multiplied the force of opinion, even more wonderfully
than it did the physical or mere animal force. The press collected from
ten thousand tributary streams a torrent of intellectual power, infinitely
more operative and irresistible than any physical agency that could be
set in motion or directed by human hands inasmuch as it created,
organized, and wielded, the brute or physical energy itself!

This great political problem is not yet so well understood on the banks
of the Dwina and the Danube, as of the Thames and the Seine ; and
it is very differently viewed by different nations or rather by their
rulers. The solution of the problem is in the womb of fate and not
one of the existing generation will live to see that solution complete !

But in John Bull's very numerous family there are sources of dis-
union as well as of combination. The elder branches having adhered
to the cultivation of the soil, had favours and franchises conferred on
them, which were denied to the junior branches who took to the hammer
and the shuttle. The agriculturists got a patent for supplying bread
to the artizans, who, by this means, were prohibited from importing
French rolls from Normandy, and soft tommy from the Baltic, although
they could supply themselves with the staff of life for little more than half
the money they paid to patentees at home. This partiality has long
caused discontent among the artizans, who, nevertheless, furnish their
agricultural brethren with every kind of implement and manufacture, at
less than half the price they formerly cost. A revocation of the patent
has been attempted by an appeal to law : but unfortunately three-fourths
of the jury were BAKERS, and the verdict, of course, was in favour of
dear bread.

Although it must be confessed that, on the score of intelligence, the
junior, or artizan and mercantile branches of John Bull's family are
superior to the elder or agricultural branches, yet the arguments of
the former, in favour of cheap bread, are not quite convincing to the
mind of an indifferent spectator. They tell us that, if we take corn
from foreign countries, foreign countries will take cotton and cutlery
from us. This is an assumption without proof. Let it be tested thus :


A merchant in London writes to a merchant in Riga, making the fol-
lowing proposition : " Send me a ship-load of wheat, at the price cur-
rent of wheat in Riga, and I will send you an equivalent, in any English
product, at the price current in London." If the Riga merchant answers,
" Yes," then the barter is perfectly reciprocal ; but if he answers, " No"
and insists upon cash, to be kid out on the manufactures of other
countries, the corn-laws are a just retaliation on the anti-reciprocal
spirit of the Riga merchant. Here is a simple, if not a safe text*.

It may be urged, and with reason, that free trade would benefit the
manufacturer at the expense of the landholder : the retort is, that the
corn-laws injure the former, for the benefit of the latter. It is main-
tained that free trade would increase the manufacturing population
and decrease the agricultural. Well, it seems reasonable that the
people of every country, and every locality, should be at liberty to pursue
those avocations that are most advantageous to themselves. It would be
unjust, as well as absurd, to prevent the Shetlander from importing
corn from Aberdeen, because he finds it more profitable to plough the
sea in quest of herrings, than the soil in search of oats. Besides, it is
undoubted that the agricultural population is so redundant that the
poor's-rates is one of the greatest sources of distress to the farmer. But
there seems little danger of the soil of England lying waste in conse-
quence of free trade, where the population, already redundant, is annu-
ally increasing. If wheat can be got cheaper from abroad, every inch
of ground at home will be cultivated with some vegetable substance
adapted to the physical or moral w r auts of the inhabitants. It is pos-
sible that free trade in corn might diminish the landlord's rent, and
cause him to keep a smaller kennel of hounds, or a less numerous stud
of horses. It might also, perchance, render some of the gentlemen far-
mers less capable than they now r are of employing so many music, danc-
ing, and language-masters for their daughters ; or of hiring a box annu-
ally at the Italian Opera, for the moral and physical improvement of
their families. I acknowledge that the Sapphos and Cecilias of our
corn-fields, will suffer great privations in being denied the pleasure of
perusing Tasso and Alfieri, in the original and of drawing down har-
mony from Heaven, upon hay-ricks and sheepfolds, through the lute and
the harp, the guitar and the harpsichord. But let them recollect that
every class of society must bear a portion of the evils attendant on re-

* It is vain to say that the gold given for corn is procured in exchange for our own
manufactures, from oilier countries. This fact only proves that the trade in gold and
cutlery is reciprocal between Mexico and England; but not between England and
Poland, in cotton and corn.


dundant population and that their return to Arcadian simplicity, for
which they sigh in every sonato, cannot, surely, be the worst vicissitude
to which humanity is liable in this vale of tears *.

Is it certain that free trade in corn would enable the English manu-
facturer to undersell all his continental competitors in foreign markets,
and thus aggrandize England still higher in the scale of commercial
nations ? I make no pretension to a knowledge of political arithmetic
but common observation, with, I hope, common sense, leads me to
doubt the extent of public good which is expected from free trade in
corn. Let us suppose that it would reduce the price of bread one half,
which is going far enough. Take, then, an operator, with his wife and
four children, constituting a family of six souls. Their bread, at pre-
sent, costs them one shilling and sixpence per diem which is a very
high estimate. The free trade in corn reduces it, at once, to ninepence.
The artizan is therefore ninepence a day richer than before. Will he
go to his master and say, I will now work for ninepence per day less
than I did, because my bread is cheaper and because I wish you to un-
dersell the manufacturers of France and Germany ? Will he offer half
the savings ? I suspect not and imagine that he will rather lay out
the ninepence on better cheer at home, or an additional pot of porter, at
dinner and supper. I confess I should be inclined to this myself. But,
say the advocates of free trade in corn, " The price of bread regulates
the price of all other articles of food." I doubt this. But if it does, so
much the worse. If the beef, the mutton, the pork, the poultry, the
hay, the corn, &c., all fall one half, with the loaf, then indeed the agri-
cultural population will be effectually ruined and must soon go to the
poorhouse !

My own impression is, that the importation of grain, duty free, would
make but a small difference in the price of the various commodities
which we use, whether food, raiment, or luxuries and consequently
that the sanguine expectations of the community will be greatly disap-
pointed, when the event takes place. At the same time, it seems very
natural and just that commercial reciprocities in the natural and arti-
ficial productions of different countries, should obtain to the fullest ex-
tent. The jealousies of nations, like those of individuals, will never, I
fear, permit such a liberal adjustment of international exchanges.

* As bad habits, however quickly acquired, are slow and difficult of removal, the
safest plan perhaps would be, a very small triennial reduction of that maximum price
of wheat which permits importation. By this slow and almost imperceptible process, a
free trade in corn would be ullimately effected, without the risk of evils attendant on
sudden transitions.


Of John Bull's WEALTH it would be a cruel mockery to speak, when
Whig and Tory aristocrat and democrat merchant and tradesman
manufacturer and farmer every denomination of society, in short, from
Windsor to Wapping from Beachy-Head to Cape Rath, agree in this
one fact, that the whole nation is on the eve of bankruptcy and half
the population in the workhouse ! To offer insult to indigence, is a
refinement of cruelty to which I am not inclined ; and therefore I shall
waive the subject of WEALTH, and pass lightly and charitably over the
POVERTT of my country.

If a joint stock-company were found to be in debt, to the tune of seven
or eight hundred millions sterling unable to pay the capital and
hardly capable of scraping up a low annual interest for their creditors
they would be considered little less than insolvent. Such is the state of
the JOHN BULL FIRM, according to the representations of a numerous
class of society. It is exceedingly difficult for a foreigner to discover
this poverty in England. He surveys the various gradations of the com-
munity, from the palace to the workhouse, and he sees splendid houses,
beautiful furniture, magnificent carriages, well-dressed people, ruddy
complexions, excellent roads, abundant provisions (even in our work-
houses and jails) and oceans of money ready to flow into any channel
that promises four or five per cent, interest on capital ! Where, then,
is the poverty of the country ? It is in the unequal distribution of
property. There is an immense class of PAUPERS in England, fed by
their brethren, and therefore not distinguishable by the foreigners, from
those who feed them.

As the national debt is a sum of money borrowed from a feio, for the
real or supposed good of ALL so the interest of that debt is levied on
ALL, without distinction on the creditor as well as on the debtor. A
national bankruptcy would neither augment nor diminish the sum total
of wealth in the country. It might impoverish the FEW, without enrich-
ing the MANY. But we cannot, and need not dwell on a fraudulent
bankruptcy in such a commercial country as this. If John Bull chooses
to take the " benefit of the act" he must abide by all its provisions,
and deliver up his goods and chattels to his creditors. In that case, I
suspect that he would pay twenty shillings in the pound, and have a
large surplus after all. Honesty is the best policy, in public as well as
in private life. Government would not gain that freedom of action,
which is anticipated from a fraudulent extinction of taxation for paying
the public creditor. When the sponge that wipes away the national
debt, is wrung dry, it may not very readily saturate itself with a fresh
glut of moisture. He who stops payment from disinclination rather
than poverty, may find some difficulty afterwards in putting hie hand


into his neighbour's pocket, when seized with a fit of extravagance or
knavery ! A national debt, and the burden of discharging its interest,
are not unqualified evils. They will prove a curb on national pugnacity
and produce a backwardness in picking quarrels with our neighbours
not so much, perhaps, from disinclination to mix in the WAR-DANCE,
as from a well-grounded dread of paying the piper afterwards !


If the national debt or at least the payment of the interest be a
proof of the great wealth of England, the extent of her pauperism
(paradoxical as it may appear) is a still more unequivocal testimony to
the immensity of her resources. The wealth of the upper and middling
classes is, in a great measure, the grand remote cause of the pauperism
of the lowest class. If the former classes could not pay the poor-rates,
pauperism would soon be at an end. If the poor-laws continue in their
present form, pauperism will ultimately eat down property, till a level
be produced, which will cure the evil ! Ex nihilo nihil fit. If wealth,
enormously accumulated in the hands of certain classes of society, be
one of the remote causes of pauperism in others, the poor-laws are the
proximate cause, both of redundant population, and its consequence,
poverty. If England be destined to undergo the fate of other great
empires of Greece and Rome, for example it will be mainly through
the instrumentality of a code of laws, originating in the most benevolent
motives, but unexpectedly operating to the destruction of the nation !
If all the cruel tyrants, cold-hearted misanthropes, and blood-thirsty
monsters that ever lived on the face of this earth, had formed a conclave,
with SATAN for their chairman, they would not have been able to frame
an ordonnance half so ruinous to human happiness and human pros-
perity as the POOR-LAWS of ENGLAND! These laws are the dry-rot
of society. The more magnificent the framework of a ship, affected
with this disease, the more extensive is the destructive process of the
worm, and the more terrible the crash, when the timbers give way. It
is so with the poor-laws. The more efforts we make to improve our
circumstances, the more numerous are the blood-suckers that fasten on
us for support, and drain us of our earnings. The POOR-LAWS have
demoralized the indigent, and are demoralizing the affluent. If they
hold out a premium for idleness and vice in one class, they lay the
foundation for callous indifference, and almost misanthropy, in the


other. They are a source of terror to those who have anything to lose,
and of discontent to those who have anything to gain.

There is scarcely a channel to the human heart, through which the
tide of demoralization is not urged by the poor-laws. In the first place,
they tend to sever the strongest of Nature's ties those between parent
and progeny between brother and sister ! " Those whose minds have
been moulded by the operation of the poor-laws, appear not to feel the
slightest scruple in asking to be paid for the performance of those
domestic duties, which the most brutal savages are, in general, willing
to render gratuitously to their own kindred ! ' Why should I tend my
sick and aged parents, when the parish is bound to do it?" Reports on
the Poor Laws, vol. i. p. 85. Various illustrations are given by the
Commissioners, of this kind of modern philosophy !

Secondly, they weaken the grand stimulus to industry, (the fear of
want,) by holding out a certain prospect of support from others, when
our own resources fail, whether from illness, accident, or idleness !

" Is any, and what attention paid to the character of the applicant,
or the causes of his distress?" Answer. " None whatever. The
greatest thief in the parish has the magistrate's allowance ; the honest
but unfortunate get no more. The idle and dissolute are paid equally
with the industrious and prudent." Poor Law Report, p. 9.

Thirdly, the poor-laws directly encourage early and imprudent mar-
riages the prolific source of redundant population, itself a cause as
well as effect of pauperism.

If two men apply for parish relief, the one married, and the other
single, the former has the preference, as to work, and the greater allow-
ance of parochial assistance. For every child that he can produce, he
has an additional weekly allowance from the parish. The thickest-
skulled clown in the country can see the nature of this bounty on the
reproduction of the human species. He runs and gets married. Every
year, or less, produces an increase of his parish allowance and the
MAN-FACTOR? which impoverishes the nation, enriches the pauper !

" Whether that want is produced by imprudent marriages, or idle-

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Online LibraryJames JohnsonThe recess, or Autumnal relaxation in the Highlands and Lowlands; being the home circuit versus foreign travel, a serio-comic tour to the Hebrides → online text (page 27 of 28)