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MONTESINOS. Yet the most celebrated minister of the age, the only minister who for many generations has deserved to be called a Premier, the minister whom our best and wisest statesmen at this day profess entirely to admire and implicitly to follow,..he made his boast of this very evil, and congratulated Parliament that the nation had a new source of wealth and revenue in the labour of children: so completely had the political system in which he was trained up seared his heart and obscured his understanding.
SIR THOMAS MORE. Confess that this is an evil which had no existence in former times! There are new things under the sun,.. new miseries,.. new enormities, ...this portentous age produces them,
partimque figuras Rettulit antiquas, partim nova monstra creavit.
MONTESINOS. This evil, however, existed long ago to a considerable degree in the Low Countries. It is Sueyro's remark that, when Count Baldwin the Young, in the tenth century, established the weavers and clothiers in Ghent, he laid the foundation of that city's wealth and prosperity; but prepared at the same time the seed-bed of those * commotions which made it during some ages the most turbulent city in Christendom,
SIR THOMAS MORE. The history of the Low Countries down to their fatal connection with the House of Austria, deserves to be treated by some one who, with the minute diligence of an antiquary, should unite the comprehensiveness of a philosophic mind. Manufactures in those times produced more good than evil,..for the men whom they brutalized in one way, would have been brutalized in another and a worse by the warlike spirit of the age. They raised up a civic and pacific interest; and even their strong democratic tendency was favourable to the improvement of Europe. The modern system possesses this tendency in a much greater degree, when it has become altogether dangerous. It is also essentially different and essentially worse. Large properties were in former times carved out with the sword, and founded upon the right of conquest. Are those fortunes raised on a better foundation which are derived from a system like this?..from slavery direct or indirect,
* A.D. 959.“ Truxo à Gante los oficios de los teredores y traperos, porque hasta entonces solo habitavan aqui los curtidores. Fue el fundamento de las grandezas desta ciudad, pero tambien el seminario de sus discordias. --Añales de Flandes, t. i. p. 54.
abroad or at home?..from the sweat and blood of black or brown slaves, working under the whip? or from the degradation in body and soul of those who, though white by complexion, and free by birth, are nevertheless in an actual state of servitude?
MONTESINOS. Bad enough to serve the planter for a parallel and an excuse! There is a nation of warriors in Hindostan who call their deity All-Steel. Commercial nations, if they acknowledged the deity whom they serve, might call him All-Gold. And if the sum of their sacrifices were compared, Mammon would be found a more merciless fiend than Moloch.
SIR THOMAS MORE. The servants of Mammon are however wiser in their generation than the children of light. They serve a master who rewards them.
MONTESINOS. They pursue their object with steadiness and singleness of purpose, and rewarded they are abundantly with what they covet. Yet their power of creating wealth brings with it a consequence not dissimilar to that which Midas suffered. The love of lucre is one of those base passions which
harden all within, And petrify the feeling.
He who, at the beginning of his career, uses his fellow-creatures as bodily machines for producing wealth, ends not unfrequently in becoming an intellectual one himself, employed in continually increasing what it is impossible for him to enjoy.
SIR THOMAS MORE. What then shall we say of a system which in its direct consequences debases all who are engaged in it? a system that employs men unremittingly in pursuits unwholesome for the body, and unprofitable for the mind, ..a system in which the means are so bad, that any result would be dearly purchased at such an expense of human misery and degradation, and the end so fearful, that the worst calamities which society has hitherto endured may be deemed light in comparison with it?
MONTESINOS. Like the whole fabric of our society it has been the growth of circumstances, not a system foreplanned, foreseen and deliberately chosen. Such as it is we have inherited it,..or rather have fallen into it, and must get out of it as well as we can. We must do our best to remove its evils, and to mitigate them while they last, and to modify and reduce it till only so much remains as is indispensable for the general good.
SIR THOMAS MORE. The facts will not warrant you in saying that it has come upon the country unsought and unforeseen. You have prided yourselves upon this system, you have used every means for extending it; you have made it the measure of your national prosperity. It is a wen, a fungous excrescence from the body politic: the growth might have been checked if the consequences had been apprehended in time; but now it has acquired so great a bulk, its nerves have branched so widely, and the vessels of the tumour are so inosculated into some of the principal veins and arteries of the natural system, that to remove it by absorption is impossible, and excision would be fatal.
MONTESINOS. Happily, this is but a metaphor; and the body politic, like its crowned head, never dies.
SIR THOMAS MORE. But as there are evils worse than death for individuals, so are there calamities for a people worse than extermination. The Jews, during a full millennium, might have envied the lot of the Carthaginians; and even at this day the great body of that extraordinary and miraculously preserved people would have cause to