Зображення сторінки
PDF
ePub

• Now, I happened to be pretty well acquainted with this locality my. self, and having received the impression, from annual visits to the neighbourhood for nearly ten years, and free and frequent intercourse with the people, that they were peculiarly peaceful, intelligent, and religious, I was utterly astounded when I read this piece of evidence. I wrote instantly to a friend residing there, calling his attention to it, and begging to know what truth there was in it. He made it known to his neighbours, and a universal storm of indignation was raised through the parish. Mr. Davies was written to in the frst instance, to produce his authority for the charges he had made, each of them being separately and minutely described. He sent back a note denying being actuated by any sectarian feeling in what he had advanced, and declaring his intention to enter into no paper discussion on the subject.' But that would not do, for the Welsh blood was up. A public meeting was called. The largest chapel in the neighbourhood was densely crowded. Every one of the charges contained in the evidence was deliberately examined, and indignantly denied. It was proved that Davies's school was broken up, not because the people thought him a Roman Catholic, but because he insisted upon the children, (nearly all of Dissenting parents) attendiag the church on the Sunday; that such ‘a joint school of Independents and Methodists, which soon split, because each tried to teach their own doctrines and catechism,' never had an existence, except in the curate's own imagination—that instead of the Sunday schools confining their questions and catechising to polemics, not one of the schools in bis parish ever had a catechism on any one of the subjects he mentionsthat so far from the evening schools for the preparation of the picnc leading to the immoralities he descri es, there has been no evening-school held in the parish for fifteen or twenty years, that the secret of his never getting any one of his female parishioners to claim the promised return of the marriage-fee, was not the cause which he slanderously insinuates, but because Mr. Davies had made it a condition that the child should be brought to him to be baptized, and the people, being all Dis. senters, disdained to sell their principles for the sake of his contemptible bribe—that, in one word, almost the whole of this foul representation was a tissue of the most wanton and gratuitous

(vou know what), invented by this man, to avenge himself of his parishioners, because they were dissenters.'-pp. 220—222.

The extent of this quotation compels us to close abruptly, which we do with an earnest recommendation to our readers to keep their attention fixed on the Welsh branch of the educational movement. When such base arts have been resorted to, in order to make out a case, we must not rely on the fairness or common honesty of our opponents. Unless the vigilance of an enlightened people interpose, their end will be worthy of the beginning. We thank Mr. Richard for having called the attention of our countrymen to the subject, and strongly recommend his lecture, together with the series of which it forms part, to the early and repeated perusal of our readers.

[ocr errors]

Art. VIII.-An Act to empower the Lord Lieutenant or other Chief Go

vernor or Governors of Ireland, to apprehend, and detain, until the 1st Day of March, 1849, such Persons as he or they shall suspect of Conspiring against her Majesty's Person and Government. [25th July,

1848.] The prediction of Hume as to the euthanasia of the British constitution seems about to be realised; but who could have expected it to expire in the arms of Whiggism ? The history of the Whigs as an opposition would have led us to regard them as the incorruptible champions of self-government, local institutions, and municipal rights, the hereditary opponents of arbitrary power. To those who believed their loud and everlasting professions, their official career of patronage and intrigue, their large promises and poor performances, subserviency to the aristocracy, and resistance to the people, vacillating inconsistency, and endless delay in questions of reform ; stubborn pertinacity, and rapid legislation in matters of coercion, - must appear peculiarly incongruous. In a party trading in professions of purity, such things strike the observer 'like stains upon a vestal's robe,' or 'blasphemies from the mouth of a bishop.

This party took Ireland under its special protection. Misgovernment in no other part of the empire excited so much of their virtuous indignation. Against Irish Coercion Acts they declaimed with the vehemence of boys in a debating society. The numerous barracks regularly fortified, with holes for cannon and musket pointing to every road and street, and perforated towers at every corner; the jails crowded with prisoners for the crimes of politics and poverty; the system of detectives and spies, spread like a net over the wretched population; the representative of the Queen armed with dictatorial powers, proclaiming and disarming any district he pleased; all these things the Whigs condemned as violations of the constitution, which justice would instantly correct. For a season, Lords Normanby and Morpeth acted on such professions, and proved that they were right. Since then, however, the party have been retrograding rapidly.

Never had government such an opportunity of saving England from the reproach which the condition of Ireland brings upon it. The famine, followed by the death of O'Connell, gave them the occasion of putting an end to agitation, by putting society in that country on a new basis. Millions of money were freely voted for this purpose. Starvation, plague, and emigration, more than decimated the population, as if to render the work of regeneration more easy, to prepare the VOL. XXIV.

U U

bngland from government suchave been

way for the reconstruction of the social fabric so much desired. Advice, warnings, and exhortations were not wanting, men hoped and waited anxiously, and the premier promised great things ;—all he asked was implicit confidence. Give him power and money enough, and see what he would do! He got all he asked, and the result is a rebellion.

In the autumn of 1846, the condition of Ireland called loudly for the solemn deliberations of parliament, to guard against the then plainly inevitable crisis. But parliament was not called in November, for the alleged reason that the Irish members would be more useful at home. They were, however, in London in the spring, when it was tenfold more needful for them to be on their estates, inducing their tenants to till the ground, which was greatly neglected, the population being employed in breaking up good roads. At that time, ministers assumed the whole responsibility of carrying Ireland through the crisis,' of feeding the people, and at the same time 'regenerating the nation. They went on in the exercise of their own discretion, spending money freely enough, but so spending it that- as if over-ruled by some strange fatality- no traces of such an enormous amount of labour should be visible in permanent improvements, calculated to develope the resources of the country and reform the habits of the people. They might as well have been standing on the beach and shovelling sand into the sea. In unproductive and demoralizing works three or four millions were spent during one winter. Still the government demanded unbounded confidence. They brought forth a number of crude measures in a lump, telling parliament it must take all or none, that if it presumed to add or diminish they would go out, for they were the responsible parties, and the only possible government at that time, and they must be allowed to rule the nation after their own fashion.

Woe to the popular party when its leaders are in power ; when the sovereign has a Conservative opposition. Office will cool the hottest patriotism. It will convert the generous enthusiast into a frigid and selfish utilitarian. There are no fetters so strong as those composed of red tape. And when the authority of office is wielded by the immense power of our oligarchy, united as it ever is against the people when the Whigs are in—what hope is there for justice or freedom ? Aristocracy, bureaucracy, an enormous standing army, a Tory church establishment, how hard is it for any good institution to resist their combined influence! The constitution in their plastic hands is like a lump of potter's clay, or a nose of wax. • The absolute termination of advances on account of temporary relief was fixed by act of parliament for the end of September, 1847. Three millions of people-more than a third of the entire population-were then thrown on their own resources,' after having been for months in the receipt of gratui. tous food, by which many lives were saved. In that number, it is true, were included many who could have done without state support, for in so large a system of relief abuses were inevitable; yet its magnitude reveals the fearful extent of the calamity. But what was to become of the millions thus cast off? The harvest gave partial employment for a few weeks. Thanks to a merciful Providence, it was abundant. Food of good quality was plentiful, but as a necessary consequence, prices were low, and the farmer was unable to employ much labour. Indeed, in many cases the whole of his crop would be required to pay his rent, especially where the arrears of the last year were demanded. Potatoes were but partially planted; and, owing to unskilful culture, turnips, their main substitute, were not productive. The conacre system, on which the three millions fed by government chiefly relied, was no longer in existence.

For this state of things the government, with all its expenditure and legislation, had made one provision—the Poor Lawa good measure,—but utterly incapable of sustaining by itself the pressure that came upon it. This was foreseen; and the advocates of such a measure never hoped that it could meet the necessities of the case, even in ordinary times, still less when the tide of pauperism was swollen to a deluge by famine. The public demanded and the government promised, that permanent masures, necessary to place society upon a solid basis, and to employ the people profitably, should have come into operation contemporaneously with the Poor Law. But those measures depended on the public spirit and co-operation of the landlords, and they have either been postponed, passed in a crippled state, or allowed to lie dorinant. The legislators have been tremulously tender of the privileges of their own class, and hence the lives of millions have been left dependent on the discretion of men, whose history is marked by neglect, selfishness, and extravagance. There seems a fatality about these men, as if the measure of their iniquity was full. Everything good for the country, it seems their special mission to obstruct. Their estates are but half cultivated; they have millions of acres of arable land lying waste. The reclamation of this land was strongly recommended by the Poor Law Commissioners in 1836, and again by Lord Devon's Commission; but in vain. The compilers of the valuable Digest of its Report, state, that nearly 200,000 families, comprising 1,000,000 individuals, might have been provided for on 3,755,000 acres of waste land, giving to the nation a new produce worth, £22,000,000.

UU 2

mpilers families, compr1955,000 acres,000,000.

The landlords complained of want of money-of their en. cumbrances, and so forth. Well-to obviate these difficulties, they had placed at their disposal a loan of one million and a half, offered on the most advantageous terms under the Land Improvement Bill. Here were the means of giving reproductive employment to a large number of the indigent; but out of the million and a half, only £217,000 had been drawn last year.

Then, had the Drainage Bill—which was passed for the accommodation of proprietors, and to be carried out, as a matter of course, according to their discretion—been put into operation during the famine, it would have saved an enormous waste of public money, and added greatly to the permanent value of the land, as well as increased its present produce. Early in the spring of 1847, before an act could be passed, Mr. Labouchere published a letter authorizing and pressing the expenditure of the public money in draining, subsoiling, and other useful works. For this appropriation of the funds, the farmers were most anxious; but the landlords met in their baronial sessions,—only to evade their duty and resist this rational demand. Some landlords were dissentient, others were absent: so those who did any thing voted millions for the public works. Every one now regards those works as an enormous blunder. The roads are generally useless. Scarcely any of them are finished; and when they are, they will entail a permanent expense on the counties to keep them in repair, in addition to the vast sums sunk in their formation.

One of the measures relied on, to enable the Poor Law to bear the burden of pauperism, by greatly enlarging the labour market, was a Bill for facilitating the Sale of Encumbered Estates, which was promised long ago, but postponed under various pretences to the present time. No doubt it will prove an immense advantage, though it is not all that the case requires. There are 1000 estates now in the Irish Court of Chancery, yielding a rental of nearly £800,000, or 1-20th of the whole rental of the country. Over these the court has appointed receivers, who have no power, without its special sanction, to spend a shilling in any sort of improvement, but whose sole business it is to get all the money they can from the tenants, to pay off the debts. The farms are put up to auction once in seven years. The land is soon exhausted ; and failing to pay, it is at last sold, and perhaps falls into the hands of some solicitor, for law costs.

In the late debates on this subject in the House of Commons, Mr. Napier, member for the Dublin University, expressed the narrow-minded views of the legal professionthose bigotted defenders of established abuses, who have surrounded our institutions with an elaborate network of abuses,

« НазадПродовжити »