Page images
[blocks in formation]
[merged small][ocr errors][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small]
[ocr errors]


THE New Year-and when, within our memory, did the year open
with such omen of ill, and yet with such promise of good? But
how are our own minds prepared for the coming events? At
this moment a certain weariness a certain apathy pervades the
higher classes of society. The little great world is sick of the
eternal Reform, blasé with the cholera, and tired of the more novel
horrors of the dissecting-room and the Italian Boy. But slowly,
darkly, fearfully rolls the great current of Opinion, among those


orders who have no leisure for weariness, and who, where their worldly betters relax into listless indifference, harden into despairing discontent. Sometimes we employ ourselves in looking at the numerous penny publications which (like the disorders said to belong to the poor, but ultimately extending to the great and wealthy of the land,) are found circulating only among those classes with whom the higher rarely come into contact, but which are gradually generating that atmosphere of disease which shall ultimately equally endanger all, whether the inmates of the palace or the hovel. We look into those publications with a painful and foreboding interest. Opinions are not only increasing in violence; but what is far worse, in fantastic speculation. One of these papers recommends an immediate " calling in," as it mildly terms it, "of all the property in the kingdom; and the utter renunciation of individual rights." Pushing the dreams of Owen into their farthest excess, this writer, who calls himself "a philosophical Radical," insists upon men being portioned off into colleges, living together, dining in common, and working each a quarter of an hour a day. "No difference of opinion," quoth our philosopher, " is in this beautiful state of existence to be permitted or even conceived." Lord Brougham and Lord Aberdeen, the Duke of Wellington and Mr. Place, are to lie down (serpentes. avibus) in these charming abodes, systematized into equality and parallelogramed into concord. And be it known to the incredulous dwellers on the World's smooth surface, that Owen's opinions are gaining a daily ground among the operative classesopinions not dangerous in the mouth of that benevolent man, but far from safe when entrusted to the favour of more passionate and more hungry reasoners. We are not afraid, it is true, of these visions becoming so generally received as to create that violent and armed struggle which Mr. Wakefield predicates in his pamphlet between the Have-nots and the Haves. Still less do we entertain the preposterous notion of the Owenites joining the thieves in a tender invasion of the houses of our shoemakers and bakers. But this we do fear this we do believe, that the habit of wild speculation, superadded to the habit of impassioned excitement, will produce among the operative classes an aversion to sober industry; an unsettled and vague dissatisfaction; an indifference to moderate benefits, and a grasping at shadowy experiments, which, if it may not destroy constitutional authority, will deeply injure the cause of constitutional freedom. We must put down this spirit of innovating theory. How? by breaking up the monopoly now granted to inflammatory bombast. The whole argument for the repeal of the Stamp Act lies in a nutshell. It is not only that the great legitimate periodicals of the day

are so dear that they do not travel extensively among the poor, but in consequence of their sale being dependant on the better informed and the wealthier classes, it does not answer to their conductors to write in a style, and upon subjects immediately interesting and attractive to the poorer and the worse instructed. Now, in England, the poor will read-will be politicians-will speculate; we cannot prevent it: henceforth, this will be rendered, by free elections, more than ever the case. Well, since they cannot easily buy the legitimate journals, and since, when they do buy them, they find themselves not addressed in a very familiar, or a very appropriate manner, they are driven to buy the illegitimate journals, cheaper in price, and better adapted to their understandings. These cheap works are against the lawFew honest men will break even a bad law; it is, therefore, chiefly dishonest men who write these books, and knowing that ignorant minds love coarse seasoning, they neglect the reason and strike at once at the passion of their readers. Thus we throw the popular education into the hands of dishonest men, and while we lay an interdict on the antidote, we give a monopoly to the bane.

Now let us tell our country readers, afraid of incendiarism and quaking at Captain Swing, an anecdote that occurred within our own knowledge. In one of the distressed and insurgent districts last year, there was a certain incorrigible hamlet of self-confessed machine-breakers and suspected rick-burners. In vain went the squire, in vain the parson, in vain the bailiff, (a popular fellow in his way too, with a blaff, pleasant manner,) among this formidable nest of rustic conspirators, explaining, denouncing, and imploring, talking one moment of increased wages, and the next of a month at the tread-mill. Our sturdy insurgents laughed at the teachers, who they fancied wanted to delude, and who they knew wanted to pacify, them. A month at the tread-mill was no hardship, and that they conceived the extent of the penance to which they were liable. Things grew worse;-barns were fired as well as stacks, and half a dozen soldiers were sent for in despair to try the last logic of the bayonet; when happily a stray number of the Spectator newspaper found its way down to the Parson's vicarage. In this paper was a short statement or address to the agricultural rioters, informing them of the nature of their crimes and the extent of their punishment; in a word, explaining what neither squire nor peasant knew before, that that punishment was not at the most a short exercise in the tread-mill-` it was transportation-it was death. The parson was a clever and a shrewd man. He sent for some score copies of this paper, and instantly caused them to be circulated among the rioters. The effect was

[ocr errors][merged small]
« PreviousContinue »