Page images
PDF
EPUB
[ocr errors]

“ Had the advice and the prophetic admonitions of Mr. Pitt's great rival been attended to, what millions of human lives might have been saved! what miseries prevented! what lamentations for the past, what apprehensions for the fu. ture, avoided!"

Of the blood-shed and famine excited by this Company abroad, it is no place to speak here.

However, the amazing increase of territory, as well as commercial property, in the East Indies, have introduced into this country a species of people (Nabobs), who have become rich without industry; and, by diminishing the value of gold and silver, have created a new system of finances. This has occasioned a spirit of luxury and speculation attended with the most fatal effects, and an emulation among merchants and traders to equal or surpass the nobility.'

The son of the great Earl of Chatham, therefore, commenced the grand career of his power as protector and patron of that body of traders whom his noble father had most indignantly de. nounced! His opinion of such bodies is the best apology for the censure of those who have lived to witness the baleful effects of their influence at home and abroad.

“ There is," said the Earl of Chatham, in his speech in the House of Lords, on the 22d of November, 1770," a set of men in the city of Lon.

don, who are known to live in riot and luxury upon the plunder of the ignorant, the innocent, and the Irelpless ; upon that part of the community that stands most in need of, and that best deseryes, the care and protection of the legislature. To me, my lords, whether they be miserable jobbers of 'Change Alley, or the lofty Asiatic plunderers of Leadenhall Street, they are all equally detestable. I care but little whether a man walks on foot, or is drawn by eight horses, or six; if his luxury be supported by the plunder of his country, I de. spise and detest him. The little that I know of the Treasury has not served to raise my opinion of the 66 monied interest." I mean that bloodsucker, that muck-worm, which calls itself" the friend of government.” Under this description I include the whole race of commissaries, jobbers, contractors, clotbiers, and remitters. Yet I don't deny that, even with these creatures, some ma. nagement may be necessary; and I hope, my lords, that nothing I have said will be understood to extend to the honest industrious tradesman, who bolds the middle rank, and has given repeated proofs that he prefers Law and liberty to gold. Much less would I be thought to reflect upon the fair merchant, whose liberal commerce is the prime source of national wealth. I esteem bis occupation, and respect bis character."

[ocr errors]

Thus the abuse of the mercantile character, instead of giving birth to beroes and patriots, produces mercenaries only. The advocates for “a moderate reform" cannot admit of the idea of a moderate commerce.

But it is from the prepon. derance of this dangerous extreme that the trading spirit, so long and so fatally indulged, has at: length so far succeeded, as nearly to obliterate all decent pride of birth, and the superiority derived from honourable or illustrious ancestors, or their aebievements! In fact, so general have been the pursuits, and so extensive the connections, of a sordid and commercial avarice, that the character of the old English gentleman, living upon his patrimony alone, is almost extinct. Analize the inhabitants of the magnificent streets and squares in the metropolis, and see how few of these mansions are occupied by that honourable character, and how many by merchants, traders, dealers, chapmen, agents, brokers, jobbers, contractors, and commissioners, of every description !

On the other hand, that an increased number of persons in the metropolis, and other great towns, have experienced a great augmentation of the comforts and conveniences of life, cannot be denied. Neither can it be positively asserted that the aggregate of prosperity in this country bas not been increased beyond all precedent. But it is the du.

Y

rability only of the system that is seriously called in question. if the state of eternal war can' be supported, the present system has no occasion for any change. The war with good members also carries off the refuse of society, and checks the exuberance of population. It keeps up our commerce, by totally excluding that of other nations. The most burtbened part of the community are still patient in the hopes of a change some time or another. Taxes are paid, and even the income-tax is tolerated ; because, in fact, though laid upon persons of property, these, as landholders, and trading companies, transfer the burthen from their own shoulders, to those of the consumer with impunity, of course are consider. able gainers in the bargain.

Hence monopoly creates money-lenders, and money - lenders support ministers. However, though these seem to reckon upon a perpetuity of being, there is a ne plus ultra beyond which neither of them can proceed. And this appears in the general direliction of the principles of honour and justice; for, in a moral point of view, and religion out of the question, had Englishmen been told a few years since that the language of the common gaols would soon be adopted by senators, their sense of decency, and their regard for the dignity of the species, would have rendered the assertion incredible. It has hitherto been the cant of felons only to say, “ Here we are all

[ocr errors]

thieves' alike.'

." But to maintain that “all men are corrupt from the bottom to the top,” is one of those base and sordid sentiments, which, if delivered in a palace, is only worthy of a prison.

In reality, such an endeavour to break down the salutary distinctions between good and bad, between vice and virtue, is a kind of religious Jacobinism; or, to use a more tangible image, it resembles a banditti or a set of ruffians, who, being upon the eve of detection, rush in upon the surrounding crowd, and confound themselves with the multitude, the more easily to elude their pur

suers.

: Mr. Wardle and some of his friends having, in the course of speaking, adopted the scriptural phrase of “ laying the axe to the root," have wonderfully exposed themselves to the ridicule of some persons, whose open professions, as the advocates of corruption, while they sneer at an allusion to sacred writ only, render the resemblance between themselves and the persons therein described, so much the stronger; for instance, the prophet Isaiah, in his first chapter, has pourtrayed the total degeneracy and corruption of the Jewish state, or body politic, in these words :

66 The wbole bead is sick, the heart is faint. For, from the sole of the foot even to the crown of the head, there is no soundness in it, but wounds and bruises and putrifying sores. .

« PreviousContinue »