a feeling in favour of the tight little, right little island, and its people and things, not a few of our legislators and others seem to show a desire to exalt foreign lands, artists and servants, at the expense of British.

Facts by no means warrant these people in their somewhat unnatural views. The more the grounds of comparison are inquired into, the fond opinion of Britons of the past age will be found the more correct. In the mechanic arts, in the liberal arts, and in science, Britain has long stood high, and in the very first ranks. In



not stand first, but in many she has long led the van of Europe.

In the arts and comforts of life, in spite of what has been said both by foreigners (naturally enough) and by natives, my opinion is still pretty much what I stated it to be to M. Say, in my third letter, (7th April, 1817). “ From what I have seen in Germany and France, I consider these countries, with respect to most articles, to be behind us in genuine elegance. They have a vast deal yet to learn from us in the comforts and true beauties of life in all its varieties.” Page 296.* And I closed the second letter thus :-“In several statistical points, we have got the start of a full century before you.” Page 292.* During the improving period of twenty years since my visit, I believe we have borrowed something from them, and they have borrowed much from us.

The New Houses of Parliament.

Connected with this topic, I may notice one of our architectural enterprises for 1836. The designs for the new houses of parliament, in consequence of the destruction of the old venerable ones, of such high historical fame, by fire, set all the architects and architectural critics in London, and indeed out of it, I mean within the island, in motion. I regret that the architects were restricted to what we call the Gothic forms of architecture. I should have left the choice to the imagination and judgment of the candidates. And the specimen of the most convenient, most appropriate, and noblest looking edifice, for the meeting of the hereditary and elective legislators of such a country as Great Britain, whether it was Grecian or Gothic, or neither of them, or though there was a mixture of various old forms, or an entirely new one, should have been adopted.

It is a proof of a very incorrect spirit in our architects to ad

« All Classes Productive of Wealth." NEW SERIES, VOL. I, No. I.

[ocr errors]

mit, for a moment, that we at present, and all posterity, must be confined to copy the Egyptian, Greek, or Gothic, or any preceding style whatsoever. Why, in the name of common sense, and rational taste, are British architects to be prevented from inventing what is beautiful and appropriate, more than either Egyptian, Greek, Roman, Saracen, Gothic, Indian, or Chinese.

The specimen which gained the prize, though most of the others were very fine and noble, deserved it. There has been much assertion and grumbling, as usual. This was to be expected, and ever will be experienced in cases of competition. But the public certainly coincided with the judges. I visited the specimens twice, and I perceived that the visitors agreed with me in opinion, that Mr. Barry's had been chosen deservedly. It is truly a noble one ; and it is to be hoped that government will not spoil so grand a work, by attending only to pounds

and pence.

These very specimens show the taste and talents of our architects, though it has long been the senseless cant with many, that we know little or nothing of architecture. This is ridiculous. What country in the world, of a similar extent, boasts so many fine towns, possessing every kind of convenience, comfort, and appropriate beauty ? Or, what country in the world approaches Britain in its fine, noble country seats, of every form, in all its districts, even the most remote? And, to say nothing of Edinburgh, Glasgow, Bath, Cheltenham, &c., is there a city in the world that can even be compared with London for its vast, healthful, useful, noble, magnificent improvements, during the last fifty years ?

Our National Gallery.

But our architects display a genius and skill in vain. All their efforts, however different in kind, and noble in themselves, are depreciated to exalt the architectural works on the Continent, by this unpatriotic, discontented, carping faction of bigots, for mere slavish copying, and whose taste is as doubtful as its temper.

It would be out of place to go into particulars here. I shall only notice the obloquy gotten up against the national gallery, and its architect, Mr. Wilkins, cramped as government and he have been by the pound and pence economists. It may be this, and it should have been that, and it is not to be compared with such and such a building abroad, and even at home, and so forth, say our carpers. But take it just as it is, and is there a man that has an eye, or any rational taste at all, who, on passing it, will not say instinctively, there is no frippery or affectation about that building. It is manly, simple, yet elegant, noble and grand, and worthy of its destination. And for myself, I say, all I wish is, to see the national pictures, with some more of our native ones, in that very noble depository, as soon as possible.

Our Amended Poor Law.

But to return to something more strictly statistic, our amended and reformed poor law is far from being popular. Some say that the alterations and innovations have worked very well ; but many affirm, that the reform has made things worse than they were before; and that it has tended not to diminish, but to increase the evils.

The readers of your Magazine know my opinion of this amending law. See vol. viii, pp. 458—475.' The old law required amendments; but the new one, with the exception of one or two points, was dictated not by sound statistic wisdom, but by the narrow, bigotted, visionary, chandler’s-shop spirit of economism and anti-populationism. Still government and the legislature were not alone answerable for it. The grand object of all, our magistrates, clergy, lawyers, merchantsindeed, all our classes-was merely to save money, and lower the rates, though to the starving of the poor and destitute. The nonsense, which ever since I came to London (in 1796) I have been forced constantly to hear, against that monument of statistic wisdom and of sound policy, equally humane to the poor, and beneficial to all the rest, the 43rd of Elizabeth, which, I contend, has been, directly and indirectly, one of the causes of the unparalleled wealth of England, was quite sickening. It is also to be remembered, that the poor-law commissioners themselves, to do them justice, are constrained to act under the constant terror of what is hanging over their heads : that is, the express object for which, in the public eye, they were appointed. It is written in frightfully large letters.

You must lessen the expense. You must show lower rates, whatever becomes of the rest.

And further. Is the spirit of those bodies, chosen under the property swamping act, called Hobhouse's,* which has inflicted

But I must here state, that Mr. Wallis, a leading radical, who was very active in procuring that act, affirmed to me, that Sir John Hobhouse, as well as himself, were for giving property its due weight in voting, according to Sturges Bourne's sound principle, but they were overruled.

self into power.

the power and domination of the most unfit men in the parishes, to the disgust and indignation of the more respectable, on those which have adopted it ;-is the spirit, I repeat, of such of these, as are not under the commissioners, more humane or British in their operations towards the poor? It is six and half a dozen. About a month ago, by the way, I happened to meet the gentleman who took the lead in bringing about this change of management. And this high-flying radical caught hold of me, and entertained me with a long and animated rhapsody, against the selfishness, corruption, inhumanity, and I know not what, of his former associates, whom he had assisted to bring with him


tired sooner than he did in the case, and he closed with saying, the fellows were no better than a jacobin club. On shaking hands with him, I thought it was a pity he had not, like myself, seen this of his friends before it was taught him by experience.

Government has been constrained, in consequence of the public feeling of discontent, to grant a committee of enquiry, and I trust that enquiry will be most searching. The greatest practical evil seems to spring from adhering too strictly to certain general rules, too much of the abstract cast, with respect to giving out of door relief. To many old and unfriended persons, the workhouse is really a desirable asylum ; but to others it is a punishment; and the really poor and destitute must not be punished, but relieved. A judicious distinguishing of the claimants, and giving an option, particularly to old persons, either to come into the asylum, or to receive a similar allowance at home among their friends, would do niuch towards rendering the reformed law more popular.

The nation, the legislature, and government, should declare it in the most distinct and express manner, as the paramount duty of the commissioners and guardians, that they are to act as they are named, the guardians, and not the oppressors of the poor : that they are not to attend to the rates only: for it is their duty, as it is their express office, in the first place, to protect the poor, and do to them what humanity suggests to be proper ; and this being fully performed, to do justice to the rate-payers.

A Poor Law for Ireland.

On closing the statistic history of 1836, I cannot by any means pass noticing what has happened early in 1837, which has given me high pleasure indeed. His majesty and his ministers have announced a poor law for Ireland.

This measure I have advocated for these forty years. At first such was the wrongheadedness prevailing about poor laws, that my observations were received only with a smile or inattention. But in a free country, sound science and sound sense must ultimately force their way and prevail. That has been the case with this much wanted and most important measure.

I confess, it was with infinite pleasure I read the speech of Lord John Russell on the occasion. For sound statistic science and good sense I have met with nothing equal to it, and very little like it, in statistics, in our parliamentary discussions, ever since the spirit of economistical delusion entered into so many of our ministers, and of our elective as well as our hereditary and independent legislators : and it is now rather more than twenty years since that foolish demon began to take possession of them. Instead of raking up all the unscientific, odious, and unpopular misconceptions of Mr. Malthus, like Lord Brougham, when he introduced the poor law amendment bill into the house of lords, and which would have made their lordships reject at once the measure, had they not been predetermined, on other grounds, to pass it, he proposed the creation of a poor law for Ireland, like a sound, deliberate, statistician, on genuine statistic principles. In truth, to my most agreeable surprize, as a statistician, I could not lay hold of one principle, or one observation, which I did not conceive to be sound or warranted. The speech was worthy of the important subject. It does him infinite credit. After so much which I have heard for these twenty years, on these topics, and to the science of which I decline to give a name, it came on me with an unexpected power, that was quite refreshing and reviving.

The leading principles are those which I have always advocated. Destitution alone, from whatever cause arising, is to give the claim for relief, and this claim is, by and by, to be made a legal right. That source of so much distress and injury in the poor-law of England, settlement, (see vol. 8, p. 192—200), is to have no place in it. And property is to have its due weight in giving a plurality of votes both to owners and occupiers.

Into the machinery of this great measure I cannot go. It appears to have been deliberately considered. The gradual mode seems to bid fairest in introducing so extensive a measure into a country so abounding with evils as Ireland, from a want of it. From the feelings of both sides of the house, I have no doubt but the measure will be made as perfect as it can be made under the very difficult circumstances. No hu

« ForrigeFortsett »