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" hill, St. Paul's Church-yard, to Guildhall, where thu cere:nony concluded, « amidst loud and rciterated cheers.
“ Upon the whole, considering the multitude assembled, we never witnessed “ a spectacle conducted with more propriety, attended with less ill consequences, " for we did not hear of a single accident or occurrence to lessen the heartfelt
Thus, I think, my friend, this matter may be looked upon as settled. The Address of the City of London expressed the full and clear sense of the nation. In the shouts of the people, upon this occasion, the guilty, the base, the cowardly, the unmanly, the detestable conspirators might read the sentence which honesty passed upon them. I wonder how the wretches looked at each other, if any two of them happened to be together when they heard those shouts. Their feelings were to be envied by those only, who, for some odious offence, are pelted in the pillory.
The sentiments of the Address and of the answer are worthy of the parties and of the occasion; but, I am particularly pleased with that passage in Her Royal Highness's answer, wherein she so judiciously and so feelingly refers to the support that she has thus received from the people's possessing rights under a free constitution. And, as I observed to you in my last letter, her daughter cannot fail here to receive a lesson, that may be most beneficial to herself as well as to the country. Had the people possessed no political rights ; had they had no right to assemble and to express their opinions in this public way, the Princess could not have received this mark of their good will, “this proud memorial of her vindicated honour."
Neither will it escape either mother or daughter, that those who have taken the most active part in the defence of the former, are such as are called Jacobins. Mr. Wood, by the base hirelings of the press, has long been represented as a Jacobin; as a man who wishes to destroy all government and all law. The Princess Charlotte will not fail to bear in mind, that they were the friends of freedom and of parliamentary reform, amongst whom her injured mother found zealous and successful sup. porters, which all the horde, who live upon corruption, were either leagued against, or were careful to keep aloof.
I remain your faithful friend,
WM. COBBETT. Botley, 14th April, 1813.
GENERAL ENCLOSURE BILL.
(Political Register, July, 1813.)
During the present session of Parliament, a Bill has passed the House of Commons, for an enclosure, upon certain conditions, of all the Waste, or Unenclosed, Lands in the kingdom.
As the law stands at present, no enclosure and distribution of Wastes can take place without an Act of Parliament, to obtain which is very expensive.
This expense has been, certainly, a great hinderance to enclosures, where the wastes have belonged to divers parties; and, therefore, the friends to new enclosures have wished for one general Act, to enable the parties concerned to enclose and to make distribution of their wastes, by application to the Justices of the Peace in their Quarter Sessions.
A Bill to this effect passed the House of Commons in the early part of the session just now closed; but, this Bill has been put aside by the Lords.
The subject is one, in which the public naturally take great interest, and, for that reason, I am about to submit my sentiments upon it ; a further inducement to which is a letter, which I have received from a very respectable gentleman, and which, because it expresses the opinions of many persons, and, I believe, of a large majority of the nation, I shall here insert, and then offer my observations to the author of it, and, through him, to the public.
I should further observe, by way of preface, that the Bill, rejected by the Lords, provided for the assent of a certain number of the owners of wastes and common fields; that the agreement of this certain number was to be binding upon the rest ; that it rested with the Justices to appoint Commissioners, and to do all that is now done, in cases of enclosure, by the Legislature.
It is not of the details of the Bill, but of its principle as to effect on agriculture, that I am about to speak; but, I cannot omit this occasion of expressing my astonishment, that any man, who has any regard for the safety of property, should have thought of throwing so large a portion of the landed property of the kingdom down at the mercy of Justices of the Peace, who, be they ever so upright, must be, as a body, unfit to be intrusted with such enormous powers as this Bill would have given them.
It would be making the Justices of the Peace in each county legis. lators for the county, in a matter of the greatest importance to the principal part of its land owners. When it is considered, that Justices of the Peace are all appointed at the sole will and pleasure of the Crown; that the people have nothing to do in the selection of them; that no qualification will enable them to act as Justices without an express com. mission from the Crown ; and that, of course, persons not approved of by the advisers of the Crown, are not likely to be made Justices of the Peace : when it is further considered, that the Justices themselves must naturally be owners of wastes in the county as well as other people, and, of course, would frequently have had, if this Bill had passed, to legislate for themselves as well as for their neighbours: when these things are considered, and when we reflect on the caballing and conflict of interests that must inevitably take place in these several provincial legislatures, we ought to think ourselves very lucky in having escaped the establishment of them.
Only consider, for a moment, what a pretty tenure a man would have of his property, when his title would be founded on the orders of Jus. tices, drawn up and recorded by country Attorneys, who, without any disparagement of either their integrity or their qualifications for their profession, must, in general, be wholly unfit for the discharge of func. tions so important.
On this ground alone, therefore, I rejoice that the Bill has been rejected by the Lords.
But, it is the Principle of the Bill, as affecting the agriculture of the country, that I now propose to discuss, after having inserted the letter of my respectable correspondent, which is as follows:
“ Mr. COBBETT,- It is no flattery to say, that so versatile and original is your genius, that as there are few subjects on which you at tiines have not treated,
so there are none on which, by your clear statement and close reasoning, you “ have not afforded information, and in many have produced conviction. En.
tertaining this opinion, it is not extraordinary that I should wish to turn your " attention to the general Enclosure Act, which was the last sessions passed by " the Commons House of Parliament, but rejected by the Lords. Should you “ enquire of me what occasioned this rejection, I cannot help stating it as my “ belief that the principal cause was, the loss certain Clerks and certain Public " Officers would have sustained by its enactment, in the cessation of the enor
mous and unreasonable fees due to them upon the passing of every private “ Bill. Thus these fees are, in fact, a bar to iniprovement, and keep up the price
of corn, inasmuch as they prevent the ready extension of agriculture. Now, “ if they had their weight in producing the rejection of this Bill, it does strike
me to have been most impolitic and most unjust. Impolitic, considering the “ millions we annually pay to foreign countries for our deficit in the produce " tion of corn, proportioned to our consumption ; considering the employment “ which wouid, on passing such a Bill, have arisen to multitudes, who, in the "manufacturing districts, on every check to trade, are without it; and consi“ dering the demand it would have created for capital, to be engaged in domestic " investment. Unjust, inasmuch as it thus places the easy support of multi“ tudes—the ready employment of the industrious -and the home expenditure “ of millions, in competition with the interest of Clerks in Office and men in “ place. Though some of the provisions in this proposed Act might, perhaps, “ with reason, have been objected to by Lords Eldon, Ellenborough, and Redes“ dale; yet, surely, their sagacity might have suggested alterations and amend“ ments, rather than ridicule and sweeping opposition, to overturn the whole. “ I remember, when the West Indian Merchants offered to save our corn by “ substituting their
sugars at the distilleries, all the agriculturists, noble, gentle, " and simple, The Duke of Beilford, Lord Somerville, Sir John Sinclair, Mr. “ Coke, Mr. Curwen, and Mr. Arthur Young, Secretary to the Board, one and " all, privately and publicly, by their own exertions, and backed by county “ meetings, frightened, as it were, in a mass, declared that barley would become “ a drug; the course of crops be quite impossible ; and agriculture be ruined. “ But where are these patriots now? Has a prospect of plenty, has a fear of “ glutted markets, panic-struck them? Are they mute from apprehension? or “ why are they for a moment careless of the fate of a Bill, by which that very “ agriculture, in the pursuit of which they pride themselves so much, would be
so greatly and so beneficially extended ?
“ Now, Sir, if you can arouse the spirit of justice; if you can excite the en“ thusiasm of patriotism ; if you can make the public sensible of their own in“ terest, in preference to the interest of a few; I exhort you as a Briton; I call “ on you as a farmer; I entreat you as a man, to exert yourself, to be the friend " of the hungry poor, in a cause where you will also be the friend of the indus. “ trious, and of the enterprising rich. “ With great respect, allow me to subscribe myself,
This appeal of my correspondent I am perfectly ready to answer, under one or all of the appellations which he is pleased to bestow on me. I am, at all times, ready to take the side of the public interest, when opposed to the interests of a few individuals in office ; but, whether I view this matter as a Briton, as a farmer, as a man, as a friend of the hungry poor, or of the industrious, and of the enterprising rich ; in whichever of these capacities I view this matter, I cannot bring myself to believe,
that any act of parliament, or any other measure, tending to produce a general enclosure of the waste lands, would be a benefit to the country.
I do not say that the expenses in passing particular Enclosure Bills might not be with justice reduced ; and I think that fees on the passing of bills is not the proper way of paying the officers belonging to the Houses of Parliament. It is certain, that those officers ought to be very highly paid, seeing that the business which they have to transact is of such very great importance ; but I would wish to see them relieved from all anxiety about the amount of their incomes, and, at any rate, would not suffer to exist amongst them anything like a scramble for fees.
But this has nothing to do with the utility of enclosures. My correspondent, Rusticus, like all those who have written on the same side of the subject, is of opinion, that the more new enclosures take place, the greater will be the quantity of corn produced in the country, and that that quantity, too, will be greater than it is now in proportion to the number of the people.
Here are two propositions, the one relating to the positive quantity of corn, and the other, to the relative quantity of corn.
Let us dismiss the latter first, because the former is that which is most generally believed to be true.
It is a principle in nature, and will admit of no more doubt than will the fact of the sun's giving light, that the number of mouths, in any country, which has for ages been inhabited, will always bear an exact proportion to the quantity of food to be got at in that country. If England were to produce ten times as much food as it now produces, the consequence would be, that there would be ten times as many mouths as there are now, to consume it.
Do we not constantly see, that upon every farm all the cattle food is annually consumed ? Do we not see that every farmer proportions the number of his stock to the quantity of his food? Do we not see, that in years when cattle food is abundant, there is more of preservation of stock and less of slaughter.
In this case, indeed, causes and effects are more immediately within the power of man, and are of shorter duration ; but in the cases of nations, do we not see, that in China, Japan, and several other countries, where the whole earth groans under its produce of two or three crops in a year, that, so far from there being a superabundance of food, the inhabitants have much less to eat than in any of the countries of Europe.
Populousness follows close upon the heels of the production of food; all is eaten; nothing is left, though not a single inch of the ground be suffered to remain unproductive.
It, therefore, appears very clear to me, that an increase of the positive quantity of food raised in England would not have a tendency to augment the quantity which would fall to the lot of each individual poor person; that it would not tend at all to lessen the sufferings of the poor, whose increasing miseries are, in my opinion, to be ascribed to causes wholly different from that of a want of sufficient produce in the country.
To illustrate this, what need we more than the fact, that the poor man has just as much food when corn is dear as when it is cheap, his wages, or his additional parish allowance, being proportioned to the price of the loaf? When first I came to Botley, the common wages of a day-labourer was twelve shillings a week; it is now fifteen shillings a week; and thus his wages must go on augmenting with the price of the loaf.
Thus, I think, it appears pretty clear, that if enclosures of wastes were to add to the positive quantity of food raised in England, they could not add to its quantity, relatively considered with the number of mouths ; and that, of course, they could have no tendency to better the lot of the poor.
Now, then, in returning to the first proposition, namely, that a general enclosure of the waste lands, that is to say, all lands not now in cultivation, would add to the positive quantity of food in England, this is a proposition, from which I wholly dissent.
Rusticus will please to observe, that I do not mean to deny, that there are particular spots, so situated with regard to surrounding circumstances, and also with regard to the nature of the soil itself, that the enclosure of them may be very beneficial, not only to the owners themselves, but to the public also. Hounslow-heath, for instance, and other spots in the neighbourhood of great towns, and of an increasing population. But these are trifling exceptions. What I mean to contend is this; that, in general, new enclosures could not possibly add to the positive quantity of food raised in the country.
There seems to be an opinion prevailing among some persons, that the quantity of corn, for we will now speak of corn only, must ever be in proportion to the quantity of land in cultivation.
How any one can seriously entertain such an opinion is very surprising, seeing that it is so notorious, that one acre of land, well cultivated, will produce an infinitely larger crop than an acre of land badly cultivated, though both of them be in the very same field and of precisely the same natural quality.
This notion, therefore, is erroneous. It is a fact, not to be doubted, that produce will be proportioned to the sort of cultivation as well as to the quantity of the land.
It is also a fact very notorious, that the waste lands in general are the worst lands in the country.
Those who think, that an augmentation of the quantity of corn is a necessary consequence of new enclosures, seem never to have reflected, that new enclosures will not, any more than the old enclosures, produce corn without cultivation, that is to say, without labour being bestowed upon them.
They seem to think, that these new enclosures would cultivate themselves, and that manure would drop down upon them from the clouds. Those who have had experience of them, know, I believe, to their cost, that waste lands are not thus distinguished from other lands; and that they require pretty nearly the current price of the old lands to be laid out upon them, acre for acre, before they will produce any thing at all.
WHENCE, then, let me ask Rusticus, are the labour and manure to come to put these waste lands into a productive state ?
WHENCE; from what part of this kingdom are this labour and this manure to come? I beg Rusticus to attend to this question. I wish to know from him, what is the source from which he would draw the labour and the manure necessary to bring these new lands into a productive state.
It is very easy, in riding across commons, and forests, and downs, to exclaim : “What a pity that all this land should lie uncultivated, while so many poor creatures are in want of bread!” This is very easy, requiring nothing more than a slight exertion of the lungs, unloaded with any particle of thought. But to show how the cultivation of these lands