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your frolic; you have had an expensive rout; and you must be contented to pay the reckoning. You, who have been open-mouthed for war for so many years, ought to be amongst the last people in the country 10 object to continue to pay a tax upon your loaf, in order to discharge regularly the interest of the money, borrowed for the purpose of carrying on that war. Have you ever, upon any occasion, moved a tongue against the expensive measures of the last twenty-two dismal years ? Have you ever endeavoured to check the enormous expenditure that has been going on ? Have you ever set your faces against any act of profusion in the public concerns ? Have you ever uttered a syllable disapproving of any of those measures which have produced the debt? Never. But, on the contrary, you were amongst the first to pledge your lives and fortunes for the carrying on of the war. You have always supported a placeman, and a sinecure placeman, too. You have been famous for the profits which many of you yourselves have derived from the war; and you have been amongst the most forward to bellow forth invectives against those who were anxious to prevent the enormous expenditure which produced the taxes and the debt. You ought, therefore, to have been the last to expect, or to hope, to be relieved from the natural and inevitable effects of taxation.
I disapprove of the Corn Bill, not because it is unjust, but because, in the end, it will do no good to the grower of corn and the landowner; will expose them to unfounded calumny. I dislike it more particularly (and, indeed, that is all that I really care about relating to it), because it will in case of future high prices of corn, which will assuredly come, give the public mind a wrong direction, and induce the deluded people to rail at millers, and farmers, and bankers, instead of looking to the real causes of what they complain of, and seeking a remedy in the removal of those causes by legal and constitutional means. This is my ground of dislike to the Bill, against which, upon that ground, I would gladly join in a Petition ; but I cannot put my name to a mass of heterogeneous matter, the offspring of ignorance. and the source of delusion.
Wv. COBBETT. Botley, 4th June, 1814.
TO MR. COKE,
ON THE DISPUTE ABOUT CORN,
(Political Register, May, 1814.) Sır: It has surprised me very much to see that you have given yourself any trouble about the Corn Laws. The people, who thrive by spread. ing delusion, were sure to abuse you. They were sure to represent you, who are so liberal a man, in all your transactions in life, as a grasping monopolizer; as a man wishing to pinch those very poor, who are fed out of your fortune, They, who, by hook or by crook, pocket part of the money which you pay in taxes, were sure to hold you up as an oppressor. Had I been in your place, Sir, I would have left the passing of Corn Laws to those who are for raising great sums of taxes from the produce of the corn. It was not discreet in you, give me leave to say it, to expose yourself to the attacks of the herd of vulgar politicians, whose brains seem to be in their bellies. Only look at the trash which they are publishing upon this subject, and of which the following, from The Times newspaper, of the 23d inst, is a pretty good specimen :
“ In my former remarks, I predicted that if the present measures for making " a total alteration in the Corn Laws were persisted in, in the spirit then shown, " a very few days would see the tables of the two Houses of Parliament covered " with petitions. My words have been fulfilled and are fulfilling, and yet there " are persons so desperate that they would endeavour to force on the measures " alluded to, not only by precipitation, but by intimidation. They would brand
every opposition to an unreasonable monopoly of the public food with the name “ of sedition.
“They have eren dared to stigmatise as seditious the conduct of a gentleman, “ whose long and laborious public life leaves us in doubt which most to admire, * the hardihood or the folly of the slanderer. This violent and factious calumny, “ I trust, will not deter any upright servant of the public from doing his duty. “ The true sower of sedition is he, who, stimulated by a spirit of rapacity and " extortion, urges the precipitate adoption of measures, which must of necessity " throw the whole empire into confusion, and render the landowners of the
country objects of suspicion and hatred to the manufacturing and mercantile
intereste, without any real benefit to the great body of the agricultural popu"lation.-Sir, the return of peace, after so many years of a war which has con“ vulsed Europe to its centre, naturally presented to people of all classes in this
country the cheering hope that the burdens which they had borne with un. exampled patience should be fairly and equitably lightened. None, but the
wild and visionary, thought, that all our evils were suddenly to vanish ; none " but the grossly selish and avaricious imagined, that in time of peace they " were to enjoy the exclusive advantages which the war had thrown into their " hands. I have not heard that the officers of the army and navy have thought “ of petitioning Government to continue their full pay and allowances, or that " the proctors and agents in the prize courts have ventured to pray for a supply " of business at the public expense. I suppose the dealers in Omnium must be " satisfied to see their golden harvest pretty much curtailed; and the Contrac“ tors for the supply of naral and military stores must experience a considerable “ falling off in their profits. In short, property will shift its channels. Govern“ ment cannot and ought not to embank and keep up any particular species far " beyond its natural level. It may and it ought to take care that the fall should “ not be too violent. Motos componere fluctus. That is all it has to do. But “ some greedy and avaricious individuals have hit upon a plan to perpetuate, as " they foolishly think, their own extravagant gains, at the expense of the com“munity. Fools! not to see that they will in vain strive to raise themselves on " the depression of their country. Viewing this nefarious scheme in the light I “ do, I must assume that its original inventors were not among the national re“ presentatives.”
Thus, you see, Sir, you have obtained the honour to be put upon a level with officers of the army and navy, proctors and bailiffs of prize courts, dealers in omnium, contractors, and the like. Well ! It is just. It is really just. For to the country gentlemen of England, to their submission to the Minister of the day it is, that they owe what they now experience. It is to this that they have to attribute, that every saucy placeman and pensioner now flouts them to their face. It is to them that we owe the want of a Reform, which would have protected them a great deal more effectually than all the Corn Laws that ever were invented. They were afraid of a disorganizing spirit, and
they now feel the effects of their conduct.—Look, Sir, at the language of this man. He calls your efforts an endeavour to secure a mono. poly of the PUBLIC food ! you are charged (for it is you who is meant) with calumny on an upright servant of the PUBLIC!” When it suits their purpose, they call such people servants of the King ; but, upon this occasion, they call them servants of the public! You are accused of rapacity and extortion. You ! who, I dare say, never took so much rent as you might, without any difficulty, have obtained. You ! who are known to be so generous a landlord and a master, and such a liberal encourager of industry and virtue, and who have spent so large a portion of your time in pursuits tending to the benefit of others! And all this you are taunted with by a caitiff, perhaps, whose fortune is made up of a part of the taxes, collected from your own estate! But, again, I say, it is your own fault, and the fault of the other country gentlemen.--You must bear the grating sound of the words, which tell you that you have been a monopolizer, and that you want to continue the monopoly. How it must please you. How soft it must sound to your ears, to hear yourself confounded with those, whom you have been puying out of your estate! To hear the amount of your rents, a large part of which go to pay the contractors, reckoned amongst the BURDENS of the people, which ought to diminish along with the gains of the contractors. The burdens which people expected to be lightened, we are here told, included the price of the loaf; and the landowner is here exhibited as more avaricious than the contractor, because he wishes to perpetuate his extravagant gains even after the war is over, at the expense of the community!
There is no reasoning with this. It is too outrageously impudent to reason with. It is, however, the popular talk of the day. This corrupt press and the Lancasterian schools, will, upon this subject at any rate, beat reason out of the field. The number who eat bread so far exceed those who grow wheat, or own lands, that the odds against you are fearful indeed ; and that was a fact well known to the false and cunning loon who was making this attack, and who, while he was, perhaps, one of the causes of the pauperism that covers the country, had the address to throw the blame upon you, whose income has gone to enrich him and to prevent the poor from actually starving. - No, Sir; had I been in your place, they never should have heard my voice in support of any law, the professed object of which is to protect the farmer, but the real tendency of which must be, if it has any effect at all, to keep up the amount of the tures. In the last Number of the Register I made this proposition as clear as day-light; or, at least, if I did not, it is out of my power to make it, or anything else, clear. If I had been a landowner like you, I would have said nothing. It should, for me, have been the act of the Ministry and their majority. I should have viewed myself, in the ques. tion, not as the owner of property, but as a channel, or funnel, or con. ductor of taxes; and a very trifling portion of arithmetic would have enabled you to know, that low prices were as good for me as high prices. Perhaps, for I speak without book, there may be raised in England and Wales four millions of quarters of wheat. If it sell for twelve millions of money, the Government cannot have so much taxes out of it as if it sold for twenty-four millions of money. Indeed, they can have only half as much. It is the business of those, therefore, who want the taxes, to endeavour to keep up the price of corn, and not your business, who are
merely a funnel for the taxes. The wild notion of the writer, above quoted, is, that you have profited from the war! That you have been one of those, who shared in the good things of the war. And that now you wish to keep up your full pay after the war has ceased! Just as if you had not been paying wages and prices and taxes in due proportion to the price of corn; and just as if the paper-money, which actually exchanges at 30 per centum loss against the money of France, had made no difference in the thing. However, Sir, all sorts of absurdities you will hear upon this subject; and we are not yet come to the period when the elamour will be loudest. If the harvest of this year should be bad ; if blights should come very generally; if a mildew should, for our sins, pay us a visit. In short, if the crop should be remarkably unproductive, you must be sensible, that we shall see wheat again at eight pounds a quarter. Then! Then you will hear the outcry about monopoly! Then you will hear the clamour about the Corn-laws, especially if the American war should continue, and there should be a short crop on the Continent. - It appears to me, that Sir Francis Burdett takes the wise course in these matters, He knows very well, that it is not he who profits from high prices. He knows that he must pay in proportion to his rents and the price of corn. He knows, that he cannot stay, for one moment, the regular march of things. And he, therefore, always holds his tongue as to these matters of petty legislation. Law cannot give you price any more than it can give you sunshine and showers. The whole quantity imported in a year makes so small an addition to the amount of the crop, that it is of no consequence worth notice; and that peuce does not and cannot make any material difference permanently in the price of corn, is a proposition which experience has proved, and which reason would easy have proved, if experience had been wanting. If the Ministers thought, that, by passing a law, they could keep up the price of corn, they, upon that notion, acted wisely; because they, by keeping up the price of corn, kept up their taxes; and they discovered no little address in getting the landowners for their allies in the thing, because these, as being, according to the vulgar idea, the parties most interested in the passing of the law, would naturally bear the greater portion of the blame. What I regret is, though I never had the pleasure of even seeing you, that you should have 80 acted as to have come in for your share of the popular odium on this account. You ! who can have no interest in the success of the law, supposing that success to be ever so complete. --Already, you see, Sir, the misled rabble have begun, and in your own country, too, to hang bukers and millers in effigy! This is the work of the base and prostituted press, whence the Lancasterian children are to imbibe their principles. The baker and miller gain nothing by the high price of corn, which, before they make into flour, they are compelled to buy. And yet they are hanged in etfigy!
Now, Sir, the truth is, that the clamour arises, and will arise, with those, who, in one way or another, live upon the public money. They are always in fear of some terrible change, which, be it what it will, must oust them from their fatting-stalls. They are always for keeping the poorer classes quiet.-Cheap bread is one of the most effectual means of doing this; and, therefore, they are always railing against monopolizers, grasping landlords and farmers, cheating millers and bakers. The cold sweat comes upon them when the quartern loaf mounts apace. From this source comes all the clamour; and of this clamour you will never see an end, while there are so many persons who live upon the taxes.
Peace is a horrible object to many thousands, and, indeed, some hundreds of thousands, of these persons. They perceive that their allowance will be curtailed; but what must it be to them, then, if the loaf be still of the same price? They do not consider, or rather, they are incapable of perceiving, that (difference of crops aside) the price of the loaf must depend upon the amount of taxes imposed on it through the funnel of the landowner and the farmer, and upon the value of the paper-money compared with that of specie. Peace, which has blessing in its sound to the rest of mankind, has quite upset this description of persons. They fear that the rabble, who have been expecting cheap bread (though it was cheap before), will be disappointed, and may make a noise.- What these people seem to want, therefore, is, that bread may become as cheap as it was before the war, and that all the present taxes may still continue to be paid! Oh, no! thank you, gentlemen! The loaf pays the taxes, and, if you must have cheap bread, you must have less taxes.
But, Sir, why do I plague you with this, and why should you plague yourself with it ?- Let those who live upon the taxes, stand forward in the measures, intended to make them productive. You have none of the gain, and why should you share the odium ?
INSTEAD of an answer, or any attempt at an answer, to my Address to “my worthy but deluded neighbours of Southampton," I have received three most abusive anonymous letters from that town. This is not a proof, at any rate, of the weakness of my arguments. This is so far from displeasing me, that it affords me great satisfaction; because I conclude, that the few base and brutal people in Southampton (and what town is wholly without such ?) are enraged at perceiring, that I have produced conviction in the minds of all the better-informed, impartial, and worthy part of my neighbours. Southampton is not less distinguished by the general good sense and good manners of its inhabi. tants, than by the goodness of its situation and the beauty of its environs, to which even Sir Henry Inglefield's pen has not been able to do justice. But, for all this, the people of Southampton possess no particular privilege, as to any publications which they may choose to make. When they choose to appear in print, they must submit to have their produce tions criticised; and if the criticism be at all worth their notice, it is worth something better, at any rate, than anonymous abuse.
One of these anonymous letters reminds me of my being so long in Newgate. But, though it might be very wrong in me to write about
the fogging of English Local Militia-men, and against the use of German troops upon that occasion; though, as Judge Grose said, that act might be nearly bordering upon high treason; though it might be very just to imprison me two years and make me pay a thousand pounds for that offence ; what had all, or any part of this to do with my arguments on the