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these laws, for a repeal of the Alien Act, and for a constitutional reform in the representation of the people in the Commons' House of Parlia. ment. With those who regard the belly and the purse, and are careless about their rights and liberties as Englishmen, I wish to have nothing to do. For the sufferings of such persons I have no compassion ; and, indeed, the more they suffer the better I am pleased. - To men of other minds I now address myself. It is inconvenient to most people to go to any particular place to sign a Requisition to the Sheriff'; and, therefore, I publish the following Circular Requisition, in imitation of the Circular Petition of the Agricultural Society. This Requisition may be copied upon a sheet of paper and signed by as many persons, in any town or place, as choose to sign it. The paper, thus signed, may then be sent to me, at Botley near Southampton, before the 1st day of March ; and, if I receive Requisitions, the signatures to the whole of which amount to one hundred, I will wait upon the Sheriff with them. If I do not, I shall have done my utmost in opposition to the Corn Bill; I shall leave the dear loaf and heavy taxes to jog quietly on together; and to hear the whinings and grumblings of those who feel the grievance, and yet want the spirit to use the lawful means of getting rid of it, will be an ample compensation to me for the portion of the grievance that will fall to my lot.
To the High Sheriff of the County of Southampton. SIR,
We, the undersigned Freeholders and other Landholders, Tradesmen and Manufacturers, of the County of Southampton, perceiving, that in various parts of the Kingdom, evil-disposed or misguided persons are endeavouring to prevail on the Legislature to impose Duties on the importation of Corn, and, being convinced, that such a measure would grievously oppress the labouring classes, would be ruinous to tradesmen and manufacturers, would, in the end, be injurious to the growers of corn and the owners of land themselves, and might possibly disturb the peace of His Majesty's dominions, request that you will be pleased to convene a Meeting of the County on a day as little distant as may be convenient, in order to take into consideration and to discuss the propriety of presenting a Petition to the two Houses of Parliament, earnestly praying that no such measure may be adopted; and also praying for the repeal of laws, hostile to our rights and liberties, passed during the late war, and for a constitutional Reform in the Representation of the People in the Commons' House of Parliament.
N. B. The letters conveying the Requisition must be post paid; as it is not reasonable that I should be put to any expense on account of it.
(Political Register, February, 1815.)
This measure has been mentioned in the House of Lords, upon the presenting, by Lord Hardwicke, of a Petition from the County of Cambridge, in which the Petitioners state, that they are wholly unable to contend with the growers of corn, in countries where the farmers pay no tithes, no poor-rates, and comparatively very little in taxes of any sort.
Well said, Cambridgeshire! So, then, here are " the loyal ;" the old, loyal “ Yeomandry Garaldry;" the gallant men, whose swords glittered like lightning, a few years ago, against the poor Jacobins, who were safe enough under the warrants of the Secretary of State ; here are these "the loyal" par excellence, crying out, by a side-wind, against tithes, pour-rates, and taxes of all sorts; that is to say, against the established church, and against the very existence of that system of sway, to uphold which they often pledged themselves to spend their “ last shilling, and the last drop of their blood.” What, then, would these men insinuate, that the French people are better off than we are ; that they have gained by that Revolution which has been so much abused ; tbat, in getting rid of tithes and taxes, they have really been, upon the whole benefited ! Do they confess, that we are come out of the contest worsted ? How does this agree
with all the bonfires, and bell-ringing, and ox-roasting, and Serpentine River, and Green Park rejoicings ? What! do they confess, after all, that we have lost by the 22 years struggle ?
But tithes; why do they name tithes, unless to ask for their abolition ? Nay, unless to ask for the sending of the Bishops and Parsons to grass ? If, now, any one were to write against religion, and to say, that was useless, how these persons would grind their teeth at him, and grin with delight at seeing him sent to starve and rot in a gaol. How ihey would bellow forth Atheist, Blasphemer, and all sorts of vile appellations. If any one were to ridicule the rites and ceremonies of marriage, baptism, churching of women, confirmation, visitation of the sick, the Lord's Supper, absolution, consecration of church-yards, burial of the dead, how they would stare at him; how they would rejoice to see bim ruined, and killed by inches. And yet, they aim a much more direct blow at all these things by insinuating, that they cannot sell bread so cheap as they would be able to sell it, if the tithes, which support the Church, did not exist.
We are upon the eve, ! imagine, of some great change in public matters. The war has left all its heavy load bebind it, and has lost all its profits. To raise the means of supporting that load, the Government must adopt some measure to keep up prices. The farmer who grows 100 quarters of wheat can get on if the Government demand 50 quarters towards the payment of the debt expenses, and the army, navy, and royal family, and other things; but, if the Government demand 90 quarters of it, the farmer cannot go on. And, it is quite useless to Erchequer him ;" for, dreadful as the fulmination may be, it cannot make him pay that which he has not, -Let me make this matter as clear as day-light.
Farmer Gripeum pays, in all sorts of taxes, direct and indirect, 200 pounds a year to the Government. He grows 50 quarters of wheat. If his wheat be 120 shillings a quarter, the Government demand about 32 quarters of it; but, if his wheat be 60 shillings a quarter, the Government demand about 64 quarters of it, which is 14 quarters more than poor Gripeum grows, who is obliged, therefore, to sell cows, pigs, sherp, and everything else, before the year is out, to make up the deficiency, to pay his rent, labour, and to find him clothes. It is manifest, therefore, that Gripeum must be ruined if he cannot sell his wheat at a high price as long as the demand of the Government continues to be heavy. But, then, if he sells his wheat dear, the baker must sell his bread dear; so that it comes, at last, to this : heavy taxes make dear bread : it is the loaf that is taxed, and the consumer pays the tax.
If it be resolved, that the taxes shall not be reduced, a Corn Bill must be made ; for, without it the taxes cannot be collected. I, for my part, expect to see wheat, before next harvest, 61. a quarter ; and this ought to be no subject of complaint with those who are for the army's not being disbandeil. They wish for the army to continue, and, really, I am for no dispute with them about the matter; but, then, they cannot suppose, that our ministers, liberal as they are, can keep up the army out of their own pockets. The question is this: are you for a standing army, or Cheap Bread. - Both you cannot have. There are no petitions against the for. iner, and, therefore, it would be unreasonable and unjust to expect the latter.
It appears, that a county meeting in Kent has been held for the purpose of petitioning for a Corri Bili.—The people (for the people ihey are) overset the Meeting, and committed some violences. The Courier blames them; but did not this man, last year promulgate the very errors, upon which these people have acted ? Now he has found out, that the Government cannot collect the taxes without a Corn Bill; and, therefore, now he is for a Corn Bill!- There is one precious confession in this paper. It is as follows : “ The division of property in France, however “ disastrous its ultimate effects, has created a far grenter and more uni“ versal tillage than existed before the Revolution.” Pray, reader, mark well these words; and, pray do recollect, that this same man a thousand times told us, and swore to the fact, that Buonaparte took away all the able men, and left none but old men, women, and children, io till the land! But, the main fact is : France grows more food in consequence of her revolution ; her land is lilled better in consequence of her revolution: revolutions wh'ch put down aristocracy and priesthood produce cheap bread by causing more corn to be grown. This is what we are now told in the " loyal” newspapers. I am glad, at any rate, if the measure is to be adopted, that such men as Mr. Coke, Mr. Western, and Mr. Il'hitbread, mean to leave it to the GOVERNMENT. It is, as I said last year, their affair, and not the affair of the farmers and landowners. Not a word would say, if I were Mr. Coke; not a vote would I give, for the measure. It is a question which lies wholly with the Govern. ment, the army, and the fundholders. If prices are very high, all these may yet be supported; if prices are not very high, they cannot.- Where now is the famous OLD GEORGE Rose, the friend of the people ?" Why does he not now come forward? Wheat is dearer than it was when he opposed the bill before. Where is the worthy old man now ? His creatures at Southampton, too, are quiet as mice, thought they have felt
such benefits from the imports of wheat from France. It would provoke almost any man but me to see himself robbed as I am by these newspaper writers. All that they now say in the way of argument to show the necessity of high prices, was said by me, last year, in my Address to the people of Southampton. They have absolutely nothing new; no, not a single thought. I, in that one article, furnished them all with the arguments that they are now filling their columns with. But, they always avoid the point at the heart. They always avoid the exposition of this great fact : that high prices are necessary to farmers only because the taxes are high. They always avoid this point; this thrust at the left side.- I have shown before that all other expenses keep pace with the price of corn ; and that, as far as they go, cheap corn is as good as dear corn to the farmers. It is the taxes, the taxes, the taxes, the taxes, the tures. They do not keep pace with the price of corn. They fall upon cheap corn with the same weight as upon dear corn. Soap, salt, leather, sugar, tea, candles, tobacco, malt, land, borses, windows, houses, property, and many other things, are all taxed as heavily now as when wheat was 401. a load of five quarters. It is not the former who wants a Corn Bill : it is the Government, that it may be able to get taxes. -1 now wonder what the City of London will do. Consistency calls imperiously on it for a petition against the threatened Bill ; or will it, too, like that fine, venerable old scientific placeman, Mr. Rose, find out a reason for not doing, this year, what it did, under similar circumstances, lust year,
(Political Register, March, 1815.)
Finding that it would be too late to present a Petition after calling together any part of the County, and resolved myself to state, to one, at least, of the Houses of Parliament, my reasons for objecting to this Bill; resolved to show, in the most formal manner, that I, at any rate, rejected the protection, which has been so much talked of, I drew up, and forwarded to Earl Stanhope, a petition, of which the following is a copy. This step became the more necessary as it was, in some sort, my duty to make it known to the House of Lords, that the High Sheriff of Hampshire had refused to convene a Merting of the County, and, thereby io show them, that they would have had a petition from this whole county, had things taken their natural and usual course. Upon this occasion I may be fairly looked upon as signing a petition in behalf of a great majority of the inhabitants of Hampshire ; or, at the very least, in behalf of the 581 gentlemen, who signed the Requisition. I will now insert the Petition, and then add such remarks upon the subject as appear to me likely to be useful,
To the Lords Spiritual and Temporal of the United Kingdom of Great
Britain and Ireland in Parliament assembled. The Petition of William COBBett, of Botley, in Hampshire, dated on the 17th day of March, 1815,
HUMBLY SHOWETH : That your Petitioner on the 10th instant, delivered to the High Sheriff of Hampshire, signed by your Petitioner himself, and by five hundred and eighty-one other inhabitants of the County, many of whom are freeholders, landholders, and land-cultivators, a Requisition in the following words; to wit :
“Sir,-We, the undersigned Freeholders and other Landholders, Tradesmen " and Manufacturers of the County of Southampton, perceiving, that, in various "parts of the Kingdom, evil disposed, or misguided, persons are endeavouring " to prevail on the Legislature to impose Duties on the importation of Corn, and " being convinced, that such a measure would grievously oppress the labouring
classes, would be ruinous to Tradesmen and Manufacturers, would, in the end, " be injurious to the Growers of Corn and the Owners of Land themselves, and "might possibly disturb the peace of his Majesty's Dominions, request that you " will be pleased to convene a Meeting of the County on a day as little distant as "may be convenient, in order to take into consideration and to discuss the pro"priety of presenting a Petition to the two Houses of Parliament, earnestly
praying, That no such measure may be adopted, and also praying for a repeal " of laws, hostile to our rights and liberties, passed during the late wars, and for "a constitutional Reform in the Commons' House of Parliament."
That the said High Sheriff has refused to call such Meeting of the County, and that, therefore, your Petitioner, deeply impressed with the injurious tendency of any law to prohibit, or restrain, the importation of Corn, has thus humbly presumed to make his individual appeal to the Wisdom, the Justice, the Humanity of your Lordships.
That your Petitioner does not presume to be competent to judge of the precise degree in which the Merchants, Traders, and Manufacturers of this kingdom may be affected by the proposed law; but while common sense tells him, that it must seriously injure these classes of the community, that it must so enhance and uphold the price of shipping, freight, and manufactured goods, as to transfer the building of ships, the employment of ships, the making of goods, together with vast numbers of our best artizans to countries where the necessaries of life are at a much lower price : while common sense tells him, that to uphold the price of food is to drive from their native country great numbers of persons in search of better living on their incomes, leaving their share of the taxes to be paid by those who remain, and that, too, out of diminished means arising from a diminished demand for their produce, their manufactures, and their professional labours; while common sense says this to your Petitioner, his own experience, as an owner and cultivator of land, enables him to state with more precision, to your Lordships, the grounds of his conviction, that any law tending to raise, or keep up, the price of Corn, will prove in the end, to be no benefit, but an injury to the owner and the cultivator of the land.
That your Petitioner has seen, with great surprise, that, in certain Petitions obtained privately and sent from this County, it has been asserte that the Expenses of a farm remain nearly the same as when Corn was at the late high price. Your Petitioner's observation and experience en: ables him most positively to contradict this very material fuct
. When Wheat was sold at an average of 100 shillings a quarter, the weekly