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looks upon these eight millions a-year as being more burdensome than the twenty-millions a-year paid in war-taxes, and to which he seems to have very little objection! I would make a trifling bet that the Doctor is not without a feeling of interest in the taxes ; for, upon any other supposition his opinion seems to be wholly unaccountable.
There is one charge, which the Doctor brings against those, who he calls the “ lower orders,” which is worthy of particular notice. He says that they consider their respective “parishes as their right and inheritance, to which they are entitled to resort.” By parishes he must mean the poor-rates ; and, let me ask the Doctor if the poor-rates are not as much, at least, the right and inheritance of the poor labourer, as the sinecure places and pensions are the right of those, to whom they have been granted ? When it has been proposed to do away these enormous charges upon the country, the answer has been, that the holders enjoy them by law, and that to take them away would be robbery. But, it seems, that it would be no robbery according to this Doctor's notion, to deprive the poor of the means of existence. The fact is, that, as I have shown before, the helpless poor have a right, in equity as well as in law, to relief from the rates ; and it remains for Dr. Macqueen to show us what equitable right the Roses, the Cannings, the Seymours, the Giffords, and the Laws, and hundreds of others, have to their sinecures.
Another charge of the Doctor against the working classes is still more worthy of notice. He says, “ that the morals as well as manners of the “ lower orders of the community have been degenerating since the “ earliest ages of the French Revolution. The doctrine of equality and " the rights of man is not yet forgotten, but fondly cherished, and re“luctantly abandoned.” If this were true, what an excellent lesson is here for those who set about putting down principles and opinions by force of arms! Paine should be alive to hear this. He should be alive to hear it asserted by the fast friends of the system, that they had spent a thousand millions of money in vain, to endeavour to extinguish the principles inculcated in his celebrated book. The truth is, however, that the people, generally speaking, never entertained the notion of equality in its odious and ridiculous sense; and I am not at all afraid to assert, that it is a falsehood to impute to them the cherishing of any such idea. They would not understand any person who should talk to them about equality. It is a thing that they have never heard of, and against which all the habits of their life would protest. But, Sir, you see in the Doctor, what you see in the Board of Agriculture itself; namely, a desire to keep the eyes of the people from the Government in this discussion, and to attribute the distresses of the country to any person other than those who have squandered the means of the nation, and to anything other than the taxes, which are the real cause of all the distress.
While the Doctor, however, appears in one paragraph of his letter, to be the bitter enemy of revolutionary notions, I must do him the justice to say, that he makes ample amends in another paragraph, by asserting, broadly and boldly, that " tithes should never be paid by the farmer.' It was here that the French Revolution began. This was the first great blow struck by the republicans in France; and, it would be curious enough for us to behold, as I verily believe we shall behold, the enemies of the French Revolution, at the end of three and twenty years of bloodshed, coolly propose, as a just and equitable measure, that very measure which was the first to be adopted by the revolutionists of France. So well
have they managed the matter, and so true it is that extremes meet, that these enemies of freedom and just government have at last, after execrating every change for the better, come of their own accord to the proposition of changes which nothing but the most desperate circumstances can possibly justify; and the clergy of the established church, who thought that the safety of their property and of their rank called upon them to join the enemies of reform, may now have leisure to repent of the part they have taken, when they see that property openly assailed, not by the reformers, but by those very associates with whom they co-operated in the preventing of reform !
As to the justice and expediency of abolishing tithes, I would first observe, that a very large portion of the tithes are private property to all intents and purposes, and that the clergy have no more interest in them than I have. Besides this, a great deal more than half of the church livings are, as you very well know, private property also, and are bought and sold with as little ceremony as stalls in Smithfield, or seats at the Opera, or in any other big house of assembling. They are, too, bought and sold lawfully. Their value consists in the amount of the tithes which are attached to them. And yet this Doctor says, with the most perfect unreserve, that tithes ought never to be paid by the farmer ; and of course, ought never to be paid at all; for if the farmers ought not to pay them, it would be very difficult, I imagine, to find out anybody else to pay them. Here, then, is a pretty good sweep at private property ;a pretty good stroke in the levelling way ;-a pretty bold step in the revolutionary career. The Doctor is a very apt disciple of Paine, without seeming conscious of his merit ; and it will, I imagine, make the clergy grind their teeth, when they perceive, that they have all this time been lending their powerful assistance to men who now turn round upon them, and are for discarding them as a useless burden!
In this case, as in the case of the poor-rates, we may observe, that it remains for our adversaries to show, how it has happened, that this great evil of tithes has remained unperceived for such a series of ages! Tithes have existed in England for at least seven hundred years. England has been great, free, and happy, during a large portion of that time; and yet tithes have been collected during the whole of that time. Why then, Sir, should the distresses of the country at this time be looked for in the existence of tithes? The tithes, as I need not attempt to demonstrate to you, cannot by any possibility, be in themselves injurious to the cultivator of the land, unless that cultivator be unjust and unreasonable. When he purchases a farm, or takes the lease of a farm, he makes his calculations, including not only the full amount, but also the possible inconvenience of the tithe. He reckons the tithe a3 well as the rent. The tithe is one of the deductions from his profits as much as the rent is; and it would be full as reasonable to say that rents are injurious to the farmer, as to say that tithes are injurious to the farmer. This is so manifest; is so plain, that I will not longer dwell upon it, even considering this letter to you as a vehicle of observations addressed, in fact, to the mass of the nation. I am aware that to rail against parsons and against tithes is now become very popular; but this is a mode of obtaining popularity, which I am very sure you would be the first to condemn, though you would, perhaps, be inclined to agree with me, that the clergy, in having joined so heartily with the enemies of freedom, would merit such treatment at the hands of their friends. VOL. IV.
But, Sir, besides the obvious objection to the seeking of popularity by the flattering of any prejudice, and particularly a prejudice founded in gross error, there is this greater objection to our joining in this cry against tithes; that we thereby aid the cause of our great enemies, and assist them in drawing off the attention of the people from the squanderings of the Government; from that enormous load of Goveroment taxes which, and which alone, is the real cause of all the sufferings that are now felt in the country. If we agree that poor-rates, or tithes, or gamelaws, or public breweries, or a want of Corn Bills, or of a bounty on the exportation of corn ; if we agree, that these are the causes of the national distress, we fall into the trap of the enemy, and we in fact join, in so much, in the deceiving of the people, who ought to have constantly kept before their eyes the great cause of their misery, and ought to look for no remedy other than that of a Parliament chosen by themselves.
It is now become pretty evident to every body, that if the people bad been fully represented in Parliament, this enormous load of taxes would never have existed ; and it is not less evident, that the load will continue, as far as the taxes can be collected, as long as we are in want of a reform. It is clear enough, indeed, that the taxes to their present nominal amount, cannot be collected; but still the weight will be felt as severely, and still more severely, because the burden will be as great as can possibly be borne, and will continue to spread ruin around us. There is nothing therefore short of a reform of the Parliament that can be of any real service; and it is of the greatest importance that the people should be cautioned against being amused with any petty schemes and devices. If the enemies of reform choose to assail the church property; if they choose to begin any revolution of this sort, in the name of all that is ridiculous let them do it. But, I hope that the work will be theirs ; that it will be their own undertaking, and that the reformers will not be thereby amused, and withdrawn from their own proper object.
All sort of schemes are afloat. Never was a nation so stocked with schemers. There is nothing too high nor too low for them. They soar at one moment, and dive the next. Expedients which would put pickpockets and shoplifters to shame are brought forward with serious faces and in pompous accents. There must be a reform in Parliament, or a Bethlem big enough to hold half the nation.
One would naturally have expected that the Board of Agriculture, after having taken so much pains to collect information, would, before they sent this collection to the press, have been prepared to recommend some general measure in the way of remedy. But, instead of this, they say, that, “ if it be asked what conclusions are to be drawn from these facts, “ those conclusions will, of course, suggest themselves with the greatest “ clearness to the members of the legislature!” You will laugh at this manner of slipping their heads out of the halter. Yes, they have seen how amazingly clever the members of the legislature have been in draw. ing conclusions and discovering remedies. Clever, however, as they have been, they have now got that which will puzzle them. The Parliament, by a very bold figure, has been described as being omnipotent; but, if they find a remedy for the present distress without blowing up their system, I shall have no scruple to say, that they are literally and truly omnipotent.
In the meanwhile the landowners are crying out aloud. They have, in the book now before me, given vent to their grief in language which it does one's heart good to hear. Some of them complain of having been ruined, and others, that their ruin is approaching. Will they then, at last, join in calling for a reform ? I think they will not; and indeed, seeing what their past conduct has been, it would be almost a dishonour to the cause for it to receive their support.
In another letter, I will notice the several remedies proposed by the correspondents of the Board of Agriculture. In the meanwhile, I remain, with the greatest respect,
Your most obedient,
SIR FRANCIS BURDETT, BART.,
REMEDIES PROPOSED BY THE CORRESPONDENTS OF THE BOARD
(Political Register, October, 1816.)
Before this time, you will, I dare say, have read the whole of the Book of the Board of Agriculture, and will, I am sure, have viewed with a mix. ture of contempt and indignation the several remedies, proposed by the correspondents of the Board. I will, nevertheless, take the liberty to offer you some observations upon these proposed remedies, the list of which I will here insert, with a remark of the Board subjoined to the list, which remark, though I mentioned it in my last letter, will merit, by and by, some further animadversion. “ Remedies proposed.
205 “ 1. Letters, proposing the repeal or reduction of taxes “ 2.
90 -, proposing the reduction of rent......... “ 3. to commute tithes
47 “ 4.
to prohibit or lay heavy duties on the importation of all land
58 « 5.
31 to give a bounty on the export of corn 4 6.
21 to increase paper circulation " 7. -, to regulate Poor-rates, and especially by subjecting all property
34 “ to bear its fair share to raise the price of corn, &c.
19 9. to establish corn rents
7 “10. to repeal the Act for warehousing foreign corn.
12 "11. to lend Exchequer Bills on good security
2 to continue the Bank Restriction
the principal remedy; but many allude less decisively to
" 23. " 24.
15. Letters, to reduce the interest of money
3 to establish public granaries, the corn to be purchased by “ Government..
8 "17. to encourage distilleries
Government to take into their own hands the management
2 -, proposing to regulate the cottages with the addition of lands 7 to repeal the Game Laws ....
1 * 21. to lessen the quantity of land intended to be sown
2 “ 22. to give a bounty on the cultivation of hemp
1 , to take off the tax on draining-brick
1 the Bank of England to establish branch banks
1 “ The great object of the Board in these inquiries has been to collect facts. “ If it be asked “What conclusions are to be drawn from these facts?" Such, will, “ of course, suggest themselves with the greatest clearness to the members of the
legislature. With this expectation before us, we cannot but be surprised at the “anxiety felt, and the apprehensions expressed by many of the ablest persons " (being magistrates of extensive jurisdictions) amongst the correspondents, “ whose letters are the basis of this general result."
What will the world think, Sir, of a couple of dozen of remedies for the evils which oppress a nation, whose Government has the assurance to tell it that its situation is the envy and admiration of the universe ? This impudent Government, with these four-and-twenty remedies before it, will not be disposed, I imagine, to concur in the doctrine of the bible, “ that in the multitude of counsellors there is wisdom.”
It is hard to know where to begin the work of exposure, where the mass of error is so great, and where one error so imperceptibly runs into, and mixes itself with another. The first remedy proposed, and in favour of which there appears to be one-half of the correspondents, namely, the reduction of taxes, is indeed a real remedy. But, with the exception of about four of the correspondents out of two hundred and five, this reduction is spoken of in a way, which clearly shows that the writers have no idea of a reduction to the extent that is become abso. lutely necessary. There is here and there a hint at the transfer of estates from the landowners to the fundholders; but no correspondent has ventured to say, that a reduction of the interest of the debt ought to take place; nor are there more than two, who propose a reduction of the army, or any reduction of expense on the part of the Government. Yet, Sir, unless reduction takes place in all these departments, how, in . the name of common sense, can there take place any reduction in the amount of the taxes ? All, therefore, that is said by the book upon this subject, or nearly all, is mere empty sound. It leads to no rational conclusion ; it points to nothing practical, and can tend to produce no sort of good, other than that which is to be derived from this general confession of the evil of excessive taxation. Why all these gentlemen have been so shy of coming to the point, is clear enough; to have pointed out the Army, the Civil List, the Sinecures, the unmerited Pensions, or the interest of the Debt, as objects whereon to exercise reduction, would have been to assail the Government, and that was what the greater part of these gentlemen wanted the courage to do. Circumstances will, however, very soon make the attack which these gentlemen have been afraid to make. For, to collect sixty millions a year in taxes, in the present state of the country, is absolutely impossible. To this point I was sure it would come. “ The play is over," said that slave of the Government, the Courier," and now let us go to supper.” This he said, in an exulting strain, when the brave and generous Napoleon had