« ElőzőTovább »
that skill he earned fifty pounds a-year, we do not see why he should not be as competent to select a proper representative, as the man who has a house over his head, worth ten pounds per annum. Of the two we should prefer as a proof of such competency, the power of earning five times that amount by his own industry in the course of a year; for here there would be a guarantee for the industry, and sanity, and good character of the elector, whereas no such guarantee is to be found in the house-qualification. Such an extension of the right of suffrage as this would the more readily meet with our approbation, inasmuch as it would embrace great numbers of those classes to which we have already alluded, namely, the “working classes,” a race of men who are every day becoming of more and more importance by their intelligence and industry in this country. It is impossible to attend at any of their meetings, as we have done, without feeling sensible, that their general admission into the elective body, would be attended with advantages to the state. It would remove a great mass of discontent; it would add much valuable strength to the middle classes of society; and we do not see to what injury it would lead. The spread of education will, in a very short time, teach them just notions with respect to the rights of property. They will learn—and the precepts which they will read, will be strengthened by their own good sense and habits of patient reflection—that the security of private property is the very basis of their own prosperity; that alarming political agitation of necessity leads to the suspension of trade, and consequently of employment for the industrious classes engaged in manufacturing the articles, of which it is the object of trade to dispose, either at home or abroad. They will learn that it is the inevitable condition of men in civilized society, to be mutually dependent; that to every man a station is assigned by the circumstances in which he is placed ; that it is not only fit, but highly honourable for every man to improve his position as far as he is able, and from a mechanic, to become a master, if he can. But they well know that personal promotion gained upon the ruin of one's neighbour, gained by the spoliation of his property, is nothing more or less than a crime against the laws both of God and man; that it is moreover a crime, which, if committed to-day with impunity, by Peter against Thomas, may be repeated with equal impunity to-morrow, by John against Peter. Acts of plunder never contribute to the prosperity either of individuals or of nations; they are the very deeds which the mechanics, of all men, have the strongest interest in opposing, because they would lead directly to the cessation of those employments by which mechanical industry is maintained. We would recommend them particularly to read and inwardly digest the chapter, which Mr. Cooper has devoted to the subject of property. We can afford room but for a few extracts from it. All rights, he argues, as indeed we have already seen, are the
eatures of society, and they necessarily imply the power of proction, for without protection there could be no rights. The mo
ent that protection is withheld or overthrown, that moment we turn to the condition of savages.
“In the early and savage states of society, strong men would find it sier, in many cases, to acquire food, or clothing, or weapons, by forcibly bbing the weak, than by the painful exercise of their own exertions to 9tain them otherwise. “In all savage states of society, among men who do not feel the necesty of mutual union, nor any dread of the application of the united force the community to protect it, this principle of robbery is a propensity of ur nature constantly exercised ; and so common in its exercise, that it as received the sanction of ignorant and unreflecting men in every age of le world; and in no age more than our own. “In the early history of Greece, a pirate was more honourable than a erchant. Nestor enquires, as a matter of course, of Telemachus, in the hird book of the Odyssey, “Are you merchants seeking for gain by comterce, or are you pirates engaged in some plundering voyage 2" In all ncient governments, war for the purpose of plunder; or of acquiring aptives; or of acquiring territory; was carried on without scruple, and ithout reprobation. It is civilization only, that has attempted to separate ght from power. The Roman empire was exclusively founded on pluner, from the earliest period of its history, to the latest. The wars of 2urope, from Charlemagne to Louis XIV., and from Louis XIV. to he Holy Alliance, have mostly originated from the same motives; and educting the monopoly wars of England, entirely so. All monarchs and monarchies, are yet in a savage state. They seem to have no bond of union ut mutual protection in plunder. Theoretical writers, like Grotius, Puf2ndorf, Barbeyrac, Heineccius, Vattel, Rutherforth, Burlemaqui and others, oast of a law of nature and of nations. There is no such thing as a law f nature or of nations existing. When was it enacted By whom? Or y what power has it been sanctioned 2 What is called the law of nature, onsists of systems fabricated by theoretical writers, on a contemplation of what might be usefully acknowledged among men as binding on each other. The law of nations is the same. It exists no where but in the closest speulations of well meaning writers, as to what might be usefully acknowedged by monarchs as binding with each other. The only practical atempts to establish a law of nations, were the “armed neutrality" set on oot by the Empress Catharine, of Russia; which was renounced within a ery few years by every party to the compact; and the present Holy Alliince, based upon the presumed rights of legitimacy: which God conound ! “In the early savage state of society, it is manifest, however, that the ecessity of combination among the weak, to protect each other against he strong, would give origin to associations of men, and develope the first ferm of political communities. This is manifest among our American Inlians. They have no written laws; but exclusive property, in all things hat their state of society requires to be made so, has been forced upon hem by its obvious expediency, and enjoined by all on each other. Land yeing in abundance compared to the population, has never become the ob
ject of exclusive property among them, except a large district claimed as the hunting ground of the tribe. ‘ Property implies the existence of capital. The deer-skin, the parched corn, the jerked venison of an Indian cabin, the cabin itself, is the property of the owner; being the result of his own labour, and his accumulated savings out of former acquisitions. He has laboured beyond what his immediate necessities called for, and his wealth consists of what has not been consumed. He may now labour for what is merely convenient, during the time that his accumulated food will maintain life. All capital then, from the very outset of society, is the result of saving and accumulation. It is accumulated labour.’—pp. 64–65.
No description of capital can be more just than this, that it is in fact ‘accumulated labour,’ and consequently deserves to be held sacred, in whatever point of view we consider it. It is the interest of society that it should be so considered, and hence have arisen laws, and government, and indeed all the institutions which society has bestowed upon mankind.
‘This profound consideration for the rights attached to property, is one of the most decisive evidences of high civilization, and one of the most efficient means of promoting national prosperity : for it is absurd to treat of national wealth, where individual property is not held by the proprietor in full conviction of perfect security, under the conditions of tenure prescribed by law; by law enacted indiscriminately for each member of the community without privilege or exception. The right of posthumous bequest—of making a testamentary disposition, is for the same reason a mere creature of society. We know by experience that a man will be stimulated to more severe and persevering exertion, when he is permitted to bequeath the effect of it to his children and near relations, than if he were to labour for himself alone. All the social feelings are gradually generated from the selfish ones; and in the decline of life, are much more powerful. This has been well shewn by Hartley, in his admirable work “ON MAN :” a work more extensively applicable to metaphysical, moral, and medical knowledge, than any other I know of. Hence the right of making a will is founded entirely on the permission of the law ; and is meant as a stimulus to industry, and a fruitful source of production and accumulation, that would never take place without it. If a man in a state of nature has no rights but the right of the strongest, what rights can a dead man have, who is no longer connected with this world or any thing in it ! The world belongs, not to those who have enjoyed it their appointed time, and are dead; nor to those who are not yet born, but to the living. Hence, to all investigations concerning the sources, the distribution or the accumulation of wealth, the preliminary enquiry is necessary, whether the laws of the country protect the citizen sufficiently in the acquirement and the accumulation of property, and in the disposal of his property when obtained. If they intermeddle needlessly in the honest acquirement of wealth, by legislative directions, restrictions or prohibitions—if they needlessly interfere with the disposal and expenditure of it, though this expenditure may not take place as prudently as might be wished—or if they needlessly prevent the testamentary distribution of it, although that may be occasionally guided by injustice, partiality, or caprice—they detract in the same proportion from the stimulus to industry and exertion. Who will labour for those who are to be his heirs by dictation of law, framed by persons who have no fellow-feeling with himself? Who will be at the pains. of acquiring, who is prohibited from enjoying? What energy can there be
among a people whose every motion is watched and trammelled ?. In
a man who is kept in leading-strings, and all whose expenditures and
bequests are regulated by men who are utter strangers to him, to his
tastes, to his loves, and to his hatreds? The dreadful evil of all govern
ments (I wish I could except our own) is the evil of governing too much.
This is among the constant and distinctive characters of tyranny and of ignorance; this propensity to exercise power merely because we possess it;
and the taking for granted that we actually know, ex officio, and by
intuition, every thing that we ought to know, before we enter upon our
duties.”—pp. 67,68. \
The lecturer subsequently adds, that the feeling of the security of property should pervade the whole community : for who will be at the pains of saving and accumulating for posterity, in countries like the East, where the laws do not obviate the feeling of insecurity ? In such a country, “let us eat and drink, for to-morrow we die,” would be the dictate of wisdom. In such a country it would be absurd to talk of the production, the distribution, and the useful accumulation of national wealth. Unless such just notions as these, with respect to the rights of property, be practically diffused and entertained amongst the people of this country, it will be in vain for us to have a reformed parliament. It would be much more a curse than a blessing, if it were the representative of a people ill informed as to the very elements of political economy. But we believe that the working classes are very far, generally speaking, from wishing to endanger the possession of property; that on the contrary they would, as they ought to, be the first to combine in defence of it.
Indeed, it is fully demonstrated from the admirable tables published by Mr. Pratt, a copy of which he has been so good as to send us, that whatever may be the distress and privation amongst particular individuals, there is even in the hands of the working classes themselves, a very large amount of accumulated labour, already reduced to capital, and deposited in the various savings banks, which are established in every part of the three kingdoms. From these tables, which appear to have been framed with the most patient diligence and the most admirable accuracy, it would appear that, independently of the depositors in those savings banks from which there are no returns, there were, on the 20th of November, 1830, to which period the latest official returns are made, no less than two hundred and ten thousand, two hundred and fortyseven depositors under 20l., ; one hundred and sixteen thousand, nine hundred and forty, under 50l. ; fifty-four thousand and fortynine, under 100l. ; eighteen thousand five hundred and fifty-seven, under 150l. ; eight thousand and nine, under 200l., and four thou
sand four hundred and five, above that amount. The total number of accounts which were open on the 20th of November, 1830, amounted therefore to four hundred and eighteen thousand, seven hundred and fifty-eight, giving on the whole an increase of thirteen thousand and twenty-one, as compared with the preceding year. The capital thus accumulated appears, moreover, to have amounted on the day above-mentioned, to 14,366,967/. Now this capital belongs exclusively to those classes of our community who earn their bread by the sweat of their brow, to agricultural labourers, domestic servants, mechanics, and small shopkeepers. We suppose, that if the legislature attempted to apply these fourteen millions to the payment of the national debt, the classes who have made the deposits, would cry out against such an act of spoliation and injustice, and would even defend their property, if necessary, by an appeal to arms. Most naturally, most justifiably would they have recourse to that last tribunal of law, if any such attack were made upon the acquisitions which they have so creditably made. Well, then, would not the rich be justified in following a similar course, should it ever become necessary, for the protection of their property 2 It is the same law which guards the earnings of the poor and the hoards of the wealthy : violate it with respect to the one, and it is no longer capable of protecting the other. Its right arm is cut down; society becomes a prey to the strongest, and we are again reduced to the savage state, in which there can be neither peace, nor order, nor property. Thus we may clearly see, that respect for the rights of property is in fact the direct interest of all classes of the community, the thieves only excepted, who have lately, as it would seem, become one of the orders. For all honest, industrious, and well-disposed men, there can be but one course upon this subject, and that course points undeviatingly to the temple of honour and of justice. Those who stop short on the way, must have made up their minds for plunder—and for the plunder not of the rich only, but of those who are comparatively poor—the depositors in the savings banks. For the millions accumulated in those banks would be held by such persons, as not a whit more entitled to respect, than the sovereigns and ingots which are collected in the Bank of England.
ART. IV.-1. The Literary Souvenir, edited by Alaric A. Watts. 12mo, pp. 344. Twelve Embellishments. London: Longman & Co. 1832. 2. The Keepsake for 1832, edited by Frederic Mansel Reynolds. 8vo, pp. 320. Seventeen Embellishments. London: Longman & Co. 3. Heath's Picturesque Annual for 1832. Travelling Sketches in the North of Italy, the Tyrol, and on the Rhine. With Twenty-six beautifully finished Engravings, from Drawings by Clarkson Stanfield, Esq. By Leitch Ritchie, Esq., Author of the “Romance of French History,” &c. 8vo, pp. 256. London: Longman & Co.