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MACAULAY'S MISCELLANEOUS WRITINGS.
we are sure that Mr. Southey is incapable of
The ghost turns out to
Sir Thomas pays but a short visit on this occasion, but promises to cultivate the new acquaintance which he has formed, and, after begging that his visit may be kept secret from Mrs. Southey, vanishes into air.
The rest of the book consists of conversations between Mr. Southey and the spirit about trade, currency, Catholic emancipation, periodical literature, female nunneries, butchers, snuff, book-stalls, and a hundred other subjects. nity to lionize the ghost round the lakes, and Mr. Southey very hospitably takes an opportuMr. Southey has not been fortunate in the directs his attention to the most beautiful points plan of any of his fictitious narratives. But he of view. Why a spirit was to be evoked for has never failed so conspicuously as in the the purpose of talking over such matters, and work before us; except, indeed, in the wretched seeing such sights, when the vicar of the parish, Vision of Judgment. In November, 1817, it a blue-stocking from London, or an American, Sir Thomas tells seems, the laureate was sitting over his news- such as Mr. Southey supposed his aerial paper, and meditating about the death of the visiter to be, might not have done as well, we An elderly person, of are unable to conceive. Princess Charlotte. very dignified aspect, makes his appearance, Mr. Southey nothing about future events, and announces himself as a stranger from a dis- indeed absolutely disclaims the gift of pretant country, and apologizes very politely for science. He has learned to talk modern English : not having provided himself with letters of in- he has read all the new publications, and loves troduction. Mr. Southey supposes his visitera jest as well as when he jested with the executo be some American gentleman, who has tioner, though we cannot say that the quality come to see the lakes and the lake-poets, and of his wit has materially improved in Paradise. accordingly proceeds to perform, with that His powers of reasoning, too, are by no means grace which only long experience can give, in as great vigour as when he sate on the woolall the duties which authors owe to starers. sack; and though he boasts that he is "divested He assures his guest that some of the most of all those passions which cloud the intellects agreeable visits which he has received have and warp the understandings of men," we been from Americans, and that he knows men think him, we must confess, far less stoical among them whose talents and virtues would than formerly. As to revelations, he tells Mr. do honour to any country. In passing, we may Southey at the outset to expect none from him, observe, to the honour of Mr. Southey, that, The laureate expresses some doubts, which though he evidently has no liking for the Ame- assuredly will not raise him in the opinion of rican institutions, he never speaks of the people our modern millenarians, as to the divine auof the United States with that pitiful affectation thority of the Apocalypse. But the ghost preof contempt, by which some members of his serves an impenetrable silence. As far as we party have done more than wars or tariffs can do remember, only one hint about the employ
to excite mutual enmity between two communi-ments of disembodied spirits escapes him. He
But we must now return to Mr. Southey's study
Southey means to make game of the mysteries | with special favour on a soldier. He seems of a higher state of existence. The fact is, that in the work before us, in the Vision of Judgment, and in some of his other pieces, his mode of treating the most solemn subjects differs from that of open scoffers, only as the extravagant representations of sacred persons and things in some grotesque Italian paintings differ from the caricatures which Carlisle exposes in the front of his shop. We interpret the particular act by the general character. What in the window of a convicted blasphemer we call blasphemous, we call only absurd and ill-judged in an altar-piece.
We now come to the conversations which pass between Mr. Southey and Sir Thomas More, or rather between two Southeys equally eloquent, equally angry, equally unreasonable, and equally given to talking about what they do not understand. Perhaps we could not select a better instance of the spirit which pervades the whole book than the discussion 1 ching butchers. These persons are repreted as castaways, as men whose employ1ent hebetates the faculties and hardens the heart. Not that the poet has any scruples about the use of animal food. He acknowledges that it is for the good of the animals themselves that men should feed upon them. "Nevertheless," says he, "I cannot but acknowledge, like good old John Fox, that the sight of a slaughter-house or shambles, if it does not disturb this clear conviction, excites in me uneasiness and pain, as well as loathing. And that they produce a worse effect upon the persons employed in them, is a fact acknowledged by the law or custom which excludes such persons from sitting on juries upon cases of life and death."
highly to approve of the sentiment of Genera Meadows, who swore that a grenadier was the highest character in this world or in the next; and assures us, that a virtuous soldier is placed in the situation which most tends to his improvement, and will most promote his eternal interests. Human blood, indeed, is by no means an object of so much loathing to Mr. Southey, as the hides and paunches of cattle. In 1814, he poured forth poetical maledictions on all who talked of peace with Bonaparte. He went over the field of Waterloo, a field, beneath which twenty thousand of the stoutest hearts that ever beat are mouldering, and came back in an ecstasy, which he mistook for poetical inspiration. In most of his poems, particularly in his best poem, Roderick, and in most of his prose works, particularly in The History of the Peninsular War, he shows a delight in snuffing up carnage, which would not have misbecome a Scandinavian bard, but which sometimes seems to harmonize ill with the Christian morality. We do not, however, blame Mr. Southey for exulting, even a little ferociously, in the brave deeds of his country men, or for finding something "comely and reviving" in the bloody vengeance inflicted by an oppressed people on its oppressors. Now, surely, if we find that a man whose business is to kill Frenchmen may be humane, we may hope that means may be found to render a man humane whose business is to kill sheep. If the brutalizing effect of such scenes as the storm of St. Sebastian may be counteracted, we may hope that in a Christian Utopia, some minds might be proof against the kennels and dresses of Aldgate. Mr. Southey's feeling, however, is easily explained. A butcher's knife is by no means so elegant as a sabre, and a calf does not bleed with half the grace of a poor wounded hussar.
It is in the same manner that Mr. Southey appears to have formed his opinions of the manufacturing system. There is nothing which he hates so bitterly. It is, according to him, a system more tyrannical than that of the feudal ages, a system of actual servitude, a system which destroys the bodies and degrades the minds of those who are engaged in it. He expresses a hope that the competi tion of other nations may drive us out of the field; that our foreign trade may decline, and that we may thus enjoy a restoration of national sanity and strength. But he seems to think that the extermination of the whole manufacturing population would be a blessing, if the evil could be removed in no other way.
Mr. Southey does not bring forward a single fact in support of these views, and, as it seems to us, there are facts which lead to a very different conclusion. In the first place, the poor-rate is very decidedly lower in the manu facturing than in the agricultural districts. If Mr. Southey will look over the Parliamentary returns on this subject, he will and that the amount of parish relief required by the la bourers in the different counties of England, is almost exactly in inverse proportion to the degree in which the manufacturing system has been introduced into those counties. The
This is a fair specimen of Mr. Southey's mode of looking at all moral questions. Here is a body of men engaged in an employment, which, by his own account, is beneficial, not only to mankind, but to the very creatures on whom we feed. Yet he represents them as men who are necessarily reprobates, as men who must necessarily be reprobates, even in the most improved state of society, even, to use his own phrase, in a Christian Utopia. And what reasons are given for a judgment so directly opposed to every principle of sound and manly morality? Merely this, that he cannot abide the sight of their apparatus; that, from certain peculiar associations, he is affected with disgust when he passes by their shops. He gives, indeed, another reason; a certain law or custom, which never existed but in the imaginations of old women, and which, if it had existed, would have proved just as much against butchers as the ancient prejudice against the practice of taking interest for money proves against the merchants of England. Is a surgeon a castaway? We believe that nurses, when they instruct children in that venerable law or custom which Mr. Southey so highly approves, generally join the surgeon to the butcher. A dissecting-room would, we should think, affect the nerves of most people as much as a butcher's shambles. But the most amusing circumstance is, that Mr. Southey, who detests a butcher, should look
returns for the year ending in March, 1825, | and in March, 1828, are now before us. In the former year, we find the poor-rates highest in Sussex-about 20s. to every inhabitant. Then come Buckinghamshire, Essex, Suffolk, Bedfordshire, Huntingdonshire, Kent and Norfolk. In all these the rate is above 15s. a head. We will not go through the whole. Even in Westmoreland, and the North Riding of Yorkshire, the rate is at more than 8s. In Cumberland and Monmouthshire, the most fortunate of all the agricultural districts, it is at 6s. But in the West Riding of Yorkshire, it is as low as 5s.; and when we come to Lancashire, we find it at 4s.-one-fifth of what it is in Sussex. The returns of the year ending in March, 1828, are a little, and but a little, more unfavourable to the manufacturing districts. Lancashire, even in that season of distress, required a smaller poor-rate than any other district, and little more than one-fourth of the poor-rate raised in Sussex. Cumberland alone, of the agricultural districts, was as well off as the West Riding of Yorkshire. These facts seem to indicate that the manufacturer is both in a more comfortable and in a less dependent situation than the agricultural labourer.
"We remained a while in silence, looking upon the assemblage of dwellings below. Here, and in the adjoining hamlet of Millbeck, the effects of manufactures and of agriculture may be seen and compared. The old cottages are such as the poet and the painter equally delight in beholding. Substantially built of the native stone without mortar, dirtied with no white lime, and their long, low roofs covered with slate; if they had been raised by the magic of some indigenous Amphion's music, the materials could not have adjusted them selves more beautifully in accord with the surrounding scene; and time has still further harmonized them with weather-stains, lichens, and moss, short grasses, and short fern, and stone-plants of various kinds. The orna mented chimneys, round or square, less adorned than those which, like little turrets, crest the houses of the Portuguese peasantry: and yet not less happily suited to their place, the hedge of clipt box beneath the windows, the rose bushes beside the door, the little patch of flower ground, with its tall hollyhocks in front; the garden beside, the bee-hives, and the orchard with its bank of daffodils and snow-drops, the earliest and the profusest in As to the effect of the manufacturing system these parts, indicate in the owners some poron the bodily health, we must beg leave to tion of ease and leisure, some regard to neatestimate it by a standard far too low and vulness and comfort, some sense of natural, and gar for a mind so imaginative as that of Mr. innocent, and healthful enjoyment. The new Southey, the proportion of births and deaths. cottages of the manufacturers are upon the We know that, during the growth of this manufacturing pattern-naked, and in a row. atrocious system, this new misery, (we use "How is it, said I, that every thing which is the phrase of Mr. Southey,) this new enormity, connected with manufactures presents such this birth of an portentous age, this pest, which features of unqualified deformity? From the no man can approve whose heart is not seared, largest of Mammon's temples down to the or whose understanding has not been darkened, poorest hovel in which his helotry are stalled, there has been a great diminution of mortality, these edifices have all one character. Time and that this diminution has been greater in will not mellow them; nature will never clothe the manufacturing towns than anywhere else. nor conceal them; and they will remain alThe mortality still is, as it always was, greater ways as offensive to the eye as to the mind." in towns than in the country. But the differ- Here is wisdom. Here are the principles ence has diminished in an extraordinary de- on which nations are to be governed. Rose gree. There is the best reason to believe, that bushes and poor-rates, rather than steam-enthe annual mortality of Manchester, about the gines and independence. Mortality and cot middle of the last century, was one in twenty-tages with weather-stains, rather than health eight. It is now reckoned at one in forty-five. and long life with edifices which time cannot In Glasgow and Leeds a similar improvement mellow. We are told, that our age has inhas taken place. Nay, the rate of mortality vented atrocities beyond the imagination of in those three great capitals of the manufac- our fathers; that society has been brought into turing districts, is now considerably less than a state, compared with which extermination it was fifty years ago over England and Wales would be a blessing; and all because the taken together, open country and all. We dwellings of cotton-spinners are naked and might with some plausibility maintain, that the rectangular. Mr. Southey has found out a people live longer because they are better fed, way, he tells us, in which the effects of manubetter lodged, better clothed, and better attend- factures and agriculture may be compared. ed in sickness; and that these improvements And what is this way? To stand on a hill, to are owing to that increase of national wealth look at a cottage and a manufactory, and to which the manufacturing system has produced. see which is the prettier. Does Mr. Southey Much more might be said on this subject. think that the body of the English peasantry But to what end? It is not from bills of mor- live, or ever lived, in substantial and ornatality and statistical tables that Mr. Southey mented cottages, with box hedges, flower garhas learned his political creed. He cannot dens, bee-hives, and orchards? If not, what is stoop to study the history of the system which his parallel worth? We despise those filoso he abuses, to strike the balance between the fastri, who think that they serve the cause of good and evil which it has produced, to com- science by depreciating literature and the fine pare district with district, or generation with arts. But if anything could excuse their nargeneration. We will give his own reason for rowness of mind, it would be such a book as his opinion, the only reason which he gives this. It is not strange that when one enthusi for it, in his own words: ast makes the picturesque the test of political
good, another should feel inclined to proscribe altogether the pleasures of taste and imagination.
Thus it is that Mr. Southey reasons about matters with which he thinks himself perfectly conversant. We cannot, therefore, be surprised to find that he commits extraordinary blunders when he writes on points of which he acknowledges himself to be ignorant. He confesses that he is not versed in political economy, that he has neither liking nor aptitude for it and he then proceeds to read the public a lecture concerning it, which fully bears out his confession.
All wealth," says Sir Thomas More, "in former times was tangible. It consisted in land, money, or chattels, which were either of real or conventional value."
Montesinos, as Mr. Southey somewhat affectedly calls himself, answers:
"Jewels, for example, and pictures, as in Holland-where indeed at one time tulip bulbs answered the same purpose."
"That babble," says Sir Thomas, "was one of those contagious insanities to which communities are subject. All wealth was real, till the extent of commerce rendered a paper currency necessary; which differed from precious stores and pictures in this important point, that there was no limit to its production."
"We regard it," says Montesinos, "as the representative of real wealth, and, therefore, limited always to the amount of what it represents."
creditor. Every man who sells goods for any thing but ready money, runs the risk of finding that what he considered as part of his wealth one day, is nothing at all the next day. Mr. Southey refers to the picture-galleries of Holland. The pictures were undoubtedly real and tangible possessions. But surely it might happen that a burgomaster might owe a picturedealer a thousand guilders for a Teniers. What in this case corresponds to our paper. money is not the picture, which is tangible, but the claim of the picture-dealer on his customer for the price of the picture, which is not tangible. Now, would not the picture-dealer consider this claim as part of his wealth? Would not a tradesman who knew of it give credit to the picture-dealer the more ready on account of it? The burgomaster might be ruined. If so, would not those consequences follow which, as Mr. Southey tells us, were never heard of till paper-money came into use? Yesterday this claim was worth a thousand guilders. To-day what is it? The shadow of a shade.
"Pursue that notion," answers the ghost, and you will be in the dark presently. Your provincial bank-notes, which constitute almost wholly the circulating medium of certain districts, pass current to-day. To-morrow, tidings may come that the house which issued them has stopped payment, and what do they represent then? You will find them the shadow of a shade."
It is true, that the more readily claims of this sort are transferred from hand to hand, the more extensive will be the injury produced by a single failure. The laws of all nations sanction, in certain cases, the transfer of rights not yet reduced into possession. Mr. Southey would scarcely wish, we should think, that all endorsements of bills and notes should be declared invalid. Yet even if this were done, the transfer of claims would imperceptibly take place to a very great extent. When the baker trusts the butcher, for example, he is in fact, though not in form, trusting the butcher's customers. A man who owes large bills to tradesmen, and fails to pay them, almost always produces distress through a very wide circle of people whom he never dealt with.
In short, what Mr. Southey takes for a differ ence in kind, is only a difference of form and degree. In every society men have claims on the property of others. In every society there is a possibility that some debtors may not be able to fulfil their obligations. In every socie ty, therefore, there is wealth which is not tangible, and which may become the shadow of a shade.
Mr. Southey then proceeds to a dissertation on the national debt, which he considers in a new and most consolatory light, as a clear ad
We scarcely know at which end to begin to disentangle this knot of absurdities. We might ask why it should be a greater proof of insanity in men to set a high value on rare tulips than on rare stones, which are neither more useful nor more beautiful? We might ask how it can be said that there is no limit to the production of paper-money, when a man is hanged if he issues any in the name of another, and is forced to cash what he issues in his own? But Mr. Southey's error lies deeper still. "All wealth," says he, "was tangible and real, till paper cur-dition to the income of the country. reney was introduced." Now, was there ever, "You can understand," says Sir Thomas, since man emerged from a state of utter bar-"that it constitutes a great part of the national barism, an age in which there were no debts? Is not a debt, while the solvency of the debtor "So large a part," answers Montesinos, "that is undoubted, always reckoned as part of the the interest amounted, during the prosperous wealth of the creditor? Yet is it tangible and time of agriculture, to as much as the rental real wealth? Does it cease to be wealth, be- of all the land in Great Britain; and at present cause there is the security of a written acknow-to the rental of all lands, all houses, and all ledgment for it? And what else is paper cur- other fixed property put together." rency? Did Mr. Southey ever read a banknote? If he did, he would see that it is a written acknowledgment of a deot, and a promise to pay that debt. The promise may be violated, the debt may remain unpaid, those to whom it was due may suffer: but this is a risk not confined to cases of paper currency; it is a risk inseparable from the relation of debtor and VOL. 1-14
The ghost and the laureate agree that it is very desirable that there should be so secure and advantageous a deposit for wealth as the funds afford. Sir Thomas then proceeds:
"Another and far more momentous benefit must not be overlooked: the expenditure of an annual interest, equalling, as you have stated, the present rental of all fixed property."
MACAULAY'S MISCELLANEOUS WRITINGS.
"That expenditure," quoth Montesinos, "gives employment to half the industry in the kingdom, and feeds half the mouths. Take, indeed, the weight of the national debt from this great and complicated social machine, and the wheels must stop."
"Resaignare, repurgare, et reclysterizare."
"A state," says he, "cannot have more
But what is useful expenditure? "A libe-
We are really at a loss to determine whe ther Mr. Southey's reason for recommending large taxation is that it will make the people rich, or that it will make them poor. But we are sure that if his object is to make them rich, he takes the wrong course. There are two or three principles respecting public works, which, as an experience of vast extent proves, may be trusted in almost every case.
It scarcely ever happens that any private man, or body of men, will invest property ir canal, a tunnel, or a bridge, but from an expectation that the outlay will be profitable to them. No work of this sort can be profitable to private speculators, unless the public be willing to pay for the use of it. The public will not pay of their own accord for what yields no profit or convenience to them. There is thus a direct and obvious connection be. tween the motive which induces individuals to undertake such a work, and the utility of the work.
From this passage we should have been inclined to think that Mr. Southey supposes the free gift periodically sent dividends to be down from heaven to the fundholders, as quails and manna were sent to the Israelites, were it not that he has vouchsafed, in the following question and answer, to give the public some information which, we believe, was very little needed.
"Whence comes the interest?" says Sir Thomas.
"It is raised," answers Montesinos, "by taxation."
Now, has Mr. Southey ever considered what
Both the theory and the illustration, indeed,
Can we find any such connection in the case of a public work executed by a govern