Critical and Historical Essays Volume 2
Thomas Babington Macaulay

Part 5 out of 16

House of Brandenburg. His proud and vehement nature was incapable
of anything that looked like either fear or treachery. He had
often declared that, while he was in power, England should never
make a peace of Utrecht, should never, for any selfish object,
abandon an ally even in the last extremity of distress. The
Continental war was his own war. He had been bold enough, he who
in former times had attacked, with irresistible powers of
oratory, the Hanoverian policy of Carteret, and the German
subsidies of Newcastle, to declare that Hanover ought to be as
dear to us as Hampshire, and that he would conquer America in
Germany. He had fallen; and the power which he had exercised, not
always with discretion, but always with vigour and genius, had
devolved on a favourite who was the representative of the Tory
party, of the party which had thwarted William, which had
persecuted Marlborough, which had given tip the Catalans to the
vengeance of Philip of Anjou. To make peace with France, to shake
off, with all, or more than all, the speed compatible with
decency, every Continental connection, these were among the chief
objects of the new Minister. The policy then followed inspired
Frederic with an unjust, but deep and bitter aversion to the
English name, and produced effects which are still felt
throughout the civilised world. To that policy it was owing that,
some years later, England could not find on the whole Continent a
single ally to stand by her, in her extreme need against the
House of Bourbon. To that policy it was owing that Frederic,
alienated from England, was compelled to connect himself closely,
during his later years, with Russia, and was induced to assist in
that great crime, the fruitful parent of other great crimes, the
first partition of Poland.

Scarcely had the retreat of Mr. Pitt deprived Prussia of her only
friend, when the death of Elizabeth produced an entire revolution
in the politics of the North. The Grand Duke Peter, her nephew,
who now ascended the Russian throne, was not merely free from the
prejudices which his aunt had entertained against Frederic, but
was a worshipper, a servile imitator of the great King. The days
of the new Czar's government were few and evil, but sufficient to
produce a change in the whole state of Christendom. He set the
Prussian prisoners at liberty, fitted them out decently, and sent
them back to their master; he withdrew his troops from the
provinces which Elizabeth had decided on incorporating with her
dominions; and he absolved all those Prussian subjects, who had
been compelled to swear fealty to Russia, from their engagements.

Not content with concluding peace on terms favourable to Prussia,
he solicited rank in the Prussian service, dressed himself in a
Prussian uniform, wore the Black Eagle of Prussia on his breast,
made preparations for visiting Prussia, in order to have an
interview with the object of his idolatry, and actually sent
fifteen thousand excellent troops to reinforce the shattered army
of Frederic. Thus strengthened, the King speedily repaired the
losses of the preceding year, reconquered Silesia, defeated Daun
at Buckersdorf, invested and retook Schweidnitz, and, at the
close of the year, presented to the forces of Maria Theresa a
front as formidable as before the great reverses of 1759. Before
the end of the campaign, his friend, the Emperor Peter, having,
by a series of absurd insults to the institutions, manners, and
feelings of his people, united them in hostility to his person
and government, was deposed and murdered. The Empress, who, under
the title of Catherine the Second, now assumed the supreme power,
was, at the commencement of her administration, by no means
partial to Frederic, and refused to permit her troops to remain
under his command. But she observed the peace made by her
husband; and Prussia was no longer threatened by danger from the

England and France at the same time paired off together. They
concluded a treaty, by which they bound themselves to observe
neutrality with respect to the German war. Thus the coalitions on
both sides were dissolved; and the original enemies, Austria and
Prussia, remained alone confronting each other.

Austria had undoubtedly far greater means than Prussia, and was
less exhausted by hostilities; yet it seemed hardly possible that
Austria could effect alone what she had in vain attempted to
effect when supported by France on the one side, and by Russia on
the other. Danger also began to menace the Imperial house from
another quarter. The Ottoman Porte held threatening language, and
a hundred thousand Turks were mustered on the frontiers of
Hungary. The proud and revengeful spirit of the Empress Queen at
length gave way; and, in February 1763, the peace of Hubertsburg
put an end to the conflict which had, during seven years,
devastated Germany. The King ceded nothing. The whole Continent
in arms had proved unable to tear Silesia from that iron grasp.

The war was over. Frederic was safe. His glory was beyond the
reach of envy. If he had not made conquests as vast as those of
Alexander, of Caesar, and of Napoleon, if he had not, on fields
of battle, enjoyed the constant success of Marlborough and
Wellington, he had yet given an example unrivalled in history of
what capacity and resolution can effect against the greatest
superiority of power, and the utmost spite of fortune. He entered
Berlin in triumph, after an absence of more than six years. The
streets were brilliantly lighted up; and, as he passed along in
an open carriage, with Ferdinand of Brunswick at his side, the
multitude saluted him with loud praises and blessings. He was
moved by those marks of attachment, and repeatedly exclaimed
"Long live my dear people! Long live my children!" Yet, even in
the midst of that gay spectacle, he could not but perceive
everywhere the traces of destruction and decay. The city had been
more than once plundered. The population had considerably
diminished. Berlin, however, had suffered little when compared
with most parts of the kingdom. The ruin of private fortunes, the
distress of all ranks, was such as might appal the firmest mind.
Almost every province had been the seat of war, and of war
conducted with merciless ferocity. Clouds of Croatians had
descended on Silesia. Tens of thousands of Cossacks had been let
loose on Pomerania and Brandenburg. The mere contributions levied
by the invaders amounted, it was said, to more than a hundred
millions of dollars; and the value of what they extorted was
probably much less than the value of what they destroyed. The
fields lay uncultivated. The very seed-corn had been devoured in
the madness of hunger. Famine, and contagious maladies produced
by famine, had swept away the herds and flocks; and there was
reason to fear that a great pestilence among the human race was
likely to follow in the train of that tremendous war. Near
fifteen thousand houses had been burned to the ground. The
population of the kingdom had in seven years decreased to the
frightful extent of ten per cent. A sixth of the males capable of
bearing arms had actually perished on the field of battle. In
some districts, no labourers, except women, were seen in the
fields at harvest-time. In others, the traveller passed
shuddering through a succession of silent villages, in which not
a single inhabitant remained. The currency had been debased; the
authority of laws and magistrates had been suspended; the whole
social system was deranged. For, during that convulsive struggle,
everything that was not military violence was anarchy. Even the
army was disorganised. Some great generals, and a crowd of
excellent officers, had fallen, and it had been impossible to
supply their place. The difficulty of finding recruits had,
towards the close of the war, been so great, that selection and
rejection were impossible. Whole battalions were composed of
deserters or of prisoners. It was hardly to be hoped that thirty
years of repose and industry would repair the ruin produced by
seven years of havoc. One consolatory circumstance, indeed, there
was. No debt had been incurred. The burdens of the war had been
terrible, almost insupportable; but no arrear was left to
embarrass the finances in time of peace.

Here, for the present, we must pause. We have accompanied
Frederic to the close of his career as a warrior. Possibly, when
these Memoirs are completed, we may resume the consideration of
his character, and give some account of his domestic and foreign
policy, and of his private habits, during the many years of
tranquillity which followed the Seven Years' War.

(Jan, 1830)

Sir Thomas More; or, colloquies on the Progress and Prospects of
Society. By ROBERT SOUTHEY Esq., LL.D., Poet Laureate. 2 vols.
London: 1829.

IT would be scarcely possible for a man of Mr. Southey's talents
and acquirements to write two volumes so large as those before
us, which should be wholly destitute of information and
amusement. Yet we do not remember to have read with so little
satisfaction any equal quantity of matter, written by any man of
real abilities. We have, for some time past, observed with great
regret the strange infatuation which leads the Poet Laureate to
abandon those departments of literature in which he might excel,
and to lecture the public on sciences of which he has still the
very alphabet to learn. He has now, we think, done his worst. The
subject which he has at last undertaken to treat, is one which
demands all the highest intellectual and moral qualities of a
philosophical statesman, an understanding at once comprehensive
and acute, a heart at once upright and charitable. Mr. Southey
brings to the task two faculties which were never, we believe,
vouchsafed in measure so copious to any human being, the faculty
of believing without a reason, and the faculty of hating without
a provocation.

It is, indeed, most extraordinary, that a mind like Mr.
Southey's, a mind richly endowed in many respects by nature, and
highly cultivated by study, a mind which has exercised
considerable influence on the most enlightened generation of the
most enlightened people that ever existed, should be utterly
destitute of the power of discerning truth from falsehood. Yet
such is the fact. Government is to Mr. Southey one of the fine
arts. He judges of a theory, of a public measure, of a religion
or a political party, of a peace or a war, as men judge of a
picture or a statue, by the effect produced on his imagination. A
chain of associations is to him what a chain of reasoning is to
other men; and what he calls his opinions are in fact merely his

Part of this description might perhaps apply to a much greater
man, Mr. Burke. But Mr. Burke assuredly possessed an
understanding admirably fitted for the investigation of truth, an
understanding stronger than that of any statesman, active or
speculative, of the eighteenth century, stronger than everything,
except his own fierce and ungovernable sensibility. Hence he
generally chose his side like a fanatic, and defended it like a
philosopher. His conduct on the most important occasions of his
life, at the time of the impeachment of Hastings for example, and
at the time of the French Revolution, seems to have been prompted
by those feelings and motives which Mr. Coleridge has so happily

"Stormy pity, and the cherish'd lure
Of pomp, and proud precipitance of soul."

Hindostan, with its vast cities, its gorgeous pagodas, its
infinite swarms of dusky population, its long-descended
dynasties, its stately etiquette, excited in a mind so capacious,
so imaginative, and so susceptible, the most intense interest.
The peculiarities of the costume, of the manners, and of the
laws, the very mystery which hung over the language and origin of
the people, seized his imagination. To plead under the ancient
arches of Westminster Hall, in the name of the English people, at
the bar of the English nobles for great nations and kings
separated from him by half the world, seemed to him the height of
human glory. Again, it is not difficult to perceive that his
hostility to the French Revolution principally arose from the
vexation which he felt at having all his old political
associations disturbed, at seeing the well-known landmarks of
states obliterated, and the names and distinctions with which the
history of Europe had been filled for ages at once swept away. He
felt like an antiquary whose shield had been scoured, or a
connoisseur who found his Titian retouched. But, however he came
by an opinion, he had no sooner got it than he did his best to
make out a legitimate title to it. His reason, like a spirit in
the service of an enchanter, though spell-bound, was still
mighty. It did whatever work his passions and his imagination
might impose. But it did that work, however arduous, with
marvellous dexterity and vigour. His course was not determined by
argument; but he could defend the wildest course by arguments
more plausible than those by which common men support opinions
which they have adopted after the fullest deliberation. Reason
has scarcely ever displayed, even in those well-constituted minds
of which she occupies the throne, so much power and energy as in
the lowest offices of that imperial servitude.

Now in the mind of Mr. Southey reason has no place at all, as
either leader or follower, as either sovereign or slave. He does
not seem to know what an argument is. He never uses arguments
himself. He never troubles himself to answer the arguments of his
opponents. It has never occurred to him, that a man ought to be
able to give some better account of the way in which he has
arrived at his opinions than merely that it is his will and
pleasure to hold them. It has never occurred to him that there is
a difference between assertion and demonstration, that a rumour
does not always prove a fact, that a single fact, when proved, is
hardly foundation enough for a theory, that two contradictory
propositions cannot be undeniable truths, that to beg the
question is not the way to settle it, or that when an objection
is raised, it ought to be met with something more convincing than
"scoundrel" and "blockhead."

It would be absurd to read the works of such a writer for
political instruction. The utmost that can be expected from any
system promulgated by him is that it may be splendid and
affecting, that it may suggest sublime and pleasing images. His
scheme of philosophy is a mere day-dream, a poetical creation,
like the Doindaniel cavern, the Swerga, or Padalon; and indeed it
bears no inconsiderable resemblance to those gorgeous visions.
Like them, it has something, of invention, grandeur, and
brilliancy. But, like them, it is grotesque and extravagant, and
perpetually violates even that conventional probability which is
essential to the effect of works of art.

The warmest admirers of Mr. Southey will scarcely, we think, deny
that his success has almost always borne an inverse proportion to
the degree in which his undertakings have required a logical
head. His poems, taken in the mass, stand far higher than his
prose works. His official Odes indeed, among which the Vision of
Judgement must be classed, are, for the most part, worse than
Pye's and as bad as Cibber's; nor do we think him generally happy
in short pieces. But his longer poems, though full of faults, are
nevertheless very extraordinary productions. We doubt greatly
whether they will be read fifty years hence; but that, if they
are read, they will be admired, we have no doubt whatever.

But, though in general we prefer Mr. Southey's poetry to his
prose, we must make one exception. The Life of Nelson is, beyond
all doubt, the most perfect and the most delightful of his works.
The fact is, as his poems most abundantly prove, that he is by no
means so skilful in designing as in filling up. It was therefore
an advantage to him to be furnished with an outline of characters
and events, and to have no other task to perform than that of
touching the cold sketch into life. No writer, perhaps, ever
lived, whose talents so precisely qualified him to write the
history of the great naval warrior. There were no fine riddles of
the human heart to read, no theories to propound, no hidden
causes to develop, no remote consequences to predict. The
character of the hero lay on the surface. The exploits were
brilliant and picturesque. The necessity of adhering to the real
course of events saved Mr, Southey from those faults which deform
the original plan of almost every one of his poems, and which
even his innumerable beauties of detail scarcely redeem. The
subject did not require the exercise of those reasoning powers
the want of which is the blemish of his prose. It would not be
easy to find, in all literary history, an instance of a more
exact hit between wind and water. John Wesley and the Peninsular
War were subjects of a very different kind, subjects which
required all the qualities of a philosophic historian. In Mr.
Southey's works on these subjects, he has, on the whole, failed.
Yet there are charming specimens of the art of narration in both
of them. The Life of Wesley will probably live. Defective as it
is, it contains the only popular account of a most remarkable
moral revolution, and of a man whose eloquence and logical
acuteness might have made him eminent in literature, whose genius
for government was not inferior to that of Richelieu, and who,
whatever his errors may have been, devoted all his powers, in
defiance of obloquy and derision, to what he sincerely considered
as the highest good of his species. The History of the Peninsular
War is already dead; indeed, the second volume was dead-born. The
glory of producing an imperishable record of that great conflict
seems to be reserved for Colonel Napier.

The Book of the Church contains some stories very prettily told.
The rest is mere rubbish. The adventure was manifestly one which
could be achieved only by a profound thinker, and one in which
even a profound thinker might have failed, unless his passions
had been kept under strict control. But in all those works in
which Mr. Southey has completely abandoned narration, and has
undertaken to argue moral and political questions, his failure
has been complete and ignominious. On such occasions his writings
are rescued from utter contempt and derision solely by the beauty
and purity of the English. We find, we confess, so great a charm
in Mr. Southey's style, that, even when be writes nonsense, we
generally read it with pleasure except indeed when he tries to be
droll. A more insufferable jester never existed. He very often
attempts to be humorous, and yet we do not remember a single
occasion on which he has succeeded further than to be quaintly
and flippantly dull. In one of his works he tells us that Bishop
Sprat was very properly so called, inasmuch as he was a very
small poet. And in the book now before us he cannot quote Francis
Bugg, the renegade Quaker, without a remark on his unsavoury
name. A wise man might talk folly like this by his own fireside;
but that any human being, after having made such a joke, should
write it down, and copy it out, and transmit it to the printer,
and correct the proof-sheets, and send it forth into the world,
is enough to make us ashamed of our species.

The extraordinary bitterness of spirit which Mr. Southey
manifests towards his opponents is, no doubt, in a great measure
to be attributed to the manner in which he forms his opinions.
Differences of taste, it has often been remarked, produce greater
exasperation than differences on points of science. But this is
not all. A peculiar austerity marks almost all Mr. Southey's
judgments of men and actions. We are far from blaming him for
fixing on a high standard of morals, and for applying that
standard to every case. But rigour ought to be accompanied by
discernment; and of discernment Mr. Southey seems to be utterly
destitute. His mode of judging is monkish. It is exactly what we
should expect from a stern old Benedictine, who had been
preserved from many ordinary frailties by the restraints of his
situation. No man out of a cloister ever wrote about love, for
example, so coldly and at the same time me so grossly. His
descriptions of it are just what we should hear from a recluse
who knew the passion only from the details of the confessional.
Almost all his heroes make love either like Seraphim or like
cattle. He seems to have no notion of anything between the
Platonic passion of the Glendoveer who gazes with rapture on his
mistress's leprosy, and the brutal appetite of Arvalan and
Roderick. In Roderick, indeed, the two characters are united. He
is first all clay, and then all spirit. He goes forth a Tarquin,
and comes back too ethereal to be married. The only love scene,
as far as we can recollect, in Madoc, consists of the delicate
attentions which a savage, who has drunk too much of the Prince's
excellent metheglin, offers to Goervyl. It would be the labour of
a week to find, in all the vast mass of Mr. Southey's poetry, a
single passage indicating any sympathy with those feelings which
have consecrated the shades of Vaucluse and the rocks of

Indeed, if we except some very pleasing images of paternal
tenderness and filial duty, there is scarcely anything soft or
humane in Mr. Southey's poetry. What theologians call the
spiritual sins are his cardinal virtues, hatred, pride, and the
insatiable thirst of vengeance. These passions he disguises under
the name of duties; he purifies them from the alloy of vulgar
interests; he ennobles them by uniting them with energy,
fortitude, and a severe sanctity of manners; and he then holds
them up to the admiration of mankind. This is the spirit of
Thalaba, of Ladurlad, of Adosinda, of Roderick after his
conversion. It is the spirit which, in all his writings, Mr.
Southey appears to affect. "I do well to be angry," seems to be
the predominant feeling of his mind. Almost the only mark of
charity which he vouchsafes to his opponents is to pray for their
reformation; and this he does in terms not unlike those in which
we can imagine a Portuguese priest interceding with Heaven for a
Jew, delivered over to the secular arm after a relapse.

We have always heard, and fully believe, that Mr. Southey is a
very amiable and humane man; nor do we intend to apply to him
personally any of the remarks which we have made on the spirit of
his writings. Such are the caprices of human nature. Even Uncle
Toby troubled himself very little about the French grenadiers who
fell on the glacis of Namur. And Mr. Southey, when he takes up
his pen, changes his nature as much as Captain Shandy when he
girt on his sword. The only opponents to whom the Laureate gives
quarter are those in whom he finds something of his own character
reflected. He seems to have an instinctive antipathy for calm,
moderate men, for men who shun extremes, and who render reasons.
He has treated Mr. Owen of Lanark, for example, with infinitely
more respect than he has shown to Mr. Hallam or to Dr. Lingard;
and this for no reason that we can discover, except that Mr. Owen
is more unreasonably and hopelessly in the wrong than any
speculator of our time.

Mr. Southey's political system is just what we might expect from
a man who regards politics, not as matter of science, but as
matter of taste and feeling. All his schemes of government have
been inconsistent with themselves. In his youth he was a
republican; yet, as he tells us in his preface to these
Colloquies, he was even then opposed to the Catholic Claims. He
is now a violent Ultra-Tory. Yet, while he maintains, with
vehemence approaching to ferocity, all the sterner and harsher
parts of the Ultra-Tory theory of government, the baser and
dirtier part of that theory disgusts him. Exclusion, persecution,
severe punishments for libellers and demagogues, proscriptions,
massacres, civil war, if necessary, rather than any concession to
a discontented people; these are the measures which he seems
inclined to recommend. A severe and gloomy tyranny, crushing
opposition, silencing remonstrance, drilling the minds of the
people into unreasoning obedience, has in it something of
grandeur which delights his imagination. But there is nothing
fine in the shabby tricks and jobs of office; and Mr. Southey,
accordingly, has no toleration for them. When a Jacobin, he did
not perceive that his system led logically, and would have led
practically, to the removal of religious distinctions. He now
commits a similar error. He renounces the abject and paltry part
of the creed of his party, without perceiving that it is also an
essential part of that creed. He would have tyranny and purity
together; though the most superficial observation might have
shown him that there can be no tyranny without corruption.

It is high time, however, that we should proceed to the
consideration of the work which is our more immediate subject,
and which, indeed, illustrates in almost every page our general
remarks on Mr. Southey's writings. In the preface, we are
informed that the author, notwithstanding some statements to the
contrary, was always opposed to the Catholic Claims. We fully
believe this; both because we are sure that Mr. Southey is
incapable of publishing a deliberate falsehood, and because his
assertion is in itself probable. We should have expected that,
even in his wildest paroxysms of democratic enthusiasm, Mr.
Southey would have felt no wish to see a simple remedy applied to
a great practical evil. We should have expected that the only
measure which all the great statesmen of two generations have
agreed with each other in supporting would be the only measure
which Mr. Southey would have agreed with himself in opposing. He
has passed from one extreme of political opinion to another, as
Satan in Milton went round the globe, contriving constantly to
"ride with darkness." Wherever the thickest shadow of the night
may at any moment chance to fall, there is Mr. Southey. It is not
everybody who could have so dexterously avoided blundering on the
daylight in the course of a journey to the antipodes.

Mr. Southey has not been fortunate in the plan of any of his
fictitious narratives. But he has never failed so conspicuously
as in the work before us; except, indeed, in the wretched Vision
of Judgement. In November 1817, it seems the Laureate was sitting
over his newspaper, and meditating about the death of the
Princess Charlotte. An elderly person of very dignified aspect
makes his appearance, announces himself as a stranger from a
distant country, and apologises very politely for not having
provided himself with letters of introduction. Mr. Southey
supposes his visitor to be some American gentleman who has come
to see the lakes and the lake-poets, and accordingly proceeds to
perform, with that grace, which only long practice can give, all
the duties which authors owe to starers. He assures his guest
that some of the most agreeable visits which he has received have
been from Americans, and that he knows men among them whose
talents and virtues would do honour to any country. In passing we
may observe, to the honour of Mr. Southey, that, though he
evidently has no liking for the American institutions, he never
speaks of the people of the United States with that pitiful
affectation of contempt by which some members of his party have
done more than wars or tariffs can do to excite mutual enmity
between two communities formed for mutual fellowship. Great as
the faults of his mind are, paltry spite like this has no place
in it. Indeed it is scarcely conceivable that a man of his
sensibility and his imagination should look without pleasure and
national pride on the vigorous and splendid youth of a great
people, whose veins are filled with our blood, whose minds are
nourished with our literature, and on whom is entailed the rich
inheritance of our civilisation, our freedom, and our glory.

But we must return to Mr. Southey's study at Keswick. The visitor
informs the hospitable poet that he is not an American but a
spirit. Mr. Southey, with more frankness than civility, tells him
that he is a very queer one. The stranger holds out his hand. It
has neither weight nor substance. Mr. Southey upon this becomes
more serious; his hair stands on end; and he adjures the spectre
to tell him what he is, and why he comes. The ghost turns out to
be Sir Thomas More. The traces of martyrdom, it seems, are worn
in the other world, as stars and ribands are worn in this. Sir
Thomas shows the poet a red streak round his neck, brighter than
a ruby, and informs him that Cranmer wears a suit of flames in
Paradise, the right hand glove, we suppose, of peculiar

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, bookstalls, and a hundred other subjects. Mr. Southey very
hospitably takes an opportunity to escort the ghost round the
lakes, and directs his attention to the most beautiful points of
view. Why a spirit was to be evoked for the purpose of talking
over such matters and seeing such sights, why the vicar of the
parish, a blue-stocking from London, or an American, such as Mr.
Southey at first supposed the aerial visitor to be, might not
have done as well, we are unable to conceive. Sir Thomas tells
Mr. Southey nothing about future events, and indeed absolutely
disclaims the gifts of prescience. He has learned to talk modern
English. He has read all the new publications, and loves a jest
as well as when he jested with the executioner, though we cannot
say that the quality of his wit has materially improved in
Paradise. His powers of reasoning, too, are by no means in as
great vigour as when he sate on the woolsack; and though he
boasts that he is "divested of all those passions which cloud the
intellects and warp the understandings of men," we think him, we
must confess, far less stoical than formerly. As to revelations,
he tells Mr. Southey at the outset to expect none from him. The
Laureate expresses some doubts, which assuredly will not raise
him in the opinion of our modern millennarians, as to the divine
authority of the Apocalypse. But the ghost preserves an
impenetrable silence. As far as we remember, only one hint about
the employment of disembodied spirits escapes him. He encourages
Mr. Southey to hope that there is a Paradise Press, at which all
the valuable publications of Mr. Murray and Mr. Colburn are
reprinted as regularly as at Philadelphia; and delicately
insinuates that Thalaba and the Curse of Kehama are among the
number. What a contrast does this absurd fiction present to those
charming narratives which Plato and Cicero prefixed to their
dialogues! What cost in machinery, yet what poverty of effect! A
ghost brought in to say what any man might have said! The
glorified spirit of a great statesman and philosopher dawdling,
like a bilious old nabob at a watering-place, over quarterly
reviews and novels, dropping in to pay long calls, making
excursions in search of the picturesque! The scene of St. George
and St. Dennis in the Pucelle is hardly more ridiculous. We know
what Voltaire meant. Nobody, however, can suppose that Mr.
Southey means to make game of the mysteries of a higher state of
existence. The fact is that, in the work before us, in the Vision
of Judgement, 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
and things in some grotesque Italian paintings differ from the
caricatures which Carlile 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. [A passage in which
some expressions used by Mr. Southey were misrepresented,
certainly without any unfair intention, has been here omitted.]
Perhaps we could not select a better instance of the spirit which
pervades the whole book than the passages in which Mr. Southey
gives his opinion 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 competition 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 manufacturing than in the
agricultural districts. If Mr. Southey will look over the
Parliamentary returns on this subject, he will find that the
amount of parochial relief required by the labourers 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 returns for the years
ending in March 1825, and in March 1828, are now before us. In
the former year we find the poor-rate highest in Sussex, about
twenty shillings to every inhabitant. Then come Buckinghamshire,
Essex, Suffolk, Bedfordshire, Huntingdonshire, Kent, and Norfolk.
In all these the rate is above fifteen shillings a head. We will
not go through the whole. Even in Westmoreland and the North
Riding of Yorkshire, the rate is at more than eight shillings. In
Cumberland and Monmouthshire, the most fortunate of all the
agricultural districts, it is at six shillings. But in the West
Riding of Yorkshire, it is as low as five shillings. and when we
come to Lancashire, we find it at four shillings, 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.

As to the effect of the manufacturing system on the bodily
health, we must beg leave to estimate it by a standard far too
low and vulgar for a mind so imaginative as that of Mr. Southey,
the proportion of births and deaths. We know that, during the
growth of this atrocious system, this new misery, to use the
phrases of Mr. Southey, this new enormity, this birth of a
portentous age, this pest which no man can approve whose heart is
not scared or whose understanding has not been darkened, there
has been a great diminution of mortality, and that this
diminution has been greater in the manufacturing towns than
anywhere else. The mortality still is, as it always was, greater
in towns than in the country. But the difference has diminished
in an extraordinary degree. There is the best reason to believe
that the annual mortality of Manchester, about the middle of the
last century, was one in twenty-eight. It is now reckoned at one
in forty-five. In Glasgow and Leeds a similar improvement has
taken place. Nay, the rate of mortality in those three great
capitals of the manufacturing districts is now considerably less
than it was, fifty years ago, over England and Wales, taken
together, open country and all. We might with some plausibility
maintain that the people live longer because they are better fed,
better lodged, better clothed, and better attended in sickness,
and that these improvements are owing to that increase of
national wealth which the manufacturing system has produced.

Much more might be said on this subject. But to what end? It is
not from bills of mortality and statistical tables that Mr.
Southey has learned his political creed. He cannot stoop to study
the history of the system which he abuses, to strike the balance
between the good and evil which it has produced, to compare
district with district, or generation with generation. We will
give his own reason for his opinion, the only reason which he
gives for it, in his own words:--

"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 themselves 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 ornamented 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 these
parts, indicate in the owners some portion of ease and leisure,
some regard to neatness and comfort, some sense of natural, and
innocent, and healthful enjoyment. The new cottages of the
manufacturers are upon the manufacturing pattern--naked, and in a

"'How is it,' said I, 'that everything which is connected with
manufactures presents such features of unqualified deformity?
From the largest of Mammon's temples down to the poorest hovel in
which his helotry are stalled, these edifices have all one
character. Time will not mellow them; nature will neither clothe
nor conceal them; and they will remain always as offensive to the
eye as to the mind.'"

Here is wisdom. Here are the principles on which nations are to
be governed. Rose-bushes and poor-rates, rather than steam-
engines and independence. Mortality and cottages with weather-
stains, rather than health and long life with edifices which time
cannot mellow. We are told, that our age has invented atrocities
beyond the imagination of our fathers; that society has been
brought into a state compared with which extermination would be a
blessing; and all because the dwellings of cotton-spinners are
naked and rectangular. Mr. Southey has found out a way, he tells
us, in which the effects of manufactures and agriculture may be
compared. And what is this way? To stand on a hill, to look at a
cottage and a factory, and to see which is the prettier. Does Mr.
Southey think that the body of the English peasantry live, or
ever lived, in substantial or ornamented cottages, with box-
hedges, flower-gardens, beehives, and orchards? If not, what is
his parallel worth? We despise those mock philosophers, who think
that they serve the cause of science by depreciating literature
and the fine arts. But if anything could excuse their narrowness
of mind, it would be such a book as this. It is not strange that,
when one enthusiast 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, and 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 thus:--

"Jewels, for example, and pictures, as in Holland, where indeed
at one time tulip bulbs answered the same purpose."

"That bubble," 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 stones 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

"Pursue that notion," answers the ghost, "and you will be in the
dark presently. Your provincial banknotes, which constitute
almost wholly the circulating medium of certain districts, pass
current to-day. Tomorrow tidings may come that the house which
issued them has stopt payment, and what do they represent then?
You will find them the shadow of a shade."

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 currency was
introduced." Now, was there ever, since men emerged from a state
of utter barbarism, an age in which there were no debts? Is not a
debt, while the solvency of the debtor is undoubted, always
reckoned as part of the wealth of the creditor? Yet is it
tangible and real wealth? Does it cease to be wealth, because
there is the security of a written acknowledgment for it? And
what else is paper currency? Did Mr. Southey ever read a
banknote? If he did, he would see that it is a written
acknowledgment of a debt, 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 creditor. Every man who sells goods for
anything 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 picture-
dealer 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; and this claim is not tangible. Now,
would not the picture-dealer consider this claim as part of his
wealth? Would not a tradesman who knew of the claim give credit
to the picture-dealer the more readily on account of the claim?
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

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 indorsements 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
with whom he never dealt.

In short, what Mr. Southey takes for a difference 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 society, 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 addition to the income of the country.

"You can understand," says Sir Thomas, "that it constitutes a
great part of the national wealth."

"So large a part," answers Montesinos, "that the interest
amounted, during the prosperous times of agriculture, to as much
as the rental of all the land in Great Britain; and at present to
the rental of all lands, all houses, and all other fixed property
put together."

The Ghost and 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."

"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."

From this passage we should have been inclined to think that Mr.
Southey supposes the dividends to be a free gift periodically
sent 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 would be done with this
sum if it were not paid as interest to the national creditor? If
he would think over this matter for a short time, we suspect that
the "momentous benefit" of which he talks would appear to him to
shrink strangely in amount. A fundholder, we will suppose, spends
dividends amounting to five hundred pounds a year; and his ten
nearest neighbours pay fifty pounds each to the tax-gatherer, for
the purpose of discharging the interest of the national debt. If
the debt were wiped out, a measure, be it understood, which we by
no means recommend, the fundholder would cease to spend his five
hundred pounds a year. He would no longer give employment to
industry, or put food into the mouths of labourers. This Mr.
Southey thinks a fearful evil. But is there no mitigating
circumstance? Each of the ten neighbours of our fundholder has
fifty pounds a year more than formerly. Each of them will, as it
seems to our feeble understandings, employ more industry and feed
more mouths than formerly. The sum is exactly the same. It is in
different hands. But on what grounds does Mr. Southey call upon
us to believe that it is in the hands of men who will spend it
less liberally or less judiciously? He seems to think that nobody
but a fundholder can employ the poor; that, if a tax is remitted,
those who formerly used to pay it proceed immediately to dig
holes in the earth, and to bury the sum which the Government had
been accustomed to take; that no money can set industry in motion
till such money has been taken by the tax-gatherer out of one
man's pocket and put into another man's pocket. We really wish
that Mr. Southey would try to prove this principle, which is
indeed the foundation of his whole theory of finance: for we
think it right to hint to him that our hard-hearted and
unimaginative generation will expect some more satisfactory
reason than the only one with which he has yet favoured it,
namely, a similitude touching evaporation and dew.

Both the theory and the illustration, indeed, are old friends of
ours. In every season of distress which we can remember, Mr.
Southey has been proclaiming that it is not from economy, but
from increased taxation, that the country must expect relief; and
he still, we find, places the undoubting faith of a political
Diafoirus, in his

"Resaignare, repurgare, et reclysterizare."

"A people," he tells us, "may be too rich, but a government
cannot be so."

"A state," says he, "cannot have more wealth at its command than
may be employed for the general good, a liberal expenditure in
national works being one of the surest means of promoting
national prosperity; and the benefit being still more obvious, of
an expenditure directed to the purposes of national improvement.
But a people may be too rich."

We fully admit that a state cannot have at its command more
wealth than may be employed for the general good. But neither can
individuals, or bodies of individuals, have at their command more
wealth than may be employed for the general good. If there be no
limit to the sum which may be usefully laid out in public works
and national improvement, then wealth, whether in the hands of
private men or of the Government, may always, if the possessors
choose to spend it usefully, be usefully spent. The only ground,
therefore, on which Mr. Southey can possibly maintain that a
government cannot be too rich, but that a people may be too rich,
must be this, that governments are more likely to spend their
money on good objects than private individuals.

But what is useful expenditure? "A liberal expenditure in
national works," says Mr. Southey, "is one of the surest means
for promoting national prosperity." What does he mean by national
prosperity? Does he mean the wealth of the State? If so, his
reasoning runs thus: The more wealth a state has the better; for
the more wealth a state has the more wealth it will have. This is
surely something like that fallacy, which is ungallantly termed a
lady's reason. If by national prosperity he means the wealth of
the people, of how gross a contradiction is Mr. Southey guilty. A
people, he tells us, may be too rich: a government cannot: for a
government can employ its riches in making the people richer. The
wealth of the people is to be taken from them, because they have
too much, and laid out in works, which will yield them more.

We are really at a loss to determine whether 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

It scarcely ever happens that any private man or body of men will
invest property in a 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 between
the motive which induces individuals to undertake such a work,
and the utility of the work.

Can we find any such connection in the case of a public work
executed by a government? If it is useful, are the individuals
who rule the country richer? If it is useless, are they poorer? A
public man may be solicitous for his credit. But is not he likely
to gain more credit by an useless display of ostentatious
architecture in a great town than by the best road or the best
canal in some remote province? The fame of public works is a
much less certain test of their utility than the amount of toll
collected at them. In a corrupt age, there will be direct
embezzlement. In the purest age, there will be abundance of
jobbing. Never were the statesmen of any country more sensitive
to public opinion, and more spotless in pecuniary transactions,
than those who have of late governed England. Yet we have only to
look at the buildings recently erected in London for a proof of
our rule. In a bad age, the fate of the public is to be robbed
outright. In a good age, it is merely to have the dearest and the
worst of everything.

Buildings for State purposes the State must erect. And here we
think that, in general, the State ought to stop. We firmly
believe that five hundred thousand pounds subscribed by
individuals for rail-roads or canals would produce more advantage
to the public than five millions voted by Parliament for the same
purpose. There are certain old saws about the master's eye and
about everybody's business, in which we place very great faith.

There is, we have said, no consistency in Mr. Southey's political
system. But if there be in his political system any leading
principle, any one error which diverges more widely and variously
than any other, it is that of which his theory about national
works is a ramification. He conceives that the business of the
magistrate is, not merely to see that the persons and property of
the people are secure from attack, but that he ought to be a
jack-of-all-trades, architect, engineer, schoolmaster, merchant,
theologian, a Lady Bountiful in every parish, a Paul Pry in every
house, spying, eaves-dropping, relieving, admonishing, spending
our money for us, and choosing our opinions for us. His principle
is, if we understand it rightly, that no man can do anything so
well for himself as his rulers, be they who they may, can do it
for him, and that a government approaches nearer and nearer to
perfection, in proportion as it interferes more and more with the
habits and notions of individuals.

He seems to be fully convinced that it is in the power of
government to relieve all the distresses under which the lower
orders labour. Nay, he considers doubt on this subject as
impious. We cannot refrain from quoting his argument on this
subject. It is a perfect jewel of logic:

"'Many thousands in your metropolis,' says Sir Thomas More, 'rise
every morning without knowing how they are to subsist during the
day; as many of them, where they are to lay their heads at night.
All men, even the vicious themselves, know that wickedness leads
to misery: but many, even among the good and the wise, have yet
to learn that misery is almost as often the cause of wickedness.'

"'There are many,' says Montesinos, 'who know this, but believe
that it is not in the power of human institutions to prevent this
misery. They see the effect, but regard the causes as inseparable
from the condition of human nature.'

"'As surely as God is good,' replies Sir Thomas, 'so surely there
is no such thing as necessary evil. For, by the religious mind,
sickness, and pain, and death, are not to be accounted evils.'"

Now if sickness, pain, and death, are not evils, we cannot
understand why it should be an evil that thousands should rise
without knowing how they are to subsist. The only evil of hunger
is that it produces first pain, then sickness, and finally death.
If it did not produce these, it would be no calamity. If these
are not evils, it is no calamity. We will propose a very plain
dilemma: either physical pain is an evil, or it is not an evil.
If it is an evil, then there is necessary evil in the universe:
if it is not, why should the poor be delivered from it?

Mr. Southey entertains as exaggerated a notion of the wisdom of
governments as of their power. He speaks with the greatest
disgust of the respect now paid to public opinion. That opinion
is, according to him, to be distrusted and dreaded; its
usurpation ought to be vigorously resisted; and the practice of
yielding to it is likely to ruin the country. To maintain police
is, according to him, only one of the ends of government. The
duties of a ruler are patriarchal and paternal. He ought to
consider the moral discipline of the people as his first object,
to establish a religion, to train the whole community in that
religion, and to consider all dissenters as his own enemies.

"'Nothing,' says Sir Thomas, 'is more certain, than that religion
is the basis upon which civil government rests; that from
religion power derives its authority, laws their efficacy, and
both their zeal and sanction; and it is necessary that this
religion be established as for the security of the state, and for
the welfare of the people, who would otherwise be moved to and
fro with every wind of doctrine. A state is secure in proportion
as the people are attached to its institutions; it is, therefore,
the first and plainest rule of sound policy, that the people be
trained up in the way they should go. The state that neglects
this prepares its own destruction; and they who train them in any
other way are undermining it. Nothing in abstract science can be
more certain than these positions are.'

"'All of which,' answers Montesinos, 'are nevertheless denied by
our professors of the arts Babblative and Scribblative: some in
the audacity of evil designs, and others in the glorious
assurance of impenetrable ignorance.'

The greater part of the two volumes before us is merely an
amplification of these paragraphs. What does Mr. Southey mean by
saying that religion is demonstrably the basis of civil
government? He cannot surely mean that men have no motives except
those derived from religion for establishing and supporting civil
government, that no temporal advantage is derived from civil
government, that men would experience no temporal inconvenience
from living in a state of anarchy? If he allows, as we think he
must allow, that it is for the good of mankind in this world to
have civil government, and that the great majority of mankind
have always thought it for their good in this world to have civil
government, we then have a basis for government quite distinct
from religion. It is true that the Christian religion sanctions
government, as it sanctions everything which promotes the
happiness and virtue of our species. But we are at a loss to
conceive in what sense religion can be said to be the basis of
government, in which religion is not also the basis of the
practices of eating, drinking, and lighting fires in cold
weather. Nothing in history is more certain than that government
has existed, has received some obedience, and has given some
protection, in times in which it derived no support from
religion, in times in which there was no religion that influenced
the hearts and lives of men. It was not from dread of Tartarus,
or from belief in the Elysian fields, that an Athenian wished to
have some institutions which might keep Orestes from filching his
cloak, or Midias from breaking his head. "It is from religion,"
says Mr. Southey, "that power derives its authority, and laws
their efficacy." From what religion does our power over the
Hindoos derive its authority, or the law in virtue of which we
hang Brahmins its efficacy? For thousands of years civil
government has existed in almost every corner of the world, in
ages of priestcraft, in ages of fanaticism, in ages of Epicurean
indifference, in ages of enlightened piety. However pure or
impure the faith of the people might be, whether they adored a
beneficent or a malignant power, whether they thought the soul
mortal or immortal, they have, as soon as they ceased to be
absolute savages, found out their need of civil government, and
instituted it accordingly. It is as universal as the practice of
cookery. Yet, it is as certain, says Mr. Southey, as anything in
abstract science, that government is founded on religion. We
should like to know what notion Mr. Southey has of the
demonstrations of abstract science. A very vague one, we suspect.

The proof proceeds. As religion is the basis of government, and
as the State is secure in proportion as the people are attached
to public institutions, it is therefore, says Mr. Southey, the
first rule of policy, that the government should train the people
in the way in which they should go; and it is plain that those
who train them in any other way are undermining the State.

Now it does not appear to us to be the first object that people
should always believe in the established religion and be attached
to the established government. A religion may be false. A
government may be oppressive. And whatever support government
gives to false religions, or religion to oppressive governments,
we consider as a clear evil.

The maxim, that governments ought to train the people in the way
in which they should go, sounds well. But is there any reason for
believing that a government is more likely to lead the people in
the right way than the people to fall into the right way of
themselves? Have there not been governments which were blind
leaders of the blind? Are there not still such governments? Can
it be laid down as a general rule that the movement of political
and religious truth is rather downwards from the government to
the people than upwards from the people to the government? These
are questions which it is of importance to have clearly resolved.
Mr. Southey declaims against public opinion, which is now, he
tells us, usurping supreme power. Formerly, according to him, the
laws governed; now public opinion governs. What are laws but
expressions of the opinion of some class which has power over the
rest of the community? By what was the world ever governed but by
the opinion of some person or persons? By what else can it ever
be governed? What are all systems, religious, political, or
scientific, but opinions resting on evidence more or less
satisfactory? The question is not between human opinion and some
higher and more certain mode of arriving at truth, but between
opinion and opinion, between the opinions of one man and another,
or of one class and another, or of one generation and another.
Public opinion is not infallible; but can Mr. Southey construct
any institutions which shall secure to us the guidance of an
infallible opinion? Can Mr. Southey select any family, any
profession, any class, in short, distinguished by any plain
badge from the rest of the community, whose opinion is more
likely to be just than this much abused public opinion? Would
he choose the peers, for example? Or the two hundred tallest
men in the country? Or the poor Knights of Windsor? Or children
who are born with cauls? Or the seventh sons of seventh sons?
We cannot suppose that he would recommend popular election; for
that is merely an appeal to public opinion. And to say that
society ought to be governed by the opinion of the wisest and
best, though true, is useless. Whose opinion is to decide who are
the wisest and best?

Mr. Southey and many other respectable people seem to think that,
when they have once proved the moral and religious training of
the people to be a most important object, it follows, of course,
that it is an object which the government ought to pursue. They
forget that we have to consider, not merely the goodness of the
end, but also the fitness of the means. Neither in the natural
nor in the political body have all members the same office. There
is surely no contradiction in saying that a certain section of
the community may be quite competent to protect the persons and
property of the rest, yet quite unfit to direct our opinions, or
to superintend our private habits.

So strong is the interest of a ruler to protect his subjects
against all depredations and outrages except his own, so clear
and simple are the means by which this end is to be effected,
that men are probably better off under the worst governments in
the world than they would be in a state of anarchy. Even when the
appointment of magistrates has been left to chance, as in the
Italian Republics, things have gone on far better than if there
had been no magistrates at all, and if every man had done what
seemed right in his own eyes. But we see no reason for thinking
that the opinions of the magistrate on speculative questions are
more likely to be right than those of any other man. None of the
modes by which a magistrate is appointed, popular election, the
accident of the lot, or the accident of birth, affords, as far as
we can perceive, much security for his being wiser than any of
his neighbours. The chance of his being wiser than all his
neighbours together is still smaller. Now we cannot understand
how it can be laid down that it is the duty and the right of one
class to direct the opinions of another, unless it can be proved
that the former class is more likely to form just opinions than
the latter.

The duties of government would be, as Mr. Southey says that they
are, paternal, if a government were necessarily as much superior
in wisdom to a people as the most foolish father, for a time, is
to the most intelligent child, and if a government loved a people
as fathers generally love their children. But there is no reason
to believe that a government will have either the paternal warmth
of affection or the paternal superiority of intellect. Mr.
Southey might as well say that the duties of the shoemaker are
paternal, and that it is an usurpation in any man not of the
craft to say that his shoes are bad and to insist on having
better. The division of labour would be no blessing, if those by
whom a thing is done were to pay no attention to the opinion of
those for whom it is done. The shoemaker, in the Relapse, tells
Lord Foppington that his Lordship is mistaken in supposing that
his shoe pinches. "It does not pinch; it cannot pinch; I know my
business; and I never made a better shoe." This is the way in
which Mr. Southey would have a government treat a people who
usurp the privilege of thinking. Nay, the shoemaker of Vanbrugh
has the advantage in the comparison. He contented himself with
regulating his customer's shoes, about which he had peculiar
means of information, and did not presume to dictate about the
coat and hat. But Mr. Southey would have the rulers of a country
prescribe opinions to the people, not only about politics, but
about matters concerning which a government has no peculiar
sources of information, and concerning which any man in the
streets may know as much and think as justly as the King, namely
religion and morals.

Men are never so likely to settle a question rightly as when they
discuss it freely. A government can interfere in discussion only
by making it less free than it would otherwise be. Men are most
likely to form just opinions when they have no other wish than to
know the truth, and are exempt from all influence, either of hope
or fear. Government, as government, can bring nothing but the
influence of hopes and fears to support its doctrines. It carries
on controversy, not with reasons, but with threats and bribes. If
it employs reasons, it does so, not in virtue of any powers which
belong to it as a government. Thus, instead of a contest between
argument and argument, we have a contest between argument and
force. Instead of a contest in which truth, from the natural
constitution of the human mind, has a decided advantage over
falsehood, we have a contest in which truth can be victorious
only by accident.

And what, after all, is the security which this training gives to
governments? Mr. Southey would scarcely propose that discussion
should be more effectually shackled, that public opinion should
be more strictly disciplined into conformity with established
institutions, than in Spain and Italy. Yet we know that the
restraints which exist in Spain and Italy have not prevented
atheism from spreading among the educated classes, and especially
among those whose office it is to minister at the altars of God.
All our readers know how, at the time of the French Revolution,
priest after priest came forward to declare that his doctrine,
his ministry, his whole life, had been a lie, a mummery during
which he could scarcely compose his countenance sufficiently to
carry on the imposture. This was the case of a false, or at least
of a grossly corrupted religion. Let us take then the case of all
others most favourable to Mr. Southey's argument. Let us take
that form of religion which he holds to be the purest, the system
of the Arminian part of the Church of England. Let us take the
form of government which he most admires and regrets, the
government of England in the time of Charles the First. Would he
wish to see a closer connection between Church and State than
then existed? Would he wish for more powerful ecclesiastical
tribunals? for a more zealous King? for a more active primate?
Would he wish to see a more complete monopoly of public
instruction given to the Established Church? Could any government
do more to train the people in the way in which he would have
them go? And in what did all this training end? The Report of the
state of the Province of Canterbury, delivered by Laud to his
master at the close of 1639, represents the Church of England as
in the highest and most palmy state. So effectually had the
Government pursued that policy which Mr. Southey wishes to see
revived that there was scarcely the least appearance of dissent.
Most of the bishops stated that all was well among their flocks.
Seven or eight persons in the diocese of Peterborough had seemed
refractory to the Church, but had made ample submission. In
Norfolk and Suffolk all whom there had been reason to suspect had
made profession of conformity, and appeared to observe it
strictly. It is confessed that there was a little difficulty in
bringing some of the vulgar in Suffolk to take the sacrament at
the rails in the chancel. This was the only open instance of
nonconformity which the vigilant eye of Laud could detect in all
the dioceses of his twenty-one suffragans, on the very eve of a
revolution in which primate, and Church, and monarch, and
monarchy were to perish together.

At which time would Mr. Southey pronounce the constitution more
secure: in 1639, when Laud presented this Report to Charles; or
now, when thousands of meetings openly collect millions of
dissenters, when designs against the tithes are openly avowed,
when books attacking not only the Establishment, but the first
principles of Christianity, are openly sold in the streets? The
signs of discontent, he tells us, are stronger in England now
than in France when the States-General met: and hence he would
have us infer that a revolution like that of France may be at
hand. Does he not know that the danger of states is to be
estimated, not by what breaks out of the public mind, but by what
stays in it? Can he conceive anything more terrible than the
situation of a government which rules without apprehension over a
people of hypocrites, which is flattered by the press and cursed
in the inner chambers, which exults in the attachment and
obedience of its subjects, and knows not that those subjects are
leagued against it in a free-masonry of hatred, the sign of which
is every day conveyed in the glance of ten thousand eyes, the
pressure of ten thousand hands, and the tone of ten thousand
voices? Profound and ingenious policy! Instead of curing the
disease, to remove those symptoms by which alone its nature can
be known! To leave the serpent his deadly sting, and deprive him
only of his warning rattle!

When the people whom Charles had so assiduously trained in the
good way had rewarded his paternal care by cutting off his head,
a new kind of training came into fashion. Another government
arose which, like the former, considered religion as its surest
basis, and the religious discipline of the people as its first
duty. Sanguinary laws were enacted against libertinism; profane
pictures were burned; drapery was put on indecorous statues; the
theatres were shut up; fast-days were numerous; and the
Parliament resolved that no person should be admitted into any
public employment, unless the House should be first satisfied of
his vital godliness. We know what was the end of this training.
We know that it ended in impiety in filthy and heartless
sensuality, in the dissolution of all ties of honour and
morality. We know that at this very day scriptural phrases,
scriptural names, perhaps some scriptural doctrines excite
disgust and ridicule, solely because they are associated with the
austerity of that period.

Thus has the experiment of training the people in established
forms of religion been twice tried in England on a large scale,
once by Charles and Laud, and once by the Puritans. The High
Tories of our time still entertain many of the feelings and
opinions of Charles and Laud, though in a mitigated form; nor is
it difficult to see that the heirs of the Puritans are still
amongst us. It would be desirable that each of these parties
should remember how little advantage or honour it formerly
derived from the closest alliance with power, that it fall by the
support of rulers and rose by their opposition, that of the two
systems that in which the people were at any time drilled was
always at that time the unpopular system, that the training of
the High Church ended in the reign of the Puritans, and that the
training of the Puritans ended in the reign of the harlots.

This was quite natural. Nothing is so galling to a people not
broken in from the birth as a paternal, or, in other words, a
meddling government, a government which tells them what to read,
and say, and eat, and drink, and wear. Our fathers could not bear
it two hundred year ago; and we are not more patient than they.
Mr. Southey thinks that the yoke of the Church is dropping off
because it is loose. We feel convinced that it is borne only
because it is easy, and that, in the instant in which an attempt
is made to tighten it, it will be flung away. It will be neither
the first nor the strongest yoke that has been broken asunder and
trampled under foot in the day of the vengeance of England.

How far Mr. Southey would have the Government carry its measures
for training the people in the doctrines of the Church, we are
unable to discover. In one passage Sir Thomas More asks with
great vehemence,

"Is it possible that your laws should suffer the unbelievers to
exist as a party? Vetitum est adeo sceleris nihil?"

Montesinos answers: "They avow themselves in defiance of the
laws. The fashionable doctrine which the press at this time
maintains is, that this is a matter in which the laws ought not
to interfere, every man having a right, both to form what opinion
he pleases upon religious subjects, and to promulgate that

It is clear, therefore, that Mr. Southey would not give full and
perfect toleration to infidelity. In another passage, however, he
observes with some truth, though too sweepingly, that "any degree
of intolerance short of that full extent which the Papal Church
exercises where it has the power, acts upon the opinions which it
is intended to suppress, like pruning upon vigorous plants; they
grow the stronger for it." These two passages, put together,
would lead us to the conclusion that, in Mr. Southey's opinion,
the utmost severity ever employed by the Roman Catholic Church in
the days of its greatest power ought to be employed against
unbelievers in England; in plain words, that Carlile and his
shopmen ought to be burned in Smithfield, and that every person
who, when called upon, should decline to make a solemn profession
of Christianity ought to suffer the same fate. We do not,
however, believe that Mr. Southey would recommend such a course,
though his language would, according to all the rules of logic,
justify us in supposing this to be his meaning. His opinions form
no system at all. He never sees, at one glance, more of a
question than will furnish matter for one flowing and well-turned
sentence; so that it would be the height of unfairness to charge
him personally with holding a doctrine merely because that
doctrine is deducible, though by the closest and most accurate
reasoning, from the premises which he has laid down. We are,
therefore, left completely in the dark as to Mr. Southey's
opinions about toleration. Immediately after censuring the
Government for not punishing infidels, he proceeds to discuss the
question of the Catholic disabilities, now, thank God, removed,
and defends them on the ground that the Catholic doctrines tend
to persecution, and that the Catholics persecuted when they had

"They must persecute," says he, "if they believe their own creed,
for conscience-sake; and if they do not believe it, they must
persecute for policy; because it is only by intolerance that so
corrupt and injurious a system can be upheld."

That unbelievers should not be persecuted is an instance of
national depravity at which the glorified spirits stand aghast.
Yet a sect of Christians is to be excluded from power, because
those who formerly held the same opinions were guilty of
persecution. We have said that we do not very well know what Mr.
Southey's opinion about toleration is. But, on the whole, we take
it to be this, that everybody is to tolerate him, and that he is
to tolerate nobody.

We will not be deterred by any fear of misrepresentation from
expressing our hearty approbation of the mild, wise, and
eminently Christian manner in which the Church and the Government
have lately acted with respect to blasphemous publications. We
praise them for not having thought it necessary to encircle a
religion pure, merciful, and philosophical, a religion to the
evidence of which the highest intellects have yielded, with the
defences of a false and bloody superstition. The ark of God was
never taken till it was surrounded by the arms of earthly
defenders. In captivity, its sanctity was sufficient to vindicate
it from insult, and to lay the hostile fiend prostrate on the
threshold of his own temple. The real security of Christianity is
to be found in its benevolent morality, in its exquisite
adaptation to the human heart, in the facility with which its
scheme accommodates itself to the capacity of every human
intellect, in the consolation which it bears to the house of
mourning, in the light with which it brightens the great mystery
of the grave. To such a system it can bring no addition of
dignity or of strength, that it is part and parcel of the common
law. It is not now for the first time left to rely on the force
of its own evidences and the attractions of its own beauty. Its
sublime theology confounded the Grecian schools in the fair
conflict of reason with reason. The bravest and wisest of the
Caesars found their arms and their policy unavailing, when
opposed to the weapons that were not carnal and the kingdom that
was not of this world. The victory which Porphyry and Diocletian
failed to gain is not, to all appearance, reserved for any of
those who have in this age, directed their attacks against the
last restraint of the powerful and the last hope of the wretched.
The whole history of Christianity shows, that she is in far
greater danger of being corrupted by the alliance of power, than
of being crushed by its opposition. Those who thrust temporal
sovereignty upon her treat her as their prototypes treated her
author. They bow the knee, and spit upon her; they cry "Hail!"
and smite her on the cheek; they put a sceptre in her hand, but
it is a fragile reed; they crown her, but it is with thorns; they
cover with purple the wounds which their own hands have inflicted
on her; and inscribe magnificent titles over the cross on which
they have fixed her to perish in ignominy and pain.

The general view which Mr. Southey takes of the prospects of
society is very gloomy; but we comfort ourselves with the
consideration that Mr. Southey is no prophet. He foretold, we
remember, on the very eve of the abolition of the Test and
Corporation Acts, that these hateful laws were immortal, and that
pious minds would long be gratified by seeing the most solemn
religious rite of the Church profaned for the purpose of
upholding her political supremacy. In the book before us, he says
that Catholics cannot possibly be admitted into Parliament until
those whom Johnson called "the bottomless Whigs" come into power.
While the book was in the press, the prophecy was falsified; and
a Tory of the Tories, Mr. Southey's own favourite hero, won and
wore that noblest wreath, "Ob cives servatos."

The signs of the times, Mr. Southey tells us, are very
threatening. His fears for the country would decidedly
preponderate over his hopes, but for a firm reliance on the mercy
of God. Now, as we know that God has once suffered the civilised
world to be overrun by savages, and the Christian religion to be
corrupted by doctrines which made it, for some ages, almost as
bad as Paganism, we cannot think it inconsistent with his
attributes that similar calamities should again befal mankind.

We look, however, on the state of the world, and of this kingdom
in particular, with much greater satisfaction and with better
hopes. Mr. Southey speaks with contempt of those who think the
savage state happier than the social. On this subject, he says,
Rousseau never imposed on him even in his youth. But he conceives
that a community which has advanced a little way in civilisation
is happier than one which has made greater progress. The Britons
in the time of Caesar were happier, he suspects, than the English
of the nineteenth century. On the whole, he selects the
generation which preceded the Reformation as that in which the
people of this country were better off than at any time before or

This opinion rests on nothing, as far as we can see, except his
own individual associations. He is a man of letters; and a life
destitute of literary pleasures seems insipid to him. He abhors
the spirit of the present generation, the severity of its
studies, the boldness of its inquiries, and the disdain with
which it regards some old prejudices by which his own mind is
held in bondage. He dislikes an utterly unenlightened age; he
dislikes an investigating and reforming age. The first twenty
years of the sixteenth century would have exactly suited him.
They furnished just the quantity of intellectual excitement which
he requires. The learned few read and wrote largely. A scholar
was held in high estimation. But the rabble did not presume to
think; and even the most inquiring and independent of the
educated classes paid more reverence to authority, and less to
reason, than is usual in our time. This is a state of things in
which Mr. Southey would have found himself quite comfortable;
and, accordingly, he pronounces it the happiest state of things
ever known in the world.

The savages were wretched, says Mr. Southey; but the people in
the time of Sir Thomas More were happier than either they or we.
Now we think it quite certain that we have the advantage over the
contemporaries of Sir Thomas More, in every point in which they
had any advantage over savages.

Mr. Southey does not even pretend to maintain that the people in
the sixteenth century were better lodged or clothed than at
present. He seems to admit that in these respects there has been
some little improvement. It is indeed a matter about which
scarcely any doubt can exist in the most perverse mind that the
improvements of machinery have lowered the price of manufactured
articles, and have brought within the reach of the poorest some
conveniences which Sir Thomas More or his master could not have
obtained at any price.

The labouring classes, however, were, according to Mr. Southey,
better fed three hundred years ago than at present. We believe
that he is completely in error on this point. The condition of
servants in noble and wealthy families, and of scholars at the
Universities, must surely have been better in those times than
that of day-labourers; and we are sure that it was not better
than that of our workhouse paupers. From the household book of
the Northumberland family, we find that in one of the greatest
establishments of the kingdom the servants lived very much as
common sailors live now. In the reign of Edward the Sixth the
state of the students at Cambridge is described to us, on the
very best authority, as most wretched. Many of them dined on
pottage made of a farthing's worth of beef with a little salt and
oatmeal, and literally nothing else. This account we have from a
contemporary master of St. John's. Our parish poor now eat
wheaten bread. In the sixteenth century the labourer was glad to
get barley, and was often forced to content himself with poorer
fare. In Harrison's introduction to Holinshed we have an account
of the state of our working population in the "golden days," as
Mr. Southey calls them, "of good Queen Bess." "The gentilitie,
"says he, "commonly provide themselves sufficiently of wheat for
their own tables, whylest their household and poore neighbours in
some shires are inforced to content themselves with rye or
barleie; yea, and in time of dearth, many with bread made eyther
of beanes, peason, or otes, or of altogether, and some accrues
among. I will not say that this extremity is oft so well to be
seen in time of plentie as of dearth; but if I should I could
easily bring my trial: for albeit there be much more grounde
cared nowe almost in everye place then bathe beene of late
yeares, yet such a price of corne continueth in eache towne and
markete, without any just cause, that the artificer and poore
labouring man is not able to reach unto it, but is driven to
content him self with horse-corne." We should like to see what
the effect would be of putting any parish in England now on
allowance of "horse-corne." The helotry of Mammon are not, in our
day, so easily enforced to content themselves as the peasantry of
that happy period, as Mr. Southey considers it, which elapsed
between the fall of the feudal and the rise of the commercial

"The people," says Mr. Southey, "are worse fed than when they
were fishers." And yet in another place he complains that they
will not eat fish. "They have contracted," says he, "I know not
how, some obstinate prejudice against a kind of food at once
wholesome and delicate, and everywhere to be obtained cheaply and
in abundance, were the demand for it as general as it ought to
be." It is true that the lower orders have an obstinate prejudice
against fish. But hunger has no such obstinate prejudices. If
what was formerly a common diet is now eaten only in times of
severe pressure, the inference is plain. The people must be fed
with what they at least think better food than that of their

The advice and medicine which the poorest labourer can now
obtain, in disease, or after an accident, is far superior to what
Henry the Eighth could have commanded. Scarcely any part of the
country is out of the reach of practitioners, who are probably
not so far inferior to Sir Henry Halford as they are superior to
Dr. Butts. That there has been a great improvement in this
respect, Mr. Southey allows. Indeed he could not well have denied
it. "But," says he, "the evils for which these sciences are the
palliative, have increased since the time of the Druids, in a
proportion that heavily overweighs the benefit of improved
therapeutics." We know nothing either of the diseases or the
remedies of the Druids. But we are quite sure that the
improvement of medicine has far more than kept pace with the
increase of disease during the last three centuries. This is
proved by the best possible evidence. The term of human life is
decidedly longer in England than in any former age, respecting
which we possess any information on which we can rely. All the
rants in the world about picturesque cottages and temples of
Mammon will not shake this argument. No test of the physical
well-being of society can be named so decisive as that which is
furnished by bills of mortality. That the lives of the people of
this country have been gradually lengthening during the course of
several generations, is as certain as any fact in statistics; and
that the lives of men should become longer and longer, while
their bodily condition during life is becoming worse and worse,
is utterly incredible.

Let our readers think over these circumstances. Let them take
into the account the sweating sickness and the plague. Let them
take into the account that fearful disease which first made its
appearance in the generation to which Mr. Southey assigns the
palm of felicity, and raged through Europe with a fury at which
the physician stood aghast, and before which the people were
swept away by myriads. Let them consider the state of the
northern counties, constantly the scene of robberies, rapes,
massacres, and conflagrations. Let them add to all this the fact
that seventy-two thousand persons suffered death by the hands of
the executioner during the reign of Henry the Eighth, and judge
between the nineteenth and the sixteenth century.

We do not say that the lower orders in England do not suffer
severe hardships. But, in spite of Mr. Southey's assertions, and
in spite of the assertions of a class of politicians, who,
differing from Mr. Southey in every other point, agree with him
in this, we are inclined to doubt whether the labouring classes
here really suffer greater physical distress than the labouring
classes of the most flourishing countries of the Continent.

It will scarcely be maintained that the lazzaroni who sleep under
the porticoes of Naples, or the beggars who besiege the convents
of Spain, are in a happier situation than the English commonalty.
The distress which has lately been experienced in the northern
part of Germany, one of the best governed and most prosperous
regions of Europe, surpasses, if we have been correctly informed,
anything which has of late years been known among us. In Norway
and Sweden the peasantry are constantly compelled to mix bark.
with their bread; and even this expedient has not always
preserved whole families and neighbourhoods from perishing
together of famine. An experiment has lately been tried in the
kingdom of the Netherlands, which has been cited to prove the
possibility of establishing agricultural colonies on the waste
lands of England, but which proves to our minds nothing so
clearly as this, that the rate of subsistence to which the
labouring classes are reduced in the Netherlands is miserably
low, and very far inferior to that of the English paupers. No
distress which the people here have endured for centuries
approaches to that which has been felt by the French in our own
time. The beginning of the year 1817 was a time of great distress
in this island. But the state of the lowest classes here was
luxury compared with that of the people of France. We find in
Magendie's Journal de Physiologie Experimentale a paper on a
point of physiology connected with the distress of that season.
It appears that the inhabitants of six departments, Aix, Jura,
Doubs, Haute Saone, Vosges, and Saone-et-Loire, were reduced
first to oatmeal and potatoes, and at last to nettles,
beanstalks, and other kinds of herbage fit only for cattle; that
when the next harvest enabled them to eat barley-bread, many of
them died from intemperate indulgence in what they thought an
exquisite repast; and that a dropsy of a peculiar description was
produced by the hard fare of the year. Dead bodies were found on
the roads and in the fields. A single surgeon dissected six of
these, and found the stomach shrunk, and filled with the
unwholesome aliments which hunger had driven men to share with
beasts. Such extremity of distress as this is never heard of in
England, or even in Ireland. We are, on the whole, inclined to
think, though we would speak with diffidence on a point on which
it would be rash to pronounce a positive judgment without a much
longer and closer investigation than we have bestowed upon it,
that the labouring classes of this island, though they have their
grievances and distresses, some produced by their own
improvidence, some by the errors of their rulers, are on the
whole better off as to physical comforts than the inhabitants of
an equally extensive district of the old world. For this very
reason, suffering is more acutely felt and more loudly bewailed
here than elsewhere. We must take into the account the liberty of
discussion, and the strong interest which the opponents of a
ministry always have, to exaggerate the extent of the public
disasters. There are countries in which the people quietly endure
distress that here would shake the foundations of the State,
countries in which the inhabitants of a whole province turn out
to eat grass with less clamour than one Spitalfields weaver would
make here, if the overseers were to put him on barley-bread. In
those new commonwealths in which a civilised population has at
its command a boundless extent of the richest soil, the condition
of the labourer is probably happier than in any society which has
lasted for many centuries. But in the old world we must confess
ourselves unable to find any satisfactory record of any great
nation, past or present, in which the working classes have been
in a more comfortable situation than in England during the last
thirty years. When this island was thinly peopled, it was
barbarous: there was little capital; and that little was
insecure. It is now the richest and most highly civilised spot in
the world; but the population is dense. Thus we have never known
that golden age which the lower orders in the United States are
now enjoying. We have never known an age of liberty, of order,
and of education, an age in which the mechanical sciences were
carried to a great height, yet in which the people were not
sufficiently numerous to cultivate even the most fertile valleys.
But, when we compare our own condition with that of our
ancestors, we think it clear that the advantages arising from the
progress of civilisation have far more than counterbalanced the
disadvantages arising from the progress of population. While our
numbers have increased tenfold, our wealth has increased a
hundredfold. Though there are so many more people to share the
wealth now existing in the country than there were in the
sixteenth century, it seems certain that a greater share falls to
almost every individual than fell to the share of any of the
corresponding class in the sixteenth century. The King keeps a
more splendid court. The establishments of the nobles are more
magnificent. The esquires are richer; the merchants are richer;
the shopkeepers are richer. The serving-man, the artisan, and the
husbandman, have a more copious and palatable supply of food,
better clothing, and better furniture. This is no reason for
tolerating abuses, or for neglecting any means of ameliorating
the condition of our poorer countrymen. But it is a reason
against telling them, as some of our philosophers are constantly
telling them, that they are the most wretched people who ever
existed on the face of the earth.

We have already adverted to Mr. Southey's amusing doctrine about
national wealth. A state, says he, cannot be too rich; but a
people may be too rich. His reason for thinking this is extremely

"A people may be too rich, because it is the tendency of the
commercial, and more especially of the manufacturing system, to
collect wealth rather than to diffuse it. Where wealth is
necessarily employed in any of the speculations of trade, its
increase is in proportion to its amount. Great capitalists become
like pikes in a fish-pond who devour the weaker fish; and it is
but too certain, that the poverty of one part of the people seems
to increase in the same ratio as the riches of another. There are
examples of this in history. In Portugal, when the high tide of
wealth flowed in from the conquests in Africa and the East, the
effect of that great influx was not more visible in the augmented
splendour of the court, and the luxury of the higher ranks, than
in the distress of the people."

Mr. Southey's instance is not a very fortunate one. The wealth
which did so little for the Portuguese was not the fruit either
of manufactures or of commerce carried on by private individuals.
It was the wealth, not of the people, but of the Government and
its creatures, of those who, as Mr. Southey thinks, can never be
too rich. The fact is, that Mr. Southey's proposition is opposed
to all history, and to the phaenomena which surround us on every
side. England is the richest country in Europe, the most
commercial country, and the country in which manufactures
flourish most. Russia and Poland are the poorest countries in
Europe. They have scarcely any trade, and none but the rudest
manufactures. Is wealth more diffused in Russia and Poland than
in England? There are individuals in Russia and Poland whose
incomes are probably equal to those of our richest countrymen. It
may be doubted whether there are not, in those countries, as many
fortunes of eighty thousand a year as here. But are there as many
fortunes of two thousand a year, or of one thousand a year? There
are parishes in England which contain more people of between
three hundred and three thousand pounds a year than could be
found in all the dominions of the Emperor Nicholas. The neat and
commodious houses which have been built in London and its
vicinity, for people of this class, within the last thirty years,
would of themselves form a city larger than the capitals of some
European kingdoms. And this is the state of society in which the
great proprietors have devoured a smaller!

The cure which Mr. Southey thinks that he has discovered is
worthy of the sagacity which he has shown in detecting the evil.
The calamities arising from the collection of wealth in the hands
of a few capitalists are to be remedied by collecting it in the
hands of one great capitalist, who has no conceivable motive to
use it better than other capitalists, the all-devouring State.

It is not strange that, differing so widely from Mr. Southey as
to the past progress of society, we should differ from him also
as to its probable destiny. He thinks, that to all outward
appearance, the country is hastening to destruction; but he
relies firmly on the goodness of God. We do not see either the
piety or the rationality of thus confidently expecting that the
Supreme Being will interfere to disturb the common succession of
causes and effects. We, too, rely on his goodness, on his
goodness as manifested, not in extraordinary interpositions, but
in those general laws which it has pleased him to establish in
the physical and in the moral world. We rely on the natural
tendency of the human intellect to truth, and on the natural
tendency of society to improvement. We know no well-authenticated
instance of a people which has decidedly retrograded in
civilisation and prosperity, except from the influence of violent
and terrible calamities, such as those which laid the Roman
Empire in ruins, or those which, about the beginning of the
sixteenth century, desolated Italy. We know of no country which,
at the end of fifty years of peace and tolerably good government,
has been less prosperous than at the beginning of that period.
The political importance of a state may decline, as the balance
of power is disturbed by the introduction of new forces. Thus the
influence of Holland and of Spain is much diminished. But are
Holland and Spain poorer than formerly? We doubt it. Other
countries have outrun them. But we suspect that they have been
positively, though not relatively, advancing. We suspect that
Holland is richer than when she sent her navies up the Thames,
that Spain is richer than when a French king was brought captive
to the footstool of Charles the Fifth.

History is full of the signs of this natural progress of society.
We see in almost every part of the annals of mankind how the
industry of individuals, struggling up against wars, taxes,
famines, conflagrations, mischievous prohibitions, and more
mischievous protections, creates faster than governments can
squander, and repairs whatever invaders can destroy. We see the
wealth of nations increasing, and all the arts of life
approaching nearer and nearer to perfection, in spite of the
grossest corruption and the wildest profusion on the part of

The present moment is one of great distress. But how small will
that distress appear when we think over the history of the last
forty years; a war, compared with which all other wars sink into
insignificance; taxation, such as the most heavily taxed people
of former times could not have conceived; a debt larger than all
the public debts that ever existed in the world added together;
the food of the people studiously rendered dear; the currency
imprudently debased, and imprudently restored. Yet is the country
poorer than in 1790? We firmly believe that, in spite of all the
misgovernment of her rulers, she has been almost constantly
becoming richer and richer. Now and then there has been a
stoppage, now and then a short retrogression; but as to the
general tendency there can be no doubt. A single breaker may
recede; but the tide is evidently coming in.

If we were to prophesy that in the year 1930 a population of
fifty millions, better fed, clad, and lodged than the English of
our time, will cover these islands, that Sussex and
Huntingdonshire will be wealthier than the wealthiest parts of
the West Riding of Yorkshire now are, that cultivation, rich as
that of a flower-garden, will be carried up to the very tops of
Ben Nevis and Helvellyn, that machines constructed on principles
yet undiscovered will be in every house, that there will be no
highways but railroads, no travelling but by steam, that our
debt, vast as it seems to us, will appear to our great-
grandchildren a trifling encumbrance, which might easily be paid
off in a year or two, many people would think us insane. We
prophesy nothing; but this we say: If any person had told the
Parliament which met in perplexity and terror after the crash in
1720 that in 1830 the wealth of England would surpass all their
wildest dreams, that the annual revenue would equal the principal
of that debt which they considered as an intolerable burden, that
for one man of ten thousand pounds then living there would be
five men of fifty thousand pounds, that London would be twice as
large and twice as populous, and that nevertheless the rate of
mortality would have diminished to one-half of what it then was,
that the post-office would bring more into the exchequer than the
excise and customs had brought in together under Charles the
Second, that stage coaches would run from London to York in
twenty-four hours, that men would be in the habit of sailing
without wind, and would be beginning to ride without horses, our
ancestors would have given as much credit to the prediction as
they gave to Gulliver's Travels. Yet the prediction would have
been true; and they would have perceived that it was not
altogether absurd, if they had considered that the country was
then raising every year a sum which would have purchased the fee-
simple of the revenue of the Plantagenets, ten times what
supported the Government of Elizabeth, three times what, in the
time of Cromwell, had been thought intolerably oppressive. To
almost all men the state of things under which they have been
used to live seems to be the necessary state of things. We have
heard it said that five per cent. is the natural interest of
money, that twelve is the natural number of a jury, that forty
shillings is the natural qualification of a county voter. Hence
it is that, though in every age everybody knows that up to his
own time progressive improvement has been taking place, nobody
seems to reckon on any improvement during the next generation. We
cannot absolutely prove that those are in error who tell us that
society has reached a turning point, that we have seen our best
days. But so said all who came before us, and with just as much
apparent reason.

"A million a year will beggar us," said the patriots of 1640.
"Two millions a year will grind the country to powder," was the
cry in 1660. "Six millions a year, and a debt of fifty millions!"
exclaimed Swift, "the high allies have been the ruin of us." "A
hundred and forty millions of debt!" said Junius; "well may we
say that we owe Lord Chatham more than we shall ever pay, if we
owe him such a load as this." "Two hundred and forty millions of
debt!" cried all the statesmen of 1783 in chorus; "what
abilities, or what economy on the part of a minister, can save a
country so burdened?" We know that if, since 1783, no fresh debt
had been incurred, the increased resources of the country would
have enabled us to defray that debt at which Pitt, Fox, and Burke
stood aghast, nay, to defray it over and over again, and that
with much lighter taxation than what we have actually borne. On
what principle is it that, when we see nothing but improvement
behind us, we are to expect nothing but deterioration before us?

It is not by the intermeddling of Mr. Southey's idol, the
omniscient and omnipotent State, but by the prudence and energy
of the people, that England has hitherto been carried forward in
civilisation; and it is to the same prudence and the same energy
that we now look with comfort and good hope. Our rulers will best
promote the improvement of the nation by strictly confining
themselves to their own legitimate duties, by leaving capital to
find its most lucrative course, commodities their fair price,
industry and intelligence their natural reward, idleness and
folly their natural punishment, by maintaining peace, by
defending property, by diminishing the price of law, and by
observing strict economy in every department of the State. Let
the Government do this: the People will assuredly do the rest.

(January 1831)

Statement of the Civil Disabilities and Privations affecting Jews
in England. 8vo. London: 1829.

THE distinguished member of the House of Commons, who, towards
the close of the late Parliament, brought forward a proposition
for the relief of the Jews, has given notice of his intention to
renew it. The force of reason, in the last session, carried the
measure through one stage in spite of the opposition of power.
Reason and power are now on the same side; and we have little
doubt that they will conjointly achieve a decisive victory. In
order to contribute our share to the success of just principles,
we propose to pass in review, as rapidly as possible, some of the
arguments, or phrases claiming to be arguments, which have been
employed to vindicate a system full of absurdity and injustice.

The constitution, it is said, is essentially Christian; and
therefore to admit Jews to office is to destroy the constitution.
Nor is the Jew injured by being excluded from political power.
For no man has any right to power. A man has a right to his
property; a man has a right to be protected from personal injury.
These rights the law allows to the Jew; and with these rights it
would be atrocious to interfere. But it is a mere matter of
favour to admit any man to political power; and no man can justly
complain that he is shut out from it.

We cannot but admire the ingenuity of this contrivance for
shifting the burden of the proof from those to whom it properly
belongs, and who would, we suspect, find it rather cumbersome.
Surely no Christian can deny that every human being has a right
to be allowed every gratification. which produces no harm to
others, and to be spared every mortification which produces no
good to others. Is it not a source of mortification to a class of
men that they are excluded from political power? If it be, they
have, on Christian principles, a right to be freed from that
mortification, unless it can be shown that their exclusion is
necessary for the averting of some greater evil. The presumption
is evidently in favour of toleration. It is for the prosecutor to
make out his case.

The strange argument which we are considering would prove too
much even for those who advance it. If no man has a right to
political power, then neither Jew nor Gentile has such a right.
The whole foundation of government is taken away. But if
government be taken away, the property and the persons of men are
insecure; and it is acknowledged that men have a right to their
property and to personal security. If it be right that the
property of men should be protected, and if this can only be done
by means of government, then it must be right that government
should exist. Now there cannot be government unless some person
or persons possess political power. Therefore it is right that
some person or persons should possess political power. That is to
say, some person or persons must have a right to political power.

It is because men are not in the habit of considering what the
end of government is, that Catholic disabilities and Jewish
disabilities have been suffered to exist so long. We hear of
essentially Protestant governments and essentially Christian
governments, words which mean just as much as essentially
Protestant cookery, or essentially Christian horsemanship.
Government exists for the purpose of keeping the peace, for the
purpose of compelling us to settle our disputes by arbitration
instead of settling them by blows, for the purpose of compelling
us to supply our wants by industry instead of supplying them by
rapine. This is the only operation for which the machinery of
government is peculiarly adapted, the only operation which wise
governments ever propose to themselves as their chief object. If
there is any class of people who are not interested, or who do
not think themselves interested, in the security of property and
the maintenance of order, that class ought to have no share of
the powers which exist for the purpose of securing property and
maintaining order. But why a man should be less fit to exercise
those powers because he wears a beard, because he does not eat
ham, because he goes to the synagogue on Saturdays instead of
going to the church on Sundays, we cannot conceive.

The points of difference between Christianity and Judaism have
very much to do with a man's fitness to be a bishop or a rabbi.
But they have no more to do with his fitness to be a magistrate,
a legislator, or a minister of finance, than with his fitness to
be a cobbler. Nobody has ever thought of compelling cobblers to
make any declaration on the true faith of a Christian. Any man
would rather have his shoes mended by a heretical cobbler than by
a person who had subscribed all the thirty-nine articles, but had
never handled an awl. Men act thus, not because they are
indifferent to religion, but because they do not see what
religion has to do with the mending of their shoes. Yet religion
has as much to do with the mending of shoes as with the budget
and the army estimates. We have surely had several signal proofs
within the last twenty years that a very good Christian may be a
very bad Chancellor of the Exchequer.

But it would be monstrous, says the persecutors, that Jews should
legislate for a Christian community. This is a palpable
misrepresentation. What is proposed is, not that the Jews should
legislate for a Christian community, but that a legislature
composed of Christians and Jews should legislate for a community
composed of Christians and Jews. On nine hundred and ninety-nine
questions out of a thousand, on all questions of police, of
finance, of civil and criminal law, of foreign policy, the Jew,
as a Jew, has no interest hostile to that of the Christian, or
even to that of the Churchman. On questions relating to the
ecclesiastical establishment, the Jew and the Churchman may
differ. But they cannot differ more widely than the Catholic and
the Churchman, or the Independent and the Churchman. The
principle that Churchmen ought to monopolise the whole power of
the State would at least have an intelligible meaning. The
principle that Christians ought to monopolise it has no meaning
at all. For no question connected with the ecclesiastical
institutions of the country can possibly come before Parliament,
with respect to which there will not be as wide a difference
between Christians as there can be between any Christian and any

In fact the Jews are not now excluded from political power. They
possess it; and as long as they are allowed to accumulate large
fortunes, they must possess it. The distinction which is
sometimes made between civil privileges and political power is a
distinction without a difference. Privileges are power. Civil and
political are synonymous words, the one derived from the Latin,
the other from the Greek. Nor is this mere verbal quibbling. If
we look for a moment at the facts of the case, we shall see that
the things are inseparable, or rather identical.

That a Jew should be a judge in a Christian country would be most
shocking. But he may be a juryman. He may try issues of fact; and
no harm is done. But if he should be suffered to try issues of
law, there is an end of the constitution. He may sit in a box
plainly dressed, and return verdicts. But that he should sit on


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