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A Year's Residence in the United States of America: Vol 2
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GOVERNMENT, LAWS, AND RELIGION.
400. MR. PROFESSOR CHRISTIAN, who has written great piles of Notes on Blackstone's Commentaries, and whose Notes differ from those of the Note-writers on the Bible, in this, that the latter only tend to add darkness to that which was sufficiently dark before, while the Professor's Notes, in every instance, with out a single exception, labour most arduously, and not always without success, to render that obscure, which was before clear as the sun now is in Long Island, on this most beautiful fifth of December, 1818: this Professor, who, I believe, is now a Judge, has, in his Note 126 on Book I, drawn what he calls "a distinction" between Political and Civil Liberty, which distinction contains as to ideas, manner, and expressions, a complete specimen of what, in such a case, a writer ought to avoid.
401. Leaving definitions of this sort to such conceited bunglers as the Professor, I will just give a sketch (for it can be nothing more) of the Government and Laws of this country.
402. The country is divided into States. Each of these States has its own separate government, consisting of a Governor, Legislative Body, and Judiciary Department. But, then there is a General Government, which is, in fact, the government of the whole nation; for, it alone can do any thing with regard to other nations. This General Government consists of a President, a Senate, a House of Representatives, all which together are called the Congress. The President is elected for four years, the Senate for four years, and the House of Representatives for two years.
403. In most of the State-Governments, the election is annual for the House of Representatives. In some the Governor and the Senate are elected for a longer period, not exceeding four years in any case. But, in some, the whole, Governor, Senate, and Representatives, are elected ANNUALLY; and this last appears now to be the prevailing taste.
404. The suffrage, or qualification of electors, is very various. In some States every free man; that is, every man who is not bondman or slave, has a vote. In others, the payment of a tax is required. In others, a man must be worth a hundred pounds. In Virginia a man must be a freeholder.
405. This may serve to show how little Mr. JERRY BENTHAM, the new Mentor of the Westminster Telemachus, knows about the political part of the American governments. Jerry, whose great, and, indeed, only argument, in support of annual parliaments and universal suffrage, is, that America is so happy under such a system, has, if we were to own him, furnished our enemies with a complete answer; for, they have, in order to silence him, only to refer to the facts of his argument of happy experience. By silencing him, however, I do not mean, the stopping of his tongue, or pen; for nothing but mortality will ever do that. This everlasting babbler has aimed a sort of stiletto stroke at me; for what God knows, except it be to act a consistent part, by endeavouring to murder the man whom he has so frequently robbed, and whose facts and thoughts, though disguised and disgraced by the robber's quaint phraseology, constitute the better part of his book. Jerry, who was made a Reformer by PITT'S refusal to give him a contract to build a penitentiary, and to make him prime administrator of penance, that is to say, Beggar-Whipper General, is a very proper person to be toasted by those, who have plotted and conspired against Major Cartwright. Mr. Brougham praises Jerry: that is enough!
406. In the four New England States, the qualification was a hundred pounds. But, one of those States, CONNECTICUT, has, to her great honour, recently set an example worthy of the imitation of the other three. A new constitution has, during this year, been formed in that State, according to which all the elections are to be annual; and, as to the suffrage, I will give it in the words of the instrument itself: "Every male white citizen of the United States, who shall have gained a settlement in this state, attained the age of twenty-one years, and resided in the town [that is parish in the English meaning] in which he may offer himself to be admitted to the privilege of an elector, at least six months preceding, and have a freehold estate of the yearly value of seven dollars in this State; ó OR, having been enrolled in the militia, shall have performed military duty therein for the term of one year, next preceding the time he shall offer himself for admission, or, being liable thereto, shall have been, by authority of law, altogether excused therefrom; OR, ó shall have paid a State Tax within the year next preceding the time he shall present himself for admission, and shall sustain a good moral character, shall, on his taking the oath prescribed, be an elector."
407. And then, the proof of bad moral character, is, "a conviction of bribery, forgery, perjury, duelling, fraudulent bankruptcy, theft, or other offences, for which an in famous punishment is inflicted." By forgery is not, of course, contemplated puff-out forgery; for that, as an act of resistance of oppression, is fully justifiable: it is not only not an immoral, but it is a meritorious act. The forgery here meant is forgery committed against honest men, who, when they "promise to pay," mean to pay, and do pay when called upon. "Bribery" is very properly set at the head of the disqualifications; but, what a nest of villains it would exclude in England! White men are mentioned, but, another clause, admits all the Blacks now free, though it shuts out future comers of that colour, or of the yellow hue; which is perfectly just; for, Connecticut is not to be the receptacle of those, whom other States may choose to release from slavery, seeing that she has now no slaves of her own.
408. Thus, then, this new Constitution; a constitution formed by the steadiest community in the whole world; a constitution dictated by the most ample experience, gives to the people, as to the three branches of the government (the Governor, Senate, and Representatives) precisely what we reformers in England ask as to only one branch out of the three. Whoever has a freehold worth a guinea and a half a year, though he pay no tax, and though he be not enrolled in the militia, has a vote. Whoever pays a tax, though he be not enrolled in the militia, and have no freehold, has a vote. Who ever is enrolled in the militia, though he have no freehold and pay no tax, has a vote. So that nothing but beggars, paupers, and criminals, can easily be excluded; and, you will observe, if you please, Messieurs Boroughmongers, that the State taxes are all direct, and so contemptible in amount, as not to be, all taken together, enough to satisfy the maw of a single sinecure place-man in England; and that the Electors choose, and annually too, King, Lords, and Commons. Now, mind, this change has been deliberately made by the most deliberate people that ever lived on the earth. New England is called, and truly, "the Land of Steady Habits;" but, a Connecticut man is said to be a "full-blooded Yankey," and Yankey means New Englander. So that, here are the steadiest of the steady adopting, after all their usual deliberation and precaution, in a time of profound tranquillity, and without any party spirit or delusion, the plan of us "wild and mad" Reformers of Old England. Please God, I will, before I go home, perform a pilgrimage into this State!
409. In Virginia, and the States where negro slavery exists, the slaves are reckoned amongst the population in apportioning the seats in the General Congress. So that, the slaves do not vote; but, their owners have votes for them. This is what Davis Giddy, Wilberforce, and the Spawn of the Green Room, call virtual representation. And this, to be sure, is what Sir FRANCIS BURDETT, in his speech at the Reading Dinner, meant by universal INTERESTS! From universal suffrage, he came down to general suffrage: this was only nonsense; but, universal INTERESTS is downright borough-mongering. Well may he despair of doing any good in the House of Commons! "Universal interests" is the Virginian plan; and, in that state of things, by no means unwise or unjust; for, it is easier to talk about freeing black slaves, then it is to do it. The planters in the Southern States are not to blame for having slaves, until some man will show how they are to get rid of them. No one has yet discovered the means. Virtual representation, or, in other words, Universal interests, is as good a thing as any one can devise for those States; and, if SIR FRANCIS will but boldly declare, that the people of England must necessarily remain slaves, his joining of Davis Giddy and Canning, will be very consistent. Let him black the skins of the people of England, and honestly call a part of them his property, and then he will not add the meanest to the most dastardly apostacy.
410. The right of suffrage in America is, how ever, upon the whole, sufficient to guard the people against any general and long-existing abuse of power; for, let it be borne in mind, that here the people elect all the persons, who are to exercise power; while, even if our Reform were obtained, there would still be two branches out of the three, over whom the people would have no direct controul. Besides, in England, Ire land, and Scotland, there is an established Church; a richly endowed and powerful hierarchy; and this, which is really a fourth branch of the government, has nothing to resemble it in America. So that, in this country, the whole of the Government may be truly said to be in the hands of the people. The people are, in reality as well as in name, represented.
411. The consequences of this are, 1st. that, if those who are chosen do not behave well, they are not chosen a second time; 2nd, that there are no sinecure placemen and place women, grantees, pensioners without services, and big placemen who swallow the earnings of two or three thousand men each; 3rd, that there is no military staff to devour more than the whole of a government ought to cost; 4th, that there are no proud and insolent grasping Boroughmongers, who make the people toil and sweat to keep them and their families in luxury; 5th, that seats in the Congress are not like stalls in Smithfield, bought and sold, or hired out; 6th, that the Members of Congress do not sell their votes at so much a vote; 7th, that there is no waste of the public money, and no expenses occasioned by the bribing of electors, or by the hiring of Spies and informers; 8th, that there are no shootings of the people, and no legal murders committed, in order to defend the government against the just vengeance of an oppressed and insulted nation. But, all is harmony, peace and prosperity. Every man is zealous in defence of the laws, because every man knows that he is governed by laws, to which he has really and truly given his assent.
412. As to the nature of the Laws, the Common Law of England is the Common Law of America. These States were formerly Colonies of England. Our Boroughmongers wished to tax them without their own consent. But, the Colonies, standing upon the ancient Laws of England, which say that no man shall be taxed with out his own consent, resisted the Boroughmongers of that day; overcame them in war; cast off all dependence, and became free and independent States. But, the great man, who conducted that Revolution, as well as the people in general, were too wise to cast off the excellent laws of their forefathers. They, therefore, declared, that the Common Law of England should remain, being subject to such modifications as might be necessary in the new circumstances in which the people were placed. The Common Law means, the ancient and ordinary usages and customs of the land with regard to the means of protecting property and persons and of punishing crimes. This law is no written or printed thing. It is more ancient than books. It had its origin in the hearts of our forefathers, and it has lived in the hearts of their sons, from generation to generation. Hence it is emphatically called the Law of the Land. Juries, Judges, Courts of Justice, Sheriffs, Constables, Head-boroughs, Heywards, Justices of the Peace, and all their numerous and useful powers and authorities, make part of this Law of the Land. The Boroughmongers would fain persuade us, that it is they who have given us this Law, out of pure generosity. But, we should bear in mind, that this Law is more ancient, and far more ancient, than the titles of even the most ancient of their families. And, accordingly, when the present Royal Family were placed upon the throne, there was a solemn declaration by the Parliament in these words: "The Laws of England are the Birthright of the People of England." The Boroughmongers, by giving new powers to Justices of the Peace and Judges, setting aside the trial by Jury in many cases, both of property and person, even before the present horrible acts; and by a thousand other means, have, by Acts of Parliament, greatly despoiled us of the Law of the Land; but, never have they given us any one good in addition to it.
413. The Americans have taken special care to prevent the like encroachments on their rights: so that, while they have Courts of Justice, Juries, Judges, Sheriffs, and the rest, as we have; while they have all the good part of the Laws now in force in England, they have none of the bad. They have none of that Statute Law of England, or Act of Parliament Law, which has robbed us of a great part, and the best part of our "Birthright."
414. It is, as I said before, not my intention to go much into particulars here; but, I cannot refrain from noticing, that the People of America, when they come to settle their new governments, took special care to draw up specific Constitutions, in which they forbade any of their future law-makers to allow of any Titles of Nobility, any Privileged Class, any Established Church, or, to pass any law to give to any body the power of imprisoning men other wise than in due course of Common Law, except in cases of actual invasion or open rebellion. And, though actual invasion took place several times during the late war; though the Capital city was in possession of our troops, no such law was passed. Such is the effect of that confidence, which a good and just government has in the people whom it governs!
415. There is one more particular, as to the Laws of America, on which, as it is of very great importance, I think it right to remark. The uses, which have been made of the Law of Libel in England are well known. In the first place, the Common Law knows of no such offence as that of criminal libel, for which so many men have been so cruelly punished in England. The crime is an invention of late date. The Common Law punished men for breaches of the peace, but no words, whether written or spoken, can be a breach of the peace. But, then some Boroughmonger judges said, that words might tend to produce a breach of the peace; and that, therefore, it was criminal to use such words. This, though a palpable stretch of law, did, however, by usage, become law so far as to be acted upon in America as well as in England; and, when I lived in the State of PENNSYLVANIA, eighteen years ago, the Chief Justice of that State, finding even this law not sufficiently large, gave it another stretch to make it fit me. Whether the Legislature of that State will repair this act of injustice and tyranny remains yet to be seen.
116. The State of NEW YORK, in which I now live, awakened, probably by the act of tyranny, to which I allude, has taken care, by an Act of the State, passed in 1805, to put an end to those attacks on the press by charges of constructive libel, or, at least, to make the law such, that no man shall suffer from the preferring of any such charges unjustly.
417. The principal effect of this twisting of the law was, that, whether the words published were true or false the crime of publishing was the same; because, whether true or false, they tended to a breach of the peace! Nay, there was a Boroughmonger Judge in England, who had laid it down as law, that the truer the words were, the more criminal was the libel; because, said he, a breach of the peace was more likely to be produced by telling truth of a villain, than by telling falsehood of a virtuous man. In point of fact, this was true enough, to be sure; but what an infamous doctrine! What a base, what an unjust mind must this man have had!
418. The State of New York, ashamed that there should any longer be room for such miserable quibbling; ashamed to leave the Liberty of the Press exposed to the changes and chances of a doctrine so hostile to common sense as well as to every principle of freedom, passed an Act, which makes the truth of any publication a justification of it, provided the publisher can shew, that the publication was made with good motives and justifiable ends; and who can possibly publish truth without being able to shew good motives and justifiable ends? To expose and censure tyranny, profligacy, fraud, hypocrisy, debauchery, drunkenness: indeed, all sorts of wickedness and folly; and to do this in the words of truth, must tend, cannot fail to tend, to check wickedness and folly, and to strengthen and promote virtue and wisdom; and these, and these only, are the uses of the press. I know it has been said, for I have heard it said, that this is going too far; that it would tend to lay open the private affairs of families. And what then? Wickedness and folly should meet their due measure of censure, or ridicule, be they found where they may. If the faults of private persons were too trifling to deserve public notice, the mention of them would give the parties no pain, and the publisher would be despised for his tittle-tattle; that is all. And, if they were of a nature so grave as for the exposure of them to give the parties pain, the exposure would be useful, as a warning to others.
419. Amongst the persons whom I have heard express a wish, to see the press what they called free, and at the same time to extend the restraints on it, with regard to persons in their private life, beyond the obligation of adherence to truth, I have never, that I know of, met with one, who had not some powerful motive of his own for the wish, and who did not feel that he had some vulnerable part about himself. The common observation of these persons, is, that public men are fair game. Why public men only? Is it because their wickedness and folly affect the public? And, how long has it been, I should be glad to know, since bad example in private life has been thought of no consequence to the public? The press is called "the guardian of the public morals," but, if it is to meddle with none of the vices or follies of individuals in private life, how is it to act as the guardian of the morals of the whole community? A press perfectly free, reaches these vices, which the law cannot reach without putting too much power into the hands of the magistrate. Extinguish the press, and you must let the magistrate into every private house. The experience of the world suggests this remark; for, look where you will, you will see virtue in all the walks of life hand in hand with freedom of discussion, and vice hand in hand with censorships and other laws to cramp the press. England, once so free, so virtuous and so happy, has seen misery and crimes increase and the criminal laws multiply in the exact proportion of the increase of the restraints on the press and of the increase of the severity in punishing what are called libels. And, if this had not taken place it would have been very wonderful. Men who have the handling of the public money, and who know that the parliament is such as to be silenced, will be very apt to squander that money; this squandering causes heavy taxes; these produce misery amongst the greater number of the people; this misery produces crimes; to check these new penal laws are passed. Thus it is in England, where new hanging places, new and enlarged jails, prisons on the water, new modes of transporting, a new species of peace officers, a new species of Justices of the Peace, troops employed regularly in aid of the magistrate, and at last, spies and blood-money bands, all proclaim a real revolution in the nature of the government. If the press had continued free, these sad effects of a waste of the public money never could have taken place; for, the wasters of that money would have been so exposed as to be unable to live under the odium which th exposure would have occasioned; and, if the parliament had not checked the waste and punished the wasters, the public indignation would have destroyed the parliament. But, with a muzzled press, the wasters proceeded with the consciousness of impunity. Say to any individual man when he is 20 years of age: "You shall do just what you please with all the money of other people that you can, by any means, all your life long, get into your hands, and no one shall ever be permitted to make you accountable, or even to write or speak a word against you for any act of fraud, oppression, or waste." Should you expect such an individual to act honestly and wisely? Yet, this, in fact, is what a Boroughmonger Parliament and the new Law of Libel say to every set of Ministers.
420. Before I quit this subject of Libel, let me observe, however, that no juryman, even as the law now stands in England, is in conscience bound to find any man guilty on a charge of criminal libel, unless the evidence prove that the pretended libeller has been actuated by an evil motive, and unless it be also proved by evidence, that his words, spoken or written, were scandalous and malicious. Unless these things be clearly proved by evidence, the juryman, who finds a man guilty, is a base, perjured villain; and ought to be punished as such.
421. The State of Connecticut, in her new Constitution, before mentioned, has put this matter of libel on the true footing; namely; "In all prosecutions and indictments for libel the TRUTH may be given in evidence, and the Jury shall have the right to determine the law and the facts." Thus, then, common sense has, at last, got the better; and TRUTH can, in this State, at least, in no case, be a legal crime. But, indeed, the press has NOW no restraint in America, other than that imposed by TRUTH. Men publish what they please, so long as they do not publish falsehoods; and, even in such cases, they are generally punished by the public contempt. The press is, therefore, taken altogether, what the magistrate always ought to be: "a terror to evil doers, and a reward to those who do well." But, it is not the name of REPUBLIC that secures these, or any other of the blessings of freedom. As gross acts of tyranny may be committed, and as base corruption practised, under that name as under the name of absolute monarchy. And, it becomes the people of America to guard their minds against ever being, in any case, amused with names. It is the fair representation of the people that is the cause of all the good; and, if this be obtained, I, for my part, will never quarrel with anybody about names.
422. Taxes and Priests; for these always lay on heavily together. On the subject of taxes, I have, perhaps, spoken sufficiently clear before; but, it is a great subject. I will, on these subjects, address myself more immediately to my old neighbours of Botley, and endeavour to make them understand, what America is as to taxes and priests.
423. Worried, my old neighbours, as you are by tax-gatherers of all descriptions from the County-Collector, who rides in his coach and four down to the petty Window-Peeper, the little miserable spy, who is constantly on the look out for you, as if he were a thief-catcher and you were thieves; devoured as you are by these vermin, big and little, you will with difficulty form an idea of the state of America in this respect, it is a state of such blessedness, when compared with the state of things in England, that I despair of being able to make you fully comprehend what it is. Here a man may make new windows, or shut up old windows, as often as he pleases, without being compelled under a penalty to give notice to some insolent tax-gathering spy. Here he may keep as many horses as he likes, he may ride them or drive them at his pleasure, he may sell them or keep them, he may lend them or breed from them; he may, as far as their nature allows, do the same with regard to his dogs; he may employ his servants in his house, in his stables, in his garden, or in his fields, just as he pleases; he may, if he be foolish enough, have armorial bearings on his carriage, his watch-seals, on his plate, and, if he likes, on his very buckets and porridge pots; he may write his receipts, his bills, his leases, his bonds, and deeds upon unstamped paper; his wife and daughters may wear French gloves and Lace and French and India silks; he may purchase or sell lands and may sue at law for his rights: and all these, and a hundred other things, without any dread of the interloping and insolent interference of a tax-gatherer or spy of any description. Lastly, when he dies, he can bequeath his money and goods and houses and lands to whomsoever he pleases; and he can close his eyes without curses in his heart against a rapacious band of placemen, pensioners, grantees, sinecure holders, staff-officers, borough-jobbers, and blood-money spies, who stand ready to take from his friends, his relations, his widow, and his children, a large part of what he leaves, under the name of a tax upon legacies.
424. But, you will ask, "are there no taxes in America?" Yes; and taxes, or public contributions of some sort, there must be in every civilized state; otherwise government could not exist, and without government there could be no security for property or persons. The taxes in America consist principally of custom duties imposed on goods imported into the country. During the late war, there were taxes on several things in the country; but, they were taken off at the peace. In the cities and large towns, where paving and lamps and drains and scavengers are necessary, there are, of course, direct contributions to defray the expence of these. There are also, of course, county rates and road rates. But, as the money thus raised is employed for the immediate benefit of those who pay, and is expended amongst themselves and under their own immediate inspection, it does not partake of the nature of a tax. The taxes or duties, on goods imported, yield a great sum of money; and, owing to the persons employed in the collection being appointed for their integrity and ability, and not on account of their connection with any set of bribing and corrupt boroughmongers, the whole of the money thus collected is fairly applied to the public use, and is amply sufficient for all the purposes of government. The army, if it can be so called, costs but a mere trifle. It consists of a few men, who are absolutely necessary to keep forts from crumbling down, and guns from rotting with rust. The navy is an object of care, and its support and increase a cause of considerable expence. But the government, relying on the good sense and valour of a people, who must hate or disregard themselves before they can hate or disregard that which so manifestly promotes their own happiness, has no need to expend much on any species of warlike preparations. The government could not stand a week, if it were hated by the people; nor, indeed, ought it to stand an hour. It has the hearts of the people with it, and, therefore, it need expend nothing in blood-money, or in secret services of any kind. Hence the cheapness of this government; hence the small amount of the taxes; hence the ease and happiness of the People.
425. Great as the distance between you and me is, my old neighbours, I very often think of you; and especially when I buy salt, which our neighbour Warner used to sell us for 19s. a bushel, and which I buy here for 2s. 6d. This salt is made, you know, down somewhere by Hambel. This very salt; when brought here from England, has all the charges of freight, insurance, wharfage, storage, to pay. It pays besides, one third of its value in duty to the American Government before it be landed here. Then, you will observe, there is the profit of the American Salt Merchant, and then that of the shop-keeper who sells me the salt. And, after all this, I buy that very Hampshire salt for 2s. 6d. a bushel, English measure. What a government, then, must that of the Boroughmongers be! The salt is a gift of God. It is thrown on the shore. And yet, these tyrants will not suffer us to use it, until we have paid them 15s. a bushel for liberty to use it. They will not suffer us to use the salt, which God has sent us, until we have given them 15s. a bushel for them to bestow on themselves, on their families and dependants, in the payment of the interest of the Debt, which they have contracted, and in paying those, whom they hire to shoot at us. Yes; England is a fine country; it is a glorious country; it contains an ingenious, industrious, a brave and warm hearted people; but, it is now disgraced and enslaved: it is trodden down by these tyrants; and we must free it. We cannot, and we will not die their slaves.
426. Salt is not the only one of the English articles that we buy cheaper here than in England. Glass, for instance, we buy for half the price that you buy it. The reason is, that you are compelled to pay a heavy tax, which is not paid by us for that same glass. It is the same as to almost every thing that comes from England. You are compelled to pay the Boroughmongers a heavy tax on your candles and soap. You dare not make candles and soap, though you have the fat and the ashes in abundance, [f you attempt to do this, you are taken up and imprisoned; and, if you resist, soldiers are brought to shoot you. This is freedom, is it? Now, we, here, make our own candles and soap. Farmers sometimes sell soap and candles; but they never buy any. A labouring man, or a mechanic, buys a sheep now and then. Three or four days' works will buy a labourer a sheep to weigh sixty pounds, with seven or eight pounds of loose fat. The meat keeps very well, in winter, for a long time. The wool makes stockings. And the loose fat is made into candles and soap. The year before I left Hampshire, a poor woman at Holly Hill had dipped some rushes in grease to use instead of candles. An Exciseman found it out; went and ransacked her house; and told her, that, if the rushes had had another dip, they would have been candles, and she must have gone to jail! Why, my friends, if such a thing were told here, nobody would believe it. The Americans could not bring their minds to believe, that Englishmen would submit to such atrocious, such degrading tyranny.
427. I have had living with me an Englishman, who smokes tobacco; and he tells me, that he can buy as much tobacco here for three cents; that is, about three English half-pence, as he could buy in England for three shillings. The leather has no tax on it here; so that, though the shoe-maker is paid a high price for his labour, the labouring man gets his shoes very cheap. In short, there is no excise here; no property tax; no assessed taxes. We have no such men here as Chiddel and Billy Tovery to come and take our money from us. No window peepers. No spies to keep a look-out as to our carriages and horses and dogs. Our dogs that came from Botley now run about free from the spying of tax-gatherers. We may wear hair-powder if we like without paying for it, and a boy in our houses may whet our knives without our paying two pounds a year for it.
428. But, then, we have not the honour of being covered over with the dust, kicked up by the horses and raised by the carriage-wheels of such men as Old GEORGE ROSE and OLD GARNIER, each of whom has pocketted more than three hundred thousand pounds of the public, that is to say, the people's, money. There are no such men here. Those who receive public money here, do something for it. They earn it. They are no richer than other people. The Judges here are plain-dressed men. They go about with no sort of parade. They are dressed, on the Bench, like other men. The lawyers the same. Here are no black gowns and scarlet gowns and big foolish-looking wigs. Yet, in the whole world, there is not so well-behaved, so orderly, so steady a people; a people so obedient to the law. But, it is the law only that they will bow to. They will bow to nothing else. And, they bow with reverence to the law, because they know it to be just, and because it is made by men, whom they have all had a hand in choosing.
429. And, then, think of the tithes! I have talked to several farmers here about the tithes in England; and, they laugh. They sometimes almost make me angry; for they seem, at last, not to believe what I say, when I tell them, that the English farmer gives, and is compelled to give, the Parson a tenth part of his whole crop and of his fruit and milk and eggs and calves and lambs and pigs and wool and honey. They cannot believe this. They treat it as a sort of romance. I sometimes almost wish them to be farmers in England. I said to a neighbour the other day, in half anger: "I wish your farm were at Botley. There is a fellow there, who would soon let you "know, that your fine apple-trees do not belong to you. He would have his nose in your sheep-fold, your calf-pens, your milk-pail, your sow's-bed, if not in the sow herself. Your daughters would have no occasion to hunt out the hen's nests: he would do that for them." And then I gave him a proof of an English Parson's vigilance by telling him the story of Baker's peeping out the name, marked on the sack, which the old woman was wearing as a petticoat. To another of my neighbours, who is very proud of the circumstance of his grandfather being an Englishman, as, indeed, most of the Americans are, who are descended from Englishmen: to this neighbour I was telling the story about the poor woman at Holly Hill, who had nearly dipped her rushes once too often. He is a very grave and religious man. He looked very seriously at me, and said, that falsehood was falsehood, whether in jest or earnest. But, when I invited him to come to my house, and told him, that I would show him the acts which the Borough-men had made to put us in jail if we made our own soap and candles, he was quite astonished. "What! said he, and is Old England really come to this! Is the land of our forefathers brought to this state of abject slavery! Well, Mr. Cobbett, I confess, that I was always for king George, during our Revolutionary war; but, I believe, all was for the best; for, if I had had my wishes, he "might have treated us as he now treats the people of England." "He!" said I. "It is not he; he, poor man, does nothing to the people, and never has done any thing to the people. He has no power more than you have. None of his family have any. All put together, they have not a thousandth part so much as I have; for I am able, though here, to annoy our tyrants, to make them less easy than they would be; but, these tyrants care no more for the Royal Family than they do for so many posts or logs of wood." And then I explained to him who and what the Boroughmongers were, and how they oppressed us and the king too. I told him how they disposed of the Church livings, and, in short, explained to him all their arts and all their cruelties. He was exceedingly shocked; but was glad, at any rate to know the truth.
430. When I was, last winter, in the neighbourhood of Harrisburgh in Pennsylvania, I saw some hop-planters. They grow prodigious quantities of hops. They are obliged to put their hills so wide a part, that they can have only four hundred hills upon an acre; and yet they grow three thousand pounds of hops upon an acre, with no manure and with once ploughing in the year. When I told them about the price of hops in England and about the difficulty of raising them, they were greatly surprised; but, what was their astonishment, when I told them about the hop-poles of CHALCRAFT at Curbridge! The hop is naturally a weed in England as well as in America. Two or three vines had come up out of Chalcraft's garden hedge, a few years ago. Chalcraft put poles to them; and, there might be a pound or two of hops on these poles. Just before the time of gathering, one of the spies called Excisemen called on Chalcraft and asked him why he did not enter his hops. Chalcraft did not understand; but, answered, he meant to take them in shortly, though he did not think they were yet quite ripe. "Aye," said the Exciseman, " but I mean, when do you mean to enter them at the excise office?" Chalcraft did not know (not living in a hop-country,) that he had already incurred a penalty for not reporting to the tyrants that he had hops growing in his garden hedge! He did not know, that he could not gather them and put them by without giving notice, under a penalty of fifty pounds. He did not know, that he could not receive this little gift of God without paying money to the Boroughmongers in the shape of tax; and, to the Parson in the shape of tithe, or, to give a tenth of the hops to the Parson, and not dare pick a single hop till he had sent notice to the Parson! What he did, upon this occasion, I have forgotten; but, it is likely that he let the hops stand and rot, or cut them down and flung them away as weeds. Now, poor men in England are told to be content with rags and hungry bellies, for that is their lot; that "it has pleased Divine Providence to place them in that state." But, here is a striking instance of the falsehood and blasphemy of this Doctrine; for, providence had sent Chalcraft the hops, and he had put poles to them. Providence had brought the hops to perfection; but then came the Boroughmongers and the Parson to take from this poor man this boon of a benevolent Maker; What, did God order a tax with all its vexatious regulations, to be imposed upon what he had freely given to this poor man? Did God ordain that, in addition to this tax, a tenth should be yielded to a Parson, who had solemnly vowed at his ordination, that he believed himself called, not by the love of tithes, but by "the Holy Ghost, to take on him the cure of souls" and to "bring stray sheep into the fold of the Lord?" Did God ordain these things? Had it pleased God to do this? What impunity, what blasphemy, then, to ascribe to Providence the manifold sufferings occasioned by the Boroughmongers' taxes and Parson's tithes!
431. But, my Botley neighbours, you will exclaim, "No tithes! Why, then, there can be no Churches and no Parsons! The people must know nothing of God or Devil; and must all go to hell!" By no means, my friends. Here are plenty of Churches. No less than three Episcopal (or English) Churches; three Presbyterian Churches; three Lutheran Churches; one or two Quaker Meeting-houses; and two Methodist Places; all within six miles of the spot where I am sitting. And, these, mind, not poor shabby Churches; but each of them larger and better built and far handsomer than Botley Church, with the Church-yards all kept in the neatest order, with a head-stone to almost every grave. As to the Quaker Meeting-house, it would take Botley Church into its belly, if you were first to knock off the steeple.
432. Oh, no! Tithes are not necessary to promote religion. When our Parsons, such as Baker, talk about religion, or the church, being in danger; they mean, that the tithes are in danger. They mean, that they are in danger of being compelled to work for their bread. This is what they mean. You remember, that, at our last meeting; at Winchester, they proposed for us to tell the Prince Regent, that we would support the Church. I moved, to leave out the word church, and insert the word tithes; for, as there were many presbyterians and other dissenters present, they could not, with clear consciences, pledge themselves to support the church. This made them furious. It was lifting up the mask; and the parsons were enraged beyond measure.
433. Oh, no! Tithes do not mean religion. Religion means a reverence for God. And, what has this to do with tithes? Why cannot you reverence God, without Baker and his wife and children eating up a tenth part of the corn and milk and eggs and lambs and pigs and calves that are produced in Botley parish? The Parsons, in this country, are supported by those who choose to employ them. A man belongs to what congregation he pleases. He pays what is required by the rules of the congregation. And, if he think that it is not necessary for him to belong to any congregation, he pays nothing at all. And, the consequence is, that all is harmony and good neighbourhood. Here are not disputes about religion; or, if there be, they make no noise. Here is no ill-will on this account. A man is never asked what religion he is of, or whether he be of any religion at all. It is a matter that nobody interferes in. What need, therefore, is there of an established Church. What need is there of tithes? And, why should not that species of property be taken for public use? That is to say, as far as it has any thing to do with religion? I know very well, that tithes do not operate as many people pretend; I know that those who complain most about them have the least right to complain; but, for my present purpose, it is sufficient to shew, that they have nothing to do with religion.
434. If, indeed, the Americans were wicked, disorderly, criminal people, and, of course, a miserable and foolish people: then we might doubt upon the subject: then we might possibly suppose, that their wickedness and misery arose, in some degree, at least, from the want of tithes. But, the contrary is the fact. They are the most orderly, sensible, and least criminal people in the whole world. A common labouring man has the feelings of a man of honour; he never thinks of violating the laws; he crawls to nobody; he will call every man Sir, but he will call no man master. When he utters words of respect towards any one, they do not proceed from fear or hope, but from civility and sincerity. A native American labourer is never rude towards his employer, but he is never cringing.
435. However, the best proof of the inutility of an established Church is the absence of crimes in this country, compared to the state of England in that respect. There have not been three felonies tried in this country since I arrived in it. The Court-house is at two miles from me. An Irishman was tried for forgery in the summer of 1817, and the whole country was alive to go and witness the novelty. I have not heard of a man being hanged in the whole of the United States since my arrival. The Boroughmongers, in answer to statements like these, say that this is a thinly inhabited country. This very country is more thickly settled than Hampshire. The adjoining country, towards the city of New York is much more thickly settled than Hampshire. New York itself and its immediate environs contain nearly two hundred thousand inhabitants, and after London, is, perhaps, the first commercial and maritime city in the world. Thousands of sailors, ship-carpenters, dock yard people, dray-men, boat-men, crowd its wharfs and quays. Yet, never do we hear of hanging; scarcely ever of a robbery; men go to bed with scarcely locking their doors; and never is there seen in the streets what is called in England, a girl of the town; and, what is still more, never is there seen in those streets a beggar. I wish you, my old neighbours, could see this city of New York. Portsmouth and Gosport, taken together, are miserable holes compared to it. Man's imagination can fancy nothing so beautiful as its bay and port, from which two immense rivers sweep up on the sides of the point of land, on which the city is. These rivers are continually covered with vessels of various sizes bringing the produce of the land, while the bay is scarcely less covered with ships going in and out from all parts of the world. The city itself is a scene of opulence and industry: riches without insolence, and labour without grudging.
436. What Englishman can contemplate this brilliant sight without feeling some little pride that this city bears an English name? But, thoughts of more importance ought to fill his mind. He ought to contrast the ease, the happiness, the absence of crime which prevail here with the incessant anxieties, the miseries and murderous works in England. In his search after causes he will find them no where but in the government: and, as to an established church, if he find no sound argument to prove it to be an evil; at the very least he must conclude, that it is not a good; and, of course that property to the amount of five millions a year is very unjustly as well as unwisely bestowed on its clergy.
437. Nor, let it be said, that the people here are of a better natural disposition than the people of England are. How can it be? They are, the far greater part of them, the immediate descendants of Englishmen, Irishmen, and Scotsmen. Nay, in the city of New York it is supposed, that a full half of the labour is performed by natives of Ireland, while men of that Island make a great figure in trade, at the bar, and in all the various pursuits of life. They have their Romish Chapels there in great brilliancy; and they enjoy "Catholic Emancipation" without any petitioning or any wrangling. In short, blindfold an Englishman and convey him to New York, unbind his eyes, and he will think himself in an English city. The same sort of streets; shops precisely the same; the same beautiful and modest women crowding in and out of them; the same play-houses; the same men, same dress, same language: he will miss by day only the nobility and the beggars, and by night only the streetwalkers and pickpockets. These are to be found only where there is an established clergy, upheld by what is called the state, and which word means, in England, the Boroughmongers.
438. Away, then, my friends, with all cant about the church, and the church being in danger. If the church, that is to say, the tithes, were completely abolished; if they, and all the immense property of the church, were taken and applied to public use, there would not be a sermon or a prayer the less. Not only the Bible but the very Prayer-book is in use here as much as in England, and, I believe, a great deal more. Why give the five millions a year then, to Parsons and their wives and children? Since the English, Irish, and Scotch, are so good, so religious, and so moral here without glebes and tithes; why not use these glebes and tithes for other purposes seeing they are possessions which can legally be disposed of in another manner?
439. But, the fact is, that it is the circumstance of the church being established by law that makes it of little use as to real religion, and as to morals, as far as they be connected with religion. Because, as we shall presently see, this establishment forces upon the people, parsons whom they cannot respect, and whom indeed, they must despise; and, it is easy to conceive, that the moral precepts of those, whom we despise on account of their immorality, we shall never much attend to, even supposing the precepts themselves to be good. If a precept be self-evidently good; if it be an obvious duty which the parson inculcates, the inculcation is useless to us, because, whenever it is wanted to guide us, it will occur without the suggestion of any one; and, if the precept be not self-evidently good, we shall never receive it as such from the lips of a man, whose character and life tell us we ought to suspect the truth of every thing he utters. When the matters as to which we are receiving instructions are, in their nature, wholly dissimilar to those as to which we have witnessed the conduct of the teacher, we may reasonably, in listening to the precept, disregard that conduct. Because, for instance, a man, though a very indifferent Christian, may be a most able soldier, seaman, physician, lawyer, or almost any thing else; and what is more, may be honest and zealous in the discharge of his duty in any of these several capacities. But, when the conduct, which we have observed in the teacher belongs to the same department of life as the precept which he is delivering, if the one differ from the other we can not believe the teacher to be sincere, unless he, while he enforces his precept upon us, acknowledge his own misconduct. Suppose me, for instance, to be a great liar, as great a liar, if possible, as STEWART of the COURIER, who has said that I have been "fined 700 dollars for writing against the American government," though I never was prosecuted in America in all my life. Suppose me to be as great a liar as STEWART, and I were to be told by a parson, whom I knew to be as great a liar as myself, that I should certainly go to hell if I did not leave off lying. Would his words have any effect upon me? No: because I should conclude, that if he thought what he said, he would not be such a liar himself. I should rely upon the parson generally, or I should not. If I did, I should think myself safe until I out-lied him; and, if I did not rely on him generally, of what use would he be to me?
440. Thus, then, if men be sincere about religion; if it be not all a mere matter of form, it must always be of the greatest consequence, that the example of the teacher correspond with his teaching. And the most likely way to insure this, is to manage things so that he may in the first place, be selected by the people, and, in the second place, have no rewards in view other than those which are to be given in consequence of his perseverance in a line of good conduct.
441. And thus it is with the clergy in America, who are duly and amply rewarded for their diligence, arid very justly respected for the piety, talent, and zeal which they discover; but, who have no tenure of their places other than that of the will of the congregation. Hence it rarely indeed happens, that there is seen amongst them an impious, an immoral, or a despicable man. Whether the teaching of even these Reverend persons have any very great effect in producing virtue and happiness amongst men is a question upon which men may, with out deserving to be burnt alive, take the liberty to differ; especially since the world has constantly before its eyes a society, who excel in all the Christian virtues, who practise that simplicity which others teach, who, in the great work of charity, really and truly hide from the left hand that which the right hand doeth; and who know nothing of Bishop, Priest, Deacon, or Teacher of any description. Yes, since we have the Quakers constantly before our eyes, we may, without deserving to be burnt alive, question the utility of paying any parsons or religious teachers at all. But, the worst of it is, we are apt to confound things; as we have, by a figure of speech, got to call a building a church, when a church really means a body of people; so we are apt to look upon the priest as being religious, and especially when we call him the reverend; and, it often sadly occurs that no two things can be wider from each other in this quality. Some writer has said, that he would willingly leave to the clergy every thing above the tops of the chimneys; which, perhaps, was making their possessions rather too ethereal; but, since our law calls them "spiritual persons;" since they profess, that "their kingdom is not of this world," and, since those of our church have solemnly declared, that they believed themselves to be called to the ministry "by the Holy Ghost:" it is, I think, a little out of character for them to come poking and grunting and grumbling about after our eggs, potatoes, and sucking pigs.
442. However, upon the general question of the utility or non-utility of paid religious teachers, let men decide for themselves; but if teachers be to be paid, it seems a clear point, in my mind, that they should be paid upon the American plan: and this, I think, must be obvious to every one, who is able to take a view of the English Clergy. They are appointed by the absolute will of the Boroughmongers. They care nothing for the good will of their congregation or parish. It is as good to them to be hated by their parishioners as to be loved by them. They very frequently never even see their parish more than once in four or five years. They solemnly declare at the altar, that they believe themselves called by the Holy Ghost to take on them the cure of souls; they get possession of a living; and leave the cure of souls to some curate, to whom they give a tenth part, perhaps, of the income. Many of them have two livings, at thirty miles distance from each other. They live at neither very frequently; and, when they do they only add to the annoyance which their curate gives.
443. As to their general character and conduct; in what public transaction of pre-eminent scandal have they not taken a part? Who were found most intimate with Mrs. CLARKE, and most busy in her commission dealing affairs? Clergymen of the Church of England. This is notorious. Miss TOCKER tells of the two livings given to PARSON GURNEY for his electioneering works in Cornwall. And, indeed all over the country, they have been and are the prime agents of the Boroughmongers. Recently they have been the tools of Sidmouth for gagging the press in the country parts of the kingdom. Powis and Guillim were the prosecutors of Messrs. Pilling and Melor; and for which if they be not made to answer, the kingdom ought to be destroyed. They are the leading men at Pitt Clubs all over the country; they were the foremost to defend the peculation of Melville. In short, there has been no public man guilty of an infamous act, of whom they have not taken the part; and no act of tyranny of which they have not been the eulogists and the principal instrument.
444. But, why do I attempt to describe Parsons to Hampshire men? You saw them all assembled in grand cohort the last time that I saw any of you. You saw them at Winchester, when they brought forward their lying address to the Regent. You saw them on that day, and so did I; and in them I saw a band of more complete blackguards than I ever before saw in all my life. I then saw Parson Baines of Exton, standing up in a chair and actually spitting in Lord Cochrane's poll, while the latter was bending his neck out to speak. Lord Cochrane looked round and said, " B. Gó Sir, if you do that again I'll knock you down." "You be dód," said Baines, "I'll "spit where I like." Lord Cochrane struck at him; Baines jumped down, put his two hands to his mouth in a huntsman-like way, and cried " whoop! whoop!" till he was actually black in the face. One of them trampled upon my heel as I was speaking. I looked round, and begged him to leave off. " You be dód," said he, "you be dód, Jacobin." He then tried to press on me, to stifle my voice, till I clapped my elbow into his ribs and made "the spiritual person" hiccup. There were about twenty of them mounted upon a large table in the room; and there they jumped, stamped, hallooed, roared, thumped with canes and umbrellas, squalled, whistled, and made all sorts of noises. As Lord Cochrane and I were going back to London, he said that, so many years as he had been in the navy, he never had seen a band of such complete blackguards. And I said the same for the army. And, I declare, that, in the whole course of my life, I have never seen any men, drunk or sober, behave in so infamous a manner. Mr. PHILLIPS, of Eling, (now Doctor Phillips) whom I saw standing in the room, I tapped on the shoulder, and asked, whether he was not ashamed. Mr. LEE, of the College; Mr. OGLE, of Bishop's Waltham; and DOCTOR HILL, of Southampton: these were exceptions. Perhaps there might be some others; but the mass was the most audacious, foul, and atrocious body of men I ever saw. We had done nothing to offend them. We had proposed nothing to offend them in the smallest degree. But, they were afraid of our speeches: they knew they could not answer us; and they were resolved, that, if possible, we should not be heard. There was one parson, who had his mouth within a foot of Lord Cochrane's ear, all the time his Lordship was speaking, and who kept on saying: "You lie! you lie! you lie! you lie!" as loud as he could utter the words.
445. BAKER, the Botley Parson, was extremely busy. He acted the part of buffoon to LOCKHART. He kept capering about behind him, and really seemed like a merry andrew rather than a "spiritual person."
446. Such is the character of the great body of Hampshire Parsons. I know of no body of men so despicable, and yet, what sums of public money do they swallow! It now remains for me to speak more particularly of BAKER, he who, for your sins I suppose, is fastened upon you as your Parson. But what I have to say of this man must be the subject of an other Letter. That it should be the subject of any letter at all may well surprize all who know the man; for not one creature knows him without despising him. But, it is not BAKER, it is the scandalous priest, that I strike at. It is the impudent, profligate, hardened priest that I will hold up to public scorn.
447. When I see the good and kind people here going to church to listen to some decent man of good moral character and of sober quiet life, I always think of you. You are just the game sort of people as they are here; but, what a difference in the Clergyman! What a difference between the sober, sedate, friendly man who preaches to one of these congregations, and the greedy, chattering, lying, backbiting, mischief-making, everlasting plague, that you go to hear, and are compelled to hear, or stay away from the church. Baker always puts me in mind of the Magpie.
The Magpie, bird of chatt'ring fame,
Whose tongue and hue bespeak his name;
The first a squalling clam'rous clack,
The last made up of white and black;
Feeder alike on flesh and corn,
Greedy alike at eve and morn;
Of all the birds the prying pest,
Must needs be Parson o'er the rest.
Thus I began a fable, when I lived at Botley. I have forgotten the
rest of it. It will please you to hear that there are no
in America; but, it will please you still more to hear, that no men
that resemble them are par sons here. I have sometimes been half
tempted to believe, that the Magpie first suggested to tyrants the
idea of having a tithe-eating Clergy. The Magpie devours the corn and
grain; so does the Parson. The Magpie takes the wool from the sheep's
backs; so does the Parson. The Magpie devours alike the young animals
and the eggs; so does the Parson. The Magpie's clack is everlastingly
going; so is the Parson's. The Magpie repeats by rote words that are
taught it; so does the Parson. The Magpie is always skipping and
hopping and peeping into other's nests: so is the Parson. The
Magpie's colour is partly black and partly white; so is the Parson's.
The Magpie's greediness, impudence, and cruelty are proverbial; so
are those of the Parson. I was saying to a farmer the other day, that
if the Boroughmongers had a mind to ruin America, they would another
time, send over five or six good large flocks of Magpies, instead of
five or six of their armies; but, upon second thought, they would do
the thing far more effectually by sending over five or six flocks of
their Parsons, and getting the people to receive them and cherish
them as the Bulwark