Matthew’s second, much longer address is to the people of both Perthshire and Fifeshire, following his additional election on the 22nd Dec 1838 to be Fifeshire’s delegate to the National Convention. It is dated “Jan. 5, 1839”, and was published in the True Scotsman sometime in early January 1839, and then republished in the pro-Chartist Fife Herald in two instalments (on 24th and 31st Jan 1839). This address provides considerable detail on the reforms that Matthew would have liked to see implemented in Britain, and these go well beyond the remit of the People’s Charter, which is simply a six-point plan for implementing fair Universal Suffrage. Matthew expounds on such issues as: (1) “a general system of education for the Empire” (in effect, a National Curriculum and a system of completion to ensure good-quality teachers); (2) “a national system of colonization” (to allow Britain’s poorest to escape poverty via emigration); (3) “the establishment of a sanitary police” (in effect, Health and Safety Officers); (4) a maximum 10-hours-per-day regulation for working hours; (5) the removal of all import and export duties (following Matthew’s belief in the superiority of a free-market economy), except for “intoxicating articles, and the produce of slave labour”; (6) “the abolition of the law of entail and primogeniture succession” (following Matthew’s belief that this law was against nature’s law of natural selection – see Note B to On Naval Timber and Arboriculture; (7) radical reform and simplification of the civil law; (8) land property ownership to be decided afresh, based on currently acknowledged claims rather than pre-existing documents; (9) further repressive taxes to be removed; (10) radical reform of the army and navy (to make working conditions palatable, and to allow non-commissioned officers to be promoted to commissioned officers); (11) radical reform of the land tenure system, to allow tenants to be rewards for improvements in buildings and crop yields (see Matthew’s many later letters to agricultural journals on this issue); and (12) improvements to monetary regulations (not explained in detail, but also expounded in Emigration Fields).
There are also insights into Matthew’s experiences as a young man. Calman (1812), using information provided by Matthew’s daughter Euphemia, reports that “Matthew travelled a good deal on the Continent at various times”, and also that “he was in France in 1815 when news of Napoleon’s return from Elba caused in hurredly to leave the country”. Here, in his second address, Matthew reveals that he was in Poland where he witnessed the terrible human cost of the “scorched earth” tactics employed by the Russians during Napoleon’s “Invasion of Russia” in 1812 (historically, Poland included parts of modern-day Lithuania, Belarus and Ukraine, and Matthew is presumably referring to one of these areas – probably Lithuania). He reports that he “lived for some time” in a city that had witnessed many sieges during the Napoleonic Wars, and he specifically mentions the scourge of typhus which is known to have played a role in decimating Napoleon’s Grande Armée on its retreat from Russia and Russian-occupied Poland. He also “passed a few days” in Hamburg, where he learned of the terrible consequences of the expulsion of the town’s poorest civilians by the French occupiers on Christmas Eve 1813 (“a great proportion of these helpless creatures were frozen to death”). The fact that Matthew was well acquainted with the horrors of war may explain why there is evidence of an internal struggle between his “might is right” views on Imperialism and his contrasting views on human benevolence (see, for example, Note D (p.376) from On Naval Timber and Arboriculture). It also seems that Matthew’s raw experiences of seeing the world, both good and bad, motivated him to exhort all young men to travel widely before settling down (see pp.245-8 in On Naval Timber and Arboriculture).
Some choice passages from Matthew’s second address follow:
On sunlight and miasma: “The light of the sun is a stimulant to the animal economy, and is necessary to health; besides, these pits are filled with unwholesome gases to the level of the street (the malaria gases, generally heavier than common air, standing in the hollows like water in cup); and it is merely administering slow poison to keep working-people in these damp unwholesome dens.”
On the uneven distribution of wealth: “Besides, our present laws are formed to nurse up an aristocracy, and have had the effect to throw property into the hands of the few, and retain there, leaving the masses in poverty; and counteracting laws are necessary, to bring back society to a wholesome condition. Where the many are in extreme poverty, and the few very wealthy, it is impossible that freedom can exist under any form of government.”
On Christianity as an opium of the masses: “Even the Christian religion, which is not disposed to regard riches as virtue and poverty as a disqualification, is made instrumental to this. The enchanting beauty of its mild benevolence, its poverty-approving principles, and, I would say, its Radicalism, instead of being taken by the rich a rule for themselves to walk by, are only made use of as a lure to entice the poor more readily to imbibe, and be guided by its doctrines to passive endurance and submission under privations and oppression.”
On the Conservative “creed” that human nature is irrevocably debased (Matthew refers to an essay “The Athenian Democracy” in the Conservative “Blackwood’s Magazine”, No. 261, p.47): “The Macchiavellian, or Conservative, or tyrant-creed, is, that “human nature is utterly debased; their principles government, that man is radically and universally corrupt, wholly selfish,” a ferocious animal only fit to exist in chains”
On man, like other living things, being affected by their circumstances: “Man is, to a great extent, the creature of circumstance. When the condition in which he is placed is favourable to the development of the moral sense, the human sympathies, and the intellect, then he is benevolent, humane, and wise; and when it is unfavourable to these, when crushing despotism, ignorance, and superstition prevail, then he is unprincipled, avaricious, vindictive, intolerant, persecuting, brutal. Education and social reform are means of ameliorating our nature.”
On Matthew’s reasons for joining the Chartists: “I join the movement because I think Universal Suffrage just, necessary, and practicable; because I believe it to be the only means to effect a bloodless and beneficial social change, which will greatly ameliorate the condition of my suffering countrymen; and because I believe, unless Universal Suffrage is carried, the whole social edifice will go to pieces, causing great destruction of life and wide devastation.”
On his travels Abroad, and the horrors of war: “I have witnessed the effects of continued anarchy and war in Poland, the most fruitful country of Europe, devastated to such a degree, that almost nothing was left on the surface of the earth that could be destroyed, nothing remaining but the natural fertility of the soil, and a wretched residue of the population which the sword and the typhus had spared. One of the cities in which I lived for some time, had withstood several sieges in the course of a few years; and in the last siege, when the French were expelled, independent of the men, women, and children who were torn to pieces by shot and shells, 200 average died daily, for several months, of typhus, caused by starvation and misery. In another large city on the Continent, where I passed a few days, from a dread that provisions might fail, the besieged garrison drove out the women and children from the city upon the besiegers into the open country, where every house, for a considerable distance, had been burned. This was done immediately before nightfall, in the inclement season of winter, and before the morrow’s dawn a great proportion of these helpless creatures were frozen to death. This is war.”
On the issue of “ignorance”: “The Exclusives pretend that the poorer classes have not the requisite information to use their vote to promote their own interest. The plea of ignorance has always been, and will always be, the tyrant’s plea,— enslaving his fellow-man because he is ignorant, and keeping him in ignorance that he may enslave him. Because a man is poor, does this warrant us in robbing him of all that remains — his natural rights?”
On the superiority of “moral force” over “physical force”: “The moral right of every man to the franchise is so plain and decided, that none of principle superior to a thief, or robber, or slave-driver, can oppose it. Nothing can stand before so just a claim; and if the Exclusive party, from their want of principle and their aristocratical contempt of their fellow-subjects, shall have the madness to resist, the moral and physical power of the masses is such, that the resisting party must ultimately be swept before it as rubbish before the lava flood. Let justice, utility, loyalty, union of moral and physical power, be inscribed on our banners. We know that in our sinews lies the physical force of the nation; but we glory that our physical force is under the control of moral force, never to be exerted but on the side of social improvement and order. The plunder-phalanx, the deniers of our rights, the opposers of rational liberty, the repressors of industry, the promoters of misery, are the men who put their trust in physical force alone — moral force is their mortal enemy. To them we stand irreconcilably opposed, as is the principle of good to evil.”
The pdf images for the second address, as published in the Fife Herald on 24th and 31st Jan 1839, can be found in PMP > Newspaper Articles > Chartism.
TO THE MEN OF PERTHSHIRE AND FIFESHIRE.
DEAR COUNTRYMEN,— Having notice that I have been appointed to take charge of the Universal Suffrage Petition from Fifeshire by the Fife Demonstration Meeting of the 22d ultimo, I have only to state to the men of Fifeshire, as well as of Perthshire, that I will endeavour to perform the duty in the manner I think most calculated to forward the great object, attend to their instructions, and consult with them regarding the best means of proceeding. I would suggest that a Meeting should take place in each County — say at Perth and Cupar — consisting of a person or persons from each District, acquainted with or representing the opinions of the District, to draw up a set of instructions; or, at least, that a committee of persons, in whom the districts can confide, should be appointed to do so. This is very desirable. It would give confidence to the Delegate, and prevent any misunderstanding on his part respecting the wish of the majority, by which, of course, he ought to be guided, or resign. It would also prevent him giving any umbrage to the minority, should a difference of opinion exist amongst the Chartists. Besides, it would create inquiry and discussion, and tend to the advancement of political knowledge. It is necessary to the existence of freemen that they form their own conclusions respecting all leading political questions, and do not blindly submit to the dictation of any leader or representative agent. In case the Delegate should differ in opinion respecting the eligibility of any his instructions, he has always his remedy in resigning. The adoption this plan would prevent mistakes, and bring the bodies represented and their agent to a mutual respect.
The combination of the two counties will give more unity and effect to their exertions. To increase Dele- gates, in any case, beyond a convenient working number, only serves weaken their efficiency: besides, the law of the land permits of no more than 49 to take charge of any petition for the kingdom; and taking Britain and Ireland in masses of population equal to Perth and Fifeshire united, the number of Delegates would amount to 100. It is, therefore, necessary that several counties or districts unite, as, if they do not, the greater part of the nation will be left out, and the 49 Delegates will be held by the governing aristocracy as representing a mere fractional part of the people, and all their solicitation and canvassing in favour of the Petition be treated with contempt. Even in the case of the British House of Commons, it would greatly increase its efficiency to have only from 200 to 300 members (paid), but with this proviso, that each electoral division chose also a supporting member, that if illness or private business interfere with the attendance of the leading member, the supporting member may take his place and pay for the absent time. As it is, one individual amongst such a crowd of members (658) finds himself so inconsequential, that he thinks he may be idle, or even commit peccadilloes, screened by his own insignificance; and the consequence is, that the assembly of 658 members has frequently not so many present as constitute a House (40), and cannot sit, or has only some half-hundred interested individuals busy in getting some private bill, perhaps injurious to the public, smuggled through. When chosen for Perthshire, I published an address to the men of that county, which, as it contains a general review of the present state of affairs, and is equally suited for Fifeshire, I would desire to lay also before the men of Fife. In this address I limited my remarks chiefly to pointing out the causes of the degradation and misery of the industrious classes,— l shall now endeavour to point out a few of the reforms and advantages which the people may expect to obtain by a House of Commons appointed by universal suffrage. I submit them to the men Perth and Fifeshire for public discussion.
I.— A General System of Education for the Empire. I would recommend the following scheme for the country:
1st, The formation divisions of from five to six thousand of population, by the union of several parishes.
2d, These to be subdivided into sections of from five to six hundred of a population, having a Schoolmaster, and two Apprentices from 14 years of age and upwards, for each section. In some districts where the population is thin, the sections would require to be formed with a less number.
3d, Each division to appoint a Committee annually of ten individuals, each section appointing one, chosen by fathers of children under 14 years of age. This Committee to have full power to appoint and dismiss teachers.
4th, Two Government Commissioners, sufficiently qualified, and with a salary of about £300 per annum, appointed by the Justices of the County (the Justices to be elected by the people), to supervise every 200 schools, devoting a day to examine each, annually. These Commissioners merely to report upon the efficiency of the schools, noting down this in numbers 1, 2, 3, 4, 5; the number 1 for very superior, 2 superior, 3 ordinary, 4 inferior, 5 very inferior.
5th, That the Teachers have a fixed sum, say from to £l to £1, 10s. per annum for each scholar — such as that the average income may be about £80, (a sufficient income had we a free trade,) and the apprentices from 3s. to 4s. for each scholar, paid from the tithes. The teaching to be free. No scholar to be admitted under seven years of age. The number of scholars to be counted every day, and an average taken for the season.
6th, The system of Education be reading, writing, arithmetic, geography, the first six books of Euclid, with practical Mathematics, and a little natural philosophy, chemistry, and botany. The session to consist of ten months — say from 1st October to 1st August; and no scholar admitted unless at two periods — lst October and 1st March — unless in the case the parents removing from one section to another.
7th, The general use of one set of books, constructed on purpose, totally unconnected with religious doctrines, but calculated to give useful information, and to cultivate the moral sense and the benevolent affections. These books to be stereotyped, and afforded at the lowest possible price; the paper also to be purchased by contract for the district, and both given out by the teacher at prime cost. Religious instruction to be considered the business of the clergyman and not of the schoolmaster.
8th, The school-room or rooms to be airy and dry, and the teacher to have a good dwelling-house, with an enclosed garden of at least two acres. The scholars to be employed about an hour daily, excepting during winter, in cultivating the garden, and gaining a good knowledge of horticulture, with some knowledge of botany and vegetable physiology. The proper management of a garden to be one of the requisites of a teacher.
9th, No retiring salaries to be given to schoolmasters, it being expected that the acting salary will enable them to subscribe to a fund for support when they become unfit for duty.
In Cities nearly the same system might followed, with this difference, that a separate teacher be allotted for each branch of education. The schools, if possible, to be in healthy, airy situations, outside and around the city. In cities it is highly advantageous to have infant schools, with airy play-grounds. In the country, infant schools are pernicious, as children left to themselves in the country, with nature before them, acquire greater mental and bodily vigour, and more power of self-direction, than when under the constraint of an infant school.
A tenth part the produce of the land (tithes or tiends) belongs to the public in Scotland equally as in England and Ireland, and ought to be held sacred to purposes of public instruction, as far as instruction is required. It is absurd to allow the landlords in Scotland to retain the tithes, to which they have no right whatever. In average cases, the rental is calculated at one half the produce, and the tenths are advantageously commuted in Scotland into one-fifth of the rental, the payment of which is not injurious to agriculture, while the payment of the tenth of the produce is found to be highly so. In Scotland, in many cases, the tenths have been valued (commuted into money) at time when, from a very defective agriculture, the produce was much less than it now is, and the value of money many times greater; while in other cases the valuation has been taken lately; and the consequence is, that the old-valuation-lands are not charged with the one-hundred part of the rental as tithes, while those recently valued are chargeable with nearly one-fifth. But in most cases these tithes are what is termed not exhausted — that is, not called up for the public service — the clergyman’s stipend or schoolmaster’s salary — to the extent due even by the old and very inadequate valuation. Were a just valuation of this national property to take place, which, in all cases where the lands are under lease, should be taken at one-fifth the rental, and the whole amount called up from the landholders, as it ought to be, we should have not only sufficient funds for a national system of education, and the stipends of the present clergymen, should a State-paid clergy be considered necessary, but also for an emigration fund.
II.— An improved field for labour and the employment of capital, by a national system of colonization. This, if sufficiently extensive, would produce higher wages, greater returns upon capital, industrial prosperity — would extirpate pauperism, and render marriage and a family as advantageous to working-men in Britain as in the United States of America. The poor-rates, which in England have amounted to six or eight millions annually, should be appropriated to carry out and locate our surplus labour population; and in Ireland, a tax of ten per cent. on rental — or, better, the whole of the tithes commuted into a fifth of the rent payable by the landlord (the Church lands being quite adequate for an educational fund), should be allotted to this purpose, in place of a poor-law. Emigration-fields, of almost unlimited extent, are at our command — conveyance to the most distant regions is every day becoming more expeditious and safe. By transplanting our surplus working-population to fruitful new lands, the labour market here would not only, in the first place, be relieved, but a new demand for manufactures would be generated for the supply of the colonists, (an emigrant family abroad supplying the raw material, and affording employment to a manufacturing family at home.) Our paupers would thus be transformed into rich customers, and the condition of our working-population be rendered in the highest degree prosperous. Whereas a pauper-supply to unemployed operatives at home is merely a nursery of misery — keeping up a vast number of unemployed people ready at all times, should labour come a little more into demand, to compete with the employed, and keep down wages to the lowest pitch that the animal machine can be kept working upon.— (See my work, “Emigration Fields.”) — The vast increase of the annual value or rental of land-property in Britain, during the last half century, has been caused by the increase of population with the corn monopoly; and it is but fair that a portion of this increased value which the population have generated, should be made available for the advantage of the population, as an emigration fund. Our war-navy, in time of peace, should be employed in transporting emigrants. This would afford sufficient practice to keep it in good training. Could our navy be employed in a grander purpose than laying the foundation of future empires?
III.— The establishment of a sanitary police to supervise human dwellings, factories, and workshops; that these be wholesome — such as the occupiers can reasonably be expected to continue in good health, and that all streets be properly drained and ventilated. In many cases in towns working-men carry on their daily labour, one and even two storeys below ground. The sleeping and working apartments of female domestics in cities are also generally under ground. The light of the sun is a stimulant to the animal economy, and is necessary to health; besides, these pits are filled with unwholesome gases to the level of the street (the malaria gases, generally heavier than common air, standing in the hollows like water in cup); and it is merely administering slow poison to keep working-people in these damp unwholesome dens.
IV.— In all factories and work-shops, the time of labour of any hired person not to exceed 10 hours daily; and, in case of mills working night and day, three sets of hands to be employed. Apprentices and journeymen in shops, and agricultural labourers (the period of harvest excepted), to be limited to 10 hours labour daily. No child under twelve years of age to work in factories. It is to be regretted that legislation should be necessary; but the many unsuccessful attempts made to effect these objects, without a general law, prove the necessity of legislation.
V.— All exports and imports to be free, with the exception of intoxicating articles, and the produce of slave labour. A land property tax and fund property tax to be laid on, to make up the deficit of revenue; and if a sufficient revenue cannot be so obtained, that a general property tax, or income tax, or even a poll tax, upon males from 18 to 50, be had recourse to. Indirect taxation is injudicious in two ways: it almost always has a very injurious effect in repressing trade and industry, and it enhances the cost of the article to the consumer, at least 25 per cent more than the tax itself. Besides, a direct tax is plain and palpable to view,— the amount of the injury known to all. In substituting a land property tax for the present pernicious system of indirect taxation, the tax ought to rise as the land-property increases,— say 5 per cent. upon the holders of estates under £100 per annum; 6 per cent. from £100 to £500; 7 per cent. from £500 to £1000; 8 per cent. from £1000 to £5000; and 1 per cent. additional for every £5000 more. This is only just, as, when property is in large masses, its protection is more expensive than when it is divided among the great body of the people. Besides, our present laws are formed to nurse up an aristocracy, and have had the effect to throw property into the hands of the few, and retain there, leaving the masses in poverty; and counteracting laws are necessary, to bring back society to a wholesome condition. Where the many are in extreme poverty, and the few very wealthy, it is impossible that freedom can exist under any form of government. Perhaps some more effectual plan should also be adopted to promote temperance, by means of taxation, on the same plea that, in a society consisting of temperance people, government can be conducted at much less cost than where drunkenness prevails.
Vl.—The abolition of the law of entail and primogeniture succession; and every parent obliged to divide, the greater part of his property, say two-thirds or three-fourths, equally among his children. This, with a graduated property-tax, would soon break down estates to a moderate size, advantageous to human enjoyment, and produce resident proprietors throughout all parts of the country superintending the improvement of their estates — very much benefitting shopkeepers and tradesmen in provincial towns, and diffusing wealth and improving society throughout the country.
VII.— The civil law reduced to a short intelligible code, with an improved system of adjudging cases of disputed property. A Reconciliator (a person well acquainted with the law and principles of equity) to be appointed to each district; and the disputing parties, or, in case they cannot be present, their agents, to appear together before him, and endeavour, with his assistance, to settle the dispute before it can be carried to a court of law. The party not agreeing to his recommendation paying the whole future expenses if it go against him, and the party agreeing, should it go afterwards against him, only paying his own. Our present aristocratical judge system, for cases of minor importance (Justices of the Peace), to be abolished; and arbitrator judges, one being chosen by each educational section, to be in place.
VIII.— That all writings and mouldy parchments regarding land-property tenure,— mere instruments for lawyer-pillage,— be made a bonfire of, and no evidence of title-right admitted but possession, living witnesses, and the Register-book kept in a fire-proof apartment in each county town. A page to be opened in this Register-book for each property, with the boundaries described in writing. That every new heir attend with attesting witnesses, and have his name inserted as owner; and that transfers be made by the parties, or their accredited agents, appearing and signing the transfer, the one as buyer and the other as seller, on the record page, before attesting witnesses (all transfers to be complete and after one system). In the case of money borrowed upon the property, the sum merely to be marked in letters and figures on the record page, with the borrower’s and lender’s signature; and, when paid up, no other discharge to be required but the lender’s name as receiving payment. In case of a division of the property, a new page to be opened for each section. The same system to followed in the case of feued property as in that of crown property; and all the annoying barbarous absurdities of Dispositions, Infeftments, Confirmations — law-slavery — done away with.
IX.— The removal of such taxes as repress improvement, are prejudicial to health, or are partially unjust, such as the taxes on brick, soap, fire-insurance, sale by public roup, and succession to moveable property.
X.— A Radical Reform in our Army and Navy. Degrading punishments abolished; the rotten portion,— the 12,000 half-pay officer pensionaries — lopt away; pensions allowed but to the old or disabled men; and the whole united service brought to the utmost soundness and efficiency. A system to encourage merit adopted, bv promoting a considerable proportion of the commissioned officers from the non-commissioned officers and warrant officers, and of the non-commissioned and warrant officers from the men, by ballot-vote of the regiment or ship’s company, or at least that they should be put upon the roll for promotion by ballot-vote. Enlistment for 5 years only. Education of reading and writing, and arithmetic, in all cases where the men are not so educated previous to enlistment. Under the present rivalry of nations and circumstances of Britain, it is necessary to keep up a powerful army and navy, and every means ought to be taken to raise these to the highest pitch of moral as well as physical strength — (Napoleon considered the moral power as superior to the physical in the ratio of 3 to 1). Our army and navy ought to be rendered so honourable and desirable,— the condition so favourable, that desertion would cease to be an offence, and no bounty be needed. It is shameful that intoxicating liquor, falsehood, flattery, and every means of deception, should be used to inveigle men, against their better judgment, to fill the ranks of the British army. It horrible that British seamen should be seized, most likely on their return from a long voyage, before they have reached their homes to which they have so anxiously longed, or perhaps torn from their distracted wife and family the night they arrive, and by force made slaves for years in a floating prison, with the chance that they never again will behold one that is dear to them. All these base arts of seduction, and cruel acts of oppression, are the necessary consequences of the united service not being put upon a footing sufficiently advantageous to induce men in their sober mind to enter it; and the consequence is, that the greater part of the men, from their hopeless and degraded condition, become improvident, reckless, and attempt to drown thought by intoxicating liquor and dissipation. Our brothers and friends in the army an navy may be assured, that the debasing treatment, inadequate remuneration, and want of encouragement to merit, has long been a subject of regret to us; and that we will do every thing in our power to bring about a reform of these grievances, and to render the British army and navy glorious bodies of loyal freemen devoted to the defence of the rights of their countrymen. It would have a highly favourable effect upon the efficiency of the military service, to have an establishment for educating clever young men for non-commissioned officers. Several thousand active healthy volunteers, from 14 to 20 years of age, selected by some test proving their docility and acuteness, should be well educated, and trained to high perfection in military tactics, at a national establishment. These would be in readiness to organize and discipline a large army in case of emergency, and might of incalculable advantage to the nation.
XI.— An improvement of the landlord and tenant system. All lands on lease to be let on 19 years’ lease at a grain rent, convertible into money by the fiars average for the previous seven years. (In case of the abolition of the Corn-law, a new valuation of land to take place, and the fiars regulating the conversion to commence from that time.) The landlord to have power to resume the lands, and the tenant to quit at the expiry of the lease, under this provision, that should the value of the lands, including necessary buildings, be increased by the tenant’s improvements beyond the old rental, the tenant receive a sum from the landlord amounting to the increased annual value (in grain converted by the average fiars) at 24 years’ purchase. The party wishing the removal to pay the expense of the valuation; and should the tenant quit by the landlord’s desire, that 10 per cent. upon the whole increased value be paid to the tenant to cover the expense and inconveniency of removal. This plan of lease, by which the tenant would be assured of reaping the full fruits of any improvement he may make, would have the most happy effect upon the rural prosperity, causing every field to be cultivated like a garden. The tenantry, the generality at present mere serfs, would become independent freemen and comparatively opulent, as they would devote their utmost energies to the amelioration of their farms in order to diminish the rent. The present average computation of rent of tillage farms is one-half the produce, and should they improve their farms to produce double the quantity (in many cases practicable), the rent would be diminished to one-fourth the produce. The desire to procure this comparative diminution of rent would have a far greater effect in promoting improvement than any iniquitous Corn-law they can make. The landlords would also be benefitted, as they would be certain of having their rents paid without deduction (now so often necessary) and without expense. No honest landlord can have any objection to this plan, as he can have no desire to appropriate to himself the produce of another man’s labour and skill; and if he wish to improve his own property himself, he can get possession in a just way at the expiry of the lease. No plan short of this will emancipate the tenant from his present political thraldom, and remove that very great obstruction to industry,— the tenant not being secured in the fruits of his labour. By the present arrangements, he is rendered a mere tool for supporting corruption, and that system of aristocratical oppression under which the country is writhing. I, for one, protest in the strongest manner against the present system of landlord and tenant, as being incompatible with rational liberty and good government — with my rights as a British subject.
XII.— An improvement in the Monetary System. National prosperity, and even the progress of civilization, is greatly dependant upon the monetary regulations. This vitally important branch of political economy has been very much neglected. For a brief sketch of the effects of monetary regulations, see my work, “Emigration Fields.”
The more I consider it, the more am I assured that the improvement of the social order, the advancement of the national prosperity, and the amelioration of the condition of the working men, will be exceedingly forwarded by the diffusion of sound views on political economy. Sound views are especially necessary at the present time, when we are upon the threshold of great changes, when, by means of Universal Suffrage, it will become the business every man to form conclusions respecting the most important political questions. Every district of Britain should appoint a qualified person, with a suitable salary, as a public lecturer upon this science, to perambulate the district, and lecture in every town and village. In this, Perthshire has shewn example to the rest of the empire, which I hope will be universally followed.
Political economy, in its wide sense, is the queen of sciences. It compasses our whole moral and physical condition, and even our existence — all other sciences are quite subordinate — yet it is the least attended to of any. There is a backwardness in those capable of handling the subject. They shrink from tracing it to its utilitarian principles. They dare not measure the present existing social arrangements in Britain by this standard,— the greatest good to the greatest number. These will not bear such a test. The classes who profit by the present unjust and pernicious arrangements are, in consequence, the rich and powerful of the land; and every one bold and honest enough to expose the injustice and oppression by which their power and vast revenues are upheld (at the cost of the poverty and the misery of the great body of the people), shuts himself out from a chance of participating in the spoils, and is regarded as a fool, or is stigmatised as a fire-brand and sower of sedition. The learned professions, those educated for the State churches and the law, have generally little other fortune but their professional education, (chiefly an acquaintance with the time concocted system of plunder), and being covetous of riches, that they may take rank and associate with the aristocracy of wealth, they bring the whole weight of their cultivated dexterity to work the artfully-constructed machinery which enables the few to appropriate their own aggrandisement and luxury the fruits of the industry of the many; and it is but natural for the whole host of hornets, clerical and laic, to assail, with envenomed fury, any one who may, with adequate knowledge and abilities, expose their cunning system of pillage. Even the Christian religion, which is not disposed to regard riches as virtue and poverty as a disqualification, is made instrumental to this. The enchanting beauty of its mild benevolence, its poverty-approving principles, and, I would say, its Radicalism, instead of being taken by the rich a rule for themselves to walk by, are only made use of as a lure to entice the poor more readily to imbibe, and be guided by its doctrines to passive endurance and submission under privations and oppression. Those rolling in wealth and luxury delight to make, and are pleased to listen to, eloquent harangues in favour of poverty and the poor, pointing to Lazarus in Abraham’s bosom, escaped from such miseries as their own social arrangements are effectual in producing to millions here. Seeing how much at variance are their preachments and practice, and their aim being so palpably evident, do they expect that any of the working men will be their dupes,— that the wealth producers should rest content while they are robbed of the fruits of their industry, and held aliens and outcasts from the constitution of their country,— that they should console themselves, in privation and misery, with future hope or prospect (the Irishman’s potatoes and point), while the privileged classes monopolise the whole of this world’s good to themselves? The hypocrites discourse of the merits of poverty, and they so far act up to their principles, that they do their best to render the masses sufficiently poor. Yet, perhaps, were they and their families in danger of being reduced to destitution, they might be ready enough to allow the very injurious effects of extreme poverty in demoralizing its victims.
No moral fact admits of more certain demonstration, than that an accession of degradation and misery causes an increase of immorality and crime; and that the best preparation for a more perfect existence is, that the present existence be rendered perfect and happy as possible. Peace and plenty, won by honest industry, with intellectual and moral culture, tend to render this world delightful, the mind spiritual and benevolent, and the heart generous and humane. Those who divert the mind away from its duties in cultivating our present condition — in educating the mental faculties, and in making those exertions in improving the social order, by which the condition of our children will be still more advanced — cause incalculable injury humanity. Although we get old and die, are we so selfish as not to be pleased to live again in our children, whose disposition to good or evil is, to a great degree, dependent upon our social reforms? Let us do our utmost to improve this existence and to perfect the species, as the best preparation for another.
A desire to keep aloof from a consideration of the means of improving the social order and condition of the industrious classes — a denial that these are subjected to great privations and misery — a dogged hatred of what they call politics — is a sure index of a Conservatist: they feel a little sore upon the subject — that right and reason are against them; they know that all their arguments in defence of their class privileges, monopolies, and trade restrictions, are mere sophistry, which every unprejudiced, disinterested person must despise; and that their strength lies in keeping the subject out of view, and the working man in ignorance. An incredulity to virtue, and to the improvement of the species, combined with a disposition to calumniate the masses, and to speak of them by the terms “mob,” “rabble,” is also pretty clear proof they belong to the plunder faction. In conversation, when I have found a person to shy at politics, and disposed to malign his species, I immediately concluded he was of this faction, and have invariably found myself right. The Macchiavellian, or Conservative, or tyrant-creed, is, that “human nature is utterly debased; their principles government, that man is radically and universally corrupt, wholly selfish,” a ferocious animal only fit to exist in chains.— (See Blackwood’s Magazine, No. 261.) — The Conservatives do not deny that they also are ferocious beasts, but they assert that, by virtue of certain antiquated forms, which they call the Constitution, they have right and title to hold their fellow beasts in chains. Such is the conclusion the Conservatives draw from the depravity in human nature, not for the purpose of checking or removing the depravity, but to justify themselves in oppressing and trampling upon the industrious self-supporting poor. Man is, to a great extent, the creature of circumstance. When the condition in which he is placed is favourable to the development of the moral sense, the human sympathies, and the intellect, then he is benevolent, humane, and wise; and when it is unfavourable to these, when crushing despotism, ignorance, and superstition prevail, then he is unprincipled, avaricious, vindictive, intolerant, persecuting, brutal. Education and social reform are means of ameliorating our nature. Those Conservative maligners of their species are pleased that human nature should be corrupt, and they traduce it upon the principle, “Call a dog a thief and hang him,” in order to countenance and palliate their own guilty acts of oppression. Every one who has at heart the happiness and moral advancement of the species (which, be it remembered, is the highest moral existence we have a sensible knowledge of), instead of endeavouring to promulgate these Macchiavellian doctrines, will do every thing in his power to promote a belief and trust in the capability of human nature for moral and social improvement, and in the existence of human virtue and benevolence, as a means of increasing that virtue and benevolence. I have thought it necessary to advert to this subject, as it is fundamentally connected with the present movement. I am confident that every thinking person, who examines into the moral constitution of his own mind, will go along with me in these views.
What is the use of all our fine discoveries in art and science to the working-man? Are the machine-spinner, the handloom-weaver, the Irish cottager, the great body of the producers, all benefited thereby? Not withstanding that their labour is now rendered more than trebly efficient in producing, are their hours of labour diminished or their wages increased? Look into the Irish cabin — examine the household economy, the food, fuel, bedding, wardrobe of the over-toiled British working-man — and say what has the great body of the people in the first empire of the world profited by modem science and modern civilization? Majendie, the French physician, when he came over to England to study the cholera, was struck with astonishment at the destitution and wretchedness witnessed among the working population at Sunderland, where the disease was then raging. He had seen no such misery on the continent of Europe; and my own observations in different kingdoms of Europe lead to the same conclusions, that the condition of the British working-men, taking into account the constancy and severity their labour, is much inferior to the condition of the working-men the continent; while, contrasting with this, the comforts and luxuries of the privileged classes in Britain are beyond what has ever been known to exist in any part of the world. Is this condition of things to be endured?— the privileged few absorbing the labour of a community, with all the advantages of science and art in support of their growing luxury — the over-toiled many in absolute destitution. I would say, Down with science — perish the arts, if they are only to be made subservient to the luxury and pride of a privileged class, who do not constitute the twentieth part of the population — if they only go to embellish palaces, and leave the dwelling of the industrious man comfortless as ever. I would say, Down with every thing that is opposed to, or cannot be made to subserve, the morality and happiness of the great body of the people. The condition of the masses in Britain, and still more of Ireland, where thousands starve in cold, nakedness, and misery, that some great lord may have a princely income to lavish in demoralizing and corrupting society, is surely a state things which every benevolent mind must desire to see changed, and peril his life to effect.
My political sentiments are pretty well known to the men of Perthshire and Fifeshire — even more than I am known personally. I join the movement because I think Universal Suffrage just, necessary, and practicable; because I believe it to be the only means to effect a bloodless and beneficial social change, which will greatly ameliorate the condition of my suffering countrymen; and because I believe, unless Universal Suffrage is carried, the whole social edifice will go to pieces, causing great destruction of life and wide devastation. I have witnessed the effects of continued anarchy and war in Poland, the most fruitful country of Europe, devastated to such a degree, that almost nothing was left on the surface of the earth that could be destroyed, nothing remaining but the natural fertility of the soil, and a wretched residue of the population which the sword and the typhus had spared. One of the cities in which I lived for some time, had withstood several sieges in the course of a few years; and in the last siege, when the French were expelled, independent of the men, women, and children who were torn to pieces by shot and shells, 200 average died daily, for several months, of typhus, caused by starvation and misery. In another large city on the Continent, where I passed a few days, from a dread that provisions might fail, the besieged garrison drove out the women and children from the city upon the besiegers into the open country, where every house, for a considerable distance, had been burned. This was done immediately before nightfall, in the inclement season of winter, and before the morrow’s dawn a great proportion of these helpless creatures were frozen to death. This is war.
No country in the world would suffer so much by anarchy and intestine war as Great Britain, because no country has so great a proportion of its inhabitants employed in manufactures and trade, which, under these circumstances, would entirely cease, and because the extent of land is deficient in proportion to the amount of population, and, under the ravages of intestine war, would not support one-third of the present number, while at the same time we should have no manufactures to exchange for foreign grain. What would be the extent of the destruction and misery were Great Britain reduced to the condition of Poland at the expiry of the French occupation? There can be no doubt that a great revolution in society is coming round with the certainty of tomorrow’s light. The causes leading to this revolution are monopolies, unequal laws, unjust privileges, producing extreme inequality in the distribution of wealth,— vast accumulation and unprincipled selfishness in the few, extreme poverty in the many, combined with knowledge. The organization of the Chartists may be considered a natural or instinctive effort at self-preservation — not only to put a stop to the increasing misery now being produced by trade and manufactures being driven from our shores by their “devil’s laws,” but also to ward off impending convulsion and destruction. Our condition is that of a disabled vessel at sea, on an unknown coast on a lee-shore:— the passing of the People’s Charter would be her arrival in a safe haven. I would solicit, exhort, entreat every one who values peace, law, order, to join the Chartists without a moment’s delay. Nothing but this body, whose claims, are founded upon unalterable justice, who are determined neither to do wrong nor submit to wrong, becoming so powerful as to render it hopeless for the plunder and corruption party to resist, will preserve Great Britain from similar anarchy and desolation.
The right of all men to a vote in the government of their country — to elect representatives invested with power to enact laws to which they must submit, and to lay on taxes which they must pay — is so obvious that there cannot be a doubt of success, if the great body of the working men of Britain come forward in a firm and constitutional manner to demand their right. The Exclusives pretend that the poorer classes have not the requisite information to use their vote to promote their own interest. The plea of ignorance has always been, and will always be, the tyrant’s plea,— enslaving his fellow-man because he is ignorant, and keeping him in ignorance that he may enslave him. Because a man is poor, does this warrant us in robbing him of all that remains — his natural rights? The franchise is the more necessary to him, because he has not the protection of a golden shield,— because he has not the power of property. The plea of ignorance, though a bad reason why the civil rights of any man should interfered with, is a perfectly good one why his ignorance should be interfered with; and if the working men are ignorant, who is to blame? where the tithe, the tenth of the whole produce of the land, is set aside by law for public instruction, but which the Exclusives pervert to private emolument, or feed a slavery-supporting body of aristocrats called the Church! This is the most galling abuse of all; and if the ignorance shall lead to evil consequences, be the evil upon the heads of the guilty. The question, however, of physical force, its advocacy or deprecation, has been too much agitated. To debate upon this question is merely to sow dissension amongst honest men. Let us keep the laws, and say nothing about physical force; this may be left to the plunder-faction who have no other argument. Our business is to work peaceably to effect a just, honourable, and lawful purpose — that all classes may be fairly represented in Parliament; and every one of the industrious classes, who has the spirit of man, will join in this with unanimity and ardour. The moral right of every man to the franchise is so plain and decided, that none of principle superior to a thief, or robber, or slave-driver, can oppose it. Nothing can stand before so just a claim; and if the Exclusive party, from their want of principle and their aristocratical contempt of their fellow-subjects, shall have the madness to resist, the moral and physical power of the masses is such, that the resisting party must ultimately be swept before it as rubbish before the lava flood. Let justice, utility, loyalty, union of moral and physical power, be inscribed on our banners. We know that in our sinews lies the physical force of the nation; but we glory that our physical force is under the control of moral force, never to be exerted but on the side of social improvement and order. The plunder-phalanx, the deniers of our rights, the opposers of rational liberty, the repressors of industry, the promoters of misery, are the men who put their trust in physical force alone — moral force is their mortal enemy. To them we stand irreconcilably opposed, as is the principle of good to evil.
I was exceedingly gratified in reading the speeches at the Fife demonstration meeting, as reported in the Fife Herald. I would desire any unprejudiced person to peruse these, and compare them with those spoken at any meeting of the privileged classes in Great Britain. To my view, the former stand in the same relation to the latter as truth does to falsehood, reason to sophistry, sound sense to hereditary wisdom. At our privileged-class meetings we have the most fulsome face-flattery reciprocally bandied about,— roaring Bacchanals toasting their bread-tax and tyranny-supporting State churches, with “hip, hip, hurras!!” and political and religious cant and duplicity of all complexions. At the Fife meeting we had sincerity, truth,— men of temperance vindicating, with pure natural eloquence, their right to be represented in the legislature, and to be governed by just and equal laws,— demonstrating the utility of free trade, and the advantages of general education,— advocating the cause of civil and religious liberty, and social and moral improvement. My only feeling at the time I was leading the Fife Demonstration speeches, was regret that some one of the speakers had not been chosen in place of myself, as being more fitted for the task of Delegate. The working men of Fifeshire, under such leaders, cannot fail to do their duty in the coming grand struggle for emancipation.
Convinced as I am that Universal Suffrage is not only undeniable in justice but also in the highest degree expedient, as the only means to elevate the moral and physical condition of the industrious population, and to prevent a convulsion, the men of Perthshire and Fifeshire may rely that I will endeavour to forward the great object in every way which the law sanctions, whether I act as Delegate for the Petition, or in a private capacity; and that if the present class-chosen legislature shall dare to change the law,— with intent to crush the present movement of the Chartists, by preventing them from assembling peaceably together to petition for their rights as men, or if the government shall break the law against them, as it is possible it may.— I will then act as I and the Chartists may, at the time, think most conducive for the public good.— Yours sincerely,
Gourdie Hill, Jan. 5, 1839.