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“The English peasant is thus deprived of almost every motive to practice economy, and self-denial, beyond what suffices to provide his family with food and clothing. Once a peasant in England, and a man cannot hope that he himself, or his children, will ever be anything better, than a mere laborer for weekly hire.
“This unhappy feature of an English peasant's life was most powerfully, and only too justly depicted in those articles of The Times,' to which I have referred above. It was there shown that during the last half century, every thing has been done to deprive the peasant of any interest in the preservation of public order; of any wish to maintain the existing constitution of society; of all hope of raising himself in the world, or of improving his condition of life; of all attachment to his country; of all feelings of there really existing any community of interest between himself and the higher ranks of society; and of all consciousness that he has anything to lose by political changes; and that every thing has been done to render him dissatisfied with his condition, envious of the richer classes, and discontented with the existing order of things.”
This, too, is a pretty picture, which is not relieved by the further information that,
“In the year 1770, there were, it is said, in England alone, 250,000 freehold estates in the hands of 250,000 different families. In the year 1815, at the close of the revolutionary war, the whole of the lands of England
* Kay, chap. II, vol. I, p. 361.
were concentrated in the hands of only 32,000 proprietors."
“What is the result? The labor market in the manufacturing towns is constantly overstocked; the laborers and shopkeepers find new and eager competitors constantly added to the list; competition in the towns is rendered unnaturally intense; profits and wages are both unnaturally reduced; the town work-houses and the town gaols are crowded with inmates; the inhabitants are overburthened with rates; and the towns swarm with paupers and misery.
“I know not what others may think, but to me it is a sad and grievous spectacle, to see the enormous amount
vice and degraded misery which our towns exhibit, and then to think, that we are doing all we can to foster and stimulate the growth and extension of this state of things, by that system of laws, which drives so many of the peasants of both England and Ireland to the towns, and increases the already vast mass of misery by so doing.
“I speak with deliberation, when I say, that I know of no spectacle so degraded, and if I may be allowed to use a strong word, so horrible, as the back streets and suburbs of English and Irish towns, with their filthy inhabitants; with their crowds of half-clad, filthy, and degraded children, playing in the dirty kennels; with their numerous gin-palaces, filled with people, whose hands and faces show how their flesh is, so to speak, impregnated with spirituous liquors—the only solaces, poor creatures, that they have !-and with poor young girls, whom a want of religious training in their infancy, and misery, has driven to the most degraded and pitiful of all pursuits."'*
* Kay, chap. II, 2nd vol., p. 370. citing Rev. H. Worsley's Essay on Juvenile Depravity, p. 53.
“Of 1600, ( pauper children in London,] who were examined, 162 confessed that they had been in prison, not merely once, nor even twice, but some of them several times; 116 had run away from their homes; 170 slept in the "lodging-houses;" 253 had lived altogether by beggary; 216 had neither shoes nor stockings; 280 had no hat or cap, or covering for the head; 101 had no linen; 319 had never slept in a bed; many had no recollection of ever having been in a bed; 68 were the children of convicts." +
“The further we examine, the more painful, disgusting and incredible does the tale become.
“We see on every hand stately palaces, to which no country in the world offers any parallel. The houses of our rich are more gorgeous and more luxurious than those of any other land. Every clime is ransacked to adorn or furnish them. The soft carpets, the heavy rich curtains, the luxuriously easy couches, the beds of down, the services of plate, the numerous servants, the splendid equipages, and all the expensive objects of literature, science, and the arts, which crowd the palaces of England, form but items in an ensemble of refinement and
* Kay, chap. I, vol. I, p. 372–3. † Kay, chap. I, vol. I, p. 395.
magnificence, which was never imagined or approached, in all the splendor of the ancient empires.
“But look beneath all this display and luxury, and what do we see there ? A pauperized and suffering people.
“To maintain a show, we have degraded the masses, until we have created an evil so vast, that we now despair of ever finding a remedy." *
We may now dismiss Mr. Kay—this testimony is sufficiently direct and sufficiently ample: and yet it would have been easy to have introduced many more and stronger statements made by him, which have been omitted because they were too long to be quoted. Mr. Kay is neither Chartist nor Socialist. He is a graduate of Trinity College, Cambridge, a Barrister-at-law, and has traveled over Europe for eight years, under an appointment from the Senate of the University of Cambridge, as Traveling Bachelor of the University, commissioned “to travel through Western Europe in order to examine the social condition of the poorer classes of the different countries.” † The evidence of such a man should be authoritative, but we will continue our quotations:
“It is undeniable that morality has declined in our days with the progress of knowledge." I
“One word more, and we have done. On many questions of practical duty, men are now affecting to be wiser and better than the Bible. Plans of social progress and improvement are rife, that have an air of transcendental refinement about them, unknown to the homely morality of the Word of God. We are becoming too sentimental to endure that even the murderer shall be put to death. And now we are for bettering God's ordinance of marriage itself; and we see a fine,“ romantic, tender charm in an alliance of brothers and sisters, on which God has stamped his curse. What may such things betoken? Are they ominous of such unbridled lawlessness and lust as marked the days before the Flood? Are they signs of the days not unlike these that are to precede the coming of the Son of Man ?” *
* Kay, chap. I, vol. I, p. 452-3. † Kay, chap. I, vol. I, p. 4.
| Saisset, Sur la Philosophie et la Religion du XIX. Siècle. p. 222.
“The task of restoring health and soundness to a society so fearfully diseased as ours unquestionably is, is on all hands acknowledged to be at once the noblest and the most imperative to which citizens or statesmen can now direct their energies.” †
“Society, such as it now is in England, will not continue to endure, &c.” I.
« The last battle of civilization is the severest: the last problem the knottiest to solve. Out of all the multitudinous ingredients and influences of the past; out of the conquest of nature, and the victory of freedom; out of the blending and intermixture of all previous forms
* North British Review, No. XXIV, Art. IX, Feb. 1850. p. 299-300. Am. Ed.
+ Edingb. Rev. Oct. 1849. Art. VI, p. 497-8. Engl. Ed.
Chateaubriand. Essays on English Literature. Paris. 1838, cited by Kay.