Page images
PDF
EPUB

government which is its organic centre, its brain and heart, that he can say, Here I am: you owe me a living; provide for me.” And the government says to every individual, “Work, if you will or can : do as you please; but, if you fail, I will provide for you.” So unions are built, and guardians appointed, and rates levied, to provide for the lazy, the thriftless, or the unfortunate.

This is the simple fact, simply stated. The operatives of Lancashire make no violent outbreak. Why should they? They know that the country must take care of them. They know that if all contributions were suspended, and all charities—which are against the whole spirit of the law-should fail, they must be housed and clothed and fed, and that swift wrath would descend upon the local authorities that should permit them to suffer.

And here let me ask how it happens to be wrong to beg in one locality and not in another? People are begging all over the kingdom for the distressed operatives ; but if a starving creature holds out his hand in the streets of London in his own behalf, he is taken in charge by a policeman. This only shows, however, that the law which guarantees a support, and therefore forbids charity, is somehow relaxed in great emergencies; and people who are scolded for giving pennies, are now scolded into giving hundreds and thousands of pounds.

But the question might be asked, What are the duties and responsibilities of a government which guarantees the subsistence of the people ? If it can tax property for the support of pauperism-if it can take the money of A to support the idleness, improvidence, or misfortunes of Bif it claim the right to seize one-half, two-thirds, or all the income of one man to provide for the necessities of his neighbour-if the industrious can be compelled to support the idle, and the rich made to feed the poor, -may it not be the duty of the government to use preventive measures against idleness and poverty ?

Property pays a high price for protection. It supports army, navy, police, civil and judicial functionaries, and has a right to what it pays for. It

may demand the prevention and the extirpation of crime; why not the prevention and extirpation of poverty ? Crime levies on the goods of the community in spite of the law; but poverty levies far more heavily with the aid of the law. Bolts and bars may keep out the burglar, but they have no efficiency to protect against the poor-rates.

May it not, therefore, be the interest of the nation to take another step in this matter-call it backward or forward--and, instead of supporting pauperism, do what is necessary to prevent it? It can be no greater interference with private interests and the laws of trade than compelling the rich to feed the poor, on the present system. It is provided that no man, unless under very extraordinary circumstances, shall starve. Why not provide that no man ever need become a pauper? One is as consistent with the principles of political economy, and the proper functions of a government, as the other. The protection to property is needed against

a

a

the poor-rates, the most unequal, oppressive, and needless of all burdens. In some Oriental countries men conceal their riches to prevent being robbed by irresponsible governors; in England we cannot avoid robbery by unprevented pauperism.

A government which can seize the property of the rich to feed the poor, does not lack the power to secure to the poor the means of an honest subsistence. No slave can breathe in England; it is a noble declaration, but it might be a nobler one to say, there shall be work and wages,

the means of an honourable subsistence, for every

free man.

It is good not to be a slave; but to be a pauper may be as great an ignominy and as great a wrong.

Prevention is better than cure, better than any help whatever. It is well to pull people out of the ditch, but far better to hinder them from falling in; well to feed those who are in the horrible gulf of pauperism, but better to have no such gulf into which they must fall.

The wisdom, the will, the power of a nation centres in and acts through its government. The welfare and happiness of the people are its sole objects, and all its wisdom and power should be directed to these ends. The soil of the United Kingdom, its mines, manufactories, navi. gation, fisheries, and thousand industries, are ample, with proper development and distribution, for the support of far more than its present population. Should there ever be a surplus of labour, emigration is the ready outlet. There is needed for the whole country just that wise supervision which a proprietor should give to his estate. It would not be so costly

It would not take half the public spirit and energy that have been expended in raising the Volunteers. It would be a work more glorious than any conquest. It is something for an Englishman to say, My country will not let me starve; but it would be much more to say, England will not allow her people to become paupers.

The first condition of prosperity and the security of the whole people -the rich in their wealth, and the poorest in a comfortable subsistenceis the development of productive industry, and such protection to those engaged in it as Parliament has often given,-in factory laws, regulations of mines, &c., and in fixing fees, salaries, railway fares, cab-hire, postage, and many similar interferences of an orderly or protective character, in accordance with the law that “the labourer is worthy of his hire.” England has developed industry by discoveries, conquests, the protection and extension of commerce, commercial treaties, education in art and industry, honours and rewards, a liberal patent system, copyrights, and a thousand incentives and guarantees. What is needed is a step or two more in the same direction. The government in many ways protects, fosters, encourages, and promotes the national industry. There is no principle, and none but selfish interests, to prevent the government doing this to any extent required for the security and happiness of the people.

The special methods by which agriculture may be improved, the waste of the elements of agricultural wealth-as the sewage of towns

as war.

[ocr errors]

prevented, fisheries extended, rivers and lakes stocked with new species, plants and animals naturalised, commerce expanded, inventions stimulated, discoveries in chemistry rewarded, new industries opened, and colonisation aided,--are matters for legislative wisdom. All these would tend to the increase of national wealth ; and, with a just distribution, every increase makes easier the progress to the high stage of civilisation in which a nation, abounding in natural wealth, has come as nearly as men may ever hope to come to the extermination of poverty, vice, and crime.

A Royal Dane in England.

a

There is a Prince of Denmark whom some think partially cracked, or at least wears in his bonnet that distinctive ornament of oddity known as a bee; but whom others, looking deeper, hold to have a certain method in his oddity. Whole libraries have been written about this Danish Prince his ways, works, and mysterious meanings; and wise men and fools have done battle over his Ghost. Cracked or not cracked, he has always been regarded with an affectionate sympathy by Britons; and that cold abstraction of a country over which he rules has, perhaps on his account, been accepted with a cordiality and toleration to which, on common grounds, it would have scarcely any title. To that poor Prince we always felt ten. derly and compassionately. We took our share in his griefs and lonely unsupported struggles; and overlooked the remoteness of his country, and its cold, rude associations. Latterly comes M. Fechter, who, with his flaxen locks and more natural dress, has bound us to the Prince for ever; for he has shown us that the noble gentleman did not hold speech with the court in solemn and stilted cadences, or bewilder the garrulous Polonius with a series of set speeches, which for manner might have been addressed to crowded audiences. To our surprise this famous Dane is discovered to have spoken in the most natural, simple, and conversational fashion, pretty much like other reasonable Europeans; and is happily vindicated, in stage dress at least, from being a sort of moody incarnation of solitary declamation.

Still, for us, Danes in general are more or less cold, impalpable abstractions. Frenchmen, Germans, Russians, Americans, Italians, we can reach to: they have colour, warmth, circulation, and a distinctive shape; behind each is a background of life, motion, pleasure, poetry, and romance. The grand diorama of continental civilisation is always moving on at the back. Upon foreign touring-grounds we have jostled all these nationalities; but the Dane does not seem to abound on steamboat deck, nor in railway coupé, nor in the grand salle of monster hotels that make up five hundred beds. They are not sumptuous, like the other northern barbarians, who have serfs at home and play the grand seigneur in Paris; nor are they conspicuous, ubiquitous, and extravagant, like the nobles of New York. In fact, they can fall under no category, because they are not seen. In Paris, indeed, they turn up, but disguised in the masque and domino of diplomacy. And before the foot-lights of that gorgeous cosmopolitan theatre, what with paint, and gold and silver tinsel, every figure looks pretty nearly the same. In short, our private conception of the Dane is something a hundred years behind the age; something blue-eyed, cold, and uncomfortable; something raw and primitive; and, if the truth must be spoken, a little barbarous. The Dane in association with gilding, mirrors, painted ceilings, Louis

his

Quatorze clocks, virtù generally, and other decorations of sumptuous furnishing, seems utterly inconsistent. The Dane in association with ball-rooms, flowers and lights, uniforms and tulle, seems unaccountable. Above all, how can we accept a Danish lady—a Danish belle, with a wreath, fan, jewels, and other regulation adornments?

Still from this mythical country of Hamlet will shortly arrive the interesting young princess whom all the street-world has lately seen, within the tiny field of a carte-de-visite, in every shop-window-in the loose white jacket and little black ribbon about her neck. We shall be familiar with this royal lady whom Denmark sends, and shall recognise her slightest movement; for by a judicious foresight her foreign photographers have exercised their wildest fancy, and drawn her in every conceivable attitude. Still the critical physiognomist, prying very closely, will detect the old Danish traces—a slight chilliness and absence of colour. The presentment of this royal lady, in the shape of one of those delicately-coloured Paris lithographs, tinted with a graceful touch which in this country shall find it hopeless to imitate, would be a welcome decoration for the print-shop window, and an acceptable present to the English people, who are almost impertinently curious about their royalties. It is certain the little chalk-and-charcoal effigies done in Lilliput are scarcely a fair medium for introducing the charms of the Princess Alexandra.

About a hundred years ago a royal Dane landed in England, unheralded by any Lilliputian effigies. He was a royal Dane upon travels—at a time when royalty on a tour had not grown so cheap a phenomenon as now. Neither was this a royalty upon a sort of enforced wandering; nor a royalty out of work,—spectacles also grown tolerably frequent in our time. It was simply a very young king upon pleasure bent, with any thing but “a frugal mind,” and anxious to see the world. And his coming threw the whole kingdom into a frenzy of delight and curiosity : streets, populations, rushed and stared openmouthed after him, crowded on him at public places; and jostled bim, with the traditional delicacy and consideration of the nation. He made a sort of progress through the kingdom; and in this year, then Seventeen hundred and sixty-eight, in the month of August, the English were looking out for this Danish monarch, then upon his travels. There was one special reason why they should expect him with some interest ; he had married an English princess—the Princess Caroline Matilda, sister to the reigning sovereign; a young and beautiful woman. She did not accompany him on his travels. Could the English crowds that shouted after him have had any suspicion of the rough-and-ready justice which was to be hereafter dealt out to this unhappy lady, they would have been less curious and demonstrative. She was young, and but indiscreet ; and furnished the heroine to the well-known story of “Struensee.” The alliance, too, was one of the worst of all mariages de convenance, a royal mariage de convenance, and bore appropriate and expected fruit.

So early as the 28th of June, his Majesty's own private yacht, the

« EelmineJätka »