« AnteriorContinuar »
LETTERS ON ENGLAND. * The author of these letters is the but total failures in practice. The son of the celebrated Madame de English pursue another course. Stael, and appears to have inherited I have witnessed,' says he, a large portion of his mother's ta- still more striking instance of this lents. In these letters he evinces disposition of the English to confine much good sense, great candour, and all questions within the sphere of the a discriminating judgment. With circumstances peculiar to England. political science he seems intimately In the session of 1822, Mr. Canuing acquainted; and, though a French- made a motion tending to re-open the man, he gives-who would not ?-a entrance of the Upper House to the decided preference to the political Catholic peers, who were deprived of institutions of England. At the same this privilege in consequence of the time he points out various anomalies; conspiracy, real or pretended, known and, we think, successfully demon- by the name of the popish plot. This strates the erroneous opinions of our motion, after being carried through economists respecting the division of the House of Commons, was thrown property. Being a foreigner, he has out of the House of Peers after a very inadvertently fallen into a few mis- memorable debate. I was fortunate takes;
but they are of a trivial nature, enough to be present on the occaand form no drawback to the merits sion, and my memory records few of his book.
intellectual treats comparable to the M. de Stael Holstein, it appears, discussion of a subject so important, visited this country at two different by orators ranking so high in talent periods, and resided here, during each as well as in society. Lords Erskine, visit, for a considerable time. His Holland, Grey, Grenville, Liverpool, character in his own country was a and the Chancellor, most of the leadsufficient passport to the best society ing members in the political bands, here ; but his book is not a journal of took an active part in the debate. fashionable frivolities, and descrip- The avowed object of the motion was tions of towns or steam-boats. He to prepare the emancipation of the prudently leaves such trifling things Catholics : on this ground it was atto those who can do nothing better, tacked by its adversaries, and deand boldly enters, like a philosopher fended by the minority. It seems and a legislator, into most important natural then to suppose, that the geconsiderations. He treats of civiliza- neral principles of toleration would tion-the division of property-the have an ample share in the discuslaws of primogeniture-political in- sion. By no means; they were not fluence-aristocracy and democracy even touched upon : 'I will say more, -public meetings—the functions of no one thought of them. The partiparliament-reform, &c. &c. Most cular interest of England absorbed of these subjects, though in some the whole attention of the speakers, measure new to the French people, as well as of the public. It may be are perfectly familiar to our readers. said, no doubt, that the general arguAs an analysis of the book must ments were worn threadbare by setherefore be rather uninteresting, we venteen years of discussion; and be. shall confine ourselves to that portion sides, that the policy of the minority, of it which treats of matters more on this occasion, was to confine the immediately novel and instructive. question within its narrowest limits;
M. de Stael draws an accurate but I nevertheless maintain, that my comparison between the English and general position is fully borne out. the French. The latter are too fond Lord Holland spoke with that of generalizing every thing, and re- vivacity of argument, which the heir ducing, like mathematicians, all of the name of Fox alone could comscience to axioms. The effect of this bine with such a flow of feeling: but is the finest theories in the world, in this speech, which I was told re
* Letters on England, by A. De Stael-Holstein. Treattel and Wurtz, Treuttel, Jun. and Richter, London. 1825.
called to mind the happiest effusions of the press, which, notwithstanding of his uncle, he confined himself some slight imperfections, was acsolely to proving, with a profound knowledged by masters of the science, knowledge of the history of his coun- by the Englisń lawyers themselves, as try, the absurdity of the testimony the best and most philosophical, that that led to the condemnation of the had hitherto existed in any country. Catholic Peers, or to refuting parti- But this law, ill understood by the cular objections : while, familiar as public, harassed by unreasonable obthe higher questions of morals and jections, even from those, who ought philosophy were to him, he never to have been most sensible of its adthought for a moment of dipping into vantages, was indebted for its success their sphere.
solely to the talents of a minister, • In another point of view I was and the complaisance of a majority. not less struck with the speech of the A few months had scarcely elapsed, Lord Chancellor. The ground of his before power changed hands, or, reasoning was in fact this whimsical which is worse, the men in power argument: if the Protestant cease to changed their principles; the new be the ruling religion of England, the law of the press ceased to exist, withCatholic must become so. And from out leaving any traces of itself either the energy and warmth with which he in our jurisprudence or in our habits ; spoke extempore, it was evident, that and many years perhaps will pass his conviction was sincere; and that away, before France can hope to rea profound lawyer, a man grown old cover possession of it. in the paths of legislation and poli- In England the struggle was long, tics, had never seriously admitted the Mr. Fox in parliament, and Lord idea, that a country might subsist Erskine at the bar, had more than without a ruling religion : so power- one contest, and overthrew more than fully does whatever is appear what one formidable adversary, before must be.
they obtained for the jury the impor• Transfer the same subject of de- tant prerogative of pronouncing on bate to the French tribune, unques- the criminality of a work, as well as tionably liberty of conscience, the the fact of its publication. But the connexion between civil and religious longer the dispute continued, the authority, the general principles in greater was the interest taken in it by favour of toleration, would have con- the public, and the more deeply were stituted the subjects of every speech. men's minds impressed with the imIt is equally evident that, under fa- portance of the question : and when vourable circumstances, the public at length Lord Erskine obtained from would have declared warmly for the the king the noblest motto that ever question, so as to render all resist- adorned the arms of a statesman, ance to it impossible. So far the ad. Trial by Jury, the principle, the trivantage is with us : at least it may be umph of which was thus proclaimed, thought so. But these speeches, became an article of the political abundant perhaps in talent, would creed of England, that the inost have made only a transient impres- strenuous friends of power in the presion. The question so speedily car- sent day would scarcely think of conried, if the torrent of opinion or of testing.' power had run in its favour, would In proof of the influence of custom have been as speedily lost, if it had and habit on the English people, he taken an opposite direction.
instances the laws of primogeniture. In England old opinions are more • It is not the law, therefore,' he says, difficult to be shaken, and notions as
- wbich is an obstacle to a more equal well as interests make an obstinate division of landed property. This obstacle resistance: but when by dint of strug- is found chiefly in the state of men's habits
way of thinking; and as in France a gling an opinion has made a conquest, it is for ever; it does not suf- change or the law regulating inheritances
would have scarcely any influence on the fer itself to be dispossessed.
distribution of property, if the will of - In 1819, we made a great step in testators were left sufficiently free, so in the career of liberty: we had obtain- England the abolition of the law of prinioed a law on the suppression of abuses geniture would not destroy, or at least Vol. I.--No. 9.
would destroy very slowly, the almost were most generally diffused among the universal opinion, which consigns to the people. When in its subterranean gal. eldest son the inheritance of the fortune, leries, he conversed with the workmen on and the charge of sustaining the dignity of the nature and duration of their labour, his family. To be the founder of a family, their wages, their food, and all the partito leave a son and heir, as the English say, culars of their way of life. The workmen is the first thought of a man who enriches on their part, interested in the conversahimself in any profession : and what would tion of a man who displayed an accurate often appear to us an act of injustice knowledge of their concerns and wants, seems to them so natural and necessary, and engaged also by the liberality of the that any objections offered to it would opinions he displayed, inquired in turn scarcely make the least impression on into the state of the labouring people in their minds.
France. “ How many workmen do you • Conversing one day with the head of employ?" said they.-"Four or five an ancient house, the heir of an immense hundred." “ That's a pretty good num. fortune, of wbich he is ready to make the , ber : and what wages do they earn? What noblest use at the call of patriotism or does it cost to feed and maintain a family friendship, we spoke of his family, and I in the part of France where you live?"inquired after the situation of his brothers. “ Their wages are lower than yours : but “ They are very well off,” he answered: this is more than made up to them by the
my father provided handsomely for them cheapuess of the necessaries of life.”in his will; he left each of them a fortune " You are right,” said the miners, after of so many thousand pounds." Now this having made a little calculation among fortnne, which certainly would be deemed themselves, which convinced them, that in considerable on the Continent, was scarce- reality the condition of the workmen was ly a third of the annual income of the better in France than in England: “ but eldest. Yet this eldest son, whose gene- how long do they work every day?"rosity is indisputable, far from being Eight hours on an average.”—“No more! shocked at such a disproportion, considers And what do they do the rest of the day?" ed the situation of bis brothers as very re- • They cultivate their land, and work spectable, and spoke of it to me with for themselves.”_" What do you say, persect satisfaction. Though I am tolerably their land? Then they have property? accustomed to the habits and opinions of they have ground, they have houses of England, this was so much at variance their own ?" Certainly: at least most with our ideas and moral feelings, that I of those have, whom I employ.” Atthese could not avoid, by way of experiment, words astonishment was depicted on every expressing my surprise ai it to persons of countenance. “ And this land," said the different ranks and opinions.
most intelligent of the miners, “what joined with me in opinion. They all becomes of it at the father's death?"-" It thought, in fact, that the younger brothers is divided among his children.”—“ What had been kindly treated by their father, equally ?"-—" Of course, or nearly so.”and that there were few families enjoying “ But a small plot of ground, divided similar advantages. I will say more,
among several children, must be reduced younger brothers themselves
to nothing ?"-"No; for if one of them be thoroughly persuaded of the importance not rich enough to purchase the shares of of the law of primogeniture, that, if his brothers, the ground is sold, and passes a proposal were made to them to share into the hands of some person, who can alike with the head of the family, the keep it entire and improve it.” majority would refuse it without hesi. • Here the conversation ended : but the tation.
two ideas, of workmen who were landhold• That this way thinking should be
ers, and of an equal division among the generally diffused through the higher children, had so powerfully struck the ranks of society, indeed, is not very sur- English miners, that on the following prising : but, what is more so, it is equally Sunday they formed the subject of a regu. prevalent in the working classes, and with lar discussion at one of those clubs, in men who have no other source of wealth
which men, even of the lowest class, meet than the labour of their hands. I have
to read the news, or converse on their heard an anecdote on this subject, which common interests; clubs, where the forms is so characteristic, that I must beg leave of sound deliberation are much better obto relate it.
served in general, than we find them in "A French iron-master, travelling in France in political assemblies of a much England some years since, to learn the higher cast. After a long debate, the progress made there in the manufacture of
matter was put to the vote; and the mairon, went down into a coal mine, in one jority decided, that it was no doubt ad. of those districts where radical opinions vantageous for workmen to be land holders;
but that the inheritance should go to the another, never enters the mind of eldest son, and not be divided. * Here then we have workmen, low-born, the management of these speculators
these reasoners. A country left to radicals in their opinions or political sen- would be nearly in the condition of timents, who decide against an equal par: Swift's gentleman, who had five ticipation, and in favour of the rights of primogeniture. It would be difficult to thousand a year, but all whose seradduce a stronger proof of the universal vants attempted to apply the whole sway of this mode of thinking in England.' of his income to the department par
The law of entail, which has bru- ticularly under his care. « For five talized the aristocracy of Italy and thousand a year,” said the coachman, Spain, meets in our author a deter- my master can have a noble set of mined, but an enlightened opponent. horses and carriages.
“ With five In England this law is easily obviat- thousand a year,” said the cook, “my ed; but still its effects are quite master can keep open house ;” and visible.
thus the poor gentleman found himM. de Stael's arguments on this self ruined. question are philosophical and plain. It is this common error, that has
A nation,' says hé, as well as an led some men, even such as are well individual, has nothing to subsist on versed in the science of finance, the but its income ; that is to say, the celebrated Hamilton of America, rent of its land, the interest of its among others, to consider a public capital, and the wages of its labour. debt as wealth ; because, he says, this No doubt, this or that distribution of debt is an exchangeable property, wealth may improve the cultivation that attracts foreign capital; without of the soil, promote the increase of reflecting, that in this case the foreign capital, or render labour more pro- capital only takes the place of the ductive; yet these various improve- national capital that has been con. ments have their limits in the nature sumed, and that the interest produced of things, beyond which it is not by this new capital is exactly balanced in the power of man to proceed. by the taxes paid by the people.
“When a nation has really made • It is in consequence of the same some progress; when by its industry, error, that the too positive enemies its natural resources, and its econo- of the funding system, or men who my, new riches have been created, it are interested in paying their court to may confer the privilege of enjoying the landholders, propose the reducthem on a certain number of citizens, tion of the capital or interest of the without the rest of the community debt, an arbitrary change of the conbeing impoverished. But in a given ditions stipulated with the creditors, degree of wealth, one class cannot be in short, à general or partial bankfavoured unless at the expense of ruptcy, as an efficacious method of others; what is given to privileged alleviating the burdens of the nation. persons, under whatever title, is ne- They do not consider, that the processarily taken from the rest of the prietors of the public funds will be citizens, and a difference of distribu- impoverished by every sum bestowed tion does not render the whole of a on the payers of taxes; and that connation either richer or poorer.
sequently the sum total of the wealth • This truth is so obvious, that it of the nation remains the same, exappears almost ridiculous to an- cept that a violent transfer of pronounce it; yet there is none more perty involves in ruin and despair the habitually misunderstood by most of classes that are robbed; and that by those who reason on political econo- first suspending the demand, and afmy, I do not say in the drawing-room terward changing its nature, all the merely, but in books written express- calculations of trade and industry are ly on the subject. Every one makes deranged. this or that class wealthy, and assigns In fine, the same error is the base this or that employment to capital, as of the common-place observation, his opinion, interest, or whim leads that the partisans of the law of 'prihim but the simple idea, that mogeniture never fail to repeat. nothing comes out of nothing, and The eldest son, say they, by being that by giving to one we take from the depositary of the whole of the
property, maintains the dignity of prietors of his income; which, in a the family; and serves as a support pecuniary, view, and leaving moral to his sisters, who, though without considerations out of the question, fortunes, obtain through the splen- will amount to the same thing, as if dour of his name, honourable or ad- they possessed a portion of the capivantageous matches, and at all events tal corresponding to this income. In are secure of an asylum in the pater- the second case, that of enriching nal mansion. On the other hand, the themselves by public offices, the poryounger brothers, receiving no for- tion of the revenues of the state, that tunes from their father, feel the ne- forms their salary, will be the processity of procuring one by their own duce of taxes, or a sacrifice on the industry ; accordingly they embrace part of those who pay them; and some lucrative profession, marry these, on our hypothesis, can be no ladies possessed of property, or ob- other than the elder brothers : so that tain civil or inilitary employments, or thus the younger will become proecclesiastical preferment, through prietors of a portion of the income or the influence of their elder brother; capital of the elder, according as the and if they fail in their endeavours, taxes are of such a kind as to affect they return and settle with the head the one or the other; and thus in an of the family, and live on a portion economical view, without entering of his income. In tbis manner the into the field of politics, the general elder branch preserves the property state of the country will be the same, and its lustre; and the younger as if the division of property had branches may in turn become the ' been effected in the bosom of each stock of new families rising to wealth family, instead of being produced and power. On the contrary, if the indirectly through the medium of property were divided among the chil- taxation. dren, it would be dissipated at the We coine now to a subject on end of a few generations, and general which we have already spent-we poverty would be the necessary con- hope not idle-some arguments. In sequence of this progressive subdi- opposition to the English economists
we have advocated the utility of small • I need not now inquire, whether it farms; and it is no trifling satisfacbe a very pleasant circumstance to the tion to find our opinions confirmed younger children, to enjoy no inde- by M. de Stael. We are perpetually pendence, to be obliged to adopt the referred to France for proofs of the tastes of their elder brother, bend to mischiefs which flow from the subhis whims, and have recourse to his divisions of farms. Arthur Young, generosity for every undertaking that many years ago, prophecied that if requires any pecuniary resource; as a law was not passed to prohibit the I have engaged here to consider the multiplication of cottiers--for France law of primogeniture merely as a has her cottiers-famine would be the question of political economy. In result; as an increase of population examining the trite arguments of the beyond the means of subsistence partisans of this system, then, let us must follow, according to his opinion, , adopt the method of geometricians, as a thing of course. Since that time who assume a problem as solved, and a law not to prohibit but to enthen examine the consequences.
courage the subdivision of farms, was * Let us suppose a country, where passed ; and what has been the conevery species of property belongs ex- sequence? clusively to the first born of each fa- It was,' says M. De Stael, much less mily. What will become of the by increasing the subdivision of estates, younger children? they can have but than by causing them to pass into more intwo alternatives ; either to reside in.
dustrious hands, that the revolution so the house of the eldest, and live on
powerfully increased the substantial wel. his means, or to enrich themselves by fare of France. This subdivision is much
more ancient than they are willing to supobtaining some public office. In the
pose, who charge the revolution with all first case, admitting it to be strictly the mistakes of their minds or passions. It obligatory on the eldest to maintain
was formerly observed by Machiavel, that. his brothers, they will be joint pro- though France was a poor country, the