Слике страница

of perpetual defiance, maintain their system in despite of the rivalry of jealous and hostile nations. More than a hundred millions of people depend, or can be made, merely by her legislative enactments, to depend upon her for the supply of their most necessary wants, and the shuttle and the loom, the anvil and the forge, might be kept in activity to a degree scarcely known in any other age or country, without seeking a market beyond the limits of her own dominions. This is the sure basis on which her system rests, and it must flourish until these foundations be undermined until domestic violence shall unnerve the arms that wield her mighty strength-or foreign power wrest from her grasp the scattered fragments of her colossal empire.

But there is another element in the power of Great Britain, or rather the source of all her power which must not be overlooked. Her insular position has unquestionably given her many advantages, and sheltered her from many a storm that has desolated the adjacent continent; but there are many islands as beautiful and fair, superior in size, naturally more fertile, some, even now more populous, on whom these bounties have been wasted. It is not then alone, her insular form which has secured to her these advantages. Her restrictive systems and schemes of monopoly have been extolled, yet nations almost without number, have adopted and pursued similar measures, and to most of them they have proved telun imbelle, an inefficient weapon, the source neither of wealth nor power, of domestic prosperity nor of foreign influence. Spain, with greater natural advantages, with accidental appendages to her empire altogether without parallel, on whose dominions the sun never set, and whose colonies covered perhaps the fairest portion of the globe, sunk under this system, which she most rigidly pursued to the impoverishment of her own citizens, and the degradation of all subjected to her. And how many small states how often have even great nations, encumbering their members with restraints and regulations without number—reaped, in their anxious pursuit of national wealth, nothing but disappointment. Whence has this difference arisen? Why have circumstances apparently similar, even principles in this respect uniform, produced such dissimilar results? Why is Great Britain alone quoted, when it is wished to hold up to our view the beneficial influence of this system? It is that the real causes of the wealth and power of Great Britain are more deeply seated, and too often escape the superficial gaze of those who look with dazzled eyes at the effects rather than the sources of her apparent prosperity. To her, when compared with the other nations of Europe, we may

emphatically apply the praise which Adam Smith justly gave to Europe, when contrasted with the other portions of the globe“ Magna Virum Mater.” She has produced the men and the government whose energy has accomplished these marvellous works—the men, whose lofty character, whose intrepid courage, whose perseverance, whose integrity, have opened the path to her political and commercial greatness, and the government, whose liberal and enlightened principles have enabled her citizens to triumph alike over the obstacles which other nations had to encounter, the errors and defects of their own character, and the vices engendered and implanted in her own political system by feudal prejudices and ignorance, the parent of monopolies and its attendant evils, which, in fine, have made her prosper in despite of these evils. The liberal spirit of her institutions has supported her against the deteriorating influence of her anti-social doctrines.

We are aware that in addressing a people who boast the same lineage with the British nation, who inherit the same virtues, and not a few of the same frailties, who boast of a governinent exempted from many of the anomalies and excrescences of the British constitution, and better adapted, as we hope and trust, to promote the welfare of mankind; we speak to those who have reason to be encouraged by her success, rather than deterred by the failure of others, and who may hope to perform whatever enterprize, talent and energy may aspire to accomplish. Well then, let us raise the veil and see what this mighty people has actually acquired, the results, the blessings which the great statesmen of our country are so anxious to confer on us. Great-Britain, in her political aspect, presents a spectacle of almost unrivalled magnificence; she controls a large portion of the human race. The nations of the earth seem tributary to her skill, or fearful of her power-and, like Babylon of old, she stands as “The Golden City, the glory of kingdoms ;" but behind this splendid and gorgeous drapery, what does she disclose ?-a lazar house, filled with wretchedness and corruption, a population sunk in poverty and vice—the wealth, and consequently the power of the country concentering daily in fewer hands, and indigence and crime extending rapidly through the land-more than half of her inhabitants, by the avowal of her own statesmen, are now paupers, living by the daily or weekly distributions of alms, and the numbers are rapidly increasing. The seats of the arts on which she prides herself, and for which she is so much envied, are now surrounded by military cantonments, the sabre and the bayonet are found necessary to silence the voice, and repress the outrages of desperate misery.* Competition in the work shops has been carried to its extreme point-the animal man has been goaded on by an irresistible necessity to labour for the greatest number of hours, and live on the sinallest quantity of food which the physical machine can bear. Every glut in a foreign market, every new competitor that springs up in their own; every variation in the price of the raw material they employ; every change of policy among foreign nations causes a vibration that is felt through each fibre of her system. If the price of raw materials falls, each manufacturer is obliged to reduce the wages of his workmen, because, unless this can be done, he cannot bring the stock of raw materials he may have on hand fairly into competition with those who purchase at the new prices. Each one will feel also, that if he cannot reduce the wages of his labourers, he will be undersold by those who may have effected this change, and who may also have the advantage of cheaper materials. If the price of the raw material should rise, similar difficulties occur, the master manufacturer has to contend against the stock of manufactured goods already in market, against his rivals who may have laid up raw materials at the lower prices, and to guard against the future fluctuations of the market. On the other hand, if the price of the manufactured article should rise, the workmen begin to clamour for an increase of wages, while their employers have motives, besides the love of gain, to be cautious in raising wages, which it will be so difficult and hazardous again to reduce--and these vibrations are taking place when the mass of the population is on the verge of starvation, when thousands and hundreds of thousands are obliged to depend on casual bounty and the poor rates, for the lowest means of subsistence, and are compelled to watch these changes with the embittered feelings of want, suffering and degradation. Need we wonder, under these circumstances, that we hear of combinations among the masters, combinations among the workmen, “turnings out, mobs, the destruction of looms, machines, manufactories, and, finally, the interference of the military, and the suppression of riots, by the destruction of the miserable offenders. This is no exaggerated picture; the testimony of the most correct and most intelligent writers of Great-Britain, the acknowledgements of

* Mr. Peel, within a few weeks, congratulating Parliament on the beneficial effects which the emancipation of the Catholics had produced, mentioned by way of exemplifying the fact, that the government had already been able to withdraw from Ireland, where they had been employed to keep the miserable and discontented peasantry in awe, three regiments to add to the military force in the manufacturing districts. VOL. IV.-NO, 8.


the journals under the patronage of the government, will corroborate all our statements. She has sought abroad for wealth and power, successfully we readily admit, but she has forgotten the happiness of her people.

It may well become the labouring classes in our country, who are yet free and intelligent, to consider these circumstances, and before they give an additional impulse to this system, to examine its ultimate results, to determine whether they are willing to be reduced to the condition of the operatives in Great-Britain, and to remember, that beyond a certain point, there can be no pause or redemption. The period will approach rapidly when no small capitalist can enter into competition with a great one. It will no longer be the trial of skill, industry or economy, but the contest of machinery, which no small capital can establish or maintain-and no labourer will find employment who will not work for the lowest wages on which life can possibly be supported. It is well for them to know to what they must submit before they can render this country the workshop of the world; what is the only condition on which competition, in foreign markets, can be maintained with other nations.

Considerations, equally important, should, at some moments, occupy the attention of the capitalists themselves, who are pressing this subject forward with unremitting zeal, apparently unmindful of every thing but their immediate interests. They bave before them the history of the British experiment, the advantages under which it has been supported, its triumphant success, and the consequences that appear, almost inevitably, to follow that success. In the midst of that prosperity which appears to foreign nations so specious and so fair, the capitalists find themselves around the crater of a boiling volcano; while the commerce of the world moves at their pleasure, they are obliged to surround themselves with an armed force to protect their persons and property from the lawless violence of licentious inobs, from the very power they must employ to produce their wealth, and to guard against those deeper convulsions with which they are constantly threatened, and which are the more dangerous, because they proceed from misery, hopeless and irremediable. We have already seen some symptoms of this evil in the United States, while wages are twice or three times as high as in Great Britain, and provisions more abundant; what will be the condition of our manufacturers when these circumstances shall vary--when the population in our manufacturing towns shall become dense and poor, when every change in the political relations of our government with foreign

nations, every war at home or abroad, every fluctuation in commerce, nay, every variation in fashion may throw multitudes out of employment, or to speak more correctly, will suspend the demand for certain articles, and leave it a question to be settled between master and workman, whether the former is to continue a business which has ceased to be productive, and may be ruinous, or the latter will quietly consent to be dismissed and starve. In the collisions that must arise under such discussions, whither will those who are physically weak turn for protection. Will the capitalists expect that all the doctrines and principles of our government shall be changed for their convenience that standing armies shall be created, in order that a military force may be provided to guard and preserve their workshops and their homes? And yet, unless this is done, where is their security? Will they call for the posse comitatus, the militia of the district, to suppress disturbances? alas! the militia of the district will be themselves the rioters, and their officers, to whom you must appeal, the very men, perhaps, who are wielding the axe or hurling the torch, directing and inflaming the passions of an excited populace, and ready, upon the slightest resistance or provocation, to turn against persons that violence which, at first, will be directed against property. These consequences are not the less probable, because, in the infant state of our manufacturing system, no serious incidents have yet occurred-some admonitions have already been given that may furnish food for meditation.

M. Sismondi is fully aware of these results, and, according to the spirit of his system, proposes immediately to regulate society. He supposes there is a point beyond which the invention of new machinery is an evil, as lessening the demand for human Jabour, and therefore leaving the poor without employment and that capital may be so amassed as to defeat its own object. When applying his reasonings to Great-Britain, and looking for an illustration of his doctrines, not in the regions of probability, but even beyond those of possibility, he exclaims, “en verité il ne reste plus qu'à désirer que le roi demeure tout seul dang l'isle, et tournant constamment une manivelle, fasse accomplir par des automates, tout l'ouvrage de l'Angleterre.” In many respects there is truth in his suggestions; when a new piece of labour-saving machinery, or a cheaper or more productive method of culture is invented, it will unquestionably happen that a large portion of labourers, previously employed, may be dismissed and left to want and misery. But, in a national point of view, their distress is temporary--that is to say, the younger

« ПретходнаНастави »