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why, then, so far from softening the harshness of the principle and the administration of the New Poor Law, both must be made more stringent; but if truth asserts that the people must be maintained, aye, and“ at their own dwellings" too, (thosc words are from the lips of the late Right Hon. William Pitt,) before a surplus can be appropriated for rent, why then, Sir, we must have back again the blessed law of Elizabeth, in all its purity and perfection.
I am well aware that some sincere friends of the poor, and real opponents of the New Poor Law, often exclaim-“We have no wish to return to the Old Poor Law." I bave, however, never seen any reason to dread the return to the 43rd of Elizabeth; on the contrary, I believe that the mischief which was complained of under the late poor laws, was entirely in consequence of a departure from that of Elizabeth.
Again, if Truth shall assert that Free Trade is just, we must have no half measures now—the times of expediency are ended-the conflicting principles can find no neutral ground—we must have a protecting, restrictive system now, or point blank freedom. I fear not, on all these points, to meet the enemies of the Constitution. How strange, that, in this age of the world, all these fundamental principles of political science should still be thought to be unsettled ! though settled they have been, for many centuries, by the unerring word of Truth.
I thank God, that the combatants have at length met, drawn their swords, and cast away their scabbards. I fear not the result I have taken my stand on the Constitution of England in favour of the right of the poor to relief, without any degrading inflictions of imprisonment or cruelty; as clear a right, as a landlord has to his rent.I am also to maintain the folly of thinning our ranks and wasting our wealth by transporting the most robust and intelligent of our labourers and artizans-banishing one portion of the people, and leaving the other to be mangled and crippled in our factories ! -I assert, that the strength of this, as of every other nation, is a numerous, a bold, and a brave peasantry. The notion that we have not room, and may not have food enough, causes me no fear; it may alarm those town-philosophers who never saw a field or a waste, but I have a shrewd guess, that we have means for twice our numbers. At all hazards, until our land is occupied, it is madness to banish our people, and waste our money in transporting them.
Then, with regard to trade-I maintain that protection to our native industry is necessary, and that unlimited freedom of traffic must be ruinous to England. As to a supply of food from our own soil, I can have no doubt, knowing, as I do, that agriculture is at present in its infancy. I am also free to confess, that I have a strong leaning to agricultural, rather than to manufacturing pursuits; believing the former to be altogether a more healthy, rational and pleasing occupation, and withal a more solid and secure foundation for national prosperity, than the latter ;-and being unwilling, that, under any circumstances, inducements should be offered to draw the people from the plough to the spindle, from the field to the factory, I hope that some steps will be taken to make up whatever deficiency there may be in our supply of food, by removing the superabundant and unemployed population of our manufacturing
districts, back again into the fields, that thus we may employ them, (instead of foreigners,) to provide for our wants.
I can never believe that it is a wise course of legislation to adopt such schemes as are avowedly intended to make us depend upon foreigners for our food, on condition that they will allow us to make their clothes and utensils ; thus surrendering to them decidedly the most pleasing and healthful part of human labour, and endeavouring to concentrate in our own hands, only that kind of labour and those occupations which are most destructive to health and domestic comfort. Now, Sir, no profit, no sum of money that can be told by numbers, could ever induce me to consent that England should thus be transformed into the workshop of the world, and become dependent opon foreigners for her food. With Van Bruen,“ I cannot view, without peculiar satisfaction, the evidences of the benefits that spring from the steady devotion of the husbandman to his honoura ble pursuit.” As that statesman says, “ No means of individual comfort is more certain, and no source of national prosperity is so sure. NOTHING CAN COMPENSATE A PEOPLE FOR A DEPENDENCE UPON OTHERS FOR THE BREAD THEY EAT; and that cheerful abundance, on which the happiness of every one so much depends, is to be looked for nowhere with such sure reliance as in the industry of the agriculturist and the bounties of the earth."
I can conceive of nothing so ruinous to this nation as the schemes of“ our enlightened philosophers," with reference to growing the food of the people of this country in foreign lands. As to their tales abont our not being able to grow corn enough for the inhabitants, when I think of the 15,000,000 acres of land which are still waste, and which are capable of being brought into cultivation--and also know that the land which is already cultivated, is capable, upon the average, of yielding a very large increase upon its present production when I reflect on the hundreds of thousands of unemployed labourers who are perishing for want of work-I can only wonder that any statesmen can be induced, (under the deceptions of a parcel of knaves, who think that they have an interest in deceiving them,) to conduct legislation upon the assumption that we are not able to grow food enough for our people ! But the maddest scheme of all, is, instead of locating the labourers upon their native soil, to waste our revenue in transporting them! We thus spend our capital to remove our strength!- We purchase weakness, when Nature has made us strong! If we had not ocular demonstration of such madness, the fact would be incredible!
Well then, Sir, I eschew all such unwise, un-English, unsocial, unnatural schemes, and I believe, as I said before, that there is room and may be food enough for us all in this “nice little, right little, tight little island.”
These all-important questions, and not mere party quibbles, are the points which must now be settled. I have taken my stand against Whig, Radical, Chartist, or Conservative who may oppose me. I am prepared to maintain what I believe to be truth, and “ may God defend the right !"
I have much to say about the Leaguers, for which I cannot find space in this letter. Their new-move, of an union with the Chartists, under the auspices of friend Sturge, of Birmingham, will not avail them, the Chartists cannot trust
the Whigs any more; no, not even under the leading of that truly philanthropic man. It is really a pity to see so good a creature made the dupe of men so knavish!
One fact I will tell you, which, duly appreciated, will speak volumes as to the “ honesty" of the Leaguers. When they were employing their agents to go from house to house, in the manufacturing towns, to search for cases of distress, in order to publish their “scroll of mourning, lamentation, and woe," a friend of mine waited upon one of their paid servants, and offered, without fee or reward, to assist him in taking the names and circumstances of those poor creatures who had been crippled in the factories, and of those families who had been reduced to destitution by losing their supporters, by over-work, or by accidents in the mills. Oh, no," said the agent of the Leaguers - THOSE ARE NOT THE CASES WHICH WE WANT !!”
Do you understand them, Sir ? If not, I pity you.
Until those cruel people have established a fund for the comfortable maintenance of their own cripples, and for the families who have been deprived of their supporters by Their killing labour, and by accidents, in their factories, I can only wonder at their effrontery in calling for extra-legislative measures, to enable them to extend their body, mind, and soul-destroying system !!
How I should wish to have all the thousands of poor factory cripples assembled in Manchester, to confront these Leaguers! What a sight would that be! How it would (if they had any shame in their nature) put these philanthropists (!) to the blush.
I am, your Prisoner,
RICHARD OASTLER. P.S. There is a balm to a prisoner's breast, when he knows that he is not forgotten by those “outside." There is a fragrance in the recollection of their kindness. Hence the pleasure that it yields me to recount these instances of affectionate remembrance. May 12th—" Will Watch” (a neighbour of yours) sent me a most beautiful
han. Count Krasinski, author of the “ History of the Reformation
of Poland," sent me a copy of that work, with the following note :* To Mr. Oastler,
“London, May 10th. 1841. “Sir,-Although I have not the honour of your personal acquaintance, the noble stand which you have again made for the rights of the oppressed, in your Fleet Papers of the 8th inst., earboldens me to request the favour of your acceptance of the accompanying volumes.
It is a poor token of that sincere respect which I feel for a man, who, although suffering himself, ceases not to combat oppression, in whatever shape it may appear, and whose exertions in the sacred cause of the poor, I have since long time learnt to admire. I shall be happy to make the acquaintance of the high-minded defender of the oppressed, to whose noble exertions in their sacred cause I hope and trust, that not only, your own country, but the civilized world, will ever render that justice which is due to it in the eyes of every man of honour and feeling. "I have the honour to remain, with true respect,
" Your obedient, humble servant,
“ V. KRASINSKI."
No. 6, Coffee Gallery.
accept a Sovereign, . My list is very long, I have not, however, room for more this week.—R.O. ERRATUM:rIn a few copies of No. 1. Vol. II, page 6, line 19, for-advance, read-advanced.
Printed by Vincent Torras & Co., 7, Palace Row, New Road.
Being Letters to
of Riddlesworth, in the County of Norfolk;
His Prisoner in the Fleet.
WITI OOCASIONAL COMMUNICATIONS FROM FRIENDS.
“The Altar, the Throue, and the Cottage.”—“ Property has its duties, as well as its rights."
“ The Husbandman that laboureth, must be first partaker of the fruits." “He shall judge the poor of the people, He shall save the children of the needy, and shall break
in pieces the Oppressor."
LONDON, SATURDAY, JANUARY 15, 1842.
THOMAS THORNHILL, Esq.
The Fleet Prison.
SIR, -I had intended that this letter should have contained a reply to the friendly and admonitory observations of the Editor of the Chester Courant, and other friends, on the recent numbers of the Fleet Papers, with reference to the policy which may be expected to emanate from the present Government.
I am compelled to delay the notice of my friends' remarks for a week or two, because I think my duty to my country requires that this, and, perhaps, the following number, should contain matter of more pressing importance with reference to my poor clients, the Factory Children, and their oppressors, the Leagiers.
Meantime, I beg that my kind friends will assure themselves, that their admonitions shall receive all the consideration which respect and friendship demand; and I am sure that I shall not be refused a friendly hearing, when hereafter I attempt to show cause for the course I have taken, hewbeit, to them it may appear impolitic. I have a higher motive than the salvation of party—I would save my country.
For the present, then, I ask for patience avd forbearance.
It is respecting the “ Distress" under which we are now groaning, the universal anguish of the poor, of which we now hear so inuch, which cries so loud to God for succour against the power of its guilty authors, that I wish to write at present.
That distress of the most awful and heart-rending character is now raging in this country, no one, who knows anything of the deplorable state of its inhabitants, can deny. So far from the whole truth having been told, I believe, that there are hundreds of thousands of English, Scotch, Welch, and Irish families, at this moinent, who are not "enumerated" by the Leaguers, and who do not know from whence their next meal is to come! These victims are not “the sons of idleness and vice," as Brougham called them they would gladly work and labour, even for a bare subsistence, but our manufacturing and commercial systems, of which we have so loudly boasted, have robbod them of the mcars,
Sir, I know how difficult it is to obtain the true tale of destitution ! -- with what reluctance the most severe sufferers recount the number of their miseries ! I know, also, how partial the inquiries have been, and how carefully the most excruciating are excluded, because their history would have brought home the charge of creating all that woe, to those who now seek to be considered as philantrophists; for, Sir, I know that the most distressing cases of torture are the direct victims of the accursed and murderous Slaughter-house, Migration, and Factory systems, of whom thousands are now, under the very noses of the Leaguers, unheeded and unrecorded, agonizing their lives away! Tens of thousands of able-bodied and industrious men, who are unable to find an hour'semployment are now"tramping" from the manufacturing districts, in useless scarch, for employment in the South! The records of their misery are in the silent fields and lanes, where, after dragging out the weary day, in the vain search for useful employment, at night, they shelter themselves under the walls and hedges.
Those woeful days seem now to have arrived, which were foretold by the prophet Zachariah, when," there was no hire for man, nor any hire for beast; neither was there any peace to him that went out or came in, because of the affliction."
Sir, the accounts that reach me are appalling !—The sight of the lank, wornout visages and frames of those poor pilgrims, who, even in the extremity of their own distress, still sympathize with me, and visit this Cell, “ to have another look at their 'King,'—to tell once more their tale of sorrow to him—to ask his, and to give him their blessing,"-would melt a heart of stone! Their affectionate solicitude for my well-being, their anxious inquiries about my health, their sympathizing accounts of sorrow for, what they decm, injustice inflicted upon their “King," move my heart in gratitude to God, for giving me such faithful friends, and urge me on in search of the redress for their grievances.
Noone knows the anguish I feel when listening to the woeful tales which they rehearse of their dismal homes, not knowing if their parents, wives, and children are starving at large, or wasting in the accursed Bastiles; expecting to be followed by the officers of justice, “ for leaving their families chargeable,” though they are anxiously seeking for work; hearing from neighbours, who left home since they saw their fathers, mothers, wives, or children, and being told of the last piece of furniture having been parted with for food ; of the unkindness of the New Poor Law minions, of the dreadful anxiety, sickness, or death of parent, wife, or children !-- not daring, amidst all this accumulated load of misery, to write by post, lest the police should be informed where they are, and they should be apprehended and lodged in prison !-and, to use their own words, “that would make matters worse ; for we still hope to pick up a job, and then be enabled to send some support to our families.” Such a catalogue of woes as I have here enumerated, not one of them imaginary, has come under my observation, even in prison. One poor wretched mill-worker, had thus heard, in tramping, of his three children having been attacked by the small-rox, and his wife ill in bed, unable to attend to them! Think of that man's sufferings, that victim to the Migration system, which was projected by the Leaguers! How mournful, that honest industry should, in a Christian land, be thus rewarded !