ePub 版

the game so far from injuring him, had rather done him good. This last case reminds us of a lady, who in the late slippery weather, accidentally tripped up on the pavement, and fell violently backwards. The nature of the injury, if ascertained, would not need to be specified; but upon a gentleman promptly lifting her up, and enquiring if she was hurt, she replied, “Not at all, Sir, I'm much obliged to you, quite the contrary !

But we must meet Mr. Berkeley's case with a few facts. Our author, with that cunning which constitutes his sole qualification as a controversialist, adduces the published opinion of some farmer, that a thousand hares on an estate do as much mischief as an equal number of sheep, and to do him justice, he tilts at this windmill with some success. It has, however, been repeatedly declared by experienced farmers, that the keep of three hares is equivalent to that of one sheep; and we believe that this statement has never been refuted. In a recent number of the Mark-lane Express,' we find the following statement in a letter signed ' A Tory:'

• Observing in your paper some account of the ravages caused by game, I beg leave to state what I saw during the harvest of 1814, on the estate of a tenant-farmer, who has now happily left that occupation: he did not put a scythe into 36 acres of barley, it being so completely destroyed by the game. The proprietor has since killed on the estate 3000 hares. In these days, when the population is considered to be more than the kingdom can contain, still less support, we see hares and rabbits eating that which would feed thousands all the year round. Nor is this all ; 'tis not that which is wasted or eaten by these creatures, but it is what is also prevented from being grown, by the curtailment of the tenant's means, and also the distress amongst the labourers by the damages sustained by the farmer.'

But Mr. Berkeley slyly intimates, without daring to assert the the fact, that a compensatory provision for these damages is made in the diminished rent of the tenant. Here, too, we will appeal to known facts. In a recent number of the Norwich Mercury' we find the following paragraph,

• DESTRUCTION CAUSED BY GAME.—Sir Thomas Hare has given directions that the game on his estate at Stowe, near Downham, Norfolk, should be shot down as close as possible. This determination, we believe, has arisen in consequence of the numerous complaints he has received of the injury done to the crops of his tenants. A gentleman near this city, who hired an estate last year in this county for sporting, and where he had reared a large head of game, had this week an account of £200 presented to him for

payment for damage done by the hares and rabbits to the tenants' crops.'

We have similar cases within our own personal knowledge. On the estates of a certain noble lord in Leicestershire a highly respectable tenant had, during the last year, a most promising crop of oats. The whole ground was so completely destroyed by his lordship's game, that the tenant never realized a single peck. To complain was to lose his occupation. On the rentday, however, the steward returned him the sum of £20, probably one fifth part of the loss he had sustained.

On another occasion the same nobleman, while walking over a part of his estate in the company of his tenant, and observing the destruction occasioned by his game, ordered the steward to return to him at the next rent day no less than a hundred and forty pounds upon his rent, adding, 'I wish, Mr.

- I had known of this before;' to which the tenant replied, with amusing naïvetè, ‘I wish you had, my Lord!' But even these are not the most serious evils resulting from the game laws. It appears that in a single county town (Buckingham) out of 539 prisoners, committed during the past year, 169 were offenders against the game laws, while, in the year 1843, there were in England no fewer than 4,500 men convicted of poaching. Most truly did Mr. Bright say, at a recent county meeting at Aylesbury

* His opinion was, that the game laws should be abolished, and that the law of trespass would be quite sufficient to ensure a gentleman sufficient game and sport. His neighbours would protect his land, and his tenants would get rid of a great source of disaffection. Any gentleman who would have the moral courage to call upon Parliament to repeal the game laws would prove himself to be the farmer's friend. The game preserver was not the farmer's friend, but his enemy, and the persecutor of the labourer, loading the villages in his neighbourhood with taxation to maintain the wives and children of those he caused to be sent to gaol. The game-preserver was indeed the tyrant of his country, filling the prison with inmates sent from his own domains, and doing mischief to almost every other class of his fellow-subjects.' And here it is impossible to pass by one statement of Mr. Berkeley, “That the pheasant is often the farmer's best customer.' On this subject we will quote again the language of Mr. Bright. There was,' he said, 'a general charge he would bring against the game laws.' The landowners of this country had undertaken to feed the people.

It was common for them to express their desire that this country should be independent of foreigners for a supply of food, saying that the land of this country was sufficient to supply the whole population with food. He was not going into other questions. But the land-owners having undertaken to feed the 27,000,000 of people of England and Ireland, if there was reason to believe that those people were not sufficiently fed, then it was the height of injustice and immorality on the part of the landowners to keep up a very large quantity of game, a kind of vermin, to devour a large portion of food which multitudes of the starving population would be glad to obtain.'

It is a happy circumstance that one wrong frequently exposes and counteracts another. Thus it is with the corn laws and the game laws. Each is indefensible on the principles of justice, but the two cannot certainly co-exist without reflecting on each other a character of the most palpable and infamous wrong.

We will now come to the remedies proposed by Mr. Berkeley for the multiplied evils confessedly occasioned by the game laws, and the first of these is what the writer designates a large head

game. This appears to be the cardinal article in Mr. Berkeley's creed, to judge from the earnestness of his style. A small and unprotected quantity of « indigenous game' would seem to be the greatest of all social evils. His faith, indeed, embraces both horns of the dilemma expressed in the old distich:

My wound is great because it is so small.

Then 'twould be greater were there none at all.' • I am here again,' says he, 'forced into the consideration of the good or harm occasioned by large heads of well-protected game and small lots of unprotected game on neglected lands. Closely adjoining to the village of Carleton, whence these poachers came, and adjoining or within my manor, there were some unprotected fields, the property of Earl de Grey and others, and of the parson of the parish, adandoned to the evil propensities of every vagabond who chose to carry a gun : these fields became a nursery for poachers. On these lands there were only a few scattered heads of game, and there was no enforcement of the law for their protection. An occasional hare, partridge, or rabbit, with a wild duck or snipe, as the fields adjoin the river Ouse, were all that offered to the poacher's gun.

• It was on these neglected lands that the man who kept the public house, where the poachers were in the habit of meeting, first imbibed a love for shooting.'— pp. 16, 17.

Now, there are two obvious questions which arise out of this statement. The first is, when game is altogether unprotected, and neglected as valueless, where is the guilt of the poacher? On the author's showing, he does but destroy that for which the landed proprietor cares not a rush, while his own necessities make the produce of his gun a matter of no inconsiderable im. portance. The second is; If, under these circumstances, the poacher, as he is called, imbibed his immoral and most pernicious love of shooting—where did Mr. Grantley Berkeley imbibe his? What demon seduced Prince Albert into similar snares?

and what evil-eye beguiled all the dukes, and lords, and squires in the land into the same guilty tastes and pursuits? If the taste itself is vicious, let Mr. Berkeley by all means be installed as a pluralist preacher against it. But if, on the other hand, he contends that the game which feeds on the land of B, and crosses the highways and the commons, which are the common property of the whole population from A to Z, belongs to A by an indefeasible right; then, in the name of honesty, let him prove his position-an undertaking from which, throughout the pamphlet before us, he has most studiously shrunk.

Mr. Berkeley's next remedy for this great social disorder is the strict protection of game:

I have observed,' he says, “in each of the places I have rented a great improvement in the conduct and habits of the labouring population when the game laws came to be enforced, and idle poacbing inclinations restrained; the wholesome fact also having been placed before their eyes, that it would be their interest as well as their duty to cease from the pursuit of game both by night and day. The hitherto systematic Sabbath-breaker returned to his church, and I have bad it from his pastor's lips, that he had never seen the man so tre quently an attendant on divine worship, as he had since my arrival at 'the House.' And what was the cause of this? Why, the woods and manor, the fields and the river, were no longer free to be made the exercising grounds of the idle and disorderly, or of the the man of six days labour who was tempted to desecrate the Sabbath; but the lands and the commons were protected from demoralizing abuses, and the outbreakings of a certain class in society necessitated to return by just restrictions into their proper channel.'—pp. 34, 35.

Some passing notice is due to this new argument for the observance of the sabbath. We are happy to witness Mr. Berkeley's anxiety on this very important matter. But, unfortunately, it appears from our author's statement that the only safe-guard against this sabbath-breaking on the part of the poachers, is the rigid protection of the game by a large number of keepers. 'I repeat again,' he says, (p.45) 'that the proprietor of the abandoned land, in regard to game, is the breeder of crime, the abettor of murder, and not the resident gentleman who enforces the law, and keeps up a large head of well-protected game;' while in the same page he informs us that at Berkeley alone, there are sixty men employed in nothing else than the care of the game and deer; to which he adds, immense number of grooms, and helpers, huntsmen, whippersin, and kennelmen necessary to the care and condition of from fifty to sixty hunters, besides other horses; and from eighty to a hundred couples of fox-hounds, besides other dogs ; let any

' the

man imagine the amount of wages expended on such species of labour, and then reflect on the misery which would arise if all these men and their families were deprived of their employment and subsistence.'

Thus it appears, that in order to prevent one cottager from breaking the sabbath by killing a rabbit for the sustenance of his starving family, sixty men regularly commit the same offence for the protection of their master's game, without reckoning the hangers-on of the kennel and the stable. 'I repeat,' says he (p. 39), “it is the non-enforcement of the law which demoralizes the poor; it is the neglected manor, and the little unprotected game which makes the poacher.' And again (p. 41), in speaking of his christmas benefactions, Mr. Berkeley says, 'from such gifts by me, are systematically excluded all those who habitually transgress the game or any other laws; and if in a hunting country, I am aware of a man who has stolen or injured a fox, I exclude him likewise.'

Well may Mr. Berkeley add, that had his benefactions been published 'they would have appeared under the very singular announcement that Mr. and Mrs. Berkeley were dispensing their usual bounty in a wholesome manner of good old English beef and plum-pudding to one old man and a woman! With the exception of this old couple, there was not a family in the vicinity within that which I conceived to be my immediate range, that had not in some way or other grossly misconducted themselves.'

Two more illustrations of the nature and benefits of rigid protection we must notice, before we proceed to dispose of this notable argument of the Honourable Grantley Berkeley.

I will here give,' he says (p. 20), another instance which came under my own observation touching the matter immediately in view. I detected a man in the grounds at Cranford stealing acorns. He refused to surrender to me the sack containing them, or to give his name. We were alike unarmed, and a mere personal encounter with fists was the consequence. It ended in my securing the man and sack. The thief, however, an excavator, having received some punishment, and as he looked unhappy, I forgave him his fault upon the spot.'

And again (p. 29) he says,

• Now, to speak in homely downright old English phrase, there is nothing which banishes an inclination to commit murder, or to be dangerous, from a brutal mind, half so much as a simple, welldirected 'punch on the head.' All, or nearly all, murderers are cowards: the sight of their own blood will prevent their shedding the blood of others. A gamekeeper or a constable need not wait

« 上一頁繼續 »