網頁圖片
PDF
ePub 版

until he is struck: if he sees that a blow is thought of, he is justified in striking, to prevent his being struck.'*

The argument that Mr. Berkeley has here adduced against the notorious mischiefs of the game laws, viz., the maintenance of a large head of game and a strict protection, so graphically illustrated by his personal experience, deserves a moment's attention for its very thoughtlessness and folly. Let it be applied to the most acknowledged right of the people, that of meeting to petition parliament for the redress of their grievances; according to Mr. Berkeley's theory, if magisterial authority is insufficient to put down these inconvenient movements, employ horse, foot and artillery. This will be 'RIGID PROTECTION.

Is the ministry embarrassed by protestantism and dissent? Re-establish the tortures of the inquisition. This would be RIGID PROTECTION.'

Is a choleric gentleman annoyed by the intrusion of beggars at his back door. Let him plant a loaded spring-gun in his yard. This is Mr. Berkeley's' RIGID PROTECTION.'

The honourable author appears, indeed, to be emulous of the fame of the Macedonian conqueror, not only in his method of untying a Gordian knot, but in the comprehensive pugnacity of his disposition; and we can easily imagine, that, if hares and pheasants were as sacredly preserved as titledeeds, the honourable gentleman, though not much given to the melting mood, would weep like Alexander, that there was not one poacher left to 'punch in the head.' We cannot conclude this notice of Mr. Berkeley's panacea without a sympathetic tear over the doleful appeals in the fiftieth page of his pamphlet.

• Is the long and old boasted adage,' says he, of the Englishman's house being his castle' to become a by-gone saying of a good old time, no longer available in these days of cant and morbid reformation ?

• Does the collective wisdom and feverish anxiety of the selfdubbed reformers of the morals of the poor, mean to throw open the private estates and manors of individuals to the incursion of a lawless rabble of bad-charactered men, who are to have free ingress to the lands for the purpose of killing game ?

The pathos of these appeals might well disarm criticism. Yet, in reply to the first of them, we may, perhaps, be permitted to suggest to so accomplished a sportsman as Mr. Berkley, that hares do not ordinarily make their forms under

* (Note in the margin.)— I have been personally engaged with poachers in twenty-six instances, by night and by day, and always with success, having made it a rule to be the first to play at the roughest game.'—p. 55.

[ocr errors]

the beds of country gentlemen; that pheasants do not usually roost on their testers, or breed in their wardrobes; and that it is comparatively seldom that snipes are put up in their drawingroom, or shot in their library. And with respect to the second appeal, our author may be reminded, that parliament may abolish the game laws without turning into commons the parks, plantations, and estates of the gentry of England.

But our author goes further than all this, and attempts to deduce from the system he is defending, such advantages as would constitute it the safeguard of social order, prosperity, and freedom.

• I hold,' says he, the man, or set of men, who would stir a step to prevent or risk the residence of the country gentleman on his lands—and they would go far to prevent it who would abolish the game laws to be the declared and bitter foes to the interests of the poor.

What would the castle or the abbey be without its lord ? or the hall or manor-house without its squire? Why, the first would be a 'remnant of feudal ages,' if not inhabited by a heart and hand of liberal and enlightened times, and the other but the empty shell of the good old English gentleman. If by untimely and ruinous interference with their amusements (for rich men will have their pleasures), you drive them to seek the joys of life at Paris, or in foreign lands, who remains to stand up for the liberty of conscience ? who to countenance the teacher of religion, whether protestant, catholic, or dissenter? and who to give effect to the local administration of the laws ?'-pp. 48, 49.

There are unhappily too many evidences of the want of earnest patriotism on the part of the British aristocracy, but we were certainly not prepared to hear that a legislative interference with their monopoly of field sports would be sufficient to expel them from their country, to lavish abroad the wealth they derive from home. We know that the age of chivalry is gone, but we were not prepared to believe, till informed from so competent a quarter, that hares and wild-fowl constituted the chief, if not the only, tie that bound to the soil of Great Britain its largest proprietors and its hereditary legislators.

And here we cannot refrain from the insertion of a characteristic paragraph upon this particular point from the pen of the late highly gifted Sydney Smith. We really cannot believe,' says he, that all our rural mansions would be deserted, although no game was to be found in their neighbourhood. Some come into the country for health, some for quiet, for agriculture, for economy, from attachment to family estates, from love of retirement, from the necessity of keeping up provincial interests, and from a vast variety of causes. Partridges and pheasants, though they form nine-tenths of human motives, still leave a small residue which may be classed under some other head. Neither are a great portion of those whom the love of shooting brings into the country, of the smallest value or importance to the county. A colonel of the guards, the second son just entered at Oxford, three diners out from Piccadilly, Major Rock, Lord John, Lord Charles, the colonel of the regiment quartered at the neighbouring town, two Irish peers and a German baron; if all this honourable company proceed with fustian jackets, dog-whistles, and chemical inventions to a solemn destruction of pheasants, how is the country benefitted by their presence? or how would earth, air, or sea, be injured by their annihilation?

* There are certainly many valuable men brought into the country by a love of shooting, who coming there for that purpose are useful for

better purposes; but a vast multitude of shooters are of no more service to the country than the ramrod which condenses the charge, or the barrel which contains it. We do not deny that the annihilation of the game laws would thin the aristocratical population of the country, but it would not thin that population so much as is contended ; and the loss of many of the persons so banished would be a good rather than a misfortune. At all events, we cannot at all comprehend the policy of alluring the better classes of society into the country by the temptation of petty tyranny and injustice, or of monopoly in sport. How absurd it would be to offer to the higher orders the exclusive use of peaches, nectarines, and apricots, as the premium of rustication to put vast quantities of men into prison as apricot eaters, apricot buyers, and apricot sellers to appoint a regular day for beginning to eat and another for leaving off-to have a lord of the manor for greengages-and to rage, with a penalty of five pounds. against the unqualified eater of the gage! And yet the privilege of shooting a set of wild poultry is stated to be the bonus for the residence of country gentlemen. As far as this immense advantage can be obtained without the sacrifice of justice and reason, well and good--but we would not oppress any order of society, or violate right and wrong to obtain any population of squires, however dense. It is the grossest of all absurdities to say,--the present state of the law is absurd and unjust; but it must not be altered, because the alteration would drive gentlemen out of the country! If gentlemen cannot breathe fresh air without injustice, let themi putrify in Cranborne-alley. Make just laws, and let squires live and die where they please.'

many

But what are we to say of Mr. Berkeley's incredible ignorance in attributing the protection of religious freedom to the sporting aristocracy of the country. Let the catholics report how far they are indebted to the tolerant and paternal spirit of the fox-hunting squirearchy; and if they have fewer wrongs to complain of, we can only attribute that doubtful advantage to the closer proximity which the Anglican Church is daily making to the doctrines and practice of popery. With regard to dissenters, however, in rural districts, the bitter spirit of the landed aristocracy has long been too notorious to need exposure. Their malignant hostility, their exclusive dealing, their petty persecution, and their supercilious insolence, render them, for the most part, as far as dissenters are concerned, the nuisance of their neighbourhood. Why, what means the not unfrequent appendage, even to their advertisements for the letting of their estates, No dissenters nced apply?' Whence arises the impossibility (and it is no uncommon case) of obtaining, in the village of a wealthy proprietor, the smallest and most useless plot of ground for the erection of a humble chapel, and the ruinous persecution of the village Hampden' who affords an apartment in his house as a substitute? And whence the refusal of the Duke of Buccleugh to sell the smallest plot of his waste land for the erection of even a shed in which the scattered members of a christian church may worship their God in peace, simplicity, and freedom ? If the Honourable Mr. Berkeley is aware of these facts, we can only express our regret that his sporting' is not confined to the fields. If he is ignorant of them, he has commenced his career as a controversial author by many years too soon.

But our author's next position in demonstration of the advantage of the game laws is too amusing to be passed over. After laying down (p. 52) the truly comic principle, that the game monopoly is only a just set-off against the peculiar burdens of the land, he adds,

'If the game laws existed no longer-observe the consequence—in every man's hand is placed a gun. If he trespasses, and refuses to desist, you may proceed against his liberty by the capture of his person, as you may do now, for, of course, there will still be a law for the protection of the privacy of property.

Where there is one conflict now between men with fire-arms there will be thousands, and in the same ratio so many increased chances of the result in murder. Every old firelock and fieldkeeping musket will be brought into play, while at the same time the small proprietor and the hitherto certificated public will be giving up the amusement of shooting; the game on

It

places of their access being reduced to the small head indigenous to the soil not worth their seeking, but still just enough to induce the pursuit of the idle and demoralized. The gunsmith's trade is then affected; the demand for the expensive material being diminished, thousands of hands at Birmingham and other places lose their bread, and all for what? Simply because a cry has been raised against an old established law, founded as that law is on just and reasonable principles, by men who seek some public stalking horse on which to ride into notice; by men whose sect or personal inabilities do not lead them to enjoy the useful pleasures protected by that law; and by men who having suffered from just restrictions have imbibed a hatred to any similar restraint.'

Mr. Berkeley informs us in the course of his pamphlet, that at a certain period of his life (and for what we can guess to the contrary, this may be true of the larger portion of it) his chief companions were the country farmers of the neighbourhood.

may possibly be on their respectable authority that he affirms, that if the game-laws were abolished, ' a gun would be placed in every man's hand. On this subject we are happily able to relieve his mind. We can assure him, for example, that among the many objects of religious zeal, the destruction of game is not to be reckoned. We question whether the evangelical clergy will give him any trouble in his nocturnal expeditions. The great body of the quakers are not so keen after grouse as Mr. Berkley may suppose. He will not, we take it, be called upon to administer the grand remedial 'punch on the head' to many dissenting ministers, nor is he likely to capture straggling Moravians knee deep in water after snipes. Indeed, we are sure that the honourable gentleman will take our word, when we affirm that the number of persons excluded from our religious communities for poaching is very inconsiderable.

Our author's sporting friends seem moreover to have been lamentably slow in communicating to him the result of their studies in political economy. We feel justified therefore in assuring him ex cathedra that if, according to his hypothesis, every individual in the British dominions were to carry a gun, the trade of the Birmingham gunsmiths would by no means suffer by the change. If our author's opinion to the contrary prevails extensively among his class, a fine opportunity is afforded to some starving operative, of turning a honest penny by the publication of a treatise, which might be entitled, Early Lessons on Political Economy, for the use of Country Gentlemen.'

To Mr. Berkeley's last statement, which represents one class of his opponents as men who, having suffered from just restrictions, have imbibed a hatred to any similar restraint, we

« 上一頁繼續 »