The State and the Ruling Class: An Anthology of Key Works of Libertarian/Classical Liberal Class Analysis

Compiled by David M. Hart
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[Created: 16 August, 2016]
[Updated: 29 April, 2017 ]



William Cobbett, “Paper Aristocracy” (24 Sept. 1804)

Editing History

  • Item added: 29 Sept. 2016
  • 1st Edit:


"Paper Aristocracy" (24 Sept., 1804)

In William Cobbett, Selections from Cobbett’s Political Works: being a complete abridgement of the 100 volumes which comprise the writings of “Porcupine” and the “Weekly political register.” With notes, historical and explanatory. By John M. Cobbett and James P. Cobbett. (London, Ann Cobbett, 1835). Vol. 1. <>

  • “Paper Aristocracy” (24 Sept. 1804)
  • "Duke of York. (Continued)", Political Register, (February, 1809)
  • Letters 2 and 3 from Paper against Gold (1810)
  • Letter "To the People of the United States of America, On the Present Internal Situation of England, as far as regards Finance" (12 Dec. 1815)
  • “The Royal Family of England”, (Feb. 10, 1816)

Editor's Intro



Amongst the great and numerous dangers to which this country, and particularly the monarchy, is exposed, in consequence of the enormous public debt, the influence, the powerful and widely-extended influence, of the monied interest is, perhaps, the most to be dreaded, because it necessarily aims at measures which directly tend to the subversion of the present order of things. In speaking of this monied interest, I do not mean to apply the phrase, as it was applied formerly, that is to say, to distinguish the possessors of personal property, more especially property in the funds, from persons possessing lands; the division of the proprietors into a monied interest, and a landed interest, is not applicable to the present times, all the people who have any thing, having now become, in a greater or less degree, stock-holders. From this latter circumstance it is artfully insinuated, that they are all deeply and equally interested in supporting the system; and, such is the blindness of avarice, or rather of self-interest, that men in general really act as if they preferred a hundred pounds’ worth of stock to an estate in land of fifty times the value. But, it is not of this mass of stock-holders; it is not of that description of persons who leave their children’s fortunes to accumulate in those funds, where, even according to the ratio of depreciation already experienced, a pound of to-day will not be worth much above a shilling twenty years hence; it is not of these simpletons of whom I speak, when I talk of the monied interest of the present day; I mean an interest hostile alike to the land-holder and to the stock-holder, to the colonist, to the real merchant, and to the manufacturer, to the clergy, to the nobility and to the throne; I mean the numerous and powerful body of loan-jobbers, directors, brokers, contractors and farmers general, which has been engendered by the excessive amount of the public debt, and the almost boundless extension of the issues of paper-money,——It was a body very much like this, which may with great propriety, I think, be denominated the Paper Aristocracy, that produced the revolution in France. Burke evidently had our monied interest, as well as that of France, in his view; but, when, in another passage of his celebrated work, he was showing the extreme injustice of seizing upon the property of the Church to satisfy the demands of the paper aristocracy of France, he little imagined that an act of similar injustice would so soon be thought of, and even proposed, in England, where clergyman and pauper are become terms almost synonymous. He had been an attentive observer of the rise and progress of the change that was taking place in France: and he thought it necessary to warn his own country, in time, against the influence of a description of persons, who, aided by a financiering minister, who gave into all their views, had begun the destruction of the French monarchy.——Our paper-aristocracy, who arose with the schemes of Mr. Pitt, have proceeded with very bold strides; theirs was the proposition for commuting the tithes; theirs the law for the redemption of the land-tax; theirs the numerous laws and regulations which have been made of late years in favour of jobbing and speculation, till at last they obtained a law compelling men to take their paper in payment of just debts, while they themselves were exempted, by the same law, from paying any part of the enormous debts which they had contracted, though they had given promissory notes for the amount! Their project for commuting the tithes was of this sort. All the tithes, small as well as great, belonging to the Clergy, were to be sold to the owners of the houses and land subject to such tithes; or, if the owners did not choose to purchase them, they were to be sold to other persons, as fast as such persons could be found. From the property of the Church these tithes were to be changed into property of the nation, and the Clergy were to receive, each of them according to his merits of course, a stipend from “his Majesty’s confidential servants,” payable, not in assignats, like the stipends of the constitutional clergy of France, but in paper, according to the old saying, “as good as the Bank,” though, perhaps, not very readily convertible into gold and silver, or even into brass. This project failed, and for the failure we have to thank his Majesty much more than any body else, not even excepting the bishops, who, if we may judge by their conduct with respect to the bill for what is called the “redemption of the land-tax,” had not the permanent interests of the Church so closely at heart as one might wish. If Mr. Pitt and his paper aristocracy had succeeded in their project for commuting the tithes, they would have strengthened themselves not only by the apparent security which the funds would have derived from so much property being in a manner brought to the account of the nation, but much more by the influence which such a change would have had upon the Clergy, who, feeling their very existence to depend upon the preservation of the paper-system, would necessarily have been its advocates; and thus the Bank and Lloyd’s would have had a zealous agent in every parish in the kingdom, in every nook and corner, where, even on days of religion and rest, twenty people were likely to be assembled together.——That the commutation of the tithes would have been followed by a similar measure with regard to the glebe, the parsonage houses, and other property of the Church there can be no doubt, especially when we consider what has, with so little opposition, been done in that way in the law for the redemption of the land-tax, which law I regard as the first direct and open blow aimed at the Church and the ancient nobility. Much has been effected of late years, in England as well as in France, by an artful selection of terms; the mass of mankind always being much more taken with the word than with the thing. Hence, while France was fighting for Robespierre alone, she was animated with all the enthusiasm of “liberty and equality;” hence the poor fools that live even within a hundred yards of Threadneedle-street most religiously believe that the Parliament has passed a “restriction” upon cash payments at the Bank; and hence few persons have ever supposed, that the “redemption of the land-tax” means a seizure, made by the government, of a part of every man’s estate. First a law was passed to render the land-tax perpetual. Who ever heard before of a perpetual tax? Yet so this tax was made. That being done, the tax was rendered saleable; the proprietor of the land having the preference as a purchaser. Had the measure stopped here it would have been less mischievous; but, in order to create as many purchasers as possible, in order to bring as great a sum as could be brought to the account of the Exchequer, and thereby prop the paper system, the effect of entails was removed as to private estates, while the collegiate and church establishments were let loose from those bonds which had heretofore preserved their possessions entire. That a farmer should sell one field out of ten, or a tradesman one tenement out of ten, in order to clear the other nine from the land-tax, was a matter of little consequence: the tenth field or tenth house would fall into the hands of other persons in nearly the same rank of life: no heir would be injured, no establishment weakened, by the sale. But, in suspending, for this purpose, the effect of entails, the heads of noble families were enabled, were invited, were tempted, and, in some cases, were obliged to alienate part of those estates, which they had received entire from their ancestors, and which should have descended entire to their heirs. Tom Paine and Joel Barlow, had they clubbed their talents in forming a scheme for sapping the foundations of the privileged orders, could have devised nothing at once more plausible, more popular, and, as far as it goes, more effectual than this law, which transferred to brokers and jobbers no inconsiderable portion of estates, several of which had descended from ancestor to heir from the Norman conquest to the administration of Mr. Pitt. The fields and the houses of farmers and tradesmen were divided, perhaps, amongst other farmers and other tradesmen; and, it is possible, though not very likely, that a considerable part of the land-tax of the nobility was bought up by themselves, or, that whether by purchase from one another, or from the other classes, the class of nobility gained, upon the whole, nearly as much property as it lost. This is barely possible; but what can, in this respect, be hoped with regard to the Church? Here the property does not descend in families; here the proprietor is merely a tenant for life; here, unlike the case of the nobility, it is impossible for one part of the order to gain by the loss of another part; here whatever is taken away never can return; and, therefore, the establishment is by so much robbed, impoverished, and weakened. This alienation and transfer of part of the property of the Church affords a clear illustration of that which is, in most instances, very dark and complicated, namely, the operation of the funding and paper system upon house and land. The country people wonder how it is that all the old gentlemen’s families are dropping off, one by one, and that those which remain are completely out-shone by the new gentlemen, from whose gilded footmen they learn that their masters were, but a few years ago, butchers, bakers, bottle-corkers, or old-clothes-men, and that, in fact, they are not, as to visible profession, much better now. At this the country people stand gaping with a mixture of amazement and curiosity; whereat some footman more profound and eloquent than his fellows, informs them, with sonorous voice and solemn accent, that the circumstance, at which they seem so much surprised, arises from the astonishing prosperity of the country. Upon which the country people gape still wider, not being, for their very souls, able to discover how that prosperity, which elevates bottle-corkers to country-gentlemen, should reduce country-gentlemen to bottle-corkers! But, the talkative footman, who, perhaps, begins, by this time, to grow impatient at their stupidity, flatly tells them, that, as he wants no dispute about the matter, those who differ from him in opinion may walk out of the hall; and, as country people love good things as well as town’s people, it is most likely that the far greater part of them will stay. This mode, however, of arguing with the belly instead of the brain I do not approve of; and, therefore, if the country people will listen to me only for a minute, I will endeavour to explain to them the cause of this phenomenon. The prosperity, of which they hear so much, does not extend its influence to all the people in the country. Its sphere is, indeed, rather confined, and it would be, I fancy, difficult to find many of its beneficial effects beyond the circle of the paper aristocracy. The country gentleman, who wishes and endeavours to live independently upon his estate, is obliged to pay to the government, for the support of the funding system, so great a portion of the revenue of that estate, that he has not enough left to live upon in the style in which his ancestors lived; and, in order to support that style, he sells part of his patrimony; once broken into, it goes piece by piece; his sons become merchants’ clerks or East India cadets; his daughters become companions or lady’s women to the wives of those in whose service the sons are embarked; the father, seeing his end approach, secures a life annuity for his widow; some speculator purchases the tottering old mansion; and thus the funding system swallows up the family. Generally applicable as this remark is, obvious as are the effects in every part of the country, the cause is not so distinctly seen as to render illustration unnecessary. What one loses another gains: the land all remains, belong to whom it will: howsoever much some classes may lose, there is no loss upon the whole; and there is room for contending, that birth, honour, and virtue gain as much wealth in some places as they lose in others. But, the instance of the Church sets this question at rest: from the Church part of the real property has been taken: not part of its revenues: not part of its annual income: but, part of its house and its land has been taken away, sold, and the money applied to the payment of those who have made loans to, and other bargains with, the government: and the Church possesses less than it did by so much, and it never will regain that which it has thus lost, or any portion of it. The same may be said with regard to the alienation, which, at the same time, took place, of the real property of the collegiate establishment, not excepting hospitals and other charitable foundations, part of the property of some of which was thus alienated for the purpose of supporting the funds, while the persons living within the walls of such hospitals and colleges were compelled to have recourse to the parish rates in aid of their income, which, by the depreciating effects of the paper-system, had already been reduced to a pittance, in many instances too small to afford them bread. Was this? Need I ask it? Was a scene of things like this ever contemplated by the liberal, the pious and benevolent founders of colleges, schools and hospitals; or by that government in whose wisdom and justice they confided for a due execution of their bequests? None of this alienated property will ever return to any of these foundations; and, though we cannot say that it is impossible for the property, alienated in the same way from noblemen’s and gentlemen’s families, to return; yet, there can, especially when we cast our eyes over the country, be but very little doubt upon the subject. Let it be observed, too, that there is now another land-tax; and, if the present gentleman should have a war to conduct for only a few years, I have, for my part, very great fears, that another redemption will take place; that another slice, and that a large one too, will, in the same way, be taken from the property of the ancient nobility and the Church. My fear may, perhaps, be groundless; for the circumstances of the times are different: men have now seen what a destruction of the nobility and clergy finally leads to, and they have not now to fear, that an opposition to any measure of the minister, be it what it may, will be attributed to motives hostile to the monarchy itself; a fear which certainly facilitated, during the last war, the adoption of many measures which never could have been carried without the aid of that or some equally powerful cause.——The influence which the paper aristocracy has had, and has now more than ever, in politics, may easily be seen by a reference to the list of the present House of Commons. Indeed, for them and them alone, war appears to be made and peace to be concluded. The disasters of the last war, and, finally, the total failure of its avowed objects, which were “indemnity for the past and security for the future,” were all to be ascribed to the interests of the ’Change having been consulted, in preference to the interests of the nation. The measures of the war were determined on at Lloyd’s. “Give us trade, and we will find you money,” was the cry. The traffic went on very prosperously for a while: for several years there was nothing but boasting: the war could be carried on “for ten years without any material inconvenience to the country:” or, it was, at least, so asserted by Mr. Pitt, who declared, at the same time, that he never would make peace till the balance of Europe was restored, and till we could obtain indemnity for the past and security for the future. Whether he kept his word as to the former, let the kings of Naples and Sardinia, let the Queen of Portugal and the Stadtholder, let the Hans Towns and Hanover and the Princes of Germany tell; and, with regard to the promise of “security for the future,” if we want any one to vouch for its observance, we must all at once have imbibed a degree of incredulity hitherto totally unknown to our character. The balance of Europe was not restored: on the contrary it was completely overturned. We had obtained no indemnity for the past. We left ourselves without any security for the future. Two years of the ten were not expired; yet Mr. Pitt recommended peace; assisted in making peace; openly defended peace; and for what? In order to “husband our resources:” or, in other words, to preserve the funding and paper system, weighed in the balance against which, the honour and the safety of the country, the liberties of the people and the stability of his Majesty’s throne, were light as a feather.——But, year after year, as the paper itself increases in quantity, the paper aristocracy seems to gather strength and boldness. Its love of rule, as well as its spirit of hostility to the known, legitimate, established and ancient orders of the kingdom were amply displayed in its proceedings relative to the Lloyd’s Fund for the rewarding of meritorious soldiers and sailors. There was great objection to such a fund, the largesses of which were to be bestowed by, and at the discretion of, persons officially unknown to either the army or the navy; but, when an attempt was made to draw into this fund, and to place at the disposal of its aspiring committee, all the collections made in all parts of the country, the rivalship between Lloyd’s and St. James’s became more apparent and more evidently dangerous. There was something audaciously unreasonable and bold in this attempt: something that argued a consciousness of strength too great to be overcome, if not too great to be thwarted by any power in the state. Yet, this might have been borne; but, the censure, not to say abuse; the severe reproaches and malignant insinuations, put forth, in the public prints, upon this occasion, against the nobility and clergy for not subscribing to the fund, can never be forgotten, and, politically considered, ought never to be forgiven. It was not enough for them, a self-created club of jobbers, brokers, and dealers in paper-money, to arrogate to themselves the office of collecting all the patriotic offerings of the country; to erect themselves into judges of the merits of the fleet and army; and, finally, to assume the functions of sovereignty in bestowing rewards upon soldiers and sailors; all this was not enough, their partisans must take upon them to judge also for the nobility and clergy, to reproach them with lukewarmness in the cause of the country, because their subscriptions fell short of what was expected; because they did not bring every pound they could borrow, and give it up to be disposed of at the pleasure, and in the name of, the committee at Lloyd’s, thereby strengthening the interest and increasing the influence, which was already too powerful for them to contend with, and under which they were daily and hourly sinking!—Of a similar nature and tendency has been, and is, the conduct of the Paper Aristocracy relative to the recent election for the country of Middlesex. Not content with coming forward and unreservedly stating, that with their money they are resolved to procure a person, whom they fix upon, to be elected a member of Parliament for the county, which person openly promises to be “a devoted instrument” in their hands; not content with acting up to the letter as well as the spirit of this resolution, they accuse, not only the gentleman who opposes their candidate, not only his immediate friends and active supporters, but also all the party with whom he has acted in Parliament; all these, including a vast majority of the talent, birth and public character of the country, they have the modesty to accuse of disaffection and disloyalty; and one of their partisans, who, in his fierce cat-a-mountain style, describes the young noblemen who canvassed for Sir Francis Burdett, “as springs, or rather, excrescences of aristocracy,” tells the public, that this support given “to the jacobin candidate” will enable them “to appreciate the effects of that broad-bottomed administration, which so many persons of consequence, and so many more of no consequence, so lately combined to form,” and which formation, be it remembered, Mr. Pitt’s partisans have solemly declared, that he used his utmost endeavours to effect, and for his not being able to effect it this very writer has blamed the King! But consistency is no part of the creed of a sect, who, in their quality of saints, claim, upon the argument of their renowned predecessor, Ralpho, a privilege which is wisely denied to the wicked, namely, of unsaying what they have said, and unswearing what they have sworn, just as often as convenience requires.—It is not till of late years, however, that saintship has been united with money-changing. The money-changers of old times seem to have been almost the only class of persons who patiently and silently submitted to rebuke. When their tables were overset, they shook their ears probably, but they appear to have made neither resistance nor clamour. Whether it be that the changer becomes bold in proportion to the worthlessness of the thing to be changed, or that, from its union with saintship, the trade has been exalted, I now not; but, certain it is, that our money-changers, though utter strangers to gold and silver, have a most plentiful stock of brass, as they have fully evinced in every stage of the proceedings relative to the Middlesex election, and more especially, I think, in their last meeting at the Freemasons’ Tavern, with Mr. Henry Thornton at their head. Of the resolutions passed at this meeting it is necessary to say nothing, the object of them being the same as that of the original combination; I cannot, however, refrain from admiring one sentiment of Mr. Thornton relative to the proposed subscription; to wit; that “the distant parts of the country looked often with anxiety to the metropolis, and expected from the great public virtue of the more opulent and enlightened classes in the country of Middlesex such sacrifices as might be necessary to repress the evils, to which it was subject, and to protect the constitution.” Now, though the “great public virtue” of directors, contractors, brokers, and jobbers of every description; though the great public virtue of those persons who have inundated the country with promissory notes for which the possessor cannot demand payment, and who have left us coin scarcely sufficient to carry on the daily traffic for the necessaries of life; though persons of this description should have a monopoly of the public virtue as well as of the public wealth, and though it should be perfectly consistent with the rules of modesty for Mr. Thornton and his friends to consider themselves as the most enlightened class of the county of Middlesex; though all this this should be right, I never can agree, that the people in the distant parts of the country look with any degree of anxiety to Mr. Thornton and his friends for the “protection of the constitution.” The people in the distant parts of the country have no anxiety at all upon the subject: they see Mr. Thornton and his friends subscribing, or, as he calls it, making sacrifices; and, if they have any anxiety about the matter, it arises from the fear, that a remuneration for those “sacrifices” will come out of their pockets.—Mr. Thornton all along makes his cause the cause of the government, or ministry, and charges Sir Francis Burdett with inconsistency in his language and conduct relative to Mr. Pitt. “He has been used,” says Mr. Thornton, “to inveigh particularly against Mr. Pitt, whom he has held up to the utmost abhorrence of the people; yet, if we may believe the speech of the gentleman who nominated him, he was one of those who laboured night and day, as they term it, to form an administration on a broad foundation; that is to say, an administration of which this very Mr. Pitt was to be a member!” And, what inconsistency was there in this? Were we not, all of us; or, at least, did we not all profess to be, for an union of all parties, in order that all political animosities should be buried, and that the enemy should see that he had the whole force of an undivided people to meet? Was not this the language of the nation at the time when the change of the ministry took place? Was it not the language of those who disliked as well as those who liked Mr. Pitt? Or, will Mr. Thornton insist, that every one who professed a wish for an union of parties, and who did not like Mr. Pitt, was a canting hypocrite? Besides, if a ministry upon a broad foundation had been formed, Mr. Pitt, though “a member,” would not have been the master of it. Disapproving of Mr. Pitt both as to person and system, Sir Francis Burdett would naturally prefer him in a situation where he would have the least degree of power that it was possible to pacify him with; and, cordially joining Sir Francis in disapprobation, as to the system of Mr. Pitt, my wish respecting the new ministry was the same, as I have more than once or twice unequivocally expressed it. So long ago as the winter of 1802, I gave it as my opinion, that Mr. Pitt never ought again to be at the head of a ministry: the same opinion, with some of the reasons whereon it was founded, was repeated in December, 1803; and, again, with additional reasons in the month of May last; yet, I was for a coalition of all the men of talents of all parties, doubtless including Mr. Pitt; and, I have not, on this score, at least, ever been accused of inconsistency. Indeed, the language and conduct of Sir Francis Burdett, with regard to Mr. Pitt, present no inconsistency; and the subject appears to have been introduced by Mr. Thornton in order to give an indirect blow at the whole of the Opposition, especially those persons who disapproved of the juggle, by which the present ministry was patched up.——This “enlightened” gentleman does not make use of the word jacobin, nor that of jacobinism, but he labours hard to inculcate the notion, that the election has, on the part of Sir Francis Burdett, been conducted upon jacobin principles, and that “his supporters are, unhappily, associated with men of the worst description, with men from whom arise our chief domestic danger, and the triumph of Sir Francis, therefore, would be the triumph of anarchy over law, and of democracy over the British constitution.” This is, from the ministerialists, at least, the first we have heard, in so official a manner, of “domestic dangers.” Mr. Addington and his colleagues repeatedly boasted, and I believe with perfect truth, though not with much decency, that, under their sway, the people were become unanimous; that they had, as it were, but one soul, as to their attachment to the constitution, and their resolution to defend it at the risk of their lives. Whence has arisen, then, the disaffection, and the domestic dangers, of the consequences of which Mr. Thornton is so apprehensive? Mr. Thornton himself, in speaking in defence of the peace of Amiens, (for what ministerial measure has he not spoken in defence of?) said, that it had “destroyed all discontents and rendered the people unanimous.” Since when, I ask therefore, have these “domestic dangers” again come to light? With all due submission to this bank director, our chief domestic danger does not consist in the machinations of democrats or anarchists, but in the excessive quantity of bank-notes, which, if a stop be not put to its increase, will, I am fully persuaded, produce effects fatal to our liberties and to the throne of our sovereign. This is the great cause of all our troubles and disgrace. It is, in fact, the cause that we are now at war. “Pay your bank-notes in specie,” said the Moniteur at the breaking out of the war, “and then we will believe in your ability to continue the contest.” Here we have, in a very few words, the opinion upon which the French cabinet proceeds in the war against us; and, I think, that there is no man in his senses who will venture to question the soundness of the opinion. If we continue to humour this paper-aristocracy; if they continue to issue million upon million of their paper; or even, if they are much longer skreened from the payment of what they already have afloat, we must sink beneath the enemy, without his firing a shot at us. He has nothing to do but to stand where he is, now and then showing us an aspect somewhat more menacing, till the paper system shall have brought us to the point at which we must arrive, and at which he well knows we must arrive, in the course of a very few years. Nay, if an invasion were to take place at this time, our “chief domestic danger” would arise from the excessive quantity of bank-notes. Does any man believe, that, if the enemy were landed in any considerable force, bank-notes would pass, especially near the enemy, in payment for provisions? Most assuredly they would not; and the confusion that would ensue can hardly be conceived, much less described. Lord Grenville, during the last session of parliament, suggested the adoption of some measure of precaution against this danger; but, by way of answer, he was reminded, that he formed part of the ministry when the bank restriction bill was passed! Precautions there are none adopted yet: the minister seems to be as much averse from making preparations against this contingency as some men are from making their wills: volunteers, men and horses, and even carriages, he is preparing in abundance, but not a word about money; though every man of the least reflection must perceive how extremely dangerous our situation will be, in case of actual invasion, if money, I mean real money, be not prepared in a considerable quantity for the payment of the army and the fleet.



William Cobbett, "Duke of York (Continued)," Political Register, (February, 1809)

Editing History

  • Item added: 29 Sept. 2016
  • 1st Edit:


DUKE OF YORK.—Continued. (Political Register, February, 1809.)

In William Cobbett, Selections from Cobbett’s Political Works: being a complete abridgement of the 100 volumes which comprise the writings of “Porcupine” and the “Weekly political register.” With notes, historical and explanatory. By John M. Cobbett and James P. Cobbett. (London, Ann Cobbett, 1835). Vol. 3. <>

Editor's Intro

On system of corruption - sale of army offices


The attention of every person in this country is now, with more or less eagerness, directed towards what is going on in the House of Commons. By a sort of involuntary motion, all eyes have been turned that way. There is no man that now seems to think it of any consequence what is done in the way of war, or of negotiation. All of us seem to feel, that, until this affair be settled, it would be absurd to waste our thoughts upon any question connected with our interests, or our honour, as a nation.

So far the state of the public mind is what it ought to be. But, while all are exclaiming against the infamous corruptions, plunderings and robberies; the insulting profligacy, that have now been proved to exist; while all mouths are open upon these topics, there has appeared no attempt to draw the attention of the people to the effect which these abominations have upon them, in their individual and family capacity.

Be this my task, by way of introduction to such other matters and remarks as it appears to me necessary, at this time, to submit to those, who bear the burdens, which arise from the corruptions that have now been proved to exist.

To persons, not accustomed to go beneath the surface of things, it may possibly appear, that it makes little difference to the people, whether commissions and offices be sold or not, because, in whatever manner they be disposed of, the expense of them must still be the same. But, it requires but very little reflection to perceive, that this proposition is opposed to the truth; for, in the first place, it is evident, that the person who purchases a post, will seek for reimbursement, either in the positive profits of the post, or in a deduction from the time or the services, which ought to be spent or rendered in that post. In the case of Dowler, for instance, who paid, it appears, to Mrs. Clarke, large sums of money for his appointment as a Commissary, is it not clear that he would not fail, during the execution of his office, to keep in view the money which he had paid for that office? And is it not equally clear, that he would miss no opportunity of reimbursement? Indeed, it is impossible to believe, that a person, who has obtained his office by the means of a bribe, whatever the nature of that bribe may be, whether consisting of money or of a vote, will ever refrain from plundering, from any other motive than that of the fear of detection. In such a case, all the effects of morality, all the influence of sentiments of honour, are completely lost to the public. That which is “conceived in sin and brought forth in corruption,” must naturally be productive of wicked and mischievous deeds.

Now, then, the money which Dowler paid to Mrs. Clarke we must consider as coming, through the exercise of his office, out of our pockets, whence it has first been taken by the tax-gatherer. To this we must add the probable further sums, which a man who had obtained his office by a bribe would be likely to appropriate to himself; and, when we see to what extent this system of bribery has prevailed, we shall not be surprised at the immense amount of the sums which we are annually called upon to pay on account of the Commissaries’ department.

In the case of offices, which are merely military, the mode of our suffering is different; but, it is not less real than in cases more immediately connected with money transactions. If the office be obtained by money, when no money ought to be paid, then there will be, by leaves of absence, or other means, a deduction of services due to the public; and, if money ought to be paid to the public, which is paid to a kept mistress, then the public clearly loses the amount, which ought to go to its credit. But, the chief evil here is, that unworthy and base persons are preferred before persons of a different description; that the vile and corrupt vermin, who hang about the metropolis, step over the heads of veterans, who have passed their lives in toils and dangers; that boys become entrusted with commands, which ought never to be in any hands but those of men of experience; that the comfort, the happiness, the backs, and the lives, of our brave soldiers are committed to the power of such men as Captains Donovan and Sandon, and Colonel French; to the power of men, whose promotion to that power has been obtained by means such as those which have now been brought to light.

Hence desertions; hence the sufferings of the soldiers; hence blunders and failures without end; and hence the millions upon millions, which all these annually cost us. To be a good military officer requires, not only bravery, but wisdom, experience, and integrity; a good understanding and a just mind. And, can these be expected in men, who have gained their posts by bribes given to a kept mistress?

Besides these, there is a positive loss in money. We pay for more officers than we need pay for if this infamous system did not exist. We see, in the case of one of the Malings, that he became a captain without ever having been on military duty. We see that others have been officers, while at school. Well, then, less officers are necessary; or, if that be not the case, the service must suffer, and the public must lose, by the absence of so many of those whom it pays.

I cannot refrain here from mentioning the case of Mr. Adam’s son, who became the Lieut.-Colonel of a regiment at the age of twenty-one years. After he was appointed an Ensign, he was sent to school. His father tells us of his feats in Holland. A second commission, that of Lieutenant, was given him while at school. At the age of sixteen he went to Holland; and here his father says he distinguished himself in the command of a body of men usually committed to a Lieutenant. “They were from the Supplementary Militia, and required a great deal of management.” Did they so? Then, was it well to commit them to a boy of sixteen, just come from school? Should it not have been a man to have the command of such men? At twenty-one years of age no person in the world can be fit for a Lieutenant-Colonel. He has the absolute command of a thousand men. The comfort, the happiness, the morality, the backs of a thousand men depend upon his wisdom and integrity. A person to be intrusted with such a charge, ought to be sober, considerate, compassionate, and yet firm to execute justice. Where are these to be found united with the passions inseparable from youth? Besides, is it possible, that the other officers, captains old enough, perhaps, to be his father, and who have every fair claim to prior promotion, can cordially submit to the command, and, occasionally, to the reproof, of a boy of twenty-one? What would Mr. Adam say, if he had to plead before a judge of twenty-one years of age? Yet, the Lieut.-Colonel of a Regiment (for the Colonel never commands) has powers still greater than those of a judge. He has, in the course of a year, to decide upon the cases of, perhaps, two thousand offences. He has to judge of characters; to weigh the merits of candidates for promotion; his smile is encouragement, and his frown disgrace; it depends upon him, whether the soldier’s life be a pleasure or a curse. Is not all this too much for the age of twenty-one years?

Every desertion from the army is a loss of fifty pounds to the country; and, how many of these losses must arise from the want of wisdom and experience in commanding officers?

But, the cost, the bare cost, of officers who do not actually serve, is immense. The younger Sheridan, for instance, has, it is notorious, been living in and about town all his lifetime. Yet, he was, sometime ago, a captain in a regiment serving abroad, and will now, I believe, be found upon the half-pay list. A return of all the officers belonging to regiments abroad, not serving with those regiments, would give us a view of the extent of this intolerable abuse. If men give money, or render secret services, for their offices, to a kept mistress, how can it be expected, that any service should be performed by them to the public? They give their money, or render secret services, for the sake of getting the pay. When Colonel French gave his money to Mrs. Clarke, it was with a view of getting three or four times the sum out of the taxes that we pay. We were the payers for Mrs. Clarke’s service of plate; we paid for her landau; we paid for her trip to Worthing; we paid for her wine-glasses at a guinea a piece; we paid for her boxes at the Opera and the play-house; and French and Sandon and Dowler and Knight and the rest of the bribing crew were merely the channel through which the money passed from the taxed people to her.

Oh! how many hundreds, how many thousands of the people, have suffered for her; she has stated, and no one has attempted to disprove her statement; she has stated in answer to the very judicious questions of Lord Folkestone, that she received in money from her keeper only 1,000l. a year; and that this was barely sufficient to defray the expense of servants’ wages and liveries; but, that the Duke told her, if she was clever, she need never want money. Twenty thousand a year was, perhaps, not sufficient to defray the amount of all her expenses. Here is 20l. a year taken, in taxes, from each of a thousand families. It is the maintenance of 645 labourers’ families at 12s. a week, the common wages of the South of Hampshire. It is equal to the poor-rates of about 50 parishes of England and Wales, taking those parishes upon an average. It is equal to the poor-rates of 66 parishes like this of Botley. It is equal to all the direct taxes, of every sort, of 21 or 22 parishes like this. First, the farmer is deprived, by these means, of a part of his comforts and conveniences; his house contains less of goods and displays less of hospitality; from him the deprivation descends to the labourer, whose scanty and coarse food, and want of raiment and fuel, produce, besides the pinching of hunger and cold, the miseries of disease, and which disease, the never-failing effect of hunger and filth, is spreading far and wide its baleful and hereditary effects. How many widows and other females, whose incomes admit of no nominal augmentation, have suffered, and are still suffering from this accursed system? Every penny paid to Mrs. Clarke is just so much taken out of the pockets of the people. All her “four or five men servants;” all her dashing carriages, all her wines, her music; all her endless luxuries, have been taken from the comforts of this suffering nation, as clearly as if the tax-gatherers had taken the money and paid it in to her housekeeper or her tradesmen. That which has been devoured by her crowd of footmen, waitingwomen, pimps, and bawds, would, if the system of corruption and profligacy had not existed, been left to augment the hospitality of gentlemen, the conveniences of tradesmen and farmers, and the loaf of labourers and journeymen; while those, her footmen, waitingwomen, pimps and bawds, would have been compelled to earn their bread by the sweat of their brow.

Taxation, when excessive, must produce misery; and especially when the taxes are applied to the purposes of luxury. It is necessary, at this time, in particular, that the people should clearly perceive this truth. Suppose there to exist a community of a hundred persons, all of whom labour, in one way or another, usefully to the community. Let ten of them cease to labour, and let them live upon the labour of the other ninety; and the consequence must be, that the ninety must work one-tenth harder upon the same quantity of food, and raiment, and fuel, or that each will have one-tenth less than he used to have, of these necessaries of life. Hence a general decrease in productions, or a general increase of the miseries growing out of labour not sufficiently fed; hence the fall of some into utter inability to supply their wants; and hence the increase of the number of paupers in this country has kept an exact pace with the increase of the taxes, or, in other words, with the increase of the number of persons who are not engaged in productive labour.

The immense sums received by Mrs. Clarke were not devoured by her. She did not consume more food than before she was the Duke’s kept mistress. But, she was enabled to keep a crowd of persons, of various descriptions, who, had they not been so maintained, must have laboured for their bread.

This is a view of the subject of which the people should never, for one moment, lose sight. This is the way, in which they are directly affected by the hellish system, which has now been proved to exist. From this view of it, they will not, I trust, be diverted by any attempts to induce them to attach most importance to the meanness, or even the immorality, of the parties. These are quite sufficient to excite national disgust and hatred; but, the main thing is for the people to see the robberies, and to be able clearly to trace to these, and such like robberies, their own privations and miseries.

Now is the time for the people to ask the revilers of Sir Francis Burdett, whether he was so very much to blame, when he told the Electors of Westminster, that no good was to be expected, till we could “tear out the leaves of the accursed Red Book.” Col. French, and Col. Knight, and Capt. Donovan, and Capt. Sandon, and Mr. Dowler, and the rest of the numerous petticoat-patronized crew, are all to be found in that Red Book, the leaves of which he wished to tear out. His voice will, I trust, now be heard by those who were before misled; if, indeed, there could be any such. I trust that now, the venal declaimers about “Jacobinism” will no longer be able to blind the understanding of any man, however simple that man may be. The man, who now affects to believe, that a deep-rooted system of corruption does not prevail, must be an arrant knave; and, of course, none but an arrant knave will affect to believe, that a radical reform of that system, and a speedy one too, is not necessary to the preservation of the throne, as well as of the remaining liberties of the people.

But, in the mean time, and, indeed, as necessarily conducive to this reform, let the people bear in mind, that it is their money that has been sported with; that it was not Col. French’s money nor Mr. Dowler’s money that the Duke of York’s kept mistress took, and that was expended upon her footmen, chariots, musicians, singers, players, dancers, parasites, pimps, and bawds, but in the end, the money of the people. This is the important truth for them to keep in view. Let every father of a family consider how much less, from this cause, he will have to bequeath to his children. When those, who formerly lived in affluence from the rent of their estates, reflect how they have been obliged to dismiss servant after servant; sell horse after horse; abridge pot after pot of the ale that formerly gladdened the heart of the comer; aye, and to cut down tree after tree, and sell acre after acre; let all such persons, when, with aching heart, they so reflect, think of Mrs. Clarke and the services of plate and the wine-glasses at a guinea a piece and the rattling carriages and the laced-footmen and the musicians and the singing-boys and the players and the dancers and the pimps and the bawds in Gloucester-place; and let every mind in the kingdom be fixed upon the scene described by Miss Taylor, every tongue repeat, and every ear tingle at, the words, “how does French behave to Darling?” Darling! How many a widowed mother has had to pronounce that word over a child driven from beneath her roof by the penury produced by these and similar corruptions! Look into families, once respectable in point of fortune, and you find them consisting of a crowd of helpless females, unable to work and ashamed to beg, the sons all forced away, for want of the means possessed by their father, to seek a subsistence from patronage, to get back again some small portion of what their father has paid in taxes, and, in order to succeed, creeping to those whom that father would have despised; nay, perhaps, the last stake of the family is converted into a bribe for a whore, while a score of breasts are filled with anxiety lest the sum should not be sufficient. Thus has the nation been degraded; its spirit subdued; its heart broken; and its property rendered a prey to the infamous reptiles, who, at last, stand exposed to its execrations, and who, I trust, are at no great distance from the hour of feeling the effects of its vengeance. I mean not the vengeance of a mob, but the steady, sober, deliberate vengeance of the law.

I now would fain call the attention of the people to the altered language and tone of the House of Commons. It will not soon be forgotten, that, when Mr. Wardle first brought forward his charges, he was answered with the boldest defiance. From both sides of the House he heard of nothing but of joy, that, at last, the charges against the Commander-in-Chief could be met in a tangible shape. He was told, that a conspiracy had long existed against the illustrious House of Hanover, and that his hearers were delighted to find, that they should now have fair play against that conspiracy. He was told, that he had incurred “a heavy responsibility;” and that the result must be “infamy upon either the accused or the accuser.” Mr. Perceval said, that, “was the present moment suitable for the statements, he believed he could enter into particulars, which would convince the House, that it was impossible to bring these alleged charges home to his royal highness.” He said, in the name of the Duke, “that his wish was, that the investigation should be most complete and public; that there was nothing his royal highness so particularly deprecated as any secret or close discussion of these charges; that standing as that illustrious personage did, on the fairness of his character, and the fulness of the evidence he was enabled to produce in refutation of these charges, he was most particularly anxious to appear before the country, acquitted by the most accurate and severe inquiry.” All this bold language, this tone of menace, have been dropped for some days; and it seems to be almost forgotten, that Mr. Wardle ever was under any very “heavy responsibility.” Nay, Mr. Yorke, who spoke so roundly of the Jacobin Conspiracy against the illustrious House of Brunswick, seems to have begun to think, that all the “talking” was not without some foundation. Mr. Canning says not a word, neither does Lord Castlereagh; Mr. William Smith, the famous Whig-Club member, thinks it no longer necessary to disclaim Mr. Wardle, in the name of his party; Mr. Whitbread is no longer in a passion at being accused of a connection with the accusing member; and the elder Sheridan talks no more of his dissuasive messages to that gentleman.

But, what is more worthy of the attention of the people is this, that now, now, now, now, behold! the East-India Company people have moved for a committee up-stairs to inquire into the sale of Writerships and Cadetships, when it is notorious to all the world, that, for many, many years past, these offices have been advertised for sale as openly, and almost as frequently, as Packwood’s Razor-strops or Spilsbury’s pills. How comes it, that we never before heard of any Committee up-stairs, or down-stairs, or in any part of the house, to inquire into these matters? What has alarmed the honour of the Directors now? Why now, for the first time? Oh! it is very surprising, that now, all of a sudden, this horror for jobbing should have seized them! For eight years I have been a witness of these advertisements. Every one must be satisfied, that, during that time, the traffic has been going on; and yet, not a whince have we heard from the tender Directors till now.

Still more worthy of the people’s attention is what dropped from Mr. Perceval the other night, after the grand explosion, including the Church as well as the State. He said, he had, for some time past, had it in mind to bring in a bill to prevent this scandalous jobbing. We thought, that you and your colleagues, Sir, said, but the other day, that we were libellers; that we had formed a conspiracy for writing and talking down all that was great and noble in the country. Why pass a bill, if what we said was libellous? Aye, a bill, oh! a bill; by all means a bill! But it does come somewhat of the latest. Yes, certainly “a day after the fair.” If you had talked of a bill of this sort long ago, instead of charging the press with being libellous; instead of instituting a long list of government prosecutions against those who complained of jobbing; then, indeed, we should have received your notification with applause; but, now, Sir, we do not. My neighbours in the country, are even so irreverent as to laugh at it; and, though I caution them against the consequence of giving way to ridicule upon state affairs, they still persist in comparing it to maternal precautions when the girl’s shape convicts her of bastardy. These country people are slow to move. They are as obstinate in their credulity as they are in their want of faith. At last they see their situation plainly; and I venture to say, that nothing short of a fair, full, entire, radical reform of abuses and corruptions will now satisfy them. The farmers have read about Mr. Beazley, and Drs. Glasse and O’Meara. They did not like tithes before; and, be you assured, that they will not now like them any thing the better. They are a strange people; always judging of what they cannot get a sight of, by what they can get a sight of. If they see a full sack, for instance, and perceive wheat dropping out, through an accidental hole, in the sack, they conclude that the sack is filled with wheat. This logic they apply to clerical preferments, and look upon Mr. Beazley, the no-popery pamphlet writer, and Drs. Glasse and O’Meara, as the grains that have dropped out. “A bill” will never satisfy such people. They do not so easily perceive the virtues of such a bill. In short, they heard enough of bills to check the Treasurer of the Navy. They want something to make them see and feel, that they cannot again be robbed by infamous jobbers; and, until they have this, bills will be of no use. But, what is to become of all the past? Or is this bill to be by implication a bill of indemnity for the past? Is there no law to punish the jobbing rascals? Bless us! no law of any sort, by which they can be come at? Why not apply to them that most convenient and accommodating thing, called the law of libel? Give me a file of newspapers, or go to Peele’s Coffee-House, and I will engage you shall have some thousands of advertisements for the purchase and sale of offices under government. I have, several times, pointed out to the ministry these scandalous advertisements. I have, more than once, taken them for mottos, a sort of text, whereon to preach a political sermon to them. I have asked why the authors of those advertisements were not called upon. No notice has ever been taken of my representations. Nay, on the very day when Mr. Wardle’s charges were brought forward; so late as that day, and after the charges had been stated, Mr. Perceval seemed to think very lightly of the matter. He said, that, in this great metropolis, there were “foolish people” who were, by such advertisements induced to throw away their money; but, as to the actual sale of places, he scouted the idea. Not a word did he, even at that late day, say about a bill to prevent jobbing. He now tells the House, that he has, for some time, thought of this bill. It is not for a very long time, it seems. On the contrary, the whole of the language of himself and his colleagues was the language of defiance. Every thing they said was in opposition to the charges of Mr. Wardle; not a soul of them allowed, that corruption existed in any shape. No, the whole cry was, that a conspiracy was on foot “against every thing great and noble;” that Jacobinism was still alive, and that what the late Pitt said of its malignant qualities was now verified; in short, every thing that could be said was said to make us believe, that the charges had had their rise in the licentiousness of the press, and in a conspiracy against all the establishments of the country, not excepting the kingly office. Denial was the word; all was denial and defiance; and not a breath about a bill to prevent jobbing. Where have the 658 members of the House been living, that they, that no one of them, ever saw cause for such a bill before? It is strange, passing strange, that this talk about a bill, this plain acknowledgment that jobbing does exist, should never have been made before. Has it sprung up, all at once, under Mr. Perceval and Mr. Canning and Lord Castlereagh? Oh, no! It is a very deep-rooted plant. Aye, and a bill will not grub it up. Of that the whole nation is convinced.

It is of the greatest importance for the people, by which term I mean all those who are not in the receipt of the public money, or any part of it, to bear in mind what passed at the time when Mr. Wardle first brought his charges forward. I was aware of this; I knew that every word then uttered would become of more and more consequence as the investigation proceeded. For this reason I was induced to depart from my usual practice, and to insert the debate entire. As it cannot be too often read, I will now remind the public, that the first part will be found at page 13 the conclusion at page 36. To this debate, as to a standard, I shall constantly refer. It is by looking back, that we are enabled to judge of what we have to expect. We are too apt always to forget the past. When any thing of interest arises, we attach our attention solely to that; but this is wrong; for, in fact, we see but half the thing without taking into view what has gone before.

This being my opinion, I will now endeavour to lead the abused people back to the beginning of the formal, public complaints, made in behalf of the Duke of York against the press; and, this is the more necessary, because it seems to me that every public writer appears to have forgotten them.

For more than a year past there have been, occasionally, little dirty pamphlets, complaining of libels against the Duke of York; but, they were so insufferably stupid, that no man of sense thought it worth his while to notice them.

In the month of August, however, when there had been published some pretty bold paragraphs against the Duke’s being sent to Spain, there was published a pamphlet, entitled “A plain statement of the conduct of the ministry and the opposition towards his royal highness the Duke of York.” It was in this pamphlet, as the public will not soon forget, that it was stated, that there existed “a family council, a domestic cabinet,” to protect the King even against his ministers; that the Queen was at the head of this council, and the Duke of York a leading member of it.

The pamphlet states, in substance, that the late ministry wished, and even attempted, greatly to abridge the power of the Duke of York; and, observe it well, the writer adds, “that his royal highness deemed it necessary to throw himself upon the protection of his ROYAL FATHER; and that the proposed measure of the Grenville party was thus defeated by the immediate interposition, not to say the COMMAND of his Majesty.” It is of great importance; it is of incalculable importance, that we now look back to these publications. But, the part of this memorable pamphlet (the writer of which has never been prosecuted) adapted more immediately to our present purpose, is that which relates to the complaints made by this writer against both ministries for NOT INTERFERING WITH THE NEWSPAPERS, in order to prevent publications against the Duke. Every word of this part of the pamphlet is now to be reperused and treasured up in the memory. Here is the passage, and I do beseech the people of this kingdom to read it over and over again.

“These incessant attacks could not but very seriously affect his royal highness, and after having maintained a dignified reserve as long as human patience could support it, he at length found it necessary to demand an inquiry into his conduct. Nothing could be so ridiculous as the affected astonishment of the ministry upon this demand. Who has presumed to attack the interest or the reputation of your royal highness? There are laws in the country to which your royal highness may appeal. Why should there be a formal inquiry where there is no formal charge? Why should the ignorance or malignity of the daily papers be raised into the consequence and dignity of having called forth an official inquiry? If any thing has been said or written against your royal highness, of which all his Majesty’s ministers must solemnly disavow even any knowledge, the Attorney-General should be ordered forthwith to commence a prosecution; and if your royal highness be unwilling personally to give your instructions to that officer of the crown, they may be given to the Treasury, by your royal highness’s secretary. But his Majesty’s ministers would think themselves deficient in a due sense of what they owed to their own dignity as his Majesty’s counsellors, if they adopted a popular rumour as sufficient grounds for an official inquiry.”

Well, this was pretty well, I think. What more did this writer wish them to do? He will tell us directly, in speaking of what he says has been the conduct of the present ministry, upon a similar occasion.

“It may be urged, indeed, in reply to all that has been said above, that the attacks complained of, have not been made with the knowledge, and still less with the consent or concurrence, of his Majesty’s ministers: that they are all of them too honourable men to concur in such a system of anonymous attack: that such a system, moreover, could answer no conceivable purpose: that the ministry are too strong in public opinion and confidence, to require the assistance of such unworthy arts. In a word, that such a persecution, and so indirectly put into operation, can have no purpose, and therefore that it is a reasonable inference that it has no existence.

To this it must be answered, that when his royal highness made similar representations, under the late ministry, the answer was uniformly, that his Majesty’s ministers were totally ignorant of the very existence of the facts alleged; that the law was open to his royal highness, and that the Attorney-General might be instructed to prosecute; that they had no influence or authority over the free press; and that they advised his royal highness to hold all such libellous accusation in the contempt which it merited.

It is notorious, however, notwithstanding all this disavowal, that the free press as it is called, and as it should be, is almost equally divided between the two leading parties in the country, and that the ministers and the opposition have the same influence, NOT TO SAY AUTHORITY, over them as if they were THE ACTUAL EDITORS. Has any instance ever occurred, in which a billet from Downing-street has been refused admission, and if required, an ample confirmatory comment, through all the Treasury papers? And will any, either of the ministry or the opposition, declare, upon their honour as gentlemen, that they have no authority or weight with the public papers? Whence does it happen, that the honour of parties is not the same with that of individuals, and that a party will assert conjunctively, what every individual of that party knows to be false? Why is there not the same point of honour with a party as with an individual?

The indecent language in the daily papers, is certainly not from the mouth of the ministers. It is impossible that men of honourable stations should descend to such terms, and to such anonymous acrimony. We are persuaded that his royal highness most fully acquits his Majesty’s ministers of any immediate participation in such libels. But the encouragement, the countenance, the impunity, of these libellers, is the efficient cause of the whole. Would the Editors of the Daily Papers thus write, unless they were persuaded that they were advocating a cause generally pleasing to their patrons? As to a legal remedy for this torrent of libel and invective, though a jury of his countrymen would visit the libellers with merited punishment, his royal highness, we believe, will not be lightly persuaded to introduce a practice which he has never approved. There have been, perhaps, already too many government prosecutions, and a precedent may thus be constituted, which, much to the injury of the free press, may be hereafter acted upon. Add to this that there may be innumerable allusions, inuendoes, and even assertions, which may have substance enough to wound, and that most deeply, but are not palpable enough for the visitation of the law. The libellers of his royal highness have been too long practised in their school, to commit themselves to the hands of a jury. Let any man of honest feelings read some of the cold-blooded articles which have lately appeared in many of the daily papers, and then answer, if his indignation be not moved by their savage malignity—yet are these libels conceived in terms so studiously picked and culled, as to elude the just vengeance of the law.

How many subjects, moreover, are there which, however grossly offensive to all honourable feeling, cannot be produced to the publicity of a legal trial. Let any man put it to his own mind—how many slanderous reports are daily in circulation to the ruin of the peace and character of their unhappy object, but for which the sufferer is yet unwilling to make his appeals to the laws of his country. There is a necessary and indiscriminating publicity in law, from which a mind of any DELICACY cannot but avert. His royal highness has indeed suffered much, but he will suffer still more, we should think, before he can persuade himself to call on the laws of his country.

So, here we have an expression of this writer’s wishes. He seems to allow, that nothing has been said of the Duke that even our libel law can lay its fangs upon, or, at least, with a fair chance of success; and, therefore, as the newspapers are, as he says, as completely at the command of the two parties, as if the leaders of those parties were the actual editors; and as, with regard to the Treasury papers, “a billet from Downing-street is never refused admittance, accompanied, if required, by an ample confirmatory comment,” he would have had orders issued from Downing-street, to those papers, to insert certain billets, and to refuse others, relating to the Duke of York.

This writer must be an enemy of the Duke, under the mask of friendship; for is it possible to form an idea of any thing more low, more mean, more shabby, more scurvy, more dirty, more base, than going to a ministry, and asking them to obtain the publication or the suppression of paragraphs, respecting him, in prints, which he must regard as being edited by the most venal of mankind? As if he had said to himself: No; the law will not do; the law cannot find any hold in the publications against me, and beside, I do not like the publicity of law; I will, therefore, have recourse to corruption; I will, by the means of influence purchased with the public money, get a good word from those whom I despise. This is what this writer imputes to the Duke of York, and this he does under the mask of friendly compassion. This he does under the pretence of defending the royal chieftain against the attacks of his calumniators. I do not believe that any act more base was ever before imputed to any human being. What, go sneaking to the ministry to beg of them to speak a good word for him to the editors of the newspapers! Foh! it is so rank, it so stinks of meanness, that one’s bowels are disordered at the thought, especially when imputed to a modern “Coriolanus.” I am not for appeals to the law, respecting matters of this sort; but, something should certainly be done by the real friends of the Duke of York, to convince the world, that this part, at least, of the pamphleteer’s statements is false. I, for my part, shall anxiously wait for the contradiction, and shall hasten to give it to the world. What! (I cannot get it out of my mind) go to the ministry to supplicate their interference with the public papers! It is such an abominable story; such atrocious slander, that surely it will be speedily contradicted.

Such is the passage, and such were my remarks upon it at the time. To this the writer added, in a very positive and peremptory tone, that the ministry and opposition must, when parliament met, both DISAVOW the attacks of the press upon the Duke. How far this positive prediction, not to call it a threat, has been fulfilled, I leave the people to judge, when they have again carefully looked over the debate upon Mr. Wardle’s Charges, bearing in mind, at the same time, the disavowal of Mr. W. Smith, in the name of his party, the anger of Mr. Whitbread, at being suspected to have given encouragement to Mr. Wardle, and the declaration of Mr. Sheridan, relative to a foul “conspiracy.”

Here, then, People of England, you have seen the origin of all these complaints against the press; I mean the first formal published complaint. Since that publication, Major Hogan’s Pamphlet, edited by the able pen of Mr. Finnerty, has appeared. In consequence of that pamphlet, many prosecutions by the Attorney-General have been commenced. Major Hogan’s pamphlet boldly speaks of petticoat promotions; it states, that the Major, who is proved, by letters from most respectable superiors, to be a man of long and very meritorious services, told the Duke, that his long-sought promotion might have been obtained, at a reduced price, if he had, like others, chosen to disgrace himself by applying to petticoat influence; that the Major was ready to produce to the Duke proof that promotions were thus disposed of; that the Duke made no answer to him; and that he (Major Hogan) has never been called on for his proof. There could be no harm at all in the Major’s saying, that he stated this to the Duke; the harm consisted in his stating, that the Duke made him no answer, and never called for his proofs; and, if this statement was false, it was very wicked and richly deserving of punishment; because the direct and inevitable tendency of it was to cause it to be believed, that such villanous influence, influence so manifestly disgraceful and injurious to both the army and the public, was used with the knowledge and connivance of the Duke, than which a heavier charge could not have been preferred against mortal existing.

It must be confessed, that this pamphlet had a wonderfully great effect all over the country. I recommended it to the attention of my readers; because I foresaw, that, whether true or false, it must finally bring to an open discussion, that question, which had, for several years, been agitated in private, and of the importance of which question I from my correspondence, was better able to judge than the public in general.

Prosecutions were now resorted to, in which prosecutions Mr. Finnerty, and the printer and venders of Major Hogan’s pamphlet, are involved, and, of course, were so involved at the date of Mr. Wardle’s bringing forward his charges. But, in the meanwhile, many people appear to have been busy in their inquiries; and, at last, Mr. Wardle, who had been successful in his inquiries, comes before the parliament, and, without applying to any party for support, or assistance, boldly makes the complaint, and prefers the charges, in the name of a burdened, an injured, and insulted people.

Now, then, we come to the reception which those Charges met with upon their first appearance. They were stated with a degree of frankness unparalleled. The accuser not only explicitly stated the nature of the several cases; he gave the details; and he even named his witnesses; leaving to the accused every possible advantage, especially if we consider of what description those witnesses were, what was their situation in life, and what was their manifest interest as connected with the cases whereon they were to be called, it being almost impossible that scarcely any one of them should support the charges, without, in the same breath, proclaiming their own infamy, or, at best, their meanness.

This procedure, so frank, so honest, so manifestly free from all desire to take advantage, was met with observations on the “heavy responsibility” to which the accuser had exposed himself; with charges against unnamed “Jacobin conspirators,” who had formed a settled scheme for writing and talking down the Duke of York, the army, and all the establishments in the country; with the severest censure upon the press, the recent “licentiousness” of which was represented as surpassing that of all former times, and the benefits of the freedom of which were, in the opinions of very good men, overbalanced by the evils of its licentiousness; with representations of the difficulty of producing convictions for obvious libels. Nor must we fail to keep fresh in our minds, that, just before the parliament met, and while so many persons were under government prosecution for alleged libels upon the Duke of York, we saw daily advertised in all the newspapers, “thoughts on libels, on juries, and on the difficulties of producing conviction in the case of libel,” which Thoughts were “dedicated to the Duke of York and Albany,” and published by Egerton, the Horse-Guards bookseller. At the same time, just upon the eve of the meeting of parliament, a person of the name of Wharton, said to be the same who is Chairman of the Committee of the House of Commons, published a pamphlet, entitled, “Remarks on the Jacobinical tendency of the Edinburgh Review, in a letter to the Earl of Lonsdale;” in which stupid Letter the author talks of libels, and of settled schemes, on the part of the press, to overthrow the establishments of the country.

Whereunto these publications tended was evident enough. Their natural tendency, supposing them to have answered the purpose for which they were written, was, first to create in the public mind, an alarm for the internal peace and safety of the country; to cause it to be believed, that, somewhere or other, there was a conspiracy brooding against the government; that this conspiracy was aided, in its diabolical views, by the press; that, of course, it was the duty of juries to get over the difficulties which had heretofore been experienced in the producing of conviction in cases of libel; and if all this should fail, to prepare the minds of the public for new, and still more severe laws, with respect to the press, providing a complete security for every great offender in future.

That such was the tendency of these publications is quite clear, and, I think, there can be very little doubt of its having been their principal, if not their sole, object. This object has, by Mr. Wardle’s exertions, been, for the present, at least, defeated. The Lord Chancellor has declared, in his place, in the House of Lords, that the laws in existence, relative to the press, are a sufficient check upon it. And, well might he make the declaration! For, what further checks can be devised, what greater dangers a writer or publisher can be exposed to, without establishing, at once, an imprimatur, and the power of transportation without trial, such as they have at Calcutta, I am at a loss to discover. We cannot now plead the truth in justification of what we write and publish. It has now been proved, thanks to Mr. Wardle, that there has, for years and years, been carried on a regular trade in military commissions and in appointments of all sorts. But, if I had happened to know, that French and Sandon gave money to Mrs. Clarke for their letter of service, and that, in consequence of that bribe, they obtained their levy from the Duke of York; if I had happened to know this; if I had stated it; and if I had been prosecuted by the Attorney-General for the statement, I should not have been able, according to the present practice of the law, to produce, in my defence, the proof of the truth of my statement, nor would my accusers have been called upon for proof of their falsehood. All that would have been requisite to my conviction would have been the proof that I was the proprietor of the paper, and a thorough opinion, in the minds of the jury, that my statement was of a sort to hurt the reputation, or even the feelings, of either of the parties; and, thus, I might have been torn from my family, and shut up in Gloucester or Dorchester jail for years, as a sacrifice to the wounded feelings of a peculating pimp. And yet, there are men, who have the assurance te tell us, that the press is still too free; and that the difficulties in the way of conviction, in cases of libel, are still too great!

Had not this, such as I have described it, been the state of the press; had not the danger of publishing truth been so great; can any one believe, that the enormities, the atrocious deeds, that have now come to light, would have been carried on for so many years? Why, I have had hundreds of letters upon the subject; but, I had no taste for either Gloucester or Dorchester jail; and, therefore, the knowledge thus communicated to me, was confined to my own indignant breast, or, at most, extended a little by the means of conversation.

If truth had not been a libel, those injuries to the nation would have been stopped in time, or, rather, they never would have had an existence. They would have been prevented by the dread of exposure; but, the press being enslaved so far as not to dare to speak the truth; as not to dare to utter what might hurt the feelings of any one, whether guilty or not; this being so notoriously the case, there was no danger of exposure, and, of course, the corruption and profligacy went on increasing, until they arrived at the pitch in which they now appear before us.

There is one way, and that a most effectual one, of silencing the press; of silencing both writers and talkers; namely, by reforming; by taking from the people the grounds of complaint; by ceasing to wrong and to insult them. But, this is a way that never seems to have been thought of. It is all to be done by force; by the law, or by the bayonet. These may silence, but they never convince; they smother for awhile, but they do not extinguish the fire of discontent; as the fate of all the old corrupt governments of the Continent has clearly demonstrated.

Conspiracy against the establishments, indeed! No, no! There is no jacobinical conspiracy: it is a conspiracy of such persons as the Reverend Drs. Glasse, and O’Meara, and the Reverend Mr. Beazley, who when they took priests’ orders, declared, that they were thereunto moved by the Holy Ghost. It is these persons, if what has been given in evidence be true; it is these, and such-like persons who are conspiring against the established church. It is impossible, that the people should believe, that these are the only instances of the kind that have existed; it is impossible, that the general opinion should not be, that many of the clergy have been preferred by the means, which were employed in behalf of these persons; and, as the people cannot know precisely where to fix, it will necessarily follow, that their suspicions will fall upon the clergy as a body; and, then, who can be surprised, if the churches should become quite instead of three-fourths, deserted? It is a very great hardship upon the worthy part of the clergy, that they should suffer in reputation from this cause; but, it is inevitable now, and the blame will not lie upon the people, but on those, who have carried on, who have winked at, and who have tolerated, these corruptions.

These observations apply to the army also, the general character of the officers of which must greatly suffer from what is now come to light. Who can tell which officer has, and which has not, obtained his promotion by bribing or pimping? Mr. Yorke said, there was a conspiracy to write down the army, through the Duke of York. What is the House of Commons at now? Is not it hard at work to pull down the reputation of the officers of the army? After this, is it possible, that the people should think, as they before thought, of rank in the military profession? Nay, is it possible, that the non-commissioned officers and soldiers should not have a quite new set of ideas respecting their officers? Is it not shocking, that the backs of hundreds of our brave countrymen should be committed to the power of a wretch, who has been base enough to purchase that power with a bribe to a kept-mistress? The case of good and honourable men, who hold offices in the army is very hard. At present it is impossible to know, who are the petticoat officers and who are not. The suspicions of the public and the soldiers must be divided amongst the whole body of officers; and the whole body must suffer accordingly. Was it not then, with good reason, that Sir Francis Burdett, in the last session of parliament, wished to provide some legal checks upon the power of the Commander-in-Chief?

The same reasoning will still apply to the royal family itself. It is not possible, that the people should look upon that family with the same eyes that they did before this explosion took place. First, the Duke of York is one of that family. Next, the question, how the rest of the family never came to hear of any of these corruptions, must, and will, pass through the mind of every man in the kingdom. I wish to guard my readers, and, as far as I am able, the people in general, from any hasty suspicions of this sort. A father and mother are, generally, the last who hear of the faults of their children. None of us would think it just to be suspected of participating in the vices of our sons and daughters. But, we may be reasonably allowed to ask, what the advisers of the King have been about all this time? Where they have lived, what society they have frequented, that they have never discovered the existence of any part of all that, which has now been brought to light? If there was such a writing and such a talking against the Duke of York, was it not their duty to have inquired into the matter? and, had they not all the means of coming at the truth? When they saw the statements of Major Hogan, ought they not to have sent for Major Hogan, and have examined him upon the subject? Did not their duty to the King, as his sworn advisers, demand this at their hands? The pamphlet entitled “A Plain Statement, &c.” says, indeed, that the late ministry made an attempt to abridge the power of the Duke, and that a stop was put to their project “by the immediate interference of the King;” but, their duty was, to go to the King with a full and fair representation of the reasons why they wished to abridge that power. To state painful truths is what a faithful counsellor is wanted for. There are always people enough about a court to flatter, and to tell what is pleasing to the ear of a king; and, how many kings have we seen come tumbling from their thrones, in only a few weeks after their flatterers had taught them to believe, that all was safety!

If the King had had wise and upright advisers, should we have ever seen two pensions for life, amounting together to 2,678l., granted to Lady Augusta Murray, lately called Duchess of Sussex? Such advisers would not have failed to perceive, and to point out to their master, the bad impression which such a grant of the public money, at a time like the present, must have upon the minds of his people. Such advisers would have reminded him, that the people could not fail to ask what services this lady (though a virtuous person, and whose case is a very hard one) had performed for them, or for the crown, to merit such an income out of the public purse, at a time when the Captains of the Navy are supplicating for a small addition to their pay. Such advisers would have pressed upon the King, who would, we must believe, have, at once, followed their advice, to abstain from all grants, either direct or indirect, to his own family, while his people were so heavily burdened, and while fresh sacrifices of their comforts, and even necessaries, were annually called for, upon the ground of their being wanted for the defence of the country against a foreign invader.

If the King had had wise and upright advisers, should we ever have seen the newspapers announcing, under the head of “court news,” the movements of Mrs. Jordan and her family, backward and forward, between Bushy Park and St. James’s Palace? If the King had had wise and upright advisers, should we ever have seen publications, like the following, circulated through all the newspapers of the kingdom!

“The Duke of Clarence’s birth-day was celebrated with much splendour in Bushy Park, on Thursday. The grand hall was entirely new fitted up, with bronze pilasters, and various marble imitations; the ceiling very correctly clouded, and the whole illuminated with some brilliant patent lamps, suspended from a beautiful eagle. The dining-room in the right wing was fitted up in a modern style, with new elegant lamps at the different entrances. The pleasure-ground was disposed for the occasion, and the servants had new liveries. In the morning the Dukes of York’s and Kent’s bands arrived in caravans; after dressing themselves and dining, they went into the pleasure-grounds, and played alternately some charming pieces. The Duke of Kent’s played some of the choruses and movements from Haydn’s Oratorio of the CREATION, arranged, by command of his royal highness, for a band of wind instruments. About five o’clock the Prince of Wales, the Dukes of York, Kent, Sussex, and Cambridge, Colonel Paget, &c. arrived from reviewing THE GERMAN LEGION. After they had dressed for dinner, they walked in the pleasure-grounds, accompanied by the Lord Chancellor, Earl and Countess of Athlone and daughter, Lord Leicester, Baron Hotham and Lady. Baron Eden, the Attorney-General, Colonels Paget and M‘Mahon, Sergeant Marshall, and a number of other persons. At seven o’clock the second bell announced the dinner, when THE PRINCE took MRS. JORDAN by the hand, led her into the dining-room, and seated her at the head of the table. The Prince took his seat at her right hand, and the Duke of York at her left; the Duke of Cambridge sat next to the Prince, the Duke of Kent next to the Duke of York, and the Lord Chancellor next to his royal highness. The DUKE OF CLARENCE sat at the foot of the table.

It is hardly necessary to say the table was sumptuously covered with every thing the season could afford. The bands played on the lawn, close to the dining-room window. The populace were permitted to enter the pleasure-grounds to behold the royal banquet, while the presence of Messrs. Townshend, Sayers, and Macmanus, preserved the most correct decorum. The Duke’s NUMEROUS FAMILY were introduced, and admired by the Prince, the Royal Dukes, and the whole company; an infant in arms, with a most beautiful white head of hair, was brought into the dining-room by the nursery-maid. After dinner the Prince gave ‘The Duke of Clarence,’ which was drunk with three times three. The Duke gave the ‘King,’ which was drunk in a similar manner. A discharge of cannon from the lawn followed. ‘The Queen and Princesses.’

—‘The Duke of York and the army.’ His royal highness’s band then struck up his celebrated march.

This article was contained in the Courier newspaper of the 3rd of August 1806; and, as the people will have observed, many such articles have appeared since, while not one of them has been contradicted. Now, if there was any truth in such statements, would not wise and upright counsellors have advised the King to put a stop to the grounds of such statements? Must not the people, upon reading such accounts, call to mind the King’s Proclamation for the suppression of Vice; and also, as if the laws were insufficient for keeping the common people in order, the erection of self-created societies for the purpose? And, will they not now ask of those pious societies, why, when they were pursuing the poor whores with their day-light lanterns, they never thought of a lantern for Gloucester Place? These godly gentlemen, no small part of whom, by-the-bye, derive their incomes from the public purse, appear to have eyes so constructed as to see vice only when she is accompanied with poverty. They fish with a net that will hold nothing but the small fry.

There is one of Mrs. Jordan’s sons in the navy, and another in the army. The latter has been described to me as a very little boy. A gentleman, who saw him in Spain, described him as not being much bigger than a son of mine who is only about ten years of age. He must, however, be older, and, it is probable, that he is fourteen years of age, or more. But, then, observe, he is a cornet in the tenth regiment of Lt. Dragoons, of which the Prince of Wales is Colonel; that he is even the second cornet upon the list; and that, according to the army-list now before me, he is senior to four other cornets. When in Spain, he was an aid-de-camp, and, a gentleman who frequently had occasion to see the quarters of the dragoons, saw his name upon a door, signifying that the apartment was his, a mark of distinction not used by common subaltern officers. Yet, this person could, by those subalterns, and by the officers in general, be looked upon as no other than the son of Mrs. Jordan; than the son of a play-actress; than the son of a person, whom, but a day or two, perhaps, before their departure from England, several of those officers had seen, in the character of Nell Jobson, pawing Bannister’s dirty face.

Aye, Mr. Yorke, say what you like, these, these are the things that create discontent and disgust; these are the things that gall; these are the things that sting the soul; and sting they will in spite of all that can be said or preached about jacobinical conspiracies. Oh, Sir! We, surely, are not all jacobins; we, surely, are not all conspirators; but, with the exception of those, who participate in corruptions, like those that have come to light, we all feel alike with respect to these things. No, Sir, the “illustrious House of Brunswick” is in no danger from conspiracies amongst the people, or any part of the people. Writers and talkers have no power to hurt any thing established, any thing settled by law, and defended by all the constables and judges and an army to boot, unless that establishment undermine itself. “Philosophy,” Sir Francis Burdett observed, in one of his early speeches, in answer to those who ascribed the fall of the old French government to the writings of an anti-christian philosophical conspiracy; “Philosophy has no such trophies to boast; the trophies are due solely to the corruption and profligacy of those, who have fallen a sacrifice to the vengeance of a people at first discontented, next indignant, next enraged, and at last infuriated, urged on by a mad and indiscriminating spirit of revenge.” From such a catastrophe, Sir, God preserve the Royal Family of England! But, Sir, let no part of that family disregard the feelings of the people. Let them bear in mind the words of Burke: “What a base and foolish thing it is for any consolidated body of authority to say, or to act as if it said: ‘I will put my trust, not in mine own virtue, but in your patience; I will indulge in effeminacy, in indolence, in corruption; I will give way to all my perverse and vicious humours; because you cannot punish me without ruining yourselves.’ ” These words, written in letters to be read at half a mile distance, should be seen upon the top of every public edifice. They should be imprinted on the hearts of princes, and of all persons in authority. Yet, in direct contradiction to the wise precept contained in them, we are continually asked, by the venal writers of the day: “how,” if we dislike this or that, of which we complain; “how we should like Buonaparte and his government?” Just as if it were necessary for us to have the one or the other; just as if we had no choice but that between Buonaparte and Mrs. Clarke! Of all the insults, which we have had to bear, this is the greatest. When we complain, that we are not as our forefathers were, these venal wretches do not attempt to deny the fact, but fall to giving us a description of the state of the people in France; and look upon their triumph as being complete, when they have asserted, that it is possible for us to be worse off than we are; that there is one nation in the world who have less liberty than we. When we complain of the weight of the taxes, the answer is, that Buonaparte would take all; and, in short, the tenour of the whole of the writings of these venal scribes is, to silence our complaints by saying, that we must submit to any thing, no matter what, or that Buonaparte shall come and put chains round our legs and necks.

And is it reasoning like this, or rather, these impudent and insulting assertions, that will induce us cheerfully to give up the necessaries of life, and shed our blood in the country’s defence? “The country,” says Burke, in the passage above quoted from; “The country, to be saved, must have warm advocates and passionate defenders, which heavy discontented acquiescence never can produce.” If this proposition did not carry in itself the evidence of its truth, that truth would now, one would think, have been forced by experience, the teacher even of fools, upon every mind. The map of Europe laid before us, where is the spot, which does not afford an awful lesson to those, who are still disposed “to put their trust in the patience of the people?” who are still disposed to say, or to act as if they said, “We will give way to all our perverse and vicious humours, because you cannot punish us without the hazard of ruining yourselves?” On how many a spot will that map enable us to lay our fingers, where the people, whose patience had been exhausted, who had long been yielding “a heavy and discontented acquiescence,” have been disposed to punish, aye, and have punished, their rulers at all hazards, and that, too, without appearing to care whether or not their own ruin would be the consequence! With these lessons before them, what must we think of those whose language tends to encourage such of the great as indulge in their vicious humours; instead of warning them of their danger? These are the real enemies of the King’s family and government; these are the real enemies of “the illustrious house of Brunswick;” these, who, when they should speak wholesome truths to them, pour in their ears the poison of flattery; these, who, when they should recommend to them conciliating language and conduct, urge them on to reproachful words and vindictive deeds; these, who, when they should show their gratitude for the timely, the gentle, the humble, admonitions of the press, fall to loading it with accusations, and turn against it every shaft in the quiver of the law.

What would have been the course of wise counsellors, even at the late hour, when Mr. Wardle preferred the accusations? They would have begged him to stay his public proceedings; they would have verified the truth with his assistance; they would then have made, in a message from the King himself, a candid statement, to the parliament and the people, of the whole of the circumstances, however painful to state; and then, as coming from the King, they would have proposed, and at once adopted, such measures, as to the past as well as the future, as would have drawn from the people an unanimous exclamation of “This is just.” How different would the effect of this course have been from the effect of the course which has been pursued! How very different with respect to the whole of the government and the establishments of the kingdom, and especially with respect to the person and family of the King? All that would then have been gained, would, by this nation, never wanting in forgiveness or in gratitude, have been received as a boon; all that is now gained will be looked upon as extorted. In the former case, the candour of the proceeding would have excited confidence for the future, and would even have called forth all the milder feelings in mitigation of the past; now, let the result be what it will, suspicion will lie brooding at bottom, and, in its own justification, will still preserve the past in all its hideous and hateful colours. This is consulting human nature; but, when did ministers and courtiers consult human nature, or any thing else but their own passions, or their own immediate interests? All the old governments of the continent have clung to their corruptions, till their hold has been cut, till it has been hacked off. They have never begun to reform till it was too late; never till compelled, and who is there that feels grateful for a compulsory compliance? Such a compliance never produces reconciliation: one party hates and the other suspects: the feelings only change bosoms: it is merely a suspension of open hostilities: the contest is soon again renewed; and the final consequence is sure to be the destruction of the government, or the complete absolute slavery of the people. Thus has it uniformly been in all the struggles between a government and a people; and I most anxiously hope, that, by turning the minds of all considerate men to thoughts on a radical and timely reform here, I may contribute, in some small degree, towards the salvation of our once happy and still beloved country.





William Cobbett, Letters 2 and 3 from Paper against Gold (1810)

Editing History

  • Item added: 29 Sept. 2016
  • 1st Edit:


Letters 2 and 3 from William Cobbett, Paper against Gold and Glory against Prosperity. Or, An Account of the Rise, Progress, Extent, and Present State of the Funds and of the Paper-Money of Great Britain; and also of the Situation of that Country as to its Debt and other Expenses; its Taxes, Population, and Paupers; drawn from authentic Documents, and brought down to the end of the Year 1814. In two vols. (London: J. McCreery, 1815). Vol. 1. <>

LETTER II. What are the Funds and Stocks and National Debt?—Necessity of clearly understanding what these Words mean—Meaning of them—Inquiry into the Origin of the Funds and Debt—The English Revolution—Act of Parliament, 4th William III, Cap. 3, begins the Funding and Debt System—First Loan to Government—Nature of Funds and Stocks and National Debt—Explanation of how “Money is put in the Funds”—Illustration in the case of Messrs. Muckworm and Company and that of Farmer Greenhorn—The Funds shown to be no place, nor any thing of a mystical nature. <>

LETTER III. Danger of exciting Popular Discontents against Country Paper-Money Makers—Description of the National Debt—Progress of the Debt—The different Denominations of it of no Consequence—Cost of the Anti-jacobin War—Progress of the National Expences—Progress of the Revenue or Taxes—The Effect of Taxation—Taxes cause Poverty and Misery in a Country—Not like Rents—Increase of Revenue no Proof of National Prosperity—What are the Signs of National Prosperity—Increase of the Poor Rates in England—Cost of the Tax-Gatherers sufficient to support 92,500 Families. <>

Editor's Intro




What are the Funds and Stocks and National Debt?—Necessity of clearly understanding what these Words mean—Meaning of them—Inquiry into the Origin of the Funds and Debt—The English Revolution—Act of Parliament, 4th William III, Cap. 3, begins the Funding and Debt System—First Loan to Government—Nature of Funds and Stocks and National Debt—Explanation of how “Money is put in the Funds”—Illustration in the case of Messrs. Muckworm and Company and that of Farmer Greenhorn—The Funds shown to be no place, nor any thing of a mystical nature.


Inquiry into the cause of the Bank Stoppage. Having in the foregoing letter, taken a sketch of the History of the Bank of England, and of its Notes, from their origin down to the time when that Bank stopped paying its notes in gold and silver, the next thing to do, in our regular course of proceeding, will be to inquire into, and clearly ascertain, the cause of that stoppage; for it is very evident, that without ascertaining this cause, we shall not be able to come to any thing like a decided opinion with regard to our main question, namely, whether there be any probability, that this Bank will be able to return to their payments in gold and silver, in which question every man of us, from the highest to the lowest, is so deeply interested.

What is meant by the words, Funds and National Debt? But, it is necessary for us to stop a little where we are, and not go on any further with our inquiries into the cause of the stoppage at the Bank of England, until we have taken time to look a little at the FUNDS and the NATIONAL DEBT. These are words, which are frequently made use of; but, like many other words, they stand for things which are little understood, and the less, perhaps, because the words are so very commonly used. As in the instance of Shrove Tuesday, or Shrovetide, words which we all, from the oldest to the youngest, make use of; but, as to their meaning, we content ourselves with supposing (or appearing to suppose,) that they contain a commandment for us to eat Fritters and Pancakes and to murder poor unoffending cocks; whereas they mean, the Tuesday, or the Time, for going to confess our sins to, and to get absolution from the Priests; to shrieve, being a word equal in meaning to confess, and shrove to confessed; and the use of them in the case here mentioned having been handed down to us from the days of our forefathers, when the Catholic worship was the worship of the country.

Perversion of the meaning these words. Monstrous, however, as is the perversion of the meaning of words, in this instance, it is scarcely more so than in the case of the Funds and the National Debt; but, there is this very important difference in the two cases; that, while, in the former, the perversion is attended with no mischief to either individuals, or to the nation; in the latter, it is attended with great mischief to both; with the ruin and misery of many a thousand of widows and orphans, and with woes unnumbered to the nation at large. But, if a right understanding of the meaning of these words be,Necessity of rightly understanding their meaning. in all cases where words are used, of some consequence, it is of peculiar consequence here, where, as may have been gathered from the preceding letter, we shall find the Funds, the Stocks, and the National Debt, to be so closely interwoven with the Bank Notes, as to be quite inseparable therefrom in every possible state or stage of their existence.

Usual meaning of these words. The word FUND means, a quantity of money, put or collected together. The word STOCK, as applied to such matters, has the same meaning. Both words may admit of meanings somewhat different from this; but, this is the meaning which plain men commonly give to these words; and it is, too, the fair and sensible meaning of them. Now, we shall presently see, in what degree this meaning belongs to what are commonly called the Funds, or the Stocks, into the origin and progress of which, we are now going to inquire; and, an inquiry it is, worthy of the undivided attention of every true Englishman; every man who wishes to see this country of his forefathers preserved from ruin and subjugation.

The Funds, Stocks, and National Debt. Soon after the English Revolution; that is to say, soon after our ancestors, who had too much spirit to be dragooned out of their liberty and their property, had driven away king James the Second, and had brought over the Prince of Orange and made him king in his stead, and had, at the same time, taken measures for stripping the family of Stuart of the crown for ever, and putting it upon the heads of his present Majesty’s family; soon after this Revolution, the existence of Funds, Stocks, and a National Debt began,began with William III. under the auspices of that same Prince of Orange, who was then become our King William III. and who appears to have lost but very little time in discovering the effectual way of obtaining money from the English, without resorting, as the Stuarts had, to those means, the use of which had, ever and anon, excited commotions against them; which had brought one of them to the scaffold; and which, at last, after driving another from the land, had for ever stripped them of their crown. The real motives for creating a National Debt we shall, by-and-by, perhaps, have occasion to notice; but, at present, our business is to get at a clear notion of the way in which it was created.

A war was the pretence for the first Loan. William the Third was hardly seated upon the throne before a war was begun against France, and, in the 4th year of his reign, being the year 1692, an act of parliament was passed imposing “Certain Rates and Duties upon Beer, Ale and other Liquors, for securing certain Recompences and Advantages in the said Act mentioned, to such Persons as shall voluntarily advance the sum of Ten Hundred Thousand Pounds towards carrying on the War against France.Act 4 Wm. III. This is the Title of the Act, being Chapter 3rd of the 4th year of William and Mary.cap. 3. These are the very words; and fatal words they were to England.

Nature of the interest upon sums lent to the government. In the body of this Act, it is enacted, that the persons, who shall advance the million of pounds, shall, out of the rates and duties imposed by the act, receive a certain interest, or annual payment, for the use of the money so advanced. They were to have, and they had, their money secured to them by the way of annuity for life or lives; and, they were to have certain advantages in cases of survivorship; and the annuities were to be redeemed upon certain conditions and at certain times. But, it will be quite useless for us to load our subject with a multitude of words, and to ring the changes upon all the quaint terms, which, as appertaining to these matters, have, one would think, been made use of for no other purpose than that of confusing the understandings of plain men. The light wherein to view the transaction is this: The Government was (no matter how, or from what cause) got into a war with France; and, for the alledged purpose of pushing on this war with “vigour” (it is odd enough that the very word was made use of, just as it is now) they borrowed a million of pounds of individuals, and, at the same time, imposed taxes upon the whole nation for the purpose of paying the interest of the money so borrowed; or, in other words, the nation’s taxes were mortgaged to the lenders of this million of pounds.

Various modes of lending sums to the Government. The lenders of the money, who, in time, became to be called fund-holders, or stock-holders, did, as the work of lending and fund-making advanced, make their loans in various ways, and the bargains between them and the government were of great variety in their terms, and in the denominations made use of; but, it was always the same thing in effect: the government borrowed the money of individuals; it mortgaged taxes for the payment of the interest; and those individuals received for their money, promises, or engagements, no matter in what shape, which enabled them to demand annually, half-yearly, or quarterly, the share of interest due to each of them; and any single parcel of interest, so received, is what is, in the queer language of the funding trade, called a “dividend.” No matter, therefore, what the thing is called; no matter how many nick names they choose to give to the several branches of the Debt. We daily see, in the news-papers, what is called the “PRICE OF STOCKS,” as in the following statement, which is in all the news-papers of this day:

  • Bank Stock 257 5½
  • 3 per Cent. Red. 68⅛ ⅝ ⅜ ½
  • 3 per Cent. Con. 67⅞ 8 7⅞
  • 4 per Cent. 85 4⅞ 5⅛ 4⅞
  • 5 per Cent. Navy 99⅜ ½ ¼ ⅜
  • Long Annuities 18½
  • Omnium 2⅝ ⅞ dis.
  • Excheq. Bills 1 dis. 5 prem.
  • Bank Stock for open. 257½
  • Consols for——68½ ¼ ⅜

These varieties in the terms are of no consequence as to the effect. These are names, which the dealers, or jobbers, in Stocks give to the several classes of them. But, as I said before, let us avoid confusing our heads with this worse than Babylonish collection of names, or sounds, and keep fully and clearly and constantly in our sight, these plain facts: First, that the Funds, the Stocks, and the National Debt, all mean one and the same thing; Secondly, that this Debt is made up of the Principal money lent to the Government at different times since the beginning of the thing in 1692; Thirdly, that the Interest upon this principal money is paid out of the taxes; and, Fourthly, that those persons who are entitled to receive this interest, are what we call fund-holders or stock-holders, or, according to the more common notion and saying, have “money in the funds.

What is putting money in the Funds? Being here in the elementary, the mere hornbook, part of our subject, we cannot make the matter too clear to our comprehension; and, we ought, by no means to go a step further, ’till we have inquired into the sense of this saying about people’s “having money in the Funds;” from which any one, who did not understand the thing, would naturally conclude, that the person who made use of the saying, looked upon the Funds as a place, where a great quantity of gold and silver was kept locked up in safety. Nor, would such conclusion be very erroneous; for, generally speaking, the notion of the people of this country is,Some people think the Funds a place. that the Funds or the Stocks (they are made use of indiscriminately,) is a PLACE, where money is kept. A place, indeed, of a sort of mysterious existence; a sort of financial Ark; a place not, perhaps, to be touched, or even seen; but, still the notion is, that of a place, and a place, too, of more than mortal security.

What the Funds really are, illustrated in the case of Alas! the Funds are no place at all! and, indeed, how should they, seeing that they are in fact, one and the same thing with the National Debt? But, to remove, from the mind of every creature, all doubt upon this point; to dissipate the mists, in which we have so long been wandering about, to the infinite amusement of those who invented these terms, let us take a plain common-sense view of one of these loaning transactions. Let us suppose, then, that the Government wants a loan, that is, wants to borrow money, to the amount of a million of pounds. It gives out its wishes to this effect, and, after the usual ceremony upon such occasions, the loan is made, that is, the money is lent,Muckworm and Co. who first lend money to the Government, by Messrs. Muckworm and Company. We shall see, by-and-by, when we come to talk more fully upon the subject of loans, what sort of a way it is, in which Muckworm pays in the money so lent, and in what sort of money it is that he pays. But, for the sake of simplicity in our illustration, we will suppose him to pay in real good money, and to pay the whole million himself at once. Well: what does Muckworm get in return? Why, his name is written in a book; against his name is written that he is entitled to receive interest for a million of money; which book is kept at the Bank Company’s house, or shop, in Threadneedle Street, London. And, thus it is that Muckworm “puts a million of money into the Funds.” “Well,” you will say, “but what becomes of the money?” Why, the Government expends it, to be sure: what should become of it? Very few people borrow money for the purpose of locking it up in their drawers or chests. “What? then, the money all vanishes; and nothing remains in lieu of it but the lender’s name written in a book?” Even so: and this, my good neighbours, is the way that “money is put into the Funds.

and afterwards sell their Stock to But, the most interesting part of the transaction remains to be described. Muckworm, who is as wise as he is rich, takes special care not to be a fund-holder himself; and, as is always the case, he loses no time in selling his stock, that is to say, his right to receive the interest of the million of pounds. These funds, or stock, as we have seen, have no bodily existence, either in the shape of money or of bonds or of certificates or of any thing else that can be seen or touched. They have a being merely in name. They mean, in fact, a right to receive interest; and, a man, who is said to possess, or to have, a thousand pounds’ worth of stock, possesses, in reality, nothing but the right of receiving the interest of a thousand pounds. When therefore, Muckworm sells his million’s worth of stock, he sells the right of receiving the interest upon the million of pounds which he lent to the government. But, the way in which sales of this sort are effected is by parcelling the stock out to little purchasers, every one of whom buys as much as he likes; he has his name written in the book for so much, instead of the name of Muckworm and Company; and, when Muckworm has sold the whole, his name is crossed out, and the names of the persons, to whom he has sold, remain in the book.

Farmer Greenhorn, who bequeaths it to his daughter Grizzle, who thus has her money in the Funds. And, here it is that the thing comes home to our very bosoms; for, our neighbour, farmer Greenhorn, who has all his life long been working like a horse, in order to secure his children from the perils of poverty, having first bequeathed his farm to his son, sells the rest of his property (amounting to a couple of thousands of pounds), and, with the real good money, the fruit of his incessant toil and care, purchases two thousand pounds worth of Muckworm’s Funds, or Stocks, and leaves the said purchase to his daughter. And, why does he do so? The reason is, that, as he believes, his daughter will always receive the interest of the two thousand pounds, without any of the risk, or trouble, belonging to the rents of house or land. Thus neighbour Greenhorn is said to have “put two thousand pounds in the funds;” and thus his daughter (poor girl!) is said to “have her money in the funds;” when the plain fact is, that Muckworm’s money has been spent by the government, that Muckworm has now the two thousand pounds of poor Grizzle Greenhorn, and that she, in return for it, has her name written in a Book, at the Bank Company’s house in Threadneedle street, London, in consequence of which she is entitled to receive the interest of the two thousand pounds; which brings us back to the point whence we started, and explains the whole art and mystery of making loans and funds and stocks and national debts.

Funds, Stocks, and National Debt are all one and the same thing. It will be very useful to show the effect of this “putting money in the funds,” with respect to the party, who is said to put it in. I do not know of any duty more pressing upon me, than that of showing, in this plain and practical way, what have been, what are, and what must be, the consequences to those, who thus dispose of their property; especially if they have no property of any other sort. But, this will be found to belong to another part of our subject; and, as we have now seen what the Funds and the Stocks really are; as we have blown away the mist in which we had so long been wandering; as the financial Ark is now no more in our sight than any veritable box made of deal boards and nails; as we are now satisfied, that there is nothing mystical in the words Funds and Stocks, and that, so far from meaning a place where a great quantity of money is kept, they are not the name of any place at all, nor of any thing which has a corporeal existence, and are the mere denominations, or names, of the several classes, or parcels, of Debt, which the government owes to individuals: in short, as we have now, let us hope, arrived at a complete knowledge of the nature and origin of the Funds and the Stocks and the National Debt, which, as was before said, are, in fact, all one and the same thing, it is time that we proceed to enquire into their progress, and to see how that progress is connected with the increase of the Bank Notes and with the stoppage of the payment of those notes in gold and silver. To do justice, however, to this copious and interesting theme, especially when coupled with what it will be necessary to say as to the schemes for arresting the progress of the Debt, will demand a separate Letter.

In the mean while,

I am, with perfect sincerity,
Your Friend,
wm. cobbett.
State Prison, Newgate,
William Cobbett
Cobbett, William
11th Sept. 1810.


Danger of exciting Popular Discontents against Country Paper-Money Makers—Description of the National Debt—Progress of the Debt—The different Denominations of it of no Consequence—Cost of the Anti-jacobin War—Progress of the National Expences—Progress of the Revenue or Taxes—The Effect of Taxation—Taxes cause Poverty and Misery in a Country—Not like Rents—Increase of Revenue no Proof of National Prosperity—What are the Signs of National Prosperity—Increase of the Poor Rates in England—Cost of the Tax-Gatherers sufficient to support 92,500 Families.


Ministerial news-papers’ description of Country Bank Notes. A london print, which is what is called ministerial newspaper, and which I, in the discharge of my duty as a public writer, am compelled to read, but which, for the sake of your morals, I hope none of you ever see, has most harshly spoken of that part of our paper money, which is issued by the Bankers, whose shops are in the country. The writer of this print has described that paper, namely, the country bank notes, as “destructive assignats;” and, in another of his publications, he calls them “vile rags;” and then again, “dirty rags.” These hard words, besides that they are unbecoming in sober discussion, can do no good, and may do a great deal of harm, if they have any effect at all upon the minds of the people; and, therefore, we will make a remark or two upon their tendency, before we proceed with the topic mentioned at the close of the last letter.

What assignats were; and their resemblance to our Bank Notes. Assignats was the name given to the French revolutionary paper-money, the distresses occasioned by which are fresh in the recollection of most people; and, to give the same name to our country bank-notes was, therefore, to proclaim, as far as this writer was able to proclaim, that these notes, being more than one half of all our circulating medium, were as bad, if not worse, than the paper-money of France, which produced so much individual misery to so many millions of people. Not that this was betraying any secret to the world; for, it is beyond all comprehension foolish to suppose, that all the world, particularly our sharp-sighted enemy, are not fully acquainted with our situation in this respect, more especially now that the Bullion Report is abroad; but, what I find fault of, is, that this description of country-bank notes, as contradistinguished from the London bank-notes, has a tendency to excite popular hatred, and, in cases that may happen, popular violence, against that part of our paper-money makers, called country-bankers; than which nothing can be much more unjust in itself, or be more likely to lead to universal confusion, the experience of the world having proved, that commotion, when once on foot, is seldom limited to the accomplishment of its original object; and, we may venture to affirm, that nothing was ever better calculated to render popular commotion violent, and to push it beyond its natural bounds, than the hatred and revenge, which it would seem to be the object of the print above mentioned to excite in the minds of the people.

Country Bankers no more to blame than the town Bankers. The country paper-money makers are not, as we shall soon see, any more to blame than are the paper-money makers in town. Paper-money making is a trade, or calling, perfectly innocent in itself, and the tradesmen may be very moral and even very liberal men. Amongst them, as amongst men of other trades, there are, doubtless, sharpers and even rogues; and, the trade itself may be one that exposes men to the temptation of becoming roguish; but, it does not follow, that all the paper-money makers, or, that the paper-money makers in general, are men of dishonest views. It is, therefore, not only illiberal, but unjust in the extreme, to condemn the whole of the trade in a lump, to call their wares “destructive assignats, vile rags, dirty rags,” and the like, whence it is, of course, intended that it should be understood, that all the issuers of them ought to be regarded as pests of society and treated accordingly; when the truth is,They have grown out of the trade. as we shall presently see, the fault is not in individuals, but in the system, out of which the swarm of paper-money makers have grown as naturally and as innocently as certain well-known little animals are engendered by, and live upon, an impoverished and sickly carcass.

Inquire into the increase of the National Debt, Having thus endeavoured to put you upon your guard against the tendency of this very unjust representation of our country bankers and their money, an endeavour, which, it appeared to me, ought not to be delayed, we will now proceed with our subject, and, as was proposed, at the close of the last Letter, inquire into the progress of the Funds and Stocks; or, in more proper terms, into the INCREASE OF THE NATIONAL DEBT.

disregarding, at present, the divers denominations of it. We have before seen what is the nature of this debt: we have also seen how it began: we shall, by-and-by, have to show the effects of it: but, what we have to do, at present, is to inquire into, and ascertain, how it has gone on increasing, and what is now its amount. We shall next inquire into the schemes for lessening the Debt; and, then we shall distinguish what is called Redeemed from Unredeemed debt; but, first of all, let us leave all other views of it aside, and confine our attention merely to the sums borrowed. We have before seen, that the money has been borrowed in various ways, or under various denominations. In some cases the money borrowed was to yield the lender 3 per centum, that is to say 3 pounds interest, yearly, for every hundred pounds of principal. In some cases the lender was to receive 4 per centum; in some cases 5 per centum; and in some cases more. Hence come the denomination of 3 per cents and 4 per cents, and so forth. But, to the people, who have to pay the interest, these distinctions are of no consequence at all, any more than it would be to either of us, whether our bakers’ bills were made out upon brown paper or upon white. We shall see afterwards what we have to pay yearly in the shape of interest, which is the thing that touches us home; but, let us first see what the principal is, and how it has gone on increasing; bearing in mind, that, as was shown in the foregoing Letter, page 24, the borrowing, and, of course, the Debt, began in the year 1692, in the reign of William the Third, and that, the loan made in that year amounted to one million of pounds.Amount of the Debt at several periods.

When Q UEEN A NNE, who succeeded William, came to the throne, which was in the year 1701, the Debt was £.16,394,702 When G EORGE I. came to the throne, in 1714, it was 54,145,363 When G EORGE II. came to the throne, in 1727, it was 52,092,235 When G EORGE III. came to the throne, in 1760, it was 146,682,844 After the A MERICAN W AR, in 1784, it was 257,213,043 At the latter END OF THE LAST WAR; that is to say, the first war against the French Revolutionists, and which, for the sake of having a distinctive appellation, we will call the A NTI -J ACOBIN W AR: at the end of that war, in 1801, the Debt was 579,931,447 At the PRESENT TIME; or, rather, in January last 811,898,082

Divers sorts of the Debt. That is to say, eight hundred and eleven millions, eight hundred and ninety eight thousand, and eighty two; and these in pounds, in English pounds, too! There are, in the accounts, laid before parliament (from which the last mentioned sum is taken) some shillings and pence and even FARTHINGS, in addition; but though these accountants have been so nice, we will not mind a few farthings. Part of this Debt is what is called funded, and a part unfunded; part is called Irish Debt, part Emperor of Germany’s Debt, and another part the Prince Regent of Portugal’s. But, interest upon the whole of it is payable in England; and that is all that we have to look after; it being of no consequence to us what the thing is called, so that we have to pay for it. So that we are taxed to pay the interest of it, what matters it to us what names the several parts of it may go by? I hope, that there is not, at this day, a man amongst you, who is to be amused with empty sounds: I hope, that your minds are not now-a-days, after all that you have seen, to be led away from the object before them by any repetition of mere names. So long as we are taxed to pay the interest upon the Debt, that man must be exceedingly weak, who is to be made to believe, that it is of any consequence to any of us by what name that debt is called.

Increase of the Debt, during the Antijacobin war. Such, then, has been the progress of the National Debt; and, it is well worthy of our attention, that it has increased in an increasing proportion. It is now nearly six times as great as it was when the present king came to the throne; and, which ought to be well attended to, more than two thirds of the whole of the Debt has been contracted in carrying on, against the French, that war, which, at its commencement, was to succeed by means of ruining the finances of France. When the Antijacobin War began, in 1793, the Debt was, at the utmost, £.257,213,043. It is now £.811,898,082. Such has, thus far, been the financial effect; such has been the effect as to money-matters, of the wars against the Jacobins. How many times were we told, that it required but one more campaign; one more; only one more vigorous campaign, to put an end to the war; to destroy, to annihilate, for ever, the resources of France. Alas! those resources have not been destroyed. They have increased in a fearful degree; while we have accumulated hundreds of millions of Debt in the attempt. How many writers have flattered us, from time to time, with the hope, nay, the certainty, (if we would but persevere) of triumphing over the French by the means of our riches! To how many of these deceivers have we been so foolish as to listen! It is this credulity, which has led to the present state of things; and, unless we shake it off at once, and resolve to look our dangers in the face, we shall, I greatly fear, experience that fate which our deceivers told us would be experienced by our enemy. Pitt, it is well known, grew into favour with the nation in consequence of his promises and his plans to pay off the National Debt; and, this same Pitt, who found that Debt 257 millions, left it upwards of 600 millions, after having, for twenty years, had the full power of managing all the resources of the nation; after having, for nearly the whole of that time, had the support of three fourths, if not more, of the Members of the House of Commons; after having, of course, adopted whatever measures he thought proper, during the whole of that time. He found the Debt two hundred and fifty odd millions, and he left it six hundred and fifty odd. This was what was done for England by that Pitt whose own private debts the people had to pay, besides the expence of a monument to his memory! This is what every man in England should bear constantly in mind.

The progressive increase in the National Expences. Having now seen how the National Debt has increased, let us next see how the EXPENCES, of the Nation have increased; and, then take a look at the increase of the TAXES; for, in order to be able to form a correct opinion upon the main points, touched upon by the Bullion Committee, we must have a full view, not only of the Debt but of the Expences and the Taxes of the nation.

When Q UEEN A NNE came to the throne, in 1701, the whole Expences of the year, including the interest on the National Debt, amounted to £.5,610,987 Peace. When G EORGE I. came to the throne, in 1714, and just after Queen Anne had been at war eleven years 6,633,581 Peace. When G EORGE II. came to the throne, in 1727, 5,441,248 Peace. When G EORGE III. came to the throne, in 1760 24,456,940 War. After the E ND OF THE A MERICAN W AR, and at the beginning of P ITT ’s Administration, in 1784 21,657,609 Peace. At the latter End of the last, or A NTI -J ACOBIN W AR, in 1801, 61,278,018 War. For the last year, that is, the year 1809, £.82,027,288 5 s.d. War.

Can this thing go on thus? Now, without any thing more than this, let me ask any of you, to whom I address this Letter, whether you think it possible for the thing to go on in this way for any great length of time?—If the subject did not present so many considerations to make us serious, it would be quite impossible to refrain from laughing at the scrupulousness that could put five shillings and a penny three farthings at the end of a sum of millions that it almost makes one’s head swim but to think of. Laughable, however, as we may think it, those who have such accounts made out, think it no laughing matter. It is, on the contrary, looked upon by them, perhaps, as no very unimportant part of the system.

Comparison between the increase of late years and that of former years. Upon looking at the above progress of the Expenditure, it is impossible to avoid being struck with the increase, during the present reign. The year 1760 was a time of war as well as the present; but, as we see, a year of war then, cost only 24 millions; whereas a year of war now costs 82 millions. We see, too, that a year of war now costs 20 millions more than a year of war cost only ten years ago. What, then, will be the cost if this war should continue many years longer, and if, as appearances threaten, the enemy should take such measures, and adopt such a change in his mode of hostility, as to add greatly to the expensiveness of our defence? This is a very material consideration; and, though it will hereafter be taken up, still I could not refrain from just touching upon it in this place. Am I told, that our money is depreciated, or fallen off in value; and that the increase in our Expences is more nominal than real; that the increase is in name; merely in the figures, and not in the thing; for that a pound is not worth any thing like what a pound was worth when the king came to the throne? Am I told this? If I am, I say, that we are not yet come to the proper place for discussing matters of this sort; that we shall come to it all in good time; but, that, in the meanwhile, I may hope to hear no more abuse of our doctrines, from those, at least, who, in this way, would reconcile our minds to the enormous increase in the Nation’s yearly Expences.

Increase of the Revenue, or Taxes. Having now taken a view of the increase of the Debt, and also of the yearly Expences of the nation, let us now see how the Revenue, or Income, or more properly speaking, the TAXES; that is to say, the money received from the people, in the course of the year, by the several sorts of Tax-gatherers; let us now see how the amount of these has gone on increasing.

When Q UEEN A NNE came to the throne, in 1701, the yearly amount of the taxes was £. 4,212,358 When G EORGE I. came to the throne, in 1714, it was 6,762,643 When G EORGE II. came to the throne, in 1727, it was 6,522,540 When G EORGE III. came to the throne, in 1760, it was 8,744,682 After the A MERICAN war, in 1784, it was 13,300,921 At the close of the Anti-Jacobin war, in 1801, it was 36,728,971 For the last year, that is 1809, it was 70,240,226

Minute errors. It is quite useless to offer any comments upon this. The figures speak too plainly for themselves to receive any assistance from words. As to the correctness of these statements, there may, perhaps, be found some little inaccuracies in the copying of the figures, and in adding some of the sums together; but, these must be very immaterial; and, indeed, none of the questions, which we have to discuss, can possibly be affected by any little error of this sort. I say this in order to bar any cavil that may, possibly, be attempted to be raised out of circumstances, such as I have here mentioned.

Effect of taxation upon the people. Thus, then, we have pretty fairly before us, a view of the increase of the Debts, the Expences, and the Taxes, of the nation; and a view it is quite sufficient to impress with serious thoughts every man, whose regard for his country is not confined to mere professions. There are persons, I know, who laugh at this. They may have reason to laugh; but we have not. The pretence is, that taxes return again to those who pay them. Return again! In what manner do they return? Can any of you perceive the taxes that you pay coming back again to you? All the interested persons who have written upon taxation, have endeavoured to persuade the people, that, to load them with taxes does them no harm at all, though this is in direct opposition to the language of every Speech that the King makes to the Parliament, during every war; for, in every such Speech, he expresses his deep sorrow, that he is compelled to lay new burdens upon his people.

Defence of taxation by the Tax-Eaters. The writers here alluded to, the greater part of whom live, or have a design to live, upon the taxes, always appear to consider the nation as being rich and prosperous in a direct proportion to the quantity of taxes that is raised upon it; never seeming to take into their views of riches and prosperity the ease and comfort of the people who pay those taxes. The notion of these persons seems to be, that, as there always will be more food raised and more goods made in the country than is sufficient for those, who own and who till the soil, and who labour in other ways, that the surplus, or super-abundance, ought to fall to their share; or, at least, that it ought to be taken away in taxes, which produce a luxurious way of living, and luxury gives employment to the people; that is to say, that it sets them to work to earn their own money back again. This is a mighty favour to be sure.

Taxes create drones, The tendency of taxation is, to create a class of persons, who do not labour: to take from those who do labour the produce of that labour, and to give it to those who do not labour. The produce taken away is, in this case, totally destroyed; but, if it were expended, or consumed, amongst those who labour, it would produce something in its stead. There would be more, or better cloth; more, or better houses; and these would be more generally distributed; while the growth of vice, which idleness always engenders and fosters, would be prevented.

who devour the earnings of the laborious. If, by the gripe of taxation, every grain of the surplus produce of a country be taken from the lowest class of those who labour; they will have the means of bare existence left. Of course, their clothing and their dwellings will become miserable, their food bad, or in stinted quantity; that surplus produce which should go to the making of an addition to their meal, and to the creating of things for their use, will be annihilated by those who do nothing but eat. Suppose, for instance,Illustration in a supposed society of Ten Men. a community to consist of a farmer, four cottagers, a taylor, a shoe-maker, a smith, a carpenter, and a mason, and that the land produces enough food for them all and no more. Suppose this little community to be seized with a desire to imitate their betters, and to keep a sinecure placeman, giving him the tenth of their produce which they formerly gave to their shoemaker. The consequence would be, that poor Crispin would die, and they would go barefooted, with the consolation of reflecting that they had brought themselves into this state from the silly vanity of keeping an idle man. But, suppose the land to yield enough food for all ten of them, and enough for two persons besides. They have this, then, besides what is absolutely necessary to supply their wants. They can spare one of their men from the field, and have besides, food enough to keep him in some other situation. Now, which is best, to make him a second carpenter, who, in return for his food, would give them additional and permanent convenience and comfort in their dwellings; or, to make him a sinecure placeman or a singer, in either of which places he would be an annihilator of corn, at the same time, that, in case of emergency, he would not be half so able to defend the community. Suppose two of the cultivators became sinecure placemen, then you kill the carpenter or some one else, or what is more likely, all the labouring part of the community, that is to say, all but the sinecure placemen, live more miserably, in dress, in dwellings, and in food. This reasoning applied to tens, applies equally well to millions, the causes and effects being, in the latter case, only a little more difficult to trace.

Rents do not operate in the same manner as Taxes. Such is the way in which taxes operate; the distinction between which operation and the operation of rents being this, that, in the latter case, you receive something of which you have the particular enjoyment, for what you give; and, in the former case you receive nothing. It is by no means to be understood, that there should be no persons to live without what is generally called labour. Physicians, Parsons, Lawyers, and others of the higher callings in life, do, in fact, labour; and it is right that there should be persons of great estate, and without any profession at all; but, then, you will find, that these persons do not live upon the earnings of others: they all of them give something in return for what they receive. Those of the learned professions give the use of their talents and skill; and the landlord gives the use of his land or his houses.

Taxes, in some cases, not injurious. Nor ought we to look upon all Taxes as so much of the fruit of our labour lost, or taken away without cause. Taxes are necessary in every community; and the man, whether he be statesman, soldier, or sailor, who is in the service of the community, gives his services in return for that portion of the taxes which he receives. We are not talking against taxes in general; nor, indeed, will we stop here to inquire, whether our taxes, at their present amount, be necessary; or, whether, by other counsels, they might, in great part, at least, have been avoided. These are questions, which, for the present, we will wholly pass over, our object being to come at a correct opinion with regard to the effect of heavy taxation upon the people who have to support it, reserving for another opportunity our remarks and opinions as to the necessity of such taxation in our particular case.

What are the true signs of national prosperity. By national prosperity the writers above alluded to mean something very different indeed from that which you and I, who have no desire to live upon the taxes, should call national prosperity. They look upon it, or, at least, they would have us look upon it as being demonstrated in the increase of the number of chariots and of fine-dressed people in and about the purlieus of the court; whereas, reflection will not fail to teach us, that this is a demonstration of the increase of the taxes, and nothing more. National prosperity shews itself in very different ways: in the plentiful meal, the comfortable dwelling, the decent furniture and dress, the healthy and happy countenances, and the good morals, of the labouring classes of the people. These are the ways in which national prosperity shows itself; and, whatever is not attended with these signs, is not national prosperity. Need I ask you, then, if heavy taxation be calculated to produce these effects? Have our labourers a plentiful meal of food fit for man? Do they taste meat once in a day? Are they decently clothed? Have they the means of obtaining firing? Are they and their children healthy and happy? I put these questions to you, Gentlemen, who have the means of knowing the facts, and who must, I am afraid, answer them all in the negative.

The poor-rates of this country: their amount and increase. But, why need we here leave any thing to conjecture, when we have the undeniable proof before us, in the accounts, laid before Parliament, of the amount of the Poor Rates, at two different periods, and, of course, at two different stages in our taxation; namely, in the year 1784, and in the year 1803? At the former period, the taxes of the year, as we have seen above, amounted to £.13,300,921; and then the Poor Rates amounted to £.2,105,623. At the latter period, the taxes of the year) as will be seen from the Official Statement in Register, Vol. IV, page 1471) amounted to £.41,931,747; and the Poor Rates had then risen to £.5,246,506. What must they, then, amount to at this day, when the year’s taxes amount to upwards of 70 millions of pounds?

Taxation and Pauperism go hand in hand. Here, then, we have a pretty good proof, that taxation and pauperism go hand in hand. We here see what was produced by the Antijacobin War. The taxes continued nearly the same from 1784 to 1793, the year in which Pitt began that war; so that, by the Antijacobin War alone the poor rates were augmented, in nominal amount, from £.2,105,623 to £.5,246,506; at which we shall not be surprized, if we apply to this case the principle above illustrated in the supposed community of ten men, where it is shown, that, by taking the produce of labour from the proprietors of it, and giving it to those, who do not labour and who do not give the proprietors of such produce any thing in return, poverty, or, at least, a less degree of ease and enjoyment, must be the consequence.

Enormous increase of the poor-rates. The poor-rates alone are now equal in amount to the whole of the national expenditure, including the interest of the Debt, when the late king came to the throne; and, the charges of managing the taxes; that is to say, the wages, salaries, or allowances, to the Tax-Gatherers of various descriptions; the bare charge which we pay on this account amounts to very little short of as much as the whole of the taxes amounted to when King William was crowned.

The Tax-gatherers devour as much as would keep 92,500 families. This charge; that is to say, what we pay to the Tax-gatherers, in one shape or another, is stated, in the account laid before Parliament for the last year, at £.2,886,201, a sum equal to a year’s wages of 92,500 labourers at twelve shillings a week, which may, I suppose, be looked upon as the average wages of labourers, take all the kingdom through. Is this no evil? Are we to be persuaded, that, to take the means of supporting 92,500 families, consisting, upon the usual computation (5 to a family), of 461,000 souls; that to take away the means of supporting all these, and giving those means to support others, whose business it is to tax the rest, instead of adding to the stock of the community by their labour; are we to be persuaded that this is no evil; and that, too, though we see the poor rates grown from 2 millions to 5 millions in the space of 10 years? Are we to be persuaded to believe this? Verily, if we are, it is a great shame for us to pretend to laugh at the Mahomedans.

Next, inquire into the schemes for arresting the increase of the Debt. Having now taken a view of the progress of the National Debt together with that of the National Expences and Taxes; and having (by stepping a little aside for a moment) seen something of their effect upon National prosperity, we will, in the next Letter, agreeably to the intention before expressed, inquire into the schemes for arresting this fearful progress; or, as they are generally denominated, plans for paying off, or reducing, the National Debt; a subject of very great importance, because, as we must now be satisfied, the bank-notes have increased with the Debt, and, of course, the reducing of the Debt would, if it were accomplished, tend to the reduction of the quantity of bank-notes, by the excess of which it is, as the Bullion Committee have declared, that the gold coin has been driven from circulation.

I am, Gentlemen,
Your faithful Friend,
wm. cobbett.
State Prison, Newgate,





William Cobbett, "To the People of the United States of America, On the Present Internal Situation of England, as far as regards Finance" (12 Dec. 1815)

Editing History

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LETTER VI. To the People of the United States of America, On the Present Internal Situation of England, as far as regards Finance.

In William Cobbett, Selections from Cobbett’s Political Works: being a complete abridgement of the 100 volumes which comprise the writings of “Porcupine” and the “Weekly political register.” With notes, historical and explanatory. By John M. Cobbett and James P. Cobbett. (London, Ann Cobbett, 1835). Vol. 4. <>

Editor's Intro



To the People of the United States of America, On the Present Internal Situation of England, as far as regards Finance.

It is natural for everybody to wish to hear of their relations, and, therefore, I presume, that it will not be disagreeable to you to hear of the Mother Country, who, though you have had some pretty serious quarrels with her, has such an affection for you, at the bottom, that I verily believe, that she would, even now, forget all the past, if you were to express the smallest desire to throw yourselves into her maternal arms. At any rate, indifferent as you may feel towards England in the light of a relation or parent, you must wish to know how she is, as a nation, at the end of 22 years of war, and under a Debt of about a thousand millions sterling.

You have seen her, by one means or another, succeed in the subjugation of France. You have seen all Europe acting at her nod. The little check she received in her short war against you, Europe has almost forgotten already. And, if she could now go on with prosperity in peace, her example would stand on high, and call for the imitation of all the nations of the earth; that is to say, the example of a nation, that, in order to succeed in war, mortgages every inch of land, every stick and stone, in her dominions.

For many years the partisans of war have been triumphing in what they called the falsified predictions of their opponents, who foretold bankruptcy and utter confusion from the enormous amount of the Debt. The former held up the increasing new enclosures of land; the increase of new roads, canals and bridges; and the increasing high-living of the rich, together with that of all the signs of wealth: these they held up to us as so many proofs of the benefits of war, debt, and taxation. And, indeed, after the stoppage of cash payments at the Bank of England in 1797, which produced very little injury at first, and, in the end, great benefit to the war and paper system, the opponents of that system had very little to say. There then became no bounds to the means of the Government, which, from that moment, obtained an effectual hold on the whole of the money’s worth things in the whole country.

But, still this could not go on for ever. It was clear, that, sooner or later, these issues of paper-money must, if continued without interruption, produce what all such issues, in all countries, have, at last, produced; namely, the total blowing up of the whole system, and, perhaps, of the Government along with it. Yet, to attempt to lessen the quantity of paper-money, it was easy to foresee, would be attended with effects nearly as serious. Effects, indeed, of the same sort, though differing so widely in their immediate cause.

An attempt of this description has now been made. But, before I speak to you of this attempt, and of its consequences, which have plunged this whole country into financial confusion, let me beg your attention to a passage in my work, now republished, and entitled, “PAPER AGAINST GOLD.”

Of this work, as being, at this time of great interest, at least, in my opinion, I have ordered some hundreds of copies to be sent to Mr. John Morgan, of Philadelphia, while the remainder of the edition are for sale by Mr. Bagshaw, of Brydges-street, Covent-garden, London. If this be deemed a Puff, it is, at any rate, without disguise. I wish this work, the greater part of which was written in the years 1810 and 1811, NOW to be read attentively through; now, when the people feel the pinch. In this work I have given the history of the rise and progress of our paper-money. I have embodied in it my principles on the subject of national debts, taxes, and bank-notes. I was abused and scoffed at. I have now republished, in two Volumes, what I then wrote, together with some additions. And, if I have any reputation in England, or in America, as a political economist, by that work, as verified, or as falsified, by events, let that reputation be tried, and let it be fairly confirmed, or let it be blasted for ever. Whatever calumniators may affect to think of my motives, whatever degree of contempt, hatred, and envy they may have affected, and may still affect to entertain for my writings, it is notorious, that, for nearly twenty years, without any aid from any quarter whatever, with hosts of literary foes in both countries, with all the weight of power and even of the popular torrent against them in both countries, and loaded with all the odium which never fails to attach to that which assails all sorts of follies and vices, and never flatters anybody; it is notorious, that, in spite of all these disadvantages, and a hundred others that might be named, these writings have continued to have, for nearly twenty years, during which, more than twenty professed, and hired, and paid opponents have sunk into utter oblivion, great influence on the minds of men. Now, with all the value that I attach (and it far exceeds every other thing of value) to intellectual powers, I here renounce all pretensions to any, and will be content to pass for a driveller for the rest of my life, if events do not substantially confirm the doctrine of “PAPER AGAINST GOLD.”

As a necessary preliminary to a description of the present state of this country, you, in America, ought to be reminded, that “Paper against Gold” was called forth by a Report, made to the House of Commons, in 1810, by a Committee, called the Bullion Committee. This Committee recommended, that the Bank of England, at the end of a certain period, should be compelled to pay in real money. The House rejected this proposition, at last. The whole history of the proceedings is contained in my work; but this was the main point. I contended, that the Bank never could pay in gold, as long as the interest on the National Debt continued to be paid in full.

Now, observe, Peace being come; no pretext being left for not paying in gold; the law, which authorizes the Bank to refuse payment in gold being about to expire; a renewal of it being necessary, unless gold payments can be made. This being the state of things, as to the Bank, an attempt appears to be making to acquire the ability of paying in gold. I contended, you will bear in mind, that this could not be done; and now I will quote my own words, from the first Volume of “Paper against Gold,” pages 446, 447, and 448.

“Need I say any more upon this subject? Is it not something monstrous to suppose, that it would be possible for the Bank Company to buy gold in quantity sufficient to be able to pay their notes in it? ‘Well,’ say others, ‘but the Bank Company may lessen the quantity of its paper by narrowing its discounts.’ To be sure they might; and the only consequence of that would be, that the taxes would not be paid, and, of course, that the soldiers, the judges, and all the other persons paid by the public, would have to go without pay. The discounts make a part of the system; and, if it be put a stop to, that is neither more nor less than one of the ways of totally destroying the system. To lessen the quantity of the paper is, therefore, impossible, without producing ruin amongst all persons in trade, and without disabling the country to pay the taxes, at their present nominal amount.

But, suppose all other difficulties were got over, did these gentlemen of the Bullion Committee ever reflect upon the consequences of raising the value of money to what it was before the Bank Stoppage? Sir Francis Burdett, in his speech, during the Bullion Debate, told them of these consequences. He observed, and very justly, that, if money were, by any means, to be restored to the value it bore in the year 1796, the interest of the National Debt never could be paid by the people; that interest, he observed, was now 35,000,000l. a year; and, if the value of money was brought back to the standard of 1796, this interest would instantly swell to 43,000,000l. of money at the present value. All the grants, pensions, fixed emoluments, pay of soldiers, judges, chancellors, clerks, commissioners, and the rest would be raised, in point of real amount, in the same proportion; so that, it would be utterly impossible for taxes to such an amount to be raised. And, if it were possible, it would be frequently unjust; for, observe, all the money (making nearly one-half of the National Debt), that has been borrowed since the Bank Company stopped paying in gold and silver; all the money borrowed since that time; all the loans made in the name of the public since that time, all the money thus lent to the public, as it is called, has been lent in depreciated paper; and, that which has been so lent this year has, if guineas are at 27 shillings, been lent in paper, 27 shillings of which are worth no more than a guinea. And, are the people to be called upon to pay interest upon this money in a currency of which 21 shillings are worth a guinea? This would be so abominably unjust, that I wonder how any man like Mr. Horner ever came to think of it. He expressly stated, that the paper was now worth only 15s. 10d. in the pound; of course he must have known, that this was the sort of thing of which the loans, for some years past, consisted; and yet, he would have had a law passed, the effect of which would have been to make the people pay interest for this money at the rate of twenty shillings in the pound. This is what never could have been submitted to: not because the people would have resisted; that is not what I mean; but it is what could not have been carried into effect, and for the same reason that the man could not have two skins from the carcase of the same cat. If the quantity of the Bank paper were diminished, its value would rise; and, if its value rose, the value of the interest upon the National Debt would rise also; therefore, to enable the people to continue to pay the interest upon the Debt, the amount of the interest must be lessened, and what would that be but a partial sponge? So that, turn and twist the thing, whatever way you will, you still find it the same; you still find, that the system must go on in all its parts, or be put a stop to altogether.”

Now we come to the illustration of these doctrines by what is actually passing in England, where all is convulsed as far as money is concerned. The paper-money has been greatly diminished in quantity. The guinea, which, at one time, was sold for nearly, or quite, 30s, is now worth only 21s. 8d. The paper is nearly as good as the gold. The value of the paper is raised; and, now, mind, I say, that, if the paper keep at its present value, or anything near it, for two years from this day, and if the sums raised on account of the National Debt continue, during that time, to be what they are now, I will be content to pass, for the rest of my life, for that most degraded of human characters, an idiot.

The consequence of this rise in the value of the paper-money has been a fall of more than a half in the price of grain of all sorts, and of nearly a half in that of all other agricultural produce. The farmers and the landlords have been strangely puzzled to know the cause of this fall. As it took place, or began to take place, about the time of the Peace of 1814, they ascribed it to the importations from France. These, doubtless, had some effect; but, they were wholly inadequate to the effect really produced. The landlords, alarmed for their rents, called for a Corn Bill; that is to say, a law to prevent the importation of corn, when wheat was under 10s. a bushel. This law, after a great deal of noise and nonsense, was passed; and the price of wheat has been falling ever since, till, at last, it is come to about an average of 6s. a bushel, all other grain being lowered in price in the same proportion, and cattle and produce of all sorts keeping pretty nearly even pace with them.

Now, figure to yourself Farmer Jogtrot, whose share of the expenses of the National Debt is 30l. a year. In order to pay this to the Tax-gatherer, he used to sell forty bushels of wheat, the average price being, for many years, about 15s. a bushel. But now he is obliged to sell a hundred bushels of wheat in order to get money enough to pay his share of the expenses of the Debt. How long do you think he can endure this? And, you will observe, that his rent, and all the direct taxes to pay the expenses of Royal family, judges, soldiers, sailors, &c., continue the same in nominal amount as they were previous to the fall in the price of his produce.

In some cases the landlords have lowered their rents. But though this be a little, and a very little, relief to the farmer, the income of the landlord is diminished in whatever proportion he has lowered his rents; and, in that same proportion are diminished his means of paying taxes. The farmers and landlords consume less of taxed articles; they thus endeavour to defend themselves against the indirect taxes; but, as everything that they can buy is taxed, the tradespeople suffer here along with the revenue. Thus everything, labour and all, is become “cheaper,” as they call it; and every one is in a state of decay, except the Placeman, the Pensioner, the Soldier, the Sailor, and the Fundholder.

Never, in the history of the world, was so great a change produced, in so short a time, in any community. Paper-money is like drams, or opium. It produces an exhilaration that is quite wonderful; but, the depression that follows is not less striking. It animates and sets in motion every fibre in the frame of society; but it leaves behind it a morbid melancholy, a listlessness approaching the inactivity of death. In a caricature, published some years ago, John Bull, in the shape of an animal corresponding with the name, was represented as loaded with taxes from his horns to his tail, and Pitt as feeding him with one-pound notes. Never was anything more apt. As long as this feeding was liberally kept up, John went on, under every addition to his load; but, now that the feeding has been curtailed, he begins to stumble.

The whole of society here has been puffed up by the abundance of paper-money. I will give you an instance. Thirty or forty years ago, and, perhaps, twenty-five years ago, the farmers, who used to attend the market at Farnham, the town where I was born, used to walk to the market, or ride a tame old horse, to sell their corn. When they had done this in the market-place, they used to return to the place where their horses were put up, and there drink a pint of beer, price 2d., and perhaps add 2d. worth of bread and cheese, or get a dinner for 6d. or 8d. and then go home. The greater part of them were dressed in smock-frocks, or very plain and coarse coats. How surprised was I, when, happening to be at the head Inn in the town, on my way to London, about 15 years ago, and hearing a roaring of “three times three,” and a thumping of tables and rattling of glasses and bottles, I learnt upon inquiry, that it was the farmers after their market-dinner! But, not much more surprised, than I was the week before last, when, happening to stop at the same Inn a whole day to write my Register, I found, though it was a market-day, everything as quiet as a Quaker Meeting. The retrograde movement has been more rapid than the advance. Nothing short of wine has of late years been drunk at these market-dinners. That beverage has, in a twinkling, wholly disappeared. The far greater part of the farmers now go home without dining at all. At the sign of the George, at Winchester, the waiter told me, last week, that the farmers used to spend from ten to twelve pounds of a market-day, and that now they do not spend more than a pound or thirty shillings. Thus, here is at this Inn alone, a diminution of receipts, from the farmers only of more than 500l. a year. Judge you, then, if our Ministers cannot, of the effect of this upon rents and taxes. However, they will very soon be fully able to form a correct judgment on the whole matter, though I am by no means certain that they will be able to apply the suitable remedy.

An artificial currency is a most dangerous medicine for a disordered state; and I say this with a pretty full knowledge of the free use that you are making of the same drug. It gives to society a false glare; it introduces speculation; it creates sudden fortunes; it substitutes trick and luck for industry and talent; it builds palaces with one hand, and fills jails and poor-houses with the other.

When I saw the plain-dressed and industrious farmers of Pennsylvania, it seemed to me that I was still amongst those of England, the former being, I confess, rather more hospitable and better informed; the natural consequences of their easy circumstances and of the universal fashion to read which prevails in America. But, the English farmer has, of late years, become a totally different character. A fox-hunting horse; polished boots; a spanking trot to market; a “Get out of the way, or by G—d I’ll ride over you,” to every poor devil upon the road; wine at his dinner; a carpet on his floor; a bell in his parlour; a servant (and sometimes in livery) to wait at his table; a painted lady for a wife; novel-reading daughters; sons aping the young ’squires and lords; a house crammed up with sofas, pianos, and all sorts of fooleries.

Another consequence of this change has been a great diminution of the number of farms. Three or four, and sometimes ten, have been thrown into one. The little farmers have almost all disappeared from out of that class, and have sunk into the class of labourers. Hence the present depression is the more severely felt. So great a portion of loss now falls upon one man, that the whole race stagger under it. You will easily judge of the degree in which this class of men have been elevated, when I tell you that Mr. Arthur Young, whose hardihood, as a writer is equal to his talents, insists on it, that even the farmer’s bailiff ought to have a bottle of good port every day with his dinner; which alone, you will bear in mind, would cost the farmer 365 dollars a year.

This work of sublimating farmers out of their senses has been promoted by the nobility and gentlemen of great estates, who have, by the means of agricultural societies, cattle-shows, and the like, given every encouragement to this class of men to become conceited and presumptuous. The King, too, must have a farm. It was “Farmer George!” What a “thinking people” your kinsmen on this side of the water are! Between the commercial people on one side and the farmers on the other, the far greater part of the country gentlemen in England have been fairly squeezed out of existence. The three great estates near the place where I was born were the Bishop of Winchester’s castle; Moor Park, occupied by the descendants of Sir William Temple, where Dean Swift relates that he used to run up the steep hill; and Waverly Abbey, which belonged to Sir Robert Rich. When I returned to England I found Moor Park in the hands of Mr. Timson, and Waverly Abbey in those of Mr. Tomson, the one a dealer in Spirits and the other a dealer in Wine. The Bishop stands his ground yet; and his old castle-walls, and his lofty elm-trees. And, really, it was a consolation to me to find something as I left it.

I should not mind this sweeping away of the little old aristocracy, if a worse had not come in its place. Nor should I so much mind the elevation of men in trade, who, in general, have had some opportunities of seeing the world, and are, from long habit polite and liberal. But, the farming aristocracy is the object of my abhorrence. Here you have all the meanness of the crouching tenant coupled with the arrogance of birth; all the insolence of wealth unchecked by any of those sentiments of honour, which are seldom wholly wanting in men of birth and education. This was the class of men, who, more than any other, and more than all others put together, were the cause of the long and bloody war which has just been brought to a close, and whom Major Cartwright always called the “Body-Guard of the Borough-mongers.” Amongst all other classes of men there have, at times, appeared something like liberality, something like feeling; but, amongst these men never.

Notwithstanding all this, howver, they will not sink alone; they will press down some classes under them, and pull down others. If they return to their former simple state, all the middle class must come down too. If they cease drinking wine, using carpets and sofas, riding fine horses, using coaches, dressing their wives and daughters in silks, and sending their sons to boarding-schools, tradesmen and their families must come down too. Whether the whole of society will undergo a revolution I know not; but, this I do know, that the whole must undergo such a revolution, or it must all resume its state, and go on as before, as long as it can.

To return now to the question of finance, you must clearly perceive, I think, that it is impossible for the Government to collect the former amount of taxes in this new state of things; and, that, in fact, to lessen the quantity of the currency one-half, is to double the amount of the tax. The Government appears to perceive, that it cannot enforce the collection of the direct taxes up to the old standard; but, the direct taxes make a comparatively small part of the revenue. It is the Excise, Customs, and Stamps; and, in these no deductions by authority will be wanted. The people will themselves make the deduction. They must make the deduction; for they will not have the money to lay out. If the farmers, for instance, have left off drinking wine at market, will they not leave it off at home, where they can do it snugly without being perceived by any one? Will not their wives and daughters use less sugar and tea and coffee? Will they not be more sparing of paint, perfumes, and slops? Will not less soap and candles and salt be used? Less spirits? Aye, and less beer and ale too. Will not fewer people pay for marriage-licenses? Yes, and fewer people will marry. Will not fewer stamps be wanted, and of less amount? The lawyers already find their briefs fall off; for law is a luxury that few men can afford to enjoy, even when money is plenty. An empty pocket is a great promoter of forbearance, and the finest check in the world to a litigious disposition. The advertisements (on which there is a heavy tax) have fallen off a third in number. The newspapers and the almanacs have prodigiously decreased in sale. Books are not printed to more than three-fourths of even the last year’s amount. Paper of all sorts; and, in short, every taxed article, be it what it may, has undergone a diminution in consumption.

I need not say that this will be, or has been, the case; for it is manifest, that it must be the case. If there be only half as much money in circulation as there was before, only half as much can be laid out; and if there were twice as much, twice as much would be laid out; for, the whole of a people can never hoard a farthing. What one saves, he lends to another to spend, and thus the whole is always kept in circulation. Now and then an old man, or a monkey, or a jackdaw, takes a piece of money and pokes it into a hole; but these are instances not worthy to be deemed an exception.

It will be said, that, if the Government receive only half as much tax, in nominal amount, as it did before, it will, in reality, receive the same sum that it did before, seeing that the price of every thing has fallen one-half, so that, at last, the Government will be as rich and able as if no diminution had taken place. This would be true if the Government had no annuitants to pay, and no fixed salaries and allowances to discharge. But, as it happens, the contrary is the case. The expenditure consists of fixed salaries and annuities. These must be paid up to their full amount; or, a law must be passed to lower them. To pay them up to their full amount, for two years, while the guinea is worth no more than its present price, I say is impossible; and, to pass a law to lower the interest of the annuities is the grand conclusion of the drama.

Which, then, do you choose, Sirs of the Funds, a fresh and most copious issue of paper, that will bring up the wheat to 15s. a bushel; or, an abatement of your interest? I am aware, that by the means of arrears, you may get through the present season. Besides, men have not, all at once, exhausted their capital. They keep up a little while after their legitimate means are gone. But, it is next season, that they must come to book. You have your choice, then, and I would advise you to apply for a re-opening of the flood-gates of paper-money. Your annuities will fall in value as much, perhaps, as they would by a lowering of the rate of interest; but, the thing will not seem to be what it really will be; and, besides, if an openly avowed lowering once take place, recollect the powerful effect of precedent!

The necessity of lowering the rate of the interest on the Debt is generally talked of in the country. I have heard of it for months past. But, it is not so easy a matter as people seem to imagine; for, though it might answer the purpose as to the public debt, it would leave private debts as they were before, which would create universal confusion. No: if this course be taken, it must go into all the engagements between man and man. Leases, for instance, must be submitted to revision, and must undergo a reduction. Marriage Settlements must be revised; for, if the value of money has risen since a settlement of this sort was made, is the party who has to pay, still to be bound by the letter of the covenant? If a settlement were made, five years ago, to pay a widow ten thousand pounds out of the proceeds of an estate, then worth twenty thousand pounds, and the estate were to be sold next year, and sell for only that ten thousand pounds, ought she to have it all, and leave the children beggars?

These are only specimens. They are two amongst a hundred cases, in which this course of lowering of interest present difficulties. And, then, again as to the Fundholders themselves, besides the most tremendously dangerous precedent of lowering the rate of interest, their cases are of endless variety. Some of them lent their money at a time when the guinea was worth no more than 21s.; others when it was worth more than 29s. The lowering of the interest of all alike would be manifestly unjust.

I am aware, that to make fresh and copious issues of paper would also operate partially; but, this appears to be the least evil of the two; or, at any rate, the least immediate evil. There is a talk of establishing throughout the country branches of the Bank of England; but this is nothing without fresh and copious issues of paper-money. Such issues would soon set all to rights again: we should again mount on paper-wings and look down with scorn and contempt upon the world beneath.

Thus have I endeavoured to give you, the people of America, some idea of the operations of this grand machine, which has worked such wonders in the world; which, by the means of a printing-press, a ton or two of rags every year, and an engraver’s tool, has done more than all the powder, ball, cannon, swords, and muskets that Europe contains, or ever did contain. Let me advise you, however, to be cautious of attempting imitation. I am aware, that, if there be a nation, resolved to make use of such a machine, other nations must use it too, or fall at her feet. But, it is a machine not to be resorted to, except in cases of the last necessity; and then it should always be knocked to pieces before it has destroyed those by whom it has been employed. Yours is, as yet, a poor, little, weak, ricketty thing, that might be demolished, and forgotten in a year; but, if you, instead of destroying it, go on adding to its size and strength, it will at last overpower you, and bury in one common grave, your union, your morals, and your liberties.

If you ask me what the press is about in the midst of this scene, I have only to refer you to my former descriptions of that press. The London press, or, at least all that part of it, which is much in vogue, is so corrupt, so venal, so much a concern of mere bargain and sale, that nothing passes through it, which can lead any man, not upon the spot, to form even a guess at the real state of the country. There are numerous country newspapers, and some of these have very wide circulation. But, such masses of nonsense as they put forth, you can form no idea of. These are, if possible, more venal than the papers in London. They are, as I once before observed, the gutters flowing from the great common sewer of filth in London.

As a specimen of the means of delusion, which they practise, take the following from the “Western Luminary,” published at Exeter: “The National Debt now amounts to 814,336,900l. The well-balanced mind will never contemplate this burden, but in due connection with its great equivalents; the independence it has secured, the vast accumulation of honours, and the national pre-eminence it has purchased. The power of the Sinking Fund, which is now 14 millions per annum, is equal, at 5 per cent. compound interest, to the paying off this debt, in 27 years.”

This “Luminary” sets out with a falsehood. The Debt is, in fact, more than a thousand millions, including the outstanding part, and exclusive of that of Ireland. Then come the “equivalents;” and, what are these? “The independence it has secured.” What does this mean? Was not England as independent before the Family of Hanover came here as she is now? One would almost suppose, that the writer meant your independence; for that this Debt has certainly secured.

But, “the vast accumulation of honours and national pre-eminence it has purchased.” So, then, our honours have been purchased, according to this? What we have accomplished, this writer confesses, has been accomplished by money, a point which I am by no means disposed to dispute with him; but, then, who will envy us such honours? There has, however, occurred one case, in which this powerful agent was able to obtain us no honour; I mean the case of America, who has defeated our ships of equal force, who has, with inferior force, defeated and captured whole squadrons of our navy; and who, at the very moment that she was driving our invading army, with tremendous slaughter, back to the sea, signed a peace with us, in which we wholly abandoned terms, which we had before declared to be terms which we would never abandon. And this she did, too, while we were at peace with all the world besides. This was the close of a war, in which she was engaged against us single-handed. But, this part of the history of the 22 years, the Exeter writer, Mr. Flindell, seems wholly to have forgotten. He can see “a vast accumulation of honours” in the crushing of France by the means of more than a million of foreigners in the pay of England, aided by the King and his party in France; but, he can see no loss of honours in the having been really discomfitted in a single-handed war against America. Thus it is that delusion is kept up by the means of these prints, while, you will observe, no man dares answer in the manner in which they ought to be answered.

You would certainly not believe, if you did not see it, that any man in England would have the impudence, at this day, to talk seriously about paying off the National Debt. This writer quite coolly tells us, that the Debt may be paid off in 27 years! George Rose told the “thinking people” the same story twenty years ago; and I do not know, that the Exeter printer is not now as much believed as Rose was then. “But, what signifies the Debt,” say some of these writers: “We owe it all to ourselves.” In this way the apprehensions of the people have, for years, been hushed. But, from the account which I have given you above of the state of the country, you will clearly perceive, that it does signify something, and a good deal too. You will perceive, that this Debt and its companion, Paper-money, are actually taking away one man’s property and giving it to another man. You will perceive, that a system of Paper-money, emanating from a government, or, at all dependent on, or connected with, a government, if that system be carried to such a length as to supersede the use of real money, does, in fact, place every man’s property in the hands of that system; and, you will perceive, that this may happen, too, as it has here, without any design on the part of either Governments or banks. And, if you do perceive this, let the example be a warning to you.

In this country, exclusive of Ireland, there are about a thousand Country Banks, which all issue notes of their own. Till of late, the holder of these could demand payment in real money, though he could not demand it of the Bank of England. In 1811 or 1812, a law was passed to enable the Country Banks to refuse payment in real money, and to tender payment in Bank of England Notes. It was about this time, that the system appears to have received that serious blow, which has finally led to the present state of things.

It is quite clear, that the Country Banks, to be able to pour out their paper freely, must have a prop, direct or indirect, from the Bank of England, in whose Notes their own are payable. And, it is equally clear, that, in proportion as this prop is strong or weak, the Country Banks will enlarge, or narrow, their issues. From what motive, or in what way, these props have been weakened I know not: but, it is very certain, that the issues of the Country Banks have been diminished in an astonishing degree. Thus, the quantity of the circulating medium having been diminished, prices have fallen of course; and, having fallen one-half, the taxes, though still the same in nominal amount, have, in effect, been doubled, and the Judge, or Placeman, or Soldier, who, three or four years ago, had a salary of a certain amount, now does, in reality, receive the double of that amount.

I will run the risk of wearying you with repetition rather than leave any part of the subject imperfectly explained, as far as my power of explaining goes. And therefore, I will again call your attention to the manner in which this revolution in property is effected by the means of a paper-money system. Suppose a community to consist of three men, who buy of and sell to each other all the articles that they severally stand in need of; and, suppose the whole quantity of money possessed by the three to be 100 shillings. By some accident, no matter what, all at once another hundred shillings are put into their hands. It is manifest, that, as the number of purchases and the quantity of articles would continue the same, the price of each must be doubled; seeing, that all the 200 shillings would now be used instead of the 100 shillings; for, as was observed before, the whole of a community never can hoard. Take the converse of this. Reduce the 100 shillings to 50; and, the consequence is, the price of every article is reduced one-half. Neither of these changes would produce any distress, or inconvenience, in this little community, provided that no one of the three were in debt to either of the other, and provided, that in the addition and diminution of the number of shillings, each fared like his neighbour. But, supposing them to be A, B, and C, and that, in the former case, at the time when the additional quantity of shillings came, A owed B 20 shillings, would he not pay him that 20 and keep another 20 to himself that he ought to pay him? Would not B lose, in fact, one-half of the debt due to him? And in the other case, suppose, at the moment of the reduction of the number of shillings to 50, A and B owe C each of them 20 shillings, and he demands payment, are they not both bankrupts, having, instead of 33s. 4d. each, only 13s. 4d. each?

This last is our case now. The owners of the Funds, the Royal Family, the Army, the Judges, the Police-Justices, the Navy, all the Placemen, Pensioners, all the Commissioners, Taxing-Officers, Clerks, &c., have a demand upon the people at large for a certain fixed sum annually; call it 70 millions. But, no matter what it is: it is a fixed sum. If one half of the money, no matter by what means, is taken out of circulation, is it not clear, that the people at large are reduced to the situation of A and B in the case last supposed as above? The case of a whole people is, indeed, a little more complicated; but, in the principle and in the effect, it is precisely the same.

As far as the direct taxes go, and for the present year, all is perfectly simple. It is manifest, that A and B, who are the people at large, pay the double of what they paid before. But this cannot be the case long. For instance, as to the Property-tax; A pays, as landlord, 10l. upon a rent of 100l. But, his tenant cannot, or will not, in future, pay him more than 50l.: and, perhaps, not more than 30l. Consequently, A will pay to the Government only 3l. where he paid 10l. before. Thus, from 15 millions a-year, the Property-tax would fall to about 5 millions. In the Assessed Taxes, that is the taxes upon horses, windows, carriages, houses, dogs, servants, &c., a proportionate reduction will, of necessity, take place. The income being reduced one-half, or two-thirds, so must the expenditure. The stamps, a monstrous item of taxation, consists of payments, in great part, according to the value of the thing sold, transferred, mortgaged, lent, bequeathed, leased, &c. Now, if an estate will sell for only half as much as it did before, or mortgage for only half as much as it did before, is it not clear, that the stamp-duty must fall off one-half in its amount? The goods sold at auction will, of course, keep pace in price with other things; and will not the auction-duty fall off in the same proportion? Of all taxed articles, and exactly in proportion to the weight of the tax, less will be used in proportion to the diminution in the quantity of money. Of wine, for instance, more than half the amount of which is tax, not a fifth part of the quantity will, probably, be consumed.

This is so clear to me that I am surprised, that the Fundholders should not be amongst the foremost to wish for new and copious issues of paper. They are afraid, and not without reason, that the issues of paper-money would, in a short time, reduce, in fact, their dividends to one-half, or less, of their nominal value. But, if, on the other hand, taxes cannot be collected to pay them more than one-half, or less than one-half, of the nominal amount of their dividends, is not this way of losing the most dangerous of the two? I think it is; because, as I before observed, if once a reduction of the interest expressly begins, no man can tell, or surmise where it will stop.

The present winter will, I think, bring forth most useful information for the world. I think, that it will decide the question, whether it be possible for a nation, with safety to itself, and without the risk of general confusion, to go on heaping debt upon debt to the amount of a thousand millions sterling. It is certain, that, as an individual, so long as he can borrow as much money as he pleases, he will be able to do, as to trade, commerce, or agriculture, almost whatsoever he pleases; so it is certain that a Government, as long as it can borrow in the same way, will be able, in the affairs of nations, to do almost what it pleases, especially when it has to cope with Governments that cannot borrow. But, it is pretty evident, that, as in the case of the individual, so in the case of the Government, when the source of borrowing, or the capacity of paying interest stops, it must be in a worse state, than if it had never been able to borrow.

Sir John Sinclair, in a pamphlet, published in 1810, says, in opposing the propositions of the Bullion Committee, that “the abundance of circulation” (speaking of bank-notes not convertible into gold and silver) “is the great source of our opulence and strength, and a mine of national prosperity.” What is become of this “mine” now? To be sure, as long as it will last, the abundance of paper-money is equal to a mine of gold; but, a mine of gold would produce ruin, if a man were to contract debts upon a scale calculated on its duration for ages, and if the mine were suddenly to give out in his life-time. Such men as Sir John Sinclair seem to have proceeded upon the position, that there was never to be an end of, nor any check to, the issues of paper-money. I should like to hear what the Baronet says now. But the truth is, that all the Defenders of the paper-system, so bold in 1810, now stand aghast. A state of things has arisen, which they never contemplated; of which they never had the most distant idea. The land, from which all real prosperity must proceed, now feels a most dreadful pressure. The palsy, which has seized it first, is fast creeping over every class in the community. All is becoming stagnant. The means of paying taxes are, in every quarter, daily and hourly and rapidly diminishing, while the wants of the Government cannot be materially diminished, without some measure, which will make the hollowness of the system stand openly exposed to the world.

At this momentous crisis, and before any measure be even brought forward, I have chosen to repeat my former opinions, to re-place them before the eyes of my readers, and to call the attention of these either to the fulfilment or the falsification of my predictions. My position always has been, and it still is, that, either the paper must continue in a depreciated state, or, that the interest of the Debt cannot be paid in full; in other words, that the Bank must, in peace, as well as in war, continue to be protected by law against demands of cash-payments, or, that the interest of the Debt must be lowered.

All over the country, people are talking about the lowering of rents. In some places landlords are complained of for not lowering. In Devonshire, it appears, that a man is threatened with a prosecution for libel for having attacked a Landlord on this score. In 1810, Lord King was abused for calling upon his tenants to pay rents in specie. A law was passed to protect tenants against such demands. And, is it just now, to abuse Lord King if he do not reduce his rents? Were the tenants to have all the advantages of depreciation; all the advantages of high prices; and is Lord King to have all the disadvantages of low prices? I have before shown, that, to reduce rents, will not better the condition of the Government or the Fundholder; but, the question here is, whether the tenants can, in justice, call upon the landlord to reduce his rents, as they never rose them on account of high prices. When men are in distress, they are out of humour: they have not time, and are not in a disposition, to listen to reason. Eight Lords protested against the Bill for compelling Landlords to take payment in paper-money; and a ninth, Lord Holland, added to his protest these words: “For the reason assigned on the other side, and because the repeal of the law for suspending Bank Payments in Cash is in my judgment the only measure which can cure the inconveniences already felt, and avert the yet greater calamities which are impending from the present state of the circulation of the country.”

Upon this I observed, in “Paper against Gold,” page 468, as follows:—

“In the protest of the eight peers I heartily concur; but, I do not agree with Lord Holland in his addition to it, if his lordship means to say, that it is possible to resume cash payments at the Bank. To pay the notes in gold upon demand, agreeably to the promise upon the face of the notes, is certainly the only cure for the inconveniences already felt and the calamities now impending; but that it is utterly impossible to adopt this cure is to my mind, not less certain. His Lordship proceeds upon the notion of Mr. Horner and the Bullion Committee, namely, that the cause of the depreciation consists in an excessive issue of paper, which is very true, if you compare the quantity of the paper with that of the gold, or of the real transactions of purchase and sale, between man and man; but, which is not true, if you compare the quantity of paper with the amount of the Dividends payable on the National Debt; and, I would beg leave to put, with sincere respect, this question to Lord Holland: ‘If cash payments were restored, and money, as must be the case, were restored to its former value, where does your Lordship think would be found the means of paying the Dividends?’”

Cash payments are not, indeed, restored, nor anything like it; but, the paper has, by some means or other, been diminished in quantity, and, without restoring cash-payments. Lord Holland, I dare say, sees clearly enough, that it will be difficult to find the means of paying the dividends at the Bank from taxes raised on the country, even this year; and, I can hardly suppose, that he thinks it possible to do it for a year to come.

Before I conclude, I cannot help addressing a few words to the English Landowners, who, last year, did the work of the Ministry, and very foolishly incurred almost all the odium of the Corn Bill, in the passing of which they were, in reality, not at all interested. That measure was said to be for the protection of agriculture; but it was, in fact, for the protection of taxation. The Ministers at first seemed indifferent about the matter, and, indeed, rather discountenanced Sir Henry Parnell, who, in 1813, proposed the Bill. But finding, in 1814, that nobody else would undertake the thing, they undertook it themselves; and, then, the London newspapers, who had in the most outrageous manner abused Sir Henry Parnell and the Landowners, tacked suddenly about, and abused still more outrageously the opposers of the Corn-Bill.

One would think that this would serve as a caution to the Westerns and the Cokes, especially since they have seen, that the Corn-Bill produced none of the effects that were expected from it; that they were merely supporters of taxation, and that they loaded themselves with ill-will for nothing at all. Mr. Western, who wrote pamphlets, I believe, as well as made speeches, must by this time, begin to discover, that it was not, as he thought, for the farmers, that, in reality, he was pleading; but, for the Placemen, the Army, the Navy, and the Fundholders. The Landlord, and his Tenant will be pressed hard this year, and some of them next year; but, theirs are commodities that very soon find their proper level, and that nothing can wholly sweep away. If wheat were to fall to 5s. a bushel, which is not improbable, Mr. Western and his tenants, instead of 15s. in taxes would pay 5s. His 3,000l. a year would soon be as good to him as his 9,000l. are now, or have been for years past. His Property-tax would be 300l. a year instead of 900l. a year. All his expenses would bear the same proportion. He would have a coachman for 7l. a year instead of 21l. His coach-horses would cost him 20l. each, instead of 60l. I am aware that his style of living would be less showy: but, so would that of everybody else; and he would still keep his proper place and suitable state in society. Men are always more eager about gaining than they are about keeping; and this is the true cause of the errors of the Landowners last year.

If, therefore, the Landowners be wise, they will, this time, be silent. Notwithstanding my jeer, at the close of my last letter, their estates will not, if they be not egregious fools, “slip through their fingers.” They have only to stand, and let the thing take its course. They cannot be made to pay direct taxes beyond their incomes, another year. One year will not ruin them, though it may many of their tenants. If they contribute largely towards the indirect taxes, it is their own fault. That is no concern of anybody. That is the fault of no Minister. Let them do as their forefathers did: drink strong beer and eat beef at breakfast, and banish wine from their tables, and they will find that no Minister can reduce them to ruin.

Even the farmers will be ruined, those that are ruined, by their own folly. They will not curtail their expenses sufficiently. Sugar, tea, coffee, wine, spirits, are now numbered amongst their wants. If a rich farmer had resolution enough to bring his style of living down, at once, to the proportion of wheat at 5s. a bushel, he would be as well off as he was four years ago. He would live a less showy life. He would have no sofas, carpets, and parlour bells; his wife and daughters would wear no silk shoes, and would certainly use neither paint nor perfumes. The Novel-trade, of which they are a main prop, would decline. But, there is the Bible-Society to supply them with matter for reading, and Bibles, are, too, printed upon untaxed paper. However, if wheat continue at 6s. or 7s. a bushel, down the farm-houses must come to the old mark. The change will not be a change for the worse; the country will be full as happy as if wheat were again 15s. a bushel; and, the only difficulty will be, where to find the money for the Government people, the Army, the Navy, and the Fundholders; a difficulty with which, as far as I can see, the Landlords and Farmers have nothing at all to do.

The Tradesmen must follow the Landlords and Farmers. They must all come down, if any come down. It will be a less luxurious community; that is all. Those that live by furnishing mere luxuries, will turn their hands to other kinds of labour. One wine merchant will suffice for a whole city; nor do I despair of seeing the time, when this article will, in country towns, be dispensed only, as formerly, from the apothecaries’ shops.

Ridiculous as you, in America, who drink Madeira wine like water, may think this, I assure you, that to this it must come, unless new and copious issues of paper-money take place. By paper-money we have been raised up, and down we must come, unless sustained by paper-money. It is quite curious to see how the thing works upon us. A little while ago, nobody thought it worth while to look at the copper-money that he took in ’change. Faith! we already begin to count the pennies, and even the half-pennies. They begin to be something of value. This is a fact worth a thousand essays on the National Debt and Sinking Fund. I used, when I breakfasted at an inn, to give the waiter 6d. I now give him 3d. I used to dine on the way from Botley to London; I now make a stout breakfast, at home, last the journey. At the different stages, when people travel in post-chaises, they give the post-chaise driver money, as he receives no wages from his master. To bring these gentlemen down to the present standard of wheat is the most difficult task that I have to perform. Far as you are from me, and though there is the sea between us, I would undertake to convince you of the justice of this much sooner than I would undertake to convince them of it. I generally begin thus:

“What do you give for the Quartern Loaf, now, my lad?”

“Eightpence, Sir.”

“Eightpence! why that is not half so much as you used to give.”

“No: blessed be God, Sir, it is come down.”

“Here, my good fellow; here is eighteenpence for you.”

“Eighteenpence, Sir! why, you always used to give me half-a-crown?”

“That’s very true, my good fellow; but, you now buy your bread, and I sell my wheat, for less than half the former price.”

“I don’t know, not I, anything about that.”

“But, you told me just now, that the loaf was sold at eightpence, and you blessed God for it; why should you want to extort from me as much as if the loaf sold at twenty-pence?”

“Aye! aye! (raising his voice) I don’t know anything about that!”

“Well, but let us act justly——”

“No, I don’t know anything about that!”


“No, I don’t know anything about that.”

“Well, then, if you won’t listen to——”

“No, no, I don’t know anything about that.”

By this time I am in his successor’s chaise, and away I go, leaving the whole inn-yard in commotion, landlord, landlady, chambermaid, cook, ostler, boot-boy and all, listening to the repetition of the dialogue, and wondering what I could mean.

The grand cure for all this is, however, what really is adopted. People travel in a humbler style. Those who used to go in post-chaises, now cram themselves into a stage-coach; and those who used to go in the stage-coach now go on the stage-coach; while those who used to go on it, now go upon their feet. The consequence of this to the Fundholders and the Government, is, that there is less post-horse duty paid (3d per mile); fewer chaises, post-horses, post-boys, waiters, ostlers (for all of whom a tax is paid) are kept; more inn windows are stopped up; less wine and spirits are drunk upon the road; less sugar, tea, coffee, and salt, candles and soap are used at inns; and, in this way the revenue will soon begin to experience a great diminution.

I should now conclude with an apology for the length of this letter; but, I could not, in a shorter space, give you the information, which I wished you to possess, and which I am sure you will receive from no other quarter. Our newspapers are dumb as to useful truth; and, besides, the ignorance of the greater part of their editors is equal to their venality. In the Edinburgh Review, the authors of which being yet out of place, or, at least, the greater part of them, you may, perhaps, read something about the “distresses of agriculture,” accompanied with unintelligible observations about “capital” and “exchanges,” in the style of their countryman, Adam Smith, whose darkness has given him the reputation of being deep, and from whom the greater part of our professed economists have learned to talk glibly about what they do not understand; but, from the Edinburgh Review (and I beg you to bear in mind what I say,) you will receive nothing that will enable you to form any notion of the real situation of this country.


P. S. Since writing the above, that is, this 12th of December, 1815, I have received, from DEAL (a town near the mouth of the Thames) a letter from Mitchell, Editor of the “National Advocate,” at New York. This letter informs me, that Mr. Mitchell has sent me a parcel of American Newspapers, in a way not subject to postage. But, by the very same post, comes a letter from London, informing me that a parcel of American Newspapers, postage nine pounds sixteen shillings, has been tendered by the Post-office people for me in London, and that it has been, of course, sent back, not paid for to the Post-Office! This is the second time, of late, that I have been served in a similar manner. The history of the matter, I suppose, is this: the ship was bound to London; but, off Deal, a post-office boat boards her, and takes out of her all letters, and all parcels not regularly shipped as goods; and so, up comes the parcel of newspapers, sent by Mr. Mitchell, and is weighed and charged to me as an enormous great letter; a Mammoth-Letter! This is, I must suppose, all perfectly lawful and fair; but, it does not suit my taste; and I will find the means of doing without it, and that, too, in a very short time. It is curious, however, that the Courier and the Times have New York papers by this conveyance! What liberal people their proprietors must be to pay such sums in postage! Now, does not the American reader perceive the necessity of the PLAN, which I notified in my last Register? Does he not perceive, that, to keep up a regular and speedy communication with America, I am compelled to resort to some such plan?—As long as the two countries are at peace I will have such communication. I defy all the world to prevent me.

I am very much obliged to Mr. Mitchell for his present; but, I shall never set eyes on it. Whom it will fall to I cannot tell. It is curious to see how admirably we are guarded. This package could not come nearer than DEAL without being arrested in its progress to me. I once had a barrel of apples that was longer in getting from London-Bridge Customhouse to Pall-Mall, than it was in coming from Philadelphia to London. The apples, like the package, did arrive, at last; but, the former were rotten, and the latter became forbidden fruit by being loaded with Forty-five Dollars of Postage. Talk of the Wall of China! It must be a fool of a thing compared to the fence that surrounds us. “Oh! ’tis a nice little, tight little island!”





William Cobbett, "The Royal Family Of England" (Feb. 1816)

Editing History

  • Item added: 7 Nov. 2016
  • 1st Edit:


William Cobbett, “The Royal Family of England”, Cobbett’s Weekly Political Register, Feb. 10, 1816, vol. XXX, no. 6, pp. 161–75. (Written in England Feb. 10.— Published at New-York June 8, 1816.)

Editor's Intro



After the account of the Boroughmungers, which I have given in the last number, the reader will naturally have anticipated, that this is a very inferior set of persons in point of real importance. This is called a “limited monarchy,” and it really is very limited indeed, the person who fills the office of king having no more power of his own than has the bauble put upon his head, or the seat that he sits on. We usually call this branch of authority the Crown, or the Throne, and with great propriety, for the poor creature who wears the one, and sits on the other, is neither more nor less than a passive tool in the hands of those who own the seats in Parliament, and who, in fact, appoint all the Ministers, Ambassadors, Judges, and Commanders, and who, if they were to meet with a refractory king, or one who, from excessive folly, was troublesome to them, would very soon dispose of him, by shutting him up for life, or by some other contrivance, so as never to be pestered by him again.

Of all the objects which the Boroughmongers would most dread, next after free elections, would certainly be a king of sound understanding, good talents, aptness for business, and really desirous to promote the honour and happiness of the country. And, it must be confessed, that, in this view of the matter, they could hardly have been more fortunate than they are in the Guelphs, not one of whom, since their being pitched upon to fill the throne of England, has ever discovered symptoms of a mind much more than sufficient to qualify the possessor for the post of exciseman.

It appears, at first sight, very strange that England should have tor its sovereigns a race of foreigners, and that the marriages should be so made up as that no king should, supposing nothing illicit to go on, ever have a single drop of English blood in his veins. But, if we consider these apparent sovereigns, as we ought, nothing more than mere puppets in the hands of the Boroughmongers, we shall find a very substantial reason for this seemingly strange taste. It is the [162] interest of this body of men, to have upon the throne a person for whom the people have no regard. The English nation have a rooted hatred, or, at best, contempt, for all foreigners; yet, be they who or what they may, these foreign princes and princesses always surround themselves with Hanoverians, Brunswickers, and other Germans, and care is taken that the race shall never mix with any English race; so that this contempt, on the part of the people, is constantly kept alive.

The language that is made use of in conversation, with regard to this family, would astonish any stranger. All sorts of names, expressions of contempt, are constantly used by all ranks of people towards them.

The “d___d Germans“ they are called in a lump by the common people; and when the nobility and gentry reject vulgar epithets and terms, it is only to choose others more severe. This abuse is made use of by all parties; by all men in, as well as out of, office. When the War was declared against France, at the rupture of the peace of Amiens, the princes went to the House of Lords to support the address to the Throne. The Duke of Clarence made a speech upon this occasion, and I was standing with a crowd of others below the Bar (as it is called) at the time. The House, which was exceedingly full, were very merry at his expense; and two Peers, who sat close to the bar, at the side of the House on which I stood, indulged themselves in this sort : ” What a Jack-ass!“ said one: ”What a great fool!“ said the other: ”did you ever hear such a beast?“ And, towards the close of the speech, the Royal Duke having declared, that he spoke the sentiments of his whole family, a third Peer exclaimed: ”his family! who the “d—l cares about his family!" All this was said loud enough for twenty or thirty persons to hear, who stood or sat nearest to them. Other Peers were smothering a laugh; some affected to be blowing their noses; and the Lord Chancellor^ Eldon, sat and looked at the Duke with one of those smiles which contain the double expression of pity and contempt. [163] To be sure the speech was a foolish rant; but, if it came from a Duke of Newcastle or an Earl of Lonsdale, or any other great Boroughmonger, it would have been listened to with the greatest attention and apparent respect.

Strangers to the workings of this system wonder how it comes to pass, that we obey a family, whom we so abuse. The fact is, we do not obey them; and, the very lowest man in the country knows that we do not. The Boroughmongers, 23 of whom have from 15O to 200 votes, are our real rulers; and, it suits them to have the forms of a monarchy, while they possess all the substance of its powers. If the family on the throne were really English, the people would have a regard for them, exclusive of the powerful connexions which an English Royal Family would have in the country, in consequence of marriage alliances. Such a family would be a formidable rival of the Boroughmongers; and might, like the Plantagenets, side with the people against those who have usurped their rights. In such a struggle the people might, perhaps, get some share of the power into their hands. Therefore, the Boroughmongers prefer this race of foreigners; and the lower and more paltry its origin, and the more despicable the character and conduct of the individuals belonging to it, the better it suits their purpose.

I have, since I have been acquainted with the real situation of the Royal family, often laughed at the old story about “ an influence behind the throne greater than ”the throne itself.” This is one of the numerous cheats that have been practised upon the world. What influence could there be of any practical consequence? Charles Jenkinson, who was afterwards Lord Hawkesbury and Earl of Liverpool, and whose, son is Earl of Liverpool now, was looked upon as one of the influencing persons. As if this man, who was once a Page to the king’s father, could have any weight in dictating measures, to which the Boroughmongers had been opposed! as if he and Lord Bute, and three or four other contemptible people, could have supported the king against old Lord Chatham, if the men who had three votes out of every four had not been on the same side’!

The rejection of “Catholic Emancipation” was attributed to the “conscientious scruples“ of the king; and by [164] others to his “obstinacy.” The poor old man had no more to do with it than bad any one of the little land turtles in the American woods. It has always been foreseen, that, if the Catholics are ”indulged,“ as it is impudently called, any further, they will next demand an ”abolition of tithes,“ and the Church demesnes would follow of course. This is property, altogether, worth more annually than a fourth part of all the rent of all the Land and Houses in Ireland. And to whom does this property belong? Why, to the nobility and a few commoners who own the seats in parliament. Three fourths of the Church Livings are their own private property. The rest, and the Bishopricks and other Dignities, they, in fact, cause to be filled with their own relations, or by those who serve them, or whom they choose to have appointed. If, then, we find them in real possession of a quarter part of the rental of the kingdom of Ireland, by the means of the existence of a protestant Church, is it wonderful that they do such abominable acts as they notoriously do, in order to support the Church? Did it need any ”conscientious scruples" on the part of an unfortunate old man, who had no interest in the rejection, to prevent the “emancipation” taking place? Besides, the Emancipation would have opened the place of Judge, Chancellor, Attorney, and Solicitor General, Master of the Rolls, Privy Counsellor, Field and General Officer, Captain and Admiral, and of Parliament men, and Sixty Peers, to Catholics. Was it likely, that those who had, as we have seen in, the last number, all these in their own hands, should call in more persons to share in the rich spoils? Is it usual for men to act thus? Did Cochrane and Cockburn, when they had packed up the plunder of Alexandria, call in the crews at Halifax or Jamaica to partake with them? Ireland is one of the estates of the Boroughmongers; and do men ever call in other men to participate in their rents?

Mr. Fox and his party, who brought forward this measure in 1807, stood pledged, however, to the Catholics. They had given the pledge when they were out of place, and, most likely, when they never expected to get in. But, still, it is surprising that they should have attempted the fulfilment; knowing, as they did, the all-ruling power that was naturally [165] opposed to it. The truth Is, they were deceived. Some seat-owners appeared to acquiesce; and the ministers, who were, in the arts of the trade, not half so deep as their opponents, thought that, if they carried their measure, they should have the Catholic Peers and Commoners with them; and should, thus, acquire permanent strength. The Boroughmongers took the alarm. Lords Eldon, and Hawkesbury, (now Liverpool,) and Perceval, were despatched to the king, who was told that he was about to act "in violation of his Coronation Oath,” and that he must turn out the ministers.

The Foxites finding themselves undermined, endeavoured to keep their places by withdrawing the Emancipation Bill from the Table of the House of Commons, on which it was laid, and in which House it had been read a first time. But, it was now too late. The Boroughmongers could not trust them; and out they were driven. That the king was a mere instrument on this occasion is certain; else how came he to approve of the Bill before it was introduced? How came he first to do this, and then, all of a sudden, to turn out his ministers for having proposed the measure? Nay, how came he to put them out, even after they had withdrawn the Bill? If 1 am asked why the Boroughmongers did not vote out the Bill and the Ministers. I answer, that that would have been to expose themselves to great odium, especially in Ireland, every impartial man being for the measure. It was, therefore, much better to throw the failure of it upon the “tender conscience of the king.” And to set up all through England, a tremendous cry of, “God bless the king, and No Popery,” which the new minister did, and with such success, that when Mr. Roscoe offered himself to be re-elected, the people of his own town, where his talents and his virtues were so well known, almost buried him with dirt and stones, amidst shouts of ”Down with the Pope;” and that, too, as the event has proved, while they were paying loads of taxes to restore the Pope and the Inquisition.

But, if those who really knew any thing of the matter could have had any doubt upon this subject in 1807, the events of 1811 and 1812 would have completely removed such doubt; for the king was then shut up; he was put aside; his son [166] was, in fact, put in his place. The king’s conscience, therefore, was no longer an obstacle. The Prince Regent stood pledged to the Catholics both verbally and in writing. Yet he did not attempt to redeem the pledge. Suppose him, if you like, a faithless man; but faithless men do not, any more than others, voluntarily and gratuitously expose themselves to the hatred and contempt of mankind. At first, he had only limited powers. The Boroughmongers actually openly kept a part of the very exterior of royalty in their own hands, lest a man, on whom they could not depend, should be guilty of some thing that would rouse the people against him. But, at the end of a certain time, they enlarged his powers. To this time his old friends and companions looked with eagerness. The Catholics thought, to be sure, that they should now get there long-sought emancipation.

All London heard the execrations that were, upon this occasion, poured out upon the Prince. He was called every thing descriptive of baseness and perfidy; when be really had no more power with respect to Catholic Emancipation than I had. He might be perfectly sincere, when he pledged himself to the Catholics; nor is there any good reason to suppose that he was not sincere. As Duke of Cornwall he owns two seats in that County. His two Members voted for the Emancipation. Even Castlereagh, to make good his pledge, was suffered to vote for it, in 1812. But, when there appeared so large a majority against it, was it not then become clear, that the conscience of the king had been a mere pretext? Could any man, however stupid, still be deluded by so stale a trick? What miserable nonsense is it, then, to talk of “an influence behind the throne greater than the throne itself!” Will any body believe, that any favourites of the Prince could have persuaded him thus to falsify his word? Why should they? His favourites had been Lord Holland, Mr. Tierney, Mr. Sheridan, and, generally, the friends of Catholic Emancipation. He had supposed that some real power would come into his hands, when he should be king; but, he soon found his mistake; he found himself to be a mere tool in the hands of the owners of the seats in parliament; namely, about 120 Boroughmongers, who. have, at all times, a dead majority; and [167] though they very willingly would permit the Prince to do such odious things as the creating of Bate Dudley a Baronet, and are glad to see him disgrace himself and disgust the people by his amours, his excesses, and his squanderings, take special care that he shall do nothing that shall trench upon their real and solid dominion.

Of the real nothingness of the king and the people called his ministers there were ample proofs in the history of Pitt. It is very well known, that Pitt, who had formed to himself a hope of immortal fame from his financial schemes, went with extreme reluctance into the war with France in 1793. The account of the conversation between him and Mr. Maret, which was published in the Annual Register, from a translation of Mr. Maret’s notes, proves, that the minister, who was thought to rule in England, was in great fear, lest the French Convention should, by their violence, give a handle to the Aristocracy here to force him into the war. His chief reliance was upon the Opposition, which was then formidable. He hoped that the great seat-owners, who belonged to that Body, and who had so long affected to follow Mr. Fox, would continue firmly united against his ministry; in which case, he could have resisted the warlike commands of his own masters, that is to say, the Boroughmongers on his side. But, his hopes were disappointed. It has been a thousand times stated, that the Court Influence drove him into the war. That the king told him "war, or turn out.’ This was, indeed, the alternative; but, the source of the command was different; and, upon this occasion, it was openly seen to be so.

A great body of Boroughmongers, who had, until now, been in the opposition, finding that the example of France might produce reform in England, the necessity of which reform, by the by, was most ably urged by men of great talent and weight, resolved to have for minister some man that should go to war with France. They found that Mr. Fox would not; and, after due preparations, over they came to Pitt, who would rather have had the company of Satan himself. Amongst the leaders of Hie seceders from Mr. Fox were the Duke of Portland, Lord Fitzwilliam, and Lord Spencer, each of whom having ten times the influence of Pitt himself. Burke, who [168] had been the trumpeter of the war, and who had been for two years labouring to work people’s minds up to it, was a mere tool in the hands of Earl Fitzwilliam, in one of whose seats he sat. He belied his conscience through the whole of his work; but, he received, not only his seat, but his very bread, at the hands of this opulent nobleman, who was bent upon preserving his borough powers and his titles, or, at least, to take the chances of war for that preservation. Earl Spencer was, at the time of his leaving Mr. Fox, asked by a gentleman, who had long voted with that party, and who was opposed to the war, what were the motives that could have induced a man so worthy as his Lordship to join in such an enterprize. “I will be ”very frank with you,“ said Lord Spencer, “and save you the trouble of discovering my motives. My lot is cast amongst the nobility. It is not my fault that I was thus born, and that I thus inherit. I wish to remain what I am, and to hand my father’s titles and estates down to my heirs. I do not know that I thus seek my own gratification at the expense of my country, which has been very great, free, and happy, under this order of things. I am satisfied, that if we do not go to war with the French this order of things will be destroyed. We may fall by the war; but we must fall without it. The thing is worth fighting for, and to fight for it we are resolved.” The substance of this has been stated in print by Mr. Miles, in his letter to the Prince of Wales; but, I have here put down the words as I heard them from the gentleman who had the conversation with Lord Spencer, having made, in 1812, a memorandum of them in a few minutes after I had heard them.

When one guts thus behind the curtain, how amusing it is to hear the world disputing and wrangling about the motives, and principles, and opinions of Burke! He had no notions, no principles, no opinions of his own when he wrote his famous work, which tended so much to kindle the flames of that bloody war, which, in its ramifications, have reached even to the Canadian Lakes and the Mexican Gulf. He was a poor, needy dependant of a Boroughmonger, to serve whom, and please whom, he wrote ; and for no other purpose whatever. His defence of “our own Glorious Revolution,” under the " deliverer [169] William," and his high eulogium of that king for introducing and ennobling a Dutch family or two, seem to be quite unaccountable to most readers, as they are disgusting to all; but, no longer wonder then, when we reflect, that Earl Fitzwilliam* is the descendant of a natural son of William the Third; and that the ancestors of Bentick, Duke of Portland, were Dutchmen, who came to England, and were here ennobled, in the same king’s reign. And yet, how many people read this man’s writings as if they had flowed from his own mind; and who seem to regard even the pension, which Lord Fitzwilliam soon after the change procured for him and for his widow after him, as no more than the proper and natural reward for his great and disinterested literary exertions in the cause of ”social order!”

From this account of the real cause of the war of 1793, it is clear how the world, in general, have been deceived as to the king’s commands upon that occasion He, I dare say, wished for war. It was the cause of kings and electors as well as of Boroughmongers. But, his mere wishes were unsupported by any power of his own. And, as to Pitt, if he had taken his place with Fox on the Opposition benches, he would have found, as he afterwards did, when he opposed his own understrapper, Addington, that out of his majority of four hundred and thirty votes, not more than thirty votes would have gone over with him.

In 1801 Pitt resigned, because Catholic Emancipation was not permitted to be brought forward. But, when the Boroughmongers, in 1804, found, upon the renewal of the war, that Addington was insufficient for the purpose, they recalled Pitt, who, however, in spite of all his pledges, never dared to talk of Catholic Emancipation again, to the day of his death. Upon the occasion of this last change, it is notorious, that the king discovered his reluctance in all possible ways; and when it actually took place, it drove him into one of his fits of insanity. He personally liked Addington, who is a smooth supple creature, though very artful, and can be, when he chooses, very malignant. His father Was a mad-doctor, had treated the king with great tenderness, while others used harsh, not to say cruel, remedies. Addington, who bad always been an underling, behaved in that humble manner [170] which the king and queen and royal family liked very much; and, besides, he did all their little jobs in the way of pensions and places for their personal friends. So that the life they led with him was perfect elysium, compared with what they were obliged to endure from the neglect and insolence of Pitt, who was domineering towards every living creature, the Boroughmongers excepted. But, the war was again begun. Addington was thought by the seat-owners unlit for their purpose; both sides of the House joined to put him out; and, a very little after he had left Pitt in a minority of thirty-seven, Pitt saw him (the Members being all the same persons) in a minority of about the same number! Where was now that “influence behind the throne greater than the throne itself?" What was become of it upon this memorable occasion? The truth was, that Pitt was thought, by those who had the real power in their hands, the fittest man to carry on the complicated machine ; and, no sooner had they made up their minds, than they put out the poor thing who had filled his place for a couple of years, keeping in almost all the rest of the ministry.

Is it possible for any thing to show, more clearly than these facts do, the nothingness of the Royal Family and the Ministers, if considered in any other light than that of puppets and tools? When the present cabinet was formed, the Earl of Lonsdale, who owns nine seats, had made it a point that Lord Mulgrave should be Master General of the Ordnance. It being found difficult to comply with this request without clashing in another quarter, the Earl of Lonsdale was informed, that His Royal Highness the Prince Regent had been pleased to make an arrangement by which Lord Mulgrave would have a very lucrative post out of the cabinet, sensible men, most likely, not wishing to have such an empty coxcomical gabbler in the cabinet. Upon seeing this information by letter, at one of his country seats, it is said that Lord Lonsdale exclaimed: “His Royal Highness has been pleased, has he! Bring me my boots!” Whether this be true or not, it is very certain that he undid the arrangement, and that he put Lord Mulgrave into the Ordnance and the Cabinet. In fact, it is notorious, that the Prince has no power at all of any public consequence; that he cannot procure [171] the appointment to any office of considerable trust or emolument; that it is not he that chooses Ministers, Ambassadors, Judges, Commanders, or Governors; that it is not he who grants pensions, or bestows sinecures; that it is not he who gives to the Dean and Chapters leave to elect Bishops any more than it is the “ Holy Ghost” that inspires the said Deans and Chapters upon the occasions when these at once impious and farcical scenes are exhibited. Of all the elections, that ever the world heard of, these are the most curious.

When a Bishop dies, another must be put in his place. The Bishop is elected by the Dean and Prebends of the Cathedral Church of the Diocess. The king, who is called the head of the Church, sends these gentlemen, who are called the Dean and Chapter a congé de lire, or a leave to elect; but he sends them, at the same time, the name of the man, whom, and whom only, they are to elect. With this name in their possession, away they go into the Cathedral, chant psalms and anthems, and then, in a set form of words, invoke the Holy Ghost to assist them in their choice. After these invocations, they, by a series of good luck wholly without a parallel, always find that the dictates of the Holy Ghost agree with the recommendation of the king. And, now, if any man can, in the annals of the whole world, find me a match for this mockery, let him produce it. But even this shockingly impious farce loses part of its qualities, unless we bear in mind, that it is not the king, but some Boroughmonger, in virtue of some bargain for votes, who has really nominated the Bishop; and, that the King, the Minister, the Dean and Chapter, and the Holy Ghost proceeding, all neither more nor less than so many tools in the hands of the said Boroughmonger. Good and pious people wondered amazingly that the Holy Ghost, or even the king, should have pitched upon the present gentleman to fill the Archbishop’s Chair of Canterbury; but, these good and pious Church people did not know, that the Duke of Rutland had, as he still has, seven or eight votes of his own in the two Houses, besides, perhaps, twenty more that he could, upon a hard pinch, make shift to borrow.

It makes me, and hundreds besides me, laugh to read, in American and French [172] publications, remarks on the men engaged in carrying on this curious government of ours. We laugh at the idea of the influence of the Crown; of the party of Pitt; of the party of Fox; of the intrigues of this Minister, of the powerful eloquence of that Minister; of those great men, the Wellesleys, and Liverpools, and Castlereaghs, and Cannings, on the one side; and the Tierneys, and Homers, and Broughams, and God knows who, on the other side; and the Thorntons, and Wilberforces, and Banks’s, and Romilys, and the rest of that canting crew in the middle. We know them all ; yea, one and all, to be the mere tools of the Boroughmongers; and, that, as to the deciding of any question, affecting the honour, liberty, or happiness of the country, the Duke of Newcastle, who was, only a few years ago, a baby in his cradle, had, even while he was living upon pap, more power than this whole rabble of great senators all put together; and, I dare say, now that he is grown up to be a young man, he pays, much more attention to the voice of his fox-hounds than to the harangues of these bawlers, and that he has more respect for the persons and motives of the former than for those of the latter. One thing I can state as a certainty; and that is, that, if I were in his place, I should flee to the dog-kennel as a relief from that filthy den, the House of Commons.

"The king’s friends” is an expression frequently used. Poor man! He has no friends, unless it be in his own family, and amongst his and their menial servants, the greater part of whom are Hanoverians and Brunswickers. The common people do not hate the Royal Family; they despise them too much to hate them. They listen greedily to all the dirty stories about the Queen and her Daughters, of which I have, for my part, never heard any thing bordering upon the nature of proof. Every body speaks ill of all the sons; they blackguard them in all manner of ways. In print, indeed, the Attorney General takes care that a little decorum should be observed; but, even he suffers the assailants to go pretty good lengths. The story at this moment (10th Feb.) is, that the Prince Regent is mad. In vain is there no proof of this; in vain do the physicians report, that his ailment is merely the gout. People will not believe this. They laugh at you if you affect to believe [173] it. The life that the Prince has led may be easily guessed at from the following fact, for the truth of which I refer to publications in London notorious to every body. One Walter, now dead, the proprietor of a newspaper called the Times, which is now carried on by his son, published, during the first agitation of the Regency question, previous to the French war, some outrageously gross libels, very false as well as foul, against the Duke of York and the Prince of Wales. Walter, who was a very base and infamous fellow, was prosecuted by the Attorney General, sentenced to be imprisoned two years for each libel, and to pay a fine for each. The Treasury itself (Pitt at the head of it) were the authors of the libels. Walter threatened to give up the authors. The, Treasury gave him a sum of money to keep silence; and, after he had suffered the two years imprisonment for the libel on the Duke, the Prince obtained the scoundrel’s pardon for the libel on himself, which Walter repaid by every species of malevolence towards the Prince to the day of his death, the Prince’s enemies being better able to pay the ruffian than he was!

Now, let any one suppose what the situation of this family must be, when the Treasury itself could unite, and cause to be published, infamous libels against two of the King’s sons! And, the truth is, that the whole family, the Prince Regent not excepted, are compelled to subsidize the newspapers, in order to blunt or repel, the shafts aimed, or launched forth, against them. If any one could paint this part of our press in its true colours, it would shock every man of common justice. The fears of the whole family are constantly kept alive. They know very well what is said about them. However false the story, they dare not attempt to contradict it; for the bare attempt alone would be produced as proof of their guilt. The sons and daughters cannot marry without leave of the Boroughmongers, as was recently shown in the case pf the Duke of Cumberland. He did, indeed, marry, and by his brother’s consent, which was precisely what the law required; but, because the Prince had not asked their leave, they would not give him a farthing of money, though such grants have always been customary in like cases. And, what is more, they prevented the Queen from receiving his wife at court. It is true, [174] that very bad whispers had been long afloat about the Duke, and I do not say, because I do not know, that they were without foundation; but, I believe, his great sin, a sin for which most certainly there is no forgiveness for him in this world, was his very foolish attempt to uphold Addington against the Boroughmongers, and which attempt, nevertheless, did not succeed for one single day. With what truth the story is told of the poor old king’s expressing his resolution, upon one occasion, to go off to Hanover, I do not know; but really one can easily believe, that a man would go almost any where, and live almost any how, or with almost any body, to get out of such a state of mock-majesty and of real slavery.

The “Royal Dukes,” as they are called, in order to gain a little popular favour, run about to Bible Societies, Lancaster schools, sometimes to societies for assisting lying-in women, and to the most popular Methodist Meeting Houses, when any Thundering Preacher holds forth on a popular occasion. Their names are in all great subscription Lists; and they make speeches on many of these occasions; and always give away some of their money. All this only exposes them to ridicule. The Boroughmongers never expose themselves in this way. They are at their great country seats with their packs of hounds and troops of hunters, and with their good cheer for their numerous guests. Not a single country seat has the Royal Family; not an acre of land; not a pack of hounds, except the Stag-hounds kept up for the use of the old king! The kings of England had, formerly, immense landed estates. They lived upon these estates. They wanted no public money, except for purposes of war, and sometimes they carried on war out of their own purses.

The Boroughmongers took all these estates away from the Guelphs, in the early part of this king’s reign; they have divided the greater part of them amongst themselves, and settled a pension, or, what they call a Civil List, on the king in lieu of them, thus exposing him and his family to all the odium that the annual exhibition of a great charge upon the public naturally excites and keeps alive.

After this view of the situation of this family how we must laugh at De Lolmes’ pretty account of the English Constitution. After seeing that about three or [175] four hundred Boroughmongers actually possess all the legislative power, divide the ecclesiastical, judicial, military, and naval departments amongst their own dependants, what a fine picture we find of that wise system of checks and balances, of which so much has been said by so many great writers! What name to give such a government it is difficult to say. It is like nothing that ever was heard of before. It is neither a monarchy, an aristocracy, nor a democracy; it is a band of great nobles, who, by sham elections, and by the means of all sorts of bribery and corruption, have obtained an absolute sway in the country, having under them, for the purposes of show and of execution, a thing they call a king, sharp and unprincipled fellows whom they call Ministers, a mummery which they call a Church, experienced and well-tried and steel-hearted men whom they call Judges, a company of false money makers, whom they call a Bank, numerous bands of brave and needy persons whom they call soldiers and sailors; and a talking, corrupt, and impudent set, whom they call a House of Commons. Such is the government of England; such is the thing, which has been able to bribe one half of Europe to oppress the other half; such is the famous "Bulwark of religion and social order,” which is now about, as will be soon seen to surround itself with a permanent standing army of, at least, a hundred thousand men, and very wisely, for, without such an army, the Bulwark would not exist a month.