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Title: Eleven Letters—On the Colonies—from P———. Author: [Edward Gibbon Wakefield]. * A Project Gutenberg of Australia eBook * eBook No.: 1306641h.html Language: English Date first posted: December 2013 Date most recently December 2013 Produced by: Ned Overton. Project Gutenberg Australia eBooks are created from printed editions which are in the public domain in Australia, unless a copyright notice is included. We do NOT keep any eBooks in compliance with a particular paper edition. Copyright laws are changing all over the world. Be sure to check the copyright laws for your country before downloading or redistributing this file. This eBook is made available at no cost and with almost no restrictions whatsoever. You may copy it, give it away or re-use it under the terms of the Project Gutenberg Australia Licence which may be viewed online.
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These letters (late 1830-mid 1831, all of them published in "The Spectator") follow closely upon the publication of "A Letter from Sydney . . ." by Wakefield (1829), and further elucidate his influential views on the subject of colonization, shortly before the passage of the Reform Bill. It was only later acknowledged that "P———" was in fact Wakefield.
The letters have been transcribed from "The Spectator" Archive.
|Letter I., 11 December 1830 [pp.
Letter II., 25 December 1830 [pp. 10-11]
Letter III., 8 January, 1831 [p. 14-15]
Letter IV., 22 January, 1831 [pp. 18-19]
Letter V., 5 February, 1831 [pp. 19-20]
Letter VI., 12 February 1831 [p. 19]
Letter VII., 19 February, 1831 [p. 19]
Letter VIII., 19 February, 1831 [pp. 19-20]
Letter IX., 5 March 1831 [p. 20]
Letter X., 4 June, 1831 [pp. 20-21]
Letter XI., 11 June, 1831 [pp. 20-21]
From "The Spectator", 11 December 1830, Pages 18-19]
My Lord—For one reason, at least; the public has cause to rejoice at your appointment to the place lately filled by Mr. Horace Twiss. It is much to be doubted, whether, when that briefless Chancery lawyer was made Under-Secretary for the Colonies he could have pointed out on the map one out of three of the colonies of Britain. That he was utterly ignorant of the condition, wants, resources, and peculiar circumstances of all our colonies, is certain; except that, perhaps, he might have known that the West Indies produce sugar and slaves, that the Cape of God Hope once belonged to the Dutch (though this is doubtful), that Canada is in the northern division of America, and that New South Wales and Van Diemen's Land are used as convict jails. I do not pretend to knew what May be the degree of your acquaintance with our colonies; but about this, at least, I am not inclined to doubt,—that you wish to acquire useful knowledge relating to your office, and that you possess both the industry and the capacity for becoming complete master of the subject. Further, though you belong to a proud and somewhat haughty race, you may be supposed free from that ridiculous presumption which so often Marks the bearing of successful parvenus. Mr. Horace Twiss thought himself intimately acquainted with every thing that a Minister for the colonies—ought to know. Your pride, if not a better feeling, will spare you the reproach of self-sufficiency. You will not be ashamed to learn that of which you feel yourself to be ignorant, and 'which it Mast be plain to one of your good understanding that you ought to know thoroughly. Moreover, I entirely mistake your character, if-you do not judge of the information that may be offered to you, dither by its intrinsic value, if it have any, than by the medium through which it may be conveyed to you. Mr. Twiss would have treated with a sort of Jack-in-office scorn, any thing addressed to him in a newspaper: you, let it be hoped, are above such despicable humours. Your predecessor belonged to the old school, which imagines that office and knowledge, like newspapers and impertinence; are synonymous terms; whilst your mind mast be open to receive, if it have not already imbibed the conviction, that it is disgraceful to hold Office without knowledge; and dangerous, too, considering the power of the newspaper press. On the whole, though your want of experience in business renders you unfit for your place, in an other point of view, your youth mast be satisfactory to the public; giving promise of modesty, industry, respect for public opinion, and ambition to distinguish yourself by rendering important services to your country.
By the above considerations I am tempted, to commence a series of Letters, which I propose to address to you through the medium of the Spectator, in which I intend to call your attention to the whole subject of Colonial Administration. This is a subject of which you cannot, I fear, know much, and which I have diligently studied. If you are willing to learn, I am ready to teach; and whether you learn or not, the trouble that I may take will not be thrown away.
The point which I propose to notice first, and to which the rest of this letter will be confined, is one with respect to which you may be prevented from committing great practical errors, by its being brought thus early to your notice.
The regulations for granting land at the new settlement in Western Australia are on the point of expiring. They must be either renewed or replaced immediately. Have you looked at those regulations? If not, examine them, and say with what objects they were framed. Inquire in your office, and learn the miserable results which they have already produced. Grants of land, equal in extent to English counties, have been made to individuals. It is absurd to suppose that such immense tracts can be properly cultivated by the persons in possession of them. What, then, must be the effects of such profusion in disposing of the waste land the property of the state? Must not its effects be to scatter the settlers—to prevent them from combining their capital and labour—to compel them to waste the capital which they have been tempted, even by the profusion in question, to export from England—to reduce them, or at least the generation that shall follow them, to a state of poverty and semi-barbarism, like that of the Dutch settlers at the Cape of Good Hope, of the French settlers in Lower Canada, and of the Spanish colonists in many parts of South America?
To what an infinite number of reflections do the above questions lead! In order to answer those questions satisfactorily, one ought to be pretty well acquainted with the laws which regulate production, distribution, and consumption in old countries; and, more especially, with the same laws as they operate amongst bodies of men who, to use the words of Adam Smith, "take possession of a waste country, or of one so thinly inhabited that the natives easily give place to the new settlers." Few if any of the political economists of Europe have seriously examined the latter branch of the science which is their peculiar study; and they are not, consequently, prepared even to admit that the economical circumstances of "new countries" differ very greatly, and in many very important respects, from those of the states of Europe generally. Yet that this is the case, must be plain to him who will give the subject a moment's attention. Let the endeavour to prove the fact.
Nearly all that has been written about Wages, the Division of Labour, the Profits of Stock, and especially Rent, is almost wholly inapplicable to the state of such communities as our colonies in South Africa, Australasia, and America, as well as the United States. Have the circumstances which produce a rise or fall of wages in England any effect on the condition of labourers, that is, slaves, in South Africa and America? Of what use is Adam Smith's admirable illustration of the advantages of the division of labour, to one who like the Canadian backwoodsman, is compelled by circumstances beyond his control to do almost every thing for himself? In England we say that "the profits of stock are high when the wages of labour are low"—yet throughout North America, as well as in New South Wales and Van Diemen's Land, the profit of stock and the wages-of labour are both extremely high when compared with the same things in England. Rent, respecting which so much has been written in England, being a payment by the occupier to the proprietor of superior land, is a thing scarcely known in many new countries as to a great portion of the 'land; and as to other portions of land in the same countries, is governed by laws differing materially from the laws which regulate rent in England. In New South Wales, for instance, a very high-rent is paid for very poor land close to a town, whilst no rent at all can be procured for some of the richest land situated far from a town.
Again, in England, timber is always a highly valuable commodity—in Canada it is, generally, a hindrance and an evil. In England, marsh land by the side of rivers is of superior value—in New South Wales and Van Diemen's Land, such land, being wet and thickly wooded, is often of the least value, or rather of no value at all, being completely unmanageable for want of labourers to clear and drain it. In England, the competition of labourers for employment—in many new countries the exact reverse, the competition of capitalists for labour, are universal complaints. In Europe, the pressure of population on the means of subsistence is evident to all reflecting men, and is considered a fact of such deep importance in the science of government, that the writer who proved the fact is become perhaps the most illustrious of philosophers. In great part of North America on the contrary, in South Africa and Australasia, the pressure of population on the means of subsistence is scarcely ever felt; yet in other new countries, that greatest, because the most productive of human ills, is constantly felt, though apparently—the circumstances which operate so happily in one case ought to have a similar effect in the other, and though it be quite plain that, in the latter case, the evil do not spring from the causes by which it is produced in England. I allude here to the misery which prevails in the territory of Buenos Ayres; whose inhabitants possess at least a hundred times more land than they are able to cultivate. In England, at this moment, labourers are sent to prison (how many, my Lord, within the last month?) for compelling capitalists to furnish them with profitable employment—in New South Wales, capitalists often send labourers to prison for refusing to work at wages which in England would be thought extravagantly high. I do not observe that the rich are ever sent to prison for ill-treating the poor, but this remark is beside the question. Mr. Potter Macqueen, the late M.P. for Bedfordshire, In order to relieve his English estate of a burthen, sent a number of the labourers born upon it, to work upon his estate in New South Wales: but these wretched paupers no sooner breathed the air of the Antipodes than their whole nature seemed to be changed, for instead of earnestly desiring labour and wages, they refused to labour for any body at any rate of wages; and they are now become competitors with their former master in the Australian market of labour. In England, he who cultivates his own land takes especial care to preserve its fertility: throughout North America and the British settlements of Australasia, the proprietor-cultivator Often destroys the fertility of his land as soon as possible; and it is, moreover, dearly for his advantage to pursue what in England would be called the ruinous practice of exhaustion. In England we hive not the least difficulty in procuring any desired number of labourers to perform the same kind of work at the same time, in the same place, and for a considerable period of time: but in many new countries this first improvement in the application of labour, which incalculably augments the produce of any given amount of capital and labour, is found next to impossible. Hence, in some new countries, the absolute necessity of employing slaves, if it be absolutely necessary to produce commodities which require the employment of many hands in one field. Hence the revival of slavery, scarcely three hundred years ago, by bodies of Christian emigrants, whose mother states had but lately abolished that wicked institution!
Have I cited facts enough to prove that the political economy of Europe is, for the most part, inapplicable to new countries like the more extensive colonies of Britain?
I do not suspect Mr. Horace Twiss or Sir George Murray of knowing much of the political economy of Europe; nor is it perhaps absolutely necessary that our European statesman should understand the science, because he may always receive correction and assistance from those to whom it is familiar. But the situation of a Colonial Minister is very different. Lord Goderich and you, my Lord, sitting in Downing Street, have to legislate, according to your own will or whim merely, for three new Englands, each of which surpasses England in extent, and must in time surpass her in population and wealth. Has it ever struck yon, that the mode in which you gentlemen of the Colonial Office may dispose of the waste land in the colonies, has a most important influence on the condition of the colonists? Probably you never gave the subject a moment's thought. When Mr. Twiss or Sir George Murray sat down to frame the Regulations for granting land in Western Australia it never occurred to him, I dare say, that for such a task some knowledge was required of the peculiar circumstances which belong to colonies like the one that he was about to found. Yet, as the political economists of England were not likely to afford him correction and assistance, he was under the deepest obligation to acquire a thorough knowledge of the whole subject; provided always, that the mode in which the state disposes of waste land have an important influence on the condition and progress of new colonies.
In a future letter I will endeavour to satisfy you that the influence in question is paramount and universal.
From "The Spectator", 25 December 1830, Pages 10-11.
My Lord—I have undertaken to satisfy you, that the mode in which the state disposes of waste land, has a paramount and universal influence on the condition and progress of new colonies.
What is meant by colonization? It is not necessary to encumber the answer with any but the slightest mention of certain distant possessions, sometimes improperly called colonies. Malta and Hindostan are not, properly speaking, colonies of Britain.
A colony signifies a body, or successive bodies of men, who take possession of a waste country; and the elements of colonization are—first, Emigration, and secondly, Waste Land at the disposal of the state.
But the latter term may be converted into the disposal of waste land by the state; for it is not the land, of which much exists at home, but the desert nature of the land, or still more, the absolute power of the state over the land, which constitutes one of the elements of colonization.
Already, then, the point in question is established by reasoning à priori; for, if the disposal of waste land be one of the elements of colonization, it follows, inevitably, that the mode in which the state disposes of waste land has a paramount and universal influence on the condition and progress of new colonies. To deny this, would be to deny that one of the elements, or essential ingredients of a thing, forms part of the thing. One might as welt say, that the way in which a man uses his legs has not an important influence on his mode of walking.
But I will not insist on the force of any reasoning à priori, however plain and conclusive it may appear. Let us appeal to facts and experience. Yet what a wide field of inquiry is opened by this proposal! Volumes might be filled with an account of the effects produced on the condition and progress of new colonies by the various modes of disposing of waste land which have been pursued by. the colonizing states of modern Europe. A mere statement of the various regulations for granting new land in modern colonies, without any notice of their erects, would form a book. Even, the slightest sketch of those numerous systems or practices would occupy more space than the Spectator will afford for the series of letters on Colonial Administration in general, which I propose to address to you. Here I can do no more than hint at the extensive inquiry which you are bound to make; unless you would deserve the reproach of ignorance as to one of the most important subjects with which an English Colonial Minister ought to be acquainted. Not less than a thousand volumes afford very useful information on this subject. Will you read all of them? Will you look at one of them? The lawyer, your predecessor, certainly never opened one of those books with a view to the inquiry hereby suggested to you. But then, look at his preposterous regulations for granting land at the Swan River; surpassed in folly only by those which once existed at the Cape of Good Hope, where the Dutch settlers were forbidden, in so many words, to locate themselves at a less distance than three leagues from each other!
You are about to renew or replace those regulations. Have you formed the least idea of any one principle that ought to guide you in this work—a work of as much importance to the new colony, as is the manner in which a house shall be built of importance to its inhabitants?
Your colleague, Mr. Hay, will tell you that the existing regulations are excellent. Ask for the reasons of his opinion, he will then talk to you about the propriety of encouraging capitalists to emigrate,—as if, forsooth, the permanent abstraction of capital were not hurtful to the mother country,—as if those stupid regulations had not ceased to produce the mischievous effect designed by them; since, already, capitalists, have discovered that land in New Holland is worth nothing, without the means of cultivating it, and that the regulations in question absolutely forbid the existence in the colony of a class either of tenants or of labourers for hire. Mr. Hay will tell you that it is better that any body should possess the land—rather the savages and kangaroos of the country. Perhaps it is thus that he would excuse the possession of half of Prince Edward's Island in the Gulf of St. Lawrence, by his late master, Lord Melville; and of the other half, or thereabouts, by Lord Westmoreland—neither of those noble lords having either the means or the inclination to cultivate their immense colonial possessions. But if so, why not at once grant all the waste land of New Holland to the first applicant? To do this would, you think, be preposterous. No doubt it would; because as no one man, nor any thousand men, could cultivate the land, whilst his or their title to the land would enable them to prevent others from cultivating it, such a grant might suddenly and for ever extinguish one of the elements of colonization in New Holland,—namely, the power of the state to dispose of waste land.
But then Mr. Hay would answer (I repeat the substance of language lately uttered by him), "We attach certain Conditions to each grant; and one of those conditions is, that the land shall be properly cultivated." I have no doubt that Mr. Hay would put forth this apology with entire good faith; but if so, was ever ignorance greater than his?
The charge which I bring against an industrious and well-meaning person like Mr. Hay must not be left unsupported. He defends the regulations on the ground that the Government possesses the means of exacting a due observance of the condition in question. If the Government have no means of exacting the observance of the condition, he who talks of the condition as being effectual, speaks either dishonestly or ignorantly. Sure I am that Mr. Hay does not speak dishonestly; and the alternative is manifest—he speaks ignorantly—provided, as I now assume, that the Government have not, and cannot have, any means of enforcing the condition. The correctness of this assumption will be easily proved.
The condition of "proper cultivation" has often before been attached to grants of land in British colonies. Probably the grantees of the immense colonial tracts still desert, now possessed by the Lords Melville and Westmoreland, subscribed to that condition. Be that as it may, I take upon myself to state, that in no solitary instance has the condition been observed; and I do not believe that the Government has frequently resumed possession of the land in consequence of the non-observance by the grantee of the main condition on which his land was obtained. For this apparent neglect, by itself, no Colonial Government, nor indeed anybody, deserves blame. The term "proper cultivation" is so extremely vague, that a hundred colonists would give a hundred different interpretations of it; a mode of expressing the condition of a bond, blameable truly in the highest degree, but which shields from censure the person who is prevented, by that very obscurity, from enforcing the penalty of the bond. Mr. Hay might contend that "proper cultivation" is not a vague term; but, by so doing, he would give a strong proof of the ignorance with which I charge him.
The term signifies, in the abstract, that sort of cultivation by which the greatest produce is returned to the least capital and labour, without impoverishing the land; and here, where the markets of labour and produce are not subject to frequent and violent changes, a definition of the abstract idea describes pretty accurately what experience proves to be the best cultivation. But would your colleague say that this is what ought to be insisted on, as the main condition of grants of land in waste countries? Does he know, or is he ignorant, that in countries of which the inhabitants are so dispersed that there can be but little combination of capital and labour, the mode of treating land whereby the greatest return is given to the least capital and labour, is generally, not cultivation, in any sense of the word, but the impoverishment of the land—the exhaustion of its fertility—in the shortest space of time? Does he know that in countries where labour is scarce, roads are bad, and markets few, the mode of treating land by which the greatest return may be obtained most easily, varies infinitely with the infinite variety of degrees in which labour, roads, and markets are available; and according also to the infinite variety in the natural qualities of unreclaimed land? If he answer these questions rationally, and still contend that "proper cultivation" is not an extremely vague term' when applied to most new colonies, then he is perfectly qualified for his office, and I am an ignorant, impertinent meddler.
In order, however, that when you discuss this matter with him, your general inexperience may not be misled by his experience of the mere routine of office, I beg leave to remind you that, in the regulations for granting new laud at the Swan River, the term "proper cultivation" is not used, but that the condition attached to grants is—that cultivation "which shall be satisfactory to the Governor." Satisfactory to the Governor!—that Governor: being an excellent sea-captain, but knowing less, probably of the cultivation of land than you, or Lord Goderich, or I, know of navigation; and having, moreover, besides 100,000 acres of his own land to attend to, such multifarious and pressing occupations, that, were he an Arthur Young or a Coke in knowledge of agriculture, he could never "satisfy" himself as to the treatment of a thousandth part of the immense tract of land over which the few colonists are scattered!
This is more than enough, I hope, to convince you that your colleague's apology for the laud regulations in the new colony, is put forth through sheer ignorance.
Let us return to the main point. What are the principles that ought to guide a colonizing state in the disposal of waste land?
A preliminary question—though hardly a question—must be determined; viz, the immediate objects of the state in disposing of waste land. These objects may be stated at once and finally, without stopping to explain them, as the greatest prosperity and the greatest progress of the colony.
You will imagine that in some one of the colonies of modern Europe, for at least one short period, the Government must have adopted, in the disposal of waste land, a system deliberately formed with a view to the greatest progress and prosperity of the colony. If you know of any such system, you know more of colonization than I do; though I have examined above one hundred practices' called systems, adopted by the different Governments of Europe in the disposal of waste land in America alone. Had the natives of the American islands been capable of hard labour, the first grants made by the Spanish Government of Hispaniola,—each of which included a grant of so many natives in proportion to the extent of land granted,—would have been more rational, and, putting aside the wickedness of the proceeding, far more conducive to the prosperity and progress of the colony, than Sir George Murray's regulations for granting land in the last colony founded by England. Between these two miscalled systems, and during a period of about three hundred years, there have existed not less, I am inclined to believe, than three hundred different modes of granting waste land. In no two colonies, and scarcely in any two settlements of a colony, was the same mode ever adopted; whilst no one mode was ever steadily pursued in any colony or settlement. The changes of plan in most colonies have been as frequent as the changes in the person of the colonial governor—indeed much more frequent, inasmuch as most governors have pursued several different plans in the course of only a few years. Now, if you will take the trouble to reckon the number of colonies or settlements planted both by the states of Europe and by several colonies of those states, including the no small number which have perished, you will find my statement as to the variety of modes of granting waste land by no means exaggerated.
What would be thought of an architect who, besides never building any two houses alike, should employ half a dozen different, and often contradictory plans in building each Single house? Colonization is an art of greater importance, surely, than architecture; and which, being the creation of all things except land where nothing but land exists, requires for its due performance the highest capacity and the most extensive knowledge. Yet the persons intrusted with the performance of this art have, for the most part, been incapable and ignorant to the last degree; more especially in later times, since not even energy of character was required for obtaining a governor's salary, and with respect to the colonies of England in particular, which have nearly always been treated by the Home Government as mere pretexts for enriching the aristocracy and their dependents at the expense of the people of England. What think you of the integrity, sagacity, and diversified knowledge of a Lord Bathurst and Mr. Twiss?—of the jockey and gambler who lately received 15,000l. a year for misgoverning, nay, for tyrannizing over, the Cape of Good Hope?—of a General Darling, who has carefully sown the seeds of early revolt in New South Wales?—or of that naval captain, on whose "satisfaction," as a farmer, depends every settler's title to his land at the new colony in Western Australia? It needs no conjuror to divine what you think of these men's fitness for the important trusts reposed in them; and I cannot doubt that now, when you are reminded that the disposal of waste land in our colonies has generally been left to the mere caprice of men like these, you will cease to wonder that the numerous changes of plan, in operations which ought, perhaps, beyond all others, to be conducted with an uniform regard to certain main principles.
Here I must again impress on you the paramount and universal influence on the progress and prosperity of a colony, of the mode in which the Government may dispose of waste land. Think of this; and immediately the conclusion arises, that frequent and violent changes in the mode of disposing of waste land, must cause frequent and violent fluctuations in the value of land, capital, and labour. But trust not to any reasoning of mine. Read the history of any colony where such changes have frequently occurred, and the infinite mischiefs of the system, or rather want of system, will become abundantly plain to you.
In the Swan River regulations it is expressly stated, that the mode of granting land thereby announced, will last only till the end of this year; and that, after this year, some other mode will be enacted by "his Majesty's Government." Thus, the Government deliberately provides for change, as to that of which the very first good quality is permanency.
One remark more, and I have done with this part of the subject. It seems hardly open to doubt, that if, by inquiry and reflection, or by chance, any governor had discovered the best mode of granting land—the mode that is most conducive to the prosperity and progress of the colony—some account of that mode would have been handed down to us, if only in the shape of murmurs at its abandonment. Is there any such account, written or traditional? I know of none; and of this I am sure, that no mode has been found so good is to be maintained by the cries of the colonists in spite of the frequent whims of successive governors. Thus, from the universal and frequent changes in this all-important proceeding of colonization, I am led to conclude that the best system of granting new land remains yet to be discovered.
So much for what relates to the variableness of the practices hitherto adopted. A slight notice of some of those practices, miscalled systems, will occupy a future letter.
From "The Spectator", 8 January, 1831, Pages 14-15.
My Lord—If it be impossible to describe, from experience, the best mode of using one of the two main ingredients of colonization, it is extremely difficult to name the worst mode hitherto adopted. I am inclined to think that Sir George Murray's Swan River regulations constitute one of the worst; but they are all so miserably bad, that each of them, as one dwells on it in turn, appears worse than any other. Moreover, nearly all of them are so confused, so contradictory in one part to the apparent design of another part; and again, so few of those plans, which have been written down, were ever executed, with respect even to a single grant,—that one knows not how to compare them with each other, or to speak, except in general terms as to the results produced by any one of them. Altogether they terms, a mass of jobbing, ignorance, caprice, and downright nonsense; and these, the ingredients of the mass, are mixed in so perfect a disorder, that the labour of an endeavour to explain them would be as great as the waste of time. I shall not undertake a task so wearisome and useless. But I propose to select from the heterogeneous mass some few of the plans, which are not so absurd as to be indescribable, and to lay these before you, for the purpose of inviting you to further inquiries.
It must first be said, however, that in a great number of instances no plan whatever has been acted upon; the Colonial Minister at home and his Under Secretaries, the Governor and his Secretaries, having each of them followed his own pleasure,—having, that is, obeyed his own corrupt or whimsical motives, in the disposal of waste land. Thus it has often happened in a colony, that the Colonial Minister at home, an ignorant lord—his jobbing clerk, a mere quill-driver in intellect—such a Governor as Lord Charles Somerset or Sir Hudson Lowe—and two or three parasites of "His Excellency," have been making grants of land, each according to his fancy, and all at the same time. Some of these grants had conditions attached to them, and some no conditions; some one condition, and some another; and some were so much opposed to and clashing with each other, that not one of the number became effective, except by preventing the effectiveness of some or all of the others. To describe such cases as these, is impossible. Merely to think of them produces confusion of mind; and as for explaining them, one might as well attempt to give a. rational account of the conceits engendered in madness.
I will now just mention five plans of granting land, merely as a sample of the egregious stupidity displayed even in the least blameable instances.
First—When the first settlers in Canada, whose sole object in emigrating was to establish a trade with the Indians, became of sufficient importance to be thought worth controlling by the French Government, that Government invented for the colony a system of granting land. The whole of the accessible country was bestowed on a small number of adventurers, as tenants of the Crown; each person obtaining an immense district, under the title of a seigneurie. At the same time, these Canadian seigneurs were precluded from alienating their possessions, but were enjoined to grant sub-leases on the following conditions—1st, that the lessee should pay a small yearly sum to the lord; 2nd, that the tenant should bring his corn to be ground at the lord's mill, with other such like feudal observances; 3rd, that the tenant should not dispose of his lease without the lord's permission.
The object of this barbarous scheme was, no doubt, to create a Canadian noblesse. The effect of it was to check, or rather prevent, emigration to Canada; to condemn the colonists to poverty and barbarism; to render the colony a source of heavy loss to its mother country, up to the time when England saw fit to expend thousands of lives and millions of money in relieving France of the burden, and taking it to herself.
The effect of this scheme had become sufficiently manifest long before England took possession of Canada. Yet, as will be plain to you on reading once more the well-known debate on the Quebec Bill, Pitt and Fox and Burke imagined that nothing but an Act of Parliament was required to convert the Canadian seigneurs of the desert into an effective aristocracy. All Englishmen of decent education have read that debate; but it is worth the while of every Englishman to read it again, for the sake of learning how profoundly ignorant were the public men of your grandfather's time concerning the mere elements of public economy. In passing, I may observe that, however ignorant those men were of the true principles of Colonization, and however confident of their own perfect knowledge a the subject, they were not, in these respects, behind "statesmen" of the present day,—to wit, Lord Bathurst, Mr. Wilmot Horton, and Mr. Horace Twiss.
Secondly—In the French colony of Louisiana, a plan of granting land was adopted, very different from that which I have just described. "Grants of land," as the Abbé Raynal informs us, "were made indiscriminately to every person who applied for them, and in the manner in which he desired them." One consequence of this system was, as the Abbé goes on to say, that "immense deserts separated the colonists from each other." In the end, the colony perished; and the land is now being colonized over again by the Americans!
The Swan River system of granting land appears to have been copied from this notable blunder of Law; with this difference only, that the Scotchman who approved, if he did not draw up, the regulations for granting land at the Swan River, does not propose to discharge the national debt by means of colonization.
Thirdly—In Upper Canada, a considerable portion of the accessible territory has been "reserved for the Crown and the Church." In other words, the colonists have been commanded to leave in a desert state certain tracts of land, so intermixed with their own grants as to prevent them from living near to each other. You will readily conceive that neither the Crown nor the Church ever thought of cultivating those "reserves." The malpractice in question, therefore, had the effect of permanently interposing tracts of wilderness between the grants made to settlers; a measure far less rational than would have been the annihilation of those "reserves," since the latter operation, supposing it had been possible, would not have affected the colonists injuriously. The fullest information as to the ruinous effects of these Crown and Clergy reserves is to be found in Gourlay's account of Upper Canada; but I may observe, that the author, a man who would have done honour to human nature if born under a representative government, has mixed up with much valuable statistical information an account of his own pre-eminent misfortunes, and a picture of his own mental sufferings, so distressing—or, if your Lordship should prefer the more aristocratic expression, so annoying—to the reader, that it becomes difficult to extract from his book those parts which are merely useful.
I am informed that Mr. Gourlay is still unfortunate. His talents and his honesty no one will question; he was cruelly persecuted, and has had no redress; and his name is popular in Canada. The Murrays and Twisses would have appointed a footman or a dog, rather than so honest and able a man as Gourlay, to some colonial Office in which he might be useful. What will Lord Howick do, being still young and generous?
Fourthly—The Spanish Government bestowed the greater part, if not the whole, of the plains which lie between the Table Land and the Gulf of Mexico on some dozen or so of Spanish lords, residents in Spain or owners of mines and other property in the mountains and Table Land. The only use which the noble grantees made of their title to that immense and very fertile district, was to prevent others from settling there; and Humboldt informs us, that up to the time of his visit to Mexico, the plains of Vera Cruz and San Luis Potosi were still a wilderness of swamp. Here we have an instance of the extinction, during snore than a century, of one of the elements of colonization; and one instance, also, of the method of granting waste land, which your colleague, Mr. Ray, considers preferable to leaving the land in the possession of savages and wild beasts. I must remark also, that the grant of the whole of Prince Edward's Island between the Lords Melville and Westmoreland is a similar example Of this curious mode of colonizing a waste country.
Fifthly—In New South Wales, successive governors have been instructed, or have thought proper, to compel emigrants arriving from England to settle at the very outskirts of the colony. In order to effect this apparently ridiculous purpose, they have refused to grant land (except to favourites of their own, and persons with powerful recommendations from Downing Street) in what may be termed the settled districts. Even now, though, in consequence of this malpractice, at least three fourths of the settled districts are still the property of the state, emigrants from England, having capital, but not having found favour with General Darling-or his creatures, are compelled to travel across the Blue Mountains, or to Hunter's River,—in either case a considerable distance, and the more considerable since there are no roads—in order to obtain a grant; passing, let this be remarked, in their way to the spot fixed upon by his Excellency for their location, hundreds of thousands, nay millions, of acres of fertile land still desert and belonging to the Government, some of which they would infinitely prefer to the allotment awarded to them by the Governor or his Secretary at Sidney. What a beautiful system of Colonization! Mr. Wilmot Horton possesses a paper, being "Minutes of a Conversation" between himself and Mr. Blaxland, one of the most intelligent settlers in New South Wales, which admirably illustrates this last mode of granting waste land. By the paper in question, it will appear that Mr. Blaxland exchanged 4000 acres, I believe, of land distant from labour, roads, and markets, for 500 acres comparatively near to those means of deriving profit from the cultivation of land. As Mr. Horton earnestly contends that emigrants ought to be allowed a perfectly free choice as to the appropriation of waste land, he will probably publish the document in question; but if he should not, I will. I have the honour to be, my Lord,
From "The Spectator", 22 January, 1831, Pages 18-19.
My Lord—I return to the question, What are the principles that ought to guide a colonizing state in the disposal of waste land?
You must find an answer to this question before you can, with any satisfaction to yourself, prepare or approve of new regulations for granting land in the last colony founded by England. Further, it must be plain to you, that a system of granting land, deliberately formed with a view to the greatest prosperity and progress of the new colony in Western Australia, would be applicable to the other more extensive colonies of Britain,—Van Diemen's Land, New South Wales, the Canadas, and Southern Africa; not to mention the numerous desert countries, such as New Zealand, the Southern coast of New Holland, portions of Ceylon, and perhaps even the interior of Jamaica, to which, on account of the evils of redundant population at home, it might he advisable to apply a rational system of colonization.
Is there a system of colonization so good as to be fit for use in the existing colonies, and as to justify the establishment of other colonies? Considering the all-important influence on the condition of new colonies, of the mode in which the state disposes of waste land, it may be that there is a mode of employing that element of colonization so as to produce, first, in the colonies, a degree of prosperity sufficient to enable them to defray the whole cost of their own government and protection; and, secondly, such an amount of pauper-emigration from Britain, as would greatly mitigate, if it did not prevent for generations to come, the evils of over-population.
The former of those two objects must soon be effected by some means, or the Representative Government which your noble father has promised to the people of England will sever the connexion between the mother country and her colonies—a connexion which is at present an unmixed burden to both parties. The latter object, to use the words of Mr. Mill, "deserves profound regard, since the principle of population has been found to exert so great an influence on the condition of human beings." Mr. Mill, it is true, has not yet bestowed his own serious attention on this most important inquiry; but that he will shortly do so, we have every reason to hope, considering how slight would be the effort to his instructed and powerful mind, and that the wisest and best of his countrymen now call upon him to say, by what means Good Government may be obtained, without a series of convulsions to arise from giving power to the many, who are yet, and who seem likely to remain, ignorant, savage, and dishonest, through the excess of their numbers.
"The great class," says Mr. Mill, "who have nothing to give for food but ordinary labour, are the great body of the people. When every individual in the great body of the people has less than the due quantity of food, less than would fall to his share if the quantity of food were not too small for the population, the state of the great body of the people is the state of sordid, painful, and degrading poverty. They are wretchedly fed, wretchedly clothed, have wretched houses, and neither time nor means to keep either their houses or their persons free from disgusting impurity. Those of them, who either from bodily infirmities have less than the ordinary quantity of labour to bestow, or, from the state of their families, require a greater than ordinary quantity of food, are condemned to starve—either wholly, if they have not enough to keep them alive, or partially, if they have enough to yield them a lingering, diseased, and, after all, a shortened existence.
"What the ignorant and vulgar spectator sees in all this, is not a redundant population,—it is only a poor population. He sees nobody without food who has enough to give for it. To his eye, therefore, it is not food which is wanting, but that which is to be given for it. When events succeed in this train, and are viewed with these eyes, there never can appear to be a redundancy of population."
It is in this train that events succeed in England; and with these eyes the Government has always viewed them,—an "ignorant and vulgar spectator" of the misery of the working classes. But the time is come, at length, when the small ruling class must seriously endeavour to improve the condition of the great body of the people. Special commissions, hangings, and the transportation of great numbers to become slaves in the colonies, may indeed check, though we may doubt whether it will prevent, the use by the peasantry of the only means, hitherto effectual, for obtaining wherewith to enjoy life. Whether wages, raised by the fires (it would be absurd to deny this truth because it alarms us), will be again lowered to the starvation rate, is very much to be doubted; and if they be not, either the farmers must be ruined by the great deduction from their profits—in which case rent will cease—or the increase of wages must be paid by a deduction from rent and tithe. In this latter case, the increase of one shilling per day to the wages of two hundred thousand labourers, would amount to above thirty millions per annum, or three parts of the whole yearly rent. What a prospect for the aristocracy, whose estates are encumbered to the amount of at least the other quarter of the rent! But this is not all. The Government now engages ships, for the transport of the redundant peasantry, even before those miserable creatures are convicted of the crimes to which they are driven by the excess of their numbers in proportion to employment. This astounding, fact will induce many to be no longer "ignorant and vulgar spectators" of the workings of the principle of population. Lastly, the ruling class is now very anxious to put an end to that evil operation of the Poor-laws which promotes excess of numbers; and the country expects from the new Administration a repeal of the tax on bread; neither of which benefits would it be possible to attain without, as Mr. Senior has lately shown, either deeply aggravating for a time the evils of superabundant population, or removing the superfluous number to the colonies. Upon the whole, it seems more than probable that the Government will now seriously endeavour to frame a sound and really beneficial measure of emigration.
On this head, I have only to remark further, that emigration is but one of the elements of colonization; and that the best arranged and best conducted scheme of emigration, merely, must inevitably fail of its object, unless dependent on a well-arranged and well-conducted scheme of disposing of waste land.
For the third time I ask, What are the principles that ought to guide a colonizing state in the disposal of waste land? But I will not attempt to answer the question. And, indeed, believing, as I do, that the true principles of colonization,—that is, of emigration and of the disposal of waste land,--]nave been already laid before the public, I could not state those principles here without quoting at great length from the works to which I allude,—viz., two short pamphlets, entitled, "A Statement of the Principles and Objects of a National Society for the Cure and Prevention of Pauperism by means of Systematic Colonization," and "A Letter to Sir George Murray on Systematic Colonization, by Mr. Charles Tennant." I have the honour to be, my Lord,
From "The Spectator", 5 February, 1831, Pages 19-20.
My Lord—Men's minds are so deeply excited by the great question of Reform, that one cannot, at this moment, hope for much attention to any other subject: on which account, I propose to abstain, for the present, from continuing these Letters; but this one more I am impelled to write without delay. My motive for doing so will be partly explained by the following extract from the Morning Chronicle of to-day, the 3rd of February.
"It is a curious proof of the utter disregard
which this country feels towards its colonial possessions (except
only those which are represented in Parliament by the West India
body), that a document, which we published on the 20th ult.,
involving the deepest interests of our Australian Colonies, has
not been copied into any other journal, or even mentioned by the
press. We doubt whether it has been a subject of conversation
between any two persons in England, not immediately connected
with the colonies to which it relates.
"The paper in question consists of regulations lately issued by the Colonial Office, for the future disposal of waste land by the Government, in Van Diemen's Land and New South Wales. A thing never before attempted, perhaps, except in the United States, even in a single modern colony since' the discovery of America, is provided for by these regulations,—namely, a uniform system in the use of the principal element of colonization, that is, the disposal of waste land by the state. The object of this measure will be little understood by Englishmen generally. By the Colonists, we have no doubt that the measure will be received, as an inestimable boon. To those unrepresented British subjects, the frequent fluctuations in the value of land, capital, end labour; occasioned by the power hitherto awarded to every Governor of extending or restricting the appropriation of new land according to his mere whim, have been an evil of the greatest moment; an evil constantly pressing on them; and an evil, too, from which they had no hope of escape, unless through a reform of the English Government. For it must be remarked, that to deprive the Governor of his power over waste land, is to take away from him a fruitful vineyard of jobs and patronage. In this case, the Colonial Minister was able to adopt a right course without the authority of Parliament Perhaps, had Parliament been consulted, the Governor's power to job with new land and bestow it on his favourites, would have been preserved, as a 'vested right' or a 'venerable Institution.'
"Why should not this excellent system of increasing the disposable territory of the colonists be extended to South Africa and Canada?"
I entirely agree with the Morning Chronicle in its opinion of this important measure; which I venture to predict, will, if properly followed up, be productive of incalculable benefit to the Colonies, and of no small gratification to your Lordship, its author. Nay, more—considering "the paramount and universal influence on the prosperity and progress of new colonies, of the mode in which the state disposes of new land;" considering the profound ignorance of former Colonial Ministers as to the art of colonization; and considering further, that with some additions, easily made, these regulations will form a perfect system,—I will add, that the time must come and sooner perhaps than your Lordship expects, when the name of Howick shall be mentioned with respect and gratitude throughout the more extensive colonies of England. If you have read my preceding letters you may have observed, that I do not commonly deal in the language of panegyric: my sincerity, therefore, on this occasion, is the less open to doubt.
Two things, principally, are required, in order to perfect your Lordship's regulations for disposing of new land in Van Diemen's Land, and New South Wales.
First—That the system should be rendered permanent. Let us not forget the enormous influence which the system now adopted will exert on the prosperity and progress of the colony. Yet the adoption of the system is announced to the public—how? by a document, published without any mark of authority, in a newspaper, without a signature, and 'without any indication of being the work of Government, except that at the bottom of it there are the words, "Colonial Office, January 20, 1831." Perhaps this system of granting land will be more beneficial to the Colonies, than would be to England a Reform of Parliament. What should we think of a Reform of Parliament, announced and secured like this system of Colonization? What is to hinder Mr. Twiss or Sir George Murray (in case, unhappily, the Jack-in-office faction should displace the present Ministry) from overturning your Lordship's system, even by writing (for it is not necessary to publish) other regulations, having at the bottom of them the words, "Colonial Office, * * 183*?" By the new system it is decreed, that "henceforth" all waste land shall be sold to the highest bidder above the minimum price of 5s. per acre. What is meant by henceforth?—So long as Lord Howick shall remain Under-Secretary for the Colonies? I can find no other meaning in fact, whatever the word may imply. Then again, consider how the insecurity of the system will prevent its working well, even whilst it shall last. Who will purchase land for 5s. per acre, with the prospect, or the chance, of being able to obtain an immense grant for nothing, or rather for a little subserviency to the Minister at home or the Governor abroad, by waiting till we have once more a jobbing Administration? Not another word, I feel sure, is necessary to convince you, that the system must, if you intend it to be effectual, be guaranteed by the supreme authority.
Secondly—In order that the system may be made productive of the greatest good, both to the Colonies and to the Mother Country, it is indispensable that the funds obtained by the sale of waste land should be wholly employed in conducting the emigration of British labourers to the colonies. Trusting that your Lordship has read the pamphlets to which I referred in my last letter, I shall not now dwell on this point, further than to say, that, according to the system now adopted, and supposing that the funds obtained by the sale of land be not devoted to emigration, the 'purchaser of land will pay but for two things,—the land; and the uniformity of system, preventive of ruinous fluctuations in the value of land, capital, and labour: whereas, if the proceeds of the sales of land were devoted to emigration, four things would be obtained by the purchase of land,—the two just mentioned; thirdly, a supply of Labour in due proportion to the increase of appropriated land, whereby the cultivation of land would be rendered highly profitable; and, fourthly, an increase of Population, in the like proportion; whereby, in point of fact, the land would still be given away, though apparently sold; because the land purchased would presently sell for more than the original sum paid to the Government.
The Chronicle asks why "this excellent system should not be extended to South Africa and Canada?" I will notice the question presently; but first let me state the reasons why the system, even though not perfected, must be at once extended to the new colony in Western Australia.
First—Because, if the practice—I will not call it a system—of allowing every one to appropriate for nothing an unlimited quantity of new land, be maintained anywhere in the neighbourhood of New South Wales and Van Diemen's Land, the more ignorant and imaginative of the inhabitants of those colonies who may be disposed to settle on waste land, will probably be tempted to quit those colonies, in order to disperse and barbarize themselves where the Government promotes dispersion and barbarism. This would be injurious to New South Wales and Van Diemen's Land. Indeed, so great are the facilities of communication between those settlements and the settlement on the western coast of New Holland, that the three settlements form but one colony in the eye of a political economist. It may be said, therefore, that, unless the mode of granting land at the Swan River be the same as that adopted in New South Wales and Van Diemen's Land, not one of the settlements will enjoy a uniform system in the disposal of new land by the state—the grand desideratum of all modern colonies.
Secondly—Because the class of persons who quit England to settle in Waste countries, judging only from what occurs here, are generally bent on obtaining the greatest quantity of land on what they call "the most easy terms;" and because, consequently, the profusion with which land is granted in one of the Australian settlements—that of the Swan River—would probably deprive the other Australian settlements' New South Wales and Van Diemen's Land, of the due share which they would otherwise receive of emigration accompanied by capital. This consideration has, I understand, already produced some alarm amongst persons now in England, but connected with Van Diemen's Land and New South Wales.
Want of space must, I find, compel me to reserve for a future letter some remarks on the applicability of the new system of granting land to South Africa and Canada.
From "The Spectator", 12 February 1831, Page 19.
My Lord—The postponement for another month of the Ministerial proposal of Reform, by allaying the public anxiety on the subject, gives room to hope that further observations, even respecting our neglected and despised Colonies, and even at the present moment, may obtain some share of public attention. Of Lord Howick's earnest attention to the subject I have no doubt, since I learn,—what I am glad to have this opportunity of stating to the readers of the Spectator,—that he is unremittingly occupied with the business of his office, and most desirous to pursue the best course in whatever may come under his official notice, without much regard either to party politics, or to those more important questions which, though they agitate the public mind of this country, bear but slightly and indirectly on the subject of Colonial Administration. I therefore proceed with my Letters on that subject. The present one will be devoted to showing the applicability to South Africa and Canada of the Regulations lately issued for the future disposal of new land,—that is, for the progress of Colonization,—in Van Diemen's Land and New South Wales.
To begin with South Africa. Perhaps there is no colony in which more fantastic tricks have been played with the principal element of colonization. Mr. Barrow's account of the mode in which the Dutch Government used to dispose of new land to its disbanded German soldiers, is perfectly ludicrous. The Government, it seems, was, like all bad governments, afraid of its subjects. Fear and craft, the peculiar attributes of bad government, led it to embody the maxim, divide et impera, in a set of regulations for granting land. New settlers were forbidden to locate themselves, except at a distance of several miles from each other. This forcible dispersion of the colonists of course prevented the formation of roads; so that, in point of fact, each settler was, all but cut off from useful intercourse with his fellow-colonists. Occasional intercourse indeed he had, for the dispersion of the colonists rendered them weaker, and laid them open to the attacks of the natives; so that, occasionally, they were induced to assemble for the purpose, either of present defence, or of future safety through present amusement,—the amusement being to hunt the blacks, as wolves used to be hunted in England. Consequently, the Dutch colonists of South Africa became, under the name of Cape of Good Hope boors, the most brutal of men not called savages. The only thing apparently, that prevented them from sinking to the level of Caffres, was their possessing slaves, whereby they were enabled to preserve some combination of labour in their solitary farms and homes.
The original colonists of the State of New York were Dutchmen also. Why did not they become boors and half savages like their countrymen of the Cape of Good Hope? The reasons are plain. The dense forests and more warlike savages of America prevented the early colonists from loosely spreading, or their government from dispersing them, over a great extent of country. Kept together by their fear of the Indians, by tangled woods and impassable swamps, they laboured in concert; their production was great, and yet not greater than their wants, which were those of civilized life. They flourished exceedingly, and founded, perhaps, the most prosperous, wealthy, and civilized of modern colonies.
From this comparison, your Lordship will readily gather, that the circumstances of South Africa—that is, the open nature of the country, and the timid character of the native Africans—have been peculiarly favourable to the dispersion of the colonists. It seems so much the more expedient that the Government should dispose of new land in the manner best calculated to produce the proper degree of concentration.
The following remarks, which bear closely on this subject, were published on the 1st of July 1828, in the South African Commercial Advertiser; which journal is conducted by an Englishman of first-rate intelligence and ability, and intimately acquainted with the colony. They well deserve your Lordship's most earnest attention.
"The white population at present is estimated at about 70,000. In 1806, it was not more than 27,000. From a variety of causes, some permanent, others accidental, they have been scattered over a larger space than was consistent with mutual aid and support. This retarded the progressive division of labour, and exposed the solitary settler to many dangers and privations which did not operate beneficially on his habits of industry. Instead of trying how much produce of every kind they could raise, they were rather led to consider on how little they could possibly subsist. The limits of the settlement being perhaps too rapidly extended, rendered defence, rather than cultivation, the chief object of public attention. It is not meant that the settlers should have been crowded together. The nature of the colony rendered that impossible. But for some time no moderation was observed in this respect, and a great waste of capital and misapplication of labour and strength were the consequence. The increase of population, provided the boundaries be now fixed and adhered to, will gradually correct this evil, and bring both labour and a market more and more within the reach of the farmer. "If these views of the colony be near the truth, it will be worth considering whether, when new settlers are to be provided for, it would not be better to select locations for them in detail as near the coast, the villages, and Cape Town, as there can be found, than to set them down in masses by themselves on the outskirts of the colony, or beyond its peopled limits, in such situations they are not merely useless, but a burden to the community for many years—requiring new and expensive establishments for their protection, besides wasting their own means in fruitless undertakings, begun from mere ignorance of the real resources of the country. There appears to be abundance of unappropriated land, or at least of unoccupied, or, at all events, of uncultivated land, in most of the districts, on which many thousands of industrious people might be placed most advantageously to the old inhabitants, and with a much surer prospect of providing for themselves and their families all the necessaries of life, than in those remote places to which the stream of emigration is too often directed. It is true, the best places in those districts have fallen to the lot of the first settlers. But locations of the second, third, or fourth quality, as regards the soil, &c., near a good road or a town, may exceed in value, a thousand fold, those of the first description, which possess no such advantages."
I would especially draw your Lordship's attention to the last few lines of the above quotation, and suggest that you should apply them to the doctrines of Colonel Torrens and Mr. Wilmot Horton, put forth in the published "Controversy" between those gentlemen and the Colonization Society. I should but weaken the other statements and arguments of the South African writer, by dwelling on them further.
But there is one other point relating to South Africa, on which I must offer a few observations. To the shame of England be it said, Slavery is still maintained in South Africa. As to the West Indies, the question of emancipation is full of difficulty. But, in my humble opinion—and I have diligently studied the subject—you, Lord Howick, or, at all events, the individual Lord Goderich, may, by the stroke of a pen, abolish slavery in South Africa, and without the least particle of injury to any person whatsoever. In what way? Simply thus:—Let the new regulations for granting land in Van Diemen's Land and New South Wales be at once applied to all our South African settlements: add to those regulations an article, declaring that all the money obtained by the sale of land shall be employed in conveying free labour to the colony—and employed, too, so as to produce the greatest amount of emigration at the least cost; that is to say, by giving a passage cost free to young couples of both sexes in preference to other applicants.
This system of colonization, if honestly administered, must necessarily cause a substitution of free labour for slave labour; a delightful change, which would take place gradually, so as to prevent any danger from suddenly breaking the chains of a slave population; and a change, moreover, which would prove of the highest advantage to the colonial capitalist and land-owner,—inasmuch as free labour, when there is enough of it to be used in combination, is very much cheaper than slave labour; and, all slave-owners in the colony being land-owners, they would gain more by the rapid and great increase of free population, than they could lose by the gradual extinction of the slave's value as a producing machine.
Perhaps I am wrong in saying that so great and glorious a purpose might be effected by a stroke of your Lordship's, or Lord Goderich's pen. The regulations which I propose must be guaranteed by something more than having at the bottom of them, "Colonial Office, February * * 1831."
Some remarks on Canada must needs be reserved for my next letter.
From "The Spectator", 19 Feb. 1831, Page 19.
My Lord—But for Mr. Wilmot Horton's intended emigration to Ceylon, I should hardly have dared to make any allusion to Canada; and even though I had been so fortunate as to offer suggestions of value, your Lordship would probably have hesitated to adopt one of them, at the risk of an "interlocutory argument" with the lecturer on political economy at the Mechanics' Institution. For many years past, Mr. Horton has claimed a sort of property in the management of Canada; and various Governments have it would appear, allowed the claim, by abandoning that colony to the right honourable gentleman, as a field for his experiments in the cruel art of pauper location. At first sight, the claim appears a droll one; but, upon reflection, your Lordship will perceive, that any man, who should get a seat in the House of Commons and make himself troublesome, might easily become the patron and disposer of any colony not represented in Parliament. Thus, Mr. Grey Bennett formerly patronized New South Wales; and dire confusion he made of it, with his Mr. Commissioner Bigge—whose Report, with the measures founded thereon, produced that burning jealousy and furious hatred which now divide the colonists as though they were Dutchmen and Belgians. So again, Mr. Barrow, though without a seat in Parliament, but armed with his quarto book of travels and his Quarterly Review, asserted, and successfully for many years, an exclusive right to the promulgation of ideas concerning South Africa. But who cared for these monopolies of interference with the colonies, so long as neither Mr. Bennett, nor Mr. Barlow, nor Mr. Horton attempted to diminish the patronage of the Colonial Office?—which, by the way, each of them helped to increase. The unfortunate colonists—"la gent corvéable et taillable à merci et miséricorde," governed by the maxim, "si vent le gouverneur, si vent la loi"—were proud and happy that any body here should take any sort of interest in their concerns; and the only wonder is, not that the gentlemen above-named were allowed to play tricks with the colonies, but that any body residing in England should trouble his head about those generally despised portions of the empire. Better times, however, are arrived. Canada has, though I admit through mere accident, one excellent representative in Parliament,—Mr. Labouchere; whilst the British subjects of South Africa and Australia will not in vain beseech the son of Earl Grey to bestow on them trial by jury and local representation. The very pride of your noble-father, if you inherit it, must incline you to protect those who implore your pity from such oppression as distinguished the reign of a late governor of South Africa, or the more vulgar tyranny of an "Excellency" in New South Wales.
But to return to the waste land of Canada. Mr. Horton being out of the way, a humble person like myself may venture on his emigration-ground without fear of being treated as a poacher in political economy. In Lower Canada, then, the power of the Government to dispose of waste land has been so lamentably abused, that a rational system of colonization cannot, to any great extent, be adopted in that province. Though great part of the land remain waste, and the natural fertility of no inconsiderable portion of it have been destroyed, the Government has no longer any power to dispose of it. Take, for example, the still waste island of Prince Edward, the property in which is nearly equally divided between the Lords Melville and Westmoreland. Here nothing can be done by the judicious use of that element of colonization, the disposal of waste land by the state; and this is but a sample of the condition of the greater part of the Lower Canada territory. In some districts, indeed, the Government still retains portions of waste land; but it would be dreaming to indulge a hope that such land will be readily sold, even for 5s. per acre, whilst so many millions of acres in the hands of individuals remain open to purchase at a much lower price. We must, therefore, for the present, dismiss Lower Canada from our consideration;—though I intend to take a future opportunity of suggesting to your Lordship a simple' and, I believe, unobjectionable means, for preventing the profusion of past Governments in the disposal of land in the Lower Province, from mischievously interfering with the sale of land in Upper Canada.
Turning to Upper Canada, there is still much to regret on the score of past profusion; but the existing disproportion between appropriated territory and the demand for its use will be easily cured, if time and fortune should conspire to keep Lord Howick in office, and Mr. Twiss out, for two years to come. I mention so short a period on the assumption, however, that the system of universal sale at a fixed minimum price, lately adopted for New South Wales, will be extended to the Canadas, and that the whole fund obtained by the sale of land will be spent in the cheapest sort of emigration.
It is matter of surprise with some, that the system of selling, instead of squandering, should not have been applied to the Canadas in the first instance, rather than to New South Wales;—seeing that, in the immediate neighbourhood of the Canadas, the system has been pursued for many years with incalculable advantage to those who had the benefit of it; whereas, in New South Wales, nothing of the kind was ever contemplated for a moment,—or will be, until the colonists shall receive your Lordship's new Regulations. I allude to the almost universal sale of land at a fixed minimum price in the States of Maine, New Hampshire, Vermont, New York, Ohio, and the Michigan territory, all adjoining the Canadian provinces. It would be easy to cull from not less than a hundred volumes, instructive accounts of the advantages which the Americans owe to a uniform system in the disposal of new land by the Government. I take one at random,—from the book of a plain man, who, though prejudiced in favour of Canada, deserves entire credit for his statements of fact.
Mr. Joseph Pickering, late of Fenny Stratford, in his Narrative of a Sojourn in America from 1824 to-1830, says, at page 37—"I am once again under the jurisdiction of the British Government and laws, and therefore feel myself no longer an alien. Though the Americans in general are civil and friendly, still an Englishman, himself a stranger amongst them, is annoyed and disgusted by their vaunts of prowess in the late puny war, and superiority over all other nations; and they assume it as a self-evident fact, that the Americans surpass all others in virtue, wisdom, valour, liberty, government, and every other excellence. Yet, much as the Americans deserve ridicule for this foible, still I admire the energy and enterprize everywhere exhibited, and regret the apathy of the British Government with regard to the improvement of this province. A single glance down the banks of the Niagara tells on which side the most efficient government has resided. On the United States side, large towns springing up; the numerous shipping with piers to protect them in harbour; coaches rattling along the road; and trade evidence by waggons, carts, horses, and people on foot in various directions. On the Canadian side, although in the immediate vicinity, an older settlement, and apparently better land, there are only two or three stores, a tavern or two, a natural harbour without piers, but few vessels, and two temporary landing-places."
To what is this most striking difference between the progress of American and of Canadian colonization to be attributed? In some measure, no doubt, to the fact, that a great portion of the Americans who migrate from the Eastern coast to settle on the outskirts of civilization in the West, are young couples, in the highest vigour of mind and body, and impelled to the greatest exertions, by that desire for reaching an improved condition and obtaining the means of supporting future offspring, which distinguishes the time of marriage. But the difference between American and Canadian settlers in this respect, will by no means account for the superior progress of the Americans. Nor is it explained by their greater skill in handling the axe, their speculative turn, or their democratic institutions. It is owing to this—that, with them, the appropriation of new land is a perfectly Free Trade, secured by law; every one having a right to appropriate as much land as he desires, on giving for it a price high enough to prevent him from leaving his property in a desert state, to the injury of others; whilst, in Canada, the appropriation of new land has proceeded in twenty different ways at the same time; by purchase; by engaging to make roads and pay quit-rents, neither of which were made or paid, unless the governor or one of his officers had a spite against the grantee; by "Crown Reserves" and "Clergy Reserves;" by gift to disbanded soldiers, American royalists, English lords, and the Governor's parasites; by profusion here, parsimony there, and corruption in a third place; by the mere pleasure, in a word, of his Excellency Sir John at one time; and, what makes the case worse, by the perhaps opposite pleasure of his Excellency Sir Thomas at another. The statements of Mr. Pickering are hereby abundantly explained. Nay, we may presume, that if the appropriation of land by individuals did not take the land in some measure out of the Governor's control, Upper Canada would have languished like the Lower Province, where the seigneurs, each of whom being a "governor" of his own extensive seigneurie, were forbidden to alienate their mischievous power over the land. True it is, that the governor of Upper Canada does exercise some very injurious control as to the value of appropriated land, by determining, according to his mere whim, the sites of towns, for example, the direction of roads, the situation of other public works, and the districts in which, and the extent to which, future appropriation shall take place. But though his Excellency (I speak not in particular of the present Governor, with whose name I am unacquainted) does thus occasion the most curious, and to some not less fatal, as to others not less fortunate, variations, fluctuations, or convulsions, in the value of the land, capital, and labour of certain districts,—still, as the Colonists have some power of managing their own affairs in their own way, the interference in question is not very hurtful, when compared with that which the Governor exercises in the appropriation of new land generally. This last is the grand curse of Upper Canada; as it has been that of all modern colonies, excepting only the Western settlements of America, which are, in every sense of the word, colonies of the older settlements in the East.
Can your Lordship hesitate about bestowing upon Canada the great blessing of a national, fixed, and uniform system in the disposal of waste land? I shall listen with extreme curiosity and interest to the observations with which you may, on Tuesday next, introduce "a Bill for the purpose of facilitating Settlements in his Majesty's Foreign Possessions." The House of Commons will, probably, turn a deaf ear to your Lordship's speech; unless, indeed, you should propose some extension of Parliamentary patronage, or some taxation of the landed interest for the benefit of the miserable and debased peasantry. In the former case, you will be greeted with "loud cheers;" in the latter, you will be treated as a bore, and called Wilmot Horton the Second. But, at all events, you will not labour under the disadvantage which constantly attended Mr. Horton,—that of profound ignorance on his own favourite and peculiar subject. And I make a false estimate of your talents, knowledge, and intentions, if your proposal be not conveyed, through the gallery, to three New Britains in America, Africa, and the Pacific, and there received with transport; returning, by-and-by, when your system of Colonization shall be perfected, to obtain for you the gratitude of millions here.
From "The Spectator", 19 Feb. 1831, Pages 19-20.
[* Also TO VISCOUNT HOWICK, UNDER-SECRETARY OF STATE FOR THE COLONIES. NOTE: This letter has no heading; it follows immediately on from No. VII.]
My Lord—I am urged, by persons much interested about the Bill for Colonization which your Lordship will propose to the House of Commons on Tuesday next, to lay before you some further illustration of the expediency and facility of converting the waste land of Canada into a means of improving the condition of the labouring classes in Britain.
The immediate practical question is—whether the sale of new land in Canada may provide a fund for the purposes of Emigration, without having recourse to taxation either in England or Ireland?
As respects the sale of waste land, there is in Upper Canada an imperium in imperio, to which I am most desirous of drawing your Lordship's attention,—I mean the Canada Land Company. This body of London merchants lately purchased of the Government 2,484,413 acres of wild land. Their contract permits them to pay for the land by degrees; and they have already paid for 415,000 acres, at the average price of 2s. 10½d. per acre. The land consists of what used to be called the Crown Reserves, being detached lots of about 200 acres each, scattered through the different townships of the province; secondly, of blocks of land, containing from 1000 to 40,000 acres each, situated in the western districts of the province; and thirdly, of the Huron Territory, being a tract of 1,100,000 acres, in the shape of a triangle, of which the base is sixty miles in length.
Now, as to that great quantity of land, the Company has, in point of fact, taken the place of the Government; but with this difference, that the Company has paid, or will have to pay, for its land, and that it labours under certain disadvantages from which the Government was free. What, then, has been done by the little government within the great one? Of the 415,000 acres for which it paid to the Great Government, 57,500l, at the rate of 2s. 10½d. per acre, it has resold 110,000 acres for 51,600l., at the rate of 9s. 4d. per acre. Why should not the Great Government have sold the same land at the rate of 9s. 4d. instead of 2s. 10½d. per acre? Mr. Wilmot Horton who, then filling your Lordship's place, and acting on behalf of the Great Government, made so bad a bargain with the Little Government, ought to answer that question before his departure for Ceylon. Meanwhile, I will answer it, thus—The Little Government, having paid for its land, knew the value of the property, and therefore turned it to the best account; whereas the Great Government has always been ignorant and reckless in the disposal of its enormous and invaluable territorial possessions.
By the last accounts from Canada, it appears that the sales of the Company's lands are proceeding rapidly, and at an enhanced price; and those who are best acquainted with the subject, have no doubt that the whole territory of the Company may ultimately be resold for at least 1l. per acre. If so, the difference between the results of intelligence and prudence and ignorance and improvidence will be highly instructive—for example:
|Ignorance and Improvidence obtain, for||2,484,413||.... 482,134|
|Intelligence and Prudence||2,484,413||.... 2,464,413|
|Difference in favour of the Little Government||£2,002,279|
But peculiar praise is due to the Little Government, since it labours ander disadvantages from which the Great Government was free. It exists in the midst of the Great Government, of which the ignorant recklessness exerts a most injurious influence on all traders in land. Imagine the sagacious Company to see plainly that, for the greatest progress of settlement, wealth, and civilization, on the Huron Territory, it would be right to make 1l. per acre the minimum price to settlers. This may be easily conceived, as I firmly believe it to be true. But of what use will the conception he, so long as the Great Government shall permit Sir John or Sir Thomas to squander the land, which, being still the property of the state, adjoins the Huron Territory? Then I observe, by the map which is attached to the last published Report of the Company, that a great tract of land, immediately adjoining the Huron Territory, is marked out as a "Clergy Reserve." For the information of those who do not know what that term means, I would explain, that it signifies a declaration by the Government, that so much land shall remain in a desert state, to the incalculable injury of the settlers around the reserve, who, by it, are prevented from communicating with each other. Thus, your Lordship will perceive, that the Company must be constantly thwarted in its proceedings, by the profusion on the one hand, and the very opposite of profusion on the other, of that great, ignorant, corrupt, and blundering Land Company, the British Government. And it will be equally clear to you, that the Government might, merely by the exertion of a rational will, sell land much more advantageously than this Company, whose operations it now so hurtfully counteracts or disturbs.
However, the Company will for many years to come pay, at the least, 19,000l. a year to the Government, as the purchase-money of waste land. Why should not that fund be devoted to defraying the cost of the cheapest sort of emigration from Britain to the colony? Mr. Horton shall answer.
By reference to that person's evidence before the Select Committee on the Civil Government of Canada, I find that great part of the 19,000l. a year has been disposed of in all sorts of jobs, of which some examples follow:—
8,500l. a year, for the "Civil Government of Canada." The further disposition of this sum is not explained—400l., 750l., and 750l. a year, in salaries to a Bishop and certain clergymen—400l. a year, as a pension to Colonel Talbot (a protégé of Mr. Horton, I believe)—2,566l. a year for seven years, as "compensation" to certain officers of the land-granting department, for the loss of—what would a plain man guess?—"their emoluments." This "loss of emoluments" was, I suppose, a loss of the power to job and play tricks with that portion of the waste land of Canada which had been assigned to the Company. The stature of the loss may be explained by the following passage of Mr. Hodgson's "Letters from North America," vol. ii., page 47. "The surveyors receive their compensation in land, and generally secure the most valuable portions. When I was in Canada, they would sell their best lots for one dollar per acre; while 13l. 10s., the fee on one hundred acres, amount to more than half a dollar per acre. I never met with any one person amongst all those with whom I conversed on the subject, who did not agree, that, if a settler had but a very little money, it would be much more to his advantage to buy land, than to receive it from the Government."
For a long while, I could not understand Mr. Horton's zealous animosity to the plan of the Colonization Society, and especially to that part of it which suggested the employment of money, derived from the sale of land, in carrying labour to the colony. But the mystery is now cleared up.
Still, is this disposition of the yearly receipts of Government from the Canada Company irrevocable? If not, the Government may, sooner or later, devote to the cost of emigration the amount of the Company's payment-for land—viz.—482,134l. from which sum, however, must be deducted what Mr. Horton has thrown away.
The Emigration Fund might be increased from another source,—viz., the fees received by the Government for grants of land. I have in vain endeavoured to ascertain the amount of such payments. The late Administration pretended that there were no means of discovering the exact amount; and Mr. Horton, I am told, contends, and is, using his favourite expression, "prepared to show," that the public has no right to ask questions about a fund which is as much the "private property of the Crown" as the revenues of the Dutchy of Lancaster. Therefore, his Excellency the Governor of Ceylon would tax the over-taxed people of England for the relief which may be afforded by emigration.
Whatever may be said of the last-mentioned source of relief to the miserable labouring classes of Britain, applies, and with greater force, to another means of increasing the Emigration Fund,—I mean the quit-rents payable in South Africa, New South Wales, Van Diemen's Land, and the two Canadas. These amount, I have reason to believe, to a very large sum. If the quit-rents agreed for by grantees be not paid, that is the fault of the Government; but that they might be regularly paid, and with great advantage to the grantees, is to my mind unquestionable,—provided always, that the money received on that account by the Government were expended in increasing the Colonial population, and enhancing, incalculably, the value of Colonial land. Tho difficulty which the Government has hitherto experienced in collecting quit-rents, has arisen from the poverty of the settlers; the poverty of the settlers has arisen from this—that almost every man laboured for himself and by himself, so that the production of capital and labour was as small as possible, instead of being, as it might have been, as great as possible, through the combination of capital and labour and the primary cause of this series of evil causes, was the irrational mode, or rather modes, of granting land pursued by the Government.
Lastly, we have, as the source of an Emigration Fund, the universal sale of new land at a fixed minimum price. This system—for it really deserves to be so called—your Lordship has already adopted as to New South Wales and Van Diemen's Land. What reason is there against its being extended to Canada? Mr. Horton may be "prepared to show" a thousand reasons; but why so much preparation? His Excellency's Essay upon Land-granting has been promised by advertisement in the papers, for above two mouths. I, myself, have sent for it not less than half-a-dozen times; and have always received for answer at the bookseller's, that it would be published in a few days. But, perhaps, Mr. Horton has changed his opinions as to the manner in which. the very foundation of Colonization ought to be laid; perhaps he now agrees with the Colonization Society, and does not intend to answer Mr. Tennant.
I have mentioned four sources from which the Emigration Fund might be derived,—1st, payments by the Canada Company to the Government; 2nd, fees paid for grants; 3rd, quit-rents; and 4th, the universal sale of land at a fixed minimum price according to the system pursued by the United States. It is plain that, if the last great measure be adopted, no more fees for grants will be received. The receipts, however, from the Canada Company and from quit-rents, would be greatly augmented. An estimate of what might be derived from the main source of all, may be formed by reference to the actual receipts of the United States on account of the sale of land. I have heard that the United States obtain about 1,500,000l. a year by the sale of new land. Surely, if this estimate be not far wide of the truth, the British Government may promote emigration without having recourse to the poor's-rate.
Trusting that this wildest of Mr. Horton's wild schemes will form, no part of your Lordship's proposal on Tuesday next,
From "The Spectator", 5 March 1831, Page 20.
My Lord—As the measure of Reform brought forward by the Government will very greatly improve the representation of this country, so surely will it deprive the Colonies of the representation, such as it is, which they now enjoy in the Imperial Parliament. I propose to lay before your Lordship the grounds of this assertion.
The number of members representing "the East India Interest" is 62. These consist principally of directors of the Company, proprietors of stock, East India agents, and servants of the Company. "The West India Interest" is represented by 34 members, most of whom are proprietors of estates and slaves in one or other of the Anglo-American islands. Canada being a poor colony, and contributing but little to the wealth of the empire, has but two members—Mr. Edward Ellice and Mr. Labouchere—whilst South Africa and Australasia are represented, very inadequately I admit, by about six members, owners of estates in those colonies, or merchants trading with the Cape of Good Hope and New South Wales. Of the 103 members so representing the white inhabitants of the East and West Indies and of South Africa, and the whole population of the Canadas and the Australasian settlements, nearly three-fourths are returned by the boroughs which it is proposed either to disfranchise or to dock of one member. Perhaps not one out of twenty of these will be members of a parliament elected as the Government has proposed. The others including Mr. Labouchere, for example, are members for boroughs which would be "opened" by the bill before Parliament; and very few of these would be again returned if that bill should pass. The excellent "Anatomy of the House of Commons," published in the Spectator, 1st January, 1831, states that the "influence" which prevails at Taunton is "money." Will Mr. Labouchere be again returned for Taunton by that influence? I think not; and so think the people of England, who are now shouting their approbation of the Government plan of Reform.
Who then would represent the Colonies in a reformed House of Commons? No one—is the unavoidable answer. But, say those who are totally ignorant of the state of the Colonies, "The Colonies have Legislative Assemblies of their own—why should they be represented in the Imperial Parliament also?" I answer—The colonial Legislative Assemblies are merely local councils subject to the control of the Imperial Parliament, and frequently controlled by it in affairs of the greatest importance. I need not trouble your Lordship with illustrations fact which every one at all acquainted with the Colonies will instantly admit. Moreover, South Africa and Australasia have no Legislative Assemblies. The local councils, which they do possess, are productive of injury rather than benefit, inasmuch as those councils, being composed only of the creatures of the Local Government, are a means of oppression, which no governor on his single responsibility would dare to practise.
The above statement will be used as an argument against the Government plan of Reform; but the argument is worth nothing, unless Sir Robert Inglis and Mr. Hart Davis should first establish the expediency of mock-representation at home, in order that the Colonies may be indirectly, slightly,—nay, miserably represented. Let members who are interested in the Colonies propose an adequate representation of those worst-governed portions of the empire; and the appeal will probably receive attention from the present Government of public opinion. You, my Lord, being the first Colonial Minister that ever spoke in Parliament of the "shameful jobbing" which takes place in the Colonies, might very appropriately become the author of an efficient check to such abominations. I long to observe the convulsions into which a proposal of the kind, made in Parliament by the son of our reforming Premier, would throw Sir George Murray and Mr. Twiss; but how much greater would be your satisfaction when, the measure carried into effect, deputies should come to you from all parts of the world charged with expressions of gratitude and affection from millions of your fellow-subjects!
There are two modes of bestowing adequate representation on the Colonies—First, That of establishing everywhere Legislative Assemblies, elected by the inhabitants at large, and giving to those assemblies a supreme authority in whatever concerns the colony only. Secondly, That of permitting each colony to send deputies to the Imperial Parliament. Adam Smith has thoroughly examined both modes of proceeding. After thus referring to his admirable Treatise on the subject, I have only farther to observe, that if the Colonial Minister of that day had listened to his generous suggestions, the present United States would, probably, even up to this time have formed part of the British empire.
I am tempted in concluding this letter, to express my satisfaction at the rejection of Mr. Wilmot Horton's Emigration Bill by universal public opinion; and to promise that, in case the public should not be made aware of little share which your Lordship took in framing that obnoxious measure, the whole truth shall be laid before them as soon as the present excitement about Reform shall have subsided.
From "The Spectator", 4 June, 1831, Pages 20-21.
My Lord—I venture to congratulate your Lordship and our Colonial brethren on the announcement, that your predecessor Mr. Horace Twiss has resumed his wig and bag in the Court of Chancery. Such as he, then, even they themselves are assured, will never again be allowed to play tricks with the Colonies. For this, thanks to the Reform Bill! The Reform Bill interrupted my letters to your Lordship; and it is the Reform Bill which leads me to renew the correspondence. The excitement occasioned by the Ministerial proposal of Reform rendered the public careless of every other matter; but now that the question is settled—now that all men are confident of the success of the national cause, people are beginning to look for some of the fruits of Reform. Of all the good things which it is hoped that Reform will bestow on us, none, perhaps, is so earnestly desired and confidently expected as some decided improvement in the condition of the lowest and most numerous class. Upon this point, therefore, a few remarks will not be out of time.
There are two other reasons why the time for recurring to this subject should not appear to be ill-chosen,—viz. the famine in Ireland, and the revival of Swing fires in those parts of the South of England where wages have been again brought down to the lowest rate short of starvation. Notwithstanding the absorbing nature of the Reform question, the reports front Ireland of starvings to death, deaths by the typhus or hunger fever, and life sustained by sea-weeds, together with the revived chalkings of Swing on the wails at Dover, will fix public attention on the condition of the great body of the people.
The great body of the people—for so we may call the needy competitors for land in Ireland, and for wages in England—these, the three parts in four of the community, have been led to expect that the Reform Bill will produce a sudden and marked improvement of their condition. The poor ignorant creatures! Do I so call them, scornfully? God forbid! But they are poor and ignorant,—so pour as to long for change as fat men dying long to live, and so ignorant its to believe that the evils under which they labour will he suddenly cured by an act of Parliament for changing our system of representation! The competition for land in Ireland, and for wages in England, to be instantly cured by a Reform Bill! This is what they mean when they cry—"Reform for ever! God bless the King and his Ministers!" This is what they confidently expect. It was for the purpose of obtaining this, that they unanimously supported Lord Grey's Cabinet—with the grand converting argument which the Quarterly Review calls "dread of physical force." It is for this that they are now waiting; appearing, meanwhile, starved though they be in Ireland, and not far from starved in England, still the most loyal people in the world. This, on which their souls are bent, as the instant consequence of Reform,—viz. good wages in England, and low rents in Ireland,—this, my Lord, we are perfectly sure that Reform will not bestow on them. That then must happen?
Let us suppose the worst—renewed Anti-Union agitation in Ireland, and Swing travelling industriously through the rural parts of England; whilst the working classes of the English towns make up their quarrel with Hunt, and take as their leaders, instead of Earl Grey and the Chancellor, that same Hunt, Cobbett, and men of their kidney. "Well, and what then?" says one of the comfortable middle class to whom the Bill gives a vote—" suppose they should be savage once more, can't-we keep them down?" I answer—yes—you may keep them down: you probably would keep them down. But is Reform to end in a system of keeping down? If so, what are we shouting for? and for what are we persuading these poor devils to shout?
It is, I believe, plain to most reflecting men, that Reform must be speedily followed by a system of keeping down, unless the Government should find some means of curing the excessive competition for land in Ireland and for wages in England, before disappointment shall again exasperate the lowest and most numerous class against all above themselves. It would be bad enough if the system of keeping down were to last tea years; though not so bad, some will think, as another possible event,—that is, the successful rising up of the lowest class, and the tumbling down of the higher classes. For my own part, I doubt the power of any class to cope with the middle class, when the latter is in earnest. I will not, therefore, suppose a rebellion of the discontented lowest class, but will state, as the worst that can happen, a lasting system of keeping down. Is this had enough? Ten years of it would be bad enough. Yet how are we to limit the evil to ten years? Being kept down, implies being miserable, and therefore ignorant. The miserable and the ignorant want the respect for property and the knowledge which are considered indispensable qualifications for enjoying the elective franchise. The middle class, therefore, to which Earl Grey's Reform Bill transfers the whole power of making laws, will not bestow the franchise on those whom that middle class keeps down. Indeed, to bestow the franchise on the miserable and ignorant lowest class, would be to leave off keeping them down, or rather to let them tumble you down. It would appear, then, that a system of keeping-down, applied by the middle to the lowest class, must last for ever, unless suddenly overthrown by a revolt of the slaves. A revolt of the slaves against every other class, though a possible, is not a probable event. I assume, therefore, as the very worst, a system, but a lasting system, of keeping down.
In this black prospect there is one little ray of light, which may perhaps be nursed into broad sunshine for all. "Find some means," say philanthropists and philosophers, "find some means of improving the condition, first bodily and then mental, of the great mass: fatten them first with comfort for body and soul. Next,—which will then be easy,—improve their morals and give them knowledge. And lastly,—to which there will then be no objection,—give them an equal share in the power of making laws for all." A very pretty process with a beautiful result!—but what is the grand agent wherewith to begin by making the hungry sleek, and comforting the care-worn? In England competition for wages, in Ireland competition for land, are the immediate cause of misery. Is the discovery made? No; we must go deeper. The cause of both competitions is excess of people, in proportion to land in Ireland, and to employment in England. Find a cure for this excess, and your object is gained. "We have it," say Malthus, Mill, and M'Culloch; "teach the people to practise moral restraint, and the fatal excess vanishes. Stop early marriages, or let the marriages be less fruitful, and then the dire competition for land and wages—the snatching of bread out of each other's mouths—will be at an end with the great body of the people. You may do this By Teaching."
Just so, one afflicted with dropsy was advised by his physician as follows:—"You owe this complaint to want of exercise; go take a walk; walk twenty miles a day; nothing can save you but Walking."
"Walking!" exclaims the patient; "why, I can't lift either foot an inch from the ground: cure me this time by some other means than walking, and, depend on it, I will keep off the dropsy in the way you propose; but at present I am unable to stir."
"I can't help that," rejoins the physician; "I tell you that the only cure for your complaint is walking!"
In like manner, Messrs. Malthus, Mill, and M'Culloch reason in a circle, and I had almost said talk nonsense, when they preach—"The end being to fatten and comfort the people, in order that they may be made sufficiently moral and instructed to enjoy equal rights, the means is moral instruction: the end being to teach the people, the means is teaching."
What little knowledge I possess of the subject on which I am writing, I have derived from the instruction of Messrs. Malthus, Mill, and M'Culloch. I am bound to speak of them, therefore, with the respect in which they are held by the thousands who have profited by their labours. But it would be blind and ridiculous adulation to say of them, that they are infallible; and cowardly to shrink from attacking one of their doctrines, which they themselves have taught me to think erroneous.
"Teaching," then, it appears to me, is no more a cure for the misery of the people than is "walking" a cure for the dropsy. Cure the dropsy first, and then enjoin walking as a preventative. Cure misery first, and then leach, in order to prevent the return of misery. Feed the hungry; clothe the naked; still the pains of physical want; stop the cries of the children; comfort the harassed mother, and give peace to the troubled soul of the husband and father—then teach! The attempt to teach an Irish family, whose food is sea-weed, or a Buckinghamshire peasant, whose eyes are sunk in his heath and whose legs are mere calfless spindles, would be as clever as the attempt to coax an Alpine wolf after three months' snow. Fatten first, then teach! The great question is—how may the poor creatures be made ready for the preventative (not the cure) of Messrs. Malthus, Mill, and M'Culloch?
Proposing to devote my next letter to the discussion of that question,
From "The Spectator", 11 June 1831, Pages 20-21.
"Fatten first; then teach! The great question is-how may the poor creatures be made ready for the preventative (not the cure) of Messrs. Malthus, Mill, and M'Culloch?"
The first difference between the great Political Economists named. above, and the humble citizen who addresses you, is this—that, whereas they allege teaching to be a cure, as well as a preventative, of misery, I venture to contend that it is not a cure, but only a preventative, and one too which cannot be applied until after a temporary cure shall have been effected by some other means. "Teach first," say Messrs. Malthus, Mill, and M'Culloch—"teach first, and thereby fatten." Fatten first, I make bold to suggest—fatten first; then teach, and thereby prevent the return of misery.
Another difference between the Political Economists and myself is, that they have never told us how to administer their medicine,-how to instruct the minds of men whose stomachs are devoured by the gastric juice; whereas "I am prepared to show," as Mr. Wilmot Horton says, that my prescription will administer itself, and will moreover, if it should effect a cure, enable their prescription to do the same.
The evil is excess of people, in proportion to employment in England, and to land in Ireland. All that I propose is, to cure that excess for fifteen years, or such longer or shorter period as may be considered sufficient for administering the preventative of "teaching."
How shall the proportion of people to land and employment be beneficially altered for fifteen years? We cannot increase the land; and we should find it hard to increase the employment faster than the people would increase. Let us then diminish, relatively, the number of people. The proportion of people to laud and employment being maintained, for fifteen years, at the point which should permit all the people to grow fat, instruction might be administered, and then "moral restraint" would prevent the return of misery.
How may the number of people be reduced, and kept down for fifteen years, to the desired point of plenty and comfort?—By applying one of the old-fashioned checks to population, which, at some time or other, in nearly every part of the world, have caused temporary abundance. Let us examine some of them.
First—What think you of an act of Parliament forbidding inoculation and vaccination? This would not do; because small-pox attacks the rich as well as the poor.
Secondly—The deliberate introduction of cholera morbus or the little plague? This disease is said to attack the poor, principally; but then we could not stop its ravages at pleasure. It might thin the people far beyond the point when those who remained should all grow fat, and be taught "moral restraint." We must not think of it, therefore.
Thirdly—A good bloody war? This very old-fashioned check to population, though sanctified by "the wisdom of our ancestors," and though it operate principally amongst the poor, is still open to two main objections. In the first place, it destroys capital as well as people, and might not, therefore, alter beneficially the proportion of people to employment; and secondly, it is very unfavourable to "teaching,"—the object that we have in view. For example—Buonaparte thinned the people of France, to the extent of having half of her fields cultivated by women and children; but he checked the accumulation of capital and the progress of education in an equal degree; and the consequence was, that the poorest classes in France gained nothing by his bloody wars.
Fourthly—There is a method of proceeding which would appear, though it would not be, effectual, viz, putting down the Newspapers. The ostrich pokes her head into the sand, and believes that nobody can see her. If there were no newspapers, we should hear little or nothing of the misery of the great body of the people. Such ignorance would be bliss to the philanthropist. The world would wag on as in the times of our wise ancestors; vice and misery would keep down population to the limit of subsistence; but we fat philanthropists should not be troubled with daily accounts of the vice and the misery. "Where ignorance is bliss, 'tis folly to be wise;"—let us put down the Newspapers!
"No! no!" I hear Lord Howick exclaim; "on the contrary, my father's Administration is about to take off the taxes on knowledge, so as to give Messrs. Malthus, Mill, and M'Culloch a chance with their teaching.' The newspapers have increased, are increasing, and ought to increase. Whatever the vice and misery of the great mass of our countrymen, we shall know all about it. We do know all about it by means of the newspapers. In this respect, we of the ruling class are wiser than any rulers of any country in any period of the world. In all times and all countries (except some new colonies), excess of people in proportion to land or employment has been the cause of vice and misery amongst the million. In this country, at the present time, the old cause produces the old effects. The only novelty of our situation is, that we know all about it. May this knowledge, possessed by the minority; speedily lead to the happiness of all!"
I have made your Lordship utter my own cherished opinion. The newspapers will go on increasing. It were needless, therefore, to suggest a fifth check to population, viz, a strong bad government. Oppression is a very, very old-fashioned, and an equally vulgar method of keeping down population to the limit of subsistence. The best example of modern times is to be found in our West India Islands, where (Mr. Fowell Buxton is my authority) the population is gradually diminished in due proportion to the gradual decrease of demand for the produce of those islands. But why cite examples of oppression as a check to population, when we have established that newspapers will go on increasing? Let us come to the point.
Lastly—Colonization? A very old-fashioned check this, but differing from all the others in several main points. All the others check absolutely; but this, whilst it checks in one place, causes increase in another. All the others are positively cruel; this is comparatively humane, since, though emigration be an evil, it is a great blessing when compared with the vice and misery of remaining at home in excess. All the others are fatal to "teaching;" this would be no hindrance to the schoolmaster, and it would, moreover, provide him with fat and comfortable pupils, whom it would be his business to teach how they might remain fat and comfortable. The only question then appears to be—Is there any mode of colonization which shall remove from vice and misery to virtue and happiness, a sufficient number of the people to cause fatness and comfort for fifteen years amongst those who should remain behind?
Most of the Political Economists have, indeed, asked this question—answering it, however, dogmatically, in the same breath. Not one of them has examined the question philosophically. Read the chapter of Malthus on Emigration, and the essay of Mill on Colonization, and say whether those papers display any of the laborious research, or of the earnest and profound thought, for which the authors of them are distinguished. Mr. Mill says that the question "deserves profound regard." Yet he disposes of it in a few words; all but confining his essay to collateral questions—such as the government of colonies, the trade with colonies, and other matters of secondary importance. The grand question of the utility of colonization as a cure for excess of people, he scarcely touches; and, what is remarkable, having just touched it, he flies off, in an essay on "Colonization," to descant on moral restraint as the only cure for excess of people. A description not much dissimilar from this might be given of the writings of the other Economists on colonization as a cure for excess of people. I will spare your Lordship the repetition; but as the books are by your side, I may ask that you will be pleased to look at them, in order to verify what I have dared to say.—I offer "the truth" in justification of my boldness.
The limits to which I am confined, compel me to close this letter. In my next, I propose to state the circumstances, which, as it appears to me, have led the Political Economists to treat the subject of Colonization superficially; and, if there should be room, to describe a mode of colonization by which the great body of the people may be easily fattened and made comfortable for fifteen years.
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