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SIR, IN your comment on my view of the Poor Laws, you suppose me ignorant of a certain knowledge concerning land and the progress of a new community, which I could obtain by reference to your article on Agrarian Equality, published in “ The Republican.” Allow me to state that in this respect you are mistaken.. I had, previous to writing on the Poor Laws, repeatedly read the pages you refer me to; and my opinion then was, and still is, that your conclusions are not warranted.
Your principal conclusion is, that the land may be so divided or managed as to exclude the possibility of poverty among mankind. This I conceive to be an error, and shall endeavour to make it so appear.
In my remarks on the poor laws, I supposed the rise of a community in an island, as the clearest way of illustrating the operation of population on land. I supposed the first settlers to equally divide the land, and I proved that in such a case poverty must eventually overtake the inhabitants, if they continned to produce children without restriction. You tacitly acknowledge that, according to my view of the establishment of the community, such would be the effect. But then you seem to think that a different conduct in regard to the land would prevent the evil I consider as necessary.
You say that instead of dividing the land, the rents or property should be divided. You conclude, “ Let this system be once linked to the wings of ambition, and to the car of cupidity,' and the one may flap her wings, and the other may flog her steeds, but neither would be able to advance a single step beyond the interest of the whole community." That is, in plain language, that if all the land belonging to a community be made a joint stock farm, all would fare well and all would fare alike.
Let my supposed community proceed on your plan, what are the effects? You will not dispute that there is a power in månkind to increase their numbers : few persons at the present day are so ignorant as to deny this very evident proposition. Suppose the joint stock farm of the new community to be ten agres for each individual. On a moderate calculation, at the end of twentyfive years, there would be two persons for every ten acres : at the end of fifty years, four persons; at the end of one hundred years, sixteen persons; at the end of five hundred years, upwards of one million. How could the produce of ten acres of land support such a number? It is absurd to think of such a thing. Yet such is but the natural increase of mankind; and such increase always has been, and always will be made, when not obstructed
by poverty, disease, and premature death. Communities have seldom increased at this rate, because they have seldom been long supplied with an abundance of food, have seldom been long withont suffering poverty, and its concomitant evils.
The only difference in the effect between a community possessing land individually, and one holding the whole as a joint stock farm, is this : the latter would be reduced to poverty in the mass; the former would suffer it but partially: it would fall earlier in the last case, but would not be felt generally; the best breeding families would be the first sufferers.
No plan of dividing or managing the land can continue a community free from poverty, except it be joined to a plan for restricting the increase of population ; and if population were properly restricted, the community would be prosperous and happy, let the land be manager however it may. Without Corn Laws, or any kind of restriction on the trade, the value of land would be nearly the same in all countries. Uncultivated land may be said to be worth nothing, and the cultivated no more than it would cost to bring the uncultivated into the same stale. For instance, the land in this country would not be worth more than land of the same quality in Poland or America, except, allowing the English to be importers of grain, a small sum to balance the cost of bringing agricultural produce from other countries.
You, Sir, think that the happiness of a community principally depends on the division of the land; but I conceive it a point of very minor importance. It is evident to me that except means are taken to restrict population, poverty will occasionally attaek every community, no matter what its internal management; and that with a proper restriction any community may be prosperous and happy, in spite of the worst systems of government that are now existing. Nay, more, I am convinced that restricting the population would eventually destroy all bad Governments 1 it would elevate the multitude, it would give them time and oppor. tunities to improve their knowledge; and no corrupt Government could exist in a nation where the majority were intelligent and aware of the purposes for which government is established.
I object to the oor Laws, because I see that they do not an. swer, and cannot answer, the purpose for which they were intended; but on the contrary, that they aggravate the evil they were intended to remove. . “ I can listen," you say,
“ with all the calmness of a philosopher to any scheme that is not injurious to health, to prevent the production of children; but when I hear of plaps proposed to destroy them when they are produced, my philosophy forsakes me.” The first member of the sentence pleases me, as it shows that you are above the stupid prejudices which debase so large a majority of our species; but the last, coupled with the paragraph following it, 'seems to indicate that in my remarks on the Poor
Laws I had advocated a plan for the destruction of a portion of mankind. I have advocated no such plan. Men dow suffer, and have occasionally always suffered, the evils of poverty: they now die, and in all modern ages of the world have died, from starvation. I merely proposed a gradual abolition of the Poor Laws, which promised to prevent poverty; but do not now, never did, nor ever can, prevent it.
I give you credit for good intentions, and I doubt not but you will allow me the same, and let those who are capable judge between us. If the Poor Laws can be proved to be productive of more good than evil, let them remain ; if not, they ought to be, and eventually must be, abolished. The question about equal rights to land is but of little importance; the Poor Laws, as a system affecting population, deserve every attention.
Positively to assert that religion makes us better or worse men would perhaps be saying more than we could fairly demonstrate ; but that it is the root of many evils is clear. That it stupifies the senses, and is a slavish yoke on the neck of society, history in general proves,
“ It is proper to remark,” says a sage traveller, " that the Indians have an admirable method of turning godliness' into great gain.” How strange that he should be obliged to travel so far as India for the observation. Do the European priests make a great gain of religion? In England, it is very far from being a cheap article. It would not be a bad method of proving its value, to examine under what superstition or religion the greatest or least quantity of crimes is committed, where capital offence and punishment are most frequent, how punishments are inflicted, and who are spared, and why? On examination, it would be found, that crime and punishment among the lower orders, as the poor are in sultingly denominated, are equally distributed throughout the whole world. There are, in spite of the religions and laws of all the nations which I have visited, crimes which dishonour and punishments which degrade mankind. The first of these, the great moral teachers, who are in general sordid, selfish priests, say, are inherent in our nature, and endeavour to prove by assertion, that mankind can peither be virtuous nor enjoy happiness ; and that the second is only the result of the first, that vice is every where found and every where punished. Hence the bowstring in Turkey, the gallows in England, and the rack on the
Continent. · The best rattan-floggers in the world are the Chinese, who are Deists, Atheists, Mahometans, and idolaters of all sorts. 'The Russians, who are at best but mongrel Christians, are excellent at the knout. The English, who have the only true religion in the world, beat them all at the cat-o'-nine-tails, and may I add the profitable punishment of the tread-mill. This is a true statement of the case, as may be found or learned at the universities of Pekin, Petersburgh, and Spithead, or at the British House of Commons. This striking outline speaks volumes for orthodoxy, and the purest and only true religion in the world ; but I am going to say something more about the whole of them. It is not now as in days long past, when there was no press and but few pens employed, and those few employed by the inost designing and arrogant of men for the worst of purposes, at one stroke to enslave the mind and body of mankind, to fit them for the yoke and bend it on their necks for ever. Those who consult history will have occasion to congratulate the human race on their improvement and approach towards happiness, and the nearer they come to our time, the more visible will be the change for the better, the greater their cause of approbation, and the stronger their hope in the future felicity of the huınan race. Will any person presume to say that religion has had any hand in raising the savage from imbecile barbarism and grovelling misery to the strength of civilization and manly independence? There are; for stern bigots, ignorant fanatics, and hypocritical priests, can impudently lie with impunity; and some of them glory in their falsehood as an honour to their God. The real truth is, that religion has been a dead weight round the neck of improvement. It has been a dangerous and heavy clog on science, and little better in the days of Lawrence than in the era of Galileo. We may safely say, without fear of being falsified, that it is morally impossible for man to attain any considerable degree of happiness, or real civil liberty, or any philosophical researches to any beneficial extent, or to come near hand truth or virtue, until the baleful influence of religion is destroyed, and the whole fraudulent farce of idolatry and superstition exterminated from the earth. This will take place sooner than most are aware of-for religion is destroying itself,
The design of all religions is to instil into the mind an insurmountable dread and terror of an ideal incomprehensibility denominated God, and when this is effected, it is cancelled from the Deity, in favour of his immediate servant the priest, who substitutes self in the place of the Divinity, and disposes of the persons and property of the slave whom his arts have corrupted. The will of the priest is called the word of God; and such is the ecclesiastical tyranny, that, to dare to investigate this even in thought is made an unpardonable crime, hardly to be atoned for by any mode of penance or sincerity of repentance. This mental
tyranny, which always produces personal and general slavery, is of very high antiquity, so much so, as to elude all research and baffle all enquiry. And such was the skill and art with whichi this imposing principle was fabricated and infixed in the human mind, that it has reigned predominant for a period of four thousand years at least, without any material change or any stedfast endeavour to prove its truth, demonstrate its authority, testify its origin, or produce its authors. All classes and denominations of religious persons have their Bibles and word of God. Their divine codes spring immediately from the sacred fountain of divinity, and to disbelieve what is written in their respective holy books, or question their veracity, is made by the books themselves a crime of such enormity, that the very Deity who composed them has put it out of his own power to forgive the transgression.
The denunciations in the Scriptures against adding, diminishing, or disbelieving, are incontestible signs of their weakness and human fabrication. The composers of the various religious codes had sense and foresight enough to see that their doctrines were open to suspicion, and would not bear a critical examination, and their knowledge of the curiosity of man and the frailty of buman nature determined them to guard against the inquisitive powers of reason and the boldness of truth. But the defence only exhibits their error of judgment, as it clearly proves the authors, and at once exposes their imbecility and duplicity. Falsehood or hypocrisy never can promote human happiness; though it is possible that even wise men may think so, and, deceive themselves, as they afterwards mislead and deceive others. But duplicity will not be better informed, fanatics will not be instructed; and those who are paid for supporting fraud, will never advocate the truth, for nothing. But did their lies, their impudence, and their treachery to man promote the general welfare; did we see harmony, friendship, love, and good fellowship, resulting from the united powers of chicane, fable, lies, and hypocrisy, (which is impossible) I would support the system as far as it tended to our happiness. But as the reverse is the case, where malignant principles are called in to assist falsehood against truth, dogma. against reason, and power against justice, without hesitation, I decide for the truth. In this case, I am perfectly disinterested, I have no prospects on earth, I have no fears of a future Hell,' I have no hopes of an hereafter blissful Heaven, I have no love; no dread of an omnipotent God, nor any idea of a soul-tormenting Devil. These being premised, what can influence me
“ To expose my curship
'Gainst arms, authority, and worship?" Why that invincible spirit of right that less or more shews itself every where in existence, where reason is concerned, that teaches us not to leave the world worse than we found it, at the hazard