Page images

five hundred and sixty-three English and Scotch members, returned by a census amounting only to a duplication of her own. We write in round numbers, yet with abundantly sufficient accuracy to enforce our meaning, Above all, she is afflicted with a church establishment intolerable to seven-eighths of her children, whilst by more than six millions and a half its doctrines are deemed as heretical, as its domination is odious. The revenue which Lord North would fain have extorted from the colonies was about £300,000 per annum; the Anglican hierarchy of Ireland pocket £450,000 as an annual composition for tithes modified to the extent of twenty-five per cent., besides the rich glebes of eleven hundred livings, together with the palaces, churches, deaneries, dignities, and episcopal incomes of upwards of thirty bishoprics condensed into twelve, founded and endowed by those whom their present holders now consider as having belonged to the Babylon of the Revelations. For years past have the sons of Erin been organizing themselves under an able leader for a total reversal of the current order of things. The combustibles are all prepared, — the trains are ready laid, – the matches are lighted. A numerous priesthood, popular and identified with the cause they patronise, are on the watch day and night for the first favourable opportunity. Where is the wisdom of administration? Where is the foresight of the premier? Sir Robert Peel cannot plead ignorance of Ireland, since he came early into office as her secretary: so much more therefore is required of him. Are the perambulations of an antiquated, though noble commissioner, to quell the disturbances of Tipperary? Is not Ireland, from Cape Clear to the Giant's Causeway, occupied rather than governed ? Are twenty thousand bayonets the horrida seges, the spiky rampart, behind which alone civilization is to sow her seeds, and reap her harvests? Is not the chasm every moment widening between the two countries? Have not the last decade of years presented many frightful points of analogy with the periods from 1765 to 1775? If the sister realm be more immediately within our grasp, is she not also all the nearer to those foreign potentates jealous of our ascendancy, and ardent to behold us in difficulties? What more will the Orange lodges be able to do for toryism than the loyalists, so vainly relied on, were able to effect in the struggling United States ? In rendering strict justice to Ireland, we shall in fact only be doing justice to ourselves; nor need we ever but feel perfectly confident, that the path of honour will be found the genuine path of safety. We could well endure the severance of the thirteen colonies, and in many respects are all the better for the separation, but a dissolution of the union with Ireland, achieved by violence, by rebellion at home and foreign aid from abroad, would undermine our mountain of strength, shiver the talisman of our imperial dominion, and convince all mankind that we deserve to fall; since the experience of previous generations will have been expended upon us in vain !

In taking our leave of Dr. Botta and his translator, we could have wished for a more distinct and continuous recognition of Divine Providence, than appears in the history. Ascriptions to * Fortune' and ' Destiny,' neither become the catholic nor the protestant. It is the 'most High God who alone rules over the affairs of men, and disposes of them with unerring wisdom. America may one day discover that even the present world is a tribunal for nations, when the wrongs of the Indian and the Negro shall rise out of the dust of ages, and demand retribution at the hands of the posterity of their oppressors. We have all much to learn in this respect, and the sooner we learn it the better.

Art. VI.-1. A Pamphlet in Defence of the Game Laws, in Reply to the

Assailants; and on their Effects on the Morals of the Poor. By the

Honourable Grantley Fitzhardinge Berkeley. London : 1845. 2. Speech of John Bright, Esq., M.P., on the Motion for a Select Com

mittee of the House of Commons to inquire into the Operation of the

Game Laws. Times' Newspaper, February 28, 1845. There are two features in the present times which not only distinguish them favourably from the past, but which, on the security of some deeply-seated social laws, promise to be characteristic of the indefinite future. The one of these is the increased and ever-increasing influence of public opinion, as compared with the crude and naked force of law and the power of the conventionally great.

And in this we do not so much rejoice, because it consists with that first axiom which the unassisted perception of every human understanding adopts,—that the opinions and interests of the few must yield to those of the many, -as because we see in this great fact the incipient triumph of the universal empire of reason and justice; because in it seems to be involved the deepest welfare of the species; and because, simultaneously with its growing development, those blessings of education and religion are descending upon society at large, under the influence of which it must ultimately reach the highest and most glorious results.

The second feature which may be derived not very indirectlıfrom the first, is, that the cardinal evils which afflict society, and which are most strongly fortified by usage, prejudice, and conventional power, seem to be decaying, and in some instances to perish, chiefly through the efforts of their advocates to maintain them. Who can doubt that an impetus which could hardly have been derived from elsewhere, accrued to the popular movement which swept away our nomination boroughs, from the insane declaration of the Duke of Wellington-then at the helm of government--that no parliamentary reform whatever was necessary; and that, had he to frame a constitution for a new country, he would stereotype the hideous deformities of our own? As little can it be doubted, that the efforts-dictated alike by the spirit of freedom and the principles of spiritual religionagainst the abominations of the established church of this realm, derive their most powerful aids from the imperious phantasies of the very heads of that church. The sly and sinister policy of a Blomfield, and the wrong-headed, uncalculating assumption of a Philpotts, the theoretic laxity,--out-heroding Paley himself,—of the bishop of Norwich on the momentous. question of doctrinal subscription, and the mad Puseyite freaks of timid rectors, stolid professors, and hair-brained curates, are so effectually doing the work which christian fidelity imposes on dissenters, as even to give some colour of propriety to that supineness from which it costs so much effort to arouse the more somnolent members of our community: insomuch that we hardly know whether the waking inquiry of some of our body, ‘Cui BONO BISHOPS ?' is much more rational than the advice of others, prostrate in 'a langour which is not repose,' and which might be conveyed in the vulgar adage: 'Give them rope enough, and they'll hang themselves.'

On the same principle, a few Carlton-Club elections—Cambridge elections, for example—which induce even high-minded men to court the ignominious brand of disfranchisement, will probably do quite as much for the cause of parliamentary reform as the energies of lecturers and the serious philanthropy of socicties.

And so, too, in the matter of the Game Laws, to which we now propose to confine our remarks: Magistrates may continue to condemn them; the newspaper press may expose their turpitude ; coroners' juries may record their remonstrances, and county rates their mute, but most impressive evidence; but we are much mistaken if two or three Grantley Berkeleys (supposing more than one of that Phænix genus to exist) will not finish the business in a far more direct and satisfactory manner.

At this summa dies et ineluctabile tempus' in the longevity of the Game Laws, we cannot hope, nor shall we attempt, to ad

duce any new argument for their removal. Our object will be briefly to review the character and effects of those laws, and then to notice the arguments for their continuance urged by Mr. Berkley in the pamphlet before us.

The privileges conferred by the Game Laws, like other manorial rights, must be classed among the remains of the feudal system. They are not, it is true, the worst remains of that decaying and pestilential régime. The most mischievous of these, unquestionably, is the hereditary descent of legislative power, under which the weakest and worst of men are enabled to control the voice of a nation, and divert the current of its prosperity into their own personal or party channels, simply because they have suffered the accident of being born of a titled lady, and often without any too strict regard to the secret of their paternity. But by a curious law, in obedience to which men merge the sense of more indirect evils, though ever so comprehensive, in the pressure of even the slightest that are immediate and palpable, the monster mischief of hereditary legislation is forgotten in the contemplation of the price-current and the visit of the tax-gatherer. Perhaps this principle accounts for the popular prejudices, now fast giving way, in favour of indirect as compared with proportional taxation.

The time has, however, at length come, when the cultivators of the soil are not placed in the same category with game : they are no longer regarded as feræ naturæ; and the sovereign protection which was heretofore exercised towards man, has been transferred to hares and pheasants et hoc genus omne.

The problem of the original rights of property has long since been abandoned to the sepulchre of the philosopher's stone and the elixir vitæ; and the very necessities of civilization have substituted prescriptive for primeval right. Still there are some claims of most ancient date, which may fairly be tried at the bar of public opinion : and among these, in defiance of antiquated usage, we may fairly place those which are sanctioned by the Game Laws.

There is a natural sense of right and justice anterior to all law, and of which law itself is the offspring and the partial reflection. In accordance with this, every rational man admits that those animals which his neighbour breeds and feeds, and tends at his own expense of money and labour, are his by a natural and indefeasible right. The common sense of mankind would revolt from the seizure and slaughter of one's neighbour's sheep, oxen, or horses : the husbandman's right to reap his own corn has never, we presume, been questioned; but the bird which flies, with no law-bound discrimination, over the flourish

ing crops of all, alighting for its food or its pleasure on every field without distinction, is regarded in the unsophisticated notions of mankind as common property. Every man revolts from the injustice which would compel one man to pasture the sheep of another: and the very principle of the game preserver comes —and that in all justice-to be the principle of the game destroyer : the animals which I feed are mine. It is futile for my neighbour to apprise me that he spends five hundred a year for preserving his game: my answer is, they eat my oats. The argument that a large number of families are supported by his fantastic and luxurious extravagance: that he can supply thousands of heads of game for the annual amusement of a prince at a battue ; and that he can turn the wavering balance of a tenantfarmer's political virtue by the weight of a brace of pheasants, is nothing to me. I answer, they trample beaten paths in my barley, and that their favourite delectation is in nibbling off my wheat stalks in the middle. It is a small consolation to the thrifty husbandman, that the animals which devour his crops all night amuse the right honourables in the day, and keep their dogs in condition, to half an ounce for the Newmarket stakes.

And here, although foxes are not game, we cannot forbear a few remarks upon the injuries inflicted on the farmer by those whose zeal for the breeding and preservation of these offensive animals, is only surpassed by the almost insane enthusiasm with which they destroy them. A farmer, in the vicinity of a large and well-preserved fox cover, is the victim of innumerable depredations which he dares not complain of, and cannot redress. His poultry are stolen without mercy ; his ducks, fowls, and goslings become mere game, always excepting the protection afforded to the latter and privileged class; even his young lambs are destroyed, and the remains of Mr. Reynard's feast buried in the adjoining field, for a second repast. But let him defend himself against this plunder if he dare. A friend of ours recently shot four of these desolators of his farm-yard, and nailed their carcases to his barn door. Happy man! he did not reside in a hunting country, else the lightest retribu. tion he would have incurred would have been to be hustled and mobbed in the corn-market, and sent to Coventry at the ordinary. Good farmers, too, have a pride in good hedges, and naturally set some value on their young crops; yet it is no uncommon thing for a field of two hundred horsemen to gallop nearly abreast over their seeds and their growing corn, breaking their hedges and rails to mere firewood; thus most seriously damaging their crops, and affording many a day's work to their labourers, whose wages the master of the hounds would as much think of paying, as of paying the farmer's income-tax.

« PreviousContinue »