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Revolution, in fact, introduced an English Revolution, which, if it did not shed so much blood on the British soil, it thoroughly altered the title and holding of property, and pressed the blood as perfectly out of thousands of oppressed hearts. That possession of small portions of land by the people, which now so strikingly distinguishes the people of the Continent from those of England—which makes, indeed, property so different a thing there and here—would seem at one time to have been almost as general here as anywhere. If we still go into really old-fashioned districts—into those which the modern changes have not yetreached, where there are no manufacturers—into the obscure and totally agricultural nooks—we see evidences of a most ancient order of things. The cottages, the farm-houses, the very halls are old; the trees are old; the hedges are old; everything is old. There is nothing that indicates change or progress. There is nothing, even in furniture, that may not have been there at least five hundred years; there is much that induces you to believe that eight hundred years ago it existed. In common labourers' cottages, before the late rage for old English furniture, which led the London brokers to scour the whole empire, penetrate into every nook, and bring up all the old cabinets, hall tables, old carved chairs, carved presses and wardrobes, and retail them for five hundred per cent., besides importing great quantities of similar articles from Holland, Belgium, and Germany, I have myself seen old heavy ample armchairs, with pointed backs, in which one might imagine an Alfred or an Edward the Confessor sitting, with the date in great letters on their backs, of 1300 or 1400. There are plenty of houses so ancient, that in the roofs and woodwork the ends of the great wooden pegs with which their framing is pinned together are not cut off. But without how old is everything! The trees are dead at top and hollow at heart; there are ancient elms and oaks standing, whose shadow is said to have covered their acre of ground, but which have now neither head nor heart; huge hollow shells, so capacious, that whole troops of children play in them, and call them their churches; and whole flocks of sheep or herds of cattle seek shelter from the summer sun in them. These old villages, too, are lost, as it were, in a wilderness of ancient orchards, where the trees produce apples and pears totally unlike any now grown in modern plantings. The villages are surrounded by a maze of little crofts, whose hedges have evidently never been set out in any general inclosure, for they do not run in regular squares and straight lines, but form all imaginable figures, and with the true line of beauty go waving and sweeping about in all directions. They are manifestly the effect of gradual and fitful inclosure from the forest in far-off times, many of them long before the Conquest, when this dense thicket and that group of trees were run up to and included as part of the fencing. These old hedges have often a monstrous width, occupying nearly as much in their aggregate amount as the aggregate amount of the inclosed land itself. They are often complete wildernesses of stony mounds, bushes, and rank vegetation. The hawthorns. of which they are composed are no longer bushes, but old and wide-spreading trees, with great gaps and spaces often between them, having ceased to be actual fences between the old pastures, and become only most picturesque shades for the cattle. In the old crofts still flourish the native daffodils, and the snow-white and pink primroses, now extirpated by the gathering for gardens everywhere else. Such, there is no doubt, were our villages generally all over the country formerly, and for at least a thousand years. The whole country, seemed to lie in a long and sunny dream. So little did population seem to increase, that rarely a house was built. The army and the distant towns took up the small surplus of people that there was. So little did land seem wanted that the forests and wastes lay from age to age unchanged. *. had his little plot, or could inclose it for a small annual acknowledgment, and the rural race lived on with little exertion and no care. The first shock to this state of things was the Reformation. The breaking up of the monasteries at once turned a vast amount of monks and nuns on the country, nearly destitute of means of existence; and a still vaster amount of poor people, who had to be supported on the third of the church revenues, given expressly for the poor. These, suddenly deprived of all other resources, were converted into a monstrous mass of beggars and thieves, that overrun, from the days of Henry VIII. to those of Elizabeth, the whole land, and bade defiance to constables, stocks, and gallows. Never were there such swarms of misery and vice and terror known in England, even in the fiercest heat of the civil wars. Henry himself hanged, of these wretches, his thousands annually without at all sensibly diminishing the misery or the terror. This, however, was only the pressure on one side of the case: that on the other was as great. The people, greedy courtiers, gamblers, com: missioners, and speculators, who o hold, by a variety of means, O
but seldom by any honest ones, of the church and abbey lands, rose, or wished to rise, into the ranks of the aristocracy. They would have their halls, their parks, their chases; their children would no longer follow trades; they, too, must be provided with land; and hence came the growing jealousy of all encroachments by the poor on wastelands—nay, the violent disposition to encroach, on one plea or another, on the small proprietor. Then, in fact, began those scenes so well described by Goldsmithin his “Deserted Willage.” Every one of these novi homines would have an establishment like the ancient aristocracy.
“The man of wealth and pride Takes up a space that many poor supplied; Space for his lake, his park's extended bounds, S for his horses, equipage, and hounds; The robe that wraps his limbs in silken sloth - Has robbed the neighbouring fields of half their growth; His seat, where solitary sports are seen, -Indignant spurns the cottage from the green.” ------- -- ------ --But when we had discovered and civilised new countries, so far from giving relief in this respect, the grievance was rapidly, augmented. Those who emigrated were chiefly those who had no land here; those who stayed were those who had it and wanted more.-- With colonisation and improvement, manufactures increased, and this gave additional population and higher value to land. The story of Auburn was acted over and over, more frequently, every succeeding generation. But after the French Revolution broke out, and the flames of war spread all over E then how did this system progress at home on Every inch, d became a lump of gold. Forests and . were inclosed, but went only to the rich, on The selfish absurdity by which the rich managed to claim every inch of wasteland, on the plea that it was held by feudal tenure from the days of the Conqueror, and therefore belonged to the lord of the manor, camerichly into play; asi their pieces of parchment these men could justly hold in fee all England: as if they had not by ages of *. non-occupation forfeited every pretended title that
a might haye had to wastes that never had been dely hed since the days, of Adam. But this was recognise rich as law for
by the rich; and “unto him that had was gi nd from him that had not was taken away even that o custom of turning his cow and his geese upon the waste,
Well: but it had been tolerable had the mischief stopped here; but it did not. Such was the value of land, and such the numbers who had made money by trade, by manufactures, by government contracts, &c., &c, that the pressure on the small proprietors became like an overwhelming flood, and in a great measure swept them from the face of the earth, and English poverty became what we see it now—the most frightful poverty in existence. . The poverty of the Continent is the poverty of men who have all their little portions of land and nothing more. They and theirs by in-. dustry can with frugality live on this land. It is a constant support, a constant sheet-anchor; and though they have poverty they have no fear. That horrible condition of total destitution, of total dependence on the employment by others—the total dependence on the labour of their hands—which, when that employment is not given, drops them at once into the bottomless pit of pauperism, and makes the lives of millions one great heart-ache, one great agony of the vultures of necessity and uncertainty gnawing at their vitals, is only known in the midst of this land of luxury and unexampled wealth.
With what monstrous strides has this great English Revolution stalked on since the impulse of the French Revolution, which gave a tenfold life to our manufacturing and to all sorts of jobbing and speculation The men who had made large sums by government eontracts, stock-jobbing, lotteries, corn-dealing, and by the legal operations which all these things brought into play, were all looking out for landed investments, especially in old-fashioned places, where land was still cheap; and where, therefore, a large tract eould be purchased for a trifle, and a great house be built and a park laid out. In many cases, nay in few, could these swelling fellows find a piece of earth large enough for them, and soon began to cast greedy eyes on all the little inclosures around them; and in a wonderfully short space of time did their great Aaron's rod of money manage to swallow up all the rods and roods of their lesser neighbours. Oh, many a piteous tale of huge oppression, chicanery and violent or treacherous wrong, could the history of these things unfold !
The little proprietors were, like the ancient Danites, men who had lived on with much ease and little knowledge. They knew little of the arts of life. They knew little of lawyers and of mortgages and foreclosings. What little town is there yet of four or five thousand inhabitants which does not still possess its people.
who can remember when it could maintain but one lawyer; and who, by-the-bye, was half starved ? But the moment there came another, both flourished, and now there is a perfect swarm. There needs no other evidence of rapid change of property, by fair and foul means, by one thing and another, and nothing more than the growing pride and lust of accumulation and rascality of the age has effected. There are plenty of people who can well enough remember the old dormant, the old petrified state of things, and know the time when scarcely a drop of tea was drunk in the village; who know what a stir the introduction of umbrellas made; how effeminate they were deemed; how the men marched about in whole days rains, in oilskin-covered hats and caps; and women even rode long journeys on pillions and in oilskin hoods. There are plenty who recollect the introduction of parasols, and how the old people contemptuously called them “cabbage-leaves.” “There go the women with their cabbage-leaves hoisted, as if the sun would make them worse favoured than their mothers were.” . But of all the new-fangled introductions, none has been so sweeping as that frightful legerdemain by which the old cottages have vanished—whole hamlets of them—to make room for solitary ponds, and parks, and long winding carriage approaches to them, by which the common and the very village green has been swallowed up; by which all the old hedges of a thousand years have been stubbed up—the old trees have been hurled down, and gay great houses have risen where once a score of thatched cottages covered as many contented families. Some of the arts by which this laying of field to field and house to house have been managed, we may trace in the story of Sampson Hooks, and his man Joe Ling. The village of old Squire Fletcher and Dick Redfern was exactly one of the old-world kind, of which I have spoken. In their day no single change had come. No manufacture was carried on there, and none of the new species of honey-laden bees, the stock-jobber, the London great soap-boiler, or sugarbaker, the war-contractor, the great spinner who had spun a golden cone around him of a most marvellous size, nor the lawyer who had fattened on each and all of them, had yet found their way thither with a desire to suck good mouthfuls from the simple iono. and to build their gaudy nests on the old hereditary nus. Where Hooks sprung from, and what he had been, I am utterly ignorant of; one thing, however, is certain, that though