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PART II. It will be asked, “What were the religious principles prevailing in the country just described ?” Here, indeed, lay the source of all
Our religion had been corrupted. In its origin it was simple and self-proving. Its precepts were the rules of eternal right. It arrayed poverty, humility, and benevolence against all the wealth, power, and malevolence of the world—and conquered. Then it fell into the hands of arrogant men, who thought they could improve it. It kept its name for many centuries, but lost its spirit. It was a notorious fact, that just in proportion as this change took place, all the true effects of the original religion were lost; and yet our churchmen (they would not call themselves by the old-fashioned name) were in love with their imaginary improvenients. It is a fact, that so great was the change produced in the course of time, that, had any one recommended a return to the original practice, he would have been derided as little better than madman. For instance, one of the most undoubted rules of the old piety was, “Sell all that thou hast and give to the poor.” Now, the headmagistrate of our religion would ride in sumptuous array through thousands of his destitute fellow-men; and not only did this excite no surprise, but any hint of its inconsistency would have been received with perfect contempt. In short, our religion contradicted its ancient self at every point: it was exactly the system which it was not intended to be, and produced all the evils which it was designed to destroy.
To this master-evil I must attribute all the errors and vices of our secular policy; for I cannot believe that these would have been possible in a state guided by a true religion. As a proof of this, I refer to our treatment of the poor. One standard principle of our policy was, that the poorer the subject, the heavier should be the burdens laid
into vice: to cure this, we resolved to punish poverty itself as a crime. A churchman and two or three political quacks made a great discovery, that the existence of a great number of the poor was a most serious error in nature, which must be corrected by severe measures.
Here it was found necessary to make another alteration in our old religion, which said, “ Whom God hath joined together let no man put asunder." Our quacks thought little of contradicting their Creator; and so they decreed that, when a married pair were found in destitution, they should be separated, and placed in confinement.
The souls of the poor were treated even as their bodies. It was declared by our old religion, " That the soul be without knowledge is not good," and facts clearly proved that a great majority of the crimes committed in our land were the results of the most brutish ignorance. Yet when plans were proposed to teach our people to read, think, and understand, at least, the most simple duties of men, it was objected that this could not be done without a violation of our religious faith! This is a fact, however strange it may seem in the present day. Parties otherwise strongly opposed to each other in their political and so-called religious notions, all agreed in this decision, that the people should be kept in ignorance.
This may appear so utterly incredible in the present enlightened age, that I must give some specimens of the arguments by which this decision was defended. Here are two, which I have heard often repeated by the greatest authorities of our church. One said, “Knowledge is good, as water is good ; but its merit depends entirely upon the channel by which it is conveyed. If you cannot have iron water-pipes, you must have earthen onesanything rather than let people die of thirst :- but knowledge is quite another thing—if you cannot distribute it through the only proper channel, our church, the people must go without it—that's all !” Another said, “Knowledge, especially religious knowledge, is a very good thing, if you can give it in what I call a complete form ; but if you cannot do this, give none at all. That is my principle. If I cannot give a beggar 10001. I will not give him a penny : if I cannot show a poor traveller all the way to London, I will not point him to the nearest town. I like to have things complete.” These were all the arguments I ever heard in favour of the system of ignorance ; but they prevailed. The whole nation gravely sat down after the debate, saying—“It may be inconvenient ; but our views of religion must prevent every plan for teaching the poor people.” A few simple men had the boldness to say— Then your views of religion need some supervision, O Christian public !' But these voices were soon silenced by general contempt.
As crowds of our poor, ignorant, and half-starved people were fit for nothing else, we made soldiers of them; and our politicians generally contrived to keep up a little warfare somewhere (our eastern colonies were convenient for this purpose), by which ouz
redundant population was drawn off. Thousands of our young men wandered about at our fairs and wakes, saying
64 We want work to do and bread to eat!' " Come with me! said the recruiting sergeant, “and you shall have more, you shall shoot men and win glory!” “I care nothing about glory and shooting,” said the ignorant peasant ; " but I should like regular meals.” “ Come with me then," said the sergeant. Who would follow the plough ?” This recruiting sergeant only spoke as his betters had taught him. Clergymen, instead of giving food to the hungry, were seen consecrating (they positively used the Divine Name in the service !) banners to be bathed in blood.
At the risk of being disbelieved, I shall add a few further facts. Our country chiefly consisted of two small islands, and of course, our large population was in a great measure dependent upon foreign lands for articles of food and raw materials for manufacture. Now it was gravely argued by all the leaders of our aristocracy, that the best means of prosperity for such a country must be to tax imports of the necessaries of life. This was dene! It was said that the sea was an uncertain road for our supply of corn to travel over, though the fact was, we had the command of the sea. It was also stated, that we had been at war with foreign lands. “ The greater fools we !” replied some free-traders. But," it was added, we may, some day, be at war with all the world.” “ Not until we are the greatest fools in the world," said the free-traders. But,” said the Duke of B-,“ there will be manufactories of all our fabrics throughout the whole of northern Russia and Tartary five or six thousand years hence. " At that time we will consider your objection,” said the free-traders.
I must refer to a monster-file of newspapers which I have preserved for full confirmation of the statements I have made, and of hundreds of similar statements that might be made. But was there no corrective agency in our country ?
What were the people thinking of ?--The ground indeed was bad beneath us. It seemed impatient of our weight. There were rumblings and murmurs, and tremblings and emissions of smoke—the usual preliminaries of an earthquake; but we consoled ourselves, saying: “ This is nothing to be feared : all this is in the regular course of nature !” So it was in the course of human nature about to
revenge gross insults and injuries. There was deep and wide discontent among our people; but, for want of good leaders, it knew net how effectually to express itself. Great forces were arrayed against our government ; but they were divided and uncertain of plans of action. Nature, at last, seemed to array herself on the side of the people, and by threatening them with famine aroused them to revenge.
We had two insufficient harvests, and the roots upon which a great part of our population (especially in the smaller island) subsisted were destroyed by a blight. The extreme peril of keeping a large portion of our population continually just upon the brink of starvation (and this in one of the most fertile islands on the globe !) had frequently been exposed ; but all reasonings were lost upon men who, though adorned with high titles, lay and spiritual, were only distinguished by their larger plunder, which the protection of conventional law gave to them.
At last the people arose, and the indignation which had been gathering for many years of oppression, broke out in a terrible storm,
As the winter came on its gloom was lit up by incendiary fires. We poured our soldiers into the country, and presented what we called justice to the country, in the shape of a host of bristling bayonets, while the maddened people armed themselves against us with the agricultural implements which we had prevented them from employing in a more peaceable way.
Meanwhile there were large and formidable bands of malcontents in the larger island, who had only waited for a favourable opportunity of insurrection. Meetings of tens of thousands were held in the open air all over the country, to denounce the ruling policy. The miners met together in vast congregations on the moors in the north; the manufacturing people refused to labour until our government would resign; and even the peasantry caught the prevailing discontent, and met together to propose carrying out reform with scythes and pitch-forks.
Constantine was the only man in high places who had long been aware of the extent of our peril. He had attached to his views a considerable number of men of intellect and moral influence, whom he now despatched into the disturbed parts of the country, to exhort the people to abandon all unlawful and violent measures, and to convert that which threatened to become a sanguinary contest into a moral argument. These superior and rational reformers fulfilled their duty often at the risk of their own lives ; but their success was considerable, and to their efforts rather than to any measures of our government the deliverance of our country must be ascribed. The doctrines which they taught were those which Constantine maintained in his addresses to the people.
“ The surest signs," said he, "of a people contending, not for wild license, but for right, are determination and patience. Lay down these rude instruments of savage
warfare. Be men ! Fight morally, intellectually, religiously. Arouse the consciences of your oppressors by the utterance of truth. Spread your convictions until
you gain a moral and intellectual majority before which men only armed with steel and gunpowder will quail. If you contend for the right the power is yours, and the victory will surely be yours; but be patient, if the truth is in you, you will be patient—the work of an age cannot be done in a day. The work of the mind cannot be done with clubs and brick-bats. Error is hasty and violent, because it knows that its time is short : truth is patient and forbearing, for it knows that the ages to come will be devoted to its triumphs. Be firm ; be peaceable ; and your children will live to bless the hands that sheathed the sword, and the lips that proclaimed the truth."
Constantine's speeches in the senate were as plain and bold as those which he addressed to the populace.
· Even now it is not too late," said he ; “though we have around us the elements of anarchy, I still believe in the power of honest and benevolent hearts. Let us speak to the people plainly and faithfully, as men should speak to men. Let us confess the errors of our government, and promise that they shall be speedily corrected. Let our aristocracy, if they can, renounce the conventional corruptions which threaten to involve us all in ruin, and return to the normal relations which God has established between the rich and the poor. None will deny that the evils of our present condition are great : our deliverance from them will demand great sacrifices from our selfishness and prejudices; but the way is simple. We need no new invention : we have had too many improvements upon the old laws which are the basis of that religion which we still profess. To these old laws, and to institutions in accordance with them, let us return. Reverend fathers, who sit here among us to remind us that laws from heaven should preside over all earthly politics, I pray you discharge your duty