Abbildungen der Seite
PDF
EPUB

ness comes upon him? Having the opportunity of bettering his circumstances, the poor man only requires a taste for improvement; a reciprocal action springs up between the means and the desire of advancement, and the peasantry are ultimately raised in the moral scale. And this is the very condition of the humblest class, which the resident landlords are stimulated, by the most attractive premium, to bring about. To regulate the habits of this class, to use them to comfort and independence, are the necessary steps towards that cultivation of their minds, which, after all, afford's the only chance we have, for a restraint being put to the excessive increase of population beyond the increase of food. The hope, therefore, that we entertain from the introduction of a Poor Law (always modified be it remembered) into Ireland, is founded upon the firm belief, however paradoxical the belief may seem, that, as it has done in Scotland, the bare establishment of such a law will do away with the necessity of its own execution. We have every reason to believe that neither in England nor Ireland, certainly not in Scotland, will parochial or public relief ever become congenial to the feelings of the people. Notwithstanding the flagrant manner in which pauperism has been literally forced in England; notwithstanding the temptation which is held out to every humble moan, to abandon the rugged path of industry for the ease and plenty of a pauper's life; notwithstanding a disposition has been manifested in favour of the poor, to an extent that threatens to make every man of property in the kingdom a mere trustee for their use—still the native integrity of the people has not yet been completely overthrown. Witness the number of Savings Banks i scattered throughout the country ; witness the still greater, and increasing number of Benefit Societies that are around us. Do not these manifold institutions at once proclaim the independent pirit of the people, and shew that they are alive to the ignominy of Poor Law protection ? The legislature acknowledged this feeling of the lower orders, and when it took upon itself the superIntendence of Savings Banks and Friendly Societies, it was avowtdly to release those orders from the yoke of the Poor Laws. * Since the establishment of those institutions in 1817, nearly sixteen millions sterling have been paid into them. No reasoning, however ingenious, can trace this important fact to any other source than that self-respect on the part of the humbler classes,

"The Preamble to the Act passed in 1817, for the further proteco tion of Friendly Societies, commences in these words :-“ Whereas the habitual reliance of poor persons upon parochial relief, rather than their own industry, tends to the moral deterioration of the people, and to the accumulation of heavy burthens upon parishes; and it is desirable, as well with a view to the reduction of the assessments made for the relief of the poor, as to the improvement of the habits of the people, that encourageDebt should be afforded to persons desirous of making provision for themSelves or their families, out of the fruits of their own industry," &c. &c.

which requires only that it should not be interfered with, in order to work its own amount of good. The sixteen millions sterling, then, we may regard as a hostage for the good faith with which the working classes have relinquished all reliance on the succour of the Poor Laws.

It will be seen, from what we have now stated, that a Poor Law, not in name indeed, but in substance, exists, and has been long felt in Ireland; we think we have shown that the burden of affording relief to the poor in that country falls, with most unjust oppressiveness, upon a comparative few, whilst those who ought to endure a portion of it, may exempt themselves from its inconveniences at pleasure; we have shown that in the indiscriminate and unthinking manner in which charity is supplied under present circumstances, it is likely to be absorbed by unworthy objects, and, also, that it may produce mischiefs of a serious nature; we have, lastly, seen that those private sacrifices—to which individuals submit in Ireland, for the purpose of removing from their residences and places of resort, the disgusting forms which mendicancy assumes, in order to excite pity—have completely failed of their end. As a remedy for all these evils, we have ventured to suggest the legalization of a general provision for such of the poor as are unable, on account of age or infirmity, to provide for themselves. We are satisfied, also, that the establishment of such a system, would have the still more valuable effect of creating, for the first time, in the breast of the landlords, some consideration for the state of their humble tenantry. This great work accomplished, we see, in the future, many and many a blessing for Ireland. We see, at no distant period, her labouring myriads, or rather her myriads that desire to labour, merged in a permanent and profitable course of industry; we see her barren mountains and wastes colonized by her ingenious and indefatigable children, instead of beholding them embarking for a distant country, in pursuance of some wild and absurd scheme of emigration; and we see them, under the influence of a gradual and healthy system, brought into employment,-a system which, whilst it amply meets existing wants, is not likely to be the fertile creator of new ones—a system, therefore, superior to any of these temporary expedients into which timid and miscalculating governments alone will be led, in order to force a market for labour.

Art. II.-The Bengalee : or Sketches of Society and Manners in the

East. 8vo. pp. 466. London: Smith, Elder, and Co. 1829. We have had, of late years, many works which treated of our dependencies in Asia, in a historical and topographical point of view. Some of these have made us acquainted with the antiquities of India,—some with the warlike exploits of which that country has been the bloody theatre,—some with the fruits and flowers which it!

[ocr errors]

produces, as well as the animals by which it is inhabited, the inountains by which it is diversified, the noble rivers by which it is watered, and the colours, superstitions, and social habits of the native tribes by whose hands it is chiefly cultivated. In all these works we have in vain looked for an account of the way in wbich our own countrymen, who emigrate to that region, usually spend their lives. We were curious to know something of their usual actions, to sit down with them at the breakfast table, and to accompany them through the remainder of the day, in order that we might understand in what sort of business or amusement they ran through the sands of their hour glass. Generally speaking, there is a vague idea amongst us, that English men and women in India have little to do, except to shield themselves, as well as possible, from the rage of the sun, to avoid the cholera morbus, and to amass riches. But as even such an outline of life as this must be filled in with numerous little varieties, we have often wished to know what these were, and whether they retained much or little of the phlegm of our northern island climate.

The Bengalee : or Sketches of Society and Manners in the East,' thought we, is exactly the book for our purpose. Here we shall surely find the very knowledge of which we have been so long in pursuit. And, to some extent, we may say that the cloud of darkness, which has hitherto rested upon the Anglican quarters of India, has been irradiated by our Bengalee. But his promise of sketches of social manners is much too parsimoniously performed to entitle him to the praise that would be due to the author, who should boldly execute that task. We say " boldly,” because it requires no common nerve to remove the veil which has so long been carefully suspended between Englishmen at home, and Englishmen in the East. The mass of iniquity, which has for years been thickening behind that veil, calls aloud, if not for vengeance, at least for reformation. We have heard of scenes enacted in our Asiatic dominions by British emigrants, than which nothing more depraved is to be found in Pagan or Mahometan annals. Indeed, the general standard of morals in those regions is so debased, that vice has ceased to be fashionable, only because it has become almost universal.

The agitation which at present prevails upon the question of the India Company's monopoly, is likely, we should hope, ultimately to lead to important ameliorations besides those of a commercial character. In a social point of view, it is impossible not to see that the present system, which prevents the settlement in the Company's territory of any person who has not received their express permission, is highly objectionable, inasmuch as such permission is accorded exclusively from motives connected with their mercantile interests. As long as that is the case, so long will the number of female emigrants continue to be enormously disproportionate to that of the other sex, the consequence of which must be the continuance, or rather the increase of that depravity which now prevails in the Anglo-Indian community. Matters would be greatly altered for the better, if our overgrowing population were as free to settle in Hindostan as in Canada. Many would, doubtless, prefer the former, as it possesses an abundance of that which our other colonies want, viz, manual labour upon moderate terms. But other opportunities will most probably soon offer for entering somewhat at large into this important subject.

The volume before us is composed of a number of papers, some of which have already appeared in Indian periodical publications. They are written in a dilettante style; they treat of many miscellaneous subjects, and, in addition to some information as to the state of society and manners in the East,'they afford, occasionally, topics of more permanent interest. Our author declares himself, at the outset, an old Bachelor, or, at least, a single gentleman, who, in consequence of a refusal given to his first proposal, has determined never to make another. He feels all the misery of his condition, but, to do him justice, we must add that it does not seem to have at all embittered his temper. His • satires,' of which he has given us some half dozen, if not much distinguished for their poetical merit, are at least free from malevolence. Witness his chapter on “ Humbug.”.

• Never, indeed, was Humbug, or Humbugging, (I know not the correct term for the essence of this virtue, and Dr. Johnson unfortunately does not apprise us, though he ably announces and instances the character Humdrum,) never was it more splendidly patronised than in the provinces of Bengal, Behar, and Orissa ; with the other districts, countries, and principalities, in and without the happy code of the Bengal regulations. Very nearly with us all, from the highest to the lowest, --from prince to peasant, -the civilian, the soldier, the bar, the learned professions, the dustukhana, the outcry, or the counter, Humbug is the aim of all our acts,—the leading star of our efforts; and if I bound my field of its daily practice and existence here, and include no further objects in the outstretched circle of its votaries, it is only that I, the Bengalee, am most busy myself in the goodly employment of Humbugging. For while one of my main objects is to exbibit myself as a quiet, inoffensive, industrious, and good sort of creature, would it not be ruinous to mar the toil and set countenance of years, merely to give a luckless hit at those, who can strike harder, methinks, than my poor wit may do?

• Is not Humbug in India reduced to a science ? Look at the saintly frequenter of Churches, (an unfrequent character this, I admit;) the abstainer even from smiles on a Sunday; if Rupees but gleam upon his sanctity, his conscience is where? If he chance to be an agent or a merchant, he will talk of liberality by the hour, and affix his name, with princely benevolence, to the subscription for the family of some poor ruined devil of an adventurer ; perhaps of a constituent, an Indigo Planter, or country captain, whose bankruptcy has been sealed by the accumulating charges of interest upon interest, bond upon bond, life insurance, forced consignments and commission; with other glorious pickings for the agent, which enrich and falten him, till he gravely doles out his post-obit munifi

cence, and grants a poor portion of the plunder to the pennyless widow of bis victim.

•Lo! yonder Prince of Smiles and Hospitality! How affably he hails his guests; how he patronises the humble applicant, and “breathes bland favour" upon every friend! 'Tis all Humbug! He cares not two straws for the wide worldfull of us all. If a second deluge were inflicted, he would enact Noah without a sigh; and millions might drown beside his ark, so it were safe, and he in the calm enjoyment of his hookah!

And yonder fair Coquette, how she plays with the young soldier, and trifles with the best feelings of the boy! Does she love him ?- Not a whit: she has no love for two hundred and fifty rupees per month, and a bungalow. She likes him, it is true; nay, has affirmed it often to himself, and wonders at his fears and idle jealousy of yon bilious and antique Judge of Appeal. But she ruins the peace of the deluded youth, that she may dance quadrilles with a good partner; aud finally accepts the Civilian, that she may live in a palace, and spend four thousand rupees per mensem.

'My once friend and contemporary, Will Woodby, next my superior here, and now member of Parliament at home, is a happy instance of the successful and unceasing practice of Humbug. He arrived in India with a tolerable person, a ready quickness of manner and remark, which passed for ability with many; and with a real northern ambition of standing well with all around, still better with all above him. He was restless, busy, and ambitious; and yet as intrinsically idle at heart, as the merest loiterer, or Beau Fribble of his standing. There was no College, fortunately for him, in those days; for fag, at that period, he could not. But if a College had existed, he would have contrived to make as much show of hard study, as the steadiest. Persian and Arabic would have been the leading themes of his open admiration; and ten to one but the Examiners would have passed him through the languages, simply from the seeming fame and asserted extent of his attainments. He was at first appointed an assistant in one of the public offices of the Presidency, when he was oftener absent, than in attendance on the public duties; and if seriously inquired into, it must have been detected that he performed truly and positively nothing. Yet business was ever in his mouth, and if you met him at outcry, or at morning visits, or the shops, the livery stables, or the riding school, (a favourite lounge in that day,) Will was always in a hurrry, always going to office. At his house too, Will played the same good game; he was ambitious of the character of being clever and literary. This cost him more pains than his own inclinations would willingly have subscribed to: true, he had no particular want of modest assurance; he could speak on all occasions like a Hume or a Hunt; but he wished to seem to speak well, and subjects unfortunately could not be prepared and selected without some trouble. Reading he liked a little, but it was the light and easy style of Fielding, a Smollett, or the romances and tales of a circulating library, which captivated his fancy. Nevertheless he purchased a collection of standard works, and moreover a most splendid and stately reading desk: here he ever displayed a volume of the Classics, with marginal notes in his own pencil; and to avow his admiration of ancient lore, he would mouth away a few lines of Homer, and acquired by heart the leading verses of half a dozen books of Virgil's “ Æneid," with as many stanzas of a few of the odes of Horace. These he could at any time recite with good effect.

VOL. XIII

« ZurückWeiter »