Page images
PDF
EPUB
[ocr errors][ocr errors]

of the value of their labour. When a number of masters have to go in search of men, they will compete, one with another, to the advancement of wages. If Mr. Cobbett did not understand this general principle, he had cunning enough to take the benefit of it to himself, when, knowing the surplus of labour in the market, he proposed to employ men upon a gaol allowance for their wages. Mr. Cobbett had never made such a proposition to labourers, had their labour been in more request. How apt is man, even a pretended reformer, to let his interest overrule his profession of political principle!

All that taxation does, in the way of regulating wages, is to raise the nominal amount of the living means. A man requires a certain quantity of food for his subsistence ; the nominal value of that food will vary with the weight of taxation. In a secondary point of view, or temporarily, it might affect the quantity of his food; but not as a general and lasting principle. The first and general principle is the value, which is regulated by the relation of the supply to the demand: and whenever the supply of labour exceeds the demand for it, the wages of the labourer will fall to the lowest amount that will support life. Hence may be seen the necessity, for the welfare of the working man, that there be not a superabundance of hands in any trade or occupation: and that, when there is a superabundance, it should be the study of every workman in that trade to prevent the accumulation or continuation of that superabundance. Though it be as simple as any rule in arithmetie, we know that this doctrine is oppugned, as every new doctrine is oppugned, by dull or ill-designing men; but though oppugned, it is as stable and impregnable as the doctrine of the earth's motion. Many of the disciples of Mr. Cobbett have their heads filled with imaginary evils, about “taxation, rich ruffians, and the currency,” laying down these as the first principles of all the evils that afflict the country. In so doing, they lose sight of the real evils, and losing sight of them, they produce no effect by their cry for reform. They assail phantoms instead of substantial evils, and are laughed at for their pains, by the very men against whom they exclaim. We will endeavour, in the course of this publication, to put them in the right train to produce real and useful reforms.

The question of the currency, is not without interest; but by no means a matter of such importance as Mr. Cobbett attaehes to it. In its worst shape, it can operate but as a partial tax; and in no shape can it affect the vital interests of the country. The part of it which paper represents is a representation of capital, or it is not. If a representation of capital, there is security; if not, it becomes a matter of credit, and in case of failure on the part of the issuers to meet their promises, a tax upon capitalists, a transfer of property from one to another, without value received in barter: in short, a new mode of robbery. The real evils which afflict this

[ocr errors]

country are not of this transitory character. They are old, permanent and rigid. They consist of old customs that have been rendered profitable, and that, being profitable, are not allowed quickly to yield before the new customs that society in its progressive improvement, must necessarily introduce for its welfare. Let us take a political view of religion. There is not an instance on record of a permanent religion. Every Religion has been incessantly changing, both in its parts, and as a whole. Every former religion is regularly and systematically proved to have been an evil (we can do as much for the present); but how difficult is the task, if we attempt to hasten its departure, or to force it aside? Mankind is ever changing customs; but never prone to rapid change. Mental changes are individual and slow, and not made en masse.

Our reform will extend to form of government, when we see it practicable. We know no form of government that is best, in relation to administration. The mode of administration must constitute the degree of good, better, best; or bad, worse and worst. But if we know human nature, the best general regulation for legislation and government will be found in the simple representative, where there shall be no checks but in the periodical will of the electors.

RELIGION.

Is by far the most important political subject that now agitates the people of this country; not as to whether it shall be Catholic or Protestant, Trinitarian or Unitarian, founded on freedom of will or predestination; but as to whether any be necessary or useful. The disputes among the various sects are become futile and even a matter of ridicule, while unrepelled assaults show the rottenness of the whole fabric, and its bad foundation. In conjunction with, and in echo to, Robert Owen and Frances Wright, in the United States of North America, we pronounce whatever of superstition passes under the name of religion to be an error, an evil, a vice. We define our meaning of superstition to be, any kind of dogmatical speculation that exceeds a man's knowledge, any thing that is pretended to be a superhuman, written or oral revelation. The highest state of the argument on the subject of religion, now stands thus :

In all that we see of the physical powers about us, in all that we see of the operations of matter, can we see any corresponding principle to that which we call design or intelligence, in the human being, or in the animal world?

Paley has argued, that, as man produces small effects, in his little arrangements of matter, by his power of design or intelli

[ocr errors]

gence, to increase his conveniences and benefits, so the more wonderful construction of man himself, and the other things by which he is surrounded, must have been analogically designed by a being or power, superior to man in the power of intelligence and design.

To which an answer is given:-Granting that man produces effects by design, which are not naturally produced, granting that man has not the power to produce those effects which he sees produced in what we consent to term nature; and granting that the imagination of man cannot trace the superiority of distinction between what is naturally produced, and what is artificially produced, or produced by human art; still there is nothing proved as to the mode of operation, beyond what is artificially produced; there is no analogy between the design in the animal man, to produce artificial effects, and in the effects naturally produced. That which is called design or intelligence, in man, or any other animal, is a quality evidently depending upon the organization of that man, or that animal, and to carry on the principle analogically, the organization or body must be carried on with the quality or design and intelligence. Ergo-the Deity of Paley and his followers must be a larger sort of animal, or an animal with a higher power of intelligence of design.

The more rude religionists have not objected to this sort of deity, alike among the Christians, and their predecessors, the Pagans; but the progress of the various sciences has shamed those persons who profess to have been educated, and to be intelligent, from entertaining the notion of such a deity. Still, though they renounce the person, or figure, or animal body, they most inconsistently contend, in the most strenuous manner, for all the attributes that have been associated with such a person, figure or body. They claim the quality without the quantity or substance, the attribute without its source, the character without its object; in short, they want intelligence or design without animal body; they want to find it in existence in a way in which it is not known to exist.

But, after all this dispute about nothing, what is there in this power, which we call intelligence or design, that is worthy for a moment of being associated with that unknown power, that aggregate of physical power, that great all-in-all, which we consent to express under the denomination of deity? What do we know of intelligence or design? Do we really see it, either practically or inferentially, beyond the animal world? And what do we see it to be, to produce, among animals? Can it make an animal ?-Not by intelligence or design. Can it make a vegetable or mineral?-Not of itself, nor by any other arrange

ent, than nature or matter makes for itself, without the aid of that intelligence or design. Can it change the laws of nature,

or the properties of matter, in any degree?-No. Could it do so if it existed in any higher degree?-We have no knowledge to warrant such an inference. If it could not do so, why is it necessary to regulate those laws or properties ?-Wedo not know that it is necessary. Does not the power to regulate imply the power to change ?.-If there were no power to change, there could be no power to regulate; for the regulation would exist per se. Do we perceive change, or is the power to regulate necessary ?—We do not perceive change, nor do we know that a power to regulate is necessary. Then our knowledge is confined to the existence ?-It is so confined.

Such is the highest state of the argument upon the subject of deity. Mr. Beard, who is under a promise to enter into a discussion upon the subject in print, during a conversation at Manchester, expressed his surprise at the very little difference which he found between what he called his theism and Mr. Carlile's atheism. The sum of the difference was in this supposed attribute of intelligence; for, if that can be proved, other attributes may be analogically warranted. Mr. Detrosier, a very warm and zealous theist or deist, came to the admission, that the property or attribute which he would call intelligence in deity, must be a very different property or attribute from that which we find to be intelligence in man. Mr. Beard and Mr. Detrosier are both respectable and clever men, let either of them shew on paper any thing more of deity than is here shown. We shall feel obliged by their oppugning or by their consenting correspondence. We pledge ourselves for our general readers, that they will also be obliged to them. We invite all the talent of the country that is respectable, to the discussion of this subject, if that discussion can be carried beyond the point at which we here leave it. Mr. Beard is giving, or has given, a course of Sunday evening lectures, in alleged refutation of Mr. Paine's Age of Reason. When he has finished his subject, when he has fully refuted Mr. Paine! we invite him to proceed with“ THE LION."

It produces a most happy state of mind, to be able to rest on the view of deity which we here take. A superstitious burthen, a diseased, not a moral, burthen, is thrown off, and the human being is thrown upon self-exertion for self-improvement-the only source of self-improvement. At the same time also, we discard from our minds the notion of the utility of all that mischievous brokerage, between man and his supposed maker, which is made up of priests and prayers; a most expensive brokerage, producing by far the greatest evil that afflicts society, or that tends to the increase of pauperism.

The secondary point in religious discussion, is the religion of the country, the Christian religion. There are many clever men, who entirely renounce the idea of goodness or utility in the Christian religion ; but they urge the necessity of some kind of superstition,

[ocr errors]

the superstition of Deism. We may as well have the one as the other; for the principle of superstition is every where alike, its effects every where alike; give it but one link well fastened, and it will soon make a chain of links to bind fast (to bind is the meaning of the word religion) man to his error. Call this superstition Deism, call it Christianity, call it what you please, the principle is the same, the evil effects will be the same. There is nothing in the superstition of Deism that is preferable to the superstition of Christianity. If a Deism, free from superstition, can be taught, we shall most heartily join in that teaching, and, as it may be, give or receive instruction. We know of no restraints in society that are free from mischief, but moral restraints, the restraint of moral law and moral thonght. We object most strenuously to man's making his deity a moral power; we know nothing of it other than as a physical power. 'Superstition begins, where we speak of Deity other than as a physical power. All men grant to it the terms unknown and incomprehensible ; here all agree, but superstitious men inconsistently confess their ignorance, and then assert a knowledge and a comprehension ! Let them catechise themselves; let them ask themselves what they do know of deity, what they do comprehend, on which they can rely as a certainty.

As every new religion is made up of part or parcel of some one that is older, so we trace the Christian religion to be a piece of patch-work made up of the shreds of a pagan allegory.

The validity or invalidity of the Christian religion, in its literal acceptation, and separately from its allegorical origin, is involved in the higher question of Deity; but as there are many who cannot soar so high, who must be met, to be instructed, on lower ground, we shall occasionally condescend, for their benefit, to discuss with them the subject of the Christian religion.

Tenets-with the Popes and the Maguires of Ireland—with the Arminians and the Calvinists of England --with the Bible Christians of Manchester-and the more respectable Israelites of Ashton-under-Line-we cannot discuss on their own grounds; we do think the tenets of John Wesley, morally and socially preferable to those of John Calvin ; but we summon all the sects to the bar of our Court of Enquiry, to see what evidence they can give, to prove that a person, called Jesus Christ, did exist in Judea, 1800 years ago. This person of Jesus Christ is the pivot

. of all their doctrines, the Bible Christians excepted, for they are such slippery creatures, with their Swedenborgian science of correspondences, that there is no holding of them to the admission or defence of any tangible tenets.

It is confessed, that there is but little hope of converting a Swedenborgian or a Bible Christian. Not that their tenets, if they have any, are better founded than those of any other sect; but that their whole doctrine is so completely mystical, that it

« ՆախորդըՇարունակել »