Page images
PDF
EPUB

done, till we allow every man, every private Christian, every Christian minister, full liberty to use his own judgment, his own conscience, his own eyes, in understanding his Bible as well as he can; and till we have learnt to think no worse of a Christian brother for differing in opinion from us, while he seeks the truth as honestly as we can pretend to do. Union in this one point, as it strikes at the root of popery, so it will at once put an end to all church tyranny, persecution, and imposition, and extinguish all angry contentions and passionate disputes about religion. And I am much mistaken if any other remedy will do it.”— Vol. ii. p. 327.

The somewhat formidable vigour of Mr. Bourn's character was shown by the calumny and petty persecutions which he suffered from those who feared the influence of so uncompromising a man. It may illustrate the treatment of obnoxious dissenting ministers in those days to state, that he was twice brought before the quarter sessions for transgressing the liberty allowed by the Toleration Act, and once summoned before the magistrates to show cause why he should not be removed to his former settlement, as a person likely to become chargeable to the parish."

66

The other distinguished Unitarians of whom, this volume contains memoirs, are Turner of Wakefield, Price, and Priestley. The memoir of Mr. Turner exhibits a learned, pious, and good man carrying into the various relations of life, public and private, the earnest simplicity of a Christian, dignified by the ease and attainments of the accomplished scholar. His Letters to his sons, some specimens of which are given in this volume, are delightful combinations of the qualities most likely to gain at once the affection, the confidence, and the reverence of young minds, of the blended interests of the instructor and the father. The Life of Dr. Price is one of the most interesting and carefully executed in these volumes. A monument has lately been erected to this admirable man, in the Chapel of Newington Green, at the instance of his present successor in its pulpit, Mr. Cromwell, whose pious care had previously provided the same mark of respect for the honoured name of Barbauld.

The notice of Dr. Priestley is necessarily only a sketch, but these volumes would not have been complete without it, and with great judgment it passes rapidly over details which are amply recorded elsewhere, and dwells chiefly on the character of his mind. The question of his religious sensibility is touched upon, with the manifestation of a feeling that justice has not been done him, even by his own admirers, in this respect. For ourselves, we agree with Mr. Turner that perhaps no man ever lived who was more habitually devout,-whilst, as a writer, we

may doubt whether he had the power to touch, by words, the deepest springs in the moral and religious nature of man, to awaken or feed enthusiasm, "or to exhibit Christianity in its most quickening form." That Christianity came to himself in its most quickening form we cannot doubt, but vividly to communicate this vital power to others requires peculiar properties of mind, which perhaps he did not possess. No one, on the whole, could justly place Priestley below Channing, yet Channing had the power of awakening his own emotions, of depicting his own ideals within the consciousness of others, to a degree which the warmest admirers of Priestley will not claim for him. The difference was in the genius of the men.

The Lives contained in these volumes which our space has not permitted us to notice, are those of Hallet, Bulkley, Viscount Barrington, Chandler, Lowman, Fleming, Dixon, Latham, Rotheram, Clark, Aikin, and Towgood. We have taken a few sketches from this Unitarian Biography, partly with the view of directing our readers to this valuable record of the lives and labours of so many faithful servants of God, and seekers of his truth, and partly to admonish our churches from what a noble ancestry they are descended, and that, in their case, to live for the future, is hardly more of a responsibility than to be worthy of the past. In meekness and courage may their spiritual birthright be upheld, and no man, friend or foe, have reason to say that the interests of freedom and truth would have been safer in their fathers' hands, than in their own!

[ocr errors]

ART. III. THE ALLOTMENT SYSTEM-REPORT OF THE SELECT COMMITTEE OF THE HOUSE OF COMMONS.

SOME very delightful dreams are connected with the subject of Political Economy. Unattractive as the words are in themselves, they are still, as it were, the walls of the gallery, which are hung with some of the most poetical of the imaginations of man's heart. Among the dreams to which the subject has given birth, is that of the equal distribution of the surface of the globe among its inhabitants. This dream is one which he who closes his eyes to prolong it, has, at our hands, no forgiveness to ask. We cannot get over the haunting and instinctive impression that every human being who is born into our world has a title to the use of some portion of that world as his own. The earth seems designed to be common property of the earthborn. A title older than any laws-which murmurs back over the Flood, to warble from the coverts of Eden-appears to have designed that every breather of the breath of this world should be entitled to the produce of such a portion of it as his labour could till and his necessities might require. But this is now a mere phantasy. If ever such claims were possessed, they have been resigned or lost. The few have immemorially been the proprietors of the globe; the many have to purchase the privilege of occupancy; and even the poor have to pay for their graves. Multitudes, myriads, millions, of the labouring classes, have no other connection with, or interest in the soil, than what arises from cultivating it for the pleasure and profit of others. We ask ourselves, Is this state of things to be continued for ever? Can there be no more equable adjustment of the territorial rights of the rich and the poor? Is there no plan or system which may do, in some measure, the work of an Agrarian Law, such as, respecting all recognized and legalized rights, shall meet the wants and answer the claims of those whose ancestral interests are more ancient than paper, parchment, or papyrus, and whose wants, which speak to us so pleadingly now, will, if neglected, speak in sterner language to our children?

We are willing to admit-we are perfectly convinced that if every nation under heaven were to effect, through its legislation, an equal division of its territories among its subjects, the measure would neither be beneficial nor lasting. Force is not the principle of industry. An agrarian law could not create an

agrarian race—a people to whom it shall be universally, or even generally, a blessing. It would only be tried, to be broken. At first in secret, and afterwards in open defiance of it, some would extend their possessions, and others would contract them at first there would be many richer by the resignations of others, and at last a few richest by the gathered resignations of all. Differences of strength, and differences of talent and knowledge, would, even if the divisions of land continued the same, make the produce of the respective shares widely and importantly different. But the direct tendency of these differences would be, to remove the new artificial and statutory land-marks, and to gather back into the hands of the stronger, the wiser, and the more fortunate, the property which had been vainly thought susceptible of an arbitrary and lasting distribution. Lycurgus could divide the lands of Sparta; but he could not perpetuate the division. And had the Gracchi lived to do more than they died for attempting, it might have been their fate to have seen with their own eyes the total or partial failure of their experiment.

It is not to this, therefore, that we are to look for the redress of those evils which accrue from the accumulation of landed property in the hands of a few wealthy owners. Agrarian laws have all the impotence of sumptuary ones, while they far exceed them in the mischief they would occasion. We have no desire to see the experiment tried again. What we do wish to see is this, that every industrious man who desires to obtain, by his extra and spontaneous labour, a portion of his maintenance from the tillage of the soil, may have it always in his power to do so may be enabled, whenever or wherever he may desire it, to obtain, from his opulent neighbours, from a benevolent association, or from the community itself, such a portion of land as he is able to cultivate and willing to pay for. Is this too much for man to ask of man? We think not. And this is the spirit of the Allotment System.

Until of late it has been the lot of the labouring classes-and especially in the neighbourhood of our great commercial and manufacturing towns-to live and die without having it in their power to obtain those blessings of increased health and comfort which would necessarily result from the combination of a proper share of profitable and salutary recreation with the monotonous wear and tear of their every-day employments. Land was indeed around them; but it was not to be had or hoped for by them. It was for the plough, for dairy-pasturage, for building, for pleasure-ground, for anything, in short, but for the use of those to whom it would have been a source of such pure and

searching advantage. There were no gardens for them. The thought might cross them that, with a little plot of ground, they might grow roots and herbs for their families, and employ their own leisure time both happily and advantageously. But the thought would only be born to die, or to darken away into that mass of visionary but tantalizing wishes which add so much to the sufferings of those who "know delight but by her parting smile."

This was the state of things; but it has now been greatly modified and improved. In many localities, Associations have been formed for the purpose of taking land, to be divided out into allotments among the labourers and artizans of the neighbourhood. These are, in fact, Friendly Loan Societies for the lending out of Land instead of Money.* And they have the same strong recommendations of returning what is lent with usury-threefold usury;-in the first place, for those who cultivate the allotments; in the next place, for those who take and let the ground; and, in the third place, for the original proprietor himself. We shall content ourselves with a few hints under each of these heads.

The advantages to the cultivators of the allotments are the first to require notice. These are many and great. They respect their interest, their health, and their virtue; we need not add, that they respect their happiness. The profit of a small plot, such as a labourer and his family can manage at spare hours, is found to be such as to give it a very weighty recommendation. No time is lost upon these grounds. The time, thus spent, is the vacant time of the labourer. The returns of spade-husbandry-calling forth the full energies of the soilare such as to make a very substantial and desirable addition to the poor man's stock of comforts and enjoyments. Whether he raise for home consumption or for sale, the alleviation of circumstances, obtained by this addition, is felt through the whole extent of his little reign. He has wholesome vegetables in the most wholesome state. He sees the morning dew on the cabbage that is cooked with his dinner at noon. He grows his own potatoes; and if there be any surplus, he can always turn

It is observable that the Bill, prepared and brought in by Lord Ashley, the Earl of Arundel and Surrey, and Mr. Stanton, recognizes the close connection of the Loan and Allotment Systems, being entitled "A Bill to encourage Industry, by facilitating the letting small Allotments of Land, and to provide for the Regulation of Loan Societies." By authorising Allotment Societies to take security of their tenants, and make the rents payable by stated periodical instalments, the two institutions might be brought under one general Act, and protected by the same power of summary recovery.

« ՆախորդըՇարունակել »