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if would better become to bear patiently any unavoidable diminution of their incomes * since a far smaller proportion of them than of any other class have acquired even the smallest part of those incomes by their own labour . Society is their creditor for every thing , and their debtor for nothing . In return for its protection and guarantee to their great fortunes , few indeed among therii ever did any thing for society but what they think they do by
being Marge consumers / and ' spending in the country' the money which they draw from it . Their property must be protected because all property must be protected ; those who by the accident of birth obtain the large prizes have a right to enjoy them , but not a right to find fault with the course of nature , because the riches they were born to , have turned out Jess than they expected ; especially if the true and only cause of their distress be their own improvidence .
Because a territorial Aristocracy , a class notorious in all the countries of the world for spending all it has , is always needy—because people whose income is in its very nature subject to fluctuations , greatly increased by laws of their own making , and who invariably live up to the full measure of that income when at the highest , are put to considerable inconvenience when a change comes , and to make their suffering less are often tempted to make it ultimately greater , by obliging their tenants to share it—is that any peculiar afSiction , any visitation from heaven upon the unfortunate
' agriculturists ? ' When Ministers , in the speech from the throne , countenanced the cry of ' agricultural distress , * they gave a virtual sanction not only to unfounded complaints but to unjustifiable claims . Their predecessors would not have committed such a blunder . The Duke of Wellington and Sir Robert Peel , whether they had seen through the delusion or not , would not have expatiated upon an evil when they did not intend to propose any remedy . Ministers were taunted with this inconsistency , in the debate on Lord Chandos ' s motion , deservedly ; and they met the taunt by a piece of
inconceivable mal-adresse . They said that the agriculturists must look for relief to a diminution of the poor rates , and that a Bill was about to be brought in , which would have that effect . If this be the tone in which they mean to advocate Poor Law Reform , it were better , grievous as are the evils to be remedied , that the question should sleep for a season . To swell their majority by a few votes on a division which decided nothing , they held forth to the world their contemplated poor law amendments as designed for the pecuniary benefit of the rich ; which consequently , it will immediately be
inferred , must be at the expense of the poor , and must therefore be tyranny , and to be resisted with the utmost force . For a momentary convenience they courted popular odium for their intended measure ; they incurred the risk , first of not being able to carry it , and next of not being able to execute it , by representing it , contrary to the fact , as a piece of unfeelin g selfishness . We know , and perfectly a ^ ree in , what they meant to say . The
administration of the poor laws , which has produced so much evil to the poor , has produced evil to the rich too ; and the amendments which are absolutely required by the interests of the poor themselves , will also alleviate , and wherever they have been tried have alleviated , the burthen of poor rates . But to legislate for the poor with that for the principal object , would be the act of a demon . Neither Ministers nor the Poot Law Commissioners are
liable to such an accusation . The exclusive object of all which the Commissioners propose is the good of the working classes themselves ; and their recommendations ought to be adopted , even if the eifect were to double instead of diminishing the poor rates . Ministers know this , and , w « firmly believe , are actuated , in whatever changes they may propose , Principally by this motive . But do they forget that the very fcrouml which *» U be taken against any measure of Poor Law Reform , the great engine of prejudice and calumny against its authors and promoters , will be the assertion that it is a mere contrivance for rfcduoing th « pour rates ? Whoever chooses to affirm this , may now quote , or affect to quote , their own autho-
Agricultural Dislress 236
Monthly Repository (1806-1838) and Unitarian Chronicle (1832-1833), April 2, 1834, page 235, in the Nineteenth-Century Serials Edition (2008; 2018) ncse.ac.uk/periodicals/mruc/issues/vm2-ncseproduct2632/page/3/