« PreviousContinue »
Jack. Things are dear, to be sure : but riot and murder is not the way to make them cheap. And taxes are high ; but I'm told there's a deal of old scores paying off, and paying off by them who did not contract the debt neither, Tom. Besides, things are mending, I hope; and what little is done, is for us poor people; our candles are somewhat cheaper, and, I dare say, if the honest gentleman who has the management of things is not disturbed by you levellers, things will mend every day. But bear one thing in mind : the more we riot, the more we shall have to pay; the more mischief is done, the more will the repairs cost ; the more time we waste in meeting to redress public wrongs, the more we shall increase our private wants. And mind, too, that 'tis working, and not murmuring, which puts bread in our children's mouths, and a new coat on our own backs. Mind another thing, too : we have not the same ground of complaint; in France the poor paid all the taxes, as I have heard 'em say, and the quality paid nothing.
Tom. Well, I know what's what, as well as another; and I'm as fit to govern
Jack. No, Tom, no. You are indeed as good as another man, seeing you have hands to work, and a soul to be saved. But are all men fit for all kinds of things ? Solomon says, “ How can he be wise, whose talk is of oxen ?" Every one in his way. I am a better judge of a horse-shoe than sir John; but he has a deal better notion of state affairs than I; and I can no more do without his employ than he can do without my farriery. Besides, few are so poor, but they may get a vote for a parliamentman; and so you see the poor have as much share in the government as they well know how to manage.
Tom. But I say all men are equal. Why should one be above another?
Jack. If that's thy talk, Tom, thou dost quarrel with Providence, and not with Government. For the woman is below her husband, and the children are below their mother, and the servant is below his master.
Tom. But the subject is not below the king : all kings are “ crowned ruffians ;” and all governments are wicked. For my part, I'm resolved I'll pay no more taxes to any of them.
Jack. Tom, Tom, if thou didst go oftener to church, thou wouldst know where it is said, “ Render unto Cæsar the things that are Cæsar's ;” and also, “ Fear God, honour the king.” Your book tells you that we need obey no government but that of the people; and that we may fashion and alter the government according to our whimsies: but mine tells me, “Let every one be subject to the higher powers, for all power is of God, the powers that be are ordained of God; whosoever therefore resisteth the power, resisteth the ordinance of God.” Thou say’st, thou wilt pay no taxes to any of them. Dost thou know who it was that worked a miracle, that he might have money to pay tribute with, rather than set you and me an example of disobedience to government ?--an example, let me tell thee, worth a hundred precepts, and of which all the wit of man can never lessen the value. Then there's another thing worth minding ; when Saint Paul was giving all those directions, in the Epistle to the Romans, for obedience and submission ; what sort of a king, now, dost think they had ? Dost think 'twas a saint which he ordered them to obey ?
Tom. Why, it was a kind, merciful, charitable king, to be sure ; one who put nobody to death or in prison.
Jack. You was never more out in your life. Our parson says he was a monster - that he robbed the rich, and murdered the poor-set fire to his own town, as fine a place as London-fiddled to the flames, and then hanged and burnt the Christians, who were all poor, as if they had burnt the town.* Yet there's not a word about rising. Duties are fixed, Tom– laws are settled; a Christian can't pick and choose, whether he will obey or let it alone. But we have no such trials. We have a king the very reverse.
Tom. I say we shall never be happy, till we do as the French have done.
Jack. The French and we contending for liberty, Tom, is just as if thou and I were to pretend to run a race ; thou to set out from the startingpost when I am in already; thou to have all the ground to travel, when I have reached the end. Why, we've got it, man! we've no race to run ! we're there already! Our constitution is no more like what the French one was, than a mug of our Taunton beer is like a platter of their soupemaigre.
Tom. I know we shall be undone, if we don't get a new constitutionthat's all.
Jack. And I know we shall be undone if we do. I don't know much about politics, but I can see by a little what a great deal means. Now, only to show thee the state of public credit, as I think Tim Standish calls it. There's Farmer Furrow—a few years ago he had an odd £50 by him ; so, to keep it out of harm's way, he put it out to use, on government security, I think he calls it ; well, t'other day he married one of his daughters, so he thought he'd give her that fifty pounds for a bit of a portion. Tom, as I'm a living man, when he went to take it out, if his fifty pounds was not almost grown to a hundred ! and would have been a full hundred, they say, by this time, if the gentleman had been let alone.
Tom. Well, still, as the old saying is-I should like to do as they do in France.
Jack. What, shouldst like to be murdered with as little ceremony as Hackabout, the butcher, knocks down a calf ? or, shouldst like to get rid of thy wife for every little bit of tiff? And as to liberty of conscience, which they brag so much about, why, they have driven away their parsons, (ay, and murdered many of 'em,) because they would not swear as they would have them. And then they talk of liberty of the press ; why, Tom, only t'other day they hang'd a man for printing a book against this pretty government of theirs.
Tom. But you said, yourself, it was sad times in France, before they pulled down the old government.
Jack. Well, and suppose the French were as much in the right as I know them to be in the wrong ; what does that argue for us? Because my neighbour Furrow t’other day pull’d down a crazy old barn, is that a reason why I must set fire to my tight cottage ?
* The Emperor Nero. † This was written before the war, when the funds were at the highest.
Tom. I don't see, for all that, why one man is to ride in his coach-andsix, while another mends the highway for him.
Jack. I don't see why the man in the coach is to drive over the man on foot, or hurt a hair of his head, any more than you. And as to our great folks, that you levellers have such a spite against ; I don't pretend to say they are a bit better than they should be: but that's no affair of mine ; let them look to that ; they'll answer for that in another place. To be sure, I wish they'd set us a better example about going to church and those things; but still hoarding's not the sin of the age; they don't lock up their money-away it goes, and everybody's the better for it. They do spend too much, to bę sure, in feastings and fandangoes; and so far from commending them for it, if I was a parson, I'd go to work with 'em, but it should be in another kind of way; but as I am only a poor tradesman, why 'tis but bringing more grist to my mill. It all comes among the people. Their very extravagance, for which, as I said before, their parsons should be at them, is a fault by which, as poor men, we are benefited ; so you cry out just in the wrong place. Their coaches, and their furniture, and their buildings, and their planting, employ a power of tradesmen and labourers. Now, in this village, what should we do without the castle ? Tho' my lady is too rantipolish, and flies about all summer to hot water and cold water, and fresh water and salt water, when she ought to stay at home with sir John ; yet when she does come down, she brings such a deal of gentry, that I have more horses than I can shoe, and my wife more linen than she can wash. Then all our grown children are servants in the family, and rare wages they have got. Ourlittle boys get something every day by weeding their gardens, and the girls learn to sew and knit at sir John's expense; who sends them all to school of a Sunday besides.
Tom. Ay, but there's not sir Johns in every village.
Jack. The more's the pity. But there's other help. 'Twas but last year you broke your leg, and was nine weeks in the Bristol infirmary, where you was taken as much care of as a lord, and your family was maintained all the while by the parish. No poor-rates in France, Tom; and here there's a matter of two million and a half paid for the poor every year, if 'twas but a little better managed.
Tom. Two million and a half !
Jack. Ay, indeed. Not translated into tenpences, as your French millions are, but twenty good shillings to the pound. But, when this levelling comes about, there will be no infirmaries, no hospitals, no charity-schools, no Sunday-schools, where so many hundred thousand poor souls learn to read the word of God for nothing. For who is to pay for them? Equality can't afford it; and those that may be willing won't be able.
Tom. But we shall be one as good as another, for all that.
Jack. Ay, and bad will be the best. But we must work as we do now, and with this difference, that no one will be able to pay us.
Tom ! I have got the use of my limbs, of my liberty, of the laws, and of my Bible. The first two I take to be my natural rights; the last two my civil and religious rights : these, I take it, are the true rights of man, and all the rest is nothing but nonsense, and madness, and wickedness. My cottage is my castle ; I sit down in it at night in peace and thankfulness,
and “no man maketh me afraid.” Instead of indulging discontent because another is richer than I in this world, (for envy is at the bottom of your equality works,) I read my Bible, go to church, and look forward to a treasure in heaven. Tom. Ay, but the French have
it in this world. Jack. 'Tis all a lie, Tom. Sir John's butler says his master gets letters which say 'tis all a lie. 'Tis all murder, and nakedness, and hunger; many of the poor soldiers fight without victuals, and march without clothes. These are your democrats ! Tom.
Tom. What, then, dost think all the men on our side wicked ?
Jack. No—not so, neither :-if some of the leaders are knaves, more of the followers are fools. Sir John, who is wiser than I, says the whole system is the operation of fraud upon folly. They've made fools of most of you, as I believe. I judge no man, Tom; I hate no man. Even republicans and levellers, I hope, will always enjoy the protection of our laws ; though I hope they will never be our law-makers. There are many true dissenters, and there are some hollow churchmen; and a good man is a good man, whether his church has got a steeple to it or not. The new-fashioned way of proving one's religion is to hate somebody. Now,
though some folks pretend that a man's hating a papist, or a presbyterian, proves him to be a good churchman, it don't prove him to be a good Christian, Tom. As much as I hate republican works, I'd scorn to live in a country where there was not liberty of conscience, and where every man might not worship God in his own way. Now, that liberty they had not in France ; the Bible was shut up in an unknown, heathenish tongue. While here, thou and I can make as free use of ours as a bishop; can no more be sent to prison unjustly, than the judge who tries us; and are as much taken care of by the laws as the parliament-man who makes them. Then, as to your thinking that the new scheme will make you happy, look among your own set, and see if anything can be so dismal and discontented as a leveller.—Look at France. These poor French fellows used to be the merriest dogs in the world; but since equality came in, I don't believe a Frenchman has ever laughed.
Tom. What then dost thou take French liberty to be ?
Jack. To murder niore men in one night, than ever their poor king did in his whole life.
Tom. And what dost thou take a democrat to be ?
Jack. One who likes to be governed by a thousand tyrants, and yet can't bear a king
Tom. What is equality ?
Jack. For every man to pull down every one that is above him ; while, instead of raising those below him to his own level, he oply makes use of them as steps to raise himself to the place of those he has tumbled down.
Tom. What is the new rights of man ?
grope about in pitch darkness. Tom. What is philosophy, that Tim Standish talks so much about?
Jack. To believe that there's neither God, nor devil, nor heaven, nor hell ; to dig up a wicked old fellow's * rotten bones, whose books, sir John says, have been the ruin of thousands; and to set his figure up in a church and worship him.
Tom. And what is a patriot according to the new school?
Jack. A man who loves every other country better than his own, and France best of all.
Tom. And what is benerolence ?
Jack. Why, in the new-fangled language, it means contempt of religion, aversion to justice, overturning of law, doting on all mankind in general, and hating everybody in particular.
Tom. And what mean the other hard words that Tim talks aboutorganisation, and function, and civism, and incivism, and equalisation, and inviolability, and imprescriptible, and fraternisation ?
Jack. Nonsense, gibberish, downright hocus-pocus. I know 'tis not English ; sir John says 'tis not Latin; and his valet-de-sham says 'tis not French neither.
Tom. And yet Tim says he never shall be happy till all these fine things are brought over to England.
Jack. What! into this Christian country, Tom? Why dost know they have no Sabbath in France ? Their mob parliament meets on a Sunday to do their wicked work, as naturally as we do to go to church. They have renounced God's word and God's day, and they don't even date in the year of our Lord. Why dost turn pale, man? And the rogues are always making such a noise, Tom, in the midst of their parliament-house, that their speaker rings a bell, like our penny-postman, because he can't keep them in order.
Tom. And dost thou believe they are as cruel as some folks pretend ?
Jack. I am sure they are, and I think I know the reason. We Christians set a high value on life, because we know that every fellowcreature has an immortal soul : a soul to be saved or lost, Tom- Whoever believes that, is a little cautious how he sends a soul unprepared to his grand account. But he who believes a man is no better than a dog, will make no more scruple of killing one than the other.
Tom. And dost thou think our rights of man will lead to all this wickedness?
Jack. As sure as eggs are eggs.
Jack. I'm sure on't. This is only a scheme to make us go back in everything. 'Tis making ourselves poor when we are getting rich, and discontented when we are comfortable.
Tom. I begin to think I'm not so very unhappy as I had got to fancy.
Jack. Tom, I don't care for drink myself, but thou dost; and I'll argue with thee, not in the way of principle, but in thy own way :—when there's all equality, there will be no superfluity ; when there's no wages, there'll be no drink; and levelling will rob thee of thy ale more than the malttax does.
Tom. But Standish says, if we had a good government, there'd be no want of anything.