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Tom. But still I should have no one over my head.
Jack. That's a mistake : I'm stronger than thou; and Standish, the exciseman, is a better scholar; so that we should not remain equal a minute. I should out-fight thee, and he'd out-wit thee. And if such a sturdy fellow as I am, was to come and break down thy hedge for a little firing, or take away the crop from thy ground, I'm not so sure that these new-fangled laws would see thee righted. I tell thee, Tom, we have a fine constitution already, and our forefathers thought so.
Tom. They were a pack of fools, and had never read the “ Rights of Man.”
Jack. I'll tell thee a story. When Sir John married, my lady, who is a little fantastical, and likes to do every thing like the French, begged him to pull down yonder fine old castle, and build it up in her frippery way. “ No," says Sir John; “ what! shall I pull down this noble building, raised by the wisdom of my brave ancestors; which outstood the civil wars, and only underwent a little needful repair at the Revolution; a castle which all my neighbors come to take a pattern by-shall I pull it all down, I say, only because there may be a dark closet, or an awkward passage, or an inconvenient room or two in it ? Our ancestors took time for what they did. They understood foundation work; no running up your little slight lath-and-plaster buildings, which are up in a day, and down in a night.” My lady mumped and grumbled; but the castle was let stand, and a glorious building it is; tho' there may be a trifling fault or two, and tho' a few decays want stopping ; so now and then they mend a little thing, and they'll go on mending, I dare say, as they have leisure, to the end of the chapter, if they are let alone. But no pull-me-down works. What is it you are crying out for, Tom?
Tom. Why, for a perfect government.
Jack. You might as well cry for the moon. There's nothing perfect in this world, take my word for it: tho' Sir John says, we come nearer to it than any country in the world
Tom. I don't see why we are to work like slaves, while others roll about in their coaches, feed on the fat of the land, and do nothing.
Jack. My little maid brought home a little story-book from the charity-school t'other day, in which was a bit of a fable about the belly and the limbs. The hands said, “I won't work any longer to feed this lazy belly, who sits in state like
a lord, and does nothing." Said the feet, “I won't walk and tire myself to carry him about; let him shift for himself;" so said all the members; just as your levellers and republicans do now. And what was the consequence? Why, the belly was pinched, to be sure, and grew thin upon it; but the hands and the feet, and the rest of the members, suffered so much for want of their old nourishment, which the belly had been all the time administering, while they accused him of sitting in idle state, that they all fell sick, pined away, and would have died, if they had not come to their senses just in time to save their lives, as I hope all you will do.
Tom. But the times—but the taxes! Jack.
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 parliament-man; 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 lo church, thou wouldst know where it is said, “Render unto Cæsar the things that are Cæsar's;” and also, “ Fear God, honor 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 whimseys : 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; thoa to set out from the starting-post when I am in already; thou
* The emperor NERO.
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 soup-maigre.
Tom. I know we shall be undone, if we don't get a new constitution—that'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 neighbor Furrow t'other day pulled down a crazy old barn, is that a reason why I must set fire to my tight cottage ?
Tom. I don't see, for all that, why one man is to ride in his coach-and-six, 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
* This was written before the war, when the funds were at the highest.
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 every body's the better for it. They do spend too much, to be sure, in feastings and fandangoes; and so far from commend, ing 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 laborers. 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. Our little 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 Sundayschools, 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.