« ZurückWeiter »
selfish people in the towns who are getting up an opposition to it; but the working classes, if they know their own interests, will send up petitions to have the bill passed.* Perhaps some modification might be made with advantage; but a Health of Towns Bill of some sort the country must have, if they would better the condition of the poor. At present it is notorious that the houses of the poor are many of them badly built, badly drained, and badly ventilated. The cause is this. They are often run up by speculators, who build them at the least possible cost, and then make an interest of 15 or 20 per cent., which is unreasonable. The poor have no remedy against this evil ; therefore the Government must step in to oblige the builders and owners of houses to make them at least decent and healthy.
5. Instruction. Those amongst you who are not too old to learn ought to be much better instructed in your duties and real interests than you are at present: and your children I should like to see much better brought up than their parents have been. It is quite manifest that private efforts alone are insufficient to secure for the working classes that religious and secular instruction which is essential to their well being; therefore we have a right to call on Government to come forward and assist in this important work. Government has, I think, hit on the right principle upon which this work may be done; that is, by assisting the spontaneous exertions of individuals. But, then, they must assist much more largely than they do, and avoid as much as possible all needless meddling, beyond the giving their assistance and advice. They must not interfere by compulsion, or they will only mar the work instead of lielping it.
6. Revision of Taxation. Much good might, I think, be done to the working classes by an improvement in the system of taxation. But I must prepare you to expect that some of my opinions on the subject will appear to you at first sight rather singular. There is a dispute going forward just now about the income tax, between those whose income is derived from property and those whose income is derived from their profession. Persons engaged in trade and commerce seem to stand about half way between these parties : their income is derived partly from the interest of their capital, and partly from their personal exertions. It appears at first sight that all these should not be taxed equally; but the Government say that there is a great difficulty in arranging it otherwise. However, be this as it may, you workmen have clearly nothing whatever to do with the matter, as it only affects persons who have an income of £150 a-year. Either party would be very glad to have you on their side. But if you take my advice, you will keep yourselves aloof from a difficult question in which you are not concerned.
* Since this was written the Bill has been advancing.
As regards the amount of taxation, I fear there is no hope that any great diminution can be made. More than half goes to pay the interest of the National Debt, which it would be dishonest not to pay. Neither, indeed, would the nation be a shilling richer if they did not pay it; because what was saved to the payers, would be lost to the receivers. The greater part of the remaining half is applied to the maintenance of the army and navy; and I for one will never give my vote for diminishing our national defences, and running the risk of having a French army landed on our coasts. For though I have no doubt whatever that we should drive them all out again, yet the trouble and expense they might put us to would be very great. I think, therefore, that with our present establishments, which are necessary for our national safety, we must not count on the diminution of taxes to any extent worth mentioning. At the same time it appears to me that in some respects the sums necessary for the public service might be raised, so as to interfere less with the interests of the working classes than at present. If I were Chancellor of the Exchequer, I would put a treble tax on all intoxicating liquors, and take off part of the duty from tea, sugar, coffee, soap, candles, and other articles of general consumption. I do not expect you will all agree with me in this part of my budget; but the more you think of it, the more I am sure your good sense will tell you that the greater discouragement there is to drunkenness and improvidence the better. How many drunkards are there who feel most bitterly the misery and degradation of their condition !—they know that they are ruining their health and comfort, reducing themselves and their families to poverty and wretchedness, and yet cannot bring themselves to give up their darling vice. How much better would it be if the cause of the evil were less easily attainable. There is a remarkable law in America, that any spirituous liquors found in the possession of Indians are to be destroyed. The reason is, because savages have no restraint whatever on their appetite for spirits, and drink themselves to death when they get them; and I fear too many of our own countrymen do the same. It is calculated that no less than thirty millions sterling are spent by the working classes of England in intoxicating liquors ! a sum which prudently spent would place them all in comparative comfort. At present the tax on liquors is levied so as to insure the largest consumption—which I think a wicked and suicidal policy. My plan would be to discourage the consumption as much as possible, and whatever is lost to the revenue must be made up in some other way. Any tax would be better than one that directly en
I wish, my good friends, you would think well over my “Six new points for the Charter;" and the sooner you petition Parliament for them the better. Only take care that you do not get into such another scrape as your foolish Chartist leaders led
you into about the “monster petition.” Let all the names affixed to petitions be bona fide names. Set down your Christian names and surnames, together with your residences, and trades, and if you were to add your age and the number of your children it would be as well. Take care that there are no Pugnoses” and “Flatnoses” !--no Queen Victoria and Duke of Wellington ;though to say the truth, I do not see why the Duke of Wellington should not sign it as well as any other man: for no one is a better friend of the poor than " the old Duke.” Do not pretend there are six or seven millions of names to your petition when probably there is not a tenth part. Such nonsense as this only throws a ridicule on the whole business, and makes people think petitioning all a farce. Do not think of going up all in a body with your petition, with a view to intimidate the Government; that is contrary to law; and it is not impossible that lives might be lost and property injured when such masses get together, which I am sure no sensible man amongst you would wish to see happen. Anyhow it alarms quiet people, and sets them against you, which is a pity. No; send up your petition calmly and peaceably for what you really want, and what every one must see will be a benefit to you. And depend upon it you have a great many good friends, both in Parliament and out, who will do all they can to back you and see you righted; and I think by their help a great deal may be done. That something must be done ere long all parties, except old Radical Hume and his set, seem agreed; and the sooner something is done for the good of the people so much the better.
MAY-DAY AT MAGDALEN COLLEGE, OXFORD. All the customs associated with the month of May seem to be picturesque, cheerful, and poetical beyond others. Whether in their origin they be heathen or Christian, relics of the dark ages, or wrecks of the ages of faith, there is seldom anything gross or coarse mingled with their festivity. Merry music and spring flowers are sources from which the mirth of May is chiefly drawn.
There is one local custom which we are glad to record as being pre-eminently graceful and refined, and at the same time interesting to our readers from its Christian and Ecclesiastical character. The lofty tower of Magdalen College, Oxford, which rises 145 feet from the bridge below, and which is familiar to the lovers of architecture as a matchless example of proportion, is the scene of what we are about to describe. On the morning of the first of May, the members of the College are stirring at sunrise. Before four o'clock the ancient cloisters ring with sounds of gladness, for by that time the light-hearted boys of the choir are busily engaged in rousing their elder brethren of the foundation to share in the ceremony which is to follow. About half-past four, many members of the College, with the whole choir and the officers connected with it, besides strangers and visitors from other colleges, amounting sometimes to between one and two hundred persons, begin the ascent of the tower. On reaching the spacious summit, they are admitted to a wide view of the surrounding country intersected the Isis and Cherwell, and of the venerable religious and collegiate buildings more immediately below them. At this early hour, before the smoke and dust of city life has had time to cloud the atmosphere, these buildings stand out in the lights and shades produced by the rising sun, with the distinctness of Canaletti's views in Venice or Rome. The members of the College then vest themselves in surplices and hoods, and standing in a double semi-circle, the sixteen choristers in front, the taller figures and deeper voices behind, wait with their faces towards the sunrise till the College clock strikes the hour of five. At the first stroke every head is uncovered, and before the last has ceased to echo, a beautiful Latin hymn is addressed to the Most Holy TRINITY by the voices of the choir in harmony. At its close, the visitors are apt to linger some time to enjoy more fully the unwonted view afforded them and the freshness of a May morning, but the choristers are quickly divested of their sacred dress, and fully occupied in the belfry, ringing ten inspiriting bells which form the College peal, with a zeal which for nearly an hour gives the tall tower à sensible swinging motion sufficient sometimes to alarm strangers, but known to be in fact an evidence of the sound elastic state of the masonry. An early breakfast in College generally concludes the part which strangers take in the proceedings, but the choir look for much enjoyment to come. It is the most perfect whole holiday which the year affords them. Set free from bounds, and without the shadow of a task to perform, their sport is gladsome
enough till seven o'clock calls them to breakfast with their hospitable organist. At eight, they assist in the morning services in chapel. After this various excursions occupy the day till between two and three o'clock P. M., when a dinner is served to the boys at the high table, where the fellows commonly dine, in the College hall. By long established custom, the fare consists of lamb and plum-pudding, and the table is adorned with a beautiful silver grace-cup, the gift of a friendly fellow of the College to the boys of the choir. This cup is circulated with a filial wish from each who drinks; “ Floreat Magdalena !” (i. e.
May Magdalen flourish."). At four o'clock the evening service is performed, and the festive character of the music accords with the tone of all that has gone before. The anthem usually sung is one most appropriate to a choral festival falling on the first day of the month : “Sing we merrily to God our strength; make a cheerful noise unto the God of Jacob. Blow up the trumpet in the new moon, even at the time appointed, and
upon our solemn feast-day.” When this is over, a tranquil evening, and at last a quiet bed, are acceptable enough to men and boys wearied with the enjoyments of a long and innocent holiday.
The history of this festival is given in the following extract. The verses at the end of it, written by a member of the University who died at Rome not long ago, introduce very beautifully a translation of the Latin hymn sung on the tower.
“ In the year of our LORD God, 1501, the 'Most Christian' King Henry VII. gave to S. Mary Magdalen College the advowsons of the churches of Slymbridge, county Gloucester, and Fyndon, county Sussex, together with one acre of land in each parish. In gratitude for this benefaction, the College was accustomed during the life-time of their Royal benefactor, to celebrate a service in honour of the Holy Trinity, with the collect still used on Trinity Sunday, and the prayer, ' Almighty and Everlasting God, we are taught by Thy holy word that the hearts of kings, &c. ;' and after the death of the king, to commemorate him in the usual manner. The Commemoration Service ordered in the time of Elizabeth is still performed on the first of May; and the Latin hymn in honour of the Holy Trinity, which continues to be sung on the tower at sun-rising, has evidently reference to the original service. The produce of the two acres used to be distributed on the same day between the president and fellows ; it has, however, for many years been given up to supply the choristers with a festal entertainment in the College Hall.
Out of his chamber comes the young sun forth,
And we, in bridal white,