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ritual, and our political fathers. The bankrupt in name and fortune keep in awe the respectable and the rich, as Aristophanes pourtrayed of the Athenians.* This also is of Greece. Well did Matthias Prideaux inquire, long since, “Whether Socinianism and slighting of all antiquity be not an introduction to paganism and atheism." +
The effeet of our liberty in religion presents one singular coincidence in its operation. There are said to have been 30,000 sects in the Christian Church. This is the exact number to which the gods are said to have attained in the Roman Pantheon.
The tyrannical spirit of freedom has attained to the same results in modern states as it did in Rome and Greece, and produced the same oppression of the working classes. In Athens there were some 20,000 freemen; being one many-headed tyrant over 400,000 slaves. There was about the same proportion in Lacedæmon. The free Americans hold an overwhelming majority of black slaves under subjection ; and the tyranny and severity of the Americans, and of the English, in the West Indies, over their slaves, has been
I can go
* So Charmides, in the banquet of Xenophon, is introduced as stating the advantage his present poverty has over his former affluence. “ Now I threaten others, instead of their threatening me. into or out of town without any one taking exception. The rich now pay respect to ine ; they rise to me; and offer me their chair ; they give me the wall. In a word, I am now a king, I was then a slave.” - Xenoph. Conviv., c. 4. + Introduction to History, p. 155, ed. 1664.
everywhere shown, as it was in Sparta and Rome, to be infinitely more selfish and cruel than that of masters towards their slaves under monarchical governments.
Again, the condition of the lower orders in England at this time is closely assimilating itself to that which existed in the Roman empire at the period of their final corruption, and consequent destruction. It is related by Ammianus Marcellinus, “ that when Rome fell before the forces of Alaric, the whole of Italy and Africa was in the hands of 1760 great families, who resided at Rome, and cultivated their immense estates by means of slaves.*” “The race of independent cultivators had entirely disappeared before the engrossing wealth of the patrician classes." Now those who have acquainted themselves with the agricultural counties of England, must have perceived, how the large and important class of possessors of small landed properties have been declining rapidly during the last thirty years, till they have become almost extinct; especially in the counties of Sussex and Devonshire, where they used to be most numerous. At the same time the landed proprietors have left their estates, and spend their time and fortunes in London and places of amusement; and the cultivators of the land drag on a servile and hopeless existence, without the countenance and encouragement of the receivers of the produce, with constantly lowering wages, under the irretrievable oppression of high-rented and struggling farmers. I would scarcely allude to the monopolies and op
* Ammian. Marcell. 14, 6.
pressions of the manufacturing capitalists, because the resemblance is not so exact; but the same principle is carried out by them only to a ten-fold greater extent of selfishness and oppression. The greater capitalists are systematically overpowering and destroying the smaller manufacturers; and the labouring poor are used, and their powers and lives are sported with, as if they were cattle which we may at our will either breed and multiply, or destroy; or rather as tools and machines which may be resumed or laid aside, as we please, and at our convenience.
Mr. Alison gives the proportion of the class of landed proprietors in England, namely, 1 in 60, of the population, including their families.* This is a smaller proportion than in any other country; because we have carried the principles of modern civilization to a higher pitch, and a more classical perfection.
The history of the poor and the poor laws in Greece and Rome, when verging to their decline, was almost exactly that of this country at the present moment :a grievous oppression of the poor, together with a vast distribution of public and legalized relief, which degraded and discontented and demoralized the recipients; or rather, the oppression of riches and civilization produced that degree of poverty and misery among the working classes, which made necessary a public provision, however destructive and disorganizing, lest the people should possess themselves of the property of the country for very despair and recklessness.
“The city now abounds with beggars," says Isocrates,
* Alison on Population, ii. 48.
“ and the country with vagabonds.”
“ The whole city is filled with lamentations; the poor grieve apart, unrelieved and unnoticed."
“The poor, who, whilst they were assisted by the charity of their countrymen, preserved their virtues and their industry, when they were entitled by law to a certain provision, abandoned themselves to a degrading and reckless indolence; charity lost both its blessings. What the rich bestowed was the offering of their fears, and given without a hope or intention of doing good; it was eagerly seized by the poor, but with feelings rather of discontent at what was withheld, than of gratitude for what was bestowed. The poor increased in wretchedness and number, till they exceeded those who had property. One-third of the citizens were daily provided with the means of subsistence as
and used their leisure to support the schemes of the demagogues, which tended to make all others as wretched as themselves.
“ The contentions and pauperism of the Athenians continued to augment, so that when Athens submitted to Antipater, 12,000 out of the 20,000 citizens were struck off the rolls, as unfit, on account of their poverty, to take any share in the government of the city.” *
The history of the poor at Rome is still more strikingly analogous.
Distributions of corn to the poor began to be practised from the time of the expulsion of the kings. Afterwards it was made compulsory and regular, by the laws of the
* Robinson's Ancient Poor Laws, p. 33, 34.
Gracchi, the Sempronian laws, the Octavian, and the Clodian laws.*
“ The quantity received by each citizen was seemingly the same as a slave was entitled to from his master. M. Lepidus calls it scornfully “ a prison allowance; enough perhaps to avert instant death, and to enable the poor to starve by degrees, but insufficient to maintain a family and home.”
“In the time of Julius Cæsar, 320,000 citizens were receiving the public corn; but after a census, in which he examined the people from house to house, he struck off from this number 170,000. The persons relieved were registered, a provision was made to supply vacancies occurring in the list, and the prætor was constantly to keep up the number to 150,000.”+
Augustus altered the distributions to four times a year; but was forced to return to the monthly distribution. The number increased to 200,000. At one time, when there remained only three days' consumption in the public granaries, he had resolved to poison himself, unless the corn fleets arrived.
Several attempts were made by the emperors to recede from this destructive state of things. But “notwithstanding any endeavours to the contrary, pauperism gradually spread itself over nearly the whole population.” “ The distribution of corn under the Clodian law continued, with little variation, until the downfal of the
* Robinson's Ancient Poor Laws, p. 38 to 13, † Ibid. p. 44.
Ibid. p. 44 to 49.