Page images
PDF
EPUB

the natural effect of strengthening the Whig party both in numbers and in zeal. The industrial classes, who formed the bulk of the party, were largely increased. The anti-Gallican and anti-Papal enthusiasms were intensified by great personal wrongs. The Dissenting or Low Church interest obtained a great accession of power from the presence of a large body of men educated in non-episcopal churches; and the great Whig maxim, that a government should accord perfect toleration to all Protestant sects, derived a new strength from the manifest material benefits it produced.

The influence of the industrial classes had for a long time been steadily increasing, with the accumulation of industrial wealth. The reigns of the Stuarts, though in their political aspects they were in many respects chequered or disastrous, formed a period of almost uninterrupted material prosperity, the more striking because it was not due to any of those great mechanical inventions which in the present century have suddenly revolutionised great departments of industry. The progress was strictly normal. It may be ascribed to the reclamation of waste lands, to the extension and development of the colonies, to the freedom of the country for a long period from any serious land war. It was noticed, as a remarkable sign of the democratic spirit that followed the Commonwealth, that country gentlemen in England had begun to bind their sons as apprentices to merchants,2 and also, that about the same time the desire to obtain large portions in marriage led to alliances between the aristocracy and the merchants. Sir W. Temple, writing in the last quarter of the seventeenth century, says: "I think I remember within less

Thus Atterbury very bitterly wrote: 'I scarce ever knew a foreigner settled in England, whether of Dutch, German, French, Italian, or Turkish growth, but became a Whig in a little time after mixing with us.''English Advice to the Freeholders of England' (1714), Somers's Tracts, xiii. p. 537.

2 See Hume's Hist. of England, ch, lxii.

VOL. I.

[blocks in formation]

than fifty years, the first noble families that married into the city for downright money, and thereby introduced by degrees this public grievance which has since ruined so many estates by the necessity of giving good portions to daughters.' The increase of wealth was abundantly attested by all the best authorities. Thus Sir Josiah Child, who published his wellknown Discourse on Trade' in 1670, assures us that both the merchants and shipping in England had doubled in twenty years. Petty, in his Political Arithmetic,' which was published a few years later, declared that within forty years the value of the houses of London had doubled, while most of the leading provincial towns had largely increased, that the royal navy had tripled or quadrupled, that the coal-shipping of Newcastle had quadrupled, that the value of the customs had tripled, that the postage of letters had multiplied twentyfold, and that, through the great increase of money, the natural rate of interest had fallen from eight to six per cent. Davenant, who examined with great care the material condition of the country at the time of the Revolution, supplies much evidence to the same effect. He tells us that the tonnage of the merchant shipping in 1688 was nearly double of what it had been in 1666; that the royal navy had increased from 62,594 tons to 101,032 tons; that the customs, which in 1666 were farmed out for 390,000l. a year, had in the last seventeen years yielded on an average 555,752l. In a work published in 1698, he calculated that the general rental of England had risen, since the beginning of the century, from 6,000,000l. to 14,000,000l., and the purchasing value of the land from 72,000,000l. to 252,000,000l.2 The whole income of the country at the time of the Revolution was estimated at about 43,500,0001,3

by foreign traffic, the wise father at
home employs his talent in railing at
foreigners.'-See Southerden Burn's
Hist. of Protestant Refugees, p. 13.
1 Temple's Miscellanies.

2 Child's Discourse on Trade. Petty's Political Arithmetic, pp. 170

171. Davenant's Discourses on the Public Revenue and Trade of England. Macpherson's Annals of Commerce, ii. 629–630.

Gregory King's Conclusions upon the State of England, § vi.

Of the manufactures, the most important were still those of wool, which had already become famous under the Tudors, and were scattered through the valleys of the Thames and Severn, through East Norfolk, South Lancashire, Yorkshire, and Westmoreland. The iron and hardware manufactures of Sheffield and Birmingham were already in existence, and it was noticed that in the later Stuart reigns industry was not only largely increased, but was also more and more concentrated in a few great centres. The prosperity of the country was very seriously retarded by the war that followed the Revolution, but it resumed its progressive march after the Peace of Ryswick, and was accelerated by the foundation of the Bank of England, which greatly assisted credit; by the renovation of the coin, which gave a new stimulus to every branch of industry; and, perhaps, also by the partial abolition of two considerable trade monopolies. The African trade, though it had been largely pursued by interlopers, was from the early Stuart reigns legally a monopoly; but in 1698 all English subjects were allowed to trade, without restriction, in negroes, gold, and silver; and the other branches of the African trade were also opened to them, provided they paid to the Company a duty of five per cent. on redwood, and of ten per cent. on other goods. The Russian trade had been accorded to some London adventurers, who, in the reign of Mary, when seeking for a north-west passage to China, had discovered. Archangel, and it had been confirmed to their successors by an Act of Elizabeth. The Company, however, proved too limited and feeble to contend with the rivalry of the Dutch, and it was accordingly enacted, in 1699, that all English subjects might belong to it on the payment of 51.2 At the close of the reign of William, a return of the mercantile navy of England was drawn up by the Commissioners of Customs, from which it appears that the number of vessels belonging to all the English ports was then 3,281, measuring 261,222 tons, and employing 27,196 men. Of these vessels 560 belonged to 'Baines' Hist. of Liverpool, 253-259. 2 Macpherson.

London, 165 to Bristol, and 143 to Yarmouth. The costly wars of Anne, though they for a time depressed, did not permanently injure, industry. The lowest point in this reign appears to have been in 1705, when the value of the exports was only 5,308,9667.; but in 1713, 1714, and 1715, the three years which immediately followed the peace, the average value was 7,696,573l., which exceeded by nearly a million sterling the amount in the preceding peace.

Many of these figures can, of course, only pretend to an approximate accuracy. All of them appear very small when compared with the gigantic dimensions of modern commerce, but they are sufficient to show that the condition of England was a healthy and a progressive one, and that the commercial classes were steadily rising in importance. One result of this increasing prosperity must, indeed, be looked upon with very mingled feelings. I mean the rapidly accelerated disappearance of the yeomanry class. The main causes of the destruction of this most useful element of English country life are very evident. The system of primogeniture, settlements, and entails, as well as the maze of expensive intricacies with which English law has encumbered the transfer of land, by diminishing greatly the amount which is brought to market, have given it an unnatural and monopoly price, which is still further increased by the social distinction its possession confers, and by the country tastes which make its acquisition an object of great desire to the rich. Under such circumstances the continued existence of a large class of small proprietors was impossible. Men of narrow means could not afford to purchase land. Small landowners had the strongest inducement to sell. But the impulse was greatly strengthened when the development of commercial and manufacturing industry multiplied the paths to wealth. On the one hand, the number of large fortunes competing in the land market was increased. On the other hand, numerous additional facilities were furnished for investing small capitals 2 Craik's Hist. of Commerce, il

'Macpherson's Annals of Commerce, ii. 719.

163.

in more lucrative employments than agriculture. The enclosure of common land, rendering the position of the small yeoman more difficult, aggravated the tendency, and the result was a very considerable transfer of energy from the country to the towns. The feebler members of the yeomanry sank gradually into tenants or labourers, while the more ambitious and enterprising were rapidly absorbed in industrial life.1

Of the population of the great manufacturing and trading towns, we are, unfortunately, unable to speak with much. precision. No official census of the population of England was made till 1801, and the computations that were based on the returns of births and deaths, and of the hearth-money, though far from valueless, are too vague and too conflicting to be positively relied on. According to the estimates we possess, the population of England at the beginning of the eighteenth century appears to have been somewhat under 6,000,000,2 of whom about a tenth part were concentrated in London. Next to London, but next at a great interval, was Bristol, which retained its position as the second city in England till after the middle of the eighteenth century, and owed its wealth chiefly to its large trade with the American colonies. Its population under Charles II. is said to have been 29,000, and in the middle of the eighteenth century rather more than 90,000.3 Norwich, which was an old resort of Flemish refugees, and was famous during many generations for its manufacture of worsted and

On this subject much valuable evidence has lately been collected in Thornton's Over Population, Cliff Leslie's Land Systems of Ireland, England, and the Continent, Nasse's Essay on Land Tenures, and in some of the papers published by the Cobden Club.

2 The estimates, as might be expected, are very various. ChiefJustice Hale in 1670 computed the population of England at at least 6,000,000. In 1689 another authority, who reckoned the large number of six persons for every house, fixed the population at 7,380,000. Davenant,

[blocks in formation]
« PreviousContinue »