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from the first, is, that the cardinal evils which afflict society, and which are most strongly fortified by usage, prejudice, and conventional power, seem to be decaying, and in some instances to perish, chiefly through the efforts of their advocates to maintain them. Who can doubt that an impetus which could hardly have been derived from elsewhere, accrued to the popular movement which swept away our nomination boroughs, from the insane declaration of the Duke of Wellington-then at the helm of government—that no parliamentary reform whatever was necessary; and that, had he to frame a constitution for a new country, he would stereotype the hideous deformities of our own? As little can it be doubted, that the efforts—dictated alike by the spirit of freedom and the principles of spiritual religionagainst the abominations of the established church of this realm, derive their most powerful aids from the imperious phantasies of the very heads of that church. The sly and sinister policy of a Blomfield, and the wrong-headed, uncalculating assumption of a Philpotts, the theoretic laxity,-out-heroding Paley himself,—of the bishop of Norwich on the momentous. question of doctrinal subscription, and the mad Puseyite freaks of timid rectors, stolid professors, and hair-brained curates, are so effectually doing the work which christian fidelity imposes on dissenters, as even to give some colour of propriety to that supineness from which it costs so much effort to arouse the more somnolent members of our community : insomuch that we hardly know whether the waking inquiry of some of our body, CUI BONO BISHOPS ?' is much more rational than the advice of others, prostrate in 'a langour which is not repose,' and which might be conveyed in the vulgar adage: ' Give them rope enough, and they'll hang themselves.' .
On the same principle, a few Carlton-Club elections-Cambridge elections, for example—which induce even high-minded men to court the ignominious brand of disfranchisement, will probably do quite as much for the cause of parliamentary reform as the energies of lecturers and the serious philanthropy of societies.
And so, too, in the matter of the Game Laws, to which we now propose to confine our remarks: Magistrates may continue to condemn them; the newspaper press may expose their turpitude ; coroners' juries may record their remonstrances, and county rates their mute, but most impressive evidence; but we are much mistaken if two or three Grantley Berkeleys (supposing more than one of that Phænix genus to exist) will not finish the business in a far more direct and satisfactory manner.
At this summa dies et ineluctabile tempus' in the longevity of the Game Laws, we cannot hope, nor shall we attempt, to ads
duce any new argument for their removal. Our object will be briefly to review the character and effects of those laws, and then to notice the arguments for their continuance urged by Mr. Berkley in the pamphlet before us. The privileges conferred by the Game Laws, like other manorial rights, must be classed among the remains of the feudal system. They are not, it is true, the worst remains of that decaying and pestilential régime. The most mischievous of these, unquestionably, is the hereditary descent of legislative power, under which the weakest and worst of men are enabled to control the voice of a nation, and divert the current of its prosperity into their own personal or party channels, simply because they have suffered the accident of being born of a titled lady, and often without any too strict regard to the secret of their paternity. But by a curious law, in obedience to which men merge the sense of more indirect evils, though ever so comprehensive, in the pressure of even the slightest that are immediate and palpable, the monster mischief of hereditary legislation is forgotten in the contemplation of the price-current and the visit of the tax-gatherer. Perhaps this principle accounts for the popular prejudices, now fast giving way, in favour of indirect as compared with proportional taxation. The time has, however, at length come, when the cultivators of the soil are not placed in the same category with game: they are no longer regarded as ferae naturae; and the sovereign protection which was heretofore exercised towards man, has been transferred to hares and pheasants et hoc genus omne. The problem of the original rights of property has long since been abandoned to the sepulchre of the philosopher's stone and the elirir vitae; and the very necessities of civilization have substituted prescriptive for primeval right. Still there are some claims of most ancient date, which may fairly be tried at the bar of public opinion: and among these, in defiance of antiquated usage, we may fairly place those which are sanctioned by the Game Laws. There is a natural sense of right and justice anterior to all law, and of which law itself is the offspring and the partial reflection. In accordance with this, every rational man admits that those animals which his neighbour breeds and feeds, and tends at his own expense of money and labour, are his by a natural and indefeasible right. The common sense of mankind would revolt from the seizure and slaughter of one's neighbour's sheep, oxen, or horses: the husbandman's right to reap his own corn has never, we presume, been questioned; but the bird which flies, with no law-bound discrimination, over the flourish
ing crops of all, alighting for its food or its pleasure on every field without distinction, is regarded in the unsophisticated notions of mankind as common property. Every man revolts from the injustice which would compel one man to pasture the sheep of another: and the very principle of the game preserver comes —and that in all justice—to be the principle of the game destroyer: the animals which I feed are mine. It is futile for my neighbour to apprise me that he spends five hundred a year for preserving his game: my answer is, they eat my oats. The argument that a large number of families are supported by his fantastic and luxurious extravagance: that he can supply thousands of heads of game for the annual amusement of a prince at a battue; and that he can turn the wavering balance of a tenantfarmer's political virtue by the weight of a brace of pheasants, is nothing to me. I answer, they trample beaten paths in my barley, and that their favourite delectation is in nibbling off my wheat stalks in the middle. It is a small consolation to the thrifty husbandman, that the animals which devour his crops all night amuse the right honourables in the day, and keep their dogs in condition, to half an ounce for the Newmarket stakes. And here, although foxes are not game, we cannot forbear a few remarks upon the injuries inflicted on the farmer by those whose zeal for the breeding and preservation of these offensive animals, is only surpassed by the almost insane enthusiasm with which they destroy them. A farmer, in the vicinity of a large and well-preserved fox cover, is the victim of innumerable depredations which he dares not complain of, and cannot redress. His poultry are stolen without mercy; his ducks, fowls, and goslings become mere game, always excepting the protection afforded to the latter and privileged class; even his young lambs are destroyed, and the remains of Mr. Reynard's feast buried in the adjoining field, for a second repast. But let him defend himself against this plunder if he dare. A friend of ours recently shot four of these desolators of his farm-yard, and nailed their carcases to his barn door. Happy man he did not reside in a hunting country, else the lightest retribution he would have incurred would have been to be hustled and mobbed in the corn-market, and sent to Coventry at the ordinary. Good farmers, too, have a pride in good hedges, and maturally set some value on their young crops; yet it is no uncommon thing for a field of two hundred horsemen to gallop nearly abreast over their seeds and their growing corn, breaking their hedges and rails to mere firewood; thus most seriously damaging their crops, and affording many a day's work to their labourers, whose wages the master of the hounds would as much think of paying, as of paying the farmer's income-tax. Yet the unfortunate tenant does not dare to open his mouth; and would as soon think of poisoning his wife, as of shooting one of these vermin if it were cantering away before his eyes, with his favourite duck over his shoulders. Now, with all deference to the honourable Grantley Berkley, we must take leave to designate this as a scandalous and intolerable injustice: the only principle on which we can account for this disgraceful injury inflicted by men of honour—men who would not escape from an hotel by the window, leaving their bill unpaid, is that suggested by the ancient satirist, ‘DEFENDIt NUMERUs.” The injustice which no individual Meltonian would dare to inflict, and which he would be the first to resent, is sanctified in his estimation by the company of a hundred blockheads in scarlet, and in no way interferes with their convivial gratulations on an excellent day’s sport. But the inexperienced reader will perhaps say, he has the protection of the law, let him bring his action for trespass, or lay his complaint before the bench of magistrates. We can only say, that should he ever commit such a trespass in the court of the great unpaid, especially with a country clergyman or two on the bench, he has only.one greater blunder to commit, and that is, to carry a grievance into an ecclesiastical court. But again; it may be supposed, that the farmer's liability to these outrages is the unavoidable accident of his condition, and that it is not permitted and perpetuated by act of parliament. Perhaps the principle, de minimis non curat lea, which the rustic might freely translate—the law takes no care of very small farmers, might seem to the uninitiated to cover the case. But let us look to the act, anno primo, Georgii IV. Regis, cap. 56. In this act it is provided, that “if any person shall wilfully or maliciously commit any damage, injury, or spoil upon any building, fence, hedge, gate, stile, guide-post, milestone, tree, wood, underwood, orchard, garden, nursery-ground, crops, vegetables, plants, land, or other matter or thing growing or being therein, or to or upon real or personal property of any nature or kind soever, he may be immediately seized by anybody without a warrant, taken before a magistrate, and fined (according to the mischief he has done) to the extent of £5, or in default of payment, may be committed to the jail for three months.” And at the end comes a clause exempting from the operation of this act all mischief done in hunting and by shooters who are qualified. ‘This,” says that wittiest of divines, ‘Sydney Smith, ‘is the most impudent piece of legislation that ever crept. into the statute-book, and, coupled with Mr. Justice Best’s declaration, constitutes the following affectionate relation between the different orders of society. Says the higher link to the lower, “If you meddle with my game, I will immediately murder you; if you commit the slightest injury upon my real or personal property, I will take you before a magistrate, and fine you five pounds. I am in parliament, and you are not; and I have just brought in an act of parliament for that purpose. But so important is it to you that my pleasures should not be interrupted, that I have exempted myself and friends from the operation of this act; and we claim the right (without allowing you any such summary remedy) of riding over your fences, hedges, gates, stiles, guide-posts, mile-stones, woods, underwoods, orchards, gardens, nursery-grounds, crops, vegetables, plants, lands, or other matters or things growing or being thereupon, including your children and yourselves, if you do not get out of the way.’ Is there upon earth such a mockery of justice as an act of parliament pretending to protect property, sending a poor hedge-breaker to jail, and specially exempting from its operation the accusing and the judging squire, who, at the tail of the hounds, has that morning, perhaps, ruined as much wheat and seeds as would purchase fuel a whole year for a whole village’’ But to return from these more general aristocratic grievances, to the specific evils of the game-laws. These, with all the vexation, destruction of neighbourly feeling, public expense, multiplied crime, and not infrequent murder, of which they are a prolific source, proceed upon the principle, that wild animals are as essentially the private property of certain individuals, as any other species of possession. To this assumption, the common sense and the universal feeling of society ever has been and, we venture to predict, ever will be most resolutely opposed; while the horrible murders committed in its support alike by the law, the game-keeper, and the poacher, the extended term of transportation and imprisonment, entailing the ruin of individuals and the pauperization of families, and the perfectly disgusting brutality of county and clerical magistrates, have so deepened and strengthened this feeling that, on this account alone, it becomes imperative that the game-laws should be abolished, even were there some appearance of justice and propriety in the arguments adduced for their continuance. In support of this position, we will refer to one or two recent instances out of hundreds, with which the public press is continually teeming. It will perhaps be recollected, that at a meeting of the magistrates of Bedfordshire, in sessions, a proposal for the enlargement of the county jail was vigorously resisted by a worthy baronet, a member of parliament, on the ground that it was only necessitated by the laws