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The Pamphlet Collection of Sir Robert Stout: Volume 51

Chapter V. — Creeping Things. — Second Epoch (1485—1688)

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Chapter V.

Creeping Things.

And the Devil quoted Genesis,
Like a very learned clerk,
How Noah and his creeping things
Went up into the Ark.

"Poor race of man," said the pitying Spirit,
"Dearly ye pay for your primal fall;
Some flow'rets of Eden ye still inherit,
But the trail of the serpent is over them all."

Second Epoch (1485—1688).

During the period just described the trail of the aristocratic serpent was easy to track in all its bloodstained windings; but with the advent of the first Tudor king it suddenly assumes a more intangible and altogether more labyrinthine character. Their deeds being evil they studiously shunned the light. From being the peers, and often the rivals of the monarch, our Old Nobility suddenly sank into a herd of cowardly, cringing courtiers, doing all the dirty work of royalty with incredible submissiveness, and going meekly to the block when the reigning tyrant was dissatisfied with their performance.

During the Tudor period the lords may be said to have had two functions: they registered royal decrees in their Upper Chamber, and gave employment to the Calcrafts and Marwoods of the day. Henry VII., with good reason, dreaded such straggling specimens of the older aristocracy as had escaped the Wars of the Roses, and as his reign abounded in small plots and impostures, he had an excellent excuse for cutting them off one by one and seizing their estates. He was a Louis XI. in craft, and no man could tell whose turn it would be next to undergo decapitation. He even managed to behead his chancellor, Sir William page 40 Stanley, to whom more than anyone else he owed the throne. Sir William's chief fault was that he was very rich, and Henry had always an eye to a fat confiscation. Surreys, Lovels, Ferrerses, De La Poles, Audleys, Ratcliffes, Fitzwalters, and more than thirty of Richard the Third's chief supporters, among them being the Duke of Norfolk, were attainted, with the usual consequences.

But, dexterous as the Seventh Henry was in the use of the aristocratic pruning-hook, he was a mere tyro compared with his ever-memorable son, Henry the Eighth. He began with a will. His first victims were the Dukes of Suffolk and Buckingham. Then came the venerable Bishop Fisher, and the illustrious Sir Thomas More—four alleged lovers of Anne Boleyn; and the chief actors in the Pilgrimage of Grace, Lords Darcey and Hussey, Robert Aske, and others. Montacutes, Exeters, Nevilles, Fortescues, Dingleys, Crom-wells, the aged Countess of Salisbury, and scores of others, reddened the scaffold with their blood.

The women showed more courage than the men. The Countess of Salisbury, whose only offence was that she was Cardinal Pole's mother, had to be held forcibly down on the scaffold, and was frightfully gashed and mangled. During Henry's reign the political and ecclesiastical executions were to be counted by the thousand. The Defender of the Faith, as has been well said, spared no man in his anger or woman in his lust. He made England an Aceldama, and yet he met with scarcely anything but abject servility from the successors of the "barons bold." The remorseless Earl of Essex, when his own turn came, whined piteously for mercy.

To please the tyrant, the Duke of Norfolk urged on the ruin of both his nieces, Anne Boleyn and Catherine Howard. "He had learned," he told the King, "that his ungracious mother-in-law, his unhappy brother and wife, and his lewd sister of Bridge water, are in the Tower, which, from his long experience of his majesty's equity and justice, he felt sure was not done but for false and traitorous proceedings." Henry's last victim was Norfolk's son, the accomplished Earl of Surrey. Norfolk himself escaped by a miracle. He was in the Tower, but Henry had not time to sign his death-warrant when his own span of life was cut short by the levelling Power that removes kings and beggars, saints and sinners, with perfect indifference.

page 41

One of the causes which reduced our Old Nobility to this abject state of servility in Henry the Eighth's reign was the hope of plunder. Henry was all the while reforming the Church, as he was pleased to call it. About one-third of the national soil was vested in the Church, or rather in the great monastic institutions, and Henry resolved to seize on this rich inheritance and divide it among the vile upstart instruments of his will. It was a huge bribe to give stability to his despotism, and it succeeded well; so true it is that "a gift corrupteth the heart." Fear, fortified by avarice, is an all but irresistible motive-power even in the case of honourable men; in the case of courtiers it has never been known to fail.

As to particular aristocratic families, who, like the Russells, Cavendishes, Cecils, and other Church Robbers, have monopolized political authority over this much-enduring people, I shall have something to say subsequently. For the present, let us glance at the effects of their aggrandizement. The Church lands were really the patrimony of the poor. The monks may have cultivated gastromony more than theology, but it is certain that they were not exacting landlords. They lived and let live; the poor they cherished, the traveller they entertained. They were the best husbandmen in England. No sooner had their lands passed into the hands of the rapacious gang of courtiers, than the poor were reduced to the utmost extremity. The land was filled with beggars, thieves, and vagabonds. Henry and Elizabeth without avail covered the Statute Book with Acts of repression. The poor had been robbed of their all, and this was how the robbers made provision for them.

Anyone might seize them and set them to work. If they made off, and were caught, they might be branded with a V on the breast, and be adjudged slaves for two years. If they went off again, they were to be chained and beaten, branded on the cheek with the letter S, and made slaves for life. Beggars' children might be kidnapped and made slaves till they were four-and-twenty. If they ran away they were to have their ear bored through with a hot iron an inch wide: if they absconded again, they were adjudged felons, and for a third offence they were to be put to death.

Henry the Eighth is said by Harrison to have hanged no page 42 fewer than 72,000 of these victims of his own and his courtiers' pillage. Elizabeth hanged them at the rate of from three to four hundred per annum. With a diabolical cynicism, Henry actually demanded from parliament compensation for his sacrifices in the reform of the Church!

And all through our unhappy annals it has been the same. When our hereditary rulers have not been plundering and maltreating us in one way, they have been doing it in another. When they have not been chastising us with whips, it has been because they have found scorpions more effective.

"When wilt Thou save the people, Lord—
Oh, God of mercy, when?
Not kings and thrones, but nations;
Not chiefs and lords, but men."

The history of our Old Nobility during the reigns of Edward VI., Mary, Elizabeth, and James I. is without a parallel for meanness, rapacity, and cowardice. "A Court," said Talleyrand, "is an assemblage of noble and distinguished beggars." They were nearly all "new men," mere creatures of royalty, raised by reason of their subserviency, their intrigues, and their crimes to great dignities and estates. Henry the Eighth had carved out fortunes for them from the Church lands and the confiscated possessions of the older nobles whom he had so sedulously sent to the block.

But the ring of upstarts only felt their hour really come when Henry expired and Edward VI., a boy of nine, came to the throne. They were now without a master, and they soon showed themselves in their true colours. "Set a beggar on horseback, and he will ride to the devil," says the proverb. The truth of this adage they illustrated to perfection, The Russells, Cavendishes, Wriothesleys, Fitzwilliams, Seymours, Dudleys, Petres, Bakers, Browns, Saddlers, Parrs, Wingfields, Dennys, Pagets, have been justly compared to fungi, which grow up luxuriantly wherever decaying or putrescent matter is to be found.

The ring at once proceeded to bestow on themselves fresh honours and emoluments by forgery and by an unscrupulous use of the boy-king's name. The Earl of Hertford (Seymour), the king's uncle, the leader of the gang, conferred on himself this extraordinary title:—"The Most High, Noble, and Victorious Prince Edward, Duke of Somerset, Earl of Hert- page 43 fort, Viscount Beauchamp, Lord Seymour, Guardian of the Person of the King's Majesty and Protector of all his Realms, his Lieutenant-General of all his Armies, both by land and sea; Lord High Treasurer and Earl Marshal of England, Governor of the Isles of Guernsey and Jersey, and Knight of the Most Noble Order of the Garter." The king was in reality a prisoner in his hands, and presently he designated himself, "Duke of Somerset by the grace of God!" His brother, Sir Thomas Seymour, became at a bound Baron Seymour of Sudley and Lord High Admiral of England; Wriothesley was successfully metamorphosed into Earl of Winchester and Earl of Southampton; Dudley, into Earl of Coventry and Earl of Warwick; John Russell, into Earl of Bedford; and, indeed, the most insignificant of the gang blossomed out into barons with corresponding incomes secured to them from what remained of the spoils of the Church and the estates of Henry's numerous lay victims.

And their warrant for most of these wonderful transformations—what was it? A clause, almost certainly a forgery, in the will of the libidinous murderer, Henry VIII.! We know that it was Henry's object to effect some sort of balance in the Council of Regency between the old and the new nobility. It was not in the least likely, therefore, that he would at the last moment deliberately commit the interests of the Crown to the sole custody of men whom he well knew to be the most unscrupulous rogues in the kingdom. Besides, the Seymour version of Henry's dying behests could not be made to tally with the date of the will—a fatal defect in the instrument, which shows that forgers, like liars, should have long memories.

As it was, however, this vile herd of Church-robbers took the affairs of the State into their own hands, and in a very short time the flames of insurrection broke out in a score of counties. They were, needless to say, quenched in blood; and then the thieves, as usual, took to quarrelling among themselves. Baron Seymour, the Protector's brother, plotted to supplant him He married the queen-dowager, Catherine Parr, and on that lady's death he secured the custody of Elizabeth, whom he proposed next to make his wife, obviously with the design of laying hands on the crown itself. The Duke of Somerset by the grace of God was, however, too page 44 many for him. He was arrested and executed, Somerset being the first to sign his death-warrant.

Then came Somerset's own turn. Warwick also had designs on the crown, and with the aid of Wriothesley, Russell, and St. John, he conspired successfully against the Protector, who was arrested and sent to that ancient slaughterhouse, the Tower, where his head was chopped off on the same block on which his brother's had fallen. Warwick then proceeded to decree himself and his followers fresh honours. He became Duke of Northumberland, Great Master of the Household, Warden of the Scottish Marches, Lord High Admiral, &c. He married his son, Lord Guildford Dudley, to Lady Jane Grey, whom he persuaded the dying boy-king—dying of poison, most probably—to make, by will, heir to the throne. The attempt failed, and scores of noble heads paid the penalty—those of Lady Jane Grey, Lord Guildford Dudley, Lord Robert Dudley, Lord Thomas Grey, the Duke of Suffolk, and others.

This Duke of Northumberland was the son of Henry the Seventh's hated jackal, Dudley, whom Henry the Eight beheaded for extortion and embezzlement. His grandson was that infamous Leicester who aspired to marry Elizabeth after the murder of his wife, the hapless Amy Robsart. Elizabeth's "Sweet Robin" was well worthy of his ancestry.

Under Queen Mary the Bloody there was not the least difficulty in bringing the House of Lords back to Catholicism. On a promise from Philip and Cardinal Pole that they should not be asked to disgorge the Church lands, they knelt at the feet of the Papal Legate, and were absolved collectively from the sins of heresy and schism. The cause of religious freedom was fought out chiefly by obscure sectaries and a few faithful ecclesiastics sprung from the commonalty. Their sufferings by the rack and at the stake were an indelible disgrace to the English name. During Mary's reign, royalty, aristocracy, and priestcraft—the three great scourges of humanity—coalesced to crush the English people, and they nearly succeeded. England was within an ace of becoming a province of Spain and of the Holy Inquisition.

But if Mary's reign was surcharged with public horrors, that of Queen Elizabeth abounds in secret misdeeds of the most revolting description. Her ministers, ambassadors, and page 45 lovers, recent investigations have shown, were worthy of their mistress : that is to say, like her, they were utterly conscienceless, hesitating at no crime however wicked, no lie however mean, no treachery however base. A trio of more consumate rogues than Cecil (from whom Lord Salisbury professes to be descended), Walsingham, and Saddler, the chief instruments of the queen's will, it is impossible to conceive. Their whole time seems to have been spent in forging plots, applying the rack, administering bribes, and planning murders.

How to destroy Mary Queen of Scots was the main object of Elizabethan diplomacy. Mary was beautiful and Elizabeth was not. This influenced the feminine jealousy of Elizabeth beyond measure. Again, Anne Boleyn had been married to Henry VIII. several months before the divorce of Catherine of Arragon. Hence Elizabeth felt that her own claim to the throne was barred, and that the unfortunate Queen of Scots was the legitimist heir.

In these circumstances she stuck at no hypocrisy or villany that promised to rid her of her cousin Mary. The Scottish Protestant lords, who had just gorged themselves after the manner of the English Russells, Cavendishes, and Wriothesleys, with the spoils of the Catholic Church, occasionally roasting refractory abbots to make them part with title deeds, were all instigated to rebellion by secret subsidies judiciously supplied by Sir Ralph Saddler. Argyle, Montrose, Arran, Glencairn, Murray (Mary's half-brother), and even the reformer, Knox, were heavily bribed. The murderers of Rizzio and of Darnley were in the pay of Elizabeth, just as were those of Cardinal Beatoun in that of her father, the Defender of the Faith. In all the troubles that befell Scotland and Queen Mary in that wretched period, the finger of Elizabeth's agents can be distinctly traced, bribing and stimulating to deeds of violence and wrong.

Eventually driven to seek asylum in England by the machinations of Elizabeth and her Cecils, Walsinghams, Saddlers, and Davisons, Mary was first subjected to many years' rigorous confinement, and then beheaded in defiance of the sacred obligations of hospitality and the law of nations. "Sweet Robin" of Leicester had suggested poison as a good specific, while other courtiers held that slow torture would be page 46 more difficult of detection. Even after Mary's death-warrant had been signed, the preferability of private assassination was vividly before the mind of the "Virgin Queen." Walsingham and the scapegoat Davison were instructed to write to Mary's keepers to say that Her Majesty "wondered, with all their professed zeal in her service, that they had not in all this time found out some way to shorten the life of that queen."

Sir Amyas Paulet, who was served with this precious document, replied in the utmost trepidation that "his goods, his life, were at her majesty's disposal—he was ready to lose them the next minute if it should so please her—but God forbid that he should make so foul a shipwreck of his conscience or leave so great a blot on his posterity, as to shed blood without law and warrant." For this creditable aversion to murder, the "Virgin Queen" stigmatized Paulet as "a precise and dainty fellow," and named less scrupulous agents.

Finally, however, she struck out a brilliant idea—Mary was to be executed by accident! Davison was instructed to deliver the death-warrant to the Lord Chancellor. He did so, and, to his amazement, was thrown into the Tower, where he perished after years of misery. Elizabeth mendaciously alleged that she had ordered the secretary to keep Mary's death-warrant in secret. All Elizabeth's leading nobles and ministers participated in this infamous judicial murder of a princess whom they, by their plots, had compelled to seek asylum in England.

All the while Burghley kept the rack hard at work, and the consequence was a rich crop of Papist plots. Most of them, we now know, were pure inventions, to escape the exquisite tortures to which the suspects were subjected. The groundlessness of the charges of disloyalty urged against the Catholics was fully attested by their courage and fidelity when England was put in real peril—

When that great Fleet Invincible against her bore in vain
The richest spoils of Mexico, the stoutest hearts in Spain.

Two samples of Burghley's statecraft will suffice. Francis Throgmorton, a Cheshire gentlemen of honourable repute, was thrice racked, and to escape a fourth application of the page 47 infernal instrument, made a confession which enabled him to enjoy the comparative luxury of the gallows and disembowelment at Tyburn. With his latest breath he protested his entire innocence, which there was no reason to doubt.

Dr. Parry, a member of parliament, took exception to certain peculiarly atrocious penal enactments. He was thrown into the Tower, from which he emerged so altered in demeanour that his friends were satisfied that the horrors of his prison-house had overthrown his intellect. He was even ready to aver that he had been employed by His Holiness the Pope to murder the queen. Nevertheless, he was ordered to the gallows forthwith. Like Throgmorton, he earnestly protested that his confession was an absolute fabrication to escape the rack, and that Burghley, Walsingham, and Elizabeth were well aware that such was the case. Burghley and the queen were alike deaf to his frenzied appeal, and he was hanged out of hand.

Under James I. there was no improvement in the character of our Old Nobility. The great rack-master, Cecil père, was succeeded by Cecil fits. There was nothing to choose between these remorseless and coldblooded men. Bacon, a man of high intellect, was steeped in corruption, and tireless in his laudation of "privilege." The brilliant Raleigh was a shameless adulator of royalty, and had his reward. The Somersets and Buckinghams were insolent royal favourites, with nothing to recommend them but their unspeakable vices and dandified exteriors.

The first Stuart made anybody a noble who was willing to pay for a title, and some he even compelled to pay for such honours against their will. Before he had been three months in England he had made seven hundred knights. He invented the order of baronets, so much coveted by City aldermen and such like rank weeds of our social life. The price of this hereditary dignity was fixed at £1,000; a simple knighthood was knocked down at from £60 to £300. Peerages, of course, cost a good deal more even than baronetcies. Of the former there were but fifty-six in Queen Elizabeth's time. James speedily added sixty-two more. £10,000 were customarily paid by men who aspired to become hereditary legislators. Our Fanes, Spencers, Cavendishes, Montagues, Peters, Tuftons, Stanhopes, Sackvilles, all paid down lump sums to page 48 the British Solomon, for the privilege of perpetually misgoverning the people. To the peers by Church robbery were now added peers by purchase, and the latter process of manufacture is still actively persevered with under somewhat altered conditions. A great landowner who, by lavish and corrupt expenditure, is able to control a county or two in the interests of his party, is almost certain, sooner or later, to secure a seat in the irresponsible house.

During the whole of this absurd king's reign, the peers, as in Elizabeth's time, crawled and fawned in the most loathsome manner. When the British Solomon talked some unusual nonsense at the Hampton Court Conference in regard to the royal prerogative, Bancroft, the Archbishop of Canterbury, declared that he was inspired by the Holy Ghost. Bacon almost went as far. "The king," he declared, "was the voice of God in the mouth of man." Such language, coming from the lips of such a man, were enough to make angels weep. Nor are we yet emancipated from this degrading lip-service of royalty. In Scotland, Mr. Gladstone recently strove to magnify the throne in a manner utterly unworthy of so great a man. Such exhibitions of hypocritical loyalty by statesmen are a degradation to them-selves, and ruinous to our political veracity as a nation. They almost tempt one to doubt whether we are not, after all, as Thackeray held, a nation of snobs, unworthy of the political martyrs, who have perished on scaffold and field and in vilest dungeons, that we might enjoy an inheritance of freedom.

The part played by the Peers in the great Revolution of 1648 and the sham Revolution of 1688 was equally unpatriotic and contemptible. In the former they ruined the Crown by their pusillanimity; in the latter they ruined the people by fraud. In neither crisis did they exhibit the smallest regard for any interests but their own. Had they joined the Commons in resisting the despotism of Charles I., constitutional liberty might have been secured to the nation without a single drop of bloodshed. Such a combination the king could not possibly have resisted.

What, then, was their action while the freedom of England—nay, of the world—hung in the balance? Charles demanded from his first parliament enormous supplies for page 49 life. These the Commons refused, because they well knew that they were to be used for the suppression of the nation's liberties. They declined to grant him tonnage and poundage for more than one year. The peers resented this indignity put upon royalty, and threw out the Bill. The king gave them thanks, while the Commons were branded as "vipers." "For you, my lords," said he, "I am glad to take this opportunity, and all other occasions, by which you may clearly understand both my words and actions; for, as you are nearest in degree, so are you the fittest witnesses of kings. The complaint I speak of is in staying men's goods that deny tonnage and poundage." In dissolving parliament, he said: "I declare to you, my lords, and all the world, that it is only the disobedient carriage of the Lower House that hath caused the dissolution at this time, and that you, my lords, are so far from causers of it, that I have as much comfort in your lordships' carriage as I have cause to distaste their proceedings."

Again, in a subsequent parliament, we find the Lords treacherously urging the Commons to grant the king supplies without the previous redress of national grievances. "Having the word not only of a king, but a gentleman," said they, "they would no more be capable of distrusting him than they would be capable of the highest undutifulness to him." The Representative House, however, knew full well that Charles, though a king, was not a gentleman in the observance of his plighted word, and paid no heed to the lordly advice. The Upper House then had recourse to another and entirely unconstitutional expedient—they usurped the function of regulating the course of business in the elected chamber, by voting that "supply should take precedence of all other business." This was not quite so bad as the present claim of the Peers to dissolve parliament; but the Commons, justly incensed, demanded an apology for so gross a breach of privilege, and the hereditary legislators were fain to express contrition. As usual, Charles angrily dismissed parliament, thanking the traitors in the Upper House "for their willing ear and great affection!"

When eventually the Long Parliament met and the royal banner was unfurled, noble lords found themselves in a position of supreme difficulty. Such of them, some forty in number, as had any stomach for fighting—a very meagre list page 50 indeed when it is recollected how many noble lords owed their patents to Charles and his father—hastened to the royal standard, which they believed would prove victorious. Some remained in London, terrified lest the people should triumph and their estates be confiscated. Others simply skulked, ignominiously hiding in holes at home and abroad—holes from which they did not emerge till the Restoration brought them again into political life in much the same way as summer suns revivify adders, snakes, vipers, and other venomous and un-clean reptiles.

Pym had well warned them of their fate. "Whether the the kingdom be lost or saved," said he, "they should be sorry that the story of the present parliament should tell posterity that in so great a danger and extremity the House of Commons should be found to save the kingdom alone, and the House of Peers should have no part in the honour of the preservation of it, you having so great an interest in the good success of their endeavours in respect of your great estates and high degree of nobility. My lords, consider what the present necessities and dangers of the commonweal require; what the Commons have reason to expect; to what endeavours and counsels the concurrent desires of all the people do invite you, so that applying yourselves to the preservation of the king and kingdom I may be bold to assure you, in the name of the Commons of England, that you shall be bravely seconded."

Of all our old nobility but one man, Lord Fairfax, really preferred the interests of the nation to those of his order. The Commons had to save England alone.

After the proclamation of the Republic, a number of peers had the assurance to return to their posts and endeavour to resume their legislative functions, but the Commons would not so much as deign to receive a messenger from them. They were promptly voted "useless and dangerous," and for nine years—from January 6th, 1649, to January 20th, 1658, when Cromwell made an abortive effort to constitute an Upper House—England was without a Second Chamber.

During this period the high-water mark of national greatness was indisputably attained. So rich did the people become under the vigorous rule of the Commonwealth that in 1653 the then vast sum of £900,000 a-year was offered for the page 51 Customs and Excise, and offered in vain. The English flag floated triumphant on every sea, and commerce expanded by leaps and bounds. Princes, popes, and cardinals did suit and service to the majestic people that had put down kings, peers, and prelates, and dared to assert its own unlettered sovereignty.

Are these glories incapable of revival? Did the Restoration of 1660 and the sham aristocratic Revolution of 1688 extinguish for good all that is noble, chivalrous, and patriotic in the bosoms of Englishmen? Let us hope not. Why should not 1888 witness as genuine a revolution as 1648? Heaven knows we have suffered enough for our backsliding since the restoration of kings and peers to their ancient functions of national oppressors.

At the Restoration our Old Nobility enjoyed their own again, and speedily reduced the country to a depth of infamy hitherto unknown. In league with the astute traitor, Monk, who was made Duke of Albemarle for laying the country helpless at the feet of Charles the Second and his lewd crew, there was no enormity at which they hesitated. Not content with judicially murdering Sir Harry Vane, Major-General Harrison, and more than twenty other unflinching champions of freedom, they even had recourse to cowardly assassinations. Two "cavaliers," shouting "God save the king!" shot Mr. Lisle, the husband of Alice Lisle, as he was about to enter the door of a church in Lausanne, one peaceful Sunday morning, and scampered off. General Ludlow had to obtain a body-guard from the authorities of Vevey to preserve him from a similar fate. Milton, the sublime poet, the deathless advocate of freedom, was within an ace of being hanged.

Nor did the aristocratic poltroons in the day of their prosperity confine their attention to the living. They wreaked their vengeance on the mighty dead, They dug up the bodies of Cromwell, Ireton, and Bradshaw; and gibbeted them at Tyburn. Those of Blake, the heroic Republican admiral, who made England the first naval power in the world; of Pym, a statesman as accomplished as Gladstone and assuredly not less honest; of May, the learned historian of the Long Parliament; and even the corpses of the unoffending mother and daughter of Cromwell were disinterred page 52 and "cast like dogs into a vile pit." Not a single trace of magnanimity marks the career of the restored aristocracy. They were as insolent and cruel in their unmerited prosperity as they had been craven in their merited adversity.

At the Restoration, feudal land dues, mostly commuted into money payments, yielded about one-half the national revenue. This was not to be endured. At a blow our old nobility divested themselves of their undoubted obligations, which they transferred to the shoulders of the people, whom they have scourged with intolerable Customs and Excise Duties ever since. They subsequently found it necessary to promise to pay a State rent of 4s. in the pound on true annual value as some compensation to the nation for this intolerable swindle. But they have with unblushing dishonesty substituted the original assessment of William the Third's reign for true annual value, with the result that the landlords are now paying little more than one million sterling, when they should be paying forty millions. "The Financial Reform Almanack" estimates that from 1688 to 1884 they have by non-payment of land-tax cheated the country out of the stupendous sum of £1,250,827,734! Of all modern aristocratic frauds this is the greatest, and if there were a reformer in the House of Commons worth his salt he would seize the very first opportunity of bringing the Peers to their senses by moving that the land-tax be levied on true annual value. The Peers possess about one-fifth of the national soil, yielding them nearly twelve millions sterling in rent. Of this huge sum the 4s. tax would relieve them of two millions and two-fifths, and as their friends and relations hold most of the remainder of the soil, the forty millions would mostly come out of the pockets of those who have so long benefited by the original fraud. Were not the House of Commons crammed with aristocrats and landowners such a palpable swindle would not be endured for a day.

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