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The Agricultural Interest

The present Government, having shown itself to be particularly
clever in its management of Indictments for Conspiracy, cannot do
better, we think (keeping in its administrative eye the pacification
of some of its most influential and most unruly supporters), than
indict the whole manufacturing interest of the country for a
conspiracy against the agricultural interest. As the jury ought to
be beyond impeachment, the panel might be chosen among the Duke of
Buckingham's tenants, with the Duke of Buckingham himself as
foreman; and, to the end that the country might be quite satisfied
with the judge, and have ample security beforehand for his
moderation and impartiality, it would be desirable, perhaps, to make
such a slight change in the working of the law (a mere nothing to a
Conservative Government, bent upon its end), as would enable the
question to be tried before an Ecclesiastical Court, with the Bishop
of Exeter presiding. The Attorney-General for Ireland, turning his
sword into a ploughshare, might conduct the prosecution; and Mr.
Cobden and the other traversers might adopt any ground of defence
they chose, or prove or disprove anything they pleased, without
being embarrassed by the least anxiety or doubt in reference to the
verdict.

That the country in general is in a conspiracy against this sacred
but unhappy agricultural interest, there can be no doubt. It is not
alone within the walls of Covent Garden Theatre, or the Free Trade
Hall at Manchester, or the Town Hall at Birmingham, that the cry
"Repeal the Corn-laws!" is raised. It may be heard, moaning at
night, through the straw-littered wards of Refuges for the
Destitute; it may be read in the gaunt and famished faces which make
our streets terrible; it is muttered in the thankful grace
pronounced by haggard wretches over their felon fare in gaols; it is
inscribed in dreadful characters upon the walls of Fever Hospitals;
and may be plainly traced in every record of mortality. All of
which proves, that there is a vast conspiracy afoot, against the
unfortunate agricultural interest.

They who run, even upon railroads, may read of this conspiracy. The
old stage-coachman was a farmer's friend. He wore top-boots,
understood cattle, fed his horses upon corn, and had a lively
personal interest in malt. The engine-driver's garb, and
sympathies, and tastes belong to the factory. His fustian dress,
besmeared with coal-dust and begrimed with soot; his oily hands, his
dirty face, his knowledge of machinery; all point him out as one
devoted to the manufacturing interest. Fire and smoke, and red-hot
cinders follow in his wake. He has no attachment to the soil, but
travels on a road of iron, furnace wrought. His warning is not
conveyed in the fine old Saxon dialect of our glorious forefathers,
but in a fiendish yell. He never cries "ya-hip", with agricultural
lungs; but jerks forth a manufactured shriek from a brazen throat.

Where is the agricultural interest represented? From what phase of
our social life has it not been driven, to the undue setting up of
its false rival?

Are the police agricultural? The watchmen were. They wore woollen
nightcaps to a man; they encouraged the growth of timber, by
patriotically adhering to staves and rattles of immense size; they
slept every night in boxes, which were but another form of the
celebrated wooden walls of Old England; they never woke up till it
was too late--in which respect you might have thought them very
farmers. How is it with the police? Their buttons are made at
Birmingham; a dozen of their truncheons would poorly furnish forth a
watchman's staff; they have no wooden walls to repose between; and
the crowns of their hats are plated with cast-iron.

Are the doctors agricultural? Let Messrs. Morison and Moat, of the
Hygeian establishment at King's Cross, London, reply. Is it not,
upon the constant showing of those gentlemen, an ascertained fact
that the whole medical profession have united to depreciate the
worth of the Universal Vegetable Medicines? And is this opposition
to vegetables, and exaltation of steel and iron instead, on the part
of the regular practitioners, capable of any interpretation but one?
Is it not a distinct renouncement of the agricultural interest, and
a setting up of the manufacturing interest instead?

Do the professors of the law at all fail in their truth to the
beautiful maid whom they ought to adore? Inquire of the Attorney-
General for Ireland. Inquire of that honourable and learned
gentleman, whose last public act was to cast aside the grey goose-
quill, an article of agricultural produce, and take up the pistol,
which, under the system of percussion locks, has not even a flint to
connect it with farming. Or put the question to a still higher
legal functionary, who, on the same occasion, when he should have
been a reed, inclining here and there, as adverse gales of evidence
disposed him, was seen to be a manufactured image on the seat of
Justice, cast by Power, in most impenetrable brass.

The world is too much with us in this manufacturing interest, early
and late; that is the great complaint and the great truth. It is
not so with the agricultural interest, or what passes by that name.
It never thinks of the suffering world, or sees it, or cares to
extend its knowledge of it; or, so long as it remains a world, cares
anything about it. All those whom Dante placed in the first pit or
circle of the doleful regions, might have represented the
agricultural interest in the present Parliament, or at quarter
sessions, or at meetings of the farmers' friends, or anywhere else.

But that is not the question now. It is conspired against; and we
have given a few proofs of the conspiracy, as they shine out of
various classes engaged in it. An indictment against the whole
manufacturing interest need not be longer, surely, than the
indictment in the case of the Crown against O'Connell and others.
Mr. Cobden may be taken as its representative--as indeed he is, by
one consent already. There may be no evidence; but that is not
required. A judge and jury are all that is needed. And the
Government know where to find them, or they gain experience to
little purpose.

Charles Dickens

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