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for reducing the rates of postage to the uniform charge of one penny. Previously to a change which entitles Mr. Rowland Hill to the rank of a public benefactor, letters were charged according to distance, the rate increasing so much in proportion to the distance as to render communication between the poor living at a distance from one another a rare luxury. Under the old system the number of letters which passed through the post-office in a week was little more than a million and a half. Ten years afterwards, under the new system, that is to say, in 1849, the average was found to have increased more than five-fold. But if we spring forward to the present time, we find the increase to be still greater. Within London alone are annually delivered to its citizens a hundred million of letters. An equal number pass from or through London to other places, while the number of letters from all quarters delivered within the United Kingdom amount to 456 millions, or six times as many as were delivered under the old system. Not only are letters carried, but books and manuscripts pass through the post for a moderate charge. In 1855, the number of book parcels which passed through the post-office numbered nearly three millions, and this must now have greatly increased. As we have pointed attention to the moral side of the railway system by exhibiting it as a proof of energy and skill, so ought we to dwell even more emphatically on the same aspect of the post-office arrangements. It holds out an additional inducement to the poor to learn to write, and thus family ties are strengthened, while knowledge and sympathy are extended. The barrier being removed, distant friends and scenes are brought near. The post-office has done still another service by becoming the transmitter of small sums of money by means of post-office orders, thus putting it within the power of the poor to help one another with little gifts and loans. That this arrangement has encouraged saving, and the accompanying virtues of forethought, prudence, and generosity, can be gathered from official returns, which show a steady increase from £313,000, transmitted in 1839, to £11,009,000, in 1855. It is a fact worthy of record in this place, that the Irish emigrants in the
COMMERCE AND AGRICULTURE.
United States have been sending home at the rate of a million a year to their relations at home.
said to owe to
To show how
As without the facilities afforded by railways the postal charge would hardly have been possible, so may we be railway lines the extension of the telegraphic wire. Providence ripens discoveries at the right time, we may also notice the discovery of gutta percha, a few years ago, without which substance for a coating the telegraphic wire could not have been laid under the sea. While we are writing, the Queen of England and the President of the United States are exchanging friendly messages through the sub-Atlantic cable. What this fluid is which travels at the rate of 15,000 miles a second, is not to be satisfactorily told by wondering man; and we are only on the threshold of the revelation of its incalculable effects on mankind. We know that, before long, every part of the world will be in instantaneous communication, whilst the possible result upon the relations, progress, and character of the race at large we cannot estimate.
With the railway we have to combine the navigable steam-power of England. It is worthy of attention, that the commercial and naval strength of the country mingle in a way which cannot be separated. There are several companies which possess fleets of steamers, that in case of war could be rendered serviceable against the enemy. These are the Peninsular and Oriental, the West Indian, the Atlantic, and other companies, whose vessels are more magnificent than ships of war a century ago. The regular British fleet is equal to those of all other nations united. What our commercial ships are may be estimated by our commerce, which is double that of the United States, while our exports equal those of the four greatest states of Europe, namely, France, Austria, Russia, and Spain.
While commerce is increasing, agriculture, which for a long time had not kept equal pace, has of late years taken a fresh start. The great increase of population in manufacturing towns has led to corresponding demands for better provisions than simple pea
santry are contented with, and the railroads afford facility of transport, which with farmers is an important consideration. Science has turned its vivifying attention to the fields, and between analysis of soils and application of prepared manures, with improved tillage, drainage, and the application of steam-power to agricultural purposes, the products of the soil may be confidently expected to in
The universal progress in material comfort is nowhere more visible than in the improved clothing which we wear, and the more ample furnishings of the houses, even of the humbler ranks. The application of steam-power to the manufacture of goods has aided the reduction of the price of all the more essential articles of clothing; while increased skill, in other departments, has brought within the reach of the masses what a century or two ago constituted the luxuries of the rich. Improvements in the building of our houses and their drainage are adding to the wealth of the community.
Let us never forget, however, that the greatness of a country does not consist in its wealth and national power, but that these ought, properly speaking, to be only the external signs of its enlightenment and virtue; yet when we come to inquire into the moral and religious state of a people, proofs cease to be of the same tangible character. And yet, that the state of society is better, in every respect, than it was throughout the last century, cannot be doubted; and, as respects the present day, the religion and morality of England may bear favourable comparison with any other country. The influence of the Court, under our good Queen Victoria, has been most salutary. What has been attained, however, should not satisfy any one who wishes the enduring prosperity of his native country. The question ought to be, Has English enlightenment and morality kept pace with the mighty means which Providence has placed at her disposal for good? A great danger, against which we ought to guard, accompanies increase of wealth; and it is to be feared that, as the opportunities for enterprise increase, we may neglect that self culture which, when re
PRESENT STATE OF GREAT BRITAIN.
garded as embracing all our moral and religious duties, constitutes the main end of our being. So far, however, as social morality and philanthropy show themselves in the creation of institutions adapted to meet all human wants, the condition of our country is hopeful. More churches have been built in the last half century than in the preceding five, while dissenting chapels have no less increased. The upper classes show more regard for the lower, and more concern for their elevation; while the latter are beginning to show more foresight than of old, and to give many evidences of a good moral spirit. By a return within the present year, it appears that working-men's associations in England and Wales, for relieving suffering brethren in sickness and necessity, number two million members, with subscriptions amounting to nine millions sterling. Savings-banks and insurance societies have largely increased. But very much remains to be done. The best characteristic of the day is this, that whenever an evil is pointed out, or a want noticed, there are almost always to be found zealous persons ready to devote themselves to the good work of seeking a remedy.
Notwithstanding all these signs of material and moral progress, we have to deplore a vast increase of pauperism in the lowest scale of society, a wretchedness of moral and physical condition which, in some of its aspects, is as alarming as it is sad. The rapid growth of towns, and the consequent overcrowding of population, intensify these miseries and add disease and premature death to the evils under which the poorest suffer. To this aspect of society the intelligent and thoughtful are by no means blind; and to provide a partial remedy for this state of things, the education of the people has been taken up as a national concern in England and Ireland, and a fresh stimulus given to it in Scotland. When our primary schools, under well-trained teachers, discharge their proper function of thoroughly educating the people in all that relates to their physical wellbeing, and their social and religious duties, we may hope to find more promising fields than we have at present for attempts to ameliorate the condition of the miserable and the outcast.
The main agent in the work of exposing wrong and suggesting
reform is the public press, an instrument of modern creation. the days of the Stuarts, the only newspaper was the Gazette, which chronicled the movements of the court, with a dry mention of particular events. The leading article of the present day was, up to a recent period, represented by the political pamphlet, which, however powerful as a party weapon, was limited in its range and confined to narrow circles of readers. Periodical publications followed, which, to a certain degree, opened a channel for the expression of social wants; but the newspaper, as now conducted, by the promptitude of its immediate bearing on all questions, and the universality of its correspondence and readers, brings together, as it were, the whole nation in common consultation, so that laws become, in point of fact, the act of the people, by being in conformity with their expressed opinion. If the literary productions of the age be questioned, and, whether fairly or unfairly, ranked lower than those of preceding times, yet is it certain that never before was knowledge so widely diffused. They who refuse to acknowledge the greatness of those names which at present adorn every walk of literature, science, and art, allow themselves to be misled by the preponderating mass of current writings, emanating from minds of average talents, whom the increased facilities of publication allow to appear in print. These bear testimony to more diffused education, and should not be quoted as proofs of declining genius. Since the days of Queen Anne, when we last noticed the literature of Britain, a succession of great names has appeared. In the latter days of the reign of George II., Dr. Johnson, in the Rambler and other publications, revived the ethical essays of the Spectator and Tatler. Reid and Dugald Stewart analysed the operations of the human mind with extraordinary subtlety. Fielding, Richardson, Sterne, Smollett, Goldsmith, Miss Burney, all followed the inimitable Defoe. Hume, Gibbon, and Robertson will ever remain standard historians. Blackstone threw light on law as a science. Adam Smith did the same for political economy. Cowper enchanted the world with his Task, and Burns rose the national poet of Scotland. The reign of George III.