1 DECEMBER 1849, Page 1


For some time we have seen a steady decline of rural wages ; and from what passed at the Gloucestershire Agricultural dinner the other day, it does not seem likely that there should be any improvement in that matter. Farmers there insisted that they must be relieved from the unbearable burden of pauperism ; and landlords joined in admitting that the condition of the poor this winter would probably touch their hearts even more than their pockets. It is true that an excellent feeling prevailed—a spirit of improvement and of mutual consideration between landlords and farmers, and that more than one practical agriculturalist incul- cated the doctrine that it is both a duty and a profit to employ an increased quantity of labour : but such a change of plan is not to be brought about in a hurry ; and even if it were, the very hard- ness of the season, which will inflict such suffering on the poor, may arrest agricultural occupations. Nor is that all : rick-burnings have commenced in four or five Counties, North and South, East and West,—the great beacon- signals to proclaim that the wretchedness in which the labouring poor are sunk has gone beyond bounds. It is very foolish, no doubt : but extreme misery makes man angry; so does the re- fusal of work, especially if the subsistence of wife and children depends on that work ; so does the refusal of relief. Farmers cut down their labour, and labourers burn down the stacks. The political movement of the week is confined to the Freehold Land Societies, which continue their agitation. A meeting was held in Glasgow; but it is deemed a sort of failure, since most of the leading " Liberals " absented themselves, and the meeting was strongly imbued with Chartism. The meeting of the Metropolitan Society was more successful, and the speech of Mr. Cobden has at- tracted considerable notice. Mr. Cobden promises to make a suffi- cient number of votes to turn the elections in important counties ; to elevate the working man, by giving him a good investment for his savings, landed property, and a vote : but his admissions out- weigh his promises,—the freehold may not suit the purchaser for a residence ; it may cost any sum from 20/. to 501. ; and the whole Plan is to be effected by a seven-years agitation, in which Mr. Cobden is to labour daily. Some working men appeared at the meeting, and laid down their savings,—an incident that told well ; but probably they will hesitate next time, after they have read Mr. Cobden's speech.