When you, Sir, about fifteen years ago, solicited my vote as a Freeholder for the County of Monmouth, and when I with a skein of thread around my neck, came into your presence, I shook like an aspen leaf. Not, Sir Charles, that there was anything terrific in your appearance, for you were, and still are, a handsome little man. But you were a Baronet, Sir Charles Morgan of Tredegar; a man possessed of great power: a knowledge of this operated on my nervous system, and produced the effects which I have described.
In a short time after, Lord Arthur Somerset called on me for the same purpose. This visit was near killing me. I had at that time got a little higher in the world. I was, when his Lordship came into my shop, in the act of weighing snuff. The sight of a Lord so overpowered me, that instead of putting the snuff into the box of an old woman, it dropped from my hand, and I became motionless as a statue. My tongue clave to my mouth. Mr. Prothero will probably recollect, (though I suppose having been since engaged in affairs of great importance, these little things have escaped his memory) that, when he introduced his Lordship, I could scarcely reply to the very simple question which he put to me. But, now Sir Charles I have seen a little more of the world. I have lived long enough to know, that men may possess immense wealth, without making use of that wealth to promote the happiness of their fellow creatures; and, that, although men may abound in riches, although men may have in their power, the means of securing the respect of their neighbours; yet, that it is possible, that a man, with all these advantages, may live unrespected, and die unregretted. My acquaintance with the world, has taught me another lesson; and that is, that men may fill situations in life the most important, that the happiness of millions of human beings may depend on those who have not capacity for Constables.
You have Sir Charles on various occasions declared, that it would give you pleasure to promote the interest of the inhabitants of Newport. This was a wise determination; for, as the greater part of the town belongs to you, in promoting the welfare of the inhabitants, you serve yourself.
The right to property can never be so absolute as to sanction oppressive conduct in the owners of it; and when a great land owner treats his tenants as slaves, or suffers others to treat them as such, it naturally excites a spirit of enquiry, as to the right the Landlord has to the property; and you know Sir Charles, that the titles by which the great landed estates are held, will not bear a very strict investigation. You, Sir Charles have thought proper to commit your tenants to the tender mercies of a Lawyer, and from such tender mercies, "Good Lord deliver us." You may think it impertinent in any one to call in question the right which you have to appoint whom you please to manage your estate; but, Sir, if the public are not to dispute the right, they certainly may without committing any very great crime, question the wisdom of the appointment. But, Sir Charles, when the appointment of any man to a situation which gives him great power, becomes an evil; the public have a right to interfere; they have a right to shew the evils which result from such an appointment.
In order that the public may have clear ideas of the origin of the dispute between the burgesses of Newport on the one part, and yourself, the mayor and aldermen of Newport, and your agent on the other; it will be necessary that I refer to transactions which took place about twenty years ago.
When the Agent of his Grace the Duke of Beaufort took possession of property which the burgesses claimed, the late Sir Charles Morgan, and yourself, attended at the meetings of the Burgesses which were held for the purpose of obtaining the property, which they considered the Duke had taken possession of illegally. The application to the Duke of Beaufort on the part of the burgesses was successful. The burgesses were restored the property of which they had by mistake been deprived. As I told Mr. Prothero in my letter to him, Mr. Edward Edmonds was appointed to receive the profits arising from the Wharf.
What did the burgesses do when the Duke of Beaufort restored the Wharf to them? What did they do? They evinced a spirit not often found among the great. The Duke of Beaufort had expended a large sum of money on the property of others, many of the burgesses were poor, yet they agreed that the property should be valued, and that his Grace should be repaid nearly the whole of what he had laid out. Does not this conduct on the part of the Burgesses crimson the cheeks of their calumniators? Poo, poo, blush indeed! make these men ashamed of anything! "They have eaten shame and drunk after it."
But, how, Sir Charles has this money been applied? The question to you is a very proper one. You were active in obtaining the property for the burgesses. You declared, that the only object you had in view, was the good of the burgesses. Have you performed your promise? His Grace the Duke of Beaufort has received nothing of what he expended on the property, the burgesses have received nothing, then what is become of the money? The Wharf has been let at upwards of £100 a year, the rent has been regularly paid, and yet there is no account of the money!
You have received, I believe for upwards of twenty years, £150 a year for the Tredegar Warehouse and Wharf, a great part of which is built on the land of the Freemen; and while many of the burgesses, and the widows of burgesses have wanted the common necessaries of life: you, Sir Charles have enjoyed their property. Here's a pretty affair! And in a law-maker too.
Now, Sir Charles, we will examine this question, and it shall be done with decency. I will make use of no language which an impartial person will think improper. If indeed I were addressing your Agent, I should not be very nice in my expressions. The English Language does not contain words sufficiently strong to express my opinion of him, for him, the fouler the better. The question for our discussion is, whether I should be justified, if I were a tenant of yours in witholding your rent.
This is I believe clear, that every tenant of yours has a title to his property equally sacred as that of yours to Tredegar Estate; this no one will for a moment doubt. But, say you, if I have violated a law; if I have taken possession of property to which I have no claim, the law is open. "We live in a country whose laws are the envy and admiration of the world." Let the law take its course, and I will abide by its decision. Very good, Sir Charles. This is the old story about the laws of our country. Fine doctrine this. Very fine in theory, but very deficient in practice. It is well known, that justice cannot be obtained in this country without money; and a great deal of it too. If any one wish to have a clear exemplification of this, let him employ your agent; he will soon teach him what sort of laws we live under. It is notorious, that the rich in this country oppress the poor; we have every day clear proofs of this.
When a poor man suffers from a rich one, and when the rich man, in the pride of his heart, tells the sufferer to seek redress from the law; he adds insult to injury. The wealthy man knows, that he has the means, although his cause be a bad one, of triumphing over him who has no money; and we daily see poor men, placing in the hands of the rich, those things which are made use of to their own injury. If the burgesses of Newport were to commence legal steps to recover the property, of which you have injustly deprived them, you would fight them with their own weapons. The rent which you receive from the Tredegar warehouse would be employed to injure the real owners of the property.
When a few burgesses of Newport, at your request, waited on the mayor and aldermen at the Heath-Cock; the burgesses never supposed that they should be treated with incivility, particularly from you. From your agent they might expect anything. From him, whose impudence is exceeded by nothing but his ignorance, no conduct however glaring could surprise them. But you, Sir Charles, a gentleman of the first consequence, a member of Parliament, you to treat petitioners rudely; is such a mark of a tyrannical disposition, as proves plainly what you would do if you could.
You thought it a proof of spirit, to insult those who complained of injuries. The burgesses were prepared to lay before you their claim to the property now in your possession; and, although they attended at your request, your agent, Thomas Prothero, attorney at law, interrupted them in their statement, and you, his master, supported him in such conduct. Ah, Sir Charles, there must have been some cogent reason for this. No man in his senses, without reasons of a very forcible nature, would have put up with such an insult. You were the person insulted, nor is there a man in the country but what felt for you. What! a gentleman to tell a burgess, that he was very sorry that "any dispute should have taken place," that he could not rest comfortably at home, in consequence of the unpleasantness arising from this disagreement, to invite the burgesses to attend on a certain day, for the purpose of stating their grievances, and after the burgesses complied with his request, to suffer a ******* what shall I call him, to interrupt, to insult, to sneer at them, and instead of bestowing immediate castigation on this ******* you said, that Mr. Prothero had a "right to interrupt them." A right, Sir Charles to interrupt them? A right to interrupt those who were modestly complaining of injuries? This is too barefaced to need comment. You shook your purse over the heads of the burgesses.
You thought that the burgesses at the sight of so formidable an array, would sink into the earth; that they would be tongue tied at the sight of so much wisdom. There was a day when this would have been the case, but now, the lower orders as we are called, begin to feel our own weight, and properly to appreciate that of the great men.
Do you suppose that your tenants will much longer labour for you, if you are indifferent to their property? Does it afford you no pain when you think how much you are fallen in the public estimation? Will it be of any use to refer you to history? I am not surprised that Gentlemen in your situation know so little of the world. Possessed of an immense estate, all you want supplied without exertion on your part, submission almost unbounded. You associate with none but those whose interest it is to please you. The language of truth you seldom hear, and when you hear it, need any one be surprised that it is disagreeable to you? Can we expect much depth of reason, much knowledge of human nature, from any one however liberal nature may have been to him, who has so little means of acquiring knowledge of a useful kind?
You have, Sir Charles, for many years received complaints of the cruelty of your agent. Have you once paid any attention to what have you heard? I believe not. One would suppose that to see your agent building fine gardens, and hot houses, and green houses, would excite suspicion in any one, unless he was determined to be kept in the dark. Money must come from somewhere to support these things, yes, and a great deal of money too. You are careful enough, I. dare say, to see that Prothero does not make use of your money, but you think I suppose, that he may make free with that of your tenants. To charge them twice as much as the law allows him, is proper, it enables him to make a figure in life, and you, Sir Charles, partake of the rays which your agent emits.
You, were formerly fond of boasting of the wisdom of your agent, of his success in the law. Successful he has been, but he may thank your tenants for it. You have possibly paid some attention to the laws of your country. You are aware, that trial by jury, is an institution of which Englishmen, in all ages have been proud. They have boasted, that in no country in all the world, were persons and property so secure as in England. Your steward, your friend Thomas Prothero, Attorney at Law, is a packer of juries. Here's a character. And you, Sir Charles, have sacrificed the respect; the real respect, in which you were formerly held, for the friendship of such a man as Thomas Prothero. Yes, I will repeat this, lest you forget it. The love which the tenants of Tredegar formerly felt for the name of Morgan, has, by the present possessor of the Estate, been exchanged, for the friendship of Lawyer Prothero.
To see your agent at the assizes, in Monmouth, running about the streets to find out your tenants, and desiring them to be sure to be in the way, as he had a trial coming on, gives us clear ideas, of the present mode of trial by jury.
I saw Thomas Prothero, on the 8th of October, 1813, during the shrievalty of your brother-in-law, Mr. Homfray, pack, no select a jury, as deputy-sheriff; and after he had selected the jury as deputy-sheriff, he placed another attorney in the chair, and as a Lawyer, he pleaded the cause of the Defendant. Is it of any use for the law to provide barriers for things of this sort? Barriers indeed, for Prothero! Neither hedge nor ditch will stop him, he clears everything in pursuit of his prey.
I have been for some time surprised, that anyone should think this Lawyer a clever man; but thank God, the public are beginning to estimate his character properly. It will be of no use for him to put on the garb of piety, for even his servants laugh at his religion.
To see this man in the streets of Newport, suffering old grey headed men, to stand talking to him with their hats off, while he with all the insolence of a slave-driver, answers them, as if they were unworthy to occupy one moment of his time; makes one, almost doubt the existence of a supreme Being, who can suffer such things. But, a day is not very distant, when the crimes which this man has committed, will bring on his head that punishment, which he so richly deserves. He has already, I see, the mark of Cain in his forehead. I have been often at a loss to determine whether pride, or meanness, forms the principal ingredient in the composition of your virtuous agent. Ask him, Sir Charles, whether he charged a tenant of yours five shillings, because his pig happened to dung on that fine pitching leading to Lapstone Hall? What a curious mode of getting money. I have heard of folks selling the dung of pigs, but I never before heard of a man being obliged to pay another for taking of it. What an old unmannerly boar this must have been. Give orders, Sir Charles to your tenants, to bring no more pigs near the mansion of your agent, or if they do, to be sure to being corks with them.
Possessed, Sir Charles, of an immense estate, your power of doing good is almost boundless. What an opportunity is here presented, to a mind alive to the happiness of mankind. Were you to consider, that every tenant of yours is full as useful a man as yourself, the time which you now spend in frivolous pursuits, would be employed very differently. You would consider, that those who labour to support you, are surely entitled to some portion of your time and attention. If considerations of this nature had any influence on your mind, you would hardly consign your tenants to the care of such a man as Thomas Prothero. I before observed, and I will repeat it, that I am not surprised at your knowing so little of life. You associate with none but those whose interest it is to flatter you.
I remain your obedient servant,
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