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THE Author of the following Poem presumes to submit to the Public the produce of hours stolen from business, and sleep; and hopes for some indulgence, when he declares, that his necessary attention to business, through life, has made his opportunities of profiting by the labours of other men very limited.
He has considered himself as one of the meanest of
a ship's company, whose labour during fair weather, and prosperous breezes, might be very well dispensed with; but when the furious tempest had shattered the ship, and all were threatened with a watery grave, even his assistance, though trifling in itself, became of some importance.
Such distress has lately overtaken us, that he cannot but agree in sentiment with the sensible and well-in
formed author of the following paragraph* :-" The
means by which that proportion of physical happi66 ness which every class of society under the govern"ment of this country has a right to possess, as an 66 equivalent for their honest industry, are become so "difficult for that useful and invaluable class, the la"bourer, to obtain, that it is the duty of every man "to point out to government those means which he "thinks the most probable to alleviate the present, " and prevent a similar misfortune in future."
Impressed with such ideas, he has ventured to send forth this his first-born† into the world; and as fathers have generally a tender concern for their own offspring, he will not pretend to say he is altogether unconcerned about its fate; but he will say, that he is more ardently desirous that the object recommended should be attained, than that he may obtain poetic fame; and humbly hopes the candid reader will make some allowance for the fault, if his earnest desire to impress the subject, on those who have it in their power to apply a remedy, has led him into a kind of tautology, or in any other way to have transgressed against the rules of composition.
He likewise intreats the reader to keep in mind, that by far the greater part of it was written in 1800
* Vide Proposals to Government for Regulations in the Corn Trade, &c. Glocester printed 1801.
+ Being the first Poem he has ever written, never having before attempted but some very trifling things, of which he scarcely thought a copy worth preserving.
and the beginning of 1801, as it may seem now somewhat out of season;-he thanks God it is so, that he has heard the cries of the poor, and has granted us great relief. But the continued dearness of meat, cheese, butter, &c. together with the danger of the late scenes respecting corn recurring, is, he hopes, a sufficient apology for publishing it, though it be a little out of season.
That under the present system of farming we are in continual danger of the dreadful scourge of scarcity (whether real or artificial it is the same thing to the mass of the people), we need only reflect upon the last season; for had it pleased Providence to have continued the dry weather but three weeks longer in the spring, or the wet the same space of time longer in the autumn, the consequences might have been too dreadful to dwell upon. Situated, then, as we are, not far removed from extreme distress, and liable, upon but a partial failure in the crop in any future season, to be plunged again into dreadful misery, it is necessary that measures should be adopted to prevent a return of such calamities as we have lately seen and felt. I shall therefore throw out some hints, which I hope will be improved by wiser heads than mine, and which I conceive may be conducive to the general good; and shall attempt to produce some forcible reasons why such things should be done, together with the great advantages that will accrue to the nation at large. The first and principal thing I shall then propose is, that all the farms above 200 acres be
divided, so that there may be in every parish at least as many farms as there are hundreds of acres.-That the land being occupied in such large farms is the principal cause of the dearth of provisions; and the consequent distress is, I believe, what will be doubted or denied by very few who are disinterested, and have at all considered the subject. I have found scarcely one that hesitates to declare his fixed opinion of it in the course of two or three years, wherein I have been considering and conversing about the subject. But as the opinions of obscure individuals are not likely to be attended to, I shall quote the sentiments of some who have no doubt well considered the subject, and those of no mean authority." The Secret Committee "lately appointed to examine into the causes of the
high price of bread and other provisions, have very "justly determined (says Mr. Pratt *) that there is "too considerable consolidation and consequent en"largement of farms, whereby a less produce of va"rious articles of provisions, such as poultry and pigs, "takes place, they now being deemed too unpro"fitable for the opulent farmer to attend to, who, in
stead of bringing his produce to market, as was for"merly the custom, in order to discharge his rents, "is enabled to withhold it, and the character of the
*In the notes following his benevolent Poem, intitled "Bread; or the Poor," who, from the philanthropy manifested therein, will, I trust, not be offended at my making some extracts therefrom, seeing it is to promote the same good design on which he has employed his elegant pen.