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To protect the iron-masters of Staffordshire,
the inhabitants of Pennsylvania (while yet a
British colony) were forbidden, under heavy
penalties, to avail themselves of their rich coal
and iron mines. To protect the tobacco growers
of Virginia (also in its colonial epoch) the
agriculturists of Great Britain were forbidden
to cultivate the planta prohibition which is
still in forceeven now, that the semblance of
a reason or excuse for the restriction exists.

The petty details into which these prohibitions
of industry, under the pretext of protecting
it, descended, can only be conceived
by those who have studied the Statutes at
Large. An act was passed in the fourth of
George the First (the seventh chapter) for
the better employing the manufacturers, and
encouraging the consumption of raw silk.
This act provides "that no person shall make,
sell, or set upon any clothes or wearing
garments whatsoever, any buttons made of serge,
cloth, drugget, frieze, camlet, or any other
stuff of which clothes or wearing garments
are made, or any buttons made of wool only,
and turned in imitations of other buttons, on
pain of forfeiting forty shillings per dozen for
all such buttons." And again, in the seventh
year of the same George, the twenty-second
chapter of that year's statutes declared that
"No tailors shall set on any buttons or
button-holes of serge, drugget, &c., under
penalty of forty shillings for every dozen
of buttons or button-holes so made or set
on ... No person shall use or wear
on any clothes, garments, or apparel what-
soever, except velvet, any buttons or button-
holes made of or bound with cloth, serge,
drugget, frieze, camlet, or other stuffs whereof
clothes or woollen garments are usually made,
on penalty of forfeiting forty shillings per dozen
under a similar penalty." These acts were
insisted on by the ancient and important fraternity
of metal button-makers, who thought they
had a prescriptive right to supply the world
with brass and other buttons "with shanks."
Shankless fasteners, made of cloth, serge, &c.,
were therefore interdicted; and every man,
woman, and child, down to the time when
George the Third was king, was obliged to
wear metal buttons whether they liked them
or not, on pain of fine or imprisonment.

The shackles and pitfalls in which men
involved themselves in their chase after the
illusive idea of universal protection were as
numerous, and more fatal than those with which
Louis the Eleventh garnished his castle at
Plessis-le-Tours. It was impossible to move
without stumbling into some of them. British
ship-builders were allowed to ply their trade
exclusively for British ship-owners; but,
in return, they were compelled to buy the
dear timber of Canada, instead of that of
the Baltic. British ship-owners had exclusive
privileges of ocean carriage, but had to pay
tribute to the monopoly of British ship-
builders and Canadian lumberers. British
sailors were exclusively to be employed in
English ships, but in return they were at the
mercy of the press-gangs. Dubious
advantages were bought at a price
unquestionably dear and ruinous.

The condition of our country while
possessed by the fallacy of protection, can be
compared to nothing so aptly, as to a man under
the influence of a nightmare. One incongruity
pursues another through the brain. There is a
painful half-consciousness that all is delusion,
and a fear that it may be realitythere is a
choking sense of oppression. The victim of
the unhealthy dream, tries to shake it off and
awaken, but his faculties are spell-bound. By
a great effort the country has awakened to the
light of day, and a sense of realities.

The way in which the rural population,
great and small, were protected against one
another, may be well illustrated by an extract
from the third of James the First, chapter
fourteen. This act was in force so lately as
1827, for it was only repealed by the seventh
and eighth of George the Fourth, chapter
twenty-seven. The fifth clause of this
precious enactment made a man who had not
forty pounds a-year a "malefactor" if he
shot a hare; while a neighbour who possessed
a hundred a-year, and caught him in the fact,
became in one moment his judge and
executioner. After reciting that if any person who
had not real property producing forty pounds,
a-year, or who had not two hundred pounds'
worth of goods and chattels, shall presume to
shoot game, the clause goes on to say—"Then
any person, having lands, tenements, and
hereditaments, of the clear value of one hundred
pounds a-year, may take from the person or
possession of such malefactor or malefactors,
and to his own use for ever keep, such guns,
bows, cross-bows, buckstalls, engine-traps,
nets, ferrets, and coney dogs," &c. This is
hardly a comic leaf from the statute-book.
Indignation gives place to mirth on perusing
it. Some portions of the game-laws still in
force could be enumerated,equally unreasonable
and summary.

Most of the statutes contain a comical
set of rules of English Grammar, which are
calculated to make the wig of Lindley Murray
stiffen in his grave with horror; they run
thus:—"Words importing the singular
number shall include the plural number, and words
importing the plural number shall include the
singular number. Words importing the
masculine gender shall include females. The word
'person' shall include a corporation, whether
aggregate or sole. The word 'lands' shall
include messuages, lands, tenements, and
hereditaments of any tenure. The word 'street'
shall extend to and include any road, square,
court, alley, and thoroughfare, or public
passage, within the limits of the special act.
The expression 'two justices' shall be
understood to mean two or more justices met and
acting together."

Thus ends our chapter of only a few of the
mirth provocatives of the Statutes at Large.


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