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"Familiar in their Mouths as HOUSEHOLD WORDS"Shakespeare.


HOUSEHOLD WORDS.

 

A WEEKLY JOURNAL.

CONDUCTED BY CHARLES DICKENS.

 


No. 293.] SATURDAY, NOVEMBER 3, 1855. Price 2d.
Stamped 3d.


 

A SLIGHT DEPRECIATION OF THE CURRENCY. IT was said by the wise and witty SYDNEY SMITH, that many Englishmen appear to have a remarkable satisfaction in even speaking of large sums of money ; and that when men of this stamp say of Mr. So-and-So, "I am told he is worth Two Hux-dred Tuou-sand POUNDS," there is a relish in their emphasis, an unctuous appetite and zest in their open-mouthed enunciation, which nothing but the one in- spiring theme, Money, develops in them. That this is an accurate piece of observa- tion, few who observe at all will dispute. Its application is limited to no class of society, and it is even more generally true of the gen- teel than of the vulgar. The last famous golden calf that disfigured this country, was set up for worship in the highest places, and was pampered to its face and made a standing- jest of behind its back throughout Belgravia, with an intensity of meanness never sur- passed in Seven Dials. But I am not going to write a homily upon that ancient text, the general deification of Money. The few words that I wish to iiote down here, bear reference to one par- ticular misuse of Money, and exaggeration of its power, which presents itself to my mind as a curious rottenness appertaining to this age. Let us suppose, to begin, with, that there was once upon a time a Baron, who governed his estate not wisely nor too well, and whose dependents sustained in consequence many preveiitible hardships. Let us suppose that the Baron was of a highly generous disposi- tion, and that when he found a vassal to have been oppressed or maltreated by a hard or foolish steward, who had strained against him some preposterous point of the discordant system on which the estate was administered, he immediately gave that vassal Money. Let us suppose that such munificent action set the noble Baron's inind completely at rest, and that, having performed it, he felt quite satis- fied with himself and everybody else ; consi- dered his duty done, and never dreamed of so adjusting that point for the future as that the thing could not recur. Let us suppose the Baron to have been continually doing this from day to day and from year to year to have been perpetually patching broken heads with Money, and repairing moral wrongs with Money, yet leaving the causes of the broken heads and the moral wrongs in un- checked operation. Agreed upon these suppo- sitions, we shall probably agree in the con- clusion that the Baron's estate was not in a promising way ; that the Baron was a lazy Baron, who would have done far better to be just than generous ; and that the Baron, in this easy satisfaction of his noble conscience, showed a false idea of the powers and uses of Money. Is it possible that we, in England, at the present time, bear any resemblance to the supposititious and misguided Baron ? Let us inquire. A year or so ago, there was a court-martial held at Windsor, which attracted the public attention in an unusual manner ; not so much because it was conducted in a spirit hardly reconcileable with the popular preju- dice in favour of fair play, as because it suggested very grave defects in our military system, and exhibited us, as to the training of our officers, in very disadvantageous contrast with other countries. The result at which that court-martial arrived, was widely re- garded as absurd and unjust. What were we who held that opinion, moved by our honest conviction, to do ? To bestir ourselves to amend the system thus exposed ? To apply ourselves to reminding our countrymen that it was fraught with enormous dangers to us and to our children, and that, in suffering any authorities whatsoever to maintain it, or in allowing ourselves to be either bullied or cajoled about it, we were imperiling the institutions under which we live, the national liberty of which we boast, and the very existence of England in her place among the nations ? Did we go to work to point out to the unthinking, what our valiant forefathers did for us, what their resolute spirit won for us, what their earnestness secured to us, and what we, by allowing work to degenerate into play, were relaxing our grasp of, every hour 'I Did numbers of us unite into a phalanx of steady purpose, bent upon im- pressing these truths upon those who accept the responsibility of government, and on having them enforced, in stern and steady practice, through all the vital functions of Great Britain ? No. Not quite that. We were highly indignant, we were a little alarmed ; between the two emotions we were vot. xir. 293