Sometimes, it took the power of an imagined exchange to get the message across to political animals keen on parliamentary reform, that there was genuine distress in the real world. This letter is rather wordy, but the dialogue at the end says it all.
Our violent political Orators, it seems, have again recourse to the old worn-out subject of a Reform in Parliament, as the universal Medicine, the grand Panacea, for all the Disorders of the State. In this they resemble their Brother Quacks in Medicine. The Pill that is to cure all the diseases of the human body, and the Reform that is to remedy off the defects of the body politic may, from their resemblance, be fairly traced to one common origin. These experimental Doctors tell us, that nothing is wanting to remedy all the distress of trade, manufactures, and agriculture, but a Reform of Parliament; yet there is no agreement amongst them as to any specific or tangible pain. If it were true that such Reform would instantly set all the looms in Spital-fields to work, revive the manufactures of Birmingham, Manchester, &c, or supersede the necessity of poor-rates, every individual would then clamour for it, whether he understood it or not. At the same time, however, that these disinterested Patriots recommend the adoption of a remedy, which from the slowness of its operation can have but little effect on the present existing distress, they seem to despise the mode of relief, now generally practised, by money, food, cloathing, and employment. Indeed, why should they put down their names to a charitable subscription, when their own proposed remedy is so much cheaper, and may be administered gratis, as it costs them nothing? Now, Sir, conceive the following appropriate and certainly very instructive dialogue taking place between one of these politico-patriotic Doctors and a poor broken-down Spital-fields weaver.
‘Doctor, I am almost famished – ‘ ‘My good friend, you want a reform in Parliament.’
‘I have had no work for a month past – ‘ ‘You must get rid of the rotten boroughs.’
‘My wife lies in her seventh child – ‘ ‘Annual Parliaments will soon cure that.’
‘My children are destitute of cloathes and food – ‘ ‘They are not sufficiently represented.’
‘A little supply for present food would be – ‘ ‘Fool! you’ll only be as hungry to-morrow.’
‘These is little chance of my poor wife recovering – ‘ ‘All owing to the interference of Peers in elections.’
‘A good lady has offered to send us some soup – ‘ ‘Old Sarum sends two members.’
‘A very little money would relieve us – ‘ ‘All in vain, while we have such a House of Commons as the present.’
‘The smallest donation would be acceptable – ‘ ‘I have given my penny to Lord Cochrane’s subscription.’
Your’s, AN OLD CORRESPONDENT.”
Stamford Mercury Jan. 1st, 1817.