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ment. Of the daughters, Elizabeth, the eldest, was married to a gentleman of competent estate. . Caroline, the second, was also married, to a military officer, who had little besides his pay. The third daughter, Louisa, was single; and in a state of health which required, and was likely to require, an annual residence of three months at a watering-place. Jane and Maria, the next two, were also single. Emily, the youngest of all the children, was at school. At the father's death, in 1801, Henry bad returned from America, and was living on an estate in Berkshire, which came into his possession on his marriage with an heiress. William estimated his capital at 20,000l., while his annual returns were progressively increasing.— George continued in statu quo. Alexander had doubled his prize-money. Alfredremained on a curacy, and had married a young woman with a very slender fortune. Elizabeth was, in every worldly respect, happy. Caroline was left a widow, with three children. Louisa's health was rather declining; Jane, Maria, and Emily (the last having finished her education) were living at home. In the present year, 1811, Henry and William are still borne along on the full tide of prosperity: George is yet at the desk. Alexander, by the treachery of a messmate, and by his own vices, has not only lost half of the prize-money gain
ed in 1801; but, notwithstanding an
immense capture three years since, his sum total is reduced to 7,000l. This young man lost 3,000, at a gaming-house in one night ; but endeavoured to persuade his family, that this deduction from his capital was the consequence of an unfortunate affair at Portsmouth, referring to a pecuniary transaction with the admiral of a certain fleet. Alfred has been rather embarrassed; but is on the point of succeeding to some valuable preferment. Elizabeth is dead. Caroline, by the testamentary kindness of her late husband's brother, is in circumstances
of comparative affluence. Louisa is dead. She was obliged to sink the whole of her fortune in the purchase of an annuity. Jane and Maria are married, but neither of them ver prudently: that is, their o have everything but good incomes. Emily lives with an aunt. Mr. G–—'s testamentary disposition of his property is not brought forward by me with a design to throw an atom of blame upon the individual ; but to illustrate the practical injustice, which long custom, and causes far more unworthy, have made to result from the general character and operation of Wills. When a husband and father is finally determining what is to become of his possessions, when he shall have no farther use for them himself; his obvious duty seems to be, to ascertain how he may righteously divide them, so as to suit his gifts to the receivers; or, in other words, give most where most is wanted. Yet, in direct opposition to this self-evident maxim—surely self-evident to any man who conducts affairs with a serious mind — it is the accredited practice of mankind, to leave behind them a certain mass of wealth, which their executors are to portion out, not in correspondence to the claims of nature and naked justice; but because inconsideration, indolence, and a dread of posthumous blame, have vanquished such claims by the overpowering authority of precedent. I shall not attempt to enter upon the question of primogeniture farther than to observe, that where birth, rank, or a consideration equivalent to these (if such there be), really exist in a family; then I will by no ineans dispute the propriety, and even moral duty, of giving to the first-born all the appendages of greatness. But where no such apology does exist, a novus homo should most conscientiously weigh against his ambition, or vanity, or the blandishments of other new men, and of the dependants of both, the claims of relative and social connections,
and the demands also of charity, which seem to rise with the growth of wealth, particularly of wealth rapidly acquired. You observe, sir, in the case above detailed, as indeed in ten thousand other cases, “the younger children,” as they are technically called by solicitors and most persons beside, have each the same sum to one shilling allotted them, without a single regard to sex, or any past or contingent circumstances. And such is the inveterate habit of long prescription, that where we hear of any gentleman's having left his real estate to his eldest son, and his personal estate, equally “share and share alike,” among (again) “the younger children.” none of us begin to examine the morality of this arrangement, because he has only done what is perpetually done by others. • The practical injustice arising out of the received construction of wills, is, in the first place, very seriously felt by females. From the constitution of civil society, and from physical causes, women are dependant, and comparatively helpless. Consequently, a daughter's fortune should be regulated so as to meet, as far as fortune can meet, these unavoidable circumstances of dependance and helplessness. A female's portion is generally a determinate sum; either already funded, or to be paid by executors out of a certain estate. This sum, when received, is forwarded to a stockbroker. The interest, and the interest only, is her income. She cannot (except in peculiar cases) invest her capital in trade. Added to this, her interest receives no increase; so that what was a very sufficient sum in 1795, is, in 1811, a scantv one; indeed, a mere pittance. No provision is made by the legislature for cases of this sort. Ten per cent. property tax, and the depreciation of the currency, affect her exactly as they affect a Bank Director himself”.
* In the time of the Income Tax, a mea
Whereas, her brother, who receives the same sum has power to put it into trade on his own account. It becomes a capital capable of indefinite increase. Even if ventured into a speculative scheme, and half dissipated by its failure, the loss in his case, has all the probability, it may be said, the certainty of being repaired, which steady industry, and the opportunities of a commercial nation, offer to his grasp. 2. Another injury grows out of an inconsiderate disregard to differences, in respect to health, talents, connections, and misconduct, which are so obviously perceptible among individuals of the same family. An invalid is not merely unable to equal the exertions of another, but his current expenses are necessarily greater. Here them are two drawbacks on his prosperity. He must spend more than the rest; and yet he has by no means so much to spend as they. Notwithstanding this very serious difference in their circumstances, he and they have “ share and share alike.”—Then as to talents, how frequently do we observe a man of genius, who, with a third of the industry possessed by his less intelligenv brother, gets much more forward in the world ! Yet no deduction is made in favour of the plodier. No fagging of his can gain what the other enjoys by sheer ability, and languid effort. By adverting to connections, I refer to those formed by marriage. There is certainly a practical difference between the condition of a daughter married to a man of asfluence, and secure of a large jointure; and the condition of her sister, whose husband's income is moderate, and her jointure next to nothing. By what canon in domes
sure calculated to alleviate this hardship was proposed in the House of Commons; but it was rejected. There is a practical mistake in the text. The depreciation of the currency is any thing but an injury to a Bank Direc. tor; but l inadvertently mained him, because Bank Directors are generally understood, in the country at least, to be moneyed men.
tic economy is it then ordained, that a father gives precisely, the same fortune to his daughter, whether she be united to an heir or to a younger son? I have nothing here to do with marriages made by accident, caprice, covetousness, and ambition (which, alas! are the four authorized match-makers of the times), but with such as are actually founded on personal attachment; and which from the age of chivalry down to the age of calculators, economists, and ten per cent. are said to have been not unfrequent in every civilized country. I must therefore suppose that the heir and the younger son are bona fide in love with the two sisters. When the marriage writings are drawn, it is found that the solicitor, all harnessed in precedent, proposes for each of the ladies the same five thousand down; and the father having previously instructed him to “do things in the usual way,” looks over the instruments, says all is right, seals, signs; and then the girls are married. Thus the heir who wants no five thousand, and the younger son who wants much more, each gets the self-same sum. In after years, when the father's will is opened, there is the selfsame sum again; and, as before, the man of affluence wants it not, and the need of the other is more pressing than ever! Again ; suppose that the former of these gentlemen has no family, while the other has the average number of children. The case is possible; and, at all events, the chances of the two parties are precisely equal. Suppose farther, that the wife of the younger son is left a widow; and that all his part of the family income ceases with his life. Various other contingencies may be imagined; and, in all, the chances of suffering may be exactly the same, even cateris paribus, to both sisters. Such are the consequences of equalising fortunes!—Let no cold calculator strive to undermine my *ystem, by telling me, that its es
tablishment would act only as a lure to titled paupers, and Irish fortune-hunters. The sagacity and foresight which would wisely bring the system into effect would also enable their possessor to detect and dismiss the artificial suitor, and secure his daughter's happiness, by encouraging the approaches of virtuous, but diffident, love.—Do not, sir, look so mysterious: I am not going to be sentimental; and only crave your permission to add, that neither the character of Edwin, nor Angelina, is entirely fictitious.-I now retreat from this enchanted ground (casting, I confess, a longing, lingering look behind), and once more enter the work-day world. The misconduct of children is another circuinstance overlooked in the devise of property. We sometimes, indeed, hear of a son being cut off with a shilling.—This is an act of posthumous vengeance which causes its object to execrate his father's memory. There is a palpable distinction between this division of a house against itself, and the justice of punishing one, who by making an ill use of money is afterwards made to suffer the loss of money. Suppose two sons, among seven, squander by vice, or even improvidence, certain sums in their father's lifetime; is it equitable, that at his death, the two offenders should receive the very same advantages as the other five? The pernicious custom of “ share and share alike,” is, in reality, the sheet anchor of speculators and libertines. They will naturally say,+“ At our father’s death, matters will come round again; therefore, begone dull care ’’ The post obit scheme is founded on this principle”. –
* As an illustration of this scheme, I shall cite the letter which a young man addressed to his friend, on his father’s death. “Dear Jack,--the old boy's gone at last. We earth him on Tuesday; down with the oaks on Wednesday; and on Thursday, off to town my boy. Yours, &c. P. S. Squirrels bave notice to quit.” I need not add
If no respect be had to difference of conduct, then the language of a testamentary clause may stand thus; “Item, I give and bequeath to my fourth son, Thomas, the sum of 5,000l. which he will most probably waste in dissipation, as he has already wasted the like sum during my life time; and by so doing, robbed his sober and industrious brothers, to each of whom I nevertheless give and bequeath 5,000l. also; though, without their assistance, I could not have given my son Thomas more than 3,000l.”—Should any libertine resent the posthumous expression of his father's displeasure, every one but himself. and such as he, will confess the justice of the punishment. But should the libertime afterwards become a penitent, he will then be the first to own the righteousness of his father's conduct, and say, “I indeed
justly; for I receive the due reward.
of my deeds.” The moral construction of a will would emphatically shew the natural fruit of sin; for as “godliness hath promise of the life that now is,” so depravity has an innate tendency to ruin our present, as well as our eternal, happiness. The penitent prodigal confessed, that his career of riot had obliterated the claims of nature, “I am no more worthy to be calle thy son!” 3. Strange injustice, and even want of natural feeling, has, in some instances, been manifested, by the melancholy and revolting vanity of keeping up families and names, so as to exclude the claims of wives and near relatives. An example occurs to me at this moment, of a gentleman who bequeathed upwards of 100,000l. to a man whom he never knew, or knew very slightly, merely because he happened to have the same name. The testatur’s widow was left with only one thousand a year, and even that an annuity In, this case I need not say, that 5,000l. a year that the proceeds of the timber were poinctually demanded by the Jews.
a better grace at least, might have been thrown to the stranger. I was sorry to learn, that the testator had left very considerable legacies to two clergymen, solely, as expressed, “ for their works' sake;"—not indeed sorry that they were legatees, for I most sincerely wish them success, and blessings far beyond what they have ever received,—but because so strange a will seemed to shew the inconsistency and confosion of its maker's religious tenets. I do not presume to . him. There might be very solid reasons for his conduct. But I know where it is written, “ husbands, love your wives even as Christ loved the church.” We know also, that “a man may give all his goods to feed the poor,” and yet be “nothing.” It is one thing to enrich a Missionary or a Bible Society; another, to “ seek not our own.” During the reign of Popery in this island, many persons tried to conciliate Heaven by founding alms-houses,
hospitals, and colleges, bearing their
names, styles, and titles, and also their effigies, over portals and cloisters. Protestants are in some dani. of substituting for these Gothic istinctions, the more fashionable one of standing high in subscription lists: but the approach to their temple of fame is defended by the mortmain Act, and other formidable fortifications. Persons calling themselves serious Christians, in contradistinction to the bulk of mankind, should remember, that to theniselves, when overtaken by old age, as well as to their coevals in the world at large, may be applied—
mess, suspicion, hardness, caprice, or features of conduct resembling these, sometimes characterize the declining years of those who have lived in an evident state of preparation for eternity. Such reason have we, not to “glory in man!”—The following lines, from Johnson's Wa. nity of Human Wishes, are connecttd with my general subject, and claim the attention of all who expect to survive their grand climac. teric. It is indeed wise to “remember the days of darkness. for they are many.” - “Year chases year, decay pursues decay, Still drops some joy from with'ring life away; New forms arise, and diff'rent views engage, Superfluous lags the veteran on the stage. Now everlasting dictates crowd his tongue, Perversely grave, or positively wrong. The still returning tale, and lingering jest, Perplex the fawning niece, and pamper'd
guest; While growing hopes scarce awe the gath'ring sncer, And scarce a legacy can bribe to hear. The watchful guests still hint the last offence, The daughter's petulance, the son's expense; Improve his beady 'rage, with treach'rous skill, 4nd mould his passions till they make his will.” -I will now retire from this digression, to state the incurable injustice effected by the will described at my outset. You will bear in mind, Mr. G–’s Perfect knowledge of the circumstances of his family; but which was not suffered to operate upon the provisions of his will. Add to this, that this instrument was made in January 1795; but not in force till the close of 1801. Thus, there was on interval of nearly seven years, during which, not a single codicil * subjoined; although the state of the family required, that the original bequests should have been *hered in correspondence to altered Circumstances, even if the will itself d been constructed on the princiPles suggested in this paper. For *ample; as William's capital had
*ived such considerable increase, .
*d as Louisa's health demanded Cunist. Observ. No. 112.
more largely whatever alleviations money could purchase, it was equitable, that William should expect a share of his 10,000l. to be deducted in Louisa's favour. But no such thing. Now mark the consequence. The father died. Louisa's health still declined. The interest of her fortune was , every year of less value. Her only alternative was to buy an annuity. By so doing, she contrived to travel on to the grave; without even the satisfact tion of leaving a few legacies. She deeply regretted this; but there was no remedy. Jane and Maria, to whom her fortune at this moment would be peculiarly acceptable, have uo token of her remembrance, except, perhaps, a few rings and broaches. To all this it will be asked by inconsiderate persons, why did not the single sisters club their fortunes and live together? Or, why did not Lour isa reside with one of her brothers? with fifty questions of the same kind; not one of which would be asked, if I had given the secret history of the family. But let the inquirer give a glance at the actual state of society; where he would soon see, that in an unknown variety of instances, there does not, and will not, exist such family union as will smooth away the roughnesses perpetually occasioned, not merely by the division of property, but by misapprehension, or opinionativeness; by infirmity, or pure selfishness. The question is, why there is no prospective remedy for the contingent distresses of domestic life, formally provided in testamentary acts? In the matter under discussion, instead of apologizing for an avoidable evil, not merely avoidable, but essentially unjust,-we must apply the axe to the root of the system itself. We must overturn the principle of unrighteous wills; and then, whatever pecuniary distress overtakes any individual in a family, cannot be charged upon the testator. In farther illustration of the inveteracy of the received construction 2 H