Glimpses Of Our Ancestors In Sussex - online book

With Sketches Of Sussex Characters, Remarkable Incidents &c

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26                 Glimpses of Our Ancestors.
their employers, who were not much superior to them in manners or in education. It was the period, perhaps, when the relations of the farmer and the labourer were closest to each other. The time was yet to come when they were to separate: the former struggling to maintain their position and eventually rising in the scale ; the latter sinking more and more into poverty and pauperism, until poor-rates threatened to swallow up rents, and then a reactionary movement set in towards independence, which, assisted by new forces, is going on in our own day.
But these changes were far off in Thomas Merchant's days. The Cival Wars were well nigh forgotten ; the great wars in Flanders, where our soldiers fought so well and swore so terribly, were over. Sir Robert Walpole was entering on his long lease of political power, and finding out the price at which men were to be bought; peace being the great object of his policy, and a gross national prosperity the reward of it.
Thomas Marchant, of Little Park, Hurst, was, we may be sure, one of those who accepted this policy, and his life was a capital illustration of it. He had received a practical kind of education—could read, write and keep accounts, and was, in all probability, rather superior in these respects to his neighbours; for he was frequently selected as executor to their wills and as overseer, &c.; and was eventually chosen by the owner of Petworth, the " proud " Duke of Somerset, to be his steward, and for some time filled that post, living then near Petworth. But, at the time he began this diary, he was at Little Park, farming his own land there, and doing a great deal as the breeder of fresh-water fish, for which, it is clear, there was a much greater demand in those days than there is now. In every way, indeed, he was a good man of business—ever ready to turn a penny and make a bargain. The first day's entry, September 29, 1714, isnotabad sample of the character of the whole diary. Here it is:—
"John Shelley went away. Set 4 pigs to fatting yesterday. Lent James Reed 4 oxen. Paid John Gun 1 guinea. Went by Henfield to
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