« AnteriorContinuar »
amid all the despotism of the Aristo- the colonies, in war, in peace, at home telian philosophy, his inductive philo- and abroad, we had been running sophy; of Galileo maintaining the blindfold to destruction. True, we had motion of the earth even when sur- become great, and glorious, and free rounded by the terrors of the Italian under this abominable system; true, Inquisition ; of Copernicus asserting it had been accompanied by a growth the true system of the heavens in op- of national strength, and an amount position to the belief of two thousand of national happiness, unparalleled in years ; of Malthus bringing forward any former age or country; but that the paradox of the danger of human was all by accident. Philosophy had increase in opposition to the previous marked it with the sign of reprobageneral opinion of mankind; of Vol- tion--prosperity had poured upon us taire combating alone the giant power by chance in the midst of universal of the Roman Catholic hierarchy; of misgovernment. By all the rules of Rousseau running a course against the calculation we should have been dewhole ideas of his age-will imme- stroyed, though, strange to say, no diately occur to every reader. Many symptoms of destruction had yet of these great men adopted erroneous appeared amongst us. According to opinions, and, in consequence, did as every principle of philosophy, the much evil to their own or the next age patient should long ago have been as others did good ; but they were all dead of the mortal disease under which characterised by one mark. Their he laboured : the only provoking opinions were original, and directly thing was, that he was still walking adverse to public opinion around them. about in robust and florid health. Theclose of the nineteenth century was Circumstances occurred at the same no exception to the general principle. time, early in this century, which had Following out those doctrines of free- the most powerful effect in exasperatdom from restraint of every kind, ing the Opposition party throughout which in France had arisen from the the country, and inducing them to natural resistance of men to the nu- embrace, universally and ardently, the merous fetters of the monarchy, and new philosophy, which condemned in which had been brought forward by such unmeasured terms the whole sysTurgot and the Economists, in the tem of government pursued by their boudoirs of Madame Pompadour antagonists. For half a century, since and the coteries of Paris,-Adam the long dominion of the Whigs was Smith broached the principle of Free terminated in 1761 by George III., Trade, with the exceptions of grain the Tories had been, with the excepand shipping. The first he excepted, tion of a few months, constantly in because it was essential to national office. Though their system of govsubsistence; the second, because it ernment in religion, in social affairs, was the pillar of national defence. in foreign relations, was nothing but The new philosophy was ardently a continuation of that which the Whigs embraced by the liberal party, who, had introduced, and according to which chagrined by long exclusion from the government had been conducted office, were rejoiced to find a tangible from 1688 to 1760, yet, in the ardour and plausible ground whereon to at- of their zeal for the overthrow of their tack the whole existing system of adversaries, the liberal party embraced government. From them it gradually on every point the opposite side. The extended to nearly all the ardent descendants of Lord Russel became part of the community, ever eager to the advocates of Roman Catholic embrace doctrines at variance with emancipation; the followers of Marlprevious and vulgar belief, and not yet borough and Godolphin, the partisans enlightened by experience as to the of submission to France; the succeseffect of the new system.
sors of Walpole and Chatham, the soon discovered that for a century and advocates of free trade and colonial a half we had been proceeding on false neglect. These feelings, embraced principles. The whole policy of gov- from the influence of a determination ernment since the days of Cromwell to find fault with government in every had been erroneous; in politics, in particular, were worked up to the social government, in diplomacy, in highest pitch by the glorious result of
the war with France, and the appar- riches, both in town and country, had ently interminable lease of power ac- increased so prodigiously, that the quired by their adversaries from the holders of it had acquired a preponoverthrow of Napoleon. That memo- derance over the classes in the state rable event, so opposite to that which yet engaged in the toilsome and hazthey had all so long in public predict- ardous work of production. The owned, so entirely the reverse of that ers of realised capital had become so which many had in secret wished, numerous and weighty, from the beneproduced a profound impression on ficial effects of the protective system the Whig party. Their feelings were under which the country had so long only the more acute, that, amidst the flourished, that they formed an importumult of national exultation, they tant class apart, which began to look were forced to suppress them, and to to its separate interests. The conwear the countenance of satisfaction, sumers had become so numerous and when the bitterness of disappointment affluent, that they were enabled to was in their hearts. To the extreme bid defiance to the producers. The asperity of these feelings, and the uni- maxim became prevalent, “ Take care versal twist which they gave to the of the consumer, and let the producer minds of the whole liberal party in take care of himself." Thence the Great Britain, the subsequent general clamour for free trade. Having passed change in their political principles the labour of production, during which is to be ascribed ; and, in the practical they, or their fathers, had strenuously application of these principles, the supported the protective principles, by real cause of our present distressed which they were making their money, condition is to be found.
the next thing was to support the While one set of causes thus pre- opposite principles, by which the value pared, in the triumph of Conservative of the made money might be augmented. and protective principles, the strongest This was to be done by free trade and possible reaction against them, and a contracted currency. Having made prognosticated, at no distant period, millions by protection, the object now their general banishment from popular was to add a half to every million thought, another, and a not less power- by raising its value. The way to ful set, flowing from the same cause, do this seemed to be by cheapening gave these principles the means of the price of every other article, and acquiring a political supremacy, and raising the price of money: in other ruling the government of the state. words, the system of cheapening The old policy of England, it has been everything without reference to its already observed, for a hundred and effect on the interests of production. fifty years, had been to take care of the Parliamentary reform, for which producers, and let the consumers take the Whigs, disappointed by long care of themselves. Such had been exclusion from office, laboured strenuthe effects of this protective policy, ously, in conjunction with the com. that, before the close of the Revolution- mercial and moneyed classes, enriched ary war, during which it received its by protection, gave them the means of full development, the producingclasses, carrying both objects into execution, both in town and country, had become because it made two-thirds of the so rich and powerful, that it was easy House of Commons the representato see they would ere long give a tives of burghs. The cry of cheap preponderance to urban over rural bread was seductive to all classes in industry. The vast flood of agricul- towns: --to the employer, because it tural riches poured for expenditure opened the prospect of reducing the into towns; that of the manufacturers price of labour, and to the operative, and merchants seldom left it. The because it presents that of lowering that great manufacturing and mercantile of provisions. To these two objects, places, during a century, had advanced accordingly, of raising the value of in population tenfold, in wealth thirty- money and lowering the remunerafold. The result of this change was tion of industry, the Reform parliavery curious, and in the highest degreement, the organ of the moneyed inimportant. Under the shadow of pro- terest and consuming classes, has, tection to industry in all its branches, through all the changes of party, been perfectly steady. It is no wonder it counterpart in the great political rehas been so, for it was the first-born action of the Whig party, of which of those interests. Twenty years be- Macaulay is himself the brightest orfore the cry for reform convulsed the nament. nation-in 1810—the Bullion Com- That this is the true explanation mittee brought forward the principle of of the strange and tortuous policy, both a metallic, and, consequently, a con- in domestic and foreign affairs, under tracted currency; and they recommend- which the nation has so long suffered, ed its adoption in the very crisis
of the is apparent on the slightest survey of war, when Wellington lay at Torres political affairs in the last and present Vedras, and when the monetary crisis century. to which it must have led would have The old principle of the English conmade us a province of France. Re- stitution, which had worked itself into form was the consequence of the existence, or grown up from the neceschange in the currency, not its cause. sities of men, during a long course of The whole time from 1819 to 1831, years, was, that the whole interests of the with the exception of 1824 and 1825, state should be represented, and that the was one uninterrupted period of suffer- House of Commons was the assembly ing. Such was the misery it produced in which the representatives of all that the minds of men were prepared those varied interests were to be found. for any change. A chaos of una- For the admission of these varied nimity was produced by a chaos of interests, a varied system of electoral suffering
qualifications, admitting all interests, Thus, by a singular and most inte- noble, mercantile, industrial, popuresting chain of causes and effects, it lar, landed, and colonial, was indiswas the triumph of Conservative and pensable. In the old House of Comprotective principles in the latter years mons, all these classes found of the war, and the entire demonstra- place for their representatives, and tion thus afforded of their justice and thence the commercial protection it expedience, which was the imme- afforded to industry. According to diate cause of their subsequent aban- the new system, a vast majority of donment, and all the misery which seats was to be allotted to one class has thence arisen, and with which we only, the householders and shopkeepare still everywhere surrounded. For ers of towns. That class was the it at once turned all the intellectual moneyed and consuming class; and energies of the great liberal party to thence the whole subsequent course of oppose, in every particular, the system British policy, which has been to by which their opponents had been sacrifice everything to their integlorified, and concentrated all the rests. energies of the now powerful moneyed The old maxim of government, alike classes to swell, by a change of policy, with Whigs and Tories, was, that the fortunes on which their conse- native industry of all sorts, and espequence depended, and which had cially agricultural industry, was to arisen from the long prevalence of the be protected, and that foreign comopposite system. For such is the ten- petition was to be admitted only in dency to action and reaction, in all so far as was not inconsistent with this vigorous and intellectual communities, primary object. The new philosophy that truth itself is for long no security taught, and the modern liberals carried against their occurrence. On the con- into execution, a different principle. trary, so vehement are the passions They went on the maxim that the inteexcited by a great and lasting triumph rests of the consumers alone were to be of one party, even though in the right, considered: that to cheapen everything that the victory of truth, whether in was the great object; and that it politics or religion, is often the imme- mattered not how severely the prodiate cause of the subsequent triumph ducers of articles suffered, provided of error. The great Roman Catho- those who purchased them were enlic reaction against the Reforma- abled to do so at a reduced rate. This tion, which Ranke has so clearly policy, long lauded in abstract writings elucidated, and Macaulay has so and reviews, was at length carried powerfully illustrated, has its exact into execution by Sir R. Peel, by the tariff of 1842 and the free-trade mea- when the necessities of war had sures of 1816.
drained nearly all that part of the To protect and extend our colonial currency out of the country, and it dependencies was the great object of was evident that, unless a substitute British policy, alike with Whigs and for it in sufficient quantities was proTories, from the time of Cromwell to vided, the nation itself, and all the the fall of Napoleon. In them, it was individuals in it, would speedily bethought our manufacturers would find come bankrupt. The marvels of a lasting and rapidly increasing mar- British finance from that time till ket for their produce, which would, in 1815, which excited the deserved the end, enable us equally to defy the astonishment of the whole world, had hostility, and withstand the rivalry no effect in convincing the impasof foreign states. The new school sioned opponents of Mr Pitt, that this held that this was an antiquated pre- was the true system adapted for that judice : that colonies were a burden or any similar crisis. On the conrather than a blessing to the mother trary, it left no doubt in their minds country : that the independence of that it was entirely wrong. The America was the greatest blessing whole philosophers and liberal school that ever befell Great Britain ; and of politicians discovered that the very that, provided we could buy colonial opposite was the right principle; produce a little cheaper, it signified that gold, the most variable in price nothing though our colonies perish- and evanescent, because the most ed by the want of remuneration for desired and portable of earthly their industry, or were led to revolt things, was the only safe foundation from exasperation at the cruel and un- for a currency ; that paper was worthnatural conduct of the mother country. less and perilous, unless in so far as
The navy was regarded by all our it could be instantly converted into statesmen, without exception, from that incomparable metal; and that, Cromwell to Pitt, as the main security consequently, the more the precious of the British empire ; its bulwark in metals were withdrawn from the war; the bridge which united its far country, by the necessities of war or distant provinces during peace. To the effects of adverse exchanges, the feed it with skilled seamen, the Navi- more the paper circulation should be gation Laws were upheld even by contracted. If the last sovereign Adam Smith and the first free-traders, went out, they held it clear the last as the wisest enactments which were note should be drawn in. The new to be found in the British statute system was brought into practice book. But here, too, it was discovered by Sir R. Peel, by the acts of 1844 that our ancestors had been in error; and 1845, simultaneously with a vast the system under which had flourished importation of grain under the freefor two centuries the greatest naval trade system-and we know the conpower that ever existed, was found to sequence. We were speedily near have been an entire mistake ; and pro- our last sovereign and last note also. vided freights could be had ten per cent To establish a sinking fund, which cheaper, it was of no consequence should secure to the nation during though the fleets of France and Russia peace the means of discharging the blockaded the Thames and Mersey, debt contracted amidst the necesand two-thirds of our trade was carried sities of war, was one of the greatest on in foreign bottoms.
objects of the old English policy, To provide a CURRENCY equal to which was supported with equal the wants of the nation, and capable earnestness by Mr Pitt and Mr Fox, of growth in proportion to the by Mr Addington and Lord Henry amount of their numbers and trans- Petty. So steadily was this admirable actions, was one main object of the system adhered to through all the old policy of Great Britain. Thence dangers and necessities of the war, the establishment of banks in such that we had a clear sinking fund of numbers in every part of the empire £15,000,000 a-year, when the contest during the eighteenth century, and terminated in 1815, which, if kept up the introduction of the suspension of at that amount, from the indirect taxes the obligation to pay in gold in 1797, from which it was levied during peace,
would, beyond all question, as the than, at the close of the war, it was loans had ceased, have discharged to raise seventy-two millions from the whole debt by the year 1845. eighteen millions of inhabitants. But the liberals soon discovered that To discourage revolution, both this was the greatest of all errors : abroad and at home, and enable init was all a delusion; the mathemati- dustry, in peace and tranquillity, to cal demonstration, on which it was reap the fruits of its toil, was the founded, was a fallacy; and the only grand object of the great contest wisdom was to repeal the indirect which Pitt's wisdom bequeathed to taxes, from which the sinking fund his successors, and Wellington's arm was maintained, and leave posterity brought to a glorious termination. to dispose of the debt as they best This, however, was ere long discovered could, without any fund for its dis- to be the greatest error of all. Engcharge. This system was gradually land, it was found out, had a decided carried into effect by the successive interest in promoting the cause of repeal of the indirect taxes by dif- revolution all over the world. So ferent administrations; until at length, enamoured did we soon become of the after thirty-three years of peace, we propagandist mania, that we pursued have, instead of the surplus of fifteen it in direct opposition to our planned millions bequeathed to us by the war, national interests, and with the entire an average deficit of fifteen hundred abrogation of our whole previous thousand pounds; and the debt, after policy, for which we had engaged in the longest peace recorded in British the greatest and most costly wars, history, has undergone scarcely any alike under Whig and Tory adminisdiminution.
trations. We supported revolutions Indirect taxation was the main in the South American states, though basis of the British finance in old thereby we reduced to a half of its times—equally when directed by the former amount the supply of the preWhigs as the Tories. Direct taxes cious metals throughout the globe ; were a last and painful resource, to and, in consequence, increased imbe reserved for a period during war, mensely the embarrassment which a when it had become absolutely un- contracted paper currency bad brought avoidable. So efficacious was this upon the nation : we supported revosystem proved to be by the event, lution in Belgium, though thereby we when acting on a nation enjoying pro- brought the tricolor standard down to tected industry, and an adequate and Antwerp, and surrendered to French irremovable currency, that, before influence the barrier fortresses won by the end of the war, £72,000,000 was, the victories of Marlborough and amidst universal prosperity, with ease Wellington: we supported it during raised from eighteen millions of people four years of carnage and atrocity in in Great Britain and Ireland. This Spain, though thereby we undid the astonishing result, unparalleled in the work of our own hands, in the treaty previous history of the world, had no of Utrecht, surrendered the whole influence in convincing the modern objects gained by the War of the Sucliberals that the system which pro- cession, and placed the female line upon duced it was right. On the contrary, the throne, as if to invite the French it left no doubt in their minds that it princes to come and carry off the glitwas entirely wrong. They introduced tering prize: we supported revolutions the opposite system : in twenty-five in Sicily and Italy, though thereby years, they repealed £40,000,000 of we gave such a blow to our export indirect taxes; and they reintroduced trade, that it sank £1,400,000 in the the income tax as a permanent bur- single month of last May, and above den during peace. We see the result. £5,000,000 in the course of the year The sinking fund has disappeared; 1848. the income tax is fixed about our To abolish the slave trade was one necks; a deficit of from a million and of the objects which Whigs and Tories a half to two millions annually incur- had most at heart in the latter years red; and it is now more difficult to of the old system; and in that great extract fifty-two millions annually and glorious contest Mr Pitt, Mr Fox, from twenty-nine millions of sonls, and Mr Wilberforce stood side by side.