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sently see how far this state of mat- actually did subsequently occur, have ters received the attention of the men been paraded, by the free-traders and in power.
extreme bullionists, as the causes of In this critical position we were the whole disaster. It is of great entitled to expect that the govern importance that the public should unment would have shown itself fully derstand this subject clearly; and. adequate to the crisis—that the causes therefore, without repeating what we of distress, which lie at the root of have elaborately attempted to demonturbulence and disaffection, would be strate before, let us merely remark probed with a firm and prudent hand that the tendency of free-trade, and of
that every possible relief and assis. fettered currency combined, was to tance would be given to the home prostrate the whole commercial world, market-and that, above all, nothing on the first occurrence of a bad season should be done which might tend, in and a scarcity of food, by stimulating the remotest degree, to endanger the the exportation of gold, and at the integrity of the empire. The welfare same time by withdrawing its repreof Great Britain is a terrible trust in sentative. In fact, Sir Robert Peel times like these, and the responsibility constructed his machinery so, that the of those who have professed themselves result, in the event which we have ready to govern, and who, in fact, instanced, could be calculated on with have rather claimed the government mathematical certainty. The realised than received it, is proportionally great. wealth of Britain was rendered of no
Let us then take a candid and avail in this emergency, for the counimpartial review of the proceedings ters which represented it were amisswhich have characterised this session ing, and nothing else would be received of Parliament, extending over a period in exchange. Hence arose that total moro fertile in insurrection than any prostration of credit, and consequent which the world has known. Let us ex- lack of employment, which was so amine how Lord John Russell and his lamentably felt towards the close of colleagues have acquitted themselves in the year 1847. the discharge of their important func- So intolerable was the pressure that, tions. We shall be sparing neither of after much delay and repeated refusals praise nor blamo: glad, indeed, if we to interfere, the Whig ministers were can find an opportunity of being lavish compelled to bestir themselves, and to of the former, or, in case of neglect, suspend the operation of the Banking of stumbling upon an honest excuse. Act, in order to save the country from
Our readers cannot have forgotten actual conyulsion. Parliament was the circumstances under which this summoned about the middle of Nolast session of Parliament commenced. vember, more, perhaps, for the sake of The commercial world has not, for very obtaining a bill of indemnity for the many years, felt any thing like a cor suspension-a measure which, after all, responding crisis; and the change is did not lead to any infringement of most remarkable, when we reflect that the Act-than with the view of boldly the depression followed immediately facing the increasing difficulties of upon a period of almost unexampled the country. Notwithstanding annual prosperity. Our opinion is still un- disappointment, every one waited changed, as to the causes which led to for the speech from the throne with this. We pointed out, in former arti- the most intense ansiety, trusting cles, long before the pressure began, that at such a time some comforting what must be the inevitable result of a glimpses for the future, some earnest wholesale departure from our oldersys- ministerial schemes would be antem, of the adoption of the free-trading nounced, likely to retrieve the comeconomical views, and of the arbitrary mercial world from its embarrassment. contraction of the currency, as de- These expectations were destined to vised by Sir Robert Peel. Every word receive an immediate check. The we then said has been verified to the financial prose of the author of " Don letter; and, as we expected, the very Carlos" was as vague and unsatisfaccontingencies which we suggested as tory as his halting tragic verse. There likely to operate in producing this un- was, of course, a decent show of regret favourable state of matters, and which for public calamity, but no vestige of an intention to interpose any remedial very few could be found to support measure. In point of finance, the such a proposition. If credit is to be only intelligible topic contained in the altogether annihilated in this country, speech was ominous of the repeal of whether by Banking Acts like this, the Navigation Laws. Sanitary im- framed and forced upon us contrary provements, the great Whig hobby, to the experience and in face of the which they are constantly thrusting remonstrance of the mercantile classes, forward beneath the public nose, were or by anarchy and mob rule, as has also recommended. Ireland, then been the case in France, we must pretestifying the humane and Christian pare to bid an everlasting farewell to disposition of its inhabitants, by a our greatness. Credit, it is in vain to series of the most cold blooded and deny, has made the British nation. revolting murders, was recommended Credit may, like every thing else, be to the benevolence of the state. A pushed too far; but even over-trading treaty with the Republic of the is a far less calamity than a restricEquator, touching the suppression of tive system, which in a day can dethe slave trade, was announced ; and stroy the accumulated profits of years, the Whigs looked forward " with for the first carries with it its own anticonfidence to the maintenance of the dote and cure. Peel's banking legisgeneral peace of Europe." A more lation, we do not hesitate to say, has paltry programme was never yet been productive of more harm to this submitted to the public eye.
country in three years, than has ever The ministerial move in November, Occurred from any known cause withand the suspension of the Banking in the same period of time; and the Act, for however short a period, was obstinacy with which he has clung to in truth a remarkable circumstance. his delusion, the sophistry which he If the suspension was right, it must has invariably employed to shift the necessarily imply that Sir Robert responsibility from his shoulders, and Peel was utterly wrong in framing the the manoeuvring style of his defence, measure as he did. We know that the may be consistent with the character Act is useless for control in times of the man, but are not worthy of the of prosperity, and that it pinches us dignity of a British statesman. by becoming operative under adverse In suspending the operation of the seasons; and it was precisely when Banking Act, the Whigs tacitly adthe pinch was felt that the Whigs mitted that, in their opinion, whether were forced to suspend it. True-a lately adopted or not, there was somegreat deal of the mischief had by that thing fundamentally injurious and time been accomplished. Men, every wrong with the measure. The subwhit as respectable as the late Pre- ject was a very serious one. You may mier, had been driven into the Gazette bungle sanitary bills, pass coercive for the sheer want of temporary ae- laws, or tamper with the jurisprudence commodation, and property sank in of the country, without doing more value as rapidly as the mercury be than a limited amount of evil. But fore a storm. But the true nature of the subject of the currency is so intithe Act had been felt and condemned mately and vitally connected with our by the public ; and in no one instance whole commercial greatness, that it do we ever recollect to have wit must be handled with the utmost prenessed a greater unanimity of opinion, caution. A leak in a ship is not more hostile to its endurance and principle, dangerous than a flaw in a monetary than prevailed, at least beyond the statute; and, when once discovered, walls of the House of Commons. If not a moment should be lost in repairthe public were wrong in this impres- ing it. sion, then it followed as a matter of Not one member of the present Cacourse that the ministry were highly binet was in any way competent for blameable for the suspension ; that the task. It is most extraordinary, Peel's machine, being a sound and that the Whigs, after all their official salutary one, should have been left to experience, should exhibit such a sindo its work, and to crush down as gular incapacity in every matter which many victims as it could possibly has the slightest connexion with finentangle in its wheels. But in truth, ance. They do not seem to compre
hend the subject at all ; and if their perfectly ripe for decision-indeed, for private affairs were conducted in the months the currency had formed same slovenly fashion as are those of almost the sole topic discussed by the the public when unfortunately com- press; and it was peculiarly desirable mitted to their guidance, we should that we should no longer be left in a very soon see the Gazette adorned state of uncertainty, or exposed to the with some elegant extracts from the operation of another panic. But such Court Guide. The only respectable an arrangement did not suit the Chancellor of the Exchequer whom Whigs. They were not prepared to they ever produced was Mr Baring; come forward with an intelligible and he, it is rumoured, was considered plan for remedying the evil which too scrupulous to be admitted to that they had already admitted to exist. post again. Besides this, his views Not secretly displeased, perhaps, at upon the currency were known to be the general impression that the Tamdiametrically opposite to those enter- worth Baronet had committed a gross tained by Sir Robert Peel. Sir Charles and unpardonable blunder, they were Wood, the worst financier that ever unable to dispense with his support, disgraced the memory of Cocker, had and extremely unwilling to give him committed himself before the suspen- umbrage—and therefore they took sion of the Act, in an especially ridi- refuge in the convenient scheme of culous manner. At one time, this committees. In vain did Mr Herries, gentleman was quite jocund and hope. in an able and statesmanlike speech, ful, a firm believer in the existence of point out the danger of delay, and a plethora, and smiled at the idea of exhibit the true causes of the disa crisis with a happy air of mingled tress which had lately prevailed, and indifference and satisfaction. Shortly which was still weighing upon the afterwards, however, he took the country. In vain did he implore alarm, attempted to eat in his own ministers to face the question manwords—an operation which he per- fully. His proposal that the House formed with most indifferent grace,- should proceed at once to the conand possibly became dimly conscious sideration of the Banking Act, with that a Chancellor of the Exchequer the view of suspending permanently has more duties to perform than to its limitations, subject to a wholesome sign the receipt for his salary. Sir control, was lost by a majority of Charles evidently was not the man to forty-one. After a most lengthened grapple with the difficulty ; and be- examination, the committees have sides this, he could not afford to offend issued their reports; and the result is Sir Robert Peel, or give a triumph to another difference of opinion, which his political opponents, who had all leaves the whole matter open to along denounced the Banking Act as renewed discussion. The session has an experiment of a perilous nature. In rolled away, and the Banking Act is this position, the Whigs adopted the left untouched. safest course for themselves, if not for We presume that the most conthe country. They asked for a com- firmed free-trader within the four mittee, both in the Lords and Com- seas . of Britain will at all events mons, to consider the question of the admit this fact, that not one of the currency, taking care, of course, to glorious promises held out to us by nominate members whose opinions the political economists and gentlewere already known. We thoroughly men of the Manchester school has agree with Mr Herries, that the in- as yet been realised. We can hardly quiry was a work of supererogation, expect that they will be candid The subject has been already inves enough to confess the fallacy of the tigated in every possible way. Blue views which they then so enthusiastibooks have been issued from time to cally maintained ; and we doubt not time, containing an enormous mass that, in any discussion, we should of deliberate evidence; and that evi- still hear some very ingenious expladence has been repeatedly analysed nations to account for the non-advent and dissected by writers of great of the anticipated blessings. But the ability and statistical knowledge on boldest of them will not deny that, either side. The public mind was in the mean time, all the fiscal changes have been followed by a decline in all sides that a revenue must be our prosperity, a falling-off in trade, raised-for we have not yet got the and a consequent defalcation of the length of talking openly of the revenue. We have certainly not sponge-they, at all events, might gained in employment, we have lost have been expected to say somemoney; and the best proof of it is, the thing in favour of their friends, low ebb of the national revenue. at a crisis of their own producing. Such being the case, it is no wonder But there is no creature on earth so if the budget or financial statement utterly selfish and devoid of compuncof the minister was expected with the tion, as your thorough-paced economost intense anxiety, and if, for the mical free-trader. Point merely in the time, every other topic was merged direction of his pocket, and he inin the consideration of this. Political stantly howls with terror. Five per history does not contain many epi- cent income-tax was as obnoxious in sodes equal to that famous discussion - the eyes of Cobden and Bright as in many instances of utter helplessness those of other men who acted upon like that exhibited by the Premier. sounder principles; and it is not unin
We have already analysed the bud. structive to remark the course which get fully in another article,* and it is on this occasion the ex-members of not worth while now to recur to it for the League thought fit to pursue. It the purposes of exposure. The deficit had been long apparent to them, as it was estimated at no less than three was to every man in the country, that millions for the year; and this large the revenue of the year must prove insum was to be made up by the impo- sufficient to meet the expenditure. sition of an augmented income-tax. They knew that the unpalatable fact, Considering what had taken place on when announced in Parliament, would the occasion when Sir Robert Peel inevitably lead to a discussion regardfirst proposed that discreditable and ing the policy of past measures, and the decidedly odious impost, the assur- wisdom of persisting in a course which ances that it was to be merely tempo. hitherto had met with no reciprocity rary in its endurance, and the specious from foreign countries, but, on the pleas of necessity with which it was contrary, had been used to increase then fortified,-it is no matter of sur- the burden of our embarrassments. prise that the ministerial plan should Such discussion was to be deprecated have been received with symptoms of and avoided by every possible means; marked disgust, even by those who and the readiest way of effecting this usually accord their support to the seemed to be the suggestion of a plan measures of the present government whereby the expenditure might be Mr Hume opined that the ministry lessened and brought down to the were mad. Mr Osborne declared level of the revenue. This very dehis belief that, had there been a sirable result was not so easy of acregularly organised Opposition, such complishment; but nevertheless Mr a financial statement would have Cobden undertook the task. The probeen the death-warrant of any admi- duct was worthy of the author. The nistration. Even the Manchester wise, politic, and sagacious principle section of the free-traders held aloof of the calico-printer was to effect & from ministers, just as cowards might saving by the material reduction of our do from the support of a drowning military and naval establishments, man. For however vexatious the and the weakening of the national admission might be, they were bound arm. We hope our readers have not in common gratitude to have recol- forgotten, were it merely from the dislected that the change from indirect gust they must have excited, the silly to direct taxation was effected mainly and egotistic remarks of this complaat their instance, and to gratify their cent personage touching his travels, everlasting clamour. That change had his observations, and his mission as a resulted in a huge deficit of the peaceful regenerator. Free trade, revenue; and, it being admitted on which ought long ago to have made
* See our No. for March 1848.
Great Britain rich, had, according to Unabashed by the result of his prehis experiences, already pacified the vious exhibitions, callous to shame, world. There was to be no more war and impenetrable to ridicule, he again - the French were the most affection- addressed the House on the subject of ate and domesticated men upon the the navy estimates, for the purpose of face of the earth and he, Cobden, and demonstrating the propriety of an imhis friend Cremieux, were inter- mediate reduction of the fleet. This changing congratulatory letters on the was too much even for Lord John advent of the new millennium. In our Russell, who for once took heart of March Number for the present year, grace, and administered a fair allowwe had the satisfaction of bestowing ance of punishment to the arrogant a slight castigation upon Cobden, to and ignorant free-trader. But the which we beg now to refer those gen. truth is, Mr Cobden's career is ended. tlemen who were so wroth with us for The Times, once a warm admirer of presuming to question the dicta of the this confident gentleman, has ceased oracle of the West Riding. Within to vouchsafe him its protection, as a few days after that article was will be seen from the following extract penned, Europe was wrapped in in- of 11th August last :surrection, and Cobden's correspon
“What has he done? What have been dent a member of a revolutionary his tactics? What is the sum and subgovernment! The French free-trader,
errenne -wader, stance of the statesmanship to which all Cremieux, was a consenting party to the world looked forward so anxiously! the decree which drove forth the Simply this-adepreciation of our military British labourers from France, without and naval establishments, and an emulawarning and without compensation! tion of America. The first constitutes the The barricades of June have demon- whole gist and pith of the honourable strated the affectionate and domesti. member's speeches ; the latter, of his cated character of the race whom policy. England is to disband her fleets Cobden delighteth to honour. If to and armies, to give up her colonies, and to cut, in cold blood, the throats of pri.
ori enter boldly on a course of Yankee states
manship. We would not wrong the hon. soners, to shoot down the messengers
gentleman. We refer to his speeches on of peace in spite of their sacred calling,
Tuesday and Wednesday nights, as well to mangle the bodies of the wounded,
les of the wounded, as those delivered at the close of the last and these brothers and countrymen, year. What do they amount to? "Reunder circumstances unheard-of, save trench your expenditure ; give up your perhaps in the tales of African atro- ships ; abolish the ordnanoe ; send round city-if these things constitute domes- embassies to every country and court tication, then by all means let us fall of Europe ; tell them you have disback upon a more erratic and natural armed ; ask them to do the same; and state of society. How would we have
then set to work, and tinker up your stood at this moment, with regard to
constitution on the model of the United Ireland, save for the fact of our being
States. Do away with open voting.
Destroy the privilege of the suffrage ; able to overawe rebellion by the pre
abolish the virtue of patriotic courage; sence of an overwhelming military
give every man a vote, and make every force ? Did ever a man, professing to man vote in secret. Then you will be be an apostle and a prophet, find him
rich and prosperous ; your expenditure self landed in such a ridiculous and will at once be curtailed, and your comignominious posture?
merce will be diffused by the amity of It is strange that the reception nations. This is the policy which is to which he met with in the House of save us from ruin, to pay our debt and Commons, upon the occasion of his confirm our strength. All that we can first attack unon the army did not say is, that one part of it is well matched induce Cobden to pause before com
to the other ; that both equally demonmitting himself to a second absurdity.
strate the ability of the counsellor to
ausurany: advise, as his vaticinations last winter But there are some men whose conceit
ent proved his ability to prophesy.” is of such extravagant a development, that no experience, no failure, And yet this is the person whom the no argument, will induce them to part Whigs lauded, and whom Sir Robert with one iota of a preconceived Peel elaborately eulogised for his saopinion. Such a person is Cobden. gacity!