« AnteriorContinuar »
By a somewhat curious coincidence, financial prospects. It is no doubt posthe budget was brought forward on sible that trade may revive-though, the very week when the French revo. from the present aspect of European lation broke out. Mr Cobden's pro- affairs, we are not inclined to be at posal, therefore, met with no support; all sanguine in our expectations. We and it must have become evident, even cannot, it is quite clear, reduce our to the free-traders, that under such a effective establishments; for no one threatening aspect as the Continent can say what emergency may arise presented, no sane man would agree to make us, not mere spectators, but to a reduction in our military force. active partisans in a contest which we Still that party continued inflexibly shall deeply and long deplore. Ecoopposed to the ministerial measure for nomy we may practise at home, and raising an adequate revenue, and, by for once we are of Joseph's mind. doing so, we maintain that they were There are items in our civil and penguilty of an act of political ingratitude. sion list clearly superfluous and undeIn this situation, ministers were fain fensible, and we wish to see these to withdraw their proposal, and to removed, though with a just regard to continue the income tax as formerly, vested interests and claims. We are for a period of three years, without no admirers of such antiquated offices any definite scheme of making up for as that of Hereditary Grand Falthe deficiency in the revenue.
coner; and we think that Mr MacIn fact, the session has passed Gregor's inquiry, as to the heirs of the away without a budget at all. That Duke of Schomberg, who for a cenwhich Lord John Russell tabled, has tury and a half have been billeted crumbled away like a thing of gossa- upon the country to the tune of three mer; and, so far as financial matters thousand a-year, deserved at least a are concerned, we are left in the courteous reply from so very deterpleasant impression that we are get mined an economist as the Premier ting into further debt, and have no formerly proclaimed himself. A doordistinct means of paying it. To ex- keeper may surely be maintained at a hibit the recklessness with which the less annual expense than the income Whigs regard all matters connected of a country gentleman; and in many with revenue, it is sufficient to remark, departments even of government, we that with three millions of deficit ad have certainly been over lavish of mitted, our rulers think this an advan- remuneration. But these retrenchtageous and a proper time to sacrifice ments, though they may give satisabout fifty thousand pounds annually, faction to the nation, can never free the produce of duties upon imported it from its embarrassments. The recopper ore.
venue has clearly sunk to a point Mr Osborne was right. No minis- when it must be augmented by some try, had there been a decent Opposition, decided and effective measure; and it could have stood such an exposure. will well become us all to consider, We even go further; for we be- even without reference to past disputes, lieve that—but for the French re- from what quarter the supply is to volution, and the universal turbulence come. If the decision, or at all abroad, which rendered it absolutely events the expressed feeling, of the necessary that this country should House of Commons can be taken as maintain a firm front, and exhibit no an index of the popular wish, the symptoms of internal weakness or nation will not submit to an augdiscord-the present ministry could mentation of the income-tax. No not have existed for another fortnight increased duties upon excise can be As it is, we are in some respects glad levied, -indeed the cry is general for that they have continued in office; the removal of those which exist. because, though late, they have been The window-tax-though it might be called upon to act under circum- materially improved by a more equitstances which, in future, may give a able arrangment, and by rating great new and improved tone to Whig poli-houses without any graduated scaletical opinions.
is decidedly unpopular. In fact, all Before quitting the budget, let us direct taxation is of an obnoxious say a word or two regarding future character-it is the fertile source of murmur and of discontent, and it trade in all these branches. It was never can be adjusted so as to render their interest to push the cotton trade it palatable to the payer.
to its utmost possible limits, and to From what quarter, then, is it pos- undersell all competitors in every acsible for us to recruit our revenue ? cessible market. Hence their favourHow are we to provide for casualties, ite doctrine of cheapness, which in and for a possibly increased expendi- appearance is so plausible, but which ture? That question must be solved actually is so fallacious, and the perin one way or the other, and that tinacity with which they have conwithout lack of time. It will not do tinued to preach it up. Hence the to go on from year to year with a League, in the formation of which continually increasing deficit, the they displayed such undoubted energy, arrears of which shall be passed to and the immense sums which they the capital of our national debt-we lavished for the popular promulgation must raise money, and the only ques- of their creed. To conciliate these tion is, how to do it.
men, swollen to a formidable number, Within the last six years, says Sir and maintaining their opinions with Charles Wood, the nation has remit- extreme plausibility, and no ordinary ted seven and a half millions of annual share of talent, became an important taxation : since the peace, says Lord object to the leaders who were then
John Russell, more than thirty-nine at the head of the two great parties millions of annual taxes have been of the state. It is in vain to deny that removed. Highly satisfactory this, no a large body of the middle classes doubt-but what does it prove? Sim- were concerned in this movement, ply that we have pushed the abolition and, to gain their votes and support, of indirect taxation too far. We the unholy race for power began. have gone on, year after year, lower- Hence our legislation, whether uning tariffs, for the purpose of stimulat- der Peel or Russell, has been directed ing foreign trade. We have thereby for the last six or seven years invaunquestionably increased our imports, riably to one point. The man who but we have failed in giving any thing could boast of having removed the like a corresponding buoyancy to our greatest amount of taxation was sure exports. Why we did this is not to be the popular favourite; and we very difficult of comprehension, if we all know in what manner, and by look attentively to the state of party what means, Sir Robert Peel accomwhich has subsisted for the last few plished his share of the work. He years in this country.
first, on the assurance that it was to Free-trade, in so far as it lessens be merely temporary, obtained an the cost of production, is clearly the income-tax, amply sufficient to reinterest of the master-manufacturer deem the financial deficit which was who exports for the foreign market; the legacy of his predecessors. He but, we repeat, it is the interest of no next proceeded to make that incomeone else in the community. Free- tax permanent, by paring at, and trade in certain articles,—that is, in reducing the tariffs ; and finally, in raw material introduced to this coun- order that his rival might not have try for the purpose of being manufac- the start of him in popularity, he tured, sold at home, or exported—is threw his party overboard, and conjust and commendable. Free-trade sented to the abolition of the cornin what are called the necessaries of laws. life, such as corn and cattle, does not But there is a point beyond which tend to the wealth of the country ; but, taxation cannot possibly be remitted; for the present, we shall leave that and that point Sir Robert Peel had subject in abeyance. Free-trade in reached before he retired from office. luxuries and in manufactured goods, True, the effect of his measures had whenever these latter displace the not yet become apparent, but they home labourer in the home market, were foreseen by many, and perhaps we hold to be utterly injurious, and not unsuspected by himself towards. we shall presently state our reasons. the close of his tenure of office.
The Manchester school have adopt. Further than as being consenting ed, preached, and insisted upon free parties to those reckless sacrifices of revenue, it would be unfair to charge the price of food wages also would the Whigs with having brought us inevitably decline. Foreign corn, into our present perplexity. Sir however, was not enough for the Robert Peel is the real author of appetite of those grasping monopolists. this, and he cannot escape the respon. They looked with envy on the smaller sibility.
non-exporting trades, who constituted Now upon two points-viz., the a great portion of the population, and introduction of raw material for who were defended in the home manufacture, and of articles of food market, their only field, by a reasonwe shall for the present forbear join- able scale of duties. It presently ing issue with the free-traders. But occurred to them, that if, by any the third one, that of the admission means this scale could be broken of foreign manufactured goods at down, and the market inundated with nearly nominal rates of duty, is far foreign manufactures, they might be too important to be passed over, even enabled to export a larger quantity at the risk of repetition.
of their own fabrics, reduce the price The industry of this country is not of articles which they were personally confined to a few, but flows through inclined to consume, and finally reap a thousand channels. There are, another benefit by cheapening labourhowever, about four great trades in that is, by forcing a new class, through which Britain can at present, owing want of employment, to compete with to her mineral wealth, machinery, and their former operatives. These we capital, compete with decided advan- know to have been the secret views tage against any other country in the of the League, and to these ends, for world. These are the cotton, the several years past, they have bent the linen, the woollen, and the iron trade, whole of their energies. How they the exports of which articles amount have succeeded, let the present state to rather more than TWO-THIRDS of of the labour market tell. The tariffs the whole exports of the United of 1846 were expressly framed in their Kingdom, or in round numbers from favour. They have done half of the thirty-three to thirty-five millions anticipated work ; for by the admisannually. It is to the unceasing sion of foreign manufactures into this agitation of men connected with country at a reduced rate of duty, these trades that we owe the erection they have thrown many thousands of of the League, and the progress of industrious handicraftsmen into the free-trade which has brought us to so streets. The small shopkeeper has low a condition.
been reduced from an employer into It is no matter of surprise that the a mere retailer, and disaffection has corn-laws were obnoxious to such been engendered through the pressure persons. With the agricultural in- of absolute misery. terest they had no natural sympathy; This may seem a highly-coloured and being always able to command picture ; but if any man of intelligence the monopoly of the home market, will take the trouble to make himself their invariable effort has been to acquainted with the feelings, and to stimulate trade abroad to the very listen to the individual histories of utmost of their power. High wages persons of the working-class, be will interfered with their profits; and in find it to be strictly true. Four-fifths order to command the labour mar- of the men who were in attendance ket, they formed their famous scheme at the late Chartist meetings belonged for reducing the price of food, by in 1845 to the non-exporting trades, dealing a blow to agriculture at were then in full employment, and home, and opening the ports to the probably as loyal as any subjects in admission of foreign corn. This the kingdom. So, indeed, we believe cry was to a certain degree po. they are still, in so far as loyalty to pular, especially amongst those who the crown is concerned ; for, thank were not connected with their works; God! Republicanism has not taken for the more intelligent of the opera- any root in the empire. But they are tives, to their credit be it said, very utterly discontented with the governearly detected the selfishness of the ment, and furious at the apathy with whole manquyre, and saw, that with which, they think, their sufferings are regarded. They find that the repeal England, that in attending court they of the corn-laws has done absolutely should appear attired in dresses exnothing in their favour. They find clusively the production of native inthat the lowered tariffs have opened a dustry. Yes! our gracious Queen, sluice-gate through which articles of whose heart is unchilled by the cold foreign manufacture have rushed in dogmas of political economy, felt like to swamp them; and they gloomily, a woman and a sovereign, and reand even savagely, assert, that this solved, on her part at least, to rescue state of things is the result of a com- from famine and misery so many bination of the rich against the poor. thousands of her poorer subjects. It So it is : but from that combination is most gratifying to know that this the aristocracy and gentlemen of Eng- exercise of the royal care and benevoland stand apart. The headquarters lence has met with its best reward, of the grinding-society are at Man- for in the midst of all the distress chester, Liverpool, and Sheffield ; the which has unfortunately prevailed, machinery it uses are the arms of the the class for whose benefit those timely League; the master-spirits of the con- orders were issued have been kept in federacy are Cobden, Wilson, and employment and food : the example set Bright.
from the throne has been widely and A very pregnant instance of the generously followed. But will it be sympathy which is felt by the free- believed, that this act of mercy gave traders and political economists for huge umbrage to the free-traders, and the suffering of the lower orders, oc- was fiercely commented on in their curred during a debate towards the journals as a gross infringement of the beginning of May last. We specially principles of enlightened government? notice the fact, because it proves that, Therefore, in the eyes of the Leaguers, however two successive ministers may it seems a crime to interfere for the have forgot their duty to the people, support of the British workman,-and there exists, in a higher quarter still, unjustifiable interference with Provithe deepest commiseration for their dence to give work to the labouring distress, and an earnest desire to alle poor! viate it in every possible manner. It But this is not all. Lord John appears from official documents that, Russell, on being asked in the House during the first three months of the of Commons whether he had any share present year, there were entered for in suggesting this philanthropic action, home consumption, at the port of or whether the sole credit of it apperLondon alone, foreign silk goods worth tained to his royal mistress, was not £400,000, equal to the employment of slow in uttering his disclaimer. “He 31,000 weavers ; lace and needle had not advised the crown in the work worth £40,000, or sufficient to matter,-he could only say that the displace the produce of 4000 work- order had issued from the Chamberwomen and sempstresses; and 7000 lain's office.” After a vain attempt dozen of boot and shoe fronts, enough to show that no extra quantity of to keep 1200 cordwainers in full em- goods had been imported, but that the ployment. So pear as we can calcu- apparent increase arose solely from late, the duty payable upon those ar- the cessation of smuggling, he proticles, under the tariff of 1845, would ceeded to remark:-"But if more have amounted to £88,150: at present goods are now entered, and thereby a it is not more than £65,575, thus en particular class do suffer inconvenience tailing a primary loss of £22,575 to or distress, yet these entries must stithe revenue. Such an influx of goods, mulate the production and exportation at a peculiarly unprofitable season, was of the classes of goods for which the tantamount to displacing the labour imports are exchanged." There spoke of 36,200 persons, who were to be the convert to the League--the truckler thrown upon the public charity, with- to Cobden and Co.! There, from out any other resource. A short time the lips of a British minister, fell the after these facts became known, an most un-British, the most unpatriotic order was issued from the Lord doctrine that ever get was enunciated! Chamberlain's office, containing her Said we not truly that the whole obMajesty's commands to the ladies of ject of free trade is to put down and exterminate the non-exporting trades, between driving out workmen, and for the exclusive benefit of the few keeping out their work : though no monster monopolies? The Premier order had been issued to exclude concluded an ungracious, halting, and foreign work, yet the effect of the discreditable speech with the some- order really given is, that French what unnecessary announcement that, silks, which would have been conunder all circumstances, he thought sumed, will not be used, and English he should be the last person to advise taken instead. It should be known, her Majesty to make an alteration in that from the late convulsions, the the commercial policy which of late contingent depression of trade, and years had been pursued.
the low price of French silks in France, We need hardly remark that, in the very large quantities of them have present instance, the importation of been purchased and brought to this these foreign goods could in no way country. The announcement in ques"stimulate the production or expor- tion might therefore entail great loss tation" of any kind of British manu- on large capitalists, and ruin on many facture whatever. The articles in of smaller means. The kindness to question were sent from France, at a the Spitalfields weavers would then time when every thing was unsaleable, be done only at a cost of loss and and were sold in London for hard cash, injury to other classes." Quite right, at a heavy discount. Even Cobden Friend Bright! the first persons to be need not have grudged this little en- guarded are your speculators and your couragement to Spitalfields and Beth- capitalists. The poor operative, pal Green. He did not sell a yard of who is not in your line, may starve calioo the less. Gold, and not shirt for any thing you care. There is a ing, was what the French wanted, protective spirit about this, which abwhat they bargained for, and what solutely charms us. We wonder that they received. But let us see a little Mr Bright did not on a former occamore of the sympathy of the Leaguers sion foresee that the repeal of the for the poor, and respect for the corn-laws might entail great loss on sovereign, who surely might be left, large proprietors, and ruin on many in matters of this kind, to exercise of smaller means ! some discretion of her own.
Sir William Molesworth considered Colonel Thompson, representing an that “it was a silly and foolish order; exporting constituency, was furions at and he was informed, on the best the alleged interference. "He would authority, that there was not the ask whether there was any charity, slightest chance of its being obeyed." any humanity, any justice, any policy, We leave this remark of Molesworth any common-sense in representing without any comment, merely asking hostility to one portion of the manu- his authority for holding that, to asfacturing classes of the country, to sist in feeding the hungry, and maincome from a quarter of which he was taining our poorer countrymen by the sure no one in that House wished to exercise of their own industry, is a speak otherwise than with feelings of silly and a foolish act; and requestthe utmost affection and reverence?” ing him to consider how far his chivalWe are not sure that we quite under- rous title is consistent with such lanstand this outburst of the gallant guage, when applied to an order emaColonel, which we copy verbatim from nating directly from his sovereign. the columns of the Spectator, but, as This little episode is very instructive, he talks about charity and humanity as elucidating the views of the freewith reference to his waistcoat and traders. The great exporting trades pantaloon exporting constituency of have combined to crush and annihiBradford, we take him to mean that late the small handicrafts, and this that favoured place should flourish, they are rapidly doing through the and Spitalfields utterly disappear operation of these lowered tariffs. If This is pure Leaguer's doctrine, dis direct taxation were to be introduced, tinctly redolent of the Bastile ! and the custom-house virtually abol
Mr John Bright was also true to ished, in so far as regards articles of his order. The partisan of peace foreign manufacture, the thing would opined that “there was no difference be done at once-for no one would