Imágenes de página
PDF
ePub

“Looking to the improvements in machinery, do you think it likely that want of employment will cease? I do not see how it can cease; I think it is more likely to become permanent.

“Therefore, do you contemplate a large body of able-bodied men unable to find work, notwithstanding any increased prosperity of manufactures ? I think any possible increased prosperity of manufactures will be more than met by increased machinery.'

Here, then, is unquestionably one great source of obstruction to commercial prosperity; a boundless power of production, which, the moment any demand springs up, is instantly set in motion to produce a hundred, it may be a thousand, times the quantity required. This system must, it is imagined, ultimately work its own cure, by leading to the withdrawal of capital from undertakings so hazardous and unprofitable, rather than to its more extensive investment. But, so long as it continues to be practised, it is liable to be followed by the same miserable consequences to employers and workinen by which it has already been visited.

It is apprehended that this view of the subject is not contemplated with much interest by the manufacturers ; that the question as regards production is of less importance to them than that which relates to consumption. That a certain demand only can exist, for which a certain supply only is requisite, may be an abstract truth in political economy, but it is at variance with what seems to be the advanced intelligence of the age. The doctrine now appears to be this—an unlimited power and disposition to produce having been discovered, the consumption must be made to correspond. How is this to be done? Some parties imagine that it is the province of the government to provide the means of consumption. Others, more considerate, have an infallible prescription of their own. They insist upon a depreciation of the coinage; that gold should be made to bend to the national exigencies, and that there should be an inconvertible paper currency based upon the national credit. At the beginning of the present year they confidently predicted, that unless Sir Robert Peel adopted this plan his government would not exist three months. It is to no purpose to assure those philosophers that money is already so abundant in the country that it cannot find legitimate employment; that the Bank of England has nearly twelve millions of bullion in her coffers, and twenty millions of notes in circulation; that money is something like a drug in the market; that the currency is of the same nature now as it was in 1836, when they were in the full blow of their prosperity; and that an alteration in the currency would not effect any improvement in trade. This will not satisfy them. They entertain a conviction that, so long as there are any number of honest workmen in the kingdom out of employment, the currency ought to be farther depressed,—there ought to be a still larger issue of notes. If any man had a quantity of inconvertible paper placed in his hands, he would certainly have no reluctance to become a consumer of manufactures to the extent to which his wants or his folly might incline him. If this sort of currency became general, there is no difficulty in foreseeing that prices would soon run up very pleasantly; but if it was never to be redeemed by the interposition of property or capital of some kind, it would become mere rubbish,-we might as well make a currency of the stones on the streets. The idea of having it based upon the national credit is fanciful enough, but it is to be apprehended that the national credit would be a very intangible security for a national issue of inconvertible notes. We must take leave, therefore, to dissent wholly and totally from such a remedy for national distress, or in other words, for a depression in commerce. It has been alleged that ministers ascribe the existing distress to general over-production, but we are not aware that there exist any just grounds for such an allegation. On the contrary, both the Prime Minister and the President of the Board of Trade have severally disclaimed such an absurd and untenable doctrine ; the first upon introducing the present corn law to the House of Commons, the latter in the course of repeated addresses in the same place. The existing distress they ascribe not to one, but, as previously remarked, to a variety of causes. They justly consider that over-production which is really based on capital is not likely to occasion weighty or permanent inconvenience to a country where free trade has fair play. The evils arising from an undue extension of the credit system must cure themselves; but they appear to entertain the very reasonable belief, that the period of time required for that purpose must be an interval of suffering, and they apprehend that this is the very ordeal through which the country has been passing.

It is impossible to form a correct estimate of the great commercial policy adopted by the present government, to accord to them that full measure of approbation and confidence to which they are so pre-eminently entitled, to discover the importance and extent of the advantages we may reasonably and justly expect to reap from their talented and enlightened administration, without also taking into consideration the happy results of their foreign and financial policy. These we may take a future opportunity of examining in detail.

It is impossible to forget the melancholy position in which they found almost every interest, foreign and domestic, at the

VOL. III.-NO. I.

U

period of their accession to office. The finances of the country were in a state of miserable depression,—the budget of the Whig minister exhibiting a lamentable deficiency; all the various branches of manufacture were in the course of gradual decay. The foreign markets were excluding or declining to purchase our productions ; the home markets were languishing from the general want of employment. There were wars impending with various nations, and wars actually in prosecution with others. In the north-west of India we were enacting a horrid and bloody tragedy. In China we were engaged in a questionable and sanguinary contest. France was arming against us; and America had been aroused into an attitude of defiance. All these cases involved the consideration of questions of great commercial, as well as of national policy. In some of our own colonies, Canada for instance, where there had been two rebellions, there existed wide-spread discontent. After a lapse of two years, what is the result? The present government have happily succeeded in establishing permanent peace with those powers with which we were at war, and also with those whom their predecessors had stirred up to the preparation of hostilities; they have pacified the disaffected colonies; they have established advantageous commercial treaties with other nations; they have set an example to the whole world by reducing the duties upon upwards of 700 articles of consumption, and by the introduction of a modified scale of duties upon corn; they have restored the national finances to a more satisfactory condition ; and they have facilitated the means for a gradual and permanent revival of commerce. All these circumstances taken together afford the best evidence that could be desired of the claim which they possess upon the confidence and support of the country. If the evils under which the country has suffered, and is still in some measure suffering, have arisen, as it is generally alleged, from too great a pressure upon the springs of industry, from too severe a system of restrictions upon commerce, then the present government have done much more towards the removal of those sufferings than any previous administration. This has been fully and frankly admitted by their opponents, whose only complaint is that they have not gone far enough. They have removed restrictions both upon our imports and exports; one of the last acts of the last session being the removal of the remaining restrictions upon the exportation of machinery, an act calculated to be productive of the greatest advantage, not only to that especial branch of our industry, but to other trades connected with it, and to manufactures in general. It is an act, also, the passing of which will tend to remove the accusation and reproach on the part of France and Belgium, that while England was calling out for fair dealing and reciprocity, she was herself keeping up a close monopoly by prohibiting the export of her machines. This measure, therefore, while it will remove any such ground of complaint, may induce a more speedy adoption, on the part of other nations towards England, of that liberal and enlightened commercial policy of which she has afforded them such a distinguished example. It is not the fault of the present government that the general trade of the country has not sprung up with that rapidity which the fervid imaginations of some parties had led them to expect. Had it been at this moment in a state of great prosperity after so recent an escape of the nation from the dangers and horrors of a general war, after such an extensive alteration of the tariff so recently made, and in the face of hostile tariffs enacted by other nations, the government would indeed have been entitled to the credit of having performed a miracle. They cannot, however, indulge such high pretensions. They have established peacethey have made great improvements in our commercial codethey have sown the seeds of gradual, and it is hoped, of permanent prosperity. The signs of this prosperity are already more or less manifest, and it becomes the inhabitants of the greatest commercial country in the world, instead of incessantly calling for change, to give a fair trial to the measures that have been passed, and to continue unabated that confidence in the bold and enlightened policy of Sir Robert Peel, which has enabled him, within so short a period, to effect improvements, and to complete negociations, so signally calculated to advance the best interests and prosperity of the kingdom.

“ The state of our trade,” said Sir Robert Peel at the close of the last session," it must be confessed has been, and is depressed. I think this has arisen principally from, or as a consequence of, the last four unfortunate years, during which America has been in a hostile attitude to this country, or subject to the paralysing effect of derangements in finance, which still continue to depress her national energies. I have, however, confident expectations that the great financial measure of last year, aided by the operation of the tariff, will lay the foundation for the reparation of our finances. I trust the house will see that we have not forfeited by the course we have pursued since our accession to power, that confidence with which it has hitherto honoured us. Although we may have disappointed some of our friends and supporters, who anticipated that the agricultural interest would have been protected by still higher duties on corn imported into this country, I beg to remind them, that there was nothing said in or out of this house by me or by any of my colleagues, which would lead them to suppose that we would sacrifice the general interest to any such views. I trust that we bave not lost the confidence reposed in us by our friends, and whilst we enjoy that, we are determined to apply ourselves actively to the duties of our deeply responsible situation, impressed with a due conviction that there is an energy and public spirit in this great country which, whatever may be the difficulties by which she is surrounded, will enable her to surmount them all, and place her in that proud situation amongst nations which she ought to maintain. No partial dissatisfaction, no partial disappointment, has alienated from us the approbation and confidence of our friends; and relying on that, we shall persevere in the discharge of our public duties.

Art. X.-Canzone attributed to Dante, published by Permission of

the Trustees of the British Museum. A MS. volume (3459) in the Harleian Collection at the British Museum contains a Canzone (consisting of eighty verses of eleven or seven syllables each intermixed), therein, and in the printed Catalogue ascribed to Dante Alighieri. The volume, which is in folio, and on paper, comprises, in addition to the whole of the Divine Comedy, a commentary subjoined to each canto, the well-known metrical Prologue of Dante's son Jacopo, and arguments to the “ Inferno" and " Purgatorio" in verse, and to the “ Paradiso” in prose.—The whole is not very clearly written. It certainly escaped the attention of Foscolo, who, as appears from the list of Dante MSS. appended to thie recent edition of his Commentary, had examined personally only two, the Mazzuchellian and the Roscoe.

Although the Harleian MS. above alluded to is referred in the Catalogue to the fifteenth century, the party who compiled it probably merely drew the inference from the date 1487 appearing on the fly leaf, at the end of the following memorandum, which is here copied verbatim from the original.

“Questo libro de pel amore de dio alluogo (here twelve words have been erased, the last two seem to be di Firenze) Bartolomeo de Giovanni torniaio el quale disse volea fusse per elemosina e per l' aia de decto Giovanni suo padre e vole sia messo. s. uo. posto (about five more words are here also erased, the last seems to be detti) frati accio preghino dio per lui e per l'anima de dicto suo padre e dell altri suo pxri. E questo de a di 9 de Marzo 1487.”

It would seem, then, that at the last mentioned date, the book had been given, for the good of the souls of the donor and his relatives, to some monastic institution in Florence. Now it is remarkable, that the ink in which the body of the volume is written is much fainter than that of the donation itself: the book is wormed, and not very legible. Upon referring to parties connected with the Museum, and conversant with the character of the old MSS., it was stated to the writer that the volume ought to be regarded as of the fourteenth, or at all events as not later than the beginning of the fifteenth, century; in other words, they referred it to some period within an hundred years of the death of Dante.

The book, as has been stated, contains a poem, entitled “Chanzone di Dante," commencing “Ghuai a chi nel tormento,” and written, not, it is believed, in all respects in a very common metre.* It is far

Quadrio, in his History of Poesy, furnishes no such precise form of the Canzone, although he carefully considers the four species—the Petrarchesque, Pindaric, the Canzoni a ballo, and the Anacreontic.

« AnteriorContinuar »