Page images

tariff of 1842 and the free-trade mea. when the necessities of war had sures of 1846.

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 woald, 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to Pitt, as the main security consequently, the more the precious of the British empire ; its bulwark in metals were withdrawn from the war; the bridge which united its far country, by the necessities of war or distant provinces during peace.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 sovcreign 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. Eng. charge. 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 Suc. liberals 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 glit. was 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. But this object, so important in its spread a degree of prosperity through results, so interesting to humanity the country then unknown, and rarely from its tendency to alleviate human if ever since equalled in that ill-starred suffering, ere long yielded to the land.+ But the experience of the enlightened views of modern liberals. utter futility of all attempts, during a It was discovered that it was much century and a half, to leave the native more important to cheapen sugar for Irish Čelts to themselves or their own a time* than to rescue the African direction, had no effect whatever in race from perdition. Free trade in convincing our modern liberals that sugar was introduced, although it they were incapable of self-direction, was demonstrated, and, indeed, con- and would only be ruined by Saxon fessed, that the effect of it would be institutions. On the contrary, it left to ruin all the free-labour colonies, and no doubt in their minds that the absence throw the supply of the world into the of self-government was the sole cause hands of the slave states. Provided, of the wretchedness of the country, for a few years, you succeeded in and that nothing was wanting but an reducing the average retail price of entire participation in the privileges sagar a penny a pound, it was deemed of British subjects, to render them

as of no consequence though we extin- industrious, prosperous, and loyal as guished the growth of free-labour the yeomen of Kent or Surrey. In pursagar-destroyed colonies in which suance of those principles, Catholic a hundred millions of British capital Emancipation was granted: the Whigs were invested, and doubled the had effected one revolution in 1688, by slave trade in extent, and quadrupled coalescing with the whole Tories to it in horror, throughout the globe. exclude the Catholics from the govern

It had been the constant policy of ment; they brought about another the British government, under all revolution, in 1829, by coalescing with administrations, for above a century a section of the Tories to bring them and a half, to endeavour to reclaim the in. In furtherance of the new system, Irish population by introducing among so plausible in theory, so dangerous in them colonies of English who might practice, of extending to all men, of teach them industry, and Protestant all races, and in all stages of political missionaries who might reclaim them advancement, the same privileges, the from barbarism. The Irish landlords liberals successively gave the Irish and boroughs were the outposts of the command of their boroughs, the civilisation among a race of savages; abridgment of the Protestant Church, the Irish Church the station of Christi- and the abolition of tithes as a burden anity amidst the darkness of Romish on the tenant. They encouraged slavery. So effectual was this system, agitation, allowed treason to be openly and so perfectly adapted to the cha- spoken in every part of the country, racter of the Celtic race-capable of and winked at monster meetings, till great things when led by others, but the community was wellnigh thrown utterly unfit for self-government, and into convulsions. Meanwhile, agriincapable of improvement when left to culture was neglected-industry disitself,—that even in the ruthless bands appeared-capital was scared away. of Cromwell, yet reeking with the The land was run out, and became slaughter of stormed cities, it soon unfit for anything but lazy-beds of

Observe, for a time! We shall see anon what the price of sugar will be when the English colonies are destroyed and the slave plantations have the monopoly of the market in their hands.

+ “ Cromwell supplied the void made by his conquering sword, by pouring in numerous colonies of the Anglo-Saxon blood and of the Calvinistic faith. Strange to say, under that iron rule the conquered country began to wear an outward face of prosperity. Districts, which had recently been as wild as those where the first white settlers of Connecticut were contending with the Red Men, were in a few years transformed into the likeness of Kent and Norfolk. New buildings, roads, and plantations were everywhere begun. The rent of estates rose fast: and some of the English landowners began to complain that they were met in every market by the products of Ireland, and to clamour for protecting laws.”—MACAULAY'S History, i., 130.



potatoes. The people became agita- particular. The liberals, whether tors, not cultivators: they were always factious or moneyed, of the new school, running about to meetings—not fre- flattered themselves they were making quenting fairs. The potato-blight fell great advances in political science, on a country thus prepared for ruin, when they were merely yielding to and the unparalleled misery of 1847, the same spirit which made the Caland the rebellion of 1848, were the vinists stand up when they prayed, consequence.

because all the world before them had It would be easy to carry these il- knelt down, and sit still during psalms, lustrations farther, and to trace the because the Roman Catholics had working of the principles we have stood up. mentioned through the whole modern But truth is great, and will prevail; system of government in Great Britain. experience is its test, and is perpetuEnough has been said to show that ally contradicting the theories of man. the system is neither founded on the The year 1848 has been no exception principles contended for by the old to the maxims of Tacitus and Burke. Whigs, nor on any appreciation of, Dreadful indeed in suffering, appallor attention to, the national interests, ing in form, are the lessons which or the dictates of experience in any it has read to mankind! Ten months respect. It has arisen entirely from have not elapsed, since, by a well-cona blind desire of change, and an opposi- certed urban tumult, seconded by the tion to the old system of government, treachery of the national guard, the whether of Whig or Tory origin, and throne of the Barricades was overa selfish thirst for aggrandisement on turned in France-and what do we the part of the moneyed and commercial already see on the continent of classes, whom that system had ele- Europe ? Vienna petitioning for a vated to riches and power. Experi- continuation of the state of siege, as ence was not disregarded by this the only security against the tyranny school of politicians; on the contrary, of democracy: Berlin hailing with rapit was sedulously attended to, its ture the dissolution of the Assembly, lessons carefully marked. But it was and reappearance of the king in the considered as a beacon to be avoided, capital : Milan restored to the sway of not a light to be followed. Against the Austrians : France seeking, in the its conclusions the whole weight of quasi imperial crown of Prince Louis declamation and shafts of irony were Napoleon, with 90,000 soldiers in its directed. It had been the cri de capital, a refuge from the insupportguerre of their enemies, the standard of able evils of a democratic republic. Mr Pitt's policy; therefore the oppo- The year 1848 has added another to site system was to be inscribed on their the numerous proofs which history banners. It was the ruling principle of affords, that popular convulsions, from their political opponents; and, worst of whatever cause arising, can terminate all, it was the system which, though it only in the rule of the sword; but it has had raised the country to power and taught two other lessons of incalculable greatness, had for twenty years ex., importance to the present and future cluded themselves from power. Thence tranquillity of mankind. These are, the modern system, under which the that soldiers who in civil convulsions nation has suffered, and is suffering, fraternise with the insurgents, and such incalculable misfortunes. It has violate their oaths, are the worst enebeen said, by an enlightened Whig of mies of the people, for they inevitably the old school, that “this age appears induce a military despotism, which to be one in which every conceivable extinguishes all hopes of freedom. folly must be believed and reduced to The other is, that the institution of a practice before it is abandoned." It national guard is in troubled times of is really so; and the reason is, it is an all others the most absurd ; and that, age in which the former system of to put arms into the hands of the government, founded on experience people, when warmed by revolutionary and brought about by necessity, has passions, is only to light the torch of been supplanted by one based on a civil discord with your own hand, and systematic and invariable determina- hand over the country to anarchy, tion to change the old system in every ruin, and slavery.

Nor has the year been less fruit- tem began. Two years of free trade ful of civil premonitions or lessons and a contracted currency have unof the last importance to the future done nearly all that twenty years of tranquillity and prosperity of Great protection and a sufficient currency Britain. Numerous popular delusions had done. The great mercantile class have been dispelled during that period. have suffered so dreadfully under the The dreams of Irish independence effect of their own measures, that their have been broken ; English Chartism power for good or for evil has been has been crushed. The revolution- essentially abridged. The colossus ists see that the people of Great Britain which, for a quarter of a century, has are not disposed to yield their property bestrode the nation, has been shaken to the spoiler, their throats to the mur- by the earthquake which itself had derer, their homes to the incendiary. prepared. Abroad and at home, in Free trade and a fettered currency have peace and in war, delusion has brought brought forth their natural fruits— forth suffering. The year of revolunational embarrassment, general suf- tions has been the NINTH OF THERfering, popular misery. One half of MIDOR, OF LIBERAL PRINCIPLES, for the wealth of our manufacturing towns it has brought them to the test of has been destroyed since the new sys- experience.

« PreviousContinue »