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welfare of land, and the protection of Gatton nominally represented a house its produce, the chapel of St Stephens or a green mound-really, the one seemed to have been entirely composed might furnish a seat to a representaof the representatives of squires. The tive of Hindostan, the other of the shipping interest was sedulously fos- splendid West Indian settlements. tered, as appeared in the unex- The members who thus got in by ampled growth and vast amount of purchase had one invaluable quality, our mercantile tonnage. The interests like the officers who get their comof labour, the welfare of the poor, missions in the army in the same were not overlooked, as was demon- way—they were independent. They strated in the most decisive way by were not liable to be overruled or the numerous enactments for the relief coerced by a numerous, ignorant, and of the indigent and unfortunate, and conceited constituency. Hence they the immense burden which the legisla- looked only to the interests of the ture volantarily imposed on itself and class to which they belonged, amidst the nation for the relief of the desti- which their fortunes had been made, tute. Thus all interests were attended and with the prosperity of which to; and that worst of tyrannies, the their individual success was entirely tyranny of one class over another wound up. With what energy these class, was effectually prevented. It is various interests were attended to, in this sedulous attention to all the in- with what perseverance the system of terests of the empire that its long protecting them was followed up, is duration and unparalleled extension is sufficiently evident from the simulto be ascribed. Had any one class or taneous growth and unbroken prosinterest been predominant, and com- perity of all the great branches of menced the system of pursuing its industry during the long period of a separate objects and advantages, to hundred and fifty years. Talent, the subversion or injury of the other alike on the Whig and the Tory side, classes in the state, such a storm of found a ready entrance by means of discontent must have arisen as would the nomination burgbs. It is well speedily have proved fatal to the known that all the great men of the unanimity, and with it to the growth House of Commons, since the Revoluand prosperity of the empire.
tion, obtained entrance to parliament Two causes mainly contributed to in the first instance through these produce this system of catholic pro- narrow inlets. Rank looked anxiously tection by the British government for talent, because it added to its to native industry; and to their influence. Genius did not disdain united operation, the greatness of the entrance, because it was not obEngland is chiefly to be ascribed. structed by numbers, or galled by The first of these was the peculiar conceit. No human wisdom could constitution which time had worked have devised such a system ; it rose ont for the House of Commons, and gradually, and without being observed, the manner in which all the interests from the influence of a vast body of of the state had come silently, and great and prosperous interests, feeling without being observed, to be in- the necessity of obtaining a voice in directly but most effectually repre- the legislature, and enjoying the sented in parliament. That body, means of doing so by the variety of anterior to the Reform Bill, possessed election privileges which time had one invaluable quality-its franchise established in the House of Commons. was multiform and various. In The reality of this representation of many burghs the landed interest in interests is matter of history. The their neighbourhood was predominant; landed interest, the West India in most counties it returned members interest, the commercial interest, the in the interests of agriculture. In shipping interest, the East Indian other towns, mercantile or commercial interest, could all command their reswealth acquired by purchase an pective phalanxes in parliament, who introduction, or won it from the would not permit any violation of the influence of great family. rights, or infringement on the welColonial opulence found a ready inlet fare, of their constituents to take in the close boroughs: Old Sarum or place. The combined effect of the whole was the great and glorious tion-policy of government in every British empire, teeming with energy, quarter of the globe, that in the end overflowing with patriotism, spread it gave birth to a new class, which ing out into every quarter of the rapidly grew in numbers and influence, globe, and yet held together in all its and was at length able to bid defiance parts by the firm bond of experienced to all the other interests in the state benefits and protected industry. put together. This was the moneyed
The second cause was, that no interest—the class of men whose forspeculative or theoretical opinions tunes were made, whose position was had then been broached, or become secure, and who saw, in a general popular, which proclaimed that the cheapening of the price of commodities real interest of any one class was to be and reduction of prices, the means of found in the spoliation or depression making their wealth go much farther of any other class. No gigantic than it otherwise would. This class system of beggar my neighbour had had its origin from the long-continued then come to be considered as a prosperity and accumulated savings of shorthand mode of gaining wealth. the whole producing classes in the The nation had not then embraced state ; like a huge lake, it was fed by the doctrine, that to buy cheap and all the streams and rills wbich desell dear constituted the sum total of scended into it from the high grounds political science. On the contrary, pro- by which it was surrounded ; and the tection to industry in all its branches rise of its waters indicated, as a regiswas considered as the great princi- ter thermometer, the amount of addiple of policy, the undisputed dictate tions which it was receiving from the of wisdom, the obvious rule of justice. swelling of the feeders by which it It was acknowledged alike by specu- was formed. But when men once lative writers and practical states- get out of the class of producers, and men. The interests of the producers into that of moneyed consumers, they were the main object of legislative rapidly perceive an immediate benefit fostering and philosophic thought, to themselves in the reduction of and for this plain reason, that they the price of articles of consumpconstitute the great body of society, tion, because it adds proportionally and their interests chiefly were thought to the value of their money. If prices of. Realised wealth, was then, in can be forced down fifty per cent by comparison to what it now is, in a legislative measures, every thousand state of infancy; the class of traders pounds in effect becomes fifteen hunand shopkeepers, who grow up with dred. It thus not unfrequently and the expenditure of accumulated opu- naturally happened, that the son who lence, was limited in numbers and enjoyed the fortune made by protecinconsiderable in influence. It would tion came to join the ranks of the free have been as impossible then to get traders, because it promised a great up a party in the House of Commons, addition to the value of his inheritance. or a cry in the country, in favour of The transition from Sir Robert Peel the consumers or against the pro- the father, and staunch supporter of ducers, as it would be now to do the protection, who made the fortune, to same among the corn producers in the Sir Robert Peel the son, who inherited basin of the Mississippi, or among the it, and introduced free-trade principles, cotton growers of New Orleans. was natural and easy. Each acted in
It is in the profound wisdom of conformity with the interests of his Hannibal's saying-that great states, respective position in society. It is impregnable to the shock of external impossible to suppose in such men a violence, are consumed and wasted selfish or sordid regard to their own away by their own internal strength interests, and we solemnly disclaim that the real cause of the subsequent the intention of imputing such. But and extraordinary change, first in the every one knows how the ablest and opinions of men, and then in the mea- most elevated minds are insensibly sures of government, is to be found. moulded by the influence of the atmoSuch was the wealth produced by the sphere with which they are surroundenergy of the Anglo-Saxon race, shel- ed; and, at all events, they were a tered and invigorated by the protec- type of the corresponding change going on in successive generations of others the restraints of their fathers--yet, so of a less elevated class of minds, in strongly were the producing interests whom the influence of interested mo- intrenched in the legislature, that a tives was direct and immediate. very long period would probably have
Adam Smith's work, now styled the elapsed before they came to be pracprincipia of economical science by the tically applied in the measures of free-traders, first gave token of the government, had it not been that, important and decisive change then at the very period when, from the going forward in society. It was an triumph of protection-principles durominous and characteristic title : The ing the war, and the vast wealth they Nature and Cause of the WEALTH of had realised in the state, the moneyed Nations. It was not said of their interest had become most powerful, a wisdom, virtue, or happiness. The great revolution in the state gave that direction of such a mind as Adam interest the command of the House Smith's to the exclusive consideration of Commons. By the Reform Bill of the riches of nations, indicated two-thirds of the seats in that house the advent of a period when the fruits were given to boroughs, and twoof industry in this vast empire, shel- thirds of the voters in boroughs, in tered by protection, had become so the new constituency, were shopgreat that they had formed a power- keepers or those in their interest. ful class society, which was begin- Thus a decisive majority in the house, ning to look to its separate interests, which, from having the command of and saw them in the beating down the the public purse, practically became price of articles-thatis, diminishing the possessed of supreme power, was vestremuneration of other men's industry. ed in those who made their living by It showed that the Plutocracy was be- buying and selling—with whom
cheap coming powerful. The constant ar prices was all in all. The producing guments that able work contained, in classes were virtually, and to all favour of competition and against practical purposes, cast out of the monopoly,—its impassioned pleadings scale. The landed interest, on all in favour of freedom of commerce, questions vital to its welfare, would and the removal of all restrictions on evidently soon be in a minority. importation, were so many indications Schedules A and B at one blow disthat a new era was opening in society; franchised the whole colonial empire that the interests of realised wealth of Great Britain, because it closed were beginning to come into collision the avenue by which colonial wealth with those of creating industry, and that had hitherto found an entrance to the the time was not far distant when a House of Commons. Seats could no fierce legislative contest might be an- longer be bought: the virtual repreticipated between them. It is well sentation of unrepresented places was known that Adam Smith advocated at an end. The greatest fortunes the Navigation Laws, upon the ground made in the colonies could now get that national independence was of into the house only through some more importance than national wealthi. populous place; and the majority of But there can be no doubt that this voters in most populous places were was a deviation from his principles, in favour of the consumers and against and that, if they were established in the producers, because the consumers other particulars, it would be difficult, bought their goods, and they bought if not impossible, to succeed in main those of the producers. Thus no colotaining an exception in favour of the nial member could get in but by forshipping interests, because that was swearing his principles and abandonretaining a burden on the colonies, ing the interests of his order. The when the corresponding benefit had shipping interest was more strongly been voted away.
intrenched, because many shipping Although, however, the doctrines towns had direct representatives in of Adam Smith, from their novelty, parliament, and it accordingly was simplicity, and alliance with demo- the last to be overthrown. But when cratic liberty, spread rapidly in the the colonies were disfranchised, and rising generation-ever ready to re- protection was withdrawn from their pudiate the doctrines and throw off industry to cheapen prices at home, it
VOL. LXYI.-NO. CCCCV.
became next to impossible to keep up sure of the emancipation of the negroes, the shipping interest-not only be- that its influence in parliament was cause the injustice of doing so, and practically rendered extinct. Thus so enhancing freights, when protection two of the great producing interests to colonial produce was withdrawn, in the state—those of corn and sugarwas evident, but because it was well were materially weakened or nullified, understood, by certain unequivocal at the very time when the power of symptoms, that such a course of po- their opponents, the moneyed arislicy would at once lead to colonial tocracy, was most augmented. revolt, and the dismemberment of Experience, however, proved, on the empire.
one important and decisive occasion, The authors of the Reform Bill were that even after the Reform Bill had well aware that under it two-thirds of become the law of the land, it was the seats in the House of Commons still possible, by a coalition of all the were for boroughs: but they clung to producing interests, to defeat the utthe idea that a large proportion of most efforts of the moneyed party, even these seats would fall under the in- when aided by the whole influence of fluence of the landed proprietors in government. On occasion of the metheir vicinity, and thus be brought morable Whig budget of 1841, such a round to the support of the agricultu- coalition took place, and the efforts of ral interest. It was on that belief that the free-traders were overthrown. A Earl Grey said in private, amidst all change of ministry was the consehis public democratic declamations, quence ; but it soon appeared that that the Reform Bill was “ the most nothing was gained by an alteration aristocratic measure which had ever of rulers, when the elements in which passed the House of Commons.” But political power resided, under the in this anticipation, which was doubt- new constitution, remained unchanged. less formed in good faith by many of Sir Robert Peel, and the leaders of the ablest supporters of that revolu- the party which now succeeded to tion, they showed themselves entirely power, appear to have been guided ignorant of the effect of the great by those views in the free-trade meamonetary change of 1819, which at sures which they subsequently introthat very period was undermining the duced. They regarded, and with influence of the owners of landed justice, the Reform Bill as, in the estates as much as it was augmenting language of the Times, “a great the power of the holders of bonds over fact"-the settlement of the constitutheir properties. As that bill changed tion upon a new basis-on foundations the prices of agricultural produce, at non tangenda non movenda, if we would least to the extent of forty per cent, it shun the peril of repeated shocks to of course crippled the means and our institutions, and ultimately of weakened the influence of the land- a bloody revolution. Looking on owners as much as it added to the the matter in this light, the next powers of the moneyed interest object was to scan the composition of which held securities over their estates. the House of Commons, and see in This soon became a matter of para- what party and interest in the state mount importance. After a few severe a preponderance of power was now struggles, the landowners in most vested. They were not slow in displaces saw that they were overmatch- cerning the fatal truth, that the Reed, and that their burdened estates and form Bill had given a decided majority declining rent-rolls were not equal to to the representatives of boroughs, an encounter with the ready money and that a clear majority in these of the capitalists, which that very boroughs was, from the embarrasschange had so much enhanced in value ments which monetary change had and augmented in power. One by one produced on the landed proprietors, the rural boroughs slipped out of the and the preponderance of votes hands of the landed, and fell under the which that bill had given to shopinfluence of the moneyed interest. At keepers, vested in the moneyed or conthe same time one great colonial inte- suming interest. Such a state of rest, that of the West Indies, was so things might be regretted, but still it entirely prostrated by theruinous mea- existed ; and it was the business of practical statesmen to deal with reduction in the price of provisions. things as they were, not to indulge in The master - manufacturers almost vain regrets on what they once were unanimously supported the same or might have been. It seemed im- views, in the hope that the wages of possible to carry on the government labour and the cost of production on any other footing than that of would be in a similar way reduced, concession to the wishes and atten. and that thus the foreign market for tion to the interests of the moneyed their produce would be extended. and mercantile classes, in whose The West India interest, the colonial hands supreme power, under the new interest, the shipping interest, stood constitution, was now practically aloof, or gave only a lukewarm supvested. Whether any such views, sup- port to the protectionists, conceiving posing them well founded, could jus- that it was merely an agricultural tify a statesman and a party, who had question, and that the time was far received office on a solemn appeal to distant when there was any chance the country, under the most solemn of their interests being brought into engagement to support the principles jeopardy. “ Cetera quis nescit?" The of protection, to repudiate those prin- corn-laws were repealed, agricultural ciples, and introduce the measures protection was swept away, and Engthey were pledged to oppose, is a land, where wheat cannot be raised question on which, it is not difficult to at a profit when prices are below see, but one opinion will be formed by 50s., or, at the lowest, 458. a quarter, future times.
was exposed to the direct competition Still, even when free-trade mea- of states possessing the means of sures were resolved on by Sir R. raising it to an indefinite extent, Peel's government, it was a very where it can be produced and imdoubtful matter, in the first instance, ported at a profit for in all 32s. how to secure their entire success. The What subsequent events have abungreat coalition of the chief producing dantly verified, was at the time foreinterests, which had proved fatal to seen and foretold by the protectionthe Whig administration by the elec- ists,—that when agricultural protection of 1841, might again be reorgan- tion at home was withdrawn, it could ised, and overthrow any government not be maintained in the colonies, which attempted to renew the same and that cheap prices must be renprojects. Ministers had been placed dered universal, as they had been in office on the principles of protec- established in the great article of tion---they were the watches, planted human subsistence. This necessity to descry the first approaches of the soon experienced. The West enemy, and repel his attacks. But Indies were the first to be assailed. the old Roman maxim, “ Divide et Undeterred by the evident ruin which impera," was then put in practice a free competition with the slavewith fatal effect on the producing growing states could not fail to bring interests, and, in the end, on the on British planters forced to work general fortunes of the empire. The with free labourers—undismayed by assault was in the first instance the frightful injustice of first estabdirected against the agricultural inte- lishing slavery by law in the English rest: the cry of “ Cheap bread,” ever colonies, and giving the utmost enall-powerful with the multitude, was couragement to negro importation, raised to drown that of “ Protection then forcibly emancipating the slaves to native industry.” The whole on a compensation not on an average weight of government, which at once a fourth part of their value, and then abandoned all its principles, was di- sweeping away all fiscal protection, rected to support the free-trade as- and exposing the English planters, sault, and beat down the protectionist who could not with their free labouropposition. The whole population in ers raise sugar below £10 a ton, to the towns—that is, the inhabitants of competition with slave states who the places which, under the Reform could raise it for £4 a ton—that Bill, returned two-thirds of the House great work of fiscal iniquity and freeof Commons-was roused almost to trade spoliation was perpetrated. The madness by the prospect of a great English landed interest resisted the