« VorigeDoorgaan »
THE ANTI-NATIONAL FAOTION.
The recent renewal of the Anti- and occupation have stamped upon Corn-Law, or, as it should more pro- their character. perly be styled, the Anti-NationAL Landed proprietors live for the AGITATION, is one of the most memo. most part in the country, removed rable instances on record of the ex. from each other. Manufacturers retraordinary insensibility of mankind side in towns, or thickly peopled vileven to their own most obvious interests, lages, and are in habits of frequentwhen those interests are affected, not of daily intercourse. The latter are by the first but second steps in a series men of business habits, engaged in of political events. Notwithstanding great mercantile transactions, and acthe overwhelming majority of 190, by customed to reap immense profits from which the motion for the repeal of the vast immediate outlay, or strenuous corn-laws was negatived in the last present exertion ; the former are habiSession of Parliament, the subject has tuated only to expenditure, at least for again been agitated in the present ses a profitable return, on a very moderate sion; and although the attempt to get scale, and are maintained chiefly by up a popular outcry has, for the present, the labours and efforts of others. The siznally failed, yet the endeavours of latter, though often involved in enthe agitators to rouse the masses have gagements which may prove their been incessant; and it requires not ruin, have almost always-possessed at the gift of political foresight to see the moment-ready money, and accusthat great danger threatens the agri. tomed to expend it freely with a view cultural interests of the empire from to ultimate return; the former, though the efforts of a faction, deterred by no often possessed of colossal fortunes, dread of the consequences of their are almost always straitened for ready actions, actuated by no attachment money, and often involved in an ex. to the welfare of their country, and penditure beyond their annual income. seizing every opportunity to act upon These opposite peculiarities of these the excited feelings of a vast and easily classes of society,are the more strongly deluded urban multitude.
marked and clearly brought out in the It is because the masses, on whom British isles at the present time, that a the anti-national faction work, are so peace of five-and-twenty years' dura. easily deluded--because the grievance, tion has augmented the wealth and which is the grand lever to which they importance of the commercial classes, trust in their endeavours to rouse the while it has proportionally increased multitude-scarcity of provisions is the expenditure of the owners of the of frequent occurrence--and because soil ; that a vast change by the Lethe cotton lords and capitalists, who gislature in the value of money, has pull the whole wires of the machine nearly doubled the capital of the forwhich produces so tremendous an ex. mer class, while it has almost halved plosion, are so few in number, and that of the latter; and that a still possessed of such concentrated power, greater alteration in the composition that we apprehend ultimate, though of the Legislature, has given to the perhaps not immediate danger to the boroughs, among which the strength best interests of the empire. Sir Ro of the former is to be found, double bert Walpole long ago said, that the the number of representatives of the “ country gentlemen, like sheep, al- counties, in which the influence of the ways submit quietly to be shorn of latter is placed. their fleece; but that, the moment It is a most mistaken belief of you touch one bristle on the back of the landholders that their interests the manufacturers, the whole stye are for the present safe, and their is in an uproar ;
and the obser. danger postponed, by the great mavation is not founded on any peculia- jority which they obtained when the rity of his time, or any extraordinary question was brought the last sesfacility of temper in landholders com sion before Parliament. Majorities pared with other men, but on the per have in these days an awkward habit manent peculiarities of their situation, of changing into minorities when the and the durable qualities which habit interests or passions of the active in.
habitants of towns are roused against prices, until, in the year 1836, the avetheir continuance. We have only rage price of wheat fell to thirty-nine to recollect how regularly bad sea- shillings and eightpence the quarter ; sons and periods of scarcity recur, considerably lower than it had been and how utterly reckless the popu- since the time of Oliver Cromwell. lar leaders are of all consequences The price of wheat during all this where their own interests or passions period varied from forty to sixty shil. åre concerned, to perceive the reality lings a quarter; and as the highest
and certain eventual approach of this of these prices was greatly below that is danger; and if the landholders would at which foreign grain is admitted at
see it visibly portrayed, they have a nominal duty, of course there was only to figure to themselves a reckless no importation of grain, at least for insolvent Liberal Premier dissolving home consumption, or such as could Parliament upon the cry of cheap get out of the bonded warehouses ; bread—the ballot and universal suf- the Corn-laws were in full and unfrage, during a period of dear provi. restricted operation, and the nation sions and commercial distress. felt emphatically both the evils and
And yet, as if it had been intended benefits arising from that state of to place the British nation, and all the things. This, therefore, was a peinterests it contains, indisputably in riod, according to the argument of the wrong in such a suicidal effort, the anti-national faction, when comthe course of events during the last mercial distress should have been most eight years, when the clamour has severely felt when the stoppage of been preparing or going forward, has the import of foreign grain should demonstrated that the very class of have proved a fatal bar to the prosociety to whose efforts that whole gress of our manufacturing export; clamour has been owing, is the one and the industry of our operatives which would be the first to suffer shackled by the inability of foreign by the change contended for; and cultivators to purchase their comthat, deep and irreparable as would be modity, should have suffered a severe the wounds inflicted upon the agrie and accumulating depression. cultural interests of the empire by Was this the case ? Did the manuthe repeal of the Corn-laws, it would factures of the country, during these yet be inferior in magnitude and in- four years, progressively decline? Did tensity of suffering to the wide-spread the diminution of our imports indicate devastation which would fall upon the that the prosperity of our own agricommercial classes from the establish culture, and the stringent exclusion of ment of an unrestricted trade in grain, the laws for its protection were ope
The four years terminating with rating, prejudicially upon the con1835 were years of extraordinary, it sumption of the nation, and particumay be almost said, unprecedented larly of the commercial classes--and agricultural plenty. The harvests did the progressive falling off of our during this whole period were so fine, exports show how materially our comthat not only was the agricultural mercial prosperity was dependent upon produce of the British islands ade- the sacrifice of our own cultivators to quate to the maintenance of its in those of foreign states ? Let the rehabitants, but the accumulated sur. turns for these years speak for themplus produce of each of these years selves : they require no comment. was stored up, in the hopes of better
Average price of Wheat
54s. 4d. 1834 73,831,000
48s. 5d. 1835- 78,376,000
398. 8d. 1836- 85,229,000
45s. 20. -PORTER, Progress of the Nation, II, 98; and Jacob's Prices.
Thus it appears that so far from our cultural produce and stringent Cornexports and imports decreasing, during Law exclusion, they were continually these years of increasing domestic agri- increasing, and that immediately after
wheat had been at the unprecedented Nor is it a less important effect of low rate of 393. 8d. a-quarter, our ex. such seasons of agricultural plenty ports had reached the unparalleled upon the manufacturing interests, that amount of L.85,000,000, and our im- the greater part of the quickened in. ports of L.57,000,000.
citement to industry which thus exThese facts, to the Jews a stum. ists, is felt at home, and that not only bling-block, and to the Greeks foolish is but little of it shared with foreign ness, can be perfectly explained upon states, but the ruinous drain upon the the plainest reasons flowing from the metallic treasures of the country is mutual dependence of every class in completely stopped. This is a matter, society upon its neighbour in civilized as recent experience has proved, of the life. When agricultural produce is very highest importance. All classes plentifully raised by domestic cultiva- of society being at their ease in so far tors, and the price is in consequencelow as subsistence is concerned, there is an while the produce is great, every class universal disposition to accommodate, of society is materialiy and simultane to expand rather than contract purously benefited. The manufacturers, chases, and to extend rather than di. the shopkeepers, and the whole inha- minish credit. The effect of such a bitants of towns, feel the benefit of this state of things, in a commercial comstate of matters in the plentiful supply munity, dependent almost entirely upon of provisions, and the cheap rate at that most sensitive of created ihings which they are able to obtain the ne credit, is incalculable. Bankers, finding cessaries of life. An unusually large their profitable transactions daily inproportion of their earnings can thus creasing, and a general feeling of sebe afforded for its gratifications. If curity pervading all classes, become in consequence of fine seasons, the liberal in their advances; and hence quartern loaf falls from tenpence to the universal prosperity which immesevenpence, and the price of beef from diately ensues. Such was the effect ninepence to fivepence, the whole dif- of these causes, operating for four or ference between these sums remains at five successive years, that in spite of the disposal of the consuming classes all the paralysis to credit, which at the of society. Experience proves that commencement of the period resulted very little of the money thus saved from reform agitation, not only was upon the necessaries of life is stored up Government enabled to remit taxes to in the form of capital, so as to be with the amount of about six millions sterdrawn from circulation. By far the ling; but the revenue, so far from exgreater proportion of it is employed in bibiting as it now does a woful deficit, the purchase of the luxuries or con. showed a surplus, not large indeed, but veniences of life. There cannot be a still perceptible, of from five hundred doubt that fine seasons, from the cheap thousand to a million sterling a-year. rate of provisions, puts at least thirty It is perhaps the most important efor forty millions a-year at the disposal fect of such a state of things, that it of the consuming classes of society, thus effectually prevents that ruinous nine-tenths at least of which is laid export of the precious metals to foreign out in the purchase of manufactures. states, which experience has proved to It may safely be affirmed, that one fine be so extremely detrimental to all, but autumnal month would at once bring especially the commercial interests of round the manufactures of this coun the empire. The necessaries of life try, from the lowest state of depres- being extremely cheap at home, there sion, to comparative affluence. Adam is no drain of specie to purchase sub. Smith was never more correct than sistence abroad, and thus our export when he said, that the home trade of trade, how great soever, is carried on every country is worth all the foreign chiefly with those countries, and for trades put together.
those articles for which the export of
* Taxes remitted. 1832— £747,000 1833 1,000,000 1834 1,200,000 1835 480,000 1836.
Annual surplus of revenue.
£5,696 1,023,000 1,776,000 1,270,000 1,590,000
our manufactures only is required; northern states of Europe are now the ruinous exchange of specie for im- less than they were eight-and-thirty ported grain being stopped, mercantile years ago. They would willingly speculation takes the more natural and establish, indeed, a reciprocity treaty salutary direction of exchanging the in regard to grain as they did in reluxuries of British manufacture for the gard to shipping ; that is to
they luxuries of foreign growth; and thus, will admit our grain on the same terms while the home market is rendered on which we admit their grain. But ample by the vast surplus funds at the will they establish a treaty admitting disposal of the consumers, the foreign our cotton and iron goods without trade is rendered at once safe and pro- duty, in consideration of our admitting ductive, by being turned into channels their grain without duty ? Let the which exchanges production against Prusso-Germanic League form the production, not gold against grain. answer, by which, in consideration of
It has been proved, that the nations the English having taken off all the from whom we import grain will restrictions on the entrance of foreign not receive in return our manufac. shipping into their harbours, Prussia tures, and will take nothing but imposed a discriminating duty on gold in exchange for their grain ; every article of British manufacture, whereas those from whom we import which practically amounted to fifty luxuries that we do not ourselves per cent. raise, are quite willing to take our The countries, on the other hand, manufactures. Who are the nations with whom we carry on a great comfrom whom we must purchase grain ? mercial trade in mutual luxuries, Being a bulky article, it will not bear, America, the West Indies, the East unless the prices are extravagantly Indies, Brazil, Australia, Canada, high, sea-carriage from any great dis- Turkey, Italy, &c., are actuated by tance; and we must, therefore, draw no such jealousy of our manufacturing our supplies from the peighbouring industry, and by no such political states. Poland, Prussia, and the hostility or commercial rivalry; for southern provinces of Russia, consti this simple reason, that they lie in a tute the great granaries from which different latitude from ourselves, and our foreign supplies have always consequently their industry is directed been derived ; and from which in to totally different objects. Our particular, during the great scarcity cotton and iron establishments are no of 1838, by far the greater part of our subjects of jealousy to them; for they imported subsistence was obtained. are intent upon the production of But these states will not take our wheat or cotton, of tea or sugar, of manufactures off our hands, nor would wine or fruits, of oil or spices, of they do so even if we were to repeal coffee or tobacco. The greater or our Corn-Laws. The reason is ob more prosperous our manufactures vious. They are actuated by an in are, the better for them; because they delible jealousy of our manufacturing are thereby enabled to obtain the greatness; and they are under the manufactured articles they require influence of men who are determined, from Europe at a cheaper rate; while at all hazards, to rival us in those they, on the other hand, secure a industrial establishments in which we larger vent for their own produce. have so long taken the lead, but in Hence these distant nations impose which they think they can now, by a hardly any duties upon our manufacrigid system of exclusion, effectually tures, but they take them off our extinguish our superiority. Of this
Of this hands as largely as we can furnish they have given a decisive proof in them ; whereas the European states, the vital point of the Navigation laws; from whom we are compelled to buy for while we, seventeen years ago, re grain, being in the same latitude with pealed those laws, and thereby de ourselves, and actuated by national or stroyed our own commercial navy commercial jealousy, cannot be inemployed in the intercourse with these duced by any considerations to relax states, they have not only done no their enormous duties upon all our thing to diminish the duties on any manufactured articles. And of such one branch of British produce, but vital importance is this consideration have gone on continually increasing in the present question, and so vast them; so that our exports to the its effect upon our manufacturing ex
ports to distant parts of the world, prices are now not so high, in conse, that while every inhabitant of Ame- quence of the harvest of 1839 being rica consumes nineteen shillings and not quite so disastrous, yet they are sixpence worth of British manufac. still sufficiently elevated to admit of a tures,—of the West Indies, three very great speculation in grain, and a pounds ten shillings' worth,-and of large importation into the bonded Australia, eleven pounds' worth,- warehouses. The average price of the every inhabitant of Prussia takes week ending 6th March 1840, being off only threepence worth of British sixty shillings and elevenpence a quarmanufactures, and of Russia only ter for wheat, and twenty-five shillings sixpence worth! And this is the and twopence for oats-prices which, reason why a great export of our though not high enough to admitthe free manufactures, in seasons of agricul- issue of grain from the bonded ware. tural plenty, and corresponding im- houses, are yet sufficient to have kept port of luxuries, is attended with no up a great speculation in grain stored drain upon the banks, and no shake in these warehouses, and consequently to commercial credit; while a great drained away, to a large extent, the importation of foreign grain, conse- specie of the country. And what has quent on a bad season, being neces been the result ? Wide-spread comsarily paid for in specie, is imme- mercial distress. One of the leading diately attended with both the one whig noblemen, a steady anti-corn. and the othe
law advocate, Lord Milton, lately preLet us turn now to the bad seasons sented a petition to Parliament, in that have occurred since 1836, which which it was stated, with perfect truth, have led for a considerable time to a that the manufacturing distress which practical repeal of the Corn-laws, had existed for the last two years, and immense importation of foreign though not accompanied with the gengrain, and see whether experience eral panic of the great disaster of 1825, has proved the results which the anti- nas been far more depressing to gennational faction uniformly anticipate eral industry, and felt far more acutely from the large importation of grain, by the productive classes of the comand whether it would be safe for the munity. There is no man acquainted nation, especially with reference to its with commerce, in any of the great commercial interests, to go on perma. commercial emporiums of the kingnently with that system of importation dom, who can doubt that this has been of foreign grain, which was forced the case, and that ever since spring upon us by the bad harvests of 1838 1837 has been a period of almost and 1839.
uninterrupted and wide-spread comThe harvest of 1836 first broke in mercial distress. To those engaged upon the long train of fine seasons. in, or connected with commercial purThe rains in the autumn of that year, suits, all proof of this is unhappily as every body recollects, especially in superfluous. To those who are not, a Scotland, were incessant; the prices, in glance at the instructive returns in the consequence, rose considerably; and note, will amply demonstrate how although the harvest of 18
seriously the national resources have somewhat better, yet those of 1838 been impaired by the combination of and 1839 were so deficient as to have erroneous government with commergiven the nation a full specimen of cial distress during the last three disthe blessings to be expected from an
astrous years.* unrestricted trade in grain. The har. Now, admitting that the commercial vests of the former of these years were crash in America, in the close of 1836 so very bad, that the prices rose rapidly and beginning of 1837, was the immetill the beginning of December 1838, diate cause of the great commercial when the ports were opened, and im. distress of the year 1837 in the British mediately such a prodigious deluge of islands ; what is it that has oecaforeign grain was admitted, that, as is sioned the far greater and far longer well known, upwards of six millions wide-spread distress of 1838 and 1839? in sovereigns were drawn out of the Why, the great drain of specie in bank to pay for it; and although the the end of 1838 and spring of 1839,
* Deficit, 1837, £726,000; 1838, £440,000; 1839, £512,000.