« VorigeDoorgaan »
fore the civil war. Moreover, the excess of exports over imports is not yet supposed by the most gloomy prophets to exceed seven A SINGULAR Controversy has lately arisen or eight millions; and it is a fair observabetween the Times and some of its commer- tion that, while the City prophet of the cial correspondents, which is not the less Times sees no cause for alarm in a foreign important though it may be impossible to loan recently announced for about the same arrive at a certain conclusion. The Times amount, he need scarcely be frightened out insists that the trade with the United States is of his senses by trading operations on a absorbing English capital to an extent which corresponding scale. It is noticeable that threatens soon to lead to a pressure, and pos- foreign loans, which may be rational investsibly to a genuine crisis, such as has not been ments for surplus capital, have a far more witnessed for nearly ten years. The Amer-serious influence on our Money-market than ican merchants, on the other hand, show, the application of an equal sum of money or attempt to show, that the balance of our to domestic enterprise or foreign trade; and exports to their country over the imports yet it always happens that the Times, which during the last few months is extremely watches with so much jealousy — and, we small; that the trade, though rapidly aug- may add, with so much reason—the promented, is thoroughly sound; and that gress of joint-stock speculation and export there never was less occasion for commer- trade, has never a word to say against the cial alarm. After the most careful conside- wildest proposals for putting British capital ration of the returns which relate to the into the hands of foreign Governments commerce of the country, it is by no means whose solvency is measured by promised easy to ascertain the exact truth as to the rates of interest of the most extravagant figures in dispute. It is undoubtedly true, kind. It is probably this one-sided view of as the Times maintains, that there has re- the transactions of the Exchange that has cently been a great expansion of the ex- produced much of the unbelief with which port trade to the American ports. On the the warnings of the Times City articles other hand, it is equally true that the arri- have been recently received. They are vals of cotton have been largely in excess palpably over-strained in attributing the of the import of former years, and that to most tremendous possible consequences to some considerable extent the remaining bal- the absorption of what cannot be considered ance has been made good by the importa- a very vast amount of capital; and many tion of American securities. Without en- traders who know that the American trade tering into the fruitless controversy as to is going on very smoothly, and to all apthe precise amount of the debt which is pearance very profitably, at present, have running up against America, we may as- jumped to the opposite conclusion, that sume that it is not very far from being rep- there is nothing in the present state of resented by the amount of imported bonds. commerce to call for any special degree of Though the great impulse to this trade be- watchfulness. It may turn out that in this gan two or three months ago, there is no theory they are wandering further on one flow of bullion either way between the two side of the truth than the Times has done countries, nor any very distinct trace of an on the other, and certainly excessive confiequivalent operation through the channel dence is a more dangerous temper than exof any third country. Whatever America cessive caution. may owe us is clearly a debt of which payment is not at present very urgently demanded; and though, in part, this may be due to the fact that credits are unexpired, it is probably attributable in much greater measure to the considerable amount of Federal bonds and other American securities which has been purchased in England since the establishment of peace. This, of course, has only the effect of changing the form, without diminishing the amount, of national indebtedness; but it must not be forgotten that, if a tendency now exists to invest in Transatlantic securities, it may work for some time before it supplies us with as large a total as was always held in England be
From the Saturday Beview.
The fact seems to be that the really important point has been lost sight of, or at any rate kept in the back-ground, by both parties to the discussion. ed their ingenuity and their power of asserThey have wasttion in the endeavour to determine the precise amount of the adverse balance, when the real danger is not at all that a moderate temporary outlay of this kind will prove more than English capital is able to provide for. At the most, if we assume American trade to be thoroughly sound, there is only an investment of a few millions in safe hands, and it will need something more than this to derange the whole course of Emglish commerce. But, in the midst of
all the wrangling about a secondary point, | matters. The stability of American marthe real question of which the importance kets would be much better secured if gold cannot be exaggerated is wholly overlooked. bore a premium more in proportion to the What the ultimate issue of the present ac- actual amount of superfluous notes; and it tivity of commerce may be depends mainly is impossible to contemplate the restrictive on the position in which our American debt- operations which Mr. M'CULLOCH is, propors may find themselves before the year is erly enough, bent upon, without grave over. If no part of the foreign and inter-doubts whether American trade will come nal activity of American traders is due to safely through the ordeal. The trial canthe enormous expansion of their currency; not be avoided by any policy, and there is if they have emerged from the war with a much sense in the determination of the solid basis of capital capable of supporting. Finance Minister to grapple with the risk at a traffic twice as large as that which exist- once, instead of waiting for a time when ed before the first shot was fired; if the ex- the commerce of his country may be still haustion of the South and the feverish spec- more inflated, and allowing the evils which ulation of the North involve no elements of follow in the train of a mock-prosperity to weakness; if there is no risk that trade may be aggravated, as they must be, by every collapse as soon as the attempt shall be day's delay. made to bring back the currency to par; if, in short Mr. M'CULLOCH is entirely wrong in warning his countrymen against the existing tendency to inflation; then we may rest assured that nothing will shake the foundations of American commerce, and that the profits on our exports will well repay us for locking up a little of the aggregate national capital for a short time in American ventures. We do not observe, however, that any of the vindicators of American merchants put the case as high as this. All they do say is, that at present remittances come as satisfactorily and rapidly as could be desired; that the profits on all sides have been large; that, in spite of the duties, the American people have found the money to purchase and consume unheard-of quantities of European goods; and that no indication of immediate financial weakness is discernible. All this may be perfectly true, and yet an American crisis may be brewing all the more rapidly for the present appearance of universal prosperity, And the great danger for England is the probability, approaching to certainty, that we shall become so extensively and so intimately engaged on American account as to preclude all hope of localising any commercial disturbance, and sustaining our own financial position in spite of any disasters that may occur elsewhere. The very fact that, with a circulation enormously beyond anything which has ever existed before, the premium on gold has stood, ever since the peace, at no more than 50 per cent. is the reverse of encouraging. An excessive currency can only be absorbed in this way by an excessive trade, and reaction follows as inevitably upon excess in this as in other
If it were only certain that we should escape the consequences of any monetary disturbance in America, the course of affairs there might be watched with the placid interest with which we ordinarily contemplate the struggles and disasters of our friends; but there has been no example of a general commercial crisis in the United States which has not been severely felt also in the English markets. It is in the possible consequences of such a calamity that the only serious danger need be feared from the expansion of our trade with the United States; and, however much the Times may have erred in supposing that England was unable to bear the weight of a prosperous trade on the scale recently carried on, it would be a much more fatal error on the part of our merchants if they should assume that, after all she has gone through, and with all the difficulties yet to be mastered, America is not now in a very critical financial position. It is clearly not well for this country to stimulate the already unprecedented activity of American importers, or to cast in its lot too completely with a neighbour so peculiarly situated: and, with the fullest admission of the completeness of the answers to some of the reasonings of the Times, it must be owned that the conclusion was not very erroneous. If not precisely for the reason assigned, still as a matter of fact, it is just now the most prudent course to keep transactions with America within moderate bounds; and the Times may well be thanked for giving a wholesome warning, even by those who utterly dissent from its somewhat extravagant picture of the present condition of our American trade.
From the Spectator, Jan. 6.
Iever, ideas seem "to the wise," that is to those who want results, a "stumbling-block," and "to the Greeks," that is to Saturday Reviewers, who want everything to conduct itself in a highly cultured way, mere "foolishness."
THERE is strength, then, in ideas after all. Never, perhaps, in the history of the world did an idea gain so rapid, complete, and visible a triumph as that which was The advocates of this "philosophy of consummated at Washington on the 19th common sense which after all is only December. One of the many depressing utilitarianism degraded from a creed into signs around us which observers watch with an opinion, always seem to us to omit one alarm, is the apparent decay, or rather great datum from their calculation. Souls temporary paralysis, of the faith in ideas. always accrete themselves bodies of some In the new search for intellectual realism kind, though not necessarily the fittest people doubt audibly witness the Pall bodies. Great ideas do not always triumph Mall Gazette of Thursday, on the French only by percolation; if they did, enthusiasts Press-whether thought is stronger than might well despair, for no generation would armies, whether an idea has, simply because ever witness the realization of its own it is great, the power of making itself ef- greatest thoughts. The labour of sending a fective. They do not despise thought, they new thought requiring the assent of millions do not many of them deny that it would be before it can be effective through those well if it were stronger than bayonets, millions of hostile and unreceptive minds but they question its effectiveness, its power would daunt the imagination of the thinkers to cloth itself in flesh and bones, and do of to-day, as it did those of the same class great things in the world. Freedom is in the century before Christ, and again better than tyranny; but, after all, French during the Renaissance. Individuals disfreedom has battled for a hundred years like planting oaks till the only oaks planted only to be suppressed by the peasants of in Europe for timber are those planted by France. Pauperism is an evil; but, after States, or by nobles who expect their families all, the ideas of the social thinkers of Europe to endure like States. Let posterity judge, have not perceptibly diminished pauperism. is the wish of the dreamer, rarely that of Ignorance is bad; but, after all, crime varies the man intent on diffusing a real idea. He in the ratio of population, and not in that of wants to see it succeed, and, if he cannot see education and enlightenment. Is it worth it, turns aside, as Comte did, to plunge into while to fight for a great idea, and with vast himself till he becomes a mere dreamer of pain and expenditure of energy and self-sacri- dreams. Fortunately for mankind, the fice to accelerate its diffusion one little hair- first property of an idea, that is of a thought breadth, when, after all, it may never grow with fructifying power, a thought for which strong enough to affect the welfare of man- men can be martyrs, is to accrete to itself kind? Ideas must grow, and for growth weapons not its own, to use causes and there must be soil, and there is as yet no such dominate classes, and as it were dye acts, thing, but only sand. Enthusiasts waste with all which it has little or no connection. their lives in preaching co-operation, and The French idea of equality won its way co-operation is good; but to be effective, it not by percolation, but because there was in needs a lower class aware that self-sacrifice the France of 1789 no road to justice and is essential to its success - and there is no physical comfort but through it. The idea such class. Why strive and toil, and, it may of Free Trade by itself would never have be perish, to advance a principle which won the battle, for the English masses are after all may never be more than abstract? not free-traders yet, but it drew to itself Is it not better, or even nobler, says the the desire for cheaper food, and so used the modern Archimedes, to become wise one's-"big loaf" as to come out triumphant. It self, but never apply wisdom, to study the will be triumphant in America, when it has lever, but never build a catapult, to play found a similar weapon, and all who support the part of the intellectual Sadducee, seeing the wrong and the right and commenting thereon, but otherwise well content to know that sugar is sweet, and that one has sugar? Or better still, to do all that, and also what little good comes to hand easily, and leave principles to take of themselves; punish the beadle who starves the pauper, but level no stroke at pauperism? Now, as
it assist the day when the search for such a weapon shall be successful. We remember reading once an account in an American magazine, how far accurate we know not, of the way in which education triumphed in Rhode Island. The rulers there, middleclass, well-to-do men, would not have the idea, declared it expensive and visionary, fought it on the ground of economy, suc
cceded year after in preventing its taking civilization might in their slow development to itself a body in the shape of a legislative gradually ameliorate the curse. Act. The suffrage, however, was wide, and one fine morning Rhode Island found itself in presence of an imminent agrarian law. The idea had found its weapon, opposition died instantly away, and the common schools of Rhode Island are amongst the best in the Union. The truth would seem to be that conviction, or as most men following an Oriental model call it, faith, is in itself power, and that a minority once fully imbued with a principle can and does lead a majority anxious for something very different, but convinced against their will, or rather with their will and against their prejudices. Conviction gives the power to convince, and as we see every day in theological life and the life of scientific enthusiasts, faith is an effluent power as much as fire or electricity, or many other of the physical forces. Even inferior men, once possessed of it, can dominate superior men, and those who are not statesmen can lead masses, who are seeking far different results, direct to the one the enthusiasts have desired.
The recent illustration is, we believe, the most wonderful, or at least the most visible, yet recorded. On the 19th December Mr. Seward, Secretary of State, announced officially that the constitutional amendments abolishing slavery and enabling Congress to make that abolition effectual, had been signed by twenty-seven States, and had consequently become part of the Federal Constitution. It is not yet six years since John Brown died on the gallows, saying, "God sees that I am of more use to hang than for any other earthly purpose." He was the first abolitionist who died fighting the slave power, and in his death was one more illustration of the "worn out" truth that the blood of the martyrs is the seed of the church. It is impossible to conceive a cause more triumphant than that of slavery was when that old man, after kissing the negro child-thicklipped child, with yellow whites to its eyes walked quietly up to the gallows surrounded by an execrating soldiery. The institution, fenced in by the active love of eight millions who could slay or be slain for it, by the reverence of twenty millions more, who when the national existence was in question hardly dared to touch it, by the silent respect of probably five-sixths of the rulers of earth, who felt slavery an outpost of their own dominion, seemed beyond all human attack. The most sanguine dreamer only hoped that time and
"wise " defended it, the "Greeks,"— always