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security of property were found to be compatible with a liberty of discussion and of individual action never known before; under which form, the auspicious union of order and freedom, sprang a prosperity of which the annals of human affairs had furnished no example; under which our country, from a state of ignominious vassalage, rapidly rose to the place of umpire among European powers; under which her opulence and martial glory grew together; under which, by wise and resolute good faith, was gradually established a public credit, fruitful of marvels which to the statesmen of any former age would have appeared incredible; under which a gigantic commerce gave birth to a maritime power, compared with which every other maritime power, ancient or modern, sinks into insignificance; under which Scotland, after ages of enmity, was at length united to England, not merely by legal bonds, but by indissoluble ties of interest and affection; under which, in America, the British colonies rapidly became far mightier and wealthier than the realms which Cortes and Pizarro added to the dominions of Charles V.; under which, in Asia, British adventurers founded an empire not less splendid, and more durable, than that of Alexander," *—was not the policy of any particular party or section of the community, and thence its long duration and unexampled success.
It was not introduced—it grew. Like the old constitution, of which it was the emanation, it arose from the wants and necessities of all classes of men during a long series of ages. It was first proclaimed in energetic terms by the vigour of Cromwell; the cry of the national representatives for markets to native industry, of the merchants for protection to their ships, produced the Navigation Laws, and laid the foundation of the colonial empire of England. Amidst all his insouciance and folly in the drawing-room of the Duchess of Portsmouth, and the boudoirs of the Duchess of Cleveland, it was steadily pursued by Charles II. James II. did not lose sight of this same system, amidst all his infatuation and cruelty; when directing the campaign of Jeffreys in the west, he was as steadily bent on upholding and extending the navy as when, amidst the thunders of war, he combated De Ruyter and Van Tromp on the coast of Holland. William III., Anne, and the Georges, pursued the same system. It directed the policy of Somers and Godolphin; it ruled the diplomacy of Walpole and Chatham; it guided the measures of Bute and North; it directed the genius of Pitt and Fox. It was for it that Marlborough conquered, and Wolfe fell; that Blake combated, and Hawke destroyed; that Nelson launched the thunderbolt of war, and Wellington carried the British standard to Madrid and Paris.
* MACAULAY'S History, i. 1-2.
It was the peculiar structure of the English constitution, during this century and a half of prosperity and glory, that produced so remarkable a uniformity in the objects of the national policy. These objects were pursued alike by the Republicans and the Royalists; by the Roundheads and the Cavaliers; by the Whigs, during the seventy years of their rule that followed the Revolution, and the Tories, during the sixty years that succeeded the accession of George III. The policy was that of protection to all the national interests, whether landed, commercial, colonial, or manufacturing Under this system they all grew and prospered, alike and abreast, in the marvellous manner which the pencil of Macaulay has sketched in the opening of his History. It was hard to say whether agriculture, manufactures, colonies, or shipping throve and prospered most during that unique period. The world had never seen anything like it before : it is doubtful if it will ever see anything like it again. Under its shelter the various interests of the empire were knit together in so close a manner, that they not only all grew and prospered together, but it was universally felt that their interests were entirely dependent on each other. The toast, “ The plough, the loom, and the sail,” was drunk with as much enthusiasm in the farmers' club as in the merchants' saloon. As varied as the interests with which they were charged, the policy of Government was yet perfectly steady in following out one principle—the protection of the productive classes, whether by land or water, whether at home or abroad.
The Legislature represented and embodied all these interests, and carried out this policy. It gave them a stability and consistency which had never been seen in the world before. Nominally the representatives of certain
towns and counties in the British islands, the House of Commons gradually became really the representatives of the varied interests of the whole British empire. The nomination burghs afforded an inlet alike to native talent and to foreign interests. Gatton and Old Sarum, or similar close burghs, afforded an entrance into the Legislature, not only to the genius of Pitt and Fox, of Burke and Sheridan, but to the wealth of Jamaica, the rising energy of Canada, the aged civilisation of Hindostan. Experienced protection reconciled all interests to a Government under which all prospered; mutual dependence made all sensible of the necessity of common unanimity. The statute-book and national treaties, from the Revolution in 1688 to the close of the war with Napoleon in 1815, exhibit the most decisive proof of the working of these varied, but not conflicting interests, in the national councils. If
If you contemplate the general protection afforded to agriculture and the landed interest, you would imagine the House of Commons had been entirely composed of squires. If you examine the innumerable enactments, fiscal and prohibitory, for the protection of manufactures, you would suppose it had been entirely under the government of manufacturers. If you contemplate the steady protection invariably given to the mercantile navy, you would suppose it had been chiefly directed by shipowners. If you cast your eyes on the protection constantly given by discriminating fiscal duties to colonial industry, and the vast efforts made, both by sea and land, in the field and in the cabinet, to encourage and extend our colonial dependencies, you would conclude, not only that they were represented, but that their representatives had a majority in the Legislature.
The reason of this prodigy was, that all interests had, in the course of ages, and the silent effects of time, worked their
way into the legislature, and all enjoyed in fair proportion a reasonable influence on government. Human wisdom could no more ab ante have framed such a system, than it could have framed the British constitution. By accident, or rather the good providence of God, it grew up from the wants of men during a series of generations; and its effects appeared in this, that—except in the cases of the American war, where unfortunate circumstances produced a departure from the system ; of the Irish Celts, whom it seems impracticable to amalgamate with Saxon institutions ; and of the Scottish Highlanders, whom chivalrous honour for a short period alienated from the established government—unanimity unprecedented during the whole period pervaded the British empire. All foreign colonies were desirous to be admitted into the great protecting confederacy; the French and Dutch planters in secret prayed for the defeat of their defenders, when the standard of St George approached their shores. The Hindoos, with heroic constancy, alike in prosperous and adverse fortune, maintained their fidelity : Canada stood firm during the most dangerous crisis of our history; and the flame of loyalty burned as steadily on the banks of the St Lawrence, on the mountains of Jamaica, and on the shores of the Ganges, as in the crowded emporiums of London, or the smiling fields of Yorkshire.
But there is a limit imposed by nature to all earthly things. The growth of empires is restrained, after they have reached a certain stature, by laws as certain as those which arrest that of individuals. If a state does not find the causes of its ruin in foreign disaster, it will inevitably find it in internal opinion. This arises so naturally and evidently from the constitution of the human mind, that it may be regarded as a fixed law of nature in all countries where intellectual activity has been called forth, and as one of the most powerful agents in the government, by supreme Wisdom, of human affairs. This principle is to be found in the tendency of original thought to differ from the current opinion with which it is surrounded, and of party ambition to decry the system of those by whom it is excluded from power.
Universally it will be found that the greatest exertions of human intellect have been made in direct opposition to the current of general opinion ; and that public thought in one age is in general but the echo of solitary meditation in that which has preceded it. Illustrations of this crowd on the reflecting mind from every period of history. The instances of Luther standing forth alone to shake down, Samson-like, the pillar of the corrupted Romish faith ; of Bacon's opening, amid all the despotism of the Aristotelian philosophy, his inductive philosophy; of Galileo maintaining the motion of the earth even when surrounded by the terrors of the Italian Inquisition ; of Copernicus asserting the true system of the heavens in opposition to the belief of two thousand years ; of Malthus bringing forward the paradox of the danger of human increase in opposition to the previous general opinion of mankind; of Voltaire combating alone the giant power of the Roman Catholic hierarchy ; of Rousseau running a course against the whole ideas of his agewill immediately occur to every reader. Many of these great men adopted erroneous opinions, and, in consequence, did as much evil to their own or the next age as others did good; but they were all characterised by one mark. Their opinions were original, and directly adverse to public opinion around them. The close of the nineteenth century was no exception to the general principle. Following out those doctrines of freedom from restraint of every kind, which in France had arisen from the natural resistance of men to the numerous fetters of the monarchy--and which had been brought forward by Turgot and the Economists, in the boudoirs of Madame Pompadour and the coteries of Paris—Adam Smith broached the principle of Free Trade, in respect to all things except grain and shipping. The first he excepted, because it was essential to national subsistence; the second, because it was the pillar of national defence. The new philosophy was ardently embraced by the Liberal party, who, chagrined by long exclusion from office, were rejoiced to find a tangible and plausible ground whereon to attack the whole existing system of government. From them it gradually extended to nearly all the ardent part of the community, ever eager to embrace doctrines at variance with previous and vulgar belief, and not yet enlightened by experience as to the effect of the new system. It was soon discovered that for a century and a half.we had been proceeding on false principles. The whole policy of government since the days of Cromwell had been erroneous ; in politics, in social government, in diplomacy, in the colonies, in war, in
peace, at home and abroad, we had been running blindfold to destruction. True, we had become great, and glorious, and free under this abominable system ; true, it had been accompanied by a growth of national strength, and an amount of national happiness, unparalleled in any former age or country : but that was all by accident. Philosophy