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had marked it with the sign of reprobation-prosperity had poured upon us by chance in the midst of universal misgovernment. By all the rules of calculation we should have been destroyed, though, strange to say, no symptoms of destruction had yet appeared amongst us. According to every principle of philosophy, the patient should long ago have been dead of the mortal disease under which he laboured; the only provoking thing was, that he was still walking about in robust and florid health.
Circumstances occurred at the same time, early in this century, which had the most powerful effect in exasperating the Opposition party throughout the country, and inducing them to embrace, universally and ardently, the new philosophy, which condemned in such unmeasured terms the whole system of government pursued by their antagonists. For half a century, since the long dominion of the Whigs was terminated in 1761 by George III., the Tories had been, with the exception of a few months, constantly in office. Though their system of government in religion, in social affairs, in foreign relations, was nothing but a continuation of that which the Whigs had introduced, and according to which the government had been conducted from 1688 to 1760, yet, in the ardour of their zeal for the overthrow of their adversaries, the Liberal party embraced on every point the opposite side. The descendants of Lord Russell became the advocates of Roman Catholic emancipation ; the followers of Marlborough and Godolphin, the partisans of submission to France; the successors of Walpole and Chatham, the advocates of free trade and colonial neglect. These feelings, embraced from the influence of a determination to find fault with Government in every particular, were worked up to the highest pitch by the glorious result of the war with France, and the apparently interminable lease of power acquired by their adversaries from the overthrow of Napoleon. That memorable event, so opposite to that which they had all so long in public predicted, so entirely the reverse of that which many had in secret wished, produced a profound impression on the Whig party. Their feelings were only the more acute that, amidst the tumult of national exultation, they were forced to suppress them, and to wear the countenance of satisfaction, when the bitterness of disappointment was in their hearts. To the extreme asperity of these feelings, and the universal twist which they gave to the minds of the whole Liberal party in Great Britain, the subsequent general change in their political principles is to be ascribed ; and, in the practical application of these principles, the real cause of our present distressed condition is to be found.
While one set of causes thus prepared, in the triumph of Conservative and protective principles, the strongest possible reaction against them, and prognosticated, at no distant period, their general banishment from popular thought, another, and a not less powerful set, flowing from the same cause, gave these principles the means of acquiring a political supremacy, and ruling the government of the state. The old policy of England, it has been already observed, for a hundred and fifty years, had been to take care of the producers, and let the consumers take care of themselves. Such had been the effects of this protective policy, that, before the close of the revolutionary war, during which it received its full development, the producing classes, both in town and country, had become so rich and powerful, that it was easy to see they would ere long give a preponderance to urban over rural industry. The vast flood of agricultural riches poured for expenditure into towns; that of the manufacturers and merchants seldom left it. The great manufacturing and mercantile places, during a century, had advanced in population tenfold, in wealth thirtyfold. The result of this change was very curious, and in the highest degree important. Under the shadow of protection to industry in all its branches, riches, both in town and country, had increased so prodigiously, that the holders of it had acquired a preponderance over the classes in the state yet engaged in the toilsome and hazardous work of production.
The owners of realised capital had become so numerous and weighty, from the beneficial effects of the protective system under which the country had so long flourished, that they formed an important class apart, which began to look to its separate interests. The consumers had become so numerous and affluent, that they were enabled to bid defiance to the producers. The maxim became prevalent, “ Take care of the consumer, and let the producer take care of himself.” Thence the clamour for free trade. Having passed the labour of production, during which they, or their fathers, had strenuously supported the protective principles, by which they were making their money, the next thing was to support the opposite principles, by which the value of the made money might be augmented. This was to be done by free trade and a contracted currency. Having made millions by protection, the object now was to add a half to every million by raising its value. The way to do this seemed to be by cheapening the price of every other article, and raising the price of money ; in other words, the system of cheapening everything without reference to its effect on the interests of production.
Parliamentary reform, for which the Whigs, disappointed by long exclusion from office, laboured strenuously, in conjunction with the commercial and moneyed classes, enriched by protection, gave them the means of carrying both objects into execution, because it made two-thirds of the House of Commons the representatives of burghs. The cry of cheap bread was seductive to all classes in towns :-to the employer, because it opened the prospect of reducing the price of labour, and to the operative, because it presented that of lowering that of provisions. To these two objects, accordingly, of raising the value of money and lowering the remuneration of industry, the Reform parliament, the organ of the moneyed interest and consuming classes, has, through all the changes of party, been perfectly steady. wonder it has been so, for it was the first-born of those interests. Twenty years before the cry for reform convulsed the nation—in 1810—the Bullion Committee brought forward the principle of a metallic, and, consequently, a contracted currency; and they recommended its adoption in the very
crisis of the war, when Wellington lay at Torres Vedras, and when the monetary crisis to which it must have led would have made us a province of France. Reform was the consequence of the change in the currency, not its cause. The whole time from 1819 to 1831, with the exception of 1824 and 1825, was one uninterrupted period of suffering. Such was the misery it produced, that the minds of men were prepared for any change. A chaos of unanimity was produced by a chaos of suffering.
It is no
Thus, by a singular and most interesting chain of causes and effects, it was the triumph of Conservative and protective principles in the latter years of the war, and the entire demonstration thus afforded of their justice and expedience, which was the immediate cause of their subsequent abandonment, and of all the misery which has thence arisen, and with which we are still everywhere surrounded. For it at once turned all the intellectual energies of the great Liberal party to oppose, in every particular, the system by which their opponents had been glorified, and concentrated all the energies of the now powerful moneyed classes to swell, by a change of policy, the fortunes on which their consequence depended, and which had arisen from the long prevalence of the opposite system. For such is the tendency to action and reaction in all vigorous and intellectual communities, that truth itself is for long no security against their occurrence. On the contrary, so vehement are the passions excited by a great and lasting triumph of one party, even though in the right, that the victory of truth, whether in politics or religion, is often the immediate cause of the subsequent triumph of error. The great Roman Catholic reaction against the Reformation, which Ranke has so clearly elucidated, and Macaulay has so powerfully illustrated, has its exact counterpart in the great political reaction of the Whig party, of which Macaulay is himself the brightest ornament.
That this is the true explanation of the strange and tortuous policy, both in domestic and foreign affairs, under which the nation has so long suffered, is apparent on the slightest survey of political affairs in the last and present century.
The old principle of the English constitution, which had worked itself into existence, or grown up from the necessities of men, during a whole course of years, was, that the whole interests of the state should be represented, and that the House of Commons was the assembly in which the representatives of all those varied interests were to be found. For the admission of these varied interests, a varied system of electoral qualifications, admitting all interests, noble, mercantile, industrial, popular, landed, and colonial, was indispensable
. In the old House of Commons, all these classes found a place for their representatives, and thence the commercial protection it afforded to industry. According to the new system, a vast majority of seats was to be allotted to one class only, the householders and shopkeepers of towns. That class was the moneyed and consuming class; and thence the whole subsequent course of British policy, which has been to sacrifice everything to their interests.
The old maxim of government, alike with Whigs and Tories, was, that native industry of all sorts, and especially agricultural industry, was to be protected, and that foreign competition was to be admitted only in so far as was not inconsistent with this primary object. The new philosophy taught, and the modern Liberals carried into execution, a different principle. They went on the maxim that the interests of the consumers alone were to be considered ; that to cheapen everything was the great object; and that it mattered not how severely the producers of articles suffered, provided those who purchased them were enabled to do so at a reduced rate. This policy, long lauded in abstract writings and reviews, was at length carried into execution by Sir R. Peel, by the tariff of 1842 and the freetrade measures of 1846.
To protect and extend our colonial dependencies was the great object of British policy, alike with Whigs and Tories, from the time of Cromwell to the fall of Napoleon. In them it was thought our manufacturers would find a lasting and rapidly increasing market for their produce, which would, in the end, enable us equally to defy the hostility, and withstand the rivalry of foreign states. The new school held that this was an antiquated prejudice : that colonies were a burden rather than a blessing to the mother country : that the independence of America was the greatest blessing that ever befell Great Britain : and that, provided we could buy colonial produce a little cheaper, it signified nothing though our colonies perished by the want of remuneration for their industry, or were led to revolt from exasperation at the cruel and unnatural conduct of the mother country.
The navy was regarded by all our statesmen, without exception, from Cromwell to Pitt, as the main security of the British empire ; its bulwark in war; the bridge which united its far-distant provinces during peace. To feed it with skilled seamen, the Navigation Laws were upheld even