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by Adam Smith and the first free-traders, as the wisest enactments which were to be found in the British statutebook. But here, too, it was discovered that our ancestors had been in error ; the system under which had flourished, for two centuries, the greatest naval power that ever existed, was found to have been an entire mistake ; and, provided freights could be had ten per cent cheaper, it was of no consequence though the fleets of France and Russia blockaded the Thames and Mersey, and two-thirds of our trade was carried on in foreign bottoms.
To provide a CURRENCY equal to the wants of the nation, and capable of growth in proportion to the amount of their numbers and transactions, was one main object of the old policy of Great Britain. Thence the establishment of banks in such numbers in every part of the empire, during the eighteenth century, and the introduction of the suspension of the obligation to pay in gold in 1797, when the necessities of war had drained nearly all that part of the currency out of the country, and it was evident that, unless a substitute for it, in sufficient quantities, was provided, the nation itself, and all the individuals in it, would speedily become bankrupt. The marvels of British finance, from that time till 1815, which excited the deserved astonishment of the whole world, had no effect in convincing the impassioned opponents of Mr Pitt, that this was the true system adapted for that or any similar crisis. On the contrary, it left no doubt in their minds that it was entirely wrong. The whole philosophers and Liberal school of politicians discovered that the very opposite was the right principle; that gold, the most variable in price, and the most evanescent because the most desired and portable of earthly things, was the only safe foundation for a currency ; that paper was worth less and perilous, unless in so far as it could be instantly converted into that incomparable metal ; and that, consequently, the more the precious metals were withdrawn from the country by the necessities of war, or the effects of adverse exchanges, the more the paper circulation should be contracted. If the last sovereign went out, they held it clear the last note should be drawn in. The new system was brought into practice by Sir R. Peel, by the acts of 1844 and 1845, simultaneously with a vast importation of grain under the free-trade system and we know the consequence.
We were speedily near our last sovereign and last note also.
To establish a sinking fund which should secure to the nation, during peace, the means of discharging the debt contracted amidst the necessities of war, was one of the greatest objects of the old English policy, which was supported with equal earnestness by Mr Pitt and Mr Fox, by Mr Addington and Lord Henry Petty. So steadily was this admirable system adhered to through all the dangers and necessities of the war, that we had a clear sinking fund of £15,000,000 a-year, when the contest terminated in 1815, which, if kept up at that amount, from the indirect taxes from which it was levied during peace, would, beyond all question, as the loans had ceased, have discharged the whole debt by the year 1845. But the Liberals soon discovered that this was the greatest of all errors ; it was all a delusion; the mathematical demonstration on which it was founded was a fallacy; and the only wisdom was to repeal the indirect taxes from which the sinking fund was maintained, and leave posterity to dispose of the debt as they best could, without any fund for its discharge. This system was gradually carried into effect by the successive repeal of the indirect taxes by different Administrations ; until, at length, after thirty-three years of peace, we have, instead of the surplus of fifteen millions bequeathed to us by the war, an average deficit of fifteen hundred thousand pounds; and the debt, after the longest peace recorded in British history, has undergone scarcely any diminution.
Indirect taxation was the main basis of the British finance in old times—equally when directed by the Whigs as the Tories. Direct taxes were a last and painful resource, to be reserved for a period during war when they had become absolutely unavoidable.
So efficacious was this system proved to be by the event, when acting on a nation enjoying protected industry and an adequate and irremovable currency, that, before the end of the war, £72,000,000 was, amidst universal prosperity, with ease raised from eighteen millions of people in Great Britain and Ireland. This astonishing result, unparalleled in the previous history of the world, had no influence in convincing the modern Liberals that the system which produced it was right. On the contrary, it left no doubt in their minds that it was entirely wrong. They introduced the opposite system ; in twenty-five years they repealed £40,000,000 of indirect taxes ; and they re-introduced the income tax as a permanent burden during peace. We see the result. The sinking fund has disappeared; the income tax is fixed about our necks; a deficit of from a million and a half to two millions is annually incurred ; and it is now more difficult to extract fifty-two millions annually from twenty-nine millions of souls, than, at the close of the war, it was to raise seventy-two millions from eighteen millions of inhabitants.
To discourage revolution, both abroad and at home, and enable industry, in peace and tranquillit , to
to reap the fruits of its toil, was the grand object of the great contest which Pitt's wisdom bequeathed to his successors, and Wellington's arm brought to a glorious termination. This, however, was ere long discovered to be the greatest error of all. England, it was found out, had a decided interest in promoting the cause of revolution all over the world. So enamoured did we soon become of the propagandist mania, that we pursued it in direct opposition to our plain national interests, and with the entire abrogation of our whole previous policy, for which we had engaged in the greatest and most costly wars, alike under Whig and Tory administrations. We supported revolutions in the South American States, though thereby we reduced, to a half of its former amount, the supply of the precious metals throughout the globe ; and, in consequence, increased immensely the embarrassment which a contracted paper currency had brought upon the nation. We supported revolution in Belgium, though thereby we brought the tricolor standard down to Antwerp, and surrendered to French influence the barrier fortresses won by the victories of Marlborough and Wellington. We supported it during four years of carnage and atrocity in Spain, though thereby we undid the work of our own hands in the treaty of Utrecht, surrendered the whole objects gained by the War of the Succession, and placed the female line upon the throne, as if to invite the French princes to come and carry off the glittering prize. We supported revolutions in Sicily and Italy, though thereby we gave such a blow to our export trade, that it
sank £1,400,000 in the single month of last May, and above £5,000,000 in the course of the year 1848.
To abolish the slave-trade was one of the objects which Whigs and Tories had most at heart in the latter years of the old system ; and in that great and glorious contest Pitt, Fox, and Wilberforce stood side by side. But this object, so important in its results, so interesting to humanity from its tendency to alleviate human suffering, ere long yielded to the enlightened views of modern Liberals. It was discovered that it was much more important to cheapen sugar for a time* than to rescue the African race from perdition. Free trade in sugar was introduced, although it was demonstrated, and indeed confessed, that the effect of it would be to ruin all the free-labour colonies, and throw the supply of the world into the hands of the slave states. Provided, for a few years, you succeeded in reducing the average retail price of sugar a penny a pound, it was deemed of no consequence though we extinguished the growth of free-labour sugar, destroyed colonies in which a hundred millions of British capital were invested, and doubled the slave trade in extent, and quadrupled it in horror, throughout the globe.
It had been the constant policy of the British Government, under all administrations, for above a century and a half, to endeavour to reclaim the Irish population, by introducing among them colonies of English who might teach them industry, and Protestant missionaries who might reclaim them from barbarism. The Irish landlords and boroughs were the outposts of civilisation among a race of savages, the Irish Church the station of Christianity amidst the darkness of Romish slavery. So effectual was this system, and so perfectly adapted to the character of the Celtic race—capable of great things when led by others, but utterly unfit for self-government, and incapable of improvement when left to itself—that even in the ruthless bands of Cromwell, yet reeking with the slaughter of stormed cities, it soon spread a degree of prosperity through the country then unknown, and rarely if ever since equalled in that illstarred land. + But the experience of the utter futility of all attempts, during a century and a half, to leave the native Irish Celts to themselves or their own direction, had no effect whatever in convincing our modern Liberals that they were incapable of self-direction, and would only be ruined by Saxon institutions. On the contrary, it left no doubt on their minds that the absence of self-government was the sole cause of the wretchedness of the country, and that nothing was wanting but an entire participation in the privileges of British subjects, to render them as industrious, prosperous, and loyal as the yeomen of Kent or Surrey. In pursuance of those principles, Catholic Emancipation was granted. The Whigs had effected one revolution in 1688, by coalescing with the whole Tories to exclude the Catholics from the government; they brought about another revolution in 1829, by coalescing with a section of the Tories to bring them in. In furtherance of the new system, so plausible in theory, so dangerous in practice, of extending to all men, of all races and in all stages of political advancement, the same privileges, the Liberals successively gave the Irish the command of their boroughs, the abridgment of the Protestant Church, and the abolition of tithes as a burden on the tenant. They encouraged agitation, allowed treason to be openly spoken in every part of the country, and winked at monster meetings till the community was wellnigh thrown into convulsions. Meanwhile agriculture was neglected, industry disappeared, capital was scared away. The land was run out, and became unfit for anything but lazy beds of potatoes. The people became agitators, not cultivators: they were always running about to meetings, not labouring in their fields. The potato-blight fell on a country thus prepared for ruin; and the unparalleled misery of 1847, and the rebellion of 1848, were the consequence.
* Observe, for a time! We shall see anon what the price of sugar will be when the English colonies are destroyed, and the slave plantations have the monopoly of the market in their hands.
+ "Cromwell supplied the void made by his conquering sword, by pouring in numerous colonies of the Anglo-Saxon blood and of the Calvinistic faith. Strange to say, under that iron rule the conquered country began to wear an outward face of prosperity. Districts, which had recently been as wild as those where the first white settlers of Connecticut were contending with the Red Men, were in a few years transformed into the likeness of Kent and Norfolk. New buildings, roads, and plantations were everywhere begun. The rent of estates rose fast; and some of the English landowners began to complain that they were met in every market by the products of Ireland, and to clamour for protecting laws.”—MACAULAY'S Il istory, i. 130.