Sivut kuvina
[ocr errors]

the English women wakened every seven years, and massacred some unfortunate detected delinquent: they then fell asleep, satisfied with the sacrifice to propriety, for seven years, when they slaughtered another, and again sunk into a third septennial torpor. Meanwhile the morals of the manufacturing districts were daily getting worse ; millions existed there who did not attend divine service on Sunday; hundreds of thousands who had never been in a church; thousands who had never heard the name of Jesus but in an oath. A hideous mass of heathen profligacy had arisen in the heart of a Christian land. From it thousands of both sexes were annually sent up to the metropolis to feed its insatiable passions, or sacrifice their souls and bodies on the altar of Moloch."

So far our unpublished manuscript. Mr Macaulay is too well acquainted with passing events not to know that every word in the preceding picture is true, and too candid not to admit that all these observations are just. But he knows there is something to be said on the other side. He is familiar with a counter set of facts; and he could in halfan-hour write two paragraphs on the state of the country during the same period, equally true and striking, which would leave on the mind of the reader an impression of a directly opposite character. We do not pretend to be able to rival him in the art of writing up, a particular era, but, fortunately, our unpublished manuscript contains a little on the other side :

“ There is no period in the whole annals of Great Britain which, in point of power, glory, and general felicity, can be compared to the thirty years which followed the conclusion of the war. The energy which to so marvellous an extent had been developed during its progress, was now, with the exception of almost continued hostilities in India, entirely devoted to pacific objects. Industry flourished alike in the cities and the fields; it was hard to say whether the plough, the loom, or the sail were in the most prosperous condition. Population, during that period, advanced above fifty per cent; it increased in Great Britain and Ireland from 19,000,000 to 29,000,000 of souls. The exports of the nation, measured in official value, had increased from £52,000,000 to £150,000,000; its imports, in declared value, from £35,000,000 to £90,000,000. Its shipping, Foreign and British, had grown up from 3,500,000 tons to 7,000,000 tons. The metropolis had come to contain 2,300,000 souls: the largest aggregate of human beings in a single city, ascertained by authentic evidence, which had been collected together since the beginning of the world. The provincial towns had increased in a similar proportion; in several of them, particularly Manchester, Birmingham, Liverpool, and Glasgow, there were from three to four hundred thousand inhabitants.

.“ Agriculture, rural prosperity, and the comfort of the poor, had kept pace with this astonishing increase. There had been severe local distress at particular times; but these calamities had passed away like a summer cloud. The immense increase of imports showed how largely the middle classes had shared in the general prosperity ; of articles of subsistence, how much the labouring orders had improved in their circumstances. Cultivation, undeterred by the progressive fall of prices, bad crept up the mountain sides : a skilful and admirable system of draining had caused the morasses in the VOL. III.

2 u

plains to disappear, and added a third to the produce even of dry and fruitful soils. The nation was capable of maintaining itself by its supplies of food, if it had not deemed it more expedient to purchase a large portion at a cheaper rate from foreign states. An immense and costly system of internal communication, erected at a cost of £200,000,000, had brought the chief parts of the country within a day's journey of the other parts. Domestic and foreign peace alike prevailed during this blessed period : £40,000,000 of annual taxation was remitted, without making any considerable addition to the public debt; and such as was made was incurred, at one time, for the grant of £20,000,000 to purchase freedom for the West India slaves, at another, to bestow £10,000,000 on the relief of Irish suffering. Meanwhile the Anglo-Saxon race was rapidly spreading in every quarter of the globe: the North American colonies had come to number 2,000,000 of inhabitants. Slavery was eradicated in the West Indies : the whole peninsula of India, from Cape Comorin to the Himalaya snows, was conquered by our arms: China had been awed into submission; and new colonies planted in Australia, the progress of which exceeded anything yet recorded in the history of mankind."

Such is the other side of the picture presented by our manuscript correspondent. How is the historian to exhibit a true and faithful picture of the real state of the nation between such opposite and contradictory statements, both of which, so far as they go, are obviously well-founded ? Evidently by combining bothby presenting with equal fidelity the light and shade in the picture. How entirely deceptive would the one account only, though all perfectly true, be, if not qualified and taken along with the other? It is this partial and one-sided exposition of the truth, accompanied by a general exaggerated style of composition, more than positive inaccuracy, that we complain of in Mr Macaulay. It is this statement of the facts on both sides which, amidst all our admiration for his genius, we often desiderate in his entrancing pages; and nothing but the adoption of it, and taking his seat on the Bench instead of the Bar of History, is required to render his noble work as weighty as it is able, and as influential in forming the opinion of future ages, as it unquestionably will be successful in interesting the present.



At length signal-guns of distress have been fired from the Liberal fleet. Albeit stoutly denying the existence of any extraordinary suffering in Ireland, Ministers have brought forward a measure, based upon the admission of a distress there much exceeding anything which their opponents have alleged. Concealing or evading the loud cries of Colonial discontent, they have announced a policy implying a total revolution in Colonial government, and which never could have been conceded but from the consciousness of a vast amount of former maladministration. The Irish Reform Bill, the New System of Colonial Government, and the Financial Proposals, are par excellence the measures of the session. We are not surprised they are so. They are the natural complement and unavoidable consequence of three preceding years of Free Trade and a fettered Currency,

The policy of Government since 1846 having been entirely founded upon the interests of the towns against the country, of the consumers against the producers, of those who had a majority in the House of Commons over those who were still in a minority, it might naturally be expected that the consequent suffering would be most acutely felt in the producing parts of the empire--in those places where agriculture was the staple of life, where producers were many and consumers few, and where, necessarily, the measures of the British urban majority acted with unmitigated severity. Ireland and the Colonies were the places in which these circumstances combined, because they were both provinces in which rural districts were of boundless extent, and towns few and of inconsiderable importance; in which wealth was in a great measure unknown, civilisation as yet, comparatively speaking, in its infancy; and mankind, yet occupied in the labours of the field, in felling the forest and draining the morass, were not congregated in the huge Babylons or Ninevehs, which are at once the distinctive mark and ineradicable curse of long-established civilisation. Ireland and the Colonies, therefore, were the places which suffered most, and in which discontent might be expected to be most formidable from the new system; and, accordingly, the first announcements of the Session of 1850 were of measures calculated, as Government supposed, to assuage the irritations and conciliate the affections of these important and avowedly discontented or suffering parts of the empire.

Ten years have not elapsed since Lord John Russell declared that we could not afford to have a Revolution every year, and that the Reform Bill had fixed the Constitution upon a basis which must not again be shaken. There can be no doubt of the justice of the observation; but the Liberals have now proved that their own measures have destroyed any stability or permanent system in government. That declaration was made before the grand and distinctive features of Liberal government had developed themselves : before Free Trade had crushed Agricultural Industry, and sapped the foundations of Colonial loyalty; and when no overbearing pressure from without reminded Ministers that the time had arrived when they must eat in their pledges. That time has now, however, come. Distress, all but universal, has spread among all the rural producers of the empire; Ireland, the West Indies, and Canada, as the most entirely agricultural districts, have been the first to suffer in consequence. Measures calculated, as they conceive, to allay the prevailing discontent, have been brought forward by Government at the very time when they themselves, and their organs in the press, were most strenuously denying that the new measures had produced anything but universal contentment and satisfaction throughout the empire.

The so-called Liberals have a very easy, and, as they deem it, efficacious mode of stifling or appeasing public discontent, when it arrives at a formidable height. This consists in extending the suffrage among the querulous and suffering part of the people. They think that by so doing they will at once demonstrate their sympathy with the middle and lower classes, and secure, at least for some elections to come, a majority of electors for their support, from a natural feeling of gratitude towards the Government which has conceded to them the suffrage. This system has been acted upon now for above a quarter of a century. No sooner had the contraction of the Currency, by the bills of 1819 and 1826, rendered it wholly inadequate for the industry of the empire, and produced the dreadful distress from 1826 to 1830 among the manufacturing and commercial classes, than they brought forward the Reform Bill in March 1831, and gave a decided majority in the House of Commons to these suffering and discontented urban electors. They have existed ever since on the gratitude of these newly enfranchised city voters. And now, when the measures adopted, at the instigation of these urban constituencies, who compose three-fifths of the House of Commons, have totally ruined the West Indies, all but severed Canada from the empire, and spread unheard-of distress throughout Ireland, they have a remedy, as they conceive, ready, in the extension of the suffrage to the suffering population. In this way the successive stages of general suffering, induced by Free Trade and a fettered Currencyin other words, a system of general cheapening of everything—issue in successive degradations of the franchise. The monetary crisis of 1825 led, after five years of suffering, to the Reform Bill for Great Britain; and the FreeTrade crash of 1847 has issued, after three years of mortal agony, in the new Irish Reform Bill, and the announcement of provincial assemblies for the Colonies. If this system is continued for half a century more, it may reasonably be expected to lead, as it has done in France, to the introduction of universal suffrage. When everything is so cheapened that one-half of the population is landed in the workhouses, it is thought everything will be righted, wisdom at once imprinted on the measures of Government, and contentment diffused through the country by the paupers rising from

« EdellinenJatka »