Sivut kuvina
PDF
ePub

This revolution in France being a revolt of labour against capital, its first principle is a deadly hostility to the principle of free trade. The recent barbarous expulsion of the English labourers from France, several thousands in number, after having enriched the country by their labour, and taught it by their example, proves what sympathy foreign industry meets with from the great and fraternising republic. The confiscation of their hard-won earnings by the cessation of the savings-banks to pay more than a tenth in cash, shows what they have to expect from the justice and solvency of its government. With the rise of the Communist and Socialist party in France to power, whose abomination is capital, whose idol is labour, it may with certainty be predicted that the sternest and most unbending prohibition of British goods will immediately be adopted by the great philanthropic and fraternising republic. All other countries which follow in any degree the example of the great parent republic, by the popularising of their institutions, will, from the influence of the labour party, do the same. America already draws 19,000,000 dollars, or nearly £4,000,000 sterling, from its imports, the greater part of which is a direct tax levied on the industry of this country. Reciprocity, always one-sided, will ere long be absolutely isolated. We shall be

“Penitus divisos orbe Britannos," even more by our policy than our situation.

What chance there is of free-trade doctrines being adopted by the present Socialist and free-trade government in France, may be judged of by the following quotation from the Constitutionnel :--

“ Is not, in fact, the consumer, such as the Free-traders represent him to us, a strange creation ? He is, as he has been wittily described, a fantastic being—a monster who has a mouth and a stomach to consume produce, but who has neither legs to move nor arms to work. We do not fear that the operative classes will suffer themselves to be seduced by those doctrines. We are aware that they have constantly rejected them through the organs of the press more especially charged with the defence of their interests; but it behoves them likewise that the Provisional Government should remain on its guard against principles which would be still more disastrous under existing circumstances. M. Bethmont, the Minister of Commerce, has declared, in a letter addressed by him to the association for the defence of national labour, that he would never grant facilities of which the consequences would be calculated to injure our manufacturers. We see by this

declaration that the dispositions of the Provisional Government are good. The very inquiry which is now being held to devise means to ameliorate the moral and material condition of the operatives, ought to confirm the government in the necessity of maintaining the system which protects industry. Let us inquire what the consequence would be, in fact, if we were so imprudent as to suffer foreign produce to enter France free of duty. Political economy teaches us that wages find their balance in consequence of the competition existing between nations; but they find their equilibrium by falling, and not by rising. If that were not the case, there would be no possibility of maintaining the struggle. Now, if we opened our ports, this cruel necessity would become the more imperious for us, as, being placed opposite to England in conditions of inferiority, greater in respect to capital, to the means of transport, and to the price of matters of the first necessity, we could not redeem those disadvantages except by a reduction of wages. This, in fact, would be the annihilation of the operative."-Constitutionnel, March 16, 1848.

This is the inevitable result of Republican and Socialist triumph in the neighbouring kingdom, and the impulse given to liberal institutions, an inlet thereby opened to manufacturing jealousy all over the world. Debarred thus from all possibility of reciprocal advantages; shut out for ever from the smallest benefit in return, is it expedient for Great Britain to continue any longer her concessions to foreign industry, or incur the blasting imputation of a suicidal policy towards her own inhabitants in favour of ungrateful and selfish foreigners, who meet concessions with prohibition, and industrial teaching with savage expulsion from the instructed territory?

“ No revolution,” says Madame de Stael, “ can succeed in any country, unless it is headed by a portion of the higher, and the majority of the middle classes.” Recent events have afforded another to the many confirmations which history affords of this important observation. Had the National Guard of Paris stood firm, the troops of the line would never have wavered; the government would not have been intimidated; a Socialist revolution would have been averted; public credit preserved; the savingsbank,—the place of deposit of the poor—the public funds, —the investment of the middle classes-saved from destruction. When we contemplate the dreadful monetary crisis which has been brought on in France by the revolution ; when we behold the bank of France suspending payments, and all the chief banks of the metropolis rendered bankrupt by the shock; when we behold wealth in ship-loads flying from its menaced shores, and destitution in crowds stalking

66 The

through its crowded and idle streets, we are struck with horror, and impressed with a deeper sense of thankfulness at the good sense and patriotic spirit of the middle classes in this country, which has so quickly crushed the efforts of the seditious to involve us in similar calamities. unbought loyalty of men,—the cheap defence of nations,”– still, thank God! subsists amongst us. The poison of infidelity has not destroyed the moral bonds of society

the rolling-stone of revolution has not crushed the institutions of freedom amongst us. There are hearts to love their country—arms to defend their Queen—not less among our civil than our military defenders. The pillage of Glasgow on the first outbreak of the disturbances there, their speedy suppression by the energy of the inhabitants, has not been lost on the empire. It is not in vain that 20,000 constables came forward to be enrolled in one day in Glasgow, and 11,000 in Manchester. We see what we have to expect from the seditious; they see what they have to expect from the middle classes of society, and the whole virtuous part of the lower. With such dispositions in both, Great Britain may be exposed to local disorder or momentary alarm, but it can never be seriously endangered, or undergo that worst of horrors—a social revolution. Nor will she, with such dispositions in her people, be less prepared to assert the ancient glory of her arms, should circumstances render that alternative necessary. She has no internal reforms to make that she cannot achieve peaceably, by the means which her constitution affords. Her giant strength slumbers, is not dead. Our ships of war,--in the noble words of Mr Canning,“ how soon one of those stupendous masses, now reposing on their shadows in perfect stillness,—how soon, upon any call of patriotism or of necessity, it would assume the likeness of an animated thing, instinct with life and motion-how soon it would ruffle, as it were, its swelling plumage—how quickly it would put forth all its beauty and its bravery, collect its scattered elements of strength, and awaken its dormant thunder!”—how soon would the flag of Waterloo again be unfurled to the breeze!

THE NAVIGATION LAWS

[BLACKWOOD'S MAGAZINE, JULY 1848)

“When the Act of Navigation,” says Adam Smith, “was made, though England and Holland were not actually at war, the most violent animosity subsisted between the two nations. It is not impossible, therefore, that some of the regulations of this famous act may have proceeded from national animosity. They are as wise, however, as if they had all been dictated by the most deliberate wisdom. National animosity, at that particular time, aimed at the very object which the most deliberate wisdom would have recommended—the diminution of the naval power of Holland, the only naval power which could endanger the security of England. The Act of Navigation is not favourable to foreign commerce, or to the growth of that opulence which can arise from it. As defence, however, is of much more value than opulence, the Act of Navigation is perhaps the wisest of all the commercial regulations of England.”* Before these pages issue from the press, this, undoubtedly the wisest of all the commercial regulations of Great Britain, and that under which the maritime strength and colonial empire of England have risen to a pitch of grandeur unknown in any other age or country, will be numbered among the things which have been. The House of Commons, by a majority, have voted for the repeal of the Navigation Laws.

Free trade will soon have done its work, so far, at least, as the House of Commons is concerned. It is gradually but unceasingly advancing, and swallowing up successively all the great interests of the empire, save that of the capitalists, as it moves forward. The agricultural interests will

* Wealth of Nations, iv. c. 2

find themselves deprived, in February next, of all protection ; and the British cultivator exposed to the competition, without any shield save a nominal duty of 1s. a quarter, of states where wheat can be raised, with a fair profit in average years, at 18s. a quarter, and brought to this country for 10s. at the very utmost of freight. As soon as we have two fine harvests in succession, it will be seen to what state this system will reduce British rural production. The West India interests have been next assailed ; and our colonies, upon whom free labour has been forced, upon a compensation being given to the proprietors on an average of a fourth of the value of their slaves, are speedily to be exposed, with no protection but a differential duty of 5s. 6d. a hundredweight, diminishing 1s. 6d. a-year, till, in 1854, it disappears, to the competition of slave colonies, where sugar can be raised for 24 a ton, while in the British colonies the measures of Government have precluded its being raised for less than £10 a ton. As a natural

As a natural consequence, cultivation is about to cease in those noble settlements ; the forest and the jungle will speedily supplant the smiling plantations, and £100,000,000 worth of British property will be lost beyond redemption.

Domestic manufactures were at the same time assailed, though with a more gentle hand than rude produce. Protective duties on them were lowered, though not entirely removed ; and the consequence is, that at this time there are 8000 hands wholly unemployed at Manchester, and above 10,000 at Glasgow, and distress to an unparalleled extent pervades the whole commercial and manufacturing classes. Nothing daunted by these calamitous results, so exactly what the opponents of free trade predicted would ensue, so diametrically the reverse of the unbounded prosperity which they promised the nation as the consequence of their changes, the Free-traders, in pursuance of their usual system of preferring their own opinions to the evidence of facts, are preparing to apply the same system to the commercial navy of the country, and, by the repeal of the Navigation Laws, against the opinion of Adam Smith, to depress our shipping interest as much as they encourage that of foreign states, and endanger our national existence, by crippling our own means of defence as much as they augment

« EdellinenJatka »