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jealousy of foreign interference with industry may with certainty be looked for in Continental Europe. Can anything be more insane, therefore, than to persist in a policy fraught, as everything around us demonstrates, with such ruinous social injury to ourselves, and which the progress of political change on the Continent renders incapable of producing the ultimate benefits, in exchange for those evils which their authors hold out as the inducing causes of the measures which have produced them?
While the political changes which have recently occurred on the Continent of Europe have rendered any reciprocity of advantages utterly hopeless from the most violent adoption of free-trade principles, they have augmented in proportional degree the dangers to this country of foreign aggression, and the risk to be apprehended from any diminution of our naval resources. The days have gone by when the dream of a free-trade millennium, in which a reciprocity of advantages is to extinguish all feelings of hostility, and war is to be looked back to as a relic of the pre-Adamite world, can with safety be indulged. It is rather too late to think of the termination of the angry passions of men, when Europe, in its length and breadth, is devastated alike by civil dissension and foreign warfare; when barricades have so recently been erected in all its chief capitals; when bloodshed is hourly expected in Paris and Berlin ; when the Emperor of Austria has fled to Innspruck ; when every station in London was, only a few days ago, occupied by armed battalions ; and when a furious war, rousing the passions of whole races of men, is raging on the Mincio and the Elbe. Threatened by a raging fire in all the countries by which we are surrounded, uncertain whether we are not slumbering on the embers of a conflagration in our own, is this the time to relax in our warlike preparations, and, by crippling the nursery of our seamen, to expose ourselves, without the means of resistance, to the assaults of hostile nations, envious of our fame, jealous of our manufactures, covetous of our wealth, desirous of our ruin ?
While Western Europe is torn by revolutionary passions, and the seeds of a dreadful, because a popular and general war, are rapidly springing to maturity from the Seine to the Vistula, Russia is silently but unceasingly gathering up
its giant strength, and the Czar has already 300,000 men, and 800 pieces of cannon, ready to take the field against the revolutionary enthusiasts of France and Germany. Sooner or later the conflict must arrive. It is not unlikely that either a second Napoleon will lead another crusade of the western nations across the Niemen, or a second Alexander will conduct the forces of the desert to the banks of the Seine. Whichever proves victorious, England has equal cause for apprehension. If the balance of power is subverted on Continental Europe, how is the independence of this country permanently to be maintained ? How are our manufactures or revenue to be supported, if one prevailing power has subjugated all the other states of Europe to its sway? It is hard to say whether, in such circumstances, we should have most to dread from French fraternity or Russian hostility. But how is the balance of power to be preserved in Europe amidst the wreck of its principal states? when Prussia is revolutionised, and has passed over to the other side ; when Austria is shattered and broken in pieces, and Italy has fallen under the dominion of a faction, distinguished beyond anything else by its relentless hatred of the aristocracy, and its jealousy of the fabrics of England ? What has Great Britain to rely on, in such a crisis, but the energy of its seamen and the might of its navy, which might at least enable it to preserve its connexion with its own colonies, and maintain, as during the Continental blockade, its commerce with Transatlantic nations? And yet this is the moment which our rulers have selected for destroying the Navigation Laws, so long the bulwark of our mercantile marine, and permitting all the world to make those inroads on our shipping, which have already been partially effected by the nations with whom we have concluded reciprocity treaties !
The defence of Great Britain must always mainly rest on our navy, and our navy is almost entirely dependent on the maintenance of our colonies. It is in the trade with the colonies that we can alone look for the means of resisting the general coalition of the European powers, which is certain, sooner or later, to arise against our maritime superiority, and the advent of which the spread of democratic principles, and the sway of operative jealousy on the Conti
nent, is so evidently calculated to accelerate. But how are our colonies to be preserved, even for a few years, if free trade severs the strong bond of interest which has hitherto attached them to the mother country, and the repeal of the Navigation Laws accustoms them to look to foreigners for the means of conducting their mercantile transactions ? Charged with the defence of a colonial empire which encircles the earth, and has brought such countless treasures and boundless strength to the parent state, Great Britain at land is only a fourth-rate power, at least for Continental strife. At Waterloo, even, she could only array forty-five thousand men to contend with the conqueror of Europe for her existence. It is to our ships we must look for the means of maintaining our commerce, and asserting our independence against manufacturing jealousy, national rivalry, and foreign aggression. Is our navy, then, to be surrendered to the ceaseless encroachments of foreigners, in order to effect a saving of a few millions a-year on freights, reft from our own people, and sapping the foundations of our national independence ?
How can human wisdom or foresight, the energy of the Anglo-Saxons, or the courage of the Normans, maintain, for any length of time, our independence in the perilous position into which free-trade policy has, during the short period it has been in operation, brought us ? The repeal of the Corn Laws has already brought an importation of eight or ten millions of foreign quarters annually upon our people
-a full sixth of the national subsistence, and which will soon become indispensable to their existence. A simple non-intercourse act will of itself enable Russia or America, without firing a shot, to compel us to lower the flag of Blake and Nelson. Stern famine will “guard the solitary coast," and famished multitudes demand national submission as the price of life. The repeal of the Navigation Laws will ere long bring the foreign seamen engaged in carrying on our trade to a superiority over our own, as has already taken place in so woful a manner with the Baltic powers. Hostile fleets will moor their ships of the line across our harbours, and throw back our starving multitudes on their own island for food, and their own market for employment. What will then avail our manufacturers and our fabrics
the forges of Birmingham, the power-looms of Manchester, the iron-works of Lanarkshire--if the enemies' squadrons blockade the Thames, the Mersey, and the Clyde, and famished millions are deprived alike of food and employment, by the suicidal policy of preceding rulers ? Our present strength will then be the measure of our weakness ; our vast population, as in a beleaguered town, the useless multitude which must be fed, and cannot fight; our wealth, the glittering prize which will attract the rapacity of the spoiler. With indignant feelings, but caustic truth, our people will then curse the infatuated policy which abandoned the national defences, and handed them over, bound hand and foot, to the enemy, only the more the object of rapacity because such boundless wealth had accumulated in a few hands amongst them. Then will be seen, that with our own hands, as into the ancient city, we have admitted the enemies' bands; we have drawn the horse pregnant with armed men through our ramparts, and our weeping and dispersed descendants will exclaim with the Trojans of old
* Fuimus Troës, fuit Iljum, et ingens Gloria Teucrorum."
THE CROWNING OF THE COLUMN, AND
CRUSHING OF THE PEDESTAL
[BLACKWOOD'S MAGAZINE, JULY 1849]
It was said in the debate on the Navigation Laws, in the best speech made on the Liberal side, by one of the ablest of the Liberal party, that the repeal of the Navigation Laws was the crowning of the column of free trade. There is no doubt it was so ; but it was something more. It was not only the carrying out of a principle, but the overthrow of a system ; it was not merely the crowning of the column, but the crushing of the pedestal.
And what was the system which was thus completely overthrown, for the time at least, by this great triumph of Liberal doctrines? It was the system under which England had become free, and great, and powerful ; under which, in her alone of all modern states, liberty had been found to coexist with law, and progress with order ; under which wealth had increased without producing divisions, and power grown up without inducing corruption ; the system which had withstood the shocks of two centuries, and created an empire unsurpassed since the beginning of the world in extent and magnificence. It was a system which had been followed out with persevering energy by the greatest men, and the most commanding intellects, which modern Europe had ever produced; which was begun by the republican patriotism of Cromwell, and consummated by the conservative wisdom of Pitt; which had been embraced alike by Somers and Bolingbroke, by Walpole and Chatham, by Fox and Castlereagh ; which, during two centuries, had produced an unbroken growth of national strength, a ceaseless extension of national power, and at length reared up a dominion