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alliance, or made them sensible of the desperate danger which they ran in the attempt. Such a combination, a little longer persisted in, would have led to the dismemberment of the empire. It is by supporting, with all the might of England, the Orange party of Ireland, and by such a measure alone, that the crown of Ireland can be kept on the head of the British sovereign, or the independence of the British empire maintained. The Catholics will never cease to desire a severance—because it would lead, they hope, to a Catholic Prince and a Catholic Government, and the restitution of the whole estates, both civil and ecclesiastical, to the Catholic proprietors. Her Revolutionists will never cease to desire it, because it will at once occasion the formation of a Hibernian Republic, in close alliance with the great parent democracy of France, and place the agitators at the head of affairs. Her Protestants alone are prompted by every motive, human and divine, by kindred interest, religion, and loyalty, to resist the convulsion; and hitherto, through evil report and good report, through support and injury, they have stood firm in their faith. What madness if the affections of this great body, the sole remaining link which holds together the empire, is lost in the flattery of revolutionary passions ! But that must be the consequence if the present vacillating system is persisted in, and the tried support of the Protestant Union is lost in the vain attempt to conciliate its Catholic enemies.
THE COMMERCIAL CRISIS OF 1837
(BLACKWOOD'S MAGAZINE, Aug. 1837)
For the last nine months, distress and suffering in their worst, most protracted, and aggravated form, have been passing over the commercial world both of this country and America. Inferior to the great catastrophe of December 1825 in the pressure on the banks, and consequent general panic through the community, the crisis of 1837 has been infinitely superior to it in the lengthened suffering which it has diffused through the manufacturing interests, and the unparalleled distress in which it has involved the working classes. The greatest mercantile houses of Britain have been brought to the edge of perdition; some, whose credit a year ago stood as high as any in Europe, have sunk in the struggle; the prudent conduct and well-timed liberality of the Bank of England alone has averted a still greater convulsion, and possibly saved the nation from the horrors of a general bankruptcy. While manufactured articles of every sort have fallen a half in value; while the produce of the British customs has sunk £900,000 in a single quarter; while nearly one-half of the cotton mills of the island have been shut up, either from inability to find a market for their produce, distrust of the solvency of their purchasers, or the insane attempts of their workmen to keep up their wages by combination and outrage, in a period of adversity, at the high level to which they had risen in the preceding unparalleled prosperity—the distress universally diffused throughout the working classes has been unprecedented. For nearly six months, 50,000 hands have been unemployed in Manchester and its vicinity; the destitution of the silk-weavers of Spitalfields and Macclesfield has been relieved for a time only by a united effort of royal bounty and fashionable expenditure; 20,000 workmen are idle at Paisley and its vicinity, of whom 9000 are daily maintained solely by the bounty of the higher classes, themselves labouring under unprecedented difficulties; and at Glasgow, what between the long-continued pressure on the masters, and the monstrous conduct of the workmen, who have chosen this season of universal suffering to strike, to prevent any reduction of wages, nearly one-half of the labouring classes have for several months been in a state of idleness; and thousands have been kept alive solely by the munificent bounty which, in periods of real distress
, is never awanting among the opulent classes in that great centre of manufacturing industry.
What renders this crisis the more distressing, and inspires the more gloomy presentiments in regard to its effects in future, is the gradual way in which it has come on, the length of time it has already lasted, and the universal application of the pressure which it has occasioned. Other commercial crises, as that of 1825, have come on at once, raged for a season with extraordinary severity, but, when the panic subsided, speedily disappeared; or, as those of 1810 and 1816, have been principally confined to the persons engaged in particular branches of manufacture or commerce. But, on this occasion, all classes are suffering alike. The cottonspinners, the cotton-holders, the iron-masters, the shawlmanufacturers, the silk-weavers, the fancy dressmakers, the handloom-weavers, the clothiers, the engineers, the machinemakers, are all involved in equal suffering. Orders have ceased, or declined to one-half; credit is shaken over the whole world. In no direction are the symptoms of a decided reaction on the part of the purchasers yet to be seen. That the commercial and manufacturing classes have hitherto stood the storm so well—that so few failures have occurred as yet amongst them—is the strongest proof of the solidity of their establishments, the general prudence of their speculations, and the immense wealth which ten continued years of peace and prosperity have diffused throughout the British mercantile world. The tempest of 1837 has thoroughly tried their strength, and demonstrated, that if it began in most cases with paper credit, it has rapidly grown into solid opulence. Had this crisis occurred when they were no better prepared for it than they were in 1825, it is not going too far to say, that at least one-half of the whole manufacturing and commercial establishments of the country would have been destroyed. As it is, nearly two millions of operatives or their dependents are at this moment out of employment in this island; and thousands of houses have stood the shock only by yielding up the whole profits of the last ten years, and beginning the world anew, after they flattered themselves they had nearly realised the object of their fondest wishes.
But if these have been the effects of the storm in the British islands, how incomparably more disastrous have been its effects on the other side of the Atlantic! In America, a convulsion has been experienced unprecedented perhaps in the civilised world. It may truly be said that an universal bankruptcy has there taken place. In the State of New Orleans, the great emporium of the Southern States of the Union, the debts for which the inhabitants of the city and province have failed amount to the enormous and unexampled sum of FORTY-FIVE MILLIONS STERLING. In fact, every human being, with one or two exceptions, has become bankrupt. In New York, after the bankruptcies had amounted to five millions sterling, and two of the principal banks in the city had failed, and it was everywhere understood that a general failure of them all was at hand, the extraordinary step of universally suspending cash payments was adopted, which has since been generally followed in all the cities of the Union. What the effects of such a portentous state of things as this simultaneous suspension of cash payments, without any authority from the Legislature, may ultimately be, it is not for us to say ; and many years, perhaps half a century, will elapse before they are all exbausted. At this time, forty years after the suspension of cash payments forced on Mr Pitt by overbearing necessity in 1797, we are far from having experienced all the consequences of that momentous change. But this much at least is certain, that the misery and ruin diffused through all classes, but especially the working ones, by this general public and private bankruptcy in America, far exceeds that arising from any catastrophe, civil or military, which has occurred in modern times. The devastation produced by the Peninsular invasion, the burning of Moscow, or the overthrow of Napoleon, were trifling in comparison.
What is it, then, which has occasioned this general and overwhelming calamity; which has suddenly nipped the prosperity that, amidst peace and abundance, was stealing over the civilised earth, and converted the joy and opulence of the whole commercial world into anxiety and mourning? It is of the more importance to acquire accurate ideas upon this subject, because it is evident that there is no ostensible and apparent cause to which, as on occasions of former commercial panic, the general distress can be ascribed. In 1793, the breaking out of a general war, the sudden fall of the public funds, and stoppage of so many pacific channels of commerce, sufficiently explained the crisis. In 1797, the unparalleled drain upon the Bank, arising from the general practice of hoarding consequent on the dread of invasion; the great loans, all requiring to be paid in specie, to foreign powers; and the unexampled demand for the precious metals for the use of the belligerent powers in Italy and Germany, sufficiently explained the crisis which compelled Mr Pitt to suspend cash payments, and induced that series of causes and effects which, thirty years afterwards, was followed by the resumption of cash payments, and brought about the general discontent which terminated in the Reform Bill. In 1810 and 1811, the severe embarrassment was plainly owing to the stoppage of Continental commerce by the operation of the Berlin and Milan Decrees ; the interruption of American commerce by the effect of the Orders in Council, and consequent Non-intercourse Act; and the great confiscations of British merchandise in the Baltic in the close of the former years. In 1816 and 1817, the sudden cessation of the war expenditure, the closing of warlike branches of industry, and the contraction of the Treasury issue from a hundred and twenty to fifty millions, sufficiently explained the universal suffering. In 1825, the crisis was obviously brought about by the vast impulse given to commerce by the Bill of 1822, which practically suspended the withering influence of the famous resumption of cash payments in 1819 ; followed by the enormous absorption and loss of capital in the insane mining speculations of