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Strange and seemingly contradictory as it may appear, it is now clearly proved by experience, that it was the strength of the Conservative principle in the great bulk of the nation, which was the remote cause, at successive periods, of the cry for Reform, of the revolutionary tempest of 1832, and of the present downfall of the revolutionary party. It was because they felt that the conceding, conciliating Ministers of 1829 had deviated in the most vital particulars from the constitution, that the heart and soul of England threw itself, with honest and sincere, but mistaken and ill-judged rashness, into the arms of the Reformers; it is because experience has revealed the real tendency of the revolutionary passion, and proved the dangers with which not only all our great institutions, but even the existence of the empire, is threatened by the Reform Ministry, that it has now hurled them from the helm.
Let, then, Sir Robert Peel and the Conservative leaders lay this great truth to their hearts, as the moral to be drawn from the dreadful crisis through which the nation has passed—that no lasting strength, but only weakness, is to be gained by embracing the doctrines of their opponents ; and that they will never rule the empire with such success as when they most truly and sincerely follow out in every department truly Conservative principles. What these principles are, has been told us by a greater power than earthly wisdom. To “fear God and honour the king” is but a part, though it is an important and essential part
, of the principles of good government. It is not less the duty of a good Christian legislator to “clothe the naked, feed the hungry, and preach the gospel to the poor.” It is here that the real secret of successful Conservative administration is to be found, and it is from the long-continued and inexplicable neglect of this first of social duties that all our dangers have arisen.
Experience has now clearly demonstrated, that the precepts of religion have a national as well as an individual application ; and that no empire can remain prosperous, unless in its internal government it acts upon those precepts which, eighteen hundred years ago, were proclaimed by the Saviour of the world. The passion for social amelioration, the numberless philanthropic delusions by which this age is so remarkably distinguished, the incessant desire to discover, in organic change of human arrangement, a remedy for the numberless evils to which flesh is heir, are but the yearnings of the human mind for that something which it feels is wanting, and for the absence of which all the glories and wealth, as well as all the wisdom of the world, can afford no compensation.
What that something is, is announced in every page of the gospel. It is to subdue our passions, discharge our duties, extend our charity. The poor, we know, will always be with us ; they will always require to have the gospel preached to them ; charity will never cease to be the greatest of the national, as well as the individual virtues. It is in the adoption of these principles by government and the legislature, that the real balm for an ulcerated nation is to be found ; it is by the application of such principles that oil is to be poured into the wounds of humanity : it is there, if anywhere, that the elixir of national immortality is to be found.
The contest between Revolution and Conservatism is no other than the contest between the powers of hell and those of heaven. Human pride, adopting the suggestions of the great Adversary of mankind, will always seek a remedy for social evils in the spread of earthly knowledge, the change of institutions, the extension of science, and the unaided efforts of worldly wisdom. Religion, following a heavenly guide, will never cease to foretell the entire futility of all such means to eradicate the seeds of evil from humanity; and will loudly proclaim, that the only reform that is really likely to be efficacious, either in this world or the next, is the reform of the human heart. The French and the English revolutions afford, within the last half-century, successive and awful warnings both of the power of the first set of principles to convulse and desolate mankind, and of their utter nothingness to eradicate any, even the least, of the many seeds of evil which sin has implanted in the children of Adam. We have eat to profusion, on this and the other side of the Channel, of the fruit of the Tree of Knowledge ; and it has proved to be nothing, when unsanctified by principle, but the apples of Sodom—a tempting surface, but ashes and death within.
Conservative government, therefore, must be based upon
religion, as Revolutionary government must be based upon worldly knowledge: it is because both the French Government in 1793, and the English in 1830, had abandoned this stronghold that they fell to the earth. Conservative government, as distinguished from despotism, has never yet been re-established in France ; and religion has never regained its sway over the influential classes of society : Conservative government has again been restored in England, because religion has resumed its influence over the majority of the people. Human perfectibility is the dogma on which, to the end of the world, the revolutionary party will rest; human corruption is the basis on which the antagonist principle of religion will ever be founded. There can be no dallying, no truce, no compromise, even for a day, between these mighty powers: “He that is not with me, is against me.” Conservative principles never will succeed in resisting revolutionary, when the latter have once been fully awakened, by any other means but invoking the powers of religion : the powers of earth can never be vanquished but by those of heaven. But religion, be it ever recollected, does not consist merely in abstract theological tenets. Active exertion, strenuous charity, unceasing efforts to spread its blessings among the poor, constitute its essential and most important part. It is by following out these precepts, and making a universal national provision for the great objects of religious instruction, general education, and the relief of suffering, that the fever of social reform is to be turned to really beneficial purposes ; that the ardour of philanthropy is to be made consistent with the stability of society; that reform is really to be rendered salutary, because it begins with that great fountain of evil, the human heart; and that religion is to take its place as the great director and guide of nations, as it has ever been the only means of salvation to individuals.
FREE TRADE AND PROTECTION
[BLACKWOOD'S MAGAZINE, MARCH 1844]
It is remarkable that, while we hear so much of the advantages of free trade, the reciprocity of them is always in prospect only. By throwing open our harbours to foreign nations, indeed, we give them an immediate and obvious advantage over ourselves ; but as to any corresponding advantages we are to gain in our intercourse with them, we are still waiting in patient expectation of the anticipated benefit. Our patience is truly exemplary; it might furnish a model to Job himself. We resent nothing. No sooner do we receive a blow on one cheek, than we turn up the other to some new smiter. No sooner are we excluded, in return for our concessions, from the harbours of one state, than we begin making concessions to another.
We are constantly in expectation of seeing the stream of human envy and jealousy run out :
“Rusticus expectat dum defluat amnis : at ille
Labitur et labetur in omne volubilis ævum.' We are imitating the man who made the experiment of constantly reducing the food on which his horse is to live. Let us take care that, just as he is learning to live on nothing, we do not find him dead in his stall.
The Free-traders fully admit, and deeply deplore, as we have shown on a former occasion, these unfavourable results; but they say that it is to be hoped they will not continue ; that foreign nations must, in the end, come to see that they are as much interested as we are in an enlightened system of free trade; and that, meantime, it is for our interest to continue the system ; or even though it totally fails in producing any augmentation in our exports, it is obviously for our advantage to continue it, as it brings in the immediate benefit of purchasing articles imported at a cheaper rate. Supposing, say they, we obtain no corresponding advantage from other states, there is an immense benefit accrues to ourselves from admitting foreign goods at a nominal duty, from the low price at which they may be purchased by the British consumer. To that point we shall advert in the sequel ; in the mean time, it may be considered as demonstrated, that the free-trade system has entirely failed in procuring for us the slightest extension of our foreign exports, or abating in the slightest degree the jealousy of foreign nations at our maritime and manufacturing superiority. Nor is there any difficulty in discovering to what this failure has been owing. It arises from laws inherent in the nature of things, and which will remain unabated as long as we continue a great and prosperous nation.
It is related of the Lacedemonians, that while all the other citizens of Greece were careful to surround their towns with walls, they alone left a part open on all sides. Their superiority in the field rendered them indifferent to the adventitious protection of ramparts. It is for a similar reason that England is now willing to throw down the barriers of tariffs, and the impediments of custom-houses ; and that all other nations are fain to raise them up. It is a secret sense of superiority on the one side, and of inferiority on the other, which is the cause of the difference. We advocate freedom of trade because we are conscious that, in a fair unrestricted competition, we should succeed in beating them out of their own market. They resist it, and loudly clamour for protection, because they are aware that such a result would speedily take place, and that the superiority of the old commercial state is such, that on an open trial of strength, it must at once prove fatal to its younger rivals. As this effect is thus the result of permanent causes affecting both sides, it may fairly be presumed that it will be lasting; and that the more anxiously the old manufacturing state advocates or acts upon freedom of commercial intercourse, the more strenuously will the younger and rising ones advocate protection. Reciprocity, therefore, is out of the question between them : for it never could exist without the destruction of the manufactures of the younger state ; and if that