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and Gurney in London,* that during that whole period the interest of money, even in the years when the pressure was severest, never rose above 6 per cent, and immediately after fell to 3 or 3 per cent; and in 1844 and 1845, it is well known, it was still lower, at some times as low as 2 per cent.
Again, the income-tax returns for 1846, of this miserably poor nation, exhibit a revenue of £5,200,000 yearly drawn from this source, though the tax is only 7d. in the pound, or £2, 18s. 4d. per cent, and though the tax did not legally go below incomes of £150, and in practice generally excluded those under £200 a-year. The income-tax, in the last year of the war, produced £15,000,000 at 10 per cent, reaching all incomes above £60 a-year. Had the same standard been adopted in 1842, when it was reimposed by Sir R. Peel, it would have produced at least £18,000,000 yearly, which sum, increased by 33 per cent from the enhanced value of money by the operation of the act of 1819, would correspond to about £24,000,000, according to the value of money in 1815. This proves that the wealth of the nation had more than kept pace with the increase of its population; for the numbers of the people in the two islands in 1815 were 18,000,000, and in 1845 about 28,000,000, or somewhat above 50 per cent increase.
* Rate of Discount of First-Class Bills at the under-mentioned periods.
Lastly, this miserable poor nation, which has eaten up its resources in the shape of quarters of grain and fat bullocks in a single year, exported and imported in the three years 1812, 1814, and 1815, and 1843, 1844, and 1845, before free trade began, respectively as follows :
Exports. Official value. £29,508,517
Imports. Official value. £24,923,922
75,281,958 Such were the commercial transactions of this nation, which, in the interval from 1815 to 1845, had become so miserably poor.
Keeping these facts in view, we again ask : Having down to 1845 been so rich, what has since made us so poor? The free-traders and bullionists tell us it was neither the abolition of the corn-laws nor the Bank Charter Act. Then what is it which in so short a time has produced so great, so terrible a revulsion ? Government, and their organs in the press, assert that it was the Irish famine, and the absorption of capital in railways. To avoid any chance of misconception on so vital a point, we subjoin the words of the Chancellor of the Exchequer in the debate on the currency on 30th November 1847, as reported in the Morning Post of December 1, which were in substance the same as those employed by the Marquis of Lansdowne in the House of Lords :
“ Up to October there had been no great pressure ; but in that month the pressure rapidly rose by reason of the abstraction of capital for railways and
The House would be surprised to hear the amount of capital thus abstracted for corn in fifteen months. June 1846 to January 1847,
£5,139,000 January 1847 to July 1847,
14,184,000 July to October,
Total, £33,563,000 Then as to the capital absorbed in railroads, it had been in each year, from 1840, on an average, to 1843,
1846, Last half-year,
38,000,000 the latter being, of course, estimated on the supposition of the expenditure having continued at the same rates.”—Morning Post, December 1, 1847.
Now, of all the marvellous statements that ever were put forth by a Government to explain a great public disaster, we do not hesitate to say this is the most marvellous. For, let it be conceded that these are the real causes of the distress—that it is the railways and the importation of foreign corn which have done it all — Who introduced the railways and let in an unlimited supply of foreign corn? Who passed all the railway bills, and encouraged the nation in the undertakings which are now held forth as so entirely disproportioned to its strength ? Who took credit to themselves for the prosperity which the construction of railways at first occasioned, and dwelt with peculiar complacency, in the opening of the Session of 1846, on the increased produce of the excise and diminution of crime, as indicating at once the augmented enjoyments and diminished disorders of the poor? Who disregarded the cautious, and, as the event has proved, wise warnings of Lord Dalhousie at the Board of Trade ? Who opened the railway of the Trent Valley with a silver trowel, and enlarged in eloquent terms on the immense advantages which that and similar undertakings would bring to the country ? Sir Robert Peel and the party who now ascribe the whole evils which have ensued to the foreign corn and railways. Was a single word heard from them condemnatory of the mania which had seized the nation, and prophetic of the disasters which would ensue from its continuance ? Did Sir Robert Peel warn the people that the currency was put on a new footing ; that the act of 1844 had forbid its extension beyond thirty-two millions issuable on securities; and that, as credit was thus materially abridged, the capital of the nation would be found inadequate to the undertakings in which it had engaged ? Quite the reverse ; he did none of these things. He encouraged the embarking of the capital of the nation in railways to the extent of above two hundred millions, all to be executed in the next four years; and now we are told that the disasters which have ensued are mainly owing to that very unmanageable railway progeny which he himself produced !
* The following is the statement of the Chancellor of the Exchequer on the
Again, as to the importation of foreign grain, the second scape-goat let go to bear the sins of the nation-who let that scape-goat loose? Who introduced the free trade system, and destroyed the former protection on native agriculture, and disregarded or ridiculed all the warnings so strenuously given by the Protection party, that it would induce such a drain on the metallic resources of the country as must induce a speedy monetary crisis, and would subject the nation permanently to that ruinous wasting away which proved fatal to the Roman empire, when the harvests of Egypt and Libya came to supplant those of Italy in supplying the cities of the heart of the empire with food ? Who declared that the great thing is to increase our importations, and that, provided this is done, the exportations will take care of themselves? Who laughed at the warning, “ Two things may go out, manufactures or specie”? It was Sir Robert Peel and his free-trade followers who did all these things ; and yet he and his party, in or out of administration, (for they are all his party,) coolly now turn round and tell us that the misery is all owing to the foreign corn and the railways, which they themselves introduced !
sums authorised by government to be expended, and actually expended, in each of the under-mentioned years :Authorised
Authorised Year. Expenditure. Year.
Expenditure. 1840 £4,000,000 | 1844
£18,000,000 1841 3,500,000 1845
59,000,000 1842 6,000,000 1846
124,500,000 1843 4,500,000 | 1847
38,300,000 These are the sums authorised to be expended by the acts passed in each of these years. The following table shows, as nearly as can be estimated, the sums actually expended :Actual
£1,470,000 1845, second six months £10,625,000 1842 2,980,000 1846, first six months
4,435,000 1846, second six months 26,670,000 1844
6,105,000 1847, first six months 25,770,000 1845, first six months 3,510,000
Supposing the actual expenditure, under existing railway acts, to have proceeded at the same ratio for the next three years, the following would have been the results :Estimated
Estimated. Year. Expenditure. Year.
Expenditure. 1847 £64,000,000 1849
£47,000,000 1848 70,000,000 1850
10,000,000 VOL. I.
The Irish potato-rot of 1846, it is said, occasioned the great importation of grain, which for the next winter and spring deluged the country; and but for them we should have been landed in the horrors of actual famine over a great part of the country. We entirely agree with this statement. The Protectionists always were the first not only to admit, but urgently to insist, that absolute freedom of importation should be allowed in periods of real scarcity.
The sliding-scale formerly in use expressly provided for this ; for the duty began to fall when wheat reached 63s., and declined till at 73s. it was only 1s. a quarter. It was on the propriety of admitting grain duty-free in periods of average or fine harvests, such as we have just been blessed with, that they were at issue with their opponents. Under the old system, nearly all the grain which was imported in the winter of 1846 and spring of 1847 would have come in, for the duties became nominal when wheat rose to 73s. a quarter, and it rose during that period to 105s. and 110s. What the Protectionists said, and said earnestly, when this vast importation, necessary at the time, was going on, was that it anticipated the effects of a free importation of grain, and by its effect on the currency, while it lasted, might teach the nation what they had to expect when a similar drain, by the effects of free trade, became perpetual. Eight months ago, on March 1, 1847, we made the following observations :
“ The quantity of grain imported in seven months only, viz. from 5th July 1846 to 5th February 1847, exceeded six millions of quarters, at the very time when our exports were diminishing. It may be imagined how prodigious must have been the drain upon the metallic resources of the country to make up the balance. The potato-rot, it is said, has concealed the effects of free trade. Quite the reverse. Providence has done the thing at once. We have got on at railway speed to the blessings of the new system. Free trade was to lead to the much-desired substitution of six millions of quarters of foreign, for six millions of quarters of home growth in three years. But the potato-rot has done it in one. The free-trade policy could not have done it so expeditiously, but it would have done it as effectually. It is a total mistake, therefore, to represent the famine in Ireland and the West of Scotland as an external calamity which has concealed the effects of free trade. It has only brought them to light at once."-LESSONS FROM THE FAMINE. Blackwood's Magazine, March 1847.
The real extent of the famine in Ireland, of which so much has been said, was very much magnified, however, by the fears of some parties, and the interested exaggerations