Графични страници
PDF файл

have provided himself with a wise and state of things can be imagined more calamichild to add to the perplexities of him- tous ; and it only becomes the more so when self and country: When the famine measures are in progress through the Legislaof 1847 at length brought the mise

ture calculated to diminish the price of coinries of Ireland to a crisis, Parliament molities, and consequently lessen the remuneshowed the utter incapacity of its lead ration of industry, and passions afloat among ers to deal with a national crisis. Suins ately for a general, and, it is to be feared,

the people which lead them to long passionwhich might have benefited Ireland

unattainable felicity. for ages, if expended by statesinen “ The common sophism, that it is useless worthy of the name, were disbursed so

to send the poor abroad, because their place foolishly as to leave not a trace of the will soon be supplied by others from the imgenerous gift on the face of Ireland a pulse given to population at home, adinits of year after. Emigration, also, was still a short and decisive answer. It takes a week as little understood as it was in 1826 ; to send a poor man abroad; it takes twenty and Parliament stood by helplessly years to supply his place. In the interval be. witnessing the yearly exodus of hun.

tween the two, the supply of the labour

market is lessened, and the pressure on the dreds of thousands of the population,

working classes diminished. Even, thereWe need not point out the advantage

fore, if every one sent abroad caused the proit would have been for us to have di.

duction of one at home who would not otherrected the main-stream of that migra. wise have come into the world, there is a tion to our own colonies, rather than to

great gain: the supply is kept twenty years have left it to seek as its nearest port the behind the demand occasioned by the remoUnited States, seeing that the inhabi- val. But the truth is, that the emigration tants of our colonies are found to con- of the poor, so far from occasioning their resume, per head, about four times as much production, has a tendency to check it. It of our goods as the people of the Union. is among the utterly destitute that the prinA State system of emigration would ciple of population always acts with most have done this; and it would likewise by the reason and artificial wants which in

force, because they are wholly uninfluenced have achieved the still more inportant

more comfortable circumstances restrain it. end of drafting away from Ireland all

This has now been decisively demonstrated. its pauper population, by making these

Since the great emigration from Ireland bethe exclusive recipients of its gratis gan, in 1847, the population, so far from aid; instead of which it was, as a matter having increased, has declined above of course, those who had the money 2,000,000; the cotters have got better clothes, that went away, and those who had not better beds, more comforts, higher wages, tbat remained.

but not more children." Sir Archibald Alison has the fol. lowing excellent remarks upon this Let

us turn

to England. sabject; and the views which he here The fundamental cause of the Re. expresses are no after - thought, but form Bill was the growth of a new class have been entertained and discussed in the community, the rise of a new by him nearly twenty years ago :- power in the State. The ruling power

in all countries is originally (except "Admitting that the strength of a State where sacerdotal power prevails) the is at all times to be measured by its num- landed interest; and in the earliest bers, coupled with their well-being, what is to

times of a nation no other exists. All be said of the condition of a country which is overron with paupers, who cannot by pos

subsist on the products of the soil ; sibility find a subsistence, and must, in one

then a few traders, dawning into exisway or other, fall as a burden on the more pros

tence, begin to traverse the country, perous classes of the community ? Emigra- chiefly with the view of supplying the tion, when they have it in their power, is, in wants of the chieftains and feudal such circumstances, their only resource ; and courts. As the rural society grows if it is left to the unaided efforts of the work- richer, and its members more entering classes, what is to be expected, but that prising, trade increases with other the better conditioned of these classes will go countries, and manufactures develop off, and leare the destitute and paupers be- themselves at home. Instead of each hind? Thus the holders of small capital, family manufacturing for its own whether in town or country, the little farmers,

wants, a division of labour takes place, the small shopkeepers, the workmen who have amassed ten or fifteen pounds—in other

and goes on increasing until every words, the employers of labour-disappear,

class of articles, except those imported, and none are left but the rich, who will not, has a class of operatives attached to it. and the poor, who cannot, emigrate. No These various trades, it will be ob


served, are called into existence by less remarkable manner from the suthat origo primalis, the landed interest. premacy of our fleets at sea during the It is by wealth drawn from the land war, when for nearly twenty years the that its magnates become able to pur- main portion of the carrying trade of chase the wines and velvets brought by the world had been transacted by Brimerchants from other countries, and tish merchantmen. Moreover, even as the woollens, arms, and furniture, ma- commerce and manufactures arose from nufactured at home. And it was the the success of our agriculture, so the increasing skill of our farmers which, three united gave birth to a fourth by producing more food from the la. class in the community - namely, the bour of a like number of men, allowed Shopkeepers, who, producing nothing sections of the community, to be themselves, simply retailed the goods drafted from the ranks of agriculture, produced or brought into the country to engage in trade and commerce. by others. And thus the landed in. From age to age the skill and industry terest, like Saturn of old, had brought of our rural population went on in- into existence a succession of offspring creasing, until, at the close of the war, nearly equal in power to itself, and the labour of one-third of the people in which would not fail to take the first opthe actual operations of the field nearly portunity of claiming equal privileges. sufficed to produce food for the other Gathered into towns, quickened in two-thirds engaged commerce and wits, and prone to association, the manufactures (a considerable portion trading and manufacturing classes posof these trades, however, such as smiths

sess a greater power of combination and farriers, bakers, and workers in than the agricultural, and, being given iron and machinery, &c., being wholly to clamor, generally exercise a much dependent upon the rural population).* larger influence in the State than is It was in the concluding part of last due to their wealth and numbers. In century that domestic manufactures be

consequence of their great increase gan to cease throughout the mass of since the old parliamentary constitution the population, the inventions of the was framed, these classes were not prosteam-engine, power-loom, and spin. perly represented in the legislature ; ning-jenny then causing the erection and this it was which gave the greatest of large factories, with which it was impetus to, as it formed the justest useless for spinning-wheels or hand. ground for reform. But other causes looms to attempt to compete. The came into operation after the close of general enterprise and inventiveness of the war, which, by producing great exour nation, backed by the immense citement and discontent in the coun. coal-deposits of the land, caused this try, prompted the people towards and similar branches of industry to change, and induced the legislature to progress with extraordinary celerity; adopt greater innovations than they and by 1830 the towns of Manchester would have done in times of more quietand Birmingham had become vast foci ness and wisdom. The Tory party of this species of industry, while Glas- were split, owing to their leaders have gow and Liverpool embraced large po- ing acceded to the demand for Cathopulations chiefly dependent upon com. lic Emancipation; while the Whigs merce. For while manufactures had thirsted for office, and prepared to ride thus benefited by our inventiveness, back to power on the wild billows of our commerce had benefited in a not the popular discontent and agitation.

* Sir Francis Burdett, speaking in 1826, remarked — " The great and striking proof of the prosperity of the country is comprised in the fact, that, with the small number of hands employed in agriculture, not exceeding a third of the whole, they raise enough to maintain themselves and all the rest in prosperity and abundance ; for such, notwithstanding partial and passing visitations, is the general condition of the peuple of this country. The result of the labours of the agriculturist exhibits a spectacle not equalled in any country in the world, that a third of the inhabitants raise food for double their own numbers besides themselves a state of things quite unexampled, and which is the real cause of our acknowledged superiority in commerce and manufactures, as well as in the power of capital, over any other nation. .. The only reason why England has so large a body of manufacturers, the only reason why she is able to support them, is that her agriculturists produce, with so little labour, comparatively speaking, so much more than is needed for their own consumption."

It was the national suffering that gave chants, who imagined that, after their success to their projects. It is a long exclusion, the whole Continent. mistake to suppose,” says Sir A. Ali- would be thirsting for English goods, son, “that political discontent, or an and likewise the South American conearnest desire for change, either social tinent, then opened to our commerce or religious, is ever excited among the by the revolt of the Spanish colonies ; people of this country by mere fickle- but so greatly did they miscalculate, ness of disposition, or the arts of dema- that English goods became a drug in gogues, how skilful in their vocation these markets, and were to be bought soever they may be. That is some- cheaper at Buenos Ayres, and in the times the case among a people ardent north of Europe, than they could be at and changeable, like the French, who home. Simultaneously with this overhave been long excited by the changes trading came the opening of the Baltic of revolution, and among whom large ports, and the expected influx of grain parties have come to look for advance- from Poland produced a great fall in ment by its success. But in a peace- the price of grain in this country. able, industrious comm

mmunity, like that These circumstances, followed by the of Great Britain, intent on individual very bad harvest of 1816, hurt credit, well-being and social amelioration, it is and of themselves caused bankers to be in general suffering that the foundation more chary in advancing money to the must be laid for the general desire for producing classes. But the close of political change. Demagogues, when the war brought a more alarming influthe feeling is once excited by this ence into operation ; for by the Act of means, often inflame it, and determine 1797 the return to payments in gold the direction which it is to take, but was to be delayed « until six months they cannot call the passion into being. after the close of the war, and no All the popularity of the cry for cheap longer.Accordingly, no sooner was bread, and all the talents of Mr. Cob- peace established than the banks began den, would have failed in bringing everywhere to contract their issues, about the repeal of the corn laws, had refusing further money-accommodation not five bad seasons in succession to their customers for fear of being brought the reality and evils of dear called upon to meet their notes in bread home to every family; and all gold. Every session for the three attempts to pacify Ireland while the years after 1815 the question was disprices of agricultural produce were un. cussed in Parliament - thus keeping remunerating, were as fruitless as all up the general uneasiness on the subattempts to disturb it have been since ject. At length, in 1819, an Act was the great emigration, and the opening passed for a speedy return to a gold of the huge banks of issue, by Provi. currency. The measure was singularly dence, in California and Australia, have ill-timed. “ At the moment," says secured an adequate return for rural Alison, “when the annual supplies of labour in the Emerald Isle." It was the precious metals had been reduced distress which produced the demand by the South American revolutions to for parliamentary reform twenty-five a fourth of their former amount,—when years ago, even as it has been the dis- the coin annually issued from the Briasters of last winter's campaign which tish mint had in consequence sunk have originated the present growing from £6,770,000 in 1817 to only movement in favour of Administrative £1,500,000, — when the drains of gold Reform.

on the bank, to meet the gigantic In truth there was a great mise- loans contracted for in this country for ry in the land.

By a plentiful issue the continental powers, and pay for the of paper-money the nation had pros- immense importations of the year, had pered during the war, even when, as reduced the bullion in the bank from in 1810, there was hardly a guinea £12,000,000 to £3,500,000, - and in the country. Reversing the process when the large mercantile transactions when peace returned, the legislature recently entered into in this country caused the greater part of the bank- imperatively required, instead of a notes to be withdrawn, and the cur. contraction, a great increase of the currency again to depend upon gold. The rency, — Parliament passed an Act first forerunner of the national distress requiring the Bank of England at no was the over-trading in the last two distant period to resume cash payyears of the war of the export mer- ments—thereby rendering the currency

dependent on the retention of gold, the millions sterling; the entire circulation of very thing which, in the circumstances England fell from £48,278,000 in 1818, to of the country, could not be retained.” £40,928,000 in 1820 ; and in the succeeding The effects of this measure, however,

year it sunk as low as £34, 145,000. The

effects of this sudden and prodigious contracwere found so embarrassing, that in 1821

tion of the currency were soon apparent, and a bill was passed permitting small notes

they rendered the next three years a period to continue part of the currency for ten

of ceaseless distress and suffering in the years longer-a measure which, along British islands. The accommodation granted with the return of gold from the Con- by bankers diminished so much, in consetinent, again expanded the currency, quence of the obligation laid upon them of producing three years' prosperity ; but paying in specie when specie was not to be the great export of bullion in 1825, in got, that the paper under discount at the the shape of loans to and speculations Bank of England, wbich in 1810 had been in South America, at length brought £23,000,000, and in 1815 not less than the country to the verge of bank

£20,660,000, sunk in 1820 to £4,672,000,

and in 1821 to £2,676,000. The effect ruptcy, and plunged all classes into embarrassment and suffering.

upon prices was not less immediate or appal

ling. They sunk in general, within six We shall now attempt in a few sen.

months, to half their former amount, and retences to depict the actual state of the

mained at that low level for the next three country in the memorable period

years. The three per cents, which had been which intervened between 1815 and at 79 in January, gradually fell, after the the passing of the Reform Bill, Mr. Bank Restriction Act passed, to 65 in DeWallace, the able President of the cember; and the Bankruptcies, which bad Board of Trade, has left the following

been 86 in January, rose in May to 178; picture of the woful condition of the the total in the year was 1,499, being an in

crease of 531 over the preceding year." country in the years immediately following the war: -" The general export of the country, in the four years Distress, as usual, brought sedition, from 1815 to 1819, had decreased The latter end of 1819 and begin. £14,000,000; and in the single year ning of 1820 witnessed the trial of following 5th Jan., 1819, the exports Hunt for sedition—the Cato-street confell off no less than £11,000,000. No- spiracy led by Thistlewood,—the riots body, therefore, could be surprised and fight of Peterloo in England,-and that at that period the industry of the an extensive insurrection in the West country appeared to be in a state of of Scotland. The country was on the the utmost depression ; that our manu- verge of revolution. The great firm. facturers were most of them unem- ness and energy of Lord Sidmouth, ployed; that our agriculturists were who was well styled “a Wellington on many of them embarrassed ; and that home service," joined to the loyalty of the country, to use the phrase of a the yeomanry and volunteers, averted friend of his in presenting a petition the danger; and a temporary expansion from the merchants of London, exhi- of the currency between 1822 and 1825 bited all the appearance of a dying na- cast a gleam of passing prosperity over tion.” Peace had brought greater bor. the land. But as the principle had now rors than war.

been adopted of making the quantity Of the effects of the Act of 1819, of paper-money in circulation depend for resuming cash payments, Sir A. upon the amount of gold in the bank, Alison says:

and as gold poured out of the country

in 1825, the whole fabric of prosperity “ The industry of the nation was speedily was brought down with a terrific crash congealed, as a flowing stream is by the se- at the end of that year. The year verity of an arctic winter. The alarm be- 1826 opened amidst misery greater came universal-as widespread as confidence

than ever.

All classes were suffering and activity had recently been. The country alike ; the banks, struck with terror bankers, who had advanced largely on the from the numerous failures wbich bad stocks of goods imported, refused to continue

taken place, could hardly be prevailed their support to their customers, and they

upon, by any terms or securities, to were in consequence forced to bring their stock into the market. Prices in consequence

make advances to their customers; the rapidly fell — that of cotton, in particular,

merchants, dreading the continued fall sunk in the space of three months to balf its in the prices of commodities, declined former level. The country bankers' circula- entering into speculations; the manu. tion was contracted by no less than five facturers, finding their usual orders se.


riously diminished, contracted their general among the farmers and land. operations; and the workmen, thrown holders than among the urban popula. ont of employment, became despe- tion; and the question was often put in rate, and vented their despair upon the form of an algebraic problem the machinery, which they imagined “ Given, the Toryism of a landed prowas the prime cause of their suffering. prietor ; required, to find the period of “It was a woful sight to see the streets want of rents which will reduce him to of Manchester, and the chief towns in a Radical reformer.' Many of the nu. the vicinity, filled with vast crowds, merous county petitions had warned sometimes ten thousand in number, the Government, that if relief were not whose wan visages and lean figures but afforded, it would be impossible to pretoo clearly told the tale of their suf- vent the rural population from breakferings. Snatching their food from ing into acts of violence; and, in 1830, bakers' shops, breaking into factories, the warning was seen to bave been welland destroying power-loom mills, and founded. The disturbances began in throwing stones at the military at the Kent, from whence they rapidly spread hazard of being shot, rather than re- to Surrey, Sussex, Hampshire, Wilt. linquish an object on the attainment of shire, and Buckinghamshire. Nigbt which they sincerely believed their very after night new conflagrations were existence depended. Serious riots took lighted up by bands of incendiaries place in Carlisle, in the course of which corn-stacks, barns, farm buildings, and a woman and child were shot dead; live cattle were indiscriminately conand in Norwich, where twelve thou. sumed. Bolder bands attacked mills sand weavers were employed, an alarm. and demolished machinery, thrashinging, disturbance, attended with great mills being in an especial manner the violence, ensued.” In all the iron dis- object of their hostility. During Octotricts, too, strikes to arrest the fall ber and November these acts of incenof wages took place; and in Dublin diarism became so frequent as to excite and Glasgow immense crowds of opera- universal alarm. The first rioters who tives paraded the streets, entreating were seized were, from feelings of hu. relief, which was, in some degree, af- manity, treated with undue lenity by forded them by munificent subscrip- the county magistrates, which naturally tions opened by the wealthy classes, augmented the disorders; and it was and which, being judiciously laid out not till severe examples were made, by in the purchase of the fabrics of these a Special Commission sent into the dispoor people, instead of being merely turbed districts, and a large body of given as money-gifts, relieved distress military quartered in them, that they to triple the amount it would other. were at length put down. Distress, wise have done. Political riots must be joined to the influence of the Paris quelled by force, but the riots of want re- revolution, and the example of similar quire also the intervention of the wealth acts of agrarian outrage in Normandy, and sympathy of the better classes. The was making even the English peasantry ladle of the soup-kitchen, in such cir- Jacobins; and the Duke of Richmond cumstances, will be found a more effi- only stated the truth when he said in cient instrument than either the bayonet Parliament-"I believe a feeling now of the soldier or the baton of the police. exists among the labouring classes, that

The agricultural population was not your lordships and the upper classes of exempt from the general suffering. For society are to be regarded rather as fifteen years preceding the introduction their foes than their friends.' of the Reform Bill, petitions expressing Parliament had been prorogued the distress of the rural districts, and with a view to a dissolution, on the demanding relief, bad been unceasingly 23rd July 1830; and the very day presented to Parliament. But neither after the proclamation dissolving Parthe petitioners nor the Legislature liament appeared in the London Ga(with the exception of Mr. Baring, zette, the famous ordinances were and a few others) perceived that the signed by Charles X., and the_conroot of the misery lay in the state of test began in the streets of Paris, the currency; and the Committees, which terminated in the overthrow of while acknowledging the distress, re- the French monarchy! This coinciported that they could suggest nothing dence of events had an important into remedy it. Accordingly, discon- fluence on the English elections; and tent at existing institutions and the the spread of liberalism and desire for desire for change became even more political change, as well as the irrita

« ПредишнаНапред »