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He himself was evidently gifted with a juster appreciation of his capacities. And here that happy self-confidence, which has already been mentioned as one of the main elements of his success, was eminently useful in fortifying his resolutions in favour of a public life against the remonstrances and dissuasions of some of his nearest connections.
That they were in some degree justified in these remonstrances, however, must be conceded—the pecuniary risks, and even the necessary expenses of the contest into which, so early in life, he was plunging, being considerable, and this immediately following his losses of the year before in the American mining speculations. The remonstrances of his brother Andrew at times reached a very high tone, threatening even a dissolution of partnership. But pledges had been given to parties in Dover, which were not to be lightly broken; hopes were held out of certain and easy success, of its being unnecessary to bring up outvoters—the chief source of expense and the negotiations and the canvass still more or less continued, though protracted by the delay of the dissolution of parliament, which had been expected in the summer of 1825, but did not take place until May 1826.
The election, as might have been anticipated by all who really knew the character of the borough at that time, was severely contested, it lasted ten days. It was necessary to bring down every outvoter, and though won by Mr Thomson by a considerable majority over Mr Halcomb, the unsuccessful candidate, his expenses amounted to at least L.3000; and, in a few days, it was clear that he would also have to defend his seat before a committee of the house against a petition. He had, however, succeeded in opening for himself the door of the senate; he had obtained a footing at least on the arena which he was most anxious to tread, and for which he justly considered himself adapted; and, no doubt, little regretted the sacrifices it had cost. He took his seat on the 18th of November 1826, parliament being summoned at that unusual season for the purpose of passing the Indemnity Bill. • Almost his first vote in the House of Commons shewed the decided line he had already taken as an advocate of the freedom of trade and removal of unwise protecting duties. He divided, on the 16th of March 1827, in the small minority of sixteen in favour of Mr Hume's motion on the corn law, which embodied in part the principle of free trade in that staple commodity under a moderate fixed duty.
During the early part of this, as in the short preceding session, Mr Thomson remained an attentive listener to the debates ; but wisely took little part in them, contenting hini
self with studying the character of the o in which he had a seat, and forming his judgment as to the mode best adapted for acquiring an influence in its deliberations. e spoke, however, very briefly on one or two occasions, when an opportunity offered itself for bringing to bear upon the question before the house information of a practical character, with which his mercantile station had made him acquainted. Thus, in the debate on the corn law, on the 6th of April, he spoke against a clause introduced by Mr C. Grant into the corn bill then under discussion, having for its object to enable the King in council to impose retaliatory duties on corn, the produce of such countries as imposed high duties on our manufactures. Mr Thomson urged the mischievous effect on our trade with some countries, such as Russia, which would result from the operation of this clause; and his arguments being drawn from a practical acquaintance with the subject, obtained considerable attention in the house. The first occasion on which Mr Thomson delivered his sentiments at any length or with apparent preparation, was in the debate raised by General Gascoigne on the state of the shipping interest, on the 7th of May. This discussion had been adjourned over the Easter recess on account of Mr Huskisson's ill health, and the same circumstance might readily suggest to Mr Thomson the desire to bring all the assistance in his power to the minister, of whose policy upon this and other economical questions he so thoroughly approved. His speech, which was replete with facts, throwing a strong and convincing light upon the subject, was ably delivered, and received with very general approbation from both sides of the house, as one of a most promising nature. Mr Huskisson, in his own speech at a later period of the debate, alluded to it in the following terms:— “The debate has afforded to the honourable member for Dover an opportunity of manifesting an extraordinary degree of acuteness and knowledge in respect to the commerce and navigation of the country, and of stating his information in a manner which must, I am sure, have made the most favourable impression on the house.” On the 14th of June Mr Thomson made a few observations in favour of the vote by ballot in parliamentary elections, a proposal which he afterwards took many opportunities of supporting, and which was on this occasion, for the first time, suggested to the house. In the ensuing session he pursued the same prudent course of but rarely obtruding himself on the notice of the house
He spoke once or twice in favour of reductions in the navy and army estimates ; and, in the discussion of the Passengers' Regulation Act, supported the views advocated by Messrs Hume and Warburton. A letter to his brother, written at this period, may shew the opinion he had been led to form on the reserve necessary for obtaining parliamentary success, and the modest anticipations entertained by him of his future prospects.,
“London, February 28, 1828. « My dear — “ Thanks for your congratulations on what you are pleased to call my success in parliament. I wish it were greater, but still, if I am permitted to proceed, I trust I may improve upon it: to the justice of every one of your maxims I entirely subscribe. The speech which I made last year, which gained me what little credit I have, is the best illustration of the principal one. A man who tells the house facts with which the majority are unacquainted is sure to be listened to, and a reputation for doing so will procure him attention upon other points on which he, perhaps, does not deserve it. But a parliamentary reputation is like a woman'smit must be exposed as little as possible; and I am so sensible of this, that I would willingly abstain from opening my mouth more than once or twice in a session. I have latterly been obliged to infringe this rule more than I wish, but it has only been in committees, which are parliamentary sans conséquence. I hope to have one or two occasions for a splash, but I shall not go out of my way for them. This, to be sure, is all sad maneuvring; but still it is a means to being useful hereafter, and therefore must be submitted to.
“I rejoice at the toue of your "letter. It would be absurd in me, who have taken so different a course, to sing the 'Beatus ille ;' but now and then it occurs to me that some ten or fifteen years hence, when I am broken in health, in constitution, and in spirits, and disappointed in both fortune and ambition, which must happen, I am aware (for who has not been ?). I shall envy your position, and regret the useless waste of time, health, and money of the present day. But che sarà, sard.'
"We had a triumph, in which I was a unit, on Tuesday. The greater that it was wholly unexpected, for ministers had made such exertions to bring up all their troops, that a defeat of Lord John Russell's motion* was considered certain. Peel's opposition was intelligible, at least the motive, for the
* For the Repeal of the Test and Corporation Acts.
reasons he gave were certainly not so; but some who avow themselves É. of religious liberty were pitiful in their conduct. It will be delightful to see men who act so disgracefully reap the just reward of their bad deeds, for the dissenters will be in arms against them, and pay them off at the next election. God forbid we should have one just now, but things looks ominous. The King has certainly been very bad for some time, and those about him begin to allow that he is not immortal. God save him 1 for a general election would be a very ugly thing.” On the 20th of May he introduced a bill for the repeal of the usury laws, in a speech of great ability, which made a strong impression upon the house, and the government expressing itself favourable to the principle of the measure, leave was given to bring in the bill. When, however, the second j came on, it was found that the country gentlemen, who had always opposed any change in the usury laws, under the idea that they kept down the rate of interest on mortgages, evinced so strong a disposition to throw out the bill, that the Chancellor of the Exchequer advised its withdrawal for that session, which was done. On the 18th of June Mr Thomson spoke and voted in a minority of twenty-four against a bill for limiting the circulation of Scotch and Irish bank notes; and on the next day he defended Mr Huskisson's measures for the improvement of the navigation laws, against the attacks of Mr Robinson and General Gascoigne, and alluded, in terms of indignation, to the scurrilous and malignant treatment with which that wise statesman had been assailed by portions of the press and hired organs of the o: interest. On the 16th of July he divided the house on the question of reducing the duties on Indian silk goods to a minimum of 30 per cent.; and, on the 11th and 17th of the same month, he spoke against the retention of a nominal sinking fund. His votes throughout this session were given, of course, in support of the great principles of civil and religious liberty which he professed to advocate. His name appears in the majority of the 26th of February, in favour of Lord John Russell's motion for the repeal of the test and corporation acts, by which that great step towards the triumph of those principles was virtually gained, in the scarcely s: famous minority of the 21st of March in favour of the disfranchisement of East Retford; in the minority of twenty-seven, on the 27th of April, for Mr Hume's amendment of the corn laws; and in the majority of the 12th of May, on Sir Francis Burdett's motion in favour of the Roman Catholic claims.
On the 14th of April of the next year, 1829, in the adjourned debate upon Mr Fyler's motion for a committee on the silk trade, Mr Thomson delivered a speech of extraordinary power and ability, which, for its effect upon the house, has been rarely equalled, certainly not by any speech made upon a topic of so dry and practical a question of economical policy. On its conclusion the speaker was cheered from every quarter, and several members even crossed the house to congratulate him on the success he had gained. On this occasion Mr Thomson had the disadvantage of speaking after Mr Huskisson, and had, of course, been forestalled by him in the statement of the most material facts bearing upon the subject. Notwithstanding this, he brought to the discussion such an amount of inforination, of a novel and interesting character, relative to the details of the manufacture, the circumstances affecting it, and its actual and comparative condition-his treatment of the question was so luminous, and he threw so withering a ridicule on those general declaimers against free trade and “ cold-hearted philosophy," who, declaring an abhorrence of all theories, themselves theorised extravagantly, but with a total ignorance of and disregard to facts, as not only to amuse the house with a dry subject, but to carry conviction to the minds of all who heard him without undue bias, and to produce an effect on the country most favourable to the general recognition of the wisdom of Mr Huskisson's commercial policy.
The latter part of this speech is well worth reproducing, for the general arguments in favour of commercial freedom have seldom, if ever, been summed up in more eloquent or convincing phrases.
SECT. II.--SPEECH OF MR POULETT THOMSON ON THE PRINCIPLES
OF FREE TRADE IN 1829.
“ Sir, I have thus endeavoured, though I fear at much too great a length, to apply myself to the statements which have been made. I have endeavoured to shew the absurdity of attributing the present distress to the operation of the law of 1826 ; I have endeavoured to point out the real causes of it. I have tried to prove the necessity of a reduction of duty on the manufactured goods, to enable the fair trader to compete with the smuggler; on thrown silk, to enable the British weaver to compete with the French ; and I trust that I have clearly shewn that these measures will be attended with no