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in return? Are they not, with one voice, besieging the doors of the chambers to induce them to return to a system less ruinous to their interests? It is a case so completely in point that I cannot help referring to it. What is the situation of the wine-growers—an interest five times as great as any other within the French dominions, employing 3,000,000 of people, and a capital ten times greater than any other in France ? Listen to their language; thus it is they address the chamber :- What,' say they, is the basis of the prohibitive system? A chimera. To sell without buying. A secret still to be discovered! If we shut our ports to the productions of other countries, it is good, at least, to know that theirs must be shut on our industry: this kind of reciprocity is inevitable -it is in the nature of things; and what are the results ? The destruction of the power of interchange, the destruction of all emulation, the obtaining of a worse article at a dearer cost.' And how is this statement supported ? By a document shewing that the decrease in the export of wines from Bordeaux and other places has been from 10,000 to 30,000 hogsheads. They must follow our example. It is no more in the power of governments to uphold for long than it is for the interests of nations to suffer such a system.
“I am no rash theorist-I am not desirous of carrying a favourite principle into operation at the expense of existing interests ; but I maintain that your only course is a gradual, a progressive, but a steady approach to a free system ; and I maintain, without fear of contradiction, that the very essence of manufacturing and commercial industry is freedom from legislatice interference and legislative protection. Attempt to assist its course by protective enactments, by fostering careyou arrest its progress, you destroy its vigour. Unbind the shackles in which your unwise tenderness has confined it, permit it to take unrestrained its own course-expose it to the wholesome breezes of competition, you give it new life, you rostore its former vigour. Industry has been well likened, in my opinion, to the hardy alpine plant-self-sown on the mountain side, exposed to the inclemency of the seasons, it gathers strength in its struggles for existence, it shoots forth in vigour and in beauty. Transplanted to the rich soil of the parterre-tended by the fostering hand of the gardenernursed in the artificial atmosphere of the forcing-glass, it grows sickly and enervated—its shoots are vigourless, its flowers inodorous. In one single word lies the soul of industry—competition. The answer of the statesman and the economist to his sovereign, inquiring what he could do to assist the industry of his kingdom, was— Let it take its
own course.” Such is my prayer. Relieve us from the chains in which your indiscreet tenderness has shackled us—remove your oppressive protection—give us the fair field we ask, and we demand no more. The talent, the genius, the enterprise, the capital, the industry of this great people will do the rest; and England will not only retain, but she will take a yet more forward place in the race of competition for wealth and improvement, which, by the nature of things, she is destined to run amongst the nations of the world. Place us in that condition is our prayer—not by any violent change, but by slow and easy transition. Here we shall find security for our enterprise and reward for our labours— Hic patetingeniis campus: certusque merenti Stat favor: ornatur propriis industria donis. “For these reasons, sir, I shall give my decided opposition to the motion of the honourable member for Coventry, and my earnest, though I fear feeble, support to the amendment of my right honourable friend.”
SECT. III.-LIFE OF POULETT THOMSON CONTINUED.
It may appear to some to have savoured of boldness, if not of presumption (says Mr Poulett Scrope), in so young a member as Mr Thomson, to have selected for his first and most studied efforts of parliamentary display the precise questions on which Mr Huskisson was naturally expected to make his most brilliant speeches, since the entire merit of his system of policy was on its trial in the two great debates of this and the preceding year on the shipping and silk questions. It was not, however, in any spirit of rivalry towards that wise and liberal minister—whose noble exertions in favour of sound principles of international trade were amply appreciated by Mr Thomson—that the choice was made, but from his anxiety to second those exertions and defend that policy, with the energy inspired by strong conviction, and the power derived from a practical knowledge of mercantile transactions. It is, moreover, well known, that even in the first of these two years the health of Mr Huskisson was so failing and his frame so weakened by laborious devotion to public business, that he might well be expected to require all the aid that could be afforded to him in the vindication of his policy; while that vindication would necessarily gain much in its effect, when coming from an independent member, opposed in general politics to the minister, but as a merchant and man of business able to bear the most unequivocal and unsuspected testimony to the beneficial character of his commercial policy.
* In what period of parliamentary history—in what orations of public . is there a more forcible combination of fact. argument, illustration, and eloquent expression, than in this masterly effusion ? In none It is a perfect study.
Mr Thomson, moreover, carried his views of the expediency of abrogating the restrictive system something further than Mr Huskisson at this time, and in his position of a responsible minister of the crown, had yet ventured to avow; and was desirous to employ to the utmost every opportunity of advocating those views, of pressing a yet further adoption of their principle by the government and legislature, and of preventing any wavering or falling back in this course, of which he thought some symptoms were visible, and of which, indeed, there would have been considerable danger, had not the President of the Board of Trade been strongly supported by those independent members who approved of his policy, and could speak from a practical knowledge of its bearing on the interests of trade.
From the time of the delivery of these two speeches, Mr Thomson may be said to have obtained a position in the estimation of the House of Commons which gave weight and authority to his opinions; and he might fairly indulge the hope of being enabled to advance the cause he had so much at heart, from a situation of still greater influence, should illhealth or accident (as was so soon unhappily to be the case) deprive the country of Mr Huskisson's valuable services. The convictions which experience at this time had taught him as to the difficulty of inducing the legislature to admit of improvements, and the respect for those entertaining opposite opinions with which their advocacy should be accompanied, are expressed in a private letter to a friend who was pressing him to bring forward some scheme of the kind.
“ My dear
“ I see Black has put your effusions into the · Chronicle.' I like your doctrine very well, but you fall into the line of which my friends the utilitarians are but too justly accused, and which with you, as with them, will go farther to defeat the extension of your principles, than your reasoning will go to establish them. You, like them, begin every discussion by telling those who differ from you that they are fools, not exactly the way to put them in an humour for cool argument. You seem besides to have formed a most erroneous judgment of the facility with which any improvement can be carried into effect. To propose, to legislate, and to act on your law, you
seem to think follow one another as glibly as cause and effect. Why, God bless you, the majority of the House of Commons, ay, 600 of the 650 senators, are opposed upon principle to any change, be it what it may ; and a whole session could be readily spent by them in considering whether they had better consider.”
Mr Thomson himself, though not yet thirty, had already begun to suffer from the attacks of constitutional gout, and, for the benefit of change of air, he spent the winter of 1829 at Paris, which he had visited repeatedly in the three or four preceding years. He lived in close intimacy with many of the most eminent of the diplomatic and political characters resident there, and especially cultivated the acquaintance of those public men who agreed with him in the desire to remove the restrictions of internationalcommerce, such as M. D'Amisson, the Messieurs Delessert, Baron Louis, M. de Broglie, M. de St Aulaire, &c. He was admitted frequently to the amiable family circle of the Duke of Orleans, and entertained the hope that all the weight of that Prince's influence and power (which has since reached so high a pitch") would be employed in furthering the advance of the same liberal policy.
In an early part of the next session Mr Thomson, on one occasion, overstepped the limits he appears up to that time to have laid down for himself, of confining his speeches to financial or commercial topics, and brought before the house the alleged coercion of the voters of Newark, at the recent election of Mr Sadler by the Duke of Newcastle, which had been defended by that nobleman in a published letter containing the celebrated phrase, “may I not do what I choose with my own f". This he justly considered to afford a favourable opportunity for exposing to public censure one of the worst abuses of the nomination system; and in this object the motion was eminently successful: even the members of the government, while opposing the committee asked for, appeared to reprobate the system adopted by the Duke and the sentiments attributed to him; and the debate had undoubtedly considerable effect in swelling the current of popular feeling then setting so strongly towards parliamentary reform.
On the 25th March Mr Thomson brought before the house a motion for a committee on the general taxation of the empire, in a speech of remarkable ability, in which he passed in review the whole system of our fiscal policy, and shewed how inconsistent it was, in almost every particular, with true principles, and even with common sense. He argued that the pressure of taxation did not depend so much on its amount as on its incidence, or the manner in which it is taken from the pockets of the people. He shewed to how great an extent many taxes on the raw materials of our industry checked commerce and the creation of wealth, and thus not only impoverished the people, but diminished the fund out of which taxes must be paid, to an extent infinitely exceeding the produce of the taxes themselves. He proved that many taxes were levied in a vexatious, harassing, and awkward manner, causing a far greater loss to the consumer, who ultimately paid the tax, than its mere amount. He contended that other taxes were too high, and consumption thereby checked to a degree from which the revenue itself suffered, and proved, by a long array of facts, that a reduction of duty, in many instances, might be expected to improve rather than diminish the revenue, besides affording immense relief to the consumer. He asked for a committee to consider the subject, the finance committee of the preceding year having been confined to the expenditure of the country, while it was equally expedient to review deliberately, and to revise, the means from which its income was derived.
* And has since had so dire a fall, 24th February 1848. o:
The motion of Mr Thomson was supported in the subsequent debate by Lord Althorp and Sir H. Parnell, as well as by Mr Huskisson and Lord Palmerston, who characterised the speech of the mover as a masterly exposition of the mode of levying the taxes. The Chancellor of the Exchequer concurred in the principles therein laid down, but Mr Peel resisted the motion as one for-transferring the functions of the Chancellor of the Exchequer to a committee of the House of Commons, and the motion, though supported by the great body of the Whig party, was, of course, lost on a division.
The seeds, however, were thus sown of an improved system of taxation. In Mr Thomson's speech are to be found the germs of nearly all the beneficial reductions of taxes and improvements in the mode of their levy, which were introduced during the subsequent administration, in which he himself managed the department of the Board of Trade, and Lord Althorp the Exchequer.
Through the remainder of the session Mr Thomson continued to urge on the government a more economical administration of the national resources. He brought forward, or spoke in favour of, the reduction of the stamps on newspapers, of the duties on foreign lead, on sea-borne coals, and on sugar, and took an active part in the several debates on ques tions relating to the reduction of public expenditure which characterised that session. He served also in the committee