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modify his opinions latterly, since, in 1830, after two years' experience of the corn law of 1828, he had declared his unalterable conviction that this law could not be upheld if the existing taxation, national prosperity, and public contentment were to be preserved, and that it might be wholly repealed without affecting the landed interest, while the people would be relieved from their distress." Finally, Mr Thomson warned the house of the danger of delaying the question until the distress of the commercial classes increased, our national resources were further consumed, our commerce perhaps irretrievably injured, and the cry for cheaper food had convulsed the country.

In thus giving utterance to his sentiments on this most vital question, he was speaking against the great majority of his colleagues, the government as a body opposing any change in the law. And, indeed, it was only by extreme firmness on his part that he was enabled to obtain the assent of the cabinet to its being treated as an open question.

In this year, 1834, Mr Thomson introduced some important and valuable improvements in the warehousing system, in a bill which embodied all former acts on the subject, and enlarged their powers, and the facilities thereby' afforded to commerce. He likewise brought in and passed an improved customs act, carrying out still further the principles of his former measures. When, in June, the secession occurred of Lord Stanley, Sir James Graham, and others from the ministry, the differences which had so long prevailed in the cabinet relative to the Irish church having at length reached their climax, Mr Poulett Thomson became President of the Board of Trade, in place of Lord Auckland, who was removed to the Admiralty. The subsequent resignation of Lord Grey in July, and the accession of Lord Melbourne to the post of prime minister, made no further change in his position.

The autumn of 1834 was passed by him in the north of England, where he was for several weeks laid up by an attack of gout, which had by this time taken a very firm hold of his system. He was now rarely free from a fit for more than six months together.

In November occurred the dismissal of Lord Melbourne's ministry, and soon afterwards the formation of Sir Robert Peel's short-lived ministry. On the dissolution of parliament at the close of the year, Mr Poulett Thomson, then of course out of office, went down to Manchester, and was re-elected by a large majority.

Previous to the meeting of the new parliament, Mr Poulett Thomson took a very active part in preparing for the contest

for the Speaker's chair, by which the session opened. It was chiefly through his solicitation that the repugnance of Mr Abercromby to allow himself to be put forward as the opposition candidate for the chair was overcome, and his utmost exertions were employed to secure success to this move in the game of party. The result proved the correctness of his anticipations, and the choice made by the house of Mr Abercromby,* in place of Sir C. Manners Sutton, t gave the first blow to the ministry of Sir Robert Peel. The further and increasing majorities against the minister, as the session went on, compelled his resignation ; and on the return of Lord Melbourne to power, in the middle of April, Mr Poulett Thomson resumed his office at the head of the Board of Trade, with a seat in the cabinet.

He was again elected for Manchester, though on this, as on every former occasion, the opponent party were not satisfied without trying their strength at the poll.

The ensuing session was protracted up to the beginning of September, and the consequence of its severe labours was to Mr Thomson, as usual, a fit of gout, which this time lasted nearly two months. Repose and the sea air of St Leonard's restored him at length; and in November he returned to town, but was able to get to the sea again for the Christmas holidays.

The next year's recess was passed in a tour through Wales, Lancashire, and the north of England. In July of the subsequent year, (1837,) the death of William IV. and the accession of Queen Victoria having occasioned a general election, Mr Thomson proceeded to Manchester, and was elected for the fifth time in five years, the majorities in his favour having increased at every successive election. On this occasion the numbers were Thomson,

4158 Phillips,

3750 Gladstone,

2281 From thence he crossed the channel to Dublin, and spent two months in a tour through Ireland, the south of Scotland, and Northumberland, reaching town in the beginning of November, some time previous to the meeting of parliament in that month. His tour in Ireland was chiefly for the purpose of forming an opinion, from actual observation, on the state of the poor there, with reference to the question of an Irish poor law, for which the government were pledged to bring in a bill in the ensuing session.

* Afterwards Lord Dunfermline.

+ Afterwards Lord Canterbury.

We pass lightly over this period of Mr Poulett Thomson's life, because, from the date of his entry into the cabinet, and, indeed, from that of his taking office, his conduct on political and public affairs necessarily resolves itself to a considerable degree into that of the government of which he formed a unit. This is a sacrifice required of every public man, so long as he holds office. He loses his individuality to all outward appearance, being obliged to conform his conduct, and even the expression of his opinions, to whatever the majority of his colleagues determine upon. What passes in their private or cabinet consultations remains of course unknown, except from occasional rumours, since such private notes as may record these discussions are necessarily, as data for contemporaneous history, inviolable. Of this much, however, all who knew Mr Thomson will be assured, that every opportunity afforded him by his position was made the most of, for the advancement of a truly liberal policy, both at home and abroad, for securing to the people all those substantial benefits which good government and good laws are capable of affording, and for realizing the expectations which the reform ministry held out on their accession to office.

In the extension of commercial freedom, however, he possessed the power, within the limits of his own department, of doing much good; and this power he exerted, with untiring zeal and energy, although in an unobtrusive manner. His name was not, during this period, often produced before the public. He took no very active part in the parliamentary debates on questions of party warfare. Indeed his services to the public interests throughout his career were chiefly rendered in a form and manner which, out of parliament, attracted no general attention at the time. But, though not paraded ostentatiously, as evidence of statesmanlike merit or subjects of national gratitude, they were, nevertheless, perhaps as valuable and important as any that statesmen of the highest reputation have ever achieved for the benefit of their country. They consisted in a close attention to the interests of our national commerce in all quarters of the world—that commerce on which our wealth, our power, our greatness as a nation, essentially rest—in unceasing superintendence of the important business of the Board of Trade; in communications . with the parties most interested and conversant with the various matters relating to our commercial and fiscal laws, and the alterations from time to time required in them; in a close attendance on parliamentary committees, and the examination at great length of evidence bearing on such ques

tions.

We pass lightly over this period of Mr Poulett Thomson's life, because, from the date of his entry into the cabinet, and, indeed, from that of his taking office, his conduct on political and public affairs necessarily resolves itself to a considerable degree into that of the government of which he formed a unit. This is a sacrifice required of every public man, so long as he holds office. He loses his individuality to all outward appearance, being obliged to conform his conduct, and even the expression of his opinions, to whatever the majority of his colleagues determine upon. What passes in their private or cabinet consultations remains of course unknown, except from occasional rumours, since such private notes as may record these discussions are necessarily, as data for contemporaneous history, inviolable. Of this much, however, all who knew Mr Thomson will be assured, that every opportunity afforded him by his position was made the most of, for the advancement of a truly liberal policy, both at home and abroad, for securing to the people all those substantial benefits which good government and good laws are capable of affording, and for realizing the expectations which the reform ministry held out on their accession to office.

In the extension of commercial freedom, however, he possessed the power, within the limits of his own department, of doing much good; and this power he exerted, with untiring zeal and energy, although in an unobtrusive manner. His name was not, during this period, often produced before the public. He took no very active part in the parliamentary debates on questions of party warfare. Indeed his services to the public interests throughout his career were chiefly rendered in a form and manner which, out of parliament, attracted no general attention at the time. But, though not paraded ostentatiously, as evidence of statesmanlike merit or subjects of national gratitude, they were, nevertheless, perhaps as valuable and important as any that statesmen of the highest reputation have ever achieved for the benefit of their country. They consisted in a close attention to the interests of our national commerce in all quarters of the world—that commerce on which our wealth, our power, our greatness as a nation, essentially rest—in unceasing superintendence of the important business of the Board of Trade; in communications with the parties most interested and conversant with the various matters relating to our commercial and fiscal laws, and the alterations from time to time required in them; in a close attendance on parliamentary committees, and the examination at great length of evidence bearing on such questions.

Mention has been already made of his unremitting and successful endeavours to relieve the trade of the country from fiscal burdens and obstructions, and to cheapen the necessaries and comforts consumed by the masses, by simplifying the tariff, and reducing the import duties on almost every article in general use, whether of colonial or foreign origin.

In pursuit of the same great objects, during the long period of his official service at the Board of Trade, he lost no opportunity for endeavouring to improve the commercial relations of this country with the other nations of the globe.

Negotiations were set on foot and prosecuted with great zeal and vigour by him, in conjunction with and through the agency of the Foreign Office—for the ready and zealous cooperation of Lord Palmerston was never wanting in the prosecution of such objects—for effecting commercial treaties with, or arrangements for modifying the tariffs of France, Spain, Portugal, Prussia, Austria, Russia, Sardinia, and many other countries.

With respect to France, reference has been already made to the commission of 1831-1834. In the succeeding years the attempts to establish commercial arrangements of a more general and satisfactory nature between the two countries were renewed by Mr Thomson.

In 1838–9, another joint commission was appointed at Paris, consisting, on our side, of the Right Hon. H. Labouchere, Vice President of the Board of Trade, Mr Aston, and Mr Macgregor; on the part of France, of the Baron Freville, peer of France, M. Greterin, Director in Chief of the Customs, and M. David, Secretary of the Minister of Commerce, to examine the tariffs of the respective countries, with a view to propose such reductions as should appear most likely to extend their mutual commercial intercourse. Ministerial changes in France unfortunately suspended the progress of this commission; and it was closed in May 1839, a conviction being come to by the British commissioners, that the French government were unwilling to make any real concessions on their part, in return for those offered by Great Britain.

Various arrangements, which promised beneficial results, had, however, been made on both sides. The threatened increase of duties on linen yarns imported into France was deferred for two years. It has since been imposed. But the prospect of a favourable termination to the long-pending and often-interrupted negotiations for reciprocal relaxations in the commercial tariffs of England and France is not yet hopeless ; and if such a happy result is ultimately arrived at, it will have

4

VOL. II.

been owing, in a very great degree, to the foundation laid by the persevering efforts of Mr Thomson.*

With Austria, Prussia, and the other German states, Mr Thomson made frequent efforts to extend our commercial relations. The Zollverein, or union of the several states of Germany with Prussia, under a common tariff and system of customs laws in 1833, and afterwards, was never regarded by Mr Thomson with the apprehension and alarm with which it was viewed in many quarters. On the contrary, he clearly saw that a change, which loosened the fetters hitherto shackling the industry of an European population of thirty millions, and gave room for the development of their natural resources, could not be otherwise than eventually beneficial to all neighbouring countries. It did not necessarily follow, from a fusion of all the separate conflicting tariffs of Germany into one, that the character of that one should be more hostile to British interests than the medley preceding it; and, on the contrary, it afforded an available opening for the negotiation, with the representatives of all Germany in a body, of a treaty of commerce offering new benefits to British industry. Mr Thomson saw and determined to avail himself of this opening. He obtained from Mr Macgregor,f a gentleman fully imbued with his own views on international commerce, and thoroughly acquainted with the political and material condition of the German states, a report on the effect of the “ Union” on manufacturing industry in Germany, and on the sale and use of British manufactures there.

This report led Mr Thomson to the conclusion that, to preserve and increase the long-existing trade between Great Britain and Germany, which in value is second to none except that between England and the United States of America, it was necessary to propose a reduction in our import duties on the leading articles of German produce, in return for similar concessions by the union in favour of British manufactures.

To pave the way for such an arrangement, Mr Thomson despatched Mr Macgregor in 1836, as British commissioner, to attend the Congress of Deputies from the several states of the union, which was held at Munich in August of that year, for the purpose of revising the tariff of 1833.

* Mr Pitt attempted to effect a mutually beneficial arrangement with France, but failed, through the ignorance of the people in this country, who were led on by the Whigs, with Fox at their head; and (strange to say now) the Manchester manufacturers urging on Fox, and burning Pitt in effigy!-(See our Life of Pitt.)

of Secretary to the Board of Trade subsequently member of parliament for Glasgow,

been owing, in a very great degree, to the foundation laid by the persevering efforts of Mr Thomson.*

With Austria, Prussia, and the other German states, Mr Thomson made frequent efforts to extend our commercial relations. The Zollverein, or union of the several states of Germany with Prussia, under a common tariff and system of customs laws in 1833, and afterwards, was never regarded by Mr Thomson with the apprehension and alarm with which it was viewed in many quarters. On the contrary, he clearly saw that a change, which loosened the fetters hitherto shackling the industry of an European population of thirty millions, and gave room for the development of their natural resources, could not be otherwise than eventually beneficial to all neighbouring countries. It did not necessarily follow, from a fusion of all the separate conflicting tariffs of Germany into one, that the character of that one should be more hostile to British interests than the medley preceding it; and, on the contrary, it afforded an available opening for the negotiation, with the representatives of all Germany in a body, of a treaty of commerce offering new benefits to British industry. Mr Thomson saw and determined to avail himself of this opening. He obtained from Mr Macgregor, t a gentleman fully imbued with his own views on international commerce, and thoroughly acquainted with the political and material condition of the German states, a report on the effect of the “ Union” on manufacturing industry in Germany, and on the sale and use of British manufactures there.

This report led Mr Thomson to the conclusion that, to preserve and increase the long-existing trade between Great Britain and Germany, which in value is second to none except that between England and the United States of America, it was necessary to propose a reduction in our import duties on the leading articles of German produce, in return for similar concessions by the union in favour of British manufactures.

To pave the way for such an arrangement, Mr Thomson despatched Mr Macgregor in 1836, as British commissioner, to attend the Congress of Deputies from the several states of the union, which was held at Munich in August of that year, for the purpose of revising the tariff of 1833.

* Mr Pitt attempted to effect a mutually beneficial arrangement with France, but failed, through the ignorance of the people in this country, who were led on by the Whigs, with Fox at their head; and (strange to say now) the Manchester manufacturers urging on Fox, and burning Pitt in effigy!-(See our Life of Pitt.)

+ Secretary to the Board of Trade subsequently member of parliament for Glasgow.

The results of this mission would have been perfectly successful in obtaining large reductions of the German tariff in favour of British manufactures, had it been possible for concessions to be offered in return upon two points of great value to Germany, viz. CORN and TIMBER. Extracts from Mr Macgregor's correspondence to that effect were read by Mr Poulett Thomson, in his speech on the corn laws in the session of 1839. The reply he met with generally to propositions for an improved tariff in favour of England, was this, “ We are all desirous to trade freely with you, but a reduction of your corn duties to a fixed rate must be the preliminary of any understanding as to a reduction on our part of duties on your commodities."

On this essential point Mr Thomson's hands were of course tied, by the invincible resistance of the supporters of the British corn laws. Had there been any possibility of carrying a modification of those laws, such as a fixed duty of 8s. or even 10s. per quarter on wheat, it was Mr Thomson's intention to propose a new treaty of commerce to the States of the Zollverein, which he had every reason to know would have been readily assented to by them, on terms highly favourable to British commerce and manufactures.

In respect to Austria, Mr Thomson's efforts to obtain improved commercial relations were, however, crowned with

Mr Macgregor had been commissioned likewise by him, in 1836, to report on the resources of that great empire, containing a population of thirty-five millions, and to endeavour to lay the basis of a commercial treaty with its government. He found the authorities, especially that enlightened statesman Prince Metternich, fully alive to the immense eleients existing for a mutually beneficial commerce between Austria and Britain, and to the wisdom of the principles of a liberal system of trade between them. The result was the negotiation and definitive arrangement of a commercial treaty between the two governments, which was signed in 1838 by Prince Metternich and Sir Frederick Lambe. This treaty established an entirely new tariff for all the Austrian customs, sweeping away the whole prohibitive system of Maria Theresa and Joseph II., which had been considered by many of the prejudiced Austrians as the palladium of their industry. Its results have already been most beneficial, and must every year become more so, to British industry. To Mr Poulett Thomson is due, so far as the British cabinet was concerned, the exclusive merit of originating and perfecting this treaty.

One circumstance connected with it, and communicated by Mr Macgregor, offers a remarkable instance of the wise deci

success.

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