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For the Year 1820.




The increased Tranquillity of the Country-Causes of it-Commercial Distresses begin to be diminished-Agricultural Embarrassments increasing-Illness of the Duke of Kent-His Death and Character-King's State of Health-His Majesty's last Illness and Death-Character of George III-The Policy of his Reign -His Reign glorious for the Country, as to Science, Art, Literature, and War.

THE situation of the country at the commencement of the year 1820 was more tranquil, than the violent popular agitation of the preceding months would have given reason to expect. That agitation, though it had produced little actual mischief, had been in a high degree appalling. Foreign nations regarded us as on the eve of a revolution; and even the wise and experienced among ourselves were not without apprehension with respect to the possible result. The tumult was now hushed; and, in a country like VOL. LXII.

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that they might, by their audacious proceedings, regulate the course of public events. They had followed, to a certain point, those who had presented themselves as leaders; but they found that they gained nothing by their docility. Their distress was in no respect alleviated by their disorderly conduct. Work was not thereby more easily procured; wages were not higher, nor was a greater quantity of the necessaries of life placed within their reach. Far from bettering their condition by their threats of insurrection, they felt their miseries aggravated by the very alarm which their insubordination had spread. From the state of high exaltation, therefore, into which they had been brought, and in which they had been for sometime maintained, they naturally fell back into listlessness and languor; not, perhaps, positively approving the political constitution which had been the constant theme of abuse with their demagogues, but contemplating it at least with sentiments approaching to indifference, and occupied with their own distress, and its immediate proximate causes, more than with the dreams of political speculation.

The firmness, with which the government had acted, contributed much to bring about this state of passive acquiescence. With what hope could the illdisposed prosecute machinations, which met with countenance from only the lowest orders of the people, which were regarded with abhorrence by all the respectable classes, and which the whole power of the state was arrayed to resist? The military force of the country had been augmented with the declared and exclusive

object of repressing every tendency to intestine disorder; and the displeasure of government had been strongly marked against such as, even with pure intentions, had lent the weight of their names and characters to meetings calculated to encourage the illdisposed. Our ministers, whether they acted well or ill, acted at least an open and manly part. They showed plainly that they would tolerate neither avowed disaffection, nor any thing that tended to inspire the disaffected with flattering hopes.


At the same time, the legislature removed out of the way of the people occasions of and temptations to mischief, which the law had hitherto wholly, or in part, overlooked. The six bills, which were passed towards the end of 1819, prohibited and guarded against acts, which were injurious to the state, and inconsistent with the duty of good citizens. They restrained no person from doing any thing which was in itself either praiseworthy or innocent. it a hardship, that men should not be allowed to prepare themselves, by military training, for resisting the government of their country; or to store up offensive arms under circumstances which give a moral assurance that they were intended for illegal purposes; or to frequent tumultuous assemblies, unknown to the constitution of the country, and composed of individuals linked together by no natural bond of connexion, except, perhaps, that of a common aptitude for being wrought upon by the inflammatory harangues of some impudent demagogue? A loathsome, corrupted stream of blasphemy and sedition had been for some time overflowing its

banks, and sending out rills into every part of the kingdom. Was it not well to oppose mounds to the progress of so baleful a cause of evil? The legislature, by thus prohibiting modes of procedure which were in themselves mischievous, not only saved the community from further contagion, but weakened and counteracted that which had been already communicated. If, when a population is labouring under temporary distress, apostles of sedition are permitted to make circuits among them, to collect them into large assemblies, and to impress upon them the belief, that all the evils under which they labour, arise from the misconduct of their governors; it would be surprising if disaffection did not become daily more extended and more exasperated. Remove this excitement to evil, and the spontaneous bent of the public mind will be, to subside gradually into tranquillity. Such was the operation of the legislative enactments of 1819; and to them we must, in no small degree, ascribe the comparatively quiet state of the country in 1820.

It is true, that such enact ments are of a nature peculiarly liable to abuse. The bulwarks which are raised to protect social order against popular delusion or frenzy, may, under different circumstances, become strong positions, from which encroachments may be made on constitutional liberty, and every attempt to resist the advances of arbitrary power may be baffled. When such a state of things shall begin to arise, adequate remedies must then be looked for; at present, it is enough for us that these enactments were imperiously called for by the signs of the times,

that they operated most beneficially, and that they have not been abused by the executive authority to any unworthy purposes. As it was chiefly among the crowded population of the manufacturing districts, that the spirit of insubordination had manifested itself, it was a peculiarly fortunate circumstance that, from the latter end of 1819, the commercial embarrassments of the country ceased to increase, or rather began to decline. In 1819 both our exports and our imports had fallen considerably below their previous amount. Though this diminution was no symptom of any permanent retardation of the progress of national opulence, since it might be accounted for sufficiently by temporary causes, and in a great measure by the unusually large amount of the exports and imports of the immediately preceding year; yet the stagnation that was thereby occasioned in every branch of industry, brought severe privations upon the labouring classes, and these privations rendered them the more disposed to lend a willing ear to the preachers of sedition. the extraordinary amount of the commercial transactions of 1818 had, in a considerable degree, provided for the demands and slackened the operations of the commercial world in 1819; so the comparative stagnation of the latter period gave scope for a more active employment of capital in the present year. Other more permanent causes co-operated with this casual circumstance in promoting the partial revival of our trade. In consequence of the late alterations in the channels of commerce, arising from the altered situation of the


world, many merchants and manufacturers had, for some time, found their old sources of gain altogether unproductive; and, time and experience are always necessary for the discovery of new modes of employing capital profitably, few of them had been able to hit upon untried paths of lucrative industry. Driven out of their established routine of business, they had no alternative, but either to leave their capitals unemployed, or to engage in hazardous speculations, which were frequently attended with heavy losses. The alteration, too, which, since the termination of the war, had been gradually taking place in the value of money, had necessarily been most ruinous in its operation upon all capitalists, who were holders of commodities which fell in price. This circumstance may be regarded as having, in a great measure, ceased to operate upon our manufacturers by the end of 1819. That year saw the crisis of our manufacturing and commercial embarrassments: the loss and destruction of commercial capital, occasioned by the altered circumstances of the world, had nearly finished its course, and the intercourse of nations was beginning to take the direction most compatible with the natural advantages and legislative enactments of each particular country.

It is true that our merchants and manufacturers still complained, nor were their complaints wanting in solid foundations. The capitals of the greater number of them had been diminished in nominal value, and the general rate of profit had fallen consider ably. The extent and productiveness of the industry of the country remaining unimpaired,

while the expenditure of government had sustained an enormous diminution, capital was accumulated with rapidity, for which it was more than usually difficult to find a profitable employment, and from which it was impossible to derive the same amount of gain as in preceding years. As the situation, therefore, of each individual capitalist was less advantageous than formerly, it was natural for him to murmur at the change. He heard similar murmurs from all around him, and saw all his competitors in circumstances similar to his own: what conclusion, then, was more likely to suggest itself to his mind, than that the commercial prosperity of the country was in a retrograde course? Yet no inference could be more erroneous. The difficulty of making profits, and the diminution of their amount, far from being symptoms of decay, are the necessary concomitants of an unusually rapid accumulation of wealth; and, by tending to lower the cost of the various articles that administer to the wants or increase the comforts of life, produce a general improvement in the state of society. Though the rate of profit on a given capital is lessened, the whole amount of capital employed is increased : so that a greater quantity of capital is maintained in activity, and the sum total of the annual production and consumption of the country is increased.

In consequence of the partial revival of commerce, our manufacturing population found it more easy to obtain employment than in the preceding years, and received a more liberal remuneration for their labour. At the same time the price of grain sus


tained a considerable diminution. The average prices of wheat, which in 1819 had been generally above 72s. per quarter, and often approached to 80s., fluctuated during the first half of the present year between 60s. and 70s. per quarter, and, towards the end of it, fell to between 50s. and 60s. Animal food, and the other productions of agricultural industry, participated in this fall. In the course of the present year, therefore, the situation of the manufacturing labourer was doubly improved; he earned more, and the same amount of earnings gave him a greater command of the necessaries of life.

Unfortunately the very circumstance which was advantageous to this class of the community, augmented the embarrassments of the farmer, and, through him, the difficulties of the landlord on the one hand, and of the agricultural labourer on the other. The fall in the price of agricultural produce was great, and promised to be permanent. It could not have arisen from the competition of the foreign grower in our markets, for he was excluded from them. He was allowed indeed to store up his produce in our warehouses, but he was not permitted under the existing prices to dispose of it for the supply of our internal consumption; and though some imagined that foreign corn was introduced clandestinely into our markets, the smuggling of so bulky an article, if it existed at all, could be carried on to only a very limited extent, and could not have exerted any marked influence on the general price of the commodity. As little could the fall in the moneyvalue of agricultural produce be ascribed to the measures which

had been lately taken for a return to cash payments, and which were now coming partially into operation; for the average depreciation of our currency during 1817 and 1818, had been only 2 per cent, and it still continued at nearly the same level. The change, therefore, in the price of corn must have arisen from causes of general and probably permanent operation.

Whatever might be the cause of the change, its effect was, to diminish exceedingly the gross returns of the farmer. Some of his outgoings were, no doubt, diminished also; but the diminution was only partial, and especially in articles of luxury, not at all proportional to the fall of the money-value of grain. His receipts were no longer sufficient to replace the funds which had been expended on permanent improvements; much less, to afford a reasonable gain. All his fixed money-payments, such as rent, assessed taxes, the interest of money borrowed, pressed upon him with augmented weight. Thus gloomy and cheerless was the prospect to all, who had invested their property in the cultivation of the soil. They flattered themselves, however, that the distress was of a transient nature; and, hoping for the speedy approach of better times, they made a shift to pay their rents either by borrowing money, or by taking it from their capitals; so that the landlords did not yet participate in the existing embarrassments to the extent in which they were ultimately to feel them.


Though, therefore, distress did exist in the country at the beginning and throughout the course of the year 1820, and though there

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