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builders yards began, again, to present a scene of busy industry.
The agricultural distress had diminished in the course of the former year; but the effects of the by-gone change in the circumstances of many owners and cultivators of the soil were still felt in a degree strong enough to give a plausible pretext for complaint. These complaints were uttered most loudly in various countymeetings, held immediately before, or shortly after, the meeting of parliament; at which, under pretext of assigning the causes or suggesting remedies of the agricultural distress, the necessity of diminishing the taxes, of reforming the constitution of the legislature, and frequently of plundering the church, and the public creditor, was sometimes insinuated, and sometimes boldly avowed. Among the counties which voted petitions on this subject to the House of Commons, were Norfolk, Somerset, York, Berks, Hereford, Middlesex, and Surrey. In the meeting held at Norwich, on the 3rd of January, the Whigs, who had convened it and meant it to be a vehicle for their own opinions, were completely defeated by the unexpected appearance of Mr. Cobbett, on the stage; who, after having exposed the fallacy and incoherence of the resolutions proposed by them, moved an address of his own, which was carried triumphantly by the acclamations of the assembled mob, or at least of that part of it, which was nearest to the hustings. This petition, after the usual complaints against sinecures, taxes, the church, and the national debt, prayed an efficient reform of parliament, in order that such parliament might adopt the measures necessary to effect the following
purposes:-1. An appropriation of a part of the property of the church to the liquidation of the debt: 2. A reduction of the standing army, including staff, barracks and colleges, to a scale of expense as low as that of the army before the last war: 3. A total abolition of all sinecures, pensions, grants, and emoluments, not merited by public services: 4. A sale of the crown lands, and an application of the money towards the liquidation of the debt: 5. An equitable adjustment with regard to the public debt, and also with regard to all debts and contracts between man and man. But, as to effect these purposes might require a lapse of months, the petitioners further prayed, that parliament, in order to afford immediate protection against ruin, would be pleased, 1. To suspend, by law, for one year, all distresses for rent, and to cause distresses already issued to be set aside; 2. To suspend all process for tithes, for the same period; 3. To suspend, for the same period, all processes arising out of mortgage, bond, annuity, or other contract affecting house or land; 4. To repeal the whole of the taxes on malt, hops, leather, soap, and candles.
The Whig aristocracy of Norfolk, indignant that such principles should be supposed to emanate from their county, caused petitions to be prepared and numerously signed in distinct hundreds, reprobating the petition adopted at Norwich, but complaining bitterly of agricultural distress, and calling loudly for parliamentary reform. The original petition and also the counter petitions were presented to the House of Commons, by Mr. Coke, who, on that occasion, declared his dissent from Mr. Cob
bett's conclusions, and ascribed that gentleman's triumph to the confusion of the meeting, and to the ignorance, in which the individuals composing it were, of what was really said by the speakers. Mr. James was the only member of Opposition, who expressed any approbation of the doctrines adopted at Norwich. Yet the only essential difference between Mr. Cobbett and his adversaries, appears to have been, that, both setting out from the same assumptions, Mr. Cobbett pushed his premises to their utmost consequences, while Mr. Coke and his party, preferring prudence to logic, adopted the principles acceptable to their querulousness, and yet disavowed the inferences to which these principles, if fairly followed up, necessarily led. Mr. Cobbett's success at Norwich, induced him to attempt to play the same part at Hereford: but there the country-gentlemen were prepared to meet their antagonist; and instead of carrying his point, the assembly would scarcely deign even to hear him.
The language held at most of these meetings was violent in the extreme; but it was regarded by sober-minded men, as the effusion of party spirit, and as being neither in unison with the sentiments, nor suitable to the actual circumstances of the nation. The people saw and felt, that many classes in the community were in a thriving state; and that the embarrassments, even of the agriculturists, were becoming every day less. A general opinion prevailed, that, on subjects of internal legislation, the ministry had shown more just and more enlarged views than their opponents: and the avowed dissent of Mr. Canning from the proceedings of the continental monarchs, won to him and
to his colleagues a large portion of esteem and confidence from many, who had till now been more inclined to throw upon him blame than to yield him their applause. The Spanish question was the great topic of public anxiety; and upon it there was a complete sympathy between the government and the country. For though there were men who, actuated by a generous but unwise impulse, thought that our ministers ought to do more than declare their condemnation of the French aggression against Spain, and that, instead of remaining neutral, they should become principals in the war, and pledge the prosperity and constitution of England for the dominion of the Cortes; yet these quixotic schemes were confined to a few. To condemn the conduct of France and the Holy Alliance; to wish success to Spain; to abstain from war ourselves and consequently from all menaces of war; such was the line of conduct which was generally believed to be most consonant to the principles and interests of England; and it was in this course of policy that Mr. Canning had hitherto walked, and was still walking.
The changes, which took place in some important offices, were calculated to strengthen the ministry in the public opinion. Mr. Vansittart, who had always gained more respect by his virtues than admiration by his talents, retreated from the fatigues of finance to the chancellorship of the duchy of Lancaster, and was raised to the peerage by the title of lord Bexley. Mr. Robinson succeeded him as chancellor of the Exchequer; Mr. Huskisson was appointed president of the Board of Trade; and in his stead Mr. Arbuthnot became first
commissioner of the Land Revenue. The promotion of Mr. Robinson and Mr. Huskisson was exceedingly acceptable, especially to the commercial part of the community; for both these gentlemen were known to possess a manly sense, and a liberality of opinion, from which great benefits in commercial and financial administration might be expected.
On the 4th of February the session of parliament was opened by commission; his majesty being prevented by indisposition from attending in person. After the royal commission had been read, the lord chancellor, on behalf of the other commissioners, read the following speech:
"My Lords and Gentlemen,
"We are commanded by his majesty to inform you, that since he last met you in parliament, his majesty's efforts have been unremittingly exerted to preserve the peace of Europe.
"Faithful to the principles which his majesty has promulgated to the world, as constituting the rule of his conduct, his majesty declined being a party to any proceedings at Verona, which could be deemed an interference in the internal concerns of Spain on the part of foreign powers. And his majesty has since used, and continues to use, his most anxious endeavours and good offices to allay the irritation unhappily subsisting between the French and Spanish governments: and to avert, if possible, the calamity of war between France and Spain.
"In the east of Europe his majesty flatters himself that peace will be preserved, and his majesty continues to receive from his allies, and generally from other powers, 'assurances of their unaltered dis
position to cultivate with his ma jesty those friendly relations which it is equally his majesty's object on his part to maintain.
"We are further commanded to apprize you, that discussions having long been pending with the court of Madrid, respecting depredations committed on the commerce of his majesty's subjects in the West Indian Seas, and other grievances of which his majesty had been under the necessity of complaining, those discussions have terminated in an admission by the Spanish government of the justice of his majesty's complaints, and in an engagement for satisfactory reparation.
"We are commanded to assure you, that his majesty has not been unmindful of the addresses presented to him by the two Houses of Parliament with respect to the foreign slave trade.
Propositions for the more effectual suppression of that evil were brought forward by his majesty's plenipotentiary in the conferences at Verona, and there have been added to the treaties upon this subject already concluded between his majesty and the governments of Spain and the Netherlands, articles which will extend the operation of those treaties, and greatly facilitate their execution.
"Gentlemen of the House of Commons,
"His majesty has directed the estimates of the current year to be laid before you. They have been framed with every attention to economy; and the total expenditure will be found to be materially below that of last year.
"This diminution of charge, combined with the progressive improvement of the revenue, has produced a surplus exceeding his ma
jesty's expectation. His majesty trusts, therefore, that you will be able, after providing for the services of the year, and without-affecting public credit, to make a further considerable reduction in the burthens of his people.
"My Lords and Gentlemen, "His majesty has commanded us to state to you, that the manifestations of loyalty and attachment to his person and government, which his majesty received in his late visit to Scotland, have made the deepest impression upon his heart.
"The provision which you made in the last session of parliament for the relief of the distresses in considerable districts in Ireland, has been productive of the happiest effects, and his majesty recommends to your consideration such measures of internal regulation as may be calculated to promote and secure the tranquillity of that country, and to improve the habits and condition of the people.
"Deeply as his majesty regrets the continued depression of the agricultural interest, the satisfaction with which his majesty contemplates the increasing activity which pervades the manufacturing districts, and the flourishing condition of our commerce in most of its principal branches, is greatly enhanced by the confident persuasion that the progressive prosperity of so many of the interests of the country cannot fail to contribute to the gradual improvement of that great interest, which is the most important of them all."
The address was moved by lord Morley, and seconded by lord Mayo. Earl Stanhope, after lamenting that there seemed no intention on the part of government to administer relief to the agri
culturists, moved that the following words should be inserted in the address "That this House views with the deepest regret and anxiety, the severe and unexampled distress which now afflicts the country, and will immediately proceed to inquire into and examine its causes; also the results which have arisen from altering the value of the currency; and the means of administering speedy and effectual relief." The speech which he made in support of this amendment, was composed of exaggerated representations of the agricultural embarrassments, feeble and illogical efforts to prove that these embarrassments proceeded from our return to cash payments, and audacious recommendations of national bankruptcy. "If we contemplate," said his lordship, "the effects which the change of currency has produced upon taxation, we find that the public annuitants now receive twice as much in the produce of the earth as they did in 1819, and nearly twice as much as they then did in other commodities. Is not this to be considered as a most nefarious fraud that has been practised on the nation, and as an act of public robbery? We hear much about public faith, but it did not, and could not pledge the nation to pay the public creditors twice as much as they ought to receive, and as they did receive three years ago. The reduction of the dividends, which is imperiously required by the safety of the country, is strictly conformable to justice, in consequence of the alteration of the currency in which they are paid."
Lord Lansdown thought, that the topics which lord Stanhope had discussed, however important in themselves, ought to be passed
over for the present, and that, in the crisis which now threatened Europe, it was desirable that the Address should be adopted unanimously. He only wished, that it had been couched in stronger terms, and that in it, as well as in the speech from the throne, there had been a stronger and more explicit declaration of the sense which this country entertained of those principles, which had unfortunately found their way into the councils of some of the great powers of Europe, and which, if acted upon to their natural extent, would not fail to involve Europe in confusion. Those principles had now, for the second time, been promulgated in a manner which left no room for doubt as to their tendency and far from thinking it expedient to palter with the sense of parliament and the country, he was of opinion that his majesty's ministers would act wisely and judiciously, to unite with the legislature and the people in expressing their indignation at, rather than their disapprobation of, such a system, if there was any chance of thereby averting the calamities which must grow out of it. Whether or not government would declare its opinion of the conduct of the continental powers as he thought it should-and he was willing to believe that, in some degree, it already had done so he was sure that public feeling would find vent through various channels, and that every part of the country would be eager to proclaim to the world the opinion which it entertained, and the sense which it cherished, of the rights of nations, and the important interests which England had in maintaining them. At the same time, being bound to give credit to
ministers for having used their exertions to avert the calamity of a war on the continent, and for having made protestations, however vainly, against the conduct of France, he confessed that he did not, under all the circumstances of the case, think the present was a fit time for proposing any further declaration of opinion than was contained in the address already moved.
Lord Liverpool asserted, that there could not be a more distinct statement of the intentions of the government, than was contained in the first paragraph of the speech from the throne: "Faithful to the principles which his majesty had promulgated to the world as constituting the rule of his conduct, his majesty declined being a party to any proceedings at Verona, which could be deemed an interference in the internal concerns of Spain." Those principles were to be found in a note written by a dear and very lamented friend of his, and issued on the 19th of January, 1821. In that note, the policy of the British government was distinctly declared; and it rested on the principles of the law of nations, which allowed every country to judge how it could best be governed, and what ought to be its institutions; and if exceptions to the rule might arise out of considerations of self-defence and self-preservation, these were to be considered as exceptions, and were to stand on their own peculiar merits. He and his colleagues viewed the question of Spain as one purely Spanish, and not mixed up with any other. There had been, and he sincerely trusted there would be, throughout the carcer of those who had the conduct of affairs in that coun