« PreviousContinue »
those circumstances that constitute the wealth of nations? The contrary in each of these particulars is well known to be the fact. The French have had more foreign war than ourselves, in addition to civil war (from which, thank God! we have been exempt) with all its horrors, and its sure accompaniment, destruction of property. How comes it then, that there are thousands of our lower classes without employment and in a state bordering on starvation, while there is no such thing in France? It is said the people there, of all ranks, are in comfortable circumstances: this comes home to my argument. The French keep within themselves their own resources, and they receive the voluntary contributions of other countries. Let us reverse the picture. Suppose the whole of our countrymen now abroad were to return, and that certain rich foreigners were to think fit to reside in England, expending the enormous sum of thirty-six millions sterling; would not the whole of our population be in a state of complete prosperity, enjoying the riches (productions) of other countries as well as the whole of our own? Discontent would be banished from the land, and England would be in temporal prosperity and happiness, as superior to other countries as she is in refinement, in commerce, and in all her charitable, moral, civil, and religious in
I have the honor to remain,
&c. &c. &c.
THE MARQUIS OF LANSDOWN,
SPOKEN IN THE HOUSE OF LORDS.
[Now first revised and corrected for the Pamphleteer.]
THE Marquis of LANSDOWN rose, in pursuance of the notice he had given, of a motion for a committee to inquire into the means of extending the foreign trade of the country. So much did he feel the importance and magnitude of the subject, that he apprehended no sense of duty, however great, would have been sufficient to induce him to undertake the bringing it forward, had he not entertained a well-founded hope of experiencing every indulgence from the House. Under the circumstances, however, in which he had thought it necessary to propose to their Lordships the appointment of a committee, he did not suppose that it could be necessary for him to say much to justify himself for having assumed that task. He certainly felt most strongly the weight of the task, and would have been glad to have seen it in the hands of any noble Lord more able to do justice to it, but would have felt still more satisfaction had his Majesty's ministers taken the lead in originating some measure, either in that or in the other House of Parliament. Several years had now passed away, since the pressure of public distress engaged the attention of every friend to humanity and the country. That the noble Lord opposite omitted to propose any measure of relief, was not, therefore, sufficient to excuse their Lordships for neglecting to inquire into the state of the evil, and to look for a remedy. Those threatening clouds which some years ago began to darken the horizon had gradually increased, and now wore a more awful and ominous aspect than ever. It was then impossible that their Lordships could be justified in longer abstaining from investigating the causes of the distress under which the country suffered. He felt it to be his duty to draw the attention
of their Lordships to one in particular, and to propose an inquiry into the state of the foreign trade of the country; at the same time, in proposing that limited inquiry, he was far from wishing to throw any impediment in the way of any noble Lord who might be dis-· posed to institute any investigation into any other branch of the public distress. Still less did he mean to check any inclination to inquire into the expense of public establishments, or to urge that economy, always expedient, but now indispensable to the welfare of the country. But the latter were among the daily duties of their Lordships, while the proposition he had to make related to a subject which seldomer called for their immediate attention. He meant to confine the proposition he had to make, to the appointment of a committee on the foreign trade of the country. He had chosen this course, because he was convinced that any more extensive inquiry would only open an arena, into which every chivalrous political economist would hasten to take his stand; into which every theory would be introduced, and where every opposing interest would have found a field of combat. In any committee of general inquiry, useful discussion would be impracticable, endless contests would arise, and inquiries would be pursued without leading to any result. But, in limiting the proposal of investigation to one single but important object, he begged it might not be concluded, that he had it in view to protect or promote the interest of any particular body in the country, in preference to others. He certainly had no such intention, but, on the contrary, had limited his proposition to a subject which he conceived intimately connected with the interest of the whole country. But, whatever course their Lordships might determine to pursue, whether that of a limited or a general inquiry, if ever they were to entertain a design so unjust as that of favoring one interest or one body of the State, at the expense of any other, such a project would be impossible. So inseparably connected were the interests of society, so powerfully did the laws which Providence had imposed on those interests operate for in regulating the wants they also regulated the actions of mea-that any partiality of this kind was impracticable. Whenever it should be attempted to fence round any particular interest, and afford an exclusive protection from a general calamity, that interest would experience a re-action worse than the evil complained of, and find itself more exposed by the very barrier erected for its defence. Such a proceeding could only tend to bring on the body whom it was wished to favor, increased humiliation and distrust. The experience of the last ten years could not be thrown away on their Lordships, and he trusted it would not on the country. In the year 1815, they had seen the distress of the agricultural body visited on the other interests of the community. They had after
wards found the distress of the manufacturing interest visited on the growers of corn and the raisers of every kind of agricultural produce. From these alternate visitations, who could fail to see that the order of Nature had linked together all the interests of men in society, and that it was nothing less than the height of folly and madness, to attempt to prop up any one class at the expense of another? The house had pronounced an opinion, some years ago, on the extent to which the principle of the corn laws should be carried, and he would not now go into an inquiry which he thought already disposed of—namely, whether the agricultural interest was sufficiently protected. He could not, however, help observing, that in looking at the petitions on the table, the opinion, that this country ought to be rendered independent of foreign corn, seemed to be adopted in some of them. The petitioners wished for prices which would give them the advantage they possessed in time of war; but they ought to consider, that the effect of the continued operation of high prices must be to leave no country open for export. What then would be the result of sudden depression? If an extraordinarily abundant harvest produced low prices, the farmer would be ruined by a revulsion in prices without its natural remedy, and the manufacturer would participate in his distress. The lesson of experience on this subject would not be forgotten by their Lordships. In considering a part they would look to the whole, and would not allow themselves to be seduced by views of partial interests, from devoting their attention to the effect of any measure which might be proposed, on the general prosperity of the whole country. There were some speculative persons to be found, who thought that this country would be more prosperous were it independent of manufactures, and that it would be desirable to establish its interest sole.ly on the basis of agriculture as the most sound and invariable, though necessarily the most limited.. Without entering into the discussion of the question of the advantage or disadvantage of manufactures, it was sufficient to call to recollection that this was a subject on which the country had no longer a choice. Commerce and manufactures had made the country what it was, and by them alone could it be maintained in the rank to which it had been raised. No axiom was more true than this-that it was by growing what the territory of a country could grow most cheaply, and by receiving from other countries what it could not produce except at a greater expense, that the greatest degree of happiness was to be communicated to the greatest extent of population. No man could anticipate the loss of foreign commerce without at the same time contemplating a reduction of the population of the country in a way which would produce the most deplorable distress.