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Commons, courts of justice, laws, customs, and usages of the country; when he was asserting that the existence of all these hung upon the credit and durability of a paper-money, which he himself has a hundred times asserted to be in a state of rapid depreciation; that is to say, rapidly tending towards destruction; when he was making this assertion, he should not have contented himself; he should not have thought that he had done his duty until he had produced something, at least, in its support.
For my part, I think better of the Government of England. In spite of all that has been done for the last thirty years, I am persuaded that there is still good stuff enough in this form of government to prevent its resting for support solely upon a paper-money; and I love to indulge this opinion, because I see the paper-money tending to total annihilation. If we consult experience, we find, that the fall of a paper-system is not necessarily followed by the destruction of a constitution of government, This writer has in his eye the example of France; but why lose sight, at the same time, of the example of America ? The latter presented itself with full as much prominence as the former, and, I should have thought it much more applicable to our case. The destruction of a paper-money, by which a certain system of rule has long been supported, will naturally and inevitably produce a great change in that system. It will, in most cases, cause power, in some degree, to change hands; but, it does not necessarily produce a destruction of the form of government, as we see in the experience of America, and more recently in the experience of Austria. .And in no case, that I have ever heard of, has it tended to produce a military despotism, cr to put into the hands of any government more power than it had before. It is not in the nature of things that the destruction of the paper-money in England should prove injurious to the real constitution of England. That constitution existed, kings reigned, freely chosen parliaments taxed the people, and justice was administered in mercy long before a paper-money was heard or thought of; and, I am yet to hear reasoning, before I shall believe, that these cannot be hereafter without the existence of a paper. money.
The assertion is again made by this writer, too, that the transfer of the whole government of India from the hands of the Company to the hands of the Ministers, would be ruinous to the conslitutron.' It is very difficult to determine, or even to guess at, what the Morning Chronicle means by the constitution ; but one may ask him, what new power it would give to the Ministers that could be injurious to us ? Could it give them greater power of taxing us ? After all, that is the principal point. Could it, I say, place our purses more completely at their command? If it could, then, indeed, I should say, that there was danger to us in the proposed measure ; but, as long as I do not perceive, and cannot perceive, that that would be the case, I shall feel no alarm at the army and revenue of India being taken out of the hands of the Company.
But, what idle talk is this, about the danger to be apprehended from this new source of ministerial influence? What influence can a minister want more than that which he now possesses ? He has now the distribution of nearly one hundred millions sterling, annually; he has an army of two hundred thousand men, including foreign troops; he has a thousand ships of war; and the tax-gatherers receive as their pay for collecting the taxes several millions sterling every year. There is not a parish where he has not several persons in his pay as tax-gatherers, under one denomination or another; and, besides, is not the East India Company itself a body as much under his influence, and as powerful an instrument in bis hands, as India itself could become in consequence of the proposed transfer ? Can the Editor of the Morning Chronicle cite me an instance, when the East India Company, or when any individual East India Director, has appeared in opposition to the ministry of the day? I can recollect no such instance. On the contrary, I have always observed, that, let who would be minister, he was sure of the support of that body. Therefore, I am not to be made to believe, that the political liberties of the country can possibly be endangered by the minister's possessing, with some degree of responsibility attached to it, all that influence, which he before possessed without even the show of responsibility.
We now come to a consideration of the arguments, if such they may be called, in support of that opposition which the city of London, in its corporate capacity, is making to the intended measure of the opening the trade to India. And here, it is to be observed, that this opposition stands upon a different ground from that on which the opposition of the Company rests.
The latter dreads the loss of its monopoly; the former the loss of the advantages, as they are thought, from the importation of India goods being confined, as it now is, to the port of London. The latter would care but little about the extension of the importation to the outports; and the former would not care a pin for the opening of the trade io individual merchants, provided all the goods were still to be brought into the port of London, and, provided all the establishments arising out of the commerce of India, were still to remain in London.
Mr. Alderman Birch, in the debate before referred to, is reported to have said that,
“Millions had been expended by the Company on warehouses and other import“ ant concerns, and the seat of their Government was in the City of London. To “ borrow a figure from the East, the Company are to the City like the great Ban
yan tree, whose branches descended and took fresh roots, and which flourished " again till it formed of itself a species of forest, full of bloom, and verdure, and “ fruit, under which thousands took shelter and sustenance. Now, it was proposed “ to lay the axe almost to the root, or to plant new shoots that would wither as “ soon as they came up from the earth. (Hear.) Extend the trade, and they would " weaken it. In practice it was prosperity : in theory, it would he ruin. Expe“rience was against experiment. Look at our proud river, with its immense “ forests of masts floating on its bosom, its innumerable vessels fraught with the “ merchandise of the globe: go down to the extent of the City's jurisdiction, and “ hear the gladdening echoes of cheerful labour resounding from shore to shore; " and then ask the question, how much of this prosperity is owing, - how many " of these labourers earn their bread from the East India Company? (Hear, hear.) “ Was that proud river to be stripped of the ancient ensigns of her dignity? Were
they ready, step by step, to make it flow at Wapping, as clearly, and unencum. “bered, as it did at Westminster? Let them stop in limine all attempts against
the prosperity of London. (Hear.) Charters were most important; and every " attempt to disturb them should be viewed with jealousy. The renewals of the “ East India Charter only strengthened the arguments on which they stood. All “ the Indian commerce centred in London, and it was its interest and duty to keep it there."
Mr. Birch seems to be a stout stickler for charters; but what does he say to Magna Charta ? I think I could point out instances, wherein that gentleman has been one of the loudest advocates of measures by which that charter was violated. I have never known any resolution proposed in the Court of Common Council complaining of a violation of the people's rights, which was not opposed by Mr. Alderman Birch, who
iš now 80 zealous an advocate for the rights of the East India Company. It is astonishing to me that a man of sense, as Mr. Birch is, and a man of good manners too, should be able to muster vp resolution enough to speak of the proposed measure as a violation of a charter; and, though I have before dwelt upon the point, I cannot help again observing on the perversion of words resorted to upon this occasion. What is this Charter ? It is a bargain, made between the nation and the Company, and the terms of the bargain are to be found in an Act of Parliament passed in the 33rd year of the present King's reign. According to that bargain, the Company were, upon certain conditions, to have a monopoly of the India trade, and to have the sovereignty of the colony, for tuenty years. As I have shown before, the Company has not fulfilled its part of the bargain, it has paid only a twentieth part of what it was bound to pay as the price of the monopoly, and of the advantages of the sovereignty. But, if it had punetually fulfilled its covenants, the term of the bargain is expired, or about to expire. The twenty years are at an end ; and shall the nation, because it refuses to renew the bargain, because it refuses to grant the monopoly, and to yield the sovereignty of its colony again ; shall it for this cause be accused of violating a charter? I am surprised that a man of sense should thus resort to a sounding word, for the sake of supplying the place of fact and argument.
But, we are told by Mr. Birch, in fine figurative language, that the Company is to the City like the great Banyan-tree. Mr. Birch was not aware, perhaps, that figures of rhetoric should be cautiously used. The Banyan-tree may, for aught I know, be possessed of the qualities that he describes. Its branches, like those of the laurel and thousands of other shrubs and trees, may descend to the earth, take fresh root, and send up fresh trunks towards the skies. But, with the leave of Mr. Alderman Birch, he is labouring to prevent this species of propagation ; for he is endeavouring to confine the tree of which he is speaking to the port of London ; whereas the ministers are for extending its branches to the out-ports, and, of course, for enlarging its capacity for affording shelter and sustenance. After his figure of the Banyan-tree, the gentleman was extremely unfortunate in asserting that the irade would be weakened by its extension !
After all, however, after all the talk about the Banyan-tree, and the proud river Thames, and the gladdening echoes of cheerful labour; after all this talk, the opposition is, in plain English, founded upon this, that the measure proposed by the ministers will take part of the trade from the port of London and distribute it amongst the out-ports ; that it will lessen the quantity of money expended in London ; that it will diminish its population, and that, of course, it will draw something away from the gains of the owners of land and houses in London, and generally from persons keeping shops, public-houses, and otherwise engaged in trade.
That all this is true, I allow ; but, so far am I from regarding this as an evil, I have no hesitation in saying, that I look upon it as an unquali. fied good. I should have no wish to lessen the value of real property and of trade in the city of London, were it not from the consideration, that what ever is in this way taken from that City, must go to other ports of the kingdom. But, with respect to a lessening of the population of London, that is a positive good. There is no man, I am persuaded, who has reflected upon the matier, who does not lament the enormous increase of that metropolis, which has already drawn to itself so large a part of the means of the whole kingdom. The "gladdening echoes of cheerful labour,” if such there be in the filthy stews of Wapping, are not more gladdening than they would be at Liverpool, at Glasgow, or at Dublin. Poets have written more beautifully than Mr. Birch can speak about the river Thames ; but, in the eye of a statesman, such descriptions are of no consequence. In his eye, the Thames has no more pretensions to pride than any other river or stream in the kingdom, while he must be well convinced, that to make all the trade of the country centre in one port, is to prevent emulation, and, in fact, to contract the sphere of national exertion.
Mr. Birch speaks of the persons who earn their bread from the East India Company, as if they would be thrown out of employ and starved, if the monopoly were put an end to, and especially if the trade were di. vided amongst the out-ports. But, is it possible that Mr. Birch does not perceive, that the trade would still be carried on by other persons than the Company, and that it would still give employment to as many persons as it now.employs? If not employed in London, these persons would be employed elsewhere; and if Mr. Birch will point me out a spot in the whole globe, where they could be employed with less chances of health and more chances of vice, than on the banks of the Thames, below Lon. don-bridge, I will at once, waving all other considerations, give up the argument.
There is, it seems, a body of persons called the shipping interest in the port of London, who join in this opposition. And I should be glad to know from these gentlemen, upon what it is, that they found their claim to a monopoly of the advantages of the trade to and from India.
Do not the whole kingdom pay the taxes which are expended in the maintenance of the colonies in the East. Why should the counties of Lancaster, Somerset, or any other, be shut out any more than the county of Middlesex? In short, the grounds of this opposition appear to me to be so flagrantly unjust, that I will not believe anything further to be necessary to expose them to public indignation.
Before I conclude, however, there is one reason, and that of great weight, which I shall state for my approbation of the proposed measure, or of any measure, the tendency of which is, to diminish the influence of the East India Company, and, indeed, to break up that body. And this reason is, that such a measure will have a powerful tendency to destroy political corruption in the city of London and in the county of Middlesex. That Company has long been a powerful phalanx in opposition to the voice of public liberty. At all elections, whether for the city or the county, that Company, with its numerous dependants at its heels, have had a monstrous influence, and that influence has always been exerted to the utmost against the rights of the people. If we look back to the causes of this war, we shall find the East India Company acting a prominent part. The East India House and the Bank have been amongst the for. wardest in support of all those measures which led to the enormous taxes now weighing us to the earth; and, who can have failed to be filled with disgust at seeing it stated, in the documents and speeches of the opponents of the present measure, that its adoption would tend to introduce light and liberty into the enslaved countries under their sway ?
I am not certain, nor do I flatter myself, that it is intended to change the interior system of government of India; but, of this I am very sure, that it cannot be intended to establish there any system of government more hateful to me than that which now exists there under the Company. What do they mean when they express their alarm, lest an additional number of Europeans should find their way to India? What sort of government must that be, which feels uneasiness at the prospect of seeing its acts subjected to the observation of well-informed men ? What sort of government must that be, which dreads the approach of men accustomed to ideas of law and liberty ? And I put it as a question to all those who have any pretensions to thinking, whether they think that the treasure and the blood of Englishmen ought to be expended in maintaining the possession of a colony, the mode of governing which will not bear the inspection of freemen, and trembles at the thought of a free communication with the natives of England? Whether this government will be put an end to, I know not; but that it may be, is the sincere wish of
WM. COBBETT. Botley, 3rd February, 1813.
TO JA MES PAUL, of Bursledon, in Lower Dublin Township, in Philadelphia County,
in the State of Pennsylvania ;
MATTERS RELATING TO HER ROYAL HIGHNESS THE
PRINCESS OF WALES.
(Political Register, February, 1813.)
LETTER I. MY DEAR FRIEND, The excellent effect which attended my letter to you, has made me resolve to discuss the present subject in the form of letters to you ; a form, which, for various reasons, I have a great liking to, and which has always this strong recommendation, that it affords me an opportunity of proving to you that your friendship and that of your brother and children is always alive in my recollection. At this time, however, another motive has had some weight with me. I understand, that our Goveroment has issued orders for causing all letters for your country to pass through its hands, or, which is the same thing, the hands of its agents ; and, as I am resolved, that they shall never have the fingering of a letter of mine to America, I will put what I have to say into print, and then it can no more be impeded in its progress than can the clouds, or the rays of the sun.
In the case above alluded to, my letter did, I understand, settle all men's minds at once, as far as it went; and, as it was re-published in America, it gives me great satisfaction to reflect on the extent of its influence. Nor was it without its uses here, where the people, at a distance from London, must, of course, know almost as little about the local circumstances of the case as the people in Pennsylvania themselves. Indeed