« ForrigeFortsett »
The pamphlet to which the present is a reply, was generally understood to be published under the immediate auspices of government ; and the number of editions it passed through, to satisfy public curiosity, on this very ground, authorized this belief, which was further confirmed by its never having been contradicted by the ministerial press.
Its preface being a technical explanation of its contents, the writer of the present remarks upon it, which must relate precisely to the same objects, sees reason to adopt for the most part as his own, putting the extracts between inverted commas, with certain alterations and additions, which will of course vary the sense occasionally. The liberty we have taken in this respect will enable the reader to understand the substance and connection of the fol. lowing pages, though he may not have the original work before him.
These are therefore observations on what has been exhibited as a general view « of the state of public affairs, from the period of the late treaties to the commencement of the year 1822.
“The circumstances which compose this review had not before been produced to the public with sufficient fulness and distinct. ness. If some of the matters have been touched upon, and even discussed in parliament, in answer to the observations of the opponents of his Majesty's ministers, or otherwise, they have been discussed only as single measures, and without any reference to their coherence with the system of administration of which they form a part.”
« The ministers of a free and high-minded country cannot be without a due feeling of the value of public character. They know that in public station, still more than in private life, a good name is connected with the due and effective performance of duties; that character is influence, and that influence is power; and that power from influence will extend its operation, where power from law and authority cannot reach; and that the good will of the people towards government has in all ages proved the readiest means of an effective administration. Under these considerations, his Majesty's ministers for themselves, and their friends for them, must
naturally desire to stand well in public opinion. They desire it for themselves, and they ought to desire it for the country.”
« For themselves, they seek public confidence by” studiously, though vainly, endeavouring to make it appear, that they have exercised “a conscientious and effective discharge of their duties ;" and if they had not failed altogether in their proofs, they must have desired, and « desired most anxiously, that a general feeling of the public good, and a general persuasion that the government is industriously
occupied in pursuing it, might excite such a spirit of concurrent effort between the people and their governors, as to give manners the effect and authority of laws; and might bring into disuse any statutes, if such there be, required, in more turbulent times, to repress public disorders."
Our business is to achieve a very temperate examination of the variety of facts and falsities, which enter into what they call this « statement and review."
“ According to the form which the administration of the British Empire has long assumed, the public business has for a considerable period of years distributed itself into the four main departments of finance, the foreign affairs, home department, and the colonies. Under the first of these departments, that of finance, the first lord of the treasury and the chancellor of the exchequer have it in charge to provide for the maintenance and due distribution of the public revenue, and for the integrity of all those sources of navigation, commerce, manufactures, internal trade and industry, from which such revenue must be derived ; and finally, in cooperation with the other boards appointed for this special purpose, they have to provide for the naval and military defence of the empire, and the maintenance of the docks, arsenals, ordnance, &c. in all the means and materials of future operation.'
« To the home department belong the maintenance and supervision of the public peace, and the due execution of the laws for the support of external order and tranquillity; whilst the departments of foreign affairs and the colonies embrace, according to their denominations, our relations with foreign states and our own colonies. Following the order of these departments,” they proposed to themselves “to produce and explain to the public, in a general and succinct view, the former and actual condition of each.”
And our examination into this their work will probably show the few difficulties his Majesty's ministers had to encounter, aided by the general spirit of the country; and how much less, even according to their own account, they have accomplished than they desire to make the unwary believe. Hence, they have shamefully neglected to conciliate the due maintenance of the revenue in all its sources, with the due alleviation of the public burdens. How
they have maintained the public peace," with too much cost to public liberty," and under what system they have administered the foreign relations of the empire."
Our remarks on this review, under the four departments, will necessarily comprehend a general survey of the proceedings of administration, within the whole compass of public business. It will" attempt to " explain” many most important errors, of which they have been guilty (as to millions) as far as they have attempted to enlighten us on the subject, respecting “the state of our finances," compared with our national resources.” We shall examine into their reflections as to " our existing relation with foreign states ;” and, “ as a part of our domestic policy, the general system under which his Majesty's ministers have endeavoured,” much less by discipline than by measures of terror and menace, to restore Ireland to the ordinary administration of law." We shall « show” abundant errors in “ what has been done for our colonies, and for the commercial interests of the empire ;” and subjoin a few observations relating to “ what is now in discussion for the extension of our trade and manufactures, and for simplifying and facilitating mercantile business," or rather for continuing to throw every obstacle in its way.
In the order pursued, a distribution is made of the subject matter, corresponding with that of the author on the state of the nation, treating the several departments separately; and such few observations as we have thought it necessary to make on the appendix, to render the whole more compact, are embodied in the work.
Under the first head, that of finance, though respect is paid to the important article of dates, all that relates to mere figures is comprised in a second chapter ; therefore the one embraces chiefly matters of opinion, the other only matters of fact.
On the whole, if there has been presented to the curiosity of the public, by dabbling in shallow waters, a collection forming a corrupt mass, we pretend only to have employed the arithmetician's art, to reduce it to sterling. Were we tempted to indulge in the liberty of saying another word for ourselves, it would be candidly to avow the feelings of a true John Bull, which will be found to animate us through the piece, that of respect for the laws, but indifference to his Majesty's servants, appointed by a chief set over them, the best paid of any in Europe ; and, presuming on the respect we owe to his exalted station, they will continue (since they take his responsibility upon themselves) no longer to enjoy his confidence than while the people go along with them, unless they become masters. It is well known how much the exercise of such undue authority would be inconvenient in domestic concerns—the thing is, to the full, as simple in the government of states.
FINANCE. The Public will hardly require, that this important division of the subject should be treated in detail, relating chiefly to accounts already laid before parliament, where they have undergone a full discussion in their several parts. It is however necessary to take certain general views, which we shall attempt to bring under consideration,
At the conclusion of the war, his Majesty's ministers seem very paturally to have considered, that “ the amount of the national debt and the pressure of the annual taxation were among the first objects which presented themselves to their notice.” But as an apology for not precipitating relief too suddenly a most unaccountable plea is set up, and an interest pretended to be shown for the condition of the trading part of the community. How this class of his Majesty's subjects, either in whole or in part, could sustain any possible injury by so wholesome a change in the affairs of the nation at large, the author has not attempted to explain ; and it is equally difficult to excuse, or to pardon, such mistaken delicacy precluding the exercise of an imperious duty, unless it shall be satisfactorily proved, that a reduction of annual burdens contracts the circulating capital, or bears some analogy to it,
We are to understand, that the peace of 1792 naturally suggested itself to their consideration as an example to follow ; as they say, that “in all political questions it is not only matter of prudence and policy, but contributes much to the facility of business, to proceed according to some acknowledged rule.” Far from denying, indeed, the truth of this observation, we are at liberty to consider whether they made a prudent choice in this precedent as a rule, and whether they have followed it.
As to loading the country with debt and taxation, can it be denied, that Mr. Pitt surpassed all his predecessors in office, and that he has only been exceeded in these high qualities by the present ministers themselves ? So little moderation has, therefore, been exercised in these latter times, that it required to look far back for an estimate, on which the present peace establishment was to be framed; and, forgetting how loudly economy had been insisted upon by the prayer of the public, while the principle had been admitted even by themselves under an enormous augmentation of debt, a diminution of which was rendered so necessary, they consented to adopt a precedent even within their own memories. So much for the prudence of their choice. Whether they have acted up to the spirit of the laws and regulations they had laid down for themselves let us further examine.
As to what particularly relates to the service of the army, notwithstanding this precedent of 1792 was taken for a basis, certain pretences were found, with how much reason we leave the public to consider, to raise it from 47,000 to 99,000. One exception we readily admit must have increased it some thousands, the provision to be made for new colonies, though this was required to have been done with a very sparing hand. And it is evident, that, under an enlightened government, colonies require generally less and less force for their defence. This the author himself also acknowledges by saying, that the same amount of force would not always be necessary for this service, but that portions might be withdrawn gradually as the colonies became accustomed to the superior administration of British laws."
The increase of population affords a miserable argument for keeping up an establishment; this increase so unfortunately appearing only in examining the registers of the poor ; and should strengthen our efforts towards reduction in every form and kind, since this charge alone bears so heavy on the farming interest, as well as the public.
If, as an excuse for heaping upon us burdens, the loyalty and patriotism of the great body can be called in question, God is a witness that no reflection can be less merited. “In the peculiar form, which the press of this day has already assumed,” they say, "a new force is given to public passions ;” but had the author seen the subject in an indulgent light, he would have expressed himself more justly, that a new force is given to the powers of reason, among even the lowest orders, which places them under better control than an army, or even the laws. None of these