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APPLICATION OF THE WHOLE ARGUMENT TO THE CONDITION OF THE BRITISH EMPIRE.
THE PRESENT 8TATE IS THE RESULT OF A LONG CONTINUANCE OF BAD LAWS, AND NOT THE EFFECT OF TEMPORARY DERANGEMENT OF TRADE AND FINANCE.—THE GREAT QUESTIONS AT ISSUE.
For three hundred and fifty years the sovereignty of these Islands has been successively exercised by the Tudors, the Stuarts, the Oranges, and the Guelphs; and it is to be ardently hoped by every lover of his country, that the People, the Sovereign, and the Aristocracy will, in their respective spheres of action, be guided by those great lessons which the history of nations, above all, which the history of their own nation, affords.
Each and all of these parties will require to prepare themselves for great changes in the circumstances of this country, and in the balance of its interests. The country will only deceive itself, and be eventually thrown into still greater confusion, if a belief be fostered that the derangement of affairs in every department of business and finance, which has existed for several years past, is merely of a temporary nature, and that the country only waits for a revival of trade and the opening of foreign markets, to recover its energies.
Unfortunately, many circumstances have united within the short space of three years, to produce a stagnation and derangement of trade in most of the main branches of the manufactures of the country: and as these are well known to every person connected with business, and are even obvious to superficial observers, people may imagine that these causes of distress will soon pass away, and matters resume their wonted activity. As soon as the partial cause of any particular distress shall be removed, it naturally may be expected that the distress will disappear at the same time. But the grand cause of the general distress is neither partial nor temporary. Palliative measures will only be like oil thrown on the heaving surges of the troubled ocean.
There is another delusion, which it will be well for the people to get quit of at this critical juncture of their affairs, and that is, the delusion of party politics, and the trusting to this administration, or the other administration, as the saviour of the country. The abuse of party and the vulgar recrimination between statesmen and public men, in and out of parliament, are thrown out merely to divert attention from the main objects of personal interest, contemplated by the fortunate adventurer of the day; or to conceal from the public a secret understanding which may exist between the individuals who have retired from office, and those who have entered into it. Such have been the disclosures made of dereliction of principle by men of high rank and influence in the country, and such is the debasing effect of power on their character, that a person may believe anything of them in the present day. Among the mixed motives which sway the minds of two political men, a person may imagine that the desire to promote a relative to the bench in India, or to advance another to a diplomatic office, may stimulate the one to plot the ruin of an adminis
tration, or the other to expose his country to danger in its foreign interests.
The indecent haste with which appointments to lucrative offices are made in favour of needy dependents of the minister, confirms this view of the moving springs of political changes. There is now an example of rapacity displayed on every change of government, sufficient to corrupt a whole people: and the shameless profligacy of one administration is unblushingly held forth by an organ of the party, as a precedent for the succeeding one, as will be perceived in such remarks as the following:—They (the Whigs) "remained in place until they had multiplied precedents against themselves on points of prerogative, expenditure, inefficiency, and corrupt abuse of power and patronage, which must for ever shut their mouths as an opposition, whatever may be the fancied irregularities of any other government"*
Such is the nature of the advocacy of a corrupt system of government for an enlightened people. The description is a correct one, of the irresponsible administrations which have existed one after the other, for the last hundred years in this country, The people have never been really represented in any of those administrations; and the two sections into which the dominant party is divided, have, in their exactions from the people, differed only in degree. These factions, that run the race of reckless expenditure, and for "the corrupt abuse of power and patronage," are the progeny of a system, which contains in itself the principles that rouse a nation to reform itself—those principles of cupidity which are employed by the Ruler of all society, to stimulate a nation to free itself from fiscal bondage.
* Article on " the Prospects under the Peel Administration," in Blackwood's Magazine, for October 1841.
Calmly reviewing the history of nations that have passed through great revolutions, and comparing the state of their circumstances previous to the break-up of society, with the present condition of Great Britain in all its relations, the impression is forced on the mind, that a great change will inevitably take place in this country. The prospect in one sense is appalling, as the imagination at first throws dark colours on the picture; but as the genius of the British population is sedate, and their temperament cool, there need be little apprehension of violent outbreak, or extreme measures, either personal or proprietary. But, in straining the vision into futurity, the cheering reflection arises, that all the great organic changes which have taken place in this nation, have resulted in a greater degree of comfort and happiness to the mass of the people, and consequently the national power and prosperity have been increased. A revolution, in the ordinary sense of the term, is a change carried round and completed.
Men's minds ought to be prepared and made up on this great question, and the real matter at issue ought to be clearly defined and perfectly understood. The characteristic of all the changes and revolutions in this country, has been one of practical every-day business.— A matterof-fact character is stamped on all the great events recorded in the history of the country. Order, silence, and earnestness in all public transactions, are observed wherever and whenever the objects are really worth the trouble and danger to be expended or encountered.
In oratorical assemblies, there are occasionally some noise and confusion, and of course a little personal heat; but from the House of Commons, during some great party question, such as a vote on the pension list—down to a vestry meeting, to levy a church-rate on Dissenters—there are no flourishes attempted by the speakers on the honour and glory of the subject —but the questions are discussed on plausible grounds, showing how much religion is concerned in the one case; and in the other, how the credit of the government would suffer, and the delicacy of some dowagerpensioner be wounded, by inquiring into the date and motive of some snug allowance enjoyed perhaps in a suite of royal apartments, occasionally let by the pensioner at so many hundred pounds a year. In out-door meetings of the people, and at any great national or municipal spectacle, there is little excitability perceived; order and calmness prevail, and there is scarcely any circumstance that can be imagined, that would unbend the limbs of a vast multitude of British men, and cause them to whirl round in the mazes of the dance, like what took place in Paris, during the imposing ceremony of swearing to the constitution in 1790, and during the solemnity of the funeral procession of Napoleon, in the winter of 1840.* This difference in the
* " The national guard, during the hours which preceded the arrival of the procession, amused the spectators 'd'une danse rondo,' and with a thousand whimsical and playful evolutions, highly expressive of that gaiety which distinguishes the French character. I believe, none but Frenchmen would have diverted themselves, and half a million of people, who were waiting in expectation of a scene the most solemn upon record, by circles of ten thousand men galloping ' en danse rondo.' . , . In an instant every sword was drawn, and every arm lifted up. The King pronounced the oath, which the President of the National Assembly repeated, and the solemn words were re-echoed by 600,000 voices, while the Queen raised the Dauphin in her arms showing him to the people and the army." — Letters of Helen Maria Williams, 1790.
The weather in Paris, in December, 1840, was excessively cold, and the immense crowds of troops and civilians, while waiting for the grand funeral procession of Napoleon, began by stamping their feet to keep themselves warm, and ended by innumerable parties of waltzers and dancers. Napoleon himself truly said, that there was only "one step between the sublime and the ridiculous."