Page images
PDF
EPUB

legitimacy is everywhere triumphant. · Such an excess of force is not only uncalled for and unnecessary, and in the highest degree unconstitutional, but is altogether incommensurate with the means of the country.' A rigid economy is in every government the first of virtues; and in ours, it is also the most 'pressing of duties. , : In addition to the retrenchments which might be effected, not in the military only, but in every other branch of the public expenditure, it cannot be doubted that a very great reduce tion of the duties affecting various commodities might be made, without occasioning any diminution of the revenue. When the Teal price, or the cost of production, of any commodity, is so great that it can only be purchased by the rich and wealthy classes, no reduction of duties could greatly extend its consumption. But it is otherwise with those commodities whose prime cost does not exceed the power of the great body of the people to become purchasers, and which are, besides, in very great request. In such circumstances, a reduction of any heavy duty by which they may be burdened, would prodigiously .extend their consumption; and, without diminishing the revenue, would add to the comforts and enjoyments of all.

These conclusions do not rest on theory only. Previous to *1744, the East India Company's sales of Teas amounted to no more than about 600,000 pounds weight annually; producing a revenue of about 140,0001. In the early part of 1745, an act was passed, by which the lea-duties were very greatly reduced ; and, in 1746, the sales amounted to nearly two millions of pounds weight, and the revenue to 228,0001.. But this unanswerable demonstration, of the superior advantages resulting to the revenue itself from low duties, was unable to restrain the rapacity of the Treasury. In 1748 the duties were again increased; and fluctuated between that epoch and 1784, from 64 to 119 per cent. In the last mentioned year, however, the Government, having in vain tried every other means to prevent the smuggling and adulteration of tea, reduced the duty from 119 to 121 per cent.: And the revenue, instead of falling off in the proportion of one to ten, owing to the increased consumption, only declined in the proportion of one to three. The shortsightedness of ministers, and the narrow and contracted policy on which they have almost always acted, put it out of our power to refer to many such conclusive instances to prove the superior productiveness of diminished taxation: there are, however, one or two others which deserve to be pointed out. In 1787, the duty on wine and spirits was lowered 50 per cent. ; but the rei enue was, notwithstanding, considerably augmented. The a

verage annual produce of the tax on coffee, for the three years previous to 1808, amounted to 166,0001. In the course of that year, the duty was reduced from 2s. to 7d. the cwt.; and the average annual produce of the reduced duty for the next three years, instead of being diminished, rose to 195,0001.! showing that the consumption had been increased in a quadruple proportion, and that the comforts of the people had been mates rially increased.

It is plain, therefore, that a very considerable deduction might be made from some of the most oppressive duties, without occasioning any diminution of the revenue. Nor do we think that it is too much to expect that, although 50 per cent. were de ducted from the duties on salt, tea, leather, soap, 'spirits, beer, French wines, &c., the revenue, instead of being diminished, would be increased. This, however, is a matter of very inferior importance. Whether these anticipations should be realized or not, it is indispensable that Taxation should be diminished. Instead of attempting to raise the revenue to the level of our present unmeasured expenditure, we must reduce our ex penditure to the altered circumstances of the country, and make it quadrate with our diminished income. Subsidiary measures for facilitating and encouraging emigration, and for giving every possible freedom to the circulation of labour, might also be advantageously adopted. But it is only from a Reduction of Taxation, and a total Repeal of our barbarous Restraints on the Trade in Corn, that we are to expect adequate and effectual relief. Neither should it be forgotten, that we have now reached a period when it is no longer possible to commit faults with im. punity; and, that the longer the work of retrenchment is de layed, the more difficult it will be to restore prosperity to the country.

1819mittee be appoinicularly, into thistricts, and

Art. X, 1. Substance of the Speech of the Right Honourable

Lord GRENVILLE in the House of Lords, November 30th, : 1819, on the Marquis of Lansdowne's Motion, That a Select

Committee be appointed to inquire into the State of the Country, and, more particularly, into the Distresses and Discontents prevalent in the Manufacturing Districts, and the Execution of the Laws with respect to the numerous Meetings which have

taken place. pp. 62. Murray, London. '1820. 2. The Substance of the Speech of the Right Honourable W. C.

PLUNKET in the House of Commons, on Tuesday, 238 November, 1819. pp. 24. Bancks, Manchester. . 1819. These two Speeches have been, for various reasons, and with

very different views, extremely praised, both within and

without the walls of the illustrious Assemblies where they were delivered. Lord Grenville's authority is deservedly high, from his great experience of public affairs, long official life, intercourse with many parties in the State, commanding, statesman. like talents, indefatigable industry, great information, and unimpeached integrity. Mr Plunket's reputation as an orator stands justly among the most exalted of the age; and as he rarely takes part in debates, and hardly ever except upon ques. tions connected with Ireland, the fame of his eloquence has been better preserved than that of almost any speaker in Parliament. To obtain the sanction and the active cooperation of two such persons, on any question, was of great importance to the rash but feeble placemen who now rule this country: But infinitely more valuable was this piece of good fortune, upon an occasion when every friend of Liberty-every man whose judgment was neither warped by ambition, or the less noble failing of impatience for promotion, or bewildered by a momentary alarm, was certain to be found in ardent opposition to the pernicious and slavish policy of the Court. The liberal and enlightened views which have hitherto directed both the emi.. nent individuals in question, and their avowed connexion, both in the sunshine of Court favour, and in the less cheering shades of retirement from office, with the great body of the Whig opposition, rendered their unfortunate concurrence in the measures of the Government a consummation, perhaps more devoutly to be wished, than readily to be expected. Unhappily for the country, and, we will add, for the future fame of those distinguished personages themselves, this rare felicity was in store for the Ministers, among many other pieces of good fortune not to be expected in the ordinary course of events : The admi. nistration which had subdued France, and sent Buonaparte to St Helena, was destined, before its close, to invade the most sacred parts of the Bill of Rights, and begin a censorship of the English Press; and the Cabinet of Messrs Addington and Bragge Bathurst, and Jenkinson and Pole, after marching to Paris, where Mr Pitt and Mr Fox could only send a spy or a fag of truce, have likewise achieved the glory of frighting two of their stoutest and most contemptuous adversaries, at home, into an alliance for the alteration of that Constitution which had survived all the corruptions of the last age, and the violence and delusions and panics of our own disastrous times. 5 · Thus happy in their new confederates, like skilful generals, these placemen turned their forces to the best account, by crying up their value in the most extravagant terms. Lord Grenville's name and weight in the country were perpetually in their

mouths; he was become the chosen champion of the established order of things-the great saviour of the Constitution in Church and State-he who, a few short years before, had been held up, almost as a mark for persecution, certainly as the object for hatred and alarm to every one who regarded the safety of the Hierarchy, and the good of the Protestant religion. Mr Plunket, so lately denounced as a firebrand, and half suspected of being within the statutes of Premunire for Popish connexions, suddenly became the very oracle to whose decisions, hoth in policy and law, a final appeal might be made at every stage of the discussion. Men must have something specifick to which they can recur themselves, and refer their followers, in the fervoar of general admiration. Accordingly, it suited the purposes of the Government to erect the two Speeches now before us into their authorities and models throughout the argument. Whatever might be urged on the other side, received a short and easy answer— Look to the unanswerable Speech of the Noble Baron,' sang the Ministers in the one House. • The excellent, the decisive statement of the member for Dublin College,' responded their colleagues in the other.

Far removed as we are from the scenes of those exalted contentions, and reduced to take our information all in by the trusty eye alone, we confess that if we durst so far adventure an ignorant provincial opinion, we should be disposed to marvel at the fame which these two orations have acquired, had we vot adverted to the causes of the praise so lavishly bestowed upon them. Nor can we admit the known effects of misreporting to be any solution of the difficulty. Lord Grenville himself publishes his speech. Mr Plunket's, though apparenta ly not corrected by his own hand, is nevertheless admitted to be given with great accuracy. Neither can it now be urged that the most perfect report, one which should convey to us every word as it was spoken, would give an unfavourable view of the effect of oral eloquence, on the ground that, to use Mr Fox's just and admirable remark, speeches are made to be spoken, and not to be read : For, admitting the entire truth of this important saying, it is equally true, that a skilful report of a great speech produces a composition full of high beauties, though not of the highest, and certainly not of the same kind with the merits of spoken oratory. And accordingly, we can admire most cordially those inimitable specimens of masculine, chaste, epigrammatic, vehement eloquence, which Mr Plunket's speeches on the Catholic question present to us, as given in the Parliamentary Debates for 1807 and 1813; and the manly, argumentative, and learned orations of Lord Grenville, upon the same subject, in the same valuable repository of civil history. But, compared with those productions, the pamphlets now before us are poor, and degenerate indeed. Lord Grenville's has none of his close reasoning, his large and liberal views of policy, his honest zeal for suffering humanity, his patriotic resistance to slavish principles, his bold, uncompromising contempt for base and cour. tierlike devices: While Mr Plunket's presents ús only with such a plausible argument as some scores of barristers, in either end of the island, could make from a brief upon the late tuinults; and is peculiarly defective in the point for which its value was most loudly magnified, a clear or definite statement of the legal views of the subject.

We trust that the great names of these two statesmen will be our excuse, for dwelling somewhat longer upon the matter of their Speeches, and taking notice of a few particulars in each of them, as specimens of the deficiencies of which we have been so bardy as to complain, notwithstanding the chorus of applause with which they are said to have been received by their admiring hearers, reechoed, or perhaps begun, by those whose interest it was to hold them up to admiration. We should premise, that the disappointment is considerably greater in the case of Mr Plunket's than in Lord Grenville's. :

That Noble person certainly delivers himself with his accustomed force. Strongly impressed with the truth of what he is stating, his language bears the impress of sincere convictionof conveying the sentiments that come from his heart; and this faithful transcript of cordial feeling, when it proceeds from a man of strong mind, always must produce a high degree of eloquence.- Pectus est quod disertum facit.' (QUINTIL.) But, unhappily, he labours, throughout the whole speech, under the influence of a theory, not to say a panic, which seems wholly to paralyze the natural strength of his understanding. He has fancied that the whole frame of society is about to perish by. some moral phrensy of the people, or a large portion of the people; and though he thinks that it may survive the struggle, yet he considers the damage it must undergo in the conflict, to be such as make it likely that a wreck only will be saved. Through so distorting a medium he views every part of the subject, and all that bears any relation to it. Truths which on every other occasion he would have admitted as self-evident, he now overlooks, or passes by as doubtful, or recoils from as perilous. Evils in our system of polity, which his profound knowledge of economics must long ago bave taught him to regard as incalculably ruinous to the State, he underrates, or palLates, or is willing to bear with, in the dread of encountering

« PreviousContinue »