ページの画像
PDF
ePub

eight pounds a-year, paid a farthing a. nary taxes put together, and concludes, week, or a shilling per annum, on every " we never had a better navy, but the pound. The amount was doubled to wisdom of the managers thereof is those who received from eight to six- like a bottomless pit." There are alteen pounds. Those who had not so insinuations about the influence of four pounds a-year, provided they did French gold, though they do not seem not receive alms, had at least a penny brought home directly to the ministry. a-week wrung out of them. So much These strictures appeared so daring, for the lost golden days of Old Eng. that the Attorney-General prefaces laod.

them by observing, “ It will appear Of all the bulwarks of the British that he has taken the greatest liberty, constitution, the liberty of the press I believe, that ever man took.” He has ever been justly accounted the su- then broadly lays down the law, that rest; and it is not unusual, amid its " there can be no reflection on them most licentious exercise, to deplore it that are in office under her majesty, as no longer existing. We believe, but must cast some reflection on the however, it will be found that this right queen who employs them;" and the has, since the Revolution, been not only Chief Justice follows up this maxim by greatly improved, but almost entirely observing, “ If people should not be created. In 1692, it appears the House called to account for possessing the of Commons passed an act continuing people with an ill opinion of the gothe censorship which had been imposed vernment, no government can subsist. in the reign of Charles II.;* so that Nothing can be worse for any governat the precise era of the Revolution, nor ment, than to endeavour to procure for some time after, did there exist even animosities as to the management of it; the vestige of a free press. The cen- this has been always looked upon as a sorship was taken off, probably in crime, and no government can be safe the reign of William, though we have without it is punished.” These maxnot ascertained the precise period ; but ims are not denied by Mr Montague, the prosecution of Tutchins in 1704, as the counsel for the pannel, nor does he reported at length in the State Trials,t attempt to claim for Britons the right may afford a specimen of the ideas then of publishing strictures on the measures prevalent on the subject of political dis- of administration. He merely contends cussion. The series of libels for which that there is no individual pointed at ; this person was indicted, are in a very and rests particularly on a most miser, moderate strain indeed, compared to able subterfuge, that navy signifies those which we see daily issuing from merely any collection whatever of ships the press with impunity. He com- and may apply to a mercantile as well plains that preferment is bestowed by as to the royal navy. Similar language interest and favour, rather than merit; and doctrine will be found in the con, that the revenue is seriously injured by duct of the prosecutions for libel, after. the choice of unfit persons to collect it; wards instituted by the Whig admiabove all, that naval commands are be. nistration, during the decline of their stowed on persons wholly unable to ex. power. About the same time also, ercise them. He insists that the mis- most severe measures were taken by management of the navy is a greater the House of Commons, against any tax upon the nation than all the ordi- criticism upon their proceedings. In

[blocks in formation]

1701, they voted, that " to print or portion of the income of the higher publish any book, or libels, reflecting and middling orders is thus transferred upon the proceedings of the House of from those by whom it is earned or inCommons, or any member thereof, for herited, to the creditors or servants of or relating to his service therein, is a the state. By the labouring classes, on high violation of the rights and privi- whose account the lamentation is espeleges of the House of Commons. cially made, we do not believe it is much

Among the benefits of a free press, felt. The income of the nation conperhaps the most solid and valuable tinues the same, though in different consists in the full publication of the hands; and the whole being spent in the proceedings and debates in parliament. one case as in the other, must equally This, however, is a privilege of only reach the class who are supported by recent achievement. The rigidly ex- daily wages, and who, as we have obclusive system originally enforced, is served, scarcely themselves pay any still attested by a standing order, read taxes. As to wars, the people, we apat the opening of every session, which prehend, shew very little knowledge of directs that no stranger shall be ad. themselves when they imagine that an mitted either into the body of the house extension of popular power would dior the galleries ; and that if any have minish their frequency. All history is found entrance, he shall be ejected here against them. If we look back without delay. This order, however, to the ancient republice, so famed for is now read in the face of a large bo- their polity and wisdom, we find, indy of auditors, who remain quietly stead of this boasted prudent and paseated, and not a few of whom are in cific character, nothing but a series of the act of preparing their writing im- war upon war. The great and wealplements for the purpose of record. thy empires, on the contrary, after the ing every thing that is said or done in ambition of their first founders had run the house. The right, however, was its career, often gladly remained at establishedonly gradually; the speeches peace while the cupidity and ambition were first produced (by Dr Johnson in of their neighbours would suffer them. the Gentleman's Magazine,) under fic. The most arbitrary of the English dytitious names ; and it is not, we believe, nasties, that of the Tudors, was paci, quite fifty years ago since the report. fic, and was never engaged in any proing of parliamentary debates has been tracted or extensive war, except the formed into a regular system. obviously indispensible one, occasion.

It cannot be denied, 'that the most ed by the Spanish invasion. James I. plausible theme of the malcontent wri- carried this disposition still farther, ters consists in the enormous amount notwithstanding the many claims made of the national debt, and consequent upon him by the disasters of his soninterminable taxation. The wars, in in-law the Elector Palatine. Although, consequence of which this debt has however, this was entirely his personbeen accumulated, are represented as al concern, he enjoyed, during his reign, undertaken by ministers with the sole not a moment's rest from the nation view of increasing their own patronage demanding to be led into the heart of and the influence of the crown, and Germany, to conquer Bohemia and the thus buying the liberties of the nation Palatinate. Only the nearly absolute with its own money. We cannot tru. power then enjoyed by the sovereign, ly but join in deploring this burden, preserved England from this extravathe most grievous under which any na- gant crusade. Not by its own cla. tion has ever laboured. A vast pro. mour, but through the rash impetuo.

2

sity of Buckingham, the nation at last created with the mere view of increa. got its darling war; and though it pre- sing the crown influence at home. The sented a continued series of disaster, domineering measures which provoked yet the peace with Spain formed one it, had the general acquiescence at least cause, among many better-founded of the nation, with the exception of ones, of Charles's unpopularity. The that part immediately concerned in the foreigo hostilities of Charles II. were American trade. Even the most vio. much less acceptable to the nation, lent steps, and those which most di. whose just indignation was, however, rectly drove the colonies into rebellion excited, not by the king's engaging in the shutting the port of Boston, these hostilities, but by his taking the the disfranchisement of Massachussets, wrong side. The wars of King Wil- &c. were carried in parliament, either liam and Queen Anne were entirely unanimously, or by the most sweeping whig wars, and continued always po- majorities. If it be said, that this was pular till the nation was quite sicken- merely the influence of the ministry ed by the burdens necessary for their bearing down all before it, why, then, support. The same may be said, in a we ask, did the same parliament, a few pre-eminent degree of the Spanish war years after, turn out the same ministry, in 1737. If it be the system to under. fortified by all the patronage of an extake wars with a view to extend mini- tended war-establishment? We come Sterial influence, Sir Robert Walpole, next to the revolutionary war, on which supposed to be the most diligent and dread debateable ground we do not skilful supporter of that system, ought mean much to expatiate. It, too, was to have been the most warlike of mi. certainly in some degree a court, or at nisters. Every one knows, however, least an aristocratic war. It met the that he was the most pacific Britain ever full support of the aristocracy, as teshad; and that he sacrificed all his po- tified by the immense burdens which pularity in delaying to gratify the ea. they cheerfully bore, and the relief ger bent of the nation towards hostili- from which with difficulty reconciled ties. Perhaps, indeed, there were slen. them to the peace of Amiens. The der grounds for them, either in justice renewal of the war in 1803 took place or policy ; but vague hopes of plun- most reluctantly on the part of minider, and Jenkins carrying about, wrapt sters, who had come in entirely upon in cotton, the ear which he alleged the a pacific basis. They were driven inSpaniards had cut off, excited such a to it by the united cries of the nation, tide of passion as drowned all sober re- tory and whig,—the latter more espeflection. Walpole, the slave of power, cially; one main source arising from deemed it needful at last to sail with the vehement quarrel maintained bethe stream; but the war thus reluctant- tween Buonaparte and the English ly undertaken, instead of strengthen- newspapers. The ministry sought in ing his influence according to the mo- vain, by gratifying the people, to redero theory, soon created a parliament- tain their places, from which they were ary majority, which drove him from soon after driven. Here, by the way, office. The war of 1756 was entirely we may observe, that each of the three popular, and the peace made by the instances in which an entire ministry crown contrary to the inclination of was removed by the interference of parthe people. T'he American war had liament, took place in the midst of a doubtless a court object ; but no one, great war, and solely in consequence of we presume, will be so bardy as to as that war. This surely savours little of sert, that so great an insurrection was the reigning theory as to war producing such a vast extension of ministe. while the disposal of their produce rial influence, and being undertaken strengthens the influence of governsolely with a view to that effect. Af. ment, the levying of them is the most ter a vast expenditure of bloodand trea- powerful of all stimuli to that patriot. sure, peace was at length attained; and it ism which consists in hostility toʻthe may be said, that the nation, taught by existing powers. But the situation of such severe experience, would not again the British executive is now peculiar ; concur in any war which could possi- for, in consequence of the immense bly be avoided. This we greatly doubt. amount of debt, it has no controul over We are convinced, that even now, when two thirds of its own revenue. This weighed down with such a load of must be paid to the public creditor, taxes, and crying aloud under it, there who receives it as a right, and returns are wars in which the nation would no thanks. Of the remainder also, no gladly embark. If war had been un- profit accrues, from the large propordertaken in favour of the South Ame- tion paid as wages to common soldiers rican colonies, or if it were underta- and sailors, who, instead of soliciting ken in support of the representative employment as a favour, must be bribed states formed in the South of Europe, to accept, and compelled to remain in would it not be popular? Have not it. We may fairly conclude, there. the opposition prints repeatedly de- fore, that the British administration do rided the neutrality adhered to by mi- not enjoy the benefit of one fourth of nisters? This remark we make, not the revenue, of which they suffer the in censure or derision of sentiments, odium. which, to a certain extent, we share ; After all this, we are aware it may but merely to shew, that the voice of be urged, that, allowing the power of the people is still for war;—that the the crown not to have increased,- to excitement, the animation, the news have even sensibly diminished, still if with which it is pregnant, are still the public benefit would be promoted grateful to them.

by reducing it still lower, and if the In considering now the future pros. nation be ripe for a more popular form pects as to the relative power of the of government, are they not justified crown and the people, we see many cir- in seeking to attain it. We do not cumstances tending to make the scale mean to say so. If there really exist of the latter preponderate. An im- among any people materials for a better mense mass of patronage has certainly government than they actually enjoy, been lost to the crown, by the reduc- he who earns it for them may attain the tion of the war-establishment. The fame of a patriot and legislator. Still, army and navy are no longer looked to of all operations, this is the most deby men of all ranks, as channels by licate, and calls for the most serious which a part of their family may be preliminary consideration. To preemployed and advanced. A consider. dict the precise ultimate consequences able number of sinecures and over-paid of any great political change, seems a appointments have been lately retrench- lesson which experience has not yet ed by a laudable zeal for public eco- taught to mankind. Nothing, indeed, nomy; and numerous contracts, which is more common than for the most suwere among the richest boons that go- perficial politician to announce, with vernment had to bestow, were, by the full assurance, what will be the result arrangements of Mr Pitt, disposed of of his own plans; but the event usualby open competition. Taxes, we may ly belies all these confident predictions. observe, have a double action ; for, l'he architect who frames his edifice

with fixed and passive materials, is in in which we have been engaged. Now, a very different situation from him be these wars necessary or unnecessawhose materials are continually moving ry, just or unjust, they are over ; and under his hands, and have impulses from there evidently does not exist the least within themselves more powerful than project or intention in any quarter of that which he endeavours to commu- renewing them. There is nothing urnicate to them. There is in every so- gent, therefore, in an evil, the cause of ciety a vast latent mass of talent and which has entirely ceased ; even supambition, greatly beyond what can find posing that it really were more likely scope in its ordinary circumstances, but to prove a remedy than there has apwhich, when the usual restraints are peared any reason to expect. After taken off, and when a new field is open- all, the second evil is by much the ed, speedily burst forth, and display heaviest. Taxes operate only where phenomena never dreamt of by the first there is an income, they take away innovators. How often, in a revolu- only a proportion of it ; and, unless in tionary movement, do we see all the the case of the rich, not a very large first actors, forms, and principles, swept proportion. Want of employment falls away, and those which supplanted them upon the most industrious and deserving supplanted by others, till at last an is. classes ; not merely narrowing their cirsue is produced, directly the reverse cumstances, but reducing them to want of that originally contemplated. It is and bankruptcy ;—the labourer and not, therefore, without reason, that na- his family, whom taxes could scarcely tions have usually declined making any reach, are stripped by it of their daily sudden radical change, unless in cases bread. Yet this is a point 80 little where matters come to such an extre- within the competence of government, mity that no change could be for the that all efforts made by the legislature to worse. We are well aware, that our remedy it are now fully proved to have antagonists are ready to meet us upon no possible effect, but that of aggravathis ground, and loudly to proclaim, ting the evil. The only radical remethat the supposed case finds in them its dy would be the justly deprecated and ample fulfilment;that no situation can be ultimately fatal one, of recurring to a more miserable and deplorable, than that state of war. in which they find themselves involved. We have thus endeavoured to shew, We heartily wish it were in our power both that change is dangerous, and to prove this lamentation to be as whol- that there is no urgent call for it; but, ly groundless as that made over the loss supposing these objections overruled, of British liberties. But it is evident, we are not unprepared to discuss the that the evils which drive a nation to question, whether there be any by a revolution at any cost, must be not which the British Constitution would evils simply, but evils suffered from the be materially improved. We shall bemisconduct or oppression of the ruling gin with the executive branch, that powers. If natural and inevitable, they mark set up for all the arrows of our can only be aggravated by throwing the patriotic reformers. With them every political machine into a state of disor. thing regal is the object of invective der. Now the two evils under which or derision; and legitimacy has become Britain labours, and of which we have a regular term of reproach. For our fully admitted the existence, are heavy parts, we openly profess ourselves ad. taxes, and the want of customers for herents of royalty, of legitimacy, and her goods. , As to the former, its if there be yet another name more weight arises mainly from the long wars frightful and more odious, meaning the

« 前へ次へ »