« iepriekšējāTurpināt »
Pitt a visionary? Was Mr. Canning, who also professed and practised the science of Political Economy, a philosophist, a mere speculator, or a fantastical builder of ideal systems? My Lords, I have heard many persons object to Mr. Canning's policy; I did so myself at one period, though I afterwards co-operated with him when his views were liberal and sound; but neither at the one period of his political life, nor at the other, do I recollect ever hearing anybody bold or foolish enough to designate that eminent man as a visionary or a theorist. Then we had Mr. Huskisson: he, too, a Political Economist, and, indeed, profoundly conversant with the science; but I suppose he was no practical man, I suppose he knew nothing of the financial - nothing of the commercial relations of this country - nothing of the distribution of its wealth-nothing of the bearings of its mercantile laws and fiscal regulations upon her trade and manufactures. I really think, that if I were to search all England over, and to ransack the whole volumes of our annals at any period for the name of a practical statesman, — one who habitually discarded theory for practice one who looked to every theory with suspicion, and adopted only those doctrines which were grounded on the most incontestable results of experience, a pilot, who, in guiding the vessel of the State proceeded with the lead-line ever in his hand, and ever sounding as he sailed, who never suffered her to stir until he knew the depth, the bottom, ahead and all around, and left no current, tide, or breeze out of his account, if I were to name one man whom I have known or heard of, or whom history has recorded, and to whom this description is most eminently applicable, Mr. Huskisson is the name I should at once pronounce. To swell the catalogue with other bright and noble instances, would be much more easy than useful. Thus, I might add
Mr. Henry Thornton, an author of high fame, whose works were among the first that enlightened us on the subject of currency, and fixed the principles that governed this branch of science. But Mr. Henry Thornton was a banker, an intelligent, skilful, and prosperous banker; and it is these great men - great as philosophers, but better known as men of business the Pitts, the Cannings, the Huskissons, the Thorntons, who with Dr. Smith, and after his example, entered themselves in the school of the Economists; they it is whom I am fated to hear derided as visionaries and schemers. But I have unawares named the science which was cultivated by Quesnai, Turgot, and other illustrious French philosophers, and have thus exposed it to a different attack from ignorance, yet more gross than that which denied authority to the names of the English statesmen I have mentioned. I have referred to the French Economists, and I know full well that they have been derided as republicansnay, little to my astonishment, prepared as I am by experience to see the effects of ignorance for ignorance has no bounds. Unhappily, science has its limits, and they are not hard to reach; but ignorance is endless, unconfined, inexhaustible, ever new in invention, though all its productions are wretched and worthless, always surprising you, though mingling pity and contempt with wonderment; and never is it more daring in its inroads upon our credulty never is it more strange in the antic feats it performs never more curious in the fantastic tricks it plays, than when its gambols are performed in the persons of men dressed in a little brief authority, or would fain be so attired, and who really are decked habitually in presumption that almost passes belief. Why, my Lords, everybody who knows anything of the French Economists, knows full well that they flourished under an absolute despotism that they were the great friends and the firm supporters of absolute monarchy
that they abhorred liberty and abhorred republicanism — and that one of their errors, in my opinion the most fatal they could commit, was holding the doctrine that what they called despotisme légal, in other words, an absolute monarchy, was the best form of government: accompanying their doctrine, however, with this reservation,- If you have a good king at the head of it;' as if the sole use of all restraint upon power was not founded on the risk of having bad rulers; as if the absence of control did not, while man is man, insure a succession of bad monarchs. But I only mention this to show that whatever charges the French Economists may be justly exposed to, assuredly love of a republic, or even of rational liberty, is not of the number. Such is the presumption of that abject ignorance which would give certain men, and the sciences they explore, a bad name, not even knowing the true sense of the words it takes upon itself to use. Far, then, from being with me an objection, that these invaluable disputations and statements of fact have been prepared by political philosophers that all this mass of useful evidence has been collected by them, and that many propositions have been made by them, some of which, and only some, are adopted as the ground-work of the present measure, I derive confidence from the reflection that it is so - that we have been helped by Political Economists, men who have devoted themselves to the study of that useful and practical science, and with them I cheerfully expose myself— and not only with them, but with all the illustrious names of men now no more, and all the other illustrious men that happily now remain, and whom, for that very reason, I have foreborne to mention to the charge of being a speculator, and a visionary, and a theorist.”
* Speech of Lord Chancellor Brougham in the House of Lords, July 21, 1834, p. 39-45.
By a just appreciation of the matter of this powerful and effective speech, ample light is thrown over the false course, which men, although intending well and honourably both for their country and for mankind, yet being influenced and led far more by the spirit of party than by the spirit of truth, have adopted; and by which the character of science, and the due results of scientific effort are assumed, where very little science has been attained, and where the very opposite of science prevails generally.
Perhaps many persons may be disposed to view these passages of Lord Brougham's address, so superabounding in high terms, and so overloaded with the praises of men and of their scientific efforts, as mere inflation harmless inflation
and that inflation, a feature so common as to be almost natural in the instances of eloquence afforded by the gifted speaker by whom the ideas and opinions were conceived and delivered to the world. But it has to be remembered that all this commendation and exaltation of the labours of a rising school of economic investigators, who had thus undertaken to deal with, and to give judgment on, subjects in which the highest and deepest interests of the whole human race are involved, cannot be made to assume the character of mere verbal inflation, because it was received by the majority of the nation as true and substantial matter, and as matter serving to direct the attention of the world to the sources from which alone there is to be derived useful practical philosophy, policy, and action.
Members of the House of Lords in general, to whom the matter was more especially addressed, were not indeed prepared for the reception of this matter. They entertained an aversion against the doctrines of that rising school of Political Economists to which their Chairman and Chancellor, Lord Brougham, had referred them as being the school from which
they were to derive the principles of "Useful Knowledge." They were told by the learned and law-propounding orator, that their lamentable incapability of understanding the character of the great subjects of which he had treated before them, arose from their having neglected to study and to indoctrinate themselves in the modern school of science, where he himself had studied and imbibed. The learned Chancellor assured "my Lords" that they were not scientific men. "My Lords" could not say that they were scientific men. And so judgment passed against them by default. These members of the Upper House of Parliament who were thus addressed, had, almost universally, imbibed their notions of political and economic principle from sources very different from the Scotch school to which Lord Brougham had so exultingly referred, and with which he had especially connected himself. The Lords' sources of knowledge had been the schools of Oxford and Cambridge. The majority of them had diligently devoted themselves to courses of collegiate study which had been laid down under the authority of these University Institutions. These courses they took, upon faith, to be the courses most useful and valuable for preparing them to conduct their movements in that great battle-field of private and public life on which they were to enter; for enabling them to uphold the great established institutions of their country. Many of them stood before their countrymen with high University characters, having succeeded in obtaining what are called honours, or acknowledgments of high degrees of proficiency either in classical or mathematical learning, or in both of these provinces. By means of constant and severe intellectual labour, and with the assistance of learned tutors, they had become well read in the writings of those men who had constituted the ancient schools of learning, comprising poetry, logic, and philosophy; and thus an excellent and