Lapas attēli

quality of the evidence and of the reasoning that were employed, and of the conclusions that were adopted. Upon this examination I will, in the next place, enter.

Before collating this evidence, and commenting on the reasoning employed, and on the conclusion adopted, I will direct the attention of the reader to one particular feature of Mr. Huskisson's course, this feature having such a peculiar and important character, that the capable and discriminating reader will not fail to dwell upon it with great interest, and to derive from it most salutary warning and instruction. The feature I allude to is this:-Although Mr. Huskisson introduced, and supported, that principle of commerce which is known to the people by the term "Free Trade,” yet he continually, and most emphatically, urged on the attention and consideration of Parliament the necessity of avoiding that free course of trade by which there should be set aside or abrogated that degree, rule, or law, which is required to be applied to every course of action. Thus the reader will have to see that Mr. Huskisson, and also other statesmen who followed him, exhibited the most remarkable and distressing vacillation of opinion and of reasoning. On one occasion announcing as true, and on another occasion denouncing as false, one and the same principle. On keeping steadily in view, and in remembrance, the lamentable disregard of principle, and deviation from it, here alluded to, the reader will find it to be a matter of high concernment and interest, to ascertain how far the weakness and deficiency thus exhibited by our leading practical statesmen are identical in character with the weakness and deficiency which I have shown to prevail with the school of writers on Political Economy, who have undertaken to deal with the subject in a scientific manner, as well as how nearly they approximate in degree. Having premised thus much, I will now proceed in the adducement of that amount of practical evidence on the subject

of our knowledge of national commercial principle, extracted from the course pursued by our national legislature, as will afford ample illustration of the manner in which that great principle has been treated by us.

Upon entering on an examination of the proceedings of Parliament, and of the policy sanctioned and adopted by Parliament, as they are presented in the speeches of Mr. Huskisson, I feel it necessary to notice, in the first place, a most remarkable course which the advocates of the free principle were successful in getting adopted to a great extent, and which gave them a most important advantage over opposing advocates, but which, I contend, was a false and most unjust course. It appears, then, that the ancient constitutional principle — under which regulations were invented and applied, for the purpose of checking and preventing that undue or excessive degree of change by which the existing and growing interests of the nation might be so impaired as to entail on many of the people distress and poverty—had, in very many instances, been applied so unequally and so unjustly, and had been so greatly abused, as to produce effects the very reverse of those that were intended of them. They were made to sacrifice the welfare and interest of one body of the people, in order to increase the welfare and interest of another body. Hence arose the introduction and the acceptation of the word "monopoly." By this term the misapplications and abuses were intended to be characterised, and thus it became rightly a word of odious import. Now, the general ignorance which has prevailed, and which is still prevalent, respecting the science of Political Economy, prevented its various writers from discriminating between the true and the false in the science, so that when they brought the matters upon which they had been treating to a final judgment, they condemned alike the good and the bad; or

rather, I am bound to go further, and to declare, that they generally condemned truth and elevated falsehood; and upon such occasions the favourite term "monopoly" was introduced for the purpose of wrapping up the judgment, of concealing whatever was faulty in it, and rendering it more suitable to the public taste.


In this degraded state of general or national conviction, the various commercial laws or regulations of the state were brought under examination and discussion, and then the following bad and fatal rule was admitted, namely, that of assuming the ground and policy of any cited regulation to be false unless they should be proved to be true. This rule is expressed by Mr. Huskisson, as follows:-"It appeared to him, that from the moment that the policy of our lawsmatter how numerous, or how long enacted was called into question, the onus of proving their necessity rested with those who undertook to maintain them.”* It will be obvious, that when the onus of proving had thus been decided as resting upon those parties who enjoyed any peculiar legislative protection, that it imposed on them a task which the united efforts of all writers, and of all statesmen, had theretofore failed to accomplish,- that of working out by demonstration the entire subject of social and national economy: for it will be seen, that let the matter, or the interest set up for discussion, be of a character even the most minute, nevertheless, the successful working of its case would involve the solution of the entire question, resting, as it must of necessity rest, upon the great general principle applicable to all national property. Now, it having been conceded, that the award of triumph should be assigned to the method of arguing by objection, it will be evident, that the labour on this side

[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]

*Speeches of the Rt. Hon. William Huskisson, vol. ii. p. 220.

became comparatively trivial, and the qualification of advocates, in regard both to intellectual strength and rectitude of purpose, greatly deteriorated. By the adoption of this unjust and fatal order in the governing power, looseness, change, experiment, and with them destruction to a certain extent, became the rule, while conservation of existing right, stability, and security became the exception. A method, this, the converse of all wisdom, and one by which the general national interest could not fail of being impaired and destroyed.

The unjust and destructive working of this method may be made apparent by a simple proposition of facts. For the purpose of the argument, I will assume the number of the divisions of labour, or the varied productions of the state, to be twenty. This will be as efficient as any number whatever for illustrating the operation of the principle. Now I will suppose, that the regulation affixed by the existing law to the first of these divisions of labour or productions, is arraigned. The plan of proceeding will then be to apply the word "monopoly" to the regulation under which the actors in this division, or the producers of the commodity, bring their production into the general market of the state. It will be asserted, that this monopoly has an injurious effect upon the rest of the community, or upon the public, as the demanders or consumers of the commodity adduced will be called upon this plea, a destruction of the regulation will be demanded, and the members of the nineteen other divisions. of labour will be invited to unite their strength in order to effect the object proposed.

Again: when the regulation attached by the law to the second division of labour, or the second commodity, shall be arraigned, it will be alleged, in like manner, that those interested in the production possess a similar monopoly against

the rest of their countrymen or the public; and then, in this second, as in the first instance, the members of the other nineteen classes of producers will be urged to unite for the purpose of destroying the regulation enjoyed by the second. Again, with the third-so likewise with the fourth, fifth, sixth, and onwards throughout the circle. Thus it will be evident, that the advocates of the free principle will have succeeded in arraigning each division or class in its turn, and destroying its privilege by uniting the members of all the other divisions against it, so that the entire national interest will have become divided and leagued against itself: for, it will be apparent, that the body called the "Public" has, in the progress of the operation, been gradually diminishing, until at last it has become a nonentity, each fraction of the whole, or the public, having been subjected to one and the same course of action and to joint condemnation. I am justified in saying "the whole of the public," because it must be remembered, that no person can be a consumer, without having a pre-existing interest, either directly or remotely, in some matter of production.

Under the rule of arguing upon which I have just commented, the speeches of Mr. Huskisson which support the freetrade principle were delivered in Parliament. Hence it has happened, that after a careful perusal of them, I do not find that in one instance this statesman ventured to place before the attention and examination of his audience, the great substantial problem of which the entire question of the free commercial principle consists. He alluded to certain great and acknowledged authorities in the science of Political Economy, as affording matter coincident with that which he had been propounding, and his hearers being men who, though largely conversant with the customs and practice of the world, were yet very little conversant with that scientific

« iepriekšējāTurpināt »