« iepriekšējāTurpināt »
the commencement of the present century, British statesmen were convinced that it had become necessary to institute a searching inquiry into that principle and system of money, or currency, which had been encouraged to grow up amongst us. An immense amount of paper, or credit-money-of promises to pay value instead of actually paying valuebeing the main features of this system. An investigation, therefore, of this important subject was a matter of deep moment. This being felt and acknowledged by the nation, and responded to in Parliament, the duty of bringing forward the subject was imposed on Mr. Horner. At his instigation a Committee of Inquiry was appointed, of which committee Mr. Horner, Mr. Huskisson, and Mr. Thornton were the more influential members, Mr. Horner being appointed Chairman.
The careful reader will naturally pause and ask,-How could Mr. Horner derive the knowledge required for elucidating the important and intricate subject of money, or currency, by studying the writings of the Political Economists, seeing that the whole body of this school of men is shown to have been floundering in mystification and self-created darkness, surrounded by errors from which they, one and all, were unable to extricate themselves? Mr. Horner's candid and honourable admissions supply for us the one and the only answer.
The nation has been invited and instructed to look upon the efforts of the House of Commons' Committee on the Currency, as they are embodied in their celebrated report called the "Bullion Report" of 1819, as efforts attended by the elicitation of new truth, and fraught with great utility, and as tending to bring the great subject to a satisfactory settlement. But the version prepared for and delivered to the public is very different from the real version. To acquire a knowledge of the real version, we have only to apply to Mr. Horner himself, for he has most candidly and most honourably
described the character of the work, or of that which actually took place within the walls of the Parliamentary Committee Room; of that which actually emanated from the minds of those, who, having been commissioned, undertook to collect and to supply evidence, and to arrange this evidence in such a correct manner, as, if possible, to make it afford an elucidation of the subject.
With regard, then, to the real composition and character of the celebrated Bullion Report of the session of 1819, which is a document so highly esteemed by the uninitiated and the uninformed, or that large class of persons who, being merely loquacious politicians, are constantly employed in talking, praising, and flattering at second hand; who take delight in, and who seek to acquire self-importance by, carrying about in society, and delivering, the opinions and decisions of the statesmen, without having even the least knowledge of the subject-matter about which they talk, and which they extol and commend, the real composition and character have been described unreservedly and authoritatively by Mr. Horner himself. He has said of this celebrated report as follows:
"The Report of the Bullion Committee is not yet in the printer's hands, so that those who praised it to you were liberal enough to bestow that praise upon credit. I can let you into the secret, however, that the report is in truth very clumsily and prolixly drawn, stating nothing but very old doctrines on the subject it treats of, and stating them in a more imperfect form than they have frequently appeared before. It is a motley composition by Huskisson, Thornton, and myself, each having written parts, which are tacked together without any care to give them a uniform style or very exact connection. One great merit the report, however, possesses that it declares, in very plain and pointed terms, both the true doctrine, and the existence of a great evil
growing out of the neglect of this doctrine. By keeping up the discussion, which I mean to do, and by forcing it again upon the attention of Parliament, we shall in time, I trust, effect the restoration of the old and safe system." *
The description thus given of this important document, by Mr. Horner himself, demands the gravest consideration. In the first place, he has admitted that nothing new was elicited by the investigation, for that all which was elicited and combined, had been discovered and communicated before, and in a better manner. This was not merely a modest relinquishment of a claim to merit, but is absolutely true. In the second place, he asserted that the "true doctrine" is declared by this report. But, upon this all-important point of the true doctrine, I maintain that Mr. Horner had not succeeded in establishing the grounds of a title by which he was authorised to declare what is the "true doctrine;" for neither by himself, nor by any other statesman or writer, had the true doctrine been discovered and published. This true doctrine consists in the law of production, which is applicable to all the commercial dealings of men; and, hence, applicable also to the matter of money. If this great doctrine, or universal law of commerce, had been discovered, explained, and promulgated, it would not have been left for me to perform the disagreeable task of examining, analysing, and recording, the discrepancies, contradictions, confusion, and the almost interminable tissue of errors of which our writings on Political Economy consist; most of these having been so well known to Mr. Horner himself, and having made so deep an impression on his mind, that the obstructions resulting from them have been acknowledged and recorded by him. This allusion of his, therefore, to the "true doctrine," has no
* Horner's Correspondence, vol. ii. p. 47.
better foundation than that of conjecture; he may be right, or, he may be partly right and partly wrong, for his production is of a compound character; but if right, he is not so by the power of knowledge, but only by the chance of conjecture. There is, however, one peculiar and prominent feature to which I will direct attention, and this is, an acknowledgment that the practice anciently adopted was the right practice. It was this "old and safe system which Mr. Horner, and those who together with him composed the celebrated Bullion Report, admitted to be an issue of the "true doctrine;" of this they hoped and attempted to effect the restoration.
The career of Mr. Francis Horner, in the House of Commons, had not been long run, before it became evident that his life was not ordained to be of long continuance. His health became impaired, and his strength failed under the exertion of mental labour, and so the Whig party discovered that they would soon have to mourn over the loss of one in whom they expected to possess a trustworthy, a clever, and a competent pioneer.
If Mr. Horner's life had been prolonged, there is little doubt that he would have been selected by the Whig Administration and promoted to office as the chief expounder of their commercial policy; for, as I have already shown, the Parliamentary management of a most difficult and important subject had been intrusted to him, namely, the Currency.
If this high official position had been thus acquired by Mr. Horner, many subjects involving the most momentous interests of the nation would have been committed to his especial charge. How he would have steered his course seeing that he has admitted such a deficiency of knowledge--can only be a matter of speculation, though, in all probability, he would have adopted the policy and plan of Hus
kisson, as so many other statesmen have; that is, urged and pressed by the spirit of the age, and adopting the plea of expediency as an excuse, he would have served the cause of truth a little, and of error much.
By the premature decline, and early death, of Mr. Francis Horner, the modern school of Political Economists, and the Whig political party, lost an aspiring, a persevering, an admired, and a cherished advocate and member. In this emergency, the Whig party was placed under the necessity of searching for, and electing, another political character, or a man who had assumed the mantle of a Political Economist; for, to occupy the track that had been opened by Mr. Huskisson and by Mr. Horner, and to undertake to advance still further in the same direction, as well as to expand its boundaries in many or in every direction, was a course indispensable for maintaining, in the estimation of the people, the character of this, the rising party of the State, and for insuring to it influence and ministerial success.
The party of mercantile men of the city of London, who were supporters of the Whig Administration, having been appealed to, their ranks were searched, and a man was soon discovered and recommended; and, being quickly prepared, received at the hands of the Whig party the high official commission. The statesman to whom allusion is here made was Mr. Poulett Thomson, who was afterwards raised to the peerage by the title of Lord Sydenham. An examination of the education, proficiency, political character, and course, of this statesman, shall constitute the subject-matter of my next chapter.
There yet remain to be adduced some most important and interesting disclosures connected with the national knowledge of the science of Political Economy, and also on Mr. Horner's