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The manner in which the population principle of Malthus, and also the doctrines of the Modern School of Political Economy were established in the mind of the nation, as well as in Parliament. - Lord Brougham's celebrated speech in the House of Lords on the introduction of the measure for reforming the Poor Laws. His commendation of the Malthusian principle of population, and of the doctrines and scientific efforts of the Modern School of Political Economists. The Members of the House of Lords, not being prepared to answer, acquiesce.
Ar this part of my examination of the state of the science of Political Economy, - the object of this examination being that of ascertaining the quality of those principles and reasonings which have been presented in the name of the science, and before entering upon another department of the subject, involving another kind of examination, - being that of the manner in which our modern statesmen have contrived so to introduce the principles and system of the modern school of economists to the attention of the nation and of the world, as to procure for them the most favoured reception, it will be useful and instructive to have attention directed to the assumption that was adopted, and also to the positive and authoritative tone of argument, or rather of declamation and dictation, which have been employed with so much success. The reference which I have lately made to the peculiar and most important doctrines of Malthus, furnishes a fit opportunity for calling attention to the manner in which the high and imposing name of science has been falsely, unwarrantably, and irreverently used. A brief allusion to this historical feature of the subject will suffice for showing how it has
happened that the mind of the nation was so persuaded and deluded, as to yield willing assent to those principles of Social and Political Economy which have been under examination.
On the great occasion of presenting to the House of Lords a Bill for reforming the laws by which the maintenance and management of the destitute poor of the nation were conducted, the most able and eloquent advocate of the new principles and system, introduced to the notice and consideration of the Upper House of Legislation, the particular principle of population that had been enunciated by Malthus, and also those principles of Political Economy of which the system of the modern school is constituted. Here, then, was furnished one of those important opportunities for the display of brilliant talent, of oratory, and of eloquence, that are not of frequent occurrence; and which men, nurtured in the profession of the law, and gifted with the power of fluently discoursing, know so well how to turn to the account they desire. By the perversion of language, the visionary and baseless character of fiction is made to appear to possess that quality which appertains only to the solidity of truth.
The spirit of reformation and of party controversy, which had been so industriously and ably exerted for effecting an overthrow of widely-extended, deeply-rooted, and prevailing abuses, was, with equal industry and cleverness, exerted for the introduction and establishment of new principles and policy, in place of the old that were to be condemned and rejected; for it is indispensable that they who succeed in putting down, should show that some principle and plan of building up has been, at all events, under their consideration.
For the purpose, then, of enabling the Whig party to conduct a successful attack against the policy of their adversaries, a special school of Political Philosophy had been founded in Edinburgh. By means of the long-continued and ably
directed literary efforts of this school, the mind of the nation had been gradually led to hold in aversion and in contempt those principles of government, and of social and political economy, which the Tory party upheld as Constitutional, though the practical habit of this state party was that of showing that they possessed very little, if indeed any, knowledge of the real character and scope of the principles which they applauded and upheld.
The time at length arrived, and the opportunity was presented, when the new principles and system were to be still more largely adopted in the place of the old. To effect this involved an arduous undertaking,— an undertaking requiring power of mind and power of oratory to be possessed and exerted in a degree rarely called for even in the whole volume of a nation's circumstances. But arduous as was the undertaking, and bold as was the attempt, yet the leading spirit of the Whig party was equal to the emergency and to the work. This spirit appeared in the person of Henry Brougham. Educated in the two great provinces of Theory and Practice, this bold, learned, ingenious, and energetic leader of the new school of political philosophy, undertook the task of introducing to the British legislature her whom he delighted to call by the name of Science, and who, he assured the nation and the world, was fit to be enthroned and to be universally worshipped and served. Upon the occasion now under notice, this gifted and accomplished advocate of the new philosophy
appearing at one and the same moment in his diversified character and capacity of advocate of the rights of humanity, of a student of science, of a literary man, of acceptor of the brief prepared for him by a school of Political Economy writers, of constitutional lawyer, and of guiding statesman upheld the cause of political science, whether rightly or wrongly, to which he had so long devoted himself, in the
following manner:-"Before quitting the subject of population, may I step aside for one moment, and do justice to a most learned, a most able, a most virtuous individual, whose name has been mixed up with more unremitting deception, and also with more wilful misrepresentation, than that of any man of science in this Protestant country, and in these liberal and enlightened times. When I mention talent, learning, humanity, the strongest sense of public duty, the most amiable feelings in private life, the tenderest and most humane disposition which ever man was adorned with,
when I speak of one the ornament of the society in which he moves, the delight of his own family, and not less the admiration of those men of letters and of science amongst whom he shines the first and brightest, when I speak of one of the most enlightened, learned, and pious ministers whom the Church of England ever numbered amongst her I am sure every one will apprehend that I cannot but refer to Mr. Malthus. The character of this estimable man has been foully slandered by some who had the excuse of ignorance, and by others, I fear, without any such palliative; and simply for having made one of the greatest additions to political philosophy which has been effected since that branch of learning has been worthy of the name of a science.*"
And, again, on importing into the discussion of the great subject, the influence and authority of the modern school of Political Economists, the clever and powerful advocate addressed his audience as follows: "I have now to entreat your Lordships' attention to the course taken in constructing the measure before you; but I wish, in the outset of my remarks, to take notice of an objection to one measure, an objection, however, which has been more heard out of doors
* Corrected Report of the Speech of Lord Chancellor Brougham on the Poor Laws, p. 22.
than within the walls of Parliament. I allude to the outcry set up against the Report, as a thing framed by theorists and visionaries; and, to sum up all in one word of vituperation, by Political Economists; this is the grand term of reproach. As if only theorists and visionaries could be students and professors of the despised science of Political Economy! Why, my Lords, some of the most eminent practical men in this country, individuals the most celebrated, not as rash and dreaming speculators, but as sober statesmen, leaders of Opposition, ministers and heads of Cabinets, men whose names as they were, when living, the designations of the parties into which the whole country was marshalled, have passed after death into epithets synonymous with practical wisdom among their followers; it is amongst these men that I should look, if I were called upon to point out the greatest cultivators of Political Economy that have flourished in my own day. Is it necessary for me to remind you that Adam Smith, another name which excites a sneer, but only among the grovelling and the ignorant, that the name of that eminent economist was first made generally known through his intimacy with Mr. Pitt, and by Mr. Pitt referring in Parliament to the high authority of his immortal work? Mr. Pitt was distinguished by his study of Political Economy, though his polity did not always proceed upon its soundest principles, and when he would have applied them, his attempts were not always attended with success. Such at least is my opinion now, speaking after the event, and with the cheap and easy wisdom which experience affords, yet always speaking with respect of that eminent man's science and talents, which no one, how rude or ignorant soever, will be found bold enough to question. I think he committed mistakes; perhaps in his situation I might have fallen into the same errors; but was Mr. Pitt a dreamer? Was Mr.