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SIR ROBERT PEEL ON FREEDOM OF DISCRETION, &c.
The ex-Premier has addressed to his constitu- dom of discretion ; but in the name and on acency of Tamworth an explanatory pamphlet in count of his constituency of Tamworth, and espereference to his conduct during this Parliament, cially in that of the still larger constituency of from 1841 to 1847. The address has the appear- Great Britain and Ireland, whom he also seeks ance of being dictated by Polk rather than by to represent, and in whom we confess to & Peel. It is long, and so much interlarded with deeper interest than in the electors of his borough, figures, that the good voters of Tamworth will we protest against the claim of perfect liberty never read, and many of them, if they did read, made by this discreet gentleman. would not comprehend the reasonings and state- The opinion is yearly becoming more fashionments, the facts and the figures, of their neighbour, able amongst our Parliamentary representatives, friend, and most obedient servant. This recapi- from the head to the extremities of parties, that tulation of things done is, however, addressed they are to be regarded as independent gentlereally to Great Britain and Ireland, nominally to men, who are to act and vote as they deem right Tamworth. It contains many points worthy of and fitting. The great majority of their number observation, and none more so than the demand protest against pledges, and talk of the dignity of which Peel makes on the confidence of his consti- their position, assuming a consequence that is tuency when he asks “freedom of discretion." quite unnecessary and untenable on their part. This is a new term in politics to designate an old The ex-Premier has embodied the claim in a new practice. We admit it to be an honest term. It maxim. He has reduced the rounded sentences fairly describes the privilege requisite for slippery of more diffuse and less skilful orators to an esstatesmen. It is a pledge. Sir Robert Peel sence, and expressed it in a convenient form. pledges himself to “freedom of discretion.” It He has done for various dark and unintelligible is the very pledge, signed, and sealed, and sworn phrases and paragraphs what certain dealers in to by the unjust judge, spoken of in Scripture, pickles and preserves profess to do for one pound who, because he neither feared God nor regarded of rump steak-he has compressed them into the man, enjoyed, to an eminent degree, “the freedom bulk and weight of a single lozenge, capable of of discretion.” This unjust judge was not, indeed, preserving life. One worthy tradesman, some the inventor of the principle. That Egyptian years ago, advertised assiduously Sir Robert Peel's Pharoah, who could no more be bound with pro- sauce ; another in a gentler line of business ofmises than Sampson with withes, and who was fered to sell, if we remember rightly, Sir Robert only subdued by the plague of death, practised Peel's syrup, which was said to be a perfect bless“freedom of discretion” with great zeal and sa-ing to those mothers who nursed their own babies. tisfaction, Some readers have considered the The sauce, which was principally useful to sportsphrase to be of the same significance with the men, fell out of repute in late years, and has not Duke of Newcastle's claim “ to do what he liked been much advertised, and we fear that the syrup with his own." There is that difference in the was found not to answer its purposes ; but here two expressions which exists between “a man's is a lozenge that will be taken warmly by genown” and “ a man's neighbour's own. .” “Freedom tlemen who combine, in one person, the somewhat of discretion,” used in an address from a candi- adverse characters of legislator and sportsman, date to a constituency, implies leave to do what and who finding it inconvenient to prepare at the candidate pleases with the political influence, once both for the moors and the hustings, can property, and liberties, of the electors upon whom instruct their agents to purchase for them such his designs are entertained.
and such a borough or constituency, with a supThis freedom of discretion is the most service-ply of Peel's “ freedom of discretion," and save able condition on which a candidate can take his the annoyances of speeches, and canvassing, and seat in Parliament. It is the widest possible pledging. commission. It leaves him open to act as he may There is, however, a serious constitutional deem most advisable, in whatever circumstances question involved in this demand. A gentleman may arise. Sir Robert Peel has been styled the invested with freedom of discretion ceases to be & Minister of expediency, and the title is not mis- representative. Our idea of representation is, applied. He was not the Minister of party—and when one man expresses the convictions and feelhe could not have been styled the Minister of ings of another man, or of many men. The reprinciple. His own language furnishes, probably, presentative of a commercial house is generally the best definition of his position. He is the po- understood to be in the confidence of his superiors; litician of discretion. In the management of his but he does not exercise “ freedom of discretion" Staffordshire estate—in conducting his transac- unless on emergencies that may arise without tionsin bonds or investments—in the purchase and being foreseen, and on which he must act without distribution of paintings and sculpture-in every- the opportunity of consulting those whom he rething that relates to his houses and home, to his presents. Commercial houses have, indeed, accounts and accumulations, to his shares and another and probably a very common class of rehis bank book, to his broker and his Mr. Lloyd presentatives in their partners ; but they do not Jones—Sir Robert Peel is entitled to perfect free exercise freedom of discretion.
They act for themselves and for others. A man, acting for delegates, who have only to vote, without reasonhimself alone, may enjoy this freedom ; but when ing. This objection is, however, inconsistent with ever he begins to act for another, or conjoins the therealstate of the case. Ourtheory agrees mostreinterests of another in his actings, then his markably with facts. The House of Commons is not “perfect liberty” is abridged. There is no doubt merely a ministerial, but also a deliberative body. that the representatives of the people are largely We understand that the genius and experience of interested in the prosperity of the country. They the nation—the flower of genius—and the ripemay hold many shares in the concern ; but it ness of experience, should be gathered together does not, in any way, follow that they are to be there, to act in accordance with the previous deciinvested with freedom of discretion. We concede sions of the people, and to guide them in their freely that circumstances arise on which they future deliberations. It is not our fault, nor must depend on their own sagacity and infor- should it be charged on our theory, that the richest mation. Therefore a constituency may act genius and the ripest experience are often excluded properly in not always selecting a candidate who to make place for wealthy dotage, for aristocratic fully agrees with the views of the majority, but juvenility, or even for unmarked and well-intende who may be deficient in that practical wisdom ing mediocrity. That circumstance rises from and information which is eminently desirable. the indisposition of the electors to guard their Still a body of electors must not divest them- own interests ; and we are only desirous to save selves of their privilege to weigh and consider them from pursuing further a wrong course. measures for themselves ; and to select men to The debates of the Legislature are principally express their views on all cognate questions, who useful in laying before the nation the arguments coincide with, and are prepared to enforce, the in reference to different questions—in preparing opinions of their constituencies. We regard the some minds for changes, and reconciling others House of Commons as the assemblage of the to their advent. There is one section of the people through their representatives ; but the Legislature whose members enjoy perfect freedom people cannot be regarded as in any way of discretion, but it is not the House of Commons. assembled there if these gentlemen are to be in- Sir Robert Peel's claim can be admitted when vested with freedom of discretion. The Com- her Majesty is pleased to consign him to the tomb mons, we believe, to be merely a convenient of ambition. Whenever he is elevated to the scheme for bringing together those who are Peerage, he will have full freedom of discretion; physically prevented from meeting in their own but until that time, he should be content with persons. Therefore we hold the very essence and that more limited freedom which constitutionally spirit of that House to be strangled in the demand belongs to the members of the more influential which Sir Robert Peel puts boldly for himself and body. for others, and which others put more cautiously The request, to which we have referred, is the and timidly for themselves.
most important thing in Sir Robert Peel’s pamphThe objections taken to this view of representa- let. Like many other second thoughts, it comes tion are not, in our opinion, of great moment. too late to save his credit with his old party. The public business of the House of Commons is It was just the thing for 1841 ; and if it had been generally the subject of long and earnest discus- standing alone then, unflanked by modifications, sion before it is settled there. The health of and considerations, and understandings, there would towns had been the subject of reports and pamph-, have been no chance for Mr.D’Israeli now in Bucklets and sanatory schemes before Viscount Mor- inghamshire. Mr. D’Israeli is a great man now, peth or his predecessors introduced their bills to because the member for Tamworth omitted to be abandoned. The corn laws had been dis- put freedom of discretion in a right position in cussed interminably in every parish, hamlet, and his address of 1841. We consider the recent city of the Empire, before the ex-Premier's con- reputation of the Arab politician to be founded version. Speeches in the Houses of Legislature are in ruins. He is the phenix of Conservatism not, though addressed to the Speaker, intended springing out from his predecessor's ashes. But, so much to sway the company as to affect the in 1847, the caution is not wanted. It is the country. They are spoken in-of-doors with a view hasp and padlock on the stable-door when the to out-of-door consequences. The orators always steed is stolen. It resembles the worn-out pahave an eye to the reporters, and an intention tience of a man, who, wearied and worried with upon the daily press. Invariably we find ques- perpetual depredations, nails to his orchard wall tions are ripened for legislation in the workshops, a board with the announcement, terrible to all on the exchanges, and in the press of the pro- urchins,“ traps and spring-guns set in these vinces. They are then introduced into the metro- grounds—trespassers will be prosecuted with the politan circles, are talked of in the clubs, are dis. utmost rigour of the law," when his jargonelles cussed in the coffee-houses, and kept before the have all unaccountably disappeared, and there world by the daily press ; until, after several de- remains not a single “non-such,” or “ heart'sfeats in Parliament, they finally are successful. delight," when only half a dozen cherries, so high We have a firm conviction that the majority of that the wasps or the sparrows alone could safely exceptions to this rule are miserable jobs. It may steal them, are left to look down upon those be said, of course, that this theory destroys the ' memories of the past”-the withered and the dignity of the Legislature as a deliberative As- withering leaves. sembly, and reduces it to the status of a meeting of Sir Robert Peel does not require to tell his former friends that he requires “freedom of discretion.” | bargain is the hardest ever driven. We are not He is habit and repute addicted to the exercise of certain that Sir Robert Peel ever enjoyed the that branch of liberty. He is a sturdy beggar, who confidence of his party, and at present he is nearly takes first, and then asks permission. The cool deserted ; although the time may come when the civility with which he invites his constituency of helm will again be offered to the dangerous pilot, Tamworth not to elect him unless they are pleased who will then recover the intention and the wish to with the condition, is a mere light of satire. resume that authority which belongs, or ought to They know, of course, that they must elect him. belong, to office. That is his affair. He alone can prevent them The candidate of Tamworth speaks of office as from electing him, by keeping off the hustings. at his disposal. He slumbers with pen in hand, When he is once there it is much the same thing and dreams that the ball is at his foot. It is not whether he requests “ freedom of discretion” or his intention to resume office. The refusal rests “ freedom to have the Bishops out of the House with him ; the offer is really with the electors of Peers":—whether he solicits their leave to with the people—although directly with the endow Dr. M‘Hale, or to invite Pius IX, to take Crown. The resumption of office is not, thereapartments in Lambeth palace—the electors of fore, his affair. As yet the offer is not made, Tamworth must return their man. To gild the and never may be made again. There are, unmatter, they are informed that Sir Robert has doubtedly, more principles to be retracted by Sir been invited to stand for many commercial con Robert Peel, ere he has the refusal of office in stituencies of greater numbers and importance. his power, than those that he has already gainWe have heard of a requisition from Birming- said. The feeling forming on the currency-laws ham, and another from Glasgow. The first was may bear him back again to repeal them, and to stopped by the way, and the second perished of complete the circle of his self-sacrifices. There inanition. Requisitions are matters entirely at will then remain no principle which he has ever variance in their nature with returns. Nothing defended, and has not lived to assail and overis easier than to get up a requisition ; and often throw. For the possibility of this juncture, notnothing more difficult than to get it followed by withstanding his present intentions, the ex-Prea return. It is quite obvious that Sir Robert mier prepares by a careful and elaborate review Peel could not have been returned for Glasgow. of the success that has attended bis experiments We sincerely doubt whether he could have polled in finance and taxation. Finance is supposed to five hundred votes. We do not believe that he be Sir Robert Peel's strong point. Talk of him would have been more successful in Birmingham. and of his measures in the cabin of any steamer We remembered, though others may have for- in our seas, and the chances are that half-a-dozen gotten, the feeling against him respecting the persons will break in with, “but Sir Robert is a currency-laws in both these towns, whose inha- splendid financier." There are few stage-coaches bitants and traders have been heavy losers by his on the roads now, but there are some ; and the prejudice for metal. We regard the great com- name of the Tamworth Representative could not mercial constituencies, therefore, as cast into the be mentioned on the top of one of them by a pamphlet merely to soften the fate of Tamworth. travelling and inquiring American, but he is That is, however, a matter between the writer certain of hearing from the guard, “ that Sir and his own conscience. In his old borough, Sir Robert is a great hand at figures.” A great hand Robert Peel has full freedom of discretion ; and he is—assuredly a very great hand—for he cuts our object is to protest against the gradual as- and shuffles, and tosses so here and there all the sumption of the privilege by other and by lesser, nine numerals, with lots of “noughts,” that one and by less discreet men.
gets bewildered amongst them, and would require to be extricated by a Mr. Tidd Pratt—the very
soul of modern accountantship. As Mr. D’Israeli ON FINANCE AND FREE TRADE.
declares that all science is of Arabic origin“ The grapes are sour," quoth the fox, as he which may be true enough in one way, if the turned from the tree, after many an ineffective garden of Eden be in Arabia—and as the nueffort to reach them. The fox is a true philoso- merals are ascribed to the Arabs, we don't know pher; he always strives after the self-command that he might not be able to see through some of that conceals mortification, and wears in defeat Sir Robert Peel’s mystifications of the Multiplithe brow of victory. This kind of hypocrisy is cation Table ; but for our own part, we have long by no means despicable ; in political life it is thought seriously, that the ex-Premier had yet particularly desirable. Sir Robert Peel assures one service to render his country, and which he his friends at Tamworth that he is “without the can alone accomplish-namely, to account the intention or wish to resume either that authority National Creditors out of the several sums due to which belongs, or ought to belong, to office, or them. He has only to commence operations on that influence which is conferred by the lead and them individually, in order to show, by columns guidance of a great political party"—the lead and of statistics, that they were paid off five years guidance of a great political party will naturally ago, and have since been receiving in interest a spring from the confidence of that party, or from bonus upon nothing, for nothing was due. its necessities. A party without a leader accord- The object of his arithmetic, addressed to the ing to its wishes, must, in the freedom of discre- people of Tamworth, is to show that from 1841 tion, make a compact with necessity; and this to 1846 he reduced taxes amounting to £7,625,000,
without reducing the revenue more than £779,000. extent for the ordinary food of the Irish, and even We have no natural reluctance to figures—having of a large number of the Scottish and English peotwenty years since studied book-keeping by single ple ; and it must be remembered that a considerand double entry, and since then had to deal with able portion of the increase in the consumptof these several twisted skeins of numerals; but we can- articles in the Clyde, the Mersey, and the Severn, not discover any immediate sequence between the has been on Irish account, although nominally reductions of taxation effected by Sir Robert set down to the English and Scottish receipt of Peel and the increase of revenue from the depart-custom. There is not an importer or a wholesale ments which he did not reduce. There aro some grocer in Glasgow, Liverpool, or Bristol, who elements of revenue that might be increased by cannot substantiate this statement; and who the abolition or reduction of other taxes. The knows not, what Sir Robert Peel seems to forget, removal of the tax on tea would be followed by a that our increased revenue in 1847, in part at greater consumpt of sugar than at present ; and least, and in no inconsiderable part, arises out of necessarily there would be realised an additional our increased misery; being, in fact, part of the income from the sugar duties. But indiscrimi- eight million loan repaid in duties. The fact, to nate reductions can have no great or immediate any party acquainted with these subjects suffiresult of this nature. Nothing is more calcu- ciently clear without a parade of figures, shows lated to injure any cause than sanguine and un- the limited degree of trust that must be placed in founded calculations propagated in all quarters, tables ; and the probability that deception may certain to be refuted by experience, and liable lurk even amongst the numerals, leading us to ever to prejudice a particular policy in public believe in the reality of prosperity, while we are estimation. Freedom of trade, for example, would driving rapidly on the road to ruin. The flatnot work an instantaneous miracle. A patient tering array of tables may be only the hectic spot reduced to weakness from a long course of bad
on the face of beauty, disclosing its progress in living is not to expect strength immediately on consumption, and to the grave. his abandonment of evil practices.
There are two classes of duties which Sir R. be restored by perseverance to sound health. Peel's Government touched : one, that they reMonths or years of a proper course of life pealed—and another, that they reduced. From may entirely change and renovate his systems those that were repealed there is nothing to expect. but he need not run round his friends on the Out of nothing, nothing can be made. Their third day of his return to reason and morality, removal is a direct and dead loss to the revenue ; inviting them to mark the strength that but may be a gain to the people, greater in excold water has imparted to his frame tent than their money value ; and thus they may receipt. An invalid cannot draw on health render good service to the State, even in their debills payable at sight. He must write out a long mise. The duties, for example, have been withdate if he expects his drafts to be accepted and drawn from the importation of the raw material paid. The social economy of a nation is, at least, of manufactures—from cotton wool, from flax, equally difficult to cure. The repeal of some acts, and other produce; and thus the manufacturers and the adoption of other statutes, will not convert of these articles have been relieved. Lord George gloom into sunshine with a magician's stroke. Bentinck, in endeavouring to refute the arguIn this, as in most other matters, we must wait and ments of Sir Robert Peel, quotes the fall in the work : thankful that the Legislature has, in re-exports of cotton, linen, and woollen manufactures moving impediments, done its part.
in the first five months of 1817, compared with Sanguine calculations characterise all the ex- the first five months of 1845, as evidence that the Premier's arithmetical arguments; and he has repeal of the cotton duty has not served the inbeen an eminently fortunate statesman. He terests of our manufacturers. Both statesmen came last into power on the back of a season of err by leaning fixedly on the numerals. The fact great distress, and he was thrust out of office at adduced by Lord George Bentinck, only shows a date immediately preceding the greatest cala- that a mere accountant is incapable of estimating, mity that has fallen on this country since the through the channels afforded by his profession war. The interval was marked by great pros alone, the progress or the decay of a nation. We perity, and by an excitement and speculation un- fear that all parties have allowed themselves to precedented in the current century, or perhaps at be misled by an exhibition of figures, without a any other time. The rapid distribution of capital, consideration of principles. It cannot be denied, and the influence of tolerably good harvests, that the exportation of cotton, linen, and woollen and low prices, combined to increase the demand manufactures fell in the period quoted by Lord for colonial and foreign produce, and the amount George Bentinck; and it even makes the case of duties payable on their importation. Even in more favourable for the noble Lord that there 1847 the importation, the consumpt, and the was a rise in the value of the raw material ; 80 revenue from colonial and foreign produce, has that although no higher prices may have been increased ; and in many quarters this symptom obtained for cotton yarns and goods exported, of weakness has been mistaken for a proof of yet the duty repealed had all been thrown into returning strength. Grain has reached a price the cost of production, rather than into the profit that renders the use of sugar in distillation ad-fund. It does not, however, follow, from a reducvisable, and thus its consumpt has increased. tion in the foreign exports occurring immediately Tea and coffee have been substituted to a great on the abolition of the cotton duty, that the trade
was not greatly benefitted by the repeal of that | ness into new channels, after obstructions are tax. Except for that step the demand for foreign cleared away; and we cannot yet look for the markets might have been less, and our power to fair and legitimate results of acts that only passed compete with foreign makers crippled. Lord the legislature a few months since, in a season George Bentinck, therefore, has no evidence, in that has been exceptional to all general rules. figures, that the repeal of the duty, in any way, Sir Robert Peel's address begins with 1841. interfered with the sale of the products, and Sir He seems to have cut away all the previous Robert Peel is not supported, even by his figures, years of his lifetime. To the last parliament, in the response for which he works the oracle. and to that alone he invites the attention of his
The reduction in our foreign exports, on a com- constituents. History will not thus deal with facts. parison of the first five months of 1845 with the Whatever degree of assistance he may have ultisimilar period of 1847, is established by tables.mately rendered to a system of policy that could be There can be no doubt that we exported more no longer obstructed, however it might have been goods in 1845 than in 1817. It does not follow weakened--its delay was mainly to be ascribed to that we sold more. When Sir Robert Peel was his opposition. The credit that he can claim bemoving the adoption of his new measures in 1846, longs only to a late convert. He has proclaimed he quoted the liberal exports of 1845 to prove the how much wiser than the Premier of England success of his policy. The quotations were ap- had many a spurned and contemned village poliplauded. The triumph was considered complete. tician been, whoeven before the Manchester The Minister and his friends were deceived by League had given weight and consistency to the numerals. They looked at the bare figures, agitation-proclaimed within his circle the prinwhich are facts of doubtful character, and forgot ciples of free trade which the Legislature have all other considerations. The exports of 1845 recently adopted. This fact has been much were largely composed of consignments. Goods overlooked, and with it the earnest consistency were sent out in the hope that they would sell. of men who furnished the arguments on which In some cases bills were drawn upon them. In this great change proceeded when its advocacy others orders were given for produce to be paid was repaid by scorn and persecution. We have by these proceeds. Either alternative produced heard of a penny subscription to Peel—a penny the same issue of forcing the sale of manufactures subscription to provide a testimonial to a man for in foreign markets below their value. In 1847 being, by his own confession, a fool during thirty there have been fewer consignments. Money has years of his public life, and a wise man only in been scarce, and discounts have been dear, the thirty-first! A penny subscription to pay the 80 that even distant orders have been occa- means of testifying national gratitude to the sionally neglected, and the business done has statesman who has always kept upon the winning been of a more substantial character than in 1845. side, and has stood by injustice until there was When, therefore, Sir Robert Peel quoted the in- not a plank left for wrong to float by! A penny crease of exports in 1845, as the ground of pro- subscription for a convert who resisted reason, ceeding with his measures in 1846, he relied upon and was only instructed by famine and the regisa show of figures which were thoroughly unsub- tration courts ! Then, surely, we should have a stantial; and now when Lord George Bentinck twenty shilling's subscription to such men retaliates these same figures on his opponent, he Colonel Thompson, Mr. Hume, Ebenezer Elliot, is in a similar error.
We believe that the time and Mr. Villiers. If Peel is to be rewarded for is not yet fully come when the consequences of succumbing when resistance was unavailable, the late commercial measures can be judged from how should the men be remunerated by whom facts. The present year is, and even the previous the siege was conducted, the breaches made, and year was, exceptional in the ordinary course of this citadel of corruption compelled to surrenevents. The harvests of 1845 and 1846 disorder ! Even before the Manchester men, who ganised all commercial proceedings ; and even if finally settled the question of the corn law, comthat had not occurred, there has not been suffi- bined for that purpose, how many individuals cient time given from practical results to prove in humble circumstances, in small towns and the expediency of these measures. On that sub- even in rural districts, suffered loss, and reproach, ject we entertain no doubt. It is a matter de- and persecution, from their desire to aid in disenpendent on principles to which statistics will ulti-thralling their native land from those very bonds mately conform themselves. The British people that Peel was applauded and rewarded for dehave done their part to open up the world's trade, fending. Good men do not work for applause ; and other nations must follow in these paths. and it is well, for amongst the friends of free Early in 1846, Sir Robert Peel quoted the imports trade virtue had need to be its own reward. of live cattle to show that the removal of the prohibition to import them had not led to a great influx of foreign stock. He had forgotten that stock of this description cannot be reared in a There is in this pamphlet a curious omission. single quarter. At the time the foreign cattle The writer professes to give an account of his brought into this country were not numerous, Parliamentary career from 1841 to 1817. He is but in 1847, so far as it has yet gone, they have at the confessional, and pretends to make a clear increased three hundred per cent. on the impor- exposition of all his transactions ; but he omits tations of 1845. Years are required to bring busi- I those measures which he said in 1844 and 1845
THE CURRENCY LAWS.