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CHAPTER IV: protection of commerce - Richard Cobden, The Political Writings of Richard Cobden, vol. 1 
The Political Writings of Richard Cobden, with a Preface by Lord Welby, Introductions by Sir Louis Mallet, C.B., and William Cullen Bryant, Notes by F.W. Chesson and a Bibliography, vol. 1, (London: T. Fisher Unwin, 1903).
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protection of commerce
We began the preceding remarks upon a question which, however universally recognised in former times, has now almost fallen into neglect, by quoting a passage from the last speech of King William III. to his Parliament; and—before proceeding to discuss that other, but still more popular, pretence for wars and standing armaments, the protection of our commerce—we shall give an extract or two from the latest (though we sincerely hope not the last) address of William IV. to his Reformed Parliament, delivered on the 4th of February, 1836:—
“I continue to receive from my allies, and, generally, from all foreign powers, assurances of their unaltered desire to cultivate with me those friendly relations which it is equally my wish to maintain with them; and the intimate union which happily subsists between this country and France is a pledge to Europe for the continuation of general peace.”
After the above passage, which contains, one would suppose, ample guarantees against war—since it not only conveys assurances of the peaceful disposition of all foreign powers towards this country, but adds, by way of making those assurances doubly sure, that the union which happily subsists between England and France is a pledge for the continuance of a general peace—comes the following:—
“The necessity of maintaining the maritime strength of the country, and of giving adequate protection to the extended commerce of my subjects, has occasioned some increase in the estimates for the naval branch of the public service.”
Now, if we felt some difficulty in apprehending the question of the “balancing principle,” we confess ourselves to be much more at a loss to understand what is here meant by the protection of commerce through an increase in the navy estimates. Our commerce is, in other words, our manufactures; and the first inquiry which occurs necessarily is, Do we need an augmentation of the naval force, in order to guard our ingenious artisans and industrious labourers, or to protect those precious results of their mechanical genius, the manufactories of our capitalists? This apprehension vanishes, if we refer to the assurances held out in the above double guarantee for the continuance of peace, that our shores are safe from foreign aggression. The next idea that suggests itself is, Does piracy increase the demand for vessels of war? We, who write in the centre of the largest export trade in the world, have not heard of even one complaint of violence done to British interests upon the ocean; and probably there are not to be found a dozen freebooters upon the face of the aquatic globe. South America demands no addition to the force upon its coasts at the present moment, when those several Governments are more firmly organised, and foreign interests consequently more secure, than at any previous period. China presents no excuse; for her policy is, fortunately for her territorial integrity, invulnerable to foreign attempts at “intervention.” The rest of Asia is our own. Where, then, shall we seek for a solution of the difficulty, or how account for the necessity which called for the increase of our naval strength?
The commerce of this country, we repeat, is, in other words, its manufactures. Our exports do not consist, as in Mexico or Brazil, of the produce of our soil and our mines; or, as in France and the United States, of a mixture of articles of agricultural and manufacturing origin: but they may be said to be wholly produced by the skill and industry of the manufacturing population of the United Kingdom.∗ Upon the prosperity, then, of this interest, hangs our foreign commerce; on which depends our external rank as a maritime state; our customs duties, which are necessary to the payment of the national debt; and the supply of every foreign article of our domestic consumption—every pound of tea, sugar, coffee, or rice, and all the other commodities consumed by the entire population of these realms. In a word, our national existence is involved in the well-doing of our manufacturers. If our readers—many of whom will be of the agricultural class, but every one of them nevertheless equally interested in the question—should ask, as all intelligent and reasoning minds ought to do, To what are we indebted for this commerce?—we answer, in the name of every manufacturer and merchant of the kingdom—The cheapness alone of our manufactures. Are we asked, How is this trade protected, and by what means can it be enlarged? The reply still is, By the cheapness of our manufactures. Is it inquired how this mighty industry, upon which depends the comfort and existence of the whole empire, can be torn from us?—we rejoin, Only by the greater cheapness of the manufactures of another country. These truths are, we presume, well known to the Government of Great Britain; at least, one member of the present cabinet is vigilantly alive to their momentous character, as we are going to show, by referring to a fact coming within our personal experience, and which bears pointedly upon the question in hand.
The Directors of the Chamber of Commerce of Manchester (of which board the author has the honour of being a member) were favoured, a short time since, with a communication from the Right Hon. C. P. Thomson, accompanied by an assortment of samples of various fabrics, which, in the diligent fulfilment of his official duties, he had caused to be procured from the several manufacturing districts of the Continent; and requesting a report as to the comparative relation which, after due examination, they might be found to bear towards the manufactures of England. Among these were patterns of Swiss Turkey-red chintz prints and of mixed cotton and linen Saxony drills—both of which commodities have been for some time sold in those quarters—superior, both in cheapness and quality, to similar articles produced in this country: and, consequently, in reporting to the Board of Trade, the Directors of the Chamber of Commerce had the disagreeable duty of stating that, in those particular products of the loom and printing machine, we were beaten by our foreign rivals, and superseded in third or neutral markets. The causes of the advantage thus possessed over us by our competitors on the Continent, and which were pointed out to the attention of the Right Hon. President, are the heavy imposts still fettering our manufacturing energies, and the greater cost of the food of our workmen: the remedy is, obviously, a reduction of the duties on corn, oil, soap, &c. But, if, instead of naming such causes and remedies as these, the Manchester Chamber of Commerce had stated in its report that the prints of Switzerland and the drills of Saxony (the governments of which two countries do not together own a ship of war, as we believe) were cheaper than the like articles fabricated here, because the British navy was not sufficiently strong, and had advised for relief that half a million a year should be added to the navy estimates—would not a writ de lunatico inquirendo have justly been issued against those intelligent Directors, the writer's colleagues, without further evidence of their insanity! Yet, having seen that the only way in which we can protect our commerce is the cheapness of our manufactures, what other object can be meant, when the Government calls for an augmentation of the navy, with a view to the protection of our commerce, but some plan, however inappreciable to common minds, for reducing the expenditure of the country, and thereby relieving us from some of the burdensome imposts with which our race of competition is impeded?
But there is, in the second passage which we have just quoted from his Majesty's speech, a part which tends to throw more light upon the whole—where it refers to the necessity of giving adequate protection to the “extended “commerce of the country. By which we are to infer that it is the principle of the government that the extension of our trade with foreign countries demands for its protection a corresponding augmentation of the royal navy. This, we are aware, was the policy of the last century, during the greater part of which the motto, “Ships, Colonies, and Commerce,”∗ was borne upon the national escutcheon, became the watchword of statesmen, and was the favourite sentiment of public writers; but this, which meant, in other words—“Men of war to conquer colonies, to yield us a monopoly of their trade,” must now be dismissed, like many other equally glittering but false adages of our forefathers, and in its place we must substitute the more homely, but enduring maxim—Cheapness, which will command commerce; and whatever else is needful will follow in its train.
At a time when all beyond the precincts of Europe was colonial territory, and when the trade of the world was, with the exception of China, almost wholly forced into false channels, by the hand of violence, which was no sooner withdrawn than, by its own inherent law—the law of nature—it again sought its proper level course, the increase of the navy necessarily preceded and accompanied an extension of our commerce. The policy of nations, then, if judged by the standard which we apply to the conduct of individuals now—and there can be no exculpation in multitudinous immorality—was, to waylay their customers, whom they first knocked down and disabled, and afterwards dragged into their stores and compelled to purchase whatever articles they chose to offer, at such prices as they chose to ask! The independence of the New World has for ever put an end to the colonial policy of the Old, and with it that system of fraud and violence which for centuries characterised the commercial intercourse of the two hemispheres. And in that portentous truth, the Americas arefree, teeming as it does with future change, there is nothing that more nearly affects our destiny than the total revolution which it dictates to the statesmen of Great Britain, in the commercial, colonial,∗ and foreign policy of our Government. America is once more the theatre upon which nations are contending for mastery: it is not, however, a struggle for conquest, in which the victor will acquire territorial dominion—the fight is for commercial supremacy, and the battle will be won by the cheapest!
Whilst our trade rested upon our foreign dependencies, as was the case in the middle of the last century—whilst, in other words, force and violence were necessary to command customers for our manufactures—it was natural and consistent that almost every king's speech should allude to the importance of protecting the commerce of the country, by means of a powerful navy; but whilst, under the present more honest principles of trade, cheapness alone is necessary to command free and independent purchasers, and to protect our commerce, it must be evident that such armaments as impose the smallest possible tax upon the cost of our commodities must be the best adapted for the protection of our trade. But, besides dictating the disuse of warlike establishments, free trade (for of that beneficent doctrine we are speaking) arms its votaries by its own pacific nature, in that eternal truth—the more any nation traffics abroad upon free and honest principles, the less it will be in danger of wars.
If, by way of example, we refer to the present commercial intercourse between the United States and this empire, how completely does it illustrate the force of the above maxim! At no period of history were two people, aliens to each other by birth, government, laws, and institutions, united indissolubly by one common interest and mutual dependence, like these distant nations. One-third∗ of our whole exports consists of cotton manufactures, the raw material of which is produced from the soil of the United States. More than a million of our population depend upon the due supply of this cotton wool for the labour of every succeeding day, and for the regular payment of their weekly wages. We sometimes hear objections against the free importation of corn, made on the ground that we should become dependent upon foreigners for bread; but here we have a million of people, whose power of purchasing not only bread, but meat, ay, or even potatoes, as well as clothing, is supplied from the annual growth of lands possessed by an independent nation, more than three thousand miles off. The equilibrium† of this stupendous industry is preserved by the punctual arrival from the United States of a quantity of raw cotton, averaging 15,000‡ bales weekly, or more than 2,000 bales a day; and it depends also upon the equally constant weekly departure of more than a quarter of a million sterling worth of cotton goods, exported to foreign parts. Now, what precaution is taken by the Government of this country to guard and regulate this precious flood of traffic? How many of those costly vessels of war, which are maintained at an expense to the nation of many millions of pounds annually, do our readers suppose, are stationed at the mouths of the Mersey and Clyde, to welcome and convoy into Liverpool and Glasgow the merchant ships from New York, Charleston, or New Orleans, all bearing the inestimable freight of cotton wool, upon which our commercial and social existence depends? Not one! What portion of our standing army, costing seven millions a year, is occupied in defending this more than Pactolus—this golden stream of trade, on which floats not only the wealth, but the hopes and existence of a great community? Four invalids at the Perch Rock Battery hold the sinecure office of defending the port of Liverpool! But our exports to the United States will reach this year, perhaps, in real or declared value, more than ten millions sterling, and nearly one half of this amount goes to New York:—what portion of the Royal navy is stationed off that port to protect our merchants’ ships and cargoes? The appearance of a King's ship at New York is an occurrence of such rarity as to attract the especial notice of the public journals; whilst, all along the entire Atlantic coast of the United States—extending, as it does, more than 3,000 miles, to which we send a quarter of our whole yearly exports—there are stationed two∗ British ships of only, and these two have also their stations at the West Indies.
No! this commerce, unparalleled in magnitude, between two remote nations, demands no armament as its guide or safeguard; nature itself is both. And will one rational mind recognise the possibility of these two communities putting a sudden stop to such a friendly traffic, and, contrary to every motive of self-interest, encountering each other as enemies? Such a rupture would be more calamitous to England than the sudden drying up of the river Thames; and more intolerable to America than the cessation of sunshine and rain over the entire surface of one of her maritime states?
And if such is the character of free trade (or, in other words, all trade between independent nations), that it unites, by the strongest motives of which our nature is susceptible, two remote communities, rendering the interest of the one the only true policy of the other, and making each equally anxious for the prosperity and happiness of both; and if, moreover, every addition to the amount of traffic between two independent States forges fresh fetters, which rivet more securely these amicable bonds—how can the extension of our commerce call for an increase in our armaments, or how can a Government stand excused from the accusation of imposture, unless by the plea of ignorance, when it calls for an augmentation of the navy estimates, under the pretence of protecting our extended commerce?
But, to put this matter in another point of view, let us suppose that this mighty traffic between England and the United States, which is wholly governed by the talismanic law of “cheapness,” were suddenly interrupted, in the only way in which it can be disturbed—by some other people producing cheaper hardware, woollens, pottery, etc., to whom the Americans, guided solely by that self-interest which controls alike the commerce of every nation, could sell their cotton for a greater amount of those manufactures in return—could our Royal navy, were it even augmented to tenfold its present monstrous force, protect us from the loss of our commerce? To answer this question, we need only appeal to the experience of facts, to be found at this time operating in another quarter.
At the moment when we write the British naval force stationed in the Mediterranean amounts to thirty-six vessels of war,∗ mounting altogether 1,320 guns, being rather more than a third of the death-dealing metal afloat in our King's ships. Our entire trade to all the nations bordering on this sea, and including the whole of that with Spain and France, amounts to very nearly the same as our exports to the United States; in value or importance, however, it is not equal to the latter. Now, leaving for the present the question of the profitableness of carrying on a traffic with such heavy protecting expenses annexed, let us proceed to ascertain whether or not this prodigious and costly navy affords an efficient protection to our commerce in those quarters. The reader will bear in mind our statement, that the Chamber of Commerce of Manchester had the unpleasant task of reporting to the Board of Trade that the drill manufacturers of Saxony and the calico printers of Switzerland had superseded goods of the same descriptions, made in England, in third or neutral markets. Those markets were in the Mediterranean! This is not all. One of those markets, from which our manufacturers were reported to have been expelled, by a decree of far more potency than was penned by the hand of violence at Berlin and Milan, and prohibited by an interdict ten times more powerful than ever sprang from the Prussian league—the interdict of dearness; one of those markets was Gibraltar!! (We promised, a few pages back, to prove that the industrious middling and working classes of this empire have no interest in the violent and unjust seizure and retention of an integral portion of the Spanish territory; and we have, in this simple fact, redeemed our pledge.) We give it to the reflecting portion of our readers, as a truth authenticated by the very best authority, and worthy of deep attention from the economist, the statesman, and the advocate of peace and of a moral ascendency over physical force—that the artisans of Switzerland and of Saxony have achieved a victory over the manufacturers of England, upon her own fortress—the free port of Gibraltar! We kiss the rod —we dote upon this fact, which teaches, through us, a lesson to mankind, of the inefficacy of brute violence in the trading concerns of the world. Let us pause, then, to recapitulate our facts. On the one hand, behold a commerce with America, amounting to a quarter of the whole trade of the kingdom—upon which depends, from week to week, the subsistence of a million of people, and whereon rests our very existence as a commercial empire—conducted regularly, day by day, without the aid or intervention of ships of war to guide or coerce it; on the other, an armament, avowedly to protect our commerce, of 1,320 cannon, unable to guard our manufactures against the successful cheapness of the poorest, the weakest, and humblest community of the Continent—a community destitute of fleets, and without a standing army. The inference is plain—we have succeeded in establishing our premises; for, having proved that the (physically speaking) impregnable fortress of Gibraltar, with its triple lines of batteries, aided by thirty-six vessels of war, and altogether combining a greater quantity of artillery than was put in requisition to gain the victory of Waterloo, Trafalgar, or the Nile, surrenders our commerce into the hands of the Swiss and Saxons, unable to protect us against the cheaper commodities of those countries—we need not go further to show, since these two countries without navies are our witnesses of the facts, that armed fleets, armies, and fortresses, are not essential to the extension of commerce, and that they do not possess the power of protecting it against the cheapness of rivals. These may appear trite and familiar truths to our intelligent readers; our justification may be found, if needed, in the fact, that the Government has demanded and obtained an addition to our navy estimates, this session of Parliament, amounting to nearly half a million sterling per annum, under the pretence of protecting our commerce; and we do not recollect that one of our representatives rose from his seat to tell the minister, as we now tell him, that his is that kind of protection which the eagle affords to the lamb—covering it to devour it.
It will be seen that all which has been stated bears indirectly, but conclusively, upon the question of Russia and Turkey, and affords an unanswerable argument against going to war to defend our commerce by means of naval armaments; since it is plain, from the example of Gibraltar, that, even were Constantinople in our own power, its commerce could be retained only by our selling cheaper than other nations; whilst, supposing it to be in the possession of Russia or any other people, the cheapness of our commodities will eventually command that market, in the same manner as the cheap drills and prints of Saxony and Switzerland supplant our goods, in spite of the batteries and fleets which defend our Spanish fortress.
Having thus shown that cheapness, and not the cannon or the sword, is the weapon through which alone we possess and can hope to defend or extend our commerce—having proved, also, that an increase of trade, so far from demanding an augmentation of warlike armaments, furnishes an increased safeguard against the chances of war—is it not clear that, to diminish the taxes and duties which tend to enhance the cost of our manufactures, by a reduction of our navy∗ and army, is the obvious policy of a ministry which understands and desires to promote the true interests of this commercial nation? Were our army and navy reduced to one-half of their present forces, and the amount saved applied to the abolition of the duties upon cotton, wool, glass, paper, oil, soap, drugs, and the thousand other ingredients of our manufactures, such a step would do more towards protecting and extending the commerce of Great Britain than an augmentation of the naval armaments to fifty times their present strength, even supposing such an increase could be effected with no addition to the national burdens.
Experience has shown that an overwhelming power at sea, whilst it cannot dictate a favourable commercial treaty with the smallest independent State (for such a spectacle of violence was never seen as a victorious admiral, sword in hand, prescribing the terms of a tariff to his prostrate foe), has had the effect of rousing national fear, hatred, and envy, in the breasts of foreigners; and these vile feelings of human nature, awakened and cultivated by our own appeal to the mere instinct of brute force, have been naturally directed, in every possible way, to thwart and injure our trade. During the latter half of the French revolutionary wars, England, owing to successive victories, became the mistress of the ocean; her flag floated triumphantly over every navigable parallel of latitude, and her merchants and manufacturers commanded a monopoly of the markets of the globe. For a period of more than ten years an enemy's ship was scarcely to be seen, unless as a fugitive from the thunder of our vessels of war; no neutrals were allowed to pass along that thoroughfare of nations, the ocean, without submitting to pay the homage to British power of undergoing the humiliation of a search by our cruisers. There was something inconceivably flattering to the vulgar mind in this exhibition of successful violence. Our naval supremacy, consequently, became the theme and watchword of all those orators, statesmen, and writers who had an interest in perpetuating the war. Poets, too, were put in requisition; and a thousand songs, all breathing such sentiments as “Rule Britannia,” were heard in the theatres, taverns, and streets. Cupidity, as well as pride, was appealed to. Our merchants were continually reminded, by the minister and his minions, that they alone possessed the markets of the world; and, even whilst our yearly national expenditure reached nearly double the amount of the whole of our exports, such was the intoxication, such the infatuation of the moment, owing to the gross appeals made to national vanity, that the multitude were not only impressed with the belief that our commerce was profitable, but convinced that England was destined to remain permanently the same trading monopolist. Peace cured us of this maddening fever; but, in exchange, it brought the lumbago of debt, which still oppresses and torments our body politic. Not only this; the moral is yet to follow. The brute force which we had exercised towards foreign nations, at sea, during the war, had naturally excited the animal feelings of hatred, fear, and revenge, in return. Every country began to establish manufactures, in order to become independent of and secure against Great Britain. Russia, Austria, and France, now commenced the war of interdicts; and Ferdinand of Spain∗ had no sooner succeeded in re-establishing the Inquisition, than he—for whom, to the everlasting infamy of that epoch of our history, the blood and treasure of England were squandered—repaid us with a prohibition of our cottons.
We cannot give proofs of the motives which actuate the councils of despotic princes, for they furnish none to the world; but the discussions on the tariff laws in France and the United States, which were necessarily public, fully disclosed that the reason which led their governments to seek to become themselves manufacturers, was to render those countries independent of the power of Great Britain at sea. The French nation, which, in 1786 had concluded a treaty of commerce with Great Britain upon terms very favourable to the latter, and which would, had it not been interrupted by war, have consolidated the two countries by a complete identification of interests, long before the period we are now speaking of, proceeded, immediately on the close of hostilities, to prohibit the introduction of every article of our manufacture. The spirit which operated then is still alive, and with the avowal of the self-same motives; for, during the late discussions in the Chamber of Deputies∗ upon the revisal of the tariff, a discriminating duty was laid upon the coal coming from this country (by the unprecedented scheme of dividing France into three zones for that very purpose), and it was defended upon the plea of protection against inconvenience during war!
America, however, presents us with the severest lesson, as the moral of that policy which relies upon violence and war for the support or acquisition of commerce. In the report of the committee on manufactures of cotton, presented in the Congress of the United States, February 13, 1816—a paper drawn up with great moderation and delicacy, so far as relates to the allusions to British violence during the war just concluded—it is stated that, “Prior to the years 1806 and 1807, establishments for manufacturing cotton wool had not been attempted but in a few instances, and on a limited scale. Their rise and progress are attributable to embarrassments to which commerce was subjected; which embarrassments originated in causes not within the control of human prudence.” The causes here alluded to are the British orders in council and Bonaparte's decrees. Then follows a statement of the quantity of cotton wool manufactured at successive periods in the United States:—
And afterwards it goes on to say, in speaking of Great Britain—“No improper motives are intended to be imputed to that government. But does not experience teach a lesson that should never be forgotten, that governments, like individuals, are apt ‘to feel power and forget right’? It is not inconsistent with national decorum to become circumspect and prudent. May not the Government of Great Britain be inclined, in analysing the basis of her political power, to consider and regard the United States as her rival, and to indulge an improper jealousy, the enemy of peace and repose?” And, in proposing on February 12, 1816, a new tariff to the Senate, in which cotton goods are subjected to 331/3 per cent. duty, the Secretary of the Treasury, in the course of his report, has this passage:—“But it was emphatically during the period of the restrictive system and of the war that the importance of domestic manufactures became conspicuous to the nations, and made a lasting impression upon the mind of every statesman and every patriot.” It is not, however, by state papers that we can fully estimate the sentiments of the nation at large. Immediately on the cessation of war a strong feeling was manifested in all parts of the Union in favour of protecting the manufactures of the country. This feeling prevailed with the democratic party, which was then in the ascendant, quite as much as with the federalists, although the former had previously been opposed to protecting duties. We cannot better illustrate this than by giving the following extract from a letter, written at this time by the great leader and champion of that party, Jefferson, who, in his “Notes on Virginia,” written in 1785, had given his opinion, “that the workshops of Europe are the most proper to furnish the supplies of manufactures to the United States;” but, after the experience of the war, changed his opinion to the following:—“The British interdicted to our vessels all harbours of the globe, without they had at first proceeded to some one of hers, there paid tribute proportioned to their cargo, and obtained a licence to proceed to the port of their destination. Compare this state of things with that of 1785, and say whether an opinion, founded in the circumstances of that day, can be fairly applied to those of the present. We have experienced what we did not then believe, that there does exist both profligacy and power enough to exclude the United States from the field of intercourse with foreign nations. We therefore have a right to conclude, that to be independent for the comforts of life we must fabricate them for ourselves. We must now place the manufacturer by the side of the agriculturist. The question of 1785 is suppressed, or rather assumes a new form. The question is, Shall we manufacture our own comforts, or go without them at the will of a foreign nation? He, therefore, who is now against domestic manufactures, must be for reducing us to a dependence upon foreign nations. I am not one of these.
We have illustrated this matter with reference to the United States more clearly than in relation to France, because, as we have elsewhere stated, it is our conviction, after giving considerable attention to the subject, that future danger to our manufacturing and commercial supremacy impends from America rather than from any European nation. It will be seen from the preceding quotations, that from the first independence of that country, the democratic party was inimical to the establishing of protective duties; that party, under Jefferson, then was, and down to this day it continues to be triumphant; and we therefore possess unquestionable evidence that, by the hand of violence of England herself in 1806 and subsequently, the cotton manufacture was planted in the United States; and it may be seen, in the foregoing table, how, watered by the blood of our succeeding ten years’ French war, it flourished an hundred and eighty fold! That manufacture is not destined to perish; it now equals the fifth of our own staple industry. We do not predict such a retributive visitation; we are proof against despair, when the energies of our countrymen are the grounds of hope; but if, in consequence of past wastefulness, or future extravagance and misgovernment here, a people beyond the Atlantic, free of debt, resolute in peacefulness, and of severe economy, should wrest, by the victory of “cheapness,” that main prop of our national prosperity, the cotton manufacture, from our hands—how greatly will it aggravate a nation's sufferings, to remember the bitter historical truth, that that people was goaded to the occupations of the spinning-jenny and the loom by the violence of Great Britain herself!
We mention these facts for the purpose of appealing, on a fresh ground, against the policy of maintaining enormous standing armaments. It has been seen that armies and ships cannot protect or extend commerce; whilst, as is too well known, the expenses of maintaining them oppress and impede our manufacturing industry—two sufficient grounds for reducing both. There is another motive in the above facts. That feeling which was awakened by our overwhelming power at sea, at the conclusion of the war—the feeling of fear and mistrust lest we should be, in the words of the American state paper, just quoted, “apt to feel power and forget right”—is kept alive by the operation of the same cause, which tends still, as we have seen by the last debates in the French Chamber of Deputies, to afford excuses for perpetuating the restrictive duties upon our fabrics. The standing armies and navies, therefore, whilst they cannot possibly protect our commerce—whilst they add, by the increase of taxation, to the cost of our manufactures, and thus augment the difficulty of achieving the victory of “cheapness”—tend to deter rather than attract customers. The feeling is natural; it is understood in the individual concerns of life. Does the shopkeeper, when he invites buyers to his counter, place there, as a guard to protect his stock or defend his salesmen from violence, a gang of stout fellows, armed with pistols and cutlasses?
There is a vague apprehension of danger to our shores experienced by some writers, who would not feel safe unless with the assurance that the ports of England contained ships of war ready at all times to repel an attempt at invasion. This feeling arises from a narrow and imperfect knowledge of human nature, in supposing that another people shall be found sufficiently void of perception and reflection—in short, sufficiently void of perception and reflection—in short, sufficiently mad—to assail a stronger and richer empire, merely because the retributive injury, thereby inevitably entailed upon themselves, would be delayed a few months by the necessary preparation of the instruments of chastisement. Such are the writers by whom we have been told that Russia was preparing an army of 50,000 men, to make a descent upon Great Britain to subjugate a population of twenty-five millions! Those people do not in their calculations award to mankind even the instinct of self-preservation which is given for the protection of the brute creation. The elephant is not for ever brandishing his trunk, the lion closes his mouth and conceals his claws, and the deadly dart of the reptile is only protruded when the animal is enraged; yet we do not find that the weaker tribes—the goats, the deer, or the foxes—are given to assaulting those masters of the forest in their peaceful moods.
If that which constitutes cowardice in individuals, viz., the taking of undue and excessive precautions against danger, merits the same designation when practised by communities—then England certainly must rank as the greatest poltroon among nations. With twenty-five millions of the most robust, the freest, the richest, and most united population of Europe—enclosed within a smaller area than ever before contained so vast a number of inhabitants—placed upon two islands, which, for security, would have been chosen before any spot on earth, by the commander seeking for a Torres Vedras to contain his host—and with the experience of seven hundred years of safety, during which period no enemy has set foot upon their shores—yet behold the government of Great Britain maintaining mighty armaments, by sea and land, ready to repel the assaults of imaginary enemies! There is no greater obstacle to cheap and good government than this feeling of danger, which has been created and fostered for the very purpose of misgovernment.∗
Instead of pandering to this unworthy passion, every journalist and public writer ought to impress upon the people of these realms, that, neither from the side of Russia, nor from any other quarter, is this industrious, orderly, moral, and religious community threatened; that it is only from decay and corruption within, and not from external foes, that a nation of twenty-five millions of free people—speaking one language, identified by habits, traditions, and institutions, governed by like laws, owning the same monarch, and placed upon an insular territory of less than 100,000 square miles—can ever be endangered. History, as we have before remarked, affords no example of a great empire—such, for instance, as Prussia—consolidated, enlightened, and moral, falling a prey to barbarous invaders. But the British Empire, with more than double the population and twenty times the wealth, possesses in the sea-girt nature of its situation, a thousand times the security of Prussia. To attempt to augment such a measure of safety by oppressive armaments, by land and sea—is it the part of wisdom and prudence, or of improvidence and folly?
But to return to that course of inquiry from which our argument has slightly swerved. We recur to the subject of protecting our commerce by armed ships; and it becomes necessary next to examine, whether, even supposing our naval force could defend our trade against the attacks of rivals (which we have conclusively proved it cannot), the cost of its protection does not, in some cases, more than absorb the gain of such traffic. The real or declared value of all the British manufactures and other produce exported to the Mediterranean, including the coast of Africa and the Black Sea, will this year amount to about £9,500,000. Under the groundless plea of protecting this commerce, we find, from the United Service Journal of June 1st, that a naval armament, mounting more than 1,300 guns, being upwards of a third of the national force, is stationed within the Straits of Gibraltar. Taking the annual cost of the entire British navy at five millions, if we apportion a third part of this amount, and add the whole cost of the fortifications and garrisons of the Mediterranean, with their contingents at the war office, ordnance, etc., we shall be quite safe and within the mark, in estimating that our yearly expenditure in guarding the commerce of this sea, amounts to upwards of three millions sterling, or one-third of our exports to those quarters. Now, what kind of a business would a wholesale dealer or merchant pronounce it, were his traveller's expenses, for escort alone, to come to 6s. 8d.∗ in the pound on the amount of his sales! Yet this is precisely the unprofitable character of our yearly trade to the Mediterranean. Most people approach the investigation of a nation's affairs with the impression that they do not come under the same laws of common sense and homely wisdom by which private concerns are governed—than which nothing can be more erroneous. America, which carries on a traffic one-half as extensive as Great Britain, with only a sixth† of our navy expenses, and with no charge for maintaining colonies or garrisons, is every year realising a profit to her people beyond that of her extravagant rival, in proportion to her more economical establishments; just exactly in the same way that the merchant or shopkeeper who conducts his business at a less cost for rent, clerks, etc., will, at each stock-taking, find his balance-sheet more favourable than that of his less frugal competitor. And the result will be in the one case as in the other—that the cheaper management will produce cheaper commodities; which, in the event, will give a victory, in every market, to the more prudent trader.
But if, instead of the Mediterranean generally, we apply this test to an individual nation situated on that sea, we shall be able to illustrate the matter more plainly. In the same work from which we have before quoted, we find it stated that there are (June 1st) thirteen British ships of war lying at Lisbon, carrying 372 guns; a force about equal to the whole American navyemployed in protecting the interests of that commercial people all over the world! That part of our annual navy estimates which goes to support this amount of guns, with contingent expenses fairly proportioned, will reach about £700,000. Turning to M'Culloch's Commercial Dictionary (article, Oporto), we find that the declared value of exports of British manufactures and produce to the entire kingdom of Portugal, reached in 1831 (the latest year we have at this moment access to), £975,991. Here then we find, even allowing for increase, the escort costing nearly as much as the amount sold. In a word, Portugal is, at this moment, paying us at the rate of £500,000 a year clear and dead loss! Our commerce with that country, on this 1st June, was precisely of the same ruinous character to the British nation as it would be in the case of an individual trader who turned over twenty thousand a year, and whose expenses in clerks, watchmen, rents, etc., were £15,000. If anything could add to the folly of such conduct—conduct which, if proved against an individual brought before an insolvent debtors’ tribunal would be enough to consign him to prison—it is, to recollect that no part of such a nautical force can possibly be of the slightest service to our trade with Portugal, which is wholly independent of such coercion. Even our foreign secretary—a functionary who, during the last hundred and fifty years, has travelled abroad for this commercial empire with no other result to the national ledger but eight hundred millions of bad debts—has, we are happy to see, discovered this truth; for, on being questioned by Mr. Robinson in the House,∗ as to a recent grateful augmentation of duties upon British goods, amounting to 14 per cent., by the Government of Lisbon, our present foreign secretary, Lord Palmerston, avowed that the Portuguese were free to put whatever restraints they chose upon our trade with their country; and he merely threatened, if the tariff was not satisfactory, that he would attack them—how do our readers suppose?—with the thunder of our ships in the Tagus?—with soldiers and sailors?—with grape, musketry, shot, shell, and rocket?—all of which we provide for the protection of our commerce? No—with retaliatory duties!
To proceed to a worse case. On the 1st June, our naval force, on the West India station (see United Service Journal), amounted to 29 vessels, carrying 474 guns, to protect a commerce just exceeding two millions per annum. This is not all. A considerable military force is kept up in those islands, which, with its contingent of home expenses at the War Office, Ordnance Office, etc., must also be put to the debit of the same account. Add to which, our civil expenditure, and the charges at the Colonial Office on behalf of the West Indies; and we find, after due computation, that our whole expenditure, in governing and protecting the trade of those islands, exceeds, considerably, the total amount of their imports of our produce and manufactures. Our case here is no better than that of Jenkins and Sons, or Jobson and Co., or any other firm, whose yearly returns are less than the amount of their expenses for travellers, clerks, etc.; and if the British Empire escapes the ruin which, at the close of the year, must inevitably befall those improvident traders, it is only because we have other markets and resources—the Americas, and Asia, and the productive industry of these islands—to draw upon, to cover the annual loss sustained by our West India possessions (?)
Or, for another parallel case, let our readers suppose that a Yarmouth house engaged in the herring trade were to maintain, besides the fishermen who with their boats and nets were employed in catching the fish, as many yachts, full of well-dressed lookers on, as should cost a sum equal to the value of all the herrings caught. That house would, at the end of the year, have sacrificed the whole of the money paid for the labour of the fishermen, besides the interest and wear and tear of the capital in boats, nets, etc. This is precisely the situation of our commerce with the West Indies at this moment. The British nation—the productive classes—pay in taxation as much in proportion to support well-dressed lookers-on in ships of war, garrisons, and civil offices, as their goods sell for to the West Indians. And, consequently, the whole amount expended for wages and material, together with the wear and tear of machinery, and loss of capital incurred in making cottons, woollens, etc., besides the hire of merchants’ ships and seamen to convey the merchandise to market, is irredeemably lost to the tax-payers of this country.∗ Here is a plain statement of the case, and in America, where everything is subjected to the test of common sense, the question would be at once determined by such an appeal to the homely wisdom of every-day life. If in that country it could be shown that a traffic between New York and Cuba to the yearly amount of ten millions of dollars was conducted at a cost to the community of the same amount of taxation, it would be put down by one unanimous cry of outraged prudence from Maine to Louisiana. And how long will it be before the policy of the Government of this manufacturing and commercial nation shall be determined by at least as much calculation and regard for self-interest as are necessary to the prosperity of a private business? Not until such time as Englishmen apply the same rules of common sense to the affairs of state that they do to their individual undertakings. We will not stop to inquire of what use are those naval armaments to protect a traffic with our own territory. It is customary, however, to hear our standing army and navy defended as necessary for the protection of our colonies, as though some other nation might otherwise seize them. Where is the enemy (?) that would be so good as to steal such property? We should consider it to be quite as necessary to arm in defence of our national debt!
Enough has been said to prove that even if armaments for the protection of commerce could effect the object for which they are maintained (although we have shown the false pretensions of the plea of defending our trade), still the cost of supporting these safeguards may often be greater than the amount of profit gained. This argument applies more immediately to Turkey and the East, upon which countries a share of public attention has lately been bestowed far beyond the importance of their commerce.∗ It would be difficult to apportion the precise quota of our ships of war, which may be said to be at this moment maintained with a view to support our influence or carry into effect the views of our Foreign Secretary in the affairs of Constantinople. The late augmentation of the navy—the most exceptionable vote which has passed a reformed House of Commons—although accomplished by the Ministry without explanation of its designs, further than the century-old pretence of protecting our commerce,∗ was generally believed to have been aimed at Russia in the Black Sea. Our naval force in the East was considerable previously; but taking only the increase into calculation, it will cost more than three times the amount of the current profits of our trade with Turkey, whilst it can show no prospective benefits, since, even if we possessed Constantinople ourselves, we should only be able to command its trade by selling, as at Gibraltar, cheaper than other people. Our nautical establishments devoted to the (pretended) guardianship of British commercial interests (for we can have no other description of interests a thousand miles off) in Turkey are, the present year, costing the tax-payers of this country, upon the lowest computation, more than three times the amount of the annual profit of our trade with that country. Not content with this state of things, which leaves very little chance of future gain, some writers and speakers would plunge us into a war with Russia, in defence of Turkey, for the purpose of protecting this commerce, the result of which would inevitably be, as in former examples of wars undertaken to defend Spain or Portugal, that such an accumulation of expenses would ensue as to prevent the possibility of the future profit upon our exports to the Ottoman empire even amounting to so much as should discharge the yearly interest of the debt contracted in its behalf.
We had intended and were prepared to give a summary of the wars, their causes and commercial consequences, in which Great Britain has been during the last century and a half from time to time engaged; but we are admonished that our limited space will not allow us to follow out this design. It must suffice to offer as the moral of the subject, that although the conflicts in which this country has during the last 150 years involved itself have, as Sir Henry Parnell∗ has justly remarked, in almost every instance been undertaken in behalf of our commerce, yet we hesitate not to declare that there is no instance recorded in which a favourable tariff or a beneficial commercial treaty has been extorted from an unwilling enemy at the point of the sword. On the contrary, every restriction that embarrasses the trade of the whole world, all existing commercial jealousies between nations, the debts that oppress the countries of Europe, the incalculable waste owing to the misdirected labour and capital of communities, these and a thousand other evils that are now actively thwarting and oppressing commerce are all the consequences of wars. How shall a profession which withdraws from productive industry the ablest of the human race, and teaches them systematically the best modes of destroying mankind, which awards honours only in proportion to the number of victims offered at its sanguinary altar, which overturns cities, ravages farms and vineyards, uproots forests, burns the ripened harvest, which, in a word, exists but in the absence of law, order, and security— how can such a profession be favourable to commerce, which increases only with the increase of human life, whose parent is agriculture, and which perishes or flies at the approach of lawless rapine? Besides, they who propose to influence by force the traffic of the world, forget that affairs of trade, like matters of conscience, change their very nature if touched by the hand of violence; for as faith, if forced, would no longer be religion, but hypocrisy, so commerce becomes robbery if coerced by warlike armaments.∗ If, then, war has in past times in no instance served the just interests of commerce, whilst it has been the sole cause of all its embarrassments; if for the future, when trade and manufactures are brought under the empire of “cheapness,” it can still less protect, whilst its cost will yet more heavily oppress it; and having seen that if war could confer a golden harvest of gain upon us instead of this unmixed catalogue of evils it would still be not profit, but plunder; having demonstrated these truths, surely we may hope to be spared a repetition of the mockery offered to this commercial empire at the hands of its government and legislature in the proposal to protect our commerce by an increase of the Royal navy! On behalf of the trading world an indissoluble alliance is proclaimed with the cause of peace, and if the unnatural union be again attempted of that daughter of Peace, Commerce, whose path has ever been strewed with the choicest gifts of religion, civilisation, and the arts, with the demon of carnage, War, loaded with the maledictions of widows and orphans, reeking with the blood of thousands of millions† of victims, with feet fresh from the smoking ruins of cities, whose ears delight in the groans of the dying, and whose eyes love to gloat upon the dead, if such an unholy union be hereafter proposed, as the humblest of the votaries of that commerce which is destined to regenerate and unite the whole world, we will forbid the banns.
It was our intention, had space permitted it, to have proved, from facts which we had prepared for the purpose, that no class or calling, of whatever rank in society, has ever derived substantial or permanent advantage from war. The agriculturist, indeed, might be supposed to be interested in that state of things which yielded an augmentation of price for his produce, and so he might if hostilities were constant and eternal. But war is at best but a kind of intermittent fever, and the cure or death of the patient must at some time follow. This simile may be justly applied to the condition of the farmer during the French wars and subsequently, at which former period, exposed to the effects of the bank restriction, of enormous loans, and of paper issues, the pulsation of prices sometimes alternated biennially, with dreadful consequences to the febrile sufferer, the agriculturist. What management or calculation on the part of the farmer could be proof against such fluctuations in the market, arising from continental battles or the violence or wickedness of a powerful and corrupt government as we find when wheat, which in 1798 averaged £2 10s. 3d. a quarter, had in 1800 reached £5 13s. 7d., and again sold in 1802 at £3 7s. 5d., a state of things which exposed the capitalist and the adventurer, the prudent man and the gambler, to one common fate of suffering and ruin? The dull and, to many, fatal peace brought a state of convalesence more intolerable than the excitement of war. After more than twenty years of this latter species of suffering the invalid is even now scarcely cured. Will he permit his wounds to be re-opened merely that he may again undergo the self-same healing process? But the great majority of agriculturists, the labourers, so far from deriving any advantages from it, suffered grievously from the effects of that war which is sometimes excused or palliated on account of the pretended benefits it conferred upon the “landed interest.”
Whilst the prices of every commodity of food and clothing were rising, in consequence of the depreciation of the currency and other causes incidental to the state of war, the labourers’ earnings continued pretty much the same. The consequence was that bread sometimes became a luxury, as is now the case in Ireland, too dear for the English husbandman's resources; that the cruel salt-tax interposed a barrier between him and that necessary of life which frequently compelled him, when providing his winter's stock of provisions, to exchange one half of his pig for the means of curing the other; that good beer rose to a price nearly as prohibitory to the peasant's paiate as port wine; and that, owing to the high cost of clothing, he possessed little more change of habiliments than the Russian serf of the present day. What greater proof can be required that war prices conferred no blessings upon the husbandmen than is afforded in the fact that the poor rates were the heaviest in the agricultural districts at a time when wheat was at its highest market price? In a word, at no period were the peasantry of this country enjoying so great an amount of comforts as they possess at this time, and the primary cause of which is the twenty years’ duration of peace.
Had we space to enter upon the statistics of ourtrade and manufactures, it would be easily shown, by an appeal to a comparison of the bankruptcies in times of peace and war; by reference to the past and present condition of our manufacturing districts, as exemplified in the relative amounts of the poor rate, crime, and turbulence among the working classes; and in the comparative prosperity of the capitalists and employers—that these vital interests have no solid prosperity excepting in a time of peace. We feel that there is little necessity for enlarging upon this point: the manufacturing population do not require to be informed that they can derive no benefit from wars. So firmly are they convinced of the advantages of peace, that we venture to affirm in the behalf of every thinking man of this the most important body in the kingdom (in reference to our external and commercial policy), that they will not consent to a declaration of war in defence of the trade of Turkey,∗ or for any any other object, except to repel an act of aggression upon ourselves.
A very small number of the ship-owners—men who are sufficiently old to be able to look back to the time when the British navy swept the seas of their rivals—entertain an indistinct kind of hope that hostilities would, by putting down competition, again restore to them a monopoly of the ocean. This impression can only exist in minds ignorant altogether of the changes which have taken place in the world since the time when the celebrated Orders in Council were issued, thirty years ago. The United States, containing twice the population of that period, and the richest inhabitants in the world, with a mercantile marine second in magnitude only to our own, and with a government not only disburthened of debt, but inconveniently loaded with surplus riches—the United States will never again submit, even for a day, to tyrannical mandates levelled against their commerce at the hands of a British cabinet. The first effects, then, of another European war, in which England shall become unwisely a party, must be that America will profit at our expense, by grasping the carrying trade of Europe; and the consequences which would, in all probability, ultimately follow, are, that the manufacturing and trading prosperity of this empire will pass into the hands of another people—the due reward of the peaceful wisdom of their government, and the just chastisement of the warlike policy of our own.
We are, then, justified in the assertion that no class or calling of society can derive permanent benefit from war. Even the aristocracy, which, from holding all the offices of the State, profited exclusively by the honours and emoluments arising from past hostilities, would derive no advantages from future conflicts. The governing power is now wholly transferred to the hands of the middling class; and, although time may be necessary to develop all the effects of this complete subversion of the former dominant influence, can any one for a moment doubt that one of its consequences will be to dissipate among that more numerous, but now authoritative class, those substantial fruits of power, the civil and military patronage, which, under the self-same circumstances, were previously enjoyed exclusively by the aristocracy? The electors of the British empire are much too numerous a body to possess interests distinct from those of the rest of their countrymen; and, as the nation at large can never derive advantages from war, we regard the Reform Bill, which has virtually bestowed upon the ten-pounders of this country the guardianship of the Temple of Janus, to be our guarantee for all future time of the continuance of peace.
Before concluding, let us, in a very few words, recur to the subject more immediately under consideration. It has been customary to regard the question of the preservation of Turkey, not as an affair admitting of controversy, but as one determined by the wisdom of our ancestors; and the answer given by Chatham, that “with those who contended we had no interest in preserving Turkey he would not argue,” may probably be quoted to us. The last fifty years have, however, developed secrets for the guidance of our statesmen, which, had that great man lived to behold them, he would have profited by; he, at least, would not view this matter through the spectacles of his grandfather, were he now presiding at the helm of the state, and surrounded by the glare of light which our past unprofitable wars, the present state of the trade of the colonies, and the preponderating value of our commerce with free America,∗ throw around the question of going to war in defence of a nook of territory more than a thousand miles distant, and over which we neither possess nor pretend to have any control. That question must now be decided solely by reference to the interests of the people of this country at this present day, which we have proved are altogether on the side of peace and neutrality. Our inquiry is not as to the morality or injustice of the case—that is not an affair between Russia and ourselves, but betwixt that people and the Great Ruler of all nations; and we are no more called upon by any such considerations to wrest the attribute of vengeance from the Deity, and deal it forth upon the northern aggressor, than we are to preserve the peace and good behaviour of Mexico, or to chastise the wickedness of the Ashantees.
It has been no part of our object to advocate the right of Russia to invade Turkey or any other state; nor have we sought to impart too favourable a colouring to our portraiture of the government or people of the former empire; but what nation can fail to stand out in a contrast of loveliness, when relieved by the dark and loathsome picture which the Ottoman territory presents to the eye of the observer? It ought not to be forgotten that Russian civilisation (such as it is at this day) is a gain from the empire of barbarism; that the population of that country, however low its condition may now be, was, at no former period, so prosperous, enlightened, or happy, as now; and that its rapid increase in numbers is one of the surest proofs of a salutary government: whilst, on the other side, it must be remembered that Mahometanism has sat, for nearly four centuries, as an incubus upon the fairest and most renowned regions of the earth; and has, during all that period, paralysed the intellectual and moral energies of the noblest portion of the human species; under whose benumbing sway those countries which, in former ages produced Solomon, Homer, Longinus, and Plato, have not given one poetic genius or man of learning to the world—beneath which the arts have remained unstudied by the descendants of Phidias and Praxiteles; whilst labour has ceased where Alexandria, Tyre, and Colchis formerly flourished, and the accumulation of wealth is unknown in the land where Crœsus himself once eclipsed even the capitalists of the modern world.∗ If we refer to the criterion afforded by the comparison of numbers, we shall find in the place of the overflowing population which, in former ages poured out from these regions to colonise the rest of the world, nothing but deserted wastes and abandoned cities; and the spectacle of the inhabitants of modern Turkey melting away, whilst history and the yet existing ruins of empires attest the richness and fertility of its soil, affords incontestable proof of the destructive and impoverishing character of the government of Constantinople.
Our object, however, in vindicating Russia from the attacks of prejudice and ignorance, has not been to transfer the national hatred to Turkey, but to neutralise public feeling, by showing that our only wise policy—nay, the only course consistent with the instinct of self-preservation—is to hold ourselves altogether independent of and aloof from the political relations of both these remote and comparatively barbarous nations. England, with her insular territory, her consolidated and free institutions, and her civilised and artificial condition of society, ought not to be, and cannot be, dependent for safety or prosperity upon the conduct of Russia or Turkey; and she will not, provided wisdom governs her counsels, enter into any engagements so obviously to the disadvantage of her people, as to place the peace and happiness of this empire at the mercy of the violence or wickedness of two despotic rulers over savage tribes more than a thousand miles distant from our shores.
“While the Government of England takes ‘peace’ for its motto, it is idle to think of supporting Turkey,”∗ says one of the most influential and active agitators in favour of the policy of going to war with Russia. In the name of every artisan in the kingdom, to whom war would bring the tidings, once more, of suffering and despair; in the behalf of the peasantry of these islands, to whom the first cannon would sound the knell of privation and death; on the part of the capitalists, merchants, manufacturers, and traders, who can reap no other fruits from hostilities but bankruptcy and ruin; in a word, for the sake of the vital interests of these and all other classes of the community, we solemnly protest against Great Britain being plunged into war with Russia, or any other country, in defence of Turkey—a war which, whilst it would inflict disasters upon every portion of the community, could not bestow a permanent benefit upon any class of it; and one upon our success in which no part of the civilised would have cause to rejoice. Having the interests of all orders of society to support our argument in favour of peace, we need not dread war. These, and not the piques of diplomatists, the whims of crowned heads, the intrigues of ambassadresses, or schoolboy rhetoric upon the balance of power, will henceforth determine the foreign policy of our government. That policy will be based upon the bonâ fide principle (not Lord Palmerston's principle) of non-intervention in the political affairs of other nations; and from the moment this maxim becomes the load-star by which our government shall steer the vessel of the state—from that moment the good old ship Britannia will float triumphantly in smooth and deep water, and the rocks, shoals, and hurricanes of foreign war are escaped for ever.
If it be objected, that this selfish policy disregards the welfare and improvement of other countries—which is, we cordially admit, the primary object of many of those who advocate a war with Russia, in defence of Turkey, and for the restoration of Poland—we answer, that, so far as the objects we have in view are concerned, we join hands with nearly every one of our opponents. Our desire is to see Poland happy, Turkey civilised, and Russia conscientious and free; it is still more our wish that these ameliorations should be bestowed by the hands of Britain upon her less instructed neighbours: so far the great majority of our opponents and ourselves are agreed; how to accomplish this beneficent purpose is the question whereon we differ. They would resort to the old method of trying, as Washington Irving says, “to promote the good of their neighbours, and the peace and happiness of the world, by dint of the cudgel.” Now, there is an unanswerable objection to this method: experience is against it; it has been tried for some thousands of years, and has always been found to fail. But, within our own time, a new light has appeared which has penetrated our schools and families, and illuminated our prisons and lunatic asylums, and which promises soon to pervade all the institutions and relations of social life. We allude to that principle which, renouncing all appeals, through brute violence, to the mere instinct of fear, addresses itself to the nobler and far more powerful qualities of our intellectual and moral nature. This principle — which, from its very nature as a standard, tends to the exaltation of our species, has abolished the use of the rod, the fetters, the lash, and the strait-waistcoat, and which, in a modified degree, has been extended even to the brute creation, by substituting gentleness for severity in the management of horses∗ and the treatment of dogs — this principle we would substitute for the use of cannon and musketry in attempting to improve or instruct other communities. In a word, our opponents would “promote the good of their neighbours by dint of the cudgel:” we propose to arrive at the same end by means of our own national example. Their method, at least, cannot be right; since it assumes that they are at all times competent to judge of what is good for others—which they are not: whilst, even if they were, it would be still equally wrong; for they have not the jurisdiction over other states which authorises them to do them even good by force of arms. If so, the United States and Switzerland might have been justified, during the prodigal reign of George IV., in making an economical crusade against England, for the purpose of “cudgelling” us out of our extravagance and into their frugality, which, no doubt, would have been doing good to a nation of debtors and spendthrifts; instead of which, those countries persevered in their peaceful example. And we have seen the result: Swiss economy has enabled its people to outvie us in cheapness, and to teach us a lesson of frugal industry on our own fortress of Gibraltar. It is thus that the virtues of nations operate both by example and precept: and such is the power and rank they confer, that vicious communities, like the depraved individual, are compelled to reform, or to lose their station in the scale of society. States will all turn moralists, in the end, in self-defence.
Apply this principle to Russia, which we will suppose had conquered Turkey. Ten years at least of turbulence and bloodshed would elapse before its fierce Mahometan inhabitants submitted to their Christian invaders, which period must be one of continued exhaustion to the nation. Suppose that at the end of that time those plundered possessions became tranquillised, and the government, which had been impoverished by internal troubles, began to reflect and to look abroad for information as to the course of policy it should pursue. England, which had wisely remained at peace, pursuing its reforms and improvements, would, we have a right to assume, present a spectacle of prosperity, wealth, and power which invariably reward a period of peace. Can there be a doubt that this example of the advantages to be derived from labour and improvement over those accruing from bloodshed and rapine, presented in the happiness of the peaceful and the misery of the warlike nation, would determine the future career of Russia in favour of industry and commerce? The mere instinct of self-love and self-preservation must so decide. Had England and all Europe been plunged in war to prevent Russia from effecting her conquest there would have been no such example of the fruits and blessings of peace at the close of hostilities as we have here supposed her to present.
The influence which example has exerted over the conduct of nations—more potent and permanent than that of the “cudgel”—might form in itself the subject of a distinct and interesting inquiry. It should not be confined to the electric effects of state convulsions, which shock simultaneously the frame of neighbouring empires. The tranquil and unostentatious educational reforms in Switzerland, the temperance societies of America, and the railroads of England, exercise a sway as certain, however gradual, over the imitativeness of the whole world as the “glorious” three days of France or the triumph of the Reform Bill. But however interesting the topic, our space does not allow us to pursue it further. Yet even whilst we write a motion is making in the House of Commons for a committee to inquire into the mode in which the American Government disposes of its waste lands. A Swiss journal informed us the other day that at a recent meeting of the Vorort of that country, a member called for a municipal reform measure similar to the English Corporation Act; and in a Madrid journal which is now before us the writer recommends to the ministers of police a plan for numbering and lettering the watchmen of that metropolis in imitation of the new police of London. Such is example in a time of peace.
One word at parting between the author and the reader. This pamphlet, advocating peace, economy, and a moral ascendancy over brute violence, as well as deprecating national antipathies, has, as our excellent and public-spirited publisher will vouch, been written without the slightest view to notoriety or gain (what fame or emolument can accrue from the anonymous publication of an eightpenny work?), and we therefore run no risk of invidious misconception if, in taking leave of our readers, we do so, not with the usual bow of ceremony, but after a fashion of our own. In a word, as trade, and not authorship, is our proper calling, they will, we hope, excuse our attempting to make a bargain with them before we part. And, first, for that very small portion of our friends who will only step out of their way to do an acceptable act provided good and sufficient claims be established against them: they will compel us, then, to remind them that this petty production (which we frankly admit reveals nothing new) contains as much matter as might have been printed in a volume, and sold at above ten times its charge; and, therefore, if those aforesaid customers approve the quality of the article, indifferent as it is, our terms of sale are that they lend this pamphlet to at least six of their acquaintances for perusal. This is the amount of our demand, and as we are dealing with “good “men we shall book the debt with the certainty that it will be duly paid.
But by far the larger portion of our readers will be of that class who, in the words of Sterne, do good “they know not why and care not wherefor.” To them we say, “If in the preceding pages you discover a sincere, however feeble, attempt to preserve peace and put down a gigantic national prejudice, an honest though humble resistance to the false tenets of glory, an ardent but inadequate effort, by proving that war and violence have no unison with the true interests of mankind to emancipate our moral and intellectual nature from the domination of the mere animal propensity of combativeness; if, in a word, you see sound views of commerce, just principles of government, freedom, improvement, morality, justice, and truth, anxiously, and yet all ineffectively advocated, then, and not otherwise, recommend this trifle to your friends, place it in the hands of the nearest newspaper editors, and bring it in every way possible before the eye of the public; and do this, not for the sake of the author or the merit of his poor production, but that other and more competent writers may be encouraged to take up with equal zeal and far greater ability the same cause, which we religiously believe is the cause of the best interests of humanity.”
The circumstance of each of the preceding chapters having been stereotyped as soon as written precludes the insertion of the following words as a note in another and more appropriate part of the pamphlet.
The predominant feeling entertained with reference to Russia, and the one which has given birth to the other passions nourished towards her, is that of fear—fear of the danger of an irruption of its people into western Europe, and the possibility of another destruction of civilisation at the hands of those semi-barbaroustribes similar to that of ancient Rome by their ancestors. But the Goths and Huns did not extinguish the power and greatness of the Romans. The latter sunk a prey, not to the force of external foes, but to their own internal vices and corruptions. Those northern nations which invaded that empire, and whom we stigmatise as barbarians, were superior in the manly qualities of courage, fortitude, discipline, and temperance to the Roman people of their day. The Attilas and Alarics were equally superior to their contemporaries, the descendants of the Cæsars, and they did not sweep with the besom of destruction that devoted land until long after the “dark, unrelenting Tiberius, the furious Caligula, the stupid Claudius, the profligate and cruel Nero, the beastly Vitellius, and the timid, inhuman Domitian” had, by exterminating every ancient family of the republic, and extirpating every virtue and every talent from the minds of the people, prepared the way for the terrible punishment inflicted upon them.
Modern Europe bears no resemblance in its moral condition to that of ancient Rome at the time we are alluding to. On the contrary, instead of a tendency towards degeneracy, there is a recuperative principle observable in the progress of reforms and improvements of the modern world which in its power of regeneration give ground for hope that the present and future ages of refinement will escape those evils which grew up alongside the wealth and luxury of ancient States, and ultimately destroyed them.
But the application of the power of chemistry to the purposes of war furnishes the best safeguard against the future triumph of savage hordes over civilised communities. Gunpowder has for ever set a barrier against the irruption of barbarians into western Europe. War without artillery and musketry is no longer possible, and these cannot be procured by such people as form the great mass of the inhabitants of Russia. Such is the power which modern inventions in warfare confer upon armies of men, that it is no exaggeration to say that fifty thousand Prussian soldiers, with their complement of field-pieces, rockets, and musketry are more than a match for all the savage warriors who, with their rude weapons, at different epochs ravaged the world from the time of Xerxes down to that of Tamarlane; whilst those countless myriads, without the aid of gunpowder, would be powerless against the smallest of the hundreds of fortified places that are now scattered over Europe. Henceforth, therefore, war is not merely an affair of men, but of men, material, and money.
For some remarks upon the possibility of another irruption of barbarians, see Gibbon's “Rome,” ch. 8.
[∗]We stated this familiar fact in a former pamphlet; but it is one that cannot be too frequently placed broadly before the public eye.
[∗]This is still a favourite toast at the annual meetings of the Pitt clubs, drunk by these consistent politicians who will not yield even to the inexorable reforms of trade.
[∗]We shall not enter upon the subject of the profit and loss of our colonies, which would require a volume. An acute writer of the day estimates the annual loss by our dependencies at something like four millions; but he loses sight altogether of the interest of the money spent in conquering them, which is twenty or thirty millions a year more! Leaving these unprofitable speculations as to the past, let us beg our readers to look at a chart o the world, and, after comparing the continent of free America with the specks of islands forming our colonial possessions, to ask himself whether, in choosing our future commercial course, the statesmen who presides at the helm of affairs ought to take that policy for his guide which shall conduct us to the market of the entire hemisphere, or that which prefers the minute fraction of it.
[∗]About one-half of our exports is of cotton origin; but we take one-third as the portion worked up from North American material.
[†]We wish those rhetorical statesmen, who talk so eloquently in favour of going to war to preserve the equilibrium of Europe, or the balance of power in Turkey, would condescend to give a thought as to its effects upon the equilibrium of our cotton manufacture.
[‡]We confine our illustrative remarks on that part which we assume to be the growth of the United States; the total of our imports and exports of cotton is, of course, more than stated here.
[∗]See the United Service Journal for June, 1836, for a list of the ships of war and their stations, June 1st:—North American and West Indian stations, one 74 and one 52 guns.
[∗]See the United Service Journal, June 1, 1836, for a list of the stations of the British navy.
[∗]The public papers have announced that, owing to the demand for sailors for the royal navy, the merchants have been compelled to advance the wages of their hands. We have read the following notice upon the quay at Liverpool—”Wanted, for his Majesty's Navy, a number of petty officers and able-bodied seamen.” It would seem that there is no want of commissioned officers; which accounts for the increase of the navy estimates, we suspect.
[∗]Our former intervention in the concerns of Spain was characterised by wisdom itself when compared with the unadulterated folly of the part we are at present taking in Peninsular affairs. Here is a family quarrel, between two equally worthless personages, who dispute the right of reigning over ten millions of free people; and England sends a brigade of four or five thousand men (by what right?) to decide this purely domestic question! We have been informed, by a friend long resident in Spain, upon whose authority we can rely, that there is not an honest public functionary in the country; that, from the Minister down to the lowest tide-waiter, all are as corrupt now as when Wellington censured the treachery of this people. Villiers and Evans are experiencing that treatment, at the hands of Isturiez and Cordova, which Frere and Sir John Moore encountered, thirty years ago, from the agents of the Government. That the people are not improved by our last sacrifices for the dynasty of Ferdinand may be proved by their atrocities and female massacres—unheard of out of Turkey. When the affairs of the British empire are conducted with as much wisdom as goes to the successful management of a private business, the honest interests of our own people will become the study of the British ministry; and then, and not till then, instead of being at the mercy of a chaos of expedients, our Foreign Secretary will be guided by the principle of non-intervention in the politics of other nations. “A people,” says Channing, “which wants a saviour, which does not possess an earnest and pledge of freedom in its own heart, is not yet ready to be free.” In the meantime, it cannot be too widely known, that our interference in the private quarrels of these semi-barbarians will cost us, this year, half a million sterling; whilst with difficulty we have obtained £10,000 for establishing Normal Schools!
[∗]The ignorance manifested in the French Chamber of Deputies upon commercial affairs, during the recent discussions, and the folly and egotism of the majority of the speakers, leave little hope of an increased intercourse between the two countries. M. Thiers openly avowed that we were to be manufacturing rivals, but political friends: we disclaim both these relationships. The French, whilst they are obliged to prohibit our fabrics from their own market, because their manufacturers cannot, they say, sustain a competition with us, even with a heavy protecting duty, never will become our rivals in third markets, where both will pay alike. The boast of the Prime Minister of France is like the swagger of one, who, having barricaded himself securely in his own house, blusters about giving battle in a neighbouring county. For the English ministry to form a mere political connection with the present unstable government and dynasty of France, to the exclusion of trading objects, would be to put us in partnership with a party in a desperate state of fortune, who resolved not to mend it. There can be no real alliance, unless by a union of interests. Schoolboys have sufficient knowledge of human nature to feel this, when they throw their marbles into a common bag, and become friends.
[∗]“Nothing is worthy of more attention, in tracing the causes of political evil, than the facility with which mankind are governed by their fears, and the degree of constancy with which, under the influence of that passion, they are governed wrong. The fear of Englishmen to see an enemy in their country, has made them do an infinite number of things which had a much greater tendency to bring enemies into their country than to keep them away.
[∗]We shall offer no excuses for so frequently resolving questions of State policy into matters of pecuniary calculation. Nearly all the revolutions and great changes in the modern world have had a financial origin. The exaction of the tenth penny operated far more powerfully than the erection of the Council of Blood to stir the Netherlands into rebellion in 1569 against the tyranny of Charles V. Charles I. of England lost his head in consequence of enforcing the arbitrary tax called ship-money. The independence of America, and indirectly through that event, all the subsequent political revolutions of the entire world, turned upon a duty of threepence a pound, levied by England upon tea imported into that colony. Louis XVI. of France, when he summoned the first assembly of the Estates-General, did so with the declared object of consulting with them upon the financial embarrassments under which his Government was labouring: that was the first of a series of definite changes which eventually cost the king his life, and Europe twenty years of sanguinary wars. The Second French Revolution, in 1830, was begun by the printers, who were deprived of the means of subsistence by the Ordinances of Charles X. against the press. How much of our own Reform Bill was the fruits of a season of distress?
[†]The following is the American navy in commission, February 27, 1836:—One ship of the line, four frigates, eleven sloops, six small vessels; and this after a threatened rupture with France, when every arrival from Europe might have brought a declaration of war! Compare this statement with the fact, that the British Government, with a force, at the same time, more than six-fold that of the United States, demanded an increase of more than the entire strength of the American navy, and with the same breath avowed the assurance of permanent peace; and let it be remembered, too, that the House of Commons voted this augmentation, under the pretence of protecting our commerce!
[∗]House of Commons’ Report, June 6.
[∗]We invite the attention of public-spirited members of Parliament to these facts. They are submitted for the investigation of the conductors of the newspaper press. Every Chamber of Commerce in the kingdom is interested in the subject. This is not a question of party politics, but of public business. Every prudent trader must feel outraged at such a display of reckless extravagance by a commercial people; nay, every economical labourer and frugal housewife must be scandalised by this wasteful misdirection of the industry of the state.
[∗]Pitt, whose views of commercial policy were, at the commencement of his career, before he was drawn into the vortex of war by a selfish oligarchy, far more enlightened and liberal than those of his great political opponents (as witness the opposition by Burke and Fox to his French treaty on the vulgar ground that the two nations were natural enemies), entertained a just opinion of the comparative unimportance of the trade of the east of the Mediterranean, after the growth of our cotton manufactures and the rise of the United States had given a new direction to the great flood of traffic.
[∗]Two letters have since been published in the Manchester Guardian, May 28, which are written by Lord Durham and addressed to Mr. Gisborne, the British Consul at Petersburg, giving the most positive assurances that no interruption will take place in our friendly commercial relations with Russia. Will the navy be reduced? We may apply the lines of Gay, written upon standing armies a century ago, to sailors—
Apropos of soldiers. In 1831, during the progress of the Reform Bill, and when the country was upon the eve of a new election, in which, owing to the excitement of the people, tumults were justly to be dreaded, an augmentation of the army to the extent of 7,680 men was voted by the Parliament. Mr. Wynn, the then War Secretary, declared that this increase had no reference to continental affairs. He should be rejoiced, he said, if the causes which led to this augmentation should cease and enable the Government to reduce the estimates before the end of three months. No reduction yet—1836! Where is Mr. Hume?
[∗]“To me it seems that neither the obtaining nor the retaining of any trade, however valuable, is an object for which men may justly spill each other's blood; that the true and sure means of extending and securing commerce is the goodness and cheapness of commodities; and that the profit of no trade can ever be equal to the expense of compelling it and of holding it by fleets and armies.”—Franklin's letter to Lord Howe, quoted in Hughes’ History of England, vol. xv., p. 254.
[†]Burke, in his first production—A Vindication of Natural Society—sums up his estimate of the loss of human life, by all the wars of past ages, at seventy times the population of the globe. It is not a little lamentable to reflect that this great genius, among other inconsequential acts of his life, afterwards contributed more than any other individual to fan the flame of the French revolutionary wars, in which several millions more were added to his dismal summary of the victims of “glory.” (?)
[∗]At a meeting of a literary society, of which the author is a member, the subject of discussion lately was—“Would, or would not, the interests of the civilised world, and those of England in particular, be promoted by the conquest of Turkey by Russia?” Which, after an interesting debate on the part of a body of as intelligent individuals as can be found in a town more deeply interested in the question than any in the kingdom, was decided affirmatively. The assumed possession was alone considered as affecting the interests of society. The morality of the aggression was not the question entertained, and, therefore, did not receive the sanction of the society.
[∗]It will be apparent to any inquiring mind, which takes the trouble to investigate the subject, that our commerce with America is, at this time, alone sustaining the wealth and trade of these realms. Our colonies do not pay for the expenses of protecting and governing them; leaving out of the question the interest of the debt contracted in conquering them. Europe has been a still more unprofitable customer.
[∗]It is a saying of Montesquieu that “God Almighty must have intended Spain and Turkey as examples to show to the world what the finest countries may become when inhabited by slaves.” Yet these two nations are now the objects of British protection, and the source of considerable annual expenditure to the people of these realms; whilst the statu quo of Turkey seems to be the aim of our politicians. In speaking of the cost of our interference in Spain, we assume (safely enough) that the loan of arms by the British Government will not be repaid.
[∗]“England, France, Russia, and Turkey.”
[∗]See the volume on The Horse, published by the Society for the Diffusion of Useful Knowledge, for the stress laid upon the superiority of mild treatment in the breaking of that animal.