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"Such is the extraordinary power of the Association, or, rather, of the agitators, of whom there are many of high ability, of ardent mind, of great daring (and if there was no Association, these men are now too well known not to maintain their power under the existing order of exclusion), that I am quite certain they could lead on the people to open rebellion at a moment's notice; and their organisation is such that in the hands of desperate and intelligent leaders they would be extremely formidable. The hope, and indeed the probability, of present tranquillity rests upon the forbearance and the not very determined courage of O'Connell, and on his belief, as well as that of the principal men amongst them, that they will carry their cause by unceasing agitation, and by intimidation, without coming to blows. I believe their success inevitable; that no power under heaven can arrest its progress. There may be rebellionyou may put to death thousandsyou may suppress it, but it will only be to put off the day of compromise; and, in the meantime, the country is still more impoverished, and the minds of the people are, if possible, still more alienated, and ruinous expense is entailed upon the empire. But supposing that the whole evil was concentred in the Association, and that, if that was suppressed, all would go smoothly, where is the man who can tell me how to suppress it? Many cry out that the nuisance must be abatedthat the Government is supinethat the insolence of the demagogues is intolerable; but I have not yet found one person capable of pointing out a remedy. All are mute when you ask them to define their proposition. All that even the most determined opposers to Emancipation say is, that it is better to leave things as they are than to risk any change. But will things remain as they are? Certainly not. They are bad; they must get worse; and I see no possible means of improving them but by depriving the demagogues of the power of directing the people; and by taking Messrs. O'Connell, Sheil, and the rest of them, from the Association, and placing them in the House of Commons, this desirable object would be at once accomplished.have just landed on the window-sill.
at vital moments. Thank you for your rosebuds. They were lovely.But Daddy, you have no business to spoil me this way. I'm only human--
which I trust will not occur--you may correspond with Mr. Griggs,belong to such a family! I should truly rather have the John Grier
Before this, however, the financial statement for the year had been made, and for awhile the Corn Law question was suspended for the country to recover from its astonishment at finding in the Minister of the Conservative party one of the boldest reformers of our tariff who had ever occupied the Ministerial benches. But yesterday his position had appeared one of the greatest difficulty, in which a cautious hold upon the established sources of revenue, with some well-balanced proposals for additional taxes, was all that could be expected. He had not the good fortune of Mr. Goulburn or Lord Althorp in having a surplus to dispose of. The Whig Government had bequeathed to their successors a deficit, which had been increasing from year to year, with a revenue falling off even in the face of new taxes. How was the deficit to be met was the question which filled the mouths of public men; a question which was answered by the famous financial statement of Sir Robert Peel on the 11th of March. After showing that the deficiency for the coming year would be little short of 2,500,000, and that this deficiency might be expected to be considerably augmented by the position of affairs in India and China, the Minister declared that he would not consent to resort to the miserable expedient of continual loans. He declared that he would not attempt to impose burdens upon the labouring classes, and that if he did, recent experience had shown that they would be defeated. In fact, the country had arrived at the limits of taxation upon articles of consumption. After ridiculing the various suggestions of people who were constantly sending him projects for taxes on pianofortes, umbrellas, and other articles, accompanied with claims of very large percentages upon the proceeds, he acknowledged the principle laid down by financiers that increased revenue may be obtained by taking off the taxes which pressed upon industry, but declared that the first effect was always a diminution in revenue, and that time was found necessary to restore the amount. In these circumstances, he stated what the measure was which, under a deep conviction of its necessity, he was prepared to propose, and which, he was persuaded, would benefit the country, not only in her pecuniary interests, but in her security and character. His scheme was this: he proposed, for a period to be limited, an income tax of not more than 3 per cent., from which he would exempt all incomes under 150, and in which he would include not only landed but funded property. Sir Robert Peel calculated that the tax would yield 3,350,000 a year, a sum which, with an addition to the spirit duties in Ireland, and an export duty of 4s. on coals, would not only cover the existing deficiency, but enable him to remit indirect taxes to the amount of 1,200,000. The sliding scale had brought little credit to the Minister, and the income tax was in its nature an unpopular measure; but the proposal to reduce the custom duties on 750 out of the 1,200 articles in the tariffto remove prohibitions altogether (in itself a vast concession to Free Trade doctrines)to reduce the duties on raw materials of manufactures to five per cent. or lessto keep the duties on articles partially manufactured under twelve per cent., and on articles wholly manufactured under twenty per cent., was a scheme which excited general admiration. The measure was, indeed, contested by the Whig Opposition at every stage. The preliminary resolutions were debated for eight nights. There were many of Sir Robert Peel's old supporters who looked on the financial plan with distrust, as being founded, in a great measure, avowedly on those principles of political economy which they had been accustomed to sneer at; but, in truth, it was not unfavourable to the interests of their party. We have already seen that the new taxat least, if a temporary onewas calculated to impose a far greater burden upon the manufacturing and moneyed class than upon the landowners; in fact, by exempting incomes under 150 a year, and assessing land only upon its net rental, the burden was imposed almost entirely upon that middle class which was the especial object of the dislike of Tories of the more advanced kind. At the same time, by cheapening articles of general consumption, the Minister did something towards securing popularity among the working classes, who, as exemplified in the Chartist agitation, were not always disposed to take part against the landowners. The Income Tax Bill passed, after considerable opposition in the Commons. An amendment proposed by Lord John Russell was rejected by a vote of 302 to 202, and another amendment, proposing the reading of the Bill on that day six months, having been thrown out on the 18th of April by a vote of 285 to 188, the third reading was carried by a majority of 130 on the 30th of May. No debate took place in the Lords until the third reading, when the Bill passed by a majority of 71.
"The Clare election supplied the manifest proof of an abnormal and unhealthy condition of the public mind in Irelandthe manifest proof that the sense of a common grievance and the sympathies of a common interest were beginning to loosen the ties which connect different classes of men in friendly relations to each other, to weaken the force of local and personal attachments, and to unite the scattered elements of society into a homogeneous and disciplined mass, yielding willing obedience to the assumed authority of superior intelligence hostile to the law and to the Government which administered it. There is a wide distinction (though it is not willingly recognised by a heated party) between the hasty concession to unprincipled agitation and provident precaution against the explosion of public feeling gradually acquiring the strength which makes it irresistible. 'Concede nothing to agitation,' is the ready cry of those who are not responsiblethe vigour of whose decisions is often proportionate to their own personal immunity from danger, and imperfect knowledge of the true state of affairs. A prudent Minister, before he determines against all concessionagainst any yielding or compromise of former opinionsmust well consider what it is that he has to resist, and what are his powers of resistance. His task would be an easy one if it were sufficient to resolve that he would yield nothing to violence or to the menace of physical force. In this case of the Clare election, and of its natural consequences, what was the evil to be apprehended? Not force, not violence, not any act of which law could take cognisance. The real danger was in the peaceable and legitimate exercise of a franchise according to the will and conscience of the holder. In such an exercise of that franchise, not merely permitted, but encouraged and approved by constitutional law, was involved a revolution of the electoral system in Irelandthe transfer of political power, so far as it was connected with representation, from one party to another. The actual transfer was the least of the evil; the process by which it was to be effectedthe repetition in each county of the scenes of the Clare electionthe fifty-pound free-holders, the gentry to a man polling one way, their alienated tenantry anotherall the great interests of the county broken down'the universal desertion' (I am quoting the expressions of Mr. Fitzgerald)the agitator and the priest laughing to scorn the baffled landlordthe local heaving and throes of society on every casual vacancy in a countythe universal convulsion at a general electionthis was the danger to be apprehended; those were the evils to be resisted. What was the power of resistance? 'Alter the law, and remodel the franchise,' was the ready, the improvident response. If it had been desired to increase the strength of a formidable confederacy, and, by rallying round it the sympathies of good men and of powerful parties in Great Britain, to insure for it a signal triumph, to extinguish the hope of effecting an amicable adjustment of the Catholic question, and of applying a corrective to the real evils and abuses of elective franchise, the best way to attain these pernicious ends would have been to propose to Parliament, on the part of the Government, the abrupt extinction of the forty-shilling franchise in Ireland, together with the continued maintenance of civil disability."`As you please,' said he, `only don't keep the horses standing
CHAPTER IV. INTERPRETATION OF THE LAWS.