Изображения страниц
PDF
EPUB

THE INCREASED NATIONAL EXPENDITURE.

33

few years without European war, but under that they creep onwards with a noiseless aud a burden of taxation such as, out of a Euro- a stealthy step; that they commonly remain pean war, it never was called upon to bear; unseen and unfelt until they have reached a we have also seen it last year under the pres- magnitude absolutely overwhelming; and then sure of a season of blight, such as hardly any at length we see them, such and so great as living man can recollect; yet, on looking they now appear to exist in one, at least, abroad over the face of England, no one is among the great European states—I mean the sensible of any signs of decay, least of all can Empire of Austria; so fearful and menacing such an apprehension be felt with regard to in their aspect, and so large in their dimenthose attributes which are perhaps the highest sions, that they seem to threaten the very of all, and on which most of all depends our foundations of national existence. I do trust national existence--the spirit and courage of that the day has come when a check has bethe country. It is needless to say that neither gun to be put to the movement in this directhe sovereign on the throne, nor the nobles tion; and I think, as far as I have been able and the gentry that fill the place of the gallant to trace the sentiments of the house, and the chieftains of the middle age, nor the citizens indications of general opinion during the preswho represent the invincible soldiery of Crom- ent session, that the tendency to which I have well, nor the peasantry who are the children adverted is, at least partially, on the decline. of those sturdy archers that drew the cross- I trust it will altogether subside and disappear. bows of England on the fields of France; that It is indeed true-at least I should be among none of these betray either inclination or ten- the first to uphold the soundness of the asserdency to depart from the traditions of their tion—that sweeping and violent changes of forefathers. If there be any danger which expenditure are to be deprecated almost as has recently in an especial manner beset us, I much as excess and prodigality. But, at the confess that, though it may be owing to some same time, there are many who share that peculiarity in my position, or some weakness sentiment, and yet who still feel that it is in my vision, it has seemed to me to be dur- demanded by high public expediency and by ing recent years chiefly, in our proneness to national duty that we should recur-I do not constant, and apparently almost boundless, aug- say to the charges— for national wants, with mentations of expenditure, and in the conse- the nation's ever-increasing growth, will vary quences that are associated with them. I do and will grow-but to the spirit, the temper, not refer to this or that particular change or and the rules with which, no long time ago, scheme. Of course I do not refer to the esti

we were all wont to apply ourselves to the mates of the year, which are, in our judgment, subject of public expenditure. I trust that required by the circumstances taken as such a wish may be realized; and if only it whole in which we stand. But I think that be so, then, for my part, I say, that if there when, in an extended retrospect, we take be difficulties in the work of government, they notice of the rate at which we have been ad- are not, so far as regards the department with vancing for a certain number of years, we which I have the honour to be connected, must see that there has been a tendency to difficulties which any man of ordinary courbreak down all barriers and all limits which age need for a moment, under whatever conrestrain the amount of public charges. For tingencies, hesitate to face. The spirit of the my own part, I am deeply convinced that all people is excellent. There never was a nation excess in the public expenditure beyond the in the whole history of the world more willing legitimate wants of the country is not only a to bear the heavy burdens under which it lies pecuniary waste-for that, although an im- -more generously disposed to overlook the portant, is yet a comparatively trifling matter errors of those who have the direction of its -but a great political, and above all, a great affairs. For my own part, I hold that, if this moral evil. It is a characteristic of the mis- country can steadily and constantly remain chiefs which arise from financial prodigality as wise in the use of her treasure as she is

a

VOL. IV.

66

unrivalled in its production, and as moderate withdrawn at the time that it was believed in the exercise of her strength as she is rich the concession would have increased the trade in its possession; then we may well cherish the of Galway, and improved the condition of the hope that there is yet reserved for England a people in that part of Ireland. There had, great work to do on her own part and on the therefore, been defection among the Irish part of others, and that for many a generation Liberals, who had on more than one occasion yet to come she will continue to hold a fore- joined the opponents of the government for most place among the nations of the world.”

the purpose of defeating it before the time This, then, was the scheme, and these were had gone by for the complete expiration of the sentiments by which it was enforced; but the grant. A priest named Daly, who had the opposition was strenuous, and great efforts been deputed to make those representations were made to frustrate the intentions of the which had obtained the concession, now came government. These efforts were directed to over armed with credentials from men of all promote an agitation in favour of a remission political parties in Ireland, and began an of the duty on tea; and they might have been active canvass for the purpose of engaging successful had it not been apparent that there the Irish Liberal members to unite against was an intention on the part of the late the government, and to support the opposition, majority in the House of Lords to persist in for the purpose of bringing about a dissolution their opposition to the Paper Duties Bill, and of parliament. so to confirm their claim to cancel the privi- The debate in the House of Commons was lege claimed by the Commons. To frustrate prolonged and acrimonious. Mr. Bentinck, this design a counter agitation had been who was among those who took the opportunity carried on in favour of the repeal of the paper of personally attacking the chancellor of the duties, and eventually Mr. Gladstone, in ac- exchequer, was one of the first assailants. cordance with his former declaration that he Lord Robert Montague was another. Mr. reserved the right of action, announced, with Gladstone's argument in reply to the contenthe support of the government, that he in- tion of Sir Stafford Northcote,--who raised tended to include all his chief financial pro- numerous objections to the whole scheme, and positions in one measure, instead of dividing urged that this was not a time to propose the them into several bills. It had been decided surrender of a large amount of revenue,-that constitutionally the Lords had not the was, that the estimates were based upon the power to reject a “Money Bill," and they expectation of an ordinary season and ordi

“ were thenceforward placed in such a position nary circumstances, and he never had a that, while they could not reject the whole stronger conviction than that there was likely financial scheme, they were deprived of the to be an excess over the estimated revenue. power-which they had previously exercised As to the disposal of the surplus, he balanced ----of altering its details. Such a change was the claims of tea and sugar on the one hand not to be effected without a serious conflict, and paper on the other. The reduction of the and all the influence of the Upper House, duties upon articles of popular consumption together with that of a large number of was not the first object kept in view by Sir members of the Commous who had a direct Robert Peel in 1842, but the liberation and interest in the peerage, and of Conservatives extension of trade; this principle lay at the who were ready to uphold the privileges root of our reformed financial policy, and had claimed by the Lords, was brought to bear governed almost every budget. He demanded upon the decision. Among those who, it was that the opinion of the house should be taken believed, were disaffected towards the govern- by a division instead of being deferred by ment were some of the Irish members. Lord long and useless debates. Mr. Disraeli anDerby, when in office, had obtained a grant nounced that in committee he should take the for a mail packet service between Galway and sense of the house on the question whether a the United States, and this grant had been remission of indirect taxation should not le

DEBATE ON THE BUDGET.

35

a

made with respect to the duties on tea. Mr. duty and burden of the House of Commons, Horsfall proposed an amendment that the tea and to divide this function between two disduty should be reduced to a shilling a pound, tinct and independent bodies would lead to and it was supported by Mr. Disraeli and Sir utter confusion. Referring to Mr. Horsmau's Stafford Northcote, but was lost on a divi- objection that the budget gave a mortal stab. sion.

to the constitution, he said, “I want to know Lord Robert Cecili made a speech which what constitution it gives a mortal stab to. was listened to with some impatience because In my opinion it gives no stab at all; but, as of its personal animosity. He denounced the far as it alters, it alters so as to revive and budiget as a personal budget — they had no restore the good old constitution which took guarantee for it but the promises of the chan- its root in Saxon times, which groaned under cellor of the exchequer, and experience had the Plantagenets, which endured the hard taught them that he was not a financier who rule of the Tudors, which resisted the Stuarts, was always to be relied on. On a former occa- and which has now come to maturity under sion he had described the policy of the govern

the House of Brunswick. I think that conment as one only worthy of a country attorney; stitution will be all the better for the operbut he was now bound to say that he had ation. As to the constitution laid down by done injustice to the attorneys. The attorneys my right honourable friend, under which were very humble men, but he believed they there is to be a division of function and office would have scorned such a course as that of between the House of Commons and the ber majesty's ministers, which was one distin- House of Lords- with regard to fixing the guished by all the ingenuity of legal chicane. income and charge of the country from year In any other place it would be called a to year, both of them being equally responsible “ dodge.”

for it, which means that neither would be Americanized finance, he declared, was to responsible-as far as that constitution is conbe a consequence of Americanized institutions. cerned I cannot help saying, that in my He thought the House of Commons ought to humble opinion the sooner it receives a mortal mark its peculiar indignation at the way in

stab the better." which it had been treated by the chancellor Sir James Graham, suffering severely from of the exchequer. So long as he held the seals a disease of which he died less than six months of office there was neither regularity in the afterwards, went down to the house and House of Commons nor confidence in the delivered a powerful defence of the governcountry.

ment; and Lord John Russell, Cobden, and No reply was made to these observations. other eminent speakers took an earnest part They were not believed to require any. Some in the debate.

It was significant that Sir days later, however, Mr.Gladstone took up what William Heathcote, Mr. Gladstone's colleague had been called the constitutional question, in the representation of Oxford, and Mr. Waland adduced numerous precedents to show that pole, chairman of the committee of precedents the power to combine different provisions in in the preceding year, declared the course the same financial measure had been exercised taken to be constitutional. This was awkward by the House of Commons to a wider extent for the opposition. There was no division on than in the present bill, and observing that the the second reading after all, and the budget practice was not only justified by precedent, of which Mr. Disraeli had said that ministers but by reason and convenience, the several mat- had created an artificial surplus in order that ters in the bill, essentially homogeneous, being they might perpetrate a financial caprice, items of one and the same account. It was the eventually passed by a majority of 15, 296 doctrine of the constitution that to originate voting for it and 281 against it. When it was matters of finance was the exclusive right and sent up to the Lords the Duke of Rutland

moved its rejection, but Lord Derby advised I Now the Marquis of Salisbury.

the withdrawal of the amendment, taking the

[ocr errors]

a

opportunity to censure Mr. Gladstone, and it sworn, and took the oaths of allegiance and was adopted.

supremacy on the Old Testament. The oath Some real advances had been made towards of abjuration followed, and he omitted from it further measures of reform in parliament, the words “on the true faith of a Christian." though no general scheme in the shape of a If he had chosen to commit what to him would Reform Bill was accepted. We have already have been a great impiety, and made use of noticed that there had been persistent en- words which some notorious unbelievers had deavours to supersede, or to omit, that part repeated without apparent shame or scruple, of the oath of allegiance which prevented the he might possibly have taken his seat unadmission of a Jew to parliament, and these challenged. As it was he was excluded from efforts had now been successful after a quarter either sitting or voting, and returned to his of a century, during which the question had old place, where he might listen to, and perhaps been over and over again debated. Mr. Dis- by his presence make a silent protest against raeli had spoken with eloquence and written the decision of the house. with force on the subject of the claims of the But several other Jews had presented themJews to all the rights of citizenship. It need selves for election, and among them was Sir scarcely be pointed out that his novels con- David Salomons, a baronet and alderman of tain references to the virtues and the nobility the city of London, and a gentleman highly of the Jewish race which many people still respected for his attainments and for his conconsider extravagant. In his Memoir of Lord duct as a magistrate. In 1851 he was proGeorge Bentinck the whole question of the posed as a candidate for the representation claims of the Jews to a great place in the of Greenwich, was elected, and going up to history of the world, and as the depositaries take the oath omitted the words “on the true of a religion of which Christianity is the con- faith of a Christian,” as Baron Rothschild had summation, is set forth with serious and sig- done, and with the same result. nificant dignity. It was therefore a happy When the government was asked whether coincidence that the removal of Jewish dis- they would sue him according to an act of .abilities to sit in parliament should have been parliament if he persisted in taking his seat, effected while he was the leader of the House the answer of Lord John Russell was that they of Commons. The time had passed when it had no such intention. He therefore took his was necessary for a Conservative holding that place amongst the members, one half of the position, to resign it in consequence of voting house shouting to him to withdraw, and the for such a measure, as Disraeli's former chief other encouraging him to remain. He did -Lord George Bentinck-had done. There remain, and what was more, took part in the was complete unanimity of opinion on the debate on a resolution that he should be orsubject between Lord John Russell---who had dered to withdraw, and himself voted in some espoused the cause of Jewish emancipation of the divisions for an adjournment. He and the Conservative leader; but the matter spoke calmly and was listened to with attenwas not settled till 1858, eleven years after tion. He was actuated by no desire to presume Baron Lionel de Rothschild had been elected on, or to disregard, the dignity of the house; as one of the members for the city of London. but by the belief that having been lawfully A bill was passed in the House of Commons to elected he was justified in asserting his rights admit Jews to sit, but it was thrown out by and those of his constituents. The resolution the Lords, and Baron Rothschild resigned his for his withdrawal was carried. The speaker seat, stood again, and was again elected. In requested him to leave, but he remained until 1850 he presented himself and offered to take the sergeant-at-arms was ordered to remove the oaths after having for four sessions oc- him; that functionary then touched him on cupied seat under the gallery of the house, the shoulder and he quietly retired. He had where strangers as well as members were asserted his right, had spoken and voted as accustomed to sit. He now demanded to be a member, and he awaited further proceedPUBLIC INDIFFERENCE TO REFORM.

37

was

a

ings. Two actions were brought against him in the legislature, though they could fulfil to recover penalties, but neither of them was other high and important offices-Sir David by the government. One was withdrawn, as Salomons himself having served the office of they both had the same object. To obtain a Lord - mayor of London in 1855 with great legal settlement of the question the trial came dignity and success. on as a special case in 1852, and the issue It may be mentioned that three or four sought was whether the words which the days before the bill with the compromise defendant had omitted formed an essential passed in 1858, another measure introduced by part of the oath inserted for the purpose of Mr. Locke King for the abolition of the demand obtaining a profession of the Christian faith; for a property qualification for members of or were only a part of the form of an affirma- parliament received the royal assent. Up to tion adopted to secure a solemn declaration this time nobody could sit in parliament within accordance with the views of the majority out giving proof that he possessed landed proof those to be sworn, but liable to be perty up to a certain value, and, as omitted or altered in particular instances? pointed out by Mr. Locke King, this obsolete Three judges out of four decided that it was custom had ceased to have any beneficial à necessary part of the oath, and the only effect, since any man with sufficient influence thing that remained was to alter the form to obtain a seat could arrange with some of affirmation; but though the House of friend or supporter to make to him a merely Commons passed measures for that purpose formal conveyance of a piece of land of suffithey were repeatedly thrown out by the House cient value to cover the legal requirement. of Lords, until in 1858 Lord John Russell These were among the amendments of parliaprepared a bill in which the form of oath was mentary representation which were made somewhat altered, and a clause was introduced during the period from 1855 to 1865, but there providing that where the oath had to be ad- appeared to be little popular excitement on ministered to a Jew the words “on the true behalf of a general measure of wide reform. faith of a Christian” might be omitted. The Within the walls of the House of Commons, House of Lords, however, struck out this only a few ardent supporters of an extension clause, and so made the bill useless for the pur- of the franchise were eager to bring in a bill pose for which it was specially intended. The that would increase the number of voters, and Commons refused to accept the alteration, and though a redistribution of seats in accordance referred it to a committee to draw up a state- with the growing importance of some of the ment of their reasons, Baron Rothschild places insufficiently represented, was more being actually nominated as a member of that widely demanded, so little general enthusiasm committee on the motion of Mr. Duncombe. was manifested outside parliament that there Ungracefully ready to yield rather than pro- was no encouragement for reformers to risk voke an actual collision, the Lords assented to defeat by a strong opposition and an indifa compromise suggested by Lord Lucan, and ferent government. Lord Palmerston himself inserted a clause enabling either house to was among the most indifferent, and it was modify the form of the oath in such a way as pretty well understood that he had an actual to admit a Jew, but at the same time reserving aversion to the introduction of anything that, the power to alter the mode of affirmation at in his opinion, would unnecessarily disturb the pleasure. This was such a manifestly weak ministry or promote political demonstrations and uncertain expedient that, though it was in the country. The country, however, was rapidly passed through both houses, it was in no mood for political manifestations, and soon after superseded by another measure when, on the 1st of March, 1860, Lord John which consolidated the acts referring to oaths, Russell introduced his “Representation of the allegiance, abjuration, and supremacy, and People Bill,” in the belief that the time bad enabled Jews to omit the words which had come for making further advances in the previously prevented them from taking a seat system of parliamentary legislation, he was

« ПредыдущаяПродолжить »