TOPICS OF THE DAY.
Tin Times has become as enthusiastic in support of the independ- ence of the smaller States of the German Confederation as Lord PALMERSTON was in support of the independence of the Ottom Empire. "The power of England," said the Leading Jourtal last Saturday, " has not been used to prevent any allied people from ac- ceding to the Prussian League; but we are much mistaken if it be not readily put forward to protect any who complain of being forced to join it."
Any person unacquainted with the actual state of affairs would imagine that the Prussian Government had been threatening to bombard other nations into its Customs Union. This valorous effusion, however, has been elicited simply by the angry remarks of that portion of the German press which is in favour of incorporating the whole of the Germanic Confederation within the frontier-line of the Customs Union. It sounds very like "a voice from Hanover" ; the King of that country being the most active leader at the present moment of the party in Germany opposed to the further extension of the Prussian Customs Union.
During the reigns of the first two English Kings of the House of Hanover, those Monarchs made ample use of the increased facilities
of raising money bestowed upon them by their accession to the British throne. They induced this country to be security for the expenses they incurred in attempting to arrange the internal politics of the German Empire in the way most conducive to their interests as Electors• of Hanover; and they left it to pay them. The annual expenditure of Great Britain for many years was augmented, and its permanent debt has been in- creased, by the payment of subsidies to Prussia and other great vassals of the Empire, to induce them to act for the advantage of the Elector of Hanover. At a later period, in the wars of the French Revolution, the part taken by Great Britain was clearly more for the advantage of the Elector of Hanover than of the nation which bore the toil and burden of the affray. Without entertain- ing any particular regard for the Duke of CUMBERLAND, we have on former occasions felt ourselves bound to protest against the outrageous humbug by which the Whigs sought to make a bugaboo of that prince in order to frighten silly people into their own arms; but if the advent of the party most closely allied to him in political sympathies is to be followed by the immersion of this country in the intrigues of the Germanic Confederation, to gratify his wishes, we shall begin to think the King of Hanover at least a serious nuisance.
The truth is, that in so far as the interests of this country are concerned, it is not very easy to determine whether the extension of the Customs Union over the whole territory of the Germanic Confederation would make for or against them. With some of the States it might place the commercial relations of Britain in a more unfavourable position, with others it might improve them, and with others again it might leave them exactly as they are. It would not be easy, without more extensive and accurate knowledge of statis- tical details than has yet been evinced by any person who has written on the subject, to strike a fair balance of advantages and disadvantages. But then comes the consideration, that the essen- tial principle of the Union is the establishment of one uniform sys- tem of customs, worked by one central authority for the whole of Germany. The existing tariff of the Union is not essential: it may be made a subject of treaty ; and upon the whole there seems a better prospect of coming to some satisfactory arrangement, when negotiations are to be conducted by one diplomatist or body of diplomatists acting for a whole community, than when separate treaties have to be patched up with every individual member of that community. Without, therefore, presuming to pronounce dogmatically on the subject, we can say with at least some show of probability, that the incorporation of the whole of Germany into one Customs Union may ultimately be of advantage to Great Britain. But whatever be the bearing of such an arrangement on British inte- rests, there can be little doubt in the mind of any unbiassed ob- server that it is calculated to promote the interests of Germany. The throwing down of the innumerable and perplexed lines of cus- tomhouse hedges which used to intersect that country, effectually checking the spirit of enterprise and cramping the development of internal industry, is truly an extension of the principles of free trade. It might be more for the advantage of Germany if those principles had been more operative in prescribing the relations to be adopted towards other countries; but what has been done and is contemplated by the Prussian Customs Union is a step in the right direction. And even though the measure were less clearly fraught with benefits to the people of the States comprising the Germanic Confederation, that body has an undeniable right to adopt it if it think fit. The Confederation has been expressly recognized as an existing power by every state in Europe that took part in the arrangements of the Congress of Vienna. Its members have bound themselves to act in certain respects as an incorporated body. No other state has a right to interfere with their internal regulations, so long as nothing- is done that violates their original compact so far as to entitle any of them to hold it dissolved. "Neither Hamburg, nor any Hanse Town or German State whose independence is guaranteed by the treaty of Vienna, will Lord Aberdeen, we are convinced, allow to be forced into any line of policy reluctantly," says the Times. And what is here meant by " forced " is explained by the blame attributed to Lord PALMER.. !WON for "allowing Frankfort to be forced and wheedled" into the League—much in the same manner (but with less demonstration of open violence) that the majority in the House of Lords was "forced and wheedled" into the Reform Bill. The States belong- ing to the Customs Union availed themselves of the power they derived from local position, and the relation in which Frankfort stood to the Confederation, to oblige it, reluctantly, to merge its individual in a common interest, or what they believed to be such. Though the same game should be played with the King of Hanover, and his Majesty should feel sore at finding his sovereign will thus controlled, that would not justify Lord ABERDEEN in using the power intrusted to him for the benefit of this country, to gratify the self-will of his royal friend. Hanover is a member of the German Confederation, and must settle its differences with any of its confederate States by the means which the articles of Union place at its command. It is to be hoped that no British Minister of this day will dare to repeat in the House of Commons the scandalous declaration of Cu ARLES Fox, that Hanover was as dear to hint as Hampshire. The acci- dent of the succession of a female to the British Crown has again given Hanover and Great Britain sovereigns a-piece ; and to de- prive future Ministers of any pretext for involving this country in quarrels with which it has nothing to do, measures ought to be adopted for rendering this arrangement permanent. We would not exactly talk—like some who can do nothing but talk—of a bill of exclusion directed against the King of Hanover; but a law declar- ing that any King of Hanover to whom the succession to the Bri- tish Throne shall open, must before ascending it transfer Hanover to his next heir not in the direct line of British succession, would. be for the benefit of both nations.