NEWSPAPER-WRITING has grown to be an art by itself. Many a literary man, who thought that because "the greater includes the less' every author is ex officio qualified to be editor, has sunk back into the rear-ranks and minor places of "the press," after some smart writing had shown at once his bookish talents and his inability to deal with facts. Others who could pour forth volumes have failed, because they could not cope with the hy- draulic pressure or prompt selection of salient points needed for the space and rapid comments of the journal. Take the best papers of either London or Paris, different as the circumstances of the writers may be, and you must allow that it is not every- body that could so seize the moral and spirit of passing history. The exigencies, however, of the partisan and the journalist, who must weekly or daily say something for his party, and say it at once, do sometimes betray the writer into strange shifts ; and none is more common than that readiness to accept anything, however transparently superficial and worthless, that may pass as an " argument." Party-writers almost go to the length of regarding the great events happening around them—the vicissi- tudes in the history of mankind—as nothing but raw material for " arguments" to 'back Whigs or Tories, or to abash their op- ponents. The same fact is often made to serve both sides. The combatants snatch at it, as Clown and Pantaloon snatch the tray from the head of any transient butcher, and pelt each other with the joints of meat as if beef were meant for nothing in the world but to serve as missiles. Thus is it repeatedly with the quarterly revenue-accounts, and notably with those just issued.
A leading Whig journal pronounces the "satisfactory balance- sheet" to be " as tangible a Free-trade demonstration as can be made evident to the sense of man." It is a tangible demonstra- tion that a good harvest makes a good revenue ; but circum- stances should be the same as in former years to make this a pure " Free-trade demonstration "--there should have been no change but that of the tariff, and then we might accept this auspicious result as due solely to "free trade."
On the other hand, a Ministerial paper declares that the "satisfactory balance-sheet "is no doubt a demonstration in favour of free trade to some extent—that is, a testimony in favour of just so much, free trade as has gieen rise to the present happy condi- tion of affairs ; but of no more. A little water to one's wine is a good thing, but none but a Teetotaller would deluge his cup with the New River ; or, on the other side, a glass of wine may be salu- tary, but this scarcely justifies a two-bottle man in pretending his regimen to be the most conducive to health. But if the satis- factory balance-sheet is the 'tangible demonstration' spoken of in favour of free trade, how does it happen that it arises upon a year in which we have had no considerable importation of foreign grain! How have the poor foreigners been able to pay for our manufactures—since they are asserted to be the chief consumers— without selling us their wheat ? Perhaps Mr. Cobden, or friend Bright, will explain this."—Without going so far as the leaders Of the League, we may remind the party-writer, that a metaphor about water, which by no means "goes on all fours," is not argu-
ment ; that free trade does not demand importation of foreign grain when it is not wanted ; and that it is one of the very
allegations of Free-traders, that, under present arrangements, when grain is wanted, it is scarcely at all or never paid for in manufactures, because the present law makes that desirable kind of barter impracticable. There is neither honesty nor sense in retorting as an argument against change one of the very defect charged as inherent in the system of which the alteration is de-. inanded.
Much meditating on these facts, another Ministerial journal has made "a discovery," "as curious, perhaps, as any discovery ever made in political science—namely, that the public revenue always pays almost pound for pound for every quarter of foreign grain imported—viz, that if one million, one million and a half, two millions, &c. are in given years paid for foreign corn, the
public revenue always declines so nearly that precise sum as rarely to vary from it in the proportion of 10 per cent." And this•
is "a demonstration that a repeal of the Corn-laws would, among many other calamitous results, inevitably lead to a national bankruptcy ; a matter worthy the consideration of all whose pro- perty is either directly or indirectly committed to the Public Funds."—Now, supposing this coincidence to be true, what does it prove! Is it pretended that the importers of corn go to the exchequer and receive the precise amount that they need ? or that the consumer of bread discriminates between what is made from native and what is made from foreign flour, and so regulates his expenditure as to stop just that amount of indirect taxation. that equals the cost of the foreign corn as delivered in port ? If the coincidence proves anything, it just proves that when a sup- ply of foreign corn is needed—that is, when the harvest is bad— the people are empoverished, and by consequence the exchequer is empoverished; which is exactly what Free-traders assert. They further allege, that the present arrangement, which provides for no regular, self-adjusting trade in foreign corn, but obliges casual importations to be paid for in bullion, augments the financial difficulty ; and the " discovery " of the Conservative journalist tends to corroborate that assertion. It has no bearing upon the question of repeal, total or partial, because it does not deal with causes, but only with coincident symptoms of adversity. Observations of this kind are not "arguments," but merely pretexts, for puffing particular factions or disparaging others. They can have scarcely any effect at all, except perhaps to lessen the estimation of the very able class of writers who still conde- scend to use them for want of something better to say at the moment.