USE OF THE LEAGUE.
WHATEVER may be thought of some of the measures and move- ments of "the League," it is at least likely to be the beginning of a Mercantile party advocating more comprehensive views than any the nation has yet seen. "My more genteel friend Mr. Bright," as Mr. Cobden calls him, may be a worthy antagonist of Mr. Hudson ; but Mr. Cobden himself belongs to a higher class. Mercantile politicians have hitherto been considered identical with advocates of a special interest. Your merchant in Parlia- ment was usually a successful trader, whose wealth gave him in- fluence, and who from his experience was heard with respect on facts lying within his own sphere, but from whom no one expected mound views on general principles. The Mercantile Member of Parliament was an oracle to all parties on the actual profit and loss of the shipping or any other branch of trade, and an implicit follower of the political leaders with whose party he had been connected by birth or other accident. He never aspired to de- velop a theory of trade, or look upon the commerce of the empire as an organic whole. He stuck to his own line of business, and sought to win favours and concessions for it by making himself useful to his party. Ricardo the First was almost a solitary ex- ception to this general character. But the mercantile politicians of the League, be their theory right or wrong, regard the whole commerce, and indeed the whole industry of the nation, as an organic whole. They do not ask for favours to one interest at the expense of another. They announce a general law which they assert regulates all industrial and com- mercial enterprise ; and from this general law they endeavour to deduce a system of commercial policy that will give fair play to all. They have been forced to take this high ground by the ne- cessity under which they felt themselves at the outset of disclaim- ing connexion with any political party. Yet the necessity of en- listing a large body of supporters, and the narrowing influence of an association, may have in part counteracted the effects of this isolation from party ; which, moreover, has not always been very faithfully carried into effect. The League having one special avowed object, its opinions on every other question have been cut and shaped with care so as to present not even the appearance of discordance with those which they avow with reference to the corn-trade. Again, the League, like every other association, is composed of much sincere enthusiasm, (always respectable,) a few good heads and energetic characters, and an immense quantity of rubbish. "These influences bias the politicians of the League—prevent them from bringing to the investigation of every commercial question that arises minds sufficiently courageous and independent to con- fess mistakes, and oblige them at times to adopt arguments and 'courses of action which their better judgment and taste would re- ject, lest they should offend some oftheir partisans. From these dete- riorating influences, however, time will emancipate the politicians of the League school ; experience teaching them the necessity of throwing aside arguments which only expose them to triumphant rejoinders, and desisting from tricks of policy which only alienate honest men. And on the other hand, their very adversaries will be obliged, in self-defence, to adopt those habits of compre- lenitive investigation and logical argument which are the proper sources of the League's strength, wherever it is strong; for dia- lecticians of this high class can be successfully encountered by none but kindred spirits. The contending parties will educate Each other, and Wile out truth between them.
The League's "hundred thousand pounds," and even its zees:. dated members, are matters of comparatively little moment. There it is—a fact, great or little. It will survive till its work is accomplished, whatever attacks may be made upon it; and it will not survive much longer, although desperate efforts will be made to give it a prolonged vampyre-like existence by the paid agency it has called into being. But the more comprehensive and syste- matic method of discussing questions of commercial policy, which it has been such a powerful instrument in extending from makers, of books and members of political economy clubs to the great, body of the people, will not pass away. These controversies. will in future be more and more conducted in the spirit of the. Cobdens and Barklies, and less in that of the Hudsons and Bright&