TOPICS OF THE DAY.
PARLIAMENTARY TACTICS FOR FREE-TRADERS.
IN the Speech from the Throne with which Parliament was pro- rogued, this sentence occurs—" The measures which it will be ex-
pedient to adopt for the purpose of equalizing the public income and the annual expenditure, and other important objects connected with the trade and commerce of the country, will necessarily oc- cupy your attention at an early period after the recess." The Free-traders ought to receive this as a challenge to be ready with their plan for improving the public revenue and benefiting com- merce at the same time, against the meeting of Parliament. The old Ministers failed to bring forward comprehensive mea- sures, calculated to satisfy the rational desires of Free-traders: the new Ministers, looking to their professed opinions, can scarcely be expected to make the attempt. If the advocates of Free Trade truly wish to see their views realized in practice, they must work as if every thing depended on their own un- aided efforts. Men in office, and the Parliamentary majority which keeps them there, are either hostile to Free Trade, or at the best look on it as a plausible theory, which it may be desirable but is impossible to carry into effect. The air inertie of men in office is in affiance with the selfishness of narrow inter- ests: to induce them to adopt the Free Trade plan for relieving the national embarrassment, that plan, fully matured, and put into a specific workable shape, must be placed in their bands. The Free-traders, before they can expect to convert those who differ from them in opinion, must master thoroughly all the practical bearings of their principles, so as to be able to explain with precision what they want done, and how it can be done, and to answer readily all the most captious objections or calls for explanation that can be imagined. If the friends of Free Trade will not take this trouble, assuredly those who are hostile or indifferent will not.
It is because the leaders of the Free Trade party have not done this, that they have for some time back been making no real pro- gress. It is true that there has been great activity on the part of the Anti-Corn-law League and other advocates of Free Trade, and that the loudness of the cry against restrictions is undi- minished. But those who are at the head of the movement, espe- cially in Parliament, are no more in a condition, were the reins of Government intrusted to their own hands, to introduce a legislative measure for carrying their views into effect, than they were when the movement began, some years ago. They entertain a strong but vague opinion that fiscal restrictions upon trade are hurtful ; but they could not answer Sir ROBERT PEEL, were he to say to them, tomorrow—" I will give up all Customs-duties except what are necessary to raise a revenue : come, tell me what articles of import or export ought to be taxed, and, at what rate, in order to raise a sufficient income with the least possible embarrassment to trade?" Yet a moment's reflection will show them that such a question might be put, and that the consequence of their being unable to answer it would be to cast discredit on their opinions as impracticable. Instead of bringing their opponents to close quarters by showing them publicly that what they propose is practicable, and calling upon them to assign reasons for not doing it, they have kept to vague generalities, which are always most advantageous to those whose end is attained if they es- cape being forced to do something. They have been preach- ing about the abstract virtues of justice and humanity, and hold- ing one-sided meetings in which they strain to outdo each other in inventing strong expressions of their feelings towards the protec- tive system. They have been calling those who agree with them in opinion benefactors of their species, and those who differ all sorts of ugly names. They have been stirring up the souls of men to a state of excitement that might, if mere excitement could, ren- der them capable of any undertaking ; but they have neglected to teach them how to set about the work in hand. They and their followers are like the clouds of sharpshooters which the French army used to throw out in advance during the Peninsular war, without the main body, the advance of which those skirmishers were meant to cover. They are like a mob collected round some strong fortress that they would demolish—howling with rage, and shaking their hands in impotent anger, but destitute of imple- ments for breaking in and of the skill to use them. The devoted system against which their indignation is levelled, though loudly threatened, stands where it did. Not one advocate of a restrictive policy has recanted his opinions: no parley has been demanded by the Parliamentary majority. And thus will it be, so long as num- bers and enthusiasm alone are relied upon, and turgid orators, echoing and echoed by a misleading press, seek only to feed the vanity of the excited multitude, instead of making measures practical, and putting them in train to be carried.
There must be more work and less noise, if any thing is to be done. The country's rational views and wishes must be put into a shape to carry weight and be of use in Parliament. The represen- tatives of the Free Trade interest must employ the recess in pre- paring a plan of their own. Thus armed, they are in a condition to ask the Minister as soon as Parliament meet, whether he has any thing to propose; intimating that they have, but that they are willing in courtesy to hear the Government proposal first ; adding, however, that in the event of its not proving satisfactory, they will move their own plan as an amendment. The very preparation of' their plan may be made the instrument of a useful and instructive agitation. As thus. Let any number of the Parliamentary Free-traders set them- , selves to devise a measure by which commerce may be liberated from the whole apparatus of protective and restrictive duties, sub- stituting for them such moderate rates of Customs-duties as are most likely to yield a liberal amount of revenue. The best way of going to work would be to take the existing Tariff as the basis of their measure. As a first step, they might strike out the whole of that numerous class of duties which yield little or no re- venue, at the same time that they increase the general ex- pense of collection, and harass and obstruct the merchant in his dealings. The next step will be, to consider upon which of the articles still left on the list it is most desirable to im- pose duties, regard being had to the two great ends of creating a productive tax and of interfering as little as possible with the na- tural course of trade. Thus, for example, should any one suggest that a moderate duty might be imposed upon imported grain for revenue purposes, considerations like this would come into play,— that the amount of corn imported for consumption must vary with the seasons, whereas the amount of the state's yearly income ought to be of a uniform character ; which leads to the inference that a duty on corn is not a good tax for the Budget. The articles sub- jected to Customs-duties would necessarily be those for which there is a large steady demand, increasing with the growing wealth and numbers of the people. It would fall to be considered, whether it were most eligible to tax certain commodities by imposing a moderate import-duty on the raw material when imported, or of a moderate export-duty on the manufactured article when exported. An im- portant question would be, what articles admit of having duties levied upon them by the least expensive body of officers. All those con- siderations, and whatever others demand attention, being maturely weighed, the articles selected for taxation ought to be classified and printed in a tabular form, with the rate of duty proposed to be levied upon each, and the anticipated amount of revenue, to- gether with the percentage at which it could be collected, an- nexed. To this new Tariff ought to be appended a concise and dis- tinct statement of the general principles in conformity with which it had been prepared, and of the reasons which had dictated the selection of each article and determined the rate of duty adopted. It might also be advisable to assign reasons for the exemption of some articles from any duty.
A considerable amount of materials for executing such a task exist in the Reports of Committees and Commissions. What is not found there, the concocters of the measure might supply from their own stores of information, or obtain from the most intelligent prac- tical advocates of Free Trade throughout the kingdom. In every manufacturing district or mercantile emporium there are men ca- pable of rendering valuable assistance. By looking merely to the proceedings of the Anti-Corn-law agitation, they will find the names of AIIROYD in Yorkshire, DYER and SMITH in Manchester, WALMSLEY and SIIIEL in Liverpool, BAINES in Leeds, Dixoyi, JourcsTorr, and WILSON in Glasgow, BAXTER and Sreanocti. in Dundee ; and almost every Member of Parliament may be able to _ extend the list from the circle of his own personal acquaintance. The mere act of corresponding with these gentlemen will have a tendency to direct their attention to the possibility of maturing a practical measure, and excite in them an eager wish to see it brought forward in Parliament. The nucleus of a powerful and intelligent party to countenance and support it will thus be formed. Copies of the proposed Tariff, with the reasons appended, should be sent, as soon as it can be got ready, to every Chamber of Com- merce, Municipal Corporation, and Free Trade or Anti- Corn-law As- sociation in the Three Kingdoms. It ought to Fe intimated to those bodies, and to any influential individuals to whom copies are sent, that it is proposed to embody the Tariff and its reasons in a series of resolutions, to be brought forward in the House of Commons as soon as Parliament meet, either as a substantive motion, or as a counter-project to any unsatisfactory measure that may he proposed by the Government. The parties to whom these copies are com- municated ought to be requested to scrutinize the measure care- fully, with a view to communicate any suggestions that may occur to them for rendering it more complete and efficacious ; and having done this, to express publicly their approbation of it, and to use their influence for the purpose of inducing Members of Parliament to support it. The utmost publicity should then be given to the Tariff and its argumentative appendix, as finally arranged in con- formity with any suggestions that have been received. By adopting this course, the Parliamentary leaders of the Free Trade movement would lend that practical character to the dis- cussion which it must assume before a Free Trade policy can be realized. Until the practical deductions from the principles of Free Trade are thus embodied in a tangible shape, their adversaries will scout them as the vague reveries of men who have no experience of business ; and many who yield a general assent to the principles will entertain misgivings to the same effect. The correspondence required, first to procure information for the preparation of the measure, and subsequently to direct attention to it and procure support for it out of doors, will give our traders faith in the prac- ticability of their own abstract opinions regarding unrestricted commerce. The mastery of the subject obtained by those who assist in framing the measure will give them a power and readi- ness in argument that none of them at present possess. A very different pressure will thus be brought upon Parliament from that of clamorous public meetings and hustings declamation. In every constituency there are some few quiet, sagacious in- dividuals, who take little part in such demonstrations, but whose "pinions have great weight with those who do, and with the re- presentatives of the district. The cooperation of this class will be inlisted, and can be inlisted only by a practical measure. These individuals lend weight and impetus to the wave of public opinion, which is little better than mere froth without them. Men skilled in the details of official routine easily parry mere abstract pro- positions, or complaints of grievances for which no tangible remedy is suggested. The appearance of doing business, kept up by calling for returns and presenting petitions; and putting questions, and stating isolated cases of hardship, moves not them. They keep on the even tenour of their course, undismayed by the clamour which often soles to facilitate ,their operations by diverting attention frern them. But a well-considered practical measure, developed and advocated in plain business language, is an engine of which their peculiar habits qualify them for estimating the power and at the some time disqualify them for offering resistance to it. The light and forward champions in Parliament or out of doors, who keep up an incessant fire of comparatively unimportant talk, are not indeed useless ; but they are only the tirailleurs deployed in front of the main battle—the work must be done by those of heavier metal, and it is the latter we are anxious to see called into play. It is in and through the Legislature that the "emancipation of industry" must be accomplished ; and it must therefore be accom- plished by legislative means. All the great measures that have been accomplished in Parliament have been won in this way. PITT, Fox, &BEE, TIERNEY, DURHAM, GREY, all have set to work by bringing forward matured plans, and trying to carry them through Parliament. It was only thus that they could concentrate public opinion in support of practical measures From the time of Fox's (that is of BURKE'S) India Bill, which, though formally defeated, was adopted in all its most important features by PITT, down to "the Bill, the whole Bill, and nothing but the Bill," this has been experimentally found to be the best if not the only way of carry- ing reforms.