TO ELECTORS ON THE COMING ELECTIONS.
WHATEVER may be thought of the theory of dissolving, there seems very little doubt about the fact of an approaching dissolution. Whether PEEL succeed in driving RUSSELL from the helm, or Res- SELL be enabled to stave off' resignation, to debate the fixed duty of eight shillings the quarter on corn, and to dissolve when Free Trade agitation is at flood, there is strong probability that a general election will take place before the autumn. Under such circum- stances, it is the business of every friend of Free Trade to take counsel with himself as to what he can do to advance the cause.
If any man believes that the new Parliament will give a large majority pledged against the Corn-laws, as that of 1831 was dele- gated to vote against Schedule A and Schedule B, the course of that individual is clear enough : he has only to look out for somebody who will pledge himself to this single point and vote for him. Before he adopt this course, however, he should settle two questions,—first, whether there is any prospect of an Anti-Corn-law majority ; second, whether the Whig proposers of the fixed duty are so earnest in the cause, or so trustworthy in con- duct, as to be likely to carry the measure if they got that majority.
1. Is there any prospect of an Anti-Corn-law, or rather of a Fixed-Duty majority ? We think there is not : the Reform Minis- try's Reform Act has secured too great a preponderance to the landed interest, directly and indirectly, to permit it. If this opi- nion be doubted, let the sceptic examine the question for himself in a practical way. The division on the present Ministerial proposal may never take place, but the inquirer can take up the last division on the Corn-law question, or, if he please, the division on the Sugar-duties, and ask himself what changes are likely. That the Tories in a few towns will incur some loss, is possible—as in Liver- pool ; that they will gain in counties, English, Scotch, and Irish, is rather more probable. Such is the apathy, and such the general distrust of the Whigs, that some additional Tories will in all likelihood be returned in the City and Metropolitan districts ; and even Edinburgh and Birmingham have exhibited a " no- confidence " spirit. The same distrust, coupled with the action of sinister influences, to which the Ministers have obstinately persisted in exposing constituencies, are still more likely to take effect in the small boroughs—as may be read in the cases of Can- terbury, Walsall, and even the Treasury borough of Sandwich. These gains are likely to more than counterbalance any Tory losses : where, then, is the majority to come from ?
2. But, supposing such a measuring-cast majority obtained as might affirm the principle of a fixed duty, are Ministers so earnest in the cause, or so trustworthy in conduct, as to be likely to force it through the Commons, and to bear down the Lords ? If they are sincere, why not have brought forward the question of Free Trade when they had ample power of carrying any measures they proposed ? They have held office for ten years ; the Tariff was as complicated and as onerous in 1830 as it is now ; the Corn- laws as injurious to the country : the facts were before them, for their colleagues Sir HENRY PARNELL had written a book upon the subject, Lord SYDENHAM a pamphlet in the form of a speech ; and Mr. J. D. HUME, whose admirable evidence before the Import- Duties Committee is so deservedly appealed to, was then in office at the Board of Trade. If they have yielded to an experience gained by a sense of necessity, why delay it to the suspicious moment of a deathbed repentance, and when the temporary necessity was pass- ing away ? In 1838, the harvest failed : prices 'rose ; and a Corn- law agitation began. In 1839, prices rose higher : the bullion in the Bank fell from 9,336,000/. in January to 2,522,000/. in October; trading distress and ruin were rife ; the country on the verge of a mer- cantile panic, and the Bank itself on the brink of stoppage. In 1840, sugar, that had also been rising, reached its acme ; corn was BIM dear ; and the excess of expenditure over income, which had been gradually increasing, amounted to 1,500,000/. During this period, the Ministry not only opposed all change, but opposed it vehe- mently. They resisted Mr. EWART'S proposal to reduce the Fo- reign Sugar-duty ; they systematically opposed Mr. VILLIERS on the Corn-laws; the Premier declared that a man must be "mad" *dm proposed their repeal. He further declared, that whether a fixed duty or a diminution of the sliding scale was the object, he saw clearly - - - - "that, in either case, the object cannot be carried without a most violent struggle, causing much ill blood and a deep sense of grievance—without Stirring society to its foundations, and leaving behind every sort of bitterness and animosity. I do not think," continued Lord MELBOURNE, "the advantages to be gained are worth the evils of the struggle by which the change can alone be effected. We have seen great changes which have almost convulsed society to its centre, which have excited man against man, divided the country into parties, and left behind the deepest feeling of discord and animosity. 1, for one, will not add to the force of these feelings by rashly adventuring to invoke and agitate them. I, therefore, say No to the motion."
Who, after such conduct and such language, can believe these men sincere in their present movement, or that they have any other end in view than to "stir society" for their own profit ? Even if they were sincere, are they trustworthy ? Look to the past for a reply. The Appropriation-clause was not a_question taken up at
the eleventh hour and fifty-ninth minute, but a question to which they were voluntarily engaged, and on which they came into office staking their official existence—in the words of the Premier, " bound in honour and conscience." They had larger majorities upon it than they are likely to have upon the Corn question : they successfully traded upon it as long as it would last, and then with- out scruple abandoned it.
And so it would be with the Corn-law. If they got a mea- suring-cast majority, they would be glad enough to use it in annual motions, to keep up a " distinction " between Whigs and Tories; but not one step further than the Commons, if it even got through the Commons, would it ever be likely to go. For two sessions probably, but the more the better, the delusive field- nights would come on. In the interim, all agitation on the subject would be discountenanced, as " embarrassing " to the Ministry ; all independent movement would be forbidden, or if that were impos- sible, would be frowned upon, and opposed as "injudicious" or " ill-timed "; and when the delusion was worn out, Free Trade would stink in the nostrils of the people at large, and be as ridicu- lous as "Peerage Reform," or "Appropriation," or the cant of "Justice to Ireland."
What then, it may be said, are the friends of Free Trade to do ? Look to themselves. Repudiate no assistance, let it come from whom it may, but do not commit their cause to party politicians or trading agitators. If these men's plans will forward Free Trade objects, take advantage of them by all means ; but do not tie down Free Trade objects to their plans. Above all, let them eschew clamorous and cuckoo-cry candidates, whether the cant mouth- word be "cheap sugar," or " cheap bread," or " cheap timber," (doubly-taxed to the poor consumer!) or cheap any thing else. Nothing is easier than to echo the uppermost notion of the hour; and some of the most arrant jobbers and servile compliers that ever truckled to a Ministry, were among the loudest hustings bawlers in favour of "Reform."
What each determined Free Trade constituency ought to do, is to look out for a candidate, whose capability they should scan with as much closeness as they would that of a professional agent to whose management they were about to commit their property or their character. And the Free Trade Member's qualifications are three—honesty, boldness, intelligence.
1. Honesty. This quality has a wider range than mere freedom from personal corruption, or of jobbing in the shape of serving connexions. The possession of wealth, moderate habits, few rela- tions, and other fortuitous circumstances, may enable a man to resist the Treasury, who may yet be caught in the silken nets of the Court. Nothing would induce them to sell a cause ; but they may clandestinely sacrifice it to the eclat of a Palace party or a Downing Street dinner, or the idle vanity of a seeming familiarity with this lord or that lady. In new men, the honesty to resist in- fluence must be matter of inference; with old Members there is a ready test : let the constituencies consult the Court Circular— the man that they find at the Queen's balls, or Ministerial dinners, or even at frequent "audiences" in Downing Street and Whitehall, is not the man for a sturdy Free-trader.
2. Boldness is as necessary as honesty. In one sense more so ; for a bold and clever rogue knows that it is his policy to be honest when eyes are upon him ; but weak-honest people rarely do good, and very often mischief. They yield to their fears, and they fear bugbears : any plausible person who can get hold of their ear will lead them from the broad straightforward course of principle, to some alleged short-cut by-path of expediency. When they under- take to manage a movement, they are as likely to mar it as not. One of the first things, for example, which the Reformed Parliament did was to come to an understanding not to speak upon the People's petitions,—which is now done nightly in the Lords with manifest advantage : at the commencement of the Parliamentary Corn-law agitation, in 1839, it„was determined to break through this arrange- ment; but the well-intentioned weak man who undertook the task very shortly ended it, by turning what was a mere understanding into a law of the Lower House.
3. Intelligence is essential, not merely for general conduct and to avoid traps and detect trickery, but a special intelligence upon the Import-duties is required in a Free-trader, to advocate the cause with effect, to judge of the measures proposed, and to sug- gest improvements. The Timber scheme, for example, relieves the rich consumer, but to an extent insufficient to stimulate consumption ; it doubles the tax to the poorer consumer, with the high probability of diminishing his consumption : in two out of these articles there will be a positive loss of duty, because the importation of Baltic timber exceeds that of Canadian ; and though the balance on the whole will yield an increase, instead of the estimated 600,000/. it is not likely to yield more than one-fourth of the sum. Yet not a word on these vital points has been breathed in Parliament ! Honesty and boldness in a candidate must in a measure be inferred ; intelligence may be tested. Let the earnest Free-trader possess himself of an abridg- ment at least of the evidence on the Import-duties, studying especially the proposed tariff of Mr. M‘Gasocat, and the evidence of Mr. M`Gmenoti and Mr. J. D. HUME. If he can spare eighteen- pence, a pamphlet called the Import-duties Considered* will give a table of the whole of our Import-duties which produce any thing, classified under certain heads, with a variety of statistical informas tion upon each item. The perusal of such brochures, in his spare • Published by ROPCRAM Mincing Lane. hours between this and the election, will not enable a constituent to propose a tariff' himself, but it will enable him to test a candi- date—to cut short his cuckoo generalities, and put him to the question—to examine him, and see if he can "pass." The efficiency of the troops is of more importance. than mere numbers. Twenty earnest, honest, and well-informed representa- tives, hearty in the cause of Free Trade, and sticking to it as DANIEL WHITTLE HARVEY stuck to the Pension-list, Or THOMAS DUNCOMBE to the Lent performances, would do more real good than two hundred lip Free-traders, going down on a field-night to give a vote pro forma, and postponing their constituents to their own purposes on every other occasion. And if two hundred lip Free-traders should be elected in addition, well and good : the good men and true will make them useful. Had twenty honest, bold, and intelligent Reformers been returned to the Reformed Parliaments, it is possible that the Reform Ministry would not now have been struggling in its death-agony, and the People in the eleventh year of Reform called upon to begin an agitation for free- dom to their industry and a fair apportionment of the public burdens.