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the genteelest manner, We can have no whining here.' And that is exactly the case of the great agricultural interest — that beauty whom everybody wooed, and one deluded. There is a fatality in such charms, and we now seem to approach the catastrophe of her career. For my part, if we are to have free trade, I, who honor genius, prefer that such measures should be proposed by the honorable member from Stockport (Mr. Cobden), rather than by one who, by skilful parliamentary manæuvres, has tampered with the generous confidence of a great people and a great party. For myself, I care not what may be the result. Dissolve, if you please, the Parliament you have betrayed, and appeal to the people, who, I believe, mistrust you. . For me there remains this at least - the opportunity of expressing thus publicly my belief that a conservative government is an organized hypocrisy.”
The progress of the League, meanwhile, was as great as its most enthusiastic advocates could desire. Instead of being worn out by its protracted duration, the movement grew daily stronger and more general. The country districts united with the towns, working-men with their employers, laborers with political economists. It was no longer a question local in extent, and special as regards legislation; free trade became a passion, democratic as well as scientific, and, in the instinct of the people as well as by the ratiocination of the learned, an affair of national interest.
Sir Robert Peel had really not decided on his course, in spite of the efforts of those who believed they could read in his mind a secret tendency towards the reform which they demanded. Mr. John Bright, recently become a member of the House of Commons, and one of the most eloquent advocates of free trade, asserted this publicly in one of the Covent Garden meetings. “Sir Robert Peel,” said Mr. Bright, “knows well enough what is wanted.
He has not been for nearly forty years in
public life, hearing everything, reading everything, and seeing almost everything, without having come to a conclusion that, in this country of twenty-seven millions of people, and with an increase of a million and a half since he came into power in 1841, a law which shuts out the supply of food which the world would give to this population cannot be maintained; and that, were his government ten times as strong as it is, it must yield before the imperious and irresistible necessity which is every day gaining upon it. From his recent speech I would argue that he intends to repeal the Corn-Laws. He cannot say what he does, and mean ever to go back to the old foolish policy of protection.
He sprang from commerce, and until he has proved it himself, I will never believe that there is any
much less will I believe that he is the man who would go down to his grave, having had the power to deliver that commerce, and yet, not having had the manliness, the honesty, and the courage to do it.”
The hopes which the partisans of free trade founded upon Sir Robert Peel, and the advances, mingled with reproaches, which they had made towards him, disturbed and excited the Whig chiefs, long accustomed to lead in popular reforms, but up to this time faithful to the theory of a fixed tariff, moderately protective of native products. Lord John Russell was the first to make it a point of honor to carry forward that flag of Reform which he had borne so proudly. On the 26th of May, 1845, he proposed in the House of Commons eight resolutions which touched upon all the questions then occupying public attention,
the Corn-Laws, general freedom of trade, public education, colonization, the law in respect to the parochial settlement of the poor, - opening out prospects in every direction, and lavishing hopes, but without indicating any precise measures or any fixed conditions, the vague manifesto of a bold and noble ambi. tion, eager to grasp the supreme authority and promising to
make good use of it, without defining, or indeed taking much pains to determine, what that use should be.
Almost at the same time, Mr. Villiers moved for the complete and immediate abolition of the Corn-Laws. Sir Robert Peel put aside the vague, liberal resolutions of Lord John Russell, as well as the radical proposal of Mr. Villiers. He introduced into the debate moral views distinct from the strict principles of free trade, and of a higher range than the arguments on which his adversaries relied. “ Under the existing state of the law," he said, “there has grown up a relation between landlord and tenant which does not rest merely on pecuniary considerations.
According to the principles for which the honorable gentleman opposite contends, I apprehend that he would
say, · Let the landlord make as inuch out of his land as he can; he has a right to do that.' On the same principle he has a right, commercially speaking, on the termination of a lease, to let his land for the utmost he can get for it; let there be no reference to the relations that have existed, perhaps for centuries, between him and the family that occupies the land; let him have no regard for the laborer; let him take the man who can do most for his ten or twelve shillings a week; let the old and feeble receive no consideration, because they cannot perform the labor which the young, the healthy, and the active can do. Though the land may be so regarded, yet, in everything but a purely commercial sense, in a social and moral point of view, I should deeply regret it. It would alter the character of the country, and would be accompanied by social evils which no pecuniary gain, no strict application of a purely commercial principle, could compensate.”
Lord John Russell was not, however, convinced, and his ardor for the fray increased with the reticence observed by Sir Robert Peel. On the 22d of November, a rainy autumn having aggravated the general distress by a late and insufficient harvest, Lord John Russell, in a letter to his constituents of the city of London, suddenly abandoned the principle of a fixed and moderate duty on foreign corn, and passed completely over to the radical camp, announcing himself, like Mr. Villiers and Mr. Cobden, the advocate of unlimited free trade. With him went other leaders of the Whig party. The surprise was great, and the anger no less, among the Conservatives, on seeing the forces of their adversaries thus reinforced. For a moment Sir Robert Peel believed that he had carried his Cabinet with him in a bold resolve to suspend at once the operation of the CornLaws, but he failed. Two days later the ministry resigned, and Lord John Russell was called to form a new one.
The chief of the retiring Cabinet wrote thus to the queen:
“Sir Robert Peel presents bis humble duty to your Majesty, and influenced by no other motive than the desire to contribute, if possible, to the relief of your Majesty from embarrassment, and to the protection of the public interests from injury, is induced to make to your Majesty this confidential communication explanatory of Sir Robert Peel's position and intentions with regard to the great question which is now agitating the public mind.
“On the 1st of November last, Sir Robert Peel advised his colleagues, on account of the alarming accounts froin Ireland and many districts in this country as to the failure of the potato crop from disease, and for the purpose of guarding against contingencies which, in his opinion, were not improbable, humbly to recommend to your Majesty that the duties on the import of foreign grain should be suspended for a limited period, either by Order in Council, or by legislative enactment; Parliament, in either case, being summoned without delay.
“Sir Robert Peel foresaw that this suspension, fully justified by the tenor of the reports to which he has referred, would compel during the interval of suspension the reconsideration of the Corn-Laws.