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House will here find the real immediate cause of the nation's calamities, and that all the new notions of the injurious effect of the Poor-laws, of a surplus-population, and of a sudden transition from war to peace, will at once vanish, and, “ like the baseless fabric of a vision, leave not a wrack behind.”
Could it be possible, however, for a doubt still to remain in the mind of your honourable House, the experience of the United States of America must, as your petitioner confidently believes, wholly remove that doubt; for, though the whole of the principal of the public debt in this country does not exceed in amount the annual interest of the debt with which our country is unhappily burthened ; though the taxes here be so light as for their very existence to be absolutely unknown to the great mass of the community; yet, from a sudden diminution of the quantity of paper-money which had been in circulation previously to 1815, ruin and misery were spread far and wide over all the commercial part of the community, a consequent stagnation of trade ensued, and, for the first time in the history of the country, a want of employment and pauperism and soup-shops began to rear their hideous heads, and to produce what in their very nature they must produce, idleness, mendicity, and crimes. A wise and economical system of government, an absence of standing armies, a reliance on the hearty good-will of the people for the defence and due execution of the laws, a return in peace to all the habits and diminished expenses of peace, will, it is hoped, wholly eradicate the evils produced by the paper-money, and which evils had been confined to the commercial towns and their immediate environs; but, if a country, situated as to pecuniary matters, and governed, as the United States are, could feel sensibly a blow from a sudden changing of the standard of value ; if a country, in which there is scarcely any such thing as a lease of lands, where mortgages are comparatively unknown, and where borrowing for purposes of agriculture and trade in general is carried to so trifling an extent; if, in such a country, the changing of the standard of value could be felt as a blow at its prosperity, and could produce, even in the smallest degree, a want of employment, while the richest of land is calling for cultivators, your honourable House will not, your petitioner is certain, entertain any doubt that a cause, similar in its nature but a thousand-fold greater in degree, has, as it necessarily must have, produced proportionate calamities in England.
Therefore, as your humble petitioner has the unutterable happiness to be confident that he shall be honoured with the concurrence of your honourable House as to the great immediate cause of the nation's manifold sufferings, so is he not less confident, that, in seeking for a remedy, your honourable House will reject, as the vision of weak-minded dreamers, any project for altering the Poor-laws, and that you will treat with ineffable contempt and scorn all the schemes for collecting the savings of a starving people, for preventing the labouring classes from marrying, and for causing holes to be dug one day and filled up the next; but, that, following the dictates of your own instinctive energy and wisdom, you will put an end to the evil by removing the cause ; and that, as that cause manifestly is the taxes which drain away from pro. ductive labour so large a portion of its fruits to be, as above stated, conveyed, by the hands of the lenders of paper-money, into unproductive or foreign depositories, you will largely reduce the proportion of the money so raised and so conveyed away.
Therefore, your petitioner, full of confidence in the well-known justice of your honourable House, and fearing that he may already have trespassed beyond the bounds even of that great patience and indulgence which are traits so prominent in the now-well-established character of your honourable House, proceeds with all humility, distinctly to pray, that your honourable House will be pleased, by measures, which, to your great wisdom may seem meet, to cause the interest of the Public Debt to be reduced ; to cause all salaries, pensions and pay of every description proceeding from the public money to be reduced ; to cause a revision of contracts between lenders and borrowers and letters and renters : so that the nation at large and that individuals in their several particular cases, may receive from the hands of your honourable House protection from that injustice, which has been done them by an arbitrary change in the standard of value, and which change has produced such dreadful and so notorious calamities.
To this his humble and earnest prayer your petitioner begs leave only to add a representation, that, long foresceing the calamities, which have now fallen upon his country with such astounding force, your petitioner, has, during eleven years, omitted no means within his humble sphere and capacity to produce the adoption of measures such as those now humbly submitted to the transcendant wisdom of your honourable House; and that, upon several occasions, he has carnestly besought Members of your honourable House to aid him, by proposing resolutions or otherwise, in the discharge of this important public duty; but, that, whether from indolence, indecision, or some other cause to your petitioner unknown, he has never been able to obtain any thing beyond repeatedly broken promises of such aid ; and, therefore it is that your petitioner, in whose breast no time, no distance, no calamity, no injuries, can ever extinguish or damp the ardent love which he has always borne his native country, has now ventured, though with great deference and humility, to address directly to your honourable House the exposition and prayer contained in this his most humble petition.
And your petitioner,
Will ever pray:
RIGHT HONOURABLE GEORGE TIERNEY,
ON HIS OPPOSITION TO THE BANK-PROTECTING ACT.
(Political Register, September, 1818)
North Hampstead, Long Island, July 1st, 1818. 1 address you upon the subject of the debate on the thing called the Bank. Restriction Act, pas sed in May last, and in which debate you took
a part. I make use of your name upon this occasion for two reasons : first, that the letter, which I am writing, may, without much of cir. cumlocution, have an appellation to distinguish it from other of my letters on the same subject; and, second, that I may directly, and, as it were foot-to-foot, place myself, as to some of your opinions, in opposition to you, whom I regard as being by far the most able man now in what is called the House of Commons. The question upon which we are at issue, involves considerations of most tremendous importance ; and the decision of it must take place at no very distant day. Therefore, though my opinions respecting it stand already, over and over again, recorded in terms the most positive as to meaning and the most distinct as to expression, I am anxious, from a sense of duty towards my country, as well as from a love of honest fame, to put them once more into print. If events should prove that I am in error, as to this weighty matter, justice towards those whom I may bave misled, demands that I put into their hands the power of detection, and if events should prove that I am correct, justice towards myself demands that I put beyond all dispute, my claim to that public confidence, which may serve as some compensation for all the persecution which I have suffered, chiefly for having promulgated these very opinions, which I am now about to re-assert.
During the far greater part of my political life, I have entertained, and have, with very little intermission, bean endeavouring to produce in the minds of others, a hatred and a horror of the funding and papermoney system. In referring to its origin, I found it bottomed in a settled design to sap the foundations of the Constitution of England; and, in tracing its progress, I found this detestable design had, by the intended means, and in the intended manner, been but too fully accomplished. But, it is not of the silent, the sapping, the corrupting effects of this bishop-begotten and hell-born system that I am now about to speak: nor is it of the misery, the starvation, the stripes, and the deadly wounds, which, with the aid of a standing army, it is, at this time, inflicting on the nation. It is of the effects which it has yet in reserve; and with regard to which effects, I perceive, that you hold opinions opposite to mine.
I will not waste my time, as you thought proper to waste yours, in an exposure of the Aimsy, the shuffing, the false, the ridiculous pretexts. which the Chancellor of the Exchequer put forward as the grounds of his proposition for continuing the Protecting Act in force for another year. It can never be worth the ink that one writes with to be listened to by those, who could, for one single moment, listen to those pretexts as something worthy of attention. Your observations on the future effects of the system and your opinions as to the practicability and the means of preventing those effects : these constitute the only parts of the debate that merit the notice of any rational being.
It has always been an opinion, openly avowed by me, that the funding-system would be marked in its last stage by a great national change; and, more recently, since it has been upheld as co-partner of the Borough-system, and since such and so many acts of tyranny have been committed in the upholding of these systems, I have been of opinion, as I yet am, that the end of the funding will be the end of its atrocious associate ; that they will die in each other's arms amidst the shouting of the people, and this we may, I take it, call a great convulsion,
You are, I see, Sir, also of opinion, that the thing will end in a great convulsion. “He therefore exhorted the House to show its earnestness “ upon this occasion. If it did not do so, he feared that the conse“quences would be dreadful; that a terrible convulsion would take
place. This was, probably, the last struggle to guard against that “ melancholy event, and let each man, who felt for the country, have " the satisfaction of thinking, that whatever be the result, he had done “ his duty."— These are the words of the close of your reply. Suffi. ciently impressive ; sufficiently awful the warning. But of what use was the warning ? What was it intended to produce ? Much able statement in your speech ; a great deal of well-pointed reasoning. But, for what? To what end ?
To put the matter into plain propositions, it stood thus : that the House ought to be in earnest ; that, if they were not, the paper-money would produce dreadful consequences, and a great convulsion; and that, in order to show their earnestness, they ought to appoint a Committee to inquire, before they passed the Bill.
Thus far I see my way clearly. It is plain, and I cannot err. mischief, a dreadful consequence, a convulsion, may, in some cases, be prevented, by stopping to inquire before we proceed to action. But, was this one of these cases ? Could any inquiry have tended to prevent that blowing-up, of which you expressed your dread? Was it possible ; I will not say probable; was it possible; was it within the compass of human skill or force, to make provision against that “melancholy event,” which you anticipated with so much apparent sincerity and sorrow ? You seem to have been of opinion, that it was; I am of opinion that it was not.
In order to enter fairly upon the discussion of this question, to wit, whether it was, or was not, possible to obtain, by inquiry, any means of preventing a final blowing-up of the paper-system, I must look back at what you say, in your own speech, as to the topics and objects of inquiry. These I find stated in the following words:
“ There remained little for him to say, except on the subject of the mischiefs to hich some persons apprehend from the resumption of cash payments by the Bank of England. To a certain extent he was willing to admit, that these apprehensions Inight, perhaps, be well founded. He did not believe, however, that any violent shock could occur. He by no means supposed that the Bank would try to secure the continuance of the restriction, by making the resumption of cash payments as difficult and as dangerous as possible ; and he was convinced, that if the Bank sincerely aziplied themsclves gradually and gently to prepare for that resumption, although, indoubtedly a great diminution must take place in the erist. ing circulation, yet, that it would not be productive of any of those fatal conse. quences which it was the fashion to apprehend from it. If there were no other grounds for going into an inquiry, the expediency of trying is a Committee of that House could not chalk out some course by which the Bank of England might resume their payments in cash without endangering the tranquillity and welfare of the community, would be one amply suficient. (Hear, hear, hear.) Indeed, were we asked how such a Committee as that for the appointment of which he was about to move, could best employ themselves, he would say, in endeavouring to devise the means by which the cash paymentsly the Bank miyht be gradually brought about, and a limit put to the issue of paper, so as to facilitate those objects without risking any serious shock. This, he believed, might be done ; but he also believed that it could be done only by a Com:nittec composed of intelligent individual', who would calmly and dispassionately enter into the investigation of the subject, and collect all possible information upon it from those who were the most competent to the task of affording such information."
This, then, was to be the object of inquiry : the Committee were to “ endeavour to devise the means, by which the cash-payments by the “ Bank might be gradually brought about, and a limit put to the issue of “paper, so as to facilitate those objects without risking any serious "shock.” Your opinions as to the probability of the Committee effecting this object are in the affirmative. You admit, that, to a certain extent, there may be mischiefs attending the resuming of cash payments; but, you do not believe that any violent shock would occur. You believe, that, if the Bank were to apply themselves sincerely to prepare gradually and gently for the resumption, although a great diminution in the circulation would take place, yet that no fatal consequences would ensue. .
This was your opinion, Sir; and, no wonder that it was cheered by the Boroughmen, by whom you were surrounded. This opinion came, too, so pat just after my dismal predictions and doctrines, contained in that petition, which Lord FOLKESTONE (for what reasons his Lordship best knows) had refused to present, but wbich bad not, for that refusal, been the less read. This opinion had an effect upon the Boroughmen like that of ether or laudanum upon a losing gamester; or, like that of Loader's dram upon Old Mother Cole. And so you “ went out of the House amidst the loudest cheers !" “ Thank you kindly, Mr. Loader! Bless you, dear Mr. Loader!”
I must be insincere myself, or I must treat you with sincerity; and yet if I do, I am afraid I must offend you ; for, it is quite impossible for me to consider you as having been sincere upon this occasion without considering you as extremely shallow with regard to a matter, which you ought to have well understood, before you attempted to speak upon it in a public assembly; and particularly before you took upon you to be a leader in the discussion. As being the least offensive of the two, however, I will suppose you to have been sincere; and, upon that supposition, will proceed to give my reasons in opposition to this your consoling and comforting opinion; which opinion is, that means can be devised for enabling the Bank to pay in coin without producing any serious mischief, any fatal consequences, any violent shock.
As to mischief or fatal consequences, I may think so too. But, then, what you may think mischief and fatal consequences, I may regard as most happy events. To get rid of all misunderstanding here, I shall, as I fairly may, suppose you to mean, that the payment may take place without a blowing-up of the paper, and the seat-selling systems, and that paper-money and the debt and the dividends and army, and all can go on as they now go on.
If, Sir, as a quieter to those persons, who, you say, apprehend mischiefs from the resumption of cash payments; and, if, in answer to the fashionable opinions about fatal consequences to be apprehended from the same cause; if you, as might have been expected, had, in answer to these apprehensions, offered some reasons, instead of a naked opinion in the negative, you would have saved me a great deal of trouble. How. ever your opinion being wholly unsupported by any reasons does not prevent me from stating reasons in support of my opinion ; and, if my reasons be good, your opinion must be erroneous.
Doubtless a Committee of the House of Commons, as it is called, would consist of some surprisingly ingenious gentlemen ; but, though they would have been able to draw up, in a short time, a green-bag