GRATIAN.—True, indeed—as old fables mostly are. There is in them the depth of wisdom acquired by experience.
CURATE.—I fear experience alone won't do much. It seems thrown away upon most people. They continue follies to the end. I suppose Cicero thought himself a poet; though it may be doubted if he wrote the line as Juvenal gives it,
"O fortunatam natam me consule Romam."
Perhaps most men's natural common sense has a less wide range than they think. For there are some things obvious to all besides, that the wisest cannot see.
AQUILIUS.—Cicero was less likely to see any defect in himself than most men. He had consummate vanity—which must have led him into many a ridiculous position. But there were no Boswells in those days. I never could understand how it is that so great an admiration of Cicero has come over mankind. Even in language he has had an evil influence; and our literature for a long period was tainted with it. Sensible himself, he taught the art of writing fluently without sense. The flow and period—the esse videatur—a style too common with us less than half a century ago—you might read page after page, and pause to wonder what you had been reading about. The upper current of the book did not disturb the under current of your own thoughts, perhaps aided by the lulling music.
CURATE.—The vanity of Cicero was too manifest. It is a pity, for the sake of his reputation, that the letter to his friend, in which he requested him to write his life, is extant. To tell him plainly that it is the duty of a friend to exaggerate his virtues, is a mean vanity—unworthy such a man.
GRATIAN.—Come, come! let him rest; our business is with Catullus. Curate, let us have your translation.
CURATE.—I pass by the account of Suffenus, as well as some other pieces, and come to that very short one in which he complains of the mortgage which is on his villa. It is a wretched pun on the word "opponere," and was scarcely worth translating;—take it, however:
You, Furius, ask against what wind My little villa stands— If Auster, or Favonius kind Who comes o'er western lands, Or cruel Boreas, or that one That rises with the morning sun?
Alas—it stands against a breeze Which beats against the door, Of fifteen thousand sesterces, And twice a hundred more. I challenge you on earth to find So foul and pestilent a wind.
AQUILIUS.—What! do you look for a wind on earth,—it blows over it; and catch it who can.
GRATIAN.—It blows every where. The worst I know is that which blows down the chimney. And that reminds me to tell you what a town-bred chimney-sweeper said, the other day, to a friend of mine, in the valley yonder, who wanted to have a smoky chimney cured. My friend inquired if he could teach it not to smoke. "How can I tell?" said he, "I must take out a brick first and look into his intellects."
CURATE.—Not the march—but the sweep of intellect spoke there.
AQUILIUS.—And spoke not amiss; it was merely to see if he had a mind to be cured.
GRATIAN.—Perhaps you have translated that sweep's language better than your passages from Catullus.
AQUILIUS.—I did not attempt to translate that little piece,—but ran quite out of course, as the Curate would tell me, in a long paraphrase. The idea is, however, furnished by Catullus,—so I dedicate it
You ask me if my villa lies Exposed to north, east, west, or south: I answer,—every wind that flies, Flies at it, and with open mouth.
From every quarter winds assail, But that which comes from quarter-day, Though it four times a-year prevail, It does but whistle, and not pay.
Some blow from far, and some hard by; One, mortgage-wind, takes shortest journey, Only across the way from Sly, And blasts with "power of attorney."
But what is worse than windy racks is, My windows leak at every pane, And are not tight 'gainst rates and taxes. My roof and doors let in the rain—
The only let my villa knows. So that with taxes, wind, and wet, From whatsoever point it blows, My house is blown upon unlet.
Now, I hope my friend the Curate will admit so far to be rather a lengthy translation. I say nothing of addenda—thus:—
"Winds blow, and crack your cheeks,"—alack, Who said it, wanted house and halls, Nor knew winds have no cheeks to crack, In short crack nothing but my walls.
My friends console—"the winds will drop:" 'Tis equal trouble to my mind; For if it tumbles on the top, You know I cannot raise the wind.
To sum up all—for its location;— The question's of importance vital;— In Chancery—wretched situation; A rascal there disputes my title.
CURATE.—You are coming it pretty strong, and quite blowing up Catullus with your hurricane of winds. After all the household miseries in your lines, a cheering glass may set things to rights a little. Here, then, is what he says to his wine-server:—
Boy, that at my drinking-bout Servest old Falernian out, Fill me faster cups, and quicker, With the spirit-stirring liquor. So Posthumia's law doth say,— Mistress of the feast to-day; She more vinous than the grape. Springs of water—bane of wine— Where ye please for me and mine, Avaunt, begone, escape! Emigrate to men demure. My bumper is Thyonian pure.
GRATIAN.—I am afraid, Curate, that if you were to take what you please to call "the cheering glass," such as the jade Posthumia would recommend, we should have to put you to bed pretty early. It was the custom, it should seem, of the ancients to make a throw of the dice to determine the arbiter of the feast—to appoint the drinking. Who threw Venus (three sixes) was the magister; but the magistra is a novelty; a "Venus Ebria," whose drinking law would throw all; for "wine is a wrestler, and a shrewd one too." Doesn't Shakspeare say so? Now for your version, Aquilius.
AQUILIUS.—Curate will say, I am not so close to the original. But, on such a subject, we may be allowed to walk not quite straight;—a little zig-zaggy. Spite the coming criticism I venture:—
AD PUERUM SUUM,
(To his Wine-server.)
Pour me out, boy, the generous juice. The racy, true, the old Falernus; Such wines as, to Posthumia's thinking, Are only fit for mortals' use; When in her glory, drunk, and winking, The dame would quaff, and wisely learn us The good old simple law of drinking.
But water shun;—Hence, waters! go, E'en as ye will, to chill Avernus, Or whereso'er ye please to flow;— Be drink for all the dull, the slow, The sad, the serious, the phlegmatic; But leave this juice, this pure stomachic, Its own, its unadulterate glow;— This—this alone is genuine Bacchic!
GRATIAN.—Well, then, that must be our parting cup for the night, and a pretty good "night-cap" it is. I was afraid, Aquilius, when you came to the "phlegmatic" you would rhyme it to "rheumatic," and so on to the "water-cure." You know that is recommended in rheumatic cases; but perhaps you don't know that I tried it. I had the water-drinking, the wet sheets, and all the rest of it.
AQUILIUS.—And are here to tell of it!
GRATIAN.—Yes, and return to the old tap, (tapping his thigh and leg pretty smartly;) and I suppose I must stick to it.
CURATE.—A medical friend told me the other day of a discussion upon this subject, which I thought very amusing, as he narrated it remarkably well, imitating the tones and dialect (Somersetshire) of at least one of the speakers. He had some years before attended an old man in the country—a farmer well to do in the world—a man of very strong natural understanding, but entirely uneducated. He had lost sight of him for some years, when, not long since, he was sent for to the old farm-house. Instead of the old stone floor, there was a carpet laid down, and an air of smartness over every thing, which he had never seen before. It turned out, that the old man's daughter had married: a smartish man, the husband, was in the room, and to show his general knowledge of things, and acquaintance with the world, he advocated the water-cure, and questioned my medical friend as to his opinion. A voice from the chimney-corner (the settle in it) cried out, "It ain't na'tral." My friend had not before seen the old man, he was so retired into the recess. After having given his opinion to the bridegroom, he turned to his old acquaintance, and said "You remarked that it is not natural. What do you mean by natural?" "Why," replied the old man, "I do think, most dumb critturs knows what's good for 'em; and when a dog's sick doesn't he eat grass? If a sheep's ill, don't he lick chalk or salt if he can get it? And if a beast's ill," (I forget what he said was the cure for a beast);—"but did you ever see any of them go and lie down in the water, or fill themselves wi' it? There's plenty of it in ditches, and every where else, too, hereabouts. No, you never did." Then, looking up in the face of his orator son-in-law, he added, "And you don't know why you never see'd it, nor why they don't do it. No, I know you don't. Vy, I do—because they ha' got more zense." This was said with a kind of contempt which was quite a floorer to the new wiseacre.
GRATIAN.—Thanks for the story! now that is just the sense that I have acquired at some cost, and no cure; but I didn't get at it naturally as your old friend did. So now for sleep, and good-night.
The Curate and I did not part so soon. Time flew, and we seemed to shorten the night—"noctem vario sermone," as sayeth Virgil of poor Dido, who must have found the conversation considerably flag with the stupid AEneas.
"Noctem vario sermone trahebat—it was a sad drag. It must have become very tiresome, a little while before that, when ill-mannered Bitias drank up all the wine, and buried his face in the cup, "pleno se proluit auro." And they had been obliged to resort to singing, always the refuge from the visible awkwardness of nothing to say. And here I cannot but remark, Eusebius, what dull things their songs must have been on natural philosophy, sun, moon, and stars—songs, Virgil tells you, edited by the old Astronomer-general Atlas. But as this was before the foundation of Rome, they had not that variety for their selection, which was as much in fashion afterwards in Rome as Moore's Melodies in England, as we learn from Mr Macaulay, and his version and edition of the "Lays." They had no piccolo pianofortes in those days, or they would have had something lighter than the Lays, as the better after-supper Poet calls it—a
"Something more exquisite still."
But I am apparently, Eusebius, leaving the Curate to sleep or to meditate upon his own unhappy condition while I thus turn the current of my talk upon you. Unhappy condition, did I say? He seems to bear it wonderfully lightly; and once or twice, when the subject has been mentioned, indulged in an irreverend laugh. Now, I know you will ask how a laugh can be irreverend. Don't you know the world well enough, Eusebius, to know, that before a very great number of men, women, and children, a curate must not laugh, dare not laugh—blessed indeed, and divested of the wretched rags of humanity, if he cannot laugh. None but a Bishop, or a Dean, who, in the eyes of the many, is a kind of extra-parochial nonentity, can really, in these times of severe reprobation for trifling peccadillos, afford to laugh; and they had better do it in private, and with aprons off—never before the Chapter, who all, themselves, laugh in private. Man, you know, is the only risible creature; but a Curate must begin to know, from the moment he has put on his surplice, that he is to discard at once, and for ever, this human and irreverend instinct. Had you lived in the triumphal days of the Puritans, what penalties would you not have had to undergo, what buffetings and duckings, ere you could finally have overcome your strong natural wicked propensity, and have sobered down, and riveted in iron gravity and moroseness those flexible, those mockingly flexible features of yours. As it is, in these days of "revival," you only meet with considerable contempt, and evil opinion, which, as it comes rather late upon you, comes as an amusing novelty and additional provocative. But you may be sure what you can afford to do, the Curate cannot. For the present, therefore, let his few indulgences that way be a secret. He will mend in time. For so it happens, that though the longer we live the more we have to laugh at, we lose considerably our power of laughing. And that—between ourselves be it said, Eusebius—is, I think, a strong proof of our deterioration. A man, to laugh well, must be an honest man—mind, I say laugh: when Shakspeare says
"A man may smile and smile, And be a villain,"
he purposely says smile, in contradistinction to laugh. He cannot laugh and be a villain. A man cannot plot and laugh. A man may be much less innocent even when he thinks himself devout, than in his hour of merriment, when he assuredly has no guile; but a man may even pray with a selfish and a narrow mind, and his very prayers partake of his iniquity: no bad argument for a prescribed form. A man that laughs well is your half-made friend, Eusebius, from the moment you hear him. It is better to trust the ear than the eye in this matter—such a man is a man after your own heart. After your own heart, did I say, Eusebius? Words are the ignes fatui to thoughts, and lead to strange vagaries—of which you have here a specimen; but these few words remind me to tell you an anecdote, in this lull of the Horae Catullianae, which I would on no account keep from you. And you will see at once in it a large history in the epitome and the very pith of a fable—such as AEsop's. But I assure you it is no fable, but the simple plain truth; and I will vouch for it, for I had it from the month of our friend S., the truest, honestest of men, who saw with his own eyes, and heard with his own ears, the persons and the sayings. S. was travelling some time ago, beyond the directions of railroads, in a coach. There were two companions—preachers as he found, self-dubb'd Reverends of some denomination or other, besides that reverend one of their own. Their conversation, as is usual with them, was professional, and they spoke of their brethren. In speaking of different preachers, one was mentioned, of whom one of the speakers said emphatically—"Now that's what I call a really good man—that's a man after my own heart—a man quite after my own heart!" The other said with rather doubtful and hesitating confirmation, "Ye-s." "You don't seem to think so highly of him as I do," said the first speaker. "Why," replied the doubter, "I can't say I do; you remember some time ago he failed, and certainly upon that occasion he behaved very ill to, not to say cheated, his creditors." "Ah!" said the first commendator again, "that is very likely—I should have expected that of him."—Henceforth, Eusebius, whenever I hear such a commendation, I shall look out for a map of the gentleman's heart who ventures upon this mode of expressing his admiration. Oh! what a world we live in! This is a fact which would have been immortal, because true and from nature, in the hands of Le Sage; and is worthy of a place in a page of a modern "Gil Blas."
And so all this digression has arisen from a laugh of the Curate's, to whom it is time to turn; or you will think we have been but bad company to each other. I will, however, end this passage with the remark, that a man may do a worse thing than laugh, and happy is he that can do a better.
The Curate and I, then, for the rest of the night conversed upon the affair of his, which so unaccountably was making no little stir in the place. The Curate told me, he was quite sure that his movements had been watched; for that only yesterday, as he was entering the gate of his friends, the family at Ashford, he saw Miffins's boy not far behind him on a poney; and he thinks he came out for the purpose of watching him, for he had scarcely reached the door, when he saw the lad ride hastily back. The Curate likewise confessed to me, that he did entertain some tender sentiments towards one of the inmates, Miss Lydia ——, that the family had lived much abroad, and that they had a French lady's-maid, whom on one or two occasions he had certainly seen in this township. You see the thread, Eusebius, which will draw out innumerable proofs for such a mind as Miffins's. Taking a paper out of his pocket, he said it was put into his hands as he was coming away, and he had not opened it. "Perhaps," said he, "it may throw some light on the affair, as it was given me by one who is, I know, on the all-important committee." He broke the seal, read, laughed immoderately for five minutes, and put it into my hands:—
"REV. SIR,—Wishing to do the handsome to you, and straightforward and downright honest part, the committee inform you that they have reported your misconduct to the Lord Bishop, and I am desired accordingly to send you a copy of their letter. By order of committee.—I am, sir,
Enclosed was the following, which these wiseacres had concocted—and I have no doubt it was their pride in the composition, and in the penmanship, which induced them to send the copy to the Curate.
"TO MY LORD, YOUR LORDSHIP THE BISHOP.
"We the undersigned, the respectable inhabitants parishioners, approach most dutifully our Bishop's worshipful Lordship. Hoping humbly that you will be pleased to dismiss our curate, who, we are credibly informed, and particularly by three exemplary and virtuous ladies, they having been cautioned against him by one who knows him well, and is a friend likewise to said ladies, and doing all the good kindness he can. We learn with sorrow, that our curate has confessed to unbecomingly behaviour, and that he has been seen even kissing. My Lord, our wives and daughters are not safe—we implore your Honour's Lordship to dismiss the curate, and take them under your protection and keeping: We are informed the curate has a foreign lady, not far from this, whom he almost daily visits—and a Papist, which is an offence to your Lordship, and the glorious Protestant cause, to which we are uniformly and respectfully attached, and to your worshipful Lordship very devoted—" here follow the names, headed by Matthew Miffins.
"And what steps do you intend to take?" said I.
"None whatever," said he.
"Let it wear itself out. I won't lengthen the existence of this scandal by the smallest patronage. I will not take it up, so it will die."
"But the Bishop?" said I.
"Is a man of sense," he replied, "and good feeling; so all is safe, in his hands."
We parted for the night.
The Curate called rather early the following morning, and we thought to have an hour over Catullus, and went to seek our host Gratian. We found him in his library in consultation with his factotum Jahn. He was eloquent on the salting, and not burning his weeds, on Dutch clover—"and mind, Jahn," said he, "every orchard should have a pig-stye: where pigs are kept, there apple-trees will thrive well, and bear well, if there be any fruit going:" and he moved his stick on the floor from habit, as if he were rubbing his pigs' backs; and then turning to us he said,—"Why, Jahn has been telling me strange things: Prateapace and Gadabout have gone over to the chapel—left the church; not there last Sunday. But I saw that Brazenstare there, trying, as she sat just before you, to put you, Mr Curate, out of countenance. Well, Jahn tells me that the Reverend the Cow-doctor preached last evening a stirring sermon on the occasion, and was very hot upon the impurities and idolatries of the 'Establishment.' And Jahn tells me they don't speak quite so well of me as they should; for when he plainly told Miffins in his own shop, that he was sure his master would not countenance any thing wrong, the impudent fellow only said, 'May be not; but he and his master might not be of the same opinion as to what is wrong.' The rogue! I should like to have put all his weights in the inspector's scales."
"Yes," quoth Jahn, "but I am 'most ashamed to tell your honour what Tom Potts, the exciseman, said, who happened to be present."
"Out with it, by all means, Jahn," said our friend.
"Well then, sir, as true as you are there, he said that your honour was a very kind gentleman, and your word was worth any other ten men's in most things; but where it might be to get a friend out of trouble, and, for aught he knew, foe either, why then, he thought your honour might fib a bit."
"Surely," said Gratian, "he didn't say quite that?"
"Yes," quoth Jahn, "quite that, and more; something remarkable."
"Remarkable!" said I,—"what could that be?"
"Why, something I shan't forget; and I don't think it was religious and proper," said Jahn; and lowering his voice, and addressing me and the Curate rather than his master, he added,—"He thought his honour had a kind heart, too kind; for that if Belzebub should come of a wet and dark night, and knock at his honour's door, and just say in a humble voice that he was weary and foot-sore, that his honour would be sure to take him in, give him a bed, and a stiff tumbler of brandy and water, and send for the farrier in the morning to fresh shoe him unknowingly; for he would make him stoop, put his claws on the ground, and throw a blanket over him, and make the farrier believe that, out of a whim, he was only a shoeing a great big goat."
Gratian laughed at the whimsical idea of the exciseman, called him a true and good spirit-gauger; then giving some sharp taps to his hip, his knee, and his legs with his stick, rose from his seat, and said, "Come, Curate, you and I must take a walk amongst these people, and see what we can do: it is most time to put a stop to this mischievous absurdity, and, I fear me, of our own making."
Away they went, and I put up my remaining translations from Catullus, took down a book, read awhile, and then meditated this letter to you. And now, my dear Eusebius, when you publish it in Maga, as you did my last, folk will say—"Why, what is all this about? Horae Catullianae! It is no such thing." Be it, then, I say, what you will. Do you think I am writing an essay?—no, a letter; and I may, if I please, entitle it, as Montaigne did—"On coach horses," and still make it what I please. It shall be a novel, if they please, for that is what they look for now: so let the Curate be the hero,—and the heroine—but must it be a love story? Then I won't forestall the interest, so wait to the end; and in my next, Eusebius, we will repeat Catullus for the play, and say with the announcing actor, "to conclude with an after-piece which will be expressed in the bills."
My dear Eusebius, ever yours,
LESSONS FROM THE FAMINE.
The two great parties into which the country was divided on the subject of our commercial relations with foreign states, maintained principles diametrically opposite on the effects to be anticipated from the adoption of their respective systems. The Free-Traders constantly alleged, that the great thing was to increase our importations; and that, provided this was done, government need not disquiet themselves about our exportations. Individuals, it was said, equally with nations, do not give their goods for nothing: if foreign produce of some sort comes in, British produce of some sort must go out. Both parties will gain by the exchange. The inhabitants of this country will devote their attention to those branches of industry in which we can undersell foreign nations, and they will devote their attention to those branches of industry in which they can undersell us. Neither party will waste their time, or their labour, upon vain attempts to raise produce for which nature has not given them the requisite facilities. Both will buy cheaper than they could have done if an artificial system of protection had forced the national industry into a channel which nature did not intend, and experience does not sanction. We may be fed by the world, but we will clothe the world. The abstraction of the precious metals is not to be dreaded under such a system, for how are the precious metals got but in exchange for manufactures? Their existence in this country presupposes the exit of a proportionate amount of the produce of British industry. Nobody gives dollars, any more than corn, for nothing. Our farmers must take to dairy and pasture cultivation to a greater extent than heretofore. A certain number of agricultural labourers, may, it is true, be thrown out of employment by the displacing of rural industry in making the transition from the one species of country labour to the other; but the evil will only be temporary, and they will speedily be absorbed in the vast extension of our manufacturing industry. High prices need never be feared under such a system: a bad season is never universal over the world at the same time; and free-trade will permanently let in the superfluity of those countries where food is abundant, to supply the deficiencies of those in which, from native sources, it is scanty.
The Protectionists reasoned after an entirely different manner. The doctrines of free-trade, they observed, perfectly just in their application to different provinces of the same empire, are entirely misplaced if extended to different countries of the world, the more especially if placed in similar, or nearly similar, circumstances. The state of smothered or open hostility in which they are in general placed to each other, if their interests are at all at variance; the necessity of sheltering infant manufacturing industry from the dangerous competition of more advanced civilisation, or protecting old-established agricultural industry from the ruinous inroad of rude produce from poorer states, in which it is raised cheaper because money is less plentiful, render it indispensable that protection should exist on both sides. If it does not, the inevitable result will be, that the cultivators of the young state will destroy the agriculture of the old one, and the manufacturers of the old one extinguish the fabrics of the young. This effect is necessary, and, to all appearance, will ever continue; for the experience of every age has demonstrated that, so great is the effect of capital and civilisation applied to manufactures, and so inconsiderable, comparatively speaking, their influence upon agriculture, that the old state can always undersell the new one in the industry of towns, and the new one undersell the old one in the industry of the country. The proof of this is decisive. England, by the aid of the steam-engine, can undersell the inhabitants of Hindostan in the manufacture of muslins from cotton growing on the banks of the Ganges; but with all the advantages of chemical manure and tile draining, it is undersold in the supply of food by the cultivators on the Mississippi.
This being a fixed law of nature, evidently intended to check the growth of old states, and promote the extension of mankind in the uncultivated parts of the earth, it is in vain to contend against it. So violently does free-trade displace industry on both sides, where it is fully established, that it is scarcely possible to conceive that two nations should at the same time run into the same glaring mistake; and thence the common complaint that no benefit is gained, but an infinite loss sustained, by its establishment in any one country, and that reciprocity is on one side only. As no adequate exchange of manufactures for subsistence is thus to be looked for, there must arise, in the old state, a constant exportation of the precious metals, attended by frequent commercial crises, and a constant increase in the weight of direct taxation. Should it prove otherwise, and two nations both go into the same system, it could lead to no other result but the stoppage of the growth of civilisation in the young one, and the destruction of national independence in the old. The former would never succeed in establishing commerce or manufactures, from the competition of the steam-engine in its aged neighbour; the latter would become dependent for subsistence on the plough of the young one. The rising agricultural state would be chained for ever to the condition of the serfs in Poland, or the boors in America; the stationary commercial state would fall into the degrading dependence of ancient Rome on the harvests of Egypt and Lybia.
Had it not been for the calamitous issue of the last harvest, in a part of the empire, it might have been difficult to say, to which side the weight of reason preponderated in these opposite arguments; and probably the people of the country would have continued permanently divided on them, according as their private interests or wishes were wound up with the buying and selling, or raising and producing classes in society. But an external calamity has intervened;—Providence has denied for a season, to one of the fruits of the earth, its wonted increase. The potato-rot has appeared; and nearly the whole subsistence of the people in the south and west of Ireland, and in the western Highlands of Scotland, has been destroyed. Between the failure in the potato crop, and the deficiency in that of oats, at least L15,000,000 worth of the wonted agricultural produce has disappeared in the British Islands. And the appearances which we now see around us are solely and entirely to be ascribed to that deficiency. No one need be told what these appearances are, or how deeply they have trenched upon the usual sources of prosperity in the empire: they have been told again and again, in parliament, at public meetings, and in the press, usque ad nauseam. Government has acted, if not judiciously, at least in the right spirit; its errors have been those of information, not of intention. The monster meetings, the flagrant ingratitude, the broken promises of the Irish Catholics, have been forgotten. England, as a nation, has acted nobly; she has overlooked her wrongs: she saw only her fellow-subjects in distress. L10,000,000 sterling have been voted by parliament in a single year for the relief of Irish suffering. Magnificent subscriptions, from the throne downwards, have attested the sympathy of the British heart with the tale of Irish and Highland suffering. But, notwithstanding all these astonishing exertions, and notwithstanding the existence of an unprecedented demand for labour in most parts of the country, in consequence of vast railway undertakings being on foot, on which at least L30,000,000 a-year must be expended for three or four years to come, distress is in many places most acute, in all severely felt. And what is very remarkable, and may be considered, as a distinctive sign of the times, specially worthy of universal attention, the suffering has now spread to those classes which are furthest removed from the blight of nature, and fastened upon those interests which, according to the generally received opinion, should have been benefited rather than injured by the calamity which has occurred.
That some millions of cultivators in the southwest of Ireland, and some hundred thousand in the west Highlands of Scotland, should be involved, literally speaking, in the horrors of famine, in consequence of the universal failure of the crop which constituted at once their sole object of labour and only means of subsistence, may easily be understood. That this alarming failure should raise prices of every sort of food to the scarcity-level in every part of the empire, is equally intelligible; and that government, in conformity with the universal sense of the nation, should, in such an extremity, throw open the ports to all kinds of food, and thereby let in an unexampled amount of foreign produce to supply the failure of that usually raised at home, is an equally intelligible consequence. It may not be considered surprising, that starving multitudes should issue in all directions from the scene of wo in the Emerald Isle, to seek relief in the industry or charity of Great Britain; and that all the great towns in the west of the island should be overwhelmed with pauperism and typhus fever, in consequence of their being the first to be reached by the destructive flood; although it was hardly to be expected that a hundred and thirty-two thousand applications for relief were to be made to the parochial authorities of Liverpool in a single week; and that they returned thanks to Heaven when the influx of Irish paupers was reduced to two thousand a-week! But the remarkable thing, and the thing which the commercial classes certainly did not expect, is this:—The calamity has now reached themselves, although the hand of Providence has only stricken the producing agricultural classes. Trade never was lower, monied distress never more severe, markets of all sorts never were more rapidly DECLINING, than during a period when IMPORTATIONS of all sorts have been MOST RAPIDLY INCREASING. Nearly all the manufactories in Lancashire and Lanarkshire are put on short time; the public funds and stocks of all sorts are falling; the rate of bankers' advances in Scotland is raised to six per cent; seven per cent is charged in Liverpool and Glasgow on railway advances, and permanent loans are taken on railway debentures by the most experienced persons for three years at five per cent; the Bank of England has raised its discounts; our exports are rapidly declining; and all at a time, when the importation of all sorts of rude produce is on an unprecedented scale of magnitude, and the warehouses of Liverpool and Glasgow are literally bursting with the prodigious mass of grain stored in them from all parts of the world!
Fortunately, statistical documents exist, derived from official sources, which demonstrate beyond the possibility of doubt the coexistence of this vast increase in the amount of subsistence imported, and vast diminution in the amount of manufactures raised or exported in all parts of the British empire. A paper has lately been presented to parliament, showing the amount of imports, exports, and shipping during the year 1846, compared with 1845; from which this important and luminous fact is decisively established, how hard soever it may be to comprehend on the part of a large and influential portion of our politicians. From it it appears that the amount of subsistence imported in 1846 was six times greater than in 1845, although free-trade only commenced in the middle of the former year. It had reached the unparalleled amount in the latter year, of grain or flour, equal to five millions and a half quarters of grain. The tonnage inwards had turned five millions of tons; the custom-house duties, notwithstanding the numerous reductions of duties on imported articles, had risen L700,000 above the preceding year, and still kept above L22.000,000 sterling. Here, then, were all the sources and marks of prosperity, so far as they depended on importations, in a state of unexampled vigour and efficiency. Was this attended, as we were constantly told it would be, by a corresponding impulse given to our fabrics? Has the increased activity of our manufacturing cities compensated for the sterility of so large a part of our fields? The fact is just the reverse. Though free-trade has only been in operation for the last six months of 1846, they were signalised by a universal decline in all the principal articles of our exportation; and, by the unanimous voice of all practical men, trade, so far as exports or production is concerned, never was in a more depressed state than when, so far as imports are concerned, it had attained an unprecedented extension.
Never was a truer observation than is made by the Free-Traders, when they assert that goods will not be sent into a nation for nothing; and that, if our imports increase, something that goes out must have received a proportional augmentation. They forget only one circumstance, which, however, is of some little consequence, namely, that two things may go out, goods or SPECIE. We have melancholy proof, in the present state of the money market, that the latter occurrence has taken place to an inconvenient and distressing extent, and that that is the direct cause of the extravagant rate of interest charged on bankers' advances, and the general scarcity of money felt throughout the country. That the capital of the country is not only sufficient, but abundant, is decisively proved by the fact that, notwithstanding the vast extent of the railway and other undertakings of a public character going on both in Great Britain and Ireland, government has borrowed the loan of L8,000,000 for the relief of Ireland at L3, 7s. 6d. per cent. The three per cents are about 90, yielding about the same return for money. But is currency equally abundant? So far from it, the bankers are charging six, and the persons making advances on railway concerns seven per cent. The holder of capital is glad if he can get three and a half per cent; but the holder of currency will not let his notes or sovereigns out of his hand for less than six or seven per cent. Can there be a more convincing proof that the currency of the country has been unduly drained away, and that the present monetary system, which forbids any extension of it in paper when the specie is abstracted, is based on a wrong foundation? Nor is it surprising that the currency should be straitened when it is notorious that every packet which goes out to America takes out vast sums to that continent to pay for the immense quantities of grain which are brought in. That drain only began to be felt in a serious manner within the last two months, because the great shipments from America took place in November and December last, when the failure of the potato crop in this country was fully ascertained; and consequently, the payments made in bills at three months, required to be made in February and March. And when it is recollected that the quantity of grain imported in seven months only—viz. from 5th July 1846, to 5th February 1847—exceeded six millions of quarters, at the very time that all our exports were diminishing; it may be imagined how prodigious must have been the drain upon the metallic resources of the country to make up the balance.
Sorely perplexed with results so diametrically opposite to all their doctrines as to an increase of importation being necessarily attended with a proportionate increase of exportation, and of all apprehension of an undue pressure thence arising on the money market being chimerical, the Free-Traders lay it all upon the famine at home or abroad. The potato-rot, it is said, has concealed the effects of free-trade: distress in foreign nations has disabled them to purchase our manufactures in return for their rude produce; the increase of British importation has come too soon to operate as yet on their purchase of our manufactures. Here again the facts come decisively to disprove the theoretical anticipations. So far has the increase of our importations been from being sudden, and come last year for the first time on foreign nations, it has been remarkably gradual, and has gone on for years, having received only a great impulse in the articles on which the duty was lessened or removed last summer. Our general imports have steadily advanced for the last three years; and in particular articles the same progress has been conspicuous. How, then, has it happened that this general, continued, and steady increase of imports has issued only in a diminution to an alarming extent of exports? And observe, the countries from which we have imported so largely last year of grain and articles of subsistence, have not only not suffered by the scarcity general on the Continent, but have profited immensely by it. America has been blessed with a splendid crop of every species of grain; and, in consequence of the famine in Ireland and severe scarcity in France, prices of grain have risen to triple their former amount in the United States. It has risen so much in the southern states of Russia, that the Emperor of Russia has prohibited the farther exportation of it from the Black Sea. But all these floods of wealth flowing into the great grain states from the failure of the crops in France and Ireland, have been unavailing to produce any increased activity in our manufactures. On the contrary, they are all declining; and our immense importations of food are almost all paid for in direct exportations of the precious metals.
In truth, the general depression of manufactures in all the chief seats of our fabrics is so serious, that it is evidently owing to a much more general and stringent cause than the decline, considerable as it is, in our exports. It is not a decrease of two millions out of fifty-three millions—in other words, of less than a five-and-twentieth part—which will explain the general putting of mills in Lancashire and Lanarkshire on short time, the fall in the value of all kinds of stock and general decline in the vent for all kinds of manufactured produce. It is in the home markets that the real and blighting deficiency is experienced. And what is the cause of this decline in the home market? The Free-Traders are the first to tell us what has done it. It is the famine in Ireland. The total manufactured produce of the island is certainly not under L200,000,000 annually, of which somewhat above L51,000,000 is for the foreign markets of the world. What is a deficiency of L2,000,000 in such a mass? If that had been the only decline that had taken place, it would have been scarcely perceptible, and would have left no visible effects on our commercial activity or general prosperity. It is clear that the great falling off must have been in the home market. Nor is it difficult to see how this has happened. Fifteen millions' worth of agricultural produce has disappeared; prices of wheat have risen in consequence to 80s. a-quarter, and oats in a still higher proportion; and an alarming drain upon the metallic resources of the country taken place. It is this which has paralysed the manufactures and depressed the commerce of the country. And when it is recollected that the home market now consumes little short of L150,000,000 a-year, it may easily be conceived what a serious check to industry a diminution to the amount of even an eighth or a tenth of the usual domestic purchases must occasion.
The Free-Traders say, that the famine in Ireland has concealed the effects of the adoption of their system of policy; and that all the distress and suffering which has ensued is to be ascribed to that cause. From the observations now made, however, it is apparent that the effect of the famine has been, not to conceal the effects of free-trade, but to accelerate them. For what has the famine done? It has simply caused fifteen millions' worth of domestic agricultural produce to be exchanged for fifteen millions' worth of foreign agricultural produce. The potato crop, which has perished in Ireland, is estimated at fifteen millions' worth; and, supposing that statement is a little exaggerated, it is probable that, taking into account the simultaneous failure in the crop of oats, both there and in Great Britain, the total amount of home agricultural produce that is deficient may amount to that value. But foreign agricultural produce, to an equal or greater amount, has been imported. Six millions of quarters, between grain of all sorts and flour, have been entered for home consumption in seven months preceding 5th February 1847. Taking these quarters, on an average, as worth fifty shillings to the consumer—which is certainly no extravagant estimate, seeing wheat is up at seventy-nine shillings—we shall have, then, six millions of quarters, worth fifteen millions sterling. The home agricultural produce that has failed is just equal in value to the foreign agricultural produce that has been imported. The distress that prevails, therefore, is not owing to any deficiency of food for man or animals in the United Kingdom, for as much has come in, of foreign produce, as has disappeared of domestic. It is entirely to be ascribed to the supplanting, in the national subsistence, of a large part of home produce by an equally large part of foreign produce. And in the social, commercial, and national effects which we see around us, we may discern, as in a mirror, not merely the probable but certain effects of such a substitution if perpetuated to future times.
This view of the subject is of such vast importance that we deem it impossible to impress it too strongly on our readers. We have been always told that the great thing is to secure a great importation; that such a thing must necessarily lead to a corresponding increase of exportation;—that all apprehension about the imports being paid in gold, and not in manufactures, are chimerical;—that the sooner the inferior lands in the British islands go out of cultivation the better;—that ample food for the inhabitants will be obtained from foreign states; and that the agriculturists thrown out of employment by the change will be rapidly absorbed, and more profitably employed in sustaining our extended manufactures. Well, the thing has been done, and the desired consummation has taken place, from an extraneous cause, even more rapidly than was anticipated. The Free-Traders contemplated the substitution of foreign for British agricultural produce to the extent of fifteen or twenty millions as a most desirable result; but they only lamented it could not be looked for for three or four years. It would take that time to beat down the British farmer; to convince the cultivators of inferior lands of the folly of attempting a competition with the great grain districts of the Continent. Providence has done the thing at once. We have got on at railway speed to the blessings of the new system. Free-trade was to lead to the much-desired substitution of six million quarters of home for six million quarters of foreign grain in three years. But the potato-rot has done it in one. The free-trade rot could not have done it nearly so expeditiously, but it would have done it as effectually. It is a total mistake, therefore, to represent the famine in Ireland and the West of Scotland, as an external calamity which has concealed the natural effects of free-trade. It has only brought them to light at once.
Had British agriculture, instead of being stricken with sterility by the hand of Providence, in the poorest and worst cultivated part of the two islands, been suffered gradually to waste away, under the effects of a great and increasing foreign importation in all parts of the empire, the destruction of home produce would have been equally extensive, but it would have been more general. It would have risen to as great an amount, but it would not have been so painfully concentrated in particular districts. Hundreds would not have been dying of famine in Skibbereen; seed-corn would not have been awanting in Skye and Mull; cultivation would not have been abandoned in Tipperary; but the cessation of agricultural produce over the whole empire would have been quite as great. Low prices would have done the business as effectually, though not quite so speedily, as the pestilence which has smitten the potato-field. Whoever casts his eye on the table of prices given below for twenty years in London and Dantzic, must at once see that, under a free-trade system, as large an importation of foreign produce, and as extensive a contraction of home, as has taken place this year is to be permanently looked for. The exportation and return of the precious metals, and contraction of credit now felt as so distressing, may be expected to be permanent. Providence has given us a warning of the effects of our policy, before they have become irreparable. We have only to suppose the present state of commerce and manufactures lasting, and we have a clear vision of the blessings of free-trade.
Nor is there any difficulty in understanding how it happens that the substitution of a large portion of foreign, for an equal amount of home-grown produce, occasions such disastrous effects, and in particular proves so injurious to the commercial classes, who in the first instance generally suppose they are to be benefited by the change. If two or three millions of rural labourers in the poorest and worst cultivated districts of the island, are thrown out of employment, either by a failure in the vegetable on which alone, in their rude state, they can employ their labour, or by the gradual substitution of foreign for home produce in the supply of food for the people, it is a poor compensation to them to say that an equal amount of foreign grain has been brought into the commercial emporiums of the empire—that if they will leave Skibbereen or Skye, and come to Liverpool or Glasgow, they will find warehouses amply stored with grain, which at the highest current prices they will obtain to any extent they desire. The plain answer is, that they are starving; that their employment as well as subsistence is gone; that they have neither the means of transport, nor any money to buy grain when they reach the neighbourhood of the bursting warehouses. But then they will be absorbed in the great manufacturing districts, where their labour will be more profitable to themselves and others, than in their native wilds! Yes, there is a process of absorption goes on, on the occurrence of such a crisis; but it is not the absorption of labour by capital, but of capital by pauperism. Floods of starving destitutes inundate every steam-boat, harbour, and road, on the route to the scene of wo; and while the interior of the warehouses in the great commercial cities are groaning beneath the weight of foreign grain, the streets in their vicinity are thronged by starving multitudes, who spread typhus fever wherever they go, and fall as a permanent burden on the poor-rates of the yet solvent portions of the community.
And the effect of this importation of foreign grain, from whatever cause it arises, necessarily is to prevent this absorption of rural pauperism by manufacturing capital, to which the Free-traders so confidently look for the adjustment of society after the change has been made. The nations who supply us with grain do not want our manufactures. They will not buy them. What they want, is our money. They have not, and will not have, the artificial wants requisite for the general purchase of manufactures for a century to come. Generations must go to their graves during the transition from rustic content to civilised wants. America has sent us some millions of quarters of grain this year, but there is no increase in her orders for our manufactures. On the contrary, they are diminishing. Even the Free Trade Journals now admit this; constrained by the evidence of their senses to admit the entire failure of all their predictions. The reason is evident. They want our money, and our money they will have; and if they find our manufactures are beginning to flow in, in enlarged quantities, in consequence of our purchase of their grain, they will soon stop the influx by a tariff. This is what we did, when situated as they are—it is what all mankind will, and must do, in similar circumstances. It was distinctly perceived and foretold by the Protectionists that this effect would follow from free-trade, and that, unless something was done to enlarge the currency to meet it, a commercial crisis would ensue. These words published a year ago might pass for the history of the time in which we now live:—"Under the proposed reduced duties during the next three years, and trifling duty after that period on all sorts of grain, there can be no doubt that a very great impulse will be given to the corn-trade. It being now ascertained, by a comparison of the prices during the last twenty years, that there is annually a difference of from twenty to thirty shillings a-quarter between the price that wheat bears in the British islands and at the shores of the Baltic, while the cost of importation is only five or six shillings a-quarter, there can be no question that the opening of the ports will occasion a very large importation of foreign grain. It may reasonably be expected that, in the space of a few years, the quantity imported will amount to four or five millions of quarters annually, for which the price paid by the importers cannot be supposed to be less, on the most moderate calculation, than seven or eight millions sterling. The experience of the year 1839 sufficiently tells us what will be the effect of such an importation of grain, paid for, as it must be, for the most part in specie, upon the general monetary concerns and commercial prosperity of the empire. It is well known that it was this condition of things which produced the commercial crisis in this country, led to three years of unprecedented suffering in the manufacturing districts, and, as is affirmed, destroyed property in the manufacturing districts of Lancashire, to the amount of L40,000,000."
Lastly, the famine has taught the empire an important lesson as to Irish Repeal. For many years past, that country has been convulsed, and the empire harassed by the loud and threatening demand for the Repeal of the Union, and the incessant outcry that the Irish people are perfectly equal to the duties of self-government, and that all their distresses have been owing to the oppression of the Saxon. The wind of adversity has blown, and where are these menaces now? Had Providence punished them by granting their prayer—had England cut the rope, as Mr Roebuck said, and let them go, where would Ireland have been at this moment? Drifting away on the ocean of starvation. Let this teach them their dependence upon their neighbours, and let another fact open their eyes to what those neighbours are. England has replied to the senseless clamour, the disgraceful ingratitude, by voting ten millions sterling in a single year to relieve the distresses which the heedlessness and indolence of the Irish had brought upon themselves. We say advisedly, brought upon themselves. For, mark-worthy circumstance! the destruction of the potato crop has been just as complete, and the food of the people has been just as entirely swept away in the West Highlands of Scotland, as in Ireland, but there has been no grant of public money to Scotland. The cruel Anglo-Saxons have given IT ALL to the discontented, untaxed Gael in the Emerald isle.
Printed by William Blackwood & Sons, Edinburgh.
 Viz. 5-1/2 per cent on all advances on cash or current accounts, and 1/2 per cent commission on all sums overdrawn.
 Table showing the quantity of grain, including flour and meal, entered for home consumption, from 5th July 1846, to 5th February 1847, from the London Gazette official returns:—
Quarters of grain (including flour and meal) entered for qrs. home consumption, in the months from 5th July to 5th January as reported, 1st February, 5,148,449 Quantity duty paid in month ending 5th Feb. 539,418 Do. do. flour and meal, 427,036 cwts. 142,345 681,763 Quantity duty paid up to 5th January, 5,830,212
In bond, 5th February, 68,939 Do. do. flour and meal, 318,240 cwts. 106,080 175,019 Quantity in qrs. of duty paid and presently in bond,} 6,005,231 from month ending 5th July to 5th Feb.}
 1844. 1845. 1846. Imports, total official value, L75,441,555 L85,281,958 Sugar, cwts. " 4,139,983 4,880,780 5,231,818 Tea, lbs. " 41,369,351 44,195,321 46,728,208 Coffee, lbs. " 31,391,297 34,318,121 36,781,391 Butter, cwts. " 180,965 240,118 255,130 Cheese, cwts. " 212,286 258,246 327,490 Live animals, No. " 8,007 34,426 140,752 Brandy, " 1,033,650 1,058,777 1,515,954 Geneva, " 14,937 15,536 40,266 Rum, " 2,198,870 2,469,485 2,683,515
 In 1840, the total amount was estimated at L180,000,000, of which L47,000,000, at that period, was for exportation, and L133,000,000 for the home market. As this L47,000,000 had swelled, in 1846, to L53,000,000, it is reasonable to suppose that those for the home market had undergone a similar increase, and are now about L200,000 annually.—See Speckman's Stat. Tables for 1842, p. 45.
Table of Average Prices of Wheat in Prussia and in England, from 1816 to 1837.
Average prices Average prices Average Difference Foreign Wheat in Prussia in Brandenburg prices per between English and Flour Proper including and Pomerania London Prices and Mean consumed in Dantzig and Gazette. of Prussian Great Britain. Konigsburg. Prices. - s. d. s. d. s. d. s. d. Qrs. 1816 36 9 44 6 76 2 35 6 225,263 1817 52 7 60 9 94 0 37 8 1,020,949 1818 49 6 53 5 83 8 32 2 1,593,518 1819 34 3 37 6 72 3 36 4 122,133 1820 27 3 30 0 65 10 37 2 34,274 1821 25 6 28 9 54 5 27 3 2 1822 26 0 26 8 43 3 16 11 1823 24 2 26 9 51 9 26 5 12,137 1824 18 6 20 0 62 0 43 3 15,777 1825 17 3 17 9 66 6 49 0 525,231 1826 18 6 21 0 56 11 37 2 315,892 1827 22 3 25 9 56 9 32 9 572,733 1828 27 2 28 9 60 5 32 5 842,050 1829 32 3 35 0 66 3 32 7 1,364,220 1830 29 6 34 0 64 3 32 6 1,701,885 1831 39 6 39 0 66 4 27 1 1,491,631 1832 34 0 33 6 58 8 24 11 325,435 1833 25 0 23 6 52 11 28 8 82,346 1834 23 9 23 0 46 2 21 10 64,653 1835 23 0 24 0 39 4 15 10 28,483 1836 21 0 23 0 48 6 26 6 30,046 1837 22 6 26 0 56 10 32 7 244,085
 "The excessive consumption of these and other articles has, however, only led to a drain of bullion to the extent of three millions and a half, while, upon a moderate computation, they would appear to call for three times that amount. This is to be accounted for by two facts—The first being that we have not imported, and paid for as much as we have consumed, since, conjointly with our importations, we have been steadily eating up former reserves, so that our stock of all kinds—coffee, sugar, rice, &c., are low; and, next, because we have diminished our importations of raw material in a remarkable degree, and hence, while paying for provisions, have lessened our usual payments on this score. Here, too, in like manner, we have been drawing upon our reserves. Our manufactures have been carried on with hemp, flax, and cotton, which had been paid for in former years, and we have left ourselves at the present moment short of all these articles, the stock of the latter alone, on the 1st of January last, as compared with the preceding year, being 545,790 against 1,060,560 bales. We are not only poorer, therefore, by all the bullion we have lost, but by all the stock we have thus consumed.
"This process cannot go on any longer. We have now no accumulations to eat into, and must, consequently, pay for what we use. Concurrently, therefore, with our importations of corn and other provisions, (which are now going on at a much greater rate, and at much higher prices than in 1846,) and just in proportion as they beget a demand for our manufactures, we must have importations of raw material. Large purchases of hemp and flax are alleged to have been made in the north of Europe, for spring shipment, and cotton from the United States is only delayed by the want of ships. Wool from Spain, and the Mediterranean, saltpetre, oil-seeds, &c., from India, and a host of minor articles, have also been kept back by the same cause, and will pour in upon us to make up our deficiencies directly any relaxation shall take place (if such could be foreseen) of the universal influx of grain. In this way, just as one cause of demand diminishes the other will increase, and the balance will be kept up against us for a period to which at present it is impossible to fix a limit.
"We thus see that no call that can possibly arise for our manufactures can have the effect of preventing a continuous drain of bullion. That a large trade will occur no one can doubt, but at present it is scarcely even in prospect. From India and China each account comes less favourable than before; from Russia we are told that 'no great demand can be expected for British goods under the present high duties' in that country; while even from the United States, the point from whence relief will most rapidly come, we hear of a shrewd conviction that we are approaching a period of low prices, and that, consequently, for the present 'the less they order from us the better.'"—Times, March 10, 1847.
 England in 1815 and 1845, pp. v-vii. Preface to third edition, published in June 1846.