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Blackwood's Edinburgh Magazine, No. 327 by Various

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Great Britain, at the present moment, occupies a position of dignity, of
grandeur, and of RESPONSIBILITY, unparalleled in either her own history,
or that of any other nation ancient or modern. Let him who is inclined
to doubt this assertion, of whatever country he may be, and whether
friendly, hostile, or indifferent to England, glance for a moment at a
map of the world, and having at length found out our little island,
(which, perhaps, he may consider a mere fragment chipped off, as it
were, from the continent of Europe,) turn to our stupendous possessions
in the east and in the west--in fact, all over the world--and he may be
apt to think of the fond speculative boast of the ancient geometrician,
"[Greek: Dos pou sto, chai ton chosmon chinaeso]," and to paraphrase and
apply it thus--"Give the genius of Great Britain but where she may place
her foot--some mere point peeping above the waves of the sea--and she
shall move the world." Is not this language warranted by recent facts?
While our irritable but glorious neighbour France--_pace tantae
gentis!_--is frittering away her warlike energies in Algeria, and Russia
is worried by her unsuccessful and unjust attempts upon Circassia,
behold the glorious monarch of this little island, Queen Victoria,
roused by indignities and injuries offered to her most distant subjects
in the East, strike single-handed a blow there, which shakes a vast and
ancient empire to its very foundations, and forces its haughty emperor
from his throne, to assume the attitude of a suppliant for peace,
yielding her peremptory but just demands, even at the cannon's mouth,
and actually relinquishing to her a large portion of his dominions.
Events, these, so astonishing, that their true character and
consequences have not yet been calmly considered and appreciated by
either ourselves or other nations. Look, again, at recent occurrences in
British India--that vast territory which only our prodigious enterprise
and skill have acquired for us, and nothing but profound sagacity can
preserve to the British crown--and observe, with mixed feelings, two
principal matters: a perilous but temporary error of overweening
ambition on the part of Great Britain, yet retrieved with power and
dignity; and converted into an opportunity of displaying--where, for the
interests of Great Britain, it was imperiously demanded--her
irresistible valour, her moderation, her wisdom; exhibiting, under
circumstances the most adverse possible, in its full splendour and
majesty, the force of that OPINION by which alone we can hold India.
Passing swiftly over to the Western Continent, gaze at our vast
possessions _there_ also--in British North America--containing
considerably upwards of four millions of square geographical miles of
land; that is, nearly a ninth part of the whole terrestrial surface of
the globe![1]--besides nearly a million and a half miles of water--five
hundred thousand of these square miles being capable, and in rapid
progress, of profitable cultivation! at more than three thousand miles'
distance from the mother country, and in immediate juxtaposition to the
territory of our distinguished but jealous descendants and rivals--a
rising nation--the United States! Pausing here in the long catalogue of
our foreign possessions, let our fancied observer turn back his eye
towards the little island that owns them; will he not be filled with
wonder, possibly with a conviction that Great Britain is destined by
Almighty God to be the instrument of effecting His sublime but hidden
purposes with reference to humanity? Assume, however, our observer to be
actuated by a hostile and jealous spirit, and to regard our foreign
possessions, and the national greatness derived from them, as only
nominal and apparent--to insinuate that we could not really hold them,
or vindicate our vaunted supremacy if powerfully challenged and
resented. Let him then meditate upon the authentic intelligence which we
have just received from the East: what must then be his real sentiments
on this the 1st day of January 1843? Let us ask him, in all manly
calmness, whether England has not _done_ what he doubted or denied her
ability to do? whether she has not shown the world that she may, indeed,
do what she pleases among the nations, so long as her pleasure is
regulated and supported by her accustomed sagacity and spirit? She has,
however, recently had to pass through an awful ordeal, principally
occasioned by the brief ascendency of incompetent councils; and while
expressing, in terms of transport, our conviction that, "out of this
nettle danger, we have plucked the flower safety"--we cannot repress our
feelings of indignation against those who precipitated us into that
danger, and of gratitude towards those who, under Divine Providence,
have been instrumental in extricating us from it, not only rapidly, but
with credit; not merely with credit, but with glory. To appreciate our
present position, we must refer to that which we occupied some twelve or
eighteen months ago; and that will necessarily involve a brief
examination of the policy and proceedings of the late, and of the
present Government. We shall speak in an unreserved and independent
spirit in giving utterance to the reflections which have occurred to us
during a watchful attention paid to the course of public affairs, both
foreign and domestic, in the interval alluded to; though feeling the
task which we have undertaken both a delicate and a difficult one.

[1] Malte Brun, xi. 179. Alison, x. 256.

After a desperate tenacity in retaining office exhibited by the late
Government, which was utterly unexampled, and most degrading to the
character and position of public men engaged in carrying on the Queen's
Government, Sir Robert Peel was called to the head of affairs by her
Majesty, in accordance with the declared wishes of a triumphant majority
of her subjects--of a perfectly overwhelming majority of the educated,
the thinking, and the monied classes of society. When he first placed
his foot upon the commanding eminence of the premiership, the sight
which presented itself to his quick and comprehensive glance, must have
been, indeed, one calculated to make

--"the boldest hold his breath
For a time."

What appalling evidence in every direction of the ignorance and madness
of his predecessors! An exchequer empty, exactly at the moment when it
ought to have been fullest, in order to support our tremendous
operations in the East and elsewhere: in fact, a prospect of immediate
national insolvency; all resources, ordinary and extraordinary,
exhausted; all income anticipated: an average deficiency of revenue,
actual and estimated, in the six years next preceding the 5th of January
1843, of L.10,072,000! Symptoms of social disorganization visible on the
very surface of society: ruin bestriding our mercantile interests,
palsied every where by the long pressure of financial misrule: credit
vanishing rapidly: the working-classes plunged daily deeper and deeper
into misery and starvation, ready to listen to the most desperate
suggestions: and a Government bewildered with a consciousness of
incompetency, and of the swiftly approaching consequences of their
misrule, at the eleventh hour--on the eve of a general election--
suddenly resolving (in the language of their own leader) to stir society
to its foundations, by proposing a wild and ruinous alteration in the
Corn-Laws, declaring that it, and it only, would bring cheap bread to
the doors of the very poorest in the land:--after the manner of giving
out ardent spirits to an already infuriated mob. In Ireland, crime and
sedition fearfully in the ascendant; treasonable efforts made to
separate her from us; threats even held out of her entering into a
foreign alliance against us. So much for our domestic--now for our
foreign condition and prospects. He would see Europe exhibiting serious
symptoms of distrust and hostility: France, irritated and trifled with,
on the verge of actual war with us: our criminally neglected differences
with America, fast ripening into the fatal bloom of war: the very
existence of the Canadas at stake. In India, the tenure by which we hold
it in the very act of being loosened; our troops shedding their blood in
vain, in the prosecution of as mad and wicked an enterprise as ever was
undertaken by a civilized nation; the glory of our hitherto invincible
arms tarnished; the finances of India deranged and wasted away in
securing only fresh accessions of disgraceful defeat. In China, we were
engaged, in spite of the whisper of our guardian angel, Wellington, in a
_little war_, and experiencing all its degrading and ruinous
consequences to our commerce, our military and naval reputation, our
statesmanship, our honour. Did ever this great empire exhibit such a
spectacle before as that which it thus presented to the anxious eye of
the new Premier? Having concluded the disheartening and alarming survey,
he must have descended to his cabinet oppressed and desponding,
enquiring who is sufficient for these things? With no disposition to
bestow an undue encomium on any one, we cannot but say, happy was Queen
Victoria in having, at such a moment, such a man to call to the head of
her distracted affairs, as Sir Robert Peel. He was a man preeminently
distinguished by caution, sobriety, and firmness of character--by
remarkable clear-sightedness and strength of intellect--thoroughly
practical in all things--of immense knowledge, entirely at his
command--of consummate tact and judgment in the conduct of public
affairs--of indefatigable patience and perseverance--of imperturbable
self-possession. He seemed formed by nature and habit to be the leader
of a great deliberative assembly. Add to all this--a personal character
of unsullied purity, and a fortune so large as to place him beyond the
reach of suspicion or temptation. Such was the man called upon by his
sovereign and his country, in a most serious crisis of her affairs. He
was originally fortunate in being surrounded by political friends
eminently qualified for office; from among whom he made, with due
deliberation, a selection, which satisfied the country the instant that
their names were laid before it. We know not when a British sovereign
has been surrounded by a more brilliant and powerful body of ministers,
than those who at this moment stand around Queen Victoria. They
constitute the first real GOVERNMENT which this country has seen for the
last twelve years; and they instantly addressed themselves to the
discharge of the duties assigned to them with a practised skill, and
energy, and system, which were quickly felt in all departments of the
State. In contenting himself with the general superintendance of the
affairs of his government, and devolving on another the harassing office
of Chancellor of the Exchequer, which, till then, had been conjoined
with that of the First Lord of the Treasury, Sir Robert Peel acted with
his usual judgment, and secured, in particular, one capital
object--_unity of action._

As soon as the late Ministry and their adherents perceived that Sir
Robert Peel's advent to power was inevitable, they clamorously required
of him a full preliminary statement of the policy he intended to adopt
on being actually installed in office! By those who had floundered on,
session after session, from blunder to blunder, from folly to
folly--each more glaring and destructive than the preceding one--he was
modestly expected to commit himself _instanter_ to some scheme struck
off, to please them, at a heat! A cut-and-dried exposition of his plans
of domestic and foreign policy, before it was even certain that he would
ever be called on to frame or act on them; before he had had a glimpse
of the authentic and official _data_, of which none but the actual
adviser of the crown could be in possession. This was doubtless _their_
notion of statesmanship, and faithfully acted on from first to last; but
Sir Robert Peel and his friends had been brought up in another school,
whose maxim was--_priusquam incipias, consulta--sed ubi consulueris,
mature facto, opus est_. The Premier stood unmoved by the entreaties,
the coaxings, and the threatenings of those wriggling before him in
miserable discomfiture and restlessness on the abhorred benches of
Opposition; calmly demonstrating to them the folly and injustice of
which they were guilty. Yet the circumstances of the country made his
adherence to this first determination exquisitely trying. He relied,
however, on the cautious integrity of his purposes, and the necessity of
the case; and amidst the silent agitation of friends, and the frenzied
clamour of opponents, and with a dreadful prospect before the country in
the ensuing winter--maintained the silence he had imposed upon himself,
and, with his companions, entered forthwith on a searching and complete
investigation of the affairs of the nation. Not seduced by the
irrepressible eagerness of friends, or dismayed by the dark threats and
dismal predictions of enemies, who even appealed direct to the throne
against them, Ministers pursued their course with calmness and
determination, till the legitimate moment had arrived for announcing to
the country their thoroughly considered plans for the future. Sir Robert
Peel is undoubtedly entitled to the credit of resuscitating and
re-organizing the great party all but annihilated by the passing of the
Reform Bill. It is under vast obligations to him; but so is he to it.
What fortitude and fidelity have been theirs! How admirable their
conduct on the occasion we are alluding to! And here let us also pay a
just tribute of respect to the Conservative newspaper press, both in the
metropolis and in the country. To select particular instances, would be
vain and invidious; but while the whole country has daily opportunities
of judging of the assistance afforded to the Conservative cause by the
powerful and independent metropolitan press, few are aware, as we are,
of the very great ability generally displayed by the provincial
Conservative press. Their resolute and persevering exposure of the
dangerous false doctrines of our unscrupulous adversaries, and eloquent
advocacy of Conservative principles, are above all praise, and are
appreciated in the highest quarters.

The winter was at length nearly passed through when Parliament
assembled. The distress which the people had suffered, and continued to
suffer, no pen can adequately describe, or do justice to the touching
fortitude with which those sufferings were borne. It wrung the hearts of
all who had opportunities of personally observing it. They resisted,
poor famishing souls! all the fiendish attempts that were systematically
made to undermine their loyalty, to seduce them into insubordination and
rebellion. Let us, by and by, see how far the result has justified this
implied confidence of theirs in the power, the wisdom, and the integrity
of the new Government. After all the boasting of the Opposition--in
spite of their vehement efforts during the recess, to concert and mature
what were given out as the most formidable system of tactics ever
exhibited in parliament, for the dislodgement of a Ministry denounced as
equally hateful to the Queen and to the country, the very first division
utterly annihilated the Opposition. So overwhelming was the Ministerial
majority, that it astonished their friends as much as it dismayed their
enemies: and to an accurate observer of what passed in the House of
Commons, it was plain that the legitimate energies of the Opposition
were paralyzed thenceforth to the end of the session. Forthwith, there
sprung up, however, a sort of conspiracy to _annoy_ the triumphant
Ministers, to exhaust their energies, to impede all legislation, as far
as those ends could be attained by the most wicked and _vulgar_ faction
ever witnessed within the House of Commons!

The precise seat of Sir Robert Peel's difficulty at home was, that his
immediate predecessors had (whether wilfully or otherwise signifies
nothing for the present) raised expectations among the people, which _no
party_ could satisfy; while their measures has reduced the people to a
state in which the disappointment of those expectations seemed to
excuse, if not justify, even downright rebellion. They arrayed the
agricultural and manufacturing interests in deadly hostility against
each other; they sought to make the one responsible for the consequences
springing only from the reckless misconduct of the other. The farmers
must be run down and ruined in order to repair the effects of excessive
credit and over-trading among the manufacturers; the corn-grower must
smart for the sins of the cotton-spinner. Such were some of the fierce
elements of discord in full action, when the affairs of the nation were
committed by her Majesty to her present Ministers, on whom it lay to
promote permanent domestic tranquillity, amidst this conflict between
interests which had been taught that they were irreconcilable with each
other; to sustain the public credit at once, without endangering our
internal peace and safety, or compromising the honour of the nation in
its critical and embarrassing foreign relations. How were they to effect
these apparently incompatible objects? "See," said the enemies of the
Ministry, "see, by and by, when parliament assembles, a cruel specimen
of _class legislation_--the unjust triumph of the landed interest--the
legitimate working of the Chandos clause in the Reform Bill!" But bear
witness, parliamentary records, how stood the fact!

That the present Ministry are mainly indebted for their accession to
power, to the prodigious exertions of the agricultural interest during
the last general election, is, we presume, undeniable. It was talked of
as their mere tool or puppet. Their first act is to lower the duties on
the importation of foreign cattle! "We are ruined!" cried the farmers in
dismay; and the Duke of Buckingham withdrew from the Cabinet. "This is a
step in the right way," said the opponents of Ministers, "but it will
clearly cost Peel his place--then _we_ return, and will go the rest of
the journey, and quickly arrive at the goal of free-trade in corn, and
every thing else, except those particular articles in which _we_ deal,
and which must be protected, for the benefit of the country, against
foreign competition." Then the Radical journals teemed with joyful
paragraphs, announcing that Sir Robert Peel's ministry was already
crumbling to pieces! The farmers, it would seem, were every where up in
arms; confusion (and something a vast deal worse!) was drunk at all
their meetings, to Peel! Nevertheless, these happy things came not to
pass; Sir Robert Peel's Ministry _would_ not fall to pieces; and the
curses of the farmers came not so fast or loud as their eager
disinterested friends could have wished! To be serious, the alteration
of the Corn-Laws was undoubtedly a very bold one, but the result of most
anxious and profound consideration. A moment's reflection of the
character and circumstances of the Ministry who proposed it, served
first to arrest the apprehensions entertained by the agricultural
interest; while the thorough discussions which took place in Parliament,
demonstrating the necessity of _some_ change--the moderation and caution
of the one proposed--several undoubted and very great improvements in
details, and, above all, _a formal recognition of the principle of
agricultural protection_, still further allayed the fears of the most
timorous. To _us_ it appears, that the simple principle of a scale of
duties, adapted to admit foreign corn when we want it, and exclude it
when we can grow sufficient ourselves, is abundantly vindicated, and
will not be disturbed for many years to come, if even then. Has this
principle been surrendered by Sir Robert Peel? It has not; and we
venture to express our confident belief, that it never will. He cannot,
of course, prevent the subject from being mooted during the ensuing
session, because there are persons, unfortunately, sent to Parliament
for the very purpose; but while he is listening with a calm smile, and
apparently thoughtfully, to the voluble tradesmen who are haranguing him
upon the subject, it is not improbable that he will be revolving in his
mind matters much more personally interesting and important to them;
viz. how he shall put a stop to the monstrous joint-stock banking system
frauds, as exhibited at this moment at Manchester, in the Northern and
Central Banking Company, and other similar establishments, blessed with
the disinterested patronage of the chief member of the "Anti-Corn-Law
League." The mention of that snug little speculation of two or three
ingenious and enterprising Manchester manufacturers, forces from us an
observation or two, viz. that the thing _will not do_, after all. There
is much cry, and little wool; very little corn, and a great deal of
cotton. They have a smart saying at Manchester, to the effect, that it
is no use whistling against thunder; which we shall interpret to mean,
that all their "great meetings," speechifyings, subscriptions, and so
forth, will fail to kindle a single spark of real enthusiasm in their
favour, among those who are daily becoming more and more personally
sensible, first, of the solid benefits conferred by the wise policy of
the present Administration; secondly, of the want of personal
respectability among the leaders of the League; and lastly, the
necessity and vast advantage of supporting the agriculture of Old
England. The recent discussions on the Corn-Laws, in Parliament and
elsewhere, the masterly expositions of the true principles on which they
are really based, have thrown a flood of light on the subject, now made
visible and intelligible to the lowest capacity. That some further
alteration may not erelong be made on the scale of duties, no one can
assert, though we have no reason to believe that any such is at present
contemplated; but that the principle of the "sliding scale," as it is
called, will be firmly adhered to, we entertain no doubt whatever. The
conduct of the agricultural interest, with reference to subjects of such
vital importance to them as the Corn-Law Bill and the Tariff, has been
characterized by signal forbearance and fortitude; nor, let them rest
assured, will it be lost upon the Ministry or the country.

The next step in Sir Robert Peel's bold and comprehensive policy, was to
devise some method of recruiting _forthwith_ its languishing vital
energies--to rescue its financial concerns from the desperate condition
in which he found them. With an immediate and perspective increase of
expenditure that was perfectly frightful--in the meditation and actual
prosecution of vast but useless enterprises--of foreign interference and
aggrandizement, to secure a little longer continuance of popular favour,
they deliberately destroyed a principal source of revenue, by the
reduction of the postage duties, in defiance of the repeated protests
and warnings of Sir Robert Peel, when in Opposition. They had, in fact,
brought matters to such a pitch, as to render it almost impossible for
even "a heaven-born minister" to conduct the affairs of the nation, with
safety and honour, without inflicting grievous disappointment and
sufferings, and incurring thereby a degree of obloquy fatal to any
Ministry. They seemed, in fact, to imagine, as they went on, that the
day of reckoning could never arrive, because they had resolved to stave
it off from time to time, however near it approached, by a series of
desperate expedients, really destructive of the national prosperity, but
provocative of what served their purposes, viz. temporary popular
enthusiasm. What cruelty! what profligacy! what madness! And all under
the flag on which were inscribed "_Peace! Retrenchment! Reform!_" Acting
on the salutary maxim, that the knowledge of the disease is half the
cure, Sir Robert Peel resolved to lay before the nation _the whole
truth_, however appalling. Listen to the following pregnant sentences
which he addressed to the House of Commons, within a few moments after
he had risen to develope his financial policy, we mean on the 11th of
March 1842:--"It is sometimes necessary, on the occasion of financial
statements of this kind, to maintain great reserve, and to speak with
great caution. A due regard for the public interest, may impose on a
Minister the duty of only partially disclosing matters of importance.
But I am hampered by no fetters of official duty. I mean to lay before
you the truth--the unexaggerated truth, but to conceal nothing. I do
this, because in great financial difficulties, the first step towards
improvement is to look those difficulties boldly in the face. This is
true of individuals--it is true also of nations. There can be no hope of
improvement or of recovery, _if you consent to conceal from yourselves
the real difficulties with which you have to contend_."[2] There was no
gainsaying the facts which, amidst an agitated and breathless silence,
he proceeded to detail with dreadful clearness and brevity; and out of
which the question instantly sprung into the minds of every one--_are we
not on the very verge of national insolvency_? He proceeded to
demonstrate that his predecessors had exhausted every device which their
financial ingenuity could suggest, down to their last supposed
master-stroke, the addition of 10 per cent to the assessed taxes--thus
adding very nearly the last straw which was to break the camel's
back--the last peculiarly cruel pressure on the lower orders.

[2] Hansard, vol. lxi. col. 423.

"Shall we persevere," he continued, "in the system on which we have been
acting for the last five years? Shall we, in time of peace, have
recourse to the miserable expedient of continued loans? Shall we try
issues of Exchequer bills? Shall we resort to Savings' banks?--in short,
to any of those expedients which, _call_ them by what name you please,
are neither more nor less than a permanent addition to the public debt?
We have a deficiency of nearly L.5,000,000 in the last two years: _is
there a prospect of reduced expenditure?_ Without entering into details,
but looking at your extended empire, at the demands which are made for
the protection of your commerce, and the general state of the world, and
calling to mind the intelligence which has lately reached us," [from
Affghanistan,] "can you anticipate for the year after the next, the
possibility, consistent with the honour and safety of this country, of
greatly reducing the public expenses? I am forced to say, I cannot
calculate on that.... Is the deficiency I have mentioned a casual
deficiency? Sir, it is not; it has existed for the last seven or eight
years. At the close of 1838, the deficiency was L.1,428,000; of 1839,
L.430,000; of 1840, L.1,457,000; of 1841, L.1,851,000. I estimate that
the deficiency of 1842 will be L.2,334,030; and that of 1843,
L.2,570,000; making an aggregate deficiency, in six years, of
L.10,072,000! ... With this proof that it is not with an occasional or
casual deficiency that we have to deal, will you, I ask, have recourse
to the miserable expedient of continued _loans_? It is impossible that I
could be a party to a proceeding which, I should think, might perhaps
have been justifiable at first, _before you knew exactly the nature of
your revenue and expenditure_; but with these facts before me, I should
think I were degrading the situation which I hold, if I could consent to
such a paltry expedient as this. I can hardly think that Parliament will
adopt a different view. I can hardly think that you, who inherit the
debt contracted by your predecessors--when, having a revenue, they
reduced the charges of the post-office, and inserted in the preamble of
the bill a declaration that the reduction of the revenue should be made
good by increased taxation--will now refuse to make it good. The effort
having been made, but the effort having failed, that pledge is still
unredeemed. _I advised you not to give that pledge_; but if you regard
the pledges of your predecessors, it is for you now to redeem them.... I
apprehend that, with almost universal acquiescence, I may abandon the
idea of supplying the deficiency by the miserable desire of fresh loans,
of an issue of Exchequer bills. Shall I, then, if I must resort to
taxation, levy it _upon the articles of consumption_, which constitute,
in truth, almost all the necessaries of life? _I cannot consent to any
proposal for increasing taxation on the great articles of consumption by
the labouring classes of society_." [Is it the friend or the enemy _of
the people_, that is here speaking?] "I say, moreover, I can give you
conclusive proofs that you have arrived at the limits of taxation on
articles of consumption."[3] Sir Robert Peel then proceeded, with
calmness and dignity, to encounter the possible, if not even _probable_
fatal unpopularity of proposing that which he succeeded in convincing
_Parliament_ was the only resource left a conscientious Minister--an

[3] Hansard, vol. lxi. col. 429, 430, 431.

"I will now state what is the measure which I propose, under a sense of
public duty, and a deep conviction that it is necessary for the public
interest; and impressed at the same time with an equal conviction"--
[mark, by the way, the exquisite judgment with which this suggestion was
_here_ thrown in!]--"that the present sacrifices which I call on you to
make, will be amply compensated, ultimately, in a pecuniary point of
view, and _much more_ than compensated, by the effect which they will
have in maintaining public credit and the ancient character of this
country. Instead of looking to taxation on consumption--instead of
reviving the taxes on salt or on sugar--it is my duty _to make an
earnest appeal to the possessors of property_, for the purpose of
repairing this mighty evil. I propose, for a time at least, (and I never
had occasion to make a proposition with a more thorough conviction of
its being one which the public interest of the country required)--I
propose _that, for a time to be limited, the income of this country
should be called on to contribute a certain sum for the purpose of
remedying this mighty and growing evil_, ... should bear a charge not
exceeding 7d. in the pound, which will not amount to 3 per cent, but,
speaking accurately, L.2, 18s. 4d. per cent--for the purpose of not only
supplying the deficiency in the revenue, but of enabling us, with
confidence and satisfaction, to propose great commercial reforms, which
will afford a hope of reviving commerce, and such an improvement in the
manufacturing interests as will re-act on every other interest in the
country; and by diminishing the prices of the articles of consumption
and the cost of living, will, in a pecuniary point of view, compensate
you for your present sacrifices; whilst you will be, at the same time,
relieved from the contemplation of a great public evil."[4]

[4] Hansard, vol, lxi. col. 439.

We have quoted the very words of Sir Robert Peel, because they are every
way memorable and worthy of permanent conspicuousness. In point, for
instance, of mere oratorical skill, observe the matchless tact of the
speaker. Conscious that he was about to propose what would come like a
clap of thunder on all present, and on the country, he prepares the way
for its favourable reception, by pointing out the almost necessarily
_direct pecuniary benefit_ ultimately derivable from his unpalatable
tax; and the instant that he has disclosed his proposal, in the same
breath carries our attention to a similar topic--an assurance calculated
to arouse the self-interest and excite the approbation first of the
commercial classes, and then of all classes, by the means this tax will
give the Minister of proposing "great commercial reforms," and "reducing
the cost of living." No power of description we possess can adequately
set before the reader the effect produced on the House of Commons by the
delivery of the passage above quoted, and which was shared, as the
intelligence was communicated, by the country at large. One thing was
plain, that the Minister, disdaining personal considerations of
unpopularity, had satisfied the nation that a desperate disease had been
detected, which required a desperate remedy. It was--it is, in vain to
disguise that an income-tax has many disgusting, and all but absolutely
intolerable, incidents and characteristics, and which were instantly
appreciated by all who heard or read of the proposal for its adoption,
and these topics were pounced upon by the late Ministers and their
supporters, with eager and desperate determination to make the most of
them. To give effect to their operations, they secured an immediate and
ample interval for exasperating popular feeling against Ministers and
their abominable proposition! But it was all in vain. There was a bluff
English frankness about the Minister that mightily pleased the country,
exciting a sympathy in every right-thinking Englishman. _Here was no
humbug of any sort_, no obtaining of money under false pretences. At
first hearing of it, honest John Bull staggered back several paces, with
a face rueful and aghast; buttoned up his pockets, and meditated
violence even; but, in a few moments, albeit with a certain sulkiness,
he came back, presently shook hands with the Minister, and getting
momentarily more satisfied of his honesty, and of the necessity of the
case, only hoped that a little breathing-time might be given him, and
that the thing might be done as quietly and genteelly as possible! To be
serious, however.

By whom, let us ask, had this Minister been brought into power? by whom
most furiously and unscrupulously opposed? The former were those on whom
he instantly imposed this very severe and harassing tax; the latter,
those whom he entirely exempted from it: the former, those who _could_,
with a little inconvenience, make the effort requisite to protect
themselves in the tranquil enjoyment of what they possessed, the latter,
those who were already faint, oppressed, and crushed beneath _burdens
they were unable to bear_. Was this justice, or injustice? It then
_must_ be very contradistinctive--was the Minister, in this instance,
the poor man's friend, or the rich man's friend? Was he exhibiting
ingratitude and insanity, or a truly wise and honest statesmanship? We
need _not_ "pause for a reply." It has been sounding ever since in our
ears, in the accents of national concord, and of admiration of the
Minister who, in his very zenith of popularity and success, perilled
all, to obey the dictates of honour and conscience, fearlessly proposed
a measure which seemed levelled directly at those gifted and powerful
classes by whom he had been so long and enthusiastically supported; of
the Minister who, in fine, looked, and made the country look, a
frightful danger full in the face--till it turned and fled. In spite of
all that could be done by his bitter unscrupulous factious opponents in
the House of Commons, and of the eloquent and conscientious opposition
of Lord Brougham in the House of Lords, backed, all the while, by the
immediate self-interest of those who were to smart under the tax, Sir
Robert Peel carried his great and salutary measure in triumph through
both Houses, without one single material alteration, till it became the
law of the land, amidst the applause of the surrounding nations; for
even those, alas! too frequently bitter and jealous censors of English
conduct and character, the French, "owned that the English people had
exhibited a signal and glorious instance of virtue, of fortitude, of
self-denial, and sagacity." We have reason to believe that, on quitting
the House of Commons after hearing the speech of Sir Robert Peel, from
which we have been quoting, Lord John Russell asked a gentleman of
brilliant talent and independent character, but of strong liberal
opinions, "what he thought of Peel's financial scheme?" The answer was,
"It is so fine a thing, that I only wish it had been prepared by Lord
John Russell instead of Sir Robert Peel!" On which, unless we are
mistaken, Lord John shrugged his shoulders in silence. His opposition to
the income-tax, on going into, and while the bill was in, committee, was
temperate, and even languid; and he stood in the dignified attitude
worthy of his ancient name, and of personal character, far aloof from
those who, throughout the session, pursued a line of conduct
unprecedented in parliamentary history, degrading to the House of
Commons, but possibly in keeping with all that might have been expected
from them. We are vastly mistaken if Lord John does not regard them with
secret scorn, and experience a shudder of disgust from any momentary
contact with them; and shall not be surprised if, during the ensuing
session, he should be at no particular pains to conceal the state of
his mind.

One circumstance highly honourable to the national character, in
relation to the income-tax, should not escape observation: that
comparatively little or no real opposition, certainly no clamorous
opposition, has been offered to the _principle_ of the tax, and the
policy of its imposition, by those on whom its pressure falls heaviest,
namely, the great capitalists and landed proprietors of the kingdom.
"The grasshopper," said Mr Burke, "fills the whole field with the noise
of its chirping, while the stately ox browses in silence." The clamour
against the income-tax comes mainly from those who are unscathed by it;
those who suffer most severely from it, suffer in silence. The inferior
machinery of the income-tax is unquestionably very far from attaining
that degree of perfection, which we had a right to look for from the
able and practised hands which framed it. The outcry raised, however,
against the income-tax on this score, particularly on the ground of the
heedlessness of subordinate functionaries, is subsiding. There is
evident, as far as the Government itself is concerned, an anxious desire
to enforce the provisions of the act with the greatest possible degree
of delicacy and forbearance, consistent with the discharge of a painful
but imperative duty. We repeat that the outcry in question, however,
was principally occasioned by those who had least real cause, on
personal grounds, to complain; who (unfortunately, it may be, for
themselves) never yet approached, nor have any prospect of infringing
upon, the fatal dividing point of L. 150 a-year, in spite of their long
and zealous literary services, under the very best-conducted and _truly
liberal_ Radical newspapers, which they have filled, with persevering
ingenuity, day after day, with eloquent descriptions of the awful state
of feeling in the country on this most atrocious subject. Where,
patriotic, but most imaginative gentlemen! where have been the great
meetings summoned to condemn the principle of the tax? The great
landholders, the great capitalists, the great merchants, are pouring
their contributions into the exhausted Treasury, with scarce a murmur at
the temporary inconvenience it may occasion them!--thus nobly responding
to the appeal so earnestly and nobly made to them by the Prime Minister.
So, moreover, are the vast majority of those persons on whom the tax
falls with peculiar severity--we allude to the occupants of schedule
D--who must pay this tax out of an income, alas! evanescent as the
morning mist; which, on the approach of sickness or of death is
instantly annihilated. These also suffer with silent fortitude; and we
think we have heard it upon sufficient authority, that it was on these
persons that Ministers felt the greatest reluctance in imposing the
tax--at least to its present extent, only under an absolute compulsion
of state policy. The total, or even partial exemption of this class of
persons from the operation of the income-tax, would have been attended
with consequences that were not to be contemplated for a moment, and
into which it is impracticable here satisfactorily to enter. The tax
undoubtedly pinches severely men of small and uncertain incomes, who are
striving, on slender means, to maintain a respectable station in
society; the man who, with a large family to be supported _and
educated_, and who moves in a respectable sphere of society, has to pay
his L.9 or L.12 out of his precarious L.300 or L.400 a-year, is an
object of most earnest sympathy. Still, let him not lose sight of the
undoubted hardships borne by his wealthier brethren. Is it nothing for a
man--say the Duke of Buccleuch, the Marquis of Westminster, the Duke of
Sutherland, or Lord Ashburton, or Mr Rothschild--to have to pay down
their L.3000, L.4000, or L.5000 clear per annum, as the per-centage on
their magnificent incomes, in sudden and unexpected addition to the
innumerable and imperative calls upon them already existing, such as
compulsory upholding of many great establishments in different parts of
the country--various members of their families--married and single--to
support in a style adequate to their rank and position in the country?
It is needless, however, to pursue the matter further. The plain truth
is, there is no help for it; the burthen is one that must be borne, and
it is being borne bravely.

_But why_ must this dreadful income-tax be borne? What has led to it?
The vast majority of honest and thinking men in the nation have but one
answer to give to the question. That the income-tax is the penalty the
nation must pay for its weakness and folly, in permitting a Whig
Ministry to get into power, and continue in power, "playing such
fantastic tricks" as theirs, for the last ten years, both at home and
abroad, as the nation _ought to have foreseen_ would be inevitably
followed by some such grievous results as the present. This income-tax,
however, let our opponents know, will serve for many years to come, long
after it may have been removed, as a memento to prevent the country from
tolerating the return to power of men whose reluctant and compulsory
exit from power, after again doing enormous mischief, will be followed
by a similar result--will impose on their Conservative successors the
bitter necessity of imposing another income-tax. "The evil that they
do," does indeed "live after them;" and without any "good, interred with
their bones!" With the frightful deficit exhibited by Sir Robert Peel
still staring us in the face; the war in the East yet to be paid for;
faith to be kept with the public creditor both at home and abroad: a
revenue of a _million a-year_ recklessly sacrificed in reducing the
postage duties:[5] a deficiency in the last quarter's revenue, that
tells its own frightful story as to its cause, and an all but certain
heavy deficiency to be looked for, we fear, in the ensuing quarter: with
all this before him, will any _member or supporter of the late
Government_--of all other persons--be found hardy enough to rise in his
place next session, and bait Sir Robert Peel about the repeal of the
income-tax? The country will not tolerate such audacity. We shall not
reason with _them_; but to those who, like ourselves, are smarting under
the effects of the late Ministry's misconduct, who have a right to
complain loudly and indignantly, and enquire with eager anxiety when
their suddenly augmented pressure is to cease, we feel compelled to
express our opinion, founded on a careful observation of our present
financial position and prospects, that we see no chance of being
relieved from the burden of the income-tax, before the period originally
fixed by Sir Robert Peel. Till then we must submit with what fortitude
and cheerfulness we may. Under, however, a year or two's steady and
enlightened administration of public affairs, matters may mend with
unexpected rapidity; but it is not in the ordinary course of human
affairs, that evils, the growth of many years, can be remedied in a
moment. A chronic disease of the body requires a patient course of
abstinence and skilful treatment, to afford a chance of the system's
getting once again into a permanent state of health; even as with
individuals, so is it with nations. That the sudden cessation of the
drain upon our resources from the East, and the partial reimbursement we
have already realized, will sensibly lighten the burthens under which
the Minister has hitherto laboured, and make him with joy to realize the
expectations which, in proposing the income-tax, he so distinctly, yet
cautiously, held out, as to the period of its duration, we may consider
as indisputable. Add to this the pacific policy which Sir Robert Peel
and his Cabinet are bent upon maintaining, as far as is consistent with
a jealous regard to our national honour, (and which our late resplendent
successes are calculated to facilitate,) and the revival, erelong, of
the revenue, concurrently with that of trade and commerce, which may be
confidently anticipated under our present firm, cautious, and
experienced councils, and we may give to the winds our fears as to the
continuance of the income-tax one instant after it can be prudently
dispensed with. What, however, as a matter of _mere speculation_, if the
nation should by and by, when familiarized with the character and
working of the income-tax, become more reconciled to it, and prefer its
retention as a substitute for _the Assessed Taxes_, which at present
press so heavily on all, but particularly on the working-classes! But
while Sir Robert Peel was remodelling the Corn-Laws, and creating a new
source of direct revenue, he also undertook another task--a herculean
task, one utterly hopeless, and beyond the reach or even conception of
any but a Minister conscious of occupying an impregnable position in the
confidence of the country: we allude to his reconstruction of our entire
commercial system, as represented by his _new Tariff_. What courage was
requisite to grapple with this giant difficulty! What practical skill;
what patience and resolution; what exact yet extensive acquaintance with
mercantile affairs; what a comprehensive discernment of consequences;
what firm impartiality in deciding between vast conflicting interests,
were here evinced! And observe--all these great measures, effecting a
complete revolution in our domestic economy and policy--the fruits of
only a few months accession to office of a Conservative Ministry! All
the while that the Radical press was assailing them on the ground of
their insolent and cruel disregard of their duty, and of the sufferings
of the people, they were engaged upon the united labours of enquiry and
reflection, on which alone can have been safely based the great measures
which we have been briefly reviewing! "But all these," says some
faithful mourner after the deceased Ministry, "they intended to have
done, and would have done, _if they could_." Ay, to be sure. Admit it,
for the nonce; 'twas easy to _say_ it, but the thing was _to do
it_--quoth Mr Blewitt! That same _doing_, is what we are congratulating
the present Ministry upon. Yes, it has been done--the great experiment
is being tried; may it prove as safe and successful, as it is bold and
well meant. It must be regarded, however, as only a part of the entire
scheme proposed by Sir Robert Peel, and judged of accordingly, with
reference also to the necessity of his position, arising from the last
acts of his predecessors--from the spirit and temper of the age. The
long-continued languor and prostration of our commerce, undoubtedly
required some decisive, but cautious and well-considered movement, in
the _direction_ of free-trade. How far we shall be met, in the same
spirit, by France, Germany, Russia, and America, as has been long
confidently predicted by those whose opinions have been perseveringly
and vehemently urged upon the public, now remains to be seen. _Felix
faustumque sit!_ But at present, at all events, our example seems not
likely to be followed by those on whom we most calculated, and time
alone can decide between our course and theirs--between the doctrines of
the old and of the new school of political economy--as to which is the
short-sighted and mischievous--which the sagacious and successful
policy. The powerful protection afforded by the new Tariff to our
colonial produce, is one of its most interesting and satisfactory
features. That, however, which has justly attracted to it incomparably
the greatest share of public attention and discussion, is the
introduction of foreign cattle. This topic is one requiring to be spoken
of in a diffident spirit, and most guarded language. Whether it will
effect its praiseworthy object of lowering the price of animal food,
without being overbalanced by its injurious effects upon our
all-important agricultural interests, we shall not for some considerable
time be in a condition to determine. At present, it would appear, that
the alarm of the farmers on this score was premature and excessive, and
is subsiding. The combined operation of this part of the new Tariff, and
of the reduction in the duties on the importation of foreign corn, may
ultimately have the effect of lowering the rent of the farmer, and of
stimulating him into a more energetic and scientific cultivation of the
land; and generally, of inducing very important modifications in the
present arrangements between landlords and tenants. In some of the most
recent agricultural meetings, speeches have been made, from which many
journalists have inferred the existence of rapidly-increasing
convictions on the part of the agricultural interest, that a sweeping
alteration in the Corn-Law is inevitable and immediate. They are,
however, attaching far too much weight to a few sentences uttered,
amidst temporary excitement, by a few country gentlemen, in some eight
or ten places only in the whole kingdom. Let them _pause_, at all
events, till they shall have more authentic _data_, viz. what the
agricultural members of Parliament will say in their places, in the
ensuing session. Much of the sort of panic experienced by the country
gentlemen alluded to, may be referred to a recent paragraph in the
_Globe_ newspaper, confidently announcing the intention of Ministers to
propose a fixed duty on corn. The glaring improbability, that even
_were_ such a project contemplated by Ministers, they would (forgetting
their characteristic caution and reserve) agitate the public mind on so
critical a question, and derange vast transactions and arrangements in
the corn trade by its premature divulgement; and, above all, constitute
the _Globe_ newspaper their confidential organ upon the occasion, should
alone have satisfied the most credulous of its unwarrantable and
preposterous character. We acquit the _Globe_ newspaper of intentional
mischief, but charge it with great _thoughtlessness_ of consequences. To
return, however, for a moment, to that topic in the new Tariff most
important to farmers. We believe that, since the day (9th July 1842) in
which the new Tariff became the law of the land, the entire importation
of cattle from the Continent, has fallen far short of a single
fortnight's sale at Smithfield; but whether this will be the state of
things two years, or even a twelvemonth hence, is another matter. At
present, at all events, the new Tariff has had the beneficial effect of
really lowering the price of provisions, and of other articles of
consumption, essentially conducing to the comforts of the labouring
classes. May _this_, in any event, be a _permanent_ result; and who
could have brought it about, except such a Ministry as that of Sir
Robert Peel, possessing their combined qualifications means, and
opportunities, and equally bent upon using them promptly and honestly?

[5] Year ending 5th January 1840, L.2,390,764!--1841,
L.1,342,604!--1842, L.1,495,540!--(_Finance Accounts_, 1842,
p. 2.)

No sooner had that Parliament which had passed, in its first session,
such a number of great measures, having for their object the immediate
benefit of the lower orders, (and, it may really be said, almost wholly
at the expense of the higher orders,) separated, after its exhausting
labours, than there occurred those deplorable and alarming outrages in
the principal manufacturing districts, which so ill requited the
benevolent exertions of the Legislature in their behalf. They exhibited
some features of peculiar malignity--many glaring indications of the
existence of a base and selfish hidden conspiracy against the cause of
law, of order, and of good government. Who were the real originators and
contrivers of that wicked movement, and what their objects, is a
question which we shall not here discuss, but leave in the hands of the
present keen and vigilant Government, and of the Parliament, so soon to
be assembled. If a single chance of bringing the really guilty parties
to justice--of throwing light on the actors and machinery of that
atrocious conspiracy shall be thrown away, the public interests will
have been grievously betrayed. On this subject, however, we have no
apprehensions whatever, and pass on heartily to congratulate the country
on possessing a Government which acted, on the trying occasion in
question, with such signal promptitude, energy, and prudence. Not one
moment was lost in faltering indecision; never was the majesty of the
law more quickly and completely vindicated, never was there exhibited a
more striking and gratifying instance of a temperate and discriminating
exercise of the vast powers of the executive. The incessant attention of
all functionaries, from the very highest to the lowest, by night and by
day, on that occasion, at the Home-Office, (including the Attorney and
Solicitor-General,) would hardly be credited; _mercy to the misguided_,
but instant vengeance upon the guilty instigators of rebellion, was
then, from first to last, the rule of action. The enemies of public
tranquillity reckoned fearfully without their host, in forgetting who
presided at the Home-Office, and who at the Horse Guards. Nothing could
be better than the Government examination into the real causes of the
outbreak, instituted upon the spot the very moment it was over, while
evidence was fresh and accessible, and of which the guilty parties
concerned have a great deal yet to hear. The Special Commission for the
trial of the rioters, was also issued with salutary expedition. The
prosecutions were carried on by the Attorney and Solicitor-General, on
the part of the Crown, in a dignified spirit at once of forbearance and
determination, and with a just discrimination between the degree of
culpability disclosed. The merciful spirit in which the prosecutions
were conducted by the law-officers of the Crown, was repeatedly pointed
out to the misguided criminals by the Judges; who, on many occasions,
intimated that the Government had chosen to indict for the minor offence
only, when the facts would have undoubtedly warranted an indictment for
high treason, with all its terrible consequences. Before quitting this
incidental topic of legal proceedings, let us add a word upon the
substantial improvements effected in the administration of justice
during the late session, and of which the last volume of the
statute-book affords abundant evidence, principally under the heads of
bankruptcy, insolvency, and lunacy. Great and salutary alterations have
been effected in these departments, as well as various others; the
leading statutory changes being most ably carried into effect by the
Lord Chancellor, who continues to preside over his court, and to
discharge his high and multifarious duties with his accustomed dignity
and sagacity. His recent bankruptcy appointments have certainly been
canvassed by the Radical press with sufficient freedom, but on very
insufficient grounds. _No_ appointments could have been made against
which unscrupulous faction might not have raised a clamour. That
temporarily excited in the present instance, has quite died away. The
appointments in question have undoubtedly been made with a due regard to
the public interest; but did the intelligent censors of the Radical
press expect that those appointments of L.1500 a-year would be sought
for or accepted by men at the bar, already making their L.3000, L.5000,
L.8000, or L.10,000 a-year, and aspiring to the very highest honours of
their profession? The gentlemen who have accepted these appointments,
are many of them personally known to us as very acute and able practical
men, who will be found to give the utmost satisfaction in the discharge
of their duties to both the profession and the public. The two
Vice-Chancellors, Sir James L. Knight Bruce, and Sir James Wigram, are
admirable appointments. Each must have resigned a practice very far
exceeding--perhaps doubling, or even trebling--their present salaries of
office. The transference to the former, without any additional salary,
of the office of Chief Judge in Bankruptcy, (vacant by the recent death
of Sir John Cross,) was a highly advantageous and economical arrangement
for the public, at the willing expense of Vice-Chancellor Knight Bruce.

May we here be allowed to allude for an instant to a very delicate
topic--the new Poor-Law--simply to call attention to the resolute
support of it by the present Government (whether right or wrong), as at
least a pretty decisive evidence of their uprightness and independence.
On this sore subject we shall not dwell, nor do we feel bound to offer
any opinion of our own as to the alleged merits or demerits of the new
Poor-Law; but it certainly looks as though Ministers had resolved to do
what they _believed_ to be right, _ruat cælum_. What other motive they
can have, is to us, at least, inconceivable.

Let us again point with undisguised triumph to IRELAND, as a very
striking instance of the results of a sound and firmly-administered
Conservative policy. The late Government misgoverned Ireland, in order
that they might be allowed to continue misgoverning England. Their
memory will ever be execrated for their surrender of that fair portion
of the empire into the hands of a political reprobate and impostor, of
whom we cannot trust ourselves to speak, and the like of whom has never
yet appeared, and it is to be hoped never will again appear, in British
history. Immediately before and after their expulsion from office, they
pointed to this scene of their long misconduct, and, with a sort of
heartless jocularity, asked Sir Robert Peel "What he meant to do with
Ireland?"--adding, that whatever else he might be able to do, by the aid
of intrigue and corruption, "he could _never_ govern Ireland." How
_now_, gentlemen? What will you find to lay to the charge of Ministers
in the coming session? What has become of your late patron, Mr O'Connel?
Is "his occupation gone?" Is he spending the short remainder of his
respectable old age at Darrynane, even (begging pardon of the noble
animal for the comparison)

--"like a worn-out lion in a cave,
That goes not out to prey?"

What can you any longer do, or affect to do, old gentleman, to earn your
honourable wages? Is there not (as the lawyers would style it) a failure
of consideration? If you go on any longer collecting "the rent," may you
not be liable to an indictment for obtaining money under false
pretences? Poor old soul! his cuckoo cry of Repeal grows feebler and
feebler; yet he must keep it up, or starve. _Tempus abire senex! satis
clamasti!_ That Ireland is still subject to great evils, recent
occurrences painfully attest. Mr Pitt, in 1799, (23d January,) pointed
out what may still be regarded as their true source:--"I say that
Ireland is subject to great and deplorable evils, which have a deep
root: for they lie in the nature of the country itself in the present
character, manners, and habits of its people; in their want of
intelligence, or, in other words, in their ignorance; in the unavoidable
separation of certain classes; in the state of property; in its
religious distinctions; in the rancour which bigotry engenders, and
superstition rears and cherishes."[6] How many of these roots of evil
are still in existence!

[6] Parliamentary History, vol. xxxiv. p. 271.

But consider what we have done, even already, for Ireland, by giving her
the blessings of a strong and honest Government; what a blow we have
aimed at absenteeism, in a particular provision of our income-tax! _Nil
desperandum_, gentlemen, give us a little time to unravel your long
tissue of misgovernment; and, in the mean time, make haste, and go about
in quest of a _grievance_, if you can find one, against the ensuing
session. Depend upon it, we will redress it!

* * * * *

The present aspect of foreign affairs is calculated to excite mixed
feelings of pain and exultation in the breast of a thoughtful observer.
The national character of Great Britain had unquestionably fallen in
European estimation, and lost much of the commanding influence of its
mere name, during the last few years preceding the accession to office
of the present Government. That was an event--viz. the formation of a
Cabinet at St James's, containing Sir Robert Peel, the Duke of
Wellington, Lord Aberdeen, and Lord Stanley--which justly excited an
instant and great sensation in all foreign courts, regard being had to
the critical circumstances of the times. Every one, both at home and
abroad, knew well that if WAR was at hand, here was a Government to
conduct it on the part of Great Britain, even under the most adverse
circumstances imaginable, with all our accustomed splendour and success.
But all knew, at the same time, that imminent as was the danger, if a
profound statesmanship could avert it, consistently with the
preservation of the national honour, that danger would promptly
disappear. The new Cabinet instantly proclaimed themselves "lovers of
peace, but not afraid of war;" and an altered tone of feeling and policy
was quickly observable on the Continent.

The peculiar position and interests of Great Britain impose upon her one
paramount obligation--to interfere as little as possible with the
affairs of other nations, especially in Europe--_never_, except upon
compulsion--when bound by treaty, or when the eye of a profound and
watchful statesmanship has detected in existence unquestionable elements
of danger to the general peace and welfare of the world. To be always
scrutinizing the movements of foreign states, with a view to convicting
them of designs to destroy the balance of power (as it is called) in
Europe, and thereupon evincing a disposition to assume an offensively
distrustful and hostile attitude, requiring explanations, and
disclaimers, and negotiations, which every one knows the slightest
miscarriage may convert into inevitable pretexts and provocatives of
war--is really almost to court the destruction of our very national
existence. If there was one principle of action possessed by the late
Government to be regarded as of more importance than another, it was
that of maintaining peace, and non-intervention in the affairs of other
nations. This, indeed, was emblazoned upon the banner unfurled by Lord
Grey, on advancing to the head of affairs. Can it, however, be necessary
to show how systematically--how perilously--this principle was set at
nought by the late Government? As represented by Lord Palmerston, Great
Britain had got to be regarded as the most pestilent, intrusive,
mischief-making of neighbours. A little longer, and our name would have
actually _stunk in the nostrils_ of Europe. Some began to hate us;
others, to despise us!! all, to cease _dreading_ us. In the language of
a powerful journalist, (the _Spectator_,) opposed on most points to the
present Government, "the late Ministers commenced a career, perilous in
the extreme to all the best interests of the nation--demoralizing public
opinion, wasting public resources, and entangling the country in
quarrels alike endless and aimless; and all this with a labouring after
melodramatic stage effect, and a regardlessness of consequences
perfectly unprecedented." We were, in the words of truth and soberness,
fast losing our moral ascendency in Europe--by a series of querulous,
petty, officious, needless, undignified interpositions; by the
exhibition of a vacillating and short-sighted policy; by appearing
(novel position for Great Britain) "willing to wound, but yet afraid to
strike;" by conceiving and executing idle and preposterous schemes of
aggrandizement and conquest. To go no further in Europe than our
immediate neighbour, France, let us ask whether Lord Palmerston did not
bring us to the very verge, and keep us at it for many months, of actual
war with that power, which is always unhappily eager to "cry hurra, and
let slip the dogs of war;" and with reference to _us_, to go out of
their way to create occasions for misunderstanding, and hostilities?
Were we not really on the verge of war?--of a war which would have
instantly kindled all over Europe a war of extermination? Not, however,
to descend to the discussion of recent occurrences familiar to every
body, we shall very briefly advert to the state of our relations with
America, with China, and of our affairs in British India, when Sir
Robert Peel assumed the direction of affairs. Lord Palmerston has never
been sufficiently called to account for his long, most disgraceful, and
perilous neglect of our serious differences with America; and which had
brought us to within a hair's-breadth of a declaration of war, which,
whatever might have been its issue, (possibly not difficult to have
foreseen,) would have been disastrous to both countries, and to one of
them utterly destructive. It is notorious that within the last eighteen
or twenty months, every arrival from the west was expected to bring
intelligence of the actual commencement of hostilities. The state of
public feeling towards us in America was being every hour more
exasperated and malignant. The accession of the present Government
opened, however, a bright and happy prospect of an adjustment of all
difficulties; honourable to both parties. How long had they been in
power, before they had earned universal applause by their prompt and
masterly move, in dispatching Lord Ashburton to America on his delicate,
difficult, and most responsible mission? Was ever man selected for a
great public duty so peculiarly and consummately fitted for it? And how
admirably has he discharged it! as our opponents may hear for themselves
early in the ensuing session. Do Ministers deserve no credit for hitting
on this critical device? Was it no just cause of congratulation, to be
able to find such a person amongst the ranks of their own immediate and
most distinguished supporters? We are now, happily, at perfect peace
with America; and, notwithstanding some present untoward appearances,
trust that both countries will soon reap the advantages of it. Of what
real _value_ that peace may be, however, with reference to their
extensive commercial relations with us, is another question, dependent
entirely on the character which they may vindicate to themselves for
honour and fidelity in their pecuniary transactions. That rests with
themselves alone: whether they will go forward in a career of
improvement and greatness, or sink into irretrievable disgrace and ruin,
REPUDIATED and scouted by all mankind. We cannot quit America without a
very anxious allusion to late occurrences in Canada. We feel words
inadequate to express our sense of the transcendent importance of
preserving in their integrity our Canadian possessions. No declaration
of her Majesty since her accession gave greater satisfaction to her
subjects, than that of her inflexible determination to preserve
inviolate her possessions in Canada. We are of opinion that Lord Durham
did incalculable, and perhaps irreparable, mischief there. We have no
time, however, to enter into details concerning either his policy and
proceedings, or those of Lord Sydenham; and we are exceedingly anxious
also to offer no observations on the recent movements of Sir Charles
Bagot, beyond a frank expression of the profound anxiety with which we
await Ministerial explanations in the ensuing session. Before these
pages shall have met the reader's eyes, Sir Charles Bagot may be no
longer numbered among men. We therefore withhold all comment on his late
proceedings, which we are satisfied have originated in an anxious desire
to serve the best interests of his country. We confidently believe that
Ministers will be able abundantly to satisfy the country upon this
subject; and that, in the event of the necessity arising, they will
choose a successor to Sir Charles Bagot every way qualified for his very
responsible post, thoroughly instructed as to the line of policy he is
to adopt, and capable of carrying it out with skill and energy. It is
impossible to turn to India, for the purpose of taking a necessarily
rapid and general view of the course of recent events there, without
experiencing great emotion, arising from conflicting causes. We have
already said, that our vast and glorious Indian empire is indeed the
wonder of the world. Every one of our countrymen is aware of the means
by which we originally acquired it, and that have subsequently augmented
and retained it by an almost inconceivable amount of expenditure and
exertion--by the display of overwhelming civil and military genius. If,
moreover, he has entered into Indian history with proper feeling and
intelligence, he will be able to appreciate the truth and force of the
celebrated saying of one who contributed immensely to our ancient
greatness in India, viz.--that _we hold India by_ OPINION _only:_ the
opinion which is there entertained of our greatness of national
character, intellectual and moral--of our wisdom, our justice, our
power. If this fail us, our downfall in India inevitably follows; and
memorable and tremendous indeed will be such an event, amongst all
nations, and at all future times, till the name of England is blotted
from the recollection of mankind. Therefore it is that we all regard the
administration of affairs in India with profound anxiety, justly
requiring, in those to whom it is entrusted, an intimate practical
acquaintance with Indian character and manners, with Anglo-Indian
history, and a clear view of the policy to be ever kept in sight, and
ability and determination to carry it out to the uttermost. When Lord
Auckland went to India, under the Whig Government, in 1836, he found
both its foreign and domestic affairs in a satisfactory state--peaceful
and prosperous--with, upon the whole, a sufficient military force,
notwithstanding the immense reduction of Lord William Bentinck. How did
he leave it to his successor, Lord Ellenborough, in 1841? The prospect
which awaited that successor was indeed dark, troubled, and bloody. An
army, alas! dreadfully defeated in one quarter, and dangerously
disaffected in another; a war of extermination in Affghanistan; probable
hostilities with Burmah and Nepaul; an almost hopelessly involved
foreign policy; and, moreover, under these desperate circumstances, with
a treasury _empty!_

We shall confine ourselves to one topic, the war in Affghanistan--which
we fearlessly, and with deep indignation, pronounce to have inflicted
almost irreparable injury on the British nation--an almost indelible
stain on the British character--and to have shaken the whole of our
Eastern possessions. Lord Auckland, in listening, and his superiors at
home in instructing him to listen, to the representations of Shah
Soojah, and to be persuaded by him to embark in the late disastrous and
disgraceful campaign, were guilty either of an incredible weakness and
ignorance of the nature of the cause they were espousing, together with
an inconceivable degree of short-sightedness as to the most obvious
consequences of it, or of infamous hypocrisy in making the restoration
of Shah Soojah only the pretext and stepping-stone to the conquest of
Affghanistan, in the most criminal and reckless spirit of imaginary
aggrandizement and extension of territory that ever has actuated the
rules of India. Will they pretend that it was really designed, and
necessarily so, solely for the purpose of defeating subtle and dangerous
intrigues on the part of Russia and Persia? Listen to the language of
one of the responsible authors of the policy since followed by such
fearful consequences, Sir John Hobhouse--who, on the 11th July 1840, on
the occasion of a dinner given to their richly and prematurely rewarded
hero, Lord Keane, thus poured forth his insane, exulting avowal of the
real object they had had in view:--

"The gallant officer had alluded to the late addition made to
the vast territory of the East India Company. _It was just
possible_ that that territory had _at that moment_ received a
further and important increase. _It is just possible,_ that
since he (Sir John Hobhouse) last met the Directors at the
festive board--now about six months since--the Government of
India _has been enabled to make an addition to its territory,
the vast consequences of which could scarcely be imagined in
the wildest dream of fancy_, and which for centuries would be
of advantage to the empire!!! In the history of the world there
was no instance of yearly sovereigns (as the Directors of the
Company were) having conquered so vast a territory as that of
India. There was no instance of such successive success. To
them the happiness belonged of giving to the vast country under
their control the blessing of education. It was owing to God's
ministering hand, by which successive Directions had sprung up
to spread the benefits of light and knowledge in India, and
among a people enshrouded in darkness and idolatry. It was
scarcely a hundred years ago since the power of the East India
Company was felt in India; their banners were now flying from
the Indus to the Burrampooter. He would say emphatically, go on
in the great work of extending the religion, civilization, and
education of India; for the wishes of the good are with you--go
on in your great work, for the sake of India, and Great
Britain itself."

What must _now_ be the feelings of Sir John Hobhouse and his brother
ex-Ministers on this paragraph catching his eyes; when they reflect on
the frightful sacrifice of life, British and Affghan--the defeat of our
arms while engaged in a shameful and wicked cause--with its perilous
effects upon the stability of our tenure of India--which have directly
resulted from the measures thus vaingloriously vaunted of! A thousand
reflections here occur to us upon the subject of the insane (or guilty)
conduct of the late Government in India; but the extent to which this
article has already reached, compels us to suppress them. We the less
regret this circumstance, however, because there really seems but one
opinion upon this topic among well-informed persons. After the last
intelligence from India, it is idle, it is needless, to attempt
reasoning on the subject; to ask how we should have strengthened
ourselves by the destruction of a powerful and (according to authentic
intelligence) a really friendly chief in Dost Mahommed; how we could
even have _occupied_ Affghanistan without a ruinous expenditure,
continual alarm and danger from a perpetual series of treachery and
insurrection; and to what purpose, after all, of solid advantage! The
whole policy of Lord Auckland was incontestably one of mad encroachment,
conquest, and aggrandizement, in utter ignorance of the character and
exigencies of the times; the Duke of Wellington's memorable prediction
is now far more than fulfilled! "_It will not be till Lord Auckland's
policy has reached the zenith of apparent success, that its difficulties
will begin to develope themselves._" Begin to develope themselves! What
would have become of us, had the councils originating that policy still
been in the ascendant, we tremble to contemplate. The exulting French
press, on hearing of our recent disasters, thus expressed themselves:[7]
"_England is rich and energetic. She may re-establish her dominion in
India for some time longer; but the term of her Indian empire is marked,
it will conclude before the quarter of a century._" Such has been the
anticipated--such would have been the inevitable result of the policy
which Sir Robert Peel's Government, guided by the profound sagacity of
the Duke of Wellington, made it their first business _totally to
reverse_; not, however, till they had completely re-established the old
terror of our arms, convincing the natives of India that what we were of
yore, we still are; that our punishment of treachery is instant and
tremendous; that we can act with irresistible vigour and complete
success, at one and the same moment, both in India and in China. In
their minds, may the splendour of our recent victories efface the
recollection of our previous bloody and disgraceful defeats! And if we
cannot make them _forget_ the wickedness--the folly--the madness which
originally dictated our invasion of Affghanistan, at least we have shown
them how calmly and magnanimously we can obey the dictates of justice
and of prudence, _in the very moment of, fierce and exciting military
triumph_. May, indeed, such be the effect of all that has recently
occurred, whether adverse or prosperous, in India! For the former, the
guilty councils of the late Government are alone answerable; for the
latter, we are exclusively indebted to the vigour and sagacity of our
present Government. The proclamation in which Lord Ellenborough
announces our abandonment of Affghanistan will probably excite great
discussion, and possibly (on the part of the late Government) furious
objurgation, in the ensuing session of Parliament. We are so delighted
at the achievement which was the subject of that proclamation, that even
were there valid grounds of objection to its taste and policy, we should
entirely overlook them. If even Lord Ellenborough, in the excitement of
the glorious moment in which he penned the proclamation, departed from
the style of all previous state documents of that character, was it not
very excusable? But we are disposed to vindicate the propriety of the
step he took. It may be said that it was highly impolitic to make so
frank an avowal to the natives of India, that a mere change of Ministry
at home may be attended with a total and instant revolution in our
native policy, to place on record a formal and humiliating confession of
our errors and misconduct. But let it be borne in mind how potent and
glaring was already that error, that misconduct, with all its alarming
consequences; and that one so intimately acquainted as Lord Ellenborough
with the Indian character, may have seen, _then and there_, reasons to
recommend the course he has adopted, which may not occur to us at home.
That document will truly purport, in all time to come, to have been
issued in a spirit of remarkable wisdom and justice, at the very moment
of our having achieved the proudest triumph we could have desired for
our arms. But, above all, what does that striking document tell, but
_the truth_, and nothing but _the truth_? Let us, however, now
confidently rely on the vast advantages which we cannot but derive from
a prudent and vigorous administration of the affairs of India. We trust
that Lord Ellenborough will persevere in the admirable line of conduct
which he has hitherto adopted, turning neither to the right hand nor the
left, disturbed by no sinister hopes or fears. Let his grand object be,
by every legitimate means at his command, _to Anglicize India_; to
encourage the adoption of English habits of thought, the practical
appreciation of English principles of government; in short, thoroughly
to identify the people of India with the people of England, in all their
partialities, and prejudices, and interests. Every thing he has hitherto
done in India, we rejoice to observe, tends this way. Let him but
persevere, and he will acquire imperishable renown, and reflect
permanent splendour on the Government which appointed him. In a
confident and well-founded reliance upon his fitness for his post, upon
his capacity for thoroughly carrying out the policy of a strong and
enlightened Conservative government, which has entrusted to him the
management of such vast and splendid national interests--the nation now
looks with a bright untroubled eye towards India.

[7] The _Siècle_. (See No. cccxxi. p. 112.)

--"Now is the winter of our discontent
Made glorious summer!
And all the clouds that lour'd upon our house
In the deep bosom of the ocean buried.
Now are our brows bound with victorious wreaths,
Our bruisèd arms hung up for monuments,
Our stern alarums changed to merry meetings,
Our dreadful marches to delightful measures!"

Our allotted space is well-nigh exhausted, and we have only now reached
the confines of CHINA!--a topic on which we had prepared ourselves for a
very full expression of our opinions. We are compelled, however, now to
content ourselves with a mere outline of our intended observations on a
subject--our victory over the Emperor of China--which is pregnant with
matter for long and profound reflection. Abstractly, our triumphant
assault on these distant and vast dominions, affords matter for national
pride and exultation, as far as concerns our naval and military renown;
and the names of Parker and Gough will never be forgotten in British
history. The submission of the Emperor of China to our arms, is an event
calculated of itself to distinguish the reign of our glorious sovereign,
Queen Victoria, far beyond those of most of her predecessors. It is an
event that concerns and affects the prospects and interests of the whole
world, and though it is at this moment occupying the thoughts of all the
statesmen of Europe, with reference to its contingent effects upon their
respective countries, not the most experienced and sagacious of them can
predict with safety what will be its effects within even the next year
or two. As for ourselves, our present prevalent feeling seems to be in
accordance with our daring military character, which would say merely--

"Why then, _China's_ our oyster
Which we with sword have open'd."

But to those in England who are accustomed to regard occurrences with
reference to their probable consequences, the recent events in China
afford matter for the most anxious reflection of which thinking men are
capable--whether in the character of philosophers, of statesmen, of
warriors, or of merchants. Were we justified in our attack upon the
Emperor of China? We have no hesitation whatever in expressing our
opinion, after having had our attention for some years directed to the
subject of our relation with China, in the affirmative. From the moment
of our first intercourse with that people, we have had to submit to a
series of indignities sufficient to kindle into fury the feelings of any
one who merely reads any authentic account of those indignities. The
Chinese have long derived an immense revenue, together with other great
advantages, from us; encouraging us to embark a vast capital in our
trade with them, and to form great permanent establishments dependent
upon it. Language cannot describe the degrading circumstances under
which we have been forced to carry on our commercial intercourse with
the Chinese; our long submission to such conduct having, of course,
insured its continual aggravation. The Opium trade, perhaps
beneficially, brought matters to a crisis. It was alleged on behalf of
the Emperor, that we were surreptitiously, and from motives of gain,
corrupting and destroying his people, by supplying them with opium; but
it is easily demonstrable that this was only a pretence for endeavouring
to effect a change in the medium of our dealings with them, vastly
beneficial to the Emperor, and disadvantageous to us. We might have been
permitted to quadruple our supply of opium to his subjects, if we would
have been content to be paid, _not in bullion_, but by taking Chinese
goods in exchange; in a word, to change the basis of our dealings from
_sale_ to _barter_; and all this from a totally groundless notion of the
Emperor and his advisers, that we were draining his kingdom of silver
--in their own words, "causing the Sycee silver to ooze out of the
dominions of the Brother of the Sun and the Moon." Their desperate
anxiety to carry this point, led them to take the decisive step of
seizing a vast quantity of our opium, under circumstances perfectly
familiar to every body; constituting a crowning indignity and injury,
which, without reference to the original legality or illegality of the
opium trade, gave us an unquestionable cause for war against the
Emperor. He seized the person of her Majesty's representative, and those
of many of her principal subjects in China; and under the threat of
inflicting death upon them, extorted a delivery of an enormous amount of
property belonging to her Majesty's subjects. If this was not a cause of
war with any nation, whether civilized or uncivilized, there never was
one; and without going into further detail, we have stated sufficient to
justify, beyond all doubt, our commencement of hostilities against
China. But this occurred so long ago as the month of March 1839; yet, to
the eternal scandal of the then existing Government, no effectual
warlike demonstration was made to redress this flagrant unparalleled
outrage on the British nation, till better councils, those of the
present Government, were had recourse to by her Majesty; and which led
to the quick triumphant result with which the world is now ringing. Till
the present vigorous Government took the affair in hand, we were
_pottering_ about the extremities of the empire, month after month, even
year after year, at a ruinous expense, in a way justly calculated to
excite the derision of even the Chinese--of the whole world who had
heard of our mode of procedure. It will be in vain for the late
Government to endeavour meanly to make Captain Elliot their scapegoat.
Let them, if they can, satisfy the nation that, in all he appears to
have done so ineffectually and disgracefully, he did not act according
to the strict orders of the late Government; that in all he would have
done, and wished to have done, viz. to carry hostilities at once, with
an adequate force, to the right point of attack, he was not either
positively overruled, or left without advice and authority. Owing to
their own want of forethought, of energy, and of practical knowledge,
and their financial mismanagement, even if they had contemplated the
plan of operations which led ultimately to the successful enterprize on
which we are now justly congratulating ourselves, they _could_ not, they
_did not_ act upon them. No, it was left for the present Government,
under the auspices of him who told us that "England _could_ not carry on
a little war," amidst all the embarrassments and dangers which they had
just inherited from their predecessors, to send out the peremptory
instructions which have been so ably acted upon; and _above all_, a
naval and military force fully adequate for the occasion. This done,
China succumbed; and we understand that poor Lord Palmerston is pluming
himself on being able to produce, next session, a despatch which he
issued to Sir Henry Pottinger, chalking out the very line of operations
which was adopted with such supreme success. We, of course, cannot
officially know that such is the fact: but even admitting it, why did
not Lord Palmerston do this far earlier? What excuse can be offered for
this vacillation and procrastination in an affair of such vast urgency?
"We had not the means to equip a sufficient force," his lordship may
reply, in his usual strain of bitter flippancy. And why had he not the
means? The extravagance and profligacy of his Government had deprived
him of them; his exchequer was empty; and had he, or they, the boldness
or the virtue to propose what has been demonstrated to have been the
only mode of meeting the exigency, an income-tax? In vain, therefore,
may his lordship and his friends declaim in the ensuing session, and
with our bombardment of China in his ears, say "that is _my_ thunder."
They will be only laughed at and despised. No, no, Lord Palmerston;
_palmam qui meruit, ferat._ Let the nation decide.

The late military and naval proceedings against China, reflect permanent
glory upon the arms of England, naval and military, and we earnestly
hope--we confidently believe--that those concerned in them will soon
receive substantial and enduring marks of national gratitude. But what
is the real value, what will be the consequences, of our victory? We are
very anxious to take the earliest opportunity of placing on record our
views upon this all-important subject, with a view of moderating the
expectations, and allaying the excitement, which prevails upon the
subject of the commercial advantages anticipated to follow immediately
on the final ratification of the treaty. Let us take a sober and
common-sense view of the affair, and reason thus:--

First of all, we must bear in mind the long-cherished hatred borne by
the Emperor and his court to all barbarians, particularly towards us;
exasperated now, doubtless, to a pitch of extreme intensity and
malignity, by the signal humiliation and injury we have inflicted upon
him. Can we expect that this will be suddenly and permanently altered?
It is not in human nature, which is the same every where. With the
thunder of our cannon in his ears, the supplies of his whole empire at
our immediate mercy, his armies scattered like dust, and his forts and
walled cities crumbling to pieces under our artillery, the necessity of
his position forced him to buy peace on almost any terms. We have
exacted from him what is at variance with the fixed Chinese policy of
ages. The more he, by and by, reflects upon it, in the absence of our
awe-inspiring military and naval forces, the more galling and
intolerable will become the contemplation of what he has been compelled
to concede and sacrifice. Who knows what artful falsehoods may not be
perseveringly poured into his ear, day after day, month after month,
year after year, to our disadvantage and disparagement in his
estimation? He may not dare, perhaps, to resort to open hostility,
directly to provoke our tremendous vengeance; but those best acquainted
with China, know what countless facilities exist for his doing
indirectly what he dares not, or may choose not, to do openly. We are
not without fear, from our knowledge of the Chinese character, and of
their long-established mode of procedure, that every chicane and evasion
will be resorted to, in order to neutralize and nullify, as far as
possible, the commercial advantages which we have, at the cannon's
mouth, extorted from them. A great deal, at all events, will depend on
the skill, firmness, and vigilance, of the consuls to be appointed at
the five opened ports of China. We rely, also, greatly on the
unquestionable eagerness of the _Chinese_ people to enter into trading
relations with us. The Emperor, however, and those by whose counsels he
is guided, are Tartars, between whom and the Chinese there is a
long-cherished and bitter hostility, which may eventually operate in our
favour. Adverting, for a moment, to the proceedings of Sir Henry
Pottinger, we feel very great doubt, indeed, whether our forces should
not, either with or without the consent of the Chinese, have gone on to
Pekin, and insisted on the negotiations being carried on _there_. What a
prodigious effect would not thereby have been produced, not only on the
mind of the Emperor, but of the whole nation! The painful but salutary
truth of their own weakness, and our power, would have been thus
"brought home to their businesses and bosoms,"--there could never
afterwards have been any pretence for his or their saying, that they had
been deceived in any part of the proceedings. Doubtless, however, Sir
Henry Pottinger acted advisedly in abstaining from penetrating to Pekin,
and also from stipulating for the residence of a British ambassador at
Pekin. How such a proposal would have been received--or how, if adopted
and carried into effect, it would have answered our expectations--it is
difficult to say; but we have several letters lying before us, from
peculiarly well-informed persons on the spot, in all of which the
absence of this stipulation from the treaty is very greatly regretted.
"I am afraid," says one, "we shall be again left to the tender mercies
of the local mandarins, and that their old habits of arrogance and
deceit and extortion, will be resumed. For what are _consuls?_ They have
no power of communicating even with the provincial officers: or if this
should now be conceded, they have none with the government at Pekin: and
may we not fear that the Chinese will continue to force away gradually,
by effectual but invisible obstacles, the trade from the ports now
ostensibly opened to us?" The gentleman, from whose long and very able
letter we have quoted this paragraph, takes a somewhat disheartening
view of the treaty, and its probable observance and consequences. He is
on the spot, and has access to the best sources of knowledge; but we
confess, that for our own part, we do not share his apprehensions.
Whatever disposition to do so the Emperor or his people may entertain,
we believe they will neither dare at all to offend or injure us openly,
or persevere long in attempting to do so indirectly. It may be a work of
time but as soon as they perceive the steady benefits derivable from a
prudently-conducted course of dealing with them, we think it likely that
a sense of self-interest will lead them to encourage our intercourse and
augment our dealings. On one thing we regret to feel certain that we
must calculate--namely, on an enormous overstocking of the Chinese
market with articles of British merchandize, long before any sensible,
or at least important, demand for them shall have been created; which
will of course lead to serious loss on the part of the adventurers. We
must also expect Hong-Kong, and the five open ports, to be forthwith
flooded with commercial adventurers. To all such we would earnestly
say--"pause. Consider the circumstances of China--how capricious and
perfidious its people are by nature--the _possibility_, at all events,
of their acting on the hostile policy we have above alluded to, and
discouraging your trade; or if not so, still do not imagine that the
vast empire of China is standing agape for any sort of goods you may
send or take out." We must, however, pass on to allude briefly to a
subject both important and difficult--the opium trade with China. This
is a subject imperatively demanding the best consideration of the
Government. A careful examination of the subject, in all its bearings,
induces us, with due diffidence, to express an opinion that the
Government sale of opium in India should cease. We cannot, of course,
prevent the poppy's being grown in India--nor, on the other hand, should
a great source of revenue be easily parted with. Let their opium be
produced and sold as before, and subject to such a tax as may appear
expedient to the Government. With reference to the policy and propriety
of our continuing to supply opium to the Chinese, we have already
expressed our opinion as to the true ground of objection to it by the
Emperor of China, namely, simply a financial, not a moral or religious
one. We have reason to believe that Sir Henry Pottinger most
strenuously, and, in our opinion, most judiciously, urged upon the
imperial commissioners the expediency of the raising a revenue from
opium, by legalizing its importation. To this they replied, however,
"that they did not dare, _at present_, to bring the painful subject to
the Emperor's notice." We are, notwithstanding, very strongly of opinion
that the opium trade will, at no distant period, be legalized, as soon
as the Emperor can be made to understand the great profit he will derive
from it. In any event, it will be obviously nugatory for the Government
directly to prohibit British subjects from importing opium into China.
The only effect of such a measure would be, that they could carry on the
trade through the intervention of foreigners.

Many other topics, such as the opportunity now afforded for the
introduction of the Christian religion into China, the extent to which
we shall be permitted to acquire a knowledge of the habits, the economy,
the literature, and the science, of China; the exertions which may be
expected from other nations to share in the advantages which we have, by
our own unassisted efforts, secured--we must pass over, as inconsistent
with the limits assigned us, or, indeed, the scope of this article.

Whatever may be the ultimate effects of the blow we have struck in
China, there can be no doubt that it has prodigiously extended the
reputation, and augmented the influence of Great Britain, especially
coupled as it is with our contemporaneous brilliant successes in India,
and our satisfactory adjustment of our differences with America. We are
now, thank God, at peace with all the world, to whose counsels soever it
is to be attributed. Let us now endeavour to make the most of the
blessings which the Divine favour vouchsafes to us. Let us cultivate
virtue--let us cherish religion. Let us, as a nation, give up all idle
and dangerous dreams of foreign conquest, satisfied that we already
possess as much as it is possible for us to hold, with safety and
advantage. Let us _honour all men_. At home, let us bear with
cheerfulness the burthens necessarily imposed to support the state, and
each do all that lies in us to extinguish party animosities; generously
and cordially co-operating with, and supporting those whom we believe
honestly striving to carry on the government of this great country, at a
very critical conjuncture of affairs, with dignity and prudence. Let us
discourage faction, and each, in our several spheres exert ourselves to
ameliorate the condition of the inferior classes of society. May the
ensuing session of Parliament commence its labours auspiciously, and in
due course bring them to a peaceful and happy close, in a spirit of good
will towards all men of loyalty to our Queen, and piety towards God!

* * * * *


[Many as are the frightful cases of error recorded in the
annals of every judiciary court, there are few more striking of
the uncertainty of evidence respecting personal identity, and
of the serious errors based upon it, than are to be read in the
curious trial we are about to relate; and which has, for forty
years, been the subject of parliamentary appeals in the country
where it took place. The recent death of the widow of the
unhappy sufferer excites a fresh interest in her wrongs, so
strangely left unredressed by the very government that was the
unwitting cause of them.]


On the 4th Floréal of the 4th year of the Republic, one and indivisible,
(23d April 1796,) four young men were seated at a splendid breakfast in
the Rue des Boucheries at Paris. They were all dressed in the costume of
the _Incroyables_ of the period; their hair _coiffés en cadenettes_ and
_en oreilles de chien_, according to the fantastic custom of the day;
they had all top-boots, with silver spurs, large eyeglasses, various
watch-chains, and other articles of _bijouterie_; carrying also the
little cane, of about a foot and a half in length, without which no
dandy was complete. The breakfast was given by a M. Guesno, a
van-proprietor of Douai, who was anxious to celebrate the arrival at
Paris of his compatriot Lesurques, who had recently established himself
with his family in the busy capital.

"Yes, _mon cher_ Guesno," said Lesurques, "I have quitted for ever our
good old town of Douai; or, if not for ever, at least until I have
completed in Paris the education of my children. I am now thirty-three
years of age. I have paid my debt to my country by serving in the
regiment of Auvergne, with some distinction. On leaving the ranks I was
fortunate enough to make my services of some slight use, by fulfilling,
gratuitously, the functions of _chef de bureau_ of the district. At
present, thanks to my patrimony and the dowery of my wife, I have an
income of fifteen thousand francs (L.600) a-year, am without ambition,
have three children, and my only care is to educate them well. The few
days that I have been at Paris have not been wasted; I have a pretty
apartment, Rue Montmartre, where I expect to be furnished, and ready to
receive you in my turn, with as much comfort as heartiness."

"Wisely conceived," interrupted one of the guests, who, till this
moment, had maintained a profound silence; "but who can count upon the
morrow in such times as these? May your projects of peace and
retirement, Monsieur, be realized: if so, you will then be the happiest
man in the Republic; for during the last five or six years, there has
been no _citoyen_, high or low, who could predict what the next week
would decide for him."

The speaker uttered this with a tone of bitterness and discouragement
which contrasted strangely with the flaunting splendour of his toilet,
and the appetite with which he had done honour to the breakfast. He was
young, and would have been remarkably handsome, had not his dark eyes
and shaggy brows given an expression of fierceness and dissimulation to
his countenance, which he vainly endeavoured to hide, by never looking
his interlocutor in the face. His name was Couriol. His presence at this
breakfast was purely accidental. He had come to see M. Richard, (the
proprietor of the house where M. Guesno alighted on his journey to
Paris, and who was also one of the guests,) just as they were about to
sit down to table, and was invited to join them without ceremony.

The breakfast passed off gaily, in spite of the sombre Couriol; and
after two hours' conviviality, they adjourned to the Palais Royal,
where, after taking their café at the _Rotonde du Caveau_, they


A few days afterwards, on the 8th Floréal, four men mounted on dashing
looking horses, which, however, bore the unequivocal signs of being
hired for the day, rode gaily out of Paris by the barrier of Charenton;
talking and laughing loudly, caracoling with great enjoyment, and
apparently with nothing but the idea of passing as joyously as possible
a day devoted to pleasure.

An attentive observer, however, who did not confine his examination to
their careless exteriors, might have remarked that, beneath their long
_lévites,_ (a peculiar cloak then in fashion,) they carried each a
sabre, suspended at the waist, the presence of which was betrayed from
time to time by a slight clanking, as the horses stumbled or changed
their paces. He might have further remarked a sinister pre-occupation
and a brooding fierceness in the countenance of one, whose dark eyes
peeped out furtively beneath two thick brows. He took but little share
in the boisterous gaiety of the other three, and that little was forced;
his laugh was hollow and convulsive. It was Couriol.

Between twelve and one, the four horsemen arrived at the pretty village
of Mongeron, on the road to Melun. One of them had preceded them at a
hand-gallop to order dinner at the _Hôtel de la Poste_, kept by the
Sieur Evrard. After the dinner, to which they did all honour, they
called for pipes and tobacco--(cigars were then almost unknown)--and two
of them smoked. Having paid their bill, they proceeded to the Cassino,
where they took their café.

At three o'clock they remounted their horses, and following the road,
shaded by stately elms, which leads from Mongeron to the forest of
Lénart, they reached Lieursaint; where they again halted. One of their
horses had cast a shoe, and one of the men had broken the little chain
which then fastened the spur to the boot. The horseman to whom this
accident had happened, stopped at the entrance of the village at Madame
Châtelain's, a _limonadière_, whom he begged to serve him some café, and
at the same time to give him a needleful of strong thread to mend the
chain of his spur. She did so, but observing the traveller to be rather
awkward in his use of the needle, she called her servant, _la femme_
Grossetète, who fixed the chain for him, and helped him to place it on
his boot. The other three travellers had, during this time, alighted at
the inn kept by the Sieur Champeaux, where they drank some wine; while
the landlord himself accompanied the traveller and his unshod horse to
the farrier's, the Sieur Motteau. This finished, the four met at Madame
Châtelain's, where they played at billiards. At half-past seven, after a
parting cup with the Sieur Champeaux, whither they returned to re-saddle
their horses, they set off again in the direction of Melun.

The landlord stood at his door watching the travellers till out of
sight, and then turning into his house again, he saw on the table a
sabre, which one of his guests had forgotten to fasten to his belt; he
dispatched one of his stable-boys after them, but they were out of
sight. It was not till an hour afterwards, that the traveller who had
had his spur-chain mended, returned at full gallop to claim his sabre.
He drank a glass of brandy, and having fastened his weapon securely,
departed at furious speed in the direction taken by his comrades.


At the same time that the horseman left Lieursaint for Paris, the Lyons
mail arrived there from Paris, and changed horses. It was about
half-past eight, and the night had been obscure for some time. The
courier, having charged horses and taken a fresh postilion, set forth to
traverse the long forest of Senart. The mail, at this epoch, was very
different from what it is at present. It was a simple post-chaise, with
a raised box behind, in which were placed the despatches. Only one
place, by the side of the courier, was reserved for travellers, and
that was obtained with difficulty. On the night in question this seat
was occupied by a man of about thirty, who had that morning taken it for
Lyons, under the name of Laborde, a silk-merchant; his real name was
Durochat; his object may be guessed.

At nine o'clock, the carriage having descended a declivity with great
speed, now slackened its course to mount a steep hill which faced it; at
this moment four horsemen bounded into the road--two of them seizing the
horses' heads, the two other attacked the postilion, who fell lifeless
at their feet, his skull split open by a sabre-cut. At the same
instant--before he had time to utter a word--the wretched courier was
stabbed to the heart by the false Laborde, who sat beside him. They
ransacked the mail of a sum of seventy-five thousand francs (L.3000) in
money, _assignats_, and bank-notes. They then took the postilion's horse
from the chaise, and Durochat mounting it, they galloped to Paris, which
they entered between four and five in the morning by the Barrier de


This double murder, committed with such audacity on the most frequented
route of France, could not but produce an immense sensation, even at
that epoch so fertile in brigandage of every sort, where the exploits of
_la Chouannerie_, and the ferocious expeditions of the _Chauffeurs_,[8]
daily filled them with alarm. The police were at once in pursuit. The
post-horse ridden by Durochat, and abandoned by him on the Boulevard,
was found wandering about the Palais Royale. It was known that four
horses covered with foam had been conducted at about five in the morning
to the stables of a certain Muiron, _Rue des Fossé's,
Saint-Germain-l'Auxerrois_, by two men who had hired them the day
before: these men were Bernard and Couriol; the former of whom was
immediately arrested, the second had, with the other accomplices,
taken flight.

[8] An atrocious gang of thieves, who adopted the unnecessary
brutality of burning the unfortunate victims they intended
to rob.

The research was pursued with great activity at Paris, as well as at the
scene of the crime, and along the route which the assassins had twice
travelled. The information obtained showed that there were five
culprits. The description of the four horsemen who rode from Paris,
stopping at Mongeron and Lieursaint, was furnished with as much
precision as concordance by the various witnesses who had seen and
spoken to them on the road, and in the inns and cafés. The description
of the traveller, who, under the name of Laborde, had taken the seat
beside the courier, was furnished with equal exactitude by the clerks,
from whom he had retained the place, and by those who saw him mount.
Couriol, recognized as having with Bernard conducted back the horses to
Muiron, after the crime, had left Paris for Château-Thierry, where he
was lodged in the house of Citoyen Bruer, where also Guesno had gone on
some business. The police followed Couriol, and arrested him. They found
upon him a sum in money and assignats, nearly equivalent to a fifth
share of what the courier had been robbed. Guesno and Bruer were also
arrested, and had their papers seized; but they so completely
established their _alibi_, that they were at once dismissed on their
arrival at Paris. At the epoch of which we write, the examination of
judicial affairs followed a very different course from the one now
traced by the French code. It was to the Citoyen Daubenton, justice of
the peace of the division of Pont Neuf, and officer of the _police
judiciare_, that the Central Bureau confided the examination of this
affair. This magistrate having ordered the dismissal of Guesno, told him
that he might present himself at his _cabinet_ on the morrow, for the
papers which had been seized at Château-Thierry; at the same time he
ordered an officer, Hendon, to start at once for Mangeron and
Lieursaint, and to bring back the witnesses, whose names he gave him,
so that they might all be collected the next day at the Bureau for

Guesno, desirous of having his papers as soon as possible, went out
early, and directed his steps towards the Central Bureau, which he had
just reached when he encountered his compatriot Lesurques; having
explained to him the motive that called him to the Bureau, he proposed
to him that they should go together. Lesurques accepted, and the Citizen
Daubenton not having yet arrived, they sat down in the antechamber, in
order to see him as he passed, and thus expedite the matter.

About ten o'clock the judge, who had entered his cabinet by a back door,
was interrupted in his examination of the documents, previous to
interrogating the witnesses, by the officer Hendon, who demanded leave
to make an important communication. "Amongst the witnesses," said he,
"now waiting in the antechamber, are two women--one, _la femme_ Santon,
servant to Evrard the innkeeper at Mongeron--the other, _la fille_
Grossetète, servant to Madame Châtelain the _limonadière_ at Lieursaint,
who assert in the most positive manner, that two of the assassins are
there, waiting like them to be admitted. These women declare that they
cannot deceive themselves, for one of them served the four travellers at
Mongeron, and the other spoke to them at Lieursaint, and stayed an hour
in the billiard-room while they were playing."

The judge could not admit the probability of two of the assassins thus
voluntarily placing themselves within the grasp of the law, yet he
ordered the women to be shown into his presence. On interrogation, they
persisted in their statements, declaring that it was impossible they
could deceive themselves. Guesno was then introduced to the judge's
presence, the women being continued to examine him strictly before
finally pronouncing as to his identity.

"What brings you to the Central Bureau?" demanded the judge.

"I come to receive my papers," replied Guesno, "as you promised me
yesterday that I should have them on application."

"Are you alone?"

"I have a compatriot with me, one Joseph Lesurques, whom I met on the
way here."

The judge then ordered the second individual designated by the women to
be introduced. It was Lesurques. He spoke to Lesurques and to Guesno for
a few minutes, and then begged them to return into the antechamber,
where their papers would be sent to them. An order was given, however,
to the officer, Hendon, not to lose sight of them.

On their leaving the room, M. Daubenton again demanded of the women, if
they persisted in their declarations as to the identity of these men
with the criminals they were in search of. They replied, without
hesitation, that they were certain of it; that they could not be
deceived. The magistrate was then forced to receive their depositions in
writing, and to order the arrest of Guesno and Lesurques.

From the moment of their arrest, the examination proceeded with great
rapidity. Guesno and Lesurques were confronted with the witnesses
brought from Mongeron and Lieursaint, and were recognised by all
of them!

_La femme_ Santon deposed, that Lesurques was the one who, after the
dinner at Mongeron, wanted to pay in _assignats_, but that the big dark
man (Couriol) paid in money. She was positive as to Lesurques being
the man.

Champeaux and his wife, who kept the inn at Lieursaint, were equally
positive as to Lesurques being the one whose spur wanted mending, and
who came back to fetch the sabre which he had forgotten. Lafolie, groom
at Mongeron, and _la femme_ Alfroy, also recognised him; and Laurent
Charbaut, labourer, who dined in the same room with the four horsemen,
recognised Lesurques as the one who had silver spurs fastened by little
chains to his top-boots. This combination of testimony, respecting one
whom they had seen but a few days before, was sufficient to leave little
doubt in the mind of any one. The trial was therefore fixed on.

The day of his arrest, Lesurques wrote the following letter to one of
his friends, which was intercepted, and joined to the documentary
evidence to be examined on the trial:--

"My dear Friend,--I have met with nothing but unpleasantries
since my arrival at Paris, but I did not--I could not
anticipate the misfortune which has befallen me to-day. You
know me--and you know whether I am capable of sullying myself
with a crime--yet the most atrocious crime is imputed to me.
The mere thought of it makes me tremble. I find myself
implicated in the murder of the Lyons' courier. Three women and
two men, whom I know not--whose residence I know not--(for you
well know that I have not left Paris)--have had the impudence
to swear that they recognise me, and that I was the first of
the four who presented himself at their houses on horseback.
You know, also, that I have not crossed a horse's back since my
arrival in Paris. You may understand the importance of such an
accusation, which tends at nothing less than my judicial
assassination. Oblige me by lending me the assistance of your
memory, and endeavour to recollect where I was and what persons
I saw at Paris, on the day when they impudently assert they saw
me out of Paris, (I believe it was the 7th or 8th,) in order
that I may confound these infamous calumniators, and make them
suffer the penalty of the law."

In a postscript he enumerates the persons he saw on that day: Citoyen
Tixier, General Cambrai, 'Demoiselle Eugénie, Citoyen Hilaire Ledru, his
wife's hairdresser, the workmen in his apartments, and the porter of
the house.


MM. Lesurques, Guesno, Couriol, Bernard, Richard, and Bruer, were
summoned before the tribunal of justice; the three first as authors or
accomplices of the murder and robbery--Bernard as having furnished the
horses--Richard as having concealed at his house Couriol--and his
mistress, Madelaine Breban, as having received and concealed part of the
stolen goods--and Bruer as having given Couriol refuge at

The witnesses persisted in their declarations as to the identity of
Guesno and Lesurques. But Guesno established beyond all doubt the fact
of his _alibi_; and Bruer easily refuted every charge that concerned
himself. Lesurques had cited fifteen witnesses--all respectable men--and
presented himself at the bar with a calmness and confidence which
produced a favourable impression. Against the positive testimony of the
six witnesses who asserted him to have been at Mongeron and Lieursaint
on the 8th Floréal, he had brought a mass of testimony to prove
an _alibi._

Citoyen Legrand, a rich jeweller and goldsmith, compatriot of Lesurques,
was first examined. He deposed, that on the 8th Floréal--the day on
which the crime had been committed--Lesurques had passed a portion of
the morning with him.

Aldenof, a jeweller, Hilaire Ledru, and Chausfer, deposed, that on that
day they dined with Lesurques in the _Rue Montorgueil;_ that, after
dinner, they went to a café, took some liqueur, and went home with him.

Beudart, a painter, deposed that he was invited to the dinner, with
Lesurques and his friends, but that, as one of the national guard, he
was that day on service, and so was prevented attending; but that, he
had gone to Lesurques that very evening in his uniform, and had seen him
go to bed. In support of his deposition he produced his _billet de
garde_, dated the 8th.

Finally, the workmen employed in the apartment that Lesurques was having
fitted up, deposed that they saw him at various times during the 8th and
9th Floréal.

No further doubt of his innocence now remained; the _alibi_ was so
distinctly proved, and on such unquestionable testimony, that the jury
showed in their manner that they were ready to acquit him, when a fatal
circumstance suddenly changed the whole face of the matter.

The jeweller Legrand, who had manifested such zeal in the establishment
of his friend's innocence, had, with an anxiety to avail himself of
every trifle, declared, that to prove the sincerity of his declaration,
he would cite a fact which prevented his being mistaken. On the 8th
Floréal, he had made before dinner an exchange of jewellery with the
witness, Aldenof. He proposed that his ledger should be sent for, as its
entry there would serve to fix all recollections.

As a matter of form, the ledger was sent for. At the first glance,
however, it was evident that the _date_ of the transaction, mentioned by
Legrand, had been _altered!_ The exchange had taken place on the 9th,
and an alteration, badly dissimulated by an erasure, had substituted the
figure 8 for the original figure 9.

Murmurs of surprise and indignation followed this discovery, and the
President, pressing Legrand with questions, and unable to obtain from
him any satisfactory answer, ordered his arrest. Legrand then, trembling
and terrified, retracted his former deposition, and declared that he was
not certain he had seen Lesurques on the 8th Floréal, but that he had
altered his book in order to give more probability to the declaration he
had determined to make in his friend's favour--of whose innocence he was
so assured, that it was only the conviction that he was accused
erroneously, which made him perjure himself to save that innocent head.

From this moment, the jury received the depositions in favour of
Lesurques with extreme prejudice--those already heard seemed little
better than connivance, and those yet to be heard were listened to with
such suspicion as to have no effect. The conviction of his guilt was
fixed in every mind. Lesurques, despairing to get over such fatal
appearances, ceased his energetic denials, and awaited his sentence in
gloomy silence. The jury retired.

At this moment a woman, agitated with the most violent emotions,
demanded to speak to the President. She said that she was moved by the
voice of conscience, and wished to save the criminal tribunal from a
dreadful error. It was Madelaine Breban, the mistress of Couriol.
Brought before the President, she declared that she knew positively
Lesurques was innocent, and that the witnesses, deceived by an
inexplicable resemblance, had confounded him with the real culprit, who
was called Dubosq.

Prejudiced as they were against Lesurques, and suspicious of all
testimony after the perjury they had already detected, the tribunal
scarcely listened to Madelaine Breban; and the jury returned with their
verdict, in consequence of which, Couriol, Lesurques, and Bernard were
condemned to death; Richard to four-and-twenty years' imprisonment;
Guesno and Bruer were acquitted.

No sooner was the sentence passed, than Lesurques rose calmly, and
addressing the Judges, said, "I am innocent of the crime of which I am
accused. Ah! citoyens, if it is horrible to murder on the high-road, it
is not less so to murder by the law!"

Couriol, condemned to death, rose and said, "Yes, I am guilty--I avow
it. But Lesurques is innocent, and Bernard did not participate in
the murder."

Four times he reiterated this declaration; and, on entering his prison,
he wrote to the judge a letter full of sorrow and repentance, in which
he said, "I have never known Lesurques; my accomplices are Vidal, Rossi,
Durochat, and Dubosq. The resemblance of Lesurques to Dubosq has
deceived the witnesses."

To this declaration of Couriol was joined that of Madelaine Breban, who,
after the judgment, returned to renew her protestation, accompanied by
two individuals, who swore that, before the trial, she had told them
Lesurques had never had any relations with the culprits; but that he was
a victim of his fatal likeness to Dubosq. These testimonies threw doubt
in the minds of the magistrates, who hastened to demand a reprieve from
the Directory, which, terrified at the idea of seeing an innocent man
perish through a judicial error, had recourse to the _Corps Législatif;_
for every other resource was exhausted. The message of the Directory to
the Five Hundred was pressing; its aim was to demand a reprieve, and a
decision as to what course to pursue. It ended thus: "Must Lesurques
perish on the scaffold because he resembles a villain?"

The _Corps Législatif_ passed to the order of the day, as every
condition had been legally fulfilled, that a particular case could not
justify an infraction of decreed laws; and that, too, on such
indications, to do away with a condemnation legally pronounced by a
jury, would be to overset all ideas of justice and equality before
the law.

The right of pardon had been abolished; and Lesurques had neither
resources nor hope. He bore his fate with firmness and resignation, and
wrote, on the day of his execution, this note to his wife:--

"_Ma bonne Amie_,--There is no eluding ones destiny, I was fated to be
judicially murdered. I shall at least bear it with proper courage. I
send you my locks of hair; when our children are grown up, you will
divide it among them; it is the only heritage I can leave them."

He addressed also a letter to Dubosq through the newspapers. "You, in
whose place I am about to perish, content yourself with the sacrifice of
my life. Should you ever be brought to justice, remember my three
children covered with opprobrium--remember my wife reduced to despair
and do not longer prolong their misfortunes."


The 10th March 1797, Lesurques was led to the scaffold. He wished to be
dressed completely in white, as a symbol of his innocence. He wore
pantaloons and frock-coat of white cotton, and his shirt-collar turned
down over his shoulders. It was the day before Good Friday, and he
expressed regret that he had not to die on the morrow. In passing from
the prison _de la Conciergerie_ to the _Place de la Grève_, where the
execution took place, Couriol, placed beside Lesurques in the cart,
cried out to the people in a loud voice, "Citoyens, I am guilty! I am
guilty! but Lesurques is innocent."

On arriving at the platform of the guillotine, already stained with the
blood of Bernard, Lesurques exclaimed, "I pardon my judges; I pardon the
witnesses through whose error I die; and I pardon Legrand, who has not a
little contributed to my judicial assassination. I die protesting my
innocence." In another instant he was no more.

Couriol continued his declarations of Lesurques's innocence to the foot

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