Imagens da página

capital is accumulated, and its competition for employment increased, its profits by necessity fall. It is therefore quite certain, that the interests of the two classes, those who live by rent, and those who live by the wages of labour, coincide with the welfare of their country, in one important sense, in which the interests of those who live by the profit of stock are opposed to it.

It is necessary, however, for the East India Company, not only that merchants should be considered as the best of all advisers in matters of commerce, and those who profit by the monopoly in questions of monopoly--but that monopoly itself, monopoly in the abstract, should really be considered as a good thing. The abuse of monopolies under Elizabeth has been universally spoken of in terms of the severest condemnation. Mr. Grant is aware of this. But he makes a distinction. The circumstance which, according to him, constitutes a monopoly either a grievance or a benefit, is, its being given to an individual, or a company.

• The commercial patents, [he tells us] being in the strictest sense monopolies, which Elizabeth conferred as a personal boon on various individuals of her own court, have been universally reprobated; but there is no room to doubt that, in the encouragement of the public companies mentioned, and others of the same nature, her object was the national welfare. The efficacy of an exclusive company, as a commercial engine, under the circumstances described, cannot be disputed.'

It would be an effort of no small magnitude, we think, to shew what it is that should make a monopoly pernicious in the hands of one individual, but not pernicious in the hands of more than one. To narrow the field of inquiry, we should like to have an answer to this one question, What reason is there to suppose that the interests of the nation would not have been as well consulted, by giving the monopoly of the Indian trade to an individual, as by giving it to a company of individuals? If it be said that no individual would have had sufficient capital; the answer to that is irrefragable-he might have taken partners--or he might have borrowed money-or he might have let or farmed the permission to trade, as a man lets or farms his land to cultivators. If our author will but favour us with a dissertation toward the solution of this problem, we can assure him it shall meet with all the respect which it is in our competence to pay: we shall bestow upon it an early and careful criticism.

It is often asserted, that, at the time when the trade with India began, it could not have been carried on except by monopoly. Without exploring the truth or fallacy of this as


sumption, (for which not a word of good evidence was ever produced,) it is commonly answered, that, so long as monopoly was necessary to its existence, it was not a trade by which the nation could profit. This is an argument drawn from the nature of capital, of which a great deficiency for home purposes is by the assumption implied, and so long as capital is deficient for home purposes it cannot, it is asserted, be profitable to the nation, to carry away from those purposes so large a portion of it to a distance. To this Mr. Grant replies and it is a reply on which he lays the greatest stress-that it was necessary at that time to take possession of the trade, and secure to ourselves a footing in the country, otherwise, at all subsequent times, the French, and the Dutch, and other nations, would have totally prevented our access to it. This is his grand boast - that the monopoly has led to empire. Now for an answer to the question at issue whether the monopoly should be abolished, this is just such an argument, as if it were said, War has led to empire, and therefore war should never

Our author seeins determined not to know, that it has been shrewdly doubted whether this empire is not a curse. One certain fact is, that it has never yet been any thing else than a curse; and another is, that no good reason has ever yet been shewn for believing that it will at any time hereafter be a blessing. But there are some ears so enamoured of the word empire, that in naming it you are thought to name a good-one of the greatest of goods. Accordingly our author proceeds, without hesitation or restriction, on the confident assumption, that what is good for empire is the proper object of choice. But even should we allow that empire is delightful, does it follow that the national government would not understand its excellence as well as the East India Company? And would not the troops of the government be just as promising an instrument of empire, as the troops of the Company?

In his demonstration of the utility of the Company's privileges, Mr. Grant leaves no favourable opportunity unimproved. The East India Company were exposed to some rivalship, about the year 1656 ; and complained bitterly and loudly of the effects of competition, in compelling them both to buy dear, and to sell cheap. Mr. Grant takes up the strain, and, through ten long pages, endeavours to make his readers feel the pernicious tendency of competition. It is in vain to point to competition in other departments of commerce, as the very instrument of their prosperity; it is in vain to ask, what there is in the nature of the trade with India that should make this universal instrument of good, an instrument of evil. No: all we can extract from ten tedious pages of declamation,

s the reiterated cry, that competition compels traders to buy dear, and to sell cheap, and that therefore it is a very abominable thing.

It is worth remarking, in the case of the advocates for the restrictive privileges of the Company as a body, that they are hostile to liberty—to freedom as a quality of governmentin general. Listen to them, and you will believe that freedom almost every where is more a cause of evil than of good. The inconveniences which have at any time attended an ill. regulated liberty, the evils which have been at any time produced in 'an ill-regulated pursuit of it, they are eager to collect together, and exhibit in the most glaring colours. And this picture which they delight to draw, they hold up as a justifying reason for every restriction in favour of the few, which they have a wish to impose upon the actions of the many. This aversion to the principles of good government, running through this body of men, is a pretty striking characteristic, and, if not surprising, is at least very instructive. Of the British constitution the only part which seems to engage deeply the affections of our author, is the monarchical. As for parliament, he only speaks of it with reverence, when it is abjectly subservient to the will of the prince. Persons in general are not apt to suppose that the parliaments of Queen Elizabeth offended on the side of opposition to the sovereign. Yet Mr. Grant, p. 35, talks of a violence which seemed struggling in the bosom of the House (of Commons) for the opportunity of some pernicious exertion ;'--and this only because a bill was brought in ‘for the explanation of the common law in certain cases of letters patent,'-or, in other words, to restrain that excessive abuse in the creation of monopolies, which, Mr. Hume says, would have quickly reduced this country to the state of Turkey or Morocco.

We cannot present a long list of the minor positions in this work, which seem to us to lay a claim to criticism. We must content ourselves with a few as specimens. Let it be distinctly recollected, then, that, at last, Mr. Grant, one of the most authoritative advocates of the Company, fairly reprobates the principle, that the public should be sharers with the Company in the revenues of India. During a moment of extreme pressure, when the Directors consented to obtain ministerial aid, -by admitting the principle that the public should be sharers in the Indian revenues,' they admitted, says Mr. Grant, ' a principle which, in their deliberate judgment, they would certainly have reprobated as dangerous.' (p. 278.) This is fully and undeniably to confess and maintain, that the nation can never derive any advantage from the “ empire" (as it is called), in India. In other words, it is by this doctrine allowed, that the annual sum (amounting, for the present year, to two millions five hundred thousand pounds) which we, the British people, pay for keeping up a government in India, is so much absolute loss. Other advantages, on which they harangue to us, are nothing but words. Let the people of England believe that this Indian “ empire” is of use to them, when they know that a clear annual sum from India is paid into the English Exchequer, and that they are annually relieved thereby of a proportional burthen of taxes. This relief is the true and only measure of the benefit.

On the deception which is practised under the pretence that there is something peculiar and wonderful in the gains of Indian commerce, and the fortunes of Indian adventurers, we have on former occasions sufficiently enlarged. The dividends on India stock have not equalled the profits of other merchants. Had all those youths remained at home, who leave their country for India, and of whom nine in ten are dead before the period of acquisition begins, a greater number of them would have accumulated fortunes than actually retaitn with them from the Indian "

empire.”—If these things are true, it is demonstrated, that till the nation gets a share of the Indian revenues, it gets nothing but loss by the “empire” in India. This is the criterion. The nation cannot too accurately apply it.

Relating to a transaction about the era of the revolution, we find the following passage:

• Amid this tumult, the leading Directors of the Company were guilty of conduct, which, though, too much sanctioned at the time by the example of all parties, must for ever be regretted and condemned by the truest friends to their cause. It


that they purchased by large bribes the interest of many distinguished stateofficers and Members of Parliament. Such was the profligacy which had become epidemic among public men, under the reigns of the two last Stuarts.'

We hope our author is not one of those who have two weights or two measures ; that he does not condemn in one set of men, what he will extenuate in another. The Members of Parliament, who, in the days of the Stuarts, were swayed by pecuniary considerations, in their parliamentary conduct, are declared by Mr. Grant to be infamous. Such conduct is denominated profligacy,'. and he says, “ he has no wish to shield it from the bitter censure of mankind.' This is well. But it is impossible not to see that a pecuniary consideration is not less a pecuniary consideration, when it comes in the shape of an annual, than in that of a single sum; in the shape, for example, of a sinecure, or an over-paid place; and that it is to the full as 'profligate' to receive pecuniary considerations from a mi


nister, to favour a court at the expence of the people, as from the Directors of the East India Company, to favour the East India Company at the expence of the people. The term influence, and other deceptive words, employed to varnish it over, only increase the evil. Its own effects, however, in the long run, will bring about the operations for its cure.--Mr. Grant rises in his indignation against the prostituted senators.

• The occurrence,' he says, does not prove more against the institution of exclusive companies, than against that of Parliaments. Indeed it proves less; unless it can be thought that the dispensers of the bribes in question violated obligations equally sacred with those senators, who, being the constituted guardians of the public interests, set their trust to sale.'

• Nor will it avail to say, that these (thè senators), being the tempted party, were, of the two, the least criminal ; for he that is venal on system, is, properly speaking not the tempted party, but the tempter.'

This is both excellently thought and admirably expressed. Nothing can be more true-nothing more instructive. А body of senators, venal by system-that is habitually venal, and known to be so—are emphatically the tempters, rather than the tempted. They are not only a ready instrument to a sovereign who wishes to enlarge his power at the expence of the people; but they actually invite him to the formation of evil designs, by the certainty they afford him of meeting in them with the requisite abettors and supporters.

Mr. Grant has a remark on "armed conspiracies” which admits of some extension. On the subject of the combination of the officers of the Bengal army in 1766, to resist some reductions in the state of their emoluments (one of those combinations which more than once has made the Indian “ empire” totter on its base), Mr. Grant remarks, that the combination of military men for private purposes contravenes every principle of civil policy; and that a community can adopt no surer rule for a relapse into barbarism than the sufferance of armed conspiracies. Taken as it thus stands, the remark is a mere common-place; but if we look to things, and not merely to words, we shall find important matters involved in this seemingly trite proposition. As all bad governments are supported by the sword, every bad government is in fact “an armed conspiracy”-includes in its very essence every quality of an armed conspiracy-and every thing which can be predicated of armed conspiracies in general, may be predicated of a bad government. Try it, upon Bonaparte's government. Try it, upon the government of Morocco. Let any man try it where he pleases; its applicability will be seen to be out of dispute. The abhorrence of armed conspiracies” is, therefore, a truly just

« AnteriorContinuar »