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rate and collective interests of the community should be made subservient to abstract principle.
This forms the general ground of fashionable legislation, and one of its most baleful characteristics is, its evils fall the most heavily on the lower and middle classes. All the new laws made, or projected, touching trade, currency, pauperism, &c., are calcu lated to injure these classes far more in proportion than the higher ones. One takes away business-another de stroys employment-a third annihi lates capital-a fourth cuts down wages-and a fifth seizes the means of subsistence in distress; all operate harmoniously to second each other; and to enable one to destroy, what another may overlook or be unable to reach. The repeal of the Usury Laws will benefit largely a part of the rich, while it will do comparatively small injury to the remainder; but it will injure the rest of the community in proportion to their want of riches, and it will have the most pestilential effects on the interests of the most needy. It is a measure to sacrifice the body of the population, to a few indi viduals.
number of individuals. Here again According, therefore, to the confesthey stand on the exception to the sion of the usurers, laws ought to be rule. They do not assert that during destroyed, which are only injurious in war the laws injure borrowers in ge- the exception and the special case. On neral; they merely maintain that they the ground that the exception and the injure an insignificant portion of them. special case should be followed instead Again they stand on the exception to of the general rule, eternity should be the rule. Do they prove that the laws disregarded for the sake of the passing prevent lenders from making just and moment, the body should be sacrifi equitable profits? They cannot, forced to the individual, and the sepa it is notorious that no regular trade will afford more than 5 per cent for borrowed money: we doubt whether at present any such trade will fairly afford 5 per cent; land will never af ford more than 3 or 4 per cent; farming, when times are good, will scarce ly afford 5 per cent, and in these days we fear it will not afford anything. It is manifest that if the lenders could obtain more than the legal rate, they would deprive the borrowers of their just and equitable profits: it would be the gain of the few, to the loss of the many. The usurers cannot say that business in general will afford more than 5 per cent; and they can only aver that occasional speculations will. Again they stand on the exception, and a very indefensible one, to the rule. They own that in gene ral during peace, the lenders cannot obtain the legal rate, and they cannot deny that if the latter could always obtain a higher rate, it would be ex tremely injurious to the mass of the community and the interests of the empire. They cannot prove that in times of trading distress, the mer chants and manufacturers can afford to pay more than 5 per cent; or that in time of war the mortgage borrowers can afford to pay more; on the con trary, it is notorious to all, that if in either case more be paid, it is paid, not out of profits, but out of capital; it is at the best, the incurring of one loss, to avoid another. The whole they promise in the way of benefit is in reality this-In general none shall be benefitted; occasionally a few shall be benefitted, by being allowed to choose one loss instead of another, at the risk of grievously injuring the many. A little litigation shall be prevented, a little expense shall be saved, a few bankruptcies shall be avoided, certain estates shall be preserved from the hammer, and a small number of money lenders shall be permitted to make large profits, no matter what evils it may bring on the community and the empire.
Before this article will see the light, the question, as far as appear ances go, will be decided in the House of Commons; and we think it will be decided as we have described. How it will fare in the House of Lords, is a matter on which we will offer no con jecture. This House may, like the Lower One, rush to the most perilous conclusions, on no better evidence than erring abstract propositions; it may, like the literary teachers of the Lower One, decide measures to be wise and necessary, merely because they emanate from this individual or that party, or one dubbed with this or that gorgeous party appellative; it may, in imitation of the great egotists of the age, pronounce laws to be pernicious, because they have been longer than five years in existence, and have never been sanctioned by those whose legis
lation has filled the empire with evils: -it may do all this, but we hope it will do something far more consistent with justice and wisdom. We hope it will decide at once, that no case--that not the shadow of a case-has been produced to justify the repeal; and that reason and experience are wholly in favour of the Usury Laws. If it will not do this, we hope that, at the least, it will institute an inquiry altogether different from that of 1818. Parliamentary inquiries, when proper ly conducted, yield vast benefits; but when improperly conducted, they yield only delusion and evil. It has been asserted, that of the twenty-one witnesses, who were examined touching the Usury Laws, by the committee in 1818, two were lawyers, nine were attorneys, six were merchants, and one was a stockjobber. Now, in the name of common sense, ought the evidence of witnesses like these-witnesses having, in their own estimation, a deep personal interest in the repeal-to decide the question? They gave no information touching several essential parts of the question, and on other essential parts, they gave no inforination that was satisfactory. The committee acted, as Parliamentary committees too often act: it was led by those whose object was, not to collect facts to enable them to make a just decision, but to collect evidence to support a decision which they had made previously. If the Lords find themselves compelled to institute an enquiry, let it be a proper one; let it embrace the interests of all classes of borrowers, and particularly of those which are the most numerous and valuable; and let it apply chiefly to facts, without attaching too much importance to individual opinions.
We will conclude with saying a few words to the Duke of Wellington, who, we think, is not publicly pledged against the Usury Laws: they flow from that spirit which prompted us, not many months ago, on more than one occasion, to employ our pen in his favour. We are the friends of him and his Ministry, but we are not their
menials; our limbs were not made for fetters, and we neither have had nor will have cause to regret it; we are sure we shall render far more service to they do what is calculated to work both by steadily opposing them when their own injury, than by daubing all their measures with panegyric. It has been most truly said, that the Duke enjoys a greater share of public confijoyed since the days of Mr Pitt. Does dence than any other Minister has enhe know why the country reposes this confidence in him?
Is it on account
of his splendid military talents and his past political labours? No, he services? No! Is it on account of never before was placed in a situation to acquire fame as a statesman. It is because the country HOPES that he right manner-it is because the counwill employ his great powers in the try believes him to be a man of busiter whose acute, solid, straight-forness, a practical statesman-a Minisward understanding will terminate that system of frantic quackery and destructive experiment, from which it has suffered so long and so deeply. On ceive himself. If he continue this systhis momentous point, let him not detem, he will soon be as little confided in by the country as any Minister ever surround him in abundance. What was, since the death of Mr Pitt. Proofs stripped such a Ministry as the Liverpool one of public confidence in the latter days of its existence, in spite of ped Mr Canning of public confidence nearly the whole Press? What stripwhen he was made the Premier, in spite of nearly the whole Press? Why pieces by public contempt and deriwas the Goderich Ministry shook to sion, in spite of the chief part of the Press? And why has the retirement matter of national rejoicing? The anof Mr Huskisson been made almost a swers to these questions are pregnant with instruction to his Grace, of inesthem what his duty is, touching the timable value; and he may find in Usury Laws. They may suggest to him that this duty is—
To DECLARE THAT HE WILL NOT COUNTENANCE SPECULATIVE CHANGES
BRIEF REMARKS ON A LATE LONG DEBATE IN THE HOUSE OF COMMONS.
I am going to say something new upon the Catholic Question. Nay, suppress that incredulous laugh, my worthy friend; I am very serious, I assure you: I love a joke as well as most people, but I can be serious too upon awful occasions. I think I would have been serious in contemplating the ruins of what had been London, just after the great fire in the year sixteen hundred and something, and I am sure I am serious after reading three long long nights' debate upon the Catholic Question. I well know what a tedious tough subject I have got to deal with-'tis like a piece of Indian rubber, and drag it out to what length you may, even to the length of three nights' debate, the moment it slips from your fingers, slap it goes back again to its old place and dimensions. I do not mean, however, to grapple with the great question upon its own merits, if any it have; but I have something to say about the three nights' debate, which hath not before been said or sung; and in the course of my brief remarks, I hope to expose some of the fallacies which are but too commonly attendant upon the consideration of the Roman Catholic claims.
The first thing that strikes me, from a view of the debate, is that this question is considered and argued throughout as an Irish question. This is perhaps natural enough, from the very important share which Ireland has in it; but still I cannot help thinking it rather hard on the English Roman Catholics, that their claims should be lost sight of in the wide and boisterous sea of Irish politics;first, because whatever has anything to do with Ireland is pretty sure to go wrong-the course of Irish affairs, like that of love, 66 never did run smooth ;" and next, because the Eng lish Roman Catholics are a much more respectable, better-behaved class of subjects than are the Irish, and there fore more deserving of being favourably regarded. This claim, by the by, on the ground of good behaviour, seems to be entirely lost sight of by the Irish Catholics, or to be thrown by as a thing not worth regarding. No, no, they are an organized, rent-paying, seditious-speech-making people; quite above so homely a means
of obtaining emancipation, as that of endeavouring to deserve it. They will terrify the English nation into submission; and, with shame be it said, they find people in the British Senate with folly sufficiently monstrous to echo this sentiment. How miserably short-sighted is this policy. How inadequately, how falsely do they judge of the English nation, who suppose it is to be bullied, or to be frightened, into anything. We were not fright ened when all Europe stood in arms against us, led on by the unquenchable hatred, and lofty abilities of Bonaparte; and shall we give way to the menaces of the Irish Papists ?
"Oh," but say the Catholic advocates in general, and the Times news◄ paper in particular, "this is all very fine talk; you may pretend to be of fended at intimidation, but we say the enemy is at the gate, and however galling it may be to your pride, you must yield to their menaces, or they will compel you after a fashion, to you still more humiliating." Good God! is it not enough to rouse the anger, the loud determined opposition of every English heart, to hear such a falsehood as this put forth in order to influence his vote, Falsehood! I wish I could find a stronger word. It is impossible to conceive anything more false. There is no enemy, nor number of enemies, in Ireland or elsewhere, that England is not able to meet and to defeat, if they attempt to force her to do that which she is unwilling to yield. The Irish Papists force England! Ridiculous!—But I return to the debate.
The Catholic advocates rested their claims upon two grounds, that of the obligation of treaties, and that of expediency; which two were subdivided into,-claims founded on the Treaty of Limeric, claims founded on the pledges given at the Union, the expediency of doing something to relieve the dreadful state of Ireland, and the expediency of giving the Irish Roman Catholics what they asked, to prevent them rising up, and taking it by violence.
The fate of the first two arguments was ridiculous enough, considering the pompous manner and the lengthy speech with which they were introduced. Sir Francis Burdett informed
his auditory that the case of the petitioners rested upon two grounds, the Treaty of Limeric, and the pledges entered into at the Union. He assu red the honourable members, that he should establish the violation of the one and of the other; and on this ground he called for their decision in his favour. Then he talks on for six columns good measure, addressing himself to these topics, and to these topics only, and subjoins, that "this is the case on the part of the Roman Catholics," and he hopes and trusts he has made it out to the satisfaction of the House. Such was the Quinbus Flestrin of the Catholic claims which Sir Francis set up, adorning his champion with a curious quilted garment, composed of numerous irrelevant quotations, pedantically culled from all manner of Latin authors. But lo! on the third day of the debate we find him genubus minor, down on his knees, cheated of his fair proportions, biting the dust, with North, and Huskisson, and Brougham, (et tu, Brute!) pelting him into contempt and derision. Mr North, while he takes up the helmet of necessity, and the sword of expediency, hopes that the advocates of this measure will never again found any argument upon such untenable footing as the Treaty of Limeric, or the Articles of Union, and deeply de plores that these shambling legs were ever allowed to put their foot into the debate. Mr Huskisson most unkindly protests that he agrees not in Sir Francis's view of these questions, but in Mr Peel's, and the Solicitor-General's; but Winchelsea Harry gives the unkindest cut of all, by hastening to say, that though he still thinks there are perhaps some ambiguities, which might be favourably construed, he will not drag back the honourable members to the consideration of arguments, which are now below par on every side of the House. Such was the fate of this grand case, ushered in with so pompous an air of irrefragability. These notable arguments, which occupied the attention of the House of Commons of the United Kingdom for the greater part of two nights' debate, are on the third abandoned by all as too absurd and ridiculous to be worth any consideration in the question at issue.
Nor is there any wonder in this, but rather in the extraordinary front
of the men who could venture to bring forward such arguments upon such a subject. As to the treaty of Limeric, clear as the case is against the construction sought to be put upon it by Sir Francis and some of his friends, yet he might perhaps have expected that, from the remoteness of its date, he should be able, notwithstanding the presence of Mr Peel and the Solicitor General, to make something of the “ambiguities," as Mr Brougham was pleased to call them, which must attend the circumstances of a treaty made in a disturbed country nearly. 140 years ago. But to attempt to argue the House into what Mr Pitt's pledge was at the Union, while those were still living and sitting in the House, who had heard Mr Pitt declare, in words as plain as words could be, that no pledge at all was given-this, indeed, was a stretch of oratorical audacity that Sir Francis and the Knight of Kerry have some reason to take credit for. I shall pass over the indecent attack of Sir Francis upon the venerable ornament of the Upper House of Parliament, the late Lord Chancellor. If he be not himself sorry and ashamed by this time that he was betrayed into such indecency, Sir Francis is not the man I took him for. With all the vio lence of his party spirit, I thought he possessed some of the good feelings of the class to which he belongs, and as one of the landed gentlemen of Eng land, I believed him incapable of the low malignity which a deliberate approbation of his own language concerning the late Lord Chancellor would indicate.
Another matter seemingly rather out of the record, into which Sir Francis thought proper to travel after the six columns on the treaty and the pledges were got over, was the "scandal about Queen Elizabeth;" for if she indeed had displayed any favour or affection for the Roman Catholic body, she would have shewn herself a very foolish old woman, and not what she most certainly was, one of the greatest sovereigns that ever a great people was blessed withal. How sickening it is to hear such stuff talked in the House of Commons! Who does not know, that Elizabeth, (glory and ho nour to her memory,) after a long and patient endurance of Popish plots for her assassination, for insurrection, and invasion, was at length compelled to
make root and branch-work with the Papists, after a fashion consistent with the vigour of her character. There is a curious and interesting treatise still extant, known by the style and title of Hume's History of England, which, notwithstanding the more modern and shining lights, afforded by Doctors Lingard and Hallam, is still much read, and most potently believed by the major part of the reading popula tion of this kingdom. Now this Hume flatly affirms, that after the seminary of Rheims pronounced, in its wisdom, that the Pope's bull, excommunicating and deposing Elizabeth, was dic tated by the immediate inspiration of the Holy Spirit, and after they had sent cargoes of ecclesiastics to her dominions to preach up sedition, and treason, and murder, the Queen found it expedient to hang up fifty Popish priests, and to banish a yet greater number, within a very few years, for the good of the nation, and the security of her Majesty's government. That this terrible woman, whom Sir Francis would impose on them for a wise and magnanimous confider in Papists, actually declared to her Parliament, that she considered the Romanists inveterate enemies to her person; and obtained their concurrence to a law by which the exercise of the Roman Catholic religion, was now at length totally suppressed. That the law for the capital punishment of priests, and of such as harboured them, was enacted and executed on account of the treasonable views and attempts of the Roman Catholic sect, and did not require any other overt act of treason to be proved against the individuals who suffered the penalty. So much for the love and regard which the good Queen Bess bore to the Papists.
It may, moreover, be found in the narrative of the same Hume, that up to the period of the Revolution, celebrating, or attending mass, was an indictable offence; that during the reign of Charles II., "the old persecuting laws of Elizabeth," as the liberal historian expresses it, "still subsisted in their full vigour," and that the immunities which the law now guarantees to Roman Catholics, in the exercise of their religion, are as much superior to the privileges they were entitled to, in Charles the II.'s reign, as the temporal power of the Pope was then superior to what it is now.
It is now time to come to the other branch of the argument of the Roman Catholic advocates, as applied to the present state of Ireland. I am interested in the welfare of Ireland, and I know the country well. With that interest and that knowledge I do not hesitate to pronounce the late descriptions of its present state, the most astoundingly audacious artifice to carry a measure by storm that ever was at tempted to be palmed upon the country. It was worthy of the ferocious genius of the Times newspaper, which boasts, I believe, the honour or the infamy of the device. If any English gentleman, who does not much concern himself about the peculiar affairs of Ireland, and there are many of the worthiest to whom the description will apply, could bring himself to believe one tittle of the representations he listened to on that debate, representations, too, made by men who had an opportunity of knowing and judging of the truth, he must have carried away with him an impression of the existing state of Ireland, so grossly exaggerated, as to lose all resemblance to a true picture, in the mis-shapen proportions of a hideous caricature.
It is very unfortunate for the reputation of Ireland, that those who are pleased to be oratorical upon her pofitical and domestic condition, to whatever party they may belong, think they find their account in magnifying with all the force of their eloquence, that which is bad in the country, and lightly passing over the other parts of the picture. The Roman Catholic advocate says, "look at the dreadful state of the country, and then if you can," or some say, "if you dare, refuse that emancipation, which is the only cure."-The opponent of the Catholic claims draws a similar picture of the dreadful state of the country, but founds an opposite argument upon it, and asks, "will you place power in the hands of wretches so wicked and ferocious?"-And these worthy people, irreverently ycleped saints, shocked at the Popish superstitions, describe Ireland as the very sink of all that is corrupt and abominable, and call upon their brethren to subscribe for Bibles and other good books, to send some of the light of religious knowledge into a place where the most horrible deeds are continually enacting under cover of the thick cloud of