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The Reign of George III. - (Concluded.) page 21

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None of the princes who accepted oar protection benefited more than Sindhia. He was relieved from the insolence of haughty military chieftains, who commanded his armies, and left him as little free will as they left to his subjects quiet possession of their property. He was enabled to disband his vast armies, and reduce them to thirteen thousand infantry and nine thousand horse. His disbanded soldiers returned home, and became tillers of the land lately running into jungle, by which, and other influences of peace, his revenue was nearly doubled. All the districts wrested from him by the Pindarrees were restored to him; he lost only the mischievous fortress of Asseerghur. Sir John Malcolm cleared the country of the swarms of Arabs, and of Meckranees, from Meckran, in Persia, who had acquired a most formidable ascendancy in the armies of the Indian chiefs; and these chiefs were informed that again to employ these mercenary ruffians, or to allow them to remain on their territories, would be regarded as a declaration of hostility by the British government. Similar changes were introduced into the territories of the dethroned peishwa by the honourable Mountstuart Elphinstone, who resided at Poonah; and by the conquest of the Poonah territory, and by the treaty of Mundissoor, made by Sir John Malcolm after his great victory at Mehidpoor, and by exchanges made with Guicowar Rajah, and other arrangements, the British dominions were now linked together in one broad and continuous expanse, from Calcutta to Bombay, and from Bombay to Madras, as by the former Mahratta war they had been betwixt Madras and Calcutta.

If we were to believe figures, and the returns of exports and imports, and of duties paid, we must set down the opening of the year 1819 as considerably prosperous. This was the view which ministers took of the condition of the country when they met the new parliament on the 14th of January. The speculations which had been carried on during 1818 had swelled the revenue, and given an impression of growing commerce, which, unfortunately, did not exist. The results of these speculations of our imports of raw material, especially of cotton, and of extensive exports of manufactures to countries not yet sufficiently reinvigorated to purchase, had been producing numerous and heavy failures during the latter part of the past year, and which still continued in strange contrast to the self-congratulating language of ministers. In nothing was the fall of price so great as in cotton, and those who had bought largely suffered in proportion. These bankruptcies were not confined to this country; they extended to New York, and to southern ports of the United States, where the same speculation had been going on largely. We shall presently see how these circumstances operated on the labour-market, notwithstanding the roseate auguries of government.

Besides the flattering assurances of the steady improvident in commerce and manufactures, and, consequently, in the revenues, the regent's speech, read, as usual, by the lord chancellor, justly congratulated the country on the successful termination of the Pindarree war by the marquis of Hastings. It informed the two houses that a new treaty had been entered into with the United States for adjusting the différent points at issue between the two nations, not settled by the treaty of peace, and also for regulating the commerce between them. It announced the results of the congress at Aix-la-Chapelle, and that some new measures were required for the care of his majesty's person in consequence of the death of the queen. The address, in both houses, was carried almost pro forma. Mr. Manners Sutton was elected speaker of the commons by acclamation.

The new arrangements for the care of the king's person came on first for discussion. On the 25th of January lord Liverpool introduced a bill to make the duke of York custos of his majesty's person in place of the late queen. This question was decided with little debate. On the 4th of February a message was brought down from the regent informing the house of commons that, in consequence of the demise of her majesty, fifty-eight thousand pounds became disposable for the general purposes of the civil list; and recommending that the claims of her late majesty's servants to the liberality of the house should be considered. Lord Castlereagh moved that the house should go into committee on this subject, as, besides the fifty-eight thousand pounds, there was another sum of one hundred thousand pounds, which had been appropriated to the maintenance of the establishment au Windsor. It was understood that ministers would propose to reduce the sum for the establishment at Windsor to fifty thousand pounds, but that they -would recommend that ten thousand pounds, which her majesty had received in consideration of her charge of the king, should be transferred to the duke of York. Mr. Tierney objected to the charge of fifty thousand pounds for the maintenance of the establishment at "Windsor. He said he could not conceive how this money was to be spent, or on whom, for certainly it could not be on the king, who, he understood, was in that state of mental and bodily debility which made it necessary that as few persons as possible should be about him, and that his regimen was so very simple that it could cost next to nothing.

On the 22nd the commons went into committee on this subject, and Mr. Tierney then proposed that both the establishment at Windsor and the salary to the duke of York should be paid out of the privy purse or other private funds of the crown. There was a private property belonging to the crown of one hundred and forty thousand pounds a-year, and surely this was sufficient to defray the charge of the necessary care of the king's person. He reminded the house also of the sums which had been voted for the royal family since 1811. Besides fifty thousand pounds a-year set apart for the debts of the prince regent, he had a privy purse of sixty thousand pounds a-year, besides an additional grant of ten thousand pounds a-year made since. The king had also a privy purse of sixty thousand pounds a-year, with an additional revenue of ten thousand pounds from the duchy of Lancaster. Surely, out of all these sums, there must be ample means of taking care of the king's person. To all these very reasonable statements Mr. Peel - afterwards Sir Robert, who began his political career in the ranks of high toryism - replied that the duke of York would accept no salary which came from the privy purse, and he quoted Sheridan and Adam, old friends of the prince regent, and staunch whigs, who had zealously advocated the sacredness of the privy purse. This, which he probably expected would shame the opposition, only produced derisive cheers, which Mr. Peel assuming to be intended for Sheridan, who had been on and off with his party, he zealously defended him as one of the ablest supporters of the whig party which it ever had, and one of the greatest ornaments of the house. When the vote was taken for the disposal of the sum for the Windsor establishment it was carried by two hundred and eighty against one hundred and eighty-six, a sufficient proof that in the new parliament the government possessed a strong majority, and that this would remain the case till there was a thorough parliamentary reform. On the 25th the proposal to confer on the duke of York ten thousand. pounds per annum, for this charge of his own father's person, was also carried by a still larger majority - two hundred and forty-seven against one hundred and thirty-seven. In the debate, Denman and Brougham opposed the vote, and Canning supported it. In the house of peers lords Grey, Lansdowne, and other whig peers, opposed the vote of the ten thousand pounds to the duke of York. And truly, in private life, it would not have presented a very filial aspect for a man, already possessing a large income to require a great annual payment for discharging the simple duty of seeing that his aged father, a gentleman also of ample means, was well looked after.

A great portion of the present session was occupied with discussing the return to cash payments, which, by the act of parliament, ought to take place on the 5th of July of this year. It appears that no less than fifty debates and conversations in both houses took place on this important subject during the session. Very soon after the meeting of parliament a secret committee of each house was appointed to inquire into the state of the bank. These committees were, however, so managed, by delivering to the members lists of suitable persons for such committees, that scarcely any but ministerial men were voted, though these votes were given by ballot. In the commons this result was so evident that the opposition declined to vote at ail. The name of Mr. Brougham, indeed, was proposed, but rejected, though only by one hundred and seventy-five against one hundred and thirty-three votes. The first reports of the committees went rather to close more strictly than to open the issue of gold by the bank. It had been paying in gold its notes issued previous to January, 1817. This payment it was proposed to stop, as, at present, evidently injurious to the interests of the country. Mr. Peel, on moving for a bill for this purpose, stated that the gold at the present price was fast finding its way abroad, and was as rapidly absorbed in re-minting a gold coinage for France. It appeared, during the first half of 1818, that no less than one hundred and twenty-eight million francs had been coined at the French mint, of which three- fourths were understood to have been derived from the gold coinage of England. A bill was accordingly passed to stop payment altogether in gold till the necessary preparations were made by a fresh bill. Still, the condition of the bank was represented as flourishing. Its liabilities were stated in January, 1819, as amounting to thirty-three million eight hundred and ninety-four thousand five hundred and eighty pounds; its assets, including the debt due from government, fifty-three million seven hundred and eighty-three thousand seven hundred pounds. The total bank surplus appeared to be nineteen million eight hundred and eighty-nine thousand one hundred and twenty pounds; and its surplus, independent of the government debt, and therefore available for current use, was five million two hundred and two thousand three hundred and twenty pounds. The committee adopted the scheme broached by Mr. Ricardo in his " Proposals for an Economical and Secure Currency," published in 1816. This was that the bank, in the first instance, should not pay for its notes in gold coin, but in ingots of a certain weight, and its fineness attested by a stamp; and this degree of purity should be regulated from time to time till the gold descended to the mint price of three pounds seventeen shillings and tenpence-halfpenny per ounce. When the mint gold at length reached this rate of value, then the payment in coin was to be begun. Resolutions to this effect were moved by the earl of Harrowby on the 21st of May, and they received the approval, not only of the ministerial side, but of the leading opposition members, lords Grenville, Lansdowne, and King.

In the house of commons similar resolutions were moved on the 24th by Mr. Robert Peel, who, on this occasion, made the first of those candid admissions of new views, which he afterwards repeated on the question of catholic emancipation, and finally on the abolition of the Corn Laws. This eminent statesman, though beginning his career in the ranks of conservatism, had a mind capable of sacrificing prejudice to truth, though it was certain to procure him much obloquy and opposition from his former colleagues. He now frankly admitted that the evidence produced before the secret committee of the commons, of which he had been a member, had greatly changed his views regarding the currency, since in 1811 he opposed the resolutions of Mr. Horner, the chairman of the bullion committee. He now believed the doctrines of Mr. Horner to be mainly sound, and to represent the true nature of our monetary system; and, whilst making this confession, lie had only to regret that he was compelled by his convictions to vote in opposition to the opinions of his venerated father. Several modifications were proposed during the debate, which occupied two evenings, by Messrs. Edward Ellis, Crips, &c., but there appeared so much unanimity in the house that no alterations were made, and the resolutions passed without a division. The resolutions were to this effect: - That the restrictions on cash payments should continue till the 1st of May, 1822. That, meantime, the house should make provision for the gradual payment of ten millions of the fourteen millions due from the government to the bank. That, from the 1st of February, 1820, the bank should take up its notes in gold ingots, stamped and assayed in quantities of not less than sixty ounces, and at a rate of eighty-one shillings per ounce. After the 1st of October of the same year the rate of gold should be reduced to seventy-nine shillings and sixpence per ounce; and again on the 1st of May, 1821, the price should be reduced to seventy-seven shillings and tenpence halfpenny per ounce; and at this rate of gold, on the 1st of May, 1822, the bank should finally commence paying in the gold coin of the realm. Bills to this effect were introduced into both houses by the chancellor of the exchequer and Mr. Peel, and were readily passed; and such was the flourishing condition of the bank that it did not wait for the full operation of the act, but commenced paying in coin to any amount on the 1st of May, 1821.

Simultaneously with the sitting of the committees on the resumption of cash payments, a select committee of the commons was also sitting, at the instance, of lord Castlereagh, to inquire into the State of the national income and expenditure. This was agreed to on the report of this committee being presented on the 3rd of June; the chancellor of the exchequer stated on its authority that, since 1815, taxation had been reduced eighteen million pounds per annum; that in 1816 the revenue of Great Britain and Ireland had been Consolidated, and that, at that time, the interest of the debt of Ireland, including the sinking fund provided for its reduction, exceeded the entire revenue of that part of the United Kingdom by one million nine hundred thousand pounds. He then announced that supplies for the present year would be required to the amount of twenty million five hundred thousand pounds; that the existing revenue would only furnish seven million pounds towards this; and that it would be necessary to have recourse to the sinking fund to make up the deficiency of thirteen million five hundred thousand pounds. This sinking fund was fifteen million five hundred thousand pounds, so that it would leave only two million pounds; but as it was necessary to have a tolerable surplus in hand to meet exigencies, it was proposed to raise this reserve fund to five million pounds by fresh taxes to the amount of three million pounds.

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