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T. Lingray, junior, 1,500, and made usher at the Castle. CHAPTER XV. THE REIGN OF VICTORIA (continued).

Previous to this, however, Chatham had thought over several decisive measures, and sketched out a scheme of foreign and domestic policy, which marked how far above the intellectual grasp of most of his contemporaries was that of his mind. He determined, if possible, to form an alliance of European states against the Family Compact of the Bourbons in France and Spain; to reform the Government of Ireland, which greatly needed it, and that of India.

It was thought time to put a stop to such[559] proceedings, and several of the leaders were arrested, namely, Messrs. Ernest Jones, John Fussell, J. Williams, A. Sharpe, and Y. Vernon. They were committed for sedition, but bail was accepted. At Ashton-under-Lyne, Birmingham, Liverpool, and other places, Chartist and confederate disturbances took place. The police hunted up their leaders, and in some towns seized the papers of the clubs as well as the pikes and fire-arms which they had concealed. There had, in fact, been an extensively ramified conspiracy, the headquarters of which were in the metropolis. On the 11th of August the police, acting upon information they had received, assembled at the station in Tower Street, 700 strong, and suddenly marched to the Angel Tavern in Webber Street, Blackfriars. Surrounding the house, Inspector Butt entered, and found fourteen Chartist leaders in deliberation. In a few minutes they were all quietly secured, and marched to Tower Street. On searching the place the police found pistols loaded to the muzzle, swords, pikes, daggers, and spear-heads, also large quantities of ammunition. Upon one man were found seventy-five rounds of ball cartridge. Some of the prisoners wore iron breastplates. Similar visits were paid to houses in Great Ormond Street, Holborn, and York Street, Westminster, with like results. In the last place the party got notice and dispersed before the police arrived. One man, leaping out of a window, broke his leg. Tow-balls were found amongst them; and from this and other circumstances it was believed they intended to fire the public buildings and to attack the police in every part of London. The whole of the military quartered in London were under arms on the night of the threatened attack, and an unbroken line of communication was kept up between the military and the different bodies of police. Twenty-five of the leaders were committed for felony, bail being refused; their principal leader being a man named Cuffey. Washington saw almost with despair the condition of the American army; any other man would have despaired of it altogether. He wrote to Congress that nothing could make soldiers trustworthy but longer terms of service; that, in fact, they ought to be engaged for the whole war, and subjected to a rigid and constant discipline. He complained that the soldiers were much bolder in plundering than fighting; and one of his officers observed that the Pennsylvanian and New England troops would as soon fight each other as the enemy. His Adjutant-General, Reed, declared that discipline was almost impossible amid such a levelling spirit as prevailed. These startling facts made Congress begin in earnest to look out for foreign aid. In the meantime, it voted that the army should be reorganised with eighty-eight[231] battalions, to be enlisted as soon as possible, and to serve during the war; each State to furnish its respective quota, and to name the officers as high as colonels. But Washington had soon to complain that they only voted, and did not carry the plan strenuously into action; that there was a mighty difference between voting battalions and raising men. The year 1812 opened, in England, by the assembling of Parliament on the 7th of January. The speech of the Regent was again delivered by commission. The great topic was the success of the war in Spain under Lord Wellington, whose military talents were highly praised. There was a reference also to the disagreements with America, and the difficulty of coming to any amicable arrangement with the United States. Lords Grey and Grenville, in the Peers, pronounced sweeping censures on the continuance of the war with France, and on the policy of Ministers towards America, from which source they prognosticated many disasters. In the Commons, the Opposition used similar language; and Sir Francis Burdett took a very gloomy view of our relations both with France and North America, and declared that we could anticipate no better policy until we had reformed our representative system.

Before this, however, the financial statement for the year had been made, and for awhile the Corn Law question was suspended for the country to recover from its astonishment at finding in the Minister of the Conservative party one of the boldest reformers of our tariff who had ever occupied the Ministerial benches. But yesterday his position had appeared one of the greatest difficulty, in which a cautious hold upon the established sources of revenue, with some well-balanced proposals for additional taxes, was all that could be expected. He had not the good fortune of Mr. Goulburn or Lord Althorp in having a surplus to dispose of. The Whig Government had bequeathed to their successors a deficit, which had been increasing from year to year, with a revenue falling off even in the face of new taxes. How[488] was the deficit to be met was the question which filled the mouths of public men; a question which was answered by the famous financial statement of Sir Robert Peel on the 11th of March. After showing that the deficiency for the coming year would be little short of 2,500,000, and that this deficiency might be expected to be considerably augmented by the position of affairs in India and China, the Minister declared that he would not consent to resort to the miserable expedient of continual loans. He declared that he would not attempt to impose burdens upon the labouring classes, and that if he did, recent experience had shown that they would be defeated. In fact, the country had arrived at the limits of taxation upon articles of consumption. After ridiculing the various suggestions of people who were constantly sending him projects for taxes on pianofortes, umbrellas, and other articles, accompanied with claims of very large percentages upon the proceeds, he acknowledged the principle laid down by financiers that increased revenue may be obtained by taking off the taxes which pressed upon industry, but declared that the first effect was always a diminution in revenue, and that time was found necessary to restore the amount. In these circumstances, he stated what the measure was which, under a deep conviction of its necessity, he was prepared to propose, and which, he was persuaded, would benefit the country, not only in her pecuniary interests, but in her security and character. His scheme was this: he proposed, for a period to be limited, an income tax of not more than 3 per cent., from which he would exempt all incomes under 150, and in which he would include not only landed but funded property. Sir Robert Peel calculated that the tax would yield 3,350,000 a year, a sum which, with an addition to the spirit duties in Ireland, and an export duty of 4s. on coals, would not only cover the existing deficiency, but enable him to remit indirect taxes to the amount of 1,200,000. The sliding scale had brought little credit to the Minister, and the income tax was in its nature an unpopular measure; but the proposal to reduce the custom duties on 750 out of the 1,200 articles in the tariffto remove prohibitions altogether (in itself a vast concession to Free Trade doctrines)to reduce the duties on raw materials of manufactures to five per cent. or lessto keep the duties on articles partially manufactured under twelve per cent., and on articles wholly manufactured under twenty per cent., was a scheme which excited general admiration. The measure was, indeed, contested by the Whig Opposition at every stage. The preliminary resolutions were debated for eight nights. There were many of Sir Robert Peel's old supporters who looked on the financial plan with distrust, as being founded, in a great measure, avowedly on those principles of political economy which they had been accustomed to sneer at; but, in truth, it was not unfavourable to the interests of their party. We have already seen that the new taxat least, if a temporary onewas calculated to impose a far greater burden upon the manufacturing and moneyed class than upon the landowners; in fact, by exempting incomes under 150 a year, and assessing land only upon its net rental, the burden was imposed almost entirely upon that middle class which was the especial object of the dislike of Tories of the more advanced kind. At the same time, by cheapening articles of general consumption, the Minister did something towards securing popularity among the working classes, who, as exemplified in the Chartist agitation, were not always disposed to take part against the landowners. The Income Tax Bill passed, after considerable opposition in the Commons. An amendment proposed by Lord John Russell was rejected by a vote of 302 to 202, and another amendment, proposing the reading of the Bill on that day six months, having been thrown out on the 18th of April by a vote of 285 to 188, the third reading was carried by a majority of 130 on the 30th of May. No debate took place in the Lords until the third reading, when the Bill passed by a majority of 71.