Notes on the Anti-Corn Law Struggle/Chapter 2
THOMAS PERRONET THOMPSON.
General Thomas Perronet Thompson was born at Hull on the 15tli of March, 1783. He was the eldest of three sons of Thomas Thompson, a merchant and banker of that town, and for several years M. P. for Midhurst, a borough which, before the Reform Bill of 1832, belonged to his partner Robert Smith, created Baron Carrington of Upton, Co. Notts, October 20th, 1797. In October, 1798, Thomas Perronet Thompson commenced keeping terms at Queen's College, Cambridge, and took his B.A. degree after keeping the requisite number of terms. His name appears in the Cambridge University Calendar in the list of honours for the year 1802, as Seventh Wrangler. The name of his youngest brother, Charles Wilham Thompson, appears in the same Calendar for 1805, as Seventh Senior Optime. Notwithstanding this difference of rank in the Cambridge list of honours, the Seventh Wrangler always spoke of his brother Charles as a man very superior to himself in ability.
Charles William Thompson was Travelling Bachelor of Queen's, and Lieutenant and Captain in the 1st Foot Guards. He was killed in action near Biarritz in the South of France on the 12th December, 1813. He was standing at the head of his company, who were kneeling and firing at a house occupied by the French, who were tiring also. The Serjeant of Captain Thompson's company suggested to his officer that he should also kneel. He did so, and immediately after a ball went through his brain. Lieutenant Thomas Perronet Thompson, "in the irresistible desire of seeing his face once more," says General C. W. Thompson in his Obituary Notice of his father—but, as stated in a letter which I have seen, part of the inducement was the desire of recovering a small bit of gold which he wore attached to a piece of ribbon—had him taken up a few days after and re-interred in the garden of the Mayor of Biarritz, where he rests with two other officers of the same regiment, over whose graves the owner of the garden has placed a stone with an appropriate French inscription.
General Perronet Thompson's father was averse to his eldest son's entering the Naval Service, and he made it a condition of his giving his consent that his son should first make a voyage in one of his ships from Hull to the Mediterranean. The youth accordingly made a voyage in a certain brig, which from the General's not unfrequently alluding to his first voyage in that brig was called by some of his children "the celebrated brig." The General's life had been a most adventurous one, and like the old Hetman of the Ukraine he might sometimes "track his seventy years of memory back." In regard to the "celebrated brig," one story I remember was that in the Adriatic they were on the point of being attacked by a pirate and had made the best preparations they could for resistance when something occurred—probably the appearance of an English ship of war—which made the pirates retreat.
I may add that if he, like other men after a life not only long but adventurous, had many memories of the past which he was apt to recall to himself and others, he told his stories or anecdotes with clearness, conciseness and point. One anecdote I will attempt to give from memory in the General's own words, the rather that a person to whom he had told it gave it in a newspaper in a form which spoiled it. At one of Mr. Wilberforce's elections a body of his supporters had followed him to his own house, shouting "Wilberforce for ever." Seeing a young lady at oiae of the windows, they shouted " Miss Wilberforce for ever," to which she immediately replied —"God forbid! gentlemen, God forbid!" The report of this slight anecdote in the newspaper represented the young lady as making a speech to the "Worthy and Independent Electors" after the orthodox form of an Election Address before the passing of the Reform Bill of 1832; and is about as near truth as the stories told by the celebrated Mr. Pell of the Pickwick Papers, a practitioner in the London Insolvent Court, who represented himself as standing so high in the estimation of the Lord Chancellor, that his lordship said, "Mr. Pell, you are an honour to your profession—you could get any man through the Insolvent Debtors' Court."
Indeed the reporter of this anecdote in the newspaper, reminds one of a writer who professed to be acquainted with a certain attorney who has been supposed to be Mr. Pell of the Pickwick Papers, according to the description of Mr. Weller, senior, who gives the following extract from Mr. Pell's conversation:—
"The late Lord Chancellor, gentlemen," said Pell, "was very fond of me. … I remember dining with him on one occasion: there was only us two, but everything as splendid as if twenty people had been expected; the great seal on a dumb-waiter at his right hand, and a man in a bag- wig and suit of armour guarding the mace with a drawn sword and silk stockings, which is perpetually done, gentlemen, night and day."
In 1803, after having when a youth under nineteen obtained the degree of Seventh Wrangler, he sailed as a midshipman in the "Isis," of fifty guns, the flag-ship of Vice- Admiral Gambler, afterwards Lord Gambler. Being rather under the average height he nearly lost his life from having been unable to obtain the support intended to be given by the rope under the yard-arm from the outer extremity, of which he had to make his way—so that he said he was so exhausted that he thought he should have to let go his hold and drop into the sea. In the following year he was elected to a Fellowship at Queen's, "a sort of promotion," he remarked, "which has not often gone along with the rank and dignity of a midshipman." At Portsmouth in September, 1805, he saw Nelson embark on board the "Victory," for Trafalgar, which closed the prospect of active service in the Navy. In 1806 he joined the "old 95th Rifles" as a second lieutenant. In the Spring of 1808 he was sent, at the age of twenty-five, as Governor to Sierra Leone, through the influence of Mr. Wilberforce, an early friend of his father's. During the eighteen months that Lieutenant Thompson was Governor of Sierra Leone he had fourteen fevers; and also had a narrow escape with his life from the claws of a panther that he kept as a pet—a sort of successor to a Greenland bear which he kept when a boy at Cattingham, his father's house between Hull and Beverley. As he related the incident to me, some one had given the panther the whole carcase of a kid with which the panther retired into the council-room which was unoccupied. The Governor went into the council-room and took the kid from the panther which did not make much resistance; but walked quietly two or three times round the room, and then suddenly sprung upon the Governor who had taken the carcase of the kid from it. After a struggle they came down together, and the Governor said he felt the claws of the panther upon his shins as if they were razors. Fortunately some persons came to his assistance, and the panther was prevented from doing further mischief.
In 1811 he joined the 14th Light Dragoons in Spain as lieutenant, and was present at the actions of Nivelle, Nive, Orthes, and Toulouse, for which he received the Peninsular War-medal with four clasps. During the campaign of 1814, he was taken off regimental duty and attached to the staff of General (afterwards Sir Henry) Fane, of whose kindness and ability he preserved a grateful recollection. "Some old Dragoons, discharged on eightpence a day," he writes in a passage which T quote from an Obituary Notice of him written by his second son. General Charles William Thompson, and printed in the Obituary Notices of the Royal Society, No. 116, 1869, "may remember that he was a careful leader of a patrol, a good looker-out on piquet, could feel a retiring enemy, and carry off a sentry for proof, as well as another, a great hater of punishment, and a man of very small baggage, consisting of something like a spare shirt and an Arabic grammar."
Captain Thompson—he was promoted at the peace of 1814—exchanged into the 17th Light Dragoons serving in India. In 1819 he accompanied Sir William Grant Keir as Arabic interpreter to the Expedition against the Wahabees of the Persian Gulf. When the main body of the Expedition returned to Bombay, he was left in charge of Râs al Khyma, with eleven hundred men, Sepoys with a detachment of European Artillery.
It was not the intention to introduce here any of the details of General Perronet Thompson's active career, except those connected with his exertions for the repeal of the Corn Laws. There is, however, one incident of his military life which may be glanced at as throwing some light on the late fighting in the Soudan. His son. General Charles William Thompson, in a letter to me dated 28th March, 1884, says:—
"The accounts of the late fighting in the Soudan, especially of Baker Pasha's defeat on 4th February, remind me strongly of my father's description of the way in which the Sepoys 'ran like sheep,' after firing their muskets in the air, and in many cases allowing the Arabs to drag them out of the ranks by their cross belts with one hand, and cut them down with the other—as if afraid of enraging them by resistance. I see that someone else has been struck by the resemblance, and has published a letter which I send, and which you can keep if you like, as I hare another copy. It is fairly written and pretty correct, except a few mistakes which I have corrected in the margin, without altering the text."
The letter referred to is headed by General C. W. Thompson "15th March, 1884." The slip of printed paper containing the letter is headed "Letters to The Standard]]—A forgotten page of History." The letter commences thus—"C. R. Low, author of the 'History of the Indian Navy,' writes:—
"The British public appears surprised at the reckless gallantry of the Desert Arabs; but the actions of El Teb and Tamati are not the first in which our troops have been engaged in close and deadly conflict with the Arab race. By a strange coincidence also it was the 1st Tork and Lancaster (then known as the 65th Regiment), that before took a prominent part in the sanguinary fighting."
In the following passage of the letter, I have availed myself of General C. W. Thompson's corrections which he has made in the margin, without altering the text. The letter as corrected thus proceeds:—
"In 1820, the Beni-Boo-Ali Arabs, who inhabit the country near Ras-ul-Had, in Arabia, having committed some excesses, a force of three hundred and twenty Bombay Sepoys, with four guns, manned by European Artillerymen, and about two thousand troops of the Imaum of Mascat, under command of Captain (the late General) Perronet Thompson, of the I7th Dragoons, the Political Resident in the Persian Gulf, landed on the Arabian coast and marched inland to inflict chastisement on the Arabs. On the 9th November, the opposing forces came into conflict, and the Arabs broke into the British column wheeling into line, and a terrible scene of slaughter took place. Six out of eight officers engaged and two hundred and seventy men were slain, besides the loss suffered by the forces of the Imaum, who was himself wounded while endeavouring to save an Artilleryman, for which Act of gallantry the -General of India presented his Highness with a magnificent sword. The Bombay Government speedily despatched an Expedition, under Sir Lionel Smith, consisting of one thousand seven hundred Sepoys and one thousand three hundred European soldiers, including the 65th Regiment, the 1st Bombay Fusiliers, a troop of Horse Artillery, and an Indian Naval Brigade, with guns. On the 10th February, 1821, the Arabs made a night attack on the British camp (similar to what was attempted, with ill success, on Wednesday last), in which our loss was one officer and sixteen men killed, and three officers, including Brigadier Cox, and twenty-three men wounded. On the 2nd March took place the decisive action, when the Arabs sought to repeat their tactics of charging the British square, broadsword and target in hand. But the 65th and 7th Native Infantry, forming the Right Brigade, on whom the main attack was directed, proved steady, and repelled the Arabs, who, out of less than one thousand warriors, left five hundred on the field, the British loss being twenty-nine killed and one hundred and seventy-three wounded."
Such is the account of this affair given by the author of the History of the Indian Navy. I will now give the account of General Perronet Thompson, with annotations by his son, General Charles William Thompson, who was then a little boy, having been born in India, and can remember the Imâm with his hand in a sling on board ship afterwards.
A misunderstanding having arisen between the Bombay Government and the Arabs of Al Ashkarah on the coast of Oman, who had plundered certain boats, the former sent an order to Captain Thompson to act against them from Kishme in the event of their clearly appearing to be piratical, but to address a letter to them previously to any attack being made. This attempt at negotiation failing through the murder by the hostile tribe of the messenger bearing the letter, the injunction to communicate appeared to be fulfilled and answered. Military men will see the duty of acting with decision under these circumstances. Landing at Soor, on the Arabian coast, forty-six English miles from the town of the hostile tribe of Beni Bou Ali, Captain Thompson's small force of three hundred and twenty Sepoys and four guns was joined by the Imâm of Maskat with two thousand men of his own. The force of the enemy was reported to be nine hundred bearing arms. On the 9th of November, 1820, as the column was toiling through the sand, the hostile sheik, Mohammed Ben Ali, advanced to the attack, sword in hand. What followed is best described in Captain Thompson's own words, written in a private letter the next day:—
"The Arabs made the guns the point of attack, and advanced npon them. The instant I heard a shot from the light troops, which showed the Arabs to be in motion, I ordered the Sepoys to charge with the bayonet. Not a man moved forward. I then ordered them to fire. They began a straggling and ineffectual fire, aided by the Artillery, the Arabs all the while advancing brandishing their swords. The Sepoys stood till the Arabs were within fifteen yards, when they turned and ran. I immediately galloped to the point where the Sepoys were least confused, and endeavoured to make them stand; but they fired their muskets in the air and went off. The Imam's army began a fire of matchlocks, and went off as soon as the Arabs approached. I rode to the Imam and found him wounded. The people just ran like sheep. I saw some of the European Artillerymen and ran to endeavour to make them stand; but they were too few to do anything."
In the melee Captain Thompson was struck on the shoulder by a matchlock ball, which passed through coat and shirt, grazing the skin, as he used to say, "like the cut of a whip." The remnants of the force were rallied at the town of Beni Bou Hassan, about three miles from the scene of action, and after repulsing a night attack, were led back overland to Maskat by Captain Thompson in person, eight days after the fight.
There can be little doubt that the cause of Captain Thompson's defeat was the misbehaviour before the enemy of the officers and men under his command—though in the opinion of the court-martial—while he was "honourably acquitted" of the other charges—he was deserving of a reprimand for "having addressed an Official Report to Government, in which he unjustly, and without foundation, ascribed his defeat to the misbehaviour before the enemy of the officers and men under his command."
I will not presume to offer any opinion of my own on the question, but I will give from the letter of 28th March, 1884, already quoted, the words of a veteran soldier, respecting this case of an English officer having to lead troops who, instead of, like the English troops, as Wellington said, getting a man out of a mistake if he made one, would get a man who had made no mistake into a disaster which nearly broke his heart at the time, and left traces for life on his mind and spirits. There is this difference between the Government of India of 1820, and the English Government of 1883-4, that the Government of India of 1820 left Captain Perronet Thompson no option of engaging the Wahabees—Arabs of the Desert-with an army of Sepoys, while the English Government of 1883 left it to the option of Generals Hicks and Baker to engage the Soudan Arabs with an army of Egyptians who appear to be much lower in the scale of soldiers than Outram placed them. Napoleon used to say there were only two sorts of troops—good and bad. The Egyptians have proved themselves to belong to the latter category. Till lately little or nothing seems to have been known about them. The words I allude to are these:—
"I have often wondered what would have been the change (if any) in my father's career if he had been successful at Beni Bou Ali, as he deserved, after all the pains he took, and the coolness and science with which he endeavoured to check the Arab attack—and would have done so if the wretched Sepoys had only stood. But when they turned and fled at the approach of the enemy the chance was lost as completely as when a fencer's sword breaks in making a tour de force. I may be contradicted by the assertion that the Imam's troops in the field were not all natives of Maskat. If so, they were Arabs of a different breed from the Wahabees of Beni Bou Ali, who were a warlike and religious sect of Mahometan reformers, something like Cromwell's party as opposed to the Royalists. It strikes me to be a mistake to call the natives of the Soudan 'Arabs,' who are, strictly speaking, natives of Arabia and not Africa. They may be Mahometans or even Wahabees, but they are no more 'Arabs' than they are 'rebels,' though it suits the newspapers to call them so."
I was desirous of obtaining General C. W. Thompson's opinion respecting the difference observable between the Arabs of the desert and the natives of Maskat; and writing to him on the subject I received the letter, part of which I have already quoted; and the part of which I now quote seems to explain the apparent inconsistency. He says:—
"I think it will be found on inquiry that the natives of Maskat subject to the Imam (from whom my mother and I met with much kindness and civility more than sixty years ago, both on shore and afloat) were, and probably are, a very different race from the Arabs and Wahabees of the desert—much more civilized, commercial, and peaceable than the latter; less rude, ferocious and bigoted, and less inclined to risk their own or their neighbours' lives in any quarrel, religious or political, whatever. A corps of two thousand of them led by the Imam in person, and comparatively disciplined, were with my father at Beni Bou Ali on the 9th November, 1820, and although they did not run away like the Sepoys, and the Imam displayed great gallantry in endeavouring to save a European Artilleryman, in doing which the Imam was shot through the hand (I can remember him with his hand in a sling on board ship afterwards)—yet his Maskat troops showed no anxiety to retrieve the day, and many of the friendly sheikhs who had joined them on the march began to drop off in a manner that enforced the retreat of the remainder, and the abandonment of the Expedition."
In 1822, his regiment being ordered home, Captain Thompson returned with his wife and child by the Red Sea, the Nile, Cairo and Alexandria, Italy, and France. More than a year was consumed in reaching England. In 1827 he was promoted to a majority in the 65th Regiment, then in Ireland, and in 1829 to an unattached lieutenant-colonelcy of Infantry. His subsequent promotions bore date—colonel, 1846; major-general, 1854; lieutenant-general, 1860; and general, 1868.
When General Thompson returned to England, he devoted his attention to Political Economy, and in 1826 published a work under the title of "An Exposition of Fallacies on Rent, Tithes," &c. This work he republished in 1827 under the title of "The True Theory of Rent," in opposition to Mr. Ricardo and others. This work will be found in the fourth volume (p. 399 et seq.) of General Thompson's writings, published in 1843 in six volumes, under the title of "Exercises, Political and Others. By Lieut.-Colonel T. Perronet Thompson."
John Stuart Mill who—though some have thought him inferior in mental power to his father, James Mill—certainly on some, indeed, on many, subjects saw farther than his father, showed his superiority in mental vision in this matter. The pamphlet of Colonel Thompson, above-mentioned, in the first edition was described as " An Exposition of Fallacies on Rent, Tithes, &c., in the form of a Review of Mr. Mill's Elements of Political Economy." Of course it will be understood that this is James Mill's "Elements of Political Economy," a very different book from John Stuart Mill's "Principles of Political Economy." I have seen James Mill come forward and shake hands with Colonel Thompson very heartily when they met in the house of a common friend. But James Mill, though his mind was both powerful and original, and conscientiously sought after truth, was impatient of contradiction, and might consider it a piece of presumption in Colonel Thompson to put forth a "true theory" in opposition to him and Ricardo, which title implicitly calls their theories false, and he differed from his son in some points very much. For James Mill might see where Thompson was wrong, but either did not see, or did not admit that he saw, when he was right, whereas John Stuart Mill, while he shows wherein he considers the author of the pamphlet wrong, does him ample justice in the criticism of his "Catechism on the Corn Laws." It is in this quality of trying to do justice to all men, by patient investigation and incessant labour, that John Stuart Mill stands alone among all the men that have come under my observation in the course of my life.
John Stuart Mill, in an article on the Corn Laws, in the thirteenth number of The Westminster Review, which came out in January, 1827—the book named at the head of the article being the "Catechism on the Corn Laws," third edition, London, 1827—in the course of some remarks on the new proposal for the amendment of the Corn Laws, says:—
"Mr. Canning commenced his speech by declaring that the conflicting opinions did not differ so widely as was commonly supposed. He proceeded to explain himself by saying that no person advocated a perfectly free trade in corn; that the necessity of some protection to agriculture was universally acknowledged, and that the only question was how much. We respect Mr. Canning's honest intentions, and admire his eloquence; but really, when we find him uttering with a grave face the above assertion, we can neither give him credit for much knowledge of the subject, nor even for much acquaintance with the commonest writings upon it. We will take upon ourselves to affirm that not only some, but almost all the writers against the Corn Laws, have advocated, and do advocate, a perfectly free trade in corn. From Adam Smith to the author of the tract which we have prefixed to this article, they have universally represented any tax on the necessaries of life as among the most impolitic and injurious of all modes of taxation,"
J. S. Mill thus proceeds:—
"We have thus far omitted to notice the little tract at the head of the present article, not because it was not highly deserving of our attention, but because we were desirous, in the first place, to express our sentiments on the subject of immediate interest, the present state of the corn question. The author (who signs himself T. Perronet Thompson ) has given, after some prefatory matter, of which we do not think so highly as of the work itself, an enumeration of a hundred and sixty fallacies on the Corn Laws: or, to speak more accurately, ten or twelve fallacies exhibited in a hundred and sixty different shapes. Mr. Thompson is master of his subject, and has disposed of the fallacies with great philosophical accuracy, and considerable clearness, conciseness, and felicity of expression. As this mode of combating those Proteus-like fallacies, which are formidable less from their native strength than from the multiplicity of shapes in which they appear, seems to us to have peculiar advantages, we shall make room for the exposure of some of the most potent among these instruments of deception.
The reviewer then devotes more than half-a-dozen pages to extracts from the "Catechism on the Corn Laws." It will be unnecessary to reproduce any of these extracts here, as they have been now for many years before the public. The reviewer concludes with observing that the "Catechism" had attracted the attention of Lord King, who had fought the battle of Free Trade in the House of Lords, and recommends it as a speculation worthy the attention of a bookseller to make a collection of all that Lord King has said on this subject in Parliament since it began to be discussed in 1825, find print it in a pamphlet as a companion to the "Catechism on the Corn Laws."
The writers adds:—
"The exertions of Mr. Whitmore and of Lord Milton deserve no less praise; and their merit is enhanced by the disgraceful reception—disgraceful even in the eyes of indifferent spectators—which they have experienced from the House. But their country will weigh them and their opponents by a different standard, and will esteem and venerate them as deeply for having set at defiance the fury of the band of enraged monopolists by whom they have been insulted, as it would have despised them if they had stooped, with the vulgar herd of public men, to court the applause of those monopolists by the sacrifice of the best interests of their country."
The opinion of General Thompson appears to have been that the cause of rent was the limited quantity of land, and that the difference in the qualities of land was not the cause of rent, but only the measure of the difference in its amount; or, in short, the measure of its amount. If Malthus and Ricardo had been clear writers, a good deal of controversy on the subject might have been avoided. It is just that Colonel Thompson's own words should be quoted on this point. Colonel Thompson, in his paper on "Saint-Simonianism," in The Wesfminster Review for April, 1832, says:—
"Malthus and Ricardo are stated to have arrived at the conclusion 'that the difference in the qualities of land permits a part of the produce of some land to be applied to other purposes than the maintenance of the cultivators.' Passing over any error in this conclusion, whose ever it may he, which consists in representing the difference of qualities of land as the cause of the existence of rent, instead of being only the cause of the differences in its amount—they are blamed for coming hastily to the conclusion that rent should be at the disposal of the owner of the land. And here the debate must be cut short by coming at once to the question of utility, and asking whether honest rent is to be left in the hands of the owner of the land, or is to be given to a Saint-Simonian committee that wants to have the disposal of it."
It is not altogether unimportant to bear in mind that M. Augusts Comte commenced his career in the manufacture of a new religion and pseudo-philosophy as a disciple of this Saint-Simonian scheme of government. Comte has been thought by some to have been more indebted to Saint-Simon for his speculations than he was disposed to admit. It is curious to me to look back on the impression made by Saint-Simon on General Perronet Thompson and by Comte on J. S. Mill. The latter modified very much his opinion of Comte, as is shown by comparing the later editions of his Logic with the first edition. Yet in his final estimate of Comte, Mill says, "We think M. Comte as great as either of these philosophers (Descartes and Leibnitz), and hardly more extravagant."
General Thompson's "Letters of a Representative to his Constituents," during the sessions of 1836 and 1837, are a most valuable and at the same time picturesque record of the state of the question of the Corn Laws during the two years immediately preceding the year 1838, when Mr. Villiers made his first motion and his first speech on the Corn Laws.
In a letter dated 13, Hanover Terrace, Regent's Park, 1st August, 1835, to the Secretary of the Hull Reform Association, General (then Colonel) Thompson, who had been returned to Parliament for Hull on the 20th of June, 1835, by 1428 votes against 1423, says:—
"Sir,—As the only communication I have received from Hull since the abandonment of the petition against the election has been through the newspapers, I feel apprehensive that we may have been waiting for each other; and so proceed to put an end to it.
"On the subject of that petition and its consequences, I have no hesitation in stating my personal conviction that I have been laid down and robbed at the door of the House of Commons, with the single object of holding out an example of the punishment to be inflicted on an individual who is bold enough to allow himself to be returned to Parliament by a majority of his fellow-townsmen. The smallness of our majority, in the first instance, was effected by subornation of perjury on the part of our opponents; for which I refer to the' evidence before the Committee of the House. And they afterwards rendered it impossible that I should avoid the contest by advancing against me disreputable charges, of no one of which did they attempt any proof before the Committee. There are few terms of disgrace which public opinion would not justify me in applying to such conduct; but I choose, for conciseness, to comprehend them all by stamping each and every of the parties concerned with the elaborate infamy of robbing by means of charging with disreputable offences.
"As your representative, I take the opportunity to point out to the Hull Reform Association, and through it to every association of the same nature throughout the country, the insulting falsehood contained in asserting that you, or any other set of electors, have freedom of election. You are free to elect whom you please, under the understanding that he shall be mulcted in his personal property to any extent the adversaries may choose to effect by the expenditure of perhaps a much inferior sum of their own. To take the present case: here am I, a man of comparatively small property, and no means of increasing it,—one in fact who could just, consistently with prudence, produce the moderate sum necessary to defray the legitimate expenses of an election,—robbed of the provision of my children to the amount of, I suppose, several thousand pounds, by possibly a conspiracy of the richest and most powerful individuals in the kingdom,—men, for aught we know, not confined to the rank of members of the Commons House of Parliament, but extending upwards to the very steps of the throne. For that the ostensible instruments are not the substantial ones is matter of public evidence and notoriety. And this is your freedom of election. "But the inference I want to draw from the exposure of this falsehood is the practical inutility, in the existing state of the laws, of you or me or anybody attempting to arrive at political amelioration through the instrumentality of the House of Commons. Calculate, for example, how much the money and trouble which has been extracted from you and from me in the present attempt to obtain one vote in the House of Commons would have effected if applied in the way which was our natural channel,—the raising of that 'pressure from without' which is daily recommended to us by the terrors of our opponents. I do not advise you hastily to lay aside altogether the pursuit of improvement by the first and feeble mode, but I do advise you to make it entirely subordinate to that more politic and useful mode in which your natural strength lies, and to give no effort to the one, except what you have not the means or opportunity of applying to the other.
"It is scarcely necessary for me to say that the power lodged in a Committee of finding a petition 'frivolous and vexatious,' is no security against the recurrence of a case like ours. We had the option of expending perhaps ten thousand pounds more, for the chance that the Committee would give us a claim on, it may be, half that sum lodged as security.
"Trusting that we shall all learn from experience,
"I remain, Sir, your very obedient servant,
T. Perronet Thompson.
"13, Hanover Terrace, Regent's Park.
"August 1, 1835."
In the short biography of General Thomas Perronet Thompson by his son General Charles William Thompson, included among the Obituary Notices of the Proceedings of the Royal Society, No. 116, 1869, it is stated that Colonel Thompson "was, as he expressed it, 'laid down and robbed at the door of the House of Commons' to the amount of £4000 by a petition of which none of the charges were proved before the Committee."
There are some touches in Colonel Thompson's Letters to his Constituents that give a picture of the interior of the House of Commons. In a letter dated London, February 11, 1837, he says:—
"The debate on the Irish Municipal Corporations, which had been adjourned at twelve on Tuesday night, was resumed on Wednesday. … Sir Robert, in place of his usual argumentative manner, was boisterous and loud, and he indulged to excess in the not very agreeable habit of turning his back to the Speaker and the House, and in that position keeping the little boys on his own benches in a roar of"On the present occasion he quoted Tom Thumb and others of the classics with eminent success. The school-boys, in the House and out of it, will be the death of us."
At all his jokes, for many a joke had he.'
As already remarked, since the question of the Corn Laws began to be discussed in Parliament in 1825, those who ventured to speak against the Corn Laws were assailed and insulted by the band of enraged monopolists who had so long revelled on the plunder of their country with all the fury of a band of robbers who had carried on their trade successfully and were threatened with resistance by some of their victims. In a letter to his constituents dated "London, March 18, 1837," General Thompson gives a description of the reception a motion for an alteration in the Corn Laws met with in the House of Commons in 1837 in the following words—and as Mr.Villiers made his first motion in the following year he might have a foretaste of what he was to expect:—
"On Thursday Mr. Clay brought on his motion for an alteration in the Corn Laws. As soon as Mr. Clay had finished speaking, an agricultural member (Mr. Cayley) rose with the seconder, and endeavoured to stop proceedings by counting out the House. The number was found above forty, and the seconder went on. Their first movement having thus failed, the landowners mustered kin and clan, and finally came down to the number of above two hundred. The ordinary routine of a thousand-times-answered fallacies was put forward, and received as might be expected in an assembly where every man had made an oath that he had a pecuniary interest in the question before him. At the instance of friends about me, I made repeated attempts to offer reply, as also to explain my reasons for not voting upon the actual question, but was unable to obtain a hearing. Thank God! I have many better places. If I had been a jobber in a railroad or a dabbler in some monopoly, wishing to make a similar explanation, I should have been heard with reverential sympathy, to the extent that human organs could supply. Sir William Molesworth entered upon a demonstration of the mode of operation of the competition generated by the limitation of food, which was perfect in its way, but confined to a portion of the field. Mr. Hume was received with groans and hideous laughs when he attempted to open the case of that part of the community who have not three hundred pounds a year in land; and when he proceeded to connect the question with the new Poor Law, the sounds that issued from the landed benches had a touch of the New Zealander. If there is a horrible sound on earth, it is the laugh of two or three hundred aristocrats all sworn to a contrary interest, when an honest m.an presents himself before them to plead the cause of the industrious and the poor. And now I turn to the people of England—to that portion of them who do not believe that to swear to a pecuniary interest is the way to constitute a judge—to the portion who are born to work and to suffer, and not to receive rents and to spend,—a portion with whom I believe I possess some influence, from whom I enjoy some confidence, whom I have at all events endeavoured faithfully to serve, whose cause I have pleaded till the hair that was dark has turned grey, whose cause I would and could plead now, if we had a tribunal where physical force and sworn interest were not opposed to our having a hearing.
"Mr. Hume's speech is of great importance, because it shows that lie is come over to the people's side on the question of the Poor Laws as connected with the Corn Laws. Through living in the same part of the town, I have the 'privilege,' as some of our Hull friends would say, of coming home with him almost every night from the House of Commons, and it is not long since he in some sort rated me for my Poor Law heresies at Preston. The member for Middlesex is always right in the end, but he is not hasty in his conclusions. He is surrounded by numbers of doctrinaires, which only makes his escape to the popular side of more importance.
"Another point on which I am glad to find the member for Middlesex is confirming my preconceived opinions with the weight of his authority, is in believing that the abolition of the Corn Laws is the key to the whole of our enemies' position. Our oppressors are strong, because they contrive to live upon our resources; because, through the Corn Laws, they draw our wealth into the shape of rents, and make us pay for the hoof that tramples on us."
On April 22, 1837, he writes:—
"The House of Commons, as it at present exists, is an engine for securing the minimum of publicity and information which is compatible with the actual state of popular power. To give a single instance; there is no liberty of speech, except for a certain number of professional speech-makers. Heaven knows I have troubled nobody at any great length, but from the moment I entered the House of Commons I have been trampled on because I belonged to no clique."
He then mentions two questions respecting which he possessed special opportunities of knowledge, and on which he attempted to say a few words, but his mouth was stopped, and he was not allowed to say a word. He then proceeds thus:—
"Was it decent, again, according to the supposed rules of popular assemblies, that on the question of the Corn Laws, on which, if some do not know, others do, that I have bestowed a greater quantity of continuous labour than any other man in the House can show, and have something not unlike a tail in some parts of the country in consequence, I should not be allowed to say one word?"
I quote these passages as evidence of the state of things just one year before Mr. Villiers first brought forward the question of the Repeal of the Corn Laws in the House of Commons. I have said just one year, but I ought to have said about a month less than one year, for Colonel Thompson wrote what has been quoted on April 22, 1837, and Mr. Villier's first Motion on the Corn Law question was made March 15, 1838.
In reading General Thompson's Letters to his Constituents it is evident that he had not, in 1836 and 1837, gained the ear of the House; and indeed I doubt whether he ever gained the ear of the House, which amounts to the same thing as what he terms "liberty of speech, there being no liberty of speech except for a certain number of professional speech-makers." If these speech-makers were agreeable speakers the evil might be more endurable. But are they agreeable speakers? What he did for the Repeal of the Corn Laws was done by his "Catechism on the Corn Laws" and other writings, and by his speaking at public meetings in various parts of England, Scotland, and Wales, particularly in that journey with Mr. Cobden to the principal towns of Scotland, in reference to which the Earl of Dalhousie, who had known Colonel Thompson when he was in the House of Commons as Mr. Fox Maule, afterwards mentioned at a public meeting as a proof of his Liberal principles that he had gone to Glasgow to meet the apostles of Free Trade, Mr. Cobden and Colonel Thompson. Indeed many members of Parliament have obtained a hearing from their first speech to their last without possessing the knowledge or eloquence of some who have been refused a hearing, but who in time overcame the obstacles opposed to them and became leaders of parties whose words commanded attention. For some time after Mr. O'Connell entered the House of Commons he was received in such a manner that he said to a member from whom I heard it that he thought of giving up the attempt to obtain a hearing. I have also heard that the hooting and roars of laughter with which Mr. Disraeli's first attempts at parliamentary oratory were received disheartened him to such a degree that he would have abandoned the attempt to speak in the House, had he not been dissuaded from such a course by a member of the House of some parliamentary experience. The individual alluded to, who related the circumstance to a friend of mine, said that one day he met Mr. Disraeli in the city accompanied by a lady, his wife, to whom he said: "Allow me to introduce you to this gentleman to whose advice I am indebted for my parliamentary career, since, but for his advice that I should not be disheartened, I should have abandoned the attempt of being a speaker in Parliament."
General Thompson seemed to have been much interested by his journey to Scotland as one of the Free Trade delegates. He often referred to it, and was fond of relating little anecdotes connected with it; or I should rather say relating some of the observations he had made in the course of his journey. It might be inferred too from some of the slight incidents he mentioned that in his addresses to the citizens of the Scotch towns with their Provosts and Bailies, he evinced a degree of tact that was well calculated to leave a favourable and friendly feeling in the audience towards those delegates of the Anti-Corn Law League, whom Lord Dalhousie went to Glasgow to meet, and designated the apostles of Free Trade.
One remark of General Thompson's I remember was the impression made on him as an old soldier by the appearance of the men he saw working on the roads. They looked, he said, like veteran soldiers—old Grenadiers—for they were, he said, tall, tough, wiry, weather-beaten men—just the sort of men to stand the wear and tear of a soldier's life. He added: "To judge from the appearance of those labourers working on the roads, I am inclined to think that the English must in the old time have had rather tough work in their fights with them, notwithstanding the general superiority of the English armour and horses."
General Thompson used to mention an expression made use of by a minister in a sermon he heard when on his Free Trade expedition in Scotland. The preacher used the words "a fund of righteousness," which furnished food or materials for thinking to General Thompson's acute and inquiring mind. Did the word "fund" mean a capital stock of "righteousness" on which the owner might draw as occasion might require? Had it something of the signification that might be attached to the word "grace" in the story ^whether the story be truth or fiction—that has been told of Cromwell on his death-bed, that Cromwell asked one of his chaplains whether "it was possible to fall from grace?" The chaplain replied, "It is not possible." "Then," said the dying man, "I am safe, for I know I was in grace once." This, if accurately reported, seems to indicate that Cromwell was himself conscious that he had deviated from the path of honesty.
Neither General Thompson nor, as far as 1 know, any other member of that small party of politicians to which he belonged, would ever pay money for the votes of electors. General Thompson, after having declined to purchase one hundred votes at five pounds a vote, was defeated at Maidstone in 1837 by Mr. Disraeli. Mr. John Stuart Mill was defeated at Westminster in 1868 by Mr. W. H. Smith. In 1869 the Committee of the House of Commons which was sitting on Parliamentary and Municipal Elections, recommended a provision prohibiting the use of rooms in public-houses; and Baron Martin, when his advice was asked by the Parliamentary Committee, said, "I have a very strong opinion indeed that the public-houses ought to be closed on the day of polling. I think the quantity of drink on the day of polling, and the state in which many voters were alleged to have come up to vote, were perfectly scandalous; they were so drunk in two or three cases that they did not know who they came to vote for." The three Judges appointed for the trial of election petitions all recommended an enactment that extravagant or unreasonable expenditure should vacate a seat. Mr. Justice Blackburn suggested that any expenditure exceeding five shillings a-head should for this purpose be declared unreasonable.
I have stated that Mr. John Stuart Mill, who like Colonel Thompson would not expend a farthing in bribery, was defeated in 1868 at Westminster, for which he had sat since 1865, by Mr. W. H. Smith. Baron Martin, one of the three Judges appointed for the trial of election petitions, when his advice was asked by the Parliamentary Committee on this point of expenditure at elections, said: "I think it well worthy of consideration whether there should not be an enactment that extravagant general expenditure, and I will limit it to that, should void the seat; whether £7000 at Bradford, or £9000 at Westminster, should not of itself void the seat." This remark is the more important that Baron Martin was the Judge who tried the petition against the return of Mr. W. H. Smith for Westminster in 1868. But the Judges experienced great difficulty in cases of exceptionally large expenditure in obtaining proof of such infraction of law as would void a seat under the statute.
There was much evidence brought before the Committee of 1869 on the subject of drunkenness at elections. But the Committee, while declaring their opinion that the closing of public-houses at elections would tend to the tranquillity and purity of elections, expressed a fear that the public inconvenience arising from such a measure would be so great as to outweigh its advantages. But three members of the Committee, Mr. C. Villiers, Mr. Leatham, and Mr. Fawcett, opposed the passage in the Report of the Committee, which expressed a fear of public inconvenience. When the Committee made their report there were two days—the nomination day and the day of polling. The ballot has got rid of the nomination day, and the inconvenience from the closing of public-houses, if encountered, would now be reduced from two days to one day.
The Committee of the House of Commons, sitting in 1869, naturally sought to avail themselves of the knowledge and experience which the Judges had acquired in their election trial circuits. On the point of reduction of expenditure, Mr. C. Villiers asked the following question of Mr. Justice Willes:—"Ought you not to discourage as much as possible anything that is unnecessary in the way of expenditure?" "Undoubtedly," replied the Judge, "otherwise you give a rich dullard the advantage over a poor man of intellect."
This raises a nice question. I will quote in the next chapter some words of General Thompson, that "the world wants honest law-givers not pious ones;" and it may be added that an honest law-giver, though he may not be a brilliant genius. is more desirable than a dishonest law-giver of great genius. Julius Caesar was a poor man of intellect; and what did he, with all his genius and valour, do for the world? George Washington, having a competent estate, and if not a brilliant genius, a competent understanding, might be, as compared with Julius Caesar, designated a "rich dullard." I should very much prefer a rich dullard of such kind to a poor man of intellect of the other kind.
There is a good deal of misconception on the subject of parliamentary seats. The importance formerly attached to a seat in Parliament, when a man's name at the corner of a letter gave the letter a sort of mysterious and sacred character over the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland, made many persons incur expense and inconvenience to have the privilege of sitting with their hats on upon the green leather benches, and having the talismanic letters M.P. placed after their names on the covers of all letters addressed to them. There were also ambitious young men who might have discovered at school and college that they possessed that sort of ability which has received the name of parliamentary ability. Lord Macaulay says of Charles Montague:—
"It soon became clear that in the new order of things parliamentary ability must fetch a higher price than any other kind of ability; and he felt that in parliamentary ability he had no superior."
"Parliamentary ability" does not here, I think, include the ability of a counsel in conducting a case before a Parliamentary Committee; and I think it might be shown that ability of a superior order in conducting a case before a Parliamentary Committee fetches at the present time, or at least it fetched a quarter of a century ago, a higher price than what is called parliamentary ability.
I had the honour, at the time of the Reform Bill of 1832, to be consulted by a Member of Parliament, who said he had been asked to recommend a candidate to a certain constituency, and he asked me if there was any of the men whom I knew as likely to meet the exigencies of the case. I was at that time a member of a debating society, where a short time before I had heard a man make what then appeared to me to be a very good speech. I recommended this man. The Member of Parliament did not seem to think he could recommend this man, seeing he had had a quarrel with him. With some trouble I overcame this difficulty, and the Member of Parliament went down with the candidate and secured his election. Shortly after the same Member of Parliament applied to me again. I now applied to a friend of greater age and experience than myself, and he named a man as the "best parliamentary man" he knew. The Member of Parliament opened a correspondence with him. In the negotiation some hitch occurred which put a stop to it. It is instructive to note the result.
The man first referred to became an eminent and formidable parliamentary speaker and debater; but he entered Parliament a poor man, and he died a poor man, after a long parliamentary life. The second man referred to became the most eminent parliamentary counsel ever known and made a large fortune by the exercise of his profession. The extent of his fortune may be partly indicated by the fact that during the last year he practised at the (parliamentary) bar he made £37,000—thirty-seven thousand pounds.
It would appear from this that the ability exercised by this parliamentary counsel fetched a higher price than the ability strictly called parliamentary ability. At the same time in justice to many men who seek a seat in Parliament, it may be said that the money price of parliamentary ability is not their only consideration. Of some men the money appetite may be as great as that of Charles Montague; of others it may be as small as that of the younger William Pitt. Charles Montague secured for himself as a place of refuge the Auditorship of the Exchequer. The younger William Pitt held in 1784 the same offices which Montague had held in 1698. Pitt was a much poorer man than Montague, and had at his own disposal a lucrative sinecure place. But Pitt gave away this place in such a way as to reward merit and relieve the country from a burden.
If the "rich dullard" should chance to be a man like the younger William Pitt, and the " poor man of intellect" a man like Charles Montague, the rich dullard is very much preferable as a member of Parliament to the poor man of intellect.
"In the intellectual qualities of a statesman, Montague was probably not inferior to Pitt. But the magnanimity, the dauntless courage, the contempt for riches and for baubles, to which, more than to any intellectual quality, Pitt owed his long ascendency, were wanting to Montague."
No professions of regard for the welfare of the people can be considered as of any value as long as those making such professions pay money for election purposes. And the same principle which forbids any payment of money for election purposes forbids also that the occupation of a member of Parliament should be taken up, like other professions, with a view chiefly to its pecuniary returns. J. S. Mill objects to the payment of members of Parliament on the ground that such payment—
"Would become an object of desire to adventurers of a low class; and six hundred and fifty-eight persons in possession, with ten or twenty times as many in expectancy, would be incessantly bidding to attract or retain the suffrages of the electors, by promising all things, honest or dishonest, possible or impossible, and rivalling each other in pandering to the meanest feelings and most ignorant prejudices of the vulgarest part of the crowd. … Such an institution would amount to offering six hundred and fifty-eight prizes for the most successful flatterer, the most adroit misleader of a body of his fellow-countrymen."
Among the letters published by General Thompson, in the sixth volume of his writings, will be found at page 389 a letter dated Blackheath, 2nd September, 1841, and addressed to Mr. James Sinclair, Secretary of the Charter Association, Newcastle-upon-Tyne, in reply to General Thompson, to be one of the securities required for the prosecution of the petition from Newcastle. General Thompson says:—
"The effect of the law of elections is in the first place to make the election dependent on the exercise of bribery and intimidation, and in the next, to provide a vindictive power capable of being used against those who shall appeal to the professed remedy.
"I do not speak on either of these points without some personal experience. In July, 1837, I stood for Maidstone. The night before the election, a hundred voters sent to my friends, and stated that they would vote for me for five pounds a-piece, and they should ask a Tory eight. I declined; and the consequence was, that on the poll I was one hundred and forty behind instead of sixty a-head, as would have been the case if I had accepted the offer. Not very long afterwards another election took place; and though the state of the borough was notoriously as has been described, yet when the Liberal party were unwise enough to make an appeal to the existing law, their appeal was declared by a hostile majority to be frivolous and vexatious, and the individuals who were the securities were subjected to loss, in the same manner that I feel assured would be applied to myself, if I was found in the same position.
"On the other point I have more recent experience still. It is within your knowledge that I stood at the election of 1841 for Hull. I suppose nobody will dream of denying that bribery, the most extensive and orderly, was practised on every side but ours. The Whigs in fact began it as early as July, 1839; when they set on foot the plan of purchasing men their freedoms, on their written promise to vote as a named individual should direct; and the channels, the sums disbursed (three hundred sovereigns at the first swoop), were all matters of notoriety, and brought before the cognizance of a public meeting at the time. Of course it is not an occasion to be hard upon the Tories for following the example. Rightly does Sir Robert Peel say, 'There was something besides the Chandos clause that carried the election at Hull.' If he will come to Hull, we will show him to his heart's content. … And when we ask to have the strength of bribery and intimidation weakened by the Ballot, the Whigs tell us they will make it an open question, as the best means of putting it down; and the Tories call it our 'cowardly, mean, lying, hypocritical, sneaking, un-English, unmanly invention,' though' all the time, the lords and honourable gentlemen who call the Ballot a 'cowardly, mean, lying, hypocritical, sneaking, un-English, unmanly invention,' are using it in their own associations, wherever they find it to be for their convenience.
General Thompson's Political Letters—particularly those addressed to the Secretary of the Hull Reform Association, and one addressed to the Secretary of the Hull Working Men's Association remind me more of Swift's "Drapier's Letters" than any letters that I am acquainted with. Whether or not can be said of General Thompson what has recently been said of Swift with reference to the Drapers', or as Swift chose to spell it Drapier's, letters that they demonstrate his tact and sagacity as a political leader; they are free from the monstrous exaggeration and sophistry of Swift. They are also specimens of pure and idiomatic English, and of eloquence perfectly natural and unadorned—as natural as that of Mr. O'Connel, which I once heard an eminent member of Parliament describe as the sort of speaking which a man might address to his soldiers on the best practicable means of passing an unfordable river. There is one sentence which I will venture to transcribe from General Thompson's letter, dated London, 3rd February, 1838, to the Secretary of the Hull Working Men's Association:—
"I assume nothing but the same faculty of judging of consequences from appearances, that makes one of your sailors take in a top-gallant sail, when he sees the squall chasing him astern."
This sentence could not have been written, but by a man who had been a sailor as well as a soldier; as some of Erskine's best speeches could only have been spoken by a man who had been a sailor as well as a soldier.
In answer to the plea that the farmers were entitled to compensation for wet harvests, Colonel Thompson said that the farmers and owners of land are bound to make their reckonings on an average of seasons, and carry their cultivation of land just so far and no farther. "If they do not know how to do it," he continued, "that is their business and not other people's. Suppose an underwriter was to make his calculations on all his ships coming home safe, and then was to run to the landed interest and say, 'By the act of Providence and a windy season, two out of ten of my ships have foundered at sea. Remunerate me out of your rents.' Just as good a joke is the claim of the agriculturalists to consideration for wet harvests."
In a subsequent chapter I shall have to touch on the question of the influence of Free Trade on foreign policy. Those who look only to a larger market for their manufactures are very apt to fall into traps, such as that of the Channel Tunnel — the trap of drawing a nation which nature has placed in an insular situation out of that advantageous position, and placing that nation on a level with the nations which had not that advantage, only to put money into the pockets of certain speculators who use the words "free trade" to serve their passion for speculation.
There is a passage in one of General Thompson's letters to his Constituents, dated London, 20th February, 1836, which bears on this question in some degree, and which I will quote as showing, or at least giving some indication that General Thompson would not have voted for a Channel Tunnel.
"Lastnight," he says—that is, 19th February, 1836—"there was a long debate on Russia, Poland, and Turkey, arising out of a motion for papers by Lord Dudley Stuart. The House was very thin, and the proceedings languid on the whole. The Member for Birmingham (Mr. T. Attwood) was all for active measures; and his speech would have been received thirty years ago with immense applause as a specimen of the 'truly British spirit.' The ablest speech of the night was that of the Member for Bath (Mr. Roebuck), who was all for peace; but went, in my estimation, as much too far in one direction as the Member for Birmingham in the other. It really does not seem difficult to trace the proper line between the two, by a simple reference to the duties of private life, A man is not to go out 'colonelling ' and run his head into scraps in search of remote wrongs and dubious grievances. But neither is he to sit at home in his veranda, with his hookah luxuriously before him, and hear the cries of 'murder' and the rest of the four pleas of the Crown—contenting himself with what he calls his 'moral influence'—and trusting to the height of his garden wall. Nations, like individuals, are, within certain limits, bound by a common interest on this point of repressing injustice. If England luckily has a high garden wall, or what is better, a deep fishpond all around, the inference is that England is bound to apply these advantages to the general good."
The words in italics show that General Perronet Thompson, though a strenuous advocate of Free Trade, was not an advocate for destroying the advantages afforded to England by her being an island, and for promoting the rise of the dividends of a certain railway company by the sacrifice of all the advantages of England's insular situation. It is a hard fight against the rage for wealth which shuts out of view all other considerations but the gratification of its own auri sacra fames, which words may be translated accursed hunger for gold.
The reference to the duties of private life in the above quotation from General Thompson, reminds one of a reference by a celebrated writer to the conditions of private property in illustration of the English Constitution. That writer says:—
"The power of King, Lords, and Commons, is not an arbitrary power. They are the trustees, not the owners of the estate. The fee simple is in us. They cannot alienate. They cannot waste."
- There is a long note to the article at this place from which it appears that when he wrote this article J. S. Mill knew nothing more of the author of the "Catechism on the Corn Laws" than was to be learnt from the signature at the end of the Preface, "T. Perronet Thompson, Queens' College, Cambridge."
The note is so important that I will quote here part of it, which explains that if political economists generally have possessed the qualities of vigour and lucidity of mind, it could not be said of them, as has been said of J. S. Mill, that "the vigour and lucidity of the understanding are mirrored in the style." The note runs thus:—
"Mr. Thompson has published another pamphlet, entituled 'An Exposition of Fallacies on Rent, Tithes,' &c., which has recently been advertised under the title of 'The true Theory of Rent, in opposition to Mr. Ricardo and others.' This pamphlet appears to us a striking exemplification of the mistakes of an ingenious mind, more accustomed to think in solitude than to discuss, and compare its ideas with those of other men. Mr. Thompson does not perceive that his theory of rent differs from that of Mr. Ricardo only in the expression. … Mr. Thompson's opinions on tithes and other taxes on the land are indeed different from those of Mr. Ricardo. But if he will read Mr. Ricardo's work again carefully, he will perceive that his opinions on those topics are not corollaries from his doctrine of rent, but from a peculiar and altogether erroneous opinion on profits, which he conceives to be regulated, like wages, by the proportion between numbers and demand. We have not space to be more explicit, nor can we venture to refer any but the very laborious reader to Mr. Thompson's work; for, erroneous as we deem its conclusions, it is to the full as difficult of comprehension as it could be if it were the quintessence of pure reason. Nor is this to be ascribed to any defect in the author's style. On the contrary, our copious extracts from his ' Catechism on the Corn Laws ' afford sufficient proof that he possesses an uncommon talent for explaining whatever he understands."
Colonel Thompson refers to this controversy in a letter published in the sixth volume of his "Exercises," p. 368, in which he mentions "the dispute whether rent forms part of the price of corn;" and says:—
"The main point of dispute with Mr. Ricardo and his followers is whether rent makes price, or price makes rent; and though attempts have been made to ridicule the distinction as one of words only, it diverges into marked hostility on the subject of tithes."
- Baron Martin probably alludes to the election at Bradford; at which election 168 rooms in public-houses were hired by one of the candidates. In such a proceeding there seems to be a cynical demonstration of contempt for all professions of political morality; which reminds me of a case (before 1832) of a man who purchased a borough from Lord ——. The man went down to his lordship's agent who said, "I have got all the electors at my house." The purchaser of the borough accompanied the agent to his house, in the yard of which a portion of the electors were lying about drunk. "These," said the agent, "are the men I can depend upon. The rest are locked up in the garden, enclosed by a wall sixteen feet high—all except three, whom Lord —— has got hold of and shut up in prison."
- Macaulay's History of England, vol. iv., p. 279.
- J. S. Mill's Considerations on Representative Government, p. 210. London, 1861.
- That is on every side but the Radical. The Radical being the only party that does not practice bribery, some remarks of a Tory leader in Mid-Lothian, on September 16, 1884, are extraordinary. This Tory leader who, after a panegyric on fox-hunting, said that "what was true of the chase of the fox was also true of the chase of the Radical," may be reminded of the answer of John, Duke of Argyle, to Queen Caroline. Her Majesty in her displeasure at the execution of Porteous, said she would make Scotland a hunting-field. "In that case, Madam," answered the Duke, with a profound bow, "I will take leave of your Majesty, and go down to my own country to get my hounds ready."
- "Exercises, Political, and others." By Lient.-Colonel T. Perronet Thompson, vol. vi., pp. 389, 390.
- This letter will be found at p. 312 of the fourth volume of General Thompson's "Exercises, Political and others," in which volume will be found also his "Letters of a Representative," and his "Catechism on the Corn Laws."
- "Exercises, Political, and others." By Lieut.-Colonel T. Perronet Thompson, in 6 vols., vol. iv., p. 315.
- I have here substituted "four" for "five." General Thompson writes, "the rest of the five pleas of the Crown." I assume that he was thinking of Scott's "Old Mortality," chapter 25—where Scott's words are "running or screaming, division upon all those crimes which the lawyers call the four pleas of the Crown, namely, murder, fire, rape, and robbery."