Page:History of England (Macaulay) Vol 4.djvu/242

From Wikisource
Jump to navigation Jump to search
This page needs to be proofread.

The only question left was the question between the Old and the New Company. Seventeen years elapsed before that question ceased to disturb both political and commercial circles. It was fatal to the honour and power of one great minister, and to the peace and prosperity of many private families. The tracts which the rival bodies put forth against each other were innumerable. If the drama of that age may be trusted, the feud between the India House and Skinners' Hall was sometimes as serious an impediment to the course of true love in London as the feud of the Capulets and Montagues had been at Verona.[179] Which of the two contending parties was the stronger it is not easy to say. The New Company was supported by the Whigs, the Old Company by the Tories. The New Company was popular; for it promised largely, and could not be accused of having broken its promises; it made no dividends, and therefore was not envied; it had no power to oppress, and had therefore been guilty of no oppression. The Old Company, though generally regarded with little favour by the public, had the immense advantage of being in possession, and of having only to stand on the defensive. The burden of framing a plan for the regulation of the India trade, and of proving that plan to be better than the plan hitherto followed, lay on the New Company. The Old Company had merely to find objections to every change that was proposed; and such objections there was little difficulty in finding. The members of the New Company were ill provided with the means of purchasing support at Court and in Parliament. They had no corporate existence, no common treasury. If any of them gave a bribe, he gave it out of his own pocket, with little chance of being reimbursed. But the Old Company, though surrounded by dangers, still held its exclusive privileges, and still made its enormous profits. Its stock had indeed gone down greatly in value since the golden days of Charles the Second; but a hundred