Page:History of England (Macaulay) Vol 4.djvu/531

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detention of the Redbridge was illegal. The question was then put, that the House would agree with the Committee. The friends of the Old Company ventured on a second division, and were defeated by a hundred and seventy-one votes to a hundred and twenty-five.[496]

The blow was quickly followed up. A few days later it was moved that all subjects of England had equal right to trade to the East Indies unless prohibited by Act of Parliament; and the supporters of the Old Company, sensible that they were in a minority, suffered the motion to pass without a division.[497]

This memorable vote settled the most important of the constitutional questions which had been left unsettled by the Bill of Rights. It has ever since been held to be the sound doctrine that no power but that of the whole legislature can give to any person or to any society an exclusive privilege of trading to any part of the world.

The opinion of the great majority of the House of Commons was that the Indian trade could be advantageously carried on only by means of a joint stock and a monopoly. It might therefore have been expected that the resolution which destroyed the monopoly of the Old Company would have been immediately followed by a law granting a monopoly to the New Company. No such law, however, was passed. The Old Company, though not strong enough to defend its own privileges, was able, with the help of its Tory friends, to prevent the rival association from obtaining similar privileges. The consequence was that, during some years, there was nominally a free trade with India. In fact, the trade still lay under severe restrictions. The private adventurer found indeed no difficulty in sailing from England; but his situation was as perilous as ever when he had turned the Cape of Good Hope. Whatever respect might be paid to a vote of the House of Commons by public functionaries in London, such a vote was, at Bombay or Calcutta, much less regarded than a private letter from Child; and Child still continued to fight the battle with unbroken spirit.