Sybil/Book 6/Chapter 1

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"Another week," exclaimed a gentleman in Downing Street on the 5th of August, 1842, "and we shall be prorogued. You can surely keep the country quiet for another week."

"I cannot answer for the public peace for another four-and-twenty hours," replied his companion.

"This business at Manchester must be stopped at once; you have a good force there?"

"Manchester is nothing; these are movements merely to distract. The serious work is not now to be apprehended in the cotton towns. The state of Staffordshire and Warwickshire is infinitely more menacing. Cheshire and Yorkshire alarm me. The accounts from Scotland are as bad as can be. And though I think the sufferings of '39 will keep Birmingham and the Welch collieries in check, we cannot venture to move any of our force from those districts."

"You must summon a council for four o'clock. I have some deputations to receive which I will throw over; but to Windsor I must go. Nothing has yet occurred to render any notice of the state of the country necessary in the speech from the Throne."

"Not yet," said his companion; "but what will to-morrow bring forth?"

"After all it is only a turn-out. I cannot recast her Majesty's speech and bring in rebellion and closed mills, instead of loyalty and a good harvest."

"It would be a bore. Well, we will see to-morrow;" and the colleague left the room.

"And now for these deputations," said the gentleman in Downing Street, "of all things in the world I dislike a deputation. I do not care how much I labour in the Closet or the house; that's real work; the machine is advanced. But receiving a deputation is like sham marching: an immense dust and no progress. To listen to their views! As if I did not know what their views were before they stated them! And to put on a countenance of respectful candour while they are developing their exploded or their impracticable systems. Were it not that at a practised crisis, I permit them to see conviction slowly stealing over my conscience, I believe the fellows would never stop. I cannot really receive these deputations. I must leave them to Hoaxem," and the gentleman in Downing Street rang his bell.

"Well, Mr Hoaxem," resumed the gentleman in Downing Street as that faithful functionary entered, "there are some deputations I understand, to-day. You must receive them, as I am going to Windsor. What are they?"

"There are only two, sir, of moment. The rest I could easily manage."

"And these two?"

"In the first place, there is our friend Colonel Bosky, the members for the county of Calfshire, and a deputation of tenant farmers."


"These must be attended to. The members have made a strong representation to me that they really cannot any longer vote with government unless the Treasury assists them in satisfying their constituents."

"And what do they want?"

"Statement of grievances; high taxes and low prices; mild expostulations and gentle hints that they have been thrown over by their friends; Polish corn, Holstein cattle, and British income tax."

"Well you know what to say," said the gentleman in Downing Street. "Tell them generally that they are quite mistaken; prove to them particularly that my only object has been to render protection more protective, by making it practical and divesting it of the surplusage of odium; that no foreign corn can come in at fifty-five shillings; that there are not enough cattle in all Holstein to supply the parish of Pancras daily with beef-steaks; and that as for the income tax, they will be amply compensated for it by their diminished cost of living through the agency of that very tariff of which they are so superficially complaining."

"Their diminished cost of living!" said Mr Hoaxem a little confused. "Would not that assurance, I humbly suggest, clash a little with my previous demonstration that we had arranged that no reduction of prices should take place?"

"Not at all; your previous demonstration is of course true, but at the same time you must impress upon them the necessity of general views to form an opinion of particular instances. As for example a gentleman of five thousand pounds per annum pays to the income tax, which by the bye always call property tax, one hundred and fifty pounds a year. Well, I have materially reduced the duties on eight hundred articles. The consumption of each of those articles by an establishment of five thousand pounds per annum cannot be less than one pound per article. The reduction of price cannot be less than a moiety; therefore a saving of four hundred per annum; which placed against the deduction of the property tax leaves a clear increase of income of two hundred and fifty pounds per annum; by which you see that a property tax in fact increases income."

"I see," said Mr Hoaxem with an admiring glance. "And what am I to say to the deputation of the manufacturers of Mowbray complaining of the great depression of trade, and the total want of remunerating profits?"

"You must say exactly the reverse," said the gentleman in Downing Street. "Show them how much I have done to promote the revival of trade. First of all in making provisions cheaper; cutting off at one blow half the protection on corn, as for example at this moment under the old law the duty on foreign wheat would have been twenty-seven shillings a quarter; under the new law it is thirteen. To be sure no wheat could come in at either price, but that does not alter the principle. Then as to live cattle, show how I have entirely opened the trade with the continent in live cattle. Enlarge upon this, the subject is speculative and admits of expensive estimates. If there be any dissenters on the deputation who having freed the negroes have no subject left for their foreign sympathies, hint at the tortures of the bullfight and the immense consideration to humanity that instead of being speared at Seville, the Andalusian Toro will probably in future be cut up at Smithfield. This cheapness of provisions will permit them to compete with the foreigner in all neutral markets, in time beat them in their own. It is a complete compensation too for the property tax, which impress upon them is a great experiment and entirely for their interests. Ring the changes on great measures and great experiments till it is time to go down and make a house. Your official duties of course must not be interfered with. They will take the hint. I have no doubt you will get through the business very well, Mr Hoaxem, particularly if you be 'frank and explicit;' that is the right line to take when you wish to conceal your own mind and to confuse the minds of others. Good morning!"