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OPENING OF PARLIAMENT.
State of affairs at the commencement of the year.-Meeting of Parliament.— -Prince Regent's speech.--Debates on the address.
Ar the commencement of the present year, the aspect of public affairs, both at home and abroad, was peculiarly encouraging and auspicious. Compared with former years, the internal resources of the country exhibited a very marked improvement. The gross receipt of the ordinary revenue for last year amounted to L. 62,230,527, besides the L. 15,336,935 of the sinking fund applied to the reduction of the national debt. The income of the consolidated fund, for the year ending Jan. 5. 1819, will be found to exceed 47 millions, while the charge upon the same amounts to less than 44 millions; leaving an available surplus of nearly three millions to be applied to the service of the country. By referring to the tables of comparative exports and imports, a corresponding improvement will be found to have taken place in the commerce of the United Kingdom. In the course of last year, too, the importation of cot
ton, from various parts of the world, exceeded the quantities imported in each of the four or five years immediately preceding, by a very considerable amount; and as the prices of the raw material rather improved than otherwise, this would seem to indicate a progressive extension of the demand for the manufactured commodity, Our merchants and manufacturers had no doubt to contend with a powerful and increasing competition on the part of their continental rivals, favoured by the lowness of wages and taxes; but with all these "appliances, and means to boot," every thing was to be expected from the unrivalled superiority of British skill, enterprise, capital, and machinery; and although this competition might, for a season, lower the rate of profits, and, by necessary consequence, the wages of labour,-which had been raised to an extent beyond all former precedent during the war, when we enjoy
ed the monopoly of the European market, we had still the prospect of being able to undersell our competitors, and to compel them to withdraw their capital from employ ments, where, with all their advantages, they could only produce an inferior fabric, for which they were obliged to demand a higher price. Any commercial embarrassments that were felt must, therefore, have, in a great measure, been the result of the extraordinary increase of the circulating medium in 1817, and the subsequent diminution of that medium, with a view to the resumption of cash payments; or of excessive speculation and overtrading, by which the foreign markets were glut ted with our goods, the exchangeable value of our manufactures reduced even below the foreign competition price, and the speculators at home ruined by the inadequacy and uncertainty of the returns. Certain it is, however, that these causes must have been very limited in their operations; for, at the beginning of the year, though considerable embarrassments were on all hands admitted to exist, there appeared nothing like distress: the complaints were confined to the diminution of profits and the lowness of wages; but it was never pretended that the demand for our goods had fallen off, or that any serious losses had been sustained by the failure of any commercial enterprises. The exhaustion occasioned by a long, furious, and destructive war had not ceased to be felt, nor had things yet begun to flow in their natural and accustomed channels; and hence the stagnation of the foreign markets was rather to be ascribed to the inability than to the indisposition of the people to purchase our manufactured commodities. A gradual process of recovery and renovation had, how
ever, manifested itself; and if the prices, owing to the causes we have already mentioned, had not sensibly improved, the demand at least had somewhat increased; as is evident by the increased amount of our exports. The augmentation of our imports, a natural consequence of the former, would also seem to indicate a contemporaneous revival in the home markets; and although, from the low rates of profit and wages, the power of purchasing must still have continued limited, there were evident signs of advancement and progression. The operatives had ample employment, and seemed, for a time, to be satisfied, if they could command the necessaries, without the comforts, superfluities, or luxuries of life. At the period of which we write, tranquillity reigned in the manufacturing districts; nor had the most sagacious observer discovered any signs of that spirit of insubordination and tumult which sprung up in the course of the year, and threatened the most disastrous consequences. The seditious and blasphemous pressthat terrible engine of delusion and mischief-had not yet dared to set the laws at open defiance,-to promulgate doctrines subversive alike of religion, liberty, and the constitution,-and openly to justify and recommend private assassination; nor had the crew of pestilent demagogues sallied forth from "the holes and caves of the earth," to inflame and exasperate the minds of the credulous and ignorant multitude with harangues Gorgoneis infecta venenis. No such symptoms or portents had yet been revealed. At the proper place, we shall call the attention of our readers more particularly to this remarkable phenomenon.
The discussions and negociations which took place last year at Aix
la-Chapelle led to the evacuation of France by the Army of Occupation; an event which the French, as was natural, hailed with peculiar satisfaction, and on account of which this country had also reason for selfcongratulation, from the extensive reductions, both in our naval and military establishments, which were the consequence. Humiliating as this strong measure must at first have been to the French nation, we be lieve there are few persons who will deny, that the Allied Sovereigns, as the guarantees of the tranquillity of Europe, so often disturbed by French turbulence, ambition, and intrigue, had no other course to follow, but, by a powerful military force, to overawe the disaffected in that country. If any proof of this assertion were required, we might simply refer to what took place in 1815,-the expulsion of the Bourbons and the Reign of the Hundred Days, as it has been called. Was it endurable that the whole of Europe should be incessantly disturbed and convulsed by the restless revolutionary spirit of one power?-or that, in time of peace, she should be compelled to maintain the same esta blishments as in war?-or that the Buonapartists and the Jacobins should possess the power of paralysing every other state by their frantic schemes of conquest or revenge? The circumstances of the times rendered this powerful combination necessary. The spirit and principles of the revolution had neither been changed nor destroy. ed; and many of the principal ac tors in its bloody and atrocious scenes still existed, and were as prone to engage in them as ever. It therefore became a matter of the first necessity to teach them a practical lesson, that Europe would no longer en
dure their intrigues, their principles, or their crimes. The peaceable and the industrious called for protection against a remorseless junto, formidable not so much by their numbers or their talents as by their utter contempt of all religious and moral feelings, and their common and indelible hostility to all regular govern. ment. The occupation of France, by a powerful army of observation, was, therefore, not a measure of policy, but necessity; nay, in some degree, a measure of self-defence on the part of the Allied Sovereigns: and the result has demonstrated its entire and complete success. The Bourbons are firmly seated on the throne; the daring spirit of Jacobi. nism has been repressed; France has begun to be sensible of the manifold blessings of public and internal tranquillity; and the necessity which rendered this harsh and humiliating measure imperative having ceased, the foreign troops have been removed, at the expiry of the shortest stipulated period of three years, and France has once more assumed her natural rank among the Great European Powers. It is impossible not to view this as an event at once interesting and important in relation to the foreign policy of the British Government.
It is to us, however, a matter of deep regret, that the same bold and uncompromising policy, which led to the adoption of this most successful measure, did not display itself in an other matter where the principles of Humanity, Justice, and Religion equally called upon the nations of Europe to interfere; we mean the African Slave Trade,-a traffic al. ready denounced, by the same august potentates, in language of unmeasured reprobation. It is now thirteen years since Great Britain