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by means that were censurable or unpopular, to reduce the land tax, which was their greatest burden. In 1731 and 1732 it sank for the first time since the Revolution to one shilling in the pound. To abolish it was the main object of his excise scheme. To keep it down he reimposed, in 1732, the salt tax, which had been abolished two years before, and in the following year withdrew 500,000l. from the Sinking Fund, which had been provided for the payment of the National Debt.

I have already shown how a similar spirit of caution and conciliation pervaded his religious policy, how he abstained. from adopting any course which could arouse the dormant intolerance of the people, and contented himself by a mild administration of existing laws, by Latitudinarian Church appointments, and, by passing Acts of indemnity, with securing a large amount of practical liberty. He did nothing to relieve the Catholics at home, but his Protestantism, like all his other sentiments, was devoid of fanaticism, and it did not prevent him from co-operating cordially with Cardinal Fleury, who directed affairs in France, from holding frequent unofficial communications with Rome, and from acting with his usual good-nature towards individuals of the creed. The kind alacrity with which he assisted the promotion of an English Catholic priest at Avignon, who was recommended to him by Pope, is said to have given rise to those beautiful lines in which the great Catholic poet has traced his portrait.1

A policy such as I have described is not much fitted to strike the imagination, but it was well suited to a period of disputed succession, and to the genius of a nation which has usually

1 'Seen him I have; but in his happier hour
Of social pleasure ill exchanged for power;
Seen him uncumbered with the venal tribe,
Smile without art, and win without a bribe.
Would he oblige me? Let me only find
He does not think me what he thinks mankind.'

The character will appear very favourable when we remember that Pope was the most intimate friend of Walpole's bitterest enemies. See Nichols's

Epilogues to the Satires.

Literary Anecdotes of the Eighteenth
Century, v. p. 650. Chesterfield's
Miscellaneous Works, appendix p. 41.

preferred cautious to brilliant statesmen, and which owes to this preference no small part of its political well-being. It may be added that there have been very few ministers whose more important judgments have been so uniformly ratified by posterity. The highest English interest of his time was probably the maintenance of the Hanoverian dynasty, and of the constitutional maxims of government it represented; and to Walpole more than to any other single man that maintenance was due. The greatest party blunder made during his time was unquestionably the impeachment of Sacheverell, and the most dangerous constitutional innovation was the Peerage Bill of Stanhope, but Walpole endeavoured privately to prevent the first, and was the chief cause of the rejection of the second. One of the happiest instances of the policy of Chatham was the manner in which he allayed the disloyalty of the Scotch, by appealing to their national and military pride, and forming out of their clans national regiments; but a precisely similar policy had been proposed by Duncan Forbes, in 1738, and warmly supported by Walpole, though the opposition of his colleagues, and the outcry that was raised about standing armies, prevented its realisation. The calamities of the next period of English history were mainly due to the disastrous attempt to raise a revenue by the taxation of America; but this plan had, in 1739, been suggested to Walpole, who emphatically rejected it, adding, with admirable wisdom, that it had always been the object of his administration to encourage to the highest point the commercial prosperity of the colonies, that the more that prosperity was augmented, the greater would be the demand for English products, and that it was in this manner that the colonies should be a source of wealth to the mother country. The first slight relaxation of the commercial restraints which excluded the colonies from intercourse with all foreign countries was due to Walpole, who carried, in 1730, an Act enabling Carolina and Georgia to send their rice direct in British vessels, manned by British sailors, to any part of Europe south of Cape Finisterre ;

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and this measure, restricted as it was, had the effect of greatly developing the colonial plantations, and making their produce a successful rival to Egyptian rice, in the chief markets of Europe? 1

On three occasions Walpole may be said to have been condemned by the almost unanimous voice of the people. He had warned Parliament of some at least of the dangers of the South Sea scheme. His warning was disregarded. The whole nation rushed with a frantic excitement into speculation, and, in the fearful calamities that ensued, Walpole was called in as the one man who could in some degree remedy the evil. His scheme of excise was made the object of absurd and factious misrepresentation. The name of excise was still associated in the popular mind with the hated memory of the Long Parliament, which had borrowed the impost from the Dutch, and had first introduced it into England. The increase in the number of revenue officers that would be required-which was shown to be utterly insignificant-was represented as likely to give the Crown an overwhelming influence at elections. The scheme, which was limited to two or three articles in which gross frauds in the revenue had been detected, was described as a precursor to a general system of excise-a system, it was added, which could only be maintained by the employment of innumerable spies, who would penetrate into every household, and disturb the peace of every family. Walpole yielded to the clamour, but Pitt, who was one of the bitterest and one of the most honest of his opponents, long afterwards confessed his belief that the scheme was an eminently wise one,2 and there is now scarcely an historian who does not share the opinion. The chief proximate cause of the downfall of Walpole was his reluctance to enter into that war with Spain which was advocated by all the leaders of the Opposition, and which at last became necessary, from the popular clamour they aroused. Burke, in one of his latest works, took the occasion of expressing his deep sense both of the injustice and the impolicy of this 2 See Coxe's Walpole, i. 748.

1 Coxe's Walpole, i. 326–327.

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war, and he added that it had been his lot some years after to converse with many of the principal politicians who had raised the clamour that produced it, and that none of them, no not one, did in the least defend the measure, or attempt to justify their conduct, which they as freely condemned as they would' have done in commenting upon any proceeding in history in which they were wholly unconcerned.'1

The special field in which the ability of Walpole was most fitted to shine, was undoubtedly finance, and there was probably no exaggeration in the eulogy of a very able contemporary writer, who pronounced him to be the best commercial minister this country ever produced.' I have already adverted to the singularly enlightened views he had expressed about the colonial trade, to the prescience with which he warned his countrymen of the calamities that would ensue from the South Sea scheme, and to the almost unanimous verdict of posterity in favour of his excise scheme. Dmay add that he succeeded in a singularly short time, and at the expense of comparatively slight loss to the country, in restoring public credit after the collapse of the South Sea Company; that he was one of the first English statesmen who took efficient measures for the reduction of the National Debt; that he laid the foundation of the free-trade policy of the present century, by abolishing in a single year the duties on 106 articles of export, and on 38 articles of import; that the system of warehousing, or admitting as a temporary deposit, foreign goods, free of duty, to await exportation, which had been largely practised by the Dutch in the beginning of the seventeenth century, and which was one of the happiest measures of Huskisson in the nineteenth century, had been part of the excise scheme of Walpole; that by an alteration in the manner of borrowing by means of Exchequer Bills he saved the country the payment of a large amount of annual interest, and that no single feature of his speeches appeared to his contemporaries so admirable as the unfailing lucidity with which he treated the most intricate questions of finance. In all matters that were not con

1 Letter on a Regicide Peace.

2 Tucker.

nected with the maintenance of his Parliamentary position he was conspicuously parsimonious of public money, and his fertility of financial resource extorted from George I. the emphatic declaration that 'Walpole could make gold from nothing,' that 'he never had his equal in business.' The establishments were kept low. Credit was fully restored, and under the influence of a sound and pacific policy, and in the absence of meddling commercial laws, the wealth of the country rapidly increased. The abundance of money was so great that even the three-per-cents. were in 1737 at a premium. The average price of land rose in a few years from 20 or 21 to 25, 26 or even 27 years' purchase. The tonnage of British shipping was augmented in the six years that preceded 1729 by no less than 238,000 tons. Particular taxes were appropriated to the payment of the interest of the debt, and it was provided that when they were more than sufficient for the purpose, the surplus was to be paid into a sinking fund for the liquidation of the principal. Partly by the increase of the produce of these taxes, and partly by reductions of the interest of the debt, the sum annually paid into this sinking fund for some years rapidly increased. In 1717 it amounted to 323,4271., in 1724 to 653,000l., in 1738 to 1,231,1277. The value of the imports rose between 1708 and 1730 from 4,698,6631. to 7,780,019., that of the exports from 6,969,0892. to 11,974,135l. A corresponding progress was shown in the growth of the manufacturing towns, in the extension of almost every prominent form of industry, in the improved condition of the poorer classes of the community. The price of wheat in the first half of the eighteenth century steadily fell. During the fifty years that preceded 1700 the average price per quarter was 31. 118. During the forty years that preceded 1750 it had sunk to 1l. 168., but at the same time the price of labour underwent no corresponding diminution, and during the latter part of that time it had considerably risen.'

'Macpherson's Annals of Commerce, iii. pp. 147, 148. Malthus, On Chalmers' Population, book iii. c. x. Estimate (ed. 1794), pp. 107, 108. Craik's Hist. of Commerce. ii. 201-203.

Hallam's Const. Hist. iii. p. 302. Coxe's
Walpole, c. xlvii. Mill's Hist. of
British India, bk. iv. c. i. Sinclair's
Hist. of the Revenue.

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