Page images
PDF
EPUB

pies a particular station in the ponds; and should any one quit his place with the view of occupying the position already possessed by another, the intruder is at once expelled with an apparent degree of violence. But so soon as the whole brood has perfected the migratory dress, they immediately congregate into a shoal, and exhibit an anxious desire to effect their escape by scouring all over the ponds, leaping and sporting, and altogether displaying a vastly increased degree of activity.'

We

It appears, then, that the great constitutional change which converts an elderly parr into a juvenile salmon, usually commences in the month of April of the second ensuing season after the fish is hatched; that is to say, when it is about two years old. The specimens marked Nos. 10 and 11, in the collection transmitted to the Royal Society by Mr Shaw, beautifully exemplify the change in question. No. 10 is the individual already alluded to (although we meant nothing personal), as having been removed from the pond on the 5th of January 1839, being then twenty months old. may state once more that it is a parr -exhibiting the form and features of that well-known fish. At this period No. 11 presented precisely the same appearance, but it was allowed to survive until the 24th of May, by which time it had rather more than completed its second year. During the lapse of these additional four months, it gained only half an inch in length, but it cast off the livery of the parr, and assumed that of the smolt or young salmon, this signal change consisting chiefly in the following particulars. The black spots upon the opercles disappeared, the pale-coloured pectoral fins became deeply suffused with a dark or inky hue at their extremities, the broad perpendicular bars or blotches (from which the parr in many districts takes the name of fingerling) on the sides were effaced, and the prevailing tints of dusky brown above, and of yellowish white below,

were converted respectively into a dark-bluish black upon the dorsal region, and into silvery white on the lower sides and abdomen. Vari ous other specimens presented to the Royal Society exhibit the same extraordinary change; and some of these distinctly show, as it were, the intermediate or transitionary state between the parr and smolt. They occupy in one respect, indeed, a most dubious position; for while they may be said to be above parr in relation to their previous existence, they are below smolts in the actuality of their condition, and far from the silvery splendour of a future state. Nevertheless, the whole belonged to broods which, as already mentioned, were the original produce of an adult male and female salmon, and so could not (in spite of whatever exertions they might endea vour to make to the contrary) be otherwise than the natural young of these fishes. Mr Shaw, then, we may here observe, has proved two facts of the highest importance, alike in the natural and economical history of the species in question,-1st, That parrare the young of salmon-being convertible into smolts; and, 2dly, That the main body, if not the whole of these smolts, do not proceed to the sea until the second spring after that in which they are hatched.*

To state the matter then shortly, and in a mode which we suppose Dr Aristotle would call syllogistical, we think we are entitled to say, in more especial reference to the two specimens last alluded to, "These are young salmon,-one of these is a parr,therefore the parr is the young of the salmon." But this announcement neither ourselves nor any body else, whether peer or peasant, could have made without the sagacious, praiseworthy, and perfectly conclusive experiments of Mr Shaw.

This ingenious enquirer has not only settled this disputed question to our own satisfaction, and consequently to that of the world in general, but

* We may here note, that although Mr Shaw could never perceive that any of the river fry attained the migratory state till the second spring after that in which they are first found among the shingle, he yet informs us that one or two individuals of each of his own broods assumed that condition at the age of twelve months. This circumstance, however, he is inclined to attribute to the higher temperature of the springwater ponds having hastened the ordinary natural change; and he deems himself strongly supported in this opinion by the fact, that no similar instance of an early or premature change has ever occurred among other individuals reared in corresponding ponds, supplied by water from a rivulet, the temperature of which throughout the year ranges very equally with that of the river Nith.

has moreover instituted an additional and very singular series of experimental observations, in order to illustrate, if not explain, that curious peculiarity already mentioned-the sexual maturity of the male parr. His frequent observance of this maturity, and of the consequent association of the parr and female adult salmon, suggested the idea of the following practical experiment:

In the month of January 1837, Mr Shaw took a female salmon, weighing fourteen pounds, from her natural spawning bed in the river; from whence he also took a male parr, weighing one and a half ounce. With the milt of the latter he fecundated the ova of the former; and placing the spawn in the small streamlet which acts as the feeder of one of his constructed ponds, he carefully observed its growth, as he had previously that of the salmon spawn impregnated in the ordinary way, and found both the hatching and subsequent growth to correspond in all points with the usual ongoings of nature. This extraordinary experiment was repeated with the same results during the winter of 1838, and the parrs (taken from the river) which had been used as males, were kept alive till spring, when they assumed the migratory dress of young salmon, "and no mistake." He then tried a corresponding experiment, by im. pregnating the ova of three adult salmon taken from the river, with the milt of three parr bred in the confinement of the ponds, and the results in these cases were likewise the same, both as to hatching and final growth, this fact further demonstrating the constitutional strength of the pondbred parents, and that they had not deteriorated, or been in any way altered in their character or natural attributes, as by some supposed. The individuals which were made to subserve the purposes of these novel and important experiments, are preserved in the Museum of the Royal Society of Edinburgh, where, we presume, they may be seen, on proper application, by whoever desires to satisfy himself regarding the fact of their actual and indisputable identity with the so-called parr.

But one of the most curious as well as conclusive circumstances connected with these later experiments, is un

NO. CCXCIV. VOL. XLVII.

doubtedly this,-that one of these male parrs, so successfully used as a parent (No. 12 of R. S. Ed. Collection), had been itself produced between another parr and a female adult salmon; in other words, it was what naturalists (in the very recent and possibly still existing days of the supposed specific distinction of the parr and smolt) would have designated a hybrid or mule. Now, it is admitted by physiological naturalists, that the rule in relation to these mixed productions from kinds not specifically the same, isthat they do not breed at all. Yet this very male parr, originally produced by a parr and salmon, became itself the proud parent of a numerous progeny of most promising fry. Now this is a fact of great importance, because it had in truth been objected to Mr Shaw's earlier experiments, that, by a forced alliance between the parr and salmon, he had not proved their identity, but had only succeeded in producing a hybrid, thus, like another Caliban," peopling the isle with monsters." But the brood in question in no way differs from its predecessors produced under ordinary circumstances; and Mr Shaw has justly observed, that, if parr were actually a distinct species, the result of their attendance on the female salmon would be universal and irremediable confusion among these migratory inhabitants of our rivers, from the circumstance of the male parrs in a breeding state occupying, in great numbers, the very centre of the salmon spawning-bed; while the female salmon herself is at the same instant pouring thousands of her ova into the very spot where they are thus genially congregated."

But we fear we must prelect no more at present on this important subject. We trust we have stated the case in a sufficiently lucid man

ner;

and we therefore now end as we began, by again putting the question, "Reader, what is a parr ?"—"A parr, sir, is a stage or condition of salmon fry, intermediate between the first development of the young fish and the assumption of the silvery aspect of the smolt-the age or continuance of that condition hovering around a maximum of about four-andtwenty months, or thereby."—"Quite right, my fine boy: you may now sit down.

2 M

THE ANTI-NATIONAL FACTION.

THE recent renewal of the AntiCorn-Law, or, as it should more properly be styled, the ANTI-NATIONAL AGITATION, is one of the most memorable instances on record of the extraordinary insensibility of mankind even to their own most obvious interests, when those interests are affected, not by the first but second steps in a series of political events. Notwithstanding the overwhelming majority of 190, by which the motion for the repeal of the corn-laws was negatived in the last Session of Parliament, the subject has again been agitated in the present session; and although the attempt to get up a popular outcry has, for the present, signally failed, yet the endeavours of the agitators to rouse the masses have been incessant ; and it requires not the gift of political foresight to see that great danger threatens the agricultural interests of the empire from the efforts of a faction, deterred by no dread of the consequences of their actions, actuated by no attachment to the welfare of their country, and seizing every opportunity to act upon the excited feelings of a vast and easily deluded urban multitude.

It is because the masses, on whom the anti-national faction work, are so easily deluded-because the grievance, which is the grand lever to which they trust in their endeavours to rouse the multitude-scarcity of provisions-is of frequent occurrence and because the cotton lords and capitalists, who pull the whole wires of the machine which produces so tremendous an explosion, are so few in number, and possessed of such concentrated power, that we apprehend ultimate, though perhaps not immediate danger to the best interests of the empire. Sir Robert Walpole long ago said, that the "country gentlemen, like sheep, always submit quietly to be shorn of their fleece; but that, the moment you touch one bristle on the back of the manufacturers, the whole stye is in an uproar ; and the observation is not founded on any peculiarity of his time, or any extraordinary facility of temper in landholders compared with other men, but on the permanent peculiarities of their situation, and the durable qualities which habit

99

and occupation have stamped upon their character.

Landed proprietors live for the most part in the country, removed from each other. Manufacturers re

side in towns, or thickly peopled villages, and are in habits of frequentof daily intercourse. The latter are men of business habits, engaged in great mercantile transactions, and ac customed to reap immense profits from vast immediate outlay, or strenuous present exertion; the former are habituated only to expenditure, at least for a profitable return, on a very moderate scale, and are maintained chiefly by the labours and efforts of others. The latter, though often involved in engagements which may prove their ruin, have almost always-possessed at the moment-ready money, and accustomed to expend it freely with a view to ultimate return; the former, though often possessed of colossal fortunes, are almost always straitened for ready money, and often involved in an expenditure beyond their annual income. These opposite peculiarities of these classes of society, are the more strongly marked and clearly brought out in the British isles at the present time, that a peace of five-and-twenty years' dura. tion has augmented the wealth and importance of the commercial classes, while it has proportionally increased the expenditure of the owners of the soil; that a vast change by the Legislature in the value of money, has nearly doubled the capital of the former class, while it has almost halved that of the latter; and that a still greater alteration in the composition of the Legislature, has given` to the boroughs, among which the strength of the former is to be found, double the number of representatives of the counties, in which the influence of the latter is placed.

It is a most mistaken belief of the landholders that their interests are for the present safe, and their danger postponed, by the great majority which they obtained when the question was brought the last session before Parliament. Majorities have in these days an awkward habit of changing into minorities when the interests or passions of the active in

habitants of towns are roused against their continuance. We have only to recollect how regularly bad seasons and periods of scarcity recur, and how utterly reckless the popular leaders are of all consequences where their own interests or passions are concerned, to perceive the reality and certain eventual approach of this danger; and if the landholders would see it visibly portrayed, they have only to figure to themselves a reckless insolvent Liberal Premier dissolving Parliament upon the cry of cheap bread-the ballot-and universal suffrage, during a period of dear provisions and commercial distress.

And yet, as if it had been intended to place the British nation, and all the interests it contains, indisputably in the wrong in such a suicidal effort, the course of events during the last eight years, when the clamour has been preparing or going forward, has demonstrated that the very class of society to whose efforts that whole clamour has been owing, is the one which would be the first to suffer by the change contended for; and that, deep and irreparable as would be the wounds inflicted upon the agricultural interests of the empire by the repeal of the Corn-laws, it would yet be inferior in magnitude and intensity of suffering to the wide-spread devastation which would fall upon the commercial classes from the establishment of an unrestricted trade in grain. The four years terminating with 1835 were years of extraordinary, it may be almost said, unprecedented agricultural plenty. The harvests during this whole period were so fine, that not only was the agricultural produce of the British islands adequate to the maintenance of its inhabitants, but the accumulated surplus produce of each of these years was stored up, in the hopes of better

Exports.

1832-£65,026,000 1833. 69,989,000

prices, until, in the year 1835, the average price of wheat fell to thirty-nine shillings and eightpence the quarter; considerably lower than it had been since the time of Oliver Cromwell. The price of wheat during all this period varied from forty to sixty shil lings a quarter; and as the highest of these prices was greatly below that at which foreign grain is admitted at a nominal duty, of course there was no importation of grain, at least for home consumption, or such as could get out of the bonded warehouses; the Corn-laws were in full and unrestricted operation, and the nation felt emphatically both the evils and benefits arising from that state of things. This, therefore, was a period, according to the argument of the anti-national faction, when commercial distress should have been most severely felt-when the stoppage of the import of foreign grain should have proved a fatal bar to the progress of our manufacturing export; and the industry of our operatives shackled by the inability of foreign cultivators to purchase their commodity, should have suffered a severe and accumulating depression.

Was this the case? Did the manufactures of the country, during these four years, progressively decline? Did the diminution of our imports indicate that the prosperity of our own agri culture, and the stringent exclusion of the laws for its protection were operating prejudicially upon the consumption of the nation, and particularly of the commercial classes-and did the progressive falling off of our exports show how materially our com mercial prosperity was dependent upon the sacrifice of our own cultivators to those of foreign states? Let the returns for these years speak for themselves: they require no comment.

[blocks in formation]
[blocks in formation]
[blocks in formation]

-PORTER, Progress of the Nation, II. 98; and JACOB's Prices.

Thus it appears that so far from our exports and imports decreasing, during these years of increasing domestic agri

cultural produce and stringent CornLaw exclusion, they were continually increasing, and that immediately after

wheat had been at the unprecedented low rate of 39s. 8d. a-quarter, our exports had reached the unparalleled amount of L.85,000,000, and our imports of L.57,000,000.

These facts, to the Jews a stumbling-block, and to the Greeks foolish ness, can be perfectly explained upon the plainest reasons flowing from the mutual dependence of every class in society upon its neighbour in civilized life. When agricultural produce is plentifully raised by domestic cultivators, and the price is in consequence low while the produce is great, every class of society is materially and simultaneously benefited. The manufacturers, the shopkeepers, and the whole inhabitants of towns, feel the benefit of this state of matters in the plentiful supply of provisions, and the cheap rate at which they are able to obtain the necessaries of life. An unusually large proportion of their earnings can thus be afforded for its gratifications. If in consequence of fine seasons, the quartern loaf falls from tenpence to sevenpence, and the price of beef from ninepence to fivepence, the whole difference between these sums remains at the disposal of the consuming classes of society. Experience proves that very little of the money thus saved upon the necessaries of life is stored up in the form of capital, so as to be withdrawn from circulation. By far the greater proportion of it is employed in the purchase of the luxuries or conveniences of life. There cannot be a doubt that fine seasons, from the cheap rate of provisions, puts at least thirty or forty millions a-year at the disposal of the consuming classes of society, nine-tenths at least of which is laid out in the purchase of manufactures. It may safely be affirmed, that one fine autumnal month would at once bring round the manufactures of this country, from the lowest state of depression, to comparative affluence. Adam Smith was never more correct than when he said, that the home trade of every country is worth all the foreign trades put together.

Nor is it a less important effect of such seasons of agricultural plenty upon the manufacturing interests, that the greater part of the quickened incitement to industry which thus exists, is felt at home, and that not only is but little of it shared with foreign states, but the ruinous drain upon the metallic treasures of the country is completely stopped. This is a matter, as recent experience has proved, of the very highest importance. All classes of society being at their ease in so far as subsistence is concerned, there is an universal disposition to accommodate, to expand rather than contract purchases, and to extend rather than diminish credit. The effect of such a state of things, in a commercial community, dependent almost entirely upon that most sensitive of created things credit, is incalculable. Bankers, finding their profitable transactions daily increasing, and a general feeling of security pervading all classes, become liberal in their advances; and hence the universal prosperity which immediately ensues.

Such was the effect of these causes, operating for four or five successive years, that in spite of all the paralysis to credit, which at the commencement of the period resulted from reform agitation, not only was Government enabled to remit taxes to the amount of about six millions sterling; but the revenue, so far from exhibiting as it now does a woful deficit, showed a surplus, not large indeed, but still perceptible, of from five hundred thousand to a million sterling a-year.

[ocr errors]

It is perhaps the most important effect of such a state of things, that it thus effectually prevents that ruinous export of the precious metals to foreign states, which experience has proved to be so extremely detrimental to all, but especially the commercial interests of the empire. The necessaries of life being extremely cheap at home, there is no drain of specie to purchase subsistence abroad, and thus our export trade, how great soever, is carried on chiefly with those countries, and for those articles for which the export of

[blocks in formation]
« PreviousContinue »