Page images

12, adopted yesterday evening a resolution advising the President to accept the terms proposed by her Majesty's Government. The President did not hesitate to act on this advice, and Mr. Buchanan accordingly sent for me this morning, und informed me that the conditions offered by her Majesty's Government were accepted by the Government of the United States, without the addition or alteration of a single word.--I have the honour to be, etc.

“R. PAKENHAM. “ The Right Hon. the Earl of Aberdeen, K.T., etc." Thus, Sir, the governments of the two great nations, impelled, I believe, by the public opinion of each country in favour of peace—by that opinion which ought to guide and influence statesmen—have, by moderation, by mutual compromise, averted the dreadful calamity of a war between two nations of kindred origin and common language, the breaking out of which might have involved the civilized world in general conflict. A single year, perhaps a single month of such a war, would have been more costly than the value of the whole territory that was the object of dispute. But this evil has been averted consistently with perfect honour on the part of the American Government, and on the part of those who have at length closed, I trust, every cause of dissension between the two countries. Sir, I may add, to the credit of the Government of this country, that, so far from being influenced in our views in regard to the policy of termination of these disputes of the Oregon by the breaking out of the war between the United States and with Mexico, we distinctly intimated to Mr. Pakenham, that although that event had occurred, it did not effect, in the slightest degree, our desire for peace. Mr. Pakenham, knowing the real wishes and views of his government, having a discretionary power in certain cases to withhold the proposals we had instructed him to make, wisely thought the occurrence of Mexican hostilities with the United States, was not one of the cases which would justify the exercise of that discretionary power, and therefore most wisely did he tender the offer of peace to the United States on the impulse of his own conviction and in the full confidence in the pacific policy of his own Government. Let me add, also, and I am sure this House will think it to the credit of my noble friend, that on the occurrence of these hostilities between Mexico and the United States, before we were aware of the reception

which the offer on our part in respect to the Oregon would meet with, the first packet that sailed tendered to the United States the offer of our good offices, for the purpose of mediation between them and the Mexican Government. Sir, I do cordially rejoice, that in surrendering power at the feet of a majority of this House, I have the opportunity of giving them the official assurance that every cause of quarrel with that great country on the other side of the Atlantic is amicably terminated.

Sir, I have now executed the task which my public duty imposed upon me. I trust I have said nothing which can lead to the revival on the present occasion of those controversies which I have deprecated. Whatever opinions may be held with regard to the extent of the danger with which we were threatened from the failure in one great article of subsistence, I can say with truth that her Majesty's Government, in proposing those measures of commercial policy which have disentitled them to the confidence of many who heretofore gave them their support, were influenced by no other motive than the desire to consult the interests of this country. Our object was to avert dangers which we thought were imminent, and to terminate a conflict which, according to our belief, would soon place in hostile collision great and powerful classes in this country. The maintenance of power was not a motive for the proposal of these measures ; for, as I said before, I had not a doubt, that whether these measures were accompanied by failure or success, the certain issue must be the termination of the existence of this Government. It is, perhaps, advantageous for the public interests that such should be the issue. I admit that the withdrawal of confidence from us by many of our friends was the natural result. When proposals are made, apparently at variance with the course which ministers heretofore pursued, and subjecting them to the charge of inconsistency-it is perhaps advantageous for this country, and for the general character of public men, that the proposal of measures of that kind, under such circumstances should entail that which is supposed to be the fitting punishment, namely, expulsion from office. I, therefore, do not complain of that expulsion. I am sure that it is far preferable to the continuance in office without the full assurance of the confidence of this House. I said before, and I said truly, that in proposing our measures of commercial policy, I had no wish to rob others of the credit justly due to them. I must say, with reference to hon. gentlemen opposite, as I say with reference to ourselves, that neither of us is the party which is justly entitled to the credit of them. There has been a combination of parties, generally opposed to each other, and that combination, and the influence of Government, have led to their ultimate success; but the name which ought to be associated with the success of those measures is not the name of the noble Lord, the organ of the party of which he is the leader, nor is it mine. The name which ought to be, and will be, associated with the success of these measures, is the name of one who, acting, I believe, from pure and disinterested motives, has, with untiring energy, made appeals to our reason, and has enforced those appeals with an eloquence the more to be admired because it was unaffected and unadorned : the name which ought to be chiefly associated with the success of those measures, is the name of RICHARD COBDEN.

Sir, I now close the observations which it has been my duty to address to the House, thanking them sincerely for the favour with which they have listened to me in performing this last act of my official career. Within a few hours, probably, that power that I have held for a period of five years will be surrendered into the hands of another—without repiningwithout complaint on my part—with a more lively recollection of the support and confidence I have received during several years, than of the opposition which during a recent period I have encountered. In relinquishing power, I shall leave a name, severely censured, I fear, by many who, on public grounds, deeply regret the severance of party ties—deeply regret that severance, not from interested or personal motives, but from the firm conviction that fidelity to party engagements -the existence and maintenance of a great party-constitutes a powerful instrument of government: I shall surrender power severely censured also, by others who, from no interested motive, adhere to the principle of protection, considering the maintenance of it to be essential to the welfare and interests of the country: I shall leave a name execrated by every monopolist who, from less honourable motives, clamours for protection because it conduces to his own individual benefit ; but it may be that I shall leave a name sometimes remembered with expressions of goodwill in the abode of those whose lot it is to labour, and to earn their daily bread by the sweat of their brow, when they shall recruit their exhausted strength with abundant and untaxed food, the sweeter because it is no longer leavened by a sense of injustice.


COBDEN was the only great English statesman who never held office of any kind. Palmerston pressed upon him the Presidency of the Board of Trade in 1859. But he declined on the ground that he had always been opposed to Palmerston's foreign policy. The two principal achievements of Cobden's public life were the repeal of the Corn-laws in 1846, and the arrangement of a Commercial Treaty with France in 1860. Many causes, no doubt, co-operated to procure the removal of the duty on foreign corn. But the principal cause was the Anti-Corn-Law League, and of that League Cobden was the soul. Although Bright was a more eloquent speaker, Cobden supplied the ammunition. He had a singular capacity for clothing the driest and hardest statistics with life and animation. His simple, homely style concealed the immense pains he had taken to collect and marshal every available fact in the most suitable and telling form. The famous speech which he addressed to the House of Commons in March, 1845, is a good instance of this. Ostensibly, it was only a plea for impartial inquiry by a Select Committee into the causes of the prevalent distress. But so masterly was the presentation of the case that, when Cobden sat down, and Peel's colleagues urged him to answer the speech himself, Peel tore up his notes, and said, “Those may answer it who can." The Government, in refusing a Committee, wished to suggest that there was no case to answer. They were really admitting that there was no answer to the case. The Commercial Treaty with France had an immediate and most beneficial result in largely augmenting trade between the two countries. It has, however, been described as inconsistent with the fundamental principle of free trade. If, it may be argued, free trade is a good thing in itself, if foreign goods are admitted without duty into this

« PreviousContinue »