may here refer to three pamphlets I published during the fifties of
the last century. One was entitled Intellectual Tollbars, another
The Triple Curse, and the other The War: A Blunder and a Crime. Intellectual
Tollbars was written to promote the repeal of what were called "the
taxes on knowledge." No paper of any kind could be made in those
days, either for printing or any other purpose, without paying a heavy
tax; no advertisement, great or small, could appear in any newspaper
or periodical without paying one shilling and sixpence duty; and no
copy of any newspaper, of any size or price, could he produced and
circulated without the Government impressed stamp of one penny.
taxes enfeebled the paper-making, bookmaking, printing, and publishing
trades, and acted as a general deterrent to the advancement of education
and the spread of knowledge. The repeal of these taxes, after a long
and strenuous agitation, liberated and vastly increased the prosperity
of the industries employed, and imparted a new impulse to the national
mind. In fact, the removal of the taxes mentioned was as advantageous
to the producers of paper, books, newspapers, and magazines of all
kinds, printing inks and printing machinery, as the repeal of the
Corn Laws benefited the general condition of the country. I need scarcely
say that the great Anti-Corn Law and Free Trade leaders, who a few
years before shed undiminishing lustre on their age and nation, were
also the leaders of the movement for the repeal of the taxes on knowledge.
As Cobden and Bright had the largest share of public appreciation
and applause for the leading part they took in repealing the bread
tax, it was arranged by them and others that Milner Gibson, their
able coadjutor, should pilot the Bills involving the taxes on knowledge
through the Commons. And this was done with marked success. No one,
unless liberally endowed with the prophetic spirit, could have predicted
that the repeal of the taxes on knowledge would prepare the way for
such prodigious results or that where one copy of a book or newspaper
or publication was produced then, more than thirty times the number
would be produced forty or fifty years after. Neither could he have
discerned that so many newspapers would, in the meantime, be owned
or adroitly used by monetary magnates for capitalistic or social aggrandisement.
Herein may be seen a lurking danger, which will have to be closely
watched and counteracted, or the commonwealth will suffer.
entitled The Triple Curse pointed out the evil effects of the opium
trade on India, where opium was produced by British cultivators; on
China, into which it was smuggled by British merchants; and on England,
the author and promoter of the great wrong. Mr. Montgomery Martin,
who was for many years the British Treasurer in China, said before
a Select Committee of the House of Commons: "The opium trade
is desolating China, corrupting. its government, and bringing the
fabric of that extra-ordinary empire to a state of desolation."
I proved this by a host of facts and authorities in my pamphlet, which
passed through more than one edition. The other pamphlet, The War:
A Blunder and a Crime, dealt with the British and French war against
Russia in the Crimea.
position I then assumed has since been strengthened by established
facts. We commenced that war, with France as an ally, to break and
roll back the power of Russia, and, in Lord Palmerston's language,
"to maintain the integrity and independence of the Turkish Empire."
A huge, far-reaching mis-calculation. Russia was not rolled back,
and has since been advancing east and west. The integrity and independence
of Turkey were less secure after than before the war. France, our
ally then, is the ally of Russia now. By that war we antagonised Russia
for generations, and have since had to pay the penalty, in one shape
or another, to the tune of millions sterling annually. We expended
directly on the war more than a hundred millions sterling, and sacrificed
forty thousand human lives, or-as John Bright said at the time-as
many grown-up men as were living in Birmingham. Mr. Kinglake estimated
that, from first to last, more than half a million of men perished
through that war; and Lord Salisbury, some years after, when commenting
on the war, said, in sporting phraseology, that we made a mistake,
and "put our money on the wrong horse."