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sixteen. On the conclusion of the Cobden Treaty it immediately rose to over twenty, from which point it has steadily declined until it is now lower than it was before 1860. Prices having fallen, whilst duties have remained the same, they have become protective. The percentage of French exports to the United Kingdom to the total of French exports from France before the conclusion of the Cobden Treaty was 23 per cent. ; on the conclusion of that treaty it at once rose to over 29 per cent., and remains at that point. The table of percentage also shows that the proportion of trade with the other nation to the total trade of the country is much greater in the case of France with the United Kingdom than in that of our trade with France. Franco-English trade is about 22 per cent. of the total trade of France, while Anglo-French trade is only about 11 per cent. of the total trade of the United Kingdom. From this point of view France is much more interested than England in the conclusion of a treaty to confirm the existing commercial relations between the two countries, or to place them on a still more satisfactory footing. In the sense of the first clause of the bases of agreement cited above, Mr. Gladstone proposed in his Supplementary Budget a reduction of the duties on all wines, of which reduction that to sixpence of the existing shilling duty on wines of below 20° Sykes was the result of this arrangement with France, and was intended to hurry on the treaty. But at this moment M. Léon Say was suddenly elected President of the Senate, and a great outcry was made against him by the Protectionist members of that body on the ground that, in signing the bases for a treaty, he and the Cabinet which instructed him had violated a promise given to the French Chambers that no treaty should be made, or, as some put it, no negotiations begun, until after the general tariff then, and now, before that body had been voted. In face of this demonstration the French Cabinet executed a retreat, and M. Challemel-Lacour, who succeeded M. Léon Say in London, allowed the matter to slumber. The proposals made by Mr. Gladstone with regard to the wine duty were consequently withdrawn, and, although a prospect has been held out of willingness to treat next year, there does not seem any immediate likelihood of the treaty being concluded.
In dealing with this important matter the Government will, however, have the advantage of being able to point to the general success of their financial administration. The year 1880 will stand out with even greater distinction than its predecessor in the annals of French finance. Although 120,000,000 fr. of taxes have been taken off, and in spite of the enormous expenses on public works entailed by the carrying out of M. de Freycinet's gigantic schemes, the indirect taxes alone have yielded an excess of 170,000,000 fr., and, after deducting all the supplementary credits voted in the course of the year, there will remain the magnificent surplus of 100,000,000 fr., as to the employment of which the Minister of Finance, M. Magnin, will take the pleasure of the Chamber in 1881.
The Grist Tax Debates-Prorogation of Parliament and its Re-assembling
Defeat of the Cairoli Ministry-Dissolution of the Chambers - The General Elections—The Autumn Session-Montenegrin Question—Ecclesiastical Policy of the Government-Attitude of the Clerical Party.
At the close of 1879 the political situation in Italy was at a deadlock; ever since March 1876 the Left had been nominally in power, and their leaders had been making vain attempts to carry out the reforms demanded by their party in the teeth of a hostile majority in the Senate and a determined opposition in the Chamber. In the Chamber the Right was not, indeed, numerically to be feared, but the high character of its leading men gave a weight to its united action, which, coupled with the possibility of coalition with Dissident elements of the Left, created constant difficulty, if not danger. For more than three years this situation of affairs had paralysed legislation, and when the two Houses adjourned on December 24, 1879, the Senate was still engaged on the Bill for the Abolition of the Grist Tax, which had formed, from the first, together with the extension of the electoral franchise, the chief point of the Ministerial programme. It was also known that the Bill would ultimately be rejected, and it was understood that the Cabinet were determined, in such case, to resort to extreme measures, and to create in the Senate that majority which they otherwise despaired of obtaining. This would, however, have but the value of a purely temporary expedient, for, although it might enable Government to get the Bill for the Abolition of the Grist Tax through the Senate, it left the difficulties of the parliamentary situation in the Chamber unmodified. In the Chamber, the interests of the South, as represented by Signors Crispi and Nicotera, were forever bringing about fresh combinations, fresh pressure, and fresh concessions, which it was equally dangerous to make or to withhold. To put an end to this state of things an appeal to the country was clearly necessary, but, whilst the Right loudly proclaimed their confidence that the verdict would be on their side, the Left naturally shrank from challenging the electors with all their pledges unfulfilled, and were determined first to make it clear that if their promised reforms still remained unaccomplished they had at least exhausted all the means in their hands.
On January 12, 1880, the two Houses met, and the Senate received from Signor Saracco the report of their committee on the Bill for the Abolition of the Grist Tax. As was foreseen, it proposed the suspension of the discussion until such time as provisions were made admitting of its abolition without danger to the financial equilibrium. A discussion, lasting over many days, then began, and finally (January 24) it was agreed in a full House
to accept the report of the committee and to refer back the Bill to the Cabinet, declaring that it would depend on the Government alone when the Senate would be ready to discuss the question anew. On this Signor Cairoli prorogued Parliament (January 25) for a fortnight, and on February 16 a list of twenty-six new Senators, chosen--as was remarked by the organs of the Right-with careful moderation, made its appearance in the Gazetta Officiale. The third Session of the thirteenth Parliament was opened by the King in person on February 17, and in the Speech from the Throne he declared that “the two legacies bequeathed by the founder of the kingdom of Italy--the reduction of taxation in the interests of the poorer classes and the extension of the franchise—were a sacred duty due to his honoured memory and to the just expectation of our people.” The Bill on Electoral Reform was, accordingly, one of the first measures introduced. It was laid on the table of the Chamber by Signor Cairoli on the 24th, and, having been declared urgent, it was decided that its discussion should immediately follow the estimates, which were then before the House.
For the moment it seemed as if the decided attitude of the Ministry had produced the desired effect, and a meeting of the Parliamentary Opposition was held (March 9) at which a letter from Signor Sella was read in which he urged his party to consider whether they had not better accept bis resignation of his post as their leader, so as to be free to act as they should deem best in the question of the abolition of the Grist Tax-a subject on which he “could not modify his ideas ;” and, although, on the motion of Signor Minghetti a decision was deferred till their next meeting, the Opinione a few days later (March 17) published a second letter from Signor Sella, in which he definitely resigned the leadership of the Right on these grounds. The prospects of the eventual abolition of the Grist Tax were therefore improved, but very little progress was made with the estimates, which had to be passed before the Bill on Electoral Reform could be taken into consideration, in spite of the repeated requests of the Prime Minister for despatch. When the Estimates for Public Works were at last disposed of (March 7), the Chamber decided, after a hot discussion, to proceed at once with those for foreign affairs, after which should be taken those of the Minister of War and all expenses connected with military matters. To this Signor Cairoli agreed, declaring that “all the Government wishes is to get all the estimates through as quickly as possible, but it has absolutely nothing to say against the proposal that the Estimates for Foreign Affairs should be taken first.”
The debate was opened by Signor Marselli (leader of the Centre) on March 11, and lasted over several days; Minghetti, Bonghi, and other noted speakers of the Right played a considerable part in it, but perhaps the most effective statement of the Opposition policy was made by Visconti Venosta, who specially taxed the Government with neglecting the interests of Italy in the East. As to Egypt, he argued that, instead of taking precautions in favour of her creditors, Italy should have endeavoured to undermine the footing acquired there by France and England by working for Egyptian independence, and in general the speakers of the Right seemed to assume that a jealous opposition to the projects of every other Power could alone safeguard the practical interests of Italy. The debate, however, ended by a vote of confidence in the Government; but when a few weeks later the Cabinet was forced by the protracted discussions on the estimates to ask for a prolongation of the provisional administration of the Budget during the month of May, it was met by a vote of censure and placed in a minority by a coalition between the Right and the Dissident Left on this purely incidental question. The general committee on the Budget, of which Signor Crispi was president, whilst advising the House to grant the request of the Cabinet, recommended an order of the day deploring “ that his Majesty's Government have had to present another demand for the provisional administration of the Budget.” This was voted (April 28) by a majority of 23 in a full House of 335. The votes adverse to the Government—177--were almost equally divided between the Right and the Dissident Left, so that an analysis of the total of 335, after allowing for four abstentions, gave 154 to Ministers, 89 to their opponents on their own side of the House, and 88 to the Right. After a prolonged sitting, the Cabinet decided on resigning, and it was now clear that dissolution could no longer be postponed. On this point all were agreed, the only question being under whose auspices the new elections should take place. The Right advocated the formation of a neutral Ministry of Affairs, and the malcontent Left insisted that their leaders should be taken into the Cabinet which they, by the aid of the Right, had overthrown. To this proposed combination Signors Cairoli and Depretis gave an absolute refusal, and the King finally decided (May 1) to decline their proffered resignations, and accepted instead their proposition to dissolve the Chamber and appeal to the country. The decree dissolving the Parliament summoned in 1876 appeared in the Gazette of the following day; the elections were fixed for May 16, the ballotage on undecided contests for the 22nd, and the meeting of the new Chamber for the 26th. This extreme haste was caused by the fact that Ministers, in the face of the language held by the organs of the Opposition, did not dare ask for yet another extension of the provisional administration of the Budget ; that which had been granted would expire on May 31, and on the demand for its renewal by the new Parliament the result of the approaching elections would be tested.
The elections resulted in large Ministerial gains. The returns on May 25 showed that Signor Cairoli might perhaps count on as many as 263 votes, whilst the Right could only muster 150, and the Dissident Left but 90. It was, however, plausibly argued that under the present conditions of the Italian electorate elections furnished no true indication of the feeling of the country. In a population of twenty-seven millions there is in Italy an electorate of about half a million; of that half a million only about 300,000 can be got to the poll, and from that 300,000 must be deducted 100,000 Government officials. That the Right had doubled its representation in the House, although thus handicapped, was in itself a result of no small importance, but a matter of far greater significance was the fact that the gains, both of the Ministerial or Constitutional Left and of the Right, had alike been made at the expense of the Dissident Left, whilst at Lendinara Signor Bertani himself, the leader of the Republican group in the Chamber, had been rejected in favour of a Constitutional candidate.
In the Speech from the Throne, delivered by the King in person on May 26, great prominence was again given to the two leading features of the programme of the Left : “My Government will invite your deliberations on the subject of the Grist Tax.
I am confident that--without disturbing the financial equilibrium --you will settle this question in accordance with the best interests of my people. You will be called upon to consider a Bill for equalising the incidence of the Land Tax, and measures dealing with the financial condition of the communes, and providing for the abolition of the forced currency. I hope that to this Legislature will fall the honour of effecting that electoral reform which is desired by all—the extension of the franchise will give more perfect expression to the national will which I have always striven faithfully to interpret.” After enumerating at length other points connected with the home policy, the King expressed his satisfaction at the good relations maintained with other Powers, and at the honourable part assigned to Italy in the diplomatic action intended to ensure the execution of the Treaty of Berlin. “ The recent initiative of one Power,” the King continued—“ an initiative to which all the others, including Italy, have adhered-tends to remove those difficulties which have not yet been solved. It is to be hoped that the pacification of the districts bordering on Montenegro will avert the misfortune of a conflict. In connection with the Greek question I will not fail," he added, " with the previous assent of all the Governments, to give the most efficacious and disinterested aid in my power for the purpose of finding a solution in conformity with our common engagements and the traditions of our national policy."
The first trial of strength between the two parties in the new House took place over the election of the presidential bureau. The president, Signor Farini, who had held the same post in the previous Parliament, was elected by 410 votes in a House of 419, but on proceeding to the nomination of the secretaries, the Dissident Left—which had maintained a sullen silence in the midst of the enthusiasm with which the King's Speech had been received