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him, would as readily worship Punch, and
receive his squeakings for oracles, as to bow
down before the Great Monkey.

Amongst the most prominent superstitions
in which our forefathers believed, as a
commercial opinion and rule of legislation, was
"Protection;" and we have not awakened too
recently from the delusion which descended
from them not to perceive its absurdities,
especially on looking over their voluminous
legacy, the Statute Book. Before, however,
we open some of its most comical pages, let us
premise that the question of Protection is not
a political one. Of the precise force and meaning
of the term, there is a large class of
"constant readers" who have no definite idea.
The word "Protection" calls up in their minds
a sort of phantasmagoria composed chiefly of
Corn-law leagues, tedious debates in Parliament,
Custom-houses, excisemen, smugglers,
preventive-men and mounted coast-guards.
They know it has to do with imports, exports,
drawbacks, the balance of trade, and with
being searched when they step ashore from a
Boulogne steamer. Floating over this indefinite
construction of the term, they have a general
opinion that Protection must be a good thing,
for they also associate it most intimately with
the guardianship of the law, which protects
them from the swindler, and with the police-
man, who protects them from the thief. That
powerful and patriotic sentiment, "Protection
to British Industry," must, they think, be
nearly the same sort of thing, except that it
means protection from the tricks of foreigners
instead of from those of compatriots. They
confess that, believing the whole matter to be
a complicated branch of politics, they have had
neither time nor patience to "go into it."

In supposing the question of Free Trade or
Protection to be a political one, they are, as
we have before hinted, in error. It has no
more to do with politics than their own
transactions with the grocer and the coal-
merchant; for it treats of the best mode of
carrying on a nation's, instead of an
invidual's dealings with foreign marts and
foreign customers. They are also wrong in
supposing that protection to life and property
is of the same character as that to which
British industry is subjected. The difference
can be easily explained; and although doubtless
the majority of our readers are quite
aware of it, yet for the benefit of the above-
described, who are not, we will point it out:—
Connected, as everybody knows, with whatever
is protected, there must be two parties
A, in whose favour it is protected; and B,
against whom it is protected. Legitimate and
wholesome protection preserves the property
we wish to guard against our enemies;
impolitic and unwholesome protection too
securely preserves property to us which we are
most anxious to get rid ofby sale or barter,
against our best friends, our customers.

These elementary explanations are absolutely
essential for the thorough enjoyment
of the broad comedy, which here and there
lightens up that grave publication, the
Statutes at Large.

When the laws had protected English
manufacturers and producers from foreign
produce and skill; they, by a natural
sequence of blundering, set about protecting
the British manufacturing population one
against another, and the German jest of the
wig-makers, who petitioned their Crown
Prince "to make it felony for any gentleman
to wear his own hair," is almost realised. In
the palmy days of Protection, a British book-
binder could not use paste, nor a British
dandy, hair-powder, because the British farmer
had been so tightly protected against foreign
corn, that the British public could not get
enough of it to make bread to eat.

These were perhaps the most expensive
absurdities into which John Bull was driven
by his mania for protection, but they were
by no means the most ludicrous. Among
his other dainty devices for promoting
the woollen manufacture, was the law which
compelled all dead bodies to be buried in
woollen cloth. There may not be many who
can sympathise with the agony of Pope's
dying coquette:—

"Odious! In woollen! 'Twould a saint provoke;
Were the last words that poor Narcissa spoke."

But every one must be astounded at the folly
of bribing men to invest ingenuity and
industry, to bury that which above ground was
the most useful and saleable, of all possible
articles. The intention was to discourage
the use of cotton, which has since proved
one of the greatest sources of wealth ever
brought into this country.

The strangest and most practical protest of
national common sense, against laws enacting
protective duties, was the impossibility of
compelling people to obey them. To those laws
the country has been indebted for the
expensive coast-guards, who cannot, after all,
prevent smuggling. The disproportionate
penalties threatened by protective laws, show
how difficult it was to ensure obedience. In
1765, so invincible was the desire of our
ladies to do justice to their neat ancles,
that a law had to be passed in the fifth
of George the Third, (chapter forty-eight,)
decreeing that "if any foreign manufactured
silk stockings, &c., be imported into
any part of the British dominions, they
shall be forfeited, and the importers,
retailers, or vendors of the same, shall be
subject, for every such offence, to a fine of
two hundred pounds, with costs of suit."
The wise legislators did not dare to extend
the penalties to the fair wearers, who found
means to make it worth the while of the
vendors to brave and evade the law.

The complicated and contradictory legislation
into which the ignis fatuus of Protection
led men, made our nominally protective laws
not unfrequently laws prohibitive of industry.

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