Economic Annals of the Nineteenth Century

By William Smart | Go to book overview

CHAPTER XXV
1816. REACTION AND DISLOCATION

"THE prevalance throughout Europe," says the Annual Register in its preface, "of a state of general peace, to which universal exhaustion promises a long and secure continuance, limits the history of the year 1816, with one brilliant exception,1 to a relation of occurrences domestic and political." The historian, obliged, for so many years, to take the great war as a kind of vertebral column to which all home interests and affairs attached, finds himself for the moment at a loss how to arrange his material.

The financial changes consequent on peace.

In parliamentary history, the interest for some months centred in the financial changes, necessary to the transition from a war to a peace footing, but made extremely difficult by reason of the fact that they had to be made at a time when the distress of the agricultural classes was at its worst, and when every branch

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1
This was the bombardment of Algiers by Lord Exmouth. It led to the immediate and unconditional liberation of all Christian captives then within the territory of Algiers, and to the renunciation by its government of the practice of Christian slavery. This was one of the few government enterprises for which there was nothing but praise in Parliament. In 1820, however, a member traced the decay of British shipping in the Mediterranean to this act. "It is well known that the British flag was the only European flag respected by the Barbary powers. Our ships, therefore, navigated the Mediterranean in perfect security, and were insured at peace premiums; while those of other nations were exposed to capture, and consequently were obliged to pay war premiums. . . . This state of things gave us so decided a superiority in the carrying trade of the Mediterranean, that not less than five hundred sail of British ships were employed in the corn trade, between the Black Sea and the different ports of Italy, exclusive of the trade from one port of the Mediterranean to another. But, Sir, in one of those fits of magnanimity to which we became subject, in consequence of being hailed as the deliverers of Europe, we thought proper to equip an armament against the Dey of Algiers (the only ally who remained faithful to us during the whole war), in order to put an end to the predatory practices of the Barbary powers; and we certainly did achieve the liberation of about five hundred Sardinians, Neapolitans, and other foreigners, at the expense of the limbs and lives of a

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