I am currently reading David Brown’s Palmerston; A Biography.
In 1846 Palmerston had threatened the government of Spain with military intervention if it defaulted on its bond interest payments. Palmerston faced a Chartist candidate, George Harney, at the general election in his Tiverton constituency. At the hustings debate, Harney said Palmerston’s threat to Spain was unjustifiable:
“These Spanish bondholders are English capitalists, who lent some millions of money to the government of Spain, not, as has been represented, because they were anxious to help the people of that country to obtain “Liberal institutions”, but because they were promised a higher rate of interest than they could get at home. That money had been derived from the labour of the English people.”
Harney argued that Palmerston’s foreign policy was simply to deploy the resources of the state to defend the interests of the rich.
The Tiverton crowd greeted this assertion with “immense cheering” and Harney had a clear majority at the show of hands at the hustings, which was attended by most of the adult population of Tiverton. He withdrew from the actual ballot, however, in protest at the extremely limited franchise – only about 600 people in the constituency had the vote.
George Harney, forgotten hero. We could do with him today.
Friday, July 27, 2012
Belloc would be proud