LORD  BYRON  and  his  TIMES
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The “Pope” of Holland House
John Whishaw to Thomas Smith, 23 March 1816

Chapter I: 1813
Chapter II: 1814
Chapter III: 1815
Chapter IV: 1816
Chapter V: 1817
Chapter VI: 1818
Chapter VII: 1819
Chapter VIII: 1820
Chapter IX: 1821
Chapter X: 1822
Chapter XI: 1824-33
Chapter XII: 1833-35
Chapter XIII: 1806-40
Chapter XIV: Appendix
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Produced by CATH
March 23, 1816.

Since I last wrote we have been most agreeably surprised by the signal and unexpected triumph over the income tax, which none even of the best informed had thought could possibly happen in the first instance.1 Several persons thought that the Bill might be thrown out in some one or other of its numerous stages, but no one expected that the original resolution would be

1 “At last I rose, and merely read distinctly the words of the Act imposing the income tax ‘for and during the continuance of the war, and no longer.’ The shout which these three words raised I shall never forget. We divided immediately (March 18, 1816), and threw out the Bill by a majority of 37, which, in reference to the snuff known as ‘Hardham’s 37,’ was called ‘Brougham’s 37,’ and I remember being represented in a caricature as offering a pinch of my ‘37’ to the Regent. The division was “for the continuance of the tax.” “In favour, 201; against, 238.”—“Memoirs of Lord Brougham,” vol. ii. p. 312.

The Income Tax
rejected at once by a powerful and decided majority. The greatest possible efforts had been made, and the strong and confident language of the ministerialists had convinced even their opponents that their exertions had been perfectly successful. I am afraid, indeed, that this must have been the case upon any question not so immediately and vitally connected with the pecuniary interests of the nation. This reflection may a little diminish our feelings of triumph; especially when we consider how slight an impression had been made on the people by the great military establishments, and how totally insensible they were to the injustice and impolicy of
Lord Castlereagh’s treaties and profligate system of the Allied Powers. Still it must be remembered that resistance to arbitrary taxation is one of the most natural and useful results of a spirit of freedom. Witness the case of ship money and the Stamp Act, the latter of which led to the American Revolution. The victory of the popular party in the present instance, considering the principle of the tax and the avowed determination of Government to force it against the avowed opinion and feelings of the people, is, perhaps, the greatest public event that has happened in our time; the most important, undoubtedly, that has taken place since the acquittal of Tooke and Hardy.1

A Ministry, thus defeated and disgraced, ought, according to the good rules of former times, to have been immediately dismissed, but they still retain their places, and the only effect will be that Mr. Canning,

1 In 1794, Horne Tooke, Stone, and others were tried for conspiracy.

Benjamin Constant
on his return to England, will stand somewhat higher, from his friends being lowered, and will obtain better terms in his political negotiation.

We have several rather interesting foreigners now in London, particularly Benjamin Constant, who was formerly the friend of Madame de Staël and the great opponent of Buonaparte in the Tribunate, who, after an exile of some years, returned to France on the restoration of Louis XVIII., and upon the return of Napoleon became a convert to his constitutional system, and one of his counsellors of state.

He is a distinguished literary man, a writer of political treatises and constitutions, a considerable German scholar, with somewhat of the sentimental and metaphysical cast of the Staël school, and has lately written a novel which he is about to publish. He is an agreeable man, but not particularly striking in conversation. However, he has a great deal to say, especially respecting Napoleon, whom he saw continually, and with whom he conversed on all sorts of subjects, political, literary, &c. I cannot now enter upon this wide field; but have strongly advised M. de Constant to write memoirs of Napoleon’s last reign instead of an apology for his own conduct as he had intended. Notwithstanding his political changes, or perhaps because of them, I believe him to be an honest man, and to have been fully convinced of the sincerity and constitutional intentions of Napoleon in 1815, founded upon his conviction of the necessity of such measures.