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cipated, I had it, I am glad to say, in my power to place at my banker's, having ascertained the amount, a sum of money to discharge all the remainder of that debt, which I considered
66. MORALLY THOUGH NOT LEGALLY DUE. “* This I did without any kind of solicitation—the thing was not named to me, and I am quite sure never were the gentlemen more taken by surprise than when a friend of mine waited on them privately in London, and presented each of them with a cheque for the balance due to them. Now, perhaps, I have myself to blame for this anonymous attack. I probably brought it on myself, for I always felt that if this matter was made public, it might look like an act of ostentatious obtrusion on my part, and therefore, when I put aside the sum of money necessary for the purpose, I made a request, in the letter I wrote to my bankers, desiring them as an especial favour that they would instruct their clerks to mention the matter to no one ; and in order that it should be perfectly private, I employed a personal friend of my own in the city of London, in whose care I placed the whole of the cheques, to wait on those gentlemen and present each of them with a cheque, and I obtained from him a promise, and he from them, not to name the circumstance to any one.' The secrecy thus enjoined was well preserved. Many of the most intimate friends of Mr. Wilson, and his family also, were entirely unacquainted with what he had done, and learnt it only through the accidental medium of an electioneering speech. It may be added, too, that some of those who knew the circumstances, and who have watched Mr. Wilson's subsequent career, believe that at no part of his life did he show greater business ability, self-command, and energy, than at the crisis of his mercantile misfortune.
“ It is remarkable that the preface to Mr. Wilson's first pamphlet, on the “Influences of the Com Laws,' is dated the 1st March, 1839, the precise time at which he was negotiating with his creditors for a proper arrangement of his affairs; and
CHOICE OF SOCIETY.
to those who have had an opportunity of observing how completely pecuniary misfortune unnerves and unmans menmercantile men, perhaps, more than any others—it will not seem unworthy of remark that a careful pamphlet, with elaborate figures, instinct in every line with vigour and energy, should emanate from a man struggling with extreme pecuniary calamity, and daily harassed with the painful details of it."
My dear boy, I was aware of this great trait in that good man's character, and at that time the thought struck me he had read an old Scotch song, and paraphrased it thus :
There is as good gold in the world
As ever yet was taken;
I've been but once mistaken.
CHOICE OF SOCIETY.
"Mr. Wilson took great pleasure in such intellectual society as he could obtain ; was especially fond of conversing on Political Economy, Politics, Statistics, and the other subjects with which he was subsequently so busily occupied. Through life it was one of his remarkable peculiarities to be a very animated man, talking by preference and by habit on inanimate subjects. All the verve, vigour, and life which lively people put into exciting pursuits, he put into topics which are usually thought very dry. He discussed the Currency or the Corn Laws with a relish and energy which made them interesting to almost every one.
• How pleasant it is,' he used to say, to talk a subject out,' and he frequently suggested theories in the excitement of conversation upon his favourite topics which he had never thought of before, but to which he ever afterwards attached, as was natural, much importance. The instructiveness of his conversation was greatly increased as his mind progressed and his experience accumulated. But his genial liveliness and animated vigour were the same during his early
years of business life, as they were afterwards when he filled important offices of State in England and in Calcutta. Few men can have led a more continuously prosperous and happy life than he did during those years. Unfortunately it was not to continue."
MR. WILSON AS A PRACTICAL MAN.
“Mr. Wilson's predominating power was what may be called a business-imagination. He had great power of conceiving transactions. Political Economy was to him the science of buying and selling, and of the ordinary bargains of men he had a very steady and distinct conception. In explaining such subjects he did not begin, as Political Economists have been wittily said to do, with, "Suppose a man upon an island,' but • What they do in the City is this.' • The real course of business is so and so.' Most men of business will think this characteristic a great merit, and even a theoretical economist should not consider it a defect. The practical value of the science of political economy (the observation is an old one as to all sciences) lies in its “middle principles.' The extreme abstractions from which such intermediate maxims are scientifically deduced lie at some distance from ordinary experience, and are not easily made intelligible to most persons,
and when they are made intelligible, most persons do not know how to use them. But the intermediate maxims themselves are not so difficult; they are easily comprehended and easily used. They have in them a practical life, and come home at once to the business' and the bosoms' of men.
It was in these that Mr. Wilson excelled. His • business-imagination' enabled him to see what men did,' and • why they did it '; "why they ought to do it,' and why they ought not to do it.' His very clear insight into the real nature of mercantile transactions made him a great and almost an instinctive master of statistical selection. He could not help picking out of a mass of figures those which would tell
most. IIe saw which were really material; he put them prominently and plainly forward, and he left the rest alone. Even now, if a student of Parliamentary papers should alight on a return “moved for by Mr. Wilson,' he will do well to give to it a more than ordinary attention, for it will be sure to contain something attainable, intelligible, and distinct.
“ Mr. Wilson's habit of always beginning with the facts, always arguing from the facts, and always ending with a result applicable to the facts, obtained for his writings an influence and a currency more extensive than would have been antici. pated for any writings on Political Economy. The businesslike method and vigorous simplicity of Mr. Wilson's arguments converted very many ordinary men of business who would have distrusted any theoretical and abstruse disquisition, and would not have appreciated any elaborate refinements. Nor was this special influence confined to mercantile men. It penetrated where it could not be expected to penetrate. The Duke of Wellington was, perhaps, more likely to be prejudiced against a theoretical Political Economist than any eminent man of his day ; he belonged to the pre-scientific period ;' he had much of the impatient practicality incident to military insight; he was not likely to be very partial to the doctrines of Mr. Huskisson ;'-nevertheless, the Duke early pointed out Mr. Wilson's writings to Lord Brougham as possessing especial practical value; and when the Duke at a much later period was disposed to object to the repeal of the Navigation Laws, Mr. Wilson had a special interview to convince him of its expediency."
INDEFATIGABILITY AS A JOURNALIST. “But it was not by mere correctness of economical speculation that Mr. Wilson was to rise to eminence. A very accurate knowledge of even the more practical aspects of Economical Science is not of itself a productive source of income. By the foundation of the Economist Mr. Wilson secured for himself during the rest of his life competence and comfort, but it was
not solely or simply by writing good Political Economy in it. The organisation of a first-rate commercial paper in 1843 required a great inventiveness and also a great discretion. Nothing of the kind then existed; it was not known what the public most wished to know on business interests ; the best shape of comm
municating information had to be invented in detail. The labour of creating such a paper and of administer. ing it during its early stages is very great; and might well deter most men even of superior ability from attempting it. At this period of his life Mr. Wilson used to superintend the whole of the Economist ; to write all the important leaders, nearly all the unimportant ones; to make himself master of every commercial question as it arose ; to give practical details as to the practical aspects of it; to be on the watch for every kind of new commercial information; to spend hours in adapting it to the daily wants of commercial men. He often worked till far into the morning, and impressed all about him with wonder at the anxiety, labour, and exhaustion he was able to undergo. For some months after the commencement of the Economist, he was still engaged in his former business; and after he relinquished that, he used to write the City article and also leaders for the Morning Chronicle, at the very time that he was doing on the Economist far more than most men would have had endurance of mind or strength of body for. Long afterwards he used to speak of this period as far more exhausting than the most exhausting part of a laborious public life.
“ Our public men,'
,” he once said, “ do not know what anxiety means; they have never known what it is to have their own position dependent on their exertions.” In 1843, and for some time afterwards, he had himself to bear extreme labour and great anxiety together; and even his iron frame was worn and tried by the conjunction.
“Within seven years from the foundation of the Economist, Mr. Wilson dealt effectively and thoroughly with three firstrate subjects,—the railway mania, the famine in Ireland, and