HC Deb 19 May 1808 vol 11 cc428-48
Lord Binning

rose, pursuant to the notice he had given some time ago, to make a motion on the subject of the Distilleries. Previous to moving that the house should go into a committee, he would explain the nature of the Resolutions he meant to offer in that committee, and the nature and causes of the changes made in those resolutions since he had first announced them. The topics involved in the Report were important and momentous, and the highest authorities differed among themselves upon the principal points. The committee was appointed, in the first instance, to consider of the means of affording relief to the West India proprietors and merchants, and the order under which the committee assembled, directed the committee to inquire whether the most immediate and effectual means of relief would not be, to confine the Distilleries to the use of Sugar and Molasses alone. In the course of this inquiry, it became necessary to ascertain how far the agriculture of the country would be affected by such a restriction, and this investigation led to the knowledge of facts, which established the wisdom and necessity of the restric- tion, exclusive of all consideration whatsoever of the interests of the West India islands. It was impossible to separate the two questions; but this he would say, that neither he nor the committee could have recommended the Resolutions they had done, if the interests of the country, distinct from those of the West India proprietors, had not, in the opinion of the committee, rendered such measures necessary. The committee, finding that this country was generally dependent for a sufficient supply of corn and flour upon foreign countries, and that this supply was cut oft* in the present state of Europe, without any prospect of a sufficient resource in the last year's crop of this country, thought it right, as a precaution against famine, to stop the distillation from corn, with a view to a more ample and satisfactory supply of sustenance for the people. Here the noble lord went into a statement of the quantity of corn imported into G. Britain annually, and contended, that the saving by the prohibition of the distilleries, would be 470,000 quarters, which would cover more than half the deficiency created by the stoppage of importation, and more than the whole importation of oats. Under these circumstances, it seemed right to suspend the distillation from corn, with a discretionary power to the privy council, to extend or to put an end to the restriction as circumstances might require. This was the substance of the Resolutions of the committee, resolutions which they never would have come to, on account of the West India merchants, if the circumstances of the times had not rendered them necessary with a view to the general interests of the country. He argued on the principle, that the distress of one class of the community ought not to be remedied by burthening another class. But he denied the application of the principle in the present instance. The sufferings of the West India merchants were great; but the relief here proposed went directly to remedy the distress present or eventual of the country, and relieved the distress of the West India proprietors only collaterally. G. Britain imported annually on an average 770,000 quarters of grain from foreign countries. From some of these countries importation was now impossible. From America, in consequence of the embargo, corn could not now be received, and there was no prospect of the impediment being speedily removed. The supply of last harvest was not sufficiently abundant to have a surplus fund that might be relied on. The stock on hand was far short of the probable demand. In the south of England the crop was abundant, in other parts it was not. The crop of wheat was in general good, the crop of barley was short, and that of pulse good for nothing. Here the noble lord cited the evidence of the witnesses before the committee, beginning with Mr. Arthur Young, in order to establish, that the general crop of the last year was short, and the supply in the country insufficient. The stoppage of distillation from grain would be adequate to the importation of 470,000 quarters. In the present circumstances it seemed essential to divert so large a supply from luxury to necessity. It was objected to the measure, that it laid down a bad precedent, tending to encourage the perpetual interference of parliament in such cases. But, the circumstances of the present case were peculiar, and unless the same identical circumstances existed, the precedent could not apply. It was said the quantity of grain sown next year would be diminished by the stoppage. But the quantity to be sown depended on the prices, and the present prices were far from being low. Instead of falling, they had risen since the present, measure was announced. Here the noble lord cited accounts of prices sent to him, which shewed a continued rise in the prices of corn in the last two weeks. In Scotland, in particular, the account stated that the distillers had determined to stop whether there was a provision to that, effect or not. If the business could have been conveniently gone into last night, he was prepared to offer a Resolution for restricting distillation from com for 12 months, from July 1, 1808; with permission to the king in council to do away that restriction whenever an abundant crop should render it adviseable or safe to do so. Understanding, however, that a number of the most formidable opponents of the measure might be conciliated by delay and representation, and that substantial good might be done with less difficulty by affording the means of private arrangement, he had put off his motion till this day. This was the sole cause of the delay, which was entirely distinct from ministerial motives. The object of attaining the same good with unanimity, was with him most important. He had, therefore, made the adjournment from yesterday, and he had also made some changes hi the Resolutions he intended to propose, which he had reason to think would render them more generally acceptable. It had been objected by the Irish gentlemen, that the Report of the committee, by proposing to prohibit the importation of Irish spirits into England, went to a violation of the Articles of the Union. As nothing could be further from his wish and the wish of every gentleman of the committee and of the house, than to interfere with this compact in the slightest degree, this prohibition was to be now omitted. The first Resolution he meant now to propose, was, That after the 1st of July, and thence to the 1st of Oct. next, all distillation from corn, grain, flour, meal, &c. should cease throughout the United Kingdom; and secondly, that it should be lawful for his majesty in council, after Sept. 1st, to continue the restriction till forty days after the commencement of the next session of parliament. Thus, if the ensuing harvest should be a good one, the restriction might expire at once; if it should not be so, his majesty might continue the restraint till parliament should provide such remedy as its wisdom might think fit. It was intended, also, to reduce the duty on wash made from sugar. These provisions it was proposed should be extended to Ireland. But as his information on the state of that part of the united kingdom was not so complete, he would leave the details of the arrangement, so far as Ireland was concerned, to be afterwards settled and explained. He understood, however, that government had received information from Ireland, stating it to be adviseable to stop the distilleries at present. If after the ensuing harvest Ireland had a superabundance, this country or Scotland could not fail to afford a vent for that surplus. With respect to the West India part of the measure, he did not think it right now to enter into details The committee continued to employ itself sedulously on devising the means of remedying the distresses under which the West India interest unhappily laboured. The distress of the West India interest was urgent, undeniable, and severe. Many who had been till lately opulent, were now in a state of the greatest distress, and the most wealthy were in curtailed circumstances. The supplies sent out to work the estates were still as expensive as ever. He did not think it necessary to argue on the importance of the West India Islands to this country. The present distress of the West India interest arose not from wild speculations, but from the shutting of the continental market, a mischief which England had brought on the colonies, and was therefore in a particular degree called upon to relieve and remedy. The question now before the house was, however, purely a British question. The relief to the West India interest was merely incidental to the primary object of providing a security against the apprehension of scarcity in G. Britain. That this relief to the West India interest could be incidentally introduced, was a great additional recommendation of the measure he intended to propose. He was glad that the measure was at length submitted to the sense of the house. If the restriction was necessary as a measure of precaution, it could not too soon be carried into effect. If it was not, the dispute could not be too soon put to rest. The noble lord concluded with moving, That the Report be referred to a committee of the whole house; and anticipated from the moderation and the good sense of the gentlemen present, that the wishes of the committee would be carried into effect.

Mr. Coke

(of Norfolk) agreed that this question ought to be set at rest. He was sorry to observe a practice of suspending the statute of Wm. and Mary, which was the best security of the agriculture of this country, by affording the means of disposing of the surplus produce. The breweries and distilleries took off this surplus. If their use of corn was stopped, the demand must be lessened, the price must fall, and the growth and supply must of course be diminished. The landed gentlemen did not seek to maintain corn at the highest possible price. All they sought was a sure sale and a saving price, without which the land would not be cultivated. The price this year was low till this committee had commenced its inquiries. It had recently risen in consequence of the agitation produced by the investigation of the committee. The Report itself allowed, that every permanent interference with the present established system of agriculture was injurious; and it expressed great reluctance at adopting even a temporary restraint. Here the hon. gent, entered into a detail of the management of barley farms. In this species of culture, and that of wheat, an increase of one fourth had taken place within 15 years. The importation had proportionally diminished, and the fluctuation of the price of corn had materially lessened. The measure went to check the established system and do away the progressive improvement. With respect to the West India planters, he doubted whether they stood in need of relief. The demand for sugars had lately increased so much, as to create an advance of 6s. per cwt. on the article. This demand had arisen from exportation. The distress of the West India planters had no claim upon parliament any more than that of any other class of men,—the Staffordshire potters for instance. A proposition of the same nature as the present had been brought forward in Mr. Pitt's time. But it was found the revenue would suffer materially from it, and it was given up. Was the chancellor of the exchequer prepared to say this measure would not hurt the revenue, or was he prepared with a remedy for the defalcation? The land was already sufficiently burthened with land-tax, property-tax, and tythes, and it might be expected that gentlemen would not go out of their way to burthen it, for the West India planters. He was sure the West India interest was at the bottom of this measure; for till their distress was represented as so severe, this measure was never thought of. He had no objection to the stoppage of the use of grain in the distilleries, if it should be necessary. The government ought to have the discretion to impose or to remove this restriction when corn should come to a certain price indicative of scarcity or of abundance.

Sir W. Curtis

highly approved of the fur, candid, and manly part the noble lord had acted in this business, as well as the ability he had displayed in the conduct of it. It was known to all the world, that we could not live without importing corn, and in case of a failure of importation, which happened now, or of a scarcity, which might very soon happen, it must be the duty of the legislature to seek for the best substitutes they could procure. Here, then, it was proposed to make sugar a substitute for corn, which was likely to be scarce. He hoped the landed interest would not oppose so useful a plan.

Sir John Sinclair

said, that he might have less objections than he had to the present measure, if he could be assured that it was founded upon a system of general policy, and not local interest; for he was there, not as a man locally interested by the views of any particular place, or any one set of men, but as one of the members of parliament for the united kingdom of G. Britain and Ireland, and as such he could not see any advantage to be derived from the substitution proposed, but did apprehend a great deal of mischief. The hon. baronet then adverted to the great advantage that resulted to the revenue from the grain distillery, and asked, Whether with all this profit from the landholders, besides the property tax and others, it was a wise or a just measure to throw any obstacle in the way of the cultivation of land, and to diminish its produce? With respect to the sugar distillery, great as the injury would be to the landed interest, this boon would be productive of very little advantage to the growers of sugar. The high price of barley and other grain in Scotland, was partly owing to the great quantities that had been bought and distilled there, from an apprehension of this prohibition of distillation from grain. As to what had been said about the advantage which this prohibition would prove to the people, he observed, that he was of a totally different opinion, and in this he was supported by very high authority on the subject. As to the stoppage of foreign importation, he hoped that we might soon have an opportunity of importing from America, as we already might from our own colonies in the north of that continent. But, besides this, the measure might be made use of as a precedent for interference with the production of corn, a thing which it was most important to guard against. If any rational plan of relief could be proposed for the West Indian interests, he would gladly concur in it. But he could not consent that they should thus be relieved at the expence of a particular class of the community. The apprehension of such a measure, as this, had excited the greatest alarm throughout the country; and it was important in every point of view that it should not receive the sanction of the legislature. He should therefore think it his duty to oppose the Speaker's leaving the chair.

Mr. Curwen

, considering the great importance of this proposition, thought that it ought at least to have come from one of the ministers of the crown, who must be in a peculiar manner responsible for the effects of it. He, notwithstanding, gave credit to the noble lord, for the manner in which he had brought it forward; but asked, how he had coma to change his opinion, and swerve from the Report in one day? However, he would not argue from the Report, but take the proposition, as it now stood. With respect to the lodging these discretionary powers in the crown, he thought that this system was attended with very bad effects, and he was by no means fond of the idea of encouraging the practice. In order to shew that the country might be sufficiently supplied with grain, he adverted to the excellent effects that had resulted from Mr. Western's act by the increase of agriculture, he was a wise minister that assented to that act, and resisted the clamour raised against it at the time. Though the immediate effect of that act might have been to raise the price of corn, yet the ultimate effect was to render it cheaper, as it enabled the landholder to raise corn upon those acres on which none could otherwise have been produced. He mentioned, as another reason, the improvement in the breed of cattle, by which, in Scotland and other places, double the quantity of meat was produced with the same quantity of animal provisions, so that much less land was necessary for pasture, and more was left for the production of grain, of which the prices had never before been so regular. In Devizes, and other places in that neighbourhood, more grain had been stored up than ever had been known at any former period; and the present rise in the price of grain was owing to the alarm of the distillers, who had been buying up and distilling as much of it as possible, from an apprehension of this measure. Still however, if the proposition had come from the chancellor of the exchequer, or any responsible minister of the crown, he should not have been so much inclined to persist in objecting to a discretionary power of stopping the distillation from grain, if the circumstances of the country should require it, without reference to the case of the West Indian planters. But, as the proposition came from the noble lord, it must be considered as founded on the Report of the committee which had been appointed for the specific purpose of examining what method of relief could be adopted for the planters. If this discretionary power was required with the view of affording such relief, and not solely to be directed by the circumstances of the country abstracted from this consideration, the interests of agriculture must be shaken to the centre, without much benefit to the colonies. If, by the contest in which we were engaged, many should be turned from commercial to agricultural pursuits, it would be such a source of strength to the country, that so far from its proving fatal to us, we might come out of it in a better condition than before. He mentioned as a proof of this the great improvement that had taken place in the agricultural system of Norfolk, by which every seventh acre was employed in raising winter food for cattle, though in other places not more than one hundredth. If the same laudable plan should be adopted in other places, a sufficient quantity of meat would be produced to afford half a pound of meat a day to ten million of people.

Mr. Marryatt

could not agree with those who thought that the interests of the West Indian planters were to be thrown entirely out of consideration, and maintained that a case of the utmost distress had been made out by them. When the account of the American embargo arrived, he, along with others, as a deputation from the West Indian committee, waited on the chancellor of the exchequer to ask, Whether government would consent that the restrictions on the exportation of corn to the colonies should be taken off? and upon this being refused, it was suggested that sugar might be substituted for grain in the distilleries, as this would be only relieving them with the money that was sent to be paid to foreigners for corn. It ought to be remembered, that in former committees on this subject, the plan went to the breweries, and to the distillation of molasses; at present it went no further than the distilleries, and distillation from sugar, so that the measure was much simplified, and the financial difficulties in a great measure got rid of. It ought also to be kept in view, that the committee still continued its labours, and had a Report in forwardness pointing out a permanent plan of relief, by which any recourse to this measure in future would be rendered unnecessary. He denied that the system of agriculture would be deranged, for the crop of this year was in the ground, and before the next year's crop could come in, the measure would have answered its purpose, and of course cease. He also denied that the general interests of the country would be at all injured, since the quantity of corn thrown into the market would be so much less than what had been commonly imported. The hon. baronet opposite had not sufficiently distinguished between the effects of a temporary and a permanent measure. He allowed that if the plan was to be permanent, it would be injurious, but no such thing was in contemplation. If agriculture had increased, the population must have kept pace with it, for the importations had not been at all diminished; and in the present circumstances of the country, we ought not to trust entirely to a future harvest, for making up the supply before derived from foreign countries. While the colonies took goods from the mother country to the value of six millions, while they paid nine millions to the revenue, and while the trade employed 20,000 seamen, sugar had for the last 3 years been selling at a price insufficient to support the expence of cultivation. He referred to the official papers in the Report, in order to shew the mistake of those who imagined that too much sugar was raised. The glut had been occasioned by the stoppage of the foreign market, and the admission of the sugar of the captured colonies into the home market, contrary to the good faith on which our own colonists had rested. He further contended, that there was no intention here to relieve one class at the expence of another. The landholders were in possession of an advantage which the fortune of war had given them, and they ought, out of that advantage, to allow something to other subjects of the empire, on whose interests the war had produced an effect so injurious.

General Gascoyne

had understood that the question had been postponed yesterday, with a view to some compromise, but what that was he was yet to learn, for he saw from the agricultural gentlemen nothing but the most pointed opposition. But he should like to know by whom that compromise was made, or who authorized it? The committee was no party to such a compromise, and the hon. member for Norfolk had shewn no inclination to come into the noble lord's proposition. But, after all the delusion and all the clamour that had been excited on this subject, it appeared, from what the noble lord said, that the question was to be discussed without reference to the relief of the sugar planters! What had the committee been appointed for, but to consider of a mode of affording them relief? And was he now to abstain from stating their distresses? The advocates of the high price of provisions refused any relief to the planters till a scarcity should take place, when they would humanely permit them to share the profits they derived from the distress of the country. If the planters were to be relieved only by the calamity of the country, he wished they might be long -without relief. It had been said, that the colonies were well represented in parliament. How did that appear? There never was any objection to profit by the high duties imposed on their produce. They were valuable as a subject of taxation; but when they became a subject of legislation, then they were degraded as well as injured; as in the instance of the bill that passed two years ago. After stating the impossibility that the colonies could keep up the competition in the foreign market with the Americans, who supplied the enemy with the sugar of their own colonies, the hon. general adverted to the opinion of the representative of the county of Norfolk, that the sitting of the committee had raised the price of grain. He affirmed, on the contrary, that had it not been for the sitting of the committee, the rise would have been double. The distress of the colonies was not only severe, but urgent, and the admission of grain into, the distilleries was the only mode of early relief, and if this was denied at the end of the session, all the previous proceedings could only be considered as a tub thrown out to amuse the planters. The general argument of the landholders was, that they did not wish for importation: that might be to their advantage; but when the labourer was in many places in such distress for bread, he should suppose that humanity alone might induce them to allow the deficiency of importation to be thus far supplied. Their motives, however, might be pure, while a regard to their interest prevented their being sensible of the real merits of the question. But, the planters were told to look forward to a stoppage of the distilleries from the 1st of July to the 1st of October. Why, the distilleries never worked at that time. The hon. representative for Norfolk had dwelt upon the great improvement of agriculture, which had doubled within a certain time, yet writers (Mr. Young, Mr. Wakefield, and others) had spread an alarm of scarcity, and recommended inclosures. But inclosures would not remedy an immediate scarcity: this could only be done by employing a substitute for grain. Some of the advocates of the high price of provisions contended, that a scarce year was sometimes a great good, as it would be attended with a permanent benefit [coughing]. Coughing should not prevent his going on. He contended, that the relief of the colonies, instead of being left out of the question, ought to be the most prominent object, and this was the least objec- tionable mode in which the relief could be afforded. If they asked for a loan of five millions it would be refused them; but they did not ask this; they only requested relief in the most moderate way. While Buonaparte was anxiously looking for colonies and commerce, and supplying the merchants of Bourdeaux with money, among us, whose strength and resources depended so much on commerce, books were published to prove that commerce was of no benefit. He concluded by observing, that the West India planters, considering their situation, had been remarkably moderate in their claims for relief, and immediate relief ought at length to be given.

Mr. Gooch

did not intend, when he came into the house, to have said any thing, but had resolved to leave the discussion to those who could do the subject so much more justice. But he could not avoid taking notice of the aspersions which had been cast on the country gentlemen by the hon. general under the gallery—a thing the less to be surprised at as coming from an avowed advocate of the Slave trade. The opposition to this measure, he observed, was founded on the clearest and most solid principles, and he most conscientiously joined in it. Trade might suffer for a time, without any great loss to the community, or without affecting in a material degree the general interests. But it was far otherwise with agriculture; when that was injured the whole country must be injured with it. Nothing, therefore, ought to come into competition with this grand national object. This measure, if passed, would derange the agricultural system, and change the whole method of cropping. The agricultural interests ought not, surely, to pay for the speculations of the colonists. On these ground?, he would oppose the measure. With respect to the imputations of the hon. general, he would leave it to others to give him a detailed answer.

Mr. W. Fitzgerald

commented upon the contrast so glaringly manifested between the Report of the committee, and the speech of the noble lord who was its chairman. The Report recommending the measure for Great Britain, at the same time stated reasons conclusive on the impolicy of extending it to Ireland. On that part of the Report he certainly had not a different opinion; but it was with feelings of surprise he read a following recommendation to that house to restrict the impor- tation of Irish spirits into this part of the kingdom. When such a manifest breach of the articles of the Union was recommended to that house, he could not sit silent without being guilty of that which, he trusted, never would be attributed to him, namely, an abdication of the honour and duty of an Irish representative. It since turned out, that the objection on that ground was removed, and the less one substituted, of extending this ruinous measure to Ireland. The Report itself had furnished the objections to that substitution, and he, therefore, was not a little surprised to hear the chairman of the committee, who drew up that Report, propose a measure against which it so conclusively argued. He felt it his duty to state to the house, that he had alone risen in behalf of the interests of that country with which he was acquainted, and expressed his determination, if it should accede to the motion for going into a committee, to move, as an amendment to the resolution which he presumed would be proposed, to leave out the words 'United Kingdom,' and substitute, 'Great Britain.'

The Chancellor of the Exchequer

observed, that gentlemen had alluded to a compromise: he was not aware of any such compromise, nor had his noble friend, as far as he understood him, affirmed that any had taken place. If there had been any compromise, and any discredit attached to it, the hon. general had certainly shewn that he was no party to it, and that none of the discredit would rest with him. He understood his noble friend to have said, that he had postponed the resolutions on the former day, from an idea, arising from the nature of the objections, that a trial ought to be made whether the propositions might not be so framed as to conciliate gentlemen on both sides. But, he certainly had no recollection that his noble friend pretended that he could compromise the matter, nor had he any authority to do so. The hon. general had charged his noble friend with having left the distress of the sugar planters out of the question, though the committee had been expressly appointed to devise a plan for their relief. He did not think that his noble friend had departed from the character or spirit of the Report, for the measure was there recommended only with a view to the diminished supply of corn, and a power was accordingly recommended to be vested in the crown, to stop the suspension when the continuance of it should be inconveni- ent or injurious to the agricultural interests, and not desirable with a view to prevent a scarcity of food. If his noble friend then felt that a notion prevailed, that his design was to remunerate the sugar planters, and to sacrifice the landed to the West Indian interest, was it not expedient that the thing should be placed on its true ground; and that it should be stated, that, independant of the West Indian interest, there were good reasons for the adoption of such a measure? That was his view of the subject, and the view of his noble friend, who had kept strictly to the spirit of the Report. The hon. general was, however, indignant at the delay, and said, that from the 1st of July to the 1st of October, the distilleries would be stopped at any rate. But his noble friend here again had only followed the spirit of the committee's recommendation; for the committee had proposed, that the suspension should commence from the 1st of July, and continue till July in the following year, still leaving a discretionary power with the crown. The proposition of his noble friend, that the distillation from sugar should commence on the first of July, and continue till Oct. with a discretionary power in the crown to continue it still further till 30 days after the meeting of the next session of parliament, was in substance exactly correspondent to the Report.—[General Gascoyne said across the table, that he understood that sugar was not to be substituted between July and Oct. except in a case of scarcity.] That, indeed, would have afforded some ground for the hon. general's objection; but his noble friend had expressly stated that sugar was to be substituted; and the hon. general might recollect, that he had mentioned his intention of proposing a reduction of the duty on sugar-wash, in order to enable the distilleries to employ sugar with advantage. Another reason for desiring an interval was, to consider how the difficulty, with respect to Ireland, could be got over. The hon. gent, over the way (Mr. Fitzgerald), who had expressed himself so strongly with regard to a recommendation of the committee which he considered as an attempt to violate the act of Union, was hardly reasonable in his objection to a compromise by which that difficulty was done away, and the resolution proposed in such a shape as made it a common question with respect to both countries. That this rendered the proposition more difficult he allowed; but when both countries were united, and the trade in grain perfectly free between them, it appeared that there was no step that could be taken to save the grain here that, did not equally apply to Ireland. When there was abundance or scarcity in one country, it would be equally felt in the other. If the prices here were high, they must be high there, and vice versa, so that the same measure of precaution ought to apply to both. If this had been solely a competition of interests, there was no question that the landed interest ought to have the preference; but when another interest might be promoted without prejudice to the landed interest, surely the proposition could not be rejected, merely because a measure, expedient in itself, might happen to afford relief to the sugar planters. He agreed, therefore, that the question ought not to be argued on the ground of relief to the West India planters; although that was not to be thrown out of consideration entirely. He then put it to the judgment of the house, whether though fortunately there was not at present a scarcity, yet in the deficiency of the means of supply, and the badness of the crop, under the apprehension of a possible scarcity, with the foreign ports shut against us, it was not wise to provide beforehand against those threatening appearances? Those who put the question on the general principle, did not argue fairly, for the present was different from ordinary cases; and hence the hon. baronet's (sir John Sinclair) arguments, though they might apply very much to former times, did not at all apply to our present situation. We had been an exporting, we were now an importing, nation.—The right hon. gent, then adverted to the evidence of Mr. Arthur Young and others, and contended, that the matter was clearly made out, that the crop was deficient, and that it was expedient to adopt some such measure as the present. He denied that the high price could possibly result from the agitation of this question. The effect of that must have been quite of a contrary description. The cause was, the scarcity in Scotland, and the indifferent crops in other places. It would be improper to bring the measure into operation sooner than the 1st of July, as the distillers should have time to dispose of that grain which they had in such a state that it could be applied to no other purpose. He stated, that the crop of potatoes had failed in Ire- land, and that by the effect of this proposition, the people there would have other food cheaper. The measure ought always to be considered as a temporary one. He admitted that it was his duty to take care of the revenue, and that this was an important consideration. But he believed that the revenue would not suffer materially, and that the difficulty of the collection in Ireland might be got over. He hoped, upon the whole, that those gentlemen who objected to the quarter from which the proposition came would dismiss from their minds, in considering the subject, every thing except its real merits. This was the proper view of it, and he hoped that no strenuous opposition would be persisted in.

Mr. Ponsonby

declared, that if he had not read the Resolutions proposed by the noble lord, he should have voted for the motion of going into the committee; but the reading of these Resolutions was sufficient to satisfy his mind as to the propriety of an opposite course. The gentlemen on the other side, had taken quite different routes to recommend the measure of the noble lord. One had pleaded for it as necessary to relieve the West India merchants, while another contended that it was called for in order to guard against scarcity. To show that the latter ground was erroneous, the right hon. gent. entered into a comparative statement of the prices of corn, at various periods, particularly in Ireland; and quoted several passages from the evidence taken before the committee, to prove that this ground was quite untenable. As to the relief of the West India merchants, he was as anxious for it as any man, but to the mode now proposed he strongly objected, and, in particular, because he did not think this mode could be effective. He would rather recommend some permanent relief for this deserving class of men, by reducing, for instance, the revenue to which they were subject. The West India merchants he thought peculiarly entitled to consideration; because, while they were subject to all the additional contributions consequent upon the war, they were not liable to profit by its results. For if, through our success, any colonies should be captured, the West India merchants were likely to suffer by the competition which they must experience from the produce of such colonies; and if defeated, those merchants would, in consequence, be excluded from an additional market. Thus, in the event of our success or defeat, the West India merchants were almost equally liable to suffer. Of course, they had strong claims upon the country. But the present was not the mode of relieving that class of men. In fact, while it would administer ineffectual relief to them, it would offend the landed interest. Thus ministers, who proposed it, would experience the fate generally attendant upon half-measure politicians, namely, that of neither pleasing nor serving any body.

Sir A. Wellesley

asserted, that the people of Ireland, and especially in the north, were very much distressed for provisions, which distress would, he maintained, render a measure of this nature necessary, whatever might be the state of the West Indian merchants.

Colonel Montgomery

stated, that the scarcity of the potatoe crops in that part of Ireland with which he was acquainted, had been such last year as to afford scarcely enough to spare for the ordinary cultivation or seed. The consequence therefore was, to produce a proportionable scarcity of corn, which he thought the measure under consideration calculated to alleviate, if not to remedy.

Sir John Newport

was surprised at the statement, that the north of Ireland had recently experienced any material want of provisions, as the price of corn had not been for several months at all fluctuating at one of the greatest ports for the export of that article in Ireland, he meant Water-ford. If any scarcity existed in the north, he naturally concluded that such scarcity would have affected the price of corn at Waterford. The right hon. baronet generally deprecated the interposition of the legislature upon subjects of this nature. He thought such interposition, in almost every instance, extremely noxious. Indeed, experience had proved that nothing but imperious necessity could excuse it. To such interposition he believed it was owing that this country was not able to grow sufficient food for its population, as it formerly did. From the enactment of Mr. Parnell's act to the present time, the interposition he deprecated was found injurious. As to the rise which had recently taken place in the prices of sugar and corn, it appeared to him to proceed from the speculations likely to arise out of the existence of a committee upon this subject.

Mr. C. Ellis

contended, that the fears of the landed interest were without founda- tion, and that it was not necessary to prove a scarcity, as something was indispensible as a measure of precaution. Some relief was absolutely necessary, and if gentlemen would not accede to this, he should be happy to receive from them the boon of a fair competition in the market, rums against British spirits, and sugars against corn. If from the opposition given to the present measure, it should be defeated, and a scarcity be the consequence, he would ask, what excuse gentlemen opposite could make to a starving people for having resisted a plan, which, if it did not, as they contended, go the length of giving relief to the planter, could not be shewn to be in any way disadvantageous to the landed interests of the country?

Admiral Harvey

considered that grain being at too low a price, was to be looked upon as a serious evil, as well as its being exorbitantly advanced. If he saw that there was any probability of a dearth, or scarcity, he should then most cheerfully vote for any measure that was calculated to economise the article, and lower its price. As the case now stood, he could by no means think of voting for the proposition then before the house, it being in his judgment calculated in a great degree to ruin the farmer for the sake of affording some partial relief to the West India planters and merchants.

Mr. Foster

stated, in the most unequivocal terms, that he meant to vote in opposition to his colleagues. His reasons were these; in the first place, he thought it to be contrary to all acknowledged maxims of agriculture to say, that we should prevent the use of grain in one of its regular channels, merely for the benefit of the West India colonies; and in the second place, if there were any ground for such a prohibition, it ought to be shewn, that the necessity of adopting such a measure arose from the dearth or scarcity, of grain, or some just cause for the apprehension that such a case was likely to happen. The corn of the country was, by the wisest and most experienced politicians, left in general to find its own level in the market, by the usual means of competition among the dealers. When there was a bad harvest, the price of grain advanced much higher than usual; there were always persons ready to import from foreign markets, and thus keep down the price whilst they promoted their own interests. But it never could be the interests of any state to be regardless of the interests of the farmer, and not to leave him some, opening to dispose of the surplus of his crop. These opportunities were, first, in the sale to the breweries and distilleries; and secondly, by exportation. He believed that this was the first time in the English history, except in a time, of scarcity, or the apprehension of such an event, that ever the legislature attempted thus to tamper with the agricultural interests of the nation. Besides that, he could not believe that it was capable of affording any substantial relief to the West India merchants or planters; and if the house once adopted such a measure, and left such a precedent on their journals, it was impossible to say to what extend the mischief might be carried hereafter. Gentlemen might say what they pleased in that house upon the subject, but their words would have no effect upon the country at large; and the precedent would appear upon their journals without their arguments in support of the measure, so that hereafter it might be made use of, on lighter grounds even than those on which the present proposition stood. Agriculture was a business that required most extraordinary steadiness, more than almost any other pursuit that mankind were engaged in; and if the farmers were left without four years steadiness in the law that was to govern them, there would be no market, comparatively speaking, for a redundant crop, and no resource in time of scarcity. In Ireland there was no steadiness in the law upon this head until the year 1784. The law was at that time fixed; and almost ever since they have been able to send considerable supplies of grain annually to England. In every point of view that he could look upon the present subject, it left so strong an impression of its impolicy on his mind, that he felt himself bound to vote against the Speaker's leaving the chair.

Mr. Windham

declared that the principles laid down by the right hon. gent, who had just sat down, and by his right hon. friend (Mr. Ponsonby), need only be heard, to carry conviction to the mind of any dispassionate man. The committee, however, had been instructed to consider of the best means of affording relief to the West India planters, and to consider of that only, as it was imagined at least; but all on a sudden, and most conveniently for the wishes of the gentlemen on the other side (all but the chancellor of the exchequer for Ireland), the idea of a scarcity in the country darted upon their mind, some- thing like Bayes's army in disguise, and gave a new turn to their proceedings. Really whilst there was such vacillation of opinion, such unsteadiness among their councils, there was little or no hope left for confidence in future. And, in fact, if there was any thing like a scarcity in the country, the very words of ministers that night were calculated to spread the alarm and add to the necessity.

Sir C. Burrell

declared his sincere conviction of the dangerous tendency of the measure which was then before the house.

Lord Castlereagh

strenuously supported the motion. As an argument in its favour, he asserted that the price of grain was at present higher than in the scarcity of 1795, and as high as in the scarcity of 1800, when the distilleries were prohibited. Added to this, we had not at present any prospect of a foreign import; so that any means that tended to husband our present sources of supply it was adviseable to adopt.

Mr. John Smith

supported the measure. The greatest possible calamity that could befal any country was a scarcity of corn. It must be considered, that for the last 18 years a very large importation of that article had taken place, and we ought to provide for the consequences that might arise from our being deprived of all foreign sources. There were already a great number of persons deprived of employ, so that we had need to guard against the additional calamity of scarcity. He knew of one instance, within these last six weeks, where no less than 1000 persons had been thrown out of work from one manufactory alone. He really believed too that the West India planters were a most injured set of people, and that some measure was necessary for their relief. The effect of this present measure would be to relieve both of these descriptions of individuals, and be attended with generally beneficial consequences.

Sir H. Mildmay

spoke against the measure, and stated the average of the price of corn for several years, in order to shew that the supporters of it were not justified in using such arguments in favour of their measure, from the state of these prices. If, however, the house proceeded into a committee, he should then take an opportunity of proposing some alteration in regard to the period.

Mr. G. Hibbert

said this measure was expressly recommended by the committee, after an inquiry into the same subject had taken place in 1807, and therefore it was impossible that they could have recommended one so totally different from the former recommendation, had they not seen that the circumstances of the times made that alteration absolutely necessary. Those circumstances were the changes that had taken place in the foreign relations of the country, which now deprived us of a supply of grain. If we did not want that supply formerly, why did we take it? If we did want it, was it possible that any ministry could he justified in sitting calmly, and viewing with composure, the consequences likely to arise from the country being deprived of that supply in future. He could assure the house that there was no joking with the belly. Our enemy had aimed two blows against us, in depriving us of the markets for procuring supplies of grain, and of a market for our sugars. He should take a future opportunity of delivering his sentiments at length upon the subject.

Mr. W. Smith

said, he had sat upon the committee for two months, and could not help expressing his surprise that the noble lord had brought forward such a measure. But unquestionably, this was not a measure of the committee which was instituted for the purpose of proposing relief to the West India planters, as they indeed seemed to be left entirely out of the question. His objection to the measure was, that, as to the West Indies, it was futile, and as to scarcity it was worse than nothing. Our importation of corn had been hitherto more than 700,000 quarters, but he argued that no scarcity was to be apprehended. He should like to know what effect this measure was likely to have before the next harvest. It was only telling the distillers that they must stop distilling from grain upon the 1st of July, the very time about which they would have done so, without any restraint whatever. The consequence of this measure would be, to produce scarcity instead of preventing it, as the distillers would use more grain between this time and the 1st of July, than they otherwise would have done.

After a short reply from lord Binning, the house divided,

Ayes 122
Noes 108
Majority for going into a Committee —14.
The house then went into a committee, pro forma, and the chairman obtained leave to sit again.—Adjourned at four o'clock on Friday morning.