HC Deb 19 July 1811 vol 20 cc1107-10
Mr. Brougham

said, that before he had been instructed, from the authority of the Chair, that it was irregular, he had intended to move his Resolutions as an amendment to the question of the third reading of the Gold Coin Bill. In now moving them, for the purpose of having them entered on the Journals, he did it, not with the object of creating a debate, although he knew that many gentlemen near him were not indisposed for it, even at that late hour of the night. His Resolutions' would contain a censure on the conduct of the Bank Directors; which he conceived they had too well merited. Notwithstanding the sneer of an hon. Bank director, on a similar observation of his, a sneer that seemed to meet with so favourable a reception from the right hon. the Chancellor of the Exchequer, he had to state that he still felt as much distrust as ever in power,—and not only in power, but also in monopoly. But where power and monopoly were united, and when it was shewn that they were working together for a common end, he conceived a case was made out sufficient to excite the jealousy and vigilance of every man who professed or felt a regard for the constitution, He was the more strongly impressed with the necessity of this censure, on hearing, not a little to his surprise, the high tone lately assumed by an hon. Bank director, a tone as little as possible warranted by the conduct of that corporation, of which he was a member. When he heard it said that the mere possession of the qualifying sum of 2,000l. was not a consideration capable of influencing any director or proprietor of stock in the vote, which, as a member of parliament, he might give on this Bill; and when he found that under this language it was designed to conceal that extensive interest which was derived to every trader, and to every trading company in the power of accommodating others by advances; when he found that it was openly contended that on a Bill which was to sanction an unlimited issue of paper on the part of a commercial company, that company had no direct interest in the decision of the question, he felt a degree of alarm that strengthened his conviction of the propriety of his Resolutions. When he saw, too, that however excessive those issues, the government was ever prompt to lend their support and countenance to the abuse, he could have no doubt of the justness of the censure. He would, not longer detain the House, but move his first Resolution.—The hon. and learned gentleman then moved the first of the following get of Resolutions:

"1. That by the law and constitution of these realms, it is the undoubted right of every man to sell, or otherwise dispose of his properly for whatever he deems to be its value, or whatever consideration he chuses to accept. And that every man possessed of a Bank note, or other security for the payment of money, has an undoubted right to give it away for nothing, or in exchange for whatever sum of money he pleases; or if he cannot obtain what he demands, to retain possession of it.

"2. That any statute, having for its object to restrain this right, would be contrary to the principles of the British constitution, and a flagrant violation of the most sacred rights of property, and the ancient and inalienable liberties of the people.

"3. That any statute, having for its object to prevent the Bank, or other paper currency of the country from being exchanged against the lawful money of the realm below a certain rate, would, if it could be carried into effect, cause the lawful money of the realm to disappear, and would, in proportion to its efficacy, preclude the application of the most appropriate remedies for the present derangement in the circulation of the country.

"4. That the free exchange of the lawful money of the realm with the paper currency on such terms as, the holders of each may think proper to settle among themselves, is not only the undoubted right of the subject, but affords the best means of restoring the circulation of the country to its sound and natural state, by establishing two prices for all commodities, whensoever the one currency is from any causes depreciated below the other.

"5. That no law whatsoever can alter the real value of the paper currency in relation to the lawful money of the realm-, nor alter the real value of either kind of currency, in relation to all other commodities; and that any attempt to fix the rates at which paper and coin shall pass current, must, in proportion to its success interfere with the just and legal execution of all contracts already existing, without the possibility of affecting the terms upon which contracts shall be made in time to come.

"6. That it is the bounden duty of the Commons House of Parliament, as the guardians of the rights of the people, to discountenance and resist a scheme which has for its immediate objects the establishment of a maximum in the money trade of the realm, and the dissolution of the obligations already contracted by numerous classes of the community, but which has for its groundwork principles leading to an universal law of maximum, and the infraction of every existing contract for the payment of money; and that a Bill touching the gold coin which has lately been brought from the Lord?, has all the said objects, and proceeds upon the said principles."

Mr. A. Baring

said, he did not mean to argue either for or against what seemed to him to be a self-evident proposition. He wished merely to explain that he conceived the hon. and learned gent, to be one of the last from whom a reproof of using too high a tone in debate, came with any grace (a loud cry of hear! from Mr. Perceval and his friends). He trusted at the same time, that he should always hold a sufficiently high tone to do justice in, that House to any character which might belong to him out of it.

Sir F. Burdett

explained, that in what he had said of the directors, he had not dealt in insinuation, but had merely observed that it was unfair in them to represent themselves as under no other influence than the 2,000l. stock, and then to say that that influence was nothing.

The Chancellor of the Exchequer

said, there was one part of the hon. and learned gent.'s Resolutions, which he believed few would be disposed to think was not the perfect right of every man, that of giving away his property. He begged also to say, that he did not think the Bill would add to any such disposition.

The first Resolution was then negatived, and on moving his second,

Mr. Brougham

said, he had no wish to spoil the jokes of the right hon. gent, but would remind him that the Bill itself positively prohibited any person from giving his Bank note for less than it was worth.

The Chancellor of the Exchequer

did not think the bestowing money for charitable purposes could be called throwing it away. The hon. and learned gent, had not fairly interpreted his last observation, and might have recollected, that Swift had pronounced nothing to be more arbitrary, than for a man to make himself ridiculous, and then be angry at others for laughing.

Mr. Brougham

replied, that he perfectly agreed in the doctrine of dean Swift; and it was under its influence, that when he heard the right hon. gent, enter into a discussion of the expediency of preventing the keepers of turnpikes from collecting silver, or becoming petty traders in silver bullion, he had not been able to keep his countenance.

The remaining Resolutions were then put and negatived.