§ On the question that the House do resolve itself into a Committee on this Bill,
§ Mr. Parnell
said, that he rose for the purpose of moving, as an amendment, that the further proceedings in this Bill should be postponed to this day fortnight, for the purpose of appointing a select committee to enquire into the state of the currency in Ireland, as the Bill related so much to that country, that every information should be obtained upon its probable effect upon the interests of the different classes there. He would endeavour, with the permission of the House, to put them in possession of the situation in which the paper currency of Ireland was placed. In the year 1804, a Committee had been appointed to enquire into the state of the bank paper here and in Ireland, and it appeared from their report, that the value of the paper issued by the bank of Ireland, in 1797, that the issues had not exceeded 6 or 700,000l. and the exchange between London and Dublin was at 5½ and 6¾ after that, in 1804, the issues had increased to 2,986,000l. and the exchange to 18. In Belfast, the exchange was in their favour, and a person wanting a guinea was forced to give two shillings 280 for it, which was necessarily owing to the depreciation of paper. It appeared, then, that the Irish bank paper was in a progressive state of depreciation, and for this assumption he had very high and great authority, and that of a description which most of the gentlemen opposite would not be disposed to dispute, for the facts on which he assumed the depreciation of Irish paper, were to be found in the report of that Committee, which was composed of Mr. Pitt, lord Castlereagh, Mr. Yorke, Mr. Rose, Mr. Long, Mr. Vansittart, Mr. Manning, sir John Sinclair, Mr. Thornton, and others. When he had such authority, it could not be denied that he was correct in his statement. But in addition to this, he had also to refer to the opinion of an hon. member (the member for Old Sarum) who acknowledged that the paper in Ireland was depreciated, the reason of which was, the discount upon the country. Before the House agreed to make the paper of Ireland a legal tender, it ought to be shewn that the paper, which was depreciated in that country in 1804 (according to the report of the Committee) was not now in that state, but in such a one as authorised the House to make it a legal tender. He conceived that it was impossible to make out that case; but if the enquiry which he proposed was instituted, the result would be, that the bank paper of Ireland was more depreciated now than it had been in 1804, and this fact would appear from an examination into the state of the exchange, and into the value of the paper, compared to the discount. If the exchange between London and Dublin was at 18 per cent. when the Committee in 1804 had ascertained that a one pound note and a shilling would purchase a guinea in Ireland, yet the exchange would now be at 25 per cent. and upwards, instead of 18. If the Committee in 1804 had compared the exchange with Hamburgh, they would have found that it was 18 per cent. against Dublin, to the correspondent in London; and if they had made a late estimate, it would be 25 per cent. against Dublin; therefore the depreciation was greater than in 1804. Next, as to the value of paper, with respect to discount, or of paper on exchange, with gold, the result would be the same. It was perfectly justifiable to assume, that this Bill made paper a legal tender, though it was not set out to be so; for as the prices would be always regulated by the value of the currency, the only case where notes, being made a legal 281 tender, would be of consequence, was in, old contracts, which would be materially affected. He therefore wished for a delay, to ascertain whether the facts he had stated were correct or not; for the House, under such circumstances, could not accede to the proposition of the right hon. gentleman. In a matter where the interests of Ireland were so deeply concerned, they should not come to a decision without giving an opportunity to protect its interests in the matter now before them. But it was argued that the Bill was effectual in this country, and therefore that it ought to be extended to Ireland; but when gentlemen made use of this argument, they must be ignorant of the different situations in which the landlord was placed in that country. Here the leases were for twenty-one years, or a shorter term, and the landlord was sure of a remedy; but in Ireland, where land was held under leases for long terms, of which three lives was the shortest, the state of things was very different, and the landlord suffered in proportion to the depreciation, without any chance of being able to put himself in a just situation afterwards. Besides, the usage here had been to receive bank-notes since the restriction; but it was not so in Ireland, where the national bank itself had not been established until the year 1783, only 14 years before the restriction of payment in specie in this country.—It was not, at the time leases were made in Ireland, the custom for tenants to pay their rents in paper; but if they were now to be authorised by law, so to do, the effect of such a measure on the landlords would be infinitely worse than the Income Tax in this country, as it would diminish their revenue by one-fourth, without adding the least degree to the resources of the stale. The hon. gentleman could not conceive, besides, the necessity or even the utility of extending to Ireland the provisions of a Bill, which was intended to prevent a double marketable price for goods in this country, when it was universally acknowledged that such a double price actually existed in Ireland. The hon. gentleman then adverted to the occasional depreciations which had taken place in respect to the bank of Ireland paper, notwithstanding the high degree of confidence it had always enjoyed. The bank of England enjoyed the same credit, but the issue of their paper was under the controul of parliament, which was not the case in Ireland. In that country there was no 282 check whatever to the issue of that very bank paper already depreciated, and which this Bill was to force on the people as a legal tender. In such circumstances, he maintained, that the only effect of the Bill would be to take the money out of the pockets of the landlords and other creditors, to put it in that of tenants and debtors. It would not raise public credit, as had been asserted, but hurry down it rapid decline, till we were brought within the verge of bankruptcy. Notwithstanding all those strong objections to the measure then under consideration, the hon. gentleman would not vote for its absolute rejection at present; he wanted only for delay, to enquire into the circumstances which might render it advisable to extend the provisions of the Bill to Ireland; and he would in consequence move, "That the Bill be committed this day fortnight,"
§ Mr. George Johnstone
observed, that the matter under discussion was no longer susceptible of that variation of opinion by which its examination was distinguished last year. The question, whether depreciation did or did not exist, was now at rest: time, which solved every thing, had solved that; and no one would now deny that it did exist. The fact had been with much candour admitted by the right hon. the Chancellor of the Exchequer, and if it needed proof he would ask whether, of any commodities, more might not be purchased for one hundred guineas than for one hundred and five pounds. The silver tokens too, which the Bank had issued, were another proof. These tokens professed to be worth three shillings each, while in fact they contained no more silver than what was contained in half a crown: The same quantity of silver that used to be put out for fifty shillings was now put out for three pounds; and that he thought a sufficient proof of depreciation. Perhaps it would be said, that the half crown, worn and defaced as it was, did not contain more silver in proportion, than what was contained in a Bank three shilling token. This he would admit; but then it should be remembered that 24 of those half crowns were exchangeable for 60 shillings in gold. Looking at these circumstances, therefore, no one could deny the fact of depreciation, and that fact being granted, what did the Bill then before the House propose to do? that which Adam Smith, Hume, and lord Liverpool had stigmatized as an act of fraud, when done by any government whatever; namely, to 283 force creditors to receive in payment a depreciated currency. By its operation the state proposed to pay its own creditors, in a paper professing to be worth twenty shillings, when in fact it was only worth sixteen; while individual creditors would be placed in a similar situation. Yet he could be content to accede even to such a measure, if by its adoption the country could afterwards return to a metalic currency. This, however, there was no prospect of, for he saw nothing in the constitution of the bank of England, which should exempt it from the fate which had attended all banks that had been so closely connected with the government of the country. To shew what this fate had uniformly been, he would go into a history of all banks. He was aware the proposition sounded formidably, but he would do it with every possible conciseness. He then discussed, at some length, the history of the principal banks in Europe, from the first institution of the bank of Venice to the present day, drawing this inference, that banks of deposit were extremely beneficial wherever they were established, and that they had always remained perfect and entire where the stale had not interfered; but that where the state had interfered they invariably fell, first into discredit, and then into ruin. The same had been the case with respect to banks of circulation, as a proof of which he referred to those of Austria, France, Prussia, &c. all of them ruined by their connection with the government, because what government borrowed it never paid. He did not wish to be understood literally, but his meaning was, that government commonly paid one loan by borrowing another, like individuals who took up one bill by getting another discounted. So dangerous, indeed, did he consider the connection between the stale and the Bank, that he should have little fear about passing the Bill, if he could but see the one separated from the other. Were that the case, and if the Bank were left to itself, he believed it would soon diminish its issues until notes were worth what they represented. Those Banks he contended, which had not been intermeddled with, such as Amsterdam and Hamburgh, had maintained their credit until ruined by an overwhelming force. Adverting to the Banks in America, while America was a colony of England, he shewed, that although those establishments were under the controul of Parliament, they had been so profuse of 284 their paper, and it had been depreciated to such a degree, that two acts of parliament were passed under queen Anne, to relieve the creditors defrauded by such depreciation. He read extracts from those acts, and maintained that the principles of the present Bill were in direct contradiction to those statutes. He knew that it was said on the other side, that there was no excessive issue of bank of England paper—this, however, he positively denied. The Bank directors were forced to it, by the large portion of their capital they had advanced to government. To the transactions of the bank of England with government, he attributed the partial distress under which it had sometimes laboured. The only way, he maintained, to raise the credit of our paper currency, was to pay to the Bank part of the money due to them by the country—that part, at least, the 3 millions, which had been borrowed under the sanction of parliament. He was sure the country, even in the present circum-stances, was able to afford it; and, at any rate, money would be more beneficially employed in that way, than in supplies to Portugal and Sicily, employed for no other purpose that he could see, but to enjoy the miserable pantomime of making and unmaking kings. He would not, however, attach to ministers the exclusive blame the present system deserved: they had been, like their predecessors, imperceptibly drawn into it—like the individual in distress, who catches at any thing to avoid impending ruin; but any man who could divest himself of national partiality must see, that bankruptcy would inevitably be the consequence of the present system in England, as it had been in every other country. Adverting to the allowance to the officers of the Irish militia of Property tax on their pay, he observed that the time would soon come when the annual deduction of property tax would be made from the pay of the officers of our army and navy; and he could see no reason why English officers should not receive the same allowance as the Irish. The depreciation could not go on much farther, and government were only deceiving themselves, if they thought that they received any real advantage from the continuance of the present system. They would soon have the same claim to listen to in every department, which had been allowed to the Irish militia officers. The first thing to be done, was to pay to the Bank the money due to them by the country. 285 Surely this could not be beyond our means. We ought to refrain from passing the present Bill, and allow the existing law to have its due operation. The act of the 37th of the King allowed country bankers to issue one and two pound notes; but at the same time allowed the holders of them to enforce prompt payment, by an attachment of the goods and chattels of those bankers. Were they now to be let loose from the operation of this law? They had no claim under the Restriction Act for this allowance; to issue small notes under such a condition, took place after the passing of that act. At all events he could see no reason for extending the Bill to Ireland. Neither ought it to be extended to Scotland. In England all private bankers might be said to be implicated with the bank of England, excepting with respect to one and two pound notes; but it was not so in Scotland, which had a distinct circulation of its own, and consequently ought to be kept out of this arrangement. This would serve as a warning to England, and would hold up a mirror to enable us to see the extent of our own shame and disgrace.
§ Sir J. Newport
would not follow the wide range of argument adopted by the hon. gentleman who had just sat down, but would adopt the same line as his hon. friend (Mr. Parnell,) and consider the subject of the present Bill solely as it affected Ireland. Like him, he would ask the House to give some time for enquiry, in order to ascertain how far it might be advisable to extend the measure to Ireland. At present, the only ground which the House had to proceed upon, was a single petition, presented by a noble lord, from a corner of Ireland, and signed by fourscore individuals whose secret motives the House had no means of ascertaining. He had no doubt of the respectability of many of the petitioners, some of whom were known to him; but still the House did not know whether they were landlords or tenants, or whether or not they were mostly attached to the mercantile interest, and paid much more than they received in rents. On such light and uncertain grounds, he thought that the House could not possibly consent to a measure, which would be as revolutionary in Ireland, in respect to property, as any ever devised in France by Robespierre. In support of that assertion, he quoted a case alluded to by an hon. friend of his, in which the measure in contemplation would, on a small estate of 1,600l. a year 286 make a difference of 300l. in favour of the tenant; and he appealed to the sense, of the House, whether such a measure was not revolutionary, in the strict sense of the word, in respect to property. Gentlemen would be more sensible of this, if they were aware of the long tenures by which lands were held in Ireland, and which from the change of the times, left the landlord but a small share of his property, yet this small share was still to be further reduced by a depreciated circulating medium. It was true, that in many instances fines had been received in consideration of long leases; but this did not alter the nature of the original contract, nor could it operate as an argument to reduce that part of the rent which the landlord had reserved for himself. The depreciation of Irish bank paper had begun before the great rise in the price of the bullion, according to the report of the select committee on Irish currency, of which Mr. Pitt, Mr. Foster and Mr. Rose were members. In the depreciation of bank of Ireland paper which had formerly taken place, the landlords had their option and their remedy. But this would not be the case under the present Bill, nor were the circumstances the same; for the bank of Ireland was not then restrained from paying its notes in specie, and gold could be procured. As soon, however, as the measure had been thought advisable in this country, Ireland had been compelled to follow the example, he supposed on the ground that what was good for England must be good for Ireland also. The restrictions from paying in specie had been thus forced on the bank of Ireland against the opinion of the directors; and it was, he supposed, in consequence of that compulsion, that no enquiry had been previously instituted into the stale of their affairs. Certain it was, that to this day the House knew nothing of the affairs of that Bank, whose paper they were going to force on the population of Ireland. Was this doing justice to that country? He believed that the bank of Ireland was perfectly safe, and that their affairs were in a prosperous state; but he knew nothing of it as a legislator, and as such he could not act on belief. He next adverted to a resolution which stood in the Journals of the House, importing that Bank-notes were held in equal estimation to gold, and maintained, that for consistency's sake that clause should have been expunged, previous to the introduction of a Bill which affirmed 287 directly the contrary, and went to provide a remedy for the inconveniency resulting from the depreciation of those very Banknotes. It had been stated to the House by a right hon. gentleman, that bank of Ireland paper was now at a regular discount, and that a guinea was currently at a premium of five shillings and sixpence; who could tell what further depreciation might take place in a short time, and what further losses this Bill might entail on the holders of ancient contracts? But those considerations had escaped the noble lord who had presented the petition alluded to. Perhaps, too, he had been actuated by motives far different to those alleged; and at the eve of an election he might have wished to enlist under his banners a large body of tenantry, who had before received his advances with abhorrence. He would ask, on what grounds the House could deny the enquiry which had been demanded? An enquiry had taken place into the affairs of the bank of England, before its paper had been forced on the people of this country; how could they in justice refuse the same security to Ireland, and how could they continue to be styled the Imperial Parliament, when the interests of such a large portion of the empire as Ireland were constantly neglected?
denied that the present measure rested merely on the petition which he had had the honour to present; but it appeared to him, that the hon. baronet had been extremely parsimonious in his arguments, and had laid no grounds whatever before the House for delaying the measure. He was glad to hear that the hon. baronet had himself no doubt of the solvency of the bank of Ireland; and as Irish bank restriction had hitherto been enacted pari passu, with the restrictions of the bank of England, and without any enquiry, he thought that there was no occasion for any in the present instance. The hon. baronet had staled that the House were yet without any information on their Journals, of the solvency of the bank of Ireland. This was an accusation against parliament; it was an accusation against the right hon. baronet himself, for having allowed the bank of Ireland to go on under the restrictions, without being assured of their solvency; for the right hon. baronet, though not a party to the restrictions, was yet accessory to the subsequent continuance. The right hon. baronet had stated the whole of Ireland as in a different situation from England; and seemed, in the 288 eagerness of his speech, to have forgotten, that it was in fact in only three or four counties of the north of Ireland, that the custom of taking in gold prevailed, and that seven-eighths of the people would be unaffected by the proposed measure. It appeared to him that it was a most intolerable hardship upon the tenant to require him to lose 20 or 25 per cent. in order to procure gold to satisfy his contract. As to the report of the committee on Irish currency, however highly he respected many members of it, yet he differed from them at the time in their conclusions; and his opinion was since confirmed by events. At the lime of their report, the exchange was very unfavourable to Ireland, being about 10 or 11 per cent. They attributed this to the depreciation of paper, and were of opinion that it must continue unfavourable. Nevertheless a very short time after they had published their report, the exchange rote to par, from circumstances totally unconnected with what some called the depreciation of paper, but which he should always call the premium upon gold; and from that time the exchange had continued steadily about par. The petition which he had presented, not with standing the insinuation of the right hon. baronet, he could assure the House had been signed by men of the highest respectability, and was meant to apprise parliament of the existence of evils; and not to direct their opinion. In short he had heard no real arguments against the Bill, nor against the statements he had formerly made to the House.
thought that his right hon. friend (sir J. Newport) did not merit the taunt of the noble lord, of not having used arguments applicable to the question, the fact being that his right hon. friend had spoken directly to the question, which was, whether a delay should be granted to enquire into the case of Ireland? while the noble lord had spoken to any thing else, and to the general principle of the Bill. The real question before the House was, whether they were justified in extending this measure to Ireland? The noble lord said that gold had risen in price, and that it was not paper that was depreciated; but if this was the case, it seemed to him most extraordinary, that notwithstanding the increase of gold in the European world within these late years, it should, in proportion to its greater abundance, become dearer, which was exactly the reverse of the case with regard to 289 every other commodity. As for the return of the exchange in Ireland to par, as noticed by the noble lord, he would remind him that there were two ways in which things might meet: they might come together by the one thing standing still till the other came up to it, or they might come together, by both walking to a meeting. Was it then that the bank of Ireland paper had risen, which caused this coming to par after the depreciation?—No; but the bank of England paper had fallen and sunk to what the bank of Ireland paper was before.—The noble lord had also told them that this Bill would make no alteration, except in three or four counties in Ireland, and that seven-eighths of the country would be unaffected by it. If so, it was strange that these seven-eighths of the people had not sent in representations and petitions to them last year, praying for an extension of the measure then passing through parliament. But he contended, on the contrary, that it made a great and general alteration in the country; much more than the gentlemen of England were perhaps aware of. For the tenure of land in Ireland was very different from what it was in this country. Here the greater part of the soil was not let on lease, and much of the remainder on leases of from 7 to 14 years. In Ireland much of the soil was let for ever, or for terms of 99 years; and the common leases, till within these 20 years, were at the shortest for a term of three lives or 31 years. Therefore, to suppose, that this measure was to afford relief to poor persons, or tenants at rack rent, was a misconception. The contrary was the fact; and, in many cases, the interest of the tenant in the land was more valuable, and could be sold for more money at market than the interest of the landlord. As for the hardship of calling on tenants to pay this great premium for gold, in order to fulfil their contracts, it should be remembered, that it was only an increased nominal value which they paid. But was it in nature to be supposed, that it would be the general practice of landlords to call on their tenants, in a manner to distress them, and ultimately render them unable to pay at all? This could not be imagined; and, on the other hand, ought not the landlord to have the real value for which he originally let his land? Suppose for instance, the depreciation went on, as, from all experience they were bound to believe it must do, what would be the situation of 290 the landlord? He would ultimately be reduced, comparatively speaking, to starvation, while his tenant would enjoy a profitable estate. This, then, was the question, whether they were prepared to extend a measure of such sort to Ireland, without its being called for by that country, and without previous enquiry? If the sense of the House should decide on this, at least the period of the operation of the Bill ought to be limited. They ought to be aware, that they were setting aside specific contracts made for gold, and, if they did this, why were they not to deal out an equal measure to this country, and interfere with those bargains, by which the tenant was bound to pay part of his rent in grain? The sense of justice in the House was too strong, not to administer to both countries the law in the same manner. On these grounds, he was in favour of the amendment. Much had been said of the bank of Ireland. He believed it to be in as good a state as any body of the same kind, and with as good pretensions to character, as it never had entered into engagements which it was not able to fulfil. But still he deemed enquiry necessary, in order to be able to make the measure bear less hard on individuals.
§ Mr. Wellesley Pole
expressed himself happy to have heard the right hon. baronet (sir J. Newport), and the right hon. gentleman (Mr. Ponsonby) deliver their opinions on this subject, as it would thence be seen how they valued the interests of the tenantry of Ireland. Under the pretence of delay, for the sake of enquiry into the solvency of the Bank, which they all declared to be solvent, the whole of their arguments went to shew that the measure was not necessary to, and ought not to be extended to Ireland. They contended that the tenant in that country should be left without the guard against the demands of the landlord, which the legislature had thought necessary in England, and that it was the landlord who wanted protection.—But it was a gross fallacy to put upon the House that because no other petitions had come before them, the people of Ireland were not desirous of the extension of this measure. The greatest alarm had prevailed among the monied men and tenantry last session, when it was known that the Bill was not to be extended to Ireland, and application had been made to government on the subject. He firmly believed of the present Bill, that the greatest ferment and dissatisfaction would be 291 excited if it were not extended to Ireland, and not if it were extended, as argued by the right hon. baronet. He agreed with the gentlemen on the other side as to the difference of the land tenures in the two countries; but he drew a different conclusion from that fact: for, what would be the situation of the seven-eighths of Ireland, in which now, as was confessed on all sides, gold and notes were received indiscriminately, if the law was not extended? The right hon. baronet and right hon. gentleman spoke with great feeling about the landlords, who, in common with the tenants over this part of the country, had all their dealings in paper equally as in gold; but they would subject the tenants to the liability of being called on for 5s. 6d. premium for every pound they had contracted to pay. He would suppose another case not very improbable:—sup-pose a tenant had last year fined down his rent from 500l. to 250l. a year, by the payment of a fair sum; if this law were not extended he would be left liable to an additional charge of one-fourth more, or 20 per cent. Did not the tenant, in these cases, stand in need of relief? and yet these were the tender mercies of these right hon. gentlemen towards them. All he asked for was, security to the tenantry in Ireland similar to that enjoyed by the tenantry in this country—but this the right hon. baronet called revolutionary. The right hon. gentleman talked of their not legislating equally towards the two countries, while, by a wonderful perversion of the understanding, he was objecting to their extending the benefit of the law from the one to the other, and not leaving the tenant in Ireland exposed to the ban of the landlord, from which in England they had rescued him.—With regard to the depreciation that had existed, in contradiction to the right hon. gentleman, he maintained, that while for four years after the period alluded to the paper in England had remained stationary in value—that of Ireland rose to par with it. The right hon. gentleman would also induce them to believe that all tenants in Ireland were rich, and therefore they ought to be left liable to be charged one-fourth more than their agreed rent. Had he forgot the forty shilling freeholders? Were they rich men, and would not they be the first, through the middle men who oppressed them, to feel the effects of the tenderness of the right hon. gentleman? He concluded by saying he had always approved of the mea- 292 sure, and as he thought it ought in justice to be extended to Ireland, he would not consent to any delay which would have the effect of precluding it.
, in explanation, said he had never called the law of last session a benefit to England, and therefore could not be represented as wishing to withhold that benefit from Ireland. He had never represented all the tenants in Ireland for three lives as rich, but only that some of those for 99 years, and for ever, had greater interests in their lands than the landlords. The right hon. gentleman might expect, by this measure, to acquire popularity—
Mr. Pole rose to order, and enquired of the Speaker if this was explanation?
§ The Speaker
said, the right hon. gentleman professed to speak merely in explanation, and he though he had as yet done so.
was glad that the chair considered him not out of order, though had he been so, and interrupted as being so by the hon. gentleman, he would not have been interrupted by one who had been very remarkable for his own punctilious adherence to order.
§ Lord A. Hamilton
was in favour of the adjournment, and thought the gentlemen opposite had, in their arguments to-night, admitted what they had formerly denied—that paper was depreciated. In the same breath however that they argued that the Irish tenant, if this Bill did not pass, would be obliged to buy guineas at 26 shillings a piece to pay his rent, they contended that paper and gold were equivalent. He was asked if he would not give the same benefit to Ireland as to this country? But might not the same measure to persons in diametrically opposite conditions, be of a very different character; and was it not even confessed, that the effect of this Bill would be different on the northern part and in the other parts of Ireland. He objected to the measure altogether, as connected with a fallacious line of policy.
The Chancellor of the Exchequer
admitted that there were parts of Ireland to which the Bill would not readily apply, but it applied to much the greater part of that country; and it would be most unjust to permit the Irish landlord to drag his tenant to prison for non-payment in coin, while the landlord enjoyed no such power in this part of the empire. He allowed there was some difference in the state of the countries, but as at least four-fifths of Ire- 293 land was acknowledged to be in the same state as England, and as the only dissimilarity existed in a few counties in the north, in the choice of difficulties before them he was of opinion that sound policy and justice required them to extend their protection to the major part. With regard to the principle of the measure, the House had been told, that it would lead us into the same gulph of calamity with other nations whose paper currency had gone to rain. Now, if such reasoning was correct, and such was the tendency of the Bill, we ought to have seen, at least, part of those dangers and calamities produced by the similar act of last year. During the operation of that act, if the reasoning of the gentlemen opposite was correct, the country ought to have seen a multiplication of paper, a rise in the price of bullion, and a regular depression of the foreign exchanges. But instead of all this, the very reverse was the case. The quantity of paper now in circulation was rather smaller than it was in last April. The exchanges were considerably improved, instead of growing systematically worse. In April of last year they were 30 per cent. below par; in July 25 percent then again 30, but now they were only at 14½. This improvement had not only taken place on the exchanges with Hamburgh, but also on those with Paris, which in this month were at 18½, while in April of last year they were at 25. Instead of gold having risen, it had considerably fallen in price; all which circumstances shewed, that there was a complete distinction between the paper of the bank of England, as connected with the dealings of this House with regard to it, and the paper currency of other nations, which had been held up as a warning to this country. He had also the satisfaction of stating, that notwithstanding the distresses of our manufactures in various parts of the kingdom, the home consumption of excisable articles had rather increased than diminished. In the year ending the 5th of April, 1812, the excise had produced 17,950,000l, while last year the same branch of revenue was only 17,399,000l. This increase of 600,000l. might in part arise from some small additional taxation last year; but he believed he was justified in Stating, that 400,000l. of it arose from an increased consumption of excisable articles. It was true the branch of customs had suffered considerably; but he was now enabled to state, that the general 294 produce of the taxes for the year ending the 5th of April, 1812, amounted to 61,333,000l. The revenue amounted to 62,136,000l. on the 5th of April, 1811; and the defalcation this year would not exceed between 8 and 900,000l. which, considering the falling-off in the customs, afforded by no means an unsatisfactory view of the finances of the country. This information he had thought it right to communicate, as calculated to afford considerable satisfaction to the House, and, to shew that, whatever theories might be advanced, they had here the practice before them to prove that, with the circulation as established by law, they could support the revenue as it was. If his hon. friend's theory about paying in gold was right, they would be in no better situation by adopting it; but if erroneous, they would find they had been trying an experiment very fatal to the country. He trusted the House would therefore agree with him that there was not the slightest ground for alarm, and that they would not permit the extension of so beneficial a measure as the one now proposed to be retarded.
said, he differed entirely from all the opinions of the hon. gentle-man (Mr. Johnstone). He had never known or heard of any bank that deserved to be compared to the bank of England, or whose credit had ever risen to any thing like an equality with the credit of the latter. He had heard much of depreciation arising from excess, but he confessed he saw no evidence of such excess. Gold indeed had risen in price as wheat had lately, from scarcity, and scarcity alone. The real wealth of a country, however did not consist in any amount of the precious metals, but in the amount of its effective labour, and if the export trade could but be re-opened, all our difficulties would disappear. The hon. gentleman had said, that the country bankers ought to be compelled to pay the twelve millions of small notes which they had issued, in cash; but it was rather hard to talk of forcing the country bankers to perform impossibilities. They bad hitherto acted from a desire to accommodate, in the full confidence of the solvency and wealth of the Bank, and had first limited their issues far below the real amount of gold in their possession. He could not but be struck with the doleful tone in which the hon. member concluded. He had himself no such despondency, and considered the cases referred to as altogether inapplicable 295 to such an institution as the Bank, and to the present condition and circumstances of the country If the people were unanimous, he had no doubt but that we should weather the storm, and find a natural remedy for the difficulties that surrounded us. As to what had been said on the connection between government and the Bank, he was fully persuaded of the perfect independence of the Directors.
Mr. D. Magens
spoke against the measure, as belonging to a line of policy calculated to throw the country into a state of instability.
acknowledged that the principles of political economy were strongly against the Bill, while it was supported by reasons of immediate expediency. Where there was only a choice of difficulties, he would submit to that which appeared the more tolerable, and in that view should support the Bill going into a committee.
§ Mr. James Stewart
thought if it did not extend to Ireland that it would tend to the oppression of that country; on which account he would give his full support to the measure.
§ The House then divided on the question for going into a Committee:
|List of the Minority.|
|Babington, T.||Lamb, W.|
|Busk, W.||Lyttelton, W. H.|
|Brougham, H.||Marryatt, J.|
|Bennet, hon. H.||Morris, R.|
|Canning, George||Newport, Sir J.|
|Colborne, R.||Osborne, Lord F.|
|Creevey, T.||Ponsonby, G.|
|Dickinson, W.||Power, R.|
|Eden, G.||Taylor, W.|
|French, Major||Tierney, G.|
|Giles, D.||Thornton, H.|
|Grenfell, P.||Wynn, C. W.|
|Hutchinson, C. H.||TELLERS.|
|Johnstone, G.||Parnell, H.|
|Kemp, T.||Folkestone, Viscount|