§ On the motion for the second reading of this Bill,
, entertaining the same objections he had always professed to the measure in contemplation, which objections were still strengthened by the new clauses added to the Bill, could not forbear enforcing them again, even in that early stage of the measure. The Bill, as it stood, went to give to the paper of a company, the same currency as to the coin of the realm, and to make those notes a legal tender in every instance, without providing any additional security against forgery, or against any excessive issue which might, and would still further depress them. The system of paper circulation was not new, it had been at some period or other attempted by most nations in Europe, and its invariable consequence had been to entail bankruptcy on government, and ruin and misery on thousands of innocent individuals. The same effects might be expected, or at least apprehended, in this country, from the Bill then before the House; and it was the bounden duty of the representatives of the people to pause and consider, whether or not the present paper currency meant to be established was so far different from all others, as to avert the apprehension of those evils which experience had taught us to expect. He was not, however, so sanguine as to hope, that the provisions of the present Bill could answer that purpose. He saw no additional security against forgery, and while he was willing to do ample justice to the ingenuity of the means by which the Bank had contrived to protect themselves, he must observe, at the same time, that as those means were secret, that very secresy, far from affording any additional security to the individual, only increased his perplexity. He could speak from personal observation as to the effects of forgery on a paper circulation; he had seen in France in the time of assignats, bureaux de verification erected at the corner of every street, where the trembling tradesman was forced to bring paper for inspection before the could think himself safe in delivering his goods. The same effects might be expected in this country, from the increase of forgery; for the loss to the individual was not the greatest evil to be expected from it, and 197 the effect it produced on the public mind, tended to depress the forced circulation tenfold. Against that evil, of momentous magnitude, the public had no means whatever of guarding themselves, even the endorsing of Bank notes was but a futile resource: and, in fact, no man, whatever might be his education, could be said to possess really the means of distinguishing a genuine from a forged Bank note. Adverting to the second point to which he had alluded, the security against an excessive issue, he thought that the Bill was equally deficient in that respect. To the directors of the Bank he gave full credit for ability and integrity. He was sure they were incapable of abusing the trust reposed in them; but the power with which they were thus invested was too great for them to wield; and they had not sufficient means of restraining the issue of their paper money within due bounds. From the view he had been able to take of this subject, he thought it would have been much better to let things remain as they were; at the same time, he lamented that the Report of the Bullion Committee, which he admired as much as any one, had not adverted to the state of the law as it then stood. He had already suggested the propriety of going into a Committee, to sift that matter to the bottom; and should such a measure be adopted, it might, perhaps, be thought advisable to raise the nominal price of gold coin, in the same proportion as bank-notes had been depreciated in comparison to it; there could be then no inconvenience in the Bank resuming its payments in specie. The measure was not so novel as might be expected at first sight; we had, in fact, already raised the price of coin by the issue of tokens, at a rate above their intrinsic value, and although they were not the standard coin of the realm, still they were received in exchange of those notes which were to be made legal tenders, and accepted in payment by creditors. The hon. and learned gentleman then alluded to the misfortunes brought on this country at former periods by the depreciation of the circulating medium, for which no remedy could be found but in a recurrence to the old principles. If the present Bill was ultimately to be adopted, he trusted that such provisions would be added as to protect the individual from loss, while it secured the regular service of government; but he should think that the only remedy to the impending 198 evils would be found in the collected wisdom of the House assembled in a Committee.
§ Lord A. Hamilton
read the third and fourth Resolutions of the Bullion Committee. By the third the Committee had declared, "that bank notes were to be considered as promissory notes for payment in gold." The fourth assumed, that, "in consequence they were held in estimation equal to the current coin of the realm." The noble lord argued that it was the height of inconsistency to proceed with the present Bill, with those Resolutions (diametrically opposite to its principles) standing on the Journals of the House, especially as it was intended to extend the Bill to Ireland.
§ Sir John Newport
deprecated the idea of extending the Bill to Ireland, and conceived that the House was travelling the high road to ruin, which had been invariably the case with all countries in which a paper currency had been forced on the people. He begged the House to consider, besides, the grounds on which the measure was to be extended to Ireland. It was simply on a petition presented by a noble lord, without his having condescended to inform the House whether the petition was signed by landlords or by tenants—that was, whether it was signed by men who were willing to abandon some of the advantages they actually had by contract; or by men willing at any rate to acquit themselves of their debts at a cheaper rate. The Bill passed last session went far enough to alarm all men interested in the welfare of the country, but the present went far beyond it. It went, as it respected Ireland, to break a solemn covenant between landlord and tenant, by which the former was to be paid in gold, no matter at what price it was to be procured. He thought that this was a step too bold to be taken at once; and before the imperial parliament could think, under such circumstances, of extending the Bill to Ireland, they should have petitions from every part of that country, and know especially if landlords agreed to it. In another instance, Ireland, should the Bill extend to that country, was treated with evident neglect. He believed that the bank of Ireland was as solvent as any bank—as much so as the bank of England itself, and he could say no more in its favour. Yet, when it was intended to restrict the bank of England from paying in specie, it was thought necessary first to institute an inquiry 199 as to it means of solvability. But, the same precautions were deemed useless when the Bill was to apply to Ireland. These were the grounds on which he objected to the Bill being extended to Ireland, especially in the thin state of the House; and in the absence of Irish members. He might add, that it had proved perfectly useless in this country, it being found impossible, as it always would be, to prevent the traffic in gold coin, or to keep paper in any country above a certain level, regulated by a variety of uncontroulable circumstances.
§ Mr. D. Giddy
allowed the full weight of the principles laid down by his hon. friend (Mr. Morris); he saw that the measure proposed was attended with great difficulties; he might say, that it was dangerous, and wished that another had been proposed in its stead; yet, in the present circumstances, knowing it was desired by the public, he would not oppose it.
§ Mr. H. Thornton
hoped that, before the Bill should pass, the gentlemen from Ireland, then absent, would come fully prepared to discuss its merit as affecting their country, in the way alluded to by the right hon. baronet. The nature of the Bill itself had been greatly changed by its extension to the sister-country. He was one of those who thought last session that the Bill would be incomplete if it did not extend to Ireland; but at the same time he had expressed a positive wish for full information, before that step should be taken. It had appeared since, that a practice existed in Ireland of receiving gold in payment of contracts, at a difference in price from the paper circulating medium. The difference was stated by some at 22 or 25 percent, against paper. It followed of course, that the landlords and other holders of such contracts, would be injured by the Bill in that very proportion. This was a step perfectly novel in legislature; and should the Bill pass, it would turn out that a man, a tenant for instance, now bound to pay 122l. by virtue of a special contract, would be authorised by parliament to pay only 100l Indeed the measure was one of such manifest injustice, that he thought government must have had some secret and powerful motive to propose it. Probably they meant to destroy altogether the standard on which people were enabled to judge of the depreciation of paper currency, which standard was kept up by the price of gold coin in Ireland, A standard more imperfect would 200 still exist, was true, in the course of foreign exchanges; but this was not within the reach of every one; and by keeping from the view of the people the true standard of value to which they had been long accustomed; ministers would be able to carry their system of delusion to almost any length. It was as necessary to the welfare of society to keep always in view the standard of marketable value as well as any other; as for instance, the standards of weight, length, and capacity for the sale of goods; and by taking away the standard of gold coin for marketable value, no scale would be left on which prospective bargains or contracts could possibly be executed. Notwithstanding all these weighty objections, he was willing to let the bill go into a Committee, in hopes that they might be discussed with better effect, but without pledging himself any further. He hoped above all things that in the Committee another standard of marketable value would be recognised besides paper currency.
did not think it necessary to enter at large, for the present, on the merits of the Bill. He admired the ingenuity of the hon. gentleman who had just sat down, but his arguments did not carry conviction, because he always fell short of the object in view; he pointed out evils, which he magnified, but never suggested a remedy. The noble lord did not see that the extension of the measure to Ireland was attended with such insuperable difficulties, as to deter parliament from completing a system deemed necessary for the prosperity of the empire. He should deceive the House, were he to deny that difficulties existed; but they were not of the nature represented. He must, for instance, contradict the idea which seemed to have been entertained, that a double price for goods, the one in gold coin and the other in paper, existed all over Ireland. It was said, indeed, that the traffic in guineas was pretty general throughout that country, as it was in England. This could not be denied. But there were not generally two prices stipulated in a contract; the practice, on the contrary, was, in that respect, the same as in this country. The question, therefore, as to payments in gold stipulated by contract in Ireland, was reduced to three or four counties, which stood as an anomaly, and in which the practice of stipulating for payments in gold had long subsisted. But, even in that case, the 201 question had been very much narrowed of late; for within eight, or seven years at least, bargains had uniformly been made for payment in notes. There remained only rents, for which, according to the old system, payment was to be made in gold. In this the only difficulty existed; and whatever measure the House thought fit to adopt, the noble lord was sure that it must be attended with some sacrifice of individual interest. As to the signatures to the Petition he had presented to the House, and which had been so often alluded to, he could assure the House, that some of the gentlemen who had signed, were connected with the first landed interest in the neighbourhood of Belfast; others were not so, they were not landlords, but he could take upon himself to say, that all were actuated by the same motives—the interest of their country; nor could their tardy application to the legislature for a redress of that grievance, be considered as proof that it was not severely felt. At first, gold coin could be procured at a premium of about two per cent, perhaps through the means of the landlord's agent himself; and this might be considered by the tenants as a douceur, to which, under all circumstances, they were willing to submit. But, now, from the operation of foreign exchanges, and, as he would urge the matter to the House, from an act of parliament itself, preventing the bank of England from making payments in gold, tenants could not procure guineas but with the utmost difficulty, at the rate of 25 per cent. It would be for the House to consider, whether or not the enormous loss of 25 per cent. now sustained by the tenants, was in contemplation of their original contract, when they consented to pay a small douceur to the landlord or his agent, and whether or not they were exposed to that unforeseen loss by circumstances over which they had any controul. To a loss of 2 per cent. they might have cheerfully consented, but the enormous discount which they were now obliged to pay, was a grievance entitled to some consideration. He would not take upon himself to say what measures should be adopted in such circumstances; he only wished to enforce on the House the propriety and necessity of applying the same measures to Ireland as to the other parts of the empire. They should not lose themselves in minute details about localities, but proceed on the broad basis of the general interests of the united kingdoms. 202 Several gentlemen had, like himself, expressed a wish last year, that the measure then intended for England should also extend to Ireland. He did not conceive, that the peculiar situation of three or four counties could operate as a bar to the wish then expressed, and which he considered as consonant with the prosperity of these realms.
§ Mr. W. Smith
was against the Bill, even in this stage, as he did not think it capable of amendment in a Committee. It was another step in that system which, if they argued from analogy to all the other nations in which history informed them similar courses had been pursued, they must be convinced could only terminate in the utter ruin of the country. It was said that the measure was popular; but he denied the capability of the persons out of doors to form a proper judgment on a subject, which was not fairly presented to their understandings. And it was for the wisdom of that House to correct the errors into which those who did not look so deeply into the matter might and must fall. Not as would seem to be the opinion of his hon. friend (Mr. D. Giddy) who would agree to a measure which he was convinced was not right, because the people liked it; as if, 'Sipopulus vult decipi, decipiatur.' He was astonished that his hon. friend could lend himself to so ruinous a deception. There were one or two objections to the present Bill, which struck him as so weighty, that he was surprised it could have been at all entertained by the House or the country. It went, to all intents and purposes, to make bank notes a legal tender; for the only difference was, if a man could afford to wait 'ad Græcas Calendas,' that was, till the Bank returned, to payments in specie, which the present measure would lead to the protraction of for ever. His sincere and perfect belief was, that it would end in national bankruptcy. For all history shewed them that such had been the tendency of similar practices in other nations, and did not afford them one solitary instance to the contrary. To add to this moral certainty of the result, our national debt had increased, and was increasing, and with that increase the advance of the price of all commodities. They were told, if this step was insufficient, they must take another; and what must that step be?—to make bank notes at once a legal tender. And should this also fail in effect, what remained to be done? They must compel all persons 203 to bring their commodities to market at fixed prices, or they must return to the point from which they had unfortunately departed some years ago, and they must return to it against the increased difficulties which would be thrown in their way, if they agreed to the present measure. He laid no stress on the confined issue of bank notes, as there was no criterion to judge by, whether that issue was too great or not; neither did he think this matter ought to be left to the discretion of the bank directors, however respectable they were. The measure was prospective: and they could not answer for directors 30 years hence, in whom government might be as much mistaken, as they had been in those in whom they reposed trust at the period of the South Sea Bubble. With the same capital they had when they issued 12 or 13 millions, they now issued double that amount—and had, consequently, a double profit, while the risk lay with the country. They might proceed to issue 40 millions—and still the country be obliged to take these notes, without their being guaranteed by the government. But if government did not guarantee these notes, they had no right to make them a legal tender. Between individuals, such an act would be almost a fraud; and in a government, it was an egregious act of unjust violence. Was the system of "I promise to pay" to be carried on for ever? When would this end, and what would be the consequences? If the Bank got into any intermediate difficulties, and was not able to pay in specie, the government must allow it to go on longer paying in paper; the end must be bankruptcy.—With respect to Ireland, there was one circumstance which must strike every one in regard to the extension of the measure to that country. Whatever measure they might adopt after the enquiry they had had, as to guaranteeing the bank of England, would any man say, that the House had on its table sufficient information as to the bank of Ireland, or sufficient parliamentary grounds to warrant them in guaranteeing its issues? If they did not, why tell the people of that country that they must and should take their notes? If they did not, had they any documents to justify themselves in undertaking this responsibility? As the measure was unique and isolated in itself, so was the mode in which it was conducted in the House. It reminded him of the sentence in Shakespeare—"Things ill-begun make strong 204 themselves by ill." There had only been three prosecutions last year connected with this subject, and to compel payments in specie; and he maintained that this was no inconvenience to warrant a step of that fatal tendency they were now called upon to take. He therefore opposed the second reading of the Bill.
§ Mr. Wellesley Pole
would not go into the general question, but confine himself to that part of it which regarded Ireland. He collected from all sides, that it was not disputed that the measure of last session met with general approbation, and was looked at by the country with a very favourable eye. If this were true, and it was a measure resorted to for the protection of the subject, was it not natural to desire it to be extended to Ireland? The only reason why it had not been extended to that country last session, had been justly stated by his noble friend (lord Castlereagh). It arose from the anomaly existing in that country, which rendered it necessary to allow time for investigation, and for learning the actual state of the case. This anomaly, in having two prices, one for gold and the other for paper, did not, however, extend so far as was supposed. It was confined, as the noble lord had stated, to part of one province out of the four into which Ireland was divided. His noble friend had also fairly explained the nature of the difference arising out of the two per cent. formerly paid for the purchase of guineas by the tenant; but the original cause might not, perhaps, be so generally known. If arose from the weavers having, for some reason or other, refused, soon after the establishment of the bank of Ireland, to take their notes in payment for webs. This rendered it necessary for landlords to guard themselves by the adoption of the practice in question, and the traffic in guineas had gone on till the price of gold became so much higher, in comparison with paper, that the evil remedied itself, and the practice was altogether abolished, except what remained between landlords and tenants. The exaction of gold for rent had, of late, become so crying an evil, that if it had not been for the measure of last session, and the prospect held out that it would soon be extended to Ireland, they would have heard such a cry from the North, to protect the tenant against the landlord, that no government could resist it. In what condition, he asked, would they be, if they (the Irish tenantry) were exposed to the 205 caprice of any avaricious landlord, while they protected the people here? It would be said, in Ireland, that when one solitary instance of a landlord's wishing to exact this mode of payment occurred, the legislature, as it were, by acclamation, hastened to extend their protection, while they left the people of Ireland to suffer, as they now did, in many parts of the north. He would not now enquire, whether the measure was right and politic for England; but if it was thought right and politic in this country, he demanded it equally for Ireland. He did not wish to disguise the fact, that it would be an inconvenience on landlords, who had let their lands to be paid in gold, and he would be ready to lend himself to any remedy that might be proposed to accommodate the interests of this class, who were, however, only an exception to the general rule. The inconvenience, too, it ought to be recollected, would be nothing, when compared with the evils remedied. He had understood an hon. gentleman, to insinuate some suspicion of the solvency of the bank of Ireland.—(A general cry of No! no!) Was it so or not?—(Mr. Smith signified that it was not.) Then he would not press the subject, but conclude, by saying, that he would be as ready to guarantee the bank of Ireland as the bank of England. There did not exist the slightest suspicion against it; and, he was sure, the honourable men who conducted its direction, would, at all times, be ready and willing to submit to the strictest examination and scrutiny the government or the House should think proper to institute.
§ Mr. Giles
shortly opposed the second reading of the Bill, on the ground of its making bank notes circuitously a legal tender. Mr. Burke had said that these notes were of value on the Royal Exchange, because they were of no value in Westminster-hall; but this measure went to reverse the case, and make them of more value in Westminster-hall than any where else. He conceived it would be much better to make them a legal tender at once between man and man, than through the intervention of courts of law and attornies.
The Chancellor of the Exchequer
maintained that the measure was calculated for the protection of the liberty of the subject, who, but for this Bill, was in his person liable to the payment of a debt in gold, which, so long as the Bank restrictions continued, it was not in his power to obtain. 206 The emptiness of the House had been frequently alluded to in the course of the evening. He ascribed it to an understanding which had gone forth, that it would be most proper to debate the question, with regard to its extension to Ireland, after the recess. The hon. and learned gentleman who opened this discussion, had confessed that it was quite impossible to leave the currency of the country as it now was—of course he could not oppose their going into a Committee on the subject, to see what currency was possible to be made. They had also heard a great many general arguments, fending to prove, that by the system now pursued, the country was in the high road to ruin. This mode of reasoning was not only applied to the present Bill, but had been applied to every circumstance and occasion since the period when the Bank restrictions were imposed. Yet those prophesies had turned out to be false and groundless, which he hoped would be equally the fate of the predictions now poured out upon them. He could not help being surprised at his hon. friend's (Mr. Thornton) notion of the beneficial effects to be derived by Ireland from keeping up a practical standard, by double prices, of the relative values of gold and paper currency. He could not think such a standard so desirable, as that it should be maintained to the great injury of the country. And, after all, what kind of a standard was it? One unsettled and fluctuating, from 5 to 20 per cent. at the pleasure of the landlord in this or the other field—on this or on the other side of the hedge. Much had been said of the examples afforded by the history of nations, of the fatal and ruinous tendency of ell such systems as that now embraced in England. But he contended, that there never had existed an instance in point; and he defied any gentleman from those histories to show him a case, in which the paper currency of any other country bore the slightest analogy or resemblance to that of Britain. It was absurd and most ridiculous to compare them together, or bank notes to the assignats of France. These assignats, within two years after their first issue, had exceeded, by a hundred-fold, all the issues of the bank of England during a long period of years. They had, therefore, the experience of a number of years, from 1797, when the restrictions were imposed, to convince them, that there was not the slightest danger of an excessive circulation to 207 ruin the country.—"But," said an hon. gentleman (Mr. Smith), "after this measure is passed, and thirty years hence, when you may not have such provident and honourable directors of the Bank as at present, the evil will increase." Why could not parliament, as they had done, continue to superintend the issues of the Bank? During the last year, they knew the fact to be, that, so far from an increase, a diminution in the circulation had taken place, and they had no reason whatever to fear any danger from the sudden inundation of the country with bank paper during the recess. There was no danger of directors, heretofore so prudent, running all at once into a directly opposite line; there was no hazard of an indefinite issue to ruin the country in the manner described in the histories referred to. The whole of the issues here amounted to about one-third of the annual revenue of the country paid into the Exchequer.—Had they an instance like this in any history of any other nation, where, if he might use the expression, the paper currency was thrice, in the course of one year, disgorged to the government? But all this train of argument appeared to be mere idle declamation, and nothing could possibly be more absurd than to make these comparisons between things utterly dissimilar. He trusted the House and the country would therefore agree with him, that something of the kind now proposed was absolutely necessary for the protection of the subject. In framing the measure, they would, of course, direct their attention as much as possible to the prevention of evils arising from forgeries, and to save the people from being liable to receive them in payments. It appeared, from the account laid on the table, that this evil had not grown to an enormous magnitude, in comparison with the vast sum of 23 millions in circulation. The forgeries amounted, during the last eleven years, to about 9 or 10,000l. a year, including a number of foreign notes rejected at the Bank; and this was perhaps not more than a circulation to a similar extent in gold and silver would suffer. From the vast foreign expenditure in which the nation was engaged, they were, no doubt, in difficulty, which it was the object of this measure to meet in what appeared to be the most advisable way.—But if they took the advice of gentlemen on the opposite side of the House, and called on the Bank to resume its payments in specie, then indeed, it 208 might justly be said, that they were throwing widely and directly open the door to national ruin and bankruptcy. It was their duty to make the best selection they could for the country, and not reject a measure merely because theoretical objections could be urged against its perfect expediency, while it was allowed, on all hands, that some step was necessary, and no other, at all feasible, was suggested.
said, he had no intention of going at large into the question now, but as he had been absent during the discussions it underwent last session, and had no opportunity of delivering his sentiments at that period, he was anxious in a few words to express his firm conviction, that so far from this measure being calculated to promote the permanent interests of the country, it was calculated to bring the country to ruin. The right hon. gentleman opposite, had said that the predictions made on former occasions, when this sys tern began," and at various points of its course, of the progress to rain in which it would involve the country, had never been fulfilled. At the time when the Bank restrictions commenced in 1797, many persons had indeed spoken in very strong terms, as men were apt to do, of the utter ruin attendant on such a course. For his part he had never used this strong language—but there were many intermediate stages between the injury and titter ruin of a country. In his opinion, all the predictions since 1797, in opposition to that of the right hon. gentleman, had been substantially fulfilled. The supporters of the measure bad declared their belief, that the Bank would soon open again, and resume its payments in specie. This had been denied, and the contrary affirmed, viz. That the Bank would never pay in gold so long as this law lasted. Which of these predictions had been verified? Some years ago, when the price of gold rose so high, and the course of exchange became so unfavourable, owing to the excessive issue of paper, it was said, on, the one hand, that this mischief would be still worse; which, on the other hand, was denied. Whose prediction, in this case, he would again ask the right hon. gentleman, had been proved right? Their difficulties had increased. They were in a worse condition last year than ever they had been before. How, then, were their predictions falsified? The right hon. gentleman had told them, that no issues in other countries had ever resembled those of this. He agreed with 209 him on this point—none had ever exactly resembled It was therefore, that the progress of the mischief had been and would be slower in this country than in any other. But its progress was, nevertheless, inevitable, and in the nature of things. It was true, if our foreign expenditure was much decreased—if our issues from the Bank were more provident and wise than they had been, the evil might be deferred; it might even disappear; but then, it mast be a cessation of that system which the right hon. gentleman held to be necessary for the safety of the country. But though there was no exact resemblance between the paper currency of other countries, and that of Britain, there was, in many points, an agreement. There was an agreement in principle. The excessive issues from the Bank had rendered that company unable to fulfil its engagements to government and to the country. The Bank was, thereupon, compelled to put paper into issue to such a degree, as in its connection with government, caused that paper to become a government paper, and a forced government paper too!—It had nothing to pay its dividends with, but this forced government paper. The good sense of the country, the attention of parliament, and the good management of the directors of the Bank, might also add to those causes, which would retard the progress of the evil that had been predicted; but still, in principle, it resembled other countries, and the consequences were unavoidable. With regard to the extension of the mea sure to Ireland, there were one or two circumstances to which he begged leave to call the attention of the House. Ire land being much poorer than this country, and having a less capital, it might be sup posed that when the bank of England could no longer make its payments in gold, the bank of Ireland must have been in a similar state. But the direct reverse was, to his own knowledge, the fact; Al the time the bank of England suspended its payments in specie, the bank of Ireland was as competent, ready, and willing to pay in gold as it had ever been.—When the intimation was received from the government in this country to stop these payments, the surprise was as great as had ever been excited. This he considered a; one of the most just criterions by which to try the real state of the bank of Eng land at that time and since. The right hon. gentleman had endeavoured to throw a ridicule upon an hon. gentleman for his 210 opinion on the value of the practical standard existing in Ireland, to ascertain the real state of the depreciation of the paper currency. But the right hon. gentleman was altogether in error in supposing, that this standard varied from 5 to 20 per cent. on either side of a hedge, according to the pleasure or caprice of this or that landlord. That was not the case; and the rate per cent. never depended upon the will of any landlord. The capital of the country was the standard. In Dublin the buying and selling of gold was as common as that of broad cloth, or any other article. Much of it was bought for England, from whence a considerable proportion of it was, he believed, exported, and a considerable portion of it hoarded. Though he hoped he would be acquitted of being guilty of much egotism in that House, or of being apt to speak of himself, he would briefly state a circumstance of which he had been an eye-witness, to shew that it was this traffic which formed the standard, and not the fancy of landlords, as imagined by the right hon. gentleman. On the day he sailed for London, he went into one of these shops in which gold is purchased and sold in Dublin, and while there, a country woman came in to dispose of 11 or 12 guineas. She asked what was the premium, and was informed 5s. 6d. on each guinea, with, which being satisfied, she received that sum in bank of Ireland notes, and the fractional parts in tokens. The person of the shop having gone out, another stated to him (Mr. P.) that the woman had been paid too little, as the premium ought to have been 6s. on each guinea. On the return of the shop-keeper, he had exchanged with him bank of Ireland notes for those of the bank of England, at the ordinary rate of exchange, which at that time amounted to about one penny, or three-halfpence in the pound. This was a decided proof of the depreciation of paper, in comparison with gold, and that the rate of that depreciation was as well ascertained in Ireland as the price of meat or bread. His advice, then, was—to let the thing take its own course with the two prices. The Bill, if he understood it right, went to enact, that if a debtor was sued, and paid the amount in Bank-notes into court, the creditor was compelled to receive them and pay costs. But suppose A owed B 100l. on bond, and was desirous to pay the money and get rid of the interest, A could not force B to receive 211 the payment in 100l. Bank-notes; and must continue to remain B's debtor, and pay him interest. This seemed to him to be a great absurdity. It was said, the measure was necessary;—he knew not the circumstances that made it so: it had not been called for by Ireland, save in one Petition from Belfast, presented by the noble lord, and he was convinced if that was looked into, that the signatures would be found to be more connected with the commercial than the landed interests. It had also been said; that there were oppressive landlords—he did not doubt but there might be persons of this description, but he could not think this a sufficient reason for forcing the currency of a country out of its natural state. There would be many inconveniencies in applying the measure to Ireland, as the circumstances of that country were very different from this. English gentlemen were not aware of the great difference that existed. In England, for instance, there were few perpetual leases, but in Ireland there were a great many. Numbers of gentlemen found their lands let for 900 or 999 years, and to compel them who had so little revenue out of their property, to receive it in depreciated paper, would be to subject them to great loss, and indeed to leave them scarcely any thing. Upon this class of private gentlemen, therefore, the hardship would be very great; for their situation did not at all resemble that of landlords in this country, whose leases were only for a few years, and who at every new bargain had a remedy in their own hands. The matter, as it affected Ireland, would be found, when they came to the committee, to be most complex and difficult, and the injustice to certain individuals greater than persons in this country could have any notion. He would give his negative to the second reading of this Bill, because he opposed it in principle, and this was the proper stage for that opposition. It was said to be popular, whether truly or not, he could not say. If popular here, however, he might assert, it would not be popular in Ireland; and he was convinced its popularity in this country arose from its nature and tendency not being understood. In his opinion, it was a most pernicious measure, and he would reserve to himself the right of contending against it hereafter, when it was subjected to more mature discussion.
thought that the measure would be a great oppression to the landlords of Ireland.—He had heard from hon. 212 gentlemen it was not making Bank-notes legal tenders. He would contend that it had the effect, that of carrying out of the country all its coin. The Bank had told them that a dollar was worth 5s. 6d. No man was more aware of the use of paper credit than he was, but he wished it to be so restricted as to have a full security.
§ The House divided. Ayes 61; Noes 16. Majority 45.
|List of the Minority.|
|Babington, T.||Moore, P.|
|Busk, W.||Newport, Sir J.|
|Colbourn, R.||Ponsonby, G.|
|Combe, H. C.||Romilly, Sir S.|
|Folkestone, Lord||Westerne, C. C.|
|Giles, D.||Whitbread, S.|
|Langton, G.||Morris, E.|
|Marryatt, J.||Smith, w.|
§ Adjourned to Tuesday, the 7th of April.