HC Deb 06 June 1814 vol 27 cc1070-2

A great number of petitions were presented against the proposed Corn Laws, and praying that their consideration might be postponed till next session. These were received, and ordered to lie on the table.

One from Leeds, lord Milton, who presented it, stated to have twenty thousand signatures, although the meeting from which it originated took place only on Wednesday last, and although the petition was not handed about for signatures.

Mr. Thornton

presented a petition from the owners and occupiers of land in the county of Surrey, praying that their interest might be protected, which, they were of opinion, could be done without injury to the other inhabitants of Great Britain. He presented also a petition from Godalming, and another from Kingston, against the Corn Bills; and observed, that under the conflicting opinions, he recommended that time should be taken to weigh more fully the consequences of this important measure, and to see if the conflicting interests might not be reconciled.

Mr. Howorth

, in presenting a petition from the borough of Evesham, shortly stated, that private letters accompanying that petition had informed him, that a considerable ferment had been excited in the public mind throughout the country upon this subject; and although he was aware that parliament ought not to be deterred from the discharge of its duties by mere clamour, yet in the present instance, no positive necessity appearing to exist for the present Bill, he would submit it to the House, whether it would not be exercising a sound discretion to postpone further proceedings until the country should have time, deliberately, to examine into the true nature of the proposed measure.

On presenting a petition from Exeter, Mr. Courtenay urged the propriety of attending to the prayer of the petition by postponing the further consideration of the question to which it referred until the next session.

Mr. M. A. Taylor

, on presenting a petition from Poole, stated, that it was signed by a number of respectable individuals who were fully competent to form an opinion upon the subject. For himself, he had no hesitation in saying, that he entirely concurred in the wish of the petitioners. Indeed, from the moment the measure referred to was brought forward, he had the strongest, objections to it; being always of opinion that parliament ought not to interfere upon the subject, but leave corn, like every other article in trade to find its own level.

Mr. Lockhart

, upon presenting a petition from Oxford, observed, that at the meeting from which it originated, he had thought it his duty to address his constituents, with a view to impress upon their minds, that the measure to which the petition referred was not calculated to produce the consequences which the petitioners apprehended. He deprecated the sentiment which prevailed among them with regard to the motive of those by whom that measure was brought forward. He therefore told his constituents, that it was their interest, that it was the universal interest of the nation, to encourage the industry of our own countrymen, by preferring the produce of our own agriculture to that of foreigners, and thus to render, ourselves independent of foreign supply. This statement he thought due to the character of that House, to that of the authors of the measure under consideration, and to his own conscientious conviction. But he was sorry to find that he totally failed in producing the impression he desired; and he felt it right to inform ministers that a considerable alarm prevailed upon the subject; and that districts, heretofore remarkable for their peaceable and orderly conduct, were in a state of great agitation in consequence of this measure. He therefore conceived that it would be advisable to postpone any further proceeding upon the measure until the public mind was in a better temper, by being more enlightened respecting it. Ministers would, he had no doubt, act with firmness; tempered, however, he trusted, with a due degree of prudence.

Mr. Canning

, who presented a petition from Liverpool with 22,000 signatures, said, that he thought it impossible for any man who had cast his observation about for the last ten days, not to feel, that unless some urgent and pressing necessity called for its adoption, it would be the height of impolicy to urge the measures referred to by the petitioners at present. No such urgent necessity had been shewn to exist; and as he was confident, without pronouncing any opinion upon the merits of the Bill, that it was not yet understood, he recommended strongly that it should not be hurried through the House. In whatever way the question might be met, or whatever might be his ultimate opinion upon it, he was persuaded that a measure of this nature ought no to be carried, unless the general opinion of the people out of doors were in its favour. On these grounds, he would be an advocate for any proposition to postpone the further proceeding upon this measure at present; and the more so because he thought it might be dispensed with, at least until it should undergo further consideration, and until a thorough understanding of its character and object should be propagated among the people.

General Gascoigne

supported the view of his right hon. colleague; and adverting to a scoff applied to a similar petition lately presented from Bristol, declared his conviction, that so universal and so strong was the public objection to the measure referred to, that it would be dangerous to the peace of the country to adopt it.

Lord Levison Gower

, on presenting a petition from Wolverhampton, spoke in the same strain. Mr. Coke presented a petition from the corn growers and millers of Norfolk in favour of the proposed alteration in the corn laws. Ordered to lie on the table—as was a petition of an opposite nature, presented by Mr. W. Smith, from Norwich, which petition the hon. member stated to have 12,000 signatures.

About five o'clock lord Castlereagh entered the House for the first time since his return from France, and was greeted with loud and most animated cheering, frequently repeated from every part of the House. Business was for some moments suspended. His lordship bowed, and took his seat amid the acclamations of the members.