§ On the motion of Mr. Foster for the re-committal of the Report respecting the Corn Trade,
§ Sir J. Newport
expressed his conviction, that the most persuasive arguments had been adduced to shew that it was the policy of this country to guard its home agriculture by providing against the free import of foreign corn. If it were asked, whether it was necessary to alter the arrangements of 1804, or provide any additional 940 guard for our agriculture, as that agriculture had since increased, he should answer that this, increase was not owing to those arrangements, but to the peculiar nature of our relations with foreign states. Besides, it was now impossible to put the agriculturists in the same state that they were in in 1804, as so many additional burthens had been since imposed upon them; would it then be fair to expose them to competition in their own market with foreign agriculturists, after having incurred those very burthens—after becoming subject to such a weight of taxation for the deliverance of Europe, for the advantage of foreign states, in order to relieve them from the calamities of wars? Such a proposition would, indeed, be utterly destitute of common justice, as to allow a foreigner, armed with the security which Great Britain had purchased for him by twenty years war, to undersell the British trader in his own market. In fact, the principles of a free trade could not be fairly applied to the question of corn, especially after those principles had been departed from with regard to our other manufactures. Our woollen manufacture, for instance, was protected against the competition of any foreigner whatever in our own market, and why should not our corn meet an equal protection? It was alledged, that the proposed arrangement would serve to impose a permanent tax upon the consumer; but he denied the justice of this allegation. If, however, it were even true, he should have no hesitation to assert, that it would be for the interest of the consumer to pay that tax in order to secure the advantages of that steady supply, and independency of any foreign state, which the measure promised. As to the argument, that the tendency of this measure would be to throw capital unnaturally into agriculture, he thought it quite untenable, as the only probable result would be to recover for agriculture, which formed the most solid wealth of a nation, that capital which had been heretofore diverted from it by an undue partiality to manufactures. But the advantages which the proposed arrangement held out to Ireland were incalculable. In that country, the interests of which were completely identified with those of Great Britain, not above one-fourth of the people were employed in manufactures, the remainder being wholly dependent on agriculture or pasturage; and there agriculture had of late years made very considerable 941 advance; insomuch, indeed, that it had exported a vast quantity of corn to this part of the empire. Would it then be fair or wise to impede the prosperity of that country? But if such impediment were really offered, what must be the state of things between the two countries? Ireland at present took the manufactures of England, and paid for them in corn. It indeed prohibited any manufacturer from entering into competition with that of England in the Irish market. Its duties with a view to that prohibition were, upon woollen, as 50 to 1 in favour of England—upon hardware as 33 to 10—upon glass as 33 to 10, and so on in proportion upon earthenware and other articles of English manufacture. Would it then be an equitable return towards Ireland, to withhold due encouragement from that agriculture which enabled it to pay for such articles—which enabled it, especially of late years, to become the best customer of England? In fact, if that encouragement were refused, he could not conceive how the Irish people were to pay those absentee rents which formed so severe a drain upon that country. These absentee rents, however, were spent in England; which thus profited, in every point of view, by the improving industry of Ireland. To the interest of that country, he therefore trusted that the House would look with peculiar solicitude; and nothing could contribute so materially to that interest as the encouragement of agriculture, to which the Irish were peculiarly disposed, and which was so much more calculated than pasturage, or perhaps even manufactures, to promote morality, industry, and good order.
said, that many gentlemen seemed to conceive that corn was the only thing which ought to be lowered in price. He would wish to know whether any of them had found out a way to lower the price of all other commodities in the same proportion. Our farmers were loaded with taxes on land, horses, leather property tax, and tithes, beyond what the farmers of other nations were subject to. If corn that was subject to none of those duties were allowed to come free into our market, this country would soon be over-whelmed with corn from the continent. When had from official accounts a statement of the rapid increase of agriculture in Ireland, were we to check her prosperous career? The agriculturists of this country did not ask for monopoly; 942 they only wanted protection. They did not want to raise the price of the loaf upon the poor, but they wanted to be preferred to foreigners in their own markets.
§ Sir H. Parnell
rose to endeavour to prove that the accusations preferred against him as chairman of the committee on the corn trade, by a right hon. gentleman (Mr. Rose) were not well founded. He hoped he should also be able to show to the House, that the right hon. gentleman had himself fallen into some very great mistakes. The Report of the Committee had been described by the right hon. gentleman, in the pamphlet which he had published under the title of his speech, as taking a very superficial view of the subject. This he denied. The Report contained the average prices of corn for 146 years; a view of the laws relating to the subject for 150 years; and an account of the documents respecting imports and exports for 117 years. In the speech which the right hon. gentleman had published, there was something which he (sir H. Parnell) must take the liberty to say, had not been said by the right hon. gentleman in the House. In the House, the right hon. gentleman had said, that the committee had taken their prices from Eton College records; but in his publication, though he admitted that they had correctly taken them from the Eton records, he maintained that the deductions drawn from those records were not correctly made, [see p. 675.] The right hon. gent. then, gave a statement of what the prices should have been; and here he committed a very great error. In taking the prices from the Eton College records, as the prices were marked in them from the finest grain in the market, it was necessary to deduct from the price on the records two-ninths altogether. Whereas, the right hon. gentleman had only deducted one-ninth. The right hon. gentleman also accused the committee of being in error as to the tables given in the Report. The fact was, that these tables had been taken from the work of Mr. Chalmers, whose accuracy even the right hon. gentleman had admitted. Another accusation was, that the committee had only referred to seven of the acts of parliament on the subject of the corn trade; whereas, in truth, they referred to nine of these acts. In his whole speech, the right hon. gentleman had not been, able to shew that there was any act of parliament of importance on the subject which had not been referred to by the committee. 943 The committee were blamed for the eulogium they pronounced on the Act of the 17th of Charles 2, although the very words of the committee in praise of this Act were those used by Dr. Adam Smith. The committee had applied the words of the same great authority to the Act of William the third. The hon. bart. was proceeding to repel the accusations of Mr. Rose; when
§ Sir M. Wood
rose to order; and observed, that if the hon. baronet went on attacking the pamphlet, they would have an hour's reply from the right hon. gentleman in defence of it. [A laugh.] Besides, it was taking the House unfairly; as many members had comedown expecting the amendment of an hon. member to be proposed.
§ Sir H. Parnell
continued, by observing that the statements of the right hon. gentleman were absolutely erroneous; and that he had failed, in every instance, in fixing any inaccuracy upon the labours of the committee. He contended, that no committee had ever taken more pains to produce a well-digested and correct Report.
said, he was sorry that the objections of the hon. baronet had not been brought forward earlier; as he unfortunately laboured under such a severe cold, that he doubted whether he could render himself audible to the House. With regard to what had been stated by the hon. baronet, he had not satisfied him (Mr. Rose) that he had fallen into a single mistake. He was still of opinion, that such a report had never been presented to parliament upon so grave and important a subject. As to the statement in the pamphlet, that the first Resolution belonged wholly to the hon. baronet, the only mistake he had committed in that was, that be had not been gifted with the power of prophecy; for when the assertion was made, no other person, except the hon. baronet, had addressed the House upon that proposition. With regard to the Eton tables, if the hon. baronet had read his speech, he would have found the reason stated, why he (Mr. Rose) had deducted only one ninth, instead of two. He had applied to the Registrar of Eton College, and had received from him a certificate, which, if he had anticipated the objections that were made, be could have brought in his pocket; from which it appeared that the wheat supplied at the Eton market was not the best wheat, but what was called the middling wheat; and therefore, the second ninth ought not be deducted in 944 reducing the Eton to the statute measure. He should not trouble the House with replying minutely to what had been advanced by the hon. baronet, but content himself with stating his firm conviction, that in every thing which he had brought forward in his speech, he was borne out by facts.
The Chancellor of the Exchequer
submitted, whether it would not be better, as the question respecting the report which the hon. baronet defended, had been already decided, that the House should resolve itself into the committee in which, the right hon. gentleman had given notice that he intended to propose a new resolution.
§ The House then resolved itself into the committee.
§ The second, Resolution, for prohibiting the importation of corn, except under the scale suggested by Mr. Huskisson, was then read from the chair; when
rose, and observed, that the main object which the House had in view was, to increase the quantity of corn in this country, and to prevent the necessity of applying to a foreign market for supplies. In former times, Great Britain, by the wisdom of the measures which she pursued, had completely obviated all necessity for the importation of corn. Her agriculture was then encouraged and promoted, and means were taken to prevent a competition in the market, by the produce of other countries. Within the last half century, however, the policy of the state seemed to have been completely changed; and instead of being independent of, our very existence had depended upon, foreign states; our agricultural interests had been neglected; and those wise maxims, which had produced such beneficial effects among our ancestors, had been totally abandoned. The folly of this course had now been carried home to the breast of every thinking man; and it was clear, that the best course which could be pursued, would be to go back to the old original principles, by which so much real advantage had been gained towards upholding the agricultural prosperity of the kingdom: we should see that a fair profit was allowed to the farmer; and that he was not met in the market by those who, possessing advantages superior to him, were enabled, by selling their commodity at a cheaper rate, totally to exclude him from all opportunity of reaping the fruits of his industry. In the year 1670, when a prohibitory Act was introduced, the price at which corn 945 was allowed to be imported was 2l. 13s. 4d. which, with the duty of 8s. made the price below which no importations were allowed, 3l. 1s. 4d. per quarter, and this had the effect of completely preserving the landed interest of the country. In any legislative measure which might be adopted with the same view at the present period, however, it should be recollected, that the value of money was considerably altered; and the same rules which were then applicable, might not now be productive of an effect equally advantageous. According to the system pursued by our ancestors, the prohibitory price of corn, calculated by the increased power of money, ought to be 7l.. 4s. 4¾d. per quarter; and to this a duty of 1l. 1s. 4d. being added, the real prohibitory price would be 8l. 5s. 8¾d. Gentlemen would be surprised at this amount; but such was really the price at which, according to the alteration in the circumstances of the times, corn ought to be taken, in order to afford a similar encouragement to the agriculturist. He did not mean, however, to propose this as the price upon which the House should fix on the present occasion; at the same time he thought we ought to take the price at such sum as would effectually shut out the foreign grower from interfering with our farmers If corn became scarce he saw no reason why; we should not have recourse to those systems of œconomy which had hitherto been found expedient; and not by a constant fluctuation of prohibitions, and taxes, and bounties, distract the attention of the agriculturist, and prevent him from pursuing that uniform course which would in the end place the country upon the basis of independence which all must desire, and which was essential to the maintenance of our power and dignity. It was curious to examine the multiplicity of measures which had been adopted within the last half century for the regulation of the corn trade. From the year 1765 to 1770, fourteen Acts of this description had been passed—from 1770 to 1780, eight Acts—from 1780 to 1790, seven—from 1790 to 1800, eleven—and from, 1800 to 1813, twelve, in all 52 Acts, in the course of 55 years. With such an accumulation of alterations and changes as these, he would ask, how it was possible for the agriculturist to know what he was about, or to form an idea of what course it would be best for him to pursue, to promote his welfare? How different was the policy of the 946 preceding half century, during the whole of which period only four Acts respecting the regulation of the corn laws had been passed. Could any thing shew more strongly the necessity of conforming the new law to the principles of antient policy—principles which he was prepared to contend, at the same time that they would uphold the interests of the grower, would equally protect the consumer? In enumerating the objectionable Acts which had been passed within the last ten years, he had made a mistake, by including that which had been introduced with respect to Ireland, in 1806. Upon this Act he had heard many eulogiums passed; and he felt it his duty to say, he considered that every Irishman ought to feel infinite gratitude to the right hon. bart. (sir John Newport) who had been its parent. By that Act the interests of Ireland had been promoted in an essential degree; and a practical proof had been given of the policy rather of encouraging our own agriculture, than of looking to other countries for support. After this, he did hope that we should no more hear of sixteen million being sent out of this country to cultivate the wastes and enrich the inhabitants of foreign states. Ireland, he had no doubt, would; if properly encouraged, prove competent to supply all our wants, and to supersede the necessity of importation altogether; and in return, she would be one of the best customers which the country had for her manufactures. In entreating the House to be guided by his suggestions, however, he begged to be understood as not imploring any new boon; all he wanted was, to prevent a retrograde motion in the progress which had been already made towards improvement; and to effect this, be thought he might safely, propose the price 5l. per quarter, as that at which the prohibition might cease. The average price of corn for the last few years had amounted to this sum; and he apprehended it might be safely adopted as one which, while it would effectually guard the interests of the grower, would also prevent the consumer from sustaining any injury whatever. If this sum was thought too high, it was in the power of the House to lower it. His wish was, rather to promote unanimity than to excite discontent; but to the graduated scale he felt the strongest objection; inasmuch as he thought it would tend to promote a degree of complexity and confusion, against which, for every reason, it was desirable 947 to guard. The prices now were regulated by the price in the twelve maritime counties of England. The prices in Ireland were 12s. lower; so that the British farmer was better protected by 12s. than the Irish. He would now propose, that the protecting duty should cease and determine when wheat arrived at 100s.; rye, peas, and beans, at 66s.; barley at 50s.; and oats at 33s. except when imported from our American colonies.
§ On the question, that the original words stand part of the Resolution,
The Chancellor of the Exchequer
observed, that there appeared to him to be very little difference of opinion in the House respecting the first and the third Resolutions. The main objection evidently rested upon the second Resolution; and so firmly was he convinced that this ought to be maturely considered, that, rather than consent to the amendment of the right hon. gentleman (Mr. Foster) he should propose to postpone the farther consideration of the whole subject till the next session of parliament. He would appeal to the statute-book for all ages, in proof that no law had ever been introduced which had operated as a distinct and total prohibition of foreign grain. The right hon. gentleman then took a view of the different propositions; anti observed, that though the value of money had considerably diminished of late years, yet for a century before it had been regularly on the increase. But the graduated fall was calculated on the present diminished value, as if that were never to change. On the whole, respecting importation, as we cannot undertake to supply ourselves, we must apportion the price so as to ensure the article at a moderate rate to the consumer. It would be unsafe and unwise permanently to fix any price at present; and even if the scale of his hon. friend were approved of, he should propose that it should only be adopted for a limited time, till its permanent propriety could be ascertained; for if you exclude a part of your supply, you force the whole of the demand upon the remaining part. He viewed the experiment of economy on the prime necessaries of life as a very unwise attempt; but he would agree with the hon. gentleman that nothing was so injurious to agriculture; as unsteady prices; yet it was only by the resolution of parliament to avoid frequent interference with them, that they could be properly regulated. In short 948 the public must learn a great moral lesson: they must be prepared to see, without dissatisfaction, great quantities of corn stowed in warehouses, and even shipped for exportation, when the prices are high; and they must learn to trust, with confidence, to the wisdom of parliament for due and salutary provisions. In every instance, and in all ages, the government had enacted a graduated scale, according to the exigencies which required it.—After answering a variety of objections that had been raised relative to average prices, the right hon. gentleman adverted to what had been said respecting Ireland. It did not appear to him, that Ireland had any reason to complain, as she was put on the same footing as Great Britain; her exports and imports being regulated by the same duty; while the average prices, from whatever country taken, must apply to the whole. If the British prices appeared to be higher than they really were, as relative to Ireland, they would not at all affect the general principles of calculation. But if the right hon. gentleman, wished to have foreign corn excluded altogether, let him say so, and the course to be pursued would be clear. If the graduated scale of duties were adopted, he did not anticipate any very grievous evil to arise from it, even though; there might be some error in the amounts; and he thought it would be best likely to reconcile the feelings of the country with the interests of the farmer. On the whole, in his opinion, the Resolutions now before the House, with the exception already mentioned, seemed to possess all the best principles and ground-works for the regulation of corn; and if they contained no very material error, the attention of parliament might be called to them at any other time. He must take occasion to observe, that the price for years past had been affected by a variety of extraneous circumstances; but the Resolutions before the House would afford stepping stone, if he might so call it, from one scale of prices to another more modern, and more likely to be beneficial. On the grounds which he had stated, he must feel it his duty to dissent from the proposition of the right hon. gentleman.
§ Mr. J. P. Grant
thought that no proposition could be more plain than this, that the commercial, agricultural, and manufacturing interests of the country were inseparable; and that all of them, as far as the object could be accomplished, ought 949 to be put on an equal footing. The right hon. gentleman (the Chancellor of the Exchequer) treated this question as if it were one on which the House and the country had no experience. He seemed to regard it as if we were in a new situation, one in which we were called on to legislate on a speculative ground; and as if the present was entirely a new case. He (Mr. Grant) entertained great respect for the opinions and authorities of his hon. friends on the other side; but still he must be excused for saying, that he felt much more attached to the evidence of experience; and, if he found that a system had been acted on with success for half a century—when that system was departed from, that contrary effects were produced—when he saw the former system again acted on, and again the same consequences produced—whether these effects necessarily followed from the systems or not, be could not resist the conviction, that there must be a connection between these opposite systems and their effects. He could not help saying, when he saw one system produce happy effects, and another system produce consequences exactly the contrary, that he must regard this as something more than the mere effect of chance. He could not help thinking that gentlemen were bound to shew him, in such a state of things, that there were other reasons which might have produced, and had produced, those effects. To judge of the force of this observation, he should take the averages of certain considerable periods at the different times he had alluded to, and should see what effect the two contradictory systems had, at those various periods, produced on the price of grain. We had no returns of the price of grain prior to the year 1605, when the first return of the price of grain was made. He should state it without making any deduction. The average of the first 11 years was 2l. 1s. 6d. From the year 1620 to 1625 the average price was 2l. 2s. 3d. ⅗ths. During the next ten years the average price was 2l. 10s. 5d. being one sixth more; and, during the following ten years, the average price was 2l. 17s. 3d. being about one seventh more: or, during the operation of the system pursued in the reigns of queen and king James, a rise of about 16s. Then the system was reversed, and a great rise took place in the price of grain; but about the year 1700, the old system was again restored; and between 950 that period and the year 1765, a fall of more, than one fourth took place below the average which had existed before; this old system was again called into operation. So that, notwithstanding the lapse of 160 years, and notwithstanding; the great depreciation of money within that period, the monied price of corn was then exactly the same that it had been 160 years before.—Then, once more, after those laws were again abolished, the average price of corn rose within the first 20 years to 5l. 1s. 9d.; but, deducting for the depreciation of money, to 3l. 16s. being one half as much again as the average of the former 20 years. So he (Mr. Grant) was entitled to conclude, from what had passed before, during the period of, and since those systems had been acted upon, that those effects to which he had alluded were the necessary consequences of those opposite systems which, had at different periods, prevailed. By the one of those systems our exports increased, and by the other our exports were entirely done away, and the importation of corn increased in a proportionate degree. The variations in this respect were inexplicable in any other way, than as being considered the effects of this change of system. Why our manufactures should increase and prosper while our agriculture was going backward, or vice versa, could only be accounted for on, this principle, that equal advantages were not held out to both. No person could be a more sincere friend than he, (Mr. Grant) was to a free trade; but at the same time he thought that a free trade should be extended equally to all the objects of industry. To the graduated scale proposed by the hon. gentleman (Mr. Huskisson), he (Mr. Grant) had a strong objection, because it did not fix any precise rule, nor point out to the farmer any distinct point to which he could look for the regulation of his conduct. It was a great error to suppose that the value of land was raised by an increase in the price of corn. It was raised by the increase of the profit of the farmer, and that depended not on the increase of the price of corn, but on the increase of the demand for it. It was so in manufactures. The muslin gown, worn at present, from its cheapness, by a woman of the inferior classes, was one which a lady of rank, in the days of our grandmothers, could scarcely have afforded to purchase. Yet, was the muslin manufacturer of the present 951 day poorer than the muslin manufacturer of former days? No. Because, although the price of his manufacture had so considerably diminished, yet the demand for it had more than proportion-ably increased. His profits, like those of the farmers, depended on the quantity which he could produce, and that again depended on the capital which be was able to employ. It was another error to say that the price of labour depended on the price of corn. America and the Netherlands, as contrasted with Holland, afforded sufficient refutations of this assertion. The price of labour, like the price of every thing else, depended on the demand for it. In times of scarcity labour was cheaper than the average price, and in times of plenty dearer; because in times of scarcity the labourer was compelled to work more, and in times of plenty he was induced to work less, than his average allowance. If the committee would refer to the enquiry made by the House of Lords, in 1812, into the existing distresses of the manufacturing districts, they would find it established by evidence, that those distresses arose, not from the price of corn, but from the want of employment. He was anxious to satisfy the committee that the question before them had nothing to do with the enjoyments of the people, even if the effect of the regulation were to raise the average price of corn, which he was satisfied it would not be. There were two great objects which the legislature ought to have in contemplation on this subject; the first, to keep corn at as steady a price as possible; the second, to supply some fund for occasional deficiencies. He was firmly persuaded, that this country would depend on itself for its supply, and it ought to do so. What hazard could result from making it do so? A free exportation had been already enacted: If to this were added such a demand in the home market as would induce the farmer to cultivate more industriously, in the hope of a fair profit, that desirable object would be attained. Although he was disposed to go further than the proposed Resolution—although he would willingly return to those laws, from the period of the abandonment of which the decay of the country had commenced, and give a bounty on the exportation of corn—yet even the adoption of this limited measure he was convinced would render us an exporting country; without being which, 952 we could never sufficiently guard against a recurrence of the evils which we had endured from the enormous variations that had of late years occurred in the price of grain. On all these grounds, he should give his most cordial support to the proposition of the right hon. gentleman.
§ Mr. Frankland Lewis
expressed his complete and unshaken conviction, that if the subject were left to itself, the country would be placed entirely out of danger with respect to it. It was strange, that although it was generally admitted in theory, that all legislative interference in matters of food and commerce was pernicious, yet this maxim seemed invariably to be laid aside, as something too good for practice. The committee ought to follow the example of Mr. Pitt, who did all he could to set the trade of the country free from restrictions; and that with a view not only to relieve our own commercial system, but to introduce the same liberal spirit into the commercial system of other nations. One great tendency of this enlightened policy was, to secure the blessings of peace; as it was well known in history that nothing had more effectually fomented war, than those petty jealousies and quarrels which had arisen from the commercial regulations of different states. Unless the agricultural interest should show a sound reason for departing from this principle (which he contended they had not hitherto done), it ought to be tenaciously adhered to. As it was, it was proved by an official document, that at the present moment grain could not be imported from the Baltic at a lower price than 78s.; and that without including the profit of the merchant. With that addition, grain so imported could not be sold in the English market under 84 or 85s. Did not this fact afford an absolute proof that the agricultural interest was in no danger? Had not the farmer all the protection by it which he could hope or desire? As to the large importations which of late years had at various periods taken place, he was persuaded that the agricultural interest had materially benefitted by them; for, by sustaining the enormous growth of our manufactures and population, they had eventually raised our agricultural system to the astonishing perfection to which it had arrived. At intervals during this period of increase, the country had experienced a scarcity amounting almost to famine; and therefore, had not the increasing manufacturing 953 population been maintained, and nursed, and cherished, and fostered, by the very importation which was now complained of, it would not at present be in existence. In his opinion, a steady price was more likely to prevail with a free trade than with a restricted importation; for the only rational hope of remedying a local inconvenience was, by haying recourse to a wider surface of the world. The argument, that parliament must continue to legislate on the subject, because it had already legislated so much, was absurd. What was the object of all the legislative provisions that had from time to time been made? To remedy the evils occasioned by previous legislative provisions on the same subject. What had been the object of the Act of 1663? To destroy two obnoxious preceding Acts. What had been the objects of the 51 Acts that had since passed? Did not each of them, in succession, proclaim the failure and imperfection of its predecessor? He must oppose the Resolution.
Mr. W. P. T. L. Wellesley
supported the proposition made by his right hon. friend, convinced as he was that the agriculture of the country was brought to such a state of perfection as would, at least, easily enable us to supply our own consumption of grain.
contended, in opposition to the arguments of an hon. gentleman opposite, that the high price of bread was of material importance to the labourer; and that either he must seriously suffer, or it must be made up to him by an increase of wages, Adverting to former regulations, he shewed that it had uniformly proved injurious to fix the price of corn by parliamentary enactment. In 1791 it had been raised 6s. a quarter; in 1804 it had been raised 17s. The rise now proposed was 40s. a quarter; and he would venture to assert, that if the committee adopted the Resolution, 106s. a quarter would very shortly be the minimum.
§ Mr. Huskisson
argued at considerable length to prove that it would not be easy to make this an exporting country, by reverting to the system of our ancestors. The increased population of the country had, he believed, compelled our agriculturists to cultivate land that our ancestors would have rejected. It had been truly said by a right hon. gentleman, that the protecting price would not be the price at which corn would be sold in the home market. Experience, and the evidence of 954 the existing case, proved this. If last year the price at which importation was be prohibited had been fixed at 95s. could it be seriously thought by any one that corn would be now selling at 95s.? Was not the present price the consequence of our own abundant supply? He by no means wished that corn should be dear. He wished it to be cheap, provided that cheapness was the result of the capital and the industry of this country. He disclaimed having said that 87s. ought to be the lowest price; and he preferred a graduated scale to a fixed prohibition, as it would afford greater facilities for keeping down the price if it should become too high. Nothing could be more simple or intelligible than the application of this scale. The foreign importer would know that every shilling that corn rose or fell would operate to the extent of two shillings on his importation. A much more complicated scale was applied to the importation of sugar, but no difficulty arose from that circumstance. Nor would there be any difficulty in the application of the graduated scale to Ireland; although, as it was not likely that there would be much importation in that country, a lower average might perhaps be taken for it. He perfectly coincided in the suggestion of his right hon. friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer, to leave the subject open to revision at no very distant period, impossible as it was to foresee the various circumstances and changes which might occur, operative upon it. By the present provision, however, the ensuing alarm would be allayed—not among the landholders, for he was persuaded that they had no greedy or grasping expectations—but among the occupiers of land, who had a claim on the justice of parliament to protect their interests from deterioration. He hoped, therefore, that the committee would adopt the graduated scale, as it would do enough, and not do more than was necessary.
§ Mr. D. Giddy
approved of the proposition of his right hon. friend (Mr. Foster), in preference to the graduated scale; but thought 5l. too high a price to fix. If he were called upon to name a sum, he should say 84s.
expressed his readiness, provided the principle of his proposition were acceded to by the committee, to fill up the blank with 84s. or with any other sum that, in their judgment, would be expedient. With their leave, he would withdraw 955 his resolution, for the purpose of making that alteration in it.
The Chancellor of the Exchequer
observed, that his right hon. friend need not do that until the committee had determined whether or not to adopt the graduated scale proposed by his hon. friend. That was the question upon which they were now called upon to decide; and for one, be should pronounce an unequivocal affirmative.
§ Lord Milton
agreed with the right hon. gentleman opposite (Mr. Foster) in his objection to a graduated scale.
thought the graduated scale was the least objectionable measure, as doing least; for he had considerable doubts whether it was necessary or proper to do any thing but what had been done; namely, the allowing the free exportation of grain. But as he did not think proper to erect his judgment against the committee, he should agree to the graduated scale; not precluding himself, on any future stage, from examining it, if he should then think proper. He hoped, however, that no legislative measure would be adopted on any resolution which was not unanimously adopted, without a due time being allowed to make it known to the country. Whatever measure was adopted, he hoped would be merely temporary.
The Chancellor of the Exchequer
said, he intended to propose, that whatever measure was adopted should be temporary; and that he should not attempt to carry any measure quickly into a law which was not unanimously received.
expressed his disapprobation of the graduated scale, on the ground that it would afford no sure protection to the farmer.
§ Sir J. Newport
said, he should support the graduated scale, not as the best measure possible, but the best which it was probable would be carried.
§ After a few words from Messrs. Huskisson, Foster, and H. Thornton, the House divided.
|For Mr. Foster's Amendment||60|
§ The Resolution, in its original form, was then agreed to.