§ Mr. Tierney
said, he rose in pursuance of the notice which he had given, to propose to the House a resolution for the appointment of a committee to institute an inquiry into one of the most important subjects which could possibly engage the attention of the House. The motion with which he should conclude would be for a committee to inquire into the effects produced on the exchanges with foreign countries, and the state of the circulating medium, by the restriction on payments in cash by the Bank, and to report whether any and what reasons exist for continuing the same beyond the period now fixed by law 214 for its termination. It would be recollected, that, from time to time ministers had promised that cash payments should be resumed, and from time to time the hopes of the country had been disappointed by renewed restrictions which had now continued for more than one and twenty years. The preamble of the last bill upon this subject stated, that various unforeseen circumstances rendered the continuance of the restriction necessary; and the nation had been within a few days informed, that various other unforeseen circumstances made it expedient that the issue of specie should be again postponed until the 20th of March, 1820. Having already spoken of the importance of the question, he would not trouble the House with another word upon that point: it had pressed itself forward by its own weight and impetus, and was now looked to with anxiety by all classes of society: petitions had been laid upon the table from different quarters, and it seemed to bid fair to become as popular as the question of annual parliaments and universal suffrage; at least some of those petitions, from their resemblance to each other, seemed to indicate not only a great unanimity of sentiment, but an unanimity of expression, as if, in fact, they had been obtained in the same manner as those were last year for annual parliaments. Unless he explained the nature of his motion, many gentlemen would perhaps wonder why he came forward, seeing that there was one point of agreement among all, namely, the necessity of inquiry: it was necessary, therefore, to show what in truth was the real difference between him and the chancellor of the exchequer. He was persuaded that no member would vote for the proposition of the other side, unless it could be shown that his (Mr. Tierney's) motion was defective—that it omitted some necessary point, or left untouched matters into which inquiry ought to be made. He did not believe that in a House containing men so professedly independent [Hear!]—he meant those who did not, feel themselves bound to vote with either one side or the other—any paltry distinction would be taken as to the quarter from whence the motion proceeded; the decision would be made, not upon the merits of any particular party, but upon the real merits of the question.
The first part of his motion had been rather dictated by a sense of fairness than 215 by any other consideration. He did not think that any thing new could be adduced to alter the opinions he had already formed on the subject of foreign exchanges and a circulating medium; and he hoped that he could say as much, or nearly as much, for two right hon. gentlemen opposite (Messrs. Canning and Huskisson), to whom the country was highly indebted for their labours upon this subject. For his own part, he was ready frankly to avow now what he had always asserted, that the principles laid down by the bullion committee, of which his late excellent friend Mr. Homer, had been chairman, constituted his creed, and he had yet seen and heard nothing to lead him to forsake it. He would say further, what he had often observed in conversation, that it was a matter of great satisfaction to him to find how rapid a progress truth had been making from day to day upon this subject. Indeed, the question had now become one of a totally different nature: it was no longer a question of exchanges, on the transmission of gold from one country to another, or on the dangers to which the Bank might be exposed: the only real point for decision was, whether the old circulation ought or ought not to be restored within those limits to which legitimate circulation was formerly confined in this kingdom. Abstruse points were no longer in dispute; it was now reduced to a mere practical question, whether it was just to the public, or safe to the state, to continue the present circulation to its present amount? Upon this, alarms had spread from one end of the country to another; and it had infected, not only the majority of the commercial, but had touched even the landed interest. They had been taught to believe that the very existence of the empire depended upon no diminution being made in the present amount of the circulating medium; that if paper were rejected, the nation was ruined and undone for ever. This was a doctrine which he had heard without surprise, because it was a doctrine which had been foretold, not only by himself, but by much wiser men: the House had been warned, over and over again, not to proceed in such a destructive system: it had been told, that if the restriction were prolonged, in time it would be impossible, without great hazard, to return to the point from whence it had started; and it now turned out, by the confession of all, 216 that the habits of the patient had been so vitiated that he had not strength to bear the only remedy for his disorder. This alarm, it was true, had not started up lately; but it could not have reached its present height, if it had not been supported by persons of considerable weight and consequence in the country. He hoped he should not say any thing that could be considered as uncivil to any gentleman in the House or out of it; but he should not discharge his duty to the country, if he did not call things by their right names, and distinctly state his firm conviction, that there existed a strong money party in this kingdom, whose sole object it was to avail themselves of their wealth to continue the present system— to exasperate public feeling—and whose ultimate object it was, to control the deliberations of the legislature, and the acts of the Bank itself. This party was composed of persons of different description: some of them were men of the largest fortune and of the most undoubted integrity—men, whose names, from one end of Europe to the other, was synonymous with every thing that was honest and upright, and who lent themselves to this object most conscientiously, thinking that they were doing what was right. But there was another set of men, whose feelings were of a very different description, who might be considered the tail of the party. Whether, in the end, the tail would govern the head, or the head the tail, was a question which time must decide. It was against this tail, that his present motion was directed. He was that night declaring war with the whole body of gamblers, speculators in the funds, stock-jobbers, and all those who were living upon the losses of the honest and industrious [Hear, hear!]. Every word he should utter would be wormwood to them, and would, of course, be liable to misrepresentation. They would assert, that he was only actuated by party motives — that he had not the good of the country at heart. To such charges he should make no defence, but that which the whole tenor of his life afforded. If that did not protect him, he knew of nothing that would; and to that he appealed [cheers]. In what he was doing he could have no possible view but the public good: he had taken upon himself a duty not less laborious than painful; but it was a duty which, as an honest man, he was bound to perform for his country.
217 The respectable and wealthy individuals he had just referred to, were supported by others, their opposites in almost every particular—men who had overtraded themselves — men who, without capital had embarked in speculations for the purpose of taking money from any body that had it—men, who were up to any job, to any artifice, and whose great object it was to keep up the circulation as full as possible, that they might fatten and flourish upon that fulness, and whose hour of extinction would arrive the moment the circulating medium was brought back to its legitimate state [Hear, hear!]. Unfortunately, that hour had been so long postponed, that those who, a few years ago, were merely contemptible, had grown bolder as they acquired wealth, and confident as they procured allies: of these he spoke, when he said that they had spread the alarm which had induced those who, a few years ago, would have been ashamed to put their names to petitions calling for a continuance of the restriction, to come forward, and, in the character of English merchants, demand that England should not enjoy the same circulation which was possessed by every other government of the civilized world. Still they could scarcely be considered formidable, if they did not direct their operations, and with too much success, against a quarter which placed him (Mr. Tierney) in a situation of greater difficulty— the chancellor of the exchequer. And here he begged leave to observe, that he meant nothing personally uncivil or disrespectful to the right hon. gentleman, in what he had to observe upon the course he had pursued; or rather into which he had been driven. For the right hon. gentleman had not in fact, acted voluntarily, but upon compulsion: he had merely been an instrument with which others worked their ends, while his own good understanding had been cowed and subdued into subserviency by their machinations. His whole course of finance — for system it was not — had rested wholly and solely upon paper. No financial arrangements deserving the name of a system, had been adopted since the return of peace. What was the country to think of a finance minister who, year after year, had done nothing but resort to contrivances to glide over, from session to session without inquiry? The plans of the right hon. gentleman were propped by paper, and by paper only.
218 His system had been constantly to hold out the expectation that things would mend — that, by-and-by, if the House would but wait a little, it would find that the income and expenditure of the country would balance each other: in the mean time, the nation was to take his word for the promised improvement, and while the sinking fund was cutting off a certain portion of debt at one end, by exchequer bills, he was adding to it in an equal proportion at the other. His object seemed to be to raise the revenue, and a most laudable object it was; but had he effected it by raising old duties or imposing new? Nothing like it: the bound of his view and the height of his triumph was merely the multiplication of paper. In 1817, the country was beginning to escape from a situation of great distress: the amount of paper in circulation had been diminished from various causes, and the right hon. gentleman, in the month of June, had come down to parliament with a smile of triumph, and told the House that every thing was now restored to the very condition in which he had long hoped to see it: that it would be soon found that the revenue was increasing; that stocks were rising, public confidence flourishing, and that he had no doubt in a very short time that he should so reduce the interest of money as to be able to pay off the 5 per cents, the 4 per cents, and he might even reach the 3 per cents. When every body was looking for the realization of these gay promises, three or four months afterwards down came a number of returns from the Bank that explained the whole mystery: the secret of the triumph of the chancellor of the exchequer was exposed at once; for it appeared, that the Bank had been increasing its issues, that country banks had been following its example, and that, in truth, the state of prosperity was nothing more than an increased paper currency. Take away, then, this single prop on which his system rested, and it must fall; and to what expedient could the right hon. gentleman resort? If the object only was, to increase the issue of one kind of paper, the issue of another kind, in the shape of exchequer bills, would of course call it forth. The pressure of difficulties, in this view, gave him fresh consolation: he had nothing to do but to put, forth his exchequer-bills in larger quantities, to make the Bank the holders of them, and larger quantities of 219 Bank notes would of course be in circulation. This course had now been pursued for several years, in a way very pleasant to the chancellor of the exchequer, but very fatal to the country. If, then, it was of importance that the right hon. gentleman and his friends should be brought to their senses; if it ever was fit to look our situation in the face, could a better time be chosen than a period of profound peace? Would to heaven he could prevail upon the opposite side to consent! If, after five, or at least four, years of peace, we were still blindly to proceed with this paper system without inquiry, let any gentleman lay his hand upon his heart, and consider how dreadful would be the consequences to the nation, if a war, or even an armament, were to intervene? What resources had we but paper; what means of supporting ourselves, but by one piece of paper piled upon another? The right hon. gentleman would ask, no doubt, "Where is the inconvenience? Do you mean to regret that the revenue has augmented; that I have been able by the issue of exchequer bills to reduce the rate of interest?" He (Mr. Tierney) would indeed rejoice if he could persuade himself that this boasted low rate of interest proceeded from a sound and wholesome cause; but if, on the contrary, it was owing to an extravagant emission of paper, it was mere fallacy and delusion to hold out hopes that never could be realized. It could not be denied, that nothing could be more injurious to a country at all times, but especially in time of peace, than great fluctuations in the public funds: yet there was a set of men, intimately connected with government, who liked nothing better than such fluctuations. That variations of public credit were extremely dangerous was incontrovertible, yet how did the fact stand? In the beginning of 1817, the 3 per cents were at 63 or 64, and by the mere operation of paper they were raised, in the course of only eight months, to 84. The Bank returns proved the truth of what he had stated, for in those eight months there had been a most extravagant issue of notes, and yet it was at that time, and with the knowledge of this circumstance, that the chancellor of the exchequer came down to parliament and boasted that he should immediately proceed to pay off the 5 per, cents. Had it been done? No: and he would tell the right hon. gentleman, that as an honest man he should grieve to see it ac- 220 complished, if it were to be done by an increased and forced circulation of paper. If it were effected by the honest effects of individual credit, the case would be totally different; but to force stocks to a high price by the issue of notes, and then to pay off the 5 per cents, would be nothing less than deliberately committing a fraud upon the holders. He said "fraud," because he knew of no other word in the language to express his meaning [Hear, hear!]. Let the House look at the situation of the stock-holders: on the faith of government they had embarked their money in the 5 per cents, knowing certainly that it was more likely to be paid off than any other stock; but did they ever dream that the Bank restriction was to be continued (though it would otherwise have expired six months after peace), in part for the purpose, he believed in his conscience, of raising the stock, that the interest of the holders might be invaded? First, the price of all commodities and necessaries was raised by the emission of paper; next it was applied to reduce the rate of interest, and then stepped forward the right hon. gentleman, and told the holders of the 5 per cents, "You knew all along that I should get rid of this stock—the rate of interest is now reduced — the country is in a state of the most glorious prosperity—you are sufferers only because the country prospers—it is the height of ingratitude in you to complain, and I shall pay you off without delay." Surely these were matters well deserving the most deliberate consideration of the House. Had not the period now arrived when parliament ought to act and inquire for itself? Was it not high time to take some steps that should put an end to a system which secretly destroyed the foundations of national prosperity? He took it for granted that things could not proceed for ever in this direction. True it was, that one individual had openly and honestly declared that he wished the Bank restriction to continue for ever: but all were not Croppers—at least all did not dare honestly to avow their opinions as he had done: many hoped that it never would expire, but they had not dared to say so: the breed of Croppers was increasing, probably in every village; and perhaps a long time might not elapse before, trusting to their numbers, they might venture to follow an example which as yet he alone had set them [Hear, hear!].
221 He had observed that it was not his intention to go into what might be called the learning of the subject, or to discuss any of the abstruse questions arising out of it. He declined doing so, partly because he should be followed by those who were much better informed upon them, and partly, because they had now much less bearing upon the subject; the point in dispute was now quite of a different nature. To meet these difficulties, and to endeavour to overcome them, the most obvious and most rational course was the appointment of a committee; and he should be glad to know if any mode of reference could be more distinct, or more likely to accomplish the object of gaining every species of information, than that which he was at present urging. He did not wish to enquire merley into the state of the Bank, but into the effects produced by the operation of the various laws passed during the last one and twenty years, for continuing the restriction upon cash-payments. He wished to hear some good reason if any could be assigned, why property in this kingdom should not be subject to the same test of measurement which is applied to it in every country under heaven. On this account he was desirous that the committee should report whether any and what objections exist to the resumption of cash payments at the period now fixed by law. He did not mean to state it absolutely and peremptorily as his opinion that they ought to be resumed at that precise day; he should not be speaking sincerely if he affected to be wise enough to point out the exact course that ought to be pursued; but he was anxious that gentlemen disposed to take the alarm should pause and inquire before they yielded quietly to the proposition that the nation was ruined if Bank-notes were withdrawn. Ministers talked in their preambles of unforeseen circumstances; he wanted to know what those circumstances were; it was precisely within the terms of his motion to investigate what reasons at present existed for not returning to the ancient and wholesome circulation of the country. Upon this subject a debate would not satisfy him: it might be very well for gentlemen to enter into arguments, and to make assertions in the warmth of debate, and it would be very easy for those already alarmed to be hurried away by new excitements of their fears: he wished to see these gentlemen and their friends before 222 a committee, and subjected to an examination from all quarters; then it would be seen what they would hazard in their cool moments of reflexion, and whether their doubts and apprehensions were not capable of removal by a very few plain interrogatories. It was the simplest thing in the world for a member to get up in his place, and state, that he was satisfied that this was not the time; but it might give him some difficulty if, before a committee, he were called upon to state the grounds of his opinion. It would be well to ascertain on what foundation the opinions of the numerous petitioners rested; for hitherto only one point had been stated from authority, and that was, the extent of the foreign loans. It would be as well, perhaps to inquire a little what they were. In the last year they amounted in English money to nineteen millions, and the first proposition was, that they were to be paid in the course of nine months. The noble lord, however, and his imperial colleagues at Aix-la-Chapelle, had thought fit to alter both the period and the amount; the first was changed to eighteen months, and the last to twelve millions: so that the sum, was reduced and the time extended; and yet those unforeseen circumstances by which the pressure was so materially lightened, were urged as a reason for continuing the restriction. Indeed, he was not at all sure, whether the time had not been extended to twenty seven months [A member who sat near Mr. Tierney said, that it had been so extended]. If that was the case, his argument was the stronger; but whether it was or was not, it was strong enough to show that it could afford no ground for again postponing payments in cash. What was the extent of the danger? It was not pretended that the whole either of the nineteen millions, or of the twelve millions would be taken from this country It was extravagant to suppose that half would be drawn from Great Britain; but taking it at a half, and admitting that eighteen months was the time allowed, the drain would be not more than 330,000l. per month. Would any man pretend to say, that England could hold up her head among the nations of the world, if she were unable to preserve her faith, because some individuals had engaged in a loan which) was to take from her at the rate of 330,000l. per month for eighteen successive months? [Hear, hear!] It seemed extraordinary that the objection should 223 come from ministers; they had not entered into the speculation: it was the project of private merchants; and he did not imagine, that at the time the loan was contracted ministers contemplated the continuance of the Bank restriction as the consequence of it. Here again, then, the operations of the tail of the party were visible; it was they and they only, who had made this suggestion, for their own private emolument; the French loan was used merely as a peg on which to hang the hopes of one set of men and the fears of another. The moment it was discovered ministers were assailed, they instantly took fright, and spread the wild alarm to the most distant corners of the empire; an alarm, too, of a most extraordinary nature—an alarm at the sight of gold—a singular horror at viewing once more the precious metals [cheers]. It was not to be denied that the chancellor of the exchequer and lord Liverpool had had some most mysterious conferences with gentlemen quite as mysterious in their proceedings. When stocks were at 84, it was asserted that the right hon. gentleman and the earl of Liverpool (but most certainly the latter) were impressed with the notion that the good of the country did require a return to a metallic currency; even the directors of the Bank seemed to concur in that opinion. At all events, whether by compulsion or otherwise, they held it out to the world;—and what came next? In order to enable the Bank to do so, the right hon. gentleman gave notice, that he would pay off a certain amount of exchequer bills: the Bank reduced its issues, and stocks began to fall in proportion. No sooner had this been done, than one of those mysterious deputations waited upon the earl of Liverpool and the chancellor of the exchequer, and they were told that the city was absolutely starving for want of money, and that ruin must ensue. Still ministers seemed desirous of carrying their point; but from day to day they were besieged by deputations with most dismal accounts; and at last a promise was extorted from their fears, that the Bank restriction should be continued for another year [cheers]. The particulars of these negotiations could only be obtained in a committee, for this purpose, among others, he wished to see it appointed. The result was, that the stocks again rose, and the object of the speculators and deputies was for a time accom- 224 plished. He begged the house to look only at the enormous fluctuation in time of peace. First, there was a rise of 20 per cent, then a decline of 10 per cent, and afterwards another advance of 5 or 6 per cent. Who were the gainers by these fluctuations?—The designing and artful speculators. Who were the losers?—those who foolishly relied upon the assurances of government, and who imagined that parliament meant to do what its faith was pledged to perform? [hear!] In his original motion he had used the words "public credit;" and did any man suppose, after what had been said, that they were not the proper terms to be employed? Undoubtedly, although he had relinquished them, they were the only words that expressed the real object of his motion. He did not scruple to assert, that nothing deserving the name of public credit at present existed in the country. By the system at present pursued, the unwary were made the dupes of the wary, and while robberries to an enormous extent were committed by low cunning and despicable artifice, the innocent and confiding were compelled to suffer without redress! The former gained the private ear of the minister, and having once obtained a clue, they were enabled to play a game to the utmost advantage, and with a rapacity only limited by a lack of skill in employing the means they possessed. The investigation he (Mr. Tierney) desired, involved almost every thing that rendered life valuable, and it might be asked why he troubled the house, when all were agreed upon the propriety of the inquiry? His answer was this— Because the chancellor of the exchequer objected to the mode in which he wished that inquiry to be conducted. The right hon. gentleman was about to call upon the House in the strongest manner with more force than Mr. Pitt possessed in the plenitude of his power, to come to a vote merely upon confidence. He would state that he had no objection to inquiry; but his objection was to that quarter from whence the motion for inquiry was to proceed. It would not be fit that an opposition member should make the motion, but his proposition ought to be removed, to make way for one to be supported by the ministry. He (Mr. Tierney) was not wedded to his motion, he had agreed to give the chancellor of the exchequer precedence, and triumph if he desired it, a week ago: he had offered any thing to accommodate him, even to change places 225 if he thought fit [a laugh]; of course he could only be understood as wishing to change places for the occasion: he was not a place-hunter; or if he were, his thirst must be greedy indeed, if he could wish to be chancellor of the exchequer at the present moment, when no man with the right use of his wits, but the right hon. gentleman, would be anxious to fill so arduous and so painful an office—an office, where the occupant seemed to be allowed no will of his own; where he was first assailed by one party, then by another, and at last compelled to submit to an inquiry, for which, until within the last few days, he seemed to have no relish, and could perceive no necessity. On the first day or two of the session the right hon. gentleman distinctly declared that the restriction was to be continued as usual; and he never dreamt of any preliminary investigation, until, as he told the house very frankly and harmlessly on Monday last, one Friday morning some of the Bank Directors called upon him and told him that it would be better if an inquiry were instituted. No doubt, the proposal struck the right hon. gentleman with some astonishment; the suggestion that it might not be amiss to offer at least the shadow of a reason for a renewal of the restriction, very likely appeared to him an unprecedented novelty; but he had choice but to consent, and accordingly, in obedience to the orders he had received, he came down to the house, and surprised every body, by promising to move for a committee. Under such circumstances, had not the house reason to suspect the quarter from whence the chancellor of the exchequer received his instructions? Was it not warranted in demanding an open investigation, in suspecting trick and contrivance, and the movement of wires by some one behind the curtain? This ready concurrence in inquiry proved clearly that there was some device, some purpose to be answered; for in truth the right hon. gentleman himself had no more stomach for it than he had for quitting his place. It certainly appeared, by the right hon. gentleman's mode of proceeding, that the Bank Directors were a party to it, and that if they had had to draw the reference which was to be made to the committee, they could not have framed it more advantageously. For his own part, he entertained not the slightest doubt of the solidity of the credit and resources of the Bank, although he 226 did not think they had adopted all the precautions in regulating their issues which the public interests required. If the right hon. gentleman should induce the house to go into a committee of secrecy, they would probably make out an excellent prima facie case, as to the peculiar circumstances in which they were placed. But then followed that other branch of the proposed inquiry which was implied in the latter words of the right hon. gentleman's motion—he meant the words, "and such other matters as are connected therewith.' Upon this part of the subject, he was, he must frankly state, more afraid of the right hon. gentleman than of any other person, believing, as he did most firmly, that his only object was, to get the restriction continued. In the last parliament, some measure was in contemplation relative to the country bankers. If that design, as he had learned, was not relinquished, was that one of the questions to be referred to the committee? The loans formed another topic of inquiry, and perhaps it was intended to submit that subject also to its consideration. If these matters required to be investigated in a committee, he had no objection to engraft the words he had quoted in his own motion. All he desired was, that the reference to be made should include a broad and general inquiry, and not be limited to a mere examination of details or temporary circumstances. If he were even allowed to retain the latter words of his own motion, he should be satisfied; but if there were to be only a vague and loose reference to a committee, nominated in point of fact, by the right hon. gentleman himself, he would venture to predict, that the only result would be, that an immense mass of matter would be brought forward without enabling any individual to form a definite opinion respecting it. Perhaps, indeed, the real effect would be to make March 1821, appear a more convenient period for resuming cash payments, than March 1820. There might be gentlemen who were extremely disposed to be of Mr. Cropper's opinion, and who might possibly have some weight with the committee.
If the House would stand by him on this occasion, he would pledge himself that there would be no difficulty in deciding upon the most expedient line of policy. There were many new members in the present parliament, who did not know the chancellor of the exchequer so well as 227 the old ones did. He could assure them, that if he should fortunately, as he thought for the country, succeed in carrying his present motion, the right hon. gentleman would not lose his place, but would, with the best grace in the world, immediately adopt the motion as his own. The late parliament had had abundant experience of him and his colleagues in this way; and he did not believe that the duke of Wellington himself, with all his military talents, was half so skilful in the science of retreat as the right hon. gentleman [a laugh]. What a triumph had not his hon. friend (Mr. Grenfell) obtained on the preceding night!—he who had so long pressed the importance and necessity of securing to the public a larger share of advantage from the balances of public money of which the Bank had the deposit, and who had been looked on as obstinate and wrong, in repeatedly calling the attention of the House to this subject. The right hon. gentleman had at length come down with a discovery, that his hon. friend was right, professing his intention to act upon the principles which he had recommended, and then taking credit to himself, as if the suggestion had been originally his own. In short, as soon as he perceived that a horse was near the winning-post, he forced the rider to dismount, leaped himself on its back, and then exclaimed, "See, what a jockey I am!" [a laugh]. Thus it was when the House refused to continue the income-tax, the right hon. gentleman boasted of having relieved the country from 14,000,000l. of taxation. So also, when an abolition of certain sinecures was deemed a just and necessary measure, his majesty's ministers lent their assistance to carry it into effect, although they had before represented it as little better than tearing the crown from the king's-head. This would be uniformly the case when that House should re-echo the voice of the country, let the question be what it might on which that voice and judgment should be exercised. On these occasions the good would be done, and the, ministers still keep their places. He made this observation, because there might be some hon. members in the House for the first time, who, from the abstract idea which they had formed in the country of a minister, might imagine that firmness was one of the qualities essential to his character; and there had been a period undoubtedly, when, if a minister could 228 not abide by one set of principles, be would no longer remain in power. He did conceive, that it would be extremely hard upon him, if the House now refused to sanction his proposition. His motive went no farther than to institute a full and efficient inquiry. The best token of their independence which could be given by those who were professedly independent, would be, to show that the new parliament was not disposed, merely out of compliment to the minister, to get rid of the words in which his motion was framed, to substitute others of a more limited and less operative tendency.
The next question to which he thought it necessary to advert, was, what sort of committee would be most eligible for the purpose he had in view. Ought it to be a select or a secret committee? Now, he would fairly state that he should feel very little anxiety upon this point, were it not for the circumstance of the latter being chosen by ballot. Every committee must be presumed to proceed on the exercise of a sound discretion, and might certainly inquire under an obligation of secrecy, as extensively and usefully as if restrained by no such condition. But did not every man know how a committee chosen by ballot was uniformly composed? The bullion committee had not been so chosen, and yet it had found no difficulty in withholding or suppressing names which it might not have been prudent or desirable to disclose. If important evidence were given by any individual who objected to the publication of his name, the committee had only to leave a blank, and let it stand as the testimony of a British or continental merchant. When the state of the Bank itself, their discounts, or the quantity of bullion in their possession, was necessarily touched on, the results were stated in cabalistic numbers, and no secrets improperly divulged. This was the course pursued by the secret committee of 1797, in the report which they made to the House. He had a further objection to the reference, as it was now proposed to conduct it; and felt satisfied, that on a question the most vital and interesting to the salvation of the empire that could now become the subject of discussion, two distinct committees were required, under all the circumstances of our present situation. His own motion had for its object to institute a general inquiry; but if the right hon. gentleman wished also that the affairs of the Bank 229 should be investigated, he had no objection whatever to the appointment of a secret committee for that purpose; but if, on the other hand, his determination was, that because there was a small inquiry which ought to be made secretly, a great inquiry ought to be conducted in the same manner, and that because the committee was one of secrecy, therefore it ought to be chosen by ballot, he should certainly persist in his intention of taking the sense of the House upon such a proposition. He was resolved not to give up one word of the latter part of his motion; for, without such a reference as that which was there indicated, no categorical answers, or solid information, would be obtained, If the hon. members whom he now saw in the House for the first time were willing to discard the words of his motion for the vague ones proposed by the chancellor of the exchequer, they would give the most conclusive proof of their entire devotedness to the minister—they would, to use the hunter's phrase, "blood themselves at starting," and show that whatever proposal he might make, they might be depended on as its supporters [Hear, hear!]. The right hon. gentleman concluded by moving, "That a Committee be appointed to inquire into the effects produced on the Exchanges with Foreign Countries, and the state of the Circulating Medium, by the Restriction on Payments in Cash by the Bank; and to report whether any, and what reasons exist for continuing the same beyond the period now fixed by law for its termination."
The Chancellor of the Exchequer
regretted that the right hon. gentleman had so soon laid aside all the ideas of conciliation and unanimity, which a few days before he had professed with respect to this great question, to adopt, on this occasion, the language of mere vulgar party feeling. He begged the House to notice how the question stood between the right hon. gentleman and himself. On the second day of the session, the right hon. gentleman had given notice of a motion for an inquiry into the state of public credit— a notice, the terms of which were, as the right hon. gentleman himself had perceived, so very vague and objectionable, that soon after he voluntarily abandoned it, on account of the alarm which he confessed it had occasioned. But what had happened in the interval? Why, he (the chancellor of the exchequer) had given notice of his intention to move for such a com- 230 mittee as the right hon. gentleman had since explained himself to have had in view, in his general and indefinite notice, but more extensive, complete, and definite in its object, than the one which the right hon. gentleman had this evening proposed. Instead, however, of closing with the proposition thus made, the right hon. gentleman objected to it, and, as he seemed to confess, chose, for the mere sake of party contest, to bring forward a motion less correct in its form, and less distinct in its object. He should compare the frame of the two motions; but he felt it unnecessary, on an occasion when, as he apprehended, the House was unanimous in desiring a full and fair inquiry, to enter into many details with respect either to the general conduct of his majesty's government, or to the conduct of that department of the public service with which he was more immediately connected.
At any proper time he should be perfectly ready to enter into that discussion. In the mean time, he should deny, and challenge the right hon. mover to the proof, that the financial system of the country had been unstable and injudicious. Of the injustice of such an imputation the House might easily judge, by a very short reference to accounts laid before parliament, and to its public proceedings. He defied the right hon. gentleman to mention any period equal in duration to that which had elapsed since the conclusion of the war, in which so much had been done in the way either of diminishing taxation or of reducing the public debt. Within three years after the termination of the war, the people had been relieved from no less than fifty millions of taxation, taking the aggregate amount of the taxes remitted during the period from their cessation to the present time. This was, undoubtedly, a great relief to the country, although he was ready to repeat what he had so often said, that the repeal of taxation to such an extent ought not, in his opinion, to have taken place so soon. That was certainly the view of the subject to which he still adhered, although he bowed with deference to the decision of that House. Another substantial relief had also been afforded the country in the liquidation of a part of the public debt, of which, during the three years that he had already alluded to, no less a sum, taking the funded and the unfunded debt together, than from 25 to 30 millions had been paid off. This he 231 was prepared to affirm, and enabled to demonstrate, was a reduction of debt greater than had taken place in the whole of the period which had elapsed since the Revolution. He stated these facts merely to show how little foundation there was for alleging imbecility and want of system against his majesty's government in their financial administration.
With respect, then, to the proposed committee, he very much wished that gentlemen would go into that committee with unbiassed feelings, and with minds unfettered by any previously declared opinions, that they would decide impartially on such facts and evidence as might be disclosed. Such was certainly his intention should he be appointed a member of the committee, and he hoped others would entertain a similar disposition. The real question before the House was, "Is inquiry necessary?" It was now agreed on both sides that it was. He was perfectly ready to admit that that had not been the impression of his majesty's ministers on the first day of the session. It was then thought, by himself and his colleagues, that it would be expedient, without the institution of any inquiry, to propose a bill for a short extension of the restriction on cash payments. In making this avowal, he did not forget that an expectation had prevailed last year, that if the restriction were to be renewed in the present year, such a measure ought to be preceded by an inquiry; because the causes for a short continuance of the restriction were so notorious as, in his opinion, at the commencement of the session, to render any inquiry unnecessary. Among those causes were the amount and nature of the foreign loans, and more especially the protraction of the French loan, although to that circumstance the right hon. gentleman opposite professed to think no attention was due. The fact with respect to that loan was, that a great error had existed, even among those who were most deeply interested in the question, with regard to the amount of money that could be raised in France. Her resources having been in the first instance extremely over-rated, and proving insufficient when brought to the test, recourse was necessarily had to other countries, and especially to this, and hence a fall of the exchange, and a considerable export of bullion, took place. Upon a view of this state of things, which naturally produced a rate of exchange against us, likely to 232 continue during the pressure of these operations, it was deemed expedient by his majesty's government to propose a short extension of the restriction on cash payments, and to postpone inquiry until next session, when it was hoped that the causes affecting the exchanges might have ceased to operate, and when, if inquiry became necessary, it might take place with more advantage than while the ordinary course of payments were so much disturbed. This opinion was adopted by himself and his colleagues, because it was thought advisable to continue the restriction until the temporary derangements which at present impeded commercial intercourse should be at end, and the different states of Europe should have returned to that orderly and steady course in which the operations of trade might be conducted with freedom and security. No one could be insensible of the effects produced on our commerce and exchanges, as well by the loan of France, as by the loans of Austria, Prussia, the Netherlands, and Russia, all of which were in operation at the same period. But the state of the American government was also to be taken into the account. That the bank of the United States was struggling, with very doubtful success, to effect its cash payments was well known; and in such a condition of the money market of America, as well as that of Europe, he and his colleagues had not thought it wise or safe to call on the Bank to resume its payments in cash, but had proposed (as he had stated on the first night of the session) to continue the restriction until the 1st of March 1820, without any previous inquiry. That was on the 21st of last month. But, on the following day, lord Liverpool and himself had received a communication from the Bank Directors, stating an opinion different from that which he and his noble friend had previously understood them to entertain; namely, that they wished for an inquiry, in preference to so short an extension of the restriction on cash payments—that as, in their opinion, it would not be expedient or practicable to resume cash payments on the 1st of March 1820, it would be more advisable that an inquiry should be instituted at once with regard to all the circumstances connected with the restriction. In consequence of this communication, he and his colleagues, without at all abandoning their own opinion, yet felt that an inquiry so demanded could not with propriety be refused.
233 The necessity of an inquiry being therefore acknowledged on all sides, the only question that remained was as to the manner in which that inquiry should be conducted. His objection to the right hon. gentleman's motion was, that it was so in artificially, he might almost say absurdly, worded, that it did not embrace the whole of the subject with regard to which inquiry ought to be instituted; for the right hon. gentleman's motion referred only to the effects produced on the exchange with foreign countries, and the state of the circulating medium, in consequence of the Bank restriction; whereas, there were many other topics connected with the resumption of cash payments, which it would be proper to examine, but which were not at all included in the right hon. gentleman's motion. He should, therefore, submit to the House an amendment, which he thought fully comprehensive, for it would call on the committee to consider every part of the question in all its bearings. A committee appointed upon the right hon. gentleman's motion might inquire fully into the rate of foreign exchanges as well as into the state of our circulating medium, and still leave wholly untouched many material points intimately connected with the subject under consideration. For instance, if it should happen—and he stated it merely as a supposition by way of illustration— that the Bank was not in possession of bullion to pay its notes, which circumstance would of course render the resumption of cash payments impracticable, a committee appointed according to the right hon. gentleman's proposition could not enter into that point. So singularly, indeed, was the right hon. gentleman's motion framed, that the Bank, though obviously the most prominent and important object of the whole inquiry, was studiously kept out of sight, and never even alluded to by name in the motion. Such a committee, therefore, could not afford the information necessary to enable the House to come to a full and fair decision on the question; for a committee could not report upon that which it was not called upon to inquire about or consider. The motion of the right hon. gentleman was thus defective, no doubt, through mere mistake (though a mistake difficult to account for, as his (the chancellor of the exchequer's) more distinct and comprehensive motion had been previously announced); but, seeing that in- 234 accuracy, he trusted that the amendment which he intended to submit would be adopted in its stead, by all those who were advocates for full and complete inquiry; in which inquiry it was obviously necessary to examine, not only the rate of foreign exchanges and the state of the circulating medium—which were necessarily included in the terms of the amendment that he should have the honour to propose—but the condition of the Bank also, with every collateral topic that had any relation whatever to the subject. It was clear, however, that a committee appointed for these extensive and delicate purposes, ought to be secret. It must occur to every man that, in an investigation of the affairs of the Bank, circumstances might be disclosed which could not with justice and safety to that corporation, or without danger to the most important interests of the country, be brought before the public. A variety of circumstances might admit of easy explanation to those whose inquiries were conducted under an obligation of secrecy, that could not be developed to the public without the utmost hazard. The fullest information, on the other hand, might be safely communicated to a secret committee, who might report such information only as could be properly disclosed, together with such observations thereupon as might enable the House to come to a correct conclusion on the subject at issue. This committee ought, in his opinion, however contrary it might be to that of the right hon. gentleman, to be appointed by ballot, in conformity to the ancient and uniform practice, from which he had never heard any sound reason for departing, and such a committee, so constituted, would no doubt give the House the fullest information that could be made known to the public without inconvenience to the public service. He could not here avoid observing, how studiously and with how much constraint, as it were, the right hon. gentleman laboured to produce a difference of opinion in the House, in point of form, when in the substance of the proceeding all were agreed; for the right hon. gentleman had expressed his readiness to acquiesce in the appointment of a secret committee to investigate the state of the Bank, if an open one were appointed to inquire into the state of our currency and the rate of foreign exchanges. But if those two committees, as was very possible, should consist of the 235 same members, the difference between them would be merely nominal; and, if they consisted of different members, he believed, from the intimate connexion which subsisted among all these subjects, the object of their appointment would be frustrated; as the public committee could not be put in possession of the information laid before the secret committee. Why, then, appoint a committee which could not possess the knowledge necessary to the formation of a correct opinion; and which therefore would be but too likely to produce an erroneous judgment?
He thought it proper to observe that to whatever period it might be deemed advisable to postpone the resumption of cash payments, it was desirable to provide that it should take place while parliament was sitting; in order that if inconveniences should result from such resumption, a legislative remedy might be immediately applied to them; for should such inconveniences occur on the resumption of cash payments while parliament was not sitting, the calling of parliament to provide any necessary remedy would not only require time, which the exigency of the case could ill afford, but the suddenness of such a call must naturally augment the public alarm, and materially injure public credit.—Among the objects with regard to which the proposed committee would have to inquire were, first, Whether it is practicable for the Bank of England to resume its cash payments on the 5th of July next as now fixed by law? Secondly, What are the causes which have hitherto impeded the resumption of cash payments since the restoration of peace, and are likely to impede it in future? And thirdly, the cause of our exchanges with foreign countries, and the various causes affecting it, and particularly the nature of the foreign loans already alluded to, which, with the amount of capital invested by British subjects in foreign funds, would naturally be involved in that part of the inquiry. It would also be very material to consider whether, upon the resumption of cash payments by the Bank of England, any other paper was likely to circulate, so as to disappoint or interfere with the great object of that resumption. Some parts of the inquiry would be of a public, and others of a private nature; and he anxiously wished that the gentlemen composing the committee would go into the whole investigation entirely free from any previous im- 236 pressions or opinions. He especially hoped that the right hon. gentleman would go into that committee with an unbiassed mind, that he would lay aside all party feeling and all predispositions of judgment; and that if he should find that the opinions which he at present entertained were founded on a partial or erroneous view of the subject, that he would relinquish them, and concur in any measure which had for its object the good of the country. He trusted, indeed, that the proposed inquiry would be so conducted, as to afford general satisfaction to the public mind, and produce real advantage to the public interest. For the reasons which he had already stated, and particularly because the motion of the right hon. gentleman, was not so full and comprehensive as the subject demanded, he could not abandon his original opinion for the purpose of adopting the right hon. gentleman's proposition. He could not abandon the course which on full discussion with his colleagues he had determined to pursue, for the sole motive of coinciding, contrary to his own judgment, with the right hon. gentleman who had not he thought that night set him the example of a very conciliatory spirit. He should, therefore, move, as an amendment, to leave out from the word "appointed," to the end of the question, in order to add these words, "to consider of the State of the Bank of England with reference to the expediency of the resumption of cash payments at the period fixed by law, and into such other matters as are connected therewith, and to report to the House such information relative thereto as may be disclosed without injury to the public interests, with their observations," instead thereof.
§ Sir W. De Crespigny
said, that upon a question of such magnitude, involving such a variety of considerations which came home to the bosoms and business of every man in the country, it was impossible for any man not to feel a most lively interest. The fate of the country might, indeed, be well said to depend upon the issue of this question. It was, no doubt, absolutely necessary that such a country as ours should have a large extensive circulating medium, for the accommodation of the public; but then such medium should possess some settled value. This was not the case with Bank-notes, because they were not convertible into cash; and why they were not so convertible, was the 237 object of the proposed inquiry. The chancellor of the exchequer had declared that he was not an advocate for such inquiry, until impelled to it by others; and this was a declaration which every one who duly appreciated the importance of the subject must be extremely astonished to bear. For a long time the Bank Directors had been in the habit of throwing dust in the eyes of the legislature, but not gold-dust. Inquiry was now become absolutely necessary; and in order to render the inquiry effective, he thought it would best become the House to adopt the motion of the right hon. gentleman, with whom the resolution to inquire had originated. He would therefore vote for the original motion.
§ Mr. Frankland Lewis
said, he had listened attentively to every thing that had fallen from the right hon. gentleman opposite, and he confessed he had not heard a single word to justify the course which it seemed to be the intention of government to take on the present occasion. It had been already fixed by law, that the Bank should resume its cash payments on the 5th of July next; but now it appeared, that, upon an application from the Bank, the government had discovered that the Bank were unable to resume cash payments at the stipulated time. What eves effect the incomparable speech of the right hon. the mover of the original question had had on his mind, beyond all doubt the appalling speech of the chancellor of the exchequer had made it clear to a demonstration, that the present financial system was bad indeed. When he first entered into parliament, the events of war absorbed the public attention, and this subject was little considered; but it was now the most important topic that could occupy the mind of parliament and the public. Throughout the war it was held out that the restriction on cash payments by the Bank should cease with the cessation of the war. Yet now in the fourth year after that event, it was proposed to extend that restriction still farther. Upon the termination of the war, it was proposed to continue the restriction for two years, at the end of which it was solemnly promised that cash payments would be resumed. But when those two years had expired, it was again proposed to continue this restriction for another year, when it was positively to cease, the Bank being pledged to prepare for the event by the 238 collection of bullion, &c. It was then settled that the resumption of cash payments should take place on the 5th of July next. Yet all these promises and pledges were broken. Let gentlemen call to mind the assurances held out in the course of the last session upon this subject. The language used upon that occasion could not be forgotten. It must be remembered that the directors of the Bank affected to feel themselves actually affronted by the supposition that they were not prepared to pay their notes in cash. They asserted, indeed, that they were fully prepared to make such payments, throwing all the onus of continuing the restriction upon his majesty's government. Yet how different was their language at the present moment; for, from the statement of the chancellor of the exchequer, it appeared that they were not likely to be, even in March 1820, in such a state of preparation. But he for one could not agree to afford the Bank the opportunity for preparation which they now required, seeing that they had made no use of the opportunities for preparation which had been granted them heretofore. For it appeared that they had made no effort to prepare for cash payments. They had made no attempt to limit their issues. On the contrary, indeed, those issues had been increased, and it was idle to attempt by any mysterious language to disguise the fact, that it was impossible to prepare for cash payments until such issues were reduced. The Bank had, indeed, made a most injudicious partial experiment for the resumption of cash payments, and in the absence of all rational effort on their part, he would address that body somewhat in the language of Hercules to the waggoner in the fable—"Show me that you are yourself willing to do your best, and when I see that you have done your best and failed, I will then, and then only, help.'—But the Bank had in fact done nothing towards preparing for the payment of its notes in cash. On the contrary, it appeared, that after twenty-one years of expense and misfortune, during which the Bank had profited by the restriction of cash payments, it now showed an indisposition to resume those payments. Upon what ground, he would ask, was the will of this body to be indulged to the prejudice of the public? It would be recollected, that the restriction on cash payments was originally imposed upon public grounds. Such certainly 239 were the grounds assigned by Mr. Pitt, and stated in the report of the committee of 1797. Previous to the issue of the order in council restraining the Bank from issuing, it appeared that the directors had had a correspondence with the minister for about two years, the import of which was, that if called upon to issue bullion, and give so much credit for the service of government, the Bank could not go on— that, in fact, it must shut up its doors. It was under such circumstances, and in order to supply the public exigencies, that the restriction was originally imposed, and within the year after that restriction, the advance, of the Bank to government was equal to ten millions. But what was the public exigency which now called for a restriction upon cash payments? Did the government now require any advances for the public service, or upon what public grounds could the farther continuance of this mischievous restriction be justified? The chancellor of the exchequer had no doubt alleged that the continuance of the restriction was called for upon public grounds, but those grounds had not been stated. According to his apprehension, this restriction was principally required as desirable for the accommodation of those who traded, not upon their capital, and who were aided in their speculations by issues from the Bank; but for the sake of these rash improvident speculators themselves, in order to save them from ultimate ruin, he would call for the repeal of that restriction. If the Bank would issue its notes, or grant its accommodations to those only who really had capital, they might soon reduce their issues; there would be no necessity for extending this restriction, and we might return to the sound old English system of currency. Here the hon. gentleman remarked upon the gold so improvidently issued by the Bank some time ago, the greater part of which had already disappeared; and upon the ministers' proposition now to inquire into the circumstances and internal concerns of the Bank, after all that was said last session by those very ministers about the extreme indelicacy of instituting any such inquiry. With respect to the statement of the chancellor of the exchequer, that thirty millions of the public debt had been paid off within the last three years, he was quite astonished at the allegation. He could not, indeed, comprehend how such a thing could be made out; for the committee of the last session upon the 240 subject of the public income and expenditure, could not make out any surplus whatever, but that of three millions which remained unexpended out of the loan raised for the purposes of the war of one hundred days. For himself and his colleagues he could aver, that those three millions formed the only sum which they could find applicable to the reduction of the public debt. Where the chancellor of the exchequer could find the remainder of the large sum he had stated, it was for him to show.
felt that the discussion was comprehended within so narrow a compass (and on that point he had to express his obligations to the right hon. mover, and to the hon. gentleman who last spoke) as to render it unnecessary to make any thing like a speech, or to branch at large into the great principles involved in a more general inquiry. Though the grounds of difference as to the object of the motion between the right hon. gentleman and his right hon. friend, the Chancellor of the Exchequer, were few, yet he should support the proposition of the latter, because his motion was more precise, and went more directly to its purpose. They were all agreed, not only as to the necessity of inquiry, but to an inquiry of the utmost latitude, on a subject which he confessed to be of great and immense importance, Great stress had been laid by the right hon. gentleman on the fact of the Chancellor of the Exchequer having, when first the question was brought before the House that session, avowed that no inquiry was in his judgment necessary. If that was a source of triumph, he would give the right hon. gentleman a more extended ground for gratification, ready as he (lord C.) was to declare, that he also joined in that opinion, believing, as he did, under the circumstances, that an inquiry at this moment was neither necessary nor expedient; that for every purpose whence advantage from such a course could be derived, it would have been more expedient to have waited until the next session of parliament. If, indeed, he viewed the question in the same light as the right hon. gentleman, if he thought that without risking the truest interests of the country, the Bank should resume its cash payments in March twelve-month, there could be no reason either for inquiry now, or at a future period. But thinking differently on that point, he felt that from 241 the notoriety of circumstances essentially affecting the question, the House, or rather (he new parliament, might act on the consistency of those principles by which parliament was influenced in the last session, and defer the examination until a more favourable moment, when the course of events should bring about that era at which the legitimate standard of value might be restored without putting to hazard the safety and industry of the country. But while this was his original opinion, the communication made to the executive government by the Bank, must of necessity have changed its application, and have rendered that examination desirable which before he thought inexpedient. The conduct of the Bank (and of that conduct he could not speak but with the highest respect) altered the character of the proceeding, and made it the imperative and bounden duty of his majesty's government to adopt the course which his right hon. friend the chancellor of the exchequer now proposed. But he wished no false impression of the nature of that communication should either fix itself on the minds of gentlemen in that House, or be circulated in the country. The Bank did not state that they were not both able and ready to resume their payments in cash. Their language was widely different. "We are ready," said they, "to do so, provided we are suffered to conduct our business singly with reference to our interests as bankers; but in doing so, we must of necessity be compelled to throw into oblivion all the interests of the country, and to turn a deaf ear to the wants of the public." And here he must be allowed to advert to what had fallen relative to the pledges of the Bank in the last session, from an hon. gentleman who spoke last, a gentleman to very observation of whom he was most disposed to listen with feelings of respect and pleasure. "It was thus," said he, "the Bank were ready to fulfil their declarations of being ready to resume their payments. In this manner have the assurances of the chancellor of the exchequer been realized," as if the expectations or pledges given under other circumstances, were obligatory in a case of such important consideration, or that a regard to consistency alone should influence the views of public duty, and bind the judgment of parliament. In place of resting the question on the consistency of his right hon. friend, the chancellor of 242 the exchequer (and he was disposed to give him the fullest credit for a due regard to such motives) the question with him and with the House must be—What did the public interest, what did the national solidity, what the integrity of the country require, in deliberating on so momentous an issue? It was most important, then, that no unjust interpretations should be put on the conduct of the Bank—that no delusion should go forth to the public as to the character of their communication, which, as he before stated, amounted to this, that the Bank were ready to open with their cash payments, but that as bankers they must take care of the interests entrusted to their charge; leaving it to the government and to parliament to take care, that by such a charge the public interest and safety was not endangered. Such being the nature of the Bank's communication, it was most important, in their view, that the fullest inquiry should be adopted, that on such a subject the information due to public opinion should be neither withheld, or in any degree straitened. For inquiry, then, of the most comprehensive kind, all were anxious, but in the mode of obtaining it, a difference existed. The right hon. gentleman on that head had proposed the appointment of two committees. At such a proposition he should have been astonished, had it proceeded from a gentleman who had never been in parliament before—proceeding from whence it did, it was wholly unaccountable. The two questions were so identified, that he defied the Committee, which should have to examine into the affairs of the Bank, and which the right hon. gentleman was willing to have a secret one, to make any satisfactory report, or to arrive at any satisfactory conclusion, without, being in possession of all the information, which ft would he the object of the other committee to obtain. Then, on what grounds disjoin their labours by such a division. [Here Mr. Tierney nodded his assent to one committee]? Well, then, there existed now an additional ground of agreement, as the right hon. gentleman was willing to concede his proposition for two committees, and to accept one.—But next came the question of the secrecy of that committee. In observing on this point he should not indulge in any of that bitterness of feeling, which he regretted to perceive had that night operated on the temper of the right hon. gentleman. He 243 should avoid the course, and rather fashion himself on the example of that general good humour which was characteristic of the right hon. gentleman in his discussions in that House. What, he would ask, could be the object of secrecy, but to prevent any partial statements finding their way to the country before the whole question was fully and deliberately examined? The House of Commons by an act of authority, were about to do that which, in the case of any private merchant, would be considered a great hardship— they were proceeding to force an investigation into the entire concerns of a public body—an investigation that could only be justified by the conviction that the public interest and safety required it. Was it not but justice to the Bank, that the House should protect them from the effects of any improper impressions which the publicity of partial statements might produce? It was impossible to refuse it—the proceeding was recommended both by principle and the precedents of parliament. Then, the committee being secret, the next question was in what manner was it to be appointed. Was it to be the appointment of the right hon. gentleman, or of his right hon. friend the chancellor of the exchequer, or was it to be appointed by the ordinary mode in which secret committees were chosen? [Hear, hear! from the Opposition]. The hon. gentlemen opposite were loud on their old topic, —the election by ballot was their main resource—when they were forced to that retreat, they had not a leg to stand on— their last defensive position was the old question of ballot [Hear! hear!] Those members of the last parliament would recollect the use then made of that objection. For his part he was determined not to argue it again. If, however, the right hon. gentleman wished to have his recollection renewed, he would refer him to the speech* made by an hon. friend, not a very constant supporter of ministers, and of course in the opinion of the right hon. gentleman, an independent man [a laugh], but undoubtedly he could not so soon forget the rebuke that on that point he received from that hon. gentleman, the member for Bramber (Mr. Wilberforce). If that, however, was not sufficient to convince, he would beg of him to review the speech of another hon. member (Mr. Bankes), who as far back as the year* See vol. 37, p. 202.244 1797, successfully exposed the calumnious insinuations which such an objection implied.* In fact, he never hoped to get a committee of that House appointed, without a difference of opinion as to mode. When, however, the committee was constituted; and, should the right hon. gentleman and himself be members, he was confident, as had often happened to him on other committees with gentlemen with whom he differed, they would both come out of it with a better opinion of the committee and of each other. What he was much more afraid of than any difference between them, save the legitimate difference on grounds of free discussion, was, the not meeting with the right hon. gentleman in his place in the committee. He owed it, as a mark of respect to the character of the last parliament, to say, that there never was a committee, in the reports of which the great majority of members on those committees, who differed generally with his majesty's ministers, did not concur in their reports. He challenged, indeed, one ground of reproach against the result of their labours. If, then, the right hon. gentleman, should be a member of the present committee, he sincerely trusted that the impediment, which prevented, in the last session, his attendance, would not again occur. He calculated favourably for his presence, as he was happy to see him look so well. At the same time he trusted, that though he might present himself once or twice at the meeting of the committee, he would not, as on the former committee, turn tail [a laugh], because his views of a principle at setting out were not acceded to. Should they, however, meet there, he pledged himself to join issue with him most sincerely and cordially in discussing with the most unbiassed and enlightened views of which he was capable, a question of the most momentous concern—a question on which, he conscientiously believed, depended, not alone the social existence of this country, but of the civilized world. To speak of it as a question alone applicable to the affairs of the Bank, was a sacrifice of its high importance. Important as such a consideration was, yet when compared with the mighty interests that depended on it, it was but as a fly upon the wheel. In their deliberations were involved the peace and happiness and industry of the empire. Whether* Parl. Hist. vol. 32, p. 1561.245 the tranquillity Europe enjoyed, should be preserved, depending, as it did, on the arrangements which followed, or be again replunged into those convulsions from which it had so providentially recovered [Hear, hear!] He was ready also to join issue with the right hon. gentleman in deprecating any thing like a system of paper currency, to be upheld without necessity, and which might truly be designated a forced circulation; but what he charged the right hon. gentleman with, was, that he confounded that restriction on the legitimate element of commerce, which the necessities of the country rendered necessary, and which the events of the times had justified, with those forced systems of paper in other countries, which arose from different principles, and which could plead no such justification. The right hon. gentleman asserted, that this was the only country in Europe where such a currency was in circulation. In France the public bank made its issues of paper. Nothing, indeed, could be more fatal to the interests of a great country, than the fact of the whole of its property, more or less, being incapable of being represented by nothing but metallic money, more or less. He was ready to accede to the right hon. gentleman, that as long as the restriction continued, our circulation was deranged; but what he apprehended most strongly was, that consequences more to be deprecated would follow, if any attempt, under untoward circumstances, were made to force a metallic one. Such an attempt was too likely to destroy the principles of reproduction. In doing so, we should do the greatest injury to the poor man—to that class of men who, from their wants, became the superior objects of legislative concern. It was worse than idle to hold out the hope of the low prices that would follow, unless at the same time a remunerating price was secured to all the other classes of the community who kept the labouring men in employment [Hear, hear!]. Any measure that would deprive the employers of that remuneration, must in a short time destroy the hope of low prices to the poor. The advantage would be temporary—distress and misery must follow, and the result would be a delusion on the country. When, however, it could be fairly shown from the state of the exchanges with foreign countries, that the Bank might open its vaults, even at the risk of a reasonable sacrifice, no fear of║246 any temporary pressure should induce him to forego the advantage that should ever be kept in view, of again restoring that legitimate standard of value, a metallic circulation, provided no greater danger to the security and credit of the country was not involved in the result.— And here he thought the House must weigh the absolute necessity of sustaining the national credit. Surely the right hon. gentleman could not be insensible to the calamitous consequences of any measure calculated to incapacitate the country from sustaining the burthens which the national faith had imposed. The hon. member who preceded him condemned the Bank for the gradual resumption of payments in cash. It was, however, to be recollected, that whatever alteration had since occurred, the exchanges with foreign nations were at that time favourable to this country. And he could not but consider such issue as wise, as it went to fill at first the domestic circulation. But what would have been the effect, had they continued when the rate of exchange altered, and a difference of price, to the amount of 7 per cent existed between the bullion and mint price of gold? Such an effect revolved itself into a commercial question. Not a yard of cloth would have found its was to the continent, from-the factories of Yorkshire or of Manchester, so long as the dealers in bullion could force the Bank to pay their notes in cash. It would have converted the Bank, in place of being the dépôt for the supply of the internal circulation of the country, into a shop for the brokers in bullion to supply themselves with the metallic means of carrying on their negotiations with the various parts of the continent [Hear!]—The right hon. gentleman had spoken of the corporation of the Bank as actuated alone by their own interests; in no such opinion should he ever acquiesce. He felt the value of the service which, in. the most critical periods, they had rendered the country. Without their aid we should have in vain looked forward to the triumph of those exertions which we were enabled to conclude with such glory— without their aid, indeed, we might have expected to realize all those failures which, in the moment of operation, the right hon. gentleman was so unremitting in predicting. But why endeavour to throw this odium on the Bank? Even if they were gainers, were they not so with other bankers, and only in a degree pro- 247 portioned to their capital?—But, reverting to the main question, it had, from the progress of public events, even since the discussion of the last session, assumed new features. All the grounds on which its propriety rested then continued, and had an increased effect. The very extending of the periods for the payment of the instalments in which the loans had originated, proved the difficulties of resuming cash payments to be greater—it showed, that all the foreign markets were exhausted, and that it would require a longer period to bring them to bear. But there were also at the present moment other causes leading to the same tendency in operation. The governments of the continent, sensibly alive to the evils of what might be truly called a forced paper circulation, had been awakened to a double feeling of anxiety to correct them. There were few of them that were not employed in executing the problem of obtaining a metallic circulation. In trying to execute it they were proceeding on wide and, in his judgment, impracticable theories, to acquire it by forced means, and thus they operated unnaturally and violently on the money markets of Europe. If the Bank were to open under an exposure to such an influence, strong as he knew it to be in its means, it must still feel powerfully the inconvenience of such a pressure. A loan of three millions only in Russia was powerfully felt in the money markets of France; and though great the distance of St. Petersburgh from Paris, yet from that cause the Bank of the latter was nearly suspended in its business, and rendered almost incapable of fulfilling its engagements. It was not, therefore, the extraordinary loans in operation, but the experiments going on with different governments that tended to convulse the money markets of Europe, and rendered the resumption by the Bank of England at the moment almost impracticable. Parliament recollected the first necessity for the restriction in 1797. That such a necessity ever existed they had never ceased to lament, even when experiencing the mighty means it afforded in the vicissitudes of the war. But, great as were the difficulties, and over-ruling as was the necessity, let not the House fancy that they terminated with the war, or that there were not difficulties of a peculiar nature applicable to the return of peace, though from their character such difficulties were in their nature transient. The 248 effect of a war was, to hoard in this country a great accumulation of capital—and in the countries of the continent to produce a correspondent exhaustion. This country was not, however, so ungenerous as not to accommodate the continental nations again with loans. When the House recollected, that the interest of money had become doubled, it would see the effect which had been produced by the removal of that great capital which British subjects had carried along with them into foreign countries. For his own part, though he believed that one method of creating credit was to be found in the opening of the Bank, still he must maintain, that it would require a proportional time to enable them to establish cash payments. What he had principally to complain of was, that the right hon. gentleman who opened the debate, was teaching the people to believe, that the time was already arrived for commencing that resumption. He protested that he himself was of a very different opinion, and that his opinion arose from a thorough conviction, that no feeling of private interest could induce the Bank to neglect their general duty to themselves and the country. He was certain, that they believed in their consciences that they could perform their duty, even though they resumed cash payments under unfavourable exchanges. And yet no person would contend, that under such circumstances it would be proper for them to do so. For these reasons, as well as for those which he had previously mentioned, he must oppose the motion of the right hon. gentleman. He might be wrong in making that opposition; but if a committee were appointed, and if the right hon. gentleman and himself were selected to be of that committee, he should enter upon the duties and deliberations attending it, with an anxious desire of receiving every possible information regarding the subjects to which its attention was to be turned. He was not obstinately attached to his own opinion; far from it: he would change it, and would avow that change, not with shame, but with an honest and manly pride, if reasons were produced which should render such a change necessary. The right hon. gentleman had called upon the new members in the present parliament to recollect the duty which they owed to their country, and had advised them not to "blood themselves' in the service of administration. 249 He trusted that they would have the good sense not to mind this exhortation of the right hon. gentleman; he trusted that they were so far made of the same British materials with the last parliament as to support the measures which they had adopted; he trusted that the ridicule and opprobrium which had been so lavishly used that evening would only produce the same effect upon them as it had produced upon their predecessors: for he thought that he need not tell them, that the system on which the right hon. gentleman had acted during the evening was not a new kind of tactics, but one to which he had been accustomed. Under these circumstances, he did not think it requisite for him to Intrude any longer on the notice of the House, except it were to say, that he looked forward with confidence to the result of a division, if the right hon. gentleman opposite thought fit to press for a division that night.
§ Mr. R. B. Cooper
said, that as every man ought to vote according to his sense of right who claimed to be independent, he should briefly state his opinion on the present important question. As a new member of the House, he could not help expressing his surprise, that the first point selected for a division should be a point on which they were all agreed. They were all agreed, that the Bank ought to pay in specie, whenever that payment could be made with security; they were all agreed that a previous inquiry was necessary before such a payment was commenced; and the point on which they differed appeared to be nothing more than a simple point of etiquette: that point, stripped of all extraneous matter, reduced itself to this—whether the motion now under discussion had originated with the right hon. gentleman opposite or with his majesty's chancellor of the exchequer. Now it had been confessed, that the present motion was only a prelude to an inquiry into the state of public credit; and if it were so, then it was a motion originating with his majesty's ministers, though it might indeed have been amplified and enlarged by the right hon. gentleman. If he were called upon to vote on this question, he should vote for the amendment of the chancellor of the exchequer; because he conceived it to be more precise, distinct, and comprehensive fan the original motion.
§ Mr. Maberly
said, that he rose for the purpose of offering his opinion on this 250 most important question, in consequence of having given a silent vote in favour of the hon. mover's motion for inquiry in the last parliament. He said, that the tea-sons offered by ministers for continuing the restriction last year were, the bad harvest of 1816, the loans made by many of the foreign powers, the occupation of France by the allied armies, and some others, all of which had now ceased to exist. Our army was at home, our harvest had been good, and our revenue had increased: and we were told by the honourable member who moved the address, that the country was in a most flourishing condition, and he, for one, was happy that it was so. Then, what were the reasons that prevented our return to cash payments, when the Bank stated itself to be ready to pay, and when neither our internal nor external affairs operated against it? Why, he would explain to the House: it was the unfunded debt that prevented the return to metallic currency; and he ventured to assert, that unless this was disposed of, the Bank would never return to cash payments, as he presumed the Bank held from 25 to 30,000,000l.. of this unfunded debt in exchequer bills; consequently, before it could return to cash payments, the government must discharge so much of this debt, which would occasion a gradual reduction of Bank-notes. The unfunded debt in exchequer bills was now 44,000,000l. together; 13,000,000l. for the service of the year, and 3,000,000l. deficient in the consolidated fund; making the total debt now unfunded 60,000,000l. It appeared to him that great part of this should have been funded last year, before the foreign powers made their loans and took away our capital; but he had no doubt the right hon. the chancellor of the exchequer pursued that course which he thought best for the country, and he was certain no man's private or public Character stood higher for integrity than the right hon. gentleman's: yet he (Mr. Maberly) differed materially with him on finance; and he thought some great financial arrangements should be made to meet the present annual defalcation, particularly as the return to cash payments must materially decrease the price of every article, and in consequence, the revenue, which did not at present meet the expenditure by 13,000,000l. Consequently, if we continued not to fund this year, our unfunded debt next would 251 be 70,000,000l. Could we go on so? Would it not be better to provide an income equal to our expenditure by revising our whole system of taxation? The committee of finance, which he thought deserved well of its country, had pointed out that the gross sum expended in collecting the revenue and in bounties and drawbacks amounted to 11,000,000l.; and he thought 2,000,000l. of this might be saved by a careful revision and examination of the whole subject; and he thought there could be no objection to this, after the necessity that had compelled us to reduce the gallant army and artillery that had saved the country, as well as our brave navy. He thought we might add to the revenue 4,000,000l., by substituting a property tax for the odious and oppressive assessed taxes, the House and window taxes, which produced together about 6,000,000l.; whereas a property tax would produce at 10 per cent 10,000,000l.. With these and 4,000,000l.. from the sinking fund, an increased revenue would be found of 10,000,000l., with a clear sinking fund of 10,000,000l. in addition. This would be a firm base for the country to rest on, and property of all sorts would revive after such arrangements. He deprecated an income tax as inquisitorial and objectionable in the extreme; and in proposing a tax on property, he only meant that it should apply to real property (and not to trade or professions), by which only the affluent, the miser, and the absentee would be taxed, and the industrious classes of the community, who laboured hard for subsistence, and who were now almost borne down by the weight of the assessed, window, and house taxes, would be relieved by their repeal, which would give them new life, energy, and vigour, instead of their affections being alienated from the government by the constant visits of the informer and collector, from whose charges and surcharges they could only appeal to an arbitrary tribunal. He had no doubt of the Bank being prepared to meet cash payments, but it would require a much larger sum in specie to return from this extraordinary state, which one and twenty years had produced, than to have gone on with cash payments; and he, therefore, recommended in the proportion of three to two, as the government repaid the Bank, that the Bank should be obliged to purchase gold for the period of the restriction; by which 252 operation, the currency would not be limited too suddenly, and that as the Bank had made so many millions by the restriction, he trusted that it would, with its usual liberality, disburse part of those profits in procuring gold sufficient for the currency against the period when the restriction should be taken off. That, as to the state of the exchanges, he did not agree with the noble lord; and thought that, whenever the Bank returned to cash payments, the exchanges would regulate themselves in time of peace. When the exchange was against us, if the Bank was paying in specie, we could export gold, if we were the debtor country, to the creditor country, and stop the rate of the exchange against us; as gold arriving in quantity would reduce its own value, and would in return be exported to pay necessary debts—provided the state of circumstances was not very extraordinary, and the balance of trade was not against us. This was no new principle in exchange; and whenever we paid in specie, the exchange, if left to itself, would set itself right. He apprehended the unfunded debt must be got rid of before the Bank could pay in cash, and that this was the great and substantial objection to the immediate resumption of cash payments.
§ Mr. Bernal
said, that as a new member he had no claim on the attention of the House, but that which the possession of a little stock of common sense, and he hoped a larger stock of honesty and independence, might give him. He could assure the House he had no bias on the subject. He had listened to every syllable uttered by the right hon. gentleman who moved the original proposition, and he had paid equal attention to all that had fallen from the right hon. the chancellor of the exchequer and the noble secretary of state. He assured the House, that if the impression which had been made upon his mind by the luminous exposition of the right hon. member for Knaresborough, had been in the smallest degree removed by the speeches of the right hon. gentleman and the noble lord opposite, he would freely confess it. But the reverse was the case. The noble lord cautioned the House against taking a false step. A false step, however, it would in his opinion, take, if it did not adopt the original motion. The noble lord had also talked of the legitimate elements of commerce. Now, he 253 knew of no legitimate element of commerce more indispensable than probity; he knew of no true substratum on which commercial probity could be founded, but a real, a metallic currency, which ought not to be put aside for a fictitious, a valueless substitute. He appealed to the House, whether it was possible to make a more candid proposition than the one originally made. It was a proposition against which no substantial arguments had been or could be adduced. It could be opposed only by a set of men —pseudo-merchants he would call them —who, usurping the old and legitimate character of English merchants, clung, like the creeping ivy round the oak of British greatness, sapping its juices, preying on its vitals, and hastening its destruction. That the committee for the investigation of this most interesting and important subject should be appointed by ballot, was a proposition which, sitting there as representatives of the nation, he conceived it was the duty of the unbiassed part of that House to oppose; and he trusted that those who were new members would take that opportunity of giving a decisive proof of their independence, by showing that they were not to be deceived by the mere shadow of an inquiry, which ought to be of the most substantial character.
, although he thought that all the general argument on the great question connected with the present motion might be advantageously postponed, until the report of the committee about to be appointed, should give a more favourable opportunity of treating it, and although, with that impression on his mind, it was his intention to trespass but for a very short time on the House, was persuaded they would feel, after the appeal, civil in the highest degree, which the right hon. gentleman had made to his opinion in particular, that he should not deal fairly, either by himself, or by the House, if he did not shortly state the grounds on which he should give his vote on the present motion. The question at issue was, not whether the restriction on cash payments should be continued for reasons of common notoriety, or such as any honourable member might collect by his own research, for his own information; or, whether that restriction should be continued without any inquiry at all— but, all parties allowing some inquiry to be expedient, the question of this evening 254 was no more than how the inquiry should be conducted, and in what manner the committee by which it was to be pursued should be chosen.—He admitted the accuracy of the right hon. gentleman's observation, that the further continuance of the restriction was a measure of which no intimation had been given last year; and he fully concurred in the propriety of going now into the inquiry, not with a view of ascertaining whether any necessity for the measure existed at the present moment (for of that no man he believed had a doubt), but with the view of ascertaining whether the state of the Bank, and the operation of the existing causes of the continuance of the restriction to the period now fixed by law, did or did not render it necessary to extend that continuance, for a longer period.
The subject had been so frequently discussed in that House, that it was impossible for any man, however imperfectly he might have considered it, not to be conscious of the opinions which he would take into the committee, and of the result to which he should most anxiously look. For himself, from the moment when he first turned his attention to the subject, he had entertained but one opinion, and one wish with respect to it. He had always considered the Bank restriction as a great departure from the essential principles of our monetary system—a departure justified only by necessity; and he had always looked forward with an anxiety which, although frequently disappointed, was never abated, to the period when things might safely revert to their sound and natural course—He could assure the right hon. gentleman, both in his own name and in that of his friends near him, that not only when they proposed the continuance of the restriction in the last session, they sincerely believed they were proposing it for the last time, but that up to September, October, nay, he believed he might say to November last, but certainly to October, they had continued to entertain a confident expectation that there would be no necessity for renewing the proposition. He did not however hesitate to say, that since that period a state of things had arisen which had impressed on the minds of his majesty's ministers an honest and conscientious, but unwilling conviction, that it was their duty to propose the restriction again in the present session, although for a limited time—limited expressly with 255 the view of showing, that it was their sincere persuasion and belief, that the term of that restriction might, then be permitted to expire With this double conviction on their minds—first, that it was impossible for the Bank to resume their cash payments at the period now prescribed by law, and secondly that the winding up of all those, circumstances which rendered the extension of the restriction necessary, would be completed even by so early a period as the beginning of the year 1820; he would not hesitate to avow, that it was their original intention to propose to parliament that short continuance of the restriction without any inquiry. To put the House in possession of a complete detail, of all the circumstances which brought the question to its present aspect, he must here state, that which his right hon. friend, and his noble friend who preceded him in the debate, had omitted; namely, that, having in the first instance (as he had already observed) resolved to propose the extension of the restriction, without inquiry, to the 1st of January, 1820, his majesty's ministers were subsequently induced to alter that day to the 1st of March, in order that parliament might be sitting at the time of the opening of the Bank, the determination being at the same time taken, that if, most unfortunately, their expectations should then again be disappointed, and they should again find imposed upon them the unpleasant duty of proposing the further continuance of the restriction, they would, not make that proposition without themselves originating the fullest parliamentary inquiry. In that disposition the session of parliament was opened. On the very first night, the fight hon. gentleman opposite gave a notice which was evidently meant to anticipate any intention on the part of his right hon. friend to bring the subject before the House. That occurrence alone suggested no motive to his majesty's government for changing the course which they had resolved to pursue; but on the succeeding day, a necessity for such a change was suggested by the communication from the Bank to which his noble, and his right hon. Friend had adverted. A number of gentlemen constituting the governing committee of the director of the Bank, waited on this right hon. friend, and informed him, that it would in their opinion be a delusion, to imagine that cash payments could be resumed at the period 256 intended to be proposed—namely, the; 1st March 1820; that to state the present cause of the continuance of the restriction, as only of such a temporary nature would be to mislead those whose opinions might be formed on the statement, and they, without any unwillingness' on their own part to resume their cash payments, provided the legislature should think fit, nevertheless preferred submitting to the consequences, whatever they might be, of a parliamentary inquiry, to the being parties to a measure which could only raise expectations which must infallibly be disappointed.—Before it was assumed—as it had been on the other side of the House —that government had altered their intention from unworthy subserviency to any body of men, it ought to be considered in what a new situation the communication in question placed them, changing as it did the very elements on which their judgment had been formed. They had originally determined to extend the restriction to a short time beyond the period now prescribed, by the act of parliament of last session, on the conviction that sufficient reasons existed to render the resumption at that period unsafe. Those reasons were in their minds so evident, and so generally acknowledged, that no inquiry into them would have been considered necessary. And the shortness of the new postponement which it was intended to propose would, they flattered themselves, have been accepted as a security, for the sincerity with which the intention and the expectation of then terminating the restriction were entertained. But, here came an offer on the part of the Bank to show by evidence, that the return to cash payments at the time intended to be proposed would be as unsafe as at the time at present prescribed. That this. communication should have been made by the Bank precisely, at the moment when it was made, on the day subsequent to the meeting, of parliament, and after the government had disclosed the course which it was in contemplation to pursue; —that it should not have been made twenty-four hours sooner—by which such disclosure would have been prevented;—that it should, not have been made at any of the many interviews between the Treasury and the Bank at which, the term to be fixed for the renewed restriction was debated, discussed, and finally settled—are circumstances for which he neither could 257 pretend, nor was bound, to account. He stated the feet as it had occurred, and he stated it in the presence of those who would contradict him if he stated it incorrectly.
What, then, had his majesty's government to do upon this extraordinary and unexpected communication? What else but what they did? To accept the suggestion of the Bank, and propose a committee to inquire into the matters upon which the opinion of the Bank was founded. What there any thing in that which could be attributed to want of principal, or to subserviency to other men's will? In all former debates on the subject within his memory, it had been constantly, and even studiously and emulously admitted on all sides, that the Bank were perfectly able and willing to pay in cash, and that their only desire was, to be passive in the hands of parliament, submitting to whatever regulations might, on public grounds, be deemed expedient. But the communication, now for the first time made by the Bank, and their plain and unqualified declaration, that to describe the causes which rendered the resumption of cash payments an unsafe measure as only temporary would be to propagate a delusion throughout the country;—these unforeseen and unexpected circumstances placed the question on an entirely new ground. The right hon. gentleman had taunted his right hon. friend, the chancellor of the exchequer, for what he was pleased to call his facile and flexible concession to the Bank. But how would the right hon. gentleman have taunted his majesty's government, if they had neglected this notice on the part of the Bank;—if, possessed of the information which the Bank communicated to them, they had nevertheless persevered in their intention of only proposing the continuance of the restriction for a short period, and that without any parliamentary inquiry? Would he not in that case have accused them, and with much greater show of reason, of proceeding to legislate in the dark, and on grounds of which they themselves well knew the fallaciousness? Would he not have asked them if such a communication had not been made to them, and would he not have urged it against them as a reproach that when now, for the first time these twenty years, the Bank had voluntarily come forward to solicit inquiry, their solicitation had been repulsed? Was it not clear that his ma- 258 jesty's ministers would have acted unfairly to themselves, to the Bank, to the House, and to the public, if they had done otherwise than they were doing,—if they had persisted in proposing the continuance of the restriction for a limited period only, while they had in their pockets a document which warned them, that the return to cash payment could not with safety be made at the expiration of that period? Under those circumstances, therefore, there was but one clear course for government to pursue, one only by which they could meet and refute all the right hon. gentleman's taunts of tergiversation; namely, to state the facts which had occurred to derange the elements of their previous decision, and which therefore justified the change in their proposition to parliament.
In thus stating the reasons which had induced government to adopt the course they were pursuing, he had in effect anticipated the question as to the propriety of the committee to be appointed being a committee of secrecy. The committee was to inquire into the private affairs of the Bank, and it would obviously be to violate a private right were those affairs to be exposed to the public. But then came the usual reprobation of a committee chosen by ballot, accompanied by all the trite, common-place, worn-out arguments against such a committee, which, although they had wearied the old parliament, it seemed to be thought might be tried with success on the new. In what did a committee chosen by ballot differ from one nominated in the House? In one essential point it was better; for, in proposing a committee by name, the House could only judge, consecutively and individually of each member as he was proposed; while in appointing a committee by ballot they were enabled to judge, not only of the fitness of each individual member for a share in the task proposed to be allotted to the committee, but of their fitness with relation to one another as a whole. It could not be denied, that the efficiency of a committee depended in no slight degree on the association of individuals who, however differently some of them might view the same question, were best capable, from their skill and experience in the subject of the inquiry, to place every topic which related to it in the clearest point of view, to counteract each other's prejudices, and correct each other's judgments. "Aye," said the opponents of the 259 ballot," but then there is influence.' He (Mr. C.) had always understood that ballots were originally resorted to for the very purpose of destroying influence. He certainly knew of places where ballots were resorted to for that express purpose, and where, if such a mode of appointment were relinquished, there would be no end to the just complaints of influence of the most direct and operative kind. He would grant to the right hon. gentleman that on this subject no secrets ought to be kept from the new members. It was probable—highly probable—that each of the new members would find upon his table to-marrow morning—coming there no doubt by some invisible hand, a list of a proposed committee, some of them from one side of the House, some from the other—some perhaps more fortunate from both: such at least was the practice in his (Mr. C.'s) younger days; at which time, as regularly as one list came from ministers, another proceeded from the opposition, and those two lists were handed about the House, each exhibiting a wonderful correspondence in the names of which it was composed. If such a practice were to be adopted in the present instance, he should be glad to know how it would prejudice a fair appointment of the committee? The young and inexperienced member, for whom the right hon. gentleman expressed so much concern, might examine those lists by himself, in the solitude of his closet, or he might call in the assistance of some other new member, as young and tender as himself; they might then, upon comparison; of qualities and balance of endowments, erase, change, substitute at their pleasure,—strike out such names as might be obnoxious to them, and put their corrected lists into the glasses with the consciousness of having judged for the best, and with the satisfaction of knowing that no human eye had supervised the process, or could detect the result of their deliberations. So far the right hon. gentleman and himself concurred in enlightening the young members. But he (Mr. C.) thought it fair to go farther. He would tell these young gentlemen, that they were not aware of all the amusement which it was probable they would derive from the appointment of a committee by ballot. He was afraid, indeed, that he might by this anticipation, deprive them of the pleasure of surprise, and thereby weaken the effect of the exhibition. But upon the whole it was better 260 to be quite open with them, and so he would tell them all. They must know, then, that to-morrow they might expect a scene the most amusing and comical that they could imagine. The joke was an old joke to be sure; but though an old joke, still it might be new to new members, for some hon. gentleman on the other side of the House who had got hold of one of the proposed lists of this (the ministerial) side, gravely to propound a question to the Speaker, whether or not it was allowable to offer a wager in the House, and on being answered in the negative, to declare that he was only prevented by the decision of the chair on the impropriety of such a proceeding, from laying a wager that he would read the names of the committee upon whom the choice of the House would follow. It was then the usage for such an hon. member solemnly to read his list, and in the coincidence between that list and the list subsequently returned by the scrutineers, lay the whole humour of the proceedings. This coincidence never failed to convulse the oldest House of Commons with laughter. The office of producing the list had generally fallen to some honour able member on the second bench of the other side of the House, whose countenance was of the gravest cast, every thing depending on the seriousness with which the wager was propounded. Who would on the present occasion undertake the task of getting up and displaying his skill in guessing, he knew not. He should be sorry if what he had said should have the effect of preventing the joke, from which he trusted the young members would not receive less amusement and instruction than their predecessors had always received.
Now, for himself, he could not pretend to the gift of anticipation to be possessed to-morrow by the hon. gentlemen opposite; yet he might, without trenching on their province or prerogative, say, if not exactly of whom, yet of what materials such a committee as that proposed ought, in his opinion, to consist. He thought it ought to be formed in such a manner as to give general satisfaction to the House, and to the country; and that satisfaction it could not give if it did not comprise, without any distinction of political party he would not say every man, because the amount must be limited by the number of the committee, but a large proportion of those individuals on both sides of the 261 House, whom common fame pointed out as having turned their attention to the study of the question, connected with the theory or practice of our monetary system. It would in his opinion be unfairly constituted if it did not comprehend the right hon. gentleman opposite (Mr. Tierney), and such a number of those who sat around that right hon. gentleman as might make him feel that he was not unsupported; and if it did not also include a similar portion of the members of his majesty's government, and those who generally concurred with them. He would add, that such a committee would not be wisely constituted, if it did not contain a sufficient number of individuals attached to neither party, and with minds altogether unbiassed on the particular questions to be discussed to prevent the proceedings of the committee from degenerating into a political contest, when the object of all ought to be a search after political truth. For his own part, if he had the honour to be appointed a member of the committee, although he must of course carry with him the abstract opinions which he had formed on the points at issue, he would take care that those opinions should be perfectly open to qualification from the facts which the inquiry might elicit. He would endeavour to discover, not so much the shortest as the safest way of returning to cash payments. He said safe, rather than short, because there were methods of obtaining the resumption recommended to the public, and by no mean authorities, short indeed, but not salutary.
In truth, independently of the communication from the Bank, he (Mr. C.) was glad that the original plan was so far changed, as that an inquiry was now to take place. For since the meeting of parliament, the old controversy on this subject had been revived. A new flight of pamphlets had lighted on the town. In such a state of things, it was evident, that a dispute so warmly carried on must be decided somewhere, and surely no place was so fit for the decision as that House. In some of the pamphlets to which he alluded, he had seen doctrines as much opposed to one another as they were in many respects opposed to truth. Some of them were as adverse to the principle of resumption, as others were to the principle of restriction. In some, principles were advanced and supported with apparent plausibility, which he considered as of dangerous and alarming tendency to║262 a commercial country. There was the determined opposition to the continuation of the restriction under any circumstances, and there was the avowed objection to the resumption at any time, such as that of his worthy friend Mr. Cropper. From these opposite extremes, he recoiled with equal repugnance. But seeing these conflicting schemes thus boldly proposed and vigorously canvassed, he was glad that an ample, and he trusted he might add, an impartial parliamentary inquiry was about to take place, as that would very much tend to settle the public mind on the subject.
With respect to the allusions which had been made to his former opinions on this question, he should say, that he remembered how he had spoken, and it should also be remembered how he had voted on that occasion. He went the full length of many honourable gentlemen opposite in support of that monetary system, a recurrence to which, whenever it could take place with safely, he conceived to be so necessary for the protection of a sound currency, and for the maintenance of public credit and public faith; but ha could not, and did not agree with them in every point which they had maintained, nor did he go with them (as the right hon. gentleman might remember) to their then practical conclusion. He was then, and still against the principle of restriction where restriction could be avoided; but when the necessity for that measure was alleged by so many upright, honourable, and independent men, whose experience made their opinions of still greater weight; when he saw such men (who, by the way, seemed to be treated with little respect by some honourable gentlemen on the other side of the House) give their united opinions against the immediate resumption of cash payments, he felt that the benefits which might be expected from that resumption, if rashly urged, might not be commensurate with the hazard. If, in the opinion of such men, the danger of the attempt was imminent, much as he wished for the measure, he would rather encounter the consequences of delay than those of precipitancy. He would enter on the inquiry with openness and candour, and his future conduct on the subject should be guided by the facts which it might bring to light. —Take, for instance, the question about exchanges, and the turn in our favour which the resumption of cash payments 263 might give them as a specimen of the controversy which was now raging, and as a proof of the danger of legislating hastily upon the subject. The question was put —how could the Bank open when the exchange was against us? To this it was answered, that the amount of the issues by the Bank regulated the rate of exchange, and that if the issues were diminished, the exchange would turn in our favour. On this point there were conflicting opinions entertained by some of the most intelligent men in the country. If he (Mr. C), were asked what was his opinion upon it, whether he himself thought that a diminution of the issues would have the effects ascribed to it, he should reply, without hesitation, that he thought it would; but then came another question, to which he was not equally prepared to give an answer. At what cost?—Here, therefore, was a difficulty which a man might be a philosopher and not see, but which, if he did see, he must be something less than a philosopher not to allow to be a fit ground for pausing, and therefore a fit subject for inquiry.
He had now done with the main subject of debate, and should only observe on One or two other points which had been mentioned by an hon. gentleman opposite (Mr. F. Lewis). That hon. gentleman had professed himself to be a friend to an open rather than to a secret committee; and was unwilling, that what he called the supplications of the Bank for the latter, should be listened to by the House. But the hon. gentleman and the right hon. gentleman also, had quite misunderstood his right hon. friend, and had mistaken the ground on which the Bank stood in this business. It was a mistake to suppose that his right hon. friend had said, that the purport of the communication made by the Bank, was the inability of that body to resume payments in cash. They merely came, and gave it as their opinion, that it would be a delusion to suppose that the restriction could be limited to a very short period. They offered proof in support of that opinion, and his right hon. friend proposed to the House to accept that offer. It was nothing to the government or to the House what might be the motives of the Bank in making their communication. If the fact which they alleged could be established, the motive which dictated the communication was of no importance. He regretted that this had not been distinctly understood at an 264 earlier part of the evening, as it would have saved his right hon. friend from the blows he had received in his political skirmish with the right hon. gentleman, if indeed that could be called a skirmish,Ubi tu pulsas, ego vapulo tantum.The right hon. gentleman had certainly laid on his strokes of ridicule and severity as unmercifully as his right ban; friend had submitted to them quietly and good humouredly. The moment it was known that his right hon. friend had altered his plan, and that the reasons for making the change were avowed, then came the charge, that "the Bank wish to continue the restriction for their own profit, and they insist on your inquiring for the purpose of continuing it, and you inquire because you wish to gratify them." But it by no means followed, that in adopting the Bank's measure, his right hon. friend acted upon the Bank's motives. His right hon. friend agreed to the inquiry proposed by the Bank, without caring what might be the object in proposing it. The inquiry might be proper, though he object might be questionable, and the inquiry might produce benefit, though the original object for which it was suggested might not be attained. The earth stood upon an elephant, and the elephant upon a tortoise; but the right hon. gentleman was for leaving out the elephants The Bank was the intermediary between the House and the inquiry. The Baric might call for the inquiry for its own purposes; his right hon. friend might agree to it for his. But it was not fair to omit the connecting link, and charge his right hon. friend with proposing inquiry for the purpose of continuing the Bank's profits.
The present differed materially from all former discussions on the same subject. For the first time in twenty years the Bank itself had come forward to recommend inquiry. That inquiry must be secret; and why? For the sake of the Bank? No: For the sake of the public interests, as connected with the safety and credit of the Bank. All the concerns of the Bank must be inspected,—all their transactions with government,—all their preparations for paying in specie. Were those fit subjects for an open inquiry? Great fault had been found with the partial experiment of opening the Bank in 1816, at the time he (Mr. C.) partly confessed he had himself conceived it to be a most wise measure. He had hailed the partial esump- 265 tion with joy, because he looked upon it as the fore runner of a general return to cash payments. It was then the opinion of intelligent men, that it was one of the most prudent steps that the Bank could take. He (Mr. C.) now thought otherwise. The light of experience had shown to him and to others, that without adding a grain of gold to the circulation, the Bank had been drained by that partial resumption of five millions and a half of specie. And yet every body at the time thought it a wise measure. If the Bank erred in that experiment, they erred with Plato and with all mankind. "Here is a fine Bank," said every body that talked upon the matter;—"how wisely and prudently has it begun a gradual resumption of cash payments; thus avoiding the evils of a sudden change both to itself and to the country." But when the result showed that the experiment had failed, the hon. gentleman turned round upon the Bank, and all the gratitude which he professed for it was thrown after it.— The occurrence of a similar error would now be avoided. He did not use the word "error" with respect to the resumption; what he meant was the error of taking any step in so important a matter without the most minute and diligent inquiry into all its probable results. On that ground, he was most anxious for the appointment of a committee.
He would refrain from any reply to those general observations which the right hon. gentleman had made on the conduct of his majesty's ministers, not as he believed the right hon. gentleman would do him the justice to admit, from any habitual unwillingness to meet political attack with becoming resistance and reprisal, but because he was more anxious on the present occasion for a sound and temperate decision than for any victory in debate. Of the course which the government were at present taking, he believed he had given ample explanation, and he did not feel himself bound to enter into the political sparring which the right hon. gentleman appeared to provoke for the purpose of making this a party question. He would adhere strictly to the subject before the House, and would detain the House no longer than while he briefly compared the merits of the two propositions between which their vote was to decide. There were two committees proposed; one by his right hon. friend, the other by the right hon. gentle- 266 man;—the one secret, the Other open t— the one authorized to examine the general subject as connected with the state of the Bank, the other without power to obtain any information as to the Bank's concerns. If the right hon. gentleman's proposition were adopted, the inquiry would proceed in an utter ignorance of one of the most important objects of investigation. As to the appointment of two committees, he could hardly think that it was recommended seriously. To have one committee examining the state of the exchanges and the circulating medium, the other examining the affairs of the Bank,—both proceeding in their investigations at the same time,—one secret, and the other open,—one involved in darkness, and the other professing publicity,—one that was bound, not to disclose the information which it received, and the other ready to divulge every thing would be a mode of proceeding too clumsy for the House to adopt. And yet, if the right hon. gentleman's motion were agreed to, there would be a necessity for two committees; for it was impossible to understand how the Bank could be kept out of view in such an investigation; and to a secret committee only, could the affairs of the Bank be submitted. Two committees! There must be three; for when the two committees had made their several reports, a third must infallibly be appointed to adjust the two reports to each other, and to draw a common result from these incongruous materials. There appeared to him to be no form, no style, no phraseology, no contrivance, no abstinence of eloquence which could enable any committee to omit mentioning the Bank in their report. The Bank must meet them at every step and turning. The Bank must inevitably be their great theme. It would be first, last, and midst, and without end. The courses proposed by his right hon. friend, and the right hon. gentleman reminded him of the contest of two rival companies of players performing the tragedy of Hamlet against each other in a country town, one of which, after exhausting every other expedient to afford variety, adopted the attractive novelty of advertising the tragedy to be performed, with the omission of the character of Hamlet. A committee to inquire into the effects of the Bank restriction on foreign exchanges and domestic circulation, without having the power to look into the affairs of the 267 Bank, would indeed be the play of Hamlet, with the character of Hamlet omitted.
§ Mr. Manning
said, that the Bank had not interfered in their call for inquiry, from any motive or views of private interest. The question of the restriction was a great national question, and not so much connected with the interests of the Bank as of the public. Indeed, the interests of the Bank, compared with those momentous considerations which entered into the present question, were, as had been truly expressed by his noble friend but as a fly upon the wheel. For any peculiar interest the Bank had in the decision come to on this subject, the House might fix upon any time they chose for the cessation of the restriction, without meeting with opposition from that body. They had manifested an inclination to fulfil the act which had been passed for a return to cash payments, and had actually paid a part of their notes in cash, in doing which they were accused of folly by an hon. gentleman opposite. They still, however were of opinion, that in that transaction they had behaved with laudable prudence and good faith, and had shown a proper deference to the will of the legislature; and in this opinion they were supported by his right hon. friend near him, who said he had hailed this partial payment as an omen of an approaching restoration of the sound currency of the country. The Bank was not only then of opinion that the restriction might be completely and safely removed at the period appointed by act of parliament, but they entertained the idea to a very late period. His right hon. friend had truly stated, that with this impression the Bank had issued between five and six millions of gold, which had in a short time entirely disappeared from circulation. The exchange had become unfavourable, which accounted for the disappearance of our coin; but still he was convinced that it was not entirely lost to the country; as without such an issue the exchange might have been still more unfavourable than it now was. That the Bank had not in other, respects lost sight of its duty, and had been making preparations for the resumption of cash payments, might be inferred from the contraction: of their issues, which would appear from the returns that would soon be laid on the table of the House. By those returns, it would be seen, that there 268 had been a reduction of, Bank issues in the last half of the year 1818, as compared with the last half of 1817, of 3,900,000l. The average amount of Bank notes in circulation during the year 1817 was 29,000,000l. By the returns which he himself had called for, and which to-morrow would be laid on the table, it would appear that the average amount of notes in circulation, from January to June 1818, was 27,954,000l.; and that the average amount on the last half of the year, namely from the 1st of July to the 31st of December, was 26,487,000l. It would be seen by this statement, that there was a considerable reduction in the amount of Bank circulation last year, as compared with the previous year, which diminution had been effected in contemplation of a return to payments in cash. It was very easy for gentlemen to say, generally, reduce your issues and prepare for fulfilling your engagements; but their language would be changed if they knew the difficulties under which the Bank was placed in having to supply the wants of the country. The Bank, however, was, with regard to restriction, in the hands of the legislature. They came forward with no requests; they obtruded no opinions; they felt that it would be highly presumptuous in them to do so.
§ Mr. Grenfell
said, he had examined, the returns laid on the table yesterday. It did not appear from them, that the Bank had reduced their issues during the, year 1818; on the contrary, the result was, that in the first six months of the year just expired, they had been not, only greater than in the preceding year, but greater than in any year from 1797 to the present. In the last six months some diminution had taken place but the Bank was entitled to little credit for that circumstance. The average issue of the year was between 27 and 28 millions.
§ Mr. Alderman Heygate
said, that he preferred an open committee to a secret one, as more satisfactory to the public mind, for conducting an inquiry, in the result of which the interest of all were so deeply involved—an inquiry intended, to set at rest public anxiety, and to vindicate the credit of our circulation, not only at home, but throughout Europe. He did not agree with all the deductions in the report of the bullion committee. He would not allow that the unfavourable state of the exchanges was entirely owing 269 to the depreciation of our internal currency, nor could be without qualification admit the remedy proposed. He was of opinion, that the exchanges could only be turned in our favour by such a fall in the prices of labour and of all articles of manufacture as would force exportation till our exports exceeded our imports; but when he considered the evils with which this operation might be attended, he hesitated with regard to the policy of bringing about such a state of things, and thought a return to cash payments on such conditions would be paying too dear for the advantages contemplated. He was sensible of all the inconveniencies of the present system of currency. Its amelioration was in the hands of the Bank, against whose conduct as a body he had nothing to say. They deserved, he thought, on the contrary, every praise for the wisdom, prudence, and forbearance they had shown in the exercise, for the last twenty years, of powers so novel and extraordinary as those with which they were invested. Connected as he was with the banking business, he could not refrain from alluding to the feelings of the country bankers, who were anxious not to stand in the way of public convenience. The hon. member congratulated the House on the proposed inquiry; and hoped that the committee would consist of members who would lay aside all personal and political animosities; that they would consider the subject in all its bearings with calmness and impartiality, that by their labours the public mind would be enlightened on questions that so intimately concerned the public interests; that the extent of circulation would be determined, and an end put to those rapid and extensive fluctuations, which, though beneficial and profitable to some, were injurious and calamitous to the great body of the people. By settling the questions with regard to the proper amount of our circulating medium, people would be able to know the value of their property for definite periods, contracts would be secure, and the public would not feel any of those alarms which they felt from the present system, and which distressed the greater number for the benefit of a few.
§ Mr. Tierney
hoped that the House would indulge him with its attention for a short time, while he felt himself called upon to reply to some remarks which had been advanced by the gentlemen on the opposite side. He could not help ob- 270 serving that he had been dealt with unfairly; he had been accused of saying every thing against the Bank of England. Such an assertion was illiberal and erroneous in the extreme; for he was within the recollection of gentlemen when he unequivocally affirmed, that he never had advanced one syllable against the Bank of England. He felt seriously for the awkward situation in which the Bank was, with respect to the apparent necessity of continuing the restriction from cash payments. He therefore sympathised with the Bank; but while he confessed this, he found himself imperiously called upon to discharge his duty to the public. And for acting agreeably to these impressions, he was obliged to encounter the reproach and ridicule of the gentlemen on the opposite side. One right hon. gentleman had exercised his talents for jocularity and wit, at his expense; the right hon. gentleman thought that he had made a happy allusion to his conduct, by comparing him to the country manager, who, for the sake of novelty, attempted to play the tragedy of Hamlet, by the omission of the part of Hamlet himself. With every deference to the keenness of the right hon. gentleman's wit and sarcasm, he could not conceive the felicity of his adaptation. For the sake of variety, they had also been entertained with the figure of the fly upon the wheel. This was no new invention of those who endeavoured to make us laugh at the national calamities. In regard to its connexion with government, the Bank of England had been described as the fly upon the wheel of the former. But he was of opinion that the figure would have been more happily displayed by representing the chancellor of the exchequer himself as the fly upon the wheel of the Bank of England [A laugh]. It was, however, useless and nugatory, to pursue the subject further in this strain of good humour or merriment. If his majesty's ministers chose to screen themselves from the bitterness of reproach, by jesting with the feelings of the people, to such men only be the shame attached to such conduct. To come at once to the question—he wished to know when the restrictions on the Bank of England were to cease? when cash payments were to be resumed? The Bank, he believed, was not originally a party to the restriction; but he was at a loss to understand why they should manifest such an indisposition to inquiry in the course of last year, and 271 such an anxiety for it in this, It was the intention of ministers — at least they would have the country believe so—to take off the restriction in March 1820, but Suddenly a new light broke in, and now the course was to be changed. What he wanted to know was, whether they had a prospect of ever paying in specie at all [Hear, hear!]. Their plan, as far as he could penetrate it, seemed to him to be this. They said, we will continue the restriction up to 1820, and then we will have a committee to inquire. After that, we shall be able to start on a new score. The Bank, to show the sincerity of its wish to fulfil its engagements, had paid a part of its notes in specie, and then complained that this specie had disappeared. He would tell them why it had disappeared. Had they reduced their issues of paper at the time that they issued the gold, the gold' would have continued in circulation for the notes withdrawn; but while they withdrew notes of a certain date, they issued others to supply their place. Nobody disputed the principle that gold could not continue in circulation for notes which were supplied by other notes. They might as well have folded it up in parcels for exportation. He had no conviction that they would reduce their issues. But he did not find fault with the Bank on this account; he rather gave them credit for the attempts at reduction which they had made. They were so beset with claims by all quarters, that they could not think themselves safe in their house in Thread needle-street, if they refused discounts; their inclination, he had no doubt, was good; and had they a government who would stand by them, and support them in their resolutions, and tell them to listen to nobody, he was sure the object might be accomplished. Government, instead of doing this, depended on no grounds of judgment of their own, but relied upon gentlemen interested in obtaining the issues which the government ought to restrain. The right hon. gentleman had spoken of the temper with which the members of the proposed committee ought to conduct their inquiries. He (Mr. Tierney) would promise, if elected, to attend that committee, and would enter' it with as unprejudiced a mind as he could. He did not expect, indeed, that any thing that could occur in it would make him alter his opinions; but he could say, at least, that he was open to conviction, for 272 he was not pledged to support them, if he saw reasons for a change. Could the right hon. gentleman say as much for himself, while a resolution of his remained on the records of parliament, declaring that a Bank-note was equivalent to a pound sterling? He would not now put to him the case of the one pound bank-note against 20 shillings, but of bank notes against bank notes, and the right hon. gentleman would see that a one pound bank note of a certain date was more valuable than another. To show this, he would offer for a hundred pound bank note of a date anterior to the 31st December 1816, a hundred pound note of a subsequent date, and four pounds in cash. If the right hon. gentleman were to give up this resolution, he should have some hopes of him in the committee. The right hon. gentleman opposite had complained of his severity towards the chancellor of the exchequer. He was: not at all sensible that he had been severe; but if he had, he could defend himself by the example of the right hon. gentleman who had himself given him—he was sorry to be obliged to resort to a vulgar word—a genteel dressing [a laugh]. The right hon. gentleman1 then entered into a history of the two motions, and defended the words in which his own wan expressed. He suspected all the way through, that the object of the committee which' the right hon. gentleman proposed, was not to bring out the thing that he wanted: What he wanted was to oblige them to make a distinct answer, of which every man could judge for himself. The right hon. gentleman wished them to state, that the foreign loans constituted a reason to justify the restriction; but he (Mr. Tierney) could not conceive it possible that such a return could be made. Suppose they returned that the exchanges were against us, then they must show the operation of exchanges; but if it were referred1 to them to report generally all opinions on the' subject, he was afraid that the House would get no specific point* on which they could come to a conclusion. The return of the committee might mean anything; which he should take to mean nothing at all. As to directing the attention of the house specifically to points, he did hot believe that they Would get it from that committee. A great deal had been said as to the nomination of the committee; but notwithstanding and that had been urged is favour of a 273 ballot and the compliments that had been paid to the hon. member for Bramber, he (Mr. Tierney) for one would not be satisfied with the Domination of the committee by the chancellor of the exchequer, surrounded as he was, by day and night, by Jew brokers, speculators, and other interested adventurers. He therefore called upon all who were anxious for practical inquiry to support the motion which he had made. The right hon. gentleman had referred to former opinions on this subject; but those opinions were given, during a period of war. It was now a period of peace, when every body bit the chancellor of the exchequer could tell what would happen. If, after all that had passed since the termination of hostilities, and particularly after all the negotiations at Aix-la-Chapelle, he could not come to a conclusion, he would never be able to say when the Bank restriction would be withdrawn. His (Mr. Tierney's) object was, to bring the question to some distinct issue, and to have it soon. For this purpose, what could he do better than, when he heard that the restriction was to be renewed, give notice of an inquiry? If the Bank directors would only have the goodness to answer for themselves as members of parliament, then the house would see whether this system ought to form a part of the permanent measures of the country; but hitherto they had always set themselves in array against those who opposed the restriction, and had always given their negative against them. He saw no possible objection to the resumption of cash-payments by the Bank, provided they would reduce their issue?, gradually and gently, between this and next July. He knew that the resumption of such payments could not continence until there had been some sort of jar, with the public; but he was convinced that none of those fatal effects would result from it, which it had been so much the fashion to anticipate. To what point, it might be asked, would he wish to reduce the circulation? He could not exactly tell, but he would say, that it should be reduced to the real wants of the country. That was the point for the house to consider; it was the only criterion By which their judgment could be government. They must not keep up the circulation out of compliment to any body. To say that he was to take into consideration any other criterion, was what he could never consent to do. Gentlemen 274 must make up their minds to some inconvenience. For his own part, he did not think that the inconvenience would be so great as was expected; but if the Bank were allowed to increase their issues till such time as the restriction expired, the resumption of cash-payments could not be brought about without some difficulty. His hope was, that a different course would be pursued. If we had an administration which possessed sufficient manliness to face the difficulties of the country, to sift its finances, and to probe this subject to the bottom, it might be found that the restriction of cash payments, which was originally imposed on the ground of necessity alone, ought not to be continued; but the present administration could come to no decision on the question. No government could introduce a change of affairs without some inconvenience; but in this case the inconvenience could only be felt in proportion to a man's extravagance, and this would be an evil which he had brought upon himself. In a former session of parliament the house had heard a great deal of a poor race of men called Spenceans, who were held up as pests of society, and likely to overturn the whole System of government, and God knew what! Now, what was the fact? Those gentlemen wished that every person should have an equal portion of land, just as the mercantile gentleman wished that every man should have an equal portion of funded property. For his own part, the only difference that he saw between the Spencean and the monied visionary was this the former had a great taste for agricultural enterprise, with out having a foot of land; while the latter was a great speculator in commercial bargains, without a farthing of capital.
After the long discussion which had taken place, be would refrain from troubling the House any longer. He certainly had no objection that the state of the foreign exchanges should, among other matters, come before the committee; and in expressing his willingness that that should be the case, he did it more from the view of accommodating others than from any idea of his receiving further information than he now had. The resolution he had submitted to the House was the result of his serious and deliberate consideration, feeling, as he did, that the question was in every respect one of the most important that could occupy the attention of the legislature. Acting with 275 that view, he would now submit it to their consideration, and take the sense of the House upon it.
§ The question being put, That the words proposed to be left out, stand part of the question, the House divided: Ayes, 168; Noes, 277; Majority against the motion, 109. The motion of the chancellor of the exchequer for a secret committee to be chosen by ballot, was then agreed to.
|List of the Minority.|
|Abercromby, hon. J.||Fazakerley, N.|
|Althorp, viscount||Fellowes, Newton|
|Allan, J. H.||Fergusson, sir R. C.|
|Anson, sir G.||Fitzgerald, lord W.|
|Aubrey, sir J.||Fleming, John|
|Astell, William||Frankland, R.|
|Barham, Joseph||Fremantle, William|
|Baring, sir T.||Gordon, Robert|
|Barnard, viscount||Graham, Sandford|
|Barnett, James||Graham, J. R. G.|
|Becher, W. W.||Grenfell, Pascoe|
|Belgrave, viscount||Guise, sir W.|
|Bernal, Ralph||Grosvenor, general|
|Bennet, hon. H. G.||Gaskell, Benj.|
|Benyon, Ben.||Gurney, R. H.|
|Bentinck, lord W.||Hamilton, lord A.|
|Birch, Joseph||Harvey, D. W.|
|Brand, hon. T.||Heathcote, sir G.|
|Browne, Dom.||Hornby, Edward|
|Brougham, Henry||Howard, hon. W.|
|Burdett, sir Francis||Howorth, H,|
|Burroughs, sir W.||Hughes, W. L.|
|Byng, G.||Hume, Joseph|
|Calcraft, John||Hurst, R.|
|Churchill, lord C.||Heygate, alderman|
|Calvert, Charles||Kennedy, T. F.|
|Calvert, Nicholson||Knox, hon. Thos.|
|Campbell, hon. J.||Lamb, hon. W.|
|Crespigny, sir W. de||Latouche, John|
|Carew, R. S.||Lemon, sir W.|
|Carter, John||Lloyd, sir E.|
|Cavendish, Henry||Lloyd, J. M.|
|Clifford, captain||Lyttelton, hon. W.|
|Clifton, lord||Lewis T. F.|
|Coffin, sir J.||Macleod, R.|
|Colborne, N. W. R.||Mackintosh, sir J.|
|Colclough, Cæsar||Madocks, W. A.|
|Coke, Thomas, jun.||Maitland, J. B.|
|Concannon, Lucius||Martin, John|
|Coussmaker, George||Maxwell, John|
|Curwen, J. C.||Methuen, Paul,|
|Crompton, Samuel||Milbank, Mark|
|Davies, T. H.||Merest, J. D.|
|Denman, Thomas||Mills, George|
|Denison, W. J.||Monck, sir C.|
|Douglas, hon. F. S.||Moore, Peter|
|Duncannon, viscount||Mostyn, sir T.|
|Dundas, hon. L.||Morpeth, viscount|
|Dundas, hon. G.||Maberly, John|
|Dundas, T.||Morland, S. B.|
|Dundas, Charles||Newman, Robert|
|Ebrington, viscount||Neville, hon. R.|
|Ellice, Edward||Newport, sir J.|
|Euston, earl of||North, Dudley|
|Nugent, lord||Rumbold, C. E.|
|Nugent, sir G.||Sharp, R.|
|Onslow, Arthur||Smith, William|
|O'Callaghan, J.||Smyth, J. H.|
|Ord, William||Spencer, lord R.|
|Osborne, lord F. G.||Stuart, lord James|
|Palmer, C. F.||Stanley, lord|
|Pares, Thomas||Symonds, T. P.|
|Parnell, sir H.||Shelley, sir J.|
|Peirse, H.||Sebright, sir J. S.|
|Pelham, hon. C. A.||Tavistock, marquis|
|Pelham, hon. G. A.||Taylor, M. A.|
|Philips, G.||Thorp, alderman.|
|Philips, G. jun.||Tierney, G.|
|Philips, C. M.||Tremayne, J. H.|
|Ponsonby, hon. F. C.||Temple, earl|
|Power, R.||Walpole, hon. G.|
|Powlett, hon. Wm.||Waithman, alderman|
|Price, R.||Webb, Edward|
|Protheroe, E.||Wharton, John|
|Phillimore, Dr.||Whitbread, William|
|Ramsbottom, John||Wilkins, W.|
|Ramsden, J. C.||Williams, Owen|
|Rancliffe, lord||Williams, William|
|Ridley, sir M. W.||Wilson, sir Robert|
|Robarts, A. W.||Wood, alderman|
|Robarts, W. T.||Wynn, C. W.|
|Rowley, sir William||Webster, sir G.|
|Russell, lord Wm.||TELLERS.|
|Russell, lord G. W.||Lambton, J. G.|
|Russell, lord John||Macdonald, James|
|Russell, R. G.|