HC Deb 03 February 1819 vol 39 cc0-280
Mr. Hart Davis

said, he held in his hand a Petition from the merchants, bankers and manufacturers of Bristol, the prayer of which was against a too speedy Resumption of Cash Payments. It was stated to be the petition of the bankers of Bristol, as well as of the merchants and manufacturers; but on looking at the signatures, he did not see that it had been signed by any bankers, as bankers. However, when any of the partners in banking-houses happened also to be en-engaged in other concers, they had signed it, not as bankers, but as traders.

The petitioners stated, "that they have heard with much apprehension that the design is entertained of proposing in parliament the resumption by the Bank of England of its cash payments; the petitioners have the most entire confidence in the resources of the National Bank, and that its issues are fully warranted by the property which it holds in deposit; and that they are firmly persuaded that if this measure shall be forced upon the country before it shall by a favourable state of its foreign exchanges be fully prepared for its reception, not only the finances and revenue of the state must suffer, but even the stability of the Bank itself be endangered by the exportation of its bullion, and the depreciation of the property which it holds as the security of its issues; the petitioners conceive also, that the present is a period peculiarly hazardous for an experiment of so important a nature, when loans of unprecedented magnitude are in progress of payment in Europe, and when the exchange with both the continents is greatly against this country; the petitioners confidently anticipate that as the present state of our foreign exchanges may be justly attributed to causes which, although quite adequate to the effect, are not in themselves necessarily permanent, that the period may reasonably be expected to arrive at which a resumption of cash payments may be made with safety, and without inconvenience; awaiting then this period, the situation of the country can only be rendered alarming by a premature recurrence to measures which the petitioners are satisfied must cramp the commercial intercourse of England with foreign countries, contract its trade and manufactures, and be most injurious to its best interests; the petitioners therefore most humbly pray, that the House will reject every proposal which may be made for an hasty and premature adoption of such a measure."

Mr. Ellice

said, he should have been guilty of great presumption, had he taken any part in the discussion of last evening. He could hot say the result of that discussion met with his entire approbation; but from the list which he had that day seen circulated, he indulged in the expectation of a satisfactory result. Whatever his views upon the subject might have been, he was, at all events, now glad to find that the question was not likely to be taken up as one of party. A noble lord whom he did not then see in his place, had said much about the influence of the exchanges on the resumption of cash payments; but had that noble lord referred to the right hon. the chancellor of the exchequer, for the cause of the depression of exchanges, he would have found a truer one than any which be had assigned. The right hon. the chancellor of the exchequer, when stating that he would bring in a bill for the restriction of cash payments until March 1820, offered little else than an insult to the understanding of every rational man. For, would it not prove the height of mockery to say, that stock to be purchased with bank-notes, should be repaid in gold? If some settled system were not soon adopted, in order to free the country from the improper tricks and devices resorted to by the chancellor of the exchequer he could see but little hope of its prosperity or repose. If the issues of exchequer bills, still increasing our paper circulation, were continued, it would be totally useless to look for any benefit from the committee. Indeed, unless the present abominable system of finance were altogether abolished, every occasional remedy that might be applied to lighten its seventy would, he feared, prove abortive.

Mr. Protheroe

said, that had he been in the House, when the petition from Bristol was presented by his hon. colleague, he should have borne testimony to the respectability of those persons by whom it had been signed. With regard to the petition itself, he could only stale, that he had received no letter, nor instruction whatsoever on the subject.

Mr. Lambton

said, he did not intend to oppose the reception of the petition, but he begged to state, that he understood it was got up by a club of merchants, without any public meeting whatever; and he therefore rose to enter his protest against the petition being received, as that of the merchants, bankers, and manufacturers of Bristol.

Mr. Calcraft

said, that he also had seen the treasury list, but he could not agree with his hon. friend that it was a fair list. It was unfair, in his opinion, on the very principle laid down by the honourable gentlemen opposite themselves; the principle laid down by them was, that the committee should consist of those members who were most conversant in the matters which were connected with the subject of the inquiry. Now, the leaving out of this list an hon. and learned friend of his (Mr. Brougham), who was as well, indeed he might say, who was better qualified for such an inquiry than almost any member in that House, was, to say the least of it, a gross deviation from candour. Besides, there were fourteen of the members who voted with ministers, to seven of the members who voted on the opposition side of the House. He could not therefore agree with his hon. friend in thinking this a fair committee. It contained, in fact, a greater majority proportionally than ministers had in ordinary divisions. He knew something of the fairness to be expected in a ballot of this nature; for he happened some time ago to be one of the scrutineers on a former occasion; and he could say, that above ninety, out of little more than a hundred lists, were written in the same hand, were written by one of the clerks of the treasury. He hoped some deviation from the usual practice would take place on this occasion, and that one of the most skilful and experienced members of the House would be named on it.

Mr. Ellice

observed, that he had not said any thing relative to the fairness of the committee, not knowing much of the members who were to constitute it. He had merely expressed his satisfaction, that persons were included in the committee from whose efforts he expected some benefit to the country.

Mr. Tierney

said, he hoped ministers would withdraw one of the names on their list, in order to introduce the name of his hon. and learned friend beside him; because he was sure it would be admitted, from every part of the House, that there was no man in the country from whom so much assistance could be derived, on an inquiry of this kind, as from his hon. and learned friend. He was not now talking with reference to political parties—his object was not a party question at all. He was sure nothing would give more general satisfaction to the country, than the adding the name of his hon. and learned friend to a committee of inquiry Into any branch of political economy, but especially into a subject like the present.

Mr. Lawson

remarked, that the greater the unanimity of opinion that existed among the members of the committee, the more likely they would be to promote the object for which they were appointed. It was on this principle that he preferred a committee elected by ballot. He knew a case in which an order had been signed by two justices at their respective mansions, and the order was afterwards found to be illegal, because the justices had signed it separately. Let a man collect at random all the most elegant features that could be found, and pat them together, they would form a very ugly face. In the twenty-one names which were to compose the committee, he would propose the alteration of one, in order, as a gen- tleman of the Bank had said last night, "to exercise a little discretion of his own." In the proposed list he found the name of a gentleman of doctors commons, (sir John Nicholl), and he could not conceive why he should have been nominated, unless it was apprehended that there existed a criminal conversation between the chancellor of the exchequer and the old lady in Thread needle street [a laugh.] He had therefore inserted the name of lord Lascelles.

Mr. Hart Davis

said, that whatever might be thought of the political sentiments of those who had signed the petition, he could only repeat, that he had never presented one more respectably sighed,

Mr. Tierney

said, he had no doubt of the respectability of the signatures, but he objected to it on account of the manner in which those signatures had been obtained. He would put a question to the hon. gentleman. Was it, or was it not, a fact, that at a meeting of a club, of which Mr. alderman Daniel was chairman, that petition was put (whether by accident or not he should not inquire) into the hands of the chairman, in order to obtain the signatures of the members? He understood that all the signatures affixed to it, with the exception of one, were obtained in that club; and now it was brought forward purporting to be the petition of the inhabitants of Bristol. The fact was, that one half of the persons who had signed it, did not know what the object of the petition was.

Mr. Hart Davis

said, that what the right hon. gentleman had stated was wholly new to him, for he had not even heard that the petition had been given to alderman Daniel. Of all those who had signed it, there was not one connected with a banking house. It was true, that some of them were both bankers and merchants; but it was in the latter capacity that they had signed the petition.

Mr. Tierney

said, that they signed in one capacity, and acted in another.

Ordered to lie on the table.