HC Deb 12 June 1823 vol 9 cc902-64

The order of the day being read, for resuming the adjourned Debate upon the motion made yesterday by Mr. Western, "That a Committee be appointed to take into consideration the changes that have been made in the value of the Currency between the year 1793 and the present time and the consequences produced; thereby upon the Money-income of the country derived from its industry; the amount of the Public Debt and Taxes considered relatively to the Money-income of the country; and the effect of such changes of the currency upon the Money-contracts between individuals,"

Mr. Wodehouse

said, that the subject had always appeared to him to be not only of infinite importance, but also one which was most imperfectly understood. He was aware too of the prevailing unwillingness to enter upon it; an unwillingness which had been increased of late by the consideration, that the extreme depression of price was, for the present at least, removed; and he would therefore have been content to have given a silent vote upon the question, did not the particular reference that had been made to him seem to require an explanation. Before, however, he entered upon that point, he was desirous of saying a word respecting the probable continuance of the improved prices, and though not conscious of being more inclined than other men to give way to unwarrantable alarms, yet, as the experience of a century seemed to exclude such a rate of price as could be said to be tolerably remunerative under our present circumstances, such for instance, as that which existed at the present moment, he confessed he found it extremely difficult to settle down at once into the certainty, that all our apprehensions on this score were finally removed.

It was true, as had been stated by the noble marquis on the former evening, that he (Mr. W.) was the first person who had used the term "equitable adjustment," which had afterwards been animadverted on by Mr. Cobbett. It was at a public dinner in the country, formed by gentlemen who had been supporters of the late Mr. Pitt, at which he happened to preside. Upon occasions of that nature, it was a matter of actual duty for any one placed in the situation in which he was platted, to state his opinions respecting public men and public measures, freely and without reserve. It was at that public dinner that he had declared his belief, that if Mr. Pitt had lived to the termination of the late arduous contest—looking to the enormous length to which it had been protracted, the immense sacrifices which had been made under it, and, above ail, the mode and system on which it had been conducted—he would have been sensible of the entire alteration in the value of every thing that was the natural result of it. That he would have been impressed with the unavoidable influence of our national debt on the general state of our society—and, without the least idea of running down one interest, and upholding another, but simply with a view to maintain the just equipoise of all; would in some way have provided that a more equitable adjustment should have been effected. It was open to us to have done it, either by retaining a part of the tax on property, or by making an alteration in the standard of our money. We might have adopted either of those modes, or we might have adopted both. By rejecting both, we had brought a measure of suffering upon the country, of the extent of which even the wisest amongst us seemed to have formed a most inadequate conception. In such a light did the case always appear to him (Mr. W.), and every day's reflection served but to confirm him in the belief.

An allusion also had been made by the noble marquis to his having cited an opinion of the late Mr. Henry Thornton, the object of which was, to establish the justice of a departure from the ancient standard of Value. He had selected the authority of Mr. H. Thornton, because the right hon. the present president of the Board of Trade (Mr. Huskisson), than whom no one was more competent to form a judgment had, in his celebrated Treatise, which he published in 1810, made mention of him, as a man who was a positive blessing to the country, from his I extensive knowledge of this subject—"Not only a member unconnected with party, but the intimately acquainted with the whole business of banking, with all the details of commercial credit, and all the bearings of our money system; In this work" (i.e. in Mr. Thornton's Essay on Paper Credit published in 1802) "the reader will find the true principles of political economy united with the practical, I might almost say hereditary, knowledge of a well-informed merchant, and the extensive experience of a great London Banker." It would be difficult to find terms of more unqualified panegyric. We were frequently referred to the authority of the late Mr. Horner and the late earl of Liverpool, and it was always contended, that we had acted in strict conformity with the principles of Mr. Locke. It was idle, however, to cite great names, with out a due regard to the altered circum stances under which we were placed. How could we be certain that Mr. Horner would have given the same counsel in 1819, that he had given in 1810? The annual weight of interest on the National Debt had been increased, in the interval, from being under 35 millions to nearly 44 millions. Was this a circumstance entirely to be overlooked? And then, with respect to Mr. Locke, unless we bore in mind that he lived anterior to the system of funding, by which the whole course of society throughout Europe had been completely changed, we might just as well quote the opinion of a man that was alive before the flood, and apply it to transactions that had taken place since the flood.

He was desirous of avoiding, as much as possible, all appearance of individual censure—particularly with respect to the right hon. Secretary (Mr. Peel) who had introduced the measure to parliament, and whose name it bore; feeling, in truth, that the country had great cause for satisfaction, that his Majesty had been pleased to call him to his councils, and to place him in the high station which he now filled—but he never could believe, that either he, or any of his right hon. colleagues, or any of those right hon. gentlemen by whom they were systematically opposed, ever were duly impressed with the nature of the work in which they were engaged; and that, wanting a clear insight themselves, they were too ready to listen to the suggestions of the hon. member for Portarlington (Mr. Ricardo), whose conclusions on this head appeared to him to be utterly incomprehensible. Never could he introduce that hon. member's name without feeling what was due to his talents, and also to his character; and, as this observation from him- self must carry with it an air of presumption, perhaps he might be allowed to slate in explanation, that he had sat with the horn member for weeks on the same Committee^ had differed with him on almost every point that had been started, but was so struck with the entire absence of all illiberal imputation, and such a manifest desire on his part of establishing only that which was fair, that somehow it was impossible not to have acquired a facility of communication, even with one so infinitely his superior. But, to believe that he had a clear perception on the subject of money, was utterly impossible. Let the evidence given by the hon. member before the Committees of both Houses of Parliament be looked into. Let the House take his actual expressions in 1819—"This question was of immense importance in principle, but in the manner of bringing it about was trivial, and not deserving half an hour's consideration of the House. The difficulty was only raising the value of the currency 3 per cent. We had nearly got home, and he hoped his right hon. friend would lend them his assistance, to enable them to reach it in safety. He would venture to state that, in a very few weeks, all alarm would be forgotten, and that at the end of the year, we should be all surprised to reflect, that any had ever prevailed at a prospect of a variation of 3 per cent in the value of the circulating medium."—Would any man of tolerable candour rise up and say, that this was the reasoning of a mind sufficiently impressed with the nature of that on which it was deliberating, and of a mind too, so capable of embracing any subject that could be offered?—There was another point on which the hon. member confessed that he was singular in his opinion, and one deserving of notice, from the striking contrast which it seemed to bear to that of Mr. David Hume, from whose Essays on Money, on Interest, on the Balance of Trade, and on Public Credit, more information might be derived, than from any other author perhaps that could be named. The point to which he alluded, related to the vast increase in the internal and external commerce of tile country, which had taken place in the course of the last thirty years, and which the hon. member for Portarlington maintained "was totally independent of the increased issue of money, and was to be attributed to the improvement of ma- chinery, and to the industry and ingenuity of our people." No one could feel disposed to underrate the industry and-ingenuity of the people; but, let the circumstances be fairly weighed. under which that industry was called forth. It had been remarked by lord Liverpool, in a speech which he afterwards published, that if any stranger had quitted the kingdom upon the breaking out of the war, and had returned to it on the establishment of the peace, the change that had taken place in the interval, would have seemed to him like a new creation. Our Agricultural Report spoke of the augmentation of the national capital as having been very great, though it "was at the same time much impeded by loans, and retarded by taxes." It was impeded: at the rate of three and twenty millions annually in loans, and retarded at the rate of seventy millions annually in. taxes: still, notwithstanding these impediments, and in despite of these obstructions, it increased beyond all former precedent. "If we look" said the Report, "to the permanent improvements that have been made, the bridges which have been built, the roads which have been formed, the rivers which have been rendered navigable, the canals which have been completed, the harbours which have been made and improved, the docks which have been created, not by the public revenue, but by the capital and enterprise of individuals; if we look at the same time to the unexampled growth of manufactures and commerce; the contemplation of this vast augmentation of the national wealth, defies all illustration by comparison with any former period of our history." Here, then, we see the extraordinary phenomenon, of an unparalleled accumulation of riches proceeding paripassu with an unparalleled operation of taxation. Could such au extraordinary result be brought about without the intervention of some extraordinary cause? What was that cause? Had the state of our law respecting money nothing to do with it? Had the facility of credit which that law afforded nothing to do with it? "Nothing whatever," says the hon. member for Portarlington,—"money, is only the medium by which the borrower avails himself of the capital which he means ultimately to employ." These were his words. We had, then, availed ourselves of a capital of 800 millions—nearly 600 of which had, without any fixed standard of value, been borrowed and expended in the space of the present generation; that was, in the compass of one generation we had anticipated the resources of Heaven knew how many. All which the hon. member for Portarlington told us might happen without any commotion of any kind: the state of our society was not changed; that which we were wont to regard as the more settled part of our inheritance was not deeply affected; and all the difficulty which we now contemplated would, with a little good legislation, soon be "matter of, history."—Where was the man that in his heart assented to doctrine like this? And how different was the reasoning of other writers as to the effect of an increased issue of money. "Country Banks," said Mr. Henry Thornton, "have been highly beneficial, by adding, through the issue of their paper, to the productive capital of the country. By this, accession our manufactures have unquestionably been very much extended, our foreign trade has enlarged itself, and I the landed interest of the country has had its share of the benefit. The guinea spared from circulation" [we bad no guineasat all in circulation] "has contributed] to bring home the timber which has been used in building, the iron and steel which have been instrumental to the purposes; of machinery, and the cotton and wool I which the hand of the manufacturer has worked up. The paper has thus given to the country a bonâ-fidê capital, which has been exactly equal to the gold which it has caused to go abroad, and this additional capital has contributed just like any I other part of the national stock to give life to, industry." Mr. Hume, in his. Essay on Money, observes, that "the prices of every thing depend on the proportion between commodities and money, and that any considerable alteration in either has the same effect either of heightening or lowering the price. Increase the commodities they become cheaper, increase; the money, they rise in their value." Again, die says—"suppose a nation always; to possess the same stock of coin, but to be continually increasing in its numbers and industry. It is evident, that the price of every commodity must gradually diminish in that kingdom, since it is the proportion between money and any species of goods which fixes their mutual value. Suppose four-fifths of all the money in Great Britian to be annihilated in one night, and the nation to be reduced to the same condition, with regard to specie, that it was in the reigns of the Henries and Edwards; must not the price of all labour and commodities sink in pro portion? Suppose it were multiplied five-fold in one night, must not the contrary effect follow?" Then mark the inference. "It is evident, that the same causes which would correct those exorbitant inequalities were they to happen miraculously, must prevent their happening in the common course of nature, and must for ever in all neighbouring nations preserve money nearly proportionable to the art and industry of each nation." Are we not justified in speaking of the Bank Restriction act as equivalent to a suspension of the course of nature? And, it this primary cause be admitted, why is the fact to be denied?

Amidst the various publications of the day was one eminently deserving of notice, from the character of the author—a Speech of the right hon. the President of the Board of Trade, delivered last session, and published lately, headed by the title of "Equitable Adjustment!" In this the right hon. gentleman treated the idea of an alteration in the standard of money as "a measure which, if considered in a private light, he conceived to be synonymous to a plan for curtailing widows of a part of their fortunes, strips ping orphans of a share of their inheritance, &c. and which, in a public point of view," he says, "is reprobated by all statesmen and all historians, as the wretched but antiquated resource of barbarous ignorance and arbitrary power, and only known amongst civilized communities as the last mark of a nation's weakness and degradation." Other persons had hot thought it necessary to use such extraordinary vehemence, when discussing a subject of so complicated a nature; but, in a subsequent passage, the right hon. gentleman made a tremendous attack upon the hon. member for Essex for having presumed to hint, that corn might be a better standard than gold. "Like most men" he says, "who claim to be exclusively practical men, and who rail at those whom they are pleased to designate as theorists and political economists, for no other reason than because they argue from principles which their adversaries cannot controvert, and proceed by deductions which they cannot refute or deny, the hon. member for Essex has himself launched into some of the wildest the orise, and drawn his inferences from, some of the most extravagant positions which were ever promulgated in this House. As the foundation, and groundwork of his plan, he lays down, in principle, that the standard of value in every country should be that article which forms, the constant and most general food of its population; and therefore it is, that he fixes upon wheat. It follows from this principle, that wheat could not be the standard in Ireland. There, potatoes must be the measure of value. Whoever before heard of a potatoe standard?" Now, if it was such an egregious absurdity, why did the late Mr. Horner maintain, in so many words, that "the great paramount standard of all value was corn the precious metals the practical measure, bread corn the real measure." That hon. gentleman cut no joke about the potatoe. The late lord Liverpool, too, in his famous Letter to the King on the state of the Coins, observes, in reference to the reign, of queen Elizabeth, that "men of knowledge and foresight, became at that time sensible of the diminution of the value of money in general, compared with other commodities, and they began on that account to be convinced, that coins were not a correct measure of property when the value of them was to be. estimated at distant periods. It was for this reason that, by the advice of Lord Treasurer Burleigh and sir Thomas Smith, then secretary of state, a method of estimating a portion of the rents of colleges by the value of corn and not of money was first introduced; in order to maintain the revenues of those colleges in a due proportion with the price or value of those necessaries of life in successive periods; so that such revenues might at all times be sufficient to answer the wise and laudable purposes for which they were intended." He then states the provisions of the act passed in the 18th year of queen Elizabeth, alleging that he "mentions this fact to shew that the great men of those days were not inattentive to the value of money or coins." To a certain extent then, we might plead also the authority of the late lord Liverpool in our favour. Again he says, that "the errors of all late writers on coins have, proceeded from a perusal of the works of Mr. Locke, without observing, that the state of the coins was wholly Changed from what it was when he considered the subject. It is probable, that if this great man had lived to the present times, he would have been sensible of the change. He would have applied his principles to the facts as they now exist, and would have drawn his conclusions in conformity to them." Now, it must be remembered, that there were two treatises written by Mr. Locke; that his controversial Treatise with Mr. Lowndes was written some years subsequent to the for mer. At the close of his last work, he alludes to the former, as containing his principles respecting the theory of money. Prefixed to it also is a letter to lord Somers, in which he refers to if, as setting forth "principles which he sees no reason to alter. They have their foundation in nature" says he, "and will stand: they have their foundation in nature and are clear; and will be so in all the train of their consequences throughout the whole of this (as it is thought) mysterious business of money, to all those who will be but at the easy trouble of stripping this subject of hardy obscure, and doubtful words, wherewith they are often misled and mislead others." Now, what were the principles which Mr. Locke inculcated? That "they who consider things beyond their names will find that money, as well as all other commodities, is liable to the same changes and inequalities; nay, in the respect of the variety of its value brought in by time in the succession of affairs, the rate of money is less capable of being regulated by a law in any country than the rent of land. Moneys whilst the same quantity of it is passing up and down the kingdom in trade, is really a standing measure of the falling and rising value of other things in reference to one another, and the alternation of price is truly in them only. But, if you increase or lessen the quantity of money current in traffic in any place, then the alteration of value is in the money; and if at the same time wheat keep its proportion of vent to quantity, money, to speak truly, alters its worth, and wheat does not, though it sell for a greater or less price than it did before. For money being looked upon as the standing measure of other commodities, men consider and speak of it still, as if it were a standing measure, though when it has varied its quantity, it is plain it is not." Wheat therefore he says, "is in this part of the world, the fittest measure to judge of the altered value of things, in any long tract of time. But money is the best measure of the altered value of things in a few years, because its vent is the same and its quantity alters slowly." Whatever objections might be raised against this doctrine; in respect of genuine simplicity of mind and sterling integrity of heart, the name of Mr. Locke may stand against the world.

The truth was, that most of us did not understand the business, and were too much in the habit of taking things upon trust; particularly when we could derive information from sources, the respectability of which could not be doubted. In such cases however, error becomes doubly mischievous. In proof of which he might mention Dr. Copplestone, whose mistakes bad been most satisfactorily explained by Mr. James,* a gentleman who was desirous of being examined before the agricultural committee, and whose Essays on this subject display a depth of research that entitled him to particular consideration. In these he shewed, that Dr. Copplestone had spoken of the pound sterling as being in the year 1527, worth in our present money 1l. 7s. 6d. and in the year 1551, worth 4s.d. Then we are to be told by the reverend author, that the standard was afterwards raised 400 per cent, and we are to believe it, because we find written on queen Elizabeth's tombstone, "Moneta in justum valorem reducta." Did queen Elizabeth raise the standard of money in the way in which he here represents her to have done? She did no such thing. She trod nearly in the footsteps of Edward the sixth; and how then can we advance such a position? He (Mr. W.) had been particularly struck with the cautious language that the hon. member for Bridgnorth had adopted, in a pampblet lately published by him, when e said, that he believed that the extravagant prices which had been given for land were such as would have "made our ancestors rise up in their graves, if any thing could induce them to take that step." He seemed to have been afraid ok' being thought too hypothetical: and he (Mr. W.) would wish to use the same caution with respect to queen Elizabeth. But he *Mr. Henry James, of Birmingham, the author of "Essays on Money, Exchanges and Political Economy," showing the cause of the Fluctuation in Prices and of the Depreciation in the Value of Property of late years:" London, printed for R. Hunter, a. d. 1820. really believed that, if any thing could make her deceased majesty rise from the tomb, it would be the preposterous compliment that we had paid to her respecting the restoring of the value of money. Not that she would believe it. It was too gross even for her. No courtier, no paramour that she ever had, ever attempted to administer unction like this; and if she was now to walk into the House, she would explain, before she got to that bar, that she was not the fool that we represented her to be. Often had he wished that that old tombstone of queen Elizabeth had been at the bottom of the sea, and her memory under it, before it had been made the instrument of such extraordinary perversion.

Gentlemen should recollect, that an amendment was moved on the third reading of Mr. Peel's Bill, by the hon. member for Taunton (Mr. Baring), the object of which was, to alleviate the pressure of it on the various branches of the public industry. In that honourable member they possessed a man not ignorant, or of merely superficial knowledge like himself; but one who was supposed to have had opportunities of judging of this question, beyond any individual that could be named. Did they at that time pay any attention even to him? Not the smallest. The point at issue was the ratio in which the amount and pressure of taxation was about to be increased, by the improvement that was to be instituted in our currency. Amongst those to whom we had submitted this point for investigation, had there been any thing like concord? Yes, on one point: and on one only; namely, that they had been all mistaken. One gentleman had said it was 5 per cent, another 10, and another 20. Was not this the case? Then, what was their principle of action? They talked of Mr. Locke, and sometimes of sir Isaac Newton; but the real principle on which they acted was no other than that of Old Rapid, to "keep moving." There was a proverb which said "Leaders never blush, and the head of a party seldom thinks." If ever proverb was verified on any occasion, it was verified on this. For, in complete ignorance of the consequences that were likely to attend it, did we lay on as severe a scourge as could possibly be imposed, with out being able to accompany it with any other source of comfort than that "things would come to rights."—But, admitting even all this to be the truth, what remedy was to be pre- scribed now? It was now too late, it was said, and nothing can be done. Would the-'adoption of a silver standard in lieu of that of gold produce no effect? "Not more than five or six per cent and what is that?" Now, five or six per cent could hardly be esteemed a trifling alteration, by those who contend that the whole was not more than a question often per cent. But, a proposal of this nature would be discouraged, he feared, from a false regard to parliamentary consistency. There could, however, be no true consistency that was not founded on a steady attention to the public good, under all the various exigencies which time might give birth to. We may have set forth on a principle of right, and have travelled into enormous wrong. This was not a singular opinion; for, in the unreserved intercourse of private life, men hardly ever hesitated to acknowledge it. To have one language for our friends and another for the country, was not the way in which that country should be served. It was a species of double dealing with the country, which was to be reconciled neither with private integrity nor public honour; and, with those feelings bearing strong upon his mind, he would not stop to inquire into the construction that might be placed upon his conduct, but would vote in favour of the committee that had been then proposed by the honourable member for Essex.

Mr. James

said, he had not been so fortunate as the hon. member for Norfolk, for he had not read the writings of Mr. Locke and Mr. David Hume, on the subject of currency, &c. He had, however, read the Essays of his namesake (but not relation) Mr. James, and he had also read Mr. Cobbett's "Paper against Gold," and, in his opinion, that eminent public writer had thrown more light on the subject than all the others put together. He thought that government, by changing the currency, had done neither more nor less than aid the Bank of England in committing a gross fraud upon its creditors. Nothing, in his view, could benefit the country, but a rectification of contracts and a large reduction of the national debt. A greater violation of property had never occurred in any country. It was, in fact a. revolution marked by the most atrocious injustice; an injustice greater than any despotic government in the history of the world had before accomplished.

Lord Folkestone

commenced his speech by observing, that he had last evening moved an adjournment of the debate, from a conviction, that the motion of his hon. friend, the member for Essex, was one which demanded the most serious consideration of the House, and that the evil which it was proposed to correct was of the greatest magnitude and likely to be productive of much distress and confusion, if not provided against by legislative enactment. He rose to address the House with considerable reluctance, but he did so, because it had been suggested to him, that the proposition which he had to make, with regard to the practicability of establishing an equitable adjustment of contracts, might be most conveniently brought before the consideration of the House, in the shape of an amendment to the proposition of his hon. friend. The distress of the country was so urgent, and seemed so little likely to abate, that it had absolutely become the duty of the members of that House to exert themselves to guard against the accomplishment of the ruin: find more especially when they saw, that the members of the government had not been able to bring forward any thing in the shape of an answer to the powerful arguments of his hon. friend the member for Essex, nor to those of the noble marquis on the second bench, by whom his hon. friend had been so ably supported.

He was aware that his hon. friend, the member for Portarlington, treated these apprehensions lightly. But the reasoning which his hon. friend had made use of did not, in his opinion, apply at all to the question before the House, and was in fact nothing but an argument ad hominem. His hon. friend had talked of the great probability there was, that the difficulties which had been complained of would be speedily removed; but his hon. friend had not told the House by what means he hoped to remove them, and had, throughout the whole of his speech, treated the subject much too lightly and superficially. He did not know whether the right hon. gentlemen opposite, to whom the affairs of the country were entrusted, took an equally light and superficial view of the question; but he would say, that if they did take such a view of it, it was a source of deep regret, that men with such impressions as to the great interests of the state, should at such a moment, be entrusted with the management of the national concerus. His hon. friend, the member for Portan- lington, had, it would be recollected, indulged in prophecies, when, in 1819, the bill for the restoration of the currency was before the House. His hon. friend had foretold, that the country would speedily be released from her difficulties. He had asserted, that the inconveniences arising from a return to cash payments would be trifling; and he had told those who differed from him in opinion, that before the ensuing Christmas they would themselves look back with astonishment at the fears and the apprehensions which they then entertained. It was needless for him to tell the House, that all the predictions of his hon. friend had most completely failed. It was needless for him to tell the House, that since the passing of that bill, the prices of every description of agricultural produce had declined; and that the situation of those connected with the land had been getting worse, from that period down to the present time; and would, he was persuaded, if the House did not interpose, go on increasing.

He would admit, that his hon. friend, the member for Portarlington, was right in contending, upon the general principle, that the cost of production would eventually regulate the price of corn in this country, as the cost of production regulated the price in every other article of trade. As a general principle it was a sound one; but, in its application, it must he viewed with reference to the particular circumstances of the trade or the pursuit. This remunerating price could only be hoped for, out of an accommodation of the supply to the demand. Now, the farmer was burdened with leases and contracts. He had lands prepared, and crops sown; and he could not, therefore, suddenly decrease the supply which he had been accustomed lo furnish. It had been mentioned as a matter of exultation, that corn had recently risen in price. The increase, however, that had lately taken place in farming produce, ought not, in his opinion, Aft afford any consolation; as, from the, best information he could obtain, it was to be; attributed to causes of a temporary nature. There had been an increase of the paper circulation to the extent of two millions and a half, within the last two months. This might have had some effect. Speculations also had been entered into rather largely, from the general impression, some months ago, that war was probable. But, in his judgment, the great cause of the temporary rise of pri- ces, and which was most injurious to the land-holders had been the diminution in the supply. The harvest of the last year had been a remarkably early one. The harvest of the present year promised to be very late. So that the supply of the last harvest, instead of meeting the consumption of a year, would have to meet the demand of thirteen or fourteen months. The same argument would apply to meat. There had been, from the low prices, an increased consumption of the stock of cattle. The younger herds had actually been driven to market from the prevalence of the distress, and the re-action was now operating to raise prices.

The motion of his hon. friend, the member for Essex, was for a committee "to take into consideration the changes that have been made in the value of the currency between the year 1793 and the present time, and the consequences produced thereby upon the Money-income of this country derived from its industry; the amount of the public debt and taxes considered relatively to the Money-income of the country; and the effects of such changes of the currency upon the Money-contracts between individuals." Such was the proposal of his hon. friend, to which he meant to move, by way of Amendment, the addition of the following words—"to consider further of the expediency of providing some remedy for the said consequences, and, amongst other things, the practicability of establishing an Equitable Adjustment of Contracts." He was aware that a most unjust prejudice had gone forth upon this subject. He knew that it was charged against those who called for an investigation as to the practicability of an Equitable Adjustment of existing contracts, that they sought for that which could only terminate in spoliation and rapine. Indeed, the most unaccountable and unwarrantable prejudices had been marshalled and arrayed against the proposition. Notwithstanding which, he could not conceive upon what principle it was assumed, that he who asked for a fair, a just, an equitable adjustment of contracts, meant the direct reverse of the thing which he applied for. When he applied for justice, upon what grounds was it asserted, that he wanted injustice? When he asked for equity, upon what grounds was it asserted, that he wanted spoliation and rapine? Prove, after inquiry, that such effects would follow from the proposed adjustment of contracts, and the ap- plication would be defeated. He, for his part, meant to adhere strictly to these terms, and would for himself say, that he had not the remotest idea of proposing any thing unjust; neither could he think that a measure, having for its object the relief of those who had, without any fault of their own, been despoiled of their property, could be so denominated. He had, early in the session, presented a petition from Mr. Thomson,* a gentleman who had purchased two estates, with a loss, in one instance, of 18,000l., and in another of 60,000l. What was the situation of persons burdened with mortgages and family settlements? By the operation of the act for the resumption of cash payments, they found themselves, in fact, deprived of their estates. He therefore thought, that the injustice was not on the part of those who wished for an equitable adjustment of contracts, but of those who opposed it.

It was again said, that his proposal led the way to revolution. On the contrary, he asserted, that the rejection of it led the way to revolution. In fact, a revolution—far more calamitous than any revolution of the government—a revolution of property, was actually going on in the country. He had said, that a revolution of property was a greater calamity than a revolution of the government; but the one would inevitably involve and lead to the other. Much as he admired every part of that speech of promise, which had been made last night by the noble marquis on the second bench—a speech which had delighted every man who had heard it; a speech not more distinguished for its eloquence than for its profound and statesman-like views: and which reflected the highest honour on the young nobleman who made it—there was no part of it in which he more fully concurred, than the part in which, in reply to this very objection, the noble marquis had said, that there was no revolution more to be deprecated, than that which had been produced by this very bill—a revolution of property. When he reflected upon the talent which had been displayed on the former evening, by the noble marquis, the regret which the present system gave him was enhanced by the reflection, that men like the noble marquis—men who would otherwise be the ornament and * The petition will be found in vol. 8, p. 188 of the present series. support of their country—would be ousted out of their possessions, and degraded from their proper rank in the state. With the noble marquis he would ask, what innovation could be more fatal, than that which went to sweep from the face of the land its present possessors, consigning them to beggary and to exile? Who, he would ask, were more likely to be affected by such a revolution of property, than the peers of the realm? And what could be more injurious than to have the House of Lords converted into a house of paupers? Would that House, under such circumstances, be fitted to discharge those functions which, by the constitution, were lodged in it. It was, too, a court of judicature, before which, as a dernier resort, most important questions of property were decided. But, would it be fitting, that such weighty questions should be decided upon by a body who had no property of their own? A French gentleman of great acuteness, as appeared from his writings, had come to England some time ago, for the purpose of studying the forms of British judicature. He had especially admired the hereditary aristocracy of England; as giving advantages to this country which could never he realized in France, because of the law which required the property of an individual deceased to be equally divided among all his sons. The measure now in operation went, however, to destroy the hereditary aristocracy of the country, not less effectually than a law similar to that of France would do. He would therefore repeat, that there was nothing unjust in the measure he was about to propose, and that it would prevent the most fatal of all revolutions—the revolution of property.

His hon. friend, the member for Essex, had made a calculation, by which it appeared, that in consequence of the change which had taken place in the currency, the country was now paying, in time of peace, as much as it had before contributed in time of war. If, then, we were now obliged to go to war, would it not be necessary, if we persevered in the present system, to increase our taxation, in orders to meet the attendant expenses of war? The resources of the country had, in reality, been so impaired by the effects of the bill of 1819, that the very character of the country had been injured. England had been obliged to descend from the high station which she had formerly occupied among the nations of Europe. It could not be disguised, that however necessary war might be for the maintenance of oar interests and our honour, to war we were unable to go. The powers of the continent knew this; and therefore it was, that that most unjust and atrocious aggression had been made on the liberies of the people of Spain—an aggression which struck at the root of all national independence, but which it was well known this country, from the want of funds, was not in a condition to resist. It was very well for his majesty's ministers to say, that if it were necessary, the country was in a situation to go to war. In his conscience he believed, that we should find it extremely difficult to raise, in the present currency, sufficient supplies for carrying on a war through two campaigns. But, even assuming that we were not at present called upon to enter upon a war, he would maintain, as the noble marquis had so ably done on the former evening, that the present was the moment for satisfying ourselves that we were in the right path, so that we might be prepared for whatever might occur. For that country was in a lamentable condition, which did not hold itself in a state of readiness to act, whenever a war should become necessary to its interests or its honour.

To prove that he and those honourable friends of his who thought as he did, were not proposing any thing unjust, or unwarranted by precedent, the noble lord said he would trouble the House with a few instances which he had collected, in which the principle of an equitable adjustment of contracts had been acknowledged and acted upon. He accordingly quoted an old statute of the parliament of Scotland, in which, after various provisions for securing the currency from fluctuation, a clause was introduced, which enforced the necessity, upon equitable grounds, of adjusting all bonds and contracts to the new standard, upon that and every other alteration effected in the currency by the government of the country. A similar principle had been adopted in France at one period of the revolution, when an immense depreciation of assignats had taken place. Committees were appointed in every department, for the purpose of adjusting all contracts which had been affected by the alteration of the currency. These were regulated, by estimating them according to the pe- riods when they were made, and the times at which they were fixed to be determined. If the same principle were to be applied to this country, no doubt greater difficulties would be met with than presented themselves to the French legislature; since the government had taken especial pains, during the time of our depreciated currency, to disguise that depreciation, and the greater part of the public grievances had sprung out of legislative enactments and judicial proceedings, which aimed at establishing false principles, and concealing thy real facts. The noble lord here instanced the case of Mr. De Yonge, the Jew, who was prosecuted for charging more for a guinea than the law allowed, about the time when the bill was passed to make the payment of rent in depreciated paper equivalent to the payment of rent in an enhanced metallic currency. But, indeed, the principle of an equitable adjustment had, to a certain degree been attempted in the reign of Charles 2nd. At the time of the great fire of London, in 1666, when an immense destruction of property took place, and 426 acres of ground were covered with the ruins of 13,200 houses; the different claims of landlords and tenants were flung into inconceivable confusion. Accordingly, to reconcile those claims, and adjust the rights and boundaries of property, the act of the 19th of Charles 2nd was passed, by which a commission was established, consisting of the judges of the different courts of law and equity. The commissioners were authorised to determine every possible dispute on claims existing or expected, and to make allowances according to the principles of equity and justice. Their labours had lasted for six years, and were productive of the greatest benefits. He would not say that the number and extent of the cases which came before that commission were at all equal to those which would be submitted to the authority of any similar commission at the present day. But, when he saw that the principle of an equitable adjustment of contracts had been adopted in France on the widest scale—when he saw that the same principle had been applied in our own country, less extensively perhaps, but certainly not less beneficially—he could not discover any thing improper or absurd in a fresh attempt on the part of the House, to find out some mode of adjusting private contracts, on the principles of equity and jus- tice.—Tlie noble lord referred to the tables of Mr. Mushet, which had been alluded to by the hon. member for Portarlington, and contended, that they were founded upon erroneous principles. But even if that were not the case, it was no argument against the claims of one class of society, who had been cruelly despoiled by unjust measures, to say, that another class had been robbed also. Nor was the principle of an equitable adjustment of merely modern growth; for it was related by Cæsar in his Commentaries, and the account was confirmed by his historian, Suetonius, that during his wars with Pompey, there fell out such a scarcity of money in Italy, that debtors were actually incapable of settling with their creditors. In consequence of this state of things, commissioners or arbiters were chosen to effect an amicable adjustment between the parties, by settling the proportion of debt which was to be paid by the debtor to the creditor, on account of the change which had taken place in the value of money; and the result of their labours was, a decree for the payment of one-fourth of the original contract. And in a recent "Civil and Constitutional History of Rome," written by Henry Bankes, esq. the hon. member for Corfe Castle, this circumstance had been spoken of in terms of approbation, as a wise and salutary measure. He therefore trusted that the hon. member for Corfe Castle, would not confine his eulogies to the objects of his historical inquiries, but would lend his aid to induce the House to adopt a similar plan on the present occasion. In France, the principle had been adopted, not only by the Revolutionists, but in the time of Louis 14th, and also during the regency of the duke of Orleans.—The noble lord said, that he considered the country to be at present in a deplorable situation. In his opinion, the distresses of the agricultural part of the community could hardly be exaggerated. He could not anticipate relief for them within any moderate period; and eventually it could only be afforded through a still greater calamity to others, a diminution of human food, if no remedy were applied of the nature which he had suggested. If a scarcity of grain were experienced, it would be much to be deplored, as it would have the effect of driving the English people to imitate the Irish by living upon potatoes. That this was an evil he was convinced, and it had afforded him considerable pleasure to find that it had been recognized as such in that House. In conclusion, the noble lord said, that looking at the question in all its branches and bearings, he could not understand the objections which had been raised against the adjustment which he was about to propose, as he called for nothing to be done which was not strictly and truly equitable. He would now conclude by moving an Amendment to the motion of his hon. friend, by adding thereto the words:—"To consider further of the expediency of providing some remedy for the said consequences, and, amongst other things, the practicability of establishing an Equitable Adjustment of Contracts."

Mr. Secretary Peel

said, that after the full discussion which this subject had undergone during the last two nights, and after the repeated discussions which had previously taken place, he felt that it would be quite unwarrantable in him to trouble the House with any preliminary observations, and that his conduct would be exceedingly reprehensible, if he did not at once address himself to those main considerations which must influence every one on this important occasion. The hon. member for Essex had proposed, on the 12th day of June, that a Committee should be appointed to enter upon a number of the most momentous and complicated inquiries that could by possibility occupy the attention of any body of men. The hon. member had proposed that, at that period of the session, the Committee should take into its consideration the various changes which had taken place in the value of the currency since 1793, and the effects produced by the reformation of the currency on the money-income of the country derived from industry. Now, he confessed that, if he were on the Committee, he should not know what was meant by "the effects produced on the money-income of the country derived from industry," nor how that income, which was derived from industry, was to be distinguished from income growing out of other sources. The Committee was also to consider of the operation of the taxes pressing on the monied income;" but, above all, it was to inquire "into the effects produced by the change in the currency on the money-contracts of the country. Now, he would ask, was it possible to consider of all these subjects, and to come to any decision on them in the course of the present session? They might prolong the session two months if they pleased; but still, to come to any decision on all these questions would be impracticable. He begged to remind those who were favourable to the present motion, that the House had three times, in preceding sessions, decided, that it would not interfere with the measure of 1819. In ordinary cases the decision of the House against a particular motion was not to be considered any bar to the bringing forward of that motion again. But the present was no ordinary case. Individuals had been induced to regulate their concerns by the determination which the House had avowed, and now to take a different course would be to shake all confidence in them throughout the country, and to make the public feel that no dependance could be placed on their resolutions.

Much irrelevant matter had been introduced in the course of the present discussion, but the question, he thought, consisted of two main considerations. First, Did the general interests of the country require a revision of the currency? And secondly, Had individual interests been so injuriously and unjustly affected by the reformation of the currency, that the consideration of those interests, separate and apart from the general interests, imposed upon the House the imperative duty of attempting to effect an equitable adjustment of the contracts which had been made? By the "general interests of the country," he meant all those in which were commonly included, the manufacturing, the commercial, and the agricultural classes. Now, with respect to the manufacturing and commercial interests, was there any thing in the present situation of those interests which required a revision of the currency, and an equitable adjustment of contracts? With respect to the manufacturing interests, it was impossible for the lion, gentlemen opposite not to admit, that all their gloomy predictions of the ruin of those interests had been completely falsified by the event. The fact was, that we were in the habit of taking too desponding a view of the resources of the country. The English were, on all public questions, apt to be too desponding. The English were great Hypochondriacs with regard to their own country. While the condition and capabilities of England were tho ewnder and admiration of the other nations of Europe, we were apt to fancy ourselves reduced to a state of such utter desperation, that no application of human talents, and no fortuitous occurrence of events, could afford us any relief. He, however, would beseech the members of that House to look at the stale of our commerce and manufactures, and say whether they did not present the most satisfactory indications of prosperity. He knew, that, in answer to his statements, it was indeed possible that some gentleman might start up and say, that he was connected with some particular district which was not in a flourishing state, with respect to its commerce or manufactures. But this narrow view was not the one in which the great interests of the country ought to be contemplated. He wished to take some general standard, by which they might judge of the present state of the country, by a comparison with the past. With this view, he would direct the attention of the House to the year 1817—a period antecedent to the passing of that much abused law, the act of 1819 [Hear, hear!]. He understood that cheer from the learned gentleman. He knew that the lion, and learned gentleman meant to intimate, that the same causes were then in operation which were now felt. This he most fully admitted. But where, then, were the grounds for the clamour raised against the act of 1819? Before the passing of that bill the same evils had been felt; and these, he contended, had of necessity been produced by that state of things which followed the Bank Restriction act of 1797. To show what the situation of the country had been in 1817, he would refer to a most able speech then made by the hon. and learned member for Winchelsea (Mr. Brougham). To this speech he should turn, as to a valuable record of the distress which then existed in the manufacturing districts. The argument now used was, that the change in the currency had affected all classes, so as to have produced the greatest distress. And it was his object to show, that such was not the fact, but that great and general distress prevailed before the act of 1819 had passed into a law. If he should he able to prove that the labouring classes connected with commerce and manufacture were employed, were tranquil and comfortably enjoying the honest fruits of their—industry, he hoped he might be allowed to argue, that in order to relieve those who might still suffer, it would not be wise in the House to tamper with the currency.

On the 13th of March 1817, the hon. and learned member for Winchelsea, at the close of a speech* on the state of the trade and manufactures of the country, had proposed certain resolutions for the adoption of the House, the first of which was, "That the trade and manufactures of the country are reduced to a state of such unexampled difficulty as demands the most serious attention of this House." In the course of that speech, the hon. and learned member had stated that which fully justified the resolution with which he had concluded. The hon. and learned gentleman had gone through the principal branches of the manufacturing interests: he had pointed to the unfavourable state of the revenue, and the discontents which prevailed; and had asked, if such was the unfortunate condition of the manufacturing classes whether it was possible that the interests of agriculture could flourish? To show the strict relation between the two interests, the hon. and learned gentleman had cited a passage from Mr. Child, which he would take the liberty of reading to the House—"Trade and land are knit each to other, and must wax and wane together; so that it shall never be well with land but trade must feel it, nor ill with trade but land must fall." Following the course which the hon. and learned gentleman had pursued on the occasion to which he alluded, and fortified by such authority, he should proceed to show the contrasted prosperity which the manufacturing classes at present enjoyed, and to convince the House, as he hoped, that such a state of things held out a better and surer prospect of relief, than any that could be afforded by a proposition to tamper with the currency of the country. The hon. and learned gentleman, to show the distress which prevailed in 1817, had referred to the state in which Leeds, Huddersfield, Wakefield, and Halifax then were, where he had found that not fewer than one-third of the whole population were idle, and not more than two men in nine had full employment. At the beginning of the present year, he (Mr. Secretary Peel) had thought it his duty to make inquiries on this subject, and he had accordingly * See First Series, vol. 35, p. 1004. addressed letters to all those local and municipal authorities which were best able to furnish the information he wanted, inquiring of them minute particulars respecting the state of the manufacturing interests in their particular districts. He should apply the result of those inquiries to the points urged, in 1817, by the hon. and learned gentleman; as such, he thought would be a fairer course than to mention them arbitrarily and as might best suit the purposes of his own argument. He would begin, therefore, with the great clothing districts, in which that hon. and learned gentleman had said, that, in 1817, from the calculations which had been furnished to him, there were only 757 in full, and 1,439 in partial work, while 1,164 were entirely idle. The account which he (Mr. Peel) had received from Huddersfield stated, that, at the commencement of the present year, the working classes were well employed, never better; that times were never so well with them, as spinners were receiving 25s. a week, and the weavers from 18s. to 21s. a week; that the whole population was in perfect tranquillity; that there was a great increase of buildings; and that the poor-rates, which in 1815 amounted to 10s. in the pound, had been brought down by the beginning of 1821, to 8s. 4d. and in 1822 had been reduced to 6s. 8d.—He had also made inquiries with respect to Sheffield; as that place, though not a clothing town, was nevertheless important for another branch of industry there carried on. In Sheffield he found, that the poor-rates, in 1820, had amounted to 36,000l.; in 1821, to 25,000l.; in 1822, to 19,000l.; and it was estimated that, in the current year, they would only be 13,000l.; being a reduction of nearly two-thirds in the whole amount since the year 1820. He had inquired also as to the state of new buildings there; because, if these continued to increase, and tenants were procured for them without difficulty, it was a good ground for believing, that the tenants of them were prosperous, and would furnish a valuable market for the agriculturalists. The number of consumers being increased, the relief to the growers was certain. To this inquiry the answer given was, that when the last census was taken, at which period the Bank Restriction act was in operation, there were 1,600 houses in Sheffield untenanted, while, in 1828, though buildings had increased to a considerable extent, scarcely a single house was unoccupied.—In Halifax, in answer to the same queries, he found that the labouring classes were employed and generally well off. The poor-rates had been greatly and gradually diminished, and a large increase had been made in the number of houses, which were let, at from seven to eight pounds a year.

So much for the clothing districts of the country. And thus far the House, he thought, would admit, that the confident assertions with which he had commenced his speech had been amply borne out by the facts he had stated. The hon. and learned member for Winchelsea had next selected Birmingham, as furnishing a fair specimen of the depressed state of the iron trade at that time. He had stated—and very truly no doubt—that, in 1817, out of a population of 84,000 souls, about 27,000 received parish relief; that out of the work people, one third were wholly out of employ, and the rest were at half-Work; and that the poor-rates had risen to between fifty and sixty thousand pounds a-year, a sum exceeding what the inhabitants paid to the income tax. Now, in answer to the inquiries which he (Mr. Secretary Peel) had made, he had the happiness to learn, that the whole body of the working classes were well employed; that there were no complaints, no appearance of disloyalty; and that in the single parish of Birmingham, which was only a small part of the town, 425 new houses had been recently erected. The poor-rates, which, in 1817, had amounted to between 50 and 60,000l., were in 1820, 52,000l.; in 1821, 47,000l.; in 1822, only 20,000l.; having been reduced, in the course of two years, more than 30,000l. Were not these facts, which proved that a favourable change had taken place in the state of our commerce and manufactures?

He came next to that most important district, which comprehended Manchester and its immediate neighbourhood; of which the hon. and learned member for Winchelsea had in his speech, in 1817, drawn a most melancholy picture; but he regretted to say, not more melancholy than correct. The hon. and learned gentleman had been at great pains to ascertain the average rate of wages per week of a thousand weavers, of all ages and classes. During the period of the restricted currency act, it appeared, from that calculation. That in 1800 the rate of wages was 13s. 3d. a week; that in 1802 it was 13s. 10d. a week; that in 1812 it had fallen to 6s. 4d.a week; in 1816 to 5s. 2d. a week; and that in January 1817, wages had reached the fearful point of depression, of 4s.d.; from which, when the usual expenses paid by the work people for the loom were deducted, there remained no more than 3s. 3d. to support human life for seven days. Well might the hon. and learned member have paused over this scene of misery, and felt impelled to demand, how it was possible to sustain existence in such circumstances! And well might he have been appalled when he received the painful answer, that "those miserable beings could barely purchase, with their hard and scanty earnings, half a pound of oatmeal daily, which, mixed with a little salt and water, constituted their whole food!" "These wretched creatures," said the hon. and learned gentleman, "are compelled first to part, for their sustenance, with all their trifling property, piecemeal, from the little furniture of their cottages to the very bedding and clothes that used to cover them from the weather. They struggle on with hunger, and go to sleep at night-fall, upon the calculation, that, if they worked an hour or two later, they might indeed earn three half-pence more, one of which must be paid for a candle, hut then the clear gain of a penny would be too dearly bought, and leave them less able to work the next day." Such was the condition of the cotton weaver in January 1817. He did not state these things for the purpose of exciting painful sensations, or of reviving unpleasant allusions. He only introduced the mention of that disastrous period, for the purpose of drawing a contrast between the state of the manufacturing interests at that period and at the present moment. He called upon the House to look on that picture, and on the one which he had now to present to their view. The cotton trade in Manchester was now carried on to a greater extent than had ever before been known. The profits of the masters, it was true, were not large; but all classes were comfortable. The number of buildings erecting there were greater than at any former time. The people were tranquil, and workmen, instead of receiving, as in 1816, 4s. 3d. a week, and in 1817, 3s. 3d. a week, were now paid as follows:—fine spinners—the House would pardon him for entering into these homely details—fine spinners at present earned 30s.. a week, and coarse spinners from 20s. to 28s. a week. Cotton weavers, who in 1817, earned 3s. 3d. a week, now got 10s. a week, and silk weavers 16s. a week. The poor-rates in Manchester amounted in 1820 to 27,000l.; in 1821, to 23,500l.; but in the three quarters of the year 1822, they had only amounted to 15,000l. In Bolton, there was likewise more employment than ever was known. In 36 townships no fewer than 100,000 men were employed. In two years the population in those townships had increased by 8,000 persons, and 850 new buildings had been erected. He would here close what he had to say respecting the state of the manufacturing interests of the country; and, looking at the happy change which bad taken place, he would ask any man, whether there was any thing in the present state of these interests, which rendered a revision of the currency necessary; and whether, without attributing to the bill of 1819 the merit of having caused this improvement, it would not be unadvisable and rash to make any alteration in it?

He now approached the subject of the agricultural interests. He admitted that these interests laboured under a grievous depression. But the question now before the House was, whether this state of things had been caused by the restoration of the metallic currency, and whether a revision of the measure of 1819, and an equitable adjustment of contracts, could remedy or relieve it? He could not admit that the bill of 1819 had had any considerable share in producing it. For a proof of this, he would refer to a speech of the hon. member for Essex, who now came forward with this motion. In 1816, that hon. member had moved for a committee on the distressed state of agriculture,* and in the course of his speech on that occasion, he had stated, that agricultural distress existed to an extent before unknown. He had also moved a resolution, which-stated the agricultural classes to be reduced to a situation of utter hopelessness. This was three years previous to the passing of the bill of 1819, and in the speech alluded to, the hon. member for Essex had said, that the land then actually paid no rent at all, and did not cover the expenses of its cultivation. If such was the stale of the agricultural interest three years before 1819, the distress felt by that class could not be fairly * See First Series, Vol. Xxxiii, p. 31. attributed to the bill of that year. He might also refer to another speech made, in 1816, by the hon. and learned member for Winchelsea,* for a most able exposition of the causes, altogether extrinsic of the return to a metallic currency, which had operated to the depression of the agricultural interest. He had there pointed out, most clearly and ably, how the extensive speculations in land, which had brought two millions of acres into cultivation which had never before been tilled, must have tended that way, as well as the consequent contraction of the circulating medium, from the withdrawal of the war expenditure. This was the description of the state of the country at a time when the bill of 1819 was not in operation; and, if such a state then existed without the operation of that bill, it was unfair to attribute the result of such a state to the effect of its operation. He would admit that part of the distress at that time might have arisen from an un limited paper currency, which the bill which he (Mr. Peel) had introduced, might not have altogether prevented, but which it had certainly contributed to mitigate. The greater part, however, of that distress arose from totally different causes than those which could have any connexion with the currency of the country. The principal of those causes was the unnatural impulse given to the produce of the land by the late war, and the consequent depression of its value at the return of peace. Another of those causes was the extent to which speculation in articles of agricultural produce, had been carried on with Surinam and the Dutch colonies, and the want of excitement to such speculation, when the stimulus for its continuance was withdrawn. The continental system which was carried on during the war and which threw such extensive commerce into the hands of this country, and the change consequent on the peace, were also among the causes which conspired to bring about a depression in agricultural produce, which had been raised during the war to a forced and un natural state. As a proof of the extraordinary and disproportionate encouragement which the cultivators of land had then experienced, he would state, that, in the space of ten years, 1,200 inclosures had been made, and two millions of acres had been brought into cultivation. * See First Series, vol. xxxiii, p. 1086. Much of this land, of course, would have remained uncultivated, but for the high price which provisions bore; and, as a considerable part of it was poor and barren soil, on the return of peace it was no wonder that these lands were not found as valuable as when they were first brought into cultivation. In the enumeration of these causes, the effect of the victories over Buonaparte should also not be omitted. At one period, such was the excitement created by the prospect of peace alone, that that flour, which had been so high as 100s. per sack, fell to 65s., and that wheat, which had been 120s. fell to 76s. the quarter There was, therefore, a variety of causes to which the agricultural distress might be attributed, besides the bill of 1819; and he would add, that no change, which a deviation from that Measure could now effect, could compensate for the risk which would be there by incurred.

With respect to the argument of the noble lord who had last spoken, that the standard value of an ounce of gold should have been fixed at 4l. 1s. instead of 3l. 17s. 10½d., he must remind the noble lord, that the difference which this alteration could have effected, would not have; been more than three or four per cent. How, then, could such an alteration have essentially benefitted the agricultural interests, seeing that the proprietors of land complained of a depreciation to the extent of 50 per cent? If so, he would ask, whether it was worth while, for the sake of three or four per cent, again to disturb the state of the currency; and whether such a change could restore the agriculturists to prosperity? Upon the whole, he would contend, that neither the manufacturing nor the agricultural classes had been injured by the return to a metallic currency.

He should now apply himself to the for other point which it was necessary for him to notice; namely, whether the general interests of the country demanded an interference with all existing contracts. He entertained the same opinion now which he had done in 1819, and thought, that the addition to the burthens of the country, which the measure of that year had occasioned, had been amply compensated by the advantages which had resulted from it. The noble lord opposite had asked, what objection could there possibly be to an equitable adjustment of contracts—a proposition which was in itself so fair and so just? His answer was, simply, that such a measure was impracticable. And he would; ask the noble lord, in return, how he would discover who were the-debtors and who were the creditors, when the individual were constantly changing? People must be called upon to produce their title deeds; for one man might have made his contract ten days ago, and another man ten years. Then, again, how were they to discover and arrange the different periods of depreciation at which the various sums were borrowed or engaged for? "But," said the noble lord opposite, "I borrowed money when the pound note was worth only 13s. and I am called upon to pay it back when it is worth 20s" True. But the noble lord seemed to forget, that there were periods at which the pound note was worth 15, 17, 19, and sometimes even more than 20s. How, then, was the particular sum to be fixed, at which the adjustment was to be made? What standard were they to take by which to measure the depreciation?

It appeared, then, on the shewing of the gentlemen opposite themselves, that the depression had been caused, not by the bill of 1819, but by the contraction of the currency, and other effects consequent upon the peace. Why, then, all the contracts entered into since that period ought, according to this doctrine, to be set aside, and placed upon the same; footing as those which had been entered into since the passing of the bill in 1819. The number of these contracts, the noble lord opposite said, were very few. But, how did the noble lord reconcile this with the opinion of his noble friend (the marquis of Titchfield), who had said, that during the last two years, there had been a complete revolution in property? Now, such a complete revolution of property could only have been effected by the means of numerous contracts. Their arguments, therefore, must pair off together, and be regarded like two equal numbers in an equation, which destroy each other, and go for nothing.—The hon. member for Essex, who last year proposed only to attack the contracts since 1819, now recommended the adjustment of every contract since 1793. Let the hon. member consider how the changes in the currency which had happened since that period must affect the money contracts of various individuals. It would not be fair that the settled contracts should not be adjusted as well as those which remained unsettled; for that would be withholding from the man who had faithfully performed his engagements, a relief which was extended to him who had failed in them. What confidence could the public place in the government or in parliament if such changes were attempted? The noble lord had stated one instance of ruin which had befallen a gentleman who had purchased land; but the noble lord had not stated what part of his friend's loss was to be attributed to improvident speculation, and what part to the change of the currency. If improvident speculations were to be the subject of equitable adjustment, why should the noble lord limit that adjustment to speculators in land? Why not extend it equally to every commodity? The year 1812 had been distinguished for bad speculations; and, if they were to go into all such cases, they would assuredly have enough to do. It really was a pretty summer amusement which the hon. member had cut out for them, when he had proposed to them, on the 11th of June, to revise all contracts that had taken place since 1793. The House having determined, once in the year 1821, and twice in the last session, that it would not enter upon any such inquiry, how could they now with propriety assent to it?—The noble marquis had stated on a former evening, that we were in such a state, from the effects of the measure of 1819, that we were unable to go to war. That position had not been proved; and he should be glad to learn, what a change in the currency or an equitable adjustment of contracts could do towards furnishing the means of prosecuting a war with success. He could not, indeed, understand the object of the motion, unless it was to increase the amount of the paper in circulation; and he never would consent to go into a committee, for the purpose of removing the check to that abuse which at present existed. From a view, therefore, of the improved condition of the manufacturing districts—from a confidence that that improved condition was intimately connected with the prosperity of the agricultural interests—from a conviction of the incompetency of that House to rectify and adjust the one ten-thousandth part of the contracts which had been entered into since the year 1793—in short, from all the reasons which had been explained, as well as from those which had been unexplained, he should feel it his duty to give an unqualified negative to the proposition of the hon. member for Essex.

Mr. Bennet

said, he could, not help noticing, in the first place, the observation of the right hon. Secretary, respecting the time which the present motion would occupy, if it were agreed to—an argument which, to his mind, was unworthy to be used. It was paltry and technical. If the affairs of the country demanded it, parliament would sit as a matter of course. He well recollected, that, when a great crime was to be perpetrated, and when fraud and perjury and malice and treachery conspired to ruin an individual, parliament passed a whole summer in investigating the most disgusting and disgraceful question ever submitted to its inquiry. It was surely, then, a little too much to hear from the very government who had so occupied the time of parliament, an objection raised, that it could not, from the state of the seasons, devote its attention to the most important question of justice and right that had ever been under its investigation.

He confessed he did not see his way very clearly out of the difficulties into which the rashness, of government and the obsequiousness of parliament had placed the country. But he should vote for the inquiry, that the extent of the injustice and wrong might be made manifest to the world; thus holding up to public odium the authors, be they whom they might, of the measures complained of, and preventing by that exposure a repetition of the same series of calamities, which began by plundering, the creditor, and which ended by performing the same depredation on the debtor., In his mind, the case was so clear, that a child could understand it. The prices of all the, necessaries and luxuries of life rose with the paper, and fell with the metallic currency. In February 1815, the issue of Banknotes of 5l. and upwards, amounted to 17,666,190l.; in the same month in 1816, they were as low as 16,490.9,990l. In 1818, they rose to 19,524,250l. From that period the amount gradually fell; and in 1823, it was 15,451,550l. The amount of country Bank-notes stamped in 1814, was 7,348.282l.; in 1818 it was 4,652,564l.; in 1818 it was 8,203,658l.; and in 1820 it was 2,746,944l. The same operation took place in the Bank of Scotland. One-third of the Scottish cir- culation was withdrawn in 1816; the notes were again issued and again withdrawn. Mr. Lloyd, in his evidence before the bullion committee, states, that the circulation of the country was at its highest in 1813 and 1814, but was reduced in 1816 and 1817 nearly one half. In the early part of 1816, the government took the alarm at the rapid depreciation of property which had followed the steps taken by the Bank to resume cash payments; and accordingly negotiations were entered into with the Bank, for an advance in the nature of a loan. The loan was of seven millions. The issue of the notes preceded the advance of prices; as well as the subsequent diminution of notes, in 1819, preceded the fall of prices. The country bankers were not slow in following the example of the Bank of England, and extended likewise their issue of paper. The result was, a general augmentation in the money value of all goods—not of one only, for a year of comparative scarcity, might have occasioned its rise, but of all commodities. Colonial produce, articles of home growth, timber, wool, cattle, even vegetables in Covent Garden market. All this rise lasted through 1818. In 1818, Mr. Tooke informed a committee of the House of Commons, that he found great difficulty in getting shipping. Wheat averaged 84s. a quarter; last year, 1822, 43s.. a quarter; Iron 13l. a ton; in 1822, 8l. a ton. Cotton in 1818, 1s. a pound, in 1822, 6d. a pound. Wool in 1818, 2s. 1d. a pound, in 1822, 1s. 1d. a pound. Thirty articles specified by Mr. Tooke have fallen, in 1822, from 40 to 50 per cent lower than they were in 1818. Mr. Marryat specified three ships, the value of which in 1818 was 14,600l. but which, in 1820, were sold at 7,750l. Thus it was evident, that the price of all commodities had followed the change in the circulating medium of the country. When that was reduced in 1816, the prices fell; when again it was augmented in 1817 and 1818, they rose; and when a reduction once more took place in 1818 and 1819, it was followed by that fall of the monied value of all commodities, the result of which was the beggary and ruin of all classes of the state, excepting those who lived upon fixed incomes, or whose property* arose from the taxes levied upon the people.

The right hon. Secretary had attempted to show, that the poor-rates had, in the last year, been diminished; and he thence argued, that the situation of the people had been improved. They were, it was true, lessened in amount, to what they were in 1817and 1818; but, let the House in contrast the real value of the money paid in 1813, when the circulation of paper was at its highest, with what it was in 1822, and it would be found, that the sum paid in the last year had greatly increased. In 1813, the poor-rates amounted to 6,294,584l. or in quarters of wheat in the money of that period 1,157,625. In 1822, the poor-rates were 6,300,000l. or in quarters of wheat 2,400,000. And if the crimes committed by the people bore any connexion with their poverty or wealth, comfort or misery, it would be seen, that in the latter year double the number of persona had been convicted than in 1813.

The hon. member said, he begged not to be misunderstood. He was no friend to a paper currency. It was necessary to take steps to return to the old metal standard; but it was equally so to discover what was the relative value of the two monies—the one resting on a metallic, the other on a paper foundation. That estimate ought to have been formed by a laborious, extensive, accurate, investigation of the different monied prices of the two descriptions of currency. Upon a scale So formed, the Mint ought to have opened and the burthen spread over the whole community. But the government resisted all investigation, opposed all inquiry, or when they granted it, as in the case of the Agricultural question, they took care to confuse, perplex, and mystify the whole question; and into that cause alone, namely the currency, which of itself had shaken and convulsed the country to its foundation, no inquiry at all was undertaken—it was not even mentioned. In 1816, a select committee was moved for by the late Mr. Horner, "to inquire into the expediency of restoring the Cash payments of the Bank, and the safest and most advantageous means of effecting it."* The right how. gentleman opposite (Mr. Huskisson), now so learned and positive upon the subject opposed it, and the number who divided were Ayes 73, Noes 146. In May 1818, his right hon. friend (Mr. Tierney) had made a motion somewhat similar, which was, as usual, negatived, Ayes 99, Noes 164. So that whatever calamity has be- * See First; Series; vol. xxxiv, p. 139. fallen the country, all the ruin, beggary, and want, which have been the lot of thousands, have been caused by the confidence which the parliament had thought fit to give to the government, who rushed headlong down the precipice, refusing to listen to reason, to be informed, or to inquire. It was to this mischievous principle of confidence in any government, that all the calamities connected with the question of currency were to be traced. The House of Commons confided in Mr. Pitt and plundered the public creditor—they confided in the statements of the present government, and had plundered not only the public debtor, but had confiscated, to the benefit of the creditor, the property of all the private debtors of the kingdom. Nor was this all. By the act in question, the amount of public taxes had been added to, from 40 to 50 per cent; and at the present moment, notwithstanding the repeal of so many taxes, more money was raised from the subject than at the most expensive period of the late war. Now we, the public and private debtors, demand justice. It is nothing to us, to say, because, from 1798 to 1814, the public creditor was a loser, that therefore we the debtors are to be plundered in our turn from 1812 to 1823. If we had indeed been the gainers during that period, and that those who made the profit were called upon to refund, no one would object. But that was not the case; and never was a more crying and iniquitous act of pillage and robbery committed, than that which was now going on. That the property of all that vast class of persons who having contracted debts, bought estates, made settlements, borrowed on mortgages, embarked in the endless range of commercial and landed speculation, which in this country has taken place for nearly a quarter of a century in one species of currency, should now be called upon to compleat those engagements in another, was a robbery and confiscation of property hitherto unknown. It was an act without a parallel. It had nothing human in it, except its presumption. It resembled more a judgment of Providence, than an act of feeble and fallible man.

This, then, was now the state of England. And never did any government, inutile wantonness of its power, or any conqueror from thirst of gain, or plunder, or hatred, or revenge, ever cause similar calamities to fall upon such vast bodies of mankind! This was a blow which fell unawares upon the people. They Knew not how in chance it came. It crushed all alike. But, if the calamity was great here, it was greater in Ireland. If ever country had been beggared, robbed, and stripped by a legal enactment, it was that misgoverned and ill-fated country. He was quite sure, that to the depreciation of the currency in the first instance, and to its extraordinary elevation in the second, were to be ascribed, in a great degree, the distress and misery to which that unfortunate country was reduced [hear!]. This was the real cause to which they ought to ascribe the outrage and disorder which existed in Ireland. It was contrary to the principles of nature to suppose that a whole population were to remain in a state of distress and starvation, while their country produced an abundance, of the nay, more than an abundance, of the necessaries of life, and which were to be purchased at a cheap and easy, rate. This, however, was the lamentable situation of the people of Ireland [some dissent was here expressed by a member on the ministerial side of the Housed]. The hon. member might shake his head if he pleased, but he (Mr. B.) was in a situation too fully to establish the truth of his statement. By the report which had been laid on their table, it appeared, that distresses for rent had taken place to an alarming degree. In addition to this, it had been stated, that in one district 163 persons had been turned out, and their habitations pulled down [hear, hear!]. Now, he called upon the House to consider whether this was a state of things which could be remedied by the Insurrection act, or any other coercive measure which parliament could devise? He conceived that the situation of Ireland was unparalleled in the rest of Europe. One half of the country was let on leases for lives at low rents, with three or four subtenants; the last, the peasant with his potatoe ground.

The hon. member here entered into a detail of the manner in which the demand for old rents with the new prices, or paper rents with metallic payments, had been the cause of the seizure of all thee, property belonging to the smaller cultivators in Ireland. The famine and misery of last year were caused, he said, not only by deficiency of the potatoe crop, but by the fall of prices. The stock of peasantry was seized for rent to such an extent, that there were no prices for them—4s. for a cow, 1s. 3d. for a sheep, wheat 5s. per bushel, potatoes 1s. 6d. per hundred weight; and yet in that very town, all in it and around were perishing for want. There was famine without a dearth; people perishing of hunger, and no deficiency of food; farmers destroyed for want of a market; people starved for want of the means of purchase. It was a humbug to say, that in England the calamity we now suffered had been caused by over-production, and in Ireland, that the same distress was caused by a dearth. The evil had one common source, namely, engagements, contracts, debts, made in one currency, payments called for and enforced in another.

Now, the question submitted to them that night was—granted the distress (and who could deny its existence?)—what was parliament to do? "Let things remain as they are," say the government, "do nothing, let the agriculturists and all those who live from the produce of land abate the storm as they may—it is their turn to be robbed now—the distress though great, will pass away," He (Mr. Bennet) would not adopt that course. The wealth and property of the country might Stand the shock; but, if the present prices were to continue—and, with the metallic currency, he saw no means of raising them permanently—that great body of men, called the agricultural interest, were robbed of half their property, and a system of confiscation was legalized, unparalleled in the history of the world. For himself, he would be no party to that transaction. He called for inquiry, to see if an equitable adjustment might not take place, and the burthen be more fairly, distributed; and he demanded the inquiry from the wisdom and justice of parliament.

Mr. Huskisson

said, he felt it necessary to trouble the House with a few words, in defence of the course which he had taken upon this subject, during the many discussions which it had undergone in former sessions. He could not help observing, in the, outset, that he had entertained a wish and a hope, that the hon. member for: Essex, following the example of the hon. baronet, the member for Somersetshire (sir T. Lethbridge), and yielding to the reasons which had swayed that hon. baronet, would have withdrawn his motion, upon finding the altered state of the interests, whose cause it was intended more immediately to support; and he was the more impressed with that wish and that hope, from the knowledge, that we had been acting for an additional twelvemonths under a restored currency, and from a conviction resulting from that knowledge, that any attempt to retrace our steps must be productive of greatly multiplied, if not endless difficulties. He assured the House that he should not have trespassed upon their attention at that late hour, were it not that he had been so frequently and so pointedly alluded to by several hon. members; among whom was the hon. member for the county of Norfolk. The noble lord (the marquis of Titchfield) had observed, that unless inquiry was entered into and relief afforded, the aristocracy of the country would inevitably be ruined, torn from their paternal estates, and reduced to seek a miserable existence in a foreign land. Such was the highly-coloured picture drawn by his noble friend; but he felt happy in being able to state, that it was not only highly-coloured, but altogether and entirely overdrawn. Another ground which had been adduced by his noble friend to shew the necessity of inquiry was, that, so long as the present state of the currency continued, so long should we continue to be so crippled as to be unable to go to war. Now, if he could be made to believe, that there was any the slightest foundation for the fears of his noble friend, the evil was of so grave a nature, that he should be prepared to seek out a remedy at whatever risk.—Another topic which had been introduced was, the universal distress which existed throughout all classes of the country. And, as a proof of this universal distress, the hon. member for Shrewsbury, who had just sat down, had adduced the state of the poor-rates. He had compared the sums paid for these rates in 1813 with the sums paid in the year 1823, and had argued that, by the increase in the value of money, the rate was at present double what it was at the former period. But the hon. member should recollect, that there had been an increase in our population since the year 1813 to the extent of two millions: and that therefore it ought not to be matter of surprise if the poor-rates should have been augmented. He, however, was at issue with the hon. member as to the accuracy of his calculations on this head, although he Would not now stop to discuss it. But, supposing the hon. member to be correct, was not the increase in the value of money to which he had alluded, applicable also to rents? The hon. member for Shrewsbury had also asked, whether it was natural to suppose that the people of Ireland should starve in the midst of abundance? He answered, no. But he answered also, that the distresses of the Irish population last year had been solely attributable to the failure of the potatoe-crop, the food upon which the lower classes of the people of that country chiefly subsisted. In proof of the correctness of his argument, he had only to state, that, in the present year, there was no difficulty in that country of maintaining its population, although the currency was now the same as it was at the period when the hon. member asserted the distress to be attributable to that cause.

It had been urged, that every attempt at inquiry into the depreciation of the currency had been resisted by the government of the day. But, how was such an inquiry to be set about? Before they entered upon it, they must first agree as to what was the standard by which this depreciation was to be measured; and next would come the inquiry, as to the period at which the depreciation commenced, and the degree to which it extended. If he understood the nature of depreciation in a gold currency, it meant a reduction in the weight and fineness of the metal. It had been said, that the depreciation commenced in the year 1793. But what ground was there for that assertion? Certainly none, with reference to the weight and fineness of the metal. From 1793 to 1797 scarcely any alteration had taken place; nor indeed up to 1808. But from 1808 to 1814 he admitted that there bad been a considerable departure from that standard.—And here he came to the argument of the hon. member for Norfolk, who had stated, that his standard of value was the price of corn. This, however, he would contend, was a fluctuating and uncertain standard, and could not be depended upon. The hon. member for Norfolk had referred to some opinions which he, (Mr. H.) had given, in 1815, in which that hon. member supposed there was some inconsistency with those which he (Mr. H.) now maintained, as to the price at which corn could be grown in this country; but he would contend, that the experience of the last two years, during which it was urged, that the farmers had not had a remunerating price, formed no argument to impeach the consistency of his opinion. He still maintained that corn could not now be grown in this country so cheap as it had been in the year 1790.

The right hon. gentleman next adverted to what had fallen from the noble marquis opposite, with respect to landholders and land-owners. It had been said, that unless relief was granted, the land-owners must become exiles, and the land must change masters. He, however, felt much relieved at hearing it stated—though as a great misfortune—that the rents of land had fallen, within a few years, from 25 to 30 per cent; because he recollected that the greater part if not the whole of the lands, which had so fallen, had been previously raised to double their former rents. And this circumstance had relieved his mind from the dread of seeing the whole of the present race of landlords swept away; for he was persuaded, that persons possessing estates without encumbrances, would be, notwithstanding the reduction which had taken place, in a better condition, than persons who had employed their capital in other ways. He admitted, that great injury wad sustained by those landed proprietors whose properties were burthened by acts over which they had no control; and also by persons who had mortgaged one estate in order to purchase another. But, for their misfortunes there seemed to be no remedy. The parties so situated were bound to abide the consequences of such a speculation.

Adverting to the charge of inconsistency which had been made against him, he contended, that there had been no inconsistency in his conduct. He had formerly advocated certain measures; not because he conceived them the best which could be adopted, but because he thought them preferable to others then existing. Suppose a man had, during the French revolution, expressed a wish to see a military despotism established in preference to the lawless institutions then existing, would it be fair to turn round upon that man, when he objected to the military despotism of Napoleon, and say, "Why do you find fault? This is the very kind of government which you supported upon a former occasion."—But, it was most absurd to suppose that the lands of this country could become barren under the circumstances which had been stated by his noble friend.

The Marquis of Titchfield

denied, that he had made any such statement.

Mr. Huskisson

said, he had certainly understood his noble friend to have stated, that all rents would disappear. His noble friend had undoubtedly dwelt upon the impoverishment of the aristocracy; but, it was impossible to suppose that the in-cumbrances could absorb all the rental of the nobility and gentry of the country. His noble friend did not appear very sanguine as to the practicability of an equitable adjustment. He (Mr. H.) would not fatigue the House by going into any detail, to show the utter impracticability of such an adjustment. Was there a man living who could imagine for a moment, that the complicated transactions of thirty years were capable of undergoing such an adjustment? The House had heard a little the other evening, about the court of Chancery. But, if the principle of an equitable adjustment were to be acted upon, it would be necessary to have more courts of Chancery throughout the kingdom than public-houses; and even then, it would be impossible to dispose of all the cases in the space of thirty years. But, his noble friend, abandoning the notion of an equitable adjustment, had spoken of reducing the currency, as if that would be a measure of relief. His noble friend did not seem to be aware, that the effect of such a course would be to throw things into that state of confusion which he was most anxious to avoid; and besides being in principle a violation of all right, that it would ruin all credit and confidence. There was now a rise in the value of the commodities of the country. But, if the principle of the gentlemen opposite were to be acted on, there ought to be a standing committee of that House, to regulate the fluctuations and variations of prices. The hon. member for Taunton had stated, that the fall in the value of the precious metals was not only affected by banking operations in our own country, but by the paper issues of America, Austria, Denmark, and Russia. So that if the principle of the hon. member for Essex were once admitted, it followed, that we were at the mercy of those powers, so far as regarded our standard of value. America had only to make an issue of paper, by which the value of money would be lowered, and then we must have a committee, in order to fix what the value of money was. This was contrary to every principle laid down by the late lord Liverpool, and every other writer on the subject: it was contrary to every statute passed since the time of Elizabeth, when it was recognized that the standard of a country once fixed ought to be immutable; and that standard did not, as he had been taught, consist Of a comparison of one thing with another, but in the quantity and fineness of the coin of the country.—It was a fallacy to say, that the pay of the army arid navy was increased in consequence of the depreciation of money. He had never heard that such was the principle on which the advance had been made; for it was made in the very first year of the Bank Restriction act. He was disposed to agree with his noble friend, that the substitution of silver for gold as a standard might, and perhaps ought to have taken place in 1819. As to the hon. member for Norfolk's quotation from Mr. Locke, the principle advanced by that authority, that the standard being once fixed ought never to be altered, was a just one; but it was a principle which parliament had observed in all its enactments upon that subject.

Notwithstanding all that had been said of the act of 1819, which was described as so great a calamity, his right hon. friend (Mr. Peel) had clearly proved, that it had had nothing whatever to do with the recent depression of prices; for which many causes might be assigned; but that was certainly not among the number. So far from producing alterations, it had, if he might use the expression, shut the door against future alteration. It was true, a depression had taken place, but he was satisfied the country had witnessed the extent of it. A rise in the price of corn was acknowledged to have taken place. There was also a rise in the article of meat, timber, bark, and every article connected with agriculture. Prices were, in tact, adjusting themselves.—His noble friend had charged him with inconsistency in alluding to the time of king William. The charge he denied. There was at that time a clipped currency. Its principle and effects had been similar to the depreciation in our day. There was at that time the same impatience, the same anxiety for relief; but there was sufficient wisdom and firmness, to resist measures similar to the one now proposed. It might be said, that the taxes had been then paid in the clipped money. But so they were with us in the depreciated currency. It was a great mistake to suppose that the country was crippled and unabled to put forth her energies in case of war. He would maintain, that there were greater resources in the taxes which had been taken off since the war, than there were in all Europe beside. When his noble friend urged that the country was in a condition to meet the enemy, if her honour were insulted, and her rights invaded, he would answer, that five-and-twenty millions of taxe3 had been remitted, and that the people of England would cheerfully submit to their re-imposition, whenever our interest or our honour might render it expedient. The debate on the present occasion had been a long one. He did not regret its protraction. The hon. members opposite had, in the course of their speeches, thrown new lights upon the subject. They had, if he might use the expression, given a new burner to the beacon, to warn the parliament of England of the dangers of altering their currency. If the House were to consent to go into a committee, the notion would become prevalent, that the currency of the country was again to be tampered with; and to prevent any such supposition would be one reason among many, which would induce him to resist the present ill-timed motion.

Mr. Monck

rose amid cries of "question." He contended that the right hon. gentleman who had just sat down was mistaken in measuring the depreciation by gold as compared with paper; since it was allowed that gold itself had varied materially, and was at one time reduced so low, as to command only one quarter of wheat for one ounce of gold; whereas, in all other times, one ounce of gold had commanded two quarters of wheat.

Mr. Attwood

said, that the justice of the measures proposed by the present motion, and the necessity for their adoption, had been already explained with so much more weight, and greater ability, than he could lay claim to, that he should endeavour to occupy the attention of the House but shortly, and should confine his observations to those topics on which the question mainly depended. He had heard no adequate reply given, nor, as he thought, even attempted to be given, to the principal arguments adduced in support of the motion. The right hon. gentleman who spoke last appeared to him to admit the most material pro- positions on which the motion rested; and the right hon. Secretary and others by whom it had been opposed, had occupied themselves with details and statements, a great part of which were little material, whether admitted or not. When, indeed, the right hon. Secretary communicated to the House what was the present state of his own mind on these subjects, and informed them that he still continued to hold now, the same opinions which he had maintained in 1819; that information was perhaps to be looked on as important, regarding, as it did, an individual who had hitherto supported tenets so-various, who, having supported at one time the preposterous resolutions of 1811, had afterwards taken a leading part in the act of 1819. His opinions having undergone such changes, it might certainly be desirable for the House to know what particular opinion he now entertained and meant to stand upon, though it would be somewhat too much to expect that any authority would be ascribed to it.

But he should proceed to call to the consideration of the House, that the principal and the indisputable grounds, on which the present motion, and the necessity of measures founded on it, rested, were these; that they had effected great and extensive changes in the value of their monied standard; and that those changes had been accompanied With no corrective or remedial measures; nothing calculated, or tending, to redress the wrong, disorder, and calamity, which such changes necessarily carried into all the pecuniary contracts of individuals, and into all the debts and engagements of the State. The depreciation of the late war, it was to be considered, and never to be lost sight of in discussing this question, was a depreciation established by law. The depreciated money of that time, was then as fully and effectively the legal standard money of the realm, as their present money was now a legal standard; or as the money of the kingdom had been at any time a legal standard of value. He apprehended that no one would be disposed to dispute, that a law which went to change the value of a standard money legally established, and in universal use, and which law did not provide for an equivalent conversion of debts and contracts, must have, of necessity, arisen from one of these two causes: it must either have been adopted in ignorance, with a total misunderstanding of its real character; as was in reality the case with respect to the act of 1819, which had for its object merely to alter the character of money and not its value; it must have been founded on an error of that kind, or have had otherwise its origin in direct and purposed injustice; and in neither case was a standard so adopted to be now considered, with all the evils it carried with it, and was still working, as permanently established. On that essential part of the subject, then, the fact that extensive alterations in the value of money had been in reality effected, he called on the House to consider that no material difference of opinion did, after all, exist on that head. Questions of the value of money depended on principles considered by many to be somewhat obscure. He should not enter into any discussion of that kind, but should content himself with shewing, that on this there did not exist either in that House or out of it, amongst those whose attention had been directed to the subject, any difference of judgment sufficiently material to affect the question at issue.

And first he should state what was the opinion of the right honourable President of the Board of Trade, an individual, who, as lie had been one of the earliest to establish the fact of the existence of depreciation during the war; so he was one of those who had gone the furthest in his estimate of the extent to which alterations in the value of money had been carried. The estimate of the right hon. gentleman to which he should refer, would be found in a speech delivered in the lost session of parliament; and which, as it had been printed and circulated by himself, might be presumed to contain his considered and advised opinions. In that pamphlet, the advance which had taken place in the price of agricultural produce during the war, was examined and ascribed to three causes. One of these was, depreciation in the value of money; another was, what in the peculiar system of the right hon. gentleman, was denominated a diminution in the value of money, as distinguished from depreciation; both of those causes of high prices springing out of the Restriction act, and both, of necessity, ceasing with it. But there still remained, according to this system, a third cause of high prices, and that; as speculation; not, as it appeared, that ordinary description of speculation which had existed in former times, before the Restriction act was known; which would exist still, when it had ceased; and which would affect and enhance prices occasionally in future, as it had formerly affected prices; but a peculiar and an excessive speculation brought into action by the abundance of money, which the Restriction act had thrown into circulation. Now, all these three causes of the high prices of the war had their origin in the act of 1797; they must all of them of necessity cease to operate, in consequence of the act of 1819: they were calculated to operate, not on the price of agricultural produce exclusively or particularly, but alike on the prices of every description of property. The advance of monied prices thus occasioned must therefore be general, and must be taken to be a reduction in the value of money, to an equal extent; and of that extent the advance in agricultural produce would be a measure. This, then, must be taken as the estimate of the right hon. President of the Board of Trade of the extent to which their money had been altered in value, first reduced, and then enhanced.

He was well aware that the right hon. gentleman had maintained, that it was not to this full extent that injustice was done; that it was only as far as prices had been raised by what he distinguished as a depreciation of money; that it was only thus far, that those who suffered in their contracts by the rise and fall of prices, or in other words, by the debased and increased value of money, were unjustly injured; and that, as far as men suffered in their contracts through diminution of the value of money, and through its alteration from speculation, they had no just occasion of complaint or ground of redress. But even on that branch of the subject, not that on which he was at present occupied, he would then remark, that the real question was—Did the government, having abandoned the old standard, substitute a cheaper money in its place, and to what extent did it become cheaper? Did the government form its engagements still existing in this cheap money? Did they in this cheap money contract debts and impose taxes? Did they grant pensions in this debased money, and were those pensions proportioned to its value? Did they adjust to this cheap money their own salaries? He did not speak of the salaries of those who occupied the most important and conspicuous offices, he well knew that in those offices salaries had not been increased; avarice was rarely the failing of those who grasped at those offices; but he spoke of the salaries generally of the servants of government in all departments. All these had been raised and adjusted to the cheap value of money. Did the right hon. President of the Board of Trade evince then any of that alarm respecting equitable adjustment, which now appeared to have taken possession of his mind to so great a degree, as that he seemed to consider that something of danger or reproach lurked in the very term? Nothing of this ap-appeared. None of these refined distinctions, between depreciation, diminution, and speculation, were then brought forward to appease the claims of those, who, in consequence of the advance of prices, demanded increased pay. The work of equitable adjustment, whilst the servants of government could gain by equitable adjustment, never ceased: it was in perpetual operation. Fresh issues of money were scarcely thrown from time to time into circulation, the price of wheat had scarcely advanced in Mark Lane, before demands were heard of in that House, to increase some salary and adjust to this new standard the pay of some or other of the servants of the State. Not a word was then heard of those subtle arguments, by which a part only of the advance of prices was referred to depreciation, and the rest to diminution and depreciation. To the full extent of the advance, of prices however occasioned, and of the fall in the value of money however denominated, were pay and pension, advanced or fixed. To so great an extent did this passion, for equitable adjustment then proceed, that, as it had appeared by papers presented in the last session, a return had been made to government at one time, of the price of the quartern loaf at no less a distance than in the empire of the Brazils, in order that the pay of some minister or other might be advanced, and receive its equitable adjustment on the basis, of that standard; and he well remembered that he had taken an opportunity to express his humble desire, that when, the reign of paper money should cease in that new empire, and the quartern loaf again fall to its old rate, this salary might be reduced also, as justice required, and, receive its re-adjustment. And, whilst the government was thus occupied in apportion- ing taxes, expenses, and engagements, to the cheap money which it had introduced; what were, during this period, the transactions of the people? Did they not form their contracts in this cheap money? Was it not in this cheap money that they fixed rents, and leases, and contracted debts? If all this had been denied, and the government under such circumstances, had raised the value of money again, and without any regard to these debts, contracts, taxes, pensions, and salaries; then were they at that moment collecting taxes which had never been "by any rightful law imposed; they were distributing those taxes without right, to those who were receiving them without justice; to the full extent to which the alterations however denominated in the value of money had gone, had they introduced fraud, injustice, and ruin, into every description of pecuniary contract.

But, to return to the question, as to what the extent was, to which these alterations had been carried, as admitted by all parties. The opinions advanced by the hon. member for Portarlington on this head, however little reconcileable with many of his statements that night, would be found to differ but little from that on which he had just remarked. When that hon. member had spoken of a depreciation of 3½ per cent, and of 4 and 5—and then of an alteration of 10 per cent; it was to be remembered, that he was then speaking of the depreciation of a particular year, or rather of a particular month; and it would be doing injustice to his arguments, to assume, that he had given these calculations as estimates of the depreciation generally, which had taken place. His estimate of that general depreciation he had given elsewhere in different terms. The depreciation of the war he had stated, was, beyond the calculations now referred to, carried to a great and a fearful extent [Mr. Ricardo signified that he assented to this]; and of course it followed then, that tire return from such depreciation must be at least equally great, and equally fearful. It was true, the hon. member still continued maintain, that the extent of depreciation was to be measured and was limited by, the advance which had taken place from one period to another in the price of bullion; and that advance had been at one time between 30 and 40 per cent but his statements were full of contradiction on that head, of verbal and useless distinctions; and he had never attempted to show, though frequently called on to do so, why the precious metals were to be taken as a better criterion than any other metals, of the value of a paper money into which they were not exchangeable. The precious metals were the actual standard, said the hon. member, and therefore as far as the paper money fell below those metals, so far it was depreciated. They were no standard: their value had been altered by the very circumstance of their having been disused as a standard. But if that preposterous position were to be admitted, that the varying price of bullion measured the late depreciation of paper; then he would ask, how was the price of bullion itself to be ascertained, and where were they to be referred to for it? In the tables collected by the industry of the committees of 1819, several periods during the war occurred, in which, for successive years, no price whatever for gold bullion was to be found: and one period occurred of nearly four years, in which it would appear that gold bullion had neither been bought or sold: for no price of it was set down. The demand for coinage had ceased. The trifling demands of the gilder and the jeweller were more than supplied by coin illicitly melted. There existed no market for bullion. The price was restrained by law. Those who possessed coin which they wished to dispose of, were subjected to penalties, scarcely less severe than those which restrained forgery and false coinage, if they sold it at a higher than a certain rate. And it was this commodity, thus situated, which they were desired to take as a measure of the general advance of all other commodities and of the value of money.

It had been stated from other quarters, that when they could not find a price for bullion they were to resort to the tables of foreign Exchanges for a measure of depreciation; but he shewed, that when the money of any country was of a description which possessed no value in other countries, and which consequently did not admit of exportation that of the value of such money, the varying rate of the exchange with other countries, was no measure. He referred, in proof of that position, to the depreciation of the assignats of France, and shewed that the rate of the depreciation of that money in no degree corresponded with the tables of the rate of exchange between England and France given in the reports of the committees of 1819. Either, therefore, it must be admitted, that they possessed no accurate tables, to which they could refer, of the rates of exchange, or those rates did not afford a measure of the depreciation of paper money. He stated, that the opinion of the price of bullion being a criterion of depreciation might in the same manner be shown to be false, by the evidence of experience. In proof of that he referred to the depreciation in king William's time which depreciation having been caused by an illegal clipping of the coin, was capable of being determined, as to its extent beyond dispute, by the weight of the coin in the scale; and at that time the price of bullion had not corresponded with the depreciation of the money. The coin was depreciated nearly one half, but the guinea had risen no higher than to 30s., and silver no more than to.6s. 5d. an ounce. In the work of the late Lord Liverpool, the depreciation was estimated at more than SO per cent., the advance in gold bullion at 40 per cent., and in silver bullion at 25 per cent.; so that these metals, each of which was as perfect a criterion as the other, not only did not give a true estimate of depreciation, but each gave a different estimate. In the late depreciation, a difference between the advance of gold, and that of silver bullion, would frequently be observed to have taken place; and these variations he challenged the hon. member for Portarlington to attempt to reconcile, with the truth of his theory. He stated further, that though the bullion committee of 1810 had in their report considered the price of bullion as the measure of depreciation; yet Mr. Horner, the reputed author of it, had subsequently declared that opinion to be erroneous. Bullion, according to his subsequent views of the subject, rose or fell, in an inconvertible paper, from the same causes as any other commodity advanced or declined; and was capable of affording no better a criterion than any other commodity of the value of the paper: and it followed from the other arguments and statements of that gentleman, that in his views the depreciation of money was to be taken from the price of agricultural produce, that of bread corn, which that gentleman denominated the paramount standard of all value.

He would call, then, the attention of the House, to the opinion of another individual, and to one only, respecting the extent to which the late alterations in the value of money had been carried; and that was, the opinion of Mr. Malthus, undoubtedly the greatest authority in this country, or in Europe, in all questions connected with political economy, for he had given to that science, if science it were to be called, in his treattise on population, the only extension or improvement it had received since the writings of Adam Smith. The opinion of Mr. Malthus then was, that the rate of alterations in the value of money was to be taken from the average price of agricultural produce, and from the wages of labour and the general price of commodities; so far had he considered these the fit measures of the value of money, that he accounted it would operate unjustly if the national debt were not adjusted by those measures, as by a standard, under the circumstances in which the country was placed at the close of the late war. He would read to the House the words in which Mr. Malthus had expressed this opinion. It was taken from a work published in 1815, during the depression of prices; in fact produced by the temporary attempt then made to return to the old standard—"If the price of corn were now to fall to 50s. a quarter, and labour and other commodities nearly in proportion"—this was written in 18l5, when the fall, now settled and permanent, was first experienced—"there can be no doubt that the stock-holder would be benefitted unfairly, at the expense of the industrious classes of society, and consequently at the expense of the wealth and prosperity of the whole country. During the twenty years beginning with 1794 and ending with 1813 the average price of British corn per quarter was about 83s.; during the ten years ending with 1813, 92s., and during the last five years of the twenty, 108s. In the course of these twenty years, government borrowed near five hundred millions of real capital, for which, on a rough average, exclusive of the sinking-fund, it engaged to pay about5 percent. But if corn shall fall to 50s. a quarter, and other commodities in proportion, instead of an interest of about 5 per cent, the government would really pay an interest of 7, 8, 9, and for the last two hundred millions, 10 per cent."—that is, the government would have to pay for this last 200 millions double the annuity which they had, in reality, and virtually, contracted to pay—"To this extraordinary generosity towards the stock-holders," (continues Mr. Malthus) "I should be disposed to make no kind of objection, if it were not necessary to consider by whom it is to be paid; and a moment's reflection will shew us, that it can only be paid by the industrious classes of society, and the landlords; that is, by all those whose nominal incomes will vary with the variations in the measure of value. The nominal revenues of this part of the society, compared with the average of the last five years, will be diminished one half, and out of this nominally-reduced income, they will have to pay the same nominal amount of taxation.—The interest and charges of the national debt, including the sinking fund, are now little short of forty millions a year (they are now forty-five or forty-six millions), and these forty millions, if we completely succeed in the reduction of the price of corn and labour, are to be paid in future from a revenue about half the nominal value of the national income in 1813.—If we consider with what an increased weight the taxes on teat-sugar, malt leather, soap, candles, &c. &c. would, in this case, bear on the labouring classes of society,"—this writer did not agree with the right hon Secretary who imagined that the labouring classes were to receive benefit from the effects of his bill—"and what proportion of their income all the active, industrious middle orders of the state, as well as the higher orders, must pay in assessed taxes, and the various articles of the customs and excise, the pressure will appear to be absolutely intolerable. Nor would even the ad valorem taxes afford any real relief. The annual forty millions must, at all events, be paid; and if some taxes fail, others must be imposed that will be more productive.—These are considerations, sufficient to alarm even the stock-holders themselves. Indeed, if the measure of value were really to fall as we have supposed, there is great reason to fear that the country would be absolutely unable to continue the payment of the present interest of the national debt. And even if the price of corn be kept up by restrictions to 80s. a quarter, it is certain that the whole of the loans made during the war just terminated, will, on an average, be paid at an interest very much higher than they were contracted for, which increased interest can, of course, on be furnished by the industrious classes of society." These were the opinions of Mr. Malthus, given at the commencement of that fall of monied prices, of that increase in the value of money, which we have since permanently established by the act of 1819. Not according to the price of bullion, but by the price of commodities and labour generally; but more particularly by the price of agricultural produce, is the real alteration in the value of money, however occasioned, according to this writer to be measured; these were to be taken as the measure of it; and for the causes of the ruinous advance of prices, and subsequent more ruinous decline, those destructive alterations in the value of money; that they had all been effected by measures of the government, would be found clearly deducible from and admitted in, that passage of the printed speech of the right hon. president of the Board of Trade, on which he had already remarked, and to which he would again refer. "But even diminution in the value of money," said the right hon. gentleman, "and afterwards depreciation superadded do not afford a just measure of the actual rise of prices, and especially of the rent of land in this country during the war. To these causes must be added the effect of excessive speculation. It is true that this excessive speculation had its foundation in the diminishing value of money: but when the farmer had saved a few thousand pounds, was it not natural that he should wish to lay out his capital in the purchase of land, that land upon which he had realized an independence, and of which the rent and fee simple had at least doubled within his recollection? For the same reason, was it not natural that the landlord, &c. &c.—And what was the state of the money market whilst all this speculation was going on? With depreciation guaranteed by law, the country banks had every facility to lend; the farmer, the landowner, the jobber, every facility to borrow" The whole of these changes, then, were the operations of government. They established depreciation by law; and with it diminution and speculation, which were in fact nothing more than a further depreciation," They destroyed all these by another law, regardless of the fortunes which they confiscated. "With depreciation," said the right hon. gentleman, "established by law," it was not, then, a depreciation, similar in all its essential characters, to the depreciation in the time of king William, as he had told them on another occasion. The depreciation of king William was in violation of all law. It was a criminal and illegal clipping of the coin. But, by what law, he would ask the right hon. gentleman, was depreciation guaranteed, that did not equally guarantee diminution and speculation? They rested all on the same basis. They were equally guaranteed by law, and annulled by law. It was in a strain somewhat extraordinary, for the occasion, in which the right hon. gentleman proceeded;—"Can we wonder at the extent of the revulsion"—"If we were unable to rescue many of the victims." What single measure had been adopted or proposed, having any such object in view? Except by the present motion, and the motion which his hon. friend who proposed it had brought forward on other occasions, no step had been taken by government or by parliament, to protect the extensive interests which had been sacrificed by a revulsion of which they were the authors. No government had ever acted under circumstances of so great moment, with so total and culpable a neglect of its duties. When the French government had latterly altered their money, to the extent of five per cent only, they made a corresponding adjustment of all debts. When America, in her contest for independence, depreciated her money, the statesmen of that country adopted the most extensive, and the strongest precautions to guard against the evils of so great a change. They suffered none of that land-jobbing, and gambling in leases, which the right hon. gentleman described, to take root. They foresaw the extent of the danger, and guarded against it, by measures which nothing short of so great a necessity could justify. They passed laws by which all bargains and contracts for land were invalid, if on a longer credit than three days. These were some of the measures by which the American government, under circumstances similar to our own, had guarded against revulsions: and prevented one half of the people from being made the victims of the other half. Their sagacity and foresight was a reproach to themselves, who had utterly neglected sail precaution, and had acted with a blind disregard of nil rights and all interests. Rescue the victims! You betrayed them. You depreciated your money by law, and denied that any depreciation existed. You raised the value of money, and concealed from the people what you were doing. The country through our its whole extent, is covered with the ruined victims of a rash, ignorant, incompetent, faithless legislation; and with a misery and ruin such as he sincerely believed since the existence of governments had never been inflicted by any government before, on a peaceable and confiding people.

Undoubtedly, this view of the extent to which the depreciation and enhancement of the value of money had been carried, had been much obscured, in consequence of the recent advance in agricultural prices; an advance which was to be expected; which was indeed the necessary consequence of the state of things which he had examined. The price of agricultural produce had fallen at one time below the average rate which the old metal standard was calculated to support; below the rate which existed before the late war. Agricultural prices having fallen temporarily below the old metal average, it was to be expected that they would advance also as much above it; but that extraordinary advance would be as temporary, as was the extraordinary decline. But there was another cause, calculated also to produce a temporary re-action in agricultural prices; and which thus was calculated to conceal, for a time, from those whose interests were affected by it, the full extent of the change which was proceeding. If there was any one fact connected with the present state of agriculture, which was placed beyond doubt, which had been more repeatedly represented to them than any other, it was this; that during the late disastrous fall of prices, the rent of the landlord had been, in a great degree, paid out of the capital of the farmer. But, could rent be paid out of capital, and the capital remain? And, what was the nature of that fund, thus subject to annual diminution? In what did the capital of the farmer consist? It consisted of improvements effected in his land, of manure in his fields, of corn and cattle in his fields, and in his yards. All the elements of fertility, the sources of production and increase, these formed the capital of the farmer. Could these be subject to a perpetual diminution, and not arrive at length at exhaustion? This destruction of agricultural capital was one of the most alarming evils to which the system they had pursued tended. A re-action in the fall of agricultural produce was certain. If when it took place it should be accompanied with defective harvests, it would be followed by great calamities, of which the distress of Ireland, so arising, was probably the forerunner. As agricultural capital was one of the most advantageous forms of national wealth, so it was accumulated with the greatest difficulty; and its destruction was productive of the greatest evils. It could rarely accumulate beyond the necessary demands of an increasing or improving population; it could rarely be forcibly destroyed, without entailing the greatest calamities; calamities of which the tendency was, to diminish the population along with their means of support. It was this capital of the farmer which they had seen glutting the markets, and had called it excessive production. It was the source of future production. They saw glutted markets and falling prices; and had looked no further. It is an excessive supply, they said, which had reduced prices; supply and demand govern prices; there is no other cause of high and low prices than supply and demand. That question of supply and demand was capable of being placed in an extremely plain point of view. A reduction of the amount of circulating money must reduce the monied prices of all property and commodities. That position would not be denied. It had been stated by the hon. member for Portarlington in the course of his speech. And yet it was no less certain, that the price of no commodity could fall in any market without an alteration first taking place in the proportion between its supply and the demand for it. But how then was it, that a reduction in the quantity of money was capable of lowering prices, if prices could never fall without an altered proportion between demand and supply? It was by altering that proportion; by acting on those ulterior interests, by which supply and demand were themselves governed. A reduction in the quantity of money lessened the means of producers and dealers, by which they held stock. It forced more stock on the markets, and produced an over supply. It diminished the resources of the purchasers, and occasioned a lessened demand. But, then, if the present price of agricultural produce and its recent advance were to be considered as occasioned by these temporary causes, what conclusion were they to draw respecting what its permanent price would be, the present standard being continued? They must take for their guide that average price which the present standard had, when formerly established, supported. No reasons had yet been given, which could lead them to believe that it could give any different average in future. That price had varied from perhaps 35s. a quarter at the lowest for wheat, to perhaps 70s. at the highest, and would give an average of perhaps 50s: and from that price, or one approaching to it, he was persuaded it would prove, that as compared with the prices of the war, the alteration in the rate of agricultural produce must be estimated; with that alteration, the alteration in the wages of labour and in the prices of commodities generally, would be found to correspond; and in a corresponding degree with all these, the value of money must be taken to have been altered also.

But whence had it arisen then, that measures so important, affecting so many interests, so manifestly unjust and ruinous, and still in their operation, had been suffered to be carried into effect? They were of obscure operation. The effects which they produced, appeared too important to be commensurate with the cause which produced them. The connexion was not seen; but that House partook largely of whatever evils affected any considerable portion of the community; and acted under motives the most powerful to lead them to proceed to an examination of those measures. Those of whom that House was composed were the most extensive sufferers, and possessed in their own hands the means of redress. The right hon. President of the Board of Trade, indeed, told them, that those who suffered in their contracts by alterations in money, did not, to the whole extent of such alterations, possess any equitable claim for relief. It was only to the extent which depreciation went, that in his view injustice had been committed. Further alterations in the value of money gave no claim for redress, to those who suffered in their contracts from them. Those rested, said the right hon. gentleman, on the same footing as alterations in the value of money; as an advance or fall of prices would rest, if occasioned by a greater degree of plenty, or of scarcity, in the precious metals. And in such a case as that, he bad asked, would any man propose to alter contracts; or the weight, fineness, or denomination, of the coin? The distinctions drawn by the right honourable gentleman, he had al- ready shown were without foundation, but he would meet the question as it was thus put. If it were asked then, ought a government to be called on to adjust contracts, or to alter the weight or denomination of a national standard, in order to meet the effects of an alteration in the value of money, arising out of a general alteration in the quantity of the precious metals? To this he should reply, without fear of contradiction—Undoubtedly, if that alteration in the quantity and value of the precious metals were great; if it were permanent; if it were certain and determined; if in all these, it agreed with the character of those alterations in the value of money which had taken place recently; then would it not only be justifiable in a government to alter contracts and standards, and to adjust them to the altered value of the precious metals; but a government would prove itself incompetent to its most essential duties, which should fail to adopt such measures. The necessity of protecting property in the hands of its rightful possessors, was superior to the necessity of preserving any particular standard. The use of a standard was, that it should measure justly to every man what he contracted for. It was worse than useless, it was mischievous, if it failed in this object. It was imperfect and required adjustment. But if it could be doubted what ought to be the conduct of a government under circumstances such as had been assumed, let it be considered, what would be the conduct of individuals? Under such circumstances as a great increase in the quantity of the precious metals, and a consequent great reduction of the value of money, what would be the conduct of any individual, to whom money should be owing; and who should be aware of the change which was going on? Such an individual would perceive, that he was about to lose a great part of his loans; that though the same nominal amount would continue to be owing to him, by his debtor, yet that such nominal sum would cease to possess its former value. He would demand payment. He would desire to invest his money in real property, the nominal monied value and income of which would advance, as money itself fell. But when this should be the conduct of creditors generally, what would be the proceeding of debtors, called on at once for payment on such grounds?—They would propose terms of compromise; of an adjustment of contracts, such as equity would dictate. It would be adjusted between the debtor and creditor, that, as money should fall in value, the nominal amount of debt should be increased. Some other standard than money would be adopted, by which the value of money itself would be from time to time determined. That standard would probably be the average price of bread-corn. Corn-rents had so originated. When wheat advanced one-half, taking the average, a debt of 1000l. would be made 1,500l.; when wheat doubled its price, the debtor would become bound for 2,000l.; and thus only could the different interests and transactions of society be conducted under such circumstances. This would be the conduct of individuals, and that which individuals generally would do for themselves; but which they could only do imperfectly, unequally, according to the different degrees of information which they possessed; that it was, precisely, which it became the duty of government to do for them.

But what, then, was the consistency of those who maintained that it was necessary to reestablish the old metal standard on the footing on which it had stood before the late war; unaltered; of the same value; and to maintain money on that precise footing, at whatever cost, and whatever interests were sacrificed to that object? The fact was, that the present standard which they were called on to support was not the ancient standard of the country. It was a new standard; it was one that had never existed in the country before the passing of Mr. Peel's bill. It was no distinction merely speculative of which he spoke. The standard now attempted to be imposed differed essentially, and in its real value, from the old standard of the country. The ancient metal standard was silver at 5s 2d. an ounce. With this, gold had, for some time before the late war, been made a conjoint standard. The standard which was in existence up to the late derangements of the currency was a conjoint standard, therefore, of silver at 5s. 2d. and gold at 3s. 17s. 10½d. an ounce. That which was imposed by Mr., Peel's bill was one of gold alone, at 3l., 17s. lO½d. an ounce; and the difference in value between the two was 5 per cent; which difference had varied, since 1819, from 5 to 7 or 8 per cent. And the practical effect of the change thus imposed was no less than this; that if they should now abolish the standard of Mr. Peel's bill, and establish in its place that old standard, the authority of which it assumed, but which it did not possess, let the old standard be established, precisely as it existed before the late war, together with all the laws then existing connected with, and essential to it, and they would by that step at once establish a lower value of money; a higher monied price, for all lands, houses, rents, and real property of all kinds throughout the kingdom, to the extent of 5 per cent. The return to the old standard must necessarily reduce all monied prices. The attempt to establish the particular standard, introduced for the first time by Mr. Peel's bill, had reduced those prices 5 per cent below the rate which the old standard would have upheld. The return to the old standard must necessarily occasion a great pressure: the standard of Mr. Peel's bill carried that pressure still further. The re-establishment of the old standard (so far was it different from that of Mr. Peel's bill) would at once take off 5 per cent from the burthen of all existing taxes. It would give a relief from taxation, to the extent of, three millions annually. The old standard would effect a saving of one and a half million annually in the interest on the national debt, and the public creditor be still paid the full amount of his dividends, in money of as high a value as ever had existed in this country; of as high a standard, as ever had been, or could be, directly claimed for the public creditor, by any of those who were most anxious to hold high public credit. It would save another million and half in pensions, pay, and salaries. All debts, and all contracts, would suffer a virtual reduction in an equal degree, whilst full justice would be rendered to all creditors. The burthen of debts, contracts, and taxes, had been increased of necessity by taking up again the old metal standard, the standard of 1819 had increased their burthen still further. The relief which would be given to the farmer, the debtor, and to payers of taxes, by establishing the old standard would be 5 per cent. If the present silver coin were made a legal tender, that relief would be increased to 12 per cent. Two years since, the hon. member for Taunton (Mr. Baring) had proposed a motion, having for its * See vol. v. p. 91 of the present Series. object to abolish the standard of 1819; d to re-establish the ancient standard in its places precisely as it had existed up to the late war; and he had rested his motion oh these precise grounds, that thus would be relaxed (to an extent which he then calculated at 7 per cent) the pressure which had been imposed on the country, by Mr. Peel's bill. And how had that measure been resisted? Not by disputing that such would have been the effect of making silver a standard jointly with gold; that was admitted; the effects on prices, on debts, and taxes, of making silver a joint standard, was not denied, but it was denied that silver had existed as a standard up to the late war. The chancellor of the Exchequer (Mr. Vansittart) maintained, that the silver standard at 5s. 2d. had been long abolished and had no existence at the commencement of the hue war. He maintained the fact to have been, that silver was not then by law a legal tender, except for small amounts, for sums under 25l. On these grounds it was, that the motion of the hon. member for Taunton had been got rid of. But that assertion, then made by the chancellor of the Exchequer, was entirely destitute of foundation. It was another instance of the culpable want of information which had distinguished the whole of these proceedings, and of the manner in which men's property had been dealt with. Silver, and silver alone had been, as was well known, the original standard of the country, and it had so continued till the commencement of the last century; and then gold had also been made a standard conjointly with silver; up to 1793 silver at 5s. 2d., and gold at 3l. 17s. 10½d. were both legal tenders, and, for any amount. Silver was a legal tender to the amount of 25l. if tendered in coin of the Mint, although such coin were deficient in weight. Beyond 25l, and for any amount beyond it, silver was a legal tender by weight at 5s. 2d. an ounce. If on the whole of each sum of 25l., the weight were sufficient, the tender was good, although some of the pieces over deficient in weight. So far, therefore, from silver not having been a legal tender, and standard up to 1793, it was a stander oh such a footing as that it might be considered paramount to gold, which was an adjunct to it.

How, then, did the question in this respect stand? The country was called on to submit to great and intolerable evils, in order to there-establishment, as they were told, of the ancient metal standard of value. Debtors, for this object, were made to pay that which they had not borrowed; tenants rents which they had never contracted for. The productive classes were sacrificed to the unproductive classes; and all this was to be submitted to, because it was necessary to the re-establishment of the ancient this standard, and the re-establishment of this standard, it was pretended, was necessary in order to support public faith, and the national character. No relaxation of the evils proceeding from that old standard could be heard of, it must be established, it was pretended, in its full purity, and of its former exact value; whoever suffered unjustly from it, and whatever 'interests were sacrificed; whilst the truth really was, that that very standard, which it was pretended could not to any degree, however small, be departed from, to relieve the victims of these atrocious measures, had been itself altered for their further oppression. These were, then, the inconsistencies to the support of which those were committed who were opposed to the present motion, the necessity and justice of which rested on grounds which had not been attempted to be impugned.

As soon as the hon. member for Callington had sat down, Mr. Western rose, amidst loud cries of "question!" and said, that he would waive his privilege of reply, on account of the impatience manifested by the House. The original question of Mr. Western with the words proposed to be added thereto by lord Folkestone, being then put, the House divided: Ayes 27; Noes 96.

List of the Minority.
Attwood, M. James, Wm.
Benett, John Leycester, R.
Bennet, hon. H. G. Maxwell, J.
Barham, J. F. Monck, J. B.
Brougham, H. Moore, P.
Browne, Dom. Pryse, P.
Denison, W. J. Palmer, C. F.
Ellice, E. Pelham, J. C.
Ellis, G. A. Tennyson, C.
Folkestone, visc. Wells, J.
Gordon, R. Wodehouse, E.
Grant, J. P. Wood, M.
Griffith, J. W. TELLERS.
Hamilton, lord A. Western, C. C.
Honeywood, W. P. Titchfield, marq. of