On the motion of Mr. Huskisson, that the House should resolve itself into a committee on the Importation of Corn acts,
§ Mr. Curwen
said, he would take that opportunity of calling the attention of the right hon. gentleman to some points which he had intended to suggest to him on a former evening when this subject was before the House. He wished to remind him particularly of the fact stated in almost all the petitions which had been presented, that there was a sufficient quantity of corn now in the country for the consumption of the present year. He trusted that the right hon. gentleman, in proposing to the House any measure on this subject, would state, either from some information on which he could rely, or from his own belief, or upon some other satisfactory grounds, that a want of corn was likely to be experienced; as that could alone, in his opinion, justify an alteration in the present system. Unless the right hon. gentleman should be able to do this, he, however reluctantly, must oppose his resolutions. He had no doubt that any regulation which should have the 338 effect of preventing the averages from rising too high, would be beneficial to the country; but he repeated, in order to justify any alteration, it ought to be made out to the satisfaction of the House, that the home supply was not, or was likely not to be, equal to the necessary consumption.
§ Mr. Curteis
said, it was the general opinion here and in Ireland, that the produce would be amply sufficient for all the wants of the country in the present year. To propose any alteration which should have the effect of reducing the present price of corn would, he thought, under such circumstances, be a breach of faith with the farmers. In the present state of the House he should be sorry to have a topic of this importance decided; but, he should be very glad to hear what the right hon. gentleman had to propose, and to take it into consideration on some future day.
The House having resolved itself into a committee,
§ Mr. Huskisson
said, that after the discussion which this subject had undergone in the course of the last week, it would not be necessary for him to enter into any long discussion upon it. He wished only to bring before the consideration of the House, the law relating to foreign corn as it now stood, and the facts which were connected with that law, in order that they might both be distinctly understood. They were, then, simply these. In the year 1815, an act was passed, by which all foreign corn was prohibited from being admitted into the ports of Great Britain whenever the average prices should be under 80s. per quarter. A subsequent act of 1822, left the last act unaltered; but it provided, that foreign corn should be admitted when English corn had reached 70s. per quarter, upon payment of 17s. per quarter. This was the state of the law at the present moment, with regard to this description of corn. It had occured to him, and also to others who had paid attention to the subject, that under the present circumstances, looking to the high price which corn had reached, and to the deterioration which the corn now in the warehouses and under bond was likely to suffer, it was desirable that some facility should be afforded to the admission of that corn for home consumption, until the supply which the next harvest would afford should be available. This view was taken, not for the benefit of the individual 339 holders; but for that of the public. Indeed, no other consideration could have induced the government to recommend a departure from the present regulations, which affected this branch of commerce. Now, with respect to the facts, he begged to remind the House, that three weeks ago the price of English corn was 69s. per quarter. Since that period the price had been gradually rising. This day it was higher than on Monday last by three shillings per quarter, as he was informed. [An hon. member said, " four shillings."] Well, if it were so, he had a right to assume, that the former low prices were the consequences of an unnatural stagnation; and that the rise had taken place, owing to the time of year and the belief that no alteration was to be made in the existing laws; at least during the present year. His object was, to induce the holders of foreign corn now in bond to bring this corn into the market, between the present period and the 15th of August; and it would be necessary to hold out a sufficient inducement to them to do this. They might, as the law stood at present, bring this corn into the market, when wheat was at 70s., upon payment of a duty of 17s., and if they participated in the expectation which was entertained by many persons, that corn was likely to rise, they would of course abstain from bringing it into the market, unless the reduction of duty were sufficient to hold out an immediate inducement for them to do so. He had had some difficulty in determining what this reduction of duty should be. When he came down to the House on Thursday last he had studiously abstained from having any communication with the holders of foreign corn; because such a communication would necessarily have led to speculation. He had stated, that in his view of the subject, 8s. or 10s. would be a reasonable duty; and that such a reduction would be a sufficient inducement to the holders of foreign corn to bring it into consumption. He had since heard, that they would prefer keeping it back, and speculating upon the opening of the ports on the 15th of August. If the House should be of opinion, that 10s. was too high a duty, and that it would defeat the object which he had in view, namely, that of inducing the holders of foreign corn to bring it into the market before the next harvest, he should not be indisposed to listen to any suggestion for lowering the duty. His only object was, to adopt 340 that course which might consult the public advantage, and the landed interest of the country. His proposition was, to give the holder of foreign grain an option of bringing it into the market, in portions of one third, for the next three months, paying a duty of 10s. per quarter in each of the three months; but, if he did not bring it out between this and the 15th of August, it would remain subject to the present provisions of the law. His sole object was, to keep down the price of corn, and to prevent it from rising to an unreasonable extent, in the interval between this period and the next harvest. The alteration of the law as to wheat would, of course, extend to other minor articles. There was a small quantity of barley, and also a small quantity of American flour. The whole quantity of corn in bond amounted to about 400,000 quarters; and the effect of the introduction of these 400,000 quarters would depend altogether, on the state of the supply in this country for the next four months. In the year 1820, the introduction of a quantity of foreign oats had the effect of greatly depressing the market, while the introduction of a much larger quantity, in August last, scarcely affected the market at all, and indeed was generally admitted to have been attended with beneficial effects. From the present appearance of the corn markets all over the country, and the state of the market that day in London, there was obviously a tendency to increase of price. Under such circumstances, the introduction of a limited supply of corn was not likely to be followed by any inconvenience. On these grounds, he was anxious to recommend this measure to the adoption of the House. Part of the corn now in bond had been so for six years; part for not more than three or four years; a very considerable portion of it had been bonded within six weeks after the ports were closed, in 1819. Of course, a much greater expense had been incurred by some holders than by others; but, however he might feel for the situation of particular individuals, the House could not take these circumstances into their consideration; they must legislate upon public grounds. If the holders of foreign corn should be disposed to bring it into the market between this and the 15th of August, it would tend greatly to facilitate the arrangements which might be hereafter made on the general subject of the Corn laws. He wished it, however, 341 to be distinctly understood—and he was particularly anxious that there should be no misapprehension out of doors on a subject with respect to which the public were so sensitive—that the present measure had no reference to what might be the future intentions of government; but that it referred solely to the quantity of foreign corn now confined in bond. The second resolution which he had to propose referred to Canada corn. The quantity of Canada wheat now in the country did not exceed 20,000 quarters. On the 15th of this month, it would probably be liberated by operation of law; as it would be admitted duty free, when the average price exceeded 67s. With respect to this he should propose a prospective duty of 5s. a quarter, in lieu of all other prohibitory duties. Before he sat down, he wished to say one or two words with respect to some observations which had fallen from the hon. member for Taunton, on the view which he had taken of this subject on Thursday night. In the first place, he must observe, that his hon. friend was a member of the committee of 1821, and, he believed, he had done him the honour to concur in the report of that committee. He (Mr. H.) had always been opposed to a system of alternate monopoly and free trade. In the year 1815, a few days before the present chancellor of the Exchequer introduced the resolution which led to the bill of that year, there was a meeting, at Fife-house, at which he (Mr. H.) supported a measure of duty, and strenuously opposed a measure of alternate monopoly and free trade, He did not succeed in carrying his own views at that time; but his opinions remained unchanged. He congratulated his hon. friend, the member for Taunton, on entertaining a sounder view of this question than he did at that time; for his opinion n then was, that Corn bills were nothing more than pretences for raising rent. He now took a just view of the protection which was due to the landed interest, The right hon. member concluded by moving two resolutions, for carrying into effect the proposition he had submitted to the committee.
contended, that his opinions with respect to the Corn laws had undergone no alteration since the period to which the right hon. gentleman alluded. What he objected to at that time was, not a due protection of the landed interest, but an undue increase of that protection. 342 The right hon. gentleman had stated, that he had been unable to carry his own views of this question, in the year 1815. But, if he had been defeated at Fife-house, he had nevertheless come down to that House, as zealous a defender of the bill, as if it had originated with himself. He did not find fault with the right hon. gentleman's own opinions. The opinions which he objected to were those which had been foisted upon the right hon. gentleman, and of which he had afterwards undertaken the defence. He (Mr. B.) had never said, that Corn bills were mere pretexts for raising rent; but, considering rent as the surplus, after all the charges and expenses of cultivation were satisfied, he had certainly contended, that the existing system was calculated to raise it to an exorbitant extent. The degree of protection which should be extended to the agricultural interest, was a point on which the House could not legislate with too much circumspection. He had opposed the protection bill in 1815, because he conceived that a sufficient protection already existed, and that an increase of that protection was calculated to prejudice the other classes of the community. With respect to the measure now proposed by the right hon. gentleman, he thought it, in the main, extremely desirable. He could not help regretting, that the opinions which had been promulgated with respect to the state of the supply, and the observations which had fallen from the right hon. gentleman, as to the state of the currency, which had been very much misunderstood, had created a great deal of unnecessary alarm. He believed there was not the slightest ground for the apprehensions which existed out of doors, either as to the price of corn or the state of the currency. He objected to the period of the 15th of August, to which the right hon. gentleman had extended the operation of his measure. He thought it would be much better to give the holders of foreign corn a month or six weeks to bring their corn into the market. This would operate as an inducement to them to bring it into consumption, before the prospect of the harvest was sufficiently advanced to make them speculate on the expediency of withholding it. The present measure would interfere directly with the interests of speculators in English corn, but he did not mean to intimate that such speculators were entitled to compensation. When the interests of the public were 343 under consideration, parliament could not tie up its hands, because the interests of individuals would suffer. He thought a higher duty might be imposed. When corn could be imported at 33s. the price in Dantzic being 25s., with an allowance of Ss. freight, it ought to pay more than 10s. duty. The price at which it could be sold in our markets would be 43s. This was a pretty fair estimate of the value of the bonded corn. If, then, even a duty of 15s. were proposed, it would be still a boon to the holders, and he was satisfied they could not object to it, while it would be much to the advantage of the consumer. This, however, he merely threw out as his own opinion, without proposing any alteration to that effect.
§ Mr. J. Benett
approved of the project of bringing the bonded corn to market, but objected to a duty so low as lOs., on the ground that the importers would put the difference between that and the present importing duty into their own pockets. The difference from 10s. to 17s. on the stock in hand had been calculated at 140,000l. Now, he saw no reason for giving such a boon to the holders of bonded corn. If they were allowed to bring the corn at all to market, it ought to be on terms as little prejudicial as possible to the agricultural interests. He deprecated a reduction of the duties, under any apprehension of a rise of prices, for that he regarded as very improbable. An allusion to such apprehension was often attended with bad effects in the market; and if it was stated in that House, that it would be difficult to provide corn until the new corn came in, it would tend to raise the price of corn. He saw no reason for departing from the present duty of 17s., and should, therefore, suggest that that duty should not be altered.
§ Mr. Leslie Foster
believed that the letting in the bonded corn at that moment, at any and at whatever duty, would be the best thing that could be done for the benefit of the home grower. For, if once the ports were opened, which would certainly be the case if this measure did not pass, the whole six years' accumulation of wheat which was now lying in the ports of Poland would be poured in upon us, and give a shock to the landed interest which it would be years in recovering. The corn to which he alluded was now selling on the continent for 20s. a quarter: freight and insurance included, it could 344 be imported at 28s. That was the evil that the agricultural classes really had to fear. The hon. gentleman sat down by stating, that he was in favour of letting in the bonded flour, as well as the wheat: but at a duty of 4s. per cwt., instead of 2s. 9d., which he did not think sufficient.
§ General Gascoyne
supported the admission of the bonded corn, and contended that it was an aid given to the land-owners, rather than any benefit to the public. No man in that House would say, there was a sufficiency of corn in the country, to supply the home market till the next harvest. He was of opinion that, even at l0s duty, the corn let in would not be brought to market, but would be kept to take the chance of higher prices. He therefore moved as an amendment, that the admission duty should be 8s. only.
§ Mr. J. Benett
said, in explanation, that his only objection was, to give this great boon to the corn importers.
§ Mr. Sykes
approved of the principle. Considering the losses which the importers must have sustained, they were entitled to this permission to dispose of their corn. The revenue was not sought to be benefitted by this measure; end he therefore saw no reason why the best terms should not be given the corn-holders. The duty of 10s. appeared exorbitant. He thought 5s. sufficient.
§ Sir Mountague Cholmeley ,
in reply to what had fallen from the gallant general, who had asserted, that no man in this House would venture to say there was a sufficiency of corn in the country to supply the home market till the next harvest said: I rise to assure the hon. House, that I entertain no apprehension on that subject. I will now give the House my reasons. I live in a corn country, where I have resided the greater part of the last winter amongst a very intelligent body of agriculturists who have assured me, that the late harvest was superabundant; was considerably more than an average crop, and would exceed the supply of former years. We know by the returns made to this House, that, during the last six years, the average price not exceeding 5Ss. the supply has been equal to the demand, and no importation has been allowed. Whence, then, arise any apprehensions now? It is the practice in the county of Lincoln, and those counties more distant from the metropolis, to defer thrashing out their wheats, till the counties nearer the great mart fur corn are exhausted. In aid of 345 the farmer, liberal landlords have lately deferred their Lady Day rental till Midsummer; which will also account for the farmer, his tenant, keeping his wheat in store till the barley is disposed of and the malting season gone by. I repeat again my conviction, that there is no want of bread corn in this country.—My wish is, to allay the apprehensions of the mercantile gentlemen who argue on this topic so differently from the landed proprietors, and who, I think, do not consider how differently the latter are circumstanced from the former. Let us compare the situation of the capital of the manufacturer with the capital of the country gentleman. The capital of the former is at his own command, he can shift it with the policy of the times; if one trade or speculation does not succeed he flies to another: he has the choice of the markets of the whole world. It is not so with the landed proprietor; his capital is in most cases chained down to his native place, it is chained down by the law of entail. There is an elasticity, too, in the merchant, which does not belong to the agriculturist; he rises quicker after a fall. Will this hon. House, will the legislature of the country, consent to abolish the law of entails? will they, in the spirit of free trade, sanction such a disfranchisement of our estates? I trust not; I desire it not; for if corn falls, if rents fail, how am I, how is any man to provide for his family? We are too much attached to the soil to abandon the country, and follow the wings of fortune.—We prefer remaining at our post where we serve the nation as magistrates, as commissioners in various offices, without any prospect of gain. All we desire in return is, the protection of the laws at present in existence; which uphold the rich and maintain the poor.—Before I sit down I wish to warn those gentlemen, converts to the new system of free trade, that if an unlimited importation of corn is allowed, they may expect a competition from a corn company.—Why not a corn stock company, as well as a milk or an oil company? If such a stock of three or four millions be established, they would soon glut the metropolis with corn: they would regulate the prices in Mark Lane; and Mark Lane rules the prices over the whole country. I have only now, Sir, to add, that I shall give my vote in favour of the resolution to allow foreign corn in bond to be admitted to the home market, on the principle of 346 Relief to the merchant, and because I believe the quantity is so inconsiderable, that it will not interfere to depress the prices of the stock in hand, which is abundant till the next harvest.
Mr. Alderman Thompson
protested against a high duty, on the ground that whatever the duty was, it attached to the price of the article, pro tanto, and, in effect, fell upon the consumer. It appeared to him that a duty of 5s. ought to serve all purposes. Besides the consideration of keeping down the price of corn, by bringing this bonded grain to market, there was another which struck him as forcibly, recommendatory of this measure, and that was the capital, estimated at a million, locked up in this corn. Upon that ground alone it was the duty of the House to take measures for putting that large capital into circulation. He concluded by moving, as a second amendment, the reduction of this duty to 5s.
§ Mr. Farrand
saw no reason why there should be any duty at all imposed on this corn. Whatever the duty was, it fell eventually upon the consumer. He moved, as a third amendment, that the corn be taken out of bond duty free.
objected to a reduced duty, as it looked like a beginning to make an alteration in the Corn laws. He was quite sure that if the corn rose to 70s., these holders would bring their stock to market. He protested against any alteration in the Corn laws, and recommended gentlemen to withdraw all the amendments.
supported the resolution. He had not a doubt the effect would be, that the whole of the bonded grain would come into the market as soon as the law allowed the operation. It was true that corn had risen within the last few days, and that event was naturally to be attributed to the result of the decision on the motion of the hon. member for Bridgnorth. There was every prospect, from the weather and the state of the crops, of a good harvest. He wished the hon. members would withdraw their amendments, and allow the resolution to pass unanimously.
The Chancellor of the Exchequer
said, that as far as be could judge of the sense of the House, it was in favour of making 10s. the rate of duty. As the measure proposed was intended as a boon, he did not think that the holders of the bonded corn lad any right to complain. If he thought the duty of 10s. 347 would have the effect of keeping that corn out of the market, he should certainly vote for a lower rate; but believing that no such result would follow, he should support the original resolution. The committee would do him the justice to believe that he was not influenced by any consideration of the miserable amount of revenue that would be derived from the higher amount of duty.
§ Mr. Handley
expressed his concurrence in the proposition of the right hon. gentleman, as far as the 10s. duty on bonded corn; but he could not approve the plan for importing wheat from Canada at the intended low duty.
Mr. J. Maxwell
said, that though he was a county member, and connected with the agricultural interest, he would never support, in that House, a protecting duty, which was detrimental to the interests of the other great classes of the community. Looking, however, at the farmer as a manufacturer of grain, he did not think him so entitled to the same protection against foreign competition, as other manufacturers received. He thought he ought to be protected to the extent of the poor rates, and the particular duties drawn from agriculture.
§ Mr. Monck
said, he understood the high duties to be sought for, for the protection of the country gentlemen; because, as the House was informed, they were men who lived on their estates, spent their money in the country, and were also most valuable to the state by acting as unpaid magistrates. Truly, all these were most important services; but he did not see that they were altogether unrequited. From the calculations which had been made, it appeared, that the effect of the present Corn laws was, to raise the price of the quarter of wheat to 70s., and that without them it would not exceed 50s. Now, taking our consumption at 11 millions of quarters, as was contended by some hon. members, here was a duty upon the great body of the people of 14 millions, for the benefit of the country gentlemen. He did not mean to say that their services were overpaid; but after this, lie hoped no man would assert that they were wholly unpaid. He should support the original resolution, because he felt that the country in general would derive benefit from it.
§ Mr. Huskisson
said, he had not adverted to the quantity of corn in the country. He had most cautiously guarded himself 348 against the expression of any opinion on that subject. His resolution was not founded upon it. It was founded, not upon any speculative opinion, but upon his knowledge of the fact, that there was a quantity of bonded corn likely to perish in the warehouses, and on his wish that it should be gradually brought into the market, for the purpose of keeping down the price, and of keeping it steady. If it was the general sense of the committee that he should lower the duty at which this should be brought out, he would willingly assent to it; but, he did not find that to be the prevailing wish. As to the apprehension that what had been said on the subject of the proposed alteration, had produced the impression made on the money-market since Friday last, it was, he must say, quite absurd. The discussion took place on Thursday, and the impression was not on the next day, when all that passed must have been well known, but on the day after. He did not seek for the cause of that impression, but most certainly he was convinced that it must have originated from the same cause, not relative to this question, operating on that most sensitive machine. With respect to any depression which might have been produced in the foreign exchanges as against this country, he thought it was a subject which ought not to excite alarm in the minds of any; or that any opinion unfavourable to our general prosperity could be drawn from it. It was quite ridiculous to entertain such an apprehension. The exchanges had been for a long time against other countries, and in favour of this, and yet we did not see any general depression of their commercial prosperity produced by that circumstance. The recent slight turn against us had arisen from circumstances which must be of a temporary nature and which would, in a very brief period, work their own remedy.
said, that if he concurred in the proposition at all, it would be in the terms of the original resolution. On the general question of the Corn laws, he would observe, that on the whole their practical consequences had been beneficial to the country. It had been prognosticated, that after the passing of those laws, corn would never be under 80s. a quarter. The events that had occurred were the most conclusive answer. Besides, notwithstanding the numerous imputations thrown out against the landed interests, rents had been, since that time, consider- 349 ably diminishing. The Corn laws had not been fairly dealt by. Since their enactment, the fluctuation in the price of corn had been nothing like that which it was at former periods. A right hon. gentleman had talked of the fluctuation in the price of corn having been from 112s. to 38s.; but it ought to be recollected, that when it was 112s. it was under the principle of free trade, and that when it was 38s., it was under the protection duty.
§ Mr. Hume
positively denied that the whole country was satisfied with the present state of the Corn laws. In the name of the manufacturing interest, he protested against any such assumption.
The first resolution was agreed to without division. On the second resolution, for putting an end to the existing prohibitory duties on corn imported from our colonies, and substituting a duty of 5s. a quarter,
§ Mr. Leslie Foster
observed, that the resolution stood on a very different footing, from the last. The question to be determined was, what was the amount of duty that ought to be imposed? Now, the proposed resolution assumed at once, that 5s. a quarter on Canadian wheat was the fit and proper duty. It might be so; but some previous investigation was surely necessary. If we were prepared at once to say, that 5s. a quarter was the proper duty on wheat imported from Canada, why were we not prepared to settle the whole corn question, and to say that 10s. or 15s. was the proper duty on wheat imported from Dantzic? It was said, that the average price of wheat in Canada was 38s., the freight would be 12s.; and it was now proposed to add a duty of 5s., making altogether only 55s. And, besides, how did they know that 38s. was actually the average price of wheat in Canada? It might turn out, that the average price was much less. Parliament ought to have evidence on these points, before any thing was determined upon. With regard to the question respecting the duty on foreign wheat, it would be necessary first to ascertain the price of foreign wheat. He had a document in, his possession which would show what had been the experience on that point of some of our neighbours. Rotterdam lad been for some years supplying itself with corn wherever it could get it cheapest. It was a fair conclusion, that whatever was the price of wheat at Rotterdam, was the price at which foreign wheat, if not subject to any duty, might have been sold in London; the expense 350 of freight being much the same in both cases. The price of wheat per quarter at Rotterdam, during the last five years, was as follows:—In 1820, 36s. 10½d. in 1821, 33s. 5d. in 1822, 29s. 9½d. in 1823 30s. 5d. and in 1824 32s. 10½d. Thus it appeared, that the average price of the last five years was 32s. a quarter, being the prime cost in the wheat country, and the expense of freight. There could be no doubt that foreign corn could be had as cheap in England; and the question therefore was, what was the amount of duty on that price, which would operate to secure a fair remuneration to our agriculturists? It was necessary to avoid the two extremes—either of dearness, by which our manufactures were distressed, or of cheapness, when the distress of the agricultural re-acted on the manufacturing interest. The experience of late years had pretty fully determined what ought to be the price of corn in this country. He agreed with an hon. member, that it ought to be about 65s. But all this would be a proper subject for inquiry in the next session of parliament. The present resolution, however, allowed the importation of Canadian corn, including the duty, at 55s. He thought the House ought to pause, before they agreed to such a resolution.
The Chancellor of the Exchequer
said, that his hon. Friend expressed himself at a loss to comprehend on what principle Canadian corn was to be allowed to be imported into this country on terms different from those required with reference to the corn of other countries. The principle was clear: Canada was a colony belonging to this country; the Canadians were our fellow-subjects, and were entitled to our peculiar favour and protection. If his hon. friend's argument were good against Canada, it would have been good against Ireland in 1806. If the subject was to be looked at in so narrow a point of view, the free importation of corn from Ireland in 1806 ought to have created great alarm. But, had we no motives to induce us to deal liberally by our colonies? Did his hon. friend forget the state of the different colonies in the world? Did he forget what had led to the alienation of the Spanish colonies from the mother country? Among the principal causes of that alienation were the measures adopted by the Spanish government to prevent the cultivation of the vine, and to cramp colonial industry. By such policy Spain had lost 351 her colonies; and we should indeed be short-sighted, were we to imitate her example. Canada could send us nothing but her raw produce. If we excluded that, we cut off all communication with Canada; and therefore, looking at the subject in a commercial view, but above all, looking at it in a political view, we ought to permit, under favourable terms, the importation of Canadian corn. His hon. friend appeared to have forgotten that a large proportion of the population of that very Canada consisted of his own countrymen. But two years ago, parliament passed a vote to enable numbers of poor half-starved Irishmen to emigrate to Canada. If we did all we could to send them out, but when they got out, did all we could to starve and distress them, then indeed the hon. member for Aberdeen's opposition to the plan of emigration would be well founded. The system on which we ought to act., was to give encouragement to our colonies; to cherish their energies; and thereby to add to the wealth, and, what was more, to the political strength of the British empire in every part of the world.
§ Mr. Newman
said, he was favourable to the importation of corn from Canada, but great precautions ought to be taken to prevent our receiving the corn of the United States instead of that of our own colony. He was informed, that, in contemplation of the present measure, cargoes of corn had been sent from Europe, in order to be reshipped from Canada to this country. Any attempt of this kind ought to be strictly watched.
said, he could not give his assent to the present resolution. If we adopted it, although only with reference to Canada, there was an end to the principle of our Corn laws. At present, according to those laws, when our wheat rose to 67s. a quarter, our ports were open to wheat from Canada: when it rose to 80s. to wheat from foreign countries. Instead of breaking down this principle, let the price of 67s. if it were thought too high, be lowered. Let it be lowered to 50s., or to any other sum; but let us not entirely depart from the present system of our Corn laws, by enacting, that whatever may be the price of wheat in this country, our ports shall be open to Canadian wheat at a duty of five shillings a quarter. All that the agriculturists wanted was a fair protecting duty; and it was the interest of all classes of the community that they should have it.
supported the resolution, on the grounds which had been so well stated by the chancellor of the Exchequer. There was no fear that European corn would go to Canada, to be sent from thence to this country: as the freight would be too high to render such a speculation profitable. Nor would there be any difficulty in preventing the importation of corn into Canada, from the United States, as it must pass a broad river, and any attempt of the kind might easily be detected.
§ Mr. Huskisson
could not admit the existence of any of the dangers which hon. gentlemen seemed to apprehend. As to Canada, what was the situation of that colony four years ago? They sent us corn in return for our manufactured goods; but their bills were protested, for we put their corn under lock. Was it to be expected that the inhabitants of the colony, having the feelings of Englishmen, could submit to a continuation of such treatment? It was our interest to behave towards them with the utmost liberality. He confessed himself the more surprised at the alarm which had been expressed by hon. members with respect to the object of this resolution, as it was six weeks since he had mentioned his intention of submitting it to the House; and as not the slightest apprehension had been expressed on the subject in a single petition among the many which had been presented from all parts of the kingdom.
§ Mr. Newman
said, be had been informed that a vessel had been chartered at Hamburgh with corn to go to America, and then return to England, bringing that corn into the English market. The idea, therefore, of corn being exported to Canada and imported into England was not wholly void of foundation, as the hon. gentleman seemed to imagine.
§ Mr. Lockhart
opposed the resolution, and contended, on the authority of Tacitus, that it was not the interest of the mother country to extend too much protection to the agriculture of a colony. That historian, related that, during a famine in the reign of Claudius, it was discovered that there were only fifteen days' provision in Rome. This created considerable consternation, and Tacitus in describing it mentioned, with great regret and indignation, that in consequence of certain immunities granted to the colonies, Italy, which had formerly exported corn to all her provinces, was left at the mercy 353 of Sicily, Egypt, and Africa, for the daily support and maintenance of her inhabitants. He trusted that the rulers of this country would take a hint from the remarks of that author, and not leave England dependant on any foreign nation whatsoever for a supply of the most requisite necessary of human life.
The resolution was then agreed to.