§ Mr. Ellice
said, that after the declaration which his right hon. friend had just made, of his intention to discuss the propriety of the Bank advancing money upon deposits, to merchants, upon the motion which he then held in his hand, he felt himself justified in saying, that be fully concurred with his right hon. friend in the remarks which he had made upon that notable project. He did think, that if government had come down to the House immediately after the speech from the throne; if they had brought forward their financial statement for the year, and had announced their intention of relieving the Bank of the debt which they owed it, and of reducing it to purchase Exchequer-bills in the market for the sake of increasing their price; and if they had further stated that they were ready to advance Exchequer-bills to merchants on their goods, they would not only have restored the country to confidence, but would have given that facility to the execution of their own measures, which would have been highly advantageous to their successful accomplishment. Having said thus much upon that subject, he would leave it in the hands of his right hon. friend, who was much better able to discuss it than he was, and would proceed forthwith to the explanation1 of his own motion. It would be in the recollection of the House, that two acts had passed, enabling his majesty's government to issue to commissioners Exchequer-bills, to be employed towards the completion of public works and for the employment of the poor. The commissioners under these two acts had proceeded from year to year, to make sundry advances to different classes of individuals for the purpose of carrying on public works and employing the necessitous poor. Reports had been from time to time laid before the Treasury, which had always found their; why to the table of the House; but he did not find there had been any direct return to a motion to lay on the table an account of all Issues made by the commissioners, and which appeared the more expedient, as such a measure was directly pointed out by the acts to which 929 he had referred. On referring to the documents, he found that the commissioners had advanced monies, not only for the completion of public works, but for many other purposes connected with the trading interest to a certain extent. They had made advances to the owners of coal-mines, and to persons engaged in fisheries; and that, upon one occasion, they had made a large advance to a banking concern in the north, upon the ground that it was deeply connected with the coal trade, and that if it had stopped, the consequence must be to throw a great number of the labouring class of people out of employment. These facts, together with the understanding, that a large sum at the disposal of the commissioners remained at present undisposed of, had induced him to think that the surplus might be applied to the relief of the manufacturing classes, with as great success as had attended the advances to the persons engaged in the coal-trade. It appeared that the government had found a means of throwing upon the Bank the task of supplying money for the necessities of the country. He thought it, therefore, highly necessary, that the House should be put in possession of the mode in which the issues of Exchequer-bills had hitherto been made, as well as of the principle which had governed those advances. The money had been lent for the making of roads, canals, and gaols and the securities for the repayment had been of various descriptions. In some instances they were personal, and in others were made upon the rates and tolls belonging to the various works. He should therefore conclude by moving, "That there be laid before the House an account in detail, of all advances of money, and Exchequer-bills for public works, or the employment of the poor, by commissioners appointed under the acts of 57 Geo. 3, c. 34 and 124, and 3 Geo. 4, c. 86, specifying the purpose and time for which each loan was granted; the parties to whom granted; the nature of the security; rate of interest; any repayments hitherto made; and the amount now due and outstanding, and when payable: Also, an Account of Exchequer-bills undisposed of, and still applicable, under the provisions of the said acts."
The Chancellor of the Exchequer
said, he hoped that, in objecting to the terms in which this motion was couched, he should not be deemed captious. To the main object of the motion he did not mean to 930 offer any opposition; but he thought that the names of the parties to whom, and the nature of the securities on which the money had been lent, could not be necessary to the purpose which the hon. gentleman avowed, while it might be inconvenient to the parties concerned.
§ Mr. Ellice
thought it quite necessary that he should have the names of the persons to whom the various advances had been made. With respect to the securities, he only wanted to know the nature of them; and the return would be sufficient, if it stated that the money had been lent upon personal security, or on the rates or tolls. He by no means wanted to know the names of the persons who had become securities for the repayment of the advances.
§ Mr. Tierney
then rose. He said, that he had come down to the House in the hope that some discussion would take place respecting the measure proposed with respect to the Bank. He now, however, understood, that, owing to some arrangement which had been made, the Bank of England were, with the sanction of government, to take upon themselves to issue Exchequer-bills to the amount of 3,000,000l. He had hoped to hear some reason assigned for the opposition of government to the measures originally proposed by himself and others, as to the expediency of the government issuing Exchequer-bills in preference to the advance of money, which, it was said, the Bank was to make on the security of goods; and, on the present occasion, he was really under some disadvantage, from the circumstance of hearing this sort of arrangement come behind instead of before him. That the country was never in a state of greater distress than at that moment, was admitted on all hands. Every body was agreed in that House, as well as out of it, that some relief must be given, and that immediately; but, as to the mode in which that relief was to be administered, his majesty's ministers had a different opinion from the rest of the community. It had been proposed, on a former occasion, that it should be by means of Exchequer-bills, in the way he had just men- 931 tioned. No method appeared to him so free from objection as this. The experience of the effect which it had produced in 1793, proved not only that it was advantageous in practice, but that, theoretically, it was the best mode that could be devised, of restoring general confidence throughout the country; because it would show, that ministers did not wish to shrink from the danger which they saw around them. At present, so far from that being the case, it appeared that the Bank of England was the only body that did not shrink from this danger. As well for what they had done, as for what it seemed was now to be received from their hands, he felt himself obliged to say that the country was deeply indebted to the Bank of England. He wished he could say as much of his majesty's ministers; but he could not. Great stress had been laid, on a former evening, upon the principle, that the legislature aught not to interfere for the relief of distress purely commercial, and which had been induced by no other than commercial causes. No man living could agree more warmly in that, as a general principle, than he did, and no man would struggle more vehemently for its support; but the question to be decided, before that principle could be applied, was, whether the actual distress had been induced by causes purely commercial—whether there had not been such a departure from general principles, as made it necessary to have recourse to extraordinary measures for relief. In another place he understood the same language had been held; and when the circumstances of 1793 were quoted by those who thought with him on this subject, it was said there was nothing in the state of affairs in 1793 like those of the present time, because the former distress arose out of political circumstances. He thought he could show that this assertion was not correct. It was the fashion, he knew, to charge mercantile men in the gross with overtrading, and with running to excess in their speculations. He did not know whether it was necessary to inquire into what distinction this made between the present and the former state of the country, or whether it might not be more safe and satisfactory to consider, that, as the same result was experienced, the same, or nearly the same, causes must have produced both. But even if this charge, so often repeated against the whole body of commercial men, were well founded, who, he should like to know, 932 was it, that led them and the country into those excesses, by inspiring the belief that the resources of the country were sufficient to justify engaging in any enterprise? Who did this, if not the right hon. gentleman opposite, in conjunction with the Bank of England? Did they not run together the same great race of what was called prosperity; and were not the extensive issues a principal means of keeping up that which experience had proved to be fictitious, but which was, not long ago, roundly asserted to be permanent? Why, then, he did think it was too much now to turn round upon the people and say to them, "Because you believed all we told you, and trusted implicitly that all we said must be true, you are not now entitled to relief under the distress which your confidence has brought upon you." And yet this was the language of his majesty's ministers. They said the commercial men were not deserving of relief, because they might have seen their way more clearly. If they had looked to the proceedings of the Bank of England, and of the country banks, would that have enabled them to see their way more clearly; or would it not rather have helped to continue them in that delusion which nothing but the sharp pressure of distress had been able to awake them from? He did not say that the lending of money on mortgage by the Bank was recommended by the government; but who could deny that they encouraged and sanctioned it? He knew the manliness of the chancellor of the Exchequer too well to believe, that, although he might not be the person to have advised that measure, he would deny having been the cause of it. But, if this should be denied, he would ask whether the government had not, by its own unequivocal acts, led the way to that confidence in the prosperity, which had been found to rest on so rotten a foundation? What effect, other than this, was the measure respecting the holders of the per cent stock calculated to produce? Did not those persons lose for ever one-eighth, of their incomes, and for no other reason than because the country was discovered to be in a state of glorious prosperity—which lasted about nine months? Had they not a right to complain, that they had been the victims of this imaginary prosperity—they who had purchased, stock in the 4 per cents, and who found their interest reduced for no other reason than that? It was true that when they pur- 933 chased, they run the risk of being paid off at par, when the resources of the country should be so flourishing as to permit of that measure; but, did they ever think that they should become losers of their money by means of an artificial rise of the value of stock produced by the combination of the Bank and the government? He knew he might be told, that all men were masters of their own stock, and that if they sustained any loss, they did so with the full exercise of an option to continue their stock upon the new terms, or to be paid off at par. But this was not true to the extent at which it was stated. It was not true of families, of children, of trustees, and of others who had not the power of removing the stock in which they were interested. These persons were all of them entitled to consideration and to redress, if it could reach them; but that was impossible. This had all been brought about by the extravagant language which ministers had indulged in, and by the immense issues of paper from the Bank. The leading topics of the last year were the actual and prospective wealth of the country; and what was the consequence? If ever the commercial world could claim the assistance of the government, it was now; because all that they were at present suffering was brought upon them mainly and substantially by the conduct and language of government, and by that alone. The right hon. gentleman now said, that they ought to have foreseen what would happen. Did he foresee what would happen? If he did, what could he say about the reduction of the 4 per cents? If he did not, why was not the commercial world entitled to all the relief that the government could give them? And what justice was there in the right hon. gentleman's turning round upon them, and refusing that relief, because they had not foreseen that which no man could foresee but those who were behind the curtain? Never had there been, he believed, an occasion so pressing as that which the House was now called upon to consider; and never had any proposal been made which held out a fairer prospect of success than that which the right hon. gentleman had rejected. He was at a loss to conceive any reasonable grounds upon which that refusal could be justified. There was nothing in the circumstances of the country that should induce it. Day by day money was said to be coming in, and nothing was wanting to 934 bring it into general circulation but the restoration of confidence. What was the cause that had produced the failure of that confidence, but the folly into which the whole nation had been plunged during the last two years? A man purchased 3 per cent stock at 96, and he now found: they were down at 73. He could not tell the reason for this fall, nor could any man help him to discover it. People had been led on, step by step, to the giddy eminence from which at length they had so unexpectedly fallen. This was the work of the government, and this was a reason—to him a conclusive one—why the government should interfere to remedy that evil which they, and they alone, had occasioned. Another reason, and not a less forcible one, was, that nothing, in fact, was wanting but public confidence. By adopting the measure which he had proposed, the House would effectually restore that confidence. Persons were flocking from all parts of the country with complaints of the distress which they felt, and imploring ministers that something might be done without delay for their relief. He did not doubt that these applicants were received with perfect urbanity and good manners, by the right hon. gentleman and his colleagues, for nothing else could be experienced from those who at present directed his majesty's councils. But, they were answered, one and all, with the greatest coldness, that the government could and would do nothing for them, let their distress be what it might. But, said the right hon. gentleman to the suffering commercial men who beset him—"I'll tell you what I'll do. I can't give you any relief myself, but there is a gentleman who lives not far from here, and I'll give you a letter of recommendation to him. He'll lend you as much money as you want." And thus it was that the ministers got rid of their importunate claimants for relief, by turning them over to the Bank of England. But then, when they got to the Bank of England, they were not much better off; for when they offered to deposit their goods as a security for the loans they asked, the Bank said, "No; we don't deal in those commodities—they are not in our line." But, then, upon reading the charter of the Bank—for the first time, of course—it was discovered, that they did possess the power of lending money on goods. They had been all wrong for a hundred years past, and it was just now found out, that they were 935 the most proper people in the world to be applied to in the present crisis. Now, he did not mean to deny that the Bank had a right to lend money in this way, although the discovery was so recent a one. The right hon. gentleman said there was no doubt of it; but an honourable Bank director said, that the power was only a permissive one. The right hon. gentleman had a satisfactory answer to that, when he told him that the power was just the same as that which enabled them to deal in gold and bills of exchange. This was true, and could not be denied here or elsewhere. He believed that, when that power was given, the Bank got it from the government—not because they were entitled to it but because they thought it right (and he could not blame them) to get all the power they could. Well, then, upon reading the charter a little further, it was discovered (he spoke only upon the authority of an extract which she had read in the newspapers, but he believed its was correct), that the Bank directors had a right to sell the goods on which they lent money, for the purpose of procuring repayment of their loans. It was clear, therefore, that the Bank had the power which it was now proposed to call upon them to exercise; but it nevertheless appeared to him, that they were, of all others, the most unfit to be so called upon at the present moment. What authority could they have that would enable them to discharge the office which would be thus forced upon them? The right hon. gentleman opposite abjured the commission; but, had the Bank any power to administer an oath? No. Had the commission? Yes. The act gave them that power which was necessary for them to investigate the applications made for relief, and to examine all parties on oath. The Bank could have nothing of that sort. They could only issue money; and that, he contended, was not the thing that was wanted. It was confidence alone; for of money there was plenty. The inefficacy of any thing that could be done by the more per advance of money by the Bank had been lately shown in the most striking manner. Within the last fortnight, two millions had been advanced by the Bank for the purpose of Exchequer-bills. And what good had been the result? None, that he could perceive. He could not see that any rise had taken place in the public funds; and to an ignorant man, and one of limited capacity 936 like himself, that was the only criterion by which he could form an opinion. What greater good, then, would be derived from the issue of three millions more in the same way? What reason was there to believe that the loan of money in this manner would relieve the distress? How was it to be issued? On the application of the parties, and in the same manner as by the commissioners in 1793? That, indeed, was what he wished, but that he was sure would be impossible. The charter of the Bank enabled them to lend money, but not to inquire who wanted it. On the former occasion persons had been engaged in the commission who had means of knowing, and could examine into the correctness of the applications? How was the Bank to be enabled to do this? How was partiality in the disposition of the money to be prevented? How were they to know that they did not lend to the wrong instead of the right men. How could they ascertain that they were not issuing a quantity of their notes which would be made use of in Stock-exchange, or in other speculations, and wholly independent of the suffering interests of commerce? What had been done in 1793 was, as it ought to be now, not so much to furnish a supply of money as to restore the paralyzed spirit of trade, by reinstating the confidence of the country. The good effects of that measure were felt instantly, and would be so now. If he possessed at this moment 10,000l. worth of goods, and went to his banker for an advance of money, he would tell him, that he was very sorry that he could not let him have a farthing in the present depress, ed state of the market. But if he went to him and said, "I have got 5,000l. in Exchequer bills," he would find immediately that his banker and his other friends would come forward to his assistance; and without even sending his Exchequer-bills into the market, he would be enabled to continue his business merely by the restoration of confidence. The general effect of the measure would be, to call out money which now lay dormant,—locked up—of which there was an immense quantity, and much more than the wants of the country required. The advance of 2,000,000l. had been in vain, and that of 3,000,000l. would be the same. If the government thought they could get rid of their difficulties for ever, by staving them off now upon the Bank of England, and by doling out 3,000,000l. through 937 their hands, they were quite mistaken. The measure of 1793 produced permanent and substantial good; there could be no difference of opinion on that subject. The result of that measure was now a matter of history. A formal report was made of it to the House, by which it appeared that 2,000,000l. had been issued, not a farthing of which had been lost; that it restored credit and confidence, alleviated and extinguished the distress, and put 4,000l. into the pockets of the country. In the face of this example, the ministers of the present day chose to say they would do nothing towards the relief of the distress, but that the Bank of England might. Why, then, if the Bank of England did, let them have the credit, and them only. The government, who had led the country into its present distressing condition, pursued a line of conduct which it required some temper even to discuss. If they thought fit to reduce, or rather to raise the Bank of England by this measure, in which they parted with a power which properly belonged to them, they would find hereafter ample cause to repent it; because they could have invented no means so likely to increase the power of the Bank to an extravagant degree. The Bank would be able to make out a case which would not only entitle them to great privileges; but, when the renewal of their charter came to be discussed, they would be known to be so useful, from their being the source from which alone assistance was to be procured in the time of need and distress, that all voices would be in their favour. The country gentlemen, who, of course, always voted very honestly, would support them; and particularly if there was any existing, or the prospect of way impending distress, every one would wish to be well with the only power who had the will as well as the means of assisting them. The Bank would be then remembered in this crisis to have done all they could, while the government had done nothing. The Bank had already opened their coffers for the assistance of the country. They had advanced 2,000,000l. It was true that had done no good, because it had had no effect in doing that which he could not sufficiently impress upon the House was the only tiring wanting at this time; namely, the restoration of general confidence. It was obviously impossible that there could be any real want of money. There were 938 now no foreign loans to swallow up the gold; and the apparent scarcity was caused only by that wild and senseless disposition to get gold for the purpose of looking at, or rather of hoarding it. This it was that had withdrawn the gold from circulation, and the want of confidence kept it in its retreats. It was in the power of the government, and beyond the reach of any other power, to effect that restoration. The example of that which bad been done in Mr. Pitt's time, and which some whom the wreck of time had spared could well remember, ought to teach the government, that that was the safe and advantageous course for them to pursue. That had proved the salvation of the country. This which they wanted to substitute for it in the present emergency was mere milk and water. He knew very well that nothing was more easy for a man who possessed much less talent than the right hon. gentleman, to answer his speech, and to throw a mist over all he had said. But he was satisfied that the substantial good sense of the country was with him. And he was satisfied that if he could poll the persons interested in the prosperity of the country on the question, whether there should be three millions issued by the Bank of England, or two millions by the government in the form of Exchequer-bills, he should have an immense majority in favour of the latter. They knew—it was universally known—that the issue of Exchequer-bills would remedy the evils under which they suffered. That measure had been tried, and the result had been most satisfactory and successful. The one which it was now proposed to adopt was a mere dexterous device—a trick of special pleading on the construction of the Bank charter; and its sole abject was to raise the directors of the Bank into a higher description of pawnbrokers. The directors submitted to it; but only because nothing else was to be done, and because living, as they did, in the city, surrounded by the commercial distress, they could not see it without attempting to relieve it by such means as the government chose to permit them to use. The ministers had plainly avowed their determination to do nothing, and something must absolutely be done. He was satisfied that the right hon. gentleman felt as keenly as any one the nature of the existing distress; and he regretted that he could not be prevailed on to adopt that which was a simple, approved, and effica- 939 cious remedy. He (Mr. Tierney) was not one of those who contemplated Mr. Pitt's character with any great degree of admiration; but this he would say, that he was a great man—that he took the most comprehensive views of the financial situation of the country. Indeed, he never knew a man whose mind was more capable of embracing large concerns, and forming a correct judgment upon them, than Mr. Pitt, when he was himself. Ministers had Mr. Pitt's example to follow. On the present occasion, he was himself a Pittite. He called upon ministers to follow the steps of Mr. Pitt by issuing Exchequer-bills. Ministers assigned no other reason for not doing so, except that they had discovered the principle of Mr. Pitt's measure to be bad—the country, they said had no claim to the assistance of government, because they had brought their distresses upon themselves. Now, he thought that the country had the strongest claim upon the assistance of government, because they were made to believe by ministers—innocently enough, perhaps, on their parts—that their prosperity knew no bounds. Ministers thus encouraged those speculations in foreign loans, and other things, at which they were now so indignant. Ministers said, that the persons who had been engaged in extravagant speculations ought not to receive any assistance; but, might they not obtain it from the Bank under the arrangement now proposed? This could not happen if government would consent to issue Exchequer-bills; because the commissioners who would have the power of examining on oath, might ask the persons applying for assistance how they had incurred their difficulties. The Bank could enter upon no such inquiries, but would confine themselves to the lending of their money upon goods, or upon personal security. It appeared, from the report of the commissioners of 1793, that the greater part of the relief then afforded was advanced to the applicants rather upon the securities given by others than upon goods deposited by themselves.—As he had stated on a former occasion, he was not one of those who participated in the sort of alarm which had been raised from one end of the kingdom to the other. Much misunderstanding existed, in his opinion, with respect to the present situation of the country. He wished it not to be supposed that he blamed ministers for the measures which they had adopted. 940 To the chancellor of the Exchequer he gave his warmest and heartiest thanks for the wholesome and sound measure which he had introduced, for the purpose of putting an end to the issue of one and two pound notes; but yet it was necessary to consider the effect of that measure. When ministers said, they had nothing to do in producing the difficulties of the country, but that the country had brought them all on themselves, might not the country say, "We did not pass the bill for putting an end to small notes?" Did not ministers know that the effect of that measure would be the abstraction of seven or eight millions from the currency, which must necessarily aggravate the existing distress? Again he must guard himself from being misunderstood. He did not object to the measure in question. He gave the chancellor of the Exchequer all possible credit for his recent policy. The right hon. gentleman might depend upon him for support. So long as the right hon. gentleman stood by himself, he would stand by him, like a good and faithful soldier. He could not, however, conceal from himself, that the abstraction of a considerable portion of the currency—the effect of the Promissory-notes bill—had caused much distress; and yet ministers would not consent to do that which alone could relieve the sufferings of the country. It was almost heart-breaking to a man, between whom and bankruptcy there was but a small line, to be told, "Government cannot afford you assistance, because it would be contrary to principle to do so." Was not the very plan recommended by ministers contrary to principle? It was absurd to talk of principle on such an occasion. It was, after all, only a question of convenience and good sense. It was necessary to consider what was best to be done on one day and what on another. To talk of principle with respect to the issuing of Exchequer-bills or Bank-notes, was, in his opinion, quite ridiculous. Ort account of the respect which he felt for the chancellor of the Exchequer, and the interest which he took in his character, he had felt it necessary, on the present occasion, to state the reason why he preferred an issue of Exchequer-bills to an issue of notes by the Bank. Past experience induced him to form a good opinion of the former measure; but even if it had not past experience in its favour, he thought it was more likely to do good than the latter. He thought that if the 941 Bank lent money upon goods, they would be placed in a very invidious situation. On the one hand, they would be vested with extravagant powers; and on the other hand, their affairs would be placed in a state of jeopardy, of which it was perhaps impossible to foresee the consequences. The Bank must necessarily make large issues of paper, if the arrangement now proposed was determined upon; and it was not impossible that those persons who were on the watch to re-establish the system of currency which parliament had expressed its determination to put down, might hail such a measure with pleasure, and turn it to their advantage. The Bank was not in a situation to venture upon any hazardous experiments. The exchanges, it was true, were in our favour at present; but there were many reasons why they should not continue so. In the first place, it was unnatural that they should continue in our favour, at a time when there was an increased issue of paper money; and the moment any thing unnatural was discovered in our situation, it was for a wise man to suspect all that might happen. He apologized to the House for having trespassed so long on their attention. His only object was, to afford relief to the country. He viewed its present situation with an aching heart. He knew that many of the most amiable men in the country were at the present moment in a state of jeopardy. Could nothing be done to save them? Let not the chancellor of the Exchequer expose himself to have it said of him, at a future tune, that, there were sufferings which he might have averted from the country, and would not [cheers].
The Chancellor of the Exchequer
said, that if he thought any consideration which he could give to the subject, after the full consideration which it must be obvious he had already bestowed upon it, could induce him to think that the mode of proceeding which the right hon. gentleman recommended was the most advisable to be pursued, he could assure him, that no unwillingness to abandon his own system, no fear of any reproaches which might be cast, upon hint for want of firmness or consistency, would induce him to abstain from adopting it; but the more deliberately he had considered the measure which the right hon. gentleman recommended as best calculated to effect what they all had in view, in relation either to the arguments which were advanced for 942 or against it, the more objectionable it appeared to his mind. The right hon. gentleman had stated his case with the most perfect fairness—he had mixed nothing, not an atom of asperity with any of his observations; and though he had felt it his duty to comment on the conduct of government, and to blame them for the course which they had taken, he had done so in a manner of which no one had a right to complain, and indeed, as far as he was himself concerned, he felt personally beholden to him. The right hon. gentleman had however said, that government was called upon to take the particular course which he recommended, because, in his view, the conduct which they had previously held, and the language which they had previously used, had contributed, in a gnat degree, to produce that state of things to which it was now desirable to apply a remedy. Certainly the circumstances stated by the right hon. gentleman might make it incumbent on government to apply a remedy; but not any particular remedy, unless it could be clearly shown that the benefit to be derived from that particular remedy was so greatly superior to the evil consequences that might be apprehended from it, as to over-balance all the objections which could be offered to it. It was because he did not think that the remedy proposed by the right hon. member was of that description, that he could not bring himself to adopt it. He, however, was not disposed to admit, that the course which government and parliament had pursued for the last few years, deserved all the imputations which the right hon. gentleman had thought fit to cast upon it. The right hon. gentleman accused government of having been the original cause of the reduction of the rate of interest, which he said had led to excessive speculation. He had charged upon ministers the having produced that by original acts of their own. What were those acts? Various of the acts which the right hon. gentleman and others made a matter of blame to government, tool place after the particular event to which the present distresses of the country were ascribed. The right hon. gentleman ascribed the reduction of the 5 per cents to some mysterious combination between government and the Bank. Under what circumstance did government propose that measure? It was proposed under the direct sanction of a parliamentary com- 943 mittee In 1817, a committee of that House particularly recommended the reduction of the 5 per cents as a measure Calculated to relieve the country, and diminish pro tanto the amount of the engagement Which the national debt imposed Upon It. If was not surprising, therefore, that when the rate of interest in 1822 was found to be such as favoured a reduction of the 5 per cents, government, acting upon the recommendation of the committee, should avail themselves of it, for the purpose of Saving to the country an expense of 1,400,000l. a-year. It was, he thought, hardly fair to blame government for this Measure, which they had resorted to under circumstances which he had stated. To return, however, to the point to which lie had previously adverted. Many of the acts for which the right hon. gentleman found fault with ministers, took place not before, but subsequent to the reduction of the rate of interest. The passing of the one-and-two pound-note act, and the arrangement of the half-pay and pensions, took place subsequently to that measure. It was therefore impossible to charge on those acts the reduction of the fate of interest. He must most positively deny, that government endeavoured, by any combination with the Bank, to promote a state of things which should favour the reduction of the rate of interest. If government bad done any thing of the kind, they would have been guilty of a fraud upon the persons who, by the process of reduction, were compelled to sacrifice a part of their incomes. He would state to the House one circumstance which would prove that the government had acted bona fide in the transaction, and had not been desirous to produce a state of things calculated to assist them in the operation which they proposed. When he stated, at the commencement of 1824, that it was the intention of government to propose the reduction of the 4 per cents, it was suggested, that great facility would be given to the operation—by what?—by reducing the Interest on Exchequer-bills. He said, "No, it would be unfair to do that; the reduction of the rate of interest on Exchequer-bills must follow the reduction of interest on ail other Securities; but it Would not be acting with good faith to resort to that measure for the purpose of increasing the disposition of individuals to accept 3½ instead of 4 per cent." He gave that as a practical proof, that go- 944 vernment had not been disposed to lend themselves to any measure calculated to effect, by artificial means, that which. In the natural course of events, was not practicable.—The right hon. gentleman said, that he thought it would be very proper to follow the example of I793; and he had used one expression which, he must confess, rather startled him, and, in his opinion, furnished one of the strongest possible reasons for inducing the House not to adopt that precedent. The right hon. gentleman, in alluding to the proceedings of 1793, spoke of it as being ad established practice. Now, if ever it should become the established practice for government to become bankers and pawn-brokers, it would derange all the transactions of commerce, throw every thing into confusion, and teach men not to rely on their own exertions, but to trust to the unnatural and artificial course recommended on the present occasion, and which, if now adopted, would become, not the exception, but the rule for future guidance. He did not think the case of 1793 was so precisely similar to the present as the right hon. gentleman seemed to consider it. Did the right hon. gentleman attribute no importance to the remarkable changes which took place in the whole aspect of affairs on the continent and in this country, between the Summer of 1792 and the Spring of 1793? In the Summer of 1792, the universal impression (which the government not only shared; but tended to produce) was, that if ever there was a period in our history when ft was probable that the country would continue for years in a state of peace, that period had then arrived. And yet, what happened? Within a few weeks after that impression prevailed, a war broke but in Europe, under circumstances quite unusual. France acquired an attitude which the wisest men, and Mr. Burke amongst the rest, had thought it incompatible with her situation to assume. In a short time, the situation of France involved this country in hostilities, which, in their nature-; exceeded any in which we had ever before been engaged. There was he question that the great prosperity which prevailed at the commencement of 1792 must sooner or later have experienced a revulsion; but, the revulsion was occasioned by an extraneous cause, and not by the extravagant speculations of individuals; and that, therefore, might be said to constitute a case in which it was proper for govern- 945 ment to interfere. The case of 1811 had also been referred to. Although that case, as to the intensity of the distress, and the particular mode of its operation, might be said to resemble the present, yet the circumstances which had produced the former were as unlike as possible those which had brought about the latter. The distress of 1811 was not occasioned by general speculation and over-trading, though he admitted that it was partly produced by over-trading in one particular branch of commerce, which arose out of the peculiar circumstances of the war. By the anti-commercial decrees of Buonaparte (assisted, it might be, by the retaliatory measures of the English government) all the channels of trade between this country and the continent were effectually dammed up. It was not surprising that, under these circumstances, persons engaged in mercantile speculations should avail themselves too eagerly of the sudden opening of the trade with South America. The distress of 1811, then, resulted from over-trading to South America, occasioned by the peculiar situation of hostilities. The circumstances of that case, therefore, were very different from those of the present, and that diversity of circumstances was with him an additional reason for not following one bad example, and setting another. It was the duty of parliament to abstain from entering a vicious circle, from which they would never escape, until they were entangled in its folds. If it were right to adopt the course recommended on the present occasion, then upon every principle of fair dealing and justice government ought to have done exactly the same thing when the landed interest was in a state of distress. A number of persons thought it desirable to do so upon that occasion. Indeed, a distinct proposition was made to the House, though not adopted, that government should adopt a similar measure to that of 1793. Ministers opposed the proposition; not only on the ground of the difficulty of carrying it into execution, but on principle; yet, in point of fact, the agricultural interest had, at that time, just the same claim to the assistance of the government as could be set up by any part of the community at the present moment. He knew not why, if parliament yielded now, they should not have done the same in the case of agricultural distress. In another case, with regard to Ireland, a similar proposition was made to 946 parliament. It was moved, that government should advance 1,000,000l. to be employed in the encouragement of the cultivation of flax and the draining of bogs in Ireland. There could be no doubt that the advance of money would have been immediately beneficial to Ireland, and would have served for a precedent to be brought to bear upon the present argument; but parliament most wisely abstained from establishing it. It could not be said that the distress which existed in Ireland at that period was not equal to that which now prevailed in this country. Ireland had just recovered from a desolating famine, which had swept away thousands of her inhabitants, and covered the land with mourning; all her banking establishments were broken, or in a state of embarrassment, and yet parliament did not think proper to adopt the remedy now proposed, because they considered that it was likely to produce the evil of rendering government liable to be called upon on every occasion of distress to act as bankers and pawnbrokers. To refer to another case. Every body knew that, in 1823, a most important branch of our commerce, namely, the West-India trade, was in a state of great distress. The circumstances of that case, as related at the period, were precisely similar to those of the present time. It was said upon that occasion, that the planters possessed sufficient property to answer all demands; but that, nevertheless, merchants would not advance them any money, because they were not satisfied with the security of the planter's property. And to what was this doubt of the security of the planter's property attributed? Partly to the anomalous state of society in the West-India islands, and partly—he begged the attention of the House to the fact—to the measures adopted by that House on the subject of negro-slavery. The grounds upon which government was then called upon to advance 5,000,000l. to assist the West-India interest, were quite as strong as those upon which they were at present urged to advance a similar sum to the commercial interest; but parliament, conceiving that it would be setting a bad example, rejected the proposition. No one could be found to defend the proceedings in question per so it was admitted that it should be reported to only in a case of necessity. if there was anyone power which it was the duty of government to be cautious in assuming, it was that of advancing money in what 947 might be considered cases, of necessity. The temptations to abuse such a power were so great, that he should not like to be answerable for the consequences which might ensue if parliament should be too facile in the propriety of establishing it. Supposing that government had lent the 4,000,000l. which were asked for the relief of the agricultural interest in 1822, the 1,000,000l. for Ireland in 1823, the 5,000,000l. for the West-India interest, in addition to the 5,000,000l. which were now called for, they would have advanced no less than 15,000,000l. in the course of four years. Would any body say that such a course of proceeding was not dangerous; and that it was not a misfortune that the original precedent of 1793 existed? It was impossible to confine a measure of the kind under consideration to any particular case. Each case was represented to possess particular claims upon the attention of government and parliament. The best feelings of men's nature were appealed to, in order to induce them to follow the course which had been adopted in 1793, and which, if now resorted to, could never be refused to the application of any particular interest which might conceive itself to be, or might actually be, in a state of suffering.—The right honourable gentleman seemed to think that, in point of principle, there was no difference between the Bank lending money on goods, and the same thing being done by government. Government had not by law the power of lending money upon goods. A special law must therefore be passed in order to give them that power. The Bank, however, already possessed the power; it was coeval with their original institution, and though never exercised, had, on every renewal of their charter, continued to form an inherent part of it. There was, therefore, the greatest distinction between the two cases. The absence of this power on the part of the government was an indication that it was not congenial with their functions, and its possession on the part of the Bank was a proof that, in the opinion of parliament, it might be wise and prudent, under particular circumstances, for that body to exercise it. The exercise of that power by the Bank must, of course, depend on circumstances. It would not be prudent to bring it into action on all occasions, but periods might arrive when it would be highly useful to do so. It never could be supposed that it would be pru- 948 dent for the Bank to act on all occasions as they did in December last. Their conduct on that occasion was justified only by the circumstances of the period.—With respect to the proposition of an issue of Exchequer-bills by government, supposing government were to adopt that measure, would the Bank have nothing to do with it? Had they nothing to do with the measure of 1793? How would the bills be converted into money? The Bank would cash them. The right hon. gentleman had assumed, that only a small portion of the bills would be carried to the Bank, and that the rest would be cashed in other quarters; but he had no right to make that assumption, any more than that it would be necessary to issue only 1,000,000l. out of the 5,000,000l. which it was proposed to place at the disposal of ministers. He was bound to look at the measure under the most unfavourable circumstances, and would therefore suppose that the whole amount of Exchequer-bills would be issued. The Bank might be called upon to cash those bills under circumstances which would render it inconsistent with their duty to do so. The Bank, who were necessarily well acquainted with all the variations of exchanges, would contract and extend their issues as circumstances might require. A set of commissioners would not be governed by the same prudential reasons which would influence the Bank, and might issue bills at a moment when the Bank would feel it to be inconsistent with their duty to cash them. If such a case should occur, the mischief would be ten thousand times greater than that which at present prevailed. If these bills were not taken up by somebody, they would add to the already loaded state of the market of Exchequer-bills. He would then like to know how the revenue would feel the excessive issue of these bills, which, when they fell to a discount, might be paid at par into the Treasury, which would then be less able to meet the wants of the country.—The right hon. gentleman had spoken of secrecy, the secrecy which it was incumbent to observe in cases of persons applying for pecuniary accommodation. For his part, he had been somewhat struck with that notion; but upon coming to converse with persons who were willing to receive assistance, he had found none of that excessive delicacy upon which the right hon. gentleman had 949 expatiated. The language used by every one who applied for assistance was, that every body else was in the same predicament, and the difficulties under which the applicants laboured were never considered by them as affecting their credit or stability. They did not imagine that it reflected any discredit upon them to go to the Bank of England, or any where else, where they could procure money upon an advance on their goods. The language of the applicants was, "We are solvent—it is not mere credit that we want, but something more substantial—we now offer you, not a bill of exchange, or an acceptance to be discounted, but goods of the full value of the money we wish you to advance upon them." He could not for the life of him conceive why persons should be afraid of being known, or require secrecy. They might go with a bold and confident face and ask for advances. Some gentlemen had talked of commissioners being, on a former occasion, bound by an oath of secrecy. Not one word of this was true. They took an oath of office, indeed, but not an oath of secrecy. The commissioners of 1793, who were sixteen in number, consisted (with the exception of lord Sheffield and sir Grey Cooper) of merchants, and three of them were Bank directors. And why were we to assume that Bank directors would avail themselves of their situation, and publish sinister rumours to the prejudice of applicants? How happened it that persons, when distressed, always went to the Bank? The Dank did as they were bound to do, look into the securities offered. Whether the pledges were goods or bills of Exchange, they must be satisfied, by previous inquiry, that they could safely trust to them. The argument as to secrecy, therefore, had no validity whatsoever.—The right hon. gentleman conceived that ministers were bound to take this course of giving relief, because the measures taken at the commencement of the session, of which he was a supporter, had imposed upon them the duty of relieving the evil thereby created. But this proposition had been made to government in December last, previous to the opening of the session, arid when Exchequer-bills were at a discount of 85s. per cent. They had then thrown cold water upon it, and had acted at first as they had continued to do ever since. Feeling that the mode proposed was objectionable, and likely to lead to 950 dangerous consequences, they set themselves decidedly against so bad an example. Were they, therefore, now to be reproached, because they had endeavoured to discover if any other method of administering relief could be devised, not liable to the same objections? The government had never denied relief in any way in which it could be given. They had a choice between two measures, one liable to insuperable objections, the other to but few objections. It was not, therefore, a matter of reproach to them that they refused the former, and acceded to the latter, which they thought reasonable. The right hon. gentleman complained that they had used no language of a cheering nature. Now, he was apt to think that when government did so, it was vehemently reproached for drawing a highly-coloured picture of the state of things; and if ministers had treated the matter lightly, as if the distress was nothing at all, they would have experienced more censure than the right hon. gentleman had bestowed, and with justice. He never wished to underrate the present difficulties; and one reason for it was, that he wished to show that the greatness of those difficulties resulted from particular evils. It was the duty of ministers to impress upon the House the real causes of the difficulties of the country, and to point out the means of avoiding their recurrence. There was one opinion in which he most cordially concurred with the right hon. gentleman, and that was with respect to the resources of the country. Ail its sources of wealth, all the springs of its action, notwithstanding this superficial pressure, were in their pristine vigour. Although the leaves and branches of the tree had been shattered, its roots were firmly fixed, and they would shoot forth again with fresh beauty. If we took our measures with prudence and wisdom, he had no doubt we should succeed, and at no distant period, in weathering the storm. Although there bad doubtless been so much individual distress in different parts of the country, neither himself nor his colleagues would have to reproach themselves with not having given their best attention to the subject, or with not having proposed those measures which they believed were best calculated to raise this country from the difficulties in which it was placed.
observed, that the question divided itsell, in the right hon. gentle- 951 man's speech, into two parts; first, whether any relief at all should be afforded; and secondly, whether the relief proposed was of the proper kind. With respect to the first branch, the right hon. gentleman had argued that the government should not interfere, and that former precedents and former examples were vicious, and ought not to be followed. It was the general tendency of the argument of the right hon. gentleman, that all precedent and examples had been pernicious. Indeed, the right hon. gentleman had first argued that there existed no precedents whatever, or, if there did, that they were not fit to be followed. With respect to the argument of withholding relief on the ground of the impropriety of government's interfering in the private affairs of individuals, he need scarcely observe, that the principles of the measures of government were a direct and immediate interference in private concerns. The merchants had received refusal after refusal to their applications and proposals to the Treasury; and it was not until the hon. member from under the gallery bad taken up this subject, that government thought fit to give way [hear, hear!]. He was only stating the simple fact. The government would not deny that they had had communications with the directors of the Bank, and with merchants. These latter gentlemen had declared to ministers most distinctly, that they wanted nothing whatever for themselves, but could not see their friends and neighbours falling about them in distress and misery. They wanted the government to act upon the precedents which, in their opinion, were exactly suited to the present time. These representations were made to his majesty's ministers; he did not recollect at what period; but, if he stated that they had been made three or four weeks ago, he was not seating it too far. Nevertheless, the government had persisted in withholding relief until the present moment. If ever the old adage, "Bis dat qui cito dat," was applicable to any case, it? was applicable to the present. If what had been done now, had been done two or three weeks ago, the country would have been spared a vast mass of its difficulties. The only language of government in reply to such applications was, that their interference in transactions of trade was a bad precedent, and that, therefore, they would do nothing. Such language had been held up to that very night. Up to that 952 very moment nothing like concession had come from his majesty's ministers. The government now said, that they would give no assistance at all; but they forced the Bank directors to do what that body had pressed the government to excuse them from doing. As men conversant with the principles of business, they thought the present measure would form a precedent most objectionable, with respect to themselves, in their relations with the commercial world. They begged and prayed of government to have recourse to those other precedents which stood on record. On the subject of the non-interference of government upon this occasion, and the inexpediency of citing precedents, and not following them, the right hon. gentleman made out a very bad case. The precedent of affording relief had been, acted upon, over and over again, by Mr. Pitt; but the government said, that his precedent ought not to be followed, except in an extraordinary state of affairs. Now, he would ask whether the present distresses did not constitute an extraordinary state of affairs? There were more notes in circulation now than had ever existed on any one of the occasions of government affording relief; and he would ask what was there in the present case which would take it out of that class of precedents to which he referred? If ever a state of distress had been unequivocally produced by the conduct of government, it was the present. It had been argued that government had been justified in affording relief on former occasions, because the distresses which they relieved had been occasioned by their own measures; and such was strictly the case at present. The difficulties under which the country laboured, constituted an extraordinary state of things, which had brought great discredit upon the circulating medium of the country. People possessing an abundance of property, failed in that medium of transactions between man and man, on which they before were able to rely. It was not so much the want of property that occasioned the present distress, as the want of the medium of exchanging and bartering that property. One-fourth of the currency of the country had been put out of circulation. This was the source of infinite distress. What did the parliament do under these circumstances? Certainly what no man could have anticipated. Immediately upon their meeting, they put out the remaining 953 fourth. Another great source, perhaps the greatest source of difficulty, was a want of confidence in the paper circulation. What did the government do to restore this confidence? They declared that the remaining currency was mere trash. They had already brought in a bill, and the country were watching their measures with anxiety, when, on a sudden, new lights break in upon them, and they alter those measures. This was done in the midst of poignant distress; and yet they said that they could not interfere in the private concerns of individuals, and that no case of interference in the private affairs of individuals had been made out; that all this was mere peevish, pettish, and puerile. The question was not, whether good could be done to this or that individual, but, whether the measure would be beneficial to the country at large. But then the government said, it would be a bad example for them to afford relief. And, to get rid of the example, they imposed the measure upon the Bank of England, where the example was a thousand times worse. His own conviction was, that it was an example rarely to be followed. It had been used unfortunately, upon mere trifling occasions. It was certainly an example more "honoured in the breach than in the observance." If this had been a case of distress in one particular branch of trade, the rest being sound, then the distress might be left to the assistance of individuals. It was only in cases where distress was universal, that the government ought to interfere. It was not to aid a particular class of speculators, but substantial honest traders, numbers of whom might be seen around, who, though unconnected with bubbles, were affected by them; for it was in the nature of things that honest men often suffered from the folly of others. The precedent of 1793 was founded on sound sense and discretion. It extended parental aid where it was needed, and by restoring helping confidence, was calculated to work a great benefit. The House, however, would fail in its duty if it did this on insufficient ground. Within these two or three years there had been issues of Exchequer-bills for public objects, as the papers on the table would show; and it was strange that, whilst there was a glut of money in the country, government issued Exchequer-bills under the Exchequer-bill loan act, and refused to do it now, when money was scarce. The question 954 was, whether the interference of government could be usefully applied? And if ever there was a case of that kind, it was that before the House. No case of distress had ever been more pressing, and here the remedy called for would produce a beneficial effect. What was wanted was the medium of confidence between those who possessed property; and Exchequer-bills afforded just the means of dealing required. The right hon. gentleman had said, that the Exchequer-bills would go to the Bank, and that the Bank would have to buy them. That he totally denied. There never was a time in which there was more capital in the country. He could say that be had now twice as much as at many other periods; and although capitalists would not, from apprehension, advance money on goods, they would do it on bills. There was a complaint of a want of circulating medium; yet there were more Bank-notes and more gold in the country at present than there had been for some time past. But there prevailed a panic amongst capitalists, as to the effect of the measures of government, which made men who possessed money take care of themselves. The right hon. gentleman was wrong in saying that Exchequer-bills would do no service. It was precisely this sort of relief which was wanted. The right hon. gentleman first said he disapproved of the plan altogether; then he sent the applicants to the Bank, who were reluctant, and at first refused, though they subsequently consented to compound. It was, nevertheless, a power which die Bank was improperly intrusted with. He was aware that, in the present state of the foreign exchanges, the Bank might give themselves what latitude they pleased; yet a season of danger might occur. With respect to the legal authority of the Bank to advance money on goods, he had been some years a director of the Bank, and knew something of their concerns; and though he had read over their charter, he did not think that they were empowered to lend money on this species of security. He thought no person could read it over and maintain that it was ever intended to give that power: it was merely a provision against the possibility of their taking goods for a doubtful debt, in order that they might have the power of sale. He was confident that the Bank solicitor would tell them so, and that it never was intended that they should be allowed to lend money on goods. It was in his opi- 955 nion a most dangerous precedent. The right hon. gentleman thought he did good by establishing sound precedents. He was departing from his principle, and doing great injury by the present precedent, in holding it to be dangerous for the government to do what they intrusted to the Bank. If this measure had been, however acted upon before, it might have produced great benefit, and prevented much of that general disgrace which had brought many persons into the mire. He could not help declaring, that through the whole of these proceedings, the merchants had been held at arms-length by his majesty's ministers—communion and assistance both refused to them—in a manner that was perfectly unprecedented in the history of the country.—As regarded that part of the plan which would touch upon the law of Merchant and Factor, he doubted the expediency, too, of putting forward the operation of the new bill. The new law, as the House would be aware, entitled the holder of goods to pledge them; making the possession the evidence of title. This was not the case with the old law, under which a holder of goods might take up money upon them; and yet a third person, proving himself the owner, might take them back (without repayment), provided no actual sale had taken place. Now, the lord chancellor, with his usual dislike to novelties, had only suffered this bill—of which he (Mr. B.) entirely approved—to pass, subject to a provision, that the world should have notice of the change in their situation; and for that purpose, that the foreign merchant might have notice that his consignee in future could pledge the goods intrusted him. The bill was therefore not allowed to come into operation until October next. Now, this was at least an honest provision, if it led to delay; and although he would have originally passed the bill to operate instanter, he did not like, after the time of warning had been published, to run the chance of misleading people by shortening it. Nor was it at all necessary, in fact, practically to do this. When Exchequer-bills, on a former case of emergency similar to the present, had been issued, no doubt some oath had been required from those who deposited, as to their real ownership of the property pledged; but hot a shilling on that occasion had been lost, and it would be better in the same way, how to take the hazard. With reference, however, to the point of secrecy, 956 which was a point of the highest importance, the commissioners of 1793 stated in their report that, in many cases, the information which came before them was such as to lay open the private affairs of most respectable individuals. On this account they had taken the precaution, before their duties concluded, that every paper connected with the business which they had been transacting should be destroyed. Now, on this very showing, he should decidedly have preferred another parliamentary commission. The Bank directors were, no doubt, men of the strictest honour; but then they were just the very men whom these borrowers would most likely be in constant mercantile communication with, at the time when they wanted this assistance; and the very last, therefore, whom they would choose to trust with their distresses. Though the mercantile world had little to thank government for, however, in the present measure, he was glad to find that something would be done. For what they did get, they were no doubt greatly indebted to the perseverance of the hon. member for the city of London. At the same time, he must repeat that ministers had hung back from the mercantile interest in a way which would not be forgotten. The value of the boon was much diminished by the way in which it had been granted. And the assistance, after all, such as it was, was given in the shape of all others the most inconvenient.
§ Lord Althorp
said, that he did not wish to look for cases of precedent. It was admitted that this was a period of great commercial distress, and the question was, whether ministers would or would not step forward to relieve the trade and commerce of the country? He fully concurred with them in the necessity of placing the currency upon a permanent footing, and he thought that the present was a favourable moment for doing so, but concurrently with that measure, they were bound to take every means to relieve the existing distress. It was true the Bank of England had, by its charter, the power to lend money upon goods, but it was a power rarely used, and ministers had no right to depend upon the exertions of the Bank in the present emergency. Nor did he see, when an issue of Exchequer-bills on former occasions had been attended with complete success, why the present assistance should have been given in a shape, the conve- 957 nience of which was at least problematical.
§ Mr. T. Wilson
thought, that ministers were bound, in mere courtesy to parliament, to assign some reason beyond their personal pleasure, why the plan now under discussion was preferred to that which had been recommended to them. For the measure which had been suggested there was at least a precedent; and he still believed that it would have turned out the most advantageous, as well as the most satisfactory to the country. It was said that there could be no difference between borrowing money upon bills of exchange and borrowing it upon goods, especially as the time for which the accommodation was wanted would not exceed a few months; but he doubted very much whether any man of business could be found who would declare, that he thought any such limited extent of accommodation likely to be sufficient. Gentlemen coming up on the spur from the country, and applying to the Bank for relief, might be glad to take it for any period, and on any terms they could get; and such persons might have talked of a few months being sufficient; but certainly no one else could. As to what was said to justify the dislike of ministers now to assist the mercantile interests; namely, that relief had been refused some years since to the distress of the agriculturists—that argument had no force whatever; for the relief to the agriculturalists, though nominally refused, was virtually granted. It was true, that advances were not made by the government: but a measure was passed, empowering the country banks to issue small notes, which had exactly the same operation. As it seemed to him, the precedent of allowing merchants to go to the Bank to borrow money upon goods, was likely to lead to a repetition of such applications, in such a way as would be highly inconvenient. Merchants would go to the Bank, when the custom was once established, upon every occasion which might seem to justify such a measure; whereas, they could not have the face to make application to government, unless in a case of great general national distress. He could not sit down, without protesting against the tone in which ministers had treated both the applicants for relief, and parliament in general. In a case of public calamity, like that in which the country bad been placed, as servants of the Crown, and standing immediately between the 958 sufferers and parliament, they might have shown more judgment in listening patiently even to the weakest of the various propositions brought before them, than by declaring, highly and hastily as they had done, that if the House adopted any measure but that to which they inclined, it might seek for some other persons to carry that measure into execution. Decidedly, he thought that ministers would have done well to have been less positive; and that they had treated the mercantile interest of the country with a levity which the distress under which it laboured did not warrant.
condemned the hesitation of government to afford relief at a moment when the whole manufacturing and commercial interests of the country were in one common state of stagnation and distress. And, in this state of things, what was it that they required? They asked no boon. They only asked that the channels of public communication might be restored; that the stagnation which at present prevailed might be relieved by an issue of Exchequer-bills. And this aid they requested at a period of as great distress and panic as any which had ever taken place in this country. What danger could there be in advancing Exchequer-bills? It had been formerly tried, and found to answer all the purposes expected. He hoped the ministers would not, at a future period, turn round upon the Bank, and accuse them of any inconvenience that might arise from the measure which they were now forcing upon that body. The right hon. Secretary had acted, he contended, in total ignorance of the subject, when he said, in 1819, that the measure of that year was to settle the currency question for ever. A metallic currency, with a standard of 3l. 17s. 10½d. per ounce of gold, could never be established in this country along with our national debt, and our enormously expensive establishments. It would be found impossible to reconcile the ancient standard of this country with the existing state of things. They were altogether incompatible. It was very well for the right hon. Secretary for Foreign Affairs to condemn the conduct of Mr. Pitt, with reference to the Bank restriction, and to talk of his illumination at one time, and his total eclipse at another. Such restrictions would come when they would. When the Bank coffers were empty, even the right hon. Secretary would find himself obliged 959 to overshadow the brilliancy of his career by a restriction act, and so have his moments of obscuration as well as Mr. Pitt. He knew of no more likely mode of bringing about such a condition of things than the present measure of forcing the Bank to make loans on the deposit of goods. It was impossible that relief could be given in gold, with the standard fixed at 3l. 17s. 10½d. At that rate, the restoration of the metallic currency would cause fluctuations more violent, and bring on rain more complete, than the wildest freaks of the paper money had ever produced. The necessity of the Bank to pay in gold with a standard of 3l. 17s. 10½d. had caused the reduction in the issue of their notes; and thus was laid the foundation of that want of confidence, which had occasioned so much mischief, and would continue to do so until relief was effectually given. Had the standard price of gold been fixed at 4l. 2s. 6d. per ounce, there would have been no panic, and no reduction of the number of notes. Distress and alarm, he was convinced, would go much further, unless some better measures of relief were resorted to.
§ Mr. W. Whitmore
said, he believed that a fair arrangement of the currency of the country would do far more for the general benefit than the measure now proposed; but as relief was to be given, e thought it would be much better given by advances from the Bank than by an issue of Exchequer-bills. With reference to the conduct of ministers, the hon. member for London found fault with their steady adherence to the line which they had adopted; but he could not see the subject in that light. He gave them credit far their steadiness, and thought that nothing but mischief could have resulted from vacillation. He could not concur in opinion with those who wished ministers to abandon the position they had taken. They ought not to be such mere creatures of circumstances as to veer round with every breath of popular opinion. Let them steadily pursue the line of conduct which they had pledged themselves to support, the difficulties which were now complained of would speedily pass away. Nothing which he bad heard ought to deter government from pursuing that sound line of policy which they had declared it to be their determination to Uphold. With respect to what had fallen from the hon. member for Callington, he implored the House not to be 960 led away by the reasoning of that hon. gentleman. That hon. gentleman had advocated a theory, which, if acted upon, could only lead to national bankruptcy. The hon. gentleman had proposed to the House a measure that would distinctly and decidedly occasion an entire want of credit and confidence in the country. The adoption of such a proposition would be a complete aberration from those pledges which the country was bound to abide by—it would, in fact, be nothing less than an act of bankruptcy [hear]. When the hon. member talked of different prices of gold; when he spoke of the market price being upwards of 4l. when the Mint price was only 3l. 10s. 7½d. it was not difficult to see at what he was pointing. He would ask gentlemen to inquire, and to inquire seriously, whether the country was in a situation which would require ministers to follow the course evidently indicated by the hon. member? If the country were in such a situation—if it were so circumstanced as to justify the adoption of a measure similar to that which the hon. member seemed to approve of—let it be brought boldly and fairly before the public—let no covert attempt be made to undermine that public honour and hitherto unblemished credit, of which that House was the legitimate protector. He wished the House to consider, whether, in the present state of the country, when much distress and confusion prevailed amongst all classes of society, it would be wise or prudent to adopt any proposition which could have the effect of impairing, in the slightest degree, that credit, on the faith and security of which business had heretofore been successfully conducted? He implored gentlemen to weigh well the probable effect of the votes which they meant to give on the momentous subjects that had been brought under their consideration. He had no connexion with ministers, and most probably never should have any connexion with them; therefore he must at least be supposed to speak disinterestedly. In his opinion the measures which they appeared anxious to pursue were calculated to improve the resources of the country. Those measures would lead to a just and proper development of our means, and would, if fairly followed up, produce the greatest possible benefit to the empire, by bringing back its resources to their former high state of prosperity. Impressed with these sentiments, he called 961 on the House and the country not lightly to withdraw from ministers that confidence which had hitherto been so generally and so justly bestowed on them. He trusted that gentlemen would still continue to grant that support to ministers, by which alone they could hope to carry into effect those comprehensive measures which, he was convinced, would in the end produce the most excellent results.
, in explanation, observed, that the sentiments which had fallen from him would not bear, if fairly examined, the construction which the lion, member had been pleased to put upon them.
§ Mr. P. Moore
said, it was admitted on all hands, that the country was in a state of great distress; and the question was, whether that distress was or was not to be relieved by the legislature? Unquestionably relief ought to be afforded; and it was their duty to consider what measure appeared most likely to produce an object so desirable. Various reasons were adduced for the existence of the present untoward state of things. Amongst other things, they were told that 25,000,000l. of money had been sent out of the country on foreign speculations. That was all fabulous. The 25,000,000l. were still in the country, would be in the country, and could not get out of the country. Much of the present mischief had arisen from the system which had been pursued, of pointing out one speculation as good, and decrying another as bad, without possessing a knowledge on the subject; thus inflicting injury on one set of people, and heaping benefits on another, without duly considering the merits of any one case. That cursed, that abominable thing called a hoax—(and he was sorry to say that such things were going forward every hour)—had contributed in an immense degree to produce the present unfortunate state of affairs. Many proofs of this were to be found in the public papers. He had examined the subject deeply. He understood it well. He felt severely from the system of calumny, of vice, and of falsehood, which prevailed on the Stock-exchange. They stopped at nothing that appeared likely to forward the execution or their plans. That place was a Pandemonium of falsehoods, of infamous falsehoods, ready to overbear the government in all its proceedings, and to thwart every transaction Amongst honest, upright, and virtuous men [a laugh]. He spoke from unhappy experience. He knew it 962 but too well. He had suffered by it, and so had some of his honourable friends. Doubtless some body gained by them. The Stock-exchange, he repeated, was neither more nor less than a Pandemonium. The object of its frequenters was, to constitute an imperium in imperio, and undermine the measures of government. Ministers might do as they pleased; but if they did not look about them, the jobbers would blow them up [a laugh]. It was not his way to exaggerate. He spoke from personal and private knowledge, when he said he knew where to find, at a moment's warning, one of your domestic brokers, sitting snug behind his desk, who could soon initiate a man in the depths and difficulties of this Pandemonium. Aye, and his hon. friends about him knew where to find him too [a laugh]. He spoke, in his previous description, exclusively of those brokers who possessed what was called the privilege of the Stock-exchange. A man must be known to have been connected with certain transactions, before he was eligible to be admitted there. If he obtruded himself an honest guest, he was hooted out, drummed out, thumped out, aye and kicked out. In short, it was a complete field for gambling. Something of this kind—gambling on an extensive scale—was attempted at the west-end of the town, but the worthy magistrates of Bow-street soon put an end to it. They had all the parties up, and the wholesome discipline of the tread-mill wrought an effectual cure. His hon. friend, alderman Wood, and the other city magistrates were, he thought, rather tardy in not interfering with the nuisance he had mentioned; but "let them," said Mr. Peter Moore, "make me lord-mayor for once in my life, and soon have them up, and get rid of them all in four-and-twenty hours." The lord-mayor and court of aldermen grossly neglected their duty if they did not put down this sink of lies and vice—this arena for gambling of the worst "kind, With much propriety the police officers had been set effectually to work against the hells of Pall-mall, and it would be just as easy to extinguish the great bell of the city. This was his remedy for existing evils; and when once this great object was effected, there would be ah end of the distress and want of confidence, the removal of which now puzzled both branches of the legislature. He agreed that distresses ought to be relieved; but 963 above all he repeated what he had said on a former occasion—"Oh, whatever you do, spare the people, and protect their employment."
§ Mr. Ellice
said, in reply, that the present state of things was entirely owing to the plans of ministers. In 1822, a large issue of paper was allowed to meet the agricultural distress. Government was then enabled to reduce the interest on the 5 per cents. There appeared to be plenty of money in the country; individuals wished to procure a higher rate of interest than the funds provided, and they had, in consequence, had recourse to speculation. Instead of encouraging a large issue of paper now, he thought it would be better to grant relief to the country through the medium of Exchequer-bills. If the circulating medium were greatly increased, what would be the effect? A great rise in prices, which would decrease as the circulating medium was narrowed. At in what a situation would be country be then placed? He had hoped that the present conjuncture would have produced some wholesome disagreement between the government and the Bank; and he was sorry that the Bank had not forced the government to abandon their present course. If the Bank had remained firm, government must have yielded the point, and the distress of the country would have given birth to other measures. He regretted very much that the Bank had become instrumental to the adoption of mere half-measures. The proper way to meet the existing distress would have been by an issue of Exchequer-bills.
§ The motion was agreed to.