HC Deb 08 May 1826 vol 15 cc971-1004

On the order of the day for receiving the Report of the Committee on the Corn-laws,

Mr. Heatkcote

said, he would oppose the bringing up of the report. He would not object to that part of the measure which had reference to the letting out of the bonded corn, because it manifested the sympathy and concern of the House, and its anxiety to do every thing for the relief of the distress which now unhappily prevailed. But he must give his opposition to that part which related to the duty. It did not matter whether the duty was 12s. or 14s., for the difference only went into the pockets of the speculators. He also objected to it, as it would be used as an example, in the next session of parliament, when the question of the Corn-laws came to be finally discussed. He also opposed this measure, because it was giving way to the general delusion, that the Corn-laws were the cause of the present distress; because it was an attempt to carry by a side-wind, in an indirect manner, and in a time of alarm, a point that ought to be carried only in a time of peace, and when it could have the most ample previous deliberation; because there was no difference between the state of the country now and a fortnight ago, when the ministers had defeated the motion of the hon. member for Bridge-north, by an immense majority. In a word, he opposed this measure, because it was giving that to outrage and clamour, which should only be granted to the most calm and deliberate judgment.

Mr. Calcraft

rejoiced that he had taken the course which he had done on the last night that this subject was under discussion. He was convinced that, in not dividing the House, he and his friends had done right, considering that the proposition then made was a new proposition, and therefore ought to be fairly considered. Many of the objections which he entertained to the original proposition, he did not entertain at present; for the words price and duty were left out of the resolution. As ministers had, on their own responsibility, said that they were afraid lest corn should, before the next harvest, rise to a famine price, he could not absolve them from that responsibility by opposing the resolution as it stood at present. The original sin of the measure, however, was, that the agricultural interest was held up by it to the manufacturing interest, as the barrier which existed between them and subsistence, and not only as a barrier in that manner, but also as a barrier which subsisted between them and that increased demand which was declared necessary to relieve the existing distress. He was satisfied with what had been done on the former occasions when this subject was before the House, and he should recommend that the sense of the House should not now be taken. He was disposed to be moderate in his success, and to remain content with having induced the right hon. gentleman to withdraw the objectionable parts of his measure. If that had not been done, he believed that the whole question of the Corn-laws would have been concluded. The public, at least, would have thought so; and, whatever might have been the intention of the right hon. gentleman, his measure must have made that impression on the minds of the people. The mischief had, indeed, been effected, to a considerable extent, by what had already been done. He had heard from the country that, in many quarters, the persons most interested in the subject believed that the principle of the Corn-laws was attacked by the measure now before the House, and that in consequence all buying and letting of farms was put a stop to. He believed that the best safeguard which the agriculturists could have, and that which alone they had a right to expect, was a sufficient protecting duty. It was impossible that they could justify the Corn-laws as they now existed, and he believed that the majority of them would be content with such a duty as that which he suggested. He should postpone all that he had further to say on the measure, until the bill should be brought in; but, in the mean time, he would observe, that all persons who were interested in the Corn-laws, would be entirely dependant upon the conduct of ministers, if the House should clothe them with the power which they asked for. He could hardly think that ministers themselves would be willing to assume that power, when they contemplated the responsibility which they must take along with it; and they could not doubt that any future parliament would readily sanction whatever they might do, upon making out any thing like a case of necessity. He repeated that, as far as he was concerned, the measure should receive no opposition in its present stage. He hoped that the same determination would be adopted by the House; because, the amplest opportunity ought to be given to every member to deliver his sentiments on this very interesting subject, and the country was waiting in expectation to hear those opinions. He wished it, however, to be understood, that when the bill should be before the House, he should feel himself as perfectly at liberty to oppose it, as if he had not given it his sanction in any of its previous stages.

Mr. Bankes

wished that the report might be brought up, and the bill introduced, that the House might be in possession of something on which to found a discussion. When it was brought in he would take an opportunity of expressing his opinions upon the subject.

Mr. Leycester

said, he was not opposed to a discretion, even of wide latitude, being placed in the hands of ministers, provided the maximum of duty was placed at a sufficiently high rate. He thought 20s. was a sufficiently high rate as a maximum. The foreign grower of corn was benefited by a low duty; for in proportion as we lowered the duty, he raised the price.

Lord Belgrave

was desirous of taking this opportunity of expressing his disapproval of the measure. It divided itself into two parts; the one which related to the letting out the bonded corn, and the other to the discretionary power of permitting the importation of 500,000 quarters. As to the first of these propositions, it was considered as a relief to the manufacturers; but, so far from its being so, it was, in his opinion, a perfect insult to them. It had been calculated that the whole of the corn thus to be admitted, would not suffice for more than the consumption of four or five days. But, what he objected to mostly was, not so much the extent of relief which would be afforded by this measure, as that it was offering corn to the manufacturers which they could not buy. It was therefore, that he considered this measure, instead of being one of relief to the manufacturers, as a direct insult to them. The value of corn was not determined solely by its price. If a man could earn 20s. a week, and was obliged to give 10s. for bread, corn might be said to be cheaper to him than if he were obliged to give 5s. for bread when he could earn only 7s. After the declaration which had been already given, he thought it inexpedient to interfere in any manner with the Corn-laws, and he did not think that there were sufficient grounds to entertain the apprehension which would render requisite the power that ministers sought to obtain in the second part of the measure. He had been informed, that the announcement of their intentions had already had the effect of raising the price of bonded corn nearly 100 per cent. A short time ago, it was only at a price of 25s. or 26s., it was now raised to 50s.

Sir John Brydges

said, that not having had an opportunity to deliver his sentiments upon this measure on Friday, he would, with the indulgence of the House, make a few observations, and he assured them he would redeem his promise; aware, as he was, that the subject had been much discussed, and sensible of his own inability to throw any new light upon the subject. He confessed he had come down to the House on Friday last in much embarrassment, feeling, with many other hon. members, that he would be called upon to give a vote, either against the intended proposition of his majesty's ministers (to support whom it was ever his desire), or against his own conviction; and which must have been the consequence had the first proposition been persevered in, which he could not otherwise contemplate than as an interference with the principle of the existing Corn-laws. But, happily, he was relieved from this dilemma, by a modification of the proposition, by which its sting was taken away, and it became, in his opinion, no longer objectionable. However, though modified as it now was, it could no longer be considered as any alteration of the present Corn-laws; yet, as it was so nearly allied to it, and as he had been taught to look for this revision and alteration, at no distant period, he would offer a few observations upon the subject. From an expectation, that had for some time existed, of a revision of the Corn-laws now in force, and from its intimate connection with the subject of free trade, which had been already adopted, to a considerable extent, by parliament, the question now before the House was of the greatest magnitude, and excited an unusual degree of atten- tion, both m and out of it. Whether this revision should take place at all, and, if so, what was the proper period for it, were matters of weighty consideration. He was of opinion, that the eve of an expiring parliament was not the fit time to entertain this question, and the worst calculated to discuss such a permanent alteration of policy. But, thinking as he did upon this subject, it appeared to him, that no time was proper, that the present Corn-laws ought not to be disturbed; for they were calculated for the public good, as well as the protection of agriculture. Our commercial system had not undergone any changes that were inconsistent with the provisions of our existing Corn-laws; and, throughout the regulations of trade and commerce, the perpetuity of these laws had been presumed. The advocates for the repeal of the present Corn-laws, and the substitution of a free trade in foreign corn, were of two classes. The first erroneously judging that the increase of national wealth was a consideration paramount to all others, believed that the doctrines of political economy comprehended the whole science of government. The second class was but a faction, which laid hold of any subject, alike ignorant and regardless of its merits, which appeared to afford an opportunity to embarrass the proceedings of government. These last were unworthy of notice, and it would be but a waste of time to reply to their malignant motives. But to the arguments of the first class, he felt it his duty to offer one or two observations. The assistance of political economy in the deliberations of a statesman, was highly useful; but in these it ought not to have a sole and paramount authority, which, if so, would endanger its character as a science. The economists themselves asserted a free trade must be had, that the aid of the agriculturists was not requisite; that the poor soils ought to be put out of cultivation; and that the soil altogether might as well be laid waste, since the commercialists could supply bread cheaper than the agriculturists could grow it. But it might fairly be asked, what availed the cheapness of bread, if there was no money to purchase it? And how were the famishing millions, dependent upon agriculture, to be employed and subsisted, if an unlimited importation of foreign corn was to be permitted? He was satisfied that the policy of the Corn-laws did not hinge upon political economy; their views and con- siderations were mainly distinct. To apply the principles of a science for the regulation of making and using national wealth, was an assumption that could not hold. Were the riches of the nation the only object of importance? Were not the landed men the strength of England, and the best support of the government? Were not the moral character and the habits of the people of great consideration? Were the anvil and the loom to be esteemed wholly, in exclusion of the plough, the produce of national industry, and virtue, and strength? Was the hardy peasant of no importance to his country? He had read Mr. Jacob's report; but from its perusal, his fears; instead of being removed, were confirmed, that if our ports were to be thrown open to the importation of foreign corn, it would be the deathblow to agriculture; and, finally, the death-blow to the constitution: which, under the present system, had, for so many years, been the wonder and admiration of the world. Then, indeed, should we deserve the appellation of a nation of shopkeepers, which the late emperor of France had, in derision, thrown upon us. Whenever this subject should be brought before parliament, which, if it ever was to be, he hoped would be early in the ensuing session, because uncertainty was more injurious than even an enactment of the measure—when we knew our fate, we could regulate our interests accordingly, and make up our minds to endure an evil which we could not cure; but in this revision of the Corn-laws, he implored parliament to undertake it with mature deliberation, and to recollect that if, by their measures, they should crush one class at the expense of another, they would not be distributing even-handed justice. Let it recollect, too, that Ireland, in particular, claimed their attention; and that the depression of agriculture would be peculiarly baneful to that part of the empire. Let it reject the paltry consideration of amassing riches at the expense of agriculture. Sooner, he would say, "Perish commerce, but live the constitution!" He would only add his earnest hope, and he should cherish the idea, that parliament never would consent to sacrifice the staple interest of this great empire, its agriculture, upon the altar of national avarice.

Mr. H. Sumner

said, that he was of the same opinion that he at first expressed, that there were no sufficient grounds for carrying the present measure, nor for the apprehension that there would be any scarcity of corn in the country that would require it. It was unfair, at the close of the session, without strong and satisfactory reasons, to take the landed interest by surprise; more particularly at a period at which most of the Irish members, who were deeply interested in the question, were absent. They had returned to Ireland, for reasons that must be obvious, and did not expect that this bill would be introduced after their departure. Indeed, he would object to so important a measure being carried, except upon a call of the House. By it the manufacturing and landed interests were set in opposition to each other. It was said by the right hon. gentleman, that it was intended to limit the importation of corn to 500,000 quarters, independent of the letting out the corn in bond. The effect of announcing the letting out the bonded corn had already been to lower the price of corn; and, let the House consider in how far greater a degree that effect would be produced by the importation of 500,000 quarters. It was said that this would not exceed half the importation of any one season. The greatest importation of any one year, 1818, up to February, 1819, had been 1,500,082 quarters; and, let it be remembered, what was the effect of that importation on the market in the three years following? It had brought upon the country the distress with which it had been visited in 1820, 1821, and 1822. The prevailing distress was, in a great measure, occasioned by their own misconduct. He did not, therefore, mean to say that they should be left to starve; but he did object to the mode which was devised for relief—a mode which would depress the landed interest, and in depressing them, must ultimately depress the manufacturing interest also. Corn was at a moderate price now, and it would not be at a lower consistently with the poor-rates and other burthens which fell with peculiar severity upon the lauded interests. He was determined to give the measure his most decided opposition.

Mr. Stanley,

not having been in the House on a former night, when the subject was agitated, took that opportunity of expressing his intention to give to the measure proposed by his majesty's ministers his most hearty concurrence and support. He was also anxious to express his regret at seeing gentlemen con- nected with the landed interest, inclined to push what he must term a rather harsh opposition to that measure—a regret occasioned by his fears, that such opposition would do much to keep alive the feeling of discontent which existed in some portions of the manufacturing districts. Perhaps he spoke under the impression of feelings that were warmed by the circumstance of his having been, during the last fortnight, resident in the manufacturing districts. He had been placed in a situation where he had seen much of the domestic condition of all classes of the working community; and when he knew that more than half the looms in that country were out of employment, and more than half the manufacturing artisans out of work,—when he had seen the industrious weaver working for fifteen hours a day at the miserable wages of 5s. or 6s. a week,—when he had known them, with their wives and families, with a degree of patience under such privations truly astonishing, thus to labour on this pittance for weeks together,—and when he had observed them, day after day, with a noble feeling which he once feared had become extinct among their class, preferring to struggle with their sufferings rather than apply to their parishes,—it was very possible that he might come to this discussion with more warmth of feeling and less calmness of judgment, than others who had not lately visited the same parts of the kingdom. Probably, therefore, he was like a drowning man, ready to catch at straws; or a benighted traveller, ready to bless the first ray of light which might shed consolation over his gloomy path, when he most eagerly greeted the proposition of his majesty's government. At the same time, he was anxious not to be misunderstood on so serious an occasion. He would not be supposed to assert, that this measure would prove a remedy for all the distresses of the manufacturing community. Indeed, the measure did not point at any such extensive object. It did not purport to go into any case of that nature, any more than the vote of that night would involve the whole question of the Corn-laws. The measure was expressly a palliative only—a measure of partial and temporary relief. It was well known in the manufacturing districts, that it would go no further than this, and that it could, in no great degree, remedy their sufferings. This was shown even in the feeling of the mob which had committed violences there; for, wherever they had attacked a manufactory, the power-looms only had been destroyed by them, which looms they considered (and not absolutely without reason, since every improvement in machinery, introduced during a time of general pressure, must have a temporary injurious operation upon the labouring manufacturers) as the main, instead of a secondary, source of their distresses. The proposed measure could obviously prove but an alleviation—and, he was sorry to add, a temporary alleviation only—of so much misery. But he would say this, that it was a measure calculated to produce the best effects among those who were at present suffering by its tendency, to show that this House, and the agricultural interest in particular, were not back ward to sympathize with their afflictions, or to devise means, inadequate though; they might be, for their relief. He did hope, too, that it would induce, among the manufacturing classes, a feeling of thankfulness to parliament for the promptitude of its exertions in their favour, He could not think it calculated to give the agricultural interest any well-grounded apprehensions, on the score of the depreciated prices, which some gentlemen seemed to think it likely to produce. Under the circumstances he had stated, and deeming the measure calculated to produce a very beneficial result, he could not, upon any speculative apprehensions relative to trusting the discretionary powers called for in the hands of his majesty's ministers, refuse his cordial support to the proposition.

Colonel Wood

bore testimony to the merits of the speech delivered by the hon. member; but, whatever support he might give to the measure, it was on an understanding that it had no reference to any permanent or material alteration of the Corn-laws; being convinced that any such alteration would not tend to lessen but to aggravate the distresses of the country. He thought the proposition now before the House more objectionable than the original measure proposed by government. He conceived that the preferable plan would be, to grant to government the discretionary power of opening the ports upon an Order of Council, when the average price of corn had amounted to a certain specified rate. The rate of that import price might be settled when the bill was in the committee. He thought that a certain price ought to be fixed, at which the 500,000 quarters were to be admitted.

An honourable member, alluding to the debate of Friday last, remarked, that the right hon. gentleman near him had omitted to state specifically the price at which corn was to be imported. Now, the price of our own corn in the market, according to the London Gazette of Saturday, was 60s. 1d. per quarter. If it was meant to be said that at this price foreign corn was to be hereafter always importable> or indeed at any other price, perhaps, under 65s., the agricultural interest must be ruined.

Mr. Secretary Peel

protested, that nothing on a former evening could have been further from his intention, than to fix either the amount of protecting duty or the maximum of price at which foreign corn should be imported. This he would say, that the prices fixed by the existing law, 80s. and 60s. were commonly supposed to be the maximum prices at which corn could be obtained. But this he had observed was a mere fallacy, for in three weeks after striking one of the quarterly averages, corn might run up to 100s. or even 110s., but until the next average no foreign corn could be imported. As for naming any price, however, which would be a fair remuneration to the British grower, and be proper for parliament to adopt, he begged to assure the hon. gentleman that he must have been misunderstood, if supposed to have done so.

Sir M. W. Ridley

said, he should vote for bringing up the report, but without pledging himself to support the measure in its further stages. He was of opinion that it would be highly injurious to impress upon the manufacturing poor the erroneous idea that their distresses had arisen from the high price of corn. He thought, however, that it would be of benefit to the agricultural interest, to revise the Corn-laws, and to allow the importation of corn under a protecting duty; the fixing of that rate of duty would always be a subject of difficulty. He conceived that there was no ground to apprehend any deficiency in the home supply of corn; and he therefore thought that the measure before the House ought not to have been brought forward at a period like the present.

Mr. F. Lewis

declared, that both measures had his most cordial, hearty, and warm support. Deriving his income from land entirely, he made no pretensions to disinterestedness in doing so; but he was satisfied that the measures in question were not in any way likely to prejudice the landed interest. He had heard it argued, that if this corn were allowed to be imported, there must be a proportionate export of gold; but no commercial operations could fairly be judged of so strictly. It must be looked at in connexion with all the circumstances which fairly bore upon it. If the measure in question was really calculated to be of prejudice to the landed interest (which he denied), it must at least be beneficial to the consumers. Let the House consider some part of the inevitable effect of importing foreign corn. Gold, it was said, must go out of the country to pay for it. Now, what was the great evil that the manufacturing population were at present exposed to? Want of employment; and, from such want of employment, a deficiency of the means necessary to support themselves. What measure was so likely to afford them relief, as that which would create a demand for labour, and thereby provide them with those means of subsistence? Of such a nature was the one before the House. It was not fair to talk of this as a question of import only, without taking the export also into account. Gold, it was true, must go out for foreign corn; but as we had no gold for that purpose, in this country, we must send goods abroad in order to purchase it. And, in the increased demand on labour necessary for the manufacture of those goods would be found the most permanent source of relief for the distresses of the northern districts. He augured no evil to the landed interest from the proposal; for it was impossible even in a few years to import as much foreign corn, at a protecting duty of 12s. or 14s. per quarter, as would produce any sensibly prejudicial consequences to our agriculturists. But, whatever hon. gentlemen might think upon this question, they ought at least to keep it separate from that of the Corn-laws, with which they could only produce a most injurious effect by mixing it up. It seemed to him most unreasonable to accuse ministers of taking the House by surprise, after their vote of the 18th of last month. When distresses of this kind suddenly broke out, it was necessary at once to meet them; and, therefore, government could not be blamed for not having foreseen such a state of things three weeks ago, as that which had since rendered it necessary for the legislature so promptly to interfere.

Mr. Jones

said, he thought the admission of bonded corn into the market would produce great benefit to the distressed^ He should support the bringing up of the report; without, however, pledging himself to any subsequent support of the bill. If the House were to assent to the present measure, and allow corn to be imported at 12s., it would be taken as a step towards the alteration of the Corn-laws, and, therefore, he hoped the country gentlemen would not vote for it. He should not oppose the bringing up of the report; but he would reserve to himself the right of opposing any future stages of the bill. It had been urged against the opponents of this measure, that they were averse to granting relief to the manufacturers, notwithstanding the present scarcity; but he denied that such was the case, and he further denied that a scarcity of corn existed.

Mr. J. Smith

was anxious to explain to the House the reasons which induced him to vote with his majesty's ministers upon the present occasion. He felt that, if ministers had neglected to provide some such measure as the present, they would have incurred a heavy and serious responsibility. He found upon inquiry, that corn had been progressively rising within a certain time. Assuming this to be the fact, he would ask the House, how it was possible that his majesty's ministers could think of allowing parliament to dissolve, without taking care to provide against the chance of a scarcity of corn before the next harvest, and whether gentlemen were prepared to view with indifference the consequence of such neglect? He felt that he was doing his duty in supporting this motion, without stopping to inquire whether the question ought to have been introduced at an earlier period, because he felt that, unless some such step was taken, a degree of distress might be brought about, that it was painful even to contemplate. An hon. member had stated, that there was no scarcity of corn in the country. If such were the case, he rejoiced at it; but who was to guarantee that there would not be a scarcity before the ensuing harvest? His majesty's ministers had, or ought to have, the best information upon this subject. If they had it not, they were guilty of the most culpable neglect. He hoped that they were possessed of it, and that it was of the most favourable nature; but if they had the slightest doubt upon their minds, they were only doing their duty in introducing this bill. He might, perhaps, be wrong; but, while he supported this motion, he could not help stating, that he preferred the one originally proposed by ministers. That was a measure of most awful responsibility, and there was little fear that ministers would have abused the trust proposed to be confided to them, as he felt quite sure that they had no wish to injure any of the great leading interests of the country. Besides, it might turn out, that the limited quantity of corn proposed to be admitted, might be too small to meet the exigencies of the case; and where, then, would be the remedy? He must confess, that he thought the former at once the safer and the more constitutional measure; but that measure having been modified, he hoped ministers would persevere in their present course; and sure he was, that their conduct would deserve and receive the thanks and gratitude of the country.

Mr. Baring

said, that if he could think with his hon. friend who had just sat down, that the proposed measure would produce any of the benefits which his hon. friend contemplated, he would support it. But he was of a different opinion, and was therefore obliged to take a different course. He could not consent to give to his majesty's ministers a power which would have the effect of shifting and rendering uncertain the price of corn all over the country. Distress might arise in one place this day, and in another on the next; and the object of this proposition was, to enable government, at its pleasure, to shift the price of corn, to meet those partial circumstances. This, he contended, was not only the most mischievous and fallacious proceeding that could be adopted, but he would say, that, if there were any measure more likely than another to create distress in the country, this shifting and changing the price of corn—this constant interference with the Corn-laws—was that measure. From the year 1815, when he first heard these questions discussed, he felt convinced, that the extent of protection was fixed at far too high a rate, and that the mode of applying the principle was open to every possible objection. That opinion he continued to hold; and therefore, in the few observations he was about to make, gentlemen would observe, that his opposition did not arise from any attachment which he bore to the Corn-laws, as they now existed, but from an unwillingness to place in the hands of ministers the power which was now demanded, when no person could possibly know how that power would be exercised. In his opinion, no uncertainty ought to be suffered to prevail with respect to this important question. It ought to be placed on some permanent and solid system; Last year objections were made to the consideration of the Corn-laws, and those objections were reiterated this year. What prevented it from being fully investigated in the last session, he was at a loss to conceive. By the course now proposed to the House, neither the grower, the dealer, or the consumer, would know what was to become of the price of corn. It was left entirely at the will of his majesty's government. He could not, from past experience, place that power in their hands. The manner in which they had, day after day, dealt with other questions of great importance—questions also connected with the Corn-laws—lowered his confidence with respect to the way in which they would exercise this power. The distresses of the country, they were told, had been produced by over-trading: if, indeed, that could be called trading which was nothing but rash speculation. Now, he could not help thinking that ministers set about remedying the evil in a very foolish way. They began by meddling with the currency, which they should have left alone; and if they had left it alone, all the difficulties and all the distresses would long since have subsided. They would have heard nothing of want of food in Manchester and other parts of the country; and next year they might have safely retraced their steps with respect to the small notes. Instead of that, ministers came down prematurely, and added to the distress by the measure they proposed. They knocked from under the small trader the little capital he possessed, and they destroyed that confidence which had before prevailed. There was no want of means, but there was want of credit—there was want of confidence between man and man. Under such circumstances, no trade could be carried on in any country; and the abstraction of credit and confidence, in a country constituted as this was, must necessarily produce the greatest misery and confusion. The reason the ship did not right herself—the reason the country did not at once get over its difficulties—the reason those difficulties had lasted so much longer than they had done on former occasions—was that unfortunate meddling with the currency at the most inauspicious moment that could have been selected. The country was, in fact, labouring under the mischief which the doctor had done, rather than suffering from the original disease. He felt it necessary to address himself particularly to those points, because it was right that the attention of the House should be called to the hands which were to hold the reins of power on this important occasion. Ministers had come down to the House disclaiming any present alteration in the Corn-laws; but a mob got up in the country, and then ministers altered their course. They appealed to parliament in a panic, and called on them to adopt measures for the purpose of meeting this particular state of grievance. Now it should be observed, that the distress had existed for months before; and, when these measures were proposed, the only difference was, that insubordination had begun to appear. Here they saw government coming down one day, and declaring, in as positive terms as they could, that they did not mean to interfere with the Corn-laws, and the next, they found them submitting these two propositions to the House. With respect to the circulating currency, he understood that, on the suggestion of the Secretary for the Home Department, the committee had agreed, that, from and after a certain period, there should be no one-pound notes in England; three-pound notes would be allowed in Ireland; and five-pound notes in Scotland. Measures such as these must necessarily affect the question of the trade in corn, which, undoubtedly, was the most important question to set at rest. The greatest possible confusion had arisen in the minds of individuals, in consequence of the system on which ministers were proceeding. No land-owner or farmer could apportion his rent, so long as things remained in this state. No person could know the amount of his income while such uncertainty prevailed. If he were asked what provision or arrangement he could make for his family, he should be utterly at a loss to give an answer, while the whole value of his property rested on such an uncertain basis. The House ought not to legislate on an appeal either to their feelings or their passions. Instead of adopting mea- sures to meet the present moment, it was necessary that they should, after proper consideration, adopt one steady uniform system. Speaking of the country gentlemen, he must say, there never was a time when that class of individuals was more disposed to be reasonable. At no time were they more disposed to go into a committee on this subject than at present. Except one hon. member, who had spoken that evening in favour of the existing Corn-laws, there was not, he believed, one of the country gentlemen in that House who did not think that those laws required revision. In the first place, it appeared to be the feeling of almost every body, that with open ports and a permanent duty, the corn-trade might be safely and beneficially carried on. No person, he believed, had suggested any other mode; and the only difficulty in it would be, the amount of duty to be exacted, and the rate of price to which that duty should be applied. Now, though he was inimical to the present Corn-laws, he was not an enemy to a considerable degree of protection; and, with respect to the extent of protection, he felt that it must, after all, be a matter of experiment. He would suggest that a duty of not less than 15s., or more than 18s., which would give protection to wheat at from 55s. to 60s. per quarter, might be found sufficient. He must, however, fairly admit, that it was a point on which he could not now decide with sufficient certainty; and he might, next year, be induced to state, that he had not come to the proper rate of protection. He could wish the protection not to commence under 55s., and certainly not to go beyond 60s. In the early part of the session, the state of the currency was urged as a reason for not considering this question. The necessity of introducing a large quantity of gold to meet the deficit occasioned by the withdrawal of the small notes, was strongly dwelt on; and it was said, "if you introduce corn, in consequence of any alteration in the law, you will be acting against your own desire to provide a large portion of gold." This argument could not now be put forward; because, the taking out of the bonded corn would set the merchants to fill the warehouses with fresh corn. The moment these 300,000 quarters of corn were sent out, the warehouses would be again filled: and it was desirable that it should be so. And why? Because the secret was now out. The corn-dealers of Germany were apprized of the fact, that these kingdoms did not grow corn enough for their own consumption. Last year there was 400,000 or 500,000 quarters of corn let out of bond, and there was also what was called (and he believed truly, though it might have partially failed in some places) a fine harvest. Yet they had, in the face of these circumstances, a certain evidence, not of an absolute scarcity—nor yet sufficient to produce a just alarm of scarcity—but quite sufficient to prove that this country did not grow corn enough for its own consumption. He wished to point out one considerable advantage which would accrue from beginning the experiment as to the corn trade in the present year. He had seen the report of Mr. Jacob on this subject. He would not enter into the merits of that report; but he did not consider it to be a production on which, as a whole, he could place great reliance. It was, however, evident from that report, that the supply which could now be sent to England from the continent was not very great. But he differed entirely from Mr. Jacob as to the supply which might be furnished to this country in a very short period. The supply of which Mr. Jacob spoke was what he saw in warehouses in different places; and that supply appeared to be very moderate. This was precisely the state of things on the continent, during the continuance of which he should like to make the experiment on the Corn-laws of England. In making that experiment, a new rate of duty must be imposed; and if that duty were very low, the foreign merchant had it not in his power this year to take advantage of that circumstance, and to inundate the English market. But, when the foreign growers put their seed in the ground next year, knowing that England could not do without them, they would take care that there should be an abundant supply. Let the regulation of the corn trade be put off until next year, and they would have double or triple the quantity of corn thrown into this country. With respect to the currency, it now presented no obstacle to the consideration of this question; and as to the state of the country, there was every encouragement to investigate the subject now, and to make such alterations as were necessary, rather than at any future time. The landed interest, he believed, were more favourable to the consideration of the question at the present moment, than they ever were before. His advice therefore was, that ministers should take the question up boldly—that they should adopt some permanent principle, instead of having recourse to vacillating measures, as they had hitherto done. Let them consider the subject earnestly; let them have recourse to some decisive measures, instead of (to use the words of an hon. friend of his) chalking out a variety of plans, which nobody could understand when chalked out. Let them proceed firmly to the discussion of the question, let them finish it, and have done with it. This was what ought to be done, and what must be done; for he would defy any man to say, that this country was not in a predicament that required an alteration of the Corn-laws, even for the benefit of the country gentlemen themselves. He did not wish to offer a useless or a vexatious opposition; but if the House were with him, he would, when the report was brought up, venture to move, that it be referred back to the committee, for the purpose of taking the whole question of the Corn-laws into consideration, and making such revision as to the committee might appear proper. On this occasion he would wish to say one word as to the other bill, for allowing the bonded corn to be brought into market. Here again the necessity for a permanent measure was evident. The letting out corn in this way reminded him of the annual delivery of the gaols from debtors before the insolvent act was passed. Those annual acts became necessary, from the defect of the law; and with respect to the bonded corn, the same thing would happen from year to year, unless a permanent measure was agreed upon. If the fact really turned out to be, as he apprehended it was, that there was not a sufficient quantity of corn grown in the country for its consumption, and if from time to time they resorted to partial measures of this nature, in preference to having an established system, foreign corn would come in with a vengeance, instead of being introduced in a modified way,—instead of being effected by a proper legislative provision. It would be sent in in such quantities as would absolutely overpower the country. With respect to the duty to be imposed on this bonded corn, he could see no reason for adopting 12s., except that that rate had been taken once before; and when the bill was in the committee he meant to move that the duty should be 15s. instead of 12s. He might be asked, why he should propose that rise? He would do so because he did not wish to send forth a duty below that which he thought would be safe. Besides, if they adopted that duty, they would have the corn every bit as soon as under the lower duty; and he was equally sure that it would not cost the suffering manufacturers one farthing more. The question was, whether the country should reap the benefit of this arrangement, or whether it should go into the pockets of the foreign merchants. He believed that if they even put on a duty of 25s., the corn would still come in; but he was quite sure, that 17s. or 18s. would not interfere with the supply. Why, then, he asked, should they set down the duty on bonded corn at 12s.? He certainly should object, on the present occasion, to their abrogating their right, and deserting their duty, by abstaining from legislating on the all-commanding question of the Corn-laws, and instead of doing so, leaving it in the hands of those who had, in his opinion, so much mismanaged all those important subjects during the course of the present session.

Mr. C. Wilson

supported the measure. He said, he did not wish to divide the two interests of the agriculturist and the manufacturer. On the contrary, he would rather unite and bind them together. After all that had been said on the question, this proposition was quite clear—that if the manufacturers were in a state of distress they must receive relief from some quarter. The present measure was intended to afford that relief, and he thought that ministers deserved great credit for bringing it forward.

Mr. Whitmore

said, he would not follow the hon. member for Taunton through the great question of the Corn-laws, but would repeat, in reference to it, that the sooner it was settled, the sooner one of the greatest evils of the country would be removed. He agreed that the plan proposed; namely, the delegating to government, without check as to control, and without limit as to duty, the power of admitting 500,000 quarters of wheat, under the peculiar circumstances of the present moment, and just preceding an expected dissolution, was likely to produce a serious effect on the agricultural interest. He did not suppose that ministers would abuse the power to be intrusted to them; but the mere knowledge that they possessed such a power, of itself might be productive of important consequences. It was impossible for ministers or the House to foresee the result; for if the farmers, by no means a well-informed or unprejudiced class, were to be seized with a panic, they might rush into the market, and the most alarming evils might ensue. He was an advocate for an immediate alteration of the Corn-laws, and with the imposition of a duty, lower than that which the hon. member for Taunton deemed necessary for the protection of agriculture; but when he formerly proposed his change, he had expressly guarded himself by the announcement of another simultaneous measure, to establish a duty in proportion as the price descended. His express view had been to prevent that panic which was now to be apprehended. His lamented friend, the late Mr. Ricardo, entertained the same sentiments, well knowing the danger of making so important an alteration in a matter of internal regulation. The power which ministers required ought not to be conceded, if any other plan could be suggested, and ought only to be granted in a case of imminent necessity. He concurred in what had been so well said on the subject both by the hon. members for Brecon and Lincolnshire, and could not see the inconvenience that would arise from now establishing the principle, that duty ought to be the protection to agriculture.

Mr. Irving

said, he fully agreed with the hon. member who just sat down, that nothing could be more fatal, nothing more to be deprecated, than any measure which could be injurious to the great body of the agricultural population, or excite alarm among them. He was surprised, however, to hear this from an hon. gentleman, whose whole conduct, with respect to the Corn-laws, was calculated to excite the alarm he so much deprecated. What had been his conduct on that question? Did he not, late in the session, bring on this most important and delicate subject He gave notice of his motion early enough to have it fully discussed, but put it off, from time to time, until it was too late to hope for anything like a full inquiry. Thus, though the hon. member was fully aware of the intentions of ministers, and of the general opinion of the House; though warned of the inconveniences of premature discussion; he persevered in his motion. Not satisfied with this, the hon. gentleman threatened to bring it forward next session, and year after year, until he succeeded in effecting some change in the system. He rose principally for the purpose of making a few observations on the speech of his hon. friend the member for Taunton. He fully concurred with him in what he had said as to the causes of the present distress. He had no doubt that it was principally occasioned by the tampering of ministers with the currency, and the uncertainty of the principles on which they acted. They were not free from blame in not having attended more to the circumstances which then presented themselves, if not to their view, at least to the view of others. They should have been noticed long before the month of November or December. The evil arose from a too great and rapid restriction of the amount of currency. This opinion he gave with hesitation, but, from his avocations, it was not unlikely that he should know something of the matter. If the ship, as his hon. friend observed, had been allowed to right herself, they might now be riding safely at anchor. He could not, however, agree with his hon. friend, as to the operation of the present Corn-laws, and he doubted much whether the opinion of his hon. friend was the opinion of the House. He was sure it was not that of the agricultural interest. They were satisfied, he believed, with the principle of the law, as it now stood. They had not found, since the introduction of the law, any material fluctuation or inequality of prices. Perhaps these observations did not square with the present system of philosophy; with the metaphysics of the day. But he was a plain practical man, and was content with a state of things that produced no evil to the public. He might suggest a modification of the Corn-laws; but he must profess himself a friend to those laws; and no proposition to do away with them would have his support. He was confirmed in his opinion from all reports upon tin's subject, even from that of Mr. Jacob, to whose facts he was no convert, though he entertained a respect for his character, and saw with regret any shade cast upon his labours. That gentleman stated, that in the countries he visited, he found the rents of land 1s. 3d. for the best, and 6d. for the worst; that labour was cheap; that the food of the labourers consisted of cabbages and black bread; that their clothing was rags. In our own county, the agricultural labourers were living in comfort; they had more artificial wants than those of other countries, and he hoped they would continue to have more artificial wants. He did not consider that a country, circumstanced like ours, could enter into competition with countries so described. In one part of the speech of the hon. member for Taunton, he had said that this question should be fixed and settled for ever; in another, he proposed a measure to be tried by way of experiment. There was an inconsistency in this. With regard to the discretionary power asked for by ministers, he was not reluctant to grant it them; but he had another mode to propose. The right hon. the President of the Board of Trade had stated, as one of the inconveniences and probable dangers; of the Corn-laws, that if a scarcity should occur in August, three months must elapse before the ports could be opened. Now, the remedy he would propose was this —to alter the law so far as to provide that from and after the passing of the act, the average should be 70d., without reference to any period. This was the only alteration he should propose in the law, and he thought it would be found an improvement.

Mr. Huskisson

assured the hon. member for member, that nothing could give him greater satisfaction, than to see the question of the Corn-laws in his hands, if the hon. gentleman happened next session, to have a seat in the House. No doubt he would bring forward a measure calculated to conciliate the various interests of the country, and to effect the great object in view. If it were his good fortune, to occupy in the next session the post he now held, it would be his duty to propose some measure connected with this great question; and, although he should be happy to profit by the hon. members suggestions, he must be excused if he did not implicitly follow his advice. The hon. member for Taunton was more or less in the habit of observing upon the absence of members of the cabinet from their places in parliament; but, if he had been more assiduous in his own attendance, he would not have been so much in arrear in his information of what had recently passed in that House, as by his speech he appeared to be. In the first place, the hon. member did not seem to be aware of what had fallen from the hon. member for Brecon; and next he asserted that the price of grain had not risen for the last three or four weeks, whereas a distinct statement had been made in the outset of these discussions, that wheat had risen from 54s. per quarter to 60s. 9d. within the last three weeks, and that it had advanced generally, in the face of a depression in all the other articles of subsistence. The hon. gentleman had also complained, that no reason whatever had been given for fixing the duty at 12s. which showed that the hon. member was unacquainted with what had fallen from the Secretary for Foreign Affairs; who had stated expressly why the duty was fixed at that sum, and his statement had met with the approbation of every member present. With respect to the charge of inconsistency brought by the hon. member for Bramber against the hon. member for Taunton, he thought it perfectly just; for the hon. member had said, that the Corn-laws should be settled—that the question should not be left uncertain—that no man in the present state of things, knew what his rents were. He would admit that the rents of land were affected in some degree by legislating on this subject; but surely the hon. member could not mean that the rents of land were wholly governed by it. This was a great and prevailing error, which produced much excitement but it was an exaggeration to say that the rents were affected, in any material degree, by legislation on this subject. The hon. gentleman suggested that the question should be fixed: he followed up this suggestion by saying that there should be a duty of 16s. or 18s. and the House should feel its way. The hon. gentleman thought the measure so simple, so easy, that he quarrelled with ministers for not giving it the finishing stroke; and professed himself ready to refer the matter to the committee, and by disposing of it at once, in the space of a few minutes, enable every man to fix his rent, and determine the price of corn. In this eutopian expectation, the hon. member, if he really indulged it, would be disappointed. He would not follow his hon. friend the member for Bramber, into the question of the currency. He did not understand what his hon. friend meant by complaining that government did not interfere. What steps were the government to take to repair that exorbitant credit, which was in Fact the overtrading which they deplored, when the banks were falling to pieces? He rose principally with reference to what had passed during the discussion of this question. A variety of opinions had been started, and a number of suggestions had been offered, to meet an exigency, the existence of which, every gentleman more or less admitted. His hon. friend, the member for Bridgenorth, seemed to fear a sudden depression in corn, if the suggestions of government were acted on. He should be inclined to agree with the hon. member that if that result was likely to follow, there certainly would be some grounds for alarm. But there might be another cause of alarm, although arising from a different source; namely, that there might be a deficiency of corn. Now, it was quite clear that either of those evils might happen; but it was equally clear, that they could not both exist together. This question had certainly given birth to a variety of suggestions. Government was called on by one hon. member who represented, that his constituents had a suspicion in their minds that there would be a great deficiency of corn. Another alarm was, that the holders of corn would be insured, in consequence of the propositions which government had deemed it their duty to make. But it was quite clear, as he had before observed, that these two causes of alarm could not exist together. His hon. friend had therefore blown hot and cold on the subject. He hoped the alarm would soon be found groundless, that 300,000 quarters, which was all the corn at present in bond, could have the effect of making such a sensible depression on the market as some gentlemen anticipated. Last year, although a much larger supply of corn had been let out, it had no effect in depressing the market. The present was a measure of trust and confidence, and not one which government had adopted without the advice of parliament. Government came down and submitted their proposition to the House. They asked permission to be intrusted with a discretionary power. This was met by a variety of objections, and a number of suggestions followed. The sole wish of government was to obtain from parliament a simple power of confidence and discretion. Government had limited the quantity of corn to be imported in case of emergency, because they thought that if the quantity of corn in bond should be found insufficient, the addition of 500,000 quarters would supply the deficiency. The bonded corn, when once let out, must decrease from day to day. No man could take upon himself to say, although there might be a sufficiency of corn in the country at present, and although the coming harvest might be prosperous, that an occasion might not arise—that circumstances of an opposite character might occur—to render the proposition of government essential to the welfare of the country. Did gentlemen forget the year 1816? The harvest of that year was damaged and destroyed, in consequence of the continuance of wet weather. What was the consequence of that? Why, from August to November, a period of three months, it was found impossible to open the ports for the admission of foreign corn. He confessed that the present question was full of difficulties, which rendered it peculiarly hard to treat it with sufficient clearness; much less to hope to bring conviction to those who had taken different views of it from those which he himself took. But this much he would say, that, in the measure proposed by his majesty's ministers, no reasonable man could see any tiling to fear; and he defied the warmest advocates of the Corn-laws to produce any thing like a convincing argument against that measure. We were bound not only by present circumstances, but by past experience, to prepare for circumstances which, although they might not be probable, were nevertheless possible. He thought he had now stated sufficient reasons for placing in the hands of his majesty's government a discretionary power, by means of which they might be enabled to avert a similar calamity to that with which we were at present unfortunately visited. After the eloquent and forcible appeal made to the feelings of the House by the hon. member for Stock-bridge (Mr. Stanley), who in a speech of great ability, and one which did him infinite credit, bore testimony to the miserable and destitute condition of the population of Manchester, —an appeal the more eloquent, because it proceeded from one who, from his station, was best calculated to make an impression on the subject—after that appeal, he thought the House must be satisfied, that a prompt and competent alleviation of the misery which at present existed was imperatively called for. If the question were asked, why agitate this subject after a lapse of six weeks, when you deprecated discussion upon it, he would answer, because circumstances had sprung up, in the intermediate time, to call for a prompt and effectual measure. It should be remembered, too, that this very session an hon. member opposite had expressed himself surprised that government had not adopted any measure for letting out bonded corn; and that was a natural question to propose in periods like the present. If the corn were left to rot and moulder in the stores where it was hoarded, while thousands were perishing from famine, he need hardly say that, putting common humanity out of the question, government would take upon itself a very serious responsibility. With respect to the general question, he had only to repeat, that it could not be conveniently brought under discussion until the arrival of a period of more calm, and less distress and difficulty; and as to the proposition of the hon. member for Taunton, for going into a committee, and considering the whole subject of the Corn-laws, that hon. member would do well to consider, whether the adoption of such a course at the present moment, would tend to allay the alarm and relieve the calamity, under which the manufacturing districts were now labouring. In his opinion, the effect would be the very reverse. The measure now under consideration was evidently called for by the circumstances of the country, and he trusted it would therefore be sanctioned by the House.

Sir E. Knatchbull

said, he could not reconcile it to himself to give merely a silent vote on the present question. It was very unfair to rest the matter in issue on the eloquent appeal of the hon. member for Stockbridge,—an appeal directed much more to the feelings, than to the judgment of the House. When he was called upon to deliver his opinion upon a question of this kind, he could not suffer himself to be influenced by any partial feelings or considerations. In many of the observations that had been made by the right hon. President of the Board of Trade, he concurred; and more especially in the remark, that this was not a proper time for the consideration of the general question of the Corn-laws. But he was astonished that government had brought the subject under consideration at all at this time; because they must have been perfectly aware, that when the matter was agitated at all, the consideration of the general question would be introduced. He was told, indeed, that it was not intended to agitate the general question; and that what was wanted was a temporary measure for the relief of the suffering manufacturers. But he could not conceive what beneficial effect the proposed measure could have with respect to them; and he could see no purpose that it could serve, except that of turning the odium of the distresses of the manufacturers upon the landed proprietors. The right hon. Secretary of State had formerly given notice, that he intended to propose to the House some measure for the relief of the distressed manufacturers; but no man could then have supposed that this relief was to be given by an alteration of the Corn-laws. The question was, whether it was most expedient that government should have this discretionary power vested in them, or should act, in case of necessity, upon their own responsibility, trusting to an act of indemnity. They had had recourse to the former of these plans; but he confessed, that he wished they had adopted the second. He would ask whether, when government, in cases of difficulty, took upon itself to act contrary to the existing law, the House had ever refused an indemnity for conduct which appeared to be justified by the necessity of the case? When the warehouses were emptied of the bonded corn, they would soon be filled again; and the government, if the necessity should arise, might well have taken upon itself the responsibility of setting free more of the bonded corn; that responsibility being really not very formidable. On almost any other subject he would be perfectly ready to vest a discretionary power in the hands of the present government; but, on the subject of the Corn-laws, he could not willingly trust them with this discretionary power. The real fact, he apprehended, was this—that the present measure was part of the system upon which ministers had resolved to act with respect to the Corn-laws. But it was a growing belief in the country, that the general principles of free trade, which ministers professed, and were acting upon, were not, in the existing situation of this country, properly applicable to the trade in corn. It was easy to destroy a system, but it was not so easy to build up; and ministers ought, therefore, to be cautious how they meddled with the Corn-laws. Considering this measure as part of a system intended to do away with those laws, he considered it his duty to give it his opposition.

Mr. Secretary Canning

said, he assured the hon. member for Kent, and the other honourable members who had spoken on this subject, that he had listened with the greatest attention to their exposition on this subject, and gave them full credit for the most sincere desire to discharge their duties fairly and conscientiously. But he must say, at the same time, that even those who had entered into the greatest length of discussion on this subject, had kept far wide of the practical question. That question was this: here was a law on the Statute-book for regulating the trade in corn, enacted under very peculiar circumstances, and such as, perhaps, justified the act; but a law of which the extreme provisions had never been suffered to come into operation. He was very far from giving any opinion on the question, whether that law could be brought at all into full operation; but this he broadly stated, because it was notoriously the fact, that the country was at present in a situation exactly the reverse of that in which it was placed at the time when that law was passed. And the fact was, that no man, however attached to the corn restrictions, had ventured to say, that the extreme provisions of that law could be brought into operation in the existing circumstances of the country, without producing a high degree of apprehension and alarm. No man had ventured to advance such a proposition. Why, then, if this were granted him—if he had this admission that this law, however good in itself, however applicable to certain circumstances, could not be applied in the present state of things, without producing the greatest alarm and apprehension—he then had every thing that was necessary to support his view of the subject; and it was clearly the duly of government to oppose the prejudices of those who objected to the proposed measure, although it was not necessary to combat their arguments, for no arguments had been adduced. There were two courses which might be taken—either to discuss and adopt a permanent measure, as had been recommended by the hon. member for Taunton and others, or to make some temporary alteration in the Corn-laws, suitable to the crisis, and the peculiar circumstances of the country at the present moment. And then again, if the latter alternative were to be adopted, the question was, whether ministers ought to take the responsibility upon themselves, or take the previous advice of parliament? And this last plan had been deemed the most expedient. But here was a fair issue upon which to rest the question; did any man venture to say that, in the present situation of the country, the extreme provisions of the Corn-laws ought to be suffered to come into operation? None had dared to say so; and therefore something must be done to alter and modify the law, so as to produce a measure applicable to the existing circumstances of the country. Even those who were most decided in the support of the Corn-laws, and who said that they ought to be maintained as a permanent system—even the hon. member for Brecon—admitted, that for the purpose of maintaining the Corn-laws, some alteration ought to be made, pro hac vice. The hon. member had accused him of inconsistency, in not having adopted the limitation of a certain price, to which the hon. member seemed to think he was in some degree pledged. Now, the price at first mentioned was 65s. and, certainly, he had said that he would consider that proposition. The hon. member had, however, not been contented with that, but had risen five shillings in his demand. When the price of 65s. was mentioned, he (Mr. Canning) had said, that he had great objection, not to the amount of the price, but to the principle that any price should be named as a criterion. Upon considering the matter, he became more and more averse to it; but, at all events, the hon. member had no grounds for charging him with inconsistency; because, instead of the 65s., the price now insisted upon, as he found by a note sent to him that morning, was 70s. It was fully admitted, that some alteration was necessary, and then, said the hon. member, a price of 70s. would cure all defects. The hon. member had, at first, proposed 65s., and he had promised to consider the point; but the hon. member having gone home and taken a walk about his fields, began to imagine that 70s. would look better than 65s., and so he had proposed the 70s. But, he repeated, that the hon. member could have no grounds for charging him with inconsistency, for he had only promised to consider the proposition of 65s., and not that of 70s., which was now insisted upon. There were two honourable members who maintained that the Corn-laws should remain as a permanent system; and one of them admitted, that, with reference to the present circumstances of the country, some alteration ought to be made, and that a change was justifiable; so that he proved the expediency of at least a temporary alteration and modification, out of the mouth of one of his principal opponents. What he wanted was, an antagonist who could venture to say, that, under the existing circumstances of the country, no alteration in the Corn-laws was called for, or ought to be made; for unless any one would go to the full extent of that proposition, he was no antagonist at all; and he (Mr. Canning) had nothing to combat. But the hon. member for Brecon was no such antagonist; for though he said he would keep the law as it was in form, he was yet willing to lower the standard at the present moment to 70s. The other honourable member, equally prepared to sustain the form of the law, was willing to admit into the country the 500,000 quarters of corn. Both of these honourable members, therefore, admitted the existence of an exigency which must be met, and which, it appeared to him, could only be met by an alteration, not a suspension, of the law. By their own reasoning, not by his, they were bound to acquiesce in the present measure. The broad proposition, that these laws could be carried into full operation, was not maintained; first by the hon. member for Surrey (who would certainly have maintained it if he could), nor by any of the other hon. members who opposed the proposition now before the House. The honourable members for Surrey, Brecon, Kent, and Bramber, by admitting the exigency of the time, justified the proposition for the suspension or the alteration of the present Corn-laws. This admission superseded the necessity of stating what was the nature of that exigency—a statement which he would wish, for a thousand reasons, to avoid. The opponents of the measure asked, from what could this exigency arise; they wanted to know whether he pretended that it arose from the high price of corn. He answered, no such tiling—and having answered their question, he would, in his turn, put it to them, and leave them to afford to it what answer they pleased. The whole question now before the House was, whether there was an exigency? "Aye," said these gentlemen, and "Aye," said he. They would not stay to differ about the cause of the exigency. Those who admitted that the price of corn ought to be lowered, and those who agreed with him on the propriety of receiving the bonded corn, equally admitted the existence of that exigency. They must, therefore, think the measure now proposed was a measure of necessity; and that he and they agreed together. If there was a necessity for any measure, that measure must be either by the alteration or the suspension of the law. He would presently explain what he meant by a suspension of the law. Some honourable members had said, that an alteration of the law ought to take place. He thought otherwise; for it appeared to him, that the present was the most inconvenient moment for so doing. The very existence of any reason for preventing the law from now coming into full operation, was a reason, as it seemed to him, why it would now be inconvenient to make any alteration in the law; and that inconvenience would be principally felt by the landed interest. He protested, that, whatever might be the construction put on this measure by the landed interest, if he were called on to describe it, he should say it was a bill for the protection of the landed interest. He had no hesitation in saying, that he could bring forward arguments which would fully make out that description; but he would not now go into them, as they might be liable to misconstructions, some of which, especially at the present moment, it was peculiarly desirable to avoid. For these reasons, which should be hinted at rather than avowed, he said, with the hon. member for Brecon, and the other hon. members whom he took for his compurgators in this instance, that he did see the extreme inconvenience of pressing the present laws into full operation. The same motive which induced the hon. member for Brecon to sacrifice in that night's debate 10s. in the standard price of corn, and which had induced him, before he went into the country, to sacrifice 15s., might afford him the means of learning, that one powerful reason for the suspension of the laws was, to prevent the operation of prejudice in the consideration of those laws. He thought something was necessary to be done, and in looking for the means of determining what course ought to be pursued, he had examined the former debates on this question, and he there found that, over and over again, it was urged as a reason in favour of the different modes of regulation which had been proposed, and particularly in favour of the high rate of duty, that if any pressing exigency occurred, government would be able to take on themselves the responsibility of opening the ports during the recess of parliament; and he also found that government had always rejected the power as one to which, on no account, they would have recourse. He had also searched the page of history, and he discovered one example of the kind, in which government had acted on this sort of power, and which had led them into great difficulties—into difficulties which, he conceived, would be much better avoided; and, as parliament were now sitting, he called on them not to give ministers a discretion, for that it appeared they were acknowledged to possess, but to limit and to guard that discretion in its necessary exercise. Was there any thing that could be more convenient, more cautious, and less disposed to grasp the possession of power, but to exercise it under the eyes and control of the public? This was the whole question. Here was a general law, which, if carried into full operation, would be fraught not only with inconvenience, but with mischief. There were two modes of preventing this mischief. The first was, that of making an alteration in the laws at the present moment—a course in which he foresaw much inconvenience, and which could not be adopted without creating a prejudice against the law, so strong as to render every one unfit to come to its impartial discussion. The House must either suspend or alter the law. He preferred the former, and he would effect it only by the aid of that House; for he preferred the road through parliament before the royal road of prerogative. He thought that a case had been made out in support of the present proposition. On that case government stood: on that they asked for the power which parliament could grant them, and the present circumstances of the country were such, in his mind, as to justify their demand, while they would by no means warrant its refusal.

Colonel Wood,

in explanation, denied having agreed to make 65s. the standard price at which foreign corn should be admitted into the English market.

Mr. H. Sumner

also explained, and; some other members did the same, but were inaudible, in consequence of the loud and repeated cries of "Question, question!"

Lord Milton

said, his opinion was, that the present measure was not that which was called for by the urgent necessity of the times. He hoped that ministers, before they carried it into effect, would consider whether there was not another, better adapted to attain the object they had in view. He would only throw out this hint at present, and he would rather they should not answer his question now.

The House divided: For bringing up the Report 185; Against it 58; Majority 127. The resolution was then reported: viz.,

"That it is expedient to empower his majesty, by any order or orders of his majesty in council, to permit, under certain regulations, and for a time to be limited, the entry, for home consumption, of an additional quantity of foreign corn, meal, or flour, subject to the duties which may be imposed by any act to be passed in this session of parliament." On the motion that it be read a second time,

Mr. Baring

observed, that he thought it would be right to set the present question at rest by a permanent decree as to what should be the law. It became the House to act with promptitude and decision, and finally to determine the matter. He believed, that as the question had now been in some degree mooted, and as it was declared that it should be decided next year, the delay would only serve to fortify the prejudices, if he might call them such, of the people, and to prevent that impartial discussion which every one ought to be anxious to obtain. He thought the experiment had better be made immediately. The plan of opening the ports, with a protecting duty, was itself but an experiment, and might ultimately come round to the necessity of doing that which he urged them to do now. Whenever the question was decided, there must be more or less of the nature of experiment in the course pursued. Under all the circumstances, he thought the House had better go into the committee at once. Some other members concurred with him in that opinion, and even the hon. member for Bramber objected to the state in which the question was now left. In his opinion, ministers put off the decision of the question without any reason, beyond the apprehension of encountering their friends in parliament. He concluded by moving, as an amendment, that the report be re-committed.

Lord Milton

thought this as good a time as any for making an alteration, if it should be deemed necessary. He thought the present Corn-laws only fit for the fair-weather state of the country.

Mr. Secretary Canning

rose to remind the House, that they were now going to vote upon a proposition which, if affirmed, would pledge them to a complete revision of the Corn-laws. He had already stated his reasons for thinking this an inauspicious moment for such a measure; and, although regarded as the enemy of the landowners, he really was acting as their best friend in the course he now took.

The House divided: For the amendment 51; Against it 167; Majority 116. The resolution was then agreed to.