HC Deb 14 May 1827 vol 17 cc784-6
Mr. Hume

rose, to ask a question upon a subject of great importance. He did not wish to do any thing which might interfere with the just prerogative of the Crown, but he wished to make an observation with respect to the practice which had grown up, of late years, of creating a great number of peers. If there was any thing more than another requisite to maintain those persons in that state which entitled them to the respect of the other stations of society, it was a due caution that their number should not be too much increased, and that none should be elevated to that rank, whose fortune did not place him beyond the reach of accident, and who should not be able to transmit it with its honours, unimpaired, to his posterity. Abroad he had seen the miserable effects of multiplying the number of the nobility without any attention to their property. There he had seen the whole class degraded, and treated with disrespect by those who ought to have looked up to them as examples for imitation. In this country, too, there was at present no amount of property required for the individual who was to be raised to the peerage; and the consequence was, that the pension-list had been enormously increased by making provisions for the maintenance of the rank of such peers, and their families and connexions. This ought not to be the condition of the class which was to stand between the Crown and the people. He felt that some check ought to be put upon the exercise of this prerogative; either by addressing the Crown not to create peers who had not independent means of support; or, if created already, that their dignity should cease when they were no longer able to maintain it [a laugh]. As these individuals were, from their rank, prevented from following particular occupations, it was the more desirable that promotion to it should be checked; otherwise the pension-list, which, for the reason he had stated, had been enormously burthened within the last forty years, would increase to a still greater amount.

Mr. Canning

said, he was very much at a loss to conceive upon what circumstance, or upon what supicions, or from what rumour or reason, the hon. member had thought proper to come forward upon this occasion; whether with a question, or a motion, or a notice of motion, he could not undertake to determine. The right vested in the Crown, of conferring honours upon its subjects, was a question so solemn, that whenever the hon. gentleman thought proper to bring it forward, he hoped to meet the discussion with all the gravity and decorum which it so justly deserved. This much, however, he might say, that nothing the hon. gentleman could say—no reasons he could urge—would ever induce him to strip the Crown of the most splendid portion of its prerogative, or to deprive the subject of the equally splendid reward of his services.

Mr. Hume

declared, that he had not mentioned the matter from any intention of alluding to what was passing at the present moment, or to what was reported out of doors. The subject was one which had been pressing on his mind for years.

The Chancellor of the Exchequer

thanked the hon. gentleman for that information; as he had at first conceived his observations to be founded upon some rumours, as wild as they were mischievous, circulated only to promote delusion, and not possessing one syllable of truth.

The House resolved itself into a committee of supply, to which the Miscellaneous Estimates were referred. On the resolution for granting 3,000l. to the National Vaccine Establishment,

Sir Joseph Yorke

said, he was not hostile either to the sum, which was small, or to the principle, provided there was any thing in it. Either it was good, or it was bad. If neither one or the other, the sum ought to be saved. A large sum had been already voted to Dr. Jenner for getting rid of the small-pox. Now, so far from that benefit having been conferred, the disorder was going about as much as ever. A son and daughter of his, who had been inoculated with the vaccine in their early existence, had both afterwards suffered from the small-pox. Now, this liability was very bad in this way—for a confidence in the vaccination tended very much, when the real disorder followed, to prevent the timely application of medical science, for the benefit of the patient. He believed that vaccination was not worth two straws; in fact, that it was a humbug, and that it did not prevent the skin from thickening; or preserve the beauty.

Colonel Wood

was sorry to hear his hon. friend cast distrust upon what he was confident was the greatest blessing, not only for this country, but the whole world, which modern study had discovered. That particular cases of failure of vaccination had occurred, he would admit; and the same had happened respecting inoculation for the small-pox itself. He was sorry that his hon. friend should assist in sending forth a prejudice, which might operate most injuriously among the lower orders, in a case so much affecting their interests.

Mr. Peel

wished to caution his hon. friend how he indulged with levity and sarcasm in subjects of this nature. It was perfectly true, that appearances of small-pox had been observed after supposed vaccination; but it was equally true, that the latter, if not a perfect antidote to the former, had greatly abridged the extent and mitigated the severity of the original disorder. Indeed, his hon. friend's argument, drawn from his own children, instead of proving that vaccination had not produced inestimable blessings, only showed that the operation was probably performed by some inexperienced country amateur practitioner. He thought it absolutely necessary that an institution of this nature should exist; and he hoped that the House would not countenance those prejudices against vaccination which existed in many parts of the kingdom. The gentlemen connected with this establishment had inquired into many of the cases in which it had been asserted that vaccination had failed; and their labours had already been productive of considerable benefit.

Sir C. Burrell

said, he had not the least doubt, that, if all the medical profession had acted honestly, the small-pox would, by this time, have been eradicated from the country. Instead, however, of promoting vaccination to the utmost, there had not been wanting some, who, from sordid motives, had conduced to render the small-pox prevalent.

Mr. Hume

said, that, only seven weeks ago, he was in a party of gentlemen who had carefully considered this subject, and that they asked him to introduce a bill into parliament, for the prevention of inoculation with small-pox matter altogether, unless the parents of the children so inoculated removed them to some kind of pest-house. He thought that this would be a very salutary measure; and, as the law had already provided against the introduction of diseases which might be brought from abroad, he did not see why it should not be extended to a disease at home, which had been proved to be equally infectious and dangerous.

Sir T. Yorke

said, that his two children had been vaccinated at the age of four or five, and that one of them took the smallpox at the age of twenty-two. He understood it to be admitted by persons who were favourable to vaccination, that vaccination was only safe for about seven years.

The resolution was agreed to.