The Earl of Darlington
appeared at the bar with the Report of the committee appointed to prepare the Address on the Lords Commissioners Speech. The Address being read a second time.
§ Lord Palmerston
rose.—He understood that some amendments were to be proposed, and he wished to make some observations before that stage arrived. He had voted for the Amendment of the preceding evening (sir E. Knatchbull's) because it appeared to him to embrace a fair statement of facts. But he wished not to be understood by his vote on that occasion as either despairing of the situation of the country, or binding himself to a concurrence in those measures with which some individuals might think it proper that the Amendment should be followed up. He did not look with despondency on the situation of the country; for when he saw twenty millions of active and industrious men enjoying the blessings of such a constitution as we possessed, placed on a fine and fertile soil, and having the power to avail themselves of all the local advantages of commerce, it was impossible but that ultimately the condition of the country would be improved. His opinion was, that the distress arose, in a great degree, from the measures taken with respect to the currency; and he thought, if any man who voted for these measures did not, at the same time, perceive that they must produce very considerable alterations, that he could not have understood the subject. It was clear, that the return to a metallic standard was likely to be attended with certain difficulties; but if they would contrast the difficulties of the present day with those scenes of distress and bankruptcy which were created by various panics, he thought it would be found that the pressure occasioned by the return to a sound currency was infinitely less than the mischief occasioned by the alterations incidental to the old system, [hear] They were, when the change was made, in the condition of a patient labouring under a severe disorder, without any chance of cure, except by undergoing an operation; and who, if he had not the spirit to bear that operation, would suffer much more pain from the endurance of the disorder itself. For his own part, he thought there was no salvation for the country but in the establishment of a permanent and unchangeable standard; [hear, hear] and there was no mode of establishing it, except by proceeding as the government had done. He therefore concurred, with great satisfaction, in that part of his majesty's Speech in which a determination to adhere to the 139 present system was clearly expressed, [hear] Having stated his opinion on this point, he felt himself called on to say, that there were other topics connected with the Speech which did not give him so much satisfaction. He thought that the principles on which the foreign policy of the country had been conducted were exceedingly unfortunate, and that not to express such opinion now, would be to have his silence construed into acquiescence. He was of opinion that they were alike injurious to the honour and interests of the empire. That opinion, he believed, was not confined to himself; and he would ask those gentlemen who had recently passed beyond the limits of this country, what were the feelings entertained in other states on this subject? A time would, however, come for discussing in detail those interesting topics, and therefore it was not his intention to go into them at length at present. He was, nevertheless, anxious to enter his protest on this occasion, because he feared that if this Address were passed in general silence, it might be argued, that it had received general acquiescence; and he thought it would be mischievous if it went out to the world that that House entirely approved of the foreign policy of ministers. With respect to the first passage of the Speech on that subject, he might say, that it proved that ministers, if not successful negociators, were, at least, useful allies. He did not know that the permanent continuance of a Mussulman garrison in Europe was absolutely necessary for the security of the Christian world; but certainly he did not wish to see that garrison replaced by a Russian garrison. He did not approve of the Russian frontier being extended on that side, and means ought to have been taken to prevent it. It would remain to be seen, when those papers were produced which government had promised, whether ministers had felt it impossible to prevent a war between Russia and Turkey; and whether before they desisted from interference, they had made every effort to dissuade Turkey from entering into the contest. The Speech stated, that the government had done their utmost to carry into effect the provisions of the treaty of London, of July 6th, and that they would lay before parliament papers to show the progress of those negotiations. He hoped, when they were produced, that they would be unlike the documents laid before parliament at 140 the end of last session, that their contents would not be partial, meagre, and unsatisfactory—that they would not be confined merely to the correspondence of the negociating parties, but that they would indicate the views and policy of government during the whole of the long and important transaction. He trusted that they would prove that the government had laboured to carry the stipulations of the treaty of London into effect, in a clear, fair, and proper manner; that they had not marred that treaty by narrowing and confining the Greek states, and thus preventing them from exercising their energies; and that their conduct had not prevented the pacification of the East by any pertinacious adherence to points that were not likely to be conceded; for it appeared by the statements in the Speech that those matters were still under consideration. It was most important to Great Britain, in the settlement of Greece, that that state should be decidedly able to maintain itself; and that it should not, by a crooked course of policy, be driven into the arms of that power which, since the termination of the war with Turkey, might turn her ambitious views towards that quarter. It was the interest of Great. Britain to give Greece the means of keeping up her establishments, and to prevent her from becoming the victim of military coercion. He now came to that part of the Speech which related to the recognition of Don Miguel. He did not here mean to discuss the propriety of not recognizing a sovereign who was such de facto, merely because he had not mounted the throne legitimately. He had nothing to do with that question. This was a different case, and one which affected the honour of this country. The circumstances connected with it must be fresh in the minds of the members of that House; and, when the question of the recognition to which he alluded came to be considered, he certainly should resist it, unless it could be clearly shown that the act would not affect the honour of the country. Don Miguel could not be viewed as an undisputed sovereign, exercising his sway quietly and without opposition. If he had returned the sword which he had been using against his people, to the scabbard,—if he had opened the dungeons where he had confined thousands of persons who were obnoxious to his fears, his views and his suspicions,—if he had been the undoubted and unmolested sovereign, 141 there might have been reasons for recognizing him. But let it be recollected, that the differences of the princes of the House of Braganza had not been settled,— let it be recollected that a war was now going on in Portugal itself,—let it be recollected that there was a military government in the island of Terceira, (an integral part of Portugal) in favour of the queen Donna Maria, and therefore Don Miguel could not be viewed in the light of an undisputed sovereign. This question must come under the consideration of the House: and therefore he should merely express his hope that government would pause long and well before they took a step that could not be retracted. There was one subject which he thought it necessary to advert to here—he alluded to the attack of the Spaniards on Mexico. The expedition which sailed against it was several years in preparation. The government of Mexico, knowing that prevention was easier than cure, determined to frustrate the plans of their enemies by a descent on Cuba; but England would not allow that island to be then and so attacked. If, then, on the one hand, England, at the instance of the ambassador of Spain, prevented the Mexicans from invading Cuba, she ought to have dealt out an equal measure of justice to the other party. England ought to have said, "You, Mexico, shall not attack Cuba, and you, Spain, shall not collect forces at Cuba to attack Mexico." But the proceeding of this government was partial, and contrary to the principle on which they had promised to act. As these questions would hereafter come under the consideration of the House, he would not make any further observations on them now, but he could not lose the opportunity which presented itself to him of stating his dissent from the system on which the foreign policy of the country had been conducted.
said, he agreed with his noble friend, that this was not the fit occasion for entering on so important a subject. In the first place, its importance entitled it to separate and serious consideration: and as his majesty had stated, that when the proper time arrived, the necessary documents would be laid before the House, he did not think it right, in the absence of such information, that any discussion should be provoked. By approving of the Address, no gentleman pledged him- 142 self in any degree to approve of the course taken with respect to our foreign policy. By agreeing to it, no one would be precluded from hereafter expressing his opinion on that foreign policy. With respect to his noble friend's policy,—that policy which his noble friend advocated so ably and so eloquently,—it would, if adopted, involve the country in war. [hear] The noble lord took the same course last session. His noble friend did not exactly avow that such was the scope of his policy; but he was certain that if the doctrine his noble friend maintained, with respect to foreign governments, were acted on, in six months this country, and all Europe, would be involved in general war. [hear] The policy of the present government had this recommendation,—that it had maintained peace and secured peace consistently with the preservation of the power and the honour of England [hear]. His noble friend had made an allusion with respect to the necessity of preserving Turkey, on account of the well-being of Europe. He (Mr. Peel) apprehended that, in the present situation of Europe, the integrity and independence of so great a power should be supported; but those who held that doctrine did not, therefore, approve of the system of government by which the internal affairs of Turkey were regulated. Did his noble friend recollect, that it had been an object of great interest, with reference to the state of Europe, to guarantee the integrity of Turkey? Did he recollect that in 1799 this country did guarantee the integrity of Turkey? Mr. Pitt, who then presided over the destinies of this empire, did not take that step because he admired the government of Turkey, but because he thought that the dismemberment of such a power would be attended with disastrous consequences. Now they might entertain fears of the consequences that would ensue from the dismemberment of any portion of Europe; but were they on every occasion of that kind to act with Quixotic feeling and immediately to proceed to war? When Turkey gave Russia a fair justification for hostilities, on what account could we interfere? His noble friend asked "why did you not before the termination of the war, or before it had broken out,—why did you not counsel concession?" That was exactly what ministers did. The government asked Turkey to do that which Russia had a 143 right to compel her to do—namely, to fulfil a treaty; but Turkey had no right to expect that we should espouse her cause by going to war on account of the caprices of the divan. The interference and proffer of advice and good offices only could be required. His noble friend had asked, why that advice was not offered sooner? Now his noble friend was in the cabinet at the time, and he must know that ministers had not an opportunity of giving it. He must be aware that some time previous to the breaking out of the war, our ambassador was removed from Constantinople; and therefore we had not the means of conveying the sentiments of this government; but, by every mode in which that advice could be given, it was imparted to Turkey. The success of the Turks in the first campaign did not alter the views of ministers. After that campaign, which Turkey thought a complete failure on the part of Russia, our advice to Turkey was, to do that at a period of victory which she ought to have done before it. That advice was rejected; and whatever his noble friend's idea might be, he thought that those who refused at that time to go to war for Turkey, acted for the real and permanent interest of this country. As to Greece, (continued Mr. Peel) my noble friend says he hopes to see the treaty of London carried into full effect. I can assure him, that in the course of events that have followed, we have laboured diligently in the strict execution of the treaty, and in no instance has there been a deviation from that treaty, unless it was in favour of Greece. He will find this statement fully borne out by the official documents. My noble friend intimates that, in the present state of Turkey, one island or another valley are of very little importance to her, and may be granted to Greece. My noble friend's principles seem somewhat was here; it may be a convenient doctrine to apply to a great power in an abject state; but we have never aided Greece in any measure not in conformity with those principles of honour and justice which we have always regarded. With respect to Portugal, my noble friend has only repeated what he urged last session; but his advocacy meant, if anything, "Go to war for the purpose of dispossessing Don Miguel." But if the population of the country cared nothing about the possessor of the throne, why were we to 144 interfere? If, at the period that may be selected, we should determine on his recognition, it will be a pure question with relation to the treaties between the countries. In his majesty's Speech it is said there are some parts which evidently contemplate the recognition of Don Miguel. I have never concealed my opinion of the conduct of Don Miguel. He did not keep the faith he plighted to this government. But it is an important question whether his personal character will alone justify us in refusing to recognize him. Don Miguel practically exercises the powers of government in Portugal, and his rule takes place apparently with the general consent; every attempt to dispossess him has failed; at an early period he called together the ancient Cortes, and had their assent to his accession. This was a body venerable for its antiquity, and its decision gave his title a sanction in the eyes of the people. They looked on that decision as the expression of the general will. The island of Terceira is a military garrison, which has declared for the young queen Maria; but it is a small island, far detached from Portugal, and not in the slightest degree influencing that kingdom. Would that fact authorise us to force a sovereign on the people of Portugal? We desire that she may ascend the throne in obedience to her father's will; but if the people of Portugal will not support her claim, it must fall to the ground. There were great doubts whether Don Pedro had the right to give the crown to his daughter; and all the Portuguese lawyers have decided in favour of Don Miguel. Higher considerations than those of mere personal character must rule the course of policy which a country like this will follow. We are not authorised to force a rejected sovereign on any country. Don Miguel is in no shape subject to our authority. If we once commence a "war of opinion," we can never circumscribe its scope. My noble friend, however, is so anxious, that he asks in reality why we have not fitted out an armament to prevent Spain from invading Mexico? Now really he must take leave to say, that if the principle of interference required by his noble friend was to be carried into full operation, it would involve this country in wars with almost every nation with which it was allied or bound by treaties. The noble lord had, however, asserted that the government of this country should have 145 interfered to have prevented the invasion of Mexico by the Spaniards from the island of Cuba. Now he recollected very well that his right hon. friend (Mr. Canning), at the time he put forth those able and powerful state papers which were demanded from him in the fulfilment of his duty as Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs, always admitted the right of Spain to fit out and undertake any expedition she pleased for the conquest of her colonies, although he denied to other nations the right of interference, which might be exerted, not for the purpose of re-assuming the legitimate authority of the parent state, but for the purpose of assisting either party, as it might suit their interests to obtain an advantage over the other. This he was satisfied was the tenor of the principle laid down by that right hon. friend, and recognized by the House. But then the noble lord asserts, that although the right of interference was not exercised by the government to protect Mexico from the Spaniards, it was exercised on a former occasion to preserve Cuba from the attacks of the Mexicans [hear]. Did the noble lord, however, not understand that there might be some circumstances so peculiar, and some considerations of such overwhelming importance, with regard to the connections and relations of England with the isle of Cuba, as to justify a great departure from the rules which governed other portions of her policy, and not to be defended on general principles. [hear] The noble lord ought to have a thorough understanding of every thing connected with the peculiar situation of this country and Cuba before he ventured to illustrate his argument by a reference to the case of Cuba. On every other occasion, he repeated, that the government had invariably governed itself by the principles which it had recognized; and although they had not, as the noble lord seemed to think they were bound to do, gone to war for the purpose of preventing every act of which they might disapprove, yet he trusted it would be found that they had not done any thing to forfeit the character or compromise the honour or station of the country. He should conclude with observing that he should not enter further into the various topics connected with our foreign policy, because the Address did not pledge the House in any manner to approve of, or adopt it; and if hon. members would but suspend 146 their opinions until the papers connected with it were before them, they would have ample opportunity of expressing their opinions on its soundness and propriety. [hear]
§ Lord Palmerston
explained. He denied that he counselled war, as the right hon. gentleman asserted. On that point he had been quite misconceived. All he wished to convey was, that by assuming a firmer and more decided tone, the country, without the slightest risk of war, might have secured advantages of which it has been deprived, and of which England's allies had been deprived.
Mr. C. Grant
said, he thought that the right hon. gentleman (Mr. Peel) had certainly, without intending it, very much misconstrued the nature of his noble friend's argument. His noble friend said, you profess neutrality to all parties, but I ask you, do you preserve it in the strict sense of the word,—he asks, is it true that when Spain threatened an attack on Mexico, and the Mexicans, in order to avert the consequences of that attack, threatened in their turn to make a descent on Cuba—he asks you, is it true that the government of this country interfered to protect Cuba and rescue it from the danger in which it was placed? His noble friend asked if that was the case; and he asks still further, if it be true that when the Spaniards at Cuba, rescued from the restraint and the shackles which the threats of this invasion had imposed on them, two years afterwards landed in Mexico, why it was that having interfered to protect Cuba from the Mexicans, you did not also interfere on the principle of reciprocal justice, and protect Mexico from the people of Cuba? The right hon. gentleman (Mr. Peel), however, assumes that there were certain circumstances connected with the interests and the welfare of England which placed the interference with respect to Cuba out of the ordinary principles. Now he would ask the right hon. gentleman, were there no circumstances connected with the prosperity or interests of England which called on the government to prevent, as far as was in its power, the return of Mexico or South America under the control of Spain? He confessed, that in the present situation of this country, he knew none whose prosperity in every point of view, whether commercial or political, ought to be viewed with greater anxiety than Mexico and South America; and 147 when he considered that these countries had been for upwards of twenty years engaged in a struggle for the freedom they had now obtained, he confessed he could not contemplate with patience for a moment the prospect of their returning under the despotism from which they had freed themselves, nor restrain his feelings at any suggestions of the policy which sordid interest might be brought to justify in exclusion of those higher considerations which were to be found in a regard for national character and a desire to improve the condition of humanity [hear]. These were the questions which his noble friend had put to the right hon. gentleman and his majesty's government; and, he trusted, before the House was called on to sanction the policy which had been pursued, that an inquiry would be instituted so extensive as to satisfy all, that the imputations against this country were unfounded. The right hon. gentleman had attempted to contend, that the country must have been engaged in a war if it had attempted the interference required by the noble lord, and declared that it was the policy of this country to abstain most religiously from all interference with other states. But if this religious abstinence was to be observed, then he would ask how it was that they had interfered in one solitary instance, such as that alluded to by his noble friend? His noble friend had proved that they did not abstain from interference now; and in a speech of great power at the close of last session, which every member who heard it must have vividly impressed on his recollection, he had proved in another instance that the interference of this country had taken place in reference to the subjects of Portugal in a manner the most unjustifiable; and, he trusted, not withstanding what had been said in justification of that act, that a further inquiry would produce something more satisfactory than any thing to be found in the meagre volume of papers produced last session to the House. From the few hints thrown out elsewhere, from the notes of preparations sounded in the other House—he apprehended, indeed, that the relations of this country with Portugal were about to undergo a great change. It was now whispered that the bloody usurper of his brother's rights had been the injured victim of family misfortunes—that his character had been grossly affected by that weight of scandal which 148 always oppressed virtue [a laugh]; and it was even insinuated that this truly great and excellent prince would be received into the bosom of the European families, and ranked among the Potentates of Europe.
—Illum ego lucidasInire sedes, ducere nectarisSuccos, et ascribi quietisOrdinibus patiar Deorum.[Hear]. He did not ask now for information on this point; but he confessed he waited with anxiety for those documents which were to establish its truth or falsehood, and which would shew whether it was possible that the honour of England could come stainless from the explanation [hear]. Before he sat down he wished to advert to another portion of our foreign relations, which he conceived to be a little obscure. The independence of Greece was now acknowledged. Russia, it was said, had just demanded it; France, it was acknowledged, had secured it; but how came it that England, who was reported, and he hoped truly, to have given a sovereign to the new kingdom—how came it that it had managed so felicitously as scarcely to secure to itself one feeling of gratitude from the people whom it professed to make the object of its regard? How came it that the emancipation of Greece had been delayed for so many years? This was the question which was asked on the continent; and he feared that the answer would not prove advantageous to the character of England. On these and other points he required information. There was one point more with respect to Greece which excited his anxiety. What was to be the form of government imposed on the people? They were told it was to be a monarchy; but was it of a mixed kind, with the advantages of a constitution, or was it to merge into a pure and unmixed despotism? Were we to yield to the wishes of a power which dreaded even the shadow of freedom, and to acquiesce in subjecting the people of Greece to despotism as degrading as that from which we pretended to have relieved them? These, and many other topics which occurred to him, he should not now press on the attention of the House, but he trusted that the explanations which were promised would prove satisfactory, and obviate the necessity of inquiry.
Lord John Russell
said, he rejoiced in the assertion that parliament was not pledged 149 to approve of the foreign policy of the country by giving its assent to the Address; but at the same time he approved of the course pursued by his noble friend, because he thought that great benefit was derived from frequent discussions on the subject. The noble lord had complained of the conduct of the government with respect to Turkey, and the right hon. gentleman had asked what course could they pursue except to offer advice? His (lord John Russell's) answer was, that he would have given it at a different time. He would have told Turkey at the moment it persisted in carrying on hostilities with Russia, that the Allies would be under the necessity of enforcing to its utmost extent the treaty of the 6th of July; but instead of that, the Government pursued a course which, from all he had read of the proceedings of the Turkish cabinet, led them fully to imagine that at one time or another this country would be induced to take a part in the contest in their favour. If, however, the Government of this country had assumed that decided and manly tone which he contended they were bound to do, they would not have had the misfortune to see peace concluded in the plains of Adrianople. Had they shown a timely firmness of remonstrance, he was satisfied that peace might have been concluded before the Russians reached Varna, and they would not have had the regret of being-considered participators in the triumphs of Russia, and seen her conclude a war which left the keys of the Turkish empire in her power, and gave her the conviction that she could pass the hitherto impregnable Balkan whenever it was her pleasure to invade the territories of her neighbour. If the demands of Russia, which he thought were fair, and reasonable, and which went only to secure the prosperity of her territories on the Black Sea, had been firmly pressed on the acceptance of Turkey, all those disasters might have been avoided. He agreed also with his noble friend (Palmerston), in what he had said with respect to the conduct of this country in our intercourse with Terceira and Don Miguel. If the government had never interfered at all in the affairs of Portugal, it might, without any violation of propriety, have (like the United States of America) recognized the authority of the king de facto on the throne; but, after it had proclaimed Donna Maria as the lawful sovereign, after it had supported her rights to the 150 throne by the means of a British army, and after it had conveyed Don Miguel in a British frigate to rule over Portugal under certain conditions—after all these acts of interference, it was too late to draw back, and (contending for the propriety of upholding the principle of non-interference) declare that it did not matter a straw whether this or that sovereign occupied the throne of Portugal. When, with all this too, it was recollected that the authority of Miguel was, in the first instance, supported by a British army, whose presence enabled him to officer the troops of Portugal with creatures of his own; and that a person closely connected with the present government, and holding under it a high situation, was more than suspected of favouring these changes (lord G. Beresford)—and that by the consequences of these changes, thousands of deserving and honourable men were either sacrificed or compelled to abandon their country; he thought that the argument of the right hon. gentleman (Mr. Peel), with respect to the righteousness of non-interference, would be found very difficult of support. He could not but allude to the instructions given by the government with respect to the landing at Terceira, and contend that they were without precedent in the laws of nations. Even the government seemed to be sensible that they were adopting a course most unusual; for in the Admiralty orders for the seizure of the Portuguese, these persons who sailed for Terceira were stated to be about to attack Terceira, although it was known that they recognised the authority of Donna Maria, and that they would be received with open arms by those who occupied the island. He did not wish, however, to descant more on these topics at the present moment, as the time for their consideration was rapidly approaching; and he would, therefore, conclude by expressing his opinion—and he feared it was an opinion but too prevalent on the continent of Europe—that the character of England had been diminished, and its honour tarnished, by these transactions. Portugal had been abandoned, after we had pledged ourselves to protect the government of the rightful sovereign. Turkey had been suffered to become a prey to Russia, or to be so crippled and weakened as to preclude the possibility of her making any future effectual efforts in her own defence.
§ Sir Jos. Yorke
said, he was so hoarse 151 that he could hardly make himself heard, yet he felt unable to avoid expressing his admiration of the eloquent speeches of the noble lord (Palmerston) and his right hon. friend (Mr. Grant), who seemed to have divided between them the mantle of the orator who for nearly forty years had made such elegant speeches as were sufficient to excite the House to take part in any war which the government might think fit to undertake; [hear! and a laugh] and on his part, he gave just credit to the noble duke, to whom the consequences of war were personally so well known, for preserving the country in a state of peace, and for having refrained from the use of that high tone recommended by the noble lord (Palmerston); a tone which had conferred on us the inestimable blessing of eight hundred millions of debt! and through which all his predecessors in office had bamboozled the country almost to the brink of ruin. He thought, too, that the hon. member for Aberdeen (Mr. Hume) deserved great credit for having been the only man who had courage and honesty enough to oppose the expenditure of two millions, incurred by Mr. Canning, for the Portuguese expedition, and who advised the members to go home, and take counsel, and commune with their own hearts on its propriety, [a laugh] and then come back in the course of ten days, and express their opinions on the question, and thus keep out of a confounded scrape. [a laugh] For, having laboured to prevent that enormous sacrifice of money, he repeated that the member for Aberdeen deserved the thanks of the country. As to the arguments respecting the attack on Cuba by the Mexicans, he could not but observe, that although the right hon. gentleman (Mr. Peel) had not thought proper to express himself more fully, every one knew, that had the invasion of Cuba not been prevented, the island would at that hour have been in the possession of the United States of America! and Mr. President Jackson. [a laugh] This was a well known fact; although there seemed to be a something which prevented his right hon. friend (Mr. Peel) from showing off to so much advantage on the subject as he (sir Joseph) was doing then. As to the omission of a sufficient mention of the distress in the Speech from the Throne, he did not think it necessary that the ministers should come down to the House dressed 152 in new black coats—in most respectable mourning—and endeavour to give an exaggerated account of distresses they could not relieve. It was some consolation to know, however, that there was a place to which the distress did not extend, although the hon. member for Clare (Mr. O'Connell), when he heard that place was Ireland, had dropped his spectacles from his nose on the papers he was perusing at the time, and which were doubtlessly connected with the respectable county he represented, and exclaimed in affright, "Is this then the Oasis of the great Desert!" [hear! and laughter] The hon. member for Clare had said that there were seven thousand persons in Dublin living on three-half-pence a day. That was because there were no poor-rates in Ireland. Let them adopt Poor-laws, and matters would be otherwise. All we must do was to try to keep them from coming over to this country. He thought that it was quite right to leave Ireland altogether out of the Speech. Why should it be mentioned as if it were a separate country? Had the hon. member for Clare the vanity to suppose that it ever could be so? It was quite clear that it must always fall into the possession of some European nation. The hon. member must omit all blarney about the finest peasantry in the world, and so on, and come down in his tone to plain, solid, and substantial sense, ornamented as he well knew how to ornament it, with eloquence. As all the differences between Catholics and Protestants had been last Session removed, he (sir J. Yorke) thought that government were quite right in omitting Ireland in the king's Speech. Adverting to various opinions which had been delivered in the course of last night's debate, he must observe that the hon. member for Abingdon had declared that he could give the country such a solid sterling standard paper currency, as had never before been seen in the world. The hon. member had been formerly a contractor, and had shown that he knew very well how to cut his coat according to his cloth, [a laugh]—He would probably cut his paper as he had cut his cloth, stamping the sovereign's head on one side of a piece of paste-board, and his own tail on the other [laughter and some murmurs]. He had certainly heard the hon. member say that he could produce a standard paper circulation at least equal 153 to the finest metallic circulation. He (sir Joseph Yorke) did not believe it. As to the circulation, the duke of Wellington said last night in the House of Lords. [order, order] It was very extraordinary, but there were members in that House who would never listen to the voice of the charmer, charm he ever so wisely. [much laughter] It had been said then, in another place, by a great personage, that the amount of the existing circulation was sixty-five millions. Surely that was quite sufficient. For his part he thought the Speech from the Throne very satisfactory; and that his majesty's government had done their duty to the Crown and the country. He hoped they would continue the cautious course they were pursuing; and he had no doubt that the existing difficulties would soon pass away.
said, he deprecated war; but at the same time maintained that if the honour and policy of the country required us to commence it, we ought not to hesitate to engage in it. Adverting to Portugal, he wished that we had preserved a strict neutrality towards the different parties in that country. The fact was, however, that while the British government had in outward appearance conducted itself towards Donna Maria with civility and courtesy, on all great matters it had leant to the individual who now sat on the throne of Portugal. So far as he was possessed of information on the subject (for one of the extraordinary qualities of the present administration was the darkness in which its proceedings were shrouded), he was compelled to conclude that Don Miguel had been enabled to maintain his seat on the Portuguese throne by the countenance of this country, by which it seemed probable that he was about to be formally recognized. It was true that there was no passage to that express effect in his majesty's Speech, but the intimation appeared to him to be clearly conveyed in it. He strongly condemned the conduct of government in preventing Mexico from attacking Cuba, but allowing Spain to attack Mexico from Cuba. Indeed he never reflected on the course which this country had of late pursued towards the Spanish states of South America without pain. It was a course replete with inconsistencies and anomalies. About twenty years ago lord Castlereagh had held out to the Spanish provinces in 154 South America promises of support, if they would detach themselves from the mother country. Yet, in 1814, he put his signature to one of the most infamous treaties which ever disgraced diplomacy, whereby this country was made to express its earnest desire that those very states, then achieving their independence by their blood and their courage would return to their allegiance to Spain. [hear] Then came the bill of 1818, preventing the exportation of arms to South America. When Mr. Canning became Secretary of State for the Foreign Department, he found himself involved in great difficulties on this subject. He had always thought that that right hon. gentleman's conduct, in acknowledging the independence of the Spanish colonies, was one of the brightest jewels in the crown of glory which encircled his political character. If it were true that Great Britain had permitted the expedition from Cuba to Mexico, and when Mexico had prepared in defence a counter-expedition, had declared that it should not stir, we had pursued a course contrary to every principle of justice. He should be very glad to hear any explanation of this conduct by which it might be shown that the honour of the country (which he valued above every other consideration) would be cleared of this imputation. He regretted exceedingly that he had been compelled to vote last night as he had done, as it might seem to imply a disposition, which he was far from entertaining, to annoy his majesty's government; but he really felt that he had no alternative.
.—He felt obliged to advert to what had dropped from the hon. member for Ryegate (sir J. Yorke) with respect to himself, and must observe that it appeared to him to be scarcely consistent with common courtesy or the regulations of the House [hear]. If the hon. member meant to throw any imputation on his character and station in life, he hurled such imputation back on him with contempt. What did the hon. member mean? Did he mean any thing personal? He had thought it necessary to say what he had said as due to the honour and character of that House, and he apologized to the House for having intruded upon them.
§ Sir J. Yorke
.—If he had been unparliamentary in his expressions, he ought to have been called to order. He disclaimed 155 all personality towards the hon. gentleman, and was sorry if he had offended him, having a great respect for the hon. gentleman. [hear]
§ Mr. Sadler
begged now to be allowed to say a few words, as no opportunity had occurred last night for expressing his sentiments on the various topics which had been discussed. He should not, indeed, have now risen, had it not been for the levity with which the distresses of the country had been treated by a right. hon. gentleman. That was not the way in which they ought to be treated. He would not advert to the questions connected with our foreign policy. The Speech delivered in his majesty's name, dissatisfied him, however, on these points as well as on others, — on the points which had been omitted as well as on the points which had been introduced. But the overwhelming topic of interest, that which affected the heart of every thinking man in the country, was the universal distress which prevailed throughout the United Kingdom. The passage in the Speech which referred to that distress, was introduced by a declaration relative to the increase of our exports. This was supported by the comments of the right hon. Secretary of State for the Home Department, and he had argued, by some documents about canals, from an increase of activity, proof of prosperity in our home occupation. The Speech allowed that distress did certainly prevail in some parts of the United Kingdom; but the terms of the statement were evidently intended to imply that the distress was by no means extensive. Truth was told, but not the whole truth. It was the duty of those who advised the Crown to advise it to tell the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth. When the commercial policy of this country was unhappily changed, the alteration was accompanied by glowing predictions of the prosperity that would ensue. He did not wish to taunt those who had indulged in such expectations; but he would ask them whether any one of those expectations had been realized? On the contrary, had they not all been most cruelly disappointed? At the opening of the last session, the House had been solemnly assured that the state of the revenue was exceedingly satisfactory; and that the comforts and 156 happiness of the people were increasing; the fact being that the revenue was failing, and that the comforts and happiness of the people had disappeared. Through the whole of the session official men had endeavoured to show the existence of prosperity by statements which no man belonging to any practical class could sanction. They had the constantly repeated metaphor, that the sun of prosperity was diffusing its rays throughout the community. Hope was constantly held forth to the people. They could no longer, however, subsist on hope; they must have relief. Ministers had opened Pandora's box, and let loose all the evils which it contained; and the only consolation was, that Hope was at the bottom. The excuses for the distress were infinitely numerous. At one time the bankers were thought a convenient body to lay it on. At another time it was the traders. Now it was one industrious class of the community—then another. The declaimers were hard to please. The production was always either too great or too little. Of all the absurdities supposed, over-production was the greatest. What sort of political reasoning must that be which attributed distress to that which was the sole source of all prosperity! Besides, he totally denied the fact. Were there any signs of over-production in cloth, when, at this inclement season, so large a portion of the population were almost nuked? Were there any signs of overproduction in corn, when so many unhappy persons were almost destitute of food? When over-production would no longer do, the distress was laid upon Providence. It was attributed to the ordinations of Providence,—to wet seasons. Among other causes alleged for the agricultural distress was the influx of Irish labourers, although it was generally known, and they had it indeed on the authority of a report of the committee on the conduct of English labourers, that the harvest in this country could not be got in without the assistance of Irish labourers. The universality of the distress also was denied. Turn, however, to whatever interest they might, distress was but too apparent. In what situation was the shipping interest, the right arm of this country, the impenetrable shield of our defence? Ask the residents in any of the great ports. As to that vital sustaining-interest of the country, agricul- 157 ture, it was well known that the labourers were suffering great distress, and that the farmers were very generally living on their capital. It was said that there was an increase in the export of goods. But did the manufacturers of those goods receive a remunerating price for them? Otherwise, the increase in their manufacture was only an increase of toil without an increase of benefit. No man who saw that all the elements of wealth and prosperity were thus oppressed, could say that this was a natural state of things. Hon. members had asserted that there was more traffic than formerly upon the canals; and from this they drew an inference that the country had increased in commerce and prosperity; but they omitted that there had been a decrease of traffic on many of the canals; and he denied that the tonnage upon the average of the whole had increased beyond the increase of population in a corresponding period. The only way to relieve the distress was to be acquainted with its nature and extent; and he was sorry to say that government had too long kept the word of promise to our ear and broken it to the sense. They were pursuing an ignis fatuus. Retrenchment had been promised; but if this were the only relief, why had not the country been indulged with it before? He came from a neighbourhood where tens of thousands could bear witness to the prevalence of the distress; and it had been proved that in one great county the distress had been and continued to be on the increase. The people, if they were thus treated, would become exasperated, and then the most fatal steps only would be taken. One great cause of the distress was the return to a value of money which had existed forty years ago, although, in the interim, they had incurred several hundred millions of debt. They had hired the public servants in paper, and they were paying them in gold, they had contracted enormous debt in depreciated paper, and they were to be paid in gold. [hear, hear]
§ Mr. J. Wood
said, he had never known the country more impatient for relief; and the people had been taught to expect that the government would be prepared with some remedy; but how were their expectations to be gratified by the Speech or the Address? The Speech, in the first instance, doubted of the prevalence of distress, and it went to professions 158 of economy, which in royal Speeches were as much a matter of course as the sessional orders, amongst which was that very sensible one, for the exclusion of strangers during the debate. A very large portion of the labouring classes were approaching to starvation; they wanted food and clothing; the best workmen could not find employment, or were obliged to apply to charitable distributions of food to eke out their existence. The large farmer was reduced to a small farmer, the small farmer was becoming a labourer, and the labourer was becoming a pauper. If every member would state what was the fact with respect to his own constituents, and what came under his own knowledge, the House would then go far to discharge its duty to the country. He reflected with gratitude on what had been done in the two last sessions, and he should lament if the ejected members of the late administration were to return to power, for their first efforts would be, to repeal the Catholic Relief-bill, and the second to impose additional restrictions on the importation of foreign grain. He could wish that the House would address his majesty to make his ministers inform them what those interests were which were not suffering [hear]. The remedy of the distress was in their own power, but the people were prevented by the monopoly of corn from trading with foreigners and procuring a return for their industry. If the House proceed as its predecessors had done, it would go on in extravagance till ruin ensued.
said, the Speech had asserted the exports of 1829 to amount to more than those of any former year; but he would say, that when the commerce of a country was not prosperous, the greater its extent the greater was its evil. It was absurd at the present moment in ministers to congratulate the country on the extent of its commerce. The distress was deeply felt, and it had spread over the whole productive classes of the community, and he would be glad to hear from any member of that House that there was any one branch of industry that could be pronounced in a tolerably satisfactory state—he meant in such a state that any man would wish to embark his capital in it, or in such a state as these who had embarked their capital would not wish to withdraw it. The chancellor of the Exchequer had said, that prosperity prevailed in Ireland; but 159 in this he had been ably and circumstantially refuted by the hon. member for Clare. The speech of the right hon. Secretary of State was full of self-contradictions: he commenced by saying, that the words of his Majesty's Speech, relating to the distresses of the country, were not to be interpreted as inconsistent with a belief of the existence of great distress; but when he came to argue the subject more at length, the whole of the latter part of his argument went to prove that the more limited sense in which his Majesty had expressed himself was to be considered as the true sense. The people had assembled throughout the country, and had passed a correct judgment upon their own condition. Amidst the conflicting opinions of all classes, there was one uniform and concurrent consent in this—that a great, uniform, overwhelming, and appalling, intolerable, distress, extended itself to the labourer, the farmer, the manufacturer and merchant. If this were the case, if amidst the uniform cry of the country one voice alone was heard not in accordance with that cry, one voice alone which bore no sympathy with the sufferings around it, if this solitary voice were breathed from the lips of the king, and had proceeded from the counsels of the ministers, how was it consistent with the duty which those ministers owed to the Crown and to the country that they should put his majesty in a condition to contradict the voice of the people on a question on which the people were the sole and supreme judges? [cheers] Were the House to be told that there was any doubt of the accuracy of the uniform opinion of the people? Every man was a judge of his own sufferings, and the congregated opinion of the people confirmed it. To say the contrary, would be to maintain the proposition that the unanimous voice of the whole people was a gross imposition. This was not the character of the people of England, and it was a gross libel on them to say so. On what grounds did ministers put this language in the mouth of the king? Was it upon an increase of exportation? He would prove that the Custom-house documents were utterly worthless for any such calculation or purposes. [hear] They were useful documents for their own objects of revenue, but they did not show the prosperity or adversity of the trade which they registered. He held in his hand a 160 document throwing some light upon the subject. It was an Address of the American President to the Congress. He spoke of a period of great distress in England, in which period, however, the Custom-house exports were brought forward to prove the prosperity of the kingdom. The President told the Congress that one great cause of the distress of America was the unusual amount of exports from England, which were forced into America by the distress of Great Britain, and which spread ruin among the American manufacturers. One statement showed an increase of exports from forty to fifty-two millions, but, out of this, thirty-three millions and a half turned out to be cotton exports, estimated at the value of cotton thirty-three years before, when cotton was probably a guinea a yard. During 1825, the commerce of the country was in a very depressed state, almost every description of goods, whether raw or manufactured, was reduced to such a low rate in this country, that the grower or producer could not obtain a remunerating price; and they only went on from day to day in the hope of more favourable circumstances under which to carry on their trade. This was the character of the commercial transactions of the present day, and the more extensive they were, the more extensive would be the ruin of those who were engaged in them. The government asserted their determination not to change the currency; as far as the justice of the case, and duty to the country, were concerned, to that determination he would give at once the most positive contradiction. However firmly it might be expressed, he knew that such determination could not be persevered in. He asserted that it would be altered, and that many moons would not pass over the heads of those who now expressed that determination before they themselves altered it, at least if they should so long hold the reins of power. [hear] He was not guided in what he thus asserted merely by their expressions, but by their conduct. What they had done before, they would do again. During the last fifteen years there had been a perpetual tampering with the currency; the most extensive and violent effects had been produced by the changes; and those who had occasioned them were deeply reprehensible for the effects of those dreadful and destructive changes. The government might as well affect to 161 state what would be the future harvest, or what the heat of the next summer, as to pretend their ability to assert that no circumstances would arise which would make them change their determination with respect to the currency. The very standard they had established contained in itself the principle of eternal change. It was not consistent with the present condition of the country that it should be permanent; and the government might rest assured, that while it continued to exist taxes to nearly sixty millions a-year could not long be levied. It was said that the country had returned to the high standard of 1792; but that was not the fact. The standard was now rather higher than it was at that time. It was said too that the changes between that time and the present were occasioned by the effects of the successful working of the mines of Mexico. He believed that the cause might be found much nearer home: it might be discovered in our own dishonest legislation; it was by the unwise and improper rejection of silver as a standard, and by taking away those laws by which the commerce of the country had been for so many years protected. All kinds of reasons were urged for the change which had taken place. What were the consequences?—why, low prices, low rents, and low profits [hear]. But, notwithstanding all these circumstances, it was announced to be the determination of the government to stand firm in their purpose, and not to be shaken by the distresses under which all classes of men were now suffering. They were ready to believe anything rather than the misery now so widely spread. They knew that such misery was the effect of their own acts, and that for it they were answerable. He calculated, however, not on these distresses to produce the effects he anticipated, but that there would come distresses of another kind; there would come financial distress—there would be an attack made on them by the landed interest—by those men whose presence in that House would give weight to their remonstrances. With the rents of 1792 a man of rank could not maintain his station in society, while the taxes were as high as at present. Such a man might hide his head in a foreign land, but before he did so he would demand that taxes should be reduced. They would demand that the Malt-tax should be taken off, and those on sugar and tea, and several others should 162 be reduced. And they would justly urge those demands. The government were, no doubt, confident in their strength in that House; they were sure they could command votes enough to support them—they would keep up the Malt-tax; they would triumph; but their triumph would be their defeat—the attack would be continued—the war would be incessant; and if not this year, they would, in a few years, be obliged to make those reductions which for the time they might be able to oppose. Under these circumstances, what would the Ministers do?—With an empty exchequer would they retrench? No.— Would they refuse to pay the public creditor? He hoped not.—Would they refuse to accept their salaries? That he did not expect of them. [a laugh]—Would they diminish or refuse the pay of the soldiers? There would be a formidable objection to curtailing that pay.—What, then, would they do? They would do as they had repeatedly done—they would go to what had been truly called the State-bank, and they would borrow the state money. But that very borrowing would debase the currency they affected to keep up. They would debase the currency by quantity as much, and as certainly, as by introducing inferior metal, they could debase it by alloy; and then, when the distress was by these temporary means diminished, they would perhaps again have recourse to a rigid enforcement of a gold currency, and again talk of keeping the faith of the country with a standard of increased value.
The next fifteen years would be like the last, at least if Parliament and the country would permit it. They would be told, no doubt, that the alterations were unavoidable; various excuses would be made, and there would be no end of the discussion, as there would be no end of resorting to expedients, till the House took the question fully into their own consideration, and settled it upon an honest, a firm, and practicable basis—on a basis that would do justice to all parties, and produce permanent benefit to the country. The right hon. Secretary had said that in 1819 there were individuals who had uttered gloomy predictions. He was one of them, and he would take the responsibility of the predictions he had uttered. The right hon. gentleman, as a proof of the prosperity of the country, had mentioned the increased tonnage of several canals; but 163 he did not think that fact was to be relied on for the purpose for which it was mentioned, since he believed it would be found that the greatest increase had been occasioned by the importation of foreign grain at a time when the high prices of our markets justified its introduction. The noble duke at the head of the government had said that the distress could not be so great as it was imagined, because the people paid, in customs and excise, a greater amount of taxation than during the war, although the taxes on certain articles had been reduced. That might be true; but it should be remembered that the population had much increased, and that more mouths were to be fed, and consequently that a greater amount of taxes on consumable articles would be paid. There had been a great degree of distress in 1822, and how was it met? Not by any measures that were consistent with security. The measures then adopted were not only not the cause of the prosperity of 1824 and 1825, but could not be co-existent with it under the money standard of 1792. At the period when the bill to re-establish a gold currency came into full effect, there was a tremendous degree of suffering; and when the operation of that bill was partly abolished, prosperity returned, but only for a time; and when the act of 1819 was afterwards consolidated with another statute, that distress arose in which the country was now placed—a great mass of capital was said to be congregated together in the country; and an hon. member, in alluding to measures which he thought necessary for the relief of the country, had hinted at some plan by which that capital was to be dispersed. If that hon. member had been present, he would have shewn him that, in making that observation, he had confounded two things most distinct from each other— capital and currency [hear]. There might be an excess of capital, and at the same time a scarcity of the circulating medium [hear, hear]. Nay more; one was actually the consequence of the other. What did great capital congregated together produce? Low prices; and it drew into the hands of a few men the whole productive industry of the country. He expected to have heard that the dispersion of that capital was to have been effected by means which neither he nor the hon. member would think of recommending; namely, by an equal, or what had been 164 termed an equitable adjustment [hear]. That adjustment could not be procured unless and until that currency was altered, which the House had been told was from that day to be secured. If the government were determined to stand by the present system of the currency, they must take it together with all its consequences. He had been mistaken by those who alluded to his opinions. He had never meant to say that all classes of the community were suffering distress. He had stated that a great portion of the population were suffering now, but were in a more prosperous state than ever, if that prosperity was secure. That portion was composed of those who were called the unproductive classes—the annuitants, and those who lived on fixed incomes. All these were enjoying a state of prosperity; but their advantage was not one which proceeded simultaneously from that of the community at large. The possession of a fixed income gave them a command over the productions of all kinds; but he would submit to the right hon. gentleman, the Secretary for the Home Department, that as the high value of the currency gave to the unproductive classes a greater power over the productions of the national industry than was possessed by other men, he would find in that circumstance an explanation of that amount of the public income which had given such confidence to the royal mind, but which proved no increase of prosperous commerce in the country. The manufacturer, the farmer, and the labourer, were all suffering from that change which, by altering the value of money, had imposed on them a greater tribute than ever. The burdens on the industry of the country were not only great, but were greater than the country could bear, and they were rapidly pressing it down. The trader was no longer paid from the profits of his business, but proceeded in it by gradually exhausting his capital itself; and what was drawn from the labourer was not a tax on his wages, which he could fairly contribute to the state, but was a tax wrung from his absolute necessities; he had no longer the means of supporting his family by his industry. He would shew on a future occasion that the present measures of the government were neither wise nor cautious, but were opposed to both wisdom and caution; that they could not be continued with security; and that while they did 165 continue nothing could be secure, from the throne of the sovereign to the hovel of the peasant. He opposed the Address because it did not carry to the foot of the throne a true picture of the condition of the country. It was an inadequate description of existing distresses; it was incapable of being directed to any intelligible conclusion, and in every way it was unworthy of that House [hear].
The Chancellor of the Exchequer
.—He thought, when he had yesterday stated that he considered the great object of those who moved the amendment was connected with an alteration of the standard of value, that he had been met, on their parts, with the disclaimer of any such intention.—He therefore thanked the right hon. member who had just resumed his seat, for the clear and explicit statement given of his objections to that system which, after a full consideration of the matter, parliament had thought proper to adopt. That hon. gentleman had drawn a fearful picture of what he considered would be the consequences of an adherence to that system; but if parliament had ever determined to have changed that system, he would indeed have had an opportunity of describing distresses, not only as dreadful, but more real, than those on which he had been recently dilating. Did the hon. Member forget that the system of which he complained had been ten years established? and could he be ignorant of the fact that in a community like this, distinguished, perhaps, above all others for the variety and extent of its engagements and pecuniary transactions, occurring from day to day—could he, in such a community, forbear to see how large a proportion of transactions must have taken place within that period, under the standard which he now proposed to get rid of? [hear] If so, did he not see that that which was, perhaps, practicable in 1820 or 1821 was utterly impracticable now? [hear] Whatever might be the difficulties and distress occasioned by adhering to the present system, it would not only be highly inconvenient but improper for parliament now to attempt to change it. Did the hon. Member think, that if he were now in possession of power he would ever be able to carry through that House a measure for the reduction of the standard of value? If he ever made the attempt he must do it in the usual way, and the delays which the forms of parliament would interpose would offer opportunities for petitions 166 and remonstrances to pour in from all quarters, and there would be such a general mass of confusion that it would be impossible for parliament to carry the measure of alteration into effect. The hon. member had denied that the augmented commerce of any particular year afforded any evidence of the prosperity of those engaged in it. He would admit that, in one particular year, commerce might not have been profitably carried on; but was that the first occasion on which the hon. member had told them that the trade of the country was carried on at a sacrifice by the traders? They had heard that statement at least during the last five or six years from the hon. Member; and though he might be inclined to admit that for one year, or even for two years, such was the fact, he would ask whether they could deem it possible, that for a series of years, individuals would embark in commercial, trading, and manufacturing concerns in which they could suffer nothing but continual loss? The hon. Member had alluded to the official returns as delusive; but he must have known, if he understood them at all, that the returns were always made up, not on their actual value, which would constantly vary, and could never therefore give, for a long-period, an accurate idea of the matter, but upon a standard which every one at all acquainted with official business perfectly understood, and which gave a just and proper estimate of their increase or decrease during any particular period. Now the increase for the last three years had been progressive; and their amount during that which had just expired was greater than in any of the antecedent years. Surely this increase could not have proceeded on the sacrifice of the capital of those who were engaged in the trade. The hon. member encouraged the opinion that the government were insensible to the distresses of the country. He denied the fact they were as deeply sensible of those distresses as the hon. Member; but-they did not think it a good proof of the sympathy they felt to withdraw the expression of all hope of amendment when they thought that good grounds for that hope still existed. They rather felt it to be more consistent (what the people, who were both rational and sensible, required) to state fairly the opinion they entertained. In conclusion, he begged to remind hon. members that by concurring with the Address they did not pledge themselves to 167 any one mode of proceeding with respect to the distresses or to the remedies that might be proposed.
§ Mr. Trant
wished very briefly to state his opinion on this subject, and he could not but say that the distress called for a more decided expression of sympathy than that which was contained in the Address.—All the evil predictions of 1819, when the currency question was discussed, had been verified; that alone required immediate revision, independent of the great subject of the national debt. He was himself a public creditor, but for one, he did not wish to receive a farthing more than was just, with relation to the rest of the community. He did not pretend to be a philosopher, but he kept his eyes and ears open, and let him go where he would, he heard everybody complaining that the legislature had pursued a wrong course. He begged to ask, whether, since the year l819, the country had enjoyed anything like even an average state of prosperity? and the admitted great falling-off in the Excise showed that the people had not the means of buying the most ordinary luxuries. Nobody denied the amount of distress, and ministers themselves, when pressed, were obliged to admit it. If, then, for the last ten years, parliament had pursued an erroneous system, it was fit at once to avow it, and to set about the adoption of a remedy; for one, instead of opposing Government, he should be most happy to lend it every assistance, and to endeavour to re-establish this House in particular in the confidence of the country. [hear]
Mr. Alderman Waithman
.—He did not rise to answer the speech of the hon. member for Callington, which was one of the most powerful in argument and eloquence he had heard for many years. He wished merely to set the House right on a matter of fact, which would shew the fallacy of what was called 'the official value of exports.' He denied that the exports were increased, and he was astonished that the Chancellor of the Exchequer should this night have repeated so fallacious a statement. Looking at the real value, he could establish, that within the last twenty years the exports of the country had fallen off to a frightful amount, and in the last five years only they had been lessened on the average to the extent of nine millions sterling, without taking into account colonial and foreign produce. The principle he contended for had been adopted by Mr. Pitt, 168 whose practice it was to quote the real, and not the official, value, when that minister had estimated the returns to the revenue. During the lapse of nine years there was a real diminution of nine millions annually, and yet the public was officially told that there had been an increase of a considerable amount. An accession of twelve millions during three years was set forth in the official documents, instead of which there was found to be a real decrease of more than sixteen millions, and the official returns of the last year had exceeded those of all the years that preceded it. He thought it right to state these facts to the House, and entertained no doubt but the information hereafter to be elicited would obviate many gross mistakes which had gone abroad on the subject, and satisfy to conviction every man who understood arithmetic, or was guided by common sense. By a motion, of which he had given notice for Tuesday, he should obtain documents which would prove, as clearly as arithmetic could prove anything, that the grossest deception had been practised upon this subject: and he undertook to make the matter clear even to the humblest clerk in any merchant's counting-house.
§ The Report was then brought up and read. On the question that it be agreed to,
§ Mr. Hume
begged to state, that it had been his intention to move an amendment, to supply a great defect in the Address, and to direct the attention of his Majesty to the only real means of giving efficient relief,—a reduction of expenditure and a consequent diminution of taxation. As they could not raise prices, they ought to reduce taxes. After, however, the discussion the subject had undergone, and at that late hour, he was not disposed to press it, especially as he intended to give a notice for the 12th instant, for a humble Address to the Throne, praying that his Majesty would order such a reduction in the national expenditure as would enable the House to make a reduction of taxation proportioned to the alteration of the currency. It had been stated by Ministers, and in his opinion very wisely, that to alter the present standard of value would occasion greater evils than any benefits that could be anticipated from that alteration. [hear']
.—He was desirous of taking this opportunity of redeeming the pledge he had given last session, and which had been adverted to by the gallant 169 Admiral (Sir J. Yorke)—that of pointing out a mode in which a deficiency in the circulating medium might be supplied by a paper currency, which should be safe, invariable, and incapable of depreciation. What he should say on this occasion was merely dictated by a wish to remove the scepticism of a gallant admiral opposite, and others who had seemed to doubt the possibility of realizing the plan that he had to propose. There appeared to be an impression very generally entertained, that it was the object of many on his side of the House to effect an immediate change, no matter at what risk, in the currency of the kingdom. Whatever opinions other hon. Gentlemen might hold on such a question, he could answer for himself, that he was not one of those individuals. [hear, hear] But he desired to abstain from offering any remarks respecting a deficient currency at present. It was known that there existed such a circulating medium as Exchequer-bills, of which eight, nine, or ten millions were usually deposited in the hands of the Bank of England, and could not, therefore, be circulated; there was, therefore, that amount of unavailable circulation; in 1825 the directors had attempted to dispose of them, and had failed in that attempt; and hence that amount was unavailable to the Bank at the time of need, and of corresponding detriment to the public. The rest of the whole amount of Exchequer-bills formed a circulating medium which did not usually travel far beyond the limits of the metropolis. What he wished was, that a portion of this government-currency should be converted into small Exchequer-bills, even as low as one pound, to the extent of three, four, or five millions. It would be in the power of parliament to limit and control this currency in every way, yet at the same time providing that it should be received in payment for taxes, and in all respects made legal tender. Such a currency not being-exchangeable for gold, would circulate freely at the worst of junctures, even in time of famine itself, all over the empire, and would prove incapable of depreciation. Several advantages would unavoidably accrue from the arrangement. One would be the disconnection of government from the Bank of England, and thenceforward a cessation of the injury which their intercourse had hitherto been to the productive public. It would also cause a saving of three or four hundred thousand a year, which in 170 times like the present was by no means to be overlooked; he meant of charge for management of the debt. He had taken an opportunity to mention this proposal to the Secretary for the Home Department, but he did not require the right hon. Gentleman at present to express any opinion upon it, but merely to turn it over in his mind, and with his colleagues consult upon its practicability. The important benefit of taking the government entirely out of the hands of the Bank, and enabling it to act with decision and independence against that powerful establishment, could not fail to be admitted by all. It might be said that the Bank currency would be displaced in proportion as this new government currency was issued; if so, he thought that this, instead of being an objection, would be an additional recommendation of the scheme, for the Exchequer Bill would circulate at least as freely as the Bank Note. Neither did he think it any objection to the plan that it was, in fact, issuing a government currency; and if it were urged that in time it might amount to the whole sum of the taxation of the kingdom, his answer was, that it would be under the control and sanction of parliament: too extensive an issue might be an abuse of the system, but it did not follow that it was the error of it. If only for the sake of economy, dismissing all other considerations, what he had suggested ought to be adopted; at all events, he trusted that it would be considered by the government.
The Marquis of Blandford
.—He should trespass but a few moments on the indulgence of the House, but would request their most serious attention to a topic of the greatest importance to the interests of the country, and one which could never be too earnestly impressed on the mind of their Sovereign, however unaccountably it had been neglected hitherto. He alluded to the present pernicious state of the popular representation. [hear, hear] In the debate of Thursday evening, the hon. and learned member for Clare had expressed sentiments on this momentous topic, in which he most cordially concurred. He was happy to see that hon. gentleman devote his talents to the reprobation of so execrable a system, and he could assure him that he would gladly join heart and hand with so efficient a coadjutor in procuring its abolition. Meantime he begged leave to move, with permission of the House, that wholesome ad- 171 monition to the Throne be appended to their Address in answer to his Majesty's gracious Speech to both Houses of Parliament. He had therefore to propose an amendment, which was plain and straightforward, proceeding upon no verbal quibble; and upon which, if he were fortunate enough to have it seconded, he should take the sense of the House.
The original Address having been read a second time, his lordship's Amendment thereto was proposed to be made, by adding at the end thereof the words, "That this House feels itself called upon, in the awful and alarming state of universal distress into which the landed, commercial, and all the great productive interests of the country are at this moment plunged, to take care that your Majesty shall not be the only person in your dominions ignorant of such an astounding fact, as well as of the consequent impending danger to the throne, and other great national institutions, established by the wisdom of our ancestors, for the protection and benefit of the people over whom your majesty has been called to preside.That this House is at no loss to indicate the real cause of this most unnatural state of things, and, injustice to your Majesty and the whole nation, it can no longer hesitate to proclaim that cause to the world.It is a fact, already too notorious, that this House, which was intended by our ancient and admirable constitution to be the guardian of the nation's purse, has, from causes now unnecessary to be detailed, been nominated, for the greater part, by a few proprietors of close and decayed boroughs, and by a few other individuals, who, by the mere power of money employed in means absolutely and positively forbidden by the laws, have obtained a domination, also expressly forbidden by act of parliament, over certain other cities and boroughs in the United Kingdom.That in consequence of this departure from the wisdom of our ancestors, the nation has been deprived of its natural guardian, and has, in consequence, become so burthened with expensive establishments of all kinds, that, in a period much shorter than the life of man, the taxation has increased from nine millions to nearly sixty millions a-year; and the poor-rates, or parochial assessments during the same period, have augmented from one and a half millions to eight millions annually.172That to render such a mass of taxation, so disproportionate to the whole wealth of the kingdom, in any degree supportable, recourse has been had, cither from ignorance or design, to the most monstrous schemes in tampering with the currency, or circulating money of the country; at one time by greatly diminishing the value of the same, and at another time by greatly augmenting such value; and at each and every of such changes, which have been but too often repeated, one class of the community after another has been plunged into poverty, misery, and ruin, while the sufferers, without any fault or folly of their own, have been hardly able to perceive from what hand these calamities have come upon them.That, under such circumstances, and with this knowledge before its eyes, this House would consider itself lost to every sense of duty towards your Majesty, and guilty of treason towards the people, if it did not seize this opportunity of declaring to your majesty its solemn conviction that the state is at this moment in the most imminent danger, and that no effectual measures of salvation will or can be adopted until the people shall be restored to their rightful share in the legislation of the country; that is, to their undoubted right, according to the true meaning of the constitution, of choosing the members of this House.
Burdett.—It must be unnecessary for him to say, that the sentiments of this amendment corresponded with those of his own mind; but it was a question of such magnitude, such general and paramount importance, that he found himself quite unable to do justice to it, brought forward as it was without sufficient time having been given adequately to consider it, and he hoped the noble lord would see that more effect would be given to his proposition, to which he (sir Francis Burdett) was most anxious to give his support, were he to bring it forward on some future occasion. He felt great hopes from the circumstance, when he saw gentlemen, in the situation of the noble lord, becoming sensible to the evils under which the country suffered, and coming forward boldly and manfully, as the noble lord had done, with the true spirit of an Englishman, and with a full understanding of the subject, to 173 bring under the consideration of the House the only measure that could effectually relieve the distress. When such individuals were convinced of the real evils that bore down the country there was hope. He was anxious to express the obligation he felt to the noble Lord, for taking up a subject of such paramount importance, which embraced every discussion that had been entered into on the Address, and which was in itself, in his estimation, of far superior importance to any subject that could be involved in any ordinary Address to the Crown, under the present situation of the country. But the noble Lord would hardly, he hoped, then press the measure, which was brought forward quite unexpectedly, and when the House was so thinly attended. He hoped the noble Lord would reconsider the question, and not then press it to a division, but bring it forward when he himself, and the House, would be able to do it more justice than on the present occasion. Me felt considerable alarm about the management of the country's affairs from what had passed in another place, of which, he believed, they all had some knowledge; when he had seen the prime minister display, what to his mind was a total apathy and insensibility to, and a complete unacquaintance with, the interest of the country; [cheers] with a disposition not to acknowledge the difficulties and distress now existing; but, on the contrary, with a disposition to stifle all complaint and inquiry, and to persuade the public that the universal calamity which was felt in every part of the country [hear, hear] was only partial, temporary, and slight—of a nature to cure itself, and not requiring the attention of the legislature. He felt alarm when he knew that this distress was attributed to improvement in our machinery—to the application of steam [hear, and a laugh] — to those other ingenious contrivances to which all scientific men justly attributed all the prosperity of the country—when he saw that an opinion of that nature was entertained by the prime minister. [hear, hear] Whatever respect he might have for the noble Duke's talents in the field (and no man had a greater respect) he could form no other opinion of him as a minister for this country, than he himself had formed a short time, a little month, he believed, before the noble Duke accepted his present situation, when he said r—in language to which he hardly knew 174 how to allude—that he should consider himself destitute of common reason, and fit only for another place, if he could entertain the idea of filling the office of prime minister. The noble Duke might not then have done justice to himself; but after such opinions, he could hardly dissent from the fitness of the language used, and that it was not required to form a different opinion of the noble Duke's qualifications. [hear, and a laugh] He would not then go into the merits of another question which the noble Duke had discussed—a question which pressed on the consideration of every man, which was of vital importance, and affected the interests of all classes—the question of the currency; [hear, hear] but he might, at least, say that question could not be got rid of very easily. Parliament might by its votes negative whatever propositions might be submitted to it on the subject of reform —that might be got rid of, but the question of currency would press itself on their attention, because the country could not bear the pressure of the difficulties, of which it was the cause, which were said to be temporary, but which had now continued for fifteen years, increasing every year, and being now greater than they were at the beginning. He was astonished when he knew that the Government stated that the circulating medium was now greater than it was at any time of the depreciated currency. This was an assertion not to be met by argument, not by any statement of facts, but by the assertion that it was not true, and that it was impossible that it could be true. [hear, hear] This was borne out by a statement that there were 2S millions of gold in circulation. He professed that it seemed to him impossible that any man at all acquainted with the subject, any man who had read the works in which that question had been discussed with transcendent ability out of the House—it was impossible that any man acquainted with the subject could maintain that there were 28 millions of gold in circulation in this country. These things shewed him that it was necessary for the House of Commons not to place too much confidence in the prime minister who could make such statements. They had long forborne, out of tenderness to the noble Duke, to scrutinise his measures, regarding the noble Duke as the means of conferring the greatest benefit on this country which ever a 175 man had conferred, and which he only of all the men in England could have carried into effect, producing the greatest amelioration in our situation; but let it be remembered, that if the services were great, the benefits were commensurate. The noble Duke had been amply repaid in returns of confidence and approbation: but after what they had heard, the confidence that had been bestowed on the noble Duke must be resumed; they must have confidence in themselves, for the time was come when many other things must be done [hear, hear]. The country could not stand still. Not half a century ago there was no hope of carrying that measure which had now been providentially carried; he said providentially, considering that it had been brought about by means which surpassed all expectation, and seemed not within the ordinary scope of human means; but the state of the country had become such, that doing justice could not be longer deferred, and the government had no other choice than to do justice, or involve the country in civil contention. He gave due credit to the noble Duke that he was sensible to the alteration which had taken place, and that if he should adopt any other measure the government could not be carried on, unless by means they must all shudder to contemplate. The state of the Representation was the evil; the Representation of the House of Commons,—which was miscalled the House of Commons, for it was not the House of the Commons of England, but a House of Representatives of certain Peers, contrary to the Law, and contrary to the Constitution—a House of Commons in which, of the supposed representatives of the people, eight or nine represented the noble Lord whose son (the Earl of Darlington) had last night moved the Address [hear, hear]—a House of Commons, which was stated to be most corrupt, and of which the corruption stared them so much in the face, that they themselves had been obliged to wink at it; a corruption, too, which was known all over the country, of which the whole world was aware, and the House of Commons knew that all the world knew it— id scitis, et quod vos scitis omnes sciunt —and a House of Commons which could not possibly be long suffered, when the people were contending with bold and increasing freedom for their privileges, they would not long tamely submit to a griev- 176 ance which was the root of all other grievances, and which enabled the ministers to govern the country by means of the subserviency of the House of Commons; and if they would submit, it was what he would not submit to under these circumstances; and with such a House of Commons he knew no single subject of equal importance which could come before them. But he hoped, and he implored the noble Lord—(assuring him that no man would give him a more sincere support than he would, at a proper time, and that no man was more anxious than he was to bring the subject fairly before them—and therefore he hoped the noble Lord would give him credit for his good intentions, and for having no other wish than to procure for the subject a full consideration, and not from any motives of personal convenience) —he implored the noble Lord not then to press the subject. He would most readily place himself under his Lordship's banner, because of his frankness and manly conduct. He assured the noble Lord that in giving his advice he was convinced he was promoting the great object which both had in view, to which indeed he could not but regret his inability to do justice. He trusted the noble Lord would, on another more convenient occasion, bring the question again before the House, affording by the short delay time to have its general bearings more maturely considered by the noble lord himself and the other hon. members. It was not fair play to those who, unacquainted with the noble Lord's intention, were then absent, but who, if present, would undoubtedly give the proposition their most cordial support, to thus suddenly press so important a matter to a division. He was sure that many then not in their places would be anxious to vote with the noble Lord on a future occasion. He therefore trusted the amendment would not be pressed to a division in the unprepared state of the House; but that the noble Lord would take the sense of that branch of the legislature at a no distant occasion, when he might depend upon it he (sir F. Burdett) would, even if his were the only other vote, give the proposition his most earnest support. [hear, hear]
The Marquis of Blandford
.—He had the most unfeigned respect for the personal character of the hon. Baronet, and would yield the most willing deference to his experience in that House, particularly in 177 relation to a measure tending to improve our Representative system; but still he felt that he should be neglecting the dictates of his own sense of duty to the question, and would ill discharge his duty to the country, if he did not press his motion to an immediate division. He must press the amendment upon the House.
§ Mr. W. Smith
said, though he agreed fully in the importance of the measure, and was anxious that it should be considered, he could not support the noble Lord's motion. He wished the question to be brought fairly before the House; and if the motion were then pressed to a division he must vote against the noble Lord.
Mr. Secretary Peel
said, he did not rise to provoke discussion on a question of such importance. Differing entirely from the hon. Baronet in the view he took of the merits of the question, yet he cordially concurred with him in thinking that the time chosen for its discussion was most improper. Whatever might be the opinions of Members on the merits of the question, all agreed that it could not then be properly discussed. [hear, hear] He rose principally to express his regret that the rule generally laid down for their proceedings—of not remarking on what had passed elsewhere-—should have been departed from. He regretted that the hon. Baronet should have referred to anything that had occurred in the other House. He conceived that what had fallen from the hon. Baronet must have proved the expediency of the rule of not making any such remarks, for he could not break through it without committing injustice and without attacking a person who was not present to defend himself. The noble Baronet, unintentionally he was sure, had misrepresented the observations of his noble friend in another place. He was satisfied that his noble friend never meant to impute the general distress to the use of machinery and the application of steam to assist labour. [hear] His noble friend, he was satisfied, did not mean to say that the distress was caused by those improvements which were the great elements of all our general prosperity. [hear] He believed his noble friend, lamenting that distress, had never attributed it to scientific improvements, which his noble friend was satisfied were the cause of our commercial and manufacturing greatness, and by which alone that greatness could be 178 preserved. But his noble friend had probably lamented that the use of these improvements should have in some cases caused partial distress. His noble friend probably alluded to the effects of introducing the power-loom. His noble friend, at the same time that he imputed our manufacturing improvements to the discovery and employment of new agents and new powers, yet regretted that these improvements could not always be introduced without diminishing the demand for labour. Was it fair to say of the prime minister, that he imputed the distress of the country, of the agricultural, commercial and manufacturing interests, to the improvements and discoveries of science? No; he rejoiced in those improvements, and he felt their immense importance to the manufacturers of this country.
§ Mr. Protheroe
said, he should feel himself compelled to vote against the noble Lord's amendment if he then pressed it to a division, though he had himself proposed resolutions of the same tendency. Every man was partial to his own progeny; he therefore was not surprised at the noble Marquis's attachment to his; but as he (Mr. P.) had sacrificed his parental affection last evening, he thought the noble Marquis might make some little sacrifice on the present occasion.
§ Mr. Western
said, he would give the noble Marquis his best support on the 18th, the day on which he had given notice of his intention to bring the subject substantively before the House, but would vote against him that evening should he injudiciously press a division.
§ Mr. E. Davenport
said, he also must vote against the noble Marquis's motion, should he then take the sense of the House on it. He trusted, however, the noble Marquis would not injure the cause of which he had put himself forward as the advocate, by leaving it to the country to infer that there were but some half dozen members of that House who were friendly to a reform of the present system of Representation. He (Mr. E. Davenport) had for years urged the necessity of such a measure, and therefore should not like to see it injured through the indiscretion of the noble Marquis on the present occasion.
§ Question put, that those words (the Marquis of Blandford's Amendment) be added. The House divided: Ayes 11; Noes 96.—Majority 85.—Adjourned.