Mr. G. Lamb
[on the motion that the Lords Commissioners Speech be taken into consideration], rose.—He said, he wished briefly to state his reasons for having voted for the Amendment to the Address on the first night of the session, not having had a previous opportunity of addressing the House, and finding himself compelled to differ from most of those with whom he generally acted, he felt bound to state shortly the grounds on which he gave that vote for the Amendment on the first day of the session. Some friends of his, upon that (the Opposition) side of the House, had stated that they voted for the Amendment through the delicate fear, not generally entertained in that quarter, of turning the ministers out. The hon. member for Norwich (Mr. W. Smith) vaunted his experience; though 225 he held this opinion, his experience might have taught him that such a fear was chimerical. Many stated that they thought if the present Ministers were removed they would be followed by others, from whom they totally differed. If he had any confidence in Ministers (and he had none) he would still have voted for the Amendment, as containing a true representation of the state of the country, and a pledge of inquiry into measures of relief. It did not seem to him that gentlemen opposite had any measures of relief to propose. There certainly was an allusion to reductions in some quarter or another, but they were so ambiguous that no two persons could agree as to the quarter in which they were to be effected. Hitherto be had been a silent voter for a metallic currency, and he did not now wish the country to be deluged with paper; but looking at our condition, he doubted whether the last screw of the vice,—the withdrawal of the country small notes,—might not have added to the difficulties of the country. Whether the restriction of the one-pound notes had or had not done mischief, still he was not prepared to tell the country that he would not inquire into the subject. But if the Ministry were, as the hon. Mover of the Address had called them, Whigs at home, certainly he must say, that on the continent they were found to be most tremendous Tories. [hear] On these grounds he had supported the Amendment rather than the original Address, with respect to that part which related to the internal affairs of the Empire. If, however, the Ministers were accused of recklessness and carelessness of every thing connected with domestic policy, what was to be said with reference to their conduct upon every thing relating to Foreign Affairs? If Ministers were charged with too great a resemblance of Whigs in their management of domestic affairs, on the Continent they were considered the most confirmed Tories that ever appertained to any party in this country. [hear, hear] And he really felt there was but too much justice in the observations of the noble Lord, the Member for the University of Cambridge (Lord Palmerston), when he declared, on Friday evening, that the character of England was disgraced and detested on every part of the Continent. He confessed it was with the greatest pain and regret that he heard the right hon. Gentleman, the Secretary for the Home Department (Mr. Peel), hold so 226 low a tone on the subject of the position of this country, with reference to the Continent, and almost admit that the fear of war was the sole cause of that temporising; system of policy which was so loudly complained of. That tone was indeed so low as to form a remarkable contrast with the language used scarcely two years ago by the Minister who then directed the councils of this country. The nation reposed confidence in Mr. Canning, because he had raised its name to that great and exalted station which it ought to occupy among the states of the Continent; and when he unhappily descended to the grave, he bequeathed to his country, as a legacy, an example of the consequences of a liberal but straight-forward and determined course of policy, which it was fondly hoped would be followed by his successors. The confidence, therefore, which the nation felt in Mr. Canning had been continued to his successors, and what had been the result? Why, that they had obtained the reputation of being considered the foes of every liberal institution, and of having leagued themselves in strict alliance with feeble sovereigns and bigoted ministers. [hear, hear] The whole mind of the people of these countries, whose good opinion, he contended, it was the true policy of England to maintain, had been alienated by this course, and, instead of being considered the friend, England was held to be the enemy of all liberal institutions. The whole feeling of the Continent was against England. He was told, however, by the right hon. Gentleman, that war must be avoided, and that this was the cause of their adopting the policy of non-interference; but he trusted that there would now be an end of the confidence which the country had reposed in them, as to the conduct of our foreign policy, who maintained such a doctrine. He would tell them that by their abstaining from all that was liberal and just, through the apprehensions of war, the time might come when the question would be, not whether they were to abstain from a particular act because it might lead to war, but whether they would not have war forced on them, and forced on them, too, when they had deprived themselves of the assistance and the good wishes of all the friends of freedom, and of every valuable ally. Having referred to that part of the Speech in which Portugal was mentioned, he observed, that as they were told all hope of a reconciliation 227 between the two branches of the House of Braganza was at an end, they must now be prepared, he supposed, for the disgrace of the formal recognition of Don Miguel. How, he would ask, was this recognition to be effected? By what artifice was it to be managed? or after what form and in what language was the sovereign of Eng-land to enter into terms of amity and friendship with an usurper, who was acknowledged to have even broken the sacred word of royalty, or to have been guilty of crimes that would have crushed any private individual? Of the doctrine of non-interference, which the right hon. Gentleman had contended for, he should say no more than that it always appeared to him to labour under two objections—one was, that it was utterly impossible to persevere in it as a system; and the other was, that no nation in Europe would give this country credit for sincerity if it attempted it. [hear] As to another point, he trusted he should hear it denied that France owed her present ministry to the intrigue of the British cabinet. If it were true, it was the most profligate interference that ever disgraced any cabinet; any ministry. With respect to Turkey, the right hon. Gentleman had quoted the opinions of eminent statesmen in favour of the position that it was important to preserve the integrity of the Turkish Empire. But it was most unfortunate for the right hon. Gentleman and his argument that, at the very moment when this country for a long series of years had acknowledged Turkey as an ally, that moment Turkey found an enemy before the very gates of her capital. Now, whatever might be the well-merited diffidence with which the people of this country regarded the wisdom and experience of the present Ministers, with regard to our domestic and commercial policy they surely had been fully justified in placing the utmost reliance in their military knowledge, when they saw how many distinguished military men held situations in the present Administration—when they saw a field-martial Premier, and recollected the high rank and experience of his right hon. friend the Secretary of the Colonies (sir G. Murray), and of his other right hon. friend, who held so distinguished a place in the Ordnance (sir H. Hardinge), —they could not but feel surprise at the confidence which seemed to have been entertained with respect to the impregnability of the passes of the Balkan, after 228 they saw they were travelled over by the enemy with as much ease as if it had been the turnpike road to Walmer Castle. [hear] He had declared he felt no confidence in the present Ministry; and if an individual so little distinguished as he was should be considered worthy of any reply, he trusted he should not be met with the hacknied language of Who are fit to take their places? He hoped he never should be told that the House of Commons did not supply a number of men who were well qualified to guide the councils of the country, and worthy of the confidence of the Sovereign. It had been the fashion of late to fill the posts of Administration by recruiting among the ranks of their enemies:—the present had gone all round the House for support. They had come to the Opposition benches for a Paymaster of the Forces (Mr. Calcraft); then they sought an Attorney General (Sir J. Scarlett), from among the Whigs. They sought for a Master of the Mint in an hon. Member who had been amongst their greatest opponents; and unless they made another turn, and took a "saint" into their councils, he knew not what could save them. [hear and a laugh] He looked on this, not as an attempt to increase the strength of the Ministry, but as means adopted to soften hostility; and he objected to it as calculated to destroy the independence of the House of Commons by endeavouring to put an end to the existence of parties, and rendering every man in it an official expectant, [hear] He begged pardon for troubling the House so much at length; but he felt strongly on these subjects, and he knew this was the only occasion on which he could state his opinions.
Mr. Secretary Peel
said, he trusted the House would indulge him for a very few moments, while he endeavoured to explain one or two points of his former observations, which had been very much misconstrued by the hon. Member for Dungarvon (Mr. Lamb). That hon. Member had assumed that he (Mr. Peel) argued for the necessity and propriety of non-interference, on the ground, that they could not depart from that course, through the fear of being called on to engage in war. Now, so cautious had he been against any misconstruction of his language with regard to war, that throughout the whole of the observations he addressed to the House on the subject of the foreign policy of the country, he most studiously avoided the 229 mention of the word peace, without at the same time declaring that peace was not worth having, unless it could be preserved in a manner consistent with the honour and interest of the country and the integrity of its power; and he repeated, that he did so expressly for the purpose of avoiding that very misrepresentation—a misconstruction into which the hon. Member for Dungarvon, he had no doubt quite undesignedly, had fallen on this occasion. England might well afford to avow her love of peace; because she was strong enough and powerful enough to feel no fear of the consequences of war: and, (said Mr. Peel) let me tell those who ascribe such motives to this country, that those who have from principle, from humanity, and from a sense of its good policy, laboured to maintain a just peace among nations, will always be found the most able to sustain the consequences of a just and necessary war. [hear] I shall take leave to add one word on a subject to which the hon. Member has also alluded very pointedly, in the course of his speech, and which I know has made considerable impression, both here and elsewhere. The hon. Gentleman has in effect declared, that it is well known both in France and in England that the present Ministry of France owes its appointment to the Government of this country. I have no doubt that the other impressions of the hon. Member are founded on authority equally erroneous; but of that I shall now say at once, there never was any report so utterly unfounded, so wholly devoid of truth, as that any communication, either direct or indirect, was sent by any individual holding any situation in the Government of this country to any member of any party, or holding any situation in France, with respect to the appointment of prince Polignac to the head of its ministry, [hear, hear]
said, he could not lose the opportunity of expressing his approbation of that part of his Majesty's Speech which promised a reform of the Court of Chancery; and observed, that although it must be admitted there was considerable distress at present, he hoped the day was not far distant when the country would again enjoy prosperity.
Mr. Alderman Waithman
said, he thought it necessary to observe, that although his Majesty's Speech declared the distress to be temporary, and confined to the agricul- 230 turists, it would be found that it extended to almost every class in the country. No notice was taken of the retail dealer; but it had been asserted in another place, that their prosperity was a proof of the limited nature of the distress; an assertion which he had heard of with amazement. He did not know where the Ministers got the information; but he, who knew a little more of the retail trade than they did, could tell them that the trade was suffering greater losses than it ever sustained before, as the numerous bankruptcies and insolvencies would abundantly prove, [hear] The members of his Majesty's Government, probably, drew their opinions of the prosperity of trade from the exhibition of a number of fine shops in Regent-street, which, he supposed, they sometimes visited in their rides; but he could tell them that the prosperity there and elsewhere was more in appearance than in reality, as the several failures fully proved. Five out of every six failed in business, and all confidence was lost between man and man. This was the state of the retail dealers; their distress was as great or greater than even that of the agriculturists; and, for his part, he would say, that he had no confidence left in the Ministry; and he believed, in saying so, he repeated the opinions of the great majority of the people. His constituents would have petitioned the House on the subject of the great distresses of the metropolis and of the country, and of the retail dealers amongst others, only they had thought it would be well to wait to see what were the remedies of the Ministers to alleviate the general distress. None being proposed, there was just ground for the withdrawal of all confidence in them. [hear]
§ Mr. Robinson
begged to state that he had voted for the Amendment the other night merely because it stated more truth than the Address. At the same time, he approved of the pacific policy recommended in the Speech, and enforced by the Ministers, and he was not one of those who desired any alteration in the currency. He meant to vote for all inquiries that should be proposed this session, and in that spirit he voted for the Amendment. The Chancellor of the Exchequer had warned them against voting for the Amendment, on the supposition that the hon. Baronet (Sir Edward Knatchbull) was actuated by some sinister motive in pro- 231 posing it. Now he believed the hon. Baronet to be incapable of such conduct; but, for his own part, his vote was given without any sinister motive.
The Chancellor of the Exchequer
said, the hon. Member who had just sat down had somewhat irregularly charged him with having imputed sinister motives to the hon. Member for Kent. Now he was too old a Member of Parliament not to know that it was improper to impute any motives to hon. Members, and as far as the hon. Member for Kent was concerned, he was the last man to whom he (the Chancellor of the Exchequer) should be inclined to impute sinister motives.
only begged to say one word upon a subject to which so many gentlemen had adverted,—he meant our foreign policy, and the estimation in which we were held on the Continent. Certainly, in the eyes of foreigners, the whole tenour of our foreign policy was changed. They believed it to be the very reverse of that upon which we had acted two years ago. How we should recover the character we had thus lost he did not know; we could not do better than to act honestly and profess sincerely, but he feared it would be a long time first, though he was convinced that the declaration, which he had heard with so much pleasure from the right hon. Gentleman (Mr. Peel) that night, would be sincerely acted on.
§ Mr. H. Davis
said, he had heard one or two circumstances within the last few days, which went far to illustrate the partial nature of the distress. He had conversed with a gentleman connected with a great manufacturing house in Gloucestershire, who told him that their business was so good that the house had written to him to take no more orders, as they could not in six months comply with all they had already received, and that every hand which they had ever employed was in full work. He had also dined the other day with a gentleman who had been lately in Dublin, in Ireland, [a laugh] and who had extensive connection with the receivers of rents in Ireland; and that gentleman told him, that in one estate of 30,000l. a year, there had not been one single defaulter. In others the payments were as good, and altogether the agriculturists were flourishing in Ireland. He mentioned this as a proof that the distress was not universal. He believed that the withdrawal of the small notes so suddenly 232 might have produced much distress; and he did not see why bankers should not be allowed to issue notes as formerly, if they gave adequate security to meet their issues.
§ Mr. Sadler
said, it was quite unfair to urge the prosperous condition of some districts, or the thriving trade carried on by certain overgrown capitalists engaged in manufactures, as proofs of the general prosperity of the country. Such statements were calculated only to mislead the public mind, if, indeed, it did not already too severely feel the general pressure to be misled by any statements to the contrary. The hon. Member had stated, that a great number of hands were employed by the manufacturers; but the fact was, that in many cases those hands were retained in order that they might have the means of existence. He also differed entirely from some hon. Members in attributing the distress which existed in the agricultural districts to a bad harvest. He had never asserted that the distress in the country was so universal that there was no instance to be found of a single class of persons by whom it was not felt. He admitted that there were some exceptions to the universality; but, as in other cases, the exceptions only established the general rule. The members of the Stock Exchange, the great capitalists, for example, were probably among those exceptions. But the industrious and productive classes of the people, those by whom the greater number of the Members of that House were sent thither, were suffering severe distress. Attempts had been made by various hon. Members to understate the real condition of the country's affairs; but there were sources of information which, if they would apply to them, would show them the fact. If they wished to know the state of the commercial interest, let them look at the bankrupt list; if they wished to know the state of the lower classes, let them look at the amount of the poor-rates: those were the best criteria by which they could judge of the general state of the country. He had that morning seen a document, the result of a meeting in a populous district near Manchester. This document was signed by the Chairman; and it stated that the distress was overwhelming. He would abstain from saying anything on the state of the currency, because that was a subject which would probably soon be brought under the consideration of the 233 House, when he should perhaps offer a few observations upon it.
§ Sir J. Stewart
said, he had supported the Address, because he could not concur with those members who drew so melancholy a picture of the state of the country. He had recently returned from Scotland, and certainly he had not seen any thing of the agricultural distress which some gentlemen talked of. There might, it was true, be some delay in the collection of rents as compared with former years, but there was nothing of that overwhelming distress of which he had heard. Whatever of distress was felt, and he did not deny that some existed, arose from the state of the seasons, and from other causes which human foresight could not have prevented He denied the accuracy of the statement that the distress in Scotland was severe, and unprecedented. The harvest of 1828 had exceeded in Scotland the general average in England; so that the Scotch had been enabled to export corn to supply the markets of England. He was satisfied that the distress in England arose from circumstances over which it was impossible that either his Majesty's Ministers or any other persons could have any control.
rose merely for the purpose of adverting to what had fallen from the hon. Member for Bristol with respect to the state of Ireland, and he must observe that he had that morning received letters in which the distress existing in that country was painted in the strongest colours. He was sure that nothing would strike the Irish people with more astonishment than to hear that any doubt was entertained in this country of the distress under which they were labouring.
§ Mr. Fyler
said, he could bear testimony to the existence of extreme distress in those parts of the country with which he was acquainted. In the city and county of the city of Coventry, and in many parts of Warwickshire, and in other places, there were thousands in such a state of distress as not to be able to support themselves. He could also state from information received from the directors of the poor, that many persons who were formerly in comfortable circumstances were in that state, that they were withheld solely by feelings of shame from receiving parochial aid. In one district of the county of Warwick, there was a parish containing 234 a mixture of manufacturers and agriculturists. The population amounted to seven thousand one hundred persons, on a space of six thousand five hundred acres. Of these there were two thousand receiving parochial relief,—two thousand one hundred not receiving relief, but not able to contribute any thing to the rates, the whole weight of which was borne by five hundred heads of families, the representatives of the other inhabitants. Thus, it might be said, that in some instances, one individual was nearly supporting ten persons. These were facts which spoke for themselves, and no doubt many similar could be adduced, if every hon. Member were to answer the call that had been made upon him, and state candidly what was the actual condition of the people in that part of the country with which he was connected. All he could learn proved that the distress of the productive classes—instead of being partial, was general and universal. He contended that the arguments as to the prosperous state of the country which had been drawn from the increase of our exports and the increased business on some of our canals, were utterly without foundation. To prove that these were instances of prosperity, it should be shown that the increased exports were a profitable and not a losing-trade, and that the increased business on the canals which had been named, had not been the result of the diversion of the trade of other canals in that particular direction, or the result of the diminution of land-carriage in the same line. He rejoiced at the manly view which had been taken of the state of the country by the right hon. Member for Liverpool, (Mr. Huskisson) and he hoped that that right hon. Gentleman, seeing the course which had been adopted by so many other states with respect to their trade, would feel it necessary to reconsider the subject of the free-trade system. He was glad to hear the promise of economy which had been held out in the Speech, but he was sure the noble Duke at the head of the Government, to do any thing effectual, must bring down our expenditure to the level of the country's means, or raise our resources so as to enable the country to meet such an expenditure.
§ Mr. A. Baring
said, he did not rise on this endless subject to follow any of the several hon. Members who had preceded him into the theories which each raised as 235 to the causes of the present distress. It was not to be denied that distress existed at present in the country to an extent which had not been felt for many years; and it was the more severely felt, because now, at the end of fifteen years of peace, when we had reason to expect that our condition would be much improved, it was rather in a worse condition than at the commencement of that period. Reason upon it which way they would, we could not shut our eyes to the fact, and it struck him as useless to be endeavouring to ascribe it to this or that particular cause, for to no one of the causes mentioned could it be fairly ascribed. It would be better therefore to apply ourselves to the remedy: distress so general in its nature must be ascribed to some general cause. He was ready to confess his ignorance of the general operating cause, but he had his own opinion as to the several causes which had been assigned, but he owned he could not bring himself to believe that it was to be attributed to any one of them; let it be recollected that if we felt distress, we were not the only nation in that condition: it pervaded every country, from one end of Europe to the other, and extended to countries beyond the Atlantic. The situation of England was not peculiar, [hear] Distress, then, which was so general in its extent must, as he had stated, have some general cause. That in a country like ours, with such vast and complicated sources of trade and industry, the effects should be more severely felt than among nations whose mode of trade and commerce were more simple and less extensive, should not excite surprise; but as it was felt to a greater or less extent in all, it would be idle to attribute it to the operation of this or that particular measure, but to some general cause pervading the whole: what that cause was, he must own he could not state, but he thought that man must be extremely ignorant of the nature and extent of the evil who should say, "Government must know it; Government must apply the remedy;" or, as the fanners said in some places, "Government must do some' at." What could the Government, or what could that House, do to remedy the evil? He should like to see any man point out the course that ought to be pursued, and say "that's the remedy." He should be happy to concur in any inquiry that might lead them to 236 as certain the cause, or causes of the distress; but, he must indeed be an ignorant man who, looking at the reports of the many committees which had sat for the last ten or twelve years to consider of almost every public question affecting the national welfare, should say, that that House at least had not been earnestly employed in inquiring into our condition. [hear] No blame could attach to them for not devising some general remedy. At the same time, if any hon. Member should bring forward any specific plan, he should be happy to give it his support when he saw what it was, if it should be one which would tend to remove the evil complained of. He would admit with those gentlemen who advocated the agricultural interest, that that body was suffering in a greater degree than any other class of the community. Yet it would not be denied that this distress existed without any very low prices of corn; for corn was not on the average at a higher price for the last five years than it was last year, and up to the present time. But the difficulty felt by agriculturists was this: they had two bad years, and the farmer, owing to the nature of the Corn-laws, obtained in one year the high price which would be a compensation to him for low prices in the preceding. Of these laws, however, the farmer could not complain, for they were made for his protection. He might, perhaps, say, that he had not that protection to which he was entitled. In his opinion, a higher rate of protection to the farmer could not be compensated by him to the country in a year of great scarcity; and if he obtained it, it would be at the expense of a starving population, [hear] It had always been a doubt in his mind whether the country could stand that kind of protection which the agricultural interest required. At the same time he would not do away with those Coin-laws which now existed, for that would be in effect to dispossess an immense portion of the landowners; for such were the charges upon land in a variety of shapes, that if protection were withdrawn, it would leave the present landowners little more than mere nominal proprietorship. Nine-tenths of the property of the country were suffering under mortgage and incumbrances. It was therefore only in a case of the greatest necessity that be could consent to any alteration in the present system of our 237 Corn-laws. Yet still be owned that the question altogether was a problem which had not yet been solved: for he doubted whether the manufacturers could afford the protection required by the agriculturists. The question of the currency had been touched upon by many gentlemen who had very different views respecting it. He was not going to enter upon it at that time, but he must admit that the withdrawing of the small-note circulation, however much he considered it as a measure of sound policy, was still one which had been productive of much suffering. He had concurred in it on the ground he had stated, for he believed that the continuance of that currency would be productive of evils much worse than its removal had created; he had always contemplated that the withdrawal of the small-note circulation would be attended with sonic suffering, but that the removal had created mere suffering and distress than had been anticipated at the time, he could not deny. [hear] But he did not think that the evil was such as to create a main ingredient in the present general distress. It was said, in answer to the objections against the removal of the small-notes, that there was at present a greater money circulation in the country than existed when the notes were issued. That might be true; but then it did not circulate into those minute channels through which the small country notes passed, and by which much activity of business was kept up in small towns. It was in those places that the loss of the small-note circulation pinched most severely. In such places there was usually a small banker whose notes circulated in the town and a little district round it, beyond which they scarcely ever went. Their circulation kept up and gave energy to the small circle in which it moved. He would readily admit that the system, as it was carried on, was open to a thousand objections, and was liable to serious abuses; but the impression on his mind, as to the result of the withdrawal of the paper circulation from such places, was—that though it formed part of a general measure, which on the whole was salutary, yet it left to those places no adequate compensation. To the man in middling circumstances, who had long felt the benefit of the small bank in his neighbourhood, and who now deplored the loss of its small-note issues and 238 complained of a want of circulation and accommodation, it was no answer to say, "There's plenty of cash to be had in Lombard-street: money never was so plentiful." [hear] That might be true; but, in Lombard-street, the credit and connections upon which he could have obtained assistance from the small banker in his own town were wholly unknown. The branch banks, established in several parts of the country, though they tended in a great measure to lessen the inconvenience, did not so extend their dealing; as to meet the kind of cases to which he had alluded.
With all these inconveniences, he must repeat that he was one of those who would not easily yield to a restoration of the paper-currency as it had existed, he should assent with regret to any renewal of it. He did not think that the distresses generally felt were the effects of the removal of a paper circulation, nor did he think those he had alluded to more particularly as the effects of the withdrawal of that circulation in small towns were hopeless of remedy without the recurrence to that system. He could not see cause for that despondencey which some expressed. The distress of the manufacturers he admitted to a certain extent; but, compared with the condition of other interests, they were in a state of prosperity. It was no proof of distress in manufacturing districts to say that business was absorbed by a few large capitalists, for these things should be considered in the general state of the trade. The iron trade and the silk trade were certainly suffering most deeply; but he believed that the woollen trade of Yorkshire, notwithstanding the representations of a honourable Member, (Mr. Sadler) was by no means in a state of distress. Although it, no doubt, did not now enjoy the prosperity which it enjoyed in former times, he had seen a letter, in which it was stated that the manufacturers had nothing to complain of. Great complaints had been made of the distress occasioned by the introduction of machinery. It was certainly true, that to take labour from the hand, and to perform it by a steam-engine, was the cause of great individual injury, which was much to be lamented. It was like the consolidation of a number of small farms into a large and overgrown one. But it was one of the natural operations of 239 industry and knowledge; one of those operations which all the best authorities on the subject concurred in declaring ought to be left unshackled by any legislative interference. The trade or agriculture must still be considered as a whole, without reference to the minor changes which may have taken place in its mode of management. Having said thus much on the chief topics which had been introduced into the discussion connected with our internal economy, he would now say a word as to another subject which bad been introduced—he meant our Foreign Policy; and on this he owned he differed widely from those who blamed the Government of this country for non-interference in foreign disputes. Some gentlemen who from year to year spent their summers in travelling on the Continent, and who did not meet in the several towns through which they passed with all that attention which they considered due to them—who were not considered sufficiently important to be received with marked distinction, and to form a topic of conversation at the tables d'hâte, took it, forsooth, into their heads, that Englishmen were not respected! and that the English name was brought into contempt, because its Government was not constantly interfering in every squabble in the continental courts, [hear] In the policy adopted by France, Prussia, Austria, and other continental Powers, many things might be important in continental affairs, which to us, situated as we were, ought to be matters of utter indifference; for in our insular position, if a province of France, or the Netherlands, or any other continental state, were offered to us, he did not suppose there were ten men in the country so senseless as to think we ought to accept it. It was sufficient for us to take care that danger did not come too near our own shores: but it would be beneath our dignity to enter into those squabbles in which some would involve us. It might, indeed, be matter of importance to take care what Power was placed at the mouth of the Tagus or the Scheldt, but we should be utterly indifferent to the squabbles which might take place among the petty princes of Germany, or other small Powers with which we had no concern. Undoubtedly, our long relations, political and commercial, with Portugal, rendered the affairs of that 240 country matters in which we were interested, but this did not extend to an interference in her internal government. It was true that Don Miguel who now occupied the throne of that kingdom was a disgrace to the crowned heads of Europe, but nevertheless, he (Mr. Baring) felt grateful to our Government, that it did not go to war for the purpose of removing him. He would prefer that the authority of the other claimant of the crown should be triumphant and be recognized; but why we should involve ourselves in war to procure the recognition was what he could not see. Nothing, he believed, was more generally acknowledged by all parties than the expediency of adhering to a pacific policy in the present state of the country. Foreign peace and domestic good order would produce tangible benefits which must prove equally advantageous to the agricultural, manufacturing, and commercial interests, and in short to the people at large, into whatever classifications they may be nominally subdivided.
Amongst other topics, he could not overlook the happy results which had followed a late important measure for restoring tranquillity to part of his Majesty's dominions. He alluded to the complete pacification of Ireland, and was gratified at length to see the conclusion which had been put to that solemn mockery so long subsisting in defiance at once of the Legislature and the Government. [hear]
On the subject of our relations with Mexico, he could not express himself with so much satisfaction. While that country continues in its existing anomalous and unsettled condition, it must be placed under the temporary domination of one military chieftain or another—such as Santa Anna or Bolivar,—and various evils, which will more or less affect ourselves must ensue. Those who venture money would of course be obliged to take their chance; but such a state of things must necessarily prevent the growth and settlement of their civil establishments, and the capital invested by English merchants in mines and otherwise would be so far embarrassed, if not put in jeopardy altogether. The attempts on the part of Spain to recover her colonies had already proved unavailing; and he thought it was now high time to see a proper footing established from henceforward between them. We at least ought to have observed a consistent course 241 of conduct between the parties. If interference was justifiable in the case of the Mexicans as assaillants, we had surely an equal right to interpose when Barrados made his descent from the Island of Cuba. This project was executed so late as 1829, and yet with no better success than before. Since 1823, when the declaration was made, no change had taken place, although the interval consisted of no less a space of time than seven years. The whole political world were now satisfied to conviction that the efforts of Spain had been totally abortive and unavailing, and that the question was therefore solved against her. He hoped that the right hon. Gentleman opposite would be induced by those considerations to use their most earnest persuasions with the Spanish monarchy, in order to attain a permanent cessation of hostilities. According" to the present tone of Ministerial arguments, it would appear that the principle of de facto government was likely to be maintained in the case of Portugal; and if so, undoubtedly the same argument would apply here. Mexico likewise had a de facto government, which was undisturbed by any of the attempts which had been hitherto directed against it. [hear] He would ask whether Spain was so scrupulous in the struggle between England and her colonies? Did she wait until belligerent operations had terminated, and peace was declared? No, on the contrary, that state interfered in the very middle of the war, and acknowledged, with a premature alacrity, the independence of the English colonies. Then might not the, argumentum ad hominem be justly applied to Spain, [hear]
He took this opportunity of expressing his sentiments, as he had not done so on the first day of the session. Before he sat down, in justice to the Ministers, he must say, that judging of the general operation of their measures throughout the country, he could discover nothing of an unfortunate character which could with propriety be laid at the door of Government, and he should, on that account, be sorry to see the Administration embarrassed or disturbed, [hear, hear]
said, he by no means agreed with the opinions of the hon. Gentleman, who seemed to think that all the measures of the existing Ministry had tended to promote the general interest of the country, and had been the result of deliberate wis- 242 dom and prudent political calculation. He could not agree that the cause of the distress was not attributable to Ministers. In sentiments couched in such sweeping and unequivocal terms, he could not acquiesce. The notoriously distressed and disastrous state of the British population offered, in his judgment, a decided contradiction to so unmerited a panegyric. Our general impoverishment was very easy of explanation, being mainly attributable to the change in the currency and the consequent alteration of the value of money. That single measure (which it was said would only effect a charge to the extent of 3 per cent) had imposed an additional burthen of 25, 30, or 40 per cent on every man in the community, in all cases of deed, mortgage, settlement, or contract. It had been first introduced in 1819, but the public distress prevented its being brought into immediate operation. It was grappled with again in 1823, and in the year 1826, the system might be considered to be perfectly matured and carried into effect. He regretted that his hon. friend had deemed it fitting to indulge so much in a laudatory strain; as, for his own part, he should wish to witness more of modesty within doors, and less of vituperation without. Every one was by this time aware that the nation in general entertained but an humble opinion of the wisdom of Parliament. The people reproached their representatives collectively with inefficiency for the adequate discharge of the great functions which were imposed on them as Members of that House. The operations of the Legislature had originated the distress, and were also calculated still further to increase it. The report of the Committee of Inquiry into the state of agriculture in the year 1824 supported the opinions which he had always expressed upon the subject. He could not allow the hon. Member (Mr. Baring's) remarks to pass unnoticed, because they were at variance with many positions formerly maintained by him [hear].
§ Mr. Trant
said, he wished to know what was to become of the farmer, or how he was to gain a livelihood, when told by a high parliamentary authority that overproduction was the cause of all his distress? When the loaf was 1s. 2d. the farmer was much better off. As to the other classes, and equal sufferers, he should only say that they might legislate 243 how they would, but while manufactures were to be produced by boiling a kettle, so long would starvation dog the artisan who had been bred to work in a manufactory for his support.
said, he was of opinion that it would be highly impolitic for the Legislature to extend a remunerative protection to the agricultural interest any more than to those who were concerned in cotton, iron, or linen. Agriculture ought to be protected only in the same ratio with whatever else paid a duty; for example— in the same proportion with glass. The profits of agriculture were abated by the payment of tithes, which so far entitled the parties interested to be placed on a footing-similar with those rated in another form. He attributed the distress of such numbers of the people to the want of a local circulation; and in practical proof of the correctness of such reasoning he could demonstrate that money was scarce broughout the whole of the kingdom, while on the other hand articles of consumption were plentiful. It was very possible that the real privations of the people were, in a great degree, to be ascribed to the affluence and strength of the national resources. In his elaborate treatise on political economy, Mr. Ricardo, if he remembered rightly, had explained the principle by stating that when great and opulent nations had a redundancy of wealth, capital naturally competed with capital, and in the end produced low profits to the working classes: yet that low profits were proofs not of poverty but of wealth. Thus, although the wealth of the country might continue the same, public distress would nevertheless arise. To this state of things, in his opinion, we had now come. He apprehended that the people would for a long time suffer from low prices; and yet perhaps, high prices were the greater evil of the two. If labour were remunerated at high wages, we could not exchange it profitably in other parts of the world, and so bad would become worse. As to steam machinery, he considered it a principal source of our prosperity. In fact, it was to that we were chiefly indebted for our ability to pay taxes. [hear] He hoped, that Ministers would adopt his recent suggestion with respect to the currency, as it would prove a material and grateful relief to all ranks of the people.
§ Mr. Hume
said, he hoped, that before the House should be called on to vote the supplies, Ministers would lay before them a statement of the promised reductions in public expenditure. The custom had been too much neglected of late years, but he expected that a complete preliminary view of ways and means would on this occasion be submitted. Indeed, in the event of any reluctance to do so being manifested, the House would be wanting to itself if it proved backward to enforce it; he for one should use his utmost endeavour to enforce such preliminary explanation.
§ The motion, pro forma, that the House go into a Committee on the Speech was then agreed to.