The Chancellor of the Exchequer
moved the order of the day for receiving the Report. On the Motion being put, that a Supply be granted to his Majesty,
said, he could not help taking the liberty of giving his opinion on the present most unprecedented crisis of the country's affairs. He did not offer himself to the notice of the House for his personal gratification; but, as it was the duty of every Member, in the present state of the country, to see whether any new measures might be elicited for its benefit, and to deliver his opinions, he would speak them because his present observations would save him the trouble of repeating them on future occasions. The question relative to the country embraced two considerations—those of our foreign relations, and the internal condition of the Empire. On the former his general habits would not allow him to speak; but he felt grateful to Ministers, and he begged to tender them his personal gratitude, for their leaving the country in a state of profound tranquillity, both as regarded Portugal, and more particularly that untoward or unfortunate affair of Navarino. On this point he would conclude by saying that this country, more than any other in Europe, was interested in the tranquillity of the new States of the southern hemisphere. And he thought that England and the other Powers ought to interfere to prevent 437 Spain from disturbing them. As to the internal condition of the country, the difference of opinion was merely as to the quantum or the degree of distress; for all agreed that it existed. Now, as to the causes of that distress, it was delusive to say that it was to be attributed to one particular cause, for it was doubtless to be attributed to a combination of various causes. All must agree that the return to peace, from an almost universal state of warfare, was one cause, whilst some referred it exclusively to the return to a metallic standard. The Government and Parliament were unfairly accused of tampering with the currency; but he would not join in the accusation, as the measures of 1822 and 1825 were merely effects of that of 1819. The Act of 1822 was not, as as had been contended, a receding from the Act of 1819, but a mitigation of it. He hoped that the country would never experience a confusion of its monetary dealings—by a return to an inconvertible currency; and, although any Minister who would propose that, would deserve to be consigned to execration, yet he would say that, if a measure could be devised which would remedy the inconveniences of the Act of 1825–26, it would be not only useful, but a compliment to the wishes and feelings of many. There was no doubt that the taking away of the one-pound notes caused local distress, and, as had been observed the other night by the hon. Member for Taunton—[the hon. Member alluded to Mr. A. Baring, who is Member for Callington, but had been Member for Taunton in the preceding Parliament]—whose judgment and talent were unquestionable, it would be well to see whether a nearer way might not be found, on the basis of a measure proposed in 1818, by the present Lord Bexley; namely, that of allowing bankers to issue notes on the deposit of an adequate security. That bill, which had received the sanction of Lord Liverpool, was withdrawn, not because the country was averse to it, but because the private bankers were an influential body, and had sufficient interest with Members of that House to oblige it to be withdrawn. He would say, when so many intelligent individuals desired it, that he joined in their wish to allow the one-pound note circulation, as it would be very gratifying.—[calls of "Question."] He claimed the attention of the House for a few minutes, he thought 438 he was entitled to do so. The manner of affording the relief that he would chuse to recommend would be the reduction of expenditure and taxation. He should be glad to hear if it meant a reduction of the Civil List. [coughing, and considerable interruption.] If, he repeated, it meant a reduction of the Civil List as fixed in 1820, so as to correspond with the altered value of money, he would give it his support. That List was arranged before we had a set standard of currency. From 1792 to 1797 our state was one of warfare; but if the hon. Member's Motion meant to affirm the abstract proposition that the salaries of 1820 were greater than the country could at present bear, he would gladly assent to it. [The hon. Gentleman proceeded to make some observations on the Sinking Fund, and proposed a reduction of taxation as a good remedy; but was continually interrupted by the impatience of the House.]
Sir James Graham
then rose and said, he could not but observe that the hon. Gentleman who had just sat down had taken a very extraordinary course, as he argued in support of his (Sir J. Graham's) motion without waiting to hear it. However, from this he entertained every hope that the hon. Gentleman would vote for the resolution with which he meant to conclude, because he imagined that it would come up to the hon. Gentleman's ideas, both as to reduction of expenditure, and taxation. He never rose in the House without embarrassment, and imperfect recovery from recent illness aggravated that feeling on the present occasion. The task he was about to undertake was an ungracious one, for though all liked economy and reform in the abstract, they very seldom relished it when it came to be acted upon with respect to themselves. He felt this, but his sympathies were not confined to those who derived their incomes from the public purse—his compassion was rather directed to those from whom the taxes were drawn, and he could not turn a deaf ear to the distresses of the country. That distress was general, for notwithstanding that the Speech from the Throne said that distress was confined merely to some parts of the country, yet the whole efforts of Ministers to fritter down our misfortunes have produced nothing but the greatest possible disappointment, and changing hope into despair, had gone nearly 439 to convert patient endurance into the angry spirit of resistance. In contending that the distress was universal, he could not help alluding to the expression of qualified distress used by the right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer. He admitted the existence of distress in England, but he said that in Scotland and Ireland distress did not exist. These exceptions were remarkable; but were they not also exceptions from the measures about which the right hon. Gentleman and himself had so much contest. [hear.] When in 1826 the Government had come per saltum to a conclusion contrary to that of Sir Francis Baring, of Adam Smith, and Mr. Horner—contrary also to the reports of 1810 and 1819, that convertibility on demand was the only adequate check against the over issue of paper—when they came to that conclusion with respect to England, they condescended to examine as to Scotland and Ireland, which as they were now exceptions to the general distress, so had they been then to the principles of the currency adopted with respect to this country. Yet, on the right hon. Gentleman's own showing, no distress prevailed there, whilst in England, where that principle of currency was extinguished, the country was pervaded by universal distress. Perhaps that might be so; but he must say that the fact of the absence of distress in Scotland and Ireland still remained to be proved. But if distress prevailed, then still it might be accounted for by what took place in this country; for if the means of commerce were crippled in England, the effects must always be felt both in Scotland and Ireland. If that were not the case, it must lead to an unfavourable state of the exchanges, and therefore he must doubt the fact of distress existing in England, while prosperity blessed Scotland and Ireland; and he was confirmed in this, as he had heard no Gentleman from either of those countries, who was responsible to his constituents, get up and say that those parts of the empire were free from distress. Having said so much, he would now assume one or two general propositions—1st. That the Bank Restriction Act of 1797 had produced two leading and striking effects—the first being the depreciation of the value of money; the second, the raising of the price of commodities. The fact of the latter was not 440 denied, and it came within the scope of his notice that the rise of prices was connected with the rise of salaries. Perhaps, although he did not like to read documents, he might be permitted to refer to one or two in support of his statement. The first evidence he would appeal to was that of Mr. Addington, in 1802, when he was forced to ask Parliament for an additional grant to make the Civil List adequate to the necessities of the times. He then said "the causes of this application were unavoidable. Sixteen years had passed since the schedules were fixed, and he left it to the sense of every one to see how great had been the rise of prices in the interim." In 1804 fresh debt had accumulated on the Civil List, and Mr. Pitt, the then Prime Minister, used the following expressions, the first sentence of which was important, as it showed that the augmentation was only intended to be temporary:—"It would afford relief that the Civil List should accommodate itself to circumstances as they varied, for in this case it would be reduced in time of peace. There was no one who reflected on the great increase in the prices, who could thus suppose that his Majesty should be able to restrict his expenses within their former limit." It was to be remarked here that Mr. Pitt did not refer to the then price of gold, but he said that "there was an increase of thirty, forty, and even fifty per cent, in the price of every article of consumption." In the article of pensions there was at that time a decrease, although, if proportions were to be observed, there ought rather to have been an addition to their amount. The next authority he would refer to was that of Mr. Percival, who in 1809 applied for an increase of the salaries of Judges, and in the expressions he made use of there was a full opportunity to ascertain his opinions as to the extent of the depreciation which had taken place in the currency. Mr. Percival's object was, to have a thousand pounds per annum additional granted to the Judges, and that was, as he expressed, merely to make their real equal to their nominal income. With that view he also gave the Welsh Judges an additional 300l. a-year; this was an increase of twenty-five per cent, and from this we might calculate the depression of the currency in 1809. In that year wheat was 84s. the quarter, and gold at 41. 10s. 9d. the ounce. The calculation, 441 therefore, in this instance, was not made on the price of gold alone—the capital error of the Committee of 1819—but on the price of commodities. With regard to the depreciation of the currency, he thought that the fact of the high prices during the war precluded the necessity of any observations on that point. He thought certainly, that the fact of the depreciation of the currency was equally evident with that of the high prices; but it did happen that they had a resolution on the books of the House negativing that depreciation. This resolution was, that, at the period when a guinea in gold was selling commonly at 28s. Bank of England paper was equal to it in value—that is, that things unequal in the public estimation were yet equal to one another;—a doctrine so absurd, that, within the same year it became necessary to pass an act imposing a penalty for passing a guinea for more than twenty-one shillings, or a one-pound note at less than the value it purported to bear; and yet the people are asked to confide in the wisdom of Parliament, and of the mere shreds of the administration of that day.Oh miseras hominum mentes! Oh pectora cæca!But they were told that it was God—not man—who caused this. At one time the harvests were over-abundant, at another time they were scanty; at one time we had too much produce, another too little; at one time we had too much drought, at another time too much rain; while the apprehension never seemed to have occurred to any Chancellor of the Exchequer that every addition to taxation was an increased addition to the sterility of the soil, and a further gloominess to the inclemency of the heavens. Now, with respect to the measure of 1819, the right hon. Gentleman, whose honesty and sincerity he most implicitly believed, in his speech on that occasion, drew all his examples from the time of Elizabeth, when there was no debt, and from the time of William, when there was a debt of only 2,000,000l., the interest of which amounted only to 100,000l. He never considered the immense effect of this measure upon every debt throughout the country, whether private or public. He (Sir J. G.) might speak freely, as he had voted for the measure. He was then a very young Member, governed by authorities, and overborne by his friend, Mr. Ricardo, upon whose faith he pinned his own. Mr. Ricardo assured him and the 442 House that the difference would be only three per cent, as it would be governed by the price of gold, which was then 4l. 1s. per ounce; and he thought it right to try the experiment. He certainly had his doubts, and he could not help having them, after the statement of his hon. friend the Member for Callington (Mr. Baring), and others for some time; however he was overborne by authorities, he voted for the measure, and thought he had done right. Lord Liverpool had since frankly acknowledged that the difference, instead of three, was 25 per cent. His hon. friend, the Member for Callington, always maintained that it would be from 25 to 30 per cent; while another hon. Member (Mr. Attwood), also a man of high genius and great experience, rated it still higher. As his hon. friend, Mr. Brougham, was not present, and was not a Member, he might use his authority, as well as mention his name; and he would, then, refer to what he had said on the proposition for raising the salaries of the Judges in 1825, when he argued the subject with the usual comprehensiveness of his mind. Mr. Brougham had then said, "It was but a few years since the salaries had been raised to 3,000l. a-year, which was on account of the depreciated currency, when they were raised 1,000l. a-year—that was 25 per cent—to make up the difference between the two standards. Then followed the restoration of the currency to a metallic standard, and that made a difference of 25 per cent in favour of the Judges, independent of the reduction of taxation, the consequence of which was, that the salaries were now raised to the rate of 7,000l. a-year, instead of the 3,000l., at the value of fifteen years ago." Then came his hon. friend's conclusion, that formerly, and at that low rate, "we did not know of any unfaithful stewards." Then, as to the reduction of 25 per cent, so often stated in the presence of the right hon. Secretary (Mr. Peel), and which he had never heard him get up and deny—if the right hon. Gentleman doubted it, he should like to hear the doubt cleared up; and if he acknowledged it, he should like to hear that also. Then the country would know the addition, and upon what ground that had been made. The increased value of money had a twofold operation, while it imposed additional weight upon all fixed payments, it lowered both prices and wages. The hon. Member for Col- 443 chester (Mr. D. W. Harvey) had said it was the duty of the landed interest to reduce their rents, and he agreed with those who had in reply observed that since the war, rents had been reduced from 25 to 30 per cent. If, however, the landed interest were called on to submit to another reduction of 25 per cent, he would say boldly to nine-tenths of the landed interest, "at once sell your estates." In fact, such a measure would be a secret or silent mode of transferring their estates to their creditors; and it was a thing they could not bear, and would be absurd if they did. He would then consider the effect of low wages. If the labourer wanted bread, all property, whether from land or funds, must be placed in the greatest jeopardy. They had been told that since the war a great alteration had taken place in that respect, and should it go lower they should all be placed in a position of the greatest hazard. He had never supported the Corn Laws; but the country had been driven to them by necessity. They were as a pebble, but which in the sling of a stripling, might overthrow the giant. Free Trade had relieved some articles of secondary necessity, whilst there was a monopoly of the article of the first necessity, and thus there was a transfer of a burthen from the strong to the weak; and till the questions respecting currency and corn were adjusted, Free Trade would operate with the greatest possible injustice. War taxation entered largely into the prices of articles of necessity, and they could not become cheap. The hon. Member for Aberdeen, in his resolution of 1823, had substantiated this fact beyond dispute. There was less malt in proportion consumed now than before the French war; and this was the case with respect to tea sugar, and tobacco, and many other articles. When Government increased the value of money, and did not reduce taxation, they encroached on the comforts of the labouring classes. Taxation prevented the fall of prices. He had heard something of luxuries, but he knew not whence the notions of luxuries were derived. Were they drawn from the gorgeous palaces of Kings, or from the rival palaces of Ministers, or from those of East India Directors, rich with the monopoly of the China trade, or from those of Jew Loan Contractors, who supplied to foreign States the gold from the coffers of the Bank of England? 444Ill fares the land, to hastening ills a prey,Where wealth accumulates and men decay.Tis your's to judge how wide the limits stand Between a splendid and a happy land.But what was now the boast of this happy country? Where was the furniture that adorned the poor man's cottage? all was gone—pinching hunger and despair now held their place in the labourer's habitation. The weaver in the county which he represented (Cumberland) earned but 4s. 2d. a week, out of which he had to supply his family. Oatmeal, water, and peas were his sole food, and for these he had to work fourteen or fifteen hours a day. So extremely low were wages, that even the power-looms were under-worked. The country had now come to the point where something must be done—Hic locus est, partes ubi se via findit in ambas.It was not becoming in the Treasury Benches to say that the only exception to retrenchment must be among those classes to which they belonged. The next course was to alter taxes and obtain high prices, by returning again to the ancient standard of England. From the Tudors to the Revolution silver alone had been the standard of this country. From that time to 1793 silver and gold conjointly had been the standard; and in 1819 the measure was an anomaly, if not a novelty; but, so far from this measure having been in full operation for ten years, as had been so often repeated, it had been in full operation only for a few months. The Act did not come into operation till two years after it was passed. The year after it was to come into effect, such was the distress, that Lord Castlereagh agreed that the repeal of the Small Note Act should not come into operation till the Charter of the Bank of England expired. Prices rose and prosperity continued for a short period, and only for a short period. To reconsider the Small Note Bill, the House must reconsider the standard, and the whole system of banking. But Government was inexorable. The Duke of Wellington had said, "You shall not inquire." If you argue the question keenly in print, the Attorney-General is ready to pounce upon you. [cheers] He will file ex officio informations for publishing what has a tendency to bring Ministers into contempt. It was only in a moment of distress that useful purposes were effected, and he hoped that the House would not pass to othert 445 measures till retrenchment was pushed to its utmost. Two modes presented themselves—to reduce the number employed, or to diminish the salaries. With respect to the former, this was not the time or the place to deal with the subject. With respect to the reduction of salaries, before the House went into a Committee of Supply, it was most desirable to establish some fixed principle by which they could try the Estimates that were about to be brought forward. As to the amount of salaries and allowances, then, it was only for the House of Commons to tell, in the first instance, upon what scale the reduction should be made. The principle of Mr. Addington, of Mr. Pitt, and Mr. Percival, in increasing the quantity of salaries, had been, that there was depreciation in the value of money; but this could be no longer brought forward as an argument. Now it was acknowledged on all hands that the people were borne down by a burthen they could not long endure—it was universally allowed that some reduction must be made; it accordingly only remained to show the principle upon which that reduction could be effected. At this point then he would beg to read his resolution, because some explanation of it might be necessary. The hon. Gentleman here read his resolution, which was to the following effect;—"That whereas subsequently to the Act 37 Geo. 3rd, for the suspension of Cash Payments by the Bank of England, large augmentations have from time to time been made in the Salaries and Pay of Persons employed in the Civil and Military Service of the Country, on account of the diminished value of money; and whereas the alleged reason of this increase has, for the most part, ceased to operate, in consequence of the Act 59th Geo. 3rd, which has restored the metallic standard of value,—it is expedient that, with a view to relief from the present excessive load of taxation, all such augmentations should now be revised, and every possible reduction effected, which can be made without the violation of existing engagements, and without detriment to the Public Service."
The first question which would be, in all probability, asked him was, what did he mean to exclude by these exceptions? In the first place he would say, the King's Privy Purse, the Salaries of the great officers of the Crown, and the Expenditure on the royal Establishments. These, he conceived, they had no right to touch—they 446 could not do so without violating a solemn and sacred engagement, because these grants had been made in commutation for the revenues of the Crown lands, and the more oppressive portions of the royal prerogative. In stating this opinion he was supported by the authority of Mr. Fox, who had declared that such a proceeding would be extremely dangerous, as it would place the King under the control of the Parliament—or, in other words, under that of the minister of the day. He might next be called on to explain what he meant by introducing the expression "military" in his exceptions. In answer to this, he would state that he considered the contract with the sailor to be a sacred contract. A man entered the service under the promise of certain pay and contingent advantages, and he certainly ought not to be disappointed. For his own part, to prevent the necessity of impressment, and to induce the sailor to prefer the service of his Majesty to that of the merchant, he had rather see the pay raised than lowered. Now, as to the Army—he also considered that our engagement with the soldier was sacred, and he therefore could not approve of any reduction in the pay or other emoluments of the soldier, which was retrospective. The same feeling he, of course, entertained with respect to the officer, though he did think that the half-pay list had of late years been too much used as a mode of granting pensions. But what had been done could not be undone, and he was satisfied to leave matters as they were. But with regard to the superior military officers, there was a great distinction to be observed. The salaries of some of these officers appeared to have been raised altogether at pleasure. No reason had been assigned, He wished to advert to some instances of this nature; he would, however, in the first instance, entreat the indulgence of the House. He was not much versed in the science of public accounts, and had, consequently much difficulty to contend with in his statements, and might possibly fall into error; but, if so unfortunate, he begged them to believe that he would be guilty not of a misrepresentation, but simply of an inadvertence. In 1797, the salary of the Governor of New Brunswick was 1,000l. a year.; it was, at that moment, 1,500l.; in 1797, the Governor of Prince Edward's Island had 800l. a year; he has now 1,000l. At the same period the Governor of Nova 447 Scotia's salary was 500l. a year; it has since been raised to 1,000l. The Governor of Port Jackson had, in 1797, 1,000l. a year; it has been raisd to 2,000l. And he might close the list, by observing that the Governor of Sierra Leone had the enormous salary of 2,000l. a year. He would next beg to direct the attention of the House to the recommendation made to Parliament, on the second report of the last committee, which, he was grieved to say, still remained a dead letter. It had been recommended to reduce the regulations, with respect to enlistment, to the same form in which they had existed before 1806; and notwithstanding this positive recommendation of the committee, a whole session had been suffered to elapse, and nothing had been yet done. He would now lay before the House a statement of the expenditure in 1828, as compared with that of 1797:—The expenditure on account of the interest of the debt and its management in 1797, was 11,500,000l.; in 1828, it was 27,366,000l. In 1797, the pensions on the consolidated fund amounted to 180,000l.; in 1828, to 305,580l. In 1797, the expense of the courts of justice was 31,000l.; in 1828, it was 148,000l. The payment on the consolidated fund, in 1797, was 119,000l.; in 1828, 566,000l. But this was not a fair comparison—1797 was a year of war, and therefore ought to form no criterion. He would therefore look at 1798, in which it would be remembered that from a jealousy of France, our military establishments were kept on a most efficient footing. In 1793 the expense of the Army amounted only to 2,005,000l., including half-pay; it was now upwards of 8,000,000l. In 1793, the expense of the Navy was 2,450,000l.; it was now near 6,000,000l. In 1793 the expense of the Ordnance was 459,000l.; in 1829, it was 1,400,000l. The entire expenditure in 1793 was 5,300,000l.; and in 1829 it was 15,500,000l. In 1793 wheat was 50s. a quarter; in 1830 it was 55s. a quarter. One bushel of wheat, therefore, at that time, went as far as three now; and for one hour's labour that paid the taxes then, three are now required. He then read an extract from the Finance Report, recommending a reduction of the expenditure in the Army and Ordnance departments, and advising a return to the regulations respecting enlistment which prevailed before 1806. He was afraid he 448 was fatiguing the House. He would, with its permission, however, make a few remarks on the revenue. He thought the time was come when the gross amount of the Assessed Taxes and Customs should be carried to the public account. These returns now amounted to nineteen millions, and there was a per centage of near 6l.; in 1810 the per centage was only 4l. 9s. The salaries of public officers, too, had been raised in an extraordinary manner since 1821. There was one to which, as a sample, he would call the attention of the House. He did not wish to be hard upon the humble clerk, but he thought the extravagant salaries of the higher officers might be advantageously diminished. Now the case to which he alluded was, that when the father of his honourable friend, the Member for Northamptonshire (Lord Althorp) was First Lord of the Admiralty, he was contented with a salary of 3,000l. a year; and this was at a time when we sent Nelson to annihilate our enemies at the Nile, and Duncan to conquer at Cam-perdown—and at a time when we had fleets on every sea in the civilised world; and yet now, in the year of profound peace, my lord Melville received 5,000l. a year. Thus it was that now sixty per cent more was paid than had been granted to Lord Spencer. He would next refer to a paper for which he had moved in 1828. It related to the number of persons employed, and the comparative amount of their salaries in the years 1797 and 1827. In 1797 there were sixteen thousand, two hundred and sixty-seven persons employed in the civil service connected with the Revenue, and their salaries amounted to 1,374,561l. Theaverage salary, therefore, of each man, amounted, in 1797, to 84l. In 1827, there were twenty-two thousand, nine hundred and twelve persons employed, whose gross salary amounted to 2,755,000l., while the average salary of each was 121l. Thus, it appeared, there was an increase of one-third in the number of persons, and that fifty per cent was added to the amount of salary. But it was, at the same time, curious to observe the difference in the price of wheat now, and at a more remote period. And here he would observe with Mr. Horner, that although it was usual to take the precious metals as the standard, yet that bread-corn was the real standard; and in this he was borne out by Mr. Locke, who had declared, that the wheat 449 was, in fact, the standard by which all things must be ultimately determined. Now, in 1810, wheat was 105s. a quarter; it was at present 55s. a quarter;—five hundred thousand quarters, therefore, in 1810, were equivalent to one million quarters at present. It was, consequently, obvious, that there was great unfairness in our having salaries doubled, while we have our standard at but half its former value. "I am not (continued the honourable Baronet) one of those who view without the utmost jealousy in 1828 the elevation of the Duke of Wellington to the highest office in the state? I had observed with deep regret his opposition to the government of Mr. Canning, stated to proceed from an irreconcileable difference with respect to the Catholic question, and differing from the hon. Member for the county of Hertford (Sir J. Sebright), I did not think that a military education was the best preparation for a statesman seeking to administer the affairs of a free people. I remembered what the historian had said, that he who had been trained amidst arms, and had obtained a consummate knowledge of his art, might be disposed to transfer to the cabinet the doctrines of the camp, and recognise no sub-mission but implicit obedience. A little reflection, however, led me to hope that he who had acquired a knowledge of the people in every clime, and circumstance of danger—who had never failed to lead them on to victory—must, more than any other, respect that nation whom he had proved to be the lords of human kind. I was not altogether disappointed in these expectations. In the first Session the noble Duke supported a Bill for the Repeal of the Test and Corporation Acts, which had been introduced by a noble friend of mine (Lord J. Russell), who thereby added another to the many obligations which the people of this country are under to his family. He also conferred the merited honours of his profession upon a distinguished barrister (Mr. Denman)—an ornament to this House, whom I should again wish to see amongst us. In the last Session he carried a measure which Mr. Pitt declared to be the key-stone of the Union; which Fox, though he ably advocated, never ventured to bring forward; which hurled from power Grey and Grenville, because they attempted to bring it forward; which Grattan, the warm-hearted champion of the 450 Irish, would have died to accomplish; which, because Mr. Canning could not accomplish, he died from chagrin and despair, so deeply did he feel the effects of bitter calumny and gnawing care. This bolder minister, however (nothing daunted by the fall of his predecessors), effected a religious peace on the solid base of equality of civil rights. All these are great obligations, but political gratitude is short-lived. Events press upon events—day by day we are called upon for decision—we cannot, we must not, lag behind. If the fund-holder, the political economist, the lawyer, Whig and Tory, are to rally under the banners of the Wellington Government, the time is come when, on the part of the tax-payer, it is necessary to form another party to reduce the burthens of the country. The noble Duke has a receipt for destroying party. He takes Lord Rosslyn from one party, an Attorney-General (Sir J. Scarlett), from the ranks of the old Opposition, a Cursitor Baron of the Exchequer from the ranks of the Danai, and he then drops amongst the traders to pick out a tame elephant for the Board of Control." The hon. Member concluded with saying, that he was willing to act with the hon. Member for Kent (Sir E. Knatchbull) in any object which he believed conducive to the public good; he would not be deterred from what he considered to be the duty he owed to his constituents—he asked nothing at the hands of Ministers—the only obligation he owed was to those who had sent him here, a free representative—who had conferred upon him the exalted honour of addressing this night a House of Commons, which, with all its faults, he considered as the noblest assemblage of freemen in the civilized world.
§ Mr. G. Dawson
said, though he admired the talents, ability, and eloquence displayed by the hon. Baronet, it was not his intention to follow him through the various topics on which he had been pleased to dwell. He would confine himself strictly to the limits which the duty of his office imposed. Instead of following the hon. Baronet, therefore, through those various subjects in a speech, which were, in fact, a condensation of all the topics which had been discussed last Session, he would address himself simply to that object which he had no doubt the hon. Baronet was most anxious to attain, although he had made such slight mention of it. He did not take the same view of the salaries of 451 1797 as the hon. Baronet did. His Majesty's Government had pledged itself to support all advisable reduction; and he thought he might say they had already given proofs of their desire to carry these promises into effect. He would boldly assert, that every principle of reduction which Committees of this House had recommended for the reduction of the public expenditure had been rigidly carried into effect. [No, no.] In the year 1797, the Committee appointed to examine the public expenditure, after a most laborious investigation, came to the result of recommending the utmost practical retrenchment, especially the abolition of sinecures and reversions of offices. He would shew that that recommendation had been carried by the Government into the fullest possible effect. They had abolished the two Chief Justices in Eyre: the Clerks of the Pells both in England and Ireland; receiving 3,000l. a-year each, and their deputies receiving 1,100l. a-year each. They had abolished in Ireland the office of Auditor of the Exchequer, paid by a salary of 4,000l. a-year; and they intended to abolish the same office in England as soon as a vacancy should occur. There were twenty-three other offices which they had abolished since 1807, making in the whole since the recommendation alluded to, thirty-two offices, reversions, and sinecures which had been abolished. He would now show that the Government had paid the greatest attention to the recommendations of this House as to the regulation and management of the public revenue, and had done so with the strictest intention of making economy and retrenchment the basis on which their regulations should be founded. The first office he would refer to was that of Commissioner of Barracks, which had been abolished, and the duties transferred to the Ordnance. The next was that of Commissioner of Transports, which had been abolished, and the duties transferred to the Navy Pay Office. The third was that of Commissary in Chief, which had likewise been abolished, and the duties transferred to the Treasury. The office of Storekeeper General was abolished; the Board of Customs in Scotland, the Board of Customs in Ireland, the Board of Excise in both countries, and the Board of Stamps in Scotland, had all been abolished. The effect of these various abolitions was, that the number of Com- 452 missioners which had been fifty-nine, was now reduced to twenty-eight. He therefore, asserted that the Government had had no other desire than that of abolishing every useless item of public expenditure. The Commissioners, whose number was thus diminished, had been paid by salaries from 1,000l. to 1,400l. a-year. Thus were the public offices regulated up to 1820. In the month of June 1821, an Address was carried in that House on the Motion of the hon. Member for Aberdeen, praying that a minute examination might be directed into all the branches of public income and expenditure. He would now read a few words of the Treasury Minute, in order to show the House that the object of retrenchment had neither been blinked nor over-looked by the Government, and that the Government had never failed to carry into the most rigid execution the recommendation of that House [loud cries of No, no, from the Opposition]. He should show that what he had stated was strictly correct; and he did not doubt that the hon. Member for Cumberland would then find that the Address voted by this House in June 1821 embraced nearly all the objects now proposed. The efforts at reduction were first made by the Government in 1797; the same system had been followed in 1822; and although it had been impossible for them to do all that was desired, yet he thought the House would allow, when they considered the different manner in which business was now conducted in the public offices, that the salaries of the public officers were now reduced as nearly as possible to the standard which the hon. Member for Cumberland proposed to adopt. It might naturally be expected that he should begin with that department with which he was more particularly connected. By a Treasury Minute dated in January 1822, it was directed that every office should be restored to the situation in respect of the number of persons employed, and of the emoluments they received, in which they were in 1797, unless some adequate cause could be shown to render an alteration from the state of the office at that period necessary. That wherever an increase of business rendered it necessary to preserve an establishment created or enlarged since that period, the emolument of the officers should be assimilated as much as possible to the standard of that year. That if any office created since 1797, 453 were no longer necessary, or that the emoluments might be reduced, such abolition or reduction should be made. The whole range of the public offices was included in this Minute, which he would now show had been carried into full execution. That was the effect of the new regulations upon the Treasury establishment with respect to the payment of salaries. At the time that Minute was made, the minimum amount of salaries in the Treasury was 46,000l., the maximum 64,000l. Under the new regulations, the minimum amount was 41,000l., the maximum 48,000l., so that upon the whole there had been a gross reduction equal to thirty per cent. The same principle had been applied to all the other offices. He would now examine how that Minute had operated upon the different classes of public servants at the Treasury. The effect of the reduction was, that the salaries of the junior clerks fell twenty-six per cent—those of the assistant clerks, forty per cent.—of the senior clerks, thirty per cent.—and of the chief clerks, twenty per cent. How had it affected the superior officers? He should show that it had affected them in more than the same proportion. When he compared their salaries in 1797 with those of 1821, he found that they enjoyed more in the former than in the latter year; so that if the hon. Member's proposition were adopted, their salaries would rather be increased than diminished. The salary of the First Lord of the Treasury was then the same as now. The Junior Lords received the same in that as in the present year; and the salaries of the Secretaries to the Treasury were now just the same sum that they were in 1797, but they had undergone before and since that time several variations. In 1769, 1770, and 1771, the salary was 3.700l. a year; in 1779, 1780, and 1782, it was together with emoluments (which he conceived to be much more objectionable than a fixed salary), equal to the sum of 5,100l. a year. In 1797 it was 3,400l.; in 1800 it was 4,000l.; and in 1821 it was 3,500l., at which sum it stood now. [hear, hear] As he held an office which was not subject to the proposed reduction, he thought he might be allowed to put in his voice against the reduction of the salaries of those men who had deserved well of their country, but who would be seriously affected by a diminution, which injustice to them ought not 454 now to be made. This brought him to the position in which the officers of the Treasury were now placed by the adoption of the two recommendations made by this Mouse. It was fair that he should show the difference of duty performed by the officers of the Treasury at the present time and in 1797. It was the custom (he ought first to inform the House) to register the papers connected with the business of the Treasury. In 1797 the officers registered four thousand six hundred papers, but in 1827 they registered twenty-seven thousand papers. When this increased duty was performed by the same number of individuals in a department, the heads of which had only the same salary as in 1797, and in which the subordinate officers (who performed the most labour) did ten times more than the amount in 1797, he thought he had made out a fair case to induce the House to deliberate long and maturely before they fixed such a loss upon men who were so little able to bear it. He would now proceed to the offices of the Secretaries of State. They received the same salary as in 1797, namely, 6,000/. a year. In 1782, however, they had 8,000l. a-year each: and, before 1797, the Under Secretary had 2,000l. a year; and at that sum, after undergoing in the meantime variations of increase and decrease, it now-stood. The same reduction had been practised with respect to the office of Secretary at War, and there were some curious circumstances connected with that subject. It would appear that the number of persons employed in the Secretary at War's Office had increased since 1797, but the payment to them had diminished. In that year the persons employed there were fifty-eight, and the salaries paid 36,000l, a year; but in 1821, the numbers were ninety-nine, and the salaries paid 33,000l,; so that with an increased amount of labour, the expenditure was considerably diminished. The Deputy Secretary at War at that time had a salary of 2,500l. a year, but his perquisites had sometimes amounted to 14,000l. The chief clerks at that time received 3,000l. a year. The whole establishment had been since twice reduced, and the Deputy Secretary now received a fixed salary of 3,000l. while the salaries of the chief clerks had been finally reduced to 1,200l, 1,000l., and 900l. a year. At the Horse-Guards, reduction to 455 the extent of about thirty per cent had taken place. In the offices in Ireland there had been a great saving effected, both in the number of persons employed and in the salaries paid to them. He would mention only one department, by way of sample. In 1818, the gross number of Custom-house Officers employed in Ireland was so great, that it had been reduced 2500l.; and without going into a detail of their different salaries, he would just state that the reduction since that period amounted to no less a sum than 237,678l. In the reductions which had thus been made, he claimed some degree of merit for the department with which he was connected. It often happened that, of the officers whose establishments were thus reduced, some were put upon a superannuation allowance, while others formed what was called the Redundant list—in other words, a body of officers, capable of being employed to fill up any vacancies that might occur in the reduced establishments. If the Government were inclined to abuse the patronage they possessed, they might put new persons into the vacancies thus occurring, and leave the old officers still upon the Superannuation Allowance or the Redundant List. So far, however, had the Treasury been from acting upon any such rule, that no less than three hundred and seventy-three persons had been taken from the Redundant List of two thousand five hundred, and put into vacancies that had occurred since the reduction was made, by which a saving of 37,000l. had been effected. This fact showed the principle on which business was now conducted. He would mention another fact of the same kind. The Board of Customs in Scotland had been abolished in the course of last summer, and the Superannuation allowance of one of the Commissioners was 720l. a-year. The office of the Comptroller of the Customs at Quebec had since become vacant; and it would, no doubt, have been very agreeable to the noble Duke at the head of the Treasury to have given away the office in the usual manner: but it having been intimated to him that the retired Commissioner was a person fit to be appointed to the situation, and was willing to accept it and go out to Canada, the noble Duke conferred on him the office, to which was attached a salary of 1,500l. a year, and thus saved the 456 country the 720l. a year superannuation allowance. That act was followed up the very next week by one of an exactly similar kind. An office with a salary of 1,000l. a year became vacant, and the noble Duke selected another of the retired Commissioners for that office. He stated these facts from his own personal knowledge of what had occurred in the Treasury, but there were other Gentlemen in that House connected with other offices who could state other instances of the same kind. The difference between the old and new systems was much greater than many people imagined. A land-waiter at the Customs, under the old system, had a greater salary than the Commissioners had now. The object of the old officers was to collect as much as possible, and to hide the sources from whence they obtained it. The object of the officers under the new system was to do every thing with fairness and openness, to conduct their business with advantage to the merchants, while the public revenue was benefitted and secured. The House must not judge only by the value of the money paid to these officers, but also by the value of the labour given by them. While the salaries of the officers of the various establishments were reduced by the Treasury Minute he had read, no reduction, but rather an increase, had taken place in the value of the necessary articles of life. He was not possessed of a minute and accurate account of the price of the various articles of life at that time and at the present, but he believed, he could give them a statement which came pretty near the truth. In 1822, when the reductions under the Treasury Minute took effect, the leg of mutton was to be purchased for 6d. a pound, but in 1830 the price was 8d. a pound. [No, no, from the Opposition] He believed he was right, and that such would be found to be the relative difference of price at the two periods. In 1822 the shoulder of mutton was sold at 5d. per pound, but its price now was 7d. per pound. [renewed cries of No, no, no, from the Opposition] Hon. Members might dispute his statements; but of this he was sure that there had been an increase, not a diminution in the price of some of the articles of life. The price of the common articles of life had not come down in the proportion that had been stated; while, on the other hand, it was to be observed that the 457 business of the offices was conducted in a much more efficient manner than it had been formerly. This, he thought, must be evident to all who were acquainted with those offices; and he would therefore, save the House and himself the trouble of any detail on that point. Having stated thus much, having shown that since 1821 the salaries had been reduced, on an average, to the extent of twenty per cent, he had proved, he thought, that the salaries paid were not larger than was consistent with the duties which those who received them had to perform. Something having been said relative to Ireland, he begged, before he sat down, to be allowed to say a few words on that subject, as in the prosperity of Ireland he felt that he had a deep stake. It had been stated by a right hon. Gentleman, on a first night of the Session, that distress did not prevail in that country; upon which the hon. Member for Limerick (Mr. Spring Rice) and the hon. Member for Clare (Mr. O'Connell) had made statements to the House for the purpose of refuting that position. At the despondency expressed by the hon. Member for Limerick on the subject, he (Mr. Dawson) must confess that he was somewhat surprised; nor could he account for it unless the hon. Gentleman had either taken the hon. Member for Clave for his oracle, or had himself most suddenly changed his opinion. For himself, he could venture to say that he had never known more mercantile or trading activity in Ireland than at the present moment; and only a short time before, he had actually received the congratulations of the hon. Member for Limerick, in a conversation that took place between them on the subject. Mr. Latouche had also borne testimony to the same fact; and he (Mr. G. Dawson) believed that the hon. Member for Limerick had documents in his possession which illustrated the same position. The reason that the hon. Member for Clare had given for taking upon himself to assert that there was distress in Ireland was a most curious one: the hon. Member said that he did so from his professional knowledge. But how a lawyer (for he presumed that the professional knowledge to which the hon. Gentleman alluded, was his knowledge of law) could ascertain such a point from his professional pursuits was beyond his comprehension. If the question had related to 458 some professional point there was no man to whose opinion he would more readily bow; but in the present case he really did not see any reason for attaching any great weight to the professional knowledge of the hon. Gentleman. But though he (Mr. Dawson) knew that great distress did exist in Ireland, yet he knew that it proceeded from other causes than those which had been stated. One great source of distress was the gradual decay of the coarse Linen Manufacture in Ireland, which had been caused by the success of the linen manufacture in Scotland and Yorkshire; but with respect to the agricultural interests of Ireland, there was no distress at present. He would not trouble the House with any further observations. The forms of the House prevented him from moving an amendment to the proposition of the hon. Member for Cumberland; he might meet it by moving the Order of the Day; but as he did not wish to get rid of it in that way, he would let the House negative it, and he would then move the resolutions which he held in his hand, and which he would read to the House. The hon. Member then read the resolutions, which were as follows:—That his Majesty was graciously pleased to assure this House, in reply to an Address of this House of the 27th June 1821 (that his Majesty would give directions for a minute inquiry into the several departments of the Civil Government, as well with a view to reducing the number of the persons employed in those departments, which from the great increase of business was augmented during the late War, as with reference to the increased salaries granted to individuals since the year 1797, either in consideration of the additional labour thrown upon them during that period, or the diminished value of money), that his Majesty would give directions as desired by the said Address.That an humble Address be presented to his Majesty, praying that his Majesty will be graciously pleased to direct that there be laid before this House an Account of the progress made in such inquiry, and of the measures adopted in consequence thereof.That it is the opinion of this House, that, in all the Establishments of the Country, Civil and Military, every saving ought to be made which can be effected without the violation of existing engage- 459 ments, and without detriment to the Public Service.
§ Mr. Croker
said, he rose to mention some facts relative to the department to which he belonged. In 1797 the salaries of the Admiralty Officers were 14,140l.—
Sir James Graham
apologized for interrupting the hon. Member, and observed that, in speaking of the Admiralty, he had adverted solely to the salary of the First Lord of the Admiralty, which in 1797 was 3,000l. but was now 5,000l.
§ Mr. Croker
begged his pardon. The hon. Baronet had assumed that the gross amount of salaries of persons employed in the Civil Service was, in 1797, 1,374,000l. and in 1827, that the amount was 2,788,000l. The hon. Member who had just sat down answered that part of the hon. Baronet's speech generally, but there was one point to which he wished to call attention. As he had said, the whole amount of the salaries of the Admiralty Officers in 1797 was 14,140l.; in 1827 it was 25,600l. This was a great apparent increase, but if hon. Gentlemen would take the trouble to look to the Report of the Finance Committee of 1797, they would find that the amount of the salaries then was 14,140l. but there were gratuities and other emoluments which made in the whole a sum of 27,000l. a-year, showing an increase of 2,000l. a-year in 1797, as compared with the present period. He stated this fact not upon any authority of his own, but from the Seventh Report of the Finance Committee. In 1797, the salary of the First Lord of the Admiralty was 3,000l. a-year, now it was 5,000l.; the salaries of the other Lords were the same then as at present. The salary of the First. Secretary to the Admiralty in 1797, was 5,400l. now it was only 3,000l. The salary of the second Secretary was then 1,921l. a-year, now it was 1,500l. The salary of the Chief Clerk in 1797 was 1,446l. a-year, now it was 1,150l. The difference on the three offices was between 5,000l. and 6,000l. a-year, by which a sum of 2,000l. a-year was saved to the public. Looking to the other naval departments, they would rind the same result. He was not, however, enabled to place the salaries before them in the same satisfactory manner; for the Finance Committee of 1797 had confined its labour to the Admiralty, without making any Report as to the expenditure of the 460 Navy Board. He found, however, that in addition to 33,000l. a-year for the Navy in 1797, there was a further sum of 10,000l. a-year for fees, so that the expenditure was very nearly the same as at present. It was quite obvious that the expenditure of the Admiralty Office was much greater in 1797 than at this time. The salary of the First Lord of the Admiralty was 3,000l. a-year at the time that Lord Barham held the office; and he, on going out, thought that the sum was not sufficient, considering that the person filling so important an office must always be liable to great expense, and called upon to exercise the rites of hospitality to a degree that perhaps might, be beyond his means. At the same time Lord Barham, from motives of delicacy, said nothing on the subject so long as he himself held the office; but, on retiring from it, when a change took place in the administration, ha left a recommendation on the table to the effect that the salary should be increased to 5,000l. a-year. The recommendation fell into the hands of Lord Grey, by whom it was laid before the King, and acted upon accordingly.
§ Mr. Spring Rice
said, he must advert to what had fallen from the hon. Secretary (Mr. G. Dawson). If he (Mr. Spring Rice) were capable of dealing with the House in the manner represented by his hon. friend, the Secretary to the Treasury, he should be wholly unworthy, not only of presenting him self there, but any where else. His hon. friend had told the House that he (Mr. Spring Rice) had stated in a private communication, that distress did not exist in Ireland, while his hon. friend would now represent him as acting in subserviency to some person or persons, and asserting that distress did exist there. He could only say that never was any representation more unjust or unfounded. Not only had his hon. friend totally misrepresented him, but he appeared to be driven to the necessity of inventing facts to sustain the course of argument he had pursued. He (Mr. Spring Rice) had not implicitly adopted the opinions of the hon. Member for Clare nor of the right hon. Member for Kerry. On the contrary, he had stated most distinctly that he differed from them both. While he had stated that there was, generally, less distress in Ireland than in England, he had stated at the same time that the great interests 461 in Ireland were suffering greatly. What was the evidence adduced by his hon. friend in support of his statement? The only evidence brought forward by him was the testimony of a gentleman who, in the interval, was unfortunately lost to the country—he meant Mr. Latouche. With respect to the facts which he (Mr. Spring Rice) had stated, as to the exports of Ireland, he was positive they were correct; and these went to show that Ireland was improving. He had not drawn his information from the same source as his hon. friend; but he pledged himself to bring down to the House, on Monday next a statement containing facts which his hon. friend had suppressed, for the purpose, it would seem, of casting a stigma upon him. He now wished to say a few words upon the immediate question before the House. The resolutions moved by the hon. Secretary to the Treasury, came nearly to the same conclusion as the resolution moved by his hon. friend the Member for Cumberland. Without saying one word as to the expediency of making any alteration in the currency—a measure which he (Mr. Spring Rice) could never sanction—his hon. friend had still gained a pledge from Parliament that all the public establishments should be pared down to the lowest possible limits. For his own part, he should rejoice to see the two subjects of currency and retrenchment placed on a separate and distinct footing. He should like exceedingly that, when the House came to the consideration of these important questions, they should all be able to unite for one common object, and in the discharge of one common duty, to exert themselves to relieve the distresses of the country.—He did not wish that those who might vote with him on the subject of the currency should differ from him on the subject of retrenchment. He desired to take each of these questions by itself; and the able statement of his hon. friend relieved the House from the necessity of mixing up both questions. He himself would not vote with any man who should propose an alteration of the standard: he was, however, glad to see that, without reverting to a silver standard, to the issue of paper, to effects similar to those which the Bank of England had produced on the monetary system of this country, they were still able to give efficient and real relief to the people. He hoped that the 462 statement of the Secretary to the Treasury would be duly borne in mind. He well recollected, and the House would also recollect, the patient attention paid on the memorable nights when the Estimates were brought up, some Sessions since; and he trusted that the same practice would still continue, and that each Estimate would be narrowly watched and thoroughly examined by the House. With regard to what had been said by his hon. friend the Secretary for the Treasury, in reference to him (Mr. Spring Rice), he could only say, that he felt no personal anger on the subject, though he felt a great deal of personal regret. If there were any one quarter in the world from which he was least prepared for such an attack, it was that from which it had proceeded.
§ Mr. G. Dawson
explained. He was afraid that some expressions painful to the feelings of his hon. friend might perhaps have escaped him; he was most anxious to take the earliest opportunity of stating that, neither remotely nor otherwise, had he the slightest intention of accusing him of making any statement which he did not believe to be grounded on fact. He had, however, felt some surprise, after the conversation which he and his hon. friend had had upon the subject, that his hon. friend appeared to differ from him so materially, taking a view of the question which he (Mr. Dawson) could not admit. There was not one man in that House, on either side, of whom he was less disposed to say any thing unkind than of his hon. friend. He had long known him, and no one could more admire his talents and his merits.
§ Mr. Spring Rice
expressed himself quite satisfied with this explanation; but he must say, at the same time, that, if he had not felt strongly on such an occasion, he should have been unworthy of appearing either in that House or elsewhere.
§ Sir George Warrender
considered that the Ministers of the Crown were still more urgently called upon than the hon. Member for Cumberland to come forward, on an occasion like the present, and to propose some practical measure of relief. It was, however, most satisfactory to know that the Representatives of the people were not insensible to the distress which prevailed. He found that, since the year 1797, judicial salaries had increased by at least 100 per cent; and his only object 463 in now rising was to know, from some one of his Majesty's Ministers on the bench below, whether any further addition was contemplated? It would be recollected that, at the close of the last session, a proposition was brought forward to increase the salaries of the Scotch Judges; and it was satisfactory to see upon that occasion with what alacrity it was rejected by the House, and immediately withdrawn.
§ Mr. O'Connell
said, that the hon. Member for Londonderry (Mr. G. Dawson) could not contradict the statement which he (Mr. O'Connell) had made on a former night. The hon. Member had given as his authority Mr. Latouche, who, on his return to Dublin from London, stated, at a meeting of the Society for the Improvement of Ireland, that the people of Ireland were not suffering in the same degree as the people of England; and, when contradicted upon this fact, he replied that the increase of the Excise tended to establish it beyond all doubt. He (Mr. O'C.) then told him that his argument was founded on the resource of the desperate, namely, on the drinking of spirits, the increase of which could never be considered as a proof of national prosperity. His professional duties placed him in constant communication with merchants and others who were acquiring estates in Ireland, and from whom, and other clients, he had ample opportunities of obtaining information as to the real state of things in that country. To show to what extent distress prevailed there, he needed only say that one gentleman, who had a rent-roll of 4,000l., received only 100l. as the last gale.
§ Lord Morpeth
said, the Motion of his hon. friend, the Member for Cumberland (Sir J. Graham) would at any time have commanded the attention and support of the advocates of economy; but when it came before them coupled with complaints of the overwhelming distress of every class in the country, then, indeed, it must prove irresistible. Whether, however, they adopted the Motion of the hon. Baronet, or were content with the Resolutions intended to be proposed by the Secretary of the Treasury, it was plain that the House was about to give a new pledge to the country of its determination to prosecute a system of retrenchment and reformation in every branch of the public expenditure. Some hon. Members recommended as a remedy for the distress, that the House 464 should commit a deliberate breach of faith, and violate the legislative enactment by which it bound itself to maintain a metallic currency; others went still further, and advised an equitable adjustment with the public creditor. In his opinion any proposal of measures of that kind would come before them with better grace after every fair, just, and honourable means of relief had been exhausted. Of these means economy in the public expenditure was one of the most evident, as well as the most laudable. In the earlier years of his life, although his feelings and his judgment led him to wish success to that party in whose cause he was now embarked, he confessed he had entertained a strong prejudice against the apparent niggardly course they seemed disposed at all times to adopt with respect to the public expenditure. The experience of a very few years had, however, altered his opinions; and he was now willing to acknowledge that economy, in the management of the public money, was the highest political wisdom. In adopting such a sentiment, he could not but be forcibly reminded of the eloquent exertions in its support which marked the whole political life of one so much missed in that House, and so much lamented in private—he meant the late Mr. Tierney [hear]. The unsparing and disinterested labours of that able and eloquent man, in the service of economy, did more credit to his life, and cast a greater lustre on his memory, than all the glories and successes of those other distinguished men, who, though more honoured, were not more useful; who, though more fortunate, had not been more meritorious. He could not but think that this feeble tribute to his merits would not be unacceptable to those who had so often been enlivened by his wit and enlightened by his wisdom, and that it was not impertinently or inappropriately introduced into the discussion on a subject which had so often engaged his most earnest attention. He was determined to support the men of every party, whether Whig or Tory, in their labours to procure retrenchment and a diminution of taxation; and he hoped, when the Estimates of the year were brought before them, that they would be framed on such a scale as to justify the expectations of the House, and restore to the Government the confidence of the people.
§ Mr. Hume
said, he should prefer the Motion of the Secretary to the Trea- 465 sury to that of his hon. friend the Member for Cumberland, as being the least shackled, and as repeating the pledge of retrenchment which the House had given in the year 1821. He needed only to bring to the recollection of the House what took place in the year 1821, and the great benefit that resulted from it. In the following year a reduction, to the amount of 2,000,000l. was effected, and 2,000,000l. more might have been taken off the year after, if the same attention had been paid to the expenditure of the country. But from the years 1822, 1823, 1824, 1825, 1826, and up to 1827, so far from any thing being done in the way of reduction, a gradual increase took place. As to any constitutional control over the expenditure of the country, it had been altogether abandoned by that House for the last three or four years. Most of the Members absented themselves instead of being found at their posts, and many who had hitherto most shamefully neglected their duty were now most unreasonable in demanding reduction. The establishments were now much larger than they were in 1822. The question was not as to whether salaries should be reduced or were reduced from 20,000l. to 15,000l. a year, but whether the recommendations of the Finance Committee had been complied with. The question with the Finance Committee was, what the duties of the several officers were as compared with the amount of remuneration. The main object was to bring the salaries of the several departments to as low a scale as could be consistent with the due discharge of the public service. Individuals in every establishment of the country were infinitely too well paid, and we now felt the ruinous effects of former profusion. There could be no solid objection whatever to apply to the Crown for relief. When his Majesty wanted money, he never hesitated to come down to the House of Commons and ask for it; and if the people of England were weighed down by distress, it was perfectly consistent with their duty to the Sovereign that they should call for a reduction of expenditure. If they did not look at the situation of the country with boldness, and act with resolution, it would be utterly impossible that it could continue to bear the burthens with which it was oppressed. Expenditure had been for years on the increase. To show the manner in which the Ministers supported their professions of economy, he 466 would ask the House to look at the late arrangements with respect to the Stamp-Office. It was found that out of eight Commissioners, there were not three who could be persuaded to meet each other for the transaction of business. Well, the Board was broken up, and it was supposed that Ministers would avail themselves of the event, and as three were found sufficient for the conduct of business, that no more would be retained. But what did they do? They discharged and pensioned the whole of them, and then appointed a new Board, more numerous than the former, and at a higher salary. So, in like manner, the Governor of the Cape of Good Hope was allowed a salary of 20,000l. a-year until within a very recent period. He now had only to observe, that he would suggest to his hon. friend the expediency of withdrawing his resolution, and of leaving the question in the hands of the hon. Member opposite, whose proposition appeared likely to answer the purpose.
§ Sir John Wrottesley
said, he was apprehensive that this resolution, if adopted, would not have the effect of relieving the great distress under which the country now laboured. The measure adopted in 1826 had had, as he had then foretold it would have, a most prejudicial effect on all the great interests of the country; and they all, from that period to the present, had continued to decline. He considered the whole of the distress to have been caused by the measures relative to the currency.
§ Mr. W. Duncombe
said, he could not agree with some hon. Members, that the course pursued by Ministers was that which was consistent with their duty, as responsible servants of the Crown. He thought they were very ill-advised in describing the distress in the qualified manner they had done. Instead of blinking the question, they ought, to have come down to the House, and acknowledged honestly the extent of the evil, and proposed effectual measures of relief. He thought it highly important at the present crisis that a country party should exist in that House; but, in saying that, he would not be understood as wishing to separate the landed interest from the manufacturing and commercial interests. He maintained the same sentiments on that point which he had ever professed—namely, that no one class could flourish unless the other classes were prosperous. But at present all classes laboured 467 under a general depression and stagnation. There were none, however, who were so much entitled to commiseration and sympathy as the industrious and laborious classes of all denominations. The artisans, the labourers, and the operatives were those whose case was deserving of the most anxious and the most immediate consideration, constituting, as they did, the wealth, the strength, and the stability of the country. They were now suppliants at the doors of Parliament; and it was the duty and the interest of that House, as it was in its power, to relieve them. It was particularly incumbent on his Majesty's Ministers to take the whole state of the country, and more especially the condition of the labouring classes, into consideration.
§ Mr. M. A. Taylor
said, that in voting as he had done, in favour of the Address, he wished to protest against being understood to doubt the extent of distress in the country, or to deny that it was severely felt. For himself, he had no connection with Ministers; and, at his time of life, after having been for four or five and forty years in that House, he wished for nothing but happiness;—he meant the happiness of the people and the prosperity of the country. He considered it his duty to weigh the merits of his Majesty's Ministers, and of those who con tended with them. These Gentlemen said, that they wished for economy and retrenchment. Now on that point he wished to try them fairly. What, he would ask, was the condition of Ministers? Were they the authors of the mischief? Were they the promoters of the French war, which was, in fact, the source of all the evil? He was one of those who voted during Mr. Pitt's Administration, on the question of the French War, and he had foretold the calamities which had since befallen the country from that cause. He was not attached to any party in that House. He was an independent man, but was it to be expected that he should support those who wished to get into power by proclaiming the grievances of the country? He would not support Ultra Whigs or Ultra Tories. His Majesty's Ministers had, in his opinion, done great things for the nation. They had passed two great measures, the most important of which was that of Catholic Emancipation. He would, therefore, trust to them to do what was necessary and beneficial for the country. He 468 wished for economy and retrenchment, but he would look for it amongst the higher powers. The enormous expenses of the Crown ought to be looked to. The cost of building palaces, and other severe additions to the public burthens, ought to be curtailed. But he gave great credit to the present Administration for their conduct. They had not bowed down to the Crown, as some of their predecessors had done. Who, he would ask, were the authors of the French war? The landed proprietors; and the consequence was, that they had benefited in their incomes; for estates of 2,000l. a-year were raised to 4,000l. or 5,000l. They now wished to retain the war prices, but those prices could no longer be continued. He could relate an instance of the eagerness with which the effects of war upon the prices of agricultural produce and stock was looked to; it occurred in his own neighbourhood; towards the close of the late struggles in France, when Bonaparte had returned to France, though his return was not generally known, a farmer of some consideration near Doncaster was driving sixty pigs to market, and he met a man who asked him "Have you heard the news?" "No," he replied, "I have heard no news—the war is over, and I am going to make the best bargain lean for my pigs."—"Oh Napoleon," said the other—or Nap, as he called him, "Nap is comeback to France." "Is he indeed? Oh, then, I'll drive my pigs back again." [laughter] This was a positive fact, and it shewed the desire to obtain the war prices. He meant to act an independent part. Let any one point out to him better principles or better measures than those of the Government, and he would readily adopt them. But let the Ministers be fairly tried. Were the distresses of the country owing to them? What could they do to relieve them? They were not possessed of Aladdin's lamp, and could not convert, distress into prosperity by magic. Some Gentlemen wished for a paper currency instead of gold. Nothing should induce him to vole for such an arrangement. It would only make a fictitious and base currency, without anything stable to support it. It might allay the evil for a year or two, but it should then come on with augmented severity. He should support the measures of Government until he saw something better proposed in their stead.
said, I do not conceive that 469 the hon. Baronet, the Member for Cumberland, is disposed to press the Question to a division. So far as I can collect, he is inclined to rest satisfied with the Motion of my hon. friend; and I am therefore relieved from the necessity of making many observations which it would otherwise have been my duty to offer to the House. But the hon. Baronet, in the commencement of his Speech, made a direct appeal to me to which this may be the most convenient time to give some answer. From what I could infer from the outset of the hon. Gentleman's Speech, I did not expect that he would have entered into the general question of the Currency and the measures which might be proposed for establishing it on what he would conceive a proper footing. I thought that the hon. Baronet's motion assumed that the currency, as at present established, must be so maintained, and assuming that the currency was to be so maintained propounded that certain reductions should be made. This is not perhaps the most convenient or fitting opportunity for going into the consideration of that question, and I shall, therefore, not answer in detail the appeal which the hon. Gentleman has made to me. But I beg to assure the hon. Gentleman that it is not from any desire to shrink from the discussion of the question when the proper opportunity shall present itself. When the regular notice shall have been given, and the attention of the House called to the subject in the necessary form, I shall be prepared to approach it with all the deliberation which its importance demands. But I cannot let even this opportunity pass without remarking, that in the very able Speech which the hon. Member had addressed to the House, he has made admissions with repect to the currency, which tend to relieve me from the responsibility of the introduction of the Bill of 1819. For, if the hon. Baronet is prepared to act upon the just and wise principles which he has to-night laid down, were an occasion again to arise similar to that upon which the Bill of 1819 was passed, the hon. Baronet would be bound in consistency and principle to give to me his entire and cordial support. Sir, I beg to declare that whenever I approach the discussion of this great question, considering its delicacy, its complication, and, above all, its importance, I shall forget all political, or rather 470 all party considerations; I shall be inattentive to that violent declamation which ascribes to the measures to which it is opposed the character of iniquity, cruelty, robbery, and fraud. I will ask the House patiently and liberally to consider the position in which we were placed in 1819; and, being content to adopt the principles which the hon. Member for Cumberland has laid down, I will call upon the House to pronounce whether there was any alternative to enable us to avert the evils which then impended, other than that of adopting some measure similar in principle to that of 1819, and the infallible consequence of which must be the infliction of considerable distress. Sir, it was not the measure of 1819, but, as my hon. friend who spoke last has properly and truly said, the measures which preceded the Act of 1819, which imposed the necessity of some decisive measures, and to which must be attributed the evils which have occurred since the change of the currency. We had to consider whether we should revert to a metallic standard, or whether we should continue to maintain an inconvertible Currency. If any standard were adopted, the infliction of some distress was inevitable. But the hon. Member says, that he would establish the Civil List on the scale on which it was in 1820, because the faith of Parliament was pledged to it. I entirely concur with the hon. Member in this sentiment, and I cannot state in terms sufficiently strong the value and importance which I attach to an adherence to national faith. But I would ask the hon. Gentleman, if it would be fair to adhere to engagements made by Parliament to the Crown in 1820, can he refuse to abide by engagements made during the progress of the war with the public creditor? I fully concur in the necessity and propriety of maintaining the national faith inviolate; but I affirm that no engagements made in 1820 are more sacred than the compacts made with the public creditor during the war. I would remind the hon. Gentleman and the House that, at the time when every loan was made, there was a distinct intimation to the persons advancing their money, that, within six months after the termination of the war a metallic standard would be restored; and the hon. Gentleman, I dare say, will admit that it would be difficult to maintain that, because the national creditor advanced his money in a depreciated paper currency, he is not 471 entitled to reclaim his advances when peace is established, and the restriction upon the Bank removed. Sir, the hon. Gentleman admits that the chief difference between him and me is, that he would take a silver and gold standard, while I take a gold one alone. The present is not the occasion, but the time will come when I shall have an opportunity of stating the reasons which induced the Committee of 1819 to prefer a single standard—and that a standard of gold—to a joint standard; and I can assure the hon. Baronet that if the only difference of opinion between us be, that he would take a joint standard in preference, twenty out of the twenty-five per cent of distress, which he attributes to the restoration of a metallic currency, would have been imposed by his proposition of a joint standard. Sir, another admission was made by the hon. Baronet, of no less importance, and equally true, but not more true than the former, which is this; I trust we shall ever remember the eloquent and impressive sentiments in which the warning was conveyed, which indeed, ought always to be present to our minds. Says the hon. Baronet, "You may issue your Small Note Currency as you did in 1822, and its convertibility into gold will be no security against the evils of which it will be productive. But, as the year 1825 followed that of 1822, if you adopt the same course, the same consequences will ensue, the same languor will follow the same excitement, and similar calamities will be again entailed upon the nation." Sir, I concur, in every portion of the hon. Baronet's sentiments on this point, and revert to my original position, that there is, in fact, no material difference of opinion between us, and that I am entitled to claim, for the Bill of 1819, the hon. Gentleman's candid support, and his powerful advocacy.
There is also another point in which I concur with the hon. Member—namely, that the re-issuing of a small paper currency, although nominally convertible into gold, would only give a temporary and precarious relief, and that any benefit which it could confer, would be dearly paid for. The cheapness of the currency would produce a temporary advantage, but would ultimately occasion the departure of the whole gold currency from the country. Experience has told us that gold and a small paper currency cannot co-exist in a 472 country like this. To raise an immense superstructure of paper nominally payable with gold, would be pregnant with danger; such a state of things might go on for two or three years, but it would end in the departure of all the gold from the country—in excessive and violent changes of funds and other property, and in a sudden panic and simultaneous demand for gold. It would then be no answer to say "We are solvent; give us time, and we can discharge all our obligations." The reply would be, "We have a right to gold at once." There would be a simultaneous rush for gold, and a general bankruptcy and ruin would ensue. A general rush to the public funds would instantaneously take place, and at the same time a simultaneous contraction of the paper currency, and a re-acting of all the calamities of 1825. These considerations ought to induce gentlemen to approve and support the bill of 1819, because I believe that such as I have described would be the consequences of a small paper currency, even though it were nominally convertible into gold. Sir, I conceive that the motion of my hon. friend has a clear claim to the preference of the House, because I feel that, before the House comes to a resolution which would seem to imply that nothing had been done for the relief of the popular burthens, it would be right that the House should be in possession of some account of what the Government has actually done. The hon. Gentleman will also sec that his Motion is calculated to excite extravagant hopes which cannot be realized. He has alluded to the increase of military pay, but, Sir, the pay of the army has not been increased since 1797, and when the hon. Gentleman alluded to those military officers whose pay has been increased, he appears to me to have made rather an injudicious selection. He has spoken of the Governor of New Brunswick, the Bishop of Nova Scotia, the Governor of Sierra Leone, and another, all of which are civil appointments, although they may at times be held by individuals possessing military rank; but the places themselves are civil offices. I believe also that the hon. Gentleman will find that, acting on his own principles, nothing could be done which would effect any material reduction of taxation in that way. The motion of my hon. friend calls for an account of what has been actually done, and the House can 473 then apply it to the Estimates. Sir, I must beg to protest against an inference drawn by a noble Lord who has intimated that this resolution is extorted from his Majesty's Ministers by the speech of the hon. Member. I would refer to the resolution passed in this House in 1821, on a Motion of the hon. Member for Dorsetshire, (Mr. Bankes), praying his Majesty that every possible reduction might be effected in the extensive establishments necessary for the maintenance and defence of the kingdom, and more especially in the army and other great institutions essential for the supervision and regulation of the national concerns. Knowing that the Crown acted on this resolution, we can have no objection that the House of Commons should place upon record a resolution recommending that every reduction and retrenchment consistent with the national engagements, and with the advantage of the public service, should be made.—Sir, a great deal has been said on the subject of having taken the advice of different parties in this House. Sir, I am not conscious that there have been any accessions to the Government, in which there have been any compromise of principle, and I confess I see nothing disgraceful in a man, when he approves of the conduct and measures of Government, giving that assistance which may tend to render those measures effectual for the service of the State. For those who compose his Majesty's present Administration I may be permitted to say, that our intention is to persevere in performing that which we feel to be our duty to the country. We are aware of the state of party in this House, and are not ignorant of the consequences which may arise from the combination of parties here. But, let these consequences be what they may, it is our determination to pursue our path firmly and conscientiously. In the course of the last year we performed a great duty, by acting in contradiction to the opinions we had previously entertained, and the course which we had long thought it our duty to pursue. I then thought, and I do still believe, that that step was imposed upon us by a positive and overwhelming necessity, even though, by carrying it into effect we forfeited the confidence and the attachment of many in this House. But, Sir, I cannot now, even to conciliate the good will of that party, or any member of it, say that I repent the step that we have 474 taken. I solemnly declare that subsequent events have convinced me that, by that course, we averted from the country great and awful calamities, the pressure of which would now be felt in aggravation of the distress which is described as universal and severe. Had Parliament refused to grant that long-agitated question of Catholic Emancipation owing to our perseverance or obstinacy, or whatever other name may be given to it at this moment, Ireland and England would be in very different situations from what they now are. I firmly believe that from the settlement of that question have resulted greater benefits than I contemplated, and greater dangers have been averted than any one could have foreseen. There have certainly been individual acts of atrocity which were a disgrace to those concerned in them; but it is not from individual acts that we are to judge of the character or condition of a nation, nor can we form a just or accurate estimate from the exaggerated accounts of those acts of violence, even where they are not altogether destitute of foundation. But I see in the condition of that country the elements of future religious peace and national prosperity. The upper classes of society are falling into an oblivion of past animosities as rapidly as can be expected in so short a time, and the example of those classes is fast extending through the great body of society. Deeply as I regret the loss of the confidence which a portion of the Members of this House have withdrawn from his Majesty's Government, and clearly as I foresee the possible consequences which the combination of parties may lead to, I yet cannot purchase their confidence by expressing a regret for what has occurred. I say this with no feeling of hostility or asperity. I had at the outset a perfect knowledge of the painful consequences which might arise to me individually, and in my public capacity, from proposing the measure of Catholic Emancipation; but if the same junction were again to occur—if the business were to be transacted over again—with still greater deliberation and determination, and with increased preparation to make any personal sacrifice that might be necessary, I would this very night give notice of a Motion for the introduction of such a measure. Sir, we made that concession and that sacrifice for the public good, and for the public good alone; but we have 475 made and we will make no concession and no sacrifices for the purpose of maintaining ourselves in office. We will uphold the established institutions of the country with such salutary and well considered Reform as change of circumstances may render necessary, and so far as shall be consistent with the preservation of the permanent interests of the country. We will propose such measures of retrenchment as can be effected with advantage, but will propose none which cannot be maintained consistently with the honour and just influence of this nation; and I Say with confidence, but with perfect respect, that, whatever may be the consequence of the combination of parties in this House, there is a sufficient fund of good sense prevailing in the country, without reference to ultra Whig or ultra Tory, which will ultimately sanction and confirm the course that has been pursued, and which it is our intention to pursue. [The conclusion of this speech was delivered in an expressively animated manner: and was received with loud cheers.]
said, that he must declare, whatever other resolutions were adhered to, that the right hon. Gentleman had now abandoned the grounds upon which he brought in his Bill of 1819. On another occasion he doubted not that he should be able to convince the right hon. Gentleman of the real character and tendency of that Bill, and to make him sensible that there was no principle of national faith which called for the introduction of the metallic standard and the maintenance of salaries at the rate to which they were raised during a depreciated paper currency. He would ask the right hon. Gentleman—supposing that Bill had never been passed—on what scale would the salaries of the servants of the Crown be at present? They would, according to the right hon. Gentleman's own admission, be twenty-five per cent lower than they are, and the public burthens would of course be lessened in the same degree. He did not inquire at present whether the public servants were overpaid or not; the only question was, whether the Bill of 1819 was necessary to vindicate the national honour. He could not entertain the same confidence which Ministers professed they felt in the permanent nature and unchangeable character of their standard, when he found that they were, notwithstanding the admitted alteration of value 476 in almost every article of use or consumption, unwilling to assent to a reduction of their own salaries on a scale corresponding with the depression of the means and necessaries of life. Nor could they plead, in mitigation of their resistance to that which might fairly be termed an equitable arrangement suited to the times, that their salaries had not been augmented in value, from time to time, by the secret operation of the standard adopted, and the alteration of the currency. It was confessed they had been raised and lowered at different periods; of course, contracts had been formed during the prevalence of the higher, and others during the prevalence of the lower, standard. Those formed in the higher, it would not be equitable or just to discharge in the lower, nor to discharge those in the lower formed in the higher standard. There was a great difficulty, he admitted, but something must be done. That difficulty he felt jointly with others; and, in the votes he had hitherto given, or should give, in respect to the present money-system, he professed that he should be actuated by the recollection that the greater number of contracts now in existence had been formed in the higher standard. This had hitherto been his motive in sanctioning by his vote the existing state of things, for purposes of a practical nature, and this, he was resolved, should be his motive, out of respect to existing contracts, and the faith pledged to individuals, until a period of improvement arrived, to which he and most mercantile men looked forward with hourly increasing anxiety.
Mr. Secretary Peel,
in explanation, begged to say that an inference had been attempted to be drawn from his declining to enter into details, which was totally unfair—namely, that he had admitted that an alteration had taken place generally, about the period of 1819, to the amount of 25 per cent, or upwards. He begged to say that he never had, either in words, or tacitly, made any such admission, and he was satisfied, neither the hon. Member who last spoke, nor any other who concurred in opinion with that hon. Member, could prove that any such depression then took place. Whilst thus availing himself of the privilege of explaining, he would take this opportunity of saying that he anticipated great advantages from the improvement of the banking system, 477 though decidedly opposed to the issues of notes for a less value than 5l. Indeed, he hesitated not to confess that he hoped and trusted the day would soon arrive, when all the present restrictions on the banking system would be removed.
§ Mr. Saville Lumley
briefly stated, that he was apprehensive that a standard of gold with a paper circulation was now ill adapted to effect the objects meditated.
Sir James Graham,
in reply, observed that he never for a moment could have argued in favour of, or been solicitous for, an inconvertible paper currency. The result of resorting to such an expedient would possibly, if not unavoidably, be an issue of assignats. In his mind the decision of 1819, as to the resumption Of a gold standard, was injudicious, and unsuited to the condition of this country. It appeared as if the article of gold had a tendency to become scarcer, while silver had a contrary tendency. Our standard being gold rendered debts more onerous; and, as this country owed more debt than any other, it was worse calculated than any other for a gold standard. At a proper period, he pledged himself to prove that it would be eminently beneficial to the nation to introduce a different standard—namely, that of silver, which, having a tendency to become abundant, would render the consequences of our past engagements, and the debt, less onerous. He must disclaim having any objects of his own to carry in the proposition he now submitted, or in the opposition he sometimes found it his duty to give to men in power. His ambition was fully satisfied in representing a large and populous county of England. Nor was it true that he was desirous to upset the Duke of Wellington's government. He believed the Duke was, both on account of his profound judgment, and the vigour of his measures, the fittest man in the country to hold the helm of affairs; and he thought that, after the noble Duke had well weighed the temper of the House, his conduct could not fail to be influenced by the very general opinion prevalent among all ranks in favour of a change in the standard. If it should so happen that Members were sent back to their constituents, he believed they would find that out of doors the popular opinion ran very strong in favour of an issue of small notes. The sentiments of his constituents he had reason to believe, were 478 decidedly in favour of the present Government, because they believed that a better could not be founded on its ruins. They thought, however, and so thought he, that to adopt wholesome and salutary measures was within the power of the Legislature, and that it was the province and duty of an effective Government to recommend their adoption to the United Parliament. He professed himself satisfied with the recommendation of the right hon. Gentleman, and he should, therefore, with the leave of the House, withdraw his own Motion, and adopt the resolutions proposed by the Secretary to the Treasury.
Mr. G. Dawson's
resolutions were afterwards adopted, and the Committee of Supply appointed for Monday.