HC Deb 16 March 1830 vol 23 cc391-430
Mr. Edward D. Davenport

, in bringing under the consideration of the House a motion for a Committee to inquire into the Distressed State of the Country at the present moment, expressed a determination not to shrink from the task he had imposed on himself, although the statement elicited from the Chancellor of the Exchequer last night, by the repeated calls of the people, would probably afford some of his own friends—his lukewarm friends—an opportunity of blinking the present question, and would supply them with an apology for abandoning an inquiry into the distresses of the people. They would have a good pretext for voting against his motion in the supposition that the people would receive relief in consequence of the measures which the Government had last night informed the House it proposed to adopt. He trusted, however, by the vote of that evening, to ascertain how far they were disposed to exert themselves to procure a remission of taxation, and thereby to obtain the means of giving employment to thousands who were, as he would presently show, living, not on the bread of charity, for that they could not obtain, but on the roots—restoring them once more to the station they ought to enjoy, and giving them the comforts, of which they ought never to have been deprived. It would be seen whether they were desirous of giving relief to those who demanded it, and whether they would persevere in giving a ministerial or patriotic vote. He could not understand how that House could continue as it did to disregard the prayers of the people, who were now suffering a distress which might be truly stated as unprecedented in the history of the country. He doubted, indeed, whether in any country whose interests were intrusted to representatives of the people, there ever was an instance of that people being placed in such a state of deprivation and distress as our people were now in, and yet at the same time being refused by their own representatives all means or opportunities of proving to them that there was such distress; and still more, he believed that there was no instance in the history of any country possessing representatives, who displayed no disposition to relieve that distress, or even to inquire into its existence. In proof of the existence of great distress, he would call in the evidence of one of the largest of the central towns of the kingdom—he alluded to the town of Birmingham—and he would also call in the evidence of the petition from the town of Leicester, presented that evening, as a proof that he had not been guilty of exaggeration; but the petitions of the people were disregarded, and they had grown weary of petitioning. Those to whom their petitions were addressed seemed deaf to the prayers and blind to the misfortunes of the people; who were beat down and depressed by those who had doubled their burthens, by tampering with the currency, and who, to use the words of Scripture, "Have thus made the measure small and the coin great, falsifying the balance by deceit." The petitions, at least some of those which emanated from the upper classes, singular to say, were not addressed to the House of Commons, to the House of Lords, nor even to the King; for the father of his people, in these times, was no more heard of than if he was not a member of the family—the petitions were addressed to the most noble Arthur Duke of Wellington, who was generally supposed to be a kind of fourth estate in the country, and to consolidate in his person the other three [hear]. The people seemed to think, with some reason, that it was better to address the person from whom all power emanated, and they hoped that he would show more solicitude for his countrymen, who had showered on him such boundless favours, than they had received from those representatives to whom they had intrusted their interests. He could not blame them for this. The fault lay with that House, which refused to hear the complaints of the people; but this he would say, that an innovation of that kind coining in a petition from no less than three counties, would have made their forefathers start from their graves with horror, to reproach them for their degeneracy, and to incite them to recover their independence. A country placed in such a situation, sacrificed to the receivers of taxes, made by means of sleight-of-hand tricks with the currency, to pay the double of its engagements and the double of its means—and repeatedly, but in vain, asking their representatives to inquire into the truth of their statements, was not to be believed, unless the evidence of it were daily before us, and was a state of things which posterity would not believe could ever have existed. The shipping interests, the trading, the manufacturing, the agricultural interest, every class in the country, came before the House with petitions, complaining of distress; but when they ventured to allude to the cause of that distress, or called on the Members to inquire into the cause, they were treated with indifference, or silenced by clamour and contempt. He did not overstate this. It was but too true; and if any one presumed to raise his voice in their defence, or dared to interfere between the spoliators and their victim, they were opposed by a conspiracy of persons interested in a continuance of the abuses, and anxious to prevent the voices of the people from being heard in that House, or even to allow what was said in their favour to be heard beyond its walls. The Ministers seemed to have adopted this sort of argument; "for the Currency question we have bad ground to stand on, let us, therefore, take away from our opponents the opportunity of debating it. The forty indispensable men must be kept away on the day the question is raised—there must be no House; and thus have the Ministers foiled us three times. Should they persevere and at length succeed, we must then take care to provide a sort of Dutch concert for them. The orchestra at the bar must be reinforced, the whippers-in must take the lead, making one snore in soprano, another cough in treble, and many vociferate noisy interruptions in bass, and so we must supply our want of argument, adjourning the inquiry from day to day, postponing it from Session to Session, till it is too late to interfere and put an end to the robbery of which the people complain." He would ask them, however, to extend their candour and their entertainment a little further, and grant him a committee to inquire freely and fairly into the cause of the sufferings of the people. Was it not a burlesque on free institutions to say that the distress of the people was the only subject that was never to be inquired into? Why was it, indeed, that such an inquiry should be refused? It was never resisted in the case of a Turnpike or a Road Bill; and why it was that they should refuse to look into the abyss of misery in which they were plunged, and reject all examination into the method of alleviating distress, it was impossible to conceive. If the representatives of the people continued to decline paying any attention to their prayers, there must eventually be a convulsion in the State. The people would lock up the doors of that House; but he would not say, as had been said elsewhere, that they would throw all the Members into the Thames, though they might, perhaps, be very properly disposed of in that way [a laugh]. He only suggested the possibility of such a catastrophe, Another danger to be apprehended was, that the people would begin to suspect there was a distinction drawn between the rich and the poor—between the capitalist, and the producers of capital—between the payers and the receivers of taxes. Of course there was no such thing in that House as a preference of their own interests; but then there was a danger that the people might not be aware of the wisdom of the House, or of its excellence and probity; and at all events there was prudence in not calling on them to take these things too much on assertion. He did not attribute to others that which he was not willing to confess applicable to himself. He had a personal interest in the discussion of the question. He was not one of those who had amassed a large fortune through the means of laws made for the protection of themselves. He had not made a fortune by usury, or by taking advantage of favourable changes to turn over his property in the money market. He was one of those whose estates had descended to him from his forefathers—one of that unfortunate class to whom belonged almost the whole of the land in the country; and in the name of that class, and of every other class suffering in common with it, in the name of thousands and tens of thousands of persons suffering under the operations of Mr. Peel's Bill, he solicited an inquiry into the nature and causes of their distress. He knew well that the Government was determined to oppose whatever course he might think proper to adopt, but he hoped at the same time that there might be some Members who were now sensible of the cajoleries attempted to be practised on them, who would join with him in compelling the House to do justice to the people. He called on them not to suffer themselves to be deluded any longer, but fearlessly to look those evils in the face, which, whatever the self-satisfied statesman might say, was disgraceful to any Government upon earth, and was quite sufficient to disgust the people of these realms with the name and functions of the House of Commons. He did not mean by the Motion to turn the Ministry out [a laugh]. He did not understand the laugh. He knew that it would be madness to hope for such a result, and that he might as well say he would pull the House down, as attempt to remove a Government supported by such majorities, For two-and- thirty years all contracts had been framed, all taxes imposed, in one currency. That currency had been altered; and yet his Majesty's Ministers in the eleventh year of our worse than Babylonish captivity said, that the currency question had nothing to do with the distress, that the currency question had nothing to do with the want of currency! He knew, however, that they would endeavour to shut the eyes of the House to the present state of the country, by painting flattering pictures in the most glowing colours of the state in which it would be next year. The fallacy of such a prediction would be best exposed by a reference to the fallacy of similar predictions in former years. He admitted that the noble Duke at the head of his Majesty's Government had adopted a course which was very convenient, when the country made a direct charge against the prudence of his domestic policy. The noble Duke would believe none of the complaints of distress which the people sent up to him. Like many an old soldier, he shammed deaf when any thing was said to him that was unpleasant to hear. Nothing could be more easy than the science of Government, if governors were determined either not to hear the complaints of the governed, or not to allow them to prove the justice of their complaints when heard. In the first place, the noble Duke directly denied the existence of any distress; but afterwards, abandoning that direct denial, behind which he was as impregnable as behind the lines of Torres Vedras, he admitted that the situation of some of the retail traders was an exception to the general prosperity. That was certainly true; for a petition had been presented from Manchester, signed by almost every retail dealer in the place, stating that the distress was never so great on any former occasion. The noble Duke then talked of the great quantity of business done on the canals. He carefully abstained, however, from saying anything of the present value of the shares; most of which were at a discount of thirty-five per cent. To that the noble Duke added, that wood and meat still produced remunerating prices; the fact being, that wood had fallen a half, and meat five and twenty per cent in one year. After all this it was evident that the noble Duke ought not to meddle with calculation; but that he should content himself with silence, or, like Lord Burleigh, in the a "Critic," he should shake his head, and say nothing. The noble Duke, on another occasion, had estimated the number of sovereigns in circulation at 28,000,000. Now there was nothing in the papers before Parliament to justify that estimate. In the year 1828, the Chancellor of the Exchequer had reckoned the number of sovereigns then in circulation at 22,000,000. The returns on the Table proved that since that time there had only been issued 4,800,000, so that at the most there could not be more than 26,800,000 sovereigns in circulation. From this amount, however, must be deducted all the gold which had been paid for the 2,700,000 quarters of corn which had been imported into the country, and then he thought that it would be found that there could not be more than 25,000,000 of sovereigns at present in circulation. The policy of the noble Duke had been arraigned upon more occasions than one; and the manner in which he had recently defended it proved him to be as incompetent for the management of a great nation, as he had admitted himself to be, some years ago, in his place in Parliament. The discoveries which he had made were very surprising, and it might only be right, that for those discoveries we should pay him a larger sum every year than we paid to any other of our public functionaries, his grace's salary being more than the salary of the President of the United States of America. He now came to the Chancellor of the Exchequer. That right hon. Gentleman, in May 1828, had stated, that the one pound notes in circulation amounted to 2,409,000l., on data which he had taken the liberty of impugning at the time, and which every succeeding hour had proved to be more and more incorrect. The right hon. Gentleman had stated, that that sum would be replaced by a small issue of sovereigns, and that, if there was any deficiency left after that issue, the vacuum would be filled up by the increased issue of five pound and of ten pound notes. What was the fact? The issue of sovereigns had been 4,800,000l., or double the amount of what the Chancellor of the Exchequer had expected. That was one error; but how would the right hon. Gentleman answer for his next? Instead of there having been any increase in the issue of five and ten pound notes, the returns on the Table proved that there had been a decrease of them to the amount of 4,000,000l. Let the House recollect that 4,000,000l. taken in this manner from the circulation, and 6,000,000 of one pound notes, which he contended were also withdrawn from it, made a total of 10,000,000l. withdrawn; and to meet that deficiency in the currency, all they had in hand was 4,800,000 sovereigns. Now, was not such a circumstance likely to excite distress? Was it surprising that after such a diminution in the circulating medium, that distress should have occurred? or rather, would it not have been surprising if it had not occurred? He knew that many friends of the Ministers were inclined to exculpate them on the score of ignorance. He was willing to give them the advantage of that plea to a fair extent; but how could they avail themselves of it, after they had seen the havoc which their measures had created in the country? They must have seen that pauperism was overspreading the face of the land, and as soon as they saw that, it was their duty to have retraced the steps which they had so unfortunately taken. Instead of doing so, they had wilfully persisted in their errors; and thus the country had a right to accuse thorn of tenacity of purpose, rather than of unintentional ignorance. If the alternative of culpable ignorance or of culpable obstinacy were placed before Ministers, allowing them no escape from one or the other, he believed that they would rather choose to lie under the charge of culpable obstinacy than under that of culpable ignorance. The hon. Member then proceeded to remind the House, that last year the Chancellor of the Exchequer had ventured on several very favourable auguries in behalf of the increasing prosperity of the country. He wished the House to see how far facts had supported those favourable auguries. The price of wheat, which had risen considerably about May and June last, in consequence of the anticipation of a bad harvest, had fallen full twenty-five per cent within six months after that anticipation had been fulfilled. But what would have been the case, had there not been a bad harvest, and had the stock in hand been larger than it actually was? Why, the price of wheat would have fallen to 4s. 6d. a bushel. This rendered the situation of the corn-grower most disastrous; and yet if his situation were bad, that of the grazier and cheese-maker was much worse. The hon. Member, in proof of this assertion, referred to the low prices which various articles of agricultural produce had brought at the great fair of Brough, in the north of England, at various fairs in Warwickshire, and at the fair of Ballinasloe in Ireland. At the latter he said, the price of cattle had fallen 50s., compared with last year. At Weyhill fair the price of sheep fell from 5s. to 7s. a head; at Dumfries small cattle fell above thirty per cent, and in Warwickshire, the fall in the price of cattle of all kinds had not. been less than twenty-five per cent. There were perhaps some Gentlemen present who congratulated themselves upon the benefit which these low prices conferred upon the consumer. It was not, however, any consolation to the farmer to hear that the consumer was benefitted by their ruin, and that their capital was metamorphosed into three per cents for his special profit and emolument. In the last nine months, the price of cheese had fallen thirty per cent. In the county of Chester, there were made upon an average 12,000 tons of cheese every year, so that by this fall of price, a loss of 240,000l. was incurred in one county in one year upon a single article alone. After showing that there had been a fall equally great in the price of pigs, poultry, &c, he proceeded to ask the House whether it was not high time, after such a statement, to inquire into the causes of the prevailing distress? During all the time that this confiscation had been going on, the Government papers had gone on, as they were at present continuing, chanting the song of a speedy change for the better, though not exactly with the same reason; for all the change which first took place was always for the worst. They gave their readers regular lectures on the sacred nature of national faith, and on the importance of preserving the stability of contracts; but what reliance could the poor farmer place upon their reasonings, when he saw the fallacy of all the premises on which they rested? He knew that the fund-holders were very liberal in their advice to the landholders to reduce their rents. Now he thought that it was time for the landholders to remind the fundholders that it was their turn to reduce their rents; that any confiscation of property to be just must affect all classes alike; and that in this down-hill race all parties ought to start fair. He admitted, however, that rents must be reduced: it was only humane and politic that they should be; but humanity and policy were not part and parcel of the law of the land, and therefore many landlords still held their tenants to the contracts which by law they were bound to fulfil. Fie on their laws for such a state of things! Their laws—their laws were greatly in fault. This question had suffered much by the landlords not having had the courage to speak out. Their disposition to seek the patronage of the court, and their anxiety to obtain titles and distinctions, and to provide for their families in some branch or other of the public service, had prevented them from speaking out, else they would have risen unanimously to deny the statement of the Minister, that distress at present was only partial. The commercial interest of the country would not speak out for a very different reason. It was sometimes better for a merchant to have his honour suspected than his wealth; and therefore when a Minister applied to a merchant for information respecting the amount of commercial distress, he was almost certain to obtain an answer according to his wishes. The answer which the Minister would receive, in all probability, would be couched in terms like these:—"There is some suffering in the community, but persons of credit are doing well," intimating that he is one of those persons of credit, though, perhaps, at the moment, he is himself on the point of breaking. To show the House the real condition of the mercantile interests of the country, he would mention a few facts which had come to his knowledge. He had been told, that of 100 merchants trading with foreign countries, or preparing goods for the foreign market, established at Birmingham fifteen years ago, only five remained at present, whilst of merchants for the home-market three-fourths of those who were then in business had actually disappeared. Some master-manufacturers, he was informed on good authority, were working at present sixteen hours a day to create a show of business: but he was credibly informed that the country establishments of the same manufacturers were not half-manned. Great errors prevailed, he believed, on this subject in the country—men were afraid to tell the tale of their distress: and hence it was, that so many victims were left in speechless misery, waiting to undergo their fate without making any attempt to avert it. The number of bankruptcies within the last year was 1,677—a number which exceeded that of any other former year, save one. But this number by no means gave an accurate list of failures. There was no return of the number of insolvents: but he had a letter from a manufacturer at Manchester, from which he would read a few extracts, in order to give the House some idea of their amount. He held in his hand a list of the bad debts which that manufacturer had on his books—they were written on a large sheet—they filled five double folio pages, and were merely for the first three months of this year. In this list of bad debts the bankrupt debtors were to those against whom no commission of bankruptcy had issued as one to eleven; and hence he thought that he might safely infer that the list of insolvents was five or six times as numerous as the list of bankrupts. No money now passed between persons engaged in different trades: there was a sort of barter established between them as in times of barbarism. He was informed, that at Bilston the miller and the master-manufacturers made a regular exchange with one another of corn and iron. Last winter four boatloads of iron were carried about at that place, and deposited at different shops in payment of different commodities. Nor was the practice confined to Staffordshire, Warwickshire, and Wales, where it chiefly prevailed; it had extended over every part of the kingdom. He begged leave to remind the House that every report which had come from the manufacturing districts during the last three years was the same upon this point. These districts were struggling with absolute want. At Coventry alone, a short time ago, a charitable subscription having been raised, there were 12,000 applicants for relief on the first day. Macclesfield was equally distressed. A paper under the mayor's signature stated that there were 8,801 individuals who had no more than 2½d. a day. In Drogheda there were 11,000 who had not three-fifths of this sum each. [Some Members said each man had only 2d. per week.] At Huddersfield, 13,000 people had been working through the winter at 2½d. a day. Leeds, Blackburn, Norwich, and a variety of other places, were all experiencing the greatest misery. There were at these dif- ferent places at least 30,000 people on the verge of starvation. He had reason to know that at Barnsley, Settle, and Skip-ton, half the population were maintained out of the Poor-rates. At Barnsley the patience of the people had been at last overcome, and had broken out into actual riot. [The remainder of the hon. Member's speech was rendered almost inaudible from the confusion which prevailed in the House, and also in the gallery, owing to its being extremely over-crowded. The few sentences we could hear were to the following effect:—The change which had been effected in the value of the currency rendered it impossible that the country could fulfil its obligations. Ministers would at length be compelled to retrace their steps, after all the havoc their measures had made. He then, we understood, contended that the distresses of the country were aggravated by the large exports of bullion which were constantly going on. He had stated three years ago, upon the authority of a Minister of Finance in Spain, that the supply of the precious metals would cease as soon as the South American Colonies were independent of the mother country. The Government, therefore, had chosen a wrong period to call in the paper, and to revert to a metallic medium. He objected to depriving the people of the option of paying in gold or silver, and he had to complain of the repeal of the laws against exporting the current coin of the realm. He concluded by moving "That the petitions complaining of distress in various classes of the community be referred to a committee of the whole House, with a view to inquire into and report upon the causes of that distress, and the remedy thereof."

Colonel Sibthorp

seconded the Motion.

Mr. Irving

expressed his surprise, that the hon. Mover had not proposed some remedy for the distress which he alleged to exist to such an extraordinary extent. He trusted that he should be enabled before he sat down to show that the hon. Member had somewhat overcharged the colouring of the picture which he had drawn. He collected from the hon. Member's observations, that in his opinion, the general cause of the distressed condition of the country was, the change which had taken place in the currency. At the time that change was proposed, he (Mr. Irving) opposed it, because he foresaw the evils that would result form it; but now that the measure had been carried into effect, he would strenuously oppose any attempt to interfere with it. The evil which would attend any such interference was certain,—the good, problematical. The hon. Member had stated that the country was reduced almost to a state of barter. He (Mr. Irving) had experienced nothing of the kind, and if he were called upon to express an opinion on the subject, he would say, that the existing circulation, as it was variously composed, was quite adequate to the wants of the country. What would the hon. Member say if he were to tell him, in illustration of his opinion, that, from the overflowing deposits of the bankers, a sum of not less than 5,000,000 or 6,000,000l. of Bank notes was lying unemployed in the Bank? He could assure the House that that was the fact; and to his mind it was an evident proof that there was no want of circulation. The hon. Member had also referred particularly to the state of the metallic circulation. He did not know the precise amount of that circulation, but this he knew, that one of the great difficulties of the Bank of England was, to keep the metallic currency in circulation. They were constantly issuing it, but it returned to them. If any plan could be pointed out by which the metallic circulation could be increased, the Bank would most readily adopt it. The hon. Member had spoken of the diminished production of the gold and silver mines in South America as affecting the supply of this country; but he knew, from the state of the exchanges, that gold was flowing into this country to an amount which was almost inconvenient. With respect to the extreme and increasing distress which the hon. Member spoke of, he would not repeat what he had before stated respecting Leeds, but would read a short paragraph from a letter concerning Manchester, which was written by an individual well known to many Members of the House, and possessing as much information on the subject which he wrote about as any man in the kingdom. The paragraph was to the following effect:—"The hand-looms are better employed than they have been for some years. Wages, though still very low, have been advanced. In the mills a great many more people are employed than at any former period. They all receive good wages, and many high." The writer of the letter then went on to say, in answer to a statement made by the hon. Member for Coventry respecting the silk-trade—"I have paid some attention to the silk-trade, and have reason to believe that the number of persons employed in this trade since 1823, is double that which was employed before. A considerable quantity of silk spun with cotton is now manufactured in Manchester, printed in London, and then exported to France. There is an increasing exportation to Germany, Italy, and North and South America, of this silk and cotton manufacture, in which we excel the French." He believed that the House would hear those details with satisfaction, since they gave reason to hope that the country was not in so depressed a state as had been represented. Although the country had been declared to be in a state of universal ruin, it was clear that the ruin had not extended to Manchester. He could state that the silk trade at Glasgow and Paisley was in nearly the same state as at Manchester. He had likewise been informed that the manufacturers of Coventry had seldom been in a state of greater activity than at the present moment. Of wages he did not speak, because he knew not their amount; but it was impossible that an increased impulse could be given to manufacturers without the labourers obtaining remuneration. The importation of raw cotton had doubled since 1819, and the produce of manufactures had doubled also. At the same time the price of the raw and the manufactured article had decreased one half since that period. It might be alleged that all these transactions were going on without yielding a profit. He doubted that proposition, because persons engaged in any branch of industry would not pursue it to disadvantage for a course of years. Of all branches of industry, none had suffered more than the ship-owners. He believed that he spoke within compass when he said that one half of the value of shipping had been lost. Yet when he looked at the present value of shipping, which was to be collected from the price at which new ships could be built, he did not think the ship-owners was a losing trade. The hon. Member had stated that 2,700,000l. had been exported to pay for corn, but if the hon. Member had consulted the slate of the exchanges during the period he spoke of, he would have them in our favour, and to say that gold was going out of the country, under such circumstances, was like saying that the Thames was running back to its source. The thing was impossible. We were importing, not exporting, gold at the time the hon. Member spoke of. Such an assertion, and unfortunately the House heard many such, could be made from complete ignorance alone. He believed that the distressed state of the country, as far as it was distressed, resulted from a variety of causes, no one of which was more prominent than unfavourable seasons, which had occasioned, if not a deficiency, bad or inferior crops, which were gathered at an unusually expensive rate. But surely the hon. Member would not say that at the present moment—now that the natural season for labour had arrived—that the agricultural class generally was unemployed. The contrary was the case: agricultural labourers were at present generally well employed. He had lately had occasion to make some inquiry relative to the trade of the city of London during the last two months and a half. The result of that inquiry was, that for two months and a half, ending with the 13th of March, there had been an increase in the deliveries of cotton, as compared with the same period last year, of 32,400 bales, or twenty per cent; in indigo, an article much employed in manufactures, particularly the woollen manufactures, there had been an increase of 49,0001bs. or fifteen per cent; in coffee 500 bags or twenty-seven per cent; and in sugar of 400 hhds. or twenty per cent. Such facts as those might not suit the taste of some gentlemen whose preconceived opinions they would controvert; but he believed that the House generally would hear them with great pleasure. It was well known to the House that almost every country of Europe, America, and even the new States of South America, were encouraging their own manufactures. Russia, with a serf population, with a winter of eight months, and with interest of money at ten per cent, even Russia endeavoured to force forward manufactures. The same might be said of Prussia, of Austria, and of the Netherlands. But it was true that the commodities of this nation, in spite of all opposition, found their way to those countries. In spite of the will of sovereigns and of governments, they were exported to those different parts in no inconsiderable quantities. He would briefly call the attention of the House to the United States of America. Many articles of British manufacture were there charged with a duty of fifteen, twenty-five, and some as high even as fifty-five per cent. Still, in the teeth of all these impediments, we found that our exports in the last year had exceeded those of any former year. He would confidently ask, was this a state of things that authorized the Members of that House to assert that the country was on the verge of ruin? He was firmly of opinion, that there was nothing in its situation to exclude hope, or to create despair. He was not aware that there was any other topic to which it was necessary for him to call the attention of the House. He should merely further observe, that, from all the accounts he had received from Ireland and Scotland, he had every reason to believe that the distress was less prevalent and less severe there than in some parts of England. But, looking fairly to the whole subject, his decided impression was, that the description of the distress as given in his Majesty's Speech was a more correct description than that which had been offered to them by many hon. Gentlemen who appeared to view with feelings of hopeless despondency the situation of the country.

Mr. Ward

said, he would take that opportunity of explaining the opinion which he had expressed on the first night of their meeting in the present session, because that opinion appeared to have been misunderstood. On that night he had stated, that he was called on to perform a public duty at a period of great difficulty and distress. He did not then say that distress was found only in some places, neither had he asserted that it was universal. He left Gentlemen themselves to decide as to the degree and extent of the distress. He asserted that the distress was of a most extraordinary character—an assertion by which he would still abide; and, if the House would give him leave, he could make it appear plainly why it was, in fact, of an extraordinary character. In 1810 the Berlin and Milan decrees took place, and the distress which followed evidently arose from them. In 1816, the transition from war to peace occasioned distress. In 1819 distress was caused by the alteration in the currency. And the distress of 1826 was created by the panic which preceded it. He had therefore stated that the existing distress was one of a most extraordinary character, because there did not appear any circumstance or feature of the kind which he had enumerated to which it could be traced. He felt it necessary to offer this explanation because his meaning appeared to have been somewhat misunderstood. It was for that purpose chiefly that he had risen, but being upon his legs, the House would perhaps allow him to say a few words on the question then under consideration. The hon. Member for Shaftesbury seemed to be of opinion, that those who argued that there ought to be a reduction of rents took a course which tended to undermine the connexion between landlord and tenant. He could say for himself that he was not one of those who would weaken the ties which bound landlord and tenant; but still no private feeling should prevent him from declaring that the rent of lands must, as it appeared to him, be reduced ere long; and he would, in a very few words, state why he thought so. If his opinions were erroneous, he should like to have it corrected and regulated by the opinions of others. The situation of the landholder and of the manufacturer was not so dissimilar as some persons might imagine. The former derived his subsistence from the land, the latter from the use of his capital. His idea was, that the relation between the landlord and tenant was precisely the same as that between the capitalist and the manufacturer—and as the interest on the money of the capitalist was in proportion to the profit of the manufacturer on his manufactures, so should the rent of the landlord be proportionable to the profit of the tenant on the produce of the land. Such being his opinion, since the interest on money did not exceed half what it was in the time of war (that on Exchequer Bills did not amount to half);—and, since rent had not come down in the same proportion— since it was not reduced by half, he could not support the landed proprietors when they came to that House, and clamoured for relief. He could not consent to maintain the landlord in the rents he enjoyed during the war, when the capitalist was obliged to be content with lower profits. His principal object in rising was, however, to make a few observations on the amount of the currency, on which, as producing the existing distress, so much stress had been laid. In 1828 he applied to the House for some information on that point, and by the account which was then produced he found there had been issued in gold the sum of 22,400,000l. From the 1st of May 1828, to the 5th of January 1829, there was a farther issue of gold from the Bank of 4,400,000l. From November 1828, to January 1829, an allowance must be made of half a million, on account of sovereigns exported from this country, making a total of 26,800,000l. in gold, supposed to be in circulation prior to November. Now, he understood that some further supply of gold from the Bank, through the Mint, little short, he believed, of 2,000,000l. sterling, had been added to the amount he had already mentioned. When, along with that, he took 19,000,000l. of notes issued by the Bank, and 9,000,000l. of notes of country bankers, he should arrive at upwards of 56,000,000l. of circulating medium, without including the silver currency. Now, prior to the Bank Restriction Act, there never was a circulating medium to a greater extent than 50,000,000l. sterling. They had therefore, at the present time, several millions more in circulation than they had at the former period. It was not the want of a circulating medium which created the present distress, but the absence of that confidence which was essential to the well-being of a country. It therefore appeared to him, that it would be wise in Gentlemen to consider well whether it was prudent, night after night, to make such statements to the people of England as tended still further to create distrust? The hon. Member for Shaftesbury called for an inquiry into the state of the currency, but he could see no use in mixing that subject up with the great and extensive question which he had specifically brought before the House. He was perfectly confident that such an inquiry would do no good. But before he left the subject of the currency he wished to state the views of those who had devoted their minds and labours to that most difficult and interesting question; and he must say, that he agreed with them in thinking that the best thing we could do would be to remain as we were. They had given stability to the currency, and if they departed from that principle now, they would not, perhaps, be able to return to it again. He recollected when, in 1819, this alteration took place, the currency was at that time in a most disgraceful state. No man could then with safety enter into any contract, for he could not tell what he was likely to receive. That was a reason, and a good reason, why some change should be made; and the question was, whether the change which had been effected was the best possible, under all the circumstances of the country? The next point for consideration was, whether they ought to have a double standard? He thought it was most extraordinary, after the simplification of the system of weights and measures a few years ago, to call for a double standard of value. It appeared strange to him that they should be called on to destroy the existing uniformity, which they unquestionably would do if they tolerated two standards. In that case the price of articles would be suspended, like Mahomet's coffin, between the two standards, and could conform to neither. Many persons, he knew, said, "Let us have a silver standard," although such a standard was much worse than gold, being more variable. Then, he would ask, what would be the consequence? Why, a large quantity of gold had been drawn together for the use of the country, which was to be given up to make room for silver. They must, it appeared, according to this doctrine, have recourse to silver that did not exist, instead of using gold that did exist. He would oppose such a project. He did not wish the country to make those sacrifices a second time which had already been encountered in procuring the necessary supply of gold. As the country now had a metallic currency, he thought it most advisable that it should retain that currency unaltered; and, in his opinion, we ought to feel thankful that we had got the better of that which must necessarily, at any time, have been a painful and dangerous operation. Farther, he would say that the distress of the country ought not to be attributed to lowness of prices, but to bad harvests. The price of wheat when Mr. Canning carried his proposition, was 57s. 4d. a quarter; but the price was considerably higher at present. Therefore it was the scarcity of corn, and not the want of price, to which distress ought to be traced. Another cause of distress was to be found in this circumstance,—that the number of poor had been much increased since the termination of the war. Not less than half a million of persons, who during the war were employed on different establishments, were, since the peace, thrown on the public. Nor ought they to leave out of sight the increase of machinery, and the ease with which, in consequence of steam navigation, the peasantry of Ireland came over here. These things all tended, in a very great degree, to produce distress. One thing in conclusion he wished to impress upon the House, and it was this, that whatever might be their situation, they were, under the influence of prices, beat down by competition, which compelled all persons to share alike in the public burthens. This was what he wished, as all he asked for was, a fair proportion.

Mr. Sadler

said, he could not avoid alluding to the statement made that evening with respect to the Town of Leeds, by the hon. Member for Bramber. He trusted the House would not be guided by private communications in preference to the statements contained in the document he had that night laid on its Table—a document which had been signed by 1,500 individuals, for the most part heads of families, who complained that they were in a situation of unparalleled distress. He asked the House if they would credit information derived from private sources, declaring that the country was prosperous, when they had daily laid before them petitions from every quarter of the United Kingdom praying for relief from the pressure of misery no longer tolerable? [During the time the hon. Member was speaking considerable confusion prevailed. Mr. Irving stood up, and appeared anxious to speak. The Speaker at length succeeded in restoring order.] Mr. Sadler proceeded. He had said nothing offensive to the hon. Gentleman. He had not impeached his veracity. [Mr. Irving again rose amidst cries of Order!] He was not conscious of having uttered anything offensive to any individual. He thought that private documents ought not to be placed in competition with public petitions. If private communications were to be entitled to such authority, he could draw a letter from his pocket, written by a person for whose respectability he had no doubt the County Members would vouch; and from this letter it would appear, that, in this very Leeds, men were supplying the place of animals, by carrying coals to the towns. He did say, that the statements of individuals should not be suffered to out-face the petitions of the people. It would be most mischievous and most insulting to the petitioners who humbly approached that House. He felt himself called upon to vindicate the veracity of the petitioners, whose distress he had brought under the notice of the House. In the petition he had presented, there were allegations of a peculiar character; and as they would be printed, he begged to call the most serious attention of the House to them. The petitioners complained of having been reduced to a state of the most pitiable distress, and this through no fault upon their part; yet they did not approach the House as paupers—they only besought it to protect their honest industry, that they might, as heretofore, maintain themselves and their families in competence and respectability. To them it was insulting, when they came humbly before the House, to have it stated that the town of Leeds was in a state of prosperity. At that time the wealthy inhabitants of Leeds were endeavouring to preserve from starvation no inconsiderable portion of their industrious townsmen. Their exertions, and the statements of the petition he had presented, were unhappily too much in unison, and 1,500 heads of families had on that very night intrusted him to present to the House a document that came at the very moment to shew the incorrectness of the private information of the hon. Member for Bramber. He could have wished that that touching document had been committed to abler hands, but confided to his he had done his duty in presenting it, and he had only to pray that his Majesty's Ministers and that House would lend a serious ear to its important statements. To him it was most painful to advert to the situation in which the industrious classes—the most numerous and certainly the most useful part of the community—had been placed for many years past; and it was painful to reflect on the manner in which they had been treated, their representations neglected, and their demands of redress treated with contempt. Alterations were made in the policy of the country, that policy under which it had risen to an unexampled pitch of power and prosperity—alterations which were recklessly made, which had the effect of undermining our grandeur, and had gradually reduced the middle and working classes to their present condition. From a state of comparative ease and opulence they had been plunged, he meant all those who lived by their labour, into penury and difficulty. These alterations were followed by depreciation in the price of all commodities, and nobody had derived any advantage from the mischievous change except a small minority, the public servants, who brought it about, and the public creditors. To them he might add those who, being stipendiaries on the country, who derive their incomes for no services, spent abroad or where they pleased, the sums they drew from an overburdened public. There were a few men in the country all-powerful, who had a multitude of reasons for not equally reducing the public expenditure to the general reduction of prices. They had made the country like an extravagant man of rank who, though he had wasted half his revenue, is not permitted to dismiss one servant of his establishments, and is compelled to proceed burthened with useless extravagance and grandeur, towards certain ruin. The only consolation Ministers could find for the country under such circumstances, was to praise, like the flatterers of the ruined victim of extravagance he had alluded to, the generosity of their master in paying to the last farthing all his debts of honour, leaving the tradesman who had supplied his wants to starve or perish in a gaol; so Ministers meant, though they starved the industrious people, to pay the debt of honour they had contracted to the public creditor. Every class of society he repeated except the mere monied capitalist, the fund-holder, and the pensioner, was in a state of extreme suffering, or sinking into such a state, and yet parties interested in believing the contrary, could assert that the country was prosperous, or if the general complaints were too loud for that assertion to gain credit, they could assert and find honest men to believe, that the distress was partial and temporary, confined to spots, and rapidly passing away. He might be disposed to believe, with the hon. Member for Bramber, that, as compared with the winter months there was an improvement, Spring was the seed-time, and if we were to be fed from the produce of our own fields, the agriculturists of England must now be at work. If we were to be clothed by our own manufacturers this was the most favourable season for their toil. He was not so much surprised at the improvement as to find it so trifling, considering the season of the year and the smallness of the various stocks on hand the demand for labour was not urgent. A spring without an increase of business would be like a spring without one bud or one flower. It sometimes happened, however, that the blights of spring were more melancholy to behold than the barrenness of winter, and he was apprehensive that such a blight would visit the spring of our industry. The causes which had produced the winter of our distress continued in operation, and would he was afraid augment that distress which Ministers had ventured only partially to deny. As long as the present policy were persisted in, he should not anticipate much from a returning gleam of prosperity. Though he might be utterly hopeless as to the final result, he must expect some such gleams from the struggles of our industrious people. The Dolphin was radiant in beauty in the hour of death: the retreating surge sometimes threw back a bold wave that almost touched its former height; but when the whole body of the waters was receding, when death had laid its iron hand on the denisen of the deep, a single wave or a single gleam of beauty could not restore life, or carry back the water to the top of the tide. No country ever had its prosperity annihilated at once, and he confessed that he saw in alternations of prosperity and distress only the fearful evidence of a violent struggle to avoid decay. In a few years there had been two or three such, and as they recurred later in time, they became more frequent and more violent. Notwithstanding the exertions and the ingenuity of the people, the Revenue was declining, the resources of the country were diminishing, and the population was discontented; while the advocates of what he might call the new system were deprecating the exertions to overcome our difficulties, and describing them as the results of unfounded and undue speculation. Gleams of prosperity were but exacerbations of the wasting disorder which was preying on the vitals of the country. An inquiry into the causes which had produced this alarming change in its condition was worthy of Parliament. There were some of them which he knew the House would be forbidden to explore, and they were precisely the causes which would probably be more interesting, being the sources of our disease. He was not afraid to meet his opponents on the general question, and it might be best approached by looking at those means of prosperity which still remained unimpaired, because they were beyond the reach of a ruinous policy. Looking then from the particular causes of distress to the general question, he must say, that if he were to contrast England as it was with respect to comforts and the elements of industry with what it had been some few years past, the consequence would be anything but favourable to her state at present. He thought that if the distress of the agricultural, manufacturing, and labouring classes were considered, it would be impossible for any man to draw a conclusion from the comparison, which would be satisfactory cither to his head or his heart. And yet this was something-strange; it would be allowed on all hands, that their duty should be to take advantage of the favourable circumstances of the country, to husband its resources for the benefit of the people—how then came this horrible visitation of distress? The present generation lived in the same country as their fathers—one of the most beautiful and fertile of the earth—they possessed the same elements of wealth— they possessed the same colonies, encompassing the globe like a belt, and bearing to our shores the produce of every soil and the luxuries of every clime—they had a superabundant capital—a capital that was adequate to drive the trade of the whole world, and, what was still greater and more highly to be prized than capital, they had industry which created all capital,—industry too that for its ingenuity, was unparalleled in the history of nations—and, withal, they possessed these in a period of long and profound peace (for they were assured by the Speech from the Throne that there was not a hostile gale to breathe upon the island); and yet what was it that now prevented them from developing those resources, and plunged them in a state of misery? It could be no trifling deviation from the path of duty. It must have been some fatal error. With respect to the causes which had been assigned for the distress by hon. Gentlemen, they were so numerous that he could hardly recollect them, and it would be amusing to sum up the catalogue, were it not too appalling to be a subject of mirth. It was only five or six years since, if he recollected right, that the Earl of Liverpool had attributed the distress of the country to over-production. This was sufficient for the time—but a few years after, it was said in the House of Lords that the distress proceeded from under production. Again, in 1826, the bankers were to blame—now it is the fashion to say the Irish bog-trotters are in fault. In 1827, we had too dry a season—in 1829, the season was too wet. Under all these conflicting opinions, then, he must still ask what was the cause of the distress? and if a Committee to inquire into it were granted, he, for one, would approach the question with the intention of considering it with truth and accuracy; and if all would consent to do this, it would show the people of England that the House of Commons was anxious to hear, even if it were impossible to redress. He thought, too, that some relief might be afforded— he would not hesitate to assert that a better system of agricultural protection might be established. The more they attended to the great and sustaining pursuit of agriculture the more would they do for the prosperity of the country. But that agriculture we had discouraged, throwing on it the odium of a supposed protection, without affording it a real protection, and we encouraged by our purchases the agriculture of foreigners, enabling them to accumulate a capital that would at some future day be brought to operate against ourselves. Our colonial trade was surrendered also to foreigners, who reaped all its advantages without in any manner contributing to the expenses of our possessions. Free trade, if placed on proper grounds, was undoubtedly a word of precious estimation; but if they were obliged to deal with many who would look only to their own prosperity, we should also take measures to secure ours. If prohibitory duties were imposed in other countries, protection was decidedly necessary in ours, to liberate the people from their distress. Free trade, in fact, as proposed to them, was merely a contemptible delusion. Hon. Members asserted that competition was the soul of trade; so it was; but what competition had they, but that of two men struggling for existence, when the hands of one were tied—of two individuals contending in the race, when one was loaded and borne to the ground? Thus they talked of free trade when there was nothing free, and of competition when there was nothing fair. It was true, if they took those for their councillors who had gained by the general depression and public calamity, they would see nothing more satisfactory than the state of the country; but, if they consulted their own understanding and their own hearts, they would find nothing less so; for, however flourishing might be the condition of the few, the mass of the people were suffering. With respect to the currency, he had to observe, that many misrepresentations had been made as to the views which he and the hon. friends with whom he sat entertained upon the subject; but it was useless for them to explain their principles when the policy of the existing order of things was already decided upon. The Currency was one of those few questions which were never to be considered: it was a sort of political blasphemy to allude to it: on all other matters you might touch, but if you ever ventured to talk of the Currency, you were sure to be forthwith stultified by all those hon. Members who, by some sudden illumination, had been made political economists. Now it appeared to him that the circulating medium was that which represented that property of a country which was perpetually interchanged. It, therefore, came to fix the value of all property whatsoever. If, then, they had not encumbrances of an amount and kind to which it was unnecessary to allude, it would be a matter of little consequence whether this circulating medium were multiplied tenfold, or diminished in the same degree. Thus, for instance, if we had only a few 100,000l. in circulation, and the labourer only received 1d. a-day, it would be of no consequence, since this penny would provide him with all the necessaries of life. But would any man be bold enough to say that, situated as they were at present, the prosperity of the labouring classes would not be deteriorated by the abstraction of a portion of the circulating medium? He would put the question in another form. Without pretending to know any thing of political economy, he believed he might lay it down, that capital was a remunerating profit on labour; and that debt was an engagement to pay for so much human labour. The circulating medium was the measure of this labour, and consequently, whatever affects that circulating medium, must deteriorate the measure of labour, and so reduce the amount of the labourer's profit or reward. To present this point in another form, he would ask, with respect to the agriculturists, how had the debt been contracted? They engaged to pay fifty millions of bushels of wheat, but from the alteration in the currency they now paid eighty millions of bushels: thus they "kept the word of promise to the ear, and broke it to the sense" and to the heart, of a large portion of the people. Turning, then, to the manufacturer, the question was, whether, since 1819, the value of his property had not diminished nearly one-half? He did all who sat on the benches round him the justice to believe that they wished to pursue the real interests of the country; but they were wofully mistaken, and their measures inevitably made a much larger quantity of labour be given by the great mass of the community, for the same commodities, or to pay the same debt, than would have been given if the circulating medium had not been changed. He did not understand the logic of the Chancellor of the Exchequer, on the subject of 5l. notes, nor why the issue of a 1l. note was more an invasion of the King's prerogative than the issue of a 5l. note. But if a 5l. note were the lowest denomination to be allowed in 1819, it was not to be forgotten, that at present a 3l. note represented a larger mass of labour: nevertheless, it was still contended, that no notes below 5l. ought to be issued. Another point connected with the currency was the endeavour to delude by mystification, and by pretending that the circulation of the country was convertible into gold; paper was, in truth, still the foundation, unless, like some mad architect, it was attempted to place a pyramid upon its apex, instead of its base. He saw no reason why a country should not thrive permanently upon a paper circulating medium. The North American Colonies, very early in their career of independence, had a paper currency exceedingly faulty and depraved, yet they had risen with astonishing rapidity to vast strength, by the multiplication of their inhabitants. He denied that a gold currency was a safeguard against panic; it would instantly disappear when the lower classes began to feel the alarm. On this point he again appealed to history, and asked if, when thousands and tens of thousands were ruined by the South-Sea Babble, the gold had not disappeared. At the same time, he was no friend to an unlimited issue of paper; he would have it involve a greater degree of responsibility, and those who furnished the notes should furnish this security, without attention to charters and monopolies. He would not detain the House more than a few minutes longer. He would have approached the great question of the currency by annihilating a certain portion of the National Debt, and thus have preserved the equilibrium between funded and landed property; but by the plan that had been pursued—to use a familiar figure—the cart had been put before the horse. Some hon. Members had talked of agricultural activity, but the month of March was the seed time, and then, if ever, the farmers must be busy, unless they meant the whole of their land to lie fallow. In the same way, manufacturers, if they had any work at all, were engaged during the Spring; but, hanging over that Spring, he saw a melancholy and a deadly blight, ready to destroy its blossoms. He admitted that at this moment the country was in a state of comparative ease: but this was only the passing-off of the stream,—the tide of distress would flow again. Highly gifted as he believed Ministers were— competent to their situation as he thought them—and honest as he was persuaded were their intentions—yet he doubted if they associated in themselves all the wisdom of the nation; and they might receive some useful suggestions from other quarters. He begged to hesitate before he concurred in the opinion that the statement made by the Chancellor of the Exchequer of last night would be generally satisfactory, because the relief must be partial; and it would be of little benefit, indeed, to the great mass of the community, who were most intensely suffering. In conclusion, he would state in three words what, in the present state of the country, the House ought to do:—1. It ought to compel a large reduction of taxation—2. A great diminution of expenditure—3. It ought to establish a fuller and sounder circulating medium.

Mr. Irving

explained, that the letter he had read was not from Leeds, but from Manchester. He had to complain, in the first place, of the rather severe language which the hon. Mover had used towards those who differed from him in opinion. He was a party to no conspiracy to resist the line of policy the hon. Member recommended, or in any manner to oppose inquiry. That line of policy, could he separate his own interests from that of the country, would be to his advantage.

Lord Howick

wished to explain his reasons for resisting the Motion. He had alluded to cloth manufacture when he said it was brisk at Leeds. The hon. Member, he believed, alluded to manufacturers of stuffs when he said the trade was dull. That was the amount of the difference between them. He did not oppose the Motion because he was insensible to distress, or because he wished to blink inquiry, but because the form of proceeding recommended would be found most inconvenient and ill calculated for the object in view. It was proposed that a Committee of the whole House should enter into all the wide matters connected with agriculture, manufactures, taxation, commerce, and the currency. Great benefit might result from particular investigations before Select Committees, but not from such general examinations before the whole body of the House. Great benefits might result, too, from such inquiries if prosecuted by his Majesty's Ministers, or by individual Members, who might afterwards submit their views to the House. With respect to the policy of his Majesty's Ministers, he thought that their internal policy, and the principles they had adopted in regard to trade, in spite of occasional errors, were entitled to the thanks and approbation of the House. He, therefore, would join in no attempt to cast general censure on them, or to convey an opinion, by a vote of the House, that they were unworthy of confidence. He had a still stronger objection to the manner in which the proposition was brought forward; for, although the hon. Mover had said, that he would recommend no measure, yet currency was the beginning, middle, and end of his speech, and a change in the existing state of things in this respect, was in fact inferred as the remedy for all evils. He (Lord Howick) was of opinion that no change in the currency could now be made without a. breach of national faith, and great injury to all classes. Amongst the errors and fallacies in the hon. Mover's speech, there was, however, he must admit, a mixture of truth and sense. He agreed with him, and with the hon. Member for Newark, in thinking that our circulation was not securely fixed. He agreed, too, with the hon. Member for Liverpool, that there was a great difference between the diminution of the value of the currency and depreciation. He begged, therefore, to throw out to Ministers, as a suggestion deserving their consideration, that if they would institute an especial inquiry into the state of the currency, it might repress unreasonable hopes and allay groundless fears. An additional reason for such an inquiry was to be found in the necessity of making some amendment of the Banking system; for, although the recent measures tended to erect strong banks, it did not prevent the establishment of weak ones; and the panic of 1826 was, in a great degree, owing to the failure of weak banks. Confidence was as necessary now as then, and if all the holders of paper were at this time to demand gold, it would be impossible to supply them. The consequences of such a state of things at the beginning of a war might be ruinous; the Bank of England would be called upon to supply all the country establishments; and in. 1826, the Bank of England was only prevented from stopping payment by the restoration of confidence.

Mr. Herries

said, he was rejoiced to find, that by the turn the Debate had taken, he was relieved from a great part of the task he had thought he should have been required to go through; the hon. Mover had advanced but few arguments, and fewer facts of importance, and little, therefore, remained for him but to point out the litter inapplicability of the mode of inquiry suggested. The hon. Mover had refrained from informing any member of the King's Government of the course he intended to pursue, and he had prepared himself for topics he expected to be touched, but to which the hon. Mover had not adverted. It was proposed to institute an inquiry before a Committee of the whole House, into some of the most extended and difficult questions that could be imagined, including the whole policy of the Corn-laws. Such an investigation must be endless, excepting as far as it must end in disappointment. At the same time, he was extremely anxious to avoid any appearance of unwillingness to inquire into the distresses of the country, as far as they really prevailed. If the House were disposed to listen to the minute details which would be necessary for the purpose of establishing the positions for which he felt himself warranted in contending, he was prepared to show that the variations in the currency did by no means suffice to account for the present state of the agricultural, manufacturing, and commercial classes of the country. In order to es- tablish such a position, it would be necessary for him to enter into a more lengthened statement than the House then seemed disposed to attend to. He regretted that that indisposition should exist, for he was anxious to lay those statements before the House, as well out of respect to the very interesting class of the community chiefly concerned in those topics, as from a sense of what was due to his Majesty's Government. But considering the little inclination which the House manifested to exert the patience required for such an investigation as that which he proposed, he meant to confine himself to a comparatively limited view of the subject which the hon. Member opposite had brought under the consideration of the House. But while, for that reason, he abstained from pressing upon the House those arguments to which it seemed so little inclined to attend—requiring, as these arguments confessedly would, support and illustration from a variety of documents—he did feel it absolutely necessary to make a few observations upon the main points which had been brought into discussion. One of these points was the existence and the extent of the distress now made the subject of such general complaint. An hon. Member opposite had objected to the testimony offered by Members of that House as to what fell under their own observations, or came to them from sources of private information, and contended that information of that nature was not to be put in opposition to the statements contained in petitions presented to that House. Now, he confessed, he saw no ground for disparaging the information which was not contained in the petitions on the Table of the House. While, on the one hand, every respect was due to the statement of petitioners—(and he might add, while every respect was paid to those statements,) he did, on the other hand, maintain that the information which hon. Gentlemen might possess, was well worthy of the serious attention and consideration of Parliament, and could not fail to prove on that, as on many occasions, of the highest value and importance; and hon. Members, in communicating that information from the private sources within their reach, were doing no more than their duty—nay, were conferring an important benefit upon the House, and upon the country in whose service it was engaged. He saw no reason why informa- tion of that nature should not be considered as useful as any that came through the medium of petitions. He confessed he felt inclined to follow the course of laying before them such information as he possessed, and had acquired from private sources; and he trusted that no attempt would be made to rebut his statements by reference to petitions; for with-out attempting to impugn the assertions of the petitioners, he must be permitted to say, that his sources of information were quite as authentic. The object with which he then addressed the House was, in the first place, to show, that though distress existed, to some extent, in the manufacturing and agricultural districts, yet he would maintain that the distress was far from universal—far from being any thing like so general as it had been the pleasure of some hon. Members to represent—that in fact, so far from general distress being the prevailing condition of the country, there did exist, in many quarters, much that might be called comparative prosperity. He should recur to the proofs of this assertion with much satisfaction, enabling him, as they would, to answer the objections which had been urged to the so often repeated quotation from the Speech pronounced from the Throne. He (Mr. Herries) was in possession of information as to the state of the country from private sources of the greatest authority, from which he was prepared to show, that those who concluded that the distress in our agricultural and manufacturing districts was general through the country, were greatly mistaken. He was prepared to show that the objections made to the expressions contained in the Speech from the Throne, as being more partial representations of the condition of the country than the facts warranted, were without foundation; and the more this subject was investigated, the more the inquiry was pursued, and the more information was received on it, the more hon. Members would find that the expressions used in that Speech were borne out by the fact. It would hardly be said—[symptoms of impatience being evinced by several hon. Members, the right hon. Gentleman said,] he begged the indulgence of the House for a short time; he was quite sensible that the House was so fully prepared as to the vote they should come to on this subject, that very many Members were unwilling to listen to any arguments opposed to their own conclusions; but he begged the attention of hon. Members for a short time, while he briefly stated the grounds on which he had formed his opinion, that there did not exist that general prevalence of distress in the country which some hon. Members were disposed to believe. In the situation which he had the honour to hold, communications daily reached him with respect to the condition of several important manufacturing and agricultural districts, from parties who had the best opportunities of judging of the facts which they stated, and of coming to the most correct conclusion as to the inferences to be drawn from them. Now he would state to the House the substance of a few of the communications of this sort which had reached him. The first he would refer to came from a gentleman largely engaged in manufactures in the eastern part of Scotland, whose name was sufficient to give validity to his statements. He said, "weaving labour of the best class has not fluctuated much from 1826 to 1830, while the commoner class, which is liable to more variation in the demand, has varied proportionately. As a whole, there has not been a want of employment, either agricultural or manufacturing, for any part of the population on the east coast of Scotland, from the Forth to the north point of Aberdeenshire, which is the manufacturing district, at any period from 1825 to 1830, with some local exceptions in the early part of 1826, immediately after the panic. No statement of the rate of wages per week given, as the earnings vary with age and skill." He had also received communications from Glasgow, which would show what was the state of that town. A letter, dated the 12th instant, the writer of which was an unquestionable authority, said, "Trade here is gradually improving, the weavers are all employed and, in some cases, an advance of wages has been obtained." He was reading these communications in the presence of many Members, who could state, from their knowledge of that part of the United Kingdom, whether he was misleading the House, and who would set him right if he made any incorrect statements. Another communication from the same quarter said, "I can state that on the western coast of Scotland there is more appearance of improving trade, particularly at Glasgow, within the last year than has been known for many years back." He might state to the House, as he was allowed to do so, the name of the author of this letter; and when he mentioned Mr. Kirkman Finlay, he was sure that the House would need no better authority. That gentleman had also given him information, that the condition of the agriculturist was improving as well as the condition of the manufacturer. He would next proceed to speak of the manufacturing towns further south, but first he would refer to Liverpool, as amply justifying the expressions used in the Speech from the Throne. It was not to be expected that in a place the trade of which was so extensive and various, some depression must not be felt, when any degree of general depression existed. He should be disposed to assert, indeed, that whenever general distress existed among the agricultural and manufacturing classes, it must affect Liverpool seriously; and he should infer, from the absence of distress in Liverpool, that no general distress could exist in the country. He would appeal, then, to the testimony of his right hon. friend, and the gallant General, the Member for that town, to confirm his statement; and he would affirm, in their presence, and in the presence of other Members well acquainted with the fact, that the state of Liverpool was one of considerable improvement. If Liverpool and Glasgow were flourishing—if the east and the west coast of Scotland were not in distress, his Majesty's Ministers were surely entitled to say, that the distress was partial, not universal. To come next to the great manufacturing towns. He would take, for instance, that of Leeds, and on the authority—the best in that town—that of Mr. Gott—he could state, that the rate of wages was higher than it had been for some time past; and the number of men employed had not been diminished. This statement was confirmed by that of Mr. Nevins, who stated, that having been fifty years engaged in the manufacture of fine woollen cloth, and considering the situation of those he employed, he could say that it was never better than at present. There was not, it was true, so much employment for children, as there was not so much doing in coarse yarns, but the employment of men and women continued as good as ever. Mr. Nevins employed 290 men, 87 women, and 57 children. This gentleman added, that the workmen in the woollen manufacture were fully em- ployed. Now another testimony as to the state of Leeds, was found in the answers given to queries sent round by an hon. Member, (Mr. Slaney), who diligently sought for information as to the condition of the people in several parts of the country. Several of those were sent to Leeds; and the thirteenth query was—" To what do you attribute the depression of the working classes at Leeds?" and the answer to it was—" There is no unusual depression amongst the working classes here." There was, he contended, a practical answer to much of the vague declamation in which hon. Members had indulged. He would trouble the House with one extract more, relating to the manufacture of superfine cloths, which cannot be done by a child, on account of the breadth, and consequently on account of the strength necessary to throw the shuttle. From the accounts furnished by Messrs. Hargreaves and Sinat, Leeds, on March 15th, only yesterday, it appeared that the wages of their superfine-cloth-weavers per week were, from 1790 to 1796, 13s. to 16s.; 1796 to the end of the war 18s.; 1815 to 1820, 15s. to 16s.; 1820 to 1825, 20s. 1826 to 1830, 16s. to 17s. These Gentlemen stated that their workmen had at present as high wages, according to the price of provisions, as ever they paid; but they saved no money, because they indulged in many luxuries. There were few people out of employment in the woollen trade at Leeds. The distress was chiefly amongst the stuff weavers and makers of plaids, a fancy article that has gone out of demand. It was a good trade some time ago, but fashion had banished the article from use. The whole of these communications were made in the present month. The right hon. Gentleman next quoted the testimony of an intelligent banker, derived from an hon. friend of his, a Member, he observed, of the House, with respect to the state of another extensive manufacturing district, which would show that those hon. Members who looked only at the gloomy side of the picture did not correctly represent the actual condition of the country. This communication he would read. Alluding to certain papers inclosed, the writer says, "These statements tend to show, that the national distress has not been universal; and in further corroboration of such opinion, and also, that what distress did exist, is making way for prosperity, I submit to you the following remarks:— The population in the south and west of Staffordshire, and in Birmingham, are generally employed, and exhibit as few symptoms of discontent as ever I recollect to have been shown. I am informed, that at Manchester, on Wednesday last, more goods were sold than have been sold in one week for several years past, and many of them at advanced prices. The factors, (inland merchants) in Birmingham, Wolverhampton, and this town, inform me that in their journey, since Christmas last, they have received money and orders to an extent quite commensurate with former years. This is gratifying, because not only is life and activity infused into our own district, but it brings proof of the favourable state of distant counties. Some of the iron masters are probably carrying on their works to no profit; but, low as the state of that trade is, I incline to the opinion, that it returns a fair interest upon the capital expended, and I imagine it is not the duty of a legislature to create a state of things which shall answer the purpose of every wild and moneyless speculation. Iron is now advancing in price and is in brisk demand; I was at Birmingham yesterday, where every thing exhibited symptoms of cheerful activity; and at every manufactory or shop I visited (and I met with some professed and regular croakers), I was gratified with the admissions, in answer to my queries on the subject, that" trade was pretty good," or "things were improving," &c. &c. The illusion of the present outcry in regard to general distress was, I thought, well shown | by one person with whom I conversed, and who had contended against me for its existence. "I must say (said he), that when I ask commercial gentlemen about the state of affairs, the answer generally is, ' why, as to myself, I am pretty well off", but my neighbours make great complaints.' Houses for the reception of artificers and labourers, are, at this time, building to a considerable extent in Birmingham, Wolverhampton, and Walsall; and, I observe, they are, generally speaking, better both in regard to size and comfort than have usually been occupied by such tenants. Other local tests, such as turnpike-tolls, &c. exhibit proofs of increasing traffic."

This communication would satisfy the House, that the condition of the population in the west part of Staffordshire was greatly improved, that they were generally employed, and that there was nothing of discontent amongst them. The business of Birmingham, Wolverhampton, and Walsall, it appeared, was greatly improved; that the manufacturers there had lately got as many orders as in any year for a long time. It was true, that some of the iron-masters worked below a profit, perhaps, but they made as much as the capital they expended; and the legislature could not, by any act, support thriftless speculators. The condition of the workmen themselves, he was pleased to observe, and wished to make the House observe, from the mention made of those buildings, was greatly improved. He would not fatigue the House with longer statements, but he had received several other communications, all showing that the manufacturing interests were not in that depressed state which some hon. Members represented, and that there was a satisfactory prospect of still greater improvement. Having shown this, he would now say one word as to the causes to which hon. Members attributed that which he admitted to constitute the distress of the country—the low price of labour, low profits, and low returns on investment. If hon. Members attributed these to the changes in the currency, he could assure them they were much mistaken. He did not deny that the changes in the character of the currency had produced partial pressure, but he did deny that that pressure was so extensive as had been stated. He would not then open any new views of our currency system, as other more fitting occasions would present themselves, but would content himself with confidently asserting, that the changes in the currency were not the cause of the present distress, and that therefore the remedy should not be sought in retracing our steps in our monetary system. With respect to what had fallen from a noble Lord (Howick) opposite, on the subject of banking, he wished to say, that he concurred with the noble Lord as to the importance of the subject, and willingly admitted that it was well worthy of the consideration of the House, with a view to affording greater facilities to the formation of local banks, than the law at present permitted. It was well known to the House, that though some of the obstacles which the Charter of the Bank of England placed in the way of such establishments had been somewhat relaxed in 1826, many Other obstacles must be removed before the banking system of the country could be placed on that broad basis of national advantage and stability which he begged leave to assure the House Ministers were anxious it should rest upon. The right hon. Gentleman repeated, that it was the ardent wish of the Government to place the general banking system of the country on that broad basis; and to effect that as soon as circumstances would permit. Ministers conceived, he said, that the Joint-stock banking system presented advantages to the public beyond those which the private banking could, in the nature of things, afford. There would be, in the first place, a greater security for the holder of the notes issued; and, what was a still greater recommendation, and should be an indispensable condition, such banks could endure, and should be required to give, publicity to the amount of their issues. This publicity was the great recommendatory feature—in fact, the essence—of Joint-stock banks; indeed, he would almost say it was peculiar to such banks, as few private banks could endure, or ought in fairness to be required, to put the public in full possession of all their transactions. The system he should like to see acted upon, would be one similar in kind to that so long in force in Scotland; for he thought none was likely to be equally conducive to the wants, resources, and interests of the country. That system was, in his conviction, the best which Parliament could sanction, and it was that which Ministers wished to see established, and would support, though they could not then take upon themselves to specify the period within which it would be recommended to Parliament, and measures brought forward to ensure its establishment. In conclusion, the right hon. Gentleman said, he should oppose the Motion of the hon. Member, as he conceived it could only tend to keep the public mind in a state of agitation without any counterbalancing advantage. The remedy for the present distress was not in the power of Parliament;—it was to be sought for in the innate energies of the country alone. That distress was not confined to Great Britain—it extended over the commercial world, and arose from causes over which there could not in any state be a legislative control. He would, with permission of the House, read an extract from the report of Mr. Ingram, the Secretary to the Treasury in the United States, in order to show that that gentleman took a similar view of the causes and extent of the present general distress as that entertained by his Majesty's Ministers. To the concluding sentence of Mr. Ingram's report he wished to direct the best attention of the House: "It may not be unprofitable to observe that a total revolution is taking place in many productive employments throughout the civilized world. The improvements in science and arts, no longer interrupted by war, have been directed to other objects, and have so increased the power of production, that the tide of prices which had been long on the flood is now gradually ebbing, even under a depreciated currency. The relative values between labour and product have also changed, but are not yet adjusted. The depression of prices falling unequally on different species of property is ruinous to many, and repugnant to the feelings even of those who do not suffer. It may be long before a proper adjustment of these values removes the evil, and until then the busy world will be agitated by the convulsive struggles of its various interests each to avert from itself, and throw upon others, the impending adversity. The ramifications of these connecting and conflicting operations are so complicated that it may be doubted whether any degree of intelligence, however free from the influence of special interests, could by the exercise of political power materially lessen the evil. The active energies of man, stimulated by necessity, emulation, and the love of wealth, are perhaps the agents most to be relied upon, in maintaining a salutary equilibrium in the various operations of human enterprise." So with his Majesty's Government with respect to the distress which the hon. Member had brought that evening under the consideration of the House. For that distress they looked with confidence to the innate resources of the country for the best and speediest remedy. [hear, hear]

Sir C. Burrell

was anxious that an inquiry should be instituted into the causes and probable remedies of the present condition of the country, but should prefer an impartial select committee to one of the whole House, as proposed by the hon. Member for Shaftesbury. With the view of obtaining a select committee, he should propose, as an Amendment to the hon. Member's Motion, that a "Select Committee be appointed to inquire into the cause of the present Distress, and into the remedies for that Distress."

Alderman Waithman

seconded the Amendment.

On the question, upon the Amendment being put,

Mr. Fergusson

rose, to suggest to the House the expediency of not coining to a conclusion on a question of such importance without further discussion. Many hon. Members were, as he knew, anxious to express their opinions on it; but the lateness of the hour precluded them on that occasion, and the subject was, to all intents and purposes, as yet almost untouched. He therefore should propose, "That the further consideration of the Motion before the House be adjourned till Thursday."

The further Debate was accordingly fixed for Thursday next.

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