Mr. Alderman Waithman
rose, in pursuance of his notice, to move his Resolutions relating to the Trade and Manufactures of the country. The hon. Alderman observed, that he laboured under considerable difficulty in calling the attention of the House to this subject. His Resolutions had been some time ago printed and circulated; but the subject was not very popular in the House; nor was it very popular with a great portion of the Press. At the same time, he must say for himself, that he had consulted many able persons; and that his views of the question met with their entire concurrence, as to the importance of the subject, and as they did not differ from him as to the inferences which he was inclined to draw from the returns, he felt encouraged in the arduous task which he had undertaken. He had no other object than to lay the truth before the House. He had derived most of the facts on which the Resolutions were founded, which he intended to submit to the House, from official Returns. The 557 question was, in his opinion, of the utmost importance, and was one to which, for years and years, he had been anxious to call the attention of the House. The greatest fallacies had been promulgated upon the subject in the speeches in the House, and even in the Speeches from the Throne. When petitions were presented, complaining of overwhelming distress, it was said, that the distress was only partial and temporary, and that, upon the whole, trade and commerce were flourishing. It had been declared last Session, in the Speech from the Throne, that the exports exceeded in amount those of any former period, a statement that would be found entirely fallacious when the real value of the exports was seen. Feeling as he did that the distress was not of a temporary nature, and that the causes of it were either unknown or misrepresented, he had applied himself closely to examine the state of our trade and manufactures, and to ascertain the amount of the depreciation which they were suffering. The official valuation of our exports afforded no criterion of present prices; but merely showed the increase and decrease of quantity. The appreciation and depreciation of price must be ascertained by comparison between the declared or real value. He had heard a great many contradictory statements in that House, with respect to the peculiar character of the distress. Sometimes it was said, that it was the manufacturing, sometimes that it was the agricultural classes that were suffering. He had seen several plans for relieving the distress; but the first thing necessary was, to ascertain the cause. In his opinion, the real cause of the distress was, the unequal distribution of property, arising from the measures of Government with respect to the currency and to trade, from which the productive classes were deeply suffering, while other classes were left wholly untouched. The very mention of the Currency question seemed to be considered dangerous, and to be exploded. The noble Lord (Althorp) had expressed his unwillingness to re-open that subject, while he admitted that what had taken place with respect to the currency might have had some operation upon the present state of things. The Resolutions which he was about to submit to the House were divided into three branches. The first branch related to the actual depreciation in value of the exports which would be seen by comparing 558 the real value of the exports with the official. The second branch went to shew the fallacy of an actual amount of the export trade for several years past, as compared with the actual amount of former years, without reference to the depreciation in value; and the third branch of the resolutions would show the great and increasing disparity of the imports as compared with the exports. They would also shew the particular periods of fluctuation in the value of our manufactures as connected with alterations in the currency, and how far it might be supposed, that any measures before the House — such as changes in the poor-laws, any plans of emigration, any reduction of taxes, were capable of remedying the existing evils. It was his firm conviction, that from none of these could any substantial relief be obtained; and that no substantial relief could ever be afforded to the country by the mere reduction of taxation, or by measures for relieving the poor. The middle classes had been broken down; and the distress of the poor was the result. The true way of relieving the poor was to remove the distress of the farmers, and of all persons connected with the trade and manufactures of the country, which were the connecting; links that furnished them with employment and support. He thought, that in these Resolutions would be seen the most extraordinary facts that had ever been promulgated. To him (Mr. Alderman Waithman) it appeared to be a matter of the greatest astonishment that no attention had been paid by a single Member of that House to the real facts of the case. Taking the first five years of the period to which he had extended his inquiries, it appeared that the average annual excess of the real beyond the official value, from 1799 to 1803, was 15,000,000l. The average annual excess of the next five years, from 1803 to 1S08, was of nearly the same amount. In the next five years it was something less. In the year 1813 the real value exceeded the official by nearly 6,000,000l.; and it was worthy of observation, that from that year to the year 1819, there was a depreciation of value amounting to nearly 10,000,000l. From the year 1819 to the year 1824, from being 6,000,000l. above the official value in the former year, the real value descended to 4,000,000l. below the official in the latter. In 1803 the excess of the real value over the official value was 559 20,000,000l.; but in the last year, ending with the 5th of January, 1831, the depreciation in the real value, as compared with the official, was nearly 20,000,000l. And yet, in the very last year, the Speech from the Throne declared, that the exports had exceeded those of any former year. He did not mean to say, that Government made that statement knowing it to be false; he had no doubt they were ignorant of the depreciation in the real value of the exports; but when the papers were produced, it would appear that the official value had increased by 3,500,000l. but the real value was 1,000,000l. less than that of the preceding year. Thus our boasted prosperity consisted in giving away 4,500,000l. of the labour of the country, without receiving one farthing's worth in return. By adding the average yearly decrease of the real value below the official in the last five years of his estimate to the average excess of the first five years, it would be seen that the depreciation was above 28,000,000l. per annum. He also maintained, that at the present moment, when it was proposed to relieve the country by a reduction of taxation, it was desirable to see how far that object would be effected by the means proposed. With respect to the remission of one of the taxes—the duty on printed calicoes, with the imposition of a duty on the raw material, he saw no objection to it. But he was sure the noble Lord would, on a little consideration, feel the oppression and absolute ruin that would attend the reduction of the duty on printed calicoes without making compensation to the holders of goods of that kind. There were some individuals who held 5,000 or 6,000 pieces of goods, by which they would, if the duty were not remitted to them, lose 3,000l. or 4,000l. In some cases they would lose twenty per cent, instead of making any profit. The hon. Alderman stated, that the duty now pro- posed to be put upon raw cottons was equal to one-fifth of their average value. It was this duty which the Government proposed to substitute for that which they had taken off the printed calicoes. Now, he must say, that unless the Government consented to make a drawback in favour of those who had large stocks of printed calicoes on hand, and who had already paid the duty for them, they would occasion a great injury to a large portion of the cotton trade.—The Government had 560 too often interfered in this way, without a due consideration of the interests of those immediately concerned; and had produced considerable inconvenience. He charged them with having done this—he did not mean the present Government, nor even, particularly, the last—but all the Governments we had had for the last twenty years. They had devised measures which they considered to be calculated to promote the benefit of productive industry at home, and to increase the amount of foreign trade; but these measures, he was sorry to say, had always had a contrary effect, and the foreign trade had declined in real amount and in profit. There was property enough in the country; but it was unequally distributed; and that unequal distribution was a cause of the great evil. That inequality was much assisted by these partial measures of interference, that often gave an advantage to a few, while, for the time at least, they oppressed and ruined many. He now came to the second branch of the resolutions—namely, that which related to the real value of the exports, as compared with the real value of former years. From that it appeared, that upon the average of all exports for ten years, from the 5th of January, 1808, to the same period in 1819, they had increased 4,500,000l. per annum, it was natural that this increase should take place, considering the manner in which the population had increased in the mean time.— But let the House mark the difference. From the year 1819 to 1830, the annual amount of exports had decreased in real value about 6,000,000l., and that decrease took place notwithstanding the increase of the population. Now, that increase of population was great enough to have occasioned an increase on the real value of the annual exports, to the amount of 6,000,000l., so that the difference (when the two were added together) nearly equalled 12,000,000l. What did all this prove, except that profits were lowered, and trade had diminished in amount. He had always considered that the Board of Trade, looking at the circumstances under which it was conducted, was one of the greatest nuisances the country ever had. He did not think that the measures recommended of late by that Board had been productive of advantage but the contrary. The only good foreign trade now carried on by this country was carried on with our own colonies. There was 561 the Canada trade, for instance, which supported 1,600 ships, and yet, at the recommendation of that Board, the House were now called on to inflict an injury on that trade, for the purpose of opening the trade with the Baltic. All the articles used in our colonies were manufactured in this country, and yet, for the supposed chance of benefiting the revenue, that trade was to be sacrificed, in order to create a trade with the Baltic, although the countries round the Baltic took scarcely any of our manufactured goods. On the contrary, they took chiefly those things which were but partially manufactured, as, for instance, cotton twist and colonial produce. Between the year 1819 and the present time, the exports of our cotton twists had increased from 1,000,000l. to 5,000,000l. and eight-tenths annually; and all these half-manufactured articles were taken to the North of Europe, in favour of which we were going to sacrifice our own colonies, though the nations for which we were to make this sacrifice would not lake our manufactured goods in return. For some years past, especially since this system of free trade (which was not a free trade) had come into operation, the supporters of the system had endeavoured to prop it up, by asserting that it made all articles of necessity or comfort cheaper, and that the consumption of these articles was much increased among the lower orders. He denied the truth of that statement; and he declared, that, in admitting foreigners to a free competition, we put an end to our own manufacturing industry; and the lower orders being thus thrown out of employment, could not afford to enjoy those articles, the consumption of which, it was said, had so much increased. He would now proceed to the third branch, and shew the increasing disparity between the imports and the exports. The thirteenth Resolution he meant to propose related to this subject. That Resolution stated, that the amount of imports had considerably decreased. Taking the official valuation of each, they bore no proportion to the amount of exports — the latter having increased, from 1798 to 1830 (including foreign and colonial produce), from 27,000,000l. to 66,000,000l.; being an advance of 39,000,000l.; while in the same period, the imports have increased only from 25,000,000l. to 42,000,000l. being an advance of 562 17,000,000l. only. It further appeared, from the papers, that while the exports for the ten years up to 1808, exceeded the imports by 5,000,000l., the excess in the ten years up to 1819, amounted to 144,000,000l., and in the ten years ending in 1830 to 200,000,000l. These were some of the important particulars to which he wished to direct the notice of the House, and he was sure they would be considered deserving of the most serious attention. What was the legitimate inference from these facts? Why, that the country suffered a great loss, for the loss upon exports was considerable, and he would assert, though Ministers had repeatedly declared the contrary, that the distress felt throughout the country never was so great as at the present moment. He knew that political philosophers said, that if they got 150 casks of wine for 150 bales of goods, instead of getting 100 casks of wine for 100 bales of goods, they were at least as well as before, if, indeed, they were not better off'. He denied this. He asserted, that the only person who was benefited was the unproductive consumer, the wine drinker. He insisted, that to confer any real benefit upon the people, the Government must raise the value of property to the amount of the taxes, or bring down the taxes to the value of property. The people were no longer to be deceived with tales of their improvement and prosperity, at a time when they were really suffering from distress. He had the fullest confidence in the views and intentions of the noble Lord who was at the head of the finances of the country, and likewise in the talents and integrity of the right hon. Baronet, the member for Cumberland (Sir J. Graham); but, however estimable they might be as individuals, as Ministers they could expect to possess no hold on public opinion, unless by measures of real public advantage. He gave his full approbation to the Ministers for some of the taxes they had commuted, and for those they had repealed; but he thought that others were objectionable, and that they would be so considered by the country. With respect to what had been said about the Government withdrawing a part of the Budget, he must say, that he thought they had proceeded in a most honourable manner. They had only yielded to the expression of the feeling of that House, as they were bound to do, instead of perse- 563 vering in measures against which the House had so strongly declared their opinions. He was sure that the country would fully appreciate such frank and manly conduct. The hon. Alderman concluded by moving the following Resolutions:—
- 1. That it appears from papers laid before this House on the 5th of April, 1830, and ordered to be reprinted on the 10th day of November in the same year, that considerable variation has taken place in the official and real value of British and Irish manufactures and produce, exported from Great Britain from the year ending the 5th of January, 1799, and the year ending the 5th of January, 1830.
- 2. That the official valuation, being an estimate founded upon a rate of prices in the Custom-house books, which had been formed at a very remote period, and remaining without variation, affords no criterion whatever of present prices, but serves to show the increase and decrease in quantity, and the appreciation and depreciation in price, as compared with the declared or real value.
- 3. The following Averages, formed from the documents before the House, will show the yearly amount, with the comparative yearly increase and decrease in value, upon an average of the respective periods stated:—
|Years ending||Yearly Average of official value.||Yearly Average of real Value.||Increase of real over official.||Increase of official over real.|
|Jan. 5, 1801||22,674,252||37,793,736||15,109,482|
§ 9. That the highest point of excess of the real over official value was in 1803, it having increased since 1798 from 12,000,000l to nearly 20,000,000l. That the lowest point of depression was in 1829, it having descended to more than the same amount below the official, as will appear by the following statement from official returns:—1803.
|Amount in real value||£.45,102,330|
|Amount in official value||25,195,893|
|Excess of real value over official||19,966,437|
|The lowest point of depreciation was in the year ending the 5th of January, 1830, when the exports were—1830.|
|Decrease of real value under official||20,252,850|
|Making a depreciation in real value of||40,159,287|
|10. That at the commencement the last Session, this House was assured by the Government, in the Speech from the Throne, "that the exports had exceeded those of any former year, and afforded indications of active commerce, although it was admitted that distress existed in some places." It appeared, however, by papers subsequently laid before this House, that although the Exports had exceeded those of the former year in quantity, as denoted by official valuation, to the amount of||3,445,955|
|Yet in real value they were below those of the former year||937,506|
|Being a depreciation in that one year of||4,383,461|
§ EXPORTS AT REAL VALUE.—11. That setting aside the official valuations, and comparing the actual value of the Exports of latter years with those of the former, an alarming decrease will appear to have taken place in the foreign trade of the country, as will be seen by the following averages, taken from the same document:—
|Ten Years ending]||Yearly Amount of Real Value.||Increase.||Decrease.|
§ 12. That the Exports upon the average of the last eleven years, compared with the previous ten years, have, notwithstanding the great increase of population, fallen off above 6,250,000l. perannum.
§ IMPORTS AND EXPORTS.—13. That the Imports', it will be seen, taken by the same official valuation, bear no proportion to the Exports, the latter having increased from 1798 10 1830, including foreign and colonial produce, from 27,000,000l. to 66,000,000l., being an advance of 39,000,000l., while in the same period the Imports have increased only from 25,000,000l. to 42,000,000/., being an advance of 17,000,000l. only, not one-half of the former.565
§ Yearly Exports and Imports upon the following averages:—
|Ten Years ending||Yearly Exports.||Yearly Imports.||Relative diminution of Imports.|
§ Exports and Imports of the last two years: —
|Years ending||Exports.||Imports.||Comparative diminution.|
|January 5, 1829||61,948,383||43,536,187||18,412,196|
|14. Whereby it appears that there was, in the last year, a relative deficiency in the Imports, as compared with the Exports, both taken at official value, to the immense amount of nearly||24,000,000|
|15. That it further appears, that whilst the quantity of Exports of the last year had exceeded the Exports of the prior year, by||4,123,781|
|There was a decrease in Imports below the Imports of the former year, by||1,225,536|
|Being a relative deficiency in one year of||5,349,317|
|16. That it is also to be observed, that of those Imports there were less retained for home consumption than in the previous year, by||1,902,324|
17. That the gross amount of excess of Exports over Imports was as follows:—
|In 10 years up to 1808, above||5,000,000|
|In 10 years up to 1819, above||144,000,000|
|In 10 years up to 1830, above||200,000,000|
|18. That in the last two years the excess of the Exports over the Imports was||42,000,000|
§ 19. That without attempting to draw conclusions from such coincidental circumstances, it cannot escape observance, that periods of the greatest fluctuation, depression, and distress have occurred, at periods when certain legislative measures have been either under consideration or in operation, of which the following are instances:—
|20. That by comparing the year ending the 5th of January, 1818, to the year 1815, a period of three years only, the depreciation in the real value of Exports below that of the official, amounted to||9,130,825|
|22. That the year 1818 was, comparatively, a prosperous year; prices had so far recovered, that the depreciation became less than that of the former year by||2,103,827|
|23. That in the year 1819, measures were adopted respecting the currency; prices again declined; a period of great distress ensued; and in the year ending the 5th of January, 1825, the depreciation had fallen so far below that of the year 1818 (a space of six years) as to amount to||13,644,526|
|24. That in the year 1822 the Small-note bill passed; and in 1825 prices had again so far recovered, that, compared with the preceding year, the depreciation had been lessened by||2,049,239|
|25. That in 1826 measures respecting the currency, and other measures which were said to have for their object the extension of commerce and navigation, the improvement of trade, the increase of the manufactures, and the removal of public distress, came into operation; but, notwithstanding the confident assurances held out, great distress and embarrassment have followed, and continued with more or less severity in the present time; and in the year ending the 5th of January, 1830, compared with 1825 (a period of four years), the depreciation had further increased beyond that before stated to the amount of||11,887,158|
§ 26. That under such comparative changes and fluctuations, and under such an alarming depression in the value of the manufactures and produce of the country, affecting so deeply all its productive interests, rendering taxation nearly double in its oppressive operation, and hearing with such peculiar severity upon all the middling and labouring classes of society, who are now suffering the greatest distress and privation, it has become imperiously necessary to adopt the most speedy inquiry, and to devise the most efficacious means for relief. 27. That without at present giving any opinion as to the causes or the remedies, this House cannot but express its confidence that his Majesty's Government will satisfy the just and anxious expectations of the country, by a prompt and effectual inquiry into the causes that have produced such difficulties and distress, and adopt such measures as may be best calculated for their removal.
§ Mr. Irving
bore a willing testimony to the hon. Alderman's industry in examining the several tables of exports and imports which had been printed in obedience to the orders of that House, but could not help pointing out the great delusions, or fallacies, which pervaded his reasonings upon them. The worthy Alderman laid great stress on what he alleged to be the excess of our export over our import trade, or what he calls the difference between real and official values; but he seemed to forget that men in trade, like men out of trade, seek their own interest; and it would not be their interest to export more than they imported—to give more than they received; and that therefore the supposition of such a system of commerce 567 being persisted in for any length of time is, considering the motives to human actions, an impossibility. The great error of the hon. Alderman, in common, indeed, with the large majority in and out of doors who treat of those subjects, was, that they overlooked altogether the effects of taxation on the profits of trade. Since 1815, a large reduction had been made in our taxes; and, as a consequence, a great reduction of price followed; and the distress of shopkeepers only was felt by those who had laid in a stock at the period of high taxes,—that is, high prices, for which it was evident they could not expect a remunerating return, when selling at a period of reduced taxation. He did not say taxation was a good thing, but he did positively affirm, that a great part of the reduction in prices had been caused by the remission of taxes, The hon. Alderman's statements were all based on an error, and therefore could not receive the sanction of those to whom it was made manifest. The hon. Alderman complained, among other things, of the increasing exportation of cotton twist. He must admit that an exportation of an equal amount of cotton cloth would be more advantageous, but spinning this twist gave employment to a great number of our people, and they must, work for such markets as existed; they could not create a market at pleasure. It would be folly or madness to check the export of the article alluded to. Like the hon. Alderman, he wished to promote the happiness of the country, but he thought the method of doing that proposed by the hon. Alderman, not the right one.
§ Mr. George Robinson
was sure one good would follow from his hon. friend's statement,—that it would expose the delusions! which the frequent show of our exports and imports had made upon the public mind, The present state of the country was mainly owing to the very imperfect system of what was called free trade, under which the country had of late years been suffering. When he stated this, he begged it to he understood, that he was not an enemy to free trade principles—by no means; but he objected to such principles being applied to our manufactures only, while the landed interest was protected by their Corn-laws. Let these laws be repealed—that is, let all the interests of the country be placed on an equal footing—and he would hail free trade as a great benefit to the country; 568 but not till then. But this accorded not with the views of a great number of individuals, both in that and in the other House of Parliament, who were interested in keeping up the price of grain, and therefore resolutely and successfully opposed all free trade in corn, though they came down with a powerful majority to support any measure of the kind when manufactures were involved. Why should thirty per cent be the maximum protection of our manufactures, while the landed interest would not abate a farthing of a protection of from sixty to seventy per cent? He agreed with the noble Chancellor of the Exchequer, that no breach of faith would follow from a transfer-tax on funded property, and contended that such property should be as liable to the burthens of the State as landed or any other species of property which the State protected. With respect to the funded proprietors there was this inequality as to their contribution to indirect taxation—a man who possessed 10,000l. a-year in the funds, and who chose to live in a garret, or spend only 500l. a-year, contributed only a very small portion of his revenue, compared with the generality of fundholders, who had only a small income, and who lived on that income, having no other revenue. He regretted, therefore, that the noble Lord did not boldly come forward at once with a bona fide property-tax, which would compel absentees, and other unproductive consumers, to contribute their just share to the public revenue; and which would enable him to repeal the Assessed Taxes and (hose Excise imposts which oppressed the productive industry of the country. By repealing the Assessed Taxes, and the Excise imposts, not less than 3,000,000l. would be annually saved, which was now paid for the mere collection of them. The country should husband its resources now that we were at peace, otherwise a war would leave us in a much worse state than we were at present. He was opposed to the noble Lord's proposition for a modification of the duties on wine and timber. He might rest assured, that the French would not be induced by the reduction in favour of their wines, to take our manufactures, and we should be forfeiting our trade with Portugal in vain. Then, with respect to timber, it was the interest of the country to encourage the produce of our own colonies at the expense of any mere foreign commodity; and the Ca- 569 nadian timber would, under the noble Lord's proposed regulation, possess no material advantage in the homo market over that of the Baltic. With regard to machinery, he believed the effect of it had decreased the demand for manual labour, and if the noble Lord, who appeared to be driven to his shifts, wished a mutation of taxation, he might have proposed a tax upon machinery. He was, on the whole, extremely anxious to see the internal trade of the country and the colonies protected; it was far more valuable than all the foreign trade.
Mr. Wolryche Whitmore
observed, that if it had not been for the great improvements in our machinery, and such men as Arkwright, Watts, and Hargreave, who invented them, the country could not have maintained as it d id the tremendous struggle which arose out of the French Revolution. He likewise expressed his conviction, that if the Motion of the hon. Member opposite were carried, it would leave the country where it now was, if, indeed, it did not plunge it into far greater difficulties. The hon. Member had called upon Government to foster peculiar branches of trade. That was, of all policies, the very worst that could be recommended. Instead of fostering any peculiar branch of trade, Government ought to leave all trades alone. It would be far better to pursue such a policy than to leave trade under the regulations of any Ministers, even though they should be as enlightened as the hon. Member himself. He had heard a property-tax proposed nightly for some time past, by hon. Members from whom he had expected wiser counsel. He was quite sure that the hon. Members who now urged the most loudly upon Government the propriety of such a tax, would, in the course of about two or three years after its imposition, be equally loud in demanding its repeal. He called upon the House to consider whether any such relief as some Gentlemen expected could be derived from the commutation of taxes whilst their amount remained undiminished? He would not give his aid to there imposition of a tax which, when it formerly existed, was found to be a curse on the country, and was so oppressive and inquisitorial as to unite all classes in calling for its repeal. He admitted that the expediency of imposing a property-tax was not at that moment under the consideration of the House; but it was a subject to 570 which such frequent allusion had been made in the course of the debate, that he could not allow it to pass without an observation. He was of opinion, that by removing the monopoly of corn, and other kindred monopolies, more would be done to relieve the productive industry of the country than could be done by any hocus pocus arrangement of the right hon. Gentlemen opposite. He was astonished that the hon. Alderman, who, for the last three years, had made an annual motion on this subject, could not yet discover the real cause of the difference between the official and real value of our exports and imports, as they stood now, and as they stood some years ago. The hon. Alderman could not explain the cause of that difference without identifying it with the ruin of the country. But surely various other causes might be assigned for it, all infinitely more probable than that assigned by the hon. Alderman. There had been a change of currency; machinery had been invented, which produced articles of equal quality at a less price; the raw material had fallen in price. The country was in an improving condition, and the various sources of supply to its commerce were increasing. The prices on the raw material—cotton, silk, and woollen, had greatly fallen, and the amount used for manufacture now nearly doubled that used fifteen years ago. In the year 1820 there were only 450,000 bales of cotton imported; last year not less than 800,000 bales were imported. He denied that the manufactures of the country were at present in a declining condition; on the contrary, there never had been a period in which they were in so healthy a state. If the home and foreign trade of the country were left to themselves, its prosperity would continue, and we might look forward to a great increase of its productive industry. Let not the House be mystified by the propositions of the hon. members for London and Worcester: let not hon. Members look exclusively to the cotton trade, or to the Canada trade; let them regard the general interests of the country alone, and then they would have no occasion to fear for its future well-doing.
§ Mr. James Morison
could not help ex- pressing surprise at some of the very extraordinary theories which he had that night heard propounded to the House. His hon. friend the member for London had told them that taxation was no evil. That was saying, in other words, that 571 high prices were no evil. For his own part, he attributed many of the commercial evils about which they had heard so much that evening, to our present impolitic system of Corn-laws. Commerce could never long continue safe, farmers could never have any security for their capital, nor landholders any certainty of their rents, until the present Corn-laws were altered. If the importation of foreign corn were to be liable to tax—and he did not think that there was any necessity that it should be liable to a tax—that tax ought to be a fixed and not a fluctuating tax. Hon. Gentlemen had talked much about the distress of the country, and had employed the same language in describing it which they had employed for years past. Really, he thought that their language ought to admit of some variation at different seasons; but it somehow or other happened, that always at the very time any hon. Member was addressing the House, the distress was greater than it had ever been at any previous time. Now, for his own part, he believed that there was less distress now in the country than there had been for some years' past. He knew the manufacturing districts pretty well; and he would venture to affirm, that in no period since the war had there been less distress in them than there had been during the last two or three years. It appeared almost impossible, when discussing this Motion, not to allude to the subject of the currency. He thought the return to cash payments a stupendous undertaking. It never would have been begun had the people known what they were about; but it was evident that they did not; for Ministers said, that 21s. were equal to 28s., and had the good fortune to get a Parliament to believe them. The alteration which the Act of 1819 had made in the currency, might be a good reason for reducing the salaries of placemen and pensioners,— and with them Parliament knew how to deal—but never could afford any reason for violating the contract with the public creditor. He could see no occasion, in the present circumstances of the country, for any violation of the public faith. He did not think, as some of his hon. friends seemed to think, that the country was now on the brink of ruin. The poverty of the people did hot appear to him to be a sufficient reason for calling for a reduction of taxation. It was of no use on such a subject to say that the people had only 572 bread and cheese; if it were, then, when the people had plum-pudding and roast beef, no objection could be made to the continuance of the taxes. The proper question was not whether the people could pay the taxes, but whether the Ministers could do without them. With respect to the observations which had been made on the subject of machinery, he would only say, that if our artizans were enabled to export the machinery which they fabricated, it would soon become as valuable a part of our trade as our cotton manufactures. There were many evident reasons why other nations could not make machinery so cheap or well as this country; but, in consequence of the prohibition attached to the exportation of machinery, it operated as a bounty to encourage smuggling. Machinery, it was well known, had been carried out of the country in that way to a vast extent. The law which prohibited the exportation of machinery from this country, was nothing else than a bounty on the manufacture of foreign machinery. The consequence was, that the foreigner first smuggled our inventions in machinery, and then set to work to fabricate the machinery himself. He denied that our taxation increased the price of labour, and contended that labour was cheaper in this country than elsewhere. There was a distinction to be taken between articles of commerce which were taxed, and articles of manufacture similarly circumstanced. He would suppose that sugar was reduced a penny per pound; if it were, the prices would immediately fall; but in the reduction of the tax on a manufactured article, such a fall would not be so sensibly felt by the public, as was indeed witnessed when the duties were removed off leather last year. If the Chancellor of the Exchequer were desirous of relieving the lower orders, let him therefore lower the duties upon tea and sugar, which now had become necessaries of life, and found their way into every cottage of the kingdom. To remove a tax from an article of consumption was to give the consumers the immediate as well as the full benefit; but to reduce a tax upon an article of manufacture, often only put an additional and an inordinate profit into the pockets of the retailers. Alluding to the observations which had been made in condemnation of free trade, he remarked, that the importation of silks from Lyons could not injure, but must benefit the country. The con- 573 sequence of it had been a vast improvement in our silk manufactures, and as a proof of it he would mention that the best silks manufactured in this country before the importation of French silks, would now be perfectly unsaleable. Free trade could not fail to be advantageous to this country, and he verily believed, that in the course of three or four years we should be in a situation to throw our ports open to the whole world. Wherever our manufactured goods once gained an introduction, they drove the manufactured goods of all other countries out of the field; and a striking proof of their superiority was exhibited in Mr. Ward's book on Mexico, in which it was asserted, that though our manufactures were there laden with very heavy duties, they had completely succeeded in driving all others from the Mexican market. The labour of this country was decidedly the cheapest labour in the world, and as such, was enabled to throw every other competitor in commerce far behind. He was not aware that it was necessary for him to detain the House any longer by descanting on the other points of the hon. Member's Resolutions; he begged to thank it for the attention which had been conceded to his observations.
§ Mr. Ward
considered himself as very fortunate in not having caught the Speaker's eye before the hon. Gentleman who had just addressed the House, because he had to thank that hon. Member for the information which he, in common with many other hon. Members, had received from his speech. He regretted that he was unable to concur in the Motion of his hon. Colleague, or in the details of the subject which he had thought proper to bring before the notice of the House. The late Lord Liverpool had always expressed himself willing to accede to any Committee for inquiry, if, at the same time, any remedy were proposed for the redress of the grievances into which that Committee, was to inquire; and, as in bringing his Motion before the House, the hon. Member for the City had not proved that there was some such grievance, which the labours of the Committee he wished for could remove and relieve, the absence of such distinct proof, prevented his concurrence in the proposition of his hon. Colleague. Before he sat down, however, he trusted he might be permitted to ask the noble Lord, who sat on the Treasury Bench, to state again to the 574 House, what part the Governor of the Bank had taken with reference to the tax on the transfer of property? He considered it to be so essential to the interests of those concerned that a right understanding should exist as to this matter, that he had no hesitation whatever in asking the favour of the noble Lord to repeat his statement.
§ Lord Althorp
replied, that what he had stated last night, with reference to the Governor of the Bank, was, that he had his (the Governor's) authority to say, that, in his opinion, the measure he proposed respecting the imposition of the tax on the transfer of stock and other property, was perfectly practicable, and that there would be no difficulty in collecting the tax; but, although he considered it to be practicable, he was certainly not able to coincide in the views of the Ministry with respect to its imposition.—With respect to the question before the House, the hon. Member who had brought it forward, and other hon. Members, had gone into topics which it was impossible to follow out; but some of them he considered it to be his duty to notice. The hon. member for Worcester had expressed his conviction, that the members of Government were wrong if they intended to encourage foreign trade at the expense of the home, or the colonial trade. It was far from the intention, and equally so from the wishes, of Ministers to do any thing of the kind, neither would they ever consent to support the colonial trade at the expense of the home trade. As to the alteration in the tax which the hon. Member had said would press on the colonial trade heavily, what had the Government proposed to do? They had proposed to raise a sum of one million of money without increasing the pressure on the consumer; they did not, therefore, contemplate any pressure on the colonial trade, but how best to relieve the people. The great object which the Government had in view was, rather to promote the interests of the home than the foreign trade; he did not knew whether they should succeed, but certainly their efforts were chiefly directed towards the promotion of the domestic industry of the country. With respect to what had fallen from the hon. Member who spoke last but one, he was ready to admit the great practical know- ledge displayed by that hon. Member, but he had certainly mistaken the views under 575 which the Government had acted in altering taxation, and the hon. Member had misunderstood what he (Lord Althorp) had stated as to the mode in which relief from taxation would affect the labouring classes. In proposing the reduction of the duty on coals, what he had said was, that if any endeavour were to he made to relieve the labouring classes of this country, no measure would be so effectual as one by which the means of employing them were increased; and this one would have that immediate effect, and much more quickly than any other that could have been suggested. He was afraid there was not room to afford much relief by the reduction of taxes, but he did think there was ample room for improving the condition of the people by increasing the means for employing them. With regard to what had been said on the Currency question, he was of opinion that the currency of the country was now in a healthy state, and being so, he thought the House could not act in so imprudent and unwarrantable a manner as to endeavour to disturb it. With these views, he therefore did consider it necessary to say, that it was not the intention of Government to look into the subject, and also to express his opinion, that any change in that currency would not now prove beneficial. In this respect he trusted experience would teach that caution to the House, which was so necessary in matters affecting so deeply as this did the universal, as well as the commercial welfare of the country. As to the Motion of the hon. member for the city of London, he would merely observe, that it was impossible not to perceive from the returns made to the House, that the exports of the country greatly exceeded the imports, and as to the official and real value, that matter had been so often explained that, under these circumstances, he did not think it necessary to detain the House by entering into any detail respecting them.
observed, that the hon. Member for the city had said, in moving his resolutions, that they were highly important, but so completely did he differ from the opinion of that hon. Member, that he thought they were not at all so. He had, with reference to this question, called some time since for a return connected with the official and real value of the exports and imports of the country, and he held it in his hand; he would just 576 read a few items from it, which would show more clearly than any arguments that could be urged how very simple the subject was. The hon. Member then read a few extracts from the document respecting the official and real value of the exports and imports of the country, and deduced the fact, that with an import, the value of which was declared to be at fifty-nine millions, the country was enabled, after consuming to the amount of thirty-five millions' worth of the same article of import, to export no less than seventy-three millions' worth. The rates of value had been made a century ago, and the system had struggled on till the present time; the rates of import for the same article differed widely from those of export; in the imports, cassia, for example, was charged at s. 6d. per pound, and the export value was 2s. On mace, also, the import value was 12s. 6d., and the export 19s. 6d. For the last twelve years, the tables had never deceived any one, though before he had the honour of a seat in that House they were relied on, and Mr. Pitt had attached vast importance to them. He thought the manner of making out these accounts ought to be altered, and he hoped the time was not far distant when the tables of the value of the imports and exports of the country would be formed upon principles entirely different from those upon which they were now constructed.
§ Mr. Poulett Thomson
hoped the House would negative the Motion of the hon. Member by agreeing to the previous question, which he rose to move. He could not, however, feel otherwise than pleased that the hon. Member had introduced the subject, as it had been the means of producing the enlightened observations of the hon. member for St. Ives, (Mr. Morison) who had shown much practical information and great judgment. All the difference of opinion that existed on the subject of the official values was founded on, and consisted in the price of the article being looked at solely, and without any reference to the quality. It was impossible that the trade of this country should have been carried on to the constant loss of those who engaged in it—and he could not but feel glad that the hon. member for the City had been so fully replied to by those hon. Members who had preceded him in addressing the House. A statement relative to the con- 577 sumption of necessaries, and of the articles used in the manufactures of the country, had been put into his hands a short time before he entered the House, the result of which proved, that the annual consumption of each of these branches had increased to a very considerable amount within the last two years. Thus in 1829, the consumption of coffee was 19,000,000 lbs., an enormous increase compared to what it was a few years ago, when it was no more than 6,000,000 lbs. In the year 1830, however, the consumption was 22,000,000 lbs. In 1829, the consumption of sugar was 3,539,000 cut; in 1830, it was 3,790,000 cwt. Of tea, the consumption in 1829 was 29,000,000 lbs; in 1830, it was 30,000,000 lbs. The consumption of tobacco and snuff had increased to a similar extent; and wine, also, had increased from 5,217,000 gallons in 1829, to 6,380,000 gallons in 1830. These were the articles he had particularly noticed, and their increased consumption was a pretty positive proof that the condition of the people could not be so much deteriorated as the hon. and worthy Alderman would have the House to suppose. It was impossible to imagine that the numbers of the population had increased in proportion to the increased consumption of the articles he had mentioned; and he therefore took it for granted, that the quantity consumed by each individual was greater than it was a few years since. Now, the consumption of manufactures had increased in a similar manner. In 1829, the import, of cotton was 204,000,000 lbs.; in 1830, it was 270,000,000 lbs. As to silk, about which so much had been done, and of which so much had been said, the amount of raw silk imported in 1829 was 2,601,000 lbs., a wonderful increase upon all former years. In 1830, however, the quantity imported was, 4,170,000 lbs., an increase of nearly 100 per cent within one year. Of wool, the importation, in 1829, was 22,000,000 lbs.; in 1830, it was 31,600,000 lbs. An increase in the importation of tallow had also taken place, with a contemporaneous increase of the price of the article, which was greatly used in soap-making and other manufactures, the importation had increased from 1,025,000 cwt. in 1829, to 1,130,000 cwt. in 1830. The importation of flax also, another article greatly used in our manufactures, had increased from 800,000 cwt. in 1829, to 578 960,000 cwt. in 1830, in spite of a very considerable increase in the price. His object in rising was principally to make that very short statement to the House, be-cause he knew that the document from which it was made could not, by any possibility, be in the hands of any hon. Member. In his humble opinion, it could not be contended that the people were so dreadfully depressed, when it was shown that the consumption of the articles used by thorn had so much increased. He certainly entertained a strong opinion that, a considerable degree of prosperity existed in several branches of trade at present, as compared with other periods. In a country situated like this, however, great, fluctuations necessarily occurred; they grew inevitably from our complicated relations; and he wished this to be well understood, as he conceived that too much importance was attributed to occasional instances of depression and prosperity. He could not sit down without adverting to another fact, perhaps sufficiently proved by the increase of consumption. The House, he was sure, would learn with satisfaction, that wages were considerably higher than they had been some time since in the manufacturing districts, and that the working classes employed in manufactories were in a much better situation than they had been for some time past. From this general description he should except the hand-loom weavers, whose situation was extremely pitiable: this class of persons was extremely numerous, and suffered more than any other, perhaps, from the changes produced by machinery. But he would not allow those who argued against machinery to go away with the impression that the distress of the hand-weavers was altogether to be ascribed to machinery. The trade which the hand-loom weavers followed was one very easy of acquirement, and, therefore, resorted to by a great number of persons. The influx of Irish also assisted to swell the number; and this, together with the improvements in machinery, tended to keep those engaged in this branch of industry perhaps below any other class of manufacturing labourers.
§ Mr. Ward
hoped the House would pay him the compliment to permit him to read the statement of the Governor of the Bank of England, in that gentleman's own words. The Governor said, "he wished most distinctly to state, that he never was 579 applied to by any member of Government for his opinion as to the propriety or impropriety of levying a tax upon the transfer of funded property." The Governor further stated, that "he only felt himself responsible for the opinion, that it would be practicable to carry the tax into effect, if it was imposed." The Governor had only done what he (Mr. Ward) should feel himself bound to do towards any Ministry, Whig or Tory—namely, gave a sincere opinion on a practical subject. With respect to the expediency of the proposed measure, however, the Governor stated, that "he had given an opinion in writing against the measure, to a gentleman not at all connected with Ministers." Mr. Attwood said, that the written statement of the Governor of the Bank of England was entirely in accordance with the statement of the noble Lord. There was another part of the statement of the right hon. Gentleman, (Mr. P. Thomson) however, much more important, and which called for some observation. The House and the country were deluded, time after time, by statements of prosperity, founded on Custom-house documents. The right hon. Gentleman thought he had proved, not that distress was mitigated, but that prosperity was general, because there was an increased consumption of cotton and coffee. Now, he would state a single fact, which would go to prove how fallacious opinions were, founded on such partial instances of increased consumption. In the town of Manchester the consumption of coffee had increased, but the work-people drank that beverage without milk; and had resorted to it because it was cheaper than milk. The excessive poverty of the workmen of Manchester, which induced them to abstain from the luxury of mixing milk with their coffee, however, was now quoted as a convincing proof of the prosperity of the country at large. If his Majesty's Government would pay more attention to the petitions of the people, and less to official documents, they would avoid coming to those delusive conclusions. He would suggest, that a rule should be laid down, that no Minister of the Crown, or other person having a seat on the Treasury-bench, should ever refer to a document in order to found a conclusion that the people were prosperous, without being at the same time compelled to read at least one petition, coming from the people, in order that the House might 580 see whether the people agreed with him in his conclusion on what it might be supposed they would be the best judges—their own condition. There were some Gentlemen in that. House who condemned the theorists, and put forward theories of their own. So enamoured were those Gentlemen with theory, that their facts became theories. The hon. member for St. Ives (Mr. Morison) had said, that the country would float through its present difficulties, and at the same time he stated, that the country had no difficulties to float through, as it had not been in a more prosperous state since the conclusion of the war. Now, the worthy Alderman (Waithman) had at least as good opportunities of learning the state of trade as the hon. Member (Mr. Morison), and no two statements could be more at variance than his and that of the hon. Member. The hon. Member's statement, however, was not merely at variance with that of the worthy Alderman, but with every statement that had reached the House in petitions. These petitions all concurred in stating, that trade was diminished, and labour met no adequate return; that capital was deteriorating, distress increasing, and the productive classes sinking into misery. Statements to that effect were made in petitions coming from that part of the city in which the hon. Member resided, from the assembled county of Middlesex, and from different parts of the kingdom. He would appeal to Ministers themselves as to the situation of various branches of productive industry. Was it not known, that the West-India interest was on the brink of ruin, and struggling for existence? The East-India trade was only in a trifling degree more prosperous. He referred to the hon. member for Staffordshire (Mr. Littleton) whether those engaged in that great branch of manufacturing industry which he represented, were not suffering under distress and misery? In the cotton trade there might have been some partial improvement; but he ventured to say there was not any individual engaged extensively in that trade who would not gladly retreat from it, if he could do so safely, with his capital. As to the agricultural interest, its condition was too well known to be talked away by statements consisting of figures; and those who considered the relations of this country, well knew that while so great a branch as the landed interest continued depressed, it 581 was impossible the other branches of productive industry could be in a prosperous state. The noble Lord (Althorp) talked of the healthy state of the currency, but he warned him that he could entertain no opinion more dangerous to the country. In conclusion, he would take leave to mention a fact in opposition to the statement of the noble Lord, that prosperity was proved by an increase of consumption of produce. The importation of sugar from the West Indies had regularly and gradually increased; and he left it. to the right hon. Gentleman to reconcile that with the fact, that those colonies were never so much distressed as when the importation was the greatest. The fact was, that necessity drove the West-India proprietors to force the produce on the market, and the result of this distress was hailed by the Ministry as a proof of prosperity.
§ Mr. Courtenay
rose with the singular intention of defending his right hon. successor (Mr. P. Thomson). He did not understand the right hon. Gentleman to indulge in any general assertion of national prosperity; he had only argued, from two important documents in his possession, that some particular interests were in a more prosperous state than they had been. From a document showing the great increase of luxuries imported within the last two years, he had reasonably inferred, that the state of the consumers had rather improved within that period. The right hon. Gentleman showed from another document, that the consumption of the materials of certain manufactures had greatly increased, and it was only reasonable to conclude, that this unreserved consumption of the materials of manufacture could not take place without affording increased employment to those engaged in manufacture. He (Mr. Courtenay) called on those Gentlemen who were opposed to free trade to come forward with specific propositions that would show what they wanted. Until they came forward with some distinct proposals, he had a right to presume that they were wrong. What measure did they wish the Government, to adopt?
§ Mr. Courtenay
continued—The Corn-laws were not amongst those, measures which the opponents of free trade usually complained of; but if the hon. Member brought forward a distinct proposition on 582 that subject, it would be found, perhaps, that he (Mr. Courtenay) should not greatly differ from him. The worthy Alderman contended, that although the quantity of manufactured goods had increased, the profits had diminished; to which he could only repeat the answer he had given the worthy Alderman last Session; "that he could not expect to have it both ways." Neither the present Government nor the last should be charged with the fluctuations which took place in the condition of the country, any further than it could be shown that the causes of those fluctuations were, within their reach. He should only observe, in conclusion, that he should allow the character of wisdom to the measures of Government, at all events, until hon. Gentlemen brought forward specific measures, which they conceived would remedy the evils they complained of.
§ Mr. Hunt
said, that with all the powers and research of the worthy Alderman (Waithman), he had not enabled him (Mr. Hunt) to understand the subject, and he should have left the House in ignorance but for the speeches of the hon. member for Bridgenorth (Mr. W. Whitmore) and of the hon. Member near him (Mr. Morison). The hon. member for Bridge-north had referred to the Corn-laws; and lie (Mr. Hunt) rose principally for the purpose of saying, that he had given notice of a motion on that subject. He was an enemy to the corn-laws since 1815, when he had been a large farmer; and he was sure the country would never be in a satisfactory state until that subject was. settled. The hon. Gentleman (Mr. Morison) had attempted to convince the House that there was much less distress now in the country than there had been for many years; and the right hon. Gentleman (Mr. P. Thomson) instantly hailed the hon. Member's declaration, and dubbed him "a man of great experience." The hon. Member might have had great experience in France, and Italy, and Piedmont, where, he told the House, he had travelled; but it appeared that he had very little experience in this country. The hon. Member said, that if they went into the cottage of any labourer they would find tea and sugar. That was no proof of comfort, however, for many families might be found consuming tea and sugar, and yet having nothing but rags to cover them. But why did they drink tea with sugar? Because it was a delightful, delicious, and be- 583 witching beverage. It was the very reverse of all he had said of tobacco, and everyone, he believed, liked this beverage. But what else had the cottager? The hon. Member said bread and cheese. That he denied. There was no cheese, and scarcely any bread. The manufacturers of the North were in abject misery. It was said, the cotton-spinners were better off than they had been. They were now enabled to earn from 16s. to 1l.. 5s. a week, he understood, but then they worked sixteen hours a day, and there was scarcely an instance of a man at that work living beyond forty, such was the effect of excessive labour. He felt that he should not do his duty to those who elected him, if he did not state, that, in his opinion, neither the labouring poor nor those in trade were in any thing like a state of prosperity. In the parish in which he lived (Christchurch, Surrey), there were 1,200 householders, and he heard the Collector state, at the last parish meeting, that there were 600 summonses out against persons who had not paid their taxes. He and his servants entered 6,000 shops every year in his humble trade, and the result of his experience was directly contrary to that of the hon. member for St. Ives. He was sorry to hear Government holding out that the country was in a state of prosperity, as a similar declaration from the late Government had given general dissatisfaction. No doubt the hon. Member's experience in commerce was very great, but in stating his experience as to the amount of distress in the country, he had deluded himself, or was deluding the House and the country.
§ Mr. James Morison
explained. His observations were not general, but merely directed to certain great branches of trade.
Sir Wm. Johnson
stated, that in the manufacturing districts, no workman was at present out of employment unless from his own fault, and there was no time when wages were capable of purchasing so many necessaries.
admitted, that the introduction of machinery might be attended with inconvenience at first; still, however, he should hail every improvement of the kind as a national benefit in the end. He stated as rather a remarkable and important fact, that within the last week, the first importation of silk look place into Liverpool from the United States.
§ Mr. J. Martin
observed, that though 584 he had been a banker for forty years, he never remembered a period when there was so little commercial distress as at present. A property-tax might be a just tax, considered in the abstract, but income was a bad criterion, and unfortunately the subject admitted of no other.
§ Mr. Alderman Waithman, in reply, insisted that there was great distress in the country at present. As an instance, he would mention the case of a single parish in the City, containing eight hundred householders, two hundred of whom had been summoned before him for poor-rates which they were unable to pay. This fact had not been disproved. The right hon. member for Totness had taunted him with never having brought forward any specific measure on the subject; but he (Mr. Waithman) did not remember to have ever heard of the right hon. member for Totness bringing forward a specific measure, except when he was in Office. "Let him put me," exclaimed Mr. Waithman, "in the same situation before he calls upon me to bring forward a specific measure." He denied that the silk-trade had increased, and concluded by repeating his call upon the Government to turn its attention to the statements he had brought forward.
§ The Previous Question carried without a division.