The Marquis of Chandos
said, he found that, after repeated intimations had been given that relief should be afforded to the suffering interests of the West Indies, no relief was now to be afforded them. The distress in the West Indies was exceedingly great, and it arose principally from the tax on sugar—a tax which, he reminded the Government, was a war tax, and ought to have been abolished at the end of the war, but which had still been continued, and was not now proposed to be taken off. He asked his Majesty's Ministers, in the arrangement they were about to make, that they would consider seriously the situation of the West-India colonies; and one of the principal objects of his Motion was, to press that subject on their notice. Their financial plan was not now arranged—their Budget was not finally made up—and he called upon the right hon. member for Dover to support, on this occasion, the opinions he had held 785 before he became a member of the Government. He would refer to the statement made last year by the right hon. Member, on a debate on this subject. The right hon. Member then stated, that he was most anxious to protect the West-India interest. That protection, however, had not been afforded, and was not now even promised. He called on the House to consider what must be the feelings of men to whom such protection had been promised, but who were not happy enough to obtain its advantages. The measure which had been introduced for their benefit had been subsequently withdrawn. He repeated, that the financial arrangements were incomplete, and the Budget not fully settled. He, called, therefore, on the Government to go along with him; and especially he called on the right hon. the President of the Board of Control, to support him in the application he now made, on behalf of the West-India colonies, to the serious attention of the Government. That right hon. Member had recorded his opinion in favour of the West Indies, and could not now retract it. The right hon. Gentleman had stated, very truly, that he saw a strong necessity for interfering on behalf of the colonies, and he had advised that practical relief should be afforded to them. The right hon. Gentleman had voted in a division of 144 on a Motion which he (the Marquis of Chandos) had the honour of submitting to the House. He trusted that something beneficial for the West-India proprietor would be brought forward. The financial statement of the noble Lord had indeed been materially changed, but, as the Government appeared to be at sea with respect to finance, he hoped that some-plan which would afford relief to the West-India interest would be now submitted. He was exceedingly desirous that relief should be extended to those who were suffering. He not only asked relief for the distresses of the West-India planters, but also for the people of England. With respect to the colonies, he did not agree with those hon. Members who wanted to dissolve the union between them and this country. If any such proposition were submitted to this House, he should be one of the last men to give it his support. He knew the value of the colonies too well ever to desire such a thing: and he hoped the House would attend to their interests, for their interests were also the interests of this country. 786 It was to the naval power of the country that we were indebted for the colonies; and, as he had before said, he hoped they would be scrupulously preserved. He would implore his Majesty's Ministers not to disregard the petitions which were presented to that House in favour of the West-India proprietor, nor disregard the petitions which came from all parts of the empire on the subject of slavery. That was a question which merited their attention, and he hoped to sec it speedily settled. He stood up in that House to advocate the cause of the West-India planter, as a free and independent Member; and he begged to call for the support of Ministers, on the score of principle, of consistency, and of justice, to the resolution which he would now read. The noble Lord then concluded with moving the following resolution as an amendment to Lord Althorp's motion. "That the distressed condition of the West-India planters demands the serious and immediate consideration of this House, with a view to their relief."
Mr. Keith Douglas
seconded the Motion. He expressed his regret at the course which his Majesty's Ministers had thought proper to pursue, and his disappointment at hearing the financial arrangements of the Government. He felt convinced, when he heard them, that no relief was intended for our long-suffering colonies though that had been promised over and over again. Now, however, it was found out, that legislation could give no relief, but that was a position which could not be maintained. He knew that the Board of Trade had investigated the subject with the greatest care, but he was satisfied that the papers for which he had moved and which were then on the tables of the House would warrant a different conclusion from that come to by the right hon. Gentlemen. Those papers showed, at least, that unless some relief was speedily given to the colonies, they must be completely ruined, and his noble friend and himself pressed that consideration on the House, because they were satisfied that it was in the power of the House to afford relief. He had on a former occasion expressed his disapprobation of some of the new taxes proposed, and he wished then to add, that the alteration of the tax on timber would ruin our North American colonies, and injure our shipping interest, without conferring any correspondent ad- 787 vantage on the country. Those taxes had excited so much disapprobation that the noble Lord would necessarily be obliged to remodel his Budget, and in doing that he hoped still, that the West-India interests might be taken into consideration. The difficulties of the West-India planters were caused by legislation and they looked to legislation, to repair the evils it had inflicted. The Legislature had always restricted the Colonial trade to British shipping and the Mother country. All the produce of those colonies was required to be sent to England in British ships, and all their supplies were imported only from Britain; out of that legislation onerous engagements had arisen, trade was made costly, the restrictions were a burthen on all the parties and their profits were sacrificed to the public benefit. On that ground, the West Indians called for relief and they saw that it might be granted to them by lowering or removing the war-duty on sugar. The legislature too had thought proper to prohibit the removal of slaves from one colony to the other, and the consequence was, that more were found in one place than were wanted, while in another island, there was a want of hands. In the island of Cuba and at the Brazils, in consequence of the continued importation of Slaves, sugar could be grown at a much lower rate than in our colonies. In them a slave cost 100l. while one could be imported at an expense of 40l. The imported slaves were in general unencumbered effective labourers, while in our colonies, where they were bred a great part of the population was ineffective. Thus the English planter had only thirty-four effective labourers out of 100 slaves, while the Brazilian planter had fifty five. Our colonies producing more sugars than could supply our own markets, the surplus was sent to the continent, where it met this cheap-grown sugar of Cuba, and the Brazils, and would sell for no more than it. The price of Sugar had been beat down from 64s. per cwt. to 24s. giving, after deducting the charge for conveyance to Europe, 15s. 6d. to cover the expense of cultivation, which it had been proved over and over again was not sufficient. The country was hardly consistent in its wishes to abolish slavery in our colonies while it was anxious to benefit by the low price of slave-grown sugar. It professed great anxiety to abolish slavery, but refused all assistance to those who were engaged in 788 the unequal contest of producing sugar without the importation of fresh slaves. If the present system were allowed to continue, the competition between the slave-importing countries and our colonies must end in the ruin of the hitter. When that was the case those people who had been so anxious to abolish slavery, would find that they must draw all their supplies from countries that still carried on the Slave-trade, and over which they had not the smallest control. By not assisting the English planter, then, they would perpetuate that crime which the public voice had loudly condemned, and which the country had been at great expense to put down. He hoped, therefore, that his Majesty's Government would reconsider the subject, and for the interests of humanity, in compliance with the public voice, and in contemplation of the colonial and shipping interests of the country, give relief and encouragement to the planters of our own colonies, where slavery was in the progress of melioration, and where the slave-trade had been happily extinguished.
§ Mr. Poulett Thomson
expressed his surprise, that the noble Lord should have introduced a debate upon the sugar-duties, and on the colonies, upon a proposition for the House to go into a Committee of Supply—a motion which, if acceded to, would have the effect of retarding the Supply. There was no disposition on the part of Government to disregard the interests of the West-India planters—no disposition to prevent an inquiry into the subject, and his hon. friend had only done justice to the Board to which he belonged, when he admitted, that it had carefully investigated the subject. What he complained of was, that the noble Lord had not brought forward his Motion in a more regular way, instead of taking the present opportunity of submitting it to the House on the present occasion, when a motion was before the House to go into a Committee of Supply. He (Mr. P. Thomson) would not follow his hon. friend who had seconded the Amendment, through all his statements; but he should be doing himself injustice if he did not enter somewhat at large into the subject, with a view of showing that the mode pursued by Government was a true and sound course. If the Government did not consent to a reduction of duty upon West-India produce, it was because they considered the revenue could not spare it; and because neither 789 of the proposals submitted to the Government by the West-India planters was calculated to attain the object in view, or was consistent with the public welfare. The noble Lord had but done him justice in stating what he had done. He would accept with pleasure the words which had been quoted. He was anxious and desirous that the West-India interest should be protected. He would go farther, and say, that he was not only desirous of seeing the West-India proprietor protected, but that all his Majesty's subjects, whether in this country or the colonies, should be protected and assisted. The only difference between the noble Lord and" him was, that he would never consent to sacrifice the interests of one party to those of another, or seek to promote the prosperity of particular branches of our trade at the expense of the general prosperity. The noble Lord must have made a slight mistake when he supposed that he had voted in support of the noble Lord's motion on the occasion alluded to. Whoever voted with the noble Lord on that occasion, he certainly was not one, though he had divided in favour of the motion of his right hon. friend (Mr. C. Grant). He should have no objection to see the duty taken off sugar, provided it could be done without injury to the revenue; but there were other taxes which pressed more heavily upon the community, and these he would rather sec removed. With respect to the proposed financial measures, it was impossible, in the state of the revenue, to reduce the duty on sugar. His noble friend (the Chancellor of the Exchequer) had, in his financial statement, calculated the result of his propositions, leaving only a very small surplus. He would put it to the noble Lord—he would put it to the people of England—whether more had not been done for the general benefit by the Government, in removing the tax on seaborne coal, and the tax on candles, than would be effected by the repeal of the duty on sugar? He differed from the noble Lord with respect to the ground upon which the duty on sugar ought to be removed. He (Mr. P. Thomson) had never advocated the principle of the reduction of that duty on the ground of its being beneficial to the manufacturer or grower, but because it pressed heavily on the consumer. He would maintain, that if the duties were taken off sugar, it would not benefit the West-India proprietors, as it would not 790 give them a monopoly, and until they had a monopoly, no reduction could be of any benefit to them. There was one-fourth more sugar exported from the West-Indies than was wanted in this country; and as long as that was the case, the price of sugar here would be regulated by the price which could be obtained for the surplus abroad. In addition to the nominal but not real monopoly of our market, which, in fact, they already enjoyed, they must get, therefore, a monopoly of the continental markets, or a power of keeping the cheap sugars of Cuba or the Brazils out of them, before any reduction of duty could afford them a great relief. He believed that lowering the duty would tend, in a great measure, to stimulate the growth of the cheap sugars, at least till the country could consume all the surplus of the West Indies. He was quite ready to admit, therefore, that a reduction of duty would benefit the consumer, but he denied, that it would confer any immediate benefit on the planter. Looking, indeed, at the interest of the consumer, then he was still prepared to recommend a reduction of the duty on sugar whenever that could be effected; but he did not think, that the case was so urgent that the revenue ought to be sacrificed, and the financial resources of the country exposed to hazard, by complying with the wishes of the West-India planters. His hon. friend, in the statement which was laid before the Board of Trade, urged the propriety of the Government giving a bounty of 5s. 3d. per cwt. on all sugar imported into this country from the West Indies. The planters urged this on the ground of the restrictions which the mother-country imposed on the trade of the colonies. He was happy to see, indeed, that the West-India interest had not brought forward that claim on that occasion: they had not submitted it to Parliament, and it was no part of the proposition then before the House. Still he might be allowed to state, that if conceded, it would have amounted to the moderate sum of 1,200,000l. taken from the pockets of the people, and tranferred to those of the West-India planters. His hon. friend seemed to think it an evil and a hardship, that the colonists were obliged to send all their produce to England in British ships; but the fact was, that the freight of them was so much cheaper than any other, that from 30 to 40,000 tons of Brazilian produce was annually sent to 791 Europe by our shipping. His hon. friend seemed also to think, that the West-Indians sustained a great loss by being obliged to take all their manufactures from this country: he calculated, in fact, that our manufactures were 15 per cent clearer than others, and that, by this regulation, the West Indies were taxed to the amount of 370,000l. for the benefit of the English manufacturer. But was it not a notorious fact, that the greater part of the manufactured articles required in the West Indies could be obtained much cheaper from Britain than from any other part of the world. Those very articles were taken from this country to the colonies of other countries, to which our fiscal regulations did not extend. Another grievance the planters complained of was, that they were obliged to draw their supplies of lumber from our North American colonies; that he admitted was an evil, and the Bill before the House, for regulating the intercourse between the colonies, would remedy it in part, though not to the extent of giving the whole supply of our colonies into the hands of the United States, which he thought would neither be consistent with political wisdom nor advantageous to the West-India islands. Another point was, the admission of our refined sugar into foreign countries, which our Government could not compel, and he knew no means by which this could be effected, except by the planters refining it themselves, and sending it as cheap to Europe as the sugar of the Brazils. It had been said, too, that the West Indies might be relieved by the admission of rum at a lower rate of duty; but if the Government were to attempt that, it would be opposed by all the country gentlemen of the empire. Scotland and Ireland would be up in arms, and he could conceive no way by which the opposition could be overcome, unless the eloquent advocates of the West-India planters could persuade the distillers, and farmers, and maltsters, and landowners of England, that their interests would not be injured by admitting rum at a lower rate of duty than at present. The great source, undoubtedly, of the ruin of our colonies was the continuation of the slave-trade by foreign countries. To that point, accordingly, the Government had directed its most anxious attention, being satisfied that the pecuniary interests of the West Indies, as well as the interests of humanity, required 792 that this abominable traffic should be put down. The Government had, in fact, been unceasing in its exertions to attain that object, and till that was attained, he saw no hope of effectual relief to the West-India planter. He regretted very much that his hon. friend should have referred to the Budget with feelings of asperity, and should have roused the hostility of other interests by the manner in which his hon. friend had preferred the claims of the West-Indians to the general interests of the community. It was such unwise demands which created throughout the community, a feeling of animosity to our West-Indian fellow-subjects, and which caused that general cry to which his hon. friend had referred as pervading the country at the period of the general election; he was sorry his hon. friend had thought it necessary to say any thing on that point, for he was far from having instigated or joined in that cry, though he must acknowledge that he was disposed to sympathise with those who were its objects; and he would beg leave to remind the hon. Member, that it was in the power of the people of England to come to the bar of that House, and to ask how long the Resolutions of the House of Commons of 1822 were to remain a dead letter on the Statute-book; and how long those recommendations, which emanated from the Government, were to be disregarded, and its advice unheeded? He bitterly regretted that any occasion had offered for the present discussion to spring up; and he denied that the mode of relief suggested would be of any benefit to the West-India interests. He protested against the inference which the noble Lord had drawn from the conduct of the Government with regard to the present Motion. He felt disposed to grant every relief possible to the West-India interests, and he hoped the noble Lord would believe that such was his desire; and, if he was convinced of that, he trusted that the noble Lord would think that the subject had much better be left in the hands of Government, or else under the consideration of the House of Commons, than that he should stop the Supplies by passing to a division on a motion of this nature.
§ Mr. Hart Davis
observed, that the interests of the West Indies were of the highest importance to this country, for the ships and commerce of Great Britain were the natural effects of her colonies, and had 793 been fostered, and almost created, by them. He was disposed to believe, that the reduction of the duties on sugar and rum would not have the results that were anticipated by the West-India proprietors, but that the amount taken off, instead of going wholly into their pockets, would go part to the consumers, and part only to them. He thought, however, the planters had great claims on the consideration of his Majesty's Ministers, but, at the same time, these claims were a subject of general consideration, which ought to be deferred, and the House ought to be satisfied that the future judgment of the Ministers would be exercised as to the relief which it would be most proper to afford. He begged, before he sat down, to call the attention of the noble Lord (the Chancellor of the Exchequer) to a. subject which was of very great importance to those interested in it— namely, the growth of tobacco in Ireland. The noble Lord must be aware of the intentions of Government on this subject, and he would, therefore, be able to afford him the necessary information. He wished to know, whether it was the noble Lord's intention to bring forward his bill for prohibiting the cultivation of tobacco in Ireland? It was of importance that the growers there should be aware of the intentions of Government to let the cultivation of that plant go on there: and it was also of importance to those concerned in the importation of foreign tobacco to know whether they would have to contend with the growers of Irish tobacco as well as with the smuggler, particularly as they had been disappointed in their expectations of a reduction in the duty. He wished also to ask another question of the noble Lord; and that was, whether it was intended by Government to persist in levying the increased duty on Canada timber, or whether it was the intention to modify the original proposition, as brought forward by the noble Lord,—or, lastly, whether, as was very generally wished, the noble Lord would abandon his intention of altering the duty on Canadian timber altogether? With regard to the Motion now before the House, he was of opinion that the distress among the West-India planters was at present at such a height, that in another year the remedy would come too late.
§ Mr. Robinson
hoped that the noble Lord would not hastily answer the question of the hon. member for Bristol, with regard to the duties on timber, because, as the 794 noble Lord well knew, the persons who were most interested in that part of the noble Lord's proposition were about to submit certain considerations to the Government. As to the subject immediately under discussion, the noble Lord who had brought it forward had established that great distress existed in our West-Indian colonies; and, indeed, that had not been denied by the Government. He strongly objected to a topic so irritating as that of slavery being mixed up with a question purely commercial, like the present. The chief ground of complaint of the West-Indian proprietors was, as it appeared to him, that there had been an infraction on the part of the executive Government, of a treaty that had been entered into between the Government and the West-Indian proprietors. The terms of that agreement were, that the duties imposed were to be considered as a war-tax, and that they should not be continued in time of peace. Nevertheless, the duties had not been altered; and this he considered a just and strong ground of complaint. He admitted that the price of sugar in our market was regulated by the price abroad, but he contended, that the price there would be raised by such a decrease of duty as would extend the consumption of this country. With respect to what the right hon. Member had said of British vessels bringing the produce of the Brazils to Europe, that was not because the freight by them was less than that by other vessels, but be-cause they carried out cargoes there, and must of necessity have some to bring back. He did not mean to accuse the Government of an anti-colonial feeling; but he was sure that some of the measures which the Government had lately proposed would be considered in the colonies as indicative of such a feeling. However, he had risen chiefly for the purpose of begging the noble Lord not to answer hastily the question which had been put to him with respect to the timber duties, because he was sure that the representations which would be made to the Government on that subject would not be without effect.
§ Lord Althorp
said, he was perfectly ready to admit that the distress which existed in the West-India interest demanded serious attention, and he should not have the slightest objection to agree to the appointment of a Committee to inquire into the whole case. He objected to the Motion now before the House, be- 795 cause, if met as such a motion ought to be met, it would be impossible that they could go into a Committee of Supply. He was bound to say, that neither the noble Lord nor the seconder of the Motion had in the least degree exaggerated the distress complained of; and he begged to assure the House, that there was no man more ready than he was, to alleviate that distress, if he saw the means of doing so. But with all the consideration which he had been able to give to the subject, and after the most attentive examination of all the circumstances connected with it by the Board of Trade, he must say, that none of the propositions which had been brought forward as remedies, had appeared to the Government capable of being adopted, consistently with the general interests of the country. He had been misunderstood with regard to what he had said on a former occasion, with respect to the sugar duties. He had said, that he did not think that the reduction of the duty on sugar would confer any great benefit on the planter, and he still adhered to that opinion. It was not necessary for him on that occasion to enter into his reasons for that opinion, especially since his right hon. friend near him had already stated them to the House. Allow him, however, to say, that, in looking at the general taxation of the country, it did not appear to him that the duty on sugar ought to be the first tax to be taken off. It had generally been said in that House to any Gentleman who proposed that a certain tax should be taken off,—"You must propose a substitute." Yet, Gentlemen had come forward that evening, who, after objecting to the taxes which he proposed to substitute for taxes which he had taken off, gravely asked him to take off another tax, namely, the sugar duty. Now, surely this was not reasonable. He would put it to every hon. Gentleman who heard him,—he would appeal even to the West-Indian proprietors themselves,—whether it was not much more to the advantage of the country that the duty should be taken off coals and candles than off sugar. Well, then, after taking off those duties— after having proposed taxes in lieu of them, and after the latter had been objected to, could any thing be more unreasonable than to ask him to add to his remissions the remission of the duty on sugar? As to the question which had been put to him with regard to the timber duties,—this, he admitted, was not the proper time for dis- 796 cussing his propositions with regard to them. As, however, when that subject came under discussion, he should be prepared to show, that his proposition would not be injurious to Canada, he had no hesitation in stating now, in answer to the hon. member for Bristol, that it was not his intention to make the slightest alteration in the proposed timber duties. Reverting to the Motion of the noble Lord, he had only to observe, that although he felt it necessary to resist that Motion, yet, if the noble Lord thought, that in a Committee any means of reconciling the conflicting interests could be devised, he certainly should not object to the appointment of such a Committee. He was quite sure, that to reduce the duty on rum would militate against many important interests of this country; and he was convinced, that if he had proposed such a measure to the House, he should have proposed it in vain. He would not detain the House further, but before he sat down he would answer a question which had been put to him by an hon. Gentleman opposite (Mr. H. Davis), respecting the prohibition of the growth of tobacco in Ireland. He knew that measure to be greatly objected to in Ireland, as particularly prejudicial to some interests in that country. But he meant to accompany the prohibition with a reduction of the duty on imported tobacco —a measure, by which he believed that Ireland would be more generally benefited, than by the permission to grow tobacco. However, as he had not been able to carry into effect his intention to reduce the duty, he felt also bound to abandon the prohibition.
concurred entirely with the noble Lord opposite (Lord Althorp) in thinking that an inquiry ought to be instituted into the condition of those colonies, and the most effectual means of remedying the distress under which they laboured. For his part, he believed that they would derive more benefit than injury from the letting into the English market more freely the sugar of the East Indies, because, if that would effect nothing more for them, it would at least remove a great part of the ill-will which was undoubtedly borne towards the West-India interests. He would, however, recommend the noble Lord to withdraw his Resolution.
Mr. C. Grant
said, that he had so often trespassed on the House upon the subject referred to in the noble Lord's Motion, 797 that he should spare both the House and himself the trouble of going into the discussion on the present occasion. His own opinions were well known to be in accordance with the Resolution proposed by the noble Lord; but he must, however, object to its being now brought forward, on an occasion and in a manner in which it could not fail to obstruct the proceedings of the Committee of Supply. He agreed with his noble friend in saying, that if the noble Marquis should move for a Committee of Inquiry, they (the Ministers) would be glad to adopt any measures calculated to relieve the distresses of the West Indies, without prejudice to other interests.
assured his noble friend (Lord Althorp) that it never was his intention to join in any measure of a factious tendency or hostile to the Government. If such had been the object of the noble mover, he (Mr. Bernal) would not have supported him. He would never sacrifice his public duty to his private interest. But the subject of the noble Marquis's Resolution forced itself imperiously upon the consideration of the House and the Government. He did not blame the present Administration more than any former one; but he would say that there had been manifested the most neglectful ignorance of the West-Indian and other colonial interests. The West-Indians had been neglected because they were weak; they had been oppressed on account of their imbecility. He thought that it would have been better, had the right hon. Gentleman near him not alluded to the question of negro slavery. He would ask his noble friend, the Chancellor of the Exchequer did he think that he (Mr. Bernal) would join in an endeavour to retard the proceedings of the Government? Nor had the noble Marquis asked alone for the reduction of the duty on sugar, but that the whole case of colonial distress should be taken into the consideration of the House. But the purpose of his noble friend would not be attained by a Committee of Inquiry, in which there would be no more than a repetition of stale evidence which had been already laid before the Board of Trade. He was sorry to find that they had come at last to this, that they should hear the right hon. Gentleman, who had so long advocated the principle that reduction of taxation was ancillary to an increase of consumption, and tended ultimately to increase the productiveness 798 of the tax, now say that the reduction of a tax upon sugar would not relieve the producer, and would injure the Exchequer. He believed, that the interests of the West Indians and of the inhabitants of the other parts of the empire might be mutually promoted by a modification of the duties on sugar and rum and by allowing the use of sugar in our distilleries. Sugar had become a necessary to the poor man, and his comfort would be much promoted by that reduction of duty which would promote the prosperity of our colonies. He put it to the whole Government to say, why, if they admitted the distress was not exaggerated, they could think it fitting in them to postpone one moment, the consideration and application of a remedy.
Mr. C. Grant
said, that far from having any intention to impute factious or hostile motives to his hon. friend who last addressed the House, he had meant to say, that he would himself support the motion, except that it would at present interfere with the progress of the Committee of Supply; but it had just now been suggested to him that the resolution would not have that effect. Since he had heard that, he was prepared to agree with the noble Marquis, but for the objectionable manner in which his motion had been introduced. He, however, had heard from the highest authority that the resolution would not interfere with the supplies, and therefore he would vote with the noble Marquis.
rejoiced to have heard the West-India interest advocated upon principles with which the House could agree. He was glad to hear the Member for Rochester not contending for the monopoly of the supply of sugar, but requiring an increase of consumption as the remedy of the producer's distress. He suggested that the resolution should be prepared in a Committee, and that the noble Lord should afterwards introduce a bill founded thereupon.
Sir James Graham
was sorry, that he could not go the same way that his right hon. friend the President of the Board of Control would go, if the noble marquis should divide the House. He knew that the distress existed as described by the noble Marquis and he regretted it. But the fact had not escaped the observation of the Government. The state of the country and of the colonies had been passed in review before them; and it was impossible that facts, so striking as those 799 mentioned by the noble mover of the resolution, and by the hon. Gentleman below the gangway, should have escaped the notice of his Majesty's Ministers. He was ready to admit that the motion of the noble marquis might not obstruct the Committee of Supply; but, as he himself had often made a Motion of the same sort, he knew very well that its success would be understood to convey an indirect, but intelligible censure upon his Majesty's Ministers. It was quite clear to him, that if the Ministers agreed to the motion, before to-morrow morning it would be supposed throughout the country that the House had implied an opinion that the Ministers had not done their duty. But they, having taken into consideration the state of the country, had brought forward those measures which to them seemed most conducive to the general relief. It was not to be forgotten that they had done everything that was possible for the relief of the country, consistently with the maintenance of the civil government and of the national faith. In making reductions, it had appeared to them that the taxes of which the reduction would give the most extensive relief, and in the direction in which it was most required, were those upon coals and candles. Was the public faith of this country to be sustained or not? But how was it to be sustained, if gentlemen opposed the imposition of all new taxes, and came forward night after night to propose the reduction of successive taxes? Gentlemen, therefore, might talk of maintaining the public faith, and of preserving the public honour in spotless purity; but he would ask, how was that to be done if his Majesty's Ministers were called on to take off tax after tax without supplying their places by others more easily borne? The real question at issue was, had the Ministers done rightly or not? In considering what taxes ought to be reduced, they conceived that those on coals and candles were the most fit to be repealed. If the House thought that the Government had been right, it would sustain the Ministry, and reject the Motion of the noble Marquis. He did not deny the existence or the extent of the distress. They admitted both; and they said, that they would take the earliest opportunity to relieve it. He could not say that such an opportunity might occur in the present Session; but if not, he hoped it would take place in the next. His hon. friend 800 had said, that if a Committee were proposed he should vote for it. But for what purpose should such a Committee be appointed? The fact of the distress was ascertained already. It was not denied. The Government had fully considered it with a view to devise the means of its alleviation, and they had, consequently, asserted, that they could not relieve it by the removal of taxes consistently with a due regard to the maintenance of the civil government and of the national honour. They would not hold out a delusive hope that they should be able to give relief in the way in which it was desired for the West-India interest, in the present Session. It therefore remained for the House to say whether it would assent to the Resolution of the noble Lord, or support the Ministry as the case at present stood? He did not wish to put the matter to the House otherwise than in a straight-forward, intelligible manner. He was sure he spoke the sense of his colleagues when he said that they did not wish to hold office longer than they possessed the confidence of the House and of the country. It gave him great pain to differ from his right hon. friend, Mr. C. Grant, for no man held him in more respect, but he had a duty to perform which had higher claims on him than personal friendship. He would, therefore, throw himself upon the House. He hoped that, though he might have argued feebly, he had at least expressed his sentiments plainly and fairly.
§ Sir R. Peel
said, that, on the present question, he could not take into consideration the probable effect which the decision of the House might have upon the relative situation of political parties. In the present state of the country, he had much higher objects to regard; and he was bound to be governed by them in giving his vote. He concurred with those who lamented the distress of the West Indies, and he considered the interests of the mother country to be involved in those of the colonies. He deeply regretted that any irritating topic had been introduced, and that they could not discuss questions merely fiscal without being threatened with the voice of the people of England. He was astonished that a right hon. Gentleman connected with a financial department should attempt to influence the House in the consideration of a. financial question, by referring to the condition of the slaves. He would assert, that the 801 moral and physical condition of the slaves would most effectually be improved by promoting the welfare of the planters. The true way to raise the condition of the slave was to restore prosperity to the West-Indian colonies. But on the present occasion he must be governed in his course by feelings higher than party or political prejudices. He agreed, that the West Indians required relief; and he trusted that the noble Lord would be able to give encouragement to the hopes of the planters—that the duties on sugar would be reduced in the next year. But, in the present state of the country, the noble Lord having pledged himself to the reduction of the duties on coals and candles, and no satisfactory explanation of the taxes that were to be imposed, that he had heard, had yet been given, he could not, with due regard to the paramount duty of supporting the public faith, concur in the taking off any other taxes. He should be sorry also to give any vote which would interfere with the progress of granting the supplies. He could not vote for the Resolution, because it might encourage hopes which could not at present be realized. He regretted that the right hon. Gentleman opposite, who was so aware of the necessity of supporting public credit, had not kept as attentive an eye to that necessity when he supported the tax upon transfers, and when equitable adjustment was talked of on a former occasion. For the sake of that credit, he should vote against the Resolution, without regard to any influence it might have upon the state of par-ties. At the same time, he would advise his noble friend net to accept the offer of a committee. The responsibility of attending to the colonial interests was last year left to the Administration; and the neglect of them since had not been occasioned by ignorance or denial of the distress, but by the inability of the Government to devise means of relieving it, consistently with other interests. He did not, however, think that the reduction of the tax upon sugar would afford all the desired relief. The right hon. Baronet had said, that the question before the House was really a party question, and that its decision would determine the continuance of the present Ministry. If he (Sir R. Peel) viewed it in that light, he should think it a sufficient reason for the House to reject the motion; as it ought not to entertain on light grounds a ques- 802 tion involving such results. But, in the present state of the country especially, they ought not to call on Ministers to pledge themselves to reductions of taxation which would endanger the sufficiency of the public revenue to the support of the public faith. He concluded by recommending his noble friend to withdraw his motion.
§ Mr. Hunt
observed, that the mere duty was so small, that the relinquishment of it could not lead to any breach of national faith; but, at the same time, he thought it a fit subject for inquiry. He conceived that, on the present occasion, he should best discharge his duty by supporting his Majesty's Government. In taking off the burthens which pressed upon sea-borne coals, on candles, and lightening the tax on newspapers, Ministers had conferred obligations upon the public, giving them light, heat, and knowledge; and therefore he should, for the present, at least, give them his support. As to the Motion of the noble Lord, it was so exceedingly indefinite, that he hoped no liberal Member of that House would give it. his support; or, rather that no liberal Member of that House would withdraw his support from his Majesty's Government. If they were not so near the first of March, there might be some difficulty in the matter; but at the present crisis, he hoped the noble Lord would not be supported.
§ The Marquis of Chandos, in yielding just then to the wish of the House, begged it to be understood, that he was resolved, at some future time, to follow up his present Amendment, when he might hope for more unanimity in the House than there then was.
§ Amendment withdrawn.
§ On the original question being put, that the House do resolve itself into a Committee of Supply,
§ An hon. Member wished to know from the noble Lord opposite, if the report was well founded, that a quantity of arms had been removed from the stores in the Tower, for the use of the French government.
§ Lord Althorp
replied, that the French government had contracted with certain Birmingham manufacturers for a consider- 803 able quantity of arms; but the time granted for the preparation of them was so short, that the manufacturers applied to the Government of this country, requesting a temporary supply from the Tower, which were to be replaced as quickly as arms could be manufactured in Birmingham. To that extent these supplies were afforded to the French government, but immediately to the contractors in Birmingham. Recently a further demand was made upon his Majesty's Government for a large number; but that had not been acceded to, and was merely under the consideration of the Ministers.
Sir Henry Fane
wished to know whether the noble Lord implied that the arrangement referred to had been made by the late Board of Ordnance?
§ Sir George Clerk
wished that the noble Lord, the Chancellor of the Exchequer, would state to the House the aggregate amount of the Estimates for the current year. It was his opinion that, in the present state of the country, he ought rather to increase than to diminish the estimated surplus, for it did not appear from what quarter relief was to come.
§ Lord Althorp
did not at that moment precisely remember the amount of the whole of the estimates as stated by him on a former evening; but, as well as he recollected, it was 46,885,000l. It was well known that last year's estimated surplus of 300,000l. had been underrated, for the beer-duties alone made it rise to an amount far beyond that sum; and he was sure the House would agree with him, that some of the reductions which he proposed could not be altogether unattended with success, and that his estimated surplus would, like that of his predecessor, be increased.
§ Mr. Goulburn
understood his hon. friend to express a wish to know what the estimates were, as separated from the expenses of the public Debt, that he might have the means of comparing them with the estimates of former years. As for his own views on the subject, he was quite convinced that the noble Lord opposite would find it absolutely necessary to impose other taxes beyond those which he had announced, or else give up some of his reductions.
§ Mr. Briscoe
asked, if there was to be such an increase of troops, what was to become of the principle of non-inter- 804 ference? In his opinion the yeomanry, the constabulary force, and the militia were the legitimate and constitutional power to which the Government ought to look; and as to taxation, he professed himself utterly unable to comprehend how that reduction could be brought about without a reduction of expenditure.