HC Deb 22 April 1833 vol 17 cc384-462
Mr. Attwood

rose to bring forward a Motion relative to the state of the country. He thanked the noble Lord for his courtesy in not moving the Order of the Day, and in allowing him to proceed. Since he had had the honour of a seat in that House he had frequently felt it to be his duty to urge upon the House the propriety of an inquiry into the state of prosperity or otherwise of the middle and lower classes, and particularly to ascertain in what manner their interests were affected by that monetary system which, since the end of the war, it had been attempted to establish. Hitherto he had made these efforts in vain. That House had not been induced by any representations of his, nor by the increasing disasters of the last eighteen years, nor by the demands of the people, to direct its attention to the real state of the country, and the effect which our monetary system had upon all the great interests of the people. He knew not that he could now recommend this inquiry to the House by any arguments or statements which he had not before submitted to its consideration; but there was this to be said in favour of the same arguments and the same statements, that they brought down with them the testimony of time and experience, showing the increasing calamities which he had predicted, and confirming all that he had said, by the testimony of time and experience against the mischievous policy, the vain delusions, and the mistaken theories by which he had been opposed. And those individuals by whom he had been before opposed, should they come forward again to oppose him to-night, would at least be expected to show by experience that time had proved their arguments to have been correct, and that they had not been led astray by erroneous suppositions and unfounded assumptions. He confessed, however, that it was with better hope for the country, and with greater confidence in the present House, that he now came forward to propose the Motion with which he should have the honour to conclude, than he had ever before felt when submitting a similar Motion to former Houses of Commons. He recognised in the present House of Commons a body of men more disposed to act each upon his own individual judgment than he had found in any former Parliament. In previous Houses of Commons a disposition had prevailed on the part of the majority to surrender their vote to the interests of the party to which the Ministers happened to belong, and with their vote they surrendered their judgment also to the leaders of party. It was not his intention to discuss the advantage or disadvantage of political combinations. Whether the combinations of party were for good or for evil he recognised in that House, as at present constituted, a disposition to disregard the obligations of party, to act upon the conviction of individual judgment, and not to surrender for the advantage of a few that great trust which was given for the general interests of the country. The great leaders of parties in that House, those who either were at the moment or had been in power, were always averse to have the calamities of the country imputed to legislation. The leaders of both parties in that House, in an evil hour for the country, had, with great precipitance, and with greater error committed their judgment to a monetary system of a character most defective and disastrous, and which, instead of aiding the movements of industry, clogged and impeded the whole machine, and had enormously increased all the burthens of the country. They had united for the purpose of opposing inquiry, and they might, and it was probable they would so unite again; but he hoped they would not be followed by the rest of the House, whose characters were not pledged to a particular measure, and whose judgment was not biased by a pledge unthinkingly given. All that he sought was inquiry, and he knew of no heavier error than that which had induced the leading men of that House to refuse the call of the country to inquire into the calamitous consequences of their own policy. With these prefatory remarks he would proceed to detail to the House the real condition of the country, and what he was prepared to prove before a Committee, should one be granted to him. Before he did so, however, he would briefly advert to some of the grounds upon which his Motion for inquiry had formerly been met. Few things were more difficult than to obtain a hearing for the complaints of the people within those walls. Upon no subject did the House ever listen with more reluctance. The Ministers were averse from hearing of calamities. There was no unequivocal state of distress which the country had suffered for many years past, the existence of which accordingly had not been denied. There were always some individual Members ready to confront by their individual knowledge the general knowledge upon the subject of distress. There was never wanting upon such an occasion some person who had letters in his pocket from particular districts where all things were proceeding, if not with comfort and prosperity, at least with all the appearances of amendment and all the promise of certain recovery from temporary depression. The hon. member for Essex (Mr. Baring) was rarely wanting with the aid of his opinion and testimony upon such occasions. He was not a merchant, he would tell the House, but then he happened to have the good fortune to know those who were merchants, and he was informed that things were going on prosperously in this place, and in that; trade was becoming brisk again; and, probably, as soon as the question of the Bank Charter should be finally disposed of, all would go on as well as ever it had done. And so in that strain the hon. member for Essex would go on, thinking, as he had so much reason to be satisfied with his own condition, that there could not be so much distress in the country as had been described. Then on the part of the Government there never was wanting upon such occasions some one connected with the administration to rise and refer to the last Returns of the Excise or the Customs, proving an increased consumption of the article of starch, or bricks, or tiles, or some other article equally important, to establish the gratifying fact of increased means on the part of the people, and returning prosperity. And to evidence of that description, to documents backed by the respectable authority of some Surveyor General of the Customs were the people of this country expected to give up the testimony of their own judgments and feelings. He never had known such documents fairly used, and he (Mr. Attwood) would undertake out of such materials to prove any proposition whatever. In illustration of his argument he would refer to the case of an hon. friend of his who had on one occasion quoted the number of persons who had taken out wine licences as a proof of prosperity; but at the very time there was lying on the Table a return showing that the quantity of wine sold had decreased. What was this, then, but a proof of decay, of the slackness of business, which drove the decaying dealers to struggle against each other? Such modes of demonstrating the prosperity of the people, however satisfactory to former Houses of Commons, had excited the discontent and the indignation of the people. They had first forfeited for the Parliament the confidence of the nation, and, compelling the House of Commons to withdraw its confidence from the administration, had precipitated its fall. If that line of argument were again adopted, it would lead to a corresponding result; but he hoped better things of the present House of Commons. The noble Lord had admitted, in the course of his financial statement on the 19th, that the country was labouring under great distress; and, when he joined to that admission, the description of the course which Parliament ought to pursue under such circumstances, he owned he had better hopes than formerly that his proposition for inquiry would not be rejected. The noble Lord, at the head of his Majesty's Government, in language too forcible ever to be forgotten, said, that "if during a state of peace there existed distress, if the country was not in a state of decent prosperity, Parliament had one paramount duty to perform, and that was, to institute an examination, of the most searching and extensive nature, and to probe to the bottom the whole of those causes which, in a period of profound peace, permitted the country to remain in a state of distress." These were the words of the noble Earl, and he now claimed the performance of the pledge they implied. On the financial statement made by the noble Lord (Lord Althorp), only a day or two ago, he (Mr. Attwood) was willing to rest his demand for an inquiry. The noble Lord thought if he introduced his Budget it might possibly prevent this Motion. He asked the House, whether they saw any grounds in the financial statement of the noble Lord for withdrawing the present Motion, at a time when it appeared that taxes were no longer paid out of profits but out of capital? The noble Lord also desired, that the Motion of the hon. member for London (Sir John Key) on the Assessed-taxes should be postponed till after the Budget, doubtless in the hope that the shopkeepers of the metropolis should be satisfied with his proposition of Friday night. But a few months back a body of tradesmen waited upon the noble Lord opposite to demand relief from the pressure of the Assessed-taxes. He told them to wait till after he had opened his Budget, as no doubt they would find some relief from that source. What relief had the Budget given them? The re-presentation made by the tradesmen to the noble Lord was, that they could not go on paying the present taxes without bankruptcy as the consequence. The noble Lord's answer in his Budget speech was, that if he took off any of the taxes, the Exchequer would not be in a better condition, nor far removed from a state of bankruptcy. Taking the fact to be, on the one hand, as the noble Lord stated it, and, on the other hand, as the trading deputation represented to be their condition, was there not, he asked, abundant reason for instituting an inquiry into so strange and alarming a state of things after eighteen years of profound peace? The noble Lord had told them, that, with a revenue of 50,000,000l. a-year, he could not command a surplus of more than 500,000l. Now, he called upon the House, as the guardians of the public faith, to say, whether a miserable surplus of 500,000l. afforded a reasonable security for the due maintenance of the public faith? He would ask the hon. member for Essex, he would ask all those who were such staunch advocates for preserving the national faith, whether that could be accomplished by a surplus of 500,000l.? What a multitude of causes might there not happen to produce a fall in the revenue? A failure in the next harvest, occurrences abroad impeding trade, might cause the falling-off to the amount of several millions. Then, what resource had the noble Lord to pay the interest of the public debt? Would he borrow from the Bank? Would he adopt any of those modern expedients which were always followed by convulsion and calamity? He would take the noble Lord from the prospect of an indigent people and a decaying Exchequer, to one of a very different character. The noble Lord had represented to the House, that the people of this country paid fifty millions of taxes with great difficulty, with increasing pauperism, increasing crime, and decaying prosperity. He begged the noble Lord to turn his eyes back to that period when the people of this country paid nearly eighty millions of taxes without difficulty, with increasing wealth, and decreasing pauperism. In 1815, according to the statement of a right reverend Prelate, who published a book on the subject in 1819, the amount paid for pauperism was equivalent to 1,300,000 quarters of wheat. At present, according to the noble Lord opposite, it was equivalent to 3,000,000 quarters of wheat. But let the House go back to the period when 78,000,000l. of taxes were paid annually. Were the people in a state of suffering? Did they feel that difficulty in supporting the burthen which the noble Lord had represented them to feel now? How did the war end? Was it because the people were unable to support the weight of taxation? Were the resources of the country exhausted, or the patience of the people fatigued? No! The war ended with the attainment of every object for which it had been undertaken; it was not brought to a close because of the discontent and poverty of the people of this country, but because there was no longer an enemy to contend with. Still, when he showed the same people who, in 1815, paid without difficulty 78,000,000l. a-year now broken down under the weight of only 50,000,000l., he only stated half the question. In order to ascertain the extent of a weight it was necessary to measure the strength which had to support it. The state of the population, and the state of the finances ought to be placed beside each other. In the year 1815 the amount of taxation was 78,240,000l. In 1814 it was 77,300,000l.; he meant taxes absolutely levied on the people, and exclusive of the cost of collection. In 1813 it was 73,400,000l. Let them place beside these sums the population of the country as an index to its resources. The population of the country, as appeared by Parliamentary Returns, was, in 1815, 18,700,000. At present it amounted to 34,000,000. Thus 18,700,000 persons had paid without difficulty 78,000,000l. of taxes whilst the greater number of 24,000,000 broke down under the weight of 50,000,000l. Here he might rest, and appeal to the House to grant the inquiry he demanded. If a merchant or a professional man were to see such evidence of declining prosperity in his affairs, would he not be deemed insane not to institute a rigid and extensive inquiry, in order to ascertain the cause, whether he hoped to be able to remove it or not? He knew that it was the doctrine of a certain school of philosophers that an increasing population was not only the sign of prosperity, but was itself prosperity. He did not mean to enter into the abstract question. It bad been the bane of the country that its legislation had followed these abstract doctrines of the philosophers with too much subserviency, making the great interests of the country depend upon the contingency of the philosophers being right or wrong in their theory. It was, however, no mark of a discreet philosophy to insist upon the acceptance of its doctrines. The habits engendered in prosperity were not easily to be shaken off in adversity, and he feared that it would be long ere philosophy accomplished the difficult task of teaching the strongest passions of human nature the power of bridling themselves so as to check imprudent marriages; and, through the medium of moral restraint, limit the population of a country within the means of subsistence. He had stated the amount of taxation in 1815—let the House next turn to the amount which had been reduced. The amount of taxation taken off altogether since the termination of the war up to 1834, was 38,000,000l.; but other burthens had been imposed which must be deducted from that sum. Taking that into consideration, however, 34,500,000l. had been actually taken off the shoulders of the people since the peace; leaving 43,700,000l. to make up the 78,200,000l. which was the amount in 1815. But, in correspondence with the expectations of the different Finance Ministers who had reduced taxes, the revenue had not lost equal to the amount of the whole tax taken off, by reason of the increased consumption of the article. The principle was in itself correct, and it had been pretty strictly adhered to. Since the peace the taxes had been diminished by more than 30,000,000l., and yet the distress of every class in the community had deplorably increased. If any person examined his statements, it would be found that the population had during that time increased nearly one-fourth, its power of consuming the necessaries and comforts of life had only increased about one-tenth. If, with a reduced taxation, and an increase in population, there was also increasing distress, was there not reason to conclude, that taxation was not the cause of the national calamities? How, then, he would ask, was the distress to be accounted for? Simply in consequence of the change in our monetary system. During that period of eighteen years there had been a time—a time before we had restricted our monetary system—when the country, and all classes in it, were rapidly advancing in the career of prosperity. There was, during that period, a time of growing prosperity and wealth throughout the country; there had been, during those eighteen years, some years of a prosperity as general, and as much marked by an increase in our commerce and trade, as any that had been known in the brightest eras of this country's history. The amount of the revenue in 1825 exceeded by 7,700,000l. the amount of the revenue in 1823. In 1824 the revenue had increased above that of 1823 by 3,600,000l.; and in 1825 it had increased to the amount of 7,700,000l. It might be said, no doubt, that the close of the year 1825 was a period of calamity. That calamity was attributable to the speculations of the merchants and fundholders; but it would be absurd to attribute it to a circumstance which occurred during the same period—namely, an increased consumption of the necessaries and comforts of life, and an increased activity of trade and commerce on the part of the great body of the people. During that year there had been an undoubted increase of trade, and of the profits of trade, amongst the mass of the population; but it would be idle to attribute to the speculations of the great community of producers and consumers a calamity which was solely attributable to the speculations of a number of merchants and fundholders. He would then go to another part of those eighteen years, which was divested of all question of speculation—he referred to the year 1818. Allowing for the taxes taken off and the taxes imposed during the three years ending in 1818, there had been an increase in the revenue of 11,900,000l. in the course of that time; showing a proportionate increase in the power of the people over the consumption of the necessaries and conveniences of life. The monetary system was screwed up in 1819; it was relaxedin 1824 and 1825, and distress prevailed when it was tightened, while prosperity followed its relaxation. The results up to 1818 and subsequent to 1823 were obviously the result of legislative interference with the money of the country; and as it had produced, first distress, then prosperity, and now distress again, it was its duty to look carefully to its own acts. It was worse than mockery to pretend, that the distress of the country was not connected with the change that had taken place in our monetary system; and it would be an insult to the people, who were suffering under that distress, to say that it was not one of the bounden and most important duties of that House to inquire into such a cause as the distress and suffering of the country. The present House of Commons stood in a different situation with regard to the people, from the last or any former House of Commons. During the seventeen years that had elapsed, up to the dissolution of the last House of Commons, successive Administrations had endeavoured to rival each other in their boasted reductions of the burthens on the people; but while, on the one hand, for what they had openly done in relieving the burthens of the people they claimed the public applause and gratitude, the House of Commons was, on the other hand, all the time employed in silently imposing still greater burthens on the people by increasing the value of the currency. He would, therefore, put it to the Members of the present House of Commons, whether the time was not come when they should effectually apply themselves to that which had been so long neglected by their predecessors—to the institution of a thorough inquiry into the real causes of the distresses of the people: he would put it to them, whether the time had not come when they should endeavour to retrace the steps of former Parliaments, and thereby to relieve the labouring and productive classes from their present state of suffering and distress. The question was, whether it would not be a measure consistent with good faith and honesty—the only basis, be admitted, of legislation—to increase the power of the people to endure their burthens, and restore them to that state of prosperity, of which, with a proper currency, even war could not deprive them? He would appeal to the consistency of those Gentlemen who cheered, to vote with him for this inquiry. He would engage to demonstrate, if that inquiry should be granted, that that was the only means left to them for effectually relieving the burthens of the people. If they had increased those burthens, as he would contend that they had done, by the alteration which they had made in the value of money; they had, on the other hand, by the same measure, increased the amount of payments made to those who received salaries out of the taxes. The salaries of all those who were paid out of the public Exchequer had been increased without any additional claim in the way of services on their parts, and the manifest duty of the House, if it found that it could not increase the people's power of bearing their burthens in the manner he had stated, would be, to proceed at once to reduce those burthens, by reducing the payments made out of the Exchequer for the public establishments, and for the salaries of the public servants, to an extent proportionate to the increase that had taken place in the value of money. It would be vain to endeavour to evade such a course—justice demanded it, and necessity would enforce it. If the conclusion which he had drawn was a correct one (and he challenged inquiry on the subject) the position he maintained was this—that the change which had been made in our monetary system had spread distress universally amongst all classes of the community. He would appeal to those best acquainted with the different interests of the country, whether, since that change had been made, those interests had not been progressively sinking deeper and deeper into difficulties, distress, and embarrassment. To begin with the first and most important of all interests—the landed interest. It would not be denied, he was sure, that the proprietor of the land, and the labourer who tilled it, formed a most important branch of the national wealth and prosperity; that with their prosperity the prosperity of the country was materially connected; and that it might be safely and justly concluded when the landed interest prospered, the country at large was in a state of prosperity. He had heard in that House upon different occasions two different assertions with regard to the landed interest, coming, too, rather inconsistently from the same parties, and often uttered by them upon the same occasion. He had often heard it said in that House, that the landlords should reduce their rents, and he had heard it as often asserted by the same parties, that the rent of land had been reduced to a level with the prices of agricultural produce. Undoubtedly, the advocates of public faith, they who so strenuously stickled for the inviolable maintenance of the contracts made with the public creditor, had no right to call upon the landlords to abandon their interests—to give up their contracts. He for one entertained no respect for the consistency of those who would, on the one side, bolster up the public faith, and who thus, on the other, utterly disregarded the faith of our previous contracts. A general reduction of the rents of the country to a level of the rents in 1792 would, if it took place, produce a complete confiscation of the property of the proprietors of a great portion of the land of England. The taxes in 1792 amounted to 14,000,000l., and they were at present more than 50,000,000l. The same rents that would not at present, under the existing pressure of taxation, keep open the door of the landed proprietor, would be sufficient in 1792 to maintain him in dignity and splendor. Again, it should be borne in mind, that land was generally encumbered in divers ways with various engagements, such as mortgages, family settlements, &c., most of which had been probably laid upon it previous to the passing of the law for altering the currency, and yet the advocates for the maintenance of the public faith demanded that the landlords should, under such circumstances, reduce their rents to the level of 1792; they required, forsooth, that the landed proprietors should be the only class in the country to give up their legal claims, to relinquish that which the law and their contracts gave them, and that they should set an example which would not be followed by any other class of the community, and the effect of which would be the entire and complete confiscation of every shilling of their property. But the noble Lord (Lord Althorp) had told them that rents had been already reduced, that they had been reduced to the level of the reduction in the price of agricultural produce, and that a relaxation in the monetary system which would increase that price would cause great injustice, and was uncalled for and unnecessary. He was contented to rest his case upon that fact; if the noble Lord would honour him with his candid attention, he would engage to establish to his satisfaction, that rents had not fallen in proportion to the fall that had taken place in the value of agricultural produce. He was aware that at former periods, and on former occasions, when the manufacturers were suffering under peculiar distress, they and others called for what he regarded as one species of confiscation of the property of the landed interest—namely, a repeal of the Corn-laws. He alluded however, now to another species of confiscation of landed property which was in actual operation. If this inquiry should be granted, he would engage to prove that a confiscation of the property of the landed interest was necessarily consequent upon the fall of prices produced by the change in our monetary system, that that change was not yet complete, that it was every hour in operation, that it was progressively confiscating the property throughout the country, that the House might, if it wished, rescue the people from ruin by giving a relaxation of the monetary system, to what extent he would not say, so as to afford an increase of means to the farmer to meet his engagements, and that nothing but a total disregard of national faith and of sound national policy would induce them to refuse it. What was the present state of the agricultural interest? He would just refer them to the report recently laid before the House from the Commissioners appointed to inquire into the state of the Poor-laws for some pregnant evidence upon that point. Those Commissioners had in the first instance distributed a circular of questions to the different overseers and church wardens throughout the country. One of those questions was," Has agricultural capital increased or diminished in your neighbourhood?" Upwards of 2,000 answers had been obtained from eighteen counties. From the county of Cornwall there were seventeen returns stating that agricultural capital had increased, four that it had diminished, and five that it had continued stationary; and, in the instances where it was mentioned as having increased, it was noticed that there had been either one or two good harvests. With the exception, however, of the county of Cornwall, and of a county in Wales from which there had been only two returns—with those two exceptions, the uniform answer from the whole of the other sixteen counties was, that agricultural capital had diminished, and in no county had it diminished more fearfully than in the county of Essex. The fact was, that the alteration which had been made in the value of money, had not as yet produced its adjustment, though they were told that it had as to the prices of agricultural produce. It was at that moment in progress, and the only way of arresting the further confiscation of the property of the landed interest, consisted in relaxing the present monetary system. If they did not do that, the infliction of our present monetary system would be productive of a confiscation and plunder unequalled in its extent by any recorded in the history of the civilized world. It would not be denied that the agricultural interest was at present involved in the deepest distress. Was it so before the passing of the Bill to which the name of the right hon. Baronet (Sir Robert Peel) was attached? Did they before that Bill passed, hear of the strides of pauperism throughout the agricultural districts of this country? Was there any talk at that period of the distress of the landlords, of the destruction of agricultural capital, of the ruin of the farmers, and of the dangers that threatened the security of all landed property? By the present system, honest expectations were frustrated, industry was checked, capital was rendered unproductive, and a general scene of misery was exhibited throughout the country. The cattle of the farmer were disappearing from the fields, the manure was no longer spread upon the land, and the meadows were no longer fruitful, even in the most fertile districts of the country. In short every branch of industry was profitless or unsuccessful. Pauperism had increased to a deplorable extent; and, while the farmer was ruined, the labourer was rendered slavish, for he no longer enjoyed his former independence of character. It might be said that the blame of this rested with the poor laws and the parish officers in the distribution of the Poor-rates. He invited the House to inquire into the real causes that had produced such distress. The Poor-laws had existed in this country for upwards of two centuries before any one had attributed to them a tendency to destroy the agricultural labourers, or to lessen the security of landed property, They had been established for 150 years before the revenue collected under them amounted to 600,000l.; and he now called upon the House to institute an inquiry which would set at rest the question, whether now for the first time we found that those laws, for giving the poor man a right to subsistence, tended to destroy the independence of the labourers, and the security of the landed interest. There were no Poor-laws in Ireland, and yet, he would ask, was the agricultural interest better off in that country than it was in this? They certainly applied a different remedy to the distress in Ireland, for they had been six weeks engaged in discussing a bill for putting down disturbances that were wholly caused by distress. But, he would ask, could no means be devised of remedying the evils of that country without the introduction of Martial-law? A Committee of the House of Commons had been appointed last year to examine into the state of the disturbed counties in Ireland, into the immediate causes which had produced the same, and into the efficiency of the laws for the suppression of outrages against the public peace. The approaching close of the Session prevented the Committee from preparing a detailed report; but they referred to the evidence taken before the Committee as illustrative of the causes of the disturbances. If the cause might be judged of by that evidence, it did not appear that the illegal combinations of Whitefeet were their original cause; nor was the hon. and learned member for Dublin the cause. Throughout the whole folio volume of evidence, the name of that hon. and learned Gentleman was never mentioned in connexion with the disturbances in Ireland. He was indeed satisfied, that if that hon. and learned Gentleman, and all who took an active part in Irish affairs were banished to-morrow, nothing would be done towards the re-establishment of tranquillity in Ireland. The kind of divided empire which the hon. and learned member for Dublin held with the King in Ireland, was not the cause, but the consequence of the disturbed state of that country. The cause was, the extreme poverty and utter destitution of the Irish people; the high rents, the low wages, the absence of employment in consequence of the farmers not having the means to pay the labourers. What was the nature of the evidence published in the Report of Mr. Singleton, the chief Magistrate of Police for the Colliery District, in the Queen's County? To various questions put to that Gentleman, the substance of his answers was, "that the principal cause of the disturbances related to ground; to clearing the, grounds, and turning the tenants off; to high rents and low wages, and dear conacres." In another part of Mr. Singleton's evidence, he described the disturbances as principally attributable to "oppression, high rent, low wages, and contracts being broken." When Mr. Nicholas O'Connor, a Roman Catholic priest, whose evidence was also published in the Report of the Committee of last Session, was asked what were the principal objects which the Whitefeet had in their outrages, his answer was, "to keep themselves upon their lands. I have often heard their conversations when they say, 'What good did the Emancipation do us? Are we better clothed or fed, or our children better clothed and fed? Are we not as naked as we were, and eating dry potatoes when we can get them?" What he (Mr. Attwood) wished the Committee to inquire into with him was, whether there were not means of giving clothes and food to these poor persons? A great deal had been said of the danger which was produced in Ireland by the efforts of the agitators; he was persuaded that much greater danger would arise from that House shutting its eyes to the misery of the Irish people. In a subsequent part of his evidence, speaking of the feeling which their great distress produced in the minds of the poorer classes in Ireland, Mr. O'Connor said, "They care not if they are taken and hanged for those desperate acts committed in a state of revenge; death would be nothing to them; they care nothing for life." Mr. Cahill, another witness, having been asked what line of conduct he would recommend in order to improve the state of things in Ireland, and to prevent the disturbances and calamities which existed there, replied, "I will state what I conceive to be a good mode to put an end to disturbances. I must look back to the years 1810, to 1814"—before the fatal change was made in our monetary system—"when there was an extraordinary price for the produce, of land; there were also extraordinary prices for the labour of men, and inconsequence of that the men were much inclined for labour: and the farmer getting extraordinary prices for his corn and for various things, he was inclined to carry on a great many works that are now abandoned in the country. Farmers in those times who had wet lands were in the habit of draining the land; and farmers, in those days, were constantly top-dressing their lands with manure, and liming the lands on the surface." When Mr. Cahill was afterwards asked whether, at the period to which he adverted, the farmers of Ireland were generally in the habit of cultivating the land better than they had been since, his answer was, "They were: now the produce of the land not being sufficient to enable the farmer to carry on those works, he is obliged to decline employing the people." This evil, Mr. Cahill attributed to the rents being too high. Now, surely, it was most desirable that an inquiry should be entered into for the purpose of endeavouring to discover whether there were not means of relieving all this distress among the labouring classes—whether in England or in Ireland. Let the words "paupers in England" be substituted for the words "people of Ireland," and the case described in the evidence to which he had just alluded was as applicable to the former as to the latter. Evidence was taken in 1828, before a Committee of the House, upon the subject of the Poor Laws. We had lately had Special Commissions, before whom 1,800 English labourers were brought to trial, of whom 900 were punished in various ways. An hon. Member, in answer to a question put to him by the Committee of 1828, said, that he thought there was plenty of population, if there were sufficient means for employing them. It appeared from the evidence before the Committee of 1828, that there was in the country abundance of employment for the poor; but that the scarcity of money prevented the means of that employment. Hence it was, that the mass of country labourers were made poachers, and those of the towns paupers, and, in many instances, thieves. Hence it was, that our workhouses and our gaols had been filled with the poor and the wretched, who, under a different system, might have continued to be respectable and industrious members of society. Thus, too, it was, that the whole frame of society in this country had been disorganised; nay, he would go further, and attribute a great portion of the disturbances in the sister country, Ireland, to the dreadful change which had been made in our monetary system. Were they not, then, to inquire into, and see how far they were prepared to relax that system which had been productive of such great and general distress in the country, in order to give employment to the more humble classes, and permanent peace, comfort, and tranquillity to the country? Let them consider for a moment what an interest they had in preserving the independence of the agricultural population, because upon that mainly depended the security of the landholder and farmer. They had recently witnessed the bulwark which had hitherto protected the landholder and farmer broken down; they had found the agricultural labourer engaged in the destruction of the property of his employer—engaged, in fact, in the destruction of the produce of his own toil and labour. But why was it thus? If the agriculturist were, by his earnings, placed in a situation in an independent attitude, he would feel his own importance, and would endeavour to preserve his own character and the character and independence of his family. But instead of this, he was driven to distress; his employer, thanks to our monetary system, could not afford to pay him his fair wages, and in many instances he could not be employed at all, so that he was driven to derive a scanty support from sources which debased his character and destroyed his self-respect, and he ultimately became the inmate of a workhouse or a gaol. But he would not pursue the melancholy subject further into detail. The House ought undoubtedly to take into their consideration the deplorable condition of the agricultural interests throughout England, and well weigh the causes which had led to the vast destruction of property that had taken place by agricultural labourers. Labour had become valueless, and crime was the consequence; and surely some effort should be made by the Legislature to alleviate the unmerited sufferings of the most useful class of the people. The claims of the shipping interest followed those of the landed interest. The shipping interest was another great arm of the prosperity of the country. It was next in importance to our agriculture, and our commerce. But what was the state of that interest at the present time, and had it not, like every other interest, fallen into the most lamentable decay? He held in his hand a Memorial, which had been presented to the noble Lord (Lord Althorp) in 1832, from the shipowners of the different seaports in the United Kingdom. This Memorial represented that the shipping interest had been for fifteen years struggling with inconceivable difficulties, and that the large capital embarked in that branch of commerce was wholly unproductive. From the date of this Memorial up to the present time the state of the shipping interest had not improved; on the contrary, the condition of the commercial marine of the country had been in a regular progress of deterioration every year from that time down to the present moment. In short, the ships had not been repaired as they ought to have been, nor were they fitted out or provided with necessaries as they would have been had things been different. The truth was, that the foundations of mercantile prosperity had given way, in consequence of the impolitic course that had been adopted, and the result was, that, if he were to take for example the London merchants who assembled in that great mart of commercial enterprise, the Royal Exchange, three years ago, and contrast them with those who were to be found there now, it would be seen that the merchants of London did not now possess one-third of the wealth and opulence that belonged to them only three years ago. This was a fact that could not be controverted; and if so, what reliance ought they to place upon the statements which had been made in that House of the existence of a little prosperity in this place, and an occasional remission or relaxation of pressure in that? But they would, perhaps, be told to wait a little while longer, and that prosperity would certainly be restored to the country; but had not similar expectations been held out to the productive classes for the last fifteen years, and had not their expectations been disappointed? The industry and manufactures of the country were to have emerged from depression long ago; but what was the result? Why, that at the very least two-thirds of their prosperity had been absolutely annihilated. The condition of the manufacturing interest was wretched in the extreme. He would first speak of the iron trade—a trade always of vast importance in this country, and which was now, he regretted to say, in a state of great distress; but that distress arose out of, and was mainly connected with, the change in our monetary system. The hon. Member here read an extract from a memorial presented by the iron masters in 1831, in which they represented the distresses under which they had continued to labour since the year 1825—distress which all their possible efforts had been unable to relieve. They had reduced their workmen's wages to the utmost—to a point, indeed, which brought most of them to a degree of distress and suffering which it was painful to contemplate, but still without effect. They complained that what with royalties and other charges of various descriptions they were pressed to the earth; and in addition to this, the market prices had fallen nearly one-half. He would ask, then, if the state of this property alone was not sufficient to induce an inquiry into that change in the monetary system by which such great and extensive evil was caused? It surely was the duty of the House of Commons to prevent that which he could designate by no other name than a system of confiscation and robbery from being continued. The hon. Member proceeded to read from the memorial, from which it appeared that the persons concerned in the iron trade represented that, after the enormous expense of machinery, and other necessary outlays, in order to carry on their business, they saw nothing before them but distress, and ultimate ruin to themselves and those employed under them, unless some relief was afforded. He next came to the manufacturing districts, particularly those of Lancashire and Yorkshire. An hon. relative of his (Mr. T. Attwood) had been charged with exaggeration when he pointed out the distress existing amongst the working classes in those counties, and when he stated that the manufacturing of cloths, cottons, &c. were not carried on with any profit to the owners. Whether such exaggeration had or had not taken place he would not stop to inquire; if it had, it might be excusable, in order to induce inquiry; but what excuse could there be for those who gave an exaggerated account of the prosperity of the country in order to prevent all inquiry into the misery which was known to exist. An hon. Gentleman over the way had, on a former occasion, alluded to the distress which existed in France, as a ground, he presumed, that the people of this country had no right to complain. But was the distress existing in any other country a good ground upon which to resist an inquiry into the causes which produced great and unexampled distress amongst all classes in these kingdoms? It was, indeed, a melancholy rivalship, when the distresses of one country were urged against those of another, in order to see which were the greater. But let him take the case as it stood. What did France do when the late visitation—the cholera morbus—came upon Europe? They sent over a commission, at the head of which was the celebrated Dr. Majendie, to inquire into the state and treatment of that malady in this country. That Commission made a Report, in which Dr. Majendie, stated that he had seen all the distress and misery of France, and much of that of other countries; but that he had never witnessed misery and distress equal to that he had seen in this country, and more particularly in Sunderland and its neighbourhood. Such was the distress in our manufacturing districts that in the year 1831 four-fifths of the population of Manchester were receiving parochial relief—[some dissent was manifested to this statement]. Such a statement might appear incredible, but it was the no less true. It was by different persons attributed to different causes. But they deceived themselves who supposed that it was in any way attributable to the power-loom; that instrument of machinery had in no way interfered in causing the distresses of the people. It was his painful duty to call the attention of the House to another suffering class of the community; he meant the number of criminals who infested our gaols from year to year. The hon. Member went over a list of commitments for several years, from which it appeared that the number of persons committed in 1813 was 4,101, and that from that period they annually progressed to 8,000, 9,000, 13,000, 14,000, and 15,000, until at length, in 1832, they amounted to 20,832. Surely the House must see the danger of continuing a system capable of producing such results. No change had taken place in the monetary system without adding to the catalogue of crime which disgraced the country and a reference to the different periods when the circulating medium was interfered with would show the dreadful extent to which criminal offences had increased from one period to another down to the present time. He, therefore, connected not only distress but crime with the monetary system; and it was that same system that had well nigh destroyed all the banks in the United Kingdom. But this he would show by a reference to the consequences which had followed the attempts that had been made from 1819 to 1824 to establish that system. In the last-mentioned year the monetary system was relaxed, but returned to again in 1826, and from thence carried further by other legislative measures in 1828 and 1829, which it was supposed was necessary to secure the permanence and efficiency of the currency. From 1829 the present distresses could clearly be traced; and although they had originated in 1819, yet they might be said to have increased subsequent to 1829, and that the causes had not come into full operation antecedent to that time. In the markets of the country there was not a sufficient circulating medium to meet the value of goods, and unless increased production was accompanied by an increase of currency, the only effect such a monetary system could have was to limit production, and consequently to throw the labouring classes out of employ, and thence occasion want and misery in all directions. This, in fact, was the operation which the present monetary system had had, and he conjured his Majesty's Ministers not to meet his Motion unfairly, or to get rid of it in a way that would be a mockery and an insult to the country. Every one knew that the distress under which the people laboured was consequent upon the monetary system, and the object of his inquiry was, not only to inquire into that distress, but to inquire whether there were means consistently with keeping faith with the public creditor and preserving the national honour by which it could be relieved. There was no interest in the United Kingdom with which the system was not connected; but he wished to know for what interest it was that his Motion was to be opposed? If it should be opposed, and he supposed it would, all he could say was, that the House of Commons, that Reformed Parliament, on whose wisdom the people placed so much confidence, would act most unjustly. The inquiry was a necessary one, and ought in justice to the country to be instituted; but he supposed that the supporters of the present system would deny that any inquiry was called for. But let them look at the system in itself. What it imposed on the Bank was of the most irreconcilable and inconsistent character. It imposed the protection of public credit, and the power of determining the quantity of the circulating medium. They had the power of limiting the quantity of gold in circulation, and of determining what the circulating medium should be; but the Governor of the Bank had, in his evidence before the Committee on the Bank Charter, explained the whole system, and, as he (Mr. Attwood) contended, showed very clearly, that with such a system of currency, ruin must ensue. For instance, the Bank, consulting its own profits, extended its issues. A panic arrived, and then the Bank, alarmed for its own safety, contracted its issues; and the consequence was, that the trading public suffered by this unexpected scarcity of, and consequent rise in, the value of money. While such a state of things existed our monetary system must continue in a state of fluctuation, which must place at hazard, and render unsafe, all trading and speculation in business. The state of our monetary system had given rise to a miserable rivalship between the Bank of England and the different private banks of the country. It was a known fact—indeed it had been stated in evidence before the House of Commons, that at one period of the celebrated panic in 1825, the Bank of England had not more than 1,300,000l. in gold in their possession. This small sum was all they had with which to pay the immense obligations to which they were liable—obligations which, on their own and the Government's account, amounted to nearly 800,000,000l. What was it at a great crisis that saved this country, according to the words of a celebrated Statesman, from being "in forty-eight hours in a state of barter? A box of these derided 1l. notes, discovered by the merest accident, and in his opinion, by the greatest good luck. Now, he should much like to know, what, or where was the authority for this vaunted standard of value. The consequence would have been a state of barter, and no one could doubt, that if that had been established for a week, or even for a day, there would not have been an hour's security hardly for a man's life—certainly for his property. And yet to that state did the present system expose the country, and must expose the country as long as it should be persevered in. Again, we had approached a state of barter in November, 1830, but, in 1832, in the month of February, the country was reduced to a position as dangerous, with regard to the monetary system, and was as close upon the brink of the total breaking down and destruction of the commercial credit of the country, in all its branches, as could possibly be. He would not detain the House longer than to remind it that he brought the subject before a Reformed House of Parliament, and he implored of it to treat it in a way suited to its vast importance. He might be told, that the subject had been often discussed and disproved; that nothing new could be advanced upon it; that a Committee of Inquiry would be useless, and a delusion, for no evidence could be adduced, and no new results arrived at. His answer was, the then Members of that House had never decided upon the question. The then Members of the House, as Representatives of the people, had never inquired into the subject. Was it or was it not their duty to do so? They heard of distress and misery from want of employment, arising from want of sufficient currency, in every quarter; and were they, he asked, the Representatives of the people, to throw aside the subject—a subject vital to the existence of thousands of the community, because they were told by those in office, or those who had been in office, that they knew no good could come of inquiry? If the Government had the information which could justify the rejection of inquiry—inquiry only be it remembered—why did they not give that information to the community? Why did they not unlock their stores, and at least give to the embarrassed, the struggling, and the starving, the melancholy consolation of knowing that relief was unattainable? But they did no such thing. The proposition had never been fairly met. Majorities had decided that there should not be inquiry, when every man must admit, that it was only in a Committee that anything like a conclusion founded upon evidence could be arrived at. But when he considered that he was addressing a House of Commons elected by the people, he could not indeed believe that the mere assertions of official men would be allowed to outweigh the prayers of millions. He could not indeed believe that the Government itself would oppose inquiry into such a matter—a matter that so deeply affected the whole commercial system of the country, and which, if from no other reason, at least from that ought not to be met by a negative. But even if the Government should take such a course, still he had a right, in the name of the suffering people of England, to call upon those who, as Ministers, had sanctioned the present system, now, as Representatives of the people, to authorise an inquiry into their doings. He looked, therefore, to the right hon. Baronet, the member for Tamworth, and appealed to him for his powerful support to assist in procuring a full and efficient inquiry. The right hon. Baronet might think the present system right? but, even if that was the case, would he be justified in opposing inquiry, and thereby saying to the people of England, that he was not merely right, but that they should have his declaration, alone and unsupported, that he was right. That right hon. Baronet had once complained, that many of the institutions of the country had become unfitted to its condition. Now, the present House of Commons, more than any other House of Commons, emanated from the great body of the people; and he appealed to the right hon. Baronet, and asked him if it were not well worth while to attempt to win back the affections of the people to those institutions that their fathers had loved, and that they themselves had been ready to sacrifice wealth, comfort, life itself, to support? If that were so, grant the inquiry. He asked the right hon. Baronet why was it that the people now for the first time viewed with doubt and a desire of change those very institutions they had ever before so much loved? Was it out of mere waywardness or caprice, or because they had proved that those institutions were in themselves bad? No such thing; it was simply because the condition of the great body of the people had been converted from one of comfort, prosperity, and ease to one of poverty, want of employment, and insecurity for property; and the great mass of the community, acting in a manner common to large bodies, attributed all the evils to those institutions immediately before them, and which alone had given them their former prosperity, and preserved them from worse evils than those which they endured. While such delusion operated it was in vain to expect the suffering people to appreciate aright the institutions of the country; and, if the Representatives of the people should still refuse inquiry, the odium generated by tremendous suffering must still fall upon the best and wisest of our institutions, till at length all would be destroyed, and the consequence nothing but increased misery. If then the right hon. Baronet and that House wished to regain for the institutions of the country the affections of the people, he called upon them to support inquiry. Let the matter be gone into fairly, fully, honestly, and then the country would at least see that, if its distress could not be relieved, its Representatives were desirous to do all in their power to afford relief. Nothing short of full and free inquiry would set the question at rest. For his part he hoped and believed that relief might be afforded to the country, and that by means not only consistent with good faith, and honesty, avoiding interference with the prosperity of the few prosperous—but at the same time of such a nature as would, by reviving general employment, enterprise, prosperity, and security, recover the minds of the people from a mistaken desire of change, and restore to the wonted place in their affections the institutions of the country. Let that be done, and he should not merely have to congratulate the House upon restored prosperity, but also upon that restoration being derived from the exertions of the first freely chosen Representatives of the people. That House would then be esteemed, not merely as the first that had been chosen by the great body of the people, but also as having, through its love of justice, and a wise determination to dive into the truth, re-attached the affections of the country to those institutions which had been the great source of its freedom, its prosperity, and its happiness. With these sentiments he begged to move, "That a Committee be appointed to inquire into the state of general distress, difficulty, and embarrassment which now presses on the various orders of the community; how far the same has been occasioned by the operation of our present monetary system; and to consider of the effects produced by that system upon the agriculture, manufacture, and commerce of the United Kingdom, and upon the condition of the industrious and productive classes."

Lord Althorp

spoke as follows:—I do not differ. Sir, from the hon. Gentleman in the view he takes of the great importance of this question, nor do I differ from him in thinking that it is desirable that it should be brought under the consideration of the House. I think with him, too, that a question of this importance is one which this House should now decide, and should say whether they are prepared to stand by the system on which all the contracts of the country depend, or whether they are prepared to adopt a course, to use the hon. Member's own words of confiscation and robbery. If the hon. Gentleman thinks he is right in the opinion he entertains, I am not sorry that he has given a Reformed House of Parliament the opportunity of deciding it. But if I may make a criticism on him, I should say that he does not come in the most straightforward way to the decision of the question. I do not complain of the mode in which he has brought it forward; for he has most candidly pointed out what is the object of it—namely, to effect an alteration in the standard of the currency. The hon. Member, has, however, abstained from stating in what mode he would effect this, and what is the degree to which he would effect it; nor has he ventured to observe upon the consequences which must occur from an alteration such as the one he contemplates. He evidently contemplates the depreciation of the currency. There is no part of his argument that has common sense in it, if that is not his object. But even taking it to be so, he has not distinctly stated how or to what extent he would effect that depreciation. We have heard at different times different propositions brought forward with this object ultimately in view; but the proposition he desires us to agree to is, as the hon. Member declares, perfectly consistent with the public faith. It appears to me most difficult to understand this—how it is possible to have recourse to a great increase in the issue of paper, without, at the same time resorting to some other measures, as that would raise prices. In that the mode in which he purposes to raise prices, without committing any breach of the public faith? We have already had experience enough of that. We have had experience of what it is, and of what must be its necessary consequences. If the amount of currency in circulation is greatly increased, no question that the effect must be to render the value of money, as compared with other commodities, less than it was before. Though we know that in this manner we can increase the amount of currency in circulation in this country, we cannot do so in other countries, and the effect of this will be, that the sovereign will not remain here, but will pass from this country abroad, and the consequence of that will be, a run upon the bank, which must then either stop payment, or a bank restriction must follow. It is impossible but that every gentleman who reasons on this state of things must see that this would be the necessary consequence of the proposal of the hon. Member. Well, then, we come to a Bank restriction. What would be the effect of that? The hon. Member has not answered that question. He states the difficulties that have occurred in this country since 1819, but he might have gone a little further back. He seems to imagine that there was not any distress in the country before the year 1819. Yet every one knows that the distress it suffered before that period was excessively severe. The hon. Member would restore the Bank restriction system, so that every thing on which the contracts of the country now depend, would be afloat—he would place in the hands of a commercial body the power of saying what every man in the country should be worth—he would enrich one, but impoverish another. He would do that which must inevitably produce a state of confusion; and what could be the effect of that confusion but a great increase of the very calamity he now deplores? I believed that the hon. Member had had some experience and knowledge of the evils of the Bank restriction; but, from his speech, I should almost fear that I had been mistaken in the supposition. Then another plan has been proposed—namely, an alteration in the standard of the currency, but how the mere transfer of property from one class of persons to another can increase the advantage and prosperity, or improve the situation of the labouring classes, I am at a loss to know. All I know is, that the labouring classes in such a process as this are the first to suffer. Wages do not conform themselves so quickly to alterations of the standard of value as other things, and the labourer is, therefore, the first and the longest sufferer, as he still works for the same wages which he received before the alteration, while everything around him has increased in price. That was the case when the Bank restriction was first introduced, and would be the case again if that experiment should be renewed. The hon. Member then turns to another part of the subject, and seems to say that the Poor-laws were innocuous up to the year 1814. I do not agree with him in that opinion; I think the bad effect of them was felt during the period of the war. After the famine of 1801–2, the labourer lost his spirit of independence, and was driven to seek parochial relief, which continued from that period during the whole course of the war; and to say, therefore, that this took place at the beginning of the peace, is to say that which is contrary to the experience of any Gentleman who is old enough to recollect that period. Well, then, the hon. Gentleman argues for this Committee of Inquiry in this way—he says—that granting such a Committee would be a mere mockery, if we excluded from the consideration of the Committee the question of the currency. I feel, therefore, that I could not consent to the Committee, and yet exclude that question from its consideration. I agree that every Gentleman who entertains the same views as the hon. Member would complain of such a Committee as a mockery. If I wish, therefore, not to enter into the consideration of the currency, with a view to lower its standard, I must oppose granting this Committee. Among the things of which the hon. Member has spoken, and which have very much surprised me, there is one which has peculiarly produced that effect. In talking of my financial statement, the hon. Member talked of the unsatisfactory state of public credit, when there was only a surplus revenue of 500,000l. What remedy did the hon. Member propose? Why, to take twenty or twenty-five per cent., at once, from that surplus; and that is the mode in which the hon. Member would remedy the insecurity he supposes to exist, because the surplus revenue of the country is so small. The hon. Member asks whether we ought to borrow money to pay the interest of the public debt? To be obliged to do that certainly would be a calamity, but to say that we will not pay it at all would be even a still greater calamity, and that is a most extraordinary mode of reasoning which would go to recommend us to adopt the latter in order to avoid the former evil. The hon. Member, to show us how prosperous the country was when a depreciated currency was in existence, says that pauperism in this country was decreasing at the close of the war. Let us see how this account stands according to the amount of Poor's-rates levied at two different periods. In 1803 the amount levied was 4,113,000l., while, in 1813, the amount was 4,858,000l. [Mr. Attwood said something across the table.] The hon. Member says, that this calculation was made on the comparative value of quarters of wheat, and that that accounts for some of the difference. That may be so; but still the amount is known to have gone on progressively increasing during the period I have mentioned. Pauperism then had not decreased, as the hon. Member represented, but had increased. The hon. Gentleman then said, look at the state in which the country is at this moment; and he asked whether, if any private individual were in such a state, he would not examine into his affairs, and see what were the causes that had reduced him to such a condition? I answer, that a private individual, under such circumstances, would do rightly to inquire into the state of his affairs, and into the causes which had brought him into that condition; but it would not be equally right if the private individual, in consequence of finding himself in a state of distress, should determine not to pay any of his debts, or to strike off the half of them. The hon. Member has quoted a speech, which he says I made on a former occasion with reference to this very subject, but which, I must say, I think must rather be considered as his speech than mine, for I have not the slightest recollection of having uttered the language which he attributes to me. The hon. Member has ridiculed any inquiry relative to the effect of the Poor-laws; and, he says, they have had no effect in producing the present state of the country. It does not appear to me quite so clear that the hon. Member is right in this opinion; for I cannot but think that the bad administration of the Poor-laws must have had some effect on the state of the country. It is clear that it has had in some places. No, says the hon. Member, it is not the effect of the Poor-laws or of their bad administration, or of any other cause, but it is all the effect of the state of the currency. But if this be true, how is it that the same effect has not been produced all over England? How is it that while in the north the Poor-laws have been a blessing, in the South they have been an evil; and yet the monetary system is the same in both places, I do not think that he can take this part of his speech as a triumphant argument in favour of his Motion. I do not mean to state that there is not great distress in the country; but I do believe that the statements of it have been considerably exaggerated. The hon. Member says, he will excuse exaggeration on such a topic—perhaps it may be excused; but certainly, of all men, he ought to be the first to excuse it, for he is much inclined to indulge in it, when speaking on this subject. The hon. Member has spoken of the condition of the landed interest; and I believe, at the moment I am addressing the House, the landed interest is in a worse situation than any other. I regret that I am not able to say that it is prosperous. But the fact is, that it is almost in vain, in discussing these questions in Parliament, to make any very decided statement one way or the other. I believe, with regard to every large country, that there is no state of prosperity in which considerable instances of suffering may not be found, nor any state of adversity in which considerable instances of prosperity may not be discovered. This is peculiarly the case with a country of such great and varied interests as England. I state it as my belief that the labouring agricultural population, and certain classes of the labouring manufacturing population, are suffering from distress. But I believe that, taking into consideration the amount of wages and the price of provisions and of the articles of necessary consumption, wages will now purchase more of the necessaries of life than they purchased in the period to which the hon. Member has alluded; and certainly the mode of improving the condition of the labourer, by increasing the price of the necessaries of life, is not what I should have expected from the acuteness of the hon. Member. With respect to the iron trade, to which the hon. Member has alluded, the price of iron has lately experienced some increase; and I am happy to say that the accounts I hear upon that subject, confirm that admission of the hon. Gentleman. The hon. Member says, that there has been great distress in the iron trade, and I believe that to be the fact. But what was the immediate and palpable cause of that distress? Why, from particular circumstances, there was an increase in the amount of the production beyond that of the consumption; the consequence was a glut in the market, and then distress followed. I have now stated, Sir, what must be the consequences of the adoption of the proposition for an alteration in the monetary system of the country. I leave the Members of this House to consider them. If they adopt the proposition, they must come to the determination of making an alteration in the standard of value, by which they may take from the productions of one class, and place them in the hands of another. It does not seem to me that this will be doing any good to the country. On the contrary, there must follow it a stagnation of credit and of employment, which has always been the consequence of a want of confidence; and a want of confidence such a measure must inevitably produce. The hon. Member did not allude to the depreciation of the currency in the year 1797, the consequences of which every man of sense and feeling must deeply deplore. But even with respect to that, there is a great difference between what was then done and what we are now advised to do. There is this great difference, that, in 1797, the depreciation was unintentional—it came on gradually, and the persons who effected it were not aware of its probable effects [Mr. Cobbett said something across the table]. The hon. member for Oldham thinks they were, but I believe they were not aware of what would be the effects of the measure of altering the standard of value. But what is the case now? If we should resort to a similar measure, we should do so with our eyes open; and, fully aware of its consequences, we should be committing a fraud on the public creditor, and enabling all debtors to pay their debts in money, amounting to less than what they really owe. Sir, it seems to me that this sudden transfer of a large mass of capital from one hand to another cannot be beneficial, but must be injurious to the labourer, and that the measure itself would tend to destroy all confidence in the country. But then the hon. Member imagines that the power of doing this has existed, and been exercised at the will of the Bank. He refers to what took place on the Bank Committee, and he stales that it appeared on that Committee that the course was for the Bank to contract or to expand their issues as they thought fit. I did not hear on that Committee anything which justified such a conclusion; but, on the contrary, I understood that the course was. that the circulation should be contracted and expanded by the operations of the public upon the Bank. The hon. Member says that, while the population of the country has increased—while the industry of the people and their commerce have gone on advancing, we have a currency which does not admit of expansion. I do not understand this to be so at all. Our currency certainly has not the power of a capricious or unnatural expansion, to gratify the will or suit the fancy of any particular set of individuals; but it is the necessary consequence of this state of things, that the currency must expand as the demand for it increases. The effect of a greater demand for the currency is sure to produce a flow of bullion into the country—as the removal of water from one part of a vessel makes the fluid flow into that part from another. Such an expansion of the currency, is beneficial to all; but the forced expansion which would be the result of the hon. Member's proposition, could not lead to any but injurious consequences. It would, it must, be most injurious, if the power was in the hands of any individuals to place at their disposal the whole property of the country. I have now stated generally the grounds on which I feel that I am bound—for I will speak frankly to the hon. Member—that I am bound in duty, as an honest man, to oppose his Motion. I do not, as he is well aware, adopt this opinion, which I now utter, because I happen to be seated on this Bench. I stated it a long time since, when I sat on the other side of the House, and when I opposed the Motion of Mr. Davenport, as I considered it likely to shake the confidence of the country. If the Motion of the hon. Member be carried, every man who has a right to demand payment in gold, will do it at once; the consequence must necessarily be a run upon all the Banks infinitely more severe than that of 1825, because no establishment can be secure from it—no amount of credit—no degree of solvency in the partners of any bank—can save it from the sudden pressure of every individual, who would naturally be anxious to obtain gold currency at its present value, before that value should be reduced. I cannot conceive any calamity to the country greater than the adoption of the Motion of the hon. Member. While, however, the House rejects it, it will be desirable that it should come to some decision upon the subject of preserving our standard of value, and for this purpose I mean to move the following Amendment:—"That it is the opinion of the House, that any alteration of the monetary system of the country, which would have the effect of lowering the standard of value, would be highly inexpedient." I wish to put the question to issue in this debate, whether the House is prepared to support the present standard of value? I wish Gentlemen to have an opportunity of giving their votes upon that principle, and upon that principle clearly. I desire also to disembarrass the question of all disinclination to vote against a Committee of Inquiry, for if the Amendment be carried, the House may still, if it thinks fit, appoint a Committee of Inquiry; but before I take into consideration the fitness or unfitness of appointing such a Committee, I think it absolutely necessary, as we value the prosperity of the country—as we value the public faith, that the question I have brought to issue by the Amendment should be distinctly decided, aye or no. I do not think that the hon. Gentleman has embarrassed the subject much; he has applied himself to the monetary system very fairly; and though he has not stated any particular plan, he has admitted that his view is an alteration of the standard. I say, that if that alteration takes place, the effect will be ruinous to the country; and for this reason I should not feel myself justified if I did not give it every possible opposition. The noble Lord concluded by moving as an amendment, the Resolution he had read to the House.

Mr. Grote

rose immediately, as he said, to second it. He never rose with greater pleasure than for this purpose, for nothing could have been proposed in which he more heartily concurred. Nothing could result from the inquiry moved by the hon. member for Whitehaven, but partial statements and crude opinions. Nobody felt a stronger sense than he did of the obligations of the House, in every practicable way, to mitigate distress; but that solemn subject; ought not to be made the cloak or the stalking-horse for bringing forward peculiar and individual theories. If the Committee were appointed, the first question for investigation must be, Does this general and unprecedented distress exist? He (Mr. G.), for one, entirely denied it. Before any satisfactory answer could be given to it, the cumbrous details and complicated relations of society must be examined; but, suppose the most laborious Committee that had ever been named commenced the great subject—suppose it sat daily for a whole mouth, and examined 100 witnesses—could sufficient information be procured, even admitting the 100 witnesses to be well-informed, veracious, and unbiassed, to warrant a definitive report upon this wide and important topic? He felt almost ashamed to appear to treat the matter with levity; but he could not help thinking, that the proceedings of such a Committee could be compared only to the progress of some rash travellers, who, having journeyed over the United States for some three or four months—having questioned passengers in stage-coaches, and guests at tables d'hôte—having examined waiters, and sifted chambermaids—returned to this country, and pretended to give a full, true, and particular account of the United States and its inhabitants; dogmatising with all the conceit of would-be philosophers, and making assertions with all the confidence of long resident eye-witnesses. He was sure that the hon. member for Whitehaven proposed a course which was unsuited for any purpose but that of creating doubt and mistrust, though he felt himself relieved from going into any detailed arguments upon that point by the way in which the noble Lord had put his Amendment. He fully concurred with the noble Lord, that the Committee was only the garb which was thrown over the hon. Gentleman's projects—it was only the husk and shell which must be broken and cast away before the real import of the question could be arrived at. The hon. Gentleman's Motion contained three distinct propositions—first, that general and unprecedented distress prevailed in the country—second, that that distress arose from the contraction of the currency, and the low prices consequent on Peel's Bill—and third, that it was expedient to counteract these evils by what he (Mr. Grote) must call debasing the standard of value. On each of these points he should take the liberty of making a few remarks. The more he examined and investigated general facts—which were the only evidence upon which an opinion as to the relative amount of misery could be founded—the more did they seem to him to disprove the existence of unprecedented distress. That particular classes and interests in the country were suffering very much, he readily admitted, and he deeply lamented that it should be so—but there never was a time of which the same thing might not be predicated, and, of no time could that be more truly predicated than of the halcyon days to which the hon. member for Whitehaven had alluded. He had looked into the Parliamentary Debates for the year 1810, 1812, and 1814, and he could say, that the petitions then presented to Parliament attested the deepest distress, and bespoke quite as much sympathy as the statements of the hon. member for Whitehaven relative to the distress of the present period. An hon. Member of that House had moved for a return of the bankruptcies which had taken place since 1822, which return he now held in his hand. From that paper it appeared that the number of bankrupts from the 1st of January, 1822, to the 1st of January, 1832, was 19,376, being an average of 1,761 per year. In order to draw a conclusion from this document as to the comparative distress existing before and after Peel's Bill, he had added to the returns the years 1819, 1820, 1821; the number for the whole period, with the addition of those three years, being 24,714; being an annual average of 1,765 for the fourteen years. When he looked back to the interval from 1808 to 1818, he found the bankruptcies amounted to 21,609, being an annual average of 1,964; and he appealed to the House whether the less number of bankruptcies at the later period did not mark a sounder and more improved course of trade, than prior to 1819, more especially when it was considered that this annual average of 1,964 was taken from a much more contracted commercial community than we had at present—when the "London Directory" contained fifty per cent fewer commercial names, and when Manchester, Birmingham, and the other principal manufacturing towns were much smaller than at present, and when both as to population and capital, they were of less importance than at present. The noble Lord had already referred to the increase in the Poor-rates, but the figures he had stated did not precisely agree with those which he (Mr. Grote) had extracted from the Parliamentary Return. In 1803 the expenditure was 4,707,000l.; whereas the expenditure in 1816, 1817, and 1818, was 6,833,000l. He begged to compare the average expenditure of those years with the average of the three last years—1830, 1831, and 1832. It was 6,887,000l., only a trifling increase of the Poor-rates, by no means in proportion to the increase of the population. In judging of the question, no fairer test could be found than that which was afforded by the condition of the people in respect to their comforts or misery; and these, he humbly submitted, could be ascertained best by looking at the amount of exports and imports, the consumption of tea, coffee, cocoa, and the other necessaries of life. These would form a criterion of the state of the people; but he must protest against deciding the question by such tests as those proposed by the hon. member for Whitehaven. He would submit, that if hon. Members were to look at the aggregate amount of the consumption of the commodities of life, the aggregate consumption of tea, coffee, sugar, &c., they would find that since the period when the hon. Member said all our distress commenced, there had been a steady increase of all the essential comforts of life. The brokers' circular showed that the consumption of all these articles had been gradually on the increase from 1825 to 1832. Hon. Members would see, that there was not one year in which there was not a steady increase over the preceding; and to admit that this was the fact, and at the same time to assert that there was a decline of prosperity, and that general distress was overwhelming the country, was an absolute contradiction of terms. The whole community, according to the hon. Member, was plunged in distress, while, at the same time, there was not only an increase of consumption, but an increase in the revenue. The evidence given before the Committee on the Bank Charter, proved, that the Bill of 1819 could not possibly be the cause of the distress, or the cause of the fall of prices, and the very evidence of the hon. member for Birmingham was any thing but consistent with the supposition that Peel's Bill could have caused the distress of which he complained. The hon. member for Birmingham was asked—'Do you think that the consumption of articles of luxury in Birmingham has decreased very much during that period? Terribly, in the last one or two years, but, perhaps, not in the last twelve years.—Supposing the case to be that the number of two-wheeled carriages has doubled in amount since that time? Fashion and extravagance are eccentric things. The roads have been wonderfully improved by Macadamization, and luxury increases beyond any thing, and education increases beyond anything, which leads to an increase of expense; and I am sorry to say, that at Birmingham, for the last fifteen years, every man seems to me to have increased his expenses at a time when I positively know his fortune has been diminishing.—If in other articles of expense there has been a great increase, in servants for instance, and in four-wheeled carriages, you do not say that proves anything as to the comfort and wealth of the inhabitants of Birmingham? Certainly not; there is no wealth and no comfort there, and there is no safety amongst manufacturers or merchants, but they will, perhaps, not acknowledge this.—Do you call improved roads an increase to the capital of the country? Yes, but I consider the improved roads have grown out of the poverty of the labourers, that the parishes have generally been obliged to employ them in breaking stones for the roads.—If there is this increase of luxury in Birmingham, and this increase of expense, and, at the same time, the capital and the means of the parties have diminished in the extraordinary way you have stated, how have they been enabled to carry on this additional expense? A vast number of them have been totally ruined.' That evidence was at variance with facts. It was also at variance, with all general reasoning and what the hon. Member must know, if he had maturely considered the question. It was inconsistent with human nature to predicate of any community that what might cause distress or prosperity had actually caused it without taking into account every circumstance that had operated to counteract it. For his part, he must take it for granted, from the hon. Member's own evidence, that the decay of Birmingham was not such as he had described—and he could not give him credit for his knowledge of the state of trade in that place; because, if he had a complete knowledge of it, he could not have asserted what was contradicted by the evidence of his own senses. He must assert that, as the aggregate consumption of comforts and necessaries had been on the increase, the fair inference was, that there had been an increase instead of a diminution of the comforts of the people. He objected also to the mode in which the hon. member for Whitehaven had endeavoured to account for the fall of prices since 1818. He objected entirely to his theory of prices during the war, and the low range of prices which prevailed at present. If the hon. Member's theory were correct, that the range of prices at any precise time depended on the magnitude of the Bank circulation, prices for the last seven years ought to have been as high as they were from 1808 to 1815, during the last seven years of the war, and much higher than they were prior to 1808. If hon. Members would examine the amount of the Bank circulation since 1819, they would find that, taking the notes of 5l. and upwards, there was not only no diminution, but a positive increase, of paper circulation as compared to the period between 1808 and 1815, when commodities were as high as the hon. Member could desire. He took the notes above 5l., at the various periods, as the fair way of ascertaining the actual amount of circulation, because the smaller notes had since been replaced by sovereigns, and because the hon. Member in his speech in 1822 referred to this very same standard of comparison in proof of his own theory respecting the prices of that year. In the appendix to the late Report on the Bank Charter, the document, No. 82, contains a statement of the average amount of Bank notes in circulation during every quarter of the year from 1805 to 1832, distinguishing the notes of 5l. and upwards from those under 5l., where hon. Members would find that the number of bank notes of 5l. and upwards, during the last six years, had positively exceeded the number of the same amount, during the war prices from 1808 to 1814: viz.

Notes of Five Pounds and Upwards.

1808 to 1818 inclusive. 1822 to 1832 inclusive
Average. £ Average £
1808 13,008 1822 16,824
1809 14,022 1823 18,033
1810 15,917 1824 19,676
1811 15,875 1825 19,679
1812 15,868 1826 21,067
1813 16,068 1827 20,966
1814 17,909 1828 20,645
1815 17,659 1829 19,298
1816 17,582 1830 20,174
1817 20,302 1831 18,008
1818 19,737 1832 17,739
11)183,947 11)212,109
Average. 16,722 Average 19,282
Years of Highest Circulation prior to 1819. Year of Highest Circulation before 1819.
£ £
1816 17,582 1826 21, 067
1817 20, 302 1827 20, 966
1818 19, 737 1828 20, 645
3)57, 621 3)62, 678
Average 19, 207 Average 20, 892

Take the comparison upon what principle the House pleased, it showed that the circulation of the Bank of England had been much larger during the period since the passing of Mr. Peel's Bill, which he (Mr. Grote) would take leave to call a period of increased prosperity. If, therefore, it were true, as he contended it was not, that the prices of commodities could be determined by looking at the quantity of bank notes in circulation, there ought to be a range of much higher prices between 1822 and 1832 than during any period of the war. In speaking of the monetary system as the cause of low prices, the hon. Member had entirely overlooked the important fact, that there never had been a period at which money could be so easily borrowed, or when the rate of interest was so low as during the year to which he especially referred. Whenever any man had tolerable security to offer, he could obtain money with the utmost facility—a state of things it would be difficult to show existing during the war. He was ready to admit, that there was suffering; but that did not arise from Peel's Bill. He might be asked, then, how did it happen that prices were so low now as compared to prices during the war? He would answer, if they examined successively the principal articles of production, and compared the price of them with the price during the war, they would find that there was scarcely one of them which was not produced at a less cost, which was amply sufficient to account for the greater part of that decline which had taken place in the price. During the war the causes of scarcity and dearness were all brought to bear on commodities at once—a difference between gold prices and paper prices—an unusual number of bad seasons and unheard-of difficulties of importation, arising from war, so as to increase the freight and charges ten times what they had been in later times. During the last ten or twelve years most of these causes had ceased, the seasons had been generally good, and the means of transport between country and country had been quickened and facilitated to a degree before unknown. The prevalence, too, of undisturbed tranquillity, the improvements in sciences and the increased international communication, had all contributed to bring into operation new means of production, and new localities, which had not been turned to account before. He maintained that the cause which upheld prices so much from 1802

General Import of Cotton into Great Britain from 1817 to 1826 inclusive, the quantity taken for Export and Home Consumption, and the Stock remaining at the close of each Year.
1817. 1818. 1819. 1820. 1821.
Packages exported 32,600 60,100 66,770 27,540 52,600
Taken for Home Consumption 412,500 417,500 432,600 490,900 491,650
Stock at the close of each year. 113,000 307,700 353,700 406,700 354,320
1822. 1823. 1824. 1825. 1826.
Packages exported 60,010 35,380 53,100 75,520 95,000
Taken for Home Consumption 541,850 534,390 639,100 565,430 559,660
Stock at the close of each year. 285,500 385,800 235,360 415,660 342,500

From this it was clear that the quantity imported was greater than the market could take off; and that of itself would be a sufficient cause for depreciating the price. The great increase of the import of cotton it was easy to account for, if they looked at the vast quantities raised in Egypt, in the East, and above all in the United States of America. He could point out other articles of consumption which had increased in a similar proportion; but he was afraid of wearying the House; and he should conclude the remarks he had to make, with one or two observations on the argument of the hon. Member, for rectifying (as he expressed it) the currency. Such a measure as that he would strenuously oppose to the last; and he was sure that no Parliament, reformed or unreformed, would ever consent to such immorality. An artificial rise of prices would make a vast change in all contracts. It would benefit those only whose debts exceeded their credits—those who owed to others more than others owed to them. He could not conceal from himself the resemblance between this proposal

to 1816 was not the Bank restriction, but the difficulty of production; and he was further prepared to show, that the fall of prices since 1819 was owing to causes connected with supply and demand. If hon. Members would take the trouble to examine how stocks of various commodities had increased when the obstructions of the war were removed, they would see at once sufficient cause for the fall in prices without imputing to Peel's Bill any more than a very slight effect of the same kind. As an illustration he would refer shortly to the increase in the stock of the great staple article cotton, according to the circular of the brokers. The hon. Member quoted the following document:—

and a state of things described in the Gospel. It was said of the unjust Steward—So he called every one of his Lord's debtors unto him, and said unto the first, How much owest thou unto my Lord?

And he said an hundred measures of oil: And he said unto him, Take the bill, and sit down quickly, and write down fifty.

'Then said he to another, And how much owest thou? And he said an hundred measures of wheat: And he said unto him, Take the Bill, and write four score.'

Such a measure as that proposed by the hon. Member would have the effect of making a similar reduction. When 100l. was due, 50l. would, in fact, be paid. That was the sum and substance of the object proposed by the hon. member for Whitehaven; and he put it to the House whether, consistently with sound and rational legislation—whether, consistently with principles of integrity and justice, they could ever lend themselves to such a change in all the pecuniary transactions of the country? The House had been told that it would remedy distress; but surely those who maintained this opinion had not looked carefully to the consequences of the proceeding. Who, he would ask, would refrain from consuming his substance—who would endeavour to save for his family—if the Legislature might thus on every occasion interfere to rob him of the fruits of his industry? If any hon. Member had a specific proposition to make regarding the currency—if he could point out any mode of making it more effectual for its legitimate purpose, he should be ready to listen; but he maintained that it would be a flagrant abuse of legislative supremacy to apply its power intentionally either to lower or elevate prices. It would be a gross abuse of the trust reposed in a Reformed Parliament, and he for one would never consent to it.

Mr. Cobbett

spoke to the following effect:—Before I speak on the Motion before the House, I shall beg leave to allude to what fell from the hon. Member for the City, who is one of my Representatives. The hon. Member took much pains to show that all the Acts of Parliament relative to altering the value of money, and about issuing the one-pound notes, and preventing the issue of them, of which the hon. member for Whitehaven spoke at such length—had no effect at all. That they neither raised nor lowered prices, and were of no consequence. The hon. Member said something about supply and demand regulating the quantity of money, and made it out that the Acts of Parliament had no effect at all. But I remember soon after the passing of the celebrated Bill of the very celebrated Baronet on my right hand, that prices fell so low that the Parliament made haste to pass a Bill to put a stop to it. That Bill had hardly passed when prices rose again, and continued to rise till the system came to an end in 1825 and 1826. Then the Bill was passed to put a stop to the issue of one and two pound notes, and prices fell and continued to fall. At that time I presented a petition to this House. I highly approved of the return to payment in the King's coin, and of absolutely putting an end to the dirty, infamous paper money; but I besought the House, if it passed that Bill, to reduce the expenses of the country, and I told the House that if it did pass the Bill and did not reduce taxation, it would, as sure as fire burns, bring such ruin on this country as no state had ever experienced. My Representative, however, in such reasoning as he used, slated that he could not support the proposition of the hon. member for Whitehaven. He called it immoral, and a robbery, and referred to Holy Writ, and said it was like telling a man to take his bill and write down 50l. instead of 100l.—that it was cheating; and yet he says that the Acts regulating the issue of paper money have had no effect at all. My hon. Representative must review his political philosophy. There is another opinion which I have heard to-night equally wrong, and of a more dangerous description, and it is not the less dangerous because it has been generally adopted by the Gentlemen who have occupied the Bench opposite. The noble Lord (Lord Althorp) has in part adopted the plan. The argument was, that in the same proportion as sugar and coffee, for example, were consumed, in that same proportion were the people well off and happy. How?—How was this consumption ascertained? By the amount of the tax; so that in proportion as the people paid taxes they were said to be well off. They would be better off then if they had more taxes to pay. Supposing the tax the same and the amount of population the same, the increased quantity consumed is known by the increased revenue. The greater the quantity consumed therefore the more tax is paid, and the happier are the people. There are many things to be considered in this statement. I can show that the population remaining the same, and the rate of the tax the same, that the increased amount of the tax may be taken as a proof that the population of the country is increasing in misery. How can I show this? Suppose the tax to be laid on sugar—soldiers like sugar; though, perhaps, I should make the case clearer if I were to take something the soldiers like better than sugar, and which goes down the throat somewhat easier—but I will take sugar. Now, you raise an army of 100,000 men, and you tax the industrious people to pay that 100,000 men. You give the taxes to the soldiers, and the soldiers buy sugar instead of the people, and the amount of the tax may be the same or greater than before. But the more soldiers you have, and the more sugar they consume, the greater will be the demands on the people—the greater will be the amount of the revenue derived from sugar, and the more miserable the tax-payers. It is of great importance that this argument should be set aside if it can be. If you take away from the industrious people, and give to the idle, you may go on increasing the revenue which the idle consumers yield, but you give to the idle in the place of the industrious; and, while the amount of the revenue is increased, you increase the misery of the industrious people. I shall now state that I intend to vote for the Motion of the hon. member for Whitehaven, though his doctrine may be wrong. I am not of the same opinion as the hon. member for Whitehaven as to money; but that is not the question. The proposition is, to go into a Committee of Inquiry; that is all. It is nothing but for an inquiry. It is said that the people will take fright if the House inquire. What, will they be frightened if we inquire into nothing but the state of their distress and its causes, including, amongst others, the changes which have been made in the money of the country, and the effects of Acts which have been passed for regulating the issue of Bank notes in that distress? What can be more proper than to inquire into the changes in the money? It has been tossed up and down several times. Parliament has meddled with it over and over again, and the people want to know the facts of the case. If the people now have their own Representatives, why should they not inquire into why this was done, and for what purpose it was done, and into its consequences? Nothing can be more proper. We are not bound to agree to the remedy proposed by the hon. member for Whitehaven. I quite agree with him as to the causes of the distress, but I do not assert, that enough has not been said about paper money as the remedy. There is another mode of going to work. The Ministers must either cut down the taxes, or they must put up the money. I should in the Committee propose to cut down the taxes. When the Bill was before the House in 1826, I said it would work mischief, and it has not done its work yet. I then declared that it would be confiscation, and end in ruin. The hon. member for Essex, as he no doubt remembers, said in 1819, that the evil was only in the transition from paper to gold, only during the progress of the change, during the time we were going from the paper; and that when we had got the gold we should have no more inconvenience. Well, we have got the gold; but we have not got to the end of our inconveniences. If we go on as we have been going, we shall go on to the ruin of the country; we shall bring down the middle classes to that state in which the lowest class now is. I am satisfied that, ere long, there will be fifty houses to be let in Fleet-street—there are already thirty-six unlet—and no tenants to be had; and the rents must be reduced to one quarter of what they are at present. The rents are at present not one-half what they were ten years ago, when, instead of there being thirty-six houses to choose from, a man had to wait five years for the chance of a vacancy. The noble Lord is not aware of the state of the middle classes. He hears only flatterers, and they tell him nothing but flattery. I would have prevented the passing of the Bill which occasioned this. I presented a petition against it; I asserted that if you did not reduce taxation to the standard of 1792, you would produce ruin and misery to the kingdom, such as had never been seen. I told you that then, and you laughed then as you laugh now. You always did laugh. There is a time to laugh, and a time to weep; and if you laugh now, you may weep hereafter. I differ from the hon. Member as to the remedy: I agree with him as to the cause of the distress; I stand up for gold, but I am for the reduction of taxes to the standard of 1792; I want the taxes reduced to the amount of the taxes in 1792. That is the remedy. I am not for that reduction which was called the Budget. I am not for taking off 100,000l. of taxes. Was a Reformed Parliament wanted for that? The people wanted a Reformed Parliament for what I propose. They recollect how happy the country was in 1792—how she was bounding forward in the career of prosperity, though she had just come out of a disastrous war—the most disastrous war she had ever encountered, and yet she was prosperous. The fleet had been reduced, but Spain offended England, and Pitt fitted out an armament to make Spain submit. That war was called the Catskin war. England was then dreaded by all around her. She was armed at all points and ready to assert her power and this was at the end of a disastrous war. When the northern Powers formed a coalition against her, called the armed neutrality, she was ready to meet all the great Powers combined. And what did all this great force cost then? I dare say the House will hardly believe it when I state it; the Army the Navy, the whole expense of the Ordnance and ail in 1792, was only 4,226,943l. or half a million less than the navy alone now costs. And what is this for? This is what the people expect the Ministers to account for. They do not want a miserable Budget, with a few pounds of savings; they want to know why you do not reduce the expenses down to those of 1792. The debt then was 9,000,000l., and the whole expenditure was 15,000,000l., rather less than what our Navy, Army, Ordnance, and other thing's now cost. Our present condition too, is the result of twenty-two years of glorious war—not at the end of a disastrous war—but at the end of a war which was to give us "indemnity for the past, and security for the future;"—at the end of a war into which the Spencers and the Portlands and the Fitzwilliams drove Mr. Pitt, to get indemnity for the past and security for the future. "Go on, "said old George Rose "only carry it through, and at the peace you will be sure to have indemnity for the past, and security for the future." Our debt is now 28,000,000l. a-year. I would not take off one penny of the debt. I do not want to make an equitable adjustment—though till an equitable adjustment be made by the prices of 1819, justice will not be done—and that is necessary even for the safety of the fundholders themselves. Our debt, which is now 28,000,000l., was then 9,000,000l.: 18,000,000l. are now required for carrying on the affairs of the country, which Pitt carried on for 6,000,000l. The people want to know the reason for the difference. They care nothing about the driblets of the Budget—nothing about the monetary system; they want their burthens taken oft'; and they want to know why the affairs of the country cannot be carried on now as cheaply as they were in 1792? What makes the difference? Why do we want 18,000,000l. now, when in 1792 only 6,000,000l. were required? Because it has been required to augment the plunder which the aristocracy take from the people. The people grudge the Navy nothing. They would sell the shirts off their backs rather than the Navy should not be rewarded; but that is no reason why the money should be squandered. I will show you how this is done. You shall hear. In 1792, Pitt had forty- four admirals—we have 170. And the right hon. Baronet, the First Lord of the Admiralty, admitted, the other day, that the Navy was not in as great force now as it was in 1792, yet we have 170 admirals and Pitt had only forty-lour. What is that for? Pitt had 620 captains and commanders; but ours is a glorious time, for the noble Lord has got 1684, and what is more, he has got 110 men who have been made admirals since the peace, and 400 men who have been made captains since the peace. And why have they been made? Why some of them have been made, that the two sons of Earl Grey may be placed over the heads of brave and deserving officers [Marks of disapprobation.] Oh! that is unfashionable. It is not good—it is not good behaviour. Well, I beg your pardon that I let it out. We have one commissioned officer to every five seamen and marines; we have one post captain to every fourteen seamen and marines; and we have one admiral to every 125 seamen and marines. Glorious country! Let us be proud of it. In 1792, Pitt's Board of Admiralty, and other officers, cost 58,000l.; now ours costs 147,000l. What is that wanted for? The people ask that. It is only to take money out of their pockets, and put it into the pockets of the others. Half-pay, pensions, and allowances to the Navy, at present are 1,625,000l.; as much as Pitt's whole Navy cost, except about 359,000l. What is that for? [sir James Graham: No, No.] I ask again, what is that for? And I say that the people want to know that; and they want, not paper money, but justice. Do justice to the people—cut down the expenditure, or raise up the money—and it will be perfectly right. The right hon. Baronet, the First Lord of the Admiralty, moved the other day for the wages of 22,500 seamen and marines, and the sum was 687,000l.; but the hon. Baronet showed, though that was when he was out of office, that 113 Privy Councillors sacked 650,000l, amongst them—113 Privy Councillors get as much as maintain all the seamen and marines. There are some old women on the pension-list who receive more than all the seamen and marines, with their bedding, baggage, food and all. These are the things which the people want to have reduced. The scholastic distinctions of my hon. Representative about the value of money are too refined for them—they do not understand the matter; but they understand that they pay too much. Why should they pay more than in 1792, exclusive of the debt? They do not ask to touch that, though a right hon. Baronet whom I see opposite, proposed to reduce it thirty per cent. I do not put confidence in the right hon. Baronet—I have never done that. I must hero say, that the War-office accounts are well kept, compared to those of other offices; but the Navy Estimates are the most confused things possible. A poor Member of Parliament cannot understand them. The mode of making out the Estimates of 1792, in which every name was inscribed was much preferable. That was the manner in which the Estimates were drawn up in Pitt's time, before he was corrupted by the Whigs, who drove him into a war for indemnity and security. The Secretary at War has, I see, 214 persons on his list, as retired from his office. The Deputy Secretary at War has retired on a pension of 2,500l. I hope the Gentleman has got a good constitution. There are 214 clerks on the retired list; but all the employés and clerks of the office are only thirty-three; and these 214 persons have pensions for their lives, costing the country no less than 51,000l. Why should they swallow up the property of the people? They served but a short time, and were well paid during the time of their service. Nobody can say, that this is right. I remember a few nights ago, when I was speaking against the practice of the Justices, who were game preservers themselves, banishing men for poaching that the hon. and learned Gentleman, the member for Hull, took me to task, and, using some learned words, accused me—ad captandum vulgus—of flattering the mob. He said, that it was flattering the mob to say that it was not right that men should be banished or hanged by Justices who were game preservers; but in spite of its being again said that I flatter the mob, I must assert, that it is not right to make the people pay 58,000l. to those people who were well paid while they served them. One is put out that another may be put in; and after the one who is put in lounges into the offices, picks his teeth, and reads the newspaper for a year or two, he is placed on the retired list to make way for another. I wanted the names of these retired men, as I wanted the names of the stamp distributors, but I could not get them. If I had the names I could show in what manner the people are robbed, and who rob them; but not having the names I can only guess at it. I will not detain the House. I will only add this one remark. If the affairs of this country had been managed since the peace in 1814, as they were managed in 1792, and the taxes had remained the same, and we had paid every farthing of the interest of the debt, the noble Lord would not have brought forth such a Budget as that of the other night; but we should have paid off 260,000,000l. of the principal of the debt since the peace. Calculating the rate of compound interest, as we might on this payment, it would have amounted to 400,000,000l.; and if the aristocracy had paid their proper proportion of the taxes we might have paid off 600,000,000l. of the debt. I will vote for going into the Committee. There has been robbery—there has been plunder, that is admitted on all sides; and is there nobody responsible for it? The noble Lord says, that if we committed an error in 1819, that is no reason why we should commit another now. But if an error has been committed—if a monstrous piece of injustice has been practised—are we not to inquire into who committed it? If we are not, it will come to this, that there is nobody responsible for such wrong. Does the responsibility of office only mean responsible for getting the salary? I will sit down, thanking the House for the attention with which it has heard me; which has been, I can assure it, greater than I expected.

Mr. Richards

would not attempt to follow the hon. member for Oldham through his amusing, but somewhat discursive speech, nor would he go into an examination of his opinions; but there were two of them which he could not pass entirely unnoticed;—one was, that we should no longer use paper money—another that we should enter into what he called an equitable adjustment with the public creditor. The first satisfied him that the hon. Member did not understand the nature and effects of paper money; the other would inevitably lead to the destruction of public credit, and to confiscation and plunder, revolution and blood. The noble Lord (Lord Althorp) in replying to the hon. member for Whitehaven, implied that similar dreadful consequences would result from the success of his hon. friend's Motion. If he rightly understood his hon. friend's proposition, it was—that robbery, confiscation, and fraud, having been perpetrated upon one class of the people of England by the Bill of 1819, commonly termed Mr. Peel's Bill, he called on the House and the Government to inquire into the extent of this injury and fraud, and into the manner in which wrongs of such magnitude could best be redressed and remedied. The noble Lord seemed disinclined to grant a Committee to inquire into the effect of Mr. Peel's Bill, from the fear that such an inquiry might excite alarm; but, surely, that was taking a very narrow view of the subject. He would observe, that the Bill of 1819 was improperly called by the name of the right hon. Baronet, the member for Tam-worth. It should rather bear the name of the late Earl of Liverpool, for he was the author of it. The right hon. Baronet had returned, a short time previous to the introduction of this Bill, into Parliament, from Ireland; and although he had not then had much experience either of monetary, financial, or commercial matters, yet, being a man of acknowledged talents, and an accomplished and eloquent speaker, the Bill had been put into his hands in the belief that he could carry it through the House of Commons with better success than the then Chancellor of the Exchequer. He well recollected hearing from the Gallery of that House, the speech of the right hon. Baronet when he introduced that Bill; and saying to an hon. friend of his, formerly a Member of that House, "that the harp of Orpheus was not more charming than his manner; but that, as to his matter, he appeared not to know anything whatever of the subject on which he had been speaking." That had been his opinion, when the right hon. Baronet delivered his speech, and he had since seen no reason to alter it. In saying this, he meant no disrespect to the right hon. Baronet. In common with the House and the country, he admired his great and splendid talents—but he appeared in 1819, not to have paid that attention to the nature and effects of our monetary system, which, no doubt, he had done since. His hon. friend, the member for Whitehaven, had now come forward with a proposition, the object of which was to inquire into the effect this Bill of Lord Liverpool's had had in producing the difficulties and distress under which the country now suffered, in order, if possible, to afford that relief which was imperiously required. That was the plain and simple object of his hon. friend. In refusing this inquiry, from the fear of exciting alarm, the noble Lord seemed to take a very narrow view of the subject. But before he adverted more particularly to the speech of the noble Lord, he must speak of the great change which had taken place in the currency of the country in 1797, and the still greater effected, in 1819, by Lord Liverpool's Bill. The measure of 1797 was defended on the ground of necessity; but whether necessary or not, it led progressively to a large increase of the circulating medium. It was well known that the taxes of the war could never have been imposed and levied but for this increase in the quantity of money. The relations, also, between property and money were quite changed. And the question in 1819, ought not to have been, whether it was practicable to return to the standard of money which existed before 1797, but whether with reference to the circumstances in which the country was placed in 1819, after having departed for twenty two years from that standard, we could, with safety to the interests of property, and with justice to the people of England, return to it. In the inquiry which was instituted by Parliament into the effect of the Bank restriction on the value of money, not the slightest reference was made as to the effects which the Act of 1819 might have on the country, on the public debt, and on private debts, and taxes! He had repeatedly warned the Government of the fatal consequences that would result from the Bill. But the difference between the market price of gold and the Mint price was declared to be the measure of the depreciation of the currency; and as this difference was not more than three or four per cent, it was thought of no importance. If the Government had supposed the depreciation to be thirty or forty per cent, they would never have attempted to return to the old standard. During the debate on the Bill in the House of Commons, he had met the late Mr. Ricardo in the lobby, and on telling him that the Bill had been argued on the assumption, that the depreciation in the value of money was not more than three per cent, but that he (Mr. Richards) calculated it to be 33½ per cent, that eminent man said—" If I thought so, Sir, I would not vote for the Bill." An hon. friend of his, many years a Member of the House, had assured him, that Mr. Ricardo, a short time only before his death, acknowledged to him, that he was convinced, that the depreciation was from twenty to twenry-five per cent, and that he regretted the error he had fallen into. [Call of "Question."] If it were the pleasure of the House not to hear him, he should bow to its decision; but he would not be put down by the clamour of an individual. The hon. Member might leave the House. In the discussion on the Irish Disturbances Bill, three or four hon. Members interrupted him by similar cries of" Question;" and an hon. friend of his was told on asking them if they had any dislike to the hon. member for Knaresborough? was answered, "oh no; we only want some fun." If the hon. Member was one of those who wished for "fun," he had better seek it out-of-doors. If Lord Liverpool's Bill increased the value of money between thirty and forty per cent, and, consequently, made this difference, to the disadvantage of debtors, in all contracts which had been entered into, as well as in the taxes and in the public debt; was not this sufficient ground for inquiry? If the landed, the manufacturing, and the commercial interests were all distressed, ought not this House to inquire into the causes of that distress? Was not the book, published by the Poor Law Commissioners, which proved the existence of deep and extensive distress amongst the labouring classes, matter for serious inquiry? The noble Lord said, if you alter the standard, you will occasion confiscation and robbery. Considering the time which had elapsed since 1819, he was not at all disposed to advocate a return to the value of money at that period; nor was he sure, that great relief might not be given without any alteration whatever of the present standard. He wished for inquiry; and, therefore, would give his support to the Motion of the hon. member for Whitehaven. If he should have the honour of being one of the Members of a Committee of Inquiry, or if he should be examined as a witness, he should be able to suggest certain regulations by which, without any alteration in the standard, all classes in the community would be benefitted. But how could the noble Lord, for a moment, charge his hon. friend with wishing to introduce a measure which would lead to spoliation and robbery. When that noble Lord voted for the Bill of 1819, no matter on which side of the House he sat, he supported a measure which had occasioned greater robbery, and plunder, and confiscation, than any other single measure which ever received the sanction of a Government or a Legislature on the face of the earth. The hon. member for the City, part of whose speech only he had had the honour to hear, had said that money could be procured with great facility at a low rate of interest, and therefore, that money was sufficiently plentiful. The inference he (Mr. Richards) drew from the low rate of interest was, that there was only a low rate of profit. If the rate of interest were high, it would be a proof that profits were high, and trade prosperous. And the converse of this was true. Now, was low interest so much a proof of the superabundance of money as that, for some cause or other, it could not be profitably employed? The hon. Gentleman denied that there was any depreciation to anything like the extent which had been stated; and he had cited, as a reason for his opinion, the amount of Bank notes at different periods. But, not only were the hon. Member's figures wrong, but he had forgotten altogether to notice the circulation of the country bankers. The noble Lord admitted that injustice was done by the measure of 1819; but he asked whether we should not do injustice to another class of persons by reverting to the former system? But no one wished to revert to the former system. The noble Lord seemed not aware of the great and important difference there was in altering the standard, between altering it in favour of the productive classes, and the unproductive. Nor did he at all take into consideration the amount of the public debt and the taxes; and, in this way, the injury which had been inflicted on the people of England. No doubt the noble Lord deserved praise for the candid manner in which he had stated his Budget; but after all his endeavours to relieve the country from the load of taxation, what relief was he able to give us? He had in his Budget, estimated the amount of the revenue at about forty-six millions; which, including the charge of collection, would exact in taxes from the country fifty millions. This sum was as great a burthen on the people now, as double the amount would have been during the war—in money of that period. Mr. Mushett, in his elaborate work, estimated the depreciation of the currency, when at its highest point, at between forty and fifty per cent. Assuming-the depreciation to have been fifty per cent (and he had no doubt it was more) then, notwithstanding the reduction in the nominal amount of taxes, which the noble Lord had effected, the pressure of taxation which the people had now to bear was equal, in money of the war value, to one hundred millions. Was it then to be wondered at, that the people felt distressed—that they found the greatest difficulty in paying the taxes? But some hon. Gentlemen asserted that the currency was in a sound state, and that every facility was afforded to pecuniary transactions. Nothing was further from the fact. Country bankers were now required to pay their notes, on demand, in gold, both in the country and in London. They were obliged, therefore, to keep a stock of gold both in the country and in town. To say nothing of the hardship of this, it was clear, that it greatly lessened, not only the amount of capital in circulation, but impeded the free action of it. If an inquiry were instituted, this difficulty might be easily obviated. But, did the nobility, the gentry, and the clergy of England, at this moment feel quite secure? and, why did they not? Because the laborious and industrious classes were discontented. Because they were suffering distress. Was it possible that hon. Gentlemen could have seen the destruction of farming produce, by fire, in different parts of the country, without alarm?— You make me strange, Even to the disposition that I owe. When now I think you can behold such sights, And keep the natural ruby of your cheeks. When mine are blanched with fear. And were not these things matters to be inquired into? He felt no little anxiety lest the discontent he had described should change into disaffection. Again, what was the state of the rest of Europe? Distress and discontent prevailed very generally on the Continent, and it was a question of some interest, how far other nations were suffering by the withdrawal from their circulation of the large amount of the precious metals, which we had substituted here for paper. Much of the distress in France was owing to the drain from that country of specie occasioned by our return to a metallic circulation. And, although hon. Gentlemen might smile, he considered it probable that the remote cause of the French revolution in 1830, the immediate cause of which was the distress of the working-people, was the change made by us in the value of money. It was clear that the dissatisfaction manifested towards Louis Phillippe was owing to the misery and destitution of the labouring and industrious classes. And it was distinctly foretold that the Bill of 1819, by raising the value of money, would cause distress to pervade every nation in the civilized world. As to England, not only were the labouring people in distress, but the state of the middle class was one of great and increasing difficulty and suffering. Their capital was diminished and diminishing. In many instances, persons were paying their rent and taxes out of their capital; and, if something was not done, ruin must ensue. That very morning he had talked to three respectable tradesmen, who all agreed in stating that the distress now experienced by the middle class was greater than ever before. One of these persons was a grocer; and he staled "that, some years ago, he sold more goods on a Saturday, than he now did all the week." Another, an Ironmonger, said, "I can assure you. Sir, that one third of the people that work at my trade are out of employment." The third, a Baker, said," I am now obliged to give credit much longer and to a much larger amount, than I formerly did, and I find the greatest difficulty in getting paid." Under these circumstances, the hon. member for Whitehaven had only done his duty in bringing forward his Motion for inquiry; and the noble Lord might have spared those remarks which he made on that hon. Gentleman for having submitted his proposition to the House. He trusted that his hon. friend would not be deterred from the discharge of his duty by any attacks that might be made on him either in that House or elsewhere: and above all, that he would disregard the malignant and unfounded abuse heaped upon him by a certain portion of the press. Any individual who doubted the prevalence of great distress, he would refer to the extracts from the Reports of the Poor Law Commissioners. In the volume which contained those extracts would be found a picture of distress enough to touch the heart of any man. He had read that volume throughout; and it confirmed completely the view taken of the state of the country by his hon. friend. It showed that the condition of the labouring poor was one of the greatest privation and distress; and that this distress was gradually extending itself, and absorbing the middle class. In those districts (for instance, in Kent and Sussex) where wages had been suffered to fall to the level at which they barely afforded the means of supporting existence, incendiary fires and the destruction of property had taken place. The noble Lord and the hon. member for the City said, that the hon. member for Whitehaven had brought forward no definite plan. His hon. friend had, no doubt, exercised a sound discretion by not stating details. He had proved that there was great distress; he had shown what he considered the causes of that distress; and he asked for an inquiry, in order to discover some adequate remedy. He (Mr. Richards) would not, however, hesitate to point out, particularly, in what manner the acknowledged distress, might, without any alteration of the standard, be alleviated. From 1797, to the present time, the mines of South America and of the rest of the world had produced a less quantity of the precious metals than they did formerly. Whether nature had become more niggard of her supply, or whether less capital was employed in the mines, he would not then stop to inquire; but it was an undoubted fact, that the amount of the precious metals annually brought into the market of the world, had diminished; and, consequently, their exchangeable value would, other things remaining the same, be enhanced. But other things were not the same. To say nothing of the immense increase in the number and magnitude of those transactions which the precious metals served to exchange, there could be no doubt that, during the war, when wealth was augmenting and luxury abounding, there was a great increase in the use of gold and silver articles, both for personal ornament and domestic service. In the Act of 1819, no regard whatever was had to any of these circumstances; nor was any attention paid either to the magnitude of the public debt, or to private debts. If any inquiry had been made into these circumstances, it would have been seen that the standard sought to be introduced in 1819, was not the same standard as that of 1797, but that gold itself had increased in value. Was it, then, either just or safe to seek to introduce a standard of increased value, compared with that of 1797? And was it fair to charge the hon. member for Whitehaven with wishing to act dishonestly, because he called upon the House to inquire how it could correct the greatest monetary error ever committed, and do tardy justice to those who were suffering from that error? By this tremendous error, all the productive classes of the community suffered. It first occasioned losses to the merchant and manufacturer; it was now ruining the farmer, and pauperizing the labourer; but it would finally impoverish and destroy the landowner. He had said that he would bring under the attention of the House a plan which without altering the standard, would alleviate the existing distress. He quite agreed with the hon. members for Whitehaven and Oldham in their opinion of the fatal effects of the Bill of 1819. But he differed altogether from the hon. member for Oldham as to his remedy. If Irish bank notes and English country bank notes were made payable, not in gold, but in notes of the Bank of England, all the large sums kept in gold by 700 or 800 country bankers would be set at liberty. There need only be one dépôt of gold—namely, the Bank of England. The Bank of England might be allowed to issue 1l. and 2l. notes, but not the country bankers, who should be restricted from issuing notes below 5l.; for this reason, that notes of a lower denomination were commonly held by the labouring class; and if a country banker should fail, great distress and inconvenience, if he issued 1l. notes would follow. Sovereigns might be dismissed altogether from the circulation, and the Bank of England should be compelled to pay its notes, on demand, in gold ingots, to any amount not less than 25l. Threats had been uttered of a run for gold, and he had seen placards to the same effect on the walls of the metropolis. The plan he had suggested would effectually put a stop to popular panics, to which, in moments of excitement, the present monetary system was exposed, and which panics might lead to the most deplorable results. The paper money would be always kept at its just value by the exchanges; because, if the Bank should issue more paper than the business of the country required, such paper so issued would fall in value, and merchants would immediately demand gold bars. These regulations, in suggesting which he would lay no claim to originality, because they were, for the most part, recommended by Mr. Ricardo, would give great relief. But if they should not be sufficient, then, on the principle mentioned by Lord Grey, "Nemo tenetur ad impossibile," he would recommend that the standard should be lowered one per cent per annum till the country were restored to prosperity. In the mean time he should vote for the Motion of the hon. member for Whitehaven, for which that hon. Member had stated unanswerable reasons. The House would not do their duty either to themselves, to the people, or to the Sovereign, unless they resolved forthwith, to institute a full and efficient inquiry.

Mr. Forster

, as a country banker, begged leave to reject the indulgence proposed for the class to which he belonged by the hon. member for Knaresborough, of being allowed to tender Bank of England paper in payment of their notes, instead of gold. He knew that the sure way to create an avidity for gold was to place an impediment in the way of obtaining it. A feeling of pride, too, would be apt to deter him from issuing notes which were not convertible into gold at the will of the holder. The information he had acquired as to the opinions of the great mass of the people—the operative classes—led him to think that their opinions were not in accordance with the views of the hon. member for Whitehaven. These people could not be expected to be great proficients in the science of political economy; but experience—painful experience—induced them to assent to what he believed to be an acknowledged principle of that science,—namely, that the rise in prices which was caused by a depreciation of money operated with greater rapidity on commodities than on labour. Thus they, the labouring classes, always suffered by a transition from low to high prices. If any hon. Gentleman would take the trouble to refer to the newspapers, the pamphlets, and the ballads—those indicators of popular sentiment—in circulation during the period of the war and the Bank Restriction Act, he would find them to abound with complaints on this head. They whose occupation it was to dilate upon the grievances of the people in that day, ascribed their sufferings to a redundancy of paper money, just as they who pursued a similar occupation in the present day attributed their sufferings to a deficiency of that article. Surely the present currency was fully adequate to the legitimate wants of the country. Assuming that a considerable diminution had taken place, as compared with the amount in circulation during the period of the war and the Bank Restriction Act, he should contend that the remission of annual taxation to an extent exceeding 20,000,000l. since that time, made a good set-off. But the fact was, that the amount of circulation at the present time exceeded that of any time during the period to which he had referred. The aggregate amount of Bank of England paper, country bank paper, gold, and silver, now in circulation, was certainly greater than the aggregate amount of Bank of England paper, country bank paper, and silver, in circulation during the latter years of the Restriction Act, when it would be recollected there was no gold in circulation. His own experience, too, as a country banker of thirty years' standing, enabled him to say that he never recollected the time when what was technically termed banking accommodation—the assistance rendered by bankers to those with whom they dealt—was afforded with more facility than at present. They who had available security to offer, could instantly obtain loans to the value of that security; and they who had not such security to offer, but who had, what he had often found to be the best security—good character and good conduct, were assisted to the utmost extent that was compatible with safety to the lender, and with benefit to the borrower. None of those undertakings which were submitted to public enterprise such as rail roads, and works of that description were allowed to languish for want of money. On the contrary, be the amount required ever so enormous, if the scheme presented any degree of plausibility, subscriptions flowed in with an alacrity which indicated anything but a scarcity of the circulating medium. The hon. member for Whitehaven had referred to the state of pauperism in this country, which he seemed to think had been decreasing during the period of the Restriction Act, and to have increased since. Now all the Returns presented to the House connected with this subject, appeared to him to give a different result; but the hon. Member would most likely controvert this point, by mixing up with it the altered value of money. He was, therefore, glad that he had it in his power to produce a document not susceptible of this objection, inasmuch as it gave the number of paupers relieved, and not the money expended for their relief. It did not apply to the kingdom generally, but to one particular town, and that the town, of all others, which he had most pleasure in citing in this debate, the town of Birmingham, near which he resided, but of the actual condition of which he would not speak, because it was not safe to do so. He hoped, however, that he might quote a document without incurring the risk of a broken head, or a devastated house. This document embraced three decennial periods; the first from 1801 to 1810, wherein the average population was 64,848 and the average of paupers 10,117, or fifteen per cent; the second 1811 to 1820, wherein the average of population was 76,689; and that of paupers 13,800, or eighteen per cent; and the third from 1821 to 1830, (which it would be borne in mind, was immediately after the passing of the Act of 1819, wherein the average of population was 95,868, and that of paupers 12,606, being 13½ percent; a decrease of nearly five per cent as compared with the preceding decennial period. He would add that every money transaction—every bargain and sale—every loan—every contract entered into during the existence of the Bank restriction, was with the full knowledge of all parties concerned, that the paper then circulating would be ultimately converted into gold; for this they had the solemn assurances of repeated Acts of Parliament, which assurances were made good. That fact took away the pretext, miserable as it was, urged by those who advocated what he considered an act of barefaced injustice; that a previous act of injustice had been committed. He denied that, and maintained that the Government of this country had hitherto always observed strict faith in its engagements. What should they gain by acceding to the plans of the hon. member for Whitehaven? A short-lived semblance of prosperity—a parenthesis of bubble speculation—to be succeeded by misery infinitely greater than the distress which preceded it. That was, however, assuming that the inevitable consequences would not immediately follow. The probability was, (hat they would. The mere discussion of this question had already nipped the opening bud of commercial im- provement; and if they prolonged the discussion—especially if they gave any indications of an intention to alter the present monetary system—he was persuaded that evils would thicken around them. "We are sowing the wind, and assuredly we shall reap the whirlwind." His solemn conviction was, that the slightest concession to the plan of the hon. member for Whitehaven would be the first step in the road to ruin—the preliminary to national bankruptcy—to a disastrous revolution in property; to characterize it in one sentence, its impolicy was only equalled by its injustice. During the canvass of a numerous constituency, he was asked by one voter, and one only, to give a pledge relating to this question. The elector said," Will you vote for measures tending to give the country an adequate currency? To a proposition so fair and reasonable he could but assent. In conformity to that promise if the hon. member for Whitehaven, or any other hon. Member would bring forward a motion to inquire into the adequacy or inadequacy of the present currency, he would support it. The gentleman to whom he had alluded was a respectable ironmaster; a trade at that time suffering under great depression, but which, he was happy to learn, by a letter which he had just received from this identical person, has now experienced a great revival.

Mr. Poulett Thomson

could assure the House, that it was with great pleasure he had given way to the hon. Gentleman (Mr. Forster), whose speech could not have failed to produce a great effect upon the House, coming, as it did, from one practically engaged in the banking and commercial affairs of this country. He was not surprised that the hon. member for Knaresborough should complain of the manner in which the Motion of the hon. member for Whitehaven had been met; for he seemed, by some happy turn of mind, to imagine, that he could engraft on a Motion, introduced distinctly and avowedly for one purpose, another purpose completely and entirely different; and that he would have an opportunity, by voting for the Committee of the hon. Gentleman, of making that Committee subservient to promote his own plan. After the Amendment of his noble friend, it was impossible that the House could consider that any other question was before it than whether it should affirm or negative a departure from the standard of value as established by law. That was the question which was now before the House, and that was the question on which the country was now looking for the decision of the House. The people anticipated that an end would be put to the agitation of the question—an agitation which, even now, was paralysing in some degree, the trade of the country, and which, if allowed to continue, would be likely to be attended with yet more disastrous consequences. The simple question before the House was—shall there be depreciation or no depreciation? The hon. Member, in introducing his Motion, had entered into a long discussion respecting the distress which he alleged existed in the country, and no doubt the hon. Member acted wisely in so doing for the purpose which he had in view, because, by taking that course, he may find support, perhaps, from some few who, differing from him as to the remedy, might wish to go into a Committee with a view of inquiring into the causes of the distress. He was prepared to maintain, that although there might, and unfortunately did, prevail among certain classes a considerable degree of distress, yet the condition of the country at large was very far from what the hon. Member had described it to be. In spite of the hon. Gentleman's sneer at official documents, he should venture to advert to some to which his position in the Government had given him access, and which he thought the House would consider neither delusive nor valueless. Unless the House was willing to take some of the general facts upon which the hon. Member relied in detail—unless it was willing, in some degree, to take the amount of relief to the poor as a criterion of poverty—willing to look to the consumption of the country and the statements of intelligent individuals—he knew not what could be had recourse to as indices of the public welfare. He wished to touch lightly on the subject of the distress; but at the same time he did not consider it consistent with the honest expression of his opinion, if entertaining, as he did, views different from those of the hon. Gentleman, he did not state his opinions respecting that distress, notwithstanding the unpopularity which might attach to the avowal of them. He did not mean to deny that distress always existed, and always must, to a certain extent, in the country; but that was not the position of the hon. member for Whitehaven (Mr. M. Attwood). He had stated that the distress at present was unparalleled—that every branch of industry was going to decay.—that the landholders were all but ruined—that the farmers were in a state of bankruptcy—that the merchants were ready to close their concerns—that manufacturing capital yielded in the shape of profits little or nothing. From these positions of the hon. Gentleman he entirely dissented; and he believed the condition of the several interests of the country to be in a very different state from that which the hon. Member had represented them to be in. To show that the statements which had been made to the House were greatly exaggerated, he (Mr. Poulett Thomson) would prove what the condition of the poor had been during the ten years ending in 1821, as compared with the ten years ending in 1831, by reckoning the sums devoted to the relief of the poor during these periods. In the earlier period 68,000,000l. had been given for the relief of the poor, being an average of 6,800,000l. a-year; while in the ten years ending in 1831, only 62,900,000l. were devoted to the same object; being an average of 6,290,000l.; consequently, upon the last period of ten years there had been a reduction of nearly 6,000,000l. There had been a reduction on the charge in proportion to the population since that time of not less than twenty-six per cent, the charge having been at the rate of 13s. per head in 1814, and 9s. 9d. in 1831. The following Tables (which the right hon. Member) read would show the House the particulars of his statement:—

Sums expended for the Relief of the Poor.
Average of 3 yrs., 1748,49, & 50. £689,971
1786 1,556,803
Average of 3 yrs., 1783,84,&85. 2,004,237
1803 4,267,963
1812–13 6,981,212
1813–14 6,627,550
1814–15 5,743,509
1815–16 5,724,506
1816–17 6,918,217
1817–18 7,890,148
1818–19 7,531,650
1819–20 7,329,594
1820–21 6,958,445
1821–22 6,358,703
In 10 years to 25th March 1822 68,063,534
1822–23 5,772,958
1823–24 5,734,216
1824–25 5,786,991
1825–26 5,928,502
1826–27 6,441,088
1827–28 6,298,003

In order, however, to show the real state of the case still more clearly, he had endeavoured to obtain information from some of the principal towns, and he had selected four manufacturing places of great consequence, (Glasgow, Manchester, Sheffield, and Birmingham). He considered that these four towns afforded a fair sample of the town population of Great Britain; and if there were any material distress in the country, it could not fail to pervade those industrious communities. He would begin with Glasgow, and first call the attention of the House to a statement as to the poor. The right hon. Member read the following paper:—

Glasgow.—Poor Rates.—The assessment for the maintenance of paupers in the ten parishes of the Royalty, exclusive of the suburbs, was—

In 1790 £1,420
1800 4,534
1810 5,770
1820 13,136
1830 7,866
'In the town and suburbs the population in 1830 was 202,426; the number of paupers 5,006; and the total sum expended on their relief, 17,281l.'

The House must remember that the population of Glasgow was nearly double in 1831, to the population of 1820; so that, with double the population, there was a diminution of the Poor-rate by nearly one-half. He would next read to them an extract of a letter from the Secretary to the Chamber of Commerce at Glasgow, a man on whose authority the House might place the utmost reliance:—

'I have reason to believe that during the year which has just expired, the hand-weaving branch has been enjoying a profitable trade, and the prospects for the coming year are so favourable, that the more prudent manufacturers entertain fears that a little further prosperity may occasion a revival of the spirit of over trading. The calico-printing business is understood to have been extremely prosperous from the moment of the repeal of the tax on that article, and its prosperity still continues. The silk manufacture, too, is considered to have been doing well. The hands generally belonging to the different branches of industry are in full employment, and, with the exception of the hand-loom weavers, at good wages.'

He would next go to Sheffield, the particulars of which were equally striking, as appeared by the following statement:—

'Population of the township of Sheffield—1811, 31,314; 1821,35,840; 1831, 59,011.

'Poor-rates of the township of Sheffield—1818,31,189l.; 1820,37,467l.; 1822, 20,141l.; 1824,16,787l.; 1826,12,967l.; 1828,15,926l.; 1830,18,691l.; 1832, 17,342l.'

Thus there appeared to be a diminution of the Poor-rate by one-half since 1820, during these ten years, which had been spoken of as years of misery and distress, in a town with a population increased from 35,000 to 60,000. In a letter dated 9th April, 1833, the Master Cutler stated that "the wages paid now in this town are not lower than they were in 1798, and provisions are nearly as cheap now as then." Many improvements, however, had, in the meantime, taken place in the economy and application of labour, so that the workmen's wages, although nominally the same, are really higher. The Master Cutler added, "they (the workmen) are certainly more comfortably situated than they have been at any time during the last thirty years." He next came to the town which he had the honour to represent (Manchester), with respect to which he unfortunately could not bring forward such accurate statements as in the other cases. He knew, that if he looked only to the increase of his popularity, the argument which he now brought forward with regard to the distress complained of was not the right way to attain that object. He never meant to deny, that distress among every class did exist then; he only contended against the exaggerations which prevailed upon the subject; and he would do so in the face of his constituents as well as of that House, because he thought it far better that the truth, and the truth alone, should be stated, than that any object, however apparently good, should be sought through the means of statements that required only to be touched, to fall to pieces. How could it be possible, according to the statement of the hon. member for Whitehaven, that four-fifths of the working population of that town were in the parish books when the Poor-rate was only four shillings in the pound. He had not the slightest hesitation in giving a direct contradiction to the statement of the hon. member for Whitehaven, and that contradiction was confirmed by the following facts respecting the great county of Lancashire, which included not only Manchester, but Liverpool, and many other large towns. The aggregate Poor-rate in Lancashire was, in 1813, 336,000l.; 1818, 372,000l.; 1831, 290,000l. Thus there was a diminution of thirty per cent in the Poor-rate, although the population had increased by 300,000 souls. Besides, in the above statement, by taking only every fifth year, he had passed over some of the dearest years, when the rate was higher, and had they been included that improvement would have been still more remarkable. He held in his hand a communication from Manchester, that since 1813 there had been a progressive and very material improvement in the condition of the people: that, in consequence of the new inventions and increased speed of machinery, one-fourth fewer hands were required to produce a given quantity of yarn than twenty years ago (and the reduction had been chiefly in the labour of children); the people were better fed and clothed, and their employment was never more regular and constant. He would then proceed to the town last upon his list, which had been referred to on a former occasion by the hon. Member opposite, who represented it; and which he had represented in such an extraordinary state of distress, that had he not before his eyes the evidence of the parliamentary writ by which the hon. Member was returned, he should almost doubt whether the hon. Gentleman had ever set his foot within the place. He had been forestalled in his intended statements of the decrease of pauperism in Birmingham by the hon. member for Walsall (Mr. Forster), and the House could not have failed to observe how completely his statement negatived the exaggerated accounts of the distress of Birmingham. The fact, that the number of paupers had decreased as compared with the population, from eighteen per cent in 1811, and twenty-four per cent in 1817, to sixteen per cent in 1832, is one of great importance. The hon. Member might doubt his statement, and he would therefore read the particulars of the progress of Pauperism in Birmingham obtained from the authorities of the town.

Population. Average No. of paupers.
1801 to 1810 64,848 10,117 15 per cent.
1811 to 1820 76,689 13,800 18
1821 to 1830 95,868 12,606 13½
1830 to 1833 110,364 16,612 15
In 1817 78,870 19,278 24
1832 113,106 18,516 16

But he would go further, and produce to the House indubitable evidence of the increased prosperity of the town. The hon. member for Birmingham said in his evidence before a Committee, that capital was extinct in Birmingham, and that although numbers of the people were enjoying luxuries and spending money in amusements, they were growing poor. He should be glad to arrive at the conclusion, that, in spite of growing poorer, men were able to enjoy more of the pleasures of life; but not being able to do so, he was fain to believe that they enjoyed more of the pleasures of life, because they were better able to afford them. One of the best proofs of the prosperity of Birmingham was afforded by the two great canals; and he would read to the House an account of the revenues derived from them during several years:—

Tolls on the Old Birmingham Canal. Tolls on the Worcester and Birmingham Canal.
1826 £88,394 £20,255
1827 96,332 24,912
1828 101,932 27,895
1829 102,485 28,052
1830 106,125 31,291
1831 107,033 33,246
1832 105,855 33,700

That was tolerably good evidence, that trade was not on the decline in Birmingham, that the town was not going to decay, and that capital was not annihilated as was represented by the hon. Member for that town. The Tolls on the Market formed another criterion of the state of the town which would be found to be equally satisfactory. They amounted in 1826–27, to 1,025l.; 1827–28, 1,078l; 1828–29, 2,383l.; 1829–30, 2,925l.; 1830–31, 3,077l.; 1831–32, 3,396l. Provisions had also fallen in price since 1826:—At the rate of—Meat 23, Bread 7½, Bacon 31, Cheese 40—per cent. He would not pretend to say, that his informants were more correct than the hon. Member, but they had the advantage of stating figures, and they had access to all the documents of the town. It was for the House to judge whether the vague statements of the hon. Gentleman, or the documents furnished by the Magistrates, were most deserving confidence. He had another document to which he would call their attention, and leave them to judge of its value. It was an extract of a letter from the senior Magistrate of Birmingham, dated March, 1833, and that Gentleman had the reputation of being every way qualified to give a correct opinion on the subject. He wrote—'From an experience of more than fifty years, I can safely aver, that I never saw the artizans better fed, clothed, or more comfortably housed. As respects the town itself, "there are manifest symptoms of improvement. From adequate authority, I may say, that the property of the place, and within four miles of it, has increased on an average rate of twenty-five per cent within the last fifteen years. More building is now going on than has been known for many years. The increase of parochial expenditure is trifling compared with the greatly augmented population. Contrary to all former precedents, nearly all transactions in business are on money terms. The Birmingham canal—that great dock for the conveyance of our raw materials, and heavy articles—has a larger tonnage than ever was known, and all the institutions are well supported.' He had thought it right to dwell on these facts, because the hon. Member grounded his Motion on the assertion, that the distress of the country was great and unparalleled. After the facts which he had stated, he did not believe, that the House would adopt the hon. Member's conclusion. He was however prepared to go further, and in spite of the observations of the hon. member for Oldham, who asserted, that an increase of consumption was only an evidence of increase of distress, he would refer to the increase of consumption in the United Kingdom of the four great articles, all entering largely into the consumption of the poorer classes—tobacco, sugar, tea, and coffee—as evidence of the not decaying prosperity of the kingdom.—For this purpose the right hon. Member proceeded to mention the particulars in the following Table of the

1814. 1832. INCREASE.
Tobacco 15,373,221 lbs. 20,235,468 31 per cent
Sugar 1,997,909 cwt. 3,655,535 83—
Tea 19,224,154 lbs. 31,548,407 65—
Coffee 6,324,267 lbs. 22,952,527 263—
Increase of Population estimated at 24 per cent.

He went back, it would be observed, to the year 1814, because that year had been selected by the hon. member for Whitehaven as the halcyon period of unlimited paper issues, and unbounded prosperity. Let the hon. Member for Oldham say what he pleased, he was sure the House, after hearing such a statement would be convinced that the mass of the people enjoyed a greater command over the comforts of life than formerly. The rich roan, it would be remembered, added little or nothing to his consumption of the necessaries of life, however much the price might fall, and therefore he was justified in assuming, that the increased consumption he had pointed out had taken place exclusively among the lower and middle classes, and was a sure proof that they had increased in comfort and opulence. He would next refer to the consumption of cotton and sheep's wool, constituting the great staple manufactures of the country. He had separated these from the other articles, because a large portion of them were exported; but the increase, as a large part was consumed at home, might be taken both as a proof of additional enjoyment and additional employment for the labouring classes. The consumption of these articles, then, was:—

1820. 1832. INCREASE.
Cotton Wool 152,829,633 259,412,463 70 per cent
Sheep's Wool 9,775,605 27,666,350 183—
Increase of Population in the same period 16 per cent.

Perhaps he had better not speak of silk" as there had been several alterations in the duty. Another point which he considered deserving of notice was the great diminution of the rate of mortality which had taken place in the country during the last fifty years, as it showed an increase of comfort. In 1780, one in forty died annually; at present the proportion was not more than one in fifty-four—being a diminution of thirty-six per cent. Was not that also an evidence that the condition of the people had improved? In adducing these returns he was replying to that part of the hon. Gentleman's speech in which he stated that the power of consumption of the people had only increased eleven per cent, while the population had increased thirty per cent. The documents he had quoted showed the case to be very different. He regretted as much as any man that there should be distress in the country, and the rather as he feared it was a condition of affairs for which patience was the only remedy; at the same time he should be the first to advocate the principle that it was the bounden duty of Parliament to seek a remedy for distress, and, whenever inquiry appeared likely to point out a remedy, it ought to be instituted. To any inquiry which seemed to hold out a promise of utility he would readily assent; but the present proposition he considered would prove disastrous in its consequences. He was not deaf to the cry of distress—he wished to diminish and relieve it to the utmost extent possible, but he looked upon the proposition to be made solely with a view to depreciate the currency. He should be able to show, that by granting the Committee asked for by the hon. Member, and granting the depreciation which might be the consequence of it, this House would inflict upon the mass of the community (the labouring classes especially) an amount of misery and wretchedness such as never was before inflicted upon any country. All history demonstrated, however beneficial a depreciation of the currency might be to the debtor, who wished to acquit himself of his obligations at a reduced standard of value—however beneficial for a time to the tradesman who held a stock of goods; it must be, as it ever had been, the most severe infliction possible for the labouring classes. He wished that this question should be well understood by the country, not but that he agreed with the hon. Gentleman behind him (Mr. Forster), that there was far from being that feeling upon I he subject amongst the industrious classes which had been described by the hon. Member. He had continued intercourse with people of various classes, and from his experience he must say, that although among certain currency doctors there might be a cry with respect to this question, and there might have been attempts made to enlist the people on their side, yet those attempts had all failed, and the people were indifferent, if not averse, to the change contemplated by the hon. Member. To show the effects of a depreciation of the currency, he would go back, very shortly, to rather an early period in the history of this country, that in which the first considerable depreciation took place in the value of gold and silver, in consequence of the opening of the South American mines. Between 1527, and about 1540, the pound sterling was depreciated nearly one-third. All the writers of the time describe the miserable condition to which the poor of England were reduced. Before the passing of the 43rd of Elizabeth, they were represented as wandering about begging or committing the most wanton crimes in open day. It had been disputed, whether the distress thus described was not owing to the abolition of the monasteries in the reign of Henry 8th; but when a similar state of distress existed in other states of Europe where no monasteries were abolished, and no Poor-laws established, it was right to infer that those writers who attributed the distress to the depreciation in the value, of money formed a correct opinion. He would quote only one sentence to the House upon this subject, from the writings of Mr. John Smith who, in speaking of the distress of 1550, said—'The principal real grievance at this time of the poorer manufacturers, they do not appear to have been sensible of, and historians have since overlooked it, was the state of the coin. The debasement of the coin, which was now of several years standing, had undoubtedly given a nominal advance to all things vendible; and though perhaps to wages too, yet probably nothing near in proportion to the difference of the coin. And as the money in which they were paid, not containing as much silver as it did before, would not purchase the same quantity of necessaries of life as it was wont to do—that, in course, must have bore hard upon the lower sort of people especially, who had everything to buy, and nothing to sell, except their labour.' Were Mr. Smith writing-with all the experience of the present day, he could not more accurately describe the effects of depreciation which had taken place in our times; or what would be the effects of the depreciation now proposed by the hon. Member. In 1550, in consequence of this depreciation in the value of money, and the miserable condition of the people, a maximum price was actually placed on all the commodities sold in this country, which many writers ascribe to the proper cause. The second period to which he begged to call the attention of the House, was that from 1660 to 1760, during which, with one exception—the value of money remained nearly equal; and there had been no period, with that one exception, of greater prosperity to the labouring classes. He would state the evidence upon which he came to that conclusion. In the year 1680, the Poor-rates were computed by Davenant at 665,000l. for England and Wales; in 1750, nearly a hundred years afterwards, they amounted only to 689,000l., having increased only 34,000l. in the long period of a century, during which the precious metals retained nearly the same value. There was, however, one exception; that was about the year 1695, when the coin of the country was debased. If Gentlemen would turn to the history of that day, they would see to what a state of misery and distress the labouring classes were reduced. Mr. Lowndes said, in his Report to the Treasury, in 1695, that the degraded state of the coinage was "one great cause of the raising the price, not only of all merchandises, but of every article necessary for the maintenance of the common people, to their great grievance." Mr. Locke, in his answer to Mr. Lowndes, confirmed this statement, and said, that "the money-price of all sorts of provisions had risen excessively." Let the House see the effect of this upon the Poor-rates. In the year 1700 they had risen, according to Sir F. Morton Eden's calculation, to 1,000,000l. Afterwards, when the currency had been restored, and had again become settled, they fell in 1750, to 680,000l. That proved, he thought, that the only interruption to prosperity which occurred in the course of a century, originated in the debasement of the coinage and lasted till wages had righted them- selves by being raised in proportion. The third period to which he wished to draw the attention of the House, that from 1770 to 1816, was one of considerable depreciation. The evidence for this period was much less easily disputed than that to which he had hitherto adverted. Mr. Arthur Young took great pains upon the subject, and spent three years as Secretary of the Agricultural Society, in carrying on an inquiry into the state of the poor, the amount of their wages and the prices of their provisions; and he stated that the mean price of agricultural labour in England and Wales, during the three years ending 1770, was about 7s. 6d. per week, or 1s. 3d. per day; that the mean price of agricultural labour in 1810 and 1811, when the depreciation was at its acmé, was 14s. 6d. per week, or 2s. 5d. per day, being a rise of nearly 100 per cent on the former period; but in the mean time beef had risen from about 1l. 7s. to 3l. 10s. per cwt., or nearly 300 per cent.; bread had more than doubled; butter had risen from 6½d. to 1s. 2½d. per lb., being a rise of about 120 percent.; cheese had risen from 3¼d. to 8¼d., being more than 200 per cent; oatmeal had risen from 4s. 9d. to 11s. 6d.; salt had risen 400 per cent; malt 140 per cent; and other articles in proportion." It appeared, therefore, that whilst wages rose only 100 per cent, some of the most essential articles of provision rose 120, 200, and even 400 per cent. Hence, said Mr. Young, the extreme distress of the labouring classes—a distress which, at the end of the war, was evinced by the great increase of the Poor-rates, to which he was always willing to refer as a test. In 1783, 1784, and 1785, the Poor-rates, according to the Returns, averaged 2,400,000l.; and, in 1815, they amounted to 5,724,000l., being an increase of more than 150 per cent. In the fourth period during which the standard of value had been raised in the manner so much objected to by the hon. member for Whitehaven, he found the greatest difficulty in dealing with the subject, and in bringing undoubted facts to bear upon it; but there were documents which would, he thought, be sufficient to decide the point. The tables kept at Greenwich-hospital, containing the prices of provisions, and the wages of labour, and the extremely able statistical tables kept at Glasgow, by Dr. Cleland, whose accuracy and research it was impossible to praise too highly, would throw light on the subject. What were the real wages of artisans in 1814, 1815, and 1816, so much lauded by the hon. Gentlemen; and what were they at present? Whilst the prices of commodities had fallen very materially, owing to the rise in the value of the currency, the wages of labour had not fallen in the same proportion. From Dr. Cleland's tables he would quote this statement:—

Mechanics. Weavers.
s. d. s. d. s. d. s. d.
Rate of Wages 1819 2 6 to 3 9 0 to 1
1851 do. do. 0 11 to 1 4

Thus the rise in weavers' wages, since 1819, had been fifteen to twenty percent, and that of mechanics stationary. The prices of provisions during the same periods stood thus:—

Bread per
Oatmeal. qr loaf. Cheese. Candles. Soft Sugar.
s. d. s. d. s. d. s. d. s. d.
1819 1 3 0 11¾ 0 1 0 0 7
1831 1 2 0 0 6 0 7 0
Fall since 1819:—
7 per cent, 25 p. cent. 29 p. cent. 41 p. cent. 21 p. cent.

The Greenwich-hospital tables, to which he appealed with confidence, because they were official, and regularly kept, showed the same results. He had taken three periods from these tables, and had placed against them the amount of wages paid to bricklayers, and the price of meat and flour. The account stood thus:—

Wages of Bricklayers. Flesh per cwt. Flour.
s. d. s. d. s. d.
1790 2 4 36 10 43 4
1812 5 5 78 0 107 5
1830 4 10 43 6 46 0
It thus appeared, that between 1790 and 1812, there was a rise in wages of 132 per cent.; and upon flesh and flour, of 110 and 150 per cent. Between 1812 and 1830 there had been a fall of only ten per cent in wages; whilst the fall in rent had been at least fifteen per cent; in the price of flesh and flower, seventy-seven per cent and 133 per cent; and everything else in proportion. These facts deserved the consideration of those who were to pass judgment upon the question before the House, because they showed indisputably that depreciation, however brought about, must be injurious to the operative classes. Wages never rose in proportion, or, at least, only after a very long period, to the rise in the value of commodities; and it was impossible to impress too strongly upon the attention of the House or of the country this fact—that the labouring classes would not profit by any attempt to depreciate the currency. What had been characterized by the hon. member for Whitehaven as a "system of confiscation and public robbery," had certainly not been one of confiscation to them. He did not indeed admit the justice of those words, as applied to the Act of 1819; but if the hon. Member thought proper so to apply them, he must admit them as applicable to what must be the result of his proposition, with this difference, that if the system of confiscation and public robbery now proposed were adopted, it would tend most materially to injure the operative classes; so that, whilst they participated in the shame of the Act, they would not only be excluded from any of its supposed benefits, but reap from it inevitable misery. If the hon. Member's proposition would not benefit the labouring classes, whom would it benefit? The hon. Member said, that the country prospered under the former system, but he only showed that a fictitious paper money for a time increased the industry of the country. He failed entirely in showing any connexion between the simple fact of returning to the metallic standard, and the distress of the present time. No over-issue of paper could take place, with whatever apparent prosperity it might be attended, without there necessarily being a reaction productive of misery; and in proportion as over-issues took place—in proportion as the stream had been unduly supplied—would the returning rush of the waters be great, and barrenness and dearth be spread over the land. He had heard it said, "We do not wish to produce depreciation by any violent or sudden measure; we mean to obtain an over-issue of paper, which will create great temporary prosperity, to be followed by contraction of the currency, by distress, by applications for gold, by the inability of the Bank to meet those applications; and thus arrive at an inconvertible paper currency, which, once again obtained, you will never more return to cash payments." That was a doctrine which he had heard propounded, although he did not believe its advocates would be found openly to avow themselves in that House. But, in case they should, he rejoiced that this Motion had been submitted to the House—he rejoiced that this question of a straight forward, downright act of spoliation and bank ruptcy had been offered for their decision, because it would, he trusted, entirely prevent any attempt at arriving at the same result by a sidewind which would lengthen present suffering, and increase the ultimate distress. But who did the hon. Gentleman think would benefit by the depreciation? He had shown that it could not benefit the labouring class. The hon. Gentleman said, that the landed interest was suffering. He admitted it; but would the landed interest be relieved by a measure of this kind, except in so far as it would be relieved in a manner which he respected the gentlemen of England too much to suppose they would accept—namely, by paying off their fixed engagements in a depreciated currency. Would their rents be better paid in that currency than in any other? But supposing their rents were raised, and that all other things were raised in proportion, could they purchase more of the enjoyments of life than they could command at present? They could receive relief in no way but that which he believed every man of honour would spurn. Then as to the manufacturers and shopkeepers, how would it benefit them? It would benefit them to the extent of their stock on hand, and no more. That might be to the extent of five, or ten, or twenty per cent, or whatever might be the amount of the depreciation. That would be the work of a single day. When the next day they came to purchase, they would find that their condition would not be improved. Then was there any other party who could derive a benefit from it but the debtor, and why should the debtor be more an object of sympathy than the creditor? Putting aside all considerations of honesty, he saw no claim the debtor had to the consideration of the State. The creditor it was, generally, who had amassed capital, and who had contributed to the increase of the national wealth, while the debtor might have contracted engagements he could not fulfil, and might have dissipated gains he had not honestly acquired. For his own part, he asked for equal justice for each party, for both debtor and creditor; but looking to the general policy of such a measure as that before the House, he would ask what, if it were carried into effect, would become of the desire of accumulating; and who would wish to have property, when the simple fiat of the Legislature might destroy, in a few hours, the result of fifty years' persevering toil, and the hopes of parents and children? And the only reason for such a step was, that the poor debtor was distressed, whilst your rich creditor was enjoying all the sweets of opulence. There was much capital in the country, which must always remain in it, and which could not be applied except where it stood; but there was much also that might be transferred: let the experiment now proposed be once tried, and away would go a large mass of the capital which had tended so much to invigorate the industry and add to the resources of the country. This was, in his opinion, the fair long-sighted view of the question. The question was one of depreciation or no depreciation. The Committee which the hon. Member called for once granted, that must follow (he would not say that it must necessarily follow as the result of that Committee's acts), but in the minds of the public it must follow, and the effect must be worse, from the fact of the hon. Member leaving the extent of the depreciation undefined. If he had said that it would be five, or ten, or fifteen per cent, men would be prepared for the result; but leaving it indefinite, he left them nothing to guide them. Every creditor in London would know it to-morrow, and what would be the consequence? An hon. Member had stated some time ago, that such was the distress of the country, that every second or third house from Charing-cross to the Exchange contained an insolvent. Suppose that to be the fact, what would the creditors say when they found a proposition of this sort entertained and agreed to by the House? The creditor would go to his debtor and say, "Pay me at once, or I shall sell all you possess; and, though it may be at a sacrifice, that must be better than the indefinite loss which I may sustain by waiting to obtain payment in a depreciated currency. I shall realize what I can, and transfer it to a country where the principle of depreciation may not be so much in fashion." What would be the situation of the banks if this Committee were appointed? Was there a man who had a bank-note, who would not at once endeavour to turn it into cash, that he might, as much as possible, guard against the impending depreciation? The pens would be scarcely dry by the means of which the proceedings of that House were circulated throughout the country, before, provided the hon. Member's proposal was adopted, there would ensue a scene of universal bankruptcy and confusion never witnessed in any country. And for whose benefit was this to happen? Not for the benefit of landed proprietors; not for that of manufacturers and merchants, since their benefit would be only for a day; not for the good of the labouring and operative classes, since they would be deeply injured by it; not for the benefit of the fund holders, since they would be actually pillaged by it! For whose benefit was it then? Solely for that of debtors. By it Mr. A, the debtor, would have so much the more, and Mr. B, the creditor, so much the less. On one hint that had been thrown out in the course of the evening, he would say a single word. It had been said, that, by this depreciation, the public burthens would be diminished; he admitted the assertion, but, at the same time, he would say that there were other ways, and happily honest and honourable ways, to diminish those burthens, without disturbing public contracts. Would not a reduction of taxation be a more direct and a more honest mode of relieving those burthens? and had nothing been recently done in that way? Upwards of 6,000,000l. had been reduced within the last four years, and relief had thus been afforded to the people in a more upright and equitable manner than in the way suggested by the present Motion, because the public creditor had not been deprived of that to which he was fairly entitled. The hon. member for Birmingham, indeed, contended that reduction of taxation gave no relief, which was a remarkable doctrine to be entertained by gentlemen who proposed to depreciate the currency as a means of lightening the public burthens. The hon. Gentleman, the member for oldham, had given utterance to the oft-repeated fallacy that the creditor had gained enormously by the appreciation of money. He very much doubted the correctness of this assertion. Mr. Mushet had shown, as clearly as could be done by figures, that the public creditor, instead of gaining by the appreciation of money, was, taking into consideration the loss he suffered during the depreciation, a loser to the extent of somewhere about 44,000l. a year. He objected to the propositions of the hon. Member because he saw in them the complete derangement of the whole commercial and even social system of the country. He believed that nothing but ruin and bankruptcy could follow their adoption, and the loss of that high name for honour and integrity which the country at present possessed among the nations of Europe, If they could no longer bear the public burthens, or pay that which was due to the public creditor, he should say," compound with him; exhibit the state of your affairs; say that you are not able to pay the 28,000,000l. which he at present receives; but do not adopt that which was only a clumsy means of arriving at the same end,—which carried with it a complete disruption of all money contracts, and rendered insecure private and public credit,—which would reduce to beggary not only a few rich fundholders, as they were termed, but no less than 275,000 public creditors, who received dividends under 400l., and which would take the means of livelihood from the widow and the orphan." Let them avoid doing an act of that kind, not only because it would inflict on the country all the misery he had pointed out, but because in his conscience he believed it would cause them to forfeit that which ought to be as dear to a nation as to an individual—a good name for honour and integrity.

Debate Adjourned.