§ Sir H. Willoughby
was about to address the House on a tedious subject, but he would endeavour to make his observations as brief as possible. Notwithstanding the weight which he attached to the opinions of the noble Lord, the Chancellor of the Exchequer, he must say that it was his intention to vote for the inquiry proposed by the hon. member for Whitehaven. He should do so because he thought the state of the country demanded that inquiry, and not because he had any dishonest design with reference to the currency. He, however, should be prepared to enter into a consideration of the monetary system; but he could assure the noble Lord, with as great a horror of spoliation and confiscation as any man could have. It was not his intention to go into ranch argument or lengthened detail to show the existence or extent of distress in the country; that part of the question lay in a nut-shell. The population at present was 25,000,000; and he found that they were not so well fed or so well clothed; that they did not possess so many of the necessaries as heretofore the people of this country had possessed. That was enough to justify any man in desiring and promoting inquiry into the state of the country. The increasing amount of the Poor-rates, averaging 62,000,000l. in the last ten years, was another reason to infer distress enough in the country to warrant an inquiry on the part of the Parliament. A reference to the Report of the Poor Law Commissioners, which he had read through, would incontestably prove, that the labourers and the agricultural population of the country were not in that condition in which they ought to be. He would confine himself to the most important question involved in the present discussion—namely, whether or not any portion of the distress of the country had arisen from the change that had been made in our monetary system. It was a fallacy to suppose, that those who supported the Motion for inquiry upon this occasion were necessarily opposed to the Government. He was most anxious to give his support to the present Government; at the same time he felt it his duty to give 470 his vote for the Motion brought forward by the hon. member for Whitehaven. He, for one, thought that the greatest importance attached to an inquiry of this description, as the result of such an inquiry, if it should be instituted, might be to discover some mode of levying the same amount of revenue without its pressing so heavily as the present one upon the industrious and productive classes of the country. It appeared to him that a great deal of unnecessary apprehension had prevailed as to the danger of such an inquiry into the state of our monetary system. He was, on the contrary, of opinion, that, for many years past, great defects had arisen, and great evils had been occasioned, in consequence of Parliament not having taken into consideration, from time to time, the state of our monetary system. He had only to refer to the various inquiries that had taken place with regard to the Bank, to show that such inquiries were attended with beneficial results. The consequence of the inquiries regarding the Bank had been the production, at length, of a more healthy action upon its part. So far, therefore, from thinking that an inquiry into the state of our monetary system would be fraught with any degree of danger, he was of opinion that many of the evils which now pressed upon the country owed their origin to a want of parliamentary inquiry, from time to time, into the state of that system. The Legislature of this country, in consequence of its conduct, had become unwittingly, but justly, chargeable with every mistake and with every blunder that had been committed with regard to our monetary system. It was true that the system which commenced in 1797, and continued up to 1819, was calculated to defraud creditors, persons of fixed incomes, and people of that description; but the error committed in 1819 defrauded debtors, manufacturers, and every individual connected with productive industry; and it was therefore an error of a much more dangerous character, and one that was followed by much more sweeping effects. Why, then, refuse a Committee to inquire into the consequences of that error, and to sec whether it was not capable of amendment? It was a curious circumstance that no hon. nor even right hon. member of that House could state what was the exact amount of paper in circulation in the country. If the actual amount of paper in circulation could from time to time be correctly ascertained and made public, persons engaged in 471 productive industry could then see the causes of their losses in many instances, and could apply a remedy to them if it was practicable. If the amount of paper money in circulation were published from time to time, especially that portion of it in circulation in the country, he was of opinion that great benefit would be derived there from by all the productive classes throughout the country. The evidence given before the Bank Charter Committee by the able men who had been examined, demonstrated the necessity of the inquiry which was now called for. He was ready to admit that the whole of this question rested upon the point whether it was possible for us to maintain our present engagements with the standard which had been established by the Act of 1819. The noble Lord, the Chancellor of the Exchequer, said that was a permanent standard of value, and that it had been necessary for the prosperity and existence of the country to return to such a standard. He would ask, then, whether gold was really a standard of permanent value? He had heard much of the omnipotence of Parliament but he would defy Parliament, or any other body of men, to render gold a standard of permanent value, and to say, that, henceforth and for ever, gold should be worth 3l. 17s. 10½d. an ounce. They might as well thus attempt to fix permanently the price of gold as the price of any other commodity, exposed as it was to similar variations as to supply and demand, and of course to similar variations in its price in the market. The price of gold per ounce in the reign of Queen Elizabeth was 2l. 15s. 10d. in the reign of James 1st, 3l. 2s. 1d; in the reign of Charles 2nd, and in the reign of George 1st, the price of gold per ounce became 3l. 17s. 10½d. That statement was sufficient to show that gold was not and could not be, a permanent standard of value. It had varied in price according to the supply of the commodity; and he believed there was no doubt that it was every day becoming more and more enhanced in value. If that was the case—and he was sure that upon inquiry it would be found to be so—in what difficulties might not this country be plunged, and into what a scrape might it not get, if, with a currency regulated by a standard that varied according to the supply to be obtained from other countries, we should happen to be involved again in a general war? By retaining the present standard; they 472 nailed down the currency to a standard that was continually altering. He, for one, was opposed to retaining a metal as a standard, which was enhancing in value every day. The result of retaining such a standard would be a contraction of the circulating medium, fatal to the productive industry of the country. It required no arguments to prove, that in the present state of the country, it required much more extended currency than it possessed, for instance, in the reign of William 3rd. In the reign of King William, the debt was only 16,000,000l., the interest of the debt 500,000l., and the taxes only 4,000,000l., and therefore it was plain that the state of things in 1832 required not only that the mass of the currency should be much greater, but that the currency should have in itself the power of expansion. Why should they measure their currency by a measure which was, as he contended, progressively becoming shorter and stricter? Was it not clear that their doing so tended to plunge the country, and that too, at no distant period, into immense difficulties and embarrassments? He was as ready to admit as the greatest stickler for the maintenance of the public faith, that the country was bound to keep its faith with the public creditor; but he could not understand why we should be called upon to pay back in an enhanced metallic currency, debts that had been contracted in a paper currency. He could not understand the justice or the equity of such a proceeding. He thought that it was necessary to institute this inquiry, if for no other purpose, to see whether the establishment of a silver standard might not be more advantageous to the country, under existing circumstances, than a gold standard. He was of opinion that it would, because it was progressive in its quantity, because it would afford the paper money a power of expansion, and because a greater amount of paper circulation could be borne, without any injury to the public faith, with a silver standard. The introduction of such a standard would be most beneficial to the productive classes, and especially to the agricultural interest. It appeared to him, that the landowners, with the best intentions in the world to promote their own interests, had never gone about the matter in the true and proper way. They always seemed to think that great dangers were to be apprehended from the importation of foreign corn, that their well-doing and their well-being were inconsistent with the full-feeding of the people at large, and that, 473 in a word, the prosperity of the landed interest depended upon the suffering of every other class of the community. He differed from them in that view of their interests, and he was sure, that experience would fully hear out his opinions. He would appeal for proof to the successive Corn-laws that had been passed for the protection, as it was called, of the agricultural interest. Had those laws rendered that interest prosperous? Was it not, on the contrary, in a most declining state? Had not the Corn-laws of 1823 sunk, a dead letter, to the ground? At the very time that the Government and the Legislature were endeavouring to fix the price of wheat at 80s. a quarter, the change that had been made in our monetary system rendered it absolutely impossible to retain it at such a price. The same course was pursued in 1827 with similar success. He would now tell the landlords that, with a gold standard, always enhancing in value, it would be impossible that the price of corn should be higher than 50s. a-quarter, if it should be so high. He thought that even those who were the advocates for the maintenance of the present system ought not to oppose this Motion; for if a delusion prevailed on the subject, it would be dissipated at once by inquiry. If, on the one hand, those who thought that the distress of the country arose from the pressure occasioned by the contraction of the currency were in error, it surely would be an important thing to show by inquiry that their views were erroneous; and if on the other hand, it should be found that relief would be derived from a recurrence to a silver standard (he would not go over the reasons for recurring to such a standard, detailed as they were in the admirable evidence given by the hon. member for Essex in 1828, and in the able speech of the hon. member for Whitehaven in 1830) if it should be found, he repeated, from the result of such inquiry, that the introduction of a silver standard would be the means of affording practical relief to the country, consistent with the maintenance of the public credit, would not the inquiry be attended by most beneficial consequences? In supporting the Motion of the hon. member for Whitehaven, he begged to be understood as not going further with him than as to the propriety of inquiry into the subject. Of this he was sure, that if a measure were brought forward for introducing a silver standard (and he thought such a measure should emanate from the Government), the effect of it would be to 474 increase the capital, and to stimulate the productive industry, of the country to an incalculable extent.
§ Mr. Clay
said, he had but a few observations to make on this subject, which, however, was one of considerable importance. He wished to remove the apprehensions and dissipate the delusion which prevailed upon the subject. He thought the hon. member for the City of London (Mr. Grote) and the right hon. member for Manchester (Mr. P. Thomson) had in their speeches last night completely set aside the clamour as to the great distress of the country. One topic, however, was not sufficiently adverted to. He had heard much vague declamation, but no attempt to connect the existence of distress with the resumption of cash payments. The opponents of the Motion of the hon. Member (Mr. Attwood) had left nothing else with which to grapple. It was assumed that the Act of 1819 narrowed the currency, and therefore reduced prices; but no proof whatever had been offered to support such an hypothesis as had been advanced by the supporters of this Motion. He would for the present, admit that the reduction of the circulating medium might be made a fair ground of argument; but, supposing it to be established, still it would be necessary to show, that the depreciation in the price of commodities of all sorts was such as would lead to the distressed state of the country. He could show, in the first place, that the distress was not so great as had been stated; that the issue of currency was not greatly diminished; and that if it had been diminished, the diminution was far less than was usually supposed. He thought the measure of 1819 was a wise and wholesome one; and he would not consent on this occasion to alter the state of our monetary system. The reduction in prices was trifling; but, trifling or not, it was not caused by the resumption of cash payments. Quite the reverse, as he would be able to show from the most irresistible evidence. The maximum of the Bank circulation was in 1817, when it reached to 29,543,780l., and the mean amount of the circulation for the whole year, was 28,274,880l. In the next year, 1818, it fell to 27,200,000l., and the year after to 26,200,000l. That was somewhat below the level of the three years prior to 1817, when the circulation was re spectively in 1814,26,927,650l.; in 181,5, 26,887,010l.; in 1816, 26,.574,840l. There could be no doubt that the great increase of Bank of England paper in 1817 475 was to supply the deficiency occasioned by the want of country bank paper, nor that its contraction in 1818 was caused by the restoration of that paper. Thus, the number of commissions of bankruptcy against country banks, was, in 1814, twenty-nine; in 1815, twenty-six; and in 1816, thirty-seven. The effect was, to diminish the circulation of country notes, and the bank of England supplied the deficiency. A similar train of circumstances took place in 1825, 1826, and 1827. In 1818, the country issue increased, as would appear from the stamp returns; the stamps for country bank notes having increased in 1817, from 9075,958, to, in 1818, 12,316,868. It was certain that the general circulation of country bank notes was greater in 1818 than it had been in any year since 1809. There could be no doubt that it had increased four or five millions between 1816 and 1818. At that time the circulation of the Bank of England was about 25,000,000l. In the subsequent years the country bank circulation did not much diminish. Mr. Burgess made a very accurate calculation of the reduction of the amount of country issues: and it was stated, that that reduction did not amount to more than two per cent in consequence of the Act of 1819. Mr. Burgess's table was this:—
From these facts it was evident that the paper circulation of the country was at a great height in 1818, and that after the Act passed for the resumption of cash payments it continued at a great height. In the month of February, 1819, the Bank of England circulation was 25,126,700l. It then held securities to the amount of 30,000,000l. At the close of 1819 the issues had increased to 25,252,690l., and its securities had increased to 31,700,000l. The bullion then in the Bank was, 3,595,.350l.: so that several months after the Act of 1819 passed, the Bank, instead of making preparations for resuming cash payments, had increased its issues, augmented its securities, and diminished its stock of gold, In 1820, the mean amount of Bank of England notes was 23,920,080l.; in round numbers, 24,000,000l., or a diminution of some- 476 thing more than four per cent upon the mean circulation of 1819. The country bank circulation had also, according to Mr. Burgess's table fallen four per cent, as compared with 1819. Now, although, for the diminution of the country bank circulation, causes quite independent of the approaching resumption of cash payments might be assigned; yet the diminution of 1820, in that circulation, as well as the diminution of four per cent in the Bank of England circulation may be ascribed to preparation for the approaching change in our monetary system. Would the House believe, after the assertions so confidently made of the astounding effects produced by the Bill of 1819, that the trifling contraction of the currency which he had stated, was absolutely the whole amount of the effect produced by that Bill upon the circulation, and the measure of its whole operation upon prices. It was deserving of remark, that the variation between 1819 and 1820 was less than had occurred in several years of the Bank restriction, and than had subsequently occurred; and that the amount of Bank circulation in 1820, was fifty per cent above the amount during the highest price ever known of corn in 1801, and very greatly above the amount of the Bank circulation during the range of high prices from 1809 to 181,3. In May, 1821, the Bank recommenced cash payments. On the 28th of February, 1821, the note circulation was 23,884,920l., and on the 31st of August, 20,295,300l.; there fore the diminution was 3,589,620l. But there was gold issued by the 31st of August to the amount of 5,657,053l., and the excess of circulating medium, therefore, was 2,067,433l. In 1822, August 31, the note circulation was 17,464,790l.; and the further issue of gold was 5,417,411l., making the whole circulating medium, as depending on the Bank of England, 28,536,254l In 1823, August 31, the note circulation was 19,231,240l., and the further issue of gold, 2,633,328l., making a total circulating medium of 32,936,032l., which showed an excess of circulation, so far as the Bank of England was concerned, of between four and five millions, above the mean amount of the highest year before the resumption, and more than 3,000,000l. above the very highest amount that the note circulation alone had ever reached. By reference to Mr. Burgess's table, it would be seen that the country circulation had fallen between eleven and twelve per cent in 1822 and 1823, as compared with 1818; but esti- 477 mating that fall, upon the very highest amount at which the country paper in 1818 had ever been estimated, it would not nearly compensate for the increase of paper and gold issue by the Bank of England, and therefore the circulating medium of the country, in 1822, was as large, and in 1823 larger than it had ever previously been, though those years were constantly referred to, as demonstrating the vast effect of the measure of 1819. If it were said that a part of the gold might have left the country, he replied that the exchange on Paris, from May, 1821, to August, 182.", ranged from twenty to sixty centimes above par, and the stock of gold at the bank increased from 11,890,000l. to 12,650,060l. The hon. Baronet who had preceded him had stated that, on the restoration of the metallic standard, the paper circulation vanished into thin air, and the currency became contracted. But if there were one effect which could be clearly traced to the measure of 1819; it was that it produced an excess of currency in 1824; and he believed, that if the Restriction Act had been in existence, the Bank would not have ventured to issue the same amount of paper money, as it did of gold and paper united, at that time. It would have taken alarm earlier, and not have contracted with Government for the purchase of the dead weight annuity. Up to August, 1824, the exchanges continued favourable, and a further issue of gold, of more than 4,000,000l. had taken place. At the end of 1824, the exchanges began to turn against us. The Bank, the conduct of which, since 1825, had been unexceptionable, ought to have taken earlier warning by the fall of the exchanges in 1824, and contracted its circulation. In 1824, the circulation of the country bankers increased, to within four per cent of what it was in 1818; and there could be no doubt, that in 1824 and in the beginning of 1825, the circulating medium was the largest in amount ever known in this country. The latter part of 1825 must be put out of consideration, in any general view of our monetary system, except inasmuch as the calamities of that Period might serve to warn us against the vicious system to which they might be traced. The demand for gold which took place at that period was not made with a view to exportation, but in order to substitute it for the 1l. and 2l. notes of the country banks, which had fallen into discredit. After 1825, we lose the advantage of Mr. Burgess's valuable information, though we 478 are not without evidence of a conclusive character as to the amount of our circulation. The circulation of the Bank of England, had consisted, of course, since 1821, almost wholly of notes of 5l. and upwards, with the exception of a small and brief re-issue of 1l. and 2l. notes in 1826. The mean amount of large notes in circulation seven years before 1821, was 18,332,679l., seven years since 1821, it was 19,556,653l., being an increase of 1,223,974l. The issues of gold by the Bank of England were as follows—
COUNTRY BANK CIRCULATION. 1818 assumed as 100. l. s. d. 1819 decrease 1 15 0 per cent from 1818 1820 decrease 5 18 10 per cent from 1818 1821 decrease 6 19 0 per cent from 1818 1992 decrease 11 13 1 per cent from 1818 1823 decrease 11 18 0 per cent from 1818 1824 decrease 4 11 9 per cent from 1818 1825 increase 1 5 6 per cent on 1818
During the whole of these years the exchanges were so much in favour of England that it was impossible gold could have been exported. The amount of gold issued by the Bank from 1819 to May, 1832, was 42,000,000l., of which 6,000,000l. only returned to the Bank, so that 36,000,000l. remained in circulation, subject, of course, to the fluctuations of amount produced by the variations of the exchange. They had next to inquire what was the circulation of the country banks subsequently to 1829. He would first refer to the evidence of Mr. Vincent Stuckey, of Somersetshire, who said, that the place of the small notes in the circulation of his several banks had been supplied by gold; that the suppression of the small notes had in no degree lessened their power or inclination to afford accommodation to their customers. Mr. Becket, of Leeds, gave similar evidence, stating that since the suppression of the 1l. notes the circulation of their 5l. notes had increased to some extent, and the remaining deficiency was made up by gold. Mr. Loyd, of Manchester, gave similar evidence. Before the suppression of small notes, his bank issued 25,000l. a-week to different customers to pay wages; they now paid 25,000l. in sovereigns which fulfilled the same functions. Mr. Rothschild said, there was a perpetual tendency of the precious metals to flow into England,—the balance of the exchanges must always 479 be in our favour, as we imported raw produce, and exported the same produce, as manufactured goods increased three and four-fold in value. Mr. Rothschild thought that the skill, industry, and capital of England would render all the nations of the world our tributaries. Mr. Gurney, a gentleman largely engaged in bill transactions, was also of opinion, that our circulation subsequent to the resumption of cash payments was fully equal to what it was before that resumption. To sum up what he had proved, he would say, that in 1820, when the circulation of the Bank was the smallest, it was double that which it was from 1800 to 1804, when the prices of corn and other commodities were never complained of. That it increased between 1824 and 1825; that since that time the amount of 5l. notes had increased; that prior to 1826 there was no diminution of country circulation; and that on the whole before 1826 there was no diminution whatever, but a positive increase of the circulating medium of the country. How then could the distress be deduced from the amount of the present circulating medium? It was idle, vain and absurd to draw any such unwarrantable inference, and no motion was ever offered to the House more than the present destitute of all foundation. Gentlemen, in this discussion, also, had confined themselves to the issues of bank notes and gold, while they totally lost sight of the enormous amount of transactions which took place through the medium of bills of exchange. These bills formed a material element in the consideration of the circulating medium, although its operation was to the general eye unseen. He would not go over the various causes which had occurred since the peace to depress prices, but of this he was certain, that any depression that had taken place was not occasioned by legislative measures, but by other events. The Legislature was, therefore to be absolved from all blame; and the question which they were now called upon to determine was, whether it would be wise or prudent to make a change in the currency the effect of which would be to derange all existing contracts. This he was persuaded was the object which the hon. member for Whitehaven had in view, for the terms of that hon. Gentleman's motion must convince every one who read it that his design was to produce an alteration in the present standard value of money which would lead to a depreciation. It should, however, he borne in mind that no experiment that 480 might be made to raise prices would succeed, for no increase of prices that could be effected in this country would influence in the least the prices abroad, and it was the foreign market, and not the home demand, by which prices were regulated. In the article of cotton, for instance, there was a large surplus, and as that surplus must find a market abroad, whenever that was the case prices must he low. Thus the surplus on hand of any article, or the quantity of stock, had a good deal to do in regulating its price. It might be possible to cheat the people of this country, but they could not impose upon the foreigner; for he would defy them to raise the price of any article connected with the export trade, and find a market abroad for it. He would not undertake to say what the remedies were that ought to be applied to the evil, but he was satisfied it would be most injudicious to take any step that might occasion a breach of the national faith with the public creditor. He wished that joint-stock banking companies were incorporated and established, for it was his opinion that such a system of banking would go far to relieve the country from the difficulties in which it was now placed, and afford a safe foundation for the circulating medium. He doubted exceedingly the policy of altering the present standard value of money but he should not object to rendering a tender in silver at the market price a legal tender, which might enlarge the basis of our currency without causing depreciation, or introducing the confusion of a double standard. It would be the means of keeping the precious metals in the country, and would, besides, give a manifest advantage by extending our trade with those countries in which silver was the staple commodity. He concluded, by expressing it as his opinion, that the Motion ought to be rejected, and by declaring that he would give his cordial support to the Amendment of the noble Lord.
In the last three months of 1825 £2,477,197 0 1826 1,668,309 0 1827 1,558,215 10 1828 2,705,818 10 1829 2,619,557 0 1830 l,940,052 0 £12,969,149 0 AMOUNT OF BULLION AND COIN IN THE BANK. in 1826 £ 5,559,150 0 1827 10,359,000 0 1828 9,998,125 0 1829 7,008,275 0 1830 10,252,575 0
Mr. Wolryche Whitmore
said, that he should not do his duty if he contented himself with giving a silent vote upon a subject of such importance as the present. If the Motion of the hon. member for Whitehaven succeeded, more injury would be done to the country at large than by any other expedient that could be thought of. The result of it would lead at once to a depreciation of the most alarming kind, and he did not think the condition of the country rendered so desperate an expedient justifiable. He would not go over the ground his right hon. friend had travelled last night; 481 but this he would say, that, however convenient it might be for those who sought an alteration in the currency to depreciate the condition of the country, he would defy them to make it apparent that it was not advancing in prosperity. He would ask the House to look at the state of trade, and he was certain it would find by any inquiry it might make, that considerable advance had been made in the manufactures, commerce, wealth, and the general prosperity of the country. This was an incontrovertible fact, but it was nevertheless true, that the advance of wealth and prosperity which had taken place was accompanied by distress among particular classes. He admitted that such was the case; and, he further considered it to be incumbent on the House to endeavour to remove that distress by every means in its power. He fully concurred with the hon. member for the Tower Hamlets, that it was in the power of the Legislature to alleviate the existing distress, and promote the rapid advance of prosperity; but then this could, in his opinion, only be done by destroying monopolies, extending trade, and developing the resources of the country. If the suggestion which he had just thrown out were adopted, and accompanied by a judicious system of emigration, he was convinced that a very short period indeed would elapse before the country was relieved, and the House saved the trouble of attending to the subject. It was not true, as the hon. member for Whitehaven had stated, that the changes which had taken place in the currency of the country had been the occasion of low prices. On the contrary, these alterations had little, if any, effect upon prices, compared with the improvements which had been made in manufacturing processes. If the House would allow him, he would give a striking proof of this fact from Mr. Babbage's work on the "Economy of Manufactures." Mr. Babbage said, Twenty 'years since a brass knob for the locks of 'doors was made in Birmingham; the price 'at that time being 13s. 4d. per dozen. 'The same article is now manufactured, 'having the same weight of metal, and an 'equal, or, in fact, a slightly superior finish, 'at 1s. 9½d. per dozen. One circumstance 'which has produced this economy in the 'manufacture is, that the lathe on which 'these knobs are finished, is now turned by 'a steam-engine, so that the workman, 'relieved from that labour, can make them 'twenty times as fast as he did formerly'. He quoted that merely to show that a 482 reduction of price had taken place wholly independent of our monetary system. There was one other point to which he would allude. The hon. member for Newcastle (Sir Henry Willoughby) had assumed, that gold had increased in value, and that the pressure of which he complained arose out of that circumstance. The hon. Gentleman was, however, mistaken in imagining that the value of gold had increased. All the old sources from whence gold had been derived were still in a state of production, and new sources of supply, especially in North Carolina, had recently been opened. It was obtained too, by less labour. A correspondent of his, on whom he placed great reliance, stated, that the produce of the gold and silver mines in Mexico had fallen from 26,000,000 of dollars in 1809, to about 8,000,000 in 1825 and 1826. In 1829 it advanced to 12,000,000, and he believed it had since increased to about 16,000,000. The bullion exported, without payment of duty, was probably 4,000,000 more, making about 20,000,000. His correspondent added: I am quite confident, that if there were a good government in South America, they would carry the produce of the precious metals there to a greater extent than at any former period; and this is the opinion of the best informed persons. The produce of the mines in Carolina, appears, by a passage from the President of Congress to be as follows:—"I may state here, that the increased amount, perhaps, will not be considered very large, still it shows that there has been a positive increase since the year 1824. The produce of the gold mines in North and South Carolina, amounted, in 1824, in value, to 15,000 dollars; in 1825, it was 17,000; in 1826, it was 20,000; in 1827, it was 21,000; in 1828, it was 46,000; in 1829, it was 140,000; in 1830, it was 466,000; in 1831, it was 520,000; and, in 1832, it was 678,000."In the Brazils, there had also been a considerable increase in the produce of gold, as compared with former years. A gentleman who had just returned from the Brazils, and who was extensively connected with the mines, stated: 'The present produce of the gold mines in the 'Brazils, which was about 300,000l., is 'now nearly 700,000l. In 'the same way the Russia gold mines are in a state of 'great activity. Thus it is stated by those 'who have a knowledge of the subject, that 'the same principle which has produced an 'extension in the supplies, with respect to 'sugar, coffee, and other articles of com- 483 merce is in operation, or about to be in operation, with respect to the precious metals. All concur in stating this—that, in countries where the precious metals are produced—especially in South America—there does exist the power of producing them to an immense extent Though, at one period, the produce of the precious metals had fallen off there was now reason to believe, that they were again increasing in quantity. Before they voted for the hon. Gentleman's Motion, he implored the House well to consider the effect which any alteration in the present monetary system would produce. The hon. Gentleman had told them that there would be no dishonesty in such a change; but was the introduction of a measure which would have the effect of driving every species of capital out of the country expedient? Such would be the effect of any alteration depressing the currency; and he, therefore, hoped the House would not consent to the Motion.
§ Mr. Fryer
said, that although he did not agree with the hon. member for Whitehaven in his views with regard to the alteration of the currency, yet he could not avoid denying the correctness of the statements of the right hon. the Vice-President of the Board of Trade, who attempted to persuade the House that there was no distress in the country. At Wolverhampton and at Bilston the Poor-rates were nearly doubled within the last two years; and yet there were not in Great Britain two places more stable in the property of the manufacturers. How did the right hon. Gentleman account for that? He knew the state of those places well. He knew that the manufacturers were dreadfully distressed. The industrious classes might be distressed either through a want of employment or through a want of sufficient food procured by that employment. And that was the case in those districts. It was stated by the Poor-law Commission that the affairs of those parishes were well managed. There was no disputing that; and yet the Poor-rates were increasing. How did the right hon. Gentleman account for that? How could it be accounted for but by the general distress of the country? And he said that all the adjoining parishes which were connected with manufactures were in the same state. Although the iron trade had risen a little, it had not risen to a remunerating price. This was owing to the restriction of the trade of the country. If men were employed to-day, why should they not be employed to-morrow? 484 It was on account of the restriction trade. How else was the condition of the factory children to be accounted for, which constituted nearly one-half of the population of Manchester? But look at the agricultural counties: what said the Report upon the Poor-laws but that they were in a state of pauperism? This was the case in every district connected with agricultural pursuits. Were not whole parishes untenanted? And how did the right hon. Gentleman account for that? Look at London also—look at the great thoroughfares from Charing Cross to the Bank—and what could be seen but untenanted houses, disengaged shops, and unoccupied wharfs? How was that accounted for? There was never till lately a house to let in Fleet-street or Corn-hill. There must be some reason for all this. And yet the Vice-President of the Board of Trade, that one-eyed political economist, denied that distress existed. And how was it proved? Did the servants of the Government—did the Vice-President of the Board of Trade, suffer by it? No. Did the army or the navy suffer? No. He grudged them nothing. Those who fought for their country ought to be well paid; but not those who did not fight, and never would fight. Well, he asked again did the pensioners or the placemen suffer? No. They had their pay regularly, and did not suffer. Did the fund holders suffer? They were entitled to their pay; but who was to pay them? The labour of the country ought not to be mortgaged—the land ought to pay the debt, for the land had had the benefit of it. Did the mortgagees of land suffer." No. They ought not to suffer. They had lent their money on a security which ought to be good and valid. Then look at the land owners. Did they suffer? No, no, no. Let him be heard out. They insisted upon the pound of flesh from their tenants; and hitherto they had not suffered; but they would, and that was the reason why the currency question was coming forward. The land-owners wanted to raise their rent by a false and fictitious currency. He wished to have inquiry, but he was no advocate for a depreciated currency. But what cared the Government about these matters, as long as the taxes were paid, and the Budget full? They replied, what have we to do with the complaints of the people? But he asked, would they who lived by their daily-earned bread be satisfied with this answer? Would the ship owner, the merchant, the manufacturer, the shop- 485 keeper, the operative—would any one of these be satisfied with the answer? No. The men in power felt an interest for the monopolist; but who felt, or thought, or took care of the people? He spoke for all. What was the cause of the great distress now existing? Not the currency, but restricted trade and monopolies; and the unequal pressure of the national obligations caused the distress of the people. He maintained that the farmer had been injured. By Peel's Robbery Bill—yes, he would call it Peel's Robbery Bill—by that Bill the fanners had been obliged to pay their rent in a currency of a higher value than that in which they contracted. He thought that ought to be remedied. He was of opinion that we ought to have paper money, but that the paper money ought to be made by the Government. The evils of the country required a remedy which the House had not yet heard alluded to. Monopoly was a great curse to the country. We ought to break up the monopoly of the timber trade—we ought to break up the monopoly of the sugar trade; and till that was done no good would be done. Indeed he believed that the monopolists were the curse of the country. He would not allow himself to be put down by cries of question. He advanced nothing but what was just and honest he did not support an opinion merely because it was expedient, nor would he vote with the men who carried the Catholic question because it was expedient; no, no, he would do no such thing. The evils of the country were for the most part occasioned by these monopolies. The corn monopoly was the first which must be done away with. While that tax existed the masters would not be able to pay for ten hours labour what they now paid for fourteen or sixteen hours labour. Till that tax was done away with, the poorer classes would get no benefit. The Government had now the power to do away with this tax—but would they do away with it? They had the power, he repeated, and some day it must be abolished. They had done what they could not undo—they had opened the door of that House to a power which could no longer be resisted—they had opened it to the people, and the Representatives of the people now stood there ready to grapple with the oligarchy of the landlords, and they must and would have the victory. What else would be the use of Reform? Reform was only good for what would follow it. The Ministers would not, perhaps, use the power they possessed 486 —they were like the man with the ass, who wished to please everybody, and who pleased nobody; they would—he was going to use a strong expression, but he would only say they would be turned out of their places. But they could not stop the Repeal of the Corn-tax. He said the Corn-laws must be repealed. He recommended them not to resist too long. What had occurred in ancient Rome when the people wanted to assert their rights against the oligarchy who oppressed them? It was truly said that multis utile bellum. Entertaining, as he did, the strongest opinion as to the necessity of repealing the Corn-tax, he should wish to see the Resolution proposed by the hon. member for Whitehaven altered, so that for "Monetary System," should be inserted "Corn Laws," and the inquiry should be how far the Corn-laws had injured the agricultural, manufacturing and commercial interests of the country
solicited the indulgence of the House, as he had never before trespassed on its attention. The hon. Member who had just sat down had said, that the landlords had not suffered as greatly as the other classes of the community; and he had given as a proof of that their unpaid rents and untenanted parishes. Then the hon. Member had said, that every interest now looked for protection through combination. Why, was not that a proof that this measure had been too long resisted? The House of Commons had been repeatedly called upon to go thoroughly into the subject of the Motion of his hon. friend the member for Whitehaven, and it had refused to do so until the country had ceased to consult it for general protection. But the hon. Member had said the landlords had exacted their bond even to the letter. Was that the case? Assuredly not. The landlords, instead of having exacted their bond, had lowered their rents from thirty to fifty per cent. If he were not mistaken the noble Lord (Lord Althorp) had stated to him that he had reduced his rents forty-five per cent. In his opinion the landowners had suffered more than the other classes. Many men in humble circumstances had in the time of war saved 60l. and with that purchased an acre of land. That land was now worth 45l. Other labourers had saved 60l., and purchased into the Funds. The parties who had so done now held property worth 78l. He asked, therefore, who claimed the pound of flesh, the landowner or the fundholder? The hon. member for Wolverhampton 487 (Mr. Fryer) called for a Repeal of the Corn-laws. If that alteration was to prove a benefit to the community it must be by lowering the price of corn. How would that replenish the empty parishes, or enable the existing tenants better to pay their rents? Besides, let him call attention to the fact that when the price of corn was at the highest the country was acknowledged to be in a most flourishing condition. Thus, when the price of wheat was 90s., Mr. Huskisson, as a Minister of the Crown, declared that the country was in a highly prosperous condition. But if they looked at another period, 1815, when the price of wheat was much lower, they found that there was a cry of distress. And further, if they approached nearer to the present time, and referred to what had occurred in 1819, 1820, 1821, and 1822, they would find that the average price of wheat was 57s. and that then the distress was general and severe. Indeed so great was it that it led to the Act of Lord Londonderry (the One-pound Note Act), who raised the price of wheat, for it soon averaged 64s.; and when that alteration had been effected they heard from the Chancellor of the Exchequer that at no preceding period had this country been more prosperous. He asked, therefore, if in the face of those facts it would be contended that any relief was to be expected by a mere reduction in the price of corn? The other hon. member for Wolverhampton (Mr. Wolryche Whitmore) had opposed the Motion, and had said, that he had a remedy for the distress which existed. Now upon turning to the Order Book it was not difficult to see, that the remedy contemplated by the hon. Member was an alteration of the Corn Laws, and some dealing with reference to the precious metals. He had already examined what benefit was likely to arise from the repeal of the Corn Laws. He would now advert to the precious metals. It was proved beyond doubt that the general supply of precious metals had diminished. He did not, however, believe that a reduced supply had caused this country to suffer, for he was bound to take into consideration that their export to the East had stopped. Now, if he understood anything upon the subject, this was clear, that if the precious metals were the sole medium of circulation the prices of articles must depend upon the supply of precious metals. But the hon. member for the Tower Hamlets said, he could not see how prices were dependent 488 upon the amount of circulation. Surely if there was a given quantity of gold, and that remained stationary, while the quantity of articles of sale increased, the price those articles would bring, would be reduced in proportion to the increase in the quantity of goods. Then the hon. member for the Tower Hamlets had said, he did not see how the value of the precious metals could affect the prices of the country. As a proof that such was the fact he would suppose a case. Suppose such a depreciation of silver that it should be coined into 8s. the ounce; a bushel of corn brought from the Continent would exchange, say, for an ounce of silver, but this ounce in England was 8s.; therefore the bushel of wheat would, cœleris paribus, sell for 8s.; but when the ounce of silver was taken abroad, it would only sell, say for 5s., the continental price of silver. Thus prices might in England be nominally 8s., when abroad they were really only 5s. for the same commodity. The hon. Member would surely not contend that these nominal shillings would be of no advantage to the debtor in defraying a surreptitiously increased nominal debt. He would then apply himself to some of the observations which had fallen from the noble Lord (Lord Althorp) also to some which had fallen from the hon. member for London (Mr. Grote), and from the right hon. Vice-President of the Board of Trade. The noble Lord said, that as an honest man he must oppose the Motion. Doubtless the noble Lord spoke with sincerity, but certainly he (Mr. Cayley) did not presume too much when he said that, as an honest man, he would support the Motion. His views were different from those of the noble Lord, but they were conscientiously entertained. Now, he must say, that he did not quite understand the extent of the opposition of the noble Lord, for the noble Lord had not distinctly stated whether or not he objected to an inquiry into the distress of the country, or what sort of an inquiry he would support. Did the noble Lord mean to say, that he would admit of an inquiry into the existing distress, but that he would exclude from that inquiry all reference to, or consideration of, the effects produced by the currency? If the noble Lord did do so he could only illustrate his conduct in this way:—A motion is made in the Royal Society for an inquiry into the causes of a vitiated atmosphere, and the President proposes as an amendment that all reference to and consideration of the effects produced by oxygen gas should 489 be excluded. Or if the noble Lord, while walking about his domains, should meet with a starving beggar, should say he wanted to relieve him, should call him into his room where there were smoking viands upon the table, but should prohibit him from touching them, the noble Lord would act as he was doing in regard to this Motion. The noble Lord was ready to allow inquiry but he excluded the oxygen from the investigation. The noble Lord did not contend that the present distress was not caused or increased by the present monetary system, but he contented himself with saying that that system should not be inquired into. Now really that declaration would not settle the matter. They had all heard of the celebrated contest between philosophers in this country and in America as to which were the best conductors, nobs or points. The great Franklin and his followers adopted the nobs, and parties in this country favoured the points; and the disputes were carried so far that George 3rd sent a message to the President of the Royal Society (Sir John Pringle), requesting him at once to decide the matter in favour of the points, and so end the dispute. Sir John, however, replied to his Majesty that the laws of nature were immutable, and all that the Society could do was not to say what they should be, but endeavour to discover what they actually were. So with the question before the House. The decision of the noble Lord, unless founded in truth would not effect its settlement. There was no Royal way to knowledge, nor any Ministerial road out of national distress, Judging from what had fallen from the noble Lord, he should have to conclude that an unreformed Parliament had the power to impose upon the country a bad monetary system, but that a reformed Parliament, with all its vaunted authority, had not sufficient power to remedy, or even to inquire into the evil. The noble Lord himself admitted, that the measure of 1819 had done a wrong, and yet he said there should be no redress. Was it just, or was there any process of reasoning or analogy by which it could be supported? Suppose a person had forged a will, and through the forgery obtained possession of an estate. Well, fifteen years after, the rightful heir found out that a forgery had been committed, was he not to enter upon his property because the wrong had been perpetrated? Or, to put a stronger case, suppose the person who had acquired the property by forgery had sold that property, and twenty- 490 five years after, the rightful heir discovered the property, was he to be told, it was very true, the property ought to have been his, but that the present holder had purchased it, and therefore he must retain it? The gross injustice of such a proceeding would be too monstrous to be upheld for a moment. But the case of the currency was yet stronger. The parties who had suffered injury did not say restore to them every thing they had been deprived of, for the benefit done to the one would be more than counterbalanced by the injury done to the others; but they said, let there be a compromise—let such an arrangement be made as will not expose us to ruin, and yet will not injure you to any material degree. When the noble Lord and others had denied the prevalence of distress, the statements had surprised him. In proof of that distress he might quote a variety of documents. He held in his hand the table furnished by the hon. member for Oldham. [The hon. Member quoted the details, which have already been given at pages 361 and 954 vol. xvi.] Again, in 1822, the present Lord Chancellor (then Mr. Brougham) had stated that the only part of the country not then suffering from distress was the North Riding of Yorkshire. He had the honour to represent that district, and he thought his hon. colleague would bear him out when he stated that it was no longer so fortunate as in 1822. He held in his hand a letter from an eminent physician in Whit by who had practised in that neighbourhood for upwards of thirty years. From that letter it appeared that, notwithstanding the diminution of servants' wages from 28l. to 14l., the farmers were failing in scores, that, in fact, such was the state of things that they must soon have relief or revolution. The hon. Member also read another letter, from which it appeared that dreadful distress was prevalent in Whit by and the neighbourhood. But he found also, in the divisions which had taken place in that House upon the question whether or not there should be inquiry into the distress, a proof of the conviction having increased—of the distress having become more pressing. In 1822, when Mr. Western brought forward the subject, 194 voted against, and only 30 for, his Motion. In 1830, when Mr. Davenport introduced the subject, his motion was lost by a majority of 255 to 87 And when, a few nights since, the hon. member for Birmingham submitted his Motion, the Noes were 194 only to 173 Ayes. That circumstance fully proved that 491 in the minds of the Representatives of the people there was an increased conviction that the distress, instead of having diminished, had become more oppressive. With respect to the Poor-rates, to state the naked amount was a very fallacious way of putting the matter. The amount ought to be considered in connexion with that of the population and of the value of the circulating medium. From 1801 to 1811 the population had increased 14½per cent; from 1811 to 1821 it had increased 17 per cent; and from 1821 to 1831 it had increased 16½ per cent. Now, in 1814, the number of commitments in England and Wales was 4,025, and in 1832 it was 14,947; showing an increase of crime, arising chiefly, as he should contend, from destitution, altogether disproportioned to the increase in the population. He was aware that some reduction ought to be made in the last amount, in consequence of the change effected by the Bills of the right hon. Baronet (Sir R. Peel), but, on the other hand, some additions ought to be made on account of the summary convictions by Magistrates, which were latterly greatly increased. Then, with respect to the Poor-rates. In 1812 they were 6,600,000l; in 1813, 6,300,000l.; and in 1815, 6,100,000l The average price of wheat during the whole period was 99s. per quarter. Taking that into consideration, and supposing the depreciation in the value of money was thirty per cent, it would follow that in the present circulation the amount of Poor-rate in the year 1813 was only 4,000,000l.; in the year 1814, only 3,600,000l.; and in 1815, the year of greatest depreciation, no more than 2,700,000l.—whereas in 1832 it was 8,600,000l.—or near 200 per cent more than it was in 1815. Besides, in 1822 various important improvements had been made in the expenditure of the Poor-rates, and so much more caution had been introduced in their application that, in his opinion, the burthen of the Poor-rates upon the country, instead of having nearly trebled, had quadrupled since 1815. Then, again, when he referred to the amount of emigration at different periods, he found strong reason to believe that the distress had gone on increasing. In the first year after the declaration of peace the number of emigrants to Canada was 1,250. From that time up to 1826 the average number each year was 9,000 and upwards. The number that passed through Quebec in 1827 was 15,862; in 1828, it was 12,697; in 1829, it was 15,945; in 1830, it was 28,100; and in 492 1831, it was 50,254. Further, if he turned to the account of the number of the Irish poor passed from Liverpool to Ireland, he found a great increase. In 1824 the number passed was 2,481, and, in 1831, it was 5,863; showing an increase of upwards of 100 per cent; and that increase he could not but attribute to the diminution of profitable employment. But if these statements were not enough to show that the distress had increased, and greatly, notwithstanding all that had fallen from the noble Lord and the Vice President of the Board of Trade, he would also refer to the number of insolvents during different periods. In 1814 the number was 1,893, in 1815 it was 2,862, and, not to trouble the House with an enumeration of the number in every year, in 1828 it was 3,269, and in 1829 it was 4,063. During the first four years of the period he had alluded to, the total number was only about 6,000, while the total number in the last four years was above 16,000. That there was great increased distress he thought could not be denied. But it was said, that the currency had nothing to do with the distress. That was a position to which he could not consent, for it was in opposition to evidence and to reason. In support of that view, the hon. Member quoted the evidence given by Mr. Palmer, Mr. Richards, Mr. Rothschild, and other gentlemen before the Committee on the Bank Charter, and said, that he would require no other proof of the propriety of acceding to the Motion of his hon friend the member for Whitehaven. He contended from this evidence it was plain that the distress under which the country laboured in 1815 and 1816 had been produced by a diminution of circulating medium to the amount of twenty-three per cent, and that a state of prosperity resulted from the increase of that medium in the years 1818 and 1819 Similar misery also was the condition of the country in 1822, when the circulating medium became again decreased; and similar prosperity was the result of an increase in the years 1823 and 1824. The question under consideration, it should be recollected, was not one in which political parties were marshalled in opposition. It was a great national question brought forward to attain a great national good. What was it the House had to decide? Simply whether there was in the Parliament of the country the power to relieve that distress under which the people laboured; and then whether, possessing that power, 493 Parliament would have the honesty and determination to exert it. To deny to Parliament the possession of such a power would, in his opinion, be the height of absurdity. Whether it was prepared to exert it he feared was a far different and very uncertain consideration. It had been said that they should wait a little, for that, ere long, all things would find their level. He maintained, however, there was no necessity for delay, for that, in point of fact, the level so expected had been already attained. Did not the progress of emigration, did not the work-house, the prisons, and the treadmill, corroborate the assertion? Ireland was reduced to the level of Whitefootism, and England to the level of famine, and yet they were told to wait before they attempted legislative relief. There was but one other level to which, as yet, they had not arrived, and it would go well with the country if its advance could be stopped; he meant that by which the property of its people would be reduced to an absolute nothing. What, then, was to be done became the all-absorbing question. Extend the circulating medium, and raise the prices. They had the power to raise the prices, and he was certain it could be done with little or no injury to any class of the community. Did the House recollect what was the result which had attended the raising of the prices in 1807? Why the Ministers of the Crown of that day repeatedly declared in Parliament that it was attended with prosperous results to every branch of interest in the state. The holders of fixed annuities, it was said, would suffer; undoubtedly, in an abstract point of view, they would suffer, but, if the facilities for obtaining employment which a prosperous condition in the trade and commerce of the country would hold out were considered, he thought he should be fully justified in saying, that what was lost by the holder of fixed annuities on the one hand would be amply made up to him on the other. In the lower and middle classes of society, when employment was not to be obtained by the family of an annuity holder, they were thrown back on it for support; while, when employment was abundant, and the country in a state of prosperity, the annuity remained untouched and unimpaired. With regard to an increased circulating medium, what did he want? Certainly not an unlimitted paper currency. What he desired to have was an inquiry first, as to whether a silver standard was practicable; and, secondly, 494 whether the system of banking could not be rendered so perfect as, without endangering the security of property, to admit the issuing of notes without reserve. Again, he repeated, he would never sanction an unlimited issue of paper without full responsibility on the part of the issuers. Generally speaking, he was not an advocate for free trade, but least of all kinds of free trade would he advocate that of paper currency. Earnestly entreating the House to weigh well their decision, he would conclude the observations he had to offer. If relief were afforded to the country—if Parliament evinced at least an anxiety to consider what remedy could be adopted—his solemn conviction was, that there existed no cause for fear—but if, on the contrary, nothing were done—if the people were longer to continue hopeless—no man could answer for the results. Grant but what the hon. member for Whitehaven proposed, and a child might guide the team of Government with a silken cord, Refuse it, and an angel from heaven would fail in controlling it. Between "relief and revolution" were they about to decide, and sincerely did he pray that God might inspire the Ministers of the Crown to grant that which they had now the power to grant, but which very shortly they would have neither the power to grant or object to. If relief were granted all would yet be well; but, if denied, ere long the floodgates which controlled the waters of popular feeling would burst, and the country be deluged by one wide torrent of dismay, revolution, and anarchy.
felt justified, no less by the frequent occasions in which his opinions relating to the subject of Currency, and banking had been canvassed, than by the magnitude and immense importance of the question before the House, to request its attention for a very short period. The main, indeed the sole, question on which the opinion of the House was to be expressed was, whether it would be justified in concurring in an arbitrary departure from the existing standard of the country? This was the abstract question, divested of ail those shades in which its originators sought to envelop it, on which the House would have to decide, and consequently would constitute the topic to which he meant to apply his observations. Of the importance of the subject, or of the suspense with which the decision of the House was awaited by the country, he need say nothing. Every individual 495 throughout Great Britain connected in any way with property or with trade was on the tiptoe of expectation to know what the wisdom of their Reformed Parliament was about to do with the present question. In fact, the country en masse was waiting to see whether the beauteous fruits of their Reform mania would prove a measure which, if carried into effect, would demonstrate to the world that Reform had given to the country a Parliament better suited for a country of savages, where the first elements of society were in lull sway, than for a country which maintained that position among the nations of Europe which Great Britain had for years done. To contend that there was no pressure of distress in the country would be of course futile, even if necessary for the case which he proposed to submit. He would admit that something should be done to relieve that distress; but the principle to which he had to call the attention of the House was, whether, supposing the pressure of public distress tenfold what it was, the proposition of the hon. member for Whitehaven, in the first place, was justifiable; and, in the second, whether it was such a measure as held out reasonable expectations of relief from that condition to which the country was reduced. For his part he could scarcely conceive how a country where the state of things was necessarily very artificial, any man beyond the precincts of Bedlam could, with a view of relieving the distressed condition of the people, think of making a proposition, the effect of which would be to throw loose on the world the medium and measure by which property was valued. By what process of mind the hon. member for Whitehaven had worked himself into a belief of the expediency of such a proposition he, of course, knew not; but his doing so served, he thought, as a striking illustration of a principle often advanced, namely, that the brightest talents and highest abilities were at times liable to aberrations of the most unaccountable nature. He was perfectly willing to give the hon. member for Whitehaven the fullest credit for the perfect honesty and sincerity of the views which he had propounded concerning the currency, and he readily believed that the hon. Member was actuated by what he considered the good of the country; therefore, if during any observation he might offer, he should use the words spoliation, and other synonymous terms, he must be considered to use them simply, with refer- 496 ence to the effects which the proposed alteration would bring upon the property of the kingdom; he giving the hon. Member credit for equal honesty of opinion with that entertained by himself. It seemed to him, that the hon. Member, in his aspirations after the power of effecting monetary changes, would make a good Chancellor of the Exchequer—not, certainly, to the ordinary continental sovereigns, but he would make a good minister to the Grand Signior, to whom he would be invaluable, as his proposal formed, in fact, the usual Turkish budget. In the course of some researches which he had made relative to this subject, he had met with an account of the various depreciations of the currency which had taken place in Turkey. A French gentleman of the name of Joubard, a member of the Institute, had drawn out a chronological account of all the variations in the value of the Turkish piastre, from the time of Mahomet 1., which was inserted in the annual publication of the French Board of Longitude, from which it appeared that a series of depreciations had been carried into effect at various epochs, the most conspicuous of which were those of 1823 and 1827. In the year 1823 the piastre was twice depreciated, and in 1827 the same, so that those years might be considered as having semiannual budgets; and the value of the piastre was now reduced from 3s. to 3d. The gentleman, to whose industry these accounts were due, in a few observations annexed to them, says: that the alteration in the value of money in a state must be considered as a proof of great public misery, and also of a very vicious policy, was a fact which no longer admitted of doubt; for even in those countries where political economy was least understood, this truth was acknowledged, and that even the Turks themselves had at length their eyes opened to this fact'. And, notwithstanding this, his hon. friend had brought himself to think that the reformed Parliament wanted its eyes opened in a contrary sense to that of the Turks. He had been given to understand, that, in the early part of the evening, a conversation had taken place between the hon. member for Whitehaven, and the noble Lord (Lord Althorp) regarding the question under discussion, in which something like a disclaimer had been made by the former, of any intention to lower the standard of the country, and some intimation of the latter, that he entertained no intention of precluding, by his Amendment, an inquiry into the propriety 497 of any alteration in the standard, as related to silver, or other circulation of bullion in the country. The disclosure of such intentions he thought, in some degree, satisfactory, and he wished it had been explicitly stated, that such an inquiry should take place. At the same time, the House should disclaim any intention of sanctioning the lowering the standard of value, or that it contemplated such means of relieving the pressure of distress as had been now proposed. He was ready to admit, and had done so on all the discussions which had arisen on the subject, from that on the Bullion Report to the latest discussion—that the settlement made in 1819 was not a fair nor judicious settlement; and he was therefore willing that Parliament should give a distinct pledge to the country, that it would hereafter go into the consideration, whether the circulating medium of the country could not be improved. He stated, at the lime, that he did not agree in the expediency of the course which was pursued, and every day's experience had tended to convince him that he had taken a correct view of the subject. Of course, he could not take upon himself to say in what manner the House would decide; but he believed that every one of those Gentlemen who would give a vote for this Motion, had formed, in his own mind, a scheme as to the standard of value in the country. Of this, however, he was sure, that if this House were to pledge itself to such a depreciation of the currency as the supporters of the Motion contemplated, the general feeling of the community—he meant of those who were capable of forming an opinion—would be that the present was a Parliament in which there was no security whatever for property. He should feel it to be an insult to the House to enter into any discussion as to the precious metals being the best medium for the circulation of value through the world; but Mr. Gallatin had placed that point in so clear a light, that he could not refrain from calling the attention of the House to the expressions which he had used respecting it, in his report upon the currency of America. Having quoted the opinion of Mr. Gallatin, which, he said, was confirmed by the most ancient records now in existence, he called upon the House to hesitate before it came to a vote which would throw to the winds all the experience of past ages, and all the accumulated information of the present times. What, in point of fact, was the nature of the pro- 498 posal so vaguely put forth by the hon. member for Whitehaven? Did he desire an unlimited issue of paper currency? But a very few evenings had passed over since a motion had been made by the hon. member for Birmingham, in proposing which, the hon. Member distinctly told the House that nothing would relieve the country but an issue of thirty millions a-year in notes for a few years, adding, that when they had served their purpose, they might be all burned together. [Mr. Thomas Attwood—No, no; I said nothing of the kind.] Perhaps the hon. Member might not have meant to burn the notes when they had served his purpose, but rather like a Dutch Minister in olden times, to convert the useless paper currency into an ornamental papering for the rooms of his house. At all events the proposition to which he alluded was to relieve the distress of the country by the issue of a valueless medium. Now was such the course which the hon. member for Whitehaven meant to recommend? As well as he had been able to comprehend his intention, he thought it was so. Supposing it to be so, he was anxious then to ascertain what the meditated paper currency was to be, in what shape it was to appear, and to what extent its issue was to be carried. As to the real value of such a medium he could form but one opinion, namely, that paper currency framed on another principle than that of a mere promise to pay on demand was, when viewed in regard to security, utterly and entirely valueless, the circulation of which only depended on the individual prosperity of the parties who threw it out on the market. What, he asked, would be the inevitable result of such a state of things? Confusion and insecurity. It might perhaps, be asked what had been the result of the issue of paper currency during the last war? Unquestionably in that case the result had been prosperous; but let the House for a moment consider how every circumstance combined to effect prosperity. In the first place England then enjoyed the trade of the whole world, while she was making rapid advances in manufacturing industry and skill. She likewise possessed the monopoly of the seas, the whole world being in fact under her blockade. And, in addition to these circumstances, 20,000,000l., 30,000,000l., and in one year he believed 45,000,000l., were borrowed on public credit, and spent profusely through the country. By that means a great temporary prosperity was unquestionably attained 499 which gave a momentary vigour to the prosperity of the people, but subsequently left them more enfeebled and more distressed than ever. Supposing three or four of the gentry of a county, each possessing 10,000l. a-year, were to mortgage their properties, and spend the whole proceeds in one year, they would unquestionably produce great temporary prosperity in that district; but the result would be that at the expiration of the year, having spent their means, they would have recourse to the workhouse, accompanied by the consolatory feeling that they had so impaired the moral tone of those whom they sought to benefit as to have left them in a far more distressed condition than when they set out. Such had exactly been the case with Great Britain. In one or two years the resources of several had been squandered lavishly, and the moral tone of the people destroyed; and although the country was not in the workhouse, a degradation from which it was only saved by the fact of there being no workhouse large enough to hold it, yet it was in a situation quite as bad. It was easy enough to contract a debt, and procure a temporary state of prosperity by its means; but the "revocare gradum" generally caused infinitely more distress and misery than the temporary prosperity of a few years could compensate. His sincere opinion was, that for the last year or two the country had been taking a turn upwards in regard to prosperity. In the year 1810, when the late Mr. Horner produced his report on the bullion question, he concurred in every sentiment which it contained except the last—namely, that in the midst of the war, when our expenditure was annually 40,000,000l. and upwards, when we were running on, as the sailors would say, with all our flying kites aloft—we ought to come within two years to a metallic circulation. It appeared strange to him that a conclusion so preposterous should have ever come into the heads of two such able men as Mr. Homer and Mr. Huskisson. He agreed with them in all their principles, but he differed from them in the conclusion to be drawn from those principles, and by so doing had rendered himself liable to the taunt which had often been cast upon him since, that he had argued one way and had voted another. He had equally voted against the famous resolution proposed by Mr. Vansittart, as Chancellor of the Exchequer. That resolution had met with general condemnation, even from unreformed Parliaments; but he had heard last night, 500 in a Reformed Parliament, from so great an authority as the hon. member for London, some things which were well calculated to support that resolution. The argument used by that hon. Member rested upon this false basis, that the alteration of the value of money had nothing to do with the variation of prices. Now, if that were so, beyond all question the resolution of Mr. Vansittart was well founded. He contended, however, that it was not so and in support of his argument referred to a speech delivered by Mr. Henry Thornton, in the year 1811, upon receiving the report of the bullion committee. He recommended that speech to the attention of the hon. member for London, and also of the right hon. Vice-President of the Board of Trade, who had rested a little too much upon Mr. Mushet's statements respecting the appreciation and depreciation of money during the war. Mr. Henry Thornton, who was a cautious practical man, declared that in his opinion it was impossible to calculate exactly the fall of money in 1811. "It was material, "said he," to observe that there had since the beginning of the war been a continual fall in the value of money—he meant of money commonly so called, whether consisting of cash or paper. This had been estimated by some at sixty or seventy per cent, and certainly was not less than forty or fifty per cent." Now, though there was a long passage in Mr. Henry Thornton's speech showing how this gave a stimulus to the prosperity of the country, by the great advantage which it held out to borrowers, he would not read it at present, being quite content to have placed before the House the opinion of such a man upon the impossibility of calculating exactly the depreciation of money during the continuance of the war. It would be recollected, however, that Mr. Thornton, who was accustomed as a practical man to feel his way cautiously in the world of business, declared that that fall could not be less than forty per cent. A contrary opinion, however, prevailed, and the Legislature acted upon it. They saw nothing but the difference between the value of gold and that of paper. He undoubtedly admitted, that under such circumstances, it was a grave undertaking in 1819 to come back to payments in gold; and opposed as he was to the proposition of his hon. friend the member for Whitehaven, to revert back to paper, he admitted as readily that the main difficulties of the country had arisen from the struggles which it had then, so much to its honour, 501 though not perhaps so much to its opulence, thought proper to make. He stated on that occasion that he thought the philosophers were wrong; but when they came to the question of a great depreciation, he was ready to avow that he shrunk hack. They now had experience from what had since passed. It was impossible to say what the extent of the depreciation was; but he would relate a fact illustrative of the point. When he was at Paris the emperor of Russia then stood in our present situation with respect to his paper currency, or in point of degree, he was in a worse situation. His paper was depreciated in the ratio of four to one. Four Gentlemen were appointed to meet, and the case was proposed to them. He was one of the four, and Mr. Gallatin was another. It was their unanimous opinion that greater injustice would be done by endeavouring to return to a standard than by continuing the circulation of the depreciated paper currency, and they recommended that the depreciation should be allowed to stand as it then stood. So far from this being a justification of the proposal of his hon. friend it ought rather to operate as a warning to him. What injustice what misery, what ruin to individuals ensued the moment a Government departed from a sound principle of currency.What a tangled web we weaveWhen first we practise to deceive.It was now merely for Gentlemen to consider whether they had heard enough from the hon. member for Whitehaven, and from his hon. relative, to say if they would trust themselves with such pilots on a sea so stormy. Putting aside the integrity of the measure, he would say to those who administered the affairs of a great country, that all tricks in finance, such as tampering with the currency, never could answer any end; and the moment they abandoned principle, they were led into a maze of which they never could see the conclusion. But taking a more narrow view of the subject, he would call the attention of the country gentlemen to the consideration of how it would affect their interests, for he knew that the topic was popular with country gentlemen, and he had received several letters from his constituents recommending that the standard should be lowered. A sort of mystery was supposed by country gentlemen to hang about the question, and many shook their heads, and were heard to say that all the evils of the country were connected with the state of the currency, and in saying this they thought that they 502 had uttered something very wise. Now, how, he begged leave to ask, would the proposed measure operate on the country gentlemen? The protection of the interests of the country gentlemen was supposed to rest upon their monopoly by the exclusion of foreign corn from the home market of consumption. If the country gentlemen would support a proposition which would bring the value of the 1l. down to 10s., they would thereby bring their protecting corn duty down from 60s. to, 30s,. If the Corn-laws turned on the pivot of 60s., which he believed they did, the moment they depreciated the standard, they would depreciate in precisely the same proportion the protecting duty, for people abroad would not care for our depreciation; and if 60s. in England were reduced to the value of only 30s., foreigners would act upon that fact. The country gentlemen might then come to Parliament and wish the 60s. to be made 120s, and then they would have nothing to fear; but they would have to fight with the hon. members for Wolverhampton and other towns who were not the sort of antagonists whom country gentlemen liked to encounter on that subject. The whole turned on the currency, and their 10l would, in fact, become 5l. at once. When the Currency-laws were under the consideration of the House he had made the same observation; and when the Reform Bill was brought forward he had said the same thing. He had pointed out the fluctuating nature of the value of money, and had said that of all bases the most absurd was that of resting the representation of a country on the value of its currency. Nothing could be more unstates-man-like than to build the constitution of a country on the fluctuating value of money. Ministers would not do this with respect to tithes. No, they were not allowed to depend on the value of money they must be made to change with a corn rate; and yet when they were building a constitution, they never thought of this. Those Reformers who thought that 10l. was too small a qualification, and those who thought that 60s. were too low a corn duty, he would advise to consider what would be the effect of according to the present Motion. He would now state to what extent he should be inclined to go if a measure had been brought forward by any sober—if any measure had been brought forward of a more sober description, and which would excite no doubt or uncertainty in the country, In such a case he should have been 503 willing to go into a Committee, to sec if some regulations of the currency could not be established, so as to give greater facilities to the general business. The positive lowering of the currency to the indefinite extent of the proposal of the hon. Member, was what he for one would demur to. He would now state to what extent he thought the alteration of the present system might be carried. The alteration he should wish to see made, according to his views, if the House granted a Committee, would be with respect to making the notes of the Bank of England a legal tender in the country. He did not know what the noble Lord's intentions were with respect to the alterations to be made in the Bank Charter. The distress of the Bank of England might arise from a call for money, either to carry gold out of the country or to guard against any internal panic. Although a panic might have nothing political in its nature, like that of 1825, it would still be fatal to the credit of the Bank. The drafts, on the other hand, made merely to balance foreign exchanges, the Bank, if it conducted itself well, would always be able to meet. The country felt safe on this subject, and the Bank must very ill conduct its affairs indeed, if one or two millions did not enable it to meet any thing of this sort. The other case was of a more serious nature, and it could not be better exemplified than by a short statement of how it operated in 1825. In that year the distress was general, and the Bank was drained of its gold, not for the purpose of sending it abroad, for it was actually coming in from abroad at that time; but everybody wished to be paid in that metal; and a country banker, a banker of Norwich, told him at that period that he could not sleep quiet at night in his bed, unless he had obtained a sovereign for every one-pound note he had in the house. Such was the extent of the panic, that the Bank was completely drained of its specie. The Bank was within an ace of stopping payment, and it had been saved by no virtue of its own, but by means of paying out its half-sovereigns and one-pound notes. Against an operation of this sort no prudence on the part of the Bank could guard. He would defy the Bank to be perfectly secure on this point, let it conduct its affairs however cautiously and with whatever prudence, unless it carried on its transactions in that cramped manner which would be injurious to the circulation of the country. Those who took gold for Bank of England notes, would have slept quietly 504 in their beds if they could have offered bank-notes for gold to those who held their paper. If Bank of England notes, therefore, were made a legal tender, it would greatly relieve the country, and it would leave the Bank of England only exposed to the influence of foreign markets, and the Bank would not then be constantly cramping the circulation of the country. His second object in the Committee would relate to the silver standard. When they had before returned to cash payments he had given his opinion on the subject. The philosophers had said—[Mr. M. Attwood laughed.]—The hon. member for Whitehaven would not suppose that he had called him a philosopher—but the philosophers had said, that his theory was not sound. Now he would maintain that two metals, gold and silver, were liable to fewer variations, and that money, having its foundation in two precious metals, was less liable to vary in relation to commodities than money having its standard fixed in one metal; and the agio between gold and silver, which so much disturbed the imaginations of the philosophers, was nothing of any consequence compared to the inconvenience of confining the Bank to one metal, and which was not the metal of general circulation. This was a subject worthy of the most serious inquiry. Mr. Gallatin was desirous that the same circulation should be common to all countries which were connected by commerce, and no man of enlarged views and practically acquainted with commerce could doubt the soundness of the opinion. At no distant time this point must be submitted to an inquiry. The silver standard was established in Holland, France, and in other parts of the world; and he hardly knew a country where silver was not the practical standard, but where gold was not the tender. Some Gentlemen said that silver would drive out gold; but gold, on the contrary, might drive out silver, and there was no reason why they might not circulate together. This was the case in Holland. In the small kingdom of the Netherlands the gold in circulation amounted to ten millions, whilst the silver was four millions and a half. He believed it was rather cheaper to pay in gold than in silver. In France the premium was about one-tenth or one-eighth per cent for gold, and this had been increased in consequence of the demand in England for gold. This would cease if England were to adopt a silver standard. He knew that the philosophers had been against him on that subject, 505 and, what was worse, he had had all the Bank of England against him. Mr. Huskisson had got him before the Privy Council upon the subject after the gentlemen of the Bank of England had been examined on it, and he had said that what he (Mr. Baring) had spoken was all nonsense; but he (Mr. Baring) had now the satisfaction of knowing that all those gentlemen who had opposed him had altered their opinion, and that the gentleman who was lately at the head of the Bank, and who, perhaps, was the most able man that had ever been at the head of any hank (he meant Mr. Horsley Palmer), had given his opinion in favour of a silver standard. One important advantage of a silver currency would be a conformity to the rest of the world. He wished that England would get into an exact conformity with France, and other countries would follow the example of two such nations, to the great benefit of all countries. He wished to see this and similar questions cordially embraced by the two nations, instead of keeping up the old jealousies and bickerings between them. The question now before the House was, whether it would depart from the present standard; but his proposal was, not to alter the standard of value, but to put it on two legs instead of one. If the public excitement on the deeper question then before them could be got rid of—and that excitement might be done away with by the vole of that night—then would it be safe to look to the two points he mentioned, and see whether or not a material facility might be given to the circulating medium of the country. When those two points were settled, he should not object to inquire whether from their operation it would not be safe to come to an issue of one-pound notes. He did not mean to pledge himself to an issue of one-pound notes, but he saw no reason why, under the additional securities he pointed out, it might not be resorted to. Should those securities become sufficient, he thought, and it had always been his opinion, that a one-pound note circulation was most useful in facilitating business. There were, to be sure, two objections to it. He meant the increased temptation to forgery, and the uncertainty of those poor people who had small sums in the country banks. However, he contended that, in many places, a small circulation would be most useful, particularly among farmers, and in small towns in agricultural districts. It was not correct to state that manufacturers were much dis- 506 tressed, but it was true that great distress prevailed among the agriculturists—that farmers' capitals were much reduced. In small agricultural towns the distress some times proceeded from a want of a small circulation, to enable the farmer to transact business with greater facility with the small tradesmen of country towns. That a more extended circulating medium would do them good was not only his opinion, but it was also that of his constituents. After these statements, it might be plausibly asked of him why he objected to go into the present Committee of Inquiry now asked for? His reason was, that be objected to go into such a Committee with a man who clearly wanted a complete subversion of the standard of value of the country. That hon. Member had drawn up Resolutions in the way of all those who intend to catch flies draw up Resolutions, for he could turn round if they were not agreed to, and say, "What you won't go into an inquiry about the distress of the country?" It was impossible for him to go into an inquiry on the present subject with the hon. Member, for he could not separate his avowed opinions from any measures he proposed, no matter how they were coloured or concealed. He might as well go into an inquiry about the distress of Ireland with the hon. and learned member for Dublin, who would state, and no doubt from conviction, that the union of the two countries was the cause of that distress, and that separation was the only remedy. Or he might as well go into a Committee of Inquiry on the distress of the country with that great philosopher, Mr. Owen, always supposing that one of the fruits of Reform was the return of that philosopher to that House, who, of course, would make, on the subject of that general distress, a flaming speech on the community of goods, wives, and every thing else; and who would attribute the distress to some thing wrong in the social system.—From these remarks it would be readily seen that he could not consent to the Motion of the hon. member for Whitehaven, and he hoped that the House would give a distinct and positive opinion on the subject, so as to calm the fears and alleviate the evils which agitating it had so extensively produced
§ Sir Robert Peel
Although, Sir, I believe that I shall agree with my hon. friend (Mr. Baring) in the practical conclusion to which I shall come, and the vote I shall give on the present question, yet he propounded, in the course of his speech, some doctrines which excite in my mind so much 507 doubt and apprehension, that I feel no scruple as to the propriety of immediately following him in the course of debate. I must begin by observing, that as hon. friend is prepared to maintain the opinions expressed in the concluding part of his speech, it would have been but just and becoming in him to have abstained from those terms of contemptuous severity applied in the commencement of that speech to those with whom the present Motion originated. My hon. friend, although prepared rigidly to adhere to the metallic standard, is yet willing to admit of, nay to advise, an inquiry into three very important alterations in the established monetary system: first, the union of silver with gold as a joint standard of value; secondly, permission to every country banker to offer as a legal tender, Bank of England notes in exchange for his own promissory notes; and thirdly, to sanction the re-issue of 1l. and 2l. notes. If my hon. friend be really prepared to grant a Committee of Inquiry into the policy of three such important and extensive alterations as these, he surely must foresee that his own course will, in great measure, cause that state of suspense—will raise all those doubts in commercial dealings, which, in the first part of his speech, he urged as a main obstacle and impediment in the way of his assenting to the Motion of the hon. member for Whitehaven. The re-issue of 1l. and 2l. notes! Why, Sir, I never felt confidence in predicting the result of any political measure, greater than that which I feel in predicting what must be the consequence of permitting the reissue of 1l. and 2l. notes. That consequence will inevitably be, the disappearance of the gold currency from circulation. I do not rely on mere reasoning for the proof of this, but I refer to the example of every country in which small notes have been allowed to circulate. In Scotland you have 1l. and 2l. notes; such notes being nominally, and indeed practically, when tendered by the holders, convertible into coin but it is, nevertheless, true that they have, in point of fact, excluded from circulation the whole of the metallic currency. In Ireland you have also 1l. and 9l. notes, and the same consequence has followed. In America there are, or at least there were permitted, notes of still smaller value, and the result has been the same not only with respect to gold coin, but to silver also. The currency of the cheaper, has banished that of the more precious, material. So it will be in England. By permitting the issue 508 of small notes, you will afford a direct premium to the country banker to discourage, as far as possible, the circulation of coin in his neighbourhood. No one can deny that whilst the small notes maintain their credit, they are a cheaper instrument of circulation, and one not less efficacious than gold; and that it would be a positive pecuniary advantage to the country to get rid of the gold currency altogether, if you could ensure entire and permanent confidence in paper and the fixed value of it, after the exclusion of gold. But I contend that there is no security in an immense mass of paper circulation, professedly convertible into gold—but not resting for its basis upon a metallic circulation. You think you can take effectual precautions against panics, commercial or political, by insisting on security from the issuers of paper. There can, in truth, be no effectual security against such panics and their disastrous effects. The best security is the presence of a metallic currency equally diffused throughout the country. But take what precautions you please to ensure the solvency of country banks—compel them, if you will, to deposit Exchequer-bills or funded property, or to assign land as a security for their issues,—I assert, you do positively nothing by these precautions to control the excessive issue of paper, or to ensure the competency of these banks in the time of pressure and alarm, to fulfil their engagements; which engagements are, expressly—to pay a definite weight of gold in exchange for their promissory notes. You consider the banks safe, and the holders of bank-notes secure, provided the notes are issued on the security and deposit of real capital. Why, this reasoning would prove that the whole landed and funded property of the country might be converted into circulating medium, and that there would be no danger of excess in the issue, however extravagant, so long as there was a corresponding deposit of property. Now, in my opinion, such a deposit may be the guarantee of the ultimate solvency of a particular bank, in a sound state of the currency, but it is no guarantee whatever that that bank will be able to pay its notes in gold on demand, after gold shall have been banished from circulation. Depend upon it, the time will shortly come when the demand will he made; and if made and refused, what is this but inability to meet engagements, and fulfil positive contracts? I admit, that by the re-issue of small notes, you may give a stimulus, a fictitious stimulus, to 509 trade;—all may go on well for several months; gold, being no longer indispensable for domestic circulation, will flow out of the country for the purpose of effecting foreign payments—the importation of foreign articles will, for a time, be promoted, the export of the gold will at first counteract the tendency to an unfavourable exchange, or at least diminish the indications of it; and you will, in short, have every symptom of increasing prosperity; but in the course of eighteen months or two years, the currency will become excessive, the exchanges will rapidly fall; there will be a demand upon the bank for gold;—the bank will take the alarm, will refuse accommodation, and contract its issues:—the demand for gold will extend to all the issuers of paper, then will come the rapid and simultaneous sale of public securities, and the renewal of that panic and all its consequences, of which you had the disastrous experience in the winter of 1825. The bank may remain solvent in one sense, that is, may have means beyond its liabilities; but it will be unable to meet its obligations to Impatient creditors, who demand instant payment in gold. What must be the result? Actual failure, or a restriction imposed by authority.
With respect to my hon. friend's proposition for a joint gold and silver standard, it has been already submitted to this House, and has been negatived, among other reasons, because its direct tendency, and, indeed, avowed object, was to lower the standard of value.
One word in explanation. I have always contended, that, on the adoption of a gold and silver standard, it must be so regulated as not to lower the general value of the pound sterling.
§ Sir Robert Peel
Then my hon. friend must take the present market-price of silver, and not the old Mint price, for the standard. The market-price of silver is now, I believe, 4s, 11d. per ounce; the Mint price of silver, when silver was a legal tender, was 5s. 2d. per ounce. If my hon. friend should take the Mint price of silver for the standard of value, he would depreciate the present standard; if he should take the market-price, he will not adhere to the ancient standard. That the same great principles which apply to gold as a standard of value, in respect to its controlling excessive issues, and regulating the value of paper, apply equally to silver, or to a joint standard of gold and silver, I do not deny; but there are many 510 considerations, such, for instance, as whether silver ever was, practically, the standard of value, in this country, after the gold currency was reformed; whether you can maintain, in the same country, two metals constantly varying in their relative value, as a standard; whether it would be desirable to maintain them if you could; these are considerations which would require very serious inquiry, but into which I will not now enter.
The third suggestion of my hon. friend is, that every country banker shall, hereafter, be allowed to otter Bank of England notes in exchange for his own notes, when presented for payment. But it is impossible to stop there. If a Bank of England note is to be a legal tender, on the part of a country banker, so must it be on the part of every other man in the country. Will my hon. friend say, that his proposition is to be limited to country bankers? That the issuers of paper shall have the special exclusive privilege of discharging their debts in other paper? That a customer who has deposited gold with a country banker, and who asks to have that gold returned, may receive for answer—" We have no gold for you, but here is a Bank of England note;" while that same customer shall remain under the obligation of discharging all his own debts and incumbrances in standard gold? But, suppose the customer shall draw a draft upon the country banker for 4l. 10s., or wanting 100 sovereigns, shall draw on successive days twenty drafts for sums below 5l., how are these drafts to be paid, except in gold, unless, indeed, my hon. friend's other plan of issuing 1l. notes shall have been already adopted?' It is clear that the issue of notes below 5l. must be the concomitant of a plan which would make Bank of England paper a legal tender, and would relieve the country banker from the liability to payments in cash. But these are great changes to make in our monetary system; so great and important, indeed, that I must again say, that if a Committee were granted to consider them, there would arise all that agitation and suspense in pecuniary dealings, which my hon. friend is the first to deprecate, and which, as he justly says, would, in the present artificial state of society, and the peculiar condition of the commercial classes, aggravate every evil under which we are now said to be suffering.
The House, Sir, will probably expect from me, or at least will mil be surprised, 511 that, I should wish to state my views upon the principal points which are the immediate subject of debate. Such references have been made to the part I personally took, in 1819, in establishing the present system of our currency; the importance of the subject is so great; the interest I feel in it on every ground, public and private, is so overwhelming, that, wearied as the House must be by a debate, dull and tedious from the abstruse and abstract nature of its subject, I yet hope from its indulgence a patient hearing. No doubt the most important part of the question is, the practical one—namely, the consideration of what can be done in the present condition of society for the purpose of relieving the distress alleged to exist; but still I cannot permit to pass without remark, the references which have been made to the Act of 1819. I might pass by those references if personal feelings were alone concerned. I might submit, in silence, to the imputations of rashness and folly, if the consequence was mere injustice to the authors of the measure; but I well know that such injustice is not the single consequence; that if without contradiction you can stigmatize the Act of 1819, as an Act of confiscation—if you may take for granted that though possibly well intended, it was, in fact, founded on injustice and injury—I well know that you cannot do this without undermining the foundations of the whole monetary system, and preparing for its total subversion. To avert such an evil, I am prepared to deny the justice of the aspersions cast upon the measure of 1819. Gentlemen who have taken part in this debate speak of the promoters of that Act as if they were repentant sinners, as if they acknowledged the evil which they had done, and, made wise by experience, bitterly lamented the consequences of their folly. I scorn those vile imputations of base, interested motives which have been thrown out in other places. I know that they will not influence the judgment of this House. I have heard none of them within these walls. I would to God that I had; and that those men who are bold enough, when they have no one present to confute them—who are not sparing of their calumnies and menaces when they are addressing inflammable assemblies of the people—would here, face to face, in presence of the accused redeem their pledges, and repeat their accusations.
An hon. Gentleman, the member for 512 Knaresborough, with intentions, at least, for which I return him my sincere thanks, has been kind enough to throw his protecting shield over me. He said, "the Bill of 1819 was not Mr. Peel's Bill. Oh, no! he was an ingenuous young man, ignorant of the subject of currency, performing a task thrown upon him by the Ministers, and all the blame belongs to Lord Liverpool." Sir, I will not allow the blame, if there be blame, to be transferred to any one, still less to one who is no more. I was not, in 1819, connected with the Government. I had quitted office, and had no desire to return to it; but I was the Chairman of the Committee of Inquiry, and I brought in the Act of 1819 in consequence of a conviction, founded on positive demonstration, that there could be no standard of value except a definite weight of the precious metals, and that a paper circulation, inconvertible, or resting on anything but a metallic basis, must be liable to injurious fluctuations both in amount and value, and exposed to the constant hazard of discredit. In 1819, the question came before the House for final decision. In my opinion, that question was, the choice between two alternatives—eternal Bank restriction, or the return to cash payments without further delay. Gentlemen now speak, as if no evils had been suffered before 1819. They assume that the Act of 1819 was brought in without experience of past embarrassment, without the pressure of any actual evil, without any expectation or demand on the part of the public; and the hon. member for Knaresborough is simple enough to think, that the House of Commons was, on a sudden, deluded by a speech which the hon. Gentleman himself heard, and which he describes as void of all matter—of all reasoning—but which very strongly reminded him of the harp of Orpheus. The harp of Orpheus! Does the hon. Gentleman really think that Orpheus would have chosen, for the subject of his lyre, the Bullion Report? or that having chosen it, and having poured forth a melody with soft tones, but "without matter" or the "shadow of an argument," he would have been able to cajole the simple understandings of city merchants, and to soften the flinty hearts of Bank Directors;Mulcentemque Tigres, et agentem carmine quercus.What a notion, that the House of Commons was taken by surprise on the currency question in the year 1819! that the 513 restoration of the metallic standard was heard of, for the first time, in 1819! Why, the Bullion Report had been made in 1810—that is, nine years before, and had provoked a pamphlet from almost every man that could write. When Mr. Horner proposed, in 1811, among other resolutions, that cash payments should be resumed within two years of that date, that resolution was negatived, and other resolutions proposed by Mr. Vansittart were adopted. But did these latter resolutions sanction the doctrine, that cash payments must never be resumed? Did they intimate that the public creditor must be repaid in depreciated currency? No such thing. Among these resolutions of Mr. Vansittart, was one, expressly recording it as the opinion of the House, that it was expedient that, at the earliest period compatible with the public safety, the Bank should resume its payments in coin at the ancient standard of value. Peace arrived in 1814; and what course did Parliament pursue? It distinctly recognised the justice of resuming cash payments. It recognised the claim of the public creditor to repayment in coin, and limited the further restriction on the Bank to one year. In 1815, war again broke out, and the battle of Waterloo was fought. The restriction was continued; but was again limited to one year. The year 1816 came, and it was found necessary to continue the restriction for a further period of two years; but in the preamble of the continuing Bill, there was admitted, by universal consent, a distinct recognition that the Bank ought to prepare for the immediate resumption of cash payments; 1818 arrived, and there was again an almost unanimous expression of opinion in Parliament, that the time had arrived when the ancient standard must be restored, no one then doubting the claims of the public creditor, in point of justice, or denying the general policy of returning to cash payments. Another postponement, however, took place, limited to a year; but, in 1819, the House became weary of these continued delays, and a Committee was appointed, mainly on the suggestion, and at the instance of Mr. Tierney, to inquire into the whole subject, and the best mode of insuring the resumption of cash payments. As I have already said, I was not in office, but I was selected as Chairman of that Committee, and I presented its report to the House. The substance of it was, that at the end of four years from its date, cash payments, according 514 to the ancient standard, must be resumed; but that the resumption should be effected by gradual steps, assuming the actual market-price of gold, at the time, as the preparatory and provisional standard. I ask the House this question—if cash payments were ever to be resumed, had not the time then arrived? Four years had elapsed since the peace, when the inquiry was commenced; and if we had then deferred the actual resumption to a later period than 1823—that is, for more than eight years after the conclusion of peace—do you think it ever would have taken place at all? that the Bank, or the public would have believed that we were in earnest? I greatly doubt whether the old doctrines about paper and gold are not still maintained—whether there are not many of those whom I am now addressing, who dream of inconvertible paper, or of some other foundation for paper currency, than a metallic basis. [No, no!] I rejoice to hear the denial; but this I know, that many of the arguments urged by those who vote for the Committee, apply with as much force to the adoption of any determinate, unvarying metallic standard, as to the ancient standard.
I have now done with the assertion, that the House was taken by surprise by the Act of 1819;I approach another assertion—that although, in 1819, it might be fit to prepare for cash payments, yet that another standard of value should have been adopted, and that the ounce of gold should have been coined into 5l., or 6l., or some other sum, instead of 3l. 17s. 10d. That is easy wisdom—even if in this case it be wisdom—which is acquired after the event. It is very well to say now—that the ancient standard should not have been resumed—that after all the promises made during the war—after the unanimous expressions of opinion, repeated, time after time, in favour of the resumption of cash payments at the ancient standard—another, and a lower standard should have been taken; but I should like to ask any impartial man, who remembers the state of public feeling and public opinion in 1819, what would have been the fate of a proposition, in that year, to enable the Bank to dicharge its promissory notes at the rate of 15s. in the pound! What! with the feeling on the subject of forgery of notes—with the impression that the Bank had amassed great gains by means of the Bank restriction—that the nominal rise, in the price of gold, was owing to excessive and most profitable issues of paper, do you think that Parliament would have 515 tolerated—would have listened for one moment to—the proposal, that the issuers of the Bank of England paper, and of all other paper, should compound with their creditors, by debasing the standard? Who was the Minister that could have reconciled Parliament, or the people of this country, to such a proposal? Why, the Bank itself never denied its own liability to pay its notes, at some time or other, in gold, at the ancient standard. Nay, the Bank did actually, of its own accord—without any compulsion on the part of Parliament—after the peace, but before this fatal year, 1819, issue above 7,000,000 of gold sovereigns in exchange for its promissory notes. A foolish issue I admit; but an issue, demonstrating the opinion of the Bank, as to the nature of its own obligations, and yet, in 1819, we were—against the opinions, and conviction, and practice of the Bank itself—to enable the Bank to pay with 15s. a debt of 20s.!
If the Act of 1819 was so clearly unjust—so manifestly impolitic—how came it, that of all those who now take credit for their wisdom and foresight—not one man was found, in either House of Parliament, bold enough or honest enough to take the sense of either House against the Bill, or against any one of its enactments? The member for Coventry did, indeed, bring forward Resolutions opposed, not to the principles of mine, but to some of the details; but he found the sense of the House so adverse to him, that he withdrew his resolutions; and those moved by me, as the foundation of the Bill, passed through the House of Commons, as it stands recorded in the Parliamentary Debates without one dissentient voice. Is it decent, then, in the men who were then present, to impute all the subsequent distress of the country to the rashness and haste of the measure of 1819—and to me, as the author of it—when they who now claim credit for having so clearly foreseen the difficulties in which it would involve us, never came forward to oppose its principles, or even delay its progress? But I have understated the case. There were two amendments proposed to the measure—one in this House, and one in the House of Lords. That proposed to this House affirmed that there ought to be no intermediate steps of resumption, and that cash payments at the ancient standard should be resumed in 1822, instead of 1823; actually a year earlier than I myself proposed. That was the only Amendment proposed in this House, and pressed to a 516 division. The Amendment proposed in the other House of Parliament was by Lord Holland, who, for the purpose of recording his opinion, moved that cash payments be resumed in 1820, instead of 1823. Have I not, then, a right to say, (if I wanted to shrink from any personal responsibility, which I do not), since the only complaint put on record by any Member was, that the resumption was too gradual, and too remote,—have I not a right to say, that Parliament is peculiarly and specially responsible for the Act of 1819?
I approach the last, and the most important consideration connected with the measure of 1819: namely, this—Is the distress of the country fairly attributable in the whole, or in any important degree, to that measure? I think I have shown, first, that Parliament was not taken by surprise;—secondly, that the measure was not the measure of an individual, or of a party, or of a government; but was the measure of the Parliament, speaking the voice, and representing the deliberate judgment of the country. Still, these considerations are not to fetter us from reviewing the measure, if it have been the cause of public evil, and if that evil be now reparable; but both these hypotheses must be proved. Now, I begin by admitting that there has been great depression of price, great occasional distress—from some cause or other—since the peace. Nay, more, I will admit that some distress was the inevitable consequence of the measure of resumption. Resumption implied the termination of that state of ease, which, no doubt, in one sense, accompanied inconvertible paper—it ensured also, inevitably, some increase in the value of the currency of the country, and pro tanto affected the then existing engagements. But to attribute the whole depression of prices, and the whole distress consequent on that depression to the change in the currency is a fallacy, as gross as any that ever was imposed upon the understandings of men. You may contend, that Mr. Ricardo was wrong in estimating the whole change in the value of the currency at three or four per cent; but his error (if it was an error) was nothing to yours, who attribute the whole alteration in prices to the change in the currency. I have admitted—and repeat—that it was impossible for us to return from a system of inconvertible paper currency to a system where gold or silver was the standard, without a sense of pres-sure and restraint. It was impossible, after having so long indulged in stimulants, 517 that we could return to a course of temperance and sobriety without feeling depression. But what lesson is it that we are taught by the past? Again to depreciate the currency? [No!] "These things are written for your learning." The sufferings that you now undergo are the certain consequences of the original departure from right principles. They cannot be alleviated: they will only be aggravated, by abandoning those principles now. They ought to warn you, that having restored a metallic standard, you ought to adhere to it, and not again to enter upon a course, the return from which is no doubt attended with pressure and difficulty, but with no evil comparable to that of the indefinite continuance of an inconvertible paper currency.
No doubt there has been a great depression of prices; but this, I say, that if any man hopes, by any system of currency, to bolster up prices to those of the war, he is miserably mistaken. Look at the duration and character of that war, commencing in 1793, and lasting till 1815. During this period of twenty-two years you had an inconvertible paper-currency—you monopolised the whole supply of Europe with manufactured articles—you were the only country in Europe not subject to hostile invasion—and you had the command of the seas. Do you think such a state of things could cease, and perfect tranquillity be restored to the whole world—and that you could yet maintain the prices of the war?
My hon. friend quotes Mr. Thornton as having admitted that prices had been raised during the war, forty or fifty per cent; but Mr. Thornton was then speaking of the years 1810 and 1811, when the war was raging, and when all the other causes of high price were in full vigour. Now, in 1819, four years after the peace, many of these causes had ceased to operate; prices bad already come down; and our bloated and turgid prosperity had collapsed with the return to peace, and the cessation of war monopoly and war stimulants. We hear the distress since 1819 described in terms as if distress was unknown at previous periods—as if there could be no cause of distress but the resumption of cash payments. In the year 1793 was there no distress? Did not 100 bankers fail? Was there none in 1797? Was there no distress in 1810, when you bad an inconvertible paper-currency, and with little prospect of the return to a metallic standard? In that year a Committee was appointed for the 518 express purpose of administering relief to the commercial community. It was in evidence before that Committee that prices had fallen fifty, sixty, and seventy per cent. Wherefore was this—if the doctrine be true that inconvertible paper, or enlarged issues of paper, will be a security against commercial failure and general pecuniary embarrassment? You had an inconvertible paper-currency in the years 1816 and 1817—you had no contraction of paper by the Bank of England in those years, as compared with the average of former years—quite the reverse; and yet, many country bankers failed, and involved large masses of the community in misery. The proof is quite conclusive, that the enhancement of the currency must be dated from a much earlier period than from the year 1819. I could prove this from the distinct admissions of those who now ask for this Committee, which, if it is to have any practical result at all, must lead to a depreciation of the currency. What will be the effect of that depreciation? Why, that every man who has entered into contracts (not merely during the last four or five, but, as I shall show, during the last eighteen years) will have them disturbed in the most unexpected and unjust manner. If, indeed, you could take from the public creditor, who lent money in the depreciated currency of the war, and who has received payment in the appreciated currency of the peace, the difference between the sums paid and received (though you would commit, in my opinion, a most dishonest act), there would be, at any rate, an intelligible pretext for the proceeding. But the effect of depreciating the currency now, will have no such operation, but it will disturb all unfulfilled contracts which have been made in the improved currency—being ninety-nine out of every 100 of the total number. These contracts, as I before said, are not limited to recent years; do not date merely from 1823, when the Bill of 1819 came into full operation; but extend over, at least, the whole period that has elapsed since the peace. To prove this, I put into the witness-box the hon. member for Birmingham. He will confirm my statement, that the enhancement of the currency began many years before 1819 On the 2nd of May, 1817, he wrote a letter to Mr. Vansittart, describing the state of the country in respect to its monetary system in connexion with trade and industry. This was two years before 1819, and six years before the Act which passed in that year came into full operation. At that 519 time there was no lack of paper; and that paper was inconvertible. Notes below 5l. were issued by all banks, without restriction. Yet you will see that neither abundance of paper, nor inconvertible paper, nor 1l. and 2l. notes were any securities against pecuniary embarrassment and general distress. But the special object for which I refer to this letter is, to show, on authority (for this purpose indisputable), that the alterations in the value of money had actually taken place long before 1819; and that the contracts, since 1815, have been in an enhanced currency. The hon. Member, in this letter of 1817, remarks, "Money has doubled in value in the last five years." He says, again—
A scarcity of money has existed for five years, which caused prices to fall. Now, as to distress:—
'There are 40,000 manufacturers of nails in this neighbourhood. The articles which they manufacture are not articles for the consumption of war, and yet thousands of these men are perishing with hunger. Sir, I speak literally, and not figuratively—thousands of these men are perishing with hunger, or are dying by inches from the effects of unwholesome and unusual food.
As to land and the agricultural interest:—
The landlords have received no rent for the last four years. If they have received any income from their land, it has been drawn from the capital of the farmer, or from the impoverishment of their land, or, at least, from the amount of the principal of their land, which is fallen one-half in monied value; and, consequently, the landlord who converted his property into money a few years ago, has thereby positively doubled his real capital. Let us now hear the situation of the monied man in 1817:—
'Observe the situation of the capitalist for the last three or four years. It has been quite impossible for him to improve his circumstances by any kind of industry. The depression of prices has mocked his labours and mortified his hopes. Let him have produced whatever he will, it is quite certain that the product of his industry has not repaid him the money which it cost him. If an invading array could have succeeded in breaking up the whole of the high roads throughout the kingdom, the consequences would have been exactly similar to those which we have already experienced, until such roads were restored.
520 'The products of industry could no longer have been exchanged for each other, and the natives of every district and of every village would have been left to perish in the midst of plenty. This has been the situation of England, in a very great measure, ever since the Bullion Report first acted in breaking up the established relations between property and money in the year 1810. The contractive action then commenced: and, ever since then, until the present period, in a greater or less degree, there has been a greater reward in indolence than in industry.'
What are the facts established by these extracts, on the authority of the member for Birmingham? That, before the Act of 1819 was dreamt of, the contraction in the currency had taken place; that it commenced five years before he wrote, in 1817; and that, in 1817, money was doubled in value; that, in his neighbourhood, such was the condition of the working classes, that thousands of one single class—namely, manufacturers of nails—were, not figuratively,—oh, no—" I speak literally, not figuratively"—perishing with hunger, or dying by inches, of unwholesome food. Bear in mind these two things—that the contraction began seven years before "Peel's Bill" was introduced, and that money was doubled in value; and all this bitter distress was endured, with inconvertible paper, and 1l. and 2l. notes. But, perhaps, during the period of which the member for Birmingham was speaking, the Bank of England had been progressively contracting its circulation. By no means. The Bank issues had increased regularly and rapidly from 1806 to 1817. "Their amount on a given day in each year—namely, the 31st of March, was as follows:—In 1806, 16,853,000; in 1807, 16,657,000; in 1808, 16,645,000; in 1809, 17,840,000; in 1810, 20,442,000; in 1811, 23,333,000; in 1812, 23,332,000; in 1813, 24,000,000; in 1814, 25,157,000; in 1815, 27,298,000; in 1816, 26,573,000; in 1817, 27,138,000.
At particular periods of these years, there may have been fluctuations in the amount of bank-notes; and there were, in 1816 and 1817, rapid contractions of the currency. You refer to these contractions and their consequences as confirmations of your theory—that distress is the consequence of restricted currency. We do not deny, that distress will follow sudden contractions of the currency; but we assert that such contractions are the inevitable consequences, the necessary and painful correctives, of 521 excessive issues. We admit that, by depreciating the currency, you may be able to obtain higher prices for a time—to command a delusive and temporary prosperity—but we say, that the foundations, both of your currency and your prosperity, are sure to fail you; and that, in proportion to the artificial elevation, will be the severity of the fall. You attribute the distress of 1810, and 1816, and 1825, merely to the contraction of paper, and consider that distress a proof that increased issues would be the remedy. We assert, and in my opinion with much more truth, that the excessive issues are themselves the primary cause of the evil; and, while they seem the symptoms of prosperity, are but generating the causes of certain and tremendous explosion. What was the remedy proposed by the member for Birmingham in 1817? What was his device for enlarging the circulation—and, of course, ensuring the reestablishment of prosperity? He writes thus—
'The most ready and facilitous way of effecting this object, in a country like England, seems to be in converting a part of the permanent and fixed national debt into a circulating or floating debt; by creating a quantity of circulating Exchequer bills of various sizes, bearing no interest, and with them buying up an equal quantity of the national debt. If 10,000,000l. of additional money are created in this way, there is no additional debt contracted, nor is there any additional depreciation of money occasioned, provided the issue is not carried further than will suffice to employ the whole labourers of the kingdom, at the usual wages to which they have been accustomed.'
What an admirable system of currency! that rests for its security upon debt, and has for its standard of value the accustomed wages of all classes of labourers throughout the whole United Kingdom.'
I shall now address myself to the immediate question of the appointment of a Select Committee—the nature of its inquiries—and their probable result. The Resolution moved by the member for Whitehaven assumes the fact of universal distress; and proposes an inquiry into the connexion of that distress with the present monetary system. If this Committee shall be unfortunately appointed, and I should be a Member of it, I shall—(and if I am not, I hope that some one, who is a Member of it, will)—address the Committee to 522 this effect—"We admit a great fall of prices since the war—we admit that the profits of capital are low;—but nothing will be so absurd as to assume, without the most extensive inquiry, that the change in the currency has been the sole or the main cause of that depression of price and reduction of profits. There are many causes to be investigated that lie very deep, and the effect of which is not easily ascertained; you cannot make a Report until you have surveyed the condition of the country for the last thirty-nine years—until you have inquired into the peculiar character and effect of that war which frequently gave you almost a monopoly of the markets of the world—into the effect of the stimulus of war prices, and a large Government expenditure—and into the consequences of the cessation of that stimulus. If you are about to take an enlarged and philosophical view of the subject, you must ascertain what has been the effect of eighteen years of uninterrupted peace in reducing the prices of manufactured articles throughout the civilized world; in converting those nations which were your customers in time of war, into rivals and competitors in time of peace!" Why, Sir, does England hope that she can retain for ever that monopoly of supply which she enjoyed during war, when she had destroyed every hostile fleet—when the commercial marine of every other country was at her mercy—when every nation of Europe, except herself,—when Spain, and Portugal, and Germany, and Italy, and Prussia, and Belgium, and Holland, had been exposed to, and were constantly menaced by, hostile invasion from the arms of France? In all these countries industry has revived. They are now at liberty to turn their attention and apply their capital to the supply of many of their wants by means of their own peaceful labour. Does England hope to maintain war prices despite of such competition? Look at the state of manufacturing industry in America and in the countries which I have mentioned, and then consider what influence these causes must have had in reducing the prices of your manufactured articles. Take, again, the influence of other causes, which must, and which ought to, reduce prices here:—the diminished hazard, both of import and export—the reduction of the rates of marine insurance—but, above all, the diminished cost of the raw materials, which are the staple of your manufactures. You buy everything at a less price, and you must sell at a less price. Is it meant 523 that you should pay a much lower price for the raw material, and charge the old price for the manufactured article? Then you must inquire what has been the effect upon prices, of improvements in machinery;—what the effect of the application of steam, in diminishing both the cost of production and the cost of carriage. Can any one doubt that the influence of all these several causes upon prices and upon profits, must be ascertained before you can determine the degree to which they have been affected by the resumption of payments in cash? Again, with respect to land,—I admit that land has fallen; but, does any landlord hope to maintain, since the war, the war prices? During the war, an undue stimulus and excitement were given to agricultural speculation; land was then brought into cultivation which would not adequately repay the cost of cultivation after peace had been established. No man regrets more deeply than myself the consequences to individuals, of throwing that land out of cultivation; but the depreciation of the standard will afford no remedy. Here, again, many other causes—besides the increased value of money—are in operation. What has been the effect of Irish importations upon English prices, and on the profits of English agriculture?—of a perfectly free trade in corn with Ireland? Whatever it has been, it is not owing to the Bill of 1819; it would have existed separately from that Bill. The moment you opened the English markets to Irish produce, from that moment the prices of English produce must have fallen. Again, the operation of the Poor-laws, and of their defective administration, must be inquired into; and, I repeat, you will not be worthy of the name of legislators and statesmen, if having undertaken this inquiry, you do not attempt, at least, to assign to each of the several causes which I have mentioned, its effect in producing the fall of prices, and the distress of any particular branch of industry.
It is scarcely worth referring to the mere declamation by which the Act of 1819 has been assailed. It is not only described as the source of every domestic calamity, but it is made chargeable with the misfortunes of other nations. Nay, so extensive has been its operation, that one hon. Gentleman has discovered that the Revolution of France, in 1830, was not owing to the Ordonnances of July,—hut that to the Act of 1819 we are to attribute the downfal of the dynasty of the Bourbons; and that Louis Philippe now sits on a tottering 524 throne, because he cannot command high prices for the productions of France. The hon. member for Whitehaven wisely considers it much better, as a general rule, to deal in vague declamation, and to turn eloquent periods upon "devouring poverty and appalling distress," than to venture on any specific facts. Facts and figures are dangerous things to meddle with, unless they can be relied on; but they are very important on questions of this nature. Prophecies of evil are easily uttered—and can only be met by counter-prophecies—as worthless as themselves. But the hon. Member did make an occasional exception from the general rule of his speech, and appealed to facts. He said, "I take Ireland as my example; I will prove everything by figures; and whatever I say of Ireland will be true, as applied to England." The hon. Gentleman first assumes that Irish disturbances were unknown before the year 1819. His position is this. All Irish disturbance grows out of controversies and quarrels about land; and the depression of the price of agricultural produce, in consequence of a restricted currency, is the main cause both of the distress and the insurrectionary violence in Ireland. Now I meet this assertion by these facts. In 1807, during the war, when prices were high, and when currency was unrestricted, such was the disposition to disturbance in Ireland, that the Insurrection Act was introduced, and remained in force for several successive years. It was allowed to expire; but was introduced again in 1814; and again remained in force for a considerable period. I will not go to earlier periods.
I turn now to the picture given by the hon. Gentleman of the state of Ireland, in respect to agricultural produce. I took down his words; they were to this effect:—
'The cattle have vanished from the fields—the plough is no longer at work—no manure is purchased—land is going out of cultivation—agricultural produce is declining in quantity—and there is universal distress throughout the country. Observe, we are not now discussing whether the profits of agricultural produce are appropriated exactly as we should wish. Some Irish Member probably will say," The poor of Ireland derive no benefit from the increased produce, the profits are all taken away by absentees." But that is not the question. We are not inquiring to whom these profits ought to go—we are not determining whether the relation of landlord and tenant be in a healthful and satisfactory 525 State—but whether agriculture be declining in Ireland, because capital cannot be properly applied to the cultivation of the soil.
Now, I have here an account of the annual average quantities of certain articles of agricultural produce exported to Great Britain in triennial periods, ending, respectively, 5th January, 1810, 1820, 1826, and 1830:—
In the period ending 1810, there were exported, on an average.
|In that ending 1826, the numbers were.|
|Wheat (Qrs.)||Oats & Oatmeal (Qrs.)|
§ Now, I ask with confidence, after this statement of facts, what becomes of the assertion, that, in Ireland, cattle have vanished from the fields—that the plough is idle—that the land is left without manure—and that production is rapidly on the decline. "The hon. Gentleman then referred to the progress of crime in England; and here again he can find no other cause for the increase of crime, but the Bill of 1819, and the contracted currency. I pass by, of course, the eloquent declamation on the evil of increasing crime. I find it utterly impossible to deny, that where criminals increase, morality is probably on the decline; or to contest the fact, that hardened criminals are dangerous members of society, whose numbers ought, if possible, to be reduced. We are all agreed upon these truths; but the point at issue is this:—Has the increase of crime varied inversely with the increase of paper; and can you fairly charge, on the restoration of the standard, the additional number of criminal committals? Here, again, I refer to the only authentic data—the official returns. They prove that, during the war, and since the war, there has been an increase of crime; but they warrant a presumption that there must have been other causes of that increase in operation, besides contractions in the currency. The committals for crime in England and Wales were as follow, in the several years I shall mention:—In 1811, 5,337; in 181.'3, 7,164; in 1815, 7,818; in 1816, 9,191; in 1818, 13,567; in 1820, 1,3,710; in 1821, 13,11,5; in 1822, 12,241; in 1823, 12,263; in 1825, 14,437.
§ Now, of these years, the hon. Gentleman has mentioned two in splendid contrast to 526 all others—years when paper was abundant—when there was a lull demand for labour—when prices and profits were high. The years were 1818 and 1825. Now, surely, according to the theory of the hon. Gentle-man, crime ought to have diminished in those years. But what was the fact? Why, that, in 1818, the criminal committals were more numerous than in any preceding year, with one exception; and that, in the year 1825, they were more numerous than in any preceding year, without a single exception. Now, I have no theory on this subject. I do not maintain that crime increased because paper issues increased; but I doubt the soundness of the hon. Gentleman's theory—at least, I altogether deny his facts, that crime decreased as paper issues were extended. I am well aware of the rejoinder to these statements. "We have no confidence in official documents: they may be fabricated, and, at any rate, they are utterly unworthy of credit, if they he referred to, to disprove the distress which we know to exist." But, surely, our inquiry turns not upon cases of local distress; but upon the general condition of the country; and how can he form any judgment of that condition, except by a reference to official returns, to the general aggregate of the varied transactions of the whole country? It was just in this spirit that the member for one of the Ridings of Yorkshire made an attempt to answer the able and unanswerable speech of the Vice-President of the Board of Trade.
§ The right hon. Gentleman justly observed, that in order to ascertain whether the people be really suffering under distress of a character such as that which has been represented, you must not take particular instances of individual or local distress, and thence infer their general existence; but you must look at official documents to ascertain the increased or decreased amount of comfort at different periods, as exhibited in the consumption of articles of general use. Now, what were the individual cases which the hon. Gentleman, the member for the North Hiding of Yorkshire, offered, to refute the reasoning of the Vice-President of the Board of Trade? He selected three places in order to prove, from the distress there prevailing, the general suffering of the country; and the three fair criteria which he assumed were Oldham and the districts near it, Macclesfield and Whitby. Admirable selections for the purpose! The first is a district in which there are probably more hand-loom weavers 527 than ill any other, and was therefore wisely selected as affording instances of individual distress. Macclesfield, it is well known, has been greatly injured by the establishment of the silk manufacture in Manchester. The greater amount of capital, and the larger command over labour and improved machinery which Lancashire possesses, must necessarily render it a very formidable competitor with other places, and Macclesfield among the rest. The rapid progress of civilization, and the developement of mechanical skill, have, I fear, a tendency to produce cases of local distress, by attracting manufacturing industry from places where it has heretofore flourished to more favoured spots; but these vicissitudes (lamentable as their effects are in particular cases) may be indications of general prosperity and improvement, rather than of general suffering and decline. And Whitby, too! True—we gave it a Member last year; but then we all admitted it to be in a declining state, from the local operation of some causes which had led to a transfer of its trade.
§ Sir, I consider by far the most important consideration connected with this question to be, its bearing upon the condition of the labouring classes. One of the main motives for introducing the Act of 1819 arose from a deep conviction that a constantly depreciating standard was working the ruin of those classes. I was satisfied by evidence and by reasoning, that when you depreciate the standard, the prices of the necessaries of life rise much faster than the wages of labour; and I was convinced that one of the main causes of the gradually declining condition of the industrious classes arose from depreciated paper currency. A constant effort is now made to impress upon those classes a belief that their distress has arisen from the restriction on paper; but I hope they are beginning to understand the true nature of the question; I, too, make my appeal to them. If you can enlist them on your side, no doubt you will have an important ally; if you can convince them that the restoration of inconvertible paper, or a recurrence to a depreciated standard, will be for their advantage,—if, in addresses to political unions, you can successfully denounce those who are favourable to the maintenance of the standard as enemies to the labouring classes,—you will, no doubt, materially advance the object you have in view. But I appeal confidently, to the industrious classes of society. I tell them, their true friends 528 are they who resist a depreciation of the standard, and who maintain the payment of their wages in money of the present value, from the conviction that if that value be lowered, the price of necessaries will increase much more rapidly than the pay of labour. The most affecting statements have been made of the condition of certain classes of the manufacturers. One hon. Gentleman in particular, the member for Oldham (Mr. Fielden), gave a detailed account of their state in that district with which he is more immediately connected. Sir, it is impossible to deny that that is a district in which there exists severe distress. It contains a large body of that particular description of manufacturers who used to gain a livelihood by working at the hand-loom. I know something of their condition, and am ready to admit that it is one deeply to be lamented. The hon. Gentleman, who made this statement, says, that he employs 3,000 power-looms, and that nothing would make him more miserable than the reflection that by the use of that machinery he had contributed to the distress of the hand-loom weavers. Then, Sir, the hon. Member must make up his mind to be miserable; for nothing is more true than that the sudden improvement and universal use of machinery, and especially of the power-loom, have had a considerable effect upon the condition of those who lived by manual weaving. The hon. Gentleman says that the power-loom has been known many years. Why, so was steam-navigation known before it was applied; but it is only within a few years that the power-loom has been brought into almost universal use. The hand-loom weaver (I speak of some parts of Lancashire with which I am acquainted) was frequently a small farmer who resided at a distance from a town, cultivating a small portion of land for the subsistence of his family, and earning a part of his livelihood by working at the hand-loom. When the power-loom was brought into use, that man was placed in a situation of peculiar disadvantage; for hand-loom weaving could not compete with that of the power-loom, and the main spring of his industry was broken. But this is only another instance in which the application of mechanical ingenuity and capital to the perfection of machinery, and the progress of social improvement, have, by the rapidity of their effects, depressed a particular class. It is, surely, absurd to argue from that depression that the whole country is in a declining state. But I ask 529 whether the hon. Gentleman has given the truth, and the whole truth, with respect to the condition of Oldham?
§ I have before me the account of the Poor Law Commissioners, and it is certainly much at variance with that of the hon. Gentleman. I have seen, too, a letter, which appeared in the public papers, written from Oldham—the letter, apparently, of a writer whoso information is extensive and authentic—giving an account of the demand for labour, generally, and its remuneration in that parish. The writer signs himself "An Elector of Oldham," and writes thus:—
§ 'Perhaps no town in Britain has in-' creased in a greater ratio than Oldham; none where fortunes have been accumulated with greater rapidity; nor is there any town where, taken collectively, the working classes are more comfortable in their circumstances, or obtain a better remuneration for their labour. Distress, from particular circumstances, does exist in Oldham, and one main cause of it is the great influx of labourers and artisans from neighbourhoods not enjoying the same prosperity and advantages that Oldham possesses. Another cause, and that a principal one, is the circumstance of the power-loom supplanting the hand-loom, or, in other words, the hand-loom weaver is contending with the power-loom in producing an article at as cheap a rate. The weavers are, however, finding, by sad experience, that this is the case, and, as fast as circumtances will allow, are quitting their original trade and adopting others. This class of men (taking them as a body, a very exemplary and worthy one) are many of them in a very destitute situation; few of them can earn more than from 5s. to 7s. per week. Science may sometimes, as it does in this instance, destroy capital and abridge labour, but it is to reproduce it, not only with an immense increase, but with a great additional advantage and comfort to society at large. The regular wages paid here to those whose occupation is generally considered as receiving the minimum of remuneration—the labourers—is 2s. 6d. to 3s. per day. Bricksetters' labourers are paid 2s. 8d. per day, with an allowance of three pints of beer per day. Bricksetters 3s. to 3s. 6d., with the same allowance of beer; and if either labourers or setters work what are termed "over-hours," that is before seven o'clock in the morning, or after six in the evening, such time is always paid for in the same proportion; so that a 530 labourer may obtain 3s. 4d. per day, and setters 3s. 9d. to 4s. 4½d. Joiners, masons, carpenters, slaters, and other artisans, generally are paid not less than bricksetters with the same allowance of beer. That these prices are paid through out the borough, I could bring hundreds of witnesses to prove. Hats were formerly the staple trade of Oldham, but of late years have been greatly superseded in extent by that gigantic branch of commerce—the cotton trade. The hatters, as a body, are fairly paid, some branches of the trade extravagantly, and all tolerably well employed. In the cotton-mills, the men's wages are from 15s. to 30s.; women and children's from 2s. 3d. to 8s. or 10s. Although the population of the township of Oldham has increased from 16,690 in the year 1811, to 32,381 in the year 1831, still the amount of Poor-rates levied is no more in the pound than it was at the former period; and in the years 1816 and 1817, they were nearly double the present amount. In the year ending March, 1832, there was levied in England, for Poor-rates, 8,255,315l. 12s., out of which there was expended for the relief of the poor, 6,731, 131l. 10s.; consequently the amount of relief, taking the population at 13,086,675, would be 10s. 3½. per head, averaging the whole of England. The amount paid the poor in Oldham in the last year, was 3,313l. 13s.7d or averaging 2s. 0½d. per head; thus showing, that if the amount expended in relieving the poor is any criterion of the situation of the working classes, Oldham stands but at one-fifth proportion when put in comparison with the rest of England. Since the time of the panic, in the years 1825 and 1826, a period in which many towns have been retrograding, there has been expended in public improvements (and we have no corporation, or anything like it, to promote such expenses), upwards of 100,000l.'
§ This statement is exactly confirmed by the Report of the Commissioners. They say, that Oldham has, at a former period, suffered, from causes which they mention, considerable distress; but that, with the exception of the hand-loom weavers, it is in an improving and prosperous condition. The failure of a bank in the neighbourhood, after the panic of 1825, was one of the main causes of the distress in Oldham; and it is because the permission again to issue 1l. and 2l. notes would lead to the same circumstances which produced that 531 failure, that I now pause before I consent to a proposal for their re-issue.
§ Sir, I have made it an object of care to inquire what is the condition of artisans in the midland districts; and I have here an account of the rate of wages paid, at present, in several towns in Litchfield, Coventry, Birmingham, and other places, to the following descriptions of workmen: carpenters, masons, bricklayers, plumbers, plasterers, and painters. I take Birmingham: in that town they are as follows:—
§ The rate of wages in other towns varies but little from the above. Some small reduction must be made from this amount of wages in the case of carpenters, masons, and bricklayers, on account of the expense of tools which they have to provide; but the rate of wages appears ample to ensure, with present prices, a decent and comfortable maintenance for the workman and his family. What is the object of this Motion—the object distinctly, and in terms avowed by the member for the North Riding of Yorkshire (Mr. Cayley)? To raise prices;—no doubt that is the intention, and will be the effect of it. How can any one doubt that the workman who now earns wages of from 3s. 6d. to 4s. a-day, has a much greater command over the necessaries and comforts of life than he would have, were you to increase the currency, and raise the prices of provisions and all other articles? I believe it to be a fact established by official papers, and returns of the quantities of articles of general use consumed, that the condition of the labouring classes is greatly improved since the period when we had an inconvertible, unrestricted paper currency. If you compare the consumption of hops, of malt, of tea and coffee, at different periods, you will find that the industrious classes have now a much greater command of those necessaries of life than they had before. If the fact be so, I call on you, as you value the true interests of the people, to pause before you lend your sanction to any scheme, the avowed purpose of which is to increase the price of the necessaries of life.
§ If this Committee be appointed, when win its labours terminate? It is not a 532 Committee to adjust the details of some plan, on the principle of which those who support the Committee are agreed, but a Committee without a plan, and the members of which entertain principles the most conflicting. Let us survey the course of this debate, and see whether, among the advocates of inquiry (I say nothing of the opposers, of whom, I suppose, some portion will be on the Committee) there is that uniformity of general views—that we may expect from their labours any early remedy for our distress. The hon. Gentleman who spoke first, the author of the motion, was wise enough to produce no plan—to avoid the suggestion of any specific remedy. He complained, indeed, that the monetary system was manifestly defective; for the population had increased—the produce had increased—but we had tied down the standard, and prevented its increase. The hon. Gentleman might just as well complain that "roads have increased—new countries have been discovered,—but, alas, the yard and the mile remain of the same length as before." We hear of an "antiquated standard;" as if the standard had got decrepid through age. You might as well say that the pound weight, or the quart measure was too antiquated for present use. A definite weight of metal is as much a standard, a measure of value, as either the one or the other. If the hon. Gentleman does not mean the standard, but the amount of currency, he is totally in error in supposing that the currency cannot vary in amount—cannot accommodate itself to the growing wants of the people—because the standard is invariable. Every improvement in the economical use of money is a variation in the amount of the currency; and the hon. Gentleman's objection, if it be worth anything, is fatal to any standard at all. The hon. Gentleman, however, contented himself with the attempt to show that the present system is chargeable with every imaginable evil; but, as I before said, he wisely abstained from the suggestion of any remedy.
§ He was followed by the member for Oldham (Mr. Cobbett), who was ready to agree with him in his vote, but totally abjured his principles. I must say, that I never was more disappointed, than by the speech of the member for Oldham. He began by claiming peculiar indulgence for himself, on account of his profound study of the whole subject, and because no man ever made a speech upon it, containing right principles, which was not borrowed 533 from him. "The noble Lord," he says, "made a good speech; but, then, it was all copied from me." I think I may assure the hon. Member, that he need not entertain any fears of plagiarism in respect to the speeches which he delivers in this House. I have heard nothing from him, on any occasion, for which he may not reckon on a copyright, which will never be infringed. So little did his observations refer to the question before us, that while he was engaged in their delivery, an ingenuous young Member, who entered the House at the time, inquired from me "whether the currency question was over?" I said "No; this is the currency question. "He replied," I thought, from his speech, that it was the Navy Estimates." All that the hon. Member could produce on this question of the currency was, the notes of an old speech he had intended to make on the Navy Estimates. The hon. Member wants no depreciation of the standard,—he will have no issue of paper—("rotten paper"—I fear he said in the hearing of the hon. member for Birmingham.) "Oh, no, give me," he says, "the King's coin, with the King's image upon it." There is something so amiable in his loyalty, that one would forgive his errors, even if he be wrong. Still he consents to go into the Committee, the object of which is to depreciate the standard, and all the remedy he proposes for all our distresses, and all our evils, is to cut down every estimate, and every expense, to the level of 1792. "And yet," says the hon. Member, "England ought to assume a high tone, and till poor Pitt was corrupted by the Whigs, she did assume a high tone; Spain and France were not allowed to have navies and they ought not to be allowed to have navies.—But how we are to maintain this high tone, and control the naval force of Europe, with the Estimates of 1792, the hon. Member did not clearly show. I should like to ask him how would he deal with the possessions that have been acquired since 1792,—with the Cape of Good Hope, and Malta, and the Mauritius. "The hon. Gentleman says, that we had a most successful war; that we annihilated the naval force of all our enemies:—and yet he is surprised that we have more admirals at the end of that war, than we had at its commencement! This Gentleman was the second speaker in favour of the Motion; the third was the member for Knaresborough, who says, that the plan of the hon. member for Oldham (of course one 534 of his colleagues in the Committee) is a plan of confiscation, rapine, and blood. His remedy was the total abolition of coin, and the payment of bank-notes in bars of gold. The fourth speaker was the hon. member for Wolverhampton. He says, maintain the standard, but throw every burthen on the land; the land had, he observed, escaped every charge, and it was but right that it should be made responsible, now, for the national debt. Then came the hon. member for the North Riding of Yorkshire. His remedy, we know, is a rise of prices.
§ The hon. Gentleman, the member for Birmingham, has not yet spoken; I know not whether he still adheres to the plan which he recommended in 1817, for an unlimited depreciation of the standard, and whether he still maintains the proposition which he then maintained, that you always ought to take the market-price of bullion as the criterion of value, and that you might go on issuing bank-notes, and raising that market-price, even until you made the guinea pass for 100l. or 200l., without causing injury to any one—except, possibly the public annuitant, who should take care of himself, or of whom the Government might take care. [Mr. Attwood: Provided you raised prices to the war level only.] I believe there was no such qualification; but if there was, it makes no difference. Now, perhaps, it might be right to add to the Committee some opponents of these six or seven Gentlemen; but send even them, alone, into a Committee, with the opinions they entertain, to consider this question,—to examine all the other questions which I have mentioned,—and I should like to ask what probability there would be of any practical remedy? You find a patient labouring under every disease; and for his cure, you send for physicians, entertaining totally opposite opinions on his case. Sangrado is summoned from Oldham, and Chuchillo from Birmingham. But what will be the condition of the patient meanwhile? Why, he will be utterly neglected, while the enraged doctors are debating about their principles, and cuffing each other.
§ Will the country believe that the real object of the Committee is any other than a depreciation of the standard? What will be the consequence on commercial transactions? Will any man sell an estate? If there be a prospect that, in two months, the sovereign will pass for 25s., will not every man get the sovereign as soon as he can? 535 If you send it forth to the world that you will have a vague inquiry, which will probably end in depreciation, the consequence, the inevitable consequence, will be ruin to every debtor—to the class you intend to benefit. All debts that can be exacted without delay, will be,—and justly; for the debt, if contracted within the last eighteen years, was contracted in the improved currency. Every man who enforces the payment of such debts due to him, will have not only law, but equity and honesty on his side. What will be the condition of the banks which have undertaken to discharge their promissory notes in gold, and to receive deposits of gold from their customers? Will not the depositors demand their deposits, and the holders of notes press for payment, without delay? Again, will any man advance 20,000l. in sovereigns on a mortgage, when he is certain of being repaid in a depreciated currency? The question at issue is not depreciation or no depreciation. The Vice-President of the Board of Trade, in so describing it, has stated it too unfavourably for his own argument; the question is, whether depreciation shall be ultimately effected after a tedious protracted inquiry? That is quite a different question from sudden depreciation. Such depreciation is bad enough, but, as the result of a lingering inquiry, it would be the greatest curse that was ever inflicted. What is the country suffering under? I believe it to be suffering partly from the agitation connected with the political excitement of recent times, partly from a state of doubt and suspense as to the final settlement of great questions affecting our commercial policy. The Bank Charter is still under consideration, the East and West India questions are not yet arranged; if to these causes of restlessness you are going to superadd doubts as to the standard—if this be your remedy for calming the excitement that prevails, and mitigating the doubt and suspense that hang upon other unsettled questions—for God's sake close your doors, and depart to your homes; for your sittings here will throw chaos into worse confusion.
§ Sir, I shall now conclude. The subject is far from exhausted—but there are limits to the patience of the House. Before I sit down, let me make an earnest appeal to those whom I address, to weigh well the consequences of the vote they may give. If they foresee, that injustice will be done by the unsettlement of the contracts of 536 twenty years—that confusion will arise—that commercial dealings will be paralyzed by doubts as to the future value of the currency;—above all, if they see cause to apprehend that the wages of labour will not rise in any corresponding ratio with the rise of prices, and that, therefore, the condition of the labourer will be depressed—let them reject the plausible appeal, "that distress ought to be inquired into," and refuse to do a great public wrong, though it be covered with a specious veil. I say, respectfully, but firmly, that this is the manly course—this, the true fulfilment of a high and sacred trust. Doubtless, much consideration is due to the feelings and wishes of your constituents. To them you owe—as was truly said by that illustrious man, who, in comprehensive and philosophical views of all public affairs, and of the great principles of social government, surpassed all the statesmen who preceded him, or who have followed—as much as some of them may have exceeded him, in the practical application of official knowledge and experience—"to them you owe," says Mr. Burke, "the sacrifice of your time, and your pleasures, and your repose. But to them you do not owe the sacrifice, in the weightiest matters, of your mature and conscientious judgment" "That judgment is not their property, and you abandon the first of duties, if, in deference to the wishes, you consent to sacrifice the interests, of your constituents."
§ For what is it, Sir, that we are sent here? For what is it that we are placed on the mountain top, but that we may embrace a wider horizon within our view, and penetrate further than those upon the plain, through the mists and darkness which hang upon the future. Perform your duty—show that you are not engaged in a mere "scuffling local agency,"—that you are fit to be intrusted with the destinies of an empire; and you will find your reward—my belief is, in the applause of your constituents—but, unquestionably, in the approbation of your own consciences. If you suffer, you will suffer in a noble cause, and you will be repaid with ample interest of honour and reputation, for any temporary loss of popular favour. Read the controversy between Mr. Burke and his constituents in 1780, and judge of your reward by your own admiration of the rejected candidate. They told him, "that his impolitic stubbornness would cost him his seat." If you hear the same language, be prepared with his dignified reply—537
§ 'I wished to be a Member of Parliament, to have my share of doing good and resisting evil. I deceive myself most grossly, if I would not much rather pass the remainder of my life hidden in the recesses of the deepest obscurity, feeding my mind even with the visions and imaginations of such things than to be placed on the most splendid throne of the universe, tantalized with a denial of the practice of all which can make the greatest situation any other than the greatest curse.'
§ He stood before his constituents accused of no venality—of no neglect of duty—of no sacrifice of their interests to his ambition, or to their own hasty and inconsiderate views. The accusation against him was, that he had preferred to their wishes the dictates of his own humane, deliberate, enlightened judgment, and the true interests of the constituents themselves. Follow his example, and you may truly say with him, if you are obnoxious to a similar charge—
§ 'In every accident which may happen through life—in pain, in sorrow, in depression and distress—I will call to mind this accusation, and be comforted.'
§ But my conviction is, that a different fate is reserved for you—that juster views are now taken of the duties which you are called upon to fulfil, and that the true way to secure the applause and lasting confidence of your constituents, is to claim, for yourselves and for them, the right to abide, in high matters like this, by the dictates of your own deliberate conviction.
§ Colonel Torrens moved an adjournment of the Debate.
§ Lord Althorp
put it to the Members, whether, after so many hon. Members had spoken, it was desirable further to adjourn the debate?
Colonel Torrens persisting in his Motion, It was, however, ultimately agreed that the debate should be adjourned.
§ the House divided on the question of adjournment. Ayes 98; Noes 318—Majority 220.
§ Debate adjourned accordingly.