§ Mr. Thomas Attwood
presented a petition from the Northern Political Union, agreed to at a public meeting, complaining of the distress of trade, and particularly of the distress of the labouring classes, which the petitioners attributed to excessive taxation, and praying for a repeal of all taxes on the necessaries of life, particularly the Corn-laws; it also prayed for Annual Parliaments. The hon. Member said, for his part he was content with the present House of Commons if they would but make the people happy, and again make the country what it was before—"Merry England." He had similar petitions from a parish in Fifeshire, and from Warwick. He placed implicit confidence in the present House of Commons, feeling convinced, that either under the "patronage" of the present Ministry, or some other, that some change would be made in the policy of the country, that would bring back happiness and contentment to a large mass of the people.
§ Sir Robert Peel
wished to make an observation respecting this petition. As sinecures were complained of in it, and as he had no doubt that the complaint arose from a real belief that a great deal of the public money was wasted in sinecure 81 offices, he hoped the hon. Member who brought those complaints before the House would move for a return of the number of offices under the Crown, of which the duty was performed by deputy, and which were not regulated by law, after the termination of existing interests. As the hon. member for Birmingham was of opinion, that that would make the people happy and comfortable, he (Sir Robert Peel) would be glad to see him bring in a short Bill for the purpose.
§ Mr. O'Dwyer
could not see anything in the remarks of the hon. member for Birmingham that called for the facetious remarks of the right hon. member for Tamworth. As to what the right hon. Gentleman had said about sinecures, he would ask why lazy sinecurists should be permitted to burthen the people of England for even a short period of time? He would recommend to the House to hasten their movements, and do something effectual before the people resorted to extreme measures.
§ Mr. Sinclair
observed, that the objections urged by the people of England against sinecures applied rather to the principle than to the amount. Their existence was considered by the distressed population as an insult and an injustice. The feeling entertained by a starving weaver was this:—" I am deprived of work, and destitute of subsistence; my wife and children are in a state of wretchedness; I get nothing out of the Public Exchequer, because I have done nothing for the public; but Lord A, and Mr. B, and my Lady C, have done just as little for the country, and yet they receive from the national income many hundreds and thousands a-year. Why should not the same rule be applied to them and to me? Why should they receive public money to enable them to riot in luxury, whilst I, who, in point of service, have as good a claim as they can urge, am left with my family to starve?" This mode of reasoning, which the working classes were naturally led to adopt on this question, engendered sentiments of jealousy, heart-burning, and dissatisfaction. With respect to the Committees for examining into Agricultural and Manufacturing Distress, he should expect little or no benefit from their labours, unless they probed to the bottom the manifold evils which the resumption of cash payments, and the consequent enhancement of all public and private 82 burthens, had entailed on the community. Unless this grievance were investigated, the inquiry would be a mere delusion. It reminded him of Blue-Beard delivering over the keys of his palace to Fatima, with free permission to range over all the spacious saloons of that magnificent mansion, but adding, that there was one apartment which could only be opened by a golden key, and into the forbidden precincts of which she must by no means presume to intrude, under pain of incurring his displeasure, and bringing great evils upon her own head. If this injunction had been obeyed, the whole interior of the edifice might have apparently exhibited one uniform glare of splendid elegance; and it would never have been discovered that one room within it was the gloomy receptacle of rottenness and corruption, containing the evidence of numerous crimes, and that the only one to which all access was debarred.
§ Petitions to lie on the Table.