§ Mr. Thomas Attwood
opposed the Motion. He felt it his duty to protest on behalf of the suffering people of the country against the House occupying its time by a further discussion of the Irish Bill, at a period when the country was in the most alarming danger. He felt himself bound also, unless stopped by the House, to use every means in his power to bring the subject of that Motion which stood in his name, under the consideration of the House. He regretted that when the House was so oppressed with business of the highest importance that he should find it necessary to occupy the attention of the House for any considerable length of time, but he felt himself animated by his sense of duty to the country, and impressed with a conviction of the great interest attached to the subject he had to bring forward. The people had made this a Reformed Parliament; and for what purpose was that Parliament now sitting? Was it not assembled in order to restore and confirm the liberties of the people? Was it not bound in duty to study and work for their prosperity? As to the liberties of the people, he would ask, what aid had Parliament yet given to the people? Instead of liberty it had given slavery to one part of the empire; and had not alleviated the misery of the other. For the last six weeks millions of British hearts had been aching because that House had not done one single act to relieve their distress. The noble Lord, whose character and services he so much respected, had endeavoured to put a stop to his Motion, and no doubt the noble Lord would prevent it from meeting with success, for little could be expected when an individual like the noble Lord, powerful, both from his station and character, was opposed to an humble individual like himself. Humble as he was, however, and feeble as his attempt must be, still he felt it his duty to persevere and to do everything in his power for the general happiness of the people. He should have had a vast number of petitions to present upon this subject, but he had taken great pains to prevent the sending of any petitions, for he had said to all his connexions and friends," avoid petitioning; let us, in the first place, leave 919 everything to the Reformed Parliament." He was very sorry to see, that his opinions of the Reformed Parliament had not been confirmed, and he regretted, that he had interfered to stop the sending of the many petitions which, but for him, would have been presented to the House upon the subject. The distresses of the country were at the present moment more great, more severe, and more unnatural, than at any preceding period of its history. It was general, and he desired any Gentleman who heard him to point out any one class of the industrious population that was not labouring under extreme sufferings from distress. He did know some very small classes that had not yet drunk of the bitter cup but they all knew that dangers of many kinds were gathering around them, and they were waiting in alarm the coming of the threatened storm. Although, to a certain extent, they prospered to day, unless some great change were to take place they knew that they could not prosper tomorrow; and they lived in dread of the impending ruin, expecting to be involved in one common lot of distress with the rest of the community. He would now call the attention of the Reformed House of Commons to the working classes, which were the life and soul, the blood and backbone, of the nation. He did not include the gentry; for, though they were raised high to be the pride and ornament of the nation, they were not the nation itself. The nation itself was the mass of the people. In the years 1816, 1818, and 1819 the distresses of the people had been great, but they were not to be compared to the distresses which reigned so generally at the present moment. The honest and industrious portions of the people who ought to be the most happy of all others, were the most miserable. Labour, the lot of living by toil and the sweat of the brow, was the great primeval curse on man: but it was tempered by the fruits of labour. Those, however, who had a right to be fed and sheltered and clothed by the sweat of their brow and the exhaustion of their strength by incessant and useful toil, were no longer allowed to obtain bread by their industry. The curse was continued in its direst form, and it was no longer assuaged by any of the comforts which labour produced. Millions of Englishmen, who were willing to labour for their support, were obliged to beg for sustenance, and to beg in vain. Year after year the unhappy millions had been crying 920 to the House for protection, and the House had refused to hear their prayer. 16,000,000 of signatures had been affixed to petitions claiming relief from the House of Commons. In 1819, 1822, 1826, 1829 millions of signatures had come before the House humbly praying it to inquire into their distresses and afford relief, but all the petitions were unheeded they were thrown contemptuously under the Table, and no relief had been afforded to the petitioners. The people then said "We must and will have a change." "Change," said; Mr. Burke "is a word of ill omen to happy ears." Undoubtedly it was; and though the House replied, that change of all sorts was an evil, when the hearts of the people were unhappy, and they were resolved to have a change, then did change become inevitable. This had been the situation of the people of England, and it had brought about the present change in the representation, which unfortunately had yet been of no benefit to the people. It should not be his fault if he did not do all in his power to have the causes of the existing distress explored. All he wanted was, to have an investigation. One half of the people of England were now obliged to toil more than human nature could bear, and the other half had no employment whatever. Those who were employed were employed only to die by inches, in the hope of living, whilst others wandered from door to door begging "for leave to toil" in vain. That day fifty of the Staffordshire colliers had come to him, begging him to point out to them how they could get employment by which they could support themselves. These men had been wandering over the kingdom in a state of want. They were invaluable men, and yet were in such a state of degradation and misery, that they came to him to ask him for advice, assistance, and employment. These men were of the best part of the population. It was the same with every branch of industry. Multitudes of agricultural labourers, mechanics, and manufacturers were all destitute of employment, and those who had work did not find their wages sufficient to support them. Were these brave and valuable men to be allowed to perish? They were the men from whom noblemen and gentlemen derived their fortunes, although they were thus allowed to starve for want of employment. The working men in agriculture produced, it was calculated, four times more than was consumed by themselves 921 and their families; but the wages of agricultural labourers was not equal to one fourth of the fruits of his labour. The proportion was much greater in manufacturing labour. Every labourer, therefore, gave to the country at least four times as much as he consumed, and yet the country refused him bread for his family, though he offered by his labour to repay the gift fourfold. Such at this moment was the condition of the mass of the people of Eng land; one-half of them were worn by double work, and the other half had no work at all. Taking man by man, he was convinced that the working classes did not consume more than two-thirds of the flesh meat which they had been accustomed to consume during the war. There were no tables to go to in order to ascertain this, but he appealed for the truth of what he stated to all who heard him, and he begged that gentlemen would look around them among the poor in their own neighbourhoods, and they would find this to be the case. The peace of 1814 had brought none of the blessings of plenty to the poor. If the House had done its duty to the people, their food, instead of having been reduced by one third, would have been increased by one-half. He could prove, that such was the poverty of the farmers and agriculturists in general, that so great were the difficulties of paying paper debts in golden money, that one-fourth of the productive powers of the land was destroyed This was like cutting off all the land of England north of the river Humber and throwing it into the sea. If they looked at the manufacturing interests, no better accounts could be given of them. The mineral manufactures of iron, lead, and copper, the cotton, woollen and linen, manufactures, all showed that profits were nearly annihilated. He had made a point, for many years past, of consulting many gentlemen of knowledge and experience in all parts of England respecting their respective trades, and he had put this question to them: "Do you know any branch of industry in England in which a prudent and industrious man, with a due regard to the protection of his property, would be justified in embarking his capital? "The universal answer was, "Such a branch of industry does not exist in England." His rejoinder had always been, "Then such a state of things never existed in any country on the face of the earth before." This was the invariable answer he had received, except in one single instance, in the case 922 of a Manchester gentleman, who had some considerable property invested in cotton mills, and who thought that there was still some profit produced. But when he was asked, if cotton mills were worth 50,000l. seven years ago, what they were worth now?—his reply was—that he considered that capital to be sunk, and then there would be, or might be, a miserable profit; but he would say that a profit drawn out of a sunk capital was a very equivocal and left-handed sort of profit. There was no branch of industry that had produced any adequate profits for the last seven years, although some local trades might derive temporary profit from the very distresses around them. These persons were like vampires that lived on the blood of those who were dying, and obtained an unhallowed prosperity. These were pawnbrokers and lawyers, who, like physicians during the prevalence of cholera, flourished the more, as distress and misery were extended. Full nine-tenths of the men in trade had toiled for the last seven years, early and late, and they had toiled in vain. If the House looked at the shipping and colonial interests, no better accounts could be given. He was credibly informed that at least two-thirds of the shipping in the river Thames were mortgaged for half the original costs, and if the mortgages were to be foreclosed, the ships would not be sold for enough to pay the debts. If they looked at the East Indian, the West Indian, or any other colonial interest, they would find that ruin, ruin, ruin, presented itself, and that ruin prevailed or threatened to prevail from one end of the British empire to the other. Look next at the Poor-rates. The Poor-rates had not increased so much in money, but if they calculated by bushels of wheat they would find that the amount had been doubled since the end of the war. Notwithstanding this the number of poor had so increased that the quantity of wheat would have been quadrupled were the poor relieved as liberally as they had been at the close of the war. But poverty, bitter grinding poverty, had closed the gates of mercy, and hardened the hearts of the middle classes, so that the poor were not half so well relieved. Notwithstanding the enormous wealth which labour gave to the nation the labourers were everywhere starving. The blackest passions were everywhere called into existence. The people resembled a crew of a ship upon short allowance, with only one-tenth part of the provisions left to carry them to the end of 923 the voyage, and each man was a prey to despair, and looked on the death of his companions as one source of relief from his sufferings. Let the House think of the bitter envy, the fiendish malice with which hunger made one man ready to tear the morsel from another's lips, let it think of the great mass of the working classes wishing the death of one another to have a larger share of the scanty supply of food, and it would have some idea of the terrible passion which prevailed amongst the workmen of many districts. The noble Lord (Althorp) shook his head at this statement, but the noble Lord, from his elevated station, knew nothing of the state of the working classes, except, as he obtained information from sycophants and flatterers, whilst he had been born in the midst of such scenes, and if the noble Lord had been an eye witness of what he had witnessed, his heart would have felt for the poor. Like the men in the ship already alluded to, the poor watched the last gasp of their friends, in hopes of getting employment by filling up the vacancies occasioned by their death. If honour abroad were purchased by these privations, it might be some compensation for the misery. The people might be content to suffer like a noble army for the good of the country, but they had never turned their backs on the foe, though they now saw their country kicked and buffeted by its enemies from the Euxine to the Baltic. It had been said that England was bound not to go to war in a bond for 800,000,000l, and he had heard an hon. Member in that Mouse say that he was glad of it, for the country would be obliged to keep peace. He could not trust his feelings with such a topic. He could not express the indignation he felt at hearing that his country was brought to such a pass that a statesman should thank God she was unable to make war. If he thought this were really the case, he should pray to God that his country might at once sink into the sea. Was England to be cuffed and kicked and pretend not to feel it, or humbly turn round and beg pardon for being in the way. That was, however, the position of the country, and he would never rest till he saw the cause removed which had brought her to such disgrace. The cause was this: all England might now be divided into two classes, the distressed and the affluent. The distressed were the merchants, manufacturers, tradesmen, in short all the industrious classes of the people. The affluent were the annuitants, including 924 the fundholders. The affluent had had their 60l. in paper money turned into 90l of gold. This was the class which dreaded war. The landholders were distressed; their properties had been mortgaged during the war, and those mortgages had increased so that they could not be cleared off, and the landholders were consequently in a state of ruin. They could not, therefore, go to war. The traders were in a state of ruin, and could not pay the taxes, which a war would necessarily occasion. These classes were so distressed, that if an enemy were to take Tilbury Fort, they could not go to war. The only class of men that could go to war would not go to war for fear of a fall in the funds, and therefore was it that the country was kicked from pillar to post by every blackguard and tyrant of Europe. When there had been a momentary gleam of prosperity, and men had launched forth into the sunshine, they were caught by a storm and driven home to hide their misery. These failures, brought on by a change in the currency were innumerable, and the Government attributed them to speculations. The fact was, that men had trusted to the laws of God and nature, but Government had plucked the ground from under their feet. That was the cause of their ruin. When he saw fluctuations of so strange a kind, and witnessed the immense number of superfluous mouths unfed, and heard the groans and witnessed the ineffectual struggles of the people, when he saw prudence of no avail, and sagacity struck to the ground, while folly and carelessness were flourishing, when he saw Emigration Committees sitting, planning how to get rid of the surplus population, and Corn-law Committees restricting the quantity of corn to be admitted into the country, he said it was time to examine into the causes which rendered such unnatural inquiries and restrictions necessary. He thought that the time had then come when they were bound to inquire why, at the end of seventeen years of profound peace, they were in a worse state than after an equal period of war. The people had been told that the causes of their distresses were but temporary, and they had been advised to wait with patience for a short time; but they had now been deluded and cajoled with promises of that kind for seventeen years, and at the end of that long period they found themselves in a worse situation than ever. He attributed this monstrous state of things to the currency, and wished that 925 cause of mischief remedied. The Ministers, however, said to the people, "Go on; we have, it is true, committed a gigantic error, but it is now too late to retreat." He had told them of this error seventeen years ago, and he had warned Government that it would bring the country into such a state that it would be impossible to advance, to retreat, or stand still without ruin. The right hon. Baronet, the member for Tam-worth, who was not, he was sorry to see, in his place, had quoted the other night a passage from some classic author; he believed in the Roman language, the words of which he could not repeat, but the meaning, he believed, was that the country had got into such a state that it could neither bear the evils it suffered nor the remedy for those evils. He did not agree in that sentiment, for he thanked God the country could bear the remedy today, though she might not be in a condition to bear it were it to be deferred till the morrow. But what could be the feelings of those who had brought the country into such a desperate situation he did not know. For his part, if he thought he had not done all in his power to avoid it, he should be ready to sink into the earth with shame; but the men who had brought it on openly gloried in their deeds. The country was in a state of the greatest difficulty, and overwhelmed with embarrassments, so that no class of men, by any means of honest industry, could prosper. The great mass of labourers throughout every part of the country were in a state of the utmost poverty and discontent. The natural consequences of misery were discontent and crime. Two years ago the agricultural labourers had broken out into outrage; and Ministers deceived themselves if they thought such breakings out were at an end, and that the causes which had given rise to them were at rest. He was sorry to say, that the people of England had never gained anything from their rulers but by a resort to force. The agricultural wages had, in consequence of intimidation, been raised from seven or eight, to ten or twelve shillings a week, but the farmer had been obliged to pay this out of his capital; he would soon be bankrupt, and the poor would then, once more, be turned out, first to burn ricks, and afterwards to combine against tithes. He could not blame men who were goaded to crimes by miseries brought upon them unnecessarily by others. Give the people their rights, and, if they were then not submissive, no man would be more willing 926 than he should be to put down outrage by the vengeance of the law. The crimes of Ireland for ages had grown out of the miseries of the people, and, unless Government would redress their wrongs and relieve their miseries, it would be in vain to attempt to suppress crimes. The immortal poet of nature had drawn a faithful picture of the way in which men were goaded to crime by an excess of misery. He had represented misery as the source of the worst crimes that man could commit. The first murderer in Macbeth was made to say—I am one, my liege,Whom the vile blows and buffets of the worldHave so incensed, that I am reckless whatI do to spite the world.Here, then, was a sense of injury and a feeling of misery goading a man to crime. The other murderer, in the same strain, says—And I another,So weary with disaster, tugged with fortune,That I would set my life on any chanceTo mend it or be rid on't.Thus did the poet make crime the offspring of revenge and despair, and it was revenge and despair which goaded the people of England and Ireland into the commission of outrage. Poverty was itself an evil, but its consequences were nightly terrors. Extreme poverty never attacked a nation without bringing discord in its train. It had bred discontent in the breasts of hundreds of thousands of the agricultural and manufacturing labourers. It had produced a state from which many sought a refuge in the grave, by which others were driven to madhouses, others endeavoured to escape by deserting their homes and taking refuge in other countries, all of whom, but for the state of the kingdom, might have been useful and prosperous citizens. The right hon. member for Tamworth had spoken of the poor as if the preservation of life were their only care, and the dread of death their only apprehension; but there were millions of the poor from whom extreme misery took away all terror of death. The right hon. Baronet, had he known what he (Mr. Attwood) knew, would have acknowledged, that there were, at this moment, millions of families in the United Kingdom who hourly die many deaths, who envy the victims of broken hearts that have died before them, and who lived, as it were, sowing in sorrow, and reaping only ruin as the reward of their anxiety and toil. The words of the poet, were too applicable to the present state— 927Full little knowest thou, that hast not tried,What hell it is, in hopeless toils to bide,—To lose good days that might be better spent;To waste long nights in pensive discontent;To speed today, to be put back tomorrow;To feed on hope, to pine with care and sorrow;To live in mis'ry, yet have many fears;To lose thy seeking, yet seek many years;To fret thy soul with crosses and with cares;To eat thy heart with comfortless despairs;To fawn, to crouch, to wait, to ride, to run,To toil, to save, to want, to be undone.That was the real state of millions of aching hearts in England at this lamentable hour. They had nothing to fear from death. He begged to call the attention of the House to a few simple facts which were known to all. A few days ago about 100 gentlemen had waited on the noble Lord (Lord Al-thorp) and had represented to him, that the taxes could not longer be paid; and they had told the Minister of the Crown, that not only were the people so distressed that they could not pay, but that, moreover, they would not pay the taxes, and that the people would be driven to the necessity of following the example of the Quakers, and they would rather be distrained upon than pay the taxes voluntarily. It was only three months ago that nine parishes of Westminster had appointed delegates to meet together to take into consideration the general pressure of distress. These delegates had passed a resolution in which they unanimously declared, that most of the trade of Westminster had been carried on for seven years without any profits, and that the tradesmen were all of them living on their capital. He believed, that this was not confined to the city of Westminster; and he recollected, that a similar resolution had been passed by the inhabitants of the ward of Cheap. He had been told by a merchant that on the Royal Exchange, where so many persons of all nations used to meet, not one-third of the people were now to be seen there that used to assemble at the period of the war. The House could not have forgotten the statements made a few evenings before by the hon. members for Oldham and Macclesfield—men, they said, were toiling for 3s. per day. There were now 100,000 able-bodied men in the metropolis who were willing to work, but could get no employment, and, in this statement, he did not include either women or children. Such awful facts, he thought, were calculated to rouse the attention of any Government, and if attention were not speedily given to them, they would soon speak in a language that would make itself heard. There were 928 many able-bodied men now obliged to live on only 4s. a-week, and he knew 10,000 persons who used to get 16s. a-week, and who now could get only 9s., of which they had to pay 3s. a-week for lodgings: so that only 6s. instead of 13s. as formerly, was left for their subsistence; and yet money did not go a bit further now than it did when they used to get the larger sum. Liberty was an idle word—a mere name—unless they gave the people liberty to live by honest labour. Of all rights the right to employ industry for their support was the most sacred; and if the laws of the country did not give to the labourer the privilege and power of using his industry for his maintenance, such laws did not deserve obedience, and the people were released from all obligations to obey the Government. Even Judge Blackstone had acknowledged, that if the laws were so absurd or so wicked as not to afford protection to the people, they deserved no obedience from the people. Let the House recollect, that when the culprit Redman was about to be hanged for the murder of Maddox, he stated, that his father had been a respectable farmer, who had paid the last 5l. he could collect on earth for rent; and this being insufficient, he had been distrained upon and turned out of his farm to want. The culprit added, that he had been reduced to a state of misery without hope, and that he had seen his father ruined, and he had no comfort but in revenge. His was a wild and wicked revenge, though it had in it something heroical, and it spoke volumes as to the thoughts and as to the condition of the people of Ireland. The right hon. Baronet, the member for Tamworth had cast the blame on the Irish landlords. This he held to be irrational and most unjust, for he considered the landlords of Ireland to be equally as unfortunate as the miserable Whitefeet. The landlords were but the victims of a vicious system, which had reduced the value of the produce of their estates one half, while it left the mortgagees as they were. The consequence was, that they could not reduce their rents without being ruined. They looked to the middle-men for their rents, and the middle-men were obliged to oppress the tenants to obtain them. Thus each class oppressed the class immediately below them, and the result was the present slate of Ireland. The right hon. member for Tamworth's name was connected with a Bill which doubled every rent in the kingdom, instead of only adding four per cent. 929 to it, as was pretended. It was, therefore, not for the right hon. Baronet to blame the landlords. If he had any proper feeling, he would blame himself. If the right hon. Baronet had passed a measure which, at the same time that it reduced the value of the produce of their estates to one-half, would have likewise reduced the rents, taxes, and all their other burthens in proportion, there might be some sense in his censure; but his measure had reduced the value of the means of paying rent, without giving the power to reduce the rents themselves, or the burthens for which the rents were pledged. He considered that measure was as bad in its effect, as if an exterminating army had been driven through the country. He would put the case of a landlord, who, during the war, had a rental or income of 20,000l. a-year, but whose fixed encumbrances on his estate had been 8,000l., and consequently his nettincome was the balance, or 12,000l. a-year. Now, if the alteration of the currency reduced the gross rental, which it did by about forty percent, it followed that he had left for himself an income of only 4,000l., instead of 12,000l., which he had possessed before the Bill was passed. Some people might think that 4,000l. sufficient, but they should recollect that people were deceived by the promoters of the change in the currency into a belief that the times would improve, and that matters would gradually return to their former state. Thousands were deceived by that, and kept up their former expensive establishments, till by the accumulation of mortgages they found themselves absolutely ruined. When the Earl of Liverpool, therefore, had determined on his measure, he ought to have sent a proclamation throughout the country, and warned the people that he was going to restore the ancient prices of produce and commodities; landlords might then have protected themselves by reducing their expenditure and curtailing their enjoyments. Now the effects of all these changes were absenteeism, distraints, and a catalogue of all distresses. The aristocracy ought to be protected as well as the other classes. The laws of primogeniture, which had been intended as a blessing to the aristocracy, had proved a curse, owing to this change of the currency. The laws of primogeniture had been intended to secure the estates to the eldest sons; but, owing to the change of the currency, the amount or value of the encumbrances on those estates were so increased that the owners, while they were obliged to 930 keep up their state, were almost deprived of their property. He could not, from the class of his personal friends, speak positively on the subject as to the details on estates of the wealthy aristocracy; but within the circle of his private acquaintance, men of one, two, or three thousand a-year had received their patrimonial estates so encumbered and embarrassed, owing to the changes made in the value of money, that, instead of being men of independent fortune, they were absolutely ruined. The Earl of Liverpool had said, that people would get through the worst, and that, if they only bore the evil patiently to-day, all would be right on the morrow. Those who had suffered themselves to be deluded by these views had grievously paid for their folly. Although the wholesale prices of produce had been so much reduced retail prices had not gone down, and this greatly increased the evil. Men must still pay 11d. a-pound, or thereabouts, for a veal cutlet, although it might be bought in the wholesale market for about 4d. a-pound. This fall in the wholesale prices, without a corresponding fall in the prices by retail, increased the evil to the landlords. One thing was quite certain, that as fast as we broke down the prices of our goods, the more would foreign nations take advantage of our manufactures. Thus the Prussians, the Russians, and others, put a duty of twenty percent, of the value upon them. It was his belief, that if they waited for another year to see this question decided, it would then be too late to do any thing; and unless they now took some steps, he could place no confidence in any description of property, and he would not give even a rush for the Crown of England. That House had two or three times refused to entertain the question of distress; but what was the present condition of the country? In the year 1821 he himself had been examined, in order to give his evidence before the committee, as to what was the cause of the agricultural distress. The gentlemen of that Committee upon that occasion had told him they could not hear him on the question of the currency; to this observation he had replied, that he came there to tell them what was the cause of the small quantity of money which agricultural produce obtained, or what was the cause of the lowness of price. This question had been mooted at three periods in particular, and at each period it was contended that we should soon get out of the difficulty. But what was the fact? Instead 931 of overcoming the difficulty, we had got deeper into the mire. This reminded him of a circumstance which had once occurred to himself. Being one day out fly-fishing, he saw in the river where he was angling a man's hat floating; and upon taking a boat he found the body of a man under it. It appeared, upon an investigation into the matter, that this unfortunate creature, having got drunk a night or two before, was determined to get across the stream; and so fatally did he persist in his obstinate whim, that he was drowned. Was it the wish of the House, was it the desire of his Majesty's Government, to go on and drown the country? Had they come to a determination to pursue an obstinate course and overwhelm all classes with ruin? Surely the mind of the noble Lord opposite, or of the noble Earl at the head of his Majesty's Councils, would not remain thus perverted. He was aware that the noble Lord had not leisure for all things, but he was confident, that noble Lord must feel, that this was a subject which ought to be investigated; and he would say, if it were not investigated speedily, it would be vain to seek for any relief for the general distress of the industrious classes of the community. In the year 1829, there were 180 petitions presented, with which, except in one instance, he had had nothing to do. He believed that they all conveyed the spontaneous opinions of the public, and they all complained of general distress. And yet that House had allowed all these petitions to be thrown unnoticed under the Table; and in all the instances, as in the instance of the Birmingham petition, which was signed by 29,000 men, they had refused all inquiry into the subject. The latter petition prayed for an inquiry into the state of the currency; that request was refused, and the country was told by that House that the working and industrious classes were well off, and that they did not know when they were well off Why, it was an insult and an indignity to make any such assertion, and it, of course, created a corresponding feeling on the part of the people of Birmingham. He, for his own part, had done all he could to stop the current, but the popular feeling had established itself. He believed from his heart, that the whole discontent of the English people for seventeen years past, resolved itself into, and had its origin in, a question of currency. To that source, he verily believed might be traced every misery. But if the House would grant the Committee which 932 he asked for, and it should turn out that the national debt or the Church were the evil, he would say, let the case be proved, and let the accursed thing, whatever it might be, which caused this general pressure be thrown overboard; he would be then content. But he thought the House would be disposed to think with him, that when it had been pretended the change of currency made only a difference of four per cent on rents, whereas it was now generally admitted, as he maintained, that it had made a difference of cent per cent on every private debt in England, that the subject was one which demanded the strictest and earliest consideration. He thought if the currency question were properly sifted, he could show, that the crimes of the White-feet, of the predial agitation in Ireland, and of the late predial agitation in England, were mainly owing to the present state of the currency. He could prove, that political agitation arose from this cause in England: this was a notorious fact. He had had the honour of being an agitator himself—and he thought he could satisfy the House that he became an agitator from no desire of popularity, or to injure the aristocracy, or the established institutions of the country. It was only after waiting fifteen years—after he had moved Heaven and earth—that he thought it his duty to become an agitator, with a view to urge forward a great public change, and of relieving the distresses of the people. He would beg leave, in order to show that, to read to the House a part of the constitutional Act of the Birmingham Political Union. That was now composed of 20,000 good men and true,"and exercised considerable influence over the mass of the population in the northern counties. The hon. Member read the following passage:—
'Birmingham Political Union, January 25th, 1830.—The experience of the last fifteen years must certainly have convinced the most incredulous that the rights and interests of the middle and lower classes of the people are not efficiently represented in the Commons House of Parliament. A very few observations will be sufficient to place this important subject beyond the possibility of doubt.
In the year 1819, a Bill was passed into a law, under the assumption that it would add only four per cent to the national taxes and burthens. It is now very generally acknowledged, that the Bill thus passed into a law, has literally added cent percent, to the national burthens, 933 instead of four per cent; and that it has literally doubled, or is in the undeniable process of doubling the real weight and the real value of every tax, rent, and monied obligation in the kingdom. Ten years have since elapsed, and yet to this day, no adequate effort has been made by the Representatives of the people, to reduce the taxes in a degree corresponding with the increase which has thus been surreptitiously effected in their weight and pressure! What further proof is required of the absolute necessity of reform?
Nor has any attempt been made by the legislature to retrace their steps, and to rectify the grievous oppression which has thus been occasioned. On the contrary, the fatal error is now coollyacknow Iedged, and the country is gravely assured, by the very men who benefit by the measure, that it is now too late to retreat
At three different periods, during the operation of this fatal measure, and now a fourth time, the industrious classes of the community generally, have been reduced to a state of distress which has heretofore been unexampled in its general extent and severity. At each of these periods, the profitsof productive capital and industry have been destroyed, or so much reduced, as no longer to afford the just and necessary inducements to the employment of labour. The working classes of the country have thus been thrown generally out of employment, or they have been compelled to endure more labour than nature can support, or their fair and reasonable earnings have been sacrificed, in order to prevent the ruin of their emplovers.
Strange and unnatural as this state of things evidently is, it has, more than once, been attended with anomalies which have rendered it ten times more unnatural still. The markets have been glutted with food and clothing on the one hand, and with a hungry and naked population on the other. The most eminent parliamentary authorities have declared that the loaves have been too many for the mouths, and that the mouths have been too many for the loaves, at the very same time!
It is most certain, that if the rights and interests of the industrious classes of the community had been properly represented in Parliament, a general state of distress, attended with anomalies like these, would have commanded the instant 934 attention of the House of Commons. The cause of the distress would have been ascertained, and the proper remedy would have been applied without delay. But what has been the conduct of the House of Commons? To this very day, the cause of these strange, and unnatural, and distressful anomalies, lias never once been inquired into. At three different periods, when this vital subject has been brought before the House of Commons, they have literally refused to allow its investigation. In the year 1822, Mr. Western gave no tice of a motion to inquire into the cause of the national distress. The House of Commons refused to grant the inquiry. In 1827, Mr. Edward Davenport gave notice of a similar motion. The House of Commons refused to grant the inquiry. In the last year, Sir Richard Vyvyan gave notice of a similar motion. And again the House of Commons refused to grant the inquiry! Upon three different occasions, the House of Commons has thus exposed itself to the suspicion of either a total un-willingness, or a total inability to protect the most vital interests of the country.
Here, then, we have proof that the rights and interests of the great mass of the community are not properly rcpresented in Parliament. A triple proof has been added to every argument which has previously been drawn from reason and experience, that an effectual representation of the industrious classes in the Commons House of Parliament is alike necessary to the welfare of the people, and the safety of the Throne.'
He would read a few lines from the end to confirm the passage he had already read.
'In any common state of things, tradesmen and mechanics might not perhaps becalled upon to interfere in political subjects. Each individual is, perhaps, more beneficially employed, for himself, and for his country, in confining his industry within his own particular occupation. This might be the case, when public affairs are both honestly and rationally conducted. But it is not so now. The public business is now become the best private business for every man to attend to. Without attention to public affairs, in deed, there is now no security for private interests. Until the public business is better conducted, it is in vain that the industrious classes use diligence, and prudence, and economy, and anxiety in the 935 management of their respective affairs. It is in vain that they "rise up early, and late take rest, and eat the bread of carcfulness;" they do hut realize the fabled torments of the wretch condemned to waste his labours in "continually rolling a stone up hill, which continually recoils to crush his own head." This, in a great degree, has been the situation of the industrious classes in England for several years. The men who have occupied their capital in productive power, in working the great duties upon which the existence of mankind depends—these men have grown poor, as the reward of their industry and virtue! But the men who have locked up their capital in a chest, have found it daily increasing in value! These men have reaped riches, as the reward of idleness and sloth! The reward of industry, indeed, may be said to be destroyed in England. "The ox is muzzled that trcadeth out the corn." Error succeeds error, and folly succeeds folly, until the nation is at last brought into such a state, that the most careless and superficial observer may perceive that great political changes must take place.'
That would tend to show the animus with which this society had been originated, and upon which it had acted; and he would assert, that if this distress had been taken under the consideration of the Legislature at a proper time, it would not have gathered to its present head, and the name of a political union would never have been known. These combinations of men would not have been formed, but that they had looked up in vain to the Government of the country for help. He had been an agitator, but he had certainly never thought it or expected it to be a profitable trade; and when he commenced his career, he expected to have to meet many dangers; but he expected to meet with no more in his small way, than Hampden had done in his large and extended career. He had had to face the suspicions of the weak, and to dissipate the alarm of the timid, and he had suffered the alienation of the affections of kind friends, and he had had the bayonet and the scaffold before his eyes; he had had all these evils to face, and he was ready to face them again, without a single hope of a selfish nature. The only fond wish of his heart was, the restoration of the liberties and the happiness of the people. He must remind the House, that the people of England, in reference to this subject, had evinced a remarkable degree of patience, 936 a quality which eminently entitled them to the attention of the House; though he was sorry to say, that, upon looking over the history of this country, he had never found that the people ever gained much by patience. Now he would ask how it was possible to expect that the people should continue to exhibit the same degree of confidence and loyalty to the constitution, if that House did not repay such good feelings by applying its attention to the distresses of the productive and labouring classes of the community? If the Legislature neglected to do this, it would certainly not do its duty to the King, or to the King's subjects. The question was, what was to satisfy the people, who, as he had stated, had made great sacrifices to obtain Parliamentary Reform and liberty. He had thought that his Majesty's Government would have been aware that if they gave liberty they must also give prosperity to the people; and that liberty must precede anarchy unless it were accompanied by prosperity; and he had told the noble Lord and the noble Earl at the head of the Government that, if they gave liberty and the means to secure prosperity, no child that now slumbered in its cradle would ever hear of discontent in the country. But now they encouraged every day new demands, and in every step which was taken with the view of enforcing these the Government became day by day weaker. The stream of popular feeling had swept away one oligarchy; and had the Government acted wisely, it would have been aware that when the waves of popular excitement had reached a certain height the cause of the flood must be removed or otherwise a dreadful inundation must ensue. Unless the House proceeded to relieve the people it would find that it had hut given strength and liberty to an irritated giant. He had on a former occasion told the Ministry so: he had told the noble Lord at the head of that Ministry, that if he merely passed the Bill without acting upon it, he would be the Neckar, and not the Saviour of his country The Ministry had appeared very busy in giving moderate reform to Ireland; they had talked about reforming the Irish Church, about the Church-cess, and two or three other such reforms; but would these moderate reforms strike at the root of the evil which paralysed that unhappy country? Would they relieve the people of Ireland from the overwhelming weight of their grinding misery? Was this misery brought upon the Irish by their own fault? 937 Was it owing to their want of either industry, perseverance, or economy? No, for they were singularly eminent for industry, enterprise, economy, and honesty. In all these qualities the Irish peasantry were unparalleled. These men came often over to this country in a state of wretchedness, and after remaining here at work for some portion of the year, they carried hack with them to their families small sums of money. And could it he denied that every one of these men was able to earn four times what he now did, if he were given the free use of his hands? Let them have a circulation equal to the population; let them have the means to cultivate their bogs and then no more would be heard of frightful breaches of the peace, of the overthrow of the Constitution, and of outrages against humanity; and no more would be heard of any necessity for legislative enactments against that unhappy people. What they wanted was legislative enactments for them, not against them. But during this discussion on the unhappy condition of one part of the kingdom, he had not heard a word about the miserable condition of another portion of the realm, not one word had been said about England. Not a syllabic had he heard of what was proposed to he done as a remedy for the dreadful state of distress and misery. Surely the glorious tree of reform had not been planted with so much labour merely to fill up the ground instead of gathering fruit from it! If the people saw no fruit from this tree, they would cut it down as useless and cast it into the fire; and deeply grieved should be be to see that day, for he expected glorious fruit from such a tree. He was a reformer—a moderate, rational reformer. What he wanted was Household Suffrage, Triennial Parliaments, and the Vote by Ballot. And his object in these wishes was, that the people might enjoy true liberty, prosperity, and happiness; he wanted them to have beef, bread, and beer; and if the Government would let them have this, he was one of the last to wish for any change; but if they did not, he could not at all see how a change could be avoided. Every honest man, whether Whig, Tory, or Radical, ought to vote for this Motion, for its object was, to give a deserving people happiness. As he had before said, every interest was at present in a state of the most appalling distress and embarrassment, and danger. The extent of misery was such as to have turned into gall and bitterness the very milk of human nature in the breasts of millions. To 938 remedy such a dreadful state of things, something effectual and immediate must be done. He therefore implored every Member in that House to agree in the resolution which he should propose, as they must see how closely the result of it was connected with the happiness of the people and the security of the Throne. His Motion was, that "a Select Committee be appointed to inquire into the causes of the general distress existing among the industrious classes of the United Kingdom, and into the most effectual means of its relief."
§ Mr. Gillon
rose to second the Motion of his hon. friend the member for Birmingham, and he should not feel, that he fulfilled his duty to his constituents if he did not at once avow his conviction of the necessity of the House immediately interfering to alleviate the great distress which pressed so heavily upon the productive classes of society. The hon. Member had indeed drawn a vivid picture; but the picture, though vivid, was not the less true. A Reformed Parliament had now met six weeks, and not one measure having any or the least tendency to promote the prosperity of the people at large had yet been introduced, a fact which was but too likely to shake the confidence of the people in a Reformed Parliament. The first day, indeed, upon which they had met was one of ill omen, for much was said of insurrections in Ireland, but not one word upon the subject of the distress of the productive classes of this country. Surely these circumstances would only be the means of inducing the people of England to call for greater changes, changes which he should be sorry to see made, but which must of necessity follow the demand for them unless the House gave its immediate attention to a subject of such vital importance. He would therefore entreat the House not to deny the request made by the hon. member for Birmingham. The people had raised their despairing voices to former Parliaments, but former Parliaments had declared the cry against taxation was an ignorant impatience; and the petitions which flowed into the House were ordered, one after another, to be laid under the Table as unworthy of notice. As he had formerly stated, the state of depression was so dreadful, that some of our best manufacturers, working fifteen or sixteen hours a-day, could not earn more, after deducting all the necessary expenses, than 5s. 4d. a week. To show the dreadful depression, he would instance the fall in price of one article woven 939 by them. In 1814 this article was worth 9d. a-yard; in 1815 it fell to 7d. In the three following years it fell to 4d. After a rise in the next year to 5d. it fell so low as 4d. and 3d; and now, in this year 1833, it has fallen to 2½d. He would only ask hon. Members to look at this dreadful fall in price from 9d. to 2½d. Could there be a more dreadful instance of the depression of trade? He bad been waited on the other day by a deputation from a society of Scottish weavers, who, under the pressure of their extreme distress, bad resolved to petition the Legislature to interfere, by appointing a sort of Board of Trade by whom a minimum of wages might be fixed. He had told these unfortunate men, whose once ruddy faces were now pallid by pure starvation, that, in his decided opinion, any interference of the Legislature between workmen and their masters would be productive of the worst consequences. He had added, however, that there would shortly be formed a Committee of Inquiry into their distress, and the best means of remedying it, which he hoped and expected would tend to promote the happiness of the people by removing their overwhelming load of distress. What was he to tell those poor men when they next came? Was he to tell them that their just prayers were refused—that their distresses were to meet with no compassion—no relief? He trusted not; he trusted that every Mem—ber of that House would stand forward and relieve their oppressed countrymen. He was sure that it could easily be done; for nothing would persuade him but that many of those taxes which now weighed so heavily—so overwhelmingly on the people, could be taken off. Whatever might be the cause of this dreadful and general pressure, whether it arose from the weight of the demands of the Church, from tithes, from Poor-rates—whatever was its cause, he implored the House to do away with it—to legislate for the starving poor, for the industrious classes, for that portion of the community upon which depended the security of the whole. If they did not, he, for one, could not answer for the safety of the State. He could very clearly see, that there would be aninstant demand for still further changes—for universal suffrage—when the people found that they could not hope for justice in the present state of things. If the present House of Commons did not respond to the people who had looked up to them with so much confidence, that people would direct their energies to 940 the means of obtaining such a Parliament as would.
§ The Motion being read,
§ Lord Althorp
in rising to object to the Motion of the hon. member for Birmingham, begged to be understood as not being at all disinclined to discuss in a tangible shape the question the hon. Member mainly adverted to in his address. His opinions were pretty well formed with respect to that question; and believing them to be correct, and that discussion always tended to elicit truth, he could not, of course, object to that which would, he believed, establish the soundness of the opinions he held. He was the last man who would wish to prevent discussion, and he hoped that neither the House nor the country would consider, that the course he had pursued that evening was dictated in the slightest degree by a desire to prevent the question being thoroughly investigated. On the contrary, his wish was, merely that the question should be brought forward at a period when the House could dispassionately and fairly take it into consideration. Many opportunities would occur when it might be more conveniently discussed than at present. An hon. relation of the hon. member for Birmingham had given notice of a Motion on the monetary system for next Tuesday, and another hon. Gentleman, the member for Yorkshire, had given notice of a Motion after the recess for a Committee to inquire into the distress of the country. On these occasions, ample opportunities would be afforded for discussing the question which the hon. member for Birmingham pointed at in moving for this Committee, namely, the question of the currency. It was true that the hon. Member's Motion said nothing about the currency, but he had no doubt, his candour would admit—as, indeed, it was clear in his speech, that he looked forward for an inquiry in the Committee into the state of our monetary system. Although he did not think the present a good opportunity for entering into a discussion upon that subject, and should not therefore state the grounds upon which he objected to a Committee of Inquiry into the monetary system, grounds which he should be ready to state upon another occasion—he certainly could not allow the speech of the hon. Gentleman to pass without some observations. The hon. Member stated, in general terms, that the Act of 1819 was the cause of the evils existing in 1833. He did not, however, state what his remedy would be for the evils in our monetary system, of 941 which he so loudly complained. Now, those who argued that an alteration ought to take place, ought also to state what their views were, and what sort of change it was which they desired, because it was very easy to declare that great distress existed in the country—was very easy to say, that the state of the currency was the cause of that distress; hut unless those who made these assertions were ready to show how, by operating on the currency, the distress could be remedied, it was very hard to know precisely what they meant. The hon. Gentleman, and other hon. Members had, several times during the Session, found fault with his Majesty's Ministers because, in the King's Speech, the country was not described as being in a more deplorable state of distress than ever it had before been in. Now, he would fairly say, that one of the reasons why they did not make this statement in the King's Speech was, that they did not believe it. His experience in the House was sufficient to make him perfectly aware that there was nothing which exposed a man to more odium and obloquy than pretending, in the slightest degree, to believe that there was any class in the country at all prosperous and happy. He felt, therefore, that in stating his real opinion, as he was about to do, he was treading upon dangerous and delicate ground. He was quite aware, indeed, that there was great distress among the labouring classes, but it was not greater now than it had been some time before. He believed, on the contrary, that the information he had received, that the great mass of the labouring classes were in full employment, and that there were fewer persons out of work now, and less general distress, than at several former times, was correct. Among one class of the people, and in one part of the country, he knew that there was great distress, that nothing could exceed it; that the distress was grievous, and that it was, at least he was afraid it was, increasing rather than diminishing—he meant among the hand-loom weavers. They constituted a large and numerous class, and were in a state of great destitution. But that was not owing to the currency—it was owing to the competition between them and machinery, and must, therefore, he was afraid, increase. He was aware, too, that in many parts of the country, the agricultural labourers were in a state of great distress; but he did not think that was caused by the state of the currency. It arose from other causes, to which the Parliament 942 must apply itself, and was hound to apply itself, in order to relieve the dis tress of the labourer. The hon. Gentleman had also stated, that distress had produced great demoralization among the people, that they looked with avidity for the death of each other, that they might obtain from the dissolution of their friends the means of subsistence. When the hon. Gentleman said, that the people wished one another dead, he could not believe it. How could it be? Or how could that change benefit the paupers, to whom the hon. Gentleman was alluding? What advantage could the death of others be of to them? But it was in vain to argue this question from reason; his feelings showed him that it was impossible. He knew enough of the feelings of the English people, to be quite sure that no Englishman, or at least no great body of Englishmen, ever let such a wish as the hon. Gentleman said enter their heads. The hon. Gentleman said, that by the sweat of their brow they could not get bread, because, as he said, there was now no remuneration for labour. At the same time, the hon. Gentleman said, that the labourer produced four times as much as was necessary for his own consumption. If that were the case, the country should be in a state of prosperity; but to have general prosperity from that, it supposed that every labourer was employed, and produced four times as much as he consumed, which appeared to him impossible. The hon. Gentleman also said, that he knew that for several years past the manufacturers and farmers had been living on their capital. That was scarcely possible, for if all tradesmen had been living for several years on their capital, all trade must before now have come to an end. The hon. Gentleman used, too, an inconsistent sort of argument: he said that one thing, which was formerly worth 4s. was now worth 8s.; and another, that was formerly worth 8s. was now only worth 4s. That only showed that one thing had got dear, and another thing had got cheap. The hon. Gentleman warned the House not to refuse the Committee; but the question was not so easily decided. It was proposed to appoint a Committee to inquire into the distress of the country; and every Gentleman, before he voted, was bound to ascertain whether granting the Committee would increase or diminish the distress. If they thought the Committee would increase the distress, the hon. Gentleman had no right to say that they did not feel for the distress of the country in voting against the Committee. 943 He was satisfied, from the statements and arguments which it was supposed the Committee would approve of that were it appointed, it would increase the distress a hundred-fold. He begged Gentlemen to consider what the effect would be on every creditor, public and private, should a Committee be appointed on the notion that it was necessary to make a depreciation in the currency. Why any gentleman, whether a Member of that House or not—any man who owed money, would have to pay it immediately. If they were not prepared to discharge all their mortgages in the next week, and not prepared to pay every thing they owed, what would be the necessary consequence. Why they must expect that their creditors would not be willing to lose by the depreciation, and they would demand immediate payment. That would be the tendency of the hon. Gentleman's Motion if complied with. The effect of the appointment of the Committee would be a general stagnation of credit in the country. The hon. Gentleman had said, if the Committee were not granted, they ought to consider what would the consequence be, for the people were prepared to require a general alteration in the currency. The hon. Member had spoken of the honesty of the people of England, and in that honesty he put the fullest confidence. He confided in their good sense, and he was glad that he had been able, from that confidence, to assist in granting them Reform. He should, however, have but very little confidence in their honesty, if he could believe, that all the debtors of the kingdom were ready to deprive their creditors of part of what was due to them. He did not apprehend that there was any such feeling among the people. He knew that the people expected from the Government every practical remedy for every practical abuse; he knew that the people expected every possible reduction of expenditure and of taxation consistently with the honour and good faith of the country; but he did not know and did not believe that the people expected the Ministers to commit an act of injustice. After the currency had been settled on its present footing for so many years—after so many contracts had been made since the period of the depreciation of the currency, the effect of going back to a depreciated currency would be to throw things into confusion and commit injustice. That was, he thought, as good an argument as could be given against the Motion. For these reasons, 944 though he had not entered into the question fully, and having only wished to make a few observations on the speech of the hon. Member, he must say, that it was quite inconsistent with his duty to give his consent to the Motion.
§ Mr. Cobbett
said, if the Committee were proposed to change the currency, he should vote against it. The only proposition was, that a Committee should be appointed to inquire. It appeared to him, as the Committee was not to make the change, but only to inquire into the distress of the country, the probability that some Member might propose a change in the currency was no reason for refusing the Committee. It was acknowledged on all hands—nobody now denied—that a great error was committed in 1819. A monstrous act of injustice was, in fact, then committed. The hon. member for Birmingham thought the decision was wrong, and was open to revision. The Committee might inquire, and might agree to the hon. Member's opinion, or might not. The Committee might make a report, and yet not recommend a change in the currency. If the hon. Member divided the House, he should vote with him.
Mr. Edward Lytton Bulner
wished to state shortly why he should vote against the Motion of the hon. Member. Whatever arguments might be stated, and however plausible, in favour of not altering the currency, if the Committee were appointed, on the Motion of the hon. member for Birmingham, the country would suppose that the currency was to be altered. That was the common-sense view of the matter; and were they to run the risk of shaking confidence throughout the country? He believed because the appointment of the Committee must shake confidence that it would increase the distress. He admitted, that there was great poverty and great demoralization, and great distress, part of which arose from the use of baneful stimulants. A great many evils arose from the administration of the Poor-laws. The Commissioners appointed to inquire into them had made many things apparent, and the administration of those laws must be amended. If that were done, and the law of settlement were altered, and a wise system of emigration planned, he should rely on them to remove the distress and difficulties of the country.
§ Mr. Scholefield
said, that the whole business of the country was carried on upon credit, and the great mass of the 945 tradesmen were insolvent. He did not like to speak of himself; but there was no presumption in it, and he would say, that though he used all his energies, he could not now make any species of property pay. He thought it was the duty of Parliament to inquire, when the noble Lord himself admitted that the class of hand-loom weavers were all in a state of distress. He was much interested for the middle and lower classes, and saw them going fast to decay. He had made some inquiries since he came to London, and he was informed, that, from Charing-cross to the Royal Exchange, three-fourths of the tradesmen, on both sides of the way, would be in a state of insolvency, if they were called upon to produce their accounts, and pay all the demands on them he believed that to be a fact; he believed such a state of things to be general, and he thought a Committee ought to inquire into its causes. He did not believe, that the distress could be remedied by a change in the currency, unless it were accompanied by a reduction of taxation. The demoralization of the people was great, and it was making, he was afraid, a rapid progress. The hon. Member read two letters from Birmingham, describing the amount of Poor-rates in that town, the number of poor, and various details, concluding by saying, that the amount of Poor-rates in Birmingham for 1832–33 would not be less than 50,000/. He believed that, if the Government refused inquiry, fearful consequences would be the result.
would ask the Government to adjourn the consideration of the question, if he had any influence, for he considered it of great importance. An act of great injustice had been committed against all the debtor people of England. It was a breach of good faith to them. They were ordered to take a one-pound note and a shilling for a guinea—they had done so, and had contracted debts in a depreciated currency. The State itself had borrowed a large sum in what was now called rags. The Government had not returned, by the Act of 1819, to the ancient standard of gold and silver, but to the gold standard only. The people had not had justice done them, though it was the duty of the Government to be the arbiter between the parties, and not throw its weight into the scale of either debtor or creditor. The distress, poverty, and crime, which existed in the country, were, unfortunately, adequate and ample reasons for not refusing the Committee. 946 They ought not to turn a deaf ear to the people's complaints, and they ought to grant the Committee, which might, perhaps, by its inquiries, satisfy the people that the regulations of 1819 were right.
§ Mr. George F. Young
said, that he was well acquainted with the state of the working classes in the neighbourhood where he resided; and that during the last twenty years he had never known distress so generally diffused amongst the labouring classes as at the present moment. Nor was it confined to the labouring classes alone, hut extended to, and, indeed, in some measure, arose from the distresses of their employers. The shipping interest of this country, with which he was especially connected, was wholly unproductive to the shipowners. This was a melancholy fact, and it was to him a matter of much surprise to hear it asserted, that the distress was confined to the labouring population; for it had extended itself also to all classes of the trading population. There was an abstract proposition before the House, whether or not the industrious classes were in a state of distress; and, admitting that they were, then the question was, would the House investigate its cause, with a view to applying a remedy? If, in the course of the discussion, the question of currency should arise, the House would deal with it according to its wisdom. He would not prejudge that question; but it certainly appeared to him a very extraordinary doctrine that, because gentlemen were known to entertain certain opinions on that question, they were not to enter into an inquiry into the distress of the country.
§ Lord Althorp
denied, that he had stated the distress of the country to be confined to the labouring classes, though he had instanced some extreme cases of distress amongst that portion of the community. He was aware that distress prevailed amongst the employers, though he did say, he did not think the distress was so general as it had been represented to be.
§ Sir John Wrottesley
regretted, that the hon. member for Birmingham had mixed up with the discussion many extraneous topics to which he could not become a party. He fully concurred in what had been stated of the evidence of great distress amongst the labouring and middle classes of the community. He had, in common with the hon. member for Birmingham, great facilities for ascertaining the state of the trading and agricultural interests, and he knew the greater part of those statements which had 947 been made by that hon. Gentleman were not exaggerated. As to the alteration of the standard in 1819, it was impossible to deny that it produced effects the most extraordinary that ever existed in any country. The hon. member for Birmingham had stated—what many persons who only viewed the matter superficially might not believe, namely, that capital was gradually sinking away from its possessors. Reverting to the measure of 1819, he certainly wished that some alteration had been made in the standard—not that which was made—but something more approaching to an equitable adjustment. In 1826, bethought they had committed a great fault. The alteration made then was an aggravation of that of 1819 In looking at these circumstances, they ought to regard them with the view of providing a remedy; and he could not bring himself to believe that the propositions of the hon. member for Birmingham would produce that desirable result. He never knew a Committee of that House answer any good purpose, the duties of which were not specifically defined. If, indeed, he thought the investigation into the distress would not go forth to the country mixed up with other circumstances, he should have great pleasure in voting for the appointment of a Committee; but he was convinced, from the opinions which had been expressed by the hon. member for Birmingham and various Gentlemen, that if a Committee were appointed, and that Committee a select one, it would be a means of holding out hopes to the country which it would be impossible to realize. With great respect for the hon. member for Birmingham, he thought the means by which that hon. Gentleman had attained a certain degree of celebrity, for which, no doubt, his talents well qualified him, had, unintentionally he believed, produced an expectation of relief by acting on his propositions, which would necessarily give rise to a belief that a change would be made in the currency. It was mischievous, especially during the present state of difficulty and excitement, to hold out hopes to the working classes which could not be realized. Anxious as he was to relieve the distress of the country, he looked to other sources than those resorted to by the hon. mover, he looked to his Majesty's Government to reduce the expenditure of the country, and to diminish, if the state of the finances permitted it, the burthen of taxation. He must say one word for the country generally, with regard 948 to the assessed taxes, respecting which so great an outcry had been made. He admitted the inequality with which they were levied; but if the noble Lord (the Chancellor of the Exchequer) should find himself in a situation to propose the reduction of taxation, he hoped he would continue the system which had hitherto been pursued, and begin by relieving those who were most entitled to commiseration—the working and poorer classes—in preference to tradesmen in towns, and particularly the metropolis. They had taken off four millions of taxes, in pursuance of this system. They had taken off the taxes on beer, coals, candles, and printed cottons—the dress and necessaries of life of the lower classes. He hoped they would proceed on the same plan, and that they would begin by taking off the tax on soap, which would be highly beneficial in a fiscal point of view, and prove a seasonable relief to the poorer classes of the community.
§ Mr. Clay
said, that if he saw any hope of deriving a practical advantage from appointing a Committee, he would support the Motion; but the inquiries of such a Committee would necessarily be of so general a nature as to render the discovery of practical remedies impossible. How various, indeed, were these causes of the distress in the estimation even of those who supported the inquiry. The hon. member for Tynemouth spoke of the shipping interests the hon. member for Birmingham of themo-netary system and the working classes—othersof the distresses of the agricultural, the trading, and the manufacturing part of the community. An inquiry which was to embrace all these various subjects was, in his humble opinion, one of the wildest schemes ever proposed. He admitted that great distress prevailed amongst all classes of the community; but some hon. Members did not appear to take into consideration that many of these distresses could not be cured by legislative enactments.
wished to observe, that it was a general impression that the Motion would not be brought on tonight, and that to press it at the present moment would scarcely be giving the question a fair chance. He hoped, therefore, the hon. Gentleman would consent to a postponement; at the same time, if he pressed his Motion, he should be prepared to support him.
thought it wrong to occupy the time of the House with an imperfect discussion of a most important subject. Besides, there was a notice of Motion for a 949 revision of the monetary system by the hon. member for Whitehaven, and he should prefer postponing the subject of the currency till the day fixed for that Motion. Such was the state of uncertainty in which everything was at present involved, in consequence of the conduct of his Majesty's Ministers—such was the uncertainty which existed with regard to the West-India trade, the East-India trade, and the Canada trade, that no one would just now dare to risk his capital in them. The noble Lord must be aware that no one would at present risk a sixpence in the West-India trade until the West India question was settled that no one would embark his capital in the East-India trade until it was determined whether it was still to be carried on by a monopoly, or to be thrown open to mercantile speculation at large; and that an equal disinclination existed to invest capital in the Dutch and Canada trade, because it was impossible for any man to say, that they would be allowed to remain under their present regulations for six months. The question of the Bank of England was in his estimation of less importance than either of these, but the uncertainty which prevailed on that was no slight evil. It was this state of uncertainty, and the consequent present languishing condition of trade and business, that mainly caused the distress which prevailed throughout the country. When hon. Gentlemen talked of the increase of crime and of poverty in this metropolis, and in the country at large, it would be well if they referred for a moment to what was the state of things in other countries. He believed, according to the best of his recollection, that it would appear from the statistical returns of Paris, that upwards of one-third of the population of that metropolis died in poor houses and hospitals; that, out of twenty-four deaths eight took place in poor-houses and hospitals. It could not be denied that that was a proof of the existence of great distress in that capital. Then, with regard to the state of morals in Paris, there was this striking fact—thatout of 25,000 births there were 10,000 illegitimate, and that about one-half of those were foundlings. When hon. Gentlemen talked of the increase of crime in this country, it would be well for them to look abroad, and see what was the state of things there. His objection to going into the Committee moved for by the hon. member for Birmingham was this—that the object of the hon. Member in getting them into such Committee, was to 950 effect, if he could, a depreciation in the currency. That would be no doubt the remedy which the hon. Member would propose for the distress of the country, if he should obtain a Committee, and it was for that reason that he should object to the Motion. He objected to it, because he did not think that such a remedy would be attended by aught but mischievous consequences—he objected to it, because he could never bring his mind to understand how, because money had been made the measure of commodities, an increase could be effected in the wealth of the country by altering the nature of that measure. It might as well be said, if there was a want of corn in the country, that the quantity of corn would be increased by going back to the use of the old measure of the Winchester bushel, instead of the imperial bushel. He would as soon believe that, as that any Gentleman could, by altering the nature of the circulation, increase the wealth of the country. He would not object to going into the Committee asked for by the hon. Member, if that Committee should confine its inquiries to the question, whether a double standard, one of silver and one of gold, might not be advantageously resorted to. He was of opinion, and many Gentlemen were of the same opinion, that at the time of settling the currency question the Legislature committed a great mistake in fixing upon a single standard, that of gold. He protested against our doing so at the time that the question was settled, and the gold standard determined upon. He was glad to find that the Governor of the Bank of England was now of the same opinion, and, he trusted, that the time was not far distant when such a remedy—a remedy to which he attached the greatest importance, in facilitating the circulation of the country, and rendering it secure against many dangers—would be applied to the existing state of things. He was ready to go into a Committee for such a purpose, but not for the purpose of depreciating the currency. He was sure, however, that if we should establish a silver as well as a gold standard, and if an alteration of the payments of the country bankers were effected, we might be enabled then, without any danger, to permit a reissue of the 1l. notes. But when the object of the hon. Gentleman who moved for the Committee was to reduce the 1l. in value to 15s., he would object to such a Committee. He hoped, that, upon some future and more fitting occasion, this 951 question would be deliberately discussed by the House, and he had to apologize for taking up so much of its time upon a debate that could lead to nothing.
§ Mr. Malthias Attwood
hoped, that his hon. relative, the member for Birmingham, would withdraw his Motion, and bring it forward on another occasion, when it might be more likely to receive the attentive consideration of the House. Everything that he had heard tended to convince him of the prevalence of great and appalling distress throughout the country. He did not agree with his hon. friend, the member for Essex, that the amount of distress had been exaggerated. He indulged no such hope. He regretted that this subject had been brought forward to-night, as it was not likely to meet with that attention which its extreme importance required; at the same time, if his hon. relative took the sense of the House on the question, he should support it. He must express his surprise, as well at the grounds upon which the noble Lord opposed this Motion, as at the utter want of information the noble Lord manifested on the subject. He was surprised, that the noble Lord had not heard from his supporters what an entirely different state of things really existed from what be seemed to imagine. The noble Lord said, that, undoubtedly, great distress prevailed among the hand-loom weavers, but added, that it arose from the introduction of power-looms. But, was the noble Lord ignorant, that the power-loom had been in general use for the last thirteen years? Surely the noble Lord could not be serious in imputing the distress in the manufacturing districts to the employment of machinery. The noble Lord admitted, that great distress prevailed among the peasantry; but he did not state what bad occasioned their distressed situation. The noble Lord admitted that the tradesman was distressed; but the noble Lord appeared to be profoundly ignorant of the cause of the distress experienced by all classes; and he refused to investigate the causes. Was the noble Lord aware that great portions of the trading community were living upon their capital, which should be, by its profitable employment, instead of its consumption, not only the means of support to themselves, but the foundation and strength of the prosperity of the community—capital which, if once destroyed, would lead to a state of things that he would not attempt to describe. He rose, however, chiefly with a view of replying to an observation which fell from the noble 952 Lord. The noble Lord said, in reference to what fell from his hon. relative, that it would not be honest to change the standard of the currency. But his hon. friend and relative said nothing respecting the dishonesty of the Act of 1819 which the noble Lord admitted gave to the creditor more than he was entitled to receive. He did not apply the term "dishonest" to that measure, nor did he call the Act of 1829 dishonest. But he told the noble Lord, that if he thought that there was any security in the present system, he was completely mistaken. He was sure, that the noble Lord must feel that the whole of the present system of the currency rested on a rotten foundation. But he would tell the noble Lord, if he really believed in the security and permanence of the present standard, that he was bound, in good faith, and on every principle of honour, to support an inquiry into the changes which had taken place in the terms of almost every transaction of trade and commerce from abandoning a cheap money, and resorting to a dear money. He said, if inquiry were refused—not as to what could be done tending to a violation of existing contracts—but as to what steps should be taken to prevent the violation of contracts; the Government would sacrifice every principle of honesty and justice. The hon. member for Essex said, that we heard of the prevalence of great distress in this country; but added, that he did not believe that it prevailed to anything like the extent described. He was satisfied, that the distress was so great, and prevailed to such an extent, that it was hardly possible to make use of too strong language in describing it; but if there were a doubt on the subject, why should not there be some inquiry to show the groundlessness of the fears entertained? His hon. friend said, that he objected to a Committee, because it might propose a depreciated standard of value. But his hon. friend forgot his own measure for reducing the standard of silver to 5s. 2d. perounce, which certainly was in itself a proposal for a depreciation of the currency. The hon. member for the Tower Hamlets had, amongst other reasons for opposing this Motion, said, that he could not consent to the appointment of a Committee that was to go into such a wild and general discussion as to whether the corn-laws, the currency, the taxes, &c, were the causes of the distress of the country. Now, he (Mr. Attwood) would say, that nothing could be more wild than for Parliament to refuse 953 such an inquiry at the present moment, when distress was prevalent throughout the kingdom, and when inquiry and relief were universally demanded.
said, he should refuse his consent to the motion, and he only would do so because he had such confidence in Ministers that he believed they would do everything that was necessary in the state of the country. The hon. member for Birmingham entertained peculiar notions with respect to the currency, which might be right or not; but they deserved to be examined. His only ground, he repeated, for refusing his assent to the motion was, that Ministers had not yet had it in their power to lay before the House those remedial measures which, he doubted not, they had prepared.
§ Mr. Fielden
said, no doubt could be entertained of the fact, that great and almost unbearable distress existed in the country, and they were bound, at least, to inquire into the nature and causes of that distress. In the motion of the hon. Member, there was not a word about currency, and had it not been stated in debate, he could not have inferred that the motion involved that question at all; but were the people of England to be told, that their grievances were not to be inquired into, because it might raise a question on the currency? And were the poor distressed hand-loom weavers to rest satisfied with being told they were suffering severe distress, which could not be removed because they had to compete with power-looms? If he thought power-looms were the cause of the distress—he and his partners had nearly 1,000 of them—if it could be shown they caused the distress, he should like to see them all broken to pieces tomorrow;—but they were not the cause, for anything, calculated, like machinery, to facilitate and increase production, was a blessing to any people, if the things produced were properly distributed. It was the duty of the Legislature to cause such a distribution to be made; and if he were of opinion, that the relief of public distresses could not be effected by the Legislature, he would take his hat and walk away, and not come within the walls of St. Stephen's again. The labouring people were in deep distress—there was a cause for it, and if the King's servants could not find a remedy for it, they were not fit to fill the benches they occupied; and he would tell them that they could not fill them long. But who were they that had 954 brought the industrious people into this extreme distress? It was not the new Members of this House, but it was those who had been the legislators for years. His Majesty's Ministers, the right hon. the member for Tamworth, the right hon. the member for Essex, and others, "not right honourable said some owe." Well, not right hon. then; he was apt to make mistakes of this sort, being a new Member. His training had been at the spinning jenny and the loom, and not at the college and the courts; and he thought that he was entitled to the indulgence of the House on that account. Yes, it was from those gentlemen, who, by a longtrain of misrule, had brought on the distress, that he demanded a remedy. The hon. member for Essex told the House that there was great distress in France and on the continent of Europe, and it was vain to expect relief from it here. What! were the people of England, who produced more than was requisite to make them all well off, to be told that, because distress existed in France, and on the Continent, they were to suffer distress too? He would carry the hon. Member across the Atlantic, and refer him to a people there—a people speaking the same language, the descendants of Englishmen, too—and ask him how it was, that a common labourer there, who did not produce more than a common labourer in England—how it was that for a week's labour he could get a barrel of the best flour, weighing 196 lbs., while the English labourer could not get more than seventy-two lbs.; and why the weavers there could get three times as much flour for their labour as his poor weavers got? It was because they were heavily taxed, and the Americans were not. Yes, it was this taking away in taxes from those who labour and giving it to those who do not labour, which was the cause of this distress. And would the Reformed House, from which so much was expected, tell the people of England that the cause of their distress should not be inquired into, and that no remedy could be applied? But it was said, the distress was confined to one class. He would tell the House that it was not the labouring people only who were suffering, but those who employed them were sinking with them, amidst unprecedented and increasing production too. Those in the cotton trade had nearly trebled their production since the close of the war: in that year the consumption was 6,000 bags of cotton a-week; 955 in 1824, it was 11,000; and in 1832 it was 17,000. For manufacturing the 11,000 bags a-week, consumed in 1824 (whether it was made into fustians. 74s., calico, 72s., power loom calico, or water-twist, four leading articles in the cotton trade), the manufacturers and their workman received a less sum of money than they did for the 6,000 in 1815, and they received still less for manufacturing the 17,000 bags a-week in the year 1832. The hon. member for Essex had told the House, which was true, that money, as a mere measure of commodities, did not alter the real value of these manufactures. How came it, then, that he, who was a manufacturer, and his poor weavers, to pay taxes had now to produce three of those articles of manufacture, one of which would pay the same sum in taxes at the close of the war? How was that? Was it just? Was it reasonable? There had been no loans contracted since the war, no increase of national debt, and yet they were thus dealt with. This, then, accounted for the distress—they had three things or three dayslabour instead of one to give in payment of taxes; they had thus lost two thirds of their labour—and where was it gone to? What had become of it? What they had lost, somebody had gained. He had heard a great deal said by different persons, since he came into that House, about the protection that should be given to property, and no one had urged this more strongly than the right hon. member for Tamworth. That was what he required; he asked no more; and if the noble Lord and those who acted with him would grant that, he and his poor weavers would not complain of distress. But they were not protected; their labour, their property, was taken from them, by increased and unbearable taxation, in a threefold proportion to what it was at the close of the war; and given by the Government to fundholders, placemen, pensioners, sioecurists, and all who lived upon the taxes and fixed-money incomes—who now had three articles of manufacture for the sum that would formerly buy them but one. He asked, then, was there no remedy to be found for our distress in this Reformed House of Commons? Would they not inquire into the cause of the sufferings of the people? They had expected great benefits would result from a Reformed Parliament—they had for two or three years, waited patiently for this reform; and, if their expectations were not fulfilled, 956 if they found that justice was denied to them, he trembled for the consequences.
§ Mr. Pease
observed, that the task which they would have to impose upon the proposed Committee would be almost Herculean, and he should not feel inclined to support the motion merely on abstract principles. If the Committee were to be composed entirely of economists, of one particular sect, he should oppose it; but the cry against former Parliaments had been, that they did not represent the feelings of the country. Were the Reformed House of Commons, then, justified in refusing to go into a Committee to inquire into a subject of so much interest to their constituents? If they did refuse, the country would think, and would think justly, that there was no disposition in that House to listen to the complaints of the people in this Parliament any more than in former Parliaments. He believed that a Committee of the nature proposed would collect a mass of valuable information, and would probably bring forward some very important suggestions for the improvement of the condition of the labouring classes. He was certainly of opinion, that it would be better, if the motion were withdrawn, and put into a different shape: but he would never refuse an inquiry into those distresses, which were allowed on all hands to be great and grievous, and he feared almost overwhelming.
§ Mr. Warburton
said, that if he thought, by the observations which he was about to make, he should delay for ever so short a period the commencement of the business in the Committee upon the Irish Disturbances Bill, he should sit down immediately. The present discussion was the most desultory which he had witnessed since the opening of the present Parliament. When a motion of a similar nature had been proposed on a former occasion, during a former Administration, it had been argued against such an inquiry, that it would not lead to any practical good. On the same ground he would vote against the inquiry at present, because he not only considered that it would lead to no practical good, but that it would produce much practical evil, and would greatly augment the distress, to relieve which was its professed object. If the Motion were carried, in his opinion it would be the duty of the Administration to quit office tomorrow. The House of Commons itself was the proper Committee for inquiring into the grievances of the 957 country. If any Gentleman considered that there was any particular grievance which deserved to be inquired into, he had it in his power to state his reasons to the House, and it was then for them to grant a Committee to inquire into the particular grievance. He agreed with the hon. member for the county of Durham, that the task of such a Committee would indeed be Herculean. He thought that this House would never make itself a party to so monstrous a system of injustice as that of being instrumental in breaking all contracts entered into for the last fifteen years, merely because a similar injustice had been committed at two former periods—and because the currency value had been depreciated in 1797, and enhanced in 1819, the Reformed Parliament would not surely say, that it ought to be depreciated in 1833. The greatest injustice would be perpetrated by a change which would break contracts to an extent much larger even than the former violation of them. If the Legislature were to agree to any such proposition, then he would say, indeed, in the words of the Earl of Chatham, alluded to by an hon. Gentleman the other evening, Let "discord reign." It would, in fact, be a revolutionary measure, and would be destructive of the foundation of all property.
said, that as long as he conceived there was a prospect of the House resolving itself into a Committee on the Irish Bill, he would not interfere with the discussion; but as there appeared to be no chance of doing so that night, from the lateness of the hour, he could not reconcile it with his sense of duty to give a silent vote on the question before the House. That question resolved itself into this—would the Government, or would they not, allow the appointment of a Special Committee to inquire into the distress of the country? That was the single question before the House, and, he would say, was the sole prevailing motive which induced the people to insist on a Reform of Parliament. They were now most anxious that such an inquiry should be instituted, and that without delay; and if there were no other reason for falling in with the wishes of the people than that the concession would give them satisfaction, that surely was reason enough. Did the Government deny that distress existed? If so, inquiry would, in their estimation at least, be beneficial. Did they decline to make the denial? No; whence, then, the opposition 958 to inquiry? They could not deny that great distress existed throughout the country. It was an admitted fact, that a great deal too much distress was to be found in England, while Ireland, it was certain, was overwhelmed with it. A complete case for inquiry had been made out; and what was the ground for opposing the inquiry? That, forsooth, it would be useless—that it was inexpedient—that it would produce mischief. But why would inquiry produce mischief? Because it would generate delusive hopes. Indeed! But would the absence of inquiry tend to discourage the growth of delusive hopes? Inquiry would surely rather have a contrary tendency, and that would be, to display the delusive character of those expectations, and thus to destroy them. His opinion was, that the Representatives of the people would neglect their duty if they refused to institute an inquiry into the distress of the country, in order to ascertain what could be done to lessen, to mitigate, or to remedy it. He could not help thinking that his hon. friend, the member for Bridport, in the view he had taken of the question, had stated but half the case. The contracts to which he had alluded existed during a period of the greatest depreciation of the currency, and in Ireland more mischief had been done by enhancing the currency than could have been effected by any social revolution. That enhancement had, in fact, made Ireland a debtor country. One of the great evils of Ireland was, that so many of the landed proprietors resided out of the country. The tenants with whom they had made contracts were, by the change of the currency, actually paying fifty percent, more than they bargained to pay, and they could get no relief. He knew seveial cases of extreme hardship in this respect, which were all to be traced to the enhancement of the value of the currency. The great thing was to put labour in motion; to increase the generator of labour. Now, they would do that, if they extended the currency so as to reach labour in all its various and minute branches. If a backwoodsman in America were to determine not to cut down a tree except with an axe of gold, he would be treated as a madman, because he was enhancing the value of the generator of labour. But by enhancing the value of the currency in this country, they had enhanced the value of the generator of labour. Whatever might be thought upon that subject, however, an inquiry ought to be instituted 959 into it, to ascertain the balance of good or evil which might result from any change. At a time when the empire was in such great distress, when one limb of it was convulsed, and desolation and poverty stalked through the land, was it not the most sacred duty of a Reformed Parliament to inquire into the practicability of remedying evils so deplorable? He was proud of a Reformed Parliament which had acquired the hon. member for Oldham (Mr. Fielden) one of a class of sufferers which he so well knew how to describe. That was a most useful class: and it was one of the proudest boasts of the country, that from that labouring class a man might raise himself to the highest station in society. The Representative of that valuable class, the presence of that hon. Member, ought to be an additional motive to the House for appointing the proposed Committee, in order that he might have an opportunity of explaining his views, and that the Committee might refute him if he were in error, or concur with him if his opinions should appear to be just.
§ Mr. Harvey
wished to say a few words, in order that the vote which he was about to give might not be mistaken. To oppose a motion which had, for its object, an inquiry into the distress of the labouring classes, carried with it the appearance of disregarding what every man must feel was a subject entitled to the most serious attention. But the hon. member for Birmingham ought to have brought forward his Motion under more favourable circumstances. It was not just thus to place Members in a false position. No one but the hon. Member himself could have anticipated this sudden introduction of one of the largest questions to which the attention of Parliament could be directed, and on which every one ought to prepare his mind before he took apart in its consideration. He opposed the Motion because its effect would be, to shift the responsibility from the shoulders of his Majesty's Government. No man was more sensible than he was of the depth of the general distress, and of the necessity of adopting some means for its relief. But while all agreed on that point, no one could doubt the mode in which the relief should be afforded. The evil was the magnitude, and still more the unequal character, of the taxation of the country. He should be sorry, therefore, to acquiesce in a Motion, which would divert from his Majesty's Government their responsibility on that point. He wished 960 first to see the noble Lord's budget, and to see what relief he was prepared to afford, both by the remission of taxation and by the introduction of changes into that which remained. For, he repeated, it was not more the burthen than the inequality of taxation which was oppressive. After the taxes which bore partially had been modified, and after the most rigid economy had been enforced in every minute department of the public expenditure, then further relief must be obtained by the remission of taxes bearing on industry, and the substitution of a well-graduated Property-tax. As to the question of the currency, that was the greatest fallacy conceivable. There was plenty of money in the country; all that was wanted was a mode of applying it. The worst of it was, that the money was in heaps and masses. There was but little scattered over the country; but it had been drifted, as if by accident, into large shoals. The way to disperse it, was, to make those contribute the most by taxation who were possessed of the greatest means to do so.
§ Mr. Robinson
said, that of all the arguments against the Motion, that of the hon. member for Bridport, seemed to him to be the most extraordinary—namely, that if the House consented to go into the inquiry, his Majesty's Government would be bound to abandon their places. That was an extraordinary argument indeed, to be used by an independent Member of the House of Commons. The appointment of the proposed Committee had been opposed by the same line of argument which had been urged on all former occasions of a similar nature. The inquiry was always too general, or too particular. Some said, that there was no definite object; others that there was a definite object, but that it was an erroneous one. In the present state of the public mind, it would be a great misfortune if the House refused to agree to the Motion of the hon. member for Birmingham. For that Motion he should certainly vote; not that he bound himself to adopt that hon. Member's particular opinions, but on the ground that there was great distress, and that the causes of that distress ought to be investigated.
§ Mr. Tooke
Intending to vote in favour of the Committee as on an abstract proposition, I would wish to guard my vote by stating that I differ entirely from the avowed collateral and ulterior motives of the hon. Mover. I know, however, that distress exists; I believe that the people of 961 England expect from us an inquiry into the cause of it; I am sure they are entitled to that inquiry, and having perfect confidence in their good sense, I feel assured that they will be satisfied with a well conducted investigation, and an honest report of the result.
§ The House divided—Ayes 158; Noes 192: Majority 34.
|List of the NOES.|
|Abercromby, Hon. J.||Gladstone, W. E.|
|Adam, Admiral||Gore, M.|
|Althorp, Viscount||Graham, Sir J. R.|
|Anson, Sir G.||Grant, Right Hon. C.|
|Atherley, A.||Grant, Right Hon. R.|
|Bannerman, A.||Grey, Hon. Colonel|
|Baring, A.||Gronow, Capt. R. H.|
|Baring, F.||Grote, G.|
|Baring, F. T.||Haise, J.|
|Barnard, E. G.||Handley, W. F.|
|Beaumont, T. W.||Harvey, D. W.|
|Benett, J.||Hawes, B.|
|Bernal, R.||Heathcote, J.|
|Brougham, W.||Heron, Sir R.|
|Brougham, J.||Hemes, Rt. Hn. J. C.|
|Browne, D.||Hill, Lord A.|
|Bulwer, E. L.||Hill, Lord M.|
|Bulteel, J. C.||Hobhouse, Sir J. C.|
|Burdett, Sir F.||Home, Sir W.|
|Burton, H.||Howard, Hon. F. G.|
|Buxton, T. F.||Ingestre, Lord|
|Campbell, Sir J.||Johnston, A.|
|Carter, J. B.||Johnstone, Sir I. V.|
|Chapman, M. L.||Keane, Sir R.|
|Chaytor, Sir W.||Kennedy, T. F.|
|Chetwynd, Capt. W. F.||King, Bolton|
|Chichester, Lord A.||Lamb, Hon. G.|
|Clements, Lord||Lamont, N.|
|Clive, E. B.||Lemon, Sir C.|
|Clive, Viscount||Littleton, E. J.|
|Clive, Hon. R. H.||Loch, J.|
|Codrington, Sir E.||Lushington, Dr. S.|
|Curteis, H.||Maberly, Col. W. L.|
|Curteis, H. B.||Martin, J.|
|Dalrymple, Sir J. H.||Martin, J.|
|Dashwood, G. H.||Marsland, T.|
|Davies, Lieut.-Col.||Maxwell, J. W.|
|Divett, E.||Mildmay, P. St. J.|
|Donkin, Sir R. S.||Milton, Viscount|
|Dundas, Capt. D.||Morrison, J.|
|Dundas, Hon. J. C.||Morpeth, Viscount|
|Eastnor, Viscount||Mullins, F. W.|
|Elliot, Hon. Captain||Murray, J. A.|
|Evans, W.||Nicholl, J.|
|Evans, G.||O'Callaghan, Hon. C.|
|Ewart, W.||Oliphant, L.|
|Fazakerley, J. N.||Ord, W. H.|
|Ferguson, Gen. Sir R.||Ormelie, Earl of|
|Fitzgibbon, Hon. R.||Oswald, J.|
|Fleming, Admiral||Palmerston, Viscount|
|Forester, Hon. G. C. W.||Peel, Rt. Hon. Sir R.|
|Forster, C. S.||Pelham, Hn. C. A. W.|
|Foulkes, Sir M.||Pendarves, E. W.|
|Gaskell, J. M.||Perrin, L.|
|Gisborne, T.||Petre, Hon. E.|
|Peter, W.||Stewart, Sir M. S.|
|Philips, M.||Stewart, E.|
|Pinney, W.||Stewart, R.|
|Ponsonby, Hon. W.||Strutt, E.|
|Potter, R.||Tennent, J. E.|
|Poulter, J.||Thomson, Rt. Hn. C. P.|
|Ricardo, D.||Todd, R.|
|Rice, Hon. T. S.||Verney, Sir H.|
|Ridley, Sir M. W.||Vernon, G. J.|
|Rider, T.||Villiers, Viscount|
|Robarts, A. W.||Walter, J.|
|Rolfe, R. M.||Warburton, H.|
|Romilly, E.||Ward, H. G.|
|Romilly, J.||Wedgwood, T.|
|Russell, Rt. Hn. Ld. J.||Weyland, R.|
|Russell, Lord C.||Whitbread, W. H.|
|Sandon, Viscount||Whitmore, W. W.|
|Scott, E. D.||Willoughby, Sir H.|
|Sheil, R. L.||Wood, G. W.|
|Sheppard, T.||Wood, C.|
|Smith, J. A.||Wrottesley, Sir J.|
|Smith, Hon. R. S.||Wynn, Rt. Hn. C. W.|
|Smith, R. V.||Wyndham, Wadham.|
|Spencer, Hon. F.|
|Stanley, Rt. Hn. E. G.||TELLER.|
|Staunton, Sir G.||Duncannon|
|List of the AYES.|
|Aglionby, H. A.||Feilden, W.|
|Astley, Sir J.||Fellowes, Hon. N.|
|Attwood, M.||Fenton, J.|
|Attwood, T.||Fenton, Captain L.|
|Bainbridge, E. T.||Fryer, R.|
|Beauclerk, Major A.||Guest, J. J.|
|Berkeley, Hon. C. F.||Guise, Sir B. W.|
|Bewes, T.||Gully, J.|
|Biddulph, R. M.||Hall, B.|
|Bish, T.||Handley, H.|
|Blackstone, W. S.||Harland, W. C.|
|Blake, Sir F.||Herbert, Hon. S.|
|Brigstrick, W. P.||Hodges, T. L.|
|Briggs, R.||Hoskins, K.|
|Briscoe, J. I.||Hoy, J. B.|
|Brocklehurst, I.||Hume, J.|
|Brodie, Captain||Hyett, W. H.|
|Bruce, Lord E.||Ingham, R.|
|Bulkeley, Sir R. W.||James, W.|
|Calvert, N.||Kemp, T.|
|Cayley, Sir G.||Knatchbull, Sir E.|
|Cayley, E. S.||Lister, C.|
|Chandos, Marquess of||Locke, W.|
|Chaplin, Colonel T.||Lygon, Hon. Col. H. B.|
|Chichester, J. P. B.||Mills, J.|
|Clayton, Col. W. R.||Norreys, Lord|
|Cobbett, W.||Palmer, R.|
|Collier, J.||Parker, J.|
|Cookes, T. H.||Parker, Sir H.|
|Dare, It. W. R.||Parrott, J.|
|Darlington, Earl of||Pease, J.|
|Davenport, J.||Pigot, R.|
|Dawson, E. S.||Plumptre, J. P.|
|Dilwyn, L. W.||Pry me, G.|
|Duncombe, Hon. W.||Rickford, W.|
|Egerton, W. T.||Rippon, C.|
|Etwall, R.||Robinson, G. R.|
|Faithfull, G.||Russell, C.|
|Sanford, E. A.||Oswald, R. A.|
|Scholefield, J.||Ross, H.|
|Scott, J. W.||Sharpe, General M.|
|Seale, J. H.||Sinclair, G.|
|Shawe, R. N.||Wallace, R.|
|Simeon, Sir R.|
|Skipwith, Sir G.||IRELAND.|
|Staveley, J. K.||Baldwin, H.|
|Tooke, W.||Barron, W.|
|Torrens, Colonel||Bateson, Sir R.|
|Townley, R. G.||Bellew, R. M.|
|Trelawney, W. L. S.||Butler, Hon. P.|
|Trevor, Hon. R.||Dobbs, C. R.|
|Turner, W.||Ferguson, Sir R. A.|
|Tynte, C. J. K.||Finn, W. F.|
|Tyrell, Sir J. T.||Fitzgerald, T.|
|Walker, R.||Fitzsimon, N.|
|Wason, R.||Gal way, J. M.|
|Watkins, L. V.||Hayes, Sir E.|
|Watson, Hon. R.||Lalor, P.|
|Welby, G. E.||Lambert, H.|
|Wigney, J. N.||Macnamara, Major|
|Wilks, J.||Martin, T.|
|Williams, Col. G.||Nagle, Sir R.|
|Wilmot, Sir J. E.||O'Brien, C.|
|Windham, W. H.||O'Connell, D.|
|Winnington, Sir T.||O'Connell, M.|
|Yorke, Captain C. P.||O'Connell, C.|
|Young, G. T.||O'Connell, J.|
|Arbuthnot, General||O'Connor, F.|
|Colquhoun, J. C.||O'Dwyer, A. C.|
|Dunlop, Captain J.||Perceval, Colonel|
|Ewing, J.||Roche, W.|
|Ferguson, Captain||Roche, D.|
|Gillon, W. D.||Ruthven, E. S.|
|Gordon, Captain W.||Ruthven, E.|
|Halliburton, Hon. D.||Stewart, Sir H.|
|Hay, Sir J.||Talbot, 3. H.|
|Hay, Colonel L.||Talbot, J.|
|Maxwell, Sir J.||Vigors, N. A.|
|Maxwell, J.||Walker, C. A.|