§ Mr. Cobbett
spoke to the following effect*—Mr. Speaker, in rising to make the Motion of which I have given notice, I will trouble the House with neither apologies nor professions: I make the Motion because I have a right to do it, and because I choose to exercise that right; and, with regard to my motives, I leave them to be gathered from the tenor and the tendency of the Resolution which I am about to propose. It appears to me, that the best and most convenient way of proceeding will be, first, to read the Resolution throughout; because hon. Members will thereby be put in full possession, not only of what I am about to propose to the House to adopt, but of the grounds of the proposition which I have to make; and, when in possession of these, they will be the better able to judge of the soundness or unsoundness of those arguments which it will be my duty to produce in support of the Resolution itself. The hon. Member accordingly read the following Resolution:—Resolved: That, according to the laws and customs of this kingdom, the King, our Sovereign Lord, can do no wrong to the whole, to any part, or to any one of his subjects; that, however, effectually to guard against wrong being in his Majesty's name, and under his authority done to his subjects with impunity, the same laws and customs, which have, as our birthright, descended to us from our just and wise forefathers, make all and every one, acting in that name and under that authority, fully and really responsible to the good people of this kingdom, for every wrong done unto them by any and every person invested with such authority, and that in virtue of such responsibility, the wrong-doing party is subject to such censures, pains, and penalties, as in virtue of the said laws and customs, the several tribunals of the kingdom have in all ages been wont to inflict; that, if this responsibility were not real and practical, we should be living under not only a despotism, but an avowed despotism, for the King being incapable of wrong-doing, and his servants being responsible merely in name and form, and not in practice, they also could do no wrong, and then the people of this renowned kingdom, the cradle of true liberty, would be the most wretched slaves ever yet heard of under the sun; that, in cases where the wrong-doing is committed by inferior functionaries, or is, in its effects, confined to individuals, or to small numbers of sufferers, the* Reprinted from the corrected Report published by Mr. Cobbett.1278ordinary courts of justice have usually been deemed competent to afford redress to the injured; but that, when the wrong is the act of a Minister of State, sworn to advise the King for the good of his people, when that Minister of State receives as a reward for his fidelity and skill large sums of the people's money, and when the wrong by him done is, in its effects, so deeply and so generally mischievous, as to send ruin and misery to sweep over the kingdom like the pestilence, then there is, for the purpose of yielding justice to the suffering millions, no power competent but that which is possessed by their faithful Representatives assembled in this House.That, in the year 1819, there had long been and then was, in virtue of divers Acts of Parliament theretofore passed, a paper-money in circulation throughout this kingdom, which paper-money was, in effect, a legal tender in payment of all private debts, as well as in the payment of taxes; that this paper-money, descending so low as to notes of one pound, had been the almost only circulating money of the country, from the month of February, 1797, that is to say, for the space of twenty-one years; that this paper-money soon became depreciated to so great an extent, that the prices of commodities had, during the said twenty-one years, risen on an average of years and of commodities, to about double the amount of the prices at which the same commodities were usually sold before the issue of the said legal-tender paper-money; that the depreciation of the money was so notorious and so amply avowed in Parliament, that divers Acts were passed, during the said twenty-one years, to raise the allowances to the royal family, the salaries of the Judges of the police Magistrates, of the army, of the navy, and of almost every one in public employ, for the purpose of counteracting the effect of this very great depreciation; that, during the said twenty-one years next preceding 1819, all mortgages, rent-charges, leases, settlements, annuities, bonds, and other contracts for time, together with all wills and testaments, had been agreed on, settled, and made, on the basis of this depreciated money; and that, during the said twenty-one years, about 500,000,000l. of the public debt had been contracted in the said depreciated paper-money; that, therefore, to pass an Act compelling the debtor parties to make good these contracts for time, to the very letter, in sterling gold, must be, in fact, an act of confiscation against, and a sentence of ruin pronounced upon these parties; while, with regard to the people at large, such Act must, in reality, nearly double the amount of the public debt, nearly double the amount of all the above-mentioned augmented salaries and public pay, and, of course, nearly double the real amount of the taxes.That, notwithstanding these premises and conclusions, so indubitably true, and so clear to the understanding of every man of common sense, the right hon. Robert Peel, then one of 1279 his Majesty's most honourable Privy Council, did, in the said year 1819, bring into the then House of Commons, and procure to be passed by that House, a Bill to put an end to the legal-tender paper-money, which Bill, unaccompanied as it was with any measure for the revision and rectifying of private contracts, and for the adjustment of public engagements, was a Bill inevitably tending to produce that injustice, that confiscation, and that ruin, hereinbefore described.That this Act, which received the royal assent on the 2nd July, 1819, though it provided for what was called the gradual resumption of gold-payments, began at once to plunge the whole community into pecuniary confusion; that the prices of all commodities, and of all property, moveable, or immoveable, began instantly to fall prodigiously in price; that mortgaged estates were, in thousands upon thousands of instances, taken from the owners and sold, in many cases, for less than the amount of the mortgages; that, in other cases, fixed charges upon estates swallowed up the whole of the rental; while, with regard to leases, bonds, annuities, and other contracts for time, and, above all things, with regard to property dropping in to be disposed of by will, the demon of injustice seemed to have been, by this destructive Act, let loose upon the kingdom, setting landlords and tenants, creditors and debtors, brothers and sisters, parents and children, to tear each other to pieces, bringing down hundreds of thousands of families from a state of competence and ease, and many from a state of opulence, to a state of utter ruin and beggary, while all those who were living on the taxes, and who were in fact receiving double pay, were rolling in wealth, and lording it over the rest of the community; and that, of all these dreadful effects of such a measure, the said right hon. Robert Peel had been duly warned even before he brought in the said fatal Bill.That, by the said Act, gold payments were to be completely resumed, and the one-pound notes were to be wholly abolished, in the month of May, 1823; but, that so terrible were the effects of the aforesaid Act, such were the ruin and misery that it had produced, that, on the 22nd July, 1822, another Bill was, by the then advisers of his Majesty (of whom the said right hon. Robert Peel was one), brought into the then House of Commons, and was afterwards passed into a law, postponing the abolition of the one-pound notes for eleven years longer; that an important part of the Act of 1819 was thus repealed; that an acknowledgment was thus virtually made by an Act of the House itself, that it had, principally by the said right hon. Robert Peel, been induced to act unwisely, and to do great wrong to the people by the said Act of 1819.That, if the Act of 1822 had been wise, if it had put a stop to the wrong done and still doing by the Act of 1819, it came very tardily, 1280 it waited till prodigious ruin had been effected; but, that this Act of 1822, while it postponed the abolition of the one-pound notes for eleven years, left the gold payment part of the Act of 1819 in full force: so that, while the issuers of paper-money were thus invited and encouraged to inundate the country with one-pound notes, they and the holders of their notes were left exposed to constant, and, first, or last, certain ruin; that this ruin (of which the said right hon. Robert Peel and his colleagues were duly warned) was not slow in making its appearance; than towards the close of the year 1825, the bubble, thus created by the law itself, began to burst, and that, before the end of January, 1826, 100 banks had stopped, not having gold wherewith to pay their notes, the whole kingdom being thereby plunged into alarm and confusion, thousands upon thousands of families (descending to the very artizans and labourers) being brought down to beggary; and, such being the state into which the country had been brought, that the Ministers themselves declared, in Parliament, that at one time, the country had actually been within forty-eight hours of barter, that is to say, destitute of all measure of value, and in a state of utter confusion and anarchy.That, with all this sad experience of the effects of his measures, the said right hon. Robert Peel (still one of his Majesty's most honourable Privy Council, and then become one of his Majesty's principal Secretaries of State) gave his sanction to a Bill (which became an Act on the 22nd March, 1826) for again abolishing the one-pound notes at the end of three years, notwithstanding the postponement of such abolition, provided for in the Act of 1822; that, by this Act of 1826, the nation was again plunged back into the low prices, and, in effect, double taxes, produced by the unjust Act of 1819; that the ruin and misery of all the industrious classes, and the wealth and luxury of those who live on the taxes, have gone on increasing from that day to this; and that, at this moment, there appears to be no human being able to discover any quiet way of extricating the kingdom from its present state of unparalleled difficulty and danger.That, contemplating these mighty calamities, thus heaped on his Majesty's industrious and dutiful people, and further contemplating the probable danger there from to be apprehended to the safety of his Majesty's authority and Throne, and clearly tracing a great part of these to the want of knowledge in the right hon. Sir Robert Peel, this House, reserving to itself the right of adopting further and other proceedings in the premises, deems itself bound, in duty to his Majesty and from an anxious regard to the well-being of his people, not to leave them again exposed to calamities and dangers proceeding from the same source; and that, therefore, this House will present a loyal and dutiful address to his Majesty, pray- 1281 ing that his Majesty will be graciously pleased to dismiss the right hon. Sir Robert Peel from his Majesty's most honourable Privy Council.
§ The Speaker
said, before the House proceeded to consider the question, it would be as well to ascertain from the hon. member for Oldham, whether what he bad read was a part of his speech, or a Motion [Mr. Cobbett: A Motion]. If the paper which the hon. Member had read was a part of his speech, it was proper to state, that it was unusual in that House to read a speech; if it were a Motion, then perhaps the hon. Member would address the House, in order to show how it could be regularly received.
§ Mr. Cobbett
said, the paper which he had read was entitled a Resolution. It began, "Resolved," and went on as a Resolution to the end.
§ The Speaker
said, if it was a Resolution, or a string of Resolutions, he had only to inform the hon. Member, that it was customary to place on the Journals of the House Resolutions or Motions; but it would be extremely inconvenient to place on these Journals elaborate arguments or pamphlets.
§ Mr. Cobbett
admitted, that the Resolutions were long; but he was at the same time sure, that he had seen Resolutions equally long which had been moved in that House, and placed on the Journals. The House, however, might dispose of the question as it thought fit; but he would proceed, in the mean time, to show, that the Resolutions were founded in justice and reason. The hon. Member proceeded as follows:—Much has been said about Ministerial responsibility; but, for my part, I have never seen anything like real responsibility demanded of any Minister. Responsibility does not mean being-laughed at, or scolded, by the Members of this House. It means liability to punishment of some sort; and the least of those punishments is that of being publicly censured or reproved by some public authority. In common life it means liability to suffer in person or in purse; and not, to use the word ignorance as applicable to the right hon. Baronet, men are made to suffer, and justly made to suffer, for injuries arising from their want of knowledge in matters which they undertake to perform. If, for instance, a person profess to be a surgeon, and you experience injury from his want of knowledge of his profession, you 1282 have your action of damages against him; though it may clearly appear that his intention was good. It is not of bad intention that I accuse the hon. Baronet, for I know nothing about his intentions; but, bad intention is not necessary to be proved in the case of the surgeon; it is only necessary to show, that he has done injury from want of knowledge in his profession. Just so ought it to be in the present case: the censure of this House ought to be inflicted, not only on account of the wrong that has been done; but also, in order to prevent like wrong being done in future from a similar cause. I am sorry that the First Lord of the Admiralty is not now in his place; because I counted on his zealous and able support upon this occasion. That right hon. Gentleman, in his place in Parliament, in 1829, frankly confessed, that he had been led astray in the case of the Bill of 1819, by the doctrines of Mr. Ricardo; that he repented him of what he had done in supporting that Bill; and that that Bill was making us pay in gold a debt contracted in a depreciated paper. The hon. member for Knaresborough told us, the other night, that Mr. Ricardo had lived to repent of his error. I hope, that this repentance was deep and sincere; for, as a political sin, his was the greatest ever committed by mortal man. An hon. Baronet (the member for Kent) made grievous complaints the other night about the distress of the landed interest; but that hon. Baronet supported the Measure which had caused that distress, not seeing that it would convey the lands from the then proprietors to the hands of the Jews and usurers. I now proceed to show how the Bill has worked in ruining landlords and farmers, and in the starving of labourers. First, I shall state how it reduced the price of wheat. The price of wheat for the twenty-one years preceding 1819, was 11s. 8d. a bushel; in 1818, 9s. 7½d.; in 1819, 8s. 7½d.; in 1820, 7s. 6½d.; in 1821, 6s. 7d.; in 1822, 5s. 1½d. But wheat is the thing that falls slowest; it is so absolutely an immediate necessary of life, that the owner is able to keep up its price longer than any other article of farm produce. The price of cattle of all sorts: fell much more in proportion than wheat did in price. But, let us take the article of English wool, of which the following has been the progress downwards in price. The price of South Down Wool; from 1283 1797 to 1819, was 2s. 11½. per lb.; from 1819 to 1826, 11d.; from 1826 to 1833, 9d. What, then, must the effects of this Bill have been upon the farmer, the landlord, and the labourer? In many parts of the country the amount of the wool used to be sufficient to pay the rent of the farm. How are farmers to pay their rent now, and without that rent, how are the landlords to pay the interest of the mortgage on their estates? The consequences have been such, that the land has passed away from its owners in innumerable cases; and, though I verily believe there are many landlords in the House who have lost more than the half of their estates by this Bill, yet I also believe, though they know that every word of this Resolution is true, not one of them will vote for it. Not only has agriculture suffered by these proceedings; manufactures have suffered the same fate. Let us take iron for instance. The price of iron (British pig), from 1797 to 1819, was 8l. per ton; from 1819 to 1826, 5l.; from 1826 to 1833, 2l. 15s. The ironmaster had the same rent to pay; if he had mortgages, the same amount of interest; and every one must see, that such a process must bring him down to ruin; and this is what ought to have been foreseen by the right hon. Baronet. Nor were the effects confined to the King's European dominions. I was surprised to hear the right hon. Gentleman (the Secretary for the Colonies) assert, the other night, that the pecuniary distress of the West-Indians had arisen from their having produced too much sugar of late years; that it was over-production, and not the agitation of the slave question. If the right hon. Gentleman were to go to Prestos, he would find, that the greater part of those naughty pretty girls, whom he and I so well remember, are now, for the greater part, become wives; and he would find them, ill too many cases, obliged to drink their tea without sugar: let him go and tell them, that the West-Indians bring too much sugar to England, and that that is the cause of their ruin. I was in hopes, that this strange notion was buried in the grave with the late Lord Liverpool, who, at the very moment when hundreds and thousands of the Irish were starving; at that very moment, when we were called upon to subscribe to send them oatmeal and potatoes, declared, in the most positive manner, that the distress arose from the 1284 over-production of food in both countries. Before the right hon. Gentleman again ascribes distress to over-production, I beseech him to attend to the progress of prices in coffee and sugar, from the time of passing the fatal Bill of 1819; which prices are as follows:—Coffee from 1797 to 1819, 147s. per cwt.; from 1819 to 1826, 90s.; from 1826 to 1833, 53s.—Sugar, from 1797 to 1819, 82s.; from 1819 to 1826, 26s.: from 1826 to 1833, 22s. There have been failures of late to the amount of 10,000,000l. in India. People wonder what is come over the East Indies: thousands upon thousands of East Indian families are in a state of the deepest distress, indigo and saltpetre are the two great articles of produce in the East Indies. The progess of the prices of these downwards, in consequence of the Bill of 1819, will account for the ruin and bankruptcies in that country. The price of Indigo, from 1797 to 1819 was 7s. 3d. per lb.; from 1819 to 1826 5s. 11d.; from 1826 to 1833 4s. 11d.; present price, 4s. 3½d.; and none of low-quality now is produced, as there was ten years ago. Saltpetre, from 1797 to 1819, was 65s. per cwt; from 1819 to 1826 23s.; from 1826 to 1833, 28s. Such are amongst the consequences of this first-mentioned Bill; and for these consequences the right hon. Baronet is answerable. Others were to blame as much or more than he; Mr. Huskisson, Mr. Tierney, and Mr. Ricardo; but it was the right hon. Baronet who brought in the Bill, and what is more, he is now here himself. Had he been nothing more than a mere Member of Parliament, that would have been another thing; but he was the author of the Bill by which this great and mighty mischief was done. He was, too, a Privy Councillor at the time. What mere Members of Parliament said upon the subject amounted to nothing. The hon. member for Hertfordshire, for instance, said, upon the introduction of the Bill, that, "if ever there was a moment of his (Mr. Peel's) life, in which he was most unquestionably and most eminently entitled to the gratitude of his country, it was the present one." One of three courses must he taken by the right hon. Baronet: he must contend, that it was right to do all this enormous mischief; that it was right to bring down to ruin so many I hundreds of thousands of families; or that he is not answerable for it seeing that it was done by the Parliament; or that no such consequences were produced by the 1285 Bill. The first two he will surely reject; and as to the latter, I shall be very curious to hear what facts and what arguments he has to bring forward to produce conviction in the mind of this House. Want of foresight would be the best defence; and then he would have to account for his conduct in rejecting the warnings repeatedly given him by the hon. member for Whitehaven and the hon. member for Birmingham, also by the present right hon. Secretary-at-War, and by the Bank Directors themselves. The best way of proceeding, however, would be to imitate the right hon. Baronet, the First Lord of the Admiralty, confess his error, as he himself had most laudably done in the case of Catholic Emancipation, and other cases, especially that striking case, the voting for the resolution of Mr. Vansittart in 1811, declaring a one-pound note and a shilling to be equal in value to a guinea in gold. Having so laudably and so successfully recanted upon these occasions, why not do the same now; and instead of being angry at this Motion being made, call upon the House to adopt it, and vote for it himself? This would be the best way; and to something very much like this, he must come, at last, what-ever may be the decision of to-night. But it is not the Bill of 1819 alone of which this Resolution speaks. There is the Bill of 1822 to be answered for. In 1822 the Government, of which the right hon. Baronet was a member, introduced a Bill for the purpose of lowering the value of money, and raising the price of commodities. Every one knows what had followed from the passing of that Bill. The noble Lord, the Chancellor of the Exchequer (Lord Althorp), stated the other night, when opposing the Motion of the hon. member for Whitehaven (Mr. Attwood), that he should not deem himself an honest man if he voted for that Motion. Now I ask the noble Lord in what the measure ascribed to the hon. member for Whitehaven differed from that which passed in 1822? The two measures were precisely the same in principle. But there was something flagitious in the conduct of the Government in 1822 with respect to the country bankers. They were then invited to London; they were urged to put out their one-pound notes; they were given to understand that they were to be allowed to issue those notes for eleven years; but when the proceedings then adopted had placed the country in a more dangerous state—when Ministers were compelled to come down to that House and 1286 confess that they had brought the country to within forty-eight hours of a state of barter—the pledge given to the country bankers was broken, and Parliament passed the Act of 1826; which I have always declared, and still declare, was the most unjust measure ever adopted by any assembly in the world, except the acts passed against those who petitioned that House for Parliamentary Reform. The compact, the solemn compact, entered into with the country bankers was, that they should issue their one-pound notes for eleven years; but in 1826 the right hon. Baronet came down to that House and advised it to put an end to the issue of country one-pound notes. The measure of 1826 brought down 100 country bankers to actual bankruptcy, and it half ruined at least 500 more. After this they may talk as they will of the faith of Parliament and national faith. Why was not faith kept, I ask, with the country bankers? But this was not the worst breach of faith. The great breach of faith was the return to low prices under the continuance of high taxes. I believe, that the right hon. Baronet was ignorant of the effects which his measure would produce; but, as the plea of ignorance would not save a mischief-doing surgeon, why is it to save a mischief-doing Minister? In the Resolution, however, I have not made use of the word ignorance; but of the phrase, "want of knowledge," and that is, of course, confined to knowledge applicable to the great matters in question. As to other matters, I pretend not that he is destitute of a want of knowledge. In all other sciences he may, for aught I know, excel all the rest of mankind. In one science, that of prosody, for instance, it appears that he greatly excels; for, I understand, that, the other night, after I had left the House, he told the House, that I ought to have pronounced the word rescind with i short, instead of i long. I most willingly acknowledge the right hon. Baronet's superior knowledge in this science; but it is not with regard to the measure of sounds of letters that I accuse the right hon. Baronet with want of knowledge; it is of the measure of value, of which I accuse him of that want; and of that want, there is not a man who hears me, who is not convinced in his heart that he ought to be accused. [At this moment Sir James Graham took his seat on the Treasury Bench]. I am glad to perceive that the First Lord of the Admiralty has returned; for now I am sure that I shall 1287 have one vote, at any rate. The right hon. Baronet, in a very elaborate performance, had insisted upon the justice of taking thirty per cent from the interest of the fund holders; and he justified the proposition upon the ground, that the Bill of 1819 had given to the fund holders thirty per cent more than they ought to receive. He had voted for the Bill of 1819, misled by the high authority, of Oracle Ricardo; he had made the amende honorable; but to make it complete, he must vote for this Resolution. There is another person, too, who must not be forgotten upon this occasion; namely, the present First Lord of the Treasury, who had declared in his place in Parliament, twenty times over, that all the great difficulties of the country arose from the Bill of 1819 having compelled the people to pay in sterling gold a debt contracted in depreciated paper. Well, the noble Lord has now the power to cause justice to be done; and why does he not cause justice to be done? It has been said by the right hon. Baronet himself, that there had been great distress as to the changes in the value of money before 1819; and who has ever denied it? The Secretary for the Colonies has said, with an air of triumph, against the poor West Indians, that their distress was stated to exist so far back as 1804. The right hon. Secretary was then a very little boy; if he had been a man then, he would have known that that distress arose from a cause precisely similar to that which is now in operation. The peace of Amiens had been made; and the Bank of England had, agreeably to the then law, been preparing for a return to cash payments. There was always a state of uncertainty, during peace, as to the time when the Bank would be called upon to pay in gold; and, of course, there were frequent fluctuations in the value of money; but this was all well known in 1819; the right hon. Baronet had had the experience of all this; and, therefore, these were so many beacons for him to shun, instead of examples for him to follow. In 1810 and 1811, in the midst of war and of loans, it was proposed by Mr. Huskisson and a Committee of that House, that the Bank should be compelled to pay in gold at the end of two years. Out of Bedlam such a proposition never was made before; yet, even the authors of that proposition, have, in this House, been extolled to the skies. The next defence is, as I gather from the debate on the proposition of the hon. member for Whitehaven, that it was necessary to do 1288 something in 1819; that it was necessary no longer to suffer the currency of the country to be in its then degraded and uncertain state. Whoever denied that? Not I at any rate. Every man that I conversed with at the time wished for a return to the ancient standard of value. But does it follow that it was necessary that it should be done in that unjust and wicked or foolish manner in which it was done? If there be a mortification in a man's foot which, if left alone, will certainly kill him in time, does it follow that it is right to cut off his head, in order to put a stop to the effects of mortification? And, did no one point out the proper and just thing to do? Was there nothing pointed out but the lowering of the standard or a depreciated paper-money? Had the right hon. Baronet no choice, except that which lay between the little shilling and the worthless rags? Oh yes! there was something else pointed out to him; and that, too, by parties to whom he ought to have listened with the greatest attention. In the year 1817 about a million and a-half of Englishmen and Scotchmen petitioned the then House of Commons for a Parliamentary Reform. But those Reformers were not such fools as to want a Reform that was to bring them no good. They petitioned to be relieved from their burthens; for a lowering of salaries and public pay in proportion to the then rise in the value of money; they petitioned for a reduction of the interest of the debt, proportioned to the recent rise in the value of money; they petitioned against being compelled to pay in sterling gold a debt which had been contracted in depreciated paper: they complained, as the First Lord of the Admiralty and the present Prime Minister have complained, of being compelled to pay, in a high currency, debts contracted in a low currency. In justice to those men; in justice to those Reformers, chiefly belonging to the working classes, I must beg the House to suffer me to read a small part of one of their petitions, sent from Hampshire on the 10th of February, 1817:—'With regard to salaries paid out of the public money, your petitioners beg leave humbly to observe, that they have only to refer your honurable House, to your own Journals, and to the Statute Book, for the space of the last twenty years, in order to afford your honourable House ample conviction of the fact that the salaries of the Judges have been doubled, that the salaries of the Police Justices have been greatly 1289 augmented, and that a like augmentation has taken place in almost all other salaries, and in the pay and allowances of an enormous military staff establishment, and that all these augmentations have been adopted upon the express ground of the augmentation which had taken place in the price of wages, in the price of all articles of dress, in the rents of houses and land, and in the prices of all the necessaries of life; and, therefore, now that it is notorious that these latter have all been diminished in the degree of nearly one-half, your petitioners will not insult your honourable House by appearing to suppose that you will refuse their humble request, that the above-said salaries and pay may be immediately reduced in the same degree. And, as to the interest on the annuities constituting the funded debt, your petitioners, agreeing in opinion with a noble Earl of the other House of Parliament, that the currency of the country has been changed, that the taxes, which were imposed in a currency of low value, are now collected in a currency of high value, beg leave to observe also, that the far greater part of the debt, which was contracted in a low currency, is now paid an interest for, by the people, in a higher currency. Therefore your petitioners most humbly pray, that the rate of interest on the funded debt may be immediately reduced, in such a degree that the fruit of the whole productive labour of the country may no longer be swallowed up by the dealers in funds, or, to adopt the words of a petition, received by the House of Commons from the town of Leicester, at the time of the South-Sea bubble, your petitioners most humbly implore your honourable House, "that the last drop of the nation's blood may not be poured out to be licked up by the cannibals of Change Alley."' And, Sir, what was the answer that these sensible and industrious men received? There came petitions from 1,500,000 of them; and one single answer was given to them all; and that answer was, an Act of Parliament, passed by the then House of Commons, and the then House of Lords, to put them into dungeons at the pleasure of two Secretaries of State; into any dungeons in the kingdom, without their being informed of what they were put into dungeons for; and for keeping them in those dungeons as long as the Ministers should please. Ah! Sir, that is not forgotten by those men and by their children; and happy would this House be 1290 if it could be tarried back In 1817, in order that it might follow the advice of those men, instead of inflicting unjust punishment upon them! The Parliament that inflicted that punishment, is, I thank God, never to return; and it is for the present Parliament, which is, really and truly the work of their efforts, to do justice to those of them who are now alive, and to the memory of those of them who are dead. But, Sir, it is not of the past only; it is also of the present and of the future, that we have to speak, when we are talking of the effects of the want of knowledge in the right hon. Baronet. The Resolution which I have the honour to submit to the House, alleges, that, "at this moment, there appears to be no human being able to discover any quiet way of extricating the kingdom from its present state of difficulty and danger." And is there any human being able to discover such a way? Vain is the imagination of him who supposes that the evil consequences of these measures have attained their height, and can go no further. The evils are daily increasing both in number and magnitude. Look at our state, in a pecuniary point of view only: look at our constant uncertainty: look at our constant peril: a bank with a driblet of gold amounting to a million or two, with twenty millions of paper afloat: Scotland and Ireland with 1l. notes still, and with scarcely a bit of gold ever to be seen in either: fourteen millions of money, borrowed by the Government through the means of what are called Savings' Banks; the most sensitive the easiest alarmed, and the quickest in seeking safety, and all liable to be drawn out and demanded in gold in one single day. In short, it must be evident to every man living, that a run for gold may at any time plunge the whole country into confusion; and that there are many causes, any one of which might happen any day to produce such a run. Every thing, then, hangs by a mere thread; every thing worthy of the name of property has thus been placed in jeopardy by that series of measures which began in 1819. If, indeed, the sufferings which the nation has had to endure during these thirteen years had purchased for it security against further pecuniary convulsions; even then it would have been purchasing future security at a very dear rate; but this is not the case; it has only purchased us greater insecurity than ever: it has been thirteen years of suffering to purchase insecurity and peril, which are never to end until some convul- 1291 sion come to put an end to our fears by realising that which we fear. This state of things has been produced by the Bill of 1819, and its consequent measures; and if there be no responsibility on those who inflict sufferings and dangers like these on a people, then let the word responsibility be effaced from our language; or, at any rate, never let it be again pronounced in this House. Before I conclude, I must notice the effects of the Bill of 1819 upon the condition of the working people throughout the kingdom. Had the evils of this bill flown over their heads, left them unharmed, I should have given myself very little trouble about its other consequences, and should certainly not have troubled the House with the Resolution now before it; but, having witnessed the ruin and misery brought upon them, and having once heard the right hon. Baronet assert that his Bill had mended their lot by making provisions cheaper, I cannot refrain from describing the consequences of this Bill to them; so mischievous have those consequences been, that, in my estimation, they surpass, and far surpass, all its other evil consequences put together. When the right hon. Baronet was speaking upon this subject, he forgot that lowering of wages could take place as well as lowering of prices; and I will now show him, by a document as authentic as any that can exist in the world, that his Bill, while it was producing all the other evils which I have attempted to describe, was absolutely working the destruction, either of the bodies, or the morals, of the labourers in agriculture. The document to which I refer, is, "a new regulation of allowance to the poor," dated from the Grand Jury Chamber, Winchester, August 31st, 1822; and issued by the authority of Sir Thomas Baring, two other Lay Magistrates, and five other Magistrates being highly beneficed clergymen. It is signed by Mr. Woodham, of Winchester, their clerk. From this document, which I put upon record at the time, and which will now reach every part of this kingdom, it appears, that these Magistrates, 'recommended the officers of every parish to offer three shillings a-week from Michaelmas to Lady-Day to every unmarried man, and four shillings a-week from Lady Day to Michaelmas, so that he may be engaged to work the whole year; and any unmarried man refusing that offer shall not be entitled to any relief.'
1292 This "new regulation" was adopted in consequence of the Act of 1819; and, those regulations continued up to the fall of 1830, when they produced their natural effects; and, though acts of violence and revenge are in a very few cases ever to be defended; and though I, by no means, defend those acts to which I now allude, let me ask the Members of this House to look at those regulations; to look at the hale young man condemned to labour throughout the whole year for 3s. 6d. a-week, without food, without drink, without lodging, without anything but the bare 3s. 6d. A hundred and thirty-five labourers (most of them amongst the best of the county) transported, and most of them for life, leaving behind them seventy-nine wives, and upwards of 200 fatherless children: these, in Hampshire alone, we are to look at as amongst the consequences of the right hon. Baronet's Bill of 1819. I call not upon the House to ascribe any portion of this shocking result to the right hon. Baronet's intention; for it is impossible that he ever could have dreamed that such dreadful consequences could have proceeded from that Bill: what I ascribe to him is a want of that sort of knowledge which he ought to have possessed before he attempted to bring forward that measure. If, in sitting down, Sir, I cannot boast of the forbearance of the House towards me, I have no wish to complain of the contrary. I have simply done my duty, in bringing before the House a subject of greater importance than any that can be named. I have done it in a manner conformable with the practice of Parliament; and I now leave it to the House to dispose of the Resolution in any manner that it pleases.
§ Mr. John Fielden
, in rising to second the Motion of his hon. colleague, begged to claim the indulgence of the House while he stated to them his reasons for doing so. He was actuated by no feelings of personal hostility to the right hon. Baronet, who was the subject of the Motion, but felt compelled from a sense of duly to adopt the course he had done. Whatever were the opinions of this House on the Bill of 1819, and the measures subsequently connected with it, the prevailing opinion out of doors was, that it had produced misery and suffering such as were never before inflicted on any people so industrious and productive as were the people of England, His hon. colleague had stated 1293 that the taxes had been doubled since the Bill was adopted, and he (Mr. Fielden) hoped the House would have patience with him while he showed them that the scale of taxes imposed on him, and the class of manufacturers to whom he belonged, had been trebled since the year 1815—the close of the war; he had aright to complain of this. A responsibility for having done this injustice rested somewhere; and, believing, as he did, that it had been caused by a contraction of the currency, and what was called a return to cash payments, without any measure being adopted to reduce the taxes to the alteration made in the value of money by the Bill of the right hon. Baronet; he complained of the operations of that Bill; and as the right hon. Gentleman had in this Session set up a justification of his Bill, and said be would not shrink from the responsibility it involved, and as the right hon. Gentleman was still opposed to that adjustment which should have accompanied it in 1819, he had a right to complain of him. He had heard that the right hon. Baronet's father had warned him of the consequences of that Bill, and had stated to him, that if it were passed, it would double the value of his funded property, but somebody would lose it; whether the right hon. Baronet had had such a warning or not, he could not say, but such, he would endeavour to show to the House, had been its effects. He would suppose a case, that a parent, at the close of the war in 1815, had two sons, A and B, to whom he bequeathed the sum of 1,000l. each, to be vested in the hands of trustees until they came of age, with a direction that A's 1,000l. should be invested in the three per cent consols, which at 57l. 10s., the 1294 price of that day, would purchase 1,740l. and that B's 1,000l. should be invested in land. The present price of three per cents, was 87l. 10s. and this would give for A 1,522l. 10s. The 1,000l. of B's, invested in land, was not now worth more than 750l., so that the principal belonging to A was more than double the principal belonging to B. The interest the trustees of A received, from the time of the investment to the present period, amounted to 939l. 12s., while the interest upon B's. investment would not be more than 540l. so that the trustee of A now was in possession of 2,462l. 2s., while the trustee of B had only 1,290l. Now, neither of these children nor these trustees had done any act to produce these results; but A was now possessed of double the property of B. Were changes like this, arising from the alteration in the value of money, to be overlooked? Was it just? Was it reasonable? He would then proceed to show what had been the effects of the alteration in the value of money as measured in the manufactures which he (Mr. Fielden) produced; and the intrinsic value of which is the same now as in 1815, notwithstanding such alteration. He should here have the support of the hon. member for Essex, who, on a former night declared, that money, which was the mere measure of commodities, did not alter their value. To illustrate what he had to show to the House, he would claim their indulgence, while he read to them a table, showing the prices of cotton, and of articles manufactured from it from 1815 to the end of 1832. The table contained twelve columns, and he would first read what those columns contain: [Here the hon. Member read the following table.]
|1821||4 3/10||9 7/16||3||4½||10||6||7||1½||6||2||44||3⅓||5⅔||2⅓||1⅓|
|1823||4 3/10||8 3/16||2||11||9||6||6||7||3⅓||6⅓||3||1⅓|
|1824||4 3/10||8 7/16||3||0||9||0||6||0||3½||6⅔||3⅓||1⅓|
|Interest 18 years 3⅓||60||13⅔||Interest on excess.|
|126||137⅔||11⅔balance due to Manufacturers, Jan. 1, 1833.*|
§ Here he had shown that the class of manufacturers to which he belonged had, at the end of 1832, not only paid both interest and principle, if the account between them and the national creditor had been kept in those manufactures: but that they had overpaid the account by eleven pieces and two-thirds of a piece. The Government had had from the cotton manufacturers what this table shows for this account, and, if it be not settled, proof is here given of the wrong done by Government to the manufacturers by raising the standard of value. It was perfectly right to recur to a metallic standard, but wrong to do so without accompanying it with an
§ REFERENCES TO THE TABLE.
§ *No.1.Shows the number of pounds weight of cotton required to make a piece of third 74s. calico.
§ 2.The average price of cotton per pound.
§ 3.The average cost of cotton for one piece.
§ 4.The average price of such calico in the Manchester market.
§ 5.The average sum the manufacturer had for labour, expenses and profits, in every year from 1815 to 1832 inclusive.
§ 6.The average sum for labour, expenses, and profit, for three periods of six years each.
§ 7.The sum less per cent for labour, expenses, and profit, in each of the six years than in the year 1815, the dose of the war.
§ 8.The number of pieces of said calicoes which 60l. would purchase the fundholder in 1815.
§ 9.The number of pieces the fundholder was entitled to receive annually, at the rate of 5 pieces per cent.
§ 10.The number of pieces the manufacturer has had to pay annually.
§ 11.The excess of pieces over and above 5 per cent, he has had to pay in the respective years.
§ 12.The simple interest on such excess from the year in which the manufacturer had to pay it to the end of the year 1832.1296
§ equitable adjustment between the public and the fundholder, and between all debtors and creditors who would be seriously injured by such a change. But how do the manufacturers now stand with regard to the national creditors? They are told that they now owe not sixty-six pieces and two-thirds for every 60l., as they did in 1815, but that they now owe 218 pieces for every 60l. Notwithstanding this he declared that, if they be fairly dealt with, they should be considered as having paid off the whole of the debt. Here is crying injustice, and for which somebody ought to be responsible. He would ask, was it right or equitable that his class should be 1297 thus dealt with? The manufactures that he had been speaking of were wove upon hand-looms, and during this period the hand-loom weaver had had his wages reduced from 4s. 6d. to 1s. 3d., and looking further back the result would be worse still. He had limited his retrospective view to the year 1815, because that was the year when the war ceased and the borrowing ended, and from which period no addition to the burthens of the people in consequence of the debt should have
|72s. Calico made by Power-Loom.|
|Year.||lbs. of Cotton for one piece.||Price of Cotton per lb.||Cost of Cotton for one piece.||Value of one piece.||Sum for Labour, Expenses, and Profit.||Legs per cent, than in 1815.|
|Half-Ell Velvetees, 20 lbs. Weight.|
|Year.||lbs. of Cotton for one piece.||Price of Cotton per lb.||Cost of Cotton for one piece.||Value of one piece.||Sum for Labour, Expenses, and Profit.||Less per cent, than in 1815.|
|30 Hanks Water Twist.|
|Year.||Cotton required for 1 lb. Twist.||Price of Cotton per lb.||Cost of Cotton for 1 lb of TW||Value of 1 lb. of Twist.||Sum for Labour, Expenses, and Profit.||Less per Cent than in 1815.|
§ He was sorry to see such impatience manifested by the House. He was aware how unsatisfactory it was to them to hear details of this sort, and in terms they might not clearly understand, but which it was necessary for him to use. He knew the House had not been accustomed to have its time taken up in this way, but he thought a better knowledge of manufactures, and of the state of those engaged in them, was necessary in this House, for it should be borne in mind, that the manufacturers had to pay taxes out of the money they received for their labour; and in the proportion the money value of their labour was reduced, their means of paying taxes and of con-1298
§ been made. It was the duty of statesmen at that period (and the right hon. Baronet was one), so to have regulated the currency as to have prevented any increase of taxation as measured in things. He would now read to the House what had been the effect upon those engaged in manufacturing upon power-looms, and with the most improved machinery during the same period; and similar results would be manifest. [Here the hon. Member read the three following tables.]
§ taxed commodities were also reduced. The tables he had read, show a corresponding decline in four most important branches of cotton manufacture, and might be relied on as being a true criterion of what had been the state of the whole of that great business for the last eighteen years, and whether the weaving part had been done by hand-looms or by power-looms. Now, it would appear that great injustice had been done to manufacturers in the cotton trade, and we were not yet arrived at a safe currency. We had still a paper money, consisting of five-pound notes, ten-pound notes and upwards, and what assurance had he, if the right hon. Baronet be continued 1299 one of his Majesty's Privy Council, that a further appreciation of money might not be resorted to? He therefore, thought, on this ground, he was justified in supporting the Motion of his hon. colleague. It might be said, that these manufactures could be made cheaper—that cotton was cheaper. The right hon. Baronet asked, the other night, how it was, that cotton had fallen in price. He would tell the right hon. Baronet what perhaps might be worth knowing, that a standard of value had been observed, which his bill, bad as it was, had not the power to change, and that cotton was not cheaper. The manufacturers, purchased their cotton from the Americans, and they now gave them as many pieces of goods (or pounds of twist) for the same number of pounds of cotton as they did in 1815, notwithstanding the price of cotton here had varied from 19½d. to 5⅝d. per pound, as measured in the money of this country. For the cotton that would make seventy pieces they gave 24⅓ pieces in 1815; for the same in 1824 they gave 22¼ in 1831, 22¾ and in 1832, 26; and the average of the eighteen years had been 23⅔ pieces, for the cotton that was required to produce seventy pieces of third 74s. calico. But it was said, the necessaries of life were lower, that we had had improvements in machinery, and that we could produce goods cheaper. As to the necessaries of life, we had now to give the labour required to make two pieces of calico, for the same quantity of wheat which the labour required to make one piece would purchase, comparing the average price of wheat at 88s. the quarter, which it was in the seven years 1812 and 1818, inclusive, with its present price of 53s. per quarter. And admitting there might have been some improvements in machinery which, by-the-by, had been much overstated, he asked what right had the fundholder to share with the manufacturers in the fruits of their ingenuity, and increased labour? He had none. If the debt had been fairly contracted, which it was not, he had no right to any greater quantity of other men's productions, than he could purchase at the time with the money he lent. But he denied the right of Parliament to impose this debt upon the people, and saddle posterity with the payment of it. But, even if they had the right. Parliament was not justified in attempting to cause it to be paid in money of a higher denomination of value than that in which it was borrowed. The war could pot have been carried on without a depre- 1300 ciation in the standard of value, for they could not have raised the supplies within the year, and therefore, it was unjust to resort to an appreciation of the standard of value without accompanying it with a corresponding reduction of taxation. It was said we were in an average state of prosperity. He did not know how hon. Gentlemen made their comparisons. He had shown that we every year went on getting less and less for labour, expenses, and profits, for the manufactures we produced. It had also been boasted that the hands employed in mills were well off. The hon. member for Buckinghamshire (he believed) said the other night that the hands employed in the cotton-mills near Manchester, could get, on an average, ten shillings per week. If this was so, let them compare that with the average for the same description of hands in America, who get 14s. 11d. on an average for the same sort of work. Why was this mighty difference? Besides, the difference was not only in amount of money, for the American hands could purchase double the quantity of provisions that the same money would purchase in England. The number of persons, too, employed in cotton-mills, was small compared with the number of hand-loom weavers, who were in such deep distress; the number in all the cotton-mills in Great Britain would not, he believed, exceed 170,000; and his opinion was, that there were four persons engaged at hand-loom weaving for one person employed in mills.
An Hon. Member
rose to order, and complained that the hon. Member's speech had reference to a scale of prices unconnected with the Motion.
§ Mr. John Fielden
did not know why the hon. Member should have spoken to order, when he (Mr. Fielden) was showing the distress which had arisen from the operation of the right hon. Baronet's Bill. Did the hon. Member think he should support a motion like this, without giving his reasons for doing so? He could see no necessity for this interruption, nor for the repeated cries of "Oh! Oh!" He hoped hon. Members would let him proceed to the end of what he had to offer. He assured them he would not be put down by noise and clamour. He was sent there to represent the labouring and manufacturing classes, who expected their case would be attended to in a Reformed Parliament differently from the manner in which it was now received. He and they had hoped that he was sent to a deliberative assembly to discuss and determine for the 1301 people's good; but, when he went back to his constituents and told them that when he recapitulated the fatal effects of the right hon. Baronet's measures, and the instances in which their interests were sacrificed, to their utter ruin, he was only laughed at by hon. Members, could they think that such conduct would give satisfaction? Such conduct was very unbecoming, and ought not to be practised in the House. The best way to cause him to sit down would be to listen to him patiently until he had concluded what he had to say. He had other matter to state to the House as a reason for the vote he should give on this question. In 1829, during a period of severe distress, he and a number of other manufacturers met at Burnley, to represent the distress that prevailed in that district to the right hon. Baronet, then Secretary for the Home Department, and he would read the memorial which was sent up on that occasion to their county Member, Lord Stanley, and the answer of the right hon. Baronet. But before doing so, he would just observe, that this distress was so great in the manufacturing districts, that the boroughreeve of the loyal town of Manchester, for the first time in his (Mr. Fielden's) experience, called a public meeting in that town to petition Parliament or to memorialize the King upon the subject. The memorial he had mentioned, was as follows:—To the Right Honourable Robert Peel, his Majesty's Secretary of Slate for the Home Department.Sheweth,—That your petitioners, deeply impressed with a sense of the increasing distress of the manufacturing and labouring population within the hundred of Blackburn (which hundred contains, according to the last census, 148,704 individuals), have taken measures for the assembling of a few of the cotton manufacturers of that district, preparatory to which they had caused to be made accurate surveys of the poor in about half-a-dozen townships in which they might expect immediate co-operation in their object, and that such surveys being completed, they had intended to have prosecuted the inquiry upon a more extensive scale. But your petitioners being now assembled at the Bull Inn in Burnley, on the first day of May, 1829, and being furnished with the several returns from townships hereafter alluded to, feel themselves so alarmed with the result, that they are impelled at once to submit it to you without losing the time which must be consumed in obtaining more numerous returns.That they feel themselves the more justified in this course, because they believe that the few returns already furnished, will exhibit a 1302 tolerably correct view of the general state of the trade, and of the population throughout the whole district.That the result of these returns shows that, in the seven townships of Colne, Foulbridge, Tramden, Marsden, Barrowford, Higham, Goldshard, and Roughler, containing, in the whole, a population of 19,869 individuals, there are 5,137 persons (approaching to one-third of the whole), whose weekly income, arising from labour, varying from 18d. to 2s., presents an average weekly income per head of 19d.; and there are 1,743 persons (being one-eleventh part of the whole) whose weekly income, from the like source, varying from 2s. to 2s. 6d., presents an average weekly income per head of 2s. 3d.; thus showing that better than one-half of the whole population do not earn, on an average, more than 15¾d. per head per week, from which there are considerable outgoings, leaving a clear income applicable for food, clothing, and rent, and other necessaries, of less than 2d. a-head per day. That, notwithstanding this small pittance is the full income of so large a population, it may be safely stated that they are, at least at present, in full employment; but your petitioners are afraid that such full employment cannot long be continued, as even, according to the present state of wages, the manufacturers cannot dispose of their commodities at a remunerating price.That the property within the above township liable to the poor-rate is so overwhelmed with public charges that it does not at present afford more assistance in the shape of parochial relief than about 12d. per head per week in addition to the earnings—thus showing that, even including parochial relief, the weekly income of more than one-half of the population does not exceed, on an average, 17¼d. per head per week.That your petitioners ascribe this miserable state of the poor to the present very low state of wages, which are already under the lowest state which they fell to in the distressed times of 1825–26, whilst the price of provisions in general is considerably higher than at that period.That your petitioners do not venture to give any opinion on the cause producing this low state of wages, nor to suggest any remedies for the same; but they content themselves with this simple statement of facts, to which they respectfully, but earnestly, entreat your immediate attention.(Signed)James Grimshaw,
§ (Chairman of the Meeting.)
§ William Hargreaves,
§ John Fielden
§ Nicholas England,
§ Thomas Kaye,
§ Benjamin Hargreaves,
§ William Bolton,
§ Lord Massey,
§ William Corlass,
§ John Roberts.1303
§ In reply to this very reasonable and moderate request, the memorialists received the following answer, in a letter addressed to Lord Stanley, which he would read to the House, and he durst say they would listen to it with more attention than they had heard either the memorialists or himself.
§ Whitehall, May 13, 1829.
§ My Lord,—I have the honour to acknowledge the receipt of your Lordship's letter of the 9th instant, and of the memorial which accompanied it, setting forth the extreme distress of the labouring classes in the neighbourhood of Colne and Burnley.
§ On the first indication of disturbance in the county of Lancaster, I look immediate measures for the reinforcement of the troops in the northern district, with the view of affording to the civil power every assistance in the protection of life and property—and I earnestly hope that through the active measures of the magistracy and the commander of the forces in the district, the public peace will be preserved.
§ I need scarcely assure your Lordship that his Majesty's Government deeply regret that state of suffering and privation, to which alone any disposition to acts of insubordination and outrage appear to be ascribed.
§ When the distress is general, as it is described to be in the memorial which you have transmitted to me, it is very difficult to divine any measure by which its immediate relief, or even the mitigation of it, in any material degree, can be effected. But I beg your Lordship to inform the memorialists, that I shall not fail to bring the representation which they have transmitted to me, through your Lordship, under the consideration of his Majesty's Government. I have the honour to be, my Lord, your Lordship's most obedient and most humble servant,
§ Robert Peel.
§ The House would see that the memorialists gave no opinion as to the cause or remedy for the distress complained of; but contented themselves with simply stating the fact, that a large proportion of the workpeople in the hundred of Blackburn had less than 16d. a-week for subsistence; and he thought that such distress should have led to an inquiry into the cause of it; but it did not, and the answer was so unsatisfactory that the memorialists, seeing that there was a notice of a motion by Sir R. Vyvyan for the 26th of the same month, for inquiry into the cause of the distress of the country, they sent up a representation to that Gentleman of the distress that they had ascertained and reported to the right hon. Baronet, and they soon after received a reply from Sir R. Vyvyan, that on the day the motion was to come on, there 1304 were not forty Members in the House, and consequently the inquiry was then got rid! of The right hon. Baronet refused to inquire into the distress, but soldiers were sent by him into the neighbourhood where it prevailed, who consumed the food which was so much wanted by the labouring people. The right hon. Baronet would not, in 1829, inquire into the distress, and he had, in this Session, refused to give his assent to inquiry into the distress when proposed by the hon. member for Whitehaven, and the hon. member for Birmingham, and these were additional reasons with him (Mr. Fielden) for giving his support to the Motion of his hon. colleague.
§ Sir Robert Peel
said, that, influenced by the respect which he entertained for the tribunal before which he was arraigned, he should treat the charge as if it had been preferred against him by some man of great weight and influence, who acting according to his conscientious conviction, and stimulated by an imperative sense of duty, felt it necessary that in his person a public example should be made, and that he should be subject to the highest penalty which could be inflicted on any one admitted to his Majesty's Councils. He would take for granted that the hon. Gentleman conscientiously believed it to be incumbent upon him to call upon the House to inflict the greatest public disgrace which they could inflict, as a warning to future Ministers. It certainly appeared strange to him that the hon. Gentleman should conscientiously entertain that opinion, when, only a few nights ago, he had openly avowed in that House, that when he compared him (Sir Robert Peel) to others who had been concerned in the same measures, he thought him an angel of spotless purity. That the hon. Gentleman should, after such an avowal, think it reconcileable with justice, to select him as the special and single victim for punishment, warranted a suspicion that other objects than those of public justice were contemplated by the hon. Gentleman. Two months had now elapsed since the notice of this Motion was first given, and up to this hour he had never received the slightest intimation of the specific ground on which he was to be put upon his trial. Whether the charge was a corrupt motive, or ignorance, or wilful misconduct, he was left to guess from the vague notice of the hon. Gentleman's Motion. He now under- 1305 stood from his speech of to-night, that the hon. Gentleman was convinced that he (Sir Robert Peel) had not been swayed in the slightest degree by any views to self-interest, or by any motives of a personal nature; but then the hon. Gentleman maintained, that he had been guilty of gross and unpardonable ignorance in the discharge of his public duties, and that, therefore, he ought to be dismissed from his Majesty's Councils by a vote of the House of Commons. Would it not have been fair in the hon. Gentleman, when he was drawing up his long and elaborate bill of indictment, to have communicated to the accused the specific offences for which he was to be put upon his trial, in order that he might have had the ordinary opportunity of meeting the accusation and of preparing for his defence? Was it consistent with justice, with candour, or with ordinary usage, that he should hear that night, for the first time, this tissue of accusations? Accusations of what? Of something that he did in the years 1819, 1822, and 1826. And then the hon. Member who had seconded the Motion had not confined himself to proceedings connected with the currency—but had said, on the contrary, that he would vote for his dismissal on account of an answer which he had returned to a memorial addressed to him from a party of manufacturers who had assembled on the subject of wages at the Bull Inn at Burnley. The hon. Member had read the memorial, and read what the hon. Member had called the answer; but the fact was, that this was not an answer to the memorial, but an answer to a letter that he had received from Lord Stanley upon a different subject, which letter the hon. member for Oldham (Mr. Fielden) had thought fit to suppress. The hon. Member (Mr. Fielden) had said, that he and his friends had met at the Bull Inn, and had addressed to him (Sir Robert Peel) a statement respecting wages, and that they had received from him by way of reply a letter about sending them troops, for which they had never applied. Such had been the statement of the hon. member for Oldham. But suppose that Lord Stanley had addressed to him (Sir Robert Peel) a representation upon the danger to the public peace existing in the county of Lancashire, and suppose that the letter referring to troops was in answer to the representation of the noble Lord, who had 1306 been foreman of the Grand Jury, and had made a communication to him officially in his public capacity: suppose the case was thus (as, if reference were made to the documents in the department of the Secretary of State's Office he believed it would prove to be), he asked the House with what justice the hon. Member could read his answer to the House, and at the same time withhold the communication to which that letter was the reply? He asked, with what sense of justice, with what feelings of common decency, the hon. Member could urge this as a sufficient ground to dismiss him from his Majesty's Councils? Suppose he had mis-conducted himself with respect to the men who had met at the Bull Inn, on the subject of wages, why had not the hon. Member the courage to bring a charge against him by a distinct motion, having express reference to that transaction? What connexion had it with the Currency Question, on which he was arraigned by the hon. Member for Oldham? Why had not the hon. Member, who dwelt so much on his twelve columns about the price of muslins and calicoes—why, if the distress of the country, or of any part of the country, was a fair subject for the consideration of Parliament (and he fully admitted, that it was)—why had he not brought it forward in a fair and manly manner?—why had he not, instead of accusing him in this pitiful, sneaking, skulking way, proposed some better remedy for the distress of the people, some surer method of raising the price of his muslins and his calicoes, than the dismissal of one man from the Councils of the King? But both the hon. Gentlemen were as ignorant of facts and of forms as they were ready to assail him. If the hon. Member had communicated to him his Resolutions, he would have so far corrected them, that they should not have abounded with misrepresentations, and false statements of notorious facts. The Resolutions began by stating, 'That, according to the laws and customs of this kingdom, the King, our Sovereign Lord, can do no wrong to the whole, to any part, or to any one, of his subjects: that, however, effectually to guard against wrong being in his Majesty's name, and under his authority, done to his subjects with impunity, the same laws and customs which have, as our birth-right, descended to us from our just and wise forefathers, make all and every one, acting in that name and under that 1307 authority, fully and really responsible to the good people of this kingdom for every wrong done unto them by any and every person invested with such authority; and that, in virtue of such responsibility, the wrong-doing party is subject to such censures, pains, and penalties, as, in virtue of the said laws and customs, the several tribunals of the kingdom have, in all ages, been wont to inflict; that if this responsibility were not real and practical, we should be living under not only a despotism, but an avowed despotism, for the King, being in-capable of wrong-doing, and his servants being responsible merely in name and form, and not in practice, they also can do no wrong, and then the people of this renowned kingdom, the cradle of true liberty, would be the most wretched slaves ever yet heard of under the sun; that, in cases where the wrong doing is committed by inferior functionaries, or is, in its effects, confined to individuals, or to small numbers of sufferers, the ordinary courts of justice have usually been deemed competent to afford redress to the injured; but that, when the wrong is the act of a Minister of State, sworn to advise the King for the good of his people, when that Minister of State receives, as a reward for his fidelity and skill, large sums of the people's money'—The first charge then against him was, that he was a Minister of the Crown sworn to advise the Crown, to the best of his ability, and in the receipt of a large salary for performing that duty, when he contributed to pass the Act of 1819. Unfortunately for this charge, in the year 1819, he was not Minister of the Crown, he was not a sworn adviser of the Crown, nor was he ill the receipt of one farthing of the public money. The hon. Gentleman insinuated—by way of aggravation of this charge, that he being in the receipt of large sums of the public money, had increased his official salary, by increasing in 1819 the value of money. Now the truth was, that in 1819, when the value of money was raised, he had no salary, and in 1822, when, according to the hon. Gentleman, the value of money was lowered, he was a Minister, and he had a salary. The fatal Act of 1819, as it was called, was not introduced by him in his capacity of Minister, but a private Member of the House of Commons. The Motion 1308 of the hon. Gentleman, therefore, if made at all, ought to be, not for his dismissal from the Privy Council, but for his expulsion from the House of Commons. This Act of 1819 was in no respect the offspring of any advice he gave to the King, for he was not then in office, nor connected with the Government. He had left office in the preceding year, 1818; he had given no advice to his Majesty whatever on the subject; he was asked by the Government whether he had any objection to take the Chair of the Committee of that House, which was then about to be appointed to inquire into the subject of the Currency; he had replied that he had given his vote in favour of Mr. Vansittart's Resolutions in 1811, without a full consideration of the subject, and that he must reserve to himself the right of taking a course perfectly unfettered either by his own former votes, or the opinions of any member of the Government. The result of more mature consideration and of the inquiry before the Committee, was a conviction on his part, that cash payments ought to be resumed, and he had acted upon that conviction. But as he had before observed, he acted on it as an individual Member of Parliament, not as an adviser of the Crown, and therefore the Motion of that night ought to be for his expulsion from the House. The charge against him was, that he had over-persuaded—that he had deluded by a speech, an innocent and unsuspecting House of Commons. But he must first have deluded the Select Committee, on whose Report the Bill and his speech were founded. But who deluded the House of Lords? for that House was also a party to the whole proceeding to which it gave a cordial and unanimous assent. The hon. Gentleman was grossly ignorant of every fact connected with the case. He charged him with having introduced three measures as a Minister of State, when in fact he had introduced only one of them, and that one not in the capacity of a Minister of the Crown. When the other two measures were brought forward, he was a member of the Government, but he was not the introducer of either of them. These three Bills passed through the two Houses of Parliament in the years-1819, 1822, and 1826. The Bill of 1819 was the only one which he had introduced, and that was founded on the Report of the Committee; to that Report no exceptions were taken, 1309 and the Bill passed through the House of Commons without a division. The Bill of 1822, the hon. Gentleman said, was a Bill notoriously brought in to repeal the Act of 1819; and he had declared it to be grossly inconsistent to bring in a Bill in the year 1822 to repeal the Act of 1819. There might be a man gifted with faculties of so high an order that no charge of inconsistency could ever be brought against him—a man of such clear apprehension, of such profound penetration, of such consummate judgment, that he never had held opposite opinions on any subject—one whose pen never contradicted his tongue, and was never inconsistent with itself;—such a man might be entitled to address him to the argumentum ad hominem—to arraign him for the want of consistency. He would, however, whisper to the hon. Member, that he was not the man; that from no quarter could the charge of inconsistency proceed with so bad a grace. The charge of inconsistency brought against poor short-sighted human beings as to the effects of political measures—this accusation, that politicians had not penetrated into futurity—had not foreseen all the remote consequences of the measures they introduced—that made wise by experience, they had been compelled to recede and repair their errors—argued either consummate wisdom, or consummate assurance in him who preferred it. But, after all, was the Act of 1822 tantamount to a repeal of the Act of 1819. What had Mr. Huskisson said of the bill of 1822? Mr. Huskisson said, "the present plan so far from being suggested because the measure of 1819 was repented of, was at all points perfectly consistent with that measure; and he (Mr. Huskisson) in the Committee upon the Bill of 1819, had actually proposed that the present plan should at that time be recommended to Parliament."* These were questions on which hon. Gentlemen differed then, and differ now; but if the House assented to the motion for dismissing him from his Majesty's Privy Council, would it not actutually decide the whole of these questions? He would again say, that he still felt that it was right to try the experiment of the year 1826; but subsequent experience had convinced him that he could not permit the issue of the one and* Hansard (new series) vi. p. 206.1310 two pound notes without practically banishing the gold, and undermining the basis on which the great superstructure of the currency was built. It was this consideration that had induced the Government to shorten the period for which the small notes had been issued. He was sorry to occupy the time of the House by such statements; but he dared to say that the hon. Gentleman would pronounce that he had entirely shrunk from the question, if he did not enter into the details of the policy of the Acts of both the years 1819, 1822, and 1826. But the proper time for discussing the policy of these Acts was when the question of the currency was before the House the other night, and on that occasion, he had declared, that in the year 1819, it was very difficult to have taken any other course than that which had been adopted. However, the policy of the different Acts had then been discussed; he would not further waste the time of the House by referring to it, as the real question for them to determine now was whether he (Sir Robert Peel), on the ground of interested motives, or on the ground of utter ignorance, or what was far worse, in defiance of the solemn warning which he and all mankind had received from the oracular predictions of the hon. member for Oldham, had pursued a line of policy for which he ought now, by a vote of that House, to be dismissed for ever from his Majesty's Privy Council.—When the three measures were passed, what was the sense entertained of them by the House of Commons? The Bill of 1819 went through that House, as he had said before, without any opposition whatever, and without one single division either on its principle, or on any one of its details. In the year 1822 the Bill underwent very little discussion. There was only one division upon it in its progress through that House. And though now described in terms of such strong condemnation by the hon. Member, it was then opposed only on the second reading. He had certainly not deluded the House on that occasion, for he had taken no part in the discussion, and when the House was divided on the second reading how many gentlemen voted against it? Why, only four.—In the year 1826 the Bill had undergone repeated discussions, and, he believed, several divisions, and at last the House had divided on the third reading. What was the division in that case? Why, the numbers 1311 were for the third reading 108, and against it 9. To the whole of the three Bills, therefore, of 1819, 1822, and 1826, the total opposition that could be mustered was 13, out of a House of 658 Members. Was he to be dismissed the Privy Council for measures which the House had ratified by such large majorities? He was then dealing with the Motion on its merits, and supposing it to be brought forward on conscientious grounds. If he had any private account to settle with the hon. Gentleman he would defer that for the present, but he could assure him that he would pay him his obligation in a currency not in the least depreciated, and he would not follow the hon. Gentleman's convenient doctrine with respect to the liability of persons to fulfil their engagements. He would now come to the charge that he had deluded the House. He was obliged to take the charges irregularly and inconsistently, as he had heard them from the hon. Gentleman. He was charged with having committed an act of folly, rendered even criminal by not having duly paid sufficient attention to the solemn warning which the hon. Member had been pleased to give upon the subject. The hon. Gentleman declared that there had been persons who had foreseen the consequences of these measures, and that they had endeavoured to persuade him of those consequences, but that, notwithstanding all their efforts, he had neglected their warnings, and that he was therefore to be held responsible, first for all the iniquity of the Act, and secondly for persevering in the measures after he had been favoured with such advice. The hon. Member did not, indeed, name himself as one of the prophets, but it was impossible not to see that the hon Member's aim was quite as much to extol his own powers of vaticination, as to expose the defect of judgment in others. To go back to 1819, he was then merely a Member of Parliament, and had been invited to belong to a Committee which was to be appointed, in order to consider what ought to be done under the then existing circumstances of the country. There were only three courses to pursue. The first was that which had been proposed by Mr. Western. That hon. Gentleman, then a member of the House of Commons, had proposed that the paper money should be kept at the height at which it then was, in order to ensure the continuance of war 1312 prices, and by which it was maintained, that all the consequences which had resulted from his bill might have been avoided. The second course that might have been taken was one which had been suggested by some Gentlemen, and was nothing less than that there should be an actual and permanent depreciation of the standard. Some Gentlemen at that period maintained that there had been a virtual and actual depreciation of the standard value of the coinage during the war, and that the ounce of gold no longer represented the sum of 3l. 17s. 10½d., but 5l., or even 5l. 10s.; and they argued that reverting to cash payments ought to have been accompanied by a piper convertible into gold, but gold depreciated in amount. The third plan was that which had been adopted, viz., to revert to the old standard of the country. The hon. Gentleman exclaimed: "Ay, I foretold all the consequences, and I charge with the guilt of all the calamities that ensued all who did not attend lo me, and they must be denounced and expelled from the King's Councils; for I prophesied all that would happen—let justice be done—you must be debased, but I exalted!" He wished not only to defend himself, but to destroy the hon. Gentleman's character as a prophet, which it was not his second object on this occasion to establish. He was vain enough to flatter himself, that he should find very little difficulty in showing that his claims to oracular wisdom in this respect were but shallow and presumptive. The hon. Member's bill of indictment charged the whole of the existing difficulties of the country to the Act of 1819. The hon. Member's memory perhaps failed him, but, at all events, his opinions in 1822 were not the same as his opinions now. He would ask any Gentleman in that House, whether he could reconcile this with what he had said in his letter addressed to Mr. Western on that occasion?—These were the hon. Member's words:—'In the first place I have to remind you, as I did Mr. Wodehouse, that the Act of 1797, and those by which it was continued, provided for a return to cash payments at the end of six months after the making of peace, and these payments are not yet come at the end of seven years after making the peace. So that the Bill of 1819 was really a relaxation of the Pitt system which would have sewed you up in six months after the peace was made. It 1313 would have taken away your estate seven years ago. And when you are crying; out "spoliation," and "confiscation," when you are bawling out so lustily about the robbery committed on you by the fundholders and placemen, and are praising the infernal Pitt system at the same time, you seem to forget that these people always plead, and very justly, the Act of 1797 in support of their present demands. You say, they are receiving, the fund vagabonds in particular, more than they ought. You say, they are paid back more than they lent. You say, that they lent in one sort of money, and are paid in another. This is all very true; but is not this perfectly unfavorable to the Pitt system? And do not the Jewish vagabonds tell you so? Do they not say, or rather their supporters for them, that they lent their money upon the faith of the law, which said they should get their interest in cash at the peace. The measure of 1819 tardily began to prepare for doing what the Act of 1797 commanded to be done long before. What do you mean then by saying that the Act of 1797 cannot excuse the measures of 1819? Common sense would suppose you to mean that the former Act could not excuse the latter for coming so late; could not excuse it for not coming to execute justice upon the hare and pheasant gentry seven years ago, agreeably to "good faith" with the Jews, and the "dead weight." This is the way in which common sense would interpret your words, but you, the great Essex statesman, despise the interpretations of common sense.' Was the distress of the country attributable to the Act of 1819, or was it possible to avoid that Act? Let the hon. Member decide the question: 'The point, he said, we had attained was poor-rates of 8,000,000l. a-year, and labourers in rags, and drinking water, and driven out of the farm-houses, and winter subscriptions for the houseless, and men chained to carts drawing gravel—that was "the point we had attained." You will please to bear that in mind. If the devil himself had been the author of the system, he could not have brought us to a much worse point; and yet the great subject of your lamentation is that this system was not persevered in. However, the question is, was it in the power of the Government to uphold that sys- 1314 tem? You say it was—I say it was not. And this is a great question; because you and many others are wanting to bring the system back. I shall, hereafter, show the folly and injustice of what you call your remedy; but I am here to show, that the Government had not the power (if it meant to preserve itself) to uphold the base paper system. At the time when Peel's Bill was passed, the country was actually upon the eve of open rebellion. It was not six Acts that quieted the people, but low prices. The most populous parts of the kingdom could not be kept from rising in arms, with the price of provisions what they had been during the war. Manufactures must, in a great measure, have ceased, when the markets of the world became open in consequence of peace, if our price of food had not been lowered, If the vile and foolish Corn Bill had not proved a dead letter, the manufactures must have been nearly put an end to as far as related to export. That Bill was intended to do for the landlords what the paper-money had been doing for them; but it, luckily, failed of its object. Have peace at home the Government could not, without reducing the price of the necessaries of life. Besides this, the "rapid advances" in the science of forgery threatened to annihilate the base system by its own means. Nearly one-half of the notes in circulation, in some parts of the kingdom, were forgeries. It was become evident that a stop must be put to the hangings; and yet, without the hangings, what could at all check the forgeries? Then, again, it was as clear as daylight that, in case of war, our enemies would attack us in our own old way with regard to the French assignats. That they could do it was evident, and it was not less evident that the whole thing might at any time be puffed out at a very trifling expense. I was thought to be joking when I said so; but I now repeat, with perfect seriousness, that I not only believe the thing could have been done, but that it would have been done if Peel's Bill had not been passed. Why, continued the right hon. Baronet, the hon. Member himself did try "to puff the whole thing-out," for he recommended as strongly as he could the forging of bank paper. When they considered the great talents of the hon. Gentleman, and that he recommended forgery 1315 for the purpose of precipitating the downfall of the system, was it not too much for the same man now to turn round and threaten him with an indictment for having brought in a Bill to guard against the evils which the hon. Member himself had used so much exertion to cause. What he had quoted was published in the year 1822. It was acute reasoning, and he had seen no defence of the Bill of 1819 equal to the defence of it, which the hon. Gentleman had made. The hon. Gentleman had proved, that the Government had not had the power to continue the paper system; that it had run its inevitable course; that bankruptcy must have been declared but for the return to gold; nay, that we were on the eve of civil war on account of the distress and sufferings caused to the industrious poor by the paper system. The House would perceive, that the hon. Member treated Mr. Western as the great advocate for continuing the paper currency at its then value. There was, however, another scheme recommended to Parliament, which was to let the ounce of gold pass for 5l. instead of 3l. 17s. 10¼d. This would have been so far consistent with the principle of the Act of 1819, that paper would have been convertible into gold, but that the standard of value would have been greatly lowered. That proposition also met with no favour from the hon. Gentleman. All the indignation and ridicule which the hon. Member had poured out on Mr. Western fell far short of that which he reserved for those who advocated an alteration of the standard. The great supporter of this plan, the debasing of the standard, was a gentleman from Birmingham, on whom the hon. Gentleman conferred a title, which he believed and hoped was still retained. In all the controversy which he had carried on with him, the hon. Member never called him by any other name than "My Lord Little Shilling," His Lordship had published long pamphlets on the subject, but the hon. Gentleman's contempt for him was such that he would never reason with him, and had always thrust all his arguments aside as the trash of "My Lord Little Shilling." The hon. Member had also addressed a letter to Lord Folkestone, whom he had described as taking wider views on the subject of the currency than any other Member of Parliament. Lord Folkestone, not with standing the enlarge- 1316 ment of his views, proposed a debasement of the standard. The hon. member for Oldham had referred to the noble Lord in one of his most characteristic papers. He said, 'You have borrowed from me one or two sound principles; but the application of them is all your own. Your arguments are altogether yours, and are of the weakest description.' The hon. Gentleman (continued Sir Robert) went on to show, that the difficulty of reverting to the ancient standard was very great, and he had opposed all these plans for reducing the standard in a most able manner. The hon. Gentleman said, that the country must resume payments in gold, and must return to the ancient standard; and what then was the difference between the hon. Gentleman and himself? The difference was this. The hon. Gentleman said, that, on resuming cash payments, we must resume the ancient standard, but must at the same time proceed forcibly to reduce the Debt; and that we must resume the Church Lands [Mr. Cobbett said, he had made no such proposal in that House]. Oh, no; there was nothing of that kind in the present Resolutions, but he considered the hon. Gentleman as a public man; and if he adopted any line of argument out of the House different from what he used in the House, he would hold him responsible there for the language the hon. Member used [" No," from Mr. Cobbett]. He said yes. There was no public man who had claimed to exercise any influence over the public mind, for which he was not to be held responsible. The hon. Gentleman, then, was an advocate for reverting to the ancient standard; but he proposed with that a forcible reduction of the interest of the National Debt, or rather, a refusal to pay the just amount of interest. He said, that we paid too much to the public creditor. The only other point of difference between him and the hon. Gentleman was, that the hon. Gentleman said, that the country could not afford to pay pensions and large salaries, and they must be reduced. But there was no man in Parliament who would support a proposition similar to that of the hon. Gentleman. He was like the Phoenix of Cowley, "A vast species alone." He certainly had not adopted the hon. Member's views, and never had proposed, and never would propose, any measure which was a breach of public faith. But what did the hon. Gen- 1317 tleman say in answer to Mr. Western? "When you are crying out for confiscation and spoliation, by bawling out about robbery committed by the public creditor, you forget that these men always appealed to the Act of 1797, and very justly." Thus the hon. Gentleman's own opinion was, that the public creditor relied "very justly" on the Act of 1819, for repayment of his debt in gold. With what pretence then could the hon. Gentleman propose to reduce that debt? He would next refer to what the hon. Gentleman had said about the condition of the labouring classes. The hon. Gentleman had read a Resolution of certain Magistrates of Hampshire, which he said was a consequence of the Act of 1819. But the hon. Gentleman ought to have contrasted the situation of the labouring classes when that Resolution was passed, with their situation in 1819. "In 1819," said the hon. member for Oldham (and Sir Robert again quoted The Register to the following effect), "the Poor-rates were eight millions—the labourers were in rags—they were chained to carts—they had been banished from the farm-houses—they had no places but the worst hovels to dwell in—and if the devil himself had invented a system, he could not have invented one of greater suffering than that of which he was lamenting the consequence." He had followed the hon. Gentleman with the closest attention, and it was clear, that the only point of difference between him and the hon. Gentleman was not as to the propriety of resuming the ancient standard, but as to the policy and justice of other concomitant measures. The hon. Member required that the national establishments should be forthwith reduced; and because he (Sir Robert Peel) had not made that reduction, and because he had not made the proposition to reduce the interest of the Debt, which no hon. Member had made, or had the courage or the dishonesty to make; because he had not made the proposition, the hon. Member now moved an Address to the Crown to remove him from the Privy Council. He would not make any such proposition, and he would rather be dismissed from ten Privy Councils, if that were possible, than make such a proposition, He was to be dismissed, too, because he had not made such a proposition, when, according to the hon. Gentleman himself, the public creditor relied on the 1318 Act of 1797, and relied upon it "very justly." There was not, then, a shadow of difference between him and the hon. Member; they both agreed that the ancient standard should be resumed, and that the public creditor was entitled to expect justice, and not to be fleeced. The hon. Gentleman said, that sinecures should be reduced. If there were any sinecures, let them be reduced; but let no man cherish the notion, that any relief which could be obtained by the reduction of sinecures would be of the least avail. It would be like a drop in the Pacific Ocean. There were in fact no sinecures to abolish. He was ready to reduce establishments, not to the nominal state of any former period, but to that state which was compatible with the present security of the public, and the honour of the country. So much for the Motion of the hon. Gentleman—the public, plausible, parliamentary, grounds of the Motion! The other hon. member for Oldham had referred to the answer he had returned to the representations made of great distress in 1829, and to his taking no means to remove that distress. But at that very time he had sent persons to Burnley, Blackburn, and to other districts of Lancashire, to make inquiries into the distress, and he had given them authority where the distress was most severe, to relieve it; but they were instructed to say nothing of that authority, and indeed to be careful not to allow it to be known that they were agents of Government. If that had been publicly proclaimed, the whole object of the inquiry would have been defeated, and personal exertions on the part of those who were on the spot, would have been greatly relaxed. It was often necessary for the Government to conceal its intentions of relieving distress, otherwise its objects would be defeated. He denied that the expressions of the letter of 1829 betrayed any indifference to the distress of the people. He had promised to bring those complaints under the consideration of the Government, and he had done so, but he could not disclose or reason upon the plans of relief. Suppose part of the plan of relief to be a reduction of taxation, how could he prematurely mention that? He would not enter into details to refute the hon. Gentleman, who thought, because distress existed, and because relief was not instantly promised, and the mode of relief explained, that therefore public men were to be dis- 1319 missed from the Councils of the King. But what was the real object of the Motion of the hon. Member? The hon. Member well knew that he had not laid any parliamentary grounds for his Motion. The hon. Member said he anticipated a large majority. The hon. Member expected no such thing. The hon. Gentleman knew, that a motion so eminently absurd had no chance of success. The best answer to his motion was that incredulous burst of laughter with which his first announcement of it was greeted, and which would have penetrated any integuments less tough than the skin of the hon. Member. The hon. Member knew perfectly well, that it was hopeless to expect that the House of Commons would inflict any censure on one man for the faults of a whole Parliament, when, in the course of repeated discussions during seven years, only fifteen persons could be found in the Parliament to dispute or doubt the proposition on which the Bill of 1819 was founded. He knew that the House was opposed to the Motion of the hon. Member, but he would state, without any delicacy, what he believed to be the real motive—the unavowed object contemplated by the hon. Gentleman, in a motion which connected his (Sir Robert Peel's) name with all the calamities of the country, and all the distresses of the labouring classes. If he had taken another course, he was not mad enough to believe that he could have escaped the indignation of the hon. Gentleman. Suppose he had agreed with his hon. and much venerated relative, from whom he had, on that occasion, the misfortune to differ—suppose he had agreed that the continuation of the issue of paper money was safe—suppose he had not avowed the opinions he entertained, could he have escaped the hon. Gentleman's censure and vituperation? In one of the hon. Gentleman's books—the volume for 1819,—he found a letter addressed "To Sir Robert Peel, Baronet and Cotton-weaver." "Cotton Weaver!" There was nothing in the whole range of scurrility more disgraceful—nothing which was so offensive in the organs and instruments of party—as that scurrility which sought to depreciate a man because he had raised himself from obscurity by his own talents and exertions. The hon. Member addressed his letter "to Sir Robert Peel, Baronet and Cotton-weaver." When the hon. Gentleman wanted to get into Parliament, he did not 1320 disdain the assistance of a cotton-weaver. There were no men who were more distinguished for a vulgar deference to mere rank, than those who assailed it with scurrility, and affected to be superior to all prejudices—to be the chosen champions of liberty and equality. It was to them the most grievous offence that any man should emerge from that class amongst which they were destined to remain. They taunted him with the obscurity of his birth, as if they were themselves the descendants of the Courtenays and Montmorencies: but no; if they were, they would be too generous to despise those who had opened for themselves the avenues to fame and eminence. The illustrious blood which flowed in the veins of the really noble made them too generous to begrudge others the reward of their own exertions, and the public honours which industry and integrity could command. To make it a matter of reproach to any man that he was of humble origin, denoted nothing but inherent vulgarity of mind. And in this age, and with the principles of Government now prevalent, to taunt a man that he had raised himself to a station of eminence by his own exertions and his own talents, reflected discredit on the author, and not on the object of the calumny. So far from that taunt causing him any shame, he felt only proud. He professed the greatest respect for those who could boast of hereditary honours, but he professed equal respect for those new families, which had been raised to distinction by the virtue and talents of their founder. He had had the misfortune to differ from his father on the question of the currency, but the hon. Gentleman would not have spared him had he adopted the opinions of one whom he was bound to respect. And he would here remind the seconder of the Motion who put the hypothetical case of two brothers—A and B—A being a fundholder, and B a landholder; and contrasted the sufferings of B with the prosperity of A—B having suffered a depreciation of his property of twenty-five per cent. He would remind the hon. Gentleman that he himself, the object of his attack, was brother B. The question was, whether, if he had agreed with his lamented parent, would he have escaped this Motion; and though he might have escaped the public plausible motion, would he have escaped that which was the real, though unavowed 1321 object of the Motion? The hon. Member concluded the long letter to Sir Robert Peel, in which be attempted in every possible way to degrade him for having supported the Bill system, thus: The right hon. Baronet then proceeded to read the letter: "Now, Sir Robert Peel, I care little whether you reflect on these truths or not. I know well what is coming (those words being in Italics), and if I put your name at the head of this letter, it is not to reason with you, but to point you out" (also in Italics). What was the meaning of these Italics? Could the hon. Gentleman say, they had any good object? What could he mean by putting in Italics, "I know well what is coming?" and that his object in addressing Sir Robert Peel was, not to reason with him, but to point him out. He knew well what the object was, and no motives of false delicacy should prevent him from doing what he believed to be a public good, and to declare that, in his opinion, the hon. Gentleman had speculated then, and was speculating now, on the chances of public confusion. The intention of the present Motion was "to point him out." He did not make this charge on light grounds; he did not rest merely on the letter of 1819. He would refer to a later period, when they would find the hon. Member addressing the labouring classes, the physical strength of the country, and maintaining similar doctrines to those to which he had just alluded. On the 6th of April 1833, the hon. Gentleman recommended the formation, in different parts of the country, of what he called defence associations, the objects of which were to obtain, in reference to the direct taxes, an accurate list of the names and places of residence of all the great landowners in each county; to ascertain, as nearly as possible, when each of them came to his estate, and whether he got it by purchase, heirship, or bequest; and also to ascertain the probable worth of it. That a man talking as the hon. Member was in the habit of talking, of his attachment to liberty, should recommend the intolerable tyranny of this commission, to inquire into the nature and amount of property with a view to ulterior measures, was disgusting in the highest degree. The association was 'to cause to be printed, at a very cheap rate, a true pedigree of every great landowner showing how much of the public money he or any 1322 of his relations have received, not omitting his predecessors for three or four generations; showing how he came by his estate, and particularly showing whether the men, women, or children appertaining to him, are, or have been, on the pension or sinecure list, and to cause a sufficient number of these papers to be circulated amongst the industrious classes in his own immiediate neighbourhood, so that we may all know one another well." This,' continued the hon. Member, 'is the sort of commission that is wanted, and I would call it the reckoning commission, for it is absolutely necessary that we begin to make up our accounts and to have them ready. It would be a sad thing for us to be taken by surprise. When we all know one another well, we shall easily arrange matters quietly, we shall easily come to an equitable adjustment.' Now, where was the fairness—where was the courage In thus inciting the thoughtless and the ignorant to acts which would involve them in certain punishment—of adopting a course and throwing out recommendations, the effect of which was to drive men to desperation? The hon. Member could have no object but one connected with the accomplishment of that end which now led him, looking to public confusion, or "equitable adjustment," to bring forward the present Motion in order to point him (Sir Robert Peel) out in reference to this "reckoning commission," as in 1819 he had pointed out his father, "knowing well what was coming." It was on public grounds that the hon. Member assailed him. The hon. Member had not the same motives for attacking him which he had had for attacking others. He had never lent the hon. Member his confidence; from him the hon. Member had never received any obligation. His object doubtless was to strike terror by the threat of his denunciations, to discourage opposition from the fear of being signalized as a victim. But he told the gentlemen of England, that their best security was in boldly facing and defying these insidious efforts. God forbid that the hon Member's speculations on the prospect of "public confusion" should be realized. He laboured under no apprehension that they would. He felt confident, whatever might be the political differences that divided public men, that all who were interested in the upholding of law and 1323 property, would unite in their defence and put down such attempts. Not only would it be the greatest calamity, but a calamity embittered by the greatest disgrace, to live under such an ignoble tyranny as this.Come the eleventh plague, rather than this should be;Come sink us rather in the sea;Come rather pestilence, and reap us down;Come God's sword, rather than our own.Let rather Roman come again,Or Saxon, Norman, or the Dane.In all the bonds we ever bore,We grieved, we sighed, we wept; we never blushed before."But blush indeed we shall, if we submit to this base and vulgar domination; and I for one, believing as I do, when I read these comments of the hon. Member, and consider his present Motion, that I have been selected as an object of attack for the purpose of discouraging resistance to the insidious efforts which the hon. Gentleman is daily making to weaken the foundations of property, and the authority of law, I will at least preserve myself from the reproach of having furthered the objects he has in view, by any symptom of intimidation or submission."
§ Mr. Cobbett
, in rising to reply, was received with the strongest manifestations of disapprobation from both sides of the House. The hon. Member said, that more calumnious insinuations and more groundless charges than those brought against him on the present occasion had never been heard within the walls of Parliament [shouts of dissent]. If order was not observed while vindicating himself, he would move the adjournment of the House. If the House felt mortified in hearing him, they ought to feel still more mortification at having swallowed their own words on the 30th of April in reference to the Malt-tax. If they did not listen to him while he answered the speech of the right hon. Baronet, they would stand before the world in a light which he would not attempt to describe [the shouting increased]. If this interruption were continued, he must pronounce this to be the most unjust Assembly ever known. Nine-tenths of the right hon. Baronet's defence consisted of extracts read from books which were written by him (Mr. Cobbett), and the rest was made up of vulgar abuse and falsehood [Interruption from all parts of the House.]
§ The Speaker
interposed to order, and said, the hon. Member had uttered language 1324 which no Gentleman was entitled to use, and for which he was bound to apologise.
§ Mr. Cobbett
Sir, I most readily apologise to the House. If the noble Lord (the Chancellor of the Exchequer) would only take off the Malt-tax, the House and Window-tax, and the taxes on soap and candles, he might set at naught all speculation in public confusion. But, Sir, I would much rather see public confusion than see the people trampled upon and knocked on the head, as they have been within the last few days [Here the hon. Member abruptly resumed his seat, finding it impossible to proceed any further].
§ At this moment Sir Robert Peel left the House, and in doing so was loudly cheered.
§ The House divided on Mr. Cobbett's Motion—Ayes 4; Noes 298: Majority 294.
|List of the AYES.|
|Lalor, Patrick||Cobbett, W.|
|O'Connell, John||Fielden, John|
§ Lord Althorp
then said: I am not aware of any precedent for the course which I am now about to call upon the House to pursue. But never in my memory, or within my knowledge, has a personal attack been made within these walls upon such grounds, or supported like the present. I feel, therefore, that it is unnecessary to detain the House by any further expression of opinion, being confident that the feelings of every hon. Gentleman will respond to my own, and agree to this proposition—"That the Resolution which has been moved be not entered on the Minutes."
§ Mr. Cobbett
The noble Lord has moved that the motion be not inserted in the Minutes of the Proceedings of the House. That, however, is not the way in which the Speaker has put the Question.
§ The Speaker
I will explain why I put the Question in the terms in which I did. The minutes of the proceedings are going on during the Debate, and the Motion of the noble Lord being that the Motion of the hon. Member should not be continued on the proceedings, the only way to effect that object is to expunge the Motion.
§ The Speaker
I am unfortunate in not making myself understood. There is nothing which any Member moves in this House which (whatever may be the opinion of the House) does not, the moment it is moved and seconded, go upon the clerk's books. The question for the House to decide—what it owes to itself and to the public—is to consider whether, according to the merits and justice of the case, it will suffer it to remain on the books,
§ Mr. Cobbett
, I observed at the outset that I supposed that a Motion would be made to expunge these proceedings, but if they be not printed on the Minutes of the House, that is quite a novel proceeding. Many things have already been done by this Parliament to overset former usages ["question."] If the cries of question are continued I shall move the adjournment of the House. If this Motion is not to be printed by the order or vote of the House, then there are but two things remaining for Ministers to do—first, to let no man speak in this House without their permission, and next to move that the gallery be closed.
§ Mr. Lalor
hoped that the House would indulge him whilst he stated his reasons for having been one of the very small minority who had voted on this question. He was not actuated by any personal hostility to the right hon. Baronet. It was on public grounds only, that he had ventured to be one of the minority. He was of opinion that the Bank Restriction Act had originally been the cause of the distress [The hon. Member was here called to order]. He thought he was speaking to the question, and must state that he considered the conduct of the right hon. Baronet had been injurious to the interests of the public.
§ Mr. John Fielden
was of opinion that it would not be wise, on the part of the Government, to press the Motion.
§ The House divided—Ayes 295; Noes 4: Majority 291.
|List of the NOES.|
|Lalor, Patrick||Cobbett, William|
|O'Conner, Fergus||Fielden, John|