The Marquess of Chandos
rose to address the House. He really felt very sorry to find, that any difficulty had been raised with reference to proceeding on this mo- 334 tion, which, however, he felt, would no take up much time. He therefore hoped' that the hon. Member for Sheffield would have an opportunity to move the second reading of his Bills, as the hour, moreover, was early. He had, on several occasions before, endeavoured to bring before the House the propriety and necessity of affording some relief to the agricultural interest. He had failed to succeed in introducing any measure of relief to that class of men whose cause he stood there to advocate; but he could not fail in his duty to the country at large, in persevering in, and bringing before the House, a resolution which he hoped would meet with general approbation. If he felt that the motion which he was about to submit to the House was one which was opposed to the well-being of other classes of the people, or that it interfered with the interests of the country, he might then be charged with partiality by a large body of the country; but believing, as he did, that it did not, in the slightest degree, interfere with the Chancellor of the Exchequer, and much less so with any other class of society, he hoped and trusted that the resolution he should propose would not encounter the opposition of the House. The right hon. Gentleman, the Chancellor of the Exchequer, had on a former occasion intimated his intention to make a reduction of the taxation of the country. It was not, of course, in his (Lord Chandos's) power to be aware of the means which the right hon. Gentleman might have at his command to effect this object; nor was it his intention to call upon the right hon. Gentleman to state what his means were, but he wished to call the attention of the Government to the consideration, that in reducing the taxation of the country, there were certain classes of his Majesty's subjects who ought, and must be attended to. Therefore, with this opinion on his part, he should propose a resolution, calling upon the Government, and upon that House, in making any reduction of taxation, not to leave out the agricultural interest. The noble Lord, on a former occasion, had given it as his opinion, that but little interest could attach to a particular question which was mooted at the moment, because there had not been many petitions in favour of it. Now, he thought that noble Lord and the House would bear him (Lord Chandos) out when he observed, that upon this question—not upon that night, but upon others—a vast many petitions had been presented from the agricultural in- 335 erest, praying for relief; and he was confident, that if that House were to sit for one year together, they would not be one day free from the applications of the agriculturists, because they felt that nothing efficient had been done towards their relief. As he had brought forward motions on other occasions in favour of this class of his Majesty's subjects, he would observe, that when he had brought forward a specific motion, he had been charged with not having brought forward a general measure; and so, when he introduced a motion of a general nature, then hon. Members complained of his not bringing forward a more specific one. He was therefore much surprised that he had not been able to suit the taste of the House; but he was again that evening prepared to meet the question. He might be asked by hon. Members who were opposed to him why he had not come forward with this motion before the Committee had made its report? To this he had this short answer to give— that it was not his wish to prejudge the labours of that Committee—that whatever that report might be, it could not be affected by the motion he meant to conclude with. He had no right, as a member of that Committee, to say what were or were not the opinions of that Committee; but he could not believe that any Member of it would refuse to show a proper sense of the motion that evening; that if the argument were to hold good that the Committee had not reported, let it be remembered on the other hand, that there were two reports printed, which were well worthy of the consideration of the House, containing much information upon the important subject to which they referred. No one could read these reports without being convinced in too intelligible terms of the distress which pervaded the farmers. He would appeal to any hon. Members, whether, by the second report of the Committee, they were not borne out in asserting, the farmers were not in a better situation, and in many respects not in so good a situation as they had been some years ago? The evidence went to show, that clay soil must go out of culture. Now, when that report went so far, and when thirty-six witnesses gave evidence to the distressed condition of the farmers, surely it was not too much to call the attention of the House to the fact, in the hope, and with the view, to obtain some assistance for them. As he had said before, in advocating the claims of the landed interest to a participation of 336 those benefits which a reduction of the taxation must create, he did not wish or seek to run counter to the interest which the hon. Member for Middlesex especially patronised. He (Lord Chandos) gloried in feeling, that the charge of monopolists, as applied against the farmers, was not true or well-founded. What they wanted only was, that in dealing out justice—justice should be dealt to them; and that it should be distributed generally, and not partially. The right hon. Gentleman (the Chancellor of the Exchequer) had notified his determination to reduce the Stamp-duty on Newspapers, and the duty on spirit-licenses. Now, it was not for him to give an opinion on a matter not then before the House; but he would say thus much, that it was the duty of the Government not to be partial in the distribution of a surplus revenue, but to allow all classes to benefit by the result of any reductions of taxation which might be made. If, indeed, his Majesty's Government were not able to make any reduction in the burthens of the people, then he met with an answer, and he could not complain; but on the other hand, if they were able to carry into effect a distribution of a surplus in a reduction of taxation, then it was not too much to call for an equal share of that advantage for the landed interest of the country. It was a curious circumstance, that in the reduction of taxation which had been made within the last five years in this country, and upon looking to the official returns, dated March 17, 1836, he could not find that any great substantial relief had been given to the agricultural interest. The taxes which had been removed amounted to eight millions ninety odd thousand pounds; but when he came to examine how much relief had been given to the landed interest, he found that not more than half a million had been removed from the land. It would be found, that in the reductions which had taken place, there had been those which, to a certain "extent, had benefited the agriculturists, and amongst other items, he mentioned the repeal of the duty on tiles, which gave them 33,000l.; then there was the repeal of the duty on fire insurances, in respect to agricultural produce, which also gave them 30,000l.—then followed the repeal of the duty on windows in agricultural buildings and House-tax. But let him say, that while these were beneficial to the interest which he had advocated, still they were items of general taxation. Let him not be charged with this, that the repeal of the 337 House-tax was exclusively for the benefit of the agriculturists; they derived some benefit from it, it was true; but the greatest benefit was given to large towns, and not to agricultural districts. He would again state, that out of eight millions of taxes which had been reduced or repealed, not more than half a million had affected the agricultural interest. Look at the tax on land generally—look at the direct and indirect taxation with regard to counties, the amount of county-rates, the expense of which was very considerable, and not diminished to the present day to any amount. The Government, last year, it was true, had given them a proportion of money towards the charge of prosecuting felons, the amount being 122,000l. But an hon. Friend of his suggested at the time, that the whole expense should be abolished, and he could see no reason why it should not be done. Now, would not crime chiefly occur in large towns? and did large towns pay their proportion of the expense of prosecuting felons? No such thing! their contribution was but slight. The charge of prosecuting felons, he contended, ought to be made a national charge, and the counties should be relieved from that unfair pressure to which they were now subjected. It would be found, that in Scotland the burthens were light. They had, indeed, the King's taxes, but no local taxation of any amount. It would, indeed, be a measure of great relief if the whole local charges were taken up by the Government, and dealt with by them. He regretted every day, that with reference to the Malt-duty, neither the Government of that time, when the question was brought forward on a former occasion, nor the present Government had made any reduction on it. He did not wish, however, to talk upon that part of the subject then, because the House of Commons had decided against its repeal; but he would merely say, that he still entertained the opinion which he had first formed upon the question. There had been a Committee appointed by the House of Lords in the year 1834, to inquire into county-rates and highway-rates, and they reported that they thought the fact clearly established by evidence, that the agriculturist, in respect to his outlay of capital, was not compensated by any corresponding reduction of taxation; that his burthens had increased; that while vast improvements of great inland lines of communication were objects of national importance, they became a considerable burthen on the 338 land, from the increase of County-rates; that the highway rates amounted to 621,504l. which imposed on the land a tax of 388,440l. Now, could any one believe it possible that such an unjust proportion should fall on the landed interest? He could not believe, that his Majesty's Government would permit this Session to pass without giving that substantial relief which they had always appeared inclined to give. He intended to ask the House, whether, in any reductions to be made by the Chancellor of the Exchequer, be they great or small, the landed interest should not have a portion of the advantages to result from that circumstance. In the year 1834, on a motion similar to the present, the House ran the Ministers of the day close upon the question, and on a division there were 206 and 202, the Ministers having a majority of four upon the question, whether the landed interest should not be relieved. In the present House of Commons, looking to the large number of Gentlemen returned to that House, who were attached to the agricultural interest, he could not but believe and hope, that on seeing the result of the division of that evening, those professions which had been made elsewhere would be realized, and that those promises which had been made from the hustings would be that night adhered to. They had been within the last two days told, whether correctly or not he could not say, that ere long, they might have to appear before their respective constituencies. For his own part he should be ready to do so, and he should be the better able to appear before his constituents from the consciousness of having always stood up to advocate the right of the agriculturists. At the same time, far be it from him to pursue a party course; he wished not to cripple the intentions of his Majesty's Government with regard to the reduction of taxation. Regardless of all party feeling, he conjured all hon. Gentlemen to look at the question fairly, and not to act on party motives. If, as he had said before, he was arguing for one body of men against other classes, he should feel doubtful of success; but when he looked to the facts of the case, he could not believe the House would negative his motion. With regard to the Corn-laws, he would say nothing, because the Committee of which he was a member were not prepared to say anything, nor did he think the consideration of that question was called for; though there were hon. Members always inclined to charge 339 the agriculturists with being monopolists, and with living only for themselves, and not for their neighbours. He begged publicly to deny that such was the fact, and he would state that which had been asserted by others, that they looked not to monopoly, but merely for a fair remuneration for their labour, and an equal participation in the benefits derivable from a reduction of taxation. He could proceed for a length of time to express his opinions, but with all the regard he felt for the hon. Member for Sheffield, and other hon. Members, he would be as brief as possible, but would discharge his duty to the best of his ability, and he hoped he might be of some use to that interest which he so sincerely and warmly supported. If hon. Gentlemen would turn to the evidence which had been produced, they would, in reading over those pages, see, with regret, that in very many instances the entire capital of the farmer was gone, tenants removed, and large portions of land out of cultivation. Now the hon. Member for Middlesex, he was sure, would not object to the farmer obtaining his fair profits, and as a landowner he could not be ignorant of their condition. If the hon. Member had read the evidence he would not only see, that capital had been diminished—that hon. Gentleman shook his head, but he would find such to have been the case; and he would find that the landlords had made great reductions in their rents and had done everything to save their tenants. And would it be said, that the charge against the landlords was founded on correct data? In every instance which had fallen under his notice the landlord was ready to make his reduction of rent; and he thought it but an act of justice in fairness to state, that the landlords were ever ready to meet the wants of their tenants. Now he understood that the House would ask him what remedy, what specific remedy he had to propose. He would say, that he was not prepared, nor did he think he was called upon to give an opinion on that point; but he did not ask the House to pledge themselves to any specific remedy, he only wished them to pledge themselves so far as not to allow a reduction of taxation to take place without giving to the agricultural interest a fair participation in the benefits of such reduction. Indeed, from what he knew of the right hon. Gentleman, the Chancellor of the Exchequer, he thought he would not oppose the motion; but would, on the contrary, be glad to prove himself a friend of the farmers. He hoped 340 and trusted that such would be the case and that the votes of that evening would sanction the motion, and give to the country gentlemen an opportunity of proving their sincerity. Before he sat down he would observe, that the Government had voluntarily stated that they would reduce the stamp-duty on newspapers, and the additional duty on spirit-licences; and thus much having been mentioned, he would ask whether this was fair to other classes, or with reference to the agriculturists? And in order that hon. Gentlemen might not misunderstand his motion, he would repeat that its object was to call upon the Government to give the agricultural interests a share in the reduction of taxation. He should conclude by expressing a hope that the House would not refuse to go along with him in the wish to support and benefit a class of men who for so many and trying years had proved themselves, by their attachment to the country and by their honesty of purpose, to be the tried patriots; and who had always borne with pleasure their share of the national burdens. He desired to show no party feeling whatever; he had no feeling beyond that which was dictated by a sense of duty; he had but one line of conduct to pursue; and he only wished to add, that that class whose advocate he was, had ever been foremost to put down internal disturbances and to protect property. The noble Lord concluded by moving a resolution to the effect that it is the opinion of this House that, in the application of any surplus revenue towards relieving the burdens of the country by reduction of taxation or otherwise, due regard should be had to the necessity of affording a portion of relief to the agricultural interest.
§ Mr. William Duncombe
said, that having been requested to second the motion of his noble Friend, he did so, at the same time regretting that that task had not been committed to abler hands than his own; but having concurred in the motion of the noble Lord on a former occasion, representing, as he himself did, a large constituency who were suffering under the great pressure of agricultural distress, knowing that they entertained sentiments of sincere gratitude to the noble Lord for his efforts on their behalf in that House, he considered it would be a want of duty on his part if he did not accede to the request. He believed it was admitted on all hands—it was admitted by hon. Gentlemen of all parties, that the 341 agricultural interest had been suffering under a general and severe pressure. The fact was admitted in his Majesty's speech on the opening of the present as well as the preceding Parliament; but notwithstanding this, that important branch of the country, the agriculturists, had been destined to go on struggling in such a state of difficulty and embarrassment as had seldom fallen to the share of any other great interest. He therefore most cordially seconded this appeal to the House, and he trusted that they would hear and feel that the time had arrived when an act of equal and impartial justice to the agricultural interest must be conceded, and that in proportion to the reduction of taxation so should they be offered relief. He had had the misfortune on former occasions, when questions affecting these interests were submitted to the House, to hear them sometimes met with sneers and imputations thrown out against landlords, which were as unfounded as they were unmerited. He said, if any hon. Gentleman imagined that the landowners were always disposed to drive a hard bargain, and to withhold any relief to their tenantry, he (Mr. Duncombe) had no communion of feeling with such men, and could not participate in their views. He had ever supported the noble Lord's views, because they went to promote the cause of the labouring and productive classes. It had appeared to him that upon the occasion of the hon. Member for Exeter bringing forward his motion respecting spirit licences, the right hon. Gentleman, the Chancellor of the Exchequer, had made a statement of his views, which was somewhat premature. Then with respect to the repeal of the duty on newspapers, it was said that considerable relief would be thereby given to the great body of the people. But let him ask the right hon. Gentleman, was not the reduction made, or promised, with a view to quiet the clamour from without on the subject? If, however, the right hon. Gentleman thought the partial removing of this tax would give any essential relief, he ought not to be blamed for acting as he had done; but he called upon the right hon. Gentleman, in the spirit of his noble Friend (Lord Chandos), to take care that the agricultural interest at least should have a proportionate benefit of any reduction which might be made in taxation with other classes, With regard to the repeal of the 342 duty on newspapers, he had heard that any individual who had the wish to read them, or the monthly and quarterly publications, might do this by going to any coffee-shop and paying his twopence. If these facilities existed in London, he had no doubt they were to be found in all the large provincial towns. But he grudged not this relief to the public, and he only called upon the House to allot some portion of relief to the agriculturists. All the circumstances of the present time rendered it a favourable moment to entertain the motion. He believed that the manufacturing interests were at present in a very flourishing and prosperous condition, and this was not owing to adventitious causes, but to a sound state of things. He hoped hon. Members would divest themselves of all party feeling, seeing that this was not a party proceeding or question, he implored hon. Gentlemen to rid themselves of all prejudice, and he trusted that they would come to such a division as might be consistent with that impartial and sound policy which the interests of the country required.
§ Lord John Russell
said, that he rose to object to the motion which had just been made by the noble Marquess. He could not, for his own part, object to the day which the noble Lord had chosen to bring forward this motion, because this day was that on which Bills brought in by individual Members were to be considered, who were the parties with whom the interposition of the noble Lord's proposal interfered. He objected, then, not to the particular day, but to the time at which this motion was brought forward. The distress of the agricultural class had been shown by presentation of petitions, day after day, and it was noticed in the King's Speech, before the noble Lord could propound his motion for a Committee; a declaration, too, was made on the part of the Government, that it was ready to enter into the fullest inquiry on this subject. The Committee which had been appointed had made no Report, and was far from having heard all the evidence to be brought before it. Therefore the noble Lord was not quite justified in alluding to extracts and drawing deductions from part of the report which had been printed, because there could be no fair decision as to the cause and extent of agricultural distress until the whole of the evidence was heard, and the Committee had considered that evidence and submitted their conclusions 343 to the House. On this ground he considered the motion of the noble Marquess premature. He said premature, the more especially because every opportunity had been given to the noble Lord and the witnesses who entertained the same opinions with him, in order that their evidence might be heard. The question of the extent of agricultural distress remained still to be decided. Evidence was yet to be taken and witnesses heard; and he thought the House could come to no adequate decision until the inquiry was terminated. So far, therefore, as this resolution referred to the question of agricultural distress—without entering into the question, or attempting to deny or admit, what the noble Lord stated—he was of opinion that the proper course was to wait for the result of their own inquiry, to listen to the Report of their own Committee, and not prejudge a question which they had themselves at the beginning of the session considered worthy of deliberate and minute examination. Then with regard to the immediate motion of the noble Lord. As far as that question did not depend on any inquiry before the Agricultural Committee, but as a general question which the noble Lord wished to bring forward, the better course with respect to it, as with respect to others of the same kind, was to hear the reductions of taxation to be proposed by his right hon. Friend, the Chancellor of the Exchequer, and then—should those reductions not appear to have been well considered— should they propose to relieve those parts of the country which were not the most distressed, or to afford a stimulus to industry in regard to these branches of trade which were not most in want of a stimulus, it would be time enough for those honourable Members who represented the various interests of the country thereby aggrieved, to state to his right hon. Friend that he had been mistaken in his selection, and that the relief which he proposed ought to be applied to other taxes and to other parties than those to which he contemplated applying it. Such being the case, he thought it would be unwise, he thought it would be premature in the House to declare, in the first instance, and before they had heard the statement of his right hon. Friend, that one particular interest—namely, the agricultural interest, ought to be the one to Which, in preference of all others, relief should be applied. Had the noble Lord 344 pointed out that there was some partial tax, some especial burden, pressing so heavily on the agricultural interest, that before listening to any other complaint the Government was bound to give relief in respect to it, he might perhaps have admitted that there was some justice in the statement the House had that evening heard; but inasmuch as the noble Lord had as far as possible abstained from making any such statement, he did not feel that he or his Majesty's Government was at the present moment called upon to deliberate upon the question. The noble Lord complained, that although within the last five years upwards of eight millions of taxes had been repealed, very little relief had been thereby given to the agricultural interest; but had the noble Marquess in his calculation thought proper to take in the year preceding that from which the return he read was dated, he would have been able to state to the House that upon the demand of a very considerable body of Members, of whom Lord Althorp was the leader, the then Government had reduced the tax upon beer, and removed completely the remaining duties upon leather. Now, he maintained that the beer-tax was a tax which pressed especially upon the agricultural interest. At the time the reduction to which he alluded was agreed upon, it was a question whether it should be applied to the beer or the malt; but it being the opinion of the Government of the day that its application to the beer-tax would be more generally useful to the poorer classes, while it would be nearly as advantageous to the particular interest for whose benefit the remission was originally contemplated, the preference was given to it in the arrangement which eventually took place. The noble Lord excluded from his view the 3,000,000l. taxes then reduced, which was a great benefit to the landed interest. The consequence of that reduction was, that the consumption of malt increased very considerably, and therefore he contended, that when the noble Lord asserted that the late reduction in taxation had not been productive of any relief to the agricultural interest, he took much too narrow a view of the case.—[The Marquess of Chandos had confined his observations to the last five years.]—True; but surely, if in consequence of a measure which passed in the year immediately preceding the commencement of those five years, he could show that during 345 the period to which the noble Lord's observations did apply the agricultural interest had been deriving considerable advantages, he was fully entitled, for the sake of his argument, to include it in his computation. But he contended that the noble Lord had likewise taken a narrow and partial view of the question in saying, that because the remission of certain particular taxes applied more peculiarly to certain particular interests, the great and prevailing interests of agriculture did not share and participate in the benefits resulting from it. He alluded more particularly to the reduction of the duties on candles and soap. Could any one say that the agricultural interest derived no benefit from these reductions? Could it be contended that the reduction of the duty upon an article of great and general consumption was not calculated to serve an interest so wide spread as that of agriculture? He believed there was now but one article upon which a remission would be productive of any great advantage; that was the article of malt, the article with reference to which the noble Lord last year brought forward a motion. Now, why was it that the noble Lord upon the present occasion, instead of his general proposition, did not move that the tax upon this article should be remitted? It was evident he did not bring it forward because he knew the opinion of the House was made up against it. No doubt the noble Lord recollected the result of the discussion of last Session, and no doubt he feared again to call forth a speech from the right hon. Member for Tamworth in opposition to his proposition, the last speech of that right hon. Member having not only had the effect of confirming those who were predisposed against the motion, but of convincing many of those Members who had given pledges upon the hustings to support every measure having for its object the relief of the agricultural interest, that they ought not to vote for the repeal of the malt duties. Even those Gentlemen were so impressed by the eloquence of the right hon. Member for Tamworth, applied, as he had understood, out of the House as well as in the House, that they felt bound to vote with him, notwithstanding their pledges, and against the noble Marquess. There being then no great tax pressing on the agricultural interest, except that one which the House had refused to remit, he did not think that they ought 346 to come to a solemn resolution that in the repeal of taxes the agricultural interest ought to be mainly considered. Allusion had been made to the reduction which the Government proposed of the stamp duty on newspapers: it would be quite competent to the noble Lord, or any one else in that House, to move, when that reduction should be proposed, that it was not a proper one, and that there were other interests more requiring relief than that which it was intended to benefit. The noble Lord had also referred to the local taxes which peculiarly affected the agricultural interest. The poor rate was one of the most considerable—it was one of the greatest evils of which that interest had to complain; but had the Government neglected their duty in respect to it? On the contrary, a measure had been passed much calculated to remedy the evil, and to show its effects, he would read to the House a few figures, derived from the last return which he had received from the Commissioners of Poor Laws, whom he had directed some time ago to furnish him with a comparative estimate of the expenditure in a number of parishes, up to the 31st December, 1835, and of a subsequent corresponding period, in which those parishes had been under the regular operation of the Poor Law Act. In 2,290 parishes, which had not been selected as exhibiting the greatest amount of reduction, the annual expenditure in the three years, 1833, 1834, and 1835, was in round numbers 1,258,000l.; the estimate of the annual expenditure for 1836, founded upon the return of the expenditure for the first quarter, after the 31st December, 1836, was 639,000l., showing a reduction of 619,000l., on a rate of saving forty-nine per cent. This was a real practical benefit, and, in proportion as the measure was carried out to its full extent, that benefit would be increased. By similar measures only, and not by general resolutions, could the agricultural interest expect to receive benefit; their prosperity depended not upon their having any particular been accorded to them, but upon their enjoying full scope for the employment of their capital and their industry—the only advantage, indeed, which, in his opinion, Englishmen required. With respect to tithes, there was a measure then before Parliament relating to them; and if the plan which it proposed were adopted, speaking generally, and if a settlement of 347 the question could be brought about upon the principle of imposing a permanent charge on the land, instead of one increasing in proportion to the skill and capital of the farmer, he thought that a great advantage would be conferred on the agricultural interest. As to the question of county rates, that, too, was one which had attracted the notice of many hon. Members; and the hon. Member for Middlesex had given notice of a measure for the appointment of county boards. It had appeared to him (Lord John Russell) when engaged upon the County Rates Committee, that one of the causes of the very great expenditure, and more particularly of a valuation unduly affecting the agricultural interest, was the very great negligence, carelessness, and almost indifference with which those who had the management of the county rate regarded that valuation and that expenditure. Improvements had been pointed out; and one step had been gained in the measure, which had passed that House, providing that the discussion of these matters should take place in open court. His own opinion was, that the rate-payers of the counties ought to have some greater influence than they now had in that expenditure. It had been the decided opinion of Lord Althorp, that those charges ought not to be paid out of the Consolidated Fund, because the Treasury had no means of controlling the expenditure. Perhaps a remedy for the present evils might be found—partly in throwing a portion of the charges on the Consolidated Fund, as his right hon. Friend had proposed, and partly in giving the rate-payers a greater control. On these grounds, he hoped that the House would pass to the Order of the Day, and proceed with the practical business of the night rather than adopt a vague resolution which could lead to no practical result. He would not enter then into the question of agricultural distress; if he did he should have to bring statements from the evidence taken before the Agricultural Committee, in opposition to that of the noble Lord. When that Committee had closed their labours, he trusted that they would present a body of evidence such as would enable the House to come to a fair and dispassionate opinion; but he must protest against any conclusion drawn from a part of that evidence only.
The Earl of Darlington
rose to support the motion of his noble Friend. There 348 were two methods of relieving the agricultural interest under its present distress, and those were a general reduction of taxation, and particular reductions in local burdens. Of the local burthens, the necessity of affording relief to the poor constituted, undoubtedly, the greater portion. And here he would not refuse to contribute his share to the approbation which a great measure, upon which particular stress had been laid by the noble Lord opposite, so justly merited. Whatever might be his political opinions upon other subjects, he felt pleasure in being able to corroborate the truth of the noble Lord's observations upon that, and he had no doubt that in three years more the operation of the Poor Law Amendment Act would prove to be of greater benefit than hon. Gentlemen could imagine. He knew of no means so certain to relieve the agriculturists as to repeal the malt tax; but as that was not to be repealed, he thought the farmers might receive some relief if they were allowed to feed their cattle on steeped barley. That would be a great been to them, and he did not think the agriculturists would abuse it. He would call the attention of the Chancellor of the Exchequer to the subject of county-rates, and also express a hope that any surplus which might be found to exist with reference to the financial statement of the right hon. Gentleman, would, at least, in part be appropriated to the relief of the agriculturist. The Chancellor of the Exchequer had given the House reason to expect that the financial condition of the country was such as that they might expect a surplus in the Treasury at the end of the year. He entreated the right hon. Gentleman to bear in mind, that it was never too late to retract a mistake, and whatever decision he might have come to with regard to that surplus, it was to be hoped that a re-consideration of the subject might lead him to appropriate a portion of it to the relief of the agricultural interest.
§ Mr. Hume.
*—Sir, I was anxious that the noble Marquess should have deferred his motion until the Select Committee, now sitting to consider the state of the agricultural interest, had terminated their inquiries, and had reported to this House, as we should then have had before us the evidence taken, and the opinion of that Committee on this important subject;* From a corrected Report.349 but, as the claims of the landed interest have been thus prominently put forward by the noble Lords who have addressed the House, I shall endeavour, before I sit down, to prove to the House, that the agricultural interests have no just claim to be relieved, more than the other interests in the country.
The noble Marquess, who introduced the motion, has informed the House, that he asks no relief for the agricultural interests which he does not equally demand for the other classes of the community: but the noble Lord (Darlington) who spoke last, is not so reasonable. He says, that there are three ways in which relief may be afforded to the land—by lessening the burden of general taxation—by relief from local taxation—and by an alteration of the currency. As an alteration of the currency must affect all interests of the country alike, I shall hereafter make some remarks thereon; and the subject of local taxation, such as bridge, gaol, poor-rates, &c., will come more regularly before the House in a few days, when I intend to introduce a plan for establishing a county board to manage the financial affairs of counties.
With respect to general taxation, I shall distinctly prove, that the agriculturists are not only not taxed beyond other classes in the country, but that they do not pay their fair proportion of the burdens of the State. The noble Lord has, indeed, proposed one means of relief, at variance, however, with the claim of the noble Marquess, the Member for Buckinghamshire, that the farmers should be allowed to malt barley for their own use, free of duty—and the reason assigned for that demand is, that the barley is grown by the farmers; but, by the same rule, the manufacturer of every article subjected to excise duty, should be allowed to use enough of it for his own consumption, free of duty; and those who import wine or brandy, ought to be allowed all they consume free of duty. The one request would be equally fair and reasonable as the other; but, will the Chancellor of the Exchequer agree to this? In this opinion I think the noble Marquess must agree with me, and differ from his noble Friend.
The hon. Member for North Yorkshire, who supported the motion, asks why the landed proprietor should be prevented from making the best bargain he can for 350 the produce of his land and capital: and I willingly, in every case, concede to him that right; but, at the same time, I ask him to allow other persons to enjoy the same right with the produce of their labour and capital. The English farmer sells his corn to the manufacturer at the highest price, and buys every manufactured article at the lowest rate; but, I ask, are the manufacturers allowed to go to the cheapest markets to buy their food? No; they are obliged, by the monopoly produced by the corn-laws, and by the importation of cattle being prohibited, to pay nearly twice as much for English corn and meat, as they would have to pay were corn and cattle freely admitted from other countries! I therefore ask the hon. Member whether that is dealing out equal justice, or whether, with those advantages, he has, on behalf of the agriculturists, any right to complain?
The noble Lord having alluded to agricultural associations, and to their efforts to obtain relief for the farmers, I shall take this opportunity of noticing the unreasonable and absurd demands of some of these associations; and of showing how ruinous their plans would be to themselves, and to the community at large, if they could be carried into effect. Their statements are exaggerated, and their expectations quite preposterous. I have in my hand a Report of the proceedings of the East Suffolk Agricultural Association, at a public meeting held at the Castle of Framlingham in November last; and I now see the hon. Member for the county (Sir Broke Vere) who was present. It appears that the object of that meeting was to take the first step for sending delegates to join the general Agricultural Union of all the agricultural associations in London, It was stated—That the agriculturists have petitioned Parliament so often, and had received so little attention, that they began to entertain but one feeling—that petitioning alone would not do. That in July last, at a meeting of that Association, a petition was agreed to, and a Resolution passed, that the members should be instructed to move that the Supplies themselves should be stopped, until his Majesty's Ministers had taken some steps to relieve the agriculturists.If such language had been used, or such opinions had been expressed at any meeting of Reformers, what would have been said by the landed gentlemen? The Reformers would have been told that they 351 were threatening the House of Commons, and interfering with the proceedings of the Government. Yet such were the demands of that association at a time when successive administrations had relieved the agricultural interest from almost every tax that could be pointed out as bearing directly on land; and when the agriculturists were in reality paying much less in taxes to the State than the other classes of the community. The secretary to the Central Association in London, declared to the meeting that—In his opinion it was neither the extension of the currency, nor the repeal of the malt-tax, nor the consolidation of public rates, nor the commutation of tithes, nor the diminution of poor-rates, nor the introduction of poor-laws into Ireland, nor the breaking up of the meat-trade monopoly, which would alone relieve the farmer…They must effect a change in the present system of acquiring and accumulating wealth,—a system abounding in fraud and productive of the greatest evils; and that the productive classes must be compensated for the capital which the currency measure of 1819 had been the means of unjustly abstracting from them…But (he added) that they would no longer consent to increase the spoils of the gambler on the Stock Exchange; they would no longer uphold that system which, for the last twenty years, had preyed upon the very vitals of the productive classes; and which had made the industry of the country the means of impoverishing itself, while it enriches the speculator and the capitalist.This attack upon capitalists would be altogether unwarranted in any assembly, but most particularly was it unsuitable at a meeting of landed gentlemen, who have so often complained of similar language being used in other places. I have always, both within and without these walls, raised my voice against such pernicious and erroneous opinions: I say erroneous, for it is evident, that to its capital England owes much of its present prosperity. Why are Spain and Italy so poor, with an abundant population, and a soil and climate almost unequalled in the world?— Why, but for want of capital? How is France now rising in the scale of nations, but by accumulating capital,—by becoming a manufacturing and commercial country? Therefore, we ought to be the more indignant at hearing this charge made at a public meeting of landowners against so useful and important a part of the community, as if it were a crime for men to accumulate fortunes by honest and honourable means. I am indignant at see- 352 ing thus held up to the people, that class to whose industry, enterprise, and abilities we mainly owe the high rank which England now holds among the nations of Europe. It is alleged by the landowners, that "agricultural prosperity is the foundation of national prosperity." I rejoice in agricultural prosperity when it is not produced at the expense of the other classes of the community; but I must add, that land in England would be of little more value than land in Poland or Prussia, were it not for the capital and industry of our merchants and manufacturers. Nay, more, I maintain that England might exist and prosper, as a purely manufacturing and commercial country, if it did not grow a single bushel of corn; if, in exchange for its manufactures and minerals, it imported from the cheap corn-producing-countries every quarter of wheat required in the country. Have I not, then, reason to call the opinions, expressed by this gentleman, at once pernicious and erroneous? But he goes still further, and says—The war to which he summoned them was a war from which no good man need shrink—it was a war against injustice, poverty, and idleness—it was a war against that system which divided England into two extremes of luxurious wealth and fearful want—it was a war for the bees of the hive against those who robbed them of their honey—it was a war, though bloodless, that was to be fought on the fields of our country, and in which more laurels were to be gained with the ploughshare than had ever yet been won by the sword on the cannon-planted deck or the tented field!I have given these extracts to prove to the House the extravagant and ridiculous language of these Unionists; but the language of another speaker exceeded in absurdity any thing that had ever yet issued from any public meeting within my recollection; and I submit it, at once, in proof of the unreasonable proceedings of the agriculturists. This gentleman said:—It was susceptible of clear proof, and he was now stating not merely his own opinion, but the opinion of the Cambridgeshire Association, as recorded in a letter to their chairman, that there was now 100,000,000l. less of circulation than there was in 1818, the whole of which sum was, of course, deducted from the value of the produce of British industry. Nothing but an expansion of the currency could meet the difficulty—an expansion to be effected by an issue of notes by the Bank of England, and by the country bankers, and by coining the sovereign at two-thirds of its present value, so 353 that the ounce of gold should make six sovereigns, as it ought to do.He added that—The shipping, the trading, and manufacturing interests, must also receive protection from foreign competition by the imposition of duties on foreign goods, or, if necessary, even by total prohibition; the immediate consequence of this step would be good prices, good profits, and good wages. This was the unanimous opinion of the numerous members of the Cambridgeshire Society, and they were determined that their opinion should reach the Legislature.I have now submitted these opinions to the Legislature, as then desired by the speakers. I appeal to the House whether they ever heard of so much nonsense being spoken at any meeting of labourers and artizans, as is reported to have been uttered at this East Suffolk Association of landed gentlemen. Speak of the trash circulated in the Penny Unstamped! I should be ashamed to see the name of any artizan affixed to such observations. But I leave the members of the Association now present to explain or defend such proceedings, as they best can, whilst they are making fresh demands for relief from taxation; and I would ask whether there really is, at present, that agricultural distress which the noble Lords have alleged? I speak with confidence when I say that there is not; and, if I am correct in my information, there ought not to be more distress in that than in any other interest. As regards taxation, I repeat that the agriculturists have been specially favoured, and exempted from many taxes which all other classes of the community pay; and that they do not pay any one tax from which other classes are exempted. The noble Marquess refers to the evidence before the Committee, now sitting to inquire into agricultural distress. I have read that portion of the evidence which has been printed, and find no proofs of distress at present existing.
As regards the increase of currency, which the noble Lord (Darlington) considers to be one means of relief, it appears, by the evidence, that farmers have no difficulty in getting what money they require, if they have good security to give; and, I am sure, this House would not desire that money should be lent on bad security. Mr. Evan David was asked—Do the farmers now receive accommodation as easily as they used to do?—They now get a little more accommodation, in consequence 354 of the joint-stock banks having been recently established in our neighbourhood, and on more easy terms.Mr. Jacob was asked—You have no account of a deficiency of capital in agriculture in any part of the country?—No; for the agriculturist can get any money he pleases, at low interest, if he have good security.I can state to the noble Marquess, for his satisfaction, that there is more money at present in the country, than there was in the days of inconvertible paper; and that there is, now, no want of currency, nor has there been any for the last ten or twelve years. It is not possible to ascertain the amount of circulating medium in the country to a certainty; but I shall hereafter submit to the House the most correct account I have been able to procure of the metallic and paper currency in England and Wales, on the average of the six years 1814 to 1819, and of the six years 1829 to 1834. If, therefore, distress exist among the agriculturists, it must arise from other causes than want of currency. Nothing, indeed, can be more senseless and indefinite than the clamour against the change made in the currency in 1819; and the complaints of want of money as the cause of low prices since that period, and particularly in 1834 and 1835. In this vague way, the president of the Cambridgeshire Agricultural Society stated to the Committee, that he thought the contraction of the currency to be one cause of the fall of agricultural produce. He was asked—Why he thought so?—I can only state in a general way, that I have observed that when there has been a contraction of the currency, prices have fallen, and when there has been an expansion, they have generally risen.But, let us look fairly at the object of the noble Marquess's motion—"a reduction of taxation"—and inquire whether the agriculturists are in a condition to demand reduction of taxation in preference to other classes. I shall prove that they are not entitled to be specially relieved. The House and the public have been somewhat led away in respect to the claims of the agriculturists, generally, without due consideration of whom that class consists. My hon. and learned Friend, the Member for Bath, some days ago, stated very properly to the House, that there were three classes of persons comprehended under the term agriculturists, 355 and that we could not come to any just conclusion on the claims set forth on their behalf, without considering their character and situation separately. It comprehends the landowners, the farmers, and the labourers. With respect to the latter class, I would ask any Member of the present Agricultural Committee, whether the evidence before them does not show that the condition of the agricultural labourers is much better at this time than it has been for many years past—perhaps better than it ever was? The evidence clearly proves their improved condition; and some of the witnesses go so far as to say, that the labourers are better off than the small farmers are. Mr. John Rolfe is asked—What should you say the condition of the labourer is at present? — I consider the condition of the labourer, at present, where he has plenty of employment, is very good.Are there many labourers out of employment?—Not a great many.Another witness, J. Smallpiece, Esq.—Then the condition of the labourer has improved rather than not?—I think the labourer never was better off.
Mr. T. Bowyer
"considered the condition of the labourers to be much better than formerly." Mr. Evan David stated, "that the condition of the labourers in Glamorganshire was comparatively better than that of the farmers—that they were very well off."
another witness:—You state that the labourers, generally speaking, enjoy more of the luxuries of life than they did forty or fifty years ago?—Yes.You believe, upon the whole, there has been an improvement in agriculture and in cultivation in this country?—Yes.Nothing can be more conclusive against the noble Marquess, as to the state of the agricultural labourer, than this evidence given before his own Committee. If, indeed, we consider the money-amount of his wages, and the relative prices of every article of necessity and comfort now, and at former periods, it must be evident that the situation of the labourer is much better at present. When wheat was 120s. to 140s. the quarter, the wages of an agricultural labourer was 15s. or 16s. per week; and now that wheat is at 56s. to 60s., he receives from 9s. to 12s. In the former period he could scarcely buy a bushel of wheat with his week's wages, now he can buy one-and-a-half or two bushels. In proportion to the money- 356 wages and price of corn the labourers are better off. "We are paying, (a witness says), with beer, 9s. 6d. a-week, equal to two bushels of wheat." Clothing and other necessary articles are now from 40 to 50 per cent. lower in price than they were in the time of high-priced corn, as I shall shew before I sit down.
It is truly gratifying to me that the fall which has taken place in the various articles of British manufacture, had not been accompanied by a corresponding fall in the wages of labour; and we consequently find a greater degree of comfort and ease amongst the working classes than have existed for many previous years in this country; and it is one of many reasons I have to urge for the repeal of the Corn-laws, which increase the price of food. At the present moment the artisans and labourers are comfortable, but. no thanks are due to the landed interest for that blessing. The operation of high or low prices of food on the comfort and situation of the working classes is but ill understood, although few subjects deserve the attention of the House more. It may be generally taken that three-fourths of the wages of the labourer are spent in the purchase of food, and one-fourth on clothing, rent, &c.—that a fall of one-third in the price of food is the same to him as if his wages had risen 33½ per cent.; and a fall of 50 per cent, in clothing and other necessaries, doubles the quantity for the remaining one-fourth of his wages, which adds materially to his comfort. The money-wages of labour never declines in same proportion* as the prices of articles; and low prices of food and other necessaries*Statement of the wages of workmen in the cotton manufacturies at Bolton:—
Rate of wages paid at Greenwich Hospital on the average of five years:
In 1816. In 1832. per week. per week. s. d. s. d. Spinners, 1st class 37 0 35 0 Ditto, 2nd and 3rd class 30 0 28 2 Dressers 30 0 30 6 Power-loom weavers 14 0 12 0 In 1815. In 1833. Carders, 1st class 40 0 30 0 Ditto, 2nd class 18 6 17 9 Rulers 15 0 12 0
357 are always advantageous to the working classes. We have often heard in this House, that high prices were wanted for the sake of the agricultural and other labourers; but nothing can be more erroneous, as the situation of all the working classes is much worse by every advance, and always improved by every fall, in the price of food and necessaries. I believe the Poor Law Amendment Act, now in operation in one-half of England, will have a very beneficial effect on the future situation of both labourers and farmers. As regards, therefore, the most important portion of the agriculturists,—the labouring classes,—there is no ground for the noble Marquess's motion, It is acknowledged that, at no prior period, has the land been so much improved as it is at present by the application of capital and of industry; that by drainage alone, the productive powers of the land have been increased to a great extent.; and in the implements of husbandry and in their application, much improvement has generally taken place. It may be quite correct that partial distress exists among farmers, some from want of capital, others from breaking up poor lands and cultivating their cold clayey soils improperly in wheat. Some may pay very heavy rents, and others may, by bad management, use twice the number of horses necessary for their farms; but there is no claim, on these grounds, for exclusive relief from taxation. The fanners examined before the Committee were unable to point out any direct public tax which pressed upon them, except 1l. 8s. 9d. for a riding horse, and the Window-duty, which, including the duty on servants on a farm of 500 acres, did not amount to more than 10l. or 12l. a-year; the county-rate was also considered very trifling.
1815–19. 1828–32. Per Cent. s. d. s. d. Fall. Bricklayers, per day 5 1 4 9 6½ Masons, per day 5 4 5 4 — Plumbers, per day 5 8 5 6¼ 2¼ Rise. Carpenters, per day 5 3 5 6 4
Mr. John Kemp is asked—With regard to the assessed taxes, would it be any relief to you it the remainder of these were taken off horses and off windows?—Yes; it would be a relief, but not to any extent. The taxes for any windows and horses and servants, on a farm of 500 acres in Essex, are about 10l. or 12l. a-year.Mr. John Rolfe, a fanner and appraiser of farming-stock, renting from 200 to 300 acres, in the county of Bucks, was asked—Is there any other lax (than the Malt-tax) which presses immoderately upon the farmer:'—No, except the assessed taxes. I pay for my riding-horse 1l. 8s. 9d., and for any groom 1l."358No tax but the Window-tax presses on the farmer, and I pay for that 4l. a-year. There is a county-rate, the removal of which would amount to something, but not a great deal.Is there any other tax that presses on the farmer?—No direct tax that I know of.Mr. Henry Moreton was asked—What do you pay for your assessed taxes? —A mere nothing; our direct taxes are very small. I do not pay on all the land I hold above 10l.He stated to the Committee, that his farm consisted of 2,000 acres; so that the assessed taxes he pays amount only to a fraction more than one penny per acre. We may, therefore, dismiss the noble Marquess's motion on the plea of general as well as of local taxation, and consider the farmer's situation as a manufacturer of corn.
In whatever way the farmer may look for relief, the most effectual mode will be by reduction of rent, and by strict economy; and the question before us, therefore, becomes almost entirely a landlord's question. I consider the landowners as supplying the capital of land to the farmers, who are the manufacturers of corn, in the same way as the capitalist supplies the manufacturer with money to carry on his business. Not only must the landowner and capitalist receive a proper interest; but the manufacturer and farmer must derive the usual profits for their capital, time, and labour, or they will not be able to continue their business. If the profits of the manufacturer are high, the interest of capital will be so likewise—if the price of agricultural produce rises, the landowners will take care to raise their rents on the renewal of every lease, and if prices fall they are obliged to lower them accordingly; so that high prices and profits will, in a period of years, benefit only the capitalist and landlord, whilst they injure the great mass of the community. Yet, under the false idea that their own condition would be improved by high prices, farmers in general have joined with their landlords in supporting the Corn-laws and high prices, though, as I have already shown, it is their true interest, as much as that of other manufacturers, that food and necessaries should he cheap. The only permanent means, therefore, in my opinion, of improving their condition is the reduction of taxation of every kind, whether imposed by the State, by the county, or by the parish; and their efforts should therefore be made, in conjunction with all other classes, to enforce reductions 359 in every department to the lowest scale on which the government, general and local, can be carried on in peace and security. The farmer has an equal advantage in the low price of food, clothing, and general necessaries with every other manufacturer, who, as experience shows, profits by reduced prices of food, in carrying on his business, with less capital, and in ensuring at the same time a more adequate return than when prices are high. I regret, therefore, to see farmers encouraged to entertain delusive hopes of high prices, which can only be maintained by the restriction of that commercial intercourse between England and other nations, which tends greatly to secure permanent national prosperity. Corn-laws are the means employed for keeping up high prices—they limit the commerce of the country—diminish the industry of both manufacturing and corn-growing countries; and, at the same time, keep the labourers and farmers in poverty. In proof of this I might state, that according to the evidence before the Committee, though the price of wheat has been low, every other agricultural produce has borne a fair price; and yet it is at the same time alleged that the farmers have been generally distressed.
Having thus spoken of the farmers and labourers, let us look at the condition of the landowners. Noble Lords say, they do not possess a monopoly; but I will prove that they have had almost a close monopoly of all articles the produce of the land—a tax to the extent of many millions yearly raised on the rest of the community, since 1815. As I have already stated, there is scarcely a tax bearing on them or upon the land which has not been repealed by their influence in this House—so much so, that when, in the present investigation, some of the witnesses were asked what mode of relief they would propose, or what taxes they could point out as bearing on the land, after much hesitation and doubt, one or two trifling assessed taxes—the county-rates and highway-rates, &c, were the only taxes they could point out. For the landowners, therefore, to say they have not received a due share of attention and relief from this House is truly wonderful. The land and its proprietors have been extensively relieved from general taxation in former years; and the recent Poor-law Amendment Act, accompanied by that moral improvement and independence of the labourers, which I consider to be the certain tendency of the measure, will re- 360 lieve the land from a large portion of the poor-rate. I have been much maligned for the support I gave to that Bill; but, after the experience of two years, I see no reason to regret the part I took. I have taken the trouble to ascertain, and am enabled to state what has already been the effect on the landed interest. A reduction has been effected in the amount of the poor-rates, in those parishes which have come under the Act, of 40 per cent of the whole rate—and nearly one-half of England has been already formed into unions. The relief to the tenantry, in some parts of the country, has been such that the landowners have declared they will not allow to the farmers, in future, the reduction of 10 or 15 per cent, which, for some years past, they had made in their rent.
A noble Duke (Rutland), in another place, has said—That for his own part he had not such sanguine expectations from the result of the labours of the Committees now sitting in the two Houses of Parliament. He felt himself warranted in predicting that the most sure and efficacious relief of agricultural distress would be derived from the Poor-law Act; and he could state the facts upon testimony which could not be doubted, that the reduction of the poor-rates in those parts of the kingdom, which have been already brought under the operation of the Act, amounts to no less a sum than 1,500,000l. per annum. If this saving were effected by the sacrifice and at the expense and comfort of those whom we must always consider as deserving our most tender care and considerate attention—he meant the labouring and pauper classes—he was sure that he should not, and he was convinced that not one of their Lordships would countenance the continuance of the measure for another day. But he was certain that no such result of the Act would take place.The Poor-law Amendment Act will also be a great benefit to the country at large, inasmuch as there will be a moral population depending on their own industry—instead of a demoralized population depending upon the parish—for support. The labourers themselves are also in a better condition, being at liberty to seek employment wherever it can be procured, instead of being, as they were by the old system, confined to one parish, or confined in one poor-house, inducing a system of debasement and idleness; and inevitably causing those mischievous habits and propensities which every hon. Member knows to be consequent upon a number of idle persons congregating together. I was much gratified at finding, 361 by the return of criminal prosecutions in the last year, lately laid on the Table of the House, that they amounted to 715 fewer than in the previous year, which may be owing, partly to the operation of that Poor-law Amendment Act, and partly to the improved situation of the industry of the country.
The House is also at this time engaged with the Tithe Commutation Bill, which, if passed into a law on fair conditions, must be highly beneficial to the landowners, to the farmers, and to the country generally. All these proceedings ought to exempt the Legislature and the Ministers from any charge of neglecting the agricultural interests of the country; and I must express my astonishment that noble Lords should make that charge in the face of all the evidence on the Table of the House, to the contrary. I evidently surprised some Members in stating, on a former occasion, that numerous, wealthy, and powerful communities might exist without landowners; but that landowners would be poor and helpless without manufactures and commerce. I repeat, that this country could bear all the pressure of its enormous debt and taxation comparatively easily, if the landowners had as fair a share of the burdens to bear as their fellow-subjects have; and more so, if the trammels which now limit and impede our commerce were removed; that is, if free-trade were in reality established. I am quite satisfied, that if the opinions of many landowners against free-trade were acted upon to the extent that the East Suffolk Agricultural Association recommend, our highly-cultivated fields would be deserted, and the richest of the landed proprietors be reduced to comparative poverty. It is by capital, acquired by the industry of our manufacturers, and by the commerce of our merchants, more than by landowners, that the credit of the country and its power are supported; and I hope we shall hear no more such absurd opinions as these agriculturists have lately expressed.
I hold in my hand a statement, shewing the relief which has been afforded by the reduction of taxation since 1814, in which all classes of the community have participated. The average amount of taxation and of population has been taken in four periods since 1814, and the amount of taxes, estimated in gold, and in corn, per head in each of these periods— 362
Thus, by comparing the periods, there was a—
Amount of Taxation and Population in the United Kingdom. Average population of United Kingdom. The net average produce of the Revenue of the United Kingdom in paper money. In gold at 4l. 5s. 10d per oz. or 18s. 1¾d per Bank Note. Price of Wheat per quarter. Taxation per Head. In Gold In bush. Of Wheat. In the period— £ £ s. d. £ s. d. 1817–19 6 years 20,002,926 60,667,019 55,051,754 69 10 2 15 0½ 6.30 1820–24 5 years 21,510,017 — 56,563,240 55 5 2 12 7 7.59 1825–28 4 years 22,886,563 — 55,572,129 60 2 2 8 7 6.46 1829–34 6 years 24,425,672 — 47,804,975 61 1* 1 19 1½ 4.88
From this statement it results that there has been, in these twenty-one years, a decrease of taxation, per head, in gold, of 28¾ per cent., and in wheat, of 22½ per cent.; and the corn-growers fully participated in that general reduction of taxation. Corn fell in price from 1814–19 to 1820–24; but since that period the price of corn has risen, whilst the price of almost every British manufactured article has fallen—giving to the agriculturists an additional advantage of nearly 60 per cent. in the purchase of all their clothing, &c.; and it is satisfactory to know that that reduction in the price of manufactures has taken place, by the lessened cost of production, and without loss to the manufacturer. The agriculturists, by this change, can, as I shall hereafter show, purchase at this time as many British manufactured goods for 100l., as in the years 1820 to 1824 they could purchase for l60l. If the price of wheat be compared with that of foreign articles, the difference
Decrease in the Taxation in Gold of In the Taxation in Corn. Between the periods— Increase. 1820–24 and 1814–19 4.47 per cent. 20.48 per cent. Decrease. 1825–28 and 1820–24 7.61 per cent. 14.89 per cent. 1829–34 and 1825–28 19.62 per cent. 24.45 per cent. 1829–34 and 1814–19 28.82 per cent. 22.54 per cent.* The average price of these years, in The Gazette, was 59s. 8d., and the addition of 5s. is explained hereafter.363 will be 70 or 80 per cent., in most of them, in favour of the landowner. No other portion of the community have profited so largely by these changes of price, as the agriculturists have done; and yet they now come forward complaining of distress, and claiming further special relief.
The importance attributed to the agricultural interest, as compared with other interests in this country, is really extravagant; and its real value should be exposed, and placed before this House and the country. The right hon. Baronet, the Member for Cumberland, whom I see in his place, formerly stilted that the agricultural interest was the foundation of all the greatness and prosperity of this country;—that the Constitution could not be maintained without that interest, and that the country gentlemen could not be supported if the corn-laws were repealed—a plain admission that the monopoly price of corn must be kept up, at the expense of the rest of the community, to enable country gentlemen to live in luxury,—which is surely contrary to justice and to the principle laid down by the noble Marquess, the Member for Buckinghamshire, who demands relief to the agriculturists from taxation only on an equality with the rest of the people. If the landed aristocracy cannot exist without the corn monopoly, then let them fall. Why should the country gentlemen take the earnings of the artisan, or any other people's money, to support their rank and station? If that doctrine be tenable, the aristocracy may plunder the people, under the guise of a corn monopoly, with impunity; whilst if the poor man were to plunder the rich in any way, he would be severely punished, and perhaps hanged. Such inequality, sanctioned by law, ought no longer to exist.
An hon. Baronet, then Member for Suffolk, under the same mistake, once stated in the House, that if the country gentlemen did not get their rents the revenue could not be collected. In that, however, he was soon undeceived, for, in 1816, although the rents of land were greatly reduced, and the agricultural interest much distressed, yet the revenue increased in that year. I do not by any means undervalue the landed interest; but it is a great error to suppose that the welfare of the country and its revenue depend so much upon the landed proprietors and the amount of the rents they receive. They depend more upon other interests in the country, than the country does on them; and, though it may hurt their vanity to say so, the country might 364 to state an extreme case, prosper without them. If hon. Gentlemen doubt this, let them look back to the state of Venice, to Genoa; and, lately, to the island of Idra, in Greece, a barren rock, containing 40,000 inhabitants, which did not grow any corn; and yet procured, without difficulty, when I was there, corn in abundance from other places—the inhabitants being supported by commerce. All we want is money or goods to give in exchange for corn; and it matters not so much as some Gentlemen imagine, whether it be with the landed proprietors of England, or with the landed proprietors across the Channel, that we make the exchange. Let landowners reflect on this, and be more moderate in their claims; and not arrogate to themselves an importance so superior to that of the rest of the community.
By the population returns of 1831, the proportion of the agricultural, to the other classes in Great Britain, is twenty-eight per cent.; in Ireland the agriculturists are sixty-three per cent.; the average number of agriculturists in the United Kingdom being about thirty-eight and half per cent. of the whole population. I would ask whether it is to these—little more than one-third of the people—that the interests of the other two-thirds are to be sacrificed. If, in numbers, the agriculturists are so inferior, let us inquire whether they contribute more to the revenue of the country in proportion to the other classes; and whether, on that ground, they deserve special exemption? The net revenue of the United Kingdom in the year ending January 1836, was 46,302,125l., of which the English agriculturists, according to their numbers, should pay twenty-eight per cent., or 11,835,351l., and the Irish agriculturists, 2,716,762l.—both together, 14,552,113l. But, if the nature of our taxation be examined, it must be evident that they cannot contribute in that proportion. I have made an estimate that they contribute only 9,500,000l. of the public revenue, or 5,000,000l. less than their fair numerical proportion. The revenue of Great Britain may be divided into four great branches, namely,—
If the habits of the agriculturists, and of 365 the artisans, and other classes, are considered in their use of exciseable and other taxed commodities, by which the revenue is raised, I am fully warranted in stating that the agriculturists do not pay more than I have stated, or about twenty per cent., instead of thirty-eight per cent. of the whole taxation of the country, both direct and indirect. When I see the great manufacturing, commercial, and shipping interests considered of little importance by some hon. Members, I am induced to draw the attention of the House to their magnitude, and to the difficulties they have had to overcome in consequence of the partiality of the law towards the agriculturists; and, first, as to the cotton trade. In 1834, there were imported 326,875,425lbs. of cotton wool, which, at the average price of 8d. per lb., cost 10,895,847l. There were 1,200 spinning and weaving mills, and 100,000 power-looms employed. There were about 34,000,000l. employed—one-half in fixed, and one-half in floating capital. The value of the manufacture in that year was nearly 35,000,000l. sterling, of which 20,500,000l. in value was exported, and 14,500,000l. retained for home consumption;—the number of persons, of all classes, supported by the cotton manufacture being estimated at upwards of 1,500,000.* If I suppose the agriculturists to consume one-fourth of the quantity of cottons retained
The Customs & Excise contribute 72 per cent of the whole revenue. The Stamps 14 per cent The Assessed and Land Taxes 9 per cent The Post-office 5 per cent Making the Total 100 * The following details will give a more complete view of this great branch of our national industry in 1834:—
366 for home consumption, which is an ample. allowance, their share would only be 3,500,000l., or ten per cent. out of the 35,000,000l., and yet the landowners, in this and other places, tell us that the home-market is the best market for the manufactures of the country, and that they would shut out all foreign demand rather than alter the corn-laws. I might with confidence state similar results, as to the home and foreign trade, in the great staple manufactures of woollen, linen, and iron, and ask why the many millions of capital and of persons employed in these and other branches of national industry should be subjected to the monopoly of the landowners.
1. Cotton wool imported lbs. 326,875,425 2. Value, at 8d. per lb. £10,895,847 average 3. Number of spinning and weaving mills 1,200 5. Number of spindles used in spinning 10,041,000 6. Number of power-looms 100,000 7. Amount of capital invested—namely, Of fixed capital 17,000,000 Of floating capital 17,000,000 Total capital £34,000,000 8. Wages paid to factory operatives 6,044,000 Wages hand-loom weavers 4,375,000 Wages calico-printers 1,170,000 Wages lace-workers 1,000,000 Wages makers of cotton hosiery 505,000 Wages bleachers, dyers, fustian-cutters, tools, &c 4,000,000 Total wages £l7,094,000
In some countries in Europe the large proportion of the public revenue which the landed interest contributes, might fairly give them a claim to protection for their produce from competition with the produce of other countries; but, in England, the landed interest pays less to the public revenue, in proportion to their wealth, than any other interest; and, therefore, has no claim to special relief. In France, M. Humann, the Minister of Finance, stated, on the 29th of April, 1833, that the total revenue of France for that year was 1,000,244,000 francs, of which the agriculturists paid 400,000,000, or 40 per cent. of the whole revenue; and, in answer to a complaint made in the Chamber of Deputies, that the agricultural interest was unduly favoured by the corn-laws, "he strongly combated the opinion of the landed interest being unduly protected, maintaining that the direct taxes paid by
367 the landed proprietors in France amounted to 400,000,000 franks, or one-fourth of their net income, independent of their proportion of indirect taxes." In Belgium, the direct taxes were, in the same year, 32,500,000 francs, of which 21,631,614 were taxes on land, amounting to one-fourth of the whole public revenue of 83,000,000 francs. If the Duke of Devonshire, and other landed proprietors, were called upon to pay one-fourth of their net rent roll, there would then be ground for complaint, and a fair claim for protection and relief; but I have demonstrated that the landowners of England are not taxed in proportion to the landowners in other countries in Europe.
9. Total value of manufactured cotton goods £34,825,586 10. Home consumption £14,312,000 Foreign ditto £20,513,000 11. Quantity—White or plain cottons yards 283,950,158 Quantity Printed or dyed 271,755,651 Quantity Twist and yarn lbs. 76,478,468 12. Number of persons employed,—namely, Factory operatives 237,000 Hand-loom weavers 250,000 Calico-printers 45,000 Lace-makers 159,300 Makers of cotton-hosiery 33,000 Bleachers, fustian-cutters, tool and machine-makers, 100,000 Total number 824,300
I propose now to prove that the English landowners have been, and are still, specially exempted from many taxes which other classes of the community pay. In 1803, when, by the 43d Geo. 3rd, c. 161, the house-duty was generally levied, all farm-houses were then exempted; in 1821, when the total number of inhabited houses in London was 2,429,730, there were 214,239 farm houses then exempted from house duty; in 1825, there were altogether 527,649 houses assessed to the house-tax, of which 355,910 were rented above 10l. a-year, and 171,739 below that sum. The number of farm-houses in that year exempted from farm-house duty was 136,434—namely, 130,672 in England, 3,612 in Scotland, and 2,150 in Wales. If I estimate the average rental of these farm-houses at 15l. a-year, and suppose their number to have remained the same all the time, the amount of house-tax from 1803 to 1834, on farm-houses would have amounted to 5,000,000l. sterling and upwards. When the duty on tiles was imposed, drainage tiles were exempted, and the quantity used has been immense, and has favoured materially the increased produce of the land, which has so generally taken place. Sales of timber on the land, of coppice grounds, of farm produce, stock, &c, have been exempted from the auction-duty, which personal property has paid.
I hold a statement* of the several taxes which bore almost entirely on agriculture, and which have been reduced or altogether repealed, since 1815, amounting* A statement of taxes which bore chiefly on agriculture, and which have been reduced, or altogether repealed, since the passing of the corn-law in 1815, showing the amount of relief given in each year to the landed interest,368 very nearly to 1,000,000l. a year; and which in the several years up to this time would have amounted to 13,000,000l. sterling. But I must call the particular attention ofand the total relief since 1817 to this time:—namely,
369 the House to the legacy and probate duties imposed on personal property of all kinds passing by descent, whilst landed, or real property, has been altogether exempt from any tax; and we cannot show, in more glaring colours, the gross partiality of the law in favour of the landowners, and the great injustice, therefore, inflicted on the rest of the community. In 1785, the legacy duties were imposed on personal property in Ireland, and no tax on landed property. In Great Britain Mr. Pitt imposed the legacy and probate duties, commencing the 1st. of August, 1797, on all personal property, the rate of charge varying from one to ten per cent on the capital; and by a Parliamentary Return in my hand, it appears that the aggregate amount of the tax in Great Britain was little more than 1,000,000l. in the first nine years, whilst the amount has been nearly 20,000,000l. in the last ten years. The amount of personal property on which the tax was levied has gradually increased from 1,000,000l.
Years. Amount. £ Horses.—Husbandry horses used by farmers at rents under 200l. per annum, repealed in 1816 150,119 Mules under 13 hands carrying coals, ore, &c. 1816 1,156 Horses used by farmers, of farms under 50l. rent, and gaining a livelihood principally there from, but partly by trade 1816 60,461 Servants—Labourers in husbandry 1816 5,835 Horses—Horses ridden by occupiers of farms at less than 200l. rent. 1816 59,186 Horses employed in carrying coal and wood where not more than four are kept 1816 3,938 Horses used by bailiffs 1816 273 Mares kept for breeding 1819 3,593 Husbandry horses 1822 470,108 Horses drawing taxed carts exempted from lower rate of duty thereby chargeable at a reduced rate of duty on horses 1822 5,064 Servants.—Husbandry servants occasionally employed as domestic servants 1822 34,374 Carriages.—Taxed carts at the lower rate of duty 1823 9,310 Horses.—All horses chargeable heretofore at 3s. each 1823 4,044 Dogs.—Dogs kept wholly for the care of sheep by farmers at rents under 100l. per annum 1824 6,876 Horses drawing taxed carts exempted from higher rate of duty thereby chargeable at a reduced rate of duty on horses 1824 11,334 Houses and Windows.—Farmhouses occupied by labourers and servants retained for husbandry (by 6 Geo. 4th. c. 7. s. 36) 1824 6,866 Servants.—Husbandry or trade servants employed as grooms by persons assessed for carriages with less than four wheels 1824 5,076 Carriages.—Taxed carts at the higher rate of duty 1824 20,675 Horses.—Mules carrying coal, ore, &c 1825 71 Horses occasionally let to hire by farmers, at rents under 200l. 1825 5,637
Total amount of the savings to the agriculturists by these reductions, reckoning from the year after they were made to the end of the year 1835.
Years. Amount. Carriages.—Common stage carts drawn by one horse 1832 8,716 Servants.—Stewards, bailiffs, overseers, or managers and clerks under them 1833 10,110 Windows.—Windows in farmhouses 1834 35,000 Horses.—Husbandry horses, occasionally ridden by farmers at 500l. rent per annum 1834 10,000 Ditto, used occasionally for other purposes, or let occasionally on hire 1834 2,000 Horses used by bailiffs, shepherds, &c. 1834 2,000 Dogs.—Shepherds' dogs 1834 3,000 Fire Insurance on implements of husbandry and stock 1834 50,000 £985,824
N. B.—Some of these duties are applicable to persons in trade, but to a small extent only,-the whole having been repealed for the relief of the agriculturists. 370 in 1797, the first year up to 42,000,000l. in the last year 1835, and by the same returns the total amount of personal property taxed under that Bill, in 39½ years, was about 941,000,000l. at the various rates of one to ten per cent on the amount of property. The total amount of tax actually levied in Great Britain on personal property by descent in the 39½ years-1797 to 1835-both inclusive, was nearly 48,000,000l. sterling; whilst landed property has not paid, during that time, 1l. of legacy or probate duty on descent. I will not hazard an opinion as to the value of landed property which has been inherited, by descent in these 39½ years, to compare it with the amount of personal property that has been taxed. The landed property of the Duke of Sutherland, of 250,000l. a year, did not pay 1s.; and we have daily proof of succession to immense landed estates, without their contributing 1d. towards the expenses of the Government. Perhaps the greater part of the landed property of the country has passed by descent in that time. Is that equal justice? Should such a system of unequal taxation be allowed to continue? If we add the 49,000,000l. of probate duties raised on personal property, to the 13,000,000l. of taxes from which land has been exempted, we have nearly 62,000,000l. of taxation, from which the land has been exempted in 39½ years.* There were also the 5,000,000l.
In Reduced. Period. Both inclusive. 1816 £281,695 19 Years, viz. 1817 to 1835= £5,352,205 1819 3,868 l6 Years, viz. 1820 to 1835= 6l,888 1822 470,108 13 Years, viz. 1823 to 1835= 6,111,404 1823 52,792 12 Years, viz. 1824 to 1835= 633,504 1824 6,876 11 Years, viz. 1825 to 1835= 75,636 1825 49,659 10 Years, viz. 1826 to 1835= 496,500 1832 8,710 3 Years, viz. 1833 to 1835= 26,130 1833 10,110 2 Years, viz. 1834 to 1835= 20,220 1831 52,000 1 Years, viz. 1835= 152,000 £12,929,577* Abstract of the Amount of Legacy and Probate Duties received in Great Britain, from 1st August, 1797, to 5th January, 1835- 39½ years.
In Ireland the legacy duties were imposed in 1785, but it is slated that no separate accounts were kept until 1815, and the amount was small.
England & Wales. Scotland. Great Britain. Aug. 1797* to 180 £ 970,842 £ 36,599 £ 1,027,443 Jan. 1806* to 1814 6,948,908 209,749 7,158,658 Jan. 1815* to 1823 13,324,502 633,950 13,958.463 Jan. 1824† to 1834 20,432,891 1,180,060 21,612,951 Jan. 1834 to 1836 3,864,768 206,182 4,070,960 Total in 39½ years £45,541,914 £2,266,543 £47,808,466 Parliamentary Papers, 204 of 1823. † Ibid. 101 of 1834
And comparing this amount of duty with a similar amount paid in Great Britain, the 371 of house-tax, from which farm-houses were exempted in thirty-one years; also the duty on drainage-tiles; on auctions, on
From 9th of May, 1815, to 5th of January, 1823, the amount of legacy and probate duties, in Ireland, was 315,719 And from 5th of January, 1823, to 5th of January, 1834 689,527 Total in 18 years £1,005,246 Ditto in 2 years 128,134 Ditto in 20 years (to 1836) £1,133,380capital, on which these duties were charged, must have been between 25 and 30 millions sterling.
Total of the Capital paid upon, and the Amount of each Rate of Duty in Great Britain, in the 37½ years, from 1797 to 1833, both inclusive:—namely, At 1 per cent £435,794,565 2 per cent 20,716,610 2½ per cent 69,613,083 3 per cent 216,480,913 4 per cent 12,322,786 5 per cent 33,651,661 6 per cent 14,365,388 8 per cent 11,521,650 10 per cent 96,439,339 £910,905,995
Total amount of Capital taxed, and amount of Tax, in the United Kingdom, to 1836:— Capital. Duty. £. £. Great Britain 910,905,995 47,808,466 Ireland 30,000,000 1,133,380 United Kingdom £940,905,995 £48,941,846
|* Average prices of grain, from 1820 to 1834inclusive, as published in The London Gazette, and the prices of beef and mutton in Smithfield Market during the same period, with the average prices of three periods.|
|Wheat.||Barley.||Oats.||Beans.||Beef—Mutton, in Smithfield.|
|per||qr.||per||qr.||per||qr.||per||qr.||Jan.||Aug.—Jan.—Aug. per stone.|
|Average of five Years||55||5||29||11||22||0||34||4||3||3||3||3||3||3||3||4|
|Average of your Years.||60||2||35||11||25||7||43||3||4||7||4||4||4||5||4||3|
|Average of six Years.||59||1||32||1||22||0||36||0||4||1||3||8||4||6||3||11|
§ farm-stock, &c, to a considerable amount exempted from any tax. But these accounts are small, when we look at the sums levied for the landed interest, by the monopoly of food.
§ If the agricultural interest be in distress, I have clearly proved, that it cannot arise from their paying more taxes than other classes pay; and I will now show, that there is little ground for complaint in regard to the prices of the produce of the land, which have been relatively high for the last twenty years, I have prepared a statement of the average prices of wheat, barley, oats, and beans, as published in The Lon-don Gazette: and in Smithfield of beef and mutton in each year, from 1820 to 1834.* My authority for these statements is the Statistical Tables published with the sanction of Government. The average prices of wheat in the five years 1820–1824 was 55s. 5d. per quarter, and the price of beef and mutton was 3s. 3d. per stone. The price of wheat in the next four years 1825–1828 was 6s. 2d., or a rise of 8½ per cent., and the price of beef and mutton from 4s. 3d. to 4s. 7d. per stone.373
§ stone. In the next six years, 1829–34, the price of wheat was 64s. 1d., or a rise of six and a-half per cent, as compared with 1825–28; and beef and mutton, from 3s. 8d. to 4s. 6d. per stone. In 1835, the price of wheat was low; but the prices of other grain, of cattle, of wool, &c, were high. If the average price of 1835 be included with the six preceding years, the average of the seven years will be byThe Gazette 56s. 3d., but in reality 61s. 3d., as compared with the five years, 1820–24. If the average prices of the first period of five years of 1820–24, be compared with the last period of six years, 1829–34, there has been a rise of fifteen per cent in prices since 1820–24. The average of the six years. 1829–34, was 59s. 1d. by The Gazette; and I will explain why I have entered it at 64s. 1d. Mr. Page, in his evidence before the Sale of Corn Committee, stated, that the reduction in the average price of wheat, by the alteration in the mode of taking the averages in 1828, was, at the least, 5s. per quarter; and I have, therefore, added 5s. per quarter to 59s. 1d., to make the actual price of 64s. 1d.—a fair comparison cars thus be made of the prices at those two periods. It is necessary to explain how the averages have been altered, by which the import duty on foreign corn is regulated, so as to give in The Gazette a lower average price since 1828 than before. By 31st Geo. 3rd c. 30, the average prices of corn were struck by the proper officers, from returns sent from the twelve maritime districts in England, and the four districts in Scotland. Irish corn was then excluded from the Returns, and continued to be excluded from the averages, until the Act of 1827, when, by 7 and 8 Geo. 4th, c. 58, all corn, the produce of the United Kingdom, was included in the averages. From that year a large quantity of Irish corn (which is generally from 10 to 15 per cent lower in price than English corn) has been included. Moreover, the Returns have, since 1827, been made from one hundred and fifty places, instead of the twelve maritime districts in England, and the four in Scotland, as before. The quantities returned as sold were, from that time, greatly increased, and the averages lowered, by which the rates of duty on foreign corn have been increased. By the Report on the Table, it appears that, in the three years, 1825–27, the average yearly quantity sold, by which the averages were struck, was 1,976,263 374 quarters.* In the three years, 1829–31, the quantity was 2,838,620 quarters. In the three years, 1832–34, there were 3,818,298 quarters; and in 1835, there were 3,927,620 quarters reported. I deem it important that these changes, which give an advantage of at least 5s. a quarter on the monopoly price to the corn-growers, should be well understood by the House.
§ To ascertain, with any degree of accuracy, the advantage in prices to the landed interest by the Corn-laws, we must ascertain what the prices have been in France, and other adjacent countries, for the last fifteen or twenty years, and compare them with the prices in England. There are three averages of wheat taken in France under the Corn-laws there, and the prices are very different in each district; but they are taken from thirty-six places only, all large towns, and the averages must be of the best kinds of grain. It must also be observed that the quality of grain in France is about fifteen to twenty per cent inferior to that of the grain of England; and allowance should, therefore, be made, accordingly, in any comparison of the prices of corn. France is also injured by her Corn-laws; for though contiguous to the cheap corn countries of Italy, she cannot import from them until the prices exceed those fixed by her Corn-laws, hence the great difference and inequality of price of corn in different parts of France, scarcely intelligible to those who are ignorant of the working of the Corn-laws. I have prepared a statement of the prices of wheat in France for the last fifteen years, compared with the prices in England for the same period, which will shew the great difference and variety of price that has existed.
§ * Total quantity of wheat returned, on which the averages were struck. (See First Report on Agricultural Distress, Appendix 4.)
|Average, 1,976,263 qrs. from 12 districts.|
|1828 Year of new Corn-laws.|
|Average, 2,838,620 qrs. from 150 places.|
|Average, 3,818,298 qrs.|
|Yearly average price of Wheat in England.||Yearly average price of Wheat in France per Imperial Quarter in Francs and in shillings.|
|Per Hectolitre.||Per Quarter.|
|s.||d.||Average Price per Im. Quar.||f.||c.||s.||d.||Average prices|
|1821||54||5||18||66||42||9||Increase per cent.|
|1825||66||6||60s. 2d.||14||66||33||7||38s. 10d.|
|Places.||Price.||Quality.||Price per English Quarter.||Quality.||Mean price per Quarter in London.||Per Cent. dearer in London.||With the Import Duty on Foreign Corn at 42s. 8d. per Quarter, equal to the following Rates per cent. on prime cost.|
|At Hamburgh||86 rix dol.||per last.||27||9||White Wheat.||57||0||115⅛||161||0||2|
|Ditto||78 rix dol.||per do.||25||2||Red Wheat.|
|Antwerp||8¼||per hecta.||34||4||1st Red.||54||0||57½||124||5||5|
|Amsterdam||175 florins.||per last.||28||3||1st Zealand.||57||0||101⅞||151||0||8|
|Stettin||34 dollars.||Wispl.||23||2||1st quality.||54||0||133⅛||184||4||0|
|Mean price at these 4 places.||28||1||1st quality.||57||0||103||151||18||7|
By the Returns on the Table of the House*, it appears that in the ten years, 1822–31, both inclusive, the average price of wheat in Amsterdam was 31s.. 4d. per quarter; the average of all Holland was 29s. in the same period. In Bourdeaux, in the same ten years, the average price of wheat was 43s. 2d., whilst in England and Wales, in the same period, the average was 59s. 5d., —so that the price of wheat was 37¾ per cent. dearer in London than in Bourdeaux; 97⅗ per cent. higher in London than in Amsterdam, and 104¾ per cent. higher in London than on the average of all Holland. The duty, at this time, on wheat is 42s. 6d. per quarter; and whether we compare the prices of wheat in England with the prices in France, Holland, or the north of Europe, it is quite evident that our Corn-Laws, by
* Statistical Tables, part 3, page 575.
§ Average of fifteen years, 58s. Sd. in England. Increase per cent, from the first period to the last, in England 15.64 per cent. Average of the fifteen years in France 18f. 9c., or 41s. 6d., or forty per cent higher in England than in France. Rise of price from first period to last 21.05 per cent in France.
§ The price of wheat at this time in Paris is 36s. 8d.; at Bourdeaux 45s.; at Orleans 32s. l0d.; at Verdun 23s. to 25s. The price of flour in London is 48s. per sack of 2801bs., and in Paris only 28s. 3d.; therefore flour is 69⅞ per cent. dearer in London than in Pans. I have also prepared a statement of the prices of wheat on the 6th of this month (April) at four ports on the Continent, converted into the price per English quarter, to show the difference of the same grain in those ports and in London at this time.
§ prohibiting importation, except with a very high duty, give a monopoly to our landed interest of from 12,000,000l. to 15,000,000l. sterling yearly. Some calculations go much higher; but the advantage of 300,000,000l. in favour of that interest, and at the expense of the rest of the community, in the last twenty-one years, is an allegation which calls for the early and serious attention of a manufacturing and commercial country.
§ Besides the heavy duty on grain of all kinds, there are ninety articles chargeable with duties on importation for the protection of similar articles, the produce of the land in the United Kingdom, which give on all these a monopoly-price to the landowner against the consumers. The following is a list of some of the principal articles taxed:—377
|ARTICLES.||Quantity.||Price.||Rate of Duty.||Per Centage of Duty on Price.|
|Oils (Rape and Linseed).||Ton.||42l.||40l.||95|
|Spirits distilled from corn||Gallon||3||0||22||6||750|
§ Mr. Hume
Only part of the English. I have proved how the prices of every article, the produce of the land, have been kept up in favour of the landowners and I shall now show the extent to which the prices of almost every article of British manufacture, and of foreign and colonial produce, have fallen in the same period. If we divide the fifteen years into three periods, it will be found that, on the average
|In the Years.||Official Value or Quantity.||Declared Value.||Yearly Average Quantity Exported.||Average per lb.||Fall per cent. one period with another.|
|1820–24||132,138,558l.||13,591,926l.||26,427,712 lbs.||2s.||1–14d.||22.67||per ct.|
|*||Book Muslins, per Yard||Jaconot Muslins, per Yard.||Heavy Stripes and Checks, per Yard.|
§ of the five years, 1820–24, the price of white cotton cloth per yard was 9d.; in the next period of four years, 1825–28, 7¾d.; and in the last period of six years, 1829–34, the price had fallen to 5¾d.; so that the prices of white or plain cotton exported from the United Kingdom had fallen 35½ per cent, in the whole period from 1820–24, to 1829–34 and in that period the price of English wheat had advanced 15½ per cent.
|Cotton cloth exported. Yards.||Declared value £||Average price per Yard|
|In the first period of five years, 1820–24||791,032,920||29,805,741||[9d.||043|
|Second, of four years, 1825–28||669,615,711||21,892,212||7d.||845|
|Third, of six years, 1829–34||1,509,457,765||36,698,437||5d.||836|
|The period 1825–28, compared with 1820–24, exhibits a fall in price of 13.24 per cent.—1829–34 with 1825–28, a fall of 25.61 per cent. —1829–34 with 1820–24, a fall of 35.46 per cent.|
§ The prices of Glasgow fabrics of book and Jaconot muslins, and of checks, exhibit, in the same years, a fall of 18 to 34 per cent;* and I am informed, by an intelligent manufacturer in Glasgow, that the reduction in the price of cotton fabrics generally has been more than 45 per cent since 1820. In cotton twist the reduction has been from 2s. 1d. per lb. on the average of the years 1825–28, to 1s. 3d. in the period 1829–34, when estimated on the aggregate quantity exported and the declared value thereof.
§ The reduction in printed and dyed cottons has been equally large. In the linen trade the reduction since 1820 has been from 17 to 20 per cent; in canvas and other branches to a greater extent. By a statement in my hand, the selling price of canvas at Leeds has declined since 1813 upwards of 40 per cent, whilst the wages have fallen only 6¼ per cent. The price of the raw material fell from 84l. in 1813 to 24l. in 1833, being a reduction of 71½ per cent.*
The price of hardware of every kind has been reduced in a still greater degree. I hold in my hand a statement†of the whole-
* Statement of the price of No. 57 Canvas, and the wages of weaving a piece of the same, 56 inches wide, 16 threads of warp, 17 of weft, per inch.
|A piece of Canvas, No. 37.||Wages of Weaving.||Riga Hemp per Ton.|
§ sale prices of some of the most useful articles for farm and domestic purposes, such as curry-combs, candlesticks, fryingpans, spoons, &c, showing a fall in the prices of those articles since 1818, of 30 to 70 per cent., which must have benefitted the agriculturists greatly, as well as other classes.
§ I have a return, to show that coals have declined from 30 to 40 per cent; lime 18 to 20 per cent; and, in short, every article of home produce, except agricultural produce, has decreased greatly in price.
§ Of foreign and colonial produce, the prices have fallen to a greater extent than home produce. Cotton-wool has fallen since 1814–19, from 60 to 67 percent;* coffee, sugar, and rice, from 28 to 64 per cent. East India produce from 20 to 70 per cent.† Wines have fallen from 5 to 25 per cent.
§ If we compare the price of wheat, and the official and declared values of British manufactured goods, in the five years—. 1820 to 1824, when wheat was 55s. 5d. per quarter, with the official and declared values of British manufactures in the period 1829–34, when wheat was 64s. 1d., we shall find that wheat has risen in price 15½ per cent., whilst British manufactures have
|* Average Prices of Imported Merchandise in periods of Years 1814 to 1835, inclusive; shewing the gradual decrease in Money value of average prices from|
|ARTICLES.||1814 to 1819||1820 to 1824||1825 to 1828||1829 to 1834||Decrease per cent between the first and last periods.|
|Cotton wool:— per lb.||l.||s.||d.||l.||s.||d.||l.||s.||d.||l.||s.||d.|
|Total import of all kinds of cotton||0||0||16||0||0||6½||60|
|W. India Coffee per cwt.||0||93||9||101||0||9||0||59||4||0||67||7||28|
|W. sugar per cwt.||0||88||4||0||46||0||0||39||6||0||31||10||64|
|American rice per cwt.||0||33||6||0||17||0||0||18||6||16||1||52|
|Jamaica Logwood per Ton||12||9||0||8||16||0||7||12||0||7||11||0||39|
|Russian Hemp per Ton||47||16||0||34||9||0||37||0||0||31||16||0||33|
§ († See Note Table next page.)381
§ fallen 30½ per cent.* A rise of 15½ per cent. in wheat and a fall of 30½ per cent, in manufactures is equivalent to a rise of 66 per cent in wheat, (manufactures remaining stationary), or to a fall in manufactures of 39 per cent. (wheat remaining stationary). The corn-growers can, therefore, command the same quantity of British manufactures with 6l bushels of wheat, that they could in the years 1820–24 have purchased with 100 bushels. Under these circumstances therefore, the agriculturists ought now to be in a situation, with respect to the prices of food and manufactures, 66 per cent better than in 1820–24.
§ Money has also become cheaper, and the
|† Abstract of Average Prices of Articles Imported and sold by the East India Company in the four following periods; showing the Decrease in the Price from the first Period.|
|ARTICLES.||1814 to 1819. Average Prices.||1820 to 1824. Average Prices.||1825 to 1829. Average Prices.||1830 to 1835. Average Prices.||Decrease per Cent between the first Period and the last.|
|Cinnamon||11s. 4d. per lb.||6s. 5d. per lb.||5s. 7d. per 1b.||6s. 2d. per lb.||46 per cent.|
|Cloves||3s. 8d. per lb.||3s. per lb.||1s. 7d. per lb.||1s. 1d. per lb.||70 per cent.|
|Cassia||15l. per cwt.||7l. 10s. per cwt.||5l. per cwt.||3l. 15s. per cwt.||75 per cent.|
|Indigo||6s. 2d. per lb.||7s. 3d. per lb.||7s. per lb.||4s. 9d. per lb.||22 per cent.|
|Lac Dye||4s. 4d. per lb.||3s. per lb.||2s. 7d. per lb.||1s. 6d. per lb.||65 per cent.|
|Camphor||12l. per cwt.||9l. 10s. per cwt.||8l. per cwt.||5l. 10s. per cwt.||54 per cent.|
|Pepper, black||10d. per lb.||8d. per lb.||4½d. per lb.||3½d. per lb.||55 per cent.|
|Saltpetre||56s. per cwt.||26s. per cwt.||24s. per cwt.||33s. 6d. per cwt.||40 per cent.|
|Rice, Bengal||18s. per cwt.||18s. per cwt.||16s. per cwt.||13s. 6d. per cwt.||25 per cent.|
|Raw Silk of Bengal||22s. 4d. per lb.||18s. 3d. per lb.||16s. per lb.||14s. per lb.||37 per cent.|
|* Statement shewing the official and declared values of British manufactures exported from 1820 to 1834 inclusive, in periods of years.|
|Years.||Quantity, or official value of exports.||Declared value of exports.||Proportion of official value to declared do.||Fall per cent of manufactures||Price of Wheat.||Price per cent of Wheat.|
|1820–1824||216,003,825||183,907,594||at £1: £0.851||=12.10||55s. 5d.||=8.5|
|Fall of manufactures, and rise of wheat per cent comparing the last period 1829–34, with the first period 1820–24.||30.43||15.6|
|† Interest on Exchequer-bills. From April 29, 1812, to February 29, 1816, interest 2¼d. per day for 100l., or||5||6||5½|
|From Mar. 11, 1816, to Nov. 21, 1816, interest 3¼d. per day for 100l., for||4||18||10½|
|From Nov. 22, 1816, to Feb. 24, 1817, interest 3d. per day for 100l., or||4||11||3|
|From Feb. 24, 1817, to Oct. 7, 1817, interest 2½d. per day for 100l., or||3||16||0½|
§ land-owners have had the full benefit of that reduction in the interest of their mortgages, and in their farm capital. The public, by the reduction of the 5 to 3½ per cent., have been benefitted, whilst the fundholders have lost nearly one-third of their income; and yet we have an outcry from the landed gentlemen, that the fund-holders have not suffered any reduction in their incomes since the reduction of cash payments. In Exchequer-bills, the public paid, in 1816, at the rate of 3½d. per day for 100l., or 5l. 6s. 5½d. per cent.; and the interest is now only 1½d. per day, or 2l. 5s. 7d. per cent., being less than one-half what it was twenty years ago.†
|From Dec. 17, 1817, to June 14, 1824, interest 2d. per day for 100l., or||3||0||10|
|From June 15, 1824, to Dec. 20, 1825, interest 1½d. per day for 100l., or||2||5||7½|
|From Dec. 20, 1825, to Sep. 30, 1829, interest l¾d. per day for 100l., or||2||13||2¾|
|From Sep. 30, 1829, to 1835, interest 1½d. per day for 100l., or||2||5||7½|
|The fall in the value of money from 1816 to 1835=60.93 per cent.|
§ There is only one other branch of industry which I will bring before the House —one of the highest importance to the country, and which has suffered by the Corn-law monopoly as much as, if not more, than any interest—I mean the shipping interest; and I regret to have witnessed the shipowners so often amongst the most strenuous opposers of the repeal or modification of these laws. The British commercial shipping interest, though subjected to the high price of food and of higher wages (the necessary consequence of high-priced food), have to compete with the shipping of the rest of the world; and their situation in that respect has not been considered with that favour and attention which their importance demands. It is worth observing that, although the mercantile navy of this country is very properly considered essential to the support of our naval superiority, all relief has been refused most pertinaciously to the shipping interest, whilst relief has been given in every possible way to the agriculturists. For example, very lately, the insurance-duty on farm stock and farm implements was taken off, and it is proposed, in this year, to remove the duty on insurance of farm buildings; but the marine insurance is continued, as if to press on the already oppressed shipping interest. By the official Returns, on the 31st of December, 1835, the number of ships for the United Kingdom, was 25,510, measuring 2,783,761 tons, and navigated by 171,020 men. The estimate of the value of these ships, new and old, at 7l. 10s. per ton, will give the total value of the mercantile marine of the British empire at 20,878,207l. of fixed capital; and if the seamen's wages be estimated at 45s. per month on the average, their monthly pay of 384,795l., if employed only ten months in the year, would amount to 3,847,950l. The price of provisions for the British shipping may be fairly estimated at 30 to 40 per cent. higher in England than at Hamburgh and other continental ports; and timber for ship-building continues subjected to heavy duties. If the rates of freight had continued high, to cover those high wages and high-priced food and building materials, the shipowners would have had little ground of complaint; but freights, to every part of the world, have fallen to a great extent. The average freight of transports in 1814 was 22s. 6d.; in 1820, 14s. 6d. per ton; and for the last five or six years, 13s. The freights paid in Liverpool, to and from the West-Indies, have fallen 384 from 40 to 50 per cent, since 1814.* From Liverpool to the United States there has been a decline in freight of 49 per cent, since 1820, and of 85 per cent since 1814. †
|*Average Rate of Freight paid in Liverpool.|
|From||1814.||1815.||1816.||1817.||1818.||1819.||1820.||1821.||1822.||to 1835.||Average of||Fall per cent. between two periods.|
|1814 to 1820.||1820 to 1835|
|Demerara—on sugar and coffee, per cwt.||9s.||9s.||8s.||7s.||6s.||5s.||3s. 6d.||From 1820, it has ranged from 4s. to 2s. 6d.; average 9s.||6s. 9½d||3s||55–83|
|Ditto-cotton, per lb.||3d.||2½d.||2½d.||2d.||1½d.||1d.||1d.||From 1823, the average has been ¾||2d||¾d||62–5|
|New Orleans—cotton||war||war||war||1½d.||1d.||1d.||1d.||Since 1823, ranged rather less than ¾d.; lately ⅝d.||1⅛d.||⅝d.||44–45|
|Canada—ashes, perton, of 40 feet.||110s.||90s.||80s.||60s.||60s.||55s.||50s.||50s.||45s.||Now and for several years past, 37s. 6d.||72s. 1d.||43s. 2s.d||39–42|
|Leghorn—rags per ton.||10l.||8l.||8l.||From the Mediterranean, say Leghorn, Sicily, &c. 40s. is now considered fair.||8l.||2l.|
|Virginia — tobacco, per hhd.||war||war||84s.||50s.||45s.||50s.||45s.||50s.||45s.||For several years averaging under 30s.||54s. 9d.||30s.|
|New Brunswick—tim. ber.||war 8l.||war 7l.||then||60s.||55s.||50s.||When it fell to about 32s.; it is now 35s. to 37s.|
|Quebec—timber.||From 40s. to 42s.|
§ † Freight of fine goods from Liverpool to the United States from 1814 to 1835:—
|Goods per Ton.||Goods per Ton.|
§ There has been much distress in the shipping interest since the war; and the high prices of provisions, wages, and materials, and the low rates of freight, satisfactorily account for the same. If the Corn-laws were repealed, the shipping would benefit largely in all these respects, and also become carriers of corn to a considerable extent.
§ So much has been said by some of the advocates of the landed interest about the scarcity of money, and the difficulty the agriculturists have had to contend with since the resumption of cash payments, that I have taken considerable trouble to ascertain what has been the state of the currency since 1814 to the present time; and the House will be perhaps surprised to hear that there now is, and has been, more money in circulation for the last six years, than for the six years preceding 1819. I rejoice at the change which took place in the currency of the country in that year, and I am pleased that I gave that measure of the right hon. Baronet, the Member for Tamworth, my support at that time. I should now be sorry to see any attempt made to alter the provisions of that Act, or to tamper in any way with the currency of the country, I admit that, in the change that took place from paper to gold currency, many persons suffered severely; but to retrace our steps would only inflict distress on others, and unsettle every pecuniary agreement in the country; I therefore trust the metallic currency will be adhered to.
§ By the statement in my hand, the annual average circulation of the Bank of England and of country bankers, during the period from 1814 to 1819, was,—
|(Average, 42s. 0d.)||(Average, 28s. 6d.)|
§ Viz., In the period, 1820–24, as compared with the period 1814–19, per cent. fall, 20; ditto, 1825–28, ditto, 1820–4, per cent, fall-16; ditto, 1829–34, ditto 1825–20, per cent, fall, 33.—Total decline from 50s. to 17s. 6d.— 85 per cent.386
|Private deposits in the Bank of England||1,750,400|
|Silver coin in circulation||4,500,000|
|The Bank of England notes in circulation||£18,885,500|
|The notes of -country bankers and joint stock banks||10,376,970|
|The private deposits in the Bank of England||10,529,000|
§ Public Government deposits in the Bank have, of late years, been between 3,000,000l. and 4,000,000l.; but they have not been noticed in my estimate of either of these periods. If the high prices of articles in the first period, as compared with the present prices, be observed,—if the improved system of banking, and the 387 greater facility of payments are considered, it must be evident that 50,000,000l. of currency, in the present day, would effect one-half move of payments than that amount could have effected in 1814–19. But as there are 63,000,000l. instead of 50,000,000l. of currency for that purpose, it is quite ridiculous to complain of the want of currency at the present time as the cause of agricultural or any other distress; and it is to be hoped that the knowledge of what I have now stated will set at rest such complaints for the future.
§ I believe I have now completely made out my case, and I am ready to submit the various statements I have made to the strictest investigation, believing them to be substantially correct. In conclusion, I allege that the landed interest have been more favoured than any other interest in the country that they are not taxed as the landowners in France, Belgium, Holland, and other countries in Europe, where they pay nearly one-fourth of the net rent of the land as a tax to the State; that the landowners do not pay their fair proportion of the general taxation of the empire; and that they have been specially exempted from taxes that would have amounted to 13,000,000l. since 1817; that they pay no tax on the descent of landed property, whilst all personal property is taxed with legacy and probate duty, which has amounted to 49,000,000l. in the last thirty-nine years and a-half. That the corn-laws give a partial monopoly of all kinds of corn, whilst the importation of cattle, swine, and other articles of animal food, are altogether prohibited, and a complete monopoly thereby established. That there are besides 90 to 100 articles of food, many of them of the first necessity, which are subjected to heavy duties on importation, to protect similar articles the produce of the land, by which the prices of all these articles are raised to the consumers. That the price of corn is 40 to 50 per cent. higher in England than in France, and 80 to 100 per cent. higher in London than in the North of Europe; that the comforts of the working classes, though now considerable, are much diminished by the high price of food; that the manufacturing, commercial, and all other classes, are subjected, by those monopolies, to heavy taxation in the price of their food. That, in fact, no class of the community are so clamorous for relief, and who require it so little as the landowners; and, therefore, the motion of the noble Marquess ought to 388 be resisted. I will concur in any motion for the reduction of general taxation that shall relieve all classes of the community— I voted for the total repeal of the malt-tax in the last Session with that view, and I am ready to do so now; but I see no valid reason, whatever, for the motion now before the House, and I hope the noble Marquess will not press it to a division. I will add, that if only one-half of the allegations I have made respecting the landed interest be correct, the Motion should meet with the decided, opposition of the House.
§ Sir James Graham
was not disposed to follow the hon. Member for Middlesex through all his details, and to enter into a discussion on the present occasion as to the general merits of the corn-laws; whenever that question might be introduced he should be ready to maintain the opinion he had always entertained against the alteration of those protective laws. He was not less attached to the landed interest than the noble Marquess (Chandos) and the noble Lord the Member for Shropshire; but he endeavoured to temper his attachment with discretion. He regretted that the motion now under consideration had been brought forward on the present occasion; and he thought it his duty to recommend the noble Marquess to withdraw it; for if it was pressed to a division, he should be under the painful necessity of voting against it. He agreed with the noble Lord opposite in thinking that the discussion of the present question was premature, while a Committee of Inquiry on the subject was still sitting, and in absence of any Report from that Committee. He could not better illustrate the inconveniences likely to result from the immediate adoption by the House of any pro-position like the one submitted to it, than by stating that the evidence as yet produced before the Committee of Inquiry had produced on his mind a conviction directly opposed to the inference drawn by the noble Marquess, who considered that the evidence already proved, that since the inquiry in 1833, the condition of the agriculturist had deteriorated. Now, it appeared to him that, with the single exception of wheat, every other article of agricultural produce most valuable to the farmer had risen in price,—viz. barley, oats, beans, wool, and meal. The fall in the price of wheat might be attributed to the great increase in the amount sown, and the abundant harvest of 1834 had 389 also had an effect in depreciating the price. With respect to the clay lands, which were the most distressed, the three last dry seasons had increased their productive qualities, and thereby added a good deal to the amount of wheat brought to the market. Artificial causes had likewise tended to the same result. The landlords of England had in many instances reduced their rents, and had assisted their tenants in endeavouring to improve the land; and he believed that at the present moment the productive power of the land in England and Wales was greater than it ever had been before. The facilities afforded for the transmission of wheat by steam from Ireland and Scotland tended to reduce the price of the article in this country. He admitted that the increase in the importation of wheat had not been proportionately so great from Ireland as from Scotland, but the productive power of the former country had increased, and the importation of wheat from Ireland in the manufactured form of flour had greatly augmented. All these causes, natural and artificial, accounted for the depreciation of the price of wheat in this country. It appeared to him that there were only-two modes by which the House could affect the price of wheat; they must either diminish the supply of the article, or increase the supply of money, by which the value of the article was measured. He should not detain the House by discussing the latter mode, because it appeared to be the general feeling that it would be inexpedient incidentally to debate the question of currency, either as regarded the circulating medium or the standard of value. Then with respect to the other mode—the diminution of the supply of wheat,—he saw in the evidence given before the Committee of Inquiry, a strong reason for allowing things to take their natural course. It had been shown that the farmers, having found out that beans, oats, and barley, constituted a more profitable crop than wheat, had this season diminished the amount of the wheat sown. There was also evidence before the Committee, that since the inquiry had been commenced, wheat had risen from 40s. to 49s. and 50s.. per quarter; and—to use an expression which he did not like—he believed it would rise to a remunerating price long before the Report of the Committee would be presented. The noble Lord, the Member for Shropshire, after exercising all his ingenuity, could discover 390 only two modes of giving relief to the agricultural interest. The mode to which the noble Lord first called the attention of the House, was the reduction of local burdens. Now, in passing, he would observe, that resolved as he was to defend the policy of protective laws with reference to agriculture, he rested that defence on the concurrent policy of leaving a large portion of the local burdens payable by the land on the landlords. If they got rid of those burdens, they would be depriving themselves of the main argument in support of the policy of protective laws. The first point to which the noble Lord, in his enumeration of local burdens, referred, was the poor-rate. He considered the answer given by the noble Lord, the Secretary of State, to the observations of the noble Member for Shropshire on that point perfectly triumphant; and he was happy to have taken a part in the introduction of a measure which had been shown to have produced great benefit—he meant the Poor Law Amendment Act. By the operation of that Act there had been a reduction of burden during the last twelve months, in a certain number of parishes, of 49 per cent., or a sum no less in amount than 1,200,000l. With reference to the second point, it appeared, that one of the principal expenses thrown upon the county rates was the institution of prosecutions, and the administration of justice as connected with clerks of the peace and clerks of the Crown. His right hon. Friend, the Member for Kent, was at the head of a Commission on the subject of county rates; they had made one Report, and he confidently anticipated that the adoption of the recommendations contained in the second Report they were about to make would effect a great saving in this respect. The noble Lord who brought the motion under consideration had advocated the reduction of the duty on malt. He considered that the reduction of that impost would have so injurious an effect upon the whole system of taxation of the country, that if it were carried, the Chancellor of the Exchequer would be reduced to the necessity, either of substituting other taxes, far more objectionable in their nature, or of resorting to a property tax. The noble Lord claimed for the farmers the privilege of wetting their barley, and drying it for the use of their cattle. Why, if he were not very much mistaken, there was an excise regulation in existence at the present moment which allowed them 391 to subject their barley to this process. He now came to the main objection to the motion—the time at which it was brought forward. His noble Friend had justified its introduction at that moment, by representing that it was indispensably necessary to bring it forward before the Budget was submitted to the House. Now, he (Sir James Graham) was prepared to contend that until the Budget had been brought forward, and until the House had had an opportunity of ascertaining the amount of the available fund, and considering the claims of the different classes of this great community upon the Chancellor of the Exchequer, they could not fairly or advantageously take the case of any particular individual interest into their consideration. There were many imposts which demanded the attentive consideration of the House. There was one tax, immediately affecting the landed interest, and that part of it which was in the greatest degree distressed, the revision of which was strongly recommended in the Report of the Board of Excise Commissioners, over which the Treasurer of the Navy presided, and which had been adverted to by his right hon. Friend, the Member for Tamworth, in his speech last year—he meant the Auction-duty. The Commissioners had reported in the very strongest terms, that it was a tax of the worst description, pressing hard upon the poor proprietors, who were driven to sell their land for any price it would fetch, and not at all upon the rich, who could afford to wait for a favourable opportunity of disposing of it. Another matter to which he would refer was the Land-tax, which required consideration. The tax was originally intended to apply to personal as well as real estates; but, for some reason or other, personal estates had wholly escaped, as it had always fallen exclusively on the landlord. The Church-rate, he also observed, was as it now stood a burthen of 555,000l., falling in a great degree on land and tenements, and about 300,000l. of that amount rested on abuse. It had been Lord Althorp's intention to remedy that abuse. So long as there existed an Established Church, it was the duty of the State to maintain the fabric of the Church, and the expense should be provided out of the public funds. Lord Althorp had introduced a measure having this object in view. The present, however, was not the time to discuss these questions, he entreated the noble Marquess not to press his motion to a division. He 392 well knew, that the noble Marquess was a zealous and sincere advocate of the agricultural interest; but, with all due deference to his judgment, he would beg to remind him that these desultory and premature discussions had a strong tendency to generate the evils they were intended to cure. It was his strong belief that they placed the agricultural interest in a very invidious light. They indisposed a large portion of the community to that support and maintenance of home produce, which he held to be indispensable for home industry and home cultivation, and to be essentially necessary to the safety, independence, and wealth of the British islands. They did more: they injured the credit of landlords, they disturbed the confidence of tenants, they created an indisposition to take land, they diminished the competition for it, and had a direct tendency to reduce the rent of it; and upon the whole, he was fully satisfied that they were anything but conducive to the benefit of the interest they were intended to serve.
§ Colonel Sibthorp
said, that he should not occupy the House above a few minutes, not anything like the three hours that had been occupied by the hon. Member for Middlesex, who seemed so overwhelmed by the abundance of papers which he had brought down with him, that neither himself, nor the hon. Member who arranged them for him, appeared to understand them. He would implore the noble Marquis to take the sense of the House upon this question. For himself, if only three hon. Members voted with the noble Marques he should feel it to be his duty to make one of those three.
§ Mr. Cayley
said, the House was bound to give relief to the agricultural interest, as no other interest so much required relief. It was not his intention to have spoken on the motion, but from what had fallen from the right hon. Baronet, the Member for Cumberland. He disagreed with the observations of the right hon. Baronet, who had not, he thought, given a fair version of the evidence collected by the Agricultural Committee. The rise in the price of sonic articles, particularly cattle, was caused by scarcity alone, and meat which before Christmas was but 4½d. per lb., was now 1s. Part of the rise in prices was owing to the increased issues of the joint-stock banks; but according to the evidence given before the Committee, that rise rested upon a most insecure foundation. He thought so too, for the quantity of 393 paper issue, to enable people to support these burdens, was more than necessary, with our present standard of value. On the whole, he wished that the motion had not been introduced at this time, but as it had been brought forward, he should support it.
regretted that he had not obtained the attention of the House before it was tired of the subject, but if he did not say a few words he should lose caste. The pressure from without was heavy on him; and hon. Gentlemen opposite were too strongly convinced of the seriousness of that condition not to have some feeling for his case. The distress of the landed interest had been brought on by their own acts, in consequence of that just dispensation of Providence, which enacted that these who infringed on the rights of their fellow-citizens should find that, in some way or other, the mischief fell, according to the Scriptural expression, upon their own heads. Had the agriculturists not limited the commerce of their country, and cramped its manufacturing energies? How extraordinary, how marvellous, was their conduct! They came before that House, they called together the population on the hustings, and they said—"Honourable members, farmers, and farming men! —we have had everything in our own hands; we have had it all our own way; and the result is, that we and you are distressed beyond any other class" For this state they were indebted to the corn-laws. The number of farmers had been increased in the proportion of five to four, by the imposition of the taxes on corn, and the end was, that the five were in a much worse condition now, than the four had formerly been. The landlords might have raised their rents from 300l. to 400l., but of what use was that to them, when they had shut up the avenues to profitable engagement in commerce or manufactures, and so were at a loss how to dispose of their sons and daughters. Could they not see that the only way to augment their real incomes would be to consent to develope the immense capabilities which this country possessed? ["Question!"] He was speaking to the question, which was, whether the way for the landlords to expect relief was by escaping from taxation. Was it not reasonable to suppose that some relief would be obtained by gradually retracing the steps they had been induced to take, and removing the shackles which fettered the commerce of the country?
§ Sir Robert Peel
would not detain the House many minutes, and would confine himself entirely to the question before it. That question was, whether or not it would be advisable for the House, by a resolution passed previous to the financial statement for the year, to hold out expectations to a particular interest, that relief would or could be afforded it by any remission of taxes. Feeling the deepest interest in the maintenance of the prosperity of agriculture, believing that there were many considerations of a political and social nature involved in the question, he yet felt it to be his duty to consult its real and permanent interests; and however much he respected the motives, and valued the services of his noble friend who had brought forward the motion, if he believed it was calculated to raise expectations which he could not realize, or provoke jealousies and hostilities for which there was no countervailing advantage, the more he valued agriculture, and the more deeply he felt interested in its prosperity, the more he was bound to perform his duty to it, and to refuse his sanction to any proposition which in his view of the matter could lead to no beneficial result. And in the first place, with his views of public credit, and before he knew the amount of the surplus revenue at the disposal of Government, he should always be very backward to express any opinion as to the contingent appropriation of that surplus. He considered that the honour of this country was involved in the maintenance of public credit, and he must confess, till he knew the available surplus, he should be reluctant to discuss any question connected with its appropriation. Suppose there was a surplus of 500,000l., was it fair to excite hopes on the part of the agricultural interest that any remission of taxation, giving to agriculture what was said to be its fair share of such an available surplus, would in point of fact relieve the existing distress? He did not deny that agricultural distress existed, and that the pressure in many parts of the country was exceedingly severe, but he very much doubted whether the distress arose from oppressive taxation, and whether it could be removed by any remission of taxes within such limits as were at their command. He believed that there were several descriptions of lands, particularly clay lands, which were in a state of great depression, and he would go so far as to ad- 395 mit, that it was not likely that whole districts of clay lands could be cultivated to advantage; but he must say, that even if it were proved that the tillage of such soils was not so profitable as before, he should not be at all surprised. A competition unfavourable to the inferior descriptions of land was going on in every quarter of the globe, and with respect to every species of agricultural produce. The inferior soils of this country were entering into competition with richer lands in Scotland and Ireland, and the agriculturists of England had to contend he must say, with greater skill in the application of labour, and more provident views with respect to the increase in the produce of land. Under such circumstances, he was not surprised that some districts in this country, heretofore cultivated with advantage, now yielded no remunerating return. What was going on at the present moment in Jamaica and the West-Indian islands which had been longest colonized? They were coming into competition with the settlement of Demerara, and richer lands on the South American continent. The planters of the other islands might with truth assert, that their estates had been under cultivation for fifty or 100 years, and that they could not compete successfully with more modern settlements. No doubt this was a great hardship, but he thought it would be impossible to extend relief to them by any legislative measures. The application of steam power in place of physical strength, was producing a revolution in the agricultural system of the country, which they would vainly attempt to counteract by the remission of taxation. When he said this, he did not mean to deny the eventual claims which the agricultural interest might have to such a remission. But when he had heard the Chancellor of the Exchequer's statement, the amount of actual revenue, and the taxes he proposed to reduce, he should reserve to himself the perfect right to contest the policy of that remission, and to move an amendment in favour of the agriculturists, if he should deem it expedient. If he did not consent to the present motion, it was not because he was prepared to deny, that eventually it might be fit to urge their claims; but because he was unwilling to excite in their minds hopes which the House might not be able to satisfy when they came to carry into effect (he practical proposition. Let the effects 396 of the partial remission of taxes made at former periods be borne in mind. There had been a very general outcry against these measures; and there had been much more ridicule cast on them, than gratitude shown for them. If it should turn out that there was only a very limited surplus, and that, consistently with his wish to maintain the public credit, he could not claim a relief of more than 100,000l. or 200,000l. for the agriculturists, would they not say, "Is this all you have to offer us? Why then did you enter into a general resolution declaring that agriculture wa3 in a distressed state, and that a remission of taxes alone could give relief to it?" He did not choose to involve himself in this embarrassment. If the Chancellor of the Exchequer should be disposed to reduce the duty on newspapers, he should hold himself quite at liberty, if he thought fit, to vote for the proposition of his hon. Friend, who proposed instead of that to remit the tax on soap, or to vote for a remission of local burdens, or any other measure which he might consider likely to be beneficial to agriculture. But the great difficulty was this, that with the exception of the malt-duty, there was no tax which bore hard on it. And he was quite certain, that if all the relief they could give should be a remission of the assessed taxes, or an equalization of the land-tax, the occupying tenant at least would exclaim that he had no interest in that; that his hopes had been disappointed, and that he should be benefitted only by a repeal of the malt-tax. He did not hesitate to say, that he was not prepared to vote for such a measure, nor did he think that in the present state of the country, corresponding advantages would be gained by a partial reduction of it. It would be always open to his noble Friend to propose an entire remission of it; but with his views of that impost, of the policy of retaining it, and with his apprehension that a property-tax could form the only substitute for it, he could not assent to such a motion. The noble Lord had spoken of those who represented agricultural districts as likely to find a difficulty in freely expressing their opinion, and giving a vote on this subject; but he felt no such scruples. He felt himself bound, as the representative of an agricultural district, to take that course which he regarded as most conducive to its lasting welfare. He hoped his noble Friend 397 would not take the sense of the House on this question. He did not wish this for the purpose of avoiding a disagreeable vote, for he had no difficulty in determining what line he should take; but he could not help thinking that a division on this subject, if one should take place, would be a very imperfect indication to the country of the degree of interest felt on the agricultural question. He must protest against its being supposed that he was not a friend to that interest, or that he would not press for practical justice being done to it, but it would be a great hardship if the agriculturists should suppose, after a division, not on the merits of the case, but virtually on a question of form or time, that the House was indifferent to their prosperity.
§ Sir Charles Broke Vere
observed, that if the slightest prospect of relief had been held out to the agriculturists by the Chancellor of the Exchequer, the noble Marquess would not have brought forward his motion.
§ The House divided, on the question that the order of the day be read; Ayes 208; Noes 172; Majority 36.
|List of the AYES.|
|Adam, Sir C.||Byng, G.|
|Aglionby, H. A.||Byng, right hon. G. S.|
|Angerstein, J.||Campbell, Sir H.|
|Anson, hon. Colonel||Campbell, Sir J.|
|Attwood, Thomas||Canning, rt. hn. Sir S.|
|Baines, E.||Cave, R. O.|
|Baldwin, Dr.||Chalmers, P.|
|Barclay, D.||Chapman, L.|
|Barclay, Charles||Childers, J. W.|
|Baring, F. T.||Clay, William|
|Barnard, E. G.||Clements, Lord|
|Barry, G. S.||Codrington, Admiral|
|Bentinck, Lord G.||Collier, John|
|Bentinck, Lord W.||Crawford, W. S.|
|Berkeley, hon. F.||Crawford, W.|
|Berkeley, hon. G.||Dundas, hon. J. C.|
|Berkeley, hon. C.||Dundas, hon. T.|
|Bernal, R.||Dundas, J. D.|
|Bewes, T.||Dunlop, J.|
|Biddulph, R.||Ebrington, Lord|
|Blackburne, J.||Elphinstone, H.|
|Blamire, W.||Estcourt, T.|
|Bowring, Dr.||Etwall, R.|
|Brady, D. C.||Ewart, W.|
|Bridgeman, H.||Ferguson, R.|
|Brocklehurst, J.||Fitzgibbon, hon. Col.|
|Brodie, William B.||Fitzroy, Lord C.|
|Brotherton, J.||Forster, C. S.|
|Buller, C.||Fort, J.|
|Buller, E.||Gaskell, Daniel|
|Burdon, W. W.||Gillon, W. D.|
|Butler, hon. Pierce||Gisborne, T.|
|Buxton, T. F.||Gordon, Robert|
|Graham, rt. hon. Sir J.||O'Ferrall, R. M.|
|Grattan, J.||O'Loghlen, Sergeant|
|Grey, Sir G.||Oswald, James|
|Grote, George||Paget, F.|
|Gully, John||Palmer, General|
|Hall, B.||Palmerston, Lord|
|Hardy, J.||Parker, J.|
|Hastie, A.||Parnell, rt. hn. Sir H.|
|Hawes, Benjamin||Parrott, J.|
|Hawkins, J. H.||Parry, Sir L. P. J.|
|Hay, Sir A.||Pattison, James|
|Heathcote, J.||Pechell, Captain|
|Hector, C. J.||Peel, rt. hon. Sir R.|
|Heneage, Edward||Pelham, Hon. C.A.|
|Hindley, Charles||Pendarves, E. W. W.|
|Hobhouse, right hon. Sir J.||Philips, Mark|
|Hodges, T. L.||Power, J.|
|Hodges, T. T.||Price, Sir R.|
|Hope, J.||Pryme, George|
|Horsman, E.||Rice, right hon. T. S.|
|Howard, R.||Ridley, Sir M. W.|
|Howard, P. H.||Rippon, C.|
|Howick, Lord||Robarts, Abraham W|
|Hume, J.||Robinson, G. R.|
|Hurst, R. H.||Roche, W.|
|Jephson, C. D. O.||Rolfe, Sir R. M.|
|Jervis, John||Russell, C.|
|Ingham, R.||Russell, Lord John|
|Inglis, Sir R. H.||Russell, Lord Charles|
|Johnstone, Sir J.||Ruthven, E.|
|Johnstone, J. J. H.||Ryle, John|
|Johnston, Andrew||Sanford, E. A.|
|Jones, Theobald||Scholefield, J.|
|Labouchere, rt. hn. H.||Scott, J. W.|
|Lambton, H.||Scrope, G. P.|
|Langton, Wm. Gore||Seymour, Lord|
|Leader, J. T.||Sheppard, Thomas|
|Lee, J. L.||Smith, J. A.|
|Lefevre, Charles S.||Smith, hon. R.|
|Lemon, Sir C.||Smith, R. V.|
|Lennard, T. B.||Smith, B.|
|Lennox, Lord G.||Stanley, Lord|
|Lennox, Lord A.||Strickland, Sir G.|
|Lister, E. C.||Strutt, E.|
|Lopez, Sir R.||Stuart, Lord D.|
|Lushington, Charles||Stuart, Lord J.|
|Lynch, A. H.||Stuart, V,|
|Mackenzie, S.||Talbot, J. H.|
|Mackinnon, W. A.||Talfourd, Sergeant|
|Macnamara, Major||Tancred, H. W.|
|Mangles, J.||Tennent, J. E.|
|Marjoribanks, S.||Thomson, rt. hn. C. P.|
|Marsland, H.||Thompson, Alderman|
|Marsland, Thomas||Thompson, Colonel|
|Maule, hon. F.||Thornely, T.|
|Morpeth, Lord||Tooke, W.|
|Mostyn, hon. E.||Villiers, C. P.|
|Mullins, F. W;||Wakley, T|
|Murray, rt. hon. J. A.||Walker, C. A.|
|Nagle, Sir R.||Wallace, R.|
|O'Brien, Cornelius||Walter, J.|
|O'Brien, W. S.||Warburton, H.|
|O'Connell, Daniel||Whalley, Sir S.|
|O'Connell, M. J.||White, S.|
|O'Connell, M.||Wilbraham, G.|
|O'Conor, Don||Wilbraham, hon. B.|
|Williams, W.||Wrightson, W. B.|
|Williams, W. A.||Wrottesley, Sir J.|
|Williamson, Sir H.||Wyse, T.|
|Wood, Alderman||Steuart, R.|
|Wortley, hon. J. S.||Stanley, E. J.|
|List of the NOES.|
|Agnew, Sir A., Bart.||Forbes, W.|
|Alsager, Captain||Forester, hon. G.|
|Alston, R.||Fremantle, Sir T.|
|Arbuthnot, hon. H.||French, F.|
|Archdall, M.||Freshfield, J. W.|
|Ashley, Lord||Gaskell, J. Milnes|
|Astley, Sir J.||Geary, Sir W.|
|Bagot, hon. W.||Gladstone, Wm. E.|
|Bailey, J.||Glynne, Sir S.|
|Balfour, T,||Goodricke, Sir F.|
|Baring, Thomas||Gordon, hon. W.|
|Barneby, J.||Gore, O.|
|Bell, Matthew||Goring, H. D.|
|Benett, J.||Goulburn, Sergeant|
|Blackburne, I.||Grimston, Lord|
|Blackstone, W. S.||Grimston, hon. E. H.|
|Boldero, H. G.||Hale, Robert B.|
|Bonham, R. F.||Halford, H.|
|Bowes, John||Handley, H.|
|Bramston, T. W.||Hay, Sir John|
|Brownrigg, S.||Hayes, Sir E.|
|Bruen, Colonel||Heathcote, G. J.|
|Bruen, F.||Henniker, Lord|
|Burrell, Sir C.||Hill, Lord A.|
|Cayley, E. S.||Hill, Sir R.|
|Chaplin, Colonel||Hogg, James Weir|
|Chetwynd, Captain||Hotham, Lord|
|Chichester, A.||Houldsworth, T.|
|Clerk, Sir G.||Hoy, J. B.|
|Clive, hon. R. H.||Jackson, Serjeant|
|Codrington, C. W.||Kerrison, Sir E.|
|Cole, Lord||King, E. B.|
|Compton, H. C.||Knox, hon. J. J.|
|Conolly, E. M.||Lawson, A.|
|Corbett, T. G.||Lefroy, A.|
|Crawley, S.||Lefroy, right hon. T.|
|Curteis, Herbert B.||Lewis, David|
|Curteis, E. B.||Lincoln, Earl of|
|Dalbiac, Sir C.||Long, Walter|
|Darlington, Earl of||Longfield, R.|
|Denison, W. J.||Lowther, hon. Col.|
|Dick, Q.||Lowther, J. H.|
|Dillwyn, L. W.||Lushington, right hon.|
|Dottin, Abel Rous||S. R.|
|Dowdeswell, Wm.||Lygon, hn. Colonel|
|Duffield, Thomas||Mahon, Lord|
|Dugdale, W. S.||Manners, Lord C. S.|
|Eastnor, Lord||Martin, J.|
|Eaton, R. J.||Maunsell, T. P.|
|Edwards, J.||Miles, William|
|Egerton, W. T.||Mordaunt, Sir J.|
|Egerton, Sir P.||Morgan, Chas, M.|
|Elley, Sir J.||Neeld, J.|
|Elwes, J. P.||Nicholl, Dr.|
|Entwisle, J.||Norreys, Lord|
|Fielden, J.||Ossulston, Lord|
|Fleetwood, P. H.||Owen, H. O.|
|Fleming, John||Packe, C. W.|
|Foley, E. T||Palmer, Robert|
|Folkes, Sir W.||Patten, John Wilson|
|Pease, J.||Surrey, Earl of|
|Perceval, Colonel||Thomas, Colonel|
|Pigott, Robert||Thompson, P. B.|
|Plumptre, J. P.||Townley, R. G.|
|Plunket, hon. R. E.||Trelawney, Sir W.|
|Pollen, Sir J. W.||Trevor, hon. A.|
|Price, S. G.||Trevor, hon. G. R.|
|Pringle, A.||Turner, W.|
|Pusey, P.||Twiss, H.|
|Rae, rt. hon. Sir W.||Tyrell, Sir J. T|
|Reid, Sir J. Rae||Vere, Sir C. B.|
|Richards, J.||Verney, Sir H.|
|Rickford, W.||Vyvyan, Sir R.|
|Rooper, J. B.||Walpole, Lord|
|Rushbrooke, Colonel||Welby, G.|
|Sanderson, R.||Wemyss, Captain|
|Scott, Sir E. D.||Weyland, Major|
|Scourfield, W. H.||Whitmore, T. C.|
|Shaw, right hon. F.||Wilkins, W.|
|Sibthorp, Colonel||Williams, Sir J.|
|Simeon, Sir R.||Wilmot, Sir J. E.|
|Sinclair, Sir George||Winnington, H. J.|
|Smith, A.||Wodehouse, E.|
|Smyth, Sir H.||Yorke, E. T.|
|Spry, Sir S.||Young, Sir W.|
|Stormont, Lord||Chandos, Marquess of|
|Sturt, H. C.||Duncombe, VV.|
|Bannerman, A.||Knightly, Sir C.|
|Bish, T.||Halse, J.|
|Duncombe, T.||Brudenell, Lord|
|Molesworth, Sir W.||Parker, M. E. N.|
|Loch, J.||Knatchbull, Sir E,|
|Evans, G.||Poulter, J.|