HC Deb 08 February 1836 vol 31 cc147-65

On the Motion of Lord John Russell, the portion of his Majesty's Speech, relating to the state of Agriculture, was read by the Clerk at the Table, as also the following Resolution of the House, agreed to upon the 24th of April, 1833:—"Resolved, that it is the opinion of this House, that any alteration in the Monetary system of the country which would have the effect of lowering the standard of value, would be highly inexpedient and dangerous."

Lord John Russell

I now rise, having called the attention of the House both to the King's Speech and to its own Resolution respecting the Currency, to propose "That a Select Committee be appointed to inquire into the state of agriculture, and into the causes and extent of the distress which exists in some important branches thereof." It has always been my opinion, and it has been the opinion of those most interested in the subject, that when any great branch of our national industry is materially depressed, it is for Parliament, if possible, to devise a remedy. Generally speaking, it has been considered expedient to appoint a Committee, in order to ascertain, in the first instance, as far as possible, the facts of the case. There is then some hope, certainly, that if there be wide differences of opinion at the commencement of such inquiry, although those opinions may not be brought precisely to agree, yet that much of the discordance will be done away—that the distance will be lessened, and that exaggerations prevailing on one side of the subject or on the other may be removed. I think it likewise due to those who complain of distress, that Parliament should endeavour, as far as lies in its power, to devise some means of alleviating that distress. At the same time I am strongly persuaded that there is one remedy that has been proposed for the relief of agriculture which this House ought not to entertain; and I desired the Clerk to read the Resolution of the year 1833, that we might preserve in our minds the recollection of the solemn declaration of this House on the subject of the Currency. I am prepared to say, that although I should think it unadvisable, and in some degree unjust, to the Committee we may appoint, to restrict the Members by any Resolution with respect to the Currency, yet as far as I an a concerned, and as far as his Majesty's present Ministers are concerned, no recommendation or decision in favour of tampering with the Currency would induce them to, adopt or to further a measure which they would consider neither consistent with the public faith, nor conducive to the public interest. Having said thus much, I am prepared to move for a Committee in the terms I have already stated, which I hope the noble Lord opposite (the Marquesa of Chandos) will find sufficiently comprehensive to induce him to forego any intention of moving an Amendment Undoubtedly it is not my wish to fetter the inquiry of the Committee in any way. I will not enter, because if I were to do so I should be unnecessarily provoking debate, into any discussion of what is the real extent of the difficulties under which agriculture labours, or of the causes to which they are owing. I will but refer to one or two facts which, I think, may be of importance for the attention of the Committee in the course of its investigation. In the first place, I observe that those who complain of agricultural distress, and are immediately engaged in Agriculture, always fix upon this point—viz., the very low price of wheat. Certainly while the price of wheat has been extraordinary low, there has not been an equal fall in the price of other grain. I will compare the price of wheat, barley, and oats now, with the price in 1828, when the last Corn-law was passed. Taking the averages, which are generally correct, wheat has fallen from 60s. 5d. to 39s. 4d., being a reduction of thirty-six per cent; barley has fallen from 32s. 10d. to 29s. 11d., being a reduction of only nine per cent; and oats have fallen from 22s. 6d. to 22s., being only a reduction of two and a-quarter per cent. While wheat has fallen thirty-six per cent, oats have fallen only two and a-quarter per cent. The farmers are certainly not satisfied with the present price of wheat, and I therefore think it material for the Committee to consider the various alterations in the prices of the different kinds of corn, as well as the other articles of agricultural produce. There is another question to which, although it has been reported upon in the Reports of the Poor-law Commissioners, it is very material that the attention of the Committee should be directed, with the view of watching the effects of the changes now going on in many parts of the country by the enactment of the Poor-law Bill, and the unions which, in compliance with the provisions of that measure, are now forming throughout several parts of the country. I know it to be unquestionably the case, that in some instances a great change has been effected by the passing of this measure. It was only this morning that I met a noble Lord, who is a Member of the other House of Parliament, and who told me that in the Suffolk Union, with which he was acquainted, the rates had already been reduced one-third, and that on the expiration of a year he had no doubt that a reduction of one-half would be effected. In a union with which I am myself acquainted, in the county of Bedford, the reduction in the rates for the quarter ending the 31st December diminished them by one-half, they being lowered from 2,500l, to 1,200l. With respect, however, to the working of this law, that is a subject which, on the appointment of an agricultural Committee, should be taken, into consideration, and the change which has taken place, and which I believe will turn out to be one of great amelioration, should be carefully observed. With respect to county-rates, a Committee has sat upon this subject, and Reports have been made by it which, though they do not show that every point has been sufficiently examined, yet afford a strong ground for believing that some more effectual check may be devised on the expenditure of the fund, of which it is at present, in many instances, difficult to say, what is the object, and how it may be effectually controlled. There is another subject to which I know many Gentlemen have turned their attention, under the impression that it might be usefully brought under the consideration of this Committee. Of course I do not mean to say, that the Committee should not have the power to consider the question to which I refer, if they should think fit; but I doubt much whether the consideration of the question by the Committee would conduce to any useful object. I believe that the opinion which existed some years ago, and which was very general, both among owners and occupiers of land—namely, that Parliament could by law, fix some price below which corn should not fall, has now been almost entirely relinquished. For my own part, I have never entertained an opinion, that such could be the case, although I always supported some law like the present Corn-law, considering it necessary for the protection of the agricultural interest. But if that question is again to be discussed, the arguments on it are so well known—they are so much arguments of principle it is better, far better, that the consideration of it should be entered on by the whole House than by any Select Committee. I very much doubt whether the House would show great regard for the recommendations of a Select Committee on such a subject. I think, therefore, that this is a question which it is essential for the Committee to investigate. I must now say, reverting to the opinion which I expressed at the commencement of my observations, that I do not see very clearly any sufficient remedy by which the distress now pressing upon the agricultural class may be removed by Parliament. I wish to hold out no hope which may be afterwards disappointed. I wish, however, that the whole question may be fairly considered by the Committee; and sure I am, that if there be any practical means devised by which the agricultural interest can be benefited, it will be the duty of the House to adopt them. At the same time, I must say again, that I hope, however unfettered the Committee may be, they will not be induced to recommend any measure which would have for its object the alteration of the present state of the currency.

The Marquess of Chandos

said, the determination of his Majesty's Government to take this subject into their consideration had relieved him from much of the difficulty by which he had felt himself surrounded. He was glad that the noble Lord opposite, and his colleagues in the Administration, had taken this question into their own hands, as he was confident that the knowledge of Government having taken up the question of agricultural distress with a view of discussing it would produce a beneficial result among the owners and occupiers of the soil. He had himself endeavoured in vain to carry such measures as he thought calculated for the relief of agriculture. He therefore was rejoiced to find that the Government was at last determined to come forward in favour and support of so large a body of his Majesty's subjects. He was glad to hear the noble Lord say., that it was not his intention to fetter the powers of examination given to this Committee. Had not that been the case, his object would have been to move for the appointment of a Select Committee, with full powers of inquiry. Without giving any opinion of his own on the important subject of the Currency, he would say that it would be unfair, in case hon. Gentlemen thought that they could make out a case on that subject, to prevent them from being heard. He would not say whether the Currency was the cause of the present distressed state of agriculture or not; but this he would say, that the time had now arrived when there must he a full and fair inquiry into what was the cause of it, and as the noble Lord opposite had told the House that was not the intention of his Majesty Government to fetter the Committee, or it interfere with its investigations, he should not feel it necessary to move any Amendment. He would take the noble Lord and His Majesty's Government at their word, that they would give the Committee very facility, and that they would allow them a fair opportunity to discuss every matter that bore on the present agricultural distress, and on the cause of it. He felt that he was speaking the sentiments of the farmers of England when he said that they hoped that they would be dealt fairly with by his Majesty's Government. The noble Lord had. alluded to the present state of the markets, and had observed very justly, that the farmers were dissatisfied with the present price of wheat. That was unquestionably the fact. He frankly owned that he could not come at the cause of the present depression of prices, but he hoped that he might say, without vanity, that that was a reason for sifting into the cause of it. From the numerous agricultural associations which had been recently formed in various parts of the country, the noble Lord opposite must see that the farmers, under the conviction that they had arrived at a pitch of difficulty under which they could no longer go on, had taken up the subject with a determination to have justice done to them. As to the question of the Corn-laws, he would not say a single word upon it. He had never heard any farmer express an inclination to have the present state of the Corn-laws taken as a subject for Parliamentary inquiry. He was however more especially speaking his own sentiments, and he would therefore abstain from dwelling further upon that topic. It would afford great satisfaction to the agriculturists to know that a Committee was appointed to look fairly into the cause of their distress. If, unfortunately, it should turn out that Parliament was unable to benefit that important class,—and certainly that was not his opinion,—still, if such should be the case, the farmers would still be satisfied if their case were fairly inquired into. He would only in-conclusion, express a hope that his Majesty's Ministers would, without regard to party or political feeling, appoint such a Committee of country-gentlemen as was calculated to give satisfaction to the country at large. He had put upon paper the names of the gentlemen whom he thought best qualified for sitting upon such a Committee. He should wait with great anxiety to hear the names proposed by the noble Lord, and till he heard those names he should not say a word, further on the Question.

Mr. Clay

, till he saw the Report of this Committee, would not bring forward the Motion respecting the Corn-laws of which he had given notice.

Mr. Thomas Attwood

rose for the purpose of moving that "it be an instruction to the Committee particularly to inquire into the effect which the Bill of 1819, commonly called Peel's Bill, had produced in causing the present distress of agriculture. The general opinion of the agricultural classes now was, that the whole of their distress was to be attributed to that Bill, and to that Bill alone. The noble Lord, on a former occasion, had told the House that there must be a large reduction of rents; but, if that were so, why should there not be simultaneously a large reduction of dividends? If the landowner were called upon to reduce his rents, the fundowner should be called upon to reduce his dividends. That was only equal justice; for the landowner had as good a right to be protected from wrong as the fundowner. In what a state would the landlords of England be, if, after the thirty per cent, which they had already reduced, they were called upon to make a further reduction of fifty per cent, in their rents? Under the present standard of value, the noble Lord must know that the tenantry must be ruined, unless the landlords were ruined before them. Indeed, one-half of the tenantry were ruined already, and the other half was travelling rapidly on the road to ruin. When the tenantry had reached that destination, the landlords would not be far behind them, and the mortgagees would soon take possession of their estates. The noble Lord, perhaps, thought that things had already come to the worst. That was not the fact. We had fifty per cent, lower to go still. There was not a shilling of rent now obtained that was not obtained through that accursed tampering with the Currency, which had been going on for the last twenty years. He had himself no interest in the land, he was only a friend to his country. He should not lose a shilling if all the farmers in the country were ruined, but, as a loyal subject, so long as he had life he would lift up his voice, against the iniquity of the present system. There had already been delusion upon delusion, and deception upon deception. The industrious classes had been told of over-trading, over-speculation, over-production, and over-population, but nothing had been said of over-ruling. The great misfortune of the people of the country had been that they had been over-ruled. The industrious classes had trusted to that House, and they had been deceived and defrauded, and their capital and the funds of their industry had been taken from them. That House was again about to deceive them—they were preparing them for the butcher's knife again to massacre them. The Currency had been extended by the Branch Banks established by the Bank of England, and by the Joint-stock Banks established by private individuals, in all the large manufacturing towns, but that was not enough. We had not, at present, either a sound, a healthy, or an upright Currency. They all recollected the distress of 1816, of 1819, of 1825, and of 1829. Did they intend, by leaving the Currency in its present state, to bring down another deluge of ruin upon the merchants and manufacturers of the country? There had been previous inquiries on this subject, but they had ended in nothing. The Committee which sat upon agricultural distress in 1833, was one of the most delusive humbugs. Various efforts which he had made to explain his own peculiar notions on the Currency, not only before that Committee, but before several other Committees which had sat on the same subject previously, bad all been ineffectual. He hoped the House would let the country return at last to a just Currency, be it of paper or of gold—he hoped that it would without further delay proceed to do justice between the fundholder and the landlord,—between the landlord and the tenant. He protested against the one-eyed inquiry now proposed, and contended that the Committee would be a complete delusion, if his instruction to it were not adopted. He was afraid that the noble Lord would nominate upon that Committee a majority of hon. Gentlemen of his own way of thinking, instead of throwing a net as it were upon the House, and taking the members of the Committee indiscriminately. If that were the case, the Committee would summon before them a host of witnesses to prove that there was nothing rotten in the state of agriculture, and that any little evils which might exist would all be removed by taking off the tax on shepherds dogs, and by making some alteration in the county-rates. Under such circumstances what chance of relief would the agriculturists, have from the Committee? If, however, the noble Lord would let this Committee be drawn fairly from both sides of the House, and if the noble Lord, would allow his Amendment to be carried, he should entertain hopes that better days were about to dawn upon England. He should entertain hopes that there would then be security for the Throne, security for the aristocracy, security for the Church, and security for every class of his Majesty's subjects. The hon. Member concluded by declaring that this subject ought to be fairly investigated, that all its dark sides ought to be turned to the light, which would not be the case unless his Amendment were carried. He moved the instruction to the Committee.

The Speaker

stated, that it was not competent for the hon. Member to move his instruction to the Committee until the Committee was appointed.

Colonel Sibthorp

should trust in the declaration of Ministers, that they did not intend to fetter the inquiries of this Committee, until he found them unworthy of his confidence. He, therefore, hoped that the hon. Member for Birmingham, whose clear and manly speeches on this subject both in the Central Agricultural Association and in the House he much admired, would not press his Amendment at present, as it was calculated to mar the object which they all had in view.

Colonel Thompson

hoped that attention would be paid in the Committee to those landlords who thought the present Corn-laws were at the bottom of all the distress which the agriculturists were now suffering. He had some time since been asked to reduce his rents in Yorkshire; and he had consented to do so on condition that he should be at liberty to raise them twelve months after the laws were repealed prohibiting the importation of foreign corn. The farmers, too, were becoming converts to the opinion that the Corn-laws were injurious to their interests. He was therefore for trying the experiment of repealing them. Let it not be understood from this that he was for rashly repealing them; no, he was for that gradual removal of them which would prevent any injury from being inflicted on existing interests.

Mr. Cayley

said, that there was a spirit now abroad among the agriculturists, which would not be blinded as to the cause of their situation, or satisfied without inquiry. It was for the House to de- cide, after a proper investigation, whether relief could be afforded. He assured the noble Lord, that if he constituted the Committee fairly, he would reap, as he would undoubtedly deserve, the gratitude of the country.

Mr. Heathcote

did not believe that there existed on the part of any great body of agriculturists the slightest desire for a change in the Corn-laws—they had too much corn in the country already, and did not want more. He believed that great difference of opinion prevailed on the subject of agricultural distress, but this was not the time to discuss the question, and he therefore should not state his sentiments upon it. If the inquiry of the Committee were to be enlarged by the introduction of the currency question, it would never come to an end. What the agriculturists wanted was some immediate practical result from the labours of the Committee. It was to be hoped that result would be attained in the way of a reduction of local taxation. He thought his noble Friend had acted so fairly on the present occasion as to be entitled to the support of the House.

Mr. Thomas Attwood

said, that observing so strong a feeling for unanimity in the House, he would refrain from pressing his Amendment.

Mr. Roebuck

hoped that the Committee would distinctly define what was meant by the term "agricultural interest," for great confusion had frequently arisen from not understanding clearly the meaning of the expression. According to his idea, the "agricultural interest" comprised three classes—the first and most important of which was the labourers, and he wished that those who were to determine as to agricultural distress would first determine whether there existed increased distress among the agricultural labourers; and if it should happen that the condition of the labouring farming population of England was at present better (as he believed it to be) than it had been for the last twenty years, there was something to be said against the general proposition of agricultural distress. The next important portion of agriculturists were the farmers, who employed capital in the cultivation of land; and he wanted to learn from the Committee whether the application of capital to land was less profitable than its application in any other business; and, if it were, he wished to know what was meant by the term "agricultural distress" as applied to the farmers. The last and least important branch of the agricultural interest—the least important because least numerous and non-productive—were the landlords. He owned that was a proposition not likely to meet much support in the House, still he adhered to the opinion, however disagreeable it might be to those who heard him, that the least important portion of the agricultural interest were the landlords. This portion of the agriculturists, he was willing to allow, were in distress—but why? In consequence of their own conduct, and not from any act of the Government or Legislature—not by means of the law, which specially favoured them, but through their own proceedings. The causes of their distress arose out of habits and times different from the present, when, unhappily for the country, the landlords enjoyed a monopoly of supply, we being cooped up within the four seas. The habits of expense then contracted and continued under different circumstances, together with the large charges upon their estates, had ruined the landlords. Now that we were no longer confined within the four seas, or at war with the whole world, when the great body of the people were better off than formerly, but when the expensive habits of the landowners were destroying them, those persons had no right to call on us for compensation for losses and difficulties which were purely the effect of their own proceedings, and in which the community was not interested. He hoped, therefore, to whatever conclusion the Committee might come, that they would settle whether and how far it referred to the agricultural labourers, the farmers, or the landlords.

Mr. Benett

belonged to the class of English country gentlemen, and rose to defend them against the allegations of the hon. Member for Bath, who appeared not to know much about their character; if he did, he would not have denounced them as a useless or unimportant body. The country gentlemen had uniformly done their duty; they were loyal to the King and Constitution, and in their capacity of magistrates had rendered important service to the country. He agreed with the hon. Member for Bath that the labouring class, especially the agricultural labourers, were infinitely the most important portion of the community, but he believed he was more intimately cognizant of their con- dition than the hon. Member, and he could assure him that the agricultural labourers would never prosper unless their employers, the farmers, were also prosperous. With respect to the farmers of England, no manufacturers worked for so small a profit, though the hon. Gentleman appeared to think differently; and the farmers could not prosper unless the country gentlemen prospered also. The three classes, of labourers, farmers, and landowners, were all bound up together, and the hon. Gentleman might add to them the class of dealers in towns, who supplied the agriculturists, and whose prosperity depended upon that of their customers. With these he would also mention, as possessing identical interests, the manufacturers for home consumption. The prosperity or distress of all these classes was closely connected; their interests were mutual. In our love of a showy foreign trade, while dwelling on the importance of our exports, we must not forget the magnitude of our home consumption. But he would not dwell upon the subject, or forestall the business of the Committee, He felt exceedingly obliged to the Government for having proposed the Committee, which he had no doubt would be fairly constituted. He was glad that, unlike the last, the Committee was unrestricted in its inquiry, from which much benefit might be expected. The agriculturists had a right to demand inquiry and relief, if that were possible. All he asked for them was justice, and he doubted not they would obtain it at the hands of the House.

Mr. Plumptre

agreed with the hon. Member for Bath as to the importance of the labouring classes, but dissented from his assertion that they were not in a state of distress. From his knowledge, he took it on himself to declare the agricultural labourers were at this moment in a state of-great distress. Indeed, it was evident, on the slightest consideration, that they must be so, for when the prices of agricultural produce were depressed, it was impossible for the cultivators to employ their full number of labourers, or to afford them a fair remuneration.

Sir Robert Peel

wished sincerely that he could participate in the expectation entertained by some of his hon. Friends as to the practical advantage to result from the appointment of the Committee. He did not, however, entertain that expecta- tion; his belief was, that when the Committee sent in their report, probably at the close of the Session, the result would prove to be not very different from that of 1833, namely, a strong opinion expressed by the Committee, and as firm a conviction on the part of the House, that legislative interference would not afford the means of relief or prosperity to the agriculturists. At the same time he thought, whenever there was a strong and general feeling subsisting among a particular class admitted to be distressed, that an inquiry into their condition was desirable, and might be advantageous. He thought that, under such circumstances, those who doubted the utility of the investigation were nevertheless bound to consent to it, and thereby obtain the moral advantage to be gained by the inquiry, whatever might be the result. If he thought that the Committee was appointed with a view to promote an alteration in the standard of value, and if he believed that the result would be to alter it, he, for one, would not consent to the proposition. He felt as deep an interest in the prosperity of agriculture as any man—his interest in the question was perhaps stronger than in another—but with this feeling he was assured that the true friend of the agriculturists was not he who flattered them with fallacious expectations, but the man who frankly stated what he believed to be the truth as to their condition and prospects. If the Committee were about to undertake the task of ascertaining the effect produced upon agriculture by the alteration of the currency in 1819, or if it were appointed for the purpose of investigating the various causes of depression to which that interest had been exposed, it was about to enter upon a task which, pursued in the usual manner, would necessarily end in disappointment. If the Committee even took evidence and inquired into various circumstances of agriculture, in widely different parts of the country, with a view of assigning to each particular depression its peculiar cause, it would engage in a task which could not be accomplished by any Committee. To select particular cases of distress and depression from particular parts of the country would be fruitless, and would not prove satisfactory to the rest. At the same time, he admitted, that if a Committee were to be appointed, it was wise not to restrict its powers closely within the limits of a parti- cular subject. But, so far as the interests of agriculture were concerned, he thought they would be best promoted by the Committee addressing itself to practical remedies. Possibly some assistance might be derived from a reduction of the land-tax, a mode of relief not of late rendered available. If the Committee addressed itself to practical subjects, it might obtain the means of administering, if not extensive relief, at least material alleviation to the agriculturists. As to an inquiry into the causes of the depression, of the price of agricultural produce, it could not be attended with any benefit or produce any practical result. They found a depression of prices admitted; he hoped, if the Committee thought it necessary to go into the cause of it, that they would not confine themselves merely to the alteration in the currency, but would also consider the effect of a cessation of war, of a return to peaceful habits and pursuits, and of improved and increased means of production. Cases ought not to be selected from particular portions of the country. If the Committee were going to ascertain the real causes and condition of agricultural distress, they must not take the cases of a heavy soil, where the production of wheat was necessarily expensive, but they must look at the subject as a whole, and not merely look at the condition of agriculture, but at the other interests involved in, and connected with, it. He could not help thinking that he saw in the great prosperity of our trade and manufactures a more encouraging prospect of an improved condition of agriculture than in any other definite cause. However, one thing appeared self-evident—it was clearly as much for the interest of agriculture as for that of commerce and manufacture that we should adhere to the present standard of value. He might here observe, that in common with other Gentlemen, he considered the condition of the labouring classes highly important, but he was surprised to hear the hon. Member who preceded him state that there was no improvement in their circumstances within the last few years. The result of the inquiry made in 1833 was, that though agriculture was not in such a state as could be wished, yet that there had been a material improvement in the condition of the labouring classes as compared with their state in former but recent periods. Gentlemen might enter- tain a different opinion, but he was only saying that the Committee of 1833 had so reported. There was a universal impression on the part of the Committee that the state of the labouring classes was materially improved. [Mr. O'Connell: "In England?"] He meant in England. He agreed with the Committee in this opinion—it was his sincere conviction that the condition of the labouring classes had improved; that they were earning at least an equal money amount of wages as at former periods, and shat they possessed a greater command over those commodities which were essential to existence. That consideration afforded him consolation for the pain he felt at the complaints made (some of them not without justice) with respect to the alleged injurious effects of the Currency Bill of 1819. He believed in his conscience it was essential to the national security that the condition of the labouring classes in this country should be improved; and he believed that the first necessary step to that improvement consisted in the selection of some one permanent standard of value, Hardly, therefore, as the measure might bear on some persons, on the labouring classes it had operated favourably, and the paramount advantage of that circumstance in some degree countervailed the pain he experienced at the prejudice which the Bill of 1819 might have caused to other classes. With respect to practical and local measures of relief, it might be worth while to consider whether there was not a possibility of diminishing, in some degree, the amount of payments required from united agricultural parishes, on account of the building of workhouses under the Poor Law Amendment Act. He thought the interest payable for the advances was greater than in other cases where public money was advanced. Here was a practical case, admitting an easy remedy. As the noble Lord found that the security in those and other cases was equal, and that leas interest was demanded on advances in other instances, he hoped the noble Lord would consider the subject, and that the appointment of a Committee would not preclude the Government from affording practical relief, for it would be a disadvantage to the agricultural interest if the inquiry to be made into its condition should suspend any favourable intention that might have been entertained towards it. Believing, as he did, that great benefit, would result to the agricultural interest from the alteration in the Poor-laws, and having done what he could to enforce the improvement in his own neighbourhood, he nevertheless thought that we must take care not to overrate the future permanent reduction of expense from the circumstance of the Act coming into operation at a time when there was a greatly increased demand for agricultural labour on account of various improvements, including the extension of railroads and other public works. He was not going to say one word against the effect or operation of the Poor-law Amendment Act, but he cautioned Gentlemen not to expect an extensive and continued reduction of expenditure in future, auguring from what had already taken place, to which they ought to bear in mind that other causes had contributed. With respect to the strong language used by the hon. Member for Birmingham, he felt unwilling to enter upon the subject—this was not the time to do so; but he should apprehend that the very precise, close, and practical reasoning of the hon. Member that night must suggest to the Committee that the hon. Member was one of the earliest witnesses to be examined before them. He hoped he might promise the hon. Member that he should be examined more in detail upon facts than on former occasions, and he trusted there would be none of what the hon. Gentleman called, "tomfoolery;" but that he would receive every opportunity of showing that an alteration, of the currency was the best cure for agricultural distress. When he recollected the prophecies he had beard from the hon. Gentleman as to the impossibility of maintaining the present standard of value, and continuing to carry on our trade and manufactures in a degree at all proportionate to their ancient prosperity, and looked round him and saw the condition of those great interests, he now might be excused for doubting the hon. Member's present predictions. When he found that it was consistent with the hon. Member's proposed alteration of the currency, nay, a part of his plan, that extensive assistance should be granted by joint-stock banks to persons producing security for the advances he asked, why could not this method be resorted to at present? When the hon. Gentleman admitted that our commerce and manufactures were prosperous, and that, their prosperity co-existed with a gold standard, he could not under- stand why the same standard should be less favourable to another great interest, or why it could not also co-exist with agricultural prosperity. His firm belief was, that the permanent welfare and prosperity of this country, agricultural as well as commercial and manufacturing, were deeply involved in the maintenance of the present fixed monetary standard.

Mr. Wodehouse

maintained, with every disposition to pay deference to the opinions of the right hon. Baronet, that if the Committee did not extend its inquiries into the state of the currency, it would be quite impossible to recommend any practicable scheme of relief to the distressed agriculturists. He thanked the noble Lord for not having excluded that subject from their consideration, and he earnestly hoped the result would not be found to disappoint the reasonable hopes of a very large and important portion of the community.

The Speaker

having put the Question,

Lord John Russell

read the names of the Committee, which he proposed should consist of thirty-three Members, the greater proportion being Members for English counties, four for Scotland, and four for Ireland.

On the Motion of Mr. Cayley, the name of the hon. Member for Whitehaven (Mr. Matthias Attwood) was added to the Committee.

Lord John Russell

said he should divide the House against the addition of any Other names.

The Marquess of Chandos

moved that the name of the Earl of Darlington be added to the Committee.

The House divided on the Motion; Ayes 142; Noes 149: Majority 7.

List of the AYES.
Agnew, Sir A. Buckingham, J. S.
Alston, R. Butler, Sir J.
Angerstein, J. J. Burrell, Sir C.
Archdall, M. Campbell, Sir H. P.
Astley, Sir J. Cayley, E.
Attwood, M. Chisholm, A.
Bagot, Hon. W. Churchill, Lord C,
Bailey, J. Clerk, Sir G.
Baillie, H. Clive, C
Barclay, C. Clive, Hon. R.
Barneby, J. Codrington, C. W.
Bateson, Sir R. Compton, H. C.
Beckett, Sir J. Conolly, Colonel
Borthwick, P Corbet, T. G.
Bradshaw, J. Dalbiac, Sir C.
Bruen, Colonel Darlington, Earl of
Bruen, F. Dick, Q.
Bruce, C. C. E. Duncombe, Hon. W.
Brudenell, Lord Buncombe, Bon. A.
Eaton, R. J. Maunsell, J. P.
Egerton, Sir P. Mordaunt, Sir J.
Elley, Sir J. Morgan, C,
Elves, J. P. Neele, J.
Entwisle, J. Nicholl, J.
Estcourt, T. G. B. O'Brien, W. S.
Ewing, H. D. Palmer, R.
Fector, J. M. Parry, Colonel
Fielden, W. Peel, E.
Fielden, J. Pemberton, T.
Finn, W. F. Perceval, Colonel
Fleming, J. W. Plumptre, J. P.
Forbes, W. Pollington, Lord.
French, W. Sandon, Viscount
Freshfield, W, Praed, J. B.
Gaskell, J. Milnes Price, R.
Gillon, W. D. Pringle, A.
Gore, P. Richards, J.
Goring, H. D. Rickford, W.
Goulburn, Rt. Hon. H. Ross, C.
Goulburn, Sergeant Rushbrooke, R.
Greisley, Sir R. Sanderson, R.
Grimston, Lord Scarlett, Hon. R.
Halford, H. Scott, Sir E.
Hale, R. B. Scourfield, W. H.
Halyburton, Hon. J. Shaw, Rt. Hon. F.
Handley, H. Sheldon, E.
Hardy, J. Sibthorpe, Colonel
Harvey, D. W. Smyth, Sir H.
Harland, J. C. Somerset, Lord E.
Henniker, Lord Somerset, Lord G.
Hay, Sir J. Stormont, Viscount
Herbert, Hon. S. Stuart, Lord
Hogg, J. W. Sturt, H. C.
Holland, E. Trevor, Hon. A.
Hope, Hon. J. Tyrell, Sir J.
Hotham, Lord Twiss, H.
Houldsworth, T. Vere, Sir C.
Hoy, J. B. Verner, Colonel
Ingham, R. Verner, Sir H.
Inglis, Sir R. Vesey, Hon. T.
Irton, S. Vivian, J. E.
Johnstone, J. H. Walpole, Lord.
Jones, W. Weyland, R.
Kearsley, J. H. Wilbraham, Hon. R.
Knatchbull, Sir E. Wilson, H.
Knight, H. G. Wodehouse, E.
Knightley, Sir C. Yorke, E.
Lennard, B. Young, J.
Longfield, R. Young, Sir W.
Lowther, Colonel Young, G. F.
Lygon, Colonel TELLERS.
Maclean, D. Attwood, T.
Manners, Lord C. Chandos, Lord

Committee appointed.

HIS MAJESTY'S ANSWER TO THE ADDRESS as follows, was reported and ordered to be printed.

"I receive with satisfaction the assurances contained in your loyal and dutiful address.

"It will ever be my study, under the will of Divine Providence, to maintain the high character of this country among the nations of the world, and to promote the peace and welfare of all classes of my subjects."