HC Deb 05 June 1837 vol 38 cc1189-208
Lord J. Russell

rose to move the Order of the Day for the House resolving itself into a Committee upon the Poor Relief (Ireland) Bill.

Mr. T. Attwood

rose to move an amendment. The House of Commons appeared to him to be like Nero fiddling whilst Rome was burning. They had been dabbling with small game for some months past, whilst a general conflagration had risen among the commercial and manufacturing classes, and was now extending its ravages rapidly among the agricultural and labouring classes. This was a state of things which appeared to him to demand an inquiry. In his mind, the welfare of Ireland was more implicated in the amendment which he was about to propose than it was in any measure which could be proposed for the relief of the poor in Ireland, much more than it was in the measure now before Parliament for their relief. The House had been told by the noble Lord, on a former evening, that it was wrong to consider the present distress of the country as anything comparable to the distress of 1825. Now, with all deference to the noble Lord, he must say, that the noble Lord had no experience of the distress of 1825, either commercially or politically. If the right hon. Member for Tarn worth were present, he would assure the noble Lord from the highest authority, that the sufferings of the mass of the people of England at that time were not half as great as at present. He admitted that the pressure at that time was greater upon the bankers. The pressure, however, upon the merchants was much greater now than it was then, and the manufacturers and labourers of the country were not suffering then one-millionth part of what they now suffered. His hon. Friend, the Member for Caithness, had been taunted by the noble Lord at the head of the Home Department with anticipating events. The noble Lord said, that his hon. Friend was anticipating calamity. He did not know what the noble Lord considered a calamity. Perhaps the noble Lord, if London and Westminster were both swallowed up by an earthquake, and he himself were to escape, would not consider the loss of those two cities as a calamity. He, however, deemed it to be a great calamity, when 2,000,000 of honourable and upright men — men as honourable and upright as the noble Lord himself, though not so high in rank and station—were plunged in privation and poverty. Plague, pestilence, and famine, were each a great calamity, but were not, when combined, such a calamity as that of depriving one-third of the population of this empire of the means of daily subsistence. He would undertake to say, that from the year 1810 up to the present day there was no man living who had applied so much time as he had applied to the subject of the currency, or who had possessed such opportunities as he had for investigating all its ramifications. Seeing, then, that ruin was attacking the vitals of English commerce, he took the liberty of calling back the attention of the House; but why should he say calling back the attention of the House, when its attention had never yet been directed to the subject? He took the liberty of calling the attention of the House to the real interests of the nation, which had been little consulted by Parliament since it had become a reformed Parliament, and had not been consulted by it, he did not know how long before it became a reformed Parliament, Without further circumlocution, he would call the attention of the House of Commons—the reformed House of Commons—to the very serious condition in which the large masses of the people of England were now placed. Every Member who then heard him knew that ruin had fallen on the commercial and the manufacturing classes. They heard men say, "How can Government be justly made responsible for the imprudence and want of caution on the part of those classes?" He insisted that the commercial and manufacturing classes had not been guilty either of imprudence or want of caution. The plain matter of fact was, that they had dared to carry on their business under one state of the currency, when they were liable to be called upon to redeem all their obligations under another. The Government and its laws had created a state of fictitious prosperity, which they had afterwards changed into a state of real adversity. The unhappy merchants were not at all to blame. They supposed that they were acting under the protection of British laws, and they were ignorant that the noble Lord and his colleagues in the Ministry had changed them fraudulently and secretly. They had contracted debts under one set of prices, and they were now suddenly called upon to pay them under another. They had contracted debts when cotton was selling at 8d. a-pound; they were now called upon to redeem them when cotton was only 4d. a-pound. The same was the case with tobacco and tea. Hence it happened that every man was compelled to pay 200l. for every 100l. of debt which he had contracted. The merchants, he repeated, were not to blame for the ruin in which they were at present involved, for they had been swindled out of their property by the fraudulent operation of the laws. They would be wealthy even now if justice were done them; but they found their wealth passing rapidly away from them because justice was denied them. The House had been told, on a former evening, that the Bank of England ought to give assistance to such of the merchants as were at present in difficulties. Now unless the Government was prepared to repeal the law which coerced the Bank of England to pay in gold, all that the Bank of England could do by assisting the merchants would be to involve itself in the same common ruin with them. The law at present compelled the Bank of England to pay its notes in standard gold. Four years ago the measures of Government had compelled the Bank of England to relax the screw. They had compelled the Bank to issue new supplies of paper. The discontents which prevailed in consequence of the prevalent distress of 1832 required that issue of bank paper. The Government had done more than this; it prevailed upon the Legislature to pass acts making bank-notes a legal tender for all sums above 5l., and abolishing altogether the usury laws. They thus gave the fishes plenty of water to swim in—they first fastened down the plug of the pond in which the fishes were indulging themselves, and then, when their delight was at the highest, they pulled out the plug and let the water off, and then the unhappy fishes found themselves all of a sudden floundering in the mud. Hon. Gentlemen might laugh, but this was literally the fact. Ministers first raised prices above the level of fixed charges, and the consequence was, that the industrious and labouring classes in the manufacturing districts flourished in an eminent degree. After two or three years, however, they reduced prices below the level of fixed charges, and thus brought the country into the same state of calamity which it had experienced at former periods. Recently the measures of Government had all been taken for the purpose of forcing up the price of gold. For the last year all the Ministerial newspapers—more especially the Courier, the Globe, and the Chronicle—had been daily urging the Bank of England to contract the circulation, and to take measures to break down the price not only of foreign manufactures, but also of British manufactures, in order to compel foreigners, in two different ways, both as purchasers and sellers, to bring gold into this country. The conduct of Government and of the journals under its control was objectionable on two distinct grounds—first they stimulated the Bank of England to increase its circulation, and then, to bring back gold to the country, they stimulated it to contract the circulation, which they had before stimulated it to increase. The noble Lord at the head of the Home Department smiled at this, and shaking his head with a show of gravity said, "Look at the speculators, and see how indiscreet they are." Yes, indiscreet they undoubtedly were in trusting to the professions and promises of a Whig Ministry, and they now find that in leaving the Tories to trust in the Whigs, they had dropped to use a vulgar phrase, from the frying-pan into the fire. He hoped, that hon. Members would attend to the question which he was now submitting to the House—it was quite as interesting as their bets at Ascot—indeed, a subject more vitally important could not be submitted to the consideration of a British House of Commons. He knew that the hon. Members who were now laying their bets and making up their books did not consider him as worthy of their attention as the representatives of Oxford and Cambridge. He admitted, that he was nothing more than the representative of honest buttons and buckles; but it should be remembered that those honest buckles and buttons were the sinews of England. The Church, he knew, was well represented in that House; so, too, was the army; so, too, was the law,—indeed the law was excellently well represented; but as to the bees of the social hive, they had but a few representatives in that House, and he had the honour of being one of them. He was at that time coming forward to fight the battle for the bees, and in spite of all the humming and buzzing of the drones, he would never hesitate to come forward to perform his duty towards them. The analogy between the bees of the social and those of the political hive was becoming stronger and stronger every day. The drones might depend on it that, if they ventured to appropriate to themselves too large a share of the honey, they would be expelled from the hive by the bees. He did not blame the drones for seeking to get as much of the sweets as they could; but he should blame the bees if they allowed their hives to be laid desolate for the mere purpose of preserving the drones. He endeavoured to be the friend of all classes, and he knew, that by protecting the lower classes from oppression, he was acting as the truest friend to the aristocracy of the country. The injustice of Government in asserting that the indiscretion of the mercantile and commercial classes had been the cause of their present ruin, was extreme. The indiscretion of those classes was not the cause of their ruin. The cause of their ruin was the unjust, imprudent, and impolitic conduct of the Government under which they had the misfortune to live. The House had been told, that what they then saw of this ruin would be the end of it. He denied it. They had been told, also, that if left to itself it would rectify itself to-morrow. He denied that too. The distress which had been occurring at stated intervals during the last twenty years never had rectified itself, never could rectify itself, and never would rectify itself without the interference of that House and of the Government. He took a gloomy, he was sorry to say, a very gloomy view of the future. If he could believe that the distress would end in the failure of 100 merchants in London, and of 500 merchants throughout all England, and in the privation of 1,000,000 of labouring families throughout the country, he should, not despair; but his belief was, that the distress would go on ad libitum and ad infinitum, until it involved both throne and altar in one common ruin. He did not like to spread anything like alarm. [Roars of laughter on both sides of the House.] Hon. Oxford-bred Gentlemen might smile and laugh at him; they might know more of classics and literature than he did, but as to the knowledge of commerce and manufactures, they were, when compared to himself, like so many butterflies. He insisted that there was a great calamity now resting upon the country, and that there was a still greater calamity than any now felt impending over it. Unless the House and the Government interfered to stay the march of ruin, it would be universal. In 1833, the Ministry of the day had made him a member of the Committee which was appointed to inquire into the condition of the manufacturing interests of the country. From what Ministers had seen of him on that occasion, they had taken special good care not to put him on any other Committee since. He believed in his conscience that they would as soon see Beelzebub himself on any Committee as himself. Ministers at that time told him a fine story about the prosperity of the country, but somehow or other he did not believe a word of it. He asked them, in consequence, this question—"Do you mean to say, that the East India trade is in a state of prosperity?" To this question they replied, "Yes." "How, then," said he to them, "do you explain the failure of the three great East India houses which have just taken place?" "Oh!" said they, "those parties were ignorant, incompetent, insufficient, incautious.' He had then asked them this question—"Do you not believe that all the merchant princes of India are tarred with the same brush as the partners in those three great houses?" As soon as he had put that question, he was met with loud cries of "Oh, oh!" His question was ordered to be erased from the minutes of evidence, whilst the answer to it was allowed to remain thereon, because it stated that the prosperity of our trade with India rested on a basis strong as a rock of adamant. Well, what was the result? In six months from the day on which he asked that question, seven others of the "merchant princes" failed; and of the various merchant bankers who then carried on business in India, only one now remained solvent: Some houses, he knew, could bear, enormous losses, and he believed that there was scarcely one house in the country which had not suffered enormous losses of late years. In the last spring, he had spoken about the state of the trade of London to a merchant of great intelligence, whom he believed to be as well acquainted with the state of trade in London as any man could be. He mentioned to him the opinion which Mr. Baring had given in that House upon the subject, only a very short time before he was elevated to the peerage. Mr. Baring had said, that there was not, at that time, one-twentieth part of the wealth in London that there had been twenty years before. He asked his friend whether that opinion was correct? His friend replied in these terms—"I assert, that of every twenty rich merchants who stood on the Exchange of London twenty years ago, nineteen are gone, and only one is solvent, and that one is either a gambler or a speculator." From the wide extent of the distress now prevailing, he saw no chance of its speedy termination. They must have seen from the public journals that the destruction of the prosperity of England had affected the remotest corners of America. Not only was it felt in New York and in New Orleans, it was also felt in the Black Sea, the Persian Gulf, and the Yellow Sea of China. At New Orleans, the merchants had been more broken down by the action of the Bank of England than they had been by the combined action of Jackson and Van Buren. At New York, the merchants found the value of their cotton reduced fifty per cent. by the operation of the laws which the noble Lord had passed in this country. The noble Lord had taken it into his head that by bringing down the price of commodities in foreign countries, and by reducing the price of British manufactures at home, he should compel the foreigner, by the sale of his own commodities and by the purchase of British manufactures, to remit back the gold which he had taken from this country. It had been said elsewhere that the attack which had been recently made on the joint-stock banks and on the American merchants had been made for the express purpose of pulling down the prosperity, the fictitious prosperity, of the country. It had likewise been said, that that fictitious prosperity had been nothing but over-trading. Now, he was prepared to contend that there had been no over-trading in this country. All the goods that had been manufactured in this country last year, and all the goods that had been imported into it during that time, had been taken into the consumption of the people as fast as they made their appearance. There was then no overtrading, the people were then living and letting others live; they were producing one set of commodities and were purchasing another. Now, alas! they had only work-two days in the week, and that was called over-trading. The fact was, that the Government had made a false step some years ago, and every measure which they had since taken to get rid of the consequences of it, being taken in a wrong direction, only increased the difficulties, and aggravated the horrors of their situation. They had first increased the circulation amazingly, and then suddenly during the last twelve months they began to contract it as rapidly. They said, that the Bank of England should pay gold for what it owed; but they well knew the Bank of England could not pay in gold one-hundredth part of what it owed. "Then," said the noble Lord to the Bank, "let us take care in our tampering with the circulation that we leave all the big fishes water enough in which to swim, as we need not care whether we save or destroy the lesser fry." That advice, unfortunately, had been acted on. The Government had attempted to keep the Church, the aristocracy, and the Crown safe, but in their attempt had shown their ignorance of the science of government. They were egregiously mistaken in the policy which they had adopted, for when they made the masses discontented, they undermined not only the foundations of the Church and of the aristocracy, but also the foundations of the Throne itself. He was the surest friend to the Church, to the aristocracy, and to the Throne, who was prepared to do justice to the masses, and, if he might borrow a phrase from his hon. and learned Friend, the Member for Kilkenny, he was prepared to call for "justice for the people of England." For his own part, he would lift up the men who were compelled to pay in high prices the debts which they had contracted in low prices. He would have all men redeem their debts, obligations, and taxes in a medium of equal value to that in which they had engaged to pay them. In making that proposition, he was the best and truest friend of the aristocracy, for in taking away from the lower classes the pabulum of discontent, he strengthened the bulwarks by which the aristocracy strengthened both itself and the Throne. The tender mercies of the Whigs were like those which the right hon. Member for Tamworth had inflicted on the country, and under which it had long been suffering and would long continue to suffer. Those tender mercies were the very refinement of cruelty, for he meant to assert, that under their operation all classes of merchants had been involved in one common ruin. It might be said, that this was the language of alarm. He cared not for that—truth should be spoken at all times. He defied all alarm. He said, that the merchants of London, of Manchester, of Liverpool, of Glasgow, and of Birmingham, were tarred, one and all, with the same brush. The House and the Government should therefore put out a strong arm in time. He would tell the noble Lord a secret. He had no doubt that the noble Lord thought that a button-maker could not tell his Lordship a secret. He had recently told a noble Lord, a friend of the noble Secretary for the Home Department, that if he fancied that he could learn the real state of trade by inquiring of any merchant in the city, he was woefully mistaken; for if he got an answer at all, he would be certain to get a false one. He had given the same piece of information in 1832 to the noble Secretary for the Home Department, and he would repeat it again now for the noble Lord's information. The noble Lord would perhaps recollect, that in 1832 he had told him that he took a gloomy view of the state of our commercial and manufacturing interests. The noble Lord in reply said to him—"How is it, Mr. Attwood, that you take this gloomy view of affairs; for when I go into the city of London I do not get any such view communicated to me?" "No," replied he, "I know you do not—the answer which you get from the merchants you consult is nothing better than a mighty big lie." He would not accuse any of those gentlemen of the crime of wilful falsehood, but he would say, that their answers would be as wide of the truth as a lie. He would name J. Maberly and W. Manning, and they, if asked six months before their failure, to tell the real state of the commercial world as far as they knew it, would either have preserved a dead silence, or if they were appealed to on their honour they would have told truths which would have appalled the public. He could name other distinguished members of great commercial firms, who once possessed immense wealth, but who were now poor, and dying of broken hearts. They were men who were murdered by an unseen hand. But the Government while all this ruin was going on said coolly, "How can we prevent improvidence and overtrading?" There could be no such thing as overtrading as long as all hands in the country were kept at work. It might happen that one particular trade might for a time absorb more capital and more industry than was necessary for the country. That he did not mean to deny, but as a general principle, and as applying to the whole country, there could not be overtrading. But then they had been told by Lord Liverpool that the distress of the country was occasioned by a superabundance of the gifts of providence. They were like the flies in the honey-bottle, perishing in the midst of their own sweets. If the sound principles on which a currency should be conducted had been observed in 1815, the Speaker would not be sitting in that chair; a reformed Parliament would not be sitting in this House, the Test and Corporation Act Repeal Bill, would not have passed, the Catholic Emancipation Bill would not have been carried; but when the public mind became excited and exasperated at the course pursued with respect to the currency, first came the Dissenter, and then the Roman Catholic, and each grafted his own specific on the general mass of discontent. It was said that men who had property to lose would preserve social order, but who were the men who had property? He knew that many merchants, who twelve months ago were possessed of more than 100,000l. were now not worth 10,000l., and this was brought about by secret and unseen laws, which mole-like worked under ground, and of the working of which not one merchant in a thousand knew any more than the mole. In the last twenty years the commercial, mercantile, and manufacturing interests, had had five convulsive fits, and they were now undergoing a sixth. The noble Lord and his Friends would not administer any remedy, except now and then a little alcohol. The first convulsive fit was in 1816. Gold was then 5l. 11s the ounce but it soon fell to 4l. 2s. At that period of the high price foreigners sent us in large masses of wheat, on which they realized a profit of from 40 to 50 per cent., but this increase on our imports placed a tax to the same amount on our exports, for the foreigner had to give an ounce and a-half of gold instead of an ounce. In June 1816, Lord Liverpool, alarmed at the state of the country, brought forward in the House of Lords a measure for renewing for two years the Bank Restriction Act, which was then about to expire. He then borrowed 6,000,000l. for the purpose of increasing the circulating medium. This was putting in the plug at the bottom of the pond and giving the fishes more room to swim about. Then came the convulsion of 1818. On that occasion he (Mr. Attwood) went to Lord Liverpool, and apprised him of the state of the country, but Lord Liverpool said there was no danger of greater distress. He then said that the manufacturers were going to be butchered, and he would go home and set his house in order. He told Lord Liverpool what would happen. In the autumn of 1818, the second convulsion was brought on by Lord Liverpool reducing the Bank circulation one-eighth. Then, in March, 1819, came Mr. Peel's bill, but a Committee was first appointed to inquire into the effect of the reduction of the circulation In the preceding autumn. Some of the most experienced merchants and bankers of the day were examined and asked what would be the effect of the reduction of the circulation by another eighth. They said that it could not be borne by the country, and the result, the reduction of paper circulation, was scattered over a period of four years; but in the mean time the screw was put on to reduce the circulation. Well, what did Lord Castlereagh do in 1822, after his return from his diplomatic mission? He first declared that four and sixpenny wheat, or threepenny beef could not be borne by the country, and he brought in five bills in one day. The first was to legalise the payment of 1l. notes for eleven years, and to continue the Bank charter for that time. The second was to transfer the dead weight to the Bank, as a means of puffing up and extending the circulation. The third was to enable the Government to borrow 3,000,000l. from the Bank to pay off the dissentients to the reduction of the five per cents. The fourth was to enable the Bank to lend money to the East India Company, and the fifth was to enable the Bank to lend money on land. These were all good and sound measures, and the result was that for three years the country enjoyed undeviating prosperity. Then came the panic of 1825. On that occasion the Bank were under the impression that their stock of small notes were exhausted to about half a million, but he (Mr. Attwood) told them that they were in error, and he set the directors and their clerks to work, and on examining, instead of only half a million, they found that they had three millions and a half. This discovery was made just nine days before the payment of the dividends, and set all matters to right for that time. After this, Lord Liverpool brought in and passed an act to abolish 1l. notes, but in a fortnight after, he came down to the Lords and said, "I have a secret to tell you. Those rascally bankers are making a run on the Stamp-office for fresh supplies of stamps to enable them to issue more 1l. notes during the passing of the act. They are going to inundate us with 1l. notes, and we shall be drowned in the deluge." The remedy he proposed was, to prevent the Stamp-office from issuing stamps, and to trust to an act of indemnity for taking that step. Well, in a month after that, he came again to the Lords, and said, "My Lords, I have another secret to tell you. Those rascally hankers are going to starve the country out of 1l. notes, and not to issue any more of them." He quoted the substance of the noble Lord's remarks but he did so in his (Mr. Attwood's) own rough phraseology. Well, Lord Liverpool's plan was to pass an act to extend the issue of 1l. notes six months beyond the time previously proposed. These tamperings with the currency were the causes of the distress which now affected the country. This distress was not brought on by the faults of merchants or manufacturers; it was the fault of the law, and he called on the House to revise and reconsider that law. The Legislature could not succeed in going against a nation. If a nation had grown old in the use of one state of the currency, it would be impossible with safety to change it to another. Violent changes of the currency had been the commercial ruin of many countries. They had been the ruin of Spain and Portugal, and Italy and Egypt. He would next call the attention of the House to what had been done twelve months ago. The Bank at that time set its face against joint-stock banks, and also against some of the leading American merchants. These had been in the habit of dealing in one currency, and they continued to do so, Well, the gold was found to be going out of the country, and the Bank and the noble Lord (John Russell), and the right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer, set their heads together, and the result was, that the Bank gave notice that it would not discount the bills of any joint-stock bank issuing notes, and that it would not discount a bill with the name of any American merchant to it. One consequence of this was, an immense and immediate stagnation of trade of all kinds. He knew himself of one merchant, who was in the habit of dealing with Birmingham manufacturers to the amount of 250,000l. a-year, who did not now expend 2,000l. a-year with them. The dealings of others had been greatly reduced, and that of some had ceased altogether. What had been the practice? Why, when Peel's bill had destroyed the old set of merchants, a new set started up, who shaped their dealings according to the provisions of that bill. They purchased large supplies of goods from the manufacturers, for which they allowed them at once to draw bills for two-thirds of the value. Those bills were immediately discounted, and in twenty-four hours after, the money was circulated to produce food and clothing for the workmen and families employed by the manufacturers. When the cotton and tobacco, which were brought home as returns for those shipments, arrived, the manufacturers drew on the merchants for the remaining third of the value of the goods bought of them, and in that way they got on. What was there of overtrading in this? The manufacturer got a vent for his goods. The produce of this country was exchanged for that of others. If it had not been for the measures restrictive of the currency adopted in this country, the Americans, who felt most severely their effect, would have been able to pay the 7,000,000l. of balances they owed us. All the embarrassments arose from intrusting people with the management of business who were totally unacquainted with it. Who would ever have dreamed of committing the destinies of America to a backwoodsman, and those of England to an Oxford scholar? And what were the public prints now doing? The Times or the Chronicle was calling on the Bank of England to contract the circulation by 2,000,000l. The idiots! What was wanted was 2,000,000l. more of circulation instead of 2,000,000l. less. The Legislature might just as well compel the people to work with golden spades and golden axes as to pay their debts with a golden circulating medium; indeed, the last would be the less infliction of the two on the country. In our divided and subdivided industry money was not at present what it used to be 300 years ago. It had now become the circulating medium of the country, and it was absolutely vital to the body politic. It was not so vital 300 years ago; and money might then have been entirely annihilated without much harm done. In the present day the extent to which the system of the divison of labour was carried was wonderful; the money transactions were comparatively trifling, an exchange of mutual industry being made through the agency of credit-money. Let hon. Members turn their attention to the clearing-house in London. Twelve hundred millions, the result of bill transactions, were there annually wiped off the books by the medium of a single piece of gold, and it might be computed that each of the bills had, on an average, passed through three hands. The country would have been much happier if that House had never been induced to tamper with the currency. The quality of the circulating medium had been likened by Mr. Rothschild to electricity; and he said that if it were touched the effect would be felt to the remotest corners of the earth. In 1819 he had claimed an inquiry; but inquiry was refused, both by Lord Liverpool and by that House. In 1821 the agricultural committee sat, and he was examined as a witness. He then pointed out the state of things which must happen—that every farmer, every manufacturer, and every merchant must he ruined; that it would be impossible for the landlords to get any rent if the metallic standard was acted on to its full extent. He was, however, stopped by Mr. Huskisson and Mr. Ricardo, who told him that they had come to a resolution not to inquire into the currency. As he attributed the distress of that period to the state of the currency, he certainly thought it surprising that a committee of inquiry should have resolved not to inquire respecting what he conceived to be the cause of the distress. As he had before stated, the panic of 1825 was blown over by a large and sudden issue of 1l. notes: next came the embarrassments of 1830, and from the nettle misery we plucked the flower liberty. The Reform Bill was passed; and he was inclined at first to regard that measure as a most beautiful creation; but he was sorry to say that it had turned out little better than a witch's phantom. When in 1836, the Bank of England attacked the joint-stock banks, and compelled them to contract their issues, the greatest misery ensued to large classes of the community, and especially to the working classes, who up to that period, had enjoyed much prosperity. The same misery prevailed to a still greater extent in 1837, and was attributable to the same cause; and for his part he conceived that the Government had been guilty of wilful neglect, in not having altered, before this, the existing law. Notwithstanding the 16,000,000l. to which the circulation of the Bank of England amounted—making, in addition to its deposits, a sum of 22,000,000l., he would assert with confidence the disgraceful fact that the Bank-was not possessed of more than 2,000,000 in sovereigns at Threadneedle-street. Their bullion was said to amount to 4,400,000l. Of this there was of course a large portion in silver. And he asserted, and he spoke upon good authority, that in Threadneedle-street there was not at this moment more than 2,000,000l., or at the utmost, 2,500,000l. in sovereigns. He would suppose a certain amount of bonds were sent over from America to this country. Nicholas Biddle might send over bonds which he sold at five per cent., the interest in New York being six per cent. He would suppose that bonds to the amount of three millions were sent over, and that these were discounted at 10 per cent. What would be the consequence? The holders of these bonds, after getting them discounted, would go with paper to the Bank of England in twenty-four hours. He could produce a demand on the Savings' Banks alone of 9,000,000l., payable in ten days. Why, he could make a demand of 80,000,000l., and stop the Bank of England to-morrow; and were they to sit still under such alarming circumstances without applying a remedy whilst the present system was throwing thousands of families into the utmost distress. Were but a hundredth part of the national debt demanded, a sum not exceeding 8,000,000l. sterling, the Bank of England would be obliged to stop payment to-morrow morning. Why, the country banks could make demands on the Bank of England to the amount of 10,000,000l. or 20,000,000l of sovereigns. They were living now in the midst of calamities; thousands of families were thrown out of bread; and, amid the various sources of danger by which they were surrounded, was it right that Government should permit the continued existence of this state of things, without making the slightest movement towards the investigation of their causes, or the application of a remedy? The business transacted now in bills of exchange was not of one-half the magnitude that it was a year ago. Public credit had, in fact, not only been injured but it had received a serious shock. The mercantile, trading, and labouring classes were, of course, the first sufferers; but even the fundholders would not escape. Whatever hon. Gentlemen might think, he contended that the fundholders would not only be eventually injured, but, of all the victims, would be most mercilessly treated. How differently (compared with that of England upon the subject) had been the conduct of Austria, of Prussia, of Russia—of those countries which they called "barbarians!" Compared (in certain respects) with England, they might justly be termed so. But if England were not herself barbarian, she, undoubtedly, had a barbarian Government; a Government, which for many years past had adopted barbarian measures, and acted on barbarian principles in the paper system which prevailed in this country. The silver ruble and the paper ruble had each, respectively, in Russia, their fair value attached to them. There was consequently no fictitious currency created; and public credit had been maintained upon a solid basis in that country for years. Russia flourished in peace; and she was able to go to war when she pleased. She had recently humbled the British Lion to the very dust. Though the noble Lord, the Secretary for Foreign Affairs, might forget the affair of the Vixen, the people of England never would. And the "barbarian" nation, as it was called, which had achieved this triumph, had been enabled to do so because its monetary system had been based upon principles of justice and of sound policy. The people of England had the experience of twenty-seven years, commencing with 1810, to prove that whenever the Government was slow to enforce the standard of value, the industry of the country was rapidly the gainer, and that, on the contrary, when they enforced the standard of value, the strangulation of the industry of the country was the consequence. Let not ministers "lay the flattering unction to their souls" that the people would bear with this continued depression of their industrial energies. They looked upon the Whigs as, in this respect, no better than the Tories. The Tories held a pistol to the people's head, and boldly cried "stand and deliver!" while the Whigs held out the hand of good fellowship on one side, and presented a dagger on the other. Had the industrious classes been properly represented in that House, these measures never would have passed. The idea by which the majority of hon. Members seemed to have been all along actuated was, that, no matter what number of the people might starve, the standard of value should still be preserved inviolate. They first made food scarce, and then they made money scarce—money, without which food could not be procured. This was their baneful policy. He trusted that by adoping his resolution, they would evince their determination to confer upon the country a real solid, and lasting prosperity. They should repeal their Poor Law, their Corn Law, and their Money Law Bills. If they were not relieved by law, the people would relieve themselves. Millions of the people were now in a state of destitution, or bordering upon it; and if relief were farther withheld, a civil war, like that which now prevailed in Spain, with all its incalculable calamities, might be the consequence. If the right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer chose to exercise the necessary control over the Bank of England, every broken merchant in England would become rich in a month. He repeated his conviction that such would be the result, if the Chancellor of the Exchequer were to stop the Bank of England with regard to its issues to-morrow. He would not only retrieve those who had already been made sufferers, but he would save hundreds of others from sharing the same fate, prevent millions from being thrown out of employment, and convert a miserable into a happy people. The hon. Gentleman concluded by moving as an amendment to the order of the day, the following resolution; "that in the opinion of this House the present system of currency is not efficient to meet the wants and protect the interests of the community."

Lord J. Russell

should not be doing his duty if he were to enter into this discussion. The hon. Gentleman had come down to that House and made a speech of nearly three hours duration without having given any notice whatever of his intention to bring the subject before the House, and had proposed a resolution which was inconsistent with acts of Parliament and with solemn resolutions of that House which had been affirmed after various debates. He must therefore protest against such a course as entirely incompatible with public convenience and the state of public business; and if such a resolution were to be carried by surprise on any occasion, he was convinced it would only tend to the embarrassment of that House, give rise to further debate, and be reversive of decisions already come to by the House on the subject. For these reasons he should altogether decline to enter upon the question proposed by the hon. Gentleman. He had proceeded in the regular course by asking the House to go into Committee on the Irish Poor Law Bill, which had been already several times before the House; but the hon. Gentleman had thought fit to interrupt that course, without notice, by entering into all the various questions connected with trade and currency, which the House had so frequently before entertained, thereby pursuing a course which was quite irregular, and which he would conceive he was only favouring and participating in if he attempted to reply to the hon. Gentleman's speech.

Sir G. Sinclair

said, that had not the hon. Member for Birmingham brought this question forward, he (Sir G. Sinclair) would have considered it his duty to have done so, for the country never was in such a state, or so imperatively demanded the immediate interference of the Legislature. If there were hon. Members, therefore, in that House who believed that they would not be doing their duty to their constituents or the country, unless they called upon that House to interfere and endeavour to avert the additional evils to the manufacturing and labouring classes which were likely to flow from the present disastrous state of things, he did not see why they should be obstructed in that course, or told it was inconsistent. He thought, that the House should enter upon the consideration of the hon. Member's amendment.

Mr. Young

entreated the hon. Member for Birmingham not to press his motion.

Mr. D. Barclay

said, he was unwilling to let the hon. Member's statement go forth without stating that in his opinion, it was very much exaggerated. The present state of embarrassment was, in a great degree, if not entirely, owing to extraordinary speculations—an evil which he thought would rectify itself.

Sir J. R. Reid

quite agreed in the observation which had fallen from the hon. Member for Sunderland. The present embarrassed state of affairs he believed to be nothing more than a passing cloud, and he had every hope that the country would shortly be relieved from the difficulties by which it was at present surrounded.

Mr. Harvey

fully participated in the inconvenience which hon. Members felt would arise from the motion of the hon. Member for Birmingham, and he certainly did not think that the Government could be expected, on a subject of such grave importance, and without notice, to stand forward and combat the arguments and statements, some of which, perhaps, they did not understand, of so renowned a political economist as the hon. Member for Birmingham; the more particularly as that hon. Gentleman, conversant as he was with this subject, had deemed it necessary to take three hours for the delivery of his opinions on it. The Government, however, were not free from blame on this subject, for at the beginning of the Session, when a Committee had been appointed to inquire into the condition of joint-stock banks, they had refused to support the amendment proposed by the hon. Member for Middlesex, to the effect that the inquiry should embrace the conduct of the Bank of England. The Government were, he conceived, blameable on that head; and he would suggest that even now a Committee ought to be appointed to inquire how far the conduct of the Bank of England had tended to bring about the state of things which the hon. Baronet who had last spoken had assured them would turn out to be nothing else than a passing cloud. How far it proved a passing cloud to those upon whom it had broken, to those who were shadowed by its darkness, to the tens of thousands who were now striving to rise from circumstances over which they had no control, and were little acquainted with, events alone would show. Although the inconveniences which hung so heavily on the industry of the country, were doubtless pregnant with mischief, yet he did hope and believe that there would spring from them an advantage commensurate with the evil, inasmuch as it might lead the poorer classes to direct their minds to the cause of the delusion. They had an institution called the Bank of England, which possessed the mighty power of controlling the fortunes and despoiling the prospects of every man in the country. The mightiest masses of wealth were not beyond its blow, any more than the gatherings of the labouring man. He thought that the Government would not be doing its duty, and that the House would be departing from theirs, if they did not institute an inquiry into the cause whence sprung the present calamitous state of things, which was bearing down the prosperity and industry of the country. He agreed with very little of what had fallen from the hon. Member for Birmingham. Instead of a paper, he was an advocate for a metallic currency, at the same time that he was aware a metallic currency could not co-exist with a debt contracted in paper. We should have more money and less debt.

The House divided on the original motion:—Ayes 85; Noes 24: Majority 61.

List of the AYES.
Adam, Sir C. Lister, E. C.
Aglionby, H. A. Longfield, R.
Baines, E. Martin, J.
Barclay, D. Maule, hon. F.
Barnard, E. G. Morpeth, Viscount
Bernal, R. Musgrave, Sir R., Bt.
Bewes, T. O'Connell, D.
Bowring, Dr. O'Ferral, R. M.
Brodie, W. B. Parker, J.
Brotherton, J. Parnell, Sir H.
Browne, R. D. Parry, Sir L. P.
Buller, E. Pease, J.
Burdon, W. Pendarves, E. W.
Collier, John Potter, R.
Collins, W. Pryme, G.
Coote, Sir C. Pusey, P.
Crompton, Samuel Reid, Sir J. R.
Divett, E. Rice, rt. hon. T. S.
Farrand, R. Richards, Richard
Fector, J. M. Roche, W.
Fergus, J. Roebuck, J. A.
Fitzsimon, C. Rundle, J.
Forster, C. S. Russell, Lord J.
Fox, C. Scrope, G. P.
French, F. Seymour, Lord
Freshfield, J. W. Sharpe, General
Gladstone, W. E. Smith, R. V.
Goulburn, H. Smyth, Sir H., Bart.
Grattan, J. Steuart, V.
Grey, Sir G. Tancred, H. W.
Hastie, A. Thompson, Colonel
Hawes, B. Thornley, T.
Hay, Sir A. L., Bart. Trelawney, Sir W. L.
Hinde, J. H. Troubridge, Sir T.
Hindley, C. Vivian, John Ennis
Hodges, T. T. Warburton, H.
Howard, R. Wemyss, Captain
Hume, J. Whitmore, T. C.
Inglis, Sir R. H. Williams, W. A.
Jackson, Sergeant Wood, C.
Jephson, C. D. O. Woulfe, Sergeant
Johnstone, Sir J. TELLERS.
Jones, T. Baring, F. T.
Lefevre, C. S. Steuart, R.
List of the NOES.
Attwood, M. Maxwell, John
Borthwick, P. Palmer, George
Bridgman, H. Richards, John
Brownrigg, S. Ruthven, E.
Chichester, A. Scholefield, J.
Crawford, W. S. Sibthorp, Col.
Denistoun, A. Sinclair, Sit G.
Dillwyn, L. W. Wakley, T.
Elley, Sir J. Wilmot, Sir J. E.
Forbes, W. Wodehouse, E.
Halse, James
Harland, Wm. Chas. TELLERS.
Houldsworth, T. Attwood, T.
Jones, Wilson Harvey, D. W.
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