HC Deb 16 March 1837 vol 37 cc562-615
Mr. Clay

presented several petitions from various places against the Corn-laws, and then spoke as follows:—Sir, in rising to make the motion of which I have given notice, I venture to remind the House that I have at least this claim on its indulgence—viz., that I have twice postponed my motion from motives of respect for the House and regard for its convenience. First, in 1835, in order that I might not impede the progress of the English Municipal Corporations Reform Bill; and, secondly, last Session, in consequence of the appointment of a Committee to inquire into the state of agriculture. It appeared to me that I should be wanting in the respect due both to this House and to the large classes of the community interested in the result of that inquiry, if, during the sitting of the Committee, I had pressed my motion. I feel that I have been rewarded for this forbearance by the valuable illustrations which the evidence given to that Committee affords of the working of our present system. I shall only further premise that it will be my endeavour to treat the great question which my motion raises—a question second, assuredly, in importance to none which can occupy the attention of the House—calmly and dispassionately; I wish to bring to the discussion of it no weapons but those which reason or facts can supply. The history of our legislation with respect to corn, must, of course, be so familiar to every Gentleman who hears me, that it is only necessary for me to allude very briefly to its leading features and more remarkable epochs. From the conquest until nearly the middle of the fifteenth century, the exportation of corn was wholly prohibited. At that period—the reign of Henry 6th—the exportation of wheat was permitted when the price did not exceed 6s. 8d. per quarter. From the reign of Henry 6th to the reign of Charles the 2nd little other change was made in the Corn-laws than a gradual extension of the price at which corn was exportable. In the reign of Charles the 2nd a duty was laid on the importation of corn; and in 1688, lst of William 3d, the famous statute giving a bounty on exportation was passed. By that Act a bounty of 5s. per quarter was given on the exportation of wheat when the market price did not exceed 48s. per quarter; whilst on importation the duty as fixed in the reign of Charles the 2nd was 21s. 9d, per quarter until the market price was 44s.; 17s. until the price was 53s. 4d.; and 8s., until the price was 80s., then 1s. 4d. By this Act the trade in corn was regulated until 1766, when the duties on importation were suspended by proclamation, on account of the high prices; and in 1773, by Act of Parliament, importation of wheat was permitted when the market price reached 48s., at 6d. per quarter; whilst, with a market price of 44s., exportation and bounty were to cease. Of the Act of 1773, Adam Smith says:—"With all its imperfections, however, we may perhaps say of it what was said of the laws of Solon—that though net the best in itself, it is yet the best which the interests, prejudices, and temper of the times would admit of. It may, perhaps, in due time prepare the way for a better." What would that great man, who so strongly urges the advantage of a free trade in corn, have said to our subsequent legislation on this matter? In 1761 it was enacted that when wheat was under 50s. the duty should be 24s. 3d.; and in 1804, that when under 63s. there should be the same duty of 24s. 3d.; but both "these enactments were inoperative, from the high prices that prevailed during the war, and subsequently the trade in corn was free from 1773 to 1815. In that year was passed the never to be forgotten Act by which the importation of wheat was prohibited until the price reached 80s. per quarter. Of that Act I dare not trust myself to speak: it no longer disgraces the Statute-book, and it is needless to characterise the spirit in which it was conceived; signalised as it was in its progress through the Legislature by riots and tumults, which seriously endangered the safety of the metropolis, and rendered it necessary to protect by an armed force the members of either House of Parliament in the discharge of their duties—passed amidst the execrations of the people —and thrice suspended to avert famine. Wheat during its existence, having been at 112s. per quarter at one time, and 38s. per quarter at another, it was finally repealed in 1828, without one single voice being raised in its defence. By the Act of 1828, (9th George 4th, c. 60) the Act which now regulates the corn trade, wheat is importable at all times; but when it is at 62s. per quarter the duty is 24s. 8d., as the price rises the duty diminishes, until at 73s., it is only Is. per quarter. On the other hand, below 62s. there is an addition of 1s. per quarter duty for every 1s. fall in price. Now the first consideration which suggests itself on a review of our legislation in respect of corn is this, that its constant aim (and more especially of our recent legislation) has been to regulate the price. Sir, I ask by what right we make any such attempt?—an attempt, the less justifiable, as it is directly opposed to the whole spirit of our legislation on all analogous questions. Our system of Corn-laws presents to us the starting anomaly, that whilst the prices of all other commodities are left to the operation of the various causes which influence prices, with respect to corn alone it is decided by the Legislature, that the price shall not—so far as laws can secure that object—fall below such rate as to the makers of those laws may seem fit. Every thing else may fall—the produce of the loom—the wages of labour; but the price of the great necessary of life—bread —is by Act of Parliament to remain unaltered. With respect to all other articles we recognise two principles in the imposition of duties; the one, the raising revenues for the exigencies of the state; the other, the affording protection against foreign competition to some article of native produce. With respect to corn alone we recognise a third, viz., the fixing, by a peculiar mode of levying the import duties, a price below which it shall not fall—a principle widely differing from and going far beyond the mere imposition of protecting duties in all other cases. A protecting duty, in the ordinary sense, is of fixed amount, proceeding upon some calculation of the greater cost of the home trade than of the similar foreign commo- dity, but it has no reference to the price in the home market of the article so protected. An illustration drawn from our practice with regard to any other commodity, will at once render clear this distinction, so important in its effects. Silk goods for instance, are an article of home manufacture protected by a very high duty; the Legislature has assumed thirty per cent. to be the amount of duty which will enable the British manufacturer to compete with his foreign rival—it imposes that duty, but it goes no farther. There is no attempt to uphold the price in the home market, by enacting that the duty on foreign silk goods shall vary inversely as the price of British piece goods—that if the price of gros de Naples fall twenty per cent. the duty shall rise twenty per cent. The protection considered adequate to the different cost of production being once given, the price of the commodity is left to the natural effect of supply and demand, and the public enjoys the full benefit of that diminished price, which either competition or diminished cost of production may occasion. What would be said to a proposition from the cotton-manufacturers, the silk-weavers, or the clothiers, that the duties on the silks and cloths of France, or the printed cottons of Switzerland, should be regulated from time to time by the average prices of British silks, cloths, and printed cottons?—and yet it would not be easy, I suspect, to show what better claim the producer of 100 quarters of corn has to have the price of his commodity kept "steady," as the phrase is, than the producer of 100 pieces of broad cloth. Sir, we have recently given a signal proof how steadily, in respect of everything but corn, we mean to adhere to the salutary principles of abstaining from any interference with prices. The handloom weavers, engaged in a hopeless contest with the giant powers of steam, finding their wages incessantly falling from causes which they can neither comprehend nor contend with, turned in their despair to Parliament, and entreated of this House to regulate the price at which the capitalist may avail himself of that labour which is their only property. They asked of you that their wages should be fixed precisely as you attempt to regulate the price of corn, by averages of the prices of labour taken at stated periods, and with the sanction of law. Now, if ever there were a case in which one might be tempted to depart from sound principle, assuredly it is the case of the hand-loom weavers, from peculiar circumstances; first, from the increase of their own numbers adding to the amount of labour in the market, and next from the increasing use of steam in weaving, which tends to render that labour of less value. They are wholly in the power of their masters, who, again, from the force of competition, are almost compelled to use that power pitilessly; whilst in many articles, in which we have not to fear foreign competition it would appear as if the home competition, which depresses perpetually the price of the manufactured article, and with it the wages of the operative, were without an object. The question, too, to them is not one of greater or less enjoyment, but of the means of subsistence—not of comfort or luxuries, but of life and death. A Select Committee sat for two Sessions on the petitions of these unhappy men, and heard from themselves the statements of their case. So impressed were that Committee with the evidence which the petitioners brought forward of their depressed condition, that they recommended to the House the adoption of a Bill, introduced by the hon. Member for Oldham, for regulating, agreeably to averages to be taken, after the fashion of the corn averages, the wages of hand-loom weavers. You rejected that Bill; in my opinion you did wisely; you would only by interference have created evils tenfold greater and more wide-spreading than those you sought to remedy; but then, for the sake of justice and mercy, be consistent—do not say to these supplicants, "We will take no steps to prevent your wages falling; but we will endeavour as much as in us lies to keep up the price of Corn. We will enjoy the advantages to be derived from your increased toil and diminished remuneration We are content that the cloth, the linen, and the silk, which clothe our families or deck our chambers shall fall to half or a third of their former price; but we will not permit that bread, which constitutes your humble meal, to fall in price, although such a reduction might compensate for your diminished means." Is this language which is becoming in us to use? And yet it is the language of our statute-book, which equally, in the abundance of its devices to uphold the price of the produce of land, and in the absence of all such affectionate care as to any other commodities, speaks a language clear and significant as to the materials of those legislative bodies from which it has emanated. It is no answer to the charge which I have brought against Parliament of manifesting an unfair preference for the interests of the agricultural classes to say that the laws to which I have been referring have not kept up the price of corn—that we have been guilty of a profitless wrong—their intention is undoubted; and it is with their spirit and intention alone that I am at this moment dealing. I do not wish, however, to press this argument for more than it is worth, still less to charge the Members of this or of the other House of Parliament with merely sordid views in their legislating on this matter. But whilst it would display an absurd ignorance of human nature not to suspect that legislative bodies composed of landholders should have some bias towards an undue protection of the landed interest, I am quite ready to allow that they may have been so biassed unconsciously to themselves, and may have been persuaded that a course of legislation which seemed so convenient for themselves was also conducive to the welfare of the whole community. I admit, too, that it is possible, or at least fairly open to discussion, that they may be right in such persuasion; and" in that case it would be no good argument against the Corn-laws that they were enacted chiefly with a view to the benefit of one class if they proved to be of advantage to the whole community. On the other hand it must also be admitted that the burthen of this proof fairly rests upon the advocates of the present system, and that they are bound clearly to show a benefit arising to the whole community, from laws at least apparently so partial and unjust. Of the great, the paramount importance of all laws relating to the physical well-being of the people there cannot be two opinions—it is beyond all doubt the most important branch of legislation; for, with a people steeped in misery, the best-devised laws for the security of life and property will—as we have the melancholy proof in Ireland—be found inefficacious, and education itself will be in vain. What should be the aim of all legislation on this matter? To secure to the people the greatest command over the necessaries and comforts of existence; and first among these an abundance of nutritious and agreeable food. That this should be our object there can be no doubt; the only difference of opinion will be how to arrive at it. The Corn-laws are our practical solution of this problem. Any restriction on the free importation of Corn in a densely-peopled country must, of course, have the effect of raising the price in such country to a higher level than it obtains in countries where the population bears a smaller ratio to the extent of fertile soil. This must necessarily be the operation of the Corn-laws in England, as it was, indeed, the effect avowedly intended by the framers of them. A further result of the Corn-laws, but which, although flowing from their operation by a necessary and inevitable process, was not foreseen or intended by their framers, is a tendency to extreme fluctuations of price. Both of the foregoing results of the Corn-laws are, in their effects upon the community, eminently disastrous. We will consider them successively. I do not know that in arguing this question there is anything which, beforehand, I should have thought less necessary than the attempt to prove that a high price of food is disadvantageous or cheap food a blessing to the people; but so many idle fallacies are afloat on this subject such, for instance, as that price is merely relative, and that "it is no matter how dear Corn is if the people have money to buy it"—that it may be as well, perhaps, to state this question as to the effect of high or low priced food in its essential and abstract shape, and in the simplest terms. This question may, when disembarrassed of extraneous considerations, be stated in terms so short and clear as almost to amount to a self-evident proposition—a proposition which ought, by this time, to have ranked among those elementary truths no longer open to discussion. All that mankind possess of value is the produce of labour; in exact proportion to the labour required to produce any commodity will be its exchangeable value. When any portion of the earth's surface becomes so densely peopled that all the best soil is occupied, recourse must be had to inferior soil, or more labour be bestowed on the good soils with a diminishing result. In such a country, therefore, any given quantity of food will require a continually increasing amount of labour for its production; in other words, will become dearer. But labour, however engaged, is of equal value; in such a country, therefore, the manufacturer, the mechanic, and the artisan, would be compelled to give a continually increasing amount of labour for their daily food. Can there be a doubt, then, that the state of a country of limited extent, and rapidly increasing in population, yet confined to its own resources for food, must be one of decreasing comfort? Circumstances may arrest or delay the process, but the tendency is certain. If such be the character of the Corn-laws, unjust in principle, and dangerous in tendency, there should be some especial reasons of overpowering weight and cogency for maintaining them. Let us see how far the arguments commonly urged in their defence deserve that character. Sir, we are first told of the value of the home market to the manufacturer. But by whom are we told this? By those who would by their own showing keep the price of corn here 100 per cent. above the price abroad. Their attempt to alarm the manufacturer by the prospect of losing a market in which his 100 pieces of broad cloth produce him 100 quarters of wheat, when he is to get in exchange a customer who will gladly give him 200 quarters, is reckoning, as it appears to me, not inconsiderately on his credulity. Akin to these assertions of the value of the home market, are the professions of anxiety for the welfare of the manufacturing classes by the same parties, and the earnest declarations of their belief that the interests of those classes and of the landholder are identical. These professions have been reiterated, I had almost said ad nauseam, both within and without these walls, and had served as the introduction to every measure for keeping up the price of corn. It is high time that this talk should be put an end to. The landholder and the manufacturer have a community of interest under a system of free trade in corn; they have not a community of interest under our present system; on the contrary, their interests are in direct opposition; our present system renders high prices necessary to the prosperity of the agricultural classes, whilst low prices, at least prices on a level with those of other countries, are essential to the manufacturer. These respective classes, accordingly, have never prospered at the same time since 1815—have never even appeared, to prosper together, except at rare intervals, and from peculiar circumstances. I hold in my hand documents which completely prove this assertion, but I shall not trouble the House by referring to them unless this assertion be disputed. But, then, it is asked, how should we employ our agricultural labourers if we eat cheap foreign corn instead of dear English corn? If their labour be at present wasted, we had better maintain them in absolute idleness than employ them in wasting capital as well as their own time; but in truth there would be employment for them in the thousand channels which, in a thriving community, and with rapidly increasing wealth, are open to industry; independently of the consideration that the repeal of the Corn-laws would change the nature rather than alter the amount of the demand for agricultural labour. Again, it is said, that high prices of agricultural produce are necessary to enable us to bear the burthen of taxation, and that the Corn-laws, therefore, are wise and just laws, as producing that effect. Never was there a mistake so gross, I had almost said so ludicrous, as this. The power to support taxation depends wholly and solely on the net income of the community—on profits; that is, after defraying the cost of subsistence of the labourer, and replacing the funds of the capitalist. A net surplus of income is the only fund on which an individual can permanently rely to endure any burden on his finances, and as the cost of his subsistence is lower, so will his surplus be larger. That which is true of one man is true of a nation; and if we could with a free trade in corn procure the amount of bread now consumed in the empire by the labour of 500,000 fewer men, we should add annually to the national resources the whole produce of their labour (a produce little short probably of the interest of the national debt) now, on that supposition, utterly wasted. But does this proposition rest on theory alone? On the contrary, it is supported by the unanswerable logic of facts. If it be true that high prices of agricultural produce are necessary to enable us to support taxation, then the revenue would be flourishing when the prices of that produce were high, and decay when they were low. How do the facts for the last twenty years agree with this hypothesis? The revenue of 1815, from the four great sources of the income of

the state, viz. customs, excise, stamps, and assessed taxes, was £75,045,882
The revenue of 1819 from the same sources 54,257,060
Being a diminution of 20,788,822
But in the years 1816, 1817, 1818, and 1819, taxes were repealed amounting to£17,862,848
Taxes were imposed amounting to 3,486,707 14,376,141
Actual falling off-of revenue £6,412,681

Now, during the period in which the defalcation occurred, what were the prices of corn? Low, of course, if the hypothesis to which I have alluded be sound. They were on the contrary, by very far the highest which have occurred since the peace, and almost equal during a portion of the time to the highest price of the war.

The mean price of 1816 was 76s.2d. per qr.
1817 94s. 0d.
1818 83s. 8d.
1819 72s. 3d.
Mean price of the whole series 81s. 6d.

The prices of the next four years were as remarkably low, viz.:

1820, 65s. 10d. 1821, 54s. 5d. mean 53s. 10d.
1822; 43s. 3d. 1823, 51s. 9d.
And during this period the condition of the revenue was as follows:—
Revenue of 1819, as above stated £54,257,060
Revenue of 1823 54,465,845
Being an increase of 209,785
But in the four years there had been taxes repealed £6,800,145
Less ditto imposed 183,040 6,617,890
Real increase of revenue £6,826,890

So that, with a price of 81s. 6d. (the price, be it recollected, at which it was hoped, expected, and intended that wheat should remain under the law of 1815) the revenue fell off £6,400,000 in four years, with a price of 53s. 10d. it improved in a period of similar duration £6,800,000. A comparison of the state of the revenue with the prices of wheat during the years since 1823 does not present results so striking as those I have already stated; but it yet affords results well worthy of the attention of the Mouse. Still, taking periods of four years, the results are as follow:—

Revenue of 1823, as above £54,466,845
Ditto of 1827 52,036,840
Apparent diminution 2,430,005
1824, 62s. 0d. Taxes rep. £7,528,825
1825, 66s. 6d. Less imposed 307,832 7,220,993
1827, 56s. 11d.
1827, 56s. 9d. Real increase of rev. £4,790,988
Mean, 60s. 6d.
Revenue of 1827, as above £52,036,840
Ditto of 1831 48,041,966
Apparent diminution 3,994,874
1828, 60s. 5d. Taxes rep. £5,837,188
1829, 66s. 3d. Less imposed 1,325,556 4,510,632
1830, 64s. 3d.
1831, 66s. 4d. Real increase of rev. £516,758
Mean, 64s. 4d.
Revenue of 1831, as above £48,041,966
Ditto 1835 47,646,920
Apparent diminution 395,046
1832, 58s. 8d. Taxes rep. £4,335,339
1833, 52s. 11d. Less imposed 198,469 3,940,293
1834 46s 2d.
1835, 39s. 4d. Real increase of rev. £3,940,293
Mean, 49s. 3d.

It will be observed how invariably the revenue fluctuated inversely as the price of wheat—rising as the price fell, and falling as that rose. The House will, I think, agree with me that the results of the foregoing comparison are as instructive as they are striking. We shall not hear again, I trust, of the necessity of high prices to enable us to support taxation, or endure the burden of the national debt. The advocates of the existing corn-laws have mainly relied on their tendency (of the act of 1828, that is) to produce steadiness of price; their beneficial effects in this respect were brought prominently forward in the report of the committee on agricultural distress in 1833. Sir, the committee congratulated themselves somewhat prematurely, the fluctuations since 1828 having been from 75s. 3d. in November, 1828, to 36s. in January, 1836. I shall presently show that great fluctuations are the demonstrably certain consequence of restrictions on the trade in corn. I will only now observe that the slightest variation in the price of wheat which this country has known for a period of 140 years was from 1773 to 1791, the only time during that period in which we have had a free trade. The favourite argument, however, of the advocates of restrictions on the importation of corn is, that we may be independent of foreign nations for our supply of food. Now, if this independence have reference only to natural causes—if it be intended to assert that we shall be more secure against the defects of deficient harvests by growing all the corn we consume than by drawing a portion of it from other countries, the proposition is false, almost by its very terms. You ensure the regularity of any result precisely in the degree that you multiply the instances from which your induction is drawn—one field will yield a less certain annual produce than a whole farm, a farm than a county, a county than a kingdom, a kingdom than a continent, a continent than the world. But if by independence be rather meant an independence of the caprices of foreign governments, the position, although not capable of so strictly logical a refutation, is to the full as untenable. Under a system of free trade some portions of many nations, with every possible variety of situation and of interests, would be engaged in growing corn for our use; it would not be wantonly, nor lightly, that the government of any one such nation would distress its subjects by depriving them of a commerce so important to them. Is it conceivable that all would do so simultaneously? The very supposition is an absurdity. But, Sir, this talk of independence is unworthy of us, either as philosophers or legislators. So far from wishing to make a nation independent, as it is called, the aim of wise statesmen should be to render a nation as dependent as possible on its neighbours, in the clear conviction that such dependence must be mutual. As amongst individuals and families, so among the greater families of the human race mutual dependence, which is the very basis of the social compact, is the prolific source of the feelings which elevate and the enjoyments which sweeten existence; and precisely in proportion as nations are dependent on each other will the happiness of all be increased, and the unspeakable calamities of war be rendered of less probable occurrence. But, Sir, if the Corn laws do not conduce to the welfare of the whole community, what has been their operation upon that portion of the community for the benefit of which they were expressly enacted; how have they worked for the protection of the landed interest? Why, they have signally and notoriously failed. Taking the three great classes into which the agricultural interest, as it is called, may be divided, viz., the owners of the soil, the farmers or capitalists, and the labourers, the only class to which they have not recently worked injury are the labourers, and the labourers they have not injured precisely because they have failed in producing the effect which was designed and expected by the framers of them. It is because the Corn-laws have been lately inoperative in producing their designed effect on prices that they have failed to injure the labourer. We are furnished with decisive testimony by both the Committees of 1833 and of last Session on the state of agriculture. The Committee of 1833 in their Report say, "It is a consolation to your Committee to find, that the general condition of the agricultural labourer, in full employment, is better now than at any former period, his money-wages giving him a greater command over the necessaries and conveniences of life." The Committee of last Session made no Report; but I am sure that I shall meet with the concurrence of every Member of that Committee, and indeed of every one who has read the evidence, in stating that, if there be one single point placed by that evidence beyond dispute, it is the greatly-improved condition of the agricultural labourer. More than fifty witnesses, occupiers of land, from all parts of England, Wales, and Scotland, were examined, and among them scarcely one expressed even a hesitating opinion as to the state of comparative ease and comfort of the labouring classes. All, or nearly all, said in the strongest language, that the condition of those classes was better than at any period within their recollection, and all attributed it to the cause assigned in the Report of the Committee of 1833, viz., that the money-wages of the labourer gave him an unprecedented command over the necessaries and conveniences of life. This effect is precisely what reason and experience would lead us to anticipate. The labourer is directly and deeply interested in the cheapness of the necessaries of life, and all history shows, that the rate of his wages follows but slowly and inadequately a rise in the price of those necessaries. With respect to the farmer these laws have not only failed to confer on him the advantage it was asserted he would have derived from them that he would not have received had the Corn-laws been effectual for the attainment of their object—but they have, in many cases, worked his entire ruin, in all have been prejudicial to his interests, and must in the long run, by a process demonstrably inevitable, cause the entire destruction of the farming capital of the country. So far from the framers of those laws being entitled to call themselves the farmer's friends that they are, unintentionally no doubt, his bitterest and cruelest enemies. The farmer has no interest in high prices, even could they be steadily maintained, as in the competition which a limited quantity of land produces the landlord is sure to get, in the shape of rent, all the produce of those high prices which are beyond the ordinary profits of capital. The Corn-laws would be valueless to the farmer even could they keep up the price of corn; but what is their effect when, as is now or has been recently the case, they fail to keep it up? Why, that they are the cause of his utter ruin; the temporary rise of price they produce induces him to engage in a farm, in which his rent, his mode of culture, his expenses are all calculated on anticipations of a price of corn which he finds to be delusive; and, after a few years' struggle, in which part of his capital goes to the landlord, and part is utterly wasted, he throws up his farm a ruined and broken-hearted man. The farmer is merely a capitalist. That which is alone really interesting to him is, that the price of corn should be steady. That system is best for him which has the greatest tendency to produce steadiness of price. A free trade must demonstrably produce the greatest steadiness; and I assert, therefore, as an axiom not to be controverted, that the farmer has a deep and vital interest in the abrogation of the Corn-laws, and in rendering the trade in corn completely free. But the landholders—surely these laws, framed by them, and with a direct view to their advantage, must to them, at least, be highly beneficial. Sir, I am satisfied, that if there be one class of the community more deeply than all others interested in the abrogation of the present system, the landholders are that class. I rest this assertion mainly on two propositions, both capable of complete demonstration: first, that it is impossible, by any legislative enactments, permanently to keep up the prices of agricultural produce of this country considerably above its level in other countries; all that you can effect is to produce a ruinous fluctuation; and, secondly, that the attempt so to keep it up involves the risk not only of depriving the English landholders of the grea advantages which they at present possess but of depressing their condition as much below as it is now above the condition of the owners of the soil in any other part of the world. The whole scheme of keeping up the price of native-grown corn by legislative restrictions on the importation of foreign corn, whether these restrictions take the place of absolute prohibition under a certain price as by the Act of 1815, or of virtual exclusion by duties so high as to be prohibitory under the present law, the whole scheme rests on the assumption that we shall always be an importing country, that we shall always grow less than we consume, that there shall always be a tendency to dearth. It is quite demonstrable by à priori reasoning that this is a state which cannot be permanent. In order that dearth may not become famine it is necessary that such an amount of capital should be devoted to the cultivation of the soil as, in ordinary years, shall produce a supply equal to the consumption of the kingdom. This tendency of capital to flow towards the cultivation of the soil is certain; it will be attracted to that employment preferably to all others, because the demand for the necessaries of life is of all demands the least checked by high prices. The consumption of articles of luxury very speedily diminishes with advancing cost, but the demand for food must be satisfied; and until, therefore, the ordinary profits of capital cannot be obtained in raising corn, capital will be applied to its production, whatever be its cost. What is the inevitable result? The supply which in ordinary years was about equal to your wants, with an abundant harvest exceeds them, and the portion which is surplus to the national consumption must fall not only to the price which it will fetch in foreign markets, but as much below that price as will defray the cost of its transport. In the home market you cannot have two prices; the price of the surplus you have to send abroad must regulate the price of the whole, and you place yourselves therefore in the most disastrous of all conditions, viz, that your whole system of culture being calculated upon the price of corn far above the average prices of other countries, you must of necessity have at given intervals a price far below that average. The effect of so violent a revulsion is of course to check cultivation: some farmers are ruined, some struggle on, sowing a less breadth of corn; the supply again falls below the demand; your laws then come into operation, and cause the price to rise beyond the level of Other countries. If a short harvest or two intervene, a rise takes place to a famine price; and whilst distress occurs among the manufacturing classes, wild hopes are again excited among the farmers, the growth of corn is again improvidently extended, and you recommence your miserable cycle. Are these only speculative evils? Do they exist only in the imagination of theorists? At this moment they oppress us: twice since the Act of 1815 has this succession of cause and effect, this ruinous alternation, taken place. The framers of the Act of 1815, and the persons engaged in the pursuits of agriculture, almost universally anticipated, as the consequence of that measure, a price of corn not averaging less than 80s.; in 1822 it was 38s. Mr. Canning, in 1827, said, when introducing his resolutions similar, or nearly so, to the provisions of the existing law—"The market will assume such a steadiness, that instead of a fluctuation between 112s. at one lime and 38s. at another, the vibrations will probably be found to be limited within the small circle of from about 55s. to 65s." Now, has this prophecy been fulfilled? In 1828 the price of wheat was 75s.; in 1836, 36s. What becomes now of your grave discussions as to the degree of protection to which the landed interest is entitled—of your laborious inquiries as to a remunerating price—that phantom which has always mocked your research? of your elaborate scale of ascending and descending duties? Providence blesses us with abundant harvests and sweeps away the puny effects of that legislation which would obstruct the equal distribution of its blessings. The real and permanent interest of the landholder of this or any other country must be, that the community of which they form a part should always import corn. You have so legislated as to render it absolutely certain that at given intervals we shall be an exporting country, and an exporting country too without a market. The evidence given before a Committee last year affords proof, clear and indisputable, that the Corn-laws have in this respect, viz., the tendency to produce great fluctuation, the effect I have ascribed to them. There was a remarkable concurrence of opinion among almost all the witnesses as to two most important points. First, that for some years, up to 1834, there had been a perpetually increasing tendency to enlarge the growth of wheat; and, secondly, that in 1835 there had occurred a striking revulsion in the tendency. The decrease in the breadth of wheat sown in the autumn of that year was, by almost all the witnesses, stated as considerable, and by some rated as high as twenty-five per cent., and even higher. The reason of this change is clear. Wheat has been the especial favourite of our legislation; it was supposed in old times to be the great reliance of the farmer. "Wheat paid the rent," it was said; and accordingly it has been in a yet higher degree than other grain the object of parliamentary protection. We have chosen to assume that 73s., 41s. and 31s. are the prices that express the fair relation of the cost of growth of wheat, of barley, and of oats respectively, and the result shows how eminently absurd is any legislative interference in such matters. These prices did at no time perhaps express accurately that relation; but since the introduction of the four-course system of husbandry, which dispenses with fallow, and those improvements in cultivation which have rendered the lighter soils as applicable to wheat as to barley and oats, this assumed relation of cost has become utterly erroneous and devoid of foundation. What has been the consequence? Why—that whereas by your laws you say, wheat shall be 78s. per cent. dearer than barley, and 135s. per cent. dearer than oats, it has been during no inconsiderable period about, or very little above, the price of oats, and actually below the price of barley. It has been during the past year cheaper than at any period within half a century in England, cheaper even than the mean price of the countries from which chiefly we import it. The very article which it has been the darling object of your policy to keep not only high in price, but steady—which you will not permit the people of England to eat unless they will pay dearly for it—has fallen to a rate which has made it an economical food for pigs. But this is a temporary evil, it may be said, and will cure itself. No doubt it is in a rapid process of cure. Your admirable system, having wasted an enormous portion of the capital of the producers of corn, is now about to show how successfully it can afflict the consumer. Capital has been abstracted to so great an extent by the growth of wheat, that unless we have a harvest this year of unusual pro- ductiveness, we shall see prices, before the crop of 1838 can be reaped, which will, I suspect, produce remonstrances from the manufacturing districts very different in tone from the language in which they now address you. But, setting aside the effect of monopoly to produce the fluctuations I have described, conceding that our harvests are always to be of uniform produce, admitting that we can succeed in maintaining a state of partial dearth—which is never to rise into abundance on the one hand or to sink into famine on the other —admitting for a moment all these impossibilities, could you then keep up the price of corn considerably above the level of other countries? Even then, Sir, it would be impossible. One of two things must happen: either your manufacturing capital would depart to other shores, and the population which it at present supports must be reduced by emigration, or the more dreadful process of misery, and the home market for corn being thus limited, the price of course reduced; or you would drive your labourers to cheaper food, and thus equally diminish the demand for wheat. It is an absolute condition of the existence of our manufactures that the rate of wages should not be greatly above the role in other manufacturing countries, and if the price of bread be such that it is not within the reach of the operative, he will betake himself to potatoes. Where will then be your market for corn? What the condition of the humbler classes? What their resources against famine? What will be the chances of the preservation of order, or the stability of property? I repeat, you cannot maintain permanently a price of grain much above the average price of other countries; the utmost you can achieve by legislative interference is to produce a miserable fluctuation, alternately crushing into ruin the farmer or the manufacturer, and always injuring both. But can this state of things be really and permanently for the benefit of the landlord? Can rents nominally higher, but often unpaid, compensate to him for the ruin of his tenants, the impoverishment of his land, and the slow but sure destruction of that manufacturing and commercial greatness to which alone he owes the superiority of his condition over the landholders of any other country under heaven? By grasping at the shadow will he not lose the substance? The overflowing wealth which commerce and manufactures have poured into the lap of England, and the demand which the crowded cities which have grown up at their bidding afford for every production of the soil, confer upon land in this country a value absolutely unknown in any other country, and until comparatively a recent period unknown in our own. Ample proof of this fact is to be found in the report of Mr. Jacob, who, in the years 1826 and 1827, visited, by direction of Government, the great corn-growing countries of Europe. Throughout Denmark Prussia, Poland, Gallicia, and Hanover—throughout the wide regions watered by the Vistula, the Weser, and the Elbe,—either rent does not exist at all—the proprietor being under the necessity of cultivating his own estate—or it varies from 5s. per acre to 15d. per acre. By the testimony of Locke, it appears that 5s. per acre was a rack-rent in his time in England. Not the smallest additional development can be given to the operation of the steam-engine, not the least improvement can be effected in the loom, which does not add to the value of every landed estate in the kingdom. It is not in the higher price of corn alone that the advantages of the English landholder consist. The admirable roads, the means of transport by canals and railroads, the abundance of capital, the facility of credit, the demand for those articles in which he never can be rivaled by the foreign agriculturist—for animal food, for milk, for butter, for esculents, for hay, for straw—all these are advantages of which it is not easy to overestimate the value. The English landholder possesses a natural monopoly in being proprietor of the soil in the richest and most densely-populated country in the world. By attempting to add to it an artificial monopoly, he may lose some of his present, but can gain no additional advantages. The precise degree in which we can afford to pay more for the necessaries of life than is paid by other nations is the degree to which, by our greater capital and skill, and the possession of coal and iron, we can under work those nations in manufactures. The only mode by which we can be assured of not overstepping those limits is by leaving the trade in the necessaries of life free. To preserve that commerce and manufacturing superiority which gives to the British landholder his present pre-eminence, will demand, in any case, an arduous struggle. By permitting a free trade in the necessaries of life—thus raising the price in those countries which are our manufacturing rivals, and depressing it in our own—you take the best means in your power to render us successful in that struggle. But I repeat, that, under any circumstances, success will be of difficult attainment; without an alteration of our present system it will be impossible. Sir, I well know the answer that will be made to this assertion. I shall be referred to the increasing amount of our exports as proof that our Corn-laws are not inconsistent with the prosperity of our manufacturing interests. It is with the full knowledge of the facts on which such an argument may be grounded, that I repeat my deliberate conviction that our manufacturing and commercial supremacy trembles in the balance. Our Corn-laws affect our manufacturing interests by a double process: first, by depriving our manufactures of extensive markets, which would be otherwise open to them; and, secondly, by disabling them from successfully competing with their foreign rivals in those markets to which both hare access. You have already lost, or are rapidly losing, your European markets. How long will you retain those of the other portions of the world? On this point I beg to call the attention of the House to a document recently circulated by the Cotton Association of Glasgow and the west of Scotland, relating to the cotton manufacture, by far the most important of all the branches of our national industry. I find it there stated, that the consumption on the continent of Europe of raw cotton was last year upwards of 600,000 bales—that the cotton manufacture of France has increased in ten years 58 per cent., whilst ours has increased only 50 per cent.; but in the same time that of the United States of America has increased 121 per cent. I find it stated that the cotton hosiery is manufactured in Germany so cheap that it is imported into this country, notwithstanding an import duty—that of cotton yarn the importation is gradually confining itself to the finer qualities, clearly proving that even in spinning, that especial branch of the manufacture in which we have been accustomed to consider ourselves secure from competition, the exertions of our continental rivals are daily becoming more formidable—that in every market of the world, in Mexico, in the Brazils, in China, in India, at Malta, at Smyrna, and Constantinople, the heavy cotton cloths of the United States of America enter into successful competition with the produce of the English looms. I find it asserted that in America the manufacturer gets his raw material cheaper; that on the continent of Europe wages are lower than in England, whilst in both water power supplies at a cheaper rate the agency of steam. Now, I entreat of the House to weigh attentively the object with which these representations are made; it is to induce the Legislature to take off the small tax yet levied on the importation of cotton wool, five-eighths of one penny per pound, amounting on the whole of the goods manufactured to only two per cent.; and it is the deliberate opinion of the Association that the removal of even this amount of pressure is essential to enable the British manufacturer to endure the competition of his foreign rival. I hesitate not to say that the Association is right, and that the duty must be taken off. But I say further, that this relief will not suffice; that wages which form so much larger a component part of the cost of manufactured goods, cannot in England permanently remain much above the wages paid in similar branches of manufacture in other countries, and that such approximation of the rate of wages here and abroad can only take place without a convulsion by an approximation also in the prices of the necessaries of life. Of the amount of risk we should incur by seriously endangering the loss of the foreign market for our cotton goods, the House will judge when I state that of the cotton manufacture, which leaves for profit on capital and wages of labour not less than 25,000,000l. per annum, and employs or supports from two to three millions of individuals, two-thirds, or perhaps three-fourths, find a vent in foreign markets; that under our present system these, the chief sources of our national wealth and greatness will be dried up; that if we do not abrogate the Corn-laws—those laws which, whilst they exclude us from one-half of the markets of the world, will render us unable to support competition in the other—we shall sooner or later lose our manufacturing supremacy, I hold to be certain. My own opinion is that the epoch of that loss will not be long delayed—but, be its occurrence nearer or more remote—if there be truth in reasoning, or certain anticipations to be drawn from experience—come assuredly it will. In the issue of this great experiment the landholders are more deeply interested than any other class of the British people. I repeat that the landowners are more interested in the issue of the question than any other class of the community. If England retain her present commercial and manufacturing superiority —if she be, by the enjoyment of a free trade in the necessaries of life, permitted to advance in her career of prosperity—if, as her population increases, her wealth increase in a yet greater ratio—if her people acquire an increasing command over the comforts and enjoyments of existence—there will be a safe and extending market for every various produce of the soil, and land will improve in value by a sure and rapid process. If, on the other hand, our commerce should decay; if our manufacturers, excluded from the continent of Europe, should be undersold in trans-Atlantic markets, and the millions who depend on them should be left without employment, what would then be the condition of England? I will not dwell upon a prospect appalling to contemplate. I will only remind the House, that should such ever be our condition, the wealthy capitalist, the skilful artisan, would quit oar shores, leaving an unemployed and desperate population as a burthen on the landholder, who must perforce remain a witness and a victim of the ruin he would have caused. Having now, Sir, stated to the House, however inadequately, the amount and nature of the risk we incur by a prolonged existence of the present Corn-laws, and the deep interest which all classes of the community have in their immediate abrogation, it remains for me to point out what regulations I would substitute in their place. I would propose to sweep wholly away the system of average and fluctuating duties, and to leave the importation of every species of grain perfectly free, subject only to a moderate fixed duty. I would abolish the fluctuating duties, because, in whatever degree reduced, they would still be destructive of the most essential element of a free trade, viz.—a certainty as to the amount of the charges on the importation of foreign corn. I would have the fixed duty of moderate amount, as a high fixed duty would, of course, in proportion as it operated to the exclusion of foreign corn, produce all, or nearly all, the evils I have ascribed to the present system. The duty should be in amount an exact equivalent for the burthens which the agricultural capitalist has to sustain beyond what is borne by the rest of his fellow-citizens, and which enhance the cost at which his produce can be brought to market. The amount of those burthens is clearly the exact measure of the protection to which the agricultural interest is entitled; for whilst, on the one hand, it is both just and expedient that the weight of taxation should be diffused equally over the whole community, and not be permitted to press more heavily on one branch of the national industry than another; on the other, it cannot be contended that the taxation which is raised from the agricultural classes, in their character, not of producers, but of consumers, that taxation which falls only on the rent of the landlord or the profits of the farmer, can give a claim for peculiar protection. Having defined the rule by which the new duty should be calculated, I might fairly, perhaps, leave my motion in the hands of the House, and devolve on the Committee the task of applying that rule. I feel, however, that the more open and candid course, although not the best adapted for securing support to my motion, is to state what, in my opinion, should be the amount of the permanent duty. I should propose, if the House accede to my motion, that the new law should come into operation on the 1st of June of this year; that from that time to the first of June, 1838, the duties should be 10s. per quarter on wheat, 8s. on barley, and 6s. on oats; to the 1st of June, 1839, 8s. on wheat, 6s. on barley, and 4s. on oats; and from that time permanently 5s. per quarter on wheat, 4s. per quarter on barley, and 3s. per quarter on oats. The ground on which I fix the relation between the different kinds of grain I have named, the duties to be fixed on the less important sort I have not named, will be matter of discussion in the Committee. I will now merely say, that the duties I have mentioned are more than a full equivalent for the whole of those charges which press exclusively on the landed interest, or enhance the cost of growing corn. Sir, it may, perhaps, be expected that I should express some opinion as to what would be the price of corn, in England, under such a law as I have proposed. My own complete conviction is that, with a free trade and a duty of 5s., wheat could not, to the extent of one fortnight's consumption of the kingdom, be imported under 40s. to 45s. per quarter; that would, of course, be the mean price of this country, and, minus the duty and cost of transport, the price of every country with which we have intercourse. I am aware that this conclusion is at variance equally with the opinions of the most eager advocates and strongest opponents of the abolition of the Corn-laws; but I am, on full investigation, satisfied of its correctness, and I state it because, whilst I believe the benefits and blessings which a free trade in corn would confer on every class of the community are scarcely to be calculated, I am anxious that the true nature of those benefits and blessings should not be misunderstood on the one hand, nor the sacrifice at which they are to be obtained overrated on the other. A free trade in corn would restore those friendly and intimate commercial relations with the nations of the world which our Corn-laws have interrupted—relations not to be shaken, because they would rest upon the natural wants and capabilities of every country, and be cemented by the interchange of mutual benefits. A free trade in corn, whilst it would re-open to our manufacturers the markets of Europe, would, by insuring to them a moderate and steady price of the necessaries of life, enable them to support competition in those of the New World. Nor is there any sufficient ground for believing, that these most important national objects would be gained at the price of any considerable derangement in British agriculture. I have already shown, on grounds which cannot, as I think, be impugned, of what deep, what vital importance to the permanent well-being of all the classes concerned in the cultivation of the soil, is a free trade in corn. That object should be steadily pursued by the agricultural interests, whatever be the amount of temporary inconvenience by which the return to a sound system should be accompanied. But the amount of that inconvenience has been greatly overrated. It is impossible, I think, attentively to weigh the evidence given to the Committee of last Session, without perceiving that the protection hitherto given to agriculture, has had the same effect, in that instance, as in all trades to which it has been applied, viz.: that it has paralyzed exertion, and caused the misapplication of capital. I do not believe that more than a very moderate quantity of foreign-grown wheat could be laid down here at less than from 40s. to 45s.. per quarter, and I am altogether sceptical as to the British agriculturist being tenable to grow it at that price. He has enormous advantages over his foreign competitor, and with the improved culture and more judicious application of capital which would follow on the establishment of free trade, I doubt whether more than a very small portion of the land of England would be found incapable of producing corn at a price to compete with the foreign growth. If, instead of persisting in the absurd and unjustifiable attempt to keep up the price at which corn shall be sold, we apply the vast resources at our command to cheapen the cost of its production, I believe that not only the present, but a much larger, quantity might be grown, and grown with a profit at a rate to defy foreign competition. This is the path that has led to our triumphant success in manufactures; and, I believe, that in agriculture it would lead to a like result. No doubt, with an increasing population, a period must arrive when this process could be carried no further. Even the vast advantages possessed by the British agriculturist, would not enable him indefinitely to augment the produce of the soil of England. The great value of a free trade in corn is, that it would indicate the precise point at which the aids to be derived from a dense population, and the application of capital and science, would cease to counterbalance the effect of the mere fertility of soil in countries nut possessing such advantages. I believe that period to be yet remote. Ample support for this opinion might be drawn from the evidence given to the Committee of last Session, but I feel that it is totally unnecessary that I should trespass on the indulgence of the House for this purpose. All such considerations merge in the wider conclusion—the grounds for which it has been my main object clearly to lay before the House, viz., that an equality, or nearly an equality, in the price of the necessaries of life in this country, and those which are our manufacturing rivals, is the absolute condition—I will not say of our prosperity —but of the security, almost of the existence, of our social system. If it be really true that wheat can be grown in other countries at a cost which would admit of its being laid down here at a price much lower than I have named, that fact only renders move certain the advent of the ruin which I have predicted as the consequence of a perseverance in our present system. In conclusion, Sir, I would implore the Members of this House, more especially that large portion connected with the agricultural interest, to weigh calmly and dispassionately that which I have laid before them. Mine has been little more than the humble merit of bringing into one view the overwhelming arguments which bear upon this great question; but to those arguments can there be a reply? I call on them as men of honourable feeling to free themselves from the suspicion of legislating with sordid views and for their own immediate benefit. I call on them as statesmen to expunge from our own statute-book laws which are a disgrace to the intelligence of the age, which furnish an excuse for every lingering error, for every absurd restriction in our commercial code. I call on them as lovers of their country to avert the dreadful calamities which a perseverance in our present system will, at no distant period, entail on England. I warn them as prudent men to delay no longer the solving a question on the wise solution of which depends, I venture to assure them, not the value only, but perhaps the very tenure, of their estates.

Mr. Villiers

rose to second the motion of the hon. Member for the Tower Hamlets. He said that he hoped that if he appeared to be eager to raise his voice upon this question he should be excused when he said that he sat in that House by the suffrages of men whose livelihood and whose interests were identified with the industry and commerce of this country, and that they considered, and justly considered, he thought, that those great interests were more affected by this measure than by any other and every other together. By this motion the industry and commerce of the country pleaded before the Legislature, and asked for liberty; and however anomalous it might appear in a commercial country boasting of a representative Government, for a quarter of a century they had offered up this prayer to the House without success; and it seemed that those that maintained these laws raised the issue to the country, whether it was to the skill and industry, the manufacturing and commercial enterprise of the country, or to the virtues of the soil, or the owners of the soil, that we were indebted for our greatness and consideration in the world. The support of the Corn-laws raised this question. He considered that this country owed everything to commerce and manufacture, and those interests were sacrificed to the interests of an unproductive class; and he now called upon the owners of land who occupied entirely one House of Legislature in this country, and who greatly preponderated in another, to declare in the face of the country and the world on what ground it was, that they passed and maintained laws for the advancement of their own fortunes and to the injury of the rest of the community. He hoped that the reasons would be stated clearly and with distinctness, and that the House would not hear repeated tonight those idle fallacies, those vague generalities, that dishonest reasoning-, which seemed to cloud and disfigure every previous discussion. The question of Corn-laws was a clear one, and needed no mystery; it was one of trade between a producer and consumer; and he contended that the Legislature ought not to consider the producer in any other than his commercial relation to the rest of the community; and if they compelled the consumer to pay a higher price than circumstances required, it was rank tyranny and injustice. He therefore called for explicit reasons to justify and explain the grounds of this striking deviation from policy and justice. He had referred to the discussions and defences which had been offered upon previous occasions for this system, and he had observed that three or four grounds were usually taken, which were chiefly worth mentioning from their frequent repetition: the first was, that land was the basis of all prosperity; the second was, that we ought not to depend upon the foreign countries for supplies; the third, that we could not pay our public debt or maintain our burthens without the Corn-laws to secure high rents to the landowners. Now what was the meaning of that statement as connected with Corn-laws, the effect of which was to maintain high prices and to keep poor land in cultivation? Were they to be told that England's glory was to be traced to high prices paid for the produce of poor land? But it was always added, that commerce and manufacture only flourish when land was prosperous. And did not that require a distinct inquiry into the way in which manufacturers added to the prosperity of this country; and he would ask was not that caused by producing more than we consumed, and by exporting the surplus? Was it not by the goods which we imported in exchange for our exports that we added to the stock of our wealth, that we became rich and increased the sources of the revenue? And yet what was the effect of the Corn-laws but to raise price, and thereby limit production and was it not evident that Corn-laws were rather the cause of poverty than the basis of prosperity? The next ground was perhaps the most puerile; it indicated want of thought and ignorance of human nature. It supposed that we were in danger from depending upon the foreign producer of grain, lest they should withhold from us the necessary supplies. This involved two assumptions, one false and the other absurd. In the first place, it assumed that we were now independent of foreign supplies, When it was notorious that we had not been so for forty years past; but the nature of our dependence was precisely that which was most dangerous, for it left the producer uncertain as to the time when we should require those supplies; and at one time consequently, in 1816, the price of wheat was 113s. a quarter, owing to the supplies being inadequate. But did not persons see who urged this argument, that it applied to commerce altogether, and that we ought not to depend for any article on which the livelihood of any portion of the community depended? That argument would apply to the million of people who depended upon the importation of cotton wool for manufacture, as well as to the few who might live on foreign corn. And what ground was there for another defence of the Corn-laws, that it was necessary to keep up high rents to pay our national debt. Why, what were the sources of our revenue? Did not the House know that seventy-two per cent. of the revenue was paid by the customs and excise; and what were the duties of customs but the duties paid upon our imports in exchange for what we exported. Did it not appear, therefore, that just in proportion as we extended our commerce, so did we improve our revenue, and that as Corn-laws raised price they limited the foreign commerce and diminished the revenue? Again, could the landowners pretend that they paid more to the excise than the rest of the community, when that depended upon the public consumption, and that the cheaper people procured food the more they had to expend on other things? Did Gentlemen know who urged this argument, that in one branch of trade alone, the cotton trade, seventeen millions was paid in wages, besides what was paid in every other trade; and if this principle were sound, why should it not apply to all other interests as well as land? Make any class rich by law, and they would have more to spend; but the Legislature could only do that by robbing the rest of the community. It was usually urged in favour of the Corn-laws—that the landowners had exclusive burdens to bear, and therefore they ought to be indemnified by Corn-laws. In dealing with these exclusive burdens he begged first to remark, that they were of that nature, that no one landowner had the right to claim indemnity; and if that were not manifest before, he might refer to the discussion of the last three nights, when it was distinctly admitted, that the church-rate was a charge upon the land, and that the land had no right to be relieved from such a liability. And where, he asked, was the difference between that charge and any of those charges now in question? But if the Corn-laws were to be an equivalent for these exclusive charges, why, there ought to be some adjustment of the charges made upon the public on that account. They heard of reductions of the poor-rates, of one-half of the county-rate being fixed upon the consolidated fund, but they never heard a whisper of any reduction in the duty on foreign corn. Again, with respect to tithe, what the agriculturist had to complain of was, that it prevented improvement and cultivation of fresh land; but the Tithe Act of last year remedied this in future, and thereby raised the value of land. But was the duty on foreign corn to be therefore reduced or was that which the right hon. the Member for Cumberland called the locus standi of the landed interest to be raised still higher by continuing the Corn-laws? But with respect to this ground of resistance to the repeal of the Corn-laws, he should like to remove it by repealing the tax on malt, if the landowners would consent to open the ports for foreign grain: he would vote for the repeal of the malt-tax tomorrow if the Corn-laws were repealed. Again, he must observe, that the land- owners were exempted from many burdens to which other classes were liable, or bore them in a less degree; he might name the house-tax, from which farm houses were exempt, the window-tax, and the tax upon horses and dogs, which were not levied on such as were engaged in agriculture. On what grounds had they escaped nearly thirty millions of taxes, unless it was on account of the exclusive burdens imposed upon them? But that surely could not be urged in excuse for any advantage which they possessed. He was speaking the opinions of those who advocate the repeal of the Corn-laws when he said, that for that inestimable advantage the public would willingly bear their share of all those burdens which the landed interest called exclusive. The public would be the gainers, from the calculation that had been made of the pecuniary loss to the country by the present Corn-laws, though it took all those exclusive burdens on itself. Upwards of forty-five millions of quarters of grain were consumed annually in this country. Every advance of price, of one shilling a quarter more than was necessary cost the country two millions sterling. The landed interest objected to the fixed duty proposed by his hon. Friend, that wheat would fall 8s. a quarter. According to their own calculation, therefore, nearly twenty millions were lost annually to this country. Would the public not be gainers then by taking all these alleged exclusive charges upon itself? If the agriculturists would not accept these terms, what could the public think of what was alleged in favour of the Corn-laws? Would they believe that the landowners only gained an equivalent for their exclusive charges? But did the evil end there? Was there nothing worse than paying twenty millions a-year for the benefit of one class? Had we nothing to apprehend from what was going on in the world in consequence of our system? Had we not provoked a confederation of twenty-six millions of people in the heart of Europe, with a view to resist the introduction of our manufacture, and to attempt to compete with us in the market which we had hitherto commanded. Did we not see attempts made in every quarter to oppose what was called our "commercial despotism?" When we learn the fact that has been authenticated at the Board of Trade, that already we had been successfully opposed by the manufacturers of Saxony and Switzerland' producing cheaper than ourselves, why were we not to look with alarm at the prospect of success which might attend their rivalry with our manufactures? This was really the most important part of the question. He thought that we had the remedy in our hands by at once acting upon that simple, sound, and just principle of "free trade"—that which left to every man to dispose of the fruits of his labour and his capital in the market where he got the most in exchange for them. This would enable us to sustain our burden, to augment our wealth, and escape decline and decay. Mr. Villiers then read passages from pamphlets of Sir James Graham, Lord Fitzwilliam, and from the protest of Lord Grenville, in 1815, against the Corn Bill, in favour of his views, and said, that he should support the hon. Member's motion, as he was anxious that the transition from the present vicious state to a more healthy one, should be attended with as little distress and loss as possible.

The Marquess of Chandos

said, that the hon. Gentleman, the Member for the Tower Hamlets, in the course of his speech of that evening, had not been sparing in his attacks on the landed interest of the country; and it appeared to be his object to compare it with the manufacturing interest. Now he held a paper in his hand which contained the names of twenty-two hon. Gentlemen of the opposite side of the House, who formed part of an association called the Anti-Corn Law Association. This Anti-Corn Law Association was composed chiefly of manufacturers, whose object it appeared was to cry down the farmers and agriculturists, and deprive them of the enjoyment of their just rights. This association, thus avowedly formed for the purpose of putting down the Corn-laws, had drawn up and circulated a series of resolutions for the guidance of their supporters. The first resolution contained instructions for the purpose of forming branch anti-corn law associations, and directions as to the best means of obtaining the insertion of articles and reports in the metropolitan and provincial newspapers, and on the best mode of circulating extracts and transcripts of their proceedings. Now what, he would like to know, would be said by the manufacturers if the agriculturists leagued together against them for such a purpose. The outcry would then be the tyranny of the farmer. There was one thing, however, in the discussion of the subject that evening which he rejoiced to find had transpired. The talk was no longer to protect the people against the farmer and agriculturist, but it was now plainly and openly avowed, that the question was brought forward upon the principle of free trade. On that he would at once take his stand, and there pledge himself throughout his life to oppose free trade by his utmost exertions and to the best of his ability. He could not conceive what right hon. Gentlemen opposite had to talk of the protection afforded to the farmers when they themselves, as manufacturers, required protection. Were not their goods protected by duties? On this subject he was rather at a loss to conceive what course the right hon. Gentleman opposite (Mr. P. Thomson) and his Majesty's Ministers would think proper to pursue. He thought it was the duty of his Majesty's Ministers to come forward, state their intentions, and tell the landed interest and the country, that they were to have their support, or that it was to be given to the principles of the hon. Member for the Tower Hamlets. He thought, that if they adopted the latter course, and it went forth to the country that free trade was to be the foundation of the new Corn-laws, backed by the authority and influence of his Majesty's Ministers, the announcement would be received not only with surprise but alarm and mistrust. With the hon. Member who opened this discussion, in a manner creditable to him for its fairness and ingenuity, he had no quarrel. He believed that his principles were correct, and that was sufficient. But with those principles he differed in toto and entirely, for he would take upon himself to say, that so sure as the duties were reduced, so surely would there be a fall in wages, and he would put it to any hon. Member, whether he would place the poor man in such a position? It was a motto well known and respected in this country —"live and let live." But that motto would not be followed by hon. Members if they took that protection for themselves which they denied to the agriculturists. He was aware, that in many parts of the country a great outcry and clamour was raised at the operation of the Corn-laws. But were the landlords therefore to be told, that their interests were to be sacrificed? He for one said they ought not, and he knew that he spoke the language of thousands and millions of his countrymen, and he would repeat for them, that they wanted not monopoly but protection. If the principle of free trade were to be adopted in corn, it must be extended to every thing, and the manufactures of foreigners must be cherished instead of our own. To this he thought that an English House of Commons would never be found to consent. The farmer, he repeated, wanted no monopoly, but he demanded equal justice and protection with the manufacturer. He was aware that tumults might be raised on the subject of the Corn-laws. These should not be laid at the doors of the farmers, but at the doors of those individuals who formed anti-corn law associations, for the purpose of exciting the people. He would meet such societies boldly, and manfully oppose them. They had been told, that England owed every thing to the manufacturing interests. Was it the manufacturing interests who supported the country through the late war? Who was it maintained the country under its heavy debts, and who was it that maintained the peace of the country? Why, it was the agricultural interest; and many of those now sitting in that House would not have had possession of their seats but for that interest. He would no longer trespass on their attention, which he did not often do; nor should he now but that he felt deeply on the subject under discussion. Some had spoken of frauds which had been committed in consequence of the operation of the Corn-laws, and he had no doubt they existed; but agitation was not the way to correct it. He for one would never consent to sacrifice a large class of his countrymen for the benefit of foreigners, or for the more unworthy purpose of courting popularity. It was, he was well aware, the opinion of the agriculturists that, although the Corn-laws had been frequently altered, they were never so well as under the last basis of 1828, and that they were much more anxious to maintain them in existence than to see them undergo any change.

Mr. Ewart

, as a member of the Anti-Corn Law Association, defended the proceedings of that society. It had been formed on the principle of self-defence; and when the noble Marquess adverted to the fact of the existence of an anti-corn law society, let it be recollected that there were two formidable associations combined to support the present system of Corn-laws —the one being the House of Lords and the other the House of Commons. The noble Marquess, however, admitted himself to be an advocate for free trade in manufactures.

The Marquess of Chandos

explained. He had said, that he was not opposed to the giving protection to the manufacturing interests; but if these were given it followed (and he contended for it) that the agricultural interest should also be protected.

Mr. Ewart

Then the noble Marquess wished to establish one ingenious complicated system of monopoly. But however suitable the sentiments of the noble Marquess might be to the rural population of Buckinghamshire, or to the agricultural orgies at Aylesbury, they were not in accordance with the principles of political economy. He could inform the House, that a Commissioner who had been sent out from this country had an interview with no less a person than Prince Metternich, who quoted Adam Smith, one of the greatest philosophers that ever lived, against the principle of his mission, and said—"Take our corn and we will take your manufactures." He was sorry, that on so important a subject as that of the Corn-laws the people of this country were not sufficiently awake to their own interests. But the labourers of this country were now beginning to understand this question; and ere long it would be so well understood by the people of England, that they would make the aristocratic interests tremble. The present Corn-laws operated prejudicially in two ways—they acted as a burden upon the consumer, and they prevented the extension of the national wealth.

The Earl of Darlington

was far from advocating a system of free trade in corn, because he did not believe it could long be continued in a country like this. He was not disposed to contend against free trade generally, and he disliked prohibitory laws; but he held that there were cases in which there must be protecting duties. Why should agriculture be denied the protection that every other interest in the country enjoyed? He looked upon agriculture as the primary source of all the wealth of the country—the base upon which our commerce, trade, and manufacture rested. He was opposed to an alteration of the existing Corn-laws, not only because he felt it would deprive the agricultural interest of a protection it had a right to enjoy, but also because it would awaken hopes in the minds of the manufacturers which could never be realised. One argument in favour of the measure was, that it would bind foreign states to our interest. The greater were the concessions which England made to foreign powers the less was given them in return. He would instance France as a case in point, where we could scarcely obtain the Slightest relaxation in her commercial code, although we consumed more of her produce at low duties than any other nation whatever. There was a jealousy of the landed interest in existence which he was sorry to see. He could not conceive why it should exist, and he hoped such an unworthy feeling would not long continue. He was determined to oppose the motion.

Sir William Molesworth

In reply to the arguments that are usually advanced in favour of the present Corn-laws, I cannot do better than repeat the arguments of my hon. Friend, the Member for the Tower Hamlets. He showed the injuries which it does to the growers of corn, by maintaining a false hope of high price. This causes a large quantity to be grown, and a low price. Then, when the quantity is diminished by bad harvests, and the farmer should gain in price what he loses in quantity, the letting in of corn from foreign countries where the harvest has been good is equally injurious. These are, however, objections only to the existing Corn-laws; they are not arguments against a total prohibition of corn, nor are they arguments in favour of a total repeal of the Corn-laws. I support the motion of my hon. Friend as a preliminary step to the abolition of all Corn-laws. The question of the Corn-law, as an economical question, is with reference to its effect on wages and profits. I object to a Corn-law because it tends to produce low wages and low profits. With low wages and low profits the bulk of the community is uneasy, miserable, and discontented. The common objection to the Corn-law is that it makes bread dear. But this objection in itself, separated from all other considerations, is hardly a solid one; for it is evident, if dear bread be accompanied by high wages, that dearness is a matter of no consequence to the labourer. In the same manner, if cheap bread be accompanied by low wages, the labourer would not gain by that cheapness. When the labourer is obliged to work hard for subsistence—when he is obliged to exchange a large amount of labour for a loaf of bread—then he suffers; but his suffering arises from low wages. The important point is the case of the community. The object to be attained is the happiness of the people. The great economical means of producing that result are high wages and high profits. Every thing which tends to produce low wages and low profits is injurious to the well-being of the community. Wages depend upon the proportion between the number of labourers and the means of productively employing them. If the number of labourers be large, and the means of productively employing them small, there will be a severe competition between labourers—they will naturally beat down each other's wages, and the wages of labour will be low. Prevent this severe competition, so that the wages of labour may be high—may be in proportion to the price of food, and then the dearness of bread is a matter of no consequence. It is just the same with regard to profits. Provided the quantity of capital be such that the competition between capitalists be not severe, profits will be high, notwithstanding dear bread, as was the case during the last war; for profits depend upon the proportion between the number of capitalists, or (to express myself correctly) the proportion between the amount of capital and the means of profitably investing that capital. If the amount of capital be large, and the means of profitably investing it be small, there will be severe competition amongst capitalists; they will mutually beat each other's profits down, and profits will be low. Prevent this severe competition between capitalists, and profits will be high whether bread be cheap or dear. Labourers and capitalists both suffer, then, from hurtful competition, and hurtful competition is the consequence of the field for the productive employment of labour, and capital being too small. Every thing that tends to make that field too small tends to lower wages and profits, and is injurious to the well-being of the community. But there is a tendency in labour and capital to augment more rapidly than the means of employing them, and consequently to produce hurtful competition. Augment employment for labour and capital (for instance, by some agricultural improvement, which renders productive a large quantity of land which had previously been sterile), then hurtful competition ceases, but only for a time; for population and capital will both grow up to the new field of employment, hurtful competition will again exist, and wages and profits will ultimately be lowered to the former standard. These positions seem to me to show the evils of the Corn-laws. Considering the state of this country with regard to the rest of the world, there might be a perpetual increase of the means of productively employing our capital and labour; that is, we might perpetually import food from other countries in return for our manufactures. This the Corn-law prevents. Suppose the Corn-law repealed, capital and labour then might increase to any extent. What matters it provided food can be obtained? With our perpetually increasing and inexhaustible powers of purchase, our importation of food from other countries might go on increasing for generations, so that with a great increase both of population and capital there should be no hurtful competition. In this country there is a hurtful competition between labourers and between capitalists. Labour and capital are superabundant compared to land; consequently both wages and profits are low. A free importation of corn would be equivalent to the addition of so much land to this country. As long as our means of purchase by our manufacturers should go on increasing, so long might capital and population increase without producing hurtful competition; just as if with each addition of capital and population the land of this country were increased. There is an important distinction between capital and labour. When profits are low in consequence of a superabundance of capital compared to land, it flies off to other countries, and employs the labour of other countries, and leaves behind the domestic excess of labour. With a free importation of food, increasing capital would be invested here, and would provide employment for increasing labourers. Not only the capitalists and labourers suffer from the excess of capital and people. The competition which arises from that excess is not confined only to those two classes; for interest is according to profit. Every person who lives upon the interest of capital suffers from the Corn-laws; and so do the professional classes, the demand for whose services is limited by the Corn-laws. It would be difficult to name the class or the individual who does not suffer from the Corn-laws, with the exception, perhaps, of the landowner. I think it might be shown, provided that rent depends (as I believe it does) upon the wealth and population of a country, that the landowner suffers from the Corn-laws; for there is not a manufacturer, nor a shipowner, nor a merchant, nor a shopkeeper, nor a professional man, nor a working man of any description, nor even a landlord, who would not gain by a change which would allow the capital and population of this country to increase continually. For all classes, with the exception of the landlord, a repeal of the Corn-laws would put an end to injurious competition. With regard to the landlord, the repeal of the Corn-laws would undoubtedly decrease the competition for the use of his land for the purpose of growing corn; but in the increasing wealth and population there would be an increased demand for the use of his land for an infinite variety of purposes. No one can doubt that if the wealth and population of this country were doubled there would be a greater demand for the uses and products of English land exclusive of corn than there is at the present moment inclusive of corn. So far for the political economy of the subject. But there is another more pressing, if not more important question. Since we passed a Corn-law, which sets a limit to the employment of capital at home, our means of making capital have prodigiously augmented. The cause of competition amongst capitalists has become more powerful than ever; and this is precisely the period we have chosen for limiting the field in which competition takes place. The Corn-law, by limiting one field for the employment of capital, limits the field for the employment of labour. At the same time great improvements in medicine, more especially in curing the diseases of children, have augmented the rate of increase amongst labourers, and consequently aggravated the competition between them. Hence the very severe competition between capitalists and labourers, which ever since the war, with the exception of the last two years (and this exception confirms this position), has produced low wages, low profits, and political discontent amongst the bulk of the people. Political discontent arose from low wages and low profits. During the last two years great improvements in agriculture in Ireland, and extraordinary harvests, have produced the same effect as if the Corn-laws had been repealed. With high wages and high profits the bulk of the people have been contented and peaceable. This cannot last long. We must soon return to that state of severe competition which has existed since the war down to two years ago, and which produces political discontent. But a great moral change has taken place in the people. Education, such as it is, has made the people what they never were before, namely—politicians. The change of the constitution of Parliament has given to the bulk of the people a great increase of political power. In any period of considerable excitement, the people, including the working classes, who are unrepresented, will have great influence over the constitution and decisions of this House. Having the Reform Bill and the municipal law to work with, I am convinced that whenever the people shall feel again the pressure of the Corn-law they will sweep it away at once, and this period, I believe, cannot be far distant. But is it wise to continue this state of things till the people again feel that pressure, and be in a state of political irritation? Should we not rather legislate now, when all is quiet, than wait for the storm which must arise? Should we not rather anticipate and obviate the evil, than wait and apply the remedy? In this country of artificial relations, where there is such an immense proportion of town population, which exists almost, I may say, upon confidence and credit, political convulsions are most pernicious and destructive, and can hardly be borne. Now the progress of popular opinions, and of the power of the democracy, is certain and inevitable. In order to make that progress harmless, in order to prevent political convulsions, the people must be at ease, and contented; for this purpose wages and profits must be high, and consequently everything should be removed which tends hurtfully to limit the field of employment. I feel firmly convinced that it is only by means of a repeal of the Corn-laws, and of proper schemes of colonization, that the field for the productive employment of labour and capital can be continually enlarged so as to prevent that hurtful competition which produces low wages and low profits. By such means the population and capital of this country may go on augmenting for generations, with high wages and high profits; and the nation be happy, peaceable, and contented. The first step to this desirable result is a repeal of the Corn-law; and the repeal of this law is required as one amongst the many means which are necessary to render the inevitable progress of democracy in this country as safe and peaceable as it is in America.

Mr. Handley

agreed in the opinion which had been expressed this evening, that the real interests of the manufacturer and the agriculturist were essentially the same; and he was willing at once to abandon the Corn-laws when it should be proved injurious to the general interests of the country, and when it should be found convenient and desirable to the State that all monopolies whatsoever should be destroyed. But it was his firm opinion that that period would not arrive for many years to come. The hon. Member for the Tower Hamlets was bound to show that some great evil had been produced by the existence of the Corn-laws, and that the interests of the manufacturing classes had suffered great detriment from the operation of the laws, before he could justly call upon the Legislature to repeal a measure which was calculated to uphold the agricultural interest of the country. As regarded the question of price, he would contend, and it was a fact which was incontrovertible, that poverty was at the highest and consumption at the lowest when corn was cheapest. The hon. Member for South-wark had said on a former night, when speaking on the subject of the Poor-laws, that if a man obtained 10s. a week wages, he paid six of it for bread, which, but for the existence of the Corn-laws, he could obtain for 3s. 6d: but did the hon. Member recollect that if there were no Corn-laws, wages would fall, and intend of 3s. 6d. to expend on bread, the labourer would not have above 2s.? It had been contended that a fixed duty would be preferable to the present sliding scale of duties; but he preferred the latter system, because he thought a sliding scale was better adapted to the interests both of the consumer and the producer at periods when those interests most required it. The hon. Member for the Tower Hamlets had argued, that if the Corn-laws were repealed, it would open new markets for British manufactures abroad; but was the hon. Member quite sure that the serfs of Prussia and of Poland would be rendered greater consumers of British manufactures if the duty on foreign corn were repealed? His belief was, that if the Corn-laws were to be repealed, it would be the capitalists alone who would benefit; and looking to the state of the country, loaded as it was with an enormous debt, and that the taxes to meet the interest on that debt must be paid, it was not under such a state of things that Parliament could wisely, and, with a due consideration of the interests of the State, safely entertain the proposition which had been submitted by his hon. Friend.

Mr. Gilbert Heathcote

much regretted that this question had been brought forward at all particularly when the agriculturists were only just emerging from that state of distress which had so long existed; but inasmuch as it had been brought forward, and he must beg to say, that it had been brought forward in a manner that did the hon. Member for the Tower Hamlets the highest credit, he would use his humble efforts to combat the arguments of the hon. Member. At the outset he would say, the feeling of all the agriculturists was, that they wished to be let alone, from the largest to the smallest landed proprietor. The cry was, "Do not interfere—let us alone." Last year, and the year before, when the agriculturists came to Parliament stating their grievances, they were told they must relieve themselves, and they did now hope that the same language would be repeated. Now what was the real nature of the proposition? It was plainly and simply this, that it meant a low duty now, and none when the price of corn should be high. He did hope, however, that the agriculturists would never be deluded by the mistaken and treacherous advice—he used the terms in no offensive sense, which was now offered them. If there should be a fixed duty, and a famine should come, then the Corn-laws would be swept away altogether, he therefore did hope the agriculturists would be allowed to stand upon the ground which they at present occupied. Could there be any steadiness in prices if there was no permanency in law? and how could there be steadiness in prices, or fluctuation prevented, if a change of the law should take place this year, which would be certain to be followed by a further change in the next? With regard to fluctuation, he would observe that, whenever such was the case in England, the consequence was a still greater fluctuation abroad; this was particularly the case in the years 1828 and 1829. His firm belief was, that at present, England grew enough corn for her own consumption, and, if she could so furnish herself, was not that a matter well worthy of consideration, when they were called upon to adopt the present proposition? Hon. Members who had spoken in favour of the motion, had argued the question as if the agricultural body was an oligarchy, consisting of a few individuals, instead of there being a community of thousands and tens of thousands of persons. And what would be the condition of a large portion of them, those, particularly, whose properties were small, if the price of corn should be perpetually falling? He considered the interests of the landlords and tenants identified; and though his lot was cast in the former class, he would stand up for the small proprietors. He trusted the House would consider their case, and not plunge them into the workhouse, or to work on the roads in the parishes where they now resided, and where he hoped they would still continue to reside, independent, and employed in improving their little properties. He would contend that any competition between English and foreign corn would not benefit the lower classes; and all that the agriculturist desired, was a fair remunerating price in common with the manufacturer. His belief was, that a large portion of the people looked at this question rather as regarded the price of bread, than the price of corn, and he must say, that in the metropolis the price of bread was much higher than it ought to be, as compared with the price of corn. He could only attribute this to a combination amongst the bakers, which he thought was proved by a correspondence which had taken place between Mr. Chadwick and the guardians of the poor of the parish of Bermondsey. He would not trouble the House further than to call upon it to reject the motion of the hon. Member, and leave the agriculturists in the situation in which they at present stood.

Mr. Harvey

concurred in the expression of regret, that this subject should now be under discussion, not because it ought not to be discussed, but the preface to it was a four nights' debate, which ill prepared the minds of hon. Members for the grave investigation which its vast importance demanded. There was a peculiarity in all debates upon the Corn-laws, to which he could not refrain from adverting. It was the peculiar and original doctrines propounded by Gentlemen calling themselves the landed interest, and who rarely came out upon any other occasion. We had just had a specimen in the hon. Member for Lancashire. He had discovered that there was a vast and pernicious difference between the price of bread and the price of flour—which he attributed to a combination of the bakers, some of whom resided in Bermondsey. Now he was little prepared for this discovery, and still less for an illustration of it amongst any portion of his respectable constituents. Any one who walked the streets would find there was no paucity of bakers—they were far too numerous to admit of the confederacy which the suggestion implied. The hon. Member for the county of Lincoln (Mr. Handley) had alluded to what fell from him on a former debate upon the Poor-laws, in which he had said that every man was entitled to an adequate remuneration for his labour, and if he were willing to work, but could not find it, the local authorities were bound either to find him work, and wages for it, or wholesome and sufficient food without it. He said so still. He had that day heard from the mouth of an assistant Poor-law Commissioner, who was receiving a salary of 700l. a year, and a guinea a day for eating and drinking, that an able bodied labourer without wife or family could live well for 6s. a week. He owned himself astonished at such a declaration coming from one so munificently paid—it was an inhuman edict, at which he recoiled. He felt this statement was unpalatable to those he was addressing—yet the truth must be told, and no one ought to be ashamed of it who was not shamed by it. The Gentleman to whom he was alluding, had given evidence of the utmost importance, and bearing directly upon the subject in hand. And let it be borne in mind, that he was speaking on behalf of a large class who had no direct representatives, and little sympathy within those walls, while, on the other hand, the benches were crowded by Gentlemen competent and eager to protect themselves. The evidence he was referring to—[Order, order.]

The Chancellor of the Exchequer

rose to order. No rule had been more absolutely laid down with regard to discussion in Parliamentary debates, and nothing could be more supported by good sense and principle, than that until a Report was laid upon the table of this House, it was not competent for any hon. Member to make use of any knowledge he had acquired on any Committee of that House, until the other Members had been equally informed upon the matter. He thought the hon. Gentleman himself would, upon reflection, see the propriety and justice of such an arrangement.

Mr. Harvey

was the more ready to adopt the suggestion of the Chancellor of the Exchequer than his reasons for it. He would save the right hon. Gentleman from any collision with the Speaker, and would proceed to notice not what had passed in a Committee, but what he had heard elsewhere; and thus adopting the farce often observed when speaking of what had passed in another place. He saw no reason for assigning to an assistant Poor-law Commissioner a higher protection, or more courtesy, than was shown to a Peer of the realm. He had heard it stated that 10s. per week was the average wages given to a hard-working agricultural labourer, having a wife and a large family of young children.

Mr. Miles

, as a Member of the Committee to which the hon. Member alluded, must say, that it was very unfit to make any reference to the evidence before that Committee.

Mr. Harvey

Though not surprised at, would respect the sensitiveness of hon. Gentlemen, and passing by the Poor-law Committee and the Commissioners, would revert to facts within his knowledge. In the county of Essex the average wages of a labouring man, with a family of five or six children, was ten shillings a week, nine shillings of which was expended in the indispensable article of bread or flour; thus leaving the miserable surplus of one shilling, wherewith to pay for rent, clothes, beer, tea, sugar, soap, fuel, and the other indispensable necessaries of life. This being so, he would boldly ask, whether it was not of the first importance to the husbandman to obtain the greatest quantity of bread for the smallest amount of his earnings. But it had been urged, that if the price of bread was low, wages would be low. He would take leave to deny that proposition, for the rate of wages was not necessarily regulated by the price of corn, and in many parts of the world they had cheap bread and high wages. Would it be asserted, that the Corn-laws were good in themselves, or only to be supported from the peculiar circumstances in which that country was placed? If the latter, he could understand why they were advocated, but if the former was maintained, were they not every day giving practical illustrations of the fallacy of such a system? Did not hon. Members show that fallacy in their female arrangements? Were not their wives to be seen proceeding in their carriages from street to street, and from shop to shop, purchasing commodities at the lowest price; and were not articles looked at, turned over, and thrown aside, because they could be had cheaper elsewhere? Were not French gloves and French silks purchased in preference to English manufacture, because they could be obtained cheaper? And he should be glad to ask his late Colleague, the Member for Colchester, when a cargo of Flanders horses was brought up the river and exposed for sale in Colchester market, did not the farmers in that part of the country prefer them to Essex or Suffolk horses, because they were strong and cheap? Every man was endeavouring to purchase the commodity he required at the lowest possible rate, and should not the labouring man be placed in the same position? Gloss and disguise it as they might, the question was obvious, and the solution easy. It is, whether the landlords are to be enabled to mortgage their estates, pay the interest, get into and get out of debt, demand and exact high rents, and all this at the expense and out of the muscle and marrow of the labouring community. The hon. Member, whose remarks he was noticing, asserted, that without fluctuating duties, there could be no free trade. The reverse appeared to him the truth; that duties of all kinds acted as clogs to trade. After all, it was admitted that the Corn-laws were a protection to the landlords, rendered necessary by the severity of taxation. So far, however, from the landlord being injured by the taxes, he was a positive gainer. Let a balance be struck between the taxes he actually paid, and the profit which the Corn-laws secured to him; to say nothing of the thousand channels through which the aristocracy profited by the present extravagant system. The fact was, the industry of the country was borne down by the effects of partial taxation. He would instance the article of tea. There was not an old woman who paid fourpence for an ounce of tea, who did not, at the same time, pay twopence for the tax upon it; and, what was worse, the duty had been advanced seventy percent upon the inferior teas, being those consumed by the poor. It was by details of this kind that the injustice of the present system could be best illustrated, though he was well aware how unseemly they were in the eyes of a disdainful and titled aristocracy. Of one thing the landed gentry might be assured, that the Corn-laws were destined to be abolished by their own contrivance, for it was utterly impossible to retain them and the Poor-law too. Human endurance could not thus be long taxed by a cruel combination of heartless legislation. By one law you made a man buy his bread dear, and by another you deprived him of the means of purchase. He would ask, could there be a greater refinement upon cruelty? He had been unexpectedly called upon to address the House by the allusions which had been personally made to him, and was not prepared, in the present state of the House, to prosecute his remarks further than to say, that the time was at hand when it would appear that great and crying cruelty had been practised upon the helpless, but industrious community.

Mr. Shaw Lefevre

wished it were possible to come to a satisfactory compromise upon a question, which, as long as it remained unsettled, would prove a source of perpetual discord between the two great interests in the state. But so much prejudice and mis-apprehension prevailed on both sides, that no alteration in the corn laws would take place, except at some alarming crisis, when it would be impossible to legislate temperately or wisely on the question, though it was of vital importance to the public interests. On the one hand, the farmers were taught to contrast the prices of corn in England with those of the continental ports, by way of convincing them that it was impossible to fix any duty which would give them an ade- quate protection; whilst the effect produced on the continental prices, by the corn laws, was studiously kept out of view. On the other hand, the labouring classes were taught, by such exaggerated statements as had been made by the hon. Member who had just sat down, to believe that the corn laws were framed solely for the benefit of the landed aristocracy and their tenantry; and it was entirely concealed from them that, if the corn laws were repealed to-morrow, and any great portion of land were thrown out of cultivation in consequence, not only would a great number of labourers be deprived of employment, but it would be impossible to obtain a sufficient supply from abroad, except at prices much higher than those which prevail in this country at the present moment. With the permission of the House he would read an extract from the report of Mr. Jacob on this point; and he need hardly add, that, as that gentleman was appointed by the English Government to make the most particular inquiries into the state of agriculture in every part of Europe, and had every opportunity afforded him of obtaining the most correct information, his opinion was entitled to the greatest respect. Mr. Jacob said, In the progress of society, interests have grown up, under the sanction of the laws which might be injured by extraneous interference, and the injury to them might materially affect the general benefit. The preference to articles of the first necessity of domestic growth is natural, and almost universal. The chief articles of subsistence in each country are almost wholly of home produce; and, in a country with a great density of population, may be only procured in sufficient quantity to supply the demand of the inhabitants at a considerable cost. In such a case, a foreign interference, which would lower the home price so as to check interior production, might, in a few years, cause that domestic industry and application of capital, which are the chief sources of supply, so far to decline as to afford a less quantity, and thus elevate the price to the consumer higher than it would be raised by trusting to, and by duly fostering and protecting home growth. It is on this ground, and this alone, that the protection, as it is called, to agriculture will admit of defence. It is to protect the consumer against a price too high, which would take place if a portion—by no means a large portion—of our supply depended on foreign growers of wheat, that any restriction on the trade in grain, can be justified. And again, Estimates have been presented to the public, founded on the supposition that 20,000,000l. might be saved to the public annually by the importation of 10,000,000 quarters of corn, at 40s. a quarter less than our English price; which sum has been represented to be extorted from the pockets of the community to gratify the luxury of the landed proprietors, and the greedy selfishness of the farmers. Though the authors of such estimates must have known, or must have been woefully ignorant if they did not know, that the demand of one-twentieth part of what they reckon upon could not be extracted from the whole continent, without raising the price there as high, or even higher, than the average price in England. After this statement, made by one who was in no wise hostile to the principles of free trade, he hoped they should hear no more idle declamations, either in or out of the House, about "the odious and oppressive bread-tax;" and that the hon. Member himself would admit that the existing protecting duty on foreign corn was to be justified on other grounds than the exclusive interests of the landed aristocracy. For his own part, he would not advocate this protection for a single instant, were he not convinced that its maintenance was most important to the interests of the public at large, as well as to the agriculturist; and that, were all protection removed, it would be most fatal to the labouring classes of this country, whether employed in agriculture or manufactures. He must, however, differ from the noble Lord, the Member for Buckinghamshire, and from many other hon. Members, as to the amount of protection required; and as to the best mode in which it could be afforded. He did not consider the existing Corn-laws to have answered the purpose for which they were intended, or to be advantageous to the farmer. His noble Friend had deprecated the agitation of this question at the present moment, because the agriculturist was only just recovering from that distress under which they had been suffering for the last few years. But he would ask his noble Friend whether, during the whole of that period, they had not enjoyed the greatest amount of protection which the present Corn-laws could afford. It was well known, from the evidence of the great majority of witnesses who were examined before the Agricultural Committee of last Session, that the principal cause of that distress was the exceedingly low price of wheat. But the testimony of more than one witness showed that excessive importation in previous years was in some measure the cause of those low prices; and it was an undoubted fact, that with the sliding scale of duties, a corn merchant would never import corn to any great extent, except when prices were so high that the duty became merely nominal; and the country was thus exposed to an influx of foreign corn far beyond the immediate wants of the community, which in the event of a succession of abundant harvests, hung upon the market, and depressed the price much below the natural level. In short the present laws were equally detrimental to the farmer, the merchant, and the manufacturer; and even the foreign grower was injured by them in no slight degree; for when the ports were virtually closed by the higher rates of duty, that corn which he had grown to supply our wants in less productive years, was penned back, as it were, in the foreign market, and he suffered equally with ourselves from ruinously low prices. He was, therefore, clearly of opinion, that an alteration was necessary to secure steady prices. And he was, by no means, anxious for immoderate protection, or for high prices; but he could not concur in the views of his hon. Friend, the Member for the Tower Hamlets. The duty which he proposed was, in the first place, too low; and the transition from our present artificial state, to a more sound state, much too rapid. He must not forget that, owing to the expectations which had been held out by the present Corn-laws, a considerable extent of land was now in wheat cultivation, which would be better employed in the growth of barley; and it was most satisfactorily established, before the Agricultural Committee, that barley could be grown on clay land if it were first drained and kept in a proper state of cultivation. It was on this account that he proposed, in the report which he drew up for the consideration of that Committee, that the malt tax should be reduced one-half. This tax directly interfered with the proper cultivation of our land by lessening the demand for barley. He believed that, if the effect of an alteration in the Corn-laws were to reduce the price of wheat to a limited extent, much of that land on which the farmer was now obliged to grow wheat, would not be affected by it if he were enabled to grow barley instead; and, so long as it remained in cultivation, neither the labourer, the farmer, nor the landlord would suffer from the change. On these grounds he considered it to be essential to the interests of all parties that no alteration in the Corn-laws should be attempted without a considerable reduction in the duty on malt or the entire repeal of that tax: and he felt that, were he to consent to the present motion without this safeguard, he should place the agricultural interest in considerable jeopardy. But even without these considerations, and looking only to the expediency of commuting the graduated scale of duties for a fixed duty, and taking the motion of his hon. Friend in connexion with his speech, and with the speeches of those hon. Members who had supported him, it appeared to him to be calculated to excite alarm and distrust amongst the agricultural classes, and to be likely to lead to no practical or useful result; and on that account he should oppose it.

Sir John Tyrell

thought the topic of the Poor-laws had been very unnecessarily introduced by the hon. Member for Southwark; but as it had been alluded to, he could say, that the opinion of the county of Essex on that subject was to give the new system a fair trial. The landed interest had been described by some hon. Members as an overgrown and overbearing interest, and its right to protection had been denied. Now he would take the liberty of asking the Representatives of the manufacturing and mercantile interest, whether they would wish to have disclosed to the eyes of the public at large the extent of the protection they received? He held in his hand a list of seventy or ninety articles of manufacture, on which an import duty varying from twenty-five to fifty per cent. was imposed, while the amount of the protecting duty in favour of the landed interest under the present Corn-law, did not exceed ten per cent.

Mr. Guest

said, that the hon. Member for Essex having asked the manufacturer to state why the growers of corn should now have a protection when they were protected to the extent of twenty-five and fifty per cent. or more, he (Mr. Guest) being concerned in the manufacture of iron, begged to inform him and the House what was the state of the case in the iron trade. The price of iron was at this time about 9l. per ton, and as the duty on importation was 1l. 10s., the protection was about, fifteen per cent., with which he begged to contrast the duty upon a few articles of agricultural produce. The duty on hops imported was 8l. 11s. per cwt. equal to 200 per cent. at least; on the importation of potatoes (one of the great necessaries of life,) 2s. per cwt. or about 100 per cent.; on the article of bacon 28s. per cwt., or about sixty per cent; and, in addition, the important articles of beef, mutton, and pork, were entirely prohibited. He further begged to assure the hon. Member, that if he would consent to fix a fair and equitable duty on the importation of corn, for himself he would say, and he thought that he spoke the sentiments of a large portion of the iron-trade, that they wanted only free trade without any protecting duty whatever on the importation of iron.

Mr. Gally Knight

would not occupy the House one moment. He had heard the observations of the hon. Member for Southwark, with great regret, for he thought them calculated to sow dissension among the different classes of the community. He did not think the present moment the best suited for its consideration; and he was also of opinion that the landed interest of the country was burthened with so much taxation that it ought to have some protection. He did not mean to favour any one class at the expense of another; and if there was distress in the manufacturing districts, he would not allow the Corn-laws to stand in the way of their relief. But the contrary was the fact: the manufacturers were prosperous, and the agriculturists were in distress. He must, therefore, oppose the motion.

Mr. Hume

said, that the hon. Member told the House that he would not protect one class at the expense of another, but yet the hon. Member told them that he would vote for the continuance of a tax that served one class at the expense of all others. It. was the landed proprietor who was interested in this tax, and not the farmer. The landed proprietor paid no tax in this country. Every tax that bore upon the landlord had been taken off, whilst the taxes on the rest of the community remained. The Corn-laws ground the people down to misery. How was it possible that with such prices the manufacturers of this country could compete with the foreign manufacturer. The hon. Member who spoke last had expressed his regret that the hon. Member for Southwark should have alluded to the subject of the Poor-laws on the present occasion. [Mr. G. Knight: I said about the Poor-laws.] He thought the subject of the Poor-laws was connected with the present question, and the hon. Member for Southwark had spoken the truth with regard to it. It might be unpleasant to speak the truth in that House., but truth it was, that Parliament maintained a cruel, a grinding—he would say a famishing, Corn-law. The Poor-laws were grinding down able-bodied men with large families; while the Corn-laws were keeping up the price of their food. The labouring man was crushed and borne down, and all this was done for the benefit of the landed interest. Let the House regard the difference between the prices of wheat in Paris and in London: in the former city the loaf weighing four pounds cost 5½d., and in the latter 9d. Was that nothing? If he went to Holland [A laugh] he dared say many hon. Gentlemen wished him in Holland,—if he compared the prices of corn in that country, in Prussia, and in Germany, with the prices of the same article of food in England, he found a difference of from eighty to ninety per cent. And the effect of this difference was this, that the labourer in Sheffield and Nottingham was eating his food at double the expense a manufacturer in other countries was eating his. It might be unpleasant to state to hon. Gentlemen opposite the effects of the Poor-law—Corn-laws; [a laugh] it was very natural for him to confound the two, for he had been lately hearing evidence which showed that the Poor-laws were intimately connected with the Corn-laws. When he saw the man who had 16s. wages at a time when corn was cheap, now that corn was dear obtaining only 13s., he could understand how the Corn-laws operated on the Poor-laws, and he could sympathise with the poor. But the Corn-laws made the hearts of men who profited by them regardless of others. The general effect of them was to raise prices from sixty to one hundred per cent. But it was not the duty on corn alone—no; there were duties amounting to prevention on every article in the list which he held in his hand; [the hon. Member here enumerated certain articles of provision which were taxed for the benefit of the landowner], and the aim of those duties was, to fill the pockets of the rich, and keep the bellies of the poor empty. The great effect of the Corn-laws was to produce suffering and misery; and when he regarded the threatening state of the manufacturing districts, threatening from their poverty, he did wish for change. The House would not consult the interests of the country, unless it removed the existing pressure from the working classes; and he would urge the House to consider, whether it would not be better to make the proper change in time, instead of being compelled to make it suddenly, which could not be without its bad effects on the farmer.

Mr. Richards

remarked, that a fixed duty could not be maintained at high prices of corn in three successive bad seasons; and that we had at present the effect of a fixed duty and low prices (so we understood). The hon. Members for Middlesex and Southwark seemed to forget, in their schemes of benevolence, that if the competition of foreign land were permitted, the labourers from the country would be driven into the towns, where the wages would necessarily and instantly fall. They should look at what regulated the price of corn, as well as the price of wages; they should look to the circumstances of the country. The costs of production in it were greater than elsewhere, on account of the debt; and if the interest of that debt was to be paid, taxation must continue and prices remain. The hon. Member for Middlesex had a belief that farmers were not taxed, but, independently of their heavy local burthens, leather, iron, and various articles necessary in agriculture, were taxed. If it could be shown, however, that the safety and happiness of the people depended on the Corn-laws being repealed, he would vote that they be so. When the hon. Mover proposed any duty at all, he conceded the whole point. The farmer must be protected from foreign competition, or the foreigner's corn would displace his, and deprive him of remuneration. The hon. Member for Cornwall had laid down principles very correctly, but did not understand the application of them. He would thus illustrate the case:—Suppose a hatter not to be able to produce a hat for less than 24s., and the foreign hatter to be able to produce it at 15s.; let the duty be 5s., and the manufacturer has, with the costs of transport, a protection to the amount of 20s. and a little more. Repeal the duty, however, and the foreign hatter will drive the English one out of the market. The English one will then cease to consume so many British goods as before, and you raise up the foreign hatter.

Mr. Clay

briefly replied, and the House divided:—Ayes 89; Noes 223: Majority 134.

List of the AYES.
Aglionby, H. A. Labouchere, H.
Attwood, T. Leader, J. T.
Baines, E. Morpeth, Viscount
Bewes, T. Mullins, hon. F. W.
Biddulph, Robert Murray, J. A.
Bish, T. O'Connell, D.
Blake, Martin Jos. O'Connell, J.
Blunt, Sir C. O'Connell, M. J.
Bowes, John O'Connell, Morgan
Bridgman, Hewitt Ord, W. H.
Brocklehurst, J. Oswald, James
Brotherton, J. Palmer, Gen.
Chalmers, P. Parker, John
Collier, John Parnell, Sir H.
Cowper, Hon. W. F. Parrott, Jasper
Crawford, W. S. Pattison, James
Dalmeny, Lord Philips, M.
D'Eyncourt, C. T. Philips, G. R.
Divett, E. Ponsonby, J.
Dundas, hon. T. Potter, J.
Dunlop, J. Rippon, Cuthbert
Ellice, E. Rolfe, Sir R. M.
Elphinstone, H. Rundle, J.
Etwall, R. Ruthven, E.
Ewart, W. Scholefield, Joshua
Ferguson, sir R. Seymour, Lord
Ferguson, Robert Steuart, R.
Fielden, J. Strickland, Sir G.
Fleetwood, Peter H. Strutt, E.
Gaskell, Daniel Stuart, Lord J.
Grey, Sir G. Thomson, C. P.
Guest, J. J. Thompson, Ald.
Gully, J. Thompson, Colonel
Hall, B. Thornley, T.
Harvey, D. W. Tulk, C. A.
Hastie, Archibald Turner, W.
Hawes, B. Vigors, N. A.
Hawkins, J. H. Walker, R.
Hinde, J. H. Wallace, R.
Hindley, C. Warburton, H.
Howick, Viscount Ward, H. G.
Hughes, Hughes Williams, W.
Hume, J. Wood, Alderman
Humphery, J. TELLERS.
Hutt, W. Clay, William
James, William Villiers, C. P.
List of the NOES.
Alford, Viscount Bateson, Sir R.
Alsager, Capt. Bell, M.
Angerstein, John Bellew, Richard M.
Arbuthnot, hon. H. Benett, J.
Astley, Sir Jacob, Bt. Bentinck, Lord G.
Bagot, hon. W. Beresford, Sir J. P.
Bailey, J. Berkeley, hon. C. C.
Baring, H. Bingham Bethell, Richard
Baring, W. B. Blackstone, W. S.
Baring, T. Bonham, R. Francis
Barron, Henry W. Borthwick, Peter
Barry, G. S. Bowles, G. R.
Bradshaw, James Harcourt, G. G.
Bramston, T. W. Harcourt, G. S.
Brodie, W, B. Hardinge, Sir H.
Brownrigg, S. Harland, Wm. Chas.
Bruce, C. L. C. Hawkes, T.
Bruen, Col. Heathcote, G. J.
Buller, Sir J. B. Yarde Hector, C. J.
Bulwer, Edw. L. Henniker, Lord
Burrell, Sir C. M. Herries, rt. hon. J. C.
Burton, Henry Hillsborough, Earl of
Castlereagh, Visc. Hodges, T. L.
Cavendish, hon. C. Hogg, J. W.
Cavendish, hon. G. H. Hotham, Lord
Cayley, Edward S. Houstoun, G.
Chaplin, Col. Howard, R.
Chelwynd, Capt. Howard, P. H.
Chisholm, A. W. Hurst, R. H.
Clayton, Sir W. Inglis, Sir R. H., Bt.
Clerk, Sir G. Jermyn, Earl
Clive, Visc. Jones, Theobald
Clive, hon. R. H. Kerrison, Sir Edw.
Codrington, C. W. King, Edward B.
Cole, A. H. Kirk, P.
Cole, Visc. Knatchbull, Sir E.
Compton, H. C. Knight, H. G.
Corbett, T. Knightley, Sir C.
Corry, H. Law, hon. Charles E.
Cripps, J. Lawson, Andrew
Curteis, H. B. Lefevre, Charles S.
Dalbiac, Sir C. Lefroy, A.
Denison, John E. Lefroy, Thomas
Dick, Q. Lemon, Sir C.
Dillwynn, L. W. Lennard, Thomas B.
Duffield, T. Lennox, Lord George
Duncombe, W. Lennox Lord A.
Duncombe, hon. A. Lewis, David
Dundas, J. D. Lincoln, Earl of
Eastnor, Visc. Lowther, Col. H. C.
Eaton, R. J. Lowther, J. H.
Elley, Sir J. Lygon, hon. Gen.
Elwes, J. Mactaggart, J.
Estcourt, Thos. G. B. Mahon, Viscount
Estcourt, Thos. Manners, Lord C.
Fector, John Minet Maunsell, T. P.
Ferguson, G. Miles, William
Fergusson, R. C. Mordaunt, Sir J., Bt.
Finch, George Mostyn, hon. E. L.
Fleming, John Neeld, J.
Foley, Edward Thos. Neeld, John
Folkes, Sir W. Nicholl, Dr.
Forester, hon. G. Norreys, Lord
Forster, Charles S. North, F.
Fremantle, Sit T. W. Ossulston, Lord
Gaskell, J. Milnes Packe, C. W.
Geary, Sir W. R. P. Paget, Frederick
Gladstone, T. Palmer, Robert
Gladstone, Wm. E. Palmer, George
Gordon, hon. W. Parker, M.
Goring, Harry Dent Peel, rt. hon. Sir R.
Goulburn, rt. hon. H. Peel, Colonel J.
Graham, rt. hon. Sir J. Pemberton, Thomas
Grimston, hon. E. H. Pendarves, E. W.
Hale, R. B. Phillips, Charles M.
Halford, H. Pigot, Robert
Hamilton, Geo. Alex. Plumptre, J. P.
Hamilton, Lord Polhill, Frederick
Handley, H. Poulter, J. S.
Powell, Colonel Thomas, Colonel
Power, J. Townley, R. G.
Price, S. G. Trelawney, Sir W. L.
Price, Sir Robert Trevor, hon. A.
Pryme, George Trevor, hon. G.
Pryse, Pryse Tynte, C. J. K.
Pusey, P. Tyrrell, Sir J.
Rae, Sir Wm., Bt. Vere, Sir C. B.
Reid, Sir J. R. Verney, Sir H., Bt.
Rice, rt. hon. T. S. Vernon, Granville H.
Richards, J. Vesey, hon. T.
Richards, R. Vivian, J. E.
Rickford, W. Vyvyan, Sir R.
Ross, Charles Wall, C. B.
Rushbrook, Col. Walpole, Lord
Sanderson, R. Welby, G. E.
Sanford, E. A. Weyland, Major
Scott, Sir E. D. Whitmore, Thomas C.
Scott, James W. Wilks, John
Scott, Lord J. Williams, Robert
Shaw, F. Williams, W. A.
Shirley, E. J. Williams, Sir J.
Sibthorp, Col. Williamson, Sir H.
Smith, A. Wilson, Henry
Smith, hon. R. Wodehouse, E.
Smyth, Sir H., Bt. Worsley, Lord
Somerset, Lord G. Wyndham, Wadham
Spry, Sir S. Yorke, E. T.
Stanley, Edward Young, J.
Stewart, John Young, Sir W.
Sturt, Henry Charles
Surrey, Earl of TELLERS.
Talbot, C. R. M. Chandos, Marq. of
Tennent, J. E. Darlington, Earl of
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