HC Deb 15 March 1838 vol 41 cc909-46
Mr. Villiers

rose to make the motion of which he had given notice concerning the Corn-laws. He was well aware of the nature of the interest belonging to this question—of the great importance of it to the country at large—and of his own utter incompetency to do justice to it. He might be asked, how it happened that a person of his humble pretensions should take upon himself the duty of bringing a question of this important character before the House; but he would not stop to inquire whether, on such a subject, the ability of the advocate was likely to influence success. If however, in bringing the question forward, the fitness of the advocate was to form a principal consideration, all he could say was, that his name would not have been seen in connection with a subject of such great and vital importance. But the question was, not what business he had to bring it forward, but why was it that the intelligent manufacturing and commercial community of the country deemed it essential to their interests that it should be brought under discussion in that House. Those to whom the elective franchise had been given by the Reform Bill, deemed the Corn-laws one of the greatest wrongs of the unreformed Parliament, and the reason why they had sought the franchise was, because it would enable them to test the disposition of the new Parliament on this subject. He appeared there as the humble organ of the opinions of those who wished these laws altered, and although he had no personal pretensions of his own to enforce his views, still he would not shrink from expressing it as his opinion, that of all the wrongs which the unreformed Parliament had inflicted—of all the errors and injustice of that body, these unrighteous laws, which raised the price, while they limited the amount, of human subsistence, were the most shameful and injurious. He might be told, that it was idle to moot such a matter at the present moment, and that he could have no prospect of success. He was not blind to the fact, but still he thought the people had a right to seek for justice from that House. He was one of those who shared in the opinion, that constant changes in the constitution of the country tended only to evil, and, therefore, he was not friendly to any change which was not recommended by obvious necessity. The time would arrive when the removal of those laws must be taken into consideration by the Legislature; and when it did, neither that nor the other House of Parliament could withhold from the people the justice they demanded by means of either privileges or power. He could not shut his eyes to the fact, that numbers were daily withdrawing their confidence from the Legislature for the manner in which they dealt with this question, but he called on them to give some little consideration to the wishes of those whom they would require to check and repress, should violence make its appearance amongst them. He heard from all parts of the country that the people despaired of redress. Instead of relaxing the bonds of those who had passed these laws, the Reform Bill had strengthened them; and now the people began to see that no alternative would be left to them but that of extorting from their fears what they denied to justice. The people complained that the House postponed and neglected the interests of the country at large in order to favour that class which was most prevailing in the two branches of the Legislature; but he trusted that they would now enter into the consideration of the question with all the favour and attention which it deserved. It might be said, that this was not a fit time to bring forward the question, because there was no excitement on the subject. But he thought that it was not wise to postpone the consideration of so important a question until there would be neither calmness nor leisure to discuss it. He considered this a seasonable time to bring forward this question, when funds were raised for enabling labourers to emigrate to countries where they might obtain the food which they could not obtain at home. When in Parliament and out of Parliament so many were standing forth as the advocates of the oppressed poor and the enslaved factory children, had he not a right to call upon all those to support his motion? He could not believe, that those who obtained seats in that House, and consideration out of it, by professions of sympathy for the poor, under the rigours of the Poor-law, would now shrink from sustaining their cause. He would now proceed to state the grounds on which he believed the Corn-laws oppressive and injurious. He would first inquire into the purpose and principle of the Corn-laws. He believed that their purpose was protection to the landed interest, and that they were only justified on the ground of expediency. It was alleged, that the British farmer could not compete with the foreign grower without protection. Now, what did this protection mean? If security against danger, he would readily assent to the definition; but that was not the case. What, then, was it? Why, an evil to the community at large, though an advantage to the landed interest; and it was against such a principle that he had to contend, because he thought it not only indefinite but unjust. The effect of machinery had been considerable in ex tending production; but he believed all those discoveries which went to economise labour were attended with ruin, inconvenience, and distress, to those who were superseded by such means in their employments. They had not received any protection or compensation for the injury done to them, though the Legislature had given rewards and encouragement to those who invented machinery for economising labour, with a view to reduction in the price of articles of manufacture. Was this fair? Did not the argument applicable to machinery equally apply to all other cases where employment was superseded? When the labourers complained of the effects of machinery, they were told, that they were ignorant of their own interests, inasmuch as the use of machinery rather increased than diminished labour. True; but then this was applicable to a whole class, and not to an individual. There was, he believed, no instance where human employment had been superseded in which great distress was not occasioned. He might mention many, but he would only take that of the press. Now, what was the effect produced in Paris by the application of machinery to the business of printing? Why, that 6,000 persons were rendered destitute. No doubt the use of machinery had led to the employment of 60,000 persons in that business, but because that was the case, did it follow that the 6,000 persons whom it had deprived of employment were not injured? It was well known that men experienced great difficulty in passing from one employment to another. The truth of this observation was strikingly illustrated in the case of the hand-loom weavers, who had remained in great distress ever since Dr. Cartwright's invention came into use. This invention superseded their employment. He might be told, that private inconvenience must yield to public good, but he should like to know whether, if the people were sufficiently powerful, they could not insist upon protection in this or any other instance? Suppose, for example, there was a majority of hand-loom weavers in that and the other House of Parliament, would they not, in such a case, prohibit the power-looms, or, at all events, enact that, until the cloth produced by hand labour had reached a certain price, that produced by power should bear a fluctuating amount of duty? He could see no difference between the case of the hand-loom weavers and that of the landowners, and he thought that the argument applicable to the one was equally applicable to the other. This might be regarded as mere political economy, and it might be said that, although such abstract notions might do in France, they would not answer in England. Suppose a plan for heating their chambers without the expense of coals were invented, he should like to know what would be said by the coal-owners. Would they not call for protection, like the landowners, and would they not support their claims by arguments equally strong? Happily, however, they were only a small body, as the disposition in favour of monopoly which they had evinced showed what they would do if they were as powerful as the land-owners. If the House would resolve itself into Committee he should certainly move for a repeal of the whole of the duties on corn, nor would he be deterred from doing so by the argument that one object of the protection which they afforded was the keeping up of the revenue of the country. It would be unjust and unwise where the home article was taxed to allow the foreign article, which was not taxed, to compete with it; but he denied that the Corn-laws operated as a protection to the revenue. Now, with respect to the glass trade, he would admit, that it would be unjust to allow untaxed glass to come into competition with glass which was taxed, but the question was very different when they came to the question of land. Land was of different fertility. Some land would produce only one bushel the acre, while other land would yield as much as thirty. The taxation, therefore, fell very differently, and they should take care that they were not giving a bounty to some as well as a protection to others. He was prepared to contend that the revenue derived no advantage from this protec- tion, and that it relied more upon imports and exports than upon the amount of taxation paid by the landowners. He thought the noble Lord opposite could not deny this. It was no doubt true, that there were fallacies abroad on this subject; but he must fairly say, that he regarded the monopoly not only as without excuse, but as an insult and an injury. There was no mystery about the revenue, and he should wish those who said it would suffer, to point out the particular branch in which the deficiencies would occur. With respect to the Customs and Excise, did they not give three-fourths, or seventy-two per cent., of the whole revenue; and could it be contended that those branches would sustain any diminution if the monopoly of the Corn-laws were abolished? He thought it could not. He wished to show to what extent the country was indebted to the landed interest relatively to the commercial interest with respect to their contributions to the revenues of the country. In the cotton manufacture alone it appeared, that there were upwards of seventeen millions annually paid in wages; and when this amount was paid in wages to the consumers of other produce by one branch of manufactures alone, could it be any longer said, that we were indebted to the Corn-laws for the maintenance of our Excise revenue? It was a fact well known, that at those periods in which our manufactures were in the most flourishing state, our Excise was most fruitful; and why, when this was proved to be the case, should they make the productive classes pay more for the food that they consumed than was necessary for any public good? Now with respect to the assessed taxes. He would ask, did the landlords pay more of the assessed taxes than the commercial and industrious classes of the community? No such thing, for, on the contrary, the landowners and the agricultural classes were relieved from many kinds of taxation which other classes in the country had to pay. They were relieved from the House tax, from the window tax, from the horse tax, from a tax on dogs, and from a tax as they all knew, as when land passed by descent, while, on the contrary, the inheritors of personal property were subject to the payment of the probate duty and taxes of that nature. He contended, that the landowners in whose favour those Corn-laws were maintained did not contribute equally to the support of the revenue with other classes of the community. The relation which they bore to the other classes of the community was supposed to be twenty eight per cent., though the usual calculation was, that the relation was one fourth. Could they show, that they contributed to the burthens of the country in the same proportion? Were they able to show, that the maintenance of the revenue depended more on them than on others, and that they were thereby entitled to consideration with respect to those exemptions which they enjoyed at the expense of the other classes of the community? Let the advocates of the landed interest come forward to prove a proposition of this kind, and he would be prepared to prove the contrary. There were some persons who were ready on all occasions of this kind to fall back on the local charges. He would be glad to hear a statement to the effect, that the Corn-laws should be maintained as an indemnity to the landed interest for the share that they contributed to the support of those local charges. But these charges were charges that we fixed on visible property, and on other property besides land. There were many cases in which the land was exempt from charges for which the small tradesman was heavily taxed. The landowners complained, that they were liable exclusively to the payment of the county-rates and of high-way rates; but this complaint of theirs, as they themselves knew, was most unfounded. Those rates fell on houses as well as on land, and it was not so much the landowners on whom they were charged, as the householders. Besides, he begged leave to remind the country Gentlemen, that during the last three years the agriculture interest had been relieved of many burdens to which it had been formerly exposed. To say nothing of minor taxes which has been repealed, was it not notorious the within that time half of the county-rates had been charged on the consolidated fund?—that the New Poor-law had diminished the poor-rates to nearly one-half of their former amount? And that the value of land had been greatly increased in every part of England by the operation of the Tithe Commutation Act. He asserted, that such had been the consequence of the Tithe Commutaion Act; and a the landowners had been thus benefitted he thought, that those members of the community who suffered from the oppression of the Corn-laws should have some indemnity or relief in return. "But," said the landowners, "we are entitled to protection, as the malt-tax presses more heavily upon us than upon the other classes, and as it also prevents us from selling so much of our barley as we should sell were it not in existence." Now he denied that proposition entirely; but, supposing it to be true, what inference had he a right to draw from it? Surely this—that if the malt-tax pressed heavily on the agricultural interest, the bread-tax pressed heavily on the other classes, and that if the agricultural interest had a right to say, "Take off the malt-tax and we shall sell more of our barley," other interests had a right to say, "Take off the bread-tax, and we shall be enabled to buy and you to sell more wheat." Unfortunately the landowners had at present a monopoly of both wheat and barley; they had even more—for they had a monopoly of the market and the land. But, said others of the country gentlemen, "We must have protection, because it is as much a part of our system as it is a part of the manufacturing system of the country.' Now, what was the principle of this argument, if indeed argument it could be called? Was it any other than this? "If you, the manufacturers, feel yourselves at liberty to take that from the country to which you have no just right so too do we, the country gentlemen." But did the matter rest here? No. The manufacturer had only a protection of 20 or at most of 30 per cent, whilst the landowner had a protection of 80 if not 100 per cent. The manufacturers of Great Britain did not wish for protection; they repudiated the principle of imposing duties in order to give their productions an undue preference over those of other countries. The imposition of such duties greatly enhance the cost of production, and they were of no real service in securing a market for the staple manufactures of this country, as that object was sufficiently attained by their superior quality and cheapness. It was said, that it was necessary to maintain the corn laws as a political institution—that they were essential to the preservation of our old constitutional system; but this was an argument which had no weight with him. He thought that the resources of a country would be developed with the greatest ad- vantage by employing the population in those pursuits which the natural capabilities of the country pointed out as best fitted for them. It was generally calculated, that 52,000,000 quarters of grain were produced in this country. Of these, he would estimate that 26,000,000 were consumed by the agriculturists, and that the remaining 26,000,000 were brought to market for sale. He believed it was calculated that the agriculturists would lose 12s. on each quarter in the event of the ports being opened. Taking the quantity of wheat sold at 26,000,000 quarters, the total loss to the agriculturists, if the Corn-laws were repealed, would be 15,600,000l. It was plain, then, that this represented the sum now paid annually by the country for the maintenance of the Corn-laws, a sum which was taken from the pockets of the industrious classes to enrich the landed interest. Surely it was a waste of ingenuity to cut down unimportant estimates, to reduce the salaries of ill-paid public servants, and to carry a searching and sometimes misplaced economy into every department of Government, while such an enormous abuse as this, such a prodigal waste of public money, was suffered to continue. The expense of the army and navy was immensely increased by the Corn-laws. In the Victualling Department, the loss to the country had been stated at from 600,000l. to 700,000l. Yet, while such sums were expended to keep up a pernicious monopoly, Government had so much reduced the pay of the public servants, as to make it no longer desirable for any man of station in society to seek employment in the service of his country. While the officers of every public department of the army and navy were underpaid, who would have believed, that the people of this country consented to sacrifice from 15,000,000l. to 16,000,000l. annually, not to gain a single six-pence of revenue, but to augment the opulence of a small class of the community. He should detain the House too long were he to trace the injurious operation of the Corn-laws on the various branches of our commerce, but he could not avoid pointing out their effect in increasing the expense of the mercantile navy of Britain. The expense of provisioning ships was one of the principal difficulties which the shipowners of this country had to encounter in competing with foreigners. If the Corn-laws were re- pealed, this source of expenditure would be removed, and British shipping would come fairly and successfully into competition with that of the Continent and North America. The foreign trade of this country was the principal source of its revenue and the main prop of its greatness, and the chief materials from which it was carried on were its manufactures. The manufactures of Great Britain had enabled its Government to carry on a war at an immense expense against the united power of Europe. Would it be believed, that Parliament had burthened these manufactures with an immense weight of taxation, the direct tendency of which was to offer a premium on the consumption of foreign products, and to drive British capitalists to seek an investment for their money in other countries? The policy of a former age was to rely exclusively on domestic trade, and to discourage foreign commerce, but it was time that Parliament, if they wished to maintain the pre-eminence of the British manufacturers, should abandon this mistaken and injurious system, which was rapidly converting our customers abroad into rivals. Already, our manufactures had been entirely driven from some markets, and were undersold in others. By obstinately persisting in keeping up this relic of our prohibitory system, we had forced other states to have recourse to a similar policy. Prussia and the United States had established tariffs, imposing oppressive duties on many important articles of British manufacture; and there was no likelihood that those powers would be induced to modify them, unless we consented to take their raw produce, of which the staple article was grain, in return for our manufactured goods. In 1830, Mr. Huskisson had declared, that these and other injurious consequences would result from an adherence to the restrictive system, and his predictions had been fully verified. He would appeal to the hon. Members for Nottinghamshire and Derbyshire, though he had no acquaintance with those hon. Members, in proof of the deep distress which the manufacturers of those counties felt, in consequence of being unable to compete with the foreign manufacturer. In Nottinghamshire, the trade of that county had been to a great extent ruined by foreign competition within a period of less than the last ten years. There was twenty per cent difference in the cost of producing hosiery in Nottinghamshire, and the price at which they were able to import manufactured hosiery from Saxony. Consequently, it was found more advantageous to import foreign hosiery. The consequence of this was, that we lost a branch of trade which was worth 900,000l. annually, and, in the two counties of Nottingham and Derby, not less than 40,000 persons bad, within a few years back, been employed in this trade, which was now nearly ruined. Forty thousand persons were thus reduced to a state of the most shocking distress. The capitalists of this country could not compete with foreign manufacturers from the comparative dearness of living in this country, and the consequence was the extensive introduction of machinery as a substitute for human labour, and the great increase of unemployed hands. This was particularly the case with the cotton trade; but it must necessarily extend to the rest. In France, in Switzerland, and various other countries, the manufacturers were now successfully competing with England in consequence of the cheapness of food and of production, and would in a short time completely exclude us from the Continental markets. There were five millions of people in this country depending on the manufacture of cotton goods, and nearly as great a number on the hardware manufacture. Could hon. Members treat their interests lightly? Several witnesses from Sheffield had proved, that manufacturers to a great extent had left that town and established themselves successfully in the Rhenish provinces of Prussia; and why? Because bread was there only l½d. a pound, and beef 3½d., whilst the corn monopolists of this country maintained the prices of the former of those articles at 3d. and 4d., and the latter at 7d. and 8d.; this was the reason we were beaten on our strongest ground. But the question was, of what value to the country was its foreign trade? And, on this subject, he did hope that hon. Gentlemen who advocated the Corn-laws would speak out in the course of the debate; because, he found it impossible to meet a manufacturer who did not tell him that the Corn-laws were ruining the country. He had collected and sifted all the evidence he could find with reference to foreign trade, and he was quite convinced, that the question was, whether they would have foreign trade or Corn-laws. But when the catalogue of evils resulting from the Corn-laws were summed up, he wanted to know where they were to turn for the benefits of those laws—for cheering results to the community at large? Twenty-four years had now passed under the present or a slightly modified system of Corn-laws, and he wanted to know what had been the advantage which the country had received from them during that long period? Where was the class which could speak to the beneficial results of these laws as concerned their peculiar interests? Would the landowners come forward and represent themselves as a happy, prosperous, and contented race? They had never been in the habit of representing this to be their condition. Why, it was not possible to open one of the petitions and reports which covered the shelves of their library without declaring that there was conclusive evidence of the pernicious effects of these laws. Take the report of the Committee which sat in 1821, only five years after the Corn-law had passed; why, that very report spoke of the great distress of the agricultural body which that law was passed to prevent; and what did the Committee say further? Why, they more than hinted, they all but expressed, that it was the operation of the Corn-laws which caused this distress. And, if these evils flowed from the measure of 1815, he wanted to know what better results they could boast of from the law of 1828? What was the professed object of the law of 1828? It was to regulate and make steady prices of corn. Yet so far was it from producing these effects, so far, at least, was it from keeping corn steadily at a remunerating price to the grower, that it was found necessary, between 1828 and 1833, to appoint several Committees to inquire into the causes of agricultural distress. Now, he would say, that on nothing did the well-being of the farmer depend more than on steadiness of prices; but he would defy any human being to sit down and devise a more effectual means of bringing about unsteadiness of prices than the Corn-laws. The Corn-laws promised the farmer that he should have a certain price for his produce, but did they provide the means of securing to him that price? They promised to the farmer that which they could not fulfil; they promised him a price of between 60s. and 70s. a quarter for his wheat, but they gave no security for this; no effectual means were taken to keep the price up to that standard. They did not guard him against the effects of differences of the seasons; against differences of the soil as between this country and Ireland; against improvements in cropping and other agricultural operations, and therefore they did not take any effectual means to secure the prices at a fixed level. He found, indeed, that the Dutch, when they wanted to secure the monopoly of spices to themselves, were accustomed to destroy great quantities every year, and he said, that this was something intelligible. He did not say it was just, but it was at least intelligible, and a reasonable mode of keeping up the price: but in this country no means whatever were taken to render stable the prices of agricultural produce. Now this was the cause of all the distress which had prevailed since the enactment of the present system of Corn-laws—namely, that they passed a law assuring the farmer that he shall have 70s. a quarter for his wheat, which immediately after falls to 36s.: thus the farmer having speculated upon the certainty of getting nearly twice the actual market price runs in debt to his landlord, and is ultimately ruined. In fact, they had raised the price of production, and limited, at the same time, the field for the employment of capital. But then they heard of the landed interest, which was supposed in that House to include both the landowner and the cultivator; and it was said, that to repeal the Corn-laws would throw the land out of cultivation, and destroy the labourer. Now he would ask hon. Gentlemen to remember what was the condition of the agricultural labourer throughout the country in the year 1830; was he not in nine cases out of ten a pauper? Was he not told, that his labour was not wanted; and was he not charged in most parishes with some offence against law in breaking machinery But did hon. Gentlemen care for the labourer in other matters? Would not the agricultural labourers, as far as they were concerned, rather desire to put a stop to the employment of machinery than to support the continuance of the present system of Corn-laws? He had heard of the steam-plough. If that succeeded, it would throw thousands of labourers out of employment, but he did not expect, that care for the interests of that class would prevent its adoption. The labourer, it fact, could not be held to be in any way benefited by the Corn-laws, or favourable to the continuance of them. He had now proved, that two branches of the landed interest were inimical to the Corn-laws—the occupiers and the labourers—and the only one remaining was the landholder. To the landholders he appealed to repeal the law, and thus relieve the country from a grievous injury and themselves from a serious charge. He could show, that the landholders would not be injured by the repeal, but he would not take that ground; he asked for it as a repeal of a great public wrong; and, being such, the greater the injury to individuals the more strenuous would be his advocacy. But he called on them to consider the position of this country; he would recommend them to contemplate her position, and review her history; and he would ask them as politicians whether there was any wisdom in maintaining laws which were opposed to the intelligence and interests of the people at large? They could not stop the progress of events, and it became them to pause and consider whether they could maintain their present elevated position by means of other than moral influence, and whether they would not be more likely to fall beneath the pressure of public opinion than to maintain themselves by resisting it. He did think, that this was a question in which the interests of a few were on one side and those of the community on the other. He knew it was one which had been artfully and unnecessarily mixed up with others with which it had no connexion—with questions of radical changes in the constitution of the country; but there was a great difference between proposing the repeal of a system which was proved to be unsound in principle and bad in practice, and of measures the advantages of which were merely speculative. But if they withheld what he now demanded, and which was just, they would be furnishing the advocates of what was unjustifiable with an argument in favour of their purposes. Every friend of the country should raise his voice for the repeal of those laws, and for the establishment of commercial freedom, which was as essential to our prosperity as the civil and religious liberty for which we struggled in former times. We fought for and woo the latter; and it was now the duty of public men to use their best efforts for the emancipation of our commercial interests. They should look to the welfare of the industrious classes of the community, and enable them to fulfil the designs of nature, and, by the exchange of their toil with their fellow-men, to obtain an adequate reward for their industry. He would now move, that this House do resolve itself into a Committee of the whole House to consider the Act of the 9th of George 4th, c. 60, relating to the importation of corn. He had put his motion in this form to avoid offending the prejudices of any person. He did not hope that Members would pledge themselves to repeal the Corn-laws, but he hoped that they would admit, that the law as it stood at present was defective, and would vote for a Committee. He felt bound, however, to add, that it was his intention to move in the Committee for the entire and immediate abolition of the Corn-laws.

Sir W. Molesworth

Though his hon. Friend whose motion he now rose to second, had nearly exhausted the subject which he had so ably brought under the consideration of the House, yet he could not refrain from offering some few observations as to the effects of a restricted trade in corn. In his opinion, the tendency of the Corn-laws was to create discontent, uneasiness, and an infinitude of moral evils, amongst the great bulk of the community; and it could, he thought, easily be proved, that the statute which his hon. Friend proposed to repeal, materially impeded the advance of this country in a career of wealth, power, and social improvement, which might, and would, be without a parallel in the universe, were we permitted to import from foreign lands the common food of our people. For it must be acknowledged, that a nation was rich or poor, was powerful or weak, ranked high or low in the scale of civilisation, according to the facility or difficulty with which it obtained food for its population—according as a less or greater proportion of bands is employed in raising subsistence for the whole society, or, in other words, according as there was a greater or less proportion of disposable population—disposable for other purposes than those of merely creating the first necessaries of life. This position, if controverted, could easily be proved by comparing the state of society of two countries, in one of which there was, on account of the facility of raising subsistence, a large disposable population; and in the other of which, on account of the difficulty of obtaining food, hardly any dis- posable population existed. In the latter community, the production of the requisite amount of food would consume the whole labour of the whole population, with the exception of that small fraction of the people which, even in the most uncivilised states of society, would be employed in those rude arts and manufactures by which the population was clothed and lodged. On the production of the first necessaries of life, the whole industry of the community would, therefore, be expended, and each individual would produce, by his daily labour, little more than sufficient food for his daily wants. In such a state of society no individual could possess any amount of leisure; there could be no disposable portion of the population, fed by the remainder, to be employed either for the purposes of defence or aggression, or in the production of the various articles of comfort and luxury which were enjoyed by more advanced communities; there could be no combination of labour, nor arts, nor manufactures of any importance, nor commerce, nor science. Such a community, even though its inhabitants might obtain a sufficiency of the necessaries of existence, would be essentially weak, poor, uncivilised, and removed, at least, but slightly from the savage state. Far different, on the other hand, was the condition of the country in which only a small portion of the population needed to be employed in procuring food for the whole society, and where, consequently, a large surplus of food was raised beyond that which was required for the maintenance of the producers of food. That surplus provided subsistence for the large disposable population; in return for that subsistence, however, the disposable population must minister to the wants and pleasures of those to whom the surplus of food belongs. The mode and manner in which the disposable population would be employed, whether for the use of the whole community, or for creating the luxuries and enjoyments of a few individuals, must depend upon the will of those who possessed the surplus. It was to that surplus, however expended, that a country like this owed its civilisation, its marvellous combination of labour in the production of its manufactures, its extended commerce with the various nations of the globe, its possession of the different productions of foreign lands, which, at first, were considered luxuries to be obtained by a few, and have now become almost necessaries consumed by the great bulk of its people. That sur- plus had bestowed upon us all the arts and enjoyments of civilised life. It was the fund out of which the community paid those who devoted themselves to the different sciences or learned professions, who followed the lighter pursuits of literature, or cultivated the severer studies and the higher speculations of the intellect. It constituted the means by which society hired lawyers, physicians, clergymen, poets, novelists, philosophers, and statesmen. To that surplus of food we owed our armies and navies, our national debt, and the means of defraying the interest thereon. To this surplus we stood indebted for our crowded cities, our temples of piety, our theatres of amusement, our schools and colleges of education, our halls of legislation and justice—in short, for Queen, Lords, Commons, and Established Church. The wealth, the power, and the civilisation of this country, all depended upon, and were accounted by, its large disposable population, It was evident, therefore, that in proportion as our disposable population, compared to the whole population, increased, this country would advance in wealth, power, and civilisation. It was equally evident, that, according as the number of hands employed in raising food, compared to the whole population, increased, the social advancement of this country would be checked, or would retrograde. Everything, therefore, which tended to increase the disposable population was a good; everything which tended to increase the proportion of hands employed in obtaining food for the whole community, or, in other words, everything which compelled the expenditure of a greater quantity of human labour in this country in the production of food was an unmitigated evil. These positions seemed to him clearly to point out the injurious effects of a law which restricted the importation of corn. That law obliged us to produce at home by far the greatest portion of the food upon which the subsistence of our population mainly depends, and for whose growth our climate and soil were but ill adapted. A labourer in England could not produce anything like as much food by tilling the soil as he could obtain in exchange for the products of his manufacturing industry. Thus the immediate effect of the Corn-law was to augment the proportion of labourers employed in growing subsistence for the whole community, and to decrease to the same amount the disposable population; the community was, therefore, less rich, power- ful, and civilised than it might be with an unrestricted trade in corn. But this was not all; our population, whether slowly or rapidly, was increasing, and would increase; with each increase of population there must likewise be an increase of food; in order to provide that increase of food under the Corn-law, recourse must be had to worse soils, or to a more laborious cultivation of soils already in tillage; in both cases, a greater amount of human labour would be required than before, in the production of the same amount of food; there would, consequently, be a comparatively less and less disposable population, and our wealth, power, and civilisation, would rather retrograde, unless, under the highly improbable supposition that, with each increase of population, there should be such improvements in agriculture, that the increased supply of food required would be obtained without a more than proportionate increase of labour. This view of the evils occasioned by the Corn-law afforded the best and readiest answer to those who objected to unrestricted trade in corn, on the ground that it would render this country dependent for the subsistence of its population, on other and distant lands, which dependence they held, would be a cause of fearful insecurity and weakness. To this he would reply, that, at the present moment, this country is dependent for a portion of its food upon foreign countries; that it could not abstain altogether from the importation of food without frequently suffering great distress—in many cases actual famine; that, in order to be secure of that supply of food which this country even now required, you must be rich and powerful; rich in order to command a supply of subsistence in the markets of the countries possessing superior facilities for raising food; powerful, in order to defend your trade in food from the aggressions of other nations; that you would be rich and powerful in proportion to the amount of your disposable population; that, with that vast disposable population which would be consequent upon unrestricted trade in corn, you might stud the seas with your ships, cover the land with your armies, set at defiance any one nation, or any combination of nations, which might be leagued in hostility against you, and carry on in security an extended commerce with every other portion of the globe. In the preceding remarks he had only traced the effects of the Corn-laws upon the aggregate wealth and power of a community; he had briefly proved, that the wealth and power depended upon the proportion of the disposable population—upon the smallness of the proportion of hands employed in raising food. He had shown that the surplus of food which remains after maintaining the producers of the first necessaries of existence, was distributed by the possessors of that surplus to the disposable population in return for services of various descriptions. There still remained a most important question as to the facility with which the great bulk of the population could obtain food, and upon what that facility depended. If the whole of the population, with the exception of a few possessors of food, were obliged to work hard, to labour late and early, in order to obtain sufficient subsistence, the mass of the community would be degraded and unhappy. The higher classes composed of the few, to whom the supply of food belonged, might possess every luxury and enjoyment, even in superfluity, might be refined and well educated, whilst the rest of the community would be doomed to a life of unremitting toil, consequently to ignorance and perpetual degradation. On the other hand, if the people could obtain food in return for a small amount of labour, they would have time for cultivating their intellect, and for the various amusements and enjoyments which alone render life desirable; and, instead of being hard-worked and miserable slaves, they would be a happy and contented race. The aggregate wealth and power of a community depended, therefore, as he had already observed, upon its disposable population; the happiness of each individual member of the community, and consequently the happiness of the whole, the grand object of legislation, depended upon the facilities with which each individual could obtain food from its possessors. The question, "Upon what do these facilities depend?" would require for its answer the investigation of a great variety of questions, social and economical, of surpassing difficulty and complexity. He should, however, necessarily at the present moment, confine himself strictly to the effects of the Corn-law upon the comfort and well-being of the community. To what extent, he would ask, did that law decrease or increase the enjoyment of those who live rent free, upon the profits of stock, and upon the wages of labour? When wages were high the labourers were contented—when profits were high the capitalists were at ease—and when the value of land was high the landlords were prosperous. Now, were these three interests consistent or inconsistent one with another? He felt profoundly convinced that they were consistent, and that it was only in consequence of the Corn-law that they appeared opposed. Upon what, he asked, did high wages and high profits depend? Upon the means of productively employing labour and capital. The amount of wages depended upon the proportion between the number of labourers and the means of profitably employing them, if the number of labourers were large, and the means of profitably employing them small, severe competition took place amongst labourers, and the wages of labour were beaten down, and each labourer consented to give a large amount of labour to the possessors of food in return for subsistence. Prevent, he said, this severe competition by extending the field for the profitable employment of labour, and the wages of labour would be high, and the labourer at ease and contented. In a somewhat similar way, if the amount of capital were large compared with the means of profitably employing it, severe competition took place among capitalists; capital was invested in every trade which held out a chance of profit; overtrading took place, and the possessors of produce endeavoured to obtain a market by underselling one another, by submitting, in most cases, to a reduction of price, which left them a smaller profit than before. The ultimate effect of such competition amongst capitalists was a general fall of profits—only the large capitalists could then live and accumulate upon the reduced profits of their enormous capitals; the smaller capitalists, unable to maintain themselves upon the profits of stock, became bankrupts, and were absorbed in the labouring class; and if this severe competition were to continue, the community would ultimately consist only of two classes—labourers and the possessors of immense capitals. These are the most prominent evils occasioned by a superabundance of capital compared to the means of profitably employing it. Augment, he said, the field of employment, and then the hurtful competition between capitalists and the hurtful competition between labourers, which exist in this country, would cease, and wages and profits would rise. This result might be brought about, for instance, by some agricultural improvement, which would increase the productive power of land already under tillage, and render productive a large quantity of land which had previously been sterile. An event of this kind had happened within the last few years. Great improvements had taken place in agriculture in Ireland; these improvements, together with abundant harvests, had produced, to a certain extent, nearly all the same effect in extending the field of production, as if the Corn-law had been repealed. Hurtful competition had, in some degree, abated; wages and profits had risen; and the bulk of the people had been more contented and peaceable; but this effect was only of a temporary kind—population and capital would again grow up to the field of employment, hurtful competition would again take place, wages and profits would fall, and the bulk of the community would be discontented and uneasy, unless the field of employment again increased in proportion to the addition to capital and population. It could hardly be hoped that the field of production would continue to be constantly extended to a sufficient degree by successive improvements in agriculture. If not, the evils to which he had referred must take place, unless other means were found of profitably employing our productive powers. The powers of production of this country had no other limit than the number and extent of the markets in which we could dispose of our home produce; but the markets were now closed; the foreign channels for the supply of food were cut off; the field for the productive employment of capital and labour was limited by the Corn-law. Repeal, he said, the Corn-law, new markets would be created; with our perpetually increasing and inexhaustible means of purchase, our importations of food from other countries, might go on increasing, so that capital and labour might perpetually increase, and find a sufficiently extended field of production to prevent competition, and to ensure high wages and profits. At the present moment we had a superabundant capital, and a superabundant population compared to land. A repeal of the corn-law would be tantamount to an increase of the land of this country. The capital which, on account of low profits, either remained dormant, or flew off to other countries, and was invested there in the wildest and most unproductive speculations, employing foreign hands, and leaving at home a domestic excess of labour, would be invested in this country and find ample employment for our labourers in producing articles of exchange with other countries for food. But not only did the capitalists and la- bourers suffer from an excess of capital and people, but all other classes of the community were sufferers by the same cause, except the landlords, who, he believed, were injured in another way by the Corn-law. Not only those who live upon the interest of capital, felt the hurtful effects of the competition produced by the Corn-law—not only in the anxious search after and struggle for employment was every trade overstocked, but every profession was overfilled. There was an excess of farmers seeking farms—of shopkeepers endeavouring to find purchasers, (and therefore dependent and degraded by being dependent upon their customers), of dealers in wholesale and retail, of manufacturers, merchants, of lawyers without briefs, of clergymen without cure of souls, of doctors without patients, of sailors and soldiers desirous of employment, and candidates for promotion; of architects, painters, surveyors, tutors, clerks, and others. All these classes were uneasy, all complained of the number of competitors, and of the difficulty of finding employment. This general uneasiness produced a fearful list of moral evils; unable to maintain a family upon their scanty means of employment, a considerable portion of the population were doomed to celibacy, or to marry very late in life, consequently there was an excess of unmarried women, too few of whom, alas! ever reached the honoured state of being a wife; hence immorality without a parallel in any other country; and every foreigner who visited England was shocked at the amazing number of prostitutes who crowded our streets. Not merely, therefore, was every portion of the community except the landlords, in a state of uneasiness and discontent in consequence of the severe competition produced by the Corn-law; but, by that competition, one class of the community was set against another, and the interests of the labourers and the capitalists who employ the labourers appeared opposed; the former supposed that they would have higher wages if the capitalists were less greedy of gain, and the capitalists attempted to augment their profits at the expense of the wages of labour. Though neither of the conflicting parties could obtain permanent success, though the labourers could never on a limited field of production permanently raise their wages at the expense of the profits of the capitalists, except by diminishing their numbers, nor capitalists permanently beat down the wages of labour except by decreasing their capital: yet in every trade, at different times, endeavours were made by combinations of masters unduly to raise profits, and by combinations of labourers, by trades' unions, strikes, &c., unduly to augment wages: these struggles, though in some cases, for a time successful, ultimately failed in obtaining the desired object; hence those feelings of hatred which were too frequently entertained by the labouring classes of this country towards their employers; and hence the distrust and apprehension which the monied classes felt towards those who subsisted on wages. Thus the power, the wealth, and the happiness of this country were impaired by the Corn-law, which was made for the supposed protection of the landlords—he said, supposed advantage of the landlords, for, he believed, that with the increase of wealth and population which would be the consequence of an unrestricted trade in corn, land would soon become more valuable than at present, and, consequently, pay higher rent. For rent was the value given in return for the use of land; land was valuable in proportion to the demand for it; and if the competition for its use depended upon its vicinity to markets and manure, to its fertility, &c., these natural advantages the land would not lose by the repeal of the Corn-law, with an unrestricted trade in corn; though the competition for the use of land for growing corn would be diminished, yet the competition for the use of land for other purposes would be excessively augmented, and would continue to augment in proportion to the increase of the wealth and numbers of the community. With an unrestricted trade in corn, and consequently with an increasing field of employment for labour and capital, our population would augment at a most rapid rate; the size and number of our towns would in a short time be doubled; few, he thought, could doubt, that then, in those thriving marts of industry, there would soon be a greater demand for the many products of British land, exclusive of corn, than there was at present, inclusive of corn. Not only, therefore, did the landlords injure all other classes of the community, but they injured themselves likewise, through their ignorance of the effects of the Corn-law; yet, it was to this very class, returned to this House by the servile votes of their dependent tenants, who, by their legislation, had worked the evils he had mentioned—it is to this very landed interest that the noble Lord, the liberal and enlightened statesman who framed the Reform Bill, desired to give preponderance by that measure, and in his place in this House had ventured to assert, that upon the preponderance of that interest the stability of the institutions of this country depended. He denied altogether, this position, and he pointed to the Corn-law in refutation of the noble Lord. He contended, that the stability of this country depended upon the wealth, power, and happiness of the whole community, and that its stability was therefore impaired by the conduct of the landed interest with regard to the Corn-law, and it was with this feeling and this conviction that he most cordially supported and seconded the motion of his hon. Friend.

The Marquess of Chandos

rose to give his decided negative to the proposition of the hon. Member for Wolverhampton. He had listened with great attention to the speech of that hon. Member, and he must say, that the hon. Member had redeemed his pledge to his constituents, to do all he could for the repeal of the Corn-laws. The hon. Member, towards the close of his speech, had attempted to enlist the feelings of the manufacturing classes in his favour, by describing the agricultural interest as opposed to them. He regretted this, inasmuch as he defied the hon. Member to show an instance in which the agricultural classes had ever forwarded any object in opposition to the manufacturing interest. He saw clearly, that nothing would satisfy the manufacturing interest but the total and entire repeal of the Corn-laws. Why did some hon. Members seek to deprive the agricultural interest of all protection? Was not the manufacturing interest protected; and did not both agriculturists and manufacturers require protection? Not many days since, an hon. Member came down to that House, and asked a question with regard to the linen manufactures of Ireland, inasmuch as he was alarmed at the interference of foreigners in that trade. All the agriculturists required was protection. He again defied the hon. Member for Wolverhampton to produce an Instance on record where the agriculturists had ever put themselves forward to injure the manufacturing classes. The hon. Member for Wolverhampton in the course of his speech, had stated, that nothing could be more satisfactory to the farmer than steady prices. He went along with the hon. Member entirely in this opinion, but the course which the hon. Member wished them to take, namely, the repeal of the Corn-laws would not produce steady prices. If the Corn-laws were repealed, he would venture to assert that no farmer in England could exist, and from the ruin of the farmers, no wages would follow to the manufacturing labourer. It was true that the artisan had been led to hope, that cheap bread would be the result of the repeal of the Corn-laws; but he would tell the artisan that if cheap bread were to be the order of the day, he must also recollect, that if the Corn-laws were repealed, he would not have the high wages he now enjoyed, and which he ought to enjoy. The House must recollect, also, that during the present year, or year and a half, there had been a considerable importation of foreign corn. It appeared from the papers that had been laid on the table of the House, that from the 5th of January, 1836, to the 5th of July, 1837, no less than 104,209 quarters of foreign corn had been brought into this country. If the Corn-laws were repealed, and if they placed on the same footing as foreigners the farmers of this country, heavily taxed and burdened as they were, what would be the consequence? It appeared from documents before the House, that corn was grown in Germany and sold at Ham-burgh, for 31s. the quarter, from whence it was imported into Hull at an expense of 2s. per quarter. How, then, he asked, could the English farmer, situated as he was, compete with the foreigner? If they were beginning the world again, if they could reduce the burdens of the country and get rid of the present extreme weight of taxation, the farmer would not require the protection he now required; but, situated as the farmers were, and as the country was at that moment, if they took from the farmer the protection he now had, he was sure that it would bring down certain destruction on the best interests of the country. He was confident, that anything he could say would not impart any interest to a subject which had been repeatedly before the House; and, indeed, from the state of the House, no one would believe that they were discussing a subject of such vital interest to the community at large. There was, indeed, one Member of the Government present, taking his evening siesta, wearied with the fatigues of office. But in spite of the little interest which the question appeared to excite, he was sure that his appeal to the country Gentlemen in the House would be sufficient to induce them, by a decided vote, to put an end to all the hopes of hon. Gentlemen of a repeal of the Corn-laws. He considered, that he was only performing an act of duty towards the agriculturists in opposing this motion. He opposed it upon no grounds of hostility to that interest which the hon. Member for Wolverhampton supported and defended, and very properly so, in that House. He had no wish to produce towards the manufacturing interest the slightest injury, but he must also be allowed to say, that he should not feel, that he was doing his duty to those who had sent him to that House, if he did not protest against this motion in the strongest terms he could possibly use. The hon. Member for Wolverhampton had stated, fairly and honestly, that he wanted a Committee to inquire into the operation of the Corn-laws, for the purpose of effecting their total and entire repeal. There could, therefore, be no disguise, or mistake, in the votes of that night. Those who voted for going into Committee must be prepared to go with the hon. Member for Wolverhampton to the full length of the repeal of the Corn-laws. If hon. Members thought otherwise, they must be mistaken with their eyes open, for the hon. Member for Wolverhampton told them that he wanted the House to go into Committee in order that he might move the total and entire repeal of the Corn-laws. Was it possible for any Gentleman connected with the landed interest to take the first step without being prepared to go the full length of the hon. Member for Wolverhampton? He cautioned hon. Members not to be led away; and he could say for himself, that he never felt so much pleasure as he did at that moment in honestly getting up and opposing this motion in every possible way. The hon. Member for Leeds (Sir W. Molesworth) had made some severe remarks on the landed interest in that House, and upon country gentlemen, and he had stated, that those Gentlemen who opposed this motion, were returned by the servile votes of their tenants. He must beg leave to say, that he did not deserve this censure. He held his seat in that House as honourably and nobly returned as the hon. Baronet (Sir William Molesworth). He had stood more than one contest, and he could say that he had never been returned by the servile vote of any individual whatever. He was confident, that the hon. Baronet, upon reflection, would not attempt to cast a stigma upon country gentlemen which the hon. Baronet knew perfectly well they did not merit. He would not trespass longer upon the indulgence of the House, more than to express his earnest hope that the division of that night would show to the country that they were not prepared to take the step which the hon. Member for Wolverhampton called upon them to take. It had been stated, that the farmers sought to keep up a monopoly. It did not appear that they were able to do so even if they desired it, which he utterly denied. The scale of prices framed by that House was of such a nature, that while, on the one hand, it was a security to a certain extent to the farmer, it prevented, on the other hand, an extreme rise in prices, and it prevented that dearness of bread which the hon Member for Wolverhampton was so anxious to provide against. For many years the prices had been such as to give no dissatisfaction to the community at large. The operations of the farmer were open to the eyes of the world. He had nothing to rest upon but his own exertions, and the support and protection which Parliament afforded to him. All the farmer asked was to be protected in the same way in which the manufacturer was protected. They asked for even-handed justice, and he was sure the House would not refuse their prayer.

Mr. C. Berkeley

could not agree with the hon. Member for Wolverhampton. He thought, if the Corn-laws were repealed, the agriculturists would lose their chief stay and support. He did not think it possible to separate the agricultural interest from the trading interest. He was well aware that at the last election it was attempted to raise a cry that the Liberal candidates were inclined to throw over the agricultural interest for the sake of the manufacturing interest. This cry was raised for party purposes, as it was impossible for any sensible man to entertain for a moment the notion that these interests were not completely inseparable. He felt bound to vote against the motion.

Sir H. Parnell

said, that the noble Lord, the Member for Buckinghamshire, had just stated, that the agriculturists required nothing more than a fair exten- sion of that protection which was afforded by the laws of the country to the manufacturing interests. But he begged to assure the noble Lord of the fact, that the manufacturers of the kingdom were themselves aware of the impolicy of the restrictive system which had so long been enforced; and a short time since, he had had the honour of presenting to her Majesty's Government a memorial from his constituents, who, although manufacturers, saw the impolicy of restrictive laws, and particularly as applied to their own peculiar branch of trade. The noble Lord's speech to-night, like his speech on many similar occasions, treated only of one party—namely, the farmer, as interested in this question. "How (asked the noble Lord) is the farmer to exist if he is not protected in the sale of his produce?" Now, all this in his opinion was a practical delusion, which kept out of sight the true character and bearing of the question. He begged most distinctly to declare his opinion, that there was no one interest in the country which derived any advantage from the Corn-laws but the landowners. Under the non-leasing system, which now almost universally prevailed throughout the country, the farmer could derive a very small and temporary interest from an increasing price of corn. As long as the rent was apportioned to the average price of corn, as at present, the farmer could not have any interest in the price of corn, and the landowner was the only person who profited by a rise in price. On the other hand, whilst the farmer gained nothing by the Corn-laws, he lost much in the increased prices of all the various commodities which he had to purchase, and which necessarily kept pace with that of corn. If this point were properly considered, the farmer would see, that his true interest consisted in having corn cheap instead of dear. He repeated again, that out of the vast community of this kingdom, amounting to 24,000,000 of souls, there were but a few hundred thousands who obtained any advantage from the tax raised by means of these Corn-laws upon the prices of all articles of consumption. With respect to the amount of this tax, taking an average increase in the price of corn of only 5s. per quarter, this, at a computation of fifty millions of quarters of different kinds of grain, which were consumed annually in the kingdom, gave a tax of no less than 12,500,000l. in amount. Yet it was not to be supposed, that this twelve millions and a-half went into the pockets of the landowners—even that was not the case, the simple fact being, that the greater part of this sum was actually lost in the greater expenses necessarily incurred in procuring corn of home produce, instead of resorting to foreign markets for a supply. A very small sum, not more than one-third or one-fourth of the whole tax, eventually went into the pockets of the landlords. Looking, therefore, at this question in what he conceived to be its true light—looking at the variety of interests which were involved in the repeal of these laws, whilst the landowner, and the landowner only, derived any benefit from them, he should most cordially support the motion now before the House.

The Earl of Darlington

said, that as he represented a large agricultural constituency, he held it his duty to say a few words on the present occasion. The hon. Member opposite had calmly and coolly discussed the question, but he had drawn the most extraordinary inferences and conclusions from his arguments. It had never fallen to his lot to be more astonished than he was by the speech of the right hon. Baronet (Sir H. Parnell), whose late intimacy with Dundee seemed to have wrought a wonderful change in his views on the Corn-law question. From the hon. Baronet's speech many would suppose that he, like the hon. Baronet, the Member for Leeds, had been all his life opposed to the Corn-laws. Such was not the fact, for the hon. Baronet was a strong advocate for those laws in 1813, and had advocated a total prohibition until corn sprung up to 80s. per quarter. He must state, that he had paid the greatest attention to the arguments which had been urged on other occasions in favour of a repeal of this measure, and he had heard no new ones introduced in this discussion. Hitherto they had failed to convince any except a few hon. Members in former Parliaments, and he had no doubt such would be their result in the present. All he asked for the landed interest was justice, and not exclusive privileges. He did not call the Corn-laws an exclusive privilege, for they did nothing more than give to the agriculturist the same protection which was enjoyed by every class of manufacturers. The hon. Member for Wolverhampton had said, that the object of imposing duties on our manufactures was to raise a revenue, and that it was not done for the benefit of the manufacturer himself. He was surprised at this remark, and still more so at that of the hon. Baronet, the Member for Leeds, that the manufacturers would be glad if the duty were taken off. He must say, that he had never heard anything of the kind from the glovers, shoemakers, or other country manufacturers of the kingdom, and his own opinion was decidedly opposed to it. Then, again, if such were the case—if the duties were removed—how greatly it would affect Ireland, from which country not less than from 12,000,000l. to 15,000,000l. worth of produce was imported into England at the port of Bristol alone. As the Corn-laws stood now, every labourer was enabled to enjoy his full rate of wages, sufficient to support his wife and family in comfort; but if these laws were repealed, much of the land which was now cultivated would lie waste, and many of the labourers would be thrown out of employment. The present law had many advantages over that of 1815. Some had said, that its purpose was to enhance the price of corn, but this he denied; for its object really was to keep corn at a fixed price, so as not to be subject to the fluctuations of seasons. Others again said, that it was to make corn dear, by keeping it scarce; but nothing could be further from the wish of the landholders, for their wish was to have a great abundance at the lowest possible cost; all they asked for was a remunerative, but not an excessive, price to the farmer. A few years ago great distress had prevailed amongst the agricultural classes, and it was said, that corn was then lower than it ought to be. Farmers were obliged to pay their rents out of their capital, and not from the produce of their land, and yet every other interest of the country was flourishing. In 1836 a Select Committee was appointed to inquire into the causes of it, and to propose, if possible, some means of remedy. Had his noble Friend, the Member for Buckinghamshire, been chairman of that Committee, as had been previously suggested, it would have given confidence to the farmers, and might have been of service; but as it was, the Committee came to no result, and gave not a single opinion on the subject. It came out, however, in evidence, that one great cause of the distress was over-production; but surely it was fair to argue, that if in an abundant year there was more than sufficient, in an inferior year the deficiency was not very great. The price of corn always rose faster in proportion than it fell; and he thought if there were to be a duty at all, a fluctuating one was preferable to its being fixed.

Sir H. Parnell

begged to explain, that when he advocated the opinions alluded to by the noble Lord who had just spoken, it was the year before the termination of the war; and his object was, not to maintain a high price of corn, but to insure a certain introduction of it into this country.

Mr. Clay

did not wish to enter into the wide field of discussion which this subject offered, for he could add nothing of importance to the observations which had been already made. He must say, however, that the supporters of the repeal of Corn-laws had little or no support from the public without the walls of the House, and he deeply deplored the apathy that existed in the public mind respecting it. It was true that it was so; and this he was bound to say, though nothing but a pressure from without could obtain any material modification of these laws. Now, for a repeal of the Poor-laws there had been presented to the House not less than 235 petitions, with upwards of 190,000 signatures, whilst a much smaller number of petitions, and with only about 24,000 signatures, had been laid before them for a repeal of the Corn-laws. So that nearly 200,000 applied for a repeal of that law from which the people of this country had received such benefit—which would regulate the price of labour—had corrected such great evils in our social system, had arrested so much the demoralization of the lower classes, and the only objections to it that had been urged in the House had been in detail, and not in principle; whilst for a repeal of a law which in every way depressed the energies of the people, not more than 24,000 had petitioned. Notwithstanding the existing apathy of the public mind on this question, he felt convinced that the people of England would ere long speak out in a voice that could not be misunderstood, and that the present iniquitous system of Corn-laws would be demolished at one blow. He need not say how injurious those laws had been to the manufacturing interest of the country. They had, in fact, been the main cause of the establishment of the Prussian commercial league, which had been so successful as almost to deprive England of an European market for her exports. He called upon hon. Gentlemen who defended the present system of Corn-laws to point out one single manufactured article which was protected to a like degree with corn. The protective duty on corn differed, indeed, from the protective duties on manufactures, not only in its amount, but also in its nature. There was no manufactured article in this country protected by a duty varying like the duty on corn, in proportion to the price of the article. It was his intention to have moved an amendment expressive of the expediency of substituting a fixed duty on corn in lieu of a duty varying in accordance with the average price, but in compliance with the wishes of several Gentlemen near him, he should refrain from proposing it, in order that the attention of the House might not be divided. Should the original motion be carried, he would submit his proposition to the Committee which would then be appointed.

Mr. D'Israeli

could not agree with the hon. Member in thinking that the Prussian commercial league was the result of the British Corn-laws. It had taken its origin, he conceived, not in a jealousy of England, but of France; and had been produced, not by the English system of Corn-laws, but by the French Customhouse regulations. Neither had the Corn-laws had any effect in occasioning the adoption of the American tariff, which was only the carrying into effect practically principles which had been recognised in that country for more than half a century. Much had been said of the advantage which the British manufacturers would derive from the abolition of the Corn-laws, but he conceived it to be a delusion to suppose that, were a different state of the law to prevail in this country with regard to corn, the continent would suffer England to be the workshop for the world. The real question for the House to inquire into was, whether or not there existed any good ground to fear competition for English industry at present, in consequence of the existence of the Corn-laws. He had inquired of a friend, who complained of competition in Belgium, in what way the people of that country entered injuriously into competition with the British manufacturing interest, and his reply was, that "they were doing a great deal in small nails;" and so it appeared that all that the British manufacturers had to fear there was a competition "in small nails." He certainly was aware that the demand for British manufactures was declining in the Levant; but if any man were to inquire of the mercantile houses of Constantinople and Smyrna the cause of that decline, he would learn that it was in no degree owing to the influence of the Corn-laws. The English manufacturers unfortunately fancied that all they needed to do was to produce a cheap article; and the consequence was, that their cheap article was refused, while an article of a better kind, and displaying more ingenuity in the manufacture, the produce of other countries, was preferred. He did not believe, that the Corn-laws had much effect in raising the price of the manufactured articles of this country. Their influence on wages could not, he was sure, be described by a figure greater than a fraction. In point of fact, it was British capital that enabled the manufacturers of this country to compete, in the article of cotton, for instance, with the people of America, where wages were quite as high as in this country, and with the natives of India, where the rate of wages was the lowest in the world. How, then, had the cry against the agricultural interest been raised? Whose interest was it to have the Corn-laws repealed? It was the interest solely of the manufacturing capitalist, who had contrived to raise a large party in favour of that repeal, by the specious pretext, that it would lead to a reduction of rents, and by obtaining the co-operation of a section in this country, who were hostile to a political system based on the preponderance of the landed interest. He thanked them for the attention they had given him, while he had addressed the few observations which he had felt it his duty to offer to the House on that subject; and he trusted that the House would prove to the country, by the calmness of the present debate, that hon. Members, on both sides of the House, came to the consideration of the question of the repeal of the Corn-laws fully impressed with its deep importance to all classes of the people.

Mr. Cayley

was understood to say, that twelve years ago there had been a cry raised throughout the country for a repeal of the Corn-laws, but that that cry had now almost ceased. And what was the reason? The people had become more intelligent, and they were not now carried away by the delusions which were then afloat in regard to cheap bread. If they asked the labouring classes now whether they preferred a high or low price of corn, they would answer, that they were better off when the price of corn was high, because a reduction in the price of corn was always followed by a corresponding reduction in the rate of wages. The rate of wages was regulated by the price of corn, and in proportion as the price of corn in-creased, the rate of wages was advanced. If the Corn-laws were repealed, let the House consider what would be the almost immediate effect. A large quantity of the land of this country would be thrown out of cultivation, and, as the consequence, a large portion of the labourers would be deprived of employment. The rural population would, to a great extent, be deprived of wages, and reduced to the greatest misery. But it was said that a repeal of the Corn-laws would benefit the inhabitants of towns, and prove of the greatest advantage to the manufacturing population. He believed, that such would not be the case, and that the manufacturing population were not so anxious for the repeal of the Corn-laws as was generally supposed. In the evidence given before the Committee which had been appointed to inquire into the condition of the handloom weavers, he found that some of those persons who were examined before that Committee had stated, that they did not complain of the laws regulating the importation of corn, and that they complained more of the protection given by Government to the large capitalists. They did not complain of the protection afforded to the landowners, and they stated, that they were not worse off when the price of corn was high, as they found the rate of wages always kept pace with the price of corn. It had also been argued, that the effect of the Corn-laws was, to cause a diminution in our foreign trade, but that trade had, in fact, been more than doubled within the last few years. He begged to refer hon. Members to the tables of exports, which would show that our trade with Russia, America, and all the other corn countries abroad had been steadily increasing. The exports to America had been doubled in the course of seven years, while the exports to Russia had, during the same period of time, advanced from 1,800,000l. to 2,300,000l. Those tables also showed, that in those years when we imported most corn, we exported least goods, so that the Corn-laws could not justly be said to be injurious to our trade. But it was argued that it would be better to have a fixed duty instead of the present fluctuating one. In his opinion, however, the present system of Corn-laws was the best, both for the agriculturists and for the public generally; and from every consideration of state policy he thought they ought to be maintained. Much delusion existed on the subject of the Corn-laws, and it was contended, that if they were repealed, a reduction of rents would follow, while the political influence of the landowners would be diminished. Such were the specious arguments put forward; but he believed, that if they polled the whole country on the question of the repeal of the Corn-laws and of free trade, ten to one of the whole population would be in favour of the existing Corn-laws. He was convinced that the present Corn-laws tended to protect industry and enterprise, that they operated beneficially for the interests of the people, and for the interests of trade, and he should oppose, to the utmost of his ability, every attempt made to procure the repeal of them.

Mr. Mark Philips

was decidedly opposed to the existing system of Corn-laws. Within his own experience the effect of them had been to drive much of the manufacturing capital of the kingdom into foreign countries, where no tax was imposed upon this first and greatest necessary of life. He viewed with great jealousy the Prussian commercial league which had been so frequently referred to in the course of the debate. Whatever the original object of that league might have been, it was certain that it had now assumed a form and a consistency which could be regarded only as most dangerous to the commercial and manufacturing interests of this country. In the manufacturing districts there was but one feeling upon the subject of the Corn-laws, and that feeling was well and forcibly expressed in a petition which he had some time since the honour to present from the Chamber of Commerce and Manufactures at Manchester. He was satisfied that the existing system of Corn-laws could not be of long continuance; therefore speaking in the character of a landowner, as well as in that of a man intimately connected with the manufacturing interests of the country, he begged to recommend the subject to the deepest and most careful consideration of all parties in the House.

Mr. Gally Knight

observed, that the hon. Member for Wolverhampton had appealed to him and asked him how he could vote against the present motion, recollecting as he must the distress which existed in the town of Nottingham. He did not deny that such distress existed, but did positively deny that that distress arose from the high price of corn. In the first place, the price of corn was not high; and in the next place, the distress at Nottingham arose from over-production, from the frequent improvement of machinery, and from the state of the monetary system in America. As a proof that all the manufacturers of the country were not in favour of the abolition of the Corn-laws he could refer to a pamphlet which had recently been published by a manufacturer of Nottingham who was as much opposed to a repeal of those laws as any Member in the House. In that pamphlet was the following passage:—"I do not wish to see one class of persons raised up at the expense of another, because I am well convinced that the interests of all classes of this country are, or ought to be, identical; and I think the growers of corn are not fairly dealt with by those who raise a clamour for the repeal of the Corn-laws."

Sir Ronald Ferguson

said, that he knew not who was the author of the pamphlet which the hon. Member had referred to, nor did he care; but this he knew, that he had lately had the honour of presenting a petition unanimously signed by the corporation of Nottingham for the total repeal of the Corn-laws; and he had also presented a petition, signed by 8,000 persons to a similar effect. This country professed to act upon a free-trade system, but how could such a system be maintained unless corn, which was a foreign production, were put upon the same footing as all other articles of commerce?

Mr. Dunlop

thought, that some of the arguments which had been introduced by hon. Gentlemen in support of a restrictive system were of rather an extraordinary nature. The hon. Member for Maidstone had built a large portion of his speech upon the restrictive duties of the American tariff. That was rather an unfortunate selection, considering that that very tariff had occa- sioned almost a feeling of hostility to arise between several of the States in North America; and that at this moment there was every reason to expect a total repeal of those duties. The Prussian commercial league had also been urged as a justification of the restrictive system; but that commercial league was a system of free trade comparatively speaking; and he had no doubt that if this country were to join in the Prussian league, and consent to receive their goods free of duty, Prussia, in return, would receive English goods free of impost.

Sir Robert Bateson

considered it to be a subject in which the people of Ireland were deeply interested, and he was surprised that not a single Irish Member had yet spoken during the debate. The hon. Baronet addressed the House for some little time longer, but the impatience of the Members prevented the hon. Member from being heard.

Mr. E. B. Roche

(Cork county) was induced to rise in consequence of the charge which had been made against the Irish Members by the hon. Baronet opposite. He should vote for a repeal of the Corn-laws, because he felt that it would be impossible for the Irish nation to start upon equal terms with the English as a manufacturing, country until those laws were repealed. A repeal of the Corn-laws would open very extensive foreign markets for British manufactures; but those markets were not at present available, in consequence of the rate of labour being kept up by the restrictive system; but once let them be abolished, and labour would immediately become cheap in England, and still cheaper in Ireland.

Mr. Villiers

said, that he had very little to answer, for not a single argument had been urged against the grounds which he had advanced in support of his propoposition throughout the debate. There had, however, been one remark made to which he felt it necessary to advert. It had been said, that there had not been any petitions of consequence presented to the House upon the subject of the Corn-laws, and that, indeed, a general apathy prevailed throughout the country with respect to this question. Now, he had anticipated that objection, and had stated in his opening speech that he had communications with persons in various parts of the country on this very subject, and it was the general opinion that it would be perfectly idle for them to petition the House of Commons, constituted as it now was, for a repeal of the Corn-laws. The object of his motion was, not the repeal of the Corn-laws, but that the Rouse should resolve itself into a Committee to inquire into the propriety of their repeal. His opinion was decidedly in favour of the repeal of the laws, and he had heard nothing said which induced him to alter his opinion.

The House divided:—Ayes 95; Noes 300: Majority 205.

List of the AYES.
Aglionby, H. A. Johnson, General
Ainsworth, P. Kinnaird, hon. A. F.
Bainbridge, E. Langdale, hon. C.
Baines, E. Leader, J. T.
Bannermau, A. Lister, E. C.
Beamish, F. B. Marshall, W.
Bentinck, Lord G. Marsland, H.
Berkeley, hon. H. Morpeth, Viscount
Bewes, T. Murray, hon. J.
Blackett, C. O'Connell, M. J.
Blake, W. J. Ord, W.
Brocklehurst, J. Parker, J.
Brotherton, J. Parnell, Sir H.
Busfield, W. Phillips, M.
Chalmers, P. Philips, G. R.
Clay, W. Phillpotts, J.
Collins, W. Protheroe, E.
Colquhoun, J. C. Rich, H.
Currie, R. Roche, Edmund B.
Dalmeny, Lord Rundle, J.
Dennistoun, J. Russell, Lord
D'Eyncourt, C. T. Salwey, Colonel
Duckworth, S. Scholefield, J.
Dunlop, J. Sharpe, General
Easthope, J. Smith, R. V.
Ellice, E. Somerville, Sir W.
Evans, W. Stansfield, W. R. C.
Fenton, J. Stuart, Lord James
Ferguson, Sir R. Strickland, Sir G.
Ferguson, R. Strutt, E.
Fielden, J. Tancred, H. W.
Fielden, W. Thompson, Ald.
Fleetwood, P. Thomson, C. P.
Fort, J. Thornley, T.
Grey, Sir C. E. Vigors, N. A.
Grey, Sir G. Wakley, T.
Grote, G. Walker, R.
Hall, B. Wallace, R.
Harvey, D. W. Warburton, H.
Hastie, A. Ward, H. G.
Hawes, B. White, A
Hawkins, J. H. White, L.
Hayter, W. G. Wilde, Sergeant
Hobhouse, Sir J. Williams, W.
Hobhouse, T. B. Wood, Sir M.
Horsman, E. Wood, G.
Humphery, J. Villiers, C. P.
Jervis, S. Molesworth, Sir W.
List of the NOES.
Acland, Sir T. Dalrymple, Sir A.
Acland, T. D. Damer, hon. D.
A'Court, Captain Darby, G.
Adare, Viscount De Horsey, S. H.
Aglionby, Major Dick, Q.
Alford, Viscount D'Israeli, B.
Alsager, Captain Douglas, Sir C.
Alston, R. Douro, Marquess of
Arbuthnot, hon. H. Dowdeswell, W.
Archbold, R. Dunbar, G.
Ashley, Lord Duncombe, hon. W.
Bagge, W. Duncombe, hon. A.
Bailey, J. Dundas, C. W.
Bailey, J., jun. Dundas, Captain
Baillie, Colonel East, J. B.
Baker, E. Eaton, R. J.
Baring, hon. F. Ebrington, Viscount
Barrington, Visct. Egerton, W. T.
Barry, G. S. Egerton, Sir P.
Bateson, Sir R, Eliot, Lord
Bell, M. Eliot, hon. J. E.
Benett, J. Estcourt, T. G. B.
Bentinck, Lord G, Estcourt, T. H. S.
Berkeley, hon. G. Farnham, E. B.
Bethell, R. Fellowes, E.
Blackburne, I. Ferguson, Sir R. A.
Blackstone, W. S. Fergusson, hon. C.
Blair, J. Filmer, Sir E.
Blake, M. J. Fitzroy, hon. H.
Blakemore, R. Fitzimon, N.
Blennerhassett, A. Fleming, J.
Boldero, H. G. Foley, E.
Bradshaw, J. Forbes, W.
Bramston, T. W. Forester, hon. G.
Broadley, H. Fremantle, Sir T.
Broadwood, H. Gaskell, Jas. Milnes
Brodie, W. B. Gibson, T.
Brownrigg, S. Gladstone, W. E.
Bruges, W. H. L. Glynne, Sir S.
Buller, Sir J. Goddard, A.
Bulwer, E. L. Gordon, Captain
Burr, H. Gore, O. J. R.
Burroughes, H. N. Gore, O. W.
Byng, G. Goring, H. D.
Byng, right hon. G. S. Goulburn, rt. hon. H.
Castlereagh, Visct. Graham, rt. hon. Sir J.
Cavendish, hon. C. Granby, Marquess of
Cavendish, hon. G. Grant, hon. Colonel
Cayley, E. S. Greene, T.
Chaplin, Colonel Grimsditch, T.
Chisholm, A. Grimston, Viscount
Christopher, R. A. Hale, R. B.
Chute, W. L. W. Halford, H.
Clayton, Sir W. Halse, J.
Clive, hon. R. Handley, H.
Codrington, C. W. Harcourt, G. G.
Cole, hon. A. Harecourt, C. S.
Cole, Viscount Hardinge, rt. hon. Sir H.
Compton, H. C. Hawkes, T.
Conolly, E. Heathcote, Sir W.
Copeland, Alderman Heathcote, G. J.
Corry, hon. H. Heneage, E.
Craig, W. G. Henniker, Lord
Cripps, J. Herbert, hon. S.
Curry, W. Herries, J.
Hillsborough, Earl of Neeld, J.
Hodges, T. L. Nicholl, J.
Hodgson, F. Norreys, Lord
Hodgson, R. O'Brien, W. Smith
Hogg, J. W. O'Callaghan, hon. C.
Holmes, hn. W. A. C. O'Neil, hon. J.
Holmes, W. Ossulston, Lord
Hope, G. W. Packe, C. W.
Hope, hon. J. Paget, F.
Hope, H. T. Pakington, J. S.
Hoskins, K. Palmer, C. F.
Hotham, Lord Palmer, R.
Houldsworth, T. Palmer, G.
Houstoun, G. Parker, M.
Howard, P. H. Parker, R. T.
Howard, R. Parker, T. A. W.
Howard, hon. W. Parrott, J.
Hughes, W. B. Pease, J.
Hurst, R. H. Peel, rt. hon. Sir R.
Hurt, F. Pemberton, T.
Ingestrie, Viscount Pendarves, E. W
Inglis, Sir R. H. Perceval, Colonel
Irton, S. Perceval, hon. G. J.
Jackson, Sergeant Pigot, R.
James, Sir W. C. Pinney, W.
Jephson, C. D. O. Planta, rt. hon. J
Jermyn, Earl Plumptre, J.
Johnstone, H. Polhill, F.
Jones, J. Pollen, Sir J. W.
Jones, T. Poulter, J. S.
Kemble, H. Powell, Colonel
Kirk, P. Powerscourt, Viscount
Knatchbull, Sir E. Praed, W. M.
Knight, H. G. Price, Sir R.
Knightley, Sir E. Price, R.
Lefevre, C. S. Pringle, A.
Lemon, Sir C. Pusey, P.
Lennox, Lord G. Ramsay, Lord
Lennox, Lord A. Reid, Sir J. R.
Liddell, hon. H. Richards, R.
Litton, E. Rickford, W.
Lockhart, A. M. Rolleston, L.
Logan, H. Rose, Sir G.
Long, W. Round, C. G.
Lowther, J. H. Round, J.
Lucas, E. Rushbrooke, Colonel
Lygon, hon. General Rushout, G.
Mackenzie, T. Russell, Lord J.
Mackenzie, W. F. Russell, Lord C.
Macleod, R. Sanderson, R.
Mactaggart, J. Sandon, Viscount
Mahon, Viscount Sanford, E. A.
Maidstone, Viscount Scarlett, hon. J. Y.
Manners, Lord C. Scarlett, hon. R.
Marsland, T. Shaw, right hon. F.
Marton, G. Sheil, R. L.
Master, T. W. C. Sheppard, T.
Maunsell, T. P. Shirley, E. J.
Maxwell, H. Sibthorp, Colonel
Meynell, Captain Sinclair, Sir G.
Mildmay, P. St. J. Smith, A.
Miles, W. Smith, hon. R.
Miles, P. W. S. Smyth, Sir G. H.
Milnes, R. M. Somerset, Lord G.
Moneypenny, T. G. Spry, Sir S. T.
Mordaunt, Sir J. Stanley, E.
Morris, D. Staunton, Sir G.
Stewart, J. White, H.
Stuart, H. White, S.
Stuart, Villiers Whitmore, T. C.
Strangways, hon. J. Wilbraham, G.
Sturt, H C. Williams, R.
Surrey, Earl of Williams, W. A.
Talbot, C. R. M. Wilshere, W.
Teignmouth, Lord Winnington, T. E.
Thornhill, G. Winnington, H. J.
Tollemache, F. J. Wodehouse, E.
Townley, R. G. Wood, Colonel T.
Trench, Sir F. Wood, T.
Trevor, hon. G. R. Worsley, Lord
Troubridge, Sir T. Woulfe, Sergeant
Turner, E. Yorke, hon. E. T.
Vere, Sir C. B. Young, J.
Verney, Sir H.
Vivian, J. E. TELLERS.
Welby, G. E. Chandos, Marquess
Wemyss, J. E. Darlington, Earl
Gillon, W. D. Wilberforce, W.
Steuart, R. Baring, H.