HC Deb 11 February 1839 vol 45 cc228-45
Mr. G. W. Wood

rose to move for a return of the price of wheat, and he apprehended that when the return was made, it would be found that within the last year the price of corn varied from 52s. 8d. to 78s. 4d., making a difference of exactly 50 per cent., and that in 1835 the price of corn at one time was 36s. 8d., being a difference between the highest price of last year and the lowest price of 1835 of 113 per cent. The use to be made of this fact was this: it showed that the existence of the system of Corn-laws had not answered the purposes for which they were intended. The object of those laws was to give stability in price to the consumer, and a remunerating profit to the farmer; but these objects being confessedly unattained under the present system, he contended that both parties had a deep interest in its abolition. He regretted the other night to hear from the right hon. Baronet opposite the declaration of his opinion that at present there existed no necessity for an alteration, coming, as that declaration did, from a gentleman possessed of so much information and standing so high in that House, and being one whose opinion and authority, connected as he had been with manufactures, would materially influence the issue of this question. He regretted to hear that declaration, and he still more regretted to hear the right hon. Baronet rest a defence of the present system upon the returns which he had read, as indicative of the prosperity which this country enjoyed under the present system of Corn-laws. He would maintain that those returns had nothing to do with the question. He was not aware that the fact of the commerce of the country having recovered from its temporary depression, and resumed its accustomed channels, was a matter of any consequence, and he could see nothing in that circumstance which could affect the question of the abolition of the Corn-laws. He had offered that statement to the House as an indication of the state of commerce in the country, and not as bearing either for or against the policy of the Corn-laws. Neither did he think it expedient to raise any discussion on that occasion upon the subject, and when the right hon. Baronet opposite drew what he must call an unfair conclusion from his statement, he was precluded by the forms of the House from offering any explanation. There were, however, some points to which he had adverted in that statement which had a bearing, and an important bearing, upon this subject. He had shown that there had been an increase in the exports of last year, as compared with the average of the four preceding years, of rather more than 3,000,000l., amounting to about seven per cent. in the whole. But upon looking at the articles in which this increase had taken place, it would be found that it did not show so much manufacturing prosperity as the right hon. Baronet seemed to think. Thus it would be found, that there had been an increase of 158,000l. in the export of sheep's wool, an article to produce which there was no labour applied; the increase in the exports of coal and culm was 180,000l.; of salt, 57,000l.; of iron and steel, 686,000l.; and of copper bars and other metals, 284,000l.; making altogether an amount of 1,375,000l., and exhibiting an increase in the export of articles on which a very small quantity of labour was bestowed. Another class of articles in which there was an increase was yarn, on which labour was only partially bestowed. Thus, there was an increase of 56,000l. in woollen yarn, of 368,000l. in linen yarn, and of 1,430,000l. in cotton yarn, making an excess over the four preceding years of 1,854,000l. But when we came to the manufactured article the case was altered. In the cotton manufacture there was an increase of only four per cent., in linen nineteen per cent., and in woollen there was a decrease of 385,000l., or about six per cent. In hardware and cutlery there was also a diminution of thirteen per cent. It was considered by the opponents of the Corn-laws that these facts had an important bearing upon the question, as showing that the manufactures of the country were not in a prosperous condition. They also tended strongly to show that the manufactures of other countries were increasing rapidly, and that other countries so regulated their laws as to allow the admission of the raw or partially manufactured material, and enabled their people to supply themselves, while they made no demand for the finished products of our industry. It could hardly be contended by the right hon. Baronet that we ought to wait till our commerce was obviously on the decline before we introduced any alteration in the present system, as he apprehended that it would be too late then to recover our lost ground. It was a notorious fact that our merchants and manufacturers felt and complained of the competition which foreign countries were now enabled to maintain with them. Those countries could now not only supply themselves, but by sending their surplus produce to other parts of the world they were enabled to undersell us in the foreign market, owing to the cheapness with which they could afford to furnish their goods. We had excluded the corn and the timber of Prussia from our markets, and the consequence had been, that a hostile feeling had been generated in that country against the English, and Prussia had been enabled to consolidate a league in Germany, which could not fail materially to injure the manufacturers of Great Britain. British manufactures were not so extensively exported to that country as they formerly had been, and the policy of those countries which formed the Germanic league was to limit their importations to British yarns. With respect to the United States, the manufacturers of England were subjected to a similar course of policy. Formerly the manufactures of this country were admitted into the United States on payment of a duty of twelve per cent., but that duty was afterwards raised to twenty-five per cent., and ultimately much higher, and that course the Americans had been driven to adopt in consequence of our excluding their agricultural produce from our markets. In a despatch from Mr. Addington, in the year 1824, it was distinctly stated, that the Americans would not have adopted such a course, that they would not thus have increased their duty on British manufactures, but for the prohibition which the Legislature of this country had enacted against the importation of corn from the United States. But, independent of these considerations, he would ask why the manufacturers of this country should be subjected to a burden of the nature imposed upon them by the Corn-laws? If other countries could procure food at a cheaper rate than it could be obtained in England, the consequence would inevitably be, that in the contest which was going on betwixt the different manufacturing countries of the world England would be defeated. It might be thought that when the commerce of the country was on the increase, there was little necessity for interfering with the Corn-laws; but the manufacturers saw the danger which awaited them, and he could not think that it was wise to refuse to their earnest requests an inquiry into a subject in which they felt the deepest interest. For himself, he believed the Corn-laws were not necessary for the protection of the agriculturists, for in this country, where the amount of wealth was so great, and where luxurious habits prevailed to such an extent, he could not conceive that ever the agriculturists could want a market for their produce or their labour. He would, therefore, urge the House to give the prayers of the manufacturers on this important question their most attentive consideration: he could not but express a hope that the Legislature would repeal those laws effectually and for ever. He trusted also, that the House would not refuse to hear evidence at the bar, but that they would listen to every statement tending to illustrate the evil tendency of the Corn-laws which might be made, in order that they might be able to arrive at a satisfactory determination on a subject of so much importance, and in order to satisfy the minds of those who were afraid that the continuance of those laws would seriously injure the manufacturing and commercial interests of the country. The hon. Gentleman concluded by moving for a "Return of the prices of wheat, as inserted in the Royal Gazette, for every week in the year 1838; and a similar return for each of the four preceding years; the whole arranged in corresponding columns."

Sir Robert Peel

said, that he had not the slightest objection to the course adopted by the hon. Gentleman who had just addressed the House. He had no objection to the production of the returns which had been moved for, and he must say that nothing could be more natural than for the hon. Gentleman to attempt—although the attempt must be perfectly useless—to remove the impression which was made, not on his mind alone, but he would venture to say on the mind of every person who had heard, and of every one who had read, the important statement which, on the first night of the Session, the hon. Gentleman had made to the House. He was not surprised that the hon. Gentleman should wish to remove the impression made by that statement, because of its material bearing on the important question of the Corn-laws, and because of its tendency to destroy the force of the strongest argument of the opponents of the existing Corn-Laws—namely, that the manufacturing interests was in danger from the continuance of the existing system. The hon. Gentleman's arguments went to show the fallacy of such a position, and to prove that the manufacturing interests were in a most prosperous condition; and he was not therefore surprised that the hon. Gentleman should wish to explain away the force of the declaration which he had, unintentionally no doubt, made on the first night of the Session. The hon. Gentleman had referred to the speech which he had made after the hon. Gentleman. Now, he had no objection that the hon. Gentleman should set himself right with those persons whose interests he advocated, and whose views he supported, and if the hon. Gentleman could, he should even be willing to allow the hon. Gentleman to set himself right with those persons at his expense; but still he could not help thinking that the course pursued by the hon. Gentleman was not quite fair. He could understand how the speech which the President of the Chamber of Commerce of Manchester had delivered on the first night of the Session had produced a strong sensation in Manchester, and if the office which the hon. Gentleman held was elective, he could conceive the reason for his anxiety to remove the impression which his statements had made in certain quarters. He could imagine that the hon. Gentleman would not be able to pass the northwest corner of Palace-yard, on his way to or from the House, without hearing disagreeable questions from certain persons assembling in that neighbourhood, which, after the statement he had made on a former night, he would have some difficulty in answering satisfactorily, and he was in no degree, therefore, surprised that the hon. Gentleman should attempt, if he could, to reinstate himself in the good opinion of those whose interests he represented, and of those by whom he had been elected to the office of president of the Manchester Chamber of Commerce, But he (Sir R. Peel) felt that this attempt must be vain, and that it would be impossible for the hon. Gentleman to obliterate, by any after-statement, the impression which his declaration on the first night of the Session had made. The hon. Gentleman complained that he had not entered on the general question of the Corn-laws on the occasion to which he alluded. But on the first night of the Session it was impossible to discuss every important question, and many parts both of our domestic and foreign policy necessarily remained untouched during the discussion on the address. That was not the proper time for discussing the general question of the Corn-laws, but during the debate on the address he had distinctly stated that he adhered in every part, and in all their fulness, to the opinions which he had expressed on the subject of those laws in the years 1828 and 1829—namely, that it was for the interest as well of the manufacturer as of the agriculturist—that it was for the general interest of the community—that the public mind should not be agitated by discussions on this important subject, and that they should adhere to the existing system. He was quite aware that the present was not the proper time to raise a discussion on this great question. Every person in that House must feel that the present was not the occasion on which he ought to say anything which could give rise to a debate, and he was sure the hon. Member for Wolverhampton would agree with him that a more fitting opportunity would soon arrive for the discussion of this most important subject. He was sure the sense of the House would be against such a course of proceeding, and he should therefore limit himself to the single point of setting himself right with the hon. Gentleman who had introduced the present motion, and with explaining to the House and to the country, the arguments which he had founded on the statements made by the President of the Chamber of Commerce of Manchester on the first night of the Session. He had expected that those who advocated a change in the existing system of Corn-laws, and who pressed for their abolition, would have brought forward as their chief argument evidence amounting to proof, that the manufacturing interests were suffering the greatest depression, that the shipping of the country was diminished and diminishing, and that the internal trade of the nation was less prosperous than it had formerly been. Such, he expected, would have been the arguments of those who advocated the abrogation of the Corn-laws; but he was greatly relieved, and he was sure that the manufacturers as well as the agriculturists, throughout the country, must have been greatly relieved, by the statement made by the hon. Seconder of the Address, that the manufacturing interests was most prosperous, that the amount of shipping was on the increase, and that the internal trade of the country was also prosperous. Those statements, coming from the quarter they did, was a most gratifying declaration; and all the arguments which had been adduced on this subject on the first day of the Session, went to confirm that declaration. Those arguments, one and all, told the farmers, as plainly as words could, that the manufactures and commerce of the country were in a most satisfactory state, and that their opponents admitted that trade was prosperous, and rapidly on the increase. The admissions and statements of the President of the Chamber of Commerce were most important, and he was anxious to bring them before the House as correctly as possible. They were most important, and the more so, because they came from an unwilling advocate of the existing system, and were advanced, no doubt, unintentionally; and he trusted, therefore, that the House would allow him to state the grounds upon which he had founded the arguments of which the hon. Gentleman complained. The President of the Chamber of Commerce of Manchester on the first night of the Session, said, The House would, perhaps, indulge him for a short time, whilst he referred to the present state of the manufactures and commerce of the country. Two years ago great commercial distress and the utmost uneasiness prevailed in all branches of trade. Now, he thought he had heard the hon. Gentleman add—"but the House would be glad to hear that this state of things had passed away, and that the commerce of England, at the present moment, was in a most satisfactory condition." Now, he for one, felt the greatest relief from that statement; but he thought he had also heard the hon. Gentleman say—"he did not recollect any former period of commercial embarrassment at which the return to a healthy state of commerce, and of comparative prosperity, followed so rapidly on the depression." Could anything be more satisfactory than such a statement, coming as it did from one who must have had the best opportunities of making himself acquainted with the condition of our trade and commerce? But he had further heard the hon. Gentleman state, that in the fifteen or seventeen principal articles of trade there had been a great and growing increase. He thought he had heard him say, that in the article of linen the increase amounted to 19 per cent.; that in silk the increase was 2½ per cent., and that the aggregate increase in the export of the principal objects of British manufacture of the year 1838 over the average of the four preceding years, was 7¾ per cent. But the hon. Gentleman said, that he (Sir R. Peel) ought not to argue that, because, in 1838, there was an increase over 1837, that therefore the country was in a state of absolute prosperity, and required no alteration of the Corn-laws in order to protect the manufacturing and commercial interests. But he never could have used that argument. He never could have compared 1837, a year of depression, with 1838, when there was an increase; for the hon. Gentleman himself had taken the four preceding years, and compared them with 1838, and it was the hon. Gentleman's own statement which he had adopted. The hon. Gentleman had said, He did not think that 1838 was an improper year to contrast with the four preceding years in order to show that the depressed state of our manufactures no longer existed. The years 1834 and 1835 were years of steady prosperity, 1836 was a year of overtrading, and 1837 a year of great depression, And he (Sir R. Peel), had taken the four years chosen by the hon. Gentleman, and which he had compared with 1838; and it was upon the hon. Gentleman's own statements of the increase in those years that he had founded his arguments. The hon. Gentleman had also said, that His attention had been called to the shipping interest, and he was happy in having it in his power to lay before the House particulars exhibiting the state of the shipping of England, which, though it was represented a few years ago to be in a state of great embarrassment and adversity, had now assumed a vigorous condition and was rapidly extending. Now, hearing those arguments, and con- sidering moreover the high authority whence they came, and the weight to which they were consequently entitled, he had ventured humbly to caution the House against agitating the public mind by discussions on the important question of the Corn-laws, and against taking any precipitate step for the repeal of these laws, when their opponents admitted that the manufactures, the commerce, and the trade of England, were in a most prosperous condition. That was a just and natural argument; but whether the hon. Gentleman would assent to the conclusion which he had come to, he very much doubted. He would not, however, enter on the subject at any great length, as his single object was to show that he had said nothing on a former night which was not entirely warranted by the arguments contained in the hon. Gentleman's own speech. The statements he had made were, perhaps, involuntary. It was, no doubt, his intention to support his own view of the question, and to advance arguments hostile to the existing Corn-laws; and if the hon. Gentleman was, by the warmth of his feelings, induced to make a statement which the hon. Member regretted, he could not feel surprised that the hon. Member should wish to set himself right with those whose opinions he represented. The conclusion, however, which he had drawn from the statement made by the President of the Chamber of Commerce, was the natural argument from the premises it contained, and that statement had left on his mind an impression that the hon. Gentleman had done more to uphold the existing system than all that had been done by its open and avowed supporters. Via prima salutis, (Quod minimè reris), Graiâ pandetur ab urbe. The statement was the more important, because the hon. Gentleman was an involuntary advocate; and he might depend upon it, that while that statement remained, all the motions he might make, all the explanations he might give, and all the arguments he might advance, would be completely insufficient to remove the impression which it had made on all men not entirely committed on the subject. That statement must have confirmed those who were formerly wavering in their support of the Corn-laws, must have removed the doubts of those who hesitated and had not made up their opinion, and convinced all men that the manufacturing and commercial interests of this country were in the most flourishing and prosperous condition. All those, again, whose minds might have been unsettled by the statement so generally advanced by the opponents of the Corn-laws, that the manufacturing and shipping interests were suffering, must have had their minds relieved, and must have been convinced that the manufacturing and shipping interests, and the internal trade of the country, were such as to remove every cause of gloom.

Mr. Mark Phillips

would intreat hon. Members opposite not to come to the conclusion hastily, that because our exports during the last year assumed the aspect stated, it followed as a matter of course that upon every article exported a profit had been reaped, or that the manufacturer was necessarily in a prosperous condition. He did not mean to enter, any more than the right hon. Baronet had, into a general discussion on the Corn-laws, but he might be allowed to advert to an article of deep importance to those whom he represented. He could, if necessary, touch upon every article mentioned by the hon. Member for Kendal, in the tabular statement he had laid before the House, but it was his intention to confine his observations solely to one great object—the article of cotton-twist. There were Gentlemen in the House representing other great interests in the country, and he would not trespass on their ground, by speaking of facts and circumstances, connected with other branches of manufacture. With respect, however, to the large increase in the exportation of cotton-twist, whatever conclusion might be drawn from the fact of that increased exportation, it was only due to himself and his own constituents to state what his own impression on the subject was; and he had the satisfaction of knowing, that he was speaking in the presence of Members on the other side of the House, called on to represent interests similar to those he represented—Gentlemen practically acquainted with the different branches of cotton manufacture—and if anything should fall from him of an extravagant nature, he hoped those Gentlemen would set him right. With respect to the increase of cotton-twist, the conclusion he (Mr. Phillips) came to was this, that instead of seeing any thing cheering, he drew conclusions from it far from satis- factory.—It was well known, and indeed was stated by the hon. Member, for Kendal in seconding the Address, that we had suffered the greatest possible disruption of credit, and had suffered from the suspension of trade in the United States in 1837. We had consequently lost in the American market a demand for cotton manufactured goods from this country; and it was not to be supposed that the manufacturers of Manchester were disposed to supply further goods to men who were then in their debt. What, therefore, was the position of the spinner? He was reduced to this dilemma; he found that under all circumstances it was better for him to continue his machinery in operation than to permit it to lie still. It was practically ascertained that his loss was greater if he allowed his machinery to stand still than if he went on working it. He was therefore compelled to go on, and was producing twist in the same quantities as in the preceding year, but he failed in finding a market for that manufacture. The merchant was not to be found as a purchaser, from the circumstance that he had lost his customer in the United States, and the spinner was driven to export his produce; might it not happen that his property could not be disposed of without a great loss a year ago? However, he would bind himself to say that if evidence was to be examined at the bar of that House that his statements would be established by facts, and arguments not very easily to be controverted. He would be bound to say that that evidence would show, that the manufacturers had been compelled from their large stock to export their articles, and that thus the foreign market had been glutted, and the operations of the spinner rendered profitless; in short, he drew conclusions exactly opposite to those drawn by the right hon. Baronet. He regretted, that the hon. Member did not make his statements with a qualification on the first night of the Session, it would have placed the state of the measure in a much clearer light than that in which it now appeared to be regarded by hon. Members opposite. There was one other subject to which he wished to allude, and that was the increase which had taken place in the exports of some of the metals. He did not agree with some hon. Gentlemen in the extent to which they went as to the exportations of iron. It would be found on investigation that a considerable portion of the increased export was in the shape of iron rails for railways. As regarded the other portions which had gone for the purpose of furnishing our opponents on the Continent with the means of manufacturing machinery, he did not hesitate to say, if he could separate the portion of the increase applied to that object, he should deplore to see an increase in that which he was perfectly convinced was intended to be applied to purposes which would ultimately prove detrimental to us. He had presented a petition from the Chamber of Commerce at Manchester, signed by the hon. Member for Kendal (Mr. Wood), and if any individual in the House thought that his hon. Friend differed in opinion from the manufacturers at Manchester, they did him great injustice. Before he sat down he begged to refer hon. Members opposite to some of the allegations of the petition. They particularly directed the attention of Parliament to the fact that foreign competition at this moment had arrived at such a pitch, with respect to foreign hosiery, that this country only exported one-fourth of that which was exported by the Saxon manufacturers, and that we had scarcely any hold of the markets of the United States, three fourths of which were supplied by the Saxon manufacturers. He earnestly entreated the attention of hon. Members opposite to the inquiries which must be made, to the extent to which machinery was carried on on the Continent—manufactured, as the petitioners stated, from the most recent improvements introduced into this country, placing the foreigner in this position, that he could take advantage at once of all the improvements at which the manufacturers of this country had arrived step by step. They did not therefore meet us on fair grounds. The importance of the subject was such, that he hoped and trusted that it would be debated with calmness and deliberation. He trusted hon. Members would see the necessity, in a question which occupied so much public attention, of sifting it with the utmost vigilance, and he trusted they would not refuse to receive evidence at the bar of the House in support of his petitions.

Mr. Baines

begged to offer an observation or two as to the state of the woollen manufacturers. In 1838, as compared with the four preceding years, there was a decrease in the quantity of exports to the amount of 385,000l., and that year had been represented as one of prosperity. In Saxony, and other parts of the continent, the woollen manufacturers were gaining ground, and the effect was, to produce much uneasiness for that ancient manufacture of this country, once so important, but now a declining manufacture—declining, he sincerely believed, from the existence of the Corn-laws, because we could not enter into competition with those who manufactured this article on the Continent of Europe. With respect to the exportation of wool, it might be thought that this was an advantage to this country, but when it was considered, that it was exported for the purpose of nurturing and bringing up rival manufacturers, instead of that being a matter of congratulation, it ought to be a matter of deep regret. On comparing the four years preceding 1838, there had been an increase in the export of our sheep and lambs' wool to no less an amount than fifty-seven per cent, these having been, on averaging these four years, in the former instance 374,000l., and in the last year the export was 432,000l.; so that, although it had been represented by his hon. Friend, that there had been an increase of exports, in reality that increase was, so far as related to the manufactures of the country, a disadvantage, and not an advantage. There was another subject to which he might shortly advert. Formerly, at the German wool fair, the English were the great purchasers, lately the English had been only third-rate purchasers. Why was this? Because the English manufacturers were decreasing while the Continental manufacturers were increasing. No subject could be more clearly demonstrated than that the exports of this country indicated rather decay than prosperity, particularly in the export of raw materials. He would also state to the House another fact. In the Leipsic fair, for the four years before the German commercial league was formed, the quantity of woollen cloth exhibited for sale was 50,000 ends, about 25,000 pieces. In the last year the quantity of woollen cloths exhibited for sale, and manufactured in Germany, was 350,000 ends, making an increase of somewhere about 600 per cent. Now, these were not facts made to support a particular theory, but they were facts which related to the decay of our manu- factures, and that decay arising out of the circumstances of the taxes on some articles being from 60 to 70 per cent, higher here than on the manufactures of the continent. He did not know what weight the House might choose to give to these facts. He believed them to be facts, and had the best authority for his statements—for where he could possess himself of official information he had always done so. With respect to the statements of his hon. Friend the Member for Kendal, he must admit that there was nothing very unfair in the right hon. Baronet (Sir R. Peel) making the statements which he had made, founded on the representation of the hon. Gentleman. He thought it was very natural that an advocate for another view of the subject should have made that statement, but it was clear that though there might be a general prosperity, taking the aggregate of all our exports there might be a decrease with regard to our manufacturing prosperity. In order to sustain that view he had ventured to present these facts to the House; he hoped the House would not agree to the conclusion at which the right hon. Baronet had somewhat hastily arrived—conclusions which he would not have come to had the right hon. Baronet analyzed those extracts with more care.

Lord Stanley

said, it certainly did seem rather extraordinary that upon the motion of his hon. Friend (if he would allow him to call him so) the Member for Kendal, for returns of the average prices of corn for every week during a certain period specified, a motion that was not likely to lead to any discussion, that not only his hon. Friend should come down with a vindication of his former statements, but that other hon. Gentlemen should be prepared with figures for the purpose of entering into partially (and it necessarily must be very partially) the whole state of the manufacturing interest of this country on such an occasion as this. He was not going into any details, far less would he go into the general merits of a question of such vast importance as the Corn-laws, and its bearing upon the manufactures of England. He did not pretend to have any acquaintance with that branch of industry, the woollen manufacture. But by a most singular coincidence they were again furnished with a valuable statement on the authority of the hon. Member for Leeds, because that hon. Member did not omit to state that there had been a considerable decrease in the exportation of woollen manufacture. But, said his hon. Friend, with that spirit of fairness which characterized all his statements, true the House must be led by this statement to understand that manufactures have decreased, but that must not be taken as a proof that the woollen market was in a state of decrease, far less that any decrease in the manufacture must be attributed to the Corn-laws. But, said the hon. Member, the woollen manufacture has declined, and I will tell you why: there has been a vicious system of banking in the United States. There had been great distress in America; the Americans were great consumers of woollen goods, but the distress caused by the banking system had rendered it impossible for them to deal to the same extent. [Mr. G. W. Wood had made no allusion to that subject]. He begged his hon. Friend's pardon if he had in any way misrepresented what he had said. But this he was confident his hon. Friend would not deny: in stating the depression of the woollen trade, he cautioned the House against considering that as a proof of the decline in the want of manufactured woollens, but as an indication of the distress among the best customers, which rendered them incapable of taking our manufactured goods at the former prices. He quoted from memory and therefore would not he too positive; but his hon. Friend was reported to have said, with regard to woollen manufactures,—"The exports of these articles had experienced a decline to the extent of 6 per cent, a circumstance which he believed was entirely attributable to the fact, that a large proportion of our woollen exports went to the United States and to that country not having been able, during the past year, to take anything like her usual proportion of this part of our manufactures. That was a depression which he had no doubt would be removed in the present year." The hon. Member for Leeds seemed to think it a matter for deep lamentation that there had been an increase in the exportation of British wool of 58 per cent., because, that tended to show, that other manufacturers availed themselves of our raw material. He spoke from memory, but he believed, that the importation of cotton into Liverpool would show a great increase, an increase to the extent of 1200 per cent. In 1831 the increase was 4,000 bags; it had gone on increasing to 8,000 and from that to 24,000, and from that to 48,000, and last year 50,000 bags more of the raw material were imported than in 1831. The hon. Member for Manchester had contended, that if it could be shown, not that the amount of our manufactures had increased, but that machinery had increased for the purpose of increasing manufactures, there would be a ground for saying, that our manufactures were prosperous; but in point of fact the manufacturers have for the last two or three years been going on exporting at a loss. Now, it was possible that that might be the case. It might be that men with a large amount of capital embarked in business, would submit to a loss of two-thirds for a time; but it was incredible, that if it were notorious to the whole country and to the manufacturing interest that business would be carried on for two years at a loss, it was incredible that during those two years an almost unheard-of amount of capital was embarked in new mills and factories, which had risen up on every side to an amazing extent. He was not then about to enter into details upon that subject, but he believed there was not a town in Lancashire in which there was not an increase of factories and mills for manufactures; and from information for which he was indebted to the hon. Baronet the Member for Preston, it appeared, that in the course of 1836 and 1837 there were built no less than nineteen new cotton factories in the town of Preston alone, involving the building of 1,500 new houses for workmen, and that one of those factories alone cost 60,000l. It seemed to be incredible and impossible, that in one new town during these two years of notorious distress they should see nineteen new competitors coming into the market, building 1,500 houses for the workmen, and expending 60,000l. upon a factory. He begged pardon for trespassing on the House on that occasion, and would leave these facts to speak for themselves.

Mr. Clay

said, the noble Lord, in commenting on the speech of his hon. Friend, had done so with all his usual dexterity, but with scarcely his usual fairness. He had thought proper to assert that his hon. Friend's speech did not at all go to remove the impression which those facts which had been stated the other night had a tendency to create. That was not giving a fair impression of the speech of his hon. Friend. His hon. Friend did not deny now what he had then asserted, with respect to the increase of our exports, but gave an explanation at which he was surprised. He now said, that instead of the amount of exports being the cause of congratulation, they were good ground of alarm. He said that every year cotton twist of finer and finer qualities was exported, showing that the foreign manufacturers were acquiring the art of manufacturing that article into fabrics. He begged to state this as the case of the advocates of the repeal of the Corn-laws. Their case rested merely on this ground—the increasing prosperity of the foreign manufacturer. The opponents of the Corn-laws asserted, that the foreign manufacturers were increasing in skill continually—that they would shortly rival us, and rival us successfully. And it was with such a prospect before us, that he agreed with his hon. Friend, that the increase in our exports this year, and the character of such increase, were calculated rather to excite alarm. With regard to what had fallen from the noble Lord, he (Mr. Clay) quite agreed that they had a right to assume, where men would embark capital, that there was a profit; but our exports had not at all increased in proportion with the increase of population.

Mr. Hindley

said, that in his judgment the noble Lord must be mistaken in the statement which he had made; and from his knowledge of that part of the country, he thought it would be impossible to show that nineteen new factories had been erected, not in Preston, but in the whole of the cotton manufacturing districts within the period the noble Lord had mentioned. There had been considerable prosperity in that branch of trade prior to 1836, and then, undoubtedly, several new factories were built; but he was certain, that within the last two years nothing of the kind had taken place. Oldham he knew to be in a state of lamentable depression, and, as far as his information extended, he was convinced, that the statement of the hon. Member for Manchester was perfectly true, and that manufacturers had been obliged to export their goods at a sacrifice. Although this was so, still they went on, but this fact only showed the danger of such statements as those which the hon. Member for Kendal had made. He did trust that such statements would not induce the House to refuse in- quiry into the Corn-laws, because it was most important that some investigation on that subject should take place.

Sir H. Fleetwood

said, that he had stated, that in the building of those large factories it was not only requisite to enter into arrangements for building them before the time of erection, but he had likewise stated another observation to the noble Lord opposite—namely, that during the last year there were no additions to the number of factories in the course of erection. He was to leave town, tomorrow, to attend a large meeting at Preston, and be hoped he should have the satisfaction on his return to explain the real state of trade there.

Me. G. W. Wood

in reply, was understood to say, it would have been very easy to have pointed out, that the great increase which prevailed was in the raw material, on which no labour was bestowed except by the foreign manufacturers. The hon. Member had referred to the banking system in America. He had made no reference to the banking system in America. He had said there was great distress in this country, and we ought to find a remedy for it; but that did not arise from any error on the part of the manufacturers. He thought, that the information he had been laying before the House, whether for better or worse, was matter of importance and that, therefore, the arguments on both sides of the question should be taken into consideration. The petitioners apprehended, and the documents which he had read proved in a very satisfactory way the reality of those dangers which they apprehended, from the competition of the manufacturers abroad.

Returns ordered.