§ Mr. C. P. Villiers
said, 334 that it, was in pursuance of that course which he ventured to suggest as convenient for the discussion of the Corn-laws, that he then rose to bring under consideration those more general consequences of the law which on a former occasion had been kept from view. And certainly he thought it far preferable thus to judge a measure by its general effect, than by those only which might be deemed incidental or especial. But still he adhered to an opinion he before expressed, that any law which is alleged to be prejudicial to the manufacturing or commercial interests of this country, is well worthy of distinct deliberation; and notwithstanding the censures cast on the course which had been pursued, and the reproofs which had been offered to the manufacturers of this country, for their impatience on a subject on which they have hitherto been charged with apathy and indifference, he could not but think, that in their respectful application to this House, to submit information upon a subject by which they were aggrieved, they had not only pursued a course which was reasonable and becoming in itself, but also—regarding both the present and the future prospects of the question—a course which was the most judicious that they could have adopted; and his only regret was, that those who had avowedly opposed this question should have forgotten what was generally expected from that House by this country, namely, to hear before you decide. But the manner in which this question was proposed for discussion that night, would elicit upon what grounds it was, that the House thought it expedient to refuse to hear the information that was tendered, and whether it was, that having that information, it needed not to be given, or whether it was, that the matter of such information being in dispute, it was thought wise so to leave it. The question was now presented to the House in a mariner that would open the widest field for the display of all that was known on the subject, and there would be this advantage (he feared it might be the only one), that it would at least enable the country to learn upon what ground it was, that the majority of this House intended to maintain these laws against the interest and the wishes of the community. He was glad, therefore, to observe the eagerness which his opponents manifested to enter upon the discussion. There was one, it seemed, so anxious to be heard, that he not only asked the House to reject 335 his, (Mr. Villiers') motion, but he had recorded his argument along with his notice, and it was an argument of so bold a character, that he owned he was curious to hear its explanation. He hoped, that upon this occasion, also, they would hear those more general views taken of this subject, that they were reproved on that side for not having taken before; and that when they were told, that this was not only an economical question, but one that was far wider, he trusted, that they should hear what were the political, social and moral considerations which could justify the support of such a law. He did not deny, that the question could be considered in such light, and most certainly he would not shrink himself from so regarding it, because he believed, that the more extensively this question was considered—the more minutely its consequences were examined—the less would persons be left in doubt as to the true character of its policy. But still, he was of opinion, that it was but a very simple question, and as much so, as many of those questions that had been already decided in this country. It appeared to him to resemble such questions as those of personal liberty, or freedom of opinion. There seemed to be even less difficulty to decide it, and it was matter of surprise, that it should be left to this day to dispute a question so easy to be solved. It really appeared marvellous, that at this time of our history, they should be gravely discussing whether a free, an industrious, and commercial people should have a right to exercise an honest industry in the way they pleased—whether they should be allowed to carry on trade in any manner, that should be advantageous to themselves, and beneficial to the community—and whether they should be allowed to obtain their subsistence in any market at the least cost to themselves and at the best advantage to the country. It was difficult to conceive, that they were discussing a question of that kind, and hereafter it would be a curious sign of the integrity and the intelligence of that House, that one Member should have found it important to move, that it was the privilege of the people to exercise an honest industry with perfect freedom; and that another Member (and perhaps the more successful one) should have moved, that it was important, that the people should be restricted in the exercise of that liberty, and that the law which had limited the amount and raised the price of human subsistence had worked well for 336 the interests of the country! Really if it occurred to the noble Lord, the other evening, to think, that the House must slumber pending an inquiry into the consequences of such a law, it seemed to him to be no stretch of the imagination to suppose, that those who resisted the motion which was to be made to night, would heartily laugh when they went forth to a division at the folly and ignorance of the people who could submit to such legislation. But not again to expose himself to the charge of arguing this question upon too narrow grounds and as it was proposed by the hon. Gentleman, the mover of the amendment, to show, that these laws were for the protection of the productive industry of the country, it might not, perhaps, be inappropriate, that he should proceed to consider the effects of these laws upon the most numerous and the most important class of the community, which class he considered to be the working class; for upon their condition, and contentment, must the stability of our social fabric depend. And here he conceived, that he and the author of the amendment were directly at issue, for although his language was not so plain as that which he (Mr. Villiers) would be disposed to use, yet he concluded, that when the hon. Gentleman used the term "productive industry," he meant only what he (Mr. Villiers) meant, namely, "those persons whose labour was employed in the business of production." He would suggest, however, to the hon. Member to be as clear and as explicit in the language he might use as he was able to be, because, although nothing new could be alleged on this subject, and though neither a fact nor an argument which should be used could be new, yet there was this which was new, namely, that the attention of the public was anxiously directed to the subject; and he expected, that no fact that no argument, and that no opinion would be stated in the discussion, which would not be closely and severely examined by those who were now interesting themselves in this question. If he understood the amendment which it was the intention of the hon. Member to move, it declared, that that which tended to raise the price of provisions had been of benefit to the working classes of this country. Now, he would venture to say, that a proposition more contradictory of what might have been expected, or of what had been actually experienced, had never been propounded. He would tell the hon. Member, and those with whom he acted upon this 337 question, that it might be laid down as a principle, that whatever tends to facilitate production, or to increase the amount of objects of necessary consumption confers a blessing on the community at large—increases the wealth of the country—leaves to every one greater means of consuming other objects, thus creating fresh demand for labour, and improves the condition of every member of the community. There is nothing in the article of food that can possibly distinguish it from other articles of general consumption; and, notwithstanding the arguments that had been generally employed by the hon. Member and his party, he would venture to say, that if any means could be discovered for increasing the produce of the land, or for cheapening the cost of production in the cultivation of the land—or if any improvement could be introduced, which could in any way dispense with the services of cultivators or of labourers, the hon. Member and his party would instantly resort to those means, and laugh to scorn any person who should venture to tell them, that for the purpose of protecting the cultivators, or labourers they ought to forego all these advantages. Now, if he understood what the hon. Member proposed, it was, that the law which had had the effect which he (Mr. Villiers) had stated, was of advantage to the productive classes in this country. Now he would divide the productive classes into two portions; one should be those who were employed in the production of food, and the other would be those who were employed in the production of other things; and he told the hon. Member, that it was utterly impossible for him to prove that the high price of food ever had been, or, indeed, ever could be, of benefit to the agricultural labourers. In confirmation of his opinion on this point, he would refer them to what had been actually observed. In the first place, what had been said by the commissioners who had inquired into the Poor-laws? The gentlemen who were employed to investigate and inquire into the operation of the old Poor-law, prior to its abolition, were able to trace all the pauperism under which the country then suffered—which had reduced the labourer in 1830 to a state more degraded than that of the slave, and in which he was less regarded than the cattle in the field to the high prices of provisions and the low price of labour. It was the concurrent testimony of every person employed in the inquiry, that in 1795 or 338 1797, when, the price of provisions rose to a great height, the farmers first resorted to the plan of paying the labourers out of the rates, for the purpose of escaping the increase of wages, that would have been rendered necessary on account of the increased prices of food. From that time to the peace, the price of provisions were unusually high, and the condition of the agricultural labourers became deteriorated and remained worse till after prices had fallen; showing, therefore, a connection between the price of provisions and the condition of the agricultural labourer. The result of the high price of provisions was, that a larger number of labourers were in the market, employers have less means of employing them, which by changing the proportions of supply to demand, lowered the value of labour whilst it increased the cost of its support. The next point to which he would refer, to prove, that the agricultural labourers were badly off when the price of provisions was high, was that it was, at that moment the employer sought to extract from them a greater amount of labour than at any other time. It was known to every one who resided in the country, that this was the case. Whenever the price of provisions was high they found, that a greater number of labourers were ready to accede to the terms of their employers, owing to the difficulties of their position. He did not state this merely upon his own authority, for he would quote, in support of it, the evidence given before a Committee of that House on the Corn Bill. It was the evidence of a person who was a land agent, and was also an occupier of land, named Milne. Before the Committee, he gave this evidence:I wished to in close a farm at the latter end of the year 1812, or the beginning of 1813. I sent for my bailiff and told him, that I had enclosed, about twenty-five years ago, a good deal of land; that the inclosure at that time cost me three shillings per ell of thirty-seven inches; that a neighbour of mine, two or three years ago, had made similar inclosures which cost him five shillings per ell; that I thought he had paid too much, and that I ought to do it cheaper. The answer I got from my bailiff was—that provisions were very high, that the labourers were doing double work, and that, of course, there was less demand for labour; and that be could do these inclosures last year at a cheaper rate than I had ever done them; and he actually executed this inclosure at about two shillings and sixpence per ell. Tie again came to me, and told me, that I had proposed to him to do some ditching and draining upon another farm, which I did not intend to 339 do till about a twelvemonth after from the circumstance of not being in full possession of the whole farm. He requested, that I would allow him to do it that season, as he could do it so much cheaper, and that a great many labourers were idle from having little work, in consequence of those employed doing double work. I desired him to go on with that labour likewise, and he actually contracted, for very large ditches, at sixpence an ell, which, I do not think I could do now under from one shilling to one shilling and sixpence, in consequence of the fall in provisions.That was the evidence which had been given by a person before the Committee of the House, and he had made enquiries in other places, and he found it uniformly confirmed by other testimony. Still this was said to be a labourer's question, for it was stated that if the Corn-laws were repealed a great number of labourers would be thrown out of employment. This, then, seemed to imply that the Corn-laws were necessary for retaining agricultural labourers in constant employment. But he ventured to say that the Corn-laws had not that efket—that they did not secure the employment of agricultural labourers, and that it was quite accidental what labourers were employed under the present system; this was proved by experience. It had for some years been a constant complaint in the agricultural parishes, that there was a redundancy of labour. Since the Poor-law unions had been formed 6,000 persons had been assisted to go into the manufacturing districts, and upwards of 6,000 had voluntarily gone there, and had been doing well, shewing indeed, the great importance of those districts to the agricultural people, there ad been besides a constant emigration of labourers to the North American colonies, and which was now encouraged, and in great measure paid for by the state. Neither had the Corn-laws rendered them content; the fact was so far from it, that since the Corn-laws had been actually in operation, agricultural labourers had been more dissatisfied than before. In the year 1830 the Corn-laws had been fifteen years in operation, and he ventured to say, that at no period were the labourers in a greater state of dissatisfaction and wretchedness. But it was said that the land in this country was kept in cultivation by the Corn-laws, which gave employment to labourers. But he wanted to know upon what principle of policy it was, that that argument was grounded. With regard to labourers, it was found that machinery could in some cases be used to per- 340 form the work which they had formerly performed, and which upon its introduction superseded their employment, but if the principle were sound that Corn-laws should be maintained because they gave occupation to the labourers, why were not the advantages of using the threshing-machine foregone for the same purpose? But where was there an instance in which the use of machinery had been given up? And he asked then, why bad land which was like bad machinery should be used merely for the sake of giving employment to agricultural labourers? So much then either on principle or in practice, for the protection to the agricultural labourers of this law. But he had now got a statement which he would read to the House, showing what had been the value of the wages of all of the other productive classes, under different prices of provisions. He had selected two years before the present Corn-laws, and two years subsequently to their coming into operation. In 1822, the average price of wheat was 43s., and a labourer receiving 31s. 6d. per week was enabled to command twenty-three peeks of wheat. In 1828, when wheat was at 60s. the wages amounted to 34s., and eighteen pecks only could be procured. The hand-loom weaver could command, when wheat was at 43s., six and a-half pecks; when it was at 60s., he could command three and a half pecks. The cotton-spinner at Manchester, under the cheap price, could command sixteen, and under the dear price fourteen pecks. The stocking maker of Leicester could command eight pecks in the cheap year, and four and a-half only in the dear year. The labourer could procure seven and a-half pecks when the price was 43s., and only four and a-half pecks when it was 60s. The wages of the printer, compositor, and persons of that class, did not vary much, but they were at an average of 36s. per week, and while the wheat was at 43s. they could procure twenty-seven pecks, and when it was 60s. they could only procure nineteen pecks. Since the present Corn-laws were passed, in 1831 the average price of wheat was 66s.; in 1835 the average was 39s. The cotton spinners in the dear year were enabled to command fifteen pecks, and in the cheap year twenty three pecks. When the price of wheat was at 66s., the poor hand-loom weaver was able to command only two pecks of wheat; while the price averaged 39s. he was enabled to command four pecks. The cotton 341 spinners at Manchester received 30s. per week, and could obtain fourteen and a-half pecks; the stocking-makers at Leicester when they had 7s. per week, could obtain four pecks and-a-half; and when in the dear season they received 8s., they could obtain three pecks. The labourer obtained when wheat was 66s. six pecks, and when 39s. four pecks—the printer at 66s. obtained seventeen, and when at 39s obtained twenty-eight. Now, this was the law that gave protection to productive industry, and which, by maintaining the high price of provisions, placed the working classes in a better position. This was the manner in which it directly affected them. But what was to be said for a law whose claim it was to protect industry, when its indirect effect on the manufacturing classes was considered? Why, what was the ground on which protection to the landowners was claimed, according to the author of the Amendment? It was that the productive classes were not able to compete with foreigners in lightly taxed and cheap living countries. Why, that was the very case of our artisans and manufacturers; they said they could not compete with the cheaper living and lighter-taxed artisans of the continent, and they asked for protection against a law which made living dear here in order that they might compete with their neighbours abroad. They were employed in fact, by a foreign customer, who cared not by whom be got his work done; he cared not whether they were English, Germans, Swiss, or Belgians. He only cared for getting the best article at the cheapest rate. If he found that the artisans of Belgium and Switzerland could produce their work cheaper than those of England, because their rate of living was cheaper, he would employ the inhabitants of those countries; and on that ground, it was, that Englishmen sought to be placed under no legal disadvantage as compared with foreigners. There was this important difference, however, between the claim of our artisans for protection, and that protection which the supporters of the Corn-laws claimed; namely, that the farmer did not ask for a law to make food cheap, only the repeal of the law passed to make food dear. Our manufacturers felt themselves each year less able to compete with foreigners. The difference between them was, that they lived at different rates; and to live on equal terms the Englishman claimed the protection of this House, and he should 342 like to hear on what ground such protection could be withheld. He would not now go into the details of foreign competition as he had done on a former occasion; but it appeared to be admitted, that the evil did exist, and it was said, that it must continue; but hence it was that manufacturers were called upon as they had heard stated to execute orders for their foreign employers, with directions, that if they could not do them at certain low prices they need not do them at all; and that, therefore being desirous of executing them they called upon their men to work at low wages, or not at all. This system had been going on now for five or six years past in this country, and it had had the effect of throwing many of our artisans out of employment. The House saw, that it must continue to exist so long as the circumstances of this country, as compared with those of foreign nations, remained unaltered; and he wanted to know whether they could expect, seeing that cheapness must always determine the command by any country of a foreign market, that if foreign manufacturers produced articles at a cheaper rate than themselves, that they could maintain their foreign trade. He was aware, that the argument would be advanced against him by some persons in support of the Corn-laws, that they must not depend upon foreign, but upon home trade. He did not deny, that the home trade was beneficial, but that was his case again; for he said, that the home consumer should be put in the best possible condition, and the home consumers were not only the landlords, but all other consumers, and the cheaper they could procure their means of subsistence, the more they would have to spend in manufactured goods; but the Corn-laws were depriving the home consumer of the means of supporting the trade of his own country. He knew, however, that it was not very usual, in discussing this subject, to put it forward as a labourer's question, and it was, indeed, new this Session, to hear it called a labourer's question. If he was not mistaken, it was behind the farmer's claim to protection, that the real object of the law was usually concealed. Now, he hoped, that the case of the British farmer on this occasion would receive a very clear and distinct consideration from this House; because he was perfectly aware, that many of this very valuable class of capitalists were under delusion upon the subject; but he knew, that their attention had been roused to the matter, and he thought, that they 343 would profit by attending to what was stated in this discussion. They would expect something more than vague declamations of their importance, or exaggerated statements of their distress; and they were to hear it seems from their friends, that the Corn-laws had protected them from distress; but they would also have to hear that they had no real interest in the Corn-laws, that they had not in fact saved them from distress, and that much of their past suffering might be traced to those laws. He wished, indeed, that the whole question turned upon this part of the subject, for he was confident that no further apprehensions would, in that case, be entertained by such men, if they were indeed advocates of the existing law. He was very anxious, that he should not be in any en or in anything that he said in reference to this part of the question, he meant the interest of the farmer, and he hoped that he should be corrected if he made any mistake about their condition; but he wanted to know whether the farmer could be regarded in any other light but that of a person who, having a certain property employed it as capital in the cultivation of land, and whether he did not proceed in that matter with the same spirit and purpose with which any merchant would proceed in hiring a vessel of the owner, or another man borrowed money to engage in trade? He was a capitalist, and he proceeded in his business in a commercial spirit; could there then be any doubt, that the price at which he was able to obtain his land must be determined by the value of the produce of the land, and the competition of other capitalists? Those capitalists who were in the same trade would not allow him to obtain more than the average rate and profit, and, on the other hand, the land owners aware of that circumstance, would not permit him to procure his land at less than the market rate, or what others would give for it. Then if a law should be passed which purposed to fix the price of the produce of the land at 80s. or 64s. a quarter, if it were wheat in which its value was measured, he supposed that it would not be denied, that the capitalists would bargain for the land according to that price. This, however, perhaps was too plain to be questioned. But it was said, that the demand for protection on the part of the farmer, rests upon certain local burdens which press exclusively upon him. But to this I say in answer, that it such be the case, that they do not take an occupier of land by surprise. They were in existence be- 344 forehand, and they were as well known as those which attach to the occupancy of a house; and if the party had not the capital to occupy the land and to pay the charges to which it was liable he would ask what business had he to occupy it? Therefore, if he took the land with all these charges upon it, all the difference was, that if the charges were high, and the value of the produce was high, a larger amount of capital was required than it would otherwise do. This appeared to be so evident that it perhaps would not be disputed; but then it was said, that these charges placed British agriculture under a disadvantage as compared with that in other countries; but then that was a reason for a better distribution in this country of such charges; not a reason for the Corn-law, because it was the effect of the Corn-law to make each of the charges on the farmer more onerous;—for what, in fact, were the farmer's outgoings? They were poor rates, county rates, labour, seed, support of horses and servants, and public taxes. Now which of these were not increased by the high price of provisions? And what was the interest of the farmer in high prices if they were occasioned by a great and unnecessary expense in production—if his outgoings were too great to I allow him to obtain a profit on his capital after paying his rent, his business is to seek an abatement of that rent; for it would be the proof in itself that his rent was too high? But, perhaps, it would be said tonight that all this was very true that the farmer cared only to get a profit on his capital, but that some how or other, either through the bounty of heaven, or the munificence of landlords, the farmers of this country always obtained this, and had done well since the Corn-laws were passed, and that it was a thousand pities to disturb that which appeared to work so well. Sir, if this has been the case, it would not be difficult to characterise the statements that have been made about every other Session on the subject, when Members are in the habit of declaring their inability to express in adequate language the sufferings of the farmers. He had heard a noble Duke, late a Member of this House, whose friendship for the farmer was the matter of such note, commence his address by regretting that he had again to repeat the sad tale of argricultural distress that he had so often told to this House. A year after the Corn Bill had passed, the Board of agriculture reported, that under the 345 present deplorable state of the national agriculture, bankruptcies, seizures, executions for debt, imprisonment, and farmers becoming parish paupers, were particularly mentioned by many of their correspondents. That great arrears of rent, and, in many cases, tithes and poor-rates unpaid; improvements of every kind generally discontinued; live-stock greatly lessened; tradesmen's bills unpaid; general pauperism in the agricultural districts; were circumstances communicated to them in language denoting extreme distress." Within twenty years five committees had sat on what was usually termed the "unparalleled distress of agriculture;" and he had looked into some of the reports which had been made, and he found that only about five years after the Corn-laws had passed there was instituted an enquiry into the sufferings of the agriculturists, and if he collected anything from this enquiry it was that these distresses were produced by the Corn-laws themselves. The Corn-laws were denounced in this report as delusive in principle, and calculated to ruin every one who was connected with the trade in grain. In 1826 the law was not altered, and again there was distress. In 1828 the law was altered; but the same principle was maintained in that law which had existed in that previously in existence. In 1833 and 1836 complaints were again made to this House, and a committee again sat upon the subject, and on looking through this inquiry he found many details and much evidence of the sufferings of the farmers; and although it might be seen that leading questions were put, as if to invite evidence upon the subject of distress, yet he knew that the statements which were made corresponded with those which were made out of the House. Now in examining the enquiries into the alleged distress of the agriculturists, he had been curious to ascertain whether any great landowner was called on these occasions to state whether he was suffering from any great distress and he looked in vain for any such evidence. It had, indeed, been said, that the farmers bad been compelled to pay their rents out of their capital, that they could not perform their engagements, but he saw no evidence of the landlords' reducing their establishments, their horses, or their dogs, or of their quitting the country before the usual season. Now his conclusion from these circumstances was, that the promises made by the Corn-laws had been delusive as regarded the farmer, and had caused those distresses 346 which had occasioned the inquiries. The Corn-laws proposed to fix a price which was to be remunerative. In 1815 Parliament said that the farmer must have eighty-shillings for his wheat to remunerate him for its cultivation, and the farmer, trusting to the promises and calculations of the House of Commons, arranged to pay rent in reference to that price. But how far did the law realise the expectations which it had raised? In a few years after this price had been fixed it was reduced to thirty-seven shillings; but the farmer had then contracted with his landlord, and it was then that he found himself distressed, and it was then that he was compelled to pay the rent out of his capital; and it is on these occasions that the landlord, after getting his rent, comes to this House to detail the distress of his tenant, and gets a committee to collect evidence of what they both knew before but with a view to some legislative relief. That, he had no hesitation in saying, was the history of many of these inquiries. He had said, that the same principle which had been adopted in the old law, was pursued in that which now existed. Under the old law, the promised price was 80s.; it was now 64—s.; the act of 1828 promised that 64s. per quarter should be the price; and he found, that in the evidence before the committee of the House of Lords, in 1836, there was some farmer who declared, that if he had been aware of what would have happened, he never would have entered into the engagements which he had made. They had expected that the price of produce would have been maintained, and they had taken their farms in 1828 upon that understanding; but, in 1832 and 1833, they found that wheat had fallen from 30 to 40 per cent., and they were therefore unable to meet their engagements; and then their distress began. This is the consequence of this system. The farmer incurs expenses, and has large outgoings, all calculated upon a certain price being returned for his produce; and he finds himself engaged to pay a rent according to the price which had been promised by law, while he is disappointed himself in receiving that price. The House of Commons professes to regulate the price, but which it could not do, unless it could also limit the quantity, which it dare not do. The attempt to combine the two, only ruined the farmer and angered the people. They tantalised the people with food, within their sight, at 347 half the price, which they were forbid to touch, and they encouraged the farmer to believe that it would not be touched; and then came a bad season in this country, which, though it advanced the prices, was not really beneficial to the farmer, because the quantity was less; but the effect was, that a quantity of foreign grain was let in, which was produced at a much less cost than that which was grown at home, and the farmer found himself ruined by the fall which in consequence took place. Then, if there happened to be a bad season abroad, as there had been at home, and there was difficulty in procuring grain from abroad, the farmer heard the law denounced by the people in every town and city, and he knew not what engagements to make from the uncertainty of what might occur; and this was the person for whose benefit it was said, that this law was enacted—the man who only cared to know how he stood, to get a steady demand for his produce, and to know what terms he should make with the owner of the land. One year he procured 120s., amidst the curses of the people; and in another be sold, probably through the intervention of the sheriff, at 37s., and then he was persuaded to uphold this law because it secured to him steadiness of price! And this system was maintained in opposition to that of which we had had experience, and to which he would wish to recur, of the period from 1773 to 1791, when the ports were open upon paying a nominal duty of 6d., and when there was more agricultural improvement going on, more general contentment, and less fluctuation, than had existed at any other time; and that was the experience we had had of opening the ports. The farmer was a man of peculiar habits and feelings, and he could not help believing, that he had been practised upon in this law being passed. He was a man strongly attached to the soil where he was born, and which his fathers had occupied. He was a man of not much education, he was not, what was usually termed, a man of business, he was little able to engage in any other occupation, than that in which be had been brought up, and unwilling to leave the place in which he had beens bred; he was apt, therefore, in order to retain his position, to enter into engagements which in prudence he was not justified in making, and willing to agree to any terms Which the landlord might propose. The land-lord was aware of this, and then a dreadful struggle began with the farmer, who was 348 anxious to maintain his occupation, but was unable to meet his engagement. He knew, in many instances all this had occurred, that that was what had taken place. The landlord exacted too much rent, and the occupier, desirous to maintain his word, and expecting redress from the Legislature, or that things would turn out better, was deluded by various circumstances, and was constantly undertaking that which he could not perform. He was not speaking exactly without book in this matter, but he was almost repeating the statements which farmers had made to him upon the subject. They knew well how little foundation there was for the argument against the repeal, that it would throw much land out of cultivation; they knew how vastly the value of the land had risen in their time; and they had quite wit enough to see, that the rent of any land must cease before it ceased to be cultivated. But the farmers were now generally in arrear, it was difficult for them to express their free opinions on the operation of the Corn-laws, yet they were every day growing more enlightened respecting their interests, and it would not be long before they would declare themselves opposed to restrictions, the only effect of which was to raise the value of land. He had dwelt on the probable effect of the repeal of these laws on the farmer, somewhat more at length, than, perhaps, the real importance of this branch of the subject deserved, and he had done so, because he felt that of all the grounds of opposition that could be urged against his motion, this was the one which afforded the supporters of the present system the most plausible pretence. He now came to that view of the question which he conceived to be paramount to all others, because it was the only one which ought to be regarded in every question, namely, the effect of those laws on the community at large. Though be must own that he approached the consideration of this part of the subject with a feeling somewhat of humiliation—for was it in this age to be a question—a matter for doubt and serious argument—whether or no it was for the advantage of the community, to have the necessaries of life in abundance, and to be able to obtain them at the cheapest rate. This, as a question, was really an absurd one; and one feels a moral certainty that if the persons who were interested in denying to the people this advantage were not a very powerful class, anybody who seriously raised the question would be met with ridicule and contempt. Were it not, 349 indeed, for the lamentable success with which interested men had mystified the question, and the ignorance that yet prevailed upon the subject, he would hardly enter upon the discussion. In the first place he had a right to say that the loss sustained by the community from the existence of these laws was exactly in proportion to the loss which the supporters of the monopoly contended they would suffer if it was put an end to. If the lauded interest opposed repeal to avert loss from themselves, then the opponents of the Corn-laws were entitled to consider that they sustained an equivalent loss in the excess it compelled them to pay for their food. If the supporters of the law as it exists opposed repeal because the effect would be to lower so vastly the price of produce, was not that convertible to a proof that the community were now sufferers to the extent of the difference between the present price of produce and that reduced price which the landed interest so much feared. Taking the calculations of the least sanguine or prejudiced persons, it appeared that, at the very lowest estimate, the loss of the community in the price of wheat alone, by reason of the continuance of the Corn-laws amounted to ten millions a-year. Now this was equal to a poll tax of 8s. a-head, or a tax of 2l. on each family in the kingdom. With a large class of labourers this amounted to a month's labour, or, taking the number of hours of labour during the day on an average at ten, a tax of ten millions a-year obliged him to labour three quarters of an hour each day more than he would have needed to labour if no such tax on food existed. The calculation he had used applied to the tax on wheat only; but the effect of the tax on oats also would have to be added to the loss sustained by the labourer, because in many parts of the country, oats were more in request for general purposes than wheat. This was a mere calculation founded upon such data as were within the reach of the opponents of the Corn-laws; but in order to ascertain the full amount of the injury inflicted on the community by the existence of the Corn-law, he must first hear the calculation of loss anticipated by the lauded interest from its repeal. The one would be the best evidence of the other. He now came to the consideration of the effect of this law on local and general taxation. First, as regarded local taxation; take the Poor-rates. In the Poor-law Unions already formed, 350 8.000l. a-week was spent in flour alone. If flour was now at double the price it would be at if the law were repealed, was not the difference between this 8,000l. a week and the reduced price of corn after a repeal so much taken out of the pocket of the rate-payer? If the guardians of the poor could put their hands into the ware-houses and take the flour at the price, at which it was imported, would not they save an enormous amount to the ratepayers? It did not stop there, for all money unduly taken from the rate-payers for the maintenance of the poor was a deduction from a fund for the employment of labour, which by not being so employed added to the amount of destitution. In any given district this might be made the subject of strict calculation; for instance, in a poor-law union. The whole amount of the poor-rate was four millions and a half, and, therefore, looking at the subject in a practical point of view, he hoped, as the hon. Gentlemen opposite were so anxious to make this question a labourer's question, that they would also make it a rate-payers question, and consider the vast amount that might be saved to them in poor-rates alone if the law were repealed. He hoped the rate-payers themselves would make it a rate-payers question, and that when about to pay their rates, they would ask themselves, why they had to pay so large an amount? if it was for the good of the poor they would not grudge it—but if for the purpose of maintaining a mischievous monopoly, they would surely demur. Then as regarded the county rate: 100,000l. a year was expended in the support of prisoners in the different bride wells throughout the country, and this portion of the county rate from which the landed interest applied not long since to be exempted, and which they succeeded in transferring to another fund, was nearly doubled in consequence of the high price of provisions. The same remark applied also to all asylums for lunatics, to hospital schools, and generally to all public institutions. It was a most important consideration in the expenditure of such institutions whether bread was dear or cheap. But if this argument were good as applied to local taxation, how much more powerful was its effect as regarded general taxation? There was scarcely a department of the public service in which a reduction in the price of provisions would not be felt. In support of die army, navy, and ordnance, 18,000,000l. a-year were expended. As regarded the 351 army the excess expended in the price of bread was marked in a peculiar manner, every soldier being guaranteed the repayment of all above 6d. a loaf. Now, if the Corn-laws were repealed, this additional expense would not fall on the public, because they would not have to pay more than the sixpence for the loaf. The miscellaneous estimates amounted to 2,000,000l. a year; in this branch of the public expenditure also a great change would be produced by a repeal of the Corn-laws. Now, when the immense weight of the burthen of general taxation was considered; when it was borne in mind what would be effected for the country by a reduction of taxation; when, too, it was recollected that the great bulk of these taxes was raised from the consumer, 17,000,000l. accruing from the Excise alone, what argument of force could be adduced against the reduction of expenditure by cheapening the price of bread, accompanied as that must necessarily be by an increase of consumption. There were many imposts which ought to be reduced, or taken off—where the claims on the consideration of the Legislature were very strong. Take the case of the post-horse duty. The utmost anxiety had been evinced that this impost should be taken off; because those who paid it were in the course of being ruined by the changes effected by the great improvements lately made in the internal communication of the country. The sufferers by these changes, however, did not when they were about to be made, come to the Legislature for protection against the locomotive engines, or against the railroads, alleging that they had invested large capital in their business, and that they were unfitted for other business, but they sought relief because they found that the tax now pressed unequally on them. But if the Corn-laws were repealed the keep of their horses would not cost them what it now did, and they would better be enabled to bear what now almost prevented them from exercising their trade. To take another and a greater matter in which the public interests are involved, the Post-office. It had long been desired to effect a most important alteration in rates of postage—one that would afford the public an advantage more to be wished for, perhaps, than almost any which it was in the power of the Legislature to grant. What was the obstacle to the immediate adoption of this arrangement? The difficulty of withdrawing from the revenue the difference which would be hazarded by the adoption of the new plan. 352 The amount that might be saved in those branches of the public expenditure to which he had referred, by reducing the cost of provisions would enable the Government in all probability, to consult the wishes and interests of the public in regard to the transmission of letters at a low and fixed rate. Did the opponents of repeal imagine that the people would not soon detect all these things. Did they suppose that now the attention of the public was aroused, calculations would not be made of the amount paid for the public service over and above what would be necessary, under a system of non-restriction? Was it supposed that the public would disregard a state of things which, while it much increased the taxation of the country, at the same time deprived them of great and much sought advantages. To turn, also, to the effect of these restrictive laws on the shipping interest. If any hon. Members connected with that interest were present, they would be able to inform the House, with more accuracy than he (Mr. Villiers) could. What were the injuries inflicted on the shipping interest by means of the Corn-laws. For his own part, he thought that one of the most striking arguments in favour of repeal of these laws was founded upon their injury to the shipping interest. They suffered, not only by the increased cost of provisions for their ships, but also by being deprived of the useful business of conveying the foreign grain, which, under a different state of things, would be consumed in this country. An illustration of these evils came under his notice a short time since, at Hamburg. He there saw ships lading with grain, the provisions for which had been purchased at from forty-five to fifty per cent. less than the English merchants could have purchased them at home. And whither did the House think those ships were bound? They were actually conveying to our own colonies—to Newfoundland in particular—flour that had been ground at Hamburg; ground, too, at mills that were erected there in consequence of the rejection of the measure introduced by the hon. Member for Dartmouth, for facilitating the grinding of corn in bond in this country for the purpose of exportation. Why, what would any stranger think of the intelligence of England, if he were told that a law, that thus drove capital from our shores and deprived it of profitable employment, was for the protection of productive industry, or if he were further told, on asking how we 353 contrived to support such vast establishments for the public service, and the weight of so enormous a debt; a debt larger than those of all other civilised nations put together; (the debt of the East India Company included;) he were to he told, "Why, the only way in which we bear the existing burdens of the country is by creating and maintaining another burden of still greater magnitude?" Yet such was substantially the argument of those who argued that the maintenance of the Corn-laws was necessary, in order to enable us to collect the interest of the national debt. Their position was this:—"We have already two great burdens on the country—the national debt, and the expenditure necessary for the public service; and the only way in which we can support these two burdens is by creating a third, by causing the price of food to be high in order to swell the fortunes of the landed aristocracy." But was this wise, just, or honest legislation, to limit the resources of the nation, in order to enable a particular class to contribute their share to the common burthens? The Corn-laws might rob A to benefit B, but they did not create wealth; they did not benefit the public generally; and when it was borne in mind that, in order to afford the exclusive protection to one class, we were ruining the manufactures and contracting the commerce of the country, it was surely time for the Legislature to interpose, and to consider whether the danger and national loss that would accrue from the contraction of the commerce of the country would not be much greater than any that could possibly arise out of a repeal of the Corn-laws. How could we meet our national engagements, and support the public burdens; how could the credit of the country be maintained, were it not for our foreign trade? By our foreign commerce it was, that we had been enabled to support the expense of the long war that gave rise to the debt; by our commerce it was, that we had been enabled to maintain the public credit under the burdens which that debt imposed upon us; and by the freedom and extension of our commerce it would be, that we should ultimately, if ever, be enabled to clear ourselves from debt. The maintenance and extension of the commerce of the country, then, ought to supersede all other considerations. How were the twenty-two millions collected from the customs, if not through the employment of the capital of the manufacturer? Did we export the 354 produce of the soil? How then were the imports procured, if not in exchange for our exported manufactures? Yet the landed interest and those who supported the existing Corn-laws were endeavouring to underrate as well as undermine our commerce. For his own part, he believed, that but for the restraints which the Corn-laws had imposed on the industrious energy of the country, we should almost have been able to discharge our public debt, and to have indefinitely extended our commerce. It required such a scheme as the Corn-laws to check our career of commercial prosperity; and the promoters of them had accomplished this object. They had lowered the price of labour, and made food in particular countries as it were a mere drug in the market, while they had raised the price of it at home: they had thus offered a premium to foreigners to engage their capital in manufactures, and, if they persevered, a great evil already felt by us would continue, and the capital and the artisans of this country would be yearly leaving it in greater numbers, and in larger amount than they now were. On the other hand, he was satisfied, if the laws were now repealed, the progress of the existing evils would be checked—English capital would be prevented from leaving the country, and what was still more important to us, fresh capital would not be further invested in manufactures abroad, because the demand from our market for agricultural produce would give employment to their capital in agriculture. The price of labour would be raised, and the foreign manufacturers would no longer have the advantage of superabundant labour at a minimum price. One most important consideration in connection with the present agitation of the question was, that there was now perhaps, just time to correct this the greatest error into which this or any other country so circumstanced had fallen; he alluded to the circumstance, that the tariffs of the German league and those of the United States both ceased in 1841. In that year the states united in that league were to re assemble, with the view of determining whether they should remain united; and it would much depend on the arrangements we were ready to make as to receiving the produce of these countries, how far the tariff to which they would then agree would be prejudicial or favourable to our commerce. If, in the mean time, we could prepare for the vast advantage (to ourselves) of receiving 355 their timber and their grain free from restrictions, we should not only check the investment of their capital in home manufactures, an operation that was rapidly progressing under the system of mutual exclusion, but we should recover their markets for our manufactures. Again, as regarded the United States: our conduct with respect to the restrictive duties would determine American capitalists in the course they would adopt—whether they would invest their capital in agriculture, in order to supply the demand of our market, or whether they would persevere in their home manufactures. Surely, then, when we consider the enormous advantages, political and commercial, that would accrue from a renewal of our relations with the north of Europe and the United States on the solid ground of mutual commercial interest—advantages which it is almost impossible to exaggerate—it was time for the Legislature to take such steps as would accomplish that object and avert the injury which our commerce must eventually sustain if the system now pursued by foreign states were continued. A more important object than the ex tension of our relations with foreign nations, based on commercial interests, could not be. No one could deny that it was more reasonable to expect the preservation of peace, the safety of our commerce, and the prosperity of our own manufactures, by interesting the productive and industrious classes of other countries in our favour—by opening to them a road to wealth by our means—than from adding to our navy, or by making treaties, or by forming merely personal alliances with foreign princes. He, therefore, could not conceive a more useful occupation for the minister who presided over the trade of the country, and the minister who had the charge of the foreign department, than to devote their whole energy and attention to extend the commercial dependence of ourselves and other countries. They would not only have the effect of increasing the wealth of the country, but would also tend materially to allay the apprehensions that gave rise to so anxiety, lest the peace and security of our foreign possessions should be disturbed. We were constantly alarmed by intimations that the northern Powers were opposed to our interests and policy. Why, there could not be a better opportunity than the present for conciliating Prussia, one of those Powers. He was convinced that, if we now were in a situation to offer to establish commercial intercourse between this country 356 and Prussia, upon the basis of non-restriction, the government of Prussia could no more resist the influence of the people of that country against what they felt to be their interest, than the general government of the United States were able to influence the inhabitants of South Carolina to assent to their tariff. The allowing all men to exchange the fruits of their capital and industry where they could get the utmost of what they desired in return, was the best possible security for contentment at home and permanent tranquility abroad. The adoption of that principle would be a great mark of that progressive civilization which all men looked to with interest and with hope, while the resistance to it showed them still under the dominion of that unreflecting selfishness which had in all ages marred, and which continued to mar all human improvement. He lied now arrived at that portion of the question, which was the least satisfactory to him to consider—namely, the obstacle which was presented in this country to the adoption of a wise policy. Now, this was not merely whispered in this House or only surmised elsewhere, but it was broadly and openly stated wherever persons not directly interested in the maintenance of the monopoly were assembled, that the landholders of the country were the persons who were really opposed to the repeal of the Corn-laws—that they were in posssession of the Legislature of the country, where their authority was complete and uncontrolled—that they believed themselves to have a direct influence in the maintenance of those laws, and that nothing but actual fear would induce them to consent to their repeal: and they could not conceal from themselves what was every where said, that if the working classes had been less anxious about the shadow than the substance, the Legislature might at the present moment be acting under the most degrading influence to which men who had a public duty to perform could be subject to—namely, the influence of fear. He would be the last to desire that such an influence should be brought to bear upon the Legislature. But, in the absence of fear, it was lamentable to think that the landed interest, who predominate in this House, would only do justice to the people, by being assured, that they could do so without any sacrifice to themselves. In the mean time, however, the people had an undoubted right to hear distinctly from the landowners of this country the grounds on which they pro- 357 fessed to maintain the Corn-laws. If it was on the ground of local taxation, will they submit to an inquiry into that fact, and abide by the result. If it was from the pressure of general taxation, which they could prove to be exclusive, then let them at once say whether they were prepared to give up their monopoly for a commutation of taxes. Whatever the grounds were, the public were entitled to have them now specifically stated. If the pressure of local taxation was alleged, then he had a point from which he could start in discussing that matter, and he would refer to what fell from one of the most intelligent, and, on this subject, one of the best informed of his party—the right hon. Baronet, the Member for Pembroke. The right hon. Gentleman, on a former occasion, stated, that his assent to the protective policy was in concurrence with the policy which left a portion of the local taxation to be borne by the landed aristocracy. And, in the discussion on the Malt-tax, the right hon. Baronet said, that he felt that if the new Poor-law continued in operation, if tithes were commuted, if the expense of county prosecutions were charged on the public funds, there would then be nothing left but the Malt-tax to justify the maintenance and continuance of the Corn-laws; and that if the Malt-tax were reduced or taken off, repeal of the Corn-laws might be irresistibly urged on the House of Commons. These were the sentiments of the right hon. Baronet; he presumed, therefore, he was justified in considering them as the sentiments of the supporters of the Corn-laws generally; and, consequently, that the Malt-tax was the only ground on which the continuance of the Corn-laws was justified. The other conditions named by the right hon. Baronet had been certainly fulfilled; the Poor-law had reduced the rates sixty per cent.; the expense of criminal prosecutions had been transferred from the counties to the consolidated fund, and the tithes had been commuted. And now he would ask the right hon. Gentleman, whether he did intend to contend, that the Malt-tax, of four millions and a half, which if it fell at all, which he denied, fell indirectly on the landed interest, was any indemnity to the public for the enormous loss they sustained from the existence of the Corn-laws? Again, if it did do, on what principle was it, he would ask, that because the consumer did not consume barley enough to satisfy the landed interest, that therefore they were to tax his 358 bread in order to enable him to consume more. Was ever such a policy, moreover, recognized, that because there existed a tax on one thing, there should, therefore, be a tax on half dozen other things to indemnify the persons affected by the former one? If any protection were wanted on account of the tax on malt, the natural and corresponding indemnity would be to lay a tax on foreign barley, or on foreign malt, not on foreign wheat, oats, or rye, &c. And were foreign malt and foreign barly not taxed? But he had taken the statement of the right hon. Baronet for granted, as being in accordance with the sentiments of the party of which he was so distinguished a member—not thinking it necessary to heed much the arguments or assertions of others who knew less of the matter, he therefore concluded, that the malt-tax was the only obstacle to the repeal of the Corn-laws. If, then, the right hon. Baronet truly represented the opinions of the landed interest on this question, would they be willing, he would ask, if the malt-tax were taken oil; to release the country from the tax of the Corn-laws? For, of this he was sure, that all those who were now injured by the existence of the monopoly, which be might term the community at large, would be ready—nay, be anxious—to get rid of it by acceding to those terms. The produce of the malt-tax would be lost to the revenue, no doubt, but he was perfectly satisfied that the public credit would not be endangered, but strengthened by the fetters on the industry and commerce of the country being removed. Four millions and a half was a small sum, indeed, compared with what might be raised through the medium of taxation, if the energy of the country were allowed its full and natural play. If the landed interest were not prepared to agree to this compromise, then it became them at once to declare on what terms they were disposed to give up the monopoly or the Corn-laws. If there was to be a compromise on this question, he could not conceive any that would be politic, which was not based on compensation, or commutation of taxes; but were the landholders really entitled to either compensation or commutation? Could they claim compensation like the slave-owners?—or did they complain that they were unfairly taxed? Whatever they were fairly entitled to, it was the interest of the country to concede. His objection to this Corn-law, or any other law for the same purpose, was, that it was perpetu- 359 ating a great evil to the country, feeling sure, as he did, that no interest ever required protection until it was unable to support itself; and to bolster and prop up a particular interest by law at the expense of the public, when it has ceased to be independent of such aid, is to inflict a permanent injury on the community. If there be a question of compensation let it be entered upon at once and without delay. If there was any ground of claim now, to postpone inquiry would be but adding to the evil. Twenty years hence such claims would be still stronger; interests not known now would then have grown into existence. Believing, as he did, that land must always have great value in this country, he did not hesitate to declare his conviction, that if the discontinuance of the monopoly could be attained, it would be a bargain if the country were to purchase every one of the acres which the landed interest declared would be thrown out of cultivation, and if we were to support, at the public expense, every labourer who, it was said, would be thrown out of employ. But he would venture to suggest to hon. Gentlemen opposite, that it was treading on somewhat delicate ground for them to plead exclusive taxation as a reason for the maintenance of the Corn-laws, because, if an inquiry were gone into, whether they were more or less taxed than other classes, it would raise the question of what exemptions from taxation they now had, and whether, in fact, there is a country in the world where the property of the soil was less exclusively taxed than in this. One fact alone he would state to show the sort of inquiry they would subject themselves to—that 50,000,000l. had been paid out of personal property since the imposition of the probate and legacy duty, not one sixpence of which had been paid by the landed interest. That, since the peace, thirteen millions had been paid, under similar circumstances, on other taxes, in which the landed interest bore no share. He could name a list of taxes, including those on horses, servants, houses, dogs, insurance, the auction duty, and other duties, all of which the landed interest were freed from the payment of; all which was a great injustice to the rest of the community. When also they considered, and he thought that they were bound to consider it as matter of great importance, 360 that prohibition was enforced as to the importation into this country of animal food (for the importation of beef, mutton, and other raw animal produce was actually prohibited), he believed, the House would agree with him that there was a very large balance of exclusive taxation, but not exactly on the side of the landed interest. It was not his business to inquire what would be the probable extent to which the landlords would suffer in the reduction of rent by a repeal of the Corn-laws, for when he saw the enormous loss which the community sustained by the continuance of these laws, it was his care only that this loss should cease. But the landlords might know, that great exaggerations were put forth as to the effect, that the importation of foreign wheat would have on the price in the English market, or rather on their incomes. He had made inquiries as to the price at which wheat could be imported if the ports were opened, and, he believed now, that there was little real difference of opinion on that point. He had learned, that in the Channel Islands they exported all their agricultural produce to this country, and all the wheat and other corn they consumed, they imported from the Baltic. He found that the difference in the price of produce in this country and in the Channel Islands varied in eighteen years only about twenty-nine or thirty per cent. This difference varied in proportion as this country imported wheat from the Continent. But, Sir, if it should only be a difference of thirty per cent. in the price of grain, when it is imported free into Guernsey, as compared with what it is sold for here, I ask why the community here are to pay that thirty per cent., if it could be saved to them; and can it be thought that they would do so if the question was thoroughly understood? Is it in keeping with the present day for the public to submit to an impost of this kind, unless assured of its necessity? I really ask the landlords of this country if they see no sign in the present times that should make them pause before they determine to maintain a system opposed by the industry, the commerce, the intelligence, and the numbers of the country, and which they cannot, beyond a limited time, expect to retain? Are they blind, moreover, to the fact that the people, who now are chiefly demanding the repeal of these laws, are those who 361 have hitherto placed confidence in the present Legislature, and have relied on its adequacy to redress their wrongs, and reform the abuses, of which they complained? and can they suppose that these are so weak in purpose, or so meek in mind, that they will sit down quietly under disappointment and rebuff, or be diverted from the obvious reflection, that they have misplaced their confidence in this House; or that in vindication of their opinion, and under a sense of wrong, they will not call for those changes in the constitution of the Legislature which will place it more in unison with the general interests? Surely then, it is matter of serious consideration for the landowners to determine whether they will, for the paltry profit which these laws can afford them, forfeit the respect and esteem of large classes of their fellow subjects, and place in jeopardy that great social and political station which, though accident has conferred upon them, it would yet be in their power by conduct to confirm; and I must say, if they should determine after all that has been said on this subject—after all the important consequences which have been traced to this law—now to refuse to take it into consideration, that they will be adopting a course, the importance and responsibility of which they cannot estimate. I now move, Sir, that the House resolve itself into a Committee of the whole House, to take into consideration the Act 9 Geo. 4th, regulating the importation of foreign grain.
Sir George Strickland,
in seconding the motion, commenced by remarking, that the party who had so long in that House supported the Corn-laws, did not now seem perfectly united among themselves; and some of them appeared to be receding from the high ground which they once occupied, and to admit, that the Corn-laws were, after all, not founded in absolute wisdom. The farmers throughout the country were beginning to ask the question, how far these laws had been for their advantage. He considered these laws unjust, because they gave protection to one part of the community at the expense of the great body of the community, and were thus contrary to sound national policy. The manufacturing interests represented that as corn in this country varied to 70s. a quarter and upwards, whereas upon the shores of the Baltic the price was from 30s. to 40s., a great advantage was given to foreign manufacturers; that our hosiery was dis- 362 placed by the manufacturers of Saxony, and that our Sheffield manufacturers, instead of their trade advancing, as from the increasing population of the country and from our extended connections with foreign states, we had a right to expect, were at a stand; and they had pointed out to the attention of the House that merchants were at this moment importing hardware goods from the Continent, for the purpose of re-exporting them from this country. He would also wish to draw the attention of the House to the fact, that that which had formerly been the great staple manufacture of this country, he meant the woollen manufacture, was at present in the most depressed state. In the year 1820, there were exported from this country to Russia, 5,400,000 yards of woollen cloth; at this time there is not exported to Russia, one single yard of woollen cloth. What was the inference to be drawn from this circumstance? Why, the inference was obvious, that the manufacturers of the Continent were enabled to produce a woollen cloth of equal quality to that produced by our manufacturers, and at such a reduced price as totally to exclude us from those markets, which we had hitherto been accustomed to supply. What was the statement of Mr. Porter, who was a very high authority on those subjects? He says, that the more he looks at the present policy, the less does he like to think of it; and he goes on to point out the application of what he says, by showing that while we have an increase in population, there is every symptom of a decrease in the manufacturers—a decrease in the means of industry and subsistence. The great manufacturing class of this country considered themselves in danger at this moment—they felt that there was a cloud hanging over them, and if that cloud should burst, all the manufacturers of the country would be overwhelmed by the torrent; and if the manufacturing interest fell, in the end the agricultural interest must perish also. He would now address a few words to the House as to the effects which he conceived the Corn-laws had produced, and were likely to produce on the landed interest. He well recollected what took place at the passing of those laws in the year 1815—at that time there was a great excitement of the public mind on the subject, and he well recollected the loud clamour of the people for cheap food. At that time there was a 363 persevering determination actuating the great majority of that House and of the other House of Parliament to carry these laws, in spite of the feelings of opposition on the part of the people, indeed, it might almost be said, that in consequence of the commotions excited in London on this subject, the Corn-laws had been carried. Now, he would ask, what were the expectations and promises held out to the farmer by the promoters of these laws? It had been said by the promoters of the Corn-laws, that it was the intention of these laws to keep up the price of corn to 80s. a quarter, nay, they went still further—they stated that it was their intention, by these laws, to keep up the price of corn to the utmost extent, and that they had no idea that the price would ever fall so low as 80s. a quarter. Now, he would ask, had the promises thus made to the farmer been ever realised—what had been the fate of the farmer since these laws were passed? He would wish to draw the attention of the House for a few moments to the statement he was about to make as to how these laws had worked. For three years after the b passing of the Corn-laws in 1815, the prices had been high. In 1817 the price of wheat was what would now be considered a famine price. Wheat was 94s. a quarter. In 1818 wheat was 83s. a quarter. The promoters of the Corn-laws said, at that time, that these laws had completely effected their object, and they prided themselves on their success, but he would wish to compare the then state with what followed. Year after year, from that period, the price of corn fell. The price of corn fell to 77s. 76s. 66s. 60s. per quarter. In 1828, the price of wheat was 60s. a quarter. In 1829, it was 66s. a quarter; in 1830, it was 44s. a quarter. In 1831, it was 66s. a quarter. In 1835, it was 39s. a quarter. He would, therefore, ask the supporters of this law, how the promise had been kept to the farmer, that the price of wheat would never fall below 80s. a quarter? But the melancholy part of the story was this, that while the price of wheat fell, the rents were kept up to their fullest extent. Year after year, had the landlord been striving to keep up his rent, until the landholder at last was obliged to acknowledge, that it was impossible he could obtain the full amount of his rent. At this period the landlord had recourse to a most disgraceful expedient. He made a semblance 364 of returning that portion of the rent which he could not get, but continued the liability of the farmers to the full amount of rent, instead of consenting to enter into a new arrangement with him on the subject. What was the consequence?—why, that hundreds and thousands of farmers, without any fault which could be attached to them were, year after year, brought down from affluence to beggary, relying on the promises which had been made to them. The unfortunate farmer, after having paid as rent all his profits and interest—paid all his capital also—and the whole of his property passed into the pockets of his landlord. He would appeal to those who now heard him, whether they had not seen farmers, whom they had known formerly in affluence, breaking stones on the high road—whether many farmers had not been reduced to seek refuge in the poor house—whether many had not committed suicide? He would confidently state, that such had been the case. There were countless statements in the newspapers of that time, of farmers who had been so reduced by distress that they had committed suicide; of others who had died of broken hearts, being no longer able to endure the abject misery to which they had been reduced. The more he considered this subject, the more was he convinced, that the Corn-laws had signally failed in producing the effects which they were intended to produce. The fact was, that the promoters of the Corn-laws, in their zeal for their own interest, had made a remarkable oversight, inasmuch as they had only limited the supply of corn from abroad, while they had left the home produce without limit; they had thus cut off the only source from which a regulation of price could take place. How was it to be supposed that, in a small island like this, seeing that the fluctuation of the price was regulated by the alternations of the seasons—how was it to be supposed, that in a country where the seasons were so constantly changing, producing sudden alterations from high to low prices, that it could be otherwise than excessively difficult for the farmer to say what was the amount of the rent which he could safely pay? He had no hesitation in declaring, that that system which raised the price of food to the industrious classes, in order to enrich still more the affluent, was productive of great injury to the community, was unjust in its operation, and was morally wrong, and there never was a maxim so true as that which 365 says, that the measure which is morally wrong can never be politically right. He would, therefore, entreat the House, in the name of those whose petitions had been presented by himself and others, not to turn a deaf car to their prayers. The Legislature on this question stood in a false position with respect to the people, which could not be maintained; it was certain that they must yield this question at last, and was it not better to do so while they were asked? There was a growing feeling throughout the country on this subject. With regard to the depressed state of our manufacturing industry, of which agriculture composes but one branch, he was convinced the best policy to relieve that depression was, the policy of free trade. In the present artificial state of society, it might be difficult to carry out these principles at once; but, in this instance, there was no reason why these principles should not be acted upon. He would make a few observations on the amendment of the hon. Member for the North Riding of Yorkshire; that amendment professed to explain the effect of the Corn-laws, and divided itself into two points. 1st. It upholds the system of Corn-laws, because it says, that in consequence of the heavy taxation of this country, it is necessary that protection should be granted to vested interests; by vested interests, he supposed the hon. Member meant the landed proprietors, and this protection was sought by the landed proprietors in consequence of the heavy taxation to which they were subjected. He was ready to meet the question, and if it could be demonstrated that the landed proprietors were subjected to any unjust share of taxation, he was ready to take the subject into consideration, and if it could be shown that the land-tax, or the poor-rate rested in unjust or unfair proportions on them, he would afford them relief, but this could not be made the excuse for resisting the prayer of the country, and checking its prosperity. He believed this to be a fallacy. He did not consider that the landed proprietor was taxed in a greater, if he was in an equal degree with a poor man; the poor man who purchased his highly-taxed commodity, was, in proportion to his means, as highly taxed as the greatest noble in the land. He would now pass to the more important part of the hon. Member's (Mr. Cayley's) amendment. It stated, that the Corn-laws 366 afforded protection to the consumer. He should like to have that proved. He need not ask the hon. Member to dwell upon this point, more especially as he knew it to be a favourite maxim of his, that dear food was advantageous to the poor. Philosophers of his stamp argued this question unfairly, for when asked why dear food was advantageous to the poor, they said that wages followed the high prices of provisions, and that, therefore, the poor would not suffer from the high price of corn. He well knew that it was a maxim of Adam Smith, that wages in the long run must be regulated by the price of food, but the hon. Member left out the most important part of the doctrine of Adam Smith, that although wages followed the price of food, it was at an awful distance. When the price of corn was suddenly raised from 39s. to 80s., wages had no tendency to follow this, but they followed the average of a number of years. He would call upon the hon. Member to state distinctly any instance of a labourer receiving 2s. a-day when corn was 40s. a quarter, having his wages doubled and receiving 4s. when corn was 80s. a quarter; no such thing could be proved. The able bodied labourer who could stand out thus against his master for wages, could not be considered in the light of a poor man. The able - bodied labourer receiving ample wages, possessing a cottage with his family around him, was, perhaps, the happiest of human beings, because he was exempt from care, but how was he affected by the dearness of corn? Did he not suffer in consequence? He utterly denied, that wages ever doubled as the price of corn rose. He had seen the effect of a rise in corn on such families—he had seen, that when wheat was too dear to enable them to buy the best description—they had been forced to feed their families on unwholesome bread, or to abstain from wheaten bread entirely, and use barley bread instead. He had seen agricultural labourers and their families in circumstances like these—their health gradually declining, until at length they were attacked by typhus fewer, and many of them carried off. And he would ask the hon. Member to say, if he would continue to maintain his hardhearted position, and contend, that wages followed the price of food. He would now consider for a moment the important position laid down by the hon. Gentleman that dear bread was of advantage to the 367 poor. Who were the poor? Not the able-bodied labourers. But he would ask, what was the situation of the poor widow, who had to maintain herself on a small pittance, when a rise of corn took place? When it was doubled in price, how were persons thus situated to purchase it? Hundreds of instances might be quoted in which wages had never been raised in consequence of a rise in the price of corn. What then became of the hon. Gentleman's position, that the high price of corn, was advantageous to the poor. There were symptoms in this country at the present moment, of a wide-spread discontent among the labouring classes; he should be sorry, that any expression should drop from him which should bear the appearance of countenancing the violent language that had been used, and which, if the users of it would listen to his humble voice, nothing should induce them to repeat; but it was the duty of the Legislature to watch these symptoms. If they saw the labourers uniting in masses, choosing delegates, arming themselves, purchasing pikes, they might rest assured, that the best way of explaining this would be by a reference to the old but true maxim, that want of food was the greatest cause of discontent. If they saw such symptoms as these, they must come to the conclusion, that there was some distress and affliction among the people. In those representations which had been made, and which by some had been doubted, there was a great check to the manufacturing interests of the country. He would now conclude with one observation, and one observation only, that he hoped he should live to see the day when the landed proprietors of England—the aristocracy—the proud aristocracy of England—would look back with feelings of regret and sorrow, not unmixed with shame—that they ever filled their coffers with money by raising the price of every morsel of bread, that was eaten by the humblest
§ Mr. Cayley.
Sir, Doubtless the hon. Gentleman who has introduced this motion for the consideration of the House has done it with much ability; but his ingenuity will not stand in the place of truth, and my only fear in rising to oppose him is in the reflection that the justice and merits of those views I espouse, may suffer from the deficiencies of the advocate. From the general tone of the speeches which have just been delivered I should not, had I been acquainted with 368 the circumstances, really have been led to imagine that the Table of the House was loaded with petitions from the farmers and agricultural labourers of the country for a repeal of the Corn-laws, instead of its being the manufacturer's interest which the hon. Gentleman appeared to advocate. Where are the delegates on the present occasion? Not a word has been said of them. If their case has been remembered at all, it has been considered under the guise of a sympathy for the tenant and agricultural labourer, who, the hon. Mover, as an hypothesis, assumes must be in favor of a repeal of the Corn-laws. What is the question before the House? One for the consideration of the Corn-law Act; and yet the argument of both the hon. Gentlemen has gone directly to their total repeal. That is notoriously the object of the Anti-Corn-law delegates, and the affectation "of a consideration of the law with a view to its improvement" is nothing but a pretence. A great number of plausible arguments are used, and a great deal of sophistry is abroad on the subject of dear bread and cheap bread; but the fact is they are relative terms. The hon. Member who has just sat down has taunted me with holding the doctrine that dear bread is best for the labourer. He would have represented me more fairly if he had stated my opinion to be that, for the last twenty-five years cheap corn has made the dearest bread that the labourer has ate; because then the falling-off in his employment and wages rendered him unable to purchase it, and this he has found from his practical experience, which is worth much more than all the fancies of the hon. Gentleman. The hon. Mover has gone at great length into what he conceives to be the opinions of the agricultural labourer on the subject of Corn-laws, and what must be his condition under them; but all that he has said is pure theory—the offspring of his own preconceived notions, and as far from the feelings and situation of the labourer as any two things can possibly be: and I must say, that if I had before felt inclined to believe the speculations of the hon. Member on the manufacturing part of this question, my faith would now be at an end; for perceiving through his argument of to-day, upon how utterly visionary grounds he can build up an agricultural opinion, I can have no respect for the opinions he has come to on manufactures. If they are no sounder than those he has 369 jumped at in agricultural matters, they must be untrue. He has referred besides to the miserable condition of the agricultural labourer in 1830, and stated that that led him to acts of insubordination. It is true it did. But what was the cause of that miserable state? the gradually falling price of corn, which so distressed the farmer, that although he for years forebore, at the sacrifice of his capital, to inflict his own privation and suffering on his labourer, at last had no resource left but to turn him off or give him less wages. This reduction of wages, from a fall in the price of corn, led to the outrages alluded to on the part of the labourer, and has left a salutary lesson on his mind. On this account scarcely a labourer of any experience in any county of England but would say, if asked, that he preferred wheat at 7s. 6d. or 8s. a bushel rather than at 5s., and the farmer would doubtless be greatly benefitted by having sixpence taken off his rates, while 5s. were taken from the price of his corn. The few paupers that remain on the poor books under a remunerative price, I can state from my own knowledge, in agricultural districts cost a trifle more in nominal amount to sustain them; but their numbers are greatly diminished, from the great demand for employment, while the increased cost the farmer is in a much better condition to pay. The absolute amount of the rates has always been reduced under a remunerative price of produce. The hon. Mover has stated—as a theory, I presume, for it certainly is not a fact—that the higher the price of food, the higher are the rates. But if it were so, what then? Who pays the rates but the farmer? The hon. Mover also asks how we can advocate the Corn-laws, when it is notorious that since the Corn-laws were enacted the farmer has sffered great distress, and that the Corn-Laws have not sustained prices. No one who understood anything of the subject expected that the Corn-laws would sustain prices beyond that natural limit promoted by the internal demand and supply. The change in the value of money which took place after the war, caused a great fall in price in all commodities and in agricultural produce among the rest; that fall was interfered with occasionally by deficient seasons, and by various parliamentary measures ending with the extinction of the 1£. notes in 1829. What 370 the agricultural interest felt with respect to the Corn-laws was this. "When prices fall in this country, either from a plentiful harvest or a diminished demand, we will prevent foreign produce coming into the market to depreciate the price still further. And when prices rise from opposite causes, the descending duties tend to give the consumer the advantage of an increased supply from abroad." Another argument which the hon. Mover has urged, with respect to the state of the farmer, consisted of a reference to the period between 1773 and 1793; and it is said that the farmer never was more flourishing in condition than during that period when Corn-laws did not exist. This statement shews how easily assertions can be made. Nothing can be more contrary to the fact. Perhaps the two periods in the history of this country when the farmers were most distressed, are ten years of this very period; viz., during the American war of Independence, and the period subsequent to the termination of the last war. The hon. Mover has also stated, on the authority of the right hon. Member for Pembroke (Sir James Graham), that the direct taxes falling on agriculture are the main ground for its protection; and that if they are reduced, the claims of the agriculturists will be proportionably diminished. No one can respect more highly than myself, the authority of that right hon. Gentleman on this subject, but I do not believe he ever based agricultural protection on so narrow a base as the direct taxation which it encounters. If he has, I must be excused for dissenting in this particular from him. In addition to local and direct taxation as a claim, I have always urged the general taxation; the employment which the raising of agricultural produce gives to the largest proportion of the community; the custom afforded to the provincial tradesmen and artisans, and through them to the manufacturers; and, lastly, (though to be considered as early as any in point of justice) the protection which is due to the property both of landlord and tenant vested in the soil. This last seems a consideration of mighty little moment in the present day, and a change of hands, is properly, a matter of sovereign indifference to those who are not to suffer under its operation; although my hon. Friend, the Member for the West Riding (Sir G. Strickland) has said, that the landholder 371 had far better security than the holder of any other property. And this he said at the moment he was proposing to rob him of a great part of his security. Secured! Why, the landholder ought to be secured—he consents to receive two and a half and three per cent. for his capital, while others are receiving from five to thirty per cent. This capital has been invested on the faith of Corn-laws, which have existed for many centuries; and it would be the grossest injustice to deprive him of the protection he derived from them. The hon. Mover, indeed, has spoken very readily of making compensation to the classes who would be affected by a repeal of these laws; but is the hon. Gentleman aware of how large a bill there would be made out against him? The value of the property invested in the soil of England and Ireland, amounts at a low estimate, to 50,000,000l. per annum, which, at thirty years' purchase, would amount to no less a sum than 1,500,000,000l. for the landlords. The capital of the tenants may, in like manner, be taken very fairly at 250,000,000l., giving 1,000l. for every 200l. yearly rent. Deducting twenty-five per cent. from these sums, and from 100,000,000l. paid in agricultural labour, and giving ten years' security for the wages of the latter, there would be a sum of 690,000,000l. which the hon. Member would have to pay as a compensation for depriving the agricultural class of the Corn-laws. Before I proceed to enter more particularly on the question, I will state what the course is, which I intend to pursue. It had been my purpose to move as an amendment on the motion the following resolutions:—
But as representations have been made to me from both sides of the House of the inconvenience of such an amendment; I shall waive my individual wish, and content myself by meeting the motion by a direct negative. At the same time I should wish, if it could be so arranged, to take a subsequent division on the principle of my first amendment, I will now pro- 372 ceed to the question before the House. In opposing the motion of the hon. Member for Wolverhampton, I should wish distinctly to state that I am by no means actuated by any feeling of hostility towards the manufacturing body generally or towards that part of the manufacturing body in whose behalf the hon. Gentleman appears on this occasion. No one more respects them than I do. Feeling as I do so entirely the identity of interests which exists between the agricultural and manufacturing classes, at least between those of them who deal with each other, it is impossible that for one moment such a feeling of hostility should be entertained by me. When, however, I state my opinion of the identity of interests between the manufacturing and agricultural classes, I must be understood to limit myself to the period when they exchanged their respective produce with each other. For the sake of argument, I will suppose that the inhabitants of a particular village, the blacksmith, shoemaker, tailor, and grocer, were in the habit of deriving their custom from the farmers of that village, and of purchasing their agricultural produce from the farmers in return. Suppose the miller who is, as it were, the distributor between these parties, after having bought the corn of the farmers of this village for a length of time, should take it into his head to purchase his corn from the farmers of the next village; the artisans and shopkeepers of the first village might, for the moment, suppose that if this corn from the next village could be procured at some trifling degree less of expense, they would receive a corresponding degree of immediate benefit; but when the farmers of the first village, deprived of their custom for their corn, ceased to employ the artisan and tradesman of they village, these last would then discover that they had destroyed those very parties on whom they themselves depended for the livelihood they had obtained. In this instance there would most undoubtedly exist an identity of interest between the tradesmen and farmers of this particular village for the time they dealt with each other; but that identity of interest would cease if the tradesmen could continue to purchase agricultural produce from other quarters; and if their own farmers had no other outlet for their produce. The interests of Liverpool and Manchester are at present strictly identified with those of the productive classes gen- 373 erally of this country, and especially of the farmers; but if they insist upon no longer dealing with the British farmer, but on dealing with the farmers of Prussia and Russia in his place, the identity of interest ceases to exist, and should their present desire for a free import of low-priced grain succeed, the large population hitherto dependent on the cultivation of British corn must to a great extent be thrown out of employment. Those who advocate this entire freedom of trade, the free importation of foreign corn, have taken great pains to depreciate the condition, and the capacity of British agriculture. They complain of the ignorance of the British farmer, and of his views with respect to foreign commerce; but they exhibit on their part a tenfold greater ignorance of the state of the agriculture of their own country, as compared with that of foreign countries. The business of a farmer is not easily learned; it is one which requires long training and much experience; and ignorant as the farmer may be in the estimation of the political economists, I will venture to say that the farmer would learn the trade of a manufacturer in one year, better than the manufacturer would learn the trade of a farmer in ten years. Much as this country is celebrated, and justly celebrated, for its manufactures, its shipping, its docks, its bridges, its canals, its railways, and its turnpike roads, it is even more pre-eminent—and I speak on the authority of those well qualified to judge—for the advances which it has made in agricultural pursuits. In the draining of marshes and in making embankments to keep out great waters, the Dutch are superior to us. Belgium, in a sort of horticultural farming, may challenge comparison with any thing to be found in England. The Germans have cultivated the article of fine wool more assiduously and successfully than Spain did formerly. Irrigation is practised with more minute economy and effect in Persia, Italy, and Switzerland. The Arabs and Turcomans breed horses which, for fleetness and power of enduring fatigue, may be superior to the English race-horse; but in a combination of what is requisite to the preparation and cultivation of the land—to the breeding, rearing, and improvement of cattle—in the operations of the dairy, and especially in the kind of tillage necessary to the rarely failing produce of heavy crops of corn, it must be admitted that England stands pre-eminent. The 374 manufacturers have to boast of their Ark-wrights, their Peels, their Watts; but neither are the agriculturists wanting in names which have conduced to successful and skilful operations in agriculture. They have their Town sends, their Bedfords, their Cokes, their Westerns, their Spensers, their Grahams, and a multitude of others, less elevated in station and less generally known, but equally distinguished in those particular districts which have so much benefited by their energy and skill. The economists talk of the poor soils of this country as if the soil in Britain were less productive or less rich than the soils of other countries. It is true that agriculturists themselves have often spoken of the poorer soils of this country as unable to withstand the pressure of taxation, in combination with a low range of prices; but that statement has only been in comparison with other lands of greater fertility and produce. What is the information derived from Mr. Jacob's report on the corn trade? Why, that the average return of wheat, oats, barley, and rye is four for one in Prussia, while in Britain the average is eight for one. That Gentleman also states that the stock of sheep and cattle in proportion to the surface, is at least four times greater in Britain than in Prussia. Why, then, could not England, with this superior state of agriculture, compete with the agriculture of Prussia, which is relatively so inferior? Because of the pressure of taxation, and of the charges upon it, being so high compared with the taxation and charges upon agriculture in foreign countries. In the first place take the National Debt in Great Britain, and compare it with that of other countries:—
- 1. That, under the heavy debt and taxation of this country, its productive industry and vested interests require to be protected from the lightly taxed produce and cheaper labour of foreign countries.
- 2. That the existing Corn-law, by the protection it has afforded to the grower of corn under low prices, and to the consumer of it under high, has essentially answered the purposes of its enactment.
Proportion of Debt at per head. £ Great Britain £800,000,000 32 0 0 France 194,400,000 5 19 7 Russia 35,550,000 0 11 9 Austria 78,100,000 2 7 6 Prussia 29,701,000 2 7 7 Netherlands 148,500,000 23 5 5 Spain 70,000,000 5 0 8 United States — — Sicilies 18,974,000 2 11 2 Bavaria 11,311,000 2 16 0 Sardinia 4,584,000 1 1 2 Turkey 3,667,000 0 7 8 Sweden — — Portugal 5,649,000 1 2 6
The National Debt of this country thus appeared to be about as large as the debts of all the other countries in the world put together. And the interest of this debt, amounting to 30,000,000l. per annum, it must be remembered, is a fixed payment, not varying with prices and the incomes of individuals, but one which has to be paid whether the price is high or low, and, of course, out of a low price, it leaves so much less for the producer, and frequently has left nothing at all. It is a clog upon every species of production in the country, and unless the producer has some species of protection as a set-off against this incumbrance, his foreign competitor has, to this extent, an unfair advantage over him. Then take the taxation levied in this country on some articles of ordinary consumption as thus:—Malt, 2s. 7d. per bushel; Wine, 4s. 10d. to 7s. 3d. per gallon (wine measure); Brandy and Geneva, 18s. 9d. per ditto; Rum, 7s. 1d. per ditto; British Spirits, 3s. to 3s. 6d. per gallon; Sugar, 24s. per cwt.; Tea, 96l. to 100l. per cent.; Coffee, 6d. per lb.; Tobacco, 3s. per ditto; Hard Soap, 3d. per ditto; Hops, 2d. per ditto; Pepper, 1s. per ditto. Can we be surprised that this amount of taxation on articles of consumption should raise their price, and that this higher price should require a higher rate of wages and of other produce? The taxes which fall directly on our agriculture are mainly the poor-rates, the highway, church, and county-rates, the land-tax, the malt-tax, the duties on spirits, on stamps, of sales, of mortgages, leases, besides the prevention of the growth of some species of produce such as tobacco, beet-root for sugar, &c. Now, let us see what was the effect of the taxation on malt, and I will first take coffee as an illustration of bow consumption is affected by alterations in the duty. In 376 1795, the consumption of coffee being about 1,300,000 lbs., the duty was raised from 6d. to 1s. ld. The result was, that in 1796, the consumption fell off to 396,053 lbs. In 1809 there was a diminution of the duty and the result was—the consumption, 1808, 1,069,691 lbs.; 1809, 9,251,837 lbs.—increase 800 per cent. from a change in the duties. There was another change of duty in 1825; the consumption being—1824, 7,993,040 lbs.; 1825, 10,766,112 lbs. And the last change, bringing this article within the reach of the working class, the consumption in 1832 became 22,452,000 lbs. The changes in the duties on spirits produced the same results of a great increase in the consumption. In 1823, the duty on Irish spirits was reduced from 5s. 6d. per imperial gallon, to 2s. 10d. In 1822, the consumption was 2,328,387 gallons; in 1825, 9,262,744 gallons. In the articles of tobacco, tea, and sugar, equal effects have been produced by a change in the duties. So in malt. The repeal of the beer duty increased the consumption of malt, as the imposition of the malt duty had always diminished the consumption of it. In 1835, 33,000,000 bushels of malt were consumed (equivalent to about 29,000,000 bushels of barley), which, averaging the produce of barley land at four quarters per acre, would require about 1,000,000 acres for their growth. Now, if the duty were repealed, we might fairly expect the consumption to be trebled, which would require either 2,000,000 additional acres, or the price of barley would rise in proportion. The statement of the malt consumed in England and Wales runs thus:—
Denmark 3,729,000 1 18 4 Rome 17,142,000 7 9 0 Poland 5,740,000 1 3 3 Saxony 3,300,000 2 9 1 Hanover 2,384,000 1 11 0 Baden 1,670,000 1 9 2 Wurtemburg 2,505,000 1 12 7 Tuscany 1,384,000 1 4 11 Hesse (Darmstadt) 1,184,000 1 3 11 Hesse (Electorate) 220,000 0 6 1 Switzerland — — Norway 252,000 0 3 10 East India Company's territories 47,609,000 0 9 0
Quarters. Annual consumption: average of ten years duty, ending 1723, duty 6d. per bushel 3,542,000 Annual consumption: average of ten years duty, ending, 1823, duty 2s. 7d. per bushel 3,182,776 Decreased consumption 359,224
The effect of the local taxation on agriculture was well illustrated by an intel- 377 ligent witness before the Agricultural Committee of the House of Commons in 1836, Mr. Evan David, who gave an account from books kept by his father and himself, of the comparative condition of the farmer, on the same land, in 1790 and 1834. The following are the results as to labour, expenses, and rates:—
Malt per Head. Gallons. Population, first period, 5,500,000 41 Population, second period, 12,000,000 16 Decrease 25
Here is at once a practical contradiction to the theories entertained by the economists, that taxation does not operate on the cost of production. It is true that the effects of taxation on production might have been met by pinching the labourer and screwing down his wages; but this cold blooded scheme was never for a moment contemplated by the agricultural interest; they had, instead, raised up the means of the labourer to a level with the expenses consequent upon taxation. With reference to tithes, although they ought not in strictness to be taken into consideration as between two capitalists embarking, the one say in manufactures, the other in the agriculture of the country, because the effect of tithe is taken into consideration in the purchase, and a less amount of money paid, still in a comparison between this country and another, the tithes must be taken into consideration, because the powers of the English farmer are saddled and burdened with this weight, over and above the burdens of the foreign agriculturist; and he is, to that extent, under a disadvantage, and disabled from the competition. These are the main reasons why the agricultural interest of this country cannot compete with the lowly taxed productions, and low priced labour of foreign farmers. But is this country, because it is higher taxed, 378 and gives a higher rate of wages, to be ruined by foreign competition, and sacrificed to a party and a class, which, however useful in their respective positions, has no right, as a great minority of the people, or in justice, to claim any such sacrifice at the hands of the agriculturists? I do not wish to draw the comparison invidiously; but I am compelled to make the comparison by the misrepresentations which have been made respecting the comparative population and importance of the agricultural and manufacturing classes of this country. It has been repeatedly stated, that this is a mere landowners' question, that the landowners are the only persons interested in the support of this monopoly, and that the landowners consist of a body of only 30,000, and that it is monstrous that to these 30,000, should be sacrificed the best interests of the country. Now, in the first place, the landowners of this country, according to the property-tax returns, are nearly 600,000 in number: and the population, directly and indirectly, connected with the agriculture of the country is, as I have stated three or four years ago—and that statement I have since found fully corroborated by that distinguished statistician, Mr. Marshall—amounted to five-sixths of the whole population. I stated it on these grounds, taken from the Population Returns of 1831 for England, Scotland, and Wales:—
1834 higher than 1790. Per Cent. Agricultural labour 46 Carpenters' work 77 Smiths' work 66 Sadlers' work 63 Thatchers' work 58 Masons' work 66 HOUSEHOLD EXPENSES. Tea, sugar, candles, malt, &c. 30 Shoemakers' work 64 Tailors' work 55 Coopers' work. 73 Domestic servants and education 66 LOCAL TAXES. Poor-rates. 116 Highway-rates 200 County-rates. 550 Church-rates. 700
Now, taking the manufacturers at 2,400,000 in round numbers, as one-third of the 6,900,000 agriculturists and miners, I apportion the 6,406,398 individuals last mentioned as interested in, or employed, two-thirds by the agriculturists, and one-third by manufacturers. This will add 379 4,077,000 to the agriculturists, and 2,316,000 to the manufacturers; making 10,977,000 agriculturists, and 4,716,000 manufacturers. But of this number of manufacturers, half, at least, are employed (it is generally said four-fifths) by the agricultural body and its dependencies; this will deduct 2,358,000 from the aggregate manufacturing interest, and leave only 2,358,000 as the purely, or rather export, manufacturing body, whilst it makes the agricultural body and its dependencies amount to 13,335,000. But, here, Ireland is left out of the question, which may be called a strictly agricultural country—Ireland, whose very existence almost depends on supplying us with corn. Add 8,000,000, the population of Ireland, to the above 13,335,000 you have a total of 21,335,000 as the real agricultural interest of Great Britain and Ireland, compared with not more than 3,000,000, at the outside, of the export trade. And the whole of this body of 21,000,000 is interested in a remunerating price for agricultural produce: and yet we hear nothing but "monopoly," when anything is said of protection to agriculture. If it be a monopoly, the monopolists are 21,000,000 out of 24,000,000; and it will be difficult for the minority to persuade them out of the monopoly. With this mass of the people interested in it, can this be called a mere landlord's question? In point of property it is a landlord and tenant's question, but in point of employment, and wages, and custom, it is a labourer's and tradesman's question. Ireland, too, whose landlords have lately taken on themselves the payment of poor-rates and of tithes, was as capable of supplying us with agricultural productions as any country in the world; and even at the present day took 15,000,000l. of our goods and sent us 17,000,000l. worth back of her produce in return. Now, the persons who make the greatest outcry on this subject of the importation of corn are persons chiefly engaged in carrying on their operations in factories; for it is the produce of the power-loom which exists in these factories which chiefly has to compete with foreign produce in the markets abroad. According to the returns of 1835, this is the number of the cotton, wool, silk, and flax factories in the United Kingdom, with the number and ages of the persons employed therein, in the year 1835:— 380
Agricultural occupiers 1,500,000 Agricultural labourers 4,800,000 Mining interest 600,000 6,900,000 Manufacturers 2,400,000 Millers, bakers, and butchers 900,000 Artificers, builders, &c 650,000 Tailors, shoemakers, and hatters 1,080,000 Shopkeepers 2,100,000 Clerical, legal, and medical 450,000 Disabled paupers 110,000 Proprietors, annuitants 1,116,398 6,406,398Cotton factories, 1,262—viz., in England, 1,070; Wales, 5; Scotland, 159; Ireland, 28. In England there are 42 factories empty, all the others are employed. There are 220,134 persons employed in these factories—viz., males 100,495; females, 119,639. Of these, between eight and twelve years, 8,197—viz, males, 4,528; females, 3,669. Between twelve and thirteen years, 20,574—viz., males, 10,663; females, 9,911. Between thirteen and eighteen years, 65,486—viz, males, 27,251; females, 38,235. Above eighteen years, 125,877—viz., males, 58,053; females, 67,824.Wool factories, 1,313—viz., in England, 1,102; Wales, 85; Scotland, 90; Ireland, 36. In England there are 9 factories empty; all the others are employed. There are 71,274 persons employed in these factrie—viz., males, 37,477; females, 33,797. Of these, between eight and twelve years, 4,764—viz., males, 2,481; females, 2,283. Between twelve and thirteen years, 8,558—viz., males, 4,290; females, 4,268. Between thirteen and eighteen years, 21,250—viz., males, 10,138; females, 11,112. Above eighteen years 36,702—viz., males, 20,568; females, 16,134.Silk factories, 238—viz, in England, 221; Wales, none; Scotland, 6; Ireland, 1. In England there are 25 factories empty; all the others are employed: There are 30,682 persons employed in these factories—viz., males, 10,188; females, 20,494. Of these, between eight and twelve years, 6,411—viz., males, 2,486; females, 3,925. Between twelve and thirteen years, 2,663—viz., males, 952; females, 1,711. Between thirteen and eighteen years, 9,451—viz., males 2,636; females, 6,815. Above eighteen years, 12,457—viz., males, 4,114; females, 8,043.Flax factories, 347—viz., in England, 152; Wales, none; Scotland, 170; Ireland, 25. There are 33,283 persons employed in these factories—viz., males, 10,305; females, 22,888. Between eight and twelve years, 1,216—viz., males, 592; females, 624. Between twelve and thirteen years, 4,072—viz, males, 1,782: females, 2,290. Between thirteen and eighteen years, 10,021—viz., males, 3,457; females, 8,654. Above eighteen years, 15,974—viz., males, 4,564; females, 11,410. "Total of the four manufactures, 3,236 (including 76 empty).—Persons employed, 355,373—viz., males, 158,555; females, 196,818.So that, if the landowners, as a body, do not amount to more than 30,000, at least they amount to ten times more than those millowners who have a much more distinct interest apart from their workmen than the landlords ever had, or ever could have, from the tenants and labourers and tradesmen around them. As I said before, 381 in opposing this motion, I do not do so in a spirit hostile to the manufacturing classes. The agricultural body of this country never have acted towards their brethren connected with manufactures but in the most considerate and fostering manner. And in now opposing the motion before the House, they are acting not in a spirit of hostility, but from a natural principle of self-defence and self-preservation. It is said, that the agricultural interest has always possessed the political power in this country up to the present period. If so, how has that power been exercised towards the manufacturers? From the earliest period it has nurtured and protected them wherever they required it, up to the present day. We learn the mode in which this protection was secured—secured too, even at the immediate expense of the agricultural body—in that long list of acts which were repealed by Mr. Huskisson in 1825, amounting to upwards of 400. The following are a sample. But before I begin to enumerate them, I may pause for one moment to consider the protection which was in early times afforded to what was our first and greatest manufacture, the woollen. The account of this trade by Mr. Porter was as follows:—There is no doubt that broad cloths were made in England as early as the close of the twelfth, or beginning of the thirteenth century; but the Flemings were at that time far more advanced in the art than our own countrymen, and a considerable part of the cloths, then, and for a long time afterwards, worn in this country were made in Flanders from wool, the produce of English flocks. From a very early period the woollen manufacture has been an object of the especial protection of the English Government. Originally, indeed, the freest exportation of wool was allowed, but in 1660 it was strictly prohibited, and this law remained in force until 1825; the prohibition was grounded upon the belief, that the long staple, or combing wool of England, is superior for some manufacturing purposes, to that of any other country, and that by keeping the raw material at home, we should secure to ourselves the exclusive manufacture of certain fabrics.The woollen manufacturers of England, alarmed at the rapid progress then being made in Ireland in that branch of industry, induced the House of Parliament to interpose with the king (William 3rd) for its suppression. In his answer to their address, the king made the following promise;—I shall do all that in me lies to 382 discourage the woollen manufacture in Ireland, and encourage the linen manufacture, and to promote the trade of England.' Nor was this an empty promise. Through the interference of the king with the Irish houses of Parliament an act was passed prohibiting the exportation of woollen goods from Ireland, except to England; an exception which could not operate to the relief of the Irish manufacturer, since prohibitory ditties were already laid against their importation into this country. This jealousy of the woollen manufacture extended itself down to the period of the union (1800). The export of English wool had, for a long period, been prohibited to Ireland; and it was proposed in one of the articles of the union, that this prohibition should not be continued, whereupon the woollen manufacturers of England obtained a Committee of the House of Lords on the subject, before which Mr. Law, afterwards Lord Ellenborough, who stated, that the export of English wool to Ireland would be the ruin of the English woollen manufacture; because labour was so much cheaper in Ireland. During the period that this protection was being afforded to our manufactures, England being then an exporter of corn, might, if she had been so disposed, have received for its consumption the cheaper manufactures of the continent, and thus have stifled in their birth the infant manufactures of this country. In the account which I have just given of the protection to the woollen interest, it is not stated, that the English farmer is debarred from sending his wool to be consumed by the foreign manufacturer, not merely by pecuniary penalties and prohibitory laws, but to the extent of the penalty of death. Much has been said of the bounty which the agriculturists gave themselves during the last century, on the exportation of corn, but it must be remembered, that that bounty was given only in exchange for the land-tax, which was necessary for the successful operation of the campaign against Louis the 14th, and that on this exchange of the bounty for the land-tax, the agricultural interest has been the loser of millions. On its exportation of corn, too, restrictions were laid. At first the British farmer was prevented from exporting his corn after the price had risen to 48s., and afterwards, after it rose to 54s. And for whose benefit was this restriction on the export of 383 corn? Not for the benefit of the farmer, but for the benefit of the population generally, and especially of the manufacturers, with whose interests the landed body of that day justly conceived their own to be bound up. And has no bounties been given in support of manufactures, even without any direct consideration in return? Let the House look at the list of acts repealed, 6th George the 4th, 1825, relating to trade. They are as follow:—13th and 14th Car. 2nd.—To restrain the exportation of leather and raw hides out of England.13th and 14th Car. 2nd.—An act prohibiting importing foreign bone lace, cut work, embroidery, fringe, bond-strings, buttons, and needle-work.13th and 14th Car. 2nd.—Against importing foreign wool-cards, wire, or iron-wire.15th Car.—An act for encouragement of trade.1st Jas. 2nd—Against importation of gunpowder, arms, and other ammunition, and utensils of war.1st Jas. 2nd —To encourage building of ships in England.1st Will. and Mary—For better preventing exportation of wool, and encouraging woollen manufacture, of this kingdom.4th and 5th Will. and Mary—Prohibiting all foreign hair buttons.18th Car. 2nd—Against importing fish taken by foreigners.32nd and 33rd Car. 2nd—Preventing the planting of tobacco in England.7th and 8th Will. and Mary—An additional duty upon all French goods and merchandise, and prohibiting the export of any frame or engine, or part of the same, for making or knitting worsted and silk stockings, waistcoats, gloves, and other wearing apparel.7th and 8th Will. and Mary—Another act against exporting wool.9th and 10th Will. and Mary—Another act against exporting wool.10th and 11th Will. and Mary—Another act against exporting wool.11th and 12th Will. and Mary—An act for employing the poor by encouraging manufactures.3rd and 4th Anne—To permit Irish linen to be exported to the plantations, and to prohibit Scotch linen import into Ireland.6th Anne—200l. penalty importing wrought silk, or silks mixed with any other materials, besides forfeiting the silk; and 100l. on those in whose custody they might be.10th Anne—Duties on all soap, paper, chequered, and striped linens imported.12th Anne—An act to encourage making of sail-cloth in Great Britain; and 45th Geo. 3rd a bounty granted on export of British made sail-cloth or canvas fit for or made into, sails.1st Geo. 1st—To prevent fresh fish being imported taken by foreigners.8th Geo. 1st—To encourage silk manufactures, to take off duties on merchandize ex- 384 ported, reducing duties upon beaver-skins, &c., and for importing all furs from British plantations into this kingdom only.49th Geo. 3rd—Grants allowances to be paid on exportation of the silk manufactures, of this kingdom, or silk mixed with other materials.9th Geo. 2nd—Against import of fresh fish taken by foreigners. Ditto—Encouragement of sail-cloth; securing duties on foreign ditto; and requiring certain vessels to have a complete suit of British sail-cloth.18th Geo. 2nd—Relates to bounties on exportation of British or Irish linens.19th Geo. 2nd—Securing duties on foreign sail-cloth, and compelling one set of British sail-cloth to each new ship in Great Britain.22nd Geo. 2nd—To prevent importation and wear of foreign embroidery and brocade, gold and silver thread, lace, &c.23rd Geo. 2nd—To effectually punish persons convicted of seducing artificers in the manufactures of Great Britain and Ireland out of the dominions of the Crown; and to prevent the exportation of utensils made use of in the woollen and silk manufactures. 23rd Geo. 2nd—To encourage import of pig or bar iron from colonies in America; and to prevent the erection of any mill or other engine for slitting or rolling of iron, or any plating forge to work with a tilt hammer, or any furnace for making steel in any of the said colonies.26th Geo. 2nd—To encourage silk manufacture, and to prevent import of velvets, &c.29th Geo 2n—To grant a bounty on export of certain kinds of British and Irish linen, &c., and taking off of duties on importation of foreign raw linen made of flax. [This shows foreign manufactures at that time.]5th Geo. 3rd—To supply the export trade to Africa with such coarse printed calicoes and other goods of the manufacture of the East-Indies as are prohibited to be worn or used in Great Britain. Ditto—To prohibit foreign manufactured silk stockings, mitts, and gloves.6th and 48th Geo. 3rd—To prohibit foreign wrought silks and velvets.7th Geo. 3rd—To enforce 18th, 21st, and 32nd Geo 2nd for preventing fraudulent importations, and wearing of cambrics and French lawns.9th Geo. 3rd—Prohibits export of pig and bar iron under certain circumstances.10th Geo. 3rd—Bounty granted on exportation of British check and striped linens, and upon British and Irish diapers, huckabacks, sheeting, and other linen, of above a certain breadth. 10th Geo. 3rd—To prevent fraudulent importations of bast, straw, chip, cane, and horsehair hats and bonnets.14th Geo. 3rd—To prevent exportation of utensils made use of in the cotton, linen, woollen and silk manufactures of this kingdom.21st Geo. 3rd—Repetition of the above act (amended).22nd Geo. 3rd—To prevent seduction of 385 workmen abroad, employed in printing calicoes, muslins, and linen, or making blocks, or plates, or other instruments, used in such manufactory, and to prohibit their export.24th Geo. 3rd—To encourage the hat manufactory, and to prevent the exportation of British hare-skins, British hare-wool, and coney-wool, and to prevent their being dyed or stained.Acts repealed, in 1825, on trade:—25th Geo. 3rd—Duties on leather cut in the shape of gloves. Ditto—To prevent importation of foreign made cordage.25th Geo. 3rd—Prohibits exports of tools used in steel and iron manufactories, and to prevent seduction of workmen, engaged in those trades, abroad.26th Geo. 3rd—Further encouragement of fisheries in Greenland seas, and Davis' Straits. Ditto—Allows a drawback of the duties on coals used in smelting copper and lead ores, and in fire-engines in the Isle of Anglesey.28th Geo. 3rd—Preventing export of live sheep, lambs, and rams, wool, yarn, worsted, coverlids, wadding, or beds stuffed with combed wool, or wool fit for combing.34th Geo. 3rd—Imposing duties on paper, pasteboard, millboard, glazed-paper, &c., 34th Geo. 3rd—Prohibits import of cambric and lawn from Ireland, until Ireland prohibits cambric and lawn from being imported from France.38th Geo. 3rd Further encouragement of southern whale fisheries.41st Geo. 3rd—To authorise his Majesty from time to time to prohibit the exportation of provisions or food.45th Geo. 3rd—Perpetuating encouragement of sail-making. Ditto—Additional duties on import of foreign plate-glass.46th Geo. 3rd—Better encouragement of manufacture of thread-lace in Great Britain.47th Geo. 3rd—To permit import of German (the same as Prussian) yarn in foreign ships on the same duties as in British.47th Geo. 3rd—To permit fuller's earth and tobacco-pipe clay to be exported to any possession of his Majesty. Ditto—To allow bounties on British calicoes and cottons exported to Malta, the same as to Gibraltar.48th Geo. 3rd—Prohibits foreign wrought silks and velvets.50th Geo. 3rd—To discontinue bounty on export of oil of vitriol; drawback of part of duties paid on import of foreign brimstone, and in making oil of vitriol. Ditto.—To prohibit import of Italian silks, crapes, and tiffanies.51st Geo. 3rd—Drawback on deals and timber used in mines of tin, copper, and lead, in the counties of Cornwall and Devon. 51st Geo. 3rd—To allow more sheep to be carried from England to the Isle of Man than are now allowed by law.52nd Geo. 3rd—To allow more worsted yarn to be exported to Canada.53rd Geo. 3rd—To allow bounty on exports 386 of stuffs, of silks ornamented with embroidery, tambour, needle-work, lace, or fringe, and of ribbons made of silk mixed with inkle and cotton.54th Geo. 3rd—To allow a bounty on export of British made cordage.1st and 2nd Geo. 4th—Drawback on coal-duties in draining coal-mines in Pembroke-shire,3rd Geo. 4th—Continues bounties on British and Irish linen exported.Act passed 5th July, 1825.Does the character of these acts, passed, it was said, by agricultural Parliaments, bear any semblance of hostility to the rising and growing manufactures of the country. They are conclusive, in my mind, upon the point, that the landed interest of this country has never intended to separate itself or its interests from those of the body of their country generally, but that, on the contrary, they have encouraged every branch of industry to arise, as the best mode of employing our fast increasing population, and as the securest basis on which to found our national greatness. At the present day, scarcely an article of British manufacture but is protected by a heavy duty, the following among the number:—Baskets, blacking, boots and shoes, bottles, boxes of all sorts, brass manufactures, brocade of gold or silver, buttons, cables, candles, cards, carriages of all sorts, casks, china, clocks, coals, copper manufactures, cordage, cotton manufactures, crayons, crystal, dice, earthenware, embroidery and needlework, flowers (artificial), frames (picture), glass, gloves, gunpowder, hats or bonnets, hoops (iron or wood), japanned ware, ink, iron manufactures, lace, leather, linen manufactures, matting, mattresses, mill-boards, music instruments, paper, pencils, perfumery, pewter manufactures, platting (hats or bonnets), pomatum, ships, silk manufactures, steel manufactures, telescopes, thread, tin, tobacco pipes, toys, turnery, twine, varnish, watches, wax (sealing), whipcord, wine, and woollen manufactures. Now almost the whole of these trades derive their custom from the home trade; they do not, most of them even attempt to compete with foreigners; but foreigners may and do often surreptitiously interfere with them, by means of smuggling, notwithstanding the protection afforded them. And if they depend on the home trade, then it is impossible to deny that they are more immediately in a remunerating price for British corn, than 387 they are in what is called cheap bread, which will ruin their best customers. Take the case of the bootmakers—a pair of boots may be bought of the best make at Brussels or Paris for 20s.; boots of the same quality in London are 45s.: how would the London boot maker like a free importation of boots?
§ Mr. Cayley
Does the hon. Member appear here as the delegate of the boot-makers? Is he sure that he speaks their sentiments?
§ Mr. Cayley
I suspect the hon. Member very often pretends to be speaking the sentiments of others, when in fact he is only speaking his own. Then take the case of the glovers; as good gloves can be bought in Paris for 1s. 3d. as cost here 3s. and 3s. 6d. Would taking off the Corn-laws enable the glover to compete with Parisian glove-makers at this rate? It is preposterous to suppose it. I know this system of protection is not popular with the philosophers and economists of the present day; but it is not the less necessary, or the less to be respected, on that account by those who have at heart the permanent best interests of their country, as it was, indeed, considered by the best economists of other times—for instance, Dr. Adam Smith, who says,Merchants and manufacturers are the people who derive the greatest benefit from the monopoly of the home market. The prohibition of the importation of foreign cattle and salt provisions, together with the high duties upon foreign corn, which, in times of moderate plenty, amount to a prohibition, are not near so advantageous to the graziers and farmers of Great Britain as other regulations of the same kind are to its merchants and manufacturers. Manufactures, those of the finer kinds especially, are more easily transported from one country to another than corn and cattle. In manufactures, a very small advantage will enable foreigners to undersell our own workmen, even in the home markets. The expense of the landlord and farmer is in home-made commodities. The greatest and most important branch of the commerce of every nation is that which is carried on between the inhabitants of the town and those of the country. The interest of the landholder is strictly and inseparably connected with the general interest of society—whatever either promotes or affects the one, necessarily promotes or affects the other.In a speech a few days ago on this 388 subject, in another place, by a noble and learned Lord, a speech of great length, and coming from him, of course of great ability, a reference was made to some opinions expressed on the question of protection to agriculture, and the views of abstract philosophers thereon, as contained in a letter of my noble Friend, the Secretary of State for the Home Department, to his constituents of Huntingdon in 1822. I have not that letter by me, but I well remember most cordially concurring in every sentiment it contained. They were sentiments, as I believe, the most true, and most worthy of my noble Friend, and I cannot help entertaining a hope, however the noble Lord may now differ as to the mode of protecting the British farmer, that the real essence and substance of those sentiments still remain strong in his mind, and will actuate his conduct as a Minister of the Crown. I feel convinced they will. The only exception which I shall be inclined to take to the letter in question is, that the views which it exhibits do not seem to me perfectly original. I cannot help believing that my noble Friend must have had deeply impressed on his mind a speech delivered in this House two years before; there was so clear an analogy in the spirit, and even in the details between the letter and the speech that it seems to me that my noble Friend must have had that speech so deeply sunken in his mind, that in the course of time he had unwittingly and unconsciously adopted its views as his own. The speech referred to was delivered on the motion of Mr. Holme Sumner, on agricultural distress in May, 1820; and the following is an extract from it:—His hon. friend, the Member for Portarlington, (Mr. Ricardo) had argued as if he had dropped from another planet—as if this were a land of the most perfect liberty of trade—as if there were no taxes, no drawbacks, no bounties, no searchers, or any other branch of trade but agriculture—as if, in this Utopian world of his hon. Friend's creation, the first measure of restriction ever thought on was that on the importation of corn—as if all classes of the community were alike—as if all trades were on an equal footing; and that, in this new state, we were called upon to decide the abstract question, whether or not there should be a protecting price for corn. But we were not in this condition; we were in a state of society in which we had manufactures of almost every description, protected in every way, even to criminal enactments, to prevent the raw material from going out of the country 389 in order thereby to assist the native manufacturer. He alluded, as one instance, to the prohibition of the exportation of wool. He never heard from those who spoke so freely against the protection afforded to the agriculturists, the slightest murmur against the restrictive duties on foreign wool. He might mention another instance—the silk trade; he contended that silks might be worn at half or a third less than their present price, if protecting and prohibitory laws had not been enacted in aid of our manufactures in that material; but that was a subject which the hon. Members to whom he alluded took care not to touch upon. Now, he would ask, who was it that paid the poor-rates? Was it principally the manufacturer or the owner and occupier of land? He could easily imagine that he saw, and, in fact, nothing was more common than to see, a manufacturer erect a fine tall, building, a matter of great ornament to the neighbourhood, no doubt, but certainly of great use to him. This building was erected on a comparatively small portion of land, and within its four walls were carried on the manufacture of two very important articles—cotton and paupers. And though this manufactory produced to its proprietor an income frequently of not less than 30,000l. a-year, yet he only paid poor-rates as for property of 500l., while his poor neighbour, the farmer, who rented land to that amount, paid the same proportion, though his income was not the fourth part of his rent. Besides this, there were the bridge-rates, the county-rates, the militia-rates, and all the other blessings which were heaped on this favoured class, the agriculturists. They, of course, were not to murmur at all those imposts, nor were they to raise their voices for the same privileges which the other classes enjoyed. But the moment a word was said of any restriction affecting the manufacturers, then the House heard murmurs and complaints from all parties. There then was, as Sir R. Walpole had expressed it, 'great cry and little wool.' That Statesman had compared the agriculturists to a flock of sheep, and said that, like sheep, they were shorn without repining; but the complaints of the commercial and trading classes, when any thing affected them, he had compared to the noise of another animal, which, out of regard to that respectable body, he would not name. It was most impolitic and unjust to support any one class of the community to the neglect of the other. One principle had been objected against the motion, to which, in the abstract, he might subscribe. It was stated to be an erroneous policy to purchase dear corn at home, whilst it could be bought at a much cheaper rate abroad; and it was added, that the effect of this would be, to force men to cultivate bad land at a great expense. Though he might, as he said, agree with this principle in the abstract, yet he had a right to complain of the manner in which it was turned into a meaning, which, as applied 390 to the subject before the House, it could not properly bear; for the question here was, not whether at such an expense you ought to bring poor land into cultivation, but it should be considered that we had already encouraged the cultivation of such land. The circumstances in which the country had been placed were such, that even poor land was eagerly sought and diligently cultivated. It was hedged and ditched, and improved, so as to become the depository of a large portion of British capital. It would be idle to say, that this was done in other times, and under other circumstances; for, if we were to go back at all, we might with as much reason extend our retrospect to the Heptarchy. The fact was, that capital had been so employed, that this land was now under cultivation, that it contained the capital, he might almost say the life, of the cultivators; and it would be as reasonable under such circumstances to refer back to the period he had mentioned, as to say that they should go for their grain to Poland, where the serf cultivated the soil for his lord—because in Poland it could be got cheaper than they could now produce it. He was not wandering into any theory on this subject—he spoke practically. He would mention one fact which had fallen within his own knowledge. Some time ago there were two or three cargoes of corn in the port of London, which but for the Corn-laws, could have been purchased at 37s. per quarter (corn of that description could be purchased currently at 40s., this he knew of his own knowledge would have been sold at 37s.); now, on the principle on which the present motion was opposed this corn ought to have been purchased, because it was cheaper than any which we could grow; but then, if that principle were extended, what would be the consequence? The inevitable consequence would be, that in the next season 7,000,000 or 8,000,000 of acres would be thrown out of cultivation, and those dependent on them out of employment; the tenants would be expatriated, and the landlords would be brought to the workhouse. Was there any man bold enough to look such a difficulty as that in the face? But then it would be said, 'This might be very good logic for the farmer,—but it would not be so for the consumer.' Let that objection be examined, and after all what did it amount to? That we inflicted a certain calamity on the cultivator and landlord, in order that the consumer might eat his quartern loaf a halfpenny cheaper. He would confine himself to that point, and he maintained it to be as sound a principle as any principle in political economy, that the destruction of one portion of the community could not be considered a benefit, because another portion gained it. This was a proposition which no philosopher or political economist had ever attempted to deny or to dispute. He would suppose a case of a community, consisting of a thousand individuals, and that he invented a law by which 500 of those individuals might be destroyed, 391 which destruction would render the remaining 500 twice as rich as they were before; would any man attempt to say that in such a case, because no part of the wealth left the community, that it had therefore sustained no injury? But, according to the theory of those who opposed this motion, such a law would be most salutary for the 500 who survived. He should, however, run counter to every principle of political economy and public justice, if he did not contend that such a proceeding would be most unjust to the individuals destroyed, and most injurious to the remainder as a community. As to the argument founded on the circumstance that there was bad ground in cultivation, even if the Corn Bill were repealed, much bad ground would still be cultivated, and much good ground left uncultivated; because local circumstances, such as navigable rivers, canals, &c. had great influence over persons in the disposal of their capital. If these theorists, after the repeal of the Bill, would go about the country, they would soon see that their theories were not verified. They would, of course, ask the persons who remained in the occupation of indifferent land their reasons for doing so, and would probably be surprised if an old man should say,—'Though I am acting against your theory, yet you must allow me to remain here.' Nothing short of removal by the parish officers could realize these Utopian doctrines. He was persuaded that the landed interests could not be injured without an injury being sustained by the commercial and manufacturing classes. Who were the consumers of the manufactures? The agriculturists. What was the great cause of the distress of 1816? The cause was, that in the year before the commercial interests had suffered in consequence of the extreme hardships to which the agriculturists were subjected.
§ Mr. Cayley
I will inform my right hon. Friend presently. The orator went on to contend that the agriculturists were defrauded of their 80s. protection, and that he would vote to consider for an honester way of taking the averages. Has the House guessed—has my right hon. Friend surmised even the author of this speech? Impossible. They are the words of Mr. Brougham. And it is impossible that words can be stronger in favor of protection to the agriculture of this country: they almost render presumptuous an attempt on my part to add any thing further on the subject. Yet they press so strongly on one point—a point seemingly of trivial consideration at the present day in the discussion, but of the first importance in equity—that coming as they do from a 392 lawyer when these abstract economical dogmas were new to Parliament; and when his judgment would be actuated by the fresh and natural impulses of his mind, they tell with a tenfold significance and strength. The property of the owner, Mr. Brougham told us, cannot in justice be sacrificed for an apparent benefit of another class. I, Sir, on my part have always considered it to be one of the positive constitutions of society that property should receive the protection of Government. Doubtless when the nature of the property is such that but few, except the actual possessors, are interested in its welfare, it may be proportionately difficult for a Government to perform its sacred obligations to the possessors who have invested their capital under its abstract or implied sanction: although the justice of the case may remain the same. In this matter, however, of British agriculture, being as it is a means of employment or custom to five-sixths of the population, no such difficulty exists. Now what is the case of the landholder. Land has, from time immemorial, been considered the most solid and permanent mode of investing capital, because it was considered a certain security, one which would always, on the average, bring back as much as was put into it. For this reason, three per cent, for a length of years, was considered, by purchasers of land, sufficient interest for their money: whilst other modes of investment, considered to be less certain and more precarious than land, received from five to thirty per cent. or more, because of the supposed risk which they incurred. In strict justice, therefore, since other and more precarious modes of investment which receive, or have received, (in a higher rate of interest or profit) their compensation for the greater risks that they are supposed to run—the investment in land, which is always paying, in a smaller rate of interest, for the supposed absolute security it enjoys, should be protected by the Legislature. It can never be argued that those who are paid for incurring risk, should alone enjoy security; or that those who pay to enjoy security, should alone be exposed to loss. National justice can never demand this; and therefore I claim protection for the property of the landholder which has been invested under the faith of a continuance of the Corn-laws. But then it is urged that we have little to fear from a repeal of the Corn-laws: that if 393 we will import corn from the corn-growing countries they will take our manufactures in return, that they will give up their protection to their own manufactures, and corn will rise on the continent in consequence of the demand for it here, so that the fall from the usual price in this country will be but trifling. Passing by the philanthropy of the scheme which has for its object the destruction of the rising manufactures of foreign countries, I shall hereafter endeavour to spew how vain is the expectation that foreigners will yield up their manufactures to any legislation of ours. In the first place, the boors of Poland and Russia would not for a lengthened period be consumers to any material extent of our manufactures, but would require gold in exchange for their corn. [Cheers]. I know the meaning of that cheer, it means that we must buy the gold with our manufactures. Yes, but if we send an additional quantity of manufactures into the foreign market without having acquired any fresh customers to consume them, we merely depress the general value of our manufactures already there, and so purchase the gold at a great sacrifice to our manufacturing interest. This argument also goes upon the assumption that, if the continental price of corn rose, that circumstance of itself would operate against any great extension of foreign manufactures, especially in neutral markets. But the whole of this mode of argument is based on such hypothetical grounds and depends on so many contingencies wholely out of our control, that I will not risk the great interests at stake on the mere chance of a probable success. On the other hand I contend that we have every reason to believe, that the price of corn must fall very considerably if the duties were taken off its importation. It would be sent from as far north as Archangel, North and Mid Russia, Poland, Prussia, and every district which discharges its produce into the Baltic would cultivate for England. And the freight be it remembered from the ports of the Baltic is little, if any, more than from the west of Ireland. Whilst all that district of south Russia, the extreme south of which abuts upon the Black Sea, and for the produce of which Odessa is the outlet and would be put in requisition for our supply: that immense district of 1000 miles east and west from the Danube to the Don, and 500 miles 394 north and south, containing 50,000,000 of acres tit for immediate cultivation, and chiefly of a rich alluvial soil; at present in a state, for the most part of rough pasture. In the interior it is now grown at 1s. to 1s. 3d. per bushel. It is partly brought down by the rivers Dnieper, Dniester, and Bong; but chiefly in temporary waggons composed almost exclusively of wood, over the rough commons; 100 of these waggons, two oxen to each, are intrusted to one driver; the corn and the oxen are sold at Odessa; the waggons broken up for fire wood, so that the driver has no incumbrances on his return. I learn these facts from an eye witness of them, who, stated to me, (in illustration of the small value of the land and labour there) that he became acquainted there with an Englishman, who went out in 1817 or 18 with a son of Mr. Arthur Young. He had taken a farm near Nicolaef on the Dniester, of 1,000 acres; the rent was 2,000 roubles, or twenty-pence per acre: the price of labour from 2½d. to 3d. per day; meat one penny per lb. The clothing of the boors was sheepskins in winter, and coarse linen frocks and trowsers in summer. In the Ukraine, at an annual contract market, at Kioff, estates are let, not by the quantity of land, but by the quantity of slaves who labour for the purchaser three days a week, at a rouble (10d.) a week, or at from 20 to 50 roubles a year, varying with the quality and situation of the land. Do these facts hold out a pleasant prospect either for the British labourer or owner? Or can any one for a moment doubt but that if there was a probability of a large and steady demand from England corn would be immediately supplied from this immense and fertile district. It is now delivered at Odessa on an average of years at from 20s. to 24s. per quarter: the freight from Odessa to England averages about 12s. 6d. a quarter, so that it would reach this country at a price varying from 32s. to 40s.—say, 36s. per quarter. Against these prices, even if rent were altogether abolished, it would be in vain for the British farmer to attempt to contend. And therefore it is that he demands protection. But then it is said, even granting the necessity of protection, the present system of a fluctuating scale is a bad one, and a fixed duty would be better. Why would a fixed duty be better? I have never, although I have been at the pains to hear 395 and think a good deal upon the subject, heard one valid and substantial reason in its favour. I know, indeed it is assumed that, if the duty were low enough to admit a regular quantity each year, corn would fluctuate less in price, and we should be more sure of a supply in the emergency of an adverse season. To this I answer, if the duty were low enough to admit a considerable quantity of foreign corn, so much agricultural labour and capital would be displaced in this country, and that from the decennial returns presented by the lesser Cortés of 1836, from Rotterdam, an habitual corn importing country, we find the fluctuations greater than in this country. The following is the return from 1826 to 1836:
Instead of the supply being uncertain or limited under the present law, I contend that the prevention of the import of foreign corn when the duty is high (from the price here being low) tends to produce an accumulation of corn in the different ports of the Baltic, and which is produced in the absence of a regular demand, because the labour and the land of those districts can find no employment but in this production. This view is borne out by the facts. 1828–9–30–31 were all wet seasons and years of deficiency in England. The evidence of the agricultural report of 1833 proves this, and also the prices in France for the same period. In 1828 we imported for consumption 842,050 quarters; in 1829, 1,364,230 quarters; 1830 1,701,885; 1831, 1,491,631. Between 1831 and the harvest of 1838, the importation was nominal on account of the price being low. What has been the result of this absence of demand for six years? That we have the most deficient harvest in 1838, we have had since 1816. And, now in March have already entered for consumption nearly 2,500,000 quarters of foreign corn, whilst according to the best authorities full 1,500,000 quarters remain to be sent if required. This is our experience on the subject. The object of the present law was, by an ascending scale 396 of duties as the price fell, to protect the grower of corn, and by the decending scale of duties, as the price rose, to protect the consumer. And I affirm, that this has been the effect of the law. During the four scarce crops of 1828–9–30–31,corn did not rise beyond 66s.; and during the six succeeding years of a lower price, from larger crops, it protected the farmer by excluding foreign corn. Now, the farmers, who, as a body are unanimous in favour of the existing law, know very well, that no fixed duty they could obtain from Parliament, would protect them under a low price; and they are equally confident that no fixed duty, which would be the least protection, could be sustained under a scarcity price by any government, and therefore they prefer a law which is self regulating, and is prepared for either contingency of a low or high price: while by the gradual fall of the duty (under the six weeks averages) as the price rises; and by the gradual rise of the duty as the price falls, sudden changes are prevented, and an equability of price, as far as is consistent with the fluctuations of the seasons and natural causes, is preserved. Does fluctuation in price, however, occur in no other commodities than corn, and under no oilier system of duties? I have a return of the fluctuations which have taken place in various articles of commerce between the years 1820 and 1837. The general results are as follow: the fluctuation in wheat during the periods mentioned was 113 per cent., cinnamon, 62 per cent., cochineal, 252 per cent., coffee, 90 per cent., cotton, 90 per cent., cheeps' wool, 300 per cent., currants, 209 per cent., flax, 58 per cent., indigo, 185 per cent., Jamaica sugar, 55 per cent., Russia tallow, 68 per cent., Congou tea, 38 per cent., tobacco, 200 per cent., logwood, 54 per cent., and mahogany, 100 per cent. It has been argued, that by drawing our supplies from a large number of countries, the bad harvest of one district would be compensated for by the good ones in others. In this argument it is assumed, that there is a much greater diversity of climate and circumstances in the corn-growing countries of Europe than really exists. In Mr. Low's book on agriculture, there are some statements which put this matter in quite a different light. According to them it appears, that the corn-growing countries of Europe lie between forty-five and fifty-five degrees of 397 latitude, and were subject in a great degree to similar winds, rains, droughts, and frosts. There are some remarkable instances of this. In 1794 the spring was prematurely warm on the continent as well as in England. The summer of 1798 was dry, and that of 1799 wet in both places. Again, in 1811, the harvest was deficient throughout the north-west of Europe generally, and from the same cause—blight; while that of 1816 was still more generally deficient from rain and want of warmth. From a coincidence of prices in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, it is also highly probable, that similar seasons prevailed here and on the continent, especially in 1708, 1709, and in several seasons between 1764 and 1773. When, therefore, it is proposed to leave England dependent on foreign supplies, it should be recollected, that the same causes which occasioned a bad harvest in England would be very likely to produce them in other corn countries. Why, therefore, should we not expect, that the same thing should take place that has recently happened in Naples and in France, where the exportation of corn was prohibited at the precise juncture at which it was wanted in England? The advocates of repeal have talked of its being unnatural to prevent the importation of food into this country. How much more unnatural is it to take it away from other countries in a time of famine, leaving the wives and children of those whose toil has produced it to starve in the midst of plenty? It is not to be wondered at, that foreign Governments should in such circumstances prohibit the exportation of corn. England herself, in such a case, had always prohibited the exportation of corn; and did so not for the advantage of the agricultural interest, but for the protection of the public generally. The law prevented exportation after the price reached 53s. 4d. at one period of the last century; and after the price reached 48s. at an earlier period. There is another point which has been well treated in a pamphlet published by Mr. Gladstone. That gentleman says well and truly, that if you attempt to run the foreign manufacturer so hard, by raising the price of food upon him and lowering it in England, you will be met by counteractive measures from foreign governments. Whenever a great deficiency of corn arises, the Emperor of Russia, as the King of Prussia had once 398 done before, and other potentates, will prevent the exportation of corn. They will put a tax on the exportation of corn, or prohibit it altogether, for the purpose of making food cheap to their own manufacturers, while it was dear to the manufacturers of England. It would be well for us to bear in mind the bounties paid on the import of wheat in 1796 and 1800. In the former year 573,418l., in the latter, 2,135,678l. This experience and these causes renders it a matter of the soundest wisdom and prudence for the community at large to place their main reliance on a home supply of food. It will even be the cheapest policy in the long run. The interest and necessities of the grower, however, must be considered in the mean time. The last argument I will offer on this particular point, is one affecting most nearly the condition of the manufacturing operative. If we require a very large importation of foreign corn under a deficient crop, we either shall be able to get it or we shall not. If we are not, he must be content to go without it; if we can get it, gold almost invariably is the article of export in exchange for corn; and when we are famishing for want of food, the foreigners know we must give them what they ask. Now, the operation of gold leaving the country on the condition of the operative is this, the Bank of England from whence the bullion is obtained, draws in its issues of paper in proportion; merchant accommodation is immediately limited, the manufacturer is crippled in his means, prices fall, and the master is compelled to lower wages precisely at the moment when, under a famine price, the operative requires as much wages as he can procure. The less we depend on foreign countries for corn, and the more we rely on our own production of it, the less can such a contingency as this arise to affect the condition of the working class. In a general European scarcity of corn, each foreign country will be compelled to supply its own subjects first.
Deecennial Average. Lowest Price. Highest Price. Dantzic 32 10 21 8 45 6 All above 100 pr. ct. fluctuation Hamburgh 30 2 20 0 41 0 Rotterdam 37 9 25 6 52 6 England 56 0 39 0 66 0 Less than 75 per cent
In entering on another branch of the subject—viz., the manufacturing, I beg to thank the House for its patient attention, and to crave its indulgence for a short time longer. What is the complaint made by the delegates from the manufacturers at the present moment? that Russia, Prussia, Switzerland, the United States, Belgium, and France, are manufacturing for themselves, and competing 399 with us in neutral markets. I find it stated in a speech of Mr. Smith, the Chairman of the Manchester Chamber of Commerce:—That in 1820 we exported to Russia 13,203,857, yards of cotton cloth; in 1837 our exports to that country were reduced to 847,022 yards only. In 1820, we exported to Prussia 5,442,535 yards of cloth, now we exported not a yard! To Germany in 1820 we exported 47,658,285 yards, in 1837 our exports to that country had fallen off to 38,581,533 yards. In fact the consequence of our policy has been to reduce our exports to Europe less by twenty per cent. than their amount during the five years after the establishment of peace. Our exports to northern Europe were less by 7,400,000l. since 1832 than they were the first five years after the war.This falling-off is attributed to the British Corn-laws; but I deny, that the British Corn-laws has had anything to do with this encouragement of foreign manufactures. The French revolutionary war made almost every nation in Europe to rest more or less on its internal resources. The "Prussian league" originated, not in the Corn-laws of England, but from the Berlin and Milan decrees. Although the revolution destroyed every branch of manufactures in France, yet, in 1814–15, we find a complete revival of every species of industry—in many instances, under the superintendence of British artisans. Spain and Portugal were large recipients of our manufactures, so long as they possessed South America, Brazils, &c.; but since the independence of their colonies, our trade has materially fallen off to Cadiz and Lisbon, and an exclusive system been adopted, for the purpose of fostering their own manufactures, Italy scarcely grows corn sufficient for its own wants, and any diminution of our trade in that quarter cannot be owing to our refusal of their grain. In Germany manufactures increased rapidly, owing to the British continental blockade during the war with France. Belgium rose rapidly in manufactures at the same period, and found a vast market for them in France, with which the Low Countries were then united. During the war, dye stuffs were smuggled from England to the continent in large quantities, for the use of the manufacturers then in full operation. The muslin trade was found to be in great activity in France at the peace in 1815. Napoleon taught the nations of Europe the great lesson of manufacturing for 400 themselves; and England lost the almost exclusive supply of the South American and Brazilian markets, on the independence of those countries; but, all this had no relation whatever to the Corn-laws in England.
But what has given great facility to foreign manufactures (in conjunction with their fixed resolution to establish them) is, the short-sighted policy of which our manufacturers, and latterly our Government, has been guilty in furnishing other countries with the raw materials, or with materials which had undergone only the first process of the manufacture. I allude to the export of long wool and yarns of every description. The export of cotton yarn is of no new date: it had commenced before the end of the war. It so happened that a near relative of my own, about thirty years ago, lived a good deal in the neighbourhood of Manchester, and seeing the great avidity with which some parties were pursuing the export of yarn, he remonstrated with them on its impolicy, saying, that it was evident it would enable the foreigner to get between the spinners of this country and the general market for woven goods. The reply was, "It is the most profitable department of the trade. It will last our time." To show the early period at which Russia was aiming to establish the cotton manufacture I may refer to the fact, that in 1812, when Napoleon was marching into Russia, Mr. Barton (until lately the largest exporter of yarn from this country) had yarn in Moscow and Petersburgh which took 700 waggons in the former place and 1500 in the latter to retreat with into the interior. I have here a table containing the exports of cotton yarn from Great Britain, from 1818 to 1834 inclusive, distinguishing the countries to which it was sent. It affords a perfect barometer to the progress which has been made in manufacturing by other countries. How could our manufacturers expect that foreigners would not compete with them when they presented them with the ready means so to do. Unless they had destroyed the yarn as soon as they bought it of us, they must have been expected to weave it. We could not both sell the yarn and weave it too. The truth, however, I believe to be, that such was the overweening confidence of our manufacturers in their own powers that they never dreamt of their monopoly of the 401 cotton trade being invaded. They now speak indeed of the absurdity of supposing other nations not to have heads and hands like our own; but I remember well eight or ten years ago their laughing to scorn any idea of the kind. And when other branches of trade and commerce have been distressed during the last twenty years the spinners have given it a denial, and turned with an air of triumph to the increase in our exports, forgetting that yarn was a great ingredient in those exports, and that they were thus yearly
|EXPORTS OF COTTON YARN FROM GREAT BRITAIN FROM 1818 TILL 1834 INCLUSIVE.|
|Years||Russia and Ports in the Baltic.||Germany, Belgium and Holland.||France, Spain, Portugal and Northern Ports in the Mediterranean.||Africa and N. and S. America.||di In a and China.||Totals.|
§ Let this table of the export of cotton yarn be well considered, and it must prove to any impartial mind how little the Corn-laws have been concerned in promoting foreign manufactures. Suppose for the sake of argument, that Russia and the countries surrounding the Baltic have been driven into manufactures by our corn-restricting system, (which I have before shown has not been the case) how have our Corn-laws affected Belgium and Holland, and the interior of Germany, represented by the second column of the table? And yet their import-402
§ parting with the sources of their own superiority. The manufacturers have been much more the victims of their own cupidity, than of any selfishness on the part of the landed interest. In 1820, when general distress prevailed, Mr. Huskisson pointed with satisfaction to the increase of our exports. In 1830 he did the same. In 1833 Mr. Poulett Thomson, the mouth-piece of the spinners, followed his example, and preferred to believe columns of figures before the affirmations of honest men.
§ ation of cotton yarn between 1820 and 1834 increased 100 per cent. more than that of the Corn growing countries; and this too, be it remarked, before the institution of the Prussian league. Then take France, Spain and Portugal as represented by the third column of the table, and we shall see, that their import of yarn increased in a greater ratio than in the Corn-growing countries, of the first column. In the name of common sense, what has Switzerland to do with sending us corn? And yet in some respects Switzerland has become a formidable rival. Or what has 403 India or China to do with our Corn-laws? and yet they have been increasing their imports of yarn. Or what has South America or the United States? We surely take plenty of their agricultural produce in the shape of cotton, for them not to grumble at our refusing their corn; even if they had it to send, which I much doubt. They have latterly had a scarcity of it themselves. The United States, at the Harrisburgh Convention in 1827–8 certainly complained of a disposition on the part of "liberal England" to smother their rising manufactures. So that all this charge against the Corn-laws, that they have fostered foreign competition, to the detriment of our own manufactures, turns out to be an utter fallacy and a groundless assumption. Has France fared better in her silk trade than we in our cotton? The silk manufacture is extending itself all over the continent. In Sicily, Switzerland, Sweden, Prussia, and Russia, it has spread rapidly. The large silk manufactories of Moscow, Novogorod and Peters-burgh, supply goods for the Leipsic and other German fairs; and in tapestry rival the celebrated Gobelins. Have these countries complained of French Corn-laws? and do the delegates pretend, that French Corn-laws have led to the rise of other silk manufactures than those of France? We, have already tried the plan of coaxing other countries to give up their manufactures. We lowered our duties on French silks, and gloves, and wines, for the avowed purpose, and with the declared expectation of the Ministers of the Crown, that France would lower her duties, in return, on our manufactures. The wine growers and silk manufacturers had declared, that the reason of their high duties on our manufactures was the high duties we levied on their produce. We lowered our duties. Have they lowered theirs? Not one. The same high protective duties remain on our cottons, linens, and hardwares; and they have even raised the duty on cotton yarn within the last year or two. Are not these facts sufficiently significant of the determination of foreign countries to persevere in their system of protecting their own manufactures. What they wanted at an earlier period was capital; the raw material was expensive, and so was the machinery, necessary to manufacture it, especially yarn; twenty-five years of peace have gradually enabled them to accumulate capi- 404 tal; we have supplied them with yarn; and the raw material has fallen in price as follows; which, of course, enables smaller capitals to deal with the article.
|PRICES OF COTTON YARN, 100 HANKS TO THE lb; IN THE FOLLOWING YEARS.|
|1786||38||0 per lb.|
|1790||30||0 per lb.|
|1796||19||0 per lb.|
|1800||9||5 per lb.|
|1806||7||2 per lb.|
§ After many fluctuations in
|1332||2||11 per lb.|
Prussia in particular, is said to have been actuated in its scheme of the German league by our Corn-laws. But what said the Berlin correspondent of the Morning Chronicle (a journal hostile to the views I take on this subject) in a letter dated January 30th 1839.
The English Corn-law question is very much agitated here with respect to its influence on agriculture and manufactures in Russia. One party maintains, that the abolition of your Corn-laws will be a deathblow to the latter, while the benefit resulting from an increase of the former, will be far from counterbalancing that blow. They wish the continuance of those laws, because the contiguity of Germany and Prussia to England, enables them to profit by an emergency like that existing at this moment, more than remoter countries, whose imports arrive when the emergency is past. If we believe this party, that profit of German exporters in one year like the present is tantamount to what they would gain in half a century, the English Corn-laws being abolished. The truth of the matter seems to be, that we must look for internal measures, and not for what foreign legislators will do or not, to see the situation of our agriculturists and manufacturers improved.
With respect to the encouragement given by foreign powers to their own manufactures, and to shew even the personal interest taken in them by the reigning Princes, I may quote a statement of Mr. Cobden of Manchester, a calico printer, at a meeting of the chamber of commerce of that town, from his own observation in a recent tour in Germany:—
Whilst at Dresden, I was shewn over a large machine-making establishment by an Englishman, who took me into a large room filled with machinery for spinning flax, with Gore and Wesley's patent improvements; this said he, was brought out from England, at an expense of 35,000 dollars for models; and I am engaged to superintend the copying of it.
At Chemnitz, also, in Saxony, I visited a large establishment, organized and conducted by English mechanics for the manufacture of machinery. And it happened, that on the very day I was there, the place was decorated with evergreens and laurel branches, for the purpose of doing honour to the King and Queen of Saxony, who paid a visit to the premises. I found at Plague, in Bohemia, an establishment, belonging to an Englishman, for making machinery for manufactures; and at Vienna there were two of our countrymen accommodated under an imperial roof, carrying on a similar trade. At Elberfeld and Aix-la-Chapelle, I also found large machine-making businesses carried on by Englishmen. At Liege there is a similar concern, the largest in the world, belonging to Mr. Cockerill, who was born at Haslingden, in Lancashire, and who employs nearly 4,000 hands. And at Zurich I found the large establishment of Mr. Escher, with an Englishman at the head of the foundry, and another at the head of the forge, casting five tons of iron a-day, brought from England, into spindles, rollers, and wheels, for the spinners and manufacturers of Austria, Saxony, or Bavaria. In almost every large town there were English mechanics instructing the natives to rival us.
of Liege, here alluded to, lately suspended payment, and to shew the interest of the Government in undertakings of this nature, it advanced money for his relief, and took up his liabilities, when the banks refused. The King of Belgium, I know as a fact, likewise, not long since, offered to, I believe, the largest silk manufacturer in England, a patent for twenty years, of the district of Bruges, and ten miles round it, if he would go and establish himself there. Our mechanics and artizans, are tempted abroad by the great encouragement given to them, by foreign powers; they are received as teachers there; and are not driven from this country by the Corn-laws. Not long since an Englishman, of the name of Wilson, received the honorary rank of Major-general, from the Emperor, for superintending a cotton-factory at Moscow. All these facts demonstrate the eager interest taken in manufactures abroad, and that they are not to be cajoled out of them. Mr. Rawson's statements to the delegates at Manchester, have been much discussed. The Morning Chronicle thought them of such importance, that it published the most material of them, in an apparently authenticated form. That journal says:—The most important facts stated by Mr. Rawson, a Nottingham hosier, at the second meeting of the chamber of commerce at Manchester, did not find their way into the reports 406 published in this, or any other paper. He said, that from 1814 to 1824 his house supplied Saxony with hosiery when they were totally driven out by Saxon hosiery; that from 1824 to 1834, they maintained a competition with the Saxons in the United States of America, when they finally retired from the struggle; that from 1834, to this time, they had been importing an annually increasing quantity of Saxon hosiery for the supply of their English customers; and the following morning he was about to give a large order to a commercial traveller from Saxony, on which goods he should pay five per cent. expences, and twenty per cent. duty, and have a handsome profit remaining; for he bought at 2s. 6d. what he could not procure at Nottingham for less than 5s.So that, even if the labour in stockings, amounted to one-half of the cost, and the whole of the labour could be saved, according to this account, we should then only be on a par with the Saxons. How would a repeal of the Corn-laws remedy a case like this, when the article is shewn to be cheaper in Saxony, by the whole value of the labour? Mr. Rawson, himself, is obliged to see it in this light; he goes on to say:—He did not think, that even the repeal of the Corn-laws, would enable them to maintain a competition; but for any others to think, that anything short of a total repeal would do them any good, was merely delusion.What then? We are to repeal the Corn-laws, not with any reasonable prospect of advantage to the manufacturer, but by way of experiment, and with a certain prospect of committing the heaviest injury on the landed interest. Is Mr. Rawson, however, correct in his statement? I have been at the pains to enquire, and, in particular, wrote to a gentleman. Nottingham, retired from business, and well acquainted with the trade of the town (I may add, that he is a strong liberal in politics) in reference to the account given by Mr. Rawson. This is his answer:—Nottingham, Feb. 28, 1839.Mr. Rawson's statements cannot be substantiated. I have this morning seen a very considerable manufacturer of cotton hosiery, who has recently been in Saxony, and he informs me, that Saxon machinery and Saxon mechanics are not worth a moment's consideration. Some of their stockings he showed me, and they are a very inferior article indeed, although they are the best made by the Saxons; therefore it can be only in the most shabby and spurious articles of our trade where they can, in any manner, compete with us. The 407 Americans have been trying their goods, but have this year sent their orders here; indeed, the orders for the finer kinds of hosiery are this year both larger and more abundant than they have been for several years. I send you a printed reply to a part of Rawson's assertion, written by a person who is well acquainted with the cotton branch of our trade, and I believe his statements are generally correct, as I have conversed with some of the workmen he names, and their report is very similar to his statement. The price of making a dozen of stockings of the description you mention, such as those the hosiers can sell in their warehouse for 24s. money:—
£. s. d. Workmen 0 14 0 Cotton, 2lbs., at 2s. 7½d. 0 5 3 Bleaching 0 1 2 Warehouse expenses 0 1 7 Time, profits, &c. *0 2 0 £1 4 0
The above work is considered to be nearly the best in the plain cotton branch, and the men employed therein earn more than those in the coarser frames. The above calculation is made on those stockings made from a six-and-thirty guage frame, and of two-threads cotton No. 40. A man in a thirty-guage frame working coarser cotton will not clear above 7s. 6d. or 8s., working seventy-two hours in the week, and the hosiers assure me, that the men employed in the cotton-hose trade do not average 7s. a-week, only the wife or daughter, or other children, may do the seaming for the frame, which brings in a trifle more. The most declining part of the Nottingham and Leicester hosiery trade is that above alluded to, where the German articles have slipped in. Leicester has felt this more than Nottingham, inasmuch as they manufacture a coarser and worse article than is made here. We meet the Germans at the Frankfort and Leipsic fairs, and we find them creeping into America, but only in the article I have described. The United States take more of our cotton hosiery than any other nation, and is of more importance than our home trade. You will perceive, that I have confined myself to the two-needle or cotton branch of
Workmen's wages, 72 hours in the week, 12 pair of hose, at 1s. 2d. 0 14 0 Deduct— s. d. Frame-rent 1 0 Seaming 1 0 0 3 0 Fire, candle, &c. 0 6 Needles 0 6 Nett wages £0 11 0* This 2s. has to cover interest on the material from the time of purchase to that of sale, waste of material by the workmen, &c.408 our trade, as it is that only in which the Saxons can possibly affect us, and it is that only which Mr. Rawson can know anything of, he being in no other. As to Mr. Villiers's speech, I see very little new it; nor does he show to the House, how the poor man is to be benefitted by a change, for, if he could pull down the price of corn, would not the master pull down the price of labour, so that the operative would not have any advantage from the reduction?"
Things, therefore, are not quite so bad as Mr. Rawson represents. Indeed, on the occasion of the first discussion we had on this question, it was quite plain, that the hon. Member for Wolverhampton had discovered, that the delegates had proved too much, for he more than once deprecated the notion, that we had been driven out of neutral markets; it had not quite come to that; but his language was merely anticipatory of such an event. And yet in the same speech on the 19th of February, I take the following extract:—Independent of the duty laid on English cloths in Germany, Prussian cloths are sold much cheaper than English. English fine woollens are already excluded from Germany, and from several neutral markets; and as soon as the Prussians can sufficiently extend their manufacture—which they are doing with astonishing rapidity—they will beat the English in all neutral markets, and probably in the home market of England itself, notwithstanding the import duty on foreign woollens in this country.If this be so, how, I again ask, can a repeal of the Corn-laws remedy the evil? The landed interest must be ruined while the manufacturer will not be benefitted. But, in fact, have the manufacturers of this country any fair ground of complaint at the progress of manufactures abroad, or of the extent of their own exports. In addition to the amazing increase in the export of cotton yarn, they, or the Government, have facilitated the efforts of their rivals by the export of wool, coal, linen and worsted yarn, and machinery; this last, perhaps, it was useless to prevent, since it can be made from drawings. The increase in the export of wool has been from 35,2421bs. in 1820, to 4,642,6041bs. in 1835: in worsted yarn, from 3,9241bs. in 1820, to 2,357,336lbs. in 1835: in linen yarn from 136,312l.'s worth in 1834, to 655,699l. in 1838. And what has been the increase of the export trade since the peace? The whole export trade of the United Kingdom was:— 409
Then take the export of cotton alone:—
EXPORTS. Official value. Declared do. 1816 34,774,521 40,328,940 1820 37,820,293 35,569,077 1825 47,166,020 38,877,388 1831 60,683,933 37,163,649 1836 84,883,276 53,615,430
In 1837 the export of cotton twist rose to upwards of 100,000,000lbs., and last year it has been 115,000,0001bs. Perhaps the increase in the consumption of cotton wool since the peace is one of the most striking facts in the history of our manufactures.
COTTON GOODS EXPORTED. Yards. Value. Twist-lb. Value. 1820 248,370,630 £13,153,529 23,032,325 £2,826,639 1828 363,328,431 12,483,249 50,505,751 3,595,405 1836 637,667,627 17,183,167 88,191,046 6,120,366