§ Mr. T. Attwood,
on rising to call the attention of the House to the recent large exportation of bullion, and the consequent contraction of the circulating medium of the country, and increase of distress among the industrious classes, said, he hoped the House would hear him for a short time on a subject of very great importance to all classes of the country. The resolutions which he meant to propose were to this effect:—That it was the opinion of the House that a considerable exportation of gold from this country had taken place lately; that this exportation was occasioned, in a great degree, by the large importations of grain for the relief of the wants of the industrious classes; that the exportation necessarily led to a contraction of the circulating medium, and thereby increased the difficulties at present pressing upon the industrious classes; that this exportation still continues, and consequently still increases those difficulties; that, under the present law, the Bank of England possesses no means of permanently meeting this state of things, or of preventing it; that the results thus produced were analogous in their character to what the country experienced in the years 1816, 1819, 1825, 1826, 1836, and 1837, and required the speedy and effectual interference of the House of Commons.He should touch very lightly upon the 1140 subject, in hopes that he might induce forty Members of the House to agree with him. What was the state of the case? On the 11th of January last, the amount of bullion in the Bank of England wag 9,300,000l. sterling; on the 2nd of May last, the amount Of bullion in the Bank of England was only 6,000,000l. sterling, being a reduction of 3,000,000l. sterling in four months, or about the rate of 800,000l. per month. But this was not all; for, in estimating the whole diminution, it ought to be borne in mind that this calculation was formed on the twelve weeks' average. As to the present state of bullion in the Bank, he was credibly informed that there was not now more than 4,000,000l. worth of gold in their coffers. Gold and silver were now exporting, to the amount of 800,000l. sterling a-month. Was not this deserving of grave consideration? The very fact of such an enormous amount of bullion being required from the Bank for exportation, drove in the bank notes, and forced them out of circulation. A contraction of the circulation consequently took place, and brought innumerable evils in its train. Many Gentlemen thought that the difficulties, distresses, and embarrassments, to which the country was every now and then subjected, were all owing to the issue of Bank paper; and although he (Mr. T. Attwood) had often had occasion to show them their error, and that these things were not ascribable to over-issues of paper, hut, on the contrary, to contractions of the currency, yet still he found those Gentlemen, again and again, reverting to the same idea—with which, also, the public press was contaminated; but, nevertheless, he was convinced he could show that these difficulties, embarrassments, and distresses, were not occasioned, and never had been occasioned, by the issue of paper money, but that they were the consequences of the contractions of the currency which were allowed, and which were effected under the present state of the law. The fact was, as he had often said, that the industrious classes resembled fishes in a pond, and the noble Lord, on the one side of the House, and the right hon. Baronet, the Member for Tamworth, on the other, had been playing the part of fishermen for many years. At one period the fishermen pulled up the plug, and let off the water, and left the poor fishes floundering in 1141 the mud, and then the fishermen caught a good many of them, and laughed at the rest, and called them speculators for getting upon the mud. At another period the fishermen returned the plug to its proper place, the streams of nature quickly filled the pond with water again, and the poor fishes began to swim about and enjoy themselves again, and many of them would almost cry, "Church and King, and Old England," and "Envy of surrounding nations," and "Admiration of the world." But in the very midst of their rejoicing, the cruel fisherman came again in the dark, and secretly pulled the plug; and thus again the poor fishes are left floundering in the mud. This was the whole secret of the "fluctuations" which had taken place in England for the last twenty-four years. It was all wretched nonsense to talk about "overtrading," and "overpopulating," and "overspeculating," and of twenty other Malthusian theories. These were the mere phenomena which a contracting currency presents. Thus the child in the carriage fancies that the trees and the hedges fly behind him; and thus the peasant fancies that the glorious sun rolls round the earth. It was experience and science which discovered that it is the carriage and the earth that move, and not the blessed sun. Of these errors, however, the industrious classes have been made the victims; and in matters of currency such errors had been made use of, as a kind of dust in the public eye, whilst the most gigantic system of fraud, ruin, and oppression was being carried on, that ever was heard of in the history of the world before. Now, what he wanted was, to apply a remedy, substantial and real, to these evils which the country had been subjected to during the last twenty years; he wanted to obtain the adoption of a just, equitable, and practical monetary system. He cared not what the money was, whether gold or paper, provided he got a system which would do justice, and put the means of subsistence and comfort in the hands of the working man. Something of this kind must be done; the country could not stagger on in its present state. The House remembered the state of things in this country near the close of the year 1836. But what was the diminution of bullion in the Bank of England in the nine months ending with December of that year? Why, the diminution in those nine months was not more than that which 1142 had taken place in the four months ending May, 1839. Then there was no rational ground for expectation that this exportation of bullion was about to cease, or even diminish in any material degree. There was, at the moment he was addressing the House, a premium of 1l. 15s. on carrying 100l. worth of gold to Hamburgh; and there was a premium of 15s. per cent. on gold carried to Paris. But what would be the measures taken to bring back the gold thus exported? Knowing, as they must, the exasperation prevalent in the country—aware, as they were, of the hoarded vengeance which rankled in millions of hearts—would the House agree that those millions should be demonised by compelling the Bank of England to contract their issues, and so throw the millions out of bread, in order to bring back this gold into the country? For his part, his wish was to let the industrious classes flourish by means of having the monetary system adjusted to the circumstances and wants of society, instead of forcing the country to submit to a standard with which the laws, customs, and habits of the nation were alike incompatible. If the welfare of the people and the existence of the standard of value, were placed in opposition with each other, he would say, "Perish the standard, but let the people live." The operation of the present law, relating to the currency, had contracted the circulating medium, and increased thereby the distress of the country. It would hardly be denied that the distress of the country was very great, and that the contraction of the circulating medium was the cause of it; and it therefore became necessary to take some means to obviate this distress. The Bank of England, being obliged by law to pay gold for its paper, had no power to remedy the evil; for when gold was exported, it was obliged to draw in its paper in proportion; if not, if this system of drawing away gold were continued under the existing law, the Bank of England must stop payment, and then the Sheriff of London took possession of that splendid establishment. The Bank had no power to act otherwise than as it did, except by art order from the Government. If the Bank, with this state of things did not draw in its issues, it would come to a state of barter. He saw the noble Lord (Lord J.Russell) was paying great attention to what he stated—[a laugh]—and he—(Mr. Attwood) 1143 hoped he would apply the power of the Government to rectify this evil; for it was a question which could not well be discussed in open House. He thought there could be no doubt of the analogy between the years 1836 and 1837 and the present time. It was well known that the contraction of the currency produced the distress of 1837, and he had shown how the contraction of the currency was producing distress at the present time. He would take the liberty of explaining the distress of 1816. ["No, no."] Then he would explain the distress of 1810. In 1816 the price of gold fell from 5l. 11s. per ounce, which was its price in 1815, to 4l. per ounce, and he would show how that had produced the terrible distress of 1816. It was owing to the foreigner obtaining one ounce and a half of gold instead of one ounce for his importations of foreign produce in England, at the same time that the English merchant was compelled to demand from foreigners one ounce and a half of gold for the sale of the same quantity of British manufactures, for which he formerly received but one ounce. The sudden fall of the price of gold, from 5l. 11s. to 4l. per ounce, acted as a real bounty of nearly 50 per cent. on the importation of foreign produce into England, and as a real tax of 50 per cent. upon the exportation of British manufactures abroad. It was this which produced the paralysis of industry in England in 1816, and Mr. Attwood thought that the whole House would agree with him in opinion that it was amply sufficient for that purpose. He had often explained to the House how Lord Liverpool had relieved the distress of 1816, by renewing the Bank Restriction Act for two years, and by increasing the Bank note circulation from twenty-three to thirty millions sterling. But in the autumn of 1818 the very same state of things occurred as exists now. The relief of the general distress had driven the gold money abroad, and the Bank of England then reduced the paper money in the same degree, and partly for the purpose of preparing for the bill of 1819. In the month of May, 1819, Mr. Jeremiah Harman, then governor of the Bank, was examined before a committee of that House. He was asked why the Bank had reduced its circulation one-eighth in the last autumn. He answered "in order to prepare for the payment in gold." He was then asked, what effect such reduction had produced 1144 upon the trade and commerce of the country. He answered, "a very serious effect indeed." He was then asked, what effect he thought another reduction to an equal extent would produce. His reply was, that he thought "it would be impossible for the country to bear it." Lord Liverpool and the right hon. Member for Tamworth took warning from this advice, and they proceeded more slowly to their object, exercising, as it were, a cruel mercy, and scattering the ruin slowly and gradually over many weary years. But this slow and gradual ruin was more terrible, if possible, than the sudden and swift destruction of 1816. The Manchester catastrophe, the Cato-street plot, and the insurrections in Derbyshire and Scotland were caused by it. The late Lord Castlereagh returned from his foreign negotiations, and was horrified at the state of things in England. He brought forward his five well known monetary measures in that House in one day, and soon the distress and discontent passed away. It was then that the present Lord Ripon boasted of "the prosperity dispensed from the ancient portals of a constitutional monarchy." He ought to have known, as Lord Castlereagh had foretold, that this prosperity was necessarily produced by his five monetary measures; by an artificial increase of the circulation, adequate to support the artificial prices and obligations of the country; in fact, adequate to the duty of employing and rewarding labour, and of working the great operations of production, distribution, and consumption throughout the land. But what was the consequence of this state of things, under the pressure of the present unsuitable and fraudulent standard of value? Why, the gold was driven abroad again in the year 1825, exactly as it was in 1818; and again the paper money was made equally scarce with the gold money; and again the nation, in the winter of 1825, was suddenly plunged into a state of danger and distress. That state of danger and distress was partially relieved, as was well known, by renewed issues of paper money, and by those issues only. But the mortal pressure of the fraudulent and impracticable standard of value still remained; and in 1833 new relaxations of the system were had recourse to, which he would not now enumerate, and which produced the partial prosperity of 1836. In this latter 1145 year 1836, the very same exportation of gold money, and consequent contraction of paper money, took place, as exists now again in 1839, and as had existed before in 1818 and in 1825. It was the contraction of the circulating system which produced the distress of 1837, and it was the partial expansion of that system which had partially relieved it. In every instance the contraction of the currency had produced national distress and danger. In every instance the expansion of the currency had relieved it. He therefore called upon the House, and more particularly upon her Majesty's Government, to interfere in the present instance in due time, and not to suffer the contraction of the circulating system, now in progress, to go on until the present calamities and dangers of the country were exasperated seven-fold. He would now read to the House some extracts from public documents, emanating from Birmingham, which would prove to the House that the terrible question to which he was now alluding, had been the great cause of almost all the commercial suffering and political discontent now existing in the country. The first document, No. 1, was an extract from a petition to this House, signed by 23,000 of the inhabitants of Birmingham, in the year 1829. The second was an extract from a memorial presented to Lord Melbourne, on the 4th of November, 1837, from 13,000 workmen and 3,000 tradesmen of Birmingham, comprising all the respectable Whigs and Tories of the town. The third was an extract from the forthcoming National Petition, which he should himself have the honour to present in a few days, signed by upwards of 1,200,000 men, all expressing the same opinion and demanding the same redress; and he must beg the serious attention of the House to this subject; for they might be assured, that although some little discords had broken out among that immense body of men, and much imprudent language had been used, calculated, and perhaps intended to separate the lower from the middle classes of the community, yet these discords were rapidly passing away, and the day was not far distant when the whole of the middle classes and the lower classes would be so firmly and cordially united together, that they would be enabled to insure success to the just and righteous objects which they had in view.
§ Extract from the Birmingham Petition, dated May 8, 1829.
§ 1. That in the opinion of this meeting the want of employment, the deficiency of wages, and the present general and almost unexampled distress of the country, are mainly to be attributed to the attempt which Government is making to restore the ancient and obsolete currency of the country, without having previously effected a corresponding reduction in the taxes and monied obligations of the country.
§ 2. That by means of this unjust and impolitic attempt the real value and the real burthen of all the taxes and obligations of the country are in the process of being in reality doubled, and the interest and welfare of the industrious classes of the community are being sacrificed to the unjust aggrandizement of persons interested in the taxes and other fixed encumbrances.
§ 3. That when the Legislature was induced to sanction this destructive measure in the year 1819, the most positive assurances were held out, that it would reduce the prices of property and labour only four per cent., and, consequently, add only four per cent. to the national burthens; and it was only under confidence in these assurances, that the bill proposing to establish the present money was passed into a law.
§ 4. That instead of being four per cent. only, experience has proved that the reduction in the prices of the products of industry is, on an average, full fifty per cent., and, consequently, that the nation is now called upon to repay full double the amount of real value which it actually owes in the discharge of all its taxes and fixed monied incumbrances.
§ 5. That this extreme reduction in the prices of the products of industry brings them down within the gripe of the fixed taxation, and prevents the possibility of employing labour with any profit to the employer: that the consequence of this annihilation of profit is either a general discharge of workmen, or an unnatural increase in the amount of their daily labour, or a general reduction of their wages to the level which existed when the taxes which they had to pay were a comparative trifle.
§ 6. That the National Debt of eight hundred millions sterling is thus made equal in real value and in real burthen to sixteen hundred millions sterling, estimated in the money in which nearly the whole of such debt was contracted, and the national taxation of fifty-five millions per annum is thus made equal to a taxation of one hundred and ten millions per annum, estimated in the money in which nearly the whole of such taxation has been imposed and submitted to.
§ 7. That it is not possible to believe, that the Legislature can really have contemplated such an enormous and gigantic fraud as this might appear to be, and this meeting trusts that the Legislature will not longer suffer the taxes and burthens of this over-burthened nation to be 1147 thus destructively increased by an insidious increase in the value of the money in which they are collected.
§ 8. That during the period of the last fourteen years, the truth has been concealed from the public eye, and the pressure of our monetary measures has been broken and disguised from time to time by the relaxations of system which the Government had adopted, and which have had the effect, at some periods, of reducing the value of money to the level which existed during the war; and this meeting is of opinion now, when the truth is exposed to all eyes, and the pressure of our monetary measures is becoming literally insupportable, that it is not to be endured that Government should tell the people that it is too late to retract their steps.
§ Extract from the Birmingham Memorial to Lord Melbourne, dated Nov. 4, 1837.
§ 3rd.—In the year 1829, more than twenty thousand of us signed a petition to the house of Commons, humbly expressing our conviction, that the great cause of the miseries of the industrious classes was to be found in the act of 1819, commonly called Peel's Bill, which unjustly converted all the paper rents, debts, taxes, prices, and obligations, of this over-burthened country into standard gold, at 3l.17s.10½d. per oz.; and humbly and earnestly praying, from that right honourable House, that "either the monetary means of the industrious classes should again be lifted up to a level with their monetary burthens, or that their monetary burthens should be cut down equally to a level with their monetary means." Our humble prayers and representations were neglected by the House of Commons.
§ 4th.—Many of us had presented to the House of Parliament petitions to a similar effect in the years 1816 and 1819, 1822 and 1826, at each of which disastrous periods, the very same distresses and fluctuations existed among the industrious classes, which were undoubtedly occasioned by the monetary measures which the Legislature was at each period adopting, all apparently calculated to aggrandise the wealth of the rich out of the poverty of the poor. These petitions were also disregarded.
§ 6th.—In the month of June last, the united committee of workmen, manufacturers, and merchants of this town, through their chairman, the Low Bailiff, presented to your Lordship unanimous resolutions, representing "that the alternations of apparent prosperity, and of sudden deep distress, which had invariably attended the expansions or contractions of the currency, cannot but suggest to every thinking mind, that to our present monetary system is mainly to be attributed the present general and alarming distress." And representing further to your Lordship, that "it is the imperative duty of the Legislature to take measures for the immediate and effectual relief of such distress, before it should assume a shape 1148 which would make all remedies impossible." Upon each of these occasions, my Lord, our humble complaints, warnings, and representations, have been treated with neglect.
§ 7th.—Hitherto, my Lord, this great subject has not been generally understood. The present is about the fifth period of depression and distress which has occurred in England during a period of twenty-two years of profound peace, which ought to have been years of uninterrupted prosperity and contentment. At each period the people have been struck by an unseen hand; their fortunes have been sacrificed, and their industry blasted, by unseen laws. Those laws are now laid bare to the public eye. Corn laws, to make scarce the food which supports man's life; and Money laws, to make scarce the money which purchases the food. Corn laws to aggrandise the landed interest; and Money laws to aggrandise the monied interest. Crushed between this double oppression, the people are either deprived of employment altogether, or they are reduced to half-employment; or they are condemned to give much labour for little money; and then they are condemned to give much money for little food.
§ 15th.—My Lord, it is our duty to make this last and solemn appeal to your Lordship. Your Lordship knows the situation of our country. Your Lordship knows that the perpetual and violent fluctuations, by which we are all injured and endangered, are the inevitable result of the present state of the law. Whenever the present monetary system is enforced, the misery and ruin among the people create such a mass of discontent, as compels the Government to interfere with the Bank of England to relax the pressure. Then the Bank of England, in its own defence, is compelled by the state of the law, to renew the pressure; and thus the most distressing fluctuations are perpetuated. Under the present state of the law, industry cannot be safe without ruin to the lank of England; and the Bank of England cannot be safe without ruin to industry.
§ Extract from the forthcoming National Petition dated Aug. 6, 1838.
§ We are bowed down under a load of taxes, which, notwithstanding, fall greatly short of the wants of our rulers; our traders are trembling on the verge of bankruptcy; our workmen are starving; capital brings no profit, and labour no remuneration; the home of the artificer is desolate, and the warehouse of the pawnbroker is full; the workhouse is crowded, and the manufactory is deserted.
§ We come before your honourable House to tell you, with all humility, that this state of things must not be permitted to continue; that it cannot long continue, without very seriously endangering the stability of the throne and the peace of the kingdom; and that if, by God's help and all lawful and constitutional appliances, an end can be put to it, we are 1149 fully resolved that it shall speedily come to an end
§ We tell your honourable House, that the capital of the master must no longer be deprived of its due profit; that the labour of the workman must no longer be deprived of its due reward; that the laws which make food dear, and those which, by making money scarce, make labour cheap, must be abolished; that taxation must be made to fall on property, not on industry; that the good of the many, as it is the only legitimate end, so must it be the sole study of the Government.
§ The hon. Gentleman then went on to argue, that these repeated expressions of public opinion, repeated for ten years together, and increasing in force and determination upon every occasion, demanded the most serious attention of that House. He had shown that, ten years ago, the Birmingham Union was founded upon the fraud and the cruelty inflicted by the bill of 1819. The Reform Bill was the consequence. The men of Birmingham had given the Reform Bill a fair trial. But they found no justice for themselves, or for their country. In the year 1837, they were forced forwards again, by the cruelties and oppressions which were inflicted upon the industrious classes. For a time, however, they suspended political movements; and, by the combined exertions of Whigs, Tories, and Radicals among them, they made a last effort to act upon an impracticable Government. In the year 1837, they sent three deputations to her Majesty's Ministers. It was all in vain. Then, and then only, impelled by a dire necessity, they set on foot the present formidable combination among the people. And now, twelve hundred thousand men had answered to their call. Was this immense body of injured and exasperated men to be treated with contempt. He trusted not. It was of no use to say that it was too late to retreat. It was never too late to retreat when they were wrong, unless greater evils remained behind them than before them, which, in the present instance, was impossible. The present Lord Spencer had told him, a few years ago, that he acknowledged we had committed a gigantic error in 1819. "But," said the noble Lord, "it is now too late to retreat." To which he (Mr. A.) had answered, "Lord Althorpe, I told you, in 1819, that you were committing a gigantic error; did I not?" "Yes," said the noble Lord, "I will honestly say that you did." "Then," said I "Lord Althorpe, 1150 now mark, I that told you, in 1819, that you were then committing a gigantic error, which error you now acknowledge, and which error was then remediable, I tell you that, in now saying that it is too late to retreat, you commit another error, which error is fatal." And thus the conversation closed, with a remark of the noble Lord, which he would not repeat. He (Mr. A.) would now tell the noble Lord (J. Russell), and that House, that it was not yet too late to retreat. If they would but do justice to industry, and permit the industrious classes to live by their labour, they would throw oil upon the troubled waters of discontent, and England would again become prosperous and happy. He would put Ministers in the way of doing it without difficulty, and without wrong to any class of the community, and which would give contentment and prosperity to all. That, he thought, was an object of importance. He cared not which faction did retreat, but whatever faction did, he would promise them they would rule in that House for twenty years to come, and he did not believe that any party, without that retreat, would rule for twenty months. It was the consideration of this state of things which had scared the right hon. Baronet and his Friends from the Government the other day. It was not the honour of three Court ladies; it was not a petticoatphobia, but a paperphobia which alarmed them, and frightened them from the Government. It was the terrible spectre of his own bill which dogged the right hon. Baronet, wherever he went, and which would dog him to his grave, unless, indeed, he had the manliness and virtue to come forward, and to lend his powerful assistance in correcting an error which he assisted to commit. The great remedy for this state of things was this—rectify your currency—and things would be soon set right. All that the people wanted was a fair day's wages for a fair day's work. They wanted nothing more. But the Legislature interfered, and prevented this by its money laws. In conclusion, the hon Member thanked the House for its indulgent attention, and moved his resolutions. They could, he said, do no harm, and might do much good, as the Government might be induced "to mark, learn, and inwardly digest them."
Lord, J. Russell
said, it was not his in- 1151 tention to detain the House by following the hon. Member into his details, for the resolutions were only a repetition of those which the hon. Member had, on more than one occasion, presented, and in which he differed from a great majority of that House, in calling on them to sanction an inconvertible paper currency. The House had on those occasions not only refused to sanction the hon. Member's proposition, but had passed resolutions of an opposite character. There was one observation of the hon. Member, in the middle of his speech, in which he (Lord John Russell) concurred. It was, that nothing was more injurious in times of financial difficulty or alarm than the passing of resolutions relating to the currency by the House. In that he fully agreed, and as a great part of the hon. Member's speech was founded on it, and as the House had already on more than one occasion pronounced a very decisive opinion on this question, he thought the best way he could now meet it was, by moving the "previous question."
§ Mr. Wallace
thought the statement of the hon. Member for Birmingham a fair one, and deserved the serious attention of the Government and the House. The noble Lord was mistaken, in supposing that the hon. Member wanted an inconvertible paper currency. All he wanted was a currency, fixed on a better basis than the present. It was admitted, that within a comparatively few years there had been three changes in the currency. Who could tell whether a fourth would not do good? He thought the subject ought to be seriously considered, for he believed that the state of the currency was at the bottom of all the evils which afflicted the country.
§ Mr. Warburton
was of opinion that the proposition contained in the hon. Member's resolutions was an indelicate one. It amounted to this—that men who borrowed at 20s. in the pound, wished to pay at 19s., and then at 18s., and next at 17s., and so on to an unlimited series of reductions. [Mr. Attwood, "Ay to 10s. in the pound if necessary."] He called that a dishonest proposition, and whether it proceeded from Whig, Tory, or Radical, he was sure that the House and the honest people of this country would never agree to it.
§ Mr. Finch
contended, that though the change made in the currency in 1819 had worked injustice to one class, another 1152 change at present would be productive of equal injustice to another class of the community; but, at the same time, he thought it was incumbent on the Government to take the state of the Bank into its serious consideration.
thought the mercantile system of this country was founded on error, as was proved by the great fluctuations in the price of commodities. It was the duty of Government to take this subject into consideration, with the view of checking inordinate issues of bank notes, and thus preventing those incessant changes in the value of property and the social condition of individuals, to which we were now from year to year subjected.
§ Mr. Attwood,
in reply, said, that his hon. Friend, the Member for Greenock, was perfectly right in saying that he (Mr. A.) had never advocated an unlimited paper currency; and he was astonished that the noble Lord (J. Russell) should still appear to misapprehend him, when the noble Lord had heard him, on that very night, and on twenty other occasions in that House, declare, that he cared not a rush whether we had a gold or a paper currency, provided only that our currency, whatever it might be, was made equal to the duties which it had to discharge, and competent alike to distribute equal justice, equity, and prosperity, among all classes of the community. The existing system of the currency had been the sole cause of all the fluctuations, difficulties, and distresses, which the industrious classes had endured for more than twenty years; and, terrible as had been its results, the country had not yet witnessed one-tenth part of its ultimate effects. Mr. Huskisson had told them, a few years ago, that they were brought within forty-eight hours of a state of barter. Did the House know what a state of barter meant? In a country like England, it meant universal anarchy; a state of things in which every man, who lived at all, must, of necessity, live by blood and plunder. And did they think, that hiding their heads, or closing their eyes, or their ears, would prevent this fearful state of things from still hanging over them? Every year it assumed a more difficult, a more complicated, and a more dangerous shape. It must be grappled with, and overcome, or the doom of England was sealed. Let the House only reflect upon what would be the effect 1153 of another had harvest in the present year; a misfortune quite possible, and he feared, from what he had heard, not improbable. How long would the four millions of gold last them? And, when all the gold was gone, did they mean at last to give a Bank Restriction Act, or to leave the Bank of England to protect itself, and, by making paper money as scarce as gold money, to send a general ruin throughout the land? To use his old figure, did they really mean to act the part of an unskilful surgeon, who, having opened a main artery in the right arm of his patient, and finding the vital fluid streaming out of the circulating system at a fearful rate, very gravely proceeded to open another main artery in the left arm, in order, as he thought, to equalise the circulation. No doubt he would equalise it; but he would inevitably produce syncope or death. And yet this was the doctrine of political economists. When the gold money was driven out of the circulating system, the economists of the present day, instead of supplying its place with paper money, in order to supply the wants of industry, very gravely proceeded to drive the paper money out of circulation also, and thus a double ruin was set in operation. But what most astonished him that night was, to hear his hon. Friend behind him, the Member for Bridport, have the confidence to attribute dishonesty and fraud to his (Mr. Attwood's) views, because they probably involved a rise in the price of gold. Why should not gold rise, like other things, if society had assumed a shape and a state in which the old price of gold was no longer competent to administer justice, equity, and prosperity, among the different classes of the community? The hon. Member knew that the magnitude of the artificial public and private debts existing in the country was so enormous, that if full payment were required in gold of the old standard, it would be found that the Almighty had never created gold enough for the purpose, either under the earth, or over the earth; and yet the hon. Member was like a foolish child playing with hot embers, and crying every time it burnt its fingers, and then playing with them again. Why could not the hon. Member learn by experience, and abandon his foolish and headstrong attempts to accomplish impossibilities? But the hon. Member spoke of dishonesty and fraud, and pre- 1154 tended that some kind of contract existed, under which the national debt, and all private obligations, must be discharged in standard gold, whether nature has created a tenth-part of the gold, or not. Did the hon. Member mean to assert that the fraud or justice of contracts is to be estimated by the intrinsic weight of bullion contained in the instruments of money? If so, he (Mr. A.) would ask him, in what money was the National Debt contracted—in gold, or in Bank of England notes, not containing more than one farthing each in intrinsic value? The National Debt amounted now, to thirteen hundred millions sterling, including five hundred millions bought up by the commissioners of the Sinking Fund. Of this, the sum of one thousand and twenty-seven millions sterling was borrowed by the Government during the Bank Restriction Act, when the intrinsic value of the non-convertible Bank note was not worth one single farthing. Here, then, upon the hon. Member's own theory, he was exacting from this plundered, swindled and oppressed people, the intrinsic value of a heavy sovereign, where the intrinsic value of one-farthing only was ever advanced, or ever contracted to be repaid. The hon. Member thought it no dishonesty, and no iniquity to take advantage of a subtle quibble of the law, and to exact the payment of his unjust, and fraudulent, and impracticable, and murderous bond, out of the throes and the agonies of a suffering and exasperated people. He (Mr. A.) could not help calling to mind the old story of the Jew, and his pound of flesh; and he could not help saying, that on the present occasion, he should have no objection to enact the part of Portia; and he would say to the hon. Member for Bridport, "Here, Jew, thou shalt have thy gold, drawn from the blood and tears of the people; it shall be of full weight, and of full fineness; but it shall be melted gold and poured down thy throat!?" The hon. Member could see no dishonesty in compelling the industrious classes to pay a cent. per cent. increase of their debts and taxes, under the solemn assurance that such increase should be only four per cent. The measures which he supported had deprived millions of the industrious classes of their independence and of their bread. In many parts of the country, these measures had left the workmen with only three days work per week; and com- 1155 pelled them at the same time to give a double quantity of the products of their labour in the payment of their rents, debts, and taxes, and thus their burdens were increased 400 per cent. instead of four per cent., and yet, when he (Mr. A.) proposed to rectify this enormous and murderous fraud, and to relax the infernal talons which are now driven into the nation's throat, the hon. Member behind him had the confidence to cry out "dishonest!" With regard to himself, he begged the House to understand, that in all his actions upon the currency he never contemplated going beyond the level of depreciation and of prices which the present corn laws were intended to impose. Remunerating prices were undoubtedly necessary both in agriculture and in commerce and manufactures, or society could not exist. But there were two ways of obtaining remunerating prices; one, by diminishing production, and the other by increasing consumption; one by diminishing the quantity of the comforts and necessaries of life in the markets, and the other by increasing the means of purchase and consumption in the markets. By one plan the people were made wretched and miserable. By the other, they were made prosperous and happy. By the one plan, millions of mouths and naked backs were left hungry and naked; by the other, both the food and clothing were readily transferred into the uses of the people. It was this kind of prosperity which he (Mr. A.) wished to establish throughout the land. He did not wish for one branch of society to flourish at the expense of another; but be wished for all to flourish equally and securely together. He wished for the people to have such a kind of money in circulation as would enable them to pay remunerating prices for all the food which could possibly be grown in England, and for all which could possibly be imported from all the countries in the world. He thought he had sufficiently proved the truth of the resolutions which he proposed. He had shown that the exportation of gold was at present very large, and rapid in its effects; that it compelled a general and very large contraction of the whole circulating system, that it thus produced very great and general increased distress among the industrious classes, that the Bank of England had no means of permanently relieving it, and that it was absolutely necessary that Parliament should interfere in 1156 due time. He thanked the House for their patient attention, and as he was urged by his Friends around him, he would be content with a simple negative of his resolutions, and he would not press the House to a division.
§ Resolutions negatived.