§ Mr. Warburton
said, with regard to some of the details in this bill, he believed the right hon. Gentleman's expectation of an increase of revenue from an increase of duty, would be disappointed. The effect of the alteration of duties on timber would be to raise the price of Baltic timber more than that of colonial timber, and therefore to diminish the importation of the former and increase the quantity of the latter, which paid a duty so much lower. The present revenue from timber was as follows:—
|American, 700,000 loads at 7s, 8d.||£263,353|
|European, 450,000 loads at 44s. 6d.||1,001,250|
§ The Chancellor of the Exchequer expected an increase of 63,228l., from the following calcalation, at the increased duty: —
|American, 700,000 loads, at 8s. 0d.||£276,499|
|European, 450,000 loads at 46s. 9d.||1,051,312|
|Deduct present revenue||1,261,583|
§ This calculation supposed that the quantities imported from the colonies and the Baltic would continue unaltered; but it appeared to him clear that the greater increase of duty on Baltic timber, compared with that on colonial, would diminish the import of the former at least 10 per cent., and increase the import of the latter in the same proportion. The consequence would be a positive loss of revenue to the amount of 72,184l., as appeared from the following calculation:—
|American, 770,000 loads, at 3s. 0d.||£304,149|
|European, 330,000 loads at 46s. 9d.||888,250|
|Revenue upon this supposition||1,192,399|
|Loss in consequence of the change||72,184|
§ Therefore, adding the increase expected by the Chancellor of the Exchequer, 63,2282lto the loss which this calculation showed, 72,184l., it would appear that the revenue would really fall short of the right hon. Gentleman's expectations by the sum of 135,412l. If the hon. Gentleman had altered the duty in a different manner, he might have obtained a large increase of revenue, and, at the same time, introduced a better article into this country. The differential duty on Baltic timber was 45s. The difference of freight between the Baltic and the colonies was 20s., and the duty was 25s. Besides the protection to the shipowner from the difference of freight of 20s., it was thought necessary to give the additional duty of 25s. The original cost of timber from the Baltic was 20s., and therefore the duty was 125 per cent, on the price. Our own manufactures were in some cases protected by a duty of 40 per cent., and it was thought very high; but the shipowner, not content with a protection of 100 per cent, on the freight, required also a duty of 125 per cent. If the right hon. Gen- 520 tleman, without going the whole length which the committee recommended, had raised the duty on colonial timber to 20s., it would have caused a reduction of the amount imported, probably from 700,000 loads to 600,000 loads, but that amount, with the increased duty, would yield a revenue of 600,000l. It might be calculated that the increase of Baltic timber would be from 450,000 loads to 550,000 loads, and the revenue from this source, which would be l,323,250l., added to the the other, would give a total revenue of 1,923,250l., or an increase upon the present revenue of 658,657l., and this without taxing any body, and at the same time introducing better timber. It appeared to him that unless they turned over a new leaf, and availed themselves of advantages of this kind, they must have a new Chancellor of the Exchequer.
objected not only to the increased duty of 5 per cent, indiscriminately laid on all articles at present subjected to tax, but also to the mode in which it was proposed to be levied. Neither could he agree with that particular part of the plan of the right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer which imposed only 5 per cent, additional on spirits manufactured in England, while it added from 14 to 15 per cent, on spirits distilled in Scotland, and, he believed, also in Ireland. And he could assure the right hon. Gentleman, that if he hoped for additional revenue from this additional duty on those articles, he would find himself miserably deceived. The same plan was tried in 1830 by the right hon. Member for the University of Cambridge, and it failed to such an extent that his successor was obliged to repeal it. But the right hon. Gentleman was not alone laying the foundation of a deficient revenue from these articles of industry, he was also about to renew the demoralising system of illicit distillation, for that would be the inevitable result, by bringing foreign manufactured spirits into competition with homemade spirits, by reducing the duty on French brandy 50 per cent, as the right hon. Gentleman proposed. He would not oppose the second reading of the bill; but he should be prepared to propose some amendments in committee, which would go to effect the object he had in view— namely, the equalization of the duty, and the protection of the home trade in spirits.
Mr. William Williams
said, that the right hon. Gentleman, the Chancellor of the Ex- 521 chequer, had laid the state of the finances before the country in a manner most clear and intelligible. He could not, however, agree as to the necessity for the increased expenditure which had led to the proposal of additional taxes. He did not see the necessity for the increase since 1836. When the increase of the army and the police was proposed last year, they were told that the reason was, the state of public opinion. But that reason had ceased, for there were no manifestations now like those of last year. The expenditure in 1835, was 45,000,000l.; and in 1839, 49,300,000l., showing an increase of 4,000,000l., within five years. That part of the expenditure which related to the interest of the debt being fixed, there was, in fact, an increase on the ordinary expenses of 3,600,000l., or from 16,219,000l. to 19,800,000l. What became of the noble Lord's statement, that the Reform Bill would give the country a cheaper government? The expenditure in 1831 was about 47,000,000l., and that of last year was over 49,000,000l. In other words, after twenty-five years of peace, there was an increase, under a Reformed Parliament, of more than two millions over the expenditure under the old boroughmonger Parliament. He could not give his consent in time of peace to any other than a property-tax. It was his opinion that so long as the taxes were thrown on the backs of the people at large, that House would never have any regard to economy. If Members, and the class to which they belonged, were made to feel the pressure of taxation, they would then, and, he believed, not till then, look around them and see how the [...] could be reduced. The poor paid upon many articles more than double the rich. The articles that were taxed, and on the consumption of which the pressure was most felt by the poor, were British and foreign spirits, hops, tea, coffee, tobacco, snuff, cheese, corn, cotton, sheep's wool, tallow, excise licenses. It was to be recollected, too, that the poor used an inferior article, while the rich used only that which was good; and yet the same tax was paid upon the indifferent as the superior article. The hon. Member concluded by moving that the bill be read that day six months.
§ Mr. Hume
observed that his hon. Friend was obliged to make this motion, as, to attain his object, he could not do otherwise, according to the rules of the House. He agreed with his hon. Friend in thinking that the taxes proposed pressed particularly upon the middle and working classes of so- 522 ciety. He observed, that in every country but in England the laud paid from 25 to 40 per cent, on the whole of the taxes of the state. And yet this happened in a country where the landed aristocracy were the richest in the world, and where they claimed exclusive privileges for themselves, and substantially possessed themselves of the powers of Government. And while they did this the English aristocracy paid no tax upon their land. He had before referred to the aristocracy avoiding the tax upon real property. He found that two bills were prepared at the same time—in November, 1795; one imposing a tax upon personal property was passed, while the other, which would have taxed real property, was rejected. He now found that at the very time that the working classes were most distressed, new taxes were about to be imposed upon them. He, then, for one, could never consent to add to their distresses by increasing the taxes upon them, when at the same time the aristocracy were exempted. He could not but praise the statement which had been made by the Cancellor of the Exchequer, because it was very distinct; he referred to that statement, being an account of the public income and expenditure for the years ending the 1st January, 1836, 1837, 1838, 1839, and 1840. He there found that the charge on funded debt, in 1836, was 28,047,955l.; in 1839, it was 28,667,305l.; the additional charge being 619,350l. The charge on the unfunded debt, in 1836, was 736,822l.; in 1839, it was 771,909l.; the additional charge was 34,889l. The charge on the Consolidated Fund was 2,137,654l. in 1836, and in 1839 it was 2,410,176l.; the additional charge was 272,522l. The charge for the navy, army, and miscellaneous estimates, in 1836, was 14,081,509l; in 1839 it was 17,451,235l., making an increase of 3,369,726l. The total of the expenditure, in 1836, was 45,003,940l.; in 1839 it was 49,300,425l., making an increase of 4,296,485l. or about 23 per cent. It was plain that if they reduced their expenditure by 2,300,000l., they would render unnecessary the imposition of new taxes. He conceived that this could be done by reducing their establishments. It was to be observed that the additional 5 per cent, duty upon the raw material would have the effect of checking the further sale of goods, and of rendering them less able to compete with others, and thus checking trade they would diminish employment, and cause a decline in wages, This he would 523 never consent to; for he was there for the same object, that the Government should hold office, not for the benefit of the few, but the protection of the many. Ministers upon entering office took an oath that the would act justly and conscientiously; now, he asked Ministers, would they act conscientiously in proposing those duties? Notwithstanding the increasing the burdens, lie was much gratified when he looked to the revenue. In 1836 it was 46,380,246l.; in 1839 it was 47,843,202l.—that was an increase of 1,452,956l. He found that an enormous duty was raised on corn; and then there was a duty on cheese, bacon, and other articles used by the poor. The poor were dying of hunger; while they had to look, as if it were through the grating of a prison, at the corn which they dare not touch. (Laughter.) He wished that the hon. Gentleman who laughed, was one month in the situation of the poor man who was thus debarred from food, which he dare not touch until it paid a high duty, and then very probably the hon. Gentleman would sing to a very different tune. Of the 4,000,000l. increased expenditure since 1836, he found that there was 3,000,000l. additional for the army and navy. If the House properly represented the people, this would not be the case. He hoped that it might yet do so. In his opinion, the ballot-box would set matters right. Under the circumstances, he would support the motion of his hon. Friend to reject the bill, in the hope that the Government might be induced to resort to a tax upon property; and thus reach the rich, while they relieved the poor.
§ Mr. Hawes
could not support the motion of the hon. Member for Coventry. He thought that, generally speaking, out of doors the mode in which the Chancellor of the Exchequer had proposed to raise the additional revenue was rather acceptable than otherwise. He wished to ask an explanation from the Chancellor of the Exchequer of a proviso in the 7th clause of the bill, relating to contracts already made, to this effect:—.Or it shall be at the option of the party entering into the contract, or of the purchaser, to declare the contract null and void.This must have been a mistake. The other explanation he wished for was this— whether the additional 5 per cent, was to be considered a permanent tax or a temporary expedient? If temporary, he hoped 524 the House would turn its attention to a general review of our system of taxation, in order to alter the proportions which different classes paid. There was no country which derived so much from the productive classes.
§ Mr. Gisborne
said, the House of Commons should be a check upon the extravagance of the Executive Government, whereas there was no security but the moderation of the Chancellor of the Exchequer and of the Secretary of the Treasury against the extravagance of the House. He found that the hon. Members for Lambeth, Kilkenny, and Bridport, had agreed to incur an expenditure of 400,000l for the repairs of Downing-street. The expenditure now wasted in large establishments, and which had been properly called "an aristocratical expenditure," if conducted on proper principles, would admit of a large reduction.
thought the proposition of the Chancellor of the Exchequer was the best that could be devised under the circumstances, and therefore he should support it.
§ Mr. Darby
would not enter into the question of the corn-laws on the present occasion, but he believed that if it had not been for the existing system, the country would now be in a state of starvation. With respect to taxation in general, he would say, that though it might appear to be a very fair principle to raise 5 per cent, upon the general taxation, yet if one article was taxed at 1,200 per cent., and another at 500 per cent., great injustice might be done to particular parties.
§ Mr. Ewart
concurred with those hon. Gentlemen who deplored that Ministers had been urged into an expenditure by hon. Gentlemen opposite. Indeed, one of the happy effects of a Conservative opposition was, that extravagance was coincided in, and frugality opposed. He was glad that his hon. Friend the Member for Kilkenny had called the attention of the House to the predominance of the landed interest in its exemption from taxation. In no other European nation did that distinction exist, for in almost every other country there was a land tax, and instead of taxing labour and commerce, they taxed superfluous luxuries. Originally the principle revenues of England were derived from land and malt; the wars of William 3rd., and all the great victories of Marlborough, were supported principally by a tax on 525 land, but now our commerce was loaded and land was exempt from taxes. The secret was, that the majority of both Houses of Parliament were landlords. Not merely by the exemption from some taxes, but by the addition of others, they derived benefit, as for instance in the corn-laws. No doubt an aristocratic country, where the landed interest predominated, would have a tendency to taxation and extravagance. Because the aristocracy would have a tendency to wars, for their lands being mortgaged, they wished to get their younger sons provided for. He thought the present system was much more unfair than a system of ad valorem duty, because, if that system were adopted, the rich would pay a larger portion of the tax in proportion to the quantity and value of the luxuries they consumed. He confessed he thought that was the only just and fair system of taxation, and he trusted it would be eventually adopted. He fully agreed with those hon. Members who demanded a revision of the present system of taxation. If they did not take up the matter soon, and with a determination to effect sound and judicious alterations in it, they would one of these days be awakened from their slumber by the loud and universal discontent which at present prevailed throughout the country, and which before long would overwhelm the country. He trusted the subject would be taken up early in the next Session of Parliament by the Member for Kilkenny, whose attention to that subject best fitted him for bringing it forward. He should on the present occasion vote for the amendment, as he believed the proposition of the Chancellor of the Exchequer was in many respects objectionable.
Mr. W. Attwood
said, that as the general disposition of the House appeared to be to assent to, or rather not dissent from, the measure proposed by the Chancellor of the Exchequer, and as that disposition was not guided by any approval of the financial merits of the arrangements proposed, but by a conviction of the necessity of providing in some way for the deficiency in the revenue, he did not feel authorised to oppose himself to the prevailing sentiment. Certainly, as he did not participate in the views of the hon. Member who had moved an amendment, he should not support that amendment. But at the same time, entertaining strong doubts of the advantages of the particular plan adopted for raising the additional taxation which was required, he could not refrain from 526 calling the attention of the House to some considerations bearing upon this point. The observation had been made that the measure of the Chancellor of the Exchequer possessed the great recommendation of simplicity; and that the cost of the collection of the revenue would not be augmented in any proportion to the amount raised. Now there were two descriptions of simplicity, that which was a perfection of refinement, and that which was rude and primitive; and he conceived that the proposition of the Chancellor of the Exchequer was of the latter rather than of the former character. His proposal was to raise, by an equal percentage, the taxes of all classes. Now the House would bear in mind that when a Chancellor of the Exchequer was enabled to propose a reduction of taxation, he did not come down and take off 5 per cent, or 10 per cent, from impositions generally, but he examined closely and carefully the nature of the existing taxation; he inquired into the manner in which various imposts interfered with the comforts of the people, or obstructed the progress of improvement, the growth of manufactures, or the extension of commerce, and then he decided on taking off that particular tax from whose extinction the most general relief would be derived. So, when the question was not to reduce but to augment taxation, was it the duty of the Chancellor of the Exchequer to satisfy himself what taxes would be an addition with the lest injury to the productive industry of the country, and the least pressure upon the population. Regarding the present measure, however, rather as a temporary provision for the deficiency in the revenue than a financial measure of acknowledged merit and permanent qualities, the House of Commons would, it appeared, give it support, and he should not oppose the prevailing sentiment. But he must still ask the House to consider, for a moment, whether we could really safely rely on our deriving from the proposed addition to the taxes, the amount which was required and was calculated. When Chancellors of the Exchequer proposed to reduce any tax, say by one half, they were accustomed to tell the House that it was not probable that the total produce of the tax would be reduced in that proportion, It was then the customary observation made from the Treasury bench, one of those standing jokes sanctioned by usage on financial questions, that in the arithmetic of the Exchequer one 527 and one did not make two—that by increasing the rate of a tax you did not increase its produce in proportion. On the present occasion, the Chancellor of the Exchequer seemed to have forgotton this salutary maxim, and to have rashly estimated that one and one did make two: that by adding 5 per cent, to his taxes he could calculate that people, without regard to the increased expense, would continue their consumption on the same scale as formerly, in order to furnish the amount which the necessities of the revenue demanded. This measure was one of a new character in a financial point of view; it appeared to him open to many objections, and unquestionably its operation would call for observation at a future period with reference to its general merits in point of principle. He felt bound, therefore, to take this opportunity of directing the attention of the House to the subject.
§ Captain Pechell
considered the measure to be one which would operate unfairly to some classes of the community. He knew very well that the Chancellor of the Exchequer must raise money when there was a deficiency in the revenue by some means or other. Taxation had been compared to physic, and it seemed to him that the right hon. Gentleman did not care how he administered the dose, so long as he could get it down his patients' throats. He agreed, however, with the general principle of the proposition. He felt bound, not only in justice to his constituency, but to the community at large, to protest against the operation of the proposed increase on the window-tax; it was a tax most unjust and injurious, as well towards the inhabitants of the houses taxed, as towards the individuals who invested their capital in building.
§ Sir George Sinclair
spoke to the following effect:* Sir,—I do not intend to discuss the various items in the Budget, which the Chancellor of the Exchequer explained a few nights ago with so much talent, candour, and perspicuity. I think, that, in the present temper of the House,* From a corrected Report published by Ridgway, with the following letter prefixed.To J. SCHOLEFIELD, ESQ. M.P.London, 27th May, 1840.My dear Scholefield;—I should not have printed, in a separate form, my speech on the condition and feelings of the working classes, if you had not intimated a wish to circulate a528 and under the existing circumstances of the country, the right hon. Gentleman has exercised a sound discretion, both as to the general doctrines, which he has adopted, and as to the manner, in which he has resolved to carry them into effect. But I shall, on this occasion, record my objection to the principles, by which our whole financial and monetary system is regulated and administered. I am far from thinking, that the statement of the right hon. Gentleman has been brought forward a day too soon; but, on the other hand, I cannot help observing, that the premature rapidity, with which the House has been lately scrambling through the estimates, formed a striking and startling contrast to the Fabian or procrastinating policy, pursued, ever since January, with respect to practical legislation, and to every measure connected with the general interests of the empire. I believe, that her Majesty's Ministers are eagerly bent upon expediting all pecuniary grants as much as possible, in order to bring all other proceedings to an abrupt and speedy termination. I feel persuaded, that the outward-bound fleet of bills, now ostensibly waiting for a fair wind, and which seem to have all been becalmed at the very outset of their voyage, will ere long have their sailing orders countermanded, and, as usual, be laid up in ordinary for the winter. Gentlemen should bear in mind, when voting the supplies, that, if the Queen's Theatre at St. Stephen's were suddenly to close for the season, and the curtain of prorogation should finally drop, after so many pompous announcements on the part of the managers, without any corresponding performances, no money would be returned, and a quid pro quo on behalf of the people, could then no longer be insisted on. I trust, that, in premising these remarks, I shall not be considered as intruding upon the province of my hon. Friend, the Member for Kilkenny, who, in the financial department, may justly be denominated the parliamentary Tamburini. In connexion with the vote now under consideration, involvingthousand copies of the report as it appeared in the newspapers. As no one is more thoroughly conversant than yourself with the momentous subjects, to which my remarks referred, I have been induced by so decided an intimation of your approval to prepare a corrected edition for the press.Believe me to remain,Very faithfully yours,GEORGE SINCLAIR.529 so large an amount of public money, I shall call the attention of the House to a subject, of which no one ventures to question the importance, but of which every one seems anxious to avoid the introduction—I allude to the distress and discontent, which at present so generally prevail, among the labouring classes throughout the empire. We were all, not long since, regaled and rewarded with a fortnight's leisure and recreation, after the labours, or, I should rather say, the loquacity, of the antecedent three months; and I believe, Sir, that during the recess, a question was often propounded by our constituents, which it is much more natural for them to ask, than easy for us to answer—namely, what benefit has accrued to the British empire from all our sayings, which have been so many, or from all our doings, which have been so few? A very large proportion of our countrymen, out of doors, whatever may be their rank in society, and whatever their opinions in politics, contemplate the whole conduct of this House with astonishment and dissatisfaction. They perceive, that we do little else than talk away the public time, and throw away the public money. But the working-classes, especially, regard our proceedings with feelings of discouragement and indignation. Reduced, as multitudes already are, to the lowest abyss of wretchedness, they see, that we are much more tenacious of our own privileges than concerned about their privations—they wonder that we still adhere to the old practice of fixing the extent of the national expenditure, without simultaneously ascertaining the state of the national income; for if, when the estimates had been placed in the hands of Members, our financial condition and prospects were made known before the supplies were finally granted, this House, although so notorious for obsequiousness and extravagance, might, perhaps, perceive the necessity of rather reducing their amount, than imposing fresh burthens upon the people. Instead of hoping to experience diminished pressure, they are dreading the effects of augmented taxation; and the conviction is every year becoming more prevalent amongst them, that they can never command sympathy, or expect justice, until, like the landed interest, the manufacturing interest, the commercial interest, the monied interest, the shipping interest, the the colonial interest, the dissenting interest,—the labouring interest shall have representatives in this House, to plead their 530 cause, and obtain redress of their grievances. We hear, it is true, a great deal about national honour and national security, but what is so disgraceful as to be annually adding to our debt, and what so unsafe as that the Legislature should universally be deemed unworthy to possess the respect and confidence of the community? It is assumed, as an incontrovertible axiom, that enormous establishments must be kept up, and fresh armaments equipped, because a similar policy is pursued by surrounding nations. But many other countries are neither encumbered as we are with debt, nor depressed by excessive taxation; some of them have even been preserved from these calamities by the receipt of large subsidies from Great Britain, in the days of palmy extravagance (when we used to borrow money for the purpose of giving it away), the payment of the interest upon which, in no small degree, contributes to the distress and impoverishment of our own population. We close our eyes, that we may not behold our dangers; we shut our ears, that we may not hear the people's expostulations; we steel our hearts, that we may not alleviate their sufferings; and yet, by crafty mystification of the public accounts, and by hocus pocus manœuvres with Exchequer Bills, we have hitherto succeeded in cheating ourselves, and endeavoured to delude others into the belief, that the nation is contented and prosperous, and our resources unimpaired and inexhaustible. I should like to know how such a system would be found to answer in the concerns of private life? It is recorded by the biographer of a distinguished Peer, that he once determined, at the beginning of the year, to look seriously into the state of his affairs, which had for some time been becoming more and more embarrassed and perplexed. He began, however (as it appears to me), at the wrong end—for he said to himself, I am a Duke, a Lord-lieutenant, and a Knight of the Garter; I return Members for two boroughs, and have a great interest in three counties; and, therefore, coute qui coute, I must keep up a showy establishment. My neighbour, the Marquess, has just returned from the continent with a retinue of foreign servants. My cousin, the Earl, has been ordering some new carriages, and adding largely to his stud. I must not be behind-hand with either of them. I shall purchase a fresh set of race-horses and hunters; and I shall look out for an additional French cook, an Italian valet, a Swiss porter, and 531 two tall German hussars to stand behind my carriage. The steward (whose name by-the-bye, was Joseph) was standing in the antechamber, impatiently expecting to hear what reductions had been determined on; and being called in, looked quite aghast, when these unseasonable schemes of augmented magnificence were announced to him. He ventured to remind his Grace, that the tenants Were already rackrented, and the estates mortgaged to much more than half their value. All his remonstrances were of no avail; he was ordered to add 10 per cent, to the rents, and effect a large additional loan in any quarter, and upon any terms. Sir, a course which was preposterous in a nobleman must, in the end, prove pernicious to a nation. I ask how it is possible, that the result can be otherwise than disastrous, if we increase our expenditure at the very time when the industrious classes are loudly complaining, and many sources of revenue placed in jeopardy? We may be assured, that the people are fully aware of these things, and are every where condemning our obstinacy and infatuation, as well as the apathy with which we behold their sufferings and listen to their remonstrances. I should be glad to learn, why Frost and his accomplices, although, in consequence of their rash and criminal enterprise, so many of the operatives perished on the field, leaving their widows and their orphans in a state of hopeless penury, are regarded by an overwhelming majority of the very classes on whom they entailed these calamities, not as malefactors, but as martyrs? I apprehend, that this sentiment arises from a deep feeling of disappointment on the part of the working-men, at the results which have flowed from the Reform Bill; a measure, which has secured a lucrative and long continued monopoly of place and pelf to the Whigs, but without producing any advantage whatever to the people, although mainly carried through their instrumentality. It has not given to the country better electors, better Members, better measures, or better Ministers. They think, that having nothing to expect from the Legislature, they must be preparing to try what they can do for themselves. I fear, that they have less confidence than I could wish, in the Conservatives, by whom they have been neglected; I am sure that they cherish no respect for the Whigs, by whom they have been betrayed; and least of all do they place any dependance on the soi-disant or rather ci- 532 devant Radical party, by whom they have been abandoned; a party, which, in fact, may with truth be described as a kind of impalpable nonentity. My hon. Friend, the Member for Westminster, is, I believe, the leader, and almost the last of the bona fide Radicals. They were solemnly admonished by a judge, as much distinguished by humanity of heart, as by uprightness of character, that the powers that he are of God. But, Sir, they would perhaps have reminded his Lordship, in reply, that the powers that be, have duties as well as rights, and that the permanence of the rights is best secured by a faithful discharge of the duties. Sir, I am aware, that Socialism and Chartism have of late been most eloquently denounced by eminent prelates, and sage legislators in another place; but, I believe that these evils, so fraught with danger to our institutions, are mainly owing, both in their origin, and in their growth, to the neglected sufferings of the people. I fully appreciate the importance of diffusing throughout the land the inestimable blessings of religious instruction, and of secular information; but we must remember, that the poor are creatures of time, as well as children of eternity—that they require nourishment for the stomach, as well as knowledge for the soul,—in a word, they must have bread as well as Bibles, and I am persuaded, that if you erected a church in every square, endowed a school in every street, and placed a copy of the Library of Useful Knowledge in every cottage, you would not succeed in allaying the discontent of the working classes, unless you adopted measures for ameliorating their physical condition. One panacea has indeed been sedulously recommended to the labourers, I cannot say by the example, but by the eloquence of not a few philosophers and philanthropists: I mean, that of abstaining from marriage, and thus stifling the best feelings and counteracting the strongest impulses, which nature has implanted in their bosoms. But it is often found, that the prudential patriots, who lavish the most enthusiastic encomiums upon celibacy, where others are concerned, select for themselves the handsomest wives, (and sometimes more than one in succession), and are frequently blest with the most numerous offspring. And here, Sir, I may be asked, whether I am prepared to contend, that we should dismantle bur fleets, and disband our armies, and relinquish our foreign possessions? I believe, Sir, that 533 this is an alternative, which stern necessity may ultimately compel us to adopt, if we persevere in our present principles in regard to our debt, taxes, and currency. But I have long been of opinion, that our whole system of financial administration imperatively requires not only a careful revision, but a thorough change, as a substitute for the annual reiteration of such sorry shifts, as fresh loans, and such desperate expedients, as new taxes, to avert or retard the necessity of looking the great source of our difficulties in the face. The gold standard, coupled with our enormous debt, and intolerable weight of taxation, is the chief cause of that discontent and distress, which have for some time been everywhere prevailing, and constitutes the main cause why the Corn-laws were enacted and are maintained. These laws are not the cause, but the consequence of our embarrassments; it being necessary for the Government to keep up high prices, in order that such an amount of money may be levied in the shape of taxes, as may enable them to keep up our overgrown establishments, and pay the dividend to the national creditor. The alternate expansion and contraction of the circulating medium have often placed the country in a state bordering upon bankruptcy and ruin. The welfare of the operatives, has, of course, been deeply affected by these sudden oscillations, over which they have no control, and on the recurrence of which, their labour, like all other commodities, experiences a sudden depreciation, in order, that by the sacrifice of their interests and comforts, a supply of gold may be obtained from abroad. I am afraid, Sir, that they consider the two great parties in this House to be so absorbed in the furtherance of their own interests, as to bestow but a small proportion of their time or of their thoughts upon the welfare or the misery of the millions out of doors. Not many years ago, an unfortunate invalid, who had been afflicted with a complication of diseases, determined to consult two regular practitioners, on whose skill and judgment he was inclined to place unlimited reliance. After a very hurried and superficial examination, they both concurred in assuring him, that he was really labouring under a delusion, that his complaints were altogether imaginary, and that all they could recommend him to do was to trust in Providence, and live upon water gruel. After imparting such sage advice, they stepped into their chariots, and drove as fast as their horses could carry them 534 to enjoy a white-bait festival at Black-wall. Few things are more provoking to any one, who is conscious of acute suffering, than to be told that there is nothing the matter with him. The patient, feeling that he grew daily worse, requested the doctors to favour him with a second visit, and expostulated with them upon the precipitation and injustice of their former verdict. After having considered the case more maturely, they so far modified their previous opinion as to admit that he was certainly indisposed; but they now added, in a tone resembling that of Job's comforters, that his disorder was chronic and incurable, altogether beyond the scope of their pharmacopoeias, and that it Would be of no use for them even to attempt to write a prescription. Goaded almost to madness by this declaration, he resolved to call in a quack, who had acquired considerable celebrity in the neighbourhood, and who soon gained his confidence by assuming a very grave face, shaking his head, and telling him (after he had looked at his tongue, felt his pulse, and inquired into his symptoms) that he really was very ill. "But," said he, "pray do not be discouraged. Do you see this little phial? It contains an elixir, which, if you take it in sufficient quantity, will not only remove all your sufferings, but secure for you the attainment of better health than you ever enjoyed in your life." "Well," replied the invalid, "I can't be worse than I am. I would rather die at once than drag on a miserable existence. The regular doctors say they can do nothing for me; reach me your mixture, I'll swallow it and take my chance." This is, as I conceive, a counterpart to the case of the operatives in this country. They are represented by the patient. The Physicians are the Whig and Tory statesmen, the empiric is the demagogue, and the elixir universal suffrage. I shall, on this occasion, take the liberty to state what I consider to be the temper and condition of the working classes at the present moment. They are, I doubt not, inclined to venerate and uphold our civil and religious institutions, if they can only enjoy under their shelter and predominance a moderate and reasonable degree of comfort and independence; and I maintain, that no class of the community is more susceptible of gratitude for any expression of sympathy, or more fully appreciates any act of kindness. But it is equally true, that there prevails amongst them, to a greater extent than lion. Members are at all prepared for, a growing distrust and 535 alienation as regards this House, equivalent, in many instances, to a feeling of contemptuous aversion. They think that the House of Commons are admirable representatives of the opulent and the prosperous, but very sorry legislators for the industrious and the distressed—eager to make ample provision for the luxury and extravagance of the court — unwilling to take the slightest notice of the interests or necessities of the poor. They see that there is, perhaps, no other country, in which wealth is worshipped with such slavish idolatry as in England, and poverty so universally regarded as a portentous and unpardonable crime. This distinction between wealth and poverty is frequently exemplified, not only in the distribution of recompence, but in the infliction of punishment. Where offences are nearly similar in nature and degree, rigour the most relentless is meted out to the obscure, while forbearance the most indulgent is exercised towards the rich. The perplexing state of our monetary relations, and the appalling amount of our debt have brought England into an artificial condition, which renders the result of all transactions uncertain and precarious. The suicidal act, which passed in 1819, for compelling the nation and all private debtors to pay in one standard the full amount of all obligations contracted in another, has inflicted both on the community and on private families, and especially on the landed interest, an accumulation of calamity, unparalleled in the records of the world. It is chiefly through the crippling, paralyzing influence of this most disastrous enactment, that a large proportion of those who possess extensive estates are drowned in debts and difficulties, and that many leading merchants and tradesmen, including not a few of the most fashionable shopkeepers in this metropolis, if compelled to adjust their affairs, would find themselves in circumstances bordering on insolvency, and I repeat, that a system of protection is mainly necessary in behalf of our manufacturing and agricultural industry, in order that the requisite amount of taxes may be extorted, and the fund-holder continue to receive in gold the full dividend, which accrued from a capital, much of which was originally advanced in depreciated paper. In consequence of the enhanced value of money, the repeal of public burdens has afforded little or no alleviation; it is more difficult to collect the present nominally diminished, but in reality more oppressive, amount of taxes, 536 than it was during the war, when the circulating medium was abundant to meet the larger expenditure which the exigencies of the state required. The country is perpetually liable to feverish alternations between prosperity and distress. An unlooked for and extensive demand for the precious metals in America or in Europe, might at once drain the Bank of its treasures, and leave them no alternative but between bankruptcy and bank restriction; and the Chancellor of the Exchequer, in order to maintain the national resources, even to their present extent, is compelled to borrow largely from the bank, and repair the evils incident to a gold standard and a restricted currency, by bringing more paper into circulation. As the Bank is every moment exposed to a sudden run on its treasures in seasons of panic and emergency, it must, of course, adhere, both for its own sake and on public grounds, to nature's law of self-preservation. And it might be indispensable for the directors to call in its advances and contract its issues at the very moment when manufacturing exigencies and commercial necessities would otherwise imperatively require, that increased accommodation should be afforded and fresh liabilities incurred. The constant changes occasioned by our oppressive embarrassments at home, and our complicated relations with other countries, have deeply affected the well-being of the working classes, who, in almost every extensive manufacturing county have, at different times, been overwhelmed with hardships and privations, during the continuance of which they have never received from Parliament any sympathy or any succour. We all know, that stagnation in trade, and depression of wages have, at no remote period, been successively experienced in various districts; and I am persuaded, that whenever any great degree of wretchedness prevails amongst the working classes connected with any particular trade, there isintactis quoque cura conditione super communi. They know, that their own turn may not be far distant, and the degree of attention, bestowed by a reformed House of Commons, upon the interests of the sufferers in any quarter, is watched with painful solicitude by their fellow operatives at Manchester, at Birmingham, at Coventry, at Paisley, at Bolton, at Glasgow, at Stockport, or at at Worcester. But even, Sir, in those towns, in which there is no immediate want of employment, I believe, that the working classes are far from being satisfied, or from 537 having reason to be satisfied, with their condition. There are millions throughout the land, who can (it is true) contrive to make the two ends of the week meet, and earn a straightened, or perhaps not inadequate livelihood, but to whom life is rather a calamity than a blessing! Many rich men seem to think, that such persons ought to be quite contented, if they can only exist, and, like the Israelites in Egypt, "get to their burdens," although they have no leisure for improving their minds, or superintending the education of their children, or indulging in innocent recreations, or passing a portion of their time in the circle of domestic affection. In this respect how much are we eclipsed and put to shame by Pagan legislators of antiquity, who even deemed it a duty to provide public games and amusements for the community, and watched over their happiness with parental anxiety. But how heart-breaking is, in numberless instances, the mode of life, to which the labouring classes, in this country are compelled to submit! as if because they are born to work, they came for no other purpose into the world! How wretched in many places are their hovels! how squalid their attire! how scanty and unwholesome their food! how stunning the noise which deafens them for so many hours! how noxious the atmosphere which they breathe! how gladly would they compound for the same amount of comfort and independence as is enjoyed by the free negroes in St. Vincent's or Jamaica: They are, no doubt, often unbraided (and especially by sententious and self-indulgent moralists, when lolling upon elastic cushions in their gorgeous equipages) with clinging to debasing habits of idleness, intemperance, and improvidence; but I, for one, must own, that I make great allowance for men, whose retrospect offers no reminiscences of past happiness, and whose futurity presents no hope of future enjoyment, if, even within the precincts of the gin-palace or the beer-shop, they hasten when jaded by present toils and overwhelmed by present necessities for a brief season, "to steep the senses in forgetfulness," by having recourse to antidotes, which, although (like the claret and curacoa of the rich) they are often in the end destructive, are at least for the time oblivious. How many honest and respectable fathers of families are at issue, with those who maintain, that the present system is working well! It does so undoubtedly, as far as the court, and the persons, who subsist on the taxes, are 538 concerned. It is well adapted to further the interests of all, who have realised or inherited large incomes, or who can secure preferment for their brothers, promotion for their uncles, legations for their children, pensions for their widows, or power and place and patronage for themselves. None of us are gratuitous eulogists of things as they are. We never know what it is to want; we never devote one hour to those harassing occupations, by which the lives of millions are embittered and abridged. It is indeed, often asserted that our duties are multifarious and fatiguing, but we can at pleasure modify, suspend, or relinquish them. The privileges and recreations of the legislator are as numerous, as the privations and the hardships of the labourer are intense. The former can retire from his sphere of exertion whenever it suits his convenience or caprice, to take his ride in the Park, or his rubber at Crockford's, or enjoy a hebdomadal "feast of reason and flow of soul," at Grillon's. The latter must perform the daily routine of his drudgery without any alternative, and is a stranger to the resource of pairing off for the night or retiring to enjoy rural leisure for the week. We participate in all the refinements and embellishments devised by modern ingenuity. We all expect, that we shall this evening retire to comfortable places of abode, where those, whom we love, are surrounded by all the conveniences and most of the luxuries of life. But what shall we say with respect to the destitute hand-loom weavers, and the hundreds of thousands throughout the manufacturing districts, "subject to like passions as we are," and as anxious as we possibly can be for the welfare and the comfort of their offspring, who, long ere morning's dawn, are summoned to unremitting, unhealthy, and unprofitable toil, or perhaps are cut off from obtaining employment at all; who have no other prospect than of returning at a late hour of the night to their forlorn and cheerless homes in a state of bodily exhaustion and mental despondency; and who can bequeath no legacy to their children but a career as wretched as their own? Is it consistent with reason or common sense, that persons so circumstanced should feel any strong attachment to the institutions under which they live—or ought I not rather to say, under which they are doomed to pine in unrelieved and unpitied wretchedness? And may it not sometimes occur to them, however erroneously, that 539 those who have nothing to lose, may have something to gain, even through the appalling medium of anarchy and civil discord? If a feeling of desperation and a thirst for vengeance should impel them to deeds of violence, and that some modern Menenius should say to them, "Will you undo yourselves?" Might they not reply in the simple and appropriate language of the Roman citizen, "We cannot, sir; we are undone already." And to what quarter can they look for compassion? From whence are they to hope for assistance? To transmit their complaints to this House is an empty ceremony and a vain delusion; as well might they address themselves to the Congress at Washington, to the Chamber of Deputies at Paris, or to the Cortes assembled at Madrid. Their petitions are huddled together like so much rubbish, and consigned in silence to the leathern sepulchre of oblivion, if that indeed can be said to he forgotten, which scarcely attracted the notice of a single moment: Should any rash philanthropist venture to utter a single sentence on their behalf, how many patriotic economists of the public time would grudge the application even of a few minutes to such a theme! But (even supposing, though not conceding, that their wretchedness is in no degree owing to the selfish or unwise legislation of former days,) what benefit would accrue to the sufferers from the most touching effusions of commiserating eloquence, unless followed up by actual measures for their relief? On such occasions, we resemble the priest and the Levite much more than the compassionate Samaritan. On what ground are the former condemned in holy writ? They had not inflicted the wounds, by which their unhappy fellow-creature lay bleeding on the highway: they, perhaps, were gifted with such exquisite sensibility that they were loath to harrow up their nerves by the revolting spectacle of human distress, and yet they are exhibited as objects of unanimous execration to posterity; not because they were the authors of the poor man's agony, but because, without attempting to succour him, they "passed by on the other side." Has not our own conduct been precisely similar, when we learnt that thousands or even millions of our countrymen were steeped to the very lips in poverty, wretchedness, disease and degradation? And what is it that the working classes, when thus reduced, have presumed to require at our hands? Do they call for ribbands or regiments? Do they ask for 540 coronets or coaches and six? By no means. The sum and substance of their remonstrances amounts to this, "You are the representatives of the people, a people of which we form no inconsiderable a proportion; we desire not to eat the bread of sloth, we are perfectly willing to work, hut are either altogether unemployed, or cannot, without such an amount of drudgery as renders life a burthen, secure an adequate subsistence. We, therefore, as a last resource, appeal to your humanity, or rather to your justice, and pray that you will devise such measures as may enable us either to emigrate to foreign climes, or (which we should infinitely prefer) to earn, within the precincts of our country, for our wives and children, a decent maintenance, commensurate with our sphere of life." Is there anything unfair, anything unjust, anything unreasonable in this? The unhappy and patient victims ask no more, and I see not, in conscience, how human nature can be satisfied with less, or what satisfaction it can afford to a starving family "to see profusion, which they must not share." I have often listened with indignation and disgust to the colloquial homilies of selfish affluence. How triumphantly does the bloated sensualist, who encumbers his lordly board, and stimulates his languid appetite by an endlessly diversified array of costly viands, and who is, perhaps, in secret addicted to practices more flagrant in the sight of God, indulge in a pathetic invective against crimes, which his unearned hereditary opulence has placed him beyond the temptation of committing, and to which the poor are only impelled by destitution, neglect, and despair! Away with such easy eloquence—such nauseous cant—such cheap morality! Nothing is more common or less difficult than to paint the vices of others in the most glowing colours, or to endure their sorrows and witness their sufferings with the most exemplary resignation. I had the honour, some years ago, to sit at dinner next to a very prim, somewhat antiquated, highly-respectable spinster, deeply interested in the fluctuations of the three per cents, and of the quadrille table, and who, in the society of a sleek and snarling lap-dog, feasted on all the delicacies of all the seasons. Whilst she was enjoying, quite conamore, a well-replenished plate of rich and savoury turtle soup—allusion was made to the disturbances then raging in certain districts, where the working classes had been driven by want of employment for 541 themselves and of sustenance for their families, to perpetrate acts of violence and intimidation. My fair neighbour shrugged up her shoulders, turned up the whites of her eyes, and, during the brief intervals from self-complacent deglutition, exclaimed, "Oh, Sir, national unthankfullness is a very heinous sin! How multiplied are the benefits, which a gracious Providence is daily showering down upon us, the unreasonable inhabitants of this highly-favoured land! I wish I could only expostulate in person with our misguided and unthinking countrymen themselves; I should like to ask them, whether it would be decent, or even possible, to pray for a larger measure of comforts than we actually receive?" "Champagne, Ma'am?" "If you please. But, Sir," continued she, whilst the butler was pouring a bumper of Vin d'Ay, into a long capacious glass, "I blush to think of the return which we are making for mercies, of which we arc so very unworthy! Is it not awful and melancholy to consider," here she drank off her wine, which was remarkably well iced, "that perhaps at this very moment, by way of a requital for all our blessings, we are committing outrages and breaking frames? I declare when one reflects upon such horrid infatuation, it makes one's flesh creep from head to foot, lest, as a just chastisement for all our crimes, we should, in the twinkling of an eye be deprived of all our comforts—may I trouble you for another spoonful of the green fat?" In connexion with this good lady's admonitory lamentations, there were two elements, which she altogether overlooked. In the first place, she omitted to remember, that, if by some lucky windfall, or providential dispensation, the most reckless of these unhappy delinquents had come into possession of a fortune equivalent to the hundredth part of the mercies, which she enjoyed with so keen a relish, and prized with so exemplary a thankfulness, he would have vied with herself in the loudness of his encomiums on the benefits resulting from tranquillity and subordination. In fact, riches and radicalism, though not invariably incompatible, very seldom go hand in hand. I am persuaded, that many a blustering political fire-eater would be thoroughly cured of all his levelling crotchets and revolutionary vagaries, by opportunely marrying a dashing widow and participating in the usufruct of a well paid jointure, or by unexpectedly burying an inconvenient uncle, who, in the 542 capacity of rightful owner, was the only bar to his entrance upon the enjoyment of a title and estate. On the other hand, my worthy friend plumed herself upon being what would now be termed a staunch Conservative, and a decided enemy to all innovation, both religious and political. But no principle was so predominant in her creed, as a mortal antipathy to the income tax, her chief objection to which was the great difficulty of evading it. She had fortunately lived long enough to see it abolished, an event which delighted her much more than the triumphs of Waterloo or Trafalgar; and in defiance of the old adage de mortuis nil nisi bonumshe was constantly directing against its manes the whole artillery of her eloquence. Now, if the Duke of Wellington himself, whom she often pronounced to be the most consummate statesman, as well as the greatest captain of the age, had evoked the grim spectre of that grinding impost from its tomb, I do not say, that her arms would have been employed in destroying frames, but her tongue would have constantly levelled at his Grace the most envenomed shafts of vituperation, and all her dependents would have been marshalled, with herself as generalissimo at their head, to support opposition candidates at the next general election. Such a selfish, rather than syllogistic mode of reasoning, such a habit of assuming the amount of the enjoyments which we possess, as a fit standard for other people's gratitude, although they have themselves no part or lot in our advantages, are by no means confined to this sagacious sentimentalist or her order. They have in a greater or less degree pervaded and characterized the opulent in every country and in every age. I believe, that the loyalty and devotedness of many sound constitutional politicians are more dependent than they are themselves aware of, upon the magnitude of their own personal interest in the honours and emoluments of a perishing world. And if you were to remove these props from beneath their principles, they would at once be laid prostrate on the earth; so intimately connected, in many instances, is our patriotism with our prosperity! In this respect the contrast is very striking between the successful stockjobber, who purchases an estate, and the encumbered esquire, who is compelled to part with it—between the smirking consort of the plum-realising tradesman, whose self-importance is for the first time gratified at the Opera, by the impatient 543 repition of the thundering announcement, that "Mrs. Tomkins's carriage stops the way," and the mortified family of the bankrupt gambler, when, on the eve of an impending migration, per glass-coach, from Grosvenor-place to Turnham-green, they behold the arrested landau dragged by a single horse, at a funeral pace, to the Auction Mart, and are painfully conscious, that they are hereafter doomed to swell the ranks of the involuntary Peripatetics. How emphatically is this palpable and prevailing tendency of the human heart insisted on in the book of Job, by one, who is fully conversant with its weaknesses and its wiles, though mistaken in his application of the charge to the holy patriarch himself. "Doth Job," exclaims Satan, "serve God for naught? Hast thou not made an hedge about him, and about his house, and about all that he hath on every side? Thou hast blessed the work of his hands, and his substance is increased in the land; but put forth thine hand now, and touch all that he hath, and he will curse thee to thy face." This is the faithful portrait of thousands, not the distorted caricature of a few. The Chancellor of the Exchequer might soon bring the truth of this maxim to the test of experience. Let him but propose some tax, which might trench, in any degree, upon the comforts and gratifications of the wealthier classes, though it left them in the full enjoyment of a hundred times more than it took away, and all his popularity would scarcely bear up against the tempest of hostility, even on the part of his dearest friends, and steadiest supporters, which the very surmise of such an intention would infallibly excite against him! He would be "cursed to his face," or, at least, behind his back, by the landowners, if he abolished the Corn-laws; by the stockholders, if he taxed the funds; by the lawyers, if he imposed an ad valorem duty upon briefs; by public servants, if he curtailed their perquisites; by the army, if he diminished their pay; by doctors, if he deducted a percentage from their fees; by churchmen, who have no objection to curtail the revenues of their successors, if he ventured to abridge their own. Now, Sir, the labour of the poor man is to him, what our estates, our salaries, our scrip or our mortgages are to us; and if, by any sudden change in our fiscal regulations, or any capricious preference given to foreign over domestic industry, or the introduction of any ingenious mechanical contrivance, which, though in 544 the main beneficial to the community, deprives many thousands of that livelihood, which their honest industry was earning; if, I say, from any, or all of these causes, a large proportion of our countrymen, at any time, become involved in distress, without any fault of their own, I assert, that it is not only neglectful but criminal, on the part of the representatives of the people, to leave the case of such persons unexamined, their grievances unredressed, and their sufferings unrelieved; for what can be more painful to a mind not callous to every feeling of humanity, than to witness their hopeless and unavailing struggles against the misery by which they are enveloped and consumed! How much, too, must the resentful dissatisfaction of our unemployed or overworked operatives be aggravated, when they see, that so many of our highborn and opulent families spend so much of their time, and squander so much of their wealth, in distant capitals, forgetful of their duty towards that land from which they derive enormous incomes, without any desert or exertion of their own! reluctantly revisiting their homes for a short period, laden with such a stock of (perhaps smuggled) superfluities from abroad, as exonerates them from encouraging the domestic manufacturer, and supplies them with every needed article of furniture or attire, until they again can hurry, with renewed alacrity, to lavish their riches in the haunts of reckless dissipation, upon the continental rivals of our own impoverished artisans. In this respect, the nobles of other countries do not follow our baneful example, or manifest such a repugnance for their own fire-sides. Whilst Rome, Paris, Naples, Vienna, and indeed almost every considerable city, or even insignificant watering-place in Europe, are teeming with voluntary exiles from the British shores; whilst a larger number of our patrician pleasure-hunters resort to ancient than to modern Athens; whilst thousands (including even clergymen and public servants) are roving abroad in quest of luxury and amusement, neglectful of their tenantry or dependents, devoting, in many instances, by a selfish and self-enacted appropriation clause, ecclesiastical revenues to the secular purpose of their own diversion, alienated from the manners, habits, and feelings of their country, acquiring little of what is attractive in the foreign character, and losing much of what is respectable in our own, — how rarely do German, or French, or Russian, 545 or Italian families domiciliate themselves in British society for a series of years, and selfishly spend their incomes at a distance from the soil which gave them birth! How many millions, too, of British capital Has speculative avarice vested in foreign loans, a great portion of which has been employed in founding or fostering rival establishments abroad, to the ruin or detriment of our own manufacturers? i shall not at present further expatiate on these painful and unwelcome, but most urgent and important themes. I must reiterate my strong conviction, that the working classes in this country are becoming daily more displeased with our conduct, as well as more discontented with their own condition; and if we do not, ere long, apply a fit remedy to the crying evils, of which they so universally complain—if we do not adopt effectual measures for relieving defenceless and emaciated children from destructive and degrading bondage—in which it is scarcely possible, that they should be taught to fear God, or trained to regard man, or disciplined into habits of forethought and sobriety, or enjoy the harmless recreations adapted to their tender years, or cherish any consciousness of personal interest in our national institutions and advantages; and if we are not determined, as soon as possible, carefully and patiently, to investigate the condition of the working classes, with an anxious will and firm resolve, even to make sacrifices for the promotion of their physical comfort, and for the more general dissemination of religious truth, and intellectual knowledge amongst them—the day of reckoning and revenge may be nearer at hand than the most alarmed of our politicians, or the most sagacious of our philosophers apprehend; and whilst rulers deride, and rich men disregard, every symptom of impending danger, the whirlwind of an unlooked-for and direful catastrophe, may involve our devoted land in all the frenzied horrors of revolutionary convulsion. We often hear many plausible dissertations upon the perils which would threaten the commercial greatness of the empire, and accelerate the transfer of many lucrative branches of our manufactures to foreign countries, if the hours of adult labour were regulated and abridged. But I am not blind to the perhaps still more ominous results which may sooner or later ensue, if no means should be devised for rendering the situation of the working classes less precarious and less intolerable. They, Sir, 546 are perfectly aware of their own strength, as well as keenly alive to their own sufferings. Combination, for the furtherance of their common interests, is becoming every year more universal, and better organized. I fear, Sir, that this candid expression of my opinion as to the causes and extent of the wretchedness and dissatisfaction, which at present prevail amongst so large a proportion of my countrymen, may entail upon me the diminution or the forfeiture of confidence or regard, on the part of many friends whom I venerate and love. But the necessity, on national grounds, of discharging an incumbent duty is often proportioned to the reluctance with which it is undertaken. I am so anxious for the relief of the suffering and industrious classes, with whom my heart most deeply sympathises, that I would at once vote for the repeal of the Corn-laws, if I did not feel convinced, that such a step would only enhance the intense distress, and curtail the inadequate wages of the agricultural labourer; besides reducing the incomes, and aggravating the embarrassments of the landed gentry, and their tenants, and thus diminishing the consumption of our manufactures in the home market—a loss for which even the expected but doubtful increase in the amount of our exports would afford a very inadequate compensation. The foreign corn-grower would deluge the markets with grain, when already glutted in seasons of abundant crops at home; and when the harvest was deficient in other countries as well as here, would leave us to scarcity and starvation; besides, being at all times anxious to drain the Bank of its last guinea in exchange for his corn, and to foster from this very source, the manufactures which are every where springing up for the express purpose of supplanting ours. If, by the introduction of a well-regulated tax upon capital, the adoption of a silver standard, or some other comprehensive financial operation, we could effect a reduction in the amount of the national debt, and take off the taxes, now necessary to pay the interest of the portion which would thus be cancelled, we might then repeal the Corn-laws, without injuring the landlord or tenant, and abolish many duties, which fetter the operation of commercial and manufacturing industry, and being released from the anomalies of our present unnatural condition, we might defy the competition of the world. But although my own personal interests, and those of my family, are altogether bound up in the preservation of 547 our existing institutions, I cannot, if I would, disguise from myself, that their permanence is endangered by the feelings, which I believe to prevail extensively among the operatives, however much they are generally disposed to be loyal and tranquil, if their earnings were more adequate to the moderation of their desires, their domestic comfort better secured, their daily exertions less overwhelming.—Rebellion may and must be put down by bullets and bayonets, or punished by jails and gibbets, but conspiracies can never be prevented or extinguished, until the causes of discontent are removed. We may rest assured, that sufferers, whose passions are inflamed, or whose spirits are broken, by physical hardships and privations, consider political privileges and abstract rights as a very slender source of consolation or indemnity. It is useless to remind those who are receiving seven shillings a week in exchange for their labour, that they have the benefit of trial by jury. It is insulting to impress upon the mechanic, when disheartened and enfeebled by excessive toil,—that he is entitled to the freedom of the press, and we can scarcely expect, that men will be punctual or ardent in their Sabbath-day devotions and observances, when their tempers have been soured, their intellects satisfied, and their strength exhausted, by the incessant drudgery of the preceding week. Although, I am sure, that the industrious classes may be soothed and satisfied, if we adopt such a system as shall ameliorate their condition, the consequences must, I fear, be most awful, if, whilst laudably engaged in devising means for the protection of Hottentots, Hindoos, and Hill-coolies, we any longer consign so large a proportion of our fellow-citizens to a state of ignorance, bondage, degradation, and distress.
§ Mr. Muntz
was perfectly satisfied that this measure was not of a temporary nature, but that there would be many calls like the present, each louder than the foregoing. Improvement was talked of, but he asked where it was to come from? It was quite notorious, that not a single manufacture of ours was worked to any profit. And not only that, but the labourer could hardly exist on the wages which he received. As to the corn-laws, he did not wonder that the landlords should uphold them in defence of their property, He owned if he were similarly situated he should do the same. What he found fault with the landlords for was, that they did not give wages proportioned to the prices 548 which they kept up. He had a good deal of personal experience as to the progress of manufactures in Europe, and he could state as the result, that if we were not already surpassed, we were on the point of being surpassed by all the nations of the continent. That was the reason why trade was in its present stagnant state. But then we had all sorts of encouragements held out to us. The spring season, it was said, would do wonders. He greatly feared that spring prices would be found to be postponed to next winter. But then we were assured, that the nation would soon resume its usual "elasticity." He had heard this phrase for twenty-five years past, but no one could explain what it meant. There was not a variation in principle, a change in measures, nor an alteration in finance propounded that was not ushered in by the promise of the country soon regaining its "elasticity." The country was distracted between the corn-laws and the money-laws. The former raised the price of food fifty per cent, above what the latter justified. The greatest fault of the Whigs was, that they had followed the policy of their predecessors. He was old enough to recollect, what seemed to be forgotten now-a-days, that it was the mismanagement of the Tories which deprived them of office. The Tories showed they understood as little of Corn-laws as they did of money-laws. What made the Whigs popular was the expectation that they would change this system. But the people, finding their situation, if possible, worse now, said they would as soon be starved to death by the Tories as by the Whigs. The hon. Baronet (Sir G. Sinclair) was right in saying, that the working classes cared little which party governed them, if their physical condition was attended to. He could not help thinking, that the loyalty, and even the religion of Englishmen, had their surest foundation in the stomach. It was impossible for any set of men to govern this country who governed it against the common principles of humanity. He should vote against this motion, as he should against every proposition which went to burden the poor.
§ Mr. Bernal
wished to ask the right hon. the Chancellor of the Exchequer, whether the addition of ten per cent, to the assessed taxes applied to those buildings which were not enlarged, but in 549 which windows were opened for the purpose of trade or professional business, or as a communication between contiguous buildings?
confirmed the accuracy of the statements which had been made as to the condition of the poor, who were worse of now than they were ever known to be. If additional taxes were required, they ought to be imposed on property, which course, while it rendered property more secure, would afford relief to the working classes.
§ Mr. Slaney
, whilst he felt bound to vote with Ministers, bore testimony to the fact, that the sufferings of the poor were great and increasing. He hoped the time would soon arrive when they would abandon such paltry objects of contention as usually engaged the attention of the Legislature, and apply themselves to the far nobler purpose of improving the condition of the great mass of the people. If they did not, they would soon forfeit the confidence of their constituents.
§ Mr. Ward
said, that the Chancellor of the Exchequer had recommended to the House, in his budget, that which he had the best probability of carrying, but it was perfectly competent for every hon. Member to express his dissent from the principle of taxation upon which the Government had proceeded, and to say, that other means ought to be resorted to instead of those which must press severely upon the masses—upon those who were the least able to afford a diminution of their resources. He had received complaints from the town which he had the honour to represent, that there was a pressure upon industry such as had never been known. He had received complaints, not merely from individuals, but from whole trades, of the total impossibility of extricating themselves by any effort, or any amount of exertion, from the difficulties which they said the Corn-laws imposed upon them. He had no doubt that a substitute could be found for the budget proposed by the right hon. Gentleman, the Chancellor of the Exchequer, pressing as it did upon articles consumed by the great mass of the population, and with that feeling he should give his vote in favour of the proposition of his hon. Friend.
§ The Chancellor of the Exchequer
said, he should detain the House for a very short time, because hon. Gentlemen, in the course of the present debate, had 550 taken the opportunity of expressing their own opinions, and the course they were likely hereafter to pursue, rather than of entering at any length into argument upon the measure he had proposed. There were, however, one or two points adverted to in the course of the discussion which he would briefly recur to. As his hon. Friend, the Member for Kilkenny, had gone over the same ground his hon. Friend had trodden before, he did not think it necessary to follow his hon. Friend and re-open the question. The hon. Member for Lambeth had inquired whether the present was to be considered as a temporary arrangement. Now, he was quite sure that the best course to pursue in these cases was, that there should be no concealments between himself and the House. Nothing would give him greater pleasure than to be enabled, by the circumstances of the country, to reduce taxation; but he would not shrink from saying, that it was not his intention ever to place the finances of the country in such a state that the income would be permanently below the expenditure. He felt it his imperative duty to call upon the country to make the income of the country equivalent to its expenditure. That same sense of duty would induce him to continue the same course, believing it to be the only safe and honest one. He believed it was the best course for the poor and industrious classes; for he conceived disorder in finance to be the seeds of all calamities. Disorder in finance meant distress at home and contempt abroad. With regard to the claims of particular interests, he would say, that under the circumstances, there were several which he should have felt happy in relieving, if he had been in a position to sacrifice any part of the revenue. With respect to what had been advanced by the hon. Member for Greenwich, he would ask, who had ever thought of taking off taxes by a percentage? When taxes are laid on, the whole object is not to limit consumption, and when he laid on a tax his object was to effect as great a consumption as he possibly could. The ground the hon. Gentleman had taken as a chief objection to the plan was utterly untenable and opposed to the principle of taxation. The only remaining point necessary to be noticed was that raised by the hon. Member for Rochester, who seemed to have viewed with some alarm 551 and discomfort the word "survey" that had dropped from him (the Chancellor of the Exchequer). He should be sorry to be misunderstood upon that point, and was therefore glad of the opportunity of stating, that the 7th Clause of the 4th and 5th William 4th, giving certain privileges to windows, was to be religiously observed. He had no intention whatever of repealing that Act of Parliament, and instructions would be given to the officers of taxes expressly calling their attention to that clause, with a view to its being left entirely untouched.
§ The House divided on the second reading:—Ayes 107; Noes 15: Majority 92.
|List of the AYES.|
|Abercromby, hn. G. R.||James, W.|
|Adam, Adm.||Kemble, H.|
|Alston, R.||Labouchere, rt. hn. H.|
|Baring, rt. hon. F, T.||Langdale, hon. C|
|Barnard, E. G.||Lennox, Lord G.|
|Berkeley, hon. H.||Lister, E. C.|
|Bernal, R.||Litton, E.|
|Bewes, T.||Lowther, hon. Col.|
|Blair, J.||Lushington, C.|
|Blake, M. J.||Lushington, rt hn. S.|
|Bramston, T. W.||Macauley, rt. hn. T. B.|
|Broadley, H.||Maher, J.|
|Brodie, W. B.||Melgund, Viscount|
|Bruges, W. H. L.||Mildmay, P. St. J.|
|Burroughs, H. N.||Morpeth, Viscount|
|Busfield, W.||Muskett, G. A.|
|Campbell, Sir J.||O'Brien, C.|
|Cavendish, hon. G. H.||O'Connell, M. J.|
|Chalmers, P.||O'Ferrall, R. M.|
|Chester, H.||Packe, C. W.|
|Clay, W.||Paget, H.|
|Collier, J.||Pakington, J. S.|
|Corry, hon. H.||Palmerston, Viscount|
|Duncombe, T.||Parnell, rt. hn. Sir H.|
|Dundas, D.||Pease, J.|
|Elliot, hon. J. E.||Pendarves, E. W. W.|
|Feetwood, Sir P. H.||Perceval, Colonel|
|Gladstone, W. E.||Philips, M.|
|Gordon, R.||Plumptre, J. P.|
|Goulburn, rt. hon. H.||Power, J.|
|Graham, it. hn. Sir J.||Praed, W. T.|
|Grey, rt. hon Sir C. E.||Price, Sir R.|
|Grey, rt. hon. Sir G.||Pryme, G.|
|Hawes, B.||Redinglon, T. N.|
|Heathcote, G. J.||Rice, E. R.|
|Herries, rt. hn. J. C.||Roche, W.|
|Hobhouse, right hon. Sir J.||Roche, Sir D.|
|Hodges, T. L.||Russell, Lord J.|
|Hodgson, R.||Rutherford, rt. hn. A.|
|Holland, R.||Sheil, right hon. R. L.|
|Hoskins, K.||Slaney, R. A.|
|Howard, P. H.||Smith, R. V.|
|Hughes, W. B.||Somerset, Lord G.|
|Hurt, P.||Stanley, hon. W. O.|
|Hutt, W.||Stansfield, W. R. C.|
|Inglis, Sir R. H.||Steuart, R.|
|Strickland, Sir G.||Williams, W. A.|
|Style, Sir C.||Winnington, Sir T.E.|
|Talbot, J.H.||Winnington, H. J.|
|Tennent, J. E.||Wood C.|
|Townley, R. G.||Wood, G. W.|
|Troubridge, Sir E. T.|
|Vivian, rt. hn. Sir R. H.||Stanley, hon. E. J.|
|Walker, R.||Parker, J.|
|List of the NOES.|
|Aglionby, H, A.||Rundle, J.|
|Aglionby, Major||Salwey, Col.|
|Brotherton, J.||Vigors, N. A.|
|Duke, Sir J.||Wakley, T.|
|Ewart, W.||Warburton, H.|
|Fielden, J.||Ward, H. G.|
|Hector, C. J.||Williams, W.|
|Muntz, G. F.||Hume, J.|
§ Bill read a second time.