§ The Speaker having reported, the Lords Commissioners' Speech, and read it to the House,
§ Mr. Mark Philips
rose and spoke to the following effect:—I rise for the purpose of proposing that this House do present an address to her Majesty on her Majesty's gracious speech which we have just heard read, and which was delivered this morning to the newly assembled Parliament by her Majesty's Commissioners. I propose, that in the Address which we shall present to her Majesty, we shall convey to her our humble thanks for her most gracious Speech; and I propose that we should further express our satisfaction that her Majesty has availed herself of the earliest opportunity of resorting to the advice and assistance of both Houses after the dissolution of the late parliament. In these propositions I hope the House will concur with me, and after the sudden determination of the late Parliament, and the important topics which occupied its attention it can only be expected that we should, with the least possible delay, proceed to the consideration of those matters which are of so much importance in the present crisis, and which present themselves so strongly to our notice, in reference to the revenues of this country. I propose that we should assure her Majesty that we are much rejoiced to learn that her Majesty continues to receive from Foreign Powers the gratifying assurances of their desire to maintain with her Majesty the most friendly relations, and that we learn with much content that the objects for which the treaty of the 15th July, 1840, was concluded between her Majesty, the Emperor of Austria, the King of Prussia, the Emperor of Russia, and the Sultan, have been fully accomplished; and that we share in the gratification which her Majesty derives from the fact that the temporary separation which the measures taken in the execution of that treaty created between the contracting powers and France has now ceased. I propose also, that we should add that we trust, with her Majesty, that the union of the principal powers upon all matters affecting the great interests of Europe, will afford a firm security for the maintenance of peace. If I may be permitted to express my own opinion upon that portion of her Majesty's Speech which has reference to 113 her Majesty continuing to receive from Foreign Powers the gratifying assurances of their desire to maintain with this country the most friendly relations, I can only say, that holding the position which I do as one of the representatives of a large manufacturing community in this country, I am one of those who value peace more if possible—than most other hon. Members of this House; for the least interruption of the general peace of the world must produce to that class which I represent some of the greatest evils possible to be imagined. I, look on it therefore, not only as a christian duty on the part of a Christian country to preserve universal amity, but, considering the evils likely to result in the effects which I have pointed, out, I unhesitatingly declare, that we cannot overrate too much the blessing to be derived from its continuance, and that we should, on that account, view with great satisfaction, that which we have heard in the Speech from the Throne, viz., that the temporary separation caused by the treaty of July, 1840, between this country and some of the other powers of Europe and France, has most happily terminated. I have always looked upon France as the natural ally of this country, and have watched with the most anxious jealousy anything which might tend to create a want of good feeling between us. I have always considered, that as two of the great leading countries of the world, they should be looked upon as the bulwarks of civil liberty—and that if anything tending to produce a result the contrary of that to which I have alluded were to arise, it would be matter which would be most sincerely to be regretted. I trust, that with reference to the general peace of Europe, and the relation between this country and all other nations, nothing will occur to alter the amity which at present exists. With reference to the question of peace generally, I repeat that its a advantages cannot be overrated in a great commercial country like this; and it would always be matter of great satisfaction to me, as a commercial man, to find her Majesty, in her Speech from the Throne, congratulating the country, instead of upon any successful termination of mere matters of diplomacy, or the great success of the British arms, that some new liberal commercial treaty with some commercial nation had been entered into, for it is to such means that we must look for the maintenance of the greatness of this country, rather than to the prowess of our fleet, or 114 the deeds of arms of our gallant soldiers. I would propose further, that we should, in our address to her Majesty, state our participation in the joy which her Majesty has expressed, that in consequence of the evacuation of Ghorian, by the Persian troops, her Majesty has ordered her Minister at the Court of Persia to return to Teheran. I am sure that I shall have the feeling of the House with me, in congratulating her Majesty upon this renewal of our good relations with Persia, which have been for a time disturbed. I would propose further, that we should express our regret that the negotiations between our Plenipotentiaries in China and the Chinese government have not yet been brought to a satisfactory conclusion, and that it has been necessary to call into action the forces which her Majesty has sent to the China seas; but that, with her Majesty, we trust that the Emperor of China will see the justice of the demands which her Majesty's Plenipotentiaries have been instructed to make. With reference to China the House will perhaps permit me to offer a few observations which suggest themselves to my mind. I cannot but regret and deplore most deeply, on account of our British commerce, that the difficulties which have existed in our relations with China have not been already brought to a successful termination; but it is matter of congratulation to this country, that in attempting to vindicate our honour we have not been driven into any act of violence or bloody hostility against a nation who have been distinguished for want of good faith in their relations with this country, and that in the attack which has been made on the Chinese forts by a British force, the loss of British life has been incalculably small. I trust, that by the mode in which that attack was conducted, we shall have gained honour in the eyes of the civilized world; for instead of attempting to destroy a city which was placed in our power, we did not retaliate for the injuries which we had received, but, by our conduct, we showed, that we came to demand justice, and not to exercise revenge. In this respect, it appears to me, that England will take a proud station in connection with this unfortunate affair; and I trust, that although the Chinese nation, in all its dealings with our plenipotentiaries, has shown a great want of honour—that it has been so uncivilized as to pay no regard to the importance of truth in the interchange of com- 115 munications between her authorities, and the representatives of her Majesty, yet that the forbearance of those representatives, and the magnanimity of their conduct, will not fail to produce a good effect; and I am not without hopes, that although the trade of this country is suspended, so far as any present beneficial results are concerned, the consequence will be the ultimate establishment of our relations upon a much better basis than that on which they have heretofore stood, and that we shall be able to introduce into the practices of the Chinese somewhat of the system of commercial business, which civilized nations carry on one with the other. We should recollect, that we are not the only nation carrying on trade with China, but a large portion of the trade of that nation, is shared by the United States, and I have no doubt, that we shall have the co-operation of the United States to place that trade upon a better footing; for they must be as anxious as ourselves to place our relations with China upon a firmer footing. I trust, that this may be the ultimate result of the present proceeding, and it will be most satisfactory to me, who do not stand up here to justify the trade in opium, and who never vindicated the violation of the laws of China, which are opposed to the introduction of this noxious article, that we should see the money expended upon this pernicious drug coming to the shores of this country to be expended in our manufactures, and thus tending to improve the position of the Chinese nation in the civilized world, whilst, at the same time, the increased prosperity and happiness of our own manufacturing classes would be thereby greatly promoted. I propose further, that this House should express to her Majesty, that we rejoice to learn, that the differences which had arisen between Spain and Portugal, respecting the execution of a treaty concluded by those powers in 1830, for regulating the navigation of the Douro, have been adjusted amicably, and with honour to both parties, by the aid of her Majesty's mediation. It will always, of course, be observed, that the sense of justice and impartiality which guides the decisions of this country with reference to the disputes of foreign nations, tends to place England in the highest position among the nations of the world, and I sincerely trust, that that will be the result of the course taken by the Government of this country in this matter. I propose, further, that this 116 House should thank her Majesty for acquainting us, that the debt incurred by the legislature of Upper Canada, for the purposes of public works, is a serious obstacle to further improvements, which are essential to the prosperity of the United province; and that her Majesty has authorised the Governor-general to make a communication on the subject to the Council and Assembly of Canada; and also that her Majesty will direct the papers to be laid before us, and express our determination, that our earnest attention will be directed to matters so materially affecting the welfare of Canada, and the strength of the empire. With reference to this portion of the Address, I may perhaps be permitted simply to say, that I am sure, there will be only one feeling in this House, and that all will be sincerely desirous to do everything in their power to carry on the dealings between this country and so important a colony as Canada. Further, I propose, that the House should assure her Majesty, that her Majesty may rely with entire confidence on our loyalty and zeal to make adequate provision for the public service, as well as for the further application of sums granted by the last Parliament. I cannot for one moment doubt, that her Majesty's confidence in Parliament will be fairly carried out. The public credit has been always held sacred in this House, and it will, doubtless, in this instance, be the object of the Legislature to make the necessary provision to meet the public expenditure, in such a manner as shall be as little burdensome to the people as possible. I propose, in the next place, that we shall express our entire agreement in the necessity of the extraordinary expenses which the events in Canada, China, and the Mediterranean, and the necessity of maintaining a force adequate to the protection of our extensive possessions, and that this House will proceed at once to the consideration of the means of increasing the public revenues, and to assure her Majesty, that we participate in her anxiety that this object should be effected in the manner least burdensome to the people. In proposing, that this should form a part of the Address to her Majesty, I am very well aware, that there may be in this House some difference of opinion with regard to the mode of relieving the people to the utmost extent, but as we are called on by her Majesty to give our earnest consideration to the subject, I feel, that the House will not refuse 117 to give their attention to the matter, whatever may be the result at which we may finally arrive. With reference to the Import duties, permit me to say, that I have found the gentlemen throughout the mercantile world, unanimously in favour of such a change as was recommended by the committee which sat upon the subject in 1840. I am aware that in the last Session of Parliament many objections were raised against the report, and some cavils were raised at the description of evidence tendered on the questions on which the committee was called upon to deliberate. But it always appeared to me singular that an objection should be raised against the evidence, and yet that those who raised that objection should never have asked for the reconstruction of the committee or for an inquiry into their allegations, or whether or not the matters of fact were as they were represented, or whether there were other matters which should have been investigated. I can only say that the report of the committee has engrossed a very great portion of the public attention, and that the more it has been read amongst the manufacturers the more has that community expressed to me their deep sense of the necessity of some such change in the means to be adopted of raising the public revenue as that which is suggested. If I were to enter at large upon all the subjects involved in this question, I should trespass at greater length upon the attention of the House than they might be disposed to hear me; but, I must say, that it appears to me that on reference to many articles of import, I believe her Majesty has rightly expressed herself in her speech when she thus addresses us:—It has appeared to her Majesty, after full deliberation, that you may, at this juncture, properly direct your attention to the revision of duties affecting the production of foreign countries. It will be for you to consider whether some of these duties are not so trifling in amount as to be unproductive to the revenue, while they are vexatious to commerce. You may further examine whether the principle of protection, upon which others of these duties are founded, be not carried to an extent injurious alike to the income of the state and the interests of the people.I, look therefore, with great confidence for some alteration in the present system. What this country wants, I conceive, is an extension of its markets, to relieve those distresses which now exist, and which I do not look upon as mere matter of accident, 118 or as a passing event, but which, it appears to me, is the result of something in our fiscal system which is at variance with the prosperity and the happiness of the people. I hope that on this subject I entertain no party views, for I cannot think that the distresses of the people of this country ought to be made the subject of party feelings. I hope that the House will in the best and fairest spirit of inquiry proceed to investigate the present position of the Import duties of this country, and that the more they inquire into this matter, the stronger conviction will be impressed upon their minds that that which is said is only just and reasonable towards the people who consume, and to those also who produce the various commodities referred to in the report. I will not detain the House by going into any details, but I cannot allow this opportunity to pass by without again recording my opinion in favour of the alteration of the duties upon the colonial articles imported into this country. With reference to the subject of sugar, I must say, that from inquiries which I have made, I have found that the quantity of sugar imported into Liverpool, and upon which duty has been paid for home consumption since the discussion of last Session, has shown a material falling off from the quantity for the corresponding period for the antecedent year (although that quantity of the antecedent year was decidedly less than the average), notwithstanding the price had been reduced. This appears to me to indicate most distinctly, that the power of the people to consume this commodity has decreased from year to year, instead of its increasing with the population of the country. With reference to those fears and apprehensions which were expressed in reference to the sugar duties, having expressed my opinion in the course of the discussions which have already taken place upon that subject, I have only to say, that after a most anxious investigation, I have come again to the conclusion at which I arrived at the early part of last Session, that unless we proceed to make some alteration in reference to those duties, we shall paralyse some of the most important branches of the trade of this country; and which, if once we lose them, we shall never be able to re-establish. I will only point out the treaty of commerce with the Brazils. In two years that treaty will expire, and it appears to me that it is a matter of the greatest certainty that we shall not then be able to renew it on the same favourable terms on which it now stands. 119 It appears to me that we run the risk of losing the Brazils, whose trade forms a most important branch of the commerce of this country—more especially that portion of it connected with our cotton exports, for it must be concluded that they will be disposed to favour the manufactures of our continental rivals, unless we meet them by accepting a due interchange of their productions for our own. But I will not occupy the time of the House on this point. I merely point out the grounds on which I feel that this subject should be placed, and I cannot attach too much importance to the great results which will hang upon the decision ultimately to be arrived at. I would propose next that the House should humbly state to her Majesty that, in obedience to her express desire, we shall proceed immediately to consider the laws which regulate the trade in corn, and endeavour to determine whether these laws do not aggravate the natural fluctuations of supply, whether they do not embarrass trade, derange the currency, and by their operation diminish the comfort and increase the privations of the great body of the community. Since the last Session of Parliament the importance of the consideration of the Corn-laws has come home immediately to almost every honourable Member whom I now see sitting within the walls of this House. It is a question which was discussed at the late general election. It has been the subject of discussion by parties on both sides of this House, and I know of no election where it has not engrossed a large portion of public attention. Since the question was last debated, I regret to say, that the privations of the people have increased, and their condition has become materially worse. I will not go into particular instances, but I have in my possession a sufficient number of communications, made to me by clergymen and others, which convince me that a very extraordinary depression is hanging over the heads of the people of this country. By all the letters which I have received, and all the investigations which I have been able to make during the time which I spent in the manufacturing districts, without any wish to exaggerate what I heard and saw—for God knows there is no necessity for that— I must say, that, I believe that never, on any previous occasion, has there existed such oppression and misery as now prevail within those branches of trade with which I am conversant. If I had had leisure, and had been aware that I should have been 120 called upon on this occasion to address the House in the position which I now occupy, I should have made a tour of the manufacturing districts toinvestigate the condition of the manufacturing classes with my own eyes, I would have sought the assistance of some hon. Members of this House, if they would have accompanied me, in order that we might have come to some conclusion in reference to the exact position of the people, and the nature of the remedies proper to be proposed for the existing evils. But I had no time for this; and I can only state what I know of my own knowledge with regard to what I have seen, and call upon other hon. Members to state that which I myself may be unable to state, for want of that local knowledge which they doubtless possess. But if the House will permit me, I will state what I know to be the condition of a large body of the manufacturing population of this country. I am told that in many towns, individuals are existing, for it cannot be called living, upon the most miserable pittance. I will select the case of 102 individuals in Manchester in May last, living—or, as as it has been properly described, starving—upon 8¾d. each per week, or l¼d. per day. Some of these paid l¾d. each per week for rent, so that they had left only 7d. per week, or 1d. per day. This is a state of things most melancholy to witness, but it is only one instance of the dreadful facts described to me as existing in Manchester, Salford, and other places in that neighbourhood. The clergy complain that they cannot execute the duties which are imposed on them, because they have not the means to satisfy the physical wants of those to whose spiritual affairs it is their duty to attend. It is stated to me that parties are in such extreme distress that they are driven to subsist on the very smallest quantity of food—so little, that I will venture to say it is far less than was ever given in any gaol or union workhouse whatever in the United Kingdom; and I have heard of many cases where whole familiesare compelled to pawn the clothes which they wear, during the night, for the purpose of redeeming the bedding on which they are to take their nightly repose, and who are able to redeem their clothes in the morning only by replacing their bedding in the hands of the pawnbroker. Many families are compelled, also, to deal with the small shopkeepers for the smallest quantities which can be purchased; and instead of their transactions being carried on by pounds, they are conducted by ounces and half- 121 ounces—a system,of course, highly injurious to the purchasers in the loss attending the mere turn of the scales. I understand that many of these persons have had their cases personally investigated, and I would mention the names of individuals, but I do not know that my doing so would advance the argument which I have brought forward. The number of tailors now employed in Bolton, is considerably less than one-half what it was a few years ago, showing the distress of the inhabitants, and the want of labour among all classes. The wants of the shoemakers, I hear, are the same, and the associated carpenters are so poor, that where formerly they were in the habit of giving two meals and a night's lodging to any of their trade travelling in search of work, I learn that they are now compelled to restrict their charity to the lodging only. With reference to the operation of the Corn-laws upon these people, it does appear to me that, so long as they are prevented by any laws from finding full scope for their industry—so long as they are pressed on in the manner in which I have found them to be—there can be no change in their condition, and we shall continue to see as much misery as now exists—founded too, upon a feeling that they are unfairly dealt with, in consequence of the system of monopoly being carried so far as it is. It was with extreme disgust that the people of the manufacturing districts saw it stated, just before the late dissolution of Parliament, in some of the journals of the opposition party, that if the ploughshare should be turned through Manchester and other manufacturing towns, this country would not suffer from the change which would result. I ask, will hon. Gentlemen here adopt such an expression of opinion? I would ask, supposing such a thing to be possible to be effected, what would be the state of things with one of the landed interest on the next morning? How could he obtain the common materials used at his breakfast table? Whence would he derive his sugar, his tea, his coffee? for all those are articles brought to this country in exchange for our manufactures. Supposing our manufactures to be destroyed, could we go abroad with our wheat or our corn, and offer them in exchange for foreign goods at a price far greater than would be their value in that foreign country. I believe, certainly, that such could not be the case, and I trust, therefore, that the importance of the interest of commerce and our manufactures will never be treated lightly in this House, but 122 that hon. Members will agree with me that those interests are so dovetailed with the interests of agriculture, that they are inseparable. I have never seen any advantages afforded to manufactures by their protection, and excuse me for saying that all we ask is even-handed justice—that we wish for no protection. I will go back for a moment to the debates which took place upon the subject of the Corn-laws when they were first introduced in the year 1815, and I will venture to request the attention of the House to a most remarkable protest entered against them by some noble peers in another place. That protest, it appears to me, was dictated by sound wisdom, and the House will bear with me while I read a portion of it. It was signed by certain noblemen whose names will; always command respect, and was in the following terms:—1. Because we are adverse in principle to all new restraints on commerce. We think it certain, that public prosperity is best promoted by leaving uncontrolled the free current of national industry; and we wish, rather by well-considered steps, to bring back our commercial legislation to the straight and simple line of wisdom, than to increase the deviation, by subjecting additional and extensive branches of the public interest to fresh systems of artificial and injurious restriction.2. Because we think, that the great practical rule of leaving all commerce unfettered, applies more peculiarly and on still stronger grounds of justice, as well as of policy to the corn trade, than to any other. Irresistible, indeed, must be the necessity which could, in our judgment, authorise the Legislature to tamper with the sustenance of the people, and to impede the free purchase and sale of that article on which depends the existence of so large a portion of the community.3. Because we think, that the expectations of ultimate benefit from this measure are founded on a delusive theory. We cannot persuade ourselves, that this law will ever contribute to produce plenty, cheapness, or steadiness of price. So long as it operates at all, its effects must be the opposite of these. Monopoly is the parent of scarcity, of dearness, and of uncertainty. To cut off any of the sources of supply, can only tend to lessen its abundance—to close against ourselves the cheapest market for any commodity, must enhance the price at which we purchase it; and to confine the consumer of corn to the produce of his own country, is to refuse to ourselves the benefit of that provision which Providence itself has made, for equalising to man the variations of season and of climate.
- DUTTON (Marquess of Douglas),
- CHANDOS BUCKINGHAM,
If the House will permit me, I will now read a short extract from a speech of Sir Robert Peel, the father of the right hon. Baronet opposite, which was delivered by him upon the same subject, and in the same year (1815). He said:—
He was anxious to correct a mistake that seemed to prevail in the House, that the interests of the landholder and of the manufacturer were conflicting and incompatible. They were, in the view of enlightened policy, the same; and the success or ruin of the one was, the success or ruin of the other; inasmuch as the country generally had been enriched by the sale of our manufactures, the landholders had received their share of the wealth and advantages. It had been the wise policy of former Governments, to keep the price of the chief article of subsistence as low as possible; upon this principle, Mr. Pitt had acted with success, but the system was now about to be changed. It was undoubtedly true, that the rent of the land would be diminished by the unlimited importation of corn; but if the resolutions upon the Table, passed in their present shape, the manufactures of the towns would be destroyed, and the land must, consequently, be depreciated; corn might he grown, but paupers would be the only customers for it. It was, in truth, impossible to separate the two interests. The value of land within memory had increased in some places threefold. The owners had derived their benefit from the political state of things, and now they must suffer the depreciation produced by an alteration in that political state. With respect to our manufacturers, it was allowed, that during the war our triumphant situation on the seas had enabled us to force a trade without rivals; but now we were in open competition, it would be madness in us to throw fresh obstacles in the way of those who had so many to contend against. In his opinion, it might be fairly argued, that the manufacturer had been the great benefactor of the landed interest. He did not say, that his design was to serve the landowner. That had been the effect of the flourishing stale of our manufactures, and in the difficulties now to be encountered, the landowner ought to participate. By the measures now upon the Table, the wise system pursued for years was about to be subverted, and the labourers prevented from putting the real wealth of the country into that marketable shape by which this country had hitherto been made the envy of surrounding nations.
§ Sir, I can only express my deep regret that 124 the opinions so well expressed in the protest and in the speech of Sir R. Peel, which I have just read, should not have attracted more attention at the time, when they were indeed worthy of the most serious and deep consideration. Unfortunately, we have now really to deal with the state of things which was then only predicted by those parties, and I feel the most perfect conviction that our present position is not merely the result of temporary and accidental circumstances—that it is not a mere question of overtrading, or of the loss for a time of some of the most valuable markets, but that this country has now arrived at a position of difficulty which it will require all the knowledge and all the attention of Parliament, and some self-denial also to rescue it from. It has been often said that the present state of things is to be attributed to overtrading on the part of the manufacturers. Let us examine that statement. There has, in my opinion, been no overtrading since 1836. It is true that in 1834, in 1835, and 1836, credit was given to an extent, which every one must have deprecated who looked at it at the time as I did, and who was able to take a calm and dispassionate view of what was then being done. But, Sir, what was the real cause of that increase? If the manufacturers increased their manufactures and built new mills at that time, was there not then a population ready to be employed? Would the manufacturers have been so unwise as to borrow money for the purpose of erecting more mills and employ more hands if there had been any doubt upon their minds that there was ample population to work the machinery? Would they have attempted thus, as it were, to raise the market of labour against themselves by such an insane act? I believe that nothing of the kind can be imputed to them. Well, Sir, we have the same accumulation of population as then, but far less means to employ it. Still the population must be fed and clothed, yet large masses are at present in the position of being scarcely able to subsist, such is their degraded condition. It is, therefore, the duty of this House to ascertain by what means we can relieve the industry of the country, whether by the continuance of those existing fiscal regulations to which I have already referred, or by the adoption of a sounder and more liberal system—whether by abandoning monopoly we may not find markets open and people ready to take our produce, provided we will take their produce in exchange. Her 125 Majesty alludes, in her Speech from the. Throne, to the effect which the Corn-laws have on the currency. It appears to me; quite clear that neither the position of the Bank of England, nor indeed that of any of the banks of issue, can ever be one of security, or such as they ought to occupy, if the issues of the country are to be regulated by the state of the barometer, and if every time we are compelled to seek a supply of corn from abroad, a great drain of bullion is always to take place; I solemnly believe,; that, under the best regulated system of currency, wherever paper is found to be a mixed portion of the circulating medium, the present system of Corn-laws of this country could not exist without inflicting constant and serious injury. The moment the Bank finds its bullion extracted and sent to the Continent to purchase corn, it is compelled, in self-defence, to contract its issues, and a natural sympathy exists between that and every other issuing body throughout the length and breadth of the land. So that at the very moment, when, in consequence of the insufficiency of the home crops, it is necessary that every possible stimulus should be given to industry, trade becomes paralysed, and the means of the manufacturers to employ the people become crippled; thus making the evil of an insufficient crop be felt in a still greater degree, and adding to that distress which the unfortunate state of the seasons brings on the community at large. Much reference has been made to temporary periods of prosperity, but I must now repeat, in conformity with views which I have repeatedly uttered in this House, that notwithstanding these temporary periods of prosperity, still the evil of the existing system has been running on not less certainly nor less surely, though it has not been seen so near the surface as now. It is my opinion, that in those very years to which allusion is thus made, in 1834, 1835, and 1836, these Corn-laws were working their pernicious effects upon the country, and that had it not been for the credit then given, the crisis would have arrived some years sooner. It has, however, been customary for many persons to state, that they conceived the trade of this country could not be in a state of paralysis, because looking at the exports they perceived an increase in articles of production exported. Now, it is true, that there has been an increase in the export of cotton twist; but I have always been induced to regret that increased export, because, although we in- 126 crease our exports of cotton twist, we have lost the conversion of it into cotton cloth, and we are now driving on in that direction, that as soon as the continental manufacturers find themselves able to supply cotton twist as they have already done cotton piece goods, they will turn round upon us and say, "You have taught us to make cheaper than you can yourselves; can you expect us to have any consideration for you when you would not open your ports to our corn, and so forced us to make for ourselves?" This is what the continental buyer will say to us. Thus we have been forced to the most distant countries for markets for our manufactures; to countries where the currency is not fixed, nor the stability of affairs certain; and where, in consequence of the lengthened credit we are obliged to give, our own capital is employed in the improvement of their manufactures. Another fact connected with the supposed prosperity attending increased exports in 1839 and 1840, is, that there is no doubt that many manufacturers (I speak of the cotton trade and districts), who never in any previous year made shipments to the continental markets, have assured me that such has been the depreciated state of the market at home, that they have been compelled, in order to get rid of their stock, to consign considerably to foreign markets. Much of the supposed prosperity arising from increased exports is to be attributed to such operations as these, where the manufacturer, if compelled to sell in the home market, could only do so at a loss, or at best gain a fractional advantage by waiting for months, and where, therefore, he thought it better to make a sacrifice of the property abroad than at home, because, then it was out of sight, and would not depreciate the price of the article when regularly supplied to the home market. Many manufacturers have told me that they have thus been driven into those markets from the total failure of the market at home. I received a letter on the 20th of this month from a large calico printer in the county of Lancaster, who has been making purchases of cotton cloth at 5s. 9d. a piece, where before he had given for them nearly twice the amount. From the statements of this correspondent, it appears that there has been a gradual annual diminution of prices since 1835. In that year the price on the 1st of January was 9s. 6d. In 1836, it was 9s.; in 1837, 8s. 4d.; in 1838, 7s 8d.; in 1839, 8s.; in 1840, 6s. 6d.; on the 1st of January, 127 1841, it was 6s. 3d.; in June, it fell to 6s., and in the present month, at the time he writes, it had fallen to 5s. 9d. This description of power loom cloth is denominated twenty-seven inches cloth, which is of the greatest consumption in calico printing, and I take it therefore as the standard. Sir, I have to apologise to the House for the very dry manner in which I have been compelled to introduce this subject. I wish it had been in my power to have done so in a manner more worthy its attention, but the subject is too important to be neglected, and I must therefore crave the indulgence of the House. On that ground I crave its attention. It appears to me that we ought not to measure the probable consumption of the future by the actual consumption of the past. Since the alteration of the Corn-laws in 1828, we have each year been compelled to import some quantity of foreign grain, and this year we have imported a considerable quantity, but we still require more. It is not fair, however, to estimate that the consumption of past years, or of the present, is as much as the country could consume were the population placed in the situation in which they ought to be if the trade and manufactures of the country were in a sound and healthy state, and if the people, instead of being depressed and thrown out of work, had full employment, caused by the increased importation of corn from abroad in exchange for manufactures. Let us not be led to compare the present consumption of corn with what it would be under more advantageous circumstances. Experience has shown that the destruction of monopoly has always led to increased consumption. I would merely refer, in proof of this, to the great success which attended the endeavours made by Mr. Huskisson to liberalize our foreign commercial policy. Look how successful he was in his measure for opening the trade in the East. The most serious forebodings preceded that alteration in our policy, yet how futile were all those apprehensions and the prophecy that our trade with the East Indies would diminish if any alteration were made. Then, again, with regard to the silk trade; there were not wanting those who said that in two years it would be exterminated in this country. Its present state of increase is the best possible answer to those predictions. In other cases the same results occurred. In the article of wool—and I address myself here to the landed interest—in that article it is a most singular fact, that when wool was 128 protected by a duty of 6d. a-pound the farmers were in a state of depression, but when the duty was reduced the consumption increased, and wool has become an article of general consumption at a much higher price than before. The most wonderful results have been produced in regard to the consumption and manufacture of wool under the reduced duty. I refer to the subject only to show how little reliance can be placed on such predictions as those which always precede such changes as those now under discussion. The protection for corn now enjoyed cannot be maintained. The country is languishing under it, and I solemnly believe that the best means of restoring it to that position which every well wisher towards it would desire to see, will be found in the encouragement of manufactures by throwing down all obstacles to free industry and enterprise, and making and maintaining this as the greatest manufacturing nation in the world. I solemnly believe that by doing this the Legislature would confer the greatest and most lasting blessing on this country and on mankind. The subject is one, however, which must in all its details occupy the attention of the House; and I will not, therefore, enter further into it now. I would only again refer to that portion of her Majesty's speech which expresses her Majesty's sympathy with those of her subjects who are now suffering from distress and want of employment; and urge upon the House to join in our address in the earnest prayer of her Majesty, that our deliberations may be guided by wisdom, and may conduce to the happiness of her beloved people. Having seen so much of the distress to which her Majesty alludes as existing among her subjects, I cannot sit down without stating my honest opinion, that at the present moment the sufferings of the people, deep as they are, have been borne with a fortitude and patience above all praise; and I would only earnestly entreat the House to give the earliest attention to remedying the evils of the working classes; for on this House the eyes of the country are fixed, and from it the relief of sound legislation is most earnestly expected. The sympathy of her Majesty is felt by all. Sincere as it is, however, still in itself it will not create relief, and it is therefore for this House to adopt the course recommended by her Majesty, and take into its earliest consideration the subject referred to by her Majesty; and I am sure the House will join in the 129 prayer of her Majesty, that "our deliberations may be guided by wisdom, and may conduce to the happiness of her beloved people.'' The hon. Gentleman concluded by reading the Address.—(See p. 24.)
Mr. J. C. Dundas
said, that, in rising to second the Address which had just been moved, he felt himself relieved from the necessity of offering many observations to the House by the very comprehensive speech which his hon. Friend had delivered. His hon. Friend had entered so fully into almost every question which the Queen's Speech embraced, and had demonstrated at such length the merits of the Address, that he scarcely knew to what subject he might venture to allude. It would indeed be quite a work of supererogation for him to go through all the various topics on which his hon. Friend had expatiated with so much ability and precision. In common with his hon. Friend, and he was sure he might say in common with the whole House, he felt he might congratulate her Majesty that the peace of Europe was likely to remain undisturbed. In acknowledging the benefits of peace, he was sure he spoke the sentiments of all present, on both sides of the House; and they would all agree with him in thanking her Majesty on the prospect of the continuance of friendly relations with the great powers of Europe. He trusted he might look upon some of the topics in the speech as a good augury for the future. He trusted that the nations, of at least the civilized portion of the globe, had at length adopted a mode of adjusting their differences in accordance with the advanced state of civilization, by friendly mediation, rather than by resorting to the ancient method of war, which was never satisfactory, and nothing but the right of the strong. He was happy to think that the estrangement of France, which had been so much prophecied, had proved but temporary. They had now the assurance that that estrangement had ceased; and he was sure the whole House would be glad to do anything which should have the effect of strengthening the alliance of France and England. Much as he desired the maintenance of peace, he felt that it was almost impossible that nations having large colonial possessions and extensive commercial intercourse should be able at all times to boast of tranquillity in all quarters of the globe; and it had unfortunately happened, that in consequence of war and rebellions, this country had been obliged to increase its expenditure to an 130 extent which the revenue of this country could not meet. No one could be more sorry than himself that there should exist any necessity to call on the country for increased supplies; but if anything could in his mind mitigate the evil, it would be the fact that it had been the means of propelling her Majesty's Ministers in some degree into their present course of policy, and into the promulgation of those great measures on which the prosperity, and, he might add, almost the existence, of the manufactures and commerce of the country depended. He was not one of those who believed, that, though, under the present system, the commerce of the country might decline, still the agricultural interest would prosper. He was convinced, that the different interests of the country were so united, that if any distress affected one particular class, it must be felt by all. If the consumer of agricultural produce suffered distress, it was not possible but to conceive that the producer must also suffer from the diminution of the demand for the article. It was his earnest hope that the House might hit upon such measures as would to the utmost, mitigate the distress which had been so accurately described by his hon. Friend, and that, too, without injury to any class; but he was convinced that no such system could be adopted unless a large and liberal improvement in the commercial policy of the country were adopted. He felt confident, that if they allowed the manfacturing population to fall into a state of distress, the agricultural population must also suffer. Suppose the number of manufacturers out of employment were to be increased, the agriculturists would then find that the privations of the manufacturers would be reflected on them, and distress and disaffection would fill the union workhouses. However, he still had hopes that those evils might yet be averted, and that measures might be adopted which would effect an improvement in the condition of the people. He had the greatest confidence in the measures promulgated by his noble Friends near him; but he had not yet had an opportunity of ascertaining the views of the right hon. Gentleman opposite. That right hon. Gentleman had said, that until he had ascertained the condition of the patient, he would not explain his remedies; but doctors had been sometimes found to agree, and it might happen that the doctor to be called in would adopt the very remedies which 131 had already been prescribed by the doctor in charge of the patient. That such might be the case was his anxious wish. He had on previous occasions seen the right hon. Baronet adopt the recipe of the noble Lord on the Ministerial bench. He had seen measure after measure brought forward by his noble Friend, and carried, some with the acquiescence and some in Spite of the opposition of the right hon. Baronet opposite. He trusted that such might be the case on the present occasion; and that, backed by the phalanx which occupied the opposite benches, he would carry those great and popular measures which must one day or other, either with or without his consent, become the law of the laud. He would not go into details on the various subjects included in the Speech, but would content himself with seconding the Address.
§ The Address read by the Speaker.
§ Mr. S. Wortley
said, that he trusted he should not be accused of undue presumption, if he presented himself to the notice of the Chair, and of the House, at that early period after his re-appearance within those walls, in order to propose for the adoption of the House a different course from that which had been urged upon their attention by the hon. Gentlemen who had addressed them from the opposite benches. It would certainly have been more in conformity with his wishes if he could have remained a bystander, on this occasion, and kept his place without mixing in the debate; but, at the same time, feeling as he did, the most complete concurrence in the views and opinions entertained by many hon. Gentlemen on that (the Opposition) side of the House, and the most entire conviction of the propriety of the course which it had been proposed to adopt that evening with respect to the Address, by those around him, he felt, that however great his personal backwardness and disinclination from taking such a duty upon him, he could not, on the score of any personal considerations, suffer himself to shrink from coming forward to raise his voice against the course which her Majesty's Ministers had that evening thought proper to pursue in the speech which they had advised. But if he were liable to any charge of presumption for thus coming forward, perhaps he might hope to find something of a justification in the circumstances under which he appeared before them. The circumstances 132 were these:—It was not long since her Majesty had put a question to the country, and asked them to return an answer which might serve as some guidance to her in the future conduct of her Government. Now he appeared there as the bearer of a portion of that answer, and he hoped that, without presumption, he might say, that he appeared there as the bearer of not the least significant portion of that answer. He felt therefore, that he was not wholly without justification in coming forward so early, because in giving expression to his sentiments on this occasion, he should do that which would be acceptable to his constituents, and that he should not only express the sentiments of his own constituency, but, as he believed, of the greater portion of the people of this country. Yes, he believed that he embodied the wishes of the great mass of the constituencies of these kingdoms when he asked the House whether the hon. Members who now sat in the position of her Majesty's Ministers were those Ministers with whom it wished to intrust the government of the country? He felt that in this course he could not be subjected to any imputation of impropriety, because such had been the ancient course adopted on both sides of the House, and because it had often been the practice to engraft on the Address other and different sentiments from those which the original Address contained, and from the views and opinions of its supporters. This course was, besides, he thought, desirable in many points of view—it was respectful to the Crown— it was constitutional—it was intelligible; and lastly, he thought hon. Gentlemen opposite had no cause to complain of the course which it was intended to pursue on that occasion, by those with whom he had the honour to act. In the first place, he said, the course he should propose for the adoption of the House was respectful to the Crown. The Crown having put the question to the country, and having desired that an answer should be given, the constituencies had sent him and the rest of the House there, to return that answer, and I it was not disrespectful to the Crown I that, at the earliest moment, they should make her Majesty acquainted with what was that answer, and communicate to her what they had learned from the country, in order that she might be relieved as soon as possible from any further 133 state of delay and uncertainty. It was a constitutional course too, and not only was it constitutional, but altogether in the spirit in which it had been the practice of each of the great parties in their turn to act in that House. If he wanted a precedent, he might refer to 1835, when his own predecessor in the seat which he then occupied in that House, undertook that course with respect to the Address proposed by the then Ministers of the Crown, and undertook it, perhaps, without quite so good a ground as he (Mr. S. Wortley) had, because he told the House that he had no fault to find with the Address; but the noble Lord desired, nevertheless, that the House should agree to make an addition to the Address, which he proposed. If, then, hon. Gentlemen on his side of the House did not think that the address on this occasion was faultless, he (Mr. S. Wortley) and hon. Gentlemen whose views were in unison with his had a still better right, he thought to ask the House to consent to an addition to the address on this occasion than had his predecessor on the occasion to which he had referred; and with respect to her Majesty's Ministers, he thought that they had not only no reason to complain, but that, in fact, the noble Lord ought to consider the course adopted by his hon. Friends as an act of most obliging courtesy. It was not a long time since the noble Lord had published an address to his new constituency, in which were these words:—As soon as the new Parliament meets, we shall take the first opportunity of asking for a clear and decided judgment upon the policy we have proposed.The noble Lord, it seemed, proposed to call on the first opportunity, for a judgment on his whole policy; and he said that in doing that for the noble Lord which amounted to granting him the opportunity he spoke of, in saving the noble Lord the trouble of asking specifically for a judgment, they were doing nothing but what was fairly attributable to pure courtesy. But there was a still stronger reason, in his opinion, why the House should assent to his proposition; for he thought the House ought not to separate without expressing a strong opinion as to whether her Majesty's Ministers were or were not entitled, in the circumstances in which they were placed, to dictate to the 134 House of Commons what should be the course it should pursue. He wished to put as strongly as he could the nature of the case in which he stood with respect to her Majesty's Government, and if he were to endeavour to do so ever so earnestly he should not be able to do it half so well as was done in words which had been used by the noble Lord some years ago. In the year 1834, in the course of one of those repeated discussions which had taken place upon the Irish Church, the noble Lord said—I consider that the Government of this country must be carried on upon the principle which I may venture to describe—that the Government ought to be formed of persons agreeing in principle with the majority of the House of Commons, and I think it necessary to state that the House of Commons have a right, if the Ministers of the Crown have not their confidence, to express their opinion to the Crown, and have a right to require that the Ministers of the Crown should be persons in whose character and principles they are disposed to confide." [" Cheers."]The noble Lord (Lord John Russell) cheered. No doubt he did not swerve from his principles; no doubt he adopted that doctrine, as genuine constitutional doctrine, from which he had no disposition to shrink; and he was on his part glad to concur with the noble Lord and to meet his wishes by giving an opportunity for the House of Commons to declare its opinion of the character and policy of her Majesty's present advisers. The hon. Gentleman who had proposed the address had taken great pains to impress upon the House that the distressed and unhappy condition of the manufacturing population was entirely consequent upon the rejection by the late House of Commons of that course of policy which had been recommended by her Majesty's Government. Now this was very well; but, for his part, he must say, that though it might be very convenient for her Majesty's Government to identify themselves as much as possible with these questions, and make the country believe that their course was wrapped up with free trade and the abolition of the Corn-law?, he should still insist that it was not on that occasion that they were to go into a discussion on the Corn-laws. Let it be understood that he was far from wishing that the hon. Member for Manchester should not be allowed to make his speech on free trade; or any other hon. Member his speech on the abolition of the 135 Corn-laws but he said, notwithstanding the speeches of the hon. Mover and Seconder, and notwithstanding the paragraph which her Majesty's Ministers had introduced into the Speech from the Throne, that that was not the question on that occasion, but the question was, whether her Majesty's present advisers were persons with whom the country would consent to intrust the Government. For his part he was not indisposed to discuss these questions on a fitting opportunity, he had never shirked them, he had discussed them often within a short period, and he said, the sooner the discussion of them came on in the House of Commons the better. But though he did not decline the discussion—though he wished that the House should have a speedy opportunity of apprising her Majesty of the sentiments of her people on these questions, still he said, that when the House had reason to believe, that the policy of her Majesty's present Ministers had not been in accordance with the views and opinions of the majority in that House—when they had reason to believe, that the present acts and policy of her Majesty's advisers had forfeited for them the confidence of the country, they ought not to discuss this question at present, or suffer their attention to be called away from the real question before them, which was, whether her Majesty's Ministers could safely be intrusted any longer with the management of the affairs of this country. On this occasion, therefore, he was tempted, and he felt it would be desirable, to go into a rather more extensive retrospect of the policy of her Majesty's Ministers than he should otherwise have supposed neccessary, if he had not felt, that he ought to state the real question before the House as he had done. Again, when he stated, that the Ministers had no longer the confidence of the people of this country, or of this House, he was bound, he thought, to state how that result had been effected. He thought, then, that it was caused by an oblivion of pledges, by an abandonment of principles, and of late in consequence of their tampering with the most serious and solemn questions which could by possibility affect the interests of the people for the sake of advancing their party interests. If, therefore, he took a greater range in the retrospect which he was about to institute than might be barely called for by the occasion, he thought that the Ministry could not 136 complain; but at any rate he should go back a good way, even to the time of Lord Grey's Administration. He saw the noble Lord the leader of the Government in this House, who had been a member of Lord Grey's Government; the noble Viscount had also been a member of Lord Grey's Government, Lord Melbourne had been a member of Lord Grey's Government; and various noble Lords in the other House, members of the present Cabinet, had been members of Lord Grey's Government. Therefore he thought that it behoved the House to look back and see what were the principles on which Lord Grey's Government had taken their stand, in order to see whether the present Government had given effect to the principles to the promulgation of which at the time Lord Grey came into office they were parties. He supposed that no one could forget what were the principles on which Lord Grey's Government had come into office. The country about that time had heard much of the wasteful expenditure of former Ministries — of their propensity to war—of their hostility to reform. Lord Grey, therefore, had announced that he came in upon these three great principles of economy, peace, and reform. Let it be observed how far these principles had been carried out by the present Ministry. To begin with the subject of peace, in the first place:—They had been told that the new Whig Government were to keep this country at peace during the time they were at the head of affairs. What was the result? Notwithstanding this assurance, they had had a war, though it was only a little war, at Antwerp; then they had a somewhat larger, but an unintelligible, war in Spain; then they had a war in India; then a war in China; and, last of all, a war in Syria. Yet, notwithstanding all this, the noble Lord pretended to arrogate to himself and his Government exclusive praise for having supported a policy of peace. That exclusive credit was what Lord Grey's Government also assumed, and though he (Mr. S. Wortley) did not mean to say that they ought to question the whole policy of a Government because of one or two such results as these, and some of these results might be right, and others might be wrong. But what mattered that? He said, what mattered that? Though there might be justification for some of those results which were wrong, that was not the opportunity for entering into those justifications. At 137 any rate, he maintained that the Government had no right to give it out that they had an exclusive secret for keeping peace with such results. If they looked to the period immediately subsequent to 1815, and from that year to 1830, they found that there had been nothing like a war, except that isolated, he might almost call it accidental, action of Navarino, yet in the last ten years there had been no less than five wars. Now, though there might be justification for some of these wars, yet he saw no defence in this against his charge upon the Ministry, which was not that they had entered into wars, but that after having claimed exclusive credit for keeping the country at peace and securing us from foreign conflict, they had nevertheless plunged the country into numerous wars. The next great principle which Earl Grey's Government vaunted was economy. They promised that they would be the most economical Government that the country had ever seen for many years. What was the result? They found that Government now with an accumulated deficiency in the revenue of between 7,000,000 and8,000,000ofmoney,and with the country in great difficulty. Now, he condemned not the Government wholly for this. God forbid that he should discourage or denounce the application to the various departments of the public service, to the navy especially, the money which it was proper should be applied to the current services; still, though he did not denounce or discourage such applications of money, he said, that a Government had no right to set out with vaunting propositions which had subsequently fallen to the ground. But now they came to the last article, the question of reform. He admitted that on this head they had to a considerable extent carried out their proposals. Parliamentary and corporation reform, were carried; but it was to be observed that whereas in the points of peace and economy little was to be gained but reputation, there werepersonswho would suspect that these reforms might not be wholly disinterested. He did not mean to say that there were not many who supported the measures of reform from pure motives, but many persons undoubtedly came to the conclusion that reform in Parliament and corporation reform might lead to more substantial advantage. There was undoubtedly that distinction between the cases This, however, was the only point in 138 which the professions of the Government could be said to be redeemed. He had no doubt that there were some Members in that House who recollected an observation made by Lord Althorp in one of the debates on the Reform Bill. That noble Lord said, "thank God, the day has for ever passed away when the Government of the country can be carried on by patronage." He would ask any one who had watched the proceedings of the Government for the last ten years, or rather for the last six years more especially, whether her Majesty's Ministers had not lavished more places and peerages amongst their supporters than any previous government? Let the House look almost to their last act in the last session, when they endeavoured to induce Parliament to pass a measure which would give them extensive patronage, but which could not be carried into effect during the probable period of their remaining in office. When a proposition was made by a right hon. Gentleman, that the patronage to be created under the Bill should be given to those who should be in office at the time that it would be brought into operation, and when there was no pretence for hurrying this measure through the House, her Majesty's Ministers made an indecent clutch at the patronage thus to be created; and because the House would not assent to their demands they abandoned the Bill. He felt that he should weary the House if he went through all the points in its recollection as to the delinquencies of this kind of which her Majesty's Ministers had been guilty. If they looked to various topics connected with the church — to topics connected with our colonies—to topics having reference to the internal government of the country, they would find numerous questions which gave rise to the same reflections which he had made on other parts of their policy, and which would give rise to the same charges against them as those which he had made for other of their acts. If they looked to the history of the appropriation clause in the Irish Tithe Bill, they would see a remarkable instance of the departure of the Government from its most solemn pledges. The hon. Member for Sheffield proposed the clause relative to appropriation in the Irish Tithe Bill of 1834. That proposition was strongly resisted by the Government on the ground that they intended to issue 139 a commission to inquire into the state of the revenues of the Irish church. They objected to the motion on the ground that it would be absurd to declare that they would apply this appropriation clause until the result of the inquiry was known, and until they found out whether there would be any surplus revenue. What took place in 1835? Her Majesty's present Government came before Parliament and proposed a resolution to the effect that no settlement of the Irish Tithe question would be satisfactory unless it involved the principle of appropriation. The commission had, at that time, been issued, but the commissioners had not made any report on the subject. This, then, was the answer to the observation that it would be absurd to legislate on the subject without inquiry. They shortly afterwards obtained office, and in 1838, when the subject had gone through discussion after discussion, they recommended that the Irish Tithe Bill should be passed without the appropriation clause. This was a striking instance in which her Majesty's Ministers had not fulfilled a solemn pledge, and upon which they had obtained the support of the country, and the power and patronage of the state. He would now come to that subject more especially before the country at present, and would shortly point out what had been the conduct of the Government with regard to the budget and to the proposed alteration of the duties on sugar and corn. When a proposition was made last year for a reduction of the duty on foreign sugar it was strongly resisted on the ground that it would not be fair to the West Indian colonies to do so, considering the peculiar situation in which they were at present placed. If he wanted a clear and succinct view of the arguments against this proposition he had only to refer to the speech made on that occasion by his right hon. Friend the President of the Board of Trade. If they looked to that speech made in 1840 they would see a complete answer to the arguments in favour of the proposition which the right hon. Gentleman so strenuously supported in the present year. He not only resisted the motion when it was brought forward in June, but he continued to do so in the month of August, when a short discussion took place, when the right hon. Gentleman made a similar statement of his opinion in opposition to the proposition for the re- 140 duction of the duty on foreign sugar. On that occasion the right hon. Gentleman said that the difficulties of the question were not of a financial or commercial character, but were founded on the reasons which the right hon. Gentleman explained in the former debate on the subject, namely the present state of the West Indies. But in 1841, notwithstanding the strong opinions expressed in the previous year, the right hon. Gentleman and his colleagues came to the House and made the identical proposition which he had opposed before. This question and that connected with the Corn-laws had been mixed up with the view to induce the people to believe that, by rejecting them, they would be rejecting propositions for cheap sugar and cheap bread. In the course of the year he had seen with the greatest pain, the extensive sufferings endured by the people, and he must say, his sympathies had been strongly excited by the calm temper in which the people had discussed the subject, and had refused to make themselves the tools of the Government. The people of this country were enlightened by nothing more than by the course of proceedings of the Government. It had been proposed in a manner which had convinced the people that the proposition had not been made with just and legitimate intentions. If they had believed that such had been the case, the propositions might have had a greater effect, and they might have been listened to with greater attention. The people of this country, however, had been induced to look into the whole subject, and into the manner in which it had been brought forward, and the result had been that the people saw that much might be said on the other side of the question, and that they ought not to take all for granted because it came from her Majesty's Ministers. With respect to the corn question, it would be in the recollection of the House that the noble Lord, the Secretary for the Colonies, in a former debate on the Corn-laws, said, "it was his opinion, that if, upon a question of this kind, there was a general disposition to have an alteration of the law," (and there had been no manisfestation of any such disposition),If," he said, "upon a question of this kind, there was a general disposition to have an alteration of the law, and a general wish to have the question settled by some new measure of legislation; but that there was a diversity of opinion as 141 to the measure that ought to be adopted, the Government might safely step in, and frame such a measure as might be most conducive to the national interests, and propose it for the adoption of Parliament, thereby securing a greater support for it than the measure of any individual Member could obtain. Such, however, was not the position of the Corn-laws. There were Members on both sides of the House constituting a considerable majority, who thought that there ought not to be any alteration of the present laws. That being the case, the introduction of a measure by the Government would have only been adding to all the arguments and prejudices which influenced the votes and opinions of Members on the subject, and giving rise to party strife and contention, thereby not promoting but retarding the settlement of the question.These were the sentiments of the noble Lord on the 26th of May, 1840, yet, in the very next year, the noble Lord came clown to the House to propose a measure of the very character he had described, though there was not an atom more of disposition to assent to it, on the part of the House than there was before. Hon. Gentlemen on the other side assured them that the great principles of free trade would take effect in spite of any opposition on the part of his Friends; the hon. Gentleman might, on his part, be assured that whatever was true and valuable and desirable in the principles of free trade, did not depend for its success upon individuals, one way or the other. If there was anything likely to promote the interests of the country in those principles, and he had no disposition to say there was not; he took the doctrines of free trade, not in the sense in which they had been attempted to be palmed upon the country by the present Ministry, but in the sense in which he had himself given them his steady support for many years. The Parliament might depend upon it that whether the present Ministry stood or fell, it would make no difference with respect to anything in those principles which was really worth having. The course of the Government on the Corn-laws had done Snore to forfeit for them the confidence of the country than anything else they had done; and this was, in a great measure, owing to the circumstance that in their conduct in this matter was exhibited a more complete dereliction from their former professions than in any other part of their conduct. Lord Melbourne, for instance, had repeatedly declared, in his place in the House of Lords, that any 142 idea of meddling with the corn-laws was the maddest scheme ever propounded. In 1840, when a question was put to the noble Viscount on this subject, he renewed the announcement, that it was not the intention of Government to propose any change in these laws; and he added, that to attempt to introduce the subject of a fixed duty would stir society to its foundations, and that he would never consent to any such proposition; yet in 1841, though the arguments remained in every respect the same as those which existed in 1840, though there had been distress in 1840 as well as in 1841—though there had been for years past a deficiency, as well as in 1841 — though the objections which they had stated to any such measure in 1840 were in full operation in 1841; yet, in 1841, Government did not scruple to come down and tell the House, in the words of the noble Foreign Secretary, that this was a question between the profits of the few and the interests of the many; and that it was the intention of her Majesty's Government to strike a blow at the great monopolies which had so long re tarded the prosperity of the country. Now, if in spite of all these objections, they could see that the affairs of the country had been so conducted, on the whole, as to have led to a satisfactory and cheering result, he might consent to give the Government some credit; but what was the prospect before us? They were told, in her Majesty's speech, that she was enabled to inform them, that she continued to receive the most friendly assurances from the various powers of Europe; she told them that the question of the Ottoman empire was almost settled; but to those who were uninstructed in such matters, it would appear that the integrity of that empire was still in jeopardy; with insurrection in Candia, disturbances in Servia, and insubordination in Syria, the uninitiated in diplomacy were rather inclined to the opinion that things were not altogether in the best possible train in that quarter. Going on somewhat further, he said that in India we were engaged in a war of which it was difficult to foresee the end; we had overstepped one of the strongest of frontiers, and we had got ourselves into difficulties of which it was quite impossible to assign the extent or the termination. The noble Lord, in the Speech, told them that 143 in consequence of events which had taken place of late, this war was likely to cease; but the country required to have much clearer information on this point, and to know in particular whether the dynasty which our Government in India had undertaken to support, was at all likely to stand in the existing state of things. Going further eastward, we come to China, and here again we found ourselves engaged in a war, of which the course and the object were alike very difficult to be understood, and of which he defied any man to say what was likely to be the result. God knew he was not disposed to doubt that the conduct and valour of the British troops in that country were likely to accomplish all that could be accomplished by any forces; but, at the present moment, he could not think the Government justified in slating that they saw any distinct prospect of the war being brought to a satisfactory conclusion. While upon these topics, he could not but express his astonishment that, throughout the whole of the Speech, there was not one syllable of mention made of the state of affairs in another quarter of the globe, where it was impossible to deny that things at the present moment were somewhat of a threatening aspect. He did not suppose that the House or the country expected any explicit declaration or information from the noble Lord on that subject; but at a moment when there was no point in the whole range of foreign policy which commanded more interest, and excited more anxiety, it was worthy of notice, that neither in the Speech from the Throne, nor in the Address now submitted to the House for its adoption, was there a syllable of mention made as to the relations of this country with the United States. He trusted there was no reason to suppose that the noble Lord at the head of this department would leave affairs in that quarter of the globe in such a state as would compromise the honour of this country; but still it was impossible to deny, that at this moment the original causes which gave rise to all our anxiety on this subject were in full existence, that no change had been made in the circumstances which gave the threatening aspect to our intercourse with that power; and that it was very difficult for any man not supplied with the information which might be in the possession of the noble Lord to say 144 on what footing the interests of this country now stood with that power. He did not then think there was any case for congratulation on the state of our foreign relations. Was the aspect of affairs at home more satisfactory? On all sides here were to be seen general depression and stagnation of trade; much discontent: they saw the noble Secretary for the Colonies, in addressing his constituents of the city of London, telling them that he thought agitation justifiable, that he thought the Government justified in agitating the country, for the purpose of carrying certain questions [No, no]; yes, in one of his speeches to that constituency the noble Lord said, he had been accused of agitating on the Corn-laws, but he thought agitation on certain subjects quite justifiable, and he referred to the Habeas Corpus Act, which he said had been obtained solely by agitation; and here then was a Cabinet Minister, who, on the hustings bad given his express sanction to agitation. Then, again, let it be remembered that the present Government was in close and intimate relations with and depended on the support of those who, in one breath, sullied the name of their Sovereign with the most fulsome adulation, and in the next gloated over the prospect of a foreign war, and offered a treasonable welcome on the shores of Ireland to the armed enemies of her Crown. He thought, then, it had become the first business of Parliament to consider whether such a Government was a fit one to be longer trusted with the administration of affairs. The opinion of the country, unequivocally expressed, was, that they were not worthy of the slightest confidence; the late returns showed that Ministers had not the popular support which they enjoyed some years back. The noble Secretary for the Colonies had confessed that the result of the late elections showed that Government was in a minority in the House of Commons; and it was, therefore, the first duty of that House to express to her Majesty the opinion which it held in unison with its constituents, and to inform her of that which it was most essential to know, before they proceeded to the business of the country; before they assumed those responsibilities which it involved; and this they must do by declaring to her expressly that the present Government did not possess the confidence of the people. 145 Nor had their constituents merely sent them there to express this feeling. The constituencies regarded their delegation for the expression of this opinion as a means to an end. They expected that, as the right hon. Baronet had expressed it, new physicians should be called in; that those who, by the course objected to, had forfeited the confidence of the nation, should give way to those who would then be placed in a position in unison with the sense of the large majority of Parliament, It was on these grounds that he ventured to call on the House to adopt a different course from that proposed by the hon. Gentleman opposite, and to ask the House to return such an answer to her Majesty as they had been commissioned by the country to give, once more recording on the journals of the House the judgment against the present Ministers, which had now been recognised and corroborated by the general voice of the people The hon. Gentleman read his Amendment.—(see p. 53.)
, in seconding the amendment, declared that he rose with great reluctance to occupy the attention of the House, and were he not under the influence of a paramount sense of duty, he should not at such a moment be induced to take up any portion of the time of the House. He had the honour to represent an important commercial town—a town which he believed was destined, ere long, to engross a very large proportion of the import trade of the country. Now, though his constituents widely differed in local situation and in local interests from the constituents of his hon. Friend who moved the amendment, yet he was rejoiced to be able to state to the House that his own constituents most cordially agreed in sentiment with those of his hon. Friend, and, he might say, were in perfect accordance with the sentiments embodied in the amendment. This circumstance, he frankly acknowledged, was not without its weight, in inducing him to rise for the purpose of seconding that amendment. There was one other consideration which emboldened him to address the House on the present occasion, which was, that as a new Member he felt bound to express his sympathy with the late House of Commons. He was bound to express his own and his constituents acquiescence and concurrence in the sentiments and the feelings of that House, when they declared 146 that the Ministers of the Crown did not enjoy the confidence of Parliament. However insignificant a Member might be, yet perhaps the mere circumstance of his being perfectly new to that House would, in some degree justify his taking a prominent part upon an occasion like the present. On the fate of the amendment would depend the degree of sympathy which might be supposed to subsist between the Members of that House and their constituents, but the effect of the recent dissolution could alone show the sympathy which prevailed between the late House of Commons and the great body of the people; and they—the present House of Commons—ought not to feel themselves at liberty to proceed to any other business, and ought on no account, to enter upon the discussion of specific measures until after the expression of a general opinion upon the conduct and professed principles of the present advisers of the Crown. He felt that after the recapitulation of the grounds on which his hon. Friend moved his amendment, it would be unnecessary and unbecoming for him to trouble the House at any great length; but there was one point to which he could not help adverting, and that was, an admission contained in the address of the noble Lord opposite. From the style and composition of that production it was impossible to regard it as an ephemeral publication—it was formally and deliberately written, with a full consciousness that it was to be received as the carefully expressed sentiments of a Minister of the Crown. It was well known to the House that the noble Lord had therein described the late dissolution as a failure—that it had failed to produce from the country a verdict favourable to the Government. He agreed that in many cases success formed no sufficient criterion of merit; but if ever there was a case of ill success which unequivocally indicated demerit, he should say that the present was one—it was one by which Ministers were convicted of recklessness, incapacity or worse, from a House of Commons elected under their own auspices: they appealed to the country, and the decision had been unfavourable. The present conduct of the Ministers of the Crown could only be justified on the hypothesis, that the new House of Commons would reverse the judgment of the House which preceded them; but when the decision of the House should prove diametrically opposite to that 147 which they seemed to expect, then such conduct would be an additional proof of their incapacity, and would materially tend to aggravate the charges already preferred against them, and under the weight of which they must continue to remain. It was true, that before the noble Lord had addressed his constituents, the Ministers of the Crown might, with some appearance of justification, say that they did not up to the present moment possess any means of ascertaining the sense of Parliament upon their conduct and principles; but the noble Lord had the manliness not to avail himself of any such subterfuge. He frankly acknowledged that they had been defeated by an overwhelming majority. After that admission a thrill of astonishment and dismay passed through the nation when they found, that notwithstanding the position in which Ministers found themselves, the stream of dignities and emoluments continued welling forth, and flowed as copiously, if not more profusely, than at any preceding period. The noble Lord issued his address under peculiar circumstances; he delayed it, as he himself stated, until after he could ascertain the results of the returns. Having then made his calculations, did he express repentance or regret? Did he not, on the contrary, use his best endeavours to stir and excite agitation respecting class interests? Did he for a moment say one word of surrendering his trust, and requesting a transfer of power to oilier hands? Having lost the reality of power—the only thing which could make office desirable, did he intimate any intention of merely holding it so long as the public service might require his continuance in office, at the same time abstaining from the exercise of any authority not absolutely unavoidable? The Gazettes gave the he to any such supposition. The noble Lord told the public that he should face an adverse majority in that House—that he should be a party to such an anomalous state of things as a Government on one side of the House and a majority on the other; surely the country would say, that if any inconvenience to the public service arose from such a state of things there could be no one to blame for that but the present Ministers of the Crown, who had braved the indignation not only of two Houses of Commons but of the nation at large. There were two or three other points to which he wished to direct the attention of the House. He 148 denied that the existing deficiency of the revenue was to be imputed solely to the expeditions which the Government had fitted out, and thought that hon. Members ought seriously to look at the amount of the miscellaneous estimates. Although opposed to the views of the present Government, he was not the enemy of free trade, as explained and vindicated by Mr. Huskisson, of whose wise and cautious policy he fully approved. The cry of "cheap bread and cheap sugar" had been raised for party purposes; but the free trade, based on reciprocity, of which Mr. Huskisson was the supporter, had not been adopted by the present Government, and therefore, their measures should not have his (Lord Bruce's) support. He should at all times be prepared to vote for a free trade on principles of reciprocity, due regard being had to the interests which had grown up under our present commercial system, without which, as he conceived, the rights of the labouring classes could not be protected. Much had been on various occasions said about the interests of the capitalists and the landlords, but unless the measures of a Government were directed equally to secure the rights of the working classes, they never should be supported by a vote of his. It was true that the landlord might derive some increased value to his property from the increase of factories and other buildings upon it, and that the capitalist might more advantageously invest his capital, or he might withdraw it from a sinking concern; but the only capital of the labourer was his skill in his own particular walk, and it was a mockery to tell him that he could find a satisfactory compensation elsewhere. And that led him to say, that he sympathized from the very bottom of his heart with another expression in this amendment, and in which there was a coincidence between the amendment and the Address, namely, "In the gracious expression of her Majesty's deep sympathy with those of her subjects now suffering from distress and want of employment, we recognise an additional proof of her Majesty's tender regard for the welfare of her subjects, and that we cordially join in the prayer of her Majesty, that all our deliberations may be guided by wisdom, and may conduce to the happiness of the people." He believed that a just regard for the interests of these very labouring classes was the most prominent and great- 149 est reason of all that could be deduced for their proceeding warily in the application of those principles. he could not but advert to the very harsh, and severe, and unjust terms in which it had been the; fashion to designate those who had taken an opposite view on these questions to that taken by her Majesty's Government. "In a day," said the noble Lord, "when all monopolies are denounced, I must be permitted to say that, to my mind the monopoly which is the most intolerable and odious is the pretension to the monopoly of public virtue. Never, to my mind, is that pretension advanced with a worse grace than when it is advanced by those who, but an hour ago — but a very short period ago—might with much: propriety be classed amongst those whose opinions are now the objects of their reproach." He feared that he had trespassed at too great length; but, as this was his first appearance in that House, he could only return his grateful thanks to the House for the attention with which it had listened to him. But there was still one subject to which for a very short period he must draw the attention of the House. He had observed in the general tenour of the observations made by the Ministerial portion of the press, and the supporters of the Government generally throughout the country, especially since the result of the elections was known, that there had been an attempt at a studied and elaborate recapitulation of all the possible difficulties and dangers which, in the event of the right hon. Baronet the Member for Tam worth being called to the head of the Government, with the affairs of the nation in their present posture, he would have to encounter. When he had read over these statements, containing reference to the disordered state of the finances, and to dangers at home and abroad, it had always struck him that the authors might indeed have contemplated, most of these circumstances with feelings of most deep and poignant self-reproach, and that none at least could have regarded them with any other feelings than those of sincere and patriotic regret, had it not been for the tone, the under-current of exultation, which had pervaded them. But whatever might be the feelings of these persons, he trusted that the right hon. Baronet (under the hypothesis they chose to assume), on being called to extricate his country from these embarrassments and difficulties, con- 150 scious of the high hopes entertained of him by the country, and of the generous confidence reposed in him by all classes at the late election, and manifested by the large majority in favour of the principles he espoused, returned to that House, would be able to face those difficulties, whatever they might be, not with a spirit of presumptuous defiance, not with the pretensions of empyricism, but with a sincere reliance on the good sense and honesty and fairness of the people; and with a still more constant reliance on the kindly support of that Providence, whose watchful arm had ever supported Great Britain in her difficulties, and which, so long as she had been true to herself, had ever guided her in the paths of honour. And when the period should arrive (which he hoped would be very far distant) when in the course of nature, or from circumstances, the hon. Baronet would resign, he trusted that those who were to succeed him, should find that he left them a flourishing exchequer, prosperity of trade, peace at home, honour abroad, and a happy and contented people.
§ Mr. Labouchere said
Mr. Speaker, the noble Lord who had just addressed the House with so much ability, as well as the hon. Gentleman, the Member for the West Riding of Yorkshire, who preceded him, have assured her Majesty's Government that they have arrayed against them a large majority. I do not stand here to controvert that assertion. The result of the debate in which we were engaged will show whether, and how far, that is the case. But if it should be true, I am too well acquainted with the disposition of the House not to feel assured, that, whatever may be the violence of party feeling, that state of things will only, afford an additional reason for giving to any Member, however humble, of that Government, who feels it his duty to address them, a patient and indulgent hearing. Sir, both those Gentlemen have expressed a great eagerness that the House should decide on the question now before us. I can assure them that that eagerness is equally shared by her Majesty's Government—that her Majesty's Government are rejoiced that the time has come when they are able to put before the House the policy on which they conceive the affairs of this country ought to be conducted, and to take the opinion of the House of Commons on that policy, feeling that if they 151 fail to receive that support from the House which can alone enable them to carry their policy to a successful conclusion, no time should be lost in devolving the responsibility of governing the country on other principles, upon those who may think fit to take upon them that task. I have listened with great attention and no small curiosity to the amendment moved by the other side of the House, and I confess, after hearing it read, I am at a loss exactly to understand what its import is, or to what policy it points. I clearly understand the expression of a want of confidence in her Majesty's present advisers, and I can assure the hon. Gentleman, the Member for the West Riding of Yorkshire, that it was totally unnecessary for him to take up so long a time in establishing that the House had a full right to express that opinion. I should be the last person in the world to deny that this House, irrespective of any particular measure, has the right, nay, that it is its duty to express such an opinion, on the general ground that it does not feel confidence in the Government. It is due to the Crown—it is due to the country, and I may be permitted to say, it is due to the Government itself,to declare such an opinion when it exists, and to leave them no doubt as to their real position. So far from objecting to such a course, I am rejoiced that it has been taken by hon. Gentlemen opposite, and I acknowledge that I think it the fairest that could be pursued. But I did listen with great anxiety to discover what was the policy which the majority of this House, if a majority it is to be, is prepared to recommend to the Crown, in answer to the Speech from the Throne. I confess that, after having heard the amendment, dexterously worded as it is, and hearing the speeches of the Mover and Seconder, I am at a loss to understand what the import of that amendment is. Before, however, I come to that part of the subject to which the amendment specially refers, I will take the liberty of adverting to some observations that have fallen from the Mover and Seconder of the Address. The noble Lord who has just sat down, complained and said that the Government had no right to come down and meet the House of Commons—that the result of the late elections having been unfavourable to her Majesty's Government, they ought at once to have resigned office, and that they had insulted 152 the country and Crown, by continuing to hold the Government till the present time. The hon. Gentleman could hardly have observed in the neighbourhood of whom he was speaking when he made such an observation. I may remind him, that the right hon. Gentleman, the Member for Tamworth, in 1835, when he was a Minister of the Crown, and when the result of the general election placed him in an acknowledged minority—the right hon. Gentleman thought proper to meet the Parliament, knowing that a majority was arrayed against him. If he had any doubt, it must have been very soon removed. The expression of opinion commenced with the division on the Speakership, to which I will not now further allude. Then, there was the amendment to the address, which blamed the dissolution, and in which other matters were introduced, implying that the majority of the House did not repose confidence in the right hon. Gentleman. The right hon. Gentleman was slow to take a hint, if he did not acknowledge that the amendment did not very decidedly express that the House of Commons was not disposed to give its support to his ministry. The right hon. Gentleman went on several weeks retaining office, exercising the power and patronage of a minister, and using all the executive functions of office for a period during which he was not able to carry a single vote or measure in the House of Commons. [An hon. Member: The malt tax.] I think that is rather an unfortunate suggestion, considering that that solitary victory of the right hon. Gentleman was obtained over his own ally, the present Duke of Buckingham; and those who enabled him to gain it were his political opponents; those who were opposed in principle to his Government, but who felt themselves bound as public men—and as he hoped public men always would feel themselves bound, when an improper attack was made on the revenue and public credit of the country— to support the Government which resisted it. I feel it right to remind the House of these circumstances, when I hear it made a subject of complaint, that her Majesty's ministers continued in office till the meeting of Parliament, after that my noble Friend, the Secretary for the Colonies, with that frankness which I own I think he sometimes does push to a very great length, had written to his constituents—" I know we 153 are in a minority, and shall very soon be turned out." I only remind the House of these circumstances, that it may not be supposed we have acted in an unusual manner in retaining office until the House has formerly recorded its decision on our merits as a Government, and on those important measures, which, on the part of the Crown, we have laid before the House. The hon. Member for the West Riding of Yorkshire went on at great length to state the reasons why he thought the Government had lost the confidence of the country, and said that we had abandoned all the principles on which Lord Grey came into office, and particularly those pledges which Lord Grey gave on entering office ten years ago for peace, economy, and reform. So far from being disposed to admit his allegations, I feel confident that the judgment of this country and of posterity will give us the credit of having maintained those three essential principles of Government, under very difficult circumstances, with as much steadiness and perseverance as it was possible to do. I begin with peace. The hon. Gentleman tells us that some cannon-shots had been fired in the world since we have been in office. That is not the meaning of a pledge of peace. The pledge which Lord Grey made was, that the Government would faithfully and anxiously adhere, as far as was possible, to a peaceful policy. As far as it was possible that endeavour had been crowned with success. No European war was suffered to arise— there was no general break up in that European confederacy which is the surest pledge of peace. At the time Lord Grey took office, it was said from high authority that it would be astonishing if peace could be kept for six months. However, notwithstanding interruptions of minor consequence, the inestimable blessing of general peace had been preserved for ten years. I can only say that if the prediction of hon. Gentlemen opposite be realised, and if the event of this discussion should bring their party into power for such a period as ten years—I think it will be, indeed, matter of congratulation for the country; and it will be most fortunate for the general interests of the human race if they should be able at the end of ten years to say, "The world has not suffered more from the calamities of war than during ten years of Whig administration," I next come to economy. The 154 hon. Member for the West Riding says, "You came in on a pledge of economy but you never did anything to make good your professions." The question of economy is a question of details which it is difficult to discuss on an occasion of this sort. But f say, that if we have been a lavish Government, it implies the severest censure on our political opponents. It is the peculiar province and duty of the opposition to watch over the expenditure of the country. All Governments are generally too prone to increase establishments and incur unnecessary expense; but, with respect to us, the reproach against us from the opposite side has generally been that we did not expend enough of the public money.
§ Mr. Wortley
said he did not object to the increase of the army and navy made by her Majesty's Government, but to the policy which had made extraordinary expense necessary.
Mr. Labouchere continued
I cannot suppose that Lord Grey's pledge meant, "I will only expend a certain sum of money." Its meaning was, "I will administer the public money in an economical spirit." Lord Grey did not mean to say that it might not be necessary to increase the establishments of the country if the public service required it. The truest economy is to keep the army and navy on an efficient footing. But if in this or any other respect we have not kept the pledge of economy, it proves that no opposition has ever neglected its duty as the present one has done during the last ten years, for not one word has it said against our expenditure. The hon. Gentleman charges us with having failed to keep the pledge of reform. Reform in Parliament, reform in the boroughs count for nothing, because he says we have had a party interest in, those reforms. I do hope we shall always have a party interest in the reform of acknowledged abuses, and in promoting measures for the benefit of the people. I do not think that any reproach to us; but I may remind the hon. Gentleman that a great class of important improvements has been introduced during the time of Whig Administration, to which his observation cannot refer. We have introduced reform in the Church, in tithes, in the Poor laws, and many other important improvements during the last ten years, which cannot be attributed to any party motive. It is a matter of just 155 pride to me, and to those with whom I have the honour to be associated, to look back to those important changes which were carried forward in spite of predictions made by so many, by none with greater confidence than the hon. Member for the West Riding, who, in his opposition to the Reform Bill, accused us of subverting the constitution of the country, and introducing ruin and confusion. I rejoice to look back to that great reform, by which so widely beneficial an improvement was effected; and to feel that all that is valuable in the constitution of the country is more solid and sound than ever, and more loved and revered by the people than while it was defaced by those corruptions and abuses which have been removed. I hold the true object of reform to be to preserve by amending; and I cannot look back to the long series of measures which we have carried, without feeling that in that respect we have been successful in discharging our duty to the country. The hon. Gentleman says we are not now in the condition to discuss the measures of free trade which we have brought forward, and intimates that a notion has prevailed in the country, that those measures were not brought forward upon due reflection, and from a conviction of their paramount importance, but merely to serve a temporary purpose, and therefore they received no Fair consideration from the public. I can only say I do not believe there ever was a measure more deliberately considered before it was brought forward than those measures which have been so characterised. Sir, when we brought them forward we were perfectly aware that they were likely to encounter great opposition, and it was impossible to look back to the history of our commercial legislation for a few years without anticipating that such would be the case. It is a very remarkable circumstance, that while of late years attempts to improve the constitution have been successful, with respect to commercial reform, scarcely anything of importance has been effected for a long period, notwithstanding that there have been most important changes in the commercial condition of this country and of the world during that time. I say experience showed that we were undertaking a task full of difficulty. The hon. Gentleman professes himself a disciple of Mr. Huskisson, with whose opinions upon free trade he still concurs. Undoubtedly 156 Mr. Huskisson when in office did, with the support of the great body of the Whig party, who did not think it consistent with their duty to make the subject a party question, a course which I trust, Sir, whether sitting at your right hand or your left hand, the Whig party will always pursue— [Cheers]—I say Mr. Huskisson, supported by that party, did force upon his reluctant followers—and the hon. Gentleman opposite can recollect that many of them were extremely reluctant followers—some very important improvements in our commercial system. But when Mr. Huskisson went into opposition, what took place? The next year, in conjunction with Mr. Charles Grant, now Lord Glenelg, Mr. Huskisson brought forward the very question of the sugar duties, in a proposition going much further than her Majesty's Government— giving less protection to the colonies, and being more favourable to the consumer, and less to the colonial interest, but it was opposed by Mr. Huskisson's former colleagues. The hon. Gentleman, I believe, voted for it, but the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Tamworth, and the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Cambridge, opposed it, and the proposition failed. I have no hesitation in saying, that if that measure had been carried at that time, the beneficial results to the commerce and finances of this country, as well as the general comforts of the people, would have been incalculable. What was the next considerable attempt to make a change in the commercial system of the country? It was made by the Government of Lord Grey, of which the noble Lord, the Member for North Lancashire, was a Member. They brought forward the timber duties, and encountered the party opposition of hon. Gentlemen opposite. That party opposition was successful. I am afraid those protected classes are so strong in the country, and the Legislature, that if public men, in opposition, will make those questions party questions —if they make use of them to harass and embarrass the Government to which they are opposed—then there never can be a Government strong enough to carry commercial reforms into effect. The question of the timber duties failed in that manner. I am not surprised that the succeeding Government were slow and reluctant in proposing considerable alterations in our commercial arrangements. I admit that 157 there is great evil in proposing questions of this nature, unless there is some chance of carrying them into effect. It is the duty of a Government fairly to weigh, on their own responsibility, the danger and evil of leaving things as they are, with the hazard of mooting such questions. And I must say, the conduct of hon. Gentlemen opposite, with the hon. exception of the lamented Mr. Peregrine Courteney, when the question of the timber duties was brought forward, was such as to greatly discourage all attempts at the improvement of our commercial system. After the experience of that question, the Government was reluctant to bring forward any great measure of this description. It was also to be observed, that whenever the question of Corn-laws was brought forward by independent Members, it was defeated by large majorities. At the same time, this was very observable in the debates on the Cora laws, in the course of argument taken especially by the right hon. Baronet, the the Member for Tamworth. Gentleman connected with the agricultural interest desired us to look to the whole commercial system of the country, intimating that if alterations were necessary, justice should be done to all classes, and that in that case, they would not be indisposed to a re consideration of the Corn-laws. We thought, therefore, ("though the event has disappointed us), when we made up our minds to submit the whole commercial system for revision, that it was a fair and favourable opportunity to ask that powerful landed interest to consider whether their interests should not come under examination along with all the other interests of the country. I am told that the measure of the Government brought forward last Session, had all the appearance of precipitation and haste, and that it was impossible to believe the Government in earnest. I cannot make out the grounds for that imputation. Those measure were put fully before the House. We began with an important bill affecting the trade of the colonies, it being, I conceive, a necessary preparation before meddling with the duties on colonial produce, to redress the grievances of the colonies themselves. That measure, if it had been successful, would have given most important relief to the West Indies, by reducing the exorbitant duties now levied on all imports into that country. The 158 right hon. Gentleman proceeded to express a hope, that whatever course the House might think fit to pursue, with regard to the import duties of this country, they would take into consideration the hardships to which the West Indies were subjected; because, more particularly now that the produce of the East Indies had been admitted to the markets of this country on the same footing, nothing could be more unjust than to leave the West Indies, subject to those excessive burdens under which they were now labouring. He could not, therefore, help repeating that which he had said last Session, that he thought that the measure which he then proposed could never be characterised as a violent measure. It was, too, a measure that, whatever might be thought of other measures proposed by him, was one which could in a certain sense be said to stand well upon its merits. Whatever, then might be the merits of other measures proposed by them, the state of the West Indian interests were such as to call for their immediate consideration. Let them look, he would say, to the quantity of sugar imported into this country in the first six months of 1840, and then compare it with the quantity imported in the first six months of the year 1841. It would show how little could be relied upon the assertions of those who said that they could calculate upon a full supply of sugar from the West Indies. In the first six months of 1840, the imports of West India sugar was 899,000 cwt. In 1841, the supply was 707,000 cwt. being a diminution of nearly 200,000 cwt. from the West Indies. These were facts that justified him in saying that the attention of the House ought to be immediately directed to this subject; because he thought that these facts made out a case of the absolute necessary and imperative justice of the claim of the West Indians upon them. He hoped, then, that whatever might be the opinions of Gentlemen upon other questions, that, at least, this most crying grievance, as it affected West Indian interests, would not be neglected. It was felt by the Ministry that they were justified in coming before that House and calling its attention to the three greatest articles of consumption in this country. He must own that he had heard with great astonishment his hon. Friend, the Member for the West Riding, say, that he too, was a friend to free trade; but, then, he 159 would not meddle with the articles which had been mentioned in their budget. His hon. Friend was a free trader; but then he would except from free trade the trifling articles of corn, of sugar, and of timber. Was his hon. Friend to say that he was a Friend to some alteration, but not to so great alterations as the present Government had proposed — surely his hon. Friend could not say that the alterations proposed by them were excessive. They were much more moderate than the proposal of Mr. Huskisson and of Mr. Grant. Their measure, it was to be remembered, would leave a protection of 50 per cent. If then there was a change in the sugar duties, the alteration proposed would not have been as great as that which had formerly been submitted to the House. As to corn, more violent proposals than these had been made by some who sat on the opposite side; and he did not expect to find the hon. Member for the West Riding to denounce their proposal with respect to the timber duties as very wild or very extravagant. For himself, he must say that, so far from having altered any opinion that he had expressed last Session with respect to the Sugar duties, that everything that had occurred since had greatly tended to confirm the opinions that he had then given utterance to. But what was the state, what the present condition of the sugar trade? He held in his hand a return of the quantity of sugar taken into consumption for six months, that was from January to June in the present year. They had it was to be observed, been promised last year that they would have plenty of sugar for their consumption here, and that the revenue would not be injured. With this production full in their recollection, then, let them compare the amount of consumption and of revenue for the first six months of last year, and the corresponding months of the present year. He found that the quantity consumed in the first six months of 1840, was 2,050,000 cwt. of sugar, and that for the same period in 1841, the quantity consumed was 1,861,600 cwt. of sugar. The falling off in the revenue allowing for the 5 per cent, additional duty imposed, was, in the six months of this year, compared with the six months of the previous year 278,000l Now, he really thought that he event proved that they were justified in seeking, as they had done, for a revision of the sugar duties, when they 160 were at the same time seeking to improve the revenue, and to increase the consumption of the article in the country. But the hon. Member for the West Riding had expressed his surprise that he had taken this course with regard to the sugar duties, when he had opposed a motion on the same subject made in the year 1839. It was to be observed that the sugar duties were comprised in an annual bill, which it was the duty of the Ministry to propose. In the discussion that took place upon this subject last year, the right hon. Baronet the Member for Tamworth had fairly admitted that the opposition which he had offered in the preceding year did not preclude him from adopting the course which he pursued in the following year. He had on that occasion stated, that he did not oppose the principle that was contended for; but it it was only a question of time. There was no inconsistency in the course that he had pursued. The only inconsistency would have been, that when he was prepared for a general revision of their commercial duties, they had omitted such an article as that of sugar. Now, then, to the question of trade in corn. He must say, that he had listened with the most intense anxiety, and so, he was sure, must the country at large, that it would feel the most intense anxiety to know what were the views and opinions of the party opposite on the question of the Corn-laws. He must confess, that the manner in which they were mentioned appeared to him very enigmatical; however, he must say this, that upon the whole he gathered hope from it, because he could not conceive that any party would say the things in the solemn manner that they were uttered to her Majesty in the passage he was about to read to them, unless they had made up their minds to take the present subject of the Corn-laws into their consideration, with a view to their alteration. He could not conceive any course to be more dangerous; he could not conceive any course to be more pregnant with peril than spargere voces in vulgum ambiguas upon such a subject as this. No course could be more improper than to state to her Majesty—That we are deeply sensible of the importance of these considerations, to which her Majesty has been graciously pleased to direct our attention in reference to the commerce and revenue of the country, and to the laws which regulate the trade in corn.161 The Address then goes on to say:—That we feel it to be our duty humbly to submit to her Majesty that it is essential to the satisfactory results of our deliberations upon these and other matters of public concern, that her Majesty's Government should possess the confidence of this House and of the country, and respectfully to represent to her Majesty that that confidence is not reposed in the present advisers of her Majesty.He could conceive no course to be more improper and no course to be more dangerous, than using language of this kind, if they were not prepared to look to the Corn-laws, with a view to their alteration; and sure he was, that it would be more fair, that it would be more just, that it would be more honest, that it would be more consistent with their duty, as a great party, if they were determined to crush the hopes of the country, if they had made up their minds so to act, plainly to have stated it, and not to have used such language as this, if they intended it as a mere delusion. He therefore confessed, that as far as he was able to understand the enigmatical language of the amendment, that, on the whole, he was inclined to hope from it, that the conviction was forced upon them, that the time was come when it was absolutely necessary to reconsider the Corn-laws. [Hear, hear.] If that time were not come now, he was at a loss to understand when it would ever come. He confessed, that when they had before them the experience of the last two years, and compared them with the predictions that the Corn-laws would produce steadiness of price, and at the same time give them an abundant supply and a regular trade—if, when they saw those predictions so completely falsified, he was at a loss to know what quantity of experience could ever touch their minds. He must remind the House, that it was not a question as to whether they were to have a corn trade or not, for they had a corn-trade—a very large corn-trade—an increasing corn trade with foreign countries. He held in his hand an average return of wheat consumed in Great Britain during the present century. From 1801 to 1811, the average return for each year was 505,500 quarters, including 70,000 quarters of Irish wheat consumed in this country. The yearly average for the next decennial period, from 1811 to 1821 was 606,000 quarters. From 1821 to 1831 it was 995,000 quarters; 162 and from 1831 to 1840, the average on each year of corn imported was 1,500,000 quarters. The question then was, not whether they were to have a corn trade at all, but on what principle that corn-trade was to be conducted. In that case, what then was to become of the propositions of those who spoke of making his country independent of foreign nations? They had not rendered themselves independent of the foreign supply; and le would go further, and say, God forbid that they could do it! It would not be to the advantage of themselves nor of the world if they did so. There was another consideration connected with this subject which he could not help adverting to. He did so, because he did not observe that it had been before alluded to in that House, and yet it was one that he felt to be of considerable importance. He had to observe, that in the return he had read was included the quantity of corn sent from Ireland, as well as from their colonies and foreign countries. It was a remarkable fact, that up to the year 1833, the quantity of corn sent from Ireland was steadily on the increase; but that since 1833 the quantity of corn from Ireland was steadily and constantly decreasing. In 1833, for he would not trouble them with the figures of the preceding years, the quantity of corn imported from Ireland was 884,000 quarters, that was including corn and flour: in 1834 it was 779,000 quarters; in 1835, 661,000 quarters; in 1836, 598,000 quarters; in 1837, 534,000 quarters; in 1838, 524,000 quarters; in 1839, 258,000 quarters; and in 1840, 174,000 quarters. It was, he felt, right to call the attention of the House to this subject, because in his opinion, it was an. important consideration as connected with the corn-trade. He hoped and believed, that a diminution in the supply of corn from Ireland was not to be taken as a proof of the want of prosperity in that country; but that it was to be traced directly to the increasing prosperity in that country. The first reason he believed to be assigned for this falling off in the supply from Ireland was the consumption of more corn by the Irish themselves. Therefore it was, that the supply here was less than it used to be. The other great reason for the falling-off was the great extent of the cattle trade in Ireland. Owing to steam-boat communication, and the facility of having a better market for the sale 163 of meat and live stock, the agriculturists in Ireland produced articles of that description, and they were thus in a great degree diverted from the cultivation of corn. As he did not recollect that this part of the subject had been particularly referred to before, he thought it worth while to call attention to it on the present occasion. But if, as he had said before, Gentlemen who had hitherto been opposed to the alteration of the Corn-laws, were not convinced, by the experience of the last two years, he must despair of anything short of a famine convincing them that an alteration was necessary. This was a very wide subject, but there was one branch of it so very important, and the entire system received so complete an illustration from it, that he could not help trespassing upon the indulgence of the House by adverting to it; it was as to the manner in which the system of averages taken together with the sliding scale worked. He could wish, while dealing with this branch of the subject, that he might be favoured with the attention of hon. Gentlemen. Connected with the landed interest, he thought he would be able to convince them that such a system of fraud and of gambling as the present Corn-laws had introduced, never before was permitted— it was a system, he was sure, ruinous to the fair dealer, injurious to the country at large, most baleful to those connected with the land, most ruinous to the honest merchant, and that only sustained a trade, that could alone be compared to that carried on at Newmarket and the hazard tables. His attention had been called to this subject last year. Some gentlemen connected with the landed interest complained to him that there were very extensive frauds carried on in the corn market, and that the object of those frauds was to affect the averages. He inquired into this subject, and he found the complaints made to him were perfectly true, that they were substantially correct; but then the means of preventing them were totally out of his power. He asked the respectable gentlemen, who made the communication to him, to point out the means by which the fraud could be prevented, and they acknowledged that it was totally impossible to prevent that which was then taking place. The information that was then received was, that there was a very large quantity of corn in bonded warehouses, and that corn merchants were 164 combining together, by fictitious sales, so as to admit the corn then bonded at a low duty. He had moved for a return, which was then on the Table of the House, and which would elucidate the manner in which the fraud was effected. Those returns would show the number of quarters of wheat sold in the London market, at the end of July, and during the month of August. It would be seen that the quantity was very considerable. On the 24lh July, the quantity sold was 11,000 quarters; 31st July, 14,000 quarters; 7th August, 19,000 quarters; 14th August 12,000 quarters; 21st August, 15,000 quarters; and 28th August 15,000 quarters. He compared then the quantity of corn that was sold at other times, in order that he might see how far this state of things differed from the natural state of the London market He found that the sales were four times as great as what under ordinary circumstances took place. He then endeavoured to ascertain what was the effect of these sales. Of course these sales were effected at fictitious prices. Sacrifices were made by those who sold, for the purpose of influencing the weekly average. He endeavoured then to ascertain the effect of all this. He asked for returns of the average prices in the London market, as well as in the rest of the country. He had his returns of the six weeks' averages in the country, exclusive of London, and a return, including the London market, and the effect of the averages which regulated the importation of corn. He found, then, this to be the case; that by the time the averages came into operation on the 28th of August, and that the object of the speculators was accomplished — on the 28th of August, the average price in the London market was 79s. 6d., the average price in the whole kingdom including London, was 72s. 4d., and by that the effect desired was produced. But then the six weeks' average price, exclusive of the London market was 70s. 10d, therefore it was to be assumed 70s. 10d. was the fair and natural price of the corn; but instead of 70s. 10d., the London market had made it 72s. 4d.; and the consequence was, that instead of the duty being 6s. 8d., which the law intended it should be, the duty obtained was only 2s. 8d., and this took place in the first week in September, by which 1,217,000 quarters of foreign corn were introduced 165 on the payment of a duty of 2s. 8d. He wished to call especially the attention of Gentlemen of the landed interest to those facts, because they must sec from them that the present system only furnished a protection to gambling speculators, who played upon the averages, and which really deprived the landed interest of that advantage which the Legislature intended to give them, and made the trade in corn most injurious to the public at large. The course of the corn trade at present was this, that it gave no protection against scarcity. It did not operate in reducing the price of food until after the lapse of several weeks, of very high prices, and until there had been great suffering and privation on the part of the people. At the very time that he was thus speaking, he was sure that there was no one who heard him who would not say, that the present price of corn was a national calamity. He did not expect to bear any gentleman connected with the landed interest who would not say that he deeply regretted the price which bread had reached during several weeks. And yet the warehouses were full of bonded corn. There were considerably more than 800,000 quarters of foreign corn in bonded warehouses, but none could come out of it. On the contrary, every body knew that none would be brought out at the present extravagant duty—and great suffering there must be endured, until at length the averages were raised to the famine price, and then the corn would come in at a shilling. Thus it happened, that instead of the corn being gradually diffused over the country, and to its great advantage, it was now cooped up in their warehouses, and it would just come out at that moment when Providence might bless them with an abundant harvest—and when, instead of their farmers being able to rejoice in the blessing that heaven had bestowed upon them, they would find themselves encountered by a million and a half of foreign corn thrown into the market, at a nominal duty. It was obvious what the effect of all this might be. The price would be artificially lowered at the very moment when their poor and needy farmers would be obliged to go into the market and to dispose of their produce. And yet they were told that this was a system by which the landed interest was benefited, and that for their advan- 166 tage it was to be maintained whatever might be the desolation, and howsoever great the misery it entailed upon other classes. His hon. Friend, the Member for the West Riding, had said nothing of what his opinion was as to the Corn-laws, but he told them that he came there to speak the sentiments of a great constituency. Feeling that he did so, he should indeed be greatly surprised to hear his lion. Friend say, that the opinion of his constituents was favourable to the present Corn-laws. Ho confessed that if he could have heard that the opinion of the West Riding, was favourable to the Corn-laws he should have heard it with despair, with the utmost despondency, considering that he attached the greatest importance to the satisfactory settlement of this question. His hon. Friend had been particularly cautious in what he said upon this matter; but he was quite sure that whatever differences of opinion there might be on other subjects, yet, as to the present Corn-laws, they were unanimously disapproved of by the mercantile and manufacturing interests. His present object was to urge upon the House to take the subject of the Corn-laws into consideration. Her Majesty's Government did not conceal from this House or the country what their opinion was on this subject; for they could not understand why there should be one system for trade in corn and another system for trade in other articles. There was something so strange and so paradoxical in asserting that a difference ought to be made, that the burden of proof rested, in his opinion, upon those who maintained a principle adverse to the true policy of this country. If it was thought right to give protection to agriculture, he believed a fixed duty would be the most rational and least burthensome mode of giving it. If that were done, then a merchant would know what was to be depended upon. Then men would embark in a trade in corn, because it would be certain, and not find themselves at one day met with a duty of 1s. and the next with a duty of 20s. Certainty was a sound principle as applied to corn, as well as to any other article. At the same time he must admit, that, without adopting the fixed duty, the present system of Corn-laws might be found susceptible of very great amelioration; indeed that it could be worse he could not conceive. There could scarely be a change proposed that must not be an 167 improvement upon the present absurd system; but still he believed that the nearer they approached to a fixed duty the better. He did not say but that by preserving the name of a sliding scale, great good might be effected; but still, he observed, that as far as there was or might be uncertainty n the Corn-trade, there would be, pro tanto, injury done to the community. He, therefore, could only say, that he retained the opinions that he had given expression to last Session, namely, that whatever protection they gave to the agriculturists, they ought to give it in the shape of a moderate fixed duty; and that, considering all the circumstances, such an arrangement would be the most beneficial for the country. But these were the measures that her Majesty's Government had laid before the House and the public, and considering what were the finances of the country, they proposed measures that they believed would be advantageous to their commercial interest, while they supplied the deficiencies of the State. He was astonished to find his hon. Friend express surprise at the budget that was proposed by her Majesty's Government. They thought that the time was come when it was incumbent on the House to take a calm and deliberate view of the Import duties of the country, which at the same time would relieve their trade and increase the revenue. He did not mean to enter into the whole of this question, but he would take for instance one branch of the Import duties which was connected with the corn duties—the duties upon provisions from abroad. He could not conceive why they should prohibit, as in effect they did, the importation of live stock. He was very glad in the last Session to hear Mr. Herries say, that he entirely concurred with himself on this point. He hoped that this was an opinion that was entertained by the right hon. Gentleman opposite. They ought to have no duties prohibiting the importation of bacon, potatoes, and such other articles. These were things that he hoped would be amended. There was another important branch of these duties which he thought it was absolutey necessary for them to examine into. He meant the duties, that they imposed upon the raw materials of various manufactures. To give a single instance, look at the duties upon foreign copper, and the effect it had upon manufactures. Were Gentle men aware of what was the effect of the 168 present system with rega d to foreign copper? They prohibited foreign coppe from consumption in this country. They allowed it to be smelted in bond, but not rolled in bond. The Members for Birmingham would bear him out in this statement. The price of copper in England, compared with what it was abroad, was a treat grievance to a great branch of their manufactures. The consequence of the present system was, that this country, where, owing to the price of fuel and their skill, copper could be smelted best and cheapest, allowed it to be brought in and smelted, in bond, and then to be sent to a foreign country, so that their own means of smelting copper were turned against themselves, and were given as an advantage to foreigners. We did not allow copper to be rolled in this country. We insisted upon restricting the manufacture to the produce of our own mines. What was the consequence to the shipping interest? and this was a most important question. The consequence was, that foreign ships were coppered more cheaply than English ships. These things had, he could assure the House, a great effect upon trade; and struggling as they were with foreign rivals, they could not afford to throw away any advantage. He did not refer to this subject as a matter of revenue—he only alluded to it to illustrate the position he had advanced, that he was satisfied, that they might, with perfect safety to the revenue, make those relaxations in the Import duties, which might very materially diminish the pressure that existed upon the commercial and manufacturing classes. Of the existence of that pressure, he imagined there could be no doubt. He apprehended, that they would not on this occasion, as on former occasions when they discussed the question of Corn-laws, hear a denial of any particular pressure. Unfortunately, its existence was so notorious, that it could not be denied by any one conversant with the real state of things in this country. His belief was, that this state of things was connected in a very considerable degree with the want of employment that prevailed throughout the manufacturing districts, caused, as it was, by the want of demand for our manufactures in the foreign markets—markets, which they were losing, because they would not consent to take in return the only produce that they could send. He wished particularly to call the attention of 169 the hon. Member for the West Riding of Yorkshire, to two important branches of trade, which affected the constituencies he represented; he alluded to woollens and to hardware and cutlery. In the last returns the export of British produce in the article, of hardware and cutlery in the year 1841, as compared with 1840, showed a diminution of 483,000l., the export for the year 1841 amounting to 1,345,881l., while that for 1840, amounted to 1,828,521l. In the woollen trade, the decrease was still more considerable. In 1840, the export was 6,271,645l., while in 1841, it amounted only to 5,336,275l., showing a diminution of 935,000l. Upon eleven articles of British produce exported there had been in the year 1841, a decrease of 1,383,000l. This was a state of things well deserving the attention of the House. These were not questions that could be postponed with safety. Foreign markets once lost, could not be recovered; industry once paralysed, could not be easily revived. He did believe and feel, that it would be indeed a fatal policy if that House were to suffer any consideration to divert their attention from the immediate discussion of those measures by which this state of things was to be met and remedied. He trusted, that the Members of that House, and especially those connected with the landed interest, who boasted of their predominance and power in the House, would not commit the fatal mistake of disregarding the present state of things, but that they would act the wise part of consulting the interests of the community instead of neglecting the complaints and interests of the manufacturing classes. He quite agreed, that the interests of the landed and the manufacturing classes were intimately connected, but he thought when they came to questions of protection, that the case had not been fairly stated. He did not think, that they had a right to protect the land as against the interests of manufactures. He thought it a matter o course, that if trade and commerce flourished, agriculture must flourish likewise He defied any one to show him in any country of the world, at any period o history, where there was a great commercial and agricultural community, that such country was not prosperous. He would say, then, "Take care of trade and agriculture will take care of itself." 170 He would say, that if by artificial and n necessary restrictions, they tampered with the commerce of the country, the ruin might begin with commerce, but it would end with agriculture. There vas one other point he wished to advert to: her Majesty had invited the House of Commons to consider whether a variety of duties, trifling in amount, might not be removed without any danger to the revenue. Any one who had attentively considered the evidence taken before the Import Duties Committee would have no doubt upon the subject. There were 349 articles which produced 8,050l.; there were 132 articles which produced only 3,100l.; and 147 articles, which not only produced no duty, but upon which there was a drawback amounting to 5,000l. As far, therefore, as the revenue was concerned, he was sure, that if they responded to the invitation of her Majesty, they might, without any danger to the revenue, afford considerable facilities to the trade of the country. He did not wish to detain the House at greater length, and would only say for himself, that he truly rejoiced that the time had come when that House must decide upon what principles, and by what persons, the affairs of the country should be conducted. He hoped, certainly, before the discussion was brought to a close, before the House should be called upon to express an opinion, that some more ample information would be afforded as to what were the views on those most important subjects of Gentlemen opposite. [Laughter.] Really the Gentlemen who were so kind as to laugh at this observation seemed to think, that there was only one question of any importance to be considered, namely, who were to be the Ministers of the day. He, for his own part, was very far from thinking, that that was a question of no importance. He did not profess to be one of those who believed in the maxim of "measures and not men." He thought it was the duty and the privilege of that House not only to be satisfied as to the measures proposed, but also as to the general confidence they had in the persons proposing those measures. He thought also, at a period of great public expectation, when these subjects were discussed far and wide throughout the country, and when the country was anxiously expecting to hear the opinions of the representative body he certainly thought the country, or at 171 least a large class in the country, would feel considerable disappointment if the only result of their deliberations should turn out to be a decision as to the substitution, by her Majesty, of one set of men for another, and if they refused to ex press an opinion upon those important subjects which her Majesty recommended; to the consideration of the House. Those questions had been alluded to in very doubtful and ambiguous language in the amendment. It might be possible, that; before the termination of the debate, that ambiguity would be cleared away. Thai Gentlemen opposite should announce what course they would adopt with regard to particular measures, it was not reasonable to expect; but at any rate, it was reasonable to expect, and he thought the House had a right to demand, an explicit announcement of the line of policy which they expected the House to be prepared to follow out with regard to those questions. Unless such an announcement was made—unless the House was given to understand, that the object of Gentlemen opposite was fairly, deliberately, and immediately to consider those questions— unless they were prepared to look into those questions with a view towards redressing any grievances that might be proved to exist—unless that announcement was made before the close of the debate, he thought the country would have great reason to feel disappointment at what must otherwise be considered a factious course of conduct. Would not their proceedings be, on all hands, looked upon as a mere party struggle, if the mercantile, the commercial, and the colonial interests, who had been anxiously expecting a decision upon these questions, were to be told that the only opinion they would express would be, as to whether one set of men or another should be in power, leaving the country, as far as the result was concerned, entirely in the dark. He certainly did hope, that the discussion on this occasion would not end in so unsatisfactory a manner. He could assure gentlemen opposite, that although he was as warm a partisan as any of them, he had too deep a sense of the condition of the country, not to entertain a strong feeling of the necessity for public men of all parties to consider these questions at once, with a view towards coming to a satisfactory decision, and with a view to putting them upon a basis which should relieve the country 172 from its present state of difficulty. He cared little, as far as he was personally concerned, for an adverse vote of that House, which should have the effect of transferring Gentlemen opposite to that (the ministerial) side of the House, provided he was satisfied that those who passed that adverse vote, would fairly carry into execution the measures of their predecessors. At least he felt confident of this: he had had a seat in Parliament for some years, and he had never seen any great question proposed, however powerful was the influence opposed to it, and whatever difficulties it might have to contend with, that had not, if founded on reason and justice, prevailed in that House; and because he was perfectly satisfied that the principles upon which the measures of the Government were founded were principles of reason and justice—because he was satisfied that experience would show, that the more these questions were discussed throughout the country, the more it would appear that it would be for the general interest that the Corn-laws, the timber-laws, the sugar-laws, and our whole commercial system should be placed upon a sound, practicable, and intelligible footing —because he was convinced of this, whatever might be the result of the decision of that house, he for one should feel no despondency, but should confidently look forward, and he expected the period was not distant, when those questions would be brought to a satisfactory solution; and whether that was effected by those with whom it had been his pride and happiness to have been connected during the whole of his political life, or whether Gentlemen opposite, as he had an opportunity of observing, not un frequently, during the years he had sat in Parliament, would support and carry the measures of their political opponents, when they found the pressure so strong that they could not any longer resist it, he could assure the House, that to him it was a matter of comparative indifference, by which of these two methods these questions should be brought to a satisfactory conclusion.
was somewhat surprised, after all that had been heard last Parliament, at the application which had been made by the right hon. Member, the President of the Board of Trade, to Sir Robert Peel. He should have thought that there would have been a sense of dignity which would have restrained such an application. 173 The right hon. Gentleman had concluded his speech with a patriotic peroration. He was so convinced of the necessity for those measures, that, if the decision should be adverse to them, he should support them in opposition; and he made this observation, and was still a Minister! He had drawn a parallel, which they had not unfrequently heard, between the situation of the country now, and in 1835, but he had forgotten, because it was convenient to forget, that Sir Robert Peel had not sustained a vote of want of confidence. He had appealed to the country, and retired when he perceived that he continued to have an adverse majority without sustaining the humiliation of such a vote. The right hon. Gentleman had entered into the budget, and spoken of ascertaining averages. Was the Parliament dissolved for that? Or about copper? Or to consider the commercial tariff? It was well for the right hon. Gentleman to run from Walpole to Pitt, and from Pitt to Huskisson, and say the prosperity of the country had existed in spite of her tariff. Had he forgotten the eminent services of Sir Robert Walpole, and the great alterations made by him in the tariff? Had he forgotten the services of Mr. Wallace when Vice President of the Board of Trade? Why, the progress of commercial reform was only arrested by the Reform Act. Again—the right hon. Gentleman had forgotten, in the peculiar zeal which he and his colleagues now wished to exhibit for reform, all that had been done by the Administration of the Earl of Liverpool; and in the zeal the right hon. Gentleman now displayed, he owned he was surprised at the manner in which he thought fit to speak of the report upon Import duties. The right hon. Gentleman spoke of the contents of that report as if they were emanations previously secret to the Government—he spoke of them as the discovery of a mass of knowledge teeming with conclusions which were so incapable of refutation as to make it absolutely impossible for the Government to hesitate instantly to legislate upon them. He (Mr. D'Israeli) had never underrated the value and interest of that important document; on the contrary, he maintained that the subject to which it had reference ought, long ere this, to have engaged the attention of the Government. He admitted that many of the conclusions were just, but he had yet to learn that the data upon 174 which they were founded were new. So far from that, those data were founded upon information which had long engaged the attention of all men who could pretend to the character of statesmen; and he knew that, sooner or later, they must at the hands of some Government form the materials for legislation. But this was not the question now before the House, nor was it the question which had been put by the Government before the country. No man could pretend that the late dissolution of Parliament, or the want of confidence which the country had expressed in the Government, was in consequence of any sympathy in respect of the Import duties; but it was because the Government was weak—inefficient—incapable of carrying those measures which they themselves believed to be necessary for the country; but, after experiencing signal, and under other circumstances, and in other reigns, overwhelming defeat, it was that the Government, thus ricketty and staggering, proposed the reconstruction of the commercial system of the country, and this was the reason why the last Parliament had recoiled; this was the question which went to the country, and these were the feelings which induced the country, on the appeal thus made to them, to sympathize with the late Parliament, and say, "We feel the necessity of maintaining the commercial superiority of Britain; but we think that the question is of such magnitude as to call for and require that calm consideration, as to prevent us intrusting it to a Government whose councils were only held to deliberate as to the mode in which a majority was to be managed on the next division." This, then, brought him to the consideration of the real question before the House: the question was, not whether the proposed measures were necessary, but it was whether a discussion of those measures ought to be discussed or entered upon under the auspices of the present possessors of official power. The late Parliament had recorded its want of confidence in the present Government upon that single and intelligible ground, and it was now for the House only to inquire whether the conduct of the Government since that vote entitled them to the renewed and renovated confidence of Parliament and of the country. And what had they done since that event? Was the dissolution under such circumstances such an act as entitled them to a renewal of 175 that confidence? Just or unjust as that dissolution might have been, one thing was certain—namely, that the result showed that the Government of the country had no knowledge of the feelings of the nation they governed. The noble Lord the Chief Minister of the Crown in that House must accept the alternative—when he dissolved the late Parliament he must either have believed he would succeed in the appeal he thus made to the country, or he was conscious that he must fail. If the first position were the case, the noble Lord had really been profoundly ignorant of the feelings of the country—or if, on the other hand, the noble Lord accepted the other alternative, he had agitated the country for mere party purposes. At best, therefore, the noble Lord must accept the crime or the blunder. If then the late dissolution—the first act of the Government since the vote of want of confidence —did not entitle them to a restoration of the confidence they had lost, he (Mr. D'Israeli) begged to ask whether the mode, the manner, or the spirit in which the Ministers of the Crown had conducted the late election contests—whether the tone and language in which they had appealed to the people, were or were not circumstances in regard to which they had abused their claims to the renewed confidence of the House of Commons? In the history of the country there had before been no instance of a Government dissolving Parliament under such circumstances, still less of addressing constituencies in such language as had been used on the recent occasion. There had been a time when even the allusion to the sovereign was shrunk from in this House; when, if made from the lips of a Minister of the Crown, such allusion would have called forth the indignant reprobation of every independent man;—the time had been when, if the name of the Sovereign had been mentioned as lately it had frequently been used and resorted to in the House in order to control and influence Parliament, such an attempt would have been held up to public scorn and indignation; but what would now be said of a Minister of the Crown, if, when, by a vote of the House of Commons, it had been declared the Government with which he was connected was no longer able to conduct the affairs of the nation, that Minister defied the House of Commons, by declaring the Government 176 to which he belonged was supported by the Crown—the best support a Minister could have? And yet these words had fallen from the lips of one who formerly was the disciple of very different opinions, and no sooner had Parliament been dissolved than the Government had sent round their clandestine champions to every borough in the country, profaning the name of the Sovereign, as if the Majesty of England was a second candidate upon some paltry poll. Such has been the conduct of the party who claimed a monopoly of loyalty. The noble Lord opposite (Lord J. Russell), who had been an historical student, might, perhaps, remember some words written by one of the most brilliant ornaments this House had ever possessed: those words were to the effect, "that the Sovereign of a faction was only the Sovereign of half the people." He would not believe that the machinations of any men calling themselves Ministers—and why they still called themselves so was to him a mystery—could have succeeded in making, in this age, the Sovereign of this country the mere Sovereign of a faction; but this much he would say, that if such a miserable conjuncture could possibly arrive, that her Majesty should only be the Sovereign of the Whigs, she would not be the Sovereign of half, nor a quarter, nor an eighth, but of a miserable faction, in whose hands traditionary policy had placed the interests of the nation. Perhaps, the noble Lord would remember, that when Mr. Pulteney had been consulted by George 2nd, on the then state of the country, that right hon. Gentleman had recommended his Sovereign not to speak of the Tories as enemies, because "they formed two thirds of the people." Now, it would be a good thing if the Whigs, who had made some Gentlemen "right honourable," since they had lost the confidence of the House of Commons and of the country, would bear in mind these words of Mr. Pulteney. If they did so, he owned he was surprised, looking at the use which had been made during the last two months of the Queen's name, that they could still presume to call themselves Ministers of the Crown, or refrain from a blush, when they remembered the position in which they had placed their Sovereign. If then, the dissolution of Parliament—if the spirit in which the elections had been conducted were not incidents upon which to found their claim for renewed confi- 177 dence, was the House to yield that claim in consequence of the Speech which they had advised her Majesty to deliver from the Throne? On the contrary, was not that Speech the last effort of an expiring Government, desirous of laying the foundation of a nascent opposition? Was this the mode to treat the Queen, or the constitution of the country? It was the mere lip loyalty of the Reform Government, which was to re model the institutions of the country. The Administration had, in this Speech, taken refuge in their budget— like a dog, they had returned to the vomit; they had attacked the constitution, and insulted the nation—they had raised the cry of "cheap bread and cheap sugar," it was true; but still they must answer one question before this debate ceased and closed their fate. They had yet to tell Parliament by what tenure they now held office. They had no right to pretend, according to old constitutional decorum, that they had not the right to presume that the opinions of the new Parliament were adverse to them because the noble Lord, their leader, had volunteered an explicit declaration that the opinions of the new Parliament were completely fatal to them. Whether that declaration had been declared in a spirit of frankness, or in that of defiance, the House and the country must decide; but as they had continued to exercise the powers of Government for a long period after, confessedly they had lost the support of the representatives of the people, as recorded by their chief, he (Mr. D'Israeli) must quote to them the words of Mr. Fox:—That the party which continued in the exercise of political power, after they knew they had forfeited and did not possess the confidence of Parliament, were guilty of a high crime and misdemeanour.This was the opinion of the great oracle of the Whigs—this was, he believed, a just opinion, and that it was one on which he thought the House ought now to act as it had been acted upon in times when Parliament was unreformed, and when Danby found himself in a dungeon, and Strafford on a scaffold. Now, however, the Whigs held office by abusing the confidence of the Sovereign, and by defying the authority of Parliament.
§ Mr. Bernal
, jun. said, I am surprised, Sir, at the accusations brought forward against her Majesty's Ministers by the hon. Gentleman who has just sat down, for 178 being returned to Parliament by the constituency which rejected the hon. Gentleman, I know that he understands free trade in politics very well. And I think that the accusation against her Majesty's Government comes with a peculiarly good grace from him, when I recollect that he went down to High Wycombe with letters in his pocket, one from Mr. O'Connell, and the other from Mr. Hume; and when I know also that he was proposed by his friend Mr. Treacher, the Radical, and seconded by his Friend Mr. Rose, the Tory. I leave it to the House to decide with how great force such a rebuke comes from him. But, Gentlemen—[cries of "order," and" chair."] I stand before you, Gentlemen, for I suppose you are Gentlemen. I hope, Sir, the House will make a little excuse for my inexperience; but, Sir, I stand before the House intimately connected with one of the great interests under discussion. By the West India interest I must stand or fall, and I declare that I cannotCompound for laws I am inclined to, By damning those I have no mind to.I wish therefore to take this opportunity of recording my vote in favour of the reduction of the duties upon sugar, feeling convinced that the best interests, and the ultimate prosperity of this country, depend much upon the upper classes being willing to make some sacrifices. Having endeavoured to take out the beam from my own eye, I think that I can with the greater propriety enter into a discussion of the Corn-laws. The hon. Gentleman who has seconded the amendment has very strongly deprecated any discussion of the Corn-laws; and, at the same time, he has fallen into the error, that dear bread and high wages go together. I believe that the arguments upon the Corn-laws, both pro and con, were pretty well understood. Yet I think that if we refer to an early period, and look to the occurrences of 1795, we may learn something. For some years preceding that period, the price of wheat had been 54s. a quarter; it suddenly rose to 76s.; there was, consequently great distress in the country. The wages of the labourers did not rise, but fell, and the magistrates, when they were appealed to, directed the relieving officers to pay the labourers additional wages out of the Poor rates. That was the first instance of wages being paid out of the 179 Poor-rates—and I ask whether it would not have been better, before we passed the Poor-law Amendment Bill, if we had first of all remedied the defects of the Corn-law, and founded a new system of Poor-laws on a new system of Corn-laws. What is the present Poor-law but a direct concession to the landlords, and no one else? I wish the landlords would follow my example—for what are we but brother monopolists? Let them accept the 8s. duty as a boon, now; else it may become—Small by degrees, and beautifully less.
§ Sir Charles Napier
would reply to the speech of the hon. Member for the West riding of Yorkshire, for he must confess that the speech of the hon. Member opposite, who had just sat down (Mr. D'Israeli), was utterly beyond his comprehension. The hon. Member for the West Riding, in speaking of the present Ministers, after throwing out his skirmishes pretty well, had made his grand attack upon them for not keeping the promises which they had made, on taking office, of peace, retrenchment, and economy. The hon. Gentleman said, that they had taken office in 1830,and eight or ten little wars had, during that time, been carried on by the Government. If the Government had carried on little wars, he hoped the hon. Gentleman opposite would allow him to say, that if those little wars had not been carried on with vigour and talent, they would not have been brought to the satisfactory conclusion to which they had been. If hon. Gentlemen opposite had been in power, they might possibly have had great wars, and with them great contracts and great loans. He doubted if any other person than the noble Lord, the Secretary for Foreign Affairs, would have preserved the peace of the country in the manner which that noble Lord had been able to do. The hon. Gentleman had accused the Government of making little wars. He had told them, that the Government which had held office for eighteen years before the time the present Government came into office, had made but one war—the war at Navarino; but that hon. Gentleman had forgotten that that Government made war with Algiers, and also in India had engaged in the Burmese war, in which he believed a great deal of money had been expended. But he had not told the House that while they were in office, they had 180 suffered France to go to war with Spain, and to march one hundred thousand troops into that country, and put down a constitutional Government in that country. What had been the results of the little wars which had been made by the present Government. They had given a free Government to Portugal. They had given Spain a free Government. [A Member here exclaimed Spain is an absolute government."] An hon Gentleman said that Spain was an absolute Government. He only knew that there was a Cortes in Spain, as there was a Parliament in this country; he was therefore justified in saying, that there was a free Government in Spain. The noble Lord had put an end to the most despicable tyranny that had ever been inflicted on a country in Syria. He had restricted Mehemet Ali within the limits of his own territories; and he hoped that Turkey would have had the sense to act in accordance with the noble Lord's views.
said, the hon. and gallant officer who had just sat down had done well to attempt to dazzle the question by the success which had attended British arms in Syria and elsewhere, but what man could doubt what British valour could achieve when brought forward under the command of a Stopford and a Napier? But were those successes any proof of the wisdom which dictated the campaign? He admitted that the best view which could possibly be taken of the policy of the present Government was that which was directed to foreign affairs, but even in that respect they had been much to blame. He might ask, in what quarter of the globe would the British Ministers, retiring in 1841, not leave the British name less honored, less loved, and respected than they found it in 1830. He might point to the ill-suppressed rebellion in Canada, to the imminent peril of war with that country with which, above all, a war was to be deprecated. He could not shut his eyes to the open insult directed against this country in the deprivation of the liberty and the jeoparding the life of as meritorious a British subject as ever had the misfortune to serve a liberal Government. He might refer to the blockades established by Russia and France, by which the channels for British commerce had been shut up; to the Bosphorus, closed against our vessels, and to the suspended intercourse with Persia. He might advert to the present state of the frontier of India; to our 181 Chinese war, and the causes of that war— causes as disgraceful to this country as the war itself. He might, he repeated, refer to China, where not even the successes of the British arms had atoned for the blunders of British diplomacy. But that portion of the globe to which he wished more particularly to advert was the Syrian province of the Ottoman Empire. The state of that province, before it came into the possession of the wonderful man who governed it previous to the last war, was well known. The state of the subjects of the Christian population, and the insecurity of life and property, were matters of notoriety. Under the sway of that great and wonderful man to whom he had alluded these things were much altered; and three years ago, when he was himself in the country, he witnessed himself the blessed effects of his domination. Aleppo had recovered much of its ancient prosperity, and British commerce had been extended in Beyrout and Damascus. Consuls had been appointed for the benefit of trade where they were never found before. The country seemed almost likely to obtain the 8ame greatness in that part of the world which Britain enjoyed in this. But all was changed when the British Government interfered. He therefore thought the foreign policy of the Government had not been so very successful. With regard to our home policy, the country had passed its verdict on that. He could not forget how in the Parliament of 1831, the noble Lord, the Secretary of the colonies, then the representative of Devonshire, smiled with complaisance on the contrast then afforded by the two sides of the House. On the noble Lords side sat the Members of all the cities and towns in the kingdom, and the knights of the shires, while on the other were the Members of Old Sarum and Gatton. How much were circumstances altered since the Reform Bill! The county Members now sat on the Opposition side, while the Members of Richmond, Malton, Calne, and Tavistock, sat on the Ministerial. He left the Government to their own topic of condolence and consolation, which had been paraded daily in the public prints, and re echoed in private conversations, that however weak as a Government they would prove formidable as an opposition. They would prove formidable only as those eastern barbarians whom the Roman legions learned to fear, but only on account of their poisoned weapons, which they hurled behind them in their retreat.
§ Mr. Roebuck
wished to express his acknowledgments for the courtesy of his hon. Friend (Mr. Ewart) in giving way to him. If the question now proposed to the House were simply an inquiry into the character of the present Ministry, he would have had very little difficulty in coming to an opinion upon it, although he might have had some difficulty as to the vote he should give. His opinion would have been adverse to the character of the Ministry; but his opinion would have been come to upon grounds so distinctly opposed to those which had been alluded to, or which would be alluded to by hon. Gentlemen, and right hon. Gentlemen, and noble Lords opposite, that he could not have reconciled it to vote against those he disliked, only because they too much resembled honourable Gentlemen opposite. But the question was not simply as to the character of the present Ministry, it was a question of comparative character, and a vote upon that must be given upon a general opinion of the conduct pursued upon this side of the House and upon that; and here he must observe that he could not understand the analogy drawn by the right hon. Gentleman when he compared himself to a physician. He thought that he should be called in before he gave advice, but surely he was called in when he was returned to that House. He would put an analogy that was more to the purpose. He would not dismiss one servant, till he was convinced that he should get a better. He must have some servant. He must have for a servant some one; and although he might think that his present servant was not altogether as efficient as he might be, that he might be somewhat indolent—and although he might not be all that he could wish, or altogether such as he might like, yet if he dismissed him, he might discover that if he were a sluggard, he might get one ten times worse—if he were untrustworthy, he might admit some one into his house who was absolutely wanting in honesty. He was not prepared then to dismiss his present servant till he was sure that the servant who would come in his place would be better than the one he should turn away. That he believed to be a fair analogy. How, then, was he to learn that the new servants were better, or more likely to be better, than the old? The hon. Gentleman who had moved the amendment had passed over all other points, and had said 183 that they had nothing to do with anything except with the character of the present Ministers—that they had nothing to do with their measures; now, they could know nothing of their characters, except by their acts. That was the subject he was called upon to investigate; he must compare the noble Lord and his supporters with the right hon. Gentleman opposite and his party; he must compare their conduct in times pastas a guidance for the future: and he must determine as his judgment should then lead him, as to which conduct would be the most likely for the future to conduce to the well being of the country. That comparison he would render by a retrospective glance, in the fairest manner, at the character of both parties, and upon this alone would he form his judgment, and give his vote upon the present occasion. He found, in the outset of the inquiry, that the present advisers of her Majesty—the party which in the first reformed Parliament, that met in 1832, was predominant and paramount in the country—having full power to do anything they might desire, who then ruled all before them, and who were forced into power by the will, and the strong will of the people—he found that this party had been day by day losing influence, till they had become weak, tottering, and wretched, unable to do anything they might wish. And he found the right hon. Gentleman opposite, who was at that time powerless, and who, it was thought, must thereafter lead a defeated and dispirited host, at the head now of a party eager to divide the spoil. How did this come to pass? The right hon. Gentleman, and the party opposite, were very willing, as it was their interest, to say that they had not only vanquished the Ministry in their persons, but in their principles. They were glad to say, "Here is the Ministry, the reforming Ministry, that was ever pushing on, the moving Ministry, conquered by the Conservative party." He found the Ministers interested in saying pretty much the same thing, although not in the same words, and in claiming for themselves the character of martyrs to freedom. He could not allow them to claim any such title. He could not believe that they were received by the Conservative principles of the people of England. They were ruined by forgetting —they would pardon him for expressing his opinion strongly — their principles. Flushed with their success in the year 1831, 184 the party at present in power determined to act on the principles of the party opposite, and they believed that the only parties they had to fear, was an extreme section of those by whom they were themselves supported. From that moment they became what the party opposite consistently were, Conservatives. Thrust into power, where they ought to have carried out Reform, they had stopped short. They had cast contumely on those who represented to them that the natural order of things would take place, that the other party were strong in wealth, that they represented, as he was free to confess, a strong feeling in the country; that they had with them the clergy, almost all the landed interest, and many of those in the professions. The Ministers did not care for this. They considered that their victory was complete, they declared that they had obtained what they had all along intended, a preponderance of the landed interest of this country, and they declared for finality. That was the cause of their loss of power, for hon. Gentlemen opposite were the legitimate representatives of the party against all change; and he believed that it was salutary to have such a party in all such societies. But if the Ministers on that side of the House had understood their position when they had seen hon. Gentlemen opposite refusing to make changes, they would have known that it was their place to work out reform by giving to it a moving principle. The Ministry told their supporters they found the party opposite too weak to do harm; they bade defiance to their friends who gave the warning; they heaped upon them hatred and contumely, and they had now their reward. That being his opinion of the cause of their present downfall, he would ask whether, if that were so, he could congratulate the people? He said no. He was deeply grieved that the golden opportunity had been passed, he lamented that Ministers had lost the opportunity they then had; they had lost power, and they could only win it back by a long and virtuous course of opposition. But then it was said, that the last election tried the great principles of the freedom of trade, but he denied that assertion. The question put to the country was, do you like the Whig Ministry? He could not permit great principles to be sacrificed to party purposes. The country answered, he was 185 grieved that the country had said so, but it did say, that it did not like that Ministry; and when he said, that the country had answered, let him not be misunderstood—he meant the constituencies. And when the Ministers complained, that the question had not been fairly tested, that there had been bribery, and intimidation, and corruption, he said that these were the natural accidents of that state of things which they had determined on. They had refused all means for putting down corruption and intimidation, therefore, he said, that they were condemned by that body which they had themselves created, and let them not complain that these bodies had acted according to their nature. Were the people, however, wise in flinging off the present Ministry? How was he to judge of the wisdom of his countrymen? He was prepared to review their conduct at home, in the colonies, and their conduct abroad, and wherever he found them failing, wherever he found them halting between two opinions, whenever they lost confidence, he found the right hon. Gentleman opposite as their evil genius. He said, that the right hon. Gentleman was their evil genius. In now making a comparison between the relative virtues of the two parties, he would take their conduct during the last ten years in the Reformed Parliament, taking one party as represented by the noble Lord, at present Secretary, he believed, for the Colonies, for they changed office so often he really forgot, and the right hon. Gentleman opposite, the Member for Tamworth, as the representative of the party opposite. Now, in judging of a party, or a Ministry, he thought it was but just and fair to take them in their large divisions, he would not look with microscopic eye into the smaller details, but he would take the whole scheme and scope of their policy. The first step which was taken by the noble Lord, who was the representative of his party, was the introduction of the Reform Bill. The right hon. Gentleman, the representative of his party true to his nature, opposed and checked that improvement which he now admitted to be good, and to which he now gave his adherence. So far he was not the friend of the people. By this term he did not mean anything offensive, for no doubt the right hon. Gentleman, as others did meant to be friendly to the people; but so far he was not the friend of the people 186 of England; he did not in these views agree with the people of this country. Suppose the right hon. Gentleman had been successful, they would have had the old Parliament remaining, and they would lave had none of those improvements which had followed since. Take that as an instance, and, as a test, were the people of England right in determining in favour of those who had been opposed to the parliamentary reform? The next great improvement he would take was the English Municipal Reform Bill. That bill was also opposed by the right hon. Gentleman. There was nothing that he could do in fairness that he had not endeavoured to do against it. His vote and his influence were against it. He was then in Parliament, and he recollected very well the fight they had on the Municipal Bill, and to the principle of that bill both the right hon. Gentleman and his party were from the beginning to the end, opposed. If he had ruled, he never would have given municipal reform. Well, then, he would ask all those in England who now had a voice in the government of their own towns, when the right hon. Gentleman and his friends would have refused them, up to the present time, everything like municipal reform, whether that was the party they would have in the Government, when they had to decide between the two.
§ Sir Robert Peel
doubted whether the hon. Gentleman was right in the fact, he did not recollect giving any opinion against the English Corporation Reform Bill.
§ Mr. Roebuck
recollected that the right hon. Gentleman's party did at the time vehemently oppose the Municipal Corporation Reform Bill; and further, that this bill was in many respects curtailed of its fair proportions by the noble Lord now silting at the right hand of the right hon. Gentleman (Lord Stanley). He now took an act on which he was bold to say for one—and in the face of the great party opposite he did say it—he could not separate the right hon. Gentleman from his party. He was about to speak of the Poor-law Amendment Bill. During the elections which had just passed, the Liberal party had been met by the most illiberal artifices, and every vulgar appeal had been made to the lowest passions of the people upon the subject of a measure which the Liberal party had passed, which 187 the right hon. Baronet himself had considered he was bound to support. Let them remember, then, that it was the Conservative party of England who had so put at defiance their leader, and that he dared not rebuke the conduct of his party. He might say that every hon. Member who had been a candidate at the late elections, had been compelled to submit to these foul means which had been taken by the opposite party for the purpose of winning for themselves a pitiful support in reference to that measure. He said that he could not separate the right hon. Baronet from his party. A few soft words were indeed heard from him—now and then he spoke of the advantages of the bill, but had he ever turned his face severely against those who had offered this opposition to its supporters. This should have been done, because there was not one of the leading Gentlemen opposite who did not know that the right hon. Baronet had supported this measure, because he believed that it would be for the benefit of the poorer classes. He had supported it because it was proposed by Ministers in the great spirit of wisdom and benevolence which had characterised their political life, and it had been fastened upon by the party opposite for all the base purposes to which they could apply it. Therefore he said, that, taking this broad view of the principles acted upon by both parties, blaming, as he had done, the backward conduct of Ministers, he placed the whole matter before the country, and he left them to await the result of the day on which they would see the decision of the last election. He knew that hon. Gentlemen opposite at this moment represented the opinions of the majority of the constituents of this country, and it was the duly of the House to await the result; but he believed that a change would come, and that the principle which actuated hon. Gentlemen opposite would work itself out, and that the mercantile interests of the country would rue the day when those principles first came into action, for they would find that they could not obtain that from the Conservative party, which the great interests of this country required from the Legislature. The people of England must rule themselves—that was his democratic opinion—and what was most wonderful, hon. Gentlemen opposed assented to it. He blamed the Ministry that they had made the constituency 188 what it was, but they had got the reward of their own want of foresight, for the constituency, acting upon the principles of human nature, had returned the right hon. Baronet and his fellows, in ignorance of the scope of their policy. The hon. Member who had moved the Amendment had chosen to taunt the Ministry by a reference to what he was pleased to term a small war." For his own part, he was one of those who of two evils was disposed to choose the least, and he was disposed to prefer a small war to a great one. But had any hon. Member opposite stepped in and said that the war, small as it was, was an unjust one? He found that our arms had been successful—that there had been an unanimous cry of approbation— that rewards had been scattered, and that very quickly—that thanks had been voted, and yet all these wars had produced no rebuke from the House. Why was not the majority of the House, he asked, employed, instead of being engaged in securing party objects, in picking out one of these wars, and saying, "Here I put my hand upon this which is an unjust war, and I lay it at your door—there is one of your evil deeds?" There had been no such motion. [A cry of "China."] China was mentioned. Had this been done? He had not been a Member of that House for some time, but he had read it in the ordinary chronicles, which were open to the public, what had taken place. The war with China was one which should have called for the indignation of every honest man, and he gave the greatest blame to those who prosecuted that war. He would now go on to another war—that of Syria. To this war there had been no objection made— on it no motion had been made. He had heard the remarks made by the noble Lord who spoke last night, respecting our relations with America; but the real difficulty had been to curb the warlike spirit of hon. Gentlemen opposite. The noble Lord had said, that a war in that quarter would be most sincerely deprecated, and yet he had sought to impugn the conduct of the Government in suffering the matter to proceed so far without some warlike demonstration. He was prepared to justify the conduct of the American government throughout all the proceedings in the case of Mr. M'Leod, and he blamed the noble Lord for having omitted to explain the real state of facts to the House. The 189 truth was that, by the present law of the United States, and in the present state of our diplomacy, we could not reach the evil which existed. The House would permit him lo explain why he stated that. He believed that much misconception existed upon the subject. Let him first state the facts of the case. A party of our troops and their commander crossed the frontier, seized a boat, and killed a certain number of American subjects. Some time after, one of the persons supposed to have been engaged in the proceeding was arrested, because he had left Upper Canada, where he had been an under sheriff, where he had got in debt through facilities afforded him by office. He passed over to New York, and there was arrested and committed for trial. A true bill was found by the grand jury, and M'Leod had to take his trial. The House should know that there were two sets of courts in America —the Federal Courts, which belonged to the United States, and the State Courts which belonged to the State of New York. The Federal Courts could not, by common law, take cognizance of murder; everything of which they take cognizance was by statute law, and they could have cognizance of murder in those cases only in which it had been committed within the peculiar districts assigned to them, such as the district of Columbia, or the parts of the States reserved for their jurisdiction; but in the State of New York, as a State, they had no jurisdiction whatever, the entire jurisdiction being in the hands of the State Court. The peculiar result of that system was that the power of pardoning a person found guilty in the State Court lay in the Government of the State, independently of any other power, while a person convicted by the Federal Court might be pardoned by the President, whose jurisdiction reached him. Mr. Forsyth, in his answer to Mr. Fox, stated that the government could not reach the case of M'Leod, and that it was entirely in the hands of the authorities at New York. There might be a deficiency in the legislative system of the United States, but they could not now remedy the evil. A similar case might have occurred some years ago in England. A woman might, under our old law, object to an appeal in favour of the murderer of her husband; and the king could not afterwards interfere for the purpose of pardoning the prisoner. Now, let them suppose that in Prince Louis Na- 190 poleon's late attempt at Boulogne, he had been accompanied by an English citizen, and that citizen had been murdered, while the persons who had killed him had been taken up, if the widow objected to their pardon, they would have had a case under the former English law precisely similar to the case of M'Leod. He did not think that Mr. Fox had been aware of the real state of the case, or that he had properly dealt with it in the first instance. If at the time that Mr. Forsyth had written his letter, to which he had alluded, a Minister had been sent over—ay, an ambassador extraordinary to the State of New York— that would have been the way to bring the matter to an issue, and some hope might have been entertained of our meeting the difficulty. But now September was almost come, the man might be found guilty, and then must be hanged. This was undoubtedly a most extraordinary case, and was not to be treated with that levity and heat with which he had heard it spoken of. He had read with great admiration the judgment of Judge Cowen upon the subject of the habeas corpus, and the matter had been thoroughly, and carefully, and gravely met by the judges of the land. All questions of policy, or political expediency, had been very properly thrown aside, and having considered the matters urged in behalf of the prisoner, the learned judge had said, that no power which he possessed could relieve him, but to trial he must go. It was urged before him, that he was acting under the command of a superior officer—that what he had done had been sanctioned by a British officer; but the judge, very properly said, that he could take no cognizance of that—that it might be pleaded elsewhere, but that plead it where they might, the two countries, not being in a state of war, England could no more defend or justify the murder, then justify a common larceny. He entreated hon. Members to read and understand this matter, and he believed, that if it had been better understood before, it would have been better for the negotiations which had been carried on. But he would ask the House, whether, in any part of the whole course of the Government proceeding, anything had been ever said by hon. Gentlemen opposite which would justify them in bringing forward any accusation against Ministers for their conduct in this matter. Had they pointed out any other course as 191 being fit to be taken? Had they done aught to smooth the difficulty by which the Ministers had been beset? He asked those who might follow him to justify those of his party in anything which should give them the smallest ground for justifying their conduct in anything. There was one topic, on which he would only touch, and that he must be permitted to say placed a blot on both sides of the House. He meant the case of the Ca nadas—that tragedy had not yet been played out. The Government had acted with the most unheard of injustice to one large class of the community; they had already given an honourable title to one noble Lord for carrying out their early promises, but he thought, that they had given him the reward before it was earned, and history would show whether they had not been guilty of injustice. "Divide et impera" was the old rule; they had united the Canadas, and they would find, that they could not govern them. They were bound neck and hand to the Parliament of Upper Canada, and let any noble Lord go into the Colonial office, which already presented anything but a bed of roses, and he would find, that with all his eagerness, he would be totally powerless before the Canadian Parliament. He had now gone through the general matters of home and foreign policy which had been made the subject of charges against the present Ministry; but he had not referred to France, in allusion to which he would, however, now make a few observations. The noble Lord, the Foreign Secretary had exhibited an anxious desire to promote peace with France, and undoubtedly the noble Lord who had seconded the amendment which had been proposed had not complained of this, but he had complained of the promises which had been made. Their conduct, he admitted, required no great deal of justification, it might be perfectly justifiable, but if that were so, was it not puerile to look back and say, that whatever they might promise, they could not act up to their promises, and therefore were liable to blame. The want of economy on the part of the Government was another of the evil geniuses which had haunted them, and upon this point hon. Gentlemen opposite had sprung up every moment, like the keys of a harpsichord. Army, Navy Ordnance, had each in turn formed the subject of their remarks, and he asked 192 where there was anything ever proposed by the Government, on that side of the louse, as a scheme of economy, which was not immediately condemned as a proof of the cheese-paring, cutting-down system carried on. The Government had, in truth, sacrificed themselves to every piece of bad advice given to them by their opponents, and they were now about to reap the reward of their folly. When great measures had been brought forward, he had found them halting in the path, and on that account blameable for their conduct; but, on the other hand, he had perceived in hon. Gentlemen opposite, a constant rejection of all measures of improvement—a steadfast opposition to all but the narrowest interests of this country. The people of England were about to await the result of a change of principle, in favour of which they been somewhat too precipitate in the change of their opinions.
§ Mr. Muntz
should not have risen to trespass upon the attention of the House, but with a view to justify himself on the ground of some expressions of opinion attributed to him throughout the recent contest. It had been said, "Oh! even the Radical Mr. Muntz, the Member for Birmingham, says, that the repeal of the Corn-laws will lower the price of wages." He had no objection to repeat, that such was his opinion, but, admitting that to be the case, was it just, he asked, that the state of starvation to which the people of this country had been reduced, should be allowed to continue? He had, it was true, expressed the opinion which was attributed to him, but he had accompanied that expression with a declaration, that in his opinion, the present state of things could not continue. He was confident, that whoever might govern—whether it was the noble Lord, or the right hon. Baronet, the whole subject must be gone into, and all interests must be considered before any decision was arrived at. He had merely risen to explain what he had really said, and would not further trespass on the time of the House.
to move the adjournment of the debate. ["go on."] He addressed hon. gentlemen opposite with all courtesy, and he begged to assure them that he made this proposition because hon. Gentlemen on that (the Ministerial) side of the House looked upon the questions involved in this discussion to be of too serious a nature to 193 be passed over, after so short a debate as had taken place that evening.
§ Mr. Brotherton
reminded the House that the Speaker had now been in the chair upwards of nine hours. The hon. And learned Gentleman opposite had not sat in the House for some years, which was perhaps, a sufficient reason, why he opposed the adjournment of the debate. According to the old practice, Members did not mind how late they spoke after twelve o'clock, and at that time the debates in the House were not of so much importance; but since the passing of the Reform Bill large constituencies had been created who expected their representatives to express their opinions on the subjects discussed in that House. More Members therefore, required to speak than under the old system. It was quite an error to suppose that the people disliked protracted debates in that House. Nothing could be more popular in England than to afford hon. Members the most full opportunity of expressing the sentiments of their constituents. He hoped no further opposition would be offered to the motion for the adjournment of the debate.
§ Sir Robert Peel
acquiesced in the motion for an adjournment, on special grounds. The Speaker had taken the chair at one o'clock that day, and he conceived that this was a sufficient special ground for acceding to the adjournment of the debate. It was one which would not occur on another occasion.
§ Lord John Russell
could not in the present state of the House (a great number of Members had left) do other than acquiesce in the motion for adjournment, There had been no expectation of a division on the question of adjournment, and therefore any division would be a loss of time. He hoped the House would acquiesce in the motion for an adjournment. He did not quite agree with the hon. Member for Salford, that protracted debates were desirable, but he did think that if the system were continued, there was one great evil attending them, though he did not exactly see what remedy could be provided. He alluded to the comparatively small attendance that took place on such occasions early in the evening, and indeed, until a somewhat late hour, so that although their proceedings bore the name of debates, yet the attendance of Members was not such as to attach sufficient importance to them. The adoption of a contrary practice would not lessen the duration of a debate, or deprive hon. Members representing the constituencies that had been referred to of their privilege of addressing the House, but it would certainly attach more importance to the proceedings, and give them more the appearance of a debate. He hoped, under the circumstances, that no division would take place, but that the House would agree to the motion for adjournment.
§ Debate adjourned—House adjourned.