§ Mr. Ewart
rose, but was met by cries of "Spoke," from the Opposition. The hon. Gentleman appealed to the Speaker. [The Speaker said that the hon. Member having spoken last night only on the question of Adjournment, had a right to be heard.] Mr. Ewart then continued. After the interruption, which certainly proved the inexperience in Parliamentary usages of him who caused the interruption, be should proceed with the discussion of the subject before the House. Whatever different shades of opinion might be entertained by different parties in that House, it had been to him, and to many of those around him —he might say to all of them—a source of real congratulation that the important principle of free trade appeared to be on the advance. He had gathered as much as this from the speech of the hon. Gentleman the Member for the West Riding of Yorkshire, who moved the Amendment. He drew the same inference from the speech of the noble Lord who seconded his motion. Indeed, that noble Lord, if he (Mr. Ewart) understood him right, plainly and unhesitatingly expressed himself to be a friend to the principles of a free trade, while the hon. Member for the West Riding of Yorkshire, declared himself to be nothing less than a disciple of Mr. Huskisson. He received that declaration with peculiar satisfaction, because 195 if he was a real disciple of that distinguished statesman, he had to hail, in the hon. Gentleman the Member for the West Riding of Yorkshire a friend to the final, though gradual, abolition of the Corn-laws. If he had read the opinion of Mr. Huskisson aright—if he had read rightly the celebrated Report of Mr. Huskisson, second only to the works of Adam Smith, which that right hon. Gentleman drew up from the evidence given before the Agricultural Committee in 1821—if he had read that Report of Mr. Huskisson aright —that right hon. Gentleman contended for the final extinction of the Corn-laws. He rejoiced to think that in the objects they had in view, of establishing a free trade in Corn, they had with them the hon. Member for the West Riding of Yorkshire. On another point, too, he was glad to be able to coincide with the hon. Member. He had expressed his admiration at the conduct of the working classes during their recent privations, and stated that they had endured almost without complaining those privations and distresses. He agreed with him that they had borne these most patiently, but he thought that the working classes had a right to expect more from the hon. Member for Yorkshire and those who sat on that side of the House, than the mere cold expression of sympathy and commiseration. It was easy for him to bestow that cheap compassion, but the working man had a right to ask him for more than that. He had a right to demand from the hon. Gentlemen opposite the suggestion of some special remedy. But the hon. Member for the West Riding of Yorkshire, with respect to the special remedy, was most mysteriously but discreetly silent. That silence distinguished the conduct of the hon. Gentleman opposite, and that silence was calculated to deceive, had it not been accompanied by commiseration. As he had said before, the country had a right to expect from them something like a remedy, instead of the easy commiseration of a few conservative fears. But it was said that the country had given its confidence to the party opposite, through the cries of the constituent body. Those Gentlemen, however, refused to declare the use which they would make of their newly acquired power. In the language of the right hon. Baronet the Member for Tamworth, and to use the new metaphor which he, with less taste than usually distinguished every- 196 thing which flowed from his lips—that hon. Gentleman said, they were not called upon to prescribe a remedy, until they had received the fee. He admitted that, as far as the constituencies were concerned, they had returned an answer to the appeal from the Crown which the Ministry could not resist, and he fully agreed with hon. Gentlemen opposite, that seeing the relative numbers of parties in that House, they had a right to call upon any Government to adopt that constitutional course, which it would be unsafe and improper of a Government under similar circumstances not to take. But he saw in distinct perspective before him, that the right hon. Baronet would be called on to adopt the very course of those Ministers whom he wished to replace. He might, indeed, do it with some slight modification in the details of the Ministerial measures, but with their principles he must coincide. The present Ministry had been vanquished by those measures. For a time they had given them a still and silent opposition, but the truth had at last forced itself upon their minds. The course they had taken, he felt assured the right hon. Baronet would yet be constrained to follow. He thought he could see in the distance are petition, with respect to the present measures, of the drama performed some twelve years ago upon the question of Catholic Emancipation. To the true principles of religious freedom the right hon. Baronet had gradually come round; and he believed, that in the true principles of commercial freedom he would gradually acquiesce. The time would come when the right hon. Baronet should treat them to a remedy, medical or political, of the present commercial distress of the country. Whatever medical scruples the right hon. Member for Tamworth might entertain whatever might be his reluctance to preseribe; yet, when he found himself with an empty exchequer, he would be obliged to adopt those very measures, and to say, with another celebrated medical character, he meant the apothecary in Romeo and Juliet—My poverty, and not my will, consents.He would use, if not the same language, at least the same motto, as termed his device in 1829, "Something must be done."; He only hoped that, on that occasion,; there would be heard no such ill-omened words as "Nusquam tuta fides," which 197 he recollected to have sprung spontaneously but most unfortunately on the former occasion, from the lips of aright hon. agriculturist, now again a Friend of the right hon. Baronet, whom he now saw opposite. But it was his (Mr. Ewart's) opinion that the right hon. Baronet would find this question the Catholic question of commerce. He turned now at once to the Speech from the Throne. If he might venture to state, that he regretted any omission, he hoped that the House would allow him to say, that it was the omission of any notice of the abuses of our present representative system. The extensive corruption, and not only the influence, but the force, exerted at our elections in this country, had excited not only the astonishment, but the disgust of foreign nations. The time appeared to be come, described in the well known words of Pope:—At length corruption, like a general flood, (Too long by watchful ministers withstood), Shall deluge all; and avarice, creeping on, Spread, like a low-born mist, and blot the sun.Such a description, he verily believed, was justly applicable to the recent elections in this country; and for such a stupendous moral, as well as political evil, a remedy, sooner or later, must be found. He was convinced, that the principles of the Reform Bill must be carried out, and some better appointment be made of the constituences of the country. With the spirit which breathed through the Address, he warmly concurred, for it was the spirit of peace. His hon. Friend, the Member for Manchester, knew too well the constituencies of the manufacturing districts of that country, and he (Mr. Ewart) knew too well the feeling of the commercial and manufacturing community, not to feel that they attached the deepest interest to the preservation of the peace of the world, and therefore that portion of her Majesty's Speech found a ready echo in the bosoms of all those who represented manufacturing constituencies, such as his hon. Friend represented. He particularly rejoiced, that her Majesty had been able to announce to the House that relations of peace had been restored with France, a country with which it was the desire, as it was the interest of this country, to maintain the strictest connections of amity and friendship. He was sure, that he spoke the sentiments of that portion of the country with which he was 198 connected, when he said that Englishmen deemed their interests closely interwoven with the maintenance of the dignity and independence of France; and, therefore, they hailed with peculiar satisfaction the statements from the Throne, which confirmed the concord previously existing, and dispelled the unhappy shadows of discord which had begun to hover over that part of the political horizon. There was another portion of the world with which he trusted our relations would continue to remain undisturbed; need he say, that he alluded to the United Slates of America. The kindred ties which united us with that country rendered it a matter of feeling as well as of interest to do every thing to maintain those ties undissolved; and although he was sorry to say there appeared to be cause to apprehend the amicable relations between these countries might be interrupted, partly in consequence of the legal constitution of the United States, and partly in respect of the unhappy differences respecting the north-eastern frontier, yet, he trusted that the mutual interests of both countries would induce them to approximate, so that no alteration might take place in the harmony subsisting between them. Discord between England and America would shake the peace and commerce of the world. If England and America should ever be seriously at issue, the progress and happiness of mankind would be endangered. He trusted that such a misfortune would be avoided, if it were avoidable in any manner consistent with the honour and permanent interest of the country. He rejoiced to find that in her Majesty's Speech her Majesty had expressed her warm sympathy for her suffering people, and that sympathy had not been confined to mere cold and formal words, nor, like the hon. Gentleman opposite, did her Majesty confine herself to the mere expression of sympathy while the remedy was postponed to a distant day. Her Majesty suggested, that they should take what, in his opinion, was the best and only remedy, viz. the adoption of a system of commercial reform. In the cause of that reform—in the attempt to lower the duties both on articles imported from our own distant colonies, and on those produced in foreign countries— many poor friends with himself had been doing their utmost, although for a considerable portion of time, without success. 199 In that great cause they had been the pioneers, or he might more properly say, the forlorn hope, and he was happy to find that others were now advancing onward in that career which they had so long prosecuted. These measures might be said to have been begun in the memory of those now in Parliament, by a reduction of the duties on the East-India productions— measures of a more extended nature than had then been adopted by the Government of the clay. The great question of the Corn-laws then came on. In the last Session there was presented to the House the celebrated report on the Import Duties. That report had awakened the attention of the country in such a manner, that he trusted it would not slumber until all the restrictions on commerce had been removed. He was convinced that there were scarcely any hon. Members connected with the landed interest who did not feel that nothing was more important, even to their interests, than the prosperity of trade and manufactures. The greatest trading nations had ever been the greatest agricultural nations. With the increase of its trade and commerce, the prosperity of the agriculture of this country had invariably increased. He hoped he should be excused if he referred to the conviction on this subject which was entertained by Members of that House a century ago, showing that the same truths existed in all time. So long ago as 1732, he found the landed gentry, who sat in that House, expressing their sense of the importance of the manufactures to to the prosperity of the country. It was then, that, on a question of taxing the commerce of the country, Gentlemen of the landed interest, declared that—No landed gentleman in England would choose to save a shilling in the pound, when, by such a saving, he brings ruin on the trade and manufactures of his native country.I only desire," says another, "that every landed gentleman would consider what he could make of his estate, if we had no trade or manufactures, nor any number of populous towns in England. The landed estates would not, in that case, bring in yearly to their landlords the rent they do at present; no, nor one quarter thereof.Such opinions were as true in the year 1841 as they were in the year 1732. His hon. Friend, the Member for Manchester, had referred on the previous night to the opinions which had been expressed by a person deservedly of the highest commer- 200 cial consideration when he sat in that House, the late Sir Robert Peel, and had quoted the observations of that experienced manufacturer and trader, on the subject of the Corn-laws. He (Mr. Ewart) would go still further—he would quote the opinions of another person on the importance of extending commerce and manufactures, namely, those of the present Sir It. Peel, and if the advice of the father were lost upon any hon. Gentleman opposite, at all events, they would listen to the more recent and equally valuable counsel of the son. He found, that, on the 8th of February, 1836, the right hon. Baronet gave them the following sound advice. He reluctantly disinterred his speech from the political mausoleum of Hansard's Debates; but it runs as follows:—
§ " I," said the right hon. Baronet, "cannot help thinking that I see in the great prosperity of our trade and manufactures a more encouraging prospect of an improved condition of agriculture than in any other cause." And in the month of July, in the same year, he adds, "I am perfectly satisfied that the hopes of the agriculturists must eventually rest on their own exertions. I should rather tell the agriculturists to look at the farmers of Scotland, and to work out some plan of amelioration, and consequently of relief to themselves."
§ He trusted, that now, when hon. Members were called on to advance that trade, and those manufactures, they would consider, that, in the opinion of the right hon. Baronet, they would, in effecting that object, advance the agricultural interest of the country. He trusted that they would, at least, have some respect to the opinions of the right hon. Member for Tamworth. The right hon. Gentleman said, that he was perfectly satisfied that the hopes of the agriculturists should rest on their own exertions—that from them they would derive their best success. He thought it necessary to call the attention of hon. Gentlemen opposite, to the opinions of one whose wise counsels they generally followed. He had before ventured to refer to the Scottish farmers, to whom he right hon. Baronet referred, and with whom the principle of free competition succeeded. They had found that commerce was their best friend. It was well known to every hon. Gentleman who was at all acquainted with agricultural matters, that the cultivators of the soil derived from commerce the most signal advantages. To commerce they were indebted for the introduction of such 201 improvements in agriculture as bone-dust, and nitrate of soda. The noble Lord the Member for North Lancashire, at a recent meeting of the Agricultural Association at Liverpool, alluded to another article which was likely to be of the greatest importance in the improvement of agriculture, namely, guana, which was imported from the shores of the South Pacific, and for the introduction of which the agriculturists were indebted to the sagacity of an enterprising merchant. Nor was it to commerce alone, but also to manufactures, that agriculture was indebted. The steam-engine was now to be seen in the farm yard assisting in the operations of husbandry; and he was convinced that the largest advantages would be derived from more extensive application of the steam-engine in this branch of industry. An engine of six-horse power could be put up in a farm-yard for 150l., or even for less, and the farmers would find that cheaper than the kind of power which they now employed. He hoped that the present race partook of the improvement of the times, and were more enlightened than their fathers, who rejected every improvement. He hoped that the landed proprietors did not still bear out the assertion of the most illustrious of Irish orators, the late Mr. Grattan, that in his days they "represented the inert capital and the inert talent of the country." Agriculture, like all other trades, was best promoted by free competition, and a steadiness of demand. Nothing could be more true than the assertion of his right hon. Friend, Mr. Labouchere, that the present system of corn averages caused the wildest speculation. It did not supply, but at one time it starved, at another time it inundated the market. It was familiar to him, from his connection with Liverpool (and no doubt it could be well known to his late colleague, the Member for Liverpool, Lord Sandon), that the corn dealer always, as it was said, went for the low duty. He kept his corn warehoused—as he well could do—till the averages rose sufficiently high; and then he poured his corn into a hitherto empty market. It was true, therefore, as he had said, that the market was starved at one time and inundated at another. The consumer was ill supplied—commercial gambling was encouraged, the foreign grower suffered by uncertainty abroad, and the farmer by uncertainty at home. The evil, as his hon. Friend (the Member for Manchester) 202 had truly said, went farther. It was almost an axiom that irregularity of trade produced irregularity of the currency. This was the case in the present corn trade. Uncertainty in the market produced uncertainty at the bank. As all currency was only a representation of commerce, he was more and more convinced that a sound basis for the circulation could only be found in a steady and equable inter change of productions; in other words, a sound currency should be founded on "freedom of trade." But, perhaps, he might be pardoned if he went a step further than the Government. He believed that the measures now proposed were only the beginning of a more extensive reform in our system of taxation. That more extensive reform would consist in relieving commerce from taxation, and basing taxation more upon property. In fact, he owned himself the advocate of a property- tax. He was so on two grounds: it would leave commerce absolutely and inimitably free, and it would remove taxation from labour and place it upon wealth. Such, he believed, would be the final consummation of the reform now proposed, a con summation anticipated in the time of William 3rd, shadowed out by Adam Smith, attempted by Mr. Pitt, and to be attained, he believed, when the fullest development was given to our industry at home and our trade abroad. The words he had just used reminded him of the prodigious increase of foreign manufactures— one of the strongest arguments in favour of the adoption of the propositions of her Majesty's Ministers. The commissioners on the state of the band-loom weavers had, some time ago, fully placed this fact under the cognizance of Parliament. He need scarcely remind many Members of that House of the statements of Mr. Keyser, one of the commissioners:
The establishment in Prussia of factories by the importation of British machinery and the influx of British engineers—the fairs of Leipsic, and particularly Frankfort-on-the-Oder, almost deserted by British agents—in Saxony almost every article of cotton manufacture now produced—power-looms erecting in Austria.
§ What is the opinion of the Germans themselves as to their own policy? A German writer, quoted by the commissioner, observes that
The English, who were formerly placed in a disadvantageous position as compared with
ourselves, have got over all their difficulties by the operation of machinery. Why shall we idly await this threatened blow to our commerce? Cheapness of raw material, and low wages, are on the side of Germany. England has overcome these advantages by the use of machinery. Let us then combat the English with our own weapons.
another commissioner, some time since described the increased manufacture of machinery in Belgium, and lie adds that foreign manufacturers have this advantage: an Englishman is, of course, prohibited by law from combining different patents in this country, but it is not so abroad. There they combine them:At Zurich I have seen (says Mr. Symons), a combination of self-acting mules, severally produced by Messrs. Sharp and Roberts and Smith, of Dearston, which their patents prevented our combining in England,A remark which may indicate the necessity of some day looking into our law of patents. His hon. Friend (the Member for Manchester), had referred to the loss of a great part of our trade in manufactured cotton goods. He was apprehensive that, unless we gave greater development to our commerce, we should materially suffer in our trade in yarns. Year after year, foreigners encroached upon us, and spun yarns of a finer quality, or, in technical language, of a higher number.I am as confident as of any opinion I ever entertained (says Mr. Symons) that, at no distant period, the English yarns, at any rate those under 150, will find no market in Switzerland.''Perhaps he (Mr. Ewart) might here be allowed to add another citation in favour of free trade from the same report; it went on to say—In Switzerland there is entire free trade. Her soil cannot produce sustenance for half her population, yet her people are better fed, clothed, and educated than any other people in Europe.He was sorry to observe, from the most recent manufacturing documents, that not only was the foreign consumption of our manufactured cotton goods decreased as compared with the corresponding six months of last year, but the consumption of our yarn was diminished also; an indication that foreign manufacturers were making advances in the hitherto undisturbed province of our spinning, as well as of our weaving. Foreign nations had another advantage. They profit, in one 204 short year, by our experience of half a century. The discoveries which it has cost us incalculable time, industry, and capital to attain, they adopt at once. It took us half a century to travel through all the intermediate improvements of our turnpike roads to the perfection of railways. Foreign nations without undergoing this intermediate apprenticeship, profit by our experience, and adopt our railways at once. This was also the case with our machinery. They pass over from the rudest systems of hand-loom weaving to the perfection of the power-loom, and excepting in capital and skill, are on a level with us at once. In designs for patterns they are still, and have long been our superiors. His right hon. Friend, the President of the Board of Trade, and many others, including himself, had seen our disparity, and made earnest efforts to remove it. But there is still (said the hon. Gentleman) a more powerful admonition to us of the necessity of free trade. What are those vast commercial combinations, forming themselves, as it were, by some spontaneous attraction, among the states and countries of the continent? What is the vast German ZollVerein, or German Customs-Confederation, the suggested customs union of Luxemburgh with Holland, or even of Belgium with France; what are they all but so many indirect homages to the genuine principles of free trade? It is like the process of small and isolated satellites springing at the command of a powerful voice towards a common centre, and forming a homogeneous and advantageous whole. Thus united they are infinitely stronger; and within the more extended circle, commerce comparatively free, circulates with new vigour, and diffuses a more extended light. We ask you to extend for Great Britain, to the world, the system which they are adopting in separate parts of it. Then shall you best meet any rivalry which the wise and just policy of Prussia has created against you in the great commercial confederation of Germany. Let me entreat you, further, to adopt these commercial reforms, because they are favourable to the peace of the world. America, supplying us with cotton, forms a bond of peace between two distant nations. Why do we refuse to take her corn as well as her cotton, and thus create, between her new states and ourselves, an additional security for the un- 205 disturbed peace and commerce of the world? Far better to strike off the iron fetters of restriction, falsely called independence, and to link distant nations together (as Heaven intended they should be united) by the golden chain of mutual dependency. In such a policy he saw incalculable benefits for his own country. England being the great capitalist, would form the great market of the world. Under a system of commercial freedom, she would become the vast entrepót of the cotton, the sugar, the coffee, the corn, and timber of the world. But no narrow or isolated views ought to bind her. Her individual success was closely interwoven with the general advance of nations; and there was no other solid foundation for her splendour and duration than the peace, prosperity, and progress of the world.
said, he should be readily excused by the House from following the hon. Member who had just sat down through all the topics to which he had adverted in his speech. He had not intended to address the House, or trespass upon their attention, had it not been for some of the observations that had fallen from that hon. Member, and this, perhaps, would be a guarantee that he would not detain them. He did not consider himself the mere delegate of the opinions of his constituents, but he trusted, that en all great occasions, when he was called upon to give his vote, that vote would be in accordance with the opinions and wishes of a majority of his constituents. The hon. Member who had just sat down might carry them, as he had done that evening, through every subject that had engaged the attention of the Legislature, but that would not lead the House or the people from the real question at issue, which was, the confidence of the House in her Majesty's Ministers. The Corn-laws, the sugar duties, and general state of trade, were all very proper subjects to be discussed, but not in the present situation of her Majesty's Ministers in that House. What was there in the altered position of the Ministry that he (Captain Hamilton) was to give them the confidence now he had so lately withheld? Why were the Corn-laws so particularly introduced in the Speech from the Throne?—not with any idea of any practical result arising therefrom, but merely to force on a discussion, and allow 206 the supporters of her Majesty's Ministers to draw away the public attention from the real state of affairs. He represented a more numerous, and quite as independent a constituency as the hon. Member for the Dumfries burghs, and having plainly stated his opinions to the electors, and been returned by them to Parliament without opposition, he thought he might fairly suppose he represented a majority of them. Of course, among all numerous bodies of men there must be considerable difference, and many shades of opinion, but he had most distinctly stated, that he could not, if again returned to Parliament, support the Government. He was frequently asked, "What will Sir R. Peel do when he comes into power?" His reply had invariably been, that not having been consulted by the right hon. Baronet, or having the honour of his intimate acquaintance, he could not possibly undertake to say. But this he would venture to predict, that it was utterly impossible any Government formed by that right hon. Baronet could be more inefficient than that of the right hon. Gentlemen, and noble Lords opposite. The late hon. Member for Kilkenny in the last Parliament had taunted him, and the Opposition generally, and warned them of the consequences that would attend their appearing before their constituents at a general election. The hon. Member said, they had miscalculated their strength, and the feelings of the country in their favour, but if this was the case, what had happened to the hon. Gentleman's own calculation— why was he not in his accustomed place? He was no ultra-Tory, or violent party man, but he placed no confidence in the present Government, and deprecated the course they had pursued. The noble Lord, the Secretary for the Colonies, and now one of the Members for the city of London—he too had made a hustings speech before the close of the last Parliament, but that speech had failed in its intended results. He then would vote for the amendment, and not for the original address, for the reasons he had ventured to state, viz., that the one course must carry his approval of the Ministry, and the other his before declared want of confidence. The simple question before the House was, whether they agreed in a vote of want of confidence in her Majesty's present advisers or not. For his part, he thought a discussion of the Corn-laws 207 was quite inapplicable to the question at present before the House, and he had no doubt, that the paragraph respecting them was introduced into the Queen's Speech for the purpose of giving hon. Gentlemen an opportunity to make speeches to go forth to the country.
§ Mr. Ward
denied as the hon. Gentleman had stated, that the discussion of the Corn-laws was at present inappropriate, but this was not the word, for in fact it was the great question to which the country looked—it was the question which a sense of duty to their constituents should make them look for an intelligible expression of opinion in that House. If he wanted any justification of this opinion, he should find it in the speech of the hon. Member for the West Riding of Yorkshire, last night, who said that he considered himself as a part, and an integral part of the answer to the question put to country by the Crown. He (Mr. Ward) also considered himself as a part of that answer as well as the hon. Member, and coming as he did from an important portion of the county which the hon. Gentleman represented, he would take the liberty of telling him that, if his constituents and the more intelligent classes in the country had more, or rather had their fair influence, the answer to the question of her Majesty would have been returned by very different hands. No doubt but that it was a great triumph to carry the election for such an important district as the West Riding. It was one of the greatest triumphs for that party which they could achieve, and it was one of the greatest disgraces for his side of the House which it could sustain. He, however, could tell the hon. Gentleman, that the people of Yorkshire were too intelligent to be deceived by the nature of the course that he had adopted, for it would appear as if he had one set of opinions for Parliament and another which he addressed to his constituents from the hustings. It appeared that both the Mover and Seconder of the amendment had wished to make it appear that they were in favour of free trade. The noble Lord, however, who seconded the amendment with such good taste, and in a spirit of such eloquence and singular ability for a first address in that House, was evidently afraid that he should damage his character as a free trader, if he made any attack on her Majesty's speech. It would ap- 208 pear, from the language which had been used, as if the only object which the party opposite had in view was their coming forward to save the country from the fangs of the manufacturing classes, of whom they spoke in terms of undisguised contempt. The hon. Gentlemen knew full well that the grounds which he took up last night were not those on which he came forward as a candidate for the West Riding, but he appeared there as the farmer's friend. He last night opposed the Government on a very different ground, and the bill of indictment which the hon. Gentleman drew up was directed as well against Lord Grey's as against the present administration; but the hon. Gentleman no doubt forgot that some of the leading Members of the party with which he acted were as responsible for the measures of the former Government, as the noble Lord below him. The hon. Gentleman had alluded also to the proceedings that had taken place respecting the appropriation clause, and had talked of the great change that had taken place in the opinions of the Members of the Government on measures connected with Ireland. It should be recollected, that that country was the classical ground of political tergiversation. The right hon. Baronet had, on a question connected with Ireland, sacrificed his consistency and political character for a purpose for which he gave the right hon. Baronet credit, but for which many of those who sat round him had not forgiven him to the present hour. He remembered, that in 1827, the right hon. Baronet, the Member for Tamworth, refused to join the Cabinet of Mr. Canning, although the Catholic question was declared to be an open question, on the ground that the head of the Cabinet, being in favour of that measure, it obtained such a preponderance that it would tend greatly to promote its success; and yet within two years from that time the right hon. Baronet came down to the House and proposed the repeal of the Catholic disqualification act himself, and succeeded in carrying his measure into effect. The charge of tergiversation brought against the Melbourne Government was not nearly so great as this, but it was far from his intention to justify its conduct, for he thought that conduct such as he had alluded to was very bad in all cases. He thought, that it would have been better, both for the 209 right hon. Baronet and for his noble Friend, to have abandoned the whole responsibility of the respective measures to their opponents rather than have adopted them, although they felt the necessity of having a settlement in each case. The schism of the Catholic question had broken up the Duke of Wellington's Government, and the surrender of opinion on the appropriation question had greatly damaged the present Administration. If his noble Friend below him had resigned when he found that he could not carry that question in the way that he wished, it was his firm belief, that a Government could not have been framed strong enough to take upon itself office, with the necessity that there would have been of increasing the taxation in this country, and with the intention of diminishing the constituency in Ireland, and supporting that monstrous grievance, the Irish Church. There could be no doubt as to the present policy of the Cabinet having had the effect of arraying against it all the interested classes. He saw on the Benches opposite a union of all these classes arrayed together to prevent the destruction or diminution of their respective monopolies. He warned Gentlemen opposite to beware, for they had yet to see a combination of consumers against them, and they might depend upon it that would soon be the case. From day to day the probability of such an event increased. He already saw that the hopes and fears of the party opposite rose and fell by the barometer; and Gentlemen must be aware that this day, which had been so blighting to the hopes of the husbandman, and which excited such well-grounded fears for the harvest, would do more to destroy the greatest of the monopolies than all the amendments to the Address which they could send up to the Throne. It was notorious, that the present harvest would be short, considerably short of an average one. [No, no.] He had consulted many of the most able and practical men connected with agriculture, residing in the part of the country with which he was connected, and they assured him that the harvest would prove considerably short of an average one. They must not make the weather a party question. At the same time, then, that hon. Gentlemen opposite made it a party question, they charged him with doing so. It would appear that their accounts as to the state of the harvest differed much 210 according to their political wishes. For his own part, he believed that the fair result of the practical observations that had been made as to the prospects of the harvest throughout the country, was, that there would be a most serious deficiency. Many, as well as himself, who had inquired into the subject, were convinced that there were good grounds for believing that the harvest would fall short a sixth or an eighth of an average one. He sincerely hoped, that this would not be the case, but he was satisfied that there were good grounds to believe that such would be the case. Supposing that the deficiency was only to the smaller amount; namely, an eighth, which would be about two millions of quarters, according to the general returns for our average consumption, it must be recollected that the whole of this must be paid for in cash, and there must be a drain of gold on the Bank to this amount. They would have to go into the foreign markets under considerable disadvantage, for other countries as well as ourselves were suffering from a bad harvest. It must be well known to hon. Gentlemen, that such a drain on the Bank could not fail of operating immediately, and to an immense extent, on every branch of industry throughout the country. The time for consideration was rapidly passing away, and if steps were not instantly taken they would have a repetition of what took place last year; money would go out of the country, which could not be spared, and every branch of trade would become embarrassed at a time when the population of the country is most in want of food and constant work. During the last three years 10,381,000 quarters of foreign grain had been imported into this country, which had been paid for chiefly in money drained from the Bank. Of this quantity there was 7,000,000 qrs. of wheat, which cost 17,500,00l. and 3,380,000 quarters of other kind of grain, which cost 3,500,00l. This amount might just as well have been thrown into the sea, and it was wasted in consequence of our not keeping open the markets with foreign countries, by which a reciprocal trade would be created. He did not care one pin as to the men who might govern the country, he looked only to the principles on which the Government was to be conducted, and his support or opposition to it would entirely depend on its members 211 supporting or opposing sound principles. At present, one side proposed that there should be a fixed duty on the importation of wheat, and that it should not be subject to any other charge; this was certainly an approach in principle to free trade, although not nearly to the extent which he desired. On the other side, Gentlemen had shown symptoms which indicated the course they were likely to pursue. The people might well judge as to what was likely to follow from the language of the leaders of the party opposite. The chief of those leaders had given a most distinct pledge, and it was rather remarkable that it was the only pledge that he had ever given during the whole period of his political life—that he meant to adhere to a fluctuating scale. He believed that there was good foundation to believe that the right hon. Baronet would adhere to his pledge, on this ground, namely—the great number of county Members sitting behind him—many of whom had declared that they looked upon the proposal of an eight-shilling duty as an insult to them, and that they objected to any alteration of the Corn-laws. This view of the subject was corroborated by what he found reported to have been said by a noble Duke who had influence with the landed interest. It had been said to-night that the men who were to succeed the present Government in office, would themselves soon turn round upon the landed interest and refuse it protection. If they did, he knew what course the landed interest would take. They would turn out the new Government, as they had turned out the old. If the new Ministers came forward with an 8s. duty, the same men who brought then: into power would thrust them out of it. Again, they had another indication as to what would be the probable conduct of the future Cabinet on this question, in the language which fell from the noble Lord the Member for North Lancashire at his election. After dwelling at some length on the proposal of the Government, he said, if such a resolution were to take place it would bring ruin to the farmer as well as to the landlords. The nature of the change involved the destruction of the landed interest. During the discussion which took place previous to the dissolution, several Members who took part in the debate said that they regarded the proposal of the fixed duty as nothing Short of an insult to the landed interest. 212 The effects of the present system had proved most destructive to some of the most important branches of industry in this country. He would refer to many instances in corroboration of this, but he would only mention one case, which had recently come to his knowledge. He alluded to one of his own constituents, one of the most extensive manufacturers engaged in producing steel goods, who sent a large cargo of his manufactures to the United States, when he found that the only produce he could get in return was flour. The flour was consigned to this country on board two ships, and the cargoes were insured. Fortunately for his friend one of these ships went down, and he recovered from the insurers the value of the cargo. The other shipload was landed at Liverpool, and was kept in bond for upwards of a twelvemonth, when it was sold at a loss of ten shillings a barrel. The obvious consequence of such a state of things must necessarily be a reduction of the number of workmen employed by the manufacturer. This was not a singular case, for the principle obtained in all branches of industry. A great deal of nonsense had been uttered with respect to the connection which was said to exist between the landed classes and the agricultural labourers. The fact, however, was, that neither the farmer nor the landlord kept a single agricultural labourer more than he required for the performance of his work, for the same principle of political economy influenced this class in the employment of labour as it did manufacturers. The landed interest were, therefore, not at all justified in claiming anything like peculiar merit to themselves for the employment of labour. The effect of the present system he knew had been most disastrous to his constituents during the few years that he had been connected with them, At present there were not less than 2,000 houses unoccupied in Sheffield, and the best hands engaged in the manufactures of this place were continually leaving and seeking refuge in other countries, in consequence of the injurious effect of the Corn-laws. He had seen in a paper which he had received that morning letters from some workmen who had emigrated from Sheffield to America, in which they strongly urged their friends to follow them; and what were the remedies which Gentlemen opposite proposed for such a state of things? They were told 213 that they must place implicit faith in the soundness of judgment and in the profundity of wisdom of the leaders of the opposite party, and that, instead of requiring any pledges from them, or any information as to the future course of their policy, that they must at once place power in their hands, and wait for the result of the steps they would take. He would ask what was there in the policy and conduct of those Gentlemen to justify their doing so? There might possibly be some questions upon which the right hon. Member for Tamworth might be as ready to make concessions as his right hon. Friend the President of the Board of Trade. For instance, he, perhaps, might not object to a proposition for the admission of foreign-caught fish, and some of the coarser articles of food for the lower classes, on the same footing as turbot and lobsters, which were the food of the rich, into our markets. Was there, however, any probability that the right hon. Gentleman would take up the more important monopolies, with a view to their removal? No doubt a disposition would be manifested by Gentlemen opposite to deal sharply with the mode o taking the averages, and which his right hon. Friend the President of the Board of Trade described last night as rendering the corn trade the most gambling in existence. Now he thought that the averages were the only good and redeeming point in the present system. The farmer, no doubt, might occasionally lose by it, but in all such cases the country gained. If therefore, Gentlemen would have a sliding scale, they must take it with all its defects. If the present system was to be continued, the opposite party must be watched with the greatest care to prevent them effecting an alteration in the averages, and they must be kept to their present bill, the whole bill, and nothing but the bill. He would just as soon vote for the noble Lord, the Member for North Lancashire's Registration bill, which was to effect such a serious and objectionable alteration in the constituent body in Ire land, as for a change in the mode o taking the averages with the contrivance of a sliding scale. There were many other subjects with respect to which he would place as little confidence in the right hon. Gentleman and his Friends For instance, the hon. Baronet, the Member for the University of Oxford, had claim on the right hon Baronet and his 214 Friends, on a subject which, in his opinion, was highly objectionable. Notwithstanding the deficiency which existed in the Exchequer, and the failing state of be revenue, no doubt the hon. Member or Oxford would remind the right hon. Baronet and his Friends, when they attained office, of the vote which they gave in favour of the motion of a large grant for Church extension, and would call upon them to support his proposition. He should like to know how this could be done without a large sum from the public coffers, and this, for the sake of consistency, the right hon. Baronet would feel himself called upon to allow. He could not conceive how they could remove the commercial and financial embarrassments of the country by such a proceeding as this; and yet, as a party, Gentlemen opposite were pledged in good faith to support the proposition of the hon. Baronet. Again, with respect to the new Poor-law Bill, the conduct of Gentlemen opposite had been most inconsistent. His hon. Friend, the Member for Bath, had principally alluded to the attacks which had been made at the hustings on Liberal candidates, in consequence of their support of this measure, and certainly few Members had been attacked more violently and unjustly than his hon. Friend for his support of that bill. He saw many Gentlemen opposite who he knew were acting as chairmen or members of boards of guardians under this bill, and who privately declared it to be one of the best acts which had ever passed; but they expressed the highest satisfaction at the temporary triumph which had been gained at Nottingham by the abuse of this law. At the recent election for the West Riding of Yorkshire, he, while standing on the hustings, saw cards showered about, containing the greatest abuse of that measure. On one of them was this address;—To the Governor of the Whig Bastile. Admit the bearer and his family. Separate him from his wife and family, and give him skilligolee three times a day. (Signed) Morpeth and Milton.He did not know what might be the language of hon. Gentlemen when they met across the Table in that House, but when they engaged in election contests, was it fair to bring such accusations against the Liberal candidates, and charge them with being the enemies of the poor? 215 He had never shrunk from expressing his approbation of that act, and the grounds on which he supported it, and he was anxious for its success when it should be brought forward. He doubted, however, whether the right hon. Baronet would be allowed to act as he wished with respect to this measure, as he knew that many of the right hon. Gentleman's supporters in that House had strongly pledged themselves in opposition to the renewal of this act on the hustings; and on this point, therefore, he saw no reason to transfer the right hon. Baronet to place and power. It was rather singular, that, during the discussion, not one word had been said on the subject of Ireland. In 1839, when the right hon. Baronet contemplated taking office, he said that Ireland was his chief difficulty; but what had been done to remove that difficulty. Was it by attempting to force on Ireland a measure which would render the constituency essentially different from that of this country and Scotland. He did not intend to charge the right hon. Baronet with desiring to pursue a policy otherwise than humane, but he could not help feeling that in Ireland the right hon. Baronet must act through his instruments. The right hon. Gentleman was distrusted by the moderate and the liberal party, in Ireland; he, therefore, would almost be compelled to throw himself into the arms of the old Orange faction. He felt convinced, that, with a few more years of moderate and just government in Ireland, and by assimilating the institutions of the two countries, we should become a united people, instead of appearing, as it were, as two hostile nations. He feared that the opposition which would be excited would bring the country to the verge of civil war. He saw a thousand reasons to regret, and none to rejoice at the change of the Government. He saw a probability that the Irish people would be goaded into acts of violence which would serve as a plea for resorting to severities, and the result might be a return of the dreadful scenes of 1798. He feared this would be one of the results of the restoration of the party in Ireland to power. He could not forget that the ablest men of the party opposite, with the exception of the right hon. Baronet, had made themselves offensive to the Irish people by the attacks which they had made on them. The noble Lord, the most powerful debater, and one of the most able 216 men of his party—had brought forward a measure to cut down and narrow the franchise in Ireland to such an extent, the success of which would remove all hope from the Irish people of their being placed on an equality with the people of this country. The present Ministers had been taunted by Gentlemen opposite, that they were unable to carry their own measures, and if their successors possessed this power, no doubt the very first measure which would be brought forward would be the very Registration bill which rendered his name so notorious in Ireland. Then who was to be the first legal adviser of the Crown? The man whose name was associated with terms applied to the Irish people, which that people would never cease to think of but with indignation. While he saw a thousand ills likely to arise on every side, and in every quarter, from the accession of the hon. Gentlemen opposite to power, he saw no one single good which could result from the change; and he should therefore vote for the Address.
§ Mr. Manners Sutton
did not undervalue the importance of the subject which had been referred to; but he considered that before the House took those subjects into their consideration, there was one subject which ought to be at once decided, and that was, whether the present Ministry possessed the confidence of the House. The verdict of the late House of Commons had been given against the Government; the Government were not satisfied with that verdict, and had appealed to the people; and the noble Lord himself admitted that the result of that appeal had been decidedly adverse to him; it was, therefore, incumbent upon the present House, out of respect to themselves, out of respect to their constituents, and out of respect to her Majesty, who dissolved the late Parliament, at once to give her Majesty the answer which their constituents had deputed them to give. There was one point of a personal nature upon which he trusted the House would allow him to put a question to the noble Lord opposite. The noble Lord, in congratulating the right hon. Gentleman in the chair, upon his well-merited re-election to the Speakership, was reported to have said that he had had, on a former occasion, other grounds than those merely of a political feeling for opposing the re-election to the chair of the right hon. Gentleman, now a 217 Member of the other House, and a near relative of his. Now, he had reason to know that this observation, from the dimness and indistinct nature of it, had caused considerable pain to his noble relative. It was not that he, in the slightest degree, feared any charge that might be brought against him; but it was the indistinct nature of the imputation of which he thought he had reason to complain; and he flattered himself, he was sure, that the noble Lord opposite would feel obliged to him for thus giving him an opportunity of removing this dimness and indistinctness, by stating what was the nature of the charge he had suggested.
Lord J. Russell
said, perhaps the House would at once allow him to answer the question. In the course of the debate on the reelection of Speaker, the right hon. Baronet opposite, in the course of his short arguments, assumed that the sole reason why Lord Canterbury was not re-elected Speaker in 1835 was, that his political opinions did not agree with those of the majority of the House. As he had made a different statement in 1835, he had not thought it right to allow the right hon. Baronet's assumption to pass without remark; and he, therefore, said, that though he did not wish to revive the discussion which had taken place on that occasion, yet that political feeling was certainly not the only reason for his opposition to Mr. M. Sutton, but that there were other matters connected with the conduct of that gentleman, which had induced him to oppose his re-election. He had not thought it necessary to revive that discussion any further than to state, that there were other grounds. These grounds he had stated at the time, and though he had not since referred to the debates, his recollection served him sufficiently to enable him to state, that what he had then advanced as a charge against the present Lord Canterbury, was not a positive breach of duty certainly, but what he considered conduct very unbecoming on the part of the Speaker of the House of Commons. The House of Commons at that time, in 1834, contained a great majority in support of the Government, of which Lord Althorp was at that time the leader. That Government was changed in the course of the recess, by the exercise of the royal prerogative, a Privy Council being called for the purpose of formally making that change, and transferring the Government to the hands 218 of a party who at that time were in a very small minority in that House. The then Speaker of the House of Commons thought proper to attend this Privy Council, whereas, it was his (Lord John Russell's) opinion that he ought on the contrary, respectfully to have represented to the Sovereign, that as the Speaker of a House of Commons, the large majority of whom were opposed to the change, he ought to be dispensed from attending the Privy council, as his attending it would seem to make him a party to the change, in opposition to the House by which he had been elected. He had slated at the time, that though he did not regard this proceeding of the then Speaker as a positive breach of his duty, yet he certainly looked upon it as conduct of a highly unbecoming description; and when the new House of Commons was elected, he thought it very unfitting again to place in the chair of the House a Speaker who had thus set at nought and contemned the opinion of the House by which he had been chosen Speaker. That was his statement at the time; and when the subject was referred to the other evening, he thought it necessary to state that difference of political opinion was not the sole reason which had induced him to oppose Mr. Sutton on that occasion. He must confess that at the time the conduct of that Gentleman had occasioned him to feel very considerable resentment; he had regarded him as an admirable Speaker for many years; he had borne his willing testimony on many occasions to the propriety of his conduct; he had ever felt that nothing could exceed his just authority with the House, earned for him by his admirable temper and his intimate knowledge of the forms of the House; but he must at the same time confess that the right hon. Gentleman's conduct on the occasion referred to had appeared to him altogether unbecoming the character of a Speaker of that House. He had now stated what were the grounds to which he had alluded, and which he had thought it unnecessary to go into the other night; but as the hon. Gentleman had put the question to him now, he hoped the hon. Gentleman would not find fault with him for stating what had been his impressions with respect to the con duct of his noble relative. He had no wish for a moment to suggest that Lord Canterbury on that occasion had intended or wished to show any disrespect to the 219 House of Commons; it was simply an' error in judgment. Any feelings which he might have entertained on the subject at the time had long since passed away; but at the same time he must repeat his conviction, that it would have been more becoming on the part of Lord Canterbury had he respectfully represented to his Sovereign the propriety of his being allowed to absent himself from the Privy Council.
§ Dr. Bowring
said, that connected as he was with a community whose deep distress had been more than once referred to, he felt imperatively called on to address the House on this subject. He knew it was no pleasant task to speak of the poor and suffering many in the presence of the privileged and the opulent few, but he must discharge his painful duty. In that House there was none who did not enjoy all the comforts and many of the luxuries of life, some of them its superfluities in abundant and embarrassing excess, and when he contrasted the scene around him with the wretchedness he had lately witnessed, and which he was sent especially to represent, and if possible to remove, he grieved to think how inadequately he could depicture that misery whose echoes were thrilling in his ears, and whose scenes fresh in all their mournful expressiveness on his mind. He well remembered how frequently it had been said to him during his late canvas, "Aye, Sir you listen to the stories of our grievances now, you talk to us of your sympathy and your pity, but you will go to London and forget us and our suffering as others have done, and we shall hear no more about it, till you come again to ask the electors for their suffrages." But he knew he had undertaken a solemn trust and he hoped to show the House that the miseries of the working classes claimed, nay, demanded its prompt, serious, and religious attention; and let the House remember that to turn away from these miseries, to avoid inquiry into their causes, to refuse redress if their causes can lie discovered, would be alike uncharitable, unchristian and perilous. For who are the sufferers? the unrepresented multitudes! those who in addition to their physical deprivations are denied the exercise of their political rights. With the augmentation of their distress, the sense of injustice done them by their exclusion from a voice in the representation has been greatly aggravated. Political discontent has been naturally mingled with social and individual grievances, and let not Parliament suppose that 220 the wrongs which are fermenting in the popular mind are without danger to the peace of society. As a proof of the dreadful depression prevalent in Bolton, it would be sufficient to state the fact that at the present moment no fewer than 1,328 houses in that borough were unoccupied; while in the different townships which composed the Poor-law union there, the number of houses unoccupied was, 2,267, being one-eighth of the entire number of finished houses in the union. Official returns stated, that there was not a township without uninhabited or deserted houses. In Sharpies and Entwistle, one in every five is empty; in Harwood two out of nine, in Edgelworth one to five and a-half, in Little Bolton one out of six, while there has been in the last ten years an increase of population, to the extent of more than 14,000 souls within that union. The House could not but feel that this was a state of things most perilous to the public and society, and could he venture to trouble the House with the details of cases of individual suffering, of which he held the records in his hand, from authentic sources, they could not but admit that something ought to be done promptly and efficaciously to remove this mountain mass of misery. True it was that the people were ignorant of the complications and perplexities of political economy, but they knew this simple and undoubted truth, that there were many countries producing an excess of food, and that this excess of food they were not able to obtain in return for the labour of their hands; and hearing and knowing this they could not understand the argumentation or the legislation by which those markets were closed to their industry, and by which they were prevented from carrying the product of their labour where they could get in exchange for it that food for the want of which they were famishing. Would the House bear with him while he detailed some cases of individual suffering, authenticated by the evidence of Poor-law guardians and magistrates? "I visited," says the informant, "a man and his wife, with four children; I found two of the children laying on a piece of straw, without any covering. I went up stairs and found the father dead on the boards, without bedding or bed. His wife told me that the day before he died he wished for a little bread and cheese, but in vain. The neighbours said he had died for want of food." Another wretched case. "A man, his wife, and two daughters (it is a guardian of the 221 poor who speaks), lived in a cellar, the wife and daughters out of work; this man earned about four shillings per week by weaving; I was fetched by the neighbours, who told me the man had died of hunger, I found him laying dead on one of the looms; they had neither bed nor bedding. I caused a jury to be summoned. Their verdict was,' Died for want of food."' He felt a difficulty in selecting cases, from the many mournful examples he held in his hand. His correspondent had been called to visit a family which he was informed was in a state of starvation. He found the father had just sold all he had to pay his rent, and had removed, with his family, to his father's, whither he followed him, and found the man, his wife, and four children; another brother, his wife, and three children; a third brother, his wife, and one child, all the men out work, all the women far advanced in pregnancy, in a house four and a half yards square; they all slept in a room above of the same size, and lay upon little but straw. He would mention a case—it was authenticated by a most respectable magistrate, of a man who had been working for seventeen years with the same employer, having an excellent character for sobriety and industry. For the last three years he had had work only for three days and a half a-week, having a wife and three children, another daily expected; during five years he has been able to buy no Sunday clothing to enable him to go to church, and scarcely clothing of any sort for himself or family. For five years they had bought no bedding, for months together they had tasted no animal food, beyond sometimes one pound of bacon in a month; their food is oatmeal porridge twice a-day, potatoes once, and herrings sometimes; they borrow the pan in which they dress their food, and sometimes, for a month together, pawn their clothes at night to redeem their bedding, and their bedding in the morning, to redeem their clothes. He would mention a case that had come under his own cognizance, a good workman, earning, by fourteen hour's labour, nine shillings per week. For rent, fire, loom, and candles, 3s. 8d. spent, leaving 5s. 4d. for the food of father, mother, and four children; the six sleep in one bed without a blanket; the linsey woolsey garment of the wife was in pawn, the husband and wife spoke of each other with affection. They had applied for assistance, but only the workhouse was offered. The wife had been a teacher in the Church Sunday school, within the last 222 six weeks the man had worked through two Sabbaths for the payment of his rent; he was owing fifteen shillings; the room was empty of furniture. Let not hon. Gentlemen believe that these are exaggerated tales of distress. They are, sad to say, the record of an every day history, of a common, a too general misery. These, and all such cases, he remarked, were the samples of an awful mischief, occasioned by that pernicious system of legislation which denied to labour its rights, to the willing artisan the liberty of finding that market which the world would be delighted to offer him. He (Dr. Bowring) had travelled extensively over various parts of the world, and he had seen in every quarter, harvests ripe for the sickle, and a superabundance of food wanting a market; while in this country hundreds and thousands of people were bordering on starvation, though producing in abundance the articles of clothing which would be eagerly purchased by those who were engaged in the labour of agriculture in other countries. The character of these laws had been but imperfectly understood; the Corn-laws were only a part of the system of vicious legislation. Animal food in every shape was wholly prohibited— prohibited in a country where, as in the case of the unfortunate people of Bolton, crowds of poor creatures might be seen congregated together outside the shops waiting to be served with pennyworths of bacon, and pleading to have the outside bits, because of these they had rather more for their penny than of the inside parts; on one occasion he had been deeply affected at hearing of a poor girl, who had purchased a pennyworth of bacon, exclaiming as she received it, "It is very little amongst six of us." He had in his hand an account of the aggregate earnings of five industrious weavers for a week's work; it was 21s. 1½ d., making an average of 4s. 3d. for each man, for the week's sustenance of himself and his family. The hon. Member for Manchester had referred, but without going into details, to some striking facts respecting those trades which depend upon the labouring classes. Now, in Bolton, where the population within the last five years had increased by 4,000 souls, the number of journeymen tailors and slop-workers, which five years ago was 500, was now but 250, and very many of these were almost unemployed. The number of shoemakers in the same borough had been reduced by one-third, and those who remained had a great difficulty in maintaining themselves. The number of associated 223 carpenters had been reduced by one-fourth, and many of those who remained were unemployed. A large proportion of the trade of provision shops with the poor was now carried on in pennyworths of butter, cheese, bacon, sugar, and so on, and in very many cases the shopkeepers were entreated to give credit even for this small amount; and the kindnesses and charities which the working classes were accustomed to shew to one another were checked and sometimes annihilated by the pressure of their own distress. How could those who were struggling to save themselves from starvation extend the hand of benevolence to those who were even more miserable than they? Schools and churches were deserted for want of decent clothing, and the poor may often be seen washing their rags on the Sabbath, being unprovided with a change. And while such was the state of things in our manufacturing districts, the suffering must at last re-act upon the agriculturist, for a pauper population, and the population would be driven to pauperism—could be but indifferent consumers of the produce of the land. The state of our commercial relations with foreign countries was such as to excite the utmost anxiety. According to the last official returns, the quantity of goods exported from this country to the United States, was 8,800,00l. worth, but the United States had begun to threaten us with retaliation, for the pernicious system of trade upon which we acted, and to demand, in the most unequivocal manner, that if we exported our manufactures there, we should consent to take their productions in payment. The Brazils too, with whom we had hitherto enjoyed a most favourable trade for this country, now that the treaty under which we had traded was about to expire, gave every indication of an intention not to renew that treaty with us, unless we reformed our scale of duties, and placed the sugar trade with foreign countries on a fairer footing. The countries of Europe too, those which had hitherto been most willing to carry on a fair commercial intercourse with us, would lose all patience, if the dictates of justice and fair dealing were longer rejected by the British Parliament. He himself had again and again been the bearer of friendly messages from foreign powers to the Government of England, and what had always been the answer? "We dare not propose any alteration in the Corn laws—we dare not propose a modification of the timber duties—we cannot even make 224 provisional treaties which would enlarge the markets of England, for we are certain, from all experience, that Parliament would reject all such modifications." But, let the Parliament take good heed how it longer resisted the voice of reason; the difficulties of the matter increased year by year, month by month, day by day, hour by hour; that which could have been done in 1839, could not be done in 1841; they must go forward towards liberalism, or backwards towards perdition. Already the Commercial League of Germany, there was reason to apprehend, had it in intention to double the duties on our cotton twist and yarn. With respect to the great agricultural interests, he thought they had no reason to look with alarm upon a change in the present system. The extra produce of corn of all the corn-producing countries in the world was small—four or five millions of quarters at the most. Undoubtedly, that amount of corn would be consumed from the higher wages given to the labouring population of this country, provided its foreign trade was extended. He was convinced, that if our commercial relations were extended, as they might be, we should consume not only all our own corn, but all the corn that the world could furnish us with besides. He did not wish to trespass longer upon the House, but he felt compelled to represent to them that there was now a fearful mass of misery and a fearful mass of discontent. The people came to the House with a petition for relief, and he besought them not to turn to that petition an unwilling or unlistening ear. He implored the House to give some hope of a redress of grievances, to tell the producing classes that the field of labour should be extended to its utmost accessible limits— for so only could they anticipate peace— so only could they produce prosperity.
§ Mr. P. M. Stewart
would follow the example of the Mover, and his noble Friend the. Seconder of the amendment, and state the reasons which gave him the victory in the large and important county which he represented. The first that he would merely mention was, that his known determination to stand by the Church of Scotland in her present trials, and to rescue her independence. The other was his well-known character, as an unflinching advocate of free trade in every view that could be taken of it. He would limit duties nearer to the exigencies of revenue, and the sooner that principle was acted upon, the better for the country. He 225 could not agree with the gallant Member who had said that all discussion should merge itself into the question of yes or no. Had the House confidence in her Majesty's Ministers or not? The questions had been fairly raised by her Majesty's Speech, and in his opinion the House had a right to speak to them as direct questions. In accordance with that opinion, he would, as the representative of a large and important county, embracing the agricultural, the commercial, and the manufacturing interests, every one of which were in a state of extreme distress from vicious legislation— he would address a few words to the House respecting the Budget, as it was called, and few they would be, because, from the state in which the country now was, it was perfectly clear that many occasions would occur for discussing the question seriatim. The first question that presented itself was that of the sugar duties. He did not know whether many in the House remembered his former appearance there; if so, they would know that he had a deep stake in the colonies; that he must stand or fall along with them; that, according to their prosperity, so would he be prosperous; and as a colonist, he felt constrained to thank the Ministers for the principle of the commercial code offered by them. He approved of the principle involved, but he opposed the details: but it had been said, in another place that the principle of commercial freedom was what ought to be established, and the details could be settled hereafter. In his opinion, and speaking as a colonist, he said the proposition for reducing the distinctive duty on the staple duties of the colonies, was one fraught with unmixed good, and would tend much to their prosperity. He congratulated the colonial interests on it, because it was a proposition to make the colonies an integral portion of the empire. As a matter of course, their produce must be admitted to all the colonies of the empire the same as the produce of Britain Then with regard to the timber duties, he said, those connected with Canada were mad, or as they would more expressively say in his country, demented, if they did not at once close with the proposition made to them—they were offered a differential duty of 150 per cent., just what the country complained the colonies enjoyed, but they were quite willing to take 50. So absurd were the present duties, that it was a paying trade to take Baltic timber to Canada and then smuggle it in at the low 226 duty. It was too absurd a system to last, and must sooner or later fall, and he said the sooner the better for all parties. Now with regard to the Corn-laws. It appeared from the tone of the debate, as if it was thought that there was an extraordinary opposition between the views of each party. No one was found seriously to advocate a total repeal of the Corn-laws. The proposition made was a fixed duty instead of a sliding scale; and he said that, considering that the latter had been tried for 200 years—ever since the time of Charles the second, during which period there had been forty changes of the law, they were now entitled to a trial of the fixed duty. In 1828, Mr. C. Grant, in bringing in the present act, admitted that it was a question of minor importance whether the protection was a fixed duty or a sliding scale. So also said Mr. Huskisson. He said he lamented the errors of the Bill of 1815, which had caused prices to be lower than they would have been had the corn trade been free and unfettered since that time, and he said he would be prepared to concur at the beginning of next Session in any measure for fixing the duty at a rate that should gradually descend to its proper level. He would remind the House that no commercial reform had ever been proposed, but had been denounced in the same manner as the present questions by the monopolists of that day. He was perfectly-convinced, that, in a very short period, the Corn-laws would be settled on a satisfactory basis. Even the Mr. Peel of 1828 said a sliding duty would lead to a gradual importation. Now, had it not led to the very evil which he thought to obviate? From 1815 to 1828—thirteen years, we imported three-and-a-half millions of quarters; and from 1828 to 1840—other thirteen years, the importation was 11,200,000, but it was not gradual; for, in six years of the latter period, no less than ten million but of the eleven were brought in. Hon. Gentlemen complained that they agitated the country; but if ever there was a legitimate question upon which the country ought to be agitated, the present was that question. It appeared to him that on all matters of vital importance agitation, was exceedingly beneficial; and, in corroboration of that opinion, he would quote six words from Mr. Burke, who once said,I am not of the opinion of those gentlemen who are against any disturbing of the public repose. I like clamour whenever there is abuse. The fire-bell at midnight disturbs 227 your sleep, but it keeps you from being burned in your bed. The hue and cry alarms the province, but it preserves the property of the people.All such clamours led to the prevention of evils and the redress of abuse—and that brought him to the point which formed the main accusation against the Government—viz., that they had dissolved the Parliament. Now, he was one of those who had come to the conclusion that the Government would have been unpardonable if it had not dissolved Parliament. Before they had taken that step their responsibility was serious; but now that responsibility was light; and although the prospects might be more dreary, the responsibility of the rejection of these measures was with the people, and redress was in their own hands. His noble Friend, the seconder of the amendment, had stated that he was a disciple of free-trade, but he believed his noble Friend had qualified that expression by saying that lie was a disciple of free trade, with the exception of those articles in which particular interests were involved. Now, so far as he understood his noble Friend, he would not interfere with any of the articles which were at present the object of legislative protection, and thus it appeared that exception was the rule and the rule the exception. He feared, notwithstanding the talents and abilities his noble Friend had displayed, that the Ministerial side of the House would gain nothing from him, unless he enlarged his views upon that subject. There was one point which had occasioned him some uneasiness, and that was what fell from his lion, and learned Friend the Member for Bath, with reference to the case of Mr. M'Leod. And he did hope that the right hon. Baronet opposite, or some Member of the. Government, would refer to that painful subject, which, in his opinion, his hon. and learned Friend had treated in a manner which was unwise, ill judged, and almost mischievous. These observations would reach America at the time of M'Leod's trial, and what would be their effect? Why the Americans would read, that at the opening debate of a most important Session such assertions as the following had gone forth uncontradicted— that M'Leod was amenable to the laws of the country which had seized him—that he must be tried—that he might be found guilty, and if found guilty, he must be hanged. Now, he was no lawyer, but it 228 appeared to him that there was a good deal too much of professional intricacy in the statement of his hon. and learned Friend last night. He would take, however, the common sense and humanity of the case, and he must say that such a statement was, in his opinion, very ill judged. He was glad to find, that, upon a former occasion, the right hon. Baronet opposite had so far identified himself with M'Leod, as to say, that whatever was done to M'Leod was done to the country. He had no hesitation in stating, that, in his opinion, whatever was done to M'Leod, considering that he acted under British authority, was done to the British nation. That was the language which he wished to see go forth, if it came from some proper authority in that House, and not the sort of special pleading they had last night. He had taken the most important point in his hon. and learned Friend's observation, and his hon. and learned Friend said, that it was an old quarrel between them, as regarded the relation between that country and the colonies. With regard to Canada, the first experiment of Mr. Pitt was a dangerous one, and it was denounced by Burke and Fox, the former of whom foretold that they were planting the fruit of bitterness, which would afterwards spring up and embarrass them. There was another question alluded to by his hon. and learned Friend he could not forbear referring to. His hon. and learned Friend also said, he hoped the loss of the opium which had been seized by the Chinese government would fall on the owners of the opium. In that case he was satisfied that the honour and good faith of the country would be tarnished, and in his opinion the Chinese government had no more right to ask for the delivery and confiscation of the greater part of that opium, than they had to ask for the delivering up of cargoes now floating on the river Thames. It was beyond the power and jurisdiction of the Chinese government, and was under the protection of British vessels. He was not an opium proprietor in any way. He saw a smile come over the countenance of his noble Friend opposite, as if lie thought him an opium-eater. He could assure him that he had nothing more to do with it than viewing the question upon general principles, and he hoped that such opinions, as those of his hon. and learned Friend would not be allowed to prevail, but that restitution would be had for every pound of opium destroyed. With regard to the 229 vote of confidence in her Majesty's Ministers, he must say, that with all their faults he preferred them to those who were coming across the House to take their seats; and even if they had more faults than were laid to their charge, he could not part without a sigh from those who had done so much good in so little time. The hon. Mover of the amendment smiled of course, because his account was made up in a very different spirit in which he would cast his up. But, he thought, if the hon. Member had got a simple narrative of the ten acts which they had passed in the course of the ten years, it would puzzle the hon. Gentleman, or many other men of that House, to point out where so much good had been done by any other party. They had had an enumeration of their acts last night, and he would go over his list without comment. They had the Reform Act, the Negro Emancipation Act, the Poor-laws for England, and the Poor-laws for Ireland; they had the Municipal Corporation (England) Act, and the Municipal Corporation for Ireland; they had the English Tithe Act, and the Registration of Births and Deaths Act. [Ironical Cheers.] He did not understand those cheers. He would merely answer them by saying, the usefulness of that act was well known in the populous parts of the country; and those who had seen the evils it had counteracted, and the good it had produced, could have no other opinion. Then there was the Criminal Law Amendment Act, and though last, not least, the Canada Union Bill. They had given them these acts in the course of ten years, and for that he gave them his most unreserved thanks. All he saw to take from the merit of the Government was this, he admired their budget, and the principles on which it was projected, but he took from them the originality of projecting it. They had no more the merit of first proposing that budget as it now stood than he had. The right hon. Baronet, the Member for Dorchester, alone had the merit of it. At page 100 of a half-bound pamphlet, intituled "Corn and Currency," which had gone through four editions, and written by that right hon. Baronet, what did he find?—precisely the budget propose I by her Majesty's Government.The last object, said that pamphlet, a Steady supply of corn at a moderate price, will be obtained by a repeal of the present Corn-Jaws, and by a constant import at a fixed duty 230 —a duty, as I have before stated, equal to the burden borne by the land. Nor will it be wise to stop even at this point. If the landowner is to give up his monopoly for the public good, shall the West-India Company and the West-India proprietors be suffered for one day to retain the full enjoyment of their exclusive privileges? Shall the consumer be obliged to pay an exorbitant price for his tea, and for his sugar, that particular interests may be benefited; and shall the landed proprietors and the gentry of these realms alone be sacrificed? On the contrary, let us adopt the sound principles of free trade, but let us not permit their application to the staple produce of mere land. Let us destroy the heavy duties on timber, which add so much to the expense of building a ship or a house in the mother country, for the sake of conferring a paltry premium to our colonies. And, since we are bent on establishing a foreign competition, let us reduce largely those taxes which affect both the commerce and the manufactures of the country.Her Majesty's Ministers had no merit in the original invention of this plan, which had been printed in four editions before it had been heard of from the Treasury bench, and he now claimed of the right hon, Baronet, when he returned to office to return also to his former opinions. If the right hon. Gentleman was present, he would call upon him to discuss his old opinions with his new friends; to turn to his right, and to discuss the Corn-laws with the right hon. Baronet the Member for Kent; and to turn to his left, and discuss with the right hon. Baronet the Member for Tamworth, the currency question. If the right hon. Baronet would only discuss his new opinions with his old friends, and his old opinions with his new friends, they would have him, like water, finding his level at last. Before concluding, with many thanks to the House for the kindness and patience with which it had heard him, he would just remark to the right hon. Baronet, that he had read with great delight the graphic sketches he had made in his speech at the close of the last Session. One was with regard to a good man struggling with difficulties, and the other was a fishing sketch of bobbing for a Budget. He feared, that these sketches would remain Cabinet pictures. He thought they should still have the goad man struggling with difficulties, and the right hon. Baronet, who was marked put as the Chancellor of the Exchequer, taking his station on the Ministerial side of the House, would himself be the good man he had so accu- 231 rately described. Then, with regard to the fishing sketch. They had been bobbing for a budget, and lately the right hon. Baronet had been fishing for a majority, and having hooked it, the right hon. Baronet appeared not to know exactly how to land it. His brothers of the angle in that House, knew well that it was easier to hook a fish than to land a fish. They all recollected the lines of Pindar upon Isaac Walton, which he thought might be applied to the right hon. Baronet's present position:—And when he tries to pull thee out, God give thee strength, thou little trout, To pull old Isaac in.With regard to these principles of commercial reform, the course which the House was now about to adopt might decide the fate of parties for a time; but what was far more interesting to them, was that it would decide the financial prosperity and commercial features of the country. To that end he was sure it was hastening, and its thorough completion would be secured by the good sense and good feeling of the people of that country, although it had been boasted, not very tastefully last night, that the majority of the country Gentlemen in that House were ready, scythe in hand, to cut them down. He thought the returning good sense and the interests of the country would enable them ultimately to maintain their ground against any force that might be brought against them. He could assure the right hon. Baronet, that that question should have no rest until it was settled, and that he, as an humble individual, so long as he stood there the representative of the industrious and worthy, but now suffering classes would give him, and the Government to which he belonged, no rest by day or by night, until those principles were rescinded on the Statute-book, and the laws which at the present moment brought destitution and suffering on the people, were expunged for ever.
§ Mr. Crawford
said, there were many parts of the Address in which he could not concur. It was stated that the great powers of Europe were united for the purpose of preserving the peace of Europe; hut he could only regard that as a species of despotism for the purpose of exercising an undue influence over the rights and interests of the people. He could not, therefore, concur in that passage of the Speech. Again, they were desired to ex- 232 press their agreement with her Majesty hat the extraordinary expenses should he provided for; but he could not express his concurrence in that part of the Address. In his opinion, the war with China was one of the most unjust that ever was undertaken by a nation. It was a war to establish a contraband trade, and if any lives were lost a charge of murder might be preferred against those who were the instigators of it. He would come to that part of the Address in which he might be supposed to concur. They were called on to revise the Import duties, and he was persuaded that they were a great evil, and the sooner they were removed from the statute-book the better. With regard to the repeal of the Corn-laws, he did not exactly understand what the Address meant. He objected to the principle of an 8s. duty, and he thought they should abolish the whole of the vexatious imposts called the Corn-laws, which conferred protection upon only a section of the community; for it was well known that the only parties benefited were the landlords, who were enabled thereby to obtain higher rents. There were other matters in the Address to which he wished to allude; and he must be allowed to express his regret that there was no notice in it of the necessity of reforms, which were advisable for the advancement of the liberties of the people, by giving them greater influence in the selection of representatives of that House. He had hoped that there would be some recommendation from Ministers for the extension of the suffrage to the working classes—that the use of the ballot would be recommended as a protection of their rights—and that the duration of Parliaments should be shorter. There was another subject to which he would advert, and which had been alluded to by one or two hon. Members—he meant the English amended Poor-law. It had been said that the party on the other side were sharers in the passing of that law, but he was disposed to condemn both parties in an equal degree on account of it. It was one of the most iniquitous laws that was ever passed. Though he did not defend the abuses of the old Poor-law yet he conceived it to be a cruel invasion of the rights of the people to take from them that law so long as they were subject to the Corn-law taxation. He had the honour of representing a manufacturing district and had witnessed the distress that existed there. But until he had examined into the subject, he had no idea of 233 the extent to which that distress existed. The people of that district (Rochdale) traced all those evils to the operation of the Corn-laws. He advocated the total removal of all restrictions. He thought a fixed duty would be a fixed injustice. It was a crying evil that any law should exist which raised the price of food for the purpose of benefitting any particular class. With regard to the amendment that had been proposed to the Address, he could not see any inducement whatever to support it. That amendment did not offer any advantage which was not presented by the Address, and he could not, therefore, give his vote in its favour.
§ Mr. Cobden
said, that in addressing himself to their notice, it was not his desire to trespass long upon their attention. He must own, however, that he felt some difficulty how to treat the question that was placed before the House. There did not seem to be a very good understanding as to their position on this occasion. They heard very different opinions expressed as to the object for which they had been sent to that House, and as to the nature of the principles that were determined at the last general election. They had heard, that the last general election was not a test of public opinion as to the monopolies that were complained of, that it was merely a question of confidence in the Ministry. He knew, that that opinion had been expressed by the right hon. Baronet, the Member for Tamworth, and he was happy to perceive the disposition that existed in the party opposite to take the dictum of that right hon. Gentleman as their law. They, therefore, said, that they were not to represent a monopoly. It would, indeed, be strange to hear a majority of that House coming forward to declare, that they had been sent there by the people of England to represent, to advocate, and to uphold monopoly. Let him just remind the House of the circumstances under which the late general elections had taken place. A recommendation had come from the executive, advising them to do that which was something unprecedented in the history of the country —namely, to propose a reduction of taxation, and this message was accompanied by an assurance from the executive, that not only would the reduction of taxation not injure the revenue, but actually increase it. It was, then, on such a message from the executive, that the late 234 House had been dissolved. Had hon. Members on the other side then come forward and said, that a majority of that House was ready to tell the executive, that notwithstanding its assurance, yet they did not want the present taxation to be reduced on bread, timber, and other articles, and this, too, not only without improving the revenue, but increasing it; notwithstanding all this, they, the constituency of England, were for retaining monopoly and taxation, and all their mischievous results, and that they did so, because they preferred the advantages of monopoly to the well-being and benefit of the State. He was glad to know, then, from the other side, that the people of England, who were impatient of taxation —of whom it was said, that they were afflicted with "an ignorant impatience of taxation "—that they had not all at once become enamoured of monopoly. There was, too, another difficulty in addressing the House upon the present occasion. They were told, that the question now was, not whether the Corn-laws were to be repealed, or monopoly maintained, that they were not to consider those points which her Majesty had recommended to their notice, but that they were to discuss that and that only, which some Gentlemen on the other side of the House had thought proper to put after the Address to her Majesty's Speech; that all they were to think of, and all they ought to speak about was, whether or not her Majesty's Government was worthy or not of their confidence. And how came hon. Gentlemen on the other side to that conclusion? They went over the conduct of the present Ministers for the last ten years. They travelled after them to India, China, and to Canada. They touched upon everything but that which was the last and the most important of all their acts—namely, their recommendation to revise the Corn-laws. Hon. Gentlemen on the other side left that important topic untouched, but that was no reason why Gentlemen on his side of the House, knowing what the working of the Corn-laws was, what their effects, and that they were infinitely more important in the eyes of their constituents than Canada, or Syria, or the affairs of New York—there was then no reason why Gentlemen on his side should not give to such a subject the prominent attention it deserved, and at the same time treat with the proper deference and respect which 235 any communication from her Majesty ought to receive. He was very young in that House, but still he was accustomed to read the speeches that were made there and, if he was not mistaken, he thought that in the olden time, Conservative Gentlemen especially were accustomed so treat the Speech from the Throne as if it were something appertaining to the monarchy. They did not like on these occasions to draw Ministers prominently forward, unless there was very great reason for doing so. They were not accustomed to draw forward Ministers, but to give their entire attention to the Speech from the Throne, as a matter entitled to a calm and respectful discussion. This is what he thought ought still to be done by hon. Gentlemen on the other side, and particularly with; respect to a Speech from their most gracious Sovereign, who, since the time of Alfred, was the most popular monarch they ever saw in these realms. He would take up but a moment of their time while he glanced at that great and paramount question which had been attempted to be cast aside. He alluded to the food-tax. The people of this country had been petitioning for three years. They were anxious for a total repeal of the food-tax. He spoke, too, in the utmost sincerity—he was also for a total and unconditional repeal of that tax. He would not allow an aspersion to be cast upon the three millions who had been petitioning for four years on this subject—he could not permit it to be said that they were not sincere in what they sought for. He knew that they were, because he knew that what they asked for was just. What was this bread-tax—this tax upon food and tax upon meat? It was a tax upon the great body of the people; and hon. Gentlemen opposite, who had such sympathy for the poor, when they had made them paupers, should not refuse to give a calm, a marked, and a prominent consideration to this question, as affecting the working classes. There were twenty millions of persons in these realms who depended upon wages for their subsistence. There was about a million who lived upon the public alms. And he claimed from Gentlemen on the other side, who were hugging the paupers as their pets, to let some of their sympathies be extended to the twenty millions who were in that situation that entitled them to their support—these were the independent, hard-working men, who main- 236 tained themselves by their honest industry. He told thorn that their tax on bread pressed more severely upon that class of men than upon any other. He had heard that tax called by a multitude of names. Some designated it as a "protection;" but it was a tax after all, and he would call it nothing else. The bread tax was levied principally upon the working classes. He called the attention of the House to the working of the bread tax. The effect was this—it compelled the working classes to pay 40 per cent, more, that is, a higher price than they should pay if there was a free trade in corn. When hon. Gentlemen spoke of 40s. as the price of foreign corn, they would make the addition 50 per cent. He would not over state the case, and therefore he set down the bread tax as imposing an additional lax of 40 per cent. He had now to call their attention to facts contained in the report of the Committee on the hand-loom weavers. It was a report got up with great care, and singular talent. It gave, amongst other things, the amount of the earnings of a working man's family, and that was put down at 10s. Looking at the metropolitan and rural districts, they found that not to be a bad estimate of the earnings of every labouring family. The hand-loom committee then stated that out of the 10s. every family expended in the week 5s. in bread. Their tax upon that was 2s. weekly, so that every man who had 10s. weekly, gave out of that 2s. to the bread-tax. That was twenty per cent out of the income of every labouring family. But let them proceed upward, and see how the same tax worked. The man who had 20s. a week, still paid 2s. a week to the bread tax; that was to him ten percent., as an income tax. If they went further—to the man who had 40s. a week— the income tax upon him in this way was five percent. If they mounted higher—to the man who had 5l. a week, or 250l. a year—it was one per cent, income tax. Let them ascend to the nobility and the millionaires, to those who had an, income of 200,000l. a year. His family was the same as that of the poor man, and how did the bread-tax affect him? It was one halfpenny in every 100l. He did not know whether it was the monstrous injustice of the case, or the humble individual who stated it, that excited this manifestation of feeling, but still he did state that the nobleman's family paid to 237 this bread-tax but one halfpenny in every 100l. as income-tax, while the effect of the tax upon the labouring man's family was 20l. per cent. He wished not to be misunderstood upon this point. Suppose an hon. Gentleman were to bring in a bill levying an income-tax upon the different grades in society; let it then be supposed that it was proposed to impose upon the labouring man an income-tax of 20s. per cent., and that the nobleman was to pay but a halfpenny out of every 100l.; in such a case as that, he was sure that there was no Member of that House, and lie hoped no Christian man out of it, who would be parties to the imposing such a tax. And yet that was the tax which was actually levied, not for the purposes of the state, but for the benefit of the richest of the community. This, he apprehended, was a fair statement of the working and effect of the tax on bread. He promised this to hon. Gentlemen, that, as far as he had stated, he was willing to explain everything in which they might find anything that appeared to them to be a difficulty. He begged not to be misunderstood. He would sympathise with the incredulity of hon. Gentlemen opposite. He was convinced that if they, as Christian men, knew what this tax was in its operation, they could not lie for one moment in safety or tranquillity in their beds, could they vote for it. Such, then, was the nature of the tax. He cared not whether it was forty, twenty, or five per cent. It was a portion of the evil of the bread-tax —a tax that was in no country that he was aware of, unless in England and Holland. It was monstrous and unjust to levy a tax upon bread. He was aware that hon. Gentlemen might point to laws passed upon the importation of corn elsewhere. There had been an import duly in France and Spain, and the United States of America: but he was prepared to show that in those countries they exported corn one year with another, and therefore no import duly could there operate as with us. There had been some mystification about this question. He remembered the noble Lord opposite, at his election for North Lancashire, propounded the doctrine of protection to the working classes, which was afforded them as a set-off to the Corn-laws; and as the doctrine came from so high an authority, he believed that other Gentlemen, in other counties, had taken the same view of the 238 case. The doctrine of protection was unfounded: The noble Lord had told the electors that the manufacturers wanted a repeal of the Corn-laws because they wanted to reduce wages; and that unless, by a repeal of the bread-tax, they did reduce wages, they could not be better able to compete with the foreigner, and therefore could derive no benefit; and, on the other hand, if they did reduce wages, that would be no benefit to the working man. That was the doctrine of the noble Lord. Let him remind the House that the noble Lord spoke for parties who had been for three years patiently struggling for a hearing from that House, and had never been allowed to state their own case: that when the hon. Member for Wolverhampton, for whose distinguished services he, in common with millions of his countrymen, felt sincerely obliged, two years and a half ago, proposed that those who were agitating this question should be heard at the bar of the House, that House scouted and rejected his suit, and when they denied him a hearing they misrepresented his motives. Let him look at the case as given by the noble Lord opposite. He would not, for a moment, allow it to be supposed, that the noble Lord had wilfully misrepresented, but he must contend that he had unconsciously misapprehended the case, and if he, with his brilliant talents, fell into error, other gentlemen must excuse him if he ventured to think that they also had fallen into error. Now, in reply to the case put by the noble Lord, he must say that those who advocated the repeal of the Corn-laws had again, and again, avowed as their object, that they might be allowed the right, for they claimed it as a right, to exchange the produce of their industry for the productions of all other countries, and at the same time, they not only expressed their willingness, but their anxious desire, that all duties for protection, so called, levied upon articles in which they were engaged, might likewise be removed, and that a free and unfettered intercourse between, all nations, in all commodities, might be carried on as designed by nature. He would come to that portion of the case of the noble Lord which related to the wages of labour. The noble Lord said, that a repeal of the Corn-laws meant a reduction of wages. Now, if he knew what it meant, it meant increased trade. They did not wish to diminish wages, but they 239 claimed the right to exchange their manufactures for the corn of all other countries, by which means they would, he maintained, very much increase trade; and how they could do that except by calling into operation an increased amount of labour, he was at a loss to imagine. And he would ask the noble Lord how could they call an increased demand for labour into activity without raising the rate of the wages of the working classes. It appeared to him, therefore, that there was a palpable fallacy in the statement of the noble Lord on that occasion, when he said that the object of the anti-corn-law party was to reduce wages, in order that they might be better enabled to compete with the foreigner. He maintained that we did now compete with the foreigner. He maintained that we sold our manufactures cheaper than they were sold by any other country, for if we did not, how could we sell our manufactures upon neutral ground in competition with the producers of other countries? We now sold in New York every article in competition with the foreigners of other countries, and if we could there sell it cheaper than the foreigner, where was the protection given to the home producer"? We sold articles at home as cheap as we did abroad, and he hoped the House would not forget this, that it was the foreign market that fixed the price in the home market. Did hon. Gentlemen suppose that we would send articles 3,000 miles for sale if we could get better prices at home? He begged to say a few more words on this important question, and to draw the attention of the House to the relation between the price of food and any other article, and the price of labour when in a wholesome and natural state. He could understand, in the slave-holding states of America or Cuba, that the price of labour might be determined by the price of provisions. The slave-holder sat down and calculated the cost of raising his produce, and he calculated the price of labour accordingly. But he would come to another state of society; he would refer to the agricultural districts, where wages had reached the minimum; and he would ask, was the rate of wages raised when the price of provisions was increased? They were told that such was the case; and why was it the case? Was it because the high price of food increased the demand for labour; or rather, was not the increase given out of charity, and in 240 the shape of charity, because the wages which labour before brought were reduced to a scale at which the labourer could not support himself and his family? He would come to the state of the labour market in the manufacturing districts, and he was happy and proud to say that it was sound, nominally; but God knew how long it would continue so. There the rate of wages had no more connection with the price of food than with the changes of the moon. There the rate of wages depended entirely upon the demand for labour. There the price of food never became a test of the value of labour. The markets were elastic, and would be infinitely more elastic, if they were allowed. The markets, if they were permitted, would continue in a sound and wholesome state, and the people would be employed; but if they continued their present system of legislation, they would bring the manufacturing, the commercial, the trading, the town population, to the same point at which the agricultural labourer had reached; and then the manufacturers, perhaps, would come forward and state, not as an act of liberality—not that they were merely conferring alms upon paupers, but that as the price of food had risen, therefore they would raise the rate of wages, and not because the demand for labour required a rise in the rate of wages. He would dismiss the question of wages, although it was one, he must say, ought again and again to be mooted in that House and in the country, and he would come to consider the important question as to the state of our manufacturing, commercial, and agricultural labourers, which had already caused same sympathy, and for which he must again implore the sympathy of the House. The House had heard of the condition of the labouring population in the north. He had lately had an opportunity of seeing a report of the state of our labouring population in all parts of the country. Probably hon. Gentlemen were aware that a very important meeting had lately been held at Manchester, he alluded to the meeting of the ministers of religion. [A laugh]. He understood that laugh, but he should not pause in his statement of facts, but might perhaps notice it before concluding. He had seen a body of ministers of religion of all denominations—650, and not thirty in number—assembled from all parts of the country, at an expense of from three to four thousand pounds, paid by their congrega- 241 tions. At that meeting most important statements of facts were made relating to the condition of the labouring classes.' He would not trouble the House by reading those statements, but they shewed, that in every district of the country—and these statements rested upon unimpeachable authority—the condition of the great body of her Majesty's labouring population had deteriorated wofully within the last ten years, and more especially within the last three years, and that in proportion as the price of food increased, in the same proportion the comforts of the working classes had diminished. One word with respect to the manner in which his allusion to this meeting was received. He did not come there to vindicate the conduct of these Christian men in having assembled in order to take this subject into consideration. The parties who had to judge them were their own congregations. There were at that meeting members of the Established Church, of the Church of Rome, Independents, Baptists, members of the Church of Scotland, and of the Secession Church, Methodists, and, indeed, ministers of every other denomination, and if he were disposed to impugn the character of those divines, he felt he should be casting a stigma and a reproach upon the great body of professing Christians in this country. He happened to be the only Member of that House present at that meeting, and he might be allowed to state, that when he heard the tales of misery there described, when he heard these ministers declare that members of their congregation were kept away from places of worship during the morning service, and only crept out under cover of the darkness of night—when they described others as unfitted to receive spiritual consolation, because they were sunk so low in physical destitution—that the attendance at Sunday schools was falling off — when he heard these and such like statements— when he, who believed that the Corn-laws, the provision monopoly, was at the bottom of all that was endured, heard those statements, and from such authority, he must say that he rejoiced to see gentlemen of such character come forward, and, like Nathan, when he addressed the owner of flocks and herds who had plundered the poor man of his only lamb, say unto the doer of injustice, whoever he might be, "Thou art the man." The people, through their ministers, had protested 242 against the Corn-laws. Those laws had been tested by the immutable morality of Scripture. Those reverend Gentlemen had prepared and signed a petition, in which they prayed the removal of those laws— laws which, they stated, violated the Scriptures, and prevented famishing children from having a portion of those fatherly bounties which were intended for all people; and he would remind honourable Gentlemen that, besides these 650 ministers, there were 1,500 others, from whom letters had been received, offering up their prayers in their several localities to incline the will of Him who ruled princes and potentates to turn your hearts to justice and mercy. When they found so many ministers of religion, without any sectarian differences, joining heart and hand in a great cause, there could be no doubt of their earnestness. He begged to call to their minds whether these worthy men would not make very efficient ministers in this great cause? They knew what they had done in the anti-slavery question, when the religious public was roused; and what the difference was between stealing a man, and making him labour, and robbing a man of the fruit of his industry, he could not perceive. The noble Lord, the Member for North Lancashire, knew something of the abilities of those men. The noble Lord had told the House that from the moment the religious community and their pastors took up the question of slavery, from that moment the agitation must be successful. He believed this would be the case in the present instance. Englishmen had a respect for rank, for wealth, perhaps, too much; they felt an attachment to the laws of their country; but there was another attribute in the minds of Englishmen—there was a permanent veneration for sacred things, and where their sympathy and respect, and deference were enlisted in what they believed to be a sacred cause, "You and your's (addressing the opposition) will vanish like chaff before the whirlwind." Having described the condition of the people, he would ask what must be their feeling when they found that the gracious, most kind and benevolent recommendation of her Majesty, that that House would take into their consideration laws which restricted the supply of food and diminished labour, was scouted by a majority of that House, as a question secondary to the question, whether a Gentleman, in a white 243 hat, opposite, or a Gentleman, with a black hat, on that side, should occupy the Treasury benches? He would tell them, that the people of England would reject such a course of proceeding, as the most factious that had ever characterised the conduct of that House; and if he turned from their conduct there, to declarations made elsewhere—it was not in conformity with the rules of the House to state where—he found an illustrious Duke declaring, that the condition of the labouring classes was enviable, as compared with the population of other countries; and when that illustrious Duke stated that every labouring man, who was industrious and sober, could obtain a competence, he would ask what must be the feeling and opinion of the country upon such a declaration? Hon. Gentlemen who echoed the sentiments of the illustrious Duke might remember that ten years ago the same illustrious individual said that the old boroughmongering Parliament was the perfection of human wisdom. He should not be surprised if the declaration of yesterday turned out the precursor, as the former was, of a far greater change than that proposed by the present Government. Before he sat down he wished to say a word to the right hon. Gentleman, the Member for Tamworth. Allusions had been made to the opinions of Mr. Huskisson, and the right hon. Baronet was fond of shrouding his opinions under the sanction of that distinguished statesman. He was most anxious that the right hon. Baronet should not fall into the error of supposing that he was arrayed in the mantle of Mr. Huskisson, when, in point of fact, he had only his cast-off garments. The will of Mr. Huskisson was often referred to, but he would introduce his last codicil. Mr. Huskisson's opinions in 1828 were often referred to, but he would refer to his last speech upon the subject of the Corn-laws. On the 25th of March, 1830, upon Mr. Poulett Thomson's motion upon the subject of taxation, Mr. Huskisson said,It is my unalterable conviction, that you cannot maintain the present Corn-laws, and preserve public permanent prosperity and private contentment, and that those laws may be repealed without doing injustice to the landed interest is my firm belief.This was the last codicil to the will and testament of that illustrious, though, in many respects, failing man, and he trusted, that after this, the opinions of Mr. Hus- 244 kisson would never be misrepresented in that House. He begged to remind the right hon. Baronet, the Member for Tamworth, that when Mr. Huskisson spoke in 1830, the country was suffering from a state of collapse not so severe or lasting as the present. If Mr. Huskisson then spoke in desponding terms, what would he have said in 1841, if he had witnessed the accumulation of distress since that period, if, instead of the Bank of England holding ten or twelve millions of money upon which three per cent was with difficulty obtained, it had only about half that amount, and money was not to be had in the market at five per cent.? What, then, would have been his opinion upon the subject of the Corn-laws? He wished to give his most earnest opinion upon this subject, and he wished particularly to address himself to the right hon. Baronet, the Member for Tamworth, because he had the greatest means of serving the country. He asked him carefully to consider the prospects of the country. He asked him to go back to 1830, and inquire into the cause of elevation from the prostration of trade that then took place, and he would find that it was not a natural trade that had sprung up. From 1831 to 1836, our exports, as compared with our imports, had increased by 120,000,000l. These exports went to America, and were locked up there. They were neither sold nor consumed; they merely went out to purchase bank stock, railway and canal shares, and such like articles. Besides, from that period, there had been an extension of our banking system, by which the number of our banks was increased nearly one hundred, while the capital was increased 60,000,000l. The expansion of the currency gave a factitious exercise to trade, and this, with other circumstances of unprecedented good fortune, raised up a factitious prosperity, which enabled the new Ministry to pass an act reforming the Poor-laws, as well as other acts. But this was not real prosperity. Was the right hon. Baronet prepared with any plan, by which he could now raise up England to real prosperity, for he could tell him that any plan that created only a factitious prosperity would recoil with infinitely greater force than the last. He was glad that the Ministers of the Crown did require money. He was glad of it, because they could only get that money through the prosperity of the trading and manufac- 245 turing interests. The landlords spent their money at Paris or at Naples, but they did not find the revenues of the state. Their revenues were most flourishing when the farmer was distressed and the trading community was prosperous, and in proportion as the landowner feels prosperous on account of the starvation of the millions, in the same proportion the revenue of the State fell off. With these few remarks [" a laugh from the Opposition, and loud cheers from the Ministerial benchss."]—He could assure the House that the declarations he had made were not made with a party spirit. He did not call himself Whig or Tory, he was a free trader, and opposed to monopoly where-ever he found it; and this he would conscientiously say, that although he was proud to acknowledge the virtues of the Whigs in stepping out from the ranks of the monopolists, and going three-fourths of the way, if the right hon. Baronet and his supporters would come a step forward, he would be the first to shake hands with him if he allowed him, and would give him a cordial support.
Mr. H. J. Baillie
assured the House he should not have troubled them with any observations upon this occasion, if it had not been for a statement put forth by the hon. Member for Manchester, who yesterday moved the Address, and which had been repeated by the hon. Member who had just sat down, that the great distress now unhappily prevailing in the manufacturing districts, had arisen inconsequence of the existing system of the Corn-laws. Doth those hon. Members who made that assertion were, he believed, master manufacturers, and therefore ought to be good authorities on the question; yet he did not hesitate to express his conviction, that never was a proposition more unfounded attempted to be palmed off upon the credulity of the House and the public. In the first place, he must be ' permitted to say, in answer to the insinuations which had been hurled by the hon. Member who had just sat down against those on that (the Opposition) side of the House, that if that hon. Member could convince him by argument, if he himself could believe, that a total abolition of the Corn-laws would confer benefit upon the great body of the people of this country he would, without hesitation, and whatever might be the consequences, give his vote in support of that measure, believing, as 246 he did, that it was their duty to legislate for he benefit of the great body of the people, and not for any particular class, and that what conferred benefit and advantage on the great body of the labouring classes must also confer benefit on all classes of he community. Her Majesty's present Ministers had been accused, and he thought justly, of having created bad feeling between the manufacturing and agricultural interests. For his part, he always considered those interests as identical, and that an injury inflicted on the one class must of necessity rebound on the other; but if he was called on to legislate for one class at the expense of another, as was stated by the hon. Member for Birmingham, he would give the preference to the agricultural class, because lie felt that by so doing he should confer the greatest benefit on the people of this country. It was presumed, however, that their object was to legislate for the happiness of the community, and he would ask the hon. Member who had just sat down, if the increase in the production of our manufactures had hitherto tended to raise the wages of the artisan, to better the condition, to increase the comforts, and augment the happiness of the people? The hon. Gentleman was a political economist, and would tell him, perhaps, that it must be so; he (Mr. Baillie) would prove to the House that it was not so. In the first place, he would prove that during the last twenty years, the manufacturing productions of this country had been more than trebled, and that during the same period, the wages of the operative had been reduced between seventy and eighty per cent. He would prove that the master manufacturers had been making great fortunes, while their operatives were reduced to the greatest misery and destitution; that, consequently, the interests of the master, and those of the workman were not identical; and that, although cheap corn might be advantageous to the former, it could in no way be advantageous to the latter. He knew well that these opinions were at variance with those entertained on the other side of the House; but if hon. Members would give him their attention for a few moments, he thought he should be able to prove the propositions he had laid down, by official documents which had been placed on the Table of the House. The quantity of goods manufactured in this country, in 247 spite of the Corn-laws, was greater at this moment than had ever been known before, and at the same time it must also be admitted, that there never was greater distress among the operatives. He held in his hand the official returns of our manufactured productions during the twenty years from 1819 to 1839:—The official value of the exports of the six following articles was as follows:—Cotton manufactures, 1819, 16,631,709l.; 1833, 40,058,153l.; 1834,44,201,346l.; 1835, 44,849,038l.; 1836,50,646,912l.; 1837, 41,900,110l; 1838,54,590,603l.; 1839, 58,471,806l. Woollen ditto, 1819, 4,602,270l.; 1833, 7,777,952l.; 1834, 6,508,886l.; 1835, 7,399,657l.; 1836, 7,535,064l.; 1837, 4,680,247l.; 1838, 6,409,418l.; 1839, 6,348,570l. Linen do., 1819,1,547,352l.; 1833,3,493,642l.; 1834, 3,764,027l.; 1835, 4,285,385l.; 1836, 4,469,530l.; 1837, 3,213,345l.; 1838, 4,330,029l.; 1839, 4,777,711l. Silk ditto, 1819, 126,809l.; 1833, 694,774l.; 1834, 533,450l.; 1835, 792,087l.; 1836, 767,986l.; 1837, 432,123l.; 1838, 719,811l.; 1839 774,410. Cotton yarns, 1819,1,585,753l.; 1833, 6,279,057l.; 1834, 6,802,238l.;1835, 7,399,851l.; 1836, 7,844,819l.; 1837, 9,211,732l.; 1838, 10,202,014l.; 1839, 9,400,904l. Linen ditto, 1833, 50,126l.; 1834,82,170l.: 1835,139,920l.; 1836, 241,658l.; 1837, 389,997l.; 1838, 708,496l.; 1839,846,036l. How immense had been the increase of the exports within the last few years! cotton goods exported in the year 1819 were 16,631,709l.: in 1833, 40,058,153l.; in 1839, they were 58,471,805l.; and yet in this branch of trade there was now, and had been for a considerable period, an appalling extent of destitution. Was there ever a more magnificent exhibition of manufacturing prosperity, so far as the master manufacturers were concerned? But now let them reverse the picture. What, during the same period, had been the condition of the labouring classes? He held in his hand an account of the average sum a good weaver could earn per week in each of those years. In 1814, he could earn 26s.; in 1818, he could only earn 14s. 5d.; in 1823, 9s. 4d.; in 1828, 6s. 6d.; in 1833, 5s. 4d.; and this last, he believed, was the average at the present moment, exhibiting a reduction in wages of about seventy-nine per cent. How was this to be accounted for? Was it possible to 248 account for it by the existence of the present Corn-laws? The effect of the Corn-laws might rather have been to prevent this vast amount of capital from being invested in manufactures; but they must look in some other direction for the real cause of the distress which prevailed amongst the labouring classes in the manufacturing districts. And he thought they might, perhaps, find that the improvement in machinery, and the advantage which the master manufacturers had taken of this to substitute infant for adult labour, would in a great measure account for the extraordinary change. He had been credibly informed, that no less than 50,000 adults were every year turned out of employment in the manufacturing districts, and their places supplied by children. He was told it was the custom of the great master manufacturers to contract with the great Poor-law Unions of the country for regular supplies of children, in order to replace the adults who were thrown out of employment. Thus had they reversed the order of nature; the adults in the manufacturing districts were idle, and dependent for support on their children. What had been the consequence of this system, with reference to the mortality in the great manufacturing towns? He held in his hand the bills of mortality for the greatest manufacturing town in the empire, the city of Glasgow. In 1822 the rate of mortality was one in forty-four of the population: in 1837 it was one in twenty-four-and-a-half. He entreated the House to reflect what a vast amount of human misery must have been inflicted, in order to create such a mortality as this. He had heard of slavery in the West Indies, in Brazil, in Cuba, and the United States; it had been reserved for the master manufacturers of England to present a still more dreadful picture of human life expended in misery and severe labour. They might talk of their manufacturing prosperity; but if such were its results, he would say, they might have increased the power and wealth of the country, but without promoting, in any way, the welfare and prosperity of the community. Having thus proved that the increased misery in the manufacturing districts, had kept pace in exact proportion with the increased production of manufactures, he would now proceed to state briefly what had been the result during the same period of capital invested 249 in the cultivation of land. It must be perfectly well known to hon. Members, that during the last twenty years, vast tracts of land had been brought into cultivation, more particularly in Scotland; and he thought he might venture to say, that although that capital had not produced the same brilliant results to the proprietor which the capital invested in manufactures had yielded to the master manufacturers, it had contributed to produce a very large population, which, as compared with that in the manufacturing districts, was happy, contented, and prosperous. In none of those districts in Scotland, where agricultural improvements had taken place, had there been any distress whatever. He had stated, that the capital thus employed in bringing land into cultivation, had not made very great returns to the proprietors —perhaps not more than five per cent.; in some instances, not so much. But if a total repeal of the Corn-laws was to take place, no one could venture to assert, that the whole of that land would not again be thrown out of employment, the invested capital wholly lost, and the people, reduced to the greatest misery and destitution, forced into the manufacturing districts, in order, if possible, to obtain the means of subsistence. He was not one of those who would assist to reduce the flourishing agricultural population of this country at the present moment, and leave them to the tender mercies of the master manufacturers.
§ Mr. Brotherton
had no intention to trouble the House, nor would he have addressed them at all, but for some observations which had fallen from the hon. Member who had just sat down. He admitted the facts stated, that manufactures had greatly increased, but he wholly denied his conclusion, that the manufacturing prosperity of the country had caused the increased distress of the working classes The hon. Member had drawn a comparison between the landed and the commercial interests, and suggested that it was the welfare of the community that required them to legislate in favour of the one and against the other. The commercial interest required no protection; they wanted nothing but equal laws; they were willing that the agriculturists should have equal laws, but no protection at the expense of the other interests. He always wished to cherish good feeling between 250 he two classes, but that could only be maintained by the agricultural body doing justice to the manufacturing population, by giving up the monopoly which they now enjoyed of the main article of subsistence, He begged pardon of the House for the warmth with which he spoke, but he really could scarcely keep his temper after the remarks which had been made by the hon. Gentleman opposite. He would admit, for the sake of argument, that the manufactures of this country had increased to a great extent, and that the artisans were not now receiving one-third of the wages they received twenty years ago. He admitted also, that the price of manufactures was not one-third of what it was at that period. Now, let the House consider the state of the agriculturists. Twenty-five years ago, when the Corn-law was passed, a piece of calico was worth 20s. It was now not worth more than 5s. 9d. or 5s. 10d., as stated by the hon. Member for Manchester. What had been the cause of this diminution? Great improvements had certainly been made in machinery, and, in consequence of competition abroad, goods had been continually declining in price. On the other hand, the price of corn in 1815 was 64s. a quarter. Improvements had been made in agriculture to such an extent, that the price of land was said by some to have been increased threefold, and. the price of corn was now much higher than in 1815, while manufactured goods fetched only one-third of the price they then bore. The agriculturists said they were the best customers to the manufacturers, yet the manufacturers gave three pieces of calico now for the same quantity of corn they got for one in 1815. It was easily discernible, therefore, from what cause the commercial interests were now suffering. Since 1815, the price of corn had been fifty per cent, higher in this country than on the continent. Calculations had been made, showing that the manufacturers had not only been obliged to make every sort of improvement in their machinery, but to reduce the wages of their artisans, in order to compete with those of the continent, and for what object? Why, to pay the agriculturists at least 1,000,000,000l. more than they ought to have done since the Corn-law was passed. Take the price of corn in the years 1837, 1838, 1839, and 1840, as compared with the price of 1833, 1834, 1835, and 1836, and it would be found that the manufacturers had to pay 74,000,000l. more for bread in the latter 251 half of the period of eight years than they ' had paid in the first half. Was it any wonder that the manufacturers should be depressed, or the artisans deprived of their comforts? Inquiry had been made respecting the expense of a manufacturing establishment in Lancashire. In 1835, they were paid 22,000l. in wages, of which 11,500l. was employed for the purchase of food, leaving the remainder for rent, clothing, and the comforts of life. In 1839, instead of 11,500l., they had to pay 18,000l. for food, leaving only 5,000l. for other purposes. It was seen, then, how the commercial classes wore oppressed, and it was impossible they could be otherwise as long as this unjust law continued. It was shown how heavily the taxation of food pressed on those classes, and wages must be reduced when there was no demand for labour. It was stated that the population of the country was increasing at the rate of 400,000l. a-year, and he wanted to know how they were to be employed. Agriculture could not employ them, and was it meant to say, that they should be transported by emigration? These persons might be supported in manufactures, and by removing restrictions from trade we might extend our commerce to all parts of the world, and make the people both prosperous and happy. He was well aware, that the labourers might suffer to a very considerable extent in consequence of the concentration of power in the manufacturing districts, and he knew that they did suffer. An investigation was made in Manchester last year into the case of 2,000 families. They had Only 5s. a-week each, leaving only 1s. 2½d. for each person to subsist on. The distress in the manufacturing districts at present was such as it was impossible to describe. In the borough he represented 1,500 houses were unoccupied, many mills were not working, or working only a short time; tens of thousands of persons were unemployed, and he would ask the agricultural interest, if manufactures were to be destroyed, what was to become of the land? He knew that the prosperity of agriculture would increase if manufactures were increased and encouraged, but if manufactures were destroyed they would most effectually destroy the prosperity of agriculture. It was said, that the master manufacturers lived like princes, and the poor they employed were in a state of the greatest degradation. Could they make a law to regulate this? Must it not be left 252 to the operation of principles? But they could make laws which would be beneficial to the poor by relieving them from a great portion of their present distress. Instead of taxing the income of the poor man twenty per cent, for bread, let them give it to the poor at the same rate as they gave it to the rich. The poor man who earned 10s. a-week was taxed twenty per cent, for bread, while the rich man of 500l. a-year was taxed one per cent. It was said, that a reduction of the price of bread would necessarily cause a reduction of the rate of wages. In 1835, when corn was cheap, wages in the manufacturing districts were higher than they are now, though corn is double in price. He was of opinion that the agriculturists had no real cause to fear an alteration of the Corn-laws. In proportion as manufactures increased, agriculture would be benefited, for manufacturers never made fortunes without making fortunes to the lauded interest. Look at the land in the neighbourhood of Liverpool and Manchester, and other towns of the same kind. Land which without manufactures would have sold for nothing was now become of immense value. Some hon. Gentlemen seemed to think, that the country would remain in an equally prosperous state if there were no manufactures. If the people were employed in the cultivation of land, and saddled with a debt of 800,000,000l., how was the interest to be paid? At present that interest was paid by the trading classes. The landowners mortgaged their estates, and did not pay the interest; they threw that burden on the trading classes, who were beginning to think that they ought not to be taxed to enable the landowners to retain their land and keep up their great establishments. He said, that the landowners ought to reduce their establishments, to dismiss their gardeners, grooms, or some other of their domestics. He was so convinced of the injurious effects of the Corn-laws, that he would prefer seeing a tax imposed at once for the purpose of defraying the cost of the landowners' establishments. He thought no law should be tolerated which robbed the poor man of the third part of the wages of his labour, in order to maintain others in idleness. It was most important to consider how the people were to be fed and clothed, and Ministers had shown how that might be done without injuring any one. If he thought the reform, of the Corn-laws likely to be injurious to 253 the agriculturists, he would not advocate them, but lie was convinced, that by adopting a liberal course and removing monopolies, by legislating for the many instead of for the few, and making just and equal laws, the happiness of the people was alone to be secured. Allow the manufacturers to exchange the products of their labour in the best markets, and they would enjoy, at the same time that the agriculturists were benefited that comfort which it was the duty of an honest Parliament to offer them.
§ Mr. H. Grattan
thought that the hon. Member for Invernessshire had not made out the case he attempted to establish. Would it be believed that the hon. Member who had enlarged so much on the happiness of the agriculturists of Scotland was the very individual who had applied to Government for a grant of no less a sum than 40,000l, for the purpose of exporting his own countrymen from the north of Scotland, on the ground that they were in such a state of destitution and misery that they could not find support in Scotland? The generous disposition of the hon. Member had impelled him to draw on the Treasury in order to remove them to a foreign land. The hon. Member had moved for a committee, which examined witnesses on the subject, and two individuals endeavoured by their evidence to make out the case of distress. One of them wanted to prove, but broke down, that his friends and countrymen in the highlands were in a state of absolute starvation; the other asserted that they were subsisting upon kelp. So there was 40,000l. saved to the country. It appeared that no individual from that part of the country to which he belonged had yet spoken in this debate, and he was afraid hon. Members might imagine that the silence of the Irish Members,— [Laughter]. He was surprised hon. Members opposite found fault with silence, for silence was at present their forte. He should be sorry if hon. Members thought that the men of his country, by the silence of their representatives, meant to assent to the advent of the party opposite to, power. As silence might speak assent, he wished to disclaim it. He would add the singular fact, that although the people of Ireland were supposed to place such affect ion on the corn laws, and to draw all their subsistence from them, yet he had not seen at any one election the least appearance of a popular 254 feeling in favour of them. He thought it one of the most ominous signs of what the right hon. Baronet had to expect when he came into power, that the people of Ireland had abandoned one of the most important inducements they had to keep their rents high, in order to aid in preventing the right hon. Baronet from coming into power. He could not forbear saying a word on the line which Gentlemen opposite had pursued on the present occasion. Could the right hon. Baronet the Member for Tamworth point out a single instance of an amendment to an address being put in the form of a vote pf want of confidence in the Ministers of the Crown? The House had a right to dismiss Ministers who did not possess their confidence; but he maintained that messages from the Crown and speeches from the Throne were entitled to the respect attached to them, which for centuries they had received. It was not for Members opposite, situated as they were, to move an amendment which he thought was most unbecoming, and which bore marks of intimidation and insolence by no means warranted by any steps taken by individuals on his side of the House, They had paid attention to none of the propositions in the Address; they spoke only of want of confidence. He submitted that that was arrogance; that was not treating the Sovereign as she deserved to be treated by the House—it was treating her as she had been treated by persons opposite put of doors. When they professed so much sympathy for the sufferings of the poor in that House, having listened to those sentiments, gracious sentiments, which fell from the lips of virtue and goodness, the House must participate in her anxiety, that the object of relieving those sufferings should be attained in the manner least burdensome to the people. Why did not the amendment go to that point; It said not a word about the burdens of the people, who suffered unexampled distress and privations. The question was whether the deficiency of revenue could not be made up without imposing fresh burdens on them. Ministers had thought it their duty to look to this point, and they had done so to the best of their ability. They had done so by putting those words into the mouth of the Sovereign. When they recommended the House to adopt measures of that sort, they had discharged their duty; they 255 stood pledged to a great principle, pledged to public relief, pledged to public taxation. He should never consent to sit in that assembly without lifting up his hands and voice to protest against the proceedings at the late elections. The doings at Ludlow and Cambridge, of which they had heard so much, sank to nothing before the monstrous proceedings at those elections, the immense bribery and corruption, and the intimidation. The individuals at Ludlow and Cambridge who had received their 10l. and 100l. for their votes sank to nothing; they were the minnows to the Tritons in this monstrous scene. How had Gentlemen opposite been returned to that House? By money. In one borough, where there were only 180 voters and two candidates, one vote cost no less than 700l. One party gave 500l., the other gave 200l. He congratulated the right hon. Baronet on a victory so obtained; but he never would shrink from lifting up his voice against such monstrous proceedings. It was the duty of the House to correct such evils, and he trusted those evils would be probed to the bottom. What were the proceedings in the country to which he belonged? At the last general election he saw troops drawn out in such a way that no voter could get to the polling booth. He begged the commanding officer to remove his men and allow him to pass, and it was done; but he got no assistance from the civil authorities. Did not the right hon. Baronet know that when the tocsin of his return to power was sounded in Ireland, the Orange advent was proclaimed in Dublin, and churches were given up to be sacked? [Oh! oh!] Let hon. Gentlemen deny it if they could. In the town of Dungannon the houses of the Catholics were given up to be sacked. [Oh oh!] He said it; and if it could be denied, let hon. Gentlemen get up and do so. What was the cause of it? The prosperity of hon. Gentlemen opposite—the protection that was expected from that party. It was that that occasioned such mischief as was done at Belfast, where one individual was brought off and obliged to be bled for the injuries he had received. He was addressing himself to the right hon. Baronet, for he wished to tell him into what company he was getting. He was now a political huntsman at the head of his own pack, but he would find that, like Actæon, he would be devoured by his own dogs. He thought it right to allude to another cir- 256 cumstance. One of the towns in Ireland was given up entirely to the military at the late election; where the Lord-lieutenant or the General was he did not know; the Lord-lieutenant, however, was in love, and therefore he could not attend. In this country at such times the military marched out of a town, but there they marched in. And when one of the candidates went to his committee-room he was actually seized by the military, and could not get out. A friend of his rode fifty miles to vote; but he was not allowed to enter the town without a certificate; he said "I have come to vote;" the answer was, "But you can't, for the sheriff has got the key of the polling-booth in his pocket." Some other difficulty occurred, but even that could not be decided, because the barrister of the party was in the custody of the soldiers. It turned out afterwards that there was a meeting in the assessor's room; and to show the intelligence and friendly feeling that existed between the military and civil parties in that country, he would just state what occurred. There happened to be a noise at the window, and one of the officers said, "Is that any riot getting up?" "Oh, no!" replied the other, "this morning I was apprehensive of one, but I ordered out justice to Ireland." "Justice to Ireland !" said the first, "what do you mean by that?" The answer was, "Why a six-pounder." He would just mention another thing, to let the right hon. Baronet know what he might expect. The writ for one of the elections in Ireland had, as was customary, been directed to the sheriff to be returned signed and sealed by twelve of the electors. When the writ was to be signed and sealed, the sheriff in great good humour begged them to sign, and one of them wanting a seal, he said he had got one there which would do. It was one with the motto of "the glorious memory." And what was the official seal of the sheriff? It was a picture in which the Devil was described placed amidst flames and fire, and a number of individuals were being thrown into the fire. That, said the sheriff, meant the Pope in hell, and the Devil pelting him with priests: but another part of the transaction was of rather a grave character; for from the mouth of the Pope the Host was drawn dropping into the flames. And yet that was done by those who were the associates of the right hon. Baronet! Was he 257 wrong, then, in saying that the right hon. Baronet would find, as he had stated, that Ireland would be his greatest difficulty? he would not say an insuperable difficulty; but if his friends went on in that way he would lose the hearts of the Irish people, and then let him beware of America. [Hon. Members, "Shame, shame."] He said it again—" Beware of America." He would cot speak on that point, as the hon. Member for Liskeard had done in the last Parliament, but he would say— "Beware of America." There was a party in that country sending money to Ireland; he wanted no foreign connexion; but, if, by their misgovernment, they made Ireland the scene of discord—if, by their principles, they made it such that Irishmen could not sit at their firesides in peace, or hire a servant without fear; if they abused those sacred men who were engaged in the service of religion, and called them surpliced ruffians, demons, and hellish priests, he would tell them to their face that they had declared war with the Irish people, and God alone would judge the right. Had hon. Members read the history of the connexion of the party opposite with his country? Talk of their having the confidence of the Irish people —that confidence which they thought they had, but which they lost by their own folly, he meant by the same principles on which they were now coming into power —by intimidation openly expressed; he said that that party had lost that confidence before, and they would lose it again. But the question now really was, whether our manufactures should be turned out of the foreign markets. The hon. Mover of the address said, that England was to be the great master of the manufacturers of mankind. He did not know that mankind would exactly approve of that. If they went to Russia, he thought the answer would be, on tendering their goods, "Here is our tariff;" at Brazil, "Take our sugars;" and in Germany, "We do not want your linens or silks." This question, then, was properly put into the Speech from the Throne: and the address might have been voted for without offering an insult to the Sovereign—without their pledging themselves on those particular points. They might have voted for it out of respect for the quarter whence it came, and still reserved the right of expressing their opinions on those several points. But the amendment was brought forward by hon. 258 Gentlemen opposite to show they were the party predominant—not only to gain a majority, but to carry it to the door of the palace, where it must be listened to, whether acceptable or not. He lamented that the right hon. Baronet had adopted a line of secrecy as to his future conduct, and had concealed his sentiments; for he thought the people had a right to hear from one who was about to come into power what he intended to do, whether fresh burdens were to be imposed on them or not, and whether these Corn-laws were to be modified or altered. But the last was a question between the people and the aristocracy—between the people and the landed interests. Such a question, indeed, should never have been raised; it was settled by the report of the committee of wise men, by the opinion of Mr. Huskisson, their oracle, and by that opinion hon. Gentlemen should have stood. But hon. Gentlemen opposite had put the case in such a way, that to-morrow the right hon. Baronet might, if he pleased, abandon the principles of those who returned that party to Parliament. What principle, indeed, had he not abandoned? Look at Catholic Emancipation. That he had granted, but he did it so late, that he got no gratitude for it. And that would be the case with the measures that were now rejected. Whatever might be the result of this division, he would say, that although he was under no obligation to the present Ministers, his country was, and he would support them on that ground. He could not forget that they had carried the Reform Bill; and he looked with astonishment to the constiutency of England, and regretted that they should have almost forgotten the names of Russell, Grey, and Morpeth. It should be remembered that Catholic Emancipation had been carried chiefly by their means, backed, he would say, by 600,000 men in Ireland. They supported the anti-slavery measure, which even Mr. Pitt could not carry. They had passed the Corporation Bill in England, and had removed many of the duties which oppressed the people. He had found the Government of hon. Gentlemen opposite generally selfish; whilst the present Ministers had had preserved the honour of the Crown and the rights and interests of the people. He said they were honest men. Hon. Gentlemen were honest men also; but looking to the Irish history, he said they were dishonest Ministers. But, whatever 259 party might come into office, he hoped that Ireland and England would be long united, supporting abroad and at home the principles of civil and religious liberty, and that their union might bring peace and happiness to both.
§ Lord Worsley
could not say that he agreed in the arguments of the hon. Member for Stockport. He must add, that having listened to that speech with some attention, he thought it was somewhat inappropriate for the present occasion, when they were assembled to consider the address in answer to the Speech from the Throne. He wished to allude to one part of the hon. Gentleman's speech, because it struck him that in that part of it the argument of the hon. Member was fallacious—viz., that in which the hon. Member contended that there should be a perfect free-trade in corn in this country, and that if that were the case, there would be an increased stimulus given to commerce and manufactures, and that by sending our manufactures abroad, in exchange for foreign corn, we should be able to give employment to a greater number of persons than at present. If that argument were carried out to its full extent, what, he would ask, would become of the agricultural population? It was probable that a larger number of persons might for a short time find employment in the manufacturing districts, but the effect on agriculture would be, that we should have corn brought from abroad in such quantities and at such low prices that the agriculturist of this country would be compelled to give up growing corn altogether, and so the agricultural labourer would be thrown out of employment; nor did he believe (as some supposed) that those labourers so rendered destitute would find employment in manufactures. Feeling as he did very strongly on this point, and representing a large agricultural district, he had thought it right to state the reasons upon which he disagreed with the hon. Member for Stockport, if he thought the hon. Member's view were the correct one, and that free-trade in corn would produce those advantages which he anticipated, he should not hesitate to support it; with regard to the amendment which had been moved to the address, he would state the grounds why he could not give his vote in favour of it." He was glad to perceive, by the tone of the amendment, that there was no intention of refusing inquiry into the 260 subject of the Corn-laws, because he thought it would be ungracious in those who were connected with agriculture, and, he believed that nothing could be more injudicious than to refuse inquiry into the distress which unhappily prevailed. One of the grounds upon which the right hon. President of the Board of Trade considered that an alteration should be made in the present system was the fluctuations in price, which he (Lord (Worsley) thought arose in some measure, from the mode of striking the averages. He was of opinion that by the adoption of some different mode of striking the averages, some advantage might be gained, but then he wanted to know why that question was not to be considered and dealt with by the present Government, and why the task was to devolve upon the right hon. Gentleman opposite? It might be said, because the party opposite were he most numerous in that House, and because the present Government did not possess the confidence of the people. No doubt that party had gained considerably at the late elections, but that gain was to be attributed he believed, in a great degree, to the feeling that prevailed on the part of some constituencies that many reforms were required, and as they could not be obtained from the present Ministry, they thought it right to see what they could get from the right hon. Baronet and his party; and this desire was strengthened by the fact that on many former occasions when beneficial reforms were proposed by the Whigs, the right hon. Baronet, after having long resisted them in opposition, came forward when in power and carried them through. But he thought the country had some right to require an explanation of the right hon. Baronet as to the course he intended to pursue with regard to the Corn-laws, when he came into power. The constituencies, amongst whom much difference of opinion existed in respect to the sliding scale, required to know what were the views of the right hon. Baronet on that point. They at present knew nothing of what the right hon. Baronet intended to propose, and wanting that knowledge they did not think that that good effect would result from an inquiry conducted by the right hon. Baronet as from an inquiry carried on under the auspices of the present Government. He sharing in that opinion, and not being prepared to refuse 261 inquiry into this subject, he was not prepared on that ground to withdraw his confidence from the present Government. When he considered the course pursued throughout a long political life by the right hon. Baronet, and considering that he had (no doubt from a sense of duty) refused for a length of time to concede measures which afterwards he had conceded, he could not think that the right hon. Baronet would have the confidence of the country. Many persons were of opinion that the right hon. Baronet would, in considering the subject of the Corn-laws, propose a scheme very different from that in operation under the existing law—that he would propose a scheme that would not give satisfaction to the agricultural interest; therefore, though disapproving of the plan of the Government as propounded in the last Parliament, but being in ignorance of what substitute the right hon. Baronet was prepared to bring forward, and considering also that he had at all times differed from the general policy of the right hon. Baronet, whilst he had frequently admired that of her Majesty's Ministers: and, as he felt justified in saying, that, the majority of his constituents had not any confidence in the right hon. Baronet, he should vote for the Address.
§ Debate again adjourned.