§ The Adjourned Debate having been then called on,
§ Viscount Sandon
said, that he did not rise for the purpose of entering, at least at any length, if at all, into those questions of economical policy, which formed so large and prominent a portion of the speech which had been put into the mouth of her Majesty, and a still larger and more prominent portion of the speeches of those who had preceded him in the debate. He did not think that in following that course he should be doing that which was the natural result of the events passing around them, or that he should be doing that which would meet the expectations of the constituencies which had sent them to that House. However convenient it might be within the walls of that House, or elsewhere, to represent the struggle which had been just concluded as a struggle between monopoly and anti-monopoly; to represent that there was no other question at issue than whether or not the measures brought forward by her Majesty's Ministers, under the shape and guise of a Budget, were approved of by the people of this coun- 272 try; however convenient it might be o certain parties to put the question in that form, yet such was not the question which had in effect been tried before the country—and such was not the question which they were now required to decide. He said boldly that it was not the question which the Government themselves intended to put forward; because the late dissolution had not taken place upon the question of the sugar duties, the corn duties, or the timber duties. With regard to the corn or the timber duties, neither the one nor the other had been so brought under the consideration of the House of Commons as to elicit the expression of its opinion; and they therefore could have afforded no justification for the late dissolution. As to the sugar duties, he could not conceive that in that question, upon the time or degree in which the protection now afforded to the interests of the British possessions in respect of sugar might be affected, even her Majesty's Government could pretend to discover a sufficient cause for appealing to the people. The real question which had compelled her Majesty's Ministers to appeal to the sense of the people was this, that the last House of Commons did clearly anddistinctly vote their want of confidence in them the present Ministers, and that was the distinct issue which the country was called on to decide. That was the real cause which drove her Majesty's Government to try the desperate chance of a dissolution. If it had been a mere simple question of defeat on particular measures, the Government had already had warning and experience enough the year before, and during the earlier part of that Session, to have given them an excuse for trying a dissolution, if they had thought it would serve their purposes. But it was not until that House had distinctly expressed, by its vote, its want of confidence in their general administration of affairs, that they had recourse to a dissolution; and he thought, he had a right to say, that the first question on which it was their duty to express an opinion, and that previously to entertaining any other matter, was that same question upon which the country had been called upon to decide. For himself, he could say, that the question on which he had appealed to his own constituents was not simply whether the sugar of Brazil should be admitted into this country on 273 one footing of competition with that of our own possessions or another. He had not appealed lo his constituents on the particular mode of protection to domestic agriculture — he had not appealed to them on the degree of protection to be given to our colonial interests as concerned in timber, or the proper time or mode of dealing with that question. He might fairly state that the question upon which he had been returned to that House by so large a majority of his constituents was not that which her Majesty's Minsters had attempted to interpose and substitute for the real question, but whether they had or had not confidence in the administration of affairs by the present Government, and whether even if they agreed in certain points of their commercial policy they were prepared, in consequence of that agreement, to give them condonation for the past and fresh licence for the future. He had stated to his constituents,as he would state to the House, that even if he had agreed with her Majesty's Ministers, which he did not, on any one of those questions, he should have been in nowise induced by agreement on those points to have sacrificed those greater and more important principles which were involved in the maintenance in office of one Administration rather than the other. He had reminded them of the feelings which had been excited in that House and in the country by the general conduct of her Majesty's Government, and he had appealed to them on questions of still higher importance than the propositions which had been put forward by her Majesty's Ministers—he had asked them whether they approved of the Irish Administration of the Government—whether they approved of their conduct in regard to the Church—whether they approved of their conduct in regard to education—whether they approved of their conduct in the distribution of patronage and of magisterial offices and honours; and upon all these great questions, affecting more deeply, more widely, more permanently the interests of men, than the question whether a sliding scale in the duties on corn was to be preferred to a fixed duty, or whether Brazilian sugar should be admitted one day or another at one rate of duty or another; or whether the importation of colonial timber should be placed on one footing or another; on questions of much greater importance than those did he ap- 274 peal to his constituents, and received not merely a verdict of acquittal, but in immensely increased majorities the highest expressions of approbation for the course he had pursued. These were the grounds on which he believed the great body of the Conservative party had been returned to that House. The constituencies had refused the bait which had been held out, the tub thrown to the whale had not answered its object, and they would not permit the real issue to be withdrawn, and a new and a false one to be substituted in its place. Whether they agreed or not with the Government in the particular questions now put forward, they disapproved of their conduct in the administration of those larger affairs affecting the nearest interests of the country, and they would not be led astray by a temporary agreement, even if they entertained it, on minor points. As regarded the propositions of her Majesty's Government, the issue, in fact, was not that of free trade on one side or the other. Their language, indeed, was that of free trade; and from that they endeavoured to get support; but he had heard little in any part of the empire about the specific propositions of the Government, which in fact were no more those of free trade, than the existing system. The question, so far as it was the commercial question at all, which had been at issue before the constituencies was, whether the domestic interests of the country should have any protection or not. The particular mode and degree in which the Government proposed to affect that protection had not been at issue before the country at all, and the House of Commons was not called upon to deliver any verdict upon that point. These were not the questions which had actuated the constituencies of the country during the late struggle. The question distinctly put before them was this, "Have you such confidence in her Majesty's Government, from your experience of their past administration of affairs, as to be willing to trust them for the future?" and whether men agreed with the Government as to protection, or the mode and degree of protection, or whether they differed from the Government, he believed the constituencies of England had been mainly governed by the answer, which they were prepared to give to that question of confidence, or want of confidence, and the House was now called upon to give 275 effect to that answer, or they would betray the principles which they had professed, and the duty which they owed to their constituents. With those views he thought they were called upon— not to go into any details upon the questions which had been submitted to the House by the Queen's Speech—upon the question whether the existing Corn-laws were inconvenient to commerce or distressing to the population—but that they were called upon to carry into effect the verdict which had been pronounced by the people of England. He said, then, that neither these, nor any other questions ought to be entrusted to the management of the present Ministers; and until a change in the Government of the country had taken place, they would best discharge their duty to the country, and best satisfy the expectations of their constituents by refusing to consider any measures which the present Government might propose. These were the short and simple grounds on which he gave his support to the amendment. He was not indifferent to the value of those other questions—he was not indifferent to the sufferings of the population — he was not blind to the distress which now prevailed in the commercial and manufacturing districts — but it was because he thought that the management of these questions might be more safely entrusted to other hands than those which now for many years had mismanaged the affairs of this country that he supported the amendment. If the question, which had been tried by the people, was in any way the commercial question, the decision of the country went so far as this: that they were not satisfied in the main with the propositions of her Majesty's Government, and still less with the principles on which those propositions had been adopted. With regard to the great constituency which he had the honour of representing, he would not say, that, in doing him the honour of sending him to that House, he being one who preferred a sliding scale to a fixed duty, they had committed themselves to an opinion in favour of a sliding scale; but he would say they had gone so far as to give a distinct negative to the assertion that they were in favour of a total abolition of protection. Every class of that constituency, he might fairly say, high and low, had totally reprobated that Suggestion. They were not at all pre- 276 pared to abandon the principle of protection. He knew that commercial men were divided on the mode and degree of protection; but on the principle of protection he had no doubt that the great majority of that constituency were in unison with him and with the majority of that House. He had merely come forward on that occasion for the purpose of stating succinctly the mission which he felt himself called upon to discharge. He would not go into any details upon the question of the Corn Laws, which, indeed, it would be impossible to discuss with any useful effect in a debate on the Address. It was impossible that such a discussion could lead to any satisfactory result. If they followed the lead of her Majesty's Government they would be only going through an utterly useless discussion; the great majority of that House were united on the principle of protection, and in the preference of a sliding scale to a fixed duty; and he considered, therefore, that they were right in refusing to enter into details upon those questions at that time; because holding the views which they did they were not likely, under such auspices, to come to any useful and practical result. He might say there what he had said elsewhere, that with regard to these questions themselves, when the fitting opportunity came, he should not only be willing but anxious to see them maturely considered with a view to meeting the evils which undoubtedly arose from the present system. The agricultural portion of the community was as much aware of the necessity of some revision as any other class in the country; those views too were not now expressed for the first time; they had been long expressed by gentlemen connected with the agricultural interest; and certainly he had himself before expressed them in that House. Though it was not his business, and though he was not in any way called upon to follow up the discussion of the Budget of last Session, into which they had been rather invited by the speech of the right hon. Gentleman the President of the Board of Trade, ha was naturally induced by the observations which that right hon. Gentleman had made, to look a little into the sugar question to see whether there really was any reason for that despondency to which the statement of the right hon. Gentleman would lead. That no mistaken impression might be 277 produced by that statement he had made diligent inquiries, and he had derived considerable gratification from the result. The lower prices of sugar which prevailed during the last discussion upon that subject, had been attributed by her Majesty's Government to the anxiety of those in the trade, arising from an apprehension that their protection was to be withdrawn; but he had great satisfaction in finding, that now that that anxiety and apprehension had been removed, the prices had remained the same, showing, that it was not any such apprehension which had in the first instance caused the reduction in prices, but that it was the natural result of those sources of supply from our own possessions in the West and East Indies —to which they on that side of the House had attributed it. The prices were at the present moment what they were in May, having in the interval only been raised from 36s. to 39s. per cwt., and these were the lowest prices at which sugar had been sold for nearly two years, having fallen from the high price of 50s., at which they were when the right hon. Gentleman, the President of the Board of Trade refused the motion of the hon. Member for Wigan. This he mentioned to show that their predictions had not been unfounded; and that they were right in looking to natural causes—to the supply coming from the East and the West Indies without having recourse to the introduction of foreign sugar, for the means of securing the country from those high prices which they had properly attributed to merely transient and temporary causes affecting production in our own colonies. He would not trouble the House by going into details as to their predictions of the supply from the Mauritius, the East and the West Indies; he need only say, that that supply had in all respects realised, so far as the time permitted, all the predictions which had been then expressed. He could inform the House, that the supply of this year already exceeded that of last year, and that the consumption of the last three months, had, without any change of the sugar duties, been going on at a rate which would produce all the result, that, in the calculations of the right hon. the President of the Board of Trade, had been anticipated from that change. In entering upon these details he had merely gone out of his way to correct any false impression that they, or 278 that side of the House, had, for the sake of temporary purposes made use of predictions, wholly unfounded, and of calculations, which had not been realized. He would not now pursue the question further; he had only risen for the purpose of stating distinctly the grounds why he considered that they were entitled to decline entering upon the particular questions mentioned in her Majesty's Speech; and why they were entitled and indeed called upon at once to deliver that verdict which the country had been required to deliver by the last general election; and he was satisfied that their constituents would be much disappointed if they did not take the first opportunity of delivering that verdict before they proceeded to the consideration of any other measures.
§ Mr. Milner Gibson
had expected to hear from the noble Lord who had just sat down some important statement, considering the situation which he held in relation to the commerce and trade of this country. The noble Lord had made a careful and elaborate attempt to draw the question at issue to the mere point of confidence or no confidence in Ministers. For his own part, he took very little interest in those party discussions to which the noble Lord and hon. Gentleman opposite attached so much interest, and he believed the country entertained the same feeling with regard to them. Those privileged classes, of which the noble Lord was a Member, and who were now on the threshold of office, no doubt attached great importance to them, but not so the great mercantile interests of this country. He confessed he was astonished to see the noble Lord making so light of the great and important subjects which really formed the object of their present discussion; not more so, however, than to see the noble Lord, when about to enter upon office, persist in discussing a totally different subject, when every man, woman and child, throughout the kingdom, knew well that there were more Members in the present House who were favourable to the coming in of Sir Robert Peel than there were Members who supported Lord Melbourne. That was known perfectly well to everybody. Then, why say any thing more about it. It could only give rise to unpleasant reflections on that side of the House, and the indulgence in that practice on the other side was only likely to lay the right hon. Baronet opposite open to the impu- 279 tation of something like an indecent eagerness in rushing into office. The feast prepared for Gentlemen opposite let them bide their time; and let the House employ the valuable interval in discussing questions which involve the real interests of the country. The noble Lord, however, in the second division which he made of the subject matter of his speech, forgot the argument contained in the first, when he told the House that the real question was between protection on the one hand, and free trade on the other, and that the proposition that had been made to the House by her Majesty's Ministers had nothing to do with it. He admitted at once, that the noble Lord was not very far wrong in that statement, for the question before the country did materially involve the principle of free trade. He believed it really was a question whether the principle of protection or that of free trade should ultimately prevail, and he believed that a great majority of those who gave their earnest and zealous support to her Majesty'sMinisters were of the same opinion; that they gave the proposition for the 8s. duty, and the other relaxations of the commercial code, with the feeling that it was but a step to an end; and ultimately hon. Gentlemen opposite would find that their now refusing to agree to the 8s. duty would only lead to their, in the end, being compelled to altogether repeal the Corn-laws. The noble Lord, after for a long time discussing the causes which he supposed had led to the late dissolution, had proceeded to talk a great deal about the constituency that had sent him to Parliament. Liverpool, no doubt, was a most important commercial town; but still, if an analysis were entered into of the votes that actually returned the noble Lord to Parliament, it would be found that he was not returned by a majority of the respectable householders, merchants, and bankers, of Liverpool, but that he owed his seat to the votes of that pure and virtuous body, the freemen of Liverpool. Therefore, he did not consider that the noble Lord really did represent the Opinion of the town of Liverpool.
§ The Speaker
The hon. Member must be aware, that it is not in order to state that any Member of this House does not legally represent the constituency that sent him to Parliament.
§ Mr. Gibson
was very far from saying that the noble Lord, or any other Member, did not "legally" represent the con- 280 stituency which sends him here; but he was going on to remark that he wished it was not the law of the land, that the body of men who influenced the return for Liverpool, should be entrusted with the political power which they now possess. The noble Lord, in the third portion of his speech, had referred to the question of the alleged distress of the country; but all he said on the subject was to tell the country to take courage, and not despond. Now, really this was not enough to hear from the noble Lord. Probably he meant that we were to trust to what the right hon. Baronet, the Member for Tamworth, would do for the country, when he came into power. But, both the right hon. Gentleman and the noble Lord had left them in doubt as to what he really would do; and much as they had heard of the evils brought upon the country, and the uncertainty to trade, that was caused by the ministerial agitation of these questions; and much as had been said of the importance of not agitating the country, for fear of unsettling the arrangements of commerce, and of preventing persons from investing capital, yet the must say, that the uncertainty and indistinctness that hung around the intentions of the right hon. Baronet were much more likely to produce the results that were so much deprecated. Was it not known that the right hon. Baronet was coming into power, and that being in power, he would be able to carry whatever he willed into effect? And was not the silence and indistinctness of the right hon. Gentleman, so situated, more dangerous than any statements that could be made by persons who were known not to be able to carry their views into effect? Symptoms of the effect of that uncertainty indeed had already been seen. Had they not heard a noble Duke elsewhere declaring, that if the right hon. Baronet touched the Corn-laws, the noble Duke would do so and so, and that if the right hon. Baronet attempted to introduce anything like the measures of her Majesty's Ministers, the landed interest who had brought him in, would also turn him out again? Or, was his silence to be taken as merely nothing after all? Was its significance only on the principle of omne ignotum pro magnifico. Yet he could not believe that the right hon. Baronet would abandon that sound system of policy which ought to guide all future statesmen in this country—the principle which he, 281 himself had so emphatically laid down at the time of his introducing Catholic emancipation— that of yielding to the pressure of the times, and conceding when not able longer to resist. In that memorable speech the right hon. Baronet laid it down as a principle, that no fear of the charge of inconsistency, or of the loss of political character, should deter the statesman from bringing forward those measures which he conceived to be for the good of his country; and he could not believe that the right hon. Gentleman could shut his eyes to the fact, that at the present moment such was the state of our commercial interests—so great was the distress and difficulty of obtaining employment for the labouring population, and such was the spirit of discontent and disaffection growing in the country, that he would be unable to resist the repeal of the Corn-laws and the relaxation of our commercial code. He was astonished at the conduct of one hon. Member opposite. He did not know what place that hon. Member represented, but he was remarkable for having last Session come forward and asked for a vote of the public money in order to enable his famishing labourers to emigrate to foreign lands. He did not know the place he represented [An hon. Member: "Worcester"], but that was the remarkable feature in his political character. He had been, he repeated, astonished to hear that hon. Member doing what on all sides was deprecated in that House—he had been astonished to find that hon. Member making use of exciting and inflammatory language in reference to classes. When the hon. Gentleman talked about the tender mercies of the master manufacturers, about their making use of infants, to the exclusion of adults from their factories, and about their recklessness of human suffering—he then went on to tell the House of the tender feeling of the farmers and landed aristocracy towards the labouring population, and attempted to infer therefrom that their influence over those around them was more generous in its tendency than that of the manufacturers. Could anything be more unsatisfactory than such a line of assertion? If the hon. Gentleman described those scenes of fancied rural felicity and talked of the influence of agriculture being better for the people than that of manufactures, he would like to meet him, as he had quoted from papers, with a 282 quotation from a paper of what had taken place in 1839, at a place not very far distant from the metropolis, at a time when the price of corn was high, and when the agricultural labourer, according to the hon. Gentleman, ought to have been particularly well off. On the 14th of February, 1839, at an ordinary meeting of the board of guardians of Grantham, it was moved by the Duke of Rutland, and seconded by Gregory Gregory, esq., and unanimously resolved that, "whereas during the high price of corn the labourers not receiving parochial relief were only able to get bread of barley, or barley mixed with wheat, while the paupers were receiving wheaten bread, the latter should in future receive only the same quality of bread as the independent labourers, in order the sooner to bring about the time when both should be able to eat the same quality of bread." This took place at a time of high prices, when the condition of the agricultural labourer ought, according to the calculations of hon. Members opposite, to be particularly prosperous. But it was said the manufacturers' only reason for wishing to reduce the price of bread was to diminish the cost of production. That was an unfounded assumption. The manufacturers wished to open the trade, because they wished to have the power of selling their manufactures—because, in fact, if they were not able to take the corn of other countries no barter could take place. A gentleman from America the other day, addressing the religious conference at Manchester—that assemblage of Ministers of which hon. Gentlemen opposite had spoken so slightingly—had said that the Americans did not want the manufactures of this country cheaper, but that this country should take their corn in exchange. It was freedom of exchange that was really wanted by those who opposed the Corn-laws, and in that point of view, whether the price was higher or lower, was a matter of speculation merely. It was of no value in determining the argument on the whole question. Then, he asked, by what right, or on what principle did they deprive any class in this country of their freedom of exchange? He maintained that the corn imported into this country in exchange for manufactures would be just as much a production of British industry as if it had actually been grown on our soil; and again he asked why they should not be allowed to pro- 283 duce wheat in their own way if it so suited them to do it? Therefore it was that he looked for a total repeal of the Corn-laws. He supported the proposition of her Majesty's Ministers for a fixed duty only as a step, and to enable him the sooner to send the 8s. duty after the rest. As he said before, he did not wish to tax particular classes with being influenced by their own peculiar interests, as he did not think this was the right mode of debating a question of this kind, or, indeed, any public matter. It was, however, an unfortunate circumstance that the peculiar interests in that House were so closely allied with the preservation of those monopolies. With the public, this was a peculiar source of suspicion. This, to say the least of it, was an unfortunate coincidence, for people were apt to consider that these Corn-laws were enacted by a Parliament of landlords for their own benefit. He was far from saying that they were not perfectly sincere in their support of those laws, and that their object in supporting them was patriotic and just, and that they imagined they"Did good ' for nought;' and blushed to find it fame !In point of fact, they would have it believed that the benefit fell to the landlords without their seeking it. The first great object in view should be to present English industry to foreign countries in exchange for food, and thus to procure and preserve a permanent demand for labour for the increasing population of the country. They were told that the Corn-laws procured permanent labour for a large portion of the population; but the fact was, that the Corn-laws did not even afford the means of giving employment for the agricultural population. If they referred to the state of the population between 1821 and 1831, the ten years included in the last census, it would be found that while the population of the whole country had greatly increased, the number of persons engaged in agricultural pursuits had diminished to no less an extent than 17,000 families. This was a very remarkable fact, if they looked to the circumstance that the population of the whole country had greatly increased. It should also be recollected that the Poor-law commissioners in their reports stated, that pauperism existed in a much greater extent in the agricultural than in the ma- 284 nufacturing districts. Even if it were found that the Corn-laws afforded ample employment for the agricultural portion of the population of the country, what advantage could possibly arise in thus keeping in employment one class of the community, by keeping another class out of employment? He contended that every freeman had necessarily a natural right to the freedom of exchange for the produce of his labour. But this principle was sacrificed by the Corn-laws, which, at the same time, kept numbers out of employ, and from obtaining a just remuneration for their labour, while they did not find means of employ for the agricultural population. No doubt Gentlemen opposite were fully justified in discussing the question of confidence, but he trusted that they would not so far overlook the great interests of the country as to pass by altogether the consideration of the Corn-laws. If the debate was allowed to close as it had proceeded, the country would say that it was a planned proceeding, and that the right hon. Baronet had given directions to his party not to say one word on the subject. It would be inferred that these were the directions given at the great political divan which, according to the Times newspaper, assembled at the house of the right hon. Baronet the Member for Tamworth last Sunday, probably during the hours of divine service. It would be said that it was then and there resolved, that steps should be taken to keep the people in the greatest state of ignorance as to the course that the probable future administration intended to pursue. He did not speak as a party man, for he was not one. He repeated, he was no party man, and he wished that there were many more like him; and he had proved that he was not one by his conduct. If he had sat on the other side of the House he should have used precisely the same language on the subject of the Corn-laws, as he had addressed to the House from the place where he stood; and he should have said that it showed a want of respect, not to allude to the question of the Corn-laws which pressed so heavily upon the great interests of the country. When he looked at gentleman opposite—many of whom he knew, and for whom he entertained the greatest personal regard—he was satisfied that many of them were perfectly sincere in their opposition to any change in the Corn- 285 laws; but he was astonished at the sneers they manifested at many of the impressive statements of the hon. Member for Salford respecting the distressed state of the population. When that hon. Gentleman alluded to a quotation from the scriptures in reference to this subject, he was surprised at the ill-suppressed sneers of Gentlemen opposite. But the quotation of scripture, in reference to the Corn-laws, did not originate with that side of the House, but with Gentleman opposite. For his own part, he did not think that it should be made a practice to quote the scriptures on one side or the other on commercial or financial questions. He, however, could not forget that the practice did not originate with his hon. Friend, but with the right hon. Baronet the Member for Dorchester, who, in a speech to his constituents, quoted a passage from scripture in defence of the Corn-laws, and told his auditory that he had no doubt but that it had been written for their instruction. He believed that the right hon. Baronet made the quotation with a view to show that the sliding scale was alluded to. Hon. Gentlemen opposite found fault with the agitation of the Corn-laws, but they forgot that they were equally agitators with his side of the House. All that he had to find fault with was, that they had been more successful agitators on the present question than those who sat on the Ministerial side of the House. Did hon. Gentlemen forget the agitation that had been carried on at Exeter Hall—the agitation against the Government education plan, and the agitation of his hon. Friend, the Member for the University of Oxford in favour of church extension? AH these came equally within the category of agitation as that against the Corn-laws, and he only regretted that the agitation on his side of the House for commercial reform had not been successful. The hon. Member for Shrewsbury said that the result o the appeal to the people had been, that the party of the right hon. Baronet had increased, while that of the noble Lord, the Secretary for the Colonies had diminished Now he contended that the result of the dissolution had been an increase in the number of anti-Corn-law Members, ant that many more hon. Gentlemen had been sent to that Parliament prepared to support repeal than had been returned to an; previous Parliament. All that they wanted to attain success was time and education. 286 [Hear, hear.] He repeated education, and the spreading such works as the valuable publication of the Rev. Dr. Chalmers, and the Rev. Baptist Noel on he subject of the Corn-laws throughout he community. If this was done on an extensive scale, he was satisfied that a feeling of enthusiasm against the Corn-laws (or, as they were most properly designated by the hon. Member for Stockport, the bread-tax) would be excited to so great an extent as the feeling against slavery. It was formerly said by the advocates for the continuance of slavery in the colonies, that that system was beneficial to the slaves themselves; so they were now seriously told that the laws which produced a scarcity of food were advantageous to the consumers. He was satisfied that the time was not distant when the agitation on the subject of the Corn-laws would be as great as that spread from Exeter-hall throughout the country for the abolition of slavery; and that a flame of enthusiasm would be excited throughout the land, such as would not be extinguished by the right hon. Baronet and the noble Lord opposite. He said, emphatically, they must be repealed. They were inconsistent with the first principles of justice, and therefore they must fall. The noble Lord, the Member for Liverpool must forgive him for making another allusion with reference to what had fallen from him respecting the proposed alteration of the sugar duties. The noble lord had referred to the Brazilian trade. Was he aware that the treaty with the Brazils was near coming to a conclusion? Under the present treaty, the Brazilian government only imposed a duty of 20 per cent, on the importation of our manufactures, while this country imposed a duty of 375 percent, on Brazilian sugar. Did the noble Lord recollect that a considerable portion of the public revenue of this country arose from sugar, and that the consumption per head, was not so great as it was forty years ago? Was he also aware that, in consequence of the large quantities of Brazilian sugar in bond at Liverpool, many persons who were accustomed to manufacture for the Brazilian market intended to cease to do so, as there was nothing for them to receive but sugar, and they could not afford to keep it in bond? At the present time the value of this sugar was 2d. a pound, while the protecting duty was 7d. a 287 pound: you thus prevent your merchants selling it here. The merchants are compelled to refine it in bond, and send it to the blacks in Jamaica, and to Italy and other places, and you will not let the population of this country derive any benefit from it. What advantage or good could possibly be gained by such a proceeding? If the cultivation of sugar altogether ceased in Jamaica, there would be no great disadvantage to the population there. At the same time he did not wish or desire to resort to any steps that would have that effect. But what possible reason could the noble Lord have for supporting a course which was injurious to the revenue, which deprived a large portion of the population of this country of a most important market for the sale of their produce, and also the people of the means of obtaining a necessary article at a moderate price? The noble Lord said that the population of the West-Indian islands were in a very strange condition in consequence of the emancipation of the slaves; but all that the noble Lord really showed was, that in consequence of the emancipation the cost of producing sugar had increased. He seemed to forget that the proposition of her Majesty's Ministers gave to the West-Indians a protecting duty much more than equivalent to the difference of the cost of producing sugar before and since emancicipation. He did not admit this, however, to be a sound reason for rejecting the proposition. In conclusion, he had only to thank the House for the patience with which they had listened to him.
§ Mr. Borthwick
would not follow the example of the hon. Gentleman, and of others on the same side of the House, in introducing merely speculative questions which could, in the situation in which parties stood, be attended with no practical result. The greater the importance of the questions which it had pleased her Majesty to call the attention of Parliament to, the more eventful the issues that depended on their decision, the more necessary was it that any discussion of them in that House should be followed by practical results, and not end merely in a display of field-day oratory. With great deference to the hon. Gentleman who last sat down, he should take leave to consider the question before the House not one concerning the sugar duties, timber duties, or the Corn-laws, or any other financial or fiscal measure, but the question of who 288 were the persons who should, in the name of her Majesty, propose these questions to the House with any chance of bringing them to a practical issue. Were they to grant a lengthened and full consideration then to those questions, the result would be, that the Government would propose them seriatim to the House, and afterwards should fail in carrying them out. He would not, then, be provoked by the able, though fallacious, arguments used on the other side to argue whether the distress which had been admitted to exist had anything to do with the Corn-laws or not, though he was prepared, when the time for discussion should come, to prove that no connection between them existed at all. He would not say whether these laws required revision, nor whether a sliding scale or a fixed duty were the better, but he was prepared to prove, that the protection itself had no more to do with the distress complained of than any proposition of Euclid, which hon. Gentlemen opposite might choose to demonstrate. The hon. and learned Member for Bath had said the other evening, that Ministers had grown unpopular, not because they advanced, but because they lagged towards reform principles, that they had become distasteful to the people in proportion as they receded from the ballot and the other extreme measures which he advocated. But the hon. and learned Gentleman admitted, that the subtraction taken from the Ministerial ranks had been added to the Conservative, and not to his section of the House. Again, the hon. and learned Gentleman admitted, that if credit was due to the Government for anything it was for their foreign policy and the adjustment of the great eastern question But was that a policy tending towards liberal opinions? How did it come to pass that the proudest of their triumphs was formed by treading in the footsteps of Pitt and Castlereagh; that, in fact, it was a Tory and not a Radical triumph? The question before the House appeared to him to be, not whether they should discuss the Corn-laws or not, but how they were to arrive at the discussion? The present Ministry were obstacles to that discussion; they must be removed before the subject could be fully and fairly dealt with. He was of opinion, that this country had a right to look to the House for a stable Government. For five years the 289 country had been burdened with a Ministry which, in the language of its own leader, was the worst of all possible Ministries, for it was a Ministry not having the power of carrying their own measures. With a feeble tottering Government, unable to carry its own measures, he said, not only that it was not indecent, but that it was the bounden duty of every hon. Member of the House to inform her Majesty of the actual state of things, in order that the country might have a Government which might be able to carry into effect its own designs. That was the real question before the House. As to the distress which was unfortunately so prevalent, it was owing to the conduct of the party opposite, who, instead of attending to practical matters, had been wrapped up in theoretical abstractions. Look at Spain and Portugal. There they had themselves lost a market for 14,000,000l. sterling of manufactures of this country. That was about the amount they used to take annually. How much did they take now? Hardly enough to pay the miserable legion, which had been left in so hopeless a state. Yet the Ministry had the hardihood, notwithstanding such facts as these, to come to the House and tell them that it was to questions of domestic economy, and not of general policy, that the prevalent distress was owing. With reference to Ireland, he expected, that whatever party governed her, even-handed justice, fearing none, fawning on none, mixing up no questions of theology with matters of politics, would be dealt to all alike. Whether the Romish priesthood in Ireland had been guilty of malversation he would not take upon himself to say; but, if they were guilty, let them be punished in their character as citizens and not as priests; they had erred as citizens, they ought to suffer as citizens. He could bear testimony to the zeal and fidelity with which the Roman Catholic priests in Spain discharged their duties, and to the great amount of good which they did; and he could only say, that if the conduct of the priests in Ireland was different, and they had prostituted their influence to political purposes, the Irish Roman Catholic Church was the only portion of the Roman Catholic body in which the power of the hierarchy was at so low an ebb as to allow of such conduct. He believed, that the right hon. Baronet would govern Ireland in the mode best 290 calculated to develope her resources, by securing the rights of property and establishing generally respect for the laws. On these grounds, he should vole for the amendment. He would vote for placing in the possession of power a Government which should combine the confidence of her Majesty with that of the people and the Parliament.
§ Mr. W. S. O'Brien
said, that the hon. Members who had moved the Address and the amendment both agreed that it was the duty of the House to give an answer to the propositions contained in her Majesty's gracious speech, but he would ask the hon. Gentlemen opposite whether there was any such answer in the amendment which had been proposed? No answer whatever had been given to the question of whether the country had sanctioned the course which her Majesty's Ministers had taken. Indeed he must say, that he had never witnessed so pitiful a line of conduct as that which had been pursued by the Conservative party for the last two or three months. He called on the right hon. Baronet, Sir R. Peel, and upon the hon. Member for the West Riding, to say whether they were prepared to sustain the principle of a general revision of our whole commercial tariff? The noble Viscount who had that night opened the debate had not offered a single suggestion on this head, and merely said that the present Government had not the confidence of the country. He ought, however, to bring some stronger proof before the House of this than was to be found in mere assertion. His complaint had been that the Whigs had not fulfilled the promises which were held out to the country by the Government of Lord Grey with regard to peace, retrenchment, and reform; but, in the very same breath, he was compelled to say, that they had given more reform than was agreeable to his own party. With respect, however, to the economy which it was urged had not been practised by the present Government, in was notorious that, session after session, they had been stimulated to undertake great expenses with regard to the navy by hon. Members of the Opposition. Again, with respect to their foreign policy, there was not one of the wars in which the Government had embarked the forces of the country—which hon. Gentlemen opposite had denounced—for even the former speech of the right hon. Baronet the Member for Dorchester (Sir J. Graham) on the subject of China, was no impeachment of 291 the policy of the war in that quarter, but merely an inculpation of the Foreign Secretary for not having sent out some despatches at an earlier period than he had done. As to the position of Mr. M'Leod, he confessed it did not appear to him that her Majesty's Government could have done otherwise than take the course which they had adopted. Whatever measures might be necessary for the protection of a British subject standing in such a position should have his most cordial support, whether they proceeded from the Government of the right hon. Baronet, or from an Administration composed of his opponents; but, whatever might be the result, he should still affirm that the topic was not one which ought to be made the subject of party discussion. The Government had also been charged with the abandonment of their original Irish Tithe Bill. It should however, be recollected, that on three several occasions they had endeavoured to carry that measure, and were on each occasion opposed by the gentlemen opposite; so that they, at least, ought not to reproach them with the abandonment of that measure. As an Irish Member, he would take that opportunity to express the gratitude of his country to the present Government for nearly the whole of their policy in the Government of that country. The present was the first Government that had made an approach towards governing Ireland upon the principles upon which alone she could now be governed, namely, that the people of that country, as far as regarded themselves, should be placed upon a perfectly equal footing; and that, as regarded the connection with England, the people of Ireland should be entitled to every right of citizenship with the people of England. He found that this principle had been carried out by the present Government in their executive appointments and in their legal appointments. To the present Government Ireland was indebted for the suppression of the Orange association. The present Government had attempted, and had, in fact, successfully attempted, to educate the Irish people. They had endeavoured to give Ireland equal justice, and they had shown their willingness to concede to Ireland the same municipal regulations that had been found so beneficial to England. They had also shown a disposition to extend the crippled franchise of the Irish people, and—the greatest blessing of all—they had conferred upon Ireland a Poor-law; and if it bad 292 not been for the opposition of the right hon. Baronet the Member for Tamworth the present Government would have given to Ireland a system of railroad communication, which would have done more to cement the two countries than any other measure that could be proposed. These acts entitled the present Government to the gratitude of the Irish nation. With regard to the Corn-laws, it should be recollected that 1,500,000 petitioned for a change; and representing, as he did, an agricultural district, he was prepared to agree to a measure which should prevent the price of corn rising so high as to produce suffering amongst the humbler classes. He trusted that the Government would not consider that they were dealing only with corn, timber, or sugar, but that they would revise the whole tariff of our commercial system. He considered that the Whig Government had done good service to the country, particularly by their measures of negro emancipation, general education, and municipal reform. If they had not been fiercely opposed they would have also passed an equitable measure on the subject of church rates. He saw in their colonial policy, too, the germ of a very extensive system of colonisation, and emigration upon a good principle was encouraged by them. There was the penny-postage, which he considered the greatest social blessing that could be conferred upon a people; and there was that most beneficial measure, the union of the Canadas. What had Gentlemen opposite to put in the scale against these measures? Their merits, or rather demerits, were more of a negative than of a positive character, and yet there were two measures for which they would doubtless claim credit. There was the bill of the right hon. Baronet for the' trial of controverted elections, which required to be almost altogether remodelled in the course of two years, and there was the bill of the noble Lord the Member for North Lancashire respecting the registration of voters in Ireland. Now, no man felt more strongly than he did the want of a registration bill, and the best proof of the want of it was the manner in which his hon. Friend the late Member for Waterford had been robbed of his seat, but that was no reason why they should endeavour to cripple a franchise which could at present barely be entitled to popular representation. If the Conservative party, when it came into power, would bring forward wise and liberal measures, they 293 would undoubtedly receive the support of those who advocated liberal principles. But they must not forget that they were, amenable to public opinion. If they also endeavoured to conciliate the Roman Catholics of Ireland, used every effort to encourage the industry of that country, and recognised the principle of perfect equality between the citizens of that part of the kingdom and of this, they would not fail to obtain the support of the Irish people. But if, on the contrary, they thrust into office those who were conspicuous for their vilification of the people of Ireland, and filched away from that people, under any pretence whatever, their scanty franchise, they must be prepared to struggle against a whole people, and in the name of thousands and thousands he would tell them to beware. He would not, however, follow up these subjects further on that occasion, as he was unwilling to indulge in expectations which might never be realised, or in fears which might prove to be unfounded. He would sit down, contenting himself with expressing his intention to give his vote in favour of the Address.
§ Colonel Sibthorp
expressed his hope that the day had now arrived when the hon. and right hon. Gentlemen, who had sat far too long on the opposite benches, were doomed to receive that retribution for their selfishness and political vices which they so richly deserved, and when they would be driven—nay, drummed—out of the House of Commons, to what tune the forms of the House would not permit him to mention. He hoped that the day had arrived when the right hon. Baronet below him, and those by whom he would be surrounded, would prevent that glandered body from any longer infecting the policy of this country. Happy, indeed, would it have been for them if they had had the political honesty to have resigned their places as the advisers of her Majesty long ago, for then they would not at least have seen themselves so contemptuously rejected as they had recently been by the people themselves, of whose support they had so vainly boasted. In the subtle Speech o Ministers, for it was their Speech, and not that of the Queen, the distresses of the people and the difficulties of the country were adverted to; but whatever evils might exist, he was confident, be they ever so great, that the tact and powerful mint of the right hon. Baronet, the Member for Tamworth, would be able to surmount them. He was well aware that the diffi- 294 culties alluded to in the Speech did exist but why were these borught forward at the time they were; the Corn-question, was introduced, he believed, in the Queen's Speech at the opening of Parliament on January 1841, but, save the motion on the part of Lord J. Russell, not called for consideration till the Budget at the eleventh hour, claptrap, and delusive for the people, but, then, he asked, by whom had they been created? Were they not brought about by the incompetency of the Government, and the manner in which they abused the power entrusted to them? What was the budget of the right hon. Gentleman, the Chancellor of the Exchequer, but claptrap, and could it be doubted that the cry of cheap bread, cheap sugar, and cheap timber, was raised at the eleventh hour merely in the hope that it would enable Ministers to hold offices which should never have been entrusted to them? Old birds, however, were not to be caught with chaff, and, although an endeavour had been made to delude and humbug the people, it had not only not succeeded, but signally failed. His conviction was, that the poor would never be benefited by the cry of cheap bread, and with respect to cheap timber, his belief was, that if the proposed reduction took place, it would not occasion a difference more than of 10s. in the building of a cottage or a small farmhouse of 90l. value. It was somewhat extraordinary that those who cried out most loudly for the abolition of slavery should be the first to propose its renewal; and no one, he thought, could doubt that such would be a consequence of cheap sugar in reference to the Government proposition. These, however, were matters of detail, and he would not further dwell upon them at the present moment. He could only compare the position of the Government to that of bankrupts, and when they produced their schedule, he should like to know where their assets would be found. The fact was, they had none, and the anxious creditors looked only to the right hon. Baronet, the Member for Tamworth, to find out the means of satisfying their demands. He rejoiced that the day had arrived when her Majesty's Ministers must be displaced. How were the last weeks of the late Parliament occupied? Why, in disposing of miscellaneous estimates, and estimates for civil contingencies; and did not these exhibit a list of as gross jobbing as could well be conceived? He did not blame the hon. Member for Bolton for the appointments which he had received, but 295 he most assuredly did the Government who had dared to give these grants: he thought it somewhat too much that Mr. Vizard should have 1,500l. a-year for the performance of duties which should be discharged by others. On the 4th of June last that House declared Ministers to be incompetent but how many appointments had they made since, and how much of the public money had they expended in outfits, or rigging out those to whom they had given places. What did the House think of the appointment of the late Attorney-General? Of course, he had a proper outfit, shirts, stockings, &c, and was to enjoy a salary; but these were points which he would take an opportunity of having ascertained, as well as the number of days, or rather hours, which he sat in his judicial capacity. Gross as was the Monteagle and other jobs, this was one of the grossest jobs he had ever heard of; but the Gazette furnished ample proofs of other jobs, and although enough had been done already, it was possible that more remained behind. He was very glad that the right hon. Baronet had frustrated the attempts which had been made to wrench from him his views, plans, and impressions as to how the Government should be conducted, though, perhaps, through kind and charitable feelings, he had already told them too much, and thanking the House for the attention with which they had heard him, he would only say, in conclusion, that he should cordially support the amendment, having no doubt that the result of its success would prove satisfactory to the people, and give peace and security to the country.
§ Mr. C. Powell
said, although it was true, as the noble Lord, the Member for Liverpool had stated, that the result of the elections, especially in Ireland, amounted to a verdict against the Government, yet he should vote on this occasion in opposition to that verdict. It had been industriously alleged, with a view of imposing on the agriculturists of both England and Ireland, that the policy of the Government would tend to their ruin, and would extinguish agriculture; but the convincing speech of the hon. Member for Stockport satisfied him that such would not be the result. His belief was, that at no distant day all vicious monopolies would be abolished, but at the same time so many varied interests had grown up with them, that he should prefer a gradual rather than a sudden transition from the con- 296 demned, and justly condemned, system of monopolists. He thought, that a fixed duty was preferable to a sliding scale, and while it would afford adequate protection to the agricultural interests, it would operate as a salutary warning to them with respect to the change which must inevitably take place. He should support the Address proposed by the hon. Member for Manchester, and for the reason that it held forth to the people, that they would not be the victims of abominable monopolies and unjust taxation.
§ Mr. E. Turner
commenced by referring to the violence of language used by some of the Tory party towards the Roman Catholic clergy of Ireland, which was calculated to irritate and inflame the people of that country. At a dinner given, at which the hon. Member for Kent was present, a noble Earl referring to the great Reform party to which he belonged, spoke of the right wing of the Infidels and Radicals, and the left of the popish followers of factious demagogues, headed by O'Connell, and supported by "the most infuriated and bigoted priesthood that ever cursed a country." That was language that might well create indignation in the minds of the Irish people, and alarm at the prospect of being governed by the party at whose public festivals it was used. With respect to the question more immediately before the House, although the object of the vote was the condemnation of the Government he could only say, that they possessed his entire confidence. He did not regard the result of the elections as a verdict against Ministers, especially when he considered how limited the constituencies were, and he felt persuaded that before long the country would see the necessity of recalling men to power, who, during their period of office, had effected so much good. They had greatly benefited the country by the reduction of postage; but, although that measure was carried on the distinct understanding, that the deficiency was to be made good by that House, no vote, however, on the subject had been called for; and he had no doubt that the hon. Gentlemen opposite would ultimately derive financial advantage from it. The hon. Gentlemen opposite were studiously silent as to the course they meant to pursue, but was it not due to the country that they should explain the nature of the policy they meant to adopt. In reference to the Corn-laws 297 much had been said respecting wages, and he had been at the pains of ascertaining the average rate of wages at different periods. In 1769 he found that the average rate of wages of the labourer was 5s. a week; but with that he was able to purchase twenty-three quartern loaves. The average rate of wages in 1792 was 9s. a week, and this enabled the labourer to buy fifteen quartern loaves, while, in 1841, although the average rate of wages was 10s. a week, he could only get with it ten quartern loaves. It, therefore, appeared, that the labourer at 5s. a week was a richer man than the labourer at 10s., and this was a fact which he thought could not be denied. He was persuaded, that the repeal of the Corn-laws would not affect the landed interest beyond ten per cent., because foreign wheat could not be imported at less than 60s. the quarter, whereas 56s. ought to be the standard price. For the sake of humanity and the peace of the country the landed interests should be prepared to make some sacrifice; and if the right hon. Baronet opposite did not alter the Corn-laws, it would be impossible for him to carry on the Government. But it was said, that this question had been brought forward in the last Session of the late Parliament for party purposes; but, so far from that being the case, did not the noble Lord, the Secretary for the Colonies, himself move a committee on the subject two years and a half ago? It might have been better to begin legislation in reference to the Corn-laws on a higher duty than 8s., and then to reduce it gradually; but the golden opportunity for such a course was now lost, and the people would demand as a right that which previously they would have received as a boon. Out of the 11,300,000 quarters of foreign corn which had been imported 3.900,000 paid only 1s. duty, and 2,800,000 a duty of 2s. 8d. the quarter. The average duty paid was 1s. 10d., and, with such a fact before them, what grounds had the farmers for alarm? He had never contended, that an alteration of the Corn-laws would give to the country what was understood by the cry of "cheap bread." He was perfectly satisfied that it would not, but what it would give was regular supplies and the means of procuring bread to those who wanted it. It mattered little what was the amount of wages if they were insufficient to enable the labourer to obtain bread, and the land- 298 lords should bear in mind, that if they created paupers they would have to support them through the medium of the Poor-laws. He thought it unwise that foreign corn should not be admitted, until the home produce had reached famine price, and this was proved by the fact, that in England the amount of revenue produced from the importation of foreign corn did not exceed 14,900l. pounds in a year. The suffering people of this country were entitled to more consideration than they received; but he hoped the lime was not far distant when their condition would be considered with a view to its amelioration. He trusted, that whoever might be in power would be attentive to the great interests of the country; but that, in particular, their eyes should not be closed to the sufferings of the working classes.
§ Mr. Escott
said, that he would state as briefly and as distinctly as he could, the reasons which had induced him, as a solemn duty, to give his vote in favour of the amended Address. Before he stated these reasons, however, he would refer to some of the arguments which had fallen from a right hon. Member, who, as appeared to him, had cautiously avoided any allusion to the question the House was called upon to decide. He alluded particularly to the speech of the President of the Board of Trade, who had entered into a discussion of the corn trade, and the Corn-law averages, but had not stated one word of justification of himself and the Ministers of the Crown exercising the functions of a Ministry in defiance of both Houses of Parliament. The right hon. Gentleman had alluded to the budget, which had been rejected both by Parliament and the country; and he stated some of the reasons why that budget was introduced. It did seem a most extraordinary circumstance, that at the close of the Session an Administration, which was admitted to have lost the confidence of Parliament, had introduced a budget which went, in the opinion of the House, and of the property, wealth, intelligence, and, he would add, the population of the country, to attack our ships, our colonies, our commerce, and our agriculture. But the right hon. Gentleman did state some of the reasons why that budget had been introduced; and one of those reasons was, hon. Members on his side of the House had been in 299 the habit of coming to the Ministry and saying that something of the kind ought to be done; it was not the pressure from without, but the pressure from within. The hon. Member for Manchester was one of the individuals to whom the right hon. President of the Board of Trade had alluded. That hon. Member had stated that the price of cotton was down to 5s. 9d. and therefore it was necessary to reduce the price of corn; but the question was not between the conflicting interests o cotton and corn, nor yet between the conflicting interests, if conflicting they could be called, of agriculture and commerce, but whether Parliament ought to deliberate at all upon such a question while the Administration held office in defiance of Parliament, and therefore in defiance of the constitution. The hon. Member for Bath had stated his reasons for voting in favour of the original Address; but the hon. Member for Bath stood in a very different position from the Members of an Administration which had been condemned by Parliament. The hon. Member for Bath was a man of great ability, who had raised himself by the force of his talents to be the representative of a great city. His speech was an admirable example of independence of mind, exercised in defence of principles which, if attempted to be carried into execution, would meet that defeat which must necessarily attend all attempts to carry on a monarchial government upon democratical and revolutionary principles. The Member for Bath had told the right hon. Baronet the Member for Tamworth, that he was wrong, and that the people of England who were opposed to him were right. What was this but the exploded fallacy of "What do you mean by the people of England?" The hon. Member for Bath, however, admitted that the Whigs were against him, that the Tories were against him, and that the electors of the country, who had returned a Conservative majority to Parliament, were against him. What, were not these the very parties who constituted the people of England? How, then, could the people of England be considered favourable to the views which the hon. Member for Bath entertained? Some observations had been made on a subject which had caused him considerable pain—the subject of the New Poor-law. It was asserted that Members on his side of the House had made exciting speeches on that sub- 300 ject during the last election with the view of influencing the votes of electors. Now, if the hon. Member for Bath meant by that assertion that any one Member on the Opposition side of the House had to gain a single vote stated any opinion on the hustings which he was not prepared to maintain in that House, then he would agree that the epithets "base" and "sordid," which the hon. Member for Bath had used, were not misapplied to that individual. But he thought that before such an accusation was made against hon. Members on his side of the House, the hon. Member who made that accusation ought to have considered that other hon. Members were as much entitled to pronounce an opinion in favour of an amendment of the Poor-law as he was to pronounce one in favour of the unreformed Poor-law. It was wrong, therefore, in the ion. Member to call the agriculturist interest the starvers of the poor. The hon. Member for Bolton had alluded to the distress existing in various parts of the country. He bad, however, dealt in no unfair insinuations against Members on that side of the House; but had admitted that they were ready to relieve the distress of the poor. But, he must say, that when the statement of that hon. Gentleman was followed up by another, to the effect that this distress was owing to the present system of Corn-laws, and when he knew that it was impossible, according to the forms of the House, to discuss the question of the Corn-laws during the present debate, whatever credit he might give the hon. Gentleman for bringing these cases forward, still, he repeated, he must say, that his doing so was useless so far as regarded the alleviation of that distress, until the House could meet the inquiry fairly, whether the Corn-laws were, or were not, the cause of that distress. The hon. Member for Stockport had made a speech, to which he (Mr. Escott) had listened with very different feelings, because that hon. Gentleman appeared to be actuated by a feeling of implacable dislike to the agricultural interest of England. The hon. Member appeared in that House, he would not say as the delegate, but having some connexion with an extraordinary meeting called a conference, or synod, or something of the kind, at Manchester; it was not a Parliamentum indoctum, but a Parliamentum theologicum—a meeting of the ministers of religion to argue the Corn- 301 laws, and to prove by the authority of Scripture that the present system of Corn-laws was an instrument for oppressing and starving the poor. He did not object to ministers of religion meeting to discuss matters of a political nature; but were these the same men and the same party that denounced the ministers of the established Church for meddling with political questions? Were these the men who said it was the duty of the ministers of religion to mind their flocks and to confine themselves to their spiritual avocations? He knew not whether this were the case or not, but this he did know, that there were many excellent and good men among the Dissenters, and that there were many excellent and good men in the Church of England, who thought it their duty to take a part in political questions. They might be right, or they might be wrong; but they were not good men, whether Churchmen or Dissenters, who endeavoured to throw upon their political opponents the odium of the accusation of being starvers of the poor. Peace and charily were good things, wherever they came from, but cant and hypocrisy were bad things, whether they appeared clothed in lawn and fine linen, or whether they stood forth unattired and unadorned before the disgusted eyes of men. The question before the House was not the policy or impolicy of the Corn-laws, but whether Ministers had a right to come down to that House and recommend, as from her Majesty, measures on which there was a great difference of opinion in that House, after they had frankly admitted that the voice of the country decidedly condemned them. The question was one of great importance. What was the doctrine of the responsibility of Ministers? To whom were Ministers responsible, if not to the House of Commons. What had Ministers now done? They had put the Sovereign, in an adverse position to the people, and to the representatives of the people in Parliament. Ministers admitted that the people had sent to Parliament a majority against them; they admitted that their fate was sealed. Why, then, did they place their Sovereign in her present painful position? Why had they made her do that which had not been done by any Sovereign for the last 200 years? Why, had they compelled the House to come to a vote which they admitted to be extra- 302 ordinary and unprecedented?—Because their conduct was extraordinary and unprecedented. It was indeed, a most extraordinary proceeding, but the question for the consideration of the House, was, whether or not the rights of the people should be abandoned—whether or not that House should succumb to the Ministers of the Crown? The question was, whether the voice of the people should be heard everywhere but in Parliament. He did not know how Ministers were emboldened to pursue the course they had adopted. It must have arisen from the extraordinary lenity and forbearance with which they had been treated by both Houses of Parliament during the last two years, and which he had often thought Parliament ought not to have exercised towards them. But, perhaps, after all, a violent opposition was best avoided — moderation was the best course—and at no period probably more so than at the late election; and of this he was more than ever convinced—that the course which had been followed during the last two years had put the right hon. Baronet the Member for Tamworth in the position of leader of the constitutional party in this country, and soon, he might say, of the constitutional Government. If any hon. Gentleman attempted to defend the conduct of Ministers, he could do so en the ground selected by the hon. Member for Bath. That hon. Gentleman said, he disliked both parties; he disliked the measures of the Whigs, but he said that he was obliged to take them, because he disliked the Tories more. How could any hon. Member who had given his support to the Reform Bill defend the conduct of Ministers who held office in defiance of Parliament, and in defiance of the constituencies of this country? He thought the noble Lord the Secretary for the Colonies was of all men in England the man who would have avoided so unconstitutional a course. Though he did not concur in some of the opinions contained in the noble Lord's writings, he did agree with him as to what he had written respecting the predominance of Parliament. When he went further, and looked to the noble Lord's speeches in Parliament, he found the noble Lord a stanch defender of the privileges of Parliament in that House. But if he were to go still further, and were to be desirous of finding an example of an individual trampling on the rights 303 both of Parliament and of the people, he would not consult the noble Lord's books or speeches, but he would consult the noble Lord's acts. He was very reluctant to allude in his presence to the right hon. Member for Tamworth, but he hoped that his right hon. Friend would excuse him, if he now stated why his right hon. Friend was the man chosen by the people to conduct their business in Parliament, and to be, in one word, the Prime Minister of this country. The difference between the noble Lord and the right hon. Baronet was this: that while both made the same profession of regard for constitutional principles, the right hon. Member for Tamworth showed his attachment to those principles by his acts rather than by his professions; while the noble Lord the Secretary for the Colonies made professions which he falsified, and promises which he never kept. He believed the main ground of the present popularity of the right hon. Baronet the Member for Tamworth, was, that he had never promised impossibilities to the people. That was a popularity which would not wane from year to year, or from Parliament to Parliament, but which would increase in strength and would become greater in stature and would be more enduring in proportion as the people found themselves deceived by the empty professions of the opposite party. The people, like the hon. Member for Bath (Mr. Roebuck), estimated the character of the two great leaders by their conduct, but they came to a very different conclusion to that at which the hon. Member for Bath had arrived. The people when they had the choice had preferred men who made no professions, and therefore had not deceived them, and rejected those who made promises and never kept them. The hon. Member for Bath had said, that all the people cared about, was, what had been called a cheap budget. Now, on that point he could speak from his own experience. He had seen the people of England laugh at the exhibition of "the big loaf and the little loaf," as an absurd attempt to deceive and cajole them. He hoped that he should not be considered as intruding unfairly on the attention of the House, while he related an incident which had occurred during the last election in the city which he had now the honour to represent. They had conducted the election quietly enough up to a certain point, when one of his 304 friends came and said to him, "I am afraid that there will be a row after all. Our opponents have got some big loaves and some little loaves, and are parading them up and down the town to make the people against you." He followed up his statement by saying, "I understand also, that the Chancellor of the Exchequer is coming down this evening to canvass the town against you." He had said to his friend, "I give as much credit to one of your statements as I do to the other. I do not believe, that the exhibition of the big loaves and the little loaves will get up any excitement against us, and I do not fancy that the influence of the Chancellor of the Exchequer, now that his party are shorn of its power, will be of any injury to our party, even if it should be exercised against us." The result proved, that he was right in his anticipations. The Chancellor of the Exchequer was not able to impede his election, and his opponents, after an exhibition of five or six hours, withdrew their big loaves and their little loaves from public sight. So much were they ashamed of their exhibition, that one of their leading party subsequently said to him," I am sorry that our friends have introduced any such subject of agitation;" on which he replied, "You took them away, because they did not produce the agitation which you expected." He hoped, that if at some future period they should have, as most probably they would have, a discussion on the Corn-laws, it would be conducted without that party feeling and acrimony which had distinguished so many of the speeches which had been made during the present debate on the other side of the House. It was most unjust, and he thought it was not necessary, to inflame the public mind by repeatedly making the statement, that the Corn-laws were the cause of the starvation of the poor, and that the landlords of England kept up their rents for their own private benefit, reckless of the misery which they inflicted on other members of the community. Commerce and agriculture must flourish or fall together. He believed that many of the evils, and much of the distress which existed in the country at the present moment, though not caused, had been greatly aggravated, by the course which Ministers had pursued, and he trusted under a different Administration those evils would soon be rectified.
§ The Chancellor of the Exchequer
said, the hon. and learned Gentleman who last spoke had commenced his speech with the intimation that he was about to enlighten the House as to what the real subject before them was, but he must confess, that, although he had listened with all possible attention to the hon. and learned Gentleman, he had derived but little information from what be had addressed to the House. Something of novelty, indeed, had undoubtedly characterised the speech of the hon. and learned Gentleman. The House must have felt a little astonishment at learning, or hearing from the hon. and learned Gentleman, that they had no right, that they might not dare to discuss—that, according to the constitution, it was impossible for them to discuss—the question of the Corn-laws on the present occasion. Why, the appeal had been made precisely on this question—the feeling of the country, the sentiments of the country had, from one extremity to the other, re-echoed with the discussion on this question. Hon. Gentlemen opposite told the House, that they came there in a body, or at least body, to represent to the House and to the Sovereign the result of this; and yet, on the very first discussion in that House, when her Majesty, in her Speech from the Throne—in the speech of the Ministry, which her Majesty adopted, placed this question distinctly before them, they, for the first time, had had it stated to them as a parliamentary doctrine, that the House had no right to enter upon the discussion of the corn question. He must confess he thought the hon. and learned Gentleman had entirely failed in making out his point; he had, indeed, been utterly surprised at the view the hon. and learned Gentleman had taken; and he believed that, before the end of his speech, the hon. and learned Gentleman himself began to doubt as to his own theory, for, though he argued in the outset that the House could not now pretend to a right to discuss this question, the hon. and learned Gentleman himself could not avoid going into little anecdotes about his election experience, in election squibs of little loaves and big loaves. It had been argued that the simple question before the House was, whether the Government now in power had the confidence of the country, and he did not complain at all of the course which hon. Gentlemen opposite had taken on this occasion; he thought they had a perfect right, at the earliest opportunity, 306 and he further thought it the duty of the Government to afford them the opportunity —he thought they had a perfect right, at the earliest opportunity, to bring the question of who were to govern this country to a practical conclusion. Whether or no it was expedient or proper to do this in the way which hon. Gentlemen opposite had determined on; whether or no it was advisable to follow out that system of entire silence with respect to all the great questions before the public—those great questions which he believed for the first time in Parliamentary history, had become identified with a large and important party in the state—was quite another question, on which he (the Chancellor of the Exchequer) entertained a strong opinion. He believed thoroughly, that the mysticism in which the right hon. Baronet, and hon. Gentlemen opposite, had chosen to involve the course of their future policy in reference to those great questions, was neither consistent with real wisdom, nor, ultimately, with good policy. He thought that the party who were candidates for power ought frankly and openly to lay before the country, the course which, in their opinion, ought to be pursued. But however this might be, whether or not it was proposed entirely to omit the entire consideration of these great questions — whether it was proposed to act the play of Hamlet, omitting the part of Hamlet, whatever course the hon. Gentlemen who moved and seconded, and had hitherto supported, the amendment, might approve of, he thought that the House, and that the country, must have been somewhat surprised when they found that when the Gentlemen who opened the debate brought forward these charges against the present Government, the leaders of the great party who backed them persevered in their system of entire silence, even on those very questions which they themselves had brought forward as charges elsewhere against the Government, and which they themselves had elsewhere selected as subjects for discussion. The hon. Gentleman opposite had laid three distinct counts against the Government, fairly admitting that he was bound to prove his case, that he was bound to show satisfactory grounds why the present Government was not entitled to the confidence of the country. The hon. Gentleman who moved the amendment, and moved it very ably, was followed by a noble Lord, who gave great promise of eminence in his future 307 parliamentary career. But after these Gentlemen had announced their opinions, one would have expected that some of the great leaders of the hon. Gentlemen's party, some of those who had been accustomed to enter into these discussions, some of those who filled a great space in the public eye, in whom the Conservative party had great confidence—that some of those, at any rate, would have given the Ministry an opportunity of clearly understanding the grounds on which they were accused, and of bringing forward their defence as applied to those grounds. In the absence of charges from the leaders of the party he must take up the charges as they had been made by the hon. Gentleman who opened the debate. That hon. Gentleman stated, that the main ground on which he considered the Government had forfeited the confidence of the country, was in the professions of Earl Grey, which he sought to show they had entirely departed from. Now, in reference to these charges, so brought, he saw two Gentlemen opposite whom he should beg to put into the criminals' box in company with the present Ministry. The three principles of Earl Grey, to which the hon. Gentleman referred, were peace, reform, and economy. In the first place, as to the preservation of peace, the hon. Gentleman had frankly admitted that, in his consideration of the interruptions of peace which had taken place during the administration of the present Government, he entirely discarded the question of right or wrong; that whether the grounds of war were justifiable or no, was of no consequence with him. The first little war which the hon. Gentleman was pleased to select was that at Antwerp. He would beg to ask where were his noble and right horn Friends opposite (Lord Stanley and Sir James Graham) on that occasion? Were those noble and right hon. Gentlemen prepared to submit to their share in the indictment, or were the other Ministers alone to be found guilty of that in which those Gentlemen had taken a full share? He, at that time a very humble individual in the Administration, had respectfully followed in the traces of those two great men, in supporting the war which had been thus anathematised. And where were the same two Gentlemen in the next war which occurred? If the present Government was to forfeit the confidence of the country by reason of these two wars, did the hon. mover of the amendment mean to say that he was prepared to transfer his confidence to 308 two Gentlemen who had participated in those two wars? As to the pledge of Earl Grey's Government, first Came the question of Reform. Upon this question the hon. Gentleman seemed to admit, that Government had redeemed its pledges, but he justified this admission by stating, that he believed they had carried out their pledges as to Parliamentary and Municipal Reform, merely because they thought these would conduce to the advancement of their parliamentary and municipal interest in the country; he expressed his conviction that they had been actuated by motives of the meanest description, and in no degree by any reference to the real interests of the country. Now, if a charge against the present Government was to be made upon these questions, the two Gentlemen opposite must certainly be included in it; for as to Parliamentary Reform, they were quite as much parties to it as any Gentleman on the Ministerial side of the House; and as to municipal reform, though it was quite true they were not in the Ministry at the time of the formation of the bill, in all the preliminary steps, in the address which was moved by the right hon. Gentleman opposite whom they now followed, the noble Lord and the right hon. Baronet were as much committed as any Gentleman on the Ministerial side of the House. [Hear, hear.] The noble Lord said "hear, hear," but were the Ministers to lose the confidence of the country, were they to be dismissed, were they to be charged with the meanest motives, and was the hon. mover of the amendment at the same moment sitting quietly at the side of the two Gentlemen who had thus taken their share in the proceedings so condemned, to invest these same Gentlemen with the confidence which he said, their former colleagues were not worthy of, because they also had participated in the measures which these two Gentlemen had taken a part in? He now came to the question of economy; and here he might be permitted to state some few facts and figures which he thought would bring the real state of things more clearly before the House than the extraordinary financial details which from different quarters had so amazed him. The noble Lord who seconded the amendment talked much about the reckless and profligate expenditure of the Government. These were mere phrases, which it was very easy to utter. Now he, on the other hand, had had some returns framed, with a view of as fairly as possible bringing some of these 309 questions before the House; and he should first take the liberty of calling the attention of the House to some returns which he believed they had all received. The first referred to the public income and expenditure from 1832 to 1840. In that return he had taken the liberty of showing the whole of the expenditure in every item, so that this return would give the fullest and truest view of the matter. In the five years of Government preceding the year 1830 the average expenditure per annum was 54,999,000l., including every item. The average expenditure of the Whig Government since the return of Lord Melbourne, in 1835, was 52,148,000l.; so that the average of the expenditure of five years of the present Government, as compared with five years of the Government of the right hon. Baronet was less by the annual sum of 2,450,000l. He was not making this comparison with the view of accusing the former Government of having spent more than was necessary for the purposes of the country; he was not charging them with reckless and profligate expenditure, but he made the comparison in defence of a Government which had been charged with reckless and profligate expenditure. He might perhaps be told, "Yes, this is all very well; but you know that the Duke of Wellington's Government only lasted three years, and you should compare your averages with these three years." He admitted quite readily that the right hon. Gentleman opposite had had it in his power, and had availed himself of the opportunity, to reduce the expenditure of the country considerably, and this admission he had frequently made, for it had not been his habit to charge the right hon. Baronet with reckless and profligate expenditure. Let him, then, make the comparison with reference to these three years; the average expenditure of the three years before 1830 was 53,462,000l. per annum; during the five years of Lord Melbourne's administration following 1835, the expenditure was 52,148,000l., so that the saving, as compared with the three years referred to was 1,313,000l. per annum. Again, he would compare the annual expenditure of the Duke of Wellington with the year just past, a year of very expensive character, in which innumerable expenses had to he met, arising out of the affairs of Canada, China, and the Levant, and even in this year, the average expenditure of the year 1840 was less than that of the three years of the Duke of Wellington by 18,000l. He 310 would now turn to another subject which had been much touched upon in the House, and still more so on the hustings— the national debt. It should not, in fairness, be forgotten that the nation had had under the present Government thrown upon it the heavy additional burden of twenty millions, as the compensation to the West-India proprietors; he did not mean to refer to this as to a subject of regret, but he meant to say, that it was fair, when they came to make these comparisons, that they should make some allowance for the debt which had been thus thrown on the nation for a great, a humane, a noble object. Now how did the debt stand if it was taken in this way? In 1831, when the Whig Government came into office, the whole debt including every item, was 838,549,000l. On the 5th January, 1841, including all the previous items, and, in addition, the twenty millions of West-India compensation, there was no increase of the public debt; on the contrary, there was a decrease of one million. But, supposing, the West-India loan had not been Contracted, suppose they had been left to the advantage of the comparison as it would otherwise have stood, how then would the account have appeared? In 1831 the debt was 838,549,000l.; in 1841, exclusive of the twenty millions, it was 815,957,000l., making a reduction, had there been no twenty millions loan, of twenty-two millions in round numbers. Between 1835, and 1841, supposing there had been no twenty millions loan, there would have been a reduction of thirteen millions of debt, but thisofcoursehadbeenmorethancounteracted by the West-India loan. He now came to a point upon which he felt considerable interest; a statement had been circulated, that the rights and securities of the holders of money in the savings' banks, had been jeopardised by him. Now, the question of these banks had been the subject of discussion in the same way long before he ever came into office; but whatever might be thought of the application to these banks, in a political point of view, he thought both sides of the House would concur with him in stating that there was nothing to give the holders of money in these banks any occasion to fear for their securities. In point of fact, there were the same guarantees, the same Exchequer bills, the same Consolidated fund, the same good faith of Parliament applicable to these as to all other funds; and, if an idea to the contrary still prevailed, he 311 was sure that the right hon. Member for Cambridge, if that right hon. Gentleman did him the honour to reply to him on this occasion, would corroborate him in the statement, that the securities of savings banks were not affected. If the House looked back to the course of financial history, they would find, that up to the appointment of the finance committee, the admitted policy of finance was this, that Parliament was bound to lay aside a sinking fund of five millions a year towards the reduction of the national debt. In 1827 the finance committee reported, that, in the first place, however this theory might have been kept up to blind the eye of the public, it was quite clear that this surplus had not been kept up; and that, in point of fact, in the year 1826, instead of a sinking fund of five millions being laid by, there was an actual deficit of 645,000l., and in 1827 a deficit of 826,000l. The finance committee added, that though five millions was too large a sum to be kept up as a sinking fund, yet it recommended that an annual surplus of three millions should be kept up for the extinction of the national debt, a recommendation which had turned out to be almost as much a dead letter as the former. From 1830 to the present time, the policy of Lord Althorp had been pursued, and that policy was simply this: that the attempt by a heavy sinking fund to make an impression on the debt was not the best mode of relieving the people; that it was a much wiser course to levy taxes as low as possible; to leave only that surplus which was absolutely necessary for security, and, by increasing the productive powers of the country, to enable the country to bear its fixed duties better, and thus better to bear the burden of the debt than if it were nominally lessened. This was the policy of Lord Althorp, and if he was mistaken in describing it, the two gentlemen opposite, who were parties to that policy, could correct him. The natural result of this system, of course, was, that in any case of emergency requiring extraordinary outlay, the Government would be bound to call upon the country for additional means to meet the occasion. Instances of this kind occurred under a former Government in the case of the expedition to Portugal, and more lately in the case of Canada, China, and Syria; other expeditions were required which it would be impossible to provide for without additional means granted for the purpose. This was the policy which 312 her Majesty's Ministers had followed, and he thought it a very good one. He would beg the House just to look at the practical results exhibited during the last ten years of this system of finance, and in doing so be would beg again to refer to the paper which he held in his hand, and which he thought a very useful one. He found that in 1831. the revenue was 51,000,000l. and odd. Since that period, under the administration of Lord Spencer and Lord Monteagle, up to the date of the alteration in the Post-office department, six millions of taxation had been taken off, and what had been the result? Why, that the revenue had increased in 1839 to 51,927,000l. In fact, although taxation had been taken off to the extent of six millions, the revenue instead of falling off had actually increased. Amongst other taxes which had been taken off was that upon paper; and upon this subject he recollected that a noble Lord, whom he saw opposite, was the very party who stood up, and called upon his noble Friend, Lord Monteagle, to take off this item of taxation. Then, with respect to the reduction on the stamp duties on newspapers. When this alteration was proposed, the objections raised against it was not upon the principle that taxation should not be taken off, but that it would be preferable to take off the duty on soap: and a discussion was raised as to the relative importance of "cheap soap" and "cheap knowledge." He now came to the question of the Post-office. He had always heard, and he now heard when this subject was mentioned, jeers from the other side of the House, as if this new Post-office system had already proved an entire failure, and was founded upon a fallacy. He might be allowed to say, that this was not the tone which was used when this measure was under discussion in this House. He recollected that the right hon. Baronet, the Member for Tamworth, stated on that occasion, that he admitted the great benefit which would result from a reduction of this tax, that he would not attempt to underrate the importance of the advantages which might be expected from it; but the right hon. Baronet added that, at the same time that this reduction was made, provision should be made by the addition of equivalent taxes, to meet the necessities of the state, and concluded by declaring, that if that was done he should be prepared to support the proposition. The question, therefore, was not as to the propriety of taking off taxes, but whether equivalent taxation 313 should be imposed at the same moment, to make up any deficiency which might result from it. Lord Monteagle was opposed to this; he recommended that time should be allowed to try the experiment and ascertain what addition, if any, of taxation, would be required before they imposed any; and that this would be the business of a future session. Was there any pretence to say, that the promise and pledge of Lord Monteagle on this subject had not been fairly and completely taken upon themselves by the parties who had succeeded him in office? Had there been any backwardness or hesitation to impose the additional taxes which the case required? He must say, that he thought that the attacks which had been so often repeated by gentlemen on this subject showed that they were rather apt to forget the real state of the question; and in some instances their own votes in respect to it. He now came to say a few words in reference to that final measure which he had the honour of proposing to the House in the last Session of Parliament. Hon. Gentlemen opposite seemed to be determined not to discuss this question just now. For his own part, indeed, he must say, that he felt no very strong inclination to go over again all the grounds which had been so often urged on this question; but this he would say, that if hon. Gentlemen opposite would not meet them on the subject now, the time would come when they must meet it. If all was mystery at present, the time would come when the veil of darkness would be drawn aside, and this threatening mountain bring forth its ridiculus mus. And he must say, he should be very much surprised if some of the future measures of the Government which would follow the present one, should not exhibit some little assimilation to those which her Majesty's Ministers had themselves endeavoured to carry. But although they were told, that here they had no right to discuss questions of this kind, that the question now was only one of confidence or no confidence, there were places to which this prohibition did not extend, and where the budget, though interdicted here, was discussed with warmth and interest. With respect to one of the points of this budget, he had seen a statement which he must say, had surprised him not a little. It was there said, that the proposed alteration in the Corn-laws would be of no value to the consumer, that it would prove a delusion in respect to revenue, and ut- 314 terly useless to trade and commerce; and, in short, that it was something like madness in any one to make such a proposition-Now, if the party who made this declaration happened to have formerly been a member of a cabinet, which had brought forward a similar proposition—being himself a person who, from his position, had had very great experience in financial measures; more, if the person who made this declaration had himself been a party in bringing forward a similar financial delusion—a measure which would be of no advantage either to trade or to the revenue; if he was one who knowingly and wittingly assented to this delusion, when brought forward in this House by Lord Spencer—he must say, that they might talk of clinging to office, and shifting right about face, and so forth; but he was surprised that any statesman in this country could, under any circumstances, have permitted himself so to assist in proposing a measure of which he entertained such an opinion. But such a person having been a party at the time to the proposition of such a measure, having given his testimony to the estimate that it would yield so many hundreds of revenue to the Chancellor of the Exchequer, and prove of great benefit to the trading interests,—if that person now turned round on him, and charged him with an offence for bringing forward the very same measure, he must say, that he did not think such a person's opinion in financial matters could be held entitled to very great weight. Having detained the House so long, he would say but a very few words, before he sat down, in. reference to the great question of the Corn-laws. This was a question which ought not to be viewed simply and barely as one of financial interest. No doubt the importance of the subject, and the magnitude of its bearings were such, that it was impossible for any Chancellor of the Exchequer to look at any question of finance without the Corn-laws coming in as an ingredient in the matter, or to entertain any financial scheme, without first inquiring what was the state of the harvest, and what were the people's abilities for consumption. If they looked at the question in this light, therefore, it was certainly a question of revenue; but if they then turned to the other wide and important bearings of the subject, the question of revenue sunk into comparative insignificance. He should not, however, enter further upon the subject at present, for 315 he apprehended that they would, before long, have ample opportunities of doing so. In expressing his dislike to the present Corn-laws, he was quite prepared to admit that there was no reason to charge those who had been the means of passing them with any intention to impose hardships upon any particular class of persons. Their great object was, to ensure something like a fixed and level price of corn; but from the experience of the last five years, it was but too evident that in that object they had been utterly disappointed; and they had learned at least this lesson from that experience—a lesson very difficult for men to learn—that the less they attempted to cocker up and interfere with matters of trade the better. He saw opposite to him a powerful party now on the threshold of office,and when they did come into power, he would entreat them to give their immediate consideration to this subject, with a view to arriving at some settlement of it which might be lasting and advantageous to the country. He would intreat the landed interests, if they saw that the question, however they might struggle to resist it, must inevitably be settled at last by some revision of duties, and some measure which, in reality if not in name, should establish a fixed duty—he would earnestly entreat them, if they foresaw this, to be wise in time, and whilst they were powerful, to exercise their power in a way to lead to an amicable adjustment of this great question. If they did not, they would be planting in the vitals of the country a rancorous wound; one of the most fatal, he feared, which had ever been inflicted upon it.
§ Mr. Goulburn
said, it had not been his intention to offer any observations to the House on the question now before it, because the question really before the House was of so simple and plain a character—was so thoroughly understood by the country and the House, that it could require no additional development, and also from a feeling for the right hon. Gentlemen opposite, presuming that they participated in the anxiety which hon. Members must feel, and which the President of the Board of Trade had expressed—that the decision on the fate of the Government should not be delayed. It was for these reasons that he had intended to confine himself to a silent vote on this occasion. But he was sure that the House would feel that the allusions which had been made by the right hon. Gentleman who had just sat down to the financial transactions of the country during 316 the period of the last ten years, and after the part which he had borne in those transactions—that it would not be just to those who had not paid much attention to statements of this kind, not at once to state the reason why his views on these questions of finance were of a different character; and he thought he should fail greatly if he did not convince the House that the statements of the right hon. Gentleman could not be possibly justified by facts. He would then, pass at once to what was of a more financial character in the speech of the right hon. Gentleman. He (Mr. Goulburn) would merely allude in passing to what had fallen from him on the budget which was disposed of in the last Session of Parliament, and on which the right hon. Gentleman had made some passing observations; and the first remark which he should make was this, that though the prominent feature of that budget was an alteration of the sugar duties—although they had contested that point with the right hon. Gentleman—although that right hon. Gentleman had maintained that a reduction of the duty on sugar was necessary, and that the supply of sugar would in future be so limited, as to render it necessary to call in aid the produce of slave countries, and though this argument had been distinctly met on that (the Conservative) side of the House by contradictions, the right hon. Gentleman had carefully avoided saying one word on that part of his budget which was, in point of argument, the most pressed on him in point of principle the most important, and in point of revenue, the most obvious. Why had there been this silence on the present occasion? The fact was simply this, that every prediction which had been made on that (the Conservative) side of the House had been amply verified by the facts that had since occurred. The right hon. Gentleman knew as well as he (Mr. Goulburn) did, that the supplies of sugar from the East and West Indies had, during the three months which had elapsed since the discussion on this question, more than exceeded the imports during the corresponding period last year, and had exceeded the anticipations of the House that the consumption of the country had risen to a point that, if during the remaining nine months of the financial year it went on in the same ratio as it had done since the 5th of last May, it would be equal to the greatest consumption of that commodity that had ever occurred. The right hon. Gentleman the President of the Board 317 of Trade, had alluded to the accounts of sugar from January to June last, and from the return of those six months which showed a deficiency of supply in that period, had attempted to support the argument which he had used on the last occasion. But, thinking that there was something rather suspicious in his not alluding to the subsequent returns, he (Mr. Goulburn) had availed himself of the information which it was in the power of the Members of that House to obtain, and he was now in a situation to declare that the consumption of the three months ending the 5th of August of the present year exceeded the consumption of the same period last year; and, if it proceeded during the remaining nine months at the rate at which it had gone on, and there was ground for believing it would, as the price was so much reduced, the consumption would be greater than in any former year. So much for the omission by the right hon. Gentleman of the prominent subject of the budget. But the right hon. Gentleman had next thought fit to touch on the subject of timber, and this with reference to observations made not in that House, but in another place; in that place, observations had been made, which the right hon. Gentleman said were erroneous, and he mustexpress his surprise, that, having been made in the presence of the first financial officer of the Crown, in the hearing of the first Lord of the Treasury, that noble Lord did not check the error and prevent the misstatement going abroad. He knew the accuracy of the person from whom the sentiments adverted to by the right hon. Gentleman were supposed to have proceeded, and he knew the acuteness of that Lord of the Treasury before whom this statement had been made; and not having the statement on either side by him, he thought it was not too much to suppose, that—where one party was acknowledged to be able and cognizant of the facts no less than the other, the statement which it was now endeavoured to contradiet in the absence of the party who made them, could not be contradicted in his presence. But as the right hon. Gentleman had broached this Subject, he might be permitted to call the attention of the House to some circumstances connected with it, which might not perhaps appear to the House to afford a great ground of confidence in the financial ability of her Majesty's Government. Those Members of the House who were in the last Parliament might perhaps recollect, that the right hon. 318 Gentleman brought forward an alteration in the timber duty with a view of providing 600,000l. to meet the services of the coming year. The measure was brought forward as a measure of finance—it was brought forward further to meet the services of the coming year. It did so happen that documents sometimes made their way to the public, otherwise than through communications from Members of her Majesty's Government; and he had happened to find that the Governor-general of Canada had thought proper to lay upon the Table of the House of Assembly in Canada the letter which he had addressed to the noble Lord containing his views with respect to the timber duties, and the substance of which he (Mr. Goulburn) would now read to the House. It was addressed by Lord Sydenham to Lord J. Russell, and was dated April last, and, he presumed, was in the noble Lord's possession at the time the original statement was made.Great alarm," said the noble Lord, "is naturally felt by those engaged in the timber trade in Canada at the prospect of any alteration in the duties levied on wood in the United Kingdom, which may affect the protection hitherto afforded to colonial timber and deals; but the question must, of course, be resolved by the Government and the Imperial Parliament, according to the view which they may take of the general interests of the empire. I conceive, however, that in any change which may be determined upon in these duties, if it be one which will disturb the proportions which the colonial and foreign timber trade bear to each other under existing laws, care will be taken to diminish as much as possible the loss to individuals by rendering the change gradual; as such a course is certainly the most just as well as the most politic. But, above all, I must express my hope that, in whatever alteration is adopted, the recommendation of the committee of 1835, of which I was chairman, will be adhered to, namely, that the change shall not affect the importations of the year, which would be an act of extreme hardship upon the colonial trade, inasmuch as it only can be carried on by engagements entered into many months before the time at which the goods can be actually shipped, and therefore all the shipments to be made this year have been entered upon on the faith of the present law, and cannot now be countermanded or stopped.Were the Government ignorant of the fact, that timber imported from Canada was ordered a long time before it arrived? If they were, did their ignorance of so simple a fact form a ground of confidence in their commercial and financial policy; and If they were not Ignorant, but aware of it, did it 319 form a ground of confidence in the Chancellor of the Exchequer, who came down to the House, regardless of the fact, to lay before it a proposition for increasing the duty upon the article of colonial timber, as a means for meeting the existing wants of the Exchequer? He now proceeded to the other part of the financial discussion of the right hon. Gentleman, in which he complained of statements that had been made at the recent elections regarding the financial conduct of the present Administration, and in which he thought, by a reference to papers, to convince the House that those statements were unfounded, and that the Administration of the present Government was less faulty than was generally supposed. Whose fault was it that such statements had been made? Not his (Mr. Goulburn's) or those with whom he acted, for he had taken special precaution, on the announcement of the intention to dissolve Parliament, to move for the production of papers in that House which would have shown the real state of the finances of the country, in order that there might be no difficulty or doubt upon the point in the mind of the several constituencies. When were those papers presented?— Only the day before yesterday ! He had moved for those papers in order that the public at large might obtain from them a perfect and concise account of how the matter stood, rather than that they should be depending for their information on incidental debates in that House upon questions involving a multitude of figures, to which even the attention of the House itself could scarcely be expected. So far, then, as the ignorance of the electors was concerned, the fault did not lie with him or those with whom he acted. But he thought he could make it clear to the House, that the electors had not been much misled, and that the statements which the right hon. Gentleman had made were in many points altogether fallacious The first to which the right hon. Gentleman referred was the comparative expenditure between antecedent Administrations and that of which he was a Member; and here the right hon. Gentleman said, and said truly, "take the average expenditure of five years, including the three years of the Duke of Wellington's Administration, am the average expenditure of the last five years, and you will find that the expenditure of those five years is less than that of the former." He had heard it said in the course of the present debate, and with re- 320 sect to the Corn-laws, that averages were dangerous and uncertain mode of calculation, and often resorted to for the purpose f leading into error. This was often as much the case in matters of finance. Now, he first of the five years, ending with he Duke of Wellington's Administration, vas one of a very high rate of expenditure, while the last was very low, lower indeed than that of many antecedent years, during those five years, then, there was a continually decreasing expenditure; while he average of the other five years was taken from years of a continually increasing expenditure. In his opinion financial economy and reform, if properly conducted, meant, that avoiding sudden fluctuations, you should march in the course in which you ought to go, and that if you did put it on a footing which admitted of your gradually reducing the expenditure, the calculation of economy was to be made, not by the extent of expenditure in the first year previous to the commencement of reductions, but by the expense of that year in which the reductions had been brought to bear. The complaint against the Government, on his part at least, was not confined to the mere question of expenditure; he admitted that there might and had been cases in which some additional expenditure was necessarily incurred, but the complaint which he made against the Government, and upon which the right hon. Gentleman was silent, was this, that they had failed to keep their income on a footing with their expenditure. He cared not whether the expenditure were reduced or left the same—if they reduced their income, so that it would not bear the expenditure of the year, their course was one of extravagance which must lead to destruction. If from peculiar circumstances in the country it became necessary to increase their expenditure, and that they did not at the same time make their income keep pace with it, he contended that they were in like manner liable to the charge of extravagance. How stood the account? There was a continually increasing deficiency, beginning in the first year of the right hon. Gentlemen's Administration, of 650,000l., continuing more or less in each succeeding year, and which would amount, according to the statement which he made when he produced his budget, on the 5th of April next, to nearly 2,500,000l.; and this in spite of his (Mr. Goulburn's) frequent remonstrances against such an objectionable course. He had uniformly stated that this course must necessarily 321 lead to difficulties. He, therefore, felt that he had a right to say, that the fact of the Government not having provided for this increased expenditure was against them a fair matter of charge. But he now came to a statement which the right hon. Gentleman had made as to his mode of dealing with these matters, which he was sure must have struck every hon. Member as the most wonderful instance of financial sagacity on record. If the right hon. Gentleman was indeed able to effect this great achievement, for which he had given himself credit, so far from removing him from his station, he would strongly recommend that a man possessed of his transcendent powers should be invested by the House in perpetuity with the high office which he held. He said, that if they looked to the financial state of the country in 1830 and 1840, and excluded the amount of the West India loan, they would find that in this period of ten years her Majesty's prerent Advisers had reduced the debt by an amount of 13,000,000l. The right hon. Gentleman further stated, that if they took the debt in 1835, and compared that year with 1840, they would find that of that 13,000,000l. the sum of 7,000,000l. had been reduced within the latter period. He believed that this was the statement of the right hon. Gentleman. Now this was assuredly the most miraculous effort of genius which ever had been exhibited within that House or elsewhere. Katterfelto, or the Wizard of the North, could do nothing equal to it. To be sure, they could shut up an empty pot and produce a porker; but here was a necromancer who shut up an empty chest in the Exchequer and produced a round sum of 13,000,000l. In the ten years in which this wonderful payment of 13,000,000l. was assumed to have been made the surpluses happened to amount to no greater a sum than 7,400,000l. During the same period their deficiencies amounted to 4,000,000l., leaving a clear surplus of 3,400,000l., with which this mirror of Chancellors contrived to pay an amount of 13,000,000l. He would explain to the House how this was. At the time when he (Mr. Goulburn) was Chancellor of the Exchequer, he brought into Parliament an act which gave power to the Commissioners for the National Debt to cancel portions of the permanent debt on granting to the parties surrendering them annuities for terms of years. The effect of this was to create a sinking fund. It diminished the amount of the capital of the debt, but increased 322 the annual charge to which the country was subjected. Suppose that these annuities were granted originally for twelve years, they were worth twelve years' purchase at their commencement, and the right hon. Gentlemen valued these annuities at twelve years' purchase, and added that amount to the debt of the year 1830. At the end of ten years these annuities had two years to run, and were only worth two years' purchase instead of twelve; and what did the right hon. Gentleman do? Why he conveniently took the difference between the value of twelve years purchase and two, as a material deduction from the national burdens effected by himself. What would have been the fair course to have taken? To take credit for the capital of the debt reduced by the grant of annuities during his own tenure of office. By his present mode of calculation, the Gentleman who might happen to succeed him in office at any given period, hereafter would find the value of these annuities still less without any exertion on his part, exactly in proportion as his predecessors had been active or successful in exchanging permanent for terminable annuities; and he himself (Mr. Goulburn) might still make the same appeal, and point to the wonderful sagacity by which he had made a difference no less astounding in the amount of our national burdens. Would the right hon. Gentleman like to hear anything more on the subject of annuities? He thought he had probably heard quite enough. The right hon. Gentleman had next touched on the subject of savings-banks. He was glad that he had done so upon many accounts. He was glad of it, because he was as anxious as the right hon. Gentleman to disabuse the public mind of the supposition that the operation of the right hon. Gentleman was calculated to diminish the security of the contributors to those banks. Nothing could be more erroneous than a supposition of that kind, however objectionable in other respects he considered the arrangement. That arrangement was one of the fruits of that most objectionable principle of not keeping the income of the country at least equal to the expenditure, and in this difficulty the Chancellor of the Exchequer had, without the knowledge of Parliament, or applying for its sanction, contrived the means of raising money by addition to the permanent debt to the country. He admitted distinctly that the law as it stood conceded this power. But he as distinctly stated that it was not right 323 for a Chancellor of the Exchequer to avail himself of that power. Under the act in question the savings-banks had the power of vesting the monies received by them in any security which they might think most eligible, and moreover, if they invested them in Exchequer-bills, of delivering them up to be cancelled, and requiring the Government to furnish them with new stock to be added to the principal of the funded debt of the country. This power was given with a view to meet the cases of Exchequer-bills which from time to time it became necessary to fund, but not to enable a Government to provide a temporary revenue without the knowledge of Parliament. Yet this was the course to which the Chancellor of the Exchequer had resorted, and the money thus obtained from the savings-banks was applied to the current expenses of the year. As an equivalent for the Exchequer-bills cancelled the savings-banks obtained new stock, that was of necessity added to the funded debt of the country; and by the perpetual interchange of Exchequer-bills and stock there was no limit to the amount which a Government might pay in this manner. While lie stated his strong objection to this course, by which money was raised to an indefinite amount, without first obtaining the sanction of Parliament, he was at the same time as anxious as the right hon. Gentleman to disabuse the public mind as to any apprehended loss or danger arising from the system. How could there be danger? The saving bank money was always invested in some government security, and whether that security was exchequer bill or 3 per cent, stock was matter of indifference. The right hon. Gentleman had next adverted to the recommendation of the finance committee as to the maintenance of a surplus revenue, and had attempted to show that the Duke of Wellington's Administration had not complied with that recommendation. Their recommendation was, that the endeavour of the Government should be uniformly to maintain at the end of each year, a surplus of 3,000,000l., and to apply nothing to the redemption of the debt but the actual surplus of revenue over expenditure. This recommendation was founded on the fact that there were numerous accidental circumstances of varying seasons, prevalent distress, or embarrassment to trade, which affected our financial system, and made it absolutely necessary to maintain a surplus, out of which to provide against accidents. In the three years of 324 the Duke of Wellington's Administration the actual surplus was 8,000,000l. for the three years. The deficiency during the last five years amounted not quite, but nearly, to the same sum. This circumstance sufficiently showed the contrast between the two systems; and the effect of the departure from the system of maintaining a permanent surplus was at length most strongly and sensibly felt. It was perfectly true, that in the year after le quitted office, the revenue did not come up to the amount he had certainly anticipated. He remembered when he made those great reductions in taxation, it was said by a near relative of the right hon. Gentleman, that he should be involved in a deficiency the next year; and he attempted to show by the calculations he then made, that such would not be the case, and that if the financial measures he proposed could be carried into effect, he relied on a surplus of between 1,600,000l. and 1,700,000l. Unfortunately, however, for the result of his calculations, Parliament was suddenly dissolved, and a portion of the scheme never was carried into effect. The Government was thrown out after the meeting of the new Parliament, and there were no means of continuing the arrangement he had made when he first propounded the scheme. But, notwithstanding all these circumstances, the attempt to gain a surplus was so far effective, that in. the year succeeding there was a surplus of 700,000l.; and that surplus would hare continually gone on increasing, but for the reductions of taxation which, for the reasons stated by the right hon. Gentleman, were then thought fit to be made. The system he objected to was not that the present Government had increased the expenditure, for that might have been necessary; but that, having increased the expenditure, they forbore to increase the means of meeting it—nay more, that every time they exceeded the expenditure they proceeded to repeal taxes till they had left a deficit which was altogether unparalleled. He did not think it necessary, at present, to go further into these discussions. If he had made himself intelligible to the House, he thought he had proved three points—in the first place, that the system of averages, upon which the right hon. Gentleman grounded his claim to the confidence of the House, was not one upon which, with justice, he could rely, because he had compared the averages of a continually decreasing expenditure with the averages of a con- 325 tinually increasing expenditure. In the second place, he thought he had proved that the pretence of the right hon. Gentleman to have reduced 13,000,000l. of debt, when he had only 3,400,000l. with which to pay it off, was altogether preposterous; and in the third place, that his plea with regard to the annuities, on which he seemed to rely so much, was altogether fallacious, inasmuch as it was one which, without any exertion on the part of a Financial Minister, must have taken effect in any country where terminable annuities formed part of the charge. If this was all the right hon. Gentleman could advance as a plea for confidence, if this was all he could at the last moment bring forward when her Majesty's Government were not on their trial, for that took place in the last Parliament, when the jury found them guilty— but when, after an appeal made by them to the higher court, the constituency of the country, who had also confirmed the verdict of guilty, they were, in fact, brought up to hear the judgment which Parliament was compelled to pass—if this was all on which they could rest their claims to approbation and confidence, he had no hesitation whatever as to the decision which the House would pronounce.
§ Mr. Wakley
said, that on hearing the statements, arguments, and illustrations of the two right hon. Gentlemen who had just addressed the House, one would suppose that no country had been so admirably governed, that no country possessed such able financiers, and none was governed so economically as the British empire. So much virtue, so much patriotism, so much industry had been displayed in conducting public affairs, that one must imagine it wholly unnecessary to call in another doctor for the diseased state. After all, however it came out that the public accounts were kept in a most strange and extraordinary manner; there was something about them so confused, so inconsistent, and so unmethodical, that it appeared one right hon. Gentleman could prove there was a saving in five years of 2,450,000l., while his successor in the debate professed to show that not only was there no saving at all, but a positive loss to the country of upwards of 5,000,000l. during the same period. Meanwhile in what condition were the people? In a state of misery and want, and the House cheered because they bore their burdens with so much calmness and quiet endurance ! The people were hungry, and the House cheered I 326 He could not comprehend how it was, that, if the state accounts were kept in a manner which would entitle them to the approbation of men of business, such extraordinary results, inferences so utterly at variance with each other, could be drawn from them. He trusted the right hon. Baronet, who must soon have the management of these affairs, would turn his intelligent eye to this extraordinary anomaly, and that in a very short time they would see what they were to gain by his administration of the finances of the country. At present it was quite clear, from the statements which had been made, that the public accounts were entitled to no confidence whatever. In discussing the question before the House a vast number of subjects had been introduced to their consideration -, but it was urged upon them again and again that this was a question purely of want of confidence in the Ministry. He could discuss that question with great calmness and forbearance; they had lost no confidence of his, for they never possessed it. They never had his confidence, consequently he should lose nothing by their going out of office. He had taken them, like his hon. and learned Friend the Member for Bath, because he could not get better. He had supported them because better could not be found. Profoundly did he hope the right hon. Baronet opposite, would show that he was entitled to the support of the Radical party in the House; he doubted it, however. He feared that under the new Administration, very little difference would be manifested in the arrangement and conduct of public affairs.Tis pity such a difference should be" Twixt Tweedledum and Tweedledee.Seriously, he felt convinced that until they were in possession of a House of Commons differently organized the people would not find the doctor they wanted. He did not recognize in that House the representatives of the people of the United Kingdom. The millions in the country who were imploring their aid and beseeching them to render them assistance had no representatives in that House. They were not represented there; but parties there were in the House who represented their own interests, and they appeared to have a very good idea of the best mode of effecting their own objects. In such a state of things, could it be expected that any just and proper remedy would be applied? 327 He believed there would be none; they would go on with palliatives and expedients, but a radical cure (and to be satisfactory the cure must be radical) must come at last. It was said in the Address, which he certainly liked better than the amendment, that we must increase the revenue; in his opinion they ought to reduce the expenditure. The expenditure of the country was extravagant to the degree of folly. It was preposterously extravagant in all the public departments, and in nearly the whole of the salaries conferred on public men. Considering the distress of the people, considering their privations, it was monstrous and inhuman, it was even disgusting, to lavish away the public money as was now the practice. The Crown itself was costly; and he was tempted to ask whether the Crown was maintained for the benefit of the public or for the benefit of a party? He was induced to ask this because it had been said the Ministers were kept in office, as the hon. Member for Winchester had stated, in defiance of the law and the constitution. The right hon. Gentleman also who had last spoken, had said, that the Ministry were condemned in the last Parliament; and that after an appeal to the country they were now there only to receive judgment. Were they then to condemn them without hearing the evidence? This was a new House of Commons; they were unconnected with the last; they had not heard the evidence on which their condemnation was founded. He did not speak as the advocate of the Ministry. He spoke as the advocate of the monarchy, and it appeared to him that the mode in which they were acting was destructive of monarchical principles. There were hon. Members who charged him, and those with whom he acted, with being anarchists and persons who wished to overthrow the constitution, He told those hon. Members that they were entirely deceived; they were wholly mistaken with respect to the views of the constitution entertained by the Radical party. Surely Gentlemen would give him credit for stating that which he believed to be true. He gave them credit for sincerity in their opinions; he did not question any gentleman's word or statement; he merely called on them to give him full credit for that assertion. He would say, that the constitutional Radical party in this country was as sincerely and consistently attached to the monarchy, as any Conservative in the 328 House. It was attached, also, to the Church of England; it would see any institution sacrificed in preference to the Church of England. Their desire was precisely the same as that of Gentlemen opposite—to maintain the institutions of the country; but they adopted a different mode. Gentlemen opposite attempted to do so by the few ruling the many; while (the Radicals) would do it by the many ruling the few. Their object was to widen and strengthen the basis of existing institutions by consulting the wishes of the people; they desired to see those institutions surrounded by the sympathies, the affections, and the love of the people, and they deemed that to act in defiance of the people would be a course dangerous to the constitution. That was their principle; which party then was taking the right course? Look at what had passed on the present occasion. The Queen in the exercise of her undoubted prerogative had discharged the late Parliament, and he would have been glad if she had sent the Members then in that House to the people, but she sent them back to the constituencies existing under the Reform Bill. The elections had taken place, and the House was occupied as they saw it now; but were they to assume merely from the elections, without the House having come to a single vote, that Ministers had not the confidence of that House? [Interruption.] He knew it was unpleasant to hear those remarks, but he was desirous of discussing the question without giving offence to any person. The Queen had made a Speech from the Throne, and what was the answer of the House? They would not receive that Speech from the Ministers. Now, suppose the Radicals had adopted that course. Suppose they had occupied a few cross-benches in the House, and that by some lucky means they had commanded a majority, and had made such a proposal. What would have been the language adopted with respect to them? Why, that they were treating the Crown as nought, treating it with personal disrespect, acting in direct defiance of the wishes of the Sovereign, and thereby endangering the monarchy. Now, let him ask, what was the course pursued by the right hon. Baronet opposite, (Sir R. Peel), in 1834 and in 1835, when he met Parliament? The right hon. Baronet was called upon by the King to form an administration; he admitted that there was an overwhelming majority against him in the 329 House of Commons. [No, no.] The right hon. Baronet made that admission frankly and unhesitatingly; he acknowledged that Parliament, at the time when he was made Minister, had, to use his own expression, unbounded confidence in the Ministry which preceded his own. That was his expression, and what did the right hon. Baronet do? The right hon. Baronet advised the Crown to dissolve Parliament, and that in defiance of the very principle which Mr. Burke had proclaimed, as quoted by the right hon. Baronet to the House, that a more unconstitutional course could not be taken by any Minister than to dissolve Parliament in order to mould it to his own fashion and purposes. In 1835, then the right hon. Baronet dissolved the old, and called a new Parliament, and he knew before he met it that there was a majority against him. A division took place on the election of the Speaker, and the right hon. Baronet was beaten. But did the House, in answer to the Speech from the Throne, say, "We will not have the right hon. Baronet, we will not have the Ministers whom the Crown has chosen, we will not give these men a trial, or hear what their measures are?" The words which the right hon. Baronet used were these:I did fear, if I had met the late Parliament, that I should have been obstructed in my course, and obstructed in a manner and at a season which might have precluded an appeal to the people; but it is unnecessary for me to assign reasons for this opinion. Was it not the constant boast, that the late Parliament had unbounded confidence in the late Government, and why should those who declare that they are ready to condemn me without a hearing be surprised at my appeal to a higher and fairer tribunal—the public sense of the people.The right hon. Baronet did make that appeal, and the people had answered, "We have no confidence in him." The people returned a majority to the House against the principles of the right hon. Baronet; but did the House at once say, "We will not give you a hearing?" What was the consistent and appropriate language of the right hon. Baronet? After explaining what he intended to do, and making extremely fair offers, which he regretted the people had not got now—very liberal offers they were, but he was afraid the stock was worn out. The right hon. Baronet said—With such prospects I feel it to be my first and paramount duty to hold the post which has been confided to me.330 To hold that post, in defiance of the wishes of two Houses of Commons! He was condemning this course possibly to the inconvenience of his own party, for they would be in power at the end of seven years without any doubt. He was condemning it, because he thought it ought not to be followed by any Parliament; he thought it a dangerous course, connected with many evils, and injurious to the stability of the monarchy. The right hon. Baronet further said,I will stand by this trust, which I did not ask, but which I could not decline. I call upon you not to condemn before you have heard, to receive at least, the measures I shall propose; to amend them if they are defective, to extend them if they fall short of your expectations, but at least to give me the opportunity of presenting them, that you yourselves may consider and dispose of them.That was the precept but what was the example? That was the solicitation of the right hon. Baronet in 1835. The right hon. Baronet had the opportunity he asked for; his measures were submitted to the House they did not pass; so much the better! The right hon.Baronet continued inofficeforthree months; but he said that the circumstances of that time presented a very striking contrast to what was now passing. Was it meet, was it prudent, that an immense body of Members should come into the House pledged to vote against the Ministry—pledged to vote against the wishes of the Crown? Was it holding out to the country that kind of monition—that kind of intimation which it was desirable to communicate to a large and thinking public like the English? He asked were they adopting a prudent course? They did not give Ministers an opportunity of bringing forward the measures they had intimated. There was now a new House of Parliament, one that had not heard the measures of Government propounded. [Laughter.] Hon. Gentleman seemed much amused, but he thought he could perceive that the laugh was not an agreeable one. There was a very unpleasant feeling lurking beneath the smiling face, and he did not believe that when the right hon. Baronet came to reflect more deeply upon what he had been induced to do by the eager expectants of place, he would be able to offer a very satisfactory justification of his conduct. He did not think the example was a good one, and he firmly believed it was pregnant with danger. He knew that if the party to which he had the honour of belonging 331 had taken such a course, it would have been called most precipitate, most violent, and most unjustifiable. The difficulties of the present position of things were great, the errors committed by Ministers were numerous and enormous. He had been in the House, and had had an opportunity of witnessing their conduct, and he said they had lost a golden opportunity of serving their country. They would not listen to the advice of the Radical party. He had himself prescribed without a fee in 1837. He did not wait for a fee, but he considered he was fairly called into consultation when his constituents sent him to that. House. All that he bad prescribed was three small powders. The noble Lord rejected them. But he would ask them, how he liked the 360 bitter pills that he saw opposite. His remedy was simple and appropriate, but he feared the medicine which had been prescribed for the noble Lord, and which he thought he would be compelled to swallow, would very soon remove him from the seat which he then occupied. He wished the noble Lord with all his heart well out of his difficulty, and more especially as he was now one of the metropolitan demagogues. It appeared, however, that there was to be a change, that a new party was to come into power; and those who then occupied the Ministerial benches were to retire. If the right hon. Baronet did change sides, he should have no factious opposition from hint. He would candidly, humble individual as he was, give his best consideration to every measure the right hon. Baronet should submit to the House; and if those measures were good, he would give them his cordial, warm, and hearty support. The right hon. Baronet had uudoubted capacity; he was a man of vast abilities. He knew more of the right hon. Baronet's abilities than many other persons in the House, for he had taken a phrenological survey of his head. Yes; the right hon. Baronet commanded that intellectual power which was so essential in a Minister of a great country; and if he exercised his own judgment without control, free, entirely free, from the misrepresentations which might be addressed to him, and from insinuations which might be offered to him, he would render enormous benefit to his country. It was in the right hon. Baronet's power, and he hoped the right hon. Baronet would do it. But if he should fail—if he yielded to mischievous advisers—if the right hon. Baronet did not exercise his great abilities in 332 the way that was expected, but endeavoured to go on in the old beaten track, then, without offering violent or vexatious opposition, he would endeavour, and would make every sacrifice in his power, to form one national party to oppose the right hon. Baronet, one whose views could be distinguished clearly, and which was faithfully devoted to the best interests of the people. And the right hon. Baronet could not condemn such a course, nor could any one who desired to see the interests of this great country advanced. But, considering the wars in which they had been engaged, and the enormous debt which those wars had entailed on the country, it was not magnanimous that they should hand down such a debt to their posterity—it was not fair—it was not patriotic. Forty or fifty years since the gentlemen of England declared, that unless they engaged in a continental war, the country would be invaded, their estates would be wrested from them, and their mansions left desolate. But the country had not been invaded—their mansions were entire—their estates were still in their possession. He envied them not their possessions, but they ought not to call upon the poor to pay for their having been protected. A debt, an enormous debt, as much, he believed, as 500,000,000l. or 600,000,000l. in the course of fifty or sixty years, was contracted in a depreciated currency, and now they called upon the country to pay that debt in gold. Was that just? Let the right hon. Baronet turn his mind to this subject, and let him recollect the effect of his bill of 1819. He did not blame him for that measure. The country was in a diseased and vicious state, and its finances were working on to ruin. Some measure was necessary, and, without it, it was impossible to see what would have been the consequence. The views of the right hon. Baronet were perfectly justified by the materials placed before him. But he (Mr. Wakley), seeing what the result had been —seeing that peace had been maintained, that the country, to a certain extent, had flourished, and that the landed proprietors were in possession of their estates, only asked those proprietors not to require the interests of the country to pay off the obligation which they themselves had contracted. But, suppose the right hon. Baronet came into office, who were to be his colleagues? He had been told that some of them were absolutely being advertised. He had heard it said since he entered the House that evening that the appointment of 333 the hon. and learned Member for Exeter was announced as Attorney-General. He was sure that there could not be a better. But who were to be the colleagues of the right hon. Baronet? A great deal had been said respecting disunion on his side of the House, and all sorts of representations had been made with reference to the constitution of the present Ministry. Now, the right hon. Baronet had on his side two distinguished gentlemen who were Members of Lord Grey's cabinet, and also of Lord Althorp's, and he wished to know whether there was any agreement between the right hon. Baronet, the Member for Dorchester, and the right hon. Baronet, the Member for Tamworth, on the question of finance? And then, again, whether there was any agreement between the right hon. Baronet and the noble Lord the Member for North Lancashire, relative to the government of Ireland? He merely mentioned these things as a vague incidental hint, that it might be desirable to have an administration in which no division existed, because it was said that division constituted weakness, and was very injurious to the working of a Government; not indeed that he desired to have a Government particularly strong until the people were represented; because he had no security that a very strong Government would not propose bad measures as well as a weak one; and in the case of a strong Government those measures would be carried, whereas in the contrary case they would be unsuccessful. He had been induced to refer to that subject in consequence of what the right hon. Baronet had said on a former occasion with respect to the government of Ireland. Who could be insensible to what was now passing in the sister island? There was in that country a demand for the repeal of the Union. He was sorry such a demand had been made, for he thought that a separation of England from Ireland would be ruinous to both, and that an event more disastrous to both kingdoms could not happen. Was there any difficulty in governing Ireland as they would govern England? There were violent, factious, and turbulent spirits there, as elsewhere, but by a little soothing ointment, which a judicious doctor might apply, the irritation might be allayed, and the two countries might go on in harmony together. He mentioned these things before the right hon. Baronet proposed his new measures, not that he was anxious to hurry them on, but that he might reflect on them fully. 334 Now, what had been the language of four distinguished statesmen, with respect to Ireland, when the Catholic Relief Bill was before the House? And having referred to that measure, he was anxious to ask the House whether justice had been done to Ireland, and whether she had not a right to expect it? Let them remember the price she paid for that measure. Let them remember that to obtain it 300,000 of her voters were disfranchised. But what was the language of the Duke of Wellington, Lord Lyndhurst, the right hon. Baronet, and the noble Lord the Member for North Lancashire, at that time? On the second reading of the bill, the Duke of Wellington said,There is no doubt, that if this measure is adopted, the Roman Catholics can have no separate interests as a separate sect, for I am sure that neither this nor the other House of Parliament will be disposed to look on anything relating to the Roman Catholics of Ireland with any other eye than that with which they regard what affects this country or Scotland.Lord Lyndhurst said,There will proceed from this measure the tranquillity of Ireland; harmony among all classes and orders of men, binding and knitting together men of both countries in the lasting bonds of friendship, and combining the affections of Ireland and Great Britain in support of the Government and of the ThroneThat language, he presumed, was used on the supposition that Ireland would enjoy equal privileges with England. The language of the right hon. Baronet opposite was—This measure will restore equality of civil rights.The right hon. Baronet nodded his head —but had it done so? Was the Municipal Bill of Ireland fashioned after the Municipal Bill of England? Had the people of Ireland the same privileges, Parliamentary or municipal, as the English people? Then, he would say, they had been defrauded. But he was sure that it had not been by the desire of the right hon. Baronet. They would soon discover by whom the people of Ireland had been so "defrauded; he knew not by whom.It is known to every one whom I address," (continued the right hon. Baronet) "that the laws affecting Roman Catholics in each branch of the empire are different, that the Irish Roman Catholics are most favoured, and the Roman Catholics of Scotland the least. I propose to place them all as to civil privileges on the same footing, the footing of equality.335 Very well, the right hon. Baronet, Lord Lyndhurst and the Duke of Wellington, disclaimed allowing any difference with regard to civil rights to arise or be founded on a religious difference. That was the declaration, the candid admission, which they made. With equal candour an opposite statement had been made, and he did not know how the noble Lord, the Member for North Lancashire, was to work quietly in the harness with the new Ministry, provided that a proposition were made that the bill for giving equality of civil rights to Roman Catholics should be carried out to its fullest extent; and if that should not be done, then Ireland was justified in demanding repeal. What said the noble Lord in a subsequent debate in February, 1835, upon the Irish Municipal Bill?But I will not pretend that I do not mix tip with the question the consideration of the relative situation of Protestants and Catholics, for I have regard to this consideration, because the state of Ireland is shown to be such, that the bulk of the inhabitants are of the one religion, and the minority of another, that the higher classes are connected with the minority, and the lower with the majority.That was a clear statement; and he hoped that in reminding the right hon. Baronet of what the noble Lord said on that occasion, the information would be useful to him in forming his administration. He mentioned the circumstance, because, or he should not have presumed to do so, the noble Lord had stated some time since, that he was quite prepared to take office with the right hon. Baronet; there must, therefore, have been some change in the opinions of one or the other, and he presumed by the change of seats, it must be with the noble Lord. He would now venture to trouble the House with a few words more in reference to some observations which fell from the hon. and learned Member for Bath, in the excellent speech which he made the other night. His hon. Friend with more consistency than discretion, had praised the Poor-law Amendment Act; he spoke of that act in terms which he had previously used in respect to it in that House; and with consistency and discretion, too, he would speak of it again as he had formerly spoken, considering it to be the most objectionable law upon the statute book of this realm. He believed that law to be more obnoxious to the kindly feelings of the people of this country than any law 336 which had ever been enacted by the British Parliament. And he entreated the right hon. Baronet to take that odious law into his most serious and benevolent consideration. He entreated the right hon. Baronet to apply his mind vigorously to the Poor-law question. He for one was most anxious that there should be ample time allowed for doing so; the legislature ought not to be hurried when dealing with so great and important a measure. His hon. Friend the Member for Bath was a democrat, he loved democracy. He would ask him, then, to point out one clause or one line in that act which had a democratic tendency. On the contrary, it was based on tyranny. What did it do? It took from the rate-payers all control over their own affairs, and threw it into the hands of an irresponsible body at Somerset House— a body which was alien to the Poor of England, and which had not an opportunity of knowing what was the real condition of the poor of England —a body which had not the means of ascertaining whether the poor were deserving or not. He was of opinion that no Poor-law could be just or wise which did not admit of the administrators of the funds raised for the relief of the poor having an opportunity of distinguishing between merit and vice, between misfortune and profligacy. That was the view he had always taken upon this question, and the more he saw and knew of the working of the law, the more he heard from the middle classes on the subject of that law, the more was he satisfied that it was impossible for any man to retain power in the Government of this country, who would favour that law, or try to carry it out in all its odious provisions. It had broken up the parochial Government of the people. The poor, who were now reduced to a state of destitution, were transported from their parish to a distance of at least ten miles; for it was nothing less than transportation, seeing that they were carried away from every friend and connection, and from every local scene they held dear, and immured in a gaol for the remainder of their days. The Gentlemen' of England should beware how they supported such a law. It was a delicate and dangerous subject. If they knew or could imagine what hungry and destitute men thought and felt while writhing under their sufferings, they would pause and ponder well before they allowed any law to exist which could possibly act as a stimulant to 337 the wild passions of men to attempt resistance to its operation and effects. The man who should strive to maintain office, and to uphold such a law, would make an attempt in which he could not possibly succeed. Was it not a law utterly at variance with every practice and principle formerly in operation in reference to the poor of this country? The wealthy should remember that their wealth was derived in a great measure from the labour of the poor, and that they must consent to the payment of taxes for the support of the country and the safety of their persons and property. The maintenance of the poor was one of those taxes which they were called upon to pay, and was that a tax which should be handed out in a niggardly manner? Of all other taxes, was not this one which should be paid most readily, generously, and liberally? If they would act with justice on the subject of the Poor-law, they would gain more credit in the country than by any other act they could perform. He therefore entreated the right hon. Gentleman, since he must soon be in power, to take the Poor-law question into his most serious consideration, and to see what could be done in reference to a remodelling of the present law, if he could not altogether repeal it. The right hon. Baronet had spoken upon this subject on several occasions, and, he was happy to say, in such a manner as to give great satisfaction out of doors. But he should wish to know how his hon. Friend could concur in those clauses which interfered with local acts—how he could possibly support plural voting? Would he consent to allow one man to have six votes? It was well known that in one election in this metropolis one person put in 1,500 proxies, and another 700. The people could not endure such practices as these. They could not consent to have the power altogether taken out of their hands. As the law stood, the guardians could give no relief without the consent of the commissioners. It was a most monstrous measure, it was in its whole essence and spirit an inhuman, cruel, and odious enactment, and he would tell her Majesty's Ministers that it was that law which had proved their downfall. Had it not been for the Poor-law Amendment Act, they would at that moment have commanded a large majority in that House. He was sure that any administration which followed in their steps in this respect must share their fate, and deservedly so, for a more detestable, 338 crul, and unconstitutional law, never disgraced this country.