§ The order of the day for resuming the adjourned debate having been read,
§ Mr. Sergeant Talfourd
spoke as follows*: Mr. Speaker, If when the right hon. Baronet, the Member for Pembroke, closed his speech and the debate on Friday, I regarded with surprise the indications of the spirit which inspired it, I own that it appears yet more remarkable when surveyed in the cool light of reflection. From the first sentence, in which he offered his ironical congratulations to the noble Secretary for Ireland, on the "complacent tone in which he had spoken of the Acts of a Government in its last extremity"—as if even the satisfaction of a moment were an intolerable offence— through all its varieties of invective, down to its close, where piety came to the aid of failing language, and he blessed God for the approaching downfall of his sometime comrades, it presents a specimen of curious animosity, which I believe is without example, and I hope will be without copy in the annals of political warfare. Fortunately for those who are the objects of such attacks, there is a tendency in all violent emotions to overleap their objects —the certainty of the aim is not in proportion to the eagerness of the marksman; and the spring which is animated by the most fiery venom sometimes carries the deadly stroke beyond its intended victim. Such I hope to show is the result of the attack which the once Lord of the Admiralty, has made on those who shared with him in the excitements, in the dangers, in the agitations, and in the triumphs, of far more critical times than those which now await us. The substance of his charge—amidst the imagery of desperate pirates, of incendiary tenants, and of burning brands—is, that the Ministers have carried the principle measures in which they have succeeded, by the concurrence of their political opponents, and that they have failed to carry other measures when they have wanted that aid.*From a corrected report published by Moxon.970 To obtain "ample room and verge enough" to trace the characters in which he would write his accusations of successes obtained by too great concurrence of opinion, and failures not produced by want of merit, but by deficiency of strength, the right hon. Baronet complains, that the noble Secretary for Ireland, has sought to limit the question to the exposition of the budget, and has claimed to himself the right of finding matter for his changes in former years. I will not deny that right; but I, in my turn, must request the right hon. Baronet to carry his retrospective review a little further, and take one glance at earlier days, when he shared in struggles which he has not forgotten, because assuredly he has not forgiven. Many of the hon. Members who now encircle him may be justified in looking back, with a fond regret, at those buttresses of Ministerial strength which were destroyed in 1832; may yet entertain some busy, though indistinct hope, that the seasons of Tory domination, which they so long sustained, may return; may regard those as the palmy days of administrations, when taxation, coercion, and war, were extended by mighty majorities—when paper credit was maintained by frequent and bloody execution—when the sanctities of private life were beset by spies and violated by domestic treason—and when the expression of public opinion only gave to the Government a sterner aspect; impelled it to new severities; and excused it in fresh inroads on the remains of freedom. But the right hon. Baronet can scarcely believe this grim front of authority to have been desirable then, or to be possible now: —he was associated with those followers of Mr. Fox, whose name he has ventured to introduce, and who, I think, would look with astonishment on the position in which he stands, and, though in his benignity he would not call him "a recreant Whig," would regard him with sorrow rather than anger. In that school, where the hopes of humanity were entrusted to small minorities, he might have learned to feel that might is not always right that truth is not always with numbers; and that the wisdom of true statesmanship may be embodied in efforts which only generations unborn shall fully recognise. When the tremendous force of public opinion broke down those awful barriers—when the agitation in which the then Lord of the Admiralty was a leader was triumphant—when the 971 pillared rottenness of ancient corruption lay prostrate before him and his colleagues —the great practical question arose, whether the renovated and purified Constitution should be administered by those who had struggled in that work of majestic regeneration, or by those who had opposed it—by those whose fondest hopes attended its prosperity, or those whose honest fears still prophesied its ruin. Happily, as I think, the authors of the Reform Bill became its guardians; but it was no easy task for those who, resting from organic change, desired fairly to apply and liberally to construe its blessings, to maintain, in the calm of victory, the position they had acquired during the passion of the struggle. Not to dwell on the absence of those palpable appliances of which their success had deprived all Governments for all time—which has been repeatedly adverted to in this debate, and is too obvious to be dwelt on—they stood in a glorious but anxious position, between their discomfited opponents and their too sanguine allies. They found themselves, then, on the table-land they had achieved—desirous of consolidating and sustaining the advantages they had gained, but contented there—between two parties, one of whom hated their success, while the other was jealous of their pause; —and could they expect that, in the maintenance of the fruits of their victory, they should either succeed to the majorities of their predecessors or maintain that impulse which had been great in action? In this position they have felt that the elements of power itself were changed—that it must seek new sources of strength from a wider sphere —and finding those elements not in one party but in each, they must avail themselves of them in support of the measures which not one party alone would support, but to which each might by turns contribute its honest sanction. If this appeal for support, not to persons alone but also to principles, is dishonourable, it follows, that the powers of the State can never be justly administered except by an extreme party; and the right hon. Member for Tamworth will find as little consolation in that doctrine as the Ministers whom he now seeks to displace. Between the claims of Chartism on the one hand, and those of the Toryism of deepest Orange hue on the other, are immoveable gradations: and the Ministry which now would take any course but the wildest, 972 must often appeal to elements to be found n those who differ in some points with themselves. If, indeed, the view which the right hon. Baronet, the Member for Pembroke, seems to adopt of a statesman's duties be just—if the simile in which, among the toys and fantasies of his passion, he likens the position of adverse parties to gamblers, where one party may shuffle, and cut, and deal, and the other hide their cards, justly explains it—if the game of politics is animated by no nobler inspiration than personal spite, and addressed to no greater rewards than the emoluments of office, if principles are only the counters with which the gamesters play; then it is correct to assume that these principles are property for the purpose of the ignoble contest: that all Conservatism belongs to one side of the Table, and all Progression to the other. But if Statesmanship is a nobler game, I see no just cause of complaint against the Minister who introduces measures, which he knows that even his opponent will recognise as just and wise, and who relies on their honesty to support him. The hon. Baronet may call this weakness—I call it wisdom. His party feeling may be so intense, that he may think it objection enough to any measure, that it will be cursed with the approval of his opponents; but in this his feeling cannot be shared by the right hon. Baronet the Member for Tamworth. Yet even he has taunted the Ministers with the support he gave them on the Privilege question, and on the Chartist petition of the other night, as if they had not a right to expect his support on those questions—as if he could have done otherwise than support them without forfeiting his high character, even in his own esteem; and, in truth, his ground of want of confidence, because his support has been required and given, amounts to this complaint, that on many occasions they have agreed with him. If he should succeed to office, let him be assured he will very soon require—and I trust he will receive—when he seeks to restrain his Orange allies, or his Chartist opponents— the same support which he has so frankly given to the Ministers; and of which, I trust they will not so often remind him. I, therefore, translate the censure—that the Ministers have passed no great measure without the support of their political opponents—to mean no other than that their great measures have been such as to 973 secure the approval of the wisest and the best, and that some of them are so good, that even the right hon. Baronet, the Member for Pembroke, claims them for his own. But the right hon. Baronet further accuses Ministers, that, besides committing the crime of passing measures so good that even he concurs in their adoption, they have proposed others which he and his friends have opposed, and which thus opposed the Ministry have been unable to carry; and he first instances the attempt to settle the question of Church Rates. Now, if the old lesson is to be read backwards—if to command success is nobler than to deserve it—I grant they are liable to the right hon. Baronet's censure. But their position, in relation to this question, is precisely that which I would instance as exemplifying the difficulties of a Ministry, who, anxious to preserve the principle on which the noblest institutions of the country rest, are yet desirous of preventing that principle from being exercised to the vexation of those who conscientiously differ from its application. If they had been studious only of acquiring popularity from the great body of Dissenters who take an interest in political affairs, they would have adopted their doctrine—that those who do not desire to attend the services of the Church ought to be exempted from the duty of contributing to the repairs of its fabrics— but they have not done so; they have attempted to reconcile the great doctrine, that the first and most sacred duty of the State is to provide for the religious instruction of all her people, with the removal of those obstacles which render the execution of the laws always vexatious, often difficult, sometimes impossible. Believing that the Church of England exists, not only for the blessing of those who resort to her services, but of all who desire to see religion and piety established on sure foundations; admitting that her fabrics scattered through the land do not, as they point to heaven "with silent finger," bear with them only the aspirations of those who worship within them, but of all those whose thoughts rise from earth heavenwards; admitting that it is just that a national charge should arise out of a national duty, I yet think that the effort to extend her foundations by a wider charity was worthy of those, who, by the repeal of the Test and Corporation Acts, had admitted the Protestant Dissenters to civil 974 rights. True, it has failed, but strange as it may seem to the right hon. Baronet, I believe that one generous attempt to break down the bonds which sever the brotherhood of mankind—nay, one earnest hope for the perfect union of those who are "made of one blood "—is better, is nobler, is more efficacious, and exerts a wider influence, even in its failure, than the most energetic expressions of hatred, or the most vigourous acts of coercion. The right hon. Baronet, the Member for Pembroke, having taken occasion to taunt the right hon. President of the Board of Control, with an imaginary failure at the hustings of Nottingham —forbearance from which he might have learned in his own journey from Cumberland to Pembroke—with a courage which I cannot sufficiently admire, adverted to a subject which the Member for Tamworth with wiser caution omitted—and breathed that name of Ireland, which if whispered in the ear of his illustrious leader, when he shall ascend the triumphal chariot of administration amidst the cheers of his friends, shall send such chilliness to his hopes as the warnings of mortality, by the monitory slave, shed into the soul of the Roman Conqueror. He taunted us with, the failure of our efforts to do justice to Ireland. I admit we have failed —not in applying such consolation to that afflicted country as our adversaries have permitted us to employ—not in our endeavour to curb the pride of her oppressors; to administer the laws with equal justice; to make emancipation a living truth instead of an empty boast; but we have failed in our hope to give to her that just equality of political rights with ours, which nature entitles her to claim, and both charity and wisdom enjoin us to yield. But which think you will she prefer? The vain hope, the futile wish, and unsuccessful struggle to save her, or the power that shall crush her affections and turn her hopes into despair? Ireland is ready with her answer! Ages of oppression have quickened her sensibilities, and she hails the expression of kindness as an unwonted, but most welcome, boon. Next, the right hon. Baronet refers to the Poor-law Amendment Bill, which to me, if not the unkindest, is the most astonishing cut of all. Here is an Act which he himself has assisted to introduce; which he has seen renewed from the pressure of these party debates without objection; which, as far as I know, he has never assisted to improve; 975 and which he seizes with eager hand to hurl against those who have been associated with his noblest friends in sustaining it against long popular censure. Why? O, it is too fearful a weapon—it is envenomed too deeply with the hatred of class against class to be rejected at such a season. And on what right does he who helped to fashion now claim thus to use it? He says it does not contain suggested ameliorations—has he sought to apply them? He complains especially that it does not provide for the medical relief of the sick, or prohibit the odious system of advertisements for tender. Where is the clause placed or the votes to be moved by him, to remedy this evil? The Government have considered it—they have not decided upon it—clauses have been framed to meet it after great care and consideration. I have placed them on the votes, and they would have been debated but for those party strifes which seem inevitable while the balance of parties is so equally poised in this House. For three years I have been in correspondence with the Provincial Medical Association on this subject: and, strange to say, I was never made aware till Friday, that our cause had so distinguished a well-wisher as the right hon. Baronet. I know not whether the Member for Finsbury, who is connected with the other great organ of the medical body, the London Medical Association, has been more fortunate; but I rather think that he is equally surprised with me at the hidden virtue which the warmth of the debate has quickened into life. Good things as well as evil may thus be developed: —" it is the bright day which brings forth the adder;" and on the other hand, it is the enthusiasm of a feeling which is not love which has prompted into day our unknown and hitherto unsuspected friend. For one measure the hon. Baronet does give us credit; he says; "The Post-office is all your own"—and wishes us joy of the issue. Yes, Sir, the Post-office is ours; and even the wish of the right hon. Gentleman cannot impair the gift or arrest the blessing ! It has been ours to take off a tax on the affections—it has been ours to give to the poor the benefit of those powers which annihilate space and time; it has been ours to give freedom to the intercourse of mind with mind, of heart with heart; and the people will not reject the boon even though the right, 976 hon. Baronet blesses it. One other measure, too, is ours, in which I do not think he can claim a share—one great moral reform, which emanating from the legal profession, has shed its blessings among the wretched throughout the land —the Abolition of Imprisonment for Debt on Mesne Process. For this great and good work we are mainly indebted to the comprehensive sagacity and the unwearied zeal of the Attorney-general; and whether he shall sooner or later retire from the laborious, the painful, the invidious duties which he has discharged for a longer period than any of his predecessors throughout English history, he will carry with him not only the recollection of those years of strenuous industry which he has devoted to the public service—not only the consciousness which he shares with his illustrious predecessors, Lord Abinger and Lord Lyndhurst, of having sparingly and gently wielded the powers of the crown in their relations to the press, not only the great testimony borne to the judgment and the wisdom of those painful proceedings which he directed when the country's peace was lately endangered by misguided men, in the verdicts of juries, and in the tranquillity which has followed them; but he will retain the enduring satisfaction that he has left the law, in a most important point, better than he found it—that he has narrowed the limits within which misfortune is confounded with crime — that he has annihilated a thousand petty oppressions at a stroke, and with them a thousand practices in which cunning preyed upon distress, and debased at once the practitioner and the sufferer—that he has deserved the thanks of the mercantile interest for additional security, and "the blessings of those who are ready to perish." And if from the reform, I may turn for a moment to the administration of the law, I have a right to claim for those who have performed the most delicate and painful duties of the Executive Government—the supervision of criminal sentences, those first duties of a Ministry—a degree of care and attention, a firmness when firmness was needed, a wise and humane discrimination in all, to which their opponents have often borne testimony, and which their opponents, I believe, will emulate, but which they can never surpass. Sir, the right hon. Baronet in approaching the financial scheme of the Government, which has directly induced 977 the present attempt to visit them with Parliamentary censure, has wholly omitted to say a word on its essential merits; whether, therefore, he wishes us to regard his opinions on what he calls "the maddening question of the Corn laws "as those which he has advocated in an elaborate pamphlet, and enforced in former speeches —or whether he has renounced his principles, now that they are adopted by his early friends, and is now prepared to defend the sliding duty as essential to the prosperity of agriculture, we must wait to learn another day. I will not, therefore, fatigue the House by attempting to discuss their merits now, further than to complain of the injustice which, I think, has been done to that scheme, not only by the right hon. Member for Pembroke, but by others who have considered only its abstract merits, and have compared it with nothing. I know they insist on the right to conceal their cards—they have a right to do as gamesters, who, when the cards are dealt and honours are divided, look for nothing but the odd trick; but have they a right to do so, or rather are they right in doing so, as statesmen, candidates for the confidence of the House of Commons, and for the Administration of an empire? A great exigency has arrived—how created is immaterial to the question of the remedy —but, if I must answer, I will say, by the acts of those who, during long years of misrule, mortgaged the industry of this country for ages yet unborn, in the vain attempt to extinguish liberty throughout the world. But the true wisdom is to look, not to the past, but to the future; the statesman who would govern must legislate for that future. Something must be done; for I can scarcely think the right hon. Member for the University of Cambridge can have been rightly understood, when he was thought to propose to equalise our income with our expense, by letting things alone, —in which he would resemble that ingenious gentleman, Sir Abel Handy, in the play, who, when his house is in flames, and none of his various inventions are at hand to quench it, triumphantly exclaims to his son,—" I have hit it, Bob ! perhaps it may go out of itself!" Now, it may be, that the scheme proposed for meeting the deficiency, not by increasing, but by lightening the burdens of the people, is in itself an evil—still it may be a less evil than the deficiency it proposes 978 to remedy, and a less evil than the substitute which will be applied. Can we judge in ignorance of what that substitute is? Are we prepared to affirm this bill of indictment in the dark? On all other great questions, the principles and purposes of public men stand open to the day; why are the financial questions, now the most urgent of all, to be exceptions to this rule? Above all, how,—when the objection rather relates to the time when the scheme is propounded, than to its essential merits — can we judge of the exigency, of the urgency of the call, unless we know what other resources may be in store? But the right hon. Baronet, the Member for Pembroke, says, that great excitement prevails on one of the questions involved in the scheme—in which, by the way, he differs from some of the ablest organs of his party, who assure us there is no excitement at all worth mentioning, and that the attempt to raise it has been a signal failure—and, quoting the expression of Mr. Tierney, "that the malice of the devil himself could not have thought of preparing for a dissolution with the false cry of the Church in danger," still would impute this malice of the devil to those whom he charges with raising the cry of cheap bread. Now I will not discuss the malice of the devil with the right hon. Baronet—I will make no invidious comparisons—I will do injustice to no one, present or absent; but I will fearlessly assert, that there is nothing more malicious or more devilish in the cry of cheap bread than in the cry of No Popery, or in that which the hon. Baronet seems about to echo of No Poor Law ! I can scarcely tell what he desires when he speaks of excitement and dissolution; at one time he says, "Do not emulate the malice of the devil, by preparing for dissolution during excitement," and the next moment he says, "Dissolve instantly !" Is it that his eagerness gets the better of his judgment—that he is so tremulously anxious to realise his triumph in the downfall of his friends, that he grudges the least delay, and thus he is led into these inconsistent wishes? But how idle it is to admit the justice, nay the necessity, of an appeal to the people, and then complain that excitement prevails through the land! Why, such an appeal, without excitement, is almost a contradiction in terms. The appeal to a great people cannot be pronounced or an- 979 swered in whispers. It must rouse—it must excite—it must awaken—it must rapidly present those vivid truths which it seeks to attest—it must call to its aid, not only the result of long studies and examinations, but the wants, the feelings, the affections of a great people. The Government will make the appeal, and will seek the solution of the true constitutional doctrine—not whether they have the confidence of Parliament, but the confidence of those who create it. I now approach to the close of the right hon. Baronet's speech, and with it the termination of this trespass on the patience of the House. I leave him in the undisturbed possession of his comparison of the Ministers to tenants, who, under notice to quit, in vengeance set fire to the property of the landlord; and to pirates who rush with torches to the magazine; but when he brandishes that flaring simile of the enemy of the Philistines, who sent three hundred foxes with firebrands among his foes, I must take leave to restore that comparison to its original occasion, and to its rightful owner, and leave the right hon. Baronet nothing but the boldness with which he has seized it, and the charity and the grace with which it was applied. It was used, indeed, against another Government on a parallel occasion—on a charge precisely similar: one of its objects was the right hon. Baronet, the Member for Pembroke; the speaker who applied it was the right hon. Baronet, the Member for Tamworth, who now sits beside him. On the 3d of March, 1831, Sir Robert Peel, addressing the Treasury Bench, where the right hon. Baronet, the Member for Pembroke, then sat beside some of the Ministers whom he now assails, thus concluded one of his greatest speeches: —It is the duty of a Government to calm, not to stimulate, the fever of popular excitement. They have adopted a different course; they have sent through the land the firebrand of agitation, and no one can now recall it. But let us hope there may be limits to their powers of mischief. They have, like the giant enemy of the Philistines, lighted three hundred brands, and scattered through the country discord and dismay; but God forbid that they should, like him, have the power to concentrate in death all the energies which belong to life, and to signalise their own destruction, by bowing to the earth the pillars of that sacred edifice which contains within its walls, according to their own admission, the noblest society of freemen in the world!980 Thus has the right hon. Baronet, in generous oblivion of the past assault, seized the extinguished torch which once flashed before him, and relumined it with other light than that of genius, to brandish before those who with him endured its ancient fire. But I would turn for a moment to the true author of this splendid passage, and ask him whether the apprehensions which were then so honestly conceived, and so nobly expressed, have not proved to be visionary fears? The threatened administration did not expire —they appealed in the equipoise of the parties to the people—the people answered to the call—the majority of one became one hundred and thirty-six, and the second charter of our liberties became the law of the land. And are not those pillars, to which eloquent reference was made, as majestic and as stable as ever? Can the right hon. Baronet look at the great body of Gentlemen who now encircle him, returned to a Parliament under that law— to the state of municipal corporations— nay, even to the very vote which he hopes to carry in a reformed House of Commons, and not admit that these fears were vain? And why? Because the true Conservatism of England is not merely that which arrays itself under the banner of one party, however mighty—it is sheltered in the million homes of England—it is blended with all the "high endeavours" which are open to all, and the security of the "glad success" when obtained; it is associated with the piety, not of churchmen only, but of all; it is cherished by the consciousness which the humblest, as knowledge expands his vision, may enjoy, that he is a sharer in the triumphs of humanity and freedom throughout the world; and therefore, it is safe amidst the crash of parties, and the change of laws. What may be the issue of this motion, or what the issue of that greater appeal which it is believed awaits us, I will not pretend to conjecture; but of this I feel assured, that when those heats inseparable from the present state of parties shall have subsided, and we have passed away from this busy scene; when even the resentments of the right hon. Baronet themselves shall at last be still; that those who shall look with un-dazzled gaze on the events of these stirring times, will recognise among the men who have been now charged with weakness, a strength not born amidst great 981 majorities, nor dependent on them; a strength, not of the giant but of the enchanter; a strength, not composed of confederated monopolies; not cemented by borrowed hypocrisies; not envenomed by the poison extracted from old and blighted regards; but born of good hopes for man amidst glooms; matured by the just blending of the elements of conservatism and progression; which no temporary failure can destroy; for it chose the happiness and freedom of a world for its aim, and posterity for its arbiters !
Mr. H. Hinde
had listened with all attention to the speech of the hon. and learned Gentleman who had just sat down, and yet, after the hon. and learned Gentleman had devoted his whole talents and abilities to the task, he had been wholly unable to answer any one of the able arguments which had been urged by the right hon. Baronet, the Member for Pembroke. The only accusation which the hon. and learned Gentleman had succeeded in making against the right hon. Baronet was, that having been a Member of the Grey Cabinet, he now refused to give his support to the miserable remnant of that body which now held the reins of office. In that refusal he joined, for he saw no security, that next Session the present Advisers of the Crown, might not make the ballot a Cabinet question, leave the adoption of the Charter an open question, and recommend the repeal of the union in the Speech from the Throne. The noble Lord opposite was pressed forward far beyond his own declarations, and he feared for the prosperity of the country, so long as the noble Lord directed its destinies. He did not accuse the Government of acting contrary to the interests of the country, but he must say, that it was essentially a Government of easy virtue. The noble Lord was unable to resist the pressure of the Radicals—he was unable to withstand the solicitations of the philosophers, and on all these grounds, he should give his hearty support to the present motion.
§ Mr. Gillon
I am unwilling to allow these debates to come to a close at a period of such vital importance to the best interests of the country, a period so interesting to those whom I have the honour to represent, without offering a very few observations to the House, and stating the reasons why I shall oppose the motion of the right hon. Baronet. The object of the motion I take to be this; to compel, if possible, her Ma- 982 jesty's Ministers to resign, instead of dissolving Parliament, and to prevent an appeal to the people on the great questions which have been propounded for their consideration. Ample as are the stores of Tory gold, unscrupulously and successfully as they have been used on late occasions, at single elections, the Gentlemen opposite do not, very evidently, desire a general appeal to the people; when, their attention being so much divided, the resources of intimidation and corruption must act with a divided, and, therefore, less baneful injury on the independence, the honour, and the interests, of the country—less still, do they desire an appeal to the people at this moment, when the sophistries which might pass current in this House, must be laid bare before a discerning public—when an opportunity would be afforded of exposing the hypocrisy that dictates a pretended concern for the negro, in a party, who were, if not the opponents, at least, the lukewarm, the reluctant supporters of emancipation— of those who are revelling in wealth accumulated by slave-labour, wrung from the tortured sinews of the negro at a time when neither sex nor age were spared in their unholy lust of gain; who threw every obstacle in the way of the wholesome working of the Emancipation Act, who when slavery was abolished, endeavoured to carry it on still under another title, who resisted to the last every regulation of the Government for the protection of the person, and improving the condition of the negro; who, sending the whole of their own sugars to the British market on account of the exorbitant price their monopoly affords them, feed themselves and their dependents on sugar the produce of slave-labour in another country, and jet would deny to the English labourer the cheap use of one of the most wholesome necessaries of life; when the alliance, I will not call it unnatural, but the unholy alliance of monopolists of every shade and degree, against the British people shall be held up in all its unseemly deformity to public execration. Such a general appeal as this suits not the views of aspirants for office, with whom deferred hopes produce symptoms of sickness, that brook no delay, and who, in appealing to the people, desire to turn the influence of office against the people's friends. Having lent my aid in the passing of the great measure of Parliamentary Reform, I rejoice to think that an opportunity is afforded me of recording my vote in favour of this, if not its first, its 983 most important and magnificent result—of recording my confidence in those who having had the courage to attack the borough-mongers in their day of power; having proceeded amidst the acclamations of a nation's joy, and the hideous howls of a despairing faction, driving them from power, have now the manliness to assault monopoly in its strongholds: to say to the monopolists, it is time to have a reckoning with you, you have cramped the energies of the noblest and most industrious people on the earth, you have limited their resources both of enjoyment and production, you have shut against the fruits of their labour the markets of Europe: country after country are closing their ports against them; state after state are learning by our baneful example, the noxious, the unnatural, lesson of prohibition. You have made starvation the inmate of the dwelling of the industrious classes, and sorrow and sickness the companions of his hours of rest; these things shall be no longer. We know your power, we know how many interests will combine against us—we know what effect intimidation can produce on the dependent, and what delusion and misrepresentation, can work in the minds of the uninstructed, but great in the righteousness, the humanity, the justice of our cause we fear you not. With what object has the people contended for the measure of Parliamentary Reform? Was it for the abstract love of change, or was it for the results to which it was expected to lead, of increased national prosperity, increased comfort and enjoyment to each individual of whom that nation is composed? What is it, in fact, to the great mass of the people, whether the Parliament that meet here be composed of the representatives of the breeches' pockets of the borough mongers, or of those of the wealthy, the sober, the thinking, and the intelligent of the middle classes, if the one confer on them no more substantial benefits than the other. Many inroads have been made upon the old system of corruption. Stronghold after stronghold of monopoly has yielded to the impulse of public opinion and every concession to justice and the popular will has successively been resisted by the hon. Gentlemen opposite— if we have had reason to complain of the Government, it is on account of the slowness of their progress, it is because they have not sufficiently trusted to the people, because they have shown too much deference to those whom the people justly re- 984 gard as their hereditary foes. Little wonder is it, then, that when this magnificent scheme is propounded, which is to uproot monopoly from the land, which is to put an end to class legislation, which is to confer on the people in abundance those blessings which flow from the hand of a bountiful providence, and which have hitherto been intercepted from them by the cupidity and malevolence of man — no wonder that the whole herd of those who have hitherto lived by preying upon the people, who, to promote their own selfish views, care not a moment for the amount of public misery, they may produce — no wonder that the whole herd of monopolists should combine to repel from office those by whom these mighty results are to be accomplished. I feel confidence in her Majesty's Ministers because their measures are founded on the incontrovertible doctrines of free-trade, on the principle of meting out to all, the same measure of justice, on the principle that imposts are to be levied for purposes of revenue only, not for protection, because the revision which is to apply to corn, to sugar, and to timber, is to be extended to our whole tariff of duties. I rejoice, that the merchants and manufacturers have assented to these propositions, and that while they desire an alteration of those laws which enhance the price of the food of the people, and restrict the commerce of the country, they declare, that so far as they are concerned they will throw monopoly to the winds. This being the case, how can I as a landowner, and dependent upon land alone for my support, refuse my assent to the proposition to modify those laws, that regulate the importation of foreign corn. But, setting all this aside, I am prepared to contend as I have always done, that a fixed duty is better for the agricultural interests themselves, than that which was termed the sliding scale. I am convinced, that the energies of the agriculturists need but the stimulus of competition to call them into active life. Have not we heard serious lamentations about the destruction of the agricultural interests, by the low prices in 1834 and 1835, which occurred under that sliding scale, which is in such favour with those Gentlemen opposite; and yet, during these low prices was the time when in the north, the greatest exertions have been made; these exertions are now unabated. A system of improvement is going on totally unheard of in former times; by judicious draining, the produce 985 of the soil is in one place, doubled or trebled, and when I look to the extent of these improvements, and to the backward agricultural and undeveloped resources of a great part of England, I see no reason why we should not become an exporting instead of an importing country. When I look, also, to the putting an end to the gambling in corn, to the steadiness of prices about to be afforded to the agriculturists, above all, to the cessation of that drain of gold, which has proved so fatal to every interest in the country, I cannot doubt, that as a single measure even the agriculturists would be benefited by the change. I stated these views within these few weeks, to a meeting of agriculturists in Scotland, and they have been well received, I told them, that they must rely on their own energies, to effect a judicious economy and judicious expenditure, and not on restrictive and antiquated laws, for their support. It is easy to reason with judicious and intelligent men, such as I then addressed, though it may be impossible to carry conviction to the minds of the boors and serfs of Bucks. These great measures I assert, will be incomplete, unless another party be called on to bear their part of the general burthens of the State, I mean the monied interest, hence the reason why I have always desired the imposition of a property tax. I have deeply deplored the ruin and devastation spread far and wide throughout all the productive classes by the act which bore the name of the right hon. Baronet, the amount of which it is impossible to calculate. But, we are told, it is now too late to retrace our steps; it may be so; I will assume, for the present, that it is so; no one surely will contend, that that property which needed more than any other, the protection which was lent to it by the State, should contribute nothing to its support, while the landowner, the farmer, the merchant, the manufacturer, pay willingly the imposts placed on them; let not the monied interest alone refuse to bear its share of the national burthens. I shall always doubt the sincerity and honesty of those who refuse to accede to so just a proposition. I will abstain from entering upon any of the details of the separate measures proposed by her Majesty's Government, farther than to say, that to the principles of free-trade, not as mere celebrated principles, to be mused on by philosophers in their closets, but to their practical development I will give my most 986 complete assent. It is in opposition to these great principles, that the right hon. Baronet and the party with whom he is connected, must come, if they ever do so, into power—I pray that day may be long distant—I would not have hon. Members opposite lay the flattering unction to their souls, that even if they succeed in carrying this motion, they will either drive Ministers from office, or force them to a dissolution before time shall have been afforded to explain to the country the measures they have propounded for their consideration. On every principle which can actuate the conduct of a public man, I am led to place confidence in her Majesty's Ministers, in preference to their opponents. I have ever been favourable to the protection of the electors against the undue influence of intimidation and corruption by the ballot, I have ever been an advocate for increasing the responsibility of the representative, by shortening the duration of Parliaments. On both these points while I find a united opposition from the party opposite, I find the majority of those connected with her Majesty's Government, entertain consentaneous opinions with my own. I have ever been disposed to simplify, to widen, and gradually to extend, the basis of our representative system. On this point, the conduct of the two parties, in regard to the Irish Registration Bills, will speak volumes to the country. Should that party, so justly hateful to Ireland, succeed in obtaining the reins of power, and in annihilating the franchises of that portion of the empire, she may have just cause to dread, that their influence may be turned to crippling and impairing the liberties and privileges of the other parts of which it is composed. I call on her Majesty's Government to persevere in carrying into effect the great scheme which they have propounded to the country undismayed by the phalanx of monopolists and class interests, that may be united to resist them, satisfied that as their measures are founded on the broad basis of justice and truth, notwithstanding all interested opposition, they must and will prevail.
§ Mr. James Grattan
was as ready as the hon. Gentleman who had just spoken, to support her Majesty's Ministers, but not exactly for the same reasons. He considered this question one which materially concerned the interests of his own country, Ireland. He placed confidence in her Majesty's Government, because he conceived, that the whole of their policy, both at 987 home and abroad, was founded upon principles which were the best for the interests of the people. Both at home and abroad they had raised this country to the highest possible pitch of glory, character, and fame. The principles upon which the noble Lord, the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs, had acted since the last Session of Parliament, had redounded to his honour in the highest degree; and, by the course he had pursued, he now held the reins of power in his hands, not only over all the nations of Europe, but throughout the whole world. The question the House had to decide was not respecting the immediate proposition made by the noble Lord, the Secretary of State for the Colonies; but the question now was, what had her Majesty's Ministers done to justify that House in calling upon them to resign? Looking at all their past acts, in his opinion there was sufficient to justify the House, not to pass a vote of want of confidence, but to pass a vote of thanks. But he was anxious to look to Ireland. Before the present Government came into office, Ireland suffered under Insurrection Acts, Arms Bills, and every measure of oppression. Since the year 1831, when those who now governed the country assumed power, the progress of improvement in that country had been great indeed. More capital had been embarked there, and greater advances made in the comfort, well-being, and peace of the people, within the last tea years, than took place during the whole reign of the right hon. Baronet and his party. He had already said, that he considered the present vote to be one of assent to or dissent from the proposition of the noble Lord, either respecting the Sugar-duties or the Corn-laws. He was one of those who thought that it would be utterly impossible that the interests of Ireland could be preserved under the proposed duty of one shilling, or indeed at any other fixed duty, whether ten, eight, or twelve shillings. Under a fixed duty they would find that, all throughout the continent, there would be a fixed supply, and the whole trade would be taken from Ireland, and would fall into the hands of the cotton manufacturers, who would all become traders. With a free importation of articles called provisions—such as cattle, pigs, and so forth, bow would Ireland be able to compete with foreign countries: and how would she be able to maintain her present trade? No; it would be annihilated. Notwithstanding these objections to the schemes of 988 her Majesty's Ministers, he should certainly support them on this occasion, because he had the fullest reliance on the soundness of their general principles; and furthermore, because he should dread to place Ireland under the sway of the right hon. Gentleman and his Friends. Lord C. Hamilton was surprised to hear the hon. Gentleman express his confidence in her Majesty's Ministers, at the same time that he declared his dissent from one of the greatest measures that had been ventured upon by any Government in relation to the commercial, agricultural, and financial interests of this country—measures which it was evident had been brought forward merely for the purpose of enabling the Government to retain office, without any intention whatever to promote the interests of the people, and he was the more surprised when he heard the reasons assigned for feeling that confidence. The hon. Member said, that much as he disapproved of the measures proposed, yet he could not give to the Government the whole blame of having brought them forward, as he felt convinced it was chiefly owing to the headlong violence of the noble Lord, the Member for North Lancashire, who, by his attacks on the Irish Registration, had so weakened their position that some such measure was necessary—that is, that the Government were ready to sacrifice the interests of the country in order to strengthen their own party interests. This appeared to him a strange reason for feeling confidence in a Government, in fact it seemed to him the most severe condemnation a Government could receive. He asked the hon. Member who said go much of the high position to which Government had raised this country, whether, when they came into office, it was only a secondary state? — or did it then occupy an equally high place in the estimation of other nations, with the additional advantages of financial prosperity? With respect to the foreign policy of the noble Lord opposite, he was ready to express his admiration of the talents and perseverance which that noble Lord had shown in his embarrassed position; but while he admitted this he could not agree, that the result of his interference in the affairs of the East had been such as to justify the great expenditure to which the country had been put in order to keep up the large armaments which had been required in the Mediterranean and on the coast of Syria. This was sufficiently manifest in the pre- 989 sent embarrassed position of Turkey, and in the insurrectionary state of many of the provinces under her rule. To all the pleasing anticipations of the noble Lord of the beneficial effects likely to follow the promulgation of that new Magna Charta the hatti sheriff of Gulhâné, the grim array of 300 Christian heads around the walls of Nissa, gave but a melancholy reply. With respect to the precedent for the present course pursued by the Government, which was attempted to be drawn from the conduct of Mr. Pitt in 1784, that case certainly bore no analogy to the present; for the opposition which Mr. Pitt met with was a factious opposition, evinced in a series of vexatious resolutions, arising from the disappointment which rankled in the mind of the man by whom that opposition was headed, and this opposition was personal, not directed against his measures—it began before he had been re-elected after taking office, and continued in the shape of hostile resolutions which did not impede the Government of the country. But it ought not to be forgotten, that the majorities against which Mr. Pitt contended, were continually decreasing, and were soon turned into minorities, whilst the majorities against the present Government constantly went on increasing. And how was this majority increasing? why, by the gradual coming over of distinguished men from that side—it resulted from the downward and reckless course so eloquently described by the noble Lord, the Member for Northumberland, and was strengthened by fresh victories at every accidental vacancy that occurred. The majority against the present Government was one formed after they had been tried for five years, increasing as they were more fully known. The majority against Mr. Pitt decreased as he became known, till it was changed into a weak minority. Independently of this, Mr. Pitt had the most encouraging addresses from all parts of the country, and possessed, also, the confidence of the other House of Parliament. There had been an endeavour, too, to establish a precedent in favour of the conduct of the Ministers of the Crown in the course pursued by the right hon. Baronet, the Member for Tam-worth, in 1835; but there was no similarity between the two cases. There had been a compact alliance and coalition entered into between the parties on the opposite side of the House against the right hon. Baronet, and the object had been to 990 put him out of office without giving his measures a fair hearing, or himself a fair trial. But the right hon. Gentleman had not endeavoured to retain power after the decision of an hostile majority against him upon any question which really affected the public policy. The division in the election of the Speaker, and the addition of three lines to the address did not interfere with the legislation of the country. On the first occasion that he sustained a defeat which prevented his carrying a measure he considered essential to the interests of the country, he resigned: therefore, his conduct affords no precedent for the course pursued by the present Government. These circumstances were the stronger, when it was recollected how the present Parliament had been called together by the Whig Government, and how the Queen's name had been used to influence the elections. The occasion of the last dissolution was the death of our late Sovereign, by which dispensation of Providence her Majesty was called to superintend the destinies of this great nation at the early age of eighteen, and although her Majesty brought to the task a most enlightened mind, a highly educated understanding, a firmness and self-possession never equalled by any one in her exalted and difficult position, yet it was impossible that her Majesty could have much knowledge of public men or much experience in public affairs. She was, therefore, obliged to place implicit confidence in those she found entrusted with the management of the affairs of the country—and how did they repay that confidence? by a most unsparing use of her Majesty's name for their own party purposes, and an unconstitutional attempt to bias the elections by placing her Majesty in the position of a canvasser. At that period, her Majesty was advised to write a letter of approbation of the conduct of the Viceroy of Ireland, and at the contest for Wicklow, that letter was posted and placarded through the county in favour of the hon. Member who had succeeded. He himself had seen a placard at the election for the county of Wicklow, taking advantage of that letter in favour of the hon. Gentleman opposite, by the inscription —" Read the Queen's letter !"—" Vote for Howard and Grattan." And the same was done in many other places, her Majesty's name being coupled with those of the candidates as supplicating the votes of the electors. He did not think the Government were justified in 991 making an appeal to the passions of the multitude, at the eve of an election, by a reference to certain popular measures, which, for the six years that they had been in office, they had been in the constant habit of stigmatizing and denouncing as unsafe to be entertained by that House. Their present course was not that of a Government, for they had, in fact, ceased to be a Government; but, of a sort of opposition, endeavouring to render it impossible for any other set of men to carry on the Government. How was it, that for six years, they had not brought forward these measures to which they had now made up their minds to pin their political existence, and if they really considered those measures so essential to the interests of the country, why did they not take blame to themselves, instead of casting it on Gentlemen on the opposite side of the House, for having so long delayed them? How could the noble Lord come down and charge this side of the House, with interfering with the beneficent designs of Providence, when he himself, having been six years in office, has always opposed the very measures which he now brings forward. Surely the noble Lord, before he endeavoured to cast such a stigma on this side of the House, should have confessed his previous errors and felt shame for himself for having so long acted in contradiction to the beneficent designs of the Almighty. Having failed to carry through Parliament those measures which they deemed of the greatest importance to the country, he thought the Government were so confessedly weak that, upon constitutional grounds, they ought to resign their offices. He could assure those hon. Members who had opposed the Government on particular measures, and yet gave them their support on the present occasion, that they would do them little good by such an exhibition of inconsistency. Their support lost all moral weight, as it was notoriously given contrary to the wishes of their constituents, by acting in such a manner "they gave that which enriched not the Government, but left themselves poor indeed." The cries for cheap bread and cheap sugar were, doubtless, most calculating cries. But, both the time and the manner of bringing forward these questions were suspicious—for be it remembered, it was not till after signal defeats that any notice was given that such changes were in contemplation. He could not, therefore, be charged with making ungenerous imputations when he declared his conviction that 992 party wants, not the interests of the country, had prompted these propositions. The whole conduct of the Government opposing the bills to amend the Irish Registration, both this year and last, proved, that however important the question might be, they were even ready to consult their party interests at the sacrifice of those of the country. The evils of the state of the registry were not denied; but the cure was dangerous to the seats of their supporters, so they threw every impediment in the way; but being defeated, they brought in a bill of their own—but when the noble Lord, the Member for North Lancashire, finding he could not succeed, withdrew his bill—they instantly withdrew theirs in spite of their former protestations of its importance—it had served to perpetuate the evil which was all that was intended. This year an equally shuffling course had been pursued, and though their bill had been defeated, yet they had succeeded in retaining the acknowledged abuses of the present system. This conduct gave those on his side of the House, a right to assume, that party objects were the real motives of their present actions. If, however, these were to be made the cries of the Government candidates, he hoped the noble Lord (J. Russell) would read the people his sentiments of a few years back, when he said,The Corn-law repealers did not take into account, the difference between a manufacturing and agricultural population in all that concerns the morals and well-being of the people —the national strength and the national tranquility—nor do they consider the two or three millions of their countrymen they will reduce to utter beggary in the course of their speculations—this they call diverting capital into new channels.Would the noble Lord now tell the people, that he undertook the repeal of the Corn-laws to prevent power from being diverted into new hands? It had been said, that the distress of the manufacturing districts had rendered it necessary to bring forward the repeal of the Corn-laws; but who, he would ask, were the men that had produced this distress? The very men who were now endeavouring to persuade the people that they alone could cure the evils of the present system. In common life, it was not unusual for people to rely upon the advice of empirics, when after a series of experiments which had always ended injuriously to the patient, they were told at last, that there was but one hope more, and that was an experiment which if it failed must under- 993 mine their constitution. In such cases all persons of sense would immediately leave the quack, and have recourse to some sound and constitutional practitioner. Unquestionably, the deficiency which the Chancellor of the Exchequer had stated did exist, but who were responsible for it? Were the men who had caused it to be still trusted with the management of the finances of the country? Last year, when the Chancellor of the Exchequer produced his Budget, he indulged in flattering hopes as to future prospects; the taxes, he said, had increased in productiveness, and he believed they would continue to increase, while the measure he proposed to the House would place the finances of the kingdom upon a firm basis. This was his language for the purpose of making his then scheme palatable, and what was his language now? That we must handle the deficiency with boldness. He did not imagine that this was the way to inspire confidence in the country or in the political adversaries of the present Government. Having reduced the finances to their present state —having proved that their former calculations were good for nothing, was it to be expected that the House of Commons, as guardians of the public purse, would longer trust the custody of that purse to such hands? He considered that the way to deal with the deficiency was to deal with the Ministers who had caused it. But if he had very little confidence in Ministers before they introduced the Sugar Bill, he had none at all afterwards, and least of all did he think that measure likely to relieve the distresses of the country. As to the late events in China, he did not think they were such as reflected any credit on the Government; and, although some time ago they assumed a high tone upon the subject, they had recently seen very good reason to take a lower note. The noble Secretary for Ireland had complained, that the speeches of his adversaries were "redolent of Hansard;" it was not wonderful that some Members of the present Administration did not relish quotations of that kind, for they showed a most amusing pliability of opinion upon most of the great questions that had recently come before the House, and they naturally did not like to see their names appended to speeches which so ably and severely condemn their present conduct. All their measures evinced vacillation and infirmity of purpose—at one time rejecting proposals with apparent resolution, and at 994 another declaring them open questions, and then promoting them to the dignity of Cabinet questions. Whatever might be the result of this debate, sure he was, that the people of England would not he satisfied with such conduct, and they would shortly have the remedy in their own hands. For his own part, he had never recorded a vote with more satisfaction than that he should give at the close of the pending discussion, nor did he ever feel more confident of giving satisfaction to his constituents, than by expressing an utter want of confidence in the present Government.
§ Sir George Staunton
was sensible that he could add nothing in the way of novelty to the debate, and he was ready to rest the argument upon the speeches on his own side of the House, supported as they were by such addresses as the House had just heard from one of the opposite benches. The noble Lord had mentioned the affairs of China, and the right hon. Member for Tamworth had fairly admitted, that they were not yet ripe for discussion. Nevertheless, as the right hon. Member for Pembroke had taken a different course, he trusted that the House would grant him its attention for a few moments while he stated his reasons for coming to an opposite conclusion. The right hon. Baronet (Sir J. Graham) had asserted that the war with China (so to call it) reflected anything but credit upon Ministers; but he took leave to say, on the other hand, that what had been done gave the present Government a strong claim to the confidence of the House and of the country. The whole community of British merchants in China were surrounded and made prisoners in their factory; their lives were threatened, they were to be subject to a lingering death by starvation, and, under those circumstances, 2,000,000l. or 3,000,000l. were extracted from them. The right hon. Gentleman said, that he considered a war with China as a great calamity; he ( Sir George Staunton) considered that any war was a great calamity, but he considered that it would be a still greater calamity if the Government of this country should want strength or spirit to redress such injuries. The right hon. Baronet had also quoted the opinion of the Emperor Napoleon, that it would be very dangerous to have a war with China; he owned, that high as Napoleon stood in some respects, his opinion was no great authority on Chinese affairs. He was a great warrior, but the world would hardly consider him a great states- 995 man; for all his policy ended on the rock of St. Helena. He would quote a higher authority upon this point—the opinion of the conqueror of Napoleon—of the Duke of Wellington, and he had said, that whatever disapprobation he might have at the other conduct of the Government, a war, having for its object the redress of those injuries, was undoubtedly just and necessary; and the noble Duke had added further, in reference to the statement that this was a war originating in opium, that "whatever might have been the original cause of the war, it could not have been opium." He therefore thought, that, in the fitting out of an armament to obtain the redress of such serious injuries, her Majesty's Ministers could not have lost the confidence of the House. That armament had been got ready in a manner that reflected the highest credit on the vigour and energy of the British nation, and the greatest credit on the Governor-general. It had arrived in China in due season, and its operations till the 4th July, when the island, of Chusan was taken, were in every point successful. The events which had occurred since that period had certainly disappointed the hope that had been entertained by the country; they had even disappointed himself; but though he was disappointed, he could not say that he was surprised. Hon. Gentlemen who were present when he spoke last year would recollect that he did not hold out, on his own opinion, any sanguine expectation of an early termination of the war; indeed, he had said, that he was fully prepared for a tedious and protracted contest. It was not necessary to enter into any explanation of these subsequent events; until all the papers were upon the Table of the House, they would not be in a situation to discuss that question. It was impossible, however, not to entertain some conjecture as to the probable causes which might have produced those events. He could not but think, that it might possibly happen, that the discussions which had taken place last year in this country, that the very narrow majority by which the war was supported in that House, and that the intimation that it would not be supported if it were carried on for a long period, might have operated upon our own negotiator, and made him think it necessary to patch up the business in some way or other. That was merely a matter of conjecture, but they knew positively, that those discussions had produced an effect upon the Chinese 996 themselves. There had been published a memorial of the commissioner Lin, to the Emperor, calling upon the Chinese to resist the English, because they were a divided people, that there was a Chinese party in this country, and that the English Government were not capable of carrying on the war against them; and when they knew also, that the Emperor had refused to ratify even the very unsatisfactory concessions of his own commissioner, he could not but couple this with the memorial of Lin, and he could not but conceive, that if this had not been made a party discussion, they might now be congratulating themselves on the prospect of a speedy return to peace with China. Whatever contention there might be as to the propriety of the conduct of the plenipotentiaries, he did not see, that any blame could attach to her Majesty's Government. All they could do, they had done. No sooner had the news arrived in this country of the failure of one plenipotentiary, than they immediately sent out another. He had not the honour of knowing Sir Henry Pottinger at the time of his appointment, but he was satisfied, from his long services in India, and from what he had seen of him since his appointment, that the British interests would be safe in his hands. On the question of China, therefore, he could not believe that the House would withhold its confidence from her Majesty's present advisers. Upon the general question he would simply say, that the subject on which they were to vote was, whether the conduct of her Majesty's Government, in remaining in office under the present circumstances of the country, was, or was not, constitutional. They had brought forward measures they thought most important, to reduce the prices of the necessaries of life, and to prevent any new taxation. And, without entering into the merits of those measures, he thought, that nothing could be more legitimate and constitutional than to appeal to the people if they were beaten in that House, He would therefere give a direct negative to the present motion.
§ Sir Walter James
said, that nothing could reflect greater credit upon men than their having the manliness to abandon place for principle. When an hon. Member found himself convinced as to the propriety of a course he should have no hesitation in adopting that course. He (Sir Walter James) heard with some astonishment the speech of the noble Lord the Member for North Lincolnshire the other night, after 997 what he had stated a few days before at a public meeting in Lincolnshire, and after the noble Lord had received the compliments of hon. Gentlemen at the side of the House opposite to where the noble Lord sat, upon the course which he had taken. One of the charges which had been made against the speeches of some hon. Gentlemen near him was, that they had used language which was of too violent a description. His answer was, that when Ministers flagrantly deserted the principles with which they set out—the principles of Earl Grey—they deserved from those hon. Members who were alluded to, the application of such language. When the right hon. Baronet, the Member for Tamworth, had given notice of the motion before the House, he felt confident that the right hon. Baronet would most perfectly establish his case; but it did not require the great abilities of the right hon. Baronet to establish that case, for it depended on a plain statement of historical facts. He was not able to perceive that any speaker who followed the right hon. Baronet, had succeeded in encroaching upon the position which the right hon. Baronet had taken up, and which position he considered impregnable. With the proceedings of Earl Grey's Administration up to the passing of the Reform Bill the motion had nothing to do. That bill had been called a swindle by the hon. Member for Dublin; but if it were a swindle, it did not come from the Conservative side of the House. He thought it a proper remuneration if a party introduced the Reform Bill for their own purposes, that such a party should be destroyed by it. The noble Lord, the Member for Lincolnshire, had urged as an objection against the motion of the right hon. Baronet, that the House of Commons had two years ago passed a vote of confidence in the present Administration, and that, therefore, it would not be fair to take in a period antecedent to that in proposing a vote of want of confidence in them. To that objection he would answer, that in public matters, as well as in private matters men were to be judged by their actions, and not by their professions, and it was quite clear that the House of Commons practically distrusted them. To show what the feeling of the House of Commons was, he need only refer to what had been the fate of the measures of Ministers for the last two years, and to the series of defeats and disgraces which they had been compelled to suffer during that period. Now, with respect to the 998 precedent furnished by the conduct of Mr. Pitt, and which had been so much relied on by the other side of the House as analogous to the course taken by the present Government, he contended, that that precedent did not apply, and that the course taken by Mr. Pitt differed in many respects from that pursued by the present Government. In the case of Mr. Pitt, the House of Commons in the course they pursued with respect to the India Bill, had, to a certain extent, assumed executive power. This was not the ease with respect to the present House of Commons. Then it was to be considered, that there was a difference, inasmuch as the opposition given to Mr. Pitt, was a personal opposition. Then, when Mr. Pitt appealed to the country, he did not come forward with any new schemes to excite the people, but he came forward and appealed to the country on personal grounds. In the words lately made use of by the right hon. Member for Tamworth, when Mr. Pitt appealed to the country, he did so on the ground, that he should have a fair trial. Could it be maintained by any one versed in the principles of the constitution, that the Government ought to have continued to hold their places one moment after they found that they were acting in opposition to the spirit of the House of Commons? His right hon. Friend, the Member for Tamworth, had stated, that there were three great measures by which he was willing to have the present Government tried by the country. But besides those measures, he could name other measures, and more particularly allude to the conduct they had uniformly pursued with respect to the Church—and the conduct they now pursued with respect to the Corn-laws, Well, then, there was another question, on which the passions were most easily excited and arrayed against each other—he meant the question of Parliamentary franchise. To show what had been the conduct of the Government, he need only refer to the noble Lord's address to the electors of Stroud, two years ago, and he would compare the principles put forward by the noble Lord at that time with his present conduct. The noble Lord, speaking of the Reform Bill, said, that it had been carried by Earl Grey, and other experienced statesmen, men accustomed to weigh the conduct they pursued, and it was carried with the concurrence of a considerable portion of the House of Lords—with the consent of a majority of the House of Com- 999 mons, and had the support of the intelligent and thinking portion of the country, and that such a measure ought not to be lightly disturbed. And the noble Lord proceeded to say, that he would not shrink from opposing those changes which might be brought forward by unknown leaders, and in which popular menace would dictate to property and intelligence, and that he would not assist (as the noble Lord expressed it) to stir the cauldron of popular excitement. True, the noble Lord did not himself stir the cauldron, but he put the coals under it, and when the cauldron was boiling, he would expect the Conservative party to attempt to take out the hot coals and burn their fingers in the attempt. But, notwithstanding the slur of the noble Lord, the Conservative party would not be afraid, they would attempt to take out the burning coals, and though they might be injured, they would brave that danger for the sake of the country. He thought, that the language which the noble Lord had applied to those who wished to disturb the Reform Bill might, with very little change, be applied to the conduct he now pursued, and would be equally applicable to the measures now under the consideration of the House. He might, also, refer to the expressions made use of on this subject, by Lord Melbourne, in the House of Lords, in which the noble Lord said, that the repeal of the Corn-laws could not be effected without shaking society to its foundations, nor without exciting every kind of bitterness and animosity, and that he did not think the advantage would prove to be worth the struggle made to obtain it. These were the principles avowed by her Majesty's Government two years ago, and they now brought forward measures, which they not only had con demned, but which they declared dangerous to the best interests of the country. This was the conduct that had lost them the confidence of the House and the country. The Whig party could not last long. The struggle now going on between parties must end in the triumph of the Tory party. They were the friends of the Church, and they were the friends of the property of the country—they were the friends of good order, of the constitution, and of the monarchy. On the other hand, the party opposed to them, were friends of the ballot, and of every democratic and revolutionary change. The contest between those parties must soon come to an issue, and, in his opinion, the sooner the better. Of 1000 what important class in the country had the present Government the confidence? Had they the confidence of the clergy?— of the professional community? — of the army and navy?—of the law, and of those professions which numbered amongst them the best and wisest and worthiest men? Had they the confidence of the commercial and manufacturing interests (with the exception of a few who expected to gain advantages by their measures)? Had they the confidence of the colonial interest? Let them look to Canada, where a rebellion was produced by the neglect of the Government, and to Jamaica now enjoying that constitution which the Conservative party had preserved to them. He could assure them, also, that they had lost the confidence of the honest artisan, with whom their present attempt at delusion would fail, and who would feel that the cry of "cheap bread" was only under a thin disguise, the cry of "low wages."
§ Mr. Wallace
had never heard such a rambling speech as that which the noble Lord had delivered, and which the hon. Member had praised. What did he mean by attributing the Arms Bill and the Irish Coercion Bill to the present Government? Those bills had been brought forward by the noble Lord the Member for North Lancashire. By whom had the Coercion Bill been proposed? Why, by the noble Lord the Member for North Lancashire. [Lord Stanley: No, no. By Lord Althorp.] At all events the noble Lord was the concoctor and the supporter of it. But by whom had the Arms Bill been proposed? [Lord Stanley: By Lord John Russell.] He begged pardon. He perfectly recollected the introduction of the bill into the House by the noble Lord the Member for North Lancashire; and he also remembered that noble Lord proposing one of the most obnoxious and disgraceful provisions in it, that every man should have his name engraved on the arms he might have in his possession. Then allusion had been made to the mention of the Queen's name; and it had been stated it had been abused. Now, the Queen's name had been abused, but by whom?—by Gentlemen on the other side, at Canterbury and elsewhere. When her Majesty had expressed her determination to see equal justice done to all her subjects in Ireland, the Irish had made use of the Queen's name, with admiration at her noble conduct. But that name had been mentioned with every possible epithet of abuse by Gentlemen on the other side. 1001 ["No, no.] Hon. Gentlemen might say "No, no," but he would say "Yes, yes," and as a proof that he was right in saying "Yes, yes," he would refer them to Canterbury. The hon. Gentleman had designated the Reform Bill as a swindle.
§ Sir Walter James
—I did not designate the Reform Bill as a swindle—I stated it was the hon. and learned Member for Dublin who had so designated it.
§ Mr. Wallace
understood, then, that the hon. Gentleman had not called the Reform Bill a swindle on his own authority, and should not pursue that point further. With regard to what the hon. Gentleman had said respecting the noble Lord's former opinions on the subject of agitation, be had always regretted that the noble Lord should have published such opinions; but, at all events, the noble Lord was pursuing the right course now, and while he did so, the noble Lord should have his support. The right hon. Baronet, the Member for Tamworth, as an excuse for not stating what measures he would propose, had alluded to the difficulties in which he was placed, and asked for time for deliberation. Why, he had had three years for deliberation, for during the whole of that time he had been anxiously seeking the overthrow of the Government; and he should not, before these measures had been proposed, have been very sorry if the right hon. Baronet had succeeded, but now that Ministers were proposing measures which were really for the benefit of the country, he felt bound to give them his support, and should be very sorry to see the right hon. Baronet succeed against them. He would not inquire into their sincerity. The measures themselves were substantially good, and he would give his vote for them. He firmly believed that the agricultural as well as the manufacturing class would be benefitted by them. They knew very well that the wages they received would buy a much larger quantity of wheat were that wheat cheaper, and that so long as the landlords could maintain their monopoly, they would never have cheap bread. The mode of introducing corn at a fixed duty of 8s. was a greater protection than the agriculturists had a right to expect. With respect to the alteration in the postage, there had been manifested in that debate, a degree of heartlessness, and a want of care for the working classes of this country, which he had not expected to see in that House. Not one word had been said of the advantages conferred upon those persons. If the right 1002 hon. Baronet had inquired, he would have found that though there had been a failure in a certain class of correspondence which was expected to pass through the Post-office, there had been a great increase in that class which it was chiefly intended to benefit. In what was expected to pass through the office in a printed form there certainly had been a great failure, but in manuscript correspondence the increase was considerable. In the year 1839, in the four weeks in May, 1,619,765 letters passed through the office; in the four weeks in August, 1840, there were 3,461,000, and in January 1841, 5,236,000. It was also very gratifying to see the increase in small sums of money sent through the Post-office. The windows for money orders were crowded with persons who were availing themselves of that means to send money to their parents and others residing in distant parts of the country. Indeed every branch of this establishment exhibited the importance to the public of the manful conduct of the Government in taking that most important step by which the public had obtained so great a boon.
said, that there had been so much recrimination in the course of this debate, that he should confine himself as closely as he could, to the terms of the resolution itself. He agreed with the hon. Member for North Shields, (Mr. Ingham), that the first branch of the resolution involved a truism, because the Government had failed to carry those measures which they thought essential for the good of the country. But he had heard hon. Gentlemen opposite say, that they considered that the Government had a very fair share of the confidence of that House. He was ready to admit that they had as large a share as was desirable, but he could not agree, that it was such a share as rendered them fit persons to hold the reins of Government; and he would go further, and say, that since they had conducted the. affairs of this country, they had never had that share of its confidence which enabled them to carry on the Government with advantage to the public, or with dignity to themselves. Let them look to the history of the Government. When they had succeeded in ejecting the right hon. Baronet the Member for Tamworth, they had done so by passing a resolution—that no measure for the settlement of the question of tithes could be satisfactory which did not embody the principle of appropriation. That resolution being carried, the right hon. Baronet 1003 retired from office, and the new Government so far thought that resolution to be correct in the principle which it settled, that they brought in a bill exactly in accordance with it. Did they stand by that? He would not for one moment imagine that they had been insincere in their views, because if he thought so, he must believe that they had obtained office by false pretences; but what had they done? For six years they had held office, and they had not yet acted upon that principle, which they had themselves advocated, and the sanction of the House to which they had themselves procured. In 1835, they brought in a measure which was carried through that House, but was defeated in the House of Lords. In 1836 they again brought in the measure, but it was allowed to fall through without being sent to the upper House. But could it be supposed, that in 1837 the enemies of the Church would still support the noble Lord, unless some measure was introduced which would be of such a nature as their views dictated? It was found necessary to gain their favour by substituting some other measure for that of appropriation. In the month of March, 1837, a scheme for the abolition of Church-rates was propounded to the House, and the noble Lord succeeded in carrying his resolution by a majority of 287 over 282—a great proof, indeed, of the confidence then reposed in him by the House. But what was the Ministers' own opinion of their position? Did they think that they had the power to carry measures essential to the benefit of the country? They had never since brought it forward, though the Parliament had since then, been dissolved under these auspices. In the autumn of 1837, the new House met, for a short time only, nothing then was heard of the Church-rate measure. It re-assembled in 1838, and in that year the Government brought in a bill for settling the Irish tithe question, and not only did they omit the appropriation clause in it, but when they were called upon by the hon. Member for Sheffield to embody that clause in the measure, they refused. And thus they had gone on endeavouring to catch wandering voters from the Conservative benches, hoping to conciliate one half of their Friends on their own side of the House, and one half of their enemies on the Conservative benches. But having passed the Tithe bill, what was to be done to satisfy the enemies of the Church? In 1839 they proposed a scheme for the education of the people, but so un- 1004 satisfactory to the House that they had been compelled to make some very important modifications in it; and then by a majority of two votes, they succeeded in carrying it through the House. Then came the ever-memorable Jamaica Bill. There at least the House withdrew its confidence, for the bill passed a second reading by so very small a majority, that it was given up; and the Government, having avowed that they had lost the confidence of the House, quitted office. Having done so, they returned under circumstances little calculated to increase that confidence placed in them by the House and by the country. They did not suffer the Session to close without doing something to induce the country to regret the resumption of their position; and so, notwithstanding the decreasing revenue, at the instance of the hon. Member for Greenock, they threw away 1,200,000l., in order that the Post-office might be thrown open. He confessed that it appeared to him that that was a measure the least likely to be useful, because it relieved a class who were well able to pay their own postage; and in reference to many of whom it had been observed that many of them were rich enough to keep a Member of Parliament to frank their letters. In 1840, the confidence of the House was restored to the noble Lord. The hon. Baronet, the Member for North Devon, then proposed a resolution that the Government was not entitled to the confidence of the House, but the noble Lord triumphed by a majority of twenty. Now, though he was aware that there might be hon. Members in that House who might deem a resolution, the converse of that proposed by the hon. Baronet the same in effect with that resolution which had been brought forward, for his own part, he thought that there was a wide distinction between the two propositions; and that although the Government had been declared not to be disentitled to the confidence of the House, a resolution stating that they were entitled to its confidence would not have been carried. He begged now to be allowed to call the attention of the House to a few instances in which a practical want of confidence in Ministers had been exhibited. The first instance was that which had occurred in reference to the income proposed to His Royal Highness Prince Albert. The Government had proposed that 50,000l. should be the stipend granted to His Royal Highness; but, by a large majority, it was declared 1005 that in the present state of the finances of the country, 30,000l. was a sufficient income, and the noble Lord failed. He took that to be a declaration on the part of the Members of that House that they had no confidence in the economy of the noble Lord. In the month of February, the right hon. Gentleman, the Member for Harwich brought forward a question respecting the finances of the country, declaring that he had no confidence in the state of our financial affairs, or in the manner in which they were administered. That also was carried against the Government by a considerable majority; and in that, he thought that the House had shown a practical want of confidence in their mode of proceeding. The third motion made, calling on the House to say, how far they had confidence in the noble Lord and his colleagues, was that proposed by the hon. Member for North Durham, respecting the pension of Sir John Newport, calling on the House to declare its disapprobation of that pension, and their desire that it should not be made a precedent for future cases. In vain did the noble Lord say, that by the motion an imputation was cast on the Government—the motion was carried, and so the House showed that it had little confidence in the integrity of the Government of the noble Lord. What, then, was the confidence enjoyed by the noble Lord, and his colleagues? A confidence to enable them to shuffle through the Session, but was it a confidence in their weakness, or their strength? A confidence in their wisdom or their want of it; a confidence in their love of the country, or in their love of place. There was yet another measure upon which the feeling of Parliament, was exhibited. The Government had stated their intention, they best knew why themselves, of relinquishing their proposed measures for purifying the register in Ireland, and the noble Lord, the Member for North Lancashire brought in his bill, and on several occasions he obtained a majority against the Government, and at last, that bill had been defeated, not by votes, but the speeches of those who had sought to delay its progress. So much for the Session of 1840. In 1841 the noble Lord brought in his bill to give a new electoral constitution to Ireland—another instance, not of the strength of judgment, but of the weakness of position. Had the noble Lord, the confidence of the House on that measure? No; he was defeated by a considerable majority. The noble Lord now 1006 came forward, for the purpose of renewing his system of agitation, by proposing an alteration of the Corn-laws. The noble Lord flattered himself with having the support of the country on that measure; but those who supported the Government proposition most warmly—if the language of public meetings was to be believed—did so in the hope of obtaining a total abolition, and not because they were friendly to a fixed duty. It therefore, only afforded another evidence of the weakness of Ministers. During five or six years the course which they had pursued had tended to no result, they had gone on, steering towards no certain port, without chart, without compass, bending to every gale, adapting their sails and their course to the variable winds of popular applause; shifting their purpose with every change of the tides, and compelled, for want of better protection, constantly to apply for that of their opponents. And now that they had been repeatedly defeated, and had lost the confidence of that House, the noble Lord refused to resign; and did so upon the ground alleged in his behalf by his hon. and learned Friend (Mr. Ingham), that he retained office merely until a dissolution could take place. But if that were the case, the noble Lord might have dissolved already, for he defied any hon. Member to get up, and declare that the object of the noble Lord in retaining office, was to promote the necessary business of the country, or, that the proposed Corn-law debate had any other real object than that of exciting turbulence throughout the country. The noble Lord retained office in order that the debates in the House might be made a means of rendering the representatives odious to the represented. It was possible that the noble Lord might succeed; but of the effect which the course he was about to pursue was likely to produce in. the country, a very striking specimen had recently been afforded in the place which the noble Lord himself represented. A meeting against the Corn-laws had been called, and the following scene there took place. The account which he would read of it was from one, far from an enemy to the Noble Lord's proposition. He should quote from the Globe of the 24th of May, which paper copied the account from the Cheltenham and Gloucester Journal. The hon. and learned Gentleman then read the following paragraph: —Of the scene which presented itself during the progress of the proceedings, any des- 1007 cription we can give would be faint in the extreme, compared with the reality. Advocates as we are for popular rights, and sincere haters as we are of the tyranny of the few over the many, we could not contemplate the aspect of this meeting without being struck with the wretched consequences which must result from the furious unreasoning tyranny of the many over the few. Looking down from the platform upon the immense mass of human beings which filled the body of the room, the majority of them with inflamed faces and cracked voices, yelling their discordant disapprobation at every speaker whose person they disapproved of, for they would not listen to his words: they seemed like the hundred-armed Briareus, ready to commit any violence and any folly that their excited passions might suggest to them. Their fickleness and inconsistency, too, were strongly exemplified during the discussion, if discussion it could be called, in applauding the most opposite and fallacious arguments, and cheering sentiments uttered by their Chartist leaders, which they hissed down and reprobated when put forward by the gentlemen who had called the meeting. The first decided outbreak of the prominent feeling of the meeting was given on the entrance of a leading manufacturer of the neighbourhood, who would seem to be unpopular on account of having reduced the time or wages of his workmen, we could not exactly understand which. The next tumultuous ebullition was on the voting a chairman to the meeting. Joseph Watts, Esq., moved, and Mr. W. Lewis seconded, the proposition, that Charles Stanton, Esq., be called to the chair. No opposition was offered, and Mr. Stanton took his seat: but he had scarcely done so, and was about to open the business of the. meeting by some prefatory observations, when he was assailed with hissing, at first from a few persons, but which was soon joined in by a far greater number, and cries were raised that he had not been duly elected chairman, and insisting that the question of who was to preside should be put to the meeting. Every syllable that Mr. Stanton attempted to utter was drowned in the interruptions he experienced; and during the tumult, a person, in appearance diminutive and quite youthful, and rather shabbily dressed, came forward on the platform, and was received with a good deal of cheering from the Chartists, which demonstration he seemed very willing to understand was intended to signify he should act as chairman. Accordingly, after a brief space, he very coolly appropriated to himself a seat close alongside Mr. Stanton, and announced himself as joint chairman with that gentleman; and there he sat, affording throughout the evening a marked contrast in appearance and demeanour to almost every person around him. It seemed the triumph of the principle of democracy—a resuscitation of the sans culotte ascendancy of revolutionary France.1008 Was it to produce such scenes as this throughout the country, that the noble Lord proposed to stay in office? Was it to hold similar meetings in other towns, and produce other "triumphs of the principle of democracy and a resuscitation of the sans culotte ascendancy of revolutionary France?" Surely, this was not consistent with the spirit of the constitution. He trusted, however, that the noble Lord would pause, and ponder well on the proceedings at Stroud, and that he would still be saved from the ignominy which would attend such a course if generally pursued. The noble Lord, he believed, and some of his colleagues had some regard to posthumous fame. They had already, by the assistance of the hon. Member for Finsbury, obtained a name which they would find it difficult to shake off. There had been "Whig" administrations. "Liberal" administrations, "broad-bottomed" administrations, "coalition" administrations, and "reform" administrations; but in the hands of the present holders of office they had all dwindled down into a "squeezable" administration. That term might seem ridiculous, but Ministers had better be ridiculous than worse; and if the sans culotte ascendancy of revolutionary France were thus to be revived and brought to bear upon the election of representatives of the people, the noble Lord, instead of being at the head of a "squeezeable" administration, might soon be at the head of a "wicked administration." In order to protect the country from such consequences, he should give his hearty support to this motion.
thought the House would not be surprised, when they recollected the circumstances which had recently occurred, and the vote which he had thought it his duty to give on that occasion, that he should feel anxious now to explain and defend the course which he proposed to take. Nothing was farther from his thoughts than to reoccupy the House with the debate that had recently occurred, in order to resay what he had then said, or to recapitulate the reasons why he then voted against Ministers, and why he now did not repent or do other than stand to the course he adopted. But he must still deprecate the course taken, both on the one side and the other with regard to that question. He denied the right of the Chancellor of the Exchequer to bind together three great important questions, different in principle from each other, and distinguished by peculiar circumstances, 1009 and to compel the Members of that House to take them as a whole. On the other hand, he equally repudiated the course which the right hon. Baronet opposite had taken in the course of the former debate, when he thought fit to observe, that that question amounted to a great want of confidence. Such a statement he was entitled to make to his own adherents and supporters, and could he have had the meanness to shrink from his intended vote, might have been deterred from taking the course which he thought right by the expression of such an opinion; but he declared now, as he had declared then, that by the merits of the question alone would he ever be guided in giving his vote. With regard to the present motion, despite what had fallen from the hon. Member for Hull, he did still declare himself an adherent to Whig principles—he denied that he had abandoned them. And he would take the liberty of adding, that professing Whig principles—the great principles of Mr. Fox and Earl Grey—it w s not to those who had ever repudiated and opposed those principles that they ought to look for their character, and whether or not they were entertained by individuals; but they ought to look to those who had stood by them when the contest was almost despaired of, and had never flinched in the assertion of them up to that hour. Nor was it such men as the noble Lord, the Member for North Lancashire, who had left his friends on that side of the House, or the right hon. Baronet, the Member for Pembroke, who had joined those who had ever opposed the principles of Mr. Fox and Earl Grey, to rise in that House and charge hon. Gentlemen who sat on the Ministerial side with defection from those principles. If they were called upon to say who should be regarded as the judges of what those principles were, they would point to those who had been from the earliest day up to the latest hour supporters and asserters of those principles—they would point to his hon. Friend the Member for Middlesex, (Mr. Byng) and the hon. Member for Surrey (Mr. Denison). In the House of Lords, he would point to one whose loss they all so deeply lamented—to the relative of Mr. Fox and the Friend of Earl Grey. The argument of the right hon. Baronet was, that Ministers being unable to carry forward the measures which they deemed necessary for the public good, were acting contrary to the spirit and principle of the constitution by retaining the Government. Throughout the very able speech of the 1010 right hon. Baronet, he could not help admiring the care and caution with which he evaded the real question, though he perfectly well knew what it was. The right hon. Baronet touched upon it, and as soon as he felt that to proceed further would be inconvenient, passed on to some other topic. The sole question really at issue was, whether, looking to all the circumstances of the case, the Government ought to resign their offices, or to appeal to the people. In every instance quoted by the right hon. Baronet in support of his motion, there existed a clear line of demarkation from the present case—there being in those cases an absolute or a moral impossibility of dissolving Parliament and appealing to the constituency. Look at the case of Walpole. There the Minister had just met a Parliament assembled by himself at a time when the influence of the Crown was almost predominant in that House, and being defeated within a few months of its assembling, it would have been in vain for him to have again appealed to the people. With regard to the Administration of 1807, he remembered Mr. Canning to have said in that House (it was on the 9th of April): —I defy you on this motion, and on all other motions which you may make; I defy your majorities: I stand by the Crown, and shall appeal to the people.And that Administration had a right to do so, because the new Parliament had been called by his political opponents. In 1834, when the right hon. Baronet took office, he had a right to call a Parliament, because the existing Parliament had been called by his opponents. The present Parliament had sat four years; during that time great and important measures had been from time to time brought forward, in some of which Government had been defeated, and in some of them successful; and he wished to know whether, in the principles of the constitution, it was not competent to the Government (though, as all Ministers under such circumstances must be, they were judges in their own case), to go to the country, lay before it what they had done, and what they had attempted to do, and calling on the country to compare their principles with those of their political opponents. In the course of this debate he had heard it urged that, because an hon. Member might differ from her Majesty's Government on one or two questions, he was thereupon to refuse them his general support. And to his great surprise he had heard it said, that because the 1011 noble Lord the Member for Lincolnshire thought that the ministerial plan for altering the Corn-laws would be detrimental to the best interests of the country, he was therefore called on to abandon all his former principles, and endeavour to bring into power that party to whose principles he had been during the whole of his political life opposed. He professed himself to be attached generally to the principles of the present Government, and had not the question of the other evening involved what he considered a very important principle, he should certainly have taken his usual course, and have voted with them. But with the opinion which he entertained on the subject, had he done so, his support would have rendered him, not an honourable adherent, but a miserable tool. There were undoubtedly cases where a Member of that House however strongly he might be attached to his party, was bound to act upon his independent judgment. But because he had voted in a particular way on the former occasion, was he to recant all the opinions which he had entertained and professed from the earliest day of his political life, and to disregard all the consequences which were to be apprehended (and he meant no disrespect to the right hon. Baronet when he said so) from a change of Government: Had he even contemplated the possibility of doing so, his first thought would have been of Ireland—that which the right hon. Baronet had, on a former occasion, admitted to constitute his greatest difficulty. Was that difficulty less now than it was two years ago when the right hon. Baronet made the declaration? Could he believe, that the right hon. Gentleman would be enabled to act on the dictates of his own sound understanding, then he might perhaps feel less alarm on the subject. How was Ireland governed now? In accordance with the wishes and feelings of the great majority of the people. In prosperity she was increasing—slowly increasing, yet still increasing; and peace and tranquillity, if not wholly established, were yet enjoyed to an extent infinitely beyond what she had ever known before. If the right hon. Baronet came into power, the inevitable consequence would be, that he would be compelled to govern Ireland by the aid of the remnant of a party the sworn enemy of the nation, and in spite of the wishes and opinions of the majority of the inhabitants. What course of policy might be expected from such an Administration, had already been indicated by the 1012 Registration Bill of the noble Lord opposite—a measure which would have the effect of reducing the already too scanty constituency of Ireland. Were that measure to be adopted, or the Administration that proposed it to come into office, the present prosperity of Ireland could not be maintained. Confidence could not exist— the peace of the country would be disturbed and maintained only by force of arms; and all those prospects which it had begun to be hoped would ultimately be realised, would be abruptly and for ever put an end to. Other topics treated by the right hon. Gentleman led to similar considerations. The right hon. Gentleman had spoken of France, and had reserved it to himself to say, whether or not the policy of Ministers had contributed to bring about that estrangement which had loosened the bonds of amity between the two countries. He admitted, that there had been a temporary interruption of the ties that had bound the two nations together. But who were the most likely to be able to restore a good understanding and re-knit the bonds of peace? A Government of that party which was in the opinion of the world, and, in fact, connected with those who for years past, and now were considered as the supporters of the despotic policy of Germany, Russia, and Prussia, or that party which had all along declared a preference for free institutions? One other topic there was to which he must refer, because it was one in which he had ever taken a deep interest—he alluded to the subject of education. The Government had always supported national education. They wished to see education spread from the mountains of Berwickshire to the mines of Cornwall, but they never would consent to consign so vast and so national an object to the hands of an exclusive party. Knowing how deeply interested his noble Friend the Secretary of the Colonies had always been, and still was, on the subject of education, he felt that the country would be sorry to lose his services in the cause. If he turned to the colonies he could not but observe upon the manner in which they were governed now, and regret that so little justice had heretofore been administered to the inhabitants of those colonies. The highest testimony to the present Administration of them had been given by the agent for the colony of Jamaica, in the speech which he had delivered at the bar on behalf of that colony; and he felt assured, that there was entertained but one opinion on 1013 the subject in the colonies themselves. Having thus briefly adverted to some of the considerations which weighed with him in giving his vote, he must be allowed to add that he thought the debate had been carried on, on either side, with something of an undue asperity. The hon. and learned Member who had just sat down, in particular,-had no right to stand up in that House, and denounce all persons on the Ministerial side as bitter enemies to the Church. Such charges could answer no purpose, except to embitter party spirit, when, if ever there was a state of public affairs which imperatively called for a calm consideration of the affairs of the nation, with a view to administer those remedies which would best effect an amelioration, if not a cure, that state of things existed at the present time. Surely, too, such a state of things fairly afforded a ground for appealing to the country. Look at the state of the manufacturing districts. The right hon. Gentleman, upon a former occasion, referred to papers to show that the trade of the country was in a flourishing state; but whatever might be the appearance on paper, the reality was a state of the deepest suffering and distress, so much so that it would be impossible for the people of this country to maintain themselves, unless the trade and manufactures of the country not only did not remain stationary, but unless they advanced. Enormous wealth might be made a boast of. Exports and imports might be pointed to in triumph, but if they did not come up to the wants of the people, absolute wealth amounted to nothing, and the population must perish by slow and miserable means. Had any one proposed a remedy for this state of things, in lieu of that proposed by Government? He had heard of none. He did not mean to say that the right hon. Baronet was called on to propose a Budget, but only some general plan for the diminution of these distresses, endured with a resignation for which every Member of that House, and every man possessing property, owed much to the sufferers. But there was a limit beyond which human endurance could not enable man to exist. Nature must fail; and unless some remedy were applied, the inevitable consequence would be the entire destruction of our industrious population. He was not then going to discuss the alteration of the duty on sugar, for that was not the proper time for doing so; but, looking to the proceedings which had taken place on the motion of the noble Lord the Member 1014 for Liverpool, he felt justified in saying that imputations bad been thrown out which must be discarded by candid minds, and he then denied, as he had before, that the question only regarded the continuance of our trade with the Brazils. This was the only consideration on the subject which he wished to advert to, and as he had ever supported, from the earliest period of his political life, all measures for the abolition of slavery, he should continue to do so. With respect to the other measures of the Government, he believed that the people of this country would express their feelings in favour of them in such a voice as to compel that House ultimately to adopt them. He believed that on the discussion of these measures they could not abandon them unless they were prepared to abandon the population of this country to entire despair. This was probably the last time which he should have the honour of addressing the House, and he begged to avail himself of the opportunity, if there was any doubt entertained on the subject, of avowing himself to be still a party man and strongly attached to those principles which he had hitherto professed, but he did so without entertaining any bitterness towards his antagonists, and he hoped when he quitted that House that he should do so with the satisfaction of thinking that he did not leave a personal enemy behind him. He should cease now to trouble the House, and he should only add, that he was as anxious and as sincere as ever for the maintenance and promotion of the cause of civil and religious liberty all over the world, and that he cordially concurred with those with whom he had hitherto acted in extending free institutions in this country and in foreign nations, as that was the surest road to promote and secure the peace, the prosperity and the happiness of mankind. Such were the opinions which he had constantly entertained, and it was his anxious hope that such opinions would continue to influence others in as wide a range as possible.
§ Sir William Follett
Mr. Speaker, I charge the right hon. and learned Member for the Tower Hamlets with no inconsistency, because, on a former night, he gave his vote in favour of those principles to which he has been long and sincerely attached; —I charge him with no inconsistency, because now, faithful to his party attachments, he is about to give what he says may probably be the last vote he will ever record in this House, in favour of that 1015 party with which he has long been connected. Neither will I stop to enquire whether the right hon. and learned Gentleman is quite right in saying that neither he, nor the Members of her Majesty's Government, have ever swerved from the old Whig doctrines of Mr. Fox and Lord Grey. I cannot, however, help expressing my surprise, that when the right hon. and learned Member referred to living Members of that party in this House—when he alluded to the hon. Members for Middlesex and Surrey, he did not also allude to the noble Earl himself, whom he described as the head of that party, and inform us whether Lord Grey is one of the firm supporters of Ministers in the other House, and an opposer of the course of conduct which they are pursuing. Is it because the right hon. Gentleman well knew, that Lord Grey, instead of being a supporter of her Majesty's Government, condemns their conduct, and the course of policy pursued by them? I do not agree, either, with the right hon. and learned Gentleman in the mode in which he has stated the proposition we are now discussing. He said, that the question between us, on this side of the House, and Ministers, is this—whether, when a Government has sustained a defeat in this House, either upon some legislative measure, or a question denoting a want of confidence, there is anything unconstitutional in the Government's appealing to the people. I will not contend that there is. I believe, that a Government which should appeal to the country, under such circumstances, would be acting fully in the spirit of the constitution; but I say that that is not the course pursued by the Government, and I say that this resolution is brought forward, not to condemn an appeal to the people, but to condemn the continuance in office, without such an appeal, of a Ministry who have not had, for may Sessions, sufficiently the confidence of this House to enable them to carry any of their measures through Parliament. How have you, who sit opposite, spoken of dissolution, and an appeal to the people? Under what circumstances is it announced? In the course of this debate—I believe on the second night—it was for the first time announced, by the noble Lord, the Secretary for Ireland, a member of the Cabinet, that the Government did, at no distant period, intend to dissolve Parliament— that they had advised her Majesty to that 1016 course, and that her Majesty had assented to it. Why, then, I ask, do you not dissolve? Is it that you do not mean to dissolve until you have had a discussion in this House on the subject of the Corn-laws? Yes ! that subject, which, of all others, the right hon. and learned Gentleman said ought to receive calm consideration—aye, a calm, cool, and dispassionate consideration ! The language of Ministers is this:—" We mean to dissolve; but, before we do so, we intend to propose to you an alteration of the Corn-laws—a question most deeply and powerfully affecting the passions and interests of the people. We intend to propose this, but we do not mean to ask you to concur in it; it is not with that view the proposition, is brought forward. We have no expectation, and no intention, of passing it into a law, for we mean to dissolve Parliament immediately after it shall have been discussed." Is this previous discussion proposed with the view of aiding the consideration of the measure at a future period? No; it is suggested only for this object— that, in the course of the debate, appeals may be made to the passions of the people out of doors, which you hope may produce results serviceable to you at the coming elections. The fact was admitted by the right hon. Gentleman the Secretary at War, who told us, plainly and distinctly, that when the Chancellor of the Exchequer brought forward his Budget, he had no expectation whatever of being able to carry the proposition respecting the Corn-laws. If we could entertain any doubt as to the object of Government, in asking us to discuss the question of the Corn-laws under a threat of dissolution, it must at once be removed by the course which the noble Lord, the Secretary for the Colonies, had taken with respect to the bill for amending the Poor-law. Why should not the Government proceed with that measure? They had every reason to believe, that it would meet with the concurrence of the House, and be passed into a law. But the noble Lord declares, that he will not proceed with the bill, because, forsooth, it is one which deeply affects the passions of the people, and because it would not, at this moment, obtain that cool and calm deliberation which it required, but would be made the text for speeches intended to have an effect upon the approaching elections. It seems to me impossible for any one to doubt that 1017 this bill was abandoned, only because Ministers thought, that if they proceeded with it, the course which they and their supporters would take respecting it would operate injuriously to their interests in the elections, whilst they wish to force on a discussion about the Corn-laws, because they think that the speeches which will be made, in this House, will create a feeling in their favour out of doors. I can appeal to the authority of the right hon. Gentleman, the Secretary at War, for evidence as to what would be the nature of a discussion on the Corn-laws under existing circumstances. I can assure that right hon. Gentleman, that no one admires more than I do his talents and his eloquence; but I declare, that I scarcely dare venture to express the feelings which some portion of his speech, the other night, excited in my mind. Did the right hon. Gentleman consider it to be consistent with the position which he occupies in this House, and the country, to express a hope that he might see the spirit of 1831 revived at the forthcoming election; and that the people would have strength enough to resist the overbearing aristocracy? [Cheers from the Ministerial benches.] Hon Members opposite cheer; but will the right hon. Gentleman say, that he considers it consistent with his duty, as a Cabinet Minister, not to soften and smooth down jealousies which may exist between different classes of the community, but to attempt to aggravate, and inflame their passions and prejudices, and to array class against class in bitter hostility? Does the right hon. Gentleman recollect, that the noble Lord at the head of the Administration of which he is a Member said, of the spirit of 1831, that it had stirred society to its foundations—arrayed one class of the community against another—man against man, and left behind it feelings of distrust and of the deepest enmity? And yet this is the spirit which a Member of the Cabinet thinks fit, in his place in this House, to express a hope may be called again into activity. I believe, however, that the right hon. Gentleman and his colleagues will be disappointed in their expectations. 1 believe, that the people are not ready, at their bidding, to display again their spirit of 1831. I think, that the people will not be persuaded to array themselves in classes, one against another, to the injury of all, for no purpose except to keep her Majesty's Ministers in office, and to extricate 1018 them from the difficulties of their position. I believe you have greatly overrated your power of agitating the people. But to return to the immediate question before the House. The Members of the Cabinet who have yet addressed the House, have taken different grounds of opposition to the resolution proposed by my right hon. Friend, the Member for Tamworth. I must, at once, admit, that we who support the resolution are bound to make out the two branches of the proposition, namely, that Ministers do not possess, and, for some time past, have not possessed, sufficiently the confidence of the House, to enable them to carry measures which they believe to be essential to the welfare of the country; and that their continuance in office, under such circumstances, is contrary to the spirit of the Constitution. The light hon. President of the Board of Control, boldly denied the first branch of the proposition. He asserted, that Ministers have sufficiently possessed the confidence of the House to carry their measures, and he quoted a list of those which, he said, they had carried. My right hon. Friend, the Member for Pembroke, disposed of most of the measures comprised in the right hon. Baronet's list; and I assert—and I challenge any Member on the other side, who may speak after me in the debate, to disprove the assertion — that, from May, 1839, (and that date forms an essential ingredient in the consideration of this question) when her Majesty's Ministers themselves declared that they did not sufficiently possess the confidence of the House of Commons to enable them to conduct the affairs of the country, they have not been able to carry through this House any measure, without the concurrence of my right hon. Friend, and the party opposed to them. The right hon. Secretary at War took a different ground; he admitted, that Ministers did not possess sufficiently the confidence of the House to enable them to carry legislative measures; but, then, he said—and anything coming from him is entitled to consideration—that it was not contrary to historical precedent, or the spirit of the Constitution, for Ministers to continue to hold office under such circumstances. I deny, altogether, the validity of that doctrine; and I say, at the outset, that the right hon. Gentleman ought not to have excluded from his consideration one essential ingredient, 1019 which has existed in the practical working of the Constitution since the accession of the House of Hanover—I mean the mode in which the Government is conducted in Parliament, and the opposition to the Government by party combinations here, and in the other House of Parliament. The right hon. Gentleman entirely overlooked that essential ingredient in the working of the constitution; and surely the House must perceive the wide distinction which exists between the present case and the historical precedents referred to by the right hon. Gentleman—three only in number—which consisted of defeats 01 isolated measures, brought forward by Governments in the height of their power and supported by great majorities in both Houses of Parliament; but crossed in this House by temporary and partial causes, operating on those measures alone, and not affecting the general policy of the Government. This was the case with respect to Lord Sutherland's Peerage Bill, and Mr. Pitt's Fortification Bill, which was lost by the casting vote of the Speaker. These cases occurred when the Government was in the height of its power, with a majority in both Houses of Parliament, and enjoying the favour of the Crown. At the time Lord Sunderland was defeated on the Peerage Bill, he not only possessed the confidence of the Sovereign, and of both Houses of Parliament, but it was actually impossible that any other Government could be formed, for, with the exception of the party opposed to the reigning family, there was no party in the country strong enough to form a Government. Lord Liverpool's defeat on the Property Tax also occurred at a moment when he possessed the confidence of the Crown, and of both Houses of Parliament. Now, the case of the present Government is not analogous to any of those quoted by the right hon. Gentleman. We insist upon the continued inability of her Majesty's Ministers to carry any measure, no matter what importance they might attach to it, without the consent and except by the permission and sufferance of the party in opposition to them. It is in that sense I read the resolution which has been submitted to the House by my right hon. Friend, and that is the position in which Ministers, for several Sessions, have been placed; and I maintain, that their continuing to hold office, under such circumstances, is con- 1020 trary to all historical precedent—contrary to every principle of representative government—and contrary, also, to the spirit of the Constitution. It is hardly necessary for me to cite any proof in support of the proposition, that the Government have not sufficiently the confidence of this House to enable them to carry legislative measures. The cases quoted in support of the contrary proposition, have all, with the exception of one, been disposed of by my right hon. Friend, the Member for Pembroke. One of the cases to which my right hon. Friend did not refer, and which the right hon. President of the Board of Control brought forward as the last proof of the power of the Government, was the bill for the registration of voters in Ireland. Now, I think, that any one acquainted with the history of that measure, must admit, that it would be impossible to select a stronger proof of the weakness of the Government, and the want of confidence of the House towards them, than is supplied by every circumstance which attended it. A bill was brought forward by my noble Friend, the Member for North Lancashire, for the purpose of correcting the abuses which exist in the registration of voters in Ireland. It was opposed by all the power of the Government; but carried, nevertheless, through several stages. The Government then found themselves compelled to introduce a bill upon the subject, the principle of which the right hon. Baronet, the President of the Board of Control, said, was carried by a majority of five on the second reading. What principle does the right hon. Baronet mean to say was carried by that majority? Does he wish it to be understood, that the proposition contained, and almost concealed, in the bill for altering the elective franchise for counties in Ireland, received the sanction of this House? Why, upon that important point, Ministers were left in a minority upon two divisions—one of eleven, and the other of twenty-one. And that is the measure which we are referred to, as furnishing evidence that Ministers possess the confidence of the House of Commons. That bill was abandoned by the Government; and its abandonment was immediately followed by a budget, containing a proposal for supplying the deficiency of the revenue by means of measures which the Government never intended to carry. May I be permitted here, for a moment, 1021 to advert to the precedent of Mr. Pitt, in 1780, which has been quoted in justification of what, I contend, is the only instance, in the history of this country, of a Ministry remaining in office, year after year, and Session after Session, without possessing the power of carrying its measures. As the conduct of Mr. Pitt has been referred to, I wish it to be understood, that I am far from saying, that there may not be cases, extreme and peculiar in their character, in which a Minister of the Crown may be justified in holding office, even against majorities of the House of Commons; but the circumstances under which a Minister could be justified in taking that course, are so extreme and peculiar, that they are not likely to occur frequently; and I venture to suggest, also, that any struggle maintained, under any circumstances, by a Minister against a majority of the House of Commons, cannot continue long, without endangering the power and prerogatives of the Crown. What, however, was the conduct of Mr. Pitt? Although a considerable space of time has elapsed since the period referred to, yet we are so arrayed in parties against each other, that it is difficult even now to form an impartial judgment on the subject; but, I believe, I am borne out by the fact in stating, that posterity has pronounced its condemnation of the coalition of Lord North and Mr. Fox; and that it has also pronounced its condemnation of the India Bill, brought forward by that coalition, as an undue encroachment upon the prerogative of the Crown, and, at the same time, as being likely to prove dangerous to the liberties of the people. That was the opinion of Mr. Pitt— that was the opinion of the king; it was also the opinion of a majority of the House of Lords, and of a majority of the constituent body. That was the position in which Mr. Pitt stood; and I ask, whether, fighting, as he was, for a great public principle, that Minister was not fully justified in resisting, for some time, as he did, namely, from December to April, the combination of parties arrayed against him, on no public principle, but, as he thought, actuated by selfish and factious motives, and not supported by public opinion? But, surely, the struggle which Mr. Pitt maintained on that occasion, can afford no justification for a weak and powerless Ministry, not acting on public principles. 1022 [Hear, hear.] Why, what public principle are Ministers acting upon? Is it the principle of free trade, involved in the alteration of the Corn-law? Why, when did they announce that principle? When, I ask, did they announce the great public principles which have kept them in office, since May, 1839, down to the present moment. It was not until within the last fortnight, after their defeat upon the Irish Bill, that we ever heard of this great public principle. Ministers have, for years, been maintaining a struggle against the Commons House of Parliament, and have they stood upon that great public principle? No, it was never heard of till this moment; and I think we have the admission of the right hon. Secretary-at-war, that it is brought forward now, not with any view to its being carried into effect, but merely to serve the temporary purpose of the moment. I shall, perhaps, be allowed to refer briefly to another precedent, which has been quoted as a justification for the retention of office by the right hon. Gentlemen opposite—I mean that of Sir Robert Peel, in 1835. I own I should have thought, that, if that precedent had been referred to at all upon this occasion, it would have been in condemnation of the conduct of Ministers. What are the facts which the right hon. President of the Board of Control stated, in connexion with the course pursued by my right hon. Friend in 1835? He stated that he possessed the unbounded confidence of the Crown, and of a large majority of the House of Lords; and the right hon. Baronet added, that he now felt himself at liberty to state also, as an historical fact, that not only did his late Majesty repose entire confidence in him, but he felt the greatest repugnance to receiving the present Ministers into his councils. These are the interesting historical facts which the right hon. Gentleman has told us; and I will add another, namely, that my right hon. Friend was supported by a great and powerful party in this country, and that, at the time of his resignation, he had in the House of Commons a majority of the representatives of one portion of the United Kingdom. I do not advert to that fact at all, for the purpose of making any contrast between the representatives of one part of the kingdom and another. I do not allude to the circumstance with any such object, but merely with the view of showing, that my right hon. Friend not 1023 only possessed the confidence of the Crown and of a majority of the House of Peers, but was also supported by a great and powerful party in the country. Having all that support, however, in addition to possessing the confidence of the King and the House of Lords, the first moment my right hon. Friend was obstructed in a legislative measure he resigned. I will repeat the words which my right hon. Friend used when announcing his resignation to the House of Commons, and then I will ask whether his conduct affords any justification for the continuance in office of her Majesty's Ministers, under the circumstances in which they are placed? My right hon. Friend said—I do not hesitate to declare, that, under no circumstances, under the pressure of no difficulties, would I ever advise the Crown to resign that great source of moral strength, which consists in a strict adherence to the practice, the principle, the spirit, and the letter of the constitution.Those were the principles upon which my right hon. Friend acted when he resigned office in 1835; and if the present Ministers had acted upon the same constitutional principles, they would, when they returned to power, after their resignation in 1839, and found that they had not obtained any increase of confidence from the House, have again resigned their offices. I do not mean to enter into any discussion relative to the circumstances which led to her Majesty's Ministers return to office in 1839. They may have been justified, under the circumstances attending the attempt to form another Government, and the failure of that attempt, in making another experiment, with the view of ascertaining whether the House of Commons and the country were disposed to place increased confidence in them; but, at all events, it must be admitted that the experiment signally and entirely failed; and that so far from obtaining any further share of confidence, every thing which occurred within these walls, and throughout the country, betokened a diminution of confidence. The first step they took, upon their return to office, was to abandon their own Jamaica bill, and to adopt another which was dictated by my right hon. Friend the Member for Tamworth, and forced on them by this side of the House. At that time Lord Melbourne-—rejecting the doctrine of the right hon. Secretary-at-war — declared 1024 emphatically, in his place in Parliament, that the worst possible Ministry for this country was that which did not possess power to carry its legislative measures. Yet, from that time to the present moment, Ministers have remained in office without any accession of power. Now, I ask whether the very course pursued by the Government with respect to the great question now under consideration, does not furnish a practical illustration that their conduct is inconsistent with the pure spirit of the constitution. How have they maintained themselves in office? I say, by making concession after concession, and attempting to conciliate —and, by conciliating, encouraging— that extreme party in the country, whose views the noble Lord, the Secretary for the Colonies, has repeatedly denounced as dangerous to the Monarchy and constitution. To prove this, I will refer to the conduct of the Government upon one or two great questions. What course did they pursue with respect to the ballot? They opposed it as a government—they denounced it as a dangerous innovation upon the constitution, and as tending to a revolutionary change in the Government of this country. Nothing took place which ought to have produced any alteration of their opinion upon this subject; but, finding that they were growing weaker in this House, they determined upon making a concession to the extreme party, and the ballot became an open question. So, with respect to the extension of the franchise; Ministers opposed that—they declared their intention to stand upon the Reform Bill, as the settlement of a great constitutional question; —and, when the hon. Baronet, the Member for Preston, proposed to introduce a bill to extend the right of voting to 10l. occupiers in counties, the noble Secretary for the Colonies opposed it, as a dangerous alteration of the enactments and principles of the Reform Act. Yet, this very Session, Ministers themselves introduce into a bill, professing to be for the amendment of the Registration system in Ireland, a more sweeping alteration of the elective franchise for counties than that proposed by the hon. Member for Preston—more opposed to the spirit of the Reform Act, because it destroyed every franchise created by that measure, and substituted for them one uniform franchise of 5l. These are some of the concessions made by the Go- 1025 vernment to the extreme party; and now they propose to make another, upon the question of the Corn-laws, It was only last year that the head of the Government declared, that no one but a madman would think of making any alteration in the Corn-laws. [No, no.] Lord Melbourne stated, in the month of June last, not yet twelvemonths ago, that he would listen to no proposal for altering the Corn-laws. [No, no.] What! is that meant to be denied? I did not mean to read the noble Lord's words, because I thought they were too well known to admit of any dispute; but, since a contradiction has been offered to my description of them, I will read them. I ask what is the meaning of this passage:If he could be convinced that it was safe and just at once to do away with protection, to adopt a perfectly simple state of the law upon this subject, and to have an importation of corn entirely open and free of duty, he should then be inclined to propose or advocate inquiry. His noble Friend had carefully abstained from stating what it was that he meant to do, whether his object was to have a fixed duty, or a diminution of the present ascending and descending scale; but whichever of these alternatives was his noble Friend's plan, as he saw clearly and distinctly that that object would not be carried without a most violent struggle, without causing much ill blood, and a deep sense of grievance, without stirring society to its foundations, and leaving behind every sort of bitterness and animosity, he did not think that the advantages to be gained by the changes were worth the evils of the struggle, by which, their Lordships might depend on it, the change could alone be effected. They had seen great changes at no distant period—changes which had stirred society from the bottom, which had excited man against man, divided the whole country into parties, and left behind the deepest feelings of discord and enmity. He, for one, was not for adding to those feelings, by rashly adventuring to stir and agitate them, and upon these general grounds, he felt himself justified in saying 'no' to the motion of the noble Earl."— [Cheers]What! can hon. Members cheer that? That speech was made only in June last; and are we now to understand that the noble Lord who made it, and his Government, are prepared to stir society to its foundations? Are they prepared to' array class against class, and man against man, by a proposition which, be it observed, they themselves declare, at the time they propose it, they have no expectation of carrying? What justification, I ask can be offered for the agitation of this question by Ministers, 1026 whilst Lord Melbourne remains at the head of the Government? If a proposition respecting the Corn-laws has been brought forward, as has been admitted, not in the hope that it would be carried, but for the purpose of exciting the feelings and passions of the people, I am at a loss to conceive how it can be defended by hon. Members opposite. Can any hon. Member refer me to an instance, in the history of this country, of a Chancellor of the Exchequer, having a large deficiency to supply, coining down to the House of Commons, and submitting a budget, containing propositions which his colleagues themselves admit can never be available for the purpose for which they are brought forward? Can any Government stand excused for thus trifling, not only with the feelings and interests of the people, but with the revenue of the country? The proposition relating to corn is not the only portion of the Chancellor of the Exchequer's budget which the right hon. Gentleman must have known could not be made available for the purpose for which he proposed to bring it forward. The same observation applies to the proposition relative to the Timber Duties. When we find the Governor-general of Canada urging, that, if Ministers did intend to make any alteration in the duties on timber, which must operate injuriously to the interests of the inhabitants of Canada, due time, at least, should be given for the consideration of the proposition, and to enable persons who had embarked their capital in the timber trade to divert it into some other channel. I think it is absurd to suppose that Ministers could ever have contemplated the possibility of that part of their budget becoming available for its professed object. What, then, is the meaning of bringing forward propositions calculated, from their nature, to agitate the people of this country, and to excite discontent in a great colony, which has been recently the theatre of a rebellion, in which a great experiment—that of the legislative union of the two provinces—is now going on, and along the whole frontier of which is, if not a hostile country, at least a population a great portion of which is anxious to take advantage of any symptom of discontent in Canada, in order to convert it into an instrument of hostility against this country. Such is the budget of the Chancellor of the Exchequer—such is the conduct of the Government! They bring 1027 forward propositions which they admit they do not expect to carry; and then we are told, that they are maintained in office upon a great public principle ! I own it appears to me, that the course adopted by Ministers affords the strongest practical proof—if any were wanted, after the historical precedents to which my right hon. Friend referred on submitting his motion to the House—that the continuance of Ministers in office is contrary to the spirit of the constitution; and I see nothing in the threat of dissolution, to which the right hon. and learned Gentleman who preceded me referred, and which my hon. and learned Friend, the Member for Shields, (Mr. Ingham) has considered sufficient to induce him to vote against the motion. I say, I see nothing in that threat of dissolution, in the mode in which it was announced, or in the time at which it appears likely to be executed, to prevent me giving my vote in favour of the resolution of my right hon. Friend. On the contrary, I think that the manner in which the threat of dissolution has been announced, in the course of this debate, is an additional reason why I should support the motion. I shall give, then, more cordial support to the resolution of my right hon. Friend, because I think that both the propositions contained in it are fully and clearly made out. and because also, I am satisfied that the course of conduct which has been pursued by her Majesty's Ministers, and which, perhaps, they have been compelled to adopt in consequence of the position in which they stand with respect to this House and the country, cannot longer be continued without exposing to equal danger the real power and prerogative of the Crown, and the peace and happiness of the people.
§ Sir George Grey
I confess it was not without feelings of curiosity I saw my hon. and learned Friend (Sir William Follett), who has just addressed the House, rise to maintain the truth of the proposition propounded in the resolution moved by the right hon. Member for Tamworth, because I was at a loss to conceive how he, with the reputation he so deservedly enjoys, as a great constitutional lawyer, could undertake to support the opinion expressed by that proposition, namely, that a Government, being unable to carry a measure of great importance, which they, for the first time, have submitted to the House, is bound at once to relinquish office, without 1028 allowing the people of this country an opportunity of expressing their opinion upon the measure, and the conduct of their representatives respecting it. I, however, was gratified to find, that my hon. and learned Friend abandoned that proposition altogether. In opposition to the right hon. Baronet, the Member for Pembroke, and many other Members who had previously addressed the House in support of the motion, my hon. and learned Friend, at least, has fully admitted, that it is perfectly in consonance with the spirit and practice of the constitution for the Ministers of the Crown to advise the Sovereign to exercise her prerogative of dissolving Parliament, and appealing to the people. I ask whether there is a word about dissolution in the resolution of the right hon. Member for Tamworth? No! the resolution is a sort of declaratory law of the principles of the constitution, which would lead to the inference, that any Government which may be unable to carry measures which they think essential to the prosperity and welfare of the country, are bound at once to yield to the opinion of an existing Parliament, and to resign. After listening to many of the speeches which have been delivered on the other side of the House, I had arrived at the conclusion, that the main object and intention of the motion was to drive the present Ministers from office, and to enable hon. Gentlemen opposite to take their places, without an intermediate ap-appeal to the people. The right hon. Member for Pembroke the other night expressiy denounced a dissolution as a reckless, dangerous, and, I think he added revolutionary proceeding. I suppose the right hon. Baronet had come fresh from the library, after reading the yet unfinished speech of the right hon. Member for Tamworth, in 1831—a speech which was interrupted by the Black Rod summoning this House to the Bar of the House of Lords. That speech was not in terms so strong—certainly, it was not so vituperative—as that of the right hon. Member for Pembroke, who seems to consider himself privileged to use harsh language towards men whom he was once proud to call his friends. The right hon. Member for Tamworth in 1831 was sitting opposite the noble Lord, the Member for North Lancashire, who is now sitting by his side, and who answered him; he was also sitting opposite the right hon. Member for Pem- 1029 broke, who remained silent under his attack. The right hon. Member for Tamworth denounced, in strong terms, the course pursued by the Government of that day. He said, that they had laid measures upon the Table without the intention of passing them, but for the mere purpose of creating popular excitement—that their course was fraught with danger, and must lead to tumult and disturbance. It was a gratifying scene the other night when the right hon. Member for Pembroke was reminded by my noble Friend near me of the dissolution in 1831, to witness the enthusiasm with which, recalling the feelings of his better days, he exclaimed—" Dissolve! Yes, we did dissolve—but we dissolved with spirit! You should have dissolved the moment you were defeated." I cordially concurred in the opinion then expressed by the right hon. Baronet, as to the course taken in 1831, but I could not help recollecting, that the hon. Members on the other side of the House, who cheered the right hon. Baronet with so much enthusiasm, had cheered the right hon. Member for Tamworth with equal vehemence, when he attacked the right hon. Baronet, and those with whom he was then associated, for having ventured on a dissolution of Parliament in 1831. That circumstance must have been gratifying to every person who took an interest in the great measure proposed in 1831, and it induces me to entertain a sanguine hope, that before another ten years have passed, the right hon. Baronet will be found amongst those who will cheer the course which the Government have now taken, and who will find, in the resolution to dissolve Parliament, grounds for the approbation of posterity, whatever opinion may be entertained respecting it at the present moment. Up to the time of the delivery of the hon. and learned Member for Exeter's speech, I conceived, that the object of the motion was to obtain a vote, which those who proposed it believed would have the effect of inducing Ministers to abandon their offices, without making an appeal to the people. That 1 now find is not the case. It is not an appeal to the people, it seems, which hon. Members opposite dread—though many of their speeches look very much as if they did dread it—but it is an appeal to the people after the subject of the Corn-laws shall have been debated, not at county meetings, not at borough meetings, but in 1030 a manner worthy of the subject, by the representatives of the people in this House—upon its merits, by means of which the constituencies of the country may know not only the votes which their Members have given, but the reasons on which they are founded. Why do hon. Gentlemen opposite deprecate the discussion on the Corn-laws in this House? I could understand them if they deprecated the discussion of the question at meetings such as that alluded to to-night at Stroud, which must tend more than anything to bring public meetings into contempt, and which exhibit an unhallowed union between Chartists and Conservatives, who attend for the express purpose of interrupting the proceedings, and whose exploits are ostentatiously paraded in the columns of the Conservative journals as proofs of public opinion against the measures proposed by the Government, whilst hon. Members in this House take advantage of them in another way, exclaiming —" Look at the advocates of popular rights ! They cannot meet without creating a tumult." The noble Lord, the Member for Marylebone (Lord Teignmouth), informed us the other night, that he had spent three hours with three deputations of Chartists, who declared, that they would support a Tory Government in preference to the present Administration, because they believed, that the former would do more for them than the latter had ever done. I wish the noble Lord had felt himself warranted in going further, and had told us what are the measures which they intimated their expectation of receiving. These are the men who disturb and bring discredit upon public meetings, But I ask, whether it is possible to suppose, that any such scenes will take place within the walls of this House? and whether, on the contrary, the subject will not be discussed with the calmness, deliberation, and dignity, becoming such an assembly, and that by that means much of the delusion which exists on the subject of the Corn-laws may be dispelled? That it may be inconvenient to the hon. Members opposite to have the question dis. cussed, I do not mean to deny. The right hon. Member for Tamworth expressly stated, that he would have no concealment on the subject of the Corn-laws. He said, that he retained the opinions on that subject which he had expressed last year. But I profess, that after listening 1031 to the right hon. Baronet with the utmost anxiety and attention, all I could collect from what, fell from him was, that he was for the maintenance of a sliding scale in opposition to a fixed duty. Was that being explicit? It is self-evident, that a sliding scale may be consistent with absolute prohibition, or with the absence of all protection whatever. When my noble Friend gave notice of his proposition in the first instance, he stated it was the intention of the Government to propose a moderate fixed duty. Upon that occasion my noble Friend was met by several Gentlemen, who alleged, with not unnatural eagerness, that my noble Friend, by stating his intention to propose a fixed duty, was imparting no useful information, and that it was necessary he should make known the amount of the proposed duty. Now, the same observation maybe more justly applied to the right hon. Baronet's declaration of his preference of a sliding scale. When my noble Friend was pressed to state what would be the amount of duty, he did so; I wish the right hon. Baronet would be equally explicit as to the details of his sliding scale. I say, that your object is to conceal your views from the electors. You want to go to the hustings merely as the advocates of a sliding scale against a fixed duty, and to avoid making any declaration to which you can be fixed. While petitions are pouring in from the agricultural districts against alterations of any kind, the right hon. Baronet deprecates agitation, because, he says, it may prevent the settlement of the question. Has not the House a right, when it is called upon to transfer its confidence from the present Government to the right hon. Baronet, to know what settlement he means to propose? It may be extremely convenient not to debate the subject here, particularly at a time when candidates— who may be supposed to be in the confidence of the right hon. Baronet, one of whom, indeed, held a cabinet office under him—are making professions which are totally inconsistent with the maintenance of the present Corn-law, and which, if they have any distinct meaning, imply a concurrence in the proposal of the Government on this subject. One of the principal grounds on which the proposition before the House rests—and this has not, I think, been distinctly adverted to before — is the modification which the measures of Government have undergone 1032 in deference to the opinions of hon. Gentlemen opposite. The right hon. Member for Pembroke, in adverting to the modification of measures which have been brought forward by the Government, alluded, in terms of the greatest apparent satisfaction, to the alterations made in the Irish Municipal bill; and he instanced that case as a proof of the weakness of Government. Now, it appears to me, that the modifications which the Irish Corporation Bill underwent, and at which the right hon. Member for Pembroke expressed so much delight, were not in the slightest degree owing to a want of confidence in the Government on the part of this House, but on the part of the House of Lords. The fact is, that hon. Members opposite knew that they had the means of effectually opposing the measures of the Government, though supported by a majority in this House, because they knew that they were supported by a majority in the other. Let me ask—and it is an important question, before the House comes to a division on the motion before it—on what principles does the right hon. Baronet, the Member for Tamworth, propose to conduct the Government? The hon. and learned Member for Exeter asked, on what public principle the Government acted? I, on the other hand, inquire, on what grounds does the right hon. Baronet ask the confidence of this House? What is the principle on which he rests his opposition to the Government? On looking back to the history of former Parliaments, I find that the principles of an opposition, at least, have been clearly defined — have been embodied in measures laid before Parliament. I find, also, that the principles of civil and religious liberty, which were constantly maintained by the Whigs in opposition, were repeatedly brought before the House. What has been the course of the present opposition? Has the party opposite, which boasts so much of their strength, introduced a single popular measure into the House? What measure have they brought forward, during the existence of the present Government, embodying their principles? What measure have we seen testing their sincerity in sympathysing with the wants of the people? What measure testing their desire to extend popular rights, or the sincerity of their conversion, of which they occasionally boast, to the principles of the Reform Act? They have brought forward 1033 no measure, with the exception of the one relating to Ireland, with respect to which the right hon. Member for Tamworth, in opening this debate, was ominously silent. In that respect, I think the right hon. Baronet exhibited the prudence which usually characterises him. Perhaps the right hon. Baronet, if left to himself, might be able to govern Ireland; but he is associated with men, in whose prudence: and good intentions towards that country I can place no confidence. The House will recollect the Irish Registration Bill, introduced by the noble Lord, the Member for North Lancashire, which was significantly termed the other night, by the hon. Member for the city of Durham, a bill for the better government of Ireland. That bill is not likely to form a ground for inducing the House to transfer its confidence to the hon. Gentlemen opposite, and yet that is the only measure which they have brought forward as a party; being the remedy which they propose for admitted evils prevailing in the registration system in Ireland, but avowedly only a partial remedy for those evils. Even the hon. and learned Member for Exeter could not help drawing a distinction between the English and Irish representatives, although he afterwards endeavoured to retract what he had said. The hon. and learned Gentleman, doubtless, was led into such a train of thought from reading those analyses of the divisions in this House which constantly appear in the columns of journals with which he is conversant. We know that in these articles the Irish representatives are held but as dust in the balance, precisely in accordance with the principles on which the bill of the noble Lord, the Member for North Lancashire, was founded—a bill which, under existing circumstances, would destroy the vitality of the Reform Act, and convert representation into nomination. The noble Lord who introduced the bill himself anticipated that this would be its effect. [Lord Stanley: No.] The noble Lord, certainly, if not in the discussions on his own bill, in those which took place on the Government bill on this subject, stated his apprehension, that circumstances in Ireland, as affecting the relation of landlords and tenants, might tend to destroy the representative system in some counties, and that it might become necessary, when this result should have occurred, to 1034 consider what measures would be requisite to meet the evil. I ask whether such a result is not in accordance with the feelings which lead to the analyses of the divisions in this House, and with the sentiment which, unluckily, for his party, escaped from the hon and learned Member for Exeter, when he stated that Sir Robert Peel's Administration in 1835, had a majority of the English representatives, as distinguished from those of Ireland? Are these the principles on which you mean to maintain the union? The hon. and learned Member for Exeter, in referring to the Poor-law Amendment Act Bill, asked why, if there were to be no discussion upon that subject, should there be any with respect to the Corn-laws? I do not complain of the spirit and manner in which the hon. and learned Member for Exeter alluded to that bill; but I cannot help expressing my deep regret at the tone and spirit in which the right hon. Member for Pembroke referred to it. I believe, that if there is one thing more than another upon which the right hon. Baronet, the Member for Tamworth, has prided himself, and justly so, it is that he has cautiously abstained from mixing up party considerations with the subject of the New Poor-law, and he has always endeavoured to discuss it with calmness and deliberation. The same line of conduct was not observed by the right hon. Member for Pembroke, although he was one of the authors of the measure, and although nothing has fallen from the right hon. Baronet since the introduction of the bill for the amendment of the Poor-law, which could lead the House to suppose that he intended to withdraw his support from it. I never heard a syllable drop from him to that effect, nor has he ever suggested any alteration; and yet, on the present occasion, he brought down the bill in his pocket, and went, as it were into committee upon its clauses, in order that he might have an opportunity of heaping obloquy upon those with whom he was formerly associated. But when I am asked why, if there is to be no discussion about the Poor-law Act, there should be any upon the Corn-laws?—I answer, that the reason is obvious. The Poor-law has been discussed, over and over again, in this House. It is not a single discussion on the Poor-law that is wanted. The bill for amending the Poor-law has been read a second time, and has been long in com- 1035 mittee, and the opinions of most Members are well known respecting it. That law, moreover, is now the law of the land, and there exists no intention of suffering its provision to expire. Again, the discussion on the Corn-laws will not occupy more than a few nights at the utmost; whilst the committee upon the Poor-law Act Amendment Bill, which had already lasted several weeks, would probably have extended through as many more, and thus have postponed till a distant period of the dissolution, for which hon. Members profess themselves so anxious. With respect to the other measure of the budget, it is clear, from the speeches of the right hon. Baronet, the Member for Tamworth, that he considered the question of the sugar duties to involve no moral obligation. It is, in his view, entirely a question of expediency—of supply; and there is no reason why the right hon. Baronet, shortly after his accession to power, might not propose the same measure. On the timber duties, I really am at a loss to know what the opinions of the right hon. Baronet are. He told the House that he would be very explicit; but his explicitness consisted solely in saying, that he would reserve his opinion until he knew the effect which the measure was likely to produce in the present state of Canada. I can quite understand the right hon. Baronet taking these political considerations into account; but I cannot understand his abstaining from expressing any opinion whatever on the question itself, irrespective of such considerations, at the very time when he was professing to give an explicit statement of his views to the House. It is of the greatest importance that, before this present motion is decided, the House should understand fully what the opinions of the right hon. Baronet are on the great questions which must engage the attention of Parliament, no matter who is at the head of affairs. As far as I am able to judge, the right hon. Baronet now supports the same views which, in 1830, drove him from power. Everyone knows, that it was not the division on the civil list, which caused the right hon. Baronet to retire from office at that time. It was the feeling in the counties on the subject of Reform, evinced by the Yorkshire election, —the question put to the Duke of Wellington by Lord Grey, on this subject, in the House of Lords, and the answer given to it, which excited 1036 such a feeling throughout the country, as to make it clear to the right hon. Baronet, that the Government, of which he was a Member, no longer possessed the confidence of the country, and that any further appeal to the people would be useless. In accordance with the principles which he then entertained, the right hon. Baronet opposed the Reform Bill, and has subsequently opposed every popular measure brought forward by the Government, as long as opposition to such measures could be safely conducted; and when, at length, he has supported them, his support has been given with the object, in which he has unfortunately been too successful, by the help of a majority in the other House, of reducing the value of such measures, depriving them of their popular character, and rendering them unpalatable to the people. With regard to the budget, I fully admit that, as far as it has been hitherto discussed, her Majesty's Government do not possess the confidence of the present House of Commons sufficiently to enable them to carry the measures which they have proposed; but they have a powerful minority in favour of the principles which they maintain, and are therefore determined that the country should decide between them and the monopolists by whom they are opposed—should decide whether or not an effort should be made to supply the existing deficiency in the revenue, and, at the same time, to relieve the burthens of the people. The House may endeavour to prevent such an appeal—it may transfer its confidence to the right hon. Baronet and those associated with him—it may follow up the present resolution, if adopted, by an address to the Crown, praying for the dismissal of the present Government, without any appeal to the people;—but let me caution you to beware of forfeiting that confidence which the people ought ever to repose in their representatives—to beware of compromising the respect due to this House; not, as was suggested by the right hon. Baronet, by a disregard of your own privileges, but by a disregard of the wishes, and a neglect of the interests, of the great body of the people.
§ Mr. Handley
Sir, at this late period of the evening I have no wish to prolong the debate unnecessarily, sensible as I am of my inability to command the attention of the House; but it must be obvious to 1037 hon. Gentlemen that, from the position in which I am placed by this resolution, it is impossible I can allow the debate to close without addressing to them a few observations. I am the more compelled to do so in consequence of the speech with which the right hon. Baronet, the Member for Pembroke, closed the last evening's discussion. That right hon. Baronet had thought fit to address a lecture to my noble Friend, the Member for North Lincolnshire, and myself, on the subject of consistency—a lecture which, considering the source from which it came proved the right hon. Baronet to possess a degree of modest assurance not often met with in this House. The right hon. Baronet was reported to have said, for I had not the advantage of hearing him, that both my noble Friend and myself declared that, as far as we were concerned, "the Corn question should never be brought forward in that House as a Government measure." Now, never having intended to state anything that could bear such an interpretation, and believing that I never had, I carefully examined the reports of all the observations I had addressed to the House connected with this subject, and I found nothing that could possibly bear such a construction, except that, when explaining to the House a misrepresentation on the part of a morning paper, which asserted that, I not only approved of the mode in which the Chancellor of the Exchequer had introduced the question of the Corn-laws to the House, but that when the time came I should be happy to second him in dealing with the details, I certainly had said that, so far from approving the mode in which the Chancellor of the. Exchequer had introduced the question, I very much disapproved of it; and that, so far from assisting him in carrying out the details, if it depended on my vote, the right hon. Gentleman should not have the opportunity of considering it at all. Now, is it on words such as these that the right hon. Baronet has not scrupled to fix upon me a pledge to join in a vote of censure and want of confidence against that Goverment with which, with the exception of my vote upon the sugar duties, I have constantly acted? Is it upon words such as these that I am to be taken to have declared that, because I differed with her Majesty's Ministers on one point, I should withdraw my confidence from them upon all subjects in which I had hitherto 1038 concurred? Is it upon such grounds as these that the right hon. Baronet, who the other evening asked, if he met a madman in the streets, should he not be bound to rush upon him and wrest the weapon from him to prevent mischief; now counselled me, as it were, to a breach of the peace, inasmuch as it would equally be my duty to waylay the noble Lord, the Secretary for the Colonies, between Downing-street and this House, and wrest from him the Corn-bill which he proposes to lay upon the table of this House? Is it upon grounds such as these that the right hon. Baronet, himself no Zephyr, calls upon the "heavy agriculturists of Lincolnshire," as he is pleased to designate my constituents, to eject me from my seat? Whether or no they will adopt his advice time will show; but if they do, there is at least this marked distinction between my case and that which befel the right hon. Baronet on a former occasion, namely, that my constituents will reject me because I shall have been true to my principles, while the honest grey-coats of Cumberland dismissed the right hon. Baronet because he had proved false to his.—The right hon. Baronet had truly said, on the former evening, that the motion of the right hon. Baronet, the Member for Tam-worth, was not founded upon the case of a single defeat, but on a succession of defeats on measures which they deemed essential. Now, in as much as the sugar duties is the only question upon which the Government has sustained a defeat in which I have assisted, and the right hon. Baronet, the Member for Tamworth, has carried back his resolution, even so far as to embrace the Appropriation Clause (there was probably a good reason for not ante-dating his resolution previous to that period, seeing it might be extremely inconvenient to the noble Lord, the Member for North Lancashire, and the right hon. Baronet, the Member for Pembroke); and seeing that the question of the Timber Duties and the Corn-laws had not as yet been submitted to the consideration of the House, I am more inclined to look upon the right hon. Baronet as a warning rather than as an example. I am the rather induced to adopt his precepts in preference to his practice—to follow his doctrine rather than imitate his acts. Therefore it is that I have had great satisfaction in finding, in that fertile source which the right hon. Baronet, the Member for Pembroke, affords to all those who 1039 undertake the labour of wading through his speeches, of precedents and arguments in support of any and every opinion which they may choose to profess; I repeat, I have been delighted to find a passage in a speech addressed by the right hon. Baronet to his constituents at Carlisle, on January 12th, 1835—and I trust the right hon. Baronet will not plead the statute of limitations—so apposite to the present occasion, that it is deserving of the greatest attention. That speech is printed evidently by no hostile hand, and it gives the right hon. Baronet's reasons for not accepting the offer of the right hon. Baronet, the Member for Tamworth, to join his Administration. Of that Administration the right hon. Baronet speaks as follows: —And I must add this, that, in my opinion, the composition of that Ministry is as bad a: I can well imagine, for it is entirely composed of men to whom and to whose measures I have been all my life opposed.Still, if I recollect rightly, that Ministry embraced the right hon. Member for Cambridge, with whom the right hon. Baronet now sits in close contact. It embraced also the right hon. Member for Harwich, and the right hon. and right reconciled Member for East Kent, who a short time before, had indelibly branded his right hon. leader, the Member for Tamworth, with the warning motto—" Nusquam tuta fides." But the reasons which the right hon. Baronet, the Member for Pembroke, gave for not accepting office, were so forcible, so sound, and clothed in language so much better than I could hope to furnish, that with the permission of the House I will read them.I rejected the offer, on the ground of public duty, for I could not think that I should have been acting right, that I should have been discharging my duty to my country, or showing that proper regard which I conceive due to ray own character, if, because I had differed from my late colleagues upon one point, I had plunged into opposition to them upon all points with men against whom I have struggled during the whole of my political life. Such conduct I should have looked upon as inconsistent with private honour, and it could not have advanced the public good.Now, Sir, I well know and readily acknowledge my great inferiority to the Tight hon. Baronet in both talent and station; but not to possess that talent and that station, together with the glittering prospect which the right hon. Baronet doubtless pictures to himself of power and 1040 place, would I consent to sacrifice that private honour which the right hon. Baronet seemed to think, and I perfectly agree in the sentiment, was compromised by the individual who "differing from his Friends upon one point, plunged into opposition to them upon all points." Now, Sir, I perfectly agree with the right hon. Baronet who last addressed the House (Sir George Grey), that the resolution before the House implies two points; it calls upon me to censure the Government with whose measures, with one exception, I have concurred; and it at the same time, calls upon me to admit that the right hon. Baronet, the Member for Tamworth, is the person into whose hands I wish to see power confided. Now, Sir, let me examine what degree of confidence I or my constituents are justified in placing in the right hon. Baronet, even on the question of the Corn-laws, upon which the right hon. Baronet fancies he has been so explicit. The right hon. Baronet has referred us to his speech of last year on the Corn-laws; he adds,—" By that speech I am willing to abide." Now, Sir, I listened most attentively to every word of that speech, and I remember conversing with some hon. Friends, who were supporters of the right hon. Baronet, and we completely concurred in this, that never had the right hon. Baronet made a speech so full of reservations, so interlarded with "buts," and "on the other hand," and "at the same time; "but that there was not a word of that speech which he could not unsay, if it suited the occasion, except that he felt himself called upon to express his decided predilection" for a sliding scale." and then, turning round to his Friends for their ever-ready cheer, added that, "as to the details, of course he reserved to himself the right of dealing with them as he might think fit." Talk, Sir, of a sliding scale, without the details; why, it is the details that form the whole pith and marrow of the measure. It could not be difficult to furnish the right hon. Baronet with a sliding scale which would practically act as a low fixed duty. I would ask the right hon. Baronet, where did he intend to fix his pivot? At 70s., or 60s., or 50s., or 40s.? What is to be the ratio of the ascending and descending scales?—What the vanishing point? On the part of the farmers of England, I ask the right hon. Baronet for same definite information: It must not be forgotten, in these days of 1041 class interests, the right hon. Gentleman had, on a recent occasion, given utterance to a sentiment which had fallen with ominous import on the ears of the farmers; — the right hon. Baronet, in a speech in this House, had said—" The prosperity of manufactures is a greater support than any Corn Law!" I have lately seen, in a a series of letters on the Corn Laws, in the Morning Post, written by a gentleman of great acknowledged commercial celebrity, one who I doubt not, would be considered a high authority by the right hon. Baronet—I mean, Mr. Gladstone, a near relation of the hon. Members for Walsall and for Newark, who, taking the same views as the right hon. Baronet, in reference so a sliding scale, suggests in last Friday's paper, possibly as a feeler, a sliding scale, of which the pivot should be lowered 8s.; that is, that the alteration he would suggest in the present law, would be to reduce the pivot from 73s. to 65s. per quarter. Now, I will not trouble the House with a column of figures, but comparing the present scale with that proposed by Mr. Gladstone, and taking the present average of wheat at 63s. per quarter, the result would be, that instead of the present duty of 23s. 8d., it would, under Mr. Gladstone's proposition, be reduced to 6s. 8d., or 1s. 4d. below the extremely low duty proposed by her Majesty's Ministers!. Is this, I ask the right hon. Baronet, the pivot which he is disposed to adopt? Is it to be 73s. or 65s., or between or below? Before the right hon. Baronet asks me for my confidence, he is bound to declare himself upon these points. Should he not satisfy me upon these matters of detail, I will beg to ask him one plain and simple question—one that will be perfectly intelligible out of doors—one that admits of no mistake. "Will he or will he not continue to the farmer the amount of protection which he now enjoys?" This will be readily answered by a simple "yes," or "no." At all events, if the right hon. Baronet does not think fit to favour me with an answer, his silence will furnish me with an inference; but if he do not answer it, farewell to his claim to candour, which will no longer deceive the farmers of England. Let the right hon. Baronet show the grounds upon which he claims their confidence. I ask no more; I am willing to discuss this question here or on the hustings with the right hon. Baronet, on that 1042 plain intelligible question. All the petitions I have presented, and all that I now hold, including the one emanating from the largest meeting ever held in my division of the country, attended as it was by gentlemen of the highest influence and consideration, contains this prayer and this only—" That there be no alteration in the existing Corn-laws." I, therefore, ask the right hon. Baronet what answer I am to return on his behalf, at all events, to the prayer of my constituents? The right hon. Baronet, with great professions of candour, took credit in his speech, on introducing his resolution, for having never concealed his opinions on what he denominated the great constitutional questions of the Ballot, the extension of the suffrage, and the duration of Parliaments. I do not remember, that the right hon. Baronet committed himself to an opinion on the People's Charter; that might probably have been a direct violation of the treaty of Nottingham. It might have exhibited a further proof of that timeserving alliance which was said to have been entered into on that occasion, and of which the right hon. Baronet had so much reason to be proud. But, Sir, are there no other questions involving my consistency, and on which I have often recorded my opinions, which I am now called upon to censure and disavow, if tempted by the resolution with which the right hon. Baronet has baited his political rat-trap? Are there no questions of the reform of abuses, no questions involving the great principles of civil and religious liberty, on which I have been opposed to the right hon. Baronet, and which he now calls upon me to desert and repudiate, in favour of his skeleton Corn-law, and its unmentionable pivot. Am I, because the right hon. Baronet offers me this sliding scale, with a mysterious silence as to its details—am I, who voted for the 5l. franchise, in the Irish Registration Bill of the noble Lord, the Secretary for Ireland, in preference to the 8l., and who, if I had had the opportunity, would have voted for the 40s. freehold qualification, both because I think it more intelligible than the franchise founded on "solvent tenant tests," and "beneficial interests," which, I confess, exceeded my humble comprehension, and still more, because it, at least, approached to a nearer assimilation to the English franchise, to which I think Ireland entitled—am I, in a word, to recant 1043 my support of the bill of the noble Lord, the Secretary for Ireland, and adopt the disfranchising bill of the noble Lord, the Member for North Lancashire, because, forsooth, the right hon. Baronet offers me a sliding scale, with its uncalculated and incalculable details. My right hon. Friend, the Member for the Tower Hamlets, has anticipated me on a topic near and dear to my heart—a subject not inferior to the great question of the Corn-laws itself—namely, how the right hon. Baronet proposes to govern Ireland? That country which, with its centuries of misrule, forms the foulest blot on the page of English history—that country, in which, from the period when a Minister was to be enriched—a favourite advanced—a traitor rewarded—confiscation formed the never-failing source from which the avarice of their rulers was to be satisfied—that country, which, in later days, had its grievances still unredressed—how, I ask, does the right hon. Baronet propose to govern it? As a sister kingdom or a conquered province? Is it to be handed over as a land of aliens in blood, in language, and religion, to its bitterest foes? [Oh, oh.] Hon. Members may taunt that quotation; but in my opinion the Irishman, who forgets that savage and insulting speech, deserves himself to be forgotten in the hour of his need. Sir, the right hon. Baronet has, it appears to me, framed his resolution for the purpose of embarrassing Gentlemen placed in my situation. His political tactics are probably good, but I cannot admire his gratitude. On the question of the sugar duties, I gave the right hon. Baronet my vote, to the probably fatal defeat of my own friends. I did so on principle. I felt I owed a duty to my constituents, and to my own consistency; and I honestly discharged it at all risks. Sir, I have also a duty I owe myself, not to desert those principles which I have maintained in common with her Majesty's Ministers, since the passing of the Reform Act—not to censure in them the measures I have myself supported. I fear I have already been somewhat troublesome in the many questions I have put to the right hon. Baronet; but I will venture to ask him one more. Would he not himself despise me if I allowed myself to fall into the trap he has so skilfully set? If I now quarrelled on one point with the friends I have so long supported, and turned round upon them, and on all those 1044 measures, in which I had concurred with them; in a word, if I crossed over the floor of this House, and sat myself down beside him, as a Tory, for the rest of my life? I beg pardon, I will not press for an answer, it might be personally offensive to the right hon. Baronet's noble and right hon. Friends who sit near him. I am quite willing to look upon them as a warning, not as an example. I am not prepared to turn round upon my principles—I neither admire the treachery of deserting them, nor approve such acts.
§ Debate again adjourned.