§ The Order of the Day for resuming the adjourned debate having been read,
was sorry he did not see the hon. Member for Lincolnshire in his place, for after the phials of wrath which he had poured out upon his right 1050 hon. Friend, the Member for Pembroke, it was impossible that he should not advert to his extraordinary speech. Extraordinary it appeared to him under all the circumstances, but more extraordinary, because, since he had come into that House, an hon. Friend had put into his hand a record of the votes given by that hon. Member whilst he occupied a Tory nomination borough. He found this hon. Gentleman so eloquent on the subject of Ireland, voting again and again against the Catholic claims, and there was only one speech of this hon. Gentleman, who could not bear to tear himself from the side of the Reformers—the only speech of the hon. Member for Lincolnshire which he found recorded was a speech of the 28th of February, 1822, in which he denounced with the utmost contempt the measure of Parliamentary reform. Then this hon. Gentleman said to his right hon. Friend —" You have been true to party, but false to principle." Yes; it was, true, that there were men who did abandon the emoluments of place, and the connections which grew out of it, when a high and imperious principle demanded the sacrifice. He would ask the hon. Gentleman what he thought of those who, on a very vital question, proved true to party, and a party to which they had very recently attached themselves, but false to their principles? The right hon. Gentleman, the Member for the Tower Hamlets, in that earnest and eloquent speech which he delivered last night had said, that party connections were of the greatest value in order to carry great principles. But what should they say of those hon. Members who, when their most valuable principles were, by their own confessions, assailed by the Government, still continued their support to Government? The hon. Member for Lincolnshire (Mr. Handley) was very anxious on the subject of the Corn-laws. He would not enter into the hon. Gentleman's fears upon the question. He did not think the revision of the Corn-laws was at all unadvisable; but he was surprised when the hon. Gentleman declared, that according to the great principles of his political creed, he would support the Government on a motion of vote of confidence in the Government. The hon. Member for Lincolnshire said last night he put himself forward as the representative of the heavy agricultural party of the county of Lincoln. He did not know whe- 1051 then the hon. Gentleman was qualified to be such, but it did strike him that he was better qualified to serve in a squadron which some long time ago was called by a very curious name, the squadrone volantes who figured in the Scotch Parliament at the time of the union. They were at the same time friends of both parties, giving their votes on an emergency when the balance of parties required it—giving their Votes sometimes to one party and sometimes to another, securing the confidence of neither; welcomed by both when they came to them, but trusted by none, and at last, when the emergency had passed away that made the assistance looked for, distrusted by all, condemned by the public, and repudiated by both parties. He did not see the Judge Advocate in his place. He turned to his speech with great satisfaction, because it was a speech characterised by honesty of intention and by great ability; but he confessed, that his right hon. Friend had put forward some opinions which rather surprised him. When his right hon. Friend said he wanted to know what were the grounds upon which the Conservative side of the House sought for the public confidence—what measures they had brought forward which seemed deserving of such confidence— when his right hon. Friend put forward such questions, he (Mr. Colquhoun) was indeed surprised. He thought it a most extraordinary question to put to an opposition, and if the right hon. Gentleman would read the annals of parliamentary warfare, he would find, that it was not the duty of the opposition to tell on what grounds they claimed public confidence. But he (Mr. Colquhoun) would briefly refer to some of the measures which he had passed through the instrumentality of the opposition side of the House. When the Jamaica Bill was brought forward, was it not the right hon. Baronet, the Member for Tamworth, who had concocted it? Was not the Canada Bill, was not the Elections Committee Bill, was not the Irish Tithe Bill, was not the Irish Municipal Bill, passed through the instrumentality of the right hon. Baronet? He confessed, that one proposition laid down by his right hon. Friend surprised him. He said, that the proposition which they maintained was, that a Government unable to proceed with measures which they deemed important for the public interest should resign upon the first defeat. He 1052 (Mr. Colquhoun) looked across the House, for he thought he must find there a Government just entered upon office, but instead of that he found a Government that had been in office six years, and had brought forward measures on which the House had expressed their opinion, yet they were told they were unable to pronounce whether the Government were or were not worthy of the confidence of that House. But the next proposition of the right hon. Gentleman was, that if they could not carry measures necessary for the public service, it was their duty to resign or dissolve. If that was true in 1841 it was true also in preceding years. Why, then, did not Government act upon it in 1838, when a great measure affecting the Irish Church was negatived? Why did they not act upon it in 1839, when they were defeated on the Canada and Jamaica measures? Why did they not act upon it in 1840, when they were twelve times soundly beaten on most important question? Why did they not, on these occasions, resign their offices, or appeal to the country? Oh, but the noble Lord opposite said, this was a special case; it was a special case of finance; but he (Mr. Colquhoun) was afraid if it had not been for the motion of the right hon. Baronet, that special case would have been made a general one For, after all their beatings, on questions, too, of the utmost importance, their motto still seemed to be, "Tu pulsas ego vapulo tantum," which he would freely translate thus,—" Thrash us as you will, expose us as you please, roll us in the dirt, trample under foot our measures, expose us to the contempt and obloquy of the country as you may, only leave us office; we will cling to it even without power; for it we will abandon all our principles, and trust you to manage the policy of the country." His right hon. Friend, the Judge Advocate, talked very loudly last night about a dissolution, and stated, that they on that side of the House were prepared for a dissolution. It was true, that on that side of the House they had dared her Majesty's present Government to a dissolution, but until the present time they had feared to meet the people. The right hon. Baronet, the President of the Board of Control, had referred to the precedent of Mr. Pitt. He could recollect the time when the ex-Member for Westminster would have denounced Mr. Pitt. But now such was the nakedness 1053 of his argument, that he was obliged to refer to Mr. Pitt's words. He would now allude to the statements of the man of very different principles to Mr. Pitt; he alluded to M. Fox. After quoting from the speech of Mr. Fox, in 1734, the hon. Member begged to ask whether, upon the showing of Mr. Fox, the present Ministers were justified in keeping their places ever since 1838, from which time they had been unable to pass any one approved measure. He would ask them whether they considered such tenacity to office was consistent with their duty; if they could not conduct the business of the country in that House it was their duty to appeal to the people, either by a dissolution, or in some other manner. But in all these references to the times and conduct of Mr. Pitt, it is to be remembered that Minister's situation was very different from that of her Majesty's Government. Mr. Pitt was possessed of the undoubted confidence of the Crown, and he believed he had that of the people, and in that belief he was fully justified, for when a general election took place, he was supported by a large majority. Now, had the Ministers possessed, did they believe they possessed the confidence of the people since the year 1838? No; in defiance of the well-known opinions of the people out of doors, and in the face of those in that House, whose confidence they did not possess, they maintained their places. He would ask in what more dangerous position could they place the Crown. They maintained office without the power of carrying a single measure which they deemed essential to the welfare of the country. Now, although he was well aware, that the loyalty of the people was not to be shaken; that it was indomitable, still he contended, that they were placing the Crown in a most dangerous and most difficult position. The right hon. Baronet, the President of the Board of Control, had been indignant with the right hon. Baronet, the Member for Tamworth, because he had called the Government an oscillating one; and he said, was it an oscillating Government which had carried so many measures which he enumerated? The policy pursued by the Government was, that of throwing themselves to the right and then to the left, in order to adjust the balance of power. That was their only resource, under the very skilful guidance of the noble Lord. The Government, for in- 1054 stance, appealed at one time to the sympathies of such men as the hon. Member for Shrewsbury and others, sincere friends of the Church, and at another time to Gentlemen, such as the hon. Member for Lambeth and others, who advocated the voluntary system. Now how, he would ask, could any straightford Ministry continue to follow up such a line of policy? In 1836 the noble Lord opposite supported some Church and Conservative measures, and the noble Lord then opposed the motion for expelling the Bishops from the House of Lords. A similar course was pursued in 1837 and 1838. In 1839 the scheme of national education was brought forward for the purpose of redressing the balance. It was the same on subjects of general policy. In 1836, the Canada question was deferred, from an apprehension of displeasing the extreme Liberal party; but in 1838, certain measures were adopted in regard to Canada, which led to a defection in the Ministerial ranks. In 1839, however, when the Government, who had been defeated on the Jamaica question, again returned to power, they thought it proper to take some step for the purpose of satisfying the extreme party, and the ballot was accordingly made an open question. That system of compromise went on. In 1840, precisely, the same system was pursued. There was a declaration by the hon. Under-Secretary of State, of attachment to the Scotch Church, which was re-echoed by the Lord Advocate, but when a proposition was brought forward to support the Church, down came the voluntary principle men and the Dissenters, declaring, that if such a measure were proposed they would withdraw their support from the Government, and thus everything was obliged to yield to the system of compromise? How had it affected their finance? The same system had obliged them to pass the penny postage—a good measure in itself, but brought forward at a time when they were in circumstances of great difficulty, and when there was no justification for it. The hon. and learned Member for Reading had said, that it was not material to the question in what state the finance of the country were left in the hands of the Government. Now, he thought, that most material to the consideration of the question of whether the Government possess the confidence of that House. If they received the finances 1055 in a flourishing condition, and left a bankrupt Exchequer—if they had a surplus of a million in 1836, and ended with a surplus expenditure in, he hoped, their last year of office, of l,800,000l. did not this justify a vote of want of confidence. There was another proceeding in which he thought the Government was not justified. They had been cutting and carving out commissions, with what object he did not know. He could not tell the amount, but upwards of 800,000l. had been doled out among 800 Baronets, Majors in the army, ex-M.P's., lawyers of six years' standing, and other claimants for services rendered, in the shape of new commissions and appointments at home and in the colonies, in order to stop the mouths of clamorous partisans. Then, with regard to the foreign policy pursued by her Majesty's Government, had that been conducted in a manner beneficial to the commercial interests of this country? Complaints had been lodged against the Government on the score of their foreign policy, not merely by Members on the Opposition side of the House, but by Liberal Members, by the hon. Members for Lambeth, for Manchester, Lancaster, the Tower Hamlets, and others. Upon all these grounds, he must say, that he possessed no confidence in her Majesty's Government, and therefore he felt bound to vote for the motion of the right hon. Baronet. It was clear, that they had no power to carry any one measure which they brought forward. But, finding that they were in a falling state, they had all at once become the clamorous advocates of principles which they had hitherto neglected to enforce. He called upon hon. Gentlemen who occupied the opposite benches, to bring to an end the present state of affairs, which was most dangerous and unsatisfactory, no business being done, no practical legislation being brought forward, and none of those schemes of reform and amendment being submitted to the House which were said to be so necessary for the public good. Let an appeal then be made to the country, so that a Government may be established possessing sufficient strength and ability to execute the public business of the country. That such would be the case he had very little doubt, for of the present Government he might say, as Mr. Burke once said—Maladministration has run its course; 1056 there is not a move left on the board, the Government is checkmated.
said, he had three grounds of complaint against the hon. Member who had just sat down. In the first place, he had not read the resolution before the House; in the second place, he had taken an unfair liberty with the hon. Member for Lincolnshire, who was absent; and, thirdly, he had totally concealed his real antipathy to the present Ministry. The hon. Member could not have read the resolution, because there was not one word in it about the confidence of the country; it spoke only of the confidence of the House; and there was a great difference between the two points. The hon. Gentleman seemed to have taken a leaf out of the book of the gallant Member for Lincoln, for, like him, he had spoken of commission after commission, exactly as the gallant Member was in the habit of doing. But as to the sincerity of the motives of the hon. Member in thus attacking the Government, he believed it to be grounded in the fact, that the present Ministry had thrown off the shackles of bigotry, and had endeavoured to respect the religious feelings of all her Majesty's subjects, and to do full justice to them. The hon. Member had attacked the hon. Member for Lincoln in strong terms, accusing him of inconsistency. If his recollection did not deceive him, there was once a Member for Kilmarnock, who advocated the Reform Bill, and appeared favourable to Radicalism; yet he was now found on the opposite benches, the ardent friend of that party which was opposed to the Reform Bill throughout. Was the hon. Member, then, the person to charge others with political inconsistency? If he were not mistaken, there were still greater charges alleged against the hon. Gentleman, but upon that he would not enter on the present occasion. There was an attempt by the variegated party opposite to seize the reins of Government. That was their object. But the House would not be led away by special pleading on the histories of past Government. No attempt of the kind had ever been made with greater political courage. He believed it had the full merit of great political courage; he would not call it a noble daring, because the purity of that daring would depend upon the object of the attempt, and the manner of executing it. The question before the House should be debated upon 1057 the claims of the present Opposition to hold the reins of Government. The Opposition had to establish, that their principles were those upon which the Administration of the country ought to be conducted, and those which the House ought to sanction. But they had been exceedingly cautious upon that head. They had not told the House what they would do for the country if they got into power; they had totally refrained from committing themselves to any system of political government for this country. Not one word had dropped from the right hon. Baronet to show the way in which he intended to administer the affairs of the country, or how he would alter the present foreign policy; he was totally silent upon that subject. Not one word had been spoken throughout the debate by any single Member of the Opposition which would tend to give the slightest information upon that important question. Neither had any hon. Gentleman who had addressed the House from the Opposition benches, succeeded in impeaching any one of the proceedings of her Majesty's Government. [Hear, hear] Could the hon. Gentlemen on the Opposition benches have done better with regard to foreign policy? Could they have been more successful in China and in India? Could they have established a better system of colonial government? Peace and tranquillity reigned in all the colonies, and the great and majestic experiment of liberating 800,000 human beings had succeeded beyond the most sanguine expectations of its warmest promoters. At home many abuses had been rectified, many grievances ameliorated, and many useful measures of essential benefit to the country carried into operation by the present Government. He, therefore, felt bound to support them, and he called upon the House to support them. What was there to call for a change of the Administration? It was not to be found in the foreign policy, nor in the colonial policy, nor in the management of the affairs of England; nor, above all, was there to be found in the administration of the affairs of Ireland any reason for a change of the Ministry. In England, her Majesty's Government had maintained order and peace in the time of turbulence and public commotion. They had vindicated the law, they had punished the delinquents, they had established public tranquillity, and removed even the slight 1058 est apprehension of its being disturbed. That had been their policy in England. What had been their policy in Ireland? Were he to describe it in one word, he should say, that they had done justice to the country as far as they could. He knew there were those who would heap iniquity upon the country, and they were the first to sneer at the notion of justice being done to it. Yes, he would defy any man to look at home, and to look at Ireland, and to point out any period during which any Government had conducted itself towards that country as the present Administration had. When was there a period when the interests of party had not been preferred to those of the people, when faction did not prosper at the expense of the country, and when the rights of the few were not maintained to the neglect of those of the many? But there was no such instance in the history of the present Administration, though they had not been able, indeed, to effect all they would have done. The hon. Gentleman who spoke last, notwithstanding his care to avoid touching upon the mode in which the Opposition would wish to govern Ireland, let slip an expression which was a sufficient key to it. He said, the Municipal Corporations Bill had been corrected by the right hon. Baronet, the Member for Tamworth, and his party. That was the way they would act towards Ireland, depriving the people of the franchise, and limiting their municipal and national rights, and, under the pretence of perfecting legislation, inflict additional abuses. But did they think the people of Ireland would submit to such Insults? The right hon. Baronet might have corrected the Municipal Reform Bill, but it was in an adverse sense. The correction, as it was called, marked the disposition in which the right hon. Baronet and his party would govern Ireland, if they were in power. The hon. Gentleman had declared, that the Government did not possess a majority in that House. They did possess a majority once. But how had they lost it? Had they not lost it by liberal candidates being beaten at the several isolated elections which had taken place of late? And did not everyone know, that in every one of those cases the most palpable and disgraceful bribery had been exercised to produce the result [No.] He repeated the accusation, and he would assert, moreover, that other instrumental- 1059 ities had been brought into operation to procure there turn of Members to strengthen the ranks of the Opposition. That which hon. Gentlemen opposite called a proof of public confidence was a proof only of the corruption of the constituencies and the degradation of public morals. If the franchise were extended, and the ballot given to the electors, that bribery and corruption, which was now so rife, would be at an end. But what chance had the country, if hon. Gentlemen opposite came into power of obtaining an extension of the franchise, or the protection of the ballot? What measures that would benefit the country were likely to come from them? They would make the franchise more restricted, if they could, and they certainly would take care to withhold the ballot. If this country had nothing to expect from them what would be the state of Ireland? The plausible hypocrisy of legislation would be of no avail there; the people of Ireland were convinced of the wickedness of that faction which had so long oppressed them, and of the pernicious impolicy of their measures. The noble Lord opposite had no reason to boast of the success of his Irish measures. He had prophesied to the noble Lord some years ago, that the tithe rent charge would double the amount of disturbance in Ireland, and now he could tell him, that discontent on that subject was spreading far and wide. Within the last few years, there had been fewer agrarian outrages in Ireland, than at any former period of its history, and the consequence was, that the landlords and in-coming tenants, finding themselves in a state of security, clearances had been going on in every quarter, wretches had been ejected from their cottages and small holdings, and numbers of them driven out of the country or reduced to starve in the ditches. These horrors had accumulated till the hideous reaction of crime had created terror on the other side. Within the last fortnight, two of the most horrid murders ever known in Ireland, had been committed from this cause. They had not been committed on unpopular persons, who had taken a decided part against the interests or feelings of the people. No, on the contrary, the unfortunate objects of them had been decided supporters of popular principles—he alluded to the cases of Mr. Hall and Mr. Butler Bryan. If the party opposite came into power, and the magis- 1060 trates and the bench were filled up with decided partisans, with partisan juries to back them—if the people saw every place of authority occupied by their enemies— hon. Gentlemen opposite might treat his assertion with lightness or scorn—but the consequences which would ensue had already been written in characters of blood in the history of Ireland, and would again be written in still darker characters, if the Government were changed to unlimited despotism. The right hon. Baronet opposite (Sir R. Peel) had been five years Secretary for Ireland, and had had some experience in the system which his party pursued in that country. The right hon. Baronet's predecessor had repealed the Insurrection Act on the ground of the increased tranquillity of the country, but he was not two years in office till he came down to the House and asked for three coercion bills, the Peace Preservation Bill, the Assaults Punishment Bill, and the Insurrection Act. These bills were enforced during by far the greater part of the time, that the right hon. Baronet was Secretary for Ireland, and the liberties of the people were annulled. Twenty counties were in a state of disturbance when the right hon. Baronet had applied for those acts, after having proclaimed himself the champion of Orangeism; he was the first man who had become the eulogist of the Orangemen. The right hon. Baronet was fond of looking into Hansard; if he would would refer to the debate of 18th July, 1814, the right hon. Baronet would see, that he had given a historical account of the rise and progress of Orangeism, which must have arisen from misapprehension on his part, for it was a gross misapprehension. The right hon. Baronet ended his speech with these words:—So far from the Orange Society being liable to the imputations cast upon them, their only fault was the exuberance of loyalty.Was this, then, the man to whom was to be entrusted the Government of Ireland? When the right hon. Baronet recollected that the Orange societies had been condemned by an unanimous vote of the House of Commons, could he still believe that their only fault was an exuberance of loyalty. He remembered the right hon. Baronet's administration while he was Secretary for Ireland. What was the state of the country at that time? Was there any man appointed to the magistracy, or 1061 office of any kind, who had not the shibboleth of the Orange party? No. Every office was filled by the members of one church, and by adherents of the Government of the day. Then it was, that, while going circuit, the Attorney-general ordered the Chief Justice to call the country gentlemen into his private chamber, and to argue with them against Catholic emancipation. During that period, the whole of the county magistracy was selected from the ranks of the Orangemen. What step did the right hon. Baronet take when he formed a yeomanry corps in Ireland? Out of the 32,000 which constituted that body, 19,000 were drawn out of the province of Ulster. What had been the consequences? Scarcely a year passed, up to 1829, in which several persons had not been shot at the annual Orange demonstrations; sometimes four, and never less than two persons, fell annually victims to that horrible society. The same spirit was still in existence. The House would be surprised to hear, that the Orangemen in the north of Ireland had opposed the temperance movement—they had thrown stones and broken the windows of the House in which men who had taken the temperance pledge had assembled to pass the evening in sobriety. The Catholic archbishop of the diocese, Dr. Croly, had warned Father Matthew not to visit it until he knew whether the Orange party would tolerate the temperance movement. Then again with respect to the conduct of the judges appointed by a Tory Government and those appointed by the present administration. He believed that neither Sir Michael O'Loghlen, nor Baron Brady, appointed by the present Ministers, had ever attended political meetings. There were judges, however, in the north of Ireland who had not been so free from the spirit of party. Some of these judges had remained too long on the bench. One of them had not gone circuit for these three or four years; and though upwards of eighty years of age, he would not leave the bench, lest some lawyer favourable to the policy of the present Government should be appointed to his situation. What signified all the pretences of gentlemen opposite in favour of governing Ireland fairly, when they found that the persons whom they had appointed as judges were men who had not scrupled to say, that the oath of a Catholic was not entitled to the same weight as the oath of 1062 a Protestant?— that the doctrine of Maynooth was, that no regard was to be paid to the sanctity of an oath? What benefit, he would ask, would ever Ireland derive from a Government who could appoint to Irish judicial situations persons who ventured to make assertions of this nature? Was that House prepared to inflict an evil of that description on the people of Ireland? They had been told that there was no reason to apprehend that the right hon. Baronet would inflict such an evil. But he would like to know how the right hon. Baronet could expect to be supported by his party, if he did not in his turn support his party by acceding to their views. Whatever might be the feelings of the right hon. Baronet in this respect, he did not think that the spirit of his party could be restrained whenever they had the power from acting on the policy which they had formerly pursued towards Ireland. They had now been out of place ten years—they had been stript of power and plunder during that period; but this had only served to increase their malignity towards the people of Ireland, whose representatives had been the means of keeping them so long out of office, and there was now a greater disposition on the part of Gentlemen opposite to harass the people of Ireland than had ever before existed. Several Members in the course of the debate had alluded to the union of the Tories and Chartists. It was true that hon. Gentlemen opposite had the Chartists with them just now. Some said that that they had come forward voluntarily to support the Conservatives, while others thought that some substantial inducements had been held out for their support. He had seen a proclamation issued by their leader, Mr. O'Connor, from his prison-house, calling on the Chartists to support the Tories, and he did not deny that they had done so. But how long would the connection subsist should Gentlemen opposite come into power? Power was always unpopular, and when, the Chartists found that Gentlemen opposite were opposed to every one of the principles for which they contended, did they imagine that there would be no disappointment, no heart burnings on their part? Might not extreme measures be called for, might not their allies demand untaxed bread; if so, did hon. Gentlemen opposite flatter themselves with the hope that they should be 1063 able to control the power with whom they were now leagued. During the recent agitation of the Chartists in England, and the disturbances in which it ended, he begged to remind the House that the people of Ireland had scorned their assistance and refused their aid. The tradesmen and operatives of Ireland expelled their leaders; they said to them, "You are physical force men, and we will have nothing to say to you." Ireland threw off the Chartists, and the Tories of England had courted and received their aid. The hon. Member for Nottingham could, perhaps, throw some light on this alliance, for he had certainly, on a recent occasion, obtained their support. Ireland scorned them, but Gentlemen opposite had welcomed them with courteous tones. What the consequence of their alliance might be he did not like to contemplate. If disappointment should arise, and disturbances again occur, would the Government of the right hon. Baronet ever venture to reduce by 10,000, the troops in Ireland? Would he not, on the contrary, be obliged to send over his tens of thousands to that unhappy country? Now, in regard to the recent measures of Government; they proposed to increase the revenue, and to relieve the distresses of the country by lessening taxation. How did hon. Gentlemen opposite meet that proposal? The right hon. Member for Cambridge said, let things go on as they have done. Did they mean to diminish taxation? Did they insist on keeping up the price of bread to the wretched artisan, in order that the aristocracy might command the luxuries of life? A noble Lord, in another place, had denounced the proposal of Government, because it would impose a tax on bread. The people would never bear it, said the noble Lord. Heaven help the noble Lord! He appeared to be a person of only one idea. His Lordship did not seem to consider the protecting duty a tax which went into the pockets of the landlord, but could only conceive that to be a tax which was paid into the public treasury. Did Gentlemen opposite, then, object to measures which had for their object the relief of the existing distress? Would they come forward as an administration, and insist that the present system should be continued?—that the people of England should rest content with less bread than they were entitled to? If this country admitted foreign corn, foreigners would be 1064 obliged to take some articles in exchange, and the condition of all classes would thereby be benefitted. Did hon. Gentlemen opposite, then, refuse to enlarge the markets for the manufactures of this country? Did they refuse cheap bread and the opportunity to the working classes of obtaining high wages? Hon. Gentlemen opposite would not consent to the introduction of slave-grown sugar. They had arrived at a delicate period of their political existence. They had discovered that they were the great advocates of anti-slavery, without ever having known of this before. They had been slumbering hitherto, but now they were awake. He had never, however, received any encouragement from Gentlemen opposite when he had proposed to admit foreign sugar not the produce of slave labour. Gentlemen seemed amused at what he had stated, but he would take a wider range. Had they ever given the slightest hope that they would consent to the reduction of any of those unproductive duties which increased so enormously the price of various articles so necessary to the comfort of the people? The present Government were ready to diminish taxation, and thereby to increase the revenue. They were ready to give cheap bread, and to lessen the duties on other articles of great importance to the consumer. They were ready to enlarge the market for the produce of this country, in the hope that by doing so they would benefit all classes of the community. Let the right hon. Baronet opposite declare to the world the principles on which he meant to carry on his administration. How would he govern Ireland? After the recent attempts made by the noble Lord, the Member for North Lancashire, to narrow the franchise of the people of Ireland, the right hon. Baronet might find this no easy task. It was all very well for Gentlemen opposite to say, that was not the measure of the right hon. Baronet. It was all very well for them to put the right hon. Baronet forward as the decoy duck; but they knew that if the right hon. Baronet did not succumb to their party views, the noble Lord, the Member for North Lancashire was ready to their hands. If the right hon. Baronet failed, the noble Lord might succeed; he was the sweetener of their cup of life; he was the man who would redeem any failings in his leader, and lead his followers to the temple of peace and tranquillity; yes, he congratulated them on their resources, 1065 but let them beware—the patience of the people of Ireland was neatly exhausted; they had a prospect of relief so long as the present administration remained in office, but they had no hope if Gentlemen opposite came into power, and that which they endured in the period of expectation became insufferable in moments of despair. He had, therefore, endeavoured to do his duty. He protested against the motion of the right hon. Baronet, believing that Ministers had done much to tranquillize Ireland, and to maintain the honour of this country in the estimation of the world.
§ Mr. Lindsay
observed, that he felt that he had scarcely a right to intrude any observations of his own upon the House at that moment, but the fact was, he had risen for the purpose of offering an apology to the House for having so loudly expressed his denial of the accusation of bribery which had been made against those who had been successful in the recent elections against the Government. He begged to repeat this denial—-and to assure the hon. and learned Member for Dublin that he had been altogether misinformed upon that subject. He would only add that, so far as the borough with which he had the honour to be connected was concerned, he believed he had had the satisfaction of being returned by the unbought suffrages of honest and independent electors—and it was a source of peculiar pleasure to him that one of the first votes he had been called upon to give, would be in support of the resolutions of the right hon. Baronet, the Member for Tamworth.
§ Mr. Sergeant Jackson
Sir, the hon. and learned Member for Dublin, who has just resumed his seat, commenced his speech by making three charges against my hon. Friend, the Member for Kilmarnock (Mr. Colquhoun); the first of which was, that my hon. Friend had not read the resolution now before the House. I confess, Sir, it does appear to me somewhat strange, that the hon. and learned Member should have preferred such a charge against my hon. Friend, who, throughout his speech, did apply himself most ably, to the question under discussion, whilst the hon. and learned Member had not, in his rambling and discursive speech, of an hour's duration, addressed himself for a single moment, to either of the propositions involved in the resolution now before 1066 the House. [Oh! from Mr. O'Connell]. Why! Will the hon. and learned Member be pleased to point out the single sentence in his speech, in which he combated the first proposition involved in the resolution proposed by the right hon. Baronet, the Member for Tamworth; namely, "that her Majesty's Ministers do not sufficiently possess the confidence of the House of Commons, to enable them to carry through the House, measures which they deem of essential importance to the public welfare?" This proposition has not even been denied by the hon. and learned Member for Dublin; nor has any Gentleman at this side of the House, throughout this protracted debate (with one single exception), ventured to deny it. Nay, its truth has been admitted by them all. Well! but will the hon, and learned Member tell me, what portion of his speech applied to the second branch of the question; viz. "that the continuance of those Ministers in office under such circumstances, is at variance with the spirit of the constitution?" Sir, I must in the next place, complain of the hon. and learned Gentleman, for the unfair manner in which he dealt with my right hon. Friend, the Member for the University of Cambridge (Mr. Goulburn). Was it usual or parliamentary conduct for the hon. Member wilfully to repeat a misrepresentation of what had fallen during the debate from another hon. Member, sitting on the opposite side of the House? and that too, after the explanation of my right hon Friend; and after another hon. Member had apologized for misunderstanding, and consequently mis-stating what had fallen from the right hon. Gentleman? Next amongst his various irrelevant topics the hon. and learned Gentleman has spoken about the motion, of which he has given notice, for the admission of foreign sugar into this country, not the production of slave labour. The hon. and learned Member stands in rather an awkward position on this question, for he has committed himself at various meetings, as the uncompromising advocate for the abolition, of slavery. Then a motion was brought forward by Ministers, which would have the effect of encouraging the slave-trade, when the hon. and learned Gentleman, anxious to maintain the Ministers in their places, and yet wishing to make it appear, that he was consistent in opposing the slave-trade, he, good-natured, simple-minded man, said he would propose a 1067 clause in committe, by which sugar, the growth of free labour only, should be admitted into this country. Why, did not the hon. and learned Gentleman, at the very moment he gave that notice, know that this country was bound by treaty, under circumstances by which sugar, the growth of slave labour, could not be excluded? Nay, was he not told that such was the fact and the state of the law at the very time he gave his notice? And where was the hon. and learned Gentleman when the House went into Committee on the Sugar Duties' Bill, and when that question was under discussion? Was he in his place ready to propose his clause in committee, or was he at Manchester leading on his peaceful Temperance Society-men to the battle with the Chartists, thus giving the good people of Manchester a sample of our Irish tranquillity? But it would be occupying the time of the House to no purpose, to follow the hon. and learned Gentleman through his dexterous contrivances for setting himself up in this House and in the country. The hon. and learned Gentleman had said, that if a Conservative Government were to exist in Ireland, there would be nothing but bigotry and intolerance in that country. I do not believe, that the hon. and learned Gentleman would obtain credit for this assertion, even with his own party. The present Government has been very much praised by the hon, and learned Gentleman, for its even-handed justice in Ireland; but what was it? I will take a specimen with respect to the appointment of magistrates, a topic to which the hon. and learned Gentleman has referred. The Government pretended to set its face against the Repeal of the Legislative Union. The noble Lord, the present Lord-lieutenant of Ireland, came forward and made a set speech upon that subject. He declared, that the course he should pursue was, to dispense the patronage and favour of the Government, so as to ex-elude all who took any part in the repeal agitation. But with what sincerity has this declaration been acted upon? The Repeal Association was established by the hon. and learned Gentleman, the Member for Dublin himself. That hon. and learned Member, who was the founder of the association, was at the time he formed the society a magistrate of Ireland. Has he been removed from the commission? There were many other magis- 1068 trates and deputy-lieutenants of counties who are repealers: have any of them been removed by this honest Government? What will the house think of there being no less than six Members of the House of Commons, sitting on the opposite Benches, magistrates, and some of them holding higher offices under the Government, who are members of the Repeal Association? In the list now in my hand are, first, the hon. and learned Gentleman himself; then the hon. Member for the county of Mayo (Mr. D. Browne), who was deputy-lieutenant and justice of the peace for that county; he was admitted a member of the Repeal Association on the 8th of June last year. Next comes the Member for the borough of Sligo, (Mr. Somers) a justice of the peace; then the Member for the county of Meath (Mr. H. Grattan), also a justice of the peace; then the Member for Ennis (Mr. Bridgeman) a justice of the peace; and then the Member for the county of Galway, who is a justice of the peace and a deputy-lieutenant for that county. These six Members all belong to the Repeal Association, and not one of them has been removed. These Gentlemen appear to have been respectively admitted on the 8th of June, 25th of August, 28th of September, and 26th October, 1840. Besides these, there were Lord French, a deputy-lieutenant and justice of the peace, and Mr. Thomas French, Mr. Arabin, Mr. Dillon O'Brien, Mr. Browne, Mr. Fogarty, and several other Gentlemen, justices of the peace, Mr. Valentine O'Connor Blake, and Sir M. D. Bellew, both deputy-lieutenants and justices of the peace, not one of whom has been removed from his position, although they are all admitted repealers. And this is the way in which even-handed justice is administered in Ireland? But what has been the course pursued towards the Conservatives? A gallant Friend of mine, the Member for the county of Armagh (Colonel Verner), has been removed from the commission of the peace, because he was present at a dinner in the county of Armagh, while a certain toast was given. Another hon. Friend of mine (Colonel Blacker) was removed from the office of justice of the peace, because his lady happened to wear some part of. her dress, supposed to be of an orange colour. I would ask, is this the impartiality and even-handed justice of which the hon. and learned 1069 Gentleman makes so great a boast? On the contrary, I must assert, that there never was a more partial, a more one sided, or a more mischievous course of government adopted in any country, than that which was adopted by her Majesty's present Ministers towards Ireland. The hon. and learned Gentleman has eulogised the Government for their purity, and freedom from corruption at elections, while he stigmatised the Conservatives as being the patrons of bribery, and of every species of corruption. Does the hon. and learned Gentleman expect the House to believe him? Does he believe his statements himself? Are there not the most damning proofs against him upon the Table of the House? Are there not reports of committees against him? What was the conduct of the Government candidate at the recent election for the borough of St. Alban's? Was that all purity and abstinence from corruption? What was the tenor of the petition presented to this House last night from the borough of Nottingham? But to come a little nearer home, I can tell the hon. and learned Member that I am aware of the proceedings of this pure Administration at the present time in Ireland. I know perfectly well what is the nature of the efforts made to obtain a liberal colleague for the hon. and learned Member for the City of Dublin. I am well informed of the manner in which they are employing the present interregnum of Government throughout the country, especially in Ireland. I know fell well for example the means now employed to warp some of the Conservative electors of Bandon from their principles, and if possible, to dislodge me from my seat as representative of that borough. But I defy the hon. and learned Gentleman to accomplish that object; I care not what unscrupulous means are employed for the purpose, nor should I desire any thing better than that the hon. and learned Member should put forth his whole strength and the influence of his Government also, together with his own, to unseat me. It is true I represent a constituency composed of humble men —men in moderate circumstances, but I know full well that they are men whom the whole patronage and wealth of the Government cannot bribe to desert their principles. Why the hon. and learned Gentleman and his party have actually sent a Radical agent to 1070 Bandon to induce the electors to vote against me, and have authorised that person to tell them that if they would do so there would be plenty of offices and appointments for their sons and relations. And these are the advocates of purity of election? These are the men with clean hands, who get up to denounce bribery and corruption. The hon. and learned Gentleman spoke of the landlords of Ireland, and ascribed the state of that country to the severity with which the tenantry are treated by the landlords. Without replying to this general charge brought against the landlords of Ireland, I will ask the hon. and learned Gentleman whether it becomes him to make such charges? I have understood that the hon. and learned Gentleman is rather a harsh landlord himself. [Mr. O'Connell said it is utterly untrue.] Did the hon. and learned Gentleman never distrain any of his tenants in the month of April for rent due on the 25th March preceding? [Mr. O'Connell: Not to my knowledge.] Will the hon. and learned Gentleman say, that he had never distrained his tenantry in the county of Kerry, in April, for rent due in March? Will he say that? As far as I am concerned, I can tell the House that I have been credibly assured that such is the fact; and if the hon. and learned Gentleman cannot in his place, deny it, ought the hon. and learned Gentleman to come down to that House and presume to attack the landlords of Ireland? Nothing can be more unfounded, more unwarrantable, or more unjust to the landlords of Ireland than to attribute the present state of that country to any conduct they have adopted. No; it is not the conduct of the landlords, it is the conduct of her Majesty's Government in Ireland, and the conduct of the officials at the Castle in Dublin, that the present disorganized state of the country is to be attributed — a state in which there is neither security for life or property. When a representation is made to the authorities at the Castle by the magistrates and gentry of the county of Tipperary of the disturbed state of that county, what is their response? Instead of the Government condemning, and that in the strongest terms, the conduct of the people, the gentlemen who make the representation to the Government are treated with some very nice ready cut and dried sentences, about property having its duties 1071 as well as its rights. It is this species of conduct which has tended to produce the present state of things in Ireland. When the hon. and learned Member for Dublin got up in the repeal association, and pronounces what is totally inconsistent with all ideas of property in any country, what can be expected from those who regard his opinion as the law, and adopt it for their guidance? The hon. and learned Member proposes what he calls a plan for giving a fixity to tenures:—that no landlord should exercise the rights of property at all, unless he call in a jury to determine in what way the landlord is to manage his own property. Does holding forth such doctrine as this entitle the hon. and learn Gentleman to arraign the landlords of Ireland for their conduct, and accuse them of causing the present state of things in that ill-fated country? Why, two foul murders have been perpetrated in Ireland within the last week or ten days. The victims were most quiet and excellent gentlemen, both differed in politics from me; but I happened to know one of them, the other I did not know. Why were those murders perpetrated? Because one of the unhappy gentlemen had had the audacity to go on his own land, for the purpose of appropriating some portion of it which had been in possession of a tenant to his own use—he meant the case of Mr. Hall. What other was the assignable motive for the commission of this crime. May I not with justice say that it was because the people had heard that an honourable and learned Gentleman, who ranked high at the Irish bar, and who was known to possess a thorough knowledge of the law of the land, and great influence with the ignorant people, had propounded the doctrine that no tenant ought to be removed from his holding? What was the cause of the tragedy in the case of Mr. Butler Bryan, a gentleman of extremely liberal opinions? He bought the palace and demesne land of a suppressed bishopric, and the former holders resented the act. Thus were the poor Irish led to conclude, from the authority of the hon. and learned Gentleman, that every landlord who presumed to let his own land, taking it from one to give it to another, ought to be visited with severe punishment. The end of all is, that the country has got into such a state of disorganization that no man can assert his rights. 1072 And this is the state of things that is to continue; and the House is invoked not to desert the Government who suffers these things to take place, and which never interferes with the mischievous proceedings of the hon. and learned Gentleman. I have hitherto followed the hon. and learned Member for Dublin through the somewhat indirect topics to which he has referred. I will now, with the leave of the House offer a very few observations and they shall be brief indeed upon the important question under consideration, which has, I feel been well nigh exhausted. The right hon. Gentleman, the Secretary at War (Mr. Macaulay) resorted to a very ingenious argument. He said, that he admitted, that if her Majesty's Government had ceased to possess the confidence of the House of Commons, they ought not to hold the reins of Government; but the want of confidence on the part of the House of Commons was not to be shewn by the merely throwing out legislative measures proposed by the Government. The first duty of a Government the right hon. Gentleman said, was to administer the laws as they were; and if the House of Commons disapproved of the mode in which the Government administered the laws, then he at once conceded the point, that it was the duty of the Government to retire from office. This is, no doubt, a very specious, and ingenious, but in my opinion, it is a merely plausible and not a sound argument. Is it not a most important part of the duty of the executive Government to propound such measures as they deem essential to the well-being of the country? Have I not the authority of the present Government for that doctrine? Was it not stated by the Prime Minister, in the other House of Parliament, and by the noble Lord opposite (Lord J. Russell), on the occasion of their resigning office in May, 1839, when they were defeated on the Jamaica Bill, that the rejection of that measure demonstrated that they did not possess the confidence of the House of Commons, and therefore, they were bound to retire from the Government of the country? Was not that an obstruction of a legislative measure? Most manifestly it was. I am wrong, however, in saying defeated on the Jamaica Bill, for her Majesty's Ministers then had a majority of five. That they then told their royal mistress and told her truly, that such a miserable majority 1073 proved they had lost the confidence of the House of Commons, and that they could therefore no longer carry on the Government with credit to themselves, or with advantage to the country. But have 1 not further the authority of the present Government for the proposition I have laid down? Have I not the admission made by the noble Lord, who is now the Ministerial leader of the House of Commons, that when the right hon. Baronet the Member for Tamworth, in 1835, resigned in consequence of the resolution which the noble Lord moved and carried against him, respecting the Church of Ireland; that the conduct of the right hon. Baronet was on that occasion in accordance with the principles of the British constitution? Yes, I have all these arguments to support me against the fine-spun sophistry, the very ingenious device of the right hon. Gentleman the Secretary at War, the resorting to which merely served to show how much her Majesty's Ministers are disposed to extend the term of their ignominious existence; how anxious they are to eke out the time, in order to get another quarter's salary; and with what ingenuity they seek for every pretext to stir up the country, that they may remain a little longer in office. Then, with respect to the question of free trade in sugar, timber, and corn, I am bound to give credit to the noble Lord, the Secretary for the Colonies, when he states in his plan, that these measures were not propounded on the sudden without previous consideration, at a late period of the Session, and merely to ward off if possible from his Government the blow inflicted by the recent adverse divisions of eleven and twenty-one on the Irish Registration Bill. But has the noble Lord ventured to say, that the Government, previous to the meeting of Parliament, considered the question of free trade with a view to bring forward any legislative measure respecting it this Session? I do not believe they did any such thing. My opinion is, that even now, they have determined to suggest these measures because they felt, that they were in great peril of being driven from office, being in the very awkward predicament of having a majority of the House against them. They may, finding the vessel in danger, have looked out a-head, and seeing the likelihood of foul weather, have prepared for the storm. In that event it was very desirable that they should have a few tubs to throw to 1074 the whale. The hon. and learned Gentleman taunted us on this side of the House with the discordant and multifarious materials of which our party is made up, and the hon. and learned Gentleman laughed at the heterogeneous compound. But I beg to tell that hon. and learned Gentleman, that whatever differences of opinion may prevail on some points among the friends with whom I act, yet it will be found on questions of principle, and of governmental policy that they will be compact and united as one man. There may be divergencies of opinion on some questions, which, as independent men, they cannot compromise; but with respect to the general scope and policy of the measures to be propounded by the right hon. Baronet, the Member for Tamworth, and with respect to his constitutional proceedings, we have all perfect confidence in them, and there will be but one feeling prevailing through the whole party. But to revert to the question of free trade, is it credible if the Government had contemplated so important a measure at the commencement of the Session, they would have omitted all allusion to it in the speech from the Throne? Is there any interest in the country that will not be affected by it? It affects the agricultural, the manufacturing, the trading, and the commercial interests of this great empire; nay, it concerns the very food of the people of Great Britain. Ought not the Government then to have called the attention of Parliament to these important questions at the commencement of the Session, if in truth they had intended to call upon Parliament to legislate upon them? But they did not do so. They propounded these measures merely because they found themselves in a position in which it was utterly impossible for them to go on with the Government of the country, and therefore to save themselves from what to them would be the worst of all possible evils—a resignation of office—they had resorted to these subjects of agitation, and had at the last hour discovered, that these were the questions by which they would be the most likely to raise a ferment in the country, and be thereby enabled to retain what they appeared to value above all things besides, namely, their places.
believed, that strictly speaking, he had not a right to address the House a second time on the same question, but in common justice he ought 1075 to be permitted to explain, an attack having been made on him personally. He was bound to say, first, that he had been very much assailed in every description of newspapers, for everything but that. He was never before attacked with regard to his conduct as a landlord—never! In the next place, there was not a single farm of his (Mr. O'Connell's), that was not let at from 4s. to 5s an acre less than the adjacent forms were let for, except one, which was the property of his hon. Friend behind him (Sir D. Roche). Then he had more persons living on his lands, having houses and gardens, paying no rent at all, than any other man possessing four times his properly. He had never turned out a tenant by a notice to quit for the purpose of clearing the land. Whenever he had turned out a tenant, it was on account of personal misconduct; and another person would then occupy the land, and he gave the outgoing tenant a year's rent as a fine on his quitting. Another charge made against him was, that he bad made a distress on a tenant in April, for rent due in March. If anything of the sort had been done, it was without his knowledge. There never was an instance of his having made a distress in Ireland.
§ Sir D. Roche
bore testimony to the conduct of the hon. and learned Member as a landlord. He had always heard of his being a roost forbearing landlord.
§ Mr. Sergeant Jackson
he made the statement on the authority of a letter, and be would give the name of the writer on ay proper occasion.
§ Mt. Slaney
said, a question had been asked by the hon. Member for Finsbury of the light ho. Baronet, which, in his opinion, well deserved an answer. He would venture to say, that the state of the working classes in the great cities and manufacturing towns of the country, was so bad, as hardly to be capable of exaggeration. He wished, therefore, to repeat that question, and to ask the right hon. Baronet what be proposed should be done with respect to those classes? In his opi- 1076 nion, there was a growing indifference in the country to both the two great parties who divided the House. The question, which should rule, was of infinitely less interest than the question, what should be done to benefit the working classes? If they could embody their opinions in one sentence, it would be "a plague oft both your factions." The lower classes in the great towns had been driven to this state of apathy by the pressure of their increasing sufferings; and they were looking merely to see what practical remedy the House would devise for the evils tinder which they laboured. Among other things which had added to the general distress among the poorer classes, must be reckoned the enactment of the Irish Poor-law, which in its first effects had driven immense multitudes out of Ireland to take refuge in the great manufacturing towns of this country, where they entered into competition with, and undersold, the native workmen. In his opinion, a great deal of this misery arose from neglecting to enforce the existing laws, and from the want of changes in the laws corresponding to the great changes in the constitution of society which had lately taken place, and from ignorance of the real state of the population. If, then, a change of parties merely were to take place, the great body of the people would care little for it; their care was which of these parties was likely to do the best for the improvement of the great mass of the community. In supporting the Government on this occasion, he did not feel that he should be inconsistent, because he should only be voting as he had always voted, having always considered the present Government the most likely to effect the object he had stated. At any rate, if the present state of things were allowed to go on much longer, it would be impossible to rule this country without constant outbreaks, with, out crime increasing, and the gaols fuller. At present the increase of crime was most alarming, and the increase in the consumption of spirits, which was always a test of the moral state of the population, was very great. If it were asked, what did he propose, he would say, that nothing was a greater evil than the even-balanced state of parties, and, attached, as he was to the present Government, he should far prefer seeing the right hon. Gentleman in office and able to form such a Government as would carry measures for the 1077 amelioration of that frightful condition of the lower classes. This he firmly believed the right hon. Gentleman was desirous to effect, and would be glad to see. It ought to be remembered, that whereas some years ago the proportion of the agricultural to the manufacturing population was two to one; that proportion was now just reversed, and the commercial and manufacturing classes were to the agricultural as two to one. These persons were all subject to the fluctuations of trade, and one very great evil was the neglect to give them such an education as would fit them to meet these fluctuations when they occurred. Among the humbler classes nine-tenths of their income went in food. The price of this had varied within a short time 100 per cent. Could there be a greater evil to one who was liable to all the fluctuations of demand for labour, and all the fluctuations in the amount of wages —to be liable, moreover, to fluctuations of 100 per cent, in the price of his food? It was, therefore, most important, that, before the close of this debate, the right hon. Gentleman, who he believed was willing to do something, should tell the House what it was that he would do. He implored the right hon. Gentleman, if power came into his hands, to employ it, not to aggrandise his friends, but to improve the condition of the lower orders. This was incumbent on the right hon. Gentleman and the House, not only for the sake of their individual comfort—not only for their own happiness, but it was incumbent upon them, he verily believed, for the sake of the safety of the realm.
The Earl of Darlington
was anxious to address the House, in consequence of the speech of the hon. Member for Lincoln, (Mr. Handley) on the previous evening. He confessed, that he had listened to the speech of that hon. Member, with pain and surprise, for he had known him for many years. He was besides a neighbour of the hon. Member's, and one of his constituents. Though he had the misfortune to differ from the hon. Member for Lincoln, in politics, he did not complain of him in that respect, for he did not complain of any person expressing the opinions he entertained, provided he expressed them in a fair and straightforward manner. Up to last night, he had looked upon his hon. Friend, the Member for Lincoln, as one of the most upright and straightforward Members of that House. But his experience of 1078 what had occurred last night, had altered his opinion. He had given his hon. Friend notice that he intended to make a few observations on the speech he had delivered. His hon. Friend had been in the House in the course of the evening, but had gone away. However, having given him notice, as he had not thought fit to remain, he was not on that account to be debarred the opportunity of making those observations which he had intended to make. Those who knew him knew that he was not the person that would wish to say anything behind a man's back which he would not prefer to say, in his presence. He had already stated, that he had heretofore considered his hon. Friend to be one of the most straightforward Members of that House. Why, then, should that hon. Member, in an evil hour, and by one single act of tergiversation, have abandoned those constituents whom he had always before defended in a manly manner? At the time that he made his extraordinary speech he did not offer any pretext, or even the shadow of an excuse, for the conduct he had thought fit to pursue. In the first instance, he commenced his speech by answering some remarks made by the right hon. Baronet, the Member for Pembroke, whose speech, the hon. Member confessed, he had not heard, but had read it in the newspaper reports. The hon. Member indulged in a number of remarks on that speech, and quoted besides the speeches of other eminent statesmen—speeches made ten years ago—to prove that they were inconsistent with what they professed at present. Whether that were the case or not he did not pretend to say. He was not the defender of inconsistency, if such there was, in the conduct of those who were so much better able to defend themselves. The hon. Member for Lincoln, had raked up the speeches of eminent statesmen delivered at former periods, and had enlarged upon the inconsistency which they exhibited. He had no hesitation to say, that inconsistency was a most dangerous text to go on in that House. If they were to look to the conduct of eminent statesmen who for a course of twenty or thirty years had taken a prominent part in public affairs, it would be difficult to expect that same part of their conduct would not be inconsistent with another. But what he complained of was, that when the hon. Member was enlarging on his text of inconsistency, the hon. Member had confined his observations to one side of the House, whilst he might 1079 have found an example of inconsistency in the conduct of the noble Lord, the Secretary for the Colonies, and the noble Lord, the Secretary for Foreign Affairs. The noble Lord, the Secretary for the Colonies, was Member for Huntingdonshire in 1821, and did the hon. Member for Lincolnshire, never hear of a letter written by that noble Lord whilst he was Member for Huntingdonshire, in defence of the interests of British agriculture, and in support of its protection from foreign competition? He would ask, was the measure now proposed by the noble Lord, for the annihilation of the landed interest in conformity with the principles which he then avowed? The same year the noble Lord produced an essay on the Reform Bill, and he would ask, was the Reform Bill brought forward in 1831, in conformity with the principles of that essay? He did not mention this for the purpose of complaint, for as he had said, looking to men who had been twenty or thirty years in public life, it would be difficult to find any in whom some inconsistency might not be discovered; but what he complained of was, that it was not fair to single out one or two persons as the objects of a charge of this kind. He would ask, what was the hon. Member's intention in making this speech? He might answer, that as he had given up his constituents, and as it was his last dying speech, he might as well indulge his inclination in giving his support to those Ministers whom he usually supported. But could the hon. Member say, that he was influenced by a sense of right. The persons by whom that hon. Member was returned are a set of yeomen, the most independent in the county, and by these alone was that hon. Member returned, and every one must know that the very existence of those who returned the hon. Member—or their utter ruin—depended on the success or failure of the measure now proposed by her Majesty's Government. He should, therefore, have thought that gratitude alone would have induced that hon. Member to have supported his constituents, who had given him so kind, so disinterested, and so truly independent a support. When he heard the hon. Member's speech last night, he could not imagine that he was the same man whom he had heard speak in the debate on the sugar duties, and who, on that occasion, censured the conduct of the Government in the strongest terms. On that occasion the hon. Member went on to say, that he doubted whether a fixed duty 1080 would be any protection, or whether it would not be worse than no protection at all, and so thoroughly did the hon. Member conceive their whole financial measures to be founded on the same principle that he felt bound to protest against them, and to declare, that if it depended on him the Ministers should never bring them forward. He gave it to be understood that in consequence of their Corn-law proposition he would abandon her Majesty's Government. The hon. Member repeated the same thing at an agricultural meeting held shortly after, and subsequently at a meeting in Lincolnshire, a letter from the hon. Member was read in which he said, that whatever course the Government pursued— whatever measures they brought forward, he must now abandon them. After the hon. Member had expressed these opinions, he would ask, what public act had the Government since performed to re-call the confidence of the hon. Member? If they had performed no public act to re-call his confidence, had they performed any private act; For he trusted, that the hon. Member in the course he had taken, acted from pure and not from interested motives. He had a right to put this question, and he asked any hon. Member on the opposite benches to get up and say, what was the public act of the Government which has since entitled them to the confidence of the hon. Member. What was the charge which he brought against the hon. Member? It was this, that in the defence of his constituents he thought proper to assert, that in the measures the Government had brought forward they had forfeited his confidence, and he now saw him come forward to retract his words, and place confidence in them. Was it not most extraordinary that a gentleman who had acted in this way should have gone through a long speech without having thought it necessary to enter into any defence of his conduct. The reason was, that he had no excuse to offer, and the only excuse he pretended to offer was, that he looked upon the right hon. Baronet, the Member for Tamworth, as no better friend to the agriculturist than the noble Lord opposite. But let it be observed, that the same hon. Member had only a week before stated, that he believed the measure proposed by the noble Lord would be the ruin of the agriculturist. During last Session he had been present during two debates on the Corn-laws, and on both those occasions the right hon. Baronet the Member for Tamworth, had made two 1081 of the ablest speeches in defence of the existing Corn-laws. After that, how could the hon. Member suppose that the right hon. Baronet, was not more a friend to the agricultural interest than the noble Lord. He was never more astonished in his life than to see the hon. Member have the face to make that assertion. The hon. Member went on to quote a passage from the speech of the right hon. Baronet, from which he argued that the right hon. Baronet had an intention to alter the existing scale, and he asked him to state whether he would place the turning point of the scale at 70s., at 60s., at 40s., or at 30s. Now he was present on both the occasions he referred to, and lie always understood the right hon. Baronet to say, that he would resist the subversion of the existing Corn-laws. But the hon. Member ought to recollect that the present Corn-law was still in force, and what ground had he to suppose, that the right hon. Baronet would consent to a change that would subvert the present system. He had already said, that up to his speech last night, whenever the interests of his constituents were concerned, there was not a more able and determined defender of their right than the hon. Member for Lincolnshire. Hitherto, when the question of the Corn-laws had been brought forward by independent Members of the House, when the question could not have the same weight, he had given it his opposition. But when it was brought forward by the Government, and when the interests of the Government were put in competition with the success of the measure, the hon. Member defended the Government and abandoned the Corn-laws. With respect to the question before the House, in February, 1840, when a similar motion was brought forward by his hon. Friend, the Member for Devonshire, he had supported it. Nothing since had occurred to alter his opinion, and he would, therefore, give his vote in support of his right hon. Friend's resolution.
§ Sir Charles Grey
said, that the hon. Member for Kilmarnock, and the noble Lord the Member for Shropshire having given the hon. Gentleman the Member for North Lincolnshire (Mr. Handley) notice to attend, he had thought it his duty to obey their summons, and as they did not appear, they were determined that punishment should be inflicted in his absence, and certainly they had not spared him. But among the terms that were applied to him, the charge of "tergiversation and want of 1082 straightforwardness," was among the last that ought to have been so applied; he merited neither the one report nor the other. The ground on which he had placed his present vote was so clear as to leave the noble Lord without any excuse for insinuations that he had been actuated by anything like a private motive. That accusation, he thought, whatever else might have been uttered in the absence of the hon. Member, might have been spared. The ground selected by the hon. Gentleman the Member for North Lincolnshire, on which he, and others who acted with him, intended to rest their votes upon the present occasion, was to be found stated in the hon. Member's speech. He put it to the right hon. Baronet the Member for Tam worth, as a question that might be easily answered, and might be answered in one word—he asked the right hon. Gentleman to inform him, and those interested in the subject of corn, whether his present view was to continue the existing protection to the agricultural interest? In the coming discussions on the Corn-laws it was hardly possible that the House should not have an answer to that question, but up to the present moment nothing had been intimated by which they could gather the right hon. Gentleman's opinions. For as to the vague declaration of a sliding scale, a letter had been recently published in the public newspapers, by a near relative of one of the supporters of the right hon. Gentleman, in which it was said that he was an advocate of a sliding scale, but he proposed so to alter it that the duty levied would be actually lower than the 8s. proposed by the noble Lord. He asked, then, whether it was not an intelligible ground for the hon. Gentleman the Member for Lincolnshire, and for the noble Lord who was his colleague, to put themselves on when they said—" We are asked to turn out the Ministers with whom we have this sole ground of difference, to bring in another party, at the head of which stands the right hon. Baronet, who merely tells us that he is for a sliding scale, without saying what that scale is to be; whilst feelers are thrown out by his supporters that his sliding scale may be so arranged as to leave less protection to the agricultural interests than that proposed by the noble Lord, and we decline to withhold our confidence front our own Friends in other matters and give it to hon. Gentlemen opposite, without knowing anything of their intentions. The course which the debate had taken that 1083 night was indeed a strange one; it had consisted only of attacks upon the hon. Gentleman the Member for North Lincolnshire, and upon the hon. and learned Gentleman the Member for Dublin; he had riot heard anything addressed to the question really before the House. To that he would shortly apply himself. He confessed that he should regret not to see at all times a powerful opposition in that House, but the right hon. Gentleman at the head of the present opposition had greatly crippled the party which he led. It was believed by the people of this country that it was against the spirit of the constitution that any Ministers should remain in office against the feelings and wishes of a decided majority of the representatives of the people, fully and fairly expressed; but the right hon. Baronet had not been content with this feeling; he had undertaken the critical and difficult task of reducing to a formula of words, to put into writing, the spirit of the constitution, and this portion of the unwritten law of Parliament. In this he had gone further than any of his predecessors. The constitutional doctrine was, that the House should suggest to the Crown that the advisers of the Sovereign had lost the confidence of the House, and it was in those terms that the wish of the House for a change of Ministers was usually conveyed. The right hon. Baronet, however, had advanced one step beyond; he had not stopped at the mere representation to the Sovereign, that the Advisers of the Crown had lost the confidence of the House, but he had added that it was unconstitutional in them to remain in office. It might be the impression of the right hon. Baronet that such an address was a mere matter of form, but coming from one branch of the Legislature to another, and adding this major proposition to the minor, did not the right hon. Gentleman consider that if it were an imputation against Ministers, that under such circumstances they remained in office, a resolution of this kind would be also an imputation against the person by whom they were retained? This, therefore, was a novel proceeding, and it was treading upon dangerous ground. At the beginning of the last Session there had been a vote of the House, which amounted to a denial of the minor part of the motion of the right hon. Baronet, as a majority declared that they would not say that the Ministers did not possess the confidence of the House. Since that time what ground had there been for a change? There had 1084 been only three great measures brought forward: the Irish Franchise Bill, the Poor-law Bill, and the present measures before them, the most important by far of any that at any period within his memory, and perhaps within the memory of older Members, had been introduced for practical legislation. They comprised the principle of free trade, and were the commencement of a total abandonment of the system on which the commercial and financial relations of this country had been conducted. The principle was, that the time had arrived when it was necessary to abandon monopoly, and to find support and employment for the overteeming manufacturing population of this country, by calling into existence, as customers, the whole world; placing only upon our own produce such a protection as was necessary to guard against the evils which some might suffer by a sudden change. It was as a part of three great measures that a reduction of the sugar duties, from 63s. to 86s. was proposed. That one measure of the reduction of the sugar duties was selected for attack by hon. Gentlemen opposite. A resolution was brought forward by the noble Lord the Member for Liverpool, most artfully worded, so as to preclude the necessity for a permanent opposition of the noble Lord's own party to this very reduction. The resolution rested only on temporary grounds. When they talked in common conversation between man and man, that one was not prepared to assent to a proposal, it was inferred as a matter of course that he might be very soon willing to do what lie was not prepared to do at that moment. And it was on a resolution so artfully worded that the right hon. Baronet now came forward with his resolution, that it was unconstitutional to permit Ministers longer to retain office. He knew not by what advice it was, that the right hon. Baronet had been induced to put such a resolution upon the journals. He was confident, from the speech of the hon. and learned Member for Exeter (Sir William Follett) last night, that he was not the adviser, for, if he had advised it, he would not have directed the main portion of his argument to the minor proposition, and given only a few loose words on the major. He would ask the right hon. Baronet how often the same circumstances would occur to himself, or to any other Member in that House under the present state of the representation? A great change had been effected by the Reform 1085 Bill; that change had met his approval; he believed, that the people had more influence in that House than they had before, although he thought that they had not enough; one of the greatest benefits of that measure was, that no minister could now ride rough shod over the people. To prevent this it was that he always wished to see parties nicely balanced in that House, so as to ensure the careful consideration of every measure. It stopped party legislation, and he did not know how the interference of the House could be more properly applied, than to cause the feelings of the people to be ascertained. But if the right hon. Baronet came into office upon the principle of his present resolution, he would be sure to find it a more slippery foundation than even his own sliding scale. The constitution of this House was so materially altered that they could not take for a precedent what had occurred a century and a-half, a century, or even half a century ago. The interests of the country had become so vast that the House was not merely influenced by home considerations. Great and important interests now found representatives there, and he would ask the right hon. Baronet whether, in such a state of parties, he were to bring forward measures in his budget which should prove distasteful to some of the great bodies and interests in the city of London—whether he was not conscious that upon any of those great and important measures, he might not find himself startled by a majority against him? and if, after a defeat upon such a measure, the Opposition were to come down and say, "How can you hold office?" it would be a situation in which no Minister ought to be placed. The right hon. Baronet was the first to put upon the journals of the House a proposition so objectionable, and he would find it not only a deadly weapon against himself, if he should succeed to power, but it would destroy the power and control of that House, and Ministers would be living under the influence of particular bodies and interests, instead of remaining in office on the lawful and constitutional will of the Crown. For these reasons even those Members who could vote for the first part of the resolution, because they thought that Ministers had lost the confidence of the House, would find it impossible to vote for the last part of the proposition. The adoption of such a resolution would not only remove the present Ministry, but it would with equal power prevent the Crown for the next three years 1086 from taking the sense of the people upon these important measures; and were hon. Gentlemen prepared to control the right of the Crown to ascertain the sense of the people upon measures submitted to Parliament; and to stop that discordance between the votes of the representatives and the opinions of the people, which could not long continue without the greatest danger to the constitution? He maintained that the time had arrived when the alteration proposed to be made in the restrictive system upon commerce might be made with advantage to the country. The manufacturers produced far more than the consumers of Great Britain could take off their hands, and there were thousands of them, who, if not starving, were suffering worse than starvation, and were exposed to miseries which none could contemplate without sensations of horror. Under these circumstances, it was the duty of the Government to come forward and introduce such measures as would remedy, as far as possible, the evils which existed, and to provide labour for our population, and give them the means of escaping from those horrors to which he had alluded. If, however, that could not be done, the effect would be, that those customers would be shut out from the markets of the country, who, if admitted, would give employment to every unemployed man throughout the kingdom. It was incumbent on them to come forward at this moment, when it was considered that such a course would afford them the means of meeting the present deficiency in the finances of the country. He thought that discussions should take place in this House upon the various questions in agitation before an appeal was made to the country, in order that the people of England might be made aware of their merits. Upon the Corn-laws especially they ought not to be called upon to express an opinion before the question had undergone a fair discussion. He contended that all the debates which had taken place had not been more than sufficient to inform the people upon the point at issue, and he was the more convinced of this from their result: but he would say, that the opinions which had been expressed by hon. Members, had not been formed upon a full consideration of the question [a laugh]. It might appear absurd and preposterous that he should 6ay so, but he was certain that twelve months would not elapse before the greater part of the landlords of England, and of the most enlightened agriculturists of the 1087 world, would be convinced that the safety of their own property and the prosperity of this country depended mainly upon the repeal of the Corn-laws, as well as upon there being a repeal of every other monopoly or restriction on trade.
§ Mr. Cumming Bruce
said, the hon. and learned Gentleman who has just sat down, commenced his speech with an allusion to a pretty and unfortunate countrywoman of mine who, he said, had fallen into a peccadillo. Not being aware what share the hon. and learned Gentleman might have had in the transaction to which he refers, but under the influence of a natural instinct of modesty, and actuated by feelings of commiseration for my fair and unfortunate countrywoman, whom the hon. Gentleman seemed about to drag to the bar of this august assembly—a more formidable tribunal than the Cutty Stool, I felt constrained to rise from my place and take refuge in the library, and it was not till he had nearly concluded his very long speech that I had sufficiently recovered my composure to return to my place. The House will, therefore, not expect that I should reply, as doubtless it deserved, to the speech of the hon. and learned Gentleman. When I did return to the House, I found him declaiming on the state of severe and unparalleled distress under which the population of our great manufacturing towns had for the last four years been suffering. Other Gentlemen who had spoken previously in this debate, and particularly the Member for Shrewsbury, in a speech which did honour to his good and kindly feelings, had expatiated on the same topic. But did it not occur to these hon. Gentlemen that these distresses, the existence of which I do not deny, and which no one more deeply deplores than I do, have all grown to their present height during the period for which her Majesty's present Ministers have held office. I confess I cannot understand what argument these hon. Gentlemen can legitimately draw from those distresses, if they think that Government has any influence in causing or preventing distress, unless it be one unfavourable to the continued existence of the present Government; and yet all of them have spoken in resistance of the motion of my right hon. Friend, the Member for Tamworth, the object of which is to relieve the country from their misgovernment. In this there does seem to me a strange inconsistency. They allow, in terms, of the first part of the motion of 1088 the right hon. Member for Tamworth, that the Government have no power to carry out legislation in this House,—that, indeed, seems allowed on all sides; but surely, if legislation be of any use at all, it is of use to secure the prosperity and alleviate the sufferings of the people; and her Majesty's Ministers not possessing sufficiently the confidence of this House to carry the legislative measures which they deem necessary to relieve them, are not in a state to discharge with advantage to those suffering classes the first duty of a Government. Now, Sir, the House will allow me to say, that I have listened with satisfaction to many of the speeches delivered by hon. Gentlemen opposite,— speeches undoubtedly characterised by great ability, but still alone by great ingenuity in mystifying and evading the real question before the House, and that satisfaction has not been diminished by their having altogether failed to answer the arguments so convincingly stated by the right hon. Baronet in support of the proposition which he has felt it his duty to submit to the House. I do not say this in any disparagement of those speeches, for the arguments of my right hon. Friend were in fact unanswerable, and if anything more was required to establish the truth of his propositions, the speeches of my right hon. Friend, the Member for Pembroke, and of my hon. and learned Friend, the Member for Exeter, amply supplied that deficiency. Those speeches all remain unanswered. As, however, it seems the pleasure of the House, at least of the opposite side of it, to prolong the discussion of a question, in my view, sufficiently established, and as no county Member for Scotland has hitherto taken part in this debate; as, also, since I had the honour of representing the counties which I now represent, I have never ventured to intrude myself on your attention, I trust I may be excused for now soliciting the indulgence of the House. I have said, that the speech of the right hon. baronet, the Member for Pembroke, was one of those which pre-eminently proved the necessity of the motion now under our consideration. Indeed, that speech seemed to make a strong impression on hon. Gentlemen opposite,—for scarce one of them has risen since he spoke, who has not betrayed the soreness of his feelings by indulging in all sorts of unfounded and acrimonious personal attacks on my right hon. Friend. Sir, he can afford to allow 1089 them that gratification, and he need feel no surprise that they indulge in it. On this he may depend, that they will never forgive him the example of noble and disinterested patriotism which he has set them, of sacrificing office to principle. They accuse him of having left his party and abandoned his principles. He has done no such thing—he left office, he abandoned salary, but he remains as decided and as conscientious a Whig as ever he was—because he so remained firm to his old Whig principles, he relinquished a high and important office, and for the same reason he subsequently declined office when offered to him by the right hon. Baronet, the Member for Tamworth, till the experience of the short, but able and distinguished administration of that right hon. Baronet, convinced him that he could act with him without any, the slightest sacrifice of principle. And it seems to me that his conduct, and that of his noble Friend who sits beside him, the Member for Lancashire, has done more to restore the character of public men in public estimation, than the conduct of her Majesty's present Ministers,—and this is saying a great deal,—has done to impair it. The hon. and learned Member for Reading, who opened the debate last night, went over the ground already taken by the right hon. Gentleman, the Member for Edinburgh, that the absence of all power to carry on legislation in this House was no reason why a ministry should retire from office; and that more especially since the passing of the Reform Bill, and as a necessary consequence of that bill, parties were, and might be expected to be so nearly balanced, that a Government would not be justified any longer in requiring the aid of considerable, or indeed of any majorities as a condition of their remaining in power. Now, I admit, that the argument was an ingenious one, if its object was to establish for her Majesty's present Ministers a right to the permanent retention of office; but it could not be considered as offering to their, till of late, favorite measure, that tribute of praise which it had a right to expect from those who so warmly supported it; and if that short and pithy question in which an illustrious Duke in another place is said, on the first blush of it, to have concentrated his objections to the Reform Bill, "that he should like to know how, if it became law, the king's Government was to be carried on," were difficult of answer before, it 1090 has not become of easier solution in consequence of the speech of the hon. and learned Gentleman. I do not, however, agree in the justice of those arguments, for I think it was clearly established by the hon. Member for Suffolk, that since the passing of that bill, the Government was for a time supported by large and powerful majorities, and that the gradual and striking diminution of those majorities till they have now, notwithstanding the unsparing use of the power and influence of the Government, fallen below Zero, is fairly to be attributed to their having lost the confidence of Parliament and the country Now, for myself, I must confess that when the Chancellor of the Exchequer announced to the House his intention of moving the continuance of the sugar duties, I for one, coming as the hon. Gentleman opposite knows, from a remote and inaccessible province, was so simple as not to credit the possibility of the Government persevering in that intention. We were then on the eve of the birthday of our gracious Queen, and it seemed to me that the announcement must have been resolved on with the justifiable view, of not allowing that auspicious day—alba sit, felixque semper—to be disturbed by the anxieties which the resignation of the Ministry, and the steps necessary for the formation of a new Government must have occasioned. I fancied that from some such motive, they had not ungracefully resolved to submit for a few days longer to that universal disgust and reprobation, which the mere notion of their attempting to carry on the Government after their recent defeats in this House, had not failed and could not fail to excite. Their tenacity of office which, as they had long ceased to exercise the powers of Government, charity itself could only attribute to their reluctance to part with its emoluments had already induced them to persevere beyond the precedents of all past example; and it did seem to me incredible, that any set of persons, affecting the character of British Statesmen, could have made up their minds to plunge yet deeper into such an abyss of political degradation [" Hear, hear."] It seems, however, that I was mistaken, that there is "in the lowest depths a lower still;" and that they a Whig Government, as, with an assurance unparalleled, they affect to call themselves in defiance of the fact, open and acknowledged by themselves and by all men, of their having lost the confidence both of this 1091 and the other House of Parliament, are resolved, relying on court favour alone, and on the alleged support of their Sovereign, whose confidence they thus dare to abuse and betray, still to cling to office. And they call themselves a Whig Government; they hanging on to power — no, not to power, but to place, by the apronstrings of the Ladies of the Bed Chamber—they call themselves a Whig Government! I, Sir, never had any pretension to the name or character of a Whig, but I do remember, that not many years ago, it was the designation of a great and respectable party, including in its numbers many men of highest character, of great ability, of unquestioned patriotism. Are any such to be found now in the ranks of the present Government? [" Hear! from the Ministerial Benches."] Hon. Gentlemen opposite cheer. The hon. and learned Member for the Tower Hamlets says there are; and I admit that he is an example of the "great sublime he taught." But they are few and far between—rari nantes in gurgite vasto—some few such may still give them a cold, and reluctant, and occasional support, because it does require no ordinary strength of mind and force of principle to make patriotism triumph over party; but the great majority, the leading ornaments of that great party disavow and contemn them, and are joined to us, once opposed to them, in upholding those true principles of the Constitution in Church and State, against which their whole official existence seems to me, to have been one continued attack. Sir, that the remnant of that great party, having abandoned all its principles, and been repudiated by all who gave it any claim to support, should have been enabled for the last six years to usurp the Government of the country, is a fact only to be accounted for by that weakness of the body politic which not unnaturally followed the moral and political fever through which it has been the fate of this country to pass; but the state of indifference and exhaustion which followed the great crisis to which I allude, could not have resulted in the toleration of a Government so incapable, had there not been found men content to maintain themselves in office by every means of unworthy sub-serviency to the wishes and desires of extreme parties out of doors, and every appliance of corrupt patronage to retain the support of those whom the chances of excitement had invested with the power of influencing the return of Members to this 1092 House—I say not of Members themselves, for, of course, Gentlemen opposite would have scorned to profit from such patronage, they being "all honourable men"—but this system has led to its natural results, and we now find the country placed in a situation of difficulty and danger, from which it is our duty, at whatever hazard, to endeavour to extricate it. Now, among the prominent causes of those difficulties are our financial embarrassments; and how have they been produced? Why, mainly, that by their meddling incapacity they have involved us in. a constant interference with the internal concerns of foreign states— an interference in violation of all their pledges and professions, uncalled for by the honour or interests of the country, but not the less causing a constant drain on our finances by the number of "little wars" in which it has been their pleasure to engage; while, by their disregard and abandonment of every recognized duty and principle of Government, they have encouraged and fomented discontent and disaffection, both at home and in the colonies, thereby also calling for the maintenance of encreased establishments, and encreased charges on the people. Now let us look to this. In the course of this debate, her Majesty's Ministers, and generally all the Members who have spoken from that side of the House, but more especially the Member for Meath, whose eloquence seemed wound up to an unusual pitch of fanciful extravagance, plumed themselves on the laurels won for the Government, by the policy of the noble Lord, the Secretary for Foreign Affairs. In a tone and spirit not absolutely disinterested, the noble Lord, the Secretary for Ireland, seemed actuated by the sort of feeling which, in my country, is expressed in the pithy form of the proverb— "Scratch me and I'll scratch you," while the hon. Member for Meath, his eye all the while "in a fine frenzy rolling,"—a real Irish frenzy—eloquent, impassioned, coming from the heart, crowned the statue of the noble Lord with the conqueror's wreath, and called on us to fall down and worship it. Now in that concert of approbation I confess myself unable to join. I wont go back to your uncalled-for and impolitic interference in the dispute between Holland and Belgium, out of which, and not remotely, grew the necessity for your recent interference in Syria—though that, perhaps,' you may consider as not much to be urged against it— 1093 seeing that on those operations you rest your main arguments of glorification; and seeing that you belong to that class of politicians who look back with indifference on the means, provided the end helps to keep you in the saddle—I will not go back to that impolitic interference farther than to remark, that its result has been on the one hand, to set up the shadow of a kingdom, and the reality of a French province; and on the other, to offend and alienate an old and faithful ally; a people sympathizing with England in religion, in the love of freedom, in the force of her industrious energies, and the associations of a common origin. Nor will I go back to your inglorious and unsuccessful meddling with the civil war in Spain, where, at the cost of much British treasure, much British blood, and some sacrifice of the military renown of British soldiers, you have succeeded for a time, in setting up the despotism of a military adventurer in that distracted country. I say not, whether against such difficulties as it encountered, that ill-fated legion could, by any perfection of discipline and valour, by any skill and military talent of its leader, have achieved less disastrous results. With that I have nothing to do, as I am altogether incompetent to decide. I speak merely of its success; and for its want of success, the noble Lord, the Secretary for Foreign Affairs, who sanctioned and encouraged, if ho did not originate it, and not the. hon. and gallant Officer, the Member for Westminster, who, I dare say, did all that became a good officer and brave man, is justly responsible.. And now, with respect to your policy with regard to Turkey. It Seems to me to have been strangely inconsistent with that pursued not long since by previous Governments. I don't wish to allude to our interference with regard to Greece, farther than to point out this inconsistency. I would not be understood as offering any opinion in disparagement of the Government of Mr. Canning. He may well have been seduced by the "magic of a name," and I, who from its blue seas, have "hailed that bright land of battle and of song," I who have trodden the hallowed soil of that delicious "grave of many memories," I can sympathise with the generous enthusiasm which may have drawn a veil over the common-place realities of present policy, and dazzled Mr. Canning, with the bright halo of glorious recollections. But this I must say, that a people more unlike those brave, capricious, turbu- 1094 lent, unjust, seditious, liberty-loving, high-souled Greeks of the olden time; full of genius, learning, philosophy, wisdom j animated by the very soul of poetry and the arts; and worshipping with passionate instinct, the spirit of the beautiful and the grand, I never saw nor can imagine, than are your people of modern Greece; and I do not believe, that your kingdom of Greece will be of long endurance, or that it will turn out anything better than a Russian province, as different from ancient Greece as Themistocles from Sir Edward Codrington. [Laughter.] Hon. Gentlemen will observe, that I merely indicate a difference, I do not wish to insinuate an inferiority. But, then, is it not curious, to say the least of it, that we should then have fought, and paid, and struggled, to wrest from Turkey her Grecian provinces, lying at the very gates of Constantinople, and from which she drew the best sailors of her fleets and that we should now fight and pay and struggle to restore to her, her Syrian Provinces, situated much more remotely, and from which I will undertake to say, from a pretty accurate knowledge of the various little independent nations which inhabit them, the Druses, the Maronites, the Ansaeri, the Moutoualis, the Bedouins of Samaria, differing as they do in habits, religion, and origin—Turkey will derive little else than the necessity of contending with an ever-renewing insurrection. But the classic recollections of Greece spoke perhaps more powerfully than the hallowed memories of Jerusalem. And now a word about your foreign policy with regard to France, and your settlement of the Eastern question, to which I do wish for a moment to allude, as it is that which. we are told has covered you with glory. Now first as regards France. She has during your whole administration been carrying on a war of most unjust aggression on the Southern shores of the Mediterranean. The expedition against Algiers, for definite and restricted objects, took place when the Duke of Wellington Was in office. But that illustrious man, foreseeing, with instinctive sagacity, the immense preponderance in the Mediterranean, which France might acquire from the conquest and permanent occupation of an extended line of coast, and of territories in themselves of inexhaustible richness and fertility, the granary in fact of the ancient Roman empire, required and obtained a pledge that no purpose was entertained of lasting conquest, and that the occupation should not 1095 be permanent. Now it seems to me that such a pledge having been required and given, the honour, as well as the interests, of England, demanded that we should call for its fulfilment. [Hear, hear.] Have you made any such call? Have you taken any step to put an end to that fierce unjust, and bloody war of extermination with which France is now devastating the fertile, and, as against France, unoffending provinces of Mauritania and Numidia. If you have not, you have neglected your duty to England. [Hear, hear.] I can conceive b it one excuse which you may offer, you may tell us that this African war proves and will prove a source of weakness and exhaustion to France. I know it does; I am persuaded it will. But will you really dare to offer such an excuse to England and to Europe? If you do, I shall accuse you of violating your duty to humanity. The noble Lord, the Secretary for the Colonies, I know makes light of humanity. Like the fine gentleman who was asked by a beggar for a half-penny, he has heard of the coin, but never seen it. But I tell you, that the war now carried on by France against the Moors and Arabs in those provinces is the same in principle and object as that carried on in other times by the Spaniards in South America, and at this day, to their shame, by the United States of North America against the original tribes of the native Indians— a war unprovoked—a war of extermination; and I say, that if you have taken no step to arrest it, you have shrunk from the performance of your duty to humanity. But now, as to your settlement of the Eastern question to which you appeal in a tone so confident and triumphant. That the soldiers and sailors of England would maintain untarnished and with added lustre the honour of the British arms, established on a thousand fields, confirmed wherever our fleets have floated upon the sea, I, for one, never doubted; but does that justify the policy which led to the sacrifice of many gallant lives, to the shedding of much noble blood, and to no inconsiderable expenditure of the national treasure. The unprincipled ambition, the restless and reckless personal vanity of M. Thiers did seem at last to render necessary some decided measures. But whose fault was it; by whose procrastination and delay that the ambition and personal vanity of M. Thiers found the occasion of creating this necessity? Why, yours, and yours only—that whole question by the exercise of a common 1096 discretion and of the ordinary influence of England—though I grant that your long coquetting with treason and revolution wherever they showed themselves had lessened your influence in Europe—but still you might by a little energy in a right direction have settled that question before M. Thiers was heard of. And then, at I what a risk to the peace of Europe and the world did you at last effect its settlement? For months, thanks to your policy, peace and war hung trembling on the balance, and we were brought to the very verge of a conflict which would have shaken the order and civilization of the world to its centre. And because a wise and merciful Providence interposed, as if by miracles, to allay and still that madness of the people— because M. Guizot was sent with his "Motos prœstat componere fluctus," to restrain and chain up the winds of passion and violence which you, by your policy, had let loose, you take credit, forsooth, for the wisdom and foresight of your course, and the hon. Member for Meath crowns you with laurel for your settlement of the Eastern question. And then, Sir, I cannot forget, that the power against which you have thought fit to display your warlike energies was a power not unfriendly, not hostile to England—that good-natured old gentleman, as the noble Lord, the Member for South Lancashire called him, expressed to me, many years ago his admiration and love of England, and his conviction of the paramount importance to himself of acquiring and retaining her favor and protection, and certainly no British subject who has entered the territories over which he bore sway had ever any reason to doubt the sincerity of such professions. I therefore doubt, as far as the policy of England was concerned, the wisdom at such cost, and such enormous risk, of driving him out of Syria. I don't believe that if he had succeeded in becoming an important power, he would have leant to France rather than England. I believe the very reverse. I am quite persuaded that the nominal possession of Syria, for it is nothing more—will not add to the strength of Turkey, or to her power of resisting Russia when it suits Russia in earnest to set about swallowing her up. Why the Turks themselves believe, that this fate is reserved for them. I was shown in the Mosque of St. Sophia a sort of fresco, which the Turks, who tolerate in their temples no paintings, had, as they said, repeatedly endeavoured to efface, but which 1097 always re-appeared, and would re-appear till the Christians returned again to restore it to its pristine honour. Why it is vain to try to uphold a power, as a great power, whose people have thus in anticipation yielded up their capital. I fear, therefore, that your settlement will be of short duration, and then, as regards the peace and tranquillity, and the security to life of the inhabitants of Syria, under the one regime or the other. Why, I say, and say positively, and from my own experience, that the balance was as 100 to one in favour of the rule of Egypt. The hon. Member for Meath would give it against Egypt, because he abominates a strong Government; but I much question whether the people of Syria, liberty and freedom being alike out of the question in both cases, will not be losers by the change. Mind, I don't say you should have interfered to aid the rebellion of the Pasha. I merely deny, that you were called on, either by considerations of English policy or considerations connected with the happiness of Syria, to interfere at such cost and risk to suppress it. If I did not feel, that it would be trespassing too long on the attention of the House, I could relate to them one or two little adventures which happened to me in Syria when the power of the Sultan was more established in it than it ever will be again, and I would leave to the noble Lord to describe the state in which he found it under the domination of Egypt, and I would leave the House to decide which was most favourable to the peace and prosperity of that country—liberty, as I have before said, being alike in both cases of the question. But I have already detained the House too long on this matter of the Eastern policy of the noble Lord. My right hon. Friend the Member for Pembroke, has disposed of the question of China, and the noble Lord is welcome to whatever laurels he may gather for the disputed boundary in North America, and to whatever credit he may claim for his prompt and effectual interference in the case of Mr. M'Leod, and so I pass from the foreign policy of the noble Lord. But then its domestic administration—on that the right hon. Member for Edinburgh peculiarly prizes himself—they may have failed as legislators—that, in fact, seems admitted, and will not deny proving the first proposition of the right hon. Baronet. "But look," says the right hon. Gentleman, how we have managed matters at home, and executed the laws which we found 1098 in existence." Now really the boldness of the right hon. Gentleman did astonish me. Why, had the right hon. Gentleman forgotten the Chartist insurrection, and Chartist demonstrations, where they did not break out into actual insurrection, which besides the insecurity, the alarm, the misery, which they occasioned in the parts of the country which were more immediately the scenes of them, did also, as well as the insurrection in Canada, invited and encouraged by one of their most favoured supporters, occasion no small expense to suppress and guard against its recurrence. But not to revert to a matter which has been already alluded to in the debate, and which I am the more unwilling to do in consequence of the absence of the noble Lord, on whose conduct I should reluctantly animadvert when he was not present to defend himself; will the House permit me to say a few words on a matter exclusively referring to Scotland, and one of paramount importance to that country. The right hon. Member for Edinburgh took credit, as I have said, for the way in which the Government had administered the existing laws. Now, did the right hon. Gentleman include in his commendation the administration of the law as connected with those unhappy dissensions which now rend the Church of Scotland. Hon. Members are not perhaps aware to what an extent the mind of Scotland is distracted and agitated by those dissensions,— dissensions by which the peace and tranquillity of that part of the empire is exposed to considerable hazard. Now, I am not now going to enter into any discussion of the relative merits of one or the other of the parties in that melancholy dispute. My own mind has been long and fully made up on the subject, and I have not scrupled to declare it on all fitting occasions; but I should be doing injustice to both parties, if I attempted, at the conclusion of a speech which has already occupied so much of the time of the House, to state the grounds on which that opinion rests. I know that English Members are not so informed regarding it as that they should now understand it if stated in a cursory or superficial way, and, therefore, I will not enter into its merits at all. But this I will say, that had the law as it exists, been promptly and honestly carried into execution, those unhappy disputes, which threaten the Church with schism, and the people with the loss of an establishment, 1099 which has, in times past, rendered the most important services, and conferred the greatest benefits on Scotland, would never have assumed their present intensity and force. But whatever may be thought of the conduct of that party which stands out in resistance to the civil authorities of the State, and I am not here to extenuate or defend that resistance, this I will say, that they have been most unfairly and shabbily used by the present Ministers of the Crown. The Government, I say, led them into their present position; it was with the sanction and by the advice of those Members of the Government connected with Scotland; and who are there looked up to as speaking the opinions of the Government, the Lord Advocate, and Solicitor-general, that the now dominant party in the Church passed the veto law, in which all these confusions originated- When it was declared illegal, and "ultra vires," of the Church, as interfering with statute law, had not the party which had adopted it at the suggestion of the Government, a right to expect, that a legislative sanction should have been obtained for that or a similar measure. And why was that natural expectation disappointed? Why was that straightforward and manly course not followed? Simply, because of the weakness of the Government. They were too weak to be honest [Hear, hear !]-They feared, that their supporters, the Dissenters, would be alienated by any step which looked like a desire to uphold the Established Church, or to extricate her from her difficulties; that many of their friends within the Church were opposed to such a measure as their subordinates had suggested; and so they fell back on their usual expedient of leaving things alone, and doing nothing. But this wrong and dishonest determination was a sort of necessary consequence of their weakness as a Government; nor can I conceive a stronger fact in support of the motion of my right hon. Friend, or one which more conclusively demonstrates the evil to all parties, and to the State, which is above all parties, of a Government unable to carry, and so not daring to propose measures which it deems essential to the peace and well-being of the country [Hear, hear !]. In the mean time, the Government declares it will maintain the law; and how does it set about it? The noble Lord, at the head of the Government, expresses strongly his disapproval of the proceedings of the predominant party in the Church. My hon. Friend, opposite, the Under Secretary of State, 1100 opens wide his arms to embrace them, and, in the mean time, the church patronage of the Crown—a part of the prerogative not surely given for purposes of mere party patronage in its use, or for currying favour with any class by abstaining from its exercise, but for great and sacred purposes— is left in entire abeyance under some newfangled fashion of giving a leet to be scrambled for wherever a Crown presentation happens to become vacant. But now, Sir, before I conclude, I would beg, as a Member representing a purely agricultural constituency, to advert to a matter in which they are deeply interested—I mean, of course, the Corn-laws. The agitation of that question, at the present moment, is another consequence of the financial difficulties in which, by their incapacity, the Government have involved us. Look for a moment at the past methods to which they have had recourse, for remedying those difficulties—what has been their practice?—really, if it were not notorious it would appear incredible [Hear, hear !]. No sooner was it ascertained, that a deficiency existed in the revenue, than they met it in two ways—first, by the repeal of taxation, next by the encrease of expenditure—the first of these expedients was rendered necessary, in hopes of tiding over some emergency of discontent, to conciliate some class of their supporters out of doors;—the second was required, besides the necessity of meeting the increased expenditure which their impolicy had created, to secure by the creation of all sorts of jobbing commissions and employment, the wavering fidelity of their supporters in this House, by rewarding the services of those who did their work at elections. And when at last they came to a dead lock, when all their expedients fail them, when the conviction of their misgovernment is forced on the minds of all, and the danger into which that misgovernment has brought the country, has created a universal longing for their expulsion from office, they come down with a set of propositions, for I will not call it a budget, whose only object seems to be to create universal confusion, and by arraying in fierce hostility all the great interests of the country one against the other, to distract attention from the real causes of evils, which, having raised, they are afraid to face, and incapable of remedying [Hear, hear.!]—their past delinquencies are thrown into the shade by this last effort of their despair, which I 1101 do not hesitate to call the most reckless, the most unwise, the most mischievous, project ever submitted by any government of which history gives us an example. Sir, I do not hesitate to express strongly the feelings which I strongly entertain—this is no time for hesitation. In my opinion, the salvation of the country demands their expulsion from power, which they use for purposes so fraught with danger and ruin to the State. They are no longer in the position of constitutional Ministers. After their repeated defeats, their remaining in office is at variance with the spirit of the Constitution —as though incapable of good, they are capable, fatally capable, as their Corn-law proposition sufficiently proves, of much evil. Defeated on the first of their propositions —that which the House rejected from a conviction of its tendency to revive the slave-trade, and increase the horrors of slavery—they come down to the House as if nothing unusual had occurred, and the noble Lord quietly announces his intention of proceeding with his attack on the Corn-laws. Does the Chancellor of the Exchequer not persevere in his intention of fishing for a Budget in the St. Lawrence? I could assure him indeed, that he would be unsuccessful, that he would have had no sport—but that, he may say, is his affair not mine. What I should complain of, however, is his compelling us on this side of the House to remain and carry his empty basket, and I do trust, that he may be persuaded, that it is useless to continue to lash the water with a line from which the hook has snapped off, and in a stream so troubled, that even if he had one, the greediest bull Trout would scarce think of looking at it. Do you go on with your Timber Duties? No? Then you think you will find in the Corn-laws a more profitable field of agitation. I warn you of your mistake. I know you will endeavour to represent this as a landlord's question—but it is not with the landlords only that you will have to do. In the counties which I have the honour to represent, there is scarce a single farm which is not let on lease—the same is the case in Scotland generally— the usual term of those leases is for nineteen years — if the landlords are to be ruined, the tenants holding on such leases will not go scathless. Relying on their leases, many of them at their commencement have invested their capital on improvements to be repaid during, or at the expiry of their leases. Do you see no injustice to that numerous and most useful 1102 class in the confiscation of their capital which your duty of 3s. 4d. on the quarter of oats will effect? Why your protection, will scarce pay the freight of their grain from the shores of the Moray Firth to London. You are not aware—how should you be aware, who for the last four years have thought of nothing but the retention of office—that great efforts are now making in Scotland, by reclaiming waste lands by furrow-draining, and the use of the subsoil plough—an expensive operation performed generally at the sole expense of the tenant—to improve a country less favoured in soil and climate, than your own. You are aware that the example of those spirited efforts is re-acting most beneficially on England. Do you think it a matter of no importance in a national point of view, to suspend and paralyze those exertions, and thus to throw out of employment vast masses of agricultural labourers, to be precipitated on your already over-peopled manufacturing towns [Hear, hear.!]. If you would leave us alone, we should soon so increase the amount of our produce, and so diminish the cost of its production as to make us independent of any thing beyond a very limited protection, and while we adhered to the fluctuating scale, to assent to a considerable reduction as regards the point at which foreign corn might be admitted on merely nominal duties; but by your constant tampering with this great question, you defer indefinitely the period at which we could do so without great pressure on existing interests. Nor is it only the interest of the landlords and tenants and agricultural interest which your profligate proposal, if carried out, would bring into jeopardy.—You call it a class interest.—Why the whole class of tradesmen in our towns,—in all, save the great manufacturing cities, would be involved in the common ruin. Nor those alone—the retired tradesman, the industrious mechanic, all those persons living respectably on small fixed incomes throughout the country, who have invested, as they had a right to do, their capital on the security of land, in preference to investing it in gambling speculations in foreign funds or railway adventures, would alike suffer,—unless the noble Lord has in reserve some plan by which the interest of their capital may be recovered from the rentless estates of the ruined landlords.— But, Sir, I shall not now pretend to enter at length into the question of the Corn-laws—other opportunities of doing 1103 so are promised us. But I see in the proposal of the Government a source of wide-spreading desolation, involving immense classes of the community; and I should like to know, when that desolation shall have swept over them, what will become of that home market for the productions of your manufacturing industry, which is now its best stimulus and reward. I trust, however, that the good sense of the country, and that instinct of honesty which induces the people of this country to treat as pirates those who sail under false colours, will reject not only these mischievous proposals, but the still more mischievous proposers of them, and thanking the House sincerely for the indulgence with which it has listened to me, I shall give my cordial support to the motion of my right lion. Friend.
§ Sir William Somerville
had never listened to a more extraordinary oration than that just delivered by the hon. Gentleman. He one moment called the attention of the House to the situation of the Moors in Algiers, in the next he travelled to Jerusalem, and dwelt on the situation of the Syrians; he next proceeded to France, and after a dissertation on the politics of that country, he jumped round to Mehemet Ali and Egypt; in the next moment, he favoured the House with a parallel between Themistocles and Sir Edward Codrington. The hon. Member then travelled to China, and to a number of other places. It was quite out of the question to follow the hon. Gentleman throughout his very discursive speech; he should, therefore, proceed to make some remarks on the question immediately before the House. He believed that no representatives were more interested in the decision the House should come to, on this question than the Members from Ireland, for with that country it was almost a question of life and death. He would not touch on the constitutional part of the question, as that had been dwelt on at length by those who could much better handle it than himself. They were asked then to withdraw their confidence from the Government, either in consequence of acts which they had committed, or in anticipation of a part which her Majesty's Ministers were about to take. The measures of the Government had been less touched on in the speech of the right hon. Baronet the Member for Tamworth than he had anticipated, but the right hon. Baronet and those who followed him on 1104 the opposite side had, in their endeavour to show the weakness of the policy of the Government, pointed out how much they had been warped by the exertions of the party opposite, and that they had been unable to carry their measures with large majorities. He believed that, in the present state of parties in that House and in the country, they were not likely for some time to meet with a Government which could command a large majority, but that, whatever administration was in office they would be obliged to modify their measures to a certain extent to suit the views of those who were partially opposed to them. He could not help complaining of the manner in which his own country had been alluded to by some Gentlemen opposite in the course of the present discussion, and he should always protest, while he was a Member of this House, against the manner in which Irish questions were made mere stalking-horses for place. He had always been anxious to unite the two countries in the strictest and most solid ties; and he was sure that this could never be done while such a system continued. He deeply regretted the allusions which he had heard made to the appropriation question that evening, and be was sure that Gentlemen opposite were not aware of the danger there was in twitting and taunting her Majesty's Ministers for abandoning that clause. They should remember that it was recorded in the journals of the House, that there could be no satisfactory settlement of the tithe question, until that principle was adopted and acted upon. Were these hon. Gentlemen sure that by such allusions they would not re-animate and re-open the agitation on this question? He confessed that, beyond his hope and expectations, there was now a state of peace in that country with regard to this question, but he feared and dreaded that those times would again occur, and he hoped that they would not be rapidly hastened by the indiscreet mode in which the subject was alluded to by hon. Gentlemen opposite. The noble Lord, the Member for North Lancashire a short time ago, had alluded to this question, and had dwelt on the inconsistency of the Government with regard to it. Now, the noble Lord should be the last person in that House to taunt any hon. Gentleman with inconsistency on this subject. The noble Lord had talked of exciting false hopes on this subject, and 1105 the first person who proposed the appropriation question was the noble Lord himself, and he was the first to abandon it. The noble Lord, immediately after having proposed it, came down to the House, while the public mind was greatly excited on the subject, and told the people, as a Member of the Government, that it was the intention of the then Ministers to extinguish tithes once and for ever. A few days afterwards, however, the noble Lord said by the extinguishment of tithe, he did not mean, strictly speaking, the extinguishment of tithe, but something else. He was astonished, therefore, what the noble Lord could mean when he came down to the House and said, that the Government had excited false hopes and expectations of the people on this subject, merely for the sake of disappointing them. Instead of being the first man to bring such charges, he should be the very last, and he was the man from whom those on that (the Ministerial) side of the House should expect forbearance. The noble Lord also came forward with a bill, nominally for the registration of voters in Ireland, which, if, passed, would render anything like good Government in that country impossible. He had no hesitation in declaring, that if the option was left to him whether to take the system propounded in the bill, or whether the representative system of Government in Ireland should be altogether set aside, he would have the latter. In the latter case, there might be some chance of justice, but under the noble Lord's bill, in spite of all his exertions, they would have the re-establishment, were it possible, in a worse form, of the old ascendancy; and the noble Lord would be the first to be frightened at the monster of his own creation, and shrink from the evils which he had occasioned. For his own part, he did not believe that the noble Lord ever sincerely expected to carry his Registration bill; and if this was the case, why come forward this year, as he did last, and excite the feelings of the people of Ireland. If this was the case, as he firmly believed it was, why did the noble Lord come forward, and taunt the Government with having brought forward measures which they did not expect to carry, but had introduced with the view of exciting public feeling? If, as had been alleged, the power of carrying measures rested with the party opposite, why did they not exert it in attempting to carry the noble Lord's Regis- 1106 tration Bill? If the noble Lord came into office, as he, no doubt, would, if the right hon. Baronet should succeed in attaining power, did he mean to carry his Registration Bill? He should like the people of Ireland to know whether the accession of the noble Lord to office was to deprive them of their rights and privileges. It appeared to him that this resolution had been proposed to the House more on account of the new measures which her Majesty's Ministers had introduced than in consequence of their past conduct. He would not allude to the sugar duties, as that question had already been disposed of for this Session; nor would he trouble the House with any observations on the timber duties; but he would make some remarks upon the question of the Corn-laws, in regard to which he, as an Irish landowner, was interested. He had always sincerely stated, and he had ever acted upon the principle, that he would not vote contrary to the decision of his own mind on a question simply because the Government proposed it. He should not vote on this question in a contrary way to that which he had always voted, although he was largely interested as a landowner and agriculturist. He had always hitherto voted on this question with his lion. Friend the Member for Wolverhampton, for he had never been able to see the great and extensive, and manifold blessings which they enjoyed under the present system. What portion of the community prospered under the present system? Was it the landowners? He would ask the landlords whether their property was not more secure, whether rents were not better paid, and whether it was not more valuable than it was a few years ago, when corn was three times the price which it is at present? When corn was three times the price, namely, in 1826, 1827, and 1828, was property nearly so secure or valuable in Ireland? He was told also that with the alteration of the Corn-laws the wages of labour would fall; but he knew that when the price of corn was lower in Ireland, the labourer was butter paid, and altogether better off. It was said, also, that the poorer classes of his countrymen would be injured, and he believed, from communications with the smaller tenantry, that the proposed change would better their condition, and at the same time render the property of the landlords more secure. The noble Earl had that night 1107 said, that the wheat of Ireland was of a worse quality, and that it would be more injurious to the agriculturists than if they had not the English market secured to them. Was this an argument for the continuance of the system—that corn was to be continued to be brought to the market of this country because it was bad, and that it must be mixed with a better quality, and that the people must be forced to eat it at a high price? He wag sure such a, mode of reasoning could have little weight with any one. He believed, that if they got rid of the Corn-laws, it would do more than anything else to get rid of that slovenly system of farming which he was sorry to say, existed in many parts of Ireland. He was aware that he stood nearly alone as an Irish landlord in the opinions which he entertained on the subject, but he had not adopted them for the occasion, for ever since he had had a seat in the House he had voted against the present system. When he first voted for the motion of his hon. Friend, the Member for Wolverhampton, he received several letters from various quarters, many of them anonymous, asking him whether he was really mad. Several of his hon. Friends opposite, perhaps, thought that this opinion was not far from the mark, but he really and sincerely entertained the conviction that the adoption of the measures of the Government would be in the highest degree, beneficial to both England and Ireland. He had always spoken with respect of the right hon. Baronet, and of the comparative moderation of his views; but the truth was, if he took office, he would be obliged to follow in the wake of the noble Lord, the Member for North Lancashire, the adoption of whose measures would be destructive to the peace of the country, and there could be no doubt that the noble Lord was to form a part of the embryo Government of the other side. He heard the other evening the right hon. Member for Pembroke plume himself and those with whom he acted on the damage which they had done to all the bills which had been brought forward for the improvement of Ireland. Was this, he would ask, the mode in which the right hon. Baronet intended to recommend his party to the people of Ireland. It was extraordinary that the right hon. Gentleman, who formerly entertained such extreme Whiggish opinions, should now allude with so much 1108 satisfaction to the attempt which he and the noble Lord had made, to add a few pounds to the value of the franchise. He believed that the country could not be governed on these extreme opinions. He recollected, with great pain, the attempts made in 1839 to get up an extreme no-popery cry. He recollected that the present hon. and learned Member for Woodstock was selected as the crack candidate of the day, to oppose the Solicitor-general at Newark, and who called certain Members of that House, popery Members. He talked of a Member of this description belonging to the Admiralty. [Cries of "Question."] He contended that it was to the question, as it showed the feeling that was entertained with respect to the admission of a Catholic to the Privy Council. Allusion was also made to the disgrace of the Treasury bench, and other observations of a similar character. He could not hear the use of such language, by a Gentleman of such standing with his party as the hon. and learned Member, and believe that a Government in Ireland composed of Gentlemen opposite, could be carried on in a spirit of moderation. He did not see how the right hon. Baronet could control his partizans who gave him their confidence and support. He did not intend to say anything offensive in the observations which he had made, but he thought it to be the duty of every Gentleman to state his opinions fairly and openly. As long as he had a seat in that House, he should only look to what he regarded to be beneficial to the country, and believing, as he did, the measures of the Government to be beneficial, he should not shrink from supporting them.
would acknowledge the consistency of the hon. Baronet who had just spoken, but he could not agree in that hon. Baronet's views of the Corn-laws; for it did not appear how low prices for food would increase the wages of the labourer. That principle, at least, would not be understood here. The present question, however, was well understood by the people of England. They understood the question to be, whether her Majesty's Ministers deserved the confidence of the House of Commons; and they knew that on the measures of the budget, Ministers certainly did not deserve that confidence. The day had gone by when mere forensic declamation would work its way with the people of England. The working people of 1109 England read the speeches of Sir Robert Peel as well as those of Lord John Russell, and those other hon. Gentlemen at the Ministerial side of the House. And what was more than that, the people of England now understood what they read. He did not, however, think, that the people of England did understand those Parliamentary conventional rules by which they would endeavour, in this House, to make what was black appear perfectly white. He would ask whether such a course of conduct as had been pursued by the noble Lord, the Member for Lincolnshire, was not calculated to stultify the promises which had been previously made to the electors of Lincolnshire? He was of opinion, that the sooner a dissolution would come, the better would it be for the country. [Cheers.] He was glad to hear the hon. Gentlemen opposite cheer that observation; but he was strongly of opinion that they would not cheer so loudly this day six months. Much had been said with respect to the distresses of the country. No man lamented more than he did such a state of things; but, he would ask, had not their late embarrassments in America something to do in creating those distresses? And, above all things, had not the deplorable misgovernment of this country something to do in the creation of this distress? He predicted that this Ministerial scheme of cheap bread would be immediately followed by a proportional reduction in the price of labour. He denied, therefore, that this could be considered as a boon conferred upon the working classes. This scheme might answer very well for the purpose of agitation, but in no other way could it serve their purposes, or the interests of the country. He did not think that the electors of England were represented in England. They might agitate the country upon the subject of the Corn-laws—they might put off the settlement of the Poor-law question— they might raise any popular cry they pleased, but the people of England would soon show them what their opinion was upon the motion now before the House. The people of England would see that her Majesty's Government had carried out the principle of self-preservation too far, and they would see that they had sacrificed the interests of the country to the selfish motive of keeping their places.
§ Mr. Muntz
said, that the hon. Member who had just sat down stated the question 1110 to be, whether that House had confidence in her Majesty's Ministers? but in his opinion that was not the only question; the other question was, whether the House had confidence in the right hon. Baronet, the Member for Tamworth, and his friends on the opposite side of the House? and he (Mr. Muntz) must say, that he for one had not the slightest confidence in them. He well remembered them in office ten years before, and did all in his power to remove them, because they governed so badly that no one could live in comfort under them; and he could not find that they had the least improved either in their principles, their manners, or their conversation, since that time. They had not held out the slightest inducement to vote them into office; there was no sign of their intentions to repeal the Corn-laws, nor the Money-laws, nor to do any thing for the relief of the distressed population, and therefore he could not give the motion of the right hon. Baronet his support; but if he would propose something better than had been done by the Government, he would be the last man to oppose him, as he considered himself sent there for the good of the country, and not to support the party on either side. He did not say that the Government had his confidence, [Hear, hear]—but the reason they had not was, because they so closely followed all the principles and practices of their predecessors. The right hon. Baronet had said that he would not make any bidding for popularity, and he (Mr. Muntz) could understand his feelings upon that subject; but, in his opinion, there was a great difference between bidding for popularity and explaining the principles upon which he intended to carry on the government of a great nation, and he thought the House had a right to expect some declaration upon the subject. He felt that the country was very much in the position of the fox in the fable, and as he had not heard one sentence which promised relief to the people by a change of measures, he thought they had better keep the full fleas which they now had upon them, than remove them to be replaced by empty ones, he should, therefore, under such circumstances, give his vote in favour of Ministers.
§ Colonel Conolly
, in rising to support the motion of the right hon. Baronet, would ask the House this question; if the present Ministry had brought this country into its present difficulties, and 1111 were unable to extricate it from them, what pretence could they have for remaining in office and calling upon hon. Members at his side of the House to enable them to get themselves out of their difficulties? The hon. Gentlemen opposite arrogated to themselves the right of remaining in office until the hon. Gentlemen on his side of the House stated the particular course they would pursue were they entrusted with the reins of Government. He thought, that her Majesty's Ministers could not pursue a more dangerous course than the one they were following. It was a course well calculated to encourage the agitation in Ireland for a repeal of the union. The Ministry appeared to make a boast of having extinguished slavery in their colonies; but he thought they were not entitled to any credit for the abolition of slavery, as that measure did not originate with them. The Ministry had thrown every branch of industry and manufacture completely over in defiance of their own assurances and their former pledges to the contrary, simply because they had been driven into this course by the late divisions against them. As the right hon. Baronet had expressed it, they had set on fire the premises before they left it. By their calumnies and misrepresentations, they were driving the agricultural interest against the manufacturing classes. But his party was powerful enough to arrest them in this course, which was degrading in itself, and calculated to injure the country in every particular. While there was still a lower hell they appeared willing to sink into it. There was not a lower state of degradation that they would not be willing to resort to. They had administered the affairs of the country in a most execrable manner. They were leaving it in a state of insolvency, and they were now unable to get theselves out of the scrape they had brought themselves into. They had not even the decency of decorating their proposed alterations with common caution or decency.
§ Debate again adjourned.
§ House adjourned.