§ Lord John Russell
said, that he had stated on Friday night, before the House separated, the course which the Government intended to pursue in regard to the committee of supply and the remainder of the estimates. He likewise then stated, that he would to-day announce his intentions in respect to the motion of the Corn-laws of which he had given notice. It would be in the recollection of the House, that he gave that notice on the day on which his right hon. Friend, the Chancellor of the Exchequer, brought forward his budget and the financial statement for the year. He afterwards renewed that motion and fixed the discussion of it for Friday last. It was his intention certainly to bring it forward as a question of considerable importance, not merely for the purpose of discussion— because it had been frequently debated before—but he wished to obtain from the House their opinion in regard to the policy of an alteration in the Corn-laws, and in regard to the principle of the alteration which he meant to propose on behalf of the Government. The right hon. Baronet, the Member for Tamworth, had, however, fourteen days ago, given notice that he would move a resolution to the effect, that the present Ministers, having been 1261 unable to carry through the House the measures which they deemed essential to the public interest, did not possess the confidence of the House, and that their continuance in office was at "variance with the spirit of the constitution.. After the right hon. Baronet gave that notice, he stated to his colleagues, for their consideration, that if the right hon. Baronet should succeed in obtaining a majority in favour of his motion, that his (Lord John Russell's) opinion in that case was, that he ought not to act under the authority which he had obtained from the Cabinet, and ought not to bring forward the motion of which, on the behalf of Government, he had given notice. He stated, that in the event of the House deciding that her Majesty's Ministers did not possess its confidence, and therefore ought not to continue in office, that it would neither be respectful to the House, nor consistent with his duty, to submit a measure of so much importance as the Corn-laws to the present House of Commons. It was not till after the determination of the House on Saturday morning last, that he again stated the question in the Cabinet, and when he did so, he gave an opinion which coincided exactly with that which he had previously expressed. He found that his colleagues concurred with him in that opinion, and therefore it was, that he did not mean to bring forward any measure on the subject of the Corn-law at the present time. But in stating that it was not his intention to proceed with the Corn-laws, he might perhaps be allowed not to go into the general question, but to state, that he should not have been deterred from bringing forward the motion by any of the various reasons urged against an alteration by hon. Gentlemen on the other side of the House. He did not think that the reasons which induced the Government to postpone the consideration of the Poor-law Bill was at all applicable to the question of the Corn-law. It had been urged as a reason against proceeding with the discussion on the Corn-laws that it would increase the excitement already existing on that subject. He confessed, however, that it did not appear to him that the discussion of that question in the House of Commons was likely to have this effect. The reasons which he should have urged in support of his motion were grounded on the general policy of these laws, and he thought that he would have 1262 been able to show not only that the question was one deserving the consideration of the House of Commons, but that the arguments against an alteration were unsound. He thought that all the extravagant assertions as to the consequences of an alteration in the duty, that the agricultural interest would suddenly be overwhelmed in ruin, and that the general prosperity of the country would cease, were far more likely to be corrected by discussion than otherwise. Had he gone on with the discussion, one branch of his argument would have been, that having now a larger population than in any previous period, the laws affecting the importation of corn imposed a greater restriction on trade and a greater evil on the community than any law since the time of Charles the 2nd, except the law which was in force from 1815 to 1828. Another branch of the argument to which he should have adverted would have been the importation of corn during the last few years, with the duty at which that corn was imported; and he thought that the result of that branch of his argument would have been to show that it could not be contended that this country was altogether independent of other countries for supplies of corn. In regard to the statement that the present law was intended for, and was productive of, protection to the agriculturist, he thought he could have shown, from what had occurred since 1828, that it had not prevented agricultural distress, and that the fluctuating duty at present existing had not only the effect of preventing a regular and constant trade with other parts of the world, by which steadiness of price might be maintained, but that it was, in fact, the cause of great variations in price in Prussia, and the other parts of the continent. He thought likewise that he could have shown that a fixed duty had been supported by some of the ablest writers who had considered the subject, not with a view to popular applause, but calmly in their closets, and with a view to the interests and improvements of the people. Without going into another branch of the subject, he could not avoid noticing an accusation which had been made against the Government, but which he had never yet noticed, namely, that they had resolved on bringing forward the subject solely with the view of producing excitement among the people, and not with the view of really 1263 considering the question. Had he been permitted to bring forward the question, he thought that he could have shown that neither the intention nor the effect of the proposals [interruption]—They might allow him five or ten minutes to explain what would have been the general scope of his argument. He was about to say, that he could have shown that the intention of the proposal was not, nor would its effect be, to excite either extravagant hopes or false impressions. It was a proposal well worthy their attention, and was submitted to the House with a view of effecting an alteration in some of the most important laws which affected the condition of the people. In regard to the other arguments which had been urged against an alteration in the Corn-laws, he thought that he could have shown them to be equally inconclusive Let it be recollected that the whole principle on which the budget had been brought forward was, that prohibition should no longer be continued; and that the deficiency in the revenue might be provided for by an alteration of the prohibitory duty. It would have been a course which would have given some advantage to his right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer in making his proposals if he had left the Corn-laws altogether on one side —if he had left that question as it was during some years past—as it was under the Government of Earl Grey when he assumed office in 1830, an open question, and had not considered it as in any way connected with the proposal regarding the sugar and timber duties, and various other matters. He repeated that the question might have been left as it was in the time of Earl Grey and Earl Spencer, an open question; but he did not think that such a course would have been fair towards the agricultural interests. It did not appear to him that they could have brought forward the general principle that prohibition ought to be done away with—that their whole tariff ought to be renewed—that alterations should be made, in order to increase the revenue, without at the same time bringing the question of the Corn-laws before the Legislature. Therefore he thought it the fairer and plainer course of proceeding to adopt these principles, not merely with a view to increase the revenue, for that was the smallest consideration, but with a view to the various other and extended interests which would be affected 1264 by it, and therefore, at nearly the same time, he had thought it would be best to propose an alteration in the Corn-laws. He had now only one remaining statement to make as regarded the charge made by the right hon. Gentleman opposite in the course of his reply on Friday last. The right hon. Baronet stated, as he understood, his belief in the report that the Government had had two budgets prepared—a fair weather budget and a foul weather budget. It was stated at the commencement of these discussions, as a charge against the Government, that the budget had been a sudden thought— that his right hon. Friend, had, he supposed, in the course of a single morning, prepared the whole of those extensive alterations which he had proposed. That was a charge so extravagant that he had taken no notice of it, and the inventors of it, he imagined, had become so convinced of its extravagance that they had dropped it. He did not think, that there was any man, whatever his political party might be, who, as a confidential adviser of the Crown, and holding a responsible office in the Government, could so far forget his duty as to frame two budgets in order to suit his own political situation. He regretted, that the right hon. Baronet had brought forward so absurd a statement, and in a manner that led the House to suppose, that he thoroughly believed it. There was not the least foundation for the assertion. The course which Government now proposed to pursue was that which he stated shortly on Friday last. They proposed to take the civil contingencies, and some of the estimates in regard to the service in Canada and in China. In regard to the miscellaneous estimates, they would take the same course which was pursued in 1830, on the death of his Majesty George 4th. They proposed to take a sum on account of the miscellaneous estimates for six months from the 1st of April last, sufficient to supply the immediate wants of the budget, and prevent inconvenience to individuals and public officers. He did not think there could be any objection on the part of the House to allow the Government to take this course. The noble Lord the Member for North Lancashire said the other night, that the question of dissolution was not one which ought to be discussed in that House, and that it was a matter of prerogative; whether that 1265 opinion was right or not, he thought no man would say, that, after the division of Friday night, when 623 Members voted, and there was only a majority of one in favour of the resolution of the right hon. Baronet, and when he believed there were only eight Members of the House who were not accounted for, either as having declared their opinion in the House, or of having suggested their opinion by pairing off—and the eight Members who did not either vote or pair off, certainly not being to be depended upon by either party in that House for their support, either of the existing Government or of any Government which the right hon. Baronet might form—when such a division of opinion prevailed in the House, he thought, whatever might have been the case before as to the propriety of giving any advice to her Majesty with respect to an appeal to the country, it must now be generally acknowledged, both in that House and in every part of the kingdom, that it was not very likely, that, during the continuance of the present House of Commons, any steady majority would be found in favour or support of the Government of either party. Such being the case, he confessed it appeared to him as clear as any proposition in politics ever did, that the only method of solving this doubt and difficulty was, that the country itself should decide upon questions which so gravely affected the interests of the country. And, if, on that decision being made, it should be a decision in favour of the party now in opposition, he thought it would be unadvisable, on the part of the present Ministers, to commence or continue any struggle for the purpose of their continuance in the offices they now held. But if, on the contrary, the country should decide the other way, and give a majority to her Majesty's present Government, then progress might be made in those measures which he and his colleagues thought so essential to the welfare of the country. This was the only statement which he had to make on behalf of the Cabinet with respect to the course which the Government meant to pursue. He had at least stated everything as fairly and plainly as he could, with regard to the intention of her Majesty's Government. He knew not, whether there was any other question which he had not touched upon, and concerning which any doubt or suspicion could arise. If there were, and if, con- 1266 sistently with his duty, he could give any explanation upon it, he should be most ready to do so. The noble Lord concluded by moving the Order of the Day for the House going into Committee of Supply.
§ Sir R. Peel
said, he would attempt to state, as clearly, as fully, and he hoped, as calmly as the noble Lord had done, the view which he took of the present position of the House in reference to those questions which the noble Lord had alluded to. He would in the first place notice what the noble Lord had designated as the charges which he (Sir R. Peel) had, in his speech in reply, at the conclusion of the debate on Friday, brought against her Majesty's Ministers. He rather believed, that there was only one charge of which the noble Lord could complain, and that was with reference to the Budget. It certainly was not his intention on Friday night to take advantage of the opportunity which the right of reply gave him to urge other charges against the Government, considering the circumstances under which the noble Lord was placed, of not being in a situation to answer him. Technically speaking, he should have had a perfect right to do so, but nothing would have been more repugnant to his feelings. For instance, when he heard the noble Lord the other night speak of the great success of the foreign policy of his Cabinet, and the achievements which the British arms had made in China, it certainly came across his mind to state what he considered were the abatements that ought to be made from the glory of those achievements; but knowing that the noble Lord, the Secretary for Foreign Affairs, would not have an opportunity of replying, he abstained from saying a single word upon the subject. And now, with respect to the Budget, he certainly did state that there was an impression throughout the country, that the Budget had been adopted at a very recent period; that had circumstances been more favourable towards her Majesty's Government, probably those extensive measures they now had heard of would not have been submitted to the House. The noble Lord, however, had assured him that he was wrong; and that her Majesty's Government, having viewed the state of the finances, had at an early period prepared these measures for the consideration of Parliament. The noble Lord having given him this assurance, he 1267 was bound to believe it, and he did so, and placed the most implicit confidence in it. At the same time, the charge which he made against the noble Lord, remained untouched, because the charge was this:— If her Majesty's Ministers contemplated these important measures, which partook leas of measures of finance than of measures of relaxation of the commercial policy of the country, then it would have been much better to have called the attention of Parliament to the subject at an early period of the Session, and even in the speech from the throne. These measures were mainly founded upon the report of the Import Duties Committee [Lord John Russell signified his dissent.] The three measures relating to the reduction of the timber duties, the alteration of the Corn-laws, and the equalization of the sugar duties, were certainly touched upon in the evidence taken by the Import Duties Committee. He would not, however, dwell upon this, as he did not wish to provoke an argument. But what he on Friday night stated was, that no Member of her Majesty's Government had attended that committee, and he further observed, that if her Majesty's Ministers were convinced that in the evidence taken before that committee they found arguments in favour of these great measures, it would have been better either to have re-appointed that committee at an early period of the present Session, or in case they considered the evidence sufficiently conclusive without taking that step, and such as would justify their proceedings upon the evidence they already possessed, then considering that these were less measures of finance than of an important relaxation of the commercial policy of the country, he thought the attention of Parliament should have been directed to them at an earlier period. In the absence of all explanation, that was the circumstance which created the impression that those measures were the result of a sudden determination, owing to the unfavourable position of her Majesty's Ministers in the House of Commons. But after what the noble Lord had stated, he, of course, no longer retained that impression. On the subject of the Corn-laws, it Appeared to him, that the noble Lord had only one of two courses to pursue—either to bring on the Corn-laws, or to abstain from adverting to them altogether. Either one or the other of these two courses was open to the noble Lord. He would not presume 1268 to give an opinion as to which was the best course in the present position of her Majesty's Government, but he thought it was hardly fair to determine not to bring forward the Corn-laws, and then to give the House the main heads of the argument which he would have urged in favour of an alteration of those laws if he had determined to bring the question on. The noble Lord pointed out the four principal arguments upon which he intended to lay stress, and he would submit to the House that he could not state his view of those arguments, and attempt to impress upon the House those measures which induced him to take a different view of the question to what the noble Lord did, without provoking a very inconvenient discussion on the whole subject of the Corn-laws. It would be quite impossible. The noble Lord gave the heads of chapters of what would constitute his speech rather than the details of the speech itself, upon which, if he were to make any observations, he should be leading on a discussion which it was not the intention of the noble Lord to enter upon. He was the more disposed to give the noble Lord full possession of the advantage he had thus gained, and forego the opportunity of any discussion, because he confessed that the noble Lord's summary of his arguments had not made that impression on his mind which induced him to think any discussion necessary. Of course the noble Lord put in advance his four principal arguments, and they might safely conclude that the remainder were not so cogent as those he had put forward. He was perfectly willing, perceiving the immense inconvenience of the House being forced into a discussion upon the Corn-laws, hon. Gentlemen not being prepared, for it, to leave the noble Lord in possession of that advantage, which he thought was not quite fairly taken, by stating the main arguments upon which he intended to rely in case the discussion had been brought forward. The remaining point to which he wished to refer was the proposal of the noble Lord with respect to the votes in a committee of supply. He inferred from the statement of the noble Lord, that it was the intention of her Majesty's Government to appeal to the sense of the people, and to call a new Parliament. He would express no opinion upon 'the propriety of that course. He would leave the responsibility of it entirely with her Majesty's Ministers. He had understood on 1269 Friday night, after the conclusion of the debate, that the noble Lord gave a notice somewhat of this kind. He would read the words, and he thought he must be accurate, for he took down the very phrase in which the notice was given. Speaking of the course which her Majesty's Ministers intended to pursue in consequence of the division, the noble Lord said, "We propose to take a vote of supply on Monday, and take only such of the miscellaneous estimates the necessity for which was so immediate that any delay would occasion great inconvenience to the public service if not granted at the present moment." Those were the terms used by the noble Lord. Now, while he distinctly wished to avoid all implied approbation of the course which her Majesty's Ministers were about to take—namely, that of making an appeal upon the subject of the Corn-laws to the sense of the people, while he left entirely with her Majesty's Ministers all the responsibility upon that question, yet he must at the same time say that he was not prepared to offer the slightest obstruction in the way of her Majesty's Government taking that course. He presumed there was a material distinction between assuming no part of the responsibility of a certain line of conduct to be adopted, and abstaining from any act by which her Majesty's Government might be obstructed in the adoption of that course. His opinion was simply this, that, leaving the responsibility exclusively with the advisers of the Crown —if they were determined to assume that responsibility, and to advise the exercise of the unquestioned prerogative of dissolving the Parliament, that responsibility ought to be assumed, and that prerogative ought to be exercised, with the least possible delay. He would say, that such should be the case at all times and under all circumstances; because the discussion of any important measure by a Parliament which knew from significant intimations that its days were registered, and its fate was determined, was evidently most inconvenient. He would say, also, without wishing on the present occasion to introduce One word of ascerbation or asperity as to the course taken by the noble Lord, that the peculiar position in which her Majesty's Government stood, after the vote on Friday night, gave an additional reason for the enforcement of the observation he had just made, and imposed an additional obligation on her Majesty's Ministers to 1270 refer at once to the sense of the people. He did not think there could be a difference of opinion upon these propositions; as he had said before, inferring certainly from the course of the discussion which had recently taken place, and from the language held by Cabinet Ministers during that discussion, that her Majesty's Government had made up their minds, even If the decision of the House upon his resolution should be adverse, not to feel themselves bound to resign upon that adverse decision, but to take the sense of the people upon the measures they had proposed. When the noble Lord made the announcement on Friday night, that he should take such of the estimates as were absolutely necessary for the public service, he (Sir R. Peel) felt at once that it ought without delay to be conceded. But he must say that the notice of the Chancellor of the Exchequer was of a different kind. The right hon. Gentleman proposed to take the whole of the remaining estimates—the civil contingencies, the commissariat, and the miscellaneous for England and Ireland, for the period of six months. That appeared to him to be a material departure from the usual course. [Lord J. Russell: The votes will be from the 1st of April.] That he knew. Wishing not to take any subsequent advantage of the position in which he stood, he would proceed to state what were his opinions with respect to the course which her Majesty's Government ought to adopt. He had already said, and the House appeared generally to concur with him, that it was the duty of her Majesty's Ministers to advise the Crown to dissolve Parliament as soon as possible, without inconvenience to the public service. He was aware that it was necessary that the annual Sugar Duties Bill should pass through its proper stages; and nothing was further from his intention than to prevent the passing of that bill, and enable the Government to provide for the public service. He thought that, not only ought the act of dissolution to be immediately (by immediately he meant as soon as it could take place consistently with the manifest demands of the public service); but, he must say that, according to all usage and under circumstance of all the cases that were analogous to the present, the new Parliament ought to be convoked immediately. He said this, not only with reference to the important questions to which 1271 the public mind was alive, not only with reference to the immense advantage which it must be to all persons engaged in commercial speculations, or enterprise of any kind, to know what was to be the state of the law affecting the importation of corn —not only with reference to these considerations, but also with reference to the position of the Executive Government, which manifestly stood before the people as not possessing the confidence of the House of Commons. The combined force of these considerations compelled him to conclude that the interval ought to be as short as possible between the dissolution of the present Parliament and the calling together a new Parliament. No considerations of private or personal convenience of Members ought in the slightest degree to interfere. This was a great constitutional question, and reasons of great constitutional urgency precluded any consideration of a private nature. According to all analogy, and according to precedent under all former circumstances when Parliaments had been so dissolved, the succeeding Parliament had been at once summoned. The noble Lord would, no doubt, recollect that, in the year 1784, after Mr. Pitt dissolved the Parliament, as short an interval as possible was permitted to elapse before the succeeding Parliament was summoned. In 1807, after the Parliament of that day was dissolved, the succeeding Parliament was also called as soon as possible; and in 1831, when Lord Grey dissolved the Parliament, on account of some obstruction which the Reform Bill met with then, the dissolution was immediate, and the convocation of a new Parliament was also immediate. These were the three instances most analogous to the present in which that course was pursued. He thought, therefore, the House had a fair right to expect from her Majesty's Ministers that the new Parliament, if a new Parliament was to be called, should be assembled at as early a period as possible. If the noble Lord should think it consistent with his duty to make, on the part of her Majesty's Government, a public declaration that that was the advice which would be given by her Majesty's Servants to the Crown, he would say, that a declaration of that description from the noble Lord would be satisfactory to him (Sir R. Peel). He should consider a declaration made by the leader of the House of Commons, and who pos- 1272 sessed the confidence of the Crown, was a declaration on which he could explicitly rely, as on a formal resolution of the House, passed for the purpose of controlling the conduct of the Government. He, therefore, would at once say, that if the noble Lord would announce that it was the intention of her Majesty's Government to pursue the precedents to which he had referred, and that they had determined at as early a period as the public service would permit, to dissolve the present Parliament and call a new one, it would be amply sufficient. The noble Lord would find there was no constitutional objection to his making such a declaration; none whatever; because, in the instance of the dissolution of the Parliament in 1807, the Crown distinctly notified to the Parliament that was about to be dissolved, that its successor would be immediately called. On that occasion, the following was the expression contained in the Speech from the Throne:—His Majesty trusts the early attention of the new Parliament, which he will forthwith direct to be called, will be applied to the prosecution of those important objects.Therefore, there was no constitutional objection on the part of the Crown to make a public declaration as to its intention with respect to calling another Parliament. In 1820, on the demise of King George the 3rd, the same course was pursued. The King informed the Parliament, which he was about to dissolve, that he had determined to call, without delay, a new Parliament: and in 1831, the last instance, and an instance when Lord Grey presided over the Councils of his Majesty William the 4th, in the Speech from the Throne, it was announced in these terms:—I have observed, with satisfaction, your desire to introduce strict economy into every branch of the public service. I trust the efforts of the new Parliament, which I shall forthwith direct to be called, will be applied to the prosecution of the same object.He hoped he had now shown first, that on four occasions, namely, on the occasion of 1784, and on the occasions of 1807, of 1820, and of 1831, the Crown did not object formally to notify to the Parliament, then sitting, that its successor would be immediately assembled, and he trusted, that in conformity with these precedents, the noble Lord would be able to give the present House of Commons that 1273 which he conceived they had a right to expect, the same assurance. He would say nothing in addition to what he had already observed with respect to the peculiar position of the Executive Government, only to remind the House, that that circumstance constituted an additional reason for the adoption of the course which he had suggested. Supposing the noble Lord should find himself unable to give any such assurance, then he begged to say, that although he would not obstruct the noble Lord with respect to the immediate dissolution of the Parliament, and although he would give him what ever estimates he might require for the immediate public service, yet he could not be a party to a vote which would imply an opinion on his part that the Parliament might be dissolved, and its successor not be immediately assembled. It was quite clear, he apprehended, that if the noble Lord took a vote for the various remaining estimates for a period of six months, that was to say, from the 5th of April last to the 5th of October, that would clearly enable her Majesty's Government to defer the meeting of the next Parliament until October or November, or even later. He must say, he considered that would be an unconstitutional proceeding, and to which the House had a right to refuse its acquiescence. He would repeat, therefore, that if the noble Lord would give the assurance, in his place, that it was the intention of the Crown to pursue the course which had been pursued on former occasions, in that declaration, he should place entire confidence, and he would not quarrel with the period for which the estimates were proposed to be taken. But he would submit to the House, that taking a vote on the estimates for three months would be amply sufficient. Still he begged the House to observe, that so determined was he not to take advantage of his present position, for the purpose of inflicting upon any branch of the public service inconvenience, that if the Chancellor of the Exchequer should say, that there were certain votes for which a grant of three months would not suffice, from their having been anticipated, or if he proved that during the interval of the dissolution of the present and the assembling of the new Parliament an extended vote ought to be granted, he would grant the additional sum. But if the noble Lord could relieve him from adopting any hostile course on this occasion, he 1274 should be ready to withdraw all objection to the extended period for which the votes were asked; nor should he consider it necessary to require any absolute and formal guarantee in addition to any declaration the noble Lord might make as to the intentions of her Majesty's Government.
§ Lord John Russell
After what the right hon. Gentleman has said, I feel it necessary to address a few observations to the House, stating, in the first place, that I do not think, upon ordinary occasions, that giving the House any guarantee with respect to any advice which may be tendered by Ministers to the Crown would be convenient; not allowing that to be the usual course in ordinary cases, yet, considering the peculiar circumstances of the present case, and knowing the mind of my noble Friend at the head of her Majesty's Government, and what are his wishes upon this subject, I cannot have any hesitation in saying, that the advice we shall give to the Crown will be, that no time should be lost in dissolving the present Parliament and in summoning a new one. We feel that to be the most convenient course; and I, as holding the seals of office, still more personally feel all the objections that can be urged against continuing to act in office after the vote to which the House came the other night—a vote which we feel imposes upon us the obligation as soon as possible to refer that decision to the judgment of a new Parliament.
§ Sir R. Peel
The answer which the noble Lord has given is the answer which I myself anticipated; and, therefore, in; fulfilment of my promise, feeling that in the noble Lord's assurance I can place the amplest confidence, I withdraw all: objections whatever to the period of six months, for which the right hon. Gentleman, the Chancellor of the Exchequer, seeks a vote of supply.
said, that as the noble Lord the Secretary of the Colonies and the right hon. Baronet had stated what they called their view of the position of parties and the course they intended to take, and as Members seemed after that to consider that all real business was over, he hoped he might make one or two observations upon that question which had caused that position of parties, and upon which they were now about to disturb the peace of the country; and if he did not know what grave considerations that question involved—how closely con- 1275 nected it was with the misery of many of our fellow creatures—he could really find matter for amusement in the predicament in which he saw some around him placed by it. It had been made matter of reproach, that the demand for a total repeal of the law was extravagant, that those who had leagued themselves together out of the House to instruct the people on the matter were too violent—that they should be more moderate—that they should leave it to the Government to bring it forward. Let the Government take it up, said some, and the landed interest will then consider it gravely—they will enter into it calmly —they will admit of some mitigation of the law, and settle the question. Now, then, he invited the attention of the country and the House to the present position of the matter. The question had been taken out of his hands; it had been so by the Government; and he had surrendered it with satisfaction, hoping that good might follow. They had proposed a measure, a moderate measure, fair as some called it, extravagantly in favour of the landed interest as he considered. How were they treated? Why worse than he had been— he had been allowed to have his say—he had been allowed to bring on his motion; but the noble Lord had not been suffered to bring on his. He gave his notice, announced the nature of his measure, and he fulfilled every condition which he had been told last year would secure serious attention to the subject, when down comes the right hon. Baronet opposite, and carries a resolution in the face of the noble Lord's notice, by a majority of persons whose interests are supposed to be involved in it, which has the effect of precluding the noble Lord from bringing forward his measure, of preventing a deliberate consideration of the subject, and in fact, of escaping themselves from a division. Well, then, that was the position of the question; the landowners were the majority of the House, they would not allow the law which gave them a monopoly to be altered, and they would not allow it to be fairly discussed. This was a question now seriously engaging the attention of every state in Europe, and the United States of America; their interests were all involved in it. They saw and understood the struggle. They knew the parties engaged in the conflict—which were those who profited by a monopoly of the subsistence of the people on the one side, and the advocates of unrestricted commerce with the rest of the world on the other; and this 1276 week presented them with the first scene in this battle, little creditable to the country, though, doubtless, a triumph for monopoly —a deliberate refusal on the part of the landowners to suffer the question to be fairly debated. This House only represented their interests, and they could do what they liked with their own. He referred the other night to the close analogy that existed between the slave question in America, and the Corn-laws of England; that resemblance was now strengthened. This was the state of the slave question in Congress. They refused to discuss it. Two years ago, it was mooted and the Members all rushed from the House as they had done to-night. That subject was offensive to the interests of the majority in Congress, as the Corn-laws were to the houses here, and they refused to discuss it. Did that discourage him?—far from it. Did he advise the country to be disheartened by it?—quite the contrary. No cause in the name of freedom had ever fared better at first. He was glad, indeed, that this course had been pursued. People hated what was unfair in this country, and this would rouse them. They would now see the relative strength of their friends and their enemies; they would see the necessity of acting with energy. He liked the course taken by the opposite side on this account—it was bold and daring, and intelligible to all. He preferred it to the trimming course pursued before. It bid defiance to the people. It would compel the people to meet it. He was glad that a more delusive course was not taken, which might have been. He was satisfied that there was no ground in justice whatever for any tax on the people's food. Had the Government measure been adopted or spoiled by the landlords, the question of total repeal would hardly have had fair play. That question was now again fully before the country, and he defied any man to show that the people were not entitled to that full measure of justice. They bore the burdens of the country, and he contended that none were borne exclusively by the landlords. He rejoiced that the question had been agitated in the country upon this broad, intelligible basis, and that the people had put the landlords to the proof of their claim to a permanent tax upon the food of the community. As he had said before, he saw nothing in what was occurring then that did not raise his most sanguine expectations of speedy success. The question must now exclusively engage the 1277 attention of this House till it was settled in some way. Constant reference would be made to it in all the business in the next Parliament, and he predicted a speedy dissolution again, and upon the same ground, of the Parliament about to be elected. The question never could be set at rest again, and he firmly expected that the end would be the total repeal of this iniquitous law. He believed that the country would have supported the noble Lord, had he disregarded all form on this occasion, and, in spite of the resolution so carried, had he brought on his measure. The country understood the noble Lord's position. The noble Lord had given his notice—he had fixed his day. The measure was offensive to the majority in the House, and they interposed a resolution, which they carried, declaring that he had not their confidence, and further interference was threatened. He had hoped that anything so unfair, so unusual, need not have been heeded by the Government. He was told, that in point of form the noble Lord was precluded from bringing it on, and that he could not have had a fair discussion if he was opposed in doing so. He thought, however, that it mattered little, for in truth the people understood the question, and the whole proceeding would mark it clearly to them in what way they ought to act in justice to themselves, and with regard to the interest of the country, now in such distress.
§ Mr. Wakley
referred to the manner in which the right hot). Member for Tamworth on former occasions had deprecated excitement on the eve of a general election, although, at the present moment, he was anxious at once to go to the country, and to assemble Parliament again with all possible dispatch, in order to consider a great national question, which could not fail to excite the inhabitants of the empire from one end to the other. Now, popular clamour, pressure from without, and pledges of candidates on the hustings, were as nothing in the eyes of the right hon. Baronet. He did not complain of this; but he did complain that the right hon. Baronet, and those who acted with him, opposed the repeal of the Septennial Act, and would not hear of shortening the duration of Parliaments. It appeared not only inconsistent, but irrational, that the right hon. Baronet should wish to select a new Parliament for the discussion and decision of a question of such prodigious importance and interest, and 1278 yet should be adverse to more frequent elections. It seemed to him, that all the great interests of the country were to be treated as toys and trifles, in comparison with the interests of party. Only three weeks ago his hon. colleague (Mr. Duncombe) had brought forward a motion to induce the Crown to take into consideration the case of certain political offenders. "No (said the right hon. Baronet, on that occasion). Touch not the prerogative of the Crown: it is too bright a jewel to be gazed at by Radical eyes. You must not be allowed to interfere with the exercise of the royal prerogative." He was therefore content to leave the matter in the hands of that very executive Government in which he declared by his resolution of Friday night, that he had no confidence. This inconsistency was apparent enough to people out of doors, although the right hon. Baronet might not be willing to acknowledge it. He (Mr. Wakley) trusted, that the noble Lord (Lord John Russell) would not obtain a majority by means of the dissolution: he hoped that neither of the great parties, strictly called Whigs and Tories, would obtain a majority upon the returns. He hoped, that the people would exercise their good sense, and that the result would be to extend the number and influence of that small party, to which, if to any, he had attached himself. That small party endeavoured to accomplish the public good without reference to individuals, and to maintain and advance the interests of the country, as contradistinguished from the sordid interests of party. He did not believe, that the right hon. Baronet himself wished to rule the country for party interests, and not for the general welfare. At no distant period he anticipated a scene of strife and confusion in this kingdom paralleled in no part of its history. The question of the Corn-laws was daily becoming more exciting and perplexing, and it struck many as extraordinary that Ministers, who, up to this Session, were increasing in Unpopularity, the moment they brought forward a subject which justly rendered them popular, that very moment they were obliged to quit the Treasury Bench, and to appeal to the country. The secret was, that the influence of party was much more powerful than the interests of the country, and this evening sums to an enormous amount would be voted away without any 1279 inquiry. How could such a system last? It could not last long against the good sense of the people. Before he sat down he wished to remind the right hon. Baronet of what he had said in 1835, when he met his new Parliament; but first he wished to remark, that he could not understand why so much deference was to be paid to the prerogative of the Crown at one time, and not at another. The people would thus see that the Crown was in truth but a puppet in the hands of a political faction, and they might in time be convinced that it was maintained, not for their benefit, but for the advantage of faction. What would be the result? They would say, that those who gained by the Crown ought to pay the expenses of the Crown, and the costliness of the establishment would be felt more and more every day. As to interfering with the royal prerogative by producing a change of Ministers, all he could say was, that he should like to see such changes every month, and a new Parliament every year, until the condition of the people was improved, and they were faithfully represented. To revert to the speech of the right hon. Baronet, to which he had already alluded, at the be ginning of the Session of 1835, he might observe, that the right hon. Baronet was not then so niggardly of his promises as he had been lately; he had refused to give a single pledge as to the future. This course might be ingenious, prudent, sagacious, and convenient; but it was not satisfactory to him (Mr. Wakley), nor would it be satisfactory to the people. What had the right hon. Baronet said, soon after the publication of his celebrated Tamworth letter on the debate in the new House of Commons, on the motion respecting the address:—I make great offers, which should not lightly be rejected. I offer you the prospect of continued peace, the restored confidence of powerful states, that are willing to seize the opportunity of reducing great armies, and thus diminishing the chances of hostile collision; I offer you reduced estimates, improvements in civil jurisprudence, reform of ecclesiastical law, the settlement of the tithe question in Ireland, the commutation of tithe in England the removal of any real abuse in the Church the redress of those grievances of which the Dissenters have any just ground to complain I offer you these specific measures, and I offer also to advance, soberly and cautiously, it is true, in the path of progressive improvement. I offer also the best chance, that these things 1280 can be effected in willing concert with the other authorities of the state; thus restoring harmony, ensuring the maintenance, but not excluding the reform (where reform is really requisite) of ancient institutions.These were the offers and promises of the right hon. Baronet at that time. [Sir Robert Peel: and I repeat them now.] He was willing to admit, that as the opponent of Ministers, he had now and then rendered the country good service; but he was afraid, that the right hon. Baronet had also given Ministers his support at the very time when they least deserved support. The Irish Coercion Bill and the Poor-law bill were passed in 1833; and, instead of being opposed by the right hon. Baronet, they had been supported by him, while Tory candidates on the hustings had not scrupled to declaim against that very law which their leader had advocated. Formerly the noble Lord, the Member for North Lancashire (Lord Stanley) had belonged to a Government to which the right hon. Baronet was opposed, but after five or six years of friendly intercourse and sitting side by side, he was now, it appeared, fully prepared to take office under him. What did the noble Lord say upon the same occasion as that on which the right hon. Baronet spoke?But, Sir, of this I am confident, that no dissolution of any Government—no constitution of any administration can, since that great measure was passed—either impede or endanger the course of a temperate, salutary, and comprehensive system of Reform.The country ought, therefore, at the present moment, to have some information given to it as to that "salutary and comprehensive system of Reform." Was it to be the sliding or the slippery system? Where was the pivot? Was the noble Lord's Irish Registration Bill to be taken as a specimen of that" salutary and comprehensive system of Reform"? That measure was thought by many to be directly opposed to the principles of Reform and representation. There ought to be no concealment of their future views by statesmen [Sir R. Peel: At the proper time]. It had been supposed that the right hon. Baronet sometimes said one thing and meant another, but at all events he had expressed himself very distinctly hostile to the extension of the suffrage, and to the vote by ballot. There had 1281 been no disguise about him upon those questions; but if he had a system of Reform of his own, the right hon. Baronet ought to state it. The country wanted the details, and the reserve was hardly fair towards those Reformers who might be disposed to support the right hon. Baronet as a Reformer. He (Mr. Wakley) trusted that public men during the coming election would be honest upon the hustings; for his part he was determined to exercise considerable industry in noting the declarations, whether of friends or foes. They should be sure to hear of it, if he had the honour of a seat, if they were guilty of any inconsistency and abandonment of their declarations when they got into the House. At the last election the Tories on the hustings declared against the Poor-laws, and on the strength of those declarations he had been urged to move for its repeal. People entertained a notion that the right hon. Baronet, as leader of the Tories, was opposed to the bill, and that if he did not vote against it, he would walk out of the House, and leave others to vote against it. He knew better; he knew that the right hon. Baronet would give the bill and the government his strenuous support, and accordingly when the hon. Member for Oldham(Mr. Fielden) moved for the repeal of the Poor-law Act, and he seconded the motion, out of a House of about 400 Members, they had only nineteen votes. These things lowered the character of the House, and lessened the confidence of the people. At a general election there was sometimes a great scarcity of candidates; now and then Members who could make long speeches were wanted, but oftener Members who had long purses. These were generally the most unscrupulous, and, having bought their seats, they resolved to sell them. However, he would keep an eye upon all, and would mark their declarations, especially on the new Poor-law: he would make a register of what candidates said upon the hustings, and, if he again had a seat, would take care to confront their conduct with their professions. At the same time he quite acquitted the right hon. Baronet of any disingenuousness: he had not said one word out of the House respecting the new Poor-law that was inconsistent with what he had said in the House.
§ Mr. Labouchere
said, that the reply of the right hon. Baronet on Friday last con- 1282 tained graver charges against the present Government than had, perhaps, ever been comprised in any previous speech. His right hon. Friend had disposed of one of those charges—that relating to the fair weather and foul weather budgets, and as he was well acquainted with the sentiments of the Chancellor of the Exchequer, he could bear testimony that he had never varied from the opinion that the financial difficulties of the country were to be met, not by new taxes, not by a loan, but by dealing with the great interests in the manner proposed, to the great increase of the revenue, and the incalculable relief of commerce and manufactures. Another charge was equally unfounded. The right hon. Baronet supposed that Ministers had only determined to resign office or dissolve Parliament in consequence of his notice of a vote of want of confidence. He could assure the right hon. Baronet that this charge was just as unfounded as that of the two budgets, for the notice of the vote of want of confidence had not the slightest influence on the conduct of Ministers in that respect. The right hon. Baronet had also said, that if the measures regarding trade had been so long prepared, they ought to have been introduced into the Queen's speech. The truth, however, was, that they were not mere measures of trade; they were importantly connected with finance, and for this reason they had not been adverted to from the Throne. The budget had been brought forward at the earliest possible period, but without exciting false expectations and paralysing every branch of commerce, the intended change could not be announced until the period of the annual financial statement. The right hon. Baronet also contended that the measures were entirely founded upon the report of the committee on import duties. That report contained a great deal of useful information—more, perhaps, than any other document of the same kind; but the committee had made no discoveries, though they had been the means of circulating facts already well ascertained. The timber duties was not a new question in the budget; almost the identical measure had been proposed by Lord Althorp six or seven years ago, and the principle had received the sanction of a committee. Hon. Members on the other side seemed to think that the proposition respecting the Corn-laws was quite a sudden thought on the part of Government; 1283 but in the debate upon the subject last year be had advocated a moderate fixed duty, and had even gone so far as to say, that the duty ought to be 7s. or 8s. The noble Secretary for the Colonies, in his speech upon the same occasion, had supported a moderate fixed duty, though he might not have stated what the amount of that fixed duty ought to be, and he went so far as to add, that if, in consequence of the motion of the hon. Member for Wolverhampton, the House went into committee, a resolution to that effect would be moved by some Member of the Government. It did not need the report of the Committee on Import Duties to show that the subject of the sugar duties was of great importance. Ten years ago Mr. Huskisson and Mr. Grant had brought in a bill on the same principle as that which Ministers would have introduced, indeed, it went further, as regarded the differential duties. He would also ask the House and the right hon. Gentleman to consider the course taken by the Government in the present Session on matters of trade. If hon. Gentlemen would recollect the course taken by the Government in those matters, they must do Ministers the justice to say, that their measures were not taken in consequence of any particular party difficulty at any particular time, but from the general opinion that it was their duty as a Government thoroughly to review and consider the whole of our commercial and fiscal policy. What was the first motion of which he had given notice after the meeting of Parliament? The bill for putting the East-Indies and the West-Indies in an equal condition; and although that measure had not produced a great effect upon the East-Indians as free-traders, he did not regret that this measure was now the law of the land. He had next thought that it would be right to relieve the West-Indies from some of those burdens of which they had long complained, and for which protection had been granted to them. With that object he had brought forward the Colonial Duties Bill, and he regretted extremely that the state of the Session was such as to raise a doubt whether that measure could be brought to a satisfactory conclusion. He recollected, however, that when he was bringing it forward he was asked by the right hon. Gentleman opposite (Mr. Goulburn) what were the intentions of the Government with respect to the larger 1284 measure, and he had stated then, what he would state now, that he was ready to defend the Colonial Duties Bill upon its own merits, and that, whether it were intended or not to alter the sugar duties, he was not prepared to say. It was clear from the question, that the right hon. Gentleman saw clearly to what the first measure would probably lead. He mentioned these things because he heard it said that the Government in a fit of desperation, and for the object of party, had brought forward these measures. He thought that nothing would be more unworthy of a Government or of an individual, for the sake of mere party interest, to tamper with great questions of this nature. He conscientiously believed, that the Government did not deserve the aspersions that had been cast upon them, and he was indeed surprised that hon. Gentlemen who had watched the course of the Government upon these questions should so treat their present proposal. It was the wish of the Government in the present Session to make other important changes. They had made an alteration in the rum duties; they had prepared bills for the alteration of the sugar, timber, and corn duties; but they had not intended to stop there. It was his intention in the Customs Bill to have introduced many measures which would have conferred important benefits on the commercial community, and in those proposals he would have followed the same principles as in the other measures of trade which they had submitted. Nothing was more unfair than to charge them with having flung themselves upon extreme measures. They saw that the country was gradually dividing itself into two great parties; they saw great interests banded together on one side, and the great commercial and manufacturing population on the other; and he must say, that he thought that all the evil of former times that had arisen from opposing factions was as nothing compared with what would have taken place now, if they had allowed these things to occur without the interference of the Government and of the Parliament to restore tranquillity and content, by the only measure which would restore them, a measure of fairness and justice to both parties. If the Government had shown no consideration for any prejudices that might still exist, if they had had recourse to extreme measures of free trade, and had trusted to popular clamour to 1285 carry them, he admitted that they would have been liable to just imputation; but it was ludicrous to hear it stated that the measures which the Government had proposed were founded on extreme opinions. Good God; When they left a protection of 50 per cent, upon sugar, and a still higher protection on timber and a very large protection to the home grower of corn, to hear that they had yielded to clamour, and to have it said that the Government had not fairly and impartially considered these questions in all their bearings ! In conclusion, he would only advert to the charge which the tight hon. Gentleman had thrown out against his (Mr. Labouchere's) conduct, in not having attended the meetings of the committee on import duties. It was true that he had not attended. The committee was appointed late in the Session of Parliament; he was at that time engaged on four other committees, one of which—the Inland Bonding Ware houses—he regularly attended, and it was utterly impossible for him to attend more. But it was not accurate to say that no Member of the Government attended that committee. One of the Lords of the Treasury did attend, and another, as well qualified as any in that House to take part in such measures, his right hon. Friend, the Paymaster of the Forces, also attended. It was very curious to mark how he had been dealt with during the present Session, with respect to committees of the House. When he brought forward the East-India Rum Bill, he was taunted with going against the recommendations of a Parliamentary committee; and now he was reproached with bringing forward a measure which was, no doubt, in accordance with the spirit of the committee on import duties, and he was represented to have servilely followed that committee, as if he had no opinions of his own. Now, since he had been in office, he had always followed one course—he had always thought that he had abundant means of information within his own office upon these matters, and that he ought not to throw the responsibility upon any committee; but, at the same time, he had never opposed any motion for a committee which might be thought necessary by any independent Member, and which was brought forward by him. Of course, when the committee had made their report he gave to it his respectful attention and consideration, but he had never felt bound to 1286 adopt its recommendation against his own opinion, and that had always been the course which he had thought most conducive to the public advantage. He did not know that it was necessary for him to trouble the House at greater length; he would not have risen if it had not been for the charges brought forward in his reply by the right hon. Baronet, and he hoped that they had been satisfactorily answered. Colonel Sibthorp really supposed that it was high treason in that House for any hon. Members upon that side of the House to make any accusation against her Majesty's Government; but he would nevertheless, say, that he had no opinion of the Chancellor of the Exchequer in the budget, or in anything else that he did. He declared moreover, his belief that the Government had done no one act to benefit the public, or to promote the dignity of the Crown and the character of the country. They did not hesitate to employ the secret service money to the extent of 13,000l. in St. Alban's and other places, nor to promise to their supporters and friends places and promotion, whilst they charged those who exercised the common rights of hospitality with bribery and corruption. There was 1,815l. to be paid to Mr. Vizard, including the annual salary of 1,500l. a year, and l,800l. as a last payment to Dr. Bowring. He had nothing to say against the one or the other of those gentlemen, but he objected to fooling away money in this way. He would, therefore, ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer whether, if he now consented to a general vote, he would be at liberty to take the sense of the House on these details in the next Parliament? He would tell his constituents on the hustings, and he hoped soon to be there, that a more profligate, lazy, and inefficient Government had never sat on those benches. He thought, the Chancellor of the Exchequer a very excellent man out of the House, but he must say he could not think as much of him in it; and it was known that he was never given to pay compliments. He, therefore, required an answer to his question; because he did not think it consisent with his duty to give up public life whilst he had health left, and if, as no doubt he would, he should again appear at that table, he told the Chancellor of the Exchequer that he would be found as willing to oppose those details as he was at the present moment. 1287 The Chancellor of the Exchequer said, that he had been asked by the gallant Officer, whether he would have a full opportunity hereafter of discussing all the items in the Miscellaneous Estimates; and in reply, he must say, that with regard to Dr. Bowring, the gallant Officer must be aware that the sum charged had been already paid last year, but that, as he did not intend to retire from public life, it would be perfectly competent for the gallant officer to make any observations and speeches that he might now postpone. But as (he early part of the present discussion had turned on the charges brought forward the other evening in the reply of the right hon. Baronet, he trusted that the House would bear with him a few minutes whilst he made some short observations. The right hon. Baronet had charged him with having a double budget, and had since received communications from other hon. Gentlemen on the other side of the House, that the right hon. Baronet had made the accusation of the suppression of one budget, because in a proposed Queen's speech the right hon. Baronet had received information which could prove the fact. Imputations of this kind, as they grew, became more and more particular, and he was informed since he came into the House, by several parties, that the right hon. Baronet had actually in his possession information that proved the charges against the Government. Of course, he took it for granted that these hon. Gentlemen were not without some cause for their assertion.
§ Sir R. Peel
said that he had not the slightest information more than, was in the possession of other Members. What he spoke of the other night, was not from more information than was possessed by other Members; it was a suggestion of the moment, and what he said was matter of surmise, and not from any particular information that he had.
§ The Chancellor of the Exchequer
was perfectly satisfied with what the right hon. Baronet had said, but during the whole course of the dehate, it was a confident imputation put forward by hon. Members one after the other. So far for the double budget. He thought, however, that he could show the House, that this was not the only point on which the right hon. Baronet was wrong. He would state some figures, for the purpose of setting the right hon. Baronet right upon some mat- 1288 ters of detail. The right hon. Baronet had said the other night, "I should find, on being restored to power, that we, who left a clear surplus of 2,000,000l. of revenue—that we, who in three years reduced twenty millions of debt, as well as reduced the interest one million annually, must deal with a deficit of eight millions, after an administration of five years." Now, in the first place, the right hon. Gentleman's statement about the 2,000,000l. of surplus was not correct. True it was, that in the last year of office the right hon. Gentleman had a surplus revenue of a considerable amount, but it was spent. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Cambridge took off taxes, and so far from leaving a surplus of two millions, he had, as it was stated by Lord Asbburton, left a surplus of not more than 300,000l. His own Chancellor of the Exchequer stated it only at 1,600,000l., and he afterwards lost several taxes, commuted others, and repealed more. What was the practical result? When Lord Spencer brought forward his budget, he stated the amount, which the right hon. Gentleman left him to spend, and at the time he made the statement, it was his interest to place it as high as possible; and what his right hon. Friend said was, that the surplus was 300,000l., as the amount of the excess of income over expenditure, as left by the right hon. Gentleman's Government; and if he, therefore, gave the right hon. Baronet the benefit of a doubt, and raised the amount from 300,000l. to 500,000l., he would overestimate the surplus that was left. He thought, that the right hon. Baronet had seen a little double when he talked of the two millions. The next point on which he conceived the right hon. Gentleman to be in error, was as to the twenty millions of debt which the right hon. Baronet had said that he had paid off. Now this statement was not quite correct, and it was not quite incorrect. It was true, that the amount of the capital of the debt had been reduced twenty millions, but if hon. Gentlemen were in the belief that twenty millions had been paid off out of the surplus revenue of the right hon. Gentleman, they were under the greatest delusion. 10,000,000l. had been converted into terminable annuities; no doubt this was an exceedingly good arrangement, but when the right hon. Gentleman said, that he had paid off twenty millions, it was not 1289 accurate. What would any hon. Gentleman say if he were told by his steward— "I have converted 100,000l. of your debts and changed them into terminable annuities, so that your debts are all paid off." Here, again, the right hon. Baronet had seen a little too much. Then the right hon. Gentleman stated, that the annual payment on account of the national debt had been reduced nearly a million. He would like to have the right hon. Baronet's figures, for he could find no such reduction. If he had been an opponent of the right hon. Baronet in Parliament, and he had intended to bring forward a charge against his Government, he should have felt it to be his duty to give him some notice of what he proponed to do, but he thought, that the right hon. Baronet had acted towards him with home unfairness in bringing forward this charge at a period when there was no opportunity of his replying [Sir R. Peel: I made the same statement on the debate on the sugar duties] The right hon. Baronet had undoubtedly made some statement on that debate, to which he offered an explanation, which was received with shouts of derision by hon. Gentlemen opposite; but he was not aware that any statement had been made by him such as the right hon. Baronet had brought forward on the debate on the resolution of want of confidence. But with regard to the matter in question, he found that his figures did not tally with those of the right hon. Baronet. The right hon. Baronet had spoken of the reduction of the interest of the national debt between the years 1827 and 1831, by the amount of one million. He found, however, that the amount, was, in 1827, 28,825,000l., while in 1831, it was 28,341,000l., so that the reduction was 484,000l. only, and the right hon. Baronet had arrived at an incorrect conclusion to the extent of upwards of half a million. He would now go to those deficiencies to which the right hon. Baronet had alluded, and which he had stated to have amounted to seven millions. What the right hon. Baronet had intended to say, of course, must have been taken to be, that during the period of the Government of the present administration the expenditure of the country had exceeded its income by that amount. He found that for the year ending the 5th April, 1836, the surplus revenue was 1,376,000l., while for the 1290 year 1837, it was 1,863,000l. In the course of the years 1838, 1839, 1840, and 1841, the deficiency amounted altogether to 6,163,000l.; so that the surplus of two years being 3,239,000l., and the deficiency for the four years being 6,163,000l., the actual result of the deficit was only 2,924,000l.
§ The Chancellor of the Exchequer
took the calculation for six years, and the right hon. Baronet would recollect that the present Government had, in 1835, taken upon itself the West Indian loan of twenty millions; so that, if he took away the surplus of that year, he ought also to relieve them of the loan. But the result of this calculation was, that instead of the diminution being 7,000,000l., it was less than 3,000,000l.. But there was another point to which he should refer, and to which it had not been his intention to allude at the present time, but for the statement made by the noble Lord, which would prevent his giving that information which he had proposed upon the debate upon the Corn-laws. The objection was made when the budget was first brought forward, and it was asked, "How do you calculate your corn? Last year you received 2,700,000l. for corn; you calculate on an increase of 400,000l." He bad stated to the House that the customs yielded twenty-two millions, and he calculated upon their future produce being of about the same amount—the produce of corn being altogether thrown aside. Upon the average of the years from 1835 to 1839, with the addition of 5 per cent., he calculated that the total amount produced would be 21,500,000l. That was the entire amount, throwing aside, as he had already said, anything that might be derived from corn. Taking the average amount received for corn during the last six years, and also since the time when the Corn-law first came into operation, it was just that he should calculate the increased produce at 500,000l. The House was well aware that corn and malt to a certain degree counterbalanced each other. If there was a bad harvest, a large revenue was received from the importation of corn, but if it was a good harvest, and less was received from that source, the amount of malt duty increased. Taking the corn duty, therefore, at 500,000l., he might expect the malt to yield 5,506,000l., which 1291 was under the estimate, and under the produce for every year since 1835, except 1838. During those years, with the exception of 1838, corn and malt had produced more than he had calculated. The year 1838 happened to be a year in which corn was introduced at a low duty, which had produced the result to which he had referred.
§ Sir Robert Peel
said, that the right hon. Gentleman who had just sat down, had placed him in the same situation of difficulty in which he complained that he had himself been placed, because he had entered into an explanation of circumstances which he was unprepared to meet. If the right hon. Gentleman had intimated to him that he had intended to call upon him to sustain the calculation which he had produced on a former evening, he should have come prepared to give what answer he could. Upon the debate upon the sugar duties, he (Sir Robert Peel) had said, that during the last five years there had been a deficiency of nearly eight millions—a statement which he afterwards corrected by reducing the amount which he named to 7,600,000l. He wished now to state the grounds on which he sustained that view. In a paper laid on the Table of the House, and signed "Robert Gordon," it was shown that during the last five years, there had been an accumulated deficiency of 7,600,000l. In calculating that deficiency, he had taken it from the year 1838 to 1841, and also the estimated deficiency for the present year ending-April, 1842. In 1838, the deficiency was 1,428,000l.; in 1839, it was 430,000l.; in 1840 it was 1,457,000l.; in 1841, it was 1,851,000l.; and the estimated deficiency for 1842, was 2,400,000l.; so that the total amount of deficiency was 7,566,000l.
§ Sir Robert Peel
had no right to set off the surplus revenue of the years 1836 and 1837 against the deficiency. The present Government began with a great surplus of revenue, but in the last five years a melancholy contrast had been presented. If he was to take the whole seven years, of course the deficiency would not be so great, but when right hon. Gentlemen spoke of the present alarming state of the finances of the country, and their prosperity during the first two years of their 1292 administration, they only aggravated the charge to which they were open.
§ Mr. Herries
had heard the statement of the Chancellor of the Exchequer with great surprise. He had not been able to contradict the fact that for the last five years there had been a continually increasing deficiency, now amounting to seven millions and a half. Of all the arguments he ever heard he thought it the most extraordinary that, because they had a surplus for two years, that surplus should be put forward as a set-off against continually recurring deficiencies. But, if that argument was good, why did the right hon. Gentleman stop at the two first years— why did he take credit for the six millions and a half of surplus that existed when Lord Althorp was Chancellor of the Exchequer? Why did not the right hon. Gentleman add Lord Althorp's surplus of six millions and a half to the three millions that he claimed credit for, and thus he might on the same ground claim credit for nine millions? Now, with respect to what the right hon. Gentleman had stated, he begged to say that during the years between the peace and 1828, when his right hon. Friend the Member for the University of Cambridge was Chancellor of the Exchequer, thirty-one millions were paid out of the public moneys in the remission of taxes. During the administration of his right hon. Friend he had applied ten millions to the reduction of the public debt. During the time that Lord Althorp was Chancellor of the Exchequer, he had applied six millions and a half to the reduction of the debt. Lord Monteagle had applied about three millions to the same purpose. However, during the last five years the deficiency amounted to seven millions and a half. In answer to this it was said that the present Government had taken off a large amount of taxes; but were they the only Government that had done so? When Lord Monteagle brought forward his first budget, he had done justice to the efforts of former Administrations in the reduction of taxation. He had said that he could only be a gleaner in the field, that the harvest had been gathered by the Wellington and Liverpool Administrations. He told the House that since the peace forty-two millions of taxation had been reduced, of which thirty-three millions had been reduced by the Liverpool and Wellington Administrations. He hoped, there- 1293 fore, he should not again hear of any more exclusive claims for the present Administration on account of the reduction of taxation. The right hon. Gentleman had stated that there had not been a surplus of more than a few hundred thousand pounds left by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Cambridge, and had therefore urged that his calculations were erroneous. Now it was the duty of a Finance Minister to make provision according to the best estimates he could procure, and state to the House what would be the probable surplus, and he was fully justified in acting on those estimates, although he might be disappointed in the result. His right hon. Friend had estimated his surplus at 1,600,000l.; it did so happen that during the next year, owing to circumstances which it had been impossible to foresee, the actual surplus had fallen short of that amount; but the following year Lord Althorp found the surplus greatly increased. He went into these details for the purpose of showing the great contrast between this and all former Administrations. AH former Administrations had had a surplus, but the present Administration had a deficiency.
§ Mr. Hume
was amazed at the charges brought against the Government by the right hon. Baronet. The right hon. Baronet was quite as responsible for the deficiency as the Government. The Government had been foolish enough to suffer themselves to be entrapped into increased expenditure by hon. Gentlemen opposite. He had told them at the time what must be the consequence of such profuse expenditure; but they had chosen rather to listen to hon. Gentlemen opposite than to him, and therefore the right hon. Baronet had no right to the claim he had put in, that he would have managed the finances better. The whole excess of expenditure had been owing to the misconduct of the Tories and the weakness of the Whigs—Tories urging them to an extravagant expenditure, and the Whigs having the weakness to yield to them. Did the right hon. Baronet forget that five millions taxation had been reduced, and yet the revenue had only fallen by one and a half millions? He would admit that from 1836 there had been no relief, but the revenue had been annually increasing, and the average revenue of 1839, 1840, and 1841 exceed- 1294 ed that of the four preceding years by 600,000l. There had been no deficiency of revenue, and the present deficiency was entirely owing to an increased expenditure, against which he had protested year after year. The army, the navy, and all the establishments, had been increased in consequence of the representations of hon. Gentlemen opposite, to which the Government had had the weakness to yield. Hon. Gentlemen opposite had themselves created the deficiency, and now they turned round upon the Government, in a manner very little creditable to any party, and taunted the Ministers with the deficiency, which they themselves had occasioned. Let hon. Gentlemen point out one instance, with the single exception of the vote to Prince Albert, in which they had ever given an economical vote; and even on that occasion, when he had moved to reduce the grant to 21,000l., they had divided against him. But they said if they had been in office they would have managed better, they would have had no deficiency. No; because they would have laid on new taxes. Then they raised this outcry in order to blind the people as to the real question at issue. A more bare-faced attempt to mislead the public he had never heard of. He had seen many things in that House, and had frequently blushed at the effrontery of hon. Members, but a more shameless and scandalous attempt to impose upon the public, he had never known. If they were so anxious to have the deficiency made good, why did they stand in the way of the remedy the Government proposed? Up to the month of January last, he should have cared little whether the Administration had been Whig or Tory, but now when the Ministers brought forward measures calculated to benefit the country, he felt bound to give them his support. He was glad to see they were bringing forward measures calculated to turn public attention to the real causes of the distresses of the country. The real author of the committee on the import duties, was the right hon. Baronet, the Member for Tamworth, as it was in consequence of the right hon. Baronet's speech on the Corn-laws, that he had been induced to move for that committee. The right hon. Baronet had said, that he had no objection to consider the question of the Corn-laws, but that he did not think it right to the landed interest to bring for- 1295 ward that question alone, but that all the interests should be considered together, and in consequence of that speech he had moved for the committee. He rejoiced at the prospect they had of removing the shackles from industry. They had last year laid on an additional 5 and 10 per cent, on the assessed taxes, and in that the right hon. Baronet had concurred, but when he had proposed last year to meet the deficiency by making the landed interest, which was not taxed at all, contribute a proportion to the public burdens by imposing on landed property a legacy duty similar to that paid on all personal property, and which would have produced a revenue of 3,000,000l., the right hon. Baronet voted against him. The fact was, that as long as land was not touched, hon. Gentlemen opposite cared not how they increased those taxes the burden of which was borne by the working classes. The complete failure in the expected increase from the additional tax might have shown the hon. Baronet how vain it was to attempt to raise the revenue by any further tax upon industry. Let the House of Commons reduce the expenditure which bad led to the deficiency, and he believed, that that would be the ultimate result. Her Majesty's Ministers had been supported by hon. Gentlemen opposite in every proposition for increasing the public burdens. They had been very helpless to do any good, but powerful to do ill when supported by the Opposition in measures which he conceived to be against the principles upon which they took office. He rejoiced that her Majesty's Government had brought forward so large and comprehensive a measure, and that the present Parliament was about to be dissolved. The time was come when an appeal should be made to the people. It was necessary for the interests of the country, that the House should be more decided one way or the other. It could not longer remain in its present position. He was confident that the electors would not throw away the opportunity afforded to them of returning a better Parliament. Those Gentlemen who supported the resolution went to the country with a declaration that they would not remove the taxes which were put into the pockets of individuals by the protective duties; that they would not allow sugar to be cheaper, and were determined to continue that tax, by which five millions were paid last year out of the 1296 pockets of the industrious classes. They declared, that they would not admit cheap corn; that they would keep up all the necessaries of life at the highest price. He would repeat, that he looked with confidence to the results of the elections. It was a great disadvantage that the Corn-laws should not be previously discussed. The want of a single additional Reformer to secure the discussion of that subject was greatly to be deplored. He regretted that they had not had the opportunity of proving that 8s. protection was a tax amounting to 30 or 40 millions a-year, upon the industry of the country and that that would go into the pockets of the country gentlemen. The right hon. Member for Tamworth and his party had come forward by their resolution to prevent the discussion of this subject; that was, in fact, their sole object in proposing it, and he hoped the country would so understand it. The situation of the country was truly distressing. There was a population starved by the landholders, laws were passed which positively starved the people by inches. Whilst some countries were cursed with an unproductive soil, and others with calamities arising from the climate, the people of England were doomed to be starved by the landed proprietors. It was melancholy to think that they could lay their heads on their couches whilst there was so much misery of their creation, the result of their monopoly. Every one who had voted no confidence in her Majesty's Ministers had, in fact, voted against the discussion of the Corn-laws, because they wished to have the advantage on the hustings of having said little or nothing on the subject. He deplored the ignorance which existed with reference to it, and hon. Gentlemen opposite shared in the ignorance which existed as to the real cause of the distress. Still he looked with confidence to the coming struggle, believing that the people of this country would not allow class interests to prevail. It would be impossible for any who took the course of hon. Gentlemen opposite, that' of setting themselves against all reduction of taxation, and all relief to the working classes, to reflect for a few moments and not feel that they had a heavy responsibility resting upon them. He would be sorry to feel himself liable to those charges which he now made against them and against every man who wished to keep up 1297 monopoly and to prevent that alteration which was called for by an increasing population. He took the speech of the right hon. Gentleman the President of the Board of Trade as a pledge by the Government, that they were prepared, should they continue in power, to carry out a large and liberal reform. Even hon. Gentlemen opposite, if they would only examine the subject, would see the necessity which existed for such a measure. How could they visit the manufacturing districts, and reconcile it to their consciences to maintain the monopoly? The people at present paid all the taxes—the landed proprietors did not pay one shilling. He would take upon himself to prove that the landed proprietors of this country were as free from taxes as were the nobility of France in 1789. The only difference was, that in France the injustice was more open. The country gentlemen had a monopoly amounting to more than double what they paid towards the public expenditure. Last year they had on a moderate calculation eighty millions of money raised from the industry of the people, whilst that they contributed did not amount to twenty-five millions. He contended, therefore, that they were in a better condition than the noblesse of France at the period to which he had referred. The events of history should teach them what was to be expected from such a state of things. At this moment the landed proprietors from one end of the country to the other did not pay one quarter of the fifty millions of taxes; their monopoly, therefore, was a legal plunder upon the mass of the people. The common sense of the people would teach then; how to act in their present position. From one side they had to expect relief, from the other nothing but taxation and oppression; and he had no doubt that hon. Gentlemen opposite would be foiled in their attempt to secure a majority in the next House of Commons.
§ Mr. Goulburn
wished to say a very few words. If he had expected, that the right hon. the Chancellor of the Exchequer would have entered so largely into the question of finance, he should have come down to the House furnished with the papers which had been quoted by his right hon. Friend, the Member for Tamworth, in the debate of Friday last. But he had left the House early in the evening under the impression that Ministers were anxious to go at once into the committee 1298 of supply, and that therefore all debate would be avoided. He would now merely allude to one point which had been mentioned by the right hon. the Chancellor of the Exchequer. That right hon. Gentleman had, as he understood, for he was not in the House at the time, stated, that the statement of his right hon. Friend, the Member for Tamworth, as to the reduction of 20,000,00l. in the national debt was erroneous. He (Mr. Goulburn) could confirm that statement in every particular, and not on his own authority either, for in 1831 Mr. Spring Rice made a statement of what had been the amount of the national debt at the time of the Duke of Wellington's entering into office, and also at the time of his leaving it. According to that statement, the Duke, on entering office, found the capital of the debt to amount to 777,000,000l., and on leaving it the amount was only 757,000,000l., while the interest was, during the same period, reduced from 25,000,000l. to 24,000,000l. The right hon. the Chancellor of the Exchequer had said, that his right hon. Friend had no right to take credit for the reduction of the capital, seeing that it had been effected by the creation of terminable annuities. That might be true if the capital only had been reduced, but the fact was, that the interest had also been reduced, although the direct tendency of the creation of the terminable annuities must have been to cause its increase. Under these circumstances, he thought the House would agree with him, that his right hon. Friend had acted quite fairly in taking credit for a reduction of the national debt effected during the time he had held office.
§ Sir De Lacy Evans
said, the hon. Member for Kilkenny had been comparing the aristocracy of this country with the noblesse of France, and he thought the comparison a very good one, except that the French aristocracy had not introduced so much sophistry and complication into their system of finance as were to be found in that of this country. The public would yet understand the true nature of the case; and, whatever successes might attend the right hon. Baronet and his party, the present disastrous state of affairs would, he had no doubt, turn out to the advantage of the country. He believed, that the people would yet make the hon. Gentlemen opposite understand, that they knew the object of the right 1299 hon. Baronet's motion was to prevent a discussion on the Corn-laws and a dissolution. He must say, that the right hon. Baronet had pursued a fallacious and unworthy course; but he would find it difficult to screen himself under such tactics. The public would learn that the whole design of the enormous verbiage of the late debate was to stifle the question of the repealing the Corn-laws. The right hon. Gentleman had shown great sensitiveness about interfering with the prerogative of the Crown, when the hon. Member for Finsbury brought forward his motion for the liberation of political offenders in England and Wales; but he said not one syllable upon the merits of the question, and yet twenty four hours afterwards, he brought forward a motion of a most decisive character interfering with the prerogative of the Crown, and now, in his speech upon that motion, he twitted her Majesty's Government for not being able to sustain the prerogative of the Crown against the attack of the hon. Member for Finsbury on the preceding evening. These were inconsistencies which the public would detect and understand. He ventured to say, that so great was the injustice by the existing system of fiscal duties and taxation, that the terms "fraud" and" plunder" were not too strong to apply to that system. ["Hear, hear."] That was the sort of language which he would hold upon every occasion. He might be wrong, but he believed he was right. Therefore it would be unworthy of him to go before his constituency and not use the same language which he used in that House.
§ House went into Committee of Supply.
§ On the motion of Sir R. Peel, the sum of 31,786l. was voted for the expenses of the British Museum.
§ In answer to Sir R. Peel,
§ The Chancellor of the Exchequer
said, that all the estimates except that for the China expedition, would be for the half year. That estimate was for the whole year, because it was matter of account with the East India Company, who had to make up their accounts in order to pay their dividends.
The vote (400.000l.) for the Chinese expedition was then agreed to
A rote of 1,624,791l. for the Commissariat, Canada, and the miscellaneous service was also agreed to.
§ The House resumed.1300
§ Sir E. Knatchbull
objected to the postponement of bills in this way. It was the duty of the Government at once to state what measures they intended to proceed with.
§ Mr. Townley Parker
observed, that the noble Lord the Secretary for the Colonies stated, that he did not intend to proceed during the present Session either with this bill or the Buildings Regulations Bill; they should therefore be withdrawn at once.
§ The Chancellor of the Exchequer
said, that his noble Friend would state to-morrow what bills he intended to proceed with, and what he proposed to postpone.
§ Sir Robert Peel
understood the noble Lord to state, that he would not proceed with these bills during the present Session; it would therefore be better to remove these bills from the notice paper.
§ Motion agreed to.