§ Sir R. Peel
I shall proceed without a word of needless apology or elaborate preface to address myself to the subject of the motion of which I have given notice for this night. When on Thursday last the Chancellor of the Exchequer intimated that it was his intention to proceed with the business of the Government, I entertained a strong impression that after the defeats to which that Government had been subjected—defeats, as I thought, indicative of the withdrawal of the confidence of this House—indicative of inability on their part to give effect to measures which they deemed important for the public welfare—I did feel, I say, that after that notice, unaccompanied with the slightest explanation of Government, it was impossible for me to acquiesce in the propriety of the course proposed to be pursued, without taking some step which should bring to issue the question, whether Government do or do not possess the confidence of the House of Commons; and having come to that conclusion, I infinitely prefer bringing the question to issue in the most direct and manly manner in which the sense of the House can be taken. I might have resorted to other proceedings. I might have obstructed the course of the Government with respect to measures of great importance to the commerce and industry of the country, I might have threatened the Government with obstructions to the grant of supplies, I might have taken the milder course of submitting a proposition for the postponement of some important bill, and thus, in an indirect manner, have tested the opinion of the House; but I think it infinitely better, on the very first day the forms of the House permit, to bring, in the direct manner I now propose, under the consideration of the House of Commons the question, whether it give the present Government its confidence. The resolution which I mean to propose affirms two propositions—first, that her Majesty's Government do not sufficiently possess the confidence of the House of Commons to enable them to carry through the House 804 measures which they deem of essential importance to the public welfare; and secondly, that their continuance in office under such circumstances, is at variance with the spirit of the constitution. My duty is to establish those propositions, and, if I establish them, I shall have a fair right to claim the assent of the House to the resolution which I am about to move. With respect to my first proposition, that "Ministers do not sufficiently possess the confidence of the House of Commons to enable them to carry through the House measures which they deem of essential importance to the public welfare," it is unnecessary for me to offer any detailed proof of its truth. Will any man affirm, after the experience, not of one or two nights, but after a long and continuous experience—will any man affirm that Ministers possess so much of the confidence of the House of Commons as to enable them to carry measures which they deem of essential importance to the public welfare? I am not speaking of occasional defeats, of casual obstructions to the progress of public business, I speak of the general course of public business, of measures which have been brought forward and postponed almost without an effort to carry them,—I speak of occasions on which measures proposed by the Government have been modified in deference to the opinions of those who opposed them. I speak of their failure to carry into effect measures which they strongly recommended to the adoption of the House. I am speaking not, as I said before, of one or two failures, not of obstructions offered to the Government on its first formation; I am drawing my inference of loss of confidence from the continuous course of the Government in respect to legislation and the degree of support which Ministers have received from the House of Commons. I am speaking, of course, immediately with reference to the defeat they sustained the other night on a most important measure connected with the financial administration of the country, following other defeats which they have recently met with. Now, I say that these are complete and decisive proofs that my first proposition is correctly stated—that the Government do not posses such a degree of confidence on the part of the House of Commons as has enabled them, or will enable them, to give effect to measures which they deem important to the public welfare. If that 805 proposition be true—if her Majesty's Ministers do not possess the confidence of the House of Commons, then, I say, that their continuance in office is at variance with the principle and spirit of the constitution. I presume I shall hardly be asked to define what I mean by the "spirit of the constitution." I do not speak of those theories which refer to some combination of the opposing elements of monarchy, aristocracy, and democracy, each armed with defensive and offensive instruments, by which they keep each other in check. I speak only of that system of Parliamentary government which has prevailed in this country since the accession of the House of Hanover. I speak of that system which implies that the Ministers of the Crown shall have 'the confidence of the House of Commons. I speak of that system which has prevailed during the period when, according to the expression—the just expression of the noble Lord, whom I now see opposite to me, in his able and dispassionate Essay on the English constitution, "the centre of gravity of the State has been placed in the House of Commons." When I use the phrase, "spirit of the constitution," I speak of the system of Government which has maintained the equilibrium between monarchy and democracy—of that system of Government which has harmonised those apparently conflicting elements—of that system of Government which, by the constant yet almost unfelt interposition of slight checks, has prevented the necessity of recurring to the use of extreme instruments in the collision of antagonist powers. That is the spirit of the constitution of which I speak, and that spirit of the constitution appears to me to be violated by the continuance in office of ministers who have not the confidence of the House of Commons. My impression on that subject is confirmed by a reference to all historical precedents having analogy to this case. It is confirmed by the authority of all eminent writers, all statesmen versed in the practical administration of affairs. But my impression also receives melancholy confirmation from the actual experience of positive evils which arise when another system of Government is substituted for that which has hitherto prevailed. It is confirmed, likewise, by the course of historical precedent. I look to the period which all constitutional writers have referred to as the period from which dates 806 the necessary system of Parliamentary Government, to the accession of the house of Hanover, to the appointment of Sir Robert Walpole as Prime Minister, and I say that, recurring to the history of Administrations, we find that invaribly, or at least with scarcely an exception, that a Minister, whatever might have been his power, however confirmed his influence, however long the duration of his authority, when deprived of the confidence of the House of Commons, has felt it incumbent upon him to do homage to the principle of representative Government, and to abdicate his functions as Minister of the Crown. I begin with Sir Robert Walpole. He held office for, I think, the long period of twenty-five years. If I mistake not, he was appointed in 1715, and the termination of his power took place about 100 years from the period at which I am now speaking, namely, in 1741. Sir R. Walpole was dispossessed of power under these circumstances: —A motion was made by Mr. Pulteney, which implied the withdrawal of the confidence of the House of Commons. That motion was negatived in favour of Ministers by a majority of three; but upon Sir R. Walpole being in a minority on the Chippenham election (the determination of election questions was then exclusively influenced by party spirit, and they were looked upon as convenient modes of testing the strength of ministries), notwithstanding the slight majority which he had on the question of confidence, Sir R. Walpole relinquished office, after having been Minister for twenty-five years. In 1782 Lord North yielded to the same influence. In that year two motions were submitted to the House of Commons. The first was brought forward by Sir John Rouse, and the second by Lord George Cavendish. One motion declared that it was impossible for the House to place confidence in the Government, and the other was couched in terms very nearly similar. One was negatived by a majority of nine, the other by a majority of ten; but Lord North, nevertheless, yielded to the necessity implied by the withdrawal of the confidence of the House of Commons; and his authority also came to an end. In 1804, Lord Sidmouth retired from office, although he had in his favour a majority which has been almost unknown in the recent history of Parliamentary contests. Lord Sidmouth in the course of his administration, 807 frequently had majorities to a great extent, but they having been reduced to, I think, thirty-seven, his Lordship felt it his duty to retire. He considered a majority of only thirty-seven, as indicative of the withdrawal of the confidence of the House of Commons. In 1812, on the first formation of Lord Liverpool's Government, the House of Commons, on the motion of Lord Wharncliffe (then Mr. Stuart Wortley), by a majority of four agreed to a resolution expressing an opinion that a more efficient administration ought to be formed. That majority of four was decisive of the fate of the first administration attempted to be formed by Lord Liverpool. He and his colleagues resigned their trust into the hands of the Sovereign, and it was not until attempts which proved ineffectual had been made to form another administration, that Lord Liverpool was again placed in office. The next administration which yielded to the influence of public opinion, as expressed by the House of Commons, was that which was presided over by my noble Friend the Duke of Wellington. In. 1830, on the meeting of Parliament upon the question whether or not the Civil-list should be referred to a committee of the House of Commons, we were defeated by a combination of parties entertaining opposite opinions, and the House of Commons resolved by a majority of, I think, twenty-nine, to refer the consideration of the Civil-list to a select committee. I felt that the minority in which the Government had been left was decisive of its fate. I thought it sufficiently significant of the fact that we had not the confidence of the House of Commons; and therefore the Duke of Wellington and myself felt it our duty to retire from office. The right hon. Baronet opposite, the President of the Board of Control, will recollect that upon that occasion his opinion anticipated ours. Immediately after the decision, the right hon. Baronet, entertaining an opinion which was just and natural, and which was in conformity with that of many others, enquired from me, "whether, after such an expression of opinion on the part of the House, it was the intention of Ministers to retain their places and continue to carry on the Government."
§ Sir J. C. Hobhouse
Since that period I made an apology to the House, and the right hon. Gentleman, for having put that question, and said, that I 808 considered the question to be a very improper one.
§ Sir R. Peel
I never thought of complaining of any want of courtesy on the part of the right hon. Baronet. I never thought that the right hon. Baronet proposed the question in an offensively hostile manner, and if I had supposed so, I would not have alluded to the circumstance on this occasion. The opinion which the right hon. Baronet implied by his question was entirely confirmed by the House of Commons. Lord Brougham in vain attempted to appease the impatience of the House of Commons on that night, and my own opinion so strongly concurred with that implied by the right hon. Baronet's question, that, on the next day, I signified to the Crown my intention to withdraw from its service. On the night after the right hon. Baronet put his question, which never excited an angry feeling in my mind, Mr. Brougham suggested that, after what had taken place, it would be better to permit the Ministers of the Crown to have some time for deliberation, and, considering the position in which they were placed, proposed that the appointment of the committee, which it was wished should take place immediately, should be deferred till the next day. His advice, however, was overruled; and such was the impatience of the House of Commons to proceed to some decisive act which should imply the downfall of the Government, that, on that very night, the select committee on the Civil-list was appointed. The next administration which also yielded to public opinion, as signified by that of the House of Commons, was that over which I myself presided for a short time in 1835. I did carry on, for a short time, an unequal contest in opposition to the power leagued against me; but this I must say, that the first time I was positively obstructed in an act of legislation, that moment I felt it my duty to withdraw from the management of public affairs. I beg to remind the noble Lord, that at a much earlier period than the date of my resignation, he implied an opinion that I was holding power injuriously to the public interests, because I did not possess the confidence of the House of Commons. On the 2nd of March the noble Lord observed; that he believed no Ministry ever stood before, in respect to the House of Commons, in so extraordinary a position; and the noble Lord observed on the evil influence which 809 my attempt might have upon public affairs. On the 16th of March, the noble Lord said—I own I come more and more to the opinion that we ought to revert, whenever we can to that old practice of the constitution, under which the powers of the Crown were administered and exercised by persons in whom the House and the country had confidence.The noble Lord said, that while persons exercised the powers of the Crown in whom the House reposed no confidence, they imposed the necessity of making motions most inconvenient, and, perhaps, unconstitutional, such as that which had been made relative to the appointment of a noble Friend of mine to an embassy at St. Petersburgh. The noble Lord said—You, by remaining in power, are contravening the principles of representative government, and you alone are responsible for the delays and obstructions that may arise, or for any offence to which, by your acts, the Crown is exposed.The noble Lord was then, day by day, waxing stronger in the opinion, that we ought to revert to the old practice of the constitution.
So little did I think that I had cause of personal offence in the remark made in 1830, that in 1835 I myself shared the opinion of the noble Lord. In 1835 the right hon. Gentleman opposite told me that the fault and difficulty of my position did not rest with the opposition, but from an act which would be the fruitful source of evils, namely, the endeavour to govern by a minority; and being, therefore, fully sensible of the difficulties of my position, so soon as the noble Lord had carried a resolution which implied that no adjustment of the tithes would be satisfactory, except that which he advocated, I did not wait for the progress of the bill, for I thought, that the resolution indicated, that I did not possess the confidence of the House of Commons; and, therefore, being obstructed in the progress of important legislation, although I had remained in office after having been defeated on the amendment to the address, and on the choice of a Speaker; yet, being as I have said, obstructed in the progress of important legislation, I at once signified my intention of resigning office. In speaking of administrations which have yielded to the authority of the House of Commons, I have omitted to mention a case in which 810 the precedent appears at first sight to be somewhat different. I mean in 1783, when Mr. Pitt, notwithstanding the adverse votes of the House of Commons, remained in office, and continued to hold office, until he could take the sense of the people by a dissolution. But I contend, that the circumstances of that case were in no degree analogous to the present. The circumstances of the contest between Mr. Pitt and Mr. Fox in 1783, were these:—On December 17, 1783, the bill which had been brought in by Mr. Fox, for the regulation and management of Affairs in India, was rejected. On the 17th of December, the very same day, the House of Commons resolved to go into a committee of the whole House on the state of the nation on the Monday following. On the 19th of December, the Government of Mr. Fox and Lord North was dissolved. [Mr. Macaulay: Dismissed, you mean.] — I am much obliged to the right hon. Gentleman, but I really thought, when a Government had been dismissed, it might be said to be dissolved. On the 19th of December, Mr. Pitt was appointed Minister. But before Mr. Pitt could take his place as Minister in the House of Commons, an address to the Crown was moved not to dissolve Parliament. At the outset of the Government, before even there was time for the re-election of Mr. Pitt, his seat being vacated by the acceptance of office, an address to the Crown was moved not to dissolve Parliament, and his Majesty was "earnestly entreated to hearken to the advice of his faithful Commons, and not to the secret advice of particular persons who might have private interests of their own, separate from the true interests of his Majesty and his people." An adjournment of Parliament took place on December 24th. Parliament re-assembled on the 12th of January, 1784, and before any one act of the Government could be submitted to the consideration of the House of Commons, on the very day on which Mr. Pitt appeared to the House as Minister of the Crown, on the very first day, a resolution of the House was come to, moved by Lord Surrey, as follows:—That in the present state of his Majesty's dominions, it is peculiarly necessary, that there should be an administration which has the confidence of this House and the public.On the 16th of January, four days af- 811 ter the meeting of Parliament, it was moved by Lord Charles Spencer: —That the appointments of his Majesty's present Ministers were accompanied by circumstances new and extraordinary, and such as do not conciliate or engage the confidence of this House; and that the continuance of the present Ministers in trusts of the highest importance and responsibility, is contrary to constitutional principles, and injurious to the interests of his Majesty and the people.The objection to the continuance of Mr. Pitt, was not that the confidence of the House of Commons was withheld from the measures which he proposed. There were surmises— there were allegations that Mr. Pitt owed his power to the exercise of undue influence; that the King's name had been made use of for the purpose of influencing elections. The objection, therefore, was taken at the outset to the administration of Mr. Pitt. Before Mr. Pitt could take his seat, hostile resolutions were come to; and before he could bring forward any one act of Government upon which the sense of the House of Commons could be taken, resolutions were affirmed implying objections, not to acts of that Government, but to the principle upon which it was constituted. The battles which Mr. Pitt was then fighting was not in opposition to the principle that a Minister ought to have the confidence of the House of Commons for the purpose of carrying on the Government, but Mr. Pitt contended that Mr. Fox, having a majority in the House of Commons, was attempting to control the constitutional prerogative of the Crown, and, without reference to attempts at legislation, without reference to public acts of the Government, was denouncing that Administration, and implying beforehand want of confidence in it. It is true, that there were in that case repeated resolutions implying a want of confidence on the part of the House of Commons, but I say, that the circumstances of that case are not analogous. They did not, in the case of Mr. Pitt, imply a want of confidence on account of the acts proposed by the Government. They implied a want of confidence on account of the suspicion that it owed its origin to unconstitutional motives; and that it was the duty of the House of Commons from the first to dissent from and reprobate its appointment. On this principle it was, that the great contest took place in 1783–4, which led to the dissolution of that Parlia- 812 ment, and the election of a new one. But is the present, I ask, acase at all analogous? Am I obstructing the course of a Government at its first formation? Am 1 depriving it of the opportunity of submitting its measures to the consideration of Parliament? Am I not urging that you have had the opportunity in repeated Sessions of laying before the House of Commons the measures you think essential to the public welfare, while they have been in some cases so modified, so altered by the prevailing influence of those in opposition —in other cases have so completely failed, having met with so little support either in their principle or details, that the long-continued experience of your weakness is the foundation of the resolution which I move? I say, then, that constitutional precedent, that the records of history, with one exception, and that the case of '83, not analogous to the present, support my proposition—that Ministers not possessing the confidence of the House of Commons have felt it their duty to relinquish office. I say again, that the authority of public men and public writers comes in aid of historical precedent. The authority of Mr. Burke, the authority of Mr. Fox, the authority at least of all who have advocated the popular principles of representative Government, are in unison with my opinions on this point, and confirm the position I have laid down. Take the opinions of Mr. Burke. Mr. Burke, on the motion relative to the speech from the throne, said:—A House of Commons respected by his Ministers is essential to his Majesty's service. It is fit that they should yield to Parliament, and not that Parliament should be new modelled until it is fitted to their purposes. If our authority is only to be held up when we coincide in opinion with his Majesty's advisers, but is to be set at nought the moment it differs from them, the House of Commons will sink into a mere appendage of administration, and will lose that independent character which, inseparably connecting honour and reputation with the acts of this House, enables us to afford a real, effective, and substantial support to his Government. It is the difference shown to our opinion, when we dissent from the servants of the Crown, which alone can give authority to the proceedings of this House when it concurs with their measures.That was the opinion of Mr. Burke. What was the opinion of Mr. Fox? He said:—That it was true, that the most solid and 813 incontrovertible basis upon which a Government could be built, was the confidence of the House of Commons. He meant, that cordiality and union, that constituted the spring of the House of Commons; and it was the confidence in the House of Commons which gave energy and effect to every administration. However disagreeable the issue, it must be imputed to those who thought themselves wiser than the House of Commons, and they alone must answer for it.But did Mr. Fox say, it was the duty of a Minister never to differ from the House of Commons? Did he not, on the contrary, arrogate to himself the right of proposing measures he deemed necessary for the public welfare, notwithstanding the adverse opinion of the House? He said:He was far from meaning, that a Minister was never justifiable in differing from the House of Commons. No man was more likely so to differ than himself; but he would adhere to his own opinion, and when he found that the House differed from himself he would resign, and say to the House of Commons— Choose some other instrument to carry on the public business; I am no longer fit to serve you.'Such were the opinions of Mr. Burke and Mr. Fox. I 'will now refer to another high constitutional authority — no other than the noble Lord himself, as expressed in that work to which I have before referred, and now refer again with the most sincere respect, as containing a most moderate, dispassionate, and able view of the British Constitution. The passage I am about to quote, be it remembered, is no hasty expression, uttered by the noble Lord during the heat and excitement of debate, it is the calm and deliberate opinion of the noble Lord, delivered in his character of a writer or. the constitution of the country, upon the relative position of the Crown and the House of Commons. The noble Lord says:—The accession of George 1st was the era when Government by party was fully established in England. During the reign of William, Whigs and Tories had been employed together by the King; and although the distinction of a Whig Ministry and a Tory Ministry were more decidedly marked during the reign of Anne, yet Marlborough and Godolphin, who formed great part of the strength of the Whig Ministry, were Tories; and Harley and St. John, who put themselves at the head of the Tory Administration, had held, a short time before, subordinate offices Under the Whigs. But the complete downfall of the Tory Administration, who had signed the peace of Utrecht, and the well-founded 814 suspicion, which attached to the whole party' of favouring the claims of James 2nd's son, placed George 1st entirely in the hands of the Whigs. At the same period, the financial difficulties which followed the winding up of the war, and the great practical talents of Walpole as a statesman, contributed to give a greater importance to the House of Commons than ever, and to place within that House, if I may so express myself, the centre of gravity of the State. From the doctrine of the responsibility of Ministers it follows, that they ought to enjoy the confidence of the Commons, otherwise their measures will be thwarted, their promises will be distrusted, and, finding-all their steps obstructed, their efforts will be directed to the overthrow of the constitution.''The noble Lord says, that "from the doctrine of the responsibility of Ministers it follows that they ought to enjoy the confidence of the House of Commons;" and he justly describes, in powerful language, the consequences which would follow from departing from the constitutional rule. He says:—Otherwise their measures will be thwarted their promises will be distrusted, and, finding all their steps obstructed, their efforts will be directed to the overthrow of the constitution.Now, although the noble Lord is in office, yet I will not take so extreme a view as he has taken of the consequences of persevering in such a course. It may not follow, that the Ministers being obstructed will meditate "the overthrow of the Constitution," but those other evils, that the noble Lord has spoken of must necessarily and inevitably follow, as the consequences of endeavouring to govern by a minority in the House of Commons. You cannot, in this country restrict the influence of party. You may say, "why meet this Government by party opposition." Why not lend them your cordial and hearty support, without reference to their merits, and thus enable them to go on. Why, the noble Lord himself has properly scouted such doctrines. The noble Lord said:—From the collisions of party arise the energy and vital principle of the constitution, and of popular government. (The noble Lord added) I never find any persons denouncing these party animosities and conflicts, except mock philosophers, effeminate men, and sentimental women.The natural and unavoidable consequences of attempting to govern by a minority were the consequences I met with. Upon almost every night my pro- 815 ceedings were obstructed. On every committee of supply, I met with some motion which prevented my proceeding with the public business; and at length I was compelled to yield. While party influence and party connections remain in this country, such will be the case; but this I will say, of all Administrations that ever existed, considering the relative position of minorities or majorities, whichever it may be, never Government met with less obstruction than the present. Never Government had less of factious or mere petulant opposition. Without encouraging extravagant apprehensions then as to the overthrow of the constitution, this, I say, that practical experience proves to us, that the noble Lord is right, that there will be great evils, absolute, unavoidable evils, in the administration of public affairs, resulting from the inversion of the constitutional rule, and the attempt to govern without a sufficient majority in this House. Look at the noble Lord's experience in the administration of affairs since he held office. Let me take the present Parliament, let me instance three measures—one in its commencement, one in its maturity, and a more recent one supposed to be towards its close. First of all, let me take the history of the appropriation clause, then the Jamaica Bill, and lastly, the case of the sugar duties: and can I see what has taken place on these three questions without coming to the conclusion that the authority of the House of Commons is not supported by the course which has been pursued? I never taunted the noble Lord for abandoning the appropriation clause. I thought he was placed in a situation of necessity, which upon the whole made it advisable for the public interests that there should be a settlement of the tithe question without the appropriation clause, but can I conceal from myself, that this necessity arose out of the weakness of the Government—that it arose out of a want of confidence on the part of the House of Commons, which left to the Government no other alternative but to recede from the most express engagement, or, by insisting on that engagement to sacrifice great public interests? Then, look to the Jamaica Bill. Do I want the most conclusive proof of the evil consequences likely to arise upon that question on account of its abandonment by the Government? The Government brought in a 816 bill, the object of which was to extinguish representative Government in the colony of Jamaica. It failed. We opposed them. They were compelled to bring in another bill in conformity with our recommendations. But what was the statement of the evils anticipated from that course by the noble Lord, the Secretary of State for the Colonies, and the noble Viscount at the head of the Government? The noble Lord opposite said:—It is obvious, that in Jamaica the authority of the Crown will be greatly weakened by any vote of the House of Commons giving support to the contumacy of the Assembly of Jamaica against the proposition of the Ministers of the Crown. (He said.) In continuing in the administration of affairs, not having a sufficient degree of confidence and support to carry on those affairs efficiently in this House, we should be exposing to jeopardy the colonies of this country.Lord Melbourne said:—The Jamaica Bill was of paramount indispensable importance, for the great objects of emancipation, and the vote of the House of Commons was fatal to that measure. Not only so, but it indicates with sufficient clearness and distinctness, such a want of confidence on the part of a great body in the other House, as to render it absolutely impossible that we should continue to administer the affairs of her Majesty's Government in a manner useful and beneficial to the country.That is the opinion which you yourselves give as to the degree in which the colonial interests were to be compromised by the attempt to govern without a sufficient majority in the House of Commons. Take, again, the case of the sugar duties. Can you, or can any man, say, that the position of the Chancellor of the Exchequer was a satisfactory or becoming position? After the grounds on which that measure had been advocated—after the importance which had been attached to it—after the expectations of relief which were held out in consequence of its adoption— was it a course calculated to exalt the authority of the House of Commons to find the Chancellor of the Exchequer on Thursday last, having been overruled in his propositions, after the declaration of the Judge Advocate, that we must consider the Budget as a whole—was it becoming in the Chancellor of the Exchequer to move without a word of explanation the adoption of the existing sugar duties? I say that those measures to which I have referred, and which are but specimens 817 and examples, are conclusive proofs that the evils which the noble Lord prophetically anticipated, as arising from the thwarting and obstruction of the Government, have been practically realized, as we ourselves have had the opportunity of observing. Is this for the credit of the House of Commons? Is this for the maintenance of its authority as one of the constituent branches of the Legislature? Alas! no. It may appear to a superficial observer, that it is a proof of the strength of the prerogative of the Crown, that it should be able to support its Ministers without a majority of the House of Commons. But that is an imperfect and mistaken view. The interests of the Crown and the interests of the House of Commons are identical. You cannot strike a blow at the House of Commons in its just and legitimate authority, without, at the same time, striking a blow at the monarchy of this country. But can it be said to add to the authority of the monarchy, that its Ministers and Representatives, who counsel measures in this House on the authority of the Crown? Can it be supposed that the sorry triumph of being maintained in power by the Crown is a compensation for the delays, for the spectacle of insufficiency and want of authority in the Government we have recently beheld? It may be said, "True, we may not have the confidence of the House of Commons, but, perhaps, as Mr. Pitt was able to say, though Mr. Fox denied it, if we fail in the House of Commons, there are sufficient indications that we possess the confidence of the country. First, however, I should say with Mr. Fox, it is dangerous to admit any other recognised organ of public opinion than the House of Commons. It is dangerous to set up the implied or supposed opinions of constituencies against their declared and authorized organ, the House of Commons. The House and the constituencies should not be brought into this unseemly contest. But if you deny the force of that argument—if you hold that it is right to refer to the opinions of the constituencies—can you, I ask, show me, in the elections that have recently taken place, any just ground for the boast that the confidence withheld from you by the House has been extended to you by the constituencies of the empire? I know not exactly how many vacancies have occurred since the commencement of the 818 present Parliament; I believe them to have been upwards of one hundred, but this I can say with confidence, that upon the general balance there have been twenty elections in which there have been changes of the former Members, and of those twenty, embracing large towns, boroughs, agricultural districts, in fact, every kind and description of constituency, out of those twenty in which changes have taken place, sixteen have been averse to you, and four only have been in your favour. So that upon the whole in those places where changes have taken place during the present Parliament there has been a positive loss of not less than twelve Members. I say, then, whatever may be the object you expect from an appeal to the people, if that be the course you are meditating, you have no right to say from the result of the elections hitherto, that the opinion of the constituencies differs from that of their representatives. I know it will be said, that all my general doctrines may be true—that it is right under ordinary circumstances, that Ministers should have the confidence of the House of Commons; "but there are special and peculiar circumstances," her Majesty's Ministers might say, "that except us from the ordinary rule, and entitle us to continue in office." Now, it is perfectly obvious that this plea will apply in fact to all times. Who can deny, that in the important position of this country, with such complicated affairs to be administered, there must be at all times special and peculiar circumstances connected with the Executive Government of the day, and that you (the Government), being the judges, will be enabled to discover special and peculiar circumstances, why you should be exempted from the ordinary principle, so that, in fact, there will be no limit to the application of that principle? The men who have to determine are not quite impartial judges as to the urgency of the circumstances which constitute the special case. Perhaps, however, it may be said that you contemplate an appeal to the people, and that you are holding office for the purpose of making that appeal. I know nothing whatever upon that subject. As a Member of the House of Commons, I can have no evidence of the intentions of the Crown. But I see you repeatedly in minorities; I see indications that you have not the confidence of this House. I know 819 that you have power, at any time, to dissolve—I know, too, that you can choose the most favourable time for a dissolution. No doubt that is the prerogative of the Crown, a prerogative of a delicate nature for the House of Commons to meddle with. But all this does not relieve me from the performance of what I conceive to be a duty in calling upon the House of Commons to say, if her Majesty's Government possess their confidence or not. And here, too, I will say, that I shall have no additional confidence if, after exciting the public mind upon such a subject as the sustenance of the people, you then make your appeal to the country by a dissolution. I believe that you are not, by that course, advancing the measure which you advocate. I do not under-rate the power of clamour. I do not Underrate the evils arising out of the conflict of opposing parties. I do doubt your power to carry that law, as I doubt your power to carry a proposal of a shilling a bushel fixed duty. Although I have no right to anticipate the decision of the House upon the Corn-law, but I appeal to any rational man whether he does not concur with me in this conclusion, that you are bringing forward your measure without a hope of being able to Carry it, or of procuring, the assent of the present House of Commons to your proposition; that you bring it forward (I will not say with the purpose, but the certain effect of your proceeding will be) to produce, by the increased agitation of the public mind, an indisposition to look at any settlement of the question. Nevertheless, you may say, you conceal your intentions with respect to a dissolution, and that, after taking a debate on the Corn-laws, you reserve to yourselves the power of appealing to the people. I disregard that consideration altogether, as a reason why I should not bring forward the present motion, and I am fortified in this conclusion by the course which you yourselves took with respect to a measure scarcely less important than that of the Corn-laws—I allude to the bill relative to the Poor-laws. You propose, without having, as I think; sufficient authority as a Government, to submit to the consideration of the House an important measure on the subject of the Corn-laws; and yet you, at the same time, notify your intention not to proceed with the consideration of another measure connected with the Poor- 820 laws of the country which you profess to think of essential importance. And on what ground do you withhold this measure from the consideration of the House? I have your own authority—a statement from your own mouth—as to the grounds on which you withhold from discussion in the House of Commons the question of the Poor-laws, which you professed to regard as one of paramount importance. The noble Lord opposite stated, that "in the present state of affairs, he thought it better not to proceed with the Poor-law Amendment Bill;" and on what ground? "In the first place," said the noble Lord; "there would be a protracted discussion without any final result." That is the ground Which you urged to the House of Commons as a reason for withdrawing from its cognizance the question of the Poor-laws — "a protracted discussion without any final result." If this is your anticipation with respect to the Poor-laws, may I not venture on a similar anticipation as to the Corn-laws? If I deviate from strict form—if I am unobservant of technicalities in anticipating a discussion on the Corn-laws, do not you fall in the same error in making prophecies in respect to a discussion on the Poor-laws? You think that that is a legitimate ground of action—you expect that there will be long discussion without final result on the Poor-laws—I anticipate the same with respect to the Corn-laws. Nay, you proceeded to prophecy —In the next place, with the expectation that every hon. Member seemed to have, that he was to account for his conduct on the hustings.The noble Lord opposite, thought" there would be a great many motions, and a great many speeches made, intended rather for the hustings than for any useful purpose of legislation." The Poor-law Bill, then, was stated to be withdrawn, not on account of the unpopularity of the measure, not because its discussion in the House of Commons might inconvenience Members at an election, but on the ground, "that there would be long discussions without any final result; and "Members would make speeches rather for the hustings than for any useful purposes of legislation." This was the ground en which the Poor-law Bill was abandoned; but the Corn-law question is to be persevered in. Is there any more prospect of a final result from the discussion of this subject? Is 821 there less expectation of long speeches— any greater reason to anticipate that the speeches delivered will be spoken more with a view of convincing the judgments of hon. Members in this House, than for the purpose of conciliating the favour of the constituencies whom the speakers might represent in agricultural or manufacturing districts?
I have been given to understand—but I can scarcely believe it—that her Majesty's Government, in proposing an alteration of the Corn-laws for the consideration of the House, intend, when the result of the discussion is known, to appeal to the people. If an appeal to the country be made on such a question, so far from tending in the slightest degree to remedy the depression of trade, and to calm the agitation and increase confidence in the public mind, it will, according to my firm belief, only serve, by suspending the operation of all the ordinary retail dealings of this metropolis—by leaving in a state of uncertainty for months to come what the ultimate decision of the House of Commons would be on the subject of the Corn-laws, to aggravate the evils already connected with the stagnation of commerce, and throw an effectual obstacle and impediment in the way of the revival of its prosperity. And, therefore, as I said before, if 1 had the perfect assurance—which you cannot give me—that it is your intention to bring forward a discussion on the Corn-laws, so far from that being a reason why I should not press my motion to a division, I should regard it only as an additional ground for doing so.
There are many other reasons, which I might state as a justification of my present motion, but I do not intend to enter on them. I rest my proposition to-night on constitutional grounds. I think I have sufficiently proved that "Her Majesty's Ministers do not sufficiently possess the confidence of the House of Commons, and their continuance in office, under such circumstances, is at variance with the spirit of the constitution." I reserve all other grounds. I have a want of Confidence in them, on account of their administration of the finances of the country. I think that our embarrassment, with respect to the finances, mainly arises from the same cause as has brought on the general embarrassment of the country—the attempt on the part of the Ministers to administer the Government without possessing the 822 confidence of the House of Commons. I do not believe, if they had possessed the confidence of the House of Commons, that they would, in the face of an increasing expenditure—in the face of an increasing deficiency (not of a decreasing revenue, comparing the expenditure with the revenue)—I do not believe that they would have incurred the risk, nay en-encountered the certain evil, of losing 1,200,000l. of revenue by the Post-office Bill. I believe that it was the same cause which led you to abandon that Post-office revenue as induces you to have recourse to the expedient to which you have now resorted.
Your weakness is the cause. I believe your weakness is the cause of your constant oscillations between Conservative opinions on this side of the House, and antagonist opinions on the other. You found it necessary to conduct the Government on Conservative principles; and in making the attempt you encountered the opposition and forfeited the confidence of Gentlemen on your own side of the House. It became necessary for you to re-establish yourselves in their opinion; and you discovered that some measure must be had recourse to, like that of the Post-office Bill, for the purpose of recovering their favourable opinion. When was it that the Post-office Bill was introduced? After your failure on the Jamaica Bill. I cannot dive into your intentions—these things may not stand in the relation of cause and effect; but it was a remarkable circumstance that, after your defeat on the colonial question, you did resort to that measure which I deprecated at the time and opposed; not that I denied that advantages might arise in many respects from the reduction of the Post-office duty, but because I thought we could not afford to hazard a revenue of 1,600,000l., and because I did not believe that your resolution, that "you would supply the deficiency by increased taxation," would be listened to with any great favour. I do believe it is the same cause now—your weakness—which has impelled you to propose a budget which has only had the effect of disturbing the country. When you say that your object in proposing these measures is to supply the deficiency in the revenue, you do not explain to us how that hope is to be fulfilled. The Chancellor of the Exchequer never explained to us whether he expected to 823 recover the 1,400,000l. or 1,600,000l. lost in the Post-office, by the imposition of a fixed duty upon corn. It is necessary that that point should be explained, for unless the admission of foreign corn at a fixed duty of Is. per bushel, will secure a revenue of 1,600,000l., the Budget of the Chancellor of the Exchequer is worth nothing—literally worth nothing at all. [It was intimated that the calculation of the Chancellor of the Exchequer was to raise only 400,000l. from the admission of foreign corn.] I understand the calculation to be 1,600,000l. but whether it were so calculated or not, it is plain that the revenue derived from the admission of foreign corn must be at least equal to that sum, if the deficiency in the revenue is to be supplied; for as the Chancellor of the Exchequer estimates the amount of the Customs for the present year at the same amount as the Customs of last year, and as 1,100,000l. or 1,200,000l. of the Customs' revenue of last year, was derived from the admission of corn, it is clear that his calculation, to be just, must be upon the anticipation of deriving somewhere about 1,600,000l. from the admission of foreign corn in the present year. Now, with respect to the duties on timber. I have seen an answer returned by Lord Sydenham to a deputation which waited upon him on this subject; what does Lord Sydenham say? I have no official information on the subject. [An observation was made by Lord John Russell.] Surely the noble Lord does not mean to draw a distinction between a private letter written by him, saying "we are going to bring forward the timber duties," and an official despatch in which the same intelligence was conveyed in a more formal manner. Surely the noble Lord will not insist upon the distinction to be drawn between an intimation made upon large paper and one made upon small paper—the one being marked "private" the other bearing upon its cover the stamp of official business. But Lord Sydenham says, that if the Government should bring forward the timber duties, it will be his imperative duty to urge that due regard be had to all existing interests, and that ample time be given to vested interests to dispose of them, and to provide for the transfer of their property to some other branches of trade. If that be the case— if that imperative duty be imposed upon Lord Sydenham—will it be possible to 824 realise, in the course of the present year, the revenue you anticipate from an alteration of timber duties? But it is not my intention to enter into detail. I reserve altogether my opinion upon this and other measures of administration. I reserve altogether my opinion upon China. I will only say, that upon that question I can give you no confidence. I cannot conceive a position more fraught with anxiety as to the moral influence of England, not only in China, but throughout the whole of the Indian empire, than that which we now occupy, as far as our present information goes, in that quarter of the world. Upon other great questions, such as our relation with America, and with France, I retain the opinions I have previously expressed. I have viewed our alienation from France with feelings of deep regret, and without entering further into the subject I may state, that notwithstanding the brilliant exploits of our fleets and armies, I yet entertain the opinion, that it would have been possible to have effected everything that British and continental interests required in a manner that would have been reconcileable with such a mode of proceeding towards France as would have avoided the excitement of so bitter a feeling towards us in that country, the consequence of which has been, the unproductive expenditure of a vast amount of capital in making preparations for war, and the generation of a feeling in the French mind which, I fear, will for some time prevent the re-establishment of those friendly relations between France and this country, which I sincerely wish to be permanent, and which, I believe, to be one of the most essential foundations for the permanent peace and tranquillity of Europe. But into these considerations I will not enter; because I wish mainly to urge the constitutional ground upon which my motion is founded. Confining myself to that ground, and maintaining silence upon all others, I dare say I shall be met by the taunt, that I have brought forward no scheme of comprehensive policy of my own. I shall be told that this is a decisive motion—that I might possibly have concealed my opinions when I was discussing the sugar duties, but that when I invited the House to concur in a motion of this kind, I ought to be prepared with some declaration of public opinion upon all questions of public interest and national importance. To that 825 I answer—Where is the man that has more explicitly declared than I have, his opinions upon all the great constitutional questions that have of late years been raised—upon the ballot—upon the extension of the suffrage—upon the shortening the duration of Parliaments? Have I ever withheld my opinions upon any one of those great questions. The hon. Member for Finsbury says to me, "Make a bidding against the Government. Outbid the Government ! Propose something further than the Government, and then you shall have the support of Gentlemen of extreme opinions like myself." I shall do no such thing. I make no bidding for popular applause. I maintain my opinions upon the great constitutional questions to which I have referred, and I shall not, for the purpose of filching some support from the Government on the present occasion, indicate opinions at variance with those which, in the course of discussions upon those individual questions, I have constantly expressed. Did I not, when a question like the present was last under the consideration of the House, did I not, upon the vote of confidence last year, fully and explicitly state my views with respect to all the ordinary subjects of legislation? Have I not, when any question has been brought forward, whether church reform, church rates, or any other question of important public interest, invariably expressed my opinions in plain and explicit terms? What is the public question of ordinary legislation in respect to which any rational doubt can be entertained as to my views? I certainly draw a distinction between financial questions, and ordinary matters of policy. I stated the other night—I stated explicitly, that I would not express any opinion upon the financial condition of the country; and I repeat now—giving you the full advantage of that expression of my opinion —that if I were called to power to-morrow, I would claim the right (for it was in that sense I used the expression) deliberately to review the financial position of the country, and that I would not be forced into any precipitate measures for the purpose of extricating the Exchequer from its present difficulty. These are the grounds upon which I submit, with confidence, my resolution to the House of Commons. I never have been a flatterer of the House of Commons. I never have encouraged the House of Commons in 826 any attempt to carry measures which I thought would have the effect of unduly increasing its own privileges and power, at the expense of the prerogative of the Crown. The very last occasion on which I gave a vote, was in support of her Majesty's Government, in their attempt to resist a motion, which, in their opinion, would have the effect of unduly encroaching upon the prerogative of the Crown. I did what I could lo support the Crown's prerogative; but my example was not followed by many Members of her Majesty's Government. I did what I could to resist the attempt of the House of Commons to interfere with the undoubted prerogative of the Crown. That attempt, Sir, was defeated by your single vote. You were the single obstacle to a motion, which, in your opinion, would amount to an interference with the prerogative of the Crown. You, Sir, though the organ of the House of Commons, had the manliness, which I expected from the consistency of your conduct; yes, Sir, you had the manliness to interpose your single but exalted and effectual authority against a measure, which you deemed injurious to the principles of the constitution. I expected that vote, and I expected the declaration of principle upon which it was given. But when I saw how great had been the risk, I could not but feel confirmed in my opinion, that the prerogative of the Crown was not safely protected by a Government, which, even with the aid that I, assisted by my friends, could lend them, could command only an equality of votes upon a question of so much importance, and were obliged to call upon the Speaker to save them from the disgrace of defeat, upon a matter in which the prerogative of the Crown was directly concerned. But, although I have resisted, and always will resist, any unconstitutional attempt on the part of the House of Commons, to trench upon the prerogative of the Crown, I have yet endeavoured to maintain in the House of Commons, every just principle to which it could lay a claim. I supported the noble Lord (Lord J. Russell) last year in defence of the privileges of the House of Commons. I might, upon that occasion, have been seduced by the temptation of party advantage, to take a different course. As it was, I had to encounter the pain of differing from, perhaps, a majority of my friends. But I thought that vital interests—that important powers 827 were at stake, and I was determined that I would not, to conciliate the favour and affection of my own esteemed friends, put to hazard the legitimate privileges of the House of Commons, and subject the House of Commons to the control of a court of law. I know that it is imprudent and unwise to advert to these things. I know that it would be more politic on my part to conceal these differences with my friends. But I will be guilty of no such concealment. I differed from them and voted against them, from a sincere belief, that it was absolutely necessary for the vindication of the privileges of the House of Commons, nay, that it was essential to our existence as a legislative body, that we should have the power of free publication. Why should I shrink from a reference to the opinions I then expressed, and the vote I then gave? Is it not rather a subject of pride with me that I can be permitted to take my own independent view as to the vital privileges of the House of Commons, and yet that due justice shall be done to my motives, and that I shall again be able to rally around me in the bond of common connection and common esteem, those Friends from whom I happen upon this particular question to differ. Acting in conformity with these views, which teach me to resist the encroachment of the House upon the prerogative of the Crown, and yet to maintain far the House itself its legitimate influence in the State, I think I may fairly conclude that the House of Commons has a right to expect that the Minister of the Crown, who is alike the proper guardian of the royal prerogative and of Parliamentary privilege, should possess its confidence. This present House of Commons has been constituted and moulded upon the views of the noble Lord the Member for Stroud (Lord J. Russell). The noble Lord was the author of the bill by which this House of Commons was constituted. It was the noble Lord who thought it expedient to abolish the system of nomination boroughs. It was the noble Lord who thought it expedient to introduce more of popular spirit into the constitution of this House—to make it correspond more with the progress of popular intelligence, and with the advance of knowledge. To achieve this the noble Lord thought that we ought to make the House more an image of the public opinion—an assembly mote sympathizing with the people—more 828 originating from the people;—more expressive of the public view. This House of Commons, thus constituted according to the views of the noble Lord—this House of Commons had the advantage (if it could be so considered) of being elected under the noble Lord's auspices; and whatever benefit there may be from having had its election at the time when her gracious Majesty came to the throne of these kingdoms, that benefit also the noble Lord was possessed of. Yet this House of Commons so constituted, so elected under the auspices of the noble Lord—this House of Commons it is that has given, as I think, sufficient indications that it withholds its confidence from the Government of which the noble Lord is a conspicuous member.—I trust I have executed this duty in conformity with the spirit in which I intended to execute it—with none of that asperity of party which I may sometimes be betrayed into when rising at the end of a debate to speak under the excitement and agitation which naturally belong to that period of our deliberations. It has not been my intention to treat with disrespect those who hold the executive offices of Government, but it has been my intention to say to the Government, it is your duty to the House of Commons—if it has those additional claims upon public confidence which you ascribe to it—if it embodies more of the public spirit—Af it reflects more accurately the image of the public mind than those which have preceded it—it is your duty, your peculiar duty, not to deprive it of any of the legitimate influence which it possessed under other circumstances, and which you were the first to recognise, and to wish to extend.—Of this I am convinced, that if the House of Commons so constituted had ratified your decrees—had acted in conformity with your suggestions, you would have been the first to acknowledge its opinions with respect; and let roe tell you that when the House of Commons takes a different course, it is your bounden duty not to reject its decisions with scorn, because they are unfavourable to your views, and hostile to your continuance in power.
§ Lord Worsley
trusted that the House— considering the position in which he stood, having so lately felt it his duty to oppose the Government—woiddindulgehim whilst he made a few observations in reference to the speech just delivered by the right hon. 829 Baronet. Before he, did so, he certainly must tender to the right hon. Baronet his acknowledgments for the temperate manner in which he had laid the subject before the House, and for the example of calmness and moderation which he had so judiciously set—an example which he hoped the House would appreciate and follow. The right hon. Baronet seemed to found his motion upon two principal points; first, upon the constitutional point, and secondly upon various reasons upon which he assumed an absence of confidence in the Ministry. If he were not mistaken, many of the points upon which the right hon. Baronet now rested his motion of want of confidence in the Government, were under discussion as far back as 1839. That remark at least was true as regarded the Jamaica Bill and the Appropriation clause. He apprehended that what took place in 1839 could not be made the ground of such a motion as that now brought forward by the right hon. Baronet, seeing that since that time the House of Commons had carried a vote of confidence in favour of the present Ministry. Nothing, therefore, that preceded that vote, could be made a ground upon which to found a motion like that now under the consideration of the House. Another point upon which the right hon. Baronet seemed mainly to rely, was the financial embarrassment of the Chancellor of the Exchequer; and the right hon. Baronet complained that the Government had improperly given way to a pressure from without, when there was a general application throughout the country for the reduction of the large charges upon postage. Since that time, also, the House of Commons had agreed to a vote of confidence in the Ministry, and, if his memory did sot fail him, it was remarkable that more than one hundred of the Members who usually voted with the right hon, Baronet had supported the Government proposition for the reduction of postage, Considering the position in which he was placed, he hoped he might be allowed to state the reasons which induced him not to agree in the motion of the right hon. Baronet. The House was aware that he had almost always, except upon a very recent occasion, supported the policy of the present Government. He believed that policy in general to have been correct and just, and he was, therefore, satisfied that a, vote of want of confidence was uncalled for and undeserved. For, in his opinion, it would be most unwise in the House of Commons to express 830 a want of confidence, or to pass resolutions deprecatory of the conduct of Government founded upon one single isolated point of its policy: a motion of want of confidence ought to be founded, not upon a particular act, but upon the general policy of a Government. If he wanted an authority in support of the proposition, he would refer to the recorded opinion of the right hon. Baronet himself, for he found that when the noble Lord, the present Secretary of State for the Colonies, moved, in 1835, that no settlement of the Irish Church question could be satisfactory which did not involve the principle of the Appropriation clause, the right hon. Baronet used these words:—It would be difficult to conceive the existence of any Government, however perfect in its general policy, which should not make some errors, or adopt some individual course of policy which the House of Commons could not justify or approve of, if appealed to for its opinion; and then this evil would result to the country from our coming to a vote of partial approbation or condemnation, that we should leave the public in utter doubt and ignorance whether the House of Commons approved or not of the general conduct and policy of the Government.He quite agreed in those sentiments. He did not wish the House or the country to be left in any doubt as to his opinion of the general policy of the Government. He regretted most deeply the course they had lately taken. He thought, that the hon. Gentlemen opposite would remember, that it was only the other evening that he stated, that although it was painful to him to separate himself from the Government—. although he felt that his voting against them might probably transfer the power of Government to those who sat opposite, yet that upon the question of the Corn-laws he felt that he had only one course to pursue, and that whenever that question was brought forward, he should be compelled to repeat the vote which he had reluctantly, but conscientiously, given against them upon the sugar-duties. But then he could not but ask himself this question—whether, because he differed from the Government upon these isolated points of policy, he should, therefore, abandon all those principles upon which he conscientiously agreed with them? He conceived that he should be abandoning those principles if he voted in favour of the proposition now submitted to the House by the right hon. Baronet. He begged to ask also, how it could be expected that he should withdraw 831 his confidence from the present Government if he were not prepared to place confidence in any other? He would ask the hon. Gentlemen opposite what inducement there was to him, as the representative of an agricultural county, to support the right hon. Baronet? The right hon. Baronet had told the House that he was opposed to a fixed duty upon foreign corn, and that he was favourable to a sliding scale. But what security was there, that the right hon. Baronet would not himself propose a sliding scale, that would be as obnoxious to the agricultural interests as the fixed duty suggested by the present Ministry? He thought, that the agricultural interests, who were now so much alarmed at the proposition of the Chancellor of the Exchequer, would have good ground for a continuance of their alarm if they did not know what the right hon. Baronet was prepared to propose. The right hon. Baronet ought to let the agricultural interests know what extent of protection he intended to afford, in case of an alteration of the sliding scale. The public, as yet, were wholly uninformed upon that point. He thought, too, that persons connected with agriculture might reasonably entertain great doubt upon the subject, if the report which had reached him were true, namely, that there were two Consrveatives now started at Manchester, one of whom had held a situation of confidence under the Administration of the right hon. Baronet, Sir George Murray, and who now sought the suffrages of the electors of Manchester upon the assurance that he was favourable to a low fixed duty upon corn. As he had already stated, he approved of the general policy of the Government. They had seen the noble Lord, the Secretary for the Colonies, introduce measures for the purpose of carrying out the Reform Bill, for extending the education of the people, and they had seen all those measures opposed by the right hon. Baronet opposite. When he considered, that he himself had taken a strong part in support of the measures proposed by Government, he asked the House how it was possible for him to transfer his confidence to any Government that was likely to be formed? He had presented lately no less than 130 petitions, all of which, with the exception of eight or nine, prayed that there might be no alteration in the Corn-laws. The petioners stated, that they had heard with great alarm, and some stated with indignation, the proposals which had been intro- 832 duced by Government. And it might he supposed by Gentlemen opposite, that it was, therefore, his duty to aid in throwing the present Government out of office. He did not, however, think that he was called on to do so, for he felt certain that when the question of the Corn-laws was brought forward, they would be able to throw out the Government plan, and he would assist in throwing it out. His opinion was, that the Government were entitled to consider that they possessed the confidence of the House in their general policy. If they were so entitled, how, he would ask, were they doing anything unconstitutional in retaining office. The right hon. Baronet opposite had alluded to several administrations that had resigned when they thought that they did not possess the confidence of the House, and among the rest to his own resignation in 1835. The right hon. Baronet had been beaten on the election of the Speaker by ten, and on the address by seven. The right hon. Baronet had been beaten four times on Irish Church questions. He begged to call to the recollection of the right hon. Baronet, that he said on that occasion, not on the ground of consistency, but because he thought the Tithe question could not be postponed,There may be points on which the House of Commons may come to a different conclusion from that of the Government; it may do so on an abstract question, and that a question of great importance, but still such as to admit of postponement; and there may be cases where it would be possible for a Government, even in opposition to the House of Commons, to conduct the administration of public affairs; but you cannot leave the Tithe question in its present state.On such grounds, then, he did not think that he could be accused of acting an inconsistent part. Although he had opposed Government the other day in one branch of their policy, yet having ever since he sat in that House approved of their general policy, he did not consider that he was acting inconsistently in refusing to withdraw his confidence in the Government, even although he could not give his consent to all the measures which they had brought forward. Some hon. Members seemed to think, that as the proposals of Government in regard to the Corn-laws had caused a great degree of irritation among the fanners, it was his duty as one of their representatives to vote for the motion of the right hon. Baronet opposite. It is possible, that during the 833 present irritation the farmers might wish him to give such a vote, but he thought, that when they came to consider the question in their calmer moments, that they would be of a different opinion—more especially when they recollected that the motion, if successful, might take the administration of affairs out of the hands of the Government, which had always attempted to carry out the principles of reform, and place it in the hands of those who had on all occasions endeavoured to prevent the freedom of election, and who had refused to increase the franchise in Ireland, although it was well known that the franchise was gradually diminishing. When the farmers considered these things—when they saw that the transferring of power to the Gentlemen opposite would have the effect of preventing all measures of reform from being carried out, he did not think that they would consider their representatives justified in opposing the general policy of Government for the purpose of showing their spite and their pique against it.
§ Mr. Christopher
was induced to rise in consequence of the observations made by the noble Lord who had just sat down. He confessed himself surprised at the speech which the noble Lord had ventured to address to the House, considering, that it was only on Friday last, that the noble Lord, in conjunction with himself, had attended a large, influential, and unanimous meeting of their constituents, convened by the high sheriff of the county, and held in the castle-yard of Lincoln. He ventured to tell the noble Lord, that not a person attended on that occasion who did not depart from the meeting under the conviction, that the noble Lord had withdrawn his confidence from the Government. What species of delusion had come over the senses of his noble Friend since he left the county of Lincoln he was unable to explain, nor could he understand how the air of the City of London could be more favourable to the doctrines of free trade and confidence in Ministers than the air of the county of Lincoln. He would take the liberty of reminding the noble Lord of an expression he made use of at that meeting in a most emphatic manner, and which was loudly cheered. The noble Lord stated, "That as Government were prepared to overthrow the agricultural interest, he was prepared to overthrow the Government." That there might be no 834 misunderstanding on this point, he took the liberty of addressing his constituents after the noble Lord, and in the course of his address he gave the noble Lord credit for having deserted a party with whom he had been so long accustomed to act. The noble Lord did not contradict the declararation which he (Mr. Christopher) then made, although it was true, that he had so far qualified his statement in regard to the certain measures supported by the right hon. Baronet the Member for Tamworth, who he considered as about to take office, and in whom he declared he could not by any possibility place his confidence. Notwithstanding this, he ventured to say, that no person who attended that meeting —and he had afterwards conversed with several of the noble Lord's supporters— who did not go away in the firm and solid conviction, that if any motion of want of confidence was made in that House, the noble Lord would be among those who supported it. He had no intention of entering into the discussion of the evening, but he had no hesitation in saying, that he thought the right hon. Baronet the Member for Tamworth was fully justified, on constitutional grounds, in making the motion which he had brought forward. What had been the conduct of Government? They had introduced measures which they were unable to carry—they had been completely foiled in some of those measures— some of them, such as the Poor-law Bill, they had withdrawn in anticipation of a dissolution, well knowing the unfavourable effect which the passing of that measure might have on the constituency at large. It would be an insult on the understanding of the agricultural constituency to suppose, that they would attach any weight to the arguments of the noble Lord, that he would support the Government because of their general policy, but that he would not support them on the question of the Corn-laws. That he would vote against them on that particular question, but that he would support them on every other. Was not that giving his confidence to Government? Was not that a sort of passive confidence, which would enable them to come forward at some future period with greater strength in support of a measure, by means of which they were creating an agitation throughout the country, particularly among the large masses of the manufacturing population, with a view not only to obtain a majority in that House, but 835 also with the intention of carrying into effect that very measure in which the noble Lord declared he could not support the Government. No agricultural constituency would ever acquiesce in such an argument. They maintained, that to give a vote of confidence in favour of Government would have the ultimate effect of enabling them to carry the very question which their representatives deprecated, and which would subvert the whole interests of the country, whether dependent on agriculture, manufactures, or commerce.
§ Lord Worsley,
though somewhat irregular, begged the indulgence of the House, while he explained what he had stated at the meeting alluded to by the hon. Member who had just sat down. On that occasion one of his constituents asked him the question whether he was willing to originate a motion himself, or would support one made by any other Member for a vote of want of confidence in Ministers? He would read the answer which he gave to that question. He said:—Although the meeting is called solely with regard to the Ministerial proposal for a fixed duty on foreign corn, and I might say that it would be out of the regular course of proceeding, to go into a question of politics, yet as I have always, since I have been your representative, acted towards you fairly and openly, and independently, so on the present occasion, I will do, and I can have no objection to answer the question of Mr. Brailsford. There must be many questions on which I think in the same manner as the present Government; it was difficult for me to withdraw my confidence from a Government which I had supported for ten years; but when I found them acting wrongly on the question of the Corn-laws, I was compelled to withdraw my support, because I thought there was no necessity whatever for the measure to be brought forward. I did not class together all the three subjects proposed; I opposed them on the sugar duties, because I found it stated, that a greater quantity of sugar was likely to be brought in next year, the production of our own colonies, by 60,000 tons, than our consumption; but it was on making the Corn-laws a question of taxation for the Budget that I withdrew my support. But having done so, in what Government am I to place reliance? The effect of our votes has been to create the probability of a transfer of power from those with whom we have usually acted. But do not let me from that circumstance mislead you into the belief, that I could place unlimited confidence in Sir Robert Peel. This would be acting a most inconsistent part. I have been opposed to very much of his policy; and if I were to turn round and join him, they 836 might justly say, that I had lost my temper, and was opposing those with whom I had acted for ten years politically, because I was piqued about their proposing an alteration of the Corn-law. I cannot, therefore, do that which would amount to such a declaration. There are other points also in which I disagree from him. I cannot go to alter that system of policy towards Ireland which I have so strenuously supported. I have always acted independent of party as your representative, and I have voted for such measures as I considered were best for the country. I believe, that on no one division of any importance have I been absent, because I have always thought it more manly to take a decided part, rather than keep away, as if I could not make up my mind how to vote. In withdrawing my support from the present Government, I am not pledged to any other; I have acted the part which I considered to be most consistent in my support of the Corn-laws, and I shall continue to follow the same line of conduct and general policy which I have done, since you sent me to the House of Commons, and which, I believe, has met with your approval.
§ Sir John Hobhouse
Mr. Speaker, I am happy that I gave way to the noble Lord (Lord Worsley) who has just sat down, as it has enabled him to give a most satisfactory explanation of the vote which he is about to give. Nothing can be more just—nothing more consistent than the course which the noble Lord is about to pursue: indeed, the contrary course would have been most unwise and unreasonable. The noble Lord differs from the Government on one point, it is true, and that point a very important one; but on account of that single difference, would it not be the height of imprudence to vote against the general character of that Government, to which, for so many years he has given his able and manly support? It would—and I trust the example of the noble Lord will be followed by others similarly circumstanced. At all events, the high character, the well-known long-tried patriotism, the station of that noble Lord, are such as to place his motives far, far above suspicion. I say this, because, when he was making his explanation, he was interrupted by ironical cheers from some of those charitable Gentlemen opposite, of the agricultural interest, who are in the habit of acting and talking as if they monopolised all the virtue as well as all the talents of the country. It is quite true, as the noble Lord has before remarked, that in opening this discussion 837 the right lion. Baronet (Sir Robert Peel) has not passed the bounds of temper and moderation; nor, in arraigning the conduct of the Government, has made use of any bitterness of language, nor indulged in any strain of condemnation of which we have a right to complain, or which his peculiar position, and the cause which he advocates, do not seem to require. But, in granting to him this merit, I must take the liberty of entirely dissenting from the main statement which he has endeavoured to make good by a reference to facts. I altogether and entirely dissent from the assertion that the Government has, on the whole, from the first moment of its existence to the present day, been unable to carry into effect the measures which they considered essential to the interests and well-being of the country. [A Laugh.] I hear a laugh from the same back bench opposite, from which proceeded the same mark of attention to my noble Friend, and am happy to perceive that the Member does me at least the honour of listening to me. I have the honour of some acquaintance with him (Lord Darlington), and flatter myself that he will agree with me when I say, that if in the contradiction which I have just given to the right hon. Baronet's assertion, there be anything which the good sense, the good feeling, the knowledge of facts possessed by the impartial part of the community, repudiates and denies, I shall be content, and ought to put up, with the laughter of that noble Member and all his friends; but, if the contrary be the case, and the general conviction of the nation be in unison with mine, then the ridicule, if any there be, must attach to those who have favoured me with this interruption. Sir, I repeat, the Government has not been, nor is, in the condition described by the right hon. Baronet. We have had to contend with many difficulties—more difficulties than ever beset a Government. When first formed in April, 1835, the right hon. Baronet took care to lend us his helping hand at the very outset of our career. He told the House and the country what was true enough, that we did not possess the confidence of the Crown; for, he said, that in resigning office, he and his Colleagues were honoured with the entire confidence of the Sovereign. The assertion of that fact, which now belongs to history, and which no delicacy renders it now inexpedient to deny, did, 838 as it was meant to do, add to the difficulties of our position at the commencement of our career. Every one must admit, that the cordial sympathy and support of the Sovereign is a great and essential element of strength to any administration. It is one of the first requisites of power; and this truth is felt, more perhaps by those who have it not, than by those who have it. [Sir James Graham appeared to dissent.] Of course I mean not to say that it is the only requisite; far from it. I have as much respect for Parliament as the right hon. Baronet. I look for its support with the same anxiety, and abide by its decision with the same respect, and acknowledge all its high privileges and powers with the same deference and submission as that right hon. Gentleman or any other Member; but, I again assert, that the cordial confidence and support of the Crown must be a source of strength and weight to any Ministers. That source of strength we had not when we first took office in 1835, nor did we enjoy it in the first years of our administration. Again, from the first moment down to this time, we have had to contend with a hostile House of Lords, a great and most powerful body, individually and collectively—not so much a concurrent as a rival branch of the Legislature, in so far as regarded us,—crushing and mutilating, or thwarting and delaying all our principal measures; scarcely enduring the common course of legislation, if proceeding from a House of Commons influenced by us. Yet with the Crown thus unfriendly in the first instance, and a House of Lords almost uniformly inimical, we have, I contend, been able to carry great measures, to work out our own policy, and to effect those reforms which we thought beneficial to the Stale. We came into office on the 17th of April, 1835, but did not begin the transactions of public business until June. Parliament closed in September, and in the interval we had passed the great measure of municipal reform for England and Wales. This was our first exploit—the first fruit of this barren, unproductive administration. In the Session of 1836, we passed the English Tithe Commutation Bill—a work often contemplated, sometimes attempted in vain—a work, which I recollect hearing described by one of the leading Members opposite, as of itself quite sufficient for the labour of a Session. But, besides 839 this important measure, we also passed, in 1836, the Births, and Deaths, and the Marriage Registration Bills—enactments of no small consequence, and which were regarded then, as they are now, as a great boon to the dissenting part of the community. In 1837, the demise of the Crown put a stop to active legislation in regard to our proposed reform's; but, in 1838, we settled the Irish Tithe Question. It is true, that settlement contained no affirmation of the abstract principle of appropriation. I dare say we shall be taunted for having given way on that point, and yet how often were we told by Gentlemen opposite, how often by the noble Lord the Member for North Lancashire (Lord Stanley), that we ought not to be prevented by false pride, or false shame, from abandoning that bone of contention, in order to secure the substantial benefit of putting the question to rest. In fact, by consent of friends, with acquiescence, at the time, of opponents, though at the risk of future misrepresentation, we resolved to take this step towards giving content to Ireland; and we carried the Irish Tithe Bill through both Houses of Parliament. In the next Session, that of 1839, our opponents were more upon the alert, and thought the victory their own; but, in spite of the occurrences of May, in that year, we passed measures, which in other times would have been esteemed of much magnitude. Take one for example, the County Constabulary Bill, (a Laugh) Gentlemen smile—was that nothing? Was that a trifling change; I am sorry to say, that it was not passed without great difficulty, and that the opposition to the rural police is alive and active to this day. In this Session, also, we passed the Reduction of Postage Bill, a measure of the greatest consequence; and, whether for good or for evil, involving important changes affecting the highest interests of society. I know the right hon. Baronet puts this measure down to the demerit side of our account; but let me remind him, that if we were wrong in this act, the mischief cannot be laid altogether to our door. Who contended strongly for it in the House of Lords? No less a man than Lord Ashburton, one of the right hon. Gentleman's own Cabinet. Who urged it in this House? Lord Lowther, also a Member of the same Administration? Who besides? No other than the noble Member for Liverpool (Lord Sandon), the 840 very mover of the recent famous resolution, the prime author of our boasted defeat. No less than twenty-nine of the usual supporters of the right hon. Baronet voted for the Postage Bill; and with them we must share the praise or share the blame. In the Session of 1840, we passed three most important bills. The long-contested Irish Municipal Bill, the Ecclesiastical Duties and Revenues Bill, and the Canada Union Bill. I perceive that Gentlemen opposite wish to take some credit to themselves for one or more of these measures. Sir, I do not deny that we had their partial assistance on these occasions. Certainly, and in the present state of parties, and in the present constitution of the House of Commons, no Government can carry anything without some acquiesence on the part of its opponents. Add to which, that the House of Lords can at any time obstruct any Administration, having much more power than we possess in this House. I have thus enumerated the principal measures which we have carried through Parliament since we have administered the affairs of the country, measures affecting the most important political reforms, and bearing upon the dearest interests of the empire. I say nothing of the ordinary business of Parliament, nor of the way in which the various departments of the State have been conducted. I say nothing of the great and complicated affairs which have been entrusted to the management of my noble Friend, the Foreign Secretary, and which have been so managed as to win for him the admiration of all Europe, and the reluctant approval even of the hon. Gentlemen opposite. Suffice it to say, that he has upheld the honour and the interests of the nation in every quarter of the globe. Such, Sir, has been the character and conduct of this Administration, and such, I will venture to say, was the impression as to this Administration at the beginning of this Session, both as respects domestic and foreign policy, that no one, no, not the right hon. Baronet himself, contemplated any such attack as has been now made upon it. The desire to injure and obstruct the Government was, of course, as lively as ever—the determination to upset it, if possible, as fixed as ever; but the common remark was, "Here is a great party resolved to turn out a Ministry against whose measures, either in mass or in detail, they cannot allege 841 one reasonable complaint." I repeat, no one would have dreamt of making such a motion as this at the beginning of the Session; and if, either by what we have done or by what we have not done, we deserve the condemnation which the right lion. Baronet wishes now to pass upon us, our sins and our incapacity must date only from that period. The right hon. Baronet chose to take a different view, and to attach to our whole career a character of incompetency. I have endeavoured to show, and I trust with success, that up to a very recent date we have been possessed of sufficient power to carry out our own policy, and that the charge made against us by the right hon. Baronet is unfounded and unjust. What, then, is the pretext for the assertion of the resolution, that we are not in possession of the confidence of this House sufficiently to enable us to carry measures which we consider of benefit to the public? The proceedings on the Irish Registration Bill were touched upon, but very slightly, by the right hon. Baronet—true, we were unable to carry that bill; but let me remind him, that we affirmed the principle of that bill by a small majority — small I admit, but still decisive, at least of one point, that the counter-bill of the noble Member for North Lancashire could not pass. If, then, we are to be condemned as powerless, because we cannot pass our Irish Registration Bill, what, let me ask, will be the sentence passed on the Gentlemen opposite, should they become Ministers, and attempt to pass their Irish Registration Bill? Why, if Parliament retains its expressed opinion, those Gentlemen, the new Ministry that is to be, will be, or ought to be, declared unworthy of confidence, and their continuance in office will be pronounced," under such circumstances" unconstitutional. I fully admit all the grave and inevitable consequences of the adverse vote, recently agreed to in favour of the resolution of the noble Member for Liverpool. I was not the least surprised at that vote. The motion was concocted, and the mode of bringing it forward contrived with admirable ingenuity and skill. There was the West-India body to begin—the East India to second the" attack—the heavy armed columns of the landed proprietors to bring up the rear and decide the conflict. The pretext was humanity—the motive self-interest—and the glorious end and aim 842 were the destruction of one Ministry and the restitution of another on its remains. And here I must be allowed to congratulate the House and the country, that the basis of the fabric from which we were assailed gave way almost at once—the wretched humanity pretext crumbled to pieces, and fell to the ground at the first shock of its own attack. This anti-slavery cry, originating with exactly the same parties as had raised the anti-opium cry of last year, met with the same but a more speedy fate. The anti-opium cry maintained a feeble life in this House, but was stifled in the House of Lords by one or two sensible remarks made by the Duke of Wellington and Lord Ellenborough. But it is now almost forgotten, and gone with this other short-lived offspring of mock humanity to the "tomb of all the Capulets." Yet so it is, that the main excuse, I might say the only excuse, for bringing forward this resolution of a want of confidence in Ministers, is the fact, that they were beaten the other day on the amendment against going into a Committee of Ways and Means, moved by the the noble Member for Liverpool. I do not mean to deny the importance of that defeat, but I do mean to deny what the right hon. Baronet ha3 just asserted so roundly, that previous administrations have uniformly thought it their duty to give way and resign, when defeated on similar occasions. The right hon. Baronet has alluded to the case of Sir Robert Walpole, but it seems to me, that if the example of that great statesman is to be cited at all, it tells more against than for the argument of the right hon. Baronet. Sir Robert Walpole resigned, after a series of defeats, upon a matter comparatively insignificant, and yielded to the coalesced operations, headed by the accomplished Pulteney, the Peel, if I may say so, of that day. The strange combination of parties, by which he was forced from office, scarcely survived the victory, having no fixed principles, and no common tie, except hatred of the ministry. The persons comprising the coalition soon differed amongst themselves, and when a new Government was formed, the nation found, to its cost, that it had gained nothing by the change. But had Walpole never brought forward a great financial measure, which he had been unable to carry? and did he resign upon any such failure? Gentlemen know that his Excise 843 Scheme was his favourite project, that he attached the greatest importance to it, that he declared it indispensable for meeting the exigiencies of the times. But he could not carry it. [Sir Robert Peel: He carried it in the Commons.] I know he carried it in the Commons, but the opposition to it in the Lords, and the clamour raised against it in the nation were so great, as to force him to abandon the measure. Did he resign? No such thing; nor is it known that any one thought he ought to resign on that occasion. Take more recent instances. I rather think the right hon. Baronet was a member of Lord Liverpool's Government: that Government, on the question of continuing the Property Tax, was beaten by a majority, I believe, of thirty-seven—a number which it seems ought to be fatal. Did Lord Liverpool's Government resign in consequence of that defeat? a defeat on a proposal to supply about twelve millions of revenue? There was no resignation, nor an attempt to force a resignation. Again, the same Government sustained a signal discomfiture in regard to the repeal of the Test and Corporation Acts. It is true the proposal was not made by themselves, but it was opposed by them as a Cabinet, the whole force of the Government was brought to bear against it in this House. The question was one of state policy, which had been agitated by some of the greatest men of former times — Mr. Fox had failed to carry the measure: it was a great reform. My noble Friend again proposed the repeal of these obnoxious statutes: the Government opposed him with its whole force; the result is known; it was the first of the many triumphs of my noble Friend in the cause of civil and religious liberty. Well, did the Government resign? Not at all, nor did any one ask them to resign on that account; and here I may be permitted to allude to that of which the right hon. Baronet has reminded the House, I mean the question which I put to him in 1830, when, after his defeat on the Civil List, I asked him if he intended to resign. Sir, that question was an indiscretion op my part, I confessed it to be so in my place in Parliament; and having made that apology for it, I should have thought that the right hon. Baronet might have had the generosity not to taunt me with it.— This brings me down to that part of the right hon. Baronet's own conduct, to 844 which, I must confess, it requires no little courage for him to allude on this occasion —I mean his short administration of 1834 and 1835. He takes credit to himself for having yielded to the opinion of the House of Commons, and resigned his office in deference to that opinion. True—he did resign; but did he resign so soon as he ought to have done? did he yield in time? did he yield at that time when, according to his own principle, as expounded by him to night, he ought to have yielded? Let us recall the facts. When the new Parliament, the right hon. Baronet's own Parliament, met in February, 1835, he proposed for Speaker the gentleman who had so long and so ably filled that office a favourite of the House; but he was opposed and beaten by a majority of ten. A more decisive sign of the feelings of the House towards him could scarcely be given, and he well knows that, in previous times of our parliamentary history, the struggle for the speaker's chair has often been a party struggle, the result of which has decided the character, and manifested the inclinations of the House. Did he resign? No.—What happened next? The right hon. Baronet, by mouth of a Friend, moved an address in answer to his Majesty's speech from the throne—An amendment was moved on that address — not a mere formal amendment—not an omission or insertion of unimportant words; but a substantive amendment, directly and expressly condemning the advice which the right hon. Baronet had given to the Crown, on that most important of all matters, the dissolution of the Parliament. Remember also that the Parliament of 1834 had been dissolved under peculiar circumstances. It had given to the Ministers just dismissed a majority of two hundred and forty or more. Indeed, the Duke of Wellington, speaking in July 1834, said, "the Ministerial majority is as strong as ever;" but Parliament was not sitting, and had pronounced no opinion on the new Government. The right hon. Baronet would not meet that Parliament. He advised the king to dissolve it, and it was dissolved. I do not deny his right to give this advice, any more than the right of the next Parliament to give an opinion on that advice. We know what that opinion was—it condemned the advice given by the right hon. Baronet in this most essential particular; and the House of Commons, by a majority 845 of seven, pronounced a verdict against the right hon. Gentleman—a verdict which amounted to a vote of no confidence as much as any vote could do; for even the most influential of the Gentlemen who voted with him declared, at the time, that in giving that vote, they did not mean to signify that he had their confidence. I allude to a declaration made at the time by the right hon. Member for Pembroke, or the noble Lord, the Member for North Lancashire. But, how did the right hon. Baronet act? Did he resign? Oh no—far from it: he said he should "persevere to the last." What occurred next? I shall not enlarge upon the appointment of Lord Londonderry to (he embassy to St. Petersburg, and to the cancelling of that appointment in consequence of the strong feeling manifested in this House. The right hon. Baronet now tells us, that had the House come to an adverse vote on that appointment he would have resigned; but he did not say this at the time, and after his patience in the choice of a Speaker, and on the address, it was not likely that we should guess that such was his determination. Indeed, we had no helps to come at that conclusion, for the right hon. Gentleman was again and again defeated, but still remained in office. He did get one majority oh the question of the Repeal of the Malt Tax, but that was when he was rescued from the assaults of the agriculturists by us—by the opposition. He was defeated on the Chatham Election petition by a majority of thirty-one, upon the Leicester Election Petition by a majority of sixteen, and on the address to the Crown for a charter for the London University by a majority of 110. Then followed the memorable discussions in regard to the Church of Ireland, when, after three signal defeats, the right hon. Baronet did, indeed, at last, resign. I think he would have done far better to have resigned after his defeat on the question of Speaker. (Cheers.) I understand those, cheers, and I repeat, that he would, in my opinion, have done far better to have resigned at once. I told him so at the time. He had not the confidence, nor could command a majority of the House on any occasion. A Minister, under such circumstances, must do one of two things: he must either resign, or he must follow the example of Mr. Pitt in 1784, he must advise a dissolution of Parliament. Con- 846 vince me that such is our position, and I shall pronounce the same opinion in regard to ourselves as I did in regard to the right hon. Gentleman. I repeat, that Gentleman never had the confidence of the constituent body, or of the House, from the day we left office in November, 1834, to the day when he quitted office, the 8th of April, 1835. The Parliament which was in existence, though not in Session, when the Duke of Wellington was holding all the seals of office before the right hon. Gentleman's arrival from Rome, was so hostile to him that he dared not meet it. What the constituent body was may be known by the elections to the Parliament of 1835:—what that Parliament was I have already shown. May I not, therefore, safely say, that, during the whole of this short Administration, the right hon. Baronet held office without the confidence of this House, and in direct defiance of that which his resolution of this day declares to be the principles of the Constitution. I reminded him of this at the time. To govern under such circumstances is unconstitutional. Mr. Fox said truly, "to govern against the wishes of this House is no government at all." [Cheers.] Gentlemen opposite cheer loudly at this as if we denied the truth of it, or acted, or meant to act, against it. I will say for myself, that nothing should induce me to hold office five minutes on such terms. I thing it wrong: I think it defenceless. The right hon. Baronet did so, and I say he acted unconstitutionally. He actually did what he charges us with an intention to do. He maintained himself in office long after he must have known that he could not carry the measures which he considered essential for the service and welfare of the country. My noble Friend (Lord John Russell) in 1835 said, the right hon. Baronet had taken a constitutional course. The right hon. Baronet caught at the encomium, as if applying to his whole course of proceeding; but my noble Friend must have confined the praise to his resignation, which I again affirm was too long, far too long delayed; which indeed, I repeat, ought to have taken place the day after Mr. Abercromby was placed in the chair of this House. The right hon. Baronet has alluded a good deal to the Parliamentary struggle of 1784. The history of that struggle, and the inferences to be drawn from it, seem to me directly opposed to the view now 847 taken by him. What then occurred? Mr. Pitt took office in 1783 (December), and from that time, so long as the Parliament lasted, that is until March, he was in repeated minorities, so many as thirteen or fourteen,* and these on questions of the utmost importance—votes of no confidence, of addresses to the Crown against him, of addresses against dissolution, of rejection of his great measure the India Bill. Did he resign? He did not. Mr. Fox and Mr. Burke attacked his conduct as unconstitutional. The right hon. Baronet has quoted their sentiments as if he disapproved of the conduct of Mr. Pitt—whereas, it turns out he thinks Mr. Pitt was justified in his resistance. I do not think he was justified; but, as the right hon. Baronet has quoted the great authorities of the party to which we belong, perhaps I may be permitted to cite the master of the school of which the right hon. Baronet is so distinguished a* December 22,1783.—Mr. Erskine: Address not to dissolve the Parliament. Agreed to.January 12, 1784.—Mr. Fox: For going into Committee on State of the Nation. Yeas 232; Noes 193—Majority 29.Same day.—Lord Surry: Address for an Administration having confidence of House and public. Agreed to.—No division.January 16.—Lord Charles Spencer: Resolution for removal of Ministers. Yeas 205; Noes 184—Majority 21.January 23.—Mr. Pitt's East-India Bill. Yeas 214; Noes 222—Majority 8.February 2.—Mr. Coke: Resolution against continuance of the Ministry. Yeas 223; Noes 204—Majority 19.February 3.—Mr. Coke: To lay preceding resolution before the Crown. Yeas 211; Noes 187—Majority 24.February 18.—Mr. Fox: To postpone supplies. Yeas 208; Noes 196—Majority 12.February 20.—Mr. Eden (amendment to Mr. Powis): Address to Crown for Ministry having confidence of House, &c yeas 197; Noes 177—Majority 20.Same day.—Mr. Fox: That above should be carried to Crown by whole House. Yeas 177; Noes 156—Majority 21.February 25.—Lord Beauchamp: To adjourn House. Yeas 175; Noes 168—Majority 7.March 1.—Mr. Fox: Address to Crown against continuance of Ministers in office. Yeas 201; Noes 189—Majority 12.March 5.—Mr. Fox: Postponement of Mutiny Bill; Yeas 171; Noes 162—Majority 9.March 8.—Mr. Fox: Representation to King. Yeas 191; Noes 190—Majority 1.March 24.—Dissolution.848 pupil and ornament—I mean, of course, Mr. Pitt himself. What said that great man on the occasion to which I have just alluded? He said this:—No man was more zealous or more unreserved in admitting and asserting the rights of the House to advise the Sovereign in the exercise of all his prerogatives than he was. This had always been a sentiment which he had avowed; but that a declaration on the part of the House of their disapprobation of his Majesty's Ministers should, ipso facto, in any given instance, bind and compel the Sovereign to dismiss those Ministers, or oblige them to resign, was a point which he never had admitted, and which he never would allow. Such a sentiment of disapprobation surely placed Ministers in awkward and unpleasant situations; but that it should force them to resign, he would maintain was an unconstitutional doctrine. It was," (continued Mr. Pitt), "hostile to the prerogative of the Crown, and to that balance of power, on which the excellency of our Government depended. This was a point, therefore, which he was always ready to maintain, and from supporting which, he hoped, he would never be precluded by any false theories or vague declamation respecting the dignity of the House.And what was it that Mr. Pitt said on another and on a previous occasion?He hoped," he said, "he should not give offence when he declared that a Minister might nevertheless, act constitutionally, by remaining in office after that House had declared their disapprobation of him. He begged pardon for what he was going to say; but he conceived that, accord to the constitution, the immediate appointment or removal of Ministers rested not with that House. There was, therefore, nothing illegal in a Minister's remaining: in office after that House had declared against him, particularly where immediate resignation would have injured the country; and he hoped a public man might be supposed to act honourably when, upon public motives, he thought he best served,his country by continuing in office after he had been so unfortunate as to lose the confidence of the House. He explained this, by declaring that there were acts of duty, not the less indispensable because they were disagreeable; that, in critical situations, it was incumbent on a Minister, who found he was not approved in that House, to look to the probable consequences of his immediately resigning. It behoved him to consider who were likely to be his successors, and whether the country might not receive more detriment than they could possibly derive advantage by his leaving it without any executive government, and thus making room for an Administration in whom the Crown, the Parliament, and the people could not equally repose confidence. He acknowledged, that the Minister who should lightly venture to encounter 849 the difficulty of holding his office against the consent of that House, would in all probability be made to repent of his levity; the necessity ought to be great, undoubtedly, since to attempt such an arduous matter, without the strongest reasons possible, would be rash, imprudent, and unjustifiable. There were circumstances, however, under which, he conceived, the meeting that difficulty with cheerfulness was far from reprehensible.Such, Sir, was the defence made by Mr. Pitt for continuing in office under circumstances which Gentlemen opposite affect to consider somewhat similar to ours, although we have not had the misfortune to be defeated thirteen or fourteen times on votes of want of confidence; and I say, that if the right lion. Baronet appeals to Mr. Fox and Mr. Burke, we have a right to appeal to Mr. Pitt, according to whose recorded opinion there is nothing whatever unconstitutional in maintaining office after the Parliament has differed with the Minister. The right hon. Gentleman, in his address to the House, has been pleased to make several allusions to the measures that we put on the Table of the House the other day. He has stated, as a ground for declaring his want of confidence in us, that those measures are such as we could not hope to carry; and he particularly mentioned the repeal of the Corn-laws, and he asked whether we, or any person seriously could think, that in putting that particular question to the House we should carry it. Now, I beg leave to ask the right lion. Gentleman whether this is to be the test by which a Ministry, or any political party, is to be tried? Have no measures been carried by the Ministers of the day, or by the opposing party, which at the time of bringing them forward there existed reasons for thinking could not be carried? Who at one time thought that the Catholic question could be carried? It was frequently urged as a taunt against those who brought forward and advocated that measure, that they had pledged themselves against its being made a Cabinet measure, and that they must know that it could not be carried. Why, who could be certain that it could be carried? It did so happen that that very question was afterwards carried by those who had been for years its most strenuous opponents. The right hon. Baronet himself, made it a Cabinet question. And, Sir, I should not be much surprised, after what I have seen, if the Corn-law question were made a Cabinet question by the right hon. 850 Gentleman too. I could read declarations as strong against the carrying of the Catholic question, made not only by the right hon. Baronet, but by a great many of those by whom he is now supported, as any thing which the right hon. Baronet has said against the repeal of the Corn-laws. Therefore I say in these days of wonder, I do not see any very great reason to make us think it altogether impossible that the right hon. Baronet may not himself make a Cabinet question of the repeal of the Corn-laws, and have every excuse t for so doing. The right hon. Gentleman has taunted us with wishing an appeal to be made to the people at an inopportune time; but what degree of weight there is in the argument I cannot see. If we propose what we consider to be measures which would give the greatest possible relief to the suffering industry of the country, and those measure are opposed, and we think that the country are with us, is there any harm in having our schemes and reasons, and our principles fairly laid before the country? It seems to me there is not. Surely the agitation, if agitation there is to be, is no fault of ours. The question is a great fiscal question of "monopoly or no monopoly." It is a question whether or not we shall, by adopting a new scheme, relieve the industry of the country, and at the same time increase the, revenue, and thereby render any additional burden on the people unnecessary; or whether the present system shall be maintained, That is to say, whether a reduction of duties shall take place, and thereby supply the deficiency of the revenue, or whether that deficiency shall be made up by the ordinary mode of imposing, fresh taxes on the people. This is the, point which the country have to determine. If the people feel a lively interest in the determination of this question, I cannot help it. If the industrious classes are anxious to remove the burdens they now labour under, and are desirous of eating cheaper bread and cheaper sugar, and of obtaining cheaper timber than they are now capable of obtaining, we cannot be held responsible for it; and if this strong wish for a reduction of the prices of those articles is agitation, and if the fact of asking the people whether or not they think that these fiscal schemes are right, and that they think we are doing our duty in proposing them is agitation—then I am afraid we must plead guilty to 851 having excited that agitation. But this is not, I beg leave to inform hon. Gentlemen opposite, a fault resting with us alone. I could quote very recent instances where agitation had been called in to bear upon elections. [Cheers.] The hon. Gentleman cheers out of place. I do not deny that agitation has been used for the purpose of acting on the feelings and prepossessions of the people on our side; but I do not see that any great backwardness has been evinced on that score by hon. Gentlemen opposite. I never saw, in my experience, any reluctance on their side to avail themselves of that mode of carrying any question which they advocated. The right hon. Baronet has said, now that the appeal is made, and now that we are to go to the country, that he shall not make any particular exposition of his principles. But when the right hon. Baronet came into office in 1834, he thought differently. He then thought it right to make an exposition of his political principles in his famous Tamworth Manifesto; at a time, too, when Parliament was not sitting. He did not then deem it improper to make an appeal to the country. And then, again, at a subsequent period, at the Mansion' house, he did not object to a mode of proceeding which he now seems so much to eschew; — and I recollect well that some things dropt from him on those occasions, which looked very like what the right hon. Baronet now calls "bidding for the favour [of the people:" moreover, he did make so high a bidding, that I and my friends were at the time not a little apprehensive of the result. Now, however, he takes, and is to take, a totally different course. It is sufficient for him to oppose our propositions without stating what he himself would substitute for them. Such has not always been the language of the right hon. Baronet. When he stated his plan for removing the disabilities of the Catholics, upon moving, "That the House should resolve itself into a committee" upon that plan being objected to in many particulars, he, in reply to those objections, used these expressions;—I must say, that notwithstanding so much of this debate, has turned upon the observations I made last night, I have not yet heard an answer to the question I then put. If you do not like my proposal, what do you propose to do under the present circumstances? I am aware, that much may be said against my pro- 852 posal. My hon. Friend, the Member for Dublin (Mr. Moore), may give us an able disquisition on what passed in 1688; but depend upon it, that that is not sufficient in the present condition of the country. Something must be done, and what that something should be, is a question to which I have had no answer.At the conclusion of his speech, the right hon. Baronet said:—In conclusion, I only repeat, that I have yet heard no answer to my question. What other course can be pursued but that which I recommend? And this absence of an answer confirms me in the conviction, that the course I propose, is the only one that can be adopted.Now, her Majesty's Ministers are equally convinced, that what they proposed was for the best interests of the community, and were the best means of realizing a sufficient revenue for the exigencies of the State. They thought so; and so thinking, they embodied their principles in propositions which they laid before the House. And when they so acted, I certainly did think, notwithstanding the acknowledged talent of the right hon. Baronet, that he did not evade his own question, which I have just read, with any degree of success. A question, which might fairly be put to himself, "What do you propose?" It might be all very well to say, that the first object is to displace the Queen's Government; but if it is, has not the country a right to ask, upon what principles do you, Sir Robert Peel, propose to succeed to that Government? What course of policy will you pursue with respect to these great fiscal and commercial questions? The right hon. Baronet has taunted us with "oscillation"—I believe that was the word —uncertainty of purpose, I suppose he meant. I do not exactly know, what certainty of purpose can be found, either on the part of the right hon. Baronet, or his friends. Among other causes of our weakness, the right hon. Baronet alluded to the great variance of opinion, that prevails amongst Us, and taunted us with not holding the same sentiments as many of our supporters. That may be; but let me ask him, whether I cannot find among those who now surround him, men entertaining the most extraordinary Variety of opinions, and the greatest possible divergency of sentiments, upon almost all subjects of importance, that ever were seen congregated in the same party. 853 Why,I see now among the friends and supporters of the right hon. Baronet, men who were the advocates of the Catholic Relief Bill, in close conjunction with men who were its most strenuous opposers. I see some who were the earnest friends and framers of the Reform Bill, associating with Gentlemen who declared, that it was a measure that threatened destruction to the British constitution, and to the very existence of the empire. I see on those benches, the firmest supporters of the Poor-law Bill, in close adhesion with men who have denounced that measure as being cruel, unnatural, and execrable. I see men who were the authors of the Church Temporalities Bill for Ireland, sitting by the side of those who declared, that that measure was the first blow struck at the Irish national Church. I see the right hon. Baronet, who restored the golden standard of currency, backed by men who have asserted, that it was the source of misery and ruin to the country. I see many, who willingly came to a compromise on the Irish Municipal Reform Bill, not unwilling to associate themselves with those who prophesied that it would prove the severest blow, that ever was struck at the Protestant constitution of this empire. I also see amongst them, men who have voted for the suppression of Orange lodges as being illegal associations, while others are sitting with them, who have held high office in those societies. So also do I see those who have been the staunch upholders of the privileges of Parliament, quietly mingling themselves with men who have asserted, that the laws of the House were mere waste paper, when compared with decisions of courts of law. I see amongst those opposite to us, friends of the High Church, friends of the Low Church, friends of the New Church. In short, there is every shade of opinion represented on those benches, from men who uphold principles opposed to all that is popular and free in the country, to those who would ally themselves to the Chartists in order to secure political power. Such is the united body—such the harmonious elements of the party which is to succeed us in power. But it seems to me, that the right hon. Baronet cannot have the least chance with such materials (supposing he does not possess those other and more secret means, which no Minister at this time of day can be suspected of hav- 854 ing), of successfully conducting the Government of this country. But if such be the character of the party itself, permit me to turn now to the very distinguished Gentleman who leads that party—to the right hon. Baronet himself. The right hon. Gentleman has this night put us upon our trial—he will, I am sure, not complain if I say a few words in regard to his claims upon public confidence. Of his ability, it is idle and superfluous to say anything—too much of the time of this House has, in my opinion, been already consumed on that topic. No one doubts his capacity as a debater; the question rather turns upon the use which he has made of his acknowledged powers. In my view of his past conduct, his whole career seems to have been one of ineffectual resistance and unwilling concession. He has seldom taken up a position on any great question, dividing parties in later days, which he has not afterwards abandoned. He has attempted to swim against the current of public opinion, but has been beaten back, and has landed upon shoal after shoal, which has sunk under him, and been swept away. If he has been saved, he owes his safety to yielding to the tide, which he has passed the best part of his life in endeavouring to combat, and in vain. The right hon. Gentleman has not been the leader of events, he has been dragged onward by them. This may be his misfortune rather than his fault, but such is the fact. He has come too late with his political discoveries; he seems to me deficient in that sagacity which sees the signs of the times, and foresees the consequences of them; he, not unfrequently, does what is right, but after so long a delay, and in such a manner, that he generally fails to command the full esteem of his opponents, or to secure the sincere allegiance of his friends. Hence comes it, that with all his talents, all his opportunities, all his party following, I much fear he will never be a great Minister, far less a great man. Happy shall I be, if his future conduct and services shall contradict this prediction. Sir, the avowed object of this resolution, is a change of Ministers; and I have taken the liberty, I trust, without exceeding the limits prescribed for those who discuss the claims of their opponents, to ask what is the character of the party opposite, what the chances of their forming an efficient Government? I may also ask, 855 what is likely to be their policy? I will not go so far as the hon. Member for Finsbury (Mr. Wakley), and say, that their policy will be exactly the same as ours, and that there will be no change of measures; but I will venture to assert, that let who will be in office, the affairs of this country will be administered, in all probability, much, I will not say altogether, on the principles which have guided our conduct. The systems of Government which were in vogue when the right hon. Baronet, and his friends near him, entered into public life, are inapplicable to these times; and if the Gentlemen opposite are to succeed us, they must either follow in our course, or their sway will be but of short duration, either in the country or the Parliament. The right hon. Baronet may be inclined, to a great extent, to take the right course; how he will be able to manage a party so strangely, not so strongly, united is another question; nor do I see how the country could contemplate such a change with any confidence of a beneficial result. The noble Lord, my late noble Friend, the Member for North Lancashire, speaking in the late debate, told us that we were "tottering to our fall." Be it so. I submit cheerfully: having risen to, and maintained this position with those near me, I am content to fall with them. I would, at any time, rather fall with my friends— with those with whom I have been long associated for the attainment of great public objects, than rise to any eminence, however lofty, by the help of antagonists to whom I have been bitterly opposed. Whatever may be the result of this discussion, (answering only for myself, and not presuming to speak for my colleagues), I can say that I have done my duty. I can conscientiously say, that, in becoming a party to bringing forward the great measures which are the chief pretexts for our overthrow, I did so with the solemn conviction that the time was come when the proposed change of system was not only just and prudent, but inevitable; and I am convinced, that we should have abandoned our duty to the House, to the country, and to ourselves, if we had not run the risk of recommending such measures for the sanction of Parliament. I am satisfied that the more these measures are examined, the more they will be approved. They are indeed only the development and sequel of a system of com- 856 mercial reform, recommended by great men of former days, who were then defamed for their innovations, but are now universally admired. Of this I feel as sure as of my existence—that these measures may be delayed, but cannot finally be destroyed. They will be the law of the land, whatever may be the fate of the Administration. We feel we have done what became us in bringing them forward, and we are firmly resolved to use every constitutional means in our power to carry them into effect.
began by applauding the right hon. Baronet the Member for Tam-worth, for the course of his political conduct. Placed in an age of rapid civilisation and rapid transition, he had adapted the practical character of his measures to the condition of the times. When in power, he had never proposed a change which he did not carry, and when in opposition; he never forgot that he was at the head of the Conservative party. He had never employed his influence for factious purposes, and bad never been stimulated in his exertions by a disordered desire of obtaining office; above all, he had never carried himself to the opposite benches by making propositions by which he was not ready to abide. Whether in or out of office, the right hon. Baronet had done his best to make the settlement of the new constitution of England work for the benefit of the present time and of posterity. He would advert to what had been said of the distinction between constitutional and official questions; in the former facts were open to all, and every man qualified by his studies to fill the station of a gentleman, would be just as well able to decide whether a Roman Catholic ought to be admitted to power as a Member of the Privy Council, or a Cabinet Minister. The case, however, was very different on questions of finance, for no man unacquainted with the secrets of office could be fully informed as to the resources of the country. Nor was what had been said, by the right hon. Baronet (Sir J. C. Hobhouse), respecting the reign of Sir Robert Walpole, more felicitous. He had recently visited the library of the house, and had informed himself of the facts of the history of the time. Sir Robert Walpole, though a Whig, was one of the ablest Ministers this country had ever known, and his followers might derive instruction from contemplating his 857 conduct. The question now before the House was this—was it, or was it not, important that there should be a clear understanding between the representative and the executive bodies? Such was not the language, but the import of the resolution. What then was the duty of a Government placed in the situation of the present servants of the Crown, unsupported as they were by a House of Commons elected under their own auspices? Two former Ministers had been in this predicament—Sir Robert Walpole and Lord North. No man contended that merely because a Government was in a minority in the House of Commons, that, therefore, it ought to resign. Next to the assumption of power, was the responsibility of relinquishing it. The year 1741, was the ominous year in which Sir Robert Walpole, was in the condition of the present Prime Minister. A Parliament had been summoned under his own auspices, but his address to the Crown was importantly amended, for the House of Commons would not sanction the words containing an approbation of the war. Sir Robert Walpole, did not resign because the implied censure related merely to the past. Then followed the choice of Chairman of election committees, next in consequence to the nomination of the Speaker; and here Sir Robert Walpole was in a minority of four. Still he did not resign. The Westminster election came next, and again the majority against the Ministers was four. The House adjourned for the Christmas recess, and when it re-assembled on the 18th of January, a motion was made on the subject of resignation, but Horace Walpole said, "My father will go on until the business of Government is arrested," and, accordingly, Sir Robert Walpole remained at his post. What was the case with Lord North, in 1782? He too had a Parliament elected under his own auspices, and Mr. Fox brought forward a motion, of general censure on the conduct of the war, by moving for a committee to inquire into the conduct of the Admiralty. Lord North avoided a majority against him by refusing to come to a division, but when a similar motion was brought forward a few days afterwards, the Minister was defeated by a small majority. A few days subsequently, Lord North had a majority of seventeen, and on the celebrated address for putting an end to the American war, the Minister had 858 a majority of one. On that occasion, Mr. Pitt said thatThere was not a promise which had not been falsified—that shuffling and trickery pervaded the whole conduct of the cabinet, and that it was impossible for Parliament to place confidence in such a ministry.Yet Lord North would not quit office because he had a majority of one, and he was, nevertheless, acting less in the spirit of the constitution than Sir Robert Walpole, against whom there had been a majority of four, because "the business of Government was arrested." Afterwards Mr. Fox gave a notice for Wednesday, and promised to bring forward the same motion on every Wednesday until Lord North retired. In the present instance there was, however, an additional circumstance, which would not be forgotten by the House, or by the country. He referred to the manner in which, for several Sessions, the Government had been carried on in the face of the resistance offered by a large majority in the other House of Parliament. The reformed House of Commons, proud of its new-fangled existence, and believing that all power would centre in itself, had permitted a minister of state to stigmatise a vote of the House of Lords as "the whisper of a faction." But now the poisoned chalice was returned to their own lips. Those who had treated the House of Lords with insult were now treating the House of Commons with con. tempt. The fact was, that the Government was too full of that specious liberalism which they found it convenient periodically to assume; but in attacking aristocratic institutions, it had become the victim of a haughty and rapacious oligarchy. The present was not the first time the Whigs had been placed in this situation, and in the present day they had been obliged to reconstruct the House of Commons, and to conciliate the House of Lords. In one thing they had been consistent—in a systematic slight of our parliamentary institutions, They now governed the country, not only in spite of the House of Lords, but in spite of the House of Commons. What would be the consequence? Was it possible that these "apostles of liberty," as they had been termed, should be found cringing in the antechambers of the palace, and now intended to support themselves in office, by clandestine and back-stairs influence? For himself, he had not the slightest 859 doubt that those who had twice tampered with the succession, would do so a third time if the occasion required it. The President of the Board of Control had given his opponents the consolation of his opinion, that if the present Ministers were removed, there was a prospect that their successors would form a strong Government. The career of her Majesty's present servants had been a singular one; they began by remodelling the House of Commons, and insulting the House of Lords; they then assaulted the Church— next the colonial constitutions; afterwards they assailed the municipalities of the kingdom, attacked the rich and the poor, and now, in their last moments, at one fell swoop, made war upon the colonial, commercial, and agricultural interests. Under these circumstances, he saw no reason why the' party to which he belonged should despair, and the right hon. Baronet, who, according to the President of the Board of Control, was not a great man, and could not be a great Minister, might have the opportunity of establishing a Government, which would have the confidence of the education, the property, and he sincerely believed, the enlighted feeling of the great body of the nation. In that case the prophecy of the right hon. Gentleman would be falsified.
§ Mr, T. B. Hobhouse
Sir,—The hon. Gentleman who has just sat down ought to be the last to complain of the convenient use of liberalism, and to indulge in taunts and reproaches upon those who are opposed to him. He seems to have forgotten the time when he went down to High Wycombe with that convenient variety of opinions, which could allow him to be proposed by a Tory and seconded by a Radical, though it is difficult to tell by what good fortune he had man. aged to persuade the different parties that he was the friend of each. How the hon. Gentleman had been able to reconcile those opposite extremes is a mystery which he himself can alone explain. On that occasion the hon. Gentleman carried with him, as passports, two letters of recommendation, one from the hon. Member for Dublin and the other from the hon, Member for Kilkenny, It is therefore rather too much that he should now deal out insinuations, against his antagonists. I shall now follow the ban. Gentleman through his, historical researches, because I have no wish to compete with him as an 860 antiquary. The hon. Gentleman has said, that Ministers act in an unconstitutional manner in retaining power and seeking to bring forward those great measures upon which they have staked their character in the House of Commons. I, on the contrary, maintain, that Gentlemen opposite are acting an unconstitutional part, because they seek to deprive the Crown of its prerogative, and to prevent the people from expressing their wishes. Is the Crown to be told, that in a matter so important as the choice of its servants there is to be no appeal from this House to the country? And is the country of so little account that it ought not to pronounce judgment upon the conduct of its representatives in this new posture of public affairs? I hope that the people at large will look at the matter in this light. What right has any Gentleman to stand up in this House, which emanates from the people, and to say, that if a great public measure is submitted to us by the Ministers the country is not entitled to express an opinion upon it? The hon. Gentleman, as well as the right hon. Baronet who proposed the motion, has endeavoured to narrow the discussion upon it; but as the motion, if carried, must lead to the removal of Ministers or to a dissolution of Parliament, I am bound to take into account the whole conduct of the Ministry and not to give a vote upon some particular measures, which Gentlemen opposite may select as a convenient stalking-horse to power. Gentlemen wish to confine the question to certain points, because it does not suit their purpose to review the large and general benefits which the present Government has conferred upon the country. But a resolution of this nature cannot stand on such partial grounds. The hon. Gentlemen opposite make bold assertions but do not sustain them by facts. In what have my right hon. Friends acted so unconstitutionally? And, if the conduct of Ministers has been so criminal from first to last, a patriotic Opposition has been singularly negligent of its duty in not pronouncing a censure. True, they did attempt it once, but they signally failed. The right hon. Baronet who moved the resolution was very cautious of referring to the precedent of 1784 as not being analogous to the present case. He was wise to deny the analogy, because he knew that it would tell strongly in favour of his opponents. It is therefore not without reason that he 861 objects to the example of Mr. Pitt. True, there is no analogy between the conduct of Mr. Fox and that of the right hon. Baronet, for it originated in a different way. Mr. Fox had carried his India Bill through this House by a majority of two to one, and had been displaced by the interference of the Crown. The measures of Mr, Fox were therefore simply defensive, while those of the right hon. Baronet are as entirely aggressive. Besides, Mr. Fox did not come forward with a vote of censure grounded upon a particular measure, but he spoke out boldly, and said that the Ministry did not possess the confidence of the country, not as to this or that act, but as to their proceedings generally. Should the present motion be carried, the country will be placed in a most unfavourable position, and the House in a situation which every lover of liberty must regret. For suppose that my right hon. Friends do their duty—neither resign nor dissolve. At least, I hope that they will do neither one nor the other until they have brought forward the Corn-law question, then the hon Gentlemen opposite, if they follow the precedent of 1784, and if they do not mean their motion to be a mere brutum fulmen, must go up with an address to the Crown, It is not for any one to anticipate the answer: but suppose the example set by George 3rd should be imitated, and the Crown should declare that there is no reason to remove the Ministers, in what a situation will the House then be placed, being brought into direct collision with the Crown, not upon great principles of public liberty, but upon selfish interests and a question of monopoly, What a spectacle will then be presented to a great nation, the Crown standing for liberty, and the House of Commons for monopoly ! Such a state of things is not desirable, but it is inevitable, if the present motion should be carried. Already the organs of the Tories out of doors have proclaimed the intention of the party to follow up this resolution with an address and they are hound to take this course if they would not expose themselves to the derision of the country as the framers of an unmeaning motion a telum imbelle sine ictu. I am strongly opposed, Sir, to the resolution for another reason, because the object of it is, I believe, to stifle the discussion upon the Corn-laws. The right ban. Baronet dreads the embarrassment 862 of his party by a consideration of the question of the Corn-laws; he expects some difficulty in the attempt to force that monopoly down the throats of the people. Those who support the motion know that the party with whom I have the honour to act, are prepared with arguments on that subject of a most conclusive character. We do not flatter ourselves too much when we say that we can adduce reasons for a change which it is impossible to answer. [" A laugh from the Opposition."] Why, if hon. Gentlemen opposite, think that they are so strong in truth and justice upon this question, it is to their interest to have it submitted to the people; the greatest good will arise from the public discussion of it. The fact, however, is that they fear nothing so much as a debate upon a proposition so evident. Sir, I shall vote against the resolution of the right hon. Baronet, and I cannot but think that he has made a great mistake in bringing it forward. The object of it is to embarrass Ministers, but such, I trust, will not be the effect. If the other side succeed in this attempt, it may recoil upon themselves; if they fail, the tide of popular feeling will set doubly strong in favour of the present Government. A complaint has been made that Ministers wish to excite the public mind upon the Corn-law question, and then go to an election upon it. Why, what can agitate the public mind more than such party motions as the present? It has been stated, particularly by those hon. Gentlemen who come from manufacturing districts, that almost unparalleled distress prevails in the country; but the Ministry have proposed a plan by which the public will be considerably relieved, and an accession of revenue insured to the country. The hon. Gentlemen opposite have advanced no plan for securing those benefits, while they have not refrained from charging the Ministers with political delinquency, on account of the deficiency in the revenue, the greatest part of which, however, is attributable to the alteration of the postage duties, a vast moral, social, and intellectual improvement. If then, the accounts of the distressed condition of the country be true, and if no remedy be proposed but that which emanates from my right hon. Friends below me, I am almost compelled as it were, to adopt their measure, unless some hon. Gentleman will get up and 863 prove it to be wrong and propound a right one. Sir, if my voice can have any influence, I would warn the House not to plunge into a conflict with the Crown, which promises nothing but disgrace. I am sure that we shall gain no respect in the country, if contrary to past history, we exchange with the Crown our natural position as guardians of the people's rights. We may lose much, if we take upon ourselves to be the champions of monopoly, and leave to the Crown the defence of free trade. I shall reserve my opinions on the Corn-laws until that question comes before the House. I have always supported the repeal of those laws, and I shall still do so. I have also supported a reduction of the sugar duties, not because it was proposed by the Government, for I was one of the minority of twenty-seven, who voted for the motion of the hon. Member for Wigan last year, but because I think we are in a situation in which either a new tax must be levied on the people, or a reduction of import duties to "an amount sufficient for the purpose must be made, so as to improve the trade and commerce of the country. I am convinced Sir, that the triumph in the present conflict will ultimately be in favour of free trade, and of that commercial system which the circumstances of the country, no less than those of the Treasury demand.
Mr. D' Israeli
was understood to explain, that his principles, at this moment, were exactly the same as when he was formerly a candidate at High Wycomb, and carried down with him letters of recommendation from Mr. O'Connell and Mr. Hume.
§ Mr. Liddell
said, the hon. Member had attacked the Members on the opposition side of the House, as being opposed to the prerogatives of the Crown, while the Government had shewn itself utterly unable to maintain the prerogative of the Crown on the recent occasion of the motion made by the hon. Member for Finsbury for the liberation of Chartist prisoners, against which motion the Ministers could not muster more than twenty-eight Members, and were supported by thirty from the Opposition side of the House; and had it not been for the casting vote given by the Speaker, in support of the prerogative of the Crown, it must have been interfered with, in spite of the Ministers of the Crown. The right hon. Gentleman, the 864 President of the Board of Control, had spoken with triumph of what he designated the triumph of the Government during the course of this very Session, in having carried the principle of the Irish Registration Bill. What a sorry source of satisfaction to the Government? One of its leading Members had admitted, that the very principle of it was the maintenance of a 51. franchise for Ireland. They certainly did carry the second reading by a majority of five. What was the result? Did they bring their bill to a successful issue? Did they abide by what they described as the main principle of the bill? Did they not, on the contrary, with their usual abandonment of principle, abandon the principle of the bill, and, after suffering this stigma, were they not absolutely defeated, and had they not abandoned this measure, like so many others? And yet the right hon. the President of the Board of Control said, "We carried the principle of our Irish Registration Bill." All that the right hon. Gentleman would admit was, their defeat on the Sugar Duties Bill. Now, this was the first great portion of the Chancellor of the Exchequer's financial projects; and it was therefore a defeat of so much consequence, as to render utterly nugatory his whole financial scheme. The noble Lord, the Member for Lincolnshire, had thought fit to apologize for his inconsistency on this occasion. He declared that he had opposed the Government only upon narrow grounds. Their budget a narrow ground! Did the Government themselves think it so? Was that a narrow ground, upon which they had arrayed all the great interests of this country in deadly conflict, set the manufacturing against the agricultural classes, and put the shipping and colonial interests in a perfect ferment? It was upon this very "narrow ground," that, relying upon popular feeling for their support, they had determined on taking the extreme measure of dissolving their own Parliament. The noble Lord had talked of their exertions in favour of reform. He would find this allusion rather a stale attempt to excite public sympathy. The people now knew well what they had to expect from the operation of that bill; and those very men who had been most clamorous for "the bill, the whole bill, and nothing but the bill," were those who expressed themselves now most dissatisfied with its re- 865 suits, and insisted on the five points of the people's Charter. He (Mr. Liddell) had never given a vote with a clearer conviction of its necessity. Had her Majesty's present Ministers the confidence of the people of this country? Had no public inconvenience ensued from their imbecility? Had no question been unsettled by their hesitation, and permitted still to continue unsettled? Did the House remember their various defeats during the last Session of Parliament — defeats so numerous, that their details almost escaped the recollection? Did the House remember the various "open questions" which had been made by the present Cabinet? What did the country think of the mode in which the Corn-laws had been treated by them during the whole of this Parliament? What of their making the ballot an open question? What of their mode of dealing with the Poor-law Bill, which the noble Lord had declared to be essential to the welfare of the community? How did he propose to get rid of the existing difficulties? Did he propose that the powers of the commissioners should expire at the end of the present year, without renewal? If he considered it "essential to the welfare of the community," how could he justify his abandonment of that important measure without bringing it to an issue? Nor was this all. Would the country not remember the failure of the education scheme of the Government, the abandonment of their proposition respecting Church-rates, and, above all, did they not remember that the Government had proposed and carried a motion for a Committee on Church-leases, involving the most important interests, which Committee had produced a most distinct report, with various recommendations, which the Government, to its disgrace and shame be it spoken, had totally neglected, and left these vital interests in the same unsettled state? Was there no other point on which the Government had manifested culpable weakness and imbecility? There was their abandonment of the revenue derived from the Post-office, which took place in consequence of the recommendation of Members composing the Radical section of the House. Upon their recommendation—their threats, he might might say—Ministers had consented to sweep away l,200,000l. of revenue, and had come forward in the following Session with an alteration of the whole financial 866 system of the country, involving the risk of the greatest possible public commotion, by dissolving Parliament on such a question. All this had resulted from the weakness and imbecility of the Government, and these were evils from which they were bound to relieve themselves. The right hon. Baronet, the Member for Tamworth, had at length brought forward this resolution, in a shape in which he felt assured, that the House would aid him in carrying it—a resolution which he trusted would have the effect of expelling them at once from their seats. The extreme remedy to which they had announced their intention of resorting—that of dissolving the Parliament—could be justified only, according to his humble apprehension, where there was a distinct expression on the part of the country, and a decided conviction in the minds of Ministers themselves that the opinions of the country and the House of Commons were at variance, and that the measures of Ministers did meet with the approval of the country. In such a case any Government would be perfectly justified in having recourse to an expression of the distinct opinion of the country. But what was the evidence? Was it to the late elections they looked for that evidence? Was it to the counties, where they had been beat by majorities, not of hundreds, but almost of thousands? Was it to their own towns? to those which were commonly called Government boroughs, where they had sustained their last defeats? Or was it to the great manufacturing town of Nottingham, which had so lately returned to Parliament his hon. Friend who then sat behind him? What right had the Government to say, that the country was with them, when these examples were before their eyes? All their efforts to stem the tide of opposition had failed; and if, under such circumstances, they continued in office on the one hand, or dissolved the Parliament on the other, he conceived, that they would most grossly belie their duty to their Sovereign and their country, and merit condign punishment. He did not suppose, that even any one of themselves, though he had no very high opinion of their principles, would resort to a dissolution of Parliament, unless he bona fide believed that the feelings of the country were along with them. He could not suppose them possibly so lost to every notion of sound principle and loyalty as to have 867 recourse to a dissolution of Parliament merely for the purpose of getting up an agitation in the country. They had been beaten within a very short period upon two great measures, one for the introduction of a complete change in the elective franchise in Ireland, the other the great financial measure of the Session. After these defeats, could they pretend to say, that they possessed the confidence of the House, or that, having lost the first item of their budget, they would be able to carry the second? Would the noble Lord propose his alteration of the timber duties after the distinct opinion which had been given by Lord Sydenham? Did the noble Lord pretend to imagine, that if he failed in that, he would succeed in the question of the corn laws? The right hon. Baronet, the Member for Tamworth, was taunted because he held out no pledge to the country of his intentions on this subject. But he had said all that it was necessary for him to say —all that any man had a right to expect or reason to hope for. He had put the question on most distinct and intelligible grounds. The Government said, "We advocate a fixed duty." The right hon. Baronet said, "I maintain the principle of the sliding scale." As to the amount at which the sliding scale was to be set, the noble Secretary for foreign a flair had talked of the "sliding scale," as "a slippery thing;" but did any one in that House venture to say that the existing scale was the very best that could possibly be adopted? He, for one was pledged always to support the existing system; but he did not hold the present scale to be a very advantageous one. He had always lamented that the Corn-law prepared by Mr. Canning should have been altered. He would have most willingly seen it carried into effect. Speaking as the independent representative of a community engaged in shipping, mercantile and agricultural pursuits, he had no hesitation in saying, that he did not consider the present scale by any means the most desirable one; and he would support a reduction in it, if brought forward by a Government to which he should be disposed to give his confidence. It was unfair to taunt the right hon. Baronet who was too wise to commit himself upon points of detail. But he had fairly spoken out in favour of the sliding scale. Mr. Huskisson, author of the existing Corn-laws, made this memorable declaration— 868So convinced am I of the value of the shipping interests, with reference to the safety of this great empire, that in all questions where the interests of our commerce and our ships directly clash, I, for one will always be prepared to give due consideration to the shipping interests.He felt strongly that the present position of the Government called for a change in the administration of public affairs. The right hon. Baronet, the Member for Tamworth, had not ill estimated the feelings of the country, nor the strength, unanimity, and zeal of his supporters in that House, in bringing forward the present motion. He considered, that the circumstances of the times required a vote of want of confidence, the effect of which would be to bring the Crown and the people of this country more into harmony than they had been since the accession of her present Majesty, and to rid them effectually of one of the worst and weakest Governments that ever had held the reins of power.
§ Sir Hesketh Fleetwood
had to appeal to the House for a favourable hearing whilst he addressed them on a question of such immense importance as a vote of want of confidence in her Majesty's Government, and as he had never troubled the House with a speech during the present Session, he trusted the House would feel, that as the representative of a constituency so important and increasing as that of the town of Preston, which had been already alluded to in the course of the recent debate, when he had received letter after letter, and memorial after memorial, calling upon him to express the feelings of his constituents, he had some claim on its attention whilst he spoke on behalf of a large, and more especially, on behalf of a suffering constituency. He was glad, that the right hon. Gentleman, the Member for Finsbury, was in his place, be cause, identified as they both were with the county of Lancaster, they would be better able to understand its true state. And here he must observe, that when the hon. Gentleman, the Member for Fins-bury, addressed the House the other night, and stated, that if the right hon. Baronet brought forward better measures than those of the present Government, he should have the hon. Members support, he, for one, fully agreed in the hon. Member's views, and declared, that he for one was perfectly willing to hear the right hon. 869 Gentleman's measures propounded, and if they were good, he was as ready to give them his vote, as freely as he had voted on former occasions, not for any particular interest or party, but for the general benefit of the country. The right hon. Baronet had introduced together the subjects of the Poor-law and the Corn-law, now every vote which he had given had been against the Poor-law, and when the right hon. Gentleman regretted, that the Poor-law had been put aside, alleging as a reason, the fear of a dissolution; and when the right hon. Gentleman said, that the Corn-law had been brought forward to serve the same end, he (Sir H. Fleetwood) was glad to be able to state, that if the Poor-law was disliked, the Corn-law was equally hated. For himself, he derived the principal portion of his income from land, and yet he had invariably supported an alteration in the present Corn-laws, because he had ever felt, that they were imposing a tax to alter the disposition of Providence, and that, with whatever good feeling they had been framed, they had never been carried out beneficially, even for those for whose assistance they were designed; and it was a fortunate thing for the unrepresented portion of the people of this country, that measures not founded on correct principles could never be carried out for the benefit of the class for which they were intended, and still less far the benefit of the community at large. He hoped that the Corn-laws, and all the other measures propounded by her Majesty's Government would be fairly discussed, for he was convinced, that the more every question connected with the well-being of the country was debated, the better would it be understood by that House and the country. It was the more important upon the present occasion, because such a crisis as this had never before existed in this country. This was the only time on which they were to enter upon the general distinction between free and restricted trade. He had often represented to the Members of the Government the difficulty under which Members who supported them were placed when they went to their constituents. There were numbers of cases on questions between the people and the privileged classes, in which the Government left those by whom they were generally supported, and threw themselves into the hands of the privileged classes. This was, perhaps, the first in- 870 stance in which the Government had taken the lead in measures that would conduce to the advantage of the general body, as contradistinguished from privileged and particular classes, and if this vote of want of confidence were to be carried, surely it would be telling every one who had not a vote for Members of that House, "you see, that so long as the two parties that rule this country are only separated among themselves so far as not to prevent particular classes from being supported by particular majorities, all goes on well; but so soon as either party oversteps this recognised line, he is met with a vote of want of confidence." He thought, that the present motion had been brought forward by the right hon. Baronet at a period the most opportune, and he believed, that there could have been no better means taken to put the country fairly in possession of the principles on which the Government had acted, than the speeches delivered by the right hon. Baronet this evening, and also upon the occasion of the former debate which had taken place upon the proposition of the Government with regard to the sugar duties. The Government had endeavoured to raise that amount which was called for to supply the deficiency in the revenue by means the most favourable to the people. They had sought to procure the amount required in such a way as, that while the burdens of the people were not increased, they should at the same time be placed in a better situation than that in which they had hitherto stood, and if ever there was a system to which it was unfit that such a vote as that now proposed should be applied, it was that which had so recently been advocated by her Majesty's Ministers. He was fully aware of the importance of avoiding all discussions upon the Corn-laws to hon. Gentlemen opposite, because he was aware, that the general knowledge of that question, together with a full acquaintance with the principles of those hon. Gentlemen, would in all probability have the effect of placing many gentlemen in that House who did not now enjoy seats in it, in lieu of many of those hon. Gentlemen; and without reference to the holding of office by one Government or by another, he thought, that it would be highly advantageous to the House, generally, that the country should have an opportunity of showing the opinion which was generally entertained by 871 those upon the questions at present at issue. This Parliament had already lasted during a period of four years, and he was one of those who had always supported the principle of shorter Parliaments. He had never objected to go to his constituents, and he thought, that the same feeling should pervade the House, for if the conduct of hon. Members in that House should be considered as right, there was no doubt that they would be again returned; but if it should be considered as erroneous, they would be compelled to give way to others more consistent than themselves, and the sooner that took place, under such circumstances, the better. The present crisis was entirely different from any which had occurred; it was one, whether the new principle of free trade which was advocated should be adopted. Hon. Gentleman opposite, with whom he had spoken upon this subject, had said to him, "We do not like the present Government.—we wish them out, but while we do so, we cannot deny, that we should be ready to agree to the measures which they propose if we were in power, but we do not put confidence in the Government." [Cheers.] He was glad to hear these sentiments expressed, because those hon. Gentlemen had never before advocated such measures, and when they cheered what he related as having been described as their sentiments, they in effect cheered a vote of want of confidence in themselves for having neglected to do that which they said ought to have been done. All they said was, "You have introduced a measure which we meant to have introduced; you have forestalled us; you have been in office a long while, and have asked our advice upon all the measures which you have brought forward, but we never thought, that without doing so, you would take that very step, which, if we had got into office, we intended to take." He believed, that the country would fully understand, that this was the line of argument of hon. Gentlemen opposite, but he begged to ask, if any feelings of opposition existed, what right the Government had to attempt to come to any conclusion, until they had first consulted the opinions and feelings of the country? The right hon. Baronet (Sir Robert Peel) had spoken of the etiquette which existed in the House with regard to the conduct of Ministers. Certainly, after having read in the notice of the motion of the right hon. Baronet, that 872 that conduct was contrary to constitutional principles, he had been surprised to hear such language held. The right hon. Baronet had opened his speech with a line of argument to which he had listened with the greatest delight, but he had gone beyond what he considered the constitutional right of the House of Commons. He said—"I speak not of Queen, Lords, and Commons, but of the Parliamentary usage connected with majorities and minorities in this House." It might be very right to have constitutional principles upon which that House should be guided; but if the acts of that House were to be looked at as being paramount in showing the mode of proceeding to be adopted, he might go back to a time when an ancestor of his own was connected with that House, when the mace was taken from the table of that House, and when he heard statements going so far as those which had been made, he could not but feel that he heard constitutional doctrines proposed which were at variance with what he had considered to be connected with the powers of that House. Upon one point he might he might appeal to the House with perfect confidence in his own knowledge of the truth of what he was about to say. The state of trade in Preston, which place he had the honour to represent, was most cramped and miserable, and he had the authority of a supporter of the noble Lord the Member for North Lancashire, for saying so, as well as his own knowledge of the fact, and it was quite impossible that the inhabitants of that place should go on, so as to be able to compete with foreign trade, unless something was done; and his regret was this, that individuals should be found on both sides of the House whose feelings in favour of the well being of the country gave way to the peculiar condition of parties, and who sunk the real interests of the country, to give place to the fights and quarrels of faction. With regard to the Poor-law, he would make one observation. The noble Lord the Secretary for the Colonies had brought in the Poor-law Bill, and it had been always supported by the right hon. Baronet the Member for Tamworth. An allusion had been made in his presence to the state of the towns of Nottingham and Bradford, in the former of which the system of out-door relief was not acted upon, while in the latter, that system had been adopted. He had asked the reason 873 of that difference, and the answer was, that in Bradford there had been a riot; in Nottingham there had been none; and he mentioned this in order that the country might be aware of the fact, that while one Member of the Conservative party supported the one system, another Member might present himself to his electors upon the other, and that, as an election might be shortly expected to occur, they might be aware from what causes results might be naturally expected. He was an agriculturist to a large extent, in Lancashire, and he would say, that if there was any alteration in the Corn-laws, he would be ready to take his tenant's leases off their hands, and take their stock also at a fair valuation. He was satisfied that his farmers would produce him more under a different system of commercial regulation than under the present protective duties.
§ Mr. Walter
said, that as his reasons for supporting the present motion might partake of a character different from those of other Gentlemen, he thought it his duty briefly to address the House. He had already intimated that he was not altogether opposed to portions of the new financial scheme of Ministers, but as he then stated having conversed with many competent judges of such matters, who were even friendly to the principles now assumed by the Ministry, he had learnt that there was no confidence in these new fiscal projects of increasing the revenue by the remission of taxation, no hopes of a beneficial result placed in them, in consequence of the abrupt and hasty manner in which they had sprung up. It was obvious that they had no deep root in the minds of those who brought them forward, they were a series of expedients, not bona fide and well-digested plans, but, as it were, the mere promises of a political death-bed repentance. As the sugar question was, for the present disposed of, he should advert only to the change proposed in the Corn-laws; and as all parties regarded with respect the opinions of the late Mr. Huskisson on that subject, he might be allowed to present some of those opinions to the House. Mr. Huskisson said, in March, 1828—The hon. Member for Somersetshire professed himself pleased with the law of 1815. He could only say to that hon. Member, that he lamented from the bottom of his soul the mass of evil and misery, and destruction of capital, which that law, in the course of its twelve 874 years' operation, had produced; and he did believe lie could make it distinctly appear, if the moment were a proper one, that the effect of the bill,;is far as regarded the agriculturists themselves, had been to keep prices of produce lower for those twelve years than they could have been, even if the trade in corn had been free.
he believed, had never regarded the present arrangement as a final measure. There was another authority also, which showed very justly from what cause much of the evil of which agriculturists complained originally sprung. Lord Liverpool said, in May, 1820 —The misfortune of the agriculturists was, not that too little, but that too much waste land had been cultivated—a misfortune (be it observed he called it a misfortune) which had arisen out of the high price of corn during the war. He positively knew that this was the source of the mischief, and that it had led to the breaking up of several waste lands, which bad previously been used at a small price for several useful purposes. More than one half of the individuals who had given their attention to this subject were of opinion, that if the capital which had been expended on the new land had been expended upon the old, it would have produced a much greater advantage to the community at large. Ha himself thought that if they were to proceed to cultivate more waste land, they would double, treble, quadruple, nay, quintuple all the present agricultural distress.It was not, therefore, on account of the corn proposition of the Ministers that he voted in the manner he should do, but on account of a general want of confidence in them, and a perfect conviction which he felt that they were not in earnest, but merely making a dying struggle to retain their power. Indeed, if they had been in earnest, why had they reserved important measures like these to the present crisis? Various acts of theirs had been assigned for their loss of the confidence of the people. The half-abortive infliction of the rural police was one just cause; and he might add their improper, but too successful attempt, to extend the privileges of that House unconstitutionally. He had been sent to that House almost expressly by a very important constituency, not merely by Conservatives and Chartists, but by many consistent Whigs also, to reprehend their course, and, if possible, to make them retread their steps, with respect to another justly odious and unconstitutional measure. The noble Lord, the Secretary for the Colonies, had stated, that he did not 875 mean now to pursue his New Poor-law; while, at the same time, he intimated, that if he had the power he would renew it. Hence he (Mr. Walter) should labour to prevent the noble Lord from retaining the power which he would so noxiously employ. He would oppose the measure in any hands, still more in those of the authors of the bill. He was prevented from going into detail on this measure, by the course which the noble Lord had pursued; but still, as his (Mr. Walter's) want of confidence mainly proceeded from that measnre, he might be allowed to say a few words to justify such feelings, arid the vote which he should in consequence give. That he should doubt the professions of the authors of the bill, would appear to be very natural when he showed how grievously they had swerved from previous assurances given with respect to the manner in which they would enforce it. "It would be absurd," said Lord Al-thorp, "to suppose that the bill meant to sanction a general system of workhouses." They had erected about 700 workhouses; and he had seen one in a half-finished state at Nottingham, built to contain 1,500 persons. Lord Althorp added, "That if the bill were to say, that now, or at any future time, relief should not be given out of the workhouse, it would go a great deal too far, and would be attended with bad consequences." The Whig Chancellor of the day also asserted, that "No one ever entertained the intention, or even a dream or imagination, of separating husband from wife, or parent from child." There had not, indeed, with respect to this bill, been one single promise or profession made by the Government, which they had not violated. How, then, could any rational man believe their present professions? Even if that were the fit occasion, it would be difficult to say anything new on the subject of the Poor Bill, except the fact of its unmitigated odiousness; and if it was the duty of the people, as no doubt it was, to submit to any law, so long as it was law, however revolting might be its provisions, it was certainly not the policy of any Legislature to put that duty to so severe a test and proof as it was now doing, by setting the feelings of nature and humanity in opposition to the principle of legal submission. A noble Lord (Lord Stanley) whose speech in that House would not soon be forgotten, had charged the Mem- 876 bers of the present Administration with setting numbers to wage war against property. What did the Poor-law do? It, in fact, did that which the noble Lord spoke of the other night as so fearful a mischief. It set the lower orders— it set numbers at war against property. But let it be recollected who it was that had struck the first blow; not numbers; they were resting quietly in their position. Property gave the stroke to crush numbers lower and lower. Let properly beware of the second blow; it would come from the other party; and let it be remembered, that it was the second blow that made the battle. But if the New Poor-law was a good measure—if it were consistent with the general principles of a free Government—if it had communicated peace and comfort to the population of the country, then, he said, the noble Lord, the Secretary for the Colonies, deserved thanks and admiration for his internal policy. The country was more obliged to him than to any man in public life. His supporters might well consider all opposition to so great a Minister as factious. He, however, who certainly had gained nothing by his opinions, but, on the contrary, had made great sacrifices by supporting them, thought that this measure was the reverse of all that he had thus stated hypothetic-ally, that it was tyrannical, cruel, and unconstitutional; and, therefore the noble Lord had his decided opposition. There was now a general belief in the necessity of a new Administration. He certainly felt the conviction that the present was totally incompetent to manage the affairs of the country. Personally, he cared not who might be their successors: but, be they who they might, they might rest assured, that if they upheld the present Poor-law, they would commence their Administration under that public feeling, with which the present Ministers would close theirs, namely, with being odious to the country. Before he sat down, he would say a word or two on the subject of the proposition made two nights ago to address the Crown in favour of certain political offenders. That proposition had been this night again animadverted upon. He trusted, that he should always be as anxious to maintain the prerogatives of the Crown as the just rights of the people. He would not detain the House by a justification of his own vote on that occasion, but he would just mention, that a pro- 877 position of a similar nature, made a few years ago for the remission of the sentence on Mr. Hunt, was supported by Lord Duncannon, Lord Brougham, Lord Ebrington, Dr. Lushington, Mr. Maule, Lord Normanby, Lord Stanley, the Marquesses of Tavistock and Titchfield, Sir Francis Burdett, and by the present Chief Justice of the Queen's Bench, Lord Denman.
§ Mr. Macaulay
felt called upon, in the first instance, to congratulate the right hon. Gentleman on the support which he had just received to his motion by the hon. Gentleman who had just sat down, who stated that he should vote for it, not on allegations previously stated on the opposite side, but on grounds completely contradictory to any which had been urged by the right hon. Baronet. The hon. Member said, that the principles on which he was prepared to vote for the motion, and to withhold his confidence from the Government, rested, in the first instance, on the Government's support of the question of privilege last year, and in defence of which the right hon. Baronet distinguished himself more than any other Member of the House; and, secondly, on their introducing and continuing the New Poor-law Bill, of which measure the right hon. Baronet, much to his honour, was a most strong and zealous supporter. He did not rise for the purpose of dwelling on these discrepancies, but for the purpose of following and answering some particular parts of the right hon. Baronet's speech, to which hitherto no allusion had been made by lion. Gentlemen on his side of the House. He would endeavour to compress what he had to say into as narrow limits as possible. He must, then, at once express some little surprise at the form of the present motion. If the right hon. Baronet had chosen to assert the principle that the present Government had not the confidence of the House of Commons, there might be some argument for his motion; but then he did not adduce an argument for the great constitutional question which was lying behind the first assertion in his resolution. As far as he had observed, the conduct of the right hon. Baronet, it appeared to him that he was generally against the assertion of any general principle which applied not only to any particular question, but to any other case that might arise. But in this resolution—this judicial resolution—he de- 878 parted from his usual course, for he thought fit to lay down a general principle as to what was in conformity with the spirit of the constitution. He believed, that it was no light matter for that House to pledge itself on its journals that one or the other course was in conformity with the spirit of the constitution. It was a serious matter for that House to come to any such resolution; for if any particular men acted upon the spirit of it the greatest inconvenience might ensue. He said this with confidence; for, if in any pressing emergency, or under circumstances of difficulty, the spirit of the constitution was violated and departed from by any public men, and if the House felt justified in sanctioning the proceeding, then they must determine that the opinion of the House, as contained in the resolution, was null and void. If, therefore, the House agreed to a resolution proposed by the right hon. Baronet, that the present Administration did not possess nor deserve, the confidence of the House of Commons, and that, therefore, it should be instantly removed, he could understand and appreciate the course of proceeding; but then the House would not fall into the error which the right hon. Baronet had done, in laying down what he believed to be nothing more nor less than a political dogma. The truth was, that the right hon. Baronet had mixed up the major part of his proposition with the minor. The major part of the proposition was, that her Majesty's Ministers do not sufficiently possess the confidence of the House of Commons to enable them to carry through the House measures which they deem of essential importance to the public welfare, and the minor portion of the proposition was, that their continuance in office, under such circumstances, was at variance with the spirit of the constitution. On the latter point, he would join issue with the right hon. Baronet, and he thought that he had good and conclusive ground for asserting that the House should not agree to this part of the resolution. But, first of all, with respect to the declaratory part. He thought that it was in the highest degree against the spirit of the constitution to sanction such a proposition. He could readily believe a state of things when such conduct as was impugned in this resolution was inevitable— when a state of things might arise from which there was no other possibility of 879 escape—when a state of things might occur in the country which rendered the proceeding necessary—and he believed that almost at the present moment there was such a state of things in this country as to render any other course, if not impossible, a matter of the greatest difficulty. He believed that the right hon. Gentleman's proposition might be met with a reductio ad absurdum. The proposition of the right hon. Gentleman, he contended, must, in certain states of parties, be violated by all governments. Take a plain and simple deduction from what had occurred, and was likely to occur again. There were 658 Members of that House. What security was there in the constitution of the country against their bringing forward propositions which the House would not support by a large majority? For instance, on any question, there might be 320 strong and zealous Tories or Conservatives on the one side, and 320 strong and zealous Reformers, or supporters of the present Government on the other— and suppose, also, that there were seventeen or eighteen Gentlemen who objected to the strong opinions of either party, and were adverse to adopt either of the extreme opinions that might be proposed. Under these circumstances, in what manner would the right hon. Gentleman secure a majority? And under such a state of things, if this resolution was to be adopted and acted upon by the House, how would the Government be carried on? Was this, he would ask, an impossible, nay, an improbable state of things? Take in the present Parliament the question of the Irish registration of voters. This was a question of the greatest importance, and involved the most momentous considerations. Whatever differences of opinion were involved on the subject, both sides, he was sure, would as once admit, that it was a matter of very great importance, as it was a question, which, to a certain extent, involved the constitution of that House, and on the principle on which it was determined depended the return of nearly one sixth of the Members of that House. The House was divided into two great parties on this subject, and they very nearly balanced each other. The one party had at its head the noble Lord, the Member for North Lancashire, the other supported the views of her Majesty's Ministers on this subject. The opinion also entertained by the opposite parties as to 880 the measures of their opponents was strong in the extreme. The noble Lord and his Friends entertained the opinion, that the adoption of the proposition of the Government, with respect to the Irish constituency, would be swamping the present bonâ fidé constituency in that country, and that the addition proposed to it by the Government was an approach to the adoption of universal suffrage. On the other hand, many Members on that (the Ministerial) side of the House regarded the measures of the noble Lord on this subject as little better than proposals for the general disfranchisement, and for almost the annihilation of the body of voters in Ireland which existed at the present moment. The difference of opinion was here fundamental and undeniable. Between these two great parties, however, there was a small body of Members who entertained the extreme opinions of neither; this body although small in numbers, was most respectable for its talents, but by their votes and influence were enabled to prevent either party succeeding in its measures. What were the circumstances that had arisen during the contests on this subject? Last year the noble Lord proposed his bill, and it was opposed, but opposed in vain, by the Government. He succeeded in getting it into committee, but when there, almost on the first division, the noble Lord was defeated in a clause which he considered a most essential part of his bill The noble Lord was defeated on a part of his bill, which he considered the great blemish of it, and it was clear to his mind, that if the noble Lord had not abandoned it, he would have had no chance of carrying it during the present year; the plan of the Government had been entertained by the House on its second reading, but on going into committee, it was defeated on one of its essential principles, and was, therefore, abandoned, and thus the matter at present stood, and neither party could succeed in carrying its measures. Might not similar difficulties and the same proceeding arise on other questions of importance, and above all on those of a fiscal character? for what finance question could be proposed which did not affect some interest or other, and which, if proposed, would not for the time throw that particular interest so affected, into opposition? in such a case, when the adverse parties in the House were nearly divided, any Minister might be embarrassed and 881 thwarted in his views. He did not hesitate to assert, that if the right lion. Baronet had been in office, and the House had been constituted and divided as the present was, and he had brought in a Budget and without attempting to guess what his plan might be—he would have had to encounter difficulties as great as those the present Government had had to contend with. The question, then, resolved itself into this—whether, in a very nearly balanced House of Commons, the principle laid down by the right hon. Gentleman should be abandoned, or whether they should have no Government at all. There was no provision in the constitution to prevent the electors returning 329 Members on each side. The decision of this matter rested with the constituency, and the House could not have any influence in the result. He therefore contended, that the right hon. Gentleman's course in declaring that this state of things was contrary to the spirit of the constitution, involved the proposition, that in certain states of things in this country, we must inevitably be left without a Government. These were the grounds, why, on general reasons, be characterised the motion of the right hon. Gentleman as contradictory and impracticable. Then, again, he felt, that in the position which he had taken, he was fortified by the proceedings in the best time of our history, and by the doctrines laid down by the best authorities on constitutional matters. It was the first duty of the Ministers of the Crown to administer the existing law. If the House of Commons did not place sufficient confidence in the Government for this purpose, it might express its opinion, either indirectly by the rejection of all the propositions of the Administration, or directly, as was the case in the instance alluded to by the right hon. Baronet, Sir Robert Walpole. The proceedings in either case sufficiently marked the want of confidence of the House of Commons in the Government. Under such circumstances, there was only the one or other constitutional course to pursue—namely,either to retire from office, or to dissolve the Parliament. He denied, however, that it could be called a want of confidence, if the House withheld its assent from any new legislative measure, or refused to sanction the alteration of an old law. The right hon. Gentleman, in the course of his speech, alluded to several events that had occurred since the 882 accession of the House of Hanover to the throne of this country, and had stated, that all the instances justified the course he had then taken. He, however, must take the liberty of referring to some instances which would rot have met the views of the right hon. Baronet. What had been the conduct of previous Governments on the rejection of new measures propounded by themselves, and which had been rejected by Parliament? In the first instance, did the right hon. Baronet forget the conduct pursued by Lord Sunderland and Lord Stanhope on the Peerage Bill? He did not know whether the noble Lord, the descendant of Lord Stanhope, was present; but he knew that his noble Friend was, on all occasions ready and prepared to defend his illustrious ancestor, and he would appeal to him, in perfect confidence, as to the conduct of that distinguished statesman, on the occasion to which he referred. Had any measure more important ever been brought before Parliament than that during the government of Lords Sunderland and Stanhope, with respect to the peerage? The proposition was, to confine the prerogative of the Crown to the then number of peers, and to allow only an addition of six more to the number. That measure was introduced into the other House, after a recommendation from the Throne; and although it met with the general approbation of the other House, it was almost unanimously rejected by the House of Commons. Did Lord Stanhope then resign? Did any one in opposition to the Government, call upon him to resign? He was sure, if any such demand had been made, that the answer of either Lord Stanhope, or Lord Sunderland would have been—" What, give up the seals of office at the present time, and let the Jacobites in "? He was sure that the right hon. Baronet would not, for a moment, imagine that he intended any offensive allusion. The reply, then, of those great statesmen would have been, "What! in such a moment abandon our offices, and let men into power whom we believe to be concealed traitors?"—of men, whose first proceeding would probably be to repeal the Toleration Act, and revive the bill against Occasional Conformity, and who would render every aid in their power in support of the Pretender? Neither Lords Stanhope nor Sunderland gave way, and resigned in consequence of the rejection 883 of the Peerage Bill, and he thought that they were perfectly right, and were justified in the course which they took. Again, Mr. Pitt followed a nearly similar course in 1786. This case was rather stronger than the former, for, in consequence of the influence of the then Duke of Richmond with the Government, Mr. Pitt, as Minister, was induced to bring forward a proposition for the general fortification of the coasts. This was shortly after the American war, during which our coasts had been threatened, and strong fears were entertained of landings and invasions, and the feelings which had been excited during the war had not had full time to subside. The resolution of Mr. Pitt was,That it appears to this House, that to provide effectually for securing his Majesty's dockyards at Portsmouth and Plymouth by a permanent system of fortification, founded on the most economical principles, and requiring the smallest number of troops possible to answer the purpose of such security, is an essential object for the safety of the state intimately connected with the general defence of the kingdom, and necessary for enabling the fleet to act with full vigour and effect for the protection of commerce, the support of our distant possessions, and the prosecution of offensive operations in any war in which the nation may hereafter be engaged.On the division Mr. Pitt was beaten, and immediately after the vote, he stated that he took it as the decision of the House on the subject, but he did not tender his resignation. Did any of the eminent men then opposed to him call upon him to resign, or propose a resolution similar to the present, because he had not sufficiently the confidence of the House of Commons to enable him to carry through the House a measure which he termed in his motion, an essential object for the safety of the state? Did either Mr. Burke, Mr. Fox, or Mr. Windham complain of the conduct of the Government? No; for if they had, what would have been Mr. Pitt's answer? He would have said, it was true that he had brought forward a very important measure, which he could not induce the House to sanction; but he did not conceive himself called upon to retire from office on that ground. He would have said, it was for him to consider whether those who were likely to come after, or succeed him, were more likely to have the confidence of the House in the administration of the exist- 884 ing law than himself. he would have asked himself, were they more able than himself to carry useful measures? The result would have been, that he would have replied that, on general principles, as the administrator of the law as it stood, he had the confidence of the House of Commons. He asked if, because the House threw out new measures, not essential for the existing law, a minister of the Crown introducing them was bound to resign? He believed that the right hon. Baronet was a Member of the Government when the property-tax was rejected. On that occasion, did either Mr. Ponsonby, Mr. Whitbread, or any other leader of the opposition call upon the Government to resign? Looking to the amount of the tax, that was a matter of more importance than the recent proposal of the Government, but no one made any suggestion of the kind. If any one had, the answer of Lord Castlereagh would have been, that he believed that the House had more general confidence in the then Government, than they were likely to have in the opposition if called upon to take office, and therefore that the Government were determined not to resign. He considered that this would have been a good and sound reason for refusing to resign. All these cases, however, were anterior to the Reform Bill. Now those who recollected the discussions in that House on that great measure, must remember that it was stated repeatedly by almost all who took part in the debate, that for the future a Government could not depend on a large body of thoroughgoing supporters, but that a very strong Government would have to contend with obstacles they had not formerly to encounter. It should be recollected also that in case of the defeat of a Government under the old system, the majority was not made up by parties who had left them, who were Members for small boroughs, but the representatives of counties or large constituencies. If you were to examine Mr. Pitt's defeats, you would find that they were not occasioned by the small boroughs but by the flinching to decide of the more open and liberal boroughs. If, before the Reform Bill, the most powerful Ministry was exposed to have measures which it deemed of importance defeated, that was still more probable after that bill. If the right hon. Baronet founded his case as to constitutional law upon the nicely-balanced 885 state of the House of Commons which had been produced by the Reform Bill, the right hon. Baronet would find, that, were he to come into office, but very few months would elapse ere, by the operation of the same principle, he himself would be very unpleasantly reminded of this same constitutional law. For himself, he did not hold that any Government was bound to resign, because it could not carry legislative changes, except in particular cases, where they were impressed with the conviction that, without such and such a law, they could not carry on the public service; and then this was a case which did not depend upon, whether the hindrance arose from King, Lords, or Commons. He was quite sure that on both sides of the House, Gentlemen would feel that there were many ways in which it might be ascertained whether the House did or did not repose confidence in a Ministry, without putting on the records of the House so ill-advised and unsound a resolution as this, declaring that such and such were the principles of the constitution. He had hitherto confined himself mainly to the constitutional question raised, but he had no sort of desire to flinch from any part of the question. He was clearly of opinion that up to this time, the Ministry had been quite justified in pursuing the course which they had adopted; and he considered, that as a Ministry, they had the confidence of the majority of that House. There were many vexatious circumstances through which they had had to make way; there were many dictates of duty which they had had to obey, which, had they been otherwise than dictates of duty, might probably have been deemed humiliating; but, under all the circumstances, he thought he was justified in saying, that up to this time the Ministry had administered the affairs of the country with satisfaction to the people in general, and with honour to themselves. Only a year ago, the House expressly declared that it was not dissatisfied with the Ministry; and since that period, many things had occurred which had been carried on without eliciting any declaration of dissatisfaction on the part of the House. He would ask whether the foreign policy which had been pursued by the present ministry, called for the dissatisfaction of the House, or of the country. He would ask whether England —had the present Ministry had to support its operations, a majority equal to that of 886 the administration under Lord Grey?—he would ask, whether England could hold higher language, or assume a nobler part than she had done under the conduct of the present Ministry? Were the present Ministry to leave the helm of office tomorrow, they would leave England as proud and justly prominent as ever in her political position among nations, and the honour of her arms untarnished. Again, in reference to domestic Government, within a very short period back, the most alarming symptoms had displayed themselves, most threatening to domestic tranquility. Yet the noble Lord at the head of the Home Department, without the slightest interference with private rights, without any gagging bills, without any suspension of the habeas corpus, without injuring any of the valuable securities of the people, with no other means than those of the most strictly constitutional character, had managed to allay the disturbances which arose, and restored the country to its accustomed tranquility. As to the Government of Ireland by the present Ministry, he was able to appeal to the distinct vote of confidence accorded by the House two years ago, in favour of the policy of their system—a policy which had been strictly adhered to up to the present period. And as to the state of the case now, a crisis had confessedly arrived in which we were under the necessity of providing for a considerable deficiency—a deficiency occasioned not by any act which called for a withdrawal of confidence on the part of the House, but partly by circumstances which rendered outlay necessary for the maintenance of the dignity and security of this country, and partly by the remission of taxation, called for by a large body of the people, and by men on all sides—a remission receiving the support, among others, of many Gentlemen whom he expected to find voting against Ministers on the present occasion. In connection with the political difficulties which had arisen came a great commercial crisis, and both of these difficult questions it became the duty of the present Ministry to consider. It became a question whether they were to supply deficiencies in a way which should relieve the people, or in a way which should add to their burdens. They chose the former plan. For himself, he had never expected that the whole of the new financial plan would be carried, but he certainly had expected that the 887 sugar and timber monopolies would be thrown aside, and that the corn monopoly would be placed in a more favourable position than before. The plan, however, had failed; but in his opinion, upon the great principles announced in the proposed resolution of his noble Friend, upon that great principle the Ministry, in his opinion, ought to stand or fall. And in this opinion, considering how grave was the importance of the question, considering how strong the feeling was throughout the country—considering the support which they might fairly except to derive from those interested in the question—considering how completely the ground of those who opposed Ministers in the late debate had sunk under them— considering the general contempt and disregard in which were held the proceedings of those who opposed Ministers on the mock grounds of humanity. The noble Lord the Member for Liverpool seemed dissatisfied at the remark, but the anti-slavery societies throughout England had, with well-nigh one voice, sanctioned the remarks, and repudiated the shifts of men who, because Englishmen would not longer let them grind the negroes, now sought to make the negroes grind the English. Impressed with all these considerations, he felt, that Ministers, having a due regard to the interests of the people, and desirous to work out the great work now in progress were found not to shrink from taking any constitutional means of testing what was the public opinion. It had been said, reproachfully,—"What! dissolve on a popular question, when there is such agitation, such excitement!" but on what suit or popular question should there be a dissolution? On what question appeal to the people, but a question in which they felt interested? As to the agitation which was suggested, there was no agitation but of the most legitimate description; there was no excitement—no agitation—but what was created of and by the people. Surely the right hon. Baronet did not mean to suggest that the people were not to feel excited, were not to get up an agitation, among themselves upon questions which they could not but perceive came home to their pockets, to their best interests and comforts? Surely the right hon. Baronet did not mean to preclude them from taking an honest interest in the returning to Parliament of Gentlemen who should fairly represent their sentiments, and if the right 888 hon. Baronet did not moan this, there could be no meaning in his outcry about agitation. But enough of this; the Ministers had done what they could on their part, the rest must be done by the people. Let but the people unite again with the spirit which actuated them in 1831, to resist corruption and aristocratic influence, and they would have an easy task. If the result was different—if the people neglected their own interests—if they deserted their post—at least they would have no reason to reproach the present Ministers who would then, without the smallest repining, submit to the voice of the country, and would pursue the only course left open to them, of maintaining through good report and through evil report, as private Members of the House, the same principles which they had advocated as Ministers.
§ Debate adjourned.