§ Upon the Order of the Day being read, for resuming the Adjourned Debate,
§ Mr. R. M. Milnes
said, that belonging to that small minority of those Members of the House who were in the habit of addressing it, who did not take part in the late debate, he thought he had now some small claim on the attention of the House, and he assured the House that if it were granted to him he would not abuse it. He wished it had been his good fortune to have caught the Speaker's eye last night, because he should then have at once and unpremeditatedly uttered his opinions, which the House, under such circumstances, would have received with its usual indulgence. But, rising this evening, to speak first upon the adjourned debate of a former day, he feared the House might expect more from him than he could give. It would he expected of him or of any other hon. Member who would address the House this evening that he should address his attention to the speech of his right hon. Friend the Member for Edinburgh (Mr. Macaulay). However they might differ in opinion as to the reasoning of that speech, they must all allow that it was one of the most interesting speeches ever delivered on the floor of that House. He felt that in coming into competition with such an authority, he should need all the kindness. of the House, and must place himself entirely at its mercy. If he (Mr. Milnes) understood his right hon. Friend rightly, he thought his right hon. Friend admitted that the 893 Government of which he was a Member was not able to carry certain measures, which, nevertheless, they believed were most important for the interests of the country; but that, notwithstanding this, he was not prepared to come to the conclusion of the right hon. Baronet the Member for Tamworth, that her Majesty's Ministers were unworthy of the confidence of the House. If his right hon. Friend had made good his proposition, he must say at once that he considered that the debate was at an end. But in answer to the subtle disquisitions and historical dissertations of his right hon. Friend, he would ask two simple questions which seemed conclusive against his argument, and these questions were, whether if this were true, if a Government were capable of administering the affairs of the country without demanding the legislative confidence of the Parliament, they would not arrive at these two conclusions, first, that it was next to impossible to turn out any Government at all, and that it was next to impossible to proceed with the Government of this country. If he was not wrong, the chief precedents which refer to the present case, were those of Mr. Pitt during the warfare which preceded the dissolution of the Parliament that opposed his administration, and that of his right hon. Friend, the Member for Tamworth, during the six weeks in which he was frequently defeated in that House. But there was this difference between those cases and the present one. Those questions were solely questions of party, and were carried by party spirit, questions in fact, not whether such and such measures should be carried, but whether the Government should be administered by certain men. In former times the chief questions which came before Parliament were questions relating to Administration, but now-a-days the case was entirely different. The administration of affairs was so much improved in all its branches, and so much better organised, that it would be difficult to find any question of that nature on which the Government could be turned out. It would be absurd now to think of subverting a Government for appointing a public officer who was unpopular, or nominating a bishop who was not orthodox. The hon. Member for Edinburgh had said, that the first business of a Minister was to administer existing laws; this might be the first business, but it was far from being all. For indeed how was it possible to draw a distinct line be- 894 tween administrative measures on one side and legislative measures on the other. The two are ever interwoven. The only way fitly to administer a bad law, is to make it better; and if a Government is too weak to be able to improve or perfect the law which is imperfect or inefficient, no possible administration of that law can be beneficial to the country. Look at the number of laws and amendments of laws, now proposed every Session, and tell me if the Government can throw off the responsibility of just legislation. It had given him some gratification to perceive during the debate, that they were not to feel themselves precluded, as some hon. Members had asserted they were, from handling this question of Ministerial confidence, lest they should be accused of dealing improperly with the prerogative of the Crown. Here at least the question of prerogative docs not occur, although indeed it had been very improperly introduced by his right hon. Friend, the Member for Nottingham (Sir J. C. Hobhouse). If indeed, that should take place, which he anticipated, he was confident her Majesty would perform aright, the solemn duties imposed upon her, and would find full compensation for any personal sacrifice in the affectionate gratitude of an admiring and sympathising people. It was then open to the House to consider fairly the proposition of the right hon. Baronet. He had founded that proposition or resolution upon the ground that the present Ministers could not pass those measures which they conceived to be essential to the public service. It might be said, that their power was, in the present state of parties in that House, limited to the extent of their being able to render abortive the measures attempted through Parliament by the conservative interest in that House. This was an unfair and an improper position as respected parties and the public, and it ought to be set right. There were, he was sorry to say, palpable causes, for this condition of parties in the State, and he saw some of them originating in the passing of the Reform bill. That bill was unfortunately a party, not a national measure, supported by a party which accomplished its object by a mere majority, and from that circumstance there were many Members in the House who could not be induced to act with or support the views of those who had thus forced that particular measure of reform upon the country. This seemed to him to account for our being now 895 come to a dead lock. Nothing could be harmoniously accomplished, whether the subject was suggested by them, or the other side of the House. They would recollect the effort made by the noble Lord (Stanley) to correct the abuses admitted to exist in the system of registration of voters in Ireland, and the fierce opposition he had met with in that praiseworthy attempt from her Majesty's Ministers. To consummate the mischief, the bill tardily proposed by the Government to effect the same object had failed, so that whilst the evil and the abuse of the franchise, through imperfect and fraudulent registration, was admitted to exist by the Government and the opposition, both their efforts failed to apply a remedy. Thus the Government, finding itself left unsupported by efficient majorities began to lose the confidence of even those who had raised them to power. Their obstinacy in refusing to resign their places to others, who might be able to carry these measures, held out fearful inducements to their opponents to refuse the supplies; but that temptation they had, much to their credit, refused—and had resolved to decide the question of the fitness of their opponents for office upon fair grounds of argument and appeal to the people. The Government, in this debate, had taken to itself the credit of our success in Syria and in Egypt; but he would tell his right hon. Friend (Mr. Macaulay) that he would not permit him to arrogate to the Ministry the merit and valour of our soldiers and sailors, who had so gallantly distinguished themselves at Newport, and in the late glorious campaign in the East. The cry of the Ministers at last was, that a terrible crisis had arrived. Now, he would remind them, that they had brought about that crisis themselves, by throwing down the most awful gage before the public that ever was heard of—namely, the question of free and unrestricted trade with the foreigner, to the prejudice of our own colonies and the industry of British subjects. This question of free-trade, merely as it respected the article of sugar, must decide if carried the fate of the great experiment carrying on at an enormous expense to this nation in our West-Indian possessions. It must decide not only the fate of the negroes in our West-Indian islands, but the fate of the negroes in a state of slavery in the United States, and the fate of the negro popoulation, wherever it may be found in a similar situation in any part of the globe. His right hon. Friend opposite 896 had admitted that on the defeat of the Government on the sugar bill, they ought to resign or dissolve. If the case were otherwise, the Chancellor of the Exchequer had only to compose his budget of a great variety of elements, and have a discussion upon each, which might be carried on for six months, and thus the business of the country be brought to a complete stand still. The noble Lord opposite had chosen a most unhappy time to agitate the subject of the Corn-laws, when the season promised under Providence to be productive of a most abundant harvest. Now, if the noble Lord had come down to the House immediately after his majority of twenty-one on the question of confidence last year, and proposed such a measure, the country would have given him credit for courage at least, but it was now clear that the question was suggested to his mind by the circumstances in which he was placed. He did not doubt, from the opinions of men who well understood the subject, with whom he had consulted, that abundant means might be found in the resources of of the country to make up even the frightful deficiencies of the Chancellor of the Exchequer without having recourse to such perilous experiments as those proposed by her Majesty's Government. If ever there was a question that required the most sober and deliberate consideration it was that of the Corn-laws. He must recall a phrase in which he had said that the courage of the noble Lord, the Secretary for the Colonies, could be impugned. On the contrary, that noble Lord was fatally courageous on political matters. It had been well said by a writer whose rare wit was always subordinated to strong common sense that that noble Lord would undertake to rebuild St. Paul's, command the channel fleet, and perform the most frightful surgical operation. The noble Lord had undertaken to rebuild the constitution by the Reform bill, to command a squadron which he himself declared not to be sea-worthy, after its defeat on the Jamaica bill, and now he has taken in hand the coarse instrument of popular excitement to accomplish a work which required the finest tact, the most consummate skill, and the wisest experience. Popular opinion ought not to be played with, and as well might it be expected to make the people understand the Newtonian theory of light as the bearing and effects of the repeal of the Corn-laws. Thanks to the providential good sense of the English people, the most violent ex- 897 citements had rolled from their minds as a ball from a marble surface, and would have fallen innocuous, which in any other land would have aroused a spirit of bloodshed and revenge. The distresses of that people as had been described in that House by some lion. Members must go to the heart of every Englishman—and he solemnly declared as a landowner that if he thought the total repeal even of the Corn-laws would have the effect of relieving those distresses, no consideration of self-interest should induce him to oppose such a measure. But he was not disposed to confound these distresses with the distresses of a Whig Chancellor of the Exchequer—he was not disposed to taint the solemn investigation of the evils under which our society was now labouring with the mean political casualties of the moment—with the question whether the Ministerial benches should be occupied by one set of Gentlemen or another. Reference had been made to the Reform bill and to Catholic Emancipation, but those were separate and distinct questions, and not complicated propositions as the present. His right hon. Friend the Member for Tamworth had been taunted by the right hon. Member for the city of Edinburgh with want of candour, but he thought he might with more justice retort upon the right hon. Gentleman and his colleagues the charge of going with false pretences to the country for they had raised the cry of the Corn-laws with no intention of carrying out any effective alteration in them, because they dared not propose a fixed duty of 8s., under those circumstances in which the duty was now not more than 1s. The proposition therefore, was nothing but a false pretence —a mere delusion. He did not mean to say that these questions would not, one day or other, in some form or other be carried; but he trusted it would be by some more safe and solid means than accidental agitation. If they were thus carried, any ultimate good they might produce would be diminished, and the immediate evil enormously increased. Under the operation of the Reform Act, he did not anticipate that any permanently strong Government could be formed by either side of the House; still he thought, if his right hon. Friend the Member for Tamworth occupied the bench opposite, his administration would be much stronger than that of the present Government; and of this he was quite certain, that his right hon. Friend, if he found he could not carry those measures 898 which he deemed to be essential to the best interests of the nation, would not stay there longer than he could properly and fitly discharge the duties of a Government. For himself, he (Mr. Milnes) had no ambition to see his right hon. Friend in any other position than that which he now occupied—a position in which he enjoyed the pleasures of power without its responsibilities—the untitled and unsalaried Minister of England. The question now really was, whether the Government was able to act up to the wants of the times, or were to continue in their present course, which had brought upon them the contempt and ridicule not only of the people of this country, but of all the world. He would not say what a Conservative Government might do; but he would venture to say what they would never do—they would not attempt to prolong the existence of a party by means totally at variance with its historical and traditionary principles,—they would not lay on the Throne, the burthen of its own deficiencies and short comings, they would not lay the train of domestic agitation, and just before the lightning explodes it, boast that they had saved the nation from destruction by their own supernatural prudence, and superhuman skill—- they would not in their foreign policy run the risk of a war with our great and natural constitutional ally, with that France, with whom it was the interest of all civilization that we should be heartily and firmly connected, for some imaginative fear of another power, which as yet, would hardly be said to exist, and thus fix our attention when the momentary peril was over, much less on any advantage we had attained, than on the risks we had run,—and lastly, they would not offer to all Europe the painful spectacle of a representative Government, retaining that power, which they ought to hold with an almost womanly sense of honour and delicacy, in defiance of the repeated opinion of the House of Commons, the constant opposition of the House of Lords, and the palpable distaste and distrust of the country. What he wanted to see was, an administration that would look only to the real interests of the country, and to such a Government he should always give his support.
§ Mr. A. Sanford
was glad that the right hon. Baronet (Sir R. Peel) had screwed his courage to the "sticking place," and at last brought the two great parties in that House to a fair stand-up fight. He (Mr. Sanford) did not hesitate to say, that 899 he could not place confidence in the right hon. Baronet. His impression was, that the question for the consideration of the country was, not whether the present Ministry should continue in office, or whether the power of Government should be transferred to the right hon. Baronet; but whether, judging from the previous conduct of the right hon. Baronet, it would be possible for the people to repose their trust and confidence in him. Upon what ground did the right hon. Baronet ask for the confidence of the House and the country? Was it on the ground of his former conduct whilst in power? Was it for his manner of treating great constitutional questions? Was it for his early resistance and late concession of the Roman Catholic claims? Was it for his opposition to the Reform Bill? Upon which of these grounds was it that he presented himself to the country and said "Give me your confidence?" The right hon. Baronet said the other evening that his principles were well known, and that he would make no fresh declaration of them. It might be very true, that the right hon. Baronet's principles were well known; but he (Mr. Sanford), nevertheless thought, that upon an occasion like the present some declaration of opinion was due from him. In his (Mr. Sanford's) view it was imperative upon a man who asked for so high an honour as that to which the right hon. Baronet aspired, to state to the country the grounds upon which he sought to attain it. In 1835 the noble Lord, the Member for North Lancashire (Lord Stanley) expressed an opinion, that it would be impossible for the country, judging from the previous conduct of the right hon. Baronet, to place confidence in him. How was it, then, that the noble Lord was now found among the right hon. Baronet's most ardent supporters? What work of public service could the right hon. Baronet urge that should outweigh the services performed by the present Ministry? He (Mr. Sanford) would venture to say, that during the last ten years more had been accomplished for the benefit of the country, than had ever been achieved in a similar period, under any other Administration; and he was satisfied that hereafter, when the spirit of party had subsided, and when the events of the present day were looked back to with calmness and impartiality, due justice would be done to those who of late years had conducted the affairs of the 900 country with so much advantage to the empire, and so much honour and credit to themselves. For these reasons he should feel it his duty to vote against the motion of the right hon. Baronet; feeling that if he were to give a contrary vote, it would not be a vote of want of confidence in the present Ministry, but a vote of confidence in the right hon. Baronet.
§ Mr. Darby
said, he had heard nothing in the speech of the hon. Gentleman (Mr. Sanford) who had just sat down, which should prevent him giving his vote in favour of the motion of the right hon. Baronet, the Member for Tamworth. The hon. Gentleman stated he could have no confidence in a Government formed by the right hon. Baronet, but had carefully abstained from expressing the slightest confidence in her Majesty's Ministers. The right hon. Gentleman, the Secretary at War, stated in his speech, that he would prove mathematically, by the reductio ad absurdum, that the motion of the Member for Tamworth could not be entertained. Now, the foundation of the principle on which such a mode of proof rested was, that that which we assumed should be demonstrated to be absolutely inconsistent with that which we proved to be true. But the right hon. Gentleman had done no such thing. The right hon. Gentleman's argument was this: that any Government now might be weak, and therefore to hold office under such circumstances could not be contrary to the spirit of the constitution. But he denied even that assumption, that the probability was, that a Government formed by the right hon. Baronet, the Member for Tamworth would be weak; nor could he agree in opinion with his hon. Friend, the Member for Pontefract. His grounds for believing, that a strong Government might be formed were, that the Reform Government in 1833 had a majority of 300; in 1834, 150; in 1835, 50; in 1836, 50; in 1837, 30; in 1838, 30; in 1839, that majority had dwindled down to ten; and in 1840, in eleven divisions, which right hon. Gentlemen opposite stigmatised as party divisions, her Majesty's Government were eight times left in a minority; in the present year they had been beaten three times out of four, and on the last occasion by a majority of thirty-six. There had been three different Parliaments sitting during this period; and it would be a curious calculation, whether her Majesty's Government had lost the confidence of the 901 House or of the country most rapidly. But he (Mr. Darby) thought that the opinions thus expressed in the House might be taken as a fair index of the feelings of the constituency: and he (Mr. Darby) thought it was reasonable to conclude, that the right hon. Baronet had every prospect, should he be called to power, of forming a strong and efficient Government. The right hon. Gentleman, the Secretary at War, had been brought into that House, on account of his talents, to assist in carrying the Reform Bill; and now, a Cabinet Minister of the Reform Government, was he to tell the House, that the effect of the Reform Bill had been such, that the House could not with safety to the country exercise one of its most important privileges, namely, express its opinion on the efficiency of the Government to carry on the Administration of affairs? The right hon. Gentleman, the President of the Board of Control, had praised the noble Lord, the Member for North Lincolnshire, for his stright-forward and manly conduct; but he thought the right hon. Gentleman had acted somewhat cruelly towards the noble Lord. The noble Lord had stated, that the vote of confidence was not connected with the Corn-laws. "But," said the right hon. Gentleman, "the Government will dissolve, and ask the country whether it has confidence in the Ministers." It was monopoly or no monopoly. As to monopoly, he believed, that it was the Chamber of Commerce of Manchester, backed by the Government, who were attempting, for selfish purposes, to trample upon the great commercial and agricultural interests of this country; and be was inclined to credit this the more, as the noble Lord had stated, that the Government first contemplated the budget in March. In March it was, that the Chamber of Commerce met on the import duties, and in March published their pamphlet on that subject. But the noble Lord, the Member for Lincolnshire, and his Friends would have to go to their constituents and say "I have voted with the Government without reference to the Corn-laws; but the Government would only accept my vote as connected with their budget; and if their agitation succeeds, you will lose your Corn-laws. But at least you will have this consolation,—I have secured for you a Whig-Radical Administration." There were certain persons in 1784 called Fox's martyrs; and perhaps the noble Lord, the 902 Secretary for the Colonies, thought there would be Peel martyrs in 1841. But he advised the noble Secretary to enq ireof the noble Lord, the Member for Lincolnshire, and his Friends, whether they did not think there would be a greater number of Russell martyrs. The noble Lord, the Secretary for the Colonies, alluded on a former occasion to the right hon. Baronet, the Member for Tamworth's, having been a party to those expences which had created the financial difficulties. It was not for him (Mr. Darby) to say what were the opinions of the right hon. Baronet; but he had a right to state the grounds on which he had, with respect to them, given his unhesitating support to the right hon. Baronet. The principle on which he understood that the Member for Tamworth had assented to the increase of the forces, was, not that he expressed any approval of the policy of the Government, but that though armies and fleets might be wanting to repair the mischief, a stout frigate would have prevented it. The right hon. Baronet would not punish the neglect of the Government by the sacrifice of the country, but would assist those who had been to blame, to maintain the honour of the nation and the integrity of the empire. But the right hon. Gentleman, the Secretary at War, had fallen into great error in mistaking the energies of the people and the support of the Opposition for the energy of the Administration. He believed much of the embarrassment was owing to the Government. In Canada, no doubt, there were great difficulties, but did not those at the head of the Government there, declare that the loyal distrusted Her Majesty's Government, and the disloyal believed they had the Government on their side? The truth was, it was impossible to govern the country on Radical principles at home, and on Conservative principles in the colonies. Again, he had heard the noble Lord, the Secretary for Foreign Affairs, say in his place in Parliament, with reference to Eastern affairs, that long ago the Porte had applied to this country. The noble Lord left them to obtain that assistance from Russia. He would not go further into detail, but he was justified in asserting that Government had involved the country in its present difficulties. The noble Lord opposite stated that the insurrection of the Chartists had led to considerable expenditure, and the Secretary-at-War that there had been 903 similar outbreaks since the time of the French Revolution. He begged to ask who evoked that spirit at the time of the French Revolution? The same party who were now the authors and founders of Chartism. He did not mean to charge the noble Lord opposite with designing these things, but it was consequent on the policy of the Government. The noble Lord charged the Conservative party with a dishonourable coalition with the Chartists. This he denied. In a late contest the Chartists offered their support to the Conservative candidate, who had been most active in putting them down, on the ground that the noble Lord and the Government had first misled them and then punished them. [Laughter.] The noble Lord laughed. Did he not appoint Frost a magistrate? They sowed the seeds of resistance to all Government, and expected to reap party power. They forgot the immutable law of nature, that seed should bear seed after its own kind; but the poisonous fruit had been gathered from the noxious seed, and they had been placed in the most painful and degrading situation in which a Government could be placed. They had been, of necessity, compelled to punish those whom they had misled. He had denounced, and always would denounce agitation as inconsistent with the principles by which he had all his life been actuated. But if such language were used at the hustings as had lately been held at Covent Garden, and the noble Lord's speech on the Budget was but the same, reduced to a Parliamentary scale, should the supporters of the Government go prepared with such weapons? He feared there was great risk that in the excitement of an election, others would be induced to take up similar weapons to defend themselves. He hoped not, for he contemplated this with fearful apprehension, and should the people be roused, and tumult follow, they (the Government) would be responsible to their Queen and their country. And should they fail, humiliated as the right hon. Secretary at War admitted they had been, they would then be worse than humiliated, and at last have to resign their offices in the face of a people who had shewn themselves wiser and better than those who had misgoverned them. They had abandoned one measure—they had promoted agitation in another, which he believed would fail of its intended 904 purpose; yet no man could predict the mischief which might ensue. No one could doubt the fact that the Government were incapable of carrying on any longer the business of the country. And was this, then, the effect of the Reform Bill that it was necessary for the House of Commons, without a struggle, to resign its most important privilege,—the privilege of expressing its opinion on the inefficiency of the Government, and the propriety of resignation? He felt confident that the House would not without an effort abandon so important a function; and it was only on this pretence that it seemed possible to offer any resistance to the motion then before the House.
said, that he believed that the noble Lord the Secretary for the Colonies was anxious really and truly to bring forward measures for the benefit and for the consideration of the country. Those measures were intended to relieve the distress which existed in all parts of the country, and which was admitted by both sides of the House, as requiring a radical alteration. He rose for the purpose of expressing his gratitude to the Government for the measures which they had taken for the relief of the people of Ireland. The policy of the Government was acknowledged by that people, and had produced a state of tranquillity in Ireland greater than had ever before existed. He felt surprised that the state of Ireland had never been once referred to by the right hon. Baronet opposite in his attack on Ministers. The right hon. Baronet had avoided Ireland altogether, but he (Mr. Hutton) thought, although Ireland had not been mentioned in the course of the debate, j that it had some right to be considered. The Chancellor of the Exchequer had referred to Ireland as having been the cause of a great part of the deficiency of the revenue. That deficiency had been caused by a great moral effort on the part of the people of Ireland, and he thought they were entitled to the benefits arising from the reductions of the duties proposed by Government. It was but fair that they should have an opportunity of making up the deficiency which had been caused by their abstaining from spirituous liquors. The measures of Government, he thought, | would not only benefit the revenue, but would also be of great advantage to Ireland. The hon. Member for Pomfret had referred to a great many topics, and among 905 others to the time these measures had been brought forward. Now, he thought that the proper time for bringing forward these measures was when the distress of the country was greatest. The right hon. Baronet had also refrained from referring to the bill of (he noble Lord the Member for North Lancashire, which was intended to distress and harass the people of Ireland, under the name of defining their franchise. The party opposite had succeeded in throwing out the bill of the Government, which would have remedied the defects which the bill of the noble Lord the Member for North Lancashire would not have remedied. Yet the right hon. Baronet had avoided all mention of these measures. Looking, then, to the course which the right hon. Baronet had pursued, he could not believe that his Government could ever give satisfaction to the people of Ireland, and approving, as he (Mr. Hutton) did, of the policy of the present Government towards that country, he felt bound to oppose the motion of the right hon. Baronet opposite.
I am not surprised, Sir, that her Majesty's Ministers should receive support on this occasion from the Members of the movement party in this House. But I must confess, I am surprised how any man, the representative of agricultural constituents, who heard the speech of the noble Lord (the Member for Stroud) the other night, how any man who was an adherent of Lord Grey's Administration, who was an admirer of the principles on which that administration was constructed, can give his support on the present occasion to those who have abandoned every ground, who have violated every principle on which that Administration was conducted. Lord Grey, when he retired from office stated, that the principle alone on which he had consented to administer the affairs of the country, were peace, retrenchment, reform, and non-intervention. How have Ministers maintained peace? Have not the country been involved in expensive wars? How have they acted on the principles of non-intervention? There has been nothing but interference with foreign nations. Where are their retrenchments? Having taken office with a large surplus revenue left by the Duke of Wellington's Administration, they have exhibited a miserable deficiency in the public revenue, and the Chancellor of the Exchequer came down last year and called on the House 906 for an increase of taxation, and notwithstanding this, he again exhibited this year a still more lamentable deficiency, to remedy which, he and her Majesty's Government put forward measures which he knows and they know will be impossible to parry, this or the next Parliament. Lord Grey, when he retired from office stated he had placed the great question of Parliamentary reform on a safe and satisfactory basis—that basis Ministers have recently attempted to disturb—and their supporters openly avow it. As long as the Reform Bill enables them to make inroads on the institutions of the country, as long as it enables them to proceed with the march of democracy, so long are they content to abide by it, so long are they willing to constitute that as public opinion, but the moment they find a Conservative tendency in the country, a determination to resist the further progress of democratic principles, then they call out for change, and still further change, till it shall suit their views and interests. Lord Grey congratulated Parliament on the settlement of the West-India question—the question of negro emancipation—that principle Ministers have also attempted to violate. Lord Grey boasted that he had left trade in a sound and healthy state — can her Majesty's Ministers say the same? who, by the feebleness and decrepitude of their Government, and their adherence to office, have involved the trade and commerce of the country in a state of stagnation; who, for their own purposes, prolonged and protracted the debates the other day, notwithstanding they had been reproved in this House by the late Governor of the Bank, for the evil effects which the continuance of the discussion is likely to have on the trade and commerce of the country. Lord Grey's Cabinet were united in resisting any alteration in the Corn-laws. Lord Grey, when he found himself, not in a minority, but supported only by a small majority, sooner than yield to the pressure from without and concede measures which he did not approve of, acting in the spirit of the constitution, retired with honour to himself. Lord Grey stated, that communications had been held (without his knowledge or consent) with a person, he would describe him in no other terms than one who took a strong part in the affairs of Ireland—had he been aware of them there was no power which he possessed, no 907 influence which ho had, which he would not have exerted to prevent them, because he knew from experience that no communications could be made with safety in that quarter —that quarter was now the main prop and support of her Majesty's Government. One of the last acts of Lord Grey's Government, when the question of the Repeal of the Union was before the House, was to move an address to the Crown, sending it up to the other House of Parliament, making it an act of the Imperial Legislature, pledging Parliament to the maintenance of the union with Ireland. And would Lord Grey have consented, as her Majesty's Ministers had done, to take into their Government one who had on that occasion voted for the dismemberment of the British empire. Now, Sir, the Secretary-at-War last night took credit to the Government for their administration of the affairs of Ireland, and asked with an air of triumph whether the House had not given them a vote of confidence two years ago, and confessed that their policy towards that country was laudable; but he omitted to state the real circumstances of the case. Charges of high crimes and misdemeanours have been brought against the executive Government in Ireland, and a committee has been appointed by the House of Lords to inquire into them. In order to intimidate the House of Lords, and stifle this investigation, Ministers came down to this House and called for a vote of confidence for their Government of Ireland—which they voted in the absence of all information—but it was distinctly proved before that committee, that there had been a perversion of justice for political purposes, that crime and outrage had been encouraged, so that the executive had placed itself above the judges and the jury of the land. That notwithstanding the difficulty of obtaining convictions in that country, the verdicts of the jury had been set aside and the sentences of the judges reversed, a violation of the great securities of public liberty—the trial by jury and independence of the judges. The Secretary-at-war also took credit to the Government for the suppression of the riots in this country, and boasted that they had done so without the suspension of the Habeas Corpus Act, and without coming to Parliament for higher powers, but he omitted to inform the House what had in a great degree encouraged those disturbances. Had he forgotten the speech 908 of the noble Lord the Member for Stroud at Liverpool, and the countenance he had given to the Chartists by placing known Chartists in the Commission of the peace? Now, Sir, I should like to ask Ministers this question,—after they have appealed to the country on the subject of the Corn-laws, and they find themselves defeated on that question, as they will be, and they know they will be, in the next Parliament, will they then resign, or having made that cry their purpose, will they abandon it, as they did the Appropriation Clause?—as they did the Church rate question?—as they did the Irish Registration Bill? and attempt to scramble on wielding the patronage without the power of office. And what must the impression in the country be? Why that the noble Lord at the head of the Government, who had two years expressed himself strongly in favour of the Corn-laws, and who resigned because he said Ministers had not strength to take those measures of energy and importance which the circumstances of the country required, had lent himself to put this question forward for the unworthy purpose of crippling his successors in office. And that's the noble Lord, the leader of this House—he, who when the representative of a county, had addressed a letter to his constituents couched in strong language in favour of the Corn-laws—had for the purpose of propping up his weak and tottering Administration, condescended to make that speech the other night, a speech in direct violation of his former opinion, a speech so unworthy of a Minister of the Crown, calculated to excite, inflame, and agitate, the minds of the people, attempting to set one interest against another—to place the landed interest in an unfair and invidious position —a course which, however it may gain for him temporary applause, however it may give satisfaction to those who advocate extreme opinions, and who wish to keep this country in a perpetual state of ferment and excitement, let him depend upon it, will lessen him in the confidence, and lower him in the estimation, of all the friends of peace and good order throughout the country.
§ Mr. H. Grattan
said, that he rose in behalf of two classes, which the right hon. Baronet opposite had omitted to notice— the people of England and the people of Ireland. It was an extraordinary thing that, during a speech of one hour and a 909 half, the right hon. Baronet had never mentioned the words, the people of Ireland or the people of England. The Government had been called a weak, an ignorant, and a contemptible Government. These were phrases which the people of England would remember, and, perhaps, the Administration of the right hon. Baronet opposite would be characterised by the same epithets. But in regard to the measures of the present Government, for the reduction of the duties on sugar, timber, and corn, he thought they were founded on sound and comprehensive principles. We could not expect foreign nations to take the manufactures of this country, if we did not take their produce in return. They might depend upon it, that the people would see on the other, the Conservative side, the spirit of monopoly; and on that the Ministerial side, the spirit of liberalism. In all the speeches which Gentlemen opposite had made on the subject, he could not discover three statesmanlike sentences. The example of Mr. Pitt had been cited against Ministers, but Mr. Pitt had not resigned in 1784, when he gave up the reform principle; he did not resign on the Catholic question. He resigned afterwards, on a point of honour peculiar to himself, and not in consequence of being defeated in the House of Commons. He would at once allude to the case of his own country. The right hon. Baronet had been guilty of two great omissions. The individual who sought to be the Minister of this country ought to have made a statement of the principles upon which, if he attained office, he would act. When the right hon. Baronet saw the great concessions the present Ministers were disposed to make, to meet the embarrassed state of the industry and revenue of the country, and when he knew what it was they had already clone for Ireland, by which they had gained the gratitude and support of that people, who were eight millions, he thought the right hon. Baronet should have told the House what it was he meant to do with that country. There were in the right hon. Baronet's speech two words, which particularly dwelt upon his ear. The right hon. Baronet said, "I reserve my opinions, I promise nothing." [Sir Robert Peel: I said on finance.] He could not be mistaken, for he felt anxious to know what the right hon. Baronet proposed doing with respect to Ireland, and he omitted to notice the 910 condition of eight millions of Irish subjects. He forgot his former speech, in which he declared, that the great obstacle his Government had to encounter was the Government of Ireland, although on that occasion he resigned under the pretence that he could not control the appointment of the bed-chamber women. But it was Ireland that defeated the right hon. Baronet, and he thought that they would be able to conquer the right hon. Baronet and his friends yet. For that reason he had risen, in order to show that the right hon. Baronet was totally and absolutely unfit to conduct the affairs of this great empire. Some words used by the hon. Member for Pontefract fell upon his ear-—. namely, that he hoped the right hon. Baronet would form a strong Government. Now, he knew what a strong Government in Ireland meant. They had had a strong Government there in former days; and what did it cost this country? It cost it a rebellion. Therefore, when hon. Members talked of a strong Government, the words fell upon his ears not merely with a grating sound, but with a sound of horror, because the people of Ireland dreaded it as well as detested it. But the House was now occupied in talking about having a new settlement of the empire. What was it to be? The right hon. Baronet had left out of his calculation one great portion of the empire; he proposed nothing for the manufacturers of England, nothing for the foreign traders, nothing for the merchants. He and his friends left things as they were. This showed either their incapacity, their ignorance, or their hard-heartedness. It proved either their indifference, or their contempt for the people. On former occasions, one hon. Member spoke of the Irish as an "ignorant people;" another declared them to be "rebels;" while a third called them "emancipated cowards." These were the people respecting whom the right hon. Baronet had now observed so ominous a silence, and yet he and his Friends supported papers that had published speeches and dissertations ten-fold more dangerous than anything the noble Lord, the Secretary for the Colonies, ever made at Stroud. His charge against the right hon. Baronet was, that he had been deficient in his duty. It was his duty to come forward now, and the more so, because he was looked upon with suspicion, and declare the course he intended to pursue with respect to Ireland, 911 Was it not known, that his intention was to place at the head of the judicial authorities in this country that person who was peculiarly obnoxious to the people of Ireland—Lord Lyndhurst—who had stigmatized the Irish, as being "aliens in blood, aliens in language, and aliens in religion." To show the candour of the party, when a bill was under discussion in which it was proposed to retain the seat of the right hon. and learned Member for the Tower Hamlets, while holding a judicial office, they opposed it; but when a bill was proposed containing a clause which excluded the Recorder of Dublin from holding a seat in the House, the same parties opposed that. Thus they would exclude the hon. and learned Member for the Tower Hamlets (Dr. Lushington) because he was a Liberal, and would retain the right hon. and learned Recorder of Dublin (Mr. Shaw) because he was a Tory. Much vituperation, at various times, had been cast upon the character of men who had held high office in Ireland; but he must be allowed to say, that no men ever acted with more justice in that country than Lord Normanby and Lord Ebrington had done. Lord Normanby, during his administration, acted in a manner that did him the greatest credit. He not only maintained the peace and security of the country, but he gained to himself the good will of the people throughout Ireland. The embarrassment of the right hon. Baronet arose with respect to Ireland, and the question was, how did he intend to get out of the difficulty? What was it he would do with the sly and insidious manner of the right hon. and learned Member for the University of Dublin? What would he do with the active and talented Member for Bandon, and what with the ferocious phraseology of the hon. Member for Coleraine? Why the right hon. Baronet would be check-mated by them, and he would not know what to do. And what had been the conduct of the opposite party to gain the few advantages they boasted of at the recent elections? He did not think that any honest body of men could, in any society or country, after having read the shameful facts disclosed at some recent elections, give their support to the right hon. Baronet. He would refer to the voting at Ludlow, at Cambridge, at Nottingham, and Sandwich. At Nottingham votes were purchased for 15/., and at Sandwich they were to be obtained for 912 5l. Any individual who would have given more might have displaced the present Members, and have thus reduced the number of the right hon. Baronet's supporters. Why these were facts. He would ask the noble Lord, the Member for Liverpool, whether this was a fact—that in his own town, in the committee-room, a wall was built up, through which a hole was made, and that when the hand of the voter was put in, the holding up of five fingers meant five guineas, and ten fingers meant ten guineas, as the price of the vote. [Viscount Sandon: I don't know it.] No, the noble Lord does not know it; but does the noble Lord deny the fact? [Viscount Sandon: Yes.] Did the noble Lord deny that it was done at Ludlow? Did he deny that it was done at Sandwich? He would not enter into an unstates-manlike conflict, or a boyish altercation, but he would refer the noble Lord to what he ought to have read and known—to reports on the table, where there was ample evidence of bribery and corruption. Why, it was but last night that a right hon. Gentleman opposite (Mr. Wynn) gave notice of a motion to institute a prosecution for bribery and corruption. Did the House believe, that they would have ever heard of that proposition if there had not been the fear of a dissolution of Parliament? [" Oh, oh,"] Me knew that hon. Members opposite did not like to hear of these things; but he had himself seen the money in the hands of some of the electors. Such had been the baseness of the electors and of the Tories in England. Could the same be said of election contests in Ireland. In the various scenes in which he had been engaged he could not lay his hand upon an individual who had ever received a shilling and he defied hon. Members to produce a case from all the records of elections in that country. Had hon. Members read the correspondence that had passed between Sir Thomas Cochrane and Mr Fitzroy Kelly, relating to the election at Ipswich which was an infamous proceeding. It was at first proposed that Sir T. Cochrane should pay 1,000l. to keep out a Whig or Radical. That he agreed to pay. He was then called upon to make it 2,000l. To that he ultimately agreed. Then a further sum of 500. was demanded, and a threat made that if he did not pay it, some other candidate would be sought for, who would. To this Sir T. Cochrane 913 objected, on the ground that he had been guaranteed his seat for a less sum; and he then ceased to be a candidate. Such were the means by which the right hon. Baronet's majorities were obtained. He wished the right hon. Baronet joy of such majorities—now of sixteen, and now of thirty-two. But he would tell the right hon. Baronet that there was a country where once these things were practised, when the Minister of the day availed himself of the baseness of the electors and of his own partisans, and what was the result. It was not an infringement of the prerogative of the Crown; it was not the destruction of the rights of the people; but it was a total annihilation of the legislature. And that he ventured to prophesy would be the result of the venality and the corruption which had crept within these walls, and of all those shameful practices which cried out so loudly, if not for punishment, certainly for correction. It was by these practices that the majority of the right hon. Baronet had been produced; and he again wished the right hon. Baronet joy. But the people of England knew how to purge the House of these abuses, and how to get rid of these scenes of infamy. Seeing these statements lying on the table of the House, he should not be an honest man if he did not denounce a system which sapped the very vitals of the country, and which would, if not checked, ultimately destroy the constitution of England. The right hon. Baronet and the party to which he belonged had governed the country for upwards of sixty years; first, under Lord North, then under Mr. Pitt, afterwards under the Duke of Portland, then Mr. Perceval, and lastly under Lord Liverpool, during a period of warfare with the different nations of the world, and in every one of those conflicts they were beaten. They were beaten by Dr. Franklin in America—they were beaten by the French; in all their negotiations they were defeated, and it was reserved for the noble Lord the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs to do what the Tories had not been able to do for nearly a century — to conquer the French in negotiation and to secure the peace of Europe. The right hon. Baronet had observed silence as to his policy. Now, it was very well known that many of those who supported the right hon. Gentleman were loudly calling for the repeal of the Catholic Emancipation Bill. 914 Was that bill to be repealed or not. [" Cries of Oh, oh."] Hon. Gentlemen might exclaim oh ! but such things had been done before. Men had been induced to alter their opinions by' the pressure from without; and who could tell how such a pressure might again operate? It might be all very well for the right hon. Baronet to keep silence, but he must be allowed to tell the right hon. Baronet that silence would no longer do. The people of Ireland, would insist upon receiving an answer. The people of England were asking for cheap bread and cheap sugar, but the people of Ireland were asking for what was of more worth to them than bread or sugar, they were asking for the liberties and privileges of freemen. These the noble Lord opposite had already threatened to take away. The people of Ireland, therefore, would not trust the right hon. Baronet or his party. In proof of this he would refer the House to the address which had recently received the signatures of noblemen and gentlemen in Ireland, possessors of property there of between forty and fifty millions value, and which was about to be laid before the Queen. In that address were expressed the sentiments of men of the greatest wealth and highest station in Ireland, who deprecated any change of administration which would confer power on a party who had always ruled over that country in the spirit of tyranny and domination. He had now done. He called upon the people of England not to trust those individuals who had ever been the enemies of liberty, and of the advancement of civilization and peace, but to uphold those men who had done justice to the cause of freedom, and were anxious to promote every liberal measure. What was the estimation in which the Government of this country, and more especially the character of the noble Lord the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs, was held in France? He would refer to a speech which was recently made by one who was a distinguished member of the Chamber of Deputies. M. Berryer, when speaking of the Government of this country, said of Lord Palmerston, that it was true that the noble Lord was not a friend to France, he was not a friend of his (M. Berryer's) country; but, nevertheless, that noble Lord had done much for England. He had established her naval and military honour, and her commercial renown; her flag had been 915 raised by him in the west, and in the north; in the east, and in the south; he had carried on negotiations with foreign countries which had established the peace of Europe, and while France was foiled, France was conquered, England by his policy and talent was placed at the head of Europe. That was the character given by a French senator of the noble Lord who displayed such talent in the cause of virtue and in the cause of his country, and yet there sat the right hon. Baronet and his friends, the calumniators of the noble Lord, regardless of the high deeds he had achieved, by which he had done honour to his country and to his Queen, and had upheld the liberties of the people. And why did they calumniate him? Because he and his colleagues were anxious to supply the wants, the necessities, and comforts of all. When such men fall they will fall like honest men; and when they do fall and their principles fall, then may we bid adieu to the rights and liberties of the people, and the honour and prerogatives of the Crown. For both I am ready to lift up my voice, to draw my sword, and shed my blood.
§ Lord Teignmouth
Sir,—I will not refuse to my hon. and learned Friend who has just sat down the merit to which he lays claim of uncorrupted patriotism: nor will I dispute with him the exclusive statesmanship to which he pretends: but this I must assert, and probably with the concurrence of the noble Lord the Secretary for the Colonies, that notwithstanding his abilities, and his ardour characteristic of the people to which he belongs, and of which he represents a large constituency, his speech has proved but an ebullition of party spirit, and has not contained a single argument calculated to resist the resolution of my right hon. Friend the Member for Tamworth, or to uphold the tottering condition of her Majesty's Government. Nor, althoughWith a withering look He the war-denouncing trumpet took,has he in any degree roused his party from the uninterrupted despondency which has marked the speeches of all who preceded him on the same side. The addresses of the two Cabinet Ministers who have defended the Government, exhibited a singular discrepancy, My right hon. and learned Friend the Secretary at War, contended that the measures of Ministers 916 should not be urged as ground of confidence or of distrust; that the imputation or failure of these, originated in the weakness of Government, and that this weakness had necessarily resulted from the equalization of the balance of parties produced by the Reform Bill, and that no Government could possibly possess the strength which might be looked for by some, constituted as the House of Commons had become by that measure. Before concluding the observations with which I will trouble the House, I will notice the opinion of my right hon. Friend on the effect of the Reform Bill: in the meantime I allude to his argument with a view to contrasting it with that of his colleague the right hon. the President of the Board of Control. That hon. Baronet did not abandon the defence of the measures of Government; on the contrary, he challenged, in favour of several which he enumerated the approbation of the House. Of the two different courses pursued by the hon. Gentlemen, I am disposed to prefer that of the right hon. Baronet. I will not deny the merit of some of the measures of Government; for some of those for the support of the Established Church, and the Amendment of the Poor Law; the noble Lord, as the head of her Majesty's Government in this House deserves the highest praise; and above all, Sir, for the noble stand which he made last Session in defence of the privileges of this House, or rather of the integrity of the Constitution, he was entitled to immortal honour. But the passing of some good measures does not prove that the Ministry have enjoyed the confidence of the House; it proves only that they were met, not by a factious opposition, but one, on the contrary, ready to afford a cordial support to any of a beneficial tendency. In regard to Church questions, did the conduct of the Government merit the confidence of the House? what had been its opinion respecting the Appropriation Clause 1 had not the House repudiated it? A motion was brought forward some nights ago by the hon. Member for Leicester, declaring that the exaction of the payment of Church-rates from persons not professing the doctrines of the Church was a violation of the principles of civil and religious liberty. This proposition, striking at the root of the Establishment, was opposed on that ground, by the noble Lord the Secretary for the Colonies. How was he 917 supported on that occasion? by only five Members on his side of the House, who were not in office or closely allied to Members in office. The hon. Gentleman who last spoke, confined his defence of the Government to their policy in regard to Ireland. The Ministers had proposed two most important measures in reference to that country; the Appropriation Clause, to which I have just alluded, and the clause of the Registration Bill for lowering the franchise. These, in the estimation of my hon. Friend, would have been very salutary; I, on the contrary, think they would have proved most mischievous: the one striking at the foundation of the Church Establishment, the other tending to subvert the civil constitution of the Government. But the question, so far as the confidence of the House is involved, is not as to the opinion which the hon. Member or myself may hold respecting these measures, but as to that of the House respecting them. Now, they were both condemned and rejected by the House, and, therefore, the degree of confidence which the House has extended to the Ministers, must be estimated not by the measures which they have actually adopted under the check and control of a vigilant Conservative opposition, but by those which they would have introduced had they been permitted to carry out their own scheme of misgovernment. Thus estimating the feeling of the House, its want of confidence in the Irish policy of the Government has been unequivocally declared. There is another and principal ground on which the Ministry have forfeited the confidence of the House, the administration of the finances. From the moment of their accession to office, they abandoned the old, wholesome system of the Conservative Government, that of maintaining a surplus of the income over expenditure, and substituted for it one absolutely reckless and profligate. It is true that my right hon. Friend, the Chancellor of the Exchequer, has produced a Budget; but was this calculated to make good the financial deficiency? was it brought forward with a view to its being carried? Did not the noble Lord, the Secretary for the Colonies, on the very night of the question of the sugar duties, anticipate the discussion by a speech, the talent of which has deservedly received the highest commendation, but which was precisely calculated to defeat the immediate object 918 of securing the realization of income, if that indeed had been the object of Government? On the contrary did not that speech embroil the whole discussion by the introduction into it of all possible topics? and had it not consequently proved a debate " de omnibus rebus et quibusdam aliis." Notwithstanding all the efforts of Members on this side of the House, to restrict it within its proper limits? But the Budget has broken down; for, though as I understand the noble Lord intends bringing forward his proposed alteration in the corn duties, the whole sum, which he hopes to obtain, should that scheme be successful, would provide but for a very small portion of the deficiency. I will not enter into the foreign policy of the Government further than to observe, that their measures were forced upon them by a vicious system of finance. We are opposed to powerful nations subject to weak Governments, who look to the sinews of our warfare; and whose hostile disposition and menaces increase exactly in proportion to the inadequacy of our pecuniary resources, and it would have proved a far wiser and less expensive course, had Ministers, by a prudent management of ourmeans, and upholding the financial credit of the country, prevented the necessity of taking up arms or increasing our instruments of defence, than by appealing to our soldiers and our sailors for the vindication of our national honour, and protection of our national interests. On the subject of the prerogative of the Crown, two questions have been brought forward, materially affecting its prerogative and dignity, one respecting the income of the prince consort. On that question, the noble Lord declared, that the refusal of the sum asked for, would be an insult to royalty: yet, notwithstanding this assertion, the House had rejected the noble Lord's proposition by a large majority. The second occurred the other night, on the motion of the hon. Member for Finsbury, which the noble Lord steadfastly opposed with just ground, of its being a direct invasion of the royal prerogative. How many Members did the noble Lord muster in the division, excepting those in office, or nearly connected with those in office? only seven: just the number, which previous to the Reform Bill, a single nobleman could command, who was thus enabled, as it was said by Lord Grey, to approach the minister of the day with 919 the intelligible, "We are seven." But the Ministers rely on votes of confidence as indicative of the support of the House; that which they secured during the last Session, and that to which they now aspire. With regard to the former, it is true, that Ministers gained a majority of twenty-one; but what was the result? That their followers availed themselves of the opportunity afforded to them by the votes they had given on that occasion, to withdraw their support on other questions, and thus to withhold that very confidence which they had professedly tendered. The Ministers' hope of a majority on the present renewal of the question of confidence, depends on the course pursued by the noble Lord, the Member for Lincolnshire, and those who act with him. In regard to that course, that noble Lord and his Friends appear to me more dangerous political characters than the Ministers themselves. The Ministers have brought forward some apology for a Budget, whilst these Gentlemen reject it, deprive the Government of its only alleged means of maintaining the financial credit of the country by providing for a large and growing deficiency and still repose their confidence in that very Government. I should think the noble Lord, the Secretary for the Colonies, would himself deprecate such friends, and not desire such support of the tottering fabric of his Government.Non tali auxilio: non defensoribus istis.There are two courses open to the noble Lord, at the head of the Government, on the failure of his present scheme, either to resign the administration of affairs, or to dissolve the Parliament. I will advert only to the latter. In resorting to that alternative, does the noble Lord expect, that his budget will be calmly and deliberately considered by the country? Is not the discussion which has already taken place in the House upon parts of it, but a sample of what may be expected in the more general debate which will prevail amidst the distractions of a general election? Will the people consider the merits of the several propositions submitted to them? Will they heed the cry of cheap bread, cheap timber, and cheap sugar? No, they will regard these as good in themselves, but inasmuch as they are tendered by a Whig Government only as additional items in the catalogue of broken promises and additional inducement to 920 distrust. What, then, is the object of the noble Lord? Is it that perceiving the failure of his schemes, and discovering, that he has entangled himself inextricably in a web of his own contrivance, he has at length found it necessary to abandon his system of trick and truckling; and, mindful of the austerer virtues and manlier resolution of an unfortunate ancestor, he has determined, if possible, to avert the contempt of the country, by doing something to merit its execration? Has he adopted as his rule of conduct the advice of the poet—Aude aliquid brevibus Gyaris et carcere diguum, Si vis esse aliquem.The Ministers have claimed credit for the little agitation which has been excited by their appeal to the passions of the people; but for this they deserve no thanks, as there are few parts of the country in which attempts have not been made to rouse popular feeling, however signally they may have failed. What, then, is the prospect afforded by a dissolution of Parliament? I have alluded to the opinion expressed by my right hon. Friend, the Secretary at War, respecting the operation of the Reform Bill, as precluding the possibility of strong Government. I will not, however, for one, despair of that measure. Observing the state of public feeling, and perceiving the growing conviction, that it is impossible to carry on any plan of Government under present circumstances, I cannot help indulging the sanguine hope, that men of moderate opinions are disposed to waive some points of disagreement, with a view to the support of a better system; that the next Parliament will consist more decidedly of those, on the one hand, who are desirous of maintaining, and of those, on the other, who would subvert the Constitution; and that the numerous class to which I have just referred, will swell the Conservative phalanx, and rally around the standard of the right hon. Baronet below me. With regard to the state of public feeling lo which the hon. Member for Finsbury dissents, I can only say, that representing as 1 do a large constituency, I have been sometimes surprised at the mode in which that hon. Member occasionally misrepresents the feelings of the people. I have lately received three deputations from the Chartists of Marylebone, commanding, as 921 they allege, 600 votes, whose language was, that they preferred the Tories to the Whigs, inasmuch as the former would do something, whilst the Whigs would do nothing, for the good of the people. I do not doubt the result of an appeal to the nation, and trust, that with God's blessing, it will produce a stable, vigorous, and efficient Government. Sir, the first occasion, about three years ago, on which I had the honour of addressing the House on any public business, I stated my want of confidence in her Majesty's present Government. I have seen nothing during the period which has since elapsed, to alter, but, on the contrary, much to confirm that opinion. I avail myself of the last opportunity which I shall probably enjoy of addressing a British House of Commons to repeat the declaration of my distrust in the Administration of the noble Lord, and to express the satisfaction which I feel at the prospect of his dynasty drawing to its close.
§ Mr. Ingham,
although he agreed with much that had fallen from the noble Lord, could not vote in favour of the resolution of the right hon. Member for Tamworth. His reasons might not be so satisfactory to the other side as his vote; but as he had not the honour of being admitted to either party, he was the better able to look at a question of this kind impartially. The proposition consisted of two parts:—the first was, that the present Ministers had not the power to carry into effect measures essential to the welfare of the State, and by voting the affirmative, he should not more emphatically mark his opinion than he had done already in supporting the recent motion of the noble Member for Liverpool, and on other similar occasions. The second branch of the proposition was, that the present Government, not having been able to carry their measures into effect, by continuing to hold office, were guilty of a violation of the spirit of the constitution. The House was thus called upon to lay down an important constitutional maxim, and to express an opinion nakedly, and in the abstract. He could not give his assent to the statement, that Ministers had been guilty of a violation of the spirit of the constitution. If he thought that Ministers would continue in office, in defiance of the representatives of the people, after the people had been duly appealed to—if he thought that they would continue in office after the people 922 had been legitimately called upon to express their opinion, he should most certainly vote in favour of the motion of the right hon. Baronet. But both the President of the Board of Control, and the right hon. Member for Edinburgh, the first impliedly, and the last distinctly, had produced in his mind a conviction that it was the intention of Ministers, in due time, to make their appeal to the constituency of the kingdom. The right hon. Member for Edinburgh, in language which he (Mr. Ingham) had been sorry to hear from a Cabinet Minister, had said that he hoped to revive the spirit of 1831. He assumed, therefore, that there could be no doubt upon the point. Could he say, then, that it was a violation of the spirit of the constitution, because a Minister, hitherto enjoying the confidence of the Crown, remained at his post, until he saw that the sense of the nation was against him? If the Government thought that the people were in their favour, they were quite right in continuing where they were, and in going to the country. He understood that they would persevere no longer than the constituency would support them; but first, they wished to have an opportunity of stating their sentiments fully and freely, that the country might know what they had to expect. He looked upon the conduct of Mr. Pitt as heroic when he adhered to the Crown, and would not abandon his post, as long as he was supported by the nation. It was not for him to say, that such conduct was a violation of the spirit of the constitution; but if, after an appeal to the constituency of this realm, Ministers did not accomplish what they expected, then, indeed, they incurred a heavy responsibility. During the present Session he had frequently been constrained to give his vote against Ministers, sometimes not without pain and regret, so that, at all events, in what he now said, it could not be urged that he was biassed in their favour. His own opinion was, that Ministers would be disappointed in their appeal to the nation. There was an extreme distaste in the country to continue agitation, and he apprehended that the majority of the Members returned, would be persons who would be united in one cause—that of promoting and securing public tranquillity, and of supporting the existing laws against those who were anxious to bewilder the people with hopeless projects, and to dazzle them 923 with promises never intended to be realised. The right hon. Member for Edinburgh had stated, that if he were disappointed by the result of an election, he should retire into opposition, content with having discharged his duty. He (Mr. Ingham) apprehended that the right hon. Gentleman's patriotism would be put to the test; but while he objected to the measures of Ministers, he did not think that their course had yet been unconstitutional, and he could not therefore vote for the resolution of the right hon. Member for Tamworth.
§ Mr. Hutt
had listened with great satisfaction to the speech just delivered by the hon. Member for North Shields. The resolution, and the speech of the right hon. Baronet were, in fact, sufficiently answered by the notorious fact that Government intended to appeal to the country as soon as the necessary business of the Session had been concluded, and, in his opinion, they would pursue a course injurious to the constitution, and dangerous to the public welfare, if they abandoned office merely because the right hon. Baronet thought fit to propose a resolution of want of confidence. If Ministers were defeated in the House, the spirit of the constitution required, that they should appeal to the country for its opinion, on the line of policy they had pursued. Mr. Pitt was defeated fourteen times in as many successive divisions, and yet his appeal to the country was considered a sufficient justification for his remaining in office. If, then, the view taken by Mr. Pitt were sound, what became of the speech of the right hon. Gentleman opposite? It had been said, that the present Government had lost the confidence of the country. That was a point which would be far more satisfactorily settled at the ensuing elections, when the fiat of the people should be pronounced, than by the opinion of any individual in that House, however respectable that individual might be, or however much his opinion might be entitled to consideration. But his opinion was, that if her Majesty's Government had in any degree lost the confidence of the country, it was because they had not brought forward at an earlier period those great measures of commercial reform which the right hon. Baronet had now succeeded in defeating. The people were, no doubt, discontented, and they had reason to be discontented, with the Reform Bill and with the different Governments since its 924 passing, when they saw, that those very monopolies which were so grievous had remained for so long a time untouched. And so impressed with the necessity of a change were all parties, that he believed the only real difference between the right hon. Baronet opposite and the present Government was, that whereas they brought forward these measures at a time that they would be acceptable to the public, whilst he would postpone them till they had lost all their grace and a great portion of their benefit. He wished to speak of the right hon. Baronet with all the respect which he sincerely entertained, but the misfortune was, that the right hon. Baronet had not ventured to act upon his own feelings in consequence of the ties of party which fettered him; he feared that the right hon. Baronet was confiding to party what was meant for the country; and he thought, that it would be said in after times, that he had been engaged in opposition to measures which he must ultimately promote, and that when he did at last bring them forward, he would be deserted by the very party for whom he had sacrificed present popularity and future respect. He was satisfied, that the present measures must ultimately succeed. Unrestricted trade, although it was not now fashionable in that House, was the ancient principle of England; when she first rose to eminence, she had declared, that her ports were open to the whole world, and he could not but think, that the proposals now brought forward, although circumstances concurred in making them temporarily fail, would rally round the Government the strong opinions of the people, and be willingly adoped in a future Parliament.
§ Viscount Sandon
said, that whatever gratification the hon. Gentleman who had just sat down might derive from the vote of the hon. and learned Member for South Shields (Mr. Ingham), the application of the reasoning of that hon. Member would afford, in his opinion, but little satisfaction to the Members of her Majesty's Government. He knew the hon. and learned Gentleman was distinguished for his high attainments, but at the same time he must say, that his speech evinced a subtlety of reasoning far more suited to the closet than to the practical affairs of life. The hon. Member for South Shields had justified the maintenance of office by her Majesty's Ministers on one ground 925 only. He admitted, that they were unable to carry certain measures which they thought essential to the welfare of the country, but he justified their retention of office on the ground of a dissolution of which the House at present knew nothing, and on its result, which the hon. and learned Member himself said was not only problematical, but which he thought would be unsuccessful. Now, what did the House know of this talked of dissolution? If they knew anything—if they could derive any knowledge from the acts of the Government—it was this, that they would continue to discharge the functions of a Government as long as that House permitted them—for, though beaten on one item of their Budget, they contentedly brought forward another, and it was only when the present resolution was proposed, that the House had obtained from them something like the glimmering of a dissolution, and had not even yet obtained from them any positive assurance that they were not prepared to continue that course of humiliation to which they had for some time been subjecting themselves by retaining office without the power to carry their measures. For his own part, he felt no difficulty as to the course which he should pursue. He felt a want of confidence in her Majesty's Ministers on almost every point, and, if any one point more than another could induce him to proclaim this want of confidence, it was that they came down to that House at a time when commerce was labouring under great difficulties, and selected that precise moment to shake and confound every branch of commerce by a series of propositions which they had never hoped, and, probably, never intended, or wished to carry. With regard to the sugar duties and the timber duties, it was scarcely possible they could have expected to carry them; and as to the Corn-laws, the Ministers themselves confessed when they proposed the alteration that they did not expect to carry it. Was it, then, common sense, was it common honesty, on an occasion like the present, when the commerce of the country was in such a state, to come down to that House and plunge the commercial, agricultural, manufacturing, and monetary interests of the country into confusion, by throwing down" the apple of discord among different classes, in the face of their own declaration that they were questions which ought not to be mooted without a certainty 926 of their being carried? Those of her Majesty's Ministers in that House might perhaps say they were not responsible for the debates in the other House of Parliament; but they could not evade a responsibility for the declarations of the Prime Minister in the other House of Parliament. That Prime Minister had, indeed, attempted to explain away the declaration that he made last year, that it would be an act of madness in any person to touch the Corn-laws by some limitation of time and circumstances; but he had not attempted, nor could he, explain away another declaration which he then made, that it was a subject which ought not to be touched without there was a moral certainty of its being carried. That certainty not only the Ministers had not, but they were certain of the contrary. A Government which was guilty of such a dereliction of duty as this, whatever might be its other merits, was a Government which was not fit to be trusted with the management of the great commercial interests of the nation. As to the sugar duties, he did not know how the Government could possibly suppose, that those who under circumstances of greater temptation last year resisted the proposed change should this year have assented to it; or what right they had to expect that a Government avowedly weak could succeed this year in carrying a measure which last Session they had most resolutely opposed. He did not wish particularly to recur to the sugar question; but as he had no opportunity of replying on that occasion, and as he had been so taunted with mock humanity and hypocrisy, and as the right hon. Member for Edinburgh last night had again taunted him, and all those who had voted with him, with hypocrisy, he begged to remind that right hon. Member and his colleagues that they last year resisted the selfsame motion on the selfsame grounds; and unless the right hon. Gentleman meant to say, that all honest and right feeling was confined to the Ministerial benches, and that those who opposed the measures of the Government must necessarily be hypocrites, why, he should like to know, was he to be denounced as a hypocrite for this year retaining the opinions and the policy which he expressed last year, and which last year the right hon. Gentleman and his colleagues also maintained? Hypocrisy, indeed ! The Government now appealed to the miseries of the people. Why, 927 if this had weight with them, why did they not bring forward their plan last year, when the price of sugar was very j high? Why were they silent last year as: to the misery of the people, and only availed themselves of this plea when sugar was so; much cheaper, and consequently more easily within the reach of the consumers? He had also been taunted with the course which the Anti-slavery Society of Liverpool had taken on this question. He lamented that course, and he thought it a melancholy chapter in political history; but what was the first anticipation of the society in London, and of those who had usually guided and expressed the feelings of the anti-slavery body throughout England? Their expression of opinion was in accordance with the resolution he had the honour to propose, and in accordance with the sentiments so eloquently expressed by the hon. and learned Member for the Tower Hamlets. But a few days afterwards some of the ardent supporters of the Government were induced to step in to the rescue, and by intrigue and arrangement a resolution was passed, sacrificing the principles of former years to the purposes of political partizanship, and for the first time it was declared by an Anti-slavery Society, that the best way to put down slavery was to submit free-grown sugar to the utmost possible competition. And what was the state of the Anti-slavery Society of Liverpool at that time? After the emancipation of the slaves in our colonies, that society had dwindled away, and many of its most active members had discontinued their attendance, considering the object had been already accomplished. A few members who attached more importance to the introduction of Brazilian sugar than to the consummation of the great experiment of emancipation, assembled together the crumbs of the whole society, and passed a resolution in the name of the Liverpool Anti-slavery Society which he had been assured by several of the old and most influential members of that association, did not express the sentiments of the anti-slavery body in Liverpool; and he had with him two letters from parties well acquainted with the feelings of that body, expressing the deepest regret that such a resolution should have been carried. And this was the way in which these Ministerial demonstrations were got up; and it might teach them what reliance was to be placed upon 928 declarations so evidently opposed to those great principles which the anti-slavery body had for so many years consistently advocated. That very morning a Birmingham paper had fallen into his hands, in a corner of which he had found a letter to the editor of the Standard, dated May 19, signed "Charles Sturge" (the name of Sturge was pretty well known in that House, in connection with the anti-slavery party), in which the writer stated—Sir—After the manner in which my brother, Joseph Sturge, is mentioned in the Standard of yesterday, I think it but due to him, that you should inform your numerous readers, that he is now in the United States, doing all in his power to assist the abolitionists there; and that, if in England, I am sure he would oppose, to the utmost of his ability, this abominable Whig attempt to introduce slave-grown sugar.I am, very respectfully, &c,CHARLES STURGE.There was not, then, a universal feeling among the anti-slavery party in favour of the introduction of slave-grown sugar. If he really wanted any evidence of the misery under which the country was labouring, in consequence of a Government as weak as this retaining office, not after a single defeat, as the hon. and learned Member for North Shields seemed to suppose, but after they had found their numbers progressively diminishing—when Parliament after Parliament saw smaller numbers returned at each succeeding general election, whilst each single election had shown the growing feeling of the people, that the Ministers had less and less the confidence of the country. [No, no.!] He would find it in recent events in that House. The facts were notorious, out of twenty seats that had been changed since the last election, sixteen had been decided in favour of the Opposition. [Money did it.] Yes, "money, money !" What a foolish and wretched attempt to explain the result. It was just such a cry as a gentleman who had lost his election, made use of on the hustings to throw dust in the eyes of his supporters, saying, "See what money has done for the opposition, and there is no remedy for this but the ballot." If there were corruption, why was it not as strong in favour of the Government, as it was supposed to be on the part of the Opposition? And why not? Were they more scrupulous in the use of these means? Had 929 they forgotten St. Albans? Had they forgotten Stafford, occupied by the Attorney-general? Had they forgotten Newark, occupied by the Solicitor-general? Had they forgotten Nottingham, occupied by the right hon. Gentleman, the President of the Board of Control? Had they not place after place, showing that wherever money was wanted, and could be spared, it would be used? It might be true, that in some places there might have been corruption on the part of the Opposition; but in many in which it was charged, he knew that it had not been used; and the hon. Member for Westmeath (Mr. Grattan) who talked of having actually seen the money in the hands in some of the electors seemed to know little of the ordinary course in this country; he must have relied on common report, and common report in these election matters was little to be trusted. With regard to the vote of a want of confidence, he was about to say, that if anything more strongly showed the mischief of the present weakness of the Government, it was the very transaction of the other night. By their own strength they could not prevent an encroachment on the prerogative of the Crown; they were obliged to depend upon that (the Opposition) side of the House, and if they by any mode diminished the number of Gentlemen on that side of the House, they would have no means or power to defend the prerogative of the Crown. And finally he thought that it was not possible to find instances more illustrative of the evils of such a Government than the proceedings of the last two or three years, during which the Government-had obtained their principal addition to their supporters by throwing overboard every principle they had at some time or other supported, to obtain the votes of a party that was not attached to them by any community of principle, but by a common hatred of hon. Gentlemen opposite.
§ Viscount Morpeth
wished, in the first place, to express his approval and acknowledgment of the tone and moderation of temper in which the speech of the right hon. Baronet who had submitted this resolution to the House was conceived. Whether the speech of the noble Lord who had just sat down was conceived in the same vein—whether he had shown the same qualities and the same abstinence from party heat, the same disposition to 930 fairness, the same desire to do justice to political opponents, and the same desire to acknowledge the merits and the exertions of political adversaries, he must leave the House to judge. The noble Lord had not confined his attacks to the members of her Majesty's Government, but he had included in it many men and many bodies of men who had spent the greater portion of their lives and had long devoted their exertions to strike off the last fetters of the slave, whilst the noble Lord was himself co-operating with many of those who had done their utmost to prolong and rivet those chains. It had been said that the abolition of slavery was carried to please the "cracked" county of York. It was not his duty to impugn the motives of any person who had taken part in the recent discussions, but when he appealed again to the opinions of his constituents, he would not shrink from any discussion or any responsibility, and he had no dread of any ill result from the part he had taken on the question of the sugar duties. While, however, he gave the right hon. Baronet credit for the lone and moderation of his speech, he could not carry his commendation to the resolution which followed that speech, not because he thought the resolution intemperate or factious, but first because of the total want of historical and logical soundness which he thought had been fixed upon it by his right hon. Friend the Secretary at War, and because also it appeared to be ineffectual and inoperative: it seemed thrown out as a kind of squib just at the present moment to keep the great body of the supporters of the right hon. Baronet from more mischievous and dangerous pastimes. The resolution partook much of the spirit which might be combined from two opposite currents of opinion—it might, in fact, be taken as a mixture, compounded with all the art for which the right hon. Gentleman was so famous: it was an emollient and a sedative to let the blood of his more ardent followers down from fever heat and stop a more serious and destructive outbreak. It was impossible not to see that the concluding part was couched with especial reference to the expression of the noble Lord the Secretary of the Colonies used upon the retirement from office of the right hon. Baronet in 1835. The resolution of the right hon. Baronet, as well as his speeches, was, in fact, redolent of "Hansard," and upon this occasion, notwithstanding the 931 assurance he had given to the contrary, it was the expression of his noble Friend in which the right hon. Gentleman found his consolation. That resolution seemed capable of being viewed from two points. In the first instance, that in which it had been presented by the right hon. Baronet, on which he had founded the entire substance of his speech—that which was intended to refer to the spirit of the Constitution; and, secondly, the view of its real and practical import. Now, with respect to the constitutional view, the right hon. Baronet mainly rested his resolution upon the conduct of the Government in maintaining office, after the parliamentary defeats they had experienced, as contrary to the spirit of the constitution. Now, he must think, that even upon this technical ground, the right hon. Baronet, and the noble Lord, and all that had followed, had met only with qualified success. He was by no means disposed to admit, that on the narrowest and most technical ground, the conduct of the Government in remaining in office was contrary to the letter, the spirit, or the essence of the constitution. He put out of view the defeats which the Government had sustained before the late decision on the sugar duties. They might have been right, or they might have been wrong, in not considering those defeats sufficient notices to quit, or as conclusive indications that they had lost the confidence of the House. It might, however, be remarked, that no longer ago than in the very last Session of Parliament, they had received a directly contrary assurance, by a majority of twenty-one in that House, from whose vote they learned that they retained, and still possessed, the confidence of the House of Commons. But they might have been possibly wrong in retaining their seats after the defeats which they had sustained during an administration which had lasted over six years; and on the other haad, the right hon. Baronet might be right in going on with a Government after he had sustained at least an equal number, and he believed a greater number of defeats. [No, no.] He believed, that if he summed up the defeats sustained by the right hon. Baronet, he should find that their addition would tally very closely with those of the present Government; but at all events there was this difference between the Government of the right hon. Baronet, and 932 that which at present advised her Majesty, which was, that the series of defeats sustained by the right hon. Baronet was unbroken by a single victory, or one instance of success, except when those who were the supporters of the present Government supported it, on the question of the malt duties; and these defeats were concentrated within a period of three months. But in speaking of this, it was not his object to attack the right hon. Baronet or to defend his own party, but when they were told, as they had been told tonight, that they had themselves laid down and slated the proposition, that even a majority of five was not sufficient to enable them to carry on the Government with benefit to the public service, without adverting to the circumstances which followed the proceeding they had then adopted, under which the vote had been given, he thought, that it must not be forgotten, that a noble Duke, who was at the head of the party of which the right hon. Baronet was also a leader (the Duke of Wellington), had told them that the Government had no ground at all for resigning office, and that they were wrong in taking that step. Therefore, if the argument in favour of the necessity of their resignation found a precedent in anything which they had themselves done, it must at least he remembered that this very precedent had incurred the expression of censure on the part of the most distinguished of the leaders of the party of the right hon. Baronet. But while he referred to these past transactions, he would admit that the late division on the question of the sugar duties did certainly produce a state of things, from which it must have been apparent to every one that matters could not be suffered to go on in their present condition, and that the Government did not possess sufficient authority in the House to carry through those measures which they had submitted to its notice. [Cheers.] On that point, he was glad to see that they were quite agreed, and on that, therefore, no controvery could arise between them. Then he supposed that the question which suggested itself was, why they had not resigned? The resolution seemed to convey a censure on their remaining in office for one hour after that defeat, as being contrary to the spirit of the constitution. It had been shown that that was not without precedent,—-and precedent which should be dear to Conserva- 933 tive ears. He would not go again into the case of Mr. Pitt in 1784, to which the House had been told that the existing circumstances bore no analogy. Certainly the defeat of Mr. Pitt was not sustained on the ground of any alteration in the fiscal duties of the country, and the Government of the present, day was not opposed by Mr. Fox, and so far certainly there was no analogy between the two cases, but there might be some analogy in this, that at that day as at this, the Government were opposed by a coalition of those who during the whole course of their lives had been most opposed to each other. But he did not think that the right lion. Baronet gave a correct statement of the nature of the defeats which Mr. Pitt sustained and which did not induce a relinquishment of office. The right hon. Baronet said "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 or 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 the acts of that Government, but to the principle upon which it was constituted. The principle involved was not the principle that a Minister ought to have the confidence of the House of Commons for the purpose of carrying on the Government, but it was contended that Mr. Pitt, having a majority in the House of Commons, was attempting to control the constitutional prerogative of the Crown, and, without reference to the public acts of the Government, implied beforehand a want of confidence in that Administration." Now, it was true that there were repeated resolutions implying want of confidence on the part of the House of Commons towards his proceeding with the Government, but there, were objections to his measures also. The East-India Bill was rejected by a majority of 8, in a House of 436 Members, that being a bill which had attracted the attention of the nation in the most material 934 degree. On the 6th March Mr. Fox moved and carried a motion for postponing the consideration of the Mutiny Bill, by a majority of 1. He was not contending that Mr. Pitt should have given way to these motions; but he was showing that these motions, especially the East-India Bill, did interfere with the proceedings of the Government. He had shown that on one of the most prominent measures which then occupied the attention of the House, Mr. Pitt was signally defeated. With regard to the retirement of Sir Robert Walpole from office, that did not take place on account of his being defeated on any legislative measure; but it was well known that a question of such apparently small importance as the Chippenham election had produced an event of so great moment. But it was said, that Mr. Pitt had dissolved a Parliament which had not been summoned by himself. He did not see how the constitutional point of view in which this resolution was brought forward, at all bore upon this argument. He did not see how, in a mere constitutional point of view, it could enter into their consideration, under the auspices of what minister the existing Parliament was called, because it was plain that it was a gross offence to the spirit of the constitution of the country, to talk of a Parliament being chosen by this or that Government, because the Members were chosen by the people and by the constituent body, and therefore if, in a constitutional point of view, an adverse vote, or a repetition of such must necessarily be fatal to the continuance of the Government in office, they must equally, in a constitutional point of view, be fatal in one as well as another state of things. He came now to the dissolution of Parliament by the right hon. Baronet in 1834. It was true that Parliament was not convoked under the auspices of the right hon. Baronet, but under those of the Minister whom he followed; and he did not see how it could be said that the right hon. Baronet had any grounds for resolving on that dissolution, more than those which would justify the Government of the present day adopting that step, unless it could be pretended that it was a matter of more importance for the consideration and decision of the country, whether they would have the right hon. Baronet for Prime Minister or not, than whether they would have additional facilities given to commerce, the introduction of cheap 935 sugar, and the admission of foreign corn, in lieu of fresh taxes and augmented burdens. Therefore, while it was conceded that, since the division upon the sugar duties, it had been made manifest, that the Government did not sufficiently possess the confidence of the present House of Commons to render them able to carry on the public business, or to bring to a completion any important measures, he did not think that it was in any way opposed to the spirit, or at variance with the true meaning of the constitution, that the Government should ascertain what was the sense of the people and the constituent body with regard to the measures which they brought forward. It had not been stated by the right hon. Baronet, or by any hon. Member who had followed him, and he did not think that it could be stated, that under no conceivable condition of affairs, or in no possible conjunction of circumstances, the Ministers of the Crown, though defeated in Parliament, were not entitled, in the spirit of the constitution, to go on with the business of the Government, so long as to enable the Crown to appeal from Parliament to the people. He did not think that hon. Members could contend that the Crown should be so debarred from its prerogative. They could not say, that if a Minister of the Crown who had brought forward a measure of great public importance, and who had been defeated in his attempts to carry that measure through Parliament, but who thought, that the measure would meet with a very great and warm support throughout the country—he did not think that it could be said, that that Minister should be debarred from testing the sense of the country upon that measure. The noble Lord who had last spoken talked as if it was the height of guilt and criminality to bring forward measures intimately concerning the intiests of the country at a time when those interests were labouring under depression; but he asked, at what better period could such measures be introduced to public notice? He would put the case, in which he might be said to be personally interested. It was his lot to represent the largest constituent body in this empire. Within the last few days he had presented and laid on the Table of the House, petitions signed by thousands, tens of thousands, and he believed he might even say, hundreds of thousands of persons, who 936 belonged to every branch of trade and industry in the country, and chiefly by persons connected with the woollen trade— the oldest staple trade of the country. He was far from willing to form or to represent any exaggerated view of the public distress. He did not wish to paint it in too glowing colours, or to make it the ground of any appeal to the passions of the people. It was true, that the right hon. Baronet had given the House, on two occasions, he thought, a grave admonition upon the subject of agitation, nor would he reproach him for the part which he had taken at previous periods of his public life; but he confessed, that when he was thus admonished, he was induced to turn from the lecture to the lecturer. He could not but think it better, that those who concurred in any object, by which agitation was carried on, should head it, and guide and master it, than that those who differed from its object should crouch to it and be overcome by it. But he had been referring to the petitions which he had presented to the House, and he was about to state, that the representations which reached him from quarters where he could place implicit reliance, confirmed the representations which had been made, that business had been never known to be in such a state of depression as at the present time; that many branches of employment were entirely stationary, and that many of the mills and factories of the country were either closed, or working only during half their usual time; that a vast number of hands were unemployed; and that bad as was the prospect of the present state of things, there was no satisfactory glimpse of improvement in the future. Her Majesty's Government had brought forward certain measures, which formed the groundwork of their present dispute, but which were calculated in their view greatly to allay the existing evils, and to give rise to a better order of things. The House of Commons refused to accede to these propositions. Why, then, was there anything at variance with the spirit of the constitution, if the Ministers, who thought they had right on their side, who knew that they were called upon by a large part of the people to stand by their measures, and who had reason to believe, that the people would to a great extent—to what extent he would not venture to prophesy—support and uphold those measures—was there anything at 937 variance with the spirit of the constitution, he asked, if those Ministers of the Crown, on being defeated in Parliament, should put the issue to the people to be decided by them? It was true, that the right hon. Baronet, after his defeats in 1835 retired from office, being, as he (Viscount Morpeth) perfectly admitted, in full possession at that time, of the confidence of the Crown, without resorting to a dissolution, but it is well known that he had resorted to that expedient only a short time before, and that that dissolution had taken place upon the precise issue, whether the people were ready to commit the Government of the country to the right hon. Baronet and his friends around him. And when, upon the House having assembled, it was found that they had virtually decided against the retention of office by the right hon. Baronet, he then, as was cordially admitted at the time, by the noble Lord, the Secretary for the Colonies, acted in the spirit of the constitution, and tendered his resignation, finding that he was in a permanent minority. If after this appeal to the people, the Government should find themselves in a minority in the new Parliament, which should be called together expressly selected by the country in reference to these measures, they would then, he admitted, be liable to reproach, but then, and then only, and then, for the first time, if, on finding themselves in a minority after such a demonstration on the part of the people of their feelings, they hesitated for one moment, in relinquishing the Government. But the noble Lord, the Member for Liverpool, had said, that they had shown no sign of any intention of dissolving; that all that was known was, that after sustaining a very decisive defeat in that House, they appeared again in their places, and made an announcement as if they proposed to go on with the Parliamentary business which had been already brought forward. He thought, that it must be obvious to every one, that the position of the current supplies of the year did not admit of an immediate dissolution, and if the Government had come down and said, that for the adverse vote which Parliament had given against them, they were about to punish Parliament by an immediate dissolution, he thought, that he could well imagine the outcry which would have arisen, and he could well understand, that they might then have been told with more 938 show of justice than appeared in this resolution, that they were acting in opposition to the spirit of the constitution. But he thought, that to any fair and candid mind, the announcement of the right hon. the Chancellor of the Exchequer, that he would immediately move for the annual sugar duties, and that the Poor-law Bill, and other measures which were of the greatest importance would be postponed, made it pretty evident what was the intention of the Government. Great stress had been laid by the noble Lord, the Member for Liverpool, and others, on the statement of the intention of the Government to enter into the question of the Corn-laws. On this point he would only remark, that after the great weight which, on both sides of the House, and from all parts of the country, had been attached to this subject, when it had been looked on as forming the main and essential ingredient in their scheme, he did not think that it was unreasonable to expect, that before the Session of Parliament closed, and before hon. Members returned to their constituents, who were about to be consulted upon this very point, the sooner an opportunity could be given on which a regular discussion might be entered into, and on which hon. Gentlemen could declare and manifest their opinions upon a matter at all times of the most momentous importance to all the interests of the country, and at this moment having the closest bearing on the state of parties and of the community, the better. While he was upon the subject of dissolution—while he was on the subject of the consideration whether the Ministers of the Crown were in a situation to make an appeal to the people, he must say, that independently of such views as he had suggested, the hon. Member for North Shields (Mr. Ingham) had afforded strong motives to a Government in such a position as that in which the existing Ministry stood, to resort to such a course, because he said, that probably a great number of those Gentlemen, who should be returned to sit in that House would devote themselves calmly and deliberately to the subjects under discussion. He sincerely hoped, that the hon. Gentleman was right in his anticipations, and he did not think, that if such an alteration should take place, the change would be for the worse, because whatever the good qualities of the present Parliament might be, he must say he did not think, that any very 939 high eulogium could be passed upon it for its freedom from the influence of party feelings. He had treated the question thus far upon the view of the case as connected with the spirit of the constitution, because, it was in this view, that it had been mainly presented to the House by the right hon. Baronet. But he would, before he concluded his observations, very shortly address himself to that which he thought was in fact the real meaning, and which must be meant to be the practical result of the resolution. That resolution must inform the country, and must speak the sense of the House authoritatively that the confidence of the present House of Commons was no longer given to the present Government. Now, whatever might be the vote to which the House should come, and submitting, as he should, with deference to its high decision, he certainly should await, with anxiety, of course, but with calmness, he hoped, the answer which they should receive, at the bar of public opinion. What had been the immediate cause of dispute and conflict lately within those walls? The noble Lord had reproached the Government with the time at which they had brought forward its measures. The time seemed to him naturally prescribed by the deficiency in the public income of the country. But it might be said, that the Government was responsible for the deficiency. They told them, that the foreign expenditure and negotiations which had led to the increase in the public service of this country were, of course, referable to the agency and instrumentality of the present Government. Yet the hon. Gentlemen opposite, notwithstanding that at that time no extraordinary necessity had arisen for an increased expenditure, were night after night calling on the Government to increase the establishments, for that while France and Russia had such navies, England ought not to be deficient. The deficiency, however, did exist, and must be dealt with; and the course of the Government had been, not to propose the temporary make-shift of a loan in time of peace, not as they had done in the first instance last year, to impose fresh burdens on the straitened means and struggling industry of the country, but to propose to recruit the public coffers by the same means whereby they also hoped to remove the shackles which had so long cramped the energy of the commerce of the coun- 940 try, to relax those restrictions which had so long pressed upon the springs of industry, and to increase the command of the people—the people, whom he hoped the House would not be induced to look upon as being so callous, or so ignorant, as to be actuated by animal impulses only, according to the description of the hon. Member for Pontefract—to increase the command of the people over the necessaries and comforts of life. This had been their scheme of policy, their precise, plain, defined, avowed scheme, of policy. What was the scheme of the right hon. Baronet and his supporters? It did not appear to him that any more light had been thrown upon that scheme in the course of this debate than in the last. Indeed, when the right hon. Baronet seemed disposed to treat the House to a display of peculiar frankness, they always appeared to be left more in the dark than ever. The position was this; a deficiency existed, aggravated by great distress, and the difficulty must be met by those who pretended to rule the destinies of the country. What, then, was the remedy of the right hon. Baronet? That he would not in the course of the next year consent to the introduction of foreign sugars—that he would not touch the timber duties till better acquainted with the despatches of the Governor-general of the Canadas—and that he would adhere eternally to the sliding scale of duties on corn.Labitur et labetur in omne volubilis ævum.This was the first time that any great party intent to seize the reins of power, instead of any clear principles or defined measures, or any ascertained purpose, had rested, as its mainstay, on the persevering lubricity of its leader. He had thus far confined himself to what was the immediate and actual cause of the dispute between the two parties, and the two kinds of policies that were now making their appeal to Parliament and the public; but, at the same time, he begged to say, that there was no part whatever of the general policy of the Government, as it bore either on the internal affairs of the country, or in reference to the world at large, on which he should shrink from the fullest discussion. As regarded the dependencies of the empire, his noble Friend the Secretary for the Colonies, might point to the great experiment now in a course of trial in Canada, by which that 941 noble province was entering on a new career under an united Legislature, its internal differences healed, its large external frontier respected, and its connection with this country more firmly knit than ever. He might point to the ancient seats of slavery in the colonies of Britain, and show them that state of tranquility and prosperity which alleged as the most criminal charge against them that they ran the least risk of disturbing. He might point to the island districts of the southern seas, and show them every day teeming with new evidences of the spread of civilization, liberty and order. He (Viscount Morpeth) might then turn to his noble Friend the Secretary for Foreign Affairs, to whose able administration of the foreign relations of the country such well-merited testimony had been borne; he might point to the various successes which had attended his policy—to the additional respect which followed the British flag in all those portions of the globe where it had already been known, and also in others, where until now it had been never planted; and he might also add, that during the whole of the time in which those operations were going on, the peace of Europe, though seriously menaced, had remained unbroken. If he turned to contemplate the internal state of the country, he could not but remember that the attestation borne on a recent occasion and from the least suspicious quarters, to the total cessation of insurrection and seditious movements. As to Ireland, that was a topic on which he would not enlarge, because perhaps it was a subject on which he might naturally be supposed to feel the strongest temptation to do so. But while he would not conceal and should always deplore that crimes did still occur in that country, of the most heinous nature, chiefly arising out of disputes as to the tenure of property in land, yet the march of improvement with respect to the complete internal tranquillity of the country, the cessation of frays and tumults, the improved habits of order, industry, and, above all of sobriety, had been most conspicuous and encouraging. Such was the state of things in which the House was called upon to transfer to other hands the care of the national and imperial administration. "Sir," continued the noble Lord, "power may pass from our hands. If it should do so, I say from my heart, may it prosper in yours; and may it at least be our 942 best boast and compensation that we have pioneered the way to more matured advances and more extended triumphs." As with regard to the intentions of the administration, I know no reason to be ashamed, so also with regard to the results of our measures I see no reason to be unthankful; and it is with this feeling that I hope that every one of those who have hitherto accompanied, supported, and maintained us in our efforts, will give to the censure contained in the resolution proposed by the right hon. Baronet their most decided negative.
Sir James Graham—
Mr. Speaker, I trust I may be permitted to congratulate the noble Lord (Lord Morpeth), the Secretary for Ireland, upon the self-complacency with which he regards the probable fate of the Government, which, he has been pleased to admit, may be considered at the last extremity. The noble Lord has said, that power may pass from their hands; our allegation is, that power has long since passed from them. The noble Lord has also been kind enough to express a hope that power may prosper in our hands; and, in spite of the self-gratulations with which he concluded his speech, I believe that, if he be just and generous he must think, as the country also thinks, that there are omens which indicate that power may safely be intrusted to our hands. If I mistake not, the noble Lord congratulated the House on the tranquillity and growing prosperity and happiness of our colonial possessions, I conclude that the noble Lord, when he speaks of our colonies, could not have forgotten Jamaica, the principal colony of Great Britain; and I am certain, he must remember, and will have the justice to admit, that the policy which the Government intended to pursue with respect to Jamaica, two years ago, was defeated by the Gentlemen who sit on this side of the House; that the policy adopted was that recommended by my right hon. Friend, the Member for Tamworth; and that the tranquillity, happiness, and prosperity of Jamaica are attributable to the measures carried, in contravention of those proposed by her Majesty's Ministers, at the dictation of their opponents. I confess, I know not the meaning of the note of triumph which the noble Lord has sounded with respect to the foreign relations of the country. What for instance, does the noble Lord think of the state of our rela- 943 tions with China? I have yet to learn, that our success in that quarter of the world has been signal. It is our misfortune to know little of the details of the proceedings which have taken place there, or, indeed, with respect to any of our foreign relations. We have been all along kept completely in the dark with respect to our foreign policy, until about two or three weeks ago, when the noble Lord, the Secretary for Foreign Affairs favoured the House with the Blue Book which lies upon the Table, and which relates to the Eastern question. Still, I must say, I have yet to learn what, as regards China, is the brilliant success on which her Majesty's Government plume themselves. Is it to be found in the unbridled licence of our troops in the attack on the undefended city of Chusan, which has exalted the British name, already immortalized in those seas by our smuggling of opium? Is it to be found in the success which has attended our negotiations at Pekin, where the British Admiral, after demanding money for a national insult, has been satisfied with receiving vague assurances, and has withdrawn the vast naval force under his command to the extremity of the empire, in the hope, I presume of obtaining there the terms which he failed to command at the capital? Is it to be found in the happy result of the subsequent negotiations, from which it appears, that the British resident, who was for years left without instructions, having at length acted on instructions which he did receive, has been recalled, and his acts disavowed by the Government? In a word, until I see the debt due by the Government to the East-India company, for the China expedition, paid—until I know that the two millions of pounds, which were surrendered to the Chinese government, have been repaid by that Government—until I know that the assurances given by the noble Lord the Secretary for the Colonies, as to the objects of the expedition, have been realised, and that indemnity for the past and security for the future have been obtained by some new expedition to be framed and sent out, I shall retain the opinion which I have already ventured to express, that a war with China is a great calamity. I believe it is the recorded opinion of Napoleon, that the man who should involve this country in a war with China, would prove to be the greatest enemy of England; that it was a war in which success could not be 944 hoped for, but from which fatal effects to our Indian empire might be anticipated. I therefore, retain the opinion I formerly expressed on this subject; and I think the war in which we have embarked with China is one in which success will not be attended with glory; but in which failure will prove the heaviest misfortune that ever has befallen this country. I have been led into these remarks by the conclusion of the speech of the noble Lord; but I will now endeavour to apply myself to those topics which are more immediately the subject for our consideration. The noble Lord said, at the commencement of his speech, that he would put out of view all the defeats which the Government had sustained previously to the Budget. That may be a very convenient course for the noble Lord to pursue; but it is one in which it is impossible for me, in justice to the motion before the House, to concur. The noble Lord's proceeding reminds me of the course pursued by the right hon. Gentleman the Secretary at War (Mr. Macauley). The right hon. Gentleman justly observed, that the motion before the House may be divided into two propositions, the first of which, is the assertion of a fact, and the second, an inference founded on that statement of fact. The right hon. Gentleman, however, in arguing the question, found it convenient to invert the natural order of the propositions. He dealt first with the second proposition— the inference—and alleged his surprise that my right hon. Friend should have launched a general proposition of universal application. Now, that is far from being a just description of the second branch of my right hon. Friend's motion. It is a deduction drawn from a statement of a case, special in itself, and it is strictly defined and limited, according to the fact alleged in the major proposition. It is not alleged that, in the event of sustaining a single insulated defeat, it becomes the duty of any Government immediately to resign; the allegation of fact is, that her Majesty's present advisers have failed to possess sufficiently the confidence of the House to carry, not one or two, but a succession of measures, which they have deemed indispensable for the safety and good of the country. The right hon. Gentleman, in arguing the matter from analogy, took cases of single insulated defeats, sustained by Governments during a long train of administration of affairs; such, for instance, 945 as occurred to Mr. Pitt upon his Fortification resolution, to Lord Liverpool upon the Property Tax, and to Lord Sunderland on the Peerage Limitation bill; but those, as I before remarked, were rare, occasional defeats, happening to Governments possessing the confidence of both Houses of Parliament, and able generally to carry the measures which they deemed conducive to the public welfare. I entreat the House to contrast with such a state of things, the actual position of affairs with which we are now dealing. We allege, that her Majesty's advisers have been, in a Parliament of their own calling, from its commencement up to the moment at which I am now addressing you, compelled to submit to a series of defeats and compromises, arising from the conscious weakness of the Government—that they have been obliged either to drop their own measures, against their wish, or to alter them, in defiance of their solemnly-pledged opinion, for no other ostensible reason than the pressure of the party opposed to them. And, really, if I look back to the measures which the Government have carried in the present Parliament, I cannot mention one one — no, not a single one—which has been passed without the concurrence of their political opponents. The right hon. Baronet, the President of the Board of Control, enumerated several measures, on which he plumed himself as proofs of the success of the legislative power of her Majesty's advisers. I will follow the right hon. Baronet's detail, and begin with the English Municipal Bill. That measure was introduced by the Government of Earl Grey. It was a measure to which I and my noble Friend, the Member for North Lancashire, before we left Earl Grey's Government, were parties. It was a measure which we warmly concurred in, and actively supported. I am not aware that the principle of the bill received any opposition, either from my right hon. Friend the Member for Tamworth, or any other of the Gentlemen with whom I have the honour to act. On the second reading, my right hon. Friend, the Member for Tamworth, warmly espoused and supported its principle. It is evident that the right hon. Baronet, the President of the Board of Control, must have totally forgotten the history of the various measures which he referred to, because they do, in fact, sustain, with remarkable force, the major proposition for which we are con- 946 tending, namely, that Ministers do not possess sufficiently the confidence of the House to carry their own measures, and are, in consequence, driven to adopt the views of their opponents. The next measure referred to by the right hon. Baronet was the English tithe bill. What was the origin of that measure? During the short time my right hon. Friend, the Member for Tamworth, was at the head of the Government in 1835, he introduced an English Tithe bill into this House. That bill was, in all essential particulars, the ground work of the bill subsequently passed. [No, No.] I contend, most distinctly, that it, was so. The measures, were identical in all essential particulars, save that, in the one first introduced, the commutation was voluntary; whilst in that introduced by the present Government commutation was rendered compulsory after the lapse of a certain interval. [Hear, Hear from the Ministerial benches.] Do you rejoice in that? Why, you made the alteration, if not at the suggestion, at least with the concurrence and support of your opponents. What was the next measure? The Irish Tithe bill. What was the origin of it? Who is the real author of that measure? I say, my noble Friend the Member for North Lancashire. He was the author of the Irish Tithe Commutation bill, although it was not his good fortune to introduce it. By whom was it first introduced? It was first introduced by the right hon. and gallant Member for Launceston (Sir Henry Hardinge), when Secretary for Ireland, under Sir Robert Peel's administration, in 1835. Then arose the memorable dispute about the diversion of ecclesiastical property to secular purposes; and on the motion for the committal of the bill, her Majesty's present advisers, being then in opposition, proposed and carried the celebrated appropriation clause. Now, is it really possible that the right hon. Baronet can claim any credit to Ministers for passing the Irish Tithe bill in its present shape? It is now what it was when introduced by Sir R. Peel's Government: it is not in the shape for which the right hon. Baronet the President of the Board of Control, contended so strenuously when he sat on the benches behind me. It is not in the state in which Lord Melbourne declared it must remain, on account of a pledge to which, he said, he was, as a man of honour, bound, and to which his public faith was plighted, 947 Subsequent considerations, no doubt of a patriotic nature—and of a public character induced his Lordship to forfeit his plighted faith and pledge of personal honour? and it does so happen that the Irish Tithe bill, after all the contests which have taken place respecting it, stands very nearly in the same form in which it was originally introduced by Sir R. Peel's Government. The next measure which the right hon. Baronet pointed to is that of the Rural Police, or Constabulary Act. It is not necessary to say more upon this subject than, in passing, to observe that this measure furnishes another proof that Ministers are compelled to come to this side of the House for their principles and examples; for, after all, the measure is mainly founded upon the principle and model of the Metropolitan police, founded by my right hon. Friend, the Member for Tam-worth. Next comes the Penny Post— that is all your own. [Mr. Warburton: Hear, hear!] No one knows better the history of that measure than my hon. Friend, the Member for Bridport, who cheers me. It was a concession made by the Government in its weakness; and, more than that, I believe the Postmaster-general, who understood the matter well, warned Ministers of the fatal step they were taking. That officer had greater prudence than Ministers. He foresaw that the downfall of the Government was involved in the concession respecting the Post-office; and, if the truth were known, I have no doubt that since their budget has been scouted by the House of Commons, and the deficiency of the revenue has involved them in fatal financial difficulties, they now feel that the warning of the Postmaster-general was prophetic. I wish the Gentlemen joy of that measure. The next of the measures to which we have been referred is the Irish Municipal bill. [Mr. Hume: Hear, hear!] The hon. Member for Kilkenny cheers. Why, I thought he was not satisfied with that measure. That measure passed; and it is the only measure, in the present Parliament, which Ministers have forced without the full concurrence of their opponents. But were they able to force even that measure, without large concessions?— concessions which destroyed the very vitality of the bill in the eyes of the hon. Member for Kilkenny.—[Mr. Hume: Hear, hear!] The hon. Member assents. Now, I ask him whether he can conceive 948 a greater proof of the weakness, imbecility, and paralyzed impotence of a Government than that, having introduced a measure of this kind, professedly to give peace to the unhappy country to which it refers, they, under process of compulsion from their opponents, introduce into what is intended by them to be a peace-offering, which shall give contentment to the people, changes contrary to their own judgment—contrary to their own sense of what is right, which they believe are calculated to defeat the effect they anticipated from the measure, and to render it odious in the eyes of those on whom it is bestowed? Yet this is the fact! Of this measure—the only one which Ministers have passed against the will of their opponents —the principal provision, that establishing the elective franchise, was dictated by the opponents of her Majesty's Government, and adopted by them, contrary to their own declared opinions. Another measure mentioned by the right hon. Baronet is the English Chapter Bill; and that, also, by an odd coincidence, is the fruit of a commission appointed by my right hon. Friend, the Member for Tamworth. I will turn from those measures which the Government have passed, to those which they have brought forward and been unable to carry. The right hon. Baronet relied upon what he said they had done. I will just glance at the measures which they have introduced, and been compelled to abandon. At the period when Lord Melbourne's Government was formed, there was one subject which attracted the greatest attention amongst the English community— I allude to the question of Church Rates. In 1834, just before I quitted the Government of Earl Grey, Lord Althorp, on the part of that Government, introduced a measure on the subject of Church Rates. I never exactly understood why that measure was abandoned; but, that having happened, Lord Moneagle, then Mr. Spring Rice, with great pomp and circumstance, brought forward a measure which was to settle that much-disputed question. With a great parade of figures and important calculations, Lord Mont-eagle's plan was sent to a Committee up stairs. I have always understood that we have never had a report from that Committee up to this day. As soon as the much-vaunted calculations came to be examined, they were blown into air. The plan was a complete abortion; and, from 949 that day to this, no attempt has been made to settle the question of Church Rates ! The Ministerial measure was abandoned, as utterly hopeless, impracticable and incapable of execution. We then had the plan of Normal Schools, from which all religious instruction was to be excluded. We fought that plan successfully, and the normal schools without religion were also abandoned. We now come to Ireland. The noble Lord, the Secretary for Ireland, rejoiced in his administration of the affairs of that country. I happened to hear the noble Lord make a speech with more than his usual power, because it appeared to be delivered with more than ordinary sincerity, on the subject of Irish railroads. In that speech the noble Lord contended that a grant of public money for Irish railroads would be, in the highest degree, conducive to the prosperity of Ireland. He took the sense of the House on the question, and was supported by a majority, the precise number of which I do not recollect. We, on this side of the House, indicated our objection to the proposal, and, forthwith, it was abandoned.— constupuêre animi tremor occupat artus.Such was the awe in which Ministers stood of any opposition from this side of the House, upon matters which they opened to Parliament as essential to the interests of the country committed to their charge ! We merely indicated opposition, and from that day to this, we have heard no more on the subject. Now, with respect to another matter. My hon. Friend, the Member for Bridport, agrees with me in the opinion, that one great defect in the English registration system is the want of an appellate tribunal. There was something like an approximation between the two parties on that point. We all agreed as to the object to be attained, and some difficulties existed only as to the mode of giving effect to our wishes. The Government has not absolutely, possessed power sufficient to surmount even those minor difficulties. Year after year, a Registration bill has been laid on the Table of the House. It has gone as far as a second reading, but never further. A scheme was proposed, to which we, on this side of the House felt insuperable objections, namely, that the choice of the appellate tribunal should be intrusted to the Speaker of the House of Commons for the time being. This great question ought to have been 950 decided against some time ago. If decided in the affirmative, it ought now to have been the law, but if decided otherwise, some other plan should have been substituted for it. Such, however, is the imbecility—such the want of power of Ministers, that on this important question with respect to which the opinions of the two parties approximate, the Government has been unable to hold the balance between them. I pass over many minor matters. Seven bills were laid upon the Table, a few years ago, by the Lord Advocate for Scotland; one of which, relating to fictitious votes, was founded on the report of a Committee of the House. These bills were read a second time, and; then postponed. In 1839, they were again introduced, again read a second time, and again, as usual, postponed. They were not brought forward in 1840, but this Session they have again been laid on the Table of the House, and no progress has been made with any one of them. They are left to their fate—they have gone to "the tomb of all the Capulets," where, the right hon. Baronet the President of the Board of Control, says, that all the imposture of the anti. opium and anti-slavery cries lies buried I will tell the right hon. Baronet, by the bye, since he alluded to the hustings, that it is likely he may hear of those cries again. Their departed spirit may re-appear, to "fright him from his propriety," even at Nottingham, where he was once so strong. I will just observe, with respect to the Irish Registration Bill, that this strong Government, which boasts of possessing the confidence of the country and of Parliament, having introduced a five pound franchise into that measure, did, afterwards in private, raise it to eight pounds, at the suggestion of one of their powerful supporters, the hon. Member for Shrewsbury. I will pass over many other proofs of the feebleness of the Government, and of the restraint under which they act, and will merely refer to another striking evidence of their apathy and weakness. When I was a Member of Earl Grey's Government, I was authorized to prepare a bill for the Regulation of Ecclesiastical Tribunals, in conformity with the report of the Ecclesiastical commission, of which the learned Judge of the Court of Admiralty was a Member. In 1834, the measure had proceeded a considerable length towards ma- 951 turity. In 1835, my right hon. Friend, the Member for Tamworth, who was then in office, having ascertained that I was authorized to prepare such a bill communicated with me on the subject. I informed him of what had passed, and I happened to know that, at the time he quitted office in 1835, he had a measure ready to present to Parliament on that subject. From that hour to this, although six years have elapsed, her Majesty's Government have never attempted to deal with the question. [Lord John Russell indicated his dissent from this statement.] The noble Lord implies that I am mistaken. There has been, he says, a bill presented on the subject. What has become of it? It has shared the fate of the Lord Advocate's bills, and gone to "the tomb of all the Capulets." Of that bill we have, as yet, had no fruits; and this furnishes an additional proof that Government do not sufficiently possess the confidence of the House to carry measures which they think necessary. I am now about to comment on a measure which appears to me to afford at once a test of the legislative skill of the Government, and of their power to carry their intentions into effect. I allude to the Poor-law Amendment Bill. I was a party to the introduction of the New Poor-law. I attach the greatest importance to it: I think it a measure of primary importance. [Lord Howick: Hear, hear!] The noble Lord cheers me. I wish he would allow his vote to rest on the sense he dispassionately entertains of the conduct of the Government in the management of this important measure. If the noble Lord will promise me that his vote shall depend on his opinion of the conduct of Ministers on this subject, I never felt more confident of anything in my life than that he will vote with us on the present occasion. It will be recollected, that a very important part of the original enactments related to the duration of the commission. It was fixed at five years. The period expired about the year 1838. The noble Lord, the Secretary for the Colonies, feeling all the difficulty of the subject, asked for the renewal of the commission for a year. This was granted. That period expired; and again the noble Lord asked for the renewal of the commission for another year. I do not in the least complain of the course which the noble Lord pursued on that occasion. I think it might have been prudent, in a matter on which 952 public feeling was so much excited, and concerning which, a parliamentary investigation had been instituted, to take time to consider what the amended measure should be. Well! At the commencement of the present Session, after nearly three years' deliberation, the noble Lord, as the representative of the Government in this House, brought forward the bill, which I now hold in my hand, as the result of the matured consideration of the Ministry. I must say, that if ever there were a measure which required great care in its preparation—caution in its introduction—decision in its management, when once introduced, and force sufficient on the part of the Government to carry it through—it was this very measure. The noble Lord seemed partly conscious of this necessity; for he brought the measure forward at the earliest period of the Session, with the intention, I presume, of carrying it through before Easter. I conceive, that in ordinary prudence, the principle which should have guided the formation of such a measure, would have been to have determined on making the minimum change of the existing law which circumstances rendered necessary, and at the same time to have carefully introduced every mitigating regulation which experience had shown to be requisite. Was this the course pursued by the Government? I say their course was the precise converse of it. Their conduct in the matter appears to me, to have been framed on the principle of asking more than they knew Parliament would grant, in the hope of obtaining as much as they could get; and every mitigating circumstance—every thing which had been recommended by a committee of this House, over which the hon. Member for Peterborough presided, and on which I also had the honour to serve, was studiously overlooked. I will give the House some proofs of the strength of the Government, and also of their legislative skill, in their conduct with respect to this bill. The most important part of the measure was, that which projected the prolongation of the commission for ten years. [An hon. Member, hear:] The hon. Member cheers me, and therefore, I suppose he thinks that was a wise proposal. Will he give me his vote, if I show him that the Government wants power to give effect to that which he and they think right and necessary? Is it to be believed — or, rather if we had not seen it, could we 953 have credited it—that the Government, having upon due deliberation, proposed ten years as the period for the continuance of the commission, should, after the first discussion in this House, upon receiving an intimation from my right hon. Friend, the Member for Tamworth, that ten years was too long a period, and that five years should be substituted for it, have immediately without a division reduced the term by one half, Next in importance to the duration of the commission, was the clause for extending the power of issuing general orders. That power was alleged, and I think truly, to have been much abused. It has been used as a subterfuge; and what are really general orders, have been issued under the name of special orders, in almost every union in the country districts. The bill, as first introduced, allowed a greater latitude for issuing these orders, and, by one sweeping enactment, gave the effect of law to all passed orders, general as well as special, unless when excepted by some subsequent provisions of the bill. That was objected to, and the noble Lord immediately yielded the point. Then came a provision, giving power to dissolve unions with the consent of a majority of the guardians, it had previously required the consent of two-thirds. This was also objected to, and the noble Lord immediately either postponed the clause or withdrew it, I forget which. Another provision gave power to remove the infirm poor and lunatics to a great distance from their homes. This underwent only one partial discussion; and such was the feeling excited in the House and the country by the proposal, that the Government at once relinquished it. A similar fate awaited another indiscreet provision, on a subject which touched the feelings of the people—I allude to the burial of paupers. The clause I refer to was introduced most injudiciously. It provided, that there should be burial grounds attached to the workhouses, apart not only from the parishes of the paupers, but from consecrated edifices. The right hon. Member for Tamworth hinted his objection to this clause; and, at the first intimation of his dissent, Government yielded as usual. One of the mitigating recommendations of the committee, which ought to have been embodied in the bill, was, that widows with their families, whom they were bound to maintain, should not 954 be subjected to the workhouse test. No such humane provision is to be found in the bill. Much evil has been found to arise from the practice of being governed, in the selection of medical assistance, by the amount of remuneration required for it. The committee recommended, that this important department connected with the management of the poor should not be put up, as it were, to the lowest bidder. But the noble Lord, in his bill, has completely passed over this point. I must say, that a bill so negligently and inconsiderately prepared, on a subject which required the utmost caution and deliberation, I never before witnessed. The noble Lord withdrew provision after provision on the first hint of an objection. Others, when resisted, he was compelled to postpone, from the fear of being defeated; and, at last, he gladly availed himself of the present state of affairs to back out of the measure altogether. So much has the noble Lord damaged the measure by his conduct, that I think it is almost hopeless to expect, it can ever be brought to a successful issue. I am favourably inclined to many of the provisions of the bill; but I think, that the noble Lord has contrived, partly by his negligence, and partly by his impotence, to render the success of any similar measure hereafter extremely problematical. I now turn to another subject. I know not whether the noble Lord, the Member for Lincolnshire, who led the opposition to the motion last night, is in the House, but I cannot avoid making a few observations on what fell from him on that occasion. I understood the noble Lord to take peculiar credit to himself, for opposing the abandonment of the appropriation clause, and of the educational scheme of the Government. I confess this appeared to me a whimsical reason for placing confidence in Ministers. When he thought Ministers right, they were too feeble to give effect to their measures. The noble Lord went on to say, that as regarded the Corn-laws, he thought Ministers wrong, and yet, whimsically enough, that is his second reason for placing confidence in them. "But," said the noble Lord, "my past experience of the utter weakness of the Government is such, that I am certain they will fail in their measure respecting the Corn-laws." I find it difficult to understand the noble Lord's conduct. An opportunity is offered him 955 to resist the progress of Ministers, in a course which he thinks dangerous, and he deliberately rejects it, and supports them in opposition to those who seek to disarm them of power. We have the admission of both the right hon. Gentlemen now sitting opposite to me, the President of the Board of Control, and the Secretary at War, that, in their opinion, the real ground of want of confidence in the Government, is narrowed to the Budget. The Ministers themselves declare this. The noble Lord who leads the opposition to our motion, votes against the sugar duties project, under the full impression of the truth of that declaration; and now he intends to vote against the motion, when it is expressly declared by Ministers themselves, that the vote of want of confidence, rests upon the Budget. We must recollect, too, that the other hon. Member for Lincolnshire (Mr. Handley), the President elect, as I understand, of the Royal Agricultural Society of England, told us, in a former debate, that, as far as he was concerned, the Corn-laws should never be brought forward as a Government measure. The Ministers declare, with an explicitness not quite parliamentary or constitutional, that they retain office only to advance the repeal of the Corn-laws, and, if necessary, to dissolve Parliament for the purpose of using all the influence of Government in promoting this their favourite object. Will the sincerity of those Gentlemen be quite apparent who profess to resist objects which they say they consider dangerous, and yet do their utmost to promote the chosen means of effecting those objects? I ask, with confidence, will Lincolnshire understand such conduct? Will their plain, honest constituents understand it? Will those "heavy" persons, the agricultural contituencies, to whom the right hon. Gentleman opposite alluded, be satisfied with such reasons? Is there common sense in it? not to use a harsher word. Really, is not the case analogous to this;—if I saw a madman in the street, armed with a dangerous weapon, attacking right and left every one within his reach, what would be thought of me, if I were silly enough to attempt to defend each individual as he was attacked in turn? Would I not be expected to rush at once on the maniac, wrest from him his weapon, strip him of his power of mischief, and place him in restraint? A 956 policeman who hesitated to do this would be dismissed with disgrace. We shall see how agricultural constituencies will treat conduct not less irrational and more suspicious? The discussion which has already taken place on this question will not be altogether fruitless. Some good has already arisen from it; we understand, much better than before, the ground on which matters stand. The hon. Member for Shields says, that the second branch of the motion is not true, if a dissolution be intended by Ministers. Now, I ask the hon. Member—I ask any man—whether, when my right hon. Friend gave notice of the motion, any conduct could be more ambiguous than that of the Government? The Chancellor of the Exchequer, fixed a day for considering the sugar duties; and the noble Lord, the Secretary for the Colonies, named a distant day for propounding the Government plan respecting the Corn-laws. [Hon. Members: "Not a distant day."] I say, a distant day, some day not specified after the Whitsuntide Holydays. What are we to think now? I declare that, after hearing the President of the Board of Control, and the Secretary at War, last night, I left the House in doubt as to what course Ministers intended to pursue. I inferred, from what the President of the Board of Control said, that if the motion should be carried, Ministers intended to resign. Now, thanks to the noble Lord, the Secretary for Ireland, fresh light is thrown upon the subject. The period of resignation is to be postponed, until Ministers shall find themselves in a minority in a new Parliament; and then some hopes are held out by the noble Lord, that, in that case, they might perhaps feel it their duty to resign. I think, therefore, that, upon the whole, we have to-night arrived at a more clear understanding of what the purpose of the Government is. The noble Lord, if I mistake not, told us that Ministers do not intend to carry on, "for any extended period," the affairs of the country with the present Parliament. Not for any extended period! Is that satisfactory to the hon. Member for Shields? He stated that, unless security were given for an immediate dissolution, our proposition would be just and well-founded. I ask the hon. Member whether, with his acute mind, he can, as a man of integrity, stand up and say, he is satisfied that the course taken by the Government is clear and 957 free from suspicion. We have a notice on the book, placed there very lately, by the Chancellor of the Exchequer, that, on Wednesday next, he intends to proceed with the remaining supplies. The sugar duties, being sanctioned by our side of the House, will, as far as they go, make up the deficiency which the right hon. Gentleman anticipated under that head. But, with a gross deficiency of 2,400,000l. one might suppose that some vote of credit would be necessary before the prorogation of Parliament. The right hon. the Chancellor of the Exchequer, however, has been pleased to inform us, that there is on the statute-book a law which gives him power to deal with the funds in the savings' banks, by which means he can obtain a disposable revenue. The right hon. Gentleman, to be sure, admits that he thinks such a proceeding is unconstitutional; but, at the same time, with that honesty and frankness which characterise him, he tells us, that, while the law remains on the statute-book, he will feel himself at liberty to avail himself of it. Well, then, on Wednesday, Ministers pass the remaining supplies — the sugar duties are in progress; and they will make up a certain amount of the deficiency in the revenue. The Chancellor of the Exchequer tells us, that he has in his hands, by means of the savings' banks, the power of making up the remainder of the deficiency; and all that the noble Lord, the Secretary for Ireland, tells us, is, that it is not the intention of the Government to administer the affairs of the country "for any extended period" by the aid of the present Parliament! Up to the present time, Ministers have had the ground clear; and now there is no security that the remaining business of the Session should not be gone through, and Parliament prorogued as usual. Indeed, the hon. Member for Rochester advised such a course, and he is the near relative of a Cabinet Minister, and may be presumed to cry on his confidence. There is no stability in anything connected with the Government. Last night two Cabinet Ministers addressed the House, one of whom pointed to resignation, and the other to immediate dissolution. To-day, it would seem, the matter has been reconsidered in the Cabinet; and now the noble Lord, the Secretary for Ireland, tells us, that Ministers will not, "for any extended period," carry on 958 the Government with the present Parliament. What security have we that the Government will not keep back the dissolution until after the next registration, take this chance of agitation, and then, after all, if they should find themselves in a minority, in a parliament so doctored and managed, they hold out to us the hope that they may possibly resign. I ask the hon. Member for Shields, whether this is a state of things which he considers satisfactory? If the mystery which now prevails on the subject be not cleared up, I trust we shall have the hon. Member's vote. There are other topics on which I intended to touch, but I will abstain, and compress what I may yet say into the narrowest compass. The noble Lord, the Secretary for Ireland, attempted to repudiate the distinction between a Parliament which Government themselves have called, and a Parliament called by their opponents. The case of Mr. Pitt, in 1784, was that of a Parliament called by his political opponents, and, though he was outvoted on several motions, he sustained but one defeat on a measure of legislation. But Mr. Pitt possessed not only the confidence of the Crown, but of the other House of Parliament; and, beyond, that, he had a more confident expectation as to the effect of a dissolution than I have heard any of the Gentlemen opposite yet venture to express. The present House of Commons was called by her Majesty's present advisers; and, as was remarked by my right hon. Friend, the Member for Tamworth, it is somewhat extraordinary, that whereas all former Ministers, when representation was only virtual, and not real, yielded to the express sense of the House of Commons, the Minister who now offers the most protracted and obdurate resistance to the declared opinion of the House, is the very Minister who put an end to virtual representation; and, by a measure of his own, constituted the House of Commons, as he once contended, and as I contend, the real representation and express image of the people. It is a most unfair and an unconstitutional exercise of the prerogative of the Crown, for a Government, after being signally defeated, as has been fully admitted by the three Cabinet Ministers who have spoken, not to take one or the other of these alternatives—either immediate resignation, or immediate dissolution. It was in the power of the Govern- 959 ment to have brought forward their measures at any time they pleased. The report of the Import Duties Committee was presented last Session, and they had all the recess to consider it in. A great portion of the deficiency of the revenue was known when Parliament met. The fair course, then, for them to have pursued, was to have launched their measures at the commencement of the Session. They might then have taken the sense of Parliament upon them; and, if defeated, and they did not choose to resign, they might have dissolved. They choose their own opportunity, and they studiously bring forward their propositions, when they know that there is a constitutional difficulty in the way of an immediate dissolution. It is a difficulty, however, of their own creating, and arises from the choice of time they made for submitting their propositions to the House. Ministers hold the power of dissolution in their hands, and I assert they make the most unconstitutional use of the prerogative. After their defeat, they not only come down to the House, and say, "Give us the sugar duties—give us the remainder of the supplies," but they also propose to discuss the question of the Corn-laws, the most exciting question that could be discussed in the presence of the community; and they further propose, that we should discuss it, under the threat of a dissolution. I contend, that when a Minister, after sustaining a series of defeats, continues in office, and so conducts himself, he wounds the honour of this House, he tarnishes its reputation, defies its power, and subverts the fundamental principle of representative Government. Certainly, among the changes and chances of political warfare, it is somewhat extraordinary to see the noble Lord and his Whig coadjutors sheltering themselves under the inapplicable precedent of Mr. Pitt. But they are not satisfied with that. Retained in power by royal favour, they crouch under the royal prerogative, and hope to prolong their miserable existence for a few months longer. Not content with the precedent of Mr. Pitt, the President of the Board of Control resorted to the authority of the arguments of Mr. Pitt. I think the right hon. Gentleman might be disposed to prefer the authority of Mr. Fox on this subject; but it does so happen, that whilst he shelters himself under the authority of Mr. Pitt, I adhere to the authority of Mr. Fox. 960 I am about to quote the opinion of that statesman, expressed in terms which, though stronger than I could wish to use, are, nevertheless, deserving serious consideration of the hon. Gentleman opposite. Mr. Fox said: —Though the popularity of the present Administration is not ascertained, yet I will not hesitate to affirm, that there is an intention in Ministers to establish themselves on a foundation unfriendly to the constitutional privileges of this House. They court the affection of the people, and on this foundation they wish to support themselves in opposition to the repeated resolutions of this House. Is not this declaring themselves independent of Parliament? Is not this separating the House of Commons from its constituents, annihilating our importance, and avowedly erecting a monarchy on the basis of an affected popularity, independent of and uncontrolable by Parliament? Such a scheme I can view under no other aspect but as a system of the basest tyranny, and calculated to accomplish the ruin of the liberties of the country. Such a system of despotism, is, indeed, the most likely to originate in men who carry on their schemes by the machinations of dark intrigue, of men who have stabbed the constitution, by means of a secret influence in one department of Government, and are now prepared to perpetrate similar assassinations, by methods of the basest corruption, in another. I hope, however, that Members will attend to these designs of Ministers, masked under the most dangerous and imposing appearances, and that they will rescue the country from the hands of those who are only distinguished by the dirtiness of their political intrigue, and their violations of the privileges of the House. I hope that such Ministers will finally see the danger of their situation, and that this House will no longer suffer itself to be insulted by its own moderation.I vote for the resolution before the House, because, among many other reasons, I am anxious to have recorded in the journals of Parliament, the heavy weight of responsibility which her Majesty's advisers will encounter, if they counsel a dissolution under the present circumstances of this country. The space of time which will elapse from the present moment to the meeting of the new Parliament, will be to all intents and purposes, an interregnum; it ought not to be unnecessarily prolonged. Dissolution, if it take place at all, should take place immediately. I have stated to the House my reasons for thinking we have no security that it will immediately occur. And, if it should not, I am anxious that this resolution should be placed on the journals of 961 the House. I have said, that the honour and the dignity of the House will be wounded by the postponement of dissolution, and I hope, that in the new Parliament, their avengers will be found. I say, that Ministers, during the interregnum, cannot conduct the public affairs, except by expedients which a strong Government would despise, and of which a good Government would be ashamed. These Gentlemen are always asking us what we would do? I tell them I am no great admirer of the skill with which they play their game, though I must admit the sleight of hand with which they shuffle the cards. But if they cannot play their own hand, I do not see that they are entitled to look into ours. The dissolution of Parliament is undoubtedly the prerogative of the Crown; but the advice as to the exercise of that prerogative involves the responsibility of Ministers; and I contend, that a more dangerous—I had almost said, a more revolutionary—proceeding, than to advise a dissolution in the present juncture of affairs, after the course pursued by the Government, cannot be conceived by any rational mind. [Lord J. Russell: What do you say of 1831?] The noble Lord reminds me of 1831. I am glad of it. In that year Lord Grey's Government brought in the Reform Bill. They carried the second reading by a majority of one. Shortly after, they were defeated, on a matter of minor importance, upon the motion of General Gascoigne. What did they do? Did they threaten dissolution? Did they come down, and brandish in the face of the House the threat of a dissolution? The next morning, without the intervention of more than twelve hours from their defeat, Lord Grey's Government advised the Crown to exercise its prerogative, by dissolving Parliament. If the Crown had not taken that advice, we would not have remained the responsible advisers of the Crown for twelve hours longer. Parliament was dissolved instantly, and that is the precedent to which the noble Lord refers me! So much for the precedent which the noble Lord suggested. Now I will suggest a precedent to him. In the year 1807, Mr. Canning, in no ambiguous terms, announced to the House that a dissolution would immediately ensue. I suppose the noble Lord, the Secretary for the Colonies, still feels some respect for Mr. Tierney. He is a good constitutional authority at all events. Upon that an- 962 nouncement being made by Mr. Canning, Mr. Tierney said—" As for a dissolution, I am convinced that it cannot be intended, particularly when I see that a religious clamour is raised, because the malice of the devil himself could not have thought of preparing for a dissolution by the wicked cry of the ' Church in danger.' "[Cheers from the Ministerial benches.] Do you cheer that? Do you believe that the cry of the Church in danger is more exciting, and more likely to madden the people, than the cry of "cheap bread" raised from the Treasury Bench? The Secretary at War asked, "Where is agitation—where are the signs of it?" and then, according to the usual practice with Gentlemen on the Treasury bench, he went further, and added, "Where is the harm of it?" The right hon. Gentleman, too, asked, what is its nature? I will tell him. With pain greater than I can describe—with astonishment which was perfectly boundless at the time, and which is not yet altogether removed—I heard the noble Lord, the Secretary for Ireland, declare in his place last year, that in his opinion, no man who was not prepared to alter the Corn Laws could obey the divine injunction, and offer up with sincerity the daily prayer for daily bread. This is the nature of the agitation. But does it stop here? In a very eloquent and brilliant passage, composed not hastily or without consideration, the noble Lord, the Secretary for the Colonies, when announcing the schemes of Government, in the debate on the Sugar Duties, wound up his speech by declaring, that in his opinion the present Corn Laws were at variance with the beneficence of Providence. I am aware that many Gentlemen in this House entertain the same opinion. I believe them to form a minority—a considerable minority. But, be they a minority or a majority, I appeal to their dispassionate judgment, and ask, whether they think that such language, from such high places, addressed to the people on a topic most inflammatory, can fail to produce—as I say it is intended to produce—the greatest possible excitement? This is the most dangerous course a Government can possibly pursue, with reference to the most dangerous subject. Desperate tenants, under notice to quit, set fire to the premises which they are compelled to evacuate. Pirates, when they are no longer able to defend their vessel, rush with torches to the magazine. 963 We are told of the strong man in despair, who hit upon the stratagem of turning loose three hundred foxes, with firebrands at their tails, among the standing corn of the people. This is an exact representation of the Government, who, at a dissolution, will send forth their torches and their fire-brands. After all, I am persuaded that the 8s. duty was an after-thought. The Secretary-at-War told us, with great frankness, that he always thought the propositions respecting timber and sugar might be carried; but the Corn Law proposition he knew to be a hopeless project, which could not be carried. In the absence of all authoritative assurance to the contrary, I shall always believe, and continue to assert, that the shilling a bushel duty on Wheat was never determined on by the Government, until after their defeats on the Irish Registration Bill. I say, this is a desperate plunge, made by desperate men. They have made up their minds to "put their lives upon a cast," and are determined to "stand the hazard of the die." It is against them. I cannot address the people of this country in the language of quotation used by the noble Lord:O passi graviora;for never was a country cursed with a worse, a more reckless, or a more dangerous Government. The noble Lord, the Secretary for Ireland, talks of "lubricity;' but, thank God, we have at last pinned you to something out of which you cannot wriggle—and as we have the melancholy satisfaction to know that there is an end to all things, so I can now say with the noble Lord,Dabit Deus his quoque finem.
§ Thank God, we have at last got rid of such a Government as this!
§ Debate adjourned.
§ House adjourned to June 2.