§ The House in Committee of Ways and Means.
§ The Chancellor of the Exchequer
said, as the House has made all the grants of supply that arc necessary for the public service, I rise, conformably to the usual 829 practice, to state to the House the mode in which I consider it advisable that the ways and means should be furnished to meet that supply which the House has already granted; and in doing so, it will not be necessary to trouble the House with any of those lengthened details that on other occasions form so large a portion of the address of the Chancellor of the Exchequer. So short a time has elapsed since all the details were brought before this House and the country, by the right hon. Gentleman opposite, and so few changes have occurred, either in the state of the revenue, or the expenditure, since that period, that I should only fatigue the House if I were to follow the right hon. Gentleman through the details on which he then expatiated; so, my statement must consist but of a repetition of the details that he then laid before you. I content myself, then, with briefly adverting to the general results which the right hon. Gentleman communicated to the House, and by stating to the House the means by which I propose to equalize the revenue and the expenditure, or, to express myself in a more parliamentary way, to furnish the ways and means to meet the supply. The supply which the House has voted during the present Session, amounts to the sum of 1,727,000l. It consists, first, of those portions of the miscellaneous estimates that were not voted in the last Parliament, of the vote for the commissariat, for Canada, a part of which was voted last Session; and, in addition to those votes that were left unsatisfied last Session, I have merely to add the supplementary estimates for the ordnance, amounting to 67,000l., and the difference between the ways and means and supply of last Session, amounting to 24,896l., making a total of 1,727,432l. This has been voted in a committee of supply during the present Session. In addition to that which has been voted in a committee of supply, the House is aware that there is a charge for the interest on Exchequer Bills, for which it is necessary that the ways and means should provide. It is no longer voted as supply by Parliament, but it is directed to be paid by the acts of the Legislature, out of the aids of the year. It is necessary, then, in the calculation of the ways and means, to provide for that sum. The amount of the interest on Exchequer Bills is 740,000l., which is to be added to the sum previously stated to have been voted in the present Session, that being 1,727,432l, and leaving a total amount 830 for which the House is called upon to provide, namely 2,467,432l. To revert, then, to the statement made by the right hon. Gentleman, in the course of last Session, the House will recollect that, taking a review of the receipts and expenditure for the year, the right hon. Gentleman, assumed the receipts to be 48,310,000l., and he stated the expenditure to be provided for as 50,731,000l., leaving a deficiency of revenue for the year, as compared with the expenditure, very nearly in amount to the sum I have already stated, as necessary to equalize the ways and means this Session, with the supply that has been voted this Session. The sums naturally very nearly coincide, because, in the preceding Session, the House having voted the whole of the ways and means of the year to meet what was then voted in supply, which was only a portion of the year's expenditure for the public service. The ways and means now to be provided for are very nearly the amount which the right hon. Gentleman calculated as the deficiency for the year. On accurately examining the statement of the right hon. Gentleman with the advantage of an additional experience of five months, I do not think that any circumstances have occurred since that period, to affect the calculations of the right hon. Gentleman as to the probable revenue of the country, and as we have made no addition to the sums to be voted beyond that small sum in the ordnance estimates to which I have already adverted, there will be little, if any, alteration in the estimates that the right hon. Gentleman formed of the total revenue and expenditure of the year. We are, therefore, on the present occasion to devise the means by which we are to provide for the sum of 2,467,432l., which appears to be the amount of the deficiency in the revenue for the year. Without further' preface, then, or entering into the details of a statement that has been so recently made, I proceed shortly to mention the mode in which I propose to supply the deficiency that we are called upon to meet. The House is undoubtedly aware of the proposition that I have made, and which was made through the ordinary channels, of funding a portion of the unfunded debt of the country. The object that I have in view is apparent from the terms of the notice that I gave. It is to effect a reduction of the unfunded debt to the amount of two millions and a half. I did this because I, sensible that of all the measures 831 which could be adopted for placing the finances on an improved footing, this was an indispensable preliminary. He might be told that the amount of the unfunded debt was not such as to justify alarm as to its extent, and some might think that it did not require reduction. But he must still adhere to the principle which he had uniformly maintained in that House, that it was not safe for the country to continue a larger amount of unfunded debt than under the circumstances of the country could lightly and easily be borne, and he would beg the House to recollect, that the pressure of the unfunded debt upon the country did not depend upon the amount of millions of which it. consisted, that the same amount might at different times press with very different degree of weight upon the means of the country; and, that, therefore, though now at twenty-one millions, and formerly thirty-one millions, there might be circumstances which called more loudly for a reduction now than when, nominally, the amount was much larger than at present. As long as Exchequer bills were almost the only safe security, that gave a daily interest; as long as there was a general demand for them; as long as there was a large premium upon them; as long as they kept pretty steady, without any material variation, so long there was reason for thinking that the burden of the unfunded debt was not greater than the country was able to bear. But when a period had arrived in which, so far from being the only safe security giving daily interest, they saw other securities, esteemed much by the public, coming into competition with them—when they knew that there were certain banks of acknowledged credit which gave a larger daily interest than that given on Exchequer bills—when they knew that a spirit of embarking in what might be considered comparatively safe speculations existed, in which larger profits might be made—and when, above all, they considered that by the change which had been effected in the Usury-laws, the money which before lay in the hands of individuals, or was employed at certain periods only in the purchase of Exchequer bills, was now employed in the more profitable business of discount—it must be evident to every one who considered the subject, that the reduced amount of Exchequer bills at the present moment was the necessary consequence of the altered position of monetary affairs to 832 which he had alluded. For these reasons, considering it (impossible—he would not say—but) very difficult, without material loss, to add to the number of Exchequer bills already in the market, he determined to effect a reduction of the unfunded debt, by two millions and a half. He was happy to say, that as far as his proposition had gone, it had been completely successful. He should be enabled, by the subscription that had been made, to afford that degree of relief to the market which it had been his primary object to accomplish. He had another object in view, coupled with the reduction of the unfunded debt—it was to raise a sum of 2,500,000l. to meet the existing deficiency, and to show to the public at once the amount required for the public service. It was for this purpose that he combined the two operations, being unwilling that any man should subscribe his capital to the public without knowing the whole extent of the demand which the public would afterwards have to make upon the money market. The measure had not gone to the full extent of the proposition he had made to the public. The total amount of the subscription was 3,645,000l., or say 3,640,000l. The resolution which he meant to put in the chairman's hand would clearly point out the mode in which the deficiency was to be made up. He might be told, although he did not suppose he should, that he had offered to the public terms unfavourable to the Government or unfair to the public. He did not however suppose that this was an objection that would be dwelt upon by those who had attended the transactions. Into the details of those terms he should not at the present moment enter, unless hon. Gentlemen opposite should wish for the details on which his calculation was founded. He only said this, that comparing the terms offered now, and at antecedent periods, they would be found not higher, regarding the rate of interest and value of money, than offered in 1838, by the late Chancellor of the Exchequer (Lord Monteagle). They were not higher in amount, and, by the small addition of a premium, there was no greater difference than the price of the funds justified. Dismissing, therefore, for the present, the basis of the calculation, which he was quite willing to explain, if any hon. Gentleman required or desired him to do so. [Mr. F. T. Baring, what is the amount of the bonus?] He calculated the bonus at 833 18s. 10d. per cent. The bonus given by Lord Monteagle was 16s. 4d., but the funds were then above 91, while the funds when he had to make his bargain were 89½. Having by this subscription cleared the market of 2,500,000l., he had to show the House the manner in which he deemed it to be expedient to raise the sum required to supply the deficiency of the year. Part of the sum of money was to be paid by those who contributed to this funding. What that amount might be it was impossible for him at the present moment to say. As the parties had the option of paying half in money and half in Exchequer bills, lie could not, until the last instalment had been paid, state distinctly the amount of money that would be available for the public service. Supposing all the parties to subscribe half in Exchequer bills, then in no case could it exceed 1,800,000l., or one half of the whole amount subscribed. The probability was, that it would fall short of that, and that the Exchequer bills would be subscribed in preference to money, which the parties were at liberty to subscribe.
§ Mr. F. T. Baring
remarked, that the sum stated by the right hon. Gentleman was only half the amount.
The Chancellor of the Exehequer
meant half the amount. Of course, under the present circumstances of the country, he need not say, especially after all that had lately passed in that House, that it would be impracticable upon the present occasion to provide for the deficiency that existed by additional taxation. Under the present circumstances he should recommend the House to make a temporary provision to meet the deficiency. It was the one that seemed to be expected by every man who had spoken upon this subject, and, however, in his opinion, it was to be deprecated as a permanent mode of meeting a deficiency in the revenue, yet it was one that, under the present circumstances, he believed no reasonable man would object to. He was sure that the House would see that so soon after the accession of the present Government to office, with the general indisposition manifested not to embark in lengthened discussions of this nature, it must be impossible, with any effect to propose additional taxation to the country because it would be impossible, too, to make such an accurate examination of the expenditure, as to enable him to say whether or not it was susceptible of such a reduction as might lessen the amount required for the pub- 834 lic service. He should feel himself to be still more unworthy than he knew himself to be, for the situation in which he was placed, if he were so presumptuous, as in one moment to lay before them a system of taxation to meet the deficiency of the year. He had simply to request in the resolution which was to be proposed, that the House would give the Government the power, either by the sale of Exchequer bills, or by the sale of a certain portion of stock, to raise that sum which might be necessary—to make the amount to be received in money equal to 2,500,000l. the sum to be provided for. He had introduced into the resolution the power either of issuing Exchequer bills, or selling stock, because, anxious as he was to relieve the unfunded debt he could not with certainty rely on the effect of replacing in the market two millions and a half in Exchequer bills. H e had in view the possible difficulty of disposing of Exchequer bills with advantage to the government and the public. He spoke more of the interest of the public than of the Government; because the introducing of Exchequer bills suddenly might produce a very injurious effect upon the holders of those securities and wishing that the object of the country might be attained with the least derangement to the interest of individuals, he desired to give the Government the discretion of making up the deficiency, either by the sale of Exchequer bills, or the sale of stock in the market. He did not, in propounding this last proposition, adopt a course that had been struck out for the first time. He knew that the feeling of the right hon. Gentleman opposite (Mr. Bating) was favourable to it. And as the candour that had marked that right hon. Gentleman when he was connected with the Government, would now, he was sure, be continued in opposition, he had no hesitation in referring to the right hon. Gentleman as having stated distinctly his favourable view of such a project. He trusted, then, that the House would see the necessity of acceding to and complying with the proposition which he should have to submit to them, of giving this power to the Government, leaving it to them, either by the sale of Exchequer bills, or the sale of stock, to raise the sum he proposed; but not go beyond that amount which was required for the service of the year. He was not aware of any necessity on the present occasion of entering into any fur- 835 ther detail; but he should be happy to give any explanation which might be required by any hon. Gentleman in the course of the evening, and to satisfy any doubts that might suggest themselves to Others, though they had not occurred to himself, as to the propriety of the course which he now recommended to the House. It was not, he could assure the House, without regret that he felt himself called on to propose an addition to the debt of the country, and in order to repair a deficiency to have recourse to borrowing. He lamented deeply, and sincerely that he was not able to make a special provision for the debt so created, but the reasons which debarred him were those which prevented him from dealing in a more efficient manner with the deficiency generally. A proposition which would have reference to taxation required deep and deliberate consideration, and it was quite evident that it was an advantage to the public to defer such a proposition till the whole subject might be considered, as to how the expenditure might be diminished or the revenue increased. He had only further to say that, as the present proposition was merely intended to deal with the case before them he was anxious that it should not be supposed that he wished to afford the precedent of making up deficiencies by additions to the debt of the country. So desirous was he to avoid it, that he refrained from alluding to any precedent to authorise the course he had pursued. He did not think that, as a general measure, the principle was defensible; and he looked forward to that period when, after looking to the receipts of the country, and to the sources of the national wealth, they should be enabled to take a view of the whole case in detail, and when they would not be called on to consider the mode of dealing with the deficiencies of one year, but to consider how the whole expenditure and revenue of the country could be put on such a footing as would render them equal to each other. The right hon. Gentleman then concluded by moving the following resolutions:—That the several persons who have engaged to subscribe towards funding the sum 5,000,000 of Exchequer Bills charged on aids or supplies dated in March and June 1841, (or in any antecedent month, provided the same have not been advertised to be paid off,) and who have made deposits of 20l. per centum on the amount of their respective subscriptions 836 accepted at the Bank of England, shall be entitled, upon the completion of their subscriptions, for every 100l. so subscribed in Exchequer bills (or 100l. 12s. in money, not exceeding one half of such subscription), to 112l. 2s. capital stock in consolidated annuities, bearing interest at the rate of 3l. per centum per annum; the said interest to commence from the 5th day of July 1841, and to be payable by half-yearly dividends on the 5th day of January and the 5th day of July of every year.That the several subscribers shall complete their respective subscriptions at the Bank of England, by instalments, in the proportions and at the times under mentioned; that is to say,20l. per centum on or before the 8th day of November.20l. per centum on or before the 20th day of December.20l. per centum on or before the 31st day of January 1842.20l. per centum on or before the 14th day of March 1842.That interest shall be allowed upon all Exchequer bills deposited in payment of each instalment, up to the date of such instalment; and upon each instalment paid in money, interest on the same from the 27th day of September 1841 to the date of such instalment.That subscribers shall be at liberty to pay the said instalments in advance, and shall in such case be entitled, if the payment be made in Exchequer Bills, to interest thereupon, to the period when the instalment will be due; and if payment be made in money, to interest at the rate of two pence farthing per diem upon every 100l. of such money, from the day of such payment in advance to the day when it would otherwise be due.That all the Exchequer bills so to be deposited with the governor and company of the Bank of England shall be delivered over to the Paymasters of Exchequer Bills to be cancelled; and that all monies so to be received shall be paid into the receipt of the Exchequer, to be applied from time to time to such services, for Great Britain and Ireland, as shall have been voted by this House in this Session of Parliament, that the Commissioners of her Majesty's Treasury shall be authorised to complete the sum requisite to discharge the services granted by this House in this Session of Parliament, and the interest on Exchequer bills charged on the aids or supplies of the present year, amounting in the whole to 2,467,432l., either by the issue of Exchequer bills, or by the creation of consolidated 3l. per centum annuities, provided that no greater sum in the whole shall be raised, either by the monies so subscribed, by the issue of Exchequer bills, or by the creation of consolidated 3l. per centum annuities, than may be necessary to discharge the said services and interest.
§ Mr. F. T. Baring
said, that he ahould 837 have scercely thought it necessary to trouble the House on the present occasion, so far as regarded the statement of the right hon. Gentleman who had just addressed the House. He felt it necesary to offer a few observations, not so much on account of anything which the right hon. Gentleman had said to the House, as I on account of that which the right hon. Gentleman had thought fit not to say. It was always difficult on the instant to follow a right hon. Gentleman, through a statement of this kind, however clear, and to suddenly give an opinion upon a statement which one had not the opportunity of considering. At the same time he (Mr. Baring) would venture to trouble the committee with a few observations. He should on the present occasion, omit, as the right hon. Gentleman had done, all reference to the statement which had been made on a former occasion with reference to the former expenditure and deficiency. It was, however, satisfactory to him that though six months had elapsed, and though circumstances might have occurred which would vary his calculations, it was satisfactory to him to find that the right hon. Gentleman had found nothing to question in the calculations which he had upon a former occasion ventured to submit to the House. As he understood the right hon. Gentleman, the proposition made to the House was the same operation which the right hon. Gentleman had already made public. He thought that he understood the operation which was intended by the right hon. Gentleman, hut having heard the explanation of the right hon. Gentleman, he was not quite sure that he understood the way in which the right hon. Gentleman intended that his plan should operate. He understood the transaction of the right hon. Gentleman to be this—that he proposed to combine the funding of two millions and a half of Exchequer bills and to bring in at the same time two millions and a half of money, so that while nominally he funded five millions of Exchequer bills, he would in reality fund only two millions and a half of Exchequer bills, and would raise two millions and a half in money to meet the wants of the country. He thought that the great object was the funding of two millions and a half of Exchequer bills. But the right hon. Gentleman stated that he found it necessary to fund five millions, and that he had suc- 838 ceeded in his main object. On the present occasion he was exceedingly anxious that nothing should fall from him calculated to embarrass and encumber the public service in any way. He did not think, however, that the right hon. Gentleman had succeeded. It appeared to him that the right hon. Gentleman was in this position, that he did not know whether he had funded the required amount of Exchequer bills or not, and that he would not know the amount of Exchequer bills funded or the amount of money raised, till the end of the transaction. If the object of the right hon. Gentleman was to fund two millions and a half of Exchequer bills, he had not yet attained that object, and if his object was to raise two millions and a half of money by going into the market with that amount of Exchequer bills or Stock, it did not appear that the right hon. Gentleman had completely succeeded. The right hon. Gentleman, it appeared to him, had neither secured the amount of Exchequer bills nor the amount of money that he was anxious to obtain. Nobody, as the right hon. Gentleman had said, would quarrel with the amount of the bonus which the right hon. Gentleman had offered. On the contrary, so far from that, if he had ventured to state anything to the right hon. Gentleman previous to his undertaking that operation, he would have told him not to venture on an operation of that kind unless that he was sure to succeed. He was sure that a small saving (which, however, he did not underrate) ought not to be considered in comparison with securing the success of an operation of this nature. Considering what was passing here and in other countries, he thought it would have been advisable for the right hon. Gentleman, leaving out of consideration what had been offered by Lord Monteagle or any one I else, to have offered such a bonus as would secure the object he had in view. With respect to the amount, it appeared to him that it was a satisfactory amount and a satisfactory offer. Notwithstanding all that had been said of Whig misgovernment and the extravagance of Whig Administration, it appeared that, after tea years of Whig Administration, the right hon. Gentleman was able to raise the amount he wanted at a bonus of one-third less than in 1828, when the right hon. Gentleman was Chancellor of the Exchequer. This fact he was el ad to learn, 839 after all he had heard of the ruin of their finances, and of the dangerous state in which the country had been left by ten years of Whig Administration. Notwithstanding all this, the right hon. Gentleman, when he wanted money, offered one-third less for it than he found it necessary to offer fourteen or fifteen years ago when the right hon. Gentleman was Chancellor of the Exchequer. With respect to the operation of the right hon. Gentleman, there was one point, and one only, on which he should be sorry (as we understood) to see it drawn into a precedent. He thought that the right hon. Gentleman was right to avoid a loan. Although borrowing in one way might sound the same as borrowing in another way, still recollecting what had been done in this way in the good old times, he should be sorry that the country in time of peace should have recourse to a regular loan: but if it were necessary to raise money by a loan, he thought it ought to be done by open competition. The right hon. Gentleman proposed to raise two and a half millions in a mode which was not open to competition. Now this, he thought, was open to objection, for, though he admitted that the public would be exposed to, a combination of great monied capitalists, still he thought upon the whole that they would best satisfy the public feeling by going to the open market. The right hon. Gentleman proposed to make his operation such as to enable him to obtain money either by the sale of Exchequer bills, or of stock corresponding in some manner. Now he knew enough to know the difficulty of being confined entirely to Exchequer bills, and therefore he ventured to suggest to the right hon. Gentleman, if he found himself under the necessity of doing anything of the kind, the propriety of reserving the option. As far as this part of the proposition went, he need hardly say, that he cordially supported it. He entirely agreed with the right hon. Gentleman in the propriety of keeping under the amount of Exchequer bills. The right hon. Gentleman would find in some return which he did not happen to have with him, that the amount of Exchequer bills in 1835 had been very largely reduced by the Government with which he was connected, and compared with the administration of the right hon. Gentleman, they had reduced Exchequer bills by three millions as compared with the quantity of Exche- 840 quer bills in the market at the time. He entirely concurred in the expediency of raising the money, if it were possible to make the option, rather by the sale of stock than the sale of Exchequer bills. He confessed, that after the manner in which the right hon. Gentleman had left hat (the Opposition) side of the House, he was surprised that the right hon. Gentleman had not alluded to the future prospects of the country—that he had not given them some glimpse, some small opening, some possibility of understanding the course which the right hon. Gentleman proposed hereafter to pursue. He confessed, when the right hon. Gentleman told him—and here he could not help reminding the committee, that during the debate in the last Session, when a right hon. Friend of his accused the right hon. Gentleman of stating, that the course he meant to take would be to leave things alone, the right hon. Gentleman rose indignantly, and complained bitterly that he had been grossly misrepresented, and he stated, that no such thing had fallen from him. The right hon. Gentleman rose twice and complained that such a notion should be attributed to him, a notion which he never ventured to entertain. He entirely agreed with the right hon. Gentleman, that he had no such notion of letting things alone, but now, when the time for explanation came, the scheme of the right hon. Gentleman after all was that of borrowing money, and, as far as he understood the right hon. Gentleman's plan, it was the very plan which, when on that (the Opposition) side of the House, the right hon. Gentleman had attacked him for proposing; but now, when on the Treasury benches, he considered the wisest and most proper, and the most expedient plan, to leave things entirely alone till next year. He did not know what might be the right hon. Gentleman's notion of letting things alone, but he knew, that if he had come down with a proposal for a loan, without stating how he meant to deal with the finances of the country hereafter, he should, as a matter of course, have been fiercely attacked. The right hon. Gentleman had said, that he had lately come into office, and that it would be rather hard upon him to give a plan of finance, and to consider fully the revenue and the expenditure of the country. He really thought, that the delay was absolutely necessary for giving the right hon. 841 Gentleman fair time for the consideration of financial subjects; he would be one of the first to admit that plea, and at once to give him what he conceived to be a fair time for the consideration of the plans and measures which, filling the station he did, he would be called upon to propose, but he could not in his conscience, and with every respect for the right hon. Gentleman, understand that plea of the right hon. Gentleman which tells us, "I have considered the subject of finance for several long years—I have made repeated observations and motions upon the question— I have thrown you out of office upon a financial question—I have taken issue with you upon the great measures you proposed—we know quite enough to make out, that your propositions are bad, but we have not sufficient knowledge to tell you what is good and ought to be done." That course, he confessed, he could not understand. If the right hon. Gentleman asked for a fortnight or three weeks, that might be well enough, but as he understood the present course, it was this, to propose to wind up the financial arrangements of the year without announcing to the House any one of those measures, or giving the details of any of those principles upon which he hereafter considered that he would have to conduct the financial administration of the country. Against this course he took the liberty of protesting, as his noble Friend (Lord J. Russell) had already done, however ineffectually. He entertained towards that course a most sincere objection. He thought it was not a course that was advisable for the country; he thought it was not a course which, under any circumstances, the right hon. Gentleman opposite ought to have proposed. From something that fell from the right hon. Gentleman, he believed that the right hon. Gentleman, when he referred to the expenditure, seemed to think, that the sum that was necessary for this year would not be necessary for future years; and he could not help thinking, that the right hon. Gentleman had some expectations, having this prospect before him, that it would not be necessary to take any measure for an augmentation of the revenue. He confessed it would give him the greatest, the most sincere pleasure, to find the right hon. Gentleman enabled to carry on the Government of the country without calling upon the people for increase of taxa- 842 tion; but, on the other hand, it did appear to him a most unadvisable expectation to raise if the right hon. Gentleman did lot feel sure of success. Had he misunderstood the right hon. Gentleman? [No, no.] He admitted they had heard of the wanton and profligate expenditure of the Whig Government. Did the right hon. Gentleman think, that that was the case?[Cheers.] The right hon. Gentleman was one of those parties who concurred with hose who cheered the accusation. [Lord Stanley said something across the Table.] The words he had used were the very words used by the noble Lord who seconded the address upon which the late Government was displaced. He knew that language was used by one party of the friends of the right hon. Gentleman opposite which they themselves would not employ, that accusations like this were made, and when it was wanted to know upon what grounds such accusations were made, some right hon. Gentlemen jumped up, and cried, "I never said such a thing —what can you mean?" When, however, a great party was banded together, and when he saw members of that party bringing forward charges day after day, and night after night, he would ask, wa3 it not natural to suppose, that without there was some general consent and union, the charges which they heard would not be employed by persons holding stations in that House, and persons whom the great Conservative party entrusted with the agreeable duty of turning out the late Government. In entering his protest against the course of the right hon. Gentleman, it was his earnest wish not to use any language that could in any shape be hurtful to the feelings of the right hon. Gentleman. For his own part he was as anxious to see the right hon. Gentleman successful in his measures as if he were himself in office. He was satisfied, that the real foundation of the good faith and credit of the country was unshaken, and although the right hon. Gentleman might not succeed in getting the actual amount of the sum proposed, still he would not draw from that any evil omen as to the real position of the finances of the country.
§ The Chancellor of the Exchequer
said, that the right hon. Gentleman had concluded with a sentiment which he had often uttered when on the other side of the House—namely, that he saw no reason at 843 any time to despair of the resources of the country or of its power to meet all difficulties. The right hon. Gentleman had criticised the observations which he had taken the liberty to make, and had stated certain objections to the measures which he (the Chancellor of the Exchequer) now proposed to make up the deficiency in the revenue. If the committee would allow him, he would offer, on these points, a few observations. The right hon. Gentleman objected to the measures taken for funding of Exchequer bills and raising money. He confessed, after listening to the speech of the right hon. Gentleman, he could not distinctly understand the objections he made. The right hon. Gentleman told them that he thought it absolutely necessary to reduce the unfunded debt, and he told them it was absolutely necessary not to have recourse to a loan. Now if there was any merit in the proposition submitted to the committee, it was this, that it did reduce the unfunded debt to an amount to which it appeared to him advisable to reduce it, and did avoid the necessity of contracting a loan. As far, then, as these two points went, he must confess, that the right hon. Gentleman, in objecting to the measures, confirmed, the principles upon which they were founded. The right hon. Gentleman said, that they could not get the amount of Exchequer bills required, and they would fail to raise the necessary supply of money. He knew, that every proposition of this kind depended upon the subscription of the public; and no man, under certain circumstances, could infer the certain accomplishment of such an object; but taking the whole of these measures together, lie had so far succeeded, that by means of the alternative, which he trusted the House would allow, and which the right hon. Gentleman approved of, cither by the issue of Exchequer bills or by the sale of stock, he should have in his hands the power of reducing the amount of Exchequer bills as he thought necessary, and of raising, by an addition to the funds rather than to the unfunded debt, that amount of money which he knew was required for the public service. So far, therefore, his measures had succeeded, and had fulfilled the condition which the right hon. Gentleman deemed indispensable. The right hon. Gentleman said, there was danger in the mode of raising money, and he thought, that loans should be raised by open competition. He was aware, that the right hon. Gentleman was correct as to the general principle; but there were rea- 844 sons which convinced him, that he had acted rightly on the present occasion. Lord Monteagle, when Chancellor of the Exchequer, made an attempt to fund Exchequer bills through the medium of public competition. Three large capitalists offered, and offered three sets of terms materially different. The Chancellor of the Exchequer was obliged to have a sealed paper stating the amount beyond which the Government would not go. What was the result? The Hank of England brought in Exchequer bills to the amount of half a million, upon terms lower than those offered by the Government, and the other parties bid so considerably above the Government price, that they could not be accepted; and thus, after trying public competition, Lord Monteagle was obliged to go into the market, and to obtain in the same manner as he had done, subscriptions to the amount required; and with this inconvenience, that the parties who first came forward, upon open competition, had advantages less than those who, by holding back, drove the right hon. Gentleman into the market. He was opposed to open competition, because, upon principles of justice, if they offered a competition, the advantages ought to be the same to all; and he therefore thought it fairer in the first instance, instead of having a scaled paper, to state at once to the public those terms which he was willing to accept. This was his reason for not resorting to open competition. In open competition, the dealing was confined to the capitalists in the market. Those only could come forward who had a large amount of Exchequer Bills to offer. It was impossible for the Chancellor of the Exchequer to take 1,000l. from one party, and 1,000l. from another, and so on; but when he offered terms, and they were accepted, the smallest holder would be placed upon the same footing as the largest. Men with 1,000l. would be able to subscribe on the same terms with the man who had 1,000,000l., and, on the present occasion, he knew many individuals had subscribed to very limited amounts, which, under a different system, they could not have done. These were the reasons why he thought it inexpedient to repeat the practice pursued in the case of Lord Monteagle, a practice which did not produce the effect expected, and which operated to the injury of those who came forward in the first instance. It was said, that by public competition, he might have obtained greater advantage to the public. 845 Did the right hon. Gentleman believe, if he offered a loan at a bonus of 18s. 9d. per cent., many would be desirous of obtaining it? Let him look at the loan raised by Mr. Spring Rice for the payment of the West-India compensation. The bonus then given was 3l. 18s., just 3l. more than he now proposed, and for this simple reason, that the present plan combined two advantages, namely, that individuals would derive the same advantage from the payment of money as the presentation of Exchequer Bills. The right hon. Gentleman further stated, that he doubted whether the public would accept the loan now proposed. He entertained a very different opinion. He had that confidence which the right hon. Gentleman professed to have in the power and resources of the country; he had taken the best means in his power of ascertaining what terms the public had a right to expect, and having made up his mind, he saw nothing to shake his determination with regard to what he felt it his duty to offer to the public, little regarding whether the whole subscription should be filled or not, so long as he obtained sufficient to enable him to accomplish the object he had in view. Comparing the present bonus with that offered ten years ago, was no argument whatever. At particular periods there might be great variations in the rate at which money could be funded or borrowed; and it was no ground of blame to any party, that he gave a higher rate at one time, and a lower at a subsequent period. Circumstances had since occurred with respect to the power which the Government now possessed of withdrawing Exchequer Bills from circulation, which must materially affect the terms which Government would be justified in offering to the public. He felt, upon the whole, that the terms he had offered were not lower than circumstances justified, and he was better satisfied to stand there to defend himself for having made an advantageous bargain to the public which had partially interfered with his success, rather than to defend himself from the accusation of having uselessly squandered the public money, with a view to secure his own objects. The right hon. Gentleman complained, that he had not been sufficiently explicit with regard to his future intentions. What he had said was this, that before he undertook to lay down any plan of finance or taxation, he must carefully examine, not only the revenue, but the expenditure of the country also; and that, in im- 846 posing taxes upon the people, he should take care not to adopt such a proceeding without being enabled to say, that he had examined the expenditure, that he had looked into details, that he was convinced the expenditure they were called upon to pay was essential to the welfare of the country, and he would then put it to the good sense of the people, whether they would not bear some additional burdens in order to meet the exigencies of the country. He understood perfectly well the advantage which the right hon. Gentleman would have, although, he was sure, he would not avail himself of it, if he had brought forward some crude and undigested scheme of taxation. He should be told, why not look into the expenditure, and the Member for Coventry (Mr. Williams), if nobody else did, would tell him it was incumbent upon him to do so. In the varied expenditure of this country, in the charges and expenses thrown upon it from every quarter, both in the colonies and at home, and knowing the pressure that was about to be thrown upon the country, how could he venture to propose on the instant a permanent plan of finance? He did not refrain from doing so, because he anticipated the possibility of avoiding having recourse to taxation, for that he believed to be inevitable, but he merely wished to have time to consider the mode in which that taxation which might be necessary, could be raised in a manner least injurious to the general interests of the country. As to his having advised the House to let everything alone, and then coming forward to fulfil the object of that misrepresentation, the right hon. Gentleman said, that if he (Mr. Baring) had made such a proposition, he (the Chancellor of the Exchequer) would have been the first to object to it. Undoubtedly, he had been misrepresented on that occasion, for he never said what was imputed to him; but it was rather hard upon him, when the right hon. Gentleman recollected the misrepresentation, that he did not recollect what he really did say, and that what he said then had been accomplished. He said, then, that if the sugar duties were left as they were, not only would the consumption increase, but the revenue would improve, and the result proved he was right. He did not say, that things ought to be left alone, and he did not admit, that he stood in the situation the right hon. Gentleman would have stood in, if he had made such a proposition. The right hon. Gentleman had been in office 847 for four years; the Government with which he was connected had been in office ten years; and, therefore, he had had full opportunity to look into the different branches of the expenditure, to see whether it were possible to make alterations—he had had an opportunity to take a minute view of the whole financial system of the country, and, therefore, the application of such a charge to him would not have been unjust. At the end, however, of the first two or three weeks of office, involved as he was in a mass of business of the Treasury, and having had no opportunity to frame his measures, in the state in which they should be submitted to Parliament, he would not be driven into any premature announcement of them. He did not know, that it would be necessary for him to offer any further observations on what had fallen from the right hon. Gentleman. He thought it evident, that the right hon. Gentleman approved of the plan as a whole, whatever he might think of parts of it. He thought the statements of the right hon. Gentleman, stronger modes of approval, than any arguments against his proposition; and he was, therefore, inclined to thank him for the support which he had given.
Mr. W. Williams
, said that the right hon. Gentleman was very much mistaken, if he supposed that he should recommend any imposition of fresh taxes to meet the wants of the Exchequer. He thought the effects of the bad economy which had been practised might be met by a plan which would not work any detriment to the public service. The proposition of the Chancellor of the Exchequer, for relieving himself from his financial difficulty was, no doubt, the easiest and least troublsome to himself; it was the course always pursued by the profligate spendthrift, so long as he has credit to borrow, of getting out of present difficulties, by plunging deeper into debt; but every thinking man, who reflected upon what the end must be of adding year after year to a debt exceeding eight hundred millions would hear the proposition with painful regret. During the last seven yea is, from 1834 to 1840, there was added to the debt permanently 33,977,250l.; interest on which 1,167,308l. The proposed addition would make the increase nearly 40,000,000l. within the seven years; this had been done by loans, funding Exchequer bills, and all sorts of contrivances; 4,600,000l. of which was added to the debt, without the consent or know- 848 ledge of Parliament. It might be said, 20,000,000l. was for the emancipation of the black slaves, and he should be asked if that money was not applied for a righteous purpose. Yes; but if the present generation thought so, they ought to have paid for it themselves, and not throw it upon posterity. What could be more unjust and dishonest, than to throw upon posterity the payment of the debts contracted by the present generation for every species of profligacy and corrupt purposes? Was it right to make posterity pay the penalty of our misgovernment? Was it just in the generation now in existence to mortgage the fruits of the industry and toil of generations not yet in existence to pay its debts? The system was a violation of great moral principles, and would come to a violent end, attended with awful consequences. No excuse for the course proposed had or could be offered. The just and honest means of getting out of the difficulty was by retrenchment, or the imposition of a property-tax. He would point out what could be effected by retrenchment with safety, to an extent that would not only make good the deficiency, but pay off the excess of expenditure of the last four years. The amount of the estimates for the present year of the army, navy, and miscellaneous was 18,949,740l. Now, as he did not mean to reduce the present expenditure by any extraordinary outlays which had taken place during the last year, he should deduct from the sum he had stated:
Which, when taken from the above, left 18,203,546l. Now, he thought he could not do better than return back to the expenditure in the year 1830, when the Gentlemen opposite were in office. In that year the estimates on the four heads he had stated were 15,864,785l., being less than those of this year by 2,338,761l. Now, that was a sum fully equal to that which the right hon. Gentleman wanted to borrow, or rather to add to the funded debt. But he could refer the right hon. Gentleman to a better period still—four years of the Government of the Whigs. The average expenditure for these four years was 14,148,456l., which was less 849 than this year by 4,055,090l. Now, he should like to know what were the peculiar circumstances of the country which rendered so vast an increase necessary? He could not find out any difference which was at all material, either at home or in our foreign relations. In 1830, a great revolution took place in France, the consequences of which it was impossible for any man to foresee. In this country a large portion of the inhabitants were disturbed and discontented. In those districts where that feeling of disaffection prevailed, life and property were insecure. What was the state of things at present? He believed that more distress prevailed, and greater privations were undergone, than in any period of our history. Yet tranquillity prevailed every where, and no strong feelings of disaffection were expressed. Well, in what situation were our foreign affairs? The Eastern question was admitted on all hands to be settled. Her Majesty's Speech announced that the temporary separation of France from the other powers had ceased. And, as to Canada, he would venture to predict, from his own observation of the public feeling in that country, that if the same measures were acted on henceforward as those which had been adopted by Lord Sydenham, the people of that colony would become firmly and honestly attached to this country. Again, he thought that those questions which separated the United States in feeling, from this country would be amicably settled; for he had recently an opportunity of seeing that the great body of the people (which in fact governed that country), were decidedly in favour of amicable relations. He would point out another source in which great savings might be effected, namely, in the collection of the revenue. The amount of last year's revenue was 51,850,000l. The cost of collecting it was 4,282,500l., being more than eight per cent. This vast expenditure was intercepted before it went into the Treasury, without either Parliament or the Treasury exercising the least control over it. Each department put its fingers into the public purse, and took out what it thought proper for its salary. A great increase had taken place in this department. In 1806, according to a statement made by the Treasury to the finance committee, the amount of the revenue was 58,255,175l. The charge for collection was 2,797,722l, being only 4¾ per cent. This payment was in a time of depreciated 850 paper money, when Bank of England notes, as compared with gold, were worth about 14s. 6d. Before Mr. Pitt became Minister, the most rigid control was exercised by the Treasury over this department, and he was informed the cost of collection did not exceed 2½ to 3 per cent. The Marquess of Lansdowne in 1797, said, in reference to this subject,
For the expedition to China £400,000 Expenses in Canada 155,000 Excess of the navy in two years 191,194 —746,194Every office seems to be lord of its own will, and every officer seems to have unlimited power over the purse of the nation, instead of their being, as the spirit of the constitution directed, under the constant check of the Treasury.The Commissioners of inquiry into the Excise establishment stated the charges of the collection of the revenue, and of payment out of such revenue in its progress to the Exchequer, other than charges of collection for the year ending 5th January, 1834, was 4,500,000l., which was obtained by stopping this amount out of the gross revenue, in its progress to the Exchequer; so that this amount of the produce of the taxes is not paid into the Exchequer, contrary to the great principle of the constitution, which requires that the Exchequer should possess the means of securing the legal appropriation of the money levied on the public. If the gross amount of the taxes were paid into the Treasury, and the salaries and other expenditure of the different departments were to be voted in the estimates annually, a very great reduction might be effected. He was aware that this was the Government's great source of patronage, and how they were pressed on every side by their supporters to be quartered on the taxes; but if this country was to maintain her present high position among nations, profuse expenditure must be abandoned, and economy unsparingly applied, so as to relieve the distress of the people, produced by taxation. The right hon. Gentleman complained, that many of the acts of the late Government were stigmatised by her Majesty's present advisers as a wasteful expenditure of the public money. Now he did not hesitate to reiterate that opinion. But in every one of those acts the Gentlemen on the other side supported that Government, and were, therefore, debarred from making any complaint that the Treasury was in its present inadequate condition. If ever there was an Administration pledged by their previous acts, particularly by their rejection of measures which would add to the revenue without 851 increasing taxes, to make good the present deficiencies by retrenchment and economy, and not to add to the debt, it was the present. It was a reflection on the present generation, if, after twenty-five years of peace, we were to add to the permanent debt. He, therefore, felt called on to submit the following amendment:—That, after twenty-five years of peace it is inexpedient to add to the funded debt the amount of the deficiency of the revenue to meet the expenditure of the present and four preceding years; that such deficiency might, and ought to be made good by the observance of rigid economy and retrenchment in the public expenditure,
intimated that it would be informal to move such an amendment as that proposed on the resolution of the right hon. the Chancellor of the Exchequer.
§ Mr. Williams accordingly withdrew his amendment.
§ Dr. Bowring
was glad the hon. Member for Coventry had called the attention of the House to the subject of the great expense incurred in the collection of the revenue. The hon. Gentleman referred to a Parliamentary Return, from which it appeared that a sum of more than 6,000,000l. were annually spent in the public offices, without the sanction of Parliament. Until that sum was placed under the control of Parliament, they could have no security for its being properly expended. He hoped the Government would take care to economise to the utmost, and not indulge in any useless or wasteful expenditure.
§ Colonel Sibthorp
observed, that for the last ten years, the hon. Gentleman who had just sat down, never lighted upon this new mode of saving the public money. The reason was obvious—the blow would come home to himself, for the hon. Gentleman had extracted a considerable sum from the pockets of the people of this country before, unfortunately, he could stop him. No doubt the hon. Gentleman, or his Friend near him, looked forward to be Chancellor of the Exchequer one of these days; but God forbid he should see that day. Whatever the personal ambition of the hon. Gentleman opposite was, one thing was quite clear, that during the very short time the present Government held office, every attempt had been made to bully them. But they were too strong in 852 the estimation of the majority of that House and the country, to let these attempts have the least effect on them. Called on, as his friends were, to remedy the misgovernment of ten years, he hail implicit confidence in their ability and inclination to do so. He should, therefore, cordially support them against any amendment such as that proposed on the other side.
§ Mr. Hawes
said, that the debate took, as he expected it would, a somewhat more enlarged range than the financial statement of the right hon. Gentleman would seem to warrant. He should not attempt to alter the course of the discussion, and should say, for his own part, that he did not believe that the expectations which had been raised on the accession of the right hon. Gentleman to office would be at all realised. He was confirmed in this conviction by a reference to the speeches of the right hon. Gentleman and noble Lords who composed the Administration. He should urge, as a strong ground for imputing weakness to the Government, that the different members of it entertained various and conflicting political opinions. Take the question of the Corn-laws—that question which agitated the kingdom from one end to the other, and which involved its prosperity. From a Government holding such opposite opinions as the Members of this did, how could any satisfactory measure be expected on the subject of the Corn-laws? Just examine their speeches. The right hon. Member for Dorchester said, a fixed duty was an impossibility. To the commercial world, looking to that change as the means of curing the present evils of the system, and to a still wider circle, whose comforts and even existence the present state of things affected, the right hon. Gentleman announced, that that which was supported by practical and theoretical writers, was an impossibility. Well, the Master-general of the Ordnance, who held a conspicuous station, said just the the reverse. He announced a small fixed duty as the panacea for our present evils. The noble Lord at the head of the woods and forests—no unimportant Member of the Government—thought the present scale should be altered. But if we looked to the speech of the Duke of Buckingham, he announced his intention of abiding by the law as it was, and that he would sanction no backsliding, no change of opinion. He referred, even since he was raised to 853 his present office in the Cabinet, to the opinions which he had heretofore held as a clue to his conduct for the future. Now, on looking to "Hansard's Debates" for 1839, he found that The noble Duke declared the present law was the best, and that he meant to adhere to it. Turn again to the speech of the noble Member for North Lancashire. That noble Lord admitted the effect of the law was to raise the price of food, but he defended it on high grounds of national policy. The noble Lord the Secretary for Ireland, however, made the question a landlords' question, and wished to know why the landowners should not look to their interests as well as any other class. He could not think, after this, that that was just praise bestowed upon the Cabinet by a noble Lord (the Lords belonging to it were numberless), who gave as his reason for joining the Administration, that it was an united Cabinet. It was the boast of the right hon. Member for Tamworth, that he was tied to no opinion on this subject, but was free as the wind in choosing amid all these clashing views. He could adopt all or any of these opinions, and so settle the differences of his Government. He was not aware whether the same unanimity prevailed on other questions. He had reason to think that a change had taken place as to the sentiments of the Cabinet regarding that noxious measure of the noble Lord, which consumed so much of the time of that House last Session, and which created such animosity and heart-burning in the sister kingdom. Now, as to the statement of the right hon. Chancellor of the Exchequer, nobody asked him to propose his measures on that night, but there were precedents for their meeting in autumn on occasions less important than that which the present state of the country furnished. They met in autumn to settle her Majesty's mil list. When Lord Grey took office, he immediately announced that he intended to bring foward a large and comprehensive measure of reform. He did not wait for five months before he made the country acquainted with what he was about to do. And what forbearance was shown to Earl Grey? Within three hours after he had taken office, he was pressed to disclose the details of his plan of reform. What happened when Mr. Fox was turned out of office upon the question of the India Bill, in November, 1783? Mr. Pitt 854 came into office on the 19th of December; the House was adjourned to only the 9th of January, 1784, and on the 14th of that month Mr. Pitt placed his India Bill upon upon the Table of the House. Why had not the right hon. Member for Tamworth followed that example? He could tell; the right hon. Gentleman that the course he was pursuing was calculated to engender distrust in the public mind. The right hon. Gentleman stated the other night, that he was pressed by the financial difficulties which surrounded the Government. The right hon. Gentleman did not enter into any details upon that point, except with respect to some items of colonial expenditure. The explanation offered by the right; hon. Baronet on that occasion was by no I means satisfactory; but as he understood,; from something which had passed that night, that the right hon. Baronet did not I intend to cast any imputation upon the expenditure of the Government which he had succeeded, it was not necessary to dwell at any great length upon the subject. But he must say, if it was intended to be maintained that any great financial embarrassments had been created by the late Government, he should like to I know where the proofs of it existed. He was not aware that the funds had manifested any peculiar sensibility, or that enterprise has been checked; and, indeed, the case with which the right hon. the Chancellor of the Exchequer boasted that he, had been able to raise money, proved conclusively that there had been no financial embarrassments sufficient to create distrust in the public mind. That there was some little embarrassment he was not disposed to deny, but that very circumstance had engendered a hope that a plan of fiscal reform was about to be adopted— a hope which had been blighted by the right hon. Gentleman's accession to office. The right hon. the Chancellor of the Exchequer had that night prudently abstained from referring to former debates. On a former occasion, the right hon. Gentleman said that he could easily answer some observations which he made, but he had never yet condescended to do so. He still retained the opinions to which he, upon that occasion, gave expression, and he was ready to meet the right hon. Gentleman upon the point at any time. He must be permitted to say that the budget brought forward by his right hon. Friend, the late Chancellor 855 of the Exchequer had been much misrepresented. When his right hon. Friend introduced his budget, he distinctly stated that it was one of two alternatives. He said the House must either adopt the commercial reforms which he proposed by means of which he hoped to be able to raise the necessary amount of revenue, or else have recourse to a mode of taxation which he clearly pointed out. He never stated, however, that he expected to realise at once all the advantages which would eventually result from the commercial reforms; but he distinctly stated that if his plan was not adopted, it would be necessary to have recourse to additional taxation. That was exactly what the right hon. Gentlemen opposite had done on succeeding to the office of Chancellor of the Exchequer. He had been obliged to have recourse to the vulgarest of all contrivances which a finance Minister could resort to—that of raising money by loan. For whatever trouble might be taken to disguise the transaction —let them call it by what name they pleased—it was, after all, neither more nor less than a loan. It was not unnatural for those who took the same view of public affairs as he (Mr. Hawes) did, to press upon the right hon, Baronet the necessity of immediately bringing forward some measures which would indicate a sympathy with the distresses of the people. To show bow pressing was the necessity to which he referred, he begged to read the following passages from the evidence given by Mr. Deacon Hume before the import duties committee;—Does not every limitation in the importation of food, and every rise in the price of food, tend to undermine the manufactures of the country upon which we depend? I conceive that it must be so, because we place ourselves at the risk of being surpassed by the manufactures in other countries; and as soon as it happens, if ever the day should arrive, that we should be put to a severe trial as to our manufacturing power, I can hardly doubt that the prosperity of this country will recede much faster than it has gone forward.Then are we not, by this system, undermining the very means by which public taxation and public revenue are supported? —I think that we not only check the collection of the revenue immediately, but that we are also undermining our resources. I cannot help often looking at the consequences with considerable alarm. I think the country cannot stand such a system as this for a long period.Again, let the House consider the evi- 856 dence given by Mr. Gardiner before the hand-loom weavers committee in 1835. He said—We find by experience, that if we lose a market one year, we lose it altogether. It is not wise to trifle with trade by trying experiments for only one year; we might shut ourselves out. Once in possession of a market, they would keep it.An aged weaver, named Canticull, who gave evidence before the hand -loom weavers commission, said—Distress renders a man hopeless; he becomes desperate, and preys upon society, and careless even of what little honest advantages are in his way, and then comes the last wretchedness. Such a man is not likely to be a good husband, a good father, or a good neighbour, or even a good subject. Can we wonder if, while brooding in forced inactivity over his misfortunes, he listens to the agitators, who tell him they are all owing to bad legislation? When we consider how much evil he really suffers from the Corn-laws, can we wonder that he exaggerates their influence, or that, finding all alteration in them steadily refused, he cherishes wild visions of organic changes?The circumstances indicated in these passages now actually existed, and they ought to satisfy the House that this was a state of things which required the application of an immediate remedy. It was upon these grounds he called upon the right hon. Baronet to state what measures he intended to propose. He did not ask for details; he merely wished to know the character of the right hon. Baronet's measures. The House had a right to know whether the Corn-law was to be continued, and whether there was to be any commercial reform at all. The Chancellor of the Exchequer said, that the consumption of sugar had increased, but he was inclined to believe, that when the whole year should be brought under review, it would be found, that comparing it with last year, and taking into consideration the increase of population, it would be found that no increase of consumption had taken place. The House was now called upon to vote five millions of money without any explanation as to the source whence provision was to be made for repayment. It was the most offensive step towards the people ever taken by any Government. The right hon. Gentlemen opposite must be held responsible for whatever results might ensue. By the course they were pursuing, by the indifference which they manifested towards the distresses of the people, they were 857 doing more to encourage the Chartists, and bring about organic changes, than could be effected by any other means. He could assure the right hon. Baronet, that the opinion of the majority in that House was not in conformity with the opinion of the majority out of doors. There was scarcely a man of any party out of doors who did not express disapprobotion of the course which the right hon. Baronet was pursuing. It really appeared as if the Tories had had no other object in view but to obtain possession of office. He certainly understood from what had fallen from the right hon. Baronet, that his mind was familiar with the question of the Corn-laws, and the other important questions at issue. Why, then, was the country to wait for six months before his decision was announced? The right hon. Baronet had recently made a declaration, from which it might be inferred, that he was prepared to take a large and comprehensive view of the Corn-law question, and to propose a change of the existing system. The right hon. Baronet said—Was there any alternative, if the Corn-laws were to be considered at all—was there any other alternative than that of fully stating the measure of the Government? And was it not infinitely better that nothing should be said till the plan was maturely prepared, ready for the consideration of Parliament? What advantage would there be in merely hinting at details, and then postponing consideration of them? It is impossible to deny that we are familiar with the subjects of finance, Corn-laws, and the Poor-laws.He wished to know whether the right hon. Baronet really intended to propose an extensive change of the Corn-laws. If he did, he would have some ground for calling upon the House to give him time to perfect his plan. He ought to declare what his intention was, one way or the other; the information, in either case, would be useful to the public. In conclusion, he protested against the course which the right hon. Baronet was pursuing. He would, on the present occasion content himself with saying "No" to the motion before the committee, because every one knew what the result of a division would be.
§ Mr. Ewart
said, that whatever might be inferred from the elections to be the voice of the constituency, the voice of the country, or of that part of the country which complained, should be heard; and it was 858 his duty, as it had been that of his hon. Friend the Member for Lambeth, to claim this right on behalf of trade and manufactures. ["Hear," from Sir R. Peel] The two points of the question really were these; first, whether a remedy for the alleged distress ought to be adopted soon; and, next, what should be the nature of that remedy. That the remedy ought not to be long delayed, might, he thought, be inferred from the admission made by both sides, that great distress existed in the country. At this moment, that argument acquired additional force. He held in his hand a statement showing, up to the 24th instant, the number of mills which were closed, or only partially worked, in several of the principal of our great manufacturing districts, at that time. From this document, it appeared that there were seventeen mills entirely closed in Manchester, seventeen in Stockport, seven in Bolton, four in Bury, six in Oldham, eight in Staley-bridge and its neighbourhood, three in. Rochdale, and eleven others in different parts of that manufacturing district. [Sir Robert Peel. How many altogether?] Mr. Ewart said about seventy, and offered to give the document to the right hon. Baronet. Of mills partially worked, there were ten at Manchester, four at Bury, twenty-four at Stockport, six at Bolton, and five at Wigan. The distress would soon be augmented. At present the manufacturers were engaged in finishing their orders for certain parts of the Continent, principally Russia; but by the 10th or 15th of next month, according to the usual course of commerce, the demand from these quarters would cease, and the periodical flow of trade might, under ordinary circumstances, be expected to come in from the markets of India and China. In the present disturbed state of our relations with China, however, it was hopeless to expect any considerable vent for manufactures there, and, therefore, it might be anticipated that the already great distress prevailing in the manufacturing districts would not be diminished, and might be considerably augmented. An early remedy, he thought, therefore, was required. And now, in the next place, what should be the nature of that remedy? He was not one of those who attributed the existing distress to any single cause. It was in his opinion, charlatanerie to do so. Facility of discount, and the state of our trade with America, had some share in producing it, but the great evil which, to adopt a phrase 859 of the geologists, underlay them all, was the want of returns for our manufactures, in other words, the want of free trade. As regarded the sugar question, could there he a more favourable time for settling it than now, when the termination of our treaty with Brazil must come under consideration? He admitted that the price of sugar had considerably fallen. But he maintained, in the first place, that it ought to still further say to 6d. per lb. And, granting, that it should do so, the question ought to be settled as a mere matter of trade; independent of the price of sugar; and for the sake of promoting a steady in-interchange of commodities between this country and Brazil. The article of coffee, also, ought to be relieved from the enormous duty which was placed upon it. The habits of the people of this country had, owing to the establishment of temperance societies and the spread of education, undergone a great change, and in consequence, the consumption of coffee had a great tendency to increase. It would be the policy of the Government to develope this tendency by reducing the duty on coffee, the more particularly as more sugar was used with coffee than with tea. ["No," from the Chancellor of the Exchequer.] Mr. Ewart replied, that he had great authority in the coffee trade in favor of his position. He (Mr. Ewart) based his principal argument in favour of a repeal of the Corn-law also on the general policy of encouraging returns for your manufactures. But he could not possibly omit this opportunity of expressing his gratitude to the noble Lord, the Member for North Lancashire, for the essential service he had rendered the Anti-Corn-law league in the memorable debate which had taken place between him and Mr. Brooks on the husting at Lancaster the other day. On that remarkable occasion, the noble Lord had made three admissions, which would never be forgotten; —First, that bread was dearer here than in other countries; secondly, that the effect of its dearness was to raise rents; lastly, that the high price of corn did not raise wages, but that employment did. This was the very burthen of the song of the Anti-Corn-law It-ague; he (Mr. Ewart) rejoiced to hear it echoed by the noble Lord from the hustings at Lancaster. After that it might be expected that the noble Lord would go further, and become an unconditional convert to the doctrines of free trade. He (Mr. Ewart) further maintained that all the Committees of the House of Commons bearing upon 860 trade, had shown that the real remedy for our sufferings was the one he had described. In 1833, the Committee on trade and manufactures (though the country was then in a state of the highest prosperity) stated, that the only way to secure permanent prosperity was the extension of the exchanges and the emancipation of trade. The timbe duties committee, the Import duties committee had come to the same conclusion. He must say with the greatest courtesy to the right hon. Baronet opposite, that he seemed to want that force of character which boldly announced its principles of action; the right hon. Baronet always seemed to wait his time and not to announce his principles beforehand; he waited for circumstances instead of guiding them; nor could it be said of him,Mihi res, non me rebus, subjungere conor.It seldom happened that great force of character was combined with great talents; or that the intellect of the right hon. Baronet was combined with the strength of will of the Duke of Wellington. But such vacillation might be fatal. The discordant elements of the right hon. Baronet's Government had a tendency to fall asunder, it would require more than ordinary power to induce its disjointed atoms to unite and coalesce. It might have been the fate of other Governments to totter at their fall; of this disunited Cabinet it may be said hereafter, that it tottered at its formation.
§ Mr. Robert Scott
had been entrusted with two petitions from Walsall, the borough which he represented stating, in the strongest terms, the distress which prevailed in that town, and praying that Parliament would not seperate without devising some remedial measures. Under these circumstances he protested against the question of the Corn-laws being excluded from the budget of the Chancellor of the Exchequer. It was a question of vital importance as affecting the interests of the country. Whether or not the Chancellor of the Exchequer succeeded in raising a revenue sufficient for the expenditure, still would the Corn-laws remain to be considered for the interest of trade and commerce. The state of the country as admitted on all hands, was deplorable, trade was every day becoming worse and worse, hundreds were thrown out of employment, and if this state of things should continue through the winter it would be impossible to foresee the result 861 or calculate on the consequences to the country. He hoped he was not trespassing too long upon the House, but he could not but request the right hen. Baronet to give his most speedy and earnest consideration to the distresses of the country.
§ Sir R. Peel
—Sir, I hope the hon. Gentleman the Member for Lambeth, and the hon. Member who followed him, as well as the hon. Gentlemen who spoke last will not think that it is from any disrespect to them that I repeat my expressed determination to adhere to the course I have already laid down on the subject under debate, that is to say in my determination of not making any statement of my intentions on the subject of permanent legislation during the present Session of Parliament. For, Sir, I think it is more consistent with the duty which her Majesty's Government owes to Parliament and to the country, to consider calmly the state of affairs in all their bearings, and to make use of all the information which their position enables them to command, before they submit their measures to the opinion of Parliament, than that I should bring them forward, in a crude hasty form now, or to use the expression of the right hon. Gentleman, the late Chancellor of the Exchequer, that if I did not give the country a full view of my plans, I should at least give it a glimpse of them. On that point, Sir, I must again repeat my intention to adhere to my determination, as I expressed it the other night; and I must add that I think the country would be less benefited than injured by such partial glimpses, as the right hon. Gentleman wishes for. This course I consider more calculated to mislead the country than to set it right; and I should disappoint the right hon. Gentleman's view of my character, in the panegyric he was pleased to bestow on me if I departed from the course that I have laid down for myself on this occasion. The right hon. Gentleman has been pleased to say that force of character and reserve, such as he has described me to possess, are seldom found combined in an individual. I am much mistaken in my estimate of myself if I deserve the right hon. Gentleman's panegyric, but he has one consolation at least, if it be true, and that is that if they be found not combined in an individual, they will be found combined in my Government. Sir, in the course of this debate the late Chancellor of the Exchequer seemed to state that I 862 was chargeable with a want of consistency in my conduct now and when I was in opposition to the Government. To that I will only reply that it would imply very great inconsistency indeed on my part if I brought forward now a charge of wanton and profligate expenditure against her Majesty's late Government, while I offered no opposition to their measures on those points when on the other side of the House. But I think that the character of a Government depends in a great measure on the nature and amount of its expenditure—on the foreign policy which they follow—and on the general measures they adopt, and I think it was quite impossible for the Opposition to exercise any complete control over the expenditure of the country after such measures were adopted by the Government. I shall exemplify this by putting a case in point. I shall take the case of China, for instance, as one of the most pregnant and apposite to my purpose. The late Government had adopted a certain course of policy with respect to that country—and the expenditure that may be necessary for the carrying out of that policy cannot be now foreseen. The present Government, formed after the adoption of that system of policy, and bound by the circumstances of the case to carry it out, cannot, therefore, be charged with the expenditure that may be required. But it is quite consistent in an Opposition to question the policy of the Government, as well as the question of expenditure in its details. On that, or any other measure, Sir, I always find assistance in the quarter where I have least reason to expect it; and I have found it now on the other side of the House. The hon. Member for Coventry has contrasted the estimates laid before this House in 1830, when my noble Friend the Duke of Wellington was at the head of affairs, with the estimates of this year as prepared by the late Government; and the hon. Gentleman has showed, I think very clearly, that the estimates of the Duke of Wellington's Government, making every deduction for the unsettled state of Canada, and the expedition to China, exhibit a difference of 2,300,000l. in favour of the country, as compared with those of her Majesty's late Government for the present year. Now, Sir, it is very possible that the estimates lately presented by hon. Gentlemen opposite, might be justified, on due explanation; but I certainly 863 think that, on his own showing, the hon. Gentleman has no grounds for withholding his confidence on this point from her Majesty's present Government, or expressing a doubt as to their economical intentions. [Mr. Williams—I expressed no opinion on the subject.] I do not care so much, Sir, for the hon. Gentleman's expression of opinion as I do for the decided proof he gave in this instance of his conviction what that opinion ought to be. Sir, I did not expect so much candour on the part of the hon. Gentleman, as to find him state his confidence in the Government, and I am not, therefore, disappointed; but I thank him, nevertheless, for offering such very strong and decided proofs as he offered in the course of his speech, that such confidence should be placed in her Majesty's Government. The hon. Gentleman then went on to say that a reduction of five millions could be made in the expenditure of the country. If so, the hon. Gentleman cannot deny that men entrusted with the functions of the Government should have a sufficient opportunity of considering how close, or whether at all, the hon. Gentleman's statement approximates to the truth. The hon. Gentleman says that five millions might be saved to the country; he cannot, therefore, object to our having time and opportunity to ascertain whether he is right in whole or in part—whether he is right even within fifty per cent, of that sum, for that amount would make up the deficiency at present existing. Sir, I agree, however, with the Chancellor of the Exchequer, that it is quite delusive to hold out to the country the hope of any such reduction. And all I can promise is that what they deem right in respect of it her Majesty's Ministers will attempt to do —that they will give the most careful consideration to all the estimates of late years —and that whatever reductions can be made compatable with the efficiency of the public service and consistent with the honour and interests of the country they will make. But it is altogether delusive to make promises off-hand of any positive reduction, and it is not to be thought of that such reduction should be attempted without the fullest previous consideration. To hold out the expectation to the public that any reduction to the amount of the present deficiency is practicable, would be to excite hopes that can never be realised. The hon. Gentleman rests very 864 much upon the reduction he suggests in the expense of collecting the revenue of the country; and he institutes a comparison between the present cost of collection and that for a former period—a comparison apparently very much to the disadvantage of the latter. But, Sir, when this subject is looked at a little more closely there will be found no such discrepancy as the hon. Gentleman asserts, and it will be seen that their is little or no analogy between the cases quoted. Formerly the officers employed in the collection of the revenue were paid principally by fees. That mode, however, pressing onerously on trade, the present, system of salaries was substituted, and fees were in all cases abolished. The officers are now paid by salaries alone; and though the expense to the country at large has been somewhat increased in consequence of the alteration, I will venture to say that trade and commerce have been more than commensurately benefited. With respect to the course I mean to pursue, I cannot expect that it will meet with the approbation of the hon. Gentlemen opposite; but I cannot believe that it meets with such universal condemnation as they have stated. Nor can I think so ill of the Reformed House of Commons, as that it does not represent public opinion, and if the hon. Gentlemen were correct, they would be more ready to take a division upon the subject. I cannot help coming, therefore, to the conclusion, that if the country at large were opposed to my view of affairs, there would be many more indications of that opposition than there have been. I only ask one favour of the hon. Gentleman, the Member for Walsall. I entreat him now to recollect at some future period, his description of the state of the country when we came into office. He says,That from week to week and from day to day there has been a gradual and decided depression in trade—that the workpeople cannot exist because the masters cannot afford to employ them—that debts cannot be recovered or payments made for want of means to meet them—and he draws a piteous picture of the stagnation of all kinds of trade, and the universal and complete prostration of business.I beg the House to recollect this description against some future period. Sir, in those districts of the country connected with that most important branch of our national industry, the cotton manufacture, I have often had to admit the existence of 865 occasional distress—and in doing so, I deeply lamented the fact, while I expressed a firm conviction that it was but temporary. But, Sir, I must take leave to caution hon. Gentlemen against the too frequent custom of giving exaggerated descriptions of that distress, because, while it is a departure from the fact, it is a circumstance also calculated to inflame the minds of the people and excite them against all Government. And Sir, I think it is important, in all cases of statements made to the House that the truth should be told as that the case should be stated. In respect, therefore, to such statements this, Sir, is the course I mean to pursue. When I hear of any case of individual distress—when the facts are given, and not a general statement—I am resolved to institute thereupon an immediate inquiry into all the circumstances. And I shall avail myself for that purpose of the power placed officially at the disposal of the Government, to probe the case to the bottom. If vague, general descriptions of distress be only offered it will, of course, be imposible to make any inquiry of the kind; but wherever there is a case stated with accompanying facts, into that shall inquiry be at once instituted. And I am sure you cannot better show your good will for the Poor-law commission, or their subordinate agents, than to make them the instruments of such inquiry. But the necessity of caution in making these statements of distress is strongly enforced by every circumstance that comes to my knowledge. One for instance, I shall relate to the House in exemplification of that necessity. In the course of a debate the other night (Friday, 17th instant), the hon. Member for Ashton not only made a broad statement of the general distress of the manufacturing community, in the district in which he resides, but he also made a particular mention of the distress of an individual. These are his words. He stated that —He (Mr. Hindley) had lately met with an individual, a working man, who had been obliged to go from master to master in consequence of the introduction of improvements in machinery. He had been last with a master who failed, and he was at present in consequence, thrown out of all employment. He (Mr. Hindley) said, he was afraid that under these circumstances he must go upon the parish. The man answered to the parish he had gone. He went to the parish of Royton, near Oldham where he received from the overseer 1s. 6d. a- 866 week, to support a family of five persons. Was this right? Tell him not of party politics, he cared not what party was in power provided they consulted the food of the people. But what were the people to expect? The right hon. Baronet told them that he should bring in a bill, yet that he would prevent these poor men from appealing from the merciless parsimony (he must call it so) of the overseer to the magistrates, or in any other quarter; that he must put up with this pittance, or go to a bastile. Before he sat down he must tell the right hon. Gentleman that the great body of the people whom he represented were full of apprehension for the future and of suffering at present, and he implored the right hon. Baronet to take these matters into his deepest consideration.Now, Sir, in the course of this day I received the following letter in reply to the statement of the hon. Member, and as I have read the one, I will, if you please, read the other—Oldham, Sept. 21, 1841.Right hon. Sir—At the petty Sessions, in Oldham, yesterday, I called the attention of the overseer of Royton to the enclosed statement in the Times newspaper, which after reading in the presence of myself and two other magistrates, he pronounced to be absolutely untrue. He also added that the Standard had been handed to him a day or two before, which contained a similar account, and that he had written to Mr. Hindley on the subject on Wednesday. I may say that I am in constant communication with overseers, having the charge of something like a population of 30,000 in the two counties of Lancaster and York, and can state that no similar circumstance has come under my knowledge.Now, Sir, here is a case of distress particularly stated—a case of a man with five in family, supporting himself and them on only 1s. 6d. a week, not only wholly denied, but, in addition, it is asserted that no such occurrence has taken place, not alone in the neighbourhood, but in the district in question. The House will, therefore, come to the conclusion, I am sure, that when such statements are not borne out by irrefragable facts it would be far better to forbear from making them, and much wiser to avoid exciting by such means the feelings of an irritated people, unless, indeed, hon. Members be fully satisfied of their entire truth. I can sympathise with the patience of our people under no ordinary distress, and I can admire their fortitude and forbearance under severe suffering; they confer honour on them and upon our national character, but this should only make us the more 867 cautious that we do not aggravate that suffering by superadding to it dissatisfaction, which must be the inevitable result of making statements of this description not founded on fact.
§ Viscount Palmerston
did not rise for the purpose of making any particular objection to the measures that had been proposed that evening to the House by the Chancellor of the Exchequer; as the Government have determined not to increase the revenue by removing the fetters which now cramp the industry of the country, he was ready to admit that the course which the Chancellor of the Exchequer intended to pursue was much better than adding to the amount of taxation. The electors of the United Kingdom had returned to that House a majority, who placing their confidence in the Gentlemen opposite had resolved to transfer the Government to their hands. But if the opinion of the majority of that House was really the opinion of the country, and if the country had therefore now obtained a Ministry to its mind, he hoped that the people would at least recollect that they were now about to pay two millions and a half for that gratification. The price which was to be paid for the gratification of having the hon. Gentlemen opposite in power and for having no relaxation of our commercial system, was an addition of two millions and a-half to the permanent debt of the country. He wished that the people might not find the hon. Gentlemen somewhat too dear at the money. However, he was perfectly prepared, along with his right hon. Friends, to concur in the course now proposed to be taken by her Majesty's Ministers, as being, under the circumstances the least of the evils from which they had chosen to make a selection. But having stated that, he must repeat that he could not but express his entire disapprobation of the general course which her Majesty's Ministers seemed determined to take. It was perfectly true that it would be unreasonable to expect that they should come down at that time and state in detail the system of increased taxation which they might intend to propose for the ensuing year in order to make the expenditure and revenue equal. He did not indeed suppose that the Chancellor of the Exchequer, though it had slipped from his lips in the course of what he said, could hope to be able in the course of the next year to devise any plan by which the revenue and expenditure of the country could be per- 868 manently equalized. If, indeed, the country had at last got a Ministry which was able to equalize the public revenue and expenditure permanently for all time to come, and who were men of such foresight and sagacity as to be able to prophesy events and to anticipate all the circumstances which might have an influence, either remote or direct, upon that revenue and expenditure; and the country would have reason to congratulate itself upon the change. But, in the absence of such qualifications, he admitted that it would be unreasonable to call upon them now to make a minute statement of their plan, even assuming that they had made up their minds as to the precise course they intended to pursue. Undoubtedly, if her Majesty's Ministers had come to a determination upon that subject, one question which had been asked by every Member of the House might be answered. The House had a right to ask this question—not what were the details of the measures they intended to propose, but whether they intended to make up the deficiency in the public finances by proposing any fresh taxes, or by the measures which were proposed by the late Administration for relaxing the commercial system of the country, for increasing the consumption of articles which would add to the comforts of the people, and for giving fresh scope to the manufacturers and trade of the country? Upon that principle it was, that he complained of the delay of her Majesty's Ministers. They had turned out the late Government upon those very questions, and without any necessity. Yes, Certainly, without any necessity, because the same majority which rejected the propositions of the late Government in order to turn that Government out, might just as well have accomplished their purpose by a vote of no confidence. Why they did so at last; and therefore, unless they had made up their minds not only against the commercial principles of the late Government, but as to the principles on a system which they themselves preferred, he thought they ought not to have joined issue on the commercial propositions of the late Government, but ought to have adopted the other course of proceeding. The conclusion lie came to upon this point was, then, that the party which opposed the late Administration could not have gone to a division without having made up their minds, not only as to their disapprobation of the principles of his party, but as to the system which they. 869 themselves intended to propose; and considering the time which had now elapsed since the change of Ministry, and the knowledge which the Government possessed as to the elements at least upon which their plans must be founded, they had no excuse for not stating fairly to the country whether they still adhered to the doctrines which they laid down in the debate on the sugar duties, and intended to make up the deficiency, whatever it might be, by fresh taxation, or whether they meant to propose relaxation in our commercial code. They ought to state now, which of those courses they meant to pursue at the next meeting of Parliament. He thought the country had a right to know what. Ministers intended to do to make up the deficiency in the public revenue. That there would be a deficiency was indeed admitted by them as a certainty, because the right hon. Baronet had freely acknowledged, that whatever reductions they might be able to make, those reductions would not go to the extent of equalizing the expenditure and revenue of the country; and when the House was told that the present state of the deficiency arose from the misconduct of the late Administration, he begged to remind the House that in two of the great departments of public expense, the army and nary, the late Government were, year after year, urged by the other party to increase, instead of diminishing, the expenditure. If, therefore, any charge was to be made by the present Ministers against the late Government, it was that they were too slow in placing those two great and expensive establishments of the country on the footing on which the other party thought they should be placed. But in those two great branches of expenditure he did not believe that the present Government could make any considerable reduction. With regard to the army, no augmentation had been made, except the small one rendered necessary by the state of affairs in Canada, and that augmentation was still required; and with regard to the navy the augmentation was made on general grounds, and was not large in amount. There was one thing however which he would venture to impress on the Government, though he trusted it was unnecessary for him to do so; but after certain reports which he had seen, he could not refrain from doing so, and that was that if her Majesty's Government should think it consistent with the public interest to make any reduction in 870 he navy, he trusted they would not make t as the condition of any previous concert with any foreign power whatever, but would determine upon it on considerations connected with the public service and interests of this country alone; because, nothing could be so injurious to the welfare of this country as the making the amount of our naval force depend upon an agreement with the government of any other nation whatever, Upon the question as to what line of commercial policy the Government should adopt, he thought they should openly state their intentions. With respect to the Corn-laws, that necessity was the greater, because it was a question —which all men whatever they might think of it, and whether they were for the present system or for the most unlimited trade in corn—must admit not only deeply affects the interests of the country, but acts in a very extraordinary degree upon the feelings of the whole community. The public were quite in the dark, however, as to tie intentions of her Majesty's Ministers, on this subject except in so far as they might be guessed at by what had been mentioned by his hon. Friend, the Member for Renfrew, in the course of the evening, as having been uttered by different Members of the Government upon various occasions when the subject was alluded to. It was clear, then, that the Cabinet was divided upon this question. Why, it was not attempted to be concealed; it could not be concealed. That being the case, he admitted that it would be but fair to give the Cabinet time to come to an agreement. He was prepared to say, that the public ought to wait a decent time, to enable her Majesty's Ministers to come to some proper understanding among themselves on these matters. But there ought to be a limit to such a period. The question should not be put off so that the decision of the Cabinet upon it, should become a subject for Christmas riddles. A reasonable pause might he allowed—a space of time sufficient for the convenience of the Government, without being detrimental to the public service; and if the present Session should he put an end to without some definitive announcement being made, Parliament ought to be re-assembled in October or November, and be made acquainted with the intentions of Government. At all events the winter ought not to pass away leaving the country in a state of uncertainty on this great question, 871 with all the risk of those mischiefs and miseries which might happen in the interval. One of the chief duties of Government was to attend to the interests of the people, but it was no less their duty to regard their feelings. The Gentlemen opposite said, that the distress of the country was greatly exaggerated, and affirm that the petitions which were sent up from public meetings of her Majesty's subjects, praying for an immediate alteration in the system of the Corn-laws, or that Parliament would not separate without the adoption of measures to alleviate the distresses of the people, were not of that vast importance which was ascribed to them but still, it could not be denied by anybody that great distress did exist, and that that distress was ascribed to the Corn-laws by those who felt it. Yet, whether or not the distress had been exaggerated, the Government ought not to postpone until the beginning or the middle of February next, their announcement to the public of their intention upon that great question. He knew that the right hon. Baronet had always made it his duty to consult the feelings of the people, whenever he had been in the exercise of power; and, therefore, until he saw Parliament actually prorogued without any declaration of an opinion now, or any announcement of an intention speedily to call Parliament together again, he should not believe that the Government, of which the right hon. Baronet was the head, could prorogue Parliament from the 1st of October, to the middle of the following February, leaving the country in a feverish state of anxiety about their intentions, upon so all-absorbing a question as that of the Corn-laws, and taking upon themselves all the responsibility which necessarily must devolve upon them if anything unpleasant should happen during the interval of suspense. Therefore, without offering the slightest opposition to the present proposition of her Majesty's Government, or presuming to urge any unreasonable demand, he must say, that he trusted the right hon. Baronet would use all that power which he possessed, and all those means of persuasion, which his talents and attainments would enable him to employ, in order to bring the Cabinet to some decision one way or the other in the course of the present autumn. Should the Government decide that they would stand by the Corn-laws as they were, let the country know it. At all events, let the agriculturists 872 have the consolation of being informed, that they had made up their minds to that effect. If, on the other hand, her Majesty's Ministers found that they could reconcile their minds to some considerable alteration in the present system, then let those who were interested as consumers have the satisfaction of knowing that such a course was to be pursued. If such a change would seriously affect landlords— though he thought that never before had such a delusion entered the minds of men as the notion, that the present Corn-laws were of any real benefit to the landlords—let them know that such a change was contemplated. But the present uncertainty was inconvenient and injurious to all parties connected with transactions whether in corn, in land, or in commerce. In conclusion, he expressed his confidence —and it was the only thing in respect to which he had any confidence in the hon. Gentlemen opposite, that when the time for the prorogation of Parliament came, they would not be able to make up their minds to send the Members of that House to the right about until February next, without previously pledging themselves— for in a matter of this pressing nature, private and personal convenience should not be considered —to call Parliament together in the beginning of November, to unfold their plans and propose those measures which the exigencies of the country peremptorily demanded.
§ Mr. Fielden
was understood to say, that the distress of the manufacturing population in his neighbourhood, and Other manufacturing districts was so great, that they could not get bread to eat; they were begging about the streets in crowds, and unable to get relief from the Unions sufficient to alleviate their wants. As a general justification of what had been stated by the hon. Member for Ashton-under-line, he would remind the right hon. Baronet, that the hon. Member had presented a petition from the inhabitants, complaining of the increase of local taxation, and showing that the county rates, which in the year 1836 amounted only to 70l., exceeded in the year 1841 the sum of 500l. So severe was the distress in Lancashire, that it was found impossible to raise sufficient means in the locality to support the poor, much less to pay the increased expense of a rural police, which, in some instances, as the right hon. Baronet knew, had been rejected by large 873 majorities of the magistracy. Were it not for the mill-owners and manufacturers, the distress of the people would be even greater than it was; but out of sympathy for their workmen, they gave them partial employment to keep them from starving. That was the case with regard to his own firm; they employed their men four hours a day, only to enable them to obtain food, and, as it might be easily inferred from the duration of the time of labour, not for any profit to themselves. He hoped, therefore, that the right hon. Baronet, while he said he would make inquiries into the nature and extent of the distress amongst the people, would give an assurance that in all cases where distress was found to exist, relief should also be given. If the right hon. Baronet would do so, he would not complain of the right hon. Baronet's taking time to prepare and bring forward his measures. But if that were neglected, if the people were suffered to starve in thousands, as they were starving in Lancashire, he was afraid that they would not get through the winter without disturbances. It was the duty of those in power to make inquiry into the cause of the distress, but if the right hon. Baronet would see that at the same time relief should be afforded wherever it was necessary, whether from the public purse, or from special contributions, or in any way he could devise, so that the poor people should have bread sufficient to maintain them during the time they could get no work, then he, for one, would very willingly give the right hon. Baronet all the time that he required.
§ Mr. C. Wood
corroborated the statements of the hon. Member for Oldham, that throughout the manufacturing districts generally, many of the mills were working short time, and that many of the mill-owners were working even that time almost as much, if not more, on account of the consideration they felt for the people in their employ, than for any profit they made. These persons, one and all, looked upon some measure, such as that proposed by the late Government, as the only means of amending the state of their trade; and, indeed, of enabling them to carry it on at all. He, however, had arisen more particularly for the purpose of obtaining some information from the right hon. Gentleman opposite. He concurred with the late Chancellor of the Exchequer, that the right hon. Gentleman had made the whole matter less clear than it was before. 874 The right hon. Gentleman could not say up to March next, whether he would or not raise money by subscription according to the terms offered to the public, because it was impossible to say whether he could get money on Exchequer Bills. The right hon. Gentleman had moved the Ways and Means in the most bald and unsatisfactory manner he had ever heard. True the right hon. Gentleman had adopted the statement of his right hon. Friend, but it would have been satisfactory to the House to know what interpretation the right hon. Gentleman had put upon that proposal. The late Chancellor of the Exchequer had anticipated 22,000,000l. from the customs' duties, exclusive of the revenue arising from the sugar duties, and exclusive of all revenue from corn. [No, no.] The statement of his right hon. Friend was, that he anticipated 22,000,000l., exclusive of the additional revenue from sugar, and exclusive of any revenue whatever from corn. He was aware that right hon. Gentlemen on the other side had not made op their minds whether 1,600,000l., or 400,000l. or 900,000l. were the sums anticipated by his right hon. Friend, but that was not the fault of his right hon. Friend. Now he wished to know what revenue the right hon. Gentleman anticipated would be produced by corn out of that amount, and also what additional revenue the right hon. Gentleman expected from sugar. Last year, when 700,000l. was anticipated as the sum to be gained from the increased quantity imported, the right hon. Gentleman admitted that was correct—that that revenue would be derived, not from the admission of foreign, but of colonial and East Indian sugar, the arrival of which had been already announced. The argument of the right hon. Gentleman opposite was, "let well alone; without a modification of the duties you will get your money;" and his statement was based upon this position, that if the consumption of sugar was to increase, the additional quantity of the article entered for home consumption would, at a 24s. duty, amount to about 950,000l., and that the calculation of 700,000l. was hollow. But the right hon. First Lord of the Treasury had stated, that the late Chancellor of the Exchequer would never have got that amount from sugar. Now he (Mr. Wood) wished to know whether the House was to take the calculation of the First Lord, or of the right hon. Gentleman. An hon. Friend on that (the Opposition) 875 side of the House had shown reason fur supposing that the Cabinet were not very united, and their opposite statements seemed to warrant such an opinion. It would be satisfactory if the right hon. Chancellor of the Exchequer would state to the House what amount of revenue he reckoned upon from sugar beyond last year, and also what amount from corn. Beyond this, he would only say, he had never taken part in the pressure upon the right hon. Gentleman to come forward with his system of taxation at the present moment, still less to make an immediate declaration what future course he would adopt. He could easily conceive reasons that rendered the present course adopted by the right hon. Gentleman the more expedient, but, at the same time, he should not be doing his duty to the right hon. Gentleman, or be representing the opinions of his constituents, if he did not say, that the course adopted by the right hon. Gentleman was not one that would give general satisfaction, and he did not think, that the arguments urged in favour of that course, were such as to have that degree of weight with the country which the right hon. Gentlemen opposite were inclined to suppose. He was willing to admit, that if, upon accidental circumstances, or if in a sudden and unforeseen manner, power had been placed in the hands of Gentlemen opposite, they might have reasonably asked for time to see what measures they could propose. But when they look the ground they had done as the means of turning out one Ministry and substituting another—when the deficiency in the revenue had been well known — when the budget had been brought forward before the expiration of the first month of the financial year, he did not think, they could plead want of information or want of time. He perfectly agreed with what had been said, as to attributing all the distress that existed to any one cause—to the Corn-law, to the over-trading in 1836, or to any other single cause—but let that distress proceed from what cause it might, whether the Corn-laws, or over-trading, every one said, that it could only be remedied by the extension of our trade, and in the present state of our relations, that extension could not be expected, except by relaxation of commercial restriction. No one had proposed any other remedy than that, and no in formation collected from Poor-law commissioners, or any other source, could bring a Government to any 876 other conclusion, than that to the extension of trade we must look for the means of ameliorating the condition of the people. But the right hon. Gentleman had said, that he believed the country were satisfied with his conduct; that he had before staled he meant to propose a vote of credit, and that course was acceptable to the country. He doubted the accuracy of that impression upon the mind of the right hon. Baronet. The right hon. Baronet had certainly made that statement to tin; House, but he doubted whether the impression made by that statement had extended throughout the country. He spoke from experience in the manufacturing districts, and he thought, the right hon. Baronet's course would cause some surprise there. Nor was it unnatural it should; for if there was any one course which the right hon. Gentleman had opposed more strongly than another, it was the very course proposed for the present year—raising a loan to meet the deficiency. It now appeared that the right hon. Baronet had last year resisted the budget proposed by the late Government, in order to do that himself which he deprecated at the time. If there was any one course which the country had a right to expect would not be taken by the present Government, it was that of raising a loan to provide the ways and means for the year. The Government, it must be admitted, had received great support from the country; they stood at the head of a majority larger, perhaps, than any one had anticipated. But they had received that support upon widely different grounds; and without attributing undue concealment of opinions to any hon. Gentlemen composing the Government, it was impossible but they must admit that the support they had received from one class was based upon widely different principles to the support they had received from another class. The agriculturists had supported them under the impression that they thereby secured the maintenance of the existing corn-laws, or something like it. No one could doubt that; but no one could pretend to say that the support the right hon. Gentleman had received in the manufacturing districts was given to him under the impression that he was unalterably attached to the present system of corn-laws. It had been said in another place, that the verdict of the country had been not against the measures, but the men; that the country doubted the power 877 of those men to curry the measures they proposed, and supposed that by placing the right hon. Gentleman in power more would be gained than from those whose good will was not distrusted but whose power was questioned. So far, therefore, from supporting the right hon. Baronet because it was believed he would do nothing, and would allow another year to elapse without taking measures to relieve the distress of the country, he believed that more would be done by the right hon. Gentleman than by the late Government, and therefore the country had supported him. He would briefly allude to an argument that had been advanced in favour of the present system, grounded upon the importation of foreign corn during the present week at a low duty. That that should prove the advantage of the corn-law, he confessed, appeared to him the greatest fallacy he had ever heard. It was true that throughout the last week one shilling was the duty paid upon foreign corn, but he should like to know-how long that was likely to last? No one could attach the least weight to an argument grounded upon a fact that must vary from week to week. In his opinion, if anything could demonstrate more clearly than another the fallacy upon which the Corn-laws were grounded, it was those very occurrences of last week. For months foreign corn had been excluded, and, meantime, we had had a population half employed, with inadequate means of providing the necessaries of life, debarred from the purchase of corn, because the foreign commodity was not admitted, and England had not sufficient corn to furnish them with. Then comes the harvest, and the operation of that favoured sliding scale was, that the moment the English fanner was able to supply the wants of the population, an importation of foreign corn took place to the amount of a million and a half of quarters. To the consumer, the evil of the sliding scale could not be more completely demonstrated; instead of producing steadiness of price, the effect was the reverse. It raised the price when the price was already too high, and it lowered the profit of the producer when the harvest enabled him to supply the demand. Hon. Gentlemen opposite had, themselves, overthrown one of the last fallacies by which the Corn-laws had been upheld. From 1836 up to this time the price of corn had been gradually rising, whilst wages had gra- 878 dually lowered, and the Corn-laws just produced this effect, that without increasing the means of the labourer, they augmented his difficulties in maintaining his family. The real difficulty in the way of any financial measure was the Corn-law. It was on account of the Corn-law, after all, that the budget of last year had been resisted. The question of the sugar duties was secondary, and the timber duties were not even discussed. Gentlemen, indeed, had come forward to resist interference with one protecting duty, lest another should be touched, and one hon. Member had said, "I must defend your monopoly, for, if not, I cannot defend my own." He believed that measures of the kind proposed by the late Ministers were indispensable, and that whatever party administered the finance of the country must have recourse to them. He felt confident that the right hon. Baronet would propose some such measures, but it was impossible not to see the formidable difficulties with which any Government proposing them would be surrounded. It might require all the time between this and February to win over their supporters to such a course, and throw aside those who resolutely opposed it. He trusted the time would come when the consideration of topics like this would be divested of all party feeling and considerations, and not be made questions of turning out this or that Government; and that when party motives should have died away, the landed gentlemen would turn a favourable ear to the arguments that had been urged upon them. No accusation was more unjust than that the landed proprietors were wanting in feeling for the sufferings of the population. They had been deluded by-such fallacies as that steadiness of price was produced by the sliding scale, and they had been made to believe that this country should be independent of foreign supply, when she had imported a million and a half of quarters of foreign corn per annum, ever since the Corn-laws had been in operation, and when, with an increased population, there were no increased means of supporting it. The landed gentlemen, would bind the country to them by placing their interests and those of the people on one common footing—for he believed, in reality, there was no separation of interests. If that should be accomplished by the power and authority of the right hon. Gentleman opposite, the greatest blessing would be conferred upon the country that had been, bestowed upon it for years, and 879 he would be the last to interpose any difficulty in the way of obtaining time or delay for the accomplishment of so great an object.
§ The Chancellor of the Exchequer
rose to answer a question put to him by the right hon. Member opposite (Mr. Baring), in consequence of a misunderstanding of what he had stated. When the Budget was brought forward by the right hon. Member for Portsmouth last year, the right hon. Gentleman distinctly said, that he included in his estimates the whole of the probable revenue from corn. He understood the right hon. Gentleman to mean, in reference to his statement of the amount of the customs, not that he could tell the exact produce of the various items but that he had formed his opinion as to the total result on the usual probabilities. With respect to corn—and this principle was admitted in every discussion on the subject, what the revenue gained by corn was abstracted from the produce of other items, and that what the revenue lost by corn was gained by an increase upon other articles. On these principles his calculations had now been founded; and all that he had meant to say was, that, balancing one set of duties against another set, and comparing the weekly returns of consumption, the calculations he had submitted to the House, would be found to turn out accurate. With respect to what he had inferred respecting the sugar duties, he would explain the grounds on which he had formed his conclusions. Last year, there was a reduction in the sugar duties of 163,000l. as compared with the previous year, but in this year there was an augmentation to the extent of 120,000l. and in only four months from last August an augmentation of 300,000l. as compared with the corresponding period in the former year. Of course, general views o the results of the customs could only be made, by comparing the produce of the different articles one year with another.
§ Mr. Baring
explained. He had stated in June, when he brought forward hi budget, that he expected the customs, in eluding corn, to produce 22,000,000l. and he had been then asked by the right hon. Gentleman what sum he had calculated corn would realise to the revenue. He was unable to give a reply at that moment, but he took the first opportunity of stating how he made his figures out— when he became aware, that the Corn-laws would not come on for discussion. The way he had made his twenty-two 880 millions out, were to allow twenty-one millions and a half for general items and half a million for corn. He had made this calculation by comparing the amounts produced by malt and corn in different years, and this mode of drawing an inference was generally found to be pretty near the truth. With respect to the amount to be received from the sugar duties he had reasoned in this way, that if Government succeeded in bringing down the price of sugar to a low figure, a large consumption would be insured, and a sum of 700,000l. would most likely be yielded to the revenue. If the right hon. Gentleman opposite expected to get that sum now, it must be by adopting the principles upon which he had made his calculations.
§ The Chancellor of the Exchequer
said, when the sugar duties were discussed, the simple question between them was—was British plantation sugar likely to be reduced to such a price as foreign sugar could be imported and sold for, namely, 61s. 6d. He had formed his calculations this way. If the price of British sugar was reduced to that of foreign sugar, consumption would greatly increase, and the revenue would be proportionately augmented. The price of sugar had fallen greatly, and he was, therefore, not unwarranted in setting down the amount to be realized to the revenue, as being as large or larger than the sum stated by the right hon. Gentleman opposite.
§ Mr. C. Wood
said, his right hon. Friend (Mr. Baring's) opinion was, when he brought forward his budget, that a sum of 700,000l. would be produced to the revenue by the alteration in the sugar duties; now, as the right hon. Gentleman opposite had taken his customs at twenty-two millions, he wished to know if the right hon. Gentleman considered that if some of the items fell short, he would have the deficiency made up by the amount of the duty on sugar?
§ The Chancellor of the Exchequer
said, the right hon. Gentleman opposite had proceeded on the idea, that the amount he stated would be made up either by additional consumption of colonial or foreign sugar. He (the Chancellor of the Exchequer) said at the time, that consumption would greatly increase according to the fall in the price of sugar, and this prediction had been verified, for sugar had since fallen to the price at which foreign sugar could be sold. He had, therefore, been fully justified in the view he had 881 taken in respect of the revenue to be derived from that source.
§ Resolution agreed to.
§ A resolution towards making good the supply granted to her Majesty, the sum of 10,626,350l., be raised by Exchequer Bills, for the service of the year 1841, was also agreed to.
§ The House resumed—report to be received.