HC Deb 23 February 1842 vol 60 cc902-71
Mr. Ewart

said, that he would have preserved silence for the present, but that it appeared to him he should have been guilty of suppression of opinion, amounting almost to insincerity, if he did not express the disappointment which he, and he believed his constituents also, felt at the measure proposed by the right hon. Baronet the First Lord of the Treasury. On the 17th of September last, the right hon. Baronet said that it was not likely he could go through the labours daily imposed on him, if he could not possess the liberty of proposing to Parliament those measures which he thought conducive to the public welfare. If there was an assurance from the right hon. Baronet that he had acted up to that declaration, he could not for a moment disbelieve him; but he must state that there was, on the part of the country, a strong feeling that he had been acting under other influences than those of his own mind; that there had been a power behind the Cabinet, greater than the Cabinet itself. He believed if it had been left free to the right hon. Baronet himself, he would have, in following the dictates of his own opinions, given them a measure more conducive to the interests of the country than the present one. He believed the right hon. Baronet would have done so without adopting the system of the sliding-scale, or that of a fixed duty. There was another course open to the right hon. Baronet, which it would have been well if he had adopted. He might have adopted the principle of a duty declining from year to year, until at last it was entirely extinguished. Such a course would have been sound policy. Until some such principle was adopted the right hon. Baronet would neither see the country at rest nor agitation still. When the right hon. Baronet at the close of the last Session requested time to consider this important question, the country had a right to expect that the proposal which he might introduce would be mature and might be final. But they had heard the right hon. Baronet the Secretary for the Home Department declare that so far from anticipating that the measure would he final, he expected that it would continue to undergo continual changes. Instead of adopting the doctrine of finality, the right hon. Baronet had adopted the doctrine of perpetual mutability; and they would seem to be destined to witness a succession of changes until the people saw those principles carried into effect which they had so long urged in vain upon the Legislature. It would appear, therefore, that not only was the scale of the Government a sliding scale, but that the Cabinet itself was a sliding Cabinet. Such was the only inference which he could draw from the declaration of the right hon. Baronet the Secretary for the Home Department. All parties agreed that great distress prevailed in the country, and they only differed as to the causes of that distress, and the nature of the proper remedy. The right hon. Baronet had attributed the distress to over-circulation, to over-production, and to the monetary derangements in the United States. But the right hon. Baronet took the worst means to reduce that over-circulation, or create a market for over-production; and, in addition, his measure was the least adapted to place our trade with America on a more solid basis. At what time were they taking this course with regard to the United States of America? If ever it was incumbent on this country to liberalize its commercial regulations with America—it was at the present moment. At this time a new tariff was undergoing discussion in America, the duties were to be lowered by it, and the question would come on in Congress in July next. This was, therefore, the time to offer to that country those commercial conditions which would extend and not limit their intercourse with this country. There were other inducements, too, which ought to influence them in giving every facility to the trade in corn. At the present moment the Northern States were maintaining the principle of protection to their own manufactures; the Southern States, on the other hand, were in favour of the introduction of manufactures from other countries, and freedom of trade; while the Middle States were in a state of suspense. Now, therefore, was the time to bring over those Middle States to the side of this country; and yet this was the time that was selected for the purpose of introducing a measure like the present, which prevented this country giving to the United States of America the trade in corn which would be so beneficial to the growers of that country and the consumers of this. When they talked of the distracted state of the monetary system of America, they ought to consider that they had caused it; they had refused to take the corn from America, and the result was that the Americans were obliged to send to this country payments in other ways. It was from the restrictions that had been established in this country that the monetary disturbances had arisen in America. The Corn-laws were constantly unsettling the commercial and manufacturing relations between this and other countries, and no prosperity could last for any length of time until the question of the Corn-laws was settled. Whether the state of commerce in this country were prosperous or otherwise, still they did their countrymen this injustice, they prevented them from extending their trade, and they had no more right to prevent the extension of their trade than they had to prevent its creation; a prevention of the future was as bad as an usurpation of the past. As long as they laid their restrictions on the intelligence and enterprise of their countrymen, it was impossible they could ever know any real and permanent prosperity. It was true they were consoled by the right hon. Baronet in a statement that their exports had increased; but there were two sorts of exports, one a sound system, arising from a demand abroad, the other a forced system, proceeding from the want of demand at home. Nothing had been more clearly proved than that this was the fact with respect to the cotton trade. If they took the return of the whole amount spun, and deducted it from the whole amount exported, the remainder would give the quantity taken for home consumption. The quantity taken for home consumption last year, was less than the year preceding it, the year 1840; that showed whatever the state of the exports might be, the home consumer was in a state of distress and depression, The total weight of cotton spun in 1840, was about 406,000,000lbs.; the quantity exported, was 229,000,000lbs., which left 177,000,000lbs. for home consumption. By the same calculation, the quantity for home consumption last year, was 111,000,000lbs., being a diminution of 59,000,000lbs. from 1840. This export would still go on, because the manufacturers, finding they had no chance of a demand in the home market were obliged to make consignments—a most dangerous system of commercial policy—but blind to the consequences, they ran the risk of selling at the smallest possible profit, rather than not sell at all. The destitution of the home consumer was occasioned by their refusing to extend commerce, and give employment to the industrious classes. They recognised the necessity of extending commerce, and cheapening food by the very measure which the Government had proposed. They had admitted his premises, and had adopted the principle for which he was contending. It had been stated in the course of these debates, that it had been our original commercial policy to place restriction on the supply of the food of the people. He denied that such had been the case. Up to the year 1771 the home supply of corn had been sufficient for the consumption of the country. In that year a committee of the House had sat to consider the cause of the distressed state of the country. General Pownall had been the chairman of that committee, and Mr. Burke had been one of its members. Mr. Burke had then declared that the most momentous of all meddling was the meddling with the food of the people. That committee had reported that the cause of the distress was the great extension of our commerce, which had rendered the supply of corn inadequate to supply the wants of the people. The result of that recommendation was the establishment of a free-trade in corn. For the thirty years following they had had a free-trade in corn, and the report of the committee which had sat in 1821, a report drawn up by Mr. Huskisson, had stated that never had any period of the history of this country been so marked by prosperity as the thirty years between 1772 and 1802, and he would refer all those who denounced free-trade doctrines as being merely theoretical to the report of that committee, as affording a practical illustration of the benefits to be derived from a free-trade in corn. He was much surprised at another omission in the statements of the other side. How came it, he would ask, that the statements made by the Government officers before the imports committee had been wholly withdrawn from consideration? How did it happen that the right hon. Baronet, or other hon. Members opposite, did not cite in their favour the opinions of Mr. Hume, Mr. Porter, or Mr. M'Gregor, all of whom expressed themselves favourable either to the immediate or ultimate freedom of the trade in corn? There was another in- quiry of which they heard nothing, and which, with the exception of Mr. Huskisson's report in the year 1821 and that drawn up by Lord Durham on the state of the Canadas, was one of the most important which had been drawn up in the country. He alluded to the report of the Handloom Weavers' Commission. That Commission recommended that the duties on corn should lessen from year to year till there was no duty at all; and it came to that conclusion after the most extensive and accurate inquiry. When they had such authority on their side for the abolition of the duties on corn, who could wonder that systems of agitation should exist in the country, or that they were based upon anything but reason? It appeared to him to be an agitation of reason and not of force. In former times they had had the revolutions of a Cade or a Tyler, and not the peaceable, reasonable agitation of Mr. Acland and Mr. Sydney Smith. He did not know how hon. Gentlemen could complain of an agitation carried on by the force of reason, and not of the passions. He was convinced that if the just claims of the people were not satisfied, and if they allowed that species of agitation to continue, it would be fraught with the greatest danger to the social system. He had traced the agitation, not only in the metropolis, but in Lancashire, Staffordshire, Yorkshire, and in Scotland? and he was convinced that until the object was attained that agitation never would slumber, never would cease. He believed that the miserable apology for a remedy would give no satisfaction, and never could be final, When the right hon. Baronet brought in Catholic Emancipation, he introduced it boldly, scorning all minor exceptions. The right hon. Baronet was asked, would he not demand any securities, or impose any restrictions? He answered that he would not. That he would concede the principle, because he knew that until it was conceded, there would be no repose. Why did not the right hon. Baronet act so in the present case? Why did he not show the same boldness? However, he (Mr. Ewart) was convinced that the day would come when the right hon. Baronet would regret that he had not done so. He must remind the right hon. Baronet that, as Burke said, "Modification was the resource of a weak and undecided mind." The course of the right hon. Baronet, was not only condemned, by the indignant voice of a suffering people, but it would be condemned by the mature verdict of a reflecting and impartial posterity.

Mr. F. F. Berkeley

would vote for the repeal of the Corn-laws, because he believed them to be unjust in principle, and mischievous in effect. Many hon. Members had expressed their great astonishment and virtuous indignation at the proposal to repeal the Corn-laws. Remembering, that those laws had always been opposed by statesmen of the greatest eminence, he was quite at a loss to understand such expressions. He was for the repeal of the Corn-laws, because he held the great practical doctrine, that all commerce should be benefitted, and, because the Corn-laws especially, as interfering with the sustenance of the people, did violence to that doctrine. When the Corn-law was proposed in 1815, it was opposed by several great statesmen. The language then held by illustrious Princes of the Blood, and by several politicians of the first standing in this country was, that the necessity ought to be irresistible, which could authorise Parliament to tamper with the sustenance of the people, and to impede the free sale and purchase of that article on which depended the existence of so large a portion of the community. He had the same authority for saying, that those laws could never produce plenty, cheapness, or steadiness of price. If he was in error, he shared the error with the late Lord Grenville, with the late Duke of Buckingham, and with his Royal Highness, the Duke of Sussex, whose sentiments, whenever promulgated, would command respect, and arose equally from the soundness of his head, and from the goodness of his heart. Among the petitions which had been presented, praying for a repeal of the Corn-laws, he had had the honour to present one from the city of Bristol, which had received 25,000 signatures; and agreeing with the hon. Member for Birmingham, that the petitions presented to that House, were not received with the attention which was due to their importance, he felt himself bound to raise his voice on behalf of those petitioners who had so strongly expressed their opinions on the subject of the Corn-laws. In one petition which he had the honour to present, signed by 17,799 individuals, the language was most remarkable. At the same time, that it was most respectful, it was firm. It expressed the great sorrows felt by the people; and he begged to say, that having examined the names of the petitioners, he had found them to be men who were not only incapable of a falsehood, but of even stooping to the meanness of exaggerration. It stated the belief of the petitioners that there was a growing dissatisfaction among the people towards that House. They believed, that the prayers of the people had been neglected. They prayed the House not to drive famine to despair. When he reflected, that the inhabitants of the city of Bristol were not so miserably wretched as the people in other parts of the country, he did feel, that petitions so worded, and expressing such sentiments, demanded the utmost attention and respect of the House. Whilst on the subject of the constituency which he had the honour to represent, he might probably be allowed to refer to the speech of the noble Lord, the Member for Cambridgeshire, who alluded to his constituency. In speaking of political agitations, past and present, the noble Lord, in alluding to the agitation of the Reform Bill, inferred the folly of that agitation as connected with rotten boroughs, and thought the folly was proved by the failure of the Reform Bill; he added, that Nottingham Castle was sacked, and Bristol was burnt in their agitation against rotten boroughs. A more foul slander against a people had never before been uttered by any hon. Gentleman or noble Lord in that House. He would defy the noble Lord to produce one title of evidence, to show, that the people of Bristol in their agitation against rotten boroughs, had been actuated by any such desire. The effects to which the noble Lord had alluded, were the operations of a lawless mob, and were caused by the inefficiency and want of judgment of the magistracy. They were taunted with being a small minority, and an isolated body in that House. He was perfectly contented to put up with the taunt, because he knew they were not an isolated body out of doors. Let hon. Gentlemen reflect, that they had had majorities on former occasions; which had fallen before the expressed opinions of the people. In his humble thinking, the people at the present moment felt the deepest indignation at the manner in which they were treated. They felt the utmost dis- content at the measure brought forward by the right hon. Baronet. They felt, that it was a mockery and an insult, and unless they were conciliated, the most disastrous consequences would follow.

Mr. Thornley

considered, that the question before the committee was the question of protective duties, for the right hon. Baronet, in submitting his resolutions to the House, had advocated them, not as a matter of revenue, but as a protection to the landed interest. To protective duties he had always been opposed; he considered that duties should be for revenue, and not for protection; and, considering the sufferings of the working classes, borne with such exemplary patience, and regarding also the state of the trade of the country, he should cordially support the motion of his hon. Friend and colleague, and give his vote for the total repeal of the duties on corn. He was opposed both to a fixed duty and a sliding-scale; but he must say, that the evils attending a sliding-scale were far the greater of the two. They were a bounty upon importations from the near ports, and altogether unfair to distant ports, especially to the United States of America. To that country our exports averaged about 8,000,000 a year, and they were articles highly manufactured, ff including much out-lay of wages. There lead been an impression that the United States were not capable of furnishing a supply of corn. The noble Lord, the Member for North Lancashire, had stated in his speech at Lancaster, in September, that prices were too high in America for any large supply to be furnished; and Mr. M'Culloch, in a pamphlet published last year, had stated that not only would America not furnish a supply, but it was well known she had herself received large supplies of wheat from Dantzic. Now 1837 was the only year in which America had imported largely; she then took about 500,000 quarters. The harvest had been unfavourable, but there was also an immense issue of bank paper in America, raising the price of all commodities, whether imported or of home growth. But even in that year America exported upwards of 300,000 barrels of flour, equal to 200,000 quarters of wheat. The noble Lord, the Secretary for the Colonies, in his speech at Lancaster last year, also alluded to the high price of corn in America, and intimated that we could not look to a large supply from that quarter. But only two days since, hon. Members had received a printed paper, published by the Board of Trade, containing an account of the exportation of flour from America, by which it appeared that the average export for forty-nine years had been about 900,000 barrels per annum equal to about 560,000 quarters of wheat; and besides that, they exported a great deal of Indian corn, meal, rye, beef, and pork; and that flour had been exported by America, not into any colonies of which she enjoyed the exclusive market, but in competition with other countries. On looking to the capabilities of America for growing corn, they must also remember that there was no inducement to them to send corn to this country so long as they were shutout by a sliding-scale. Intelligent gentlemen from America had represented the working of the sliding-scale as most prejudicial to the trade between the United States and Great Britain; and he then held in his hand a copy of a memorial which had been presented to the right hon. Baronet at the head of the Government by the merchants of the American Chamber of Commerce at Liverpool. It was dated in October, 1841, and the memorialists there said, that the effect of the present system had been strikingly exemplified during the previous two months, when foreign corn from European ports was admitted at a low duty, whilst America could not, from her distance, avail herself of the same advantage; and they concluded by Stating their opinion, that the most effectual remedy for those evils would be in imposing a moderate fixed duty instead of a sliding-scale. Messrs. Maury, of Liver-pool, stated in their circular, that from the 9th of August, when the duty on wheat was 22s. 8d. per quarter, to 20th of September, when the duty was 1s., the importation of wheat from the continent of Europe into five of the principal ports of this kingdom had exceeded 600,000 quarters, whilst from the United States not one bushel of wheat or one barrel of flour had been received. He was justified, then, in saying that the sliding-scale was unfair to countries at a distance, and did not put them on the same footing with countries that were nearer. He was the more anxious to press that on the notice of the Government, because the Congress of the United States was then assembled and considering the tariff of the country. On the 30th of June next the duties on imported goods, under Mr. Clay's bill, would fall to 20 per cent., but the manufacturers were pressing upon Congress the duty of raising the tariff, and excluding our manufactures, whilst we excluded their corn. Unless, therefore, we legislated satisfactorily to America, that is, unless we put her upon a fair footing as to our Corn-laws, there was the utmost danger that our woollens, our cottons, and our iron would be excluded from the American market, and their place supplied by goods from Belgium and Germany. According, then, to the measure passed in that House respecting the trade in corn and flour with America, would Great Britain have that great market open or closed against her manufactures. He had that morning received a letter from a gentleman largely interested in the American trade, suggesting that the trade in corn with that country would be put upon an equality with the trade of other countries, if the duty founded upon a six weeks' average should apply to ports in Europe without the Straits of Gibraltar, and that the duty from all other places should be upon the average of thirteen weeks. There were other objections to a sliding scale of duties; when our own crops were of bad qualities, the average prices fell, and the duty advanced, at a time when we most required an import of good corn. Then if a ship made a long passage her cargo might be charged with a higher duty, and if a ship put into a port from distress, and had to discharge her cargo, the duty on it might be ruinous. In all the remarks that had been made upon the averages, it was stated they were unfairly taken in order to lower the duty; but he held a circular of Messrs. Scott, of Liverpool, who stated that many more false averages had been made to keep down the averages than with an opposite intention. He was informed the addition of towns from which averages were to be taken would lower them 5s. to 6s. per quarter, and raise the duty in proportion. He denied that dependence on foreign countries advanced the price of imported articles. He was convinced that freedom of trade caused a regular supply, and at steady and cheap rates. The Vice-president of the Board of Trade had alluded to fluctuations in the price of cotton; no doubt prices had fluctuated, but look at the result: the United States and India were competing in the growth of cotton, and the supply was abundant, and prices lower than they ever were before. This would not have been the case if the duty had fluctuated; indeed, had cotton been liable to a sliding scale, the manufacture would never have taken root in the country. It was protective duties which raised prices. A paper moved for by the late Chancellor of the Exchequer showed the consumption of sugar in 1840, and as we excluded foreign sugars our prices were doubled, and we paid for our sugar that year five millions more than other nations paid which had a free trade in sugar. There was, in fact, no rise in sugar, for that article was cheaper than it ever was before, but we were not permitted to consume it. Our tariff prohibited what was good and cheap, and compelled us to buy what was bad and dear. Colonial sugar was now double the price of foreign sugar. In the same manner, coffee in this country was 50 per cent., he believed, dearer than foreign coffee. It was with great satisfaction that he had heard the right hon. Baronet say that he intended to revise the import duties: for they certainly were the most discreditable tariff under which any nation ever laboured. Our colonies did not supply sufficient coffee, and so our tariff said, "You may bring in foreign coffee at a certain duty, but you must take it to the Cape of Good Hope first." And so actually a number of ships were employed in taking coffee from the Brazils to the Cape of Good Hope, and then bringing it to this country. He trusted, however, that when the right, hon. Baronet did revise the tariff, that would be altered. The people continually strove, and continually exerted their increasing skill and industry to augment their comforts and to promote their happiness; and it was the Government which interfered to prevent their success. The people, in a few years, had expended sixty millions in constructing railways, and every one admitted the advantage of so cheap and expeditious a mode of travelling, but all this time the Government was refusing to admit foreign coffee, from the Brazils, unless it was first sent to the Cape of Good Hope. He felt strongly that they had now arrived at that critical position, that they could not go on as they had been doing. The embarrassment of the merchants and manufacturers of this country had existed for three or four years, and the sufferings of the labouring classes could scarcely be described, though they had borne them in a most creditable manner. But the people had looked into the causes of that distress, and were satisfied that our commercial tariff was at the root of the evil, and that the most oppressive part of our legislation was the exclusion of foreign corn. He trusted that shortly something would be done to relieve their sufferings. He was altogether disappointed at the measure of the right hon. Baronet, and he looked forward with very little satisfaction to what was before them, for no improvement had taken place in trade since the measure was announced, and the condition of the country was most serious.

Mr. Haslie

would not, at that late stage of the debate, enter at large into the merits of the question, but should confine himself to a few statements and calculations, to show that the repeal of the Corn-laws would reduce the income of the land-owners to the extent of only 11¼ per cent. According to the best authorities, it is estimated that the present agricultural rental of the United Kingdom is nearly as follows, viz:—

England and Wales £29,500,000
Scotland 4,851,404
Ireland 12,000,000

The same authorities estimate the gross annual value of the agricultural produce of the land to be—

England and Wales £132,500,000
Scotland 22,925,000
Ireland 44,500,000

Now as the grain or corn crops are those alone which will be affected by the motion of the hon. Member for Wolverhampton, it is necessary to ascertain the quantity and value of this branch of the produce under the existing law and past years of production; and taking the price of each description of corn at the average of the past thirteen years since the passing of the existing act, the quantities and value, taking the former according to the most accurate estimates made by Mr. M'Culloch, it will be as follows, viz:—

Quantity of wheat estimated to be grown in the United Kingdom, including seed, 17,500,000 quarters at 56s. 11d. 49,822,000
Oats 38,500,000 at 22s. 10d. 43,954,000
Barley 7,000,000 at 32s. 9d. 11,462,000
Peas, &c. 700,000 at 38s. 3d. 1,338,000

The right hon. Baronet, the Member for Dorset has told the agriculturists that they will have by the proposed measure a protection of 14s. the quarter on wheat, and supposing the motion carried that all duties upon the importation shall now cease, and that wheat is reduced 14s. the quarter, and other grain in proportion, the following would then be the gross amount of the annual produce, viz:—

Quarters. £
Wheat 17,500,000 at 43s. 37,625,000
Oats 38,500,600 at 18s. 6d 35,622,000
Barley 7,000,000 at 27s. 6d 9,625,000
Peas, &c. 700,000 at 33s. 1,155,000

Thus if it be correct, that this law will give a protection of 14s.the quarter, and that a free trade would reduce the average price of the last thirteen years by that amount, it would lessen the gross annual value of the agricultural produce by about 22,000,000, and reducing the gross annual value under the existing law from 199,925,000l. to 177,376,000l., and if it should follow, that the rent fell in proportion, it becomes a mere rule of three question, viz.,If 199,925,000:: 46,351,404:: 177,376,000l. = rental of 41,123,000l. or a reduction of 11¼ percent. in the rental, this was all the reducduction that would follow, taking it in the extreme, but in my opinion a free trade in corn would not reduce the average on the past thirteen years, 5s. the quarter at the utmost; was it then, he would ask, worth the while of the great agricultural interest of this country for so small an advantage periodically to paralyse the commerce of the country, and to expose themselves to the obloquy, and I must say, injudiciously daily cast upon them. If this law is really to be a protection of 14s. the quarter, let us examine how it operates upon the agricultural as well as all other labourers upon fixed wages. By the agricultural reports of various Committees of this House, it appears that the average wages of the labourers is somewhere about 8s. a week, or 20l.16s. a-year; and a few evenings since in this debate, the hon. Member for Shropshire stated, that the average consumption of wheat, per annum, per head of an agricultural labourer's family, was about one quarter; now, taking the family, say wife and two children, making four in number, the consumption will be four quarters a-year, which at the right hon. Baronet's protecting duty, of 14s.,would be a tax of 2l. 16s., or about 14 per cent. on their income, let us now compare the two cases, the landlords by this statement supposing a free trade in corn and the price to be reduced by 14s. the quarter, would have their rents reduced 11¼ per cent. on incomes varying from 200 to 100,000l a year while it is considered no injury to the labourer in maintaining the monopoly, although he is thereby made to pay at the rate of 14 per cent. upon an income of 20l. a year.

Mr. O'Connell

said, he should give his vote on this question simply upon principle, and not merely with reference to its effect upon particular interests. There was no dispute about the fact that the greatest distress prevailed throughout the British empire. That distress was not confined to any particular locality, trade, or manufacture, but was general and over-whelming. The details of the misery, destitution, and starvation, which existed in the houses of the labouring classes were enough to sicken the firmest heart. There could not be the slightest doubt of that; it could scarcely be exaggerated. Then, having that distress, what did they do to relieve it; or what did they propose to do? Nothing. The scheme of the Government would not relieve it. They said, indeed, that it did not originate with the Corn-law, and therefore their Corn-law would not relieve it. Of that he was assured; but the assertion showed, that after talking for a week or ten days, the result would be, there would be no relief of the Corn-laws were not the cause of the distress, they should seek to relief it by the removal of the cause. He thought it was a gross imposition to assert that they were not the chief cause of it, but he thought it was equally an imposition to say they were the sole cause; for if they bestowed provisions on these poor people would they not relieve them, and did it not follow that the Legislature would give them some relief if it gave them provisions cheaper than they had them? What the people wanted was food, and that was what the House refused them. The question was—should they, by the Corn-law, keep up an unnatural price of human food? Should restrictive laws make dearer than it otherwise would be, the natural price of food, or that price at which it would be in a market open to all the world, and unshackled by any tax? Were they to have food at its natural price, or to obtain it only at an artificial—that was, a high price, produced by not leaving open the market to the world, but restricting it to a particular locality, namely, the British empire? Of course, food would be dearer in proportion to the limitation of the supply, and the supply be regulated by the limitation of the market. There might be a temporary deficiency in the harvest of one country, while in another, at the same time, there might be an abundant supply; but by their law they prevented the harvests averaging each other, and abundant harvests making compensation for scarce ones. But when they spoke of distress as universally admitted, was it only distress of the present day or the present year? Had not their discussions proved that it has been increasing day after day and year after year?—that it had become heavier and heavier until it had become so unendurable that they actually boasted of the patience with which the people suffered it? Suffered what? Deprivation of the food of life. And for what purpose? To make more wealthy the landed interest. This was a question between the rich and poor. His hon. Friend (Mr. Ewart) below him had demonstrated it by showing that nine-tenths of the earnings of the poor were expended in provisions, while of the income of the rich man there was so expended not a hundredth part. Therefore the pressure was unequal; and let it be remembered, that it was made more severe by being imposed upon the poor man for the benefit of the rich. And who was to decide this question? Would they leave to the Chartists, or to his fellow Radicals, or to the operative class, the decision on the Corn-laws? Would they be content that the Chartists should call a convention to decide on the continuance of a tax on food? Certainly not, because it was known that they would decide against it. Then what right had the representatives of the landed interest to decide this question between themselves and the poor. The operatives were not represented there; the House was packed against them, and on this subject their position was that of an unfortunate man whose life or fortune was at stake before a partial judge and a packed jury. He did not accuse them of wilfully or corruptly perverting their legislative powers for their own purposes—they only acted in accordance with the dictates of human nature; but he did complain that they had, and that in pursuance of those dictates they exercised those powers to injure and oppress the poor for their own exclusive benefit. The entire working class was interested in the abolition of these laws. He had heard it said that in seeking to abolish those laws they wished to take from agricultural labourers some advantages they had, but he denied that they had an interest in the prosperity of the landlords. The Gentlemen opposite might deny the assertion, but he had documents to confirm what he said. It was proved before a late committee that when the proprietors were in distress the labourers were better off, and one of the witnesses said, that it was a consolation to him to find that the state of the agricultural labourer was satisfactory when distress affected the farmer and the landowner. Why did he quote that? To show them that the agricultural labourer had as much interest in cheap bread as any other; at all events, that he was not interested in dear bread, though the farmer and the proprietor might be. He could not advert to his own countrymen in illustration of his views; their continuous misery put them out of the general rule, and he therefore confined himself to this country to show that the labouring classes had no interest in the continuance of those laws. They had had the question well discussed, at all events, well talked over, but he would confine himself to a narrower compass. Would they insist on levying a tax on the food of the poor consumer? That was the real question, disguise it as they might. The fallacies uttered in defence of the Corn-laws had failed one after the other. Even the hon. Baronet, the Member for Wiltshire, did not attempt to prove that dear corn paid high wages. That was a favourite fallacy, until facts proved it to be such; but it had failed, as every other fallacy would fail. The poor were screaming out for food, and should the House continue to show cold-blooded indifference, as it would appear to them, to their interests, and a selfish preference to their own? If it were only doubtful whether this measure would relieve them, for Heaven's sake could they not make the experiment? He should not vote for a motion for gradual reduction. He thought the merit of the present motion was in the word "now." He knew advantage would be taken of his admission, and that his authority might be rated higher than it deserved; but the im- portance of the motion consisted in its affording immediate relief. If the ports were opened to-morrow, the supply which now made corn dear would then make it cheap. Speculation would bring in a glut of corn, and he regarded the advantage of the experiment would be in that glut. The present measure had been tried, and proved ineffectual. Why not, then, show a disposition to improve it? If they had no other plan, why not adopt the present motion? But, why should he waste time? Gentlemen opposite had been returned to support these Corn-laws. They were confident in their overwhelming majority, but let them remember the limited franchise, and above all, that those most interested were not represented. The right hon. Baronet had been previously in power (he spoke not of his last administration, when he held office but not power), but how did his administration terminate? The night was rendered luminous by the fires of blazing property. The day was rendered dangerous by tumults, confusion, assaults on civil magistrates, and armed meetings, followed by imprisonments, banishments, and execution. The City itself was so disturbed that even the Monarch, beloved as he was, dared not visit its chief magistrate. Such were the characteristics of the close of his late Government; and he would therefore implore the right hon. Baronet not now to provide a euthanasia to his Administration amongst the despair of manufacturers, and the screams of wretches driven to despair by the sordid avarice of the agriculturists.

Colonel Conolly

was not disposed to vote for a motion to repeal the Corn-laws, and wished to see as much protection extended to the agricultural interest as was consistent with the support of the home market, and, at the same time, with the maintenance of the interest of the manufacturer. He had the sincerest compassion for the people's distresses, but he would not lend himself to that which he was convinced would turn to its aggravation rather than relief, by leaving the country dependent upon foreign, and perhaps hostile nations, for the greater portion of the supply of the food of the community. He repelled with scorn the imputations which had been cast upon the landed interest, and would support the measure of the right hon. Baronet, which he considered would give great relief, and went quite as far as was consistent with the general interest of the country, and because he did not think that any abatement of the price of corn which should be accompanied by the destruction of the agriculture of the country, would be beneficial to the people. He believed, on the other hand, that the question of Corn-law abolition was one of the shallowest impositions which was ever attempted to be palmed off upon a nation. In the ardour of their enthusiasm, in the heat of their passion, what did the hon. Members opposite propose? Why, they proposed to give drafts for the alleviation of the distress of which they complained, on everybody but themselves. They abused and vilified the landed interest and those who represented the landed interest, and yet their object was to keep their own pockets closed, while they took the money out of the pockets of those whom they so loudly denounced. It was not a little extraordinary that those who wished themselves to be regarded as the friends of the people, should put the axe to the root of the agricultural interest—the foundation of the prosperity of all the other interests of this country. Vast numbers of the hon. Members opposite had admitted the proposition of the right hon. Baronet to be a great improvement in the law, and there could now be no doubt that it had received the sanction of the agriculturists throughout the country generally. Notwithstanding all the defamatory speeches which had been made, there was no doubt that the Government plan had given the utmost approbation. He regarded the proposition of the hon. Member for Wolverhampton as injurious to the public creditor as to the landed interest. At present, the public creditor received twenty-eight millions a year out of the resources of the country; and, if these resources were impaired, must not the public creditor suffer? When Mr. Grote was a Member of that House, what was his declaration in respect of the drain of bullion occasioned by the importation of corn? Why, he said—and he was at the time advocating a free trade in corn—that, if two bad harvests were to ensue, this country would be reduced to a state of national bankruptcy. He wished to keep faith with the public creditor, to sustain agriculture, but above all, he was desirous of rendering this country as far as possible, independent of other countries for the supply of corn; and in doing this he was convinced he was acting for the permanent advantage of the manufacturing I interests. He had always voted against the propositions of the hon. Member for Wolverhampton, and should do so on this occasion, because, coming as he did from an agricultural county, he felt it his duty to do so. He might be told that he also was boiling over with self-interest, but in supporting the plan of the Government he was simply actuated by the wish to protect the interests of an increasing population. He was astonished at the declaration made by the hon. and learned member for Cork, that the Corn-laws operated only for the benefit of the landlords, and not of the labourers. Such a declaration was ridiculous, was mocking the understanding, and in Ireland, at least the people, could not be imposed upon by such statements, because they knew perfectly well that the landlords could not be injured without the labourers being wounded in their most essential interests. He had travelled in most parts of the world, and from the observations he had made, he could state that it was idle to imagine that we could barter or exchange our manufactures for foreign corn. It was quite clear that this could not be done in Poland and Prussian Poland, or along the banks of the Vistula. The agricultural population of those parts had not the means of purchasing our manufactures. They paid their rents in kind, and it was their over-production which alone was sent into the markets. The same observation would equally apply to other countries; and if such were the case what other effect could they anticipate from the repeal of the Corn-laws but the withdrawal of an amount of bullion from this country, which would totally derange the currency? Was it for such results as these, he asked, that they should neglect their own peasantry, or did they wish to bring the agricultural population of this country down to the level of the peasantry of Poland? This was a shallow fallacy, a wretched delusion, and an audacious imposition; and his only wonder was that any hon. Gentleman could for a single moment give it his sanction. His desire was to maintain the efficiency of the Government, while he looked to the comforts of every class of the people, and therefore it was his determination to give every proposition like that of the hon. Member for Wolverhampton his most strenuous opposition. He believed that the Government plan would tend to the general interests of the country, and he was especially glad that the right hon. Baronet had not lost sight of the importance of affording all due encouragement to agriculture. He trusted that the right hon. Baronet would succeed in carrying his proposition, and that the hon. Member for Wolverhampton would be left in a miserable minority.

Mr. Hawes

said, that after so protracted a debate, he would ask the attention of the House only fur a short time. In approaching the subject, he fully appreciated the magnitude of the interests at stake, and with a sincere desire to do justice to all. He should support the hon. Member for Wolverhampton on the present occasion, and he was perfectly prepared to back his opinion by voting for the total repeal of all duties on corn. He was prepared to show that the plan proposed by Ministers up to very high prices, would still have the effect of excluding all competition with foreign countries. In saying this, he was anxious to do full justice to the proposal of her Majesty's Ministers. He admitted that he believed the intention of the Government was to amend the law, and to a certain extent, there would no doubt be an amendment; but he would read to the House a letter that was well deserving of their attention, to show that, under the proposed system, the speculative character of the corn trade would still continue, and that though under the new scale, they might have a more abundant supply of corn, it would still not be had without a derangement of the commerce of the country. The letter he held in his hand was dated the 14th of February, and was addressed by one of the largest houses in the corn trade at Rostock. He would beg particularly to call the attention of the First Lord of the Treasury to this letter:— Our trade is nearly suspended, as we are now awaiting the accounts and particulars of the new Corn-law, which Sir Robert Peel will have proposed on the 5th instant, and which we shall most likely receive next Thursday. Until this highly important matter is settled, one way or another, we cannot expect any revival in the trade, as people won't like to invest their money in a business by which they must be afraid that they will be foiled in their operations, or legislative measures; as to us, we do not wish any alteration at all, as your present law, and the great chances for profit the same offers to monied men if they can but hold, is the best we can desire for our trade. We have no doubt, that if the corn business should be brought more on a stationary basis by a fixed or not much varying duty, a great deal of the capital that is now annually invested in the same will be entirely withdrawn. We wish that your Duke of Buckingham may succeed in his opposition, as we are perfectly satisfied that an importation of wheat is wanted in Great Britain this season, and that under the old law your ports must open again at 1s. duty, so that a minimum of 5s. or more, is but drawing the difference out of the pockets of the holders of stocks. We think all speculators in foreign corn, ought to support your landed interest, as they style themselves. He had always advocated a fixed duty in preference to a sliding scale, because, a fixed duty was, in point of fact, levied upon the foreign producers, and the higher the prices of corn were in England, the mote easily would the fixed duty be paid. He had heard with much gratification, the concessions that had already been made. It was no small concession, when they found the most sturdy opponents to all alteration in the Corn-laws coming forward with even such a modification as was now proposed, and the agricultural interest alarmed, indeed, but still submitting to necessity. What was the language used by the agricultural committee in 1833? That committee, in their report, (p. 13) aid:— The political considerations which weighed with the committee of 1821 remain unchanged; and if it be not prudent to run the risk of rendering the dense population of these islands in a great degree dependent on the supply of bread corn from abroad, the protection now given to corn, the growth of the United Kingdom, may be justly regarded as an insurance against famine, and against the danger of that reliance on foreign countries for the staff of life which might be found inconsistent with the safety and permanent interests of the people, and ultimately fatal to our national independence. Your committee has endeavoured to trace the injurious effects of past legislation; and to prove the caution necessary in future measures, it may be urged that they have stated many evils, but have failed to suggest remedies. It should, however, be remembered, that legislative measures, once taken and long established, can rarely be abandoned without danger, and that to retreat is occasionally more dangerous than to advance. The sentiments contained in that report were now repudiated by almost all parties. He was entitled to say that a great change in opinion had taken place, and though the sentiments contained in the report might be cheered by the hon. Member for Essex, the change in opinion had not the less been effected. He remembered when last year it was insinuated on his side of the House that the right hon. Baronet would alter the laws regulating the importation of foreign corn, the Earl of Darlington declared that he did not believe the agricultural interest would submit to any alteration of the pivot, or to any alteration of the scale. But was it not certain, nevertheless, that an approximation to more liberal opinions had since occurred, and that being the case, might they not hope that the opinions to be proffered to-morrow might approximate still more to their own? He was not going into details of the distress that existed in the country, but when the right hon. Baronet ascribed as the causes of that distress the war with China, the alarm of war in Europe, over-production, joint-stock banks, and machinery, and avowed that he did not bring forward his proposal to mitigate that distress, he (Mr. Hawes) was bound to express his surprise that while the right hon. Baronet went into all the causes of the distress he mentioned three out of four over which no control could be exercised, and brought forward no remedy for that which was obviously under control, namely, the joint-stocks bank issues. He certainly thought that one who had been the colleague of Mr. Huskisson might have been expected to say at least that the only security against these disturbances in our mercantile affairs was to put the trade of the country on as free a basis as possible, so that if checked in one direction it might expand in another, and when disturbed in one part of the globe, it might regain its elasticity in another. Quotations had been made from the circulars of brokers, but he had on his side authority quite as good as that of Messrs. Kingsford and Ley, and if numerical strength were to be taken into consideration, he had the authority of some thirty or forty brokers in opposition to the one that had been quoted on the other side. He held in his hand a circular, dated December, 1841, from the brokers of Liverpool; and he need not remind hon. Members that the end of 1841 was not a season of commercial prosperity. In that circular they said— To these causes may be added the financial embarrassments of the United States, the interruption of the China trade, and the long train of evils consequent upon a succession of insufficient harvests. In an association like this, composed of minds of every shade of sentiment, much diversity of opinion must exist upon this most difficult of subjects. By some, the evils, though admitted, are regarded only as of a temporary nature, which so soon as these alleged causes are removed, will, it is thought, disappear, and the manufacturing body at once be restored to a healthy state. Whilst all would gladly concur in views so congenial to their interests and their wishes, there are others who conceive the mischief to be of deeper growth—that it is the offspring of a narrow and exclusive policy, adopted under circumstances widely differing from the present, which, in the vain attempt to enjoy trade without reciprocity, has at last converted valuable customers into successful rivals. To impose restrictions, they contend, on the importation of an article of the first necessity, like grain, instead of fostering and encouraging it, is an anomaly in commercial legislation, wholly unworthy of an age whose boast it is to have carried social improvements to their highest pitch. They derive consolation, however, from the reflection that its reign is drawing to a close— that an admission of the necessity for a change has been extorted from the most unwilling; and, whether the machinery be fixed or sliding, they feel satisfied that no system will long be tolerated which shall limit the consumption of the cheap corn of the continent in this country to seasons of dearth and scarcity. The ties being thus loosed by which the minor and perhaps less defensible monopolies have been upheld, a mass of fiscal absurdities will be swept away, when, unless the work of regeneration have been too long delayed, they look to our manufactures resuming their wanted activity, and after awhile regaining their lost ascendancy. He believed that the right hon. Gentleman, the Vice-President of the Board of Trade, had complained of the exaggeration that had been put forth relative to the operation of the Corn-laws. But he could find authorities, some of the highest and most entitled to respect, who had spoken of the Corn-laws in terms much more severe than any language that had been recently used—terms that he presumed the right hon. Gentleman also would deem exaggerated. He would not weary the House by quotations, but would content himself with referring them to passages contained in the Report upon the Hand-loom Weavers. That report had been drawn up by Mr. Senior and Mr. Jones Loyd, gentlemen not to be accused, he apprehended, of a tendency to exaggerate, or of a desire to create unnecessary discontent; and yet he knew of no men who had spoken in stronger terms against the Corn-laws, than they had in their character of commissioners. The language they employed in their report described energetically the mischievous operation of those laws upon trade and wages, and still more powerfully the operation of them upon the labouring classes. In a word, the words of that report were as strong and emphatic as those used by any speaker, even at a public meeting. The right hon. Gentleman had said, he wished to keep the price of corn varying from 54s. to, 58s., the probable average being 56s. He (Mr. Hawes) wished to know upon what ground the right hon. Baronet had founded his principle? Was there no evidence to show that corn could be grown cheaper? Upon what principle was it, that the Prime Minister had expressed his hope that corn would range between the prices he had named? It would appear that the natural wish would have been, that corn should be at as low a price as possible. The attempt to regulate the price of corn between two given points had, in fact, been repudiated by past Legislatures. Now, in 1815, the price of corn was 90s., and he had a right to ask, what reliance was to be placed upon the opinions of gentlemen who had entertained such different ideas in that year, as to the amount of protection necessary for the farmer, to those they now came forward and avowed—a difference, in the course of twenty-five years, of from 90s. to 56s.? There was no more valid reason for supposing 56s. a necessary price to be kept up than there was, that 90s. ought to be maintained. He had evidence before him, that was given before that very committee, of which the right hon. Gentleman opposite was a Member, to show that corn could be grown under 50s., and he had, therefore, a right to ask the right hon. Baronet to show some better reason, why he had fixed the price at 56s. Mr. John Brickwell said, before that committee, that he considered 56s. a fair remunerating price in Buckinghamshire, and Mr. Ellis expressed the opinion, that expenses should be brought down until corn could be grown at 50s. And when he came to the Scotch agriculturists, what was the evidence of Mr. M'Dougal? That gentleman was asked the following question:— What is the lowest price per bushel at which wheat could be generally grown in Scotland, with a fair rent and a remuneration, on land of the quality of which you are now speaking (Roxburghshire)?—From 6s. 6d to 7s. a bushel; I do not think we should have any difficulty with the economical mode we are now adopting to be paid at that price. Could present rents, in that part of Scotland, of which you are speaking, be maintained at the price of 6s. a bushel?—I am perfectly certain they could, taking the fiars prices at the time as a criterion, for it is 10s. a boll, or nearly a boll, above the fiars prices, which this year was about 4s. 8d. a bushel. Such was the opinion of an intelligent and economical farmer, as to a remunerating price, but when they came to the evidence of the agents of large property, who spoke from knowledge of farmers and farming in general, he found a strong confirmation of his opinion, that the right hon. Gentleman had no right to assume 56s. as a remunerating price to the British farmer; if it was not a remunerating price, the right hon. Gentleman was bound to alter his scale in consistency with those who maintained, and he thought successfully, that the corn could be grown at a much less rate. Similar evidence had been adduced before every agricultural committee, and precisely the same evidence had been adduced in 1815, to justify the price of corn at 90s., in 1815, as was now put forward to maintain it at 56s. Mr. Fyson was asked:— Looking at Mr. Coke's estate in Norfolk, could any number of his tenantry afford to give him any rent whatever with wheat at 5s. a bushel?—Yes; I think with a good crop they could. Do you think, taking the average of years, that Mr. Coke has a single tenant upon his estate that could afford to give him any rent. at 5s. a bushel?—Yes, some rent; not the rent now paid. Would you say, that any material portion of his estate is such, that the tenant could afford to pay any rent whatever with the wheat at 5s. a bushel?—I am not, perhaps, sufficiently acquainted with the soil to answer; but, looking to the great improvements in agriculture, and to the advantage that will be derived from the Poor-laws, the farmer will grow his wheat cheaper. What system of Corn-laws, would you substitute which would afford a protection to the farmer from the effects of foreign competition?—I should be for a fixed duty, beginning with a high duty, and going down annually a a quarter, and I should be disposed to go down as low as 5s. a quarter, on wheat ultimately. Do you think the farmers, with a protection of 5s. a quarter on wheat, ultimately could grow wheat in competition with the growers of corn on the continent?—Yes, with the increased intelligence that is going abroad. He was then asked the freight on foreign wheat, which the witness states at 4s., and on being asked if the duty and freight, viz., 9s., would be enough protection, he says, that it would keep wheat up to 40s., and on being asked, Do you think it would be possible with wheat at 40s, a quarter, for farmers to grow wheat to any extent?" He answered "Yes, I do. I know (he adds) farmers, young enterprising skilful men, who say, they can grow wheat at 40s. a quarter, and who are doing very well now, having a part of their crop at 40s. a quarter. Now, it was not for him to attach an undue value to the evidence he had quoted, but he begged the House to observe, that the witness adhered to his statement under a severe cross-examination. If what that witness said was true, the foundation of the right hon. Baronet's principle, that 56s. was the price that ought to be maintained, was obviously erroneous. But he (Mr. Hawes) should be able to show, that the effect of the right hon. Baronet's plan would be to keep the price of corn much higher than 56s. He would first quote from the evidence of Mr. Bennett, steward to the Duke of Bedford. That gentleman was asked,— At what price do you estimate wheat for the next seven years? If I was going to take a farm for myself, I should not expect, nor should I calculate for the next seven years, to have wheat above 5s. or 6s. a bushel. Now, he thought that the evidence he had quoted, justified him in saying, that the Government were not entitled to propose a measure which attempted to regulate the price of corn at from 54s. to 58s., and to fix the remunerating price to the farmer at no less than 56s. Taking the price of wheat, for a long series of years, abroad, and the duty the right hon. Gentleman had attached to the price of 56s. the result would be, that protection was given practically at a much higher price, The right hon. Gentleman opposite dealt with his own Parliamentary returns rather unfairly, because the consular returns, taking a long series of years, and Mr. Meek's report, all concurred in showing, that foreign corn could not be obtained for a series of years at a less price than 40s. He was prepared to show, that 40s. was a low estimate. The right hon. Gentleman opposite, in order to lower the apparent price, had struck out certain prices when he was quoting those returns, and he also had omitted to quote the freight at certain ports from which, as he alleged, very little wheat came. Perhaps the right hon. Gentleman would permit him to call his attention to the authority of Mr. Jacobs, one of those gentlemen who had been officially employed to collect information. Mr. Jacobs said, that wheat could not be had at Warsaw for less than 28s., and the cost of the transit to London would be 20s., making the price 48s., to which must be added 16s. for duty, making the total of 64s. Therefore, the wheat bought in Warsaw at the price stated by Mr. Jacobs, could not be bought in the London market at or near 56s. He next came to the consular returns, for Mr. Jacobs' inquiries had preceded those, and he found that they stated the price of wheat at Warsaw to be 24s., charges to London 20s., making a total of 44s., to which must be added 16s. duty, amounting in the whole to the market price of 60s. in London. He believed that calculation to be correct, but he would refer to a more extended inquiry into the subject. In the papers laid before the House of Lords, previous to 1827, it would be found, that the average price of wheat at Dantzic for forty-nine years,—namely, from 1770 to 1819, was stated at 45s. 4d., the freight 3s. 6d., making 48s. 10d., to which add 16s. duty, amounting in the whole to 65s. That confirmed what he had said, that Polish and Russian wheat would be excluded by the Government proposal from competition with British, and that the protective price would be much higher than 56s., as stated by the right hon. Baronet. This was justly a disappointment to the English people—that a measure should be introduced by the Government, professing to fix the price at 56s., while it practically fixed it at a much higher figure. He would now take an average of succeeding years ending with 1831, and including the years 1823, 1824, 1825, and 1826, when there was no demand from England, and a consequent depression; and he found the average price of wheat at Dantzic was 34s. Make the average between that price, and the price for the series of years before,—namely, 45s. 4d., and they would find the average between the two was 39s. 8d., to which acid 8s. charges to London, and 16s. for duty, and the result would be 63s. 8d. He again contended, the right hon. Baronet had no right to profess his protecting price to be 56s., and in reality to fix it much higher. The right hon. Secretary for the Home Department had said, that a fixed duty was impossible, but if it could be shown, that a fixed duty was possible, he trusted the right hon. Gentleman would give up his complicated and odious sliding scale, and become a convert to the fixed duty principle. When the right hon. Gentleman quoted the opinion of Mr. Hubbard, he did not make his quotation with that fairness and accuracy which generally characterised him. There was a most material passage which the right hon. Gentleman had not read—a sentence that was comprised within the very passage he selected for extract, and upon which the whole of Mr. Hubbard's reasoning was grounded. He would not say whether the omission was accidental, or whether the right hon. Gentleman had some particular reason for its suppression. Mr. Hubbard said,— To establish a fixed duty, with its reduction made contingent upon the averages reaching a certain price, or even to allow the expectation of such a reduction as an act of the Ministry, would be to foster the grasping spirit which would then hold out for that price, as surely as it has hitherto held for the crowning price of 73s. In the present year, even Sir Robert Peel's hypothesis might have been realised; and had an 8s. duty been decreed in May last, the price might have risen to 90s. in September or October. But why would it have risen? Here followed the passage omitted by the right hon. Baronet:— Not because in July and August there was not an abundance of foreign corn in our warehouses; not because it could not be profitably sold at the prices then existing; but because, relying on the opinion which Sir Robert Peel has again and again expressed, 'That when prices rose, a fixed duty could not be maintained,' the holders would have driven up the price by keeping back their corn (they would have created the scarcity by which they were to profit), and when an 'order in council' had kindly remitted them the duty, they would have exacted the utmost which the people would give rather than starve. Why should not a fixed duty be paid? In every other commodity the merchant paid his duty, and realised his profits. But while the graduated scale continued, the trader relied upon it, and the trade became speculative rather than purely mercantile. He thought the higher the price of corn the more easily would the fixed duty be paid. Why was the sliding scale to be maintained? What was the object? Did the Government intend to maintain a price? If so, he was entitled to refer to the sentiments expressed by the Prime Minister when he introduced his plan, and in the same breath in which he declared that its essential object was to regulate the price, he admitted that the Legislature had no means whatever of maintaining the price. He had no doubt that, to a certain extent, trade in corn would improve, but he saw no reason to believe prices would be steady, or that more corn would be imported, or that trade in general would be benefited. All the essential evil characteristics of the trade in corn would remain uncured and uneradicated. He believed the result of the proposed measure would be found to be, that too much corn would come in at 60s. or 64s. to satisfy certain country gentlemen, and too little would come in to satisfy; he just demands of the trading interest; and he believed that both parties would ere long concur in abrogating it. The right hon. the Vice-President of the Board of Trade, in answering the noble Lord the Member for London, had relied upon the fluctuations of Rye in Poland, but he (Mr. Hawes) confessed he was not struck by the relevancy of the argument. The prices of rye did fluctuate from causes which were very intelligible and susceptible of explanation. Rye was the main food of the people of that country— a country without roads, or proper means of communication, without capital, without merchants, and without stores. Under these circumstances, the price of rye varied in different districts—in one department it might be very high, while in another it might be very low, at one and the same time. He had consulted some of the foreign returns, and soon found the simple solution of the fluctuation in rye, which the right hon. Gentleman had quoted to convince the people of this country that they ought to be satisfied with the fluctuations in the price of corn. It was as follows:— The crops this season have been got in in excellent condition, but in the most productive provinces the spring corn especially has been generally light, and partially a complete failure. The prices of wheat, oats, and buck- wheat are consequently high; but rye, the bread-stuff of the great mass of the population, has been a good crop, and the prices are generally not more than double those of abundant years, and in some parts of the country considerably less, with the probability of a further decline when the winter communications are established. Last winter, in some districts, the prices rose to four or five, and even six times the average rates. Last winter, in the same districts, the prices rose considerably in consequence of a scarcity in the adjoining departments. Now the price of wheat in this country ought to be more steady than in any other part of the world in consequence of the great facility of communication, and the vast amount of capital. The case of Poland was precisely the reverse, and ought not to have been quoted at all. He was acquainted with a gentleman connected with the Polish trade, who had informed him that the lowest price for rye in the provincial markets of Poland during the last fifteen years had been 5 florins per korzec, of which two and a half equal one imperial quarter, or 6s. 3d. per quarter. In ordinary times, when there was no demand for exportation, the price was about 8 florins per korzec, or 10s. per imperial quarter in the interior. In May, 1840, the price of rye at Warsaw was about 12 florins per korzec, or 15s. per quarter; and in December, in consequence of a demand for Russia, the price had risen to 22 florins per korzec, or 27s. 6d. per imperial quarter, and so great was the scarcity that the steam mill was continually forced to stop for want of supplies. When the right hon. Gentleman referred to the period from 1765 to 1815 as a period of free trade in corn—as a period to which all the friends of free trade referred with triumph, as a proof that nothing interfered with the price of corn except the ordinary influence of supply and demand, he was astonished. Mr. Tooke, in his work on Prices, says, There is no experience of an unrestricted corn trade in the last two centuries to admit of comparison between the recent fluctuations —none in any former equal period—and thus to form grounds of inference as to what would, under circumstances in other respects similar, have been the fluctuations in a perfectly unrestricted state of trade. But, both from analogy, and from a reference to the working of the law, it is perfectly clear that the fluctuations could not have been greater, would most probably have been on a smaller scale, and would most certainly not have been attended with such disturbance in the direction of commercial capital and credit. With regard to the averages, he had seen some incredulity manifested on the other side, when it was stated on that (the Opposition) side of the House, that the proposition of the Government would cause an alteration of 5s. in the averages. He was prepared to maintain that a difference of at least 5s. a quarter would be made in the averages by the addition of the 156 towns to the 150 from which the averages were now taken, and by the adoption of a more stringent mode of taking them. His right hon. Friend the late President of the Board of Trade (Mr. Labouchere) had referred to a return before the House, which showed distinctly and positively the actual weekly difference between the average of the London market and the average of many of the towns from which the returns were now received. His right hon. Friend had shown distinctly, and beyond the reach of controversy or dispute, that there was an actual difference of about 4s. a quarter. But though this was conclusive upon the point, it was not all that he relied upon. If hon. Gentlemen would refer to the average prices of the large towns, exclusive of London, and compare them with the average prices of smaller towns, they would constantly find a variation between the average prices of the two classes of towns of from 3s. to 5s. a quarter. Under the existing act about 150 towns furnished the returns upon which the average price was struck. Take three, or five, or seven of the principal of those towns—say London, Wakefield, Leeds, Derby, Liverpool, Newcastle, and Hull, and it would be found that the average price of wheat, as applied to them, amounted on the 1st of September, 1841, to 75s. a quarter. In the remaining towns from which the returns were furnished, the average price at that time was 67s. 2d, giving a general average for the whole kingdom of 71s. 2d. What he meant to prove from this was, that if the averages from country districts and the large towns were excluded, there would at all times be found to exist a very material difference in the averages; in short, that the averages would be considerably reduced. Why was it that the large towns furnished the highest averages? Because in all the large towns there was a much larger market, and a much greater consumption of the best kind of flour. This naturally and necessarily had the effect of raising the averages; and under the present bill its operation was most beneficent, because, by raising the averages, it lessened the duty at which foreign corn could be admitted. The right hon. Baronet the Member for Kent (Sir Edward Knatchbull) stated the other night that the House ought to consider the burdens and disqualifications to which the land was subject. He was not unwilling to consider any burdens or disqualifications imposed exclusively upon the land; but he thought it would be an exceedingly difficult task to the Gentlemen opposite to prove what those exclusive burdens and disqualifications were. If, however, they could make out that the land really was exclusively and unjustly taxed, then he was ready to concur with his hon. Friend the Member for Bath (Mr. Roebuck), and to remedy the loss sustained by the land, either by direct compensation, or by maintaining a fixed duty on the importation of foreign corn. When the right hon. Baronet talked of the disqualification of the land, he confessed that he did not very distinctly understand the right hon. Baronet. He presumed, however, that the right hon. Baronet meant that the English agriculturist could not grow beetroot and tobacco. But if the English agriculturist had the power or the privilege of growing tobacco, would not the right hon. Baronet's next step be to come down to Parliament and ask for protection against the importation of tobacco from America? In the same way would not the right hon. Baronet equally demand protection if the soil of England were capable of growing cotton? If these were the only disqualifications of the land, it was clear that that interest was no worse off than any other interest in the country under the operation of the Excise-laws. All the interests that came under the operation of those laws would have just as good a claim to compensation, or to have taxes imposed in their favour, as the land had in consequence of the disqualifications to which he had just adverted. There was one other point to which he was anxious to direct the attention of the House. ["Question."] He was aware that he had detained the House at some length; but when at that hour he was interrupted by the cry of "question," he must be permitted to say that it was not quite fair to attribute to those who sat on the Opposition side of the House the prolongation of the debate. Might he be allowed to remark, on that the fourth night of the debate, that up to that moment there had not been one single Gentleman connected with her Majesty's Government who had condescended to address the House in reply to the able, moderate, and temperate speech in which his hon. Friend the Member for Wolverhampton (Mr. Villiers) had introduced the subject to the attention of the Legislature. If that were thought to be a courteous or a politic mode of meeting a question so deeply interesting to the people of England, he could only say that he thought the Gentlemen opposite would find themselves much mistaken in their opinion. He thought that they (the Opposition) had, on their part, a perfect right to prolong the debate, if they thought fit, until they had extracted from a Member of the Cabinet some answer to or some notice of the admirable speech of his hon. Friend (Mr. Villiers). Whilst no Member of the Government rose, he thought the Opposition might fairly regard the silence of the Ministerial bench as a general intimation that they (the Opposition) were to go on speaking until it should be convenient to any of the Members of the Cabinet to come forward. There never was a period in the history of this country when the depression of the mercantile interest was so universal, and the amount of its losses so great, as at the present moment. Those who were engaged in it attributed this depression to the influence of that exclusive policy which prohibited the importation of many of the great articles of commerce. He understood that it was the intention of the right hon. Baronet (Sir Robert Peel) to announce to the House the alterations he intended to make in the tariff of this country. In that respect the right hon. Baronet would copy the intention of the late Government. To him, however, it mattered not from whom the alterations came. Although he might not be disposed to pay much respect to the course of policy which last year induced the present Government to oppose or suspend the operation of measures which they were now obliged to confess would be beneficial and useful—although he might not be disposed to approve of the policy which induced the right lion. Baronet and his Colleagues to obstruct the introduction of wise and prudent measures until they should have the opportunity of proposing them themselves; yet, come from whence they would, he should receive them grate fully, and so he believed would the great bulk of the people. It remained to be seen whether a Government so entirely adopting the policy of its predecessors was one that would obtain the confidence and support of the people.

Mr. Mark Philips

promised not to detain the House at any length; but he felt it to be his duty to attempt, in however feeble a manner, to represent the views and feelings of the great constituency which sent him there upon the important question then under discussion. He could not forget that when he had the honour of moving the Address to her Majesty, at the commencement of the last Session of Parliament, the statement which he then felt called upon to make with reference to the distresses of the people appeared to be doubted by many who heard him, and to be called in question generally by the Gentlemen who sat on the opposite side of the House. He was bound to say, however, that it had since been admitted that the statement of distress which he then made was not in any degree overcharged. The Seconder of the Address in the present Session admitted that, although the hon. Members had last year doubted that the distress was so deep, the hon. Members had since found that it was fully as great as he had described it to be. He remembered that, on the 7th of June last, when it was proposed that an appeal should be made to the people, and that a new Parliament should be assembled, the right hon. Baronet (Sir R. Peel) exhorted the noble Lord (Lord J. Russell), at that time the leader of the Government in that House, to render the interval that should elapse between the dissolution of the one Parliament and the assembling of the next as short as possible, for the purpose, amongst other things, of taking into consideration the important question which the House was now called upon to discuss. But when the new Parliament assembled, it appeared to him that there was a great diminution of zeal on the part of the right hon. Baronet and his friends to take it into immediate consideration, and the country, notwithstanding the extent and depth of its distress, had been kept waiting until it at length suited the convenience of the right hon. Baronet to come forward with the proposition which he had recently submitted to the House. Now he must say that, to his constituents at least, the proposition of the right hon. Baronet conveyed no hope of any improvement. They had been deeply disappointed, and he regreted to say that the consequence had been that many of those whom he had heretofore ranked amongst his own particular friends and supporters had joined themselves with those who saw no remedy for the evils of the country but in an extension of the suffrage to every individual who should have attained the age of twenty-one years. He was bound to state, in candour both to them and to the House, that in that movement he could not join. In making that declaration he was perfectly aware that he might be placing himself in an attitude of hostility to the views and feelings of a great number of those for whom he entertained the highest possible respect. Still he felt that it was his duty to make it. The movement to which he had adverted showed that there was in the minds of the people of this country, many of whom were plunged into the depths of the deepest suffering, a feeling of great and bitter disappointment at the proposition that had been made, and he regreted that they should be told there was no power in the present Government to relieve the distress which was rapidly spreading itself in every direction. The right hon. Baronet (Sir Robert Peel) had told the House that he did not consider the distress in which the country was plunged as arising in any material degree out of the operation of the Corn-laws; and he added, that he did not consider it in his power to remedy, to any great extent, the depression of trade, or severity of suffering, to which the country was exposed. If so, he did not wonder at the disappointment which had been expressed. When the people saw a Government which did propose measures which, in his estimation, would have been satisfactory and beneficial to the country, turned out of office, and succeeded by another Government, which declared that it could hold out no hope or prospect of remedying the evils which were admitted to exist—when the people saw this, he did not wonder that they should be filled with feelings of deep disappointment. It had been said that the working classes did not agree with the Members of that House who were advocates for the immediate: repeal of the Corn-laws. Within the last fortnight it had been his lot to present to the House a petition, praying for the total and immediate repeal of those laws, signed by 68,800 of the inhabitants of Manchester. Now the population of Manchester, according to the last census, was 240,000. He thought then, that the House would agree with him, that, dividing the females from the males, and making a sufficient calculation for children and for those under age, a petition signed by 68,800 male adults could be regarded as no mean expression of the opinion of the inhabitants of Manchester with reference to this question. He had also at that moment for transmission to the foot of the Throne a memorial signed by 36,000 of the inhabitants of Manchester, which, after setting forth the grievances of the memorialists, prayed that her Majesty would be graciously pleased to remove her present advisers from the head of affairs. He was anxious that there should be no mistake, either on the part of his constituents or of the House, as to what his feeling was in reference to the proposition of his hon. Friend the member for Wolverhampton (Mr. Villiers). When he had first the honour of addressing those whom he was now proud to call his constituents, ten years ago, he stated that he was opposed to any and every impost upon the importation of food. Considering however the very conflicting views and interests that existed with reference to the Corn-laws, he stated at that time that he was willing and disposed to accept a moderate fixed duty on corn, which should decline year by year, until the trade should be perfectly open and free. Had his views, as then expressed, been carried into effect, the trade in corn would at this moment be free and unrestricted. He had now nothing to retract from the opinion first expressed to his constituents. He thought that the time had come when no duty should be levied on the importation of corn, and he was consequently prepared to vote with his hon. Friend for the total and immediate repeal of the Corn-laws. Looking at the distress that prevailed in every quarter, he felt that it would be only justice to the millions who were suffering if the tax upon food were that night removed. Objectionable as he conceived the proposition of the right hon. Baronet (Sir R. Peel) to be, he must still, in candour, admit that he considered it to be an improvement upon the existing state of things. But he saw in it nothing that would materially improve the condition of the people, or take the corn trade out of the hands of speculators and gamblers, and place it in the hands of the cautious and prudent merchant, who ought to have an opportunity of purchasing corn as readily, and with as much facility, abroad as any other article of commerce. From the nature of the sliding scale, he, as merchant, had found it utterly impossible ever to attempt to import, in return for goods exported, one single cargo of foreign corn. Under the scale now proposed the same difficulty would exist, because he solemnly believed that the general merchant would have no chance whatever of importing corn against those acute and speculating men who watched the state of the barometer in this country, and gathered information as to the state of the crops abroad, and who, from their position, were better able to take advantage of all the circumstances out of which their profits were to arise. He did not attach much importance, therefore, to the letters and statements which had been offered to the House as coming front individuals engaged in the corn trade, because it was clear that their satisfaction with a scale of duties might arise at a point far earlier than any satisfaction could arise in the mind of the ordinary merchant, and certainly long before it could arise in the minds of the great body of consumers. What would become of the trade of this country, what would our merchants do, what would be the condition of our manufacturers and operatives, supposing that the United States, adopting the plan which we pursued with reference to the staple article of human food, were to place a sliding scale of duties upon every article of manufacture, industry, and skill, imported from this country? Where would be the merchant so reckless, so daring, so speculative, as to run the risk of sacrificing his fortune by making shipments of goods, when he could not have the slightest indication beforehand of what the duty might be which he would have to pay when his venture reached the other side of the Atlantic? Why the article of corn—the great staple of food upon which the people of this country depended—was to be made subject to the operation of a sliding-scale, when the principle of a sliding-scale was not applied to our commercial code generally, he, for one, was at a total loss to comprehend. The people looked upon it as a piece of selfish legislation, and they were perfectly justified in looking at it in that light. They asked who framed these laws—and, prosecuting their inquiry, they found that they were framed and passed by a Legislature in which the landed interest was predominant; and although he could not himself suppose that the landed interest of that time could have seen the evils to which they exposed their fellow-country men, yet it was impossible to say that there was not class legislation and a feeling of selfishness in those laws as they now operated upon the general interest of the country. He perfectly admitted, with those who had said in the course of the debate, that the landed interest having a preponderance in the Legislature, had only done for themselves what any other interest, having an equal predominance, might undoubtedly have done for themselves also. But the people considered these laws to be selfish and partial, and earnestly entreated the House now to legislate in the right direction, and to give them the power of exchanging the produce of their labour for the produce of other countries. Since the commencement of the last Session of Parliament he had felt it to be his duty to investigate in his own person the condition of his distressed fellow-creatures in the township in which he resided. It was a township in which the population was principally employed in the occupation of hand-loom weaving; and he must confess that the destitution of those people was beyond any thing he could have conceived. Visiting them personally, he had found them with neither bedding, clothing, nor furniture. When he said neither of those things, he meant nothing worthy of the name of either—nothing that any human being in a civilized community could have a right to denominate bedding, clothing, or furniture. What was the condition of those people? Three years of intense suffering they had already gone through. They were workpeople principally employed in the manufacture of fabrics prepared for the United States. The market in that country, as every one knew, had of late been in a very depressed state; and the condition of the workpeople who had almost solely depended upon it was at this moment such, that in the course of his visits amongst them he did not find in any house one single meal prepared, or even so much as one single wheaten loaf. A manufacturer in his neighbourhood had assured him that he considered that 40l. for each individual renting a House with a family would scarcely put them in that condition of comfort in which they were about ten years ago; and now, notwithstanding all their industry, they were scarcely able to earn as much as would keep body and soul together, not taking into account their clothing, bedding, or furniture. What expectation could these people entertain of any relief, if the Legislature continued those laws which in their opinion pressed them down day by day to a lower state of human degradation? He thought that he could without much difficulty attribute this depression of a part of their trade to the operation of the Corn-laws, because, if in exchange for the articles which these people manufactured the Legislature would permit them to take the wheat and flour of the United States, he would venture to say that, deep as the distress was at the present moment, the first importation of corn or flour from the United States would give life and activity to their trade, and, consequently, employment to many of those who were now pining out a miserable and wretched existence. In stating this, he was borne out by a fact which had lately occurred. On the 28th December last there was a ray of hope that some improvement was about to take place, which, when he traced it to its source, he found had arisen from a cargo of American flour which the merchants in Liverpool, to whom the owners consigned it, determined to take out of bond; and in consequence they set about purchasing goods for the American market. There was an immediate improvement in the trade, and he thought if they took this single instance as an evidence of what would occur under a more extended trade, there could be no doubt as to the benefits which would accrue to the manufacturing industry of this country; and he thought it would also show, if they placed trade on a solid foundation with those who were anxious to deal with them, that the fears and apprehensions which hon. Gentlemen opposite had expressed as to the condition of the country were perfectly groundless, and that the people of this country would be able to increase their consumption, not only of wheat, but of every other article of agricultural produce necessary to their comfortable existence. He thought that in this discussion they had limited the benefits of the repeal of the Corn-law too much to wheat alone, and that they had not looked to the power which an extended trade would give to the working man of purchasing many other articles of agricultural produce. He must say, that hon Gentlemen opposite appeared to him to have overlooked a most important fact in arguing this question, when they supposed that this country would be flooded by corn from the continent in the event of the repeal of the Corn-laws. They had argued as if the land on the continent could bear a succession of white straw crops, and seemed to forget that the farmers abroad would be obliged to follow the same rotation system as the farmers at home. He knew of no land, in the north of Germany, so fertile as to be capable of bearing a succession of white straw crops, and hon. Gentlemen had conjured up a fear which had no foundation. But he took his stand on the broad ground of justice. The people of this country were being alienated from the Government, from the Legislature, and from, their institutions, in consequence of the position in which they found themselves, and which they attributed, in a great degree, to the operation of the Corn-law. Another fatal mistake had been committed by hon. Gentlemen opposite, in supposing that the sliding scale had been the means of supplying this country with foreign wheat in periods of scarcity at home. They said that the sliding scale permitted the importation of corn sufficient for the wants of the country. He took on himself emphatically to deny this. Even at the time when the greatest importation occurred, hundreds of thousands of the people were only half-fed; and even supposing that the sliding scale had permitted a quantity of corn to be imported equal to the deficiency to our parents, still he would say, that it had fallen far short of feeding the hungry and clothing the naked multitude. He was surprised that the right hon. Baronet the Member for Tam-worth had, in his opening statement, omitted to notice a most important effect of the Corn-law — he meant the effect which the operation of the sliding scale had on the position and safety of the Bank of England. He contended that so long as the sliding scale existed they would be compelled, in years of scarcity, to part with the bullion of the Bank of England before they could obtain foreign supplies of corn, which might be obtained, under a fixed duty, by the regular exchange of the manufactured goods of this country. The loss of so much bullion was trivial compared with the other evils which attended the operation of such a system. The dealers on the continent were on the watch to know whether the harvest in this country would be an average or a deficient one, and whenever a period of scarcity occurred, the prices in foreign markets were certain to rise, and this country was drained of its gold; and then everything became hazardous—goods fell in value, and stocks of all kinds suffered a depreciation, and the loss which was thus entailed on the community was frightful to contemplate. He would not trouble the House by going into any statement of figures to show the amount of the distress which was thus occasioned, but he thought he was not guilty of exaggeration when he said that the country would, under such a system, be placed in a dangerous state, inasmuch as the necessaries of life would then rise in exact proportion as the means of purchasing them diminished. If the House would permit him, he would read a calculation which had been made as to the condition of the people in different years. It was a statement made by an individual of high respectability—by Mr. Neild, the mayor of Manchester, showing the income and expenditure of twelve of the best paid families and artisans in Manchester, and seven in Dukinfield, in 1836 and in 1841:— The total income of the twelve families in Manchester was the same in the two years, viz., 22l. 4s. 2d. a week. Their weekly household expenditure, in 1836, was 14l. 15s. 11d., leaving a surplus of 7l. 8s. 3d. for education, saving, and the purchase of manufactured articles. In 1841, their weekly expenditure was 17l. 9s. 8d.,leaving only 4l. 14s. 6d. for education, saving, and the purchase of manufactured articles. In the former year, food formed 54 per cent. of their expenditure; in the latter, 70 per cent. The total weekly income of the seven families in Dukinfield, was, in 1836, 8l. Their household expenditure was 5l. 12s. 3d,, leaving a surplus of 2l. 7s. 9d. for education, saving, and clothing. In 1841, their aggregate income was reduced to 5l. 6s. 8d., while their necessary expenditure increased to 6l. 8s. 1d.; leaving not only no surplus for clothing, but a heavy debt instead. In the former year, food formed 46 per cent. of their expenditure; in the latter year, 89 per cent. This, he thought, was sufficient evidence to show how the price of food had been enhanced to the working man under the operation of the present system. What had been said in reference to the exports of this country, and as to the increase of those exports, as indicating an increasing prosperity? He had no hesitation in repeating what he had been called on to state more than once, that for the last two years he had ceased to consider the exports as any proof of the prosperity of the country. It was an incontrovertible fact, from their not being able to sell their goods in the home markets, the manufacturers had been obliged to send them abroad; and it was by means of the system of advances that the manufacturers had been enabled to carry on their trade and keep their workmen employed. He held a circular in his hand, to the statements in which he thought the House would attach more weight, than they would do to any thing which he could say. It was written by a friend of his own, a large commission merchant in Manchester, and although differing from him in general polities, he perfectly agreed in the statement he was about to read. If the House desired it, he would name his authority. The circular was issued by Messrs. G. Fraser and Co., of Manchester, and they state that The severe losses thus arising have rendered the position of spinners and manufacturers most unsatisfactory; and few are able to work their establishments so as to pay common interest upon the capital invested; whilst others, hoping for speedy amendment, and anxious to continue the working of their mills, are contracting engagements upon their property, which, unless soon relieved by an improvement in trade, must end in their ultimate ruin. The immense loss and depreciation of the property of mill-owners and occupiers, during the last few years, have been such that were it to be immediately converted into capital, it would render many of them insolvent, but who are now held up by the powerful arm of assistance, in the hope that the danger will soon be over. This fact is fully borne out by the immense sacrifices in sales recently made of such property, which in many instances have not fetched their actual cost within 50 to 70 per cent. And it is still further proved by the circumstances, that in Manchester and six of the principal towns in its immediate neighbourhood, there were about two months ago sixty-three mills entirely at a stand from bankruptcies and other causes; and besides these, forty-eight others working only short time. The number of the latter class we believe to be now considerably increased. They further stated, that "on comparing the actual deliveries of cotton taken for consumption, we notice a diminished amount in the last year, as compared with the preceding, of about 3,200 bags (estimated at 300lbs. each), per week or about 168,000 bags, in the year," and they state, that— The cause of this extraordinary fact must lie, we conceive, in the decreased demand for our home trade, which has been bad this year, and has fallen short of its usual consumption. And this is borne out by the very general complaints of those engaged in this branch of traffic, and by the sacrificing rates at which prints and other goods prepared for home consumption have been forced upon the market. It would, therefore, appear, that the increase in the amount of exports has not arisen so much from an augmented demand from foreign markets as from the difficulty which manufac- turers have experienced in disposing of their stocks except at ruinously low rates. They have thus been induced to ship their goods to foreign markets, in many cases 'under advance,' in the hope of obtaining better prices than at home. But this mode of doing business has often been equally unfortunate to them, and re-drafts for over-advances are known to have been frequently the result. These consignments have, in almost all cases, consisted of manufactured piece goods, showing that the over-production consists chiefly in that particular part of our manufactures more generally adapted for the home trade. He believed that that was a fair statement of their foreign trade. The other night the right hon. Baronet, the Secretary for the Home Department, read to the House a statement of Mr. Homer, one of the factory inspectors, in regard to the number of mills built in 1839. He thought that the right hon. Baronet was mistaken, unintentionally of course, in what he then stated. He believed the meaning which his remarks conveyed to the House was, that since 1839 ninety-one mills had been built. That he conceived to be impossible. Those mills may have come into operation in 1839, but they were being built during the years 1836, 1837, and 1838; and that these mills had in part arisen out of a system of false and pernicious credit he was not standing there to deny, but he begged to remind the right hon. Baronet, in reference to this point, that he in the last Session, in the first week after the change of the Administration, applied to him to obtain a return of the number of mills in operation, distinguishing those in full work, and those in short work, together with those that had been closed. The right hon. Baronet refused to order that return, alleging that such a return could only show the past, and not the actual condition of the mills; and he now reminded the right hon. Baronet of this to show that he had been desirous to possess a document of the nature of that which the right hon. Baronet had since obtained himself, and to which he had the other night alluded. The persons employed in these mills amounted to nearly 16,000, and these persons ought to be as much the objects of their care as the labourers in the agricultural districts. In regard to the system of credit given in the year 1835, he had himself deprecated it at the time, and in 1836 he told his constituents that he considered it a dangerous system, but they did not seem sufficiently apprehensive regarding it. But, what were the extenuating circumstances? He confessed that his opinion had undergone some modifications m reference to over-speculation. He had been assured by some large manufacturers that during 1835 and 1836 almost every transaction which they had with other parties—almost every sale of goods they made, had been paid for in Bank of England notes. They could not then be accused of over speculation, and he would like to know if any merchant or if any farmer would have considered it over-speculation bad they been paid for their sales in notes of the Bank of England. He knew that many persons did not see the danger, but in dealing with this part of the case they ought not forget that at that very period, when these rapid advances were taking place in this country, similar advances were occurring in the United States. If the power of production in this country appeared at that time to be carried beyond its proper limits, the apparent power of consumption on the part of the United States was also carried beyond its legitimate bounds, and in this way might have arisen that over-production alluded to. They had now arrived at a period when the people were suffering from the diminished power of consumption—the time had arrived when it was admitted that the people must be fed and clothed. He felt bound to say that he believed the people were only anxious to find a market for the produce of their industry—they had no wish to inflict an injury on the landed interest —they wished to see that interest upheld, promoted, and encouraged, but not promoted and encouraged by the sort of legislative protection which it had hitherto enjoyed. What the manufacturers asked for was free trade. He did not stand there to ask for protection to trade or manufactures. There was, perhaps, no individual in the House or in the kingdom who could argue this question with more fairness than he himself could do with reference to his own private possessions, because he believed there was not an individual who, if (protection from manufactures were entirely withdrawn, as he contended it ought to be, provided protection from agriculture were also withdrawn,) was more open to foreign competition with respect to the manufacture with which he was himself connected, than the individual who then addressed them. He had heard with regret from the hon. and learned Member for Bradford some expressions which he thought were unworthy of him, and which he hoped had been used in the warmth of the moment without reflection. The hon. Member said, that the drum ecclesiastic had been beaten in connection with the Corn-laws of this country. He felt that the hon. Gentleman had gone far to injure himself in the opinion of a large body of those whose estimation he considered it an honour to possess. He hoped the hon. Gentleman would have the kindness to acknowledge that the expression he had used was made hastily, and without any intention to cast a slur upon a highly honourable body, who were conscientiously discharging their duty. He had also to complain of the language of the hon. Member for Pontefract (Mr. Milnes), when speaking of the efforts of the dissenting clergy in reference to this question. The hon. Member said, that "he thanked God the clergy of the Establishment had not degraded themselves by taking part in the agitation against the Corn-laws." If it were a degradation for a clergyman to sympathise with his flock, and if it were a degradation to advocate that which was for the true interests of the people, then the dissenting clergy might be well content to hear the reproach cast upon them. He thought it most injurious to make such remarks. He trusted they were made inadvertently, and were not intended to convey any slight upon individuals, who, in their sacred vocations, and in all the social relations of life would not suffer in comparison with the clergy of the Church of England, for the kindness and consideration evinced for the sufferings of the people. The manufacturers, too, had come in for their share of abuse. All he would say for them was, that they were cast in the same mould with others. He would not deny that there might be found amongst them sordid individuals, as there might be found in other classes of society; but he would ask this question, whether the manufacturers were less distinguished for honour and integrity in their transactions than any other portion of the community; whether they were less regardful of the interests, the welfare, and the comforts of the poorer classes within their influence; whether they supported the charitable institutions of their localities with a less beneficient hand than any other class of proprietors? He would ask whether they were in the habit of distinguishing themselves in any way by losing vast hereditary properties upon the mere cast of a die, or the turn of a card, and thus placing in jeopardy all those dependant upon them? He would ask whether among the manu- facturers they met with individuals who were spendthrifts, and whose estates were placed in the hands of legal men, by whom the rents of their property, amountting to a large proportion of a whole county, after raising all these rents were received, and when that was done, turned round upon the country and called themselves the farmers' friends? He thought when aspersions were cast upon the manufacturers he had a right to justify them. He did not mean to say that the manufacturers, either in or out of the House were more than mortals; but he had heard with great pain the aspersions cast upon them—aspersions which were utterly unfounded. It was not his wish to cast aspersions upon any body of men. He believed that the country gentlemen were naturally anxious to improve their estates, and he wished to see them carry out that principle by the same means with which the manufacturers were effecting their improvements—by the adoption of the skill and even the application of machinery. It was very gratifying to him to have heard the noble Lord the Member for Newark, and the hon. Member for Canterbury bear testimony to the good character of the manufacturing population. Those two Gentlemen had visited the manufacturing districts, and they appeared to have returned back to the House with a degree of information which they admitted they had not possessed before. The expression of their opinions and sympathies with respect to the manufacturing population would not be forgotten. He would say to other hon. Members—" Go ye, and do likewise. Visit the manufacturing districts; judge for yourselves, whether the people were worthy of your sympathy,--whether they were less intelligent than other men; hold communication with them, hear them tell their simple story, and then say whether your feelings would not be excited to do them justice.' On their behalf he expressed his earnest hope that this was not the sole and only measure which the government had to propose for them. If it were, it would indeed be a bitter disappointment to those who had borne privation through a severe winter with exemplary patience. In giving his support to the motion of the hon. Member for Wolverhampton, he felt he was doing that which was his duty, perfectly regardless of any consequences to himself as affecting any property he might himself possess. He earnestly conjured the House to grant a measure from their own conviction, and not to wait till it might be extorted from their fears. He used not the word "fear" in the form of a threat. He knew full well that if they did not legislate in a right direction, the landed interest would not be the only interest that would suffer. Every interest in the state would suffer; therefore he would avert the evil from the agricultural interest as well as from himself. His deep and honest conviction was, that the feelings of the people were alienated from the House of Commons—not from any particular class, but from the whole body. He believed he was not guilty of any exaggeration in making this statement. He foresaw that fearful consequences must result were the present course much longer persevered in; evils must inevitably flow from the system now proposed—nay, those evils were threatening them at the very threshold; but it was not even yet too late, by wise legislation, to avert them.

Sir R. Peel.—

Sir, when I took the opportunity of submitting to the House of Commons the proposal of her Majesty's Government on the subject of the Corn-laws, I felt it my duty to state to the House, that 1 thought the extent to which the existing Corn-laws had operated to cause or to increase that distress, the existence of which was not denied, had been considerably exaggerated. I thought that other causes had been in operation which might be referred to, as accounting in a considerble degree for that distress. One of those causes I then stated to be, that there had been an undue stimulus given to commercial and manufacturing enterprise, in consequence of the aid afforded by the joint-stock banks to merchants and others acting in conjunction with those joint-stock banks. For these statements I have been called to account by several hon. Members. I have been told, that this doctrine of over-production and undue speculation was perfectly ridiculous, and it consequently is with some satisfaction that I hear from the hon. Gentleman whose attention has been especially called to this part of the subject, and who represents the borough of Manchester—the great seat of the cotton manufacture—statements confirming, in the fullest extent, the statements I then made, and admitting that by means of that undue and unnatural excitement which was given in the way I described to commercial speculation a great portion of that distress had been brought about. In this the hon. Gentleman implicates his constituents. It may be also that there was an over issue of bank notes, and other causes of distress, in operation; but I only referred to these causes in order to justify myself in not holding the sentiments of those who were looking despondingly at a situation of the country which I considered to be peculiar, and partly to be attributed to other causes, by taking proper precautions against which such causes might be prevented from occurring again. In that, I am altogether confirmed by the experience and practical knowledge of the hon. Gentleman. I said, also that, with respect to the diminution in the amount of our exports to the United States of North America, the derangement which had taken place in the monetary system of the United States might have had some operation. There also I have the hon. Gentleman's sanction. He most justly said that, however our own monetary system had been deranged, the same cause had operated to a greater extent in the United States, and that such monetary derangement in the United States must necessarily have operated injuriously to our own manufacturing interests. In 1839, the declared value—not the official value—of our exports to the United States of the chief articles of manufacture, such as woollen, linen, cotton, and silk goods, hardware, and other British and Irish goods, amounted to 7,585,000l.; in 1840, they were 8,839,000l.; and in 1841, they fell to 5,200,000l. That has no doubt been compensated by an increase in other articles; but still those houses which are concerned in the American trade, must have suffered by this sudden and extraordinary depression, and it must be difficult, although the whole amount of exports may not be diminished, to prevent great, partial, and individual distress on account of the interruption of such a market. I stated also in that speech, that the disturbance of our amicable relations with China might be considered as another cause of the distress. The hon. Gentlemen the Member for Paisley, differed from me on that point. He said, that the total amount of our exports to China had increased, although the amount of our direct exports had considerably decreased. The hon. Member said, that that diminution in our direct exports to China, had possibly led to my over-rating the effect of the disturbance of our relations with that country on our trade. It is my anxious wish not to over-rate it. Our direct exports to China during the three years; already referred to exhibit a considerable diminution. In the year 1839, our direct exports to China amounted to 1,204,000l.; in 1840, they fell to 851,000l.; and in 1841, they still further fell to 524,000l., that is to say, at the same time that the great diminution took place in our exports to the United States. But the hon. Gentleman, the Member for Paisley, said, that although the document to which I referred showed a great diminution in the direct exports, yet there was still a considerable indirect export into China, and by that means an increase upon our whole imports. I think he mentioned particularly our exports to Singapore. The hon. Member I understood to say, that our exports to the East-Indies had generally increased, but he particularly referred to those to Singapore. Now, I will take the exports to Singapore and China together. In 1839, the amount of our exports to Singapore and China together was 1,582,000l. In 1841, they were 1,311,000l. Then, even taking the exports of the two together, there appears a considerable decrease. Our direct exports have considerably decreased, and although the exports to Singapore present a considerable increase, and granting that a considerable portion of those increased exports found their way into China, still, although I may rather have overstated the diminution in our exports to China, I think the hon. Member is hardly correct in saying that, coupling the indirect with the direct exports, there bad been a considerable increase. I speak with great respect for the authority of the hon. Member, and if I have overstated the diminution in the exports to China, I can only assure him that that over-statement has been unintentional. I at the same time professed an opinion which I know was unpalatable to those who heard it, but which a sense of duty compelled me to offer. I stated, that I thought the prejudicial effect of the Corn-laws upon the manufactures of this country had been considerably overrated. Sir, finding that this question has been spoken to by hon. Gentlemen, speaking with very high authority upon the subject, I have reconsidered that opinion. I can assure the House that no man entertains a higher sense than I do of the value of manufactures. It would be ungrateful in me, and most unwise, were I to undervalue the importance of the cotton manufactures to the best interests of the country. When I sat on the other side of the House, I often stated an opinion to the same effect. I always expressed my sense of the import- ance of manufactures to agricultural prosperity. I have always maintained the opinion, and I repeat it now, that the prosperity of manufactures in this country is of more importance to the interests of agriculture than any system of Corn-laws whatever; and therefore, in proposing, as a Minister of the Crown, an alteration in the Corn-laws, when I stated that opinion, I did not do so for the first time. But I look to documents furnished by eminent and enlightened men as to the progress of the cotton manufacture, and I see in those documents, from which others draw conclusions opposed to mine, a strong confirmation of my opinion, that the prejudicial effect of the operation of the Corn-laws upon cotton manufactures has been very much over-rated. Sir, we certainly used to be told, that the effect of the Corn-laws, by raising the price of food in this country, was to disable us from entering into competition with other manufacturing countries. Surely, the argument when exports were diminished was, "See the prejudicial effect of the Corn-laws! The exports of manufactured goods have considerably diminished, and the cause of it is the greater cheapness of food in the competing countries, and our inability to enter into competition with our rivals." That surely used to be the argument in former times; but now that the hon. Gentleman who represents that great manufacturing interest, finds the exports have increased, he turns round with a philosophy which, I confess, somewhat surprised me, and says, his opinion has undergone a complete change, for that he now finds the increased exports of cotton manufactured goods have only led to greater failure and distress. [Mr. M. Phillips: Within the last two years.] But although the profits of the manufacturers may have diminished — [Mr. M. Philips: There have been none at all.] But how does that show the danger of foreign competition from the lower price of food in the competing countries? You say, "True, we can now manufacture goods so cheaply, that we are enabled to export larger quantities, but you must not consider that as an indication of manufacturing prosperity." Granted: that increased export may not necessarily be a test of corresponding prosperity; but it is at least a decisive proof that the price of food in this country has not prevented you from overpowering the competition of other countries; because, notwithstanding the price of corn in this country, you have been enabled to under-sell all your foreign competitors. ["No, no!"] But you have been enabled to increase your exports. I have been present at debates in this House during the last thirty years, and I have never heard but one story—" True, the exports have increased, but no one has gained anything by it." It is in vain to adduce proof that within the last two years ninety fresh mills have been set in operation. I will concede that if they were old mills you might reply that you kept them in work because it was better to continue than to discontinue the machinery; but how do you reconcile this declared loss to the manufacturer with the singular fact that in one district alone there have been within the last two years ninety new mills in operation? "In my particular district," says Mr. Homer, "there have been ninety-one new mills brought into work within the last two years." But you will answer that they were built before—that they were begun before the present state of things commenced; yet, if no profit was likely to be made, if they could only be worked at a loss, surely it would have been better to let them remain unoccupied than to have set them working in every direction, with the evidence before your eyes that they could only be worked at a loss? The words of Mr. Homer are,— Finding that there was this great increase in the consumption of cotton, I was led to the inquiry, what had been the increase of mills in my district; and it will be seen by the list in the appendix marked No. 2, that of new mills and others in existence, but newly set to work, the number since the 1st of January 1839, was ninety-one, having the power of 3,350 horses. It must be remembered, too, that I am speaking of them in my own district only. But then you say, "it is true our exports have increased, but that is in consequence of the falling off in the home consumption." If I have not mistaken the argument of the hon. Gentleman, the member for Manchester, he says, that although it is true that our exports have increased, yet that there has been such a falling off in the home consumption on account of the dearness of provisions, that the goods having been manufactured and the demand at home having decreased, it became necessary to dispose of them in some way or other, and therefore they have been sent abroad. Now, just let us look at the history of the progress of the cotton trade. It is impossible for me to dispute the evidence of the existence of severe distress, and I think I am right in stating that of all the manufacturing trades that of cotton has suffered most. I may also observe that in those districts in which cotton was the chief manufacture, there did the greatest distress prevail. I wish to justify my own position, and to show that the prejudicial effect attributed to the operation of the Corn-laws has been exaggerated. I cannot, I confess, entertain the confident expectation that a change in the Corn-laws will be found to afford any sudden, immediate, or extensive relief to that distress which I so much lament. And now I turn to the question of home consumption. Here is a pamphlet which I believe to be a high authority—it is the pamphlet of Mr. Greg. He gives a statement of the quantity of cotton manufactured in this country in each year since 1824—first, an account of cotton exported in goods and yarn, and then the amount of cotton consumed by the home market. Now, during by far the greater period of time which he takes, the Corn-laws have been in operation. I think it will be admitted that to select a particular year would hardly be fair, and that in making a comparison you had much better take three or four consecutive years upon which to form a judgment, than to argue for a solitary or particular case. For instance, I am sure it would be thought unfair if I said I would show you that the price of provisions had nothing to do with the home consumption of manufactures, and then took the year 1840, when the price of corn was very high, to bear me out in saying so. For if I take that year, I find that there was a greater consumption of manufactured cotton than in any one preceding year. You say to me that the price of provisions prevents the consumption of the home-manufactured article; that the people must buy corn, but that having done so they have nothing left to expend in clothing; and that that accounts for the depression of manufactures. But what is the fact? In the year 1824 you consumed 64,000,000lbs. of cotton to supply the home demand; in 1827 you consumed 78,000,000lbs. You then went on advancing until 1840, when the amount consumed reached 175,000,000lbs.; and in the last year you consumed 103,000,000lbs. But let us now take the average of four years, when you say trade was most prosperous, for I recollect that the Manchester Chamber of Commerce stated, in a document which they presented to the Committee on Banks of Issue, that during the four years up to the end of 1836 com- merce and manufactures were in a most prosperous state. Speaking of the manufacture of cotton at Manchester, the Chamber of Commerce said that they considered there never was a period of four consecutive years when the manufacture of cotton had been greater than during those four years when there was no importation of foreign corn. Is it not, then, remarkable that if the importation of foreign corn, or the exchange of foreign corn for your manufactured goods, was essential for your prosperity—is it not remarkable that during the four years which were distinguished above all others for the prosperity of the cotton manufacture, there was a less amount of imported corn than in any other? From 1833 to 1836 inclusive, the whole amount of foreign wheat imported into this country did not exceed 130,000 quarters on the average. I know perfectly well what the answer is. I know you may say—"True, manufactures were prospering during that period when the importation of foreign corn was very slight, but you nevertheless prove the advantage to manufactures of cheap provisions, by selecting a period at which the average price of wheat did not exceed 47s." Yes, but then in saying that you abandon the argument that the importation of foreign corn in exchange for your manufactures is essential for your prosperity. I am showing you that the four years which the Manchester Chamber of Commerce selected as years of the greatest prosperity were the years during which there was the least importation of foreign corn. But then you say to me— "True, we did not want the importation of foreign corn then, because in 1835 the price of our own corn was only 39s. 2d., and although there might have been great agricultural distress at that period, still the cheapness of corn supplied the necessity of imported corn." Your argument is, that according as corn is cheap so will manufactures flourish. I will take Mr. Greg's account for the years 1833, 1834, 1835, and 1836, and compare those four years of cheapness with the four last years, when corn was extraordinarily high. There has been no such great increase of population during that period as to call for any particular notice, but making what allowance you please on that account, I take the four years of cheap provision, and I find that on the average of those four years there were manufactured 279,000,000lbs. of cotton; that during the same period there was exported in goods and yarn 160,000,000lbs., and that there was reserved for home con- sumption in those years of cheap provision 119,000,000lbs. In the last four years, when the price of provisions was high, there was manufactured on the average, instead of 279,000,000lbs., 369,000,000lbs. There was exported, instead of 160,000,000lbs. 227,000,000lbs., and, coming to the important question of home consumption, I find that while in the cheap year there was reserved for home consumption 119,000,000lbs. of cotton wool during the last four years, being the dear years, the quantity so reserved was 142,000,000lbs. According to Mr. Greg the quantity reserved for home consumption in 1833 was 116,000,000lbs.; in 1834, 108,500,000lbs.; in 1835, 121,100,000lbs.; and in 1836, 131,300,000lbs. The quantity reserved for home consumption during the last four years was, in 1838, 173,600,000lbs.; in 1839, 117,000,000lbs.; in 1840, 175,400,000lbs.; and in 1841, 103,500,000lbs.; making, as I said before, an annual home consumption of 142,000,000lbs., as compared to 119,000,000lbs. for the four preceding years. Mr. Greg says, that the internal consumption does not continue to bear the same proportion to the exports. But is that a fair test? Is it fair to argue by saying, "I will show you that the exports bear a greater proportion one year to the consumption than another?" I think not. I think the question should be, what is the amount of progressive increase? And I ask you, whether you don't find that, notwithstanding the increase of population, which accounts certainly, as it ought to do, for some increase in the home consumption—whether you don't find that the consumption of cotton goods, if you will take it upon the average of two, three, or four years, that the internal consumption has greatly exceeded the increase of population? The diminution during the last year, as compared with the previous year, does certainly fortify the argument that the increase in the price of provisions may have led to a diminished consumption. But you should always bear in mind that the consumption of the year before was extraordinary and unusually great, the quantity of cotton consumed by the home demand in 1840 being 175,000,000lbs. The years 1838 and 1840 were the two years of the greatest consumption of cotton goods ever known. In 1838 it was 173,000,000lbs., but it fell next year to 117,000,000lbs. In 1840 it rose again to 175,000,000lbs,, and I doubt whether the natural effects of that sudden increase would not, under any circumstances, be some considerable diminution in the following year. All I can say is, admitting as I do, and deeply deploring, the distress which at present exists in the country, on account above all, of the condition of the labouring classes. that although they may treat me as they please—although they may burn me in effigy—yet all the manifestations of displeasure they can make, will not in the slightest degree abate my sympathy for their sufferings, or lessen my sincere desire to relieve them. It is on their account that I chiefly deplore the distresses which I admit to exist. It is because of their sufferings that I principally lament these disastrous occurrences. I know the manufacturers are entitled to some share of our sympathies. They have no doubt sustained great losses. It may not be easy to calculate their extent, but we may form some rough estimate of it. I will just refer to a document emanating from the Manchester Chamber of Commerce. What says the president of that chamber? Speaking of over speculation he says, that he estimates, the loss of capital arising from undue excitements in trade, and from the rash speculations unfortunately entered on, at no less a sum than 40,000,000l. sterling. Are we sure that we have survived the effects proceeding from that cause? Looking at the number of railway speculations, at the speculations in joint-stock banks, at the application of capital to every variety of speculative enterprise can we be sure that this 40,000,000l., asserted to have been sunk, is the ultimate extent of the national loss?

Mr. Cobden

said, that the calculations made by the president of the chamber did not refer to losses by railway or joint-stock bank speculations alone, but comprehended every species of loss sustained in manufacturing enterprise.

Sir R. Peel

I quoted from the document itself, and I understood the application to be general, but the point is not of much importance. Sir, I now come to that part of the subject which is by far the most painful. I am called upon to speak of the distress existing in the country, and of the means to be taken for its relief. And here I am bound to state, that I still adhere to the opinion I have expressed, that in an artificial state of society—in a manufacturing country like England—you must expect that concurrently with a great demand for employment there may be extreme though partial suffering. An hon. Gentleman who has spoken in the course of the present debate has referred to the condition of the hand-loom weavers. Now, let us take the condition of those artisans in 1836 —let us consider their state at that period. 1836 it will be remembered, was a year of great prosperity. It was announced in the speech from the Throne, at the opening of the Parliamentary Session for that year, That the state of the commerce and manufactures of the United Kingdom is highly satisfactory. The address in reply to the speech of that year was moved by Sir John Wrottesley and was seconded by the hon. Gentleman the Member for Sheffield (Mr. Parker). The former hon. Baronet, in the course of his speech said, Never was there a more prosperous moment in all branches of trade. * * There is no speculation, but our prosperity arises from a steady and increasing demand, and orders from houses of undoubted credit, more numerous than even our extensive manufacturers can furnish. The labourers of England are fully employed, at adequate wages, and a bountiful Providence, during three successive years, has provided them with an ample supply of food. Mr. Parker said, I turn to the state of trade, and certainly never were there such cheering prospects announced by any sovereign to any people. The business is sound, and not on speculation. Consignments follow and do not precede orders. Payments are made in cash beyond all former precedent, and activity is regulated by prudence. He then went on to give a statement showing the vast increase in our cotton exports, and said that he believed, That in two years steam power would be wanted in Lancashire to the amount of 7,000 horses, and 70,000 or 80,000 people to supply that power. That was in 1836. Now, my proposition is this—that concurrently with very considerable national prosperity there may be very severe partial distress. As I said before, I know not by what legislation we can meet that distress. Of course any absurd attempt to interfere with the direction of the industry of the nation would be ridiculous. I am not one of those who attribute to the increase of machinery any falling off in demand. I believe that the greater the skill and the greater the improvements in machinery, we shall find upon the whole the more permanent and comprehensive results, and the greater demand for manual labour. Taking into account the number of persons employed in making that machinery, taking into account the persons engaged about it, and those to whom it gives indirect occupation, I think it is impossible to arrive at any other conclusion. Consider the state of the labour of this country now and twenty years ago. Compare the demand for labour at the present time and the demand for it a quarter of a century back, and you will find that the total aggregate of labour employed is very much greater now than it was then. But that is no answer to my proposition that there may be partial suffering — a suffering involving innocent persons—a suffering which legislation can scarcely reach, and which it is impossible to impeach any particular system, by attributing it to its operation. Now, taking this year, 1836, what do we find to have been the condition of the handloom weavers at that time? The commissioners had stated, with regard to the condition of the weavers at that period, that the total number of handloom weavers amounted to not less than 840,000 —that a very great proportion of that number were unable to obtain a sufficient; of food of the plainest and cheapest description—that they were clothed in rags, and were in consequence prevented from attending divine worship, and unable to send their children to the parish schools—that few of them had any furniture in their houses—that many families, having no bedding, were obliged to sleep on straw; but yet that most of them had full occupation—that their labour was excessive—that they worked sometimes not less than sixteen hours a day, and that to support them under these fatigues, and to carry off the effects of their sorrows and distresses, they very generally had recourse to ardent spirits, in the purchase of which they expended a considerable proportion of their small earnings. Now, I would have the House remember that that distress occurred among a very numerous class at a period when corn was cheaper than it had been for many years previously; and bearing that circumstance in mind, I would ask whether I am advancing anything very unreasonable when I express my belief that even when the price of corn may be very considerably reduced, yet that there may exist among a large proportion of the population a very severe, though happily a partial distress? I say then, Sir, that I cannot indulge in the delusive hope—I cannot hold out to the public anything like the confident expectation—that by any kind of legislation we shall be enabled to render the people of this country entirely exempt from occasional severe suffering. I do not know that there is any nation in the world which is exempt from such unhappy visitings. Take the case of the United States. Even in that country, where the demand for labour is so great, and where the wages of labour are generally so high, you will find that there is occasionally very severe distress. I turn to the account given by Mr. Buckingham, in his work upon America—a work which has been frequently quoted in the course of the debate. Mr. Buckingham has lately visited the United States, and he gives us the results of recent observation. He cannot be taken to be especially favourable to my view of the case, for he is, as is well known, a decided friend to the repeal of the Corn-law. Now, then, let us see what Mr. Buckingham says with regard to destitution in America. I recollect that in one passage of his work he says, that in the state of New York he was surprised to find many more cases of destitution and loss of life from starvation than he could possibly have expected to have met with. He alludes also in the strongest terms to the destitution in that state, and to its numerous charitable establishments. And therefore, Sir, I must still retain the opinion I expressed on a former evening, that I think the Corn-laws have been made to bear an undue share in the sufferings and the distress which have existed in this country; and that I am not so confident as some hon. Gentlemen that an extensive modification or a repeal of those laws will produce the effects anticipated from them. My hon. Friend has just found the passage in Mr. Buckingham's work, which I will now read, with the permission of the House. Mr. Buckingham says:— The instances of death from destitution and want are much more numerous than I had thought possible. This indigence in a country where food can be raised so cheap, where labour is in such demand, and always paid so well, would seem unaccountable, but for the fact, that in the late mania for speculation the cultivators of the soil, instead of following up their agricultural pursuits, had left off farming to become speculators in stocks, buyers in railroads never begun, and canals never opened, as well as purchasers of lots of land on which towns were intended to be built, in which extravagant schemes they spent all their time and money, so that agriculture, the great basis of the national wealth, and the surest and steadiest security of individual prosperity in these fertile states, was so neglected, that the country was obliged to import grain for its own consumption, instead of supplying, as it ought to do, from its own surplus, the older countries of Europe. Thus, Mr. Buckingham, to account for the extent of destitution he found in the United States, a country abounding in food, where the demand for labour is exceedingly great, and which has fertile land in abundance, attributes it to a cause which, if the matter be well considered, I believe will appear to be the true one—namely, the too great diversion of capital from land, in order, that it might be employed in unprofitable speculations. Sir, I have been charged with denying, that any good was to result from the measure I propose. I hold no such opinion; I deprecate any extravagant expectations that great and immediate benefit will result from the plan. I deprecate the same expectations from any sudden and total repeal of the Corn-laws; but I distinctly said I expected these benefits to result from this plan.—first, that agriculture would be exempted from the risk of having an enormous quantity of corn suddenly poured in at a low duty; and next, that the Bank of England, I thought also, would be less exposed to sudden drains of bullion, because the demand for corn, when it is required, will be gradual, and the intercourse with the countries which supply our demand will be more regular, and conducted in a manner more agreeable to the true principles of commerce, under my plan than upon the present system. To these advantages I distinctly laid claim; and therefore, it is not just to charge me with having predicted that my bill would do no good whatever. But I am told, that it will do no good, and particularly in reference to our trade with America. It is said, that on account of the distance of the United States from this country, while we keep up a sliding-scale, it is impossible for them to compete with continental Europe in the corn-trade to England. America is stated thus to be subjected to peculiar and great disadvantages, and one hon. Gentleman has proposed to remedy the evil by taking the averages for twelve weeks. The same proposal has been made to me by the greatest Liverpool merchant trading with the United States. The statement he made was this:— Let twelve weeks' averages determine the duty, instead of six weeks, and then I shall be enabled to bring corn from the United States with a knowledge of the first six weeks' average. I shall wait till I ascertain the average of the first six weeks; I shall then take ray measures. There will be no material change in the next six weeks, and in the course of that period I shall bring corn from the United States. This was the representation he made to me; but here is a statement of actual import from the United States. An order was sent to the United States by the steamer from Liverpool for 1,000 barrels of flour on the 1st of August. It was put on board the ship Siddons on the 23d of August, and arrived in Liverpool on the 13th of September. This was an actual transaction; the order was sent by the steamer, and the cargo was brought in the ordinary way. An order was at the same time sent out to Stettin for wheat on the 25th of July; it was shipped on the 13th of August, and arrived in Liverpool not till the 24th of September. Now Hull, and the eastern ports have a great advantage over Liverpool in the importation of corn from Dantzic, but I very much doubt whether the import from New York would not be effected in less time than the import from Dantzic. This transaction, which could not be got up with a view to promoting the success of this bill, in which an order for 1,000 barrels of flour was given on the 1st of August, and the cargo arrived in Liverpool on the 13th of September, I regard as a conclusive proof of the statement of the gentleman who spoke to me, that it will be possible in six weeks to bring flour from the United States; and my firm belief is, that this will frequently take place. The order will be sent by the steamer, and no such long interval as has been spoken of will occur before the shipment of the goods. The cargo may probably be on board at the time of the arrival of the order, and in the short space of six weeks in all the transaction will be completed. The right hon. Gentleman, the Member for Edinburgh, whose absence surprises me, made a speech which was confined to an attack upon myself for some statements I had made on bringing in the bill. He commenced by stating, that he represented a peculiar constituency, and that it was absolutely incumbent on him, as representing men who were swayed by no personal interest, and liberated from all prejudiced views, as being the concentrated essence of the intelligence of Edinburgh to state his views on this question to the House of Commons. Why, Sir, it is most unfortunate, that in this period of great difficulty, when no man denies, that he who attempts to make any adjustment of the Corn-laws has a difficult task to execute, the right hon. Gentleman, although placed in the peculiar position of representing a constituency whose opinions are entitled to greater weight than others, should have quietly retired to his repose, when we are approaching a division, and refused us any reflection of that light he so concentrates. What aid has the right hon. Gentleman given us to the settlement of this question? All he has yet done is to vote a negative; he voted with the noble Lord, that he could not assent to my plan. The hon. Member for Wolverhampton brings forward a counter-plan, that the Corn-laws should be at once repealed, and the right hon. Gentleman has decamped from it altogether. He says that he cannot vote for an immediate repeal; he objects to the word "now," and yet he, the representative of this enlightened constituency, has not the manliness to say "No" to a proposition from which he dissents. The word "now" is an insuperable obstacle to him; but he says, "If I give a vote in conformity with my opinion, I shall be liable to misconstruction, and, therefore, the safer plan is to absent myself altogether." Why, what is speech given to us for but to relieve ourselves from misconstruction? And what could have been an easier task for the right hon. Gentleman than to say, "This measure I consider to be precipitate, and therefore I am prepared to vote against it," accompanying this declaration of opinion with any explanation he might think necessary? But he relieves himself from any possibility of misconstruction, and leaves to others, I will not say the odium, but leaves to others the far more distinct and manly part of voting against a proposition which in their consciences they disapprove. The right hon. Gentleman said I maintained that cheap food was no advantage. I maintained no such thing, and he proved to a demonstration that I must be wrong by his supposition of a man with 40l. a year, and then his question if to relieve this man from a supererogatory charge of 8l. on account of provisions would not be an advantage to him. He proved that with a degree of irresistible force. Now, I beg to say, I maintain no such proposition. What I said was, that I thought it unwise and unjust to sow discontent and disaffection among the people of this country by telling them that there were other nations who had their provisions at a much lower price. I said I thought the relative amount of the cost of food was not the real test of enjoyment, but the command which the public of different countries had of the necessaries and luxuries of life. I did also say, but not abstractly, as the right hon. Gentleman represented I did say, that I thought by a sudden disturbance of the relations between landlord and tenant, you might produce cheapness of provisions, but I did not believe you would remedy the ills under which the country is labouring by adding fresh causes of disturbance of those relations, by bringing distress on the great body of the agriculturists. I maintain that opinion still. And it was with these qualifications, that I said, I thought you were bound in attempting to introduce cheapness of food to guard the interests which had grown up under a system of protection, and under which so much capital had been applied to agriculture. I also made use of an argument, the force of which you deny, but which I maintain, that it is not wise that the substantial supply of this country in all seasons should be derived from foreign states. These were the qualifications with which I accompanied my opinion, that it could not follow from cheapness of food, that there must necessarily be relief from the evils under which we are now suffering. One word now, and one word only, on the nature of the motion on which I trust we are about to divide. It is an absolute declaration of opinion, that the Corn-laws ought to be instantly repealed. The hon. Member for Wolverhampton, so deeply is he impressed with the policy of immediate repeal, has not moved that any prospective measures should be taken with a view to repeal. The resolution he submits to us for the vote is, that the Corn-laws be at once repealed. [Mr. M. Philips, "hear."] The hon. Gentleman opposite says, he can acquiesce in that motion; he thinks if they could be repealed to-night, they ought to be so. But those who think with the noble Lord (Lord J. Russell), that agriculture has a claim for protection on account of the special burdens it sustains—those who agree with the noble Lord that, even if these laws are unwise, there should not be a sudden and rapid disturbance of the interests which have grown up under them, cannot vote with the hon. Gentleman. All those who agree with the noble Lord, the late Secretary for Foreign Affairs, that there ought to be a fixed duty on the im- port of foreign corn, but that it should be for the purposes of revenue—a doctrine not quite consistent with the flourishing peroration on the absolute advantage of man depending upon man—cannot vote with the hon. Gentleman. The noble Lord had come forward and stated distinctly that native agriculture, in his opinion, had no claim to protection, but that it was politic for mere revenue to lay a duty on the import of foreign corn; but I very much doubt whether an excise duty on corn would not answer his purpose better. He proposed a fixed duty of 8s. per quarter, on the import of foreign corn; but would it not be better, with his views to propose a duty of 4s. per quarter to be equally applied to corn the produce of our own soil and that of foreign countries; and for this reason, because the produce of this country having no claim to protection, it clearly would carry out his views as to the advantage of man being dependent on man, if he imposed his duty equally upon all corn? Does the noble Lord dispute that doctrine? It is utterly impossible for him to deny it. If a tax on corn be legitimate merely for the purpose of revenue, excluding altogether the idea of protection, depend upon it it is equally legitimate to tax domestic and foreign corn, and it would be more in correspondence with the noble Lord's own argument to equalise the duty rather than lay it on foreign corn exclusively. Those who concur with the noble Lord in that opinion cannot vote with the hon. Gentleman. All those again who dread the consequences of disturbing the relations of Ireland to this country in respect of agriculture, who think there might be some risk, who are alarmed now at my reduction in the duty on oats—all those who dread the consequences to Ireland of a sudden, unlimited, and immediate importation of foreign oats into this country—even those who hesitate on this subject, cannot vote with the hon. Gentleman. Those again who think there should be any interval of time between the present and the total abrogation of duty cannot vote with the hon. Gentleman. The hon. Gentleman has given a vague intimation that he might possibly consent to something if he were certain of carrying his motion, but as the motion stands, the question on which we must vote is this—that the Corn-laws shall be at once repealed. Those who are unwilling to incur that risk cannot vote with the hon. Gentleman. It is needless for me to say, that with my views on this subject, it is impos- sible for me to assent to the proposition of the hon. Gentleman. Looking to the proposal I have made, and having the speech of the hon. and learned Member for Liskeard (Mr. C. Buller), who told us that he thought vested interests ought to be cautiously dealt with; that he thought we ought not to excite undue apprehensions and alarm on the part of the agricultural interest; that he thought the consequences might be, even if those alarms were unfounded, of the most injurious character to the best interests of the country by leading to the diminished production of wheat—when I look at the proposal I have made, and the consequences of the course the hon. and learned Gentleman describes, I cannot imagine why he can refuse to vote with me against the hon. Member for Wolverhampton. This I know, although of all Gentlemen who have spoken on that (the Opposition) side of the House, the hon. and learned Gentleman wishes to lead the way to ultimate repeal. [Mr. Buller: "No."] Well, at least to a material diminution of the duty; yet he spoke with so much just, wise caution and circumspection as to the necessity of not exciting alarm and apprehension in the agricultural body (to which I, perhaps, am particularly sensitive), that I think if could impress him with the extent of excitement of which I have received accounts, arising even from the modified proposition I have submitted, the hon. and learned Gentleman would see have advanced as far as I can without inflicting that injury upon existing interests which he so earnestly deprecates, and therefore upon mature reflection I hope he will vote with me against the proposition of his hon. Friend the Member for Wolverhampton. When I recollect what were the views of Mr. Ricardo—no particular friend to the agricultural interest—who thought that the present system of Corn-laws were altogether defective; who thought you ought to pave the way for a better system, but who yet thought it of the utmost importance to deal tenderly with land, and proposed that a fixed duty of 20s. should be imposed on foreign corn for the first year, and gradually diminishing each year by 1s., until it reached 10s., where it was to remain stationary. [An hon. Member: That was fifteen years ago.] Well, but the landed interest requires pretty nearly the same protection now as then. When I compare the scale I have proposed with that laid down by Mr. Ricardo—so steady a friend to free-trade and the principles of liberal policy—when I compare my scale with that proposed by Mr. Whitmore in 1828, it is impossible to deny that, as compared with these scales, my plan is a material relaxation. Let me now, in conclusion, express an earnest hope, that if the decision of the House shall be taken by a decisive majority against the proposition of the hon. Member for Wolverhampton; coupling such decision with that given against the motion of the noble Lord the Member for London, and in favour of my plan; bearing in mind that as the commercial and manufacturing interests of this country are in a state of depression, nothing can tend so much to aggravate the distress as any sudden or violent change in the Corn-laws, in ignorance, too, of the other proposals which the Government have to make—I trust, the proposition of the hon. Member for Wolverhampton having been negatived, the House, in deference to public feeling, and in compliance with the public wishes, will proceed with as much expedition as possible, consistently with due deliberation, to pass this bill, not in aggravation of the duty, but as a material remission and relaxation of duty into the law of the land.

Mr. Hastie

explained, that in 1839 our differences with China began, and since that period the direct exports had fallen off; but instead of shipping direct to Canton, our merchants had shipped to Bombay, Manilla, and Singapore. The number of ships that cleared out direct from England, in 1838, were forty-three, measuring 23,709 tons; in 1839, they were twenty-four, with 11,705 tons; and in 1840, they were only twenty, with 7,000 tons. [The hon. Gentleman was proceeding with some details of the increased exports to Bombay, &c., but was stopped by loud cries of "divide," and "order."]

Mr. Johnstone

rose amidst loud cries of "divide" and "adjourn." The hon. Member moved the adjournment of the debate.

Sir John Easthope

seconded the motion, [Cries of "divide," "go on," and "adjourn."]

The question having been put,

Lord John Russell

said, I know not whether there may or may not be any reason why this debate should not conclude to-night; but this I do know, that if the debate is to be concluded, every attention ought to be given to those hon. Gentlemen who may feel it to be their duty to address the House. I must say, that I rise for the purpose of protesting against the doc- trine, or the inference to be drawn from what has been laid down by the right hon. Baronet. The right hon. Gentleman tells us that here is a motion made with which he differs, upon which he hopes the House will come to a division as soon as possible, and that having come to that division, the House has nothing to do but to pass his measure into a law as quickly as possible. Why, this is a question upon which Parliament is called upon to deliberate—it is a question on which Parliament is called upon to frame a statute. The executive Government is bound to give its best attention to the proposals which they make to Parliament, and it is not of so much importance what the executive Government proposes, as what Parliament shall enact. What the executive Government has to propose, is merely the measure which they consider will best meet the evil which they have to remedy—that which Parliament shall agree to becomes the law of the land. Therefore, what Parliament has to decide is of the utmost importance to the interests of the country. But what length of time did the executive Government take to consider the measure which they should propose? We are told, that the representatives of the people should hasten to pass, should hurry to decide, on that measure; and that measure, during all the agitation which prevailed, all the uncertainty which existed as to the price of corn, all the uncertainty which existed as to foreign commerce, as to whether the measure to be brought forward should or should not relieve, or in any degree mitigate the distresses of the country, occupied the attention of the executive Government during five months, before they could determine what it should be. Now, having taken that time—having taken on themselves to frame a scale which, after all, turned out to be a scale different in particulars, and in particulars only, from the present law—surely the representatives of the people, of the agricultural interests, of the commercial interests, and of the manufacturing interests, are bound to give every attention to such a measure, and are not to be told by a Minister, that they should hasten to bring their deliberations to a conclusion. What would be the consequence of a hasty and ill-considered decision? I have heard in the course of this discussion that there is to be nothing of finality in this decision. That evil, if evil it is, is not to apply to our decision upon the Corn-laws; but I must say, that I think that will not be the view which the agricultural interest will lake of it. The right hon. Baronet has told us of apprehensions entertained. Those apprehensions have been subdued by the right hon. Baronet, and I think that his measure would have subdued far greater apprehensions than appear to have been excited. But the agricultural interest may say, when you have passed this measure, "these are the terms to which you require us to submit; these are the changes to which undoubtedly we on our part assented; but we think that we have sacrificed enough to the interests of the country, and having made these sacrifices and these arrangements, we call on Parliament to abide by them." That, I have no doubt, will be the language of the agricultural interest, if you pass this scale; and that being the case, it is still more incumbent on you to consider well what the law is which you are about to pass; and that you should give every attention to every hon. Member who may think that the interests of his constituents call upon him to address the House. There is one other topic to which I will allude but for one moment. The right hon. Baronet thought fit to make some remarks with reference to the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Edinburgh, who is not now in his place. The course of abstaining from voting is not that which I mean to take upon this occasion. The course which I shall take will be to vote against the motion of my hon. Friend the Member for Wolverhampton; but I do think that there are cases in which an hon. Member may consider that his duty does not require him to vote; and I am glad that this is not the first time an occasion of this description has arisen; because I do not know that the reformed Parliament could ever have assembled, had it not been that certain Members of the other House of Parliament, forming the majority of that House, not favourable to the passing of the Reform Bill, had thought it their duty to absent themselves—to entirely absent themselves from the division on that bill, in consequence of which step that bill was carried into a law. Without knowing what the facts are, I suspect that if an investigation were to be made, it would be found that the greater number of the present Cabinet, being then Members of the House of Lords absented themselves on that occasion; and I think that they will not rest satisfied under the sweeping condemnation by the right hon. Baronet of all those who absent themselves from divisions in the course of the discussions of Parliament. I hope, therefore, that the right hon. Baronet, if he has any further sentences to pass on those who absent themselves from any particular division, will have some mercy on those very considerate persons who are now his colleagues.

Sir Robert Peel

The noble Lord has been good enough to lay down some propositions which it is very difficult to contend against. First, he says that it is of more importance what the House shall enact than what a Minister shall propose. It is impossible to contest that fact. He was also good enough to say that a measure could not become the law of the land until it is enacted by Parliament. That is elementary information, but it is information which those who have sat in Parliament for some time do not require. The noble Lord referred to what fell from me upon the subject of the termination of this debate; and he said that I expressed a hope that the House would proceed to the expression of an opinion upon this question, inconveniently omitting what I said, by way of parenthesis, which was to this effect—with all the deliberation due to the magnitude of the subject. I did express the wish which I entertained, and which I believed to be in conformity with the public feeling, that the House should, so far as is consistent with the public interest, and the great interests involved in this question, approach its settlement as speedily as possible. It may excite the indignation of the noble Lord, but I beg leave to repeat it. I was not aware that the noble Lord would deem it necessary to vindicate his right hon. Friend by the example of the House of Lords. I laid down no general proposition that any hon. Member was bound to vote on every question which may be brought forward, but I said that when an hon. Member comes forward and states that on account of his constituents he feels it incumbent on him to take part in the debate, and that he had no doubt that the Corn-laws ought not now to be repealed, he might without subjecting himself to any misapprehension, have given his vote in conformity with that feeling.

Sir C. Napier ["loud cries of "divide" and "adjourn,]

would only detain the House for one minute. He did not know whether he had rightly understood the right hon. Baronet, that a merchant in Liverpool had written a letter from that city to America, for a cargo of corn, and that in six weeks the cargo had arrived. Now, he should like to ask the right hon. Baronet whether, if a merchant at Liverpool wrote, by means of steam communication, for a cargo of corn, although a ship might with a fair wind, arrive back to Liverpool in six weeks, if the ship had a foul wind, he stood any chance of getting an answer in that time? The right hon. Baronet had spoken of corn being brought from America; if a vessel was sent to Alexandria to bring corn, it would take two months to go and return; if to Odessa, three months; and lie professed his belief that no vessel could go to and return from any port in the Mediterranean in less than two months. [" cries of "divide" and "adjourn."]

Sir R. Peel

said, that if hon. Members had not spoken, and wished to do so, he had no objection to the debate being continued [" cries of "go on," and "divide."]

Mr. Johnstone

thought that there were hon. Members of that House who would wish to express their feelings upon this all-important question, and he should, therefore, persist in his motion, for an adjournment of the debate.

Debate adjourned.

The House resumed.