HC Deb 07 August 1843 vol 71 cc324-42

On the question, that the Order of the Day for going into a committe of Supply be read,

Mr. Ewart

said, that late as was the period of the Session, and much as he regretted the absence of many Members peculiarly qualified (and far more qualified than he was) to state and prove the necessity of further and more enlarged fiscal and commercial reforms, he yet could not allow the Session to expire without a parting glance at these important subjects. He considered, that a comprehensive, yet simple, system of reformation in our import duties, was indispensable for the country—such a system as was developed in the evidence taken before the Import Duty Committee, for originating and concluding which, the country was so much indebted to the views and the efforts of Mr. Deacon Hume. The conclusions of that committee had been adopted as the basis of his commercial system by the right hon. Baronet. But how far had he carried them? What had he accomplished? What result had he produced by their adoption for the country? He saw them adopted as a text, but with only a scanty commentary. It was free-trade in detail, protection in the gross—a mingled mass of professed commercial freedom, and practical commercial monopoly. Such had been the reform of the right hon. Baronet. One of the first principles which he had professed to borrow from the Import Duties Committee was, the free admission of the raw material of manufacture. Last Session the Government had adopted some of the detailed reforms of Mr. Deacon Hume on this principle—they had admitted colours, furniture-wood, gums; but what had they done in the present Session to sustain this great principle? They had made no preparation for removing the duty on the elementary materials of our woollen and cotton manufactures, raw cotton and raw wool. In the present competition which this country had to encounter, the repeal of these duties was indispensable. The necessity of repealing the wool duty, had been maintained and proved. An equal necessity, he believed existed for repealing the cotton duty. The reasons for repealing that duty were strong at all times. They were much stronger now. Those nations in which the cotton plant grew, were themselves becoming extensive manufactures—the United States, for instance. To compete with them, we must reduce the raw material to as low a price as possible. The duty, too, now bore a higher proportion to the cost of the raw material than at any former time, The price of cotton had fallen gradually since 1838; Up land cotton, for instance, one-third. Yet the duty remained the same. It told, therefore much more severely on the present low-priced, than on the former high-priced article. One of the first objects of the Government should be the removal of the wool and cotton-wool duties. This was one of the points aimed at in his motion. But the Government had, with equal inconsistency, first adopted, and then neglected, another principle, established by the testimony given before the committee on Import Duties. The right hon. Baronet has professed doctrines as to buying and selling, too trite to quote—he had even mysteriously hinted at his own scepticism as to the utility of commercial treaties. So far, he had been a disciple of the free-trade committee. But had the right hon. Baronet practised the principle of buying in the cheapest and selling at the dearest market? Had he freed himself from the leading strings of one commercial treaty? Yet. what did the oracle of the Board of Trade, Mr. Deacon Hume, advise the right hon. Baronet to do? Mr. Deacon Hume plainly said,— I would take what I wanted from foreign nations. If we imported from any country any considerable quantity of goods, and the manufacturers of that country were protected, the producers of those goods would very soon find the difficulty they had in getting returns; and instead of our soliciting the Government of those countries to admit our goods, the advocates of that admission would be in the country itself.

Mr. D. Hume wisely recommended the principle of fostering in each country (in our own behalf) the most justifiable of all revolutions—a revolution in favour of free-trade. Why then, did we not freely import what we wanted? What country had flourished so largely as the United States? Yet what country had, till lately, been such free importers? If (says Franklin), the importation of foreign luxuries would ruin a people, we should have been ruined long ago. The British claimed a right of importing among us not only their own products, but those of every nation under heaven. We bought and consumed them; yet we flourished and grew rich.

Why could not the right hon. Baronet who adopted the doctrine, try the experiment? Was the languishing commerce and the pining industry of this country to wait for commercial treaties? Was trade to be made subservient to diplomacy? Here again, the right hon. Baronet was at variance with himself. There was another principle which he thought ought to be called into action. You should make a bold reduction in your great articles of interchange. By a happy coincidence, these great articles of commerce were the articles most wanted for the subsistence of the people. He recommended the practical adoption of Mr. Pitt's paradox, "increase by reduction." Reduce your duties, and increase your trade. The best step (not towards a commercial treaty, which they probably could not get) but towards a commercial interchange with the United States, was to take their corn. Corn, indeed, (thanks to his hon. Friends Mr. Villiers and Mr. Cobden), had been made the great standard of free-trade, and it had, deservedly, a place and a position of its own. But were there no other articles to which the principle of Mr. Pitt—" Increase by reduction" could be applied? One of the first and most obvious subjects for the experiment was tea. There was no doubt that, by a bold reduction of the duty on tea, the consumption would be nearly doubled, and the revenue, after a short interval, replenished. The poor were grievously taxed in this article. The low-priced teas paid the same duty as the high-priced. It had been deemed impossible to tax the lower-priced teas of the poor with a lower duty than the high-priced teas of the rich. Both equally paid 2s. ld. per lb. The only alternative was to reduce the whole duty on tea in general. It might to be boldly reduced to ls. The consumption would vastly increase. They had two tests. In Australia, ten times as much tea was consumed by each individual as here. In our own union workhouses (where a free supply was allowed), five times as much was consumed as in the country generally. He had good commercial authority for saying that the experiment should be made. A memorial bad been presented to the Government from the China Association at Glasgow, to this effect; and they added, That a reduction of the duty on black teas to 1s. per pound would be attended with no loss to the Exchequer.

But the same course was prescribed by a member of the Board of Trade. He meant by that valuable officer, Mr. Porter. In his new additional work on the "Progress of the Nation," Mr. Porter says,— If our commercial relations with China shall be placed on a secure footing, and a bold measure of reduction in the duty on tea is adopted, the Exchequer would soon find an advantage in it.

Mr. Porter showed that in 1746 the duty was reduced 2s. a pound; the consumption increased threefold. In 1768, the duty was reduced by ls.; the consumption increased 80 per cent. In 1785, the duty was reduced from 67 per cent ad valorem, to 12½ per cent; the consumption rose in two years from 11,000,000 to 17,000,000 lbs. It was important to our interchange with China that this duty should be reduced. You will have no sound export trade in manufactures to China till you establish a liberal import trade from that country. So much for tea. Next naturally came another great article—sugar. Since the last sugar debate, a new view of the question had presented itself. It seemed to be avowed by the Brazilian Government that, if we did not take their sugar, they would oppressively tax our manufactures, and endeavour to manufacture for themselves. He had before him an extract from the report of the Finance Minister of Brazil, Senor Vianna, to the Emperor (May 17, 1843):— Cotton," (says the minister), "is an article of raw material produced in Brazil…:If we had sufficient capital for the establishment of this branch of industry, we should be enabled to encourage German and Belgian manufactures and workmen, who would be glad to establish manufactures in Brazil: Impose therefore, (says the Brazilian minister,), a heavy duty of 60 per cent on all foreign cotton manufactures;

He then proceeds to recommend restrictive navigation laws. These are the commercial blessings which we are invoking on our country by refusing to take the sugar and coffee of Brazil, and preferring, with strange perversity of public economy, the dearly-priced sugar and coffee of our colonies. Nay, we even refuse to allow the poor to take the refuse of the foreign sugar, or the molasses, produced in our own refineries. The law ordered every particle of it to be exported. This was a great loss to the exporter, and a total loss to the public. Would the permission to use these molasses," (a witness was asked before the committee on import duties,) "be a relief to the poorer classes of this country?" "Undoubtedly," was the answer: "it is an article of food of very great consumption, particularly in Lancashire and Yorkshire.

So much for the relief granted to the poorer classes of the country. But had they ever relieved them, and extended trade, by reducing the duties on the household articles, butter and cheese? He always understood that this relief was to be given to the public. But no—principles were announced to that effect. No result followed. The public was relieved in theory, and starved in practice. But there was another class of articles on which reduction of duty was imperatively demanded, and this for the sake of public morality as well as fiscal economy. He meant those articles in which smuggling prevailed to an immense amount—smuggling, which, to use a phrase of a certain writer in a certain Review—he could not possibly mean his right hon. Friend (Mr. Gladstone)—was a "vindication by Providence of the bad legislation of man." It was well known that in the article of tobacco, the smuggling which took place was enormous. Mr. Dean, the Chairman of the Board of Customs, recommended, in 1834, that this evil should be met by its obvious remedy, reduction of duty;— The article, he said, would thus be brought within the means of the great body of the people, and a greatly extended consumption would take place.

Let the duty, now 3s. a lb., be reduced to 1s. The immorality of smuggling would be stopped; the poor would be relieved; a large trade in the manufacture of snuff would be opened to this country. The same remedy, reduction of duty, should be applied to the other largely-smuggled articles, silks, brandies, lace, and gloves. The absolute necessity of this reduction had received recent confirmation of the most remarkable description. He alluded to the exposure lately made of the frauds perpetrated (and many more remained to be investigated), in the Customs' depart- ment. It was not only to guard against smuggling on the coast, but, still more perhaps, against smuggling on the quays, and smuggling in the warehouses. Mr. Porter, the eminent officer of the Board of Trade, showed, both before the Committee on Import Duties, and the Commission appointed to enquire into the frauds in the Customs, that one-half, or rather 60 per cent. on the Foreign silks used in this country was smuggled. Mr. Potter proved this by comparing the returns made by the government of France with the returns made by our own Custom-house. Respecting brandies, Mr. Porter entertained a similar conviction. Although the French accounts mystified the transaction, there was no doubt of the existence of an enormous contraband trade in brandies. Of lace," added the Commissioners, "we are assured that more than one-half has been introduced into this country without the payment of duty." "In gloves," they add, "the evidence goes far to show an almost unlimited extent of fraud." Nay, they add, that they "entertain the most serious apprehensions that the frauds have gone much further

But at what practical conclusion do the Commissioners arrive? What is the remedy which they prescribe? These are their words: We may say," observe the Commissioners of Inquiry, "that it is of more importance, even with a view to the protection of our own manufactures, that duties should be low, but should be fairly and fully levied, than that there should be nominally high rates of duty acting as an encouragement to the fraudulent, and discouragement to the honourable merchant, but which are unequally exacted, and most irregularly and partially enforced.

Such was the conclusion at which the Government commission had arrived. He would condense his suggestions into four propositions, which explained distinctly his motion to the House: 1st, That the duties on raw materials ought generally, and especially those on wool and cotton wool, to be abolished. 2d, That our import duties ought to be reduced without waiting for treaties with Foreign nations. 3d, That the articles on which a reduction of duties is most imperatively demanded, are the principal articles of interchange, and of the consumption of the people; being (besides corn) tea, sugar, butter and cheese. 4th, That there should be a bold reduction of all duties when an article was found to be extensively smuggled. Lastly, That wherever the deficiency of revenue caused by the reduction of duty would not be supplied by a probable extension of consumption, the deficiency ought to be supplied by a fair tax on property. This was the outline of the plan which he suggested. The Parliament ought not to have allowed the Session to elapse without suggesting at least some clear and comprehensive plan. Yet it was on the point of expiring without doing so. It died and made no sign. They were going to the country, leaving (by bad legislation) the fate of the people dependent On the coming harvest. It was derogatory from a great nation and a great Minister to do so. Hon. Members opposite talked of free trade making us dependent on Foreign nations. He (Mr. Ewart) maintained that it was a far worse dependency for a nation to depend on the weather; to let its prosperity fluctuate with the barometer; and for a Minister to tremble for his power and for his country as the atmosphere portended clouds or sunshine. Some outline of our future policy should be drawn. He ventured to think that such encouragement of our trade, as he suggested, was to be found in the best schemes of commercial policy which had been framed for this country; in the policy of Walpole, in that of Pitt, in the evidence given by the officers of Government before the committee on import duties. He therefore called on Gentlemen who were favourable to the development of our trade, and the cheaper subsistence of our people to support it; and he moved, That it is expedient that the principles and suggestions contained in the evidence taken before the Import Duties Committee of the Session of 1840, be carried into general effect, and that the trade and industry of the country require further and more effectual relief by the removal or reduction of duties which press on the raw material of manufacture, and encourage smuggling, and which press on articles of interchange with Foreign nations, as well as on the means of subsistence of the people,

Mr. Milner Gibson

expected some of her Majesty's Ministers to rise. He did not now wish to speak; his only wish was to prevent any misunderstanding. If any of her Majesty's Ministers were prepared to speak he was ready to give way. He was willing to give way to the President of the Board of Trade. He must confess that this appeared to him to be a most unusual course of proceeding. The state- ments which had just been made demanded a reply from her Majesty's Government. Were they to suppose that the apathy which marked the opposite benches would contribute to allay the discontent that now prevailed, or could prevent that distress which was fast spreading over the country. Were they to suppose that the soft repose in which the Paymaster of the Forces had been buried, was an indication of the indifference of her Majesty's Government to the situation of the country? [Sir Edward Knatchbull: No, no!] He could tell the Paymaster of the forces that the people would not be satisfied with the maintenance of the corn-laws, by reason of any thing he had yet said. He could tell him that the people would not remain perfectly tranquil because he had assured them that a duty on bricks was to be supported by reason of the corn-law. He could tell him, that the people would not remain satisfied with his reasoning or his listlessness. He believed that discontent was increasing rapidly. He believed that there was no improvement in the condition of the people; even though the right hon. Gentleman (Sir R. Peel) might now assure them, in the same way that he did on other occasions, that there was indication of improvement in the national affairs, because there was an increase in the consumption of raw cotton. That was the right hon. Baronet's test of on improvement in the affairs of the country. He had no objection to it m one respect; for so far it was an admission that the prosperity of the cotton trade was an essential element to he taken into consideration when looking to the condition of the country. They alleged that the gaols were becoming crowded; they alleged that the numbers of paupers in the union workhouses were increasing; they alleged that there was discontent in every part of the kingdom; and the answer to all this by the right hon. Gentleman was, that there was more raw cotton consumed in the first six months of this year than in the first six months of a preceding year. It was not, be would say, a fair inference which the right hon. Gentleman attempted to draw. There might be more of raw cotton used this year than any other, yet a greater amount of distress might exist now than in any former year. It did not follow, that because a larger quantity of the raw material was purchased, that therefore employment was remunerative, that more wages were given to the working people, or that their condition had been ameliorated. It had, too, been well explained on a former occasion by the hon. Member for Salford, that the very cheapness of raw cotton was an inducement to persons to invest their money in the article. But supposing that he was to admit that the purchase of the raw material was an indication of more trade, then there came the important consideration, was it in a ratio with the increase in their population? They might say, that trade was better this year than it had been last; but then, was it as good as it might be, as good as it would be, if the natural operations of commerce were unrestricted? and the question was, whether by these restrictive systems, they were keeping the population of the country out of employment, and adding to their distress? He wanted to hear what was likely now to fall from the President of the Board of Trade as to the commerce of this country. Assuredly the speech of his hon. Friend was deserving of reply. They ought to remember, that they were now about to separate, without one bill being proposed that could be of general advantage, without one good measure being enacted. What, he asked, had been the labours of the Session? What good had they done? The right hon. Baronet had indeed told them, that he had done nothing because they had had adjourned debates on the corn-laws and other questions. But what were these adjourned debates but distinct inquiries of her Majesty's government to do something. Did the right hon. Baronet mean to assert that he would have done more if he had not been asked to do anything? He believed that the adjourned debates made the charges stronger against the Government for not having attempted some of those practical reforms which they had been so often called upon to make. They could not, at least, say their attention had not been directed to this subject. They had been shown what were the operations on trade of the corn-laws. They had, in the able speech of the hon. Member for Sheffield, been called upon to discuss the special burthens upon the land, which had been alleged as an excuse for the corn-law. They now asked them what course they were prepared to pursue. There was but too much reason to believe that the Government of this country would never do any thing for the people unless they were compelled. They would never do any thing from any conviction on their own part. The only thing that could move, or had ever moved them, was the discovery that they had no longer the means of resisting the demands of the public. This being the case, he maintained that those who sat on the opposition benches would be neglecting their duty if they did not repeatedly take up the time of the House by pressing these important subjects upon the attention of Government. It might be said, that there had been some reductions made in the custom duties last year, and that the corn-law had also been modified; but this was no reason why more should not be done. He and his Friends on the opposition side of the House, were not parties to either of those measures as a final settlement of the question. The right hon. Gentleman at the head of the Government, when he was urged to proceed further in the principles of free-trade, said, "Look at America; see how she has met our relaxations of commercial policy by her new and hostile tariff." But his answer to that was, that our new tariff had offered nothing of encouragement to America. The sliding scale was still fatal against the introduction of her great staple of exchange, corn; and that being the case, what right had we to expect that she would relax anything in our favour? We began now to see the folly of our former policy. It was our old commercial restrictions, all established for the purpose of keeping up the value of land in this country, that had stimulated the manufactures in America, to the detriment of our commercial prospects. The commercial distress which existed too generally at present, could not be allowed to go on without some attempt at mitigation. The Government were bound by every principle of justice and humanity to take some steps to provide the means of subsistence for the great body of our industrial population. There was no alternative for them but to put on a bold front, and open the ports of the United Kingdom to the corn and provisions of the rest of the world. Let anybody look round upon our condition with respect to the commercial world, and the most unpromising prospects stared him in the face on all sides. The Brazils, in particular, had met us with a most unfavour- able tariff; and they told us that they had done so in consequence of the continuance of our prohibition duty on sugar. Now, he should like very much to know what were the instructions which Mr. Ellis had received in proceeding upon his mission, which had ended so unsatisfactorily? He would appeal to the right hon. Baronet at the bead of Her Majesty's Government, who had let the House into the secrets of the Brazilian Government in this matter, to let them into those of our own. He should like to know what were the demands which we bad put forward in answer to those of the Brazilian government, which had led to this unsatisfactory termination of the negotiation? The plea of discouraging the slave trade was put forward in justification of the exclusion of the Brazilian sugars; but he could not help thinking that the interests of the landed proprietors, rather than considerations of humanity, were the real motives to this policy. He would wish to ask her Majesty's Government, also, whether they had made any inquiries as to the probable prospects of the approaching harvest. He was the more anxious on this point as he believed that the unfavourable weather which had prevailed during great part of this summer, had led to an apprehension that the crop would not prove a very abundant one. Yet he was not aware that Her Majesty's Government had taken any steps to inquire into this matter. The people, he feared, had too ninth ground to complain of the apathy of Her Majesty's Government, and of the aristocracy of this country. The middle classes had the impression that the aristocracy despised them, and hated them. Why, those who spoke of the ascendancy of the lauded interest must know the meaning of the very term they used. In ascendancy one must be above and the other below. The middle classes felt that they were a secondary class in the state, and were allowed only just so much of enjoyment as was consistent with the wishes and convenience of the aristocracy. If that impression was erroneous, it was incumbent upon the representatives of the aristocracy to remove it from the public mind, by passing measures which, whilst they entailed a self-sacrifice, would benefit the community. Nothing would do without self-sacrifice. The House must show the people that they no longer wished solely to keep up their own rents, and their marriage-settlements, and other family arrangements, but that they had the interests of the community at large, at heart.

Mr. Gladstone

could assure the hon. Gentleman who brought forward this motion, that in remaining silent on its being put, he had intended no disrespect to him or the subject which he had taken up. The subject was one which involved the most important considerations; and he could assure his hon. Friend that he had listened to his speech with very great attention. But, at the same time, he was not of opinion that any advantage could be obtained by a discussion of the subject of this motion, at any rate by Members of Her Majesty's Government at the present moment; indeed, he was not certain that any good would result from the discussion of it by any Gentleman at the present state of the session. He thought even that positive mischief might result from the discussion of questions of this kind at the present moment. The hon. Gentleman said that there was great distress prevailing throughout the country; but he would ask him whether he thought that if the present motion were adopted it would afford any alleviation of this distress of which he complained? Why, the state of the House during the present discussion showed not that they were indifferent to subjects of this kind, but that from exhaustion, physical and mental, they had not the power to give proper attention to questions which had already been largely discussed during the present session. He could not help remarking, also, that the hon. Gentleman's own side of the House showed, judging by its numbers, even less inclination than the ministerial side to entertain this discussion; for, few members as there were on this side, there were at one period of the discussion, three or four times the number on the ministerial than on the opposition benches. The hon. Gentleman who had last spoken said it was only by repeated pressure from the opposition that that the Government of this country could be made to move in any direction of improvement. He did not think the assertion borne out by the experience of Parliament. If they could go back to the period of Mr. Huskisson, who was in the same Government with his right hon. Friend at the head of the present Government, they would find that the commercial policy then adopted was not undertaken in consequence of any such preference for the op- position as the hon. Gentleman described; but that it was decided upon by the Government, and promulgated, though much against the general voice of a large portion of the public. With regard to the present motion, he seriously and conscientiously thought that it would lead to mischievous results if Her Majesty's Government, by anything which it said or did, should give grounds for the apprehension that they entertained doubts at the present moment as to the continuance of our commercial regulations. The hon. Gentleman who made the present motion had suggested reductions in the import duties upon various articles, which, if carried into effect, would, according to a rough calculation which he (Mr. Gladstone) had made, take six or seven millions from the revenue. The hon. Gentleman said, and said with truth perhaps, in a limited sense, that the increased consumption resulting from the reduction of these duties would gradually counteract the immediate deficiency in the revenue. But, in the meantime, it would become necessary to adopt some new fiscal arrangements in order to supply a deficiency of some four or five millions. The hon. Gentleman complained of the Government for not having, in the present Session, made any further fiscal changes in the same direction as those adopted last year. He (Mr. Gladstone) thought it would be an act of folly for a Government to be year after year altering their financial policy, and to be introducing great and sweeping changes in the year immediately following that in which a new and extensive scheme had been adopted. Everybody would recollect the inconvenience and anxiety which the discussion of these questions last year occasioned to those engaged in commercial interests, which were in any way affected by the tariff duties; and he thought it would be the height of folly to reawaken a similar state of feeling, by renewing discussions upon the same subject, within so short a period. The hon. Gentleman called upon Her Majesty's Government, if they did not make any changes at present, at least to announce their views for some future period. But here again he thought that even greater inconvenience would be occasioned by such an announcement, than by a measure which was to be forthwith adopted. The hon. Gentleman had enumerated several articles in reference to which he would wish to hear the Govern- ment propound their views, as tea, sugar, coffee, butter, cheese, wool, and cotton. Now to take one of these as an instance, could any period be more ill-timed for a Government to throw out its notions on the subject of the duty on wool than this very period of the year. Why, if any step on the part of Government would tend to create distress, and to fill the workhouses, it would be throwing out of any views tending to the idea of an alteration in the duty on wool at the present moment. In conclusion, upon all the grounds he had stated to the House, he should respectfully oppose the hon. Gentleman's motion.

Mr. Hume

observed that the Government came boldly forward last year with free trade principles, and avowed a determination to stand by them; but their conduct during the Session that was now on the point of closing had induced him to believe they had altogether abandoned their recent professions, and reverted to the old and favourite system of monopoly. Otherwise the right hon. Gentleman would not have opposed the resolution of his hon. Friend the Member for Dumfries, which merely embodied a recapitulation of those principles. What he wished to hear from the right hon. Baronet was a declaration that his sentiments on the question of free trade were not changed. But, as far as could be judged by what had fallen from the right hon. Gentleman the President of the Board of Trade, both on the present and on former occasions, he had reverted back to his old track, and had given symptoms of his backsliding by introducing several monopoly measures during the present Session. The Government, at all events, was bound to make some declaration upon the motion of his hon. Friend. Let the right hon. Baronet opposite look at the resolution, and he would find no such danger in it as there was said to be. It merely stated that— The trade and industry of the country require further and more effectual relief, by the removal or reduction of duties which press upon the raw material of manufacture and on articles of interchange with foreign nations, as well as on the means of subsistence of the people. Could the right hon. Baronet deny the truth of those propositions? Were not the trade, the manufactures, the commerce of the kingdom in danger? And did not the great masses of the people every now and then endure the greatest privations, both with respect to food and clothing? If these dangers were not averted by a liberal course of policy in regard to the Import duties, the most frightful consequences would ensue, and England would be reduced to a desperate condition. If trade, manufactures, and commerce were to fail, what would pay the interest of the national debt? Would the landed interests pay it? They never had done so, and were less likely now than ever. The suffering and declining state of the great interests of the nation demanded serious investigation, and a motion which had for its object such an inquiry ought not to have been met in the manner in which the right hon. Gentleman had treated the resolution of his hon. Friend.

Mr. Bright

said: I feel great reluctance to take up any of the time of the House, especially so soon after having taken my seat here, but the strong interest I feel on this question, and the duty I owe to my constituents, call upon me for an expression of opinion. It appears to me that the country has a right to know whether the Government continue friendly to the principles of free trade which on former occasions they have admitted to be true. A large portion of my constituents are of the working class—men who have no property but their labour, and no income but their wages. These men have too few representatives in this House; the rich here are attended to—the poor are too frequently neglected. There can be no doubt that the state of the country is such as to call for immediate attention; and the conduct of the Ministry and the House during this Session is such as to reflect the deepest disgrace upon them. I do not speak this from any hostility to the present occupants of the Treasury Benches—I have no strong wish to see any change of men at present. On both sides of the House there has been far too much reliance upon the miserable system of protection. From the conspicuous part I have taken out of doors on the question of the Corn Law, and being here not only as one of the representatives of the city of Durham, but also as one of the representatives of that great and benevolent organization, the Anti-Corn League, I think it right now to avow my opinions, and to plead for the total abolition of the Corn Law, and for the adoption of the principle of perfect freedom of trade. The Corn Law is the main pillar in the system of monopoly. I put it to a Lincolnshire farmer recently, what course would he take with the sugar monopoly if the Corn Law were abolished to-day? He replied, "I would abolish it to-morrow of course." Crime has often veiled itself under the name of virtue, but of all the crimes against the laws of God and the true interests of man, none has ever existed more odious and more destructive than that which has assumed the amiable term of "Protection." The right hon. Gentleman at the head of the Government has acknowledged the soundness of the policy of buying in the cheapest and selling in the dearest market. The Secretary for the Horne Department says our principles are the principles of common sense; the President of the Board of Trade has written and spoken free trade doctrines; the opinions of the noble Lord, the Member for North Lancashire, and Secretary for the Colonies, I should not value highly when I remember the profound ignorance on this question he manifested when last before his constituents: but of all the Members of the Government the one for whom I feel an especial affection is the right hon. the Paymaster of the Forces. Unlike his Colleague at the head of the Government, his words seem to have been given him for the purpose of expressing his ideas, and he has advanced the only tangible argument that has been uttered in this House in favour of the protection system. The House cannot, I am sure, have forgotten the argument of the right hon. Baronet, that the Corn Law is necessary to enable the landowners to discharge or maintain the settlements made on the marriages of their daughters. I have, since this declaration was made, attended many large meetings of agriculturists, and I confess I have never found a single farmer who seemed to be aware that this House had ever bestowed any attention on the means of providing portions for farmers daughters. And no labourer has ever asserted that Parliament has taken steps to enable him to give a sum of ten or twenty pounds to his daughters to provide furniture for their cottages on entering the marriage state. I protest against the injustice of a law which enriches the rich and cares nothing for the poor; and if during the period I may have a seat in this House, I should ever directly or indirectly give any support to a system so manifestly contrary to sound policy, and so destructive of the welfare of the great body of the people, I should be ashamed to hold up my head in any assembly of my countrymen. The question is really and simply one of rent: there is little difference of opinion out of doors, and I believe in this House the matter is pretty well understood. But is rent a property more sacred than any other? To me the property in labour is a more sacred property than any right to the soil can ever be. The produce of the loom, the anvil, and the forge, is as much entitled to consideration as the property in land. I reside amongst men who live by weaving flannels. Before the passing of the American Tariff one half of their manufacture was exported to the United States. The Corn Law begot the American Tariff—that Tariff destroyed the trade in these goods. A weaver sends a piece of flannel to America and receives in return American flour. When the flour enters the Mersey, each barrel has charged upon it the enormous duty of 12s. Why have you put that duty upon it? Not for purposes of revenue—but that you may prevent the weaver from buying his flour in America; and, by making it unprofitable to him, force him to purchase all from you, and give you a higher price for your corn than it is worth. And for this injustice you have never given the working-man one particle of compensation. In the recent debate on the state of the country, the right hon. Baronet admitted, that "four years of deficient harvests had greatly increased the difficulties of the country." This is precisely what the League has been saying for years past. Why is it that these four years have been years of suffering? Because the protection given to one description of property prevented the application of another description of property to the relief of the wants of the country. Has Providence only given us the surface of the soil for our subsistence? Have we not a right to what is beneath the surface? If the coal and iron, now in the bowels of the earth, had been permitted to be brought up, and worked up into machinery and manufactured goods and exported, and if the merchant who exported them had been permitted to bring back the produce of other countries in exchange for them, they would not have confined their trade with America to cotton and rice and tobacco, they would have brought back also wheat, and when we had bad seasons here, would have mitigated the calamity, and, instead of corn being at 80s. the quarter, as it was in 1839, it would have been at some price which the country could have more easily borne. You have heard of the discontent of the country, but I am afraid hon. Members are not at all aware of the extreme discontent existing among the great body of the labouring classes. I put it to any Gentleman enamoured of the Corn Law, to what is it that we are hastening? A Committee of this House, or a Commission, has reported that the increase of our population is every year so great as to require for its support an annual increase of food equal to the whole produce of the county of Warwick. The Government has no power to add a county of Warwick every year to the country, neither has it power to arrest the increase of population. The consequences can neither be doubtful nor distant, and they are such as I fear to dwell upon. In discussing the Irish question, the Church and other points were much dwelt upon, but the great difficulty is how to give employment and wages and food to the two millions of paupers in Ireland. It is no petty legislation that can do this,—no bringing in bills for the recovery of small debts, and making a boast of measures such as that. Land-owners have been our law-makers, and yet everywhere there is suffering, and the landowners are everywhere charged with the mischief. In Wales, toll-bars were the grievance, and after toll-bars come tithes and rents. England is approaching the same state of things. Twenty thousand pitmen in the North have lately met to fix the lowest price for which they will work, and the highest price they will pay for their food. This may be wrong, but it is more tolerable than that several hundred land-owners should sit here to fix the lowest price they will take for the produce of their estates. You have been sowing curses, and you now wonder that curses have grown. I am surprised at the course pursued by the right hon. Baronet. I should be glad to see him, not the Minister of the Queen merely, but the Minister of the people also. I should rejoice to see him disconnect himself from the party whose principles he declares to be unsound. I should be glad to see him bearing in mind the source from which he has sprung, the source of his power and wealth, as it is the source of much of the power and wealth, and greatness of this empire. He may have a laudable ambition—he may seek renown, but no man can be truly great who is content to serve an oligarchy, who regard no interest but their own; and whose legislation proves they have no sympathy with the wants of the great body of their countrymen. I live in the manufacturing districts, I am well acquainted with the wishes and feelings of the population, and I do not hesitate to say, when I view the utter disregard with which they are treated by this House, that the dangers which impend are greater than those which now surround us. I can assure the right hon. the President of the Board of Trade, that his flimsy excuses will not avail him at the bar of public opinion. He knows what is right and he refuses to do it, and whether the Session be at the beginning or near its close, it is his duty to propose measures of relief to the commerce of the country. That this is not the time is an excuse which is untrue as it is insulting. When will the time come? Will monopoly resign its hold of the subsistence of the people? "Can the Ethiopian change his skin, or the leopard his spots?" The Government knows what is right,—the people demand it to be done, and the ministry who refuse to act incur a fearful responsibility. It is not my interest that trade should be free any more than it is the interest of every land-owner. I want to make our paupers independent artizans—that they may consume by their own labour and not live on the labour of others; and be customers to the farmers instead of devouring them by increasing poors' rates. I have been anxious thus briefly to express my opinions—I grieve that the country should be thus trifled with, and that they should have grounds for despairing of relief from this House—nothing but danger can come from persisting in our present policy.

The House divided on the question that the words proposed to be left out, stand part of the question—Ayes 52; Noes 25: Majority 27.

List of the AYES.
Allix, J. P. Cripps, W.
Arbuthnott, hon. H. Denison, E. B.
Baillie, H. J. Dickinson, F. H.
Blackhurne, J. Eliot, Lord
Borthwick, P. Escort, B.
Boyd, J. Flower, Sir J.
Chetwode, Sir J. Forman, T. S.
Corry, rt. hon. H. Gladstone, rt.hn.W.E.
Gordon, hon. Capt. Peel, J.
Goulburn, rt. hon. H. Pollock, Sir F.
Graham, rt. hn. Sir J. Richards, R.
Greene, T. Rashleigh, W.
Grimston, Visct. Smith, rt. hn. T. B. C.
Harcourt, G. G. Somerset, Lord G.
Hardinge, rt.hn.SirH. Stanley, Lord
Henley, J. W. Sutton, hon. H. M.
Herbert, hon. S. Tennent, J. E.
Hodgson, R. Toliemache, hon. F. J.
Hope, hon. C. Tollemache, J.
Kemble, H. Tomline, G.
Knatchbull,rt.hn.SirE Vivian, J. E.
Mackenzie, T. Wood, Col.
Mackenzie, W. F. Wortley, hon. J. S.
Manners, Lord C. S. Young, J.
Manners, Lord J.
Nicholl, rt. hon. J. TELLERS.
Northland, Visct. Fremantle, Sir T.
Peel, rt. hon. Sir R. Clerk, Sir G.
List of the NOES.
Aldam, W. Marsland, H.
Barnard, E. G. Norreys, Sir D. J.
Blewitt, R. J. O'Conor, DOn
Bowring, Dr. Palmerston, Visct.
Bright, J. Plumridge, Capt.
Brotherton, J. Scholefield, J.
Cobden, R. Scott, R.
Duke, Sir J. Stuart, Lord J.
Forster, M. Wawn, J. T.
Hawes, B. Williams, W.
Hill, Lord M. Wood, B.
Hutt, W. Ewart W.
Ld. Mayor of London Gibson, M.

Order of the Day read.

On the question that the Speaker do now leave the Chair,

Forward to