§ The Speaker having reported the Lords Commissioners Speech, and read it to the House.
§ Viscount Courtenay
then said, Mr. Speaker, in rising for the purpose of proposing a humble Address in answer to the Speech which you have just read, I feel that I shall not be preferring any unreasonable request if I entreat for myself on this occasion that kind and indulgent consideration, which, under similar circumstances, this House is wont to bestow. While, Sir, the magnitude and variety of the topics touched on in her Majesty's Speech are such as to place under no ordinary difficulties the proposer of an address in reply, under more than ordinary difficulties, I feel at the same time an encouragement derived from the circumstance that there are amongst the topics it alludes to many which are likely to meet with unanimous concurrence, and that amongst its announcements there are many with regard to which we shall all be anxious to manifest cordial sentiments of satisfaction. I am sure that all will hail with satisfaction the assurance, which I am happy to say her Majesty has had occasion to make in several of her previous Speeches, as well as this—I mean the an- 64 nouncement that her Majesty continues to receive from foreign princes and powers assurances of that friendly disposition, which, I trust, will long continue, so as to ensure that peace with which Providence has so long blessed the nations of Europe. But, Sir, gratifying as that intimation is, under ordinary circumstances and in ordinary cases, I must be permitted to express especial pleasure, that her Majesty has been enabled to inform us, that, by a Treaty between this country and America, the amicable relations of the two countries are confirmed. I am sure the House will think that, however great the evils of war are, under any circumstances, and however impossible it is to measure them by the consideration of the blood and treasure which may be wasted in its progress, without taking into account the far higher consideration which results from the destruction of those ties which ought to bind nations together in a common endeavour to promote the good of mankind; I say, I feel the House will agree with me that those evils would be tenfold increased if an estrangement should unhappily occur between us and that great kindred community which has sprung up on the other side of the Atlantic. Sir, recollecting, as I am sure we ever must, that our connection with that great country is marked by the ties of a common origin, as well as by the ties of language, literature, laws, and religion, I am persuaded that there is not one who hears me who does not look with more than ordinary interest to the development of the resources of America in her unprecedented progress from infancy to maturity, and who does not feel with me that the evils of such a rupture are not to be estimated merely by the results to either country, but by its influence on the general interests of humanity. It is with that feeling that I shall with confidence call on the House to express its satisfaction at the adjustment of those differences—an adjustment, which, as it was the effect of wise and dispassionate counsels on the part of the negotiators on either side, has been effected in a manner consistent with the just and due regard to the national honour of two great communities. Sir, with no less pleasure shall we receive the announcement made in her Majesty's gracious Speech of the successful termination of the war in Affghanistan, a war maintained in a country of peculiar difficulty, against foes of unknown numbers and unascertained resources, against the 65 machinations of unparalleled treachery, no less than against the ever-occurring assaults of open violence. Sir, it would be idle to dwell on the horrors of the former campaign: but we cannot, in reverting to its melancholy history, mark the numerous instances which it affords among our troops, European and native, of individual daring and power of endurance, without feeling the greater satisfaction that it is not in vain that these deeds of daring has been done and those sufferings undergone, that the honour of the British name has been vindicated, and the superiority of the British arms established on the scenes of our former reverses. Sympathising deeply, therefore, with what our troops have experienced, and the British name in accordance with the expression of interest of her Majesty upon this topic; entertaining warm feelings of admiration and respect for those heroic captives, who, in the hour of danger and suffering, exhibited a manly spirit of daring, united with and elevated by that power of endurance which peculiarly be longs to the female character, we shall no longer delay to concur cordially in the expression of the Address, which I will venture to submit to your notice, in acknowledgment of the valour and constancy of her Majesty's troops, and of a deep conviction that in withdrawing beyond the Indus, we leave behind us indelible memorials of British courage and British power. We may turn, Sir, with feelings of, perhaps, a less mixed character to another topic suggested by her Majesty's Speech—I mean our relations with China; and I am sure that, with equal satisfaction, we shall learn that a treaty has been concluded with China, resulting from the superiority of our naval and military forces, and founded upon terms which her Majesty has proposed. We may, I trust, look forward to this as the commencement of a permanent and salutary intercourse between this country and that mighty and extensive land. We may, I trust, look somewhat even beyond that—we may, I trust, look to those more enduring results, and those noble triumphs, which shall emanate from that intercourse; triumphs of knowledge over ignorance, of civilization over barbarism, of Christianity over heathenism and infidelity. There is one result in which I believe we may now rejoice as having already to some extent taken place—I mean the revival of commercial intercourse with that country—an intercourse which bids fair to be constant 66 and systematic, and which opens a new and untried market for the productions of our manufacturing industry. There is not, I am sure, a gentleman that I am now addressing who does not feel that, if ever there was a time when the prospect of new markets for our manufactures was essential, this is now that period. Sir, we are informed by her Majesty's Speech of a fact, of which the experience of most hon. Gentlemen whom I now address has made them already aware—that considerable masses of our manufacturing population have been suffering for some time under a state of distress occasioned by the depression of the markets of some departments of our manufacturing industry. Sir, we must learn with great regret, as evidence of that fact, that the inability of a large portion of our manufacturing population to purchase those articles of comfort, or even of necessity, to which, under more prosperous circumstances, they had been accustomed, is one of the causes to which we are to trace the diminution in the receipts from the ordinary sources of revenue which is announced to us in her Majesty's Speech. That, that diminution may be, and is, justly attributable also to other causes—to causes which may be, and it is hoped will be, temporary in their nature, and which cannot but have been present to the minds of those who originated and carried the great financial changes of last year—I mean the reduction in the duties upon imports—is no doubt a matter which it is satisfactory and gratifying to believe. But, Sir, at the same time, the fact remains—a fact which is brought before us in this the very first stage of our proceedings—that large bodies of our manufacturing population are in a state of distress and depression. Sir, it is in no language of cold and ordinary condolence and pity that I now take this opportunity of saying what has been so often said upon that subject. We cannot but sympathise deeply with the way in which I will not only say the manufacturing, but the agricultural portion of this community, have often borne distress and privations, submitting to them with a fortitude and resignation which may well put their betters to shame. Sir, such a circumstance renders their distresses still more entitled to the calm consideration of an English and Christian Legislature. Of the remedies for this state of things this is neither the fitting time, nor am I a person qualified to speak; but Sir, this 67 much I may be permitted to say, that while I look forward with hope to the result which will follow from the continued operation of the commercial and financial changes of last year, and to the prevalence—the gradual prevalence in foreign countries of sounder principles of international commerce—I must be permitted also to say that the remedy as far as laws can originate or mature one, is not to be found in any crude and hasty measures, not in attempts to exalt unduly the importance of one interest above others; but in a calm and dispassionate consideration of all the interests of the community, we weighing justly and duly the importance of each in the social scale of our country, attaching and assigning to each its due share among the elements of our national greatness; and while we take into account all the component parts of this great community, giving a just and fair consideration to such peculiar circumstances, and to such peculiar burdens as may result from a complicated and artificial state of society. It is because I trace in the conduct of Ministers the operation of such principles of Legislation, that, in compliance with the proposal made to me, I have felt it my duty to come forward on this occasion, and as the representative of a large and important constituency, not to shrink from the avowal of my general confidence in her Majesty's present advisers. In the great financial measures brought forward by the Government last year, the country recognized a great scheme of financial policy, which is not to be judged of by individual parts, and under its temporary operation, but to be estimated as a whole, and upon a series of years. Sir, if her Majesty's Ministers continue to act with a similar union of boldness, in action with prudence and caution in deliberation—if, in the measures which may hereafter be propounded, an anxiety for the general welfare be exhibited in union with a due regard to the various interests of the country—if they continue to show themselves ready and anxious to maintain peace at the risk of everything but national honour—to promote economy at the hazard of everything except the efficiency of the public service—to introduce change where change is improvement, but to repudiate and reject it where it is nothing but innovation—if, Sir, they continue to act upon those principles, they will continue to receive, as in my judgment they will continue 68 to deserve, the confidence of a portion of the country. Sir, it is with these views and these feelings that I have come forward on this occasion to propose the Address in answer to her Majesty's gracious Speech; and I have only, before I proceed to read the Address which I shall submit, to express my grateful acknowledgments to the House for the kind forbearance which they have manifested. The noble Lord concluded by submitting the following motion:—
"That an humble Address be presented to her Majesty, to return to her Majesty our humble thanks for the gracious Speech which her Majesty has directed to be delivered by the Lords Commissioners:
To assure her Majesty that we have heard with high gratification, that her Majesty receives from all Princes and States assurances of a friendly disposition towards this country, and of an earnest desire to co-operate with her Majesty in the maintenance of general peace;
To thank her Majesty for acquainting us, that by the Treaty which her Majesty has concluded with the United States of America, and by the adjustment of those differences which, from their long continuance, had endangered the preservation of peace, her Majesty trusts that the amicable relations of the two countries have been confirmed:
To express our satisfaction at learning, that the increased exertions which her Majesty has made for the termination of hostilities with China have been eminently successful, and that the skill, valour, and discipline of the Naval and Military forces employed upon this service have been most conspicuous, and have led to the conclusion of peace upon the terms proposed by her Majesty:
Humbly to assure her Majesty, that we rejoice with her Majesty in the prospect that, by the free access which will be opened to the principle marts of that populous and extensive Empire, encouragement will be given to the commercial enterprize of her people:
To thank her Majesty for having directed that as soon as the Ratifications of the Treaty shall have been exchanged, it shall be laid before us:
That we are much gratified by the information that, in concert with her Allies, her 69 Majesty has succeeded in obtaining for the Christian population of Syria, the establishment of a system of administration which they were entitled to expect from the engagements of the Sultan, and from the good faith of this country:
That we are concerned to hear, that the differences for some time existing between the Turkish and Persian Governments had recently led to acts of hostility, but as each of these States has accepted the joint mediation of Great Britain and Russia, we participate in the confident hope entertained by her Majesty, that their mutual relations will be speedily and amicably adjusted:
To assure her Majesty, that we learn with pleasure that her Majesty has concluded with the Emperor of Russia a Treaty of Commerce and Navigation, which her Majesty regards with great satisfaction, as the foundation for increased intercourse between her Majesty's subjects and those of the Emperor; and to thank her Majesty for having directed a Copy of this Treaty to be laid before us:
To thank her Majesty for the gratifying information that complete success has attended the recent military operations in Afghanistan; and for acquainting us that her Majesty has the greatest satisfaction in recording her high sense of the ability with which these operations have been directed: and of the constancy and valour which have been manifested by the European and Native Forces:
That we are gratified to learn that the superiority of her Majesty's arms has been established by decisive victories on the scene of former disaster; and that the complete liberation of her Majesty's subjects who were held in captivity, and for whom her Majesty has graciously expressed the deepest interest, has been effected:
To thank her Majesty for informing us that it has not been deemed advisable to continue the occupation, by a military force, of the countries to the westward of the Indus:
To thank her Majesty for having directed the Estimates for the ensuing year to be laid before us, and for the information that such reductions have been made in the amount of the Naval and Military Force as have been deemed compatible, under present circumstances, with the efficient performance of the 70 Public Service throughout the extended Empire of her Majesty:
That we share in her Majesty's regret at the diminished receipt from some of the ordinary sources of revenue:
That, in common with her Majesty, we fear that it must be in part attributed to the reduced consumption of many articles caused by that depression of the Manufacturing Industry of the Country which has so long prevailed, and which we, with her Majesty so deeply lament:
But to assure her Majesty, that in considering the present state of the Revenue, we will hear in mind that it has been materially affected by the extensive reductions in the Import Duties, which received our sanction during the last Session of Parliament, and that little progress has been hitherto made in the collection of those Taxes, which were imposed for the purpose of supplying the deficiency from that and other causes:
That we learn with satisfaction that her Majesty feels confident that the future produce of the Revenue will be sufficient to meet every exigency of the Public Service:
To express the participation which we feel in the gratification derived by her Majesty from the loyalty and affectionate attachment to her Majesty which were manifested on the occasion of her Majesty's visit to Scotland:
That in common with her Majesty we regret that in the course of the last year the public peace in some of the manufacturing districts was seriously disturbed, and the lives and property of her Majesty's subjects were endangered by tumultuous assemblages and acts of open violence:
That we are happy to learn that the ordinary law promptly enforced was sufficient for the effectual repression of these disorders; and that we cordially concur with her Majesty in confidently relying upon its efficacy and upon the zealous support of her Majesty's loyal and peaceable subjects for the maintenance of tranquillity:
To assure her Majesty that we shall be prepared to take into our consideration such measures connected with the improvement of the law, and with various questions of domestic policy, as may be submitted to us by her Majesty's direction:
To assure her Majesty that she may conf- 71 dently rely on our constant endeavours to promote the public welfare; and that we unite with her Majesty in fervently praying that the favour of Divine Providence may direct and prosper our Counsels, and make them conducive to the happiness and contentment of her Majesty's people."
§ Mr. W. P. S. Miles
said, in rising to second the Address, which has just been so ably proposed by the noble Lord, in answer to her Majesty's most gracious Speech, I trust I shall be allowed that indulgence which I know this House is ever ready to extend to a young Member making his first address. It is with no ordinary feelings of embarrassment that I undertake the task for which I have found it necessary to ask the favourable consideration of the House, and I trust that in the few remarks which it will be incumbent on me to offer, I shall make use of no expression calculated to disturb that spirit of harmony and unanimity which it is so desirable should prevail on the present occasion. I shall endeavour to confine my remarks to as short a space as will be consistent with the importance of the topics on which it will be necessary for me to dilate. It is with feelings of peculiar pride and satisfaction that I advert to the glorious termination of the campaign in Affghanistan. I believe that on few occasions in the history of that country have victories so important to the security and stability of our Indian empire been achieved. I conceive that it is a matter of congratulation that her Majesty's army should have so nobly triumphed over every difficulty, and should have so gloriously recovered the laurels which previous events had torn from their brows; that, notwithstanding the severity of the climate, and the almost insurmountable nature of the mountain passes, they had, by the skilful guidance of their commanders, rescued the prisoners from captivity, and exemplified the maxim—that England leaves no insult unavenged, that her faith is inviolable when once pledged, that her punishment of treachery is instant and certain, and that while she strikes terror into the hearts of her enemies, she is at all times ready, even in the midst of success, to listen to the dictates of humanity and reason. It would be presumptuous in me to enter into the question of our Indian policy; but I cannot 72 hesitate to express my approval of the policy pursued by the Governor-general of India. It may be necessary sometimes to make an example for the purpose of preserving our Indian empire; but I think the talent of the Governor-general has been better displayed in cementing our power and authority by his prudent and vigorous administration of affairs, and by giving a stimulus to that internal trade and commerce which the interests of this country demand; and has thus done more to maintain the stability of our Indian empire than could have been effected by any other means. The next topic to which I shall advert is the successful issue of our operations in China, which is not only a subject of importance to England, but to the whole world. I think this, coupled with the brilliant success of our arms in India, will be the distinguishing feature of her Majesty's reign. By our treaty with China, this nation would become the means of opening a country which had been hitherto closed to foreigners; and, under the blessing of a merciful Providence, it would also be the means of introducing to the numerous inhabitants of China the inestimable blessings of the Christian religion. As a young Member, I will not discuss the line of policy pursued by the late administration, but I trust I am not too bold in expressing my approval of the energy which the present Administration has shown in bringing the war in China to a triumphant close. They displayed an amount of force, adequate to the dignity and importance of the undertaking, which sustained the glory of the British arms. I can scarcely calculate the advantage to be derived from the ratification of the treaty of commerce with China, or form any opinion of the amount of trade likely to be carried on with that country; but if the relations which we hear of that great country be true—if the population be so numerous as it is supposed, and if the prejudices of Asia permit a more enlightened system of policy with respect to Europe, I do not think any treaty could be of more importance, or more calculated to benefit trade and commerce. I congratulate the House that the long pending boundary question between this country and America has been brought to a satisfactory conclusion by the talents of the noble Lord to whom it was confided. I cannot but think that the maintenance of peace between the two 73 countries is of much more importance than a portion of disputed territory. That question which had been contested for fifty years, is now finally settled, and thus has been removed a subject of dissension which might have been the means of plunging two great nations into a dangerous and expensive war. I think this House will concur with me in regretting the disturbances which took place last autumn in the manufacturing districts. I rejoice that those disturbances were suppressed by the energy of the civil authority without any great display of military force, or without the necessity of having recourse to fresh laws. As regards those disturbances, although I admit the depression of trade may have had some share in producing them, I attribute them mainly to the spirit of agitation which prevails, and which induces many of the lower orders to lend an ear to the suggestions of demagogues who propound wild and visionary schemes. A general impression prevails that the trade of the country is assuming a more healthful character, and the stimulus given to commerce by the conclusion of peace with China has been steadily maintained, and will doubtless de rive additional force from the ratification of a treaty of commerce with Russia. I trust that the measures passed last Session will be found adequate to the relief of the country from its financial difficulties, and will induce foreign countries to revise their tariffs and to trade with us upon a more liberal and enlightened system than at present. During the last few years the deficiency of the revenue had been gradually increasing, and some decisive measure was requisite to restore public credit. The deficiency in the revenue has continued this year, but I think that is attributable to the reduction of the import duties and the deficient harvest of 1841. I trust, however, the amount of revenue from the property and income tax may counterbalance this deficiency, and that in a few years the revenue will so far revive that this tax may be done away with. The measures introduced last Session have created great alarm among the agriculturists. Panic has succeeded panic without any apparent cause. The landed interest has been called upon to bear unusual burdens; but if, by so doing, they can contribute to relieve other branches of industry, I believe they will be borne cheerfully. I think the House has heard with pleasure of her Majesty's visit to Scotland. The characteristic hospitality of Scotland and their abundant loyalty 74 marked throughout the progress of her Majesty. The recollection of her Majesty's late visit will be cherished in the hearts of her Scottish subjects, and will create a feeling that will long survive. I have endeavoured, in a few words, to bring forward the topics introduced in the Speech from the throne, and I hope the House will unanimously agree to the Address, which, if adopted without any dissent, will prove the more gratifying to her Majesty. In conclusion, I beg to thank the House for the kindness it has extended to me.
The Address having been read by the Speaker,
§ Mr. C. Wood
said, I am convinced that the noble Lord in no degree miscalculated the feeling of the House, when be stated his belief that it would readily unite in an expression of satisfaction at the assurance given in her Majesty's most gracious Speech of the termination of the hostilities in which this country has been engaged in two portions of the East, and of the adjustment of disputed questions with the United States of America. Every Member of this House, will, I am sure, cordially join in congratulating her Majesty on the important announcement, which, in these respects, she has been able to make to her Parliament. With respect to the termination of our hostilities with China, but one feeling of satisfaction can prevail; for, whatever reliance might justly be placed on the skill and valour of our troops, no one could contemplate, without some anxiety, the prosecution of hostilities at such a remote distance, with a people so numerous, and in a country of which we knew so little, nor was it possible to observe, without a feeling of deep regret, the indiscriminate slaughter which necessarily attended our victories, or was inflicted upon themselves by a brave but barbarian people, after their defeats. The conclusion of the war with China is signalised by a circumstance which seldom Calls to the lot of belligerent powers, namely, the attainment of every object for which hostilities were undertaken. We have obtained reparation for the insults and cruelty inflicted on the residents in the British factory—compensation to our merchants for the losses which they had sustained; and indemnity for the expenses of the war. I trust, also, that the noble Lord is not wrong in calculating that the opening for commerce secured by the happy termination of this war, will be beneficial in the 75 highest degree, not only to the people of this country, but to the population of China. I trust we have a right to anticipate—and I join in the anxious desire that the noble Lord's anticipations may prove correct—that the intercourse now opened with a nation hitherto shut out from a communication with civilised communities, will be the means of extending to its vast population the blessings of religion and civilization. With respect to our operations in Affghanistan, as far as the circumstances connected with them are communicated in her Majesty's Speech, there can I apprehend, be no difference of opinion. Every one must rejoice at the success which attended the march on Cabul, the rescue of the prisoners, and the vindication of the honour of our troops on the scene of their recent disasters. Beyond that, I presume, we are not now called upon to express any opinion; indeed, it is evident, from two notices given this evening, one by the right hon. Baronet opposite, and the other by the hon. Member below me (Mr. Roebuck), that we shall have opportunity enough hereafter of discussing any matters connected with events in India. Before these motions come on I trust the Government will put the House in possession of papers which will give us full information on the subject. I may be allowed to take this opportunity of expressing an anxious hope that the Government is in possession of information which will enable it to contradict the reports which have been circulated, of excesses committed by our troops under circumstances which every man of ordinary humanity must regret. When a town is taken by assault, it may not be possible to restrain troops and prevent excesses, which however, every one must deplore; but I know of no language strong enough to express the condemnation of the outrages said to have been committed by our troops on the unoffending inhabitants of cities, of which we had been in peace able possession for some time. If the reports to which I refer should prove to be correct, we have indeed much to regret in the manner in which the hostilities in Cabul terminated; and I fear that a dark stain will have been cast upon our arms; and also upon the reputation of this country, on which so much of our empire in the East depends; and still further, that instead of a friendly or 76 neutral power, we shall have left, in the country beyond the Indus, a justly exasperated and hostile population. As regards the treaty with the United States, it will, of course, be laid before us, and then will be the time to discuss it; but there is one point with respect to which that treaty can afford the House no in formation, and regarding which we can only look to the Government for explanation. The subject is one in which they, I am sure, will be anxious to furnish explanation at the earliest possible time. The value of the treaty with the United States, must, in my mind, depend less on the precise line of boundary which may have been established, than on the adjustment of the differences which threatened to disturb the relations of peace between the two nations. I am ready to admit that if the causes of differences between the two countries are fairly adjusted, if the arrangements are such as to close the present, and preclude future causes of dispute, I am not one of those who would attach much importance to a few square miles of territory more or less; but then I must have a distinct assurance that those causes of difference have actually been removed. Now it Would appear from a document which I have seen in the public papers, and the authenticity of which it is impossible to dispute, that serious doubts may be entertained as to whether the disputed questions between this country and the United States are so satisfactorily settled as we were at first led to suppose. I allude particularly to the question of the right of visit. I apprehend, that of all questions which could agitate the public mind in America and this country, there is—owing to the jealousy which naturally exists in the minds of the people of the United States, in consequence of what took place in former times, in the exercise of the right of search during the war—no topic more calculated to excite angry feelings than this question. As some misunderstanding has prevailed, from confounding the right of visit with the right of search, I will take the liberty of stating, as distinctly as I can, what I apprehend to be the right claimed by this country, and of the justice of which claim I entertain not the slightest shadow of doubt. The claim of this country is a right of our cruisers to ascertain whether a vessel is justly entitled to the protection of the flag which 77 she may happen to have hoisted, such vessel being in circumstances which render her liable to the suspicion—first, that she is not entitled to the protection of the flag; and, secondly, that if not entitled to it, she is either by law or the provisions of treaties, subject to the supervision and control of our cruisers. I believe I have stated, as accurately as I can, the precise claim which this country puts forward. It is, I think, exactly the claim stated by Lord Aberdeen, and supported by arguments which it is unnecessary to repeat to a British House of Commons. It is enough to say, that if the right in question is not to be exercised, any British vessel with British papers, and with British captain and crew, might, full of slaves, sail, Uninterrupted, through all the cruisers we possess. It is enough to say, that if this right were not to be exercised, the most atrocious buccaneer and pirate in the world might sail, unquestioned, through the squadrons of every maritime power. This right, however, is not only denied by the United States, but, in the document to which I have already referred, it is stated to have been conceded and given up by this country. That a declaration of this nature should proceed from a great maritime power like the United States, which, more than an other, must be aware of the necessity of the exercise of the right in question, is so astonishing, that I could not believe it, were not the authenticity of the document in which it is made beyond the reach of doubt. The document to which I allude is the message of the President of the United States to Congress. I find in that message the following passage:—In the enforcement of the laws and treaty stipulations of Great Britain a practice had threatened to grow up, on the part of her cruisers of subjecting to visitation ships sailing under the American flag, which, while it seriously involved our maritime rights, would subject to vexation a branch of our trade which was increasing, and which required the fostering care of the Government. And although Lord Aberdeen, in his correspondence with the American envoys in London, expressly disclaimed all right to detain any American ships on the high seas, even if found with slaves on board, and restricted the British pretension to a mere claim to visit and in quire, yet it could not well be discerned by the executive of the United States how such visit and inquiry could be made without detention on the voyage, and consequent interrup- 78 tion to the trade. It was regarded as the right of search, presented only in a new form and in different words.Now come the words which imply that this country has given up the claim to the right of visit:—All pretence is removed for interference with our commerce for any purpose whatever by a foreign government. A similar arrangement by the other great powers could not fail to sweep from the ocean the slave trade, without the interpolation of any new principle into the maritime code.It is apparent from what I have read to the House, that the President treats the right of visit claimed by Lord Aberdeen as an inadmissible interference with American commerce, and then expressly declares, that, by the arrangement entered into, all pretence for such interference has been removed. I have no hesitation in saying, that explanation on this subject is called for by the general feeling of the country. The greatest alarm has been excited amongst those who have taken an interest in the suppression of the slave-trade, by the announcement in the American President's message that that right has been given up which Lord Aberdeen himself described to be absolutely necessary for putting down that trade. For myself I entertain not the slightest doubt as to what the answer of the Government will be on the point; I have not the least doubt that the right hon. Baronet will tell us that the British Government has made no such concession as that which has been attributed to it; I believe that no British Minister could or would make such a concession, and I am sure, when I quote the expressions employed by Lord Aberdeen in his despatch to Mr. Everett, the right hon. Baronet will say, that I have drawn a correct inference from that noble Lord's language. The words of Lord Aberdeen are such as I believe would be appreciated by the Americans themselves, were not, unhappily, their feelings perverted with respect to this question. His Lordship said:—The undersigned begs to repeat, that with American vessels, whatever be their destination, British cruisers have no pretension in any manner to interfere. Such vessels must be permitted, if engaged in it, to enjoy a monopoly of this unhallowed trade; but the British Government will never endure that the fraudulent use of the American flag shall extend the iniquity to other nations by whom it is 79 abhorred, and who have entered into solemn treaties with this country for its entire suppression.That eloquent passage expresses the feelings of every Englishman; and again I declare my belief that no such concession as that announced by the American President has been made. I do not ask right hon. Gentlemen opposite to explain the words of the President's message; it is no part of their duty to do so; but there is a more simple test by which the accuracy of the statement in question can be tried. The slave papers laid upon the Table at the close of last Session contain the instructions issued to British cruisers; these instructions are compiled with great care, with a view to prevent inconvenience or injury to vessels visited, but enjoining the right of visit, as claimed by this country. I ask the Government to inform the House whether those instructions are at present in force? I will go one step further; I understand that the Government has appointed a commission for the purpose of revising the instructions to our cruisers. Of the individuals composing that commission, I will only say that more fit persons for the purpose could not be found. When I mention the names of Dr. Lushington and Captain Denman, two of the commissioners, the House will perceive in those names a sufficient security for the intentions of the Government. I ask the Government whether, in the new instructions the spirit, if not the letter, of the old instructions will be adhered to? The answer of the Government to this question, I have no doubt, will be satisfactory; but, then, I may be forgiven for expressing a doubt whether the differences between this country and America have really been removed. A settlement of a disputed point is said to have been made, and on the terms of that settlement the two parties put directly contradictory interpretations. I hope that the feeling now existing between the two countries may ultimately lead to the conclusion of a satisfactory settlement: but I think it can hardly be said that that settlement has already been concluded. No doubt the presence of the American squadron to be stationed on the coast of Africa, may render less frequent the necessity for exercising this right, and I also hope that the feeling in the United States on the subject may subside, and that we may never again hear of any opposition from the United States 80 to the exercise of a right so indispensable to every maritime power. Speaking generally, so far as regards foreign affairs, I have great pleasure in concurring with the address moved by the noble Lord; but, when I turn to the state of affairs at home, I regret to say I can see little calculated to afford us any satisfaction. No doubt the House will cordially concur in the feelings of sympathy expressed in her Majesty's name with respect to the sufferings of a large portion of her subjects; but I do think, that those sufferings have extended to a degree that calls for something more than the expression of commiseration. I did expect some allusion would be made to measures intended for the relief of those sufferings, for the relief of our trade from a state of depression which has lasted much too long—and I am sorry to say that, seeing no allusion made to any such measures as in contemplation, I can hardly fail to come to the conclusion that no such measures are at present intended to be brought forward. The hon. Gentleman who seconded the Address, spoke of the improvement in trade; but I fear there will hardly be found any man sanguine enough to say that the trade of the country manifests any symptoms of a revival which would effectually relieve its present melancholy depression. Similar hopes were held out in the Speech with which her Majesty closed the last Session of Parliament, but they were too soon, and to a fearful extent disappointed. As regards the manufacturing districts in Yorkshire, I have only to appeal to the hon. Member for Leeds, who last year drew so touching a picture of the distress of his part of the country, whether I am not right when I say that the distress has doubled since last year? I find that in 1841, the relief given at Leeds in money and bread amounted to 17,275l.; and in 1842, the amount distributed in relief was 23,3581l. In 1841, the number of applicants was 7,810; but in 1842, they had increased to 14,839. If I turn to the manufacturing districts of Lancashire, or to Scotland, I find the same symptoms of distress, and, I am sorry to say, that the distress has now extended to the agricultural districts, which had hitherto escaped the sufferings by which the manufacturing parts of the country were visited. With such a state of things before us, are we, the representatives of the people, to sit with folded arms and 81 make no attempt to legislate for the removal of this distress? are we to make no attempt to afford that relief without which the commercial and all other interests of the country must rapidly decline? That there are measures which I believe would afford that relief, and what the nature of those measures is, none I think can doubt who remember the discussions of last session. At the close of last session her Majesty addressed Parliament in these words:—You have had under your consideration measures of the greatest importance connected with the financial and commercial interests of the country calculated to maintain the public credit, to improve the national resources, and, by extending trade and stimulating the demand for labour, to promote the general and permanent welfare of all classes of my subjects.There cannot be a doubt that such were the objects aimed at by the measures of last Session, for the relaxation of our commercial code, and I cannot help feeling great disappointment at seeing no indication of any intention to follow up that policy, and to carry out those principles, principles avowed by the Government, and in which I, for one, heartily concur. The right hon. Baronet told us that we ought to buy in the cheapest market; that laws ought not to be passed for the protection of any particular class—that even if foreign governments would not join us, we ought not to deprive ourselves of the advantages in which they refused to participate; those were the principles and policy avowed by the Government, and I had hoped to see them carried out, as the only means calculated to afford that relief which the country has but too much reason to demand. With many of the main articles of our manufactures and of consumption the alterations of last year did not profess to deal, but I did hope that with regard to some of those articles—particularly with regard to wool, sugar, and corn—some proposition would have been made by her Majesty's Government to complete the measures of the last Session. It has certainly been fortunate for the people of this country, that since last summer a large reduction has taken place in the prices of meat and corn, but it will not be said, I imagine, that that reduction has been the effect of the measures of her Majesty's Government, and I believe it will now be admitted, that the alarm expressed last year on this sub- 82 ject by the agricultural Members, was entirely unfounded. Indeed, with respect to meat, the right hon. Gentleman convinced us at the time, that no great effect was to be anticipated; and I am sure that even the hon. Member for Somerset would readily admit, that the price of meat had in no degree been affected by the importation of foreign cattle. It was the same with respect to corn. The bill of the right hon. Gentleman came into operation in the end of April last; but so little was the price affected by the measures, that the price of wheat during the first three months that the new Corn-law came into operation, did not range more than about a shilling per quarter below the price at which it had stood under the old law for the corresponding months of the preceding year. I do not, however, believe that one grain of corn has come into the country under the new law, that would not have been imported under the old law. At the close of July the average price was above 64s.; up to about which price I ventured last year to predict that the duty would be nearly prohibitory. Till that period no material quantity of corn had come in, but the prospect of an early harvest, made it impossible to force up the averages by those frauds that had formerly been practised with so much success; and the consequence was, that in four weeks of August no less a quantity than two millions of quarters of corn was entered for home consumption. All the wheat that did come in was brought in at the time of harvest. The consequence was an unnatural depression of the market, during the autumn, as the price had been unduly raised during the spring. The new law, therefore, in its effects, both upon the agricultural and manufacturing classes, was just the same as the old law. To the producer, as well as to the consumer, the whole bill was a dead letter. I hope that by this time the agricultural members will feel that they also are made to suffer by the operation of the sliding-scale. I hear of a fair trial being required for the new law; it seems to me that it has already been tried and condemned, and whatever the principles of the Corn-laws may be, whether the duties be intended for protection, for revenue, or merely for registration, I hope that, at all events, we shall get rid of our present state of uncertainty, and come at length to something fixed and determinate. But the real and main cause of the low price both 83 of meat and corn, I am convinced is to be found in the want of demand, and diminished consumption of the masses of the manufacturing population. I have been told, from authority on which I place the fullest reliance, that in Stockport, during three months of the year 1842, the number of cattle killed was less by 700 than the number killed in the corresponding period of the year 1841; and I am further told by a high agricultural authority that there is not at this moment a sufficiency of fat cattle in the country to meet the ordinary demand of our population, if that population were in an ordinary condition. I believe the same want of demand is the main cause of the low price of corn, and I am convinced that it will be to the interest of all classes that a stimulus should be given to trade, I believe that no advantage that we landlords can hope for from a protective Corn-law, is to be compared to the advantage we should be certain to derive from the general prosperity of the country. It may be that I feel this more strongly in consequence of residing in the neighbourhood of the manufacturing districts. We there find the population lately absorbed by the towns, now thrown back upon the agricultural parishes; the surplus labour in them is in consequence increased; and the poor's rates rendered still more burdensome. I am sure there is hardly a landlord or a farmer now in Yorkshire who is not aware that he must look to the general revival of trade for the improvement of his own condition. There is, however, a consideration referred to in her Majesty's Speech, which will bring this home to every man in the country, and that is the state of the revenue. To the distress of trade the fall of the re. venue is chiefly owing, to the improvement of trade we must look for its restoration. I firmly believe that the country is now to a considerable extent paying the penalty of rejecting in 1841 the measures then proposed by her Majesty's government; that those measures were founded on sound principles may be denied by the supporters of her Majesty's present Government, but will not be denied by the Government itself after the declaration made last year by the right hon. Gentle man at the head of that Government. We may be told, indeed, that the proposed measures were faulty in detail, but it is not possible that hon. Gentlemen opposite will now deny that those measures were 84 calculated to effect an improvement in our trade as well as in our revenue. We were told, indeed, at the time, that no such measures were necessary; that a change of Government was all that was required to fill the Exchequer; but it now appears that after right hon. Gentlemen have been eighteen months in office, the deficiency is larger than it ever was before. I know not whether the Secretary of the Treasury means in the early part of the present Session, as on former occasions, to lay a balance-sheet on the Table of the House; but if he should not do so, it will probably be moved for, and when that balance-sheet is produced, I believe we shall see a statement of our finances, much worse than has ever before been laid before Parliament at a corresponding period. On the 10th of October there was a deficiency of two millions and a half. Has that deficiency been lessened in the last quarter? It is not likely that the expenditure has been less, and the revenue has fallen short by the sum of 940,000l. I believe, there fore, that I shall not over-state the deficiency on the 5th of January 1843, at 3,500,000l., and I am confirmed in this opinion, by seeing that on the 5th of January last the deficiency bills exceeded the amount of the 5th of January, 1842, by about 2,000,000l. I cordially concur in the hope expressed in her Majesty's Speech, that the proceeds of the Income-tax may cover this deficiency; but if so, the proceeds of that tax must double the amount of the right hon. Gentleman's estimate. The produce of that tax may probably exceed the amount which was calculated, but the excess must be great indeed if it proves sufficient to cover the difference between the revenue and the expenditure, for there has been a general falling-off in all branches of the ordinary income, with the single exception of the Post-office. Without an extraordinary and unexpected receipt from the Income-tax, or the arrival of silver from China, the deficiency this year is not likely to be less than that of last year. In the Customs, the falling-off may be explained by the reduction in the importation duties, but it is in the Excise that the greatest falling-off has taken place, and the amount of revenue derived from the Excise has generally been taken as a test of the prosperity of the people. Indeed I think it can scarcely be doubted 85 by any one that the distresses of the people are the real causes of the falling-off of the revenue, and that we can look for a more productive revenue only to an improved power of consumption in the people, to an increased employment of our population, and to an increased demand for labour. To obtain these ends we must facilitate the importation of (hose foreign goods which constitute the means of payment to this country for its manufactures, and this we must do without loss of time if we look to be relieved from that onerous impost which can be removed only by an improvement in our ordinary revenue. It is difficult for me not to believe that, after all, some such measures are not contemplated by her Majesty's Government; and I still hope that, before the conclusion of the present debate, we shall obtain some assurance from the right hon. Gentleman to that effect. It might be un palatable to many of the hon. Gentlemen who sit behind the Treasury Benches, it might be unpalatable to the hon. Member for Dorsetshire who had announced to his constituents that he considered the present Corn-law, a final settlement of the question; but if the right hon. Baronet will fairly carry into practice the sound and liberal principles which he had put forth during the last Session he may rely with confidence upon the support of the Gentlemen who sit on this side of the House. On our support he may rely for the purpose of carrying out those principles which he and we are agreed in considering the only sources of future prosperity. The present condition of the people is such as I believe the oldest man now living does not remember to have seen anything like it before; it is such as indicates an extreme depression of commerce, and the necessity of some general measures for the correction of the evil. Every one agreed that the causes were not temporary, and the inference from that was, that the remedy must be of a permanent nature. The country had now arrived at a crisis not very dissimilar from that which occurred before 1825, and 1826, when Mr. Huskisson found it absolutely necessary to relax the then existing commercial regulations in order to obtain the revival of trade. The measures were applied and trade revived. A similar epoch has now arrived, and it is only to similar measures that we can look for a revival of trade, for the improvement of 86 the revenue, and for an improvement in the social and moral condition of the people.
§ Sir R. Peel
I am happy, Sir, to infer from the general tone of the speech of the hon. Member who has just addressed you, and from the spirit in which the speech was received by those who generally concur in opinion with him, that there is every prospect of an unanimous vote on the Address in answer to her Majesty's Speech. I listened to the hon. Gentle man's speech, and particularly to that portion of it which referred to the foreign policy pursued by this country, with great satisfaction. It appeared to me, that the hon. Gentleman was willing to afford his unqualified approbation to the policy which governed the conduct of Ministers with respect to foreign affairs generally; and the only reserve he made referred to the conduct of the Government in relation to those districts west of the Indus. I concur with the hon. Gentleman in the observations which he has made respecting the great skill and ability with which the military operations were carried on in India, and the constancy and valour of the troops engaged in executing them; and I also concur in the justness of the remark that these will be more properly brought under our view when the notice upon the books calls the attention of the House more particularly to the subject. That will be the more becoming season to enter upon such a subject; and for that reason, I shall not at present dwell upon it. The hon. Gentleman, in referring to that portion of the Queen's Speech which alludes to the treaty lately concluded between this country and the United States, for the regulation of the boundary question between Canada and the state of Maine, said very truly, that the possession of a few hundred square miles of territory, more or less, was of little importance compared to the adjustment of differences which had now existed for nearly half a century between two great nations—differences which, from their long continuance, and from their peculiar nature, were calculated, unless speedily and definitively adjusted, to leave but little hope that peace could be preserved between the two nations. I was glad to hear the hon. Gentleman's frank admission with respect to the settlement of the boundary question, and I feel satisfied, that I shall be able, when the occasion offers, to show the House that the 87 country is under great obligations to the noble Lord by whom that adjustment has been effected. That noble Lord had almost retired from the turmoil of public life; but, influenced by a high sense of public duty, he abandoned the repose of private life, and quitted his country to enter upon the task in which he so happily succeeded. I could show, if the policy of that noble Lord had been called in question, in this House, as it has been out of doors, that the treaty which was effected by him affords to the country every thing which can be considered essential to the security of our North American possessions—not perhaps as much as we were justly entitled to, and had a right to expect; but, considering the un certainty attached to the interpretation of the old treaty, considering the great length of time which had since elapsed, taking into account that the geography of the country was in a great degree unknown at the time of first assigning the boundaries, and considering the difficulty, not to say the impossibility, of exactly ascertaining the intentions of those by whom the assignment was made, we should feel satisfied to accept, not, it is true, all that we claim, or all that we are entitled to, but such a division of the disputed district as secures our British possessions in North America, and at the same time preserves our military communication uninterrupted. The adjustment of the question by Lord Ashburton is far more favourable to this country than that formerly proposed by the King of the Netherlands, and in which we were willing to concur. It should be remembered, that since the interference of the King of the Netherlands a fresh difficulty was added, by the occupation of a portion of the territory in dispute; and in 1839, the hostile parties had almost come into conflict upon it. This being the case, I feel that I shall be fully enabled, if the policy of the late treaty be called into question, to show, that not only the honour, but the interests of the country have been carefully provided for. In America, as here, there are parties trying to obstruct the treaty. Mr. Webster is taunted in America because he receded from his extreme position when he saw there was no other way of coming to an amicable settlement. Here the treaty is called the Ashburton capitulation, there the Webster capitulation, but I hope the good sense of both countries will recog- 88 nize the policy of relinquishing extreme pretensions which could not have been maintained without endangering the continuance of peace. No other advantage is to be compared to an amicable settlement between two nations of kindred origin, of kindred language, and of interests as kindred as their origin and language. I rejoice that the hon. Gentleman has given me an opportunity of making some observations on the late message of the President of the United States. The sincere and honest desire I have always entertained for the maintenance of a good understanding between this country and the United States, and the spirit in which I have always spoken of America, makes it a doubly painful duty to me to have to refer to that message, which, I am sorry to say, does not give a correct account of the negotiations relative to the right of visit. Perhaps I may do right to confirm what the hon. Gentleman has said, that there is nothing more distinct than the right of visit and the right of search. Search is a belligerent right, and not to be exercised in time of peace, except when it has been conceded by treaty. The right of search extends not only to the vessel, but to the cargo also. The right of visit is quite distinct from this, though the two are often confounded. The right of search, with respect to American vessels, we entirely and utterly disclaim; nay, more, if we knew that an American vessel were furnished with all the materials requisite for the slave-trade—if we knew that the decks were prepared to receive hundreds of human beings, within a space in which life is almost impossible, still we should be bound to let that American vessel pass on. But the right we claim, is to know whether a vessel pretending to be American, and hoisting the American flag, be bon° fide American. We claim the right to know whether a grievous wrong has not been offered to the American flag; to know, for instance, whether a Portuguese or Brazilian schooner, sailing under the American flag, be really what she seems to be. In the admirable despatch of my noble Friend, dated the 20th of December, 1841, he wrote thus:—The undersigned apprehends, however, that the right of search is not confined to the verification of the nationality of the vessel, but also extends to the object of the voyage, and the nature of the cargo. The sole purpose of 89 the British cruizers is to ascertain whether the vessels they meet with are really American or not. The right asserted has, in truth, no resemblance to the right of search, either in principle or in practice. It is simply a right to satisfy the party, who has a legitimate interest in knowing the truth, that the vessel actually is what her colours announce.I am surprised the United States should contest this, considering the many small states by which they are surrounded, and how easily their revenue might be injured if it could once be established as a principle that a foreign vessel might become exempt from visitation by hoisting any particular flag. With such a principle recognized, neither the revenue nor the commerce of the United States could be safe for an instant. But I know that the United States do liberally exercise this right in the seas adjacent to their own coast; I know that if a Mexican vessel were to hoist the British flag under suspicious circumstances, the United States would not hesitate to exercise the right of exposing the fraud; and, knowing this, I am the more surprised at the claim now set up by the President of the United States. Therefore, Sir, it will be my duty, in the face of the public, expressing deep regret that there should appear to be any difference of opinion on this topic, explicitly to declare that we have not waived one of the principles contended for by my noble Friend (the Earl of Aberdeen) in his despatch of December 1841; and it is further my duty to declare that that despatch has remained to the present hour unanswered by the government of the United States. I know, I think, too well what is the ability, and what the keenness of a secretary of state in the United States, to believe that if doctrines so important as those advanced in the despatch could be questioned, it would have been permitted to remain fourteen months unanswered and unacknowledged, had it been thought wise to contest those principles. And, Sir, with respect to this right of search, that not belligerent but conventional right which is used by one power for the purposes of humanity, to check the traffic in slaves, I am bound to say that, even on that point, I am surprised at the determination with which the United States refuse that mutual right. I am now speaking of that right of search which, by the treaties with the great powers of Europe, by treaty with France and other 90 states, is mutually conceded by parties desiring to prevent effectually the traffic in slaves—a right to search vessels be longing to each country which is a party to the treaty, detected in the act of carrying on this trade. For, in the year 1824, a convention was signed in this country, by Mr. Rush, the minister of the United States, almost at the instigation of America, which professed the utmost desire to put an end to the slave-trade. A convention, I say, was signed by Mr. Rush and Mr. Huskisson, which did mutually concede the right of search; that is to say, which enabled vessels of war, of the United States and Great Britain respectively, to exercise, under certain stipulations, that very right of search against which such a clamour is now raised in a neighbouring country. That treaty was rejected by the senate of the United States, not on the ground of an objection to the right of search, but because the right of search extended to the coast of America, and the United States objected to the right of search being exercised in the immediate neighbourhood of the coast of America, alleging that it was not necessary for the suppression of the slave-trade. The senate of the United States omitted the coast of America, and Mr. Canning refused to ratify the treaty in consequence of that omission; but if Mr. Canning had allowed the coast of America to be omitted from the treaty, at this moment a convention authorising the right of search would have been in force with respect to the United States. Sir, I hope that those who have contended with so much vehemence in the legislative Chamber of France against the maintenance of treaties framed in the pure spirit of humanity, and who quote the example of the United States, will refer to that convention, and see that the United States themselves were among the first to permit that conventional right of search. There must be some great misunderstanding upon this subject; but, considering the importance of maintaining this right—a right not peculiar to England—considering that we are contending for a right which is the only security against fraud, against the grossest abuses by parties interested in this iniquitous traffic, considering that we are now the advocates of a principle necessary for the interests and security of all maritime nations—it is my duty to state, in the face of the House of Commons, 91 that the claim to that right of visitation contended for in the despatch of Lord Aberdeen has not been relinquished; that on this subject we made no concession whatever, and that to the principles laid down in the despatch of Lord Aberdeen we adhere at this moment. With respect to the treaty which we have entered into with the United States, in signing that treaty we consider that we have abandoned no right of visitation. We did not understand from the United States that they entered into that treaty with any engagement from us to abandon the right of visitation, which is not necessarily connected with the question of the slave-trade. We thought that it was a step in advance when the United States professed a readiness to detach a naval force to the coast of Africa, for the purpose of suppressing the slave trade. We did not accept the detachment of that naval force as an equivalent for any right which we claimed; yet still we thought that for a great country like the United States to take that step with us on the coast of Africa, although the power of visitation is limited under the treaty in such case, although we claim no right to visit slavers which are bon° fide American, and the right is to be exercised by vessels of the United States—we thought it, I say, a step in advance towards the ultimate suppression of the slave-trade to accede to the proposition of the United States. But in acceding to that we have not abandoned our claims in the slightest degree, nor did it ever make any part of our intention, during the controversy, to abandon the right to which we lay claim in the despatch I have mentioned. We have not contented ourselves, Sir, with leaving this fact to become known by a declaration in this House; for, since the appearance of the President's message we have taken an opportunity of intimating to the United States the construction we place on the treaty. I trust, Sir, that I have said enough to satisfy the House on this point; I trust, also, that although compelled to avow a material difference of opinion between the two Governments upon this particular question, I have stated this difference of opinion with the respect which I wish to maintain towards the high authorities of the United States. Sir, I do not recollect that any other question of foreign policy was adverted to by the hon. Gentleman; but he commented, in the course of his 92 observations, on the state of the public revenue. I am quite ready to admit that the present appearance of the revenue is most unsatisfactory, and the hon. Gentle man said he hoped there would be produced, or, if there were not produced, that he himself would call for it, a balance sheet, which would demonstrate that fact. Now, I tell the hon. Gentleman at once that when he gets possession of that document his prediction will be fully verified; I tell him that that document will present a most unfavourable appearance; but I think he will admit that nothing would be more unjust or unfair than to infer the future state of the revenue and its future prospects from what shall appear on the face of that document. In the course of the last Session I stated that there was then a great deficiency, on comparing the revenue with the expenditure. I stated also that I proposed to create a new deficiency, that I proposed to remit, or at least to reduce duties which formed a very important source of revenue, the import duties on many articles which were the elements of manufactures in this country, and on many articles of general consumption which were productive in point of revenue. The article of timber, and others almost equally important, were included; and altogether I believe that a reduction was effected on 700 out of 1,100 articles comprehended in the tariff. That reduction of duty, too, took place at an early period of the financial year; in some instances from July last, in others, from October. Of course the reduction of duty taking place at an early period of the year, had a very material effect in increasing the deficiency of the revenue; and the taxes which were imposed by Parliament for the purpose of supplying that deficiency, the income-tax especially, has not yet been productive. At least they had not by any means come fully into operation. I do not know, then, that the present moment affords us very safe grounds for judging of our financial prospects; but at any rate it would be most unfair to draw discouraging inferences at a conjuncture when all the reductions have taken effect, while the receipts which were calculated upon to make up for the deficiency have not yet come to hand. Sir, the hon. Gentleman states, and states truly, with respect to the Excise, that that branch of income has been most unproductive. That is quite true. 93 The Excise has been unproductive, and it was thought advisable, in the Speech from the Throne, at once to admit the fact—to admit it with deep regret, but candidly and at once. There can be no doubt that the reduction in the Excise revenue has been in part caused by diminished consumption, which is an evidence of the depression of manufacturing industry and of the prevalence of general distress. It was thought proper at once to make that admission, but, at the same time, I wish to caution the House against drawing too unfavourable and gloomy inferences with respect to the fact of that reduction. I admit the diminution in the Excise and in the taxes, but I think a great portion of the diminution must be attributed to the very unfavourable harvest of the year 1841. The defalcation in the revenue, it appears to me, has proceeded in a great degree from that source. I think the reduction on that account alone has not been less than 900,000ll. In the produce of the malt duties and also of the spirit duties there has been considerable diminution; but with respect to the latter, it is not to be ascribed altogether to distress, for improved habits of temperance are becoming more general here as well as in other countries, and that there is a tendency to a diminished consumption of spirituous liquors as compared to former periods. But the great reduction in the Excise has arisen from the reduced manufacture of malt, which is in a very great degree the consequence of the unfavourable harvest of 1841. I am not contesting the existence of distress, and I cannot allude to the subject without expressing the deepest regret, but at the same time do not misunderstand me. I wish to caution the House of Commons against drawing too unfavourable and gloomy inferences regarding our position. The hon. Gentleman says, every thing is infinitely worse than it was five or six months ago; but at any rate he can not deny that there has been a very great reduction in the price of all the chief articles of consumption. You say that the Corn-law has had nothing to do with this, but that was not the language of last year. You say it has not in the least checked the spirit of speculation, that corn was poured in just at the time when it would have been poured in before, and that the fact of the reduction of the price of grain is to be attributed, not to the 94 operation of the new law, but to a productive harvest last year. Now, the language I heard in June and July last was, that the harvest would certainly be unproductive; and the holders of corn were encouraged to keep back their stock by confident predictions that the harvest would be unfavourable, that the prospects it held out were extremely discouraging, and that, from information collected from very numerous sources, it was certain that the harvest of 1842 would be no better than that of 1841. Sir, I ventured to entertain different opinions; I cautioned the holders of corn against such advice, and recommended them to form no such conclusion. They, however, kept back their corn, and certainly it cannot be denied but it was at one particular time thrown into the market in considerable quantities. But let hon. Gentlemen rest assured that whatever be the Corn-law, there will be at a particular time great speculation as to what the produce of the harvest will be; and when it is found that it will be abundant, depend on it that there will then be a tendency to introduce foreign corn, in order to secure a good price while the opportunity exists. There must be uncertainty in the price of an article, the production of which depends so much on the nature of the season, and which, of course, must greatly vary in quantity in different years. The hon. gentleman may depend on it that a great part of the evil which he attributes to the effects of the law passed last session will at one particular period always take place, because at that period there must be uncertainty as to the produce of the future harvest; but if the Corn holders last autumn kept back their corn, and then poured it in at a particular moment, those gentlemen who assured them that the harvest would be unproductive are responsible for that result. Now with respect to the Excise I have a return of the duty on malt for the two last quarters of the year 1842, compared with the corresponding quarters of 1841. They are the only two quarters with which it is possible to institute a comparsion. In the quarter ending in October, 1841, the quantity of malt made from barley, the produce of the crops of that year, was 376,000 bushels. In the October quarter of 1842, the number of bushels of malt amounted to 604,000. In the quarter ending in January, 1842, the number of bushels of malt was 8,951,000. In the 95 last quarter, ending January, 1843, it was 10,567,000. So that in the two last quarters of the present year, as compared with the same quarters of the preceding year, there has been an excess of 1,844,000 bushels. That is a conclusive proof of one or other of two things, either the consumption of malt has increased, or that an unproductive harvest very materially affects the revenue. In considering the financial deficiency of the year—therefore I contend that a very large portion of it must be ascribed to the fact of a bad harvest. Sir, I do not think this a fit opportunity to enter into lengthened details on the subject of finance. Future opportunities of entering fully into that subject must occur, but when the hon. Gentleman picks out the consumption of a particular period on which to ground an unfavourable representation of the case, I hope the House will not be led to draw a rash inference. I think I can show them in the state of the savings banks circumstances corroborating the view I take of this matter. An extraordinary effect was produced in the withdrawal of deposits from these banks, by the disorders which prevailed in the autumn of last year. During the suspension of industry in the north, the amount withdrawn from the saving banks was very great, and we have conclusive proof in the state of the revenue, that the disorders contributed greatly to diminish consumption; but since they have ceased this is no longer the case, and deposits have increased, speaking generally of the savings banks, in the manufacturing districts. I know this is not conclusive, in showing the condition of mere artisans and mechanics, but at the same time inferences may be drawn from the amount of deposits in the savings banks, which negative, at least, that very unfavourable view of the position of the country which the hon. Gentleman has taken. That distress still exists in many districts, and especially in parts of that country with which the hon. Gentleman is connected, I admit, but I think there are indications of an increased consumption of some articles which justify a hope, at least, that the physical condition of the people is now in some respects improving—a hope too encouraging not to be seized on with avidity if it rests on a solid foundation. The hon. Gentleman asked what further measures I am prepared to introduce in order to carry out the principles on which I last Session declared 96 my resolution to act. I stated, in explaining the measure then passed, the general principles which I thought ought to guide the commercial policy of this country; and I said that I thought we ought to give as far as possible new scope to commercial enterprise. To the principles then laid down I adhere; but when I stated them, I at the same time referred to the many complicated considerations which must be borne in mind when you attempt to introduce and apply principles, unquestionably sound, to a country such as this. Sir, I made in the course of last year, with the aid of my friends and colleagues in office, more extensive changes in the commerce of the country, and the code which regulates it, than were made at any former period. If I had contemplated any further immediate extensive changes, I would at once have proposed them, in the course of last Session. Why should I not have done so? I stated the general principles on which I proceeded, and to those general principles I adhere, but I did not lead hon. Gentlemen to expect that I would go on, year after year, introducing extensive changes. I thought it would be infinitely better, when I had made up my mind as to the changes which ought to be proposed, to propose them all in one year, than to propose only a certain number of them in that year, with the secret reservation in my mind of an intention to introduce more during the next. Whatever changes I propose, will be in conformity, when I do propose them, with the general principles which I laid down, by which I am still guided, and of the truth of which I am perfectly convinced. But as I said last year, at the time of my laying down these principles, I cannot forget that in this country protection has been the rule—that under it great and extensive interests have grown up, and that if, in stating better principles, and substituting a better system for one that is defective, you proceed too hastily, if you produce distress in consequence of your beneficent efforts to introduce contentment and happiness, you run the risk of obstructing the free and rapid progress of those principles. It is, therefore, not in my power to assure the hon. Gentlemen that I have any great and extensive changes to propose in the commercial code of this country, when I do propose changes, they will be in conformity, as I have said, with the principles I laid down on former occa- 97 sions; but I should be deceiving the hon. Gentleman if I led him to expect in the present Session any such extensive alterations as those at which he hints. Sir, I will not now enter into a vindication of the Corn-laws, or of all the details of the course I pursued last Session, with reference to the alteration then made; because an opportunity will probably be afforded by some Gentleman who takes a different view of the subject from myself for discussing their operations and effects. It may be in the power of some hon. Gentlemen to adduce reason for believing that some better system ought to be enforced, but this I must say, that the event has proved that many of the arguments directed against that Corn-law which I proposed have not been fortified by experience. With respect to the alteration of the averages, for instance, it was confidently said, that the introduction of the new towns into the lists from which they were made up, would have the effect of lowering the price of corn, I think by 5s. and consequently increasing the duty. Now I shall be able to show that the introduction of the new towns has been an effectual corrective of fraud, but, at the same time, that it has not had the effect attributed to it by the hon. Gentleman, and which he himself admitted that he over-rated in the first instance. I certainly do remain of opinion that that law has not had a sufficient trial to warrant me in proposing the abrogation of it; I cannot say that I think the effect of it has been unfavourable, and I do not believe that the objections which have been urged by the hon. Gentleman apply to it. Sir, when I introduced the Income-tax, I stated my firm conviction that the effect of the other laws I proposed would be to enable the party called upon to pay the tax to make a saving in his expenditure, equivalent to the sum which I should take from him for the Income-tax. My belief is, Sir, that that prediction has been fully verified, and that there has been a reduction of prices which does enable parties to make a saving in their expenditure, equivalent to the sum they will be called on to contribute in the shape of Income-tax. There will probably be other opportunities of discussing these important matters; but when I am asked to come forward and declare whether I contemplate extensive changes in the Corn-laws, I feel it right to avow that her Majesty's Government 98 have it not in contemplation to propose such extensive changes.
Lord J. Russell
I can assure the House it is not my intention to express by my vote any dissent from the Address which has been moved in answer to the Speech from the Throne. I think, considering the great variety of topics which are touched upon in that Speech, and the great difference of opinion which prevails with respect to some of those topics, the Speech has been judiciously and wisely framed, in order to avoid occasion for any difference of votes on this, the first night of the Session. Among the various topics of the Speech I will take first that which is of a very gratifying nature, namely, the successes of our armies in China, and the honourable and satisfactory peace which has been concluded with the emperor. With respect to that subject I am quite willing to agree with the hon. Gentleman who seconded the Address, who praised the energy and promptitude with which her Majesty's Ministers have directed the military and naval forces at the disposal of the Crown, in order to obtain an honourable peace, and bring the war to a termination. If there had been any change made with respect to the means which were placed at their disposal by the late Government when they left office, if there had been any intimation that they were obliged themselves to prepare those means which they found ready to be sent to the scene of action, I would have felt myself compelled to enter into that topic; but as nothing of the kind has been said, I am most willing to bear my testimony to the promptitude and decision with which that war has been brought to an honourable conclusion. Another topic, of far more difficulty, and in which we require some elucidation before we come to the motion for a vote of thanks, of which the right hon. Gentleman has given notice, relates to our operations in Affghanistan. These operations do the greatest credit to the gallantry, the skill, and military talents of the generals who were placed in command of our troops; to General Pollock, to General Nott, to General Sale, and to many other officers placed in subordinate command. But, Sir, if the right hon. Gentleman is to move thanks to the Governor-general and to the army, there are one or two points on which I think he will especially be bound to give some information to the House. One of these I did not hear at all touched upon by the hon. Gen- 99 tleman in the course of his speech—and that is the statement to which my hon. Friend alluded—that the operations which were so triumphant, and the victories and successes of our troops, were stained by a spirit of revenge and retaliation. I am sure both this House and the country will greatly lament that any glory which we may have acquired, any valour which may have been shown, should be accompanied by any acts of violence inconsistent with that humanity which not only England, but all the great civilised nations of Europe, have for centuries combined to maintain. The other point refers to the remarkable course taken by the Governor-general with respect to the last expedition to Afghanistan. The rumour is, that at a certain period the Governor-general issued an order for the immediate retirement of the whole of the troops from the country. We have not been told whether there is any proof of that order having been issued, neither have we been told—for, from the equivocal phrases of the right hon. Gentleman, I could not collect his meaning on this subject—whether the Governor-general himself directed operations which subsequently took place, and which were eminently successful, or merely permitted Generals Pollock and Nott to carry into effect their own plans and measures, without any positive instructions on his part. I think the right hon. Gentleman must see it is of the greatest importance that this point should be cleared up before he asks for the thanks of this House to the Governor-general of India. Generally speaking, when instructions have been given to the Governor-general, it has happened that he has been the person who has given directions for assembling the army, and who has prepared the expedition. This, I think, was the case with the vote of thanks to Lord Minto for the expedition to Java, and with that to Lord Auckland for the first expedition to Affghanistan. But with respect to the preparation of the troops, the whole of the force of which the army of advance consisted was already assembled, and beyond the Indus at the time when Lord Ellenborough arrived and assumed the command. Of course, it was no blame to Lord Ellenborough that he did not assemble the troops; but of course, also, the mere fact of his being Governor-general of India at the moment, would not entitle him to the thanks of this House, which the right hon. Gentleman moves us to grant. If he has not given orders for the 100 advance of the troops, then, though he may have been Governor-general of India at the time when the operations took place, it will be proper not to take such a course as that of giving the thanks of the House where none are required. I hope, therefore, that before they are moved, the right hon. Gentleman will give us information upon which we may proceed to grant or not to acquiesce in the motion of which he has given notice. I can assure him, with respect to that part of the Governor-general's conduct, I have no wish to refuse him any thanks he may appear to have deserved from a consideration of the facts and circumstances of the case. But, Sir, in speaking of the conduct of the Governor-general of India, now, upon the first day of the Session, although we may have other opportunities of discussing these important subjects, I cannot omit to notice the two remarkable proclamations which are said to have been issued by the authority of the Governor-general. In the first of these proclamations there is, in the first place, what I shall call a violent party attack upon his predecessor. It was the intention of the act which last passed for the renewal of the charter of the East India Company, as stated by Lord Glenelg, when he opened the subject, to keep the politics of India as far distant as possible from the party dissensions of this country. He stated that, as one of the motives for the bill which he brought forward, and, I think, justly stated that it was most desirable that the heated atmosphere of party conflict in this country should not reach the Government of India in the exercise of those great functions with which it is invested. But I must say, that in the commencement of the first of these proclamations there is such a misrepresentation of the conduct of an antagonist as hardly ever takes place in the utmost heat of debate in this or the other House of Parliament. In the next place, I find in the same proclamation a very extraordinary, and to me, I should say, a very shocking declaration, with respect to the intentions of the Governor-general as to Affghanistan. He states, that he is about to leave Affghanistan to that anarchy which the crimes of the people of that country have produced. I am not disputing the policy of abandoning the country—the executive government must have far better means of in formation upon that subject, than I possess—but if it was thought right to evacuate Affghanistan, if the continuance 101 of our armies in that country was too great a drain on the resources of India, if the disasters which had taken place at Cabul, had so inspirited the enemies of the British name that it would not have been possible, without enormous and endless sacrifices, to establish permanently a government such as Lord Auckland had contempt to introduce it that should be in-templated—yet I should have thought consistent with the most perfect respect to that even in this case the policy of the Governor-general would not have been a mere policy of malignant revenge; that he would have endeavoured as far as possible to leave Affghanistan in the hands of some chief capable from his character of gaining the confidence of the people of that country, to re-establish as settled and regular an order of things as it was possible to obtain; and to attain, whether by a native force, or by such other means as the Governor-general could leave with him, or to have some chance at least of attaining that which Lord Auckland declared he hoped would be the result of the expedition, the foundation of a government in Affghanistan favourable to the maintenance of relations of peace with India, and to the development of industry in that country. To me it appears, therefore, by that proclamation—and of such a construction it is unquestionably susceptible—that the policy has been as contrary to the dictates of humanity as any I ever remember to have heard of, namely, that, in consequence of the losses we have sustained, our sole purpose was that of retaliation and revenge. But there was also another proclamation—yes, there was another proclamation, the very mention of which excites almost the ridicule of those who have read it; a proclamation so strange, that, I believe, there were many persons in this country who believed the document was not genuine. I have heard, indeed, of some sagacious persons, who were made the dupes, last year, of a very clever article which appeared in one of the newspapers, pretending to give an account of the debates in the French chambers, which account they believed to be a legitimate report—that those persons, on the present occasion of the proclamation to which I am now alluding, said, "No, our sagacity is now revived; we won't be taken in this time; this is really too bad; this hoax is too plain." But, though there is so much in the proclamation that is very absurd, and many might be disposed to laugh at the idea of "the temple of Somnauth," and the "despoiled tomb of Sultan Mah- 102 moud looking upon the ruins of Ghuznee." yet the whole substance and tone of the document inspires me with another feeling. The hon. Member has spoken of the introduction of Christianity into China. Much is I desire the introduction of Christianity in to China, I could not approve of any at of the things which other people conscientiously believe to be sacred. I should be sorry if any attempt should be made to accomplish that most desirable event that should savour in the least of violence; but that men coming from a Christian land, imbued, as might be reasonably supposed, with respect for the religion of their country, should be found to pay the same respect to Pagan superstitions, and the most gross idolatry does appear to me not only extraordinary, but also calculated to lessen that hold and that influence which the English Government ought to maintain in India. I am told that the most superstitious of the natives have actually no knowledge of this legend of 800 years ago, and that such a reference to it, as regards the more en lightened of the Hindoos, must materially diminish their respect for our religious consistency, when we could be capable of paying to that we should regard as superstition and idolatry almost the same respect as we should to our own faith. These are not simple and insulated blunders. They alarm me with respect to the general sober and judicious conduct of the Governor-general. The noble Lord who fills that high and important office is a man of considerable talents. He is a person who, when acting with others in the Cabinet or in the House of Lords, has given proof of his abilities; but when a man is placed in the, I may say, extraordinary position of Governor-general of India, where the millions of inhabitants of that empire are placed under his care—when so much of the power of that great country is en trusted to his hands, it appears to me that it requires more than common judgment, more than common exoneration from the temptations of vanity, to enable that man to carry on the government of India in a way to satisfy the people of this country that that empire is in no danger. I need not say anything with respect to the original expedition to Affghanistan. An hon. Gentleman has given notice of a motion on the subject; the question, too, was fully discussed last year. A right hon. Friend of mine, the Member for Nottingham, then 103 made an admirable speech on the subject, and whenever it may be discussed again we shall be ready to enter upon it in connection with the proceedings of Lord Auckland. The right hon. Gentleman has answered my hon. Friend with respect to transactions in a different part of the world; but I think the right hon. Gentle man has a little exaggerated the statements made by my hon. Friend, who, I think, scarcely went to the extent the right hon. Gentleman would infer. With respect to the satisfactory adjustment of a question which, since 1783, had been in abeyance—with respect to that, or with respect to the satisfactory arrangement of any other matter between this country and another, having the same origin and laws, and speaking the same language as ourselves, so that relations of amity between them should be firmly cemented, there can be, I apprehend, no possible difference of opinion. But the terms upon which the late treaty I am alluding to has been concluded, form a very different question; and it is a question upon which, I frankly confess, I do not feel the same degree of satisfaction which has been felt and expressed by a great part of the country. And allow me to say, that I do not conceive that the friendly relations of a country are promoted by any concession which, on the face of it, is a disadvantageous concession. I do not think that a country gains anything by a great readiness to concede or abandon what she has. Having said so much, I will now add that I consider the first despatch of Lord Ashburton proposed a fair and just compromise of this question, and that despatch, I think, should have been more firmly adhered to. In saying this, I am not alleging that extreme terms should have been proposed, or extreme rights should have been insisted upon; I am only repeating that which Lord Ashburton himself in strong terms deemed indispensable to the settlement of the question. There is one part of this treaty which strikes one as showing a greater degree of readiness to yield than was absolutely necessary for the settlement of this question. The Americans believed those points they insisted upon to be just. We on the other hand, believed our claims to be just. We had on our parts no more reason to apprehend the consequence of a war than America, although it is certain that we should have entered upon hostilities with as great reluctance as the people of the United States. These preliminary 104 circumstances being equal, it follows that the settlement should have been equal on both sides. In the first proposition, Lord Ashburton had laid down certain points relating to the Madawasca boundary, which had been asserted by Lord Sydenham, and that proposition ought not to have been abandoned. Mr. Webster very ably argued that point; the river was so convenient and natural as a boundary, that it would prevent all disputes, and was by far the best settlement of the question—suppose the Madawasca settlement be given up, and that of the St. John substituted. But it proved, when we got a little higher up the St. John, that Mr. Webster proposed to cross the river, and upon that point I think Lord Ashburton might fairly have retorted upon him his own arguments as to the line proposed being so advantageous as a demarcation between the two countries. I do not myself see why a little more firmness on the part of Lord Ashburton might not have led to a more advantageous settlement of the question than has been arrived at by the present treaty. There is another circumstance which causes me to doubt whether a better settlement might not have been effected. When we discussed the Address to the Crown last year, I said I would then give no opinion on the policy of the concession, and during the whole course of the Session I never said or did anything, with regard to that concession, calculated to interfere with the progress of the treaty; and, on the contrary, when an hon. Gentleman did ask some questions with regard to the treaty, I expressed my entire concurrence in the prudence of the right hon. Gentleman opposite refusing to give the information sought for. But now that the Crown has taken that course which by prerogative belongs to it, the case becomes different; and I must say in one respect, although not in another, that the choice of Lord Ashburton was unfortunate. Of his talents, long experience, and knowledge of the United States, there can be no doubt; but it so happens that in 1838, Lord Ashburton after giving two days' notice to the other House of Parliament, expressed an elaborate opinion with regard to colonies in general, and Canada in particular, that no wise man could expect that Canada would belong to this country more than twenty years, and that if there was a wish on the part of the people of that colony to effect a separation from the mother country, he on his part, should be ready to for- 105 ward that separation. I differ from the noble Lord in that reasoning, and upon the merits of it I am not now about to enter, but to observe that when a person holding that opinion had to negociate with an American Secretary of State, that Secretary of State might be very likely to say to him—"It is not your object to have a strict military boundary. With your views, which are more abstract and philosophical than ours, it can matter nothing to you whether a frontier of that description belong to the United States or not." But having said this, let me not be construed as expressing the opinion that the concession the noble Lord has made has placed the security of our Canadian possessions in any imminent jeopardy. My opinion is, that our hold upon Canada, must depend, in the first instance upon your diligence. You have given them a constitutional government by which I think the affections of the people of Canada have been secured; and it may I think, be concluded that there is no wish on their part to separate. The next security is that assurance which I gave them when I had the honour to fill the office now occupied by the noble Lord opposite—that the Queen would be pre pared to employ, as far as was in her Majesty's power, all the means and resources of this country in the defence of Canada against any foreign enemy whatever. I believe, on those two propositions principally rests the security of our Canadian colony. It is a collateral consideration, without doubt, that you should have a boundary to which you are fairly entitled. To that boundary I think more attention should have been paid, but I do not see that the security of Canada has been mainly affected by the concession. But there is still another view of this subject. In this country there was no great attention paid to the boundary line question. Very few people knew the reasons upon which either country rested its claim, or the exact advantage which would accrue to either country from this or that settlement. But the people of this country did look for the cementing of peace between this country and the United States. Regarded in that point of view, it was surely most desirable that a plain definite agreement should have been entered into. Has that been done? What have we heard to night relative to the construction of the treaty? Previous to the despatch of Lord Aberdeen, to which reference has been 106 made, the question had been discussed between my noble Friend and Mr. Stevenson, when the same argument was taken up; and though the American minister in this country resisted the proposition of my noble Friend, the difference might have been adjusted. But what is the case now? You have the President of the United States giving to the people of the United States and of Europe, the announcement that there was an agreement and a treaty which bears a certain interpretation, and you have the right hon. Gentleman declaring that it bears no such interpretation. Can we, then, say that the question is completely set at rest, and that the treaty is completely understood on both sides, with these opposite declarations before us. I must say, that, with respect to this question of a treaty with America, as well as with respect to some others, there was rather too much hurry in saying that everything is settled upon the most stable foundations, while, in fact, a misunderstanding exists, and no such stability as was alleged has been gained. With the views I have stated in regard to this treaty, which has been entered into by the Minister, and ratified by the Governments, I should yet think that the House of Commons might safely refrain from giving their formal opinion. I do not, indeed, conceive that if the honour of the country is not concerned, nor her interests placed in jeopardy, this House ought to interfere with their opinion and advice. The remainder of the Speech from the Throne refers to the domestic situation of the country. That part of the subject has been entered into by my hon Friend near me. I can only say, with the experience I have had of the Corn-law of the right hon. Gentleman, that if such experience has confirmed him in the wisdom of the sliding-scale, it has confirmed me also in the opinions I expressed in 1839, 1840, 1841, that a moderate fixed duty would be the best system upon which our trade could be based. At all events, I see that the operation of that sliding-scale is to keep out a quantity of corn in the country at one time, and let it in at another, when the consumer is not so much in want of it, and when the farmers are injured by the sale of so vast a quantity. The operation of the sliding-scale may be compared to the conduct of a gardener, who should leave his ground unwatered during and heats, and when the rain had begun to fall, was to exclaim, now is the time to 107 to water my plants, and was forthwith to carry on his irrigation. It was found last year that during all the early part the price was high, say about 60s. or 61s., and at that time there was no great introduction of foreign wheat. But in August, when your favourable harvest was about to be reaped, then more than 2,000,000 quarters of foreign corn, and a proportionate quantity of wheaten flour were at once admitted to the immediate depression of the markets. Therefore it appears that when the people wanted relief they could not procure it, but that the operation of the sliding-scale has been, that speculators have been ruined because they could not obtain the price they expected, that the farmer has been injured by the depression of the markets, and that the consumer has not received that benefit which ought to have been given to him many months before. I cannot conceive that the right hon. Gentleman means permanently to defend the law. Nothing I have heard to-night has persuaded me that it is his intention permanently to abide by this law. I remember the principles expressed by the right hon. Gentleman, last year, in regard to the tariff, but I cannot square those principles with the present Corn-law. The right hon. Gentleman the Secretary of State was pleased to say, that he did not consider the measure a final one, and I presume he had some reason for using an expression to which some degree of unpopularity has lately been attached; but like the wish expressed by the Member of the Irish House of Commons for a little unanimity, it seems to me that some of the farmers must of late have wished for some of that same finality in regard to the Corn-law. I cannot but consider it impolitic to retain in one year what you mean to surrender in another. I cannot, moreover, believe from the declarations that have been made, in the coarse of the recess, that it is intended to retain the present law. I have observed that there has been a feeling growing up, that the Corn-law could not be defended in connexion with the existence of the principles of the tariff. We have had the Member for Essex declaring, and then explaining, and the Member for West Somerset explaining; then the Member for East Somerset making a declaration, and then, three weeks afterwards, he also was explaining, What is the cause of all this variation?—a variation, I must say, most uncommon and unusual in the class to which those hon. Gentlemen 108 belong. Though it has often been my lot to differ from the principles of that class, yet I must say that the Gentlemen who belong to it are generally pretty firm and consistent, and pretty plain, too, in their method of expression, But their difficulty was this: they were taught that the security of agriculture did not depend upon protective laws and prohibitory duties, but upon com petition, the exertion of industry, and the application of skill and capital to the cultivation of the soil. That was the defence, and an excellent one it was, which was put. forth for the admission of cattle into the tariff. But then it was asked, "Do you mean to alter the Corn-law?" "Oh no," it was replied; "we think that agriculture requires a large protection." "Then if you think so, why do you put cattle in the tariff?" The truth is, the gentlemen belonging to the class in question have been put by the right hon. Baronet in a hard and cruel position. In the first year of the right hon. Gentleman's power, they are to defend a tariff, founded, not indeed upon the principles of free trade, but of free competition; and then they are to defend the Corn-law, which is utterly irreconcileable with every principle in the tariff. There is another view in which the farmers of this country were interested in the settlement of the question: it is while this Anti-Corn-law League continues to exist [to the principles of which I do not subscribe], and against the leaders of that League I may take the opportunity some day to defend myself; but, in the mean time, what says one of the leaders of that Anti-Corn-law League?—that in 1841 you had a claim to an 8s. duty; that a great proportion of the wealthy and influential subscribers to the League—those who gave to it its vitality and power—would have fallen off, had the proposal for the imposition of that duty been acceded to; that they would have been satisfied with that proposition as a reasonable settlement of the question; and that at this day there would not have been an Anti-Corn-law League in existence, but that that powerful and wealthy body would have been dissolved. Would it not, then, be for the interests of the agriculturists—those who have to pay the labourers—if they could say, "There is now no such powerful body agitating the country for a total repeal of the duties on corn?" That it appears, then, would have been the effect, if the House had chosen to adopt that much reviled and vilified 109 proposition of an 8s. fixed duty. If that be the case, why does not the right hon. Gentleman propose some scheme by which an end should be put to the agitation with respect to this subject, which is now going on in the country? Incongruous as I think the principles of the tariff are, in no articles is that incongruity more remarkable than in those of corn and sugar. I fear the result of the right hon. Gentleman's proceedings has been, that while he has disseminated some great principles, he has not at the same time given satisfaction to another great power—the power of growing opinion; and that, after all, he has brought into play two antagonist forces—established interest on the one hand, and growing opinion upon the other; and that those forces will be left to contend upon the field of battle, while all the enormous masses of men concerned, whether in the agricultural or manufacturing interest, will be looking on, uncertain on which side the victory will be determined; but, in the meantime, suffering all those evils which are necessarily attendant upon the prolongation of the contest. The Speech from the Throne declares that when the taxes which have been imposed shall come into operation, the revenue will be found sufficient to provide for the expenditure. I am glad to hear from such an authority, a declaration of the kind. Still those reasons which induced me last year to give my vote against every stage of the bill for the imposition of the Property and Income-tax, have been strengthened by the experience we have had of it. I do not wish now to go into any arguments in detail against that tax; I do not wish to make any observations upon its inquisitorial nature, or to force upon the attention of the House those points on which it affects the trade of the country. But there is one point to which I wish particularly to call the attention of the right hon. Gentleman, the Chancellor of the Exchequer, because it appears to me that the tax, as at present collected, amounts to a confiscation of a certain amount of property. I find that the right, hon. Gentleman stated in an ad captandum manner last year, that incomes under 150l. a-year were not to be subjected to this tax. There is no law by which persons having only an income under that amount were bound to contribute to the tax; but I find there are instances of persons receiving only some of them 40l., 50l., or 70.l or 80.l 110 from the funds, and yet the tax is taken from them in the first instance, and they are left without remedy. Oh! but it is said they may appeal. Take the case of a poor widow living at Boulogne having had this deduction made from her little annuity. She is told to come over to London, and if she can lose her time for two or three days, endure an examination before some board sitting there, and stand the buffetings and brow beatings from officials and their clerks who wish to get as much as they can from the tax, she may stand a chance of her money being refunded to her. But how many persons are there who are so timid or so infirm, that they do not like to go through all these official ordeals, and who in consequence sacrifice the money? If the law operate so, I cannot call it less than confiscation. Many complaints have been made in regard to house property. I have heard many instances of the way in which the surcharges have been made. I have been told of one person who made it a rule, whenever he got a return, to add 20 per cent to it. Of the injustice of this it is not necessary to say much. All persons do not make false returns. Take the case of two persons; one of whom returns 40 per cent. under the actual amount of his property, whilst the other makes a fair and full return. Now, by the practice I have mentioned of adding 20 per cent. to a return, you not only unjustly overcharge one man that amount, but you actually give the other, who makes the defective return, the benefit of a sum equal to half that of which he has sought to deprive the revenue. When honest persons are surcharged, they are told they have their remedy by going before some commissioners sitting in some place at a distance, convenient or inconvenient as the case may be, and that, if surcharged, they will recover back the amount. But numbers of these persons do not make the attempt to appeal, and the fact is the surcharge is made upon them in the confidence that they will not make that attempt. A person complained to me himself that he had a small freehold of 40l. a year, for which he was charged 150l. I told him his remedy but he represented to me, that his profession as an artist engaged him in another place at the time for appeal, and that he could not afford the time, had he the inclination, to be buffeted about before the commissioners. I am justified, then, in asking whether the people are not only to be subject to the burden, that a 111 man is not only to submit to have affairs of business investigated and laid before some inimical attorney, perhaps, or some rival in trade, but that it must also be a condition of this tax, that money should be taken from them under its authority, but which they do not owe, and which is taken from them under the conviction, that they will not undergo the vexation and trouble of an appeal? It may be possible to remedy these things, and I think those who imposed the tax are bound to take every means to diminish the abuse which it has caused. There is only one other part of the Speech to which I shall now allude. It is that part relating to the disturbances in the manufacturing districts. That there was considerable disturbance and violation of the public peace there can be no doubt; yet I think that during those disturbances, which were attributable to the fact, that the working men considered they were not sufficiently paid, there was displayed on the part of the working men of those districts a conduct which deserves the greatest admiration. No doubt there were people who swelled the ranks of the crowd whose intentions were evil; but considering that that crowd was formed of thousands of people, who were the unemployed from the mills and the workshops, that there were strong inducements held out to them to join in the projects for the charter, and for the subversion of the constitution, and that insidious attempts were made for that purpose by the most artful demagogues, all of which temptations and inducements the people of their own calm deliberation, and by the operation of their good sense, at once rejected; considering, moreover, that the injury to life and property in these disturbed districts was comparatively small, I do think some praise is due to the sense, and temper of the people, and that much of this is to be attributed to that general respect for and obedience to the law, and that appreciation of the blessings of the constitution which was displayed by the people at that time. Now I can see nothing resembling such a sentiment, either in the Speech which we have this day heard from the Throne, or in the Address which had been moved in reply to it. On the contrary, the Gentleman who seconded the Address spoke of the immorality of the people, who, he said, were easily led to listen to any demagogue. Why, no doubt, in a population of many millions, such as the 112 population of this country, there were some who would follow demagugues; but that that is the general character of the great mass of the people of these kingdoms I utterly deny. I maintain, that, however imperfect the system of education in this country—however insufficient the schools as yet established in the manufacturing districts—however defective the plan upon which these schools are conducted, there is a great advance in the general knowledge and general good bearing of the people, compared with anything that existed at the conclusion of the war—compared with anything that existed in the years 1817 and 1819, when laws were passed in this House repressing the liberty of the subject. If that is the case, I think you ought to say something more to them than that you will repress with the utmost rigour of the law any excesses into which they may be betrayed. I think that her Majesty's Ministers should give them a pledge—that this House should give them a pledge that you will enter into a full consideration of the causes of the distress now so long prevailing—that you will pay every attention to all complaints of practical grievauce—and that while you are not ready to adopt every nostrum of political change dictated by demagogues, yet that you are ready, when any practical distress is suffered—when any practical grievance is endured—if that grievance can be traced in any way to the operation of the laws—to the administration of justice, or to any of the regulations which forbid a free intercourse between this country and other nations; if you find that the interests of the great body of the people would be advanced by an alteration or modification of existing laws, I think that you, as the representative of a people so long free, and so deserving of their freedom, should show that you are ready to take such measures, ready to attend to their complaints, and that, even while there be some disturbance amongst some classes, you value the examples of peace, order, and sobriety, which are the characteristics of the great body of the people of this country.
§ Sir Charles Napier
objected to the articles of the Ashburton treaty. He complained particularly of the absence of any stipulation in the treaty with respect to the power of taking British seamen from American ships in time of war. As regarded the boundary question, he looked 113 upon the treaty as the most ignominious treaty ever signed by a British minister. He did not say, that England ought to have obtained every point that she went for any more than that the Americans should have obtained every point that they went for; but he asked why the British Minister did not hoist his standard of resistance on the banks of the river St. John? Why he did not tell the Americans that beyond the limits of that river they should not pass, instead of allowing them to run their boundary up into the very centre of Canada? It was no excuse to say, that the territory abandoned was not of great value; no portion of it should have been surrendered without an equivalent. The land itself might be utterly valueless, but every mile of it became of importance when it allowed the Americans to run their frontier right up to the heart of the Canadas. He only wished to make one other observation. In the Speech from the Throne it was said, that the Syrian question was settled; but the House was left in utter ignorance as to how it had been settled. He hoped, that her Majesty's Ministers would see the propriety of giving some explanation upon that point.
§ Mr. Wallace
expressed his entire dissatisfaction with the Speech which Ministers had chosen to offer to the country as coming from the Sovereign. He believed, that the people in general would think with him that the distress which pervaded the country from one end of it to the other should have been treated in a very different manner, and he was quite sure that that part of the country from which he came, to which there was an attempt in the Speech to pay a compliment, would know how to appreciate language which seemed to imply a doubt that Scotchmen could have had any other notion than that of paying a compliment to the Sovereign, and that Sovereign a woman. He was quite prepared to say, that the Income-tax, which had been so well alluded to by the noble Lord, the Member for London (Lord John Russell), was the root of all the new evil of which the country had now reason to complain. Yet it was that most iniquitous tax upon which the Minister reckoned as the source from which he was to derive the means to make up the deficiencies in the revenue which were occasioned by the distress of the country. He took it to be quite clear that the signal 114 falling-off that had occurred in the revenue arose from the fact that the working and middling classes were not in possession of the means to command the ordinary comforts and necessaries of life. This, perhaps, was not anticipated by those by whom the Income-tax was proposed: but it was distinctly foreseen by those who looked around them, and saw the condition to which the great mass of the population of the country was reduced. He believed that there had never been imposed in this country any tax at once so injurious and so completely ill-timed. Allusion had been made to the depression of the manufacturing interest, but no intelligent man could look around him and fail to see that there was not an interest in the country that was not equally depressed. Take the shipping interest, for instance—one of the main interests of the country—when was that interest ever in a more depressed condition? If possible, it was at this moment even more depressed than the manufacturing interest; yet no allusion whatever was made to it in the Speech from the Throne. Notice had that evening been given, in various quarters, of an intention on the part of individual Members to bring the different points referred to in the Queen's Speech under the especial consideration of the House. He had intimated his intention of bringing forward a motion in respect to the general distress of the country; and he had no doubt that that motion, when submitted to the consideration of the House, would call forth an expression of opinion very different indeed from the slighting manner in which her Majesty's advisers had thought fit to pass over the unprecedented state of things which now existed in this kingdom. He used the term "unprecedented" advisedly, for he maintained, and at the proper time should be ready to show, that this country had never in all its history been in a state of such general misery and destitution as at the present moment. Moreover he was convinced that no Speech ever attributed to the reigning Monarch of these kingdoms could carry to every part of the nation a feeling of such general dissatisfaction as would be produced by the Speech that had that day been addressed to them from the Throne. It expressed no commiseration for the sufferings of the people, conveyed no hope of an amelioration of their condition. He was satisfied that there never was an Administration which would be 115 held in such general and deserved disrepute as the present Government would be, in consequence of not taking a different view with respect to the situation of all ranks and classes in the country.
must observe, in the first place, that there appeared to be no in considerable difference of opinion between the hon. Gentleman who had just sat down, and the hon. Gentleman (Mr. Charles Wood), who was then speaking to him, and the noble Lord (Lord John Russell) who preceded him in the debate. For whilst the hon. Member for Greenock told the House that the Speech from the Throne would be received in every quarter of the kingdom with universal dissatisfaction—that there never was a Speech so objectionable, and that he objected to each and every part of it, the noble Lord and the hon. Gentleman, sitting on the same side of the House, had declared, with great candour and fairness, that with regard to the topics introduced into the I Speech, they appeared to them to be judiciously selected, and judiciously handled—that they entertained very little objection to any portion of them (or with very few exceptions), and that, upon the whole, they should disclaim the notion of moving or supporting an amendment. After the sweeping denunciation which the hon. Gentleman had made of all that was in the Speech, and all that was not in the Speech he thought that the hon. Gentle man should have tried his hand at an amendment, either by moving the rejection of some paragraph in the Address to which he objected, or the insertion of some paragraph which he preferred. But the expression of the hon. Gentleman's objection, notwithstanding the general denunciation in which he indulged, was confined to two subjects. The hon. Gentleman objected to the language in which the royal visit to Scotland was spoken of, as if because her Majesty expressed the gratification which she felt at the universal sentiment of loyalty and attachment with which she was received from one part of Scotland to the other—it was, therefore, the intention of Ministers to insinuate that her Majesty had reason to expect, or that her advisers were so ignorant of the general feeling of the people of Scotland towards the Sovereign, as to suppose that she would not be received with every demonstration of affectionate loyalty in that part of her dominions, and consequently 116 that that paragraph in the Speech which was intended as a compliment to the people of Scotland, was in fact a covert insult to their national and natural feelings of loyalty. That was the hon. Gentleman's first objection. His second assertion was, that no commiseration was expressed for the sufferings of the people, and no expectation held out of the adoption of measures for their relief. The hon. Gentleman must forgive him (Lord Stanley) for saying that no terms could be more emphatic than those in which her Majesty spoke of the sufferings of a large portion of her people as leading to a reduction of the revenue from causes which could not be concealed, and which must be deeply and universally deplored—namely, the inability of a large class of the people, owing to the distress which had so long continued, to obtain the means of providing themselves with the ordinary and necessary articles of consumption. This was a state of things which her Majesty deeply lamented. With regard to the Government holding out immediate relief, he thought that the hon. Gentleman's experience in that House and his own good sense must have shown him that there could be nothing so dangerous as to put into the mouth of the Sovereign exaggerated and vague expectations of relief without pointing out in distinct terms the quarter from which that relief was to come. The noble Lord (Lord John Russell) not having many sources of complaint against the Speech, had selected four subjects, two of which were included in the Speech, and two of which were omitted from it, the two latter being the Income-tax and the Corn-laws. [Lord John Russell: The Income-tax is named in the speech.] True; the Income-tax was named—named in the way in which it was proper it should be named—namely, as the source from which the financial deficiency (a deficiency not exactly of the present Government's incurring) might in the course of the current year be made up. He confessed that, after the compliments which the noble Lord at the commencement of his address had paid to the selection and handling of the topics introduced into the Speech from the Throne, it would have been more fair and manly if, following the speech of his right hon. Friend (Sir Robert Peel), the noble Lord had abstained from touching upon topics more particularly of a personal character, and 117 for the full and unfettered discussion of which, ample opportunity would be afforded upon subsequent and more convenient occasions. And if it were not the intention of the noble Lord to condemn the conduct, either of the Governor-general of India, or of the present Government of this country for the policy which they had pursued, he thought it would have been competent to the noble Lord to restrain the anxiety which he appeared to feel to enter upon these topics until the opportunity should arrive (and it had that night been notified) that an opportunity would be afforded (as well by the Government as by an hon. Gentleman opposite), for fully discussing the whole policy of the present and the late Government with respect to the affairs of Affghanistan. The motion, indeed, of which his right hon. Friend (Sir Robert Peel) had given notice, did not enter upon so wide a scope as that of the hon. Gentleman opposite; but it did pro pose to call upon the House to join in a vole of thanks to those who had been concerned in Affghanistan, for the ability and skill, and the valour and energy which they had displayed in carrying to a successful termination, a war, which at the period at which the present Ministry came into office bore, to say the least of it, a very unpromising aspect. To that point, and to that point alone, the motion of his right hon. Friend (Sir Robert Peel) would go; but he would frankly and fairly admit to the noble Lord that in bringing forward that motion, it was the intention of her Majesty's Government to claim for the Governor-general of India, the praise to which they thought he was fairly and amply entitled, namely, that by his decision, his energy and the wisdom of the ordinances which he had issued, he had mainly contributed to the great success which had crowned the labours of our Indian army. The noble Lord (Lord John Russell) would, therefore, have the opportunity, if he should so think fit, to deny the credit which the Government intended to ascribe to the Governor-general of India. If the noble Lord thought the Governor-general unworthy of the thanks of the British Parliament for the course he had adopted, he hoped that the noble Lord would boldly and distinctly avow the grounds upon which his objections rested, not confining himself to a proclamation made here, or an order issued there, or to any particular separate act of 118 the Governor-general, but looking generally and comprehensively to the whole circumstances of the state of India as it was found by the present Ministry in 1841, and as it now existed in 1843. Looking to the papers, which the noble Lord had expressed a desire to see, and which he should have in the fullest and amplest detail—looking to the position in which the Governor-general found our arms in India—looking to the resources of India, and to the general position of affairs in that part of the empire at the period of the Governor-general's arrival to take up the reins of government; and finally, looking to the triumphant termination of all our difficulties in that quarter of the world—a termination which mainly the ability and skill of the Governor-general, supported by the gallantry and valour of our troops, had contributed to bring about, he said that when the whole subject was fairly put before the House—when the whole question of the conduct of Lord Ellen borough and of the Indian army came to be fully discussed in that House, and fully explained to the country, he could hardly entertain a fear as to what the verdict of the noble Lord himself would be, little fear as to what the verdict of the House would be, and certainly no fear at all as to what the verdict of the country would be. He believed that the universal feeling would be that the thanks of Parliament were due to all the parties who had been concerned in restoring the affairs of India to their present position. But the noble Lord had related particular points of the policy of the Governor-general upon which to found complaints. The noble Lord said, that the Governor-general had issued a document in which he condemned the policy of his predecessor. The Governor-general did issue such a document. The Governor general thought it incumbent on him—due to the dignity of the country, due to the honour of the Crown, at once and frankly to put forth the points upon which he thought the policy of his predecessor erroneous, and the grounds upon which it was his intention, with the full consent of her Majesty's Ministers, to enforce a different line of policy. And if the noble Lord was desirous of entering into the question in a fuller and more specific form than either of the motions of which notice had been given would enable him to do, the noble Lord knew full well that he might bring forward a 119 resolution of the House condemnatory of the policy which withdrew the British forces within the frontier of the Indus and the Sutledje, and affirmatory of the policy which led to the invasion of Afghanistan. To that issue he asked the noble Lord to come. If the noble Lord were not satisfied with the course which the present Government had pursued, let him come boldly forward and ask for the vindication of his own policy, by the condemnation of that of his successors. But the noble Lord said, "Oh, if you did withdraw, if you were right in withdrawing, surely you should not have left the whole country in a state of anarchy behind you; you should have established upon the throne of Cabul some chieftain who was friendly to you, and who, in the midst of all the discord ant elements by which he would be surrounded, might yet afford a security for the maintenance of British influence in the provinces of which you have given him the dominion." This, indeed, had been the policy of the noble Lord, and Schah Soojah was to be welcomed back by the universal voice, and to reign in the affections of the universal people of Cabul; and when, by the force of British arms, he had been placed on the throne of his ancestors, he was thenceforward to reign, not by the power of Great Britain, but by the loyalty and affection of his subjects. That was the policy of the late Government, and how did it succeed? Had it not led to the commission of an act of the basest treachery? Had it not led to tumult, to convulsion, to bloodshed? Had it not led to the establishment of that very anarchy which, if the present Government, acting upon principles of policy which, in their estimation, rendered it incumbent upon them to return within what appeared to be the natural boundary of our empire in India, had left behind them—it was an anarchy for which not they, but their predecessors, were responsible, since it was not they, but their predecessors, who had produced it. The noble Lord referred to reports which he had heard of atrocities committed and of an unnecessary aggravation of the horrors of war. He knew not how far the noble Lord's information was authentic. He, however, did not deny that, upon some occasions, the passions of the soldiery, but he believed still more the passions of the undisciplined multitude which accompanied every Indian army, excited by the scene and by 120 the recollection of the horrors which had been perpetrated upon their countrymen, had led them to exceed the restraint which every Member of the Government would wish to see imposed upon a triumphant army in the hour of its success. But this he knew, that if any atrocities to which the noble Lord referred, had been committed, Lord Ellenborough's desire, his recorded desire was, that whilst the army left mementos behind it of the irresistible power of this country, it should take no step that was inconsistent with the usages of civilised nations, or that should aggravate the natural horrors of war. There was one other point which he would not then touch upon, although the noble Lord had brought it forward, as it appeared to him, in a way most unfairly calculated to prejudice the Governor-general in the estimation of a large portion of the religious community of this country. He would not enter into a discussion of the policy or the motives which induced Lord Ellenborough to bring back into India the gates of Somnauth; but he would venture to say, that in thus restoring to India the memorial of a former conquest, nothing was further—he knew this from Lord Ellenborough's private correspondence; he knew it from Lord Ellen borough's individual declaration—nothing was further from the mind of the Governor-general than to invest the proceeding with anything of a religious character, or anything that could violate the religious scruples of any portion of the community in this country. He knew that the Governor-general had so declared himself, and he believed that, for the course which the Governor-general had pursued, he was not justly open to the sneers of the noble Lord, or the imputation of being insensible to the interests and feelings of Christianity. All that the Governor-general desired to do was to restore to India that which, having been a monument of a former conquest of India, might henceforth become a memorial to India of the strength and power of British arms. He postponed, until the fitting opportunity should occur, the consideration of the question of the general policy pursued by the Government and the Governor-general in India. It was the noble Lord who had drawn him into this reference to the subject, by presenting the House with a portion, and a very small portion of the whole question. His earnest desire only was, that the House 121 and the country should suspend their judgment upon the subject until the whole case on the part of the Government and of the Governor-general should be fully and fairly brought under their consideration. The noble Lord had also adverted to the treaty, which, in the country, had been termed the Ashburton capitulation; and, although the noble Lord did not pre tend, upon the whole, to object to the arrangement which had been come to, yet he took the opportunity to hint a fault wherever he thought he could find one in the treaty. The noble Lord said, "Although you have now a very fair treaty, a very good treaty, and one in which I do not think the real interests of Canada are compromised, yet I think that, with a little more firmness, the matters in dispute might have been negotiated much better, and the question settled on a better basis." Then he asked the noble Lord, "Why did not you settle it." If it were so easy to obtain better terms, what were you and your noble Colleague, the late Foreign Secretary, about during the ten years that you were in office. Was it not notorious that the late Government had for a long time been engaged in negotiations with the Government of the United States upon all the questions comprehended in the Ashburton treaty. How was it, then, if the matter were so easy that they had not obtained a better treaty. How was it that, at the moment of leaving office, they left the prospect of coming to an adjustment of the matters in dispute more remote than ever, and the danger of a misunderstanding between the two countries more formidable. The noble Lord objected to that which he thought had been so universally admitted by every human being of every shade of political feeling in this country. The noble Lord objected to the selection of Lord Ashburton, as the negotiator of the treaty. He thought, that if there had been a point upon which it was impossible that an objection could be entertained, if there were a point upon which all human beings would be agreed, it was this, that if we hoped to come to a satisfactory solution of the difficulties which had so long existed between the country and the United States, and if the solution of those difficulties depended in any degree, upon the selection of the Minister, Lord Ashburton was the man, of all others, who, from his long experience, his moderate views, his intimate acquaint- 122 ance with the country to which he was to proceed—his knowledge on both sides of the disputed line—the moderation, mild ness, and judgment which he had always exhibited, would be admitted by all parties to be the fittest plenipotentiary. And what was the objection which the noble Lord now raised? With respect to the treaty, the noble Lord said,It involves the sacrifice of a portion of the Madawaska settlement—good ground should be assigned for the abandonment of that territory. The line of the river was a very plausible and equitable argument in the mouth of Mr. Webster, but when you had taken up the line of the river, why did you not trace it out to its full extent? The river was the natural boundary.By the terms of the treaty, a river boundary was taken. The noble Lord said,But you do not take the river St. John from its source to its mouth—you pursue only the river to a certain point, then take the line of another river, and strike across to the nearest point of the highlands, which all parties admit to be the proper boundary.The noble Lord further said,That he could not but think that the pertinacity with which the American minister had insisted upon the adoption of this line was for the sake of some great advantage in a military point of view.Now, he had never heard any military man say that any advantage, military or not military, could possibly result from the possession of the country lying between the two rivers. He believed that portion of territory to be utterly valueless for the purposes of cultivation, and equally valueless for the purposes of military occupation. The noble Lord had objected to the appointment of Lord Ashburton, be cause in the year 1838 that noble Lord had expressed an opinion that the connection between this country and the Canadas could not long subsist, and that it was, consequently, in Lord Ashburton's mind a matter of indifference whether a little more or a little less were given on either side, either to the Canadas or to the United States. Now, when had Lord Ashburton expressed the opinion which the noble Lord attributed to him. It was in the year 1838, when a state of feeling prevailed on both sides of the American and Canadian frontier, which did make it very doubtful whether with the free consent and good- 123 will of Canada, it would continue for twenty years longer to be a dependency of the British Empire. And he did not hesitate to say, that greatly as he valued the possession of Canada, important as he thought it to be to this country that she should continue to hold under her control those great and important provinces, yet he freely and frankly avowed that from the day on which this country should cease to hold Canada by the tie of affection and the good-will of the great portion of its inhabitants, from that moment would cease his desire to retain it in the possession of Great Britain. In 1838, Lord Ashburton might well express his doubt of the permanence of the union between the Canadas and this country; and yet in 1842, Lord Ashburton might be, as he believed Lord Ashburton was, the fittest negotiator that could be selected to settle, upon amicable terms, a disputed question with a great and kindred people. He would not. follow the noble Lord into the argument into which he had thought proper to enter—namely, as to the position in which he supposed the Corn-law question to be left by her Majesty's Government. The noble Lord had put forward a variety of assumptions upon this subject. First of all the noble Lord had assumed that the Corn-law of last year was not to be amended in the course of the present Session, and next that it was not the intention of her Majesty's Ministers to put the Corn-laws upon such a footing as that so important a subject should not be exposed to agitation. He did not know whether the noble Lord had at length found out a position in which the Corn-law could be placed that would secure it from agitation. Possibly the noble Lord would make it known when the period should arrive in which he and the leaders of the Anti Corn-law League should have an opportunity, in the face of the country, of declaring, in political arena, how far they agreed and how far they differed in opinion upon that momentous question. He should wait with great anxiety the arrival of that period, and should, no doubt, derive great edification in hearing that discussion carried on. The noble Lord had told the House that he did not subscribe to the doctrines put forth by the Anti Corn-law League; he, therefore, concluded, that the noble Lord was not prepared to give his support to the measures which those 124 persons might propose, or to the principles which they might broach. However that might be, he ventured to believe, notwithstanding any differences of opinion that might be entertained by hon. Gentlemen who were intimately connected with agriculture upon the question of the measure of last year, that they would far rather place their confidence in his right hon. Friend (Sir R. Peel) for effecting a safe, satisfactory, and permanent adjustment of all the great interests of this country, than they would confide those interests to the care of the noble Lord, even though he should be prepared to bring forward a scheme by which he hoped to prevent the Corn laws from being made the subject of future agitation. The noble Lord had referred to the Income-tax, and had stated that, great as had been his objections to that tax last year, subsequent experience had more than realised all the objections he at that period entertained against it. The noble Lord had not thought it necessary to enter into the circumstances which had led to the necessity of imposing that tax, and against which a feeling of dislike was naturally entertained, as was the case with all taxes, and more especially with regard to direct taxes, by those on whom it fell; but before the noble Lord brought forward those specific charges which he dealt out against the Income-tax, it would have been better if he had adduced some more positive authority than that of merely saying—"I was told by somebody this, and I have heard from somebody that." The noble Lord not having stated his authority, he could not tell whether the noble Lord had only heard of a certain commissioner who had made it his practice to have put twenty per cent, surcharge upon every person whose returns had come before him. He did not understand the noble Lord to have vouched his authority for this statement. Was he to understand that the noble Lord spoke from authority, or was it merely one of those stories got up upon a subject which was calculated to excite objections, but which was hardly worth being stated in the House of Commons, more especially by a person of the high station, great talent, and character of the noble Lord. The noble Lord had mentioned the case of a poor widow living at Boulogne, who had been assessed, and who, on making her appeal [No, no; she did not appeal]—who remonstrated then [no, no]—well, 125 who complained of the injustice of having been grievously surcharged on account of her income; and, said the noble Lord, this poor woman was told that she might perhaps obtain relief if she would come over to England, and be subjected to all the buffettings and cross-examinations, and be exposed to all the expenses of making an appeal to the commissioners. By submitting to all this there was the possible chance (said the noble Lord) of her being successful in her appeal. Now, perhaps, the noble Lord would allow him to refer to the 169th clause of the Income-tax Act, by which it was enacted, that any person living out of Great Britain who wished to obtain redress on any matter relating to that act, might make an affidavit of the facts before the competent authorities where such person resided, and such affidavit might be received by the commissioners. It was, therefore, unfortunate for the argument of the noble Lord, that this poor woman had no occasion to come over to England and expose herself to the buffettings, cross-examinations, and expenses of which the noble Lord had spoken; for all that was necessary for her to do was, to make an affidavit, and send it to the commissioners, who would receive it. He could not answer for the other charges which had been brought forward by the noble Lord, but he would say that by law no injustice could be done to any party, because there was a manifest and easy remedy that might be applied as set forth by the act itself. He believed that he had adverted to all the topics to which the noble Lord had referred as contained in the Speech from the Throne; and he regretted that he had been obliged to follow the noble Lord, because he had hoped that as the House were unanimous in their vote upon the Address, they would have escaped what must necessarily be a partial discussion only of all those topics which the Speech contained. There was, however, one subject with regard to which the noble Lord had expressed his regret at its not having been differently adverted to in the Speech from the Throne. The noble Lord said, he extremely regretted that the disturbances in certain districts of the country were adverted to in the Speech only for the purpose of declaring that it was the intention of her Majesty's Government to repress them by a vigorous exercise of the law. He knew of no such expression being made use of in her Ma- 126 jesty's Speech. On the contrary, there was the expression of satisfaction that the prompt interposition of the ordinary powers of the law was at the time sufficient to suppress those disorders, and that upon the ordinary powers of the law her Majesty confidently relied for the suppression of them in future. But he did not think the noble Lord was right in inferring, or that the noble Lord had a right to infer, that there were no other measures contemplated by her Majesty's Government which should have the effect of removing that which the noble Lord manfully asserted to be the main source of those disorders and disturbances, namely, the ignorance and want of education of large portions of the community. He did not think the noble Lord warranted in drawing such an inference; and he cordially concurred with the noble Lord in attributing a great portion of the disorders and disturbances which had lately taken place in some districts of the country to the want of sufficient means for the religious and moral instruction of the people. This, he believed, had been most signally manifested in the case of the late disturbances; for those disturbances were more rife in the districts where the greatest ignorance prevailed, and the disorders were generally suppressed with much greater ease where partial means existed for giving the people religious instruction and a moral education—whether by the clergy of the Established Church, or by the ministers of dissenting religious denominations. [Hear.] He did not think he was claiming too much, notwithstanding the cheers of hon. Gentlemen opposite, when he said that the difference of con duct on the part of the people in the disturbed districts arose from the effect produced on their minds through the means of religious instruction and moral education afforded by the ministers of the Church of England as far as their means and power extended, and that their exertions did not fall short of those of the ministers of any other religious denomination. He must thank the House for the patience with which they had listened to him. He had not any notion of entering into a discussion on this occasion. He had hoped that, as they were unanimous in voting an Address to her Majesty, there would not have arisen any difference of opinion even in the way of discussion.
§ Viscount Palmerston
thought the expectation just expressed by the noble Lord was some what unreasonable, It was unreasonable for a Minister of the Crown to expect on the first day of the Session, after the delivery of a Speech from the Throne, embracing so many topics of foreign and domestic policy as those that were treated of by the present Speech, that he should not only have an unanimous vote, but also that he should escape the expression of a difference of opinion upon the Address in answer to that Speech. He thought the noble Lord ought to have been sufficiently thankful for an unanimous vote to have refrained expressing dissatisfaction at some slight difference of opinion upon some of the topics contained in the Speech. Nor did he think the complaint just that this difference of opinion led to partial discussions of those topics; for how was it possible, in one short night, that a full discussion could be gone into upon even any one of the subjects touched upon in the Speech? Whatever discussion took place on the first night of the Session must of necessity be partial; the matter complained of by the noble Lord was, therefore, an inevitable consequence of the nature of things. But if the complaint of the noble Lord should be considered well founded he thought that the notice which had already been given, and the discussions which would in all probability take place during the present Session, would at all events satisfy the noble Lord; for he considered it highly probable that most of the important topics to which the Speech from the Throne referred, would, when the opportunity arose, undergo full and ample discussion. The right hon. Baronet (Sir R. Peel) had said, with respect to the first topic to which the Speech related, namely, the Ashburton treaty, or, as the noble Lord who had just spoken had more properly—as he(Lord Palmerston) thought—called it the Ashburton capitulation—the right hon. Baronet had said, with respect to that topic, that if any future opportunity for its discussion should be afforded, he should be prepared to go into a full defence and justification of that treaty. Now, undoubtedly, if no other Member should bring that subject under discussion, he could assure the right hon. Baronet that he should afford him that opportunity for which he had expressed himself so anxious. Therefore as the House would have the opportunity of hearing the 128 defence which her Majesty's Government might have to make of their conduct in respect to that treaty, and of the conduct of their negotiator, it would, perhaps, be wrong if he were to follow the noble Lord who had just spoken into the details of that treaty, or into the conduct of its negotiator; but he could not help saying—and he meant no disrespect to Lord Ashburton—he did full justice to the talents of that noble Lord, and to the high character which he had attained, and which he maintained in the opinion of his country men; but he must take leave to say, that, from particular circumstances connected with the opinions, habits, and, he might add, connections of that noble Lord, he thought he was the most un6t person that could have been selected for so important a mission; and he further thought, that the result of the negotiation fully bore him out in the opinion which, from the first moment he heard of the noble Lord's appointment, he had expressed. It was not acting fairly by the noble Lord. Entertaining such opinions as he was known to do upon colonial questions, and connected, as he was known to be, with that country, with which adversely he had to maintain the interests of England, the noble Lord was not the person to be selected for an appointment which imposed upon him a duty which he was not likely to perform with credit to himself or with advantage to his country. It was his opinion, therefore, that in this respect her Majesty's Government had made a bad choice. He would not go into details, either with respect to the treaty or the conduct of its negotiator, as both would be better discussed at a future opportunity; but he really never had heard so weak a defence of any measure as that which had been just made by the noble Lord opposite (Lord Stanley). In the first place the noble Lord had misunderstood, and therefore misrepresented the argument of his noble Friend (Lord John Russell), about the boundary line of the St. John's. His noble Friend did not say that in his opinion a river boundary was the best, but that he would assume that it was the best; and that he would take Mr. Webster's argument, who had said that the river Madawaska could be included; and then argued his noble Friend,If you admit the argument of Mr. Webster, and take a boundary which would leave 129 the Madawaska settlement to the south of the St. John, why did you not adhere to that argument? Why did you allow Mr. Webster to take a large portion of land on the north of the St. John, not bounded by any river, or by any natural line, but bounded by an arbitrary line not yet fixed, but one that is to terminate in a point to be ascertained by measurement not yet made.He believed that the end of the line was a point to be found within a certain number of miles from the nearest summit of the hills of a certain range of high lands. So uncertain was the matter thus left, that the two countries might dispute about the ascertainment of that point as long as they had already been disputing about the main question of the boundary; because it was a matter—if the two countries choose to differ—upon which it might be impossible for them to come to any agreement. But in this case there would be no difference, because whatever might be the point, the American commissioner might fix upon, it would no doubt be acquiesced in by the British Government. But, said the noble Lord (Lord Stanley), whatever might be the opinion of Lord Ashburton respecting Canada, and however favourably inclined he might be to the United States, that opinion was no reason why he should agree to an unfavourable boundary.Because," said the noble Lord, "if you want to discard these colonies, and make them independent, it is your duty to take care that when they became independent they should have the very best boundary.He agreed with the noble Lord, and considered that that was the best ground upon which the treaty was to be justified. If they looked to the Canadian provinces, with a view to maintain them as provinces against any assailant, and which his noble Friend (Lord J. Russell) said was the intention of the Government of which he was a Member—it then became of no great moment, as a matter of argument, as to what should be the given frontier or not, be cause if the provinces should be attacked, England would come in and make good their defence; but if they contemplated, or if Lord Ashburton contemplated, the possibility, or the probability of their be coming independent, it was then ten times more incumbent upon him to carefully see that the boundary was such that would enable them to maintain their independence, and secure themselves against attack. Now he thought that the boundary which had been fixed upon gave the United States 130 the advantage ground, and a salient point of attack against Canada. It placed the United States within a short distance of the river St. Lawrence, and in a manner put the province of Canada in a situation highly injurious, if ever unfortunately the North American provinces should be detached from England, and should be at war with the United States. But he would not press this matter further, except by saying that he thought the treaty and the conditions of it, and the manner in which the negotiations had been conducted, were clear proofs either of a great want of capacity of the Government, or of the negotiator, or of great and culpable indifference to the national interests. He next approached the topic of China. There, undoubtedly, he was ready and willing to concur in the most cordial manner in the congratulations which the Address proposed to convey to her Majesty on the termination of the war. It would, indeed, be strange if he and his former colleagues in office did not share in the joy which had been expressed at the happy termination of that war, seeing that the responsibility of originating that contest rested on their heads; seeing that the officers whose skill had conducted the operations to a successful termination had been chosen and sent out by them; that the general scope of the operations, and the point, which had been very happily designated the true point of attack by the noble Lord who had so distinguished himself by his public documents and proclamations, had been their own suggestion at the very outset of the struggle; that the means by which success had been obtained had been either sent out by the Government of which he had the honour of forming a part, or had been applied by the Governor-general appointed by them, and intrusted more particularly with the superintendence of the operations and with the preparation of the necessary means for the accomplishment of the end in view; and considering that the stipulations of the treaty entered into, as far, at least, as he had been informed, were the identical stipulations, as nearly as possible originally sent out by the late Government as terms to be insisted on with the Chinese Government, he could not do otherwise than concur in the congratulations which it was proposed to present to her Majesty on the happy termination to which this contest had lately been brought. He rejoiced the more, because he could not but remember 131 the taunts with which they were met at the commencement of this war, which was then characterised by hon. Gentlemen opposite as a desperate attempt to enter on a contest with a third of the human race, inhabiting a country situated at the opposite end of the world, the result of which could be no other than disgrace. The noble Lord who had just sat down, (Lord Stanley) had stated last Session that where such a contest would end no man could by possibility foresee. Undoubtedly he could not but rejoice to have an opportunity of expressing his congratulations on such an event; and in so doing he could assure hon. Gentlemen opposite that he gave them all the credit they deserved, for having conducted a war of which they originally disapproved to a termination, with as much vigour as though they had been the parties originally engaged in it. And now with respect to India. He fully concurred in the observations which had been forcibly addressed to the House by his noble Friend. Every man must rejoice that the operations undertaken vindicating the honour of the British arms, and the maintenance of the British empire in Asia, should have been brought to so triumphant a result. There was no one who would refuse to do justice to the men who had directed these operations. But he wished to learn for he had not yet heard, to whom the direction of those operations was to be ascribed. Was their gratitude to be claimed on behalf of the Governor-general, or were they simply called on to express their thanks to the gallant commanders who had personally directed the military operations? Towards the close of last Session he had asked the right hon. Baronet at the head of the Government whether or no Lord Ellenborough had commanded the retreat of the troops from beyond the Indus, as had been reported; and he had told the right hon. Baronet that if he did not give him a clear and explicit answer, he should interpret his reply into an acknowledgment that the charge was true. The answer returned was ambiguous. He was in formed that our troops were at Candahar and Jellalabad, and this information was accompanied with the assurance of the right hon. Baronet that, as far as he knew, no retreat from beyond the Indus was likely to take place. Upon that statement he (Lord Palmerston) had taken it for granted that, infact, Lord Ellenbo- 132 rough had ordered the retreat, because, if not, he felt confident that a contradiction would have been put forth. Lord Ellenborough, then, had not ordered these operations—and, therefore, it would be manifestly unjust to offer him thanks for results which had been brought about in spite of his declarations. They must, however, join with the noble Lord in returning thanks to Providence for having rescued them from the predicament in which they had been placed by his own want of sagacity. He could well conceive the consolation of which this reflection must be the source. He would not weaken the force of his noble Friend's observations, with regard to the proclamation, by making any observation on the subject; they had been a source of astonishment to all, if not a laughing stock. But he thought that, taking into consideration the vast importance of the Indian empire, it was of the highest moment that the important trust of Governor-general should have devolved to other hands than those of a mart who had shown himself so little fit to be trusted. With regard to the other topics of the speech, having reference to foreign affairs, he had learned with great satisfaction that the relations between this country and Russia had been placed on an amicable footing, and that a confident hope existed that the two countries would be enabled, by their joint interposition, to terminate the unhappy disputes which had existed between Turkey and Persia. With regard to Syria, he did not think that the peace of the world was in very great danger from the question now agitated amongst the great powers of Europe with respect to that country—namely, whether the Maronites and Druses should be governed by a chieftain taken from this or that body, or whether their governor should be dependant on a pacha or otherwise. They had been told that notwithstanding their boasts respecting the tranquillising of the East, their interference had left nothing but anarchy. Let the condition of Syria at that period, however, be taken into account. At that time the affairs of Syria threatened Europe with convulsion from hour to hour, which was a very different state of things from that in which the question related only to particular arrangements in the municipal government of the Ottoman empire. Quitting foreign policy, and turning to our 133 domestic concerns, he could not help saying, that, in common with others, he shared the hope that some indication would have been given in the Speech as to the intentions of the Government with regard to those matters which had excited so much interest in the country—namely, the arrangement of those laws which related to trade in general, but especially to corn. It would, he was convinced, have been more satisfactory to all if some clear and definite statement had been made by the Government on the subject, instead of contenting themselves with vague generalities. The noble Lord who had just sat down had asserted that the hardships of which complaint had been made respecting the oppressive operation of the Income-tax were occasioned because people would not take the trouble of reading the act itself, and had stated that the lady at Boulogne whose case had been referred to, might have accomplished her end of receiving back the deduction made from her dividend by means of an affidavit sworn at Boulogne. The noble Lord, however, must give him leave to say that this did not meet the objection. He would not pretend to say that the rule of deducting the tax on all dividends alike could be abolished; but there was no disputing the inconvenience of the practice, which appeared inherent in the tax itself. Everyone must, within his own experience, be acquainted with instances in which individuals deriving their income, which altogether did not amount to 150l. a year, partly from the public funds, often preferred to pay the tax rather than enter upon the probably more expensive proceedings necessary for obtaining the amount deducted. What then became of the boast that all possessing less than a certain income were exempt from the tax. He would reserve till a future opportunity to discuss these matters more in detail, and would content himself with one farther observation on the subject with which be had begun, namely, that relating to America. It was the great boast of those who supported that treaty, that its effect would be the establishment between the two countries of amicable relations, and a good understanding, which could not be shaken. How did the recent proceedings of America, with respect to the Oregon territory, justify this boast? He wished, before he sat down, to ask one question, which perhaps some Member of 134 the Government would have the kindness to answer. It had been stated by M. Guizot that the British Government had intentions of diminishing the number of cruisers employed last year for the suppression of slavery by one half; that, whereas last year this country had employed eighty, it was their intention to reduce the number to thirty-nine, while the French Government was to increase their force to forty vessels. This statement he was inclined to think had been made under a misapprehension. He entertained doubts as to whether the number employed last year amounted to eighty, and he felt confident, moreover, that whatever might have been the number employed then, the British Government would never have entertained intentions of reducing it by one half. He thought also that the restriction as to quitting the appointed stations could not be complied with consistently with a faithful discharge of duty on the part of the officers employed. He wished to hear, at the same time, an answer to the question put by his noble Friend, as to whether orders had been given to our cruisers with regard to vessels sailing under foreign flags, under suspicious circumstances, with a view to ascertaining their nationality.
§ Sir R. Peel
I presume I must answer the questions put to me by the noble Lord. I regret that I have not an opportunity of entering into more detail. I did not rise until I thought the debate was about to be brought to a close. It is because I cannot infringe the orders of the House, that I do not now vindicate my noble Friend the Governor-general from what I may venture to call the aspersions cast upon him. I must limit myself to answering the question put to me by the noble Lord. I apprehend that there is no foundation for saying that the British Government has contracted to reduce the number of cruisers on the coast of Africa, or is about to reduce the number. The statement to which the noble Lord refers was that, whereas we had eighty cruisers on the coast of Africa last year, we now intend to reduce them to only half. That, I believe, is an error: eighty warrants were granted, and hence it seems to have been assumed that eighty ships were employed. I am informed that last year we had fifty cruisers, and that this year we have forty-nine cruisers. I speak from memory only, but I think I am right. 135 Then with respect to the treaties, it has been said, that some articles of the treaties of 1831 and 1833 have not been observed by either party, but that is a very different matter to the abandonment of the policy of those treaties. The fair execution of the treaties is certainly what France has a right to require, and the right of search within particular latitudes has been carried into effect in compliance with the strict letter of the treaties. As to the orders given, I am not aware that there has been any alteration: there have been complaints as to the manner of executing the orders, and this country has declared its intention to execute them in a way consistent with the rights of other countries. Those orders are now under revision, by parties, as the noble Lord admits, most competent to the duty, but what I have already said will be sufficient to show that it is not the intention of the Government of this country, by any modification of the orders, to change their substantial effect. This is all that the forms of the House will allow me to say upon the present occasion.
§ Sir R. Inglis
observed, that his noble Friend (Lord Stanley) had deprecated the premature discussion of the policy of the Governor-general of India: but, notwithstanding this implied rebuke to those who introduced matters affecting personal character, he thought that he should not discharge his duty if he suffered the debate to close without showing that one Member on the Ministerial side of the House (he hoped many would concur with him) censured the character of at least one of the proclamations of the Governor-general. For four days he had indulged the hope that it was not genuine; and, although something had been said about the smiles and laughter with which it had been received, he apprehended that it would excite a very different feeling in a Christian people. He was persuaded, that it was a proclamation which no Mahometan Governor-general would have issued. He begged to repeat his conviction that no Mahometan Governor-general would have paid such respect to Indian idolatry, or such disrespect to his own true faith. He did not mean to pre-judge the general question of the Indian administration of Lord Ellenborough; but he had heard it said, on a former occasion, by a secretary to the India Board, that it was not fit to 136 separate the responsibility of the Government at home, and of the Governor-general, with reference to the wars in Affghanistan and China, and he agreed in this sentiment. The noble Lord had, however, himself prejudged the subject, when he talked of the basest treachery of the puppet, whom the former Government had set up. Without going into the question now, he trusted that the noble Secretary would perform his promise of laying before the House all the necessary documents, and would not withhold either of the two proclamations to which reference had been made. With one of them he did not now mean to meddle, though he thought he could answer his noble Friend, even will regard to that; but with regard to the other, if there were that identity of responsibility, which had been talked of in the instance of Lord Glenelg, the present Government, he apprehended, would have some difficulty in justifying it. At present, he limited him self to that proclamation, and he hoped it would be laid upon the Table, accompanied by all the documents necessary to explain it. It had been considered by the great body of this Christian people, a most unhappy exhibition of the talents for Government of the noble Lord at the head of affairs in India. He would do that noble Lord the justice to say, that he was about the last man from whom he should have expected such a document, and, as he had said, for some time he hoped that some mystification had taken place on the subject. He recollected, that not three weeks before a proclamation, or rather, not a proclamation in the technical sense of the word, but an address had been promulgated by the same noble Lord which deserved the highest praise: it called upon all the clergy to join with their congregations in prayer and thanksgiving for the temporal benefits arising from and for the successes which had attended our arms in Affghanistan and China. The nature of that ad dress had led him to believe that the same mind which had dictated the one could not have been guilty of the other. He felt, that such blessings as had attended the result of the wars in Affghanistan and China could hardly have been expected; but they had been received, and we could not be too thankful to God and to his good Providence. His noble Friend (Lord Stanley) had expressed his hope that the 137 good taste of some parts of the proclamation would not be discussed; but he hoped that no man would, in any way, identify himself with the spirit of one of those documents. That was not a question of taste, but a much more important matter, and the House ought to come to a distinct declaration upon it, that the man who had issued it, ought not to possess the confidence of the country. He begged to ask, whether Lord Ellenborough governed Hindoos only. Did he not govern Mahometans also? Gould the Mahometans look with satisfaction at the evidence, now made historical, that a former con quest on their part had been reversed. Lord Ellenborough had made it a religious question, it was not a trophy of victory, but he called upon all the princes to receive what was brought as a triumph of their religion, and he told them that wrongs of 800 years' standing were now redressed. Within the next fortnight, the whole subject of the occupation of Affghanistan, and the policy of the war, would be brought before the House; upon that topic he would not presume to enter, but whether that policy was right or wrong, he apprehended that both sides could entertain but one opinion upon the proclamation to which he had adverted. He had not been the first to refer to it, but had no other Member mentioned it, he should have considered it his duty to speak of it, and to express the strong objections he entertained to it.
§ Mr. Villiers
said, that he would not detain the House, for he observed its patience was exhausted; and if it was not, he could hardly claim it, for he was not going to talk of foreign policy, or of sandal-wood gates, or of other topics which had engaged their attention that night; but having heard something of the suffering, and much of the opinions of large portions of the people at home, he could not suffer the debate to close without expressing his surprise, which on their part, would be a stronger feeling, at the Speech from the Throne, and the explanation given of it by the right hon. Baronet. He could hardly believe that persons who did not wish to offend the feelings or disregard the sufferings of the people, could take so peculiar a view of both as he concluded was done by the Government, for them to have so commenced the session. His own impression was, that the sacrifice of property and the suffering of 138 the people had been gradually increasing, continued to increase, and that no prospect of improvement whatever was offered. He believed that the people had studied and had now satisfied themselves of the causes and the remedies for the evil, and that they were calling loudly for redress. The Government could only suppose that they were not suffering, that trade was reviving, and that no remedy was needed. The Speech seemed to treat with studied indifference the whole condition, the feelings, and opinions of the people; it would have this advantage, however, if the people were really in the state he believed them, namely, becoming hourly, in greater numbers, more destitute—that it would manifest their sense of this mode of being treated. On the contrary, if they were, as the Government supposed, improving, they would admit the truth, no doubt, and be satisfied. He still believed that the proceedings of this evening would be deemed cold-blooded and heartless, and an opinion would be expressed to that effect throughout the kingdom. He had listened to discover if a ray of hope had been elicited from anything that the right hon. Baronet had said—he had listened in vain. Even on the point where it was expected, namely, in the passage that referred to measures affecting domestic policy said to be intended to be brought under consideration, he did not interpret them as having reference to any extension of the trade. Did the hon. Baronet doubt that the opinion for the change of the Corn-laws hourly increased? Can he doubt that the opinion which he expressed last year in favour of free trade, and declaring the wisdom of nations acting upon the rule observed in private dealing of buying in the cheapest and selling in the dearest markets, greatly heightened the feeling against such a restriction on trade as the Corn-law. The noble Lord (Lord Stanley) asked what would satisfy the League, and seemed to think it an excuse for not dealing with the law that they could not be satisfied. He would tell them that he believed that nothing would satisfy them but an entire repeal of the law, and it was his deliberate belief that that opinion was gaining ground every hour, and that ultimately, if not speedily, the League would succeed: if anything would give it an impetus it would be what had passed this evening. Gentlemen might laugh, 139 they had a right to their opinion, and so had he to his. They seemed to think that the people were not suffering and ought not to be relieved; he thought their sufferings were great, and that they would soon insist on the remedy. There were signs in every village, town, and hamlet in the country, of the progress it was making. That gentleman (Mr. Ferrand) might laugh; he had better bring proof to the contrary if he could. Did he see nothing in what had lately happened in the north. The hon. Member's old Friend, the Member for Stockport, who was said to hold extreme opinions on this subject, had been invited to Scotland, has had municipal honours conferred on him in all the great towns and cities of that country. What, did they think that they scattered their honours about indiscriminately, not heeding to whom they gave them? Why, if he was not mistaken, there were persons who had not been so fortunate in obtaining the similar honour. He knew that hon. Gentlemen felt it was a most striking and instructive fact as to the advance the question had made, and he asked them coolly to consider what would be the effect of this Speech, this utter contempt for their opinion and interest, which it really manifested. Would they be reconciled to nothing being done by stale sentimentality about their suffering and patient endurance. Why he was astonished to hear the same old fallacy and stuff brought out again this night that had really been exploded before the end of the last Session; they had the old proof that there was not much suffering, as the savings banks were flourishing; why it had been shown over and over again that that proved nothing as to the state of the working population, for the deposits were very often made by domestic servants, and others, not poor people, and then the hon. Baronet again told them that protection was the rule in this country, and reasoned as if it was therefore to be upheld. Why he must repeat what he had said so often, that protection was the rule as far as some classes were concerned; but that for protection to be vindicated it must be universal, and that they had no right to protect the proprietary classes without also protecting the working classes! and that it was notorious, that as protection must be at the expense of somebody, it could not be universal. The land was protected but not the labour; and he con- 140 tended that the people had now seen through that, and that all the talk about Christianity and a desire to convert the Chinese from Paganism to the faith of this country would fall very flat upon those who saw such a practical illustration of anti-christian spirit and feeling as the tax on the people's food, whereby the employment of their industry was prevented, and all for the sake of adding to their own fortunes. Yes, that was the effect of the Corn-law, and one of its consequences is now admitted by the head of a college at Oxford, for he says that there are nearly 10,000,000 of people who are unable to eat wheaten bread. [Mr. Ferrand: Oh!] Why he is one of your own friends, and stated it in the presence of the Member for Buckingham, now present. With such a fact before the world then, 10,000,000 of people wanting better food, better food in abundance to be had, and the legislature, for sinister purposes, standing between them and the food, knowing well that if this law was repealed, there would instantly be more work, more employment, less misery, destitution, and crime, with which the country now abounded; if they wanted to satisfy the people and reconcile them to their lot, and make them satisfied with the promise to do nothing, these facts must be disproved, for as long as they existed, their Christianity and their professed inability to give relief would be doubted. This night, as regarded legislative remedy, seemed at present to leave the people without hope, it would, render, however, the amplest discussion as to their whole condition the more necessary.
§ Viscount Howick
concurred in the opinion that much disappointment would be occasioned by the Speech from the Throne, and by the commentary of the right hon. Baronet upon it. He for one had not been sanguine as to the intentions of Government, but there was no Gentle man who knew how long, and to what a degree distress had prevailed, not only in the manufacturing, but in the agricultural districts, who would not say that the lime was now come when, discarding all party considerations, it was the duty of the administration to look the difficulties fully and fairly in the face, with the view of adopting some measures for the removal of them. In a natural state of things such distress could not continue, at all events after a harvest which the right hon. 141 Baronet had said was particularly favourable, and which, it must be admitted, was an average harvest. This fact showed that there must be something faulty in the organization of society—something which ought to be corrected for the relief of the suffering people. When he first heard the Speech from the Throne he had formed the intention of giving an early notice, in order that the House might have an opportunity of considering whether the prevailing distress must be allowed to continue, or whether any means could be found of putting an end to it; whether it could be safely longer neglected, and left to the operation of time and circumstances, or whether an attempt should be made to relieve it. It had been his intention to give such a notice; but another Member had put one upon the books in general terms, and he was ready to wait in order to see how far it might fall in with his views. If it did not, he should on some future day bring the subject to a distinct and substantive vote. With regard to other topics in the Speech from the Throne, adverting to foreign policy, he expressed his entire concurrence in what had fallen from the hon. Member for Halifax, and he would only add with regard to India that the noble Lord opposite (Lord Stanley) had attacked without adequate reason, the conduct of his noble Friend (Lord John Russell), in animadverting upon some parts of the conduct of the Governor-general. The value of a vote like that to be proposed by the right hon. Baronet was much enhanced by its unanimity, and it was absolutely necessary that information and explanation should be given before the House could be expected to concur in such a resolution. He concurred with the hon. Baronet (Sir R. Inglis), that in the first place the proclamations should be laid upon the Table, and next the despatches which had been sent out by Ministers, or by the East India Company, for the House had a right to know the views taken on the subject on this side of the water. As to the proclamation regarding the sandalwood gates, it was difficult to conceive how any explanation could be offered which would remove the strong objections to it. Exception might also be fairly taken to the other proclamation, and here he wished to notice a mistake into which the noble Lord (Lord Stanley) had fallen, in speaking of what had been stated by 142 his noble Friend (Lord J. Russell). The noble Lord had asked who was the cause of the existing anarchy in Affghanistan, but those whose policy had created the war? But his noble Friend (Lord John Russell) had not complained of the anarchy, but that the proclamation was wilfully calculated to promote and perpetuate it. Another point which must be cleared up before the House could agree unanimously to a vote of thanks, related to the excesses committed. The noble Lord, consistently with the humanity and generosity of his nature, had expressed himself in becoming terms upon that subject, but it remained to be seen, and a most serious question it was, how far the commanders of the troops had exerted themselves to repress the excesses of the troops, or of the camp-followers. What countenance or discountenance had been given to those outrages by persons in authority, and particularly whether any and what orders had been issued for the destruction of the bazaar at Cabool? Was it a gratuitous and wanton act, or was it warranted by superior orders, and how far was the Governor-general implicated in this and other transactions? If some satisfactory explanation were not furnished upon these points, a deeper stain would be cast upon the British arms and character than by any disasters however great and lamentable. Besides plausible speeches, therefore, much documentary evidence would be necessary, and he earnestly hoped for the sake of all parties that the whole matter might be satisfactorily explained. No man would be more ready than he was to pay every just tribute to the gallantry of our troops, when once it was established that their weapons had not been stained by the needless effusion of human blood.
§ Mr. Hume
would not have spoken, had not some of the sentiments of his hon. Friend (Mr. Villiers) been received by the other side of the House in a manner so extraordinary. Before he went further, he would, however, discharge the pleasing duty of expressing his satisfaction at the conclusion of our differences with America. Upon this point he differed from the noble Lord (Lord John Russell), because be believed that the treaty would have the effect of placing two countries, which never should have been estranged, upon the most amicable footing. He admitted that he was one of those who had ex- 143 pressed objection to the appointment of Lord Ashburton. The public prints had stated grounds of objection, and he participated in them, but he was bound to say that, from the manner in which the noble Lord had conducted the negotiations he had brought to a successful termination, he (Mr. Hume) had changed his opinions. The noble Lord had shown the greatest temper, judgment, and desire for conciliation, and, he must say, that there had been the same desire on the part of Mr. Webster. They had restored that good understanding which ought to exist between England and America. It was true that another difficulty had since arisen, but surely we were in a better condition to settle that difference, than if the other had not been disposed of? To that extent he could express his approbation of Lord Ashburton's conduct. He only regretted that he had not heard, either in the Speech from the Throne, or from the right hon. Baronet, of any measure to increase the good understanding with America in a commercial way, to bring America within the range of our manufactures, and thus make the two countries mutually assist each other. He said for one, that relief to England and America must come from the renewal of commercial transactions, and from a good understanding existing between both. Therefore it was, that he expressed his regret at finding no hope held out by the right hon. Baronet. He also said, that the settlement of the China and Affghan wars was extremely fortunate for this country. He cared not by whose orders the treaty with China was settled. Of the war, a year ago, no man in that House would say what were the prospects; but looking at the drafts made on our finances, and the necessity it imposed of additional taxation, he must say that the treaty of peace was favourable in every point of view. He would not enter into the consideration whether the twenty millions of dollars would pay the expense of the war, because if it had continued for two or three years more, we should have had to provide a much larger sum. He hoped the peace would be permanent, and that Government would take good care that those who were sent out as commercial residents to manage affairs there would not allow them to be mismanaged as they formerly were. Much would depend upon the prudence of the commercial residents, and he was perfectly satisfied that we 144 should not derive all the benefits to which we were entitled from the Chinese treaty, unless the Government saw that the commercial arrangements were properly attended to. No proceedings of the British army had done more credit to the parties engaged than those which had taken place in China; but let the right hon. Baronet bear in mind that our overpowering success ought not to permit us to insult the nation which now crouched to our power. He hailed the peace with China as one likely to produce great benefits to us. He was sorry to hear any allusion to the spreading of Christianity in that country, because if the Chinese were to judge of the principles of our religion from our practice in China, they would not be very ready to receive it. He was not one that discredited the Affghan war, but he could not say that the conduct of affairs there reflected any credit upon us. He rejoiced at the policy which had withdrawn our troops, but in the withdrawal they had left indelible marks of our character in India which would last as long as many who then heard him lived. Having redeemed our military character, which was of much more importance than many supposed, we ought to have retired with magnanimity, and as we could not find the authors of the treachery, we ought to have left without revenging ourselves upon the innocent population. As for the destruction of Cabul, it was an act so barbarous, that he could not find anything like it even in the conduct of the Goths. He was afraid that they would not get at who were the authors of the destruction. At any rate, when they were asked for a vote of thanks, the House ought to be furnished with such information as should leave no doubt as to who were the authors of these evils. He feared that those to whom he would be anxious to pay a bright meed of praise, had been led into a mistake for which he could scarcely assign a reason. He hoped that no doubt would remain as to the authors of it, and that the Government would afford every information to enable the House to form a correct judgment. So much as to foreign affairs, the aspect of which would place the right hon. Baronet in a situation to make a great reduction in the expenses which were so heavy a burthen to the country. Although they had not heard one word from the mover or the seconder of the Address as to the causes of this distress, 145 he would tell them that it arose from excessive taxation, in addition to impolitic prohibition on trade and commerce. These were the causes which pressed down the best interests of the country. 52,000,000l. were exacted from the people of this country in the year 1842. There had been an addition of 2,000,000l. more this year, raising the whole expenditure to 56,000,000l., but let him tell the right hon. Baronet that 52,000,000l. in the year 1842 was a greater burthen on the resources of this country than 75,000,000l. would have been seven years before. The manufacturers now made less profits, trade was less, every income was reduced to one-half, and the population was unemployed. Heretofore the land had paid nothing to the exigencies of the country; it had taken more from the commercial resources of the country, much more than it had returned. He looked, however, upon the trade and manufactures of this country as the sources of our wealth. It was owing to the effects of the extension of our manufactures that during the protracted struggle of the French war that this country was enabled to maintain the preeminent situation in Europe. Were not the manufacturers now in a state of bankruptcy, from one end of the country to the other? Was commerce flourishing? Let the right hon. Baronet ask the merchants of Lon don, of Liverpool, or of Hull. Were not their docks full of ships unemployed? Many manufacturers were forced to carry on their works without any profit, or rather to suffer a loss than to allow them to stand still. What was the return for goods sent abroad? Let any merchant point out to him any articles they could purchase abroad which would pay the expenses and cost there except food, which was prohibited. The right hon. Baronet was not doing what he had promised, he had promised additional employment for the people, but he now told them "You must rest satisfied, I will not be a party to giving you a tariff every year, you got a tariff last year, there I intend to stop." With regard to corn the right hon. Baronet said not one word, although he knew that there was no subject which occupied the attention of the British public more than the discussion of the Corn-laws. The right hon. Baronet admitted that there was irregularity and uncertainty 146 in the old laws, did his measure of the last Session, correct either the irregularity or the uncertainty? He told the right hon. Gentleman that the sliding-scale pre vented what alone would benefit England, for there never would be prosperity here, till there was a trade in corn. If we had a trade in food, even if it had been subjected to a small duty, we should now be in a state of comparative prosperity. What had been done was only a step towards free trade. He did not care so much for what was commonly called free trade; if a duty of 2s. had been proposed and had been carried, it would have prevented much of the present evil. Her Majesty was made to say in her Speech:—Her Majesty regrets the diminished receipts from some of the ordinary sources of revenue. He Majesty fears that it must be in part attributed to the reduced consumption of many articles, caused by that depression of the manufacturing industry of the country which has so long prevailed, and which her Majesty has so deeply lamented.He asked the right hon. Baronet what measures he proposed to remove that depression? The right hon. Baronet said that he had no measure. He did not propose to remove that protection which he considered part of the custom of England. But hon. Members should know that protection meant robbery; protection to one part was robbery of another; he therefore who was a supporter of protection was a supporter of robbery. It might be a different question if all could be protected. Why should not the labour of the poor man, which was his only capital, be protected as well as the capital of the greater. His hon. Friend (Mr. Villiers) had asked the question and had received no reply. He could not look upon the capital of the poor man as his industry and labour; he looked upon the capital of the merchant as his property, acquired in any manner and honestly come by, and so with respect to landed property. After the declaration of the right hon. Gentleman last year, was it not too much to see him that night prepared to do nothing? And this at a time when distress was increasing. Every instance of distress since he had been in public life arose from speculation, generally caused by the state of the currency. Excitement was produced by over-trading, and that caused distress, which led to a reduction of the bullion in 147 the Bank of England to two or three millions. In the coffers of the Bank now there were twelve millions of bullion, which they were anxious to get rid of. Why was this? It arose from a circum stance unknown in the history of Eng land, at least in his time. It was because the merchant could not send abroad and receive the staple articles of other countries; they must say, "Send us no coffee, send us no sugar, send us no wine; let us have none of the produce of any other country—gold is the only thing which we can realise." This was why the coffers of the Bank were full. Let the right hon. Baronet only follow out the consequences which must arise from this state of things. Let him ask the ablest merchants in London, "What way can you get rid of this gold;" and they would tell him that commerce was so completely at a stand that they had no means of carrying on a single exchange. The right hon. Baronet might say, "This is not my fault," he said that it was. Some hon. Gentlemen said, "we will remove our protection when other countries remove theirs." Why did we not set them an example. Let hon. Gentlemen who talked of six hostile tariffs recollect that, till the right hon. Baronet altered our own, it was worse than any, except the tariffs of Russia and Spain. Let them take Belgium, France (bad as it was), the German States, Sweden, and Denmark—they were all better than ours. Austria would shame us. From the 1st of January, Austria had set us the example, by the reduction of the duties in her tariff. Sardinia, a country which was looked upon as scarcely worth notice, from the 1st January had adopted a highly creditable tariff, which reduced the duties one half. Our own commerce and manufactures had been long in a reduced state. The right hon. Baronet said, that he regretted it. Then what would he do to remedy it? He stated last year that it was his intention to give employment to the people. What single step had he taken to carry out his promise? He would give no relief to trade. No alteration in the Corn-laws would he allow. He was one that did not think that all the required good would be achieved by a free trade in corn. The only good it would effect would be that it would put the whole world upon One footing. The foreign manufacturer would have to pay the same amount for 148 wages as would be paid in Lancashire. The wages of the English artizan would not be worked down to the level of those on the continent. The right hon. Gentle man, by his conduct, was sacrificing the character he had acquired as a Liberal Minister. He brought forward nothing. He, indeed, had been foolish enough to expect something. Many of his friends had told him, "You are depending upon a broken reed." Still he had said, "A Minister has adopted these principles; it is impossible he can stultify himself; I am convinced that upon these principles alone England has flourished and will flourish, and I will support him." The right hon. Baronet had not proposed anything. Let the House bear in mind that when Lord John Russell said he could not carry those measures which he thought necessary, the right hon. Baronet had told him, "if you could not carry the measures which you thought necessary for the interests of the country, you ought to have resigned." Might he not retort upon the right hon. Baronet, "If you cannot carry out your principles, why do you not resign?" He would like to see any Gentleman on that (the Ministerial) side of the House who would take his place. The people were dying by hundreds from disease arising from want. The right hon. Baronet must be satisfied that this arose from the Corn-laws; and if there was any one thing more essential than another for the right hon. Baronet to look to, it was the state of the country brought on by these laws—which made starvation, disease, and death very general. He believed that the right hon. Baronet knew this, and therefore he appealed to him. If the merchants al lowed this to go on they ought to suffer if the shipping interests did not come for ward to remove these restrictions, let them not say that the merchants belonging to the Anti-Corn-law League took up their own part. For himself he thought that the right hon. Baronet could not do better for the country gentlemen them selves than to undertake the introduction of a new tariff, which would enable the merchants to employ their capital. He looked with dread to the reaction on the landed interest. He saw the poor-rates increasing. He saw continued low prices and so they would remain till the ports were open. Then the price of food would be equal in London, Paris, Belgium, and 149 throughout the whole world, and then our merchants would reap the benefit of their superior energy and capital. If the right hon. Baronet went on as he now proposed, he would have to increase the Income-tax to 10 per cent., and unless he adopted the doctrine of repudiation, there seemed no hope of relief, should he refuse an extension of trade. If he fell back upon the land, what could that give him? Prices were low, and rents were falling. First, there were the Poor-laws; secondly, the clergy must be paid; thirdly, there was the Income-tax; and, fourthly, there were the mortgages. What could come from the land after that? If they opened trade, however, they would give scope to capital, and give employment to our merchants; and, as far as his life could go, he would pledge himself to the results. The adoption of an open trade was what he would recommend: it would ameliorate the condition of the people, and stop immorality greater than that complained of by the right hon. Gentleman. He had quarrelled with the noble Lord the Member for London (Lord John Russell) when he declared for finality in regard to Reform, and here was finality with regard to free trade: the announcement would be attended with great disappointment in the country; and if the people bore what it must entail, they would have much more resignation and patience than he supposed.
§ Mr. Ferrand
said, he had not intended to take part in that night's debate, but the hon. Gentleman who had just sat down had chosen to throw out a sly insinuation, which was intended to go to the large meetings in the north of England, that he would not accept his challenge to meet him upon his favorite topic of free trade; but, if the hon. Gentleman would give notice of the subject, he would be prepared to meet him: he would join issue with him upon that ground, they would fight the battle upon the floor of that House, and refer the decision to the country as the umpire between them. They might make a stalking-horse of free-trade, and hold out a pretence to the poor man that the nostrum of free-trade was a sure remedy for his sufferings; but he would tell them that there could be no protection secured for the poor unless machinery was taxed. Machinery deprived the poor man of his daily bread. It was pronounced of him that he should 150 earn his means of subsistence by the sweat of his brow. [Cheers.] The hon. Member for Wolverhampton cheered; but he benefitted by this oppression upon the poor; he represented the town where that machinery was made; but what was the condition of the agricultural districts? They cheered on the right hon. Baronet last Session of Parliament in his pursuit of free-trade. They talked of the benefit his measures were to confer upon the country? Had they conferred any benefit? What benefit had the country derived from them? He regretted to say that the right hon. Baronet had been led away by their cheering smiles until now not only the manufacturing districts were in a state of ruin, but the agricultural districts also. What sort of disposition had the hon. Member for Wolverhampton evinced to meet his opponents on a fair field of argument? Had he not degraded his assemblies with tickets? Were not the majorities of those assemblies made up of women? Were they judges upon intricate questions of commercial policy? They came to those meetings excited by the out followings of the hon. Member for Wolverhampton, and undertook to discuss the hon. Gentleman's proposals to his satisfaction. But what had occurred in London a short time since? There, at one of the hon. Member's meetings, two or three men stood forward to discuss the question of free-trade in corn. They were poor labouring men who dared to differ from an hon. Member of the House of Commons; they undertook to prove that the Corn-laws had never injured them, but that they were crushed by the tyranny and starved by the avarice of their masters. The hon. Member durst not meet them. [Laughter.] They might laugh, but durst not meet him. He challenged them to meet him and discuss that question at any large meeting in either of the public towns in Yorkshire or Lancashire. Had not the measures of the last Session reduced the prices of things at home, and did relief follow upon their low prices? Why, had not meat sunk from 7d. to 4 d., 3½and even to 3d. in the north of England? Oatmeal had fallen in proportion. Potatoes had declined from 8s. 6d. to 3s. a load. But what was the condition to which they had reduced their manufacturing workmen—they who professed such great anxiety for the work- 151 ing classes? They knew full well that it was not free-trade in corn their workmen wanted. They wanted only better wages and a more honest remuneration for their services. They saw men around them—manufacturers who had risen to wealth from a condition not more elevated than their own—they saw those men possessed of exorbitant wealth, and fine estates, revelling in every luxury the world could afford, whilst they themselves, who were naturally entitled to rise out of their humble condition by the industry of their lives, found themselves starved by the avarice of their employers. He should like to know what the Anti Corn-law League had done towards the relief of the poor. Had they contributed one sixpence to their distress last year? Had they contributed one sixpence to the Queen's letter? He believed not. The truth was, they gloried in the misery of the masses, for they made use of that misery in carrying out their own selfish purposes. Where were the masses now? Down in the dust. The master manufacturers had exacted out of their scanty earnings the means of defraying that Income-tax of which they yet complained. It was a tax which every true Englishman should be proud to contribute towards the necessities of the state. They were the truly loyal subjects of Her Majesty, who, seeing the country in distress, came cheerfully to its relief. That was the true Englishman, who, impressed with the emergencies of the State, rallied round his country, and took its burdens upon his own back. But the master manufacturers cast the burdens upon the shoulders of the poor, and complained of being oppressed themselves. Why, since the last Session of Parliament he was riding about the country in Derbyshire, and came to the Belper Union. He entered the workhouse, and was shocked to behold the proportion of the working classes that were confined there. He ad dressed several—"What are you by trade?" The answer was, "A manufacturer." "What brings you here?"—"My wages are reduced to that extent, that I am unable to support existence without parish relief." Oh! it was heart-rending to see the condition and hear the replies of those poor men, while the men who in former times had raised their fortunes upon the wasting labour and exhausted faculties of these men, were enjoying the fruits of their in- 152 dustry. He rode on and asked, "Whose fine property is this on this side of the hill?"—"Mr. So-and-so's."—"Whose on the other side?" A similar reply. All was the property of the rich master manufacturer. There he saw advertised, "Spikes to spike dogs;" Traps for vermin;" "Trespassers punished;" while not a tree that grew in the fence-row but what was surrounded by a high wall. But the poor man had no protection from the avarice of his master. The small manufacturers are ruined by their more extensive competitors, and the labourer is reduced to the work house. As he had said he had not in tended to take part in this debate, but the sly remark of the hon. member for Mont rose had called him up. Let hon. Members opposite be assured, they were not so popular as they imagined, nor would those opinions bear discussion which required the protection of admission tickets to their political assemblies.
§ Mr. Ewart
did not know what the hon. Gentleman so mysteriously alluded to, as a mine about to be sprung for the destruction of the Anti-Corn-law League, if he did not mean some such anathemas as were hurled by Mr. Pitt against the Corresponding Societies in 1799. The hon. Gentleman did not surely mean to condemn all the manufacturers in his sweeping denunciations.— [Mr. Ferrand: "Certainly not all."]—Then why were the hon. Gentleman's charges so general, and his meaning so particular. We all deplored the misery of the working people, but it was wonderful that want of employment never struck the hon. Gentleman as a cause of that distress with which he so strongly sympathised. He must confess he heard Her Majesty's Speech with great disappointment, because it showed that however the right hon. Baronet (Sir R. Peel) had the will, he had not the power to give effect to his free-trade principles. Above all, there was no hope given that the food of the people would be freed from taxation; and the agitation thus passed over, was diffusing itself throughout every part of the community. The very circumstance which the hon. Gentleman alluded to of women so frequently attending those meetings, showed that this was becoming not only a political, but a social question. The right hon. Baronet held out no hope of any change as to corn and provisions. There was, however, something like an 153 assurance, that by means of commercial treaties, we should have an opportunity of exchanging our manufactures for the products of other countries. But even this was a move in favour of free-trade. He did not see the treaty with Brazil, which consumed five millions of our manufactures, and the greatest proportion not yarns, but calicoes, and, therefore, in the most prepared state, and employing the greatest amount of labour, was likely to be brought to a very successful issue. Then, as to China, even if the five ports alluded to were opened, the vent for our manufactures would not be so great as if we were to reduce the duty on tea from 2s. 1d. to 1s. Let them look to the union workhouses, and to those colonies in which tea was not taxed, and they must see the consumption was capable of being incalculably extended. Not only should the duty on tea be reduced, but that on foreign sugar should undergo a considerable change. The island of Java opened, also, a considerable outlet for our manufactures. In Ceylon, too, in the article of cinnamon, the inhabitants found it impossible to con tend with the Dutch colonies. He trusted, too, that a treaty would be concluded with Austria, where 35,000,000 were unable to manufacture for themselves, and ready to take ours. But how could so beneficial a trade be opened, unless they altered the Corn-laws? It was impossible to go any way in free-trade principles without finding this momentous question cross your path. He believed experience would prove that commercial advantages were not so much to be secured by treaties, as by acting on the principles of Messrs. M'Gregor and Hume, "of buying in the cheapest market and selling in the dearest." He thought great reductions should take place in the Customs and Excise, and that a more direct system of taxation should be adopted than any which had hitherto prevailed. He concluded by repeating, that the country must be disappointed at finding no hope of a remedy for distress which had been so long and patiently borne.
§ Mr. T. M. Gibson
I hope I shall be indulged with the attention of the House for a few moments, while I reply to the remarks of the hon. Member for Knaresborough. I can assure the hon. Gentleman, that though he may fancy he does great injury to the cause of the repeal of the Corn-laws, his speeches are considered in 154 Manchester to be best calculated for effecting the object of the League—the total repeal of the Corn-laws ["Hear" and laughter]. If the hon. Gentleman will go to Manchester I will ensure him a good hearing. Nay, more, I will accept his challenge to argue this question before a large assemblage, not only of manufacturers but of working men. [Mr. Ferrand: In public?] Certainly in public, if you choose it; and I very much doubt whether the hon. Gentleman's eloquence or his facts will persuade the audience that they have an interest in laws for making food scarce. [Hear, hear.] I wonder, too, that he or his friends have not called a public meeting in favour of those laws, which he contends are so popular, in order to convince us that the voice of the country is in favour of scarcity and starvation [Cheers]. I am afraid he could ensure but a poor attendance at a meeting for such a purpose. Every one of common sagacity must be aware that the only reason why persons were admitted by ticket to the meetings lately held was, that it was known that paid persons were systematically sent to disturb the proceedings and prevent a fair discussion. [Mr. Ferrand: Why don't you hold them in public?] I will not allow myself to enter at length into this subject, but I protest against the system adopted by the hon. Gentleman, that whenever a grave public question is discussed in this House, a diversion is attempted by bringing forward a series of personal charges, and indulging in a number of loose statements which I am afraid it will not be found so easy afterwards to substantiate [loud cries of "Hear, hear".] I can assure the hon. Gentleman that the public are of opinion that the charges which he brought forward last year, could not, on inquiry, be substantiated; and I advise him, in bringing forward the fresh facts and fresh charges with which he threatens us, to mistrust himself and his information, if he means to be guided by past experience. As to the charge of the manufacturers not subscribing in answer to the Queen's letter, I can assure him that the manufacturers in their own local districts have collected ample subscriptions for the support of the poor; and it does not follow that because the manufacturers decline to sanction the policy of making the labouring people dependent on charity, instead of on their own labour, they are 155 unwilling to relieve poverty and distress. I can assure the hon. Member that there are many wise and good men who think that in subscribing to the Anti-Corn-law League they are more effectually assisting the working people than by entering into temporary charitable subscriptions, as by such a course they are supporting measures which will enable the working classes to support themselves on their labour and industry. I shall dwell no longer on this point; but before I sit down I wish to correct an intimation which appeared to be thrown out by the Seconder of the Address, that there were symptoms of an improvement in trade. I have not been informed that there has been cause for any such satisfaction. I have heard that there has been rather a decline than an improvement; and I assure the hon. Gentleman that at the present moment there is the utmost gloom over the markets. There is not any feeling that the cessation of the war with China gave more than a momentary impulse, or was calculated to give rise to permanent improvement and increased trade. I can assure the right hon. Baronet that he has disappointed the expectations of the manufacturing community, by holding out no prospect of remedial measures for the distress of the country. I do hope the right hon. Baronet, when he sees the way in which this question of a free trade in corn has advanced—when he regards the large subscriptions not only made in manufacturing communities, but in the agricultural districts—and when he is persuaded, as he must be from his experience in public matters, that the, days of the Corn laws are numbered—that he will no longer hold out expectations which may induce the occupying tenantry to embark capital in the faith that agricultural protection can be maintained. He must feel that when the two leaders in this House pledge themselves to a sliding-scale and a fixed duty, the only proposition that finds favour with the public is an absolute and entire repeal, and this by meetings not led by demagogues, but composed of large bodies of men who do not ordinarily interfere with politics. At the same time that the right hon. Gentleman holds out no hope of an immediate change, I derive great consolation from the assurance he gave us to-night, that if a change were to be made in future, it must be on bold and 156 extensive principles, to ensure a permanent settlement. As the right hon. Baronet could never consent to a fixed duty, and as he and his party must be convinced of the impolicy of the sliding scale, I can come to no other conclusion, when I couple with these facts his declaration to night, but that he really means, when he next proposes a change, to give the country the total repeal. I am sure it is the interest of the agricultural tenantry to put an end to the eternal agitation on this subject, so that, instead of their interests being continually jeopardised, they should be enabled to expend their capital on something like a solid foundation.
§ Mr. Ferrand
As the hon. Gentleman has said that I brought forward charges which I could not substantiate, I beg to refer him to the evidence on the Payment of Wages Committee. By that I am ready to stand or fall.
§ Mr. Gibson
My impression is that the hon. Gentleman last year made statements which on inquiry was not substantiated, and that he particularly attacked the hon. Member for Stockport on grounds which turned out not to be well founded.
§ Mr. Brotherton
could fully bear out the statement made by the hon. Member for Manchester, and by other hon. Members as to the continuance of commercial distress. He should be able to prove at the proper time, that trade was declining, pauperism extending, rates and taxes increasing, and a great depreciation in the value of property. There must be a cause and also a remedy for this distress. The hon. Member for Knaresborough had proposed to increase the taxation, by adding a tax on machinery. Would he tax ploughs and thrashing machines? He (Mr. Brotherton) was convinced that it was only owing to our machinery that this country was able to bear the heavy weight of taxation. The landed interest in reality paid no taxes; the revenue was supported mainly by the commercial classes when trade was prosperous. As a proof of this, in the four years preceding 1837, when food was cheap, the revenue was flourishing, and there was a considerable surplus; but in the last four years, when food and articles of agricultural produce were dear, the revenue was deficient, and it was evident that such must be the case, because when food was dear the people had nothing to spare for the purchase of exciseable arti- 157 cles, from which the revenue was chiefly derived. The people were now becoming enlightened and saw the remedy which ought to be applied, and which was just, practicable, and reasonable. They knew that the poor man's loaf was taxed to increase the rich man's rent; and they felt that the remedy for their sufferings was a repeal of the Corn-laws. The poor man had no protection for his labour, why, then, should the rich man have protection for his land? The hon. Member for Knaresborough has alluded to the poor manufacturers in the work-house; but what were they before they were manufacturers? The population of the country was increasing rapidly, and the surplus population of the agricultural districts was thrown upon the manufacturers for employment. How, he would ask, could they maintain the increasing population if the agricultural surplus population were not sent into the manufacturing districts and employed there? They talked of the Tariff lowering the price of provisions. The Tariff did no such thing. There was a considerable reduction in the price of butter and cheese which were not altered in the new tariff. The cheapness of provisions arose from the inability of the people to purchase. In Cheshire the farmers found, during the riots and the suspension of labour in the manufacturing districts, that they could not sell their provisions scarcely at any price. It was said, that protection for agriculture was necessary for the protection of the agricultural labourer. There was a curious illustration of that position in the county of Dorset, whose Member had so lately held for the "might" of the landed interest, notwithstanding the protection given to agriculture, the wages of the labourer was so low that every seventh man was a pauper. They might talk as they would about protection for the farmer, but the best protection was the prosperity of his manufacturing customers. When the people ceased to be producers, they must soon eat up the produce of the land. He (Mr. Brotherton) wished to treat the condition of the people as a question free from party feeling; he was convinced that agriculture, manufactures, and commerce might all flourish together, and he hoped that all parties would unite in promoting so desirable an end.
§ Mr. Bankes
said, that having been so frequently alluded to in the course of the 158 present discussion, he would take this opportunity of denying that the state of the country with which he was connected was such as had been represented. Much as he regretted the state of the distress which existed there, he was certainly pre pared to deny the accuracy of the statement that one man out of every seven was a pauper. He would add, as a circum stance highly creditable to a peasantry now struggling with distress, that at no period of recent times had there been so small an amount of crime in that county as was exhibited at the last assizes and the recent sessions. The fact drew down commendations from the judges who presided at the last assizes, and as chairman of the quarter sessions he could himself confirm the observation, that crime had not increased in Dorsetshire, but the contrary. He could not but complain of the attacks made on the agriculturists, who had conceded as far as they could, and their distress had been caused by the changes which had been made to satisfy the manufacturers. He must assign as one cause of distress, the new experimental measures of the last Session. But the agriculturists were attached by a self-constituted illegal body, organized for the purpose of depressing and destroying them, if they could, and the League was the grand cause of the distress they were now suffering. The League was unconstitutional in its principle and illegal in its practice, and he believed unless some remedy were adopted for such an innovation on our law and on the Constitution, carried on as it undoubtedly was with power and ability, it would not be the agricultural interests alone that would suffer from its unconstitutional efforts, but our whole system would be shaken, and convulsed. He had seen in the newspapers of this morning two speeches, the one delivered at a meeting held on Tuesday in Liverpool, and the other the day before in Dublin, by an hon. and learned Member not now present—the hon. and learned Member for the county of Cork, On reading these speeches, he could not but find his attention directed to the contrast which they exhibited, as well as to the ability displayed by the same person when taking the two opposite sides of an argument upon a most important question. The hon. and learned Member had given as his last bequest to his (by him) justly favoured country, when quitting the shores of Dublin, the parting warning to his 159 countrymen to beware of these societies which were springing up in his native land, and which were threatening to undermine all that was most dear to them—societies of which the efforts were strongly and avowedly directed against what the hon. and learned Gentleman stated, and justly stated, "to be the beneficent influence of their priesthood." The hon. and learned Member informed his hearers in that speech, that societies were now at work endeavouring to alienate the minds of the Catholic population from the influence of their priesthood, and the advice of the hon. and learned Member to them, was, to beware of the efforts of those who sought to dissolve the ties between them and their natural protectors. In the next page of the same newspaper he found the speech of the same hon. and learned Gentleman, delivered the next day in Liverpool, in which he identified himself with the efforts of the League in that unhappy course so much deprecated by the hon. and learned Member in his native land, namely, the endeavour to alienate the minds of the labourers from their natural friends and kind protectors. All he (Mr. Bankes) asked was, that the natural protectors of the English peasant should have the same immunity from insult and illegal obstruction, as was claimed by the hon. Member for the Roman Catholic priest. The League had raised large sums of money, and if these were applied as the means of providing for the wives and children of the men who had become the victims of the laws of their country in consequence of the incitements of the Anti-Corn-law meetings; he, for one, would not regret the amount of the sums raised; but the Members of the League have combined for a profitable investment of their capital, to the detriment of other interests, while, if the agriculturists were to do the same, they would perhaps deserve the name which he found had already been applied to them—that of the 300 conspirators of the House of Commons. The only struggle made by these so designated conspirators was intended for the benefit of those they represented, and for the protection of the poorer and labouring classes; they did not pretend to secure for them all the protection they wished, but, they will to the best of their power preserve to them the means of honest existence, and those fruits of labour which are their birthright.
§ Mr. Sergeant Murphy
could not but think it would have been better taste in the hon Member. who had just sat down if he had postponed his observations upon the hon. and learned Member for the county of Cork until that hon. and learned Member was in his place. He had read the two speeches of the hon. and learned Member for the county of Cork to which reference had been made, and he denied the inconsistency which was alleged to exist in them. The object of the hon. and learned Member's speech in Dublin had been to attack the efforts of certain bodies of Socialists who sought, under the specious name of civil and religious liberty, to estrange the population from the influence of their priests. He denied that there was any inconsistency between the two speeches. While on his legs he could not but complain of the omission from the Speech of all mention of the patient endurance with which the people of Ireland bore their existing distress. His attention had been arrested by one section of the Speech from the Throne referring to China, viz.:—Her Majesty rejoices in the prospect that, by the free access which will be opened to the principal marts of that populous and extensive empire, encouragement will be given to the commercial enterprise of the people.He trusted that it might be so; he believed it would. But he could not help contrasting that statement with what had been said at the commencement of the war with China respecting the great effusion of blood, the expence, and the disgrace that would attach to us in consequence of engaging in that war, even if we triumphed. Three or four years had passed away, and now the mover and seconder of the address had been heard to declare that the very policy which before was so much decried would result in introducing us to all the advantages of commerce with a densely peopled empire, affording us a market for our manufactures, and, besides all this, civilization and Christianity would be widely extended. He would not quarrel with the noble Lord the Secretary for the Colonies for saying that every act of the Governor-general of India reflected the highest honour upon this country; but he would ask whether the act of withdrawing the troops at the time so many of our brave countrymen were prisoners in the hands of their enemies, and the bodies of others 161 lay unburied and unrevenged in the passes where they were slaughtered, was one of those acts which the noble Lord thought to be pregnant with national honour? He certainly could not fail to express his deep disapprobation of this conduct; and he must say that instead of a notice being given for voting the thanks of the House to the Governor-general of India, there ought to be a notice that he should be recalled in disgrace. That would be more suitable to the feelings of the country, because the noble Lord was considered to have done that which tarnished the honour of the country.
§ Dr. Bowring
claimed the indulgence of the House while he ventured to make a few observations. The hon. Member for Dorsetshire had denounced the Anti-Corn-law League as illegal and unconstitutional; he did not know how the hon. Member could prove that, but he was certain that the League had produced a conviction in the minds of the people that the Corn-laws were the chief cause of the distress which prevailed amongst our manufacturing population, and that there could be no peace until that system of legislation was overthrown. The power of the League might be seen in the impression it had created, and nothing would arrest its progress but the removal of the grievances to whose oppressions the League owed its resistance. With respect to the Affghan war, he considered its end like its beginning, and its whole course, from first to last, anything but honourable to our national character, whatever acts of individual bravery might have signalized our countrymen. We had little to be proud of in the invasion of a country of which we had nothing to complain—in the bloody battles against rude mountaineers, and in the disgraceful slaughter which had closed the campaign. Now that we were at peace, an opportunity was afforded for anxious inquiry into the cause of that misery which had spread and was spreading over the land, and he hoped the House would find time, and feel the necessity for looking into the causes and consequences of our domestic sufferings. He begged the attention of the right hon. Baronet to one me lancholy fact. Last year he had stated, on the authority of the respectable vicar of Bolton, that 7,000 persons had received relief, and that their weekly earnings per head on the average were but 1s. A few days ago he received the return for 1842, 162 from which it appeared that the number of applicants who had obtained relief from the Society for the Protection of the Poor was 15,296. The average weekly earnings of the parties dismissed unrelieved were 1s 9¼ The average income of all the applicants was 10¼ of those relieved 9¾ He could assure the right hon. Baronet that similar facts, and evidence of similar sufferings might be found where ever he turned his eyes in Lancashire and Yorkshire. The right hon. Baronet had recognized the principle that the poor man as well as the rich was entitled to buy in the cheapest market and sell in the dearest, and its principle was undoubtedly sound, and lay at the foundation of all commercial intercourse, and what he required at the hands of the right hon. Baronet was, that the starving man might have the benefit of the principle when he wanted to purchase bread.
§ Mr. M. Philips
said, that the only suggestion he had heard thrown out during the discussion, for remedying the distress of the country, was a tax upon machinery. He hoped the hon. Member for Knaresborough would fix an early day for the discussion of that question. If there were any persons who thought that trade was fast reviving, and again flowing into its wonted channels, they very much deceived themselves. People on the first news of the intelligence of peace with China, believed that another and an immediate market was thus opened up for our manufactures; but he could assure the House and the country that if trade was to receive any benefit from the Chinese treaty, such effects would be the work of time, and by no means to be immediately expected. With respect to tea, they could not force much additional consumption in that article without lowering the high duties, and if they wanted an extensive trade with China he would urge the necessity of a revision of the Sugar-duties.
§ Captain Pechell
could have wished that answers of a more satisfactory character than those which he had returned had been given by the right hon. Baronet opposite to the inquiries put by the noble Lord the Foreign Secretary. He wished in particular to know whether the cruizers appointed to the coast of Africa for the slave-trade were or were not to be confined to that coast in their operations?
§ Sir R. Peel
said, that he was not pre- 163 pared at once to reply to the question put by the hon. Member.
§ Motion agreed to, and a Committee appointed to prepare the Address.
§ House adjourned at a quarter to one.