§ The order of the day for resuming the Adjourned Debate on the Distress of the Country having been read,
§ Mr. Ewart
rose and expressed his approbation of the motion which the noble Lord the Member for Sunderland, had brought under discussion. He considered the noble Lord justified in making the motion by the condition, feelings, and sufferings of the people. If he went further than the noble Lord, and broached doctrines which the noble Lord might not be prepared to support, he begged the House to believe, that he should do so from the sincerest conviction of their soundness. He hoped he should be considered guilty of no discourtesy towards the hon. Member for Knaresborough, if he did not dwell on the arguments contained in the speech with which that hon. Member closed the debate of last night. The hon. Gentleman's main arguments were directed against machinery and free-trade. Considering that her Majesty's Government, to their great credit, were the advocates equally of machinery and the extension of free-trade, he should leave the hon. Member to be answered by his own friends, by their conduct and principles. He (Mr. Ewart) had heard with mingled feelings of satisfaction and surprise the speech of the right hon. Gentleman the Vice-President of the Board of Trade. It was a speech of mingled tendency. All the principles of the speech were in favour of free-trade, while all its parentheses were in favour of protection. What did the right hon. Gentleman say on the subject of the Corn-laws? He did not deny that they were a source of evil; while on the subject of the importation of cattle he was equally inconsistent. The right hon. Gentleman consoled, on the one hand, the country gentlemen by assuring them that the importation of cattle had been exceedingly small, while on the other hand, he consoled the people by telling them that he was sorry he could not hope for the im- 579 portation to be greater. He had always been of opinion, that no minister had ever entered the portals of the Board of Trade, whatever his previous opinions might have been, without sooner or later himself becoming a free-trader. Such was the case with Mr. Huskisson, an illustrious example; and such was the case with respect to Mr. Deacon Hume, one of the most venerated authorities upon the subject; and such was the case with the equally eminent authority, Mr. M'Gregor, and now such is the case with regard to the right hon. Gentleman the Vice-President of the Board of Trade. And although at present the right hon. Gentleman was opposed to any alteration in the sugar duties, yet he (Mr. Ewart) did not despair of seeing a measure introduced under his auspices for carrying a reform of those duties into effect. The Vice-President of the Board of Trade very justly took credit to the present Government for the commercial reforms which were effected last Session. He appealed to the experience which the revival of trade had afforded as a testimony of the truth of the principles of those measures. He had perused those documents which were called "Circulars," and "The Price Current," and he could confirm the assertions of the right hon. Gentleman. Trade in the article of turpentine, on which the duty had been reduced, had already exhibited symptoms of improvements; so also with respect to olive oil and to hides. The duty on rice had been reduced; and since the reduction, the trade in that article between Liverpool and the United States had considerably revived. Again, with respect to palm oil, a great increase of consumption had taken place; and, last of all, the trade with Canada, especially in the article of timber, had shown symptoms of improvement. With respect to timber, he could not help adverting to the great evil attending the postponement of the operation of the altered rate of duty upon that article. In consequence of the postponement of the alteration in the duty, the merchants could not get rid of their stock. This confirmed the opinion he had always maintained, that as soon as the Government adopted a sound principle, it ought to be carried into effect. Though in detail these articles might be considered unimportant, yet they were important as proving the soundness of the principle on 580 which the alterations in the duties had been made. And what did it further show? Why, that if the right hon. Baronet (Sir R. Peel) had gone successfully thus far in the establishing of free-trade principles, he would be justified in going further. If in these articles the right hon. Baronet had gone right, how much more justified would he be in applying the same principles to the articles of sugar and corn? He (Mr. Ewart) noticed with great regret, that at the opening of the present Session, the right hon. Baronet offered no observations with respect to either of those two most important subjects. If the most vital question at this moment was that of corn, the next to it unquestionably was that of sugar. The impression which the right hon. Baronet had left on the minds of those who heard him was, that the question whether or not he would be driven to deal again with the Corn-laws, depended on the agitation which might exist in the country upon the subject. The free-trading part of the community did not understand the right hon. Baronet to say, that he was against an entire repeal of the Corn-laws; they only understood him to say, that he was against any alteration of the law as it stood, for the present. Therefore the advocates of free-trade ought to feel that all depended upon themselves; not by taking any violent proceedings, which they all abjured, but by adopting those legitimate and constitutional means of informing the mind and influencing the feelings of the community. Let the friends of repeal assure the right hon. Baronet that of this sound and constitutional agitation there will be no end. Lectures, treatises, and meetings, whether in the form of literary conversations or social tea parties, were the means which would be used throughout the country to overcome that gentle resistance (for he confessed the resistance was not very strong) which the feelings or prejudices of the right hon. Gentleman's supporters now offered to the dictates of sound reason. Seeing, however, that for the present there was no chance of obtaining any change in the law respecting corn and sugar, it became a duty to ask what minor changes they were likely to obtain? It appeared that the right hon. Gentleman was about to open our trade with foreign countries; but it was with regret he observed that, although the right hon. Gentleman had adopted some, yet he had not adopted all 581 of the principles advocated by the late Mr. Hume, of the Board of Trade. That Gentleman laid it down as a principle that we should extend our commerce with the world irrespective of treaties. Diplomacy, he said, ought not to be the mistress of commerce, but commerce ought to be the mistress of diplomacy. Mr. Hume was asked," Is it your opinion that trade would flourish more without the intervention of commercial treaties?" His answer was, "I think we should settle our commerce better ourselves. I go on the principle that it is impossible to import too much. We may be quite sure that the exports would follow in some form or other." This was sound doctrine, and he should desire to see the right hon. Baronet adopt it. But this he refused to do. What were the commercial treaties the right hon. Gentleman was about to adopt? He could not do better than to show how much this country was losing by the non-intercourse system with Brazil, with which we could carry on a very profitable trade if happily we should conclude a commercial treaty. In 1827 there entered into the port of Rio 211 British ships; in 1841 there entered only 123 British ships; and of these 123, only 17 were cleared out of the United Kingdom, showing that a great portion of the trade, even in our own ships, went to foreign ports. Compare this with the ships of the United States. In 1841, 146 American vessels left the port of Rio, 116 of which sailed for the United States. If he were to refer to the ships of other countries, the same unfavourable comparison would be presented. In 1827, 136 American ships entered Rio; in 1841 these were increased to 146; in 1827, 14 ships from Hamburg entered Rio; in 1841 they were increased to 44. In 1827, 24 Swedish ships entered the same port; in 1841, they were increased to 73. In 1827, 3 Danish vessels entered that port; in 1841, they increased to 63, while, during the same two periods, the decrease of British shipping was from 211 in 1827, to 123 in 1841. This was the result of the restrictions imposed on our trade in sugar and coffee with the Brazils. He would not speak of the article of sugar, but would confine his observations to the article of coffee. The coffee crop of the Brazils, in 1841, amounted to 1,013,915 bags. Of this quantity the United States took 431,000 bags, being an increase over the amount taken in 1840 of 125,000 582 bags. What did England take? Out of this large crop England only took 69,000 bags, whereas, in the preceding year, we took 88,303 bags; thus, while the trade between the United States and the Brazils was increasing, the trade between England and Brazil was decreasing. If we were to establish a sound system of trade with Brazil, British ships would come direct to England, and the consequence would be that this country would be made the greatentrepôt of commerce; which, in justice to her capital and her people, she ought to be. England ought to be the cheapest country in the world; and if the right hon. Baronet would pursue those sound principles which he had commenced acting upon that great object would be achieved. At the beginning of this Session (turning again to the subject of commercial treaties), he had alluded to the importance of our trade with Holland, more especially respecting the port of Java. Since then a report, drawn up by Mr. M'Gregor, had been laid on the Table of the House. That report confirmed the view he at that time took upon the subject. He hoped (since they must carry on their trade through the organ of diplomacy) that some pains would be taken to open a trade with Java. Holland could not supply the manufactures demanded by Java. The growth of sugar in Java had greatly increased. In 1831 the amount was only 7,000 tons while, now, it amounted to 65,000 tons. Hitherto the trade in coffee with Java had been a monopoly, but he hoped that if we concluded a treaty with Holland, that trade would be thrown open. Nothing was more common with the advocates of free-trade to allude to—what had now become a trite subject—the opening of a trade with the United States in the article of corn. Corn was the principal article which the United States had to export, and for which England would gladly exchange her manufactures. According to the last account, the exports of our cotton manufactures to the United States had decreased. The diminution from 1841 to 1842 had been no less than from 38,000,000 of yards in the former year, to 21,000,000 of yards. Calico goods were the most important branch of our cotton manufacture, because a greater amount of labour was employed in it. Our cotton yarns went to supply the means of foreign manufacturers, but calico goods employed native labour. It 583 was, therefore, the article of most interest for us to export. The exports of calico to the United States and Brazil in 1838 amounted together to 121,000,000 of yards, whereas in the year 1842 the exports of the same articles to those countries had fallen oft" to as low as 80,000,000 of yards. This was, in his opinion, sufficient to account for the present depressed state of that most important portion of our cotton trade. Such, then, appeared to be the minor resources on which they had to depend. The right hon. Baronet would not open to us the corn trade, nor was he able yet to open to us the sugar trade; these were the minor aids which diplomacy and commercial treaties had to offer to commerce. He hoped the right hon. Baronet would be able to accomplish these minor reforms; and since a greater reform in our commercial code could not be at present effected by him in consequence of the resistance of his friends, he hoped that they would finally be forced upon the right hon. Gentleman by the power of his opponents. He had often told the friends of free-trade agitation that they must rely upon themselves for success, and not build on the hope of their cause attaining (without their own exertions) an ascendancy in that House. Already had the efforts and reasonings of the advocates of free-trade wrought conviction on the minds of many of their former opponents, and those, too, who lived in agricultural districts, and on whom it was never supposed the truth could dawn. But conviction had at length reached then, and he hoped the contagion would extend, and that soon they would have a large portion of the agricultural interest uniting with the majority, if not the totality in the effort to destroy the baneful Corn-law colossus which had so long been the terror of the land. But although the country had not the benefit of a direct trade in corn opened with the United States, under the auspices of the right hon. Baronet, yet he was pleased to think, that there were some symptoms of an indirect and somewhat oblique trade in corn with those states springing up through the ingenuity of the noble Lord, the Secretary for the Colonies. Papers had not yet been laid before the House, to show by what ingenious contrivance a sort of commercial contraband trade in corn with the United States was to be carried on; and by what means American corn was to insinuate 584 itself over the boundary of Canada, and ultimately come within the restricted confines of England. But he must confess, that next to a direct practice of free-trade, this species of contraband trade was the most desirable thing that could be wished for. He hoped that the commerce of the country would thus find an indirect source of trade furnished by the ingenious contrivance, or happy negligence of the noble Lord, the Secretary for the Colonies. The noble Lord, the Member for Sunderland, last night dwelt, in an eloquent and able manner, upon the distress of the country. He would not attempt to speak upon a theme which had been so much more ably treated of by that noble Lord. He felt bound, however, to deliver his opinion candidly, whatever might be the sentiments of the hon. Gentlemen by whom he was surrounded; and be would, therefore, state his conviction, that they never would obtain a full and entire development of the principles of free-trade unless they were prepared to reduce the customs and excise duties to such an extent, as to relieve trade from many of the burthens which had hitherto oppressed it, and to impose increased and direct taxation on the amassed capital of the country. Hon. Gentlemen might consider this a new and a startling doctrine, but he was convinced they would find it entertained by many of their constituents, and it was daily gaining ground. Some such remedy he was convinced was indispensable, in order to enable our manufacturers to maintain the struggle in which they were engaged with the foreigner. To prove this, he would draw attention to the state of the export trade in cotton goods. Taking the years 1838 and 1842, it appeared, that though the amount in bulk exported had increased very greatly, the value had materially diminished; the labour was greater, while the receipts were smaller. In 1838 we exported 171,000,0001b. of cottons, and received for them about 17,000,000l; sterling; in 1842 we exported 268,000,0001b., and received for them only about 15,000,000l. sterling. That was the shortest proof of the difficulties we had to encounter from the immense amount of foreign competition. The consequence was, that new machinery was set to work, to produce the increased bulk of goods which was required. Then, again, it was well known how much handloom and power-loom cloths had declined. Taking 585 up Burn's Commercial Glance, a very valuable work, published in Manchester, it appeared from the statistics given there, that the demand for these cloths had fallen off immensely since 1839. Another symptom of the increase of competition was, that the manufacturer was driven to work up the lower prices of cotton, because he must have cheapness one way or the other to enable him to compete with the foreign producer. The right hon. Baronet (Sir R. Peel), if he mistook not, had received an application from the manufacturers of Leeds, begging him to reduce the duty on sheep's wool. The trade in this article had fallen greatly. In 1839, 214,000 bales were imported; in 1842, only 142,000 bales. The fact was, the right hon. Baronet could not reduce the duty on sheep's wool, without at the same time reducing the duty on cotton wool, and this he must do sooner or later; for it would be absolutely necessary, he would find, to abolish the duties not only on these, but on all raw materials, in order to enable our manufacturers to compete with the foreigner; and the right hon. Baronet would have to combine with a repeal of the duties on raw materials, that of the duty on the subsistence of the people, the raw material of labour itself. The existing struggle of the manufacturers pointed to legislation in two directions—a reduction of the excise and customs duties, and a reduction of the duties on raw materials, and on the means of subsistence of the operative. Indeed, there were those who thought that it would be good for the country if those two ancient institutions, the Excise and Customs, were abolished altogether. He did not go quite so far as that; but he thought they might be reduced to a very considerable extent, with signal advantage to the country. He did not go so far as some persons, but he said that the tendency of legislation in future must be towards the reduction of indirect taxation. To fortify himself on this point, he turned to a very eminent authority, who seemed to have anticipated the grievances we were suffering and the times in which we lived. Mr. Huskisson, in a speech on the distress of the country delivered in the year 1830, which the right hon. Baronet probably recollected, said that he felt himself bound, by a sense of public duty, to ask the House whether they could give adequate relief unless they emoved the pressure on that part of 586 the national capital which was devoted to the employment of abour, by placing a part of its burthen on that part which was not so engaged. Mr. Huskisson went on to recommend direct taxation as a means of increasing the consumable power of the country, and to declare that if, at any future day, a sense of public interest should induce the Government to act on those views, he should give them his cordial assistance. Now this, which was said in 1830, might very reasonably be applied to our situation in 1843. The right hon. Baronet still preserved a mysterious silence on the subject of the Corn-laws; another year of agitation must elapse before anything was to be done; for the right hon. Baronet, while he declared that he would not alter the Corn-laws had appended two significant words—" at present." The right hon. Baronet had thus held out hopes to the advocates of free trade on the one hand, while he allayed the fears of his agricultural supporters on the other; but he conceived that this could not go on long. If it was justice to continue the Corn-laws, it was injustice to the agricultural interest to keep them in suspense. At present they did not know whether they stood on a sliding scale orterra firma. He trusted that, by another year, agitation would be so generally spread that the right hon. Baronet would not be able to resist the pressure upon him. By repealing those laws he would open new markets for our produce, and by diminishing the pressure of indirect taxation he would increase the power of consumption in this country, and render the manufacturer more competent to enter upon the struggle with foreigners. He would be more likely by these means to scatter food through the population than by any other. These were the demands of justice, they were the demands of sound policy; and he believed that, before another year was past, all classes of monopolists, whether in that House or the other, would be forced to give way, and the measures he had adverted to pressed upon Parliament by the people acting with the energy and unanimity arising from a sense of the justice of their demand.
§ Mr. Liddell
said, that it would be difficult to make out from the speech of the hon. Member, who had just addressed the House, any argument in support of the present motion. It appeared to him, that the 587 present motion was neither more nor less than a vote of confidence or of want of confidence in her Majesty's Government. He apprehended, that nobody could imagine that the distress which prevailed in the country could he in any way alleviated by an inquiry into the causes of that distress by a committee of that House. Only that, it would take up too much of the public time, that it might be taken as a want of confidence in her Majesty's Government, and he should be glad that the noble Lord carried this motion, just to see what he could make of it. He trusted, however, that the House would reject the motion by a large majority. The hon. Member who had just sat down, as far as he understood his speech, instead of expressing want of confidence in her Majesty's Government, 'in the course of his argument approved of the course they had pursued, though he wished they had proceeded with greater rapidity. He would, therefore, rather apply himself to the speech which had been delivered by his noble Friend, the Member for Sunderland, when introducing his motion. It was not the first time that he had stood in opposition to the noble Lord, and he was always to be respected by his opponents for the ability, the honesty, the integrity, and singleness of purpose by which the noble Lord was distinguished in all transactions whether in public or in private life. He was sure, that in any observations which he felt it his duty to make, the noble Lord would give him credit for acting in accordance with those feelings of respect which were justly due to the character of the noble Lord. The statements of the noble Lord to which he would principally apply himself, were those which related to that part of the country with which he himself was more particularly connected. The noble Lord had alluded to the condition of Sunderland which he admitted was far from satisfactory, and also to the condition of the two great agricultural counties of Northumberland and Durham as the foundation for his motion. With respect to the condition of the port of Sunderland, he was not prepared to dispute the facts adduced by the noble Lord, but he was prepared to state other facts in explanation of them. It was well known, that the prosperity of the port of Sunderland depended on two branches of trade, namely, the coal trade and shipping. The difficulties which the coal trade at present suffered were difficulties common to many branches 588 of trade. These difficulties arose from the immense competition that prevailed in every branch of that trade which, within the last few years, it had been thought offered such inducements to the employment of capital, that an immense amount of capital was invested in coal-mines, and almost every portion of the extensive coal field of Durham had been consequently brought into production. The noble Lord was aware, that all the coal from the district south of the Wear, and a great deal of coal from the coal-field north of the Wear, had heretofore come to the port of Sunderland. But the noble Lord was also aware, that with respect to a great portion of the coal from the district north of the Wear, since the establishment of certain railways coal was transferred to the river Tyne, because its port was found to be more convenient and commodious than the port of Sunderland. The noble Lord was also aware that, within a few years back, the port of Seaham harbour had been also established, and that all the coal from the extensive collieries of the Marquess of Londonderry, by whom the harbour was completed, were now brought to that port. The noble Lord must also know that upon the line of coast, not more than twenty miles from Sunderland, a new harbour—that of Hartlepool had been established. It was to be re collected, that to those causes was, in some degree, owing the decline of the prosperity of Sunderland. Besides this, within the last few years, the port of Hartlepool had risen into rapid and considerable importance, That town had some time ago felt anxious to be disconnected from the port of Stockton, and had made an application to that effect to her Majesty's Government, resting its claim on the importance of its trade, and the amount of business now transacted in the port of Hartlepool. The memorial was signed by the merchants, bankers, ship owners, and others interested in the trade of the port of Hartlepool. The memorial slated that, in former days, Hartlepool was an important maritime station, but that for centuries it had declined, and in 1832 it was little more than a fishing town, and at this time it was at its lowest point. In that year a company was formed for the formation of docks and a railway, which connects Hartlepool with valuable coal mines, for the shipment of which Hartlepool afforded a great facility. He would ask the House to attend to the progress of this town, and 589 they would see that the depressed state of Sunderland was owing not so much to the general condition of the country as to other circumstances affecting its trade. In 1835 there were only three sloops registered for the port of Hartlepool. In 1843 there were ninety ships, the tonnage of which amounted to 20,180 tons; and representing a capital of 208,80l. In 1842 2,678 ships with 559,766 tons of coal cleared coast-wise, and 41,994 tons of shipping entered the harbour for refuge from that port. Since the tariff, 67 British and 141 foreign ships had cleared from Hartlepool for foreign ports. When the House had heard so much of the state of Sunderland, it was right that it should be shown, on the contrary, that although Sunderland had become depressed, in the very same time the trade of Hartlepool had increased. It was quite true that the coal trade was considerably embarrassed, and why? Because there was an amount of speculation in that trade, and an amount of capital invested and powers employed in the raising of coal, which he did not hesitate to say, were adequate to supply double the demand for that article in England and the rest of the world. In consequence of these circumstances, the coal owners were compelled to enter into an agreement amongst themselves to apportion the supply to the different collieries in some proportion to the demand, and their respective powers of supply. The embarrassment in the coal trade did not arise in consequence of the existing state of the country, but from particular circumstances connected with that trade. The noble Lord stated, in the course of his speech, that the coal duty imposed last year had greatly augmented this embarrassment. It was not for him representing the constituency that he did, to say anything in support of that duty. He trusted that the Government would not continue that duty for a longer period than the circumstances of the country require. But, at the same time he felt grateful to the Government for the concessions they had made last year, in consequence of the representations urged upon them. They might congratulate themselves that they had made those concessions, for if they had persevered in the scale of duties originally proposed, the produce would have beennil; but he believed that, under the scale of duties that had been determined upon, little, if any, reduction in the amount of coals ex- 590 ported would take place. In answer to this part of the statement of the noble Lord he would refer to the condition of the port of Newcastle. At a dinner held in Newcastle, a short time ago, to celebrate the anniversary of the establishment of the Chamber of Commerce in that town, the collector of customs in returning thanks for his health, made a statement, which showed that the trade of that port had improved. The hon. Member read the statement, which showed an increase in the customs duties of that port for the year 1842, as compared with 1841 of 23,000l., the customs duties for 1841 being 409,815l.; and those for 1842 432,787l. With regard to the quantity of coals exported from Newcastle in the first, half-year of 1842, prior to the new impost, no less than 490,150 tons was exported, being the largest amount ever exported in the same period; but in the succeeding half-year after the imposition of this tax, there was an export of 301,850 tons, which seems a proof that the duty will not ruin the export trade. The statements that he had made were perfectly conclusive as to the condition of the ports of Newcastle and Hartlepool; and as the noble Lord's arguments drawn from the depressed condition of the port of Sunderland would seem to imply the evidence of general distress in the north of England, it was but fair to admit that these accounts indicated a more favourable prospect. At the same time, he (Mr. Liddell) was sorry to say, that no less than 5,000 persons were now in the receipt of in-door and out-of-door relief in the town of Newcastle, which showed that the labouring classes were not exempt from heavy pressure. The noble Lord had alluded to the fall of wages and the increase of the rates in the borough of Sunderland, but, with respect to the increase of rates, it should be recollected that those rates were not merely the poors'-rate, for they also included the borough-rate, the police-rate, the expense of the annual registration of Parliamentary and municipal electors, the expense of the registration of births, marriages, and deaths. The noble Lord had stated that he considered that the New Poor-law had nothing to do with the distress of the country. He differed from that opinion. He had been sorry to see the New Poor-law introduced into the north of England, where, however applicable to other parts of the country, it was not re- 591 quired. That law was carried on by an expensive machinery, and a large establishment, and that large additional expense could not be maintained out of the poor-rates without either an increase of their amount or a diminution of the amount of relief afforded to those who were to receive it. The noble Lord had also alluded to the number of uninhabited houses in the town of Sunderland; but let not the House be under the idea that those were houses which had been deserted by their former inhabitants. He had been assured that the rage for house building, like the rage for ship building, had been carried to a great extent in Sunderland, and many of those new houses were never inhabited. The same had happened in Newcastle, where whole streets had been built, and though one could not help admiring the improvements, it was impossible not to regret the want of prudence in building houses which there was no likelihood of being inhabited for a quarter of a century. The noble Lord alluded to the prevalence of agricultural distress in Northumberland, and to the reduced price of stock; but some of the noble Lord's arguments on this head supplied their own answer. The noble Lord had admitted his belief that the new tariff had nothing to do with the depressed price of stock. In that opinion he (Mr. Liddell) concurred. He had conversed with many intelligent agriculturists, who were aware that that depression was owing to the state of the manufacturing districts, and to the reduction of the wages of the labouring classes. The fears from foreign competition were now at an end, as it had been shown that the agriculturists of this country had little to dread from the importation of foreign cattle. The noble Lord was obliged to rest his case, with respect to the farmers, not so much on the existing difficulties, as on those difficulties which might be expected to arise. He was sure, that whenever those difficulties should arise, the landlords would be willing to bear their full share—that they would feel that they were embarked in the same boat with their tenants, and that their interests were the same. He was sure that in the part of the country with which he was acquainted, the landlords would be prepared to render every assistance to their tenants and to bear their full share of any difficulties should any such arise. The noble Lord had spoken of a remedy for the distress that existed, and said 592 that the markets for our industry ought to be enlarged. No doubt this for a time would afford a remedy, but the great powers of production which this country possessed would be able to over supply any new demand in a very short time. A friend, with whom he was conversing on the subject some time ago, and who was well acquainted with the manufactures of the country, made use of the remarkable expression, that" if to-morrow we could establish a railway communication with the planets Jupiter and Saturn, and found those planets filled with a population in want of all the necessaries of life, this country would be able to glut their markets in the course of six weeks." Although therefore it was the duty of that House and of the Government to make every effort for the extension of our trade with foreign countries, still those exertions should be accompanied with caution, and we must on no account sacrifice existing and substantial advantages in the pursuit of an object more or less precarious and uncertain. He contended that the noble Lord had altogether failed to make out his case, and that he had overlooked altogether two or three important considerations connected with the difficulties of the country. He (Mr. Liddell) had no hesitation in asserting that the deficient harvests of the last five years had something to do with the present distress. It was impossible not to admit that the real income of the country had suffered diminution to the extent of one-fifth annually, and however the deficiency of produce might have been supplied, pressure would inevitably be felt from so large and continued a deficiency. There was another cause which had not been sufficiently alluded to, namely—the financial derangements of the United States and the cessation of our trade with that country. In 1834 the declared value of our exports to the United States was 6,844,000l; in 1835 it was 10,000,000l, in 1836 it was 12,425,000l.; Let. the House see what a stimulus this must have given to the manufactures of this country. But let them mark the change which had taken place in 1837. The value of our exports to the United States in 1837 fell to 4,500,000l.;, in 1838 it was 7,500,000l.;, in 1839 it was 8,839,000l.;, and in 1840, the last year for which he could obtain a return, it. was only 5,283,000l.; But since that period, the destruction of all securities whatever in the United States had 593 caused a complete interruption of commerce. The mode in which the merchants of the United States traded with this country was as follows:—A merchant from New York came to Liverpool or London, and obtained credit for certain sums in this way. He obtained permission to draw bills on respectable houses in London, or some other town, payable at three or six months, and for which accommodation he paid 1 per cent. With these bills he went to Manchester, and as these bills were considered almost in the light of ready money, he obtained goods on advantageous terms. Those goods were immediately shipped to America, where they found a ready sale, and the money was returned to the acceptors of the bills in this country before the bills were presented for payment. The American merchants, in order to obtain those bills, brought as security over with them shares in the American stocks, or railways or canals, which at the time were considered good security, but at present nothing whatever would be given on the credit of American paper. The discredit is universal, and the stagnation complete, not for want of orders, but for want of confidence, as the parties giving them possess no credit, and can offer no security. It was easy to see that the interruptions of the trade heretofore carried on with the United States must have had considerable effect in producing the depression that prevailed amongst our manufacturers. Looking at the trade of the United States, and the returns to this country, it was not too much to say, that the loss of this trade was one main cause of the manufacturing distress of the country. There was another cause which had not been alluded to,—namely, the Income-tax; but all who knew the state in which the finances of the country was left by the late Government, would concur at once in the opinion that the present Government had acted most patriotically in imposing that tax upon property. Let the House contrast the conduct of the respective Governments of Great Britain and the United States, and see whether such a contrast will not teach us to cling with the more affection to our own institutions, rather than desire to exchange them for a form of Government, depending solely on the unstable will and capricious passions of the people. A few years since, the United States treasury contained forty millions of dollars; now, they were unable to pay even the just 594 interest on their debts; which arose from the incapability of the Government of that country to tax the population. He, therefore, called on the House to express their confidence in the Government who had so nobly vindicated their title to govern the country, by meeting the evils which threatened to destroy its prosperity. He (Mr. Liddell) should not then enter into any discussion on the question of the Corn-laws, nor advert to them further than to declare his firm belief that nothing would be productive of more difficulty, more alarm, and greater mischief to the community, than any vacillation in the measures of the last year on that subject. He spoke for a numerous agricultural body, as well as for himself, when he said that he was perfectly satisfied with the declarations of the right hon. Baronet on that point; and he would add, that the more the character of the right hon. Gentleman was attacked, the more determinedly would they rally round him, and support him with their votes, and, if necessary, with their fortunes. They, the Conservative party, had constituted that right hon. Baronet, the defender of the ark of the constitution; and, however, his character might be undermined by unworthy insinuations, or his life threatened by open violence, they would continue to defend him as long as Providence should grant him health and strength to support the difficulties and labours of his responsible position. Under these circumstances, he (Mr. Liddell) should oppose the motion of the noble Lord.
§ Lord Worsley
understood the hon. Member who had just sat down to imply that the motion to be decided that night, was not to be considered solely on the grounds on which it was brought forward by the noble Lord below him, but also as a vote of confidence or of no confidence in her Majesty's Government. He thought, that if the hon. Gentleman had recollected the terms on which hon. Gentlemen on the opposite side of the House were returned, that they were sent to oppose a ministry which had proposed an alteration in the Corn-laws; and if he now appealed to the country, he would find that there was not the same confidence in her Majesty's present Ministers which the agricultural party held at the last election. He believed, that the agriculturists had not the same confidence as the hon. Gentleman who had just sat down in the right hon. Baronet. He believed, that what the 595 hon. Gentlemen had left out of his view they had marked well. It was said, that it was not intended to make any alteration in the Corn-laws during the present Session; but he believed that it was still the opinion of the great body of the agriculturists that the distress which they had begun to feel deeply was likely to be increased in consequence of there not being sufficient confidence in the stability of the Corn-laws. They believed that they had put a party in power to resist any change in the Corn-laws—they saw that this very party had introduced a change, and they believed that this same party would bring forward a further change. He was, however, departing from the question before the House, which was, whether they should resolve themselves into a committee of the whole House to consider the state of the country. The distress of the country, except by the last speaker had been admitted by all who had spoken. He was sorry that he must give the same account of the agricultural districts. In the part of the country with which he was connected, there never was such distress known at any previous time; many were out of employment, and many who were employed, received reduced wages; because it was considered by the farmers better to employ the workman at low wages, than to give the same wages as formerly, and do with one or two hands less. In his own county—and he believed that the same thing extended to other counties, where there had been an intention of improving the land by drainage—the farmers had waited to see how the wind would blow, before they laid out their money in improvements. He believed, thefore, that great as was the distress of the manufacturers, the distress of the agriculturists was as great, and would be more deeply felt. The question, however, was, whether the House could, by resolving itself into a committee, arrive at the causes of the distress and discover a remedy for it. His belief was, that if they went into a committee with the view of discovering a remedy, they would only see certain Members on that (the Opposition) side of the House attributing the causes of this distress to the consequences of a bad system of Corn-laws, and saying that they would be removed by an alteration of the system. His opinion was the reverse. He believed, that many on that side of the House did not agree with him, but that many who sat on the other side of the 596 House did accord in the opinion, although they did not plainly state it, that it would be better for the country if a decided tone were taken by the Government with respect to the Corn-laws, and if they did not hear the right hon. Gentleman, the Vice-President of the Board of Trade, calling the late Corn-laws a temporary measure. He thought, that it would be better for the country if a stand were taken on the Corn-laws. If they went into committee, many Members on that side of the House would attribute the distress to them, and seek a remedy in a change, and a large portion of the other side of the House would be of a different opinion. In fact, that it would only be a Corn-law debate in a committee, and the result would be, that the committee would do nothing. He should be only, therefore, holding out false hopes by voting for a committee of enquiry into this distress, which the committee would not find the means of removing; and consequently, although he deplored the distress, he could not consent to the committee. If he thought it possible for a committee of the whole House to propose a remedy—if he thought that such a committee could come to a practical conclusion—he would waive his objections; but he did not believe that it would be otherwise than a Corn-law debate. In his opinion, they would not be able to get any nearer the truth, by weeks of discussion in the committee, than they now were; and he therefore felt it his duty to resist the motion of his noble Friend, as well as the amendment of the hon. Member for Knaresborough. He knew that he was acting differently from those with whom he usually voted, but he was bound to act in the manner which he thought best for the country, and to give his honest opinion.
Mr. Gaily Knight
said, that he certainly did not rise to reply to the noble Lord who had just sat down, for he was happy to find that, on this subject, the noble Lord coincided in opinion with himself, and he would, therefore, only take leave to compliment him on the candour with which he had come to that opinion, and on the courage with which he had avowed it. But he did rise, because he wished to make it clear, that if he refused to go into committee, it was not from any indifference to the distress and privations of the manufacturing towns—for, though he did belong to that class which the hon. Member for Stockport called "the 597 basest section of the aristocracy," and though he was sent to that House principally by the Heads of Clay, yet he trusted that he was neither so foolish a man, nor so had an Englishman, as not to be aware that the real interests of the agricultural and the commercial bodies were substantially the same, as not to behold the prolonged depression of the manufacturing towns with the sincerest sentiments of sympathy and regret. If he thought that, by going into committee, the depression would really be relieved, whatever might be the inconvenience, whatever might be the toil to which such an inquiry would subject hon. Members, he should say it was the duty of the House not to shrink from the test. But it appeared to him that his right hon. Friend the Vice-President of the Board of Trade, had clearly shown not only that the existing evils would be aggravated by such an inquiry, but also, that the only remedy which the hon. Gentleman opposite had to propose, namely, the total and immediate abolition of the Corn-laws, would not be likely to produce the desired effect. Such a step, a step which would inevitably displace a large amount of agricultural labour, it would be admitted on all hands, ought not to be undertaken without something more than a hope of a considerable extension of our foreign trade. But his right hon. Friend had shown that, as things are, not only would there be no reasonable hope of such an extension, but that, from the tariffs behind which other countries had entrenched themselves, there would be no extension at all, nor could we expect that any relaxations of ours would be followed by corresponding relaxations on the part of other countries, because the contrary had taken place. The noble Lord who asked for this committee seemed to think that that House had the power, by legislation, to remove the distress; but, unless a British act of Parliament would be recognised and obeyed by the chambers of France and the congress of the United States, no good would be done. He hoped that in time, other countries would arrive at a more correct view of their own interests, but he must say that to seize this moment for striking a blow at the Home market did appear to him little short of infatuation. The noble Lord in enumerating the causes of the distress, would not hear of overproduction as one of them, but he had argued that part of the subject in a very 598 extraordinary manner. The noble Lord had said that he could not understand what would be the inconvenience of being possessed of a great number of good and useful articles; but the fact was, that we did not make those articles only for ourselves; we wanted our neighbours to take some of them: and if, at one time, we supplied our neighbours very profusely, they would certainly require time to wear out those articles before they would buy any more. This was what he (Mr. Knight) understood by overproduction. This he believed had taken place a few years ago to a considerable extent; and this he still believed to be one cause of the present distress. Again, as to machinery, he hoped he should hear no more of the plough and the harrow because some Gentlemen on his side of the House were of opinion that a portion of the distress might be accounted for by the improvements in machinery; but he knew full well from what he had seen at Nottingham, that improvements in machinery will account for a portion of the present distress. Nottingham he regretted to say, was still in a very depressed state; but, in the midst of this depression, there were factories in full work, and men employed at good wages. How was this? Because the masters of these factories had made most ingenious improvements in the machinery which manufactures lace, and were able to produce a very superior article at a very low price. But the advantages which these factories possessed, throw difficulties in the way of those who possessed them not, and every step in the improvement of machinery had the effect of displacing more and more adult labour. It, therefore, happened that, where such improvements were made, for the few who continued to be employed there were hundreds who were thrown out of work. Did he say that he would check these improvements? No such thing. But he did say that the quantity of adult labour which those improvements displaced was an ingredient in the present distress—that there was more labour displaced than could be absorbed elsewhere, and that he feared this displaced labour would always be a subject of regret to this country unless relief could be provided by a systematic plan of colonization. The noble Lord had asserted that the distress was beginning to extend to the agricultural districts, and wished us, for the sake of the agricultural population, to go into 599 committee. The agriculturists were much obliged to him for his solicitude, but they certainly did not desire that House to go into committee on their account. The noble Lord had even insinuated that a further alteration in the Corn-laws would be advantageous to the cultivators of the soil—but they themselves happened to be of a different opinion—and, since the declaration of the right hon. Baronet at the head of her Majesty's Government that he does not intend to make any further alteration in the Corn-laws, spirits, and prices were beginning to rise. He thanked the right hon. Baronet for that declaration, and he assured him it would secure to him the cordial support of a large and important portion of the community—and so far from agreeing with the hon. Member for Knaresborough in the opinion that the right hon. Baronet had disappointed the hopes of those who had placed him in power, he would not pass such a libel on this side of the House, he would not impute such selfishness to the agricultural body, as to let it be supposed that, in assisting the right hon. Baronet to power, they wished him to do anything but govern well, and consult the real interests of the whole community—not, indeed, by class legislation—by such legislation as would favour one interest at the expense of another—but by calmly inquiring into the wants and claims of all, and adjusting the balance between the different interests in the fairest possible manner. In this sense it was that the landed interest had accepted the measures of last year. They were aware that it was desirable to obtain fresh outlets for our trade; they were equally aware that some protection was necessary for British agriculturists; not from any miserable consideration of their own private advantage, but because they knew that the abolition of the Corn-laws would throw the whole country into confusion, would ruin at least the present generation of tenants, and displace a large amount of agricultural labour; and they could not be of opinion that any advantage would be gained by merely shifting the scene of distress. It was with these views that they accepted the tariff and the new Corn-law, and so long as the right hon. Baronet continued to them the present protection so long would they do their utmost to keep him in power and keep out those who, it was clear would not afford them any protection at all. The 600 noble Lord had said, "why do you legislate for the staff of life upon a different principle from that which you apply to other articles?" The answer was because it is the staff of life, and, therefore, too essential, too vital, an article to be exposed to any risk. A great nation must not be entirely dependant upon other countries for daily bread. And when the noble Lord and his friends congratulated themselves on the expression of "temporary," and anything which had reference to time and circumstance, that fell from the lips of his right hon. Friend the Vice President of the Board of Trade, endeavouring, as it was evident, to excite alarm and mistrust in the minds of agriculturists, and increase the difficulties with which the right hon. Baronet had to contend—he could assure them that that expression filled him (Mr. Gaily Knight) with no alarm—every thing must be called temporary, which is not in its nature perpetual. What minister, what man, would be mad enough to say, that any law in the statute book shall be perpetual? Human life was called a temporary trial, yet it sometimes lasted seventy or eighty years. The present Government could only be called the temporary Government of this country, yet he trusted that it would last for a considerable space of time, and teach Gentlemen opposite that things which must be called temporary may be of a very enduring kind. It appeared to him that the noble Lord should have included in his enumeration of the causes of the present distress, other causes besides those which he had mentioned—he should have included agitation. The disturbances of last autumn, by whomsoever caused, and for whatever object, had checked the return to prosperity. The drains from the savings'-banks, if they proved no more, proved this, that the operatives had thrown away upon objects from which they derived no benefit, a great deal of money which might have contributed to mitigate their privations. No sooner were those disturbances at an end than the agitation was renewed by the Anti Corn-law League—an association which he must ever consider to be illegal and unconstitutional—a mode of proceeding which the noble Lord, who was the head of the late Government, with his usual frankness and patriotic spirit, has declared to be a most improper mode of advancing any question. He (Mr. 601 Knight) would not mind the tea-drinkings to which allusion had been made, or the large cards with broad borders, embellished with the countenance of a noble Earl on one side, and with the countenance of the hon. Member for Wolverhampton on the other. But constant appeals to the passions, constant misleadings of the people, allusions to personal responsibility, allusions which alas! had not been made without effect, such things invested the League with a most serious character, and could not be continued without producing the most injurious consequenecs. The presence of the hon. Member for Salford reminded him (Mr. Knight) of a speech which had been made by that hon. Member at a meeting of the League which took place at Manchester in December last. The hon, Member of course recommended the total abolition of the Corn-laws, and added, that he wished it to be immediate for the sake of the agriculturists themselves. The hon. Member illustrated his apparently paradoxical opinions by, not a very sublime, but a rural image. He said "If you were going to cut off a sheep's tail, would it not be much more merciful to cut it off at once, than to give the animal pain at different times." But there was another alternative which did not appear to have entered into the head of the hon. Member. If the sheep had been consulted, and could have explained what be would have preferred, he would probably have said, "Pray let my tail alone." The meetings and operations of the League were calculated to prolong the distress by filling the public mind with uncertainty, delusion, and alarm. A committee of that House would have a very similar effect. If hon. Gentlemen opposite would only abstain from discussions like the present, and allow the measures of the right hon. Baronet a fair trial he (Mr. Knight) was persuaded that we should soon see the first button appearing above the waters, the promise of the gradual subsiding of that tide, which, at one time, menaced destruction.
§ Mr. Ward
was of opinion that the hon. Member who had just sat down had entirely confounded cause with effect. The hon. Member had spoken of the Anti-Corn-law League as one of the causes of the depression of the industry of the country. It was nothing of the kind. The League, instead of being the cause of the distress, was the consequence of it. Its 602 power consisted in the extent of that distress; the secret of its authority lay in the belief of the people that they had no justice to hope for at the hands of that House. And when the hon. Member for North Durham asked him—representing as he did one of the towns which had suffered most severely—most cruelly under the consequences of the system which prevailed—why he voted for the motion of the noble Lord, and what advantage there would be in the House going into a committee of inquiry, and why they should spend their time in fruitless discussion; he begged in turn to inquire for what purpose was that House there assembled? He held that it was their duty to endeavour to discover and to remove the causes of the prevailing distress; no one had denied that distress except the hon. Member himself, and the case which he had made out was that of an isolated prosperity of a small district in the county which he represented, and which was but a dot in the great mass of general distress. England suffered, but Hartlepool throve. The distress was admitted in the Speech from the Throne, and he applauded the framers of that document for the terms in which it was drawn, and for the expression of sympathy which it contained for the miseries of the people. But was it becoming in that House to content itself with such a mere expression of barren commiseration. Were they not bound to follow it up? He maintained that to do so would be to discharge that only which was the legitimate duty of the House, and that they were bound, in performance of that duty to go into the whole question of suffering, which, on all sides, was admitted. Many causes for that suffering had been suggested. The Poor-laws had been mentioned, and the expensive machinery necessary for carrying that law into operation; but he begged to remind the hon. Member for North Durham, who had thrown out the suggestion that, in the North, at all events, this machinery might be dispensed with, that in the report which was made preparatory to the new Poor-law being adopted, Northumberland was mentioned in not very honourable terms, and was specially alluded to as a locality, in which change was particularly required. The hon. Member had spoken also of the building trades, and he had said that in Sunderland this afforded no criterion of the real state of the town. Undoubtedly that might be the case, for it was unquestionable that the building mania had in many 603 instances been carried too far. But to come to another point. The hon. Member who spoke last (Mr. Galley Knight) had touched upon the dangers arising from the improvement of machinery, but the hon. Gentleman, before he sat down, had answered his own argument, because he had said that the only trades with which he was now acquainted in Nottingham, that were at all in a prosperous state, were those in which the most recent improvements in machinery had been effected, and which were consequently enabled still to make a profit by employing their hands. No one would deny that the immediate consequences of any new improvement in machinery would be to create a pressure upon that particular branch of the labouring classes immediately connected with the class of articles produced by such machinery; but to talk of limiting, or restricting, the productive powers of the country would be to commit an act offelo de se. Where would such a limitation stop—where must it commence? Would the hon. Member himself give up his agricultural machinery, his threshing machine, his improved ploughs? Was the principle to be applied to the manufacturing and not to the agricultural classes? He thought that it was evident that whatever advantages other countries might possess—although we might have to compete with lower wages, with better climates and superior soil—yet that the last thing which should be attempted was any measure which should have the effect of putting a stop to our productive powers. But the hon. Member had said that he was perfectly satisfied with the declarations of the right hon. Gentleman the Vice-President of the Board of Trade, and that so long as the right hon. Baronet at the head of her Majesty's Government, adhered to his present course, he should be assured of his support. The hon. Member, naturally enough, wished to drive a bargain with his leaders. He repudiated the idea that the measures of the Government had only a temporary character, but for the sake of greater security, he said, that if the right hon. Baronet at the commencement of every Session would only make a statement similar to that which the right hon. Baronet had now made, and would assure him that he intended to continue the policy which he had recently adopted, he should always receive the hon. Member's support. That was the condition on which the hon. Member would give his support to the Go- 604 vernment. The hon. Gentleman spoke with authority, in the name of the large agricultural body with which he was now connected, and which he said was also quite satisfied with the Government. He thought, however, that it would be wise in the right hon. Baronet to reflect whether he could comply with the conditions proposed, for they were altogether inconsistent with the principles announced by the right hon. Gentleman, who spoke last night, (Mr. Gladstone), and he could only express his sincere hope, not treating this as a party question, and not caring which party was in power, so long as the distresses of the people were relieved, that the right hon. Baronet on this question would not give the country only the benefit of his principles, and his own immediate supporters the advantage of his practice. He maintained that the country was entitled to the fair application of the principles advanced by the right hon. Baronet; and showing, as he should, a mass of suffering which was absolutely appalling, he only expressed a natural anticipation when he declared his conviction that the Government could not take upon itself the responsibility arising from the continuance of such a state of things, by refusing to carry out its own principles, or consequently give its adhesion to a stationary policy such as that which would secure for them the votes of the hon. Member for the City of Nottingham and his friends. He would beg now to call the attention of the Government to the facts upon which he rested this belief, as regarded the town of Sheffield. He did not want to exaggerate, or over-state, the case—for exaggeration never helped a bad cause, and always hurt a good one. The facts which he should state, if the right hon. Baronet and the right hon. Gentleman were sincere in their principles, would force them to re-consider the possibility of their taking a stand on the poor pittance of commercial reform hitherto given to the country. When he had first known Sheffield, in the year 1836, there was not he believed, a single able-bodied man of good character out of employment; there were 300 houses building, and comfort and respectability were generally diffused; the payments to the casual poor, which must arise in all towns of a population of 100,000, amounted to 13l; 15s; weekly, and no more, and there was not then in England, he believed, a working population possessed of the same means of 605 comfort. From 1836, he would pass over three or four years during which the prosperity in Sheffield first sustained a check. Undoubtedly the financial embarrassments of America, to which allusion had been made, had had a good deal to do with the distress which arose in the course of that time. But he would come to the year 1839. That was a very bad year, and 1840 was worse; and just at the very moment when the price of bread was increased to nearly double what it had been three years before, the demand for labour was reduced, and the rate of wages became, consequently proportionately low. In January 1842, wheat was 65s. 2d. per quarter; a sum of 1,400l. was raised by voluntary subscription for the relief of the people; the weekly payments due to the casual poor, in the month of February, amounted to 178l.; in March, to 194l.; in April, to 278l. In the month of May there were in the Sheffield poor-house 580 inmates; and the payments to the casual poor amounted to 333l. At this very time large payments were made by all the trades' unions which were possessed of funds, with a view to the parishes being relieved of the immense burthens that must otherwise have fallen on them, and from this source alone 20,000l; were paid in the course of three years. In July wheat was at 67s. 8d; the weekly payments to the casual poor reached 441l.; in August wheat was at 65s; per quarter; the weekly payments amounted to 492l., and there were supposed to be at this time 3,000 adult men and 1,500 women unemployed. In September and October the following report was made by a charitable society, which could not be suspected of any political taint, for the report was signed by a gentleman whose authority hon. Members opposite would not dispute, for he was as good a Conservative as any of them.SEPT. 6th.—Average price of wheat, 52s; 4d;—7th. Sheffield poor; In the house, 585; casual poor, week's payments, 503l; Ecclesall poor: In house, 374; out-payments, 132l.OCT. 5th.—Sheffield Poorhouse: Inmates, 536; casual poor, 467l; Ecclesall union: In the house, 452—against 258 last year; out-poor, 121l.Report of bettering society: Since the year 1837, there has been manifestly a most disasterous turn in trade, and manufactures here, not the consequence of a sudden shock from violent, and temporary derangement, 606 traceable to obvious causes, severe, and heavy for a while, as on former occasions, for which if slowly, yet surely, amendment followed, but a progressive decay, like the fatal, and insidious symptoms of consumption in the human frame, tending towards inevitable destruction. The oldest inhabitant of Sheffield cannot remember a crisis of calamity so general, and apparently so hopeless, as that which has come upon us. The labouring classes have been going down into abject destitution.This Report was signed by Mr. Montgomery, whose name and reputation were known to the House. In November a sum of 250l. was granted by the London Manufacturers' Relief Committee, and some little relief was afforded by the fall in price of wheat, which now reached an average price of 46s; but there were on the 19th of that month in the Sheffield poor-house 615 inmates, besides 1,083 Casual poor; the payments to the Casual poor amounted to 420s; and the trades' unions stated that the funds altogether applied to the relief of the unemployed poor amounted to 29,356l. during the la6t four years and a-half. In December wheat was 47s.; the weekly payments to the casual poor were 412l; in amount; a sum being thus paid, in one week, only 212l. short of the whole amount paid in one year in 1836. Now, had things improved in the last year? At a meeting of the Sheffield Banking Company, on the 27th January, a report was read, which stated,The period comprised in the report which the directors have now to lay before you has been one, as you all know, of continued commercial embarrassment and depression.The Sheffield and Rotherham Banking Company had also made, in Jan. 1843, a report containing the following passage:—In presenting the Seventh annual report of the affairs of the bank, the directors have again to deplore the continuance of commercial depression and embarrassment in every branch of trade.And this was signed by six directors, all of whom were good Conservatives. So much for the banking interests in and about Sheffield. With regard to house property, there never had been any building mania in that town. In 1837, there were only 300 houses building. At the present moment, there were 3,400 houses ante- 607 nanted. And a gentleman, in whom he had the greatest confidence, and who was possessed of many houses, had written to him in the following terms:—I have not at this moment a single tenant who is not in arrears with his rent—some two, others three half years, and I believe this to be the general condition of the town.Another leading merchant wrote,I am sorry to say that the affairs of this town are worse and worse, and no appearance of improvement. The distress is intense, and increasing. The sums raised for the relief of the poor are, 1840, 26,000l; 1841 35,000l; 1842 52,000l; and if we measure what this year will be, by what the months of November, December, and January last have been, 1843 will give 64,000l; I fear it will give more, not less. It is positively fearful.He had received also a return of the present state of the Sheffield and Ecclesall unions, down to the 4th February last, showing the payments to the casual poor, and the numbers of able-bodied paupers. The return of the Sheffield union was as follows:
It was slated, also, that a considerable number of able-bodied artizans were working as labourers on the Sheffield and Manchester railway, and thus the casual payments were kept down by 70l; or 80l; per week. The other return which he would lay before the House was thisߞ
SHEFFIELD UNION, CONTAINING TOWNSHIPS OF SHEFFIELD, ATTERCLIFFE, AND BRIGHTSIDE, AND THE PARISH OF HANDSWORTH:ߞ 1843. Jan. 7. Jan. 14. Jan. 21. Jan. 28 Feb. 4. £ £ £ £ £ Payments to casual poor 505 509 492 498 486 Number of able bodied 1,274 1,295 1,297 1,362 1,331
608 But besides these returns, he had received letters from working men in the town, who stated the sufferings which they had now to undergo, which showed the hopeless state to which all classes were reduced, and exhibited a state of misery and depression of the most heartrending character. One of these letters said, that there was nothing but
ECCLESALL UNION, CONTAINING TOWNSHIPS OF ECCLESALL, UPPER AND NETHER HALLAM, NORTON, HEAUCHIEF, AND DORE. Out Payments. In Paupers. 1843. Same wk. of 1842, last qr. 1843. Same wk. of 1842. Jan. 7 £134 80 420 259 14 136 88 420 261 21 143 83 435 356 28 166 93 434 263 Feb.4 141 93 444 276Increasing misery, increasing pauperism, increasing crime, with decreasing employment, decreasing capital, decreasing hope, and, above all, decreasing religion and morality; and the industrious classes see not merely their domestic comforts and respectability annihilated, but their power to purchase the commonest articles of food or clothing destroyed.Upwards of 1,000 families were still supported by their trades in lieu of receiving parochial relief, and from this source they obtained 8s; per week, which, however, was to pay their rent, their rates, (for in Sheffield every man not actually receiving parish relief was rated), and to procure the necessaries of life; "and yet," it was said by his informant,This they prefer to parish relief, and to the wretchedness of wandering over the roads and streets with a broom or rake, with empty bellies, in storms and cold, and what is even worse to the sensitive and once independent mind of a skilled mechanic who has lived in comfort and respectability for 26 or 30 years, the degradation which they actually feel when forced to stoop to parish relief.These were feelings, in which he thought that every Member of that House, on whichever side he sat, must deeply sympathise. They might disagree, but nobody could help feeling the deepest commiseration for a whole population, thus reduced to misery without any fault of its own? He believed, that it was the anxious wish of her Majesty's Government that some remedy should be devised; but was it consistent with this desire, that a motion like the present, directed to the very object, which all must have in view, should be met, and got rid of, upon a miserable ground of technicality, that the committee was not the best means of attaining the desired end? The distress was now reaching all parties, and those, who not long since had deemed themselves secure from all apprehension on this score, now 609 found themselves deeply, and seriously, affected. Even the agriculturists found that they were not proof against its attacks. How did the case stand? Some of the trades and manufactures of Sheffield were of a nature to attract many of the respectable orders of society; and the sons, or relatives, of agriculturists from the adjoining counties of Derby and Nottingham had found their way to that town, and found profitable and respectable employment in its manufactures. It had been said that the trade was dependent upon the opulent and the home market only; and it was naturally supposed that while the prices of home-grown provisions were high, employment would be plentiful; but they now found that this was a complete mistake. Of the silver-platers and saw-makers, who had been formerly in employment, not one-fifth could now find work, and many of these only for a few days a week. The reaction then made it self felt upon the land. An informant wrote to him,These two trades are generally supplied by the sons of respectable families from country districts, well educated, and who give premiums with them. Of fifteen young men, who have just served their time, three are partially employed, four are upon the parish, and eight have returned to their parents or friends. Of fifty-one who have come of age in the last two years, only seven are partially employed—the rest are living either upon the parish or their friends. There are ten other trades still supporting their own poor, 1,000 families, averaging four in each, subsisting upon 1s; 3d.; per week per head.Thus it was that the agriculturists, who had sought to engage in this species of trade, had been disappointed, and were driven back by wants which they had themselves excited to seek relief and support from their relations, or from their own parishes. With these facts before them, hon. Gentlemen would agree with him that the motion was for an inquiry into the gravest subjects which could be brought before the House. They had told the people of England—Mr. Pitt had told the people, that Parliament was omnipotent—that there was nothing that it could not do, and that when difficulties arose it was the duty of Parliament to remove them. Did modern Toryism abjure these principles? Unhappily they had the 610 power to do mischief, if not to do good. They had the power, as the people felt, of standing between them and the wages of their labour; they had the power to cripple the hopes, and the industry, of the country; they built a wall between the people and the food which they might obtain by the sweat of their brow, and they now refused to inquire into the consequences of their own acts. How could they wonder that the working classes should believe that Parliament was negligent of their interests, and that they could never have fair play until they were fairly and fully represented? When they saw that every advantage was taken of the differences of party feeling, and of political prejudices, to refuse them redress, they would still more firmly entertain this belief. The right hon. Gentleman opposite says that this is not the proper mode of gaining the object in view; and if the right hon. Gentleman meant that it would have been better for the noble Lord to have come forward with a definite proposition, he must say that he agreed with the right hon. Gentleman. He regretted that the noble Lord had not done so; for this was not a question, which ought to be allowed to go off upon vague professions of liberal views, or equally vague statements as to the intentions of her Majesty's Government. But this was a fault of which the Vice-president of the Board of Trade ought to be the last man in the House to complain. They had had plenty of ingenious arguments from the right hon. Gentleman; but if he made use of any expressions denoting a liberal view, he invariably looked round to assure his supporters that they must not be alarmed at them, for that practically they meant nothing; if he made a concession, it was always accompanied by some qualification to convince his friends that it would not be carried out. The right hon. Gentleman applied the term "temporary" last night to the Corn-laws.
§ Mr. W. Gladstone
said, that he used the term generally, as applied to the Corn-laws and to all commercial laws.
§ Mr. Ward
understood the right hon. Gentleman used the term merely as applied to the Corn-law of last year, and if he had mistaken him, he had done so in common with the hon. Gentleman who had just addressed the House, and who had thought it necessary to affix his own interpretation to the term. The language, however, of the right hon. Gentleman was altogether so diluted that even when he 611 laid down a sound principle it was destroyed, or explained away, before he had done with it. No casuist in the world could have more ingeniously contrived to fritter away by explanation whatever appeared, at first, to be bold. Indeed, in every instance, the right hon. Gentleman, seemed alarmed at the admissions that he made. And when the right hon. Gentleman turned to those behind him, to explain what he had said, the right hon. Gentleman must have observed that the right hon. Baronet was still more alarmed than himself at the difficulties in which he had involved himself. The conduct of the right hon. Gentleman last night recalled to his recollection the observation of Lord Byron as to the meaning of the word "sublime." That noble poet said that he did not know what was meant by being sublime, and, on having a passage of his own pointed out to which the term was applied, and was asked for an explanation, replied that he did not himself understand the meaning of it. "I cannot say that I quite understand, my own meaning when I would be very fine." Such was the mode in which the right hon. Gentleman appeared to deal with the principles which he laid down; for, the moment he uttered a sound principle, he clogged it with so many reservations, and qualifications, that nobody could tell what it was really worth. The right hon. Gentleman had said elsewhere, if not there, that the first postulate to get rid of the present difficulties, and to remove the commercial distress, was the extension of the markets. As for the preference of a home over a foreign market, which some Gentlemen contended for, the right hon. Gentleman well knew that it was a perfect absurdity. He believed that the right hon. Gentleman fully appreciated the truth of this principle, and he dared to say, would not only admit, the truth of it at some future day, but that he would be prepared to act upon it. He had no doubt the right hon. Gentleman would say that the great object in commerce was to obtain, whenever they could be obtained, such articles as were required, by an exchange beneficial to both parties, that is to say, by such an exchange, as would re-produce on both sides something more than the cost of production; and that for this object you should go to those markets where these articles were produced at the cheapest rate. This was peculiarly applicable to an article of such general and necessary consumption as food. The right hon. 612 Gentleman had said this most forcibly elsewhere, and he had no doubt that the time was not distant when he would make a similar avowal in that House. No doubt, however, many hon. Gentlemen opposite thought that the right hon. Gentleman had already mischief enough to answer for in what he expressed last last. The right hon. Gentleman last night observed that the reduction of the timber duties had been beneficial to the importer more than to the consumer, as the price of that article had not been materially lowered. The right hon. Gentleman, also, indirectly, referred to the commercial treaty with Russia. He did not deny that the treaty with Russia was a good treaty as far as it went. It was framed on the principle of carrying the produce of the two countries in the cheapest manner from the one to the other, but in the present state of things there was nothing to curry. At present the treaty was little better than so much waste paper. If the right hon. Gentleman had been prepared to propose the introduction of corn from Russia, they could then have seen the beneficial effects that were likely to follow from this treaty, and the advantages that would result from this change in the navigation laws, by allowing the ships of each state to be placed on a footing of reciprocity in the harbours of the other. But the treaty related merely to the machinery of the carrying trade, when there was in point of fact nothing to carry. He feared that, as regarded the United States, England had, by her absurd policy, built up a wall to exclude herself from any extensive commercial relations with that country. The right hon. Gentleman talked of the iniquity of the American tariff; but, under that tariff, the highest duties imposed were not above 30, or 40, per cent. He admitted that the American tariff was most absurd, and that it had been enacted on most mistaken principles; but still it was not more absurd or more objectionable than many of our own duties in this country. What was the case as regarded the corn of America? If the price of corn in many of the Western states of America were taken, and they were the great producing states for food, it would be found that the protective duty imposed by the Gorn-law or last year was upwards of 90 per cent. of the value. He was the more disposed to dwell upon this absurdity, because Sheffield was destroyed by the loss of the American trade. The right hon. Gentleman must be aware that the articles produced at Sheffield were of 613 a peculiar class, they were formerly most extensively exported to America. The trade of Sheffield existed in the same articles that were produced there ten years ago, but the manufacturers of that place had been cut up root and branch, in consequence of the interference of the Legislature with the trade with America. The right hon. Baronet must recollect the deputation that waited upon him last year from the Corn-law League, when one manufacturer connected with Sheffield stated that if the right hon. Baronet was prepared to propose a change of the Corn-laws at once, that he would, without the slightest delay, take 100 additional men on to work, for if the Corn-laws were got rid of or modified, he should be perfectly certain to find a market for every thing that he could produce. The very existence of Sheffield depended upon the course which the House should deem it expedient to take with regard to the Corn-laws; and when the hon. Member for Nottinghamshire said that he did not regard these laws as perpetual, but as of a nature which should not be changed within his own time, it must be clear that he and those who entertain the same opinions as himself, must be prepared not only to let the trade of Sheffield be destroyed, but the trade of many other places, which never could flourish until the Corn-laws were repealed. At present, much that was formerly an open trade was now closed to us, and the evil results from our bad policy were continually increasing. The chief impulse to every branch of trade was the maintenance of the labouring classes by a cheap price of food. He confessed that he should go into committee, if it were granted, with very definite views. He supposed that Gentlemen opposite would not let them have a committee, but the responsibility of that refusal would rest on them. It was not by vague expressions of sympathy that the grievances of the people could be got rid of, or that they could be satisfied, and still less by such accusations of violence and rioting as had been made by the hon. Member for Nottinghamshire. There was something odious in the charge which had been brought against those who had agitated for the repeal of the Corn -laws, of having been the occasion of the disturbances that occurred last year. It was more odious still to insinuate that the agitation of the question was connected with recent events which all must deeply deplore. Nothing could be more untrue; 614 but nevertheless, when whole classes had been driven to despair in consequence of the distress to which they had been reduced, this individual might well account for the acts of violence that had been committed It had been twice attempted in the course of this debate to connect the agitation for the repeal of the Corn-laws with the circumstance to which he had adverted, but it was most short-sighted to attribute to political feeling an act of sheer insanity, which every political party must condemn. The agitation for the repeal of the Corn-laws arose simply from a feeling that prevailed as to the injustice of these laws, and they might depend upon it that so long as that sense of injustice existed in the minds of large bodies of persons, there would be agitation; but although this might go on they need not fear violence from those who merely expressed their honest conviction as to the course to be pursued. Hitherto the people had not heard anything that could reasonably be expected to satisfy them from the leaders of that House; and practical men would not be content until they saw some prospect of the evils under which they suffered, being redressed. The intelligent classes knew that the continuance of protection for agriculture as it was called, had crippled every branch of our manufactures, and had shut us out from the trade of many of the most important markets in the world. The existence of the Corn-laws had driven the English manufacturers from Germany, and had given rise to an extensive combination in that country to exclude our produce; and if these laws were allowed to continue, they would most certainly be productive of the same results elsewhere. As to the hostile feeling which was said to pervade the American tariff, he believed that if the English Government and Legislature manifested a disposition to get rid of the Corn-laws, and thus throw themselves into the scale of that party in the United States which was opposed to the tariff, he had little, or rather no doubt whatever as to a successful exertion being made to get rid of it. The House might depend upon it that if this country gave up her Corn-laws, the United States would give up their tariff. This system of legislation in both cases had resulted from parties having a want of knowledge of their own interests, and it had been productive of mischief and illiberality in both instances. We had seen what had occurred in Germany in our own times, and with our own eyes, and similar 615 mischievous consequences as regarded the manufactures of this country were growing up in America, with a certainty of the same result. He entered his protest against this being treated as a party question. He did not care who were in office, for if any Government were prepared to act upon good and sound principles, he should give them his support. He had often differed from his friends near him when they were in office, and he should, under the same circumstances, do so again. But he protested against the notion of a change which was to be brought about only by the revolution of ages, or as the Vice-President of the Board of Trade had said, at some commercial millenium, the date of which no man could predict. He could not help feeling that such a suggestion was an insult to the working classes, whose condition so loudly claimed the attention of the House.
said, that the objection of he hon. Member for Sheffield against the isolated instance of prosperity, adduced in the case of Hartlepool, by his hon. Friend, the Member for Durham, was not very fair or very felicitous; for the hon. Member for Sheffield himself had argued throughout his whole speech from a particular instance, that of the town he represented. Moreover, it was the noble Lord who introduced the motion who had originated this style of argument, and his hon. Friend has only brought forward the instance of Hartlepool to explain and refute the case of Sunderland adduced by the noble Lord. The noble Lord had taken a "single captive," he had dwelt on the sufferings of Sunderland in minute detail, and as far as his general conclusions were founded on that particular instance, he (Mr. D'lsraeli) must say, that he thought the reply of his hon. Friend was not only fair and justifiable, but most appropriate and effective. It would, indeed, be an entire answer to the motion of the noble Lord, if that motion did not in fact, involve a much more comprehensive question, one which was not to be decided by any isolated case. He would not, on the present occasion, attempt to investigate the origin of the distress, the prevalence of which was now universally recognised. But he would observe, that that origin must be sought in no single cause, but in a complication of causes; some vast, some comparatively minute, but all, with a simultaneous action, even though unconnected together, 616 pressing on our industry in a manner perhaps unprecedented in the history of our commerce. He would address himself strictly to the question before the House, and he apprehended that to be the following:!"Is it possible or politic, by any sudden and extraordinary means to extend the commerce of this country as a remedy for the present distress?" That he inferred to be the real question from the somewhat desultory speech of the noble Lord; it was distinctly recognised as the real question by his right hon. Friend, the Vice-President of the Board of Trade. He must, in the first place, protest against the policy that would apply one remedy to every market which we possess, however varying and contrary in their character our markets might be. Our markets might fairly be divided under three general heads—our European markets; the markets of the East; and the markets of the New World. The respective principles on which commercial operations must be carried on in these markets were of a very distinct character. In Europe, we addressed ourselves to societies as ancient and as advanced as our own; scarcely less instructed and informed; where the sciences and the arts equally flourished; and where analogous manners had produced, in general, the same classified interests. In forming commercial connections with such states it was obvious that we could only proceed by Negotiation. Diplomacy stepped in to weigh and adjust contending interests, to obtain mutual advantages, and ascertain reciprocal equivalents. Our commerce with Europe could only be maintained and extended by treaties. The hon. Member for Dumfries, who was no admirer of treaties of commerce, had with some inconsistency enquired of the Government, why we had no commercial convention with Holland, which would have secured to us the trade with Java? He would tell that hon. Member, why we did not enjoy the Java trade. It was because at the Congress of Vienna our interests were entrusted to individuals who, like the hon. Gentleman the Member for Dumfries, had a great contempt for treaties of commerce. At that time everything was sacrificed for what was called political objects; and to create the kingdom of the Netherlands, to secure the union between Holland and Belgium, England relinquished Java to Holland without terms, and Holland 617 secured a monopoly of her Indian trade to the manufacturing industry of Belgium. But where was the kingdom of the Netherlands now? Belgium was deprived of the colonial trade of Holland, and England, which had lost the political barrier which she created at so much cost, remains deprived of the commerce which she sacrificed for that object. The right hon. Gentleman, the head of her Majesty's Government, had recognised during the last Session, the great importance of treaties of commerce with European states, and it was understood that her Majesty's Government had not been so successful as might be wished in their subsequent efforts to obtain them. What he (Mr. D'Israeli) wished to show was, that that want of success was not to be attributed to the fiscal regulations of this country, or to any anti-commercial spirit in neighbouring states. The first treaty which they had endeavoured to negotiate, was a treaty of commerce with France. It was well-known that those negotiations had advanced very far; nay, he believed, he might take the liberty of saying that they had even been concluded; that scarcely a month ago from the time he was now speaking, the day, and even the hour, for the signature of that treaty had actually been fixed. That treaty, if ratified and acted on, would have removed the distress of the town of Sheffield, which the hon. Member who had just sat down, had complained of. It would be interesting to know what had prevented that treaty from being laid on the Table of the House. He knew there were some hon. Members who would say that a French treaty of commerce was very easy to talk about, but that the French chamber would not support a Minister in carrying such a treaty into effect. He believed he was speaking with authority when he said, that in the present French Chamber there existed a majority, and no inconsiderable one, that was friendly, as far as commercial feeling was concerned, to a treaty of commerce between France and England. It became the House then to consider what was the cause that when the French Minister was prepared to sign such a treaty, and when a majority of the French Chamber were commercially inclined to support him, that our negotiations in this respect with France never arrived at a successful result; for, until the cause was 618 recognised and removed, the commercial relations between the two countries must remain in their present unsatisfactory state. But it was in the power of the House, whenever it chose, to come to a right understanding with the people of France, and if this were done, the Session would not end without such a treaty being concluded. There was a feeling among the French people much more general then we imagined, he might say a feeling profound and universal, that England had not deported herself with frankness and kindness towards France. He offered this not as his own opinion, for he felt persuaded, that as regarded the English as a nation, it was erroneous; but if so, it would well become that House to prove to the French people that it was founded in error. That nation remembered that ten years ago an English Ministry had announced to the world its connection with France as the firmest basis of its power and the proudest boast of its policy. That nation remembered that the same Ministry had, at a late period, adopted a policy in the teeth of these declarations by disturbing those feelings of intimate confidence which they had originally fostered. That nation recollected, that during the whole subsequent period, though the system of our foreign connections had undergone a complete and violent change, not a single discussion had taken place in that House which might have explained to the French people the cause of this sudden and contrary course of proceedings. If that House had only condescended to discuss the policy which they then blindly followed, they would probably not have encountered that prolonged spirit of misconception which was now exercising such a mischievous influence over two great nations, the foremost in civilization, bound together in reality by every political and social sympathy, and who possessed for the exchange of commerce facilities not equalled by any other countries in the world. He mentioned this, because the time had arrived to disembarass this question from the complications of diplomacy and the misrepresentations of the press. It was through the Parliaments of their respective countries that a frank explanation should take place between the English and French nations. And he felt persuaded that the moment this took place, all those 619 pretexts for misconception and bad feeling—rights of search, Barcelona interferences—would at once varnish, and one of the first results of this right feeling would be the establishment of stipulated relations of commerce between the two countries. A treaty of commerce between England and France would do more for the town of Sheffield than both the Americas. There was not a town in her Majesty's dominions which would receive such an instantaneous impulse to its trade as the town of Sheffield by such a treaty. Would the Bank at Sheffield have failed if such a treaty had been signed with France in 1840? The almost unlimited demand which would be created by such a treaty for the hardware and cutlery of Sheffield, would soon find tenants for the 3,400 empty houses which the hon. Member (Mr. Ward) had described. By the treaty of 1840, and he believed he had the best authority to say by the treaty which was negotiated at the end of last year, a market had also been secured for our broad cloth, for our pottery, and for our linens and linen yarns. Circumstances, not of a commercial character, had alone prevented this treaty from being carried into effect; and he had therefore a right to believe that it would ultimately be concluded. He should now call the attention of the House to the negotiations which had been opened by her Majesty's Government for another treaty of commerce with a country which was strictly not European, but which he classed under the head of European markets, because it possessed a character entirely distinct from the other states of the hemisphere in which it was placed. The dynasty was European; the commercial relations were of European tradition. He meant the Brazils. Both sides of the House agreed in the vast importance of renewing our treaty of commerce with the Brazils, on the eve of its expiration. Since Parliament was prorogued, her Majesty's Government had sent a special mission to Rio for that purpose. A special mission was at all times a delicate measure, and in general it was safest to invest a special mission with some purpose really different from that which it was sent to fulfil. The right hon. Baronet at the head of the Government had told us the other night, that negotiations in respect of this mission were going on. Now he (Mr. D'Israeli) 620 had reason to believe that these negotiations had never commenced, and therefore he supposed that the right hon. Gentleman had only availed himself of an expression of routine, the Brazilians, he believed, had assented, provious to the arrival of the special envoy, to an interpretation of the existing treaty, which conferred on it an additional duration of two years. They had done this unwillingly, but for the purpose of satisfactorily stopping the negotiations of the special envoy, by the declaration that having agreed, in deference to our views, to the continuation of the existing treaty, there was clearly no necessity to enter into the conditions of a future one. Knowing the great importance which was universally and justly attributed to the maintenance of our present commercial relations with the Brazils, and believing that at this moment their permanency was in extreme peril, he wished to show the House that these menacing circumstances had been occasioned, not by commercial jealousies, but by political inability and diplomatic neglect. In 1841, the Emperor of the Brazils attained his majority, and his coronation took place, and every state in Europe sent to Rio a special mission to congratulate his Majesty on the occasion except England. It appears, that for a considerable period there had been prolonged irritations between Downing-street and the Court of Rio, arising out of that unfortunate right of search; which, according to our neighbours, was only devised for our commercial purposes; but which, in reality, has in more than one instance, greatly contributed to the difficulties of our commercial diplomacy. We indicated our disposition by not sending a special envoy in 1841, and the omission was accepted as a most successful insult. But in 1842, a special mission from England reaches the Brazils; but for what purpose? Not to congratulate the Sovereign? Not to gratify the people, but to request a favour! Since the coronation of the Emperor, an opportunity has offered by which this ancient ire might have been healed. The marriage of the Emperor again summoned special missions from the European courts to Rio, and again none was missing except the representative of the Sovereign of England. It was well to recollect, that the Brazilians, with many excellent qualities, had still inherited from their ancestors that ostentation which was now per- 621 haps their national characteristic. He (Mr. D'lsraeli) had no doubt that if, on the occasion of the Emperor's marriage, some nobleman of high rank with a brilliant suite, had been sent from England to congratulate the Emperor and his subjects on the occasion, he would have found, as he was embarking for England on his return, a treaty of commerce with England in his pocket. For it was quite erroneous to, suppose these alterations of our sugar-duties, was a necessary preliminary of a treaty of commerce with the Brazils. Coffee was the staple in which the Brazilians were most interested. The province of Rio, for example, the most important in the empire, and politically the most influential produced no sugar. The object of these details was to show the House that treaties of commerce did not entirely depend on the regulations of tariff's, that in their negotiation, the same passions and influences, the same management and dexterity entered as in the negotiation of Other treaties, and generally in the business of life, and that our present position with respect to the Brazils, certainly not one of a very promising character, had been brought about by political and diplomatic misconduct. A contrary course of behaviour, they had a right to suppose, might yet produce a different result. The fear of wearying the House alone prevented him from entering into the causes which had prevented the treaty of commerce with Portugal from being satisfactorily concluded. He would only observe that it would not be difficult to shew that to the negligence and want of address of our own negotiators, the present embarrassed and complicated difficulties with that country, were to be attributed; and not to any fiscal or anti-commercial considerations. So it was with Spain. After all her restless interference, and meddling with every political movement of that country, England found herself as far off the promised treaty of commerce as five years ago; but it was this very interference which baulked our wishes. It had made us so odious with all classes of the Spanish people, an object of such general distrust and suspicion, that the very man whom we had in a great degree raised and uncompromisingly supported in his elevation, Espartero himself could not venture to propose commercial relations with a country, between which and Spain a trade 622 of reciprocal advantage, and much more important at this moment to the Spaniards than to them might be carried on. Now here were four projected treaties of commerce, which he (Mr. D'lsraeli) believed a skilful statesman might still obtain, for in reality they were not prevented by any fiscal considerations or any anti-commercial prejudices, but solely by political circumstances. They were proofs that they might ameliorate the condition of the people by extending commerce by treaty. Some hon. Gentleman objected to commercial conventions. Why, the commerce of the world had been created by conventions—they were commercial treaties which first secured the persons and the property of merchants. What destroyed the droit d'aubaine but a commercial treaty? He (Mr. D'lsraeli) must say that he saw nothing in the state of the European markets to fill him with despair or even gloom. The noble Lord the Member for Tiverton, had told the House on a late occasion, that we must look for no extension of our commerce with Europe. He believed that no assertion could be more unauthorised, Why, the exchange between England and France at this moment was short of five millions. The negotiators of the late projected treaty were of opinion that that treaty would lead to an immediate exchange of 10,000,000l; or 12,000,000l. He firmly believed that British commerce with European nations would be greatly extended. In the advancement of the arts throughout Europe, he saw only a presage of the increase of our trade with it. Hon. Gentlemen were too apt to forget that an advance in the arts produces a corresponding increase in the wants and desires of nations. Hon. Gentlemen also were too apt to forget the amazing increase of population in Europe since the peace of Paris. 7,000,000 in France alone—in the centre of Europe 15,000,000. In this vast increase of a highly civilized population, he saw the continual elements of increasing commerce. So much for Europe! With respect to our Eastern markets, our intercourse with that division of the world must be carried on on a totally different principle to that which regulated our commerce with Europe. In the East, we addressed ourselves to a very an cient state of society; to vast and stationary populations, with tastes, and manners, and habits that never varied—with 623 resources that never fluctuated, but in general inhabiting countries with which we were very imperfectly acquainted. Our trading intercourse with such communities must be conducted on the ancient principles of commerce. If we acted in Europe by negotiation, we could only penetrate the East by enterprise; any very immediate or vast impulse to our commerce from such markets was not to be expected. Our relations with such markets must be gradually formed, and fostered with great caution. They were the result of investigation, skilful observation, and prudent and exact dealings, But when we considered the immensity of the population the richness of the natural products, and the settled character of the civilization which prevailed in Asia, they were undoubtedly markets which must be ultimately productive of almost interminable profit. There were three great Eastern markets—the Levantine, the Indian, and the Chinese. In all of these we had a right to look to an increase of our trade. If we maintained that peace in the Levant, which need never have been disturbed, if it were true that that illustrious statesman Redschid Pacha had been again summoned to head the councils of the Porte, and had an opportunity to secure that improved administration of the provinces, and that development of the resources of Asia Minor which he had long contemplated and once commenced, we might count in future a progressive increase of our trade with Turkey. As regards India, the fortunes of our commerce were in our own hands. If we gave to India what she most wanted, and without which she must wither, that is a monetary system capable of representing the operations of her property and her trade, if we thus terminated that frightful system of usury which doomed great portions of the land to barrenness, our trade with India would double. With regard to China, they were on the threshold of a vast career of commerce which baffled the imagination as to the amount and the character of its operations. But when they remembered the extent, the civilization of that empire, its population, and the contiguous kingdoms and islands, it was impossible not to feel that a new feature in the commercial system of this country was developing itself of unparallelled magnitude and unprecedented interest. There remained the 624 markets of the New World: by them he meant the markets of the United States, the Spanish American republics, and the Australian provinces. Here you found elements of a totally different and contrary character to the East. Scant but rapidly developing populations, a social system in constant fluctuation, wants and resources continually changing, an illimitable extent of unappropriated land perpetually and sometimes violently affecting all political order, and monetary schemes. It was not by the devices of diplomacy that you could regulate your trade with these crude societies; the most cautious enterprise, founded on the most guarded observation, might be baffled by multitudes continually appearing and disappearing with necessities and tastes influenced and modified by their constant action. Commerce, then, with such countries, must be an affair of speculation—of rapid profits—shattering losses—unnatural expansion—paralysing collapse. This was the secret of the present state of our markets in the United States and Australia. It was not our Tariff, not our Corn-laws, that induced the present stagnation, or prolonged it. Its occurrence was the inevitable law of the social circumstances of the New World, and those circumstances in their equally inevitable operation could alone remove it. Well then, if their trade in their old European markets was sustained; if new and extensive markets were opening to them in the East; if the check in their commerce with the New World was to be accounted for by causes of a severe but still transitory nature, was it not the wisest policy, in this mysterious pause in the industry of the country, a visitation to which all communities of commercial enterprise are periodically subject, was it not the wisest policy to bear up against the depression with patient courage, to gain time, and in the interval throw the burthen as much as possible on property instead of labour. He knew there were some who took a darker and more desponding view of the prospects of our commerce. But he had not yet listened to any facts which could induce him to adopt their conclusions. It was true, as had been asserted, that there were no gradual symptoms of progressive or approaching improvement. But, so it always was with commercial distress. Its dis- 625 appearance was always sudden. It was like a long and desperate calm; a breeze suddenly arises when all are disheartened, and in a moment the character of the sky is changed. Every practical man will assure you of this. Improvement in trade is never gradual and it may be accounted for. The House had heard much of overtrading—but there was such a thing as under-trading. When the commercial world were alarmed they under-traded; and after a certain lime, a general and sudden demand arose. He believed the breeze would come. He thought it wisest to wait for it. He saw no other remedy. The noble Lord who introduced this motion said there must be a remedy "presently." Well, sign the treaty of commerce with France: that would give present relief. At any rate, present relief was not to be found in a committee of the whole House entering into an inquiry into the state of trade and commerce. Why, the inquiry would last as long as the trial of Warren Hastings! The proposition before the House was but a Jesuitical mode of satisfying their constituents. Who could not foresee the interminable adjournments of such an inquiry, and before a result was arrived that the commerce of the country must either revive or expire? It was, therefore, his intention most earnestly to vote against the motion of the noble Lord. He did not think that a remedy was to be found for commercial distress in noble Lords delivering lectures on political economy in the House of Commons. Neither Prime Ministers nor Parliaments would advance the public conviction of their utility and value by promulgating abstract principles in a practical assembly which had to deal with pressing circumstances. Gentlemen opposite were fond of assuring the House that the country was indebted to them for those more liberal principles of commercial intercourse which were generally received at the present day. But Gentlemen opposite were a little in error in this respect; those principles are of a much older date in this country than Gentlemen opposite may find it convenient to recollect. They were principles which had their Parliamentary origin at the period when we lost our American colonies. That, as everybody knew, was a period of gloom, darker even than the present; our commercial and trading interest had fallen to the lowest point of depression; and Mr. 626 Pitt then announced the necessity of reconstructing our commercial system on principle of free intercourse and reciprocal advantage. The old prohibitions and monopolies that were the consequence of the colonial system were to be swept away. And who oppposed him? The Whigs. Mr. Fox declared that he would stand or fall by the Methuen treaty, and the Whigs to a man, Burke, Sheridan, Francis and Grey, came forth as the champions of the restrictive system. He (Mr. D'Israeli) wished that the speech of Mr. Pitt in 1787 on the commercial treaty with France were printed and circulated. He wished such a document were in the hands of Members, especially accompanied by the speech of the first Marquess of Lansdowne on the same subject, that brilliant and profound development of the doctrines on which the measures of the present administration depended. It was the French revolution that, after a few brief years of trial, arrested the beneficial progress of the commercial system of Mr. Pitt. But after the peace were the Government of the day, the Government of Lord Liverpool backward in recurring to those measures of commercial improvement first promoted by Mr. Pitt? By no means. On the contrary, they were in advance of their time. As early as 1817, not two years after the close of the great struggle. Mr. F. Robinson, then filling the post now occupied by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Newark, announced those doctrines in this House, and deplored their unpopularity. Those opinions were upheld on the same occasion by Mr. Charles Grant. They were officially and elaborately developed in the House of Lords in 1820, by the Earl of Liverpool, and announced as the basis of the future commercial system of this country. In pursuance of that official exposition, Mr. Wallace, a name too little mentioned, brought forward a variety of measures explained and vindicated in a variety of able speeches. Finally, on a late occasion, Mr. Huskisson set his seal to the system, upheld by all his Colleagues, among whom the right hon. Gentleman, the present head of her Majesty's Government was, though not then the most eminent, one of the heartiest adherents. And what prevented the full development of the commercial system of Lord Liverpool, a system founded on the principles of free trade? Why, the Re- 627 form Bill! That sovereign measure of hon. Gentlemen opposite. It was the Reform Bill that had arrested the progress of commercial improvement in this country, as well as the improvement of so many other things. And now hon. Gentlemen opposite, when the true character of the domestic convulsion of 1830 is pretty generally appreciated, wearied with the struggles for provincial power, and in their attempt to govern an empire like a parish, having deranged the finances and disturbed the commerce of the country, now they come forward forsooth, and entreat the right hon. Gentleman to pursue the wise policy he was prosecuting before the fatal introduction of the Reform Bill, and promising him all their encouraging support. On the grounds, then, which he had stated, he should oppose the motion of the noble Lord. He would give an ample trial of the measures of the Government introduced last year. He supported those measures not from any blind submission to the Minister who introduced them, but because he approved of the principle on which the commercial system of the right hop. Gentleman was founded. The principle of the tariff of the right hon. Gentleman was a fair protection to native industry—a principle, in his opinion, perfectly consistent with a large and liberal commercial intercourse. As regards the present Corn-law, we know as yet but little of that law. He was not prepared to stand or fall by the details of that measure—nor was he, for one, surprised that the right hon. Gentleman declined to do so. He (Mr. D'Israeli) would, with respect to that law, reserve to himself the most unbounded license. He would not rest his character or political constituency, on a fixed duty or a sliding-scale. But he would support that system which, to use the expressions of the noble Lord opposite, the Member for London, maintained the preponderance of the landed interest. He believed that preponderance to be essential to the welfare of the country; he attributed to that preponderance the stability of our institutions. He upheld that preponderance not for the advantage of a class, but for the benefit of the nation. He did not believe in the commercial decline of this country. On the contrary, he held that we had not yet arrived at the meridian splendour of our commercial fortunes. But he never would seek a remedy for one class in the ruin of 628 another. He would venture, with respect to this controversy, to remind the House of the words of a great prince, appropriate to the occasion, for they were not only the words of a great prince, but also of a great merchant. He meant that Doge of Venice, who, looking out from the windows of his Adriatic palace on the commerce of the world, then anchored in the lagunes beneath, exclaimed, ''This Venice, without terra firma, is but an eagle with one wing!" He (Mr. D'Israeli) said, the same of England. He wished to see our national prosperity upheld alike by a skilful agriculture and an extended commerce.
§ Mr. Ross
Sir, I have many good reasons for wishing to sit a silent listener to the end of this debate. But as I perceive no one from my side of the channel has yet risen, and as I know that the deep and painful interest excited through all parts of the country is no where more keenly felt than in that great, and till lately thriving and advancing community which I have the honour to represent, I consider it my duty to request the attention of the House. I know I have cast away one of my best chances of obtaining a favourable hearing by the few words extorted from me on Saturday. Perhaps, however, the House will be so generous as to let those few words go for nothing; and in return for the indulgence I bespeak at its hands, I promise not to tax its patience unreasonably. Sir, I consider the motion of the noble Lord proper and necessary. Objections have been raised against its form as quite too vague and indefinite. I apprehend the noble Lord would find it impossible so to shape his motion as to make it acceptable to Gentlemen opposite. If instead of a general demand for enquiry he had put forward a series of remedial propositions, then hon. Gentlemen would have warned the House against the dangers of embarking in such a wide sea of troubles. I wish I could agree with the hon. Member for Shrewsbury in thinking that this country is likely to attain to a greater height of commercial prosperity than it has yet reached; I am sure that if we persevere in our present system his predictions will not be verified. The same hon. Gentleman claims for himself and his friends the credit of free-trade principles, and charges us with obstructing the progress of their enlightened principles. Nay, he traces all this mischievous opposition to the Reform Bill. Now I grant the Re- 629 form Bill was the means of abolishing a certain sort of free-trade—I mean the free-trade in rotten boroughs. [[Hear.] But why does not the hon. Gentleman specify the particular boroughs which, created by the Reform Bill, have been characterised by hostility to the doctrines in question; and why does he not point to the particular men on these benches open to his rebuke, and say, you,—and you,—and you,—on such and such occasions, spoke and voted against the extension of commercial freedom. I shall not dispute about the origination of sound opinions on the subject, but the fact is indisputable, that of late years we Liberals, in books, pamphlets, reviews, and newspapers, have stood forth as the champions of these doctrines, and you as their assailants. Surely hon. Gentlemen did not always think so meanly of those who sit on this side of the House. A report has reached my ears that an hon. Gentleman—shall not name him—did on a certain occasion apply to an hon. Friend of mine sitting near me, for a recommendation to some radical borough. [Laughter.] At that time, of course, he thought liberal principles were the principles of free-trade. That this once flourishing country is in a state of decline alarmingly rapid; that the advances towards a more liberal and enlightened policy made in the last Session of Parliament by the right hon. Baronet at the head of her Majesty's Government have been insufficient to check the progress from bad to worse, or to mitigate in any appreciable degree the sufferings, of the people, are truths admitted by parties who agree in nothing else, and not denied even by her Majesty's Ministers and their supporters; while all on this side of the House without exception, and a few on the opposite benches, attribute the disease which is consuming our strength, in no small degree to the various systems of Corn-laws which have succeeded each other. From these admissions, I infer either that a further change is necessary, or that our case is hopeless. The latter is a supposition I cannot admit. I therefore urge the necessity of a further advance. It is idle to talk of allowing time for the development of the good effects of the recent enactment. From what has passed, we may clearly see what will come to pass. The essential inefficacy of the new-modelled sliding-scale stands proved. It was to have opened the ports to supplies of grain—they remained during the season of severest want 630 practically closed; it was designed to make foreign nations interested in lowering their duties on our goods—they found no solid ground on which to base an expectation of an advantageous trade in corn, and their tariffs became more decidedly hostile than ever. We hoped to see the dealer in corn placed in the same rank with other traders in point of security; the utmost that has been gained is that the gambler in grain gambles a little less desperately now than heretofore. Something then must be done and that speedily. It is to be hoped that the representatives of the Commons will not avert their eyes from the miserable spectacle of a struggling but sinking people, nor close their ears against their cry for relief—nor stop short of measures from which relief may reasonably be expected. Let us not ostrich-like stick our heads into a bush in hope that the calamity which is at our heels will pass by. Rather let us boldly confront the danger. Let all personal feelings and all pitiful party squabbles be flung to the winds. Let the House of Commons try whether it cannot furnish forth a sufficiency of wisdom and patriotism to search out the causes of national decay, and supply a prompt and efficacious remedy, and by this solid service wipe out the stain of its ignoble origin. These remarks may possibly seem to some hon. Gentleman a strange introduction to the avowal I am obliged to make—that while I trace much of our distresses to the operation of the Corn-laws, I cannot see my way to their total, immediate, and unconditional repeal. For I think there is another scheme of relief calculated to ensure all the advantages I have just glanced at; abundant and timely supplies; moderate and steady prices; encouragement to interchange products; safe and regular trade in corn; less hazardous than another sweeping proposal, and more practicable. I will boldly state my opinion, though I believe it will meet with opposition on both sides of the House. It seems to me best for all classes that a fixed duty, say of 8s. should be laid on, subject to a gradual diminution, at the rate of 1s;. per annum, till it should be finally extinguished, or stop at a low rate for the purpose of registration. Such is the plan which I approve of, and I am able to state that it would perfectly satisfy the great body of my constituents. Sir, I exceedingly lament the decision of the right hon. Baronet. I did participate in the general expectation that last year's change would prove introductory to fur- 631 ther changes. When last Session he announced his famous tariff, and broached sound doctrines of commercial policy, a flash of surprise and joy lightened up the nation. But nothing in the way of change would now create surprise. The people have become accustomed to political miracles—they have beheld a prodigy—fruits of liberality—not very abundant indeed, but few and good in kind—growing where no one ever dreamed of seeing them grow—on that old Tory stock, which nothing but the skill of the right hon. Baronet, could have saved from being rooted up, and cast aside as worthless. He tried a bold experiment, which, in his dexterous hands, succeeded. The graft hit: the stock was saved for a further trial:—Exiit ad cœlum ramis felicibus arbos, Miraturque novas frondes et non sua poma.I am aware there are Gentlemen on these benches whom nothing short of a total and unconditional repeal can satisfy; not because they deny the possibility of an advantageous adjustment, but because they hold the imposition of the smallest tax on bread—the staff of life—to be contrary to the immutable principles of morality. I honor those Gentlemen, particularly such of them as depend altogether on land; but I confess the notion seems to me to savour a little of extravagance. Upon such grounds it must be held immoral to lay any tax whatsoever on timber, glass, coal, cotton, flax, wood, leather—since clothing and shelter, light and warmth, are necessaries of life, as well as bread; and yet no one ever heard of the immorality—whatever might be said of the inexpediency of taxing any of these articles. But I will tell you what I hold to be immoral. By one and the same legislative provision to raise the price of the necessaries of life, and to diminish or take away the power of earning them. Laws which condemn large bodies of men to inactivity and ruin, or which interfere between the labourer and his reward—are pernicious—are immoral. Man's lot is for the most part toil—to toil he was originally condemned. But as it has been truly and beautifully said—ߞ"The primal curse Was softened into mercy, made the pledge Of cheerful days and nights without a groan.Thus in the bosom of that sentence there was blessing. Are the days of our labourers cheerful? Are their cares forgotten in tranquil sleep? I fear the rising sun darts no cheerfulness into their miser- 632 able habitation. I fear you are chargeable with many of the sufferings they are doomed to endure. To such as do not consider the question of morality a flat bar to further inquiry, I would briefly suggest one or two arguments in favour of that scheme which commends itself to my judgment. It has been expected on one side, and vehemently denied on the other, that the landed interest is charged with a heavier burden of taxation than any other. Nor is the plea urged by monopolists only—it has the sanction of such men as Mr. M'Culloch and Lord Brougham—I venture no opinion—I only say, if the fact be so the balance should be adjusted by means of a fixed duty equivalent to the difference, or by a revision of taxation preliminary to repeal. In any case, prudence would suggest the propriety of some delay, in order to afford opportunity to the holder of land, to encounter the difficulties of a new position, by manufacturing his land to the greatest advantage, and compensating by increased production for that fall in prices which is the object aimed at. Grant this opportunity, and I make no doubt, of the ability of the agriculturist under the stimulus of necessity so to avail himself of the treasures of science, as to develop the resources of agriculture and maintain his position in the social scale. I do believe these islands are capable of supplying food for the actual population. In my opinion, the agriculturist fears, and the manufacturer hopes, too much. The first under the condition specified—between the tendency of late discoveries to diminish the cost of production—the increase of that production and the diminution of the price of commodities—will be able to sell at a far lower rate than has ever prevailed without loss. As to the manufacturer, the immediate effect of the full development of home agricultural resources will be to check in some measure, the foreign trade in corn; but he will always have moderate and steady prices. But if time be not allowed—and let it be borne in mind that all improvements in this department of industry are necessarily slow—a host of evil consequences which I must not now dwell upon, will assuredly follow. Happy would he be if this discussion could be freed from the heats and animosity which the eagerness of disputants is apt to engender. The lord of the soil is not, in general, the hard-hearted, grasping, unsympathising being his opponent represents him—nor is the manufacturer the sordid, 633 selfish, tyrannical master of a squalid, dissolute, disaffective gang which some have been pleased to paint him. Wrong has been done on both sides, but the most grievous wrong to the manufacturer. I wish I could engage some of those gentlemen whose hearts are filled with the bitterest prejudice, as my companions in a visit to the mills with their surrounding cottages and schoolhouses in Belfast and its vicinity, and draw their attention to the provision made by the owners for the accommodation, health, and education, aye, and the comfort and amusement of the people in their employ. I could point to regulations for providing the luxury of a bath—I could lead my companion through slips of garden-ground into trim cottages, where he would find a few books, flowers, shrubs, perhaps a musical instrument; I could show him the beautiful picture of Burn's Cotter Saturday Night, transferred to the humble dwelling of a mill-labourers family. But this was the result of a prosperity which is rapidly passing away—all is hollow and insecure—trade languishing—markets failing. What can the proprietor do? the sentence must go forth, there is nothing else for it. Picture to yourself, Sir, the effect on such a family circle as I have attempted to describe of these terrible words, "half work," words synonimous with half comfort, half living, half every thing that makes life desirable. What consternation!—what dismal forebodings. How many images of terror and desolation crowd upon the mothers heart, while she casts a hurried glance round their little apartment in search of some piece of furniture which may best be spared—or runs over in her mind the fate of other families, predecessors in misfortune, whose sons have been scattered, whose daughters, once happy and innocent as her own child, have found their way through the paths of guilt and wretchedness to an early grave. Sir, I am thankful to the House for listening so patiently to my somewhat confused address. Perhaps it would be here more prudent in me to have waited till I had become accustomed to an atmosphere which few can breathe at first without feeling their heads a little turned.
Mr. B. Hope
rose, and spoke amidst cries of "Adjourn," and "Go on," but little of what the hon. Member said was heard in the Gallery. A more unnecessary or futile motion he said than that made by 634 the noble Lord had never been proposed to Parliament. He deprecated the interminable discussion of that everlasting question, the Corn-laws. That was the subject that appeared to exercise a predominating influence over the minds of certain hon. Members who had spoken during the course of that debate, and they had not grappled with the legitimate question before the House, viz., the distress of the country. He thought, that that distress was principally to be traced to overpopulation and over-luxury. The system pursued in our large manufacturing districts had tended to make human beings human machines. It was his intention to oppose the motion of the noble Lord.
§ Debate adjourned.
§ House adjourned a few minutes after twelve o'clock.