HC Deb 13 June 1843 vol 69 cc1445-519
Lord J. Russell

spoke as follows: Sir, I rise for the purpose of asking the House to go into a committee of the whole House, in order to consider the present laws relating to the importation of foreign grain. In making this proposal, I do not feel that I shall be at all liable to any charge of unsettling that which is settled and established. I think there is no class in the country which feels satisfied with the present condition of our legislation on this subject. We all know that the great majority of the manufacturers ask for a change in our system; that they ask either for the total abolition of all duties, or for the imposition of a fixed duty on the importation of corn. With respect to the commercial interests, they likewise wish for an alteration of the present system, and they, I should say, are more generally of opinion, that a fixed duty ought to be substituted for the present system. With respect to the agricultural portion of the community, we have just had a convincing proof that that class of the people are not satisfied with the present condition of things. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Kent has lately attended a meeting at Pennenden Heath, in consequence of which he presented a petition, and, as I understand, it appeared to be the prevailing sentiments of the farmers assembled there, that they should have more protection than is now afforded them by law. They assembled there, as it appears, regardless of the inclemency of the season, provided they could be preserved from the inclemency of your legislation; they were ready to forego shelter in a stormy day, in order that they might obtain additional protection. The right hon. Gentleman says that the meeting was not very numerously attended; that certainly was a fortunate circumstance, because, with the doctrines we have lately heard, the right hon. Gentleman might have incurred, had the number assembled been very great, the deprivation of his commission as a magistrate. Most fortunate, therefore, was it for the right hon. Gentleman and his hon. Colleagues, that the paucity of the numbers attending this meeting, and the severity of the season, brought it within the compass of a legal attendance at a legal meeting; but with respect to the satisfaction entertained by his constituents, we have it clearly proved that such satisfaction does not exist; that, on the contrary, the complaints are loud of the present state of affairs. There is a petition on the Table, presented by the right hon. Baronet from the owners and occupiers of land in certain parishes in the eastern division of Kent. They state, that— They view with the utmost alarm and anxiety the present position of the classes engaged in, and connected with agriculture. Showing thereby, that the present state of affairs gives satisfaction to no one class of this community. Sir, in proposing to consider any alteration of this system, the first body to whose objections I shall address myself will be that body, a portion of which the right hon. Gentleman represents, namely, the agricultural class of this country. The next objections to which I shall address myself are those which I presume will be offered by the Ministers of the Crown to any alteration of the system which they have established; and, in the last place, 1 shall make some observations upon the question whether free-trade is in be understood as going to the ex- treme of the abolition of all duties, as proposed by the Anti-Corn-law League, and those who are their supporters within these walls. Sir, in viewing the first of these classes, I observe they say in this petition, that— Under the pressure of taxation, and of the local charges to which the land is exclusively liable, the home producer has a constitutional claim to look to the Legislature for ample protection against the otherwise ruinous competition of untaxed foreign capital and labour. They therefore pray that the protection of this House may be extended to them. Now, Sir, so far as this proposal embraces a protection on account of the general taxation of the country, I think that the proposition cannot be reasonably supported. I think it has been demonstrated repeatedly by writers upon political economy, that so far as general taxation is concerned, no one class has a right to ask for protection on account of that general taxation; and to support these views and reasons, into which I will not now enter, the general condition of our export trade is a sufficient confirmation. For if every class required protection against genera! taxation, how is it that 36,000,000l. of our exports find a market in foreign countries, and meet therewith the produce of nations subject to less taxation than our own. Therefore, Sir, so far as that proposition is concerned, I think the petitioners are entirely in error, and that those who, in support of the agricultural interest, ask for protection on that ground, entirely fail in their attempt to establish their claims. Another ground is one of a more general nature, which has still a great hold on the country, especially on the farmers, who, I believe, are continually told by those who profess to represent them, that native industry ought, in all cases, and under all circumstances, to have protection. Sir, I hold this to be an entire fallacy, and that no protection ought to be given on that ground; the general rule of legislation on this subject being to leave every class free to exercise their industry as they think best, and to rely on the skill of our artisans, which is still paramount, for their ability to compete with those of other nations. Sir, I mention these great fallacies, as 1 think them, because, although they are seldom produced in this House—although there is hardly a party which we can say acts upon them— they have still a very great hold, and the representatives of the agricultural interest, wherever they meet their constituents, seem to me always to admit those propositions, and to profess to act upon them, although their conduct in this House in support of the agriculturists, is founded on totally opposite principles. Sir, there is another ground upon which the agricultural interest will be averse to entertain propositions for what they will think a diminished protection, founded upon what they consider the consequences of the tariff of last year. I observe, that in one of the late meetings, a farmer, whose indignation inspired him with metaphor, said— You need not expect me to go further in the way of free-trade. You might as well expect a man who has taken one pill, and been much the worse for it, to take a whole box of pills. If that were the case, I think there would be some reason in the aversion of the farmers to any further advance; but although the Ministers do sometimes claim very great credit with one portion of the country for the reduction in the price of agricultural produce which has taken place, I do not think that the measures of last year have had that effect. I cannot think there has been anything in the measures of last year which can be said to have produced that injury to the agricultural interest which is often complained of by them. That they have produced any real injury to agricultural interests I positively deny. For example, there was a great change made as to the import of cattle, but has the importation been so extensive as to injure the breeders of this country? Why, the whole amount would not supply a single day's consumption for the country, or a week's for any considerable town. Butter and cheese were also articles supposed to have been affected by the tariff; but with respect to them there was actually no alteration in the duty, and their import has decreased I during the last year. In the year ending the 5th of January, 1842, the number of cwts of foreign butter imported was 248,000; in the year ending the 5th of January, 1843, it was 178,000. Of cheese, there was imported in 1842, 248,000 cwts.; in 1843 it was 180,000 —thus showing a very considerable reduction in foreign importation. Under these circumstances, I may fairl conclude that the tariff has not injuriously affected the agricultural interests. I have, however, no difficulty in finding the cause of the diminished importation which the figures I have quoted indicate, in the diminished means of consumption among the industrious classes, a fact which proves that the best protection that can be given to agriculture is to promote manufacturing industry. The tariff, then, although totally guiltless of the harm imputed to it, is still, in my opinion open to the objection I urged against it last year. I objected then that the right hon. Gentleman the First Lord of the Treasury, instead of proposing a reduction of the duty on sugar, proposed one on colonial timber. There were no complaints then against the timber duties, and there was a very considerable importation, while both the trade and consumer were satisfied. With regard to sugar, there had been great complaints, and many reasons were given for alteration; but the right hon. Gentleman, for reasons which even now I cannot explain, left the sugar duties untouched, and made great alterations in the duty on timber, which alterations, from all I can hear, have produced great derangement in the trade, without any corresponding benefit to the consumer. Looking to the Excise, I find that in two articles which an increased consumption of timber would be likely to affect, namely, bricks and glass, there has been a considerable reduction in the amount of duty levied. In 1841 the duty on bricks amounted to 524,000l., while in 1842 it was only 300,000l. On glass the duty in 1841 amounted to 966,000l., and in 1842 to 766,000l., making a falling-off of 200,000l. It should be recollected, too, that there are articles, the consumption of which has always been held as indicators of the means of consumption in the country. I have stated these facts to show that the outcry raised by the farmers against the tariff is unjust. I now come to the question on which they make the most complaint, and in which they most object to any change, namely, the duty on foreign corn. The Corn-law has now been in operation since 1815, when it was expected that it would maintain the price of corn at 80s. the quarter. In 1828, 66s. was fixed by Lord Liverpool. I shall not now enter into any controversy as to the statements of the right hon. Gentleman last year, I am only dealing with the agricultural body. And I say that to them we should not for the future hold out the expectation that by law we can fix the price of coin. I say it is not in the nature of things that you should be able to fix the price. With respect to manufactures, restrictions imposed for their benefit have the effect intended—you may fix the price, but any attempt of the kind with respect to corn must fail, as it being an article of universal consumption, any interference with it for the purpose of enhancing the price must injure the whole community. Now, with respect to securing a certain price for corn, there is this difference— al though with articles of luxury, such as silk, rise of price may diminish consumption, yet you do not hear much complaint; whereas any rise in the price of corn is universally felt and complained of. What I have hitherto said has been directed to those who are not satisfied with the present protection, and who maintain that there ought to be an increased protection; or who, at all events, in despair say—" do not go further in the direction of free-trade." I now come to consider the plan of the present law, and the scheme which the present Ministers have laid down. In considering that scheme, the most obvious effect of it is that it is so contrived that corn shall be admitted at a period of the year in great floods—or, to use a phrase of Mr. Canning, in a deluge, overwhelming the markets, and not constantly and steadily supplying them, ac cording to the necessity of trade and commerce. Such has been the effect of the present law. If any one will consult the report of a speech which has been published by Lord Monteagle, he will see what proportion the introduction of foreign corn in one month has borne to the quantity introduced in the whole year. In 1837, the proportion per cent, of a month's admission to the year's admission was 78; in 1838, the proportion was 83; in 1839, the proportion was 30; in 1840, the proportion was 48; in 1841, the proportion was 82, and in 1842, the proportion was 79, making an average, during the six years from 1837 to 1842, of about 65 per cent., introduced in the harvest month, or in one month of the year. Now, let us take the importation from the colonies on which the duty is fixed. In 1837, the proportion per cent, between a month's and year's entry on colonial wheat and flour was in 1837, 24 per. cent.; in 1838, 22 percent.; in 1839,40 per cent.; in 1840, 23 per cent.; in 1841, 47 per cent.; and in 1842, 25 per cent.; making an average for the six years of about 30 per cent, introduced in one month of the year. If that be a true analogy, and if by having a sliding-scale you introduce a very great quantity during one particular month of the year, and if by a fixed duty your importations vary at different times of the year, but diffusing somewhat of the same quantity throughout every month of the whole year, is not that a very powerful argument against a sliding-scale? Because nothing can be worse to the farmers than a great importation of corn at a particular moment when they are least able to bear any competition. The hon. Member for Essex stated on one occasion that his constituents must feel great satisfaction that there was not a duty of 8s., for at the moment the hon. Member was speaking, the duty was 20s. In one of the speeches of the hon. Gentleman he stated that this was a great comfort to the farmers; but I hold that to be a great fallacy, because a large importation of corn had previously taken place, and after the harvest of 1842 the farmer was exposed to a competition of not less than 2,900,000 quarters of foreign wheat, which had been imported. The papers produced on the motion of the hon. Member for Somerset (Mr. Miles) stated that that vast quantity of corn was imported during that year. Let the House consider the effect both on the consumers and on the producers of such a quantity being introduced. During seven months of the year, when these importations took place, the price of wheat was on an average at 61s. 5d., and the quantity of corn admitted was 463,791 quarters, That was the supply when the average price was 6s. 5d. It would have been a great advantage to the consumer if there had been a considerably greater importation of wheat at that time, while it would not have been any great disadvantage to the farmer. But, in the course of five weeks the introduction of foreign and colonial wheat was 2,161,699 quarters, and the price fell to 50s. 10d. a quarter; and this continued to be the average price during the remaining five months of the year. Now, is this a reasonable scheme. Is it reasonable that when the price of corn is high, t should prevent foreign corn from coming in, and that at the moment when there was a good harvest, and when the farmer ex- pected a fair price for his produce, the law should let in an enormous quantity of foreign wheat which should reduce the price from 61s. 5d. to 50s. 10d. a quarter? It appears to me, that this argument is almost of itself conclusive against a sliding-scale. The disadvantage which it must work to the farmers alone ought to be a reason against it. And then let the House look to the various other effects which such a scheme produces. Much has been said of the reckless speculations of men in the corn trade; and a speculator in corn has been considered a sort of animal to be looked upon by the farmers with horror. But what worse are these speculators in corn than speculators in other produce? There ever have been speculators, and I trust there ever will be. But so far as there are reckless speculators in corn, it is your laws which make them. When you impose a duty of 20s. a quarter on the importation of foreign corn, they cannot indeed import; but when you say, that in proportion as the price of corn increases, the duty shall diminish, you immediately convert the dealer in corn into a speculator. The speculation as to prices, then becomes as tempting as any lottery; and how can you complain that the reckless speculator, as you call him, should be tempted to make the most he can by the means you place in his power. The right hon. Gentleman (Sir R. Peel) last year, when speaking in defence of this law, (and considering his great abilities and powers of debate, it was rather a singular observation for him to make) stated that the effect of the law had been much injured by the criticism of my noble Friend the Member for Tiverton, who, availing himself of an admission of the right hon. Gentleman, that the law might be very materially affected by the state of the weather, contended that a bad harvest would render the law inoperative. This reminds me of an observation of a friend of mine who, when Regent-street was first built, said, that it might he a very good street, but it would not bear the weather, nor criticism. That seemed to be the case with this law. If the weather be unfavourable—if there be a fortnight's rain or cold nights, then the law is indefensible, and every kind of wild speculation is thought of. They would see persons with speculation in their eyes, going about expecting a very great gain from the introduction of corn and a very had harvest. But not only that, it' any one criticized the law, then it was said, that that made the law unsafe and injurious. Such is the ricketty and unhealthy constitution of a law which you stated last year to be final—no not final, but to establish for a short time a system beneficial for the country. The right hon. Gentleman referred to a paper with respect to prices in the months of June, July, August, and September from the years 1773 to 1793 which bears the name of Captain Gladstone on its back. But if that paper was intended to show that there had always been such great variations of prices as have occurred during the last few years, I think the object of the right hon. Gentleman has not been answered. The paper shows just the contrary of that supposition. 1 will not go through the items by mentioning the prices, but if any one will take that trouble, he will see, that taking a good harvest, a bad harvest, and an average harvest, the change of prices during those years (namely, between 1773 and 1793) been very trifling as compared with the alterations of prices under the sliding. scale. We find changes from 48s. to 52s., from 54s. to 49s., but we find no changes from the year 1773 to 1793 such as have taken place under the sliding-scale. There is an argument used by the right hon. Gentleman the President of the Board of Trade, in defence of the present law, which 1 think he has never completely developed; and it appears to me, that when his observation is examined it leads to a very different result to that which he considers. He stated, in respect to the Corn-law, that the general course of its history and legislation was different from that with respect to the legislation on other subjects, and that you will continue that difference by the present law. Now, I will take the liberty to state to the House the alterations which have been made with regard to the Corn-laws. But, in the first place, I must observe, that with respect to the prohibition, and to prohibitory duties, your whole policy has changed upon this subject since these Corn-laws were enacted and while they have been in operation. It is no longer an argument, to say that you ought to have a prohibitory duty now, because it was the policy of the Legislature in the reign of Charles 2nd. or William 3rd. to give protection to your home productions inasmuch as your national policy has been essentially changed. In 1825 Mr. Huskisson made a great alteration in the law with respect to the manufactures of the country. There had been a total prohibition to import silks, and in respect to cottons and woollens, the duty being 60 and 70 per cent, he proposed to take away those prohibitory duties, making the duties in some instances 10 per cent. and in no instance more than 30 per cent, The argument, therefore, for keeping up a prohibitory duty on the ground of its being the system of the country, totally failed, that system having already been altered. In the course of the last year did the right hon. Gentleman contemplate that policy? Did he endeavour to uphold what was called the mercantile theory of former times? On the contrary, he proposed a duty of five and ten per cent. upon articles of raw produce and of ten, fifteen, and twenty per cent, upon manufactured articles, thus precluding altogether the principle of prohibitory duties. Therefore it is no valid argument to say that, with respect to corn, the adherence to a prohibitory duty was in consonance with the system of this country, because that system had been condemned by the adoption of an entirely new policy in respect to all other articles. What has been the state of the law as compared with what it is now? The duty stood thus:— In 1670, the price of wheat being 55s. to 82s. 6d., the duty was 8s. 3d.; in 1690, 55s. to 82s. 6d., duty 8s. 7d.; in 1704, 55s. to 82ss. 6d., duty 8s.11d.; in 1747, 55s. to 82s. 6d., duty 9s. 3d. At that time this country he was aware was an exporting country; but at all events it showed that then a duty of 8s. was sufficient, when the price was 55s. whereas the duty is now 18s. After this the population of the country increased, and in the year 1774 the duty on a quarter of wheat, when the price was 49s. 6d., was only 6d. In 1791, when the price was 51s. 6d. to 55s. 8d., the duty was 2s. 6d., and above that price corn was admitted at 6d. duty. Such was your policy from 1670 to 1804. It was a policy which at one time was so far liberal, that when the price was above 49s; 6d., you had no more than a duty of 6d., and the highest duty, when the price was 55s., was 9s. 3d., whereas now the duty at that price was 18s. Therefore, even when you kept up a restrictive system with respect to your manufactures, your law with regard to corn was not so stringent as it is at the present time. In 1804 a great change took place. You had been engaged for many years in a great war. But what, in fact, determined the prices? From 1797 to 1815 the state of the currency was depreciated, and, in consequence of that depreciation, the duty was of little value. In four different years the price of corn was above 100s. per quarter; but in 1815 a new policy was adopted, and 80s. was established as the price at which foreign corn might be admitted. An important change occurred in 1819, which really affected the price of corn. The attempt to keep up the price of corn at 80s. entirely failed; for the right hon. Baronet, in 1819, introduced a change in the currency, and restored the standard of value. The effect of the restoration during the five years before and five years after 1820 was remarkable:

In 1816 the price was 78s.
1817 96s.
1818 86s.
1819 74s.
1820 67s.

Thus, even in 1820, a great difference in the price had been produced; but the average of the five years was 80s. 9d. per quarter. What was the case in the five years following 1820?

In 1821 the price was 56s.
1822 44s.
1823 52s.
1824 63s.
1825 68s.

Giving an average of 57s. 3d. instead of the former average of 80s. 9d. That average from 1820 to 1825 does not much differ from the average from 1830 to 1840. It was not therefore any alteration in the Corn-laws that had produced the alteration of price, but the alteration in the monetary system. The history of these laws shows that we should not be well founded in saying that in former times we had a system more restrictive than that which at present prevails; on the contrary, the system was of old much less restrictive. In 1804 we adopted a restrictive system, and in 1815 we carried it farther, but you have no warrant in history for maintaining your present scheme. Let it be remembered, too, that this system of increased restriction endeavouring to maintain monopoly has been carried into effect while population has been increasing rapidly and vastly. In 1800 the, system only applied to five, six, or seven millions of people, but you are now applying it to seventeen, eighteen, and nineteen millions. You are making greater restrictions at the very time when you ought to introduce greater liberty. You are applying to an augmented population a system of restriction that was unknown even in the reign of Charles 2nd. In 1841, when I was prevented by the right hon. Baronet from bringing forward the question of the Corn-laws, I stated that the vast increase in the population was a reason on which I relied for a diminution of the restrictions on corn. The right hon. Baronet then told me that my argument was not worth an answer, and that it might safely be left to itself. [Sir R. Peel: "I never said so."] Certainly the right hon. Baronet then said, that he did not think it proper to enter into the question, and that there was nothing in my motion to make it worth while to offer any answer to it. Such was my impression, and such I believe was the import of what the right hon. Baronet said, although I have not consulted "Hansard" upon the point. [Sir R. Peel: " I should not have treated the noble Lord with so much disrespect."] I do not complain of disrespect; but what I mean is that, in that speech, as well as in every other made before the general election, the right hon. Baronet affected to hold very cheap all the arguments in favour of a change in the Corn-laws. Ever since the general election, not only the right hon. Baronet, but all his colleagues—first, the Home Secretary, and then the Secretary for the Colonies—have talked of the great increase in the population, and have admitted it as a ground for changing the law. [An hon. Member: " The Paymaster of the Forces has not admitted it."] That is true: the Paymaster of the Forces has made no such admission; but since the general election the increase of the population has been constantly mentioned as a reason for making some change in the law. I am satisfied that the right hon. Baronet and two of the Secretaries of State are convinced of the soundness of the argument. If so, then I say make an alteration upon some sound and intelligible principle: do not attempt first one little change and then another; do not adhere to a sliding-scale, nominally and partially set it aside by a fixed duty; do not attempt to do that by some contrivance regarding Ca- nada, and affect to introduce corn from a country whence you have ascertained that no corn is likely to come. Do not by subtle practices like these, in fact, avoid making an alteration openly which you yourselves admit to be reasonable. I see that in a late speech delivered in the United States, Mr. Webster mentions an inclination which he presumes to exist in the government of this country, to admit, not indeed, wheat and barley, but Indian corn, the produce of the United States, there may some benefit arise from the introduction of Indian corn, but it must be small, inasmuch as it is not the habit of the people of this empire to consume it; but I say again, that if we are to make an alteration, do not let us make it as regards Canada merely, or as regards a particular species of grain; let us do something openly and fairly, and upon a comprehensive principle. As Mr. Webster says, " either warm us or cool us; either freeze us or scorch us; but do not heartlessly attempt nothing." Although this was said on the other side the Atlantic, I imagine that it will find many sympathisers on this side of the water. Not merely the agricultural, but many of the commercial classes, have found reason to complain of some of the hasty changes made last year in the tariff. The agricultural interest is now suffering from uncertainty—from a state of things which they feel assured cannot be lasting; and they would be thankful to you, if they could once get rid of the notion of uncertainty. They want you to settle the Corn-laws in some way that is likely to last for a time. [Mr. Gladstone: Last for a time.] The right hon. Gentleman takes hold of that phrase, but let me tell him that I am much more for final measures than he is: I am rather an advocate for finality, especially in commercial Legislation in which any degree of uncertainty has an injurious effect on numerous classes. I do not find fault with the declarations of the right hon. Baronet (Sir R. Peel) sitting on one side of the House or the other: I do not think that he said, on the one hand, that he intended to adhere obstinately to the existing law; nor, on the other, did he tell us that he had reason to think that he should immediately change it. He told us, in fact, what I expressed in those few words, that upon the present law the country must rest for a time. [Sir R. Peel: In changing it would you scorch us and freeze us.] In some quarters we were told that we were to have a Corn-law which could only be altered by the revolution of ages. [No ! no.'] I understand such a declaration was made, but I do not consider economical laws like those which affect the constitution of the country; but what you must depend upon is a law which, in its working, will give that satisfaction and produce that confidence which will lead people in general to desire no change. But I say that this law will have a contrary effect—that no persons are contented with it. The farmers themselves, at this moment, feel the evil of having three millions of quarters of wheat thrown at once upon the market. It is impossible that there should be any satisfaction, so long as so artificial and, as I think, so vicious a principle is allowed to prevail. I now come to those principles on which, in my opinion, an alteration of the law ought to be founded; and I shall only state them generally, nothing more being necessary on moving for a committee of the whole House, and I shall be ready to go into details if the House assent to my motion. Some persons of considerable influence in the country ask for a total abolition of restrictions upon the importation of corn; but I do not think, as a matter of principle, that measures based upon certain grounds, though savouring of the nature of restriction duties, are in any way inconsistent with the doctrines of free trade. I do not find them so treated by any great writer; on the contrary, I find it admitted that they may exist in conjunction with freedom of trade. Countervailing duties, for example, I do not regard as contrary to the principle of commercial intercourse. As a general principle, we may say that we ought not to interfere in the direction of industry, or in the management of trade; but if, for the purpose of finance, you lay a duty on a particular article, it is not only allowable, but it is just, that a foreign importer should be liable to an equivalent duty. If you impose a duty upon glass, for instance, upon printed cottons, or upon hops, and if you say that the foreign importer shall be free from that duty, you will not be acting on the principles of free trade, but upon the principle of protection to the foreigner to the injury of the home producer. If you lay a tax of 200 or 300 per cent, upon certain manufactures—a tax so high, for instance, as that upon malt, are you to say that foreigners may introduce it free of duty? If you do, you give an advantage to foreigners over your own subjects. If your revenue requires that you should lay a duty on any home produce or manufacture, it is, I repeat, only justice that you should make a foreign importer pay a similar duty. Those who ask for a total abolition of all duties on corn contend against that principle. I am aware, indeed, that they dispute the fact, and I am not now going to argue as to its existence. They allege, first, that there is no direct duty on the production of corn; and secondly, that the indirect charges which the agricultural interest contend press peculiarly upon it, are, in fact, borne equally by every class of the community. That is a question which may be very well argued before a committee, and if the House resolve itself into that committee I shall give my reasons why I think peculiar burthens are borne by the land. If I make out that position the principles of free trade will not be violated by the course I propose to pursue. There is another ground on which, 1 think, we may fairly impose a duty on foreign corn. It is a ground which has been stated over and over again with reference to every faulty, vicious, unwise, but long-continued system of protection. And I know no writer, however much he may be attached to abstract truth, who has not stated that great caution must be displayed, and degrees observed, in making any great change in a commercial system. Dr. Adam Smith found great fault with what was formerly our colonial system; and this, by the bye, is another point in which our policy has been completely altered, for we formerly ensured to this country a monopoly of the supply of our colonies. Against that system Adam Smith strenuously contended, but when he came to the practical question of the removal of the grievance, he proceeds very cautiously. He says— To open the colony trade all at once to all nations, might not only occasion some transitory inconveniency, but a great permanent loss to the greater part of those whose industry or capital is at present engaged in it. The sudden loss of the employment even of the ships which import the eighty-two thousand hogsheads of tobacco, which are over and above the consumption of Great Britain, might alone be felt Very seriously. Such are the unfortunate effects of all the regulations of the mercantile system! They not only intro- duce very dangerous disorders into the state of the body politic, but disorders which it is often difficult to remedy without occasioning, for a time at least, still greater disorders. In what manner, therefore, the colony trade ought gradually to be opened; what are the restraints which ought first, and what are those which ought last, to be taken away; or in what manner the natural system of perfect liberty and justice ought gradually to be restored, we must leave to the wisdom of future statesmen and legislators to determine. While Adam Smith thus states the principle broadly, he is opposed to a sudden change, and leaves it to statesmen and legislators to decide upon the means of establishing by degrees an entire freedom of trade. Another and an able writer, full of abstract propositions, I mean Mr. Ricardo, when he came to a practical question recommended that the duty of 20s. on foreign corn should be reduced to 10s. and that that 10s. should remain as a permanent duty. He admitted the excellence of perfect freedom of trade; but when he came to deal with a branch of commerce which had grown up under, and had been established by your legislation, he admitted the rashness of rushing at once from one extreme to the other. For this reason, if the House resolve itself into the committee, what I should propose would not be an immediate abolition of all duty, but a moderate fixed duty. It would certainly be in the power of any hon. Member to urge a total and entire abolition, but that I should oppose, and should be in favour of a moderate fixed duty [Sir J. Tyrell: Of what amount?]. That is a question which I will answer if the right hon. Gentleman will go with me into the committee. I will then tell him what I mean by a moderate fixed duty, and I will explain to him the grounds on which I propose it. As soon as we get into the committee I shall endeavour to ascertain what system would be a compromise likely to be satisfactory to the majority of the House, and to the different parties in the country. I must confess that my experience, and all that I have read of former times, lead me to believe that in all those much debated questions, in which antagonist opinions and principles came into conflict, the best and wisest course was always to make a compromise between those different interests, and yield something of the extreme views of either party. Even, therefore, if I were not on special and peculiar grounds the advocate of a fixed duly, I should say it is the interest of all parties to come to some settlement. And really there are subjects enough already—subjects of great anxiety, and requiring the deepest deliberation before the House and under the eye of the Government, to make it a wise and a prudent course to endeavour to effect a settlement of this particular question. And to those who entertain what I must describe as extreme views on this subject, I will adduce two great historical examples—the question of the abolition of the Slave Trade and that of Catholic Emancipation. When Mr. Fox, in 1806, moved the resolution for the abolition of the Slave Trade, he observed, That the friends of abolition had constantly opposed the proposition of Mr. Dundas for gradual abolition; but that Mr. Dundas had looked forward to 1800 as the year of final abolition, while they were now, in 1806, still with the question unsettled. So that however right the friends of abolition might have been in their principle, they would undoubtedly have been more successful in their object bad they earlier entertained the idea of a compromise. Again, with respect to Catholic Emancipation, there can be no doubt that in 1812 the admission of Catholics to many offices might have been conceded; but the friends of emancipation refused a compromise because admission to the House of Commons was refuted. Emancipation was not finally carried until 1829. Here again the Catholics would have done wisely bad they agreed to the compromise in 1812, But it is said that even if a moderate fixed duty were agreed to the Anti Corn-law League would continue to agitate for total repeal. Now, whatever may at present be the declaration of those who conduct the agitation I confess my doubt whether it could, after such a settlement of the law, be carried on with any practical benefit. That Anti Corn-law agitation, it must be observed, is kept up not by persons who have no other object but agitation,—who, either for the sake of public distinction or for some other perhaps selfish object, prolong the discussion of the question; but many of those who subscribe their money, give their time, and attend the meetings of the Anti Corn-law League, are persons engaged in business and manufactures which require their constant superintendence. They are men naturally averse to the turmoil of immense public meetings and harangues, they take part in the present agitation from necessity, and ray belief therefore is, if the Legislature showed a disposition to come to some agreement upon this subject, and if it established a settlement by act of Parliament, they would find nearly the whole of the Anti Corn-law agitation would cease of itself. I have now stated the reasons why I think we should make some alteration in the existing law; I have also stated the reasons which induce me to think we should propose rather the continuance of a duty than the complete and immediate abolition. I must say, notwithstanding all that has been said by hon. Friends of mine, I am still convinced there should be some provision, either in the law itself or by the interposition of the Crown, to meet extreme cases, that might happen, of scarcity, when some relaxation of a fixed duty would be indispensable. I fully admit that is my opinion, not founded on economical principles, because I think when corn gets up to 70s. or 80s. the imposition of 8s. or 10s. duty adds nothing to the price, and the consumer will have the article as cheap with as without that payment; but, regarding this as a political question, I feel if anything like a considerable duty coexisted with a scarcity in the country, and with any great fear that scarcity would be aggravated, there would be such discontent with the law as would expose the executive Government to great disadvantage unless a power of relaxation existed. But I do not expect that such a case would often occur; indeed, I think it would be a very rare case, because if we had a fixed duty, if that duty were not excessive, we should have importation when corn rose to 50s., 52., and 55s., gradually going on. People, seeing a chance of any relaxation of the duty at a great distance, would be content with the ordinary rate of profit in mercantile transactions; and if they were contented with that profit—if, instead of the reckless speculator, we had regular merchants engaged in this trade, corn would regularly be imported, and, the exportation of manufactures going on to replace it, the price generally would be kept down and prevented from ever rising to an excessive amount, I believe, therefore, although we must not shut our eyes to such a contingency, it is not one that will frequently occur, or would prevent the ordinary operation of the law. These are the reasons and grounds on which I ask the House to make an alteration of the present law. I do not propose it as a question of party, it is not one in which those with whom I act have taken a line by which they are distinguished from any other party in the state. As a party that to which I have the honour to belong has both in former and in present times had a sufficient number of acts embodied in the statute-book upon which to found their reputation, without claiming any exclusive right to the honour of establishing the principle of free-trade. Beginning with the Habeas Corpus Act and the Bill of Rights, going down to the Reform Act, the Municipal Reform Act, and the Act for the Abolition of Slavery—there are titles enough to the support of the people of this country contained in our legislation for me to be satisfied with those claims. With regard to the question of free-trade, it is perfectly true, historically speaking, as the hon. Member for Shrewsbury (Mr. Disraeli) has more than once contended in this House, that at the time of the peace of Utrecht, and at the period of proposing the commercial treaty with France in 1786, the Tory party were in favour of those principles, and the Whigs defended the side of commercial and manufacturing restrictions. In later times there has not been any distinction of party on this subject. Mr. Huskisson, as the organ of the Tory Ministry, brought forward great changes in our commercial legislation, and generally speaking the body of the Whigs, though in opposition, supported those changes. With regard to principles and opinions, I do not find that her Majesty's present Ministers differ from Gentlemen opposed to them; but there is this to be said, that for the last two or three years they carried on this contest, while we have maintained these principles, and sought to make them applicable to articles of agricultural as well as manufacturing produce, the Gentlemen opposite have given in to the doctrine which I think a most absurd one—that independence of foreigners with respect to food is essential. There is no need to refute this absurdity. With 36,000,000l. of exports to foreign nations, and the consequent dependence of our population to that amount for employment, we cannot pretend to be independent of foreigners. Even with regard to corn, importing, as we had done for the last three or four years, between 2,000,000 and 3,000,000 quarters of wheat every year, we cannot say we are independent of foreigners. The right hon. Gentleman the President of the Board of Trade has been one of the most forward, though not in this House, to show the absurdity of any such theory. Then, if we cannot rest on that theory, if no one really contends that any of the principles on which excessive protection was asked are sound principles, why not agree at once to a system that should be conformable to the usual and ordinary maxims of trade and commerce? What is there to prevent it? An hon. Gentleman at the Kent meeting did me the honour to hold me up as a bugbear; and said that if the Canada Bill were not supported and Ministers kept in power by the agricultural interest, the farmers would see me back in office, and be obliged to suffer all the evils consequent on that event. If hon. Gentlemen say this, if they openly confess that it is impossible to form an Administration on the principles of extreme protection, if they acknowledge no alternative between the right hon. Baronet opposite and those on the Opposition side, who are still greater advocates of free-trade than the right hon. Gentleman, what objection can there be to the Government now considering the principles on which the corn-trade should be established, and endeavouring to obtain some stability on this subject? For myself, I am content that the present Ministers should have the credit of changing the Corn-laws; but I am convinced that a change you must have, and it is far better to adopt a fair compromise satisfactory to all, than to adhere to a system which, from its uncertainty, is advantageous to none. On these grounds I submit my motion, that the House resolve itself into a committee on the Corn-laws. Mr. Gladstone rose, for the purpose, he said, of endeavouring to induce the House to refuse its assent to the motion of the noble Lord; but before going into the main part of the noble Lord's observations with reference to the Corn-laws, he wished to say a few words with respect to a digression the noble Lord had made in the earlier part of his speech with regard to a totally different subject—namely, the timber duties. Whenever the noble Lord should be pleased to invite a specific discussion with reference to the change introduced in the timber duties last year, he should be ready to meet him point by point, and disprove the allegations the noble Lord had made to-night, somewhat hastily, and he believed without sufficient information; and, on the other hand, to show that the plan which the noble Lord had proposed with respect to the timber duties was in defiance of his own principles —and open on every ground to the greatest objection. On this subject, the noble Lord's charges really contradicted one another. The noble Lord said, that the change in the timber duties had introduced the greatest derangement and distress into the colonies. He challenged the noble Lord to the proof of that statement. The derangement which existed in Canada was not owing to the change in the law; on the contrary, if there was anything which promised to relieve the timber trade of Canada and New Brunswick from derangement and distress, it was the very change in the law which took place last year. It was the glutting and overstocking of the market before his right hon. Friend had announced his tariff, it was the extremely depressed state of prices in this country for some time after the plan of the Government was announced, and before it came into operation in deference to the urgent entreaties of the hon. Member for Lambeth, and others, that their constituents had large stocks of timber on hand, that produced the distress in Canada, which the noble Lord unjustly charged against the recent alteration in the law. It was reluctantly admitted by the Government that some interval should take place between the change announced, and the time when it should come into full operation; but that difficulty was not peculiar to the plan of his right hon. Friend, but must have arisen in any case when a great reduction of duty was contemplated. The noble Lord on this point had resorted to what purported to be a demonstrative proof of the failure of the Government Bill, which was, he was sure, unworthy alike of the ability and of the position of the noble Lord. He quoted the excise duty paid on glass and on bricks in the year 1842, as an illustration of the unfavourable effects of the change in the timber duties last year. The noble Lord said, that the intention was to give a stimulus to the timber trade, and then taking the articles of glass and bricks, which entered equally with timber into building, he inferred from the falling-off of these duties the failure of the Government plan. The noble Lord, however, knew that the change in the timber duties during nine or ten months of the year 1842 was not in operation at all, and during the space of two or three months, when the change was in operation, it was at that period of the year when almost all building operations were suspended. He did not hesitate to say, that everything which had taken place since the new duty had come into operation, held out the very best promise of giving beneficial results; and that whilst it was likely to answer the intention for which it was proposed, and to lead to an enlargement of trade, in consequeuce of the greater facilities it afforded; on the other hand, with respect to the amount of revenue which would be sacrificed, and which he thought his right hon. Friend had wisely taken at a high amount, it would be found, that the amount of loss would fall short of the estimate, and would be very materially reduced. He would now leave this incidental discussion, and go to the main argument of the noble Lord's speech relating to the Corn-laws. The ancient critics held, that for the construction of a regular drama there should be a beginning, a middle, and an end; and he would make these distinctions in the noble Lord's speech, because to the beginning and the end he had no objection. With respect to the beginning, it related to the old law, and as there was no proposition to repeal the law passed last year, and return to the state in which they were before, and as he did not anticipate any such proposition, he would leave the arguments on that branch to the agriculturists, to whom the noble Lord addressed them. He agreed with the noble Lord, that prices had not been seriously affected by the changes which were made. He also agreed in the concluding part of the noble Lord's speech, or could offer little objection to it; it showed that there were many points of contact between the noble Lord and those on that (the Ministerial) side of the House. The points of contact, indeed, were very numerous, and the points of dissent were very few. Indeed, he did not know any from which he (Mr. Gladstone), on his part, was disposed to dissent. The noble Lord gave his support to the Corn-law, partly on account of the peculiar burthens on land, and partly on the necessity of applying all economical principles with great discrimination and caution, on account of the vast interests involved in the existing enactments; and lastly, the noble Lord said, that the true method of dealing with those questions was not to give pre- mature effect to abstract theories, but to make a compromise of interests. He was sure, that the noble Lord did not mean any unmanly compromise of what he or any other man thought to be just and right; but what he meant was, that the spirit in which such a question ought to be approached, was with an earnest desire to examine, to measure, and to compare all the great interests of the country, which, though combined and harmonious as he believed they permanently were, might yet be placed by enactments or by circumstances temporarily in a state of conflict. What the noble Lord said was, " Strike a fair balance between all, and do not give a preponderance to any." He was sure, that the noble Lord would find, not only in that House but out of it, a general concurrence in the principles which he had then laid down. With respect to that which had been a fertile theme and a strong weapon of attack upon the Government—if not by the noble Lord, at least by those who supported him—namely, the supposed intention of the Government to abandon the present law, and to be guilty of double dealing with the farmers—the noble Lord did not complain of the right hon. Gentleman's (Sir R. Peel's) declaration, and said that it was not fair to charge him with not intending to give the law all the permanence which the subject admitted, and which, under the circumstances in which it was passed, it required. He did not think, however, that permanence and finality on such a subject were to be taken in the same sense as with respect to measures involving great constitutional and social principles. To those principles, therefore, of the noble Lord, he would offer no objection; but with respect to the application of those principles he widely differed from the noble Lord. He did not think, that the noble Lord, in pursuing the course he recommended, would be just to the interests of the country, especially when the agriculturists were materially affected, at least in their statutory position, by the enactment of last year. It was not fair to look only to the change which was then effected in the Corn-laws. It was, no doubt, a great and important change, but there were other great and important changes, at least as far as the principle of protection was concerned. There was a great reduction in the duty on live animals, on fresh and salted provisions, and on vegetables. He was not about to argue the effect of those changes, but they involved a question of great importance with regard to the recognition of the principle of high protecting duties. The agricultural interests did assent to those changes, they did remove obstacles which might hare been interposed, they did facilitate these important alterations, the Ministers did obtain the assent at the time of the landed proprietors to those changes, and if there were no other argument, it would be unjust to the capitalists, who had invested their money on the faith of the existing law, to introduce the change recommended by the noble Lord. The noble Lord did not bring forward a change backed by the same approbation as that suggested by hon. Gentlemen who held more extended opinions than himself. The noble Lord did not even guarantee that a fixed duty should be permanent. The noble Lord was very shy of disrobing his proposition from that mystery with which he chose to involve it. His hon. Friend, the Member for Essex (Sir J. Tyrell), who had just left the House, had made an attempt to procure from the noble Lord a declaration of what his duty was to be. Of course, the noble Lord had a right to withhold the details of his proposal at present; but in 1841, he did indicate by figures what he intended, and he (Mr. Gladstone) quoted, as an evidence of the misgivings of the noble Lord, with respect to the permanence of his plan, the fact that, when he was challenged to give the nature of that plan, he kept himself to the mere use of certain epithets to which every man might attach any opinion he pleased. The noble Lord adjourned any reply to a question of this kind till he should have induced the House to go into committee; and this was something like adjourning the reply to the Greek kalends, for the noble Lord must be pretty well aware of the fate of his motion. He was not aware what end the noble Lord meant to effect by his motion, for the noble Lord had often laid down his principles, and he had now argued this question without producing anything new. He did not think, that the noble Lord had such confidence in the magic of his oratory, though he was far from depreciating it; or that the noble Lord had such an opinion of the pliability of the materials of which that (the Ministerial) side of the House was composed, that he would hope now to produce a decision directly contrary to that at which the House had already arrived. The dis- cussion of the Corn-laws threatened to absorb a great proportion of the public time. He believed, that during the last Session, eighteen nights were spent in the discussion of these laws; and in the present Session, although no legislative measure had been proposed by the Government, except as regarded the minute details, of the Canada Corn Bill, fifteen nights had been similarly taken up. He did not dispute the right of the noble Lord, or of any other Member to discuss this question, but it was difficult, whether " we freeze or scorch, warm or cool," to use the words of Mr. Webster, for us to refuse to the agriculturists the short respite which the Gentlemen who were agitating for a total Repeal of the Corn-laws, are not disposed to allow. This was the general feeling throughout the country, and the noble Lord must deem it hopeless to expect a vote of that House in his favour, for the noble Lord had not brought to the discussion of the question any new arguments. The views which the noble Lord had now propounded with so much ingenuity, the noble Lord had propounded with equal ingenuity before; the noble Lord had been listened to with patience, he had been listened to with equal patience before; his proposal had been before rejected by the House, and it would be rejected with equal determination now. It was merely reacting the same drama; still the reiterated discussions in that House had the effect, which he would not describe as leading to the fetal result, a change in the law; bat they produced an unfortunate impression out of the House, that there were parties in that House actively engaged in upsetting the law, which tended to destroy that confidence which the noble Lord made it a capital object to maintain undisturbed. With respect to the special subject of the Corn-law of the last year, he had already stated at great length the grounds on which he thought it unjust to disturb the existing law. His first ground was this. He said, that the circumstances which had transpired since the passing of that law had supported the anticipations which were held out when the new Corn-law was discussed, and on the faith of which anticipation the House had agreed to pass the bill. Many complaints had been made against the old law. The new law was passed to mitigate the evils of the old law; and he maintained, that the substantial and important objections to that law had been remedied by the new law. It was contended, that the price of provisions under the old law was exorbitantly high; at all events that complaint could not be made against the new, for the price of provisions was lower than at any period during the present century. It was objected to the old law that it opposed obstacles to the means of exchange with foreign countries. There never was a time when this objection was of less force than the present; first, because we were not yet in a position to see how the Corn-laws had effected these exchanges; and, secondly, because, with respect to foreign products, our means of taking the commodities of other countries were immensely increased; but many foreign countries, so far from acting on our enlarged views, had acted in a contrary sense, and by increasing their protective duties, they had done as much as in them lay, to contract the means of increasing the exchange. Then, again, the noble Lord said that under the old Corn-law the corn came in only at particular periods, and that this complaint remained the same under the new law. He denied that this was the case. He denied, that the experience of the last year ought to be taken as conclusive upon this point. He had shown in a former discussion, that the circumstances of the last year were entirely exceptional, and that those circumstances arose out of the expectations as to the harvest, which were erroneous. It was expected last year that there would be a deficient harvest, and large orders were sent for corn. Suddenly that expectation was reversed, and as suddenly—undoubtedly, too, much more suddenly, than would have been the case under other circumstances—there was an extensive introduction of foreign corn into the home market. But even under unfavourable circumstances the operation of the present law had been very different from that of the former law. The noble Lord relied on the figures of Lord Mont-eagle. It was one of the means of get. ting out his ingenious doctrine to adopt the figures of others, but he denied the justice of the figures of Lord Monteagle. The noble Lord took the importation of foreign corn last year as unfavourable to the new law. He took what he called the harvest months. He did not know how those months were defined, and would rather keep a little closer to the record. He would rather take the returns week by week- The charges of Lord Monteagle were confined, however, to the sixteen first weeks after the passing of the Corn-laws. During those sixteen weeks there were introduced for home consumption, 2,204,000 quarters of corn, and in the sixteenth week, there were introduced 1,354,000 quarters, whereas during the fifteen preceding weeks, there were only 849,000 quarters imported. He did not deny this very unequal operation of this new law, but he contended that in consesequence of the circumstances of the country, it was not in their power to ascertain the true operation of the new law. Still, he would show, that the new was preferable to the old. In the year 1841, he would take the sixteen weeks ending with the week of the greatest delivery, which was on the 10th of September, and he found that in 1842, there were imported during the sixteen weeks, 2,204,000 quarters, and in 1841, there were imported in sixteen weeks, 1,960,000 quarters; but out of those quarters in 1841, there were 1,852,000 entered in the sixteenth week, and in the fifteen preceding weeks there were entered only 107,000 quarters; whereas in 1842 the importation in the sixteenth week was only 1,354,000 quarters, and in the fifteen preceding weeks it was 849,000 quarters, showing a very different result under the new law. Moreover, in the fifteenth week of the last year, out of the 849,000 quarters there were introduced 295,000 quarters—so that 550,000 quarters were introduced in the fourteen preceding weeks; but against this 550,000 quarters introduced in the fourteen first weeks of the new law, there were only 80,000 quarters introduced in the fourteen weeks under the previous law. He said, therefore, that the expectations formed on passing the new law, so far as this experience had shown, although he admitted it to be inadequate, had been fulfilled. Lord Mont-eagle had introduced into his figures the instances of the Canadian importations, and had showed that they were introduced at periods better distributed than foreign corn. Lord Monteagle must know perfectly well that this was not a fair argument. The traders in Canada were not in the position of importing on a fixed duty. Of course the Canadian importers so arranged their importations as to avoid a collision with the great quantity of corn which would be released coming from foreign countries. They had, therefore, a strong and obvious interest to keep away from exposure to this competition, and to introduce their corn at a duty of 5s., whilst the duty on foreign was at 20s., it was better worth their while under such circumstances to pay the 5s. duty instead of the 6d., rather than wait for the 6d. duty, and meet the whole import of foreign corn. This altogether disposed of the figures which Lord Monteagle had supplied as far as they related to the importation of Canadian corn. Then, it was complained against the old law that it produced great fluctuations in price. No man had made this a substantive charge against the present law. Whether great fluctuations would or would not take place under the present law remained to be proved, and he (Mr. Gladstone) had himself shown that greater fluctuations had taken place in the eastern states of America where the demand was not influenced by our regulations than any fluctuations here under the existing law. It was complained, further, that "the currency was deranged by the old law." No such accusation had been or could be made against the new. On the contrary, the coffers of the Bank were never fuller than they were now. It was formerly complained that the interests of the British shipowners suffered, as in eon-sequence of the haste with which foreign corn was frequently despatched to this country, it was conveyed in foreign shipping. This had not, however, been the case under the new law. The British shipping employed in the corn trade had, he believed, during the last year, obtained a very fair share of the aggregate trade carried on between this country and foreign nations. Another complaint against the old law was, that it had an injurious effect upon the revenue. Certainly, such an objection could not be taken to the present law; for a very large sum accrued to the revenue from this source during the last year—although he admitted that from the anticipations which had been formed of an unfavourable harvest, a large sum had probably been forced into the coffers of the State than might, under other circumstances, have been anticipated. He did not, therefore, insist upon the amount received last year being regarded as a test of the operation of the new law with respect to revenue; but no complaint could, lie conceived, be urged against the existing law on this ground at present. He said, then, that if all the objections made against the old law were removed without incurring any greater evil, the object for which the House passed the new law had been achieved, all had been done which had been contemplated by those who introduced that law, and the noble Lord's proposal stood in relation to the act just in the same position as it did last year. The noble Lord was favourable to a moderate fixed duty, by which he (Mr. Gladstone) supposed that the noble Lord approved neither of a very high nor of a very low duty. He, however, doubted whether a moderate duty would be a fixed duty, or whether a fixed duty would be moderate. He believed that if the duty were to be permanent, it would fall much within the noble Lord's limits; and, on the contrary, if the same moderate protection was to be afforded to the agricultural as was given to other interests, he doubted whether the duty would be fixed in the sense of permanent; in fact, the terms of the noble Lord were not extravagant, for he proposed only to settle the Corn-laws on a basis on which the country in general would be " satisfied they should rest for a time." The opposition to the noble Lord's proposition was, therefore, still obligatory upon the House, if the conviction of hon. Members was the same as last year; they must then reject this proposal. Of course, if there had been a change of opinion, the decision should be reversed, but they knew from the votes that there had been no such change of opinion, neither had there been any change of circumstances, for the circumstances, so far as they had gone, were favourable to the decision to which the House had last year come; nothing had since occurred to place the case of the noble Lord in a better position than it was in in February the last year, when he made his motion for a fixed duty. The noble Lord, throughout the whole of his speech, acquitted his right hon. Friend (Sir R. Peel) and the Government, of the charges which had been made, as he thought, rather hastily, by some persons, that they had brought forward the new law as a new bond fide proposal which they did not seriously mean to maintain, and yet the noble Lord spoke of the Canada Corn-bill as a sort of evasion of the spirit of the act of last year. The noble Lord called it " a subtle contrivance for the admission of Canadian corn." The contrivance was of a very simple nature. The contrivance—if contrivance it were—was to prevent a circuitous method of the evasion of the law, by the admission of American corn. It was not an oblique attack on the Corn-laws, but to prevent American corn escaping the operation of the Corn-laws. It was, in fact, for preserving the operation of the Corn-laws with respect to American corn, which, being ground into flour in America, was introduced through Canada into this country, It was a subject which might excite the curiosity of posterity to know by what subtle contrivance the noble Lord and the right hon. Gentleman the late Chancellor of the Exchequer, and the right hon. Gentleman the late President of the Board of Trade, would have adjusted their proposal of 1841 with reference to Canadian corn. They had made a great objection to the ruinous effect which would result to Canada by the reduction of the duty on foreign corn in this country; and he would like to know by what peculiar application, after the reduction proposed in 1841, this ruinous effect would have been avoided. The grounds on which the Corn-law was proposed last year, the grounds on which it was accepted and passed, not indeed unanimously, or anything like it, but by decisive and repeated majorities, now remained in full force. That law was proposed, and it was accepted, on the principle which the noble Lord assumed. It was passed with reference to the burthens which the land bore, not perhaps exclusively, but in a greater proportion than any other property. What those burthens were it was not necessary for him then to inquire; whether the malt-tax or tithes were among these burthens, he would not at that moment decide; he had other burthens in view, and, without discussing them, he would say that it was because of the peculiar burthens on land that the Corn-law was proposed to Parliament last year, and was adopted by the House; and it was passed also as a general recognition of the right of protection, which was given to all at the present moment, although it was much reduced from what it had been at a former period. There was also a great extent of labour and capital invested under the existence of the Corn-law: he said capital, and it was greater than in any other manufacture; and he said labour, because whatever their opinion was as to the Corn-laws they would agree that the agricultural labourers were the men who were most at the mercy of a change in the law, and that if the change should produce any evil effects, the most ruinous and calamitous effects would he those which fell on the labourers. He was sorry to see a disposition to continue to represent this law to the country as a question of rent, as a question of the selfishness of the landlords. That was the representation made by men who were Englishmen, having the feelings of Englishmen against another great body of Englishmen, second to none in generosity and in elevation of character. They spoke of rents as if the landlords had a right to exact rents out of the farmers, more than the farmers were disposed to give. When a charge was made, and he did not think always justly made, by the hon. Member for Knaresborough, against the manufacturers, that their object was to reduce the wages of their men, what was the answer made? That it did not rest with the master manufacturers to pay what wages they pleased, but that the amount must depend upon the demand and supply in the labour market. Yet the very same persons who made this reply, when they came to rent, said that the landlords could exact an exorbitant rent from the land, although they were open to the reply that there is open competition among the farmers, and that the farmers were as good judges as the landowner what ought to be taken for rent, and that what the rent would be was regulated by what was the supply of farmers compared with the demand for land. He had often challenged hon. Gentlemen to show him how it was possible, if there was truth in their doctrines of political economy, that any great reduction of rents could take place, without some still greater reduction of the demand for agricultural labour. The argument was this: — The rent was the difference between the cost of cultivation of the best and of the worst soils; and if it were so, rent could only be reduced by diminishing the distance between the extremes of soil taken into cultivation; and, therefore, if the rents of the landlords were to be permanently reduced, they must be reduced by diminution of the classes of soil brought into cultivation in this country— by reducing the distance between their extremes; and if this were done, the result would be the reduction of the amount of cultivated lands in the country, and the consequent displacement of labour. The noble Lord had agreed in the necessity of dealing with any laws involving the grave and important interests of this country only upon the most careful consideration of the circumstance; and the noble Lord had referred to an argument, of which he had made use, respecting the former course of legislation on the subject of corn; and the noble Lord appeared to think that he had argued, that since the time of Charles 2nd, the laws had been more stringent than before that date. The charge made on the other side was this:—" Why do you deal with corn on principles different from those which you apply to other articles of commerce?" and he had said, in answer to that argument, that they must look to the former course of legislation; and that if it were expedient to assimilate the principle with respect to all articles, they must not overlook the fact, that in former times the laws passed respecting corn were conceived on different principles from those on other matters; that even so long ago as in the time of Richard 2nd, the laws which had been passed from time to time with regard to corn had materially-differed in their principles from those relating to other objects. The doctrine of hon. Members opposite was, that legislation on this subject, should be uniform, and should have no reference to price, and this argument had been used with reference to the doctrine which had been also advanced upon the subject of former legislation. And he would now venture to say a few words in explanation of an argument which he had used, and which appeared to have been misapprehended. It was said, that he had stated, that the landlords in this country were in the position of sinecurists; that the House ought to deal with them as they would with sinecurists, and give them a life interest in the privileges which they held, but that until such interest had expired, they ought not to be interfered with. What he had said was this: that hon. Gentlemen opposite, desirous of the total repeal of the existing laws, and the Gentlemen of the Anti-Corn-law League, on their own principles, ought to recommend the adoption of such a course with regard to the landlords, as had been adopted with regard to Gentlemen, holding sinecure offices. He had also said, that he believed, that that House would be almost unanimous in saying that in case of the Corn-laws being totally re- pealed, the landlords would be entitled to be dealt with upon a due consideration of their position, and that, should the proposition for a total and immediate repeal of the Corn-laws, be carried into effect, the House would recognise the proposition for which he contended—namely, that in all legislation on this subject, the course of former legislation should be taken as a material element to guide their enactments. He would now shortly refer to the inconsistency of the arguments advanced in favour of the adoption of a new Corn-law, by way of securing a settlement of this question. The noble Lord had spoken with some hesitation, and even doubt, as to the effect of his moderate fixed duty; but the hon. Member for Dumfries had given notice of a motion upon this part of the question, the history of which was very curious. On the 17th of February, the hon. Member had given notice of a motion— That it having been acknowledged on the part of the Ministry of this country, that the present Corn-law is not a settlement of the question; He did not know that it had been so acknowledged— And there being reasonable grounds for believing that the existence of such law will be of short duration, it is just and expedient that a state of uncertainty, embarrassing and unfair to the agriculturists, and injurious to commerce, should be put an end to, and measures of a settled and a final character adopted without further delay. He believed that it was understood that by this motion the hon. Member meant that the total repeal of the Corn-laws would be a just settlement of the question. But what was the course which he had taken upon this proposition? He gave notice of the motion for the 2nd of March, on that day there was unfortunately no House; it was renewed for the 16th. On the 16th he believed It would have been competent for the hon. Member to have brought ft forward, but he deferred it until after the Easter holidays, thus leaving the country in that state of embarrassment of which he so much complained. The hon. Member had not renewed his motion until the 19th of May, and then having taken another opportunity for deliberation with respect to the perplexed and paralysed condition of trade, he fixed it for the 1st of June. Then, objecting as the hon. Member did to delay of all sorts, he again postponed his motion until after Whitsuntide. On the 2nd of June he fixed it for the 8th; on that day, and the hon. Member could not be blamed for that, there was no house; but on the 9th of June this motion, which declared repeal to be absolutely essential in order to put an end to the embarrassing uncertainty in which the agriculturists stood, this motion was postponed sine die, and then upon a ground the most unsatisfactory, for it was that the noble Lord was about to propose this mo- tion for a fixed duty—a proposition, according to the hon. Gentleman, calculated only to prolong and increase the uncertainty which prevailed, and entirely inconsistent with the settlement of this question. For his own part, he greatly doubted whether any proposition, such as that of the noble Lord for a moderate fixed duty, would ensure the settlement of the question. He had already contended in that House, and he now again urged, that although it was open to Parliament to revise its decision upon any subject, yet that it was obviously most unwise to adopt such a course, unless a new and extraordinary state of circumstances called for it; and he was prepared to maintain, that in this instance there was no necessity for a revision of the conclusion at which they had arrived only during the last year. The measure which had then been passed was adopted upon a calm and deliberate consideration of all the circumstances of the case, and the noble Lord had no right to expect, that there should now be any departure from it. In bringing forward the present proposition, therefore, the noble Lord was himself doing that which he deprecated— he was lending his aid to produce the un-settlement of this question, and to prolong that agitation and uncertainty in the public mind, the existence of which was so much to he regretted. He believed that when the House had so recently arrived at a conclusion on this subject, they would be guilty of gross injustice, if they now again opened the whole question without a grave and adequate cause. Such an act would he not only unwise in itself, but dishonourable to the Government and to Parliament. It was understood that this law had not been adopted with any intention to repeal the Corn-laws—that it was passed with an honest intention to give it a full and fair trial, with a conscientious belief that it was well calculated to meet the existing necessities of the country; and so long as the circumstances under which it had been passed remained substantially the same, the resolution with which it had been introduced should be fully and resolutely maintained. Certain parties had circulated the idea through the country, that, there was no intention to give it that full and impartial trial which he claimed for it; but he thought that the success of those who had held forth this proposition, had not been very remarkable. The noble Lord had said, that he believed that no one was content with the law; but he was very much disposed to dispute that proposition, Amongst the agricultural classes there was a great degree of satisfaction displayed, not with the prices which were now obtained, but from a general conviction that the law as it stood afforded a reasonable adjustment of the question; and that was all that the House had as yet any right to expect or hope. He believed that it was commonly known, that a very general acquiescence in this law had been expressed during the last year; not an acquiescence which was either reluctant or restrained, but founded on a persuasion, that although some persons might be disposed to desire a greater sacrifice to their wishes, and others might think that too much had been already done, yet that on the whole it was a just and equitable settlement of the question between the various interests of this country. Insufficient as the experiment of this measure had yet been, he did not think that it would be advantageous to adopt the proposition now advanced by the noble Lord; and he was persuaded that Parliament would not consent to it. He would refer shortly to an observation of the noble Lord, with respect to the year 1774, before he sat down. The noble Lord had said, that by the law in that year, the prohibitory duty did not go up beyond 50s.; that was the most liberal Corn-law which we had ever had. Under the existing law, the duty, which was rather a restrictive than a prohibitory duty, might be said to go up to 54s.; but taking into consideration the alteration of the circumstances of the country, and in the value of money, he thought that it could not be justly said that the 54s. duty was in reality higher than that of 50s. in the year 1774. He did not mean to say that the existing law, taken as a whole, was not more stringent than that of 1774; but he maintained, that so far as our experience of the present law had gone, it had attained its object, by removing, or greatly mitigating, the inconveniences which existed under that of 1828, and that it had attained this important object without sacrificing others of equal importance, namely, the maintenance of such a protection as the agricultural interests had a right to expect, considering the amount they had at stake in this country, the burthens to which they were subject— and considering, also, what was the course of legislation upon this subject adopted in former times.

Mr. Labouchere

could assure the House that he was so well aware of the thread-bare nature of the topic now under discussion, and that he had already upon former occasions trespassed largely upon the indulgence of the House upon the same subject, that nothing but the general and peculiar importance of this question could induce him to trespass again even for a short time, upon its attention. The right hon. Gentleman who had just sat down, in addressing his noble Friend, had taunted him with the argument that it was impossible that his motion should be successful, and had asked him how it was that, with the certainty of such a result, his noble Friend persevered in the course which he had taken. He conceived that there was no Member of that House to whom such an observation could be addressed with less propriety than his noble Friend. The name of his noble Friend, was perhaps, connected with more important measures which had received the sanction of the Legislature than that of any man who had of late years taken part in public discussion; and there was, besides, this distinction between his noble Friend and other persons who had attracted attention for their public acts, that most of the measures carried by the noble Lord had not been taken up by him for the first time at a period when the popular feeling appeared to be strong in their favour, or when there was an immediate prospect of success; on the contrary he had stood upon the principles which he had advocated through good report and through evil report, and he had seen them in the end, because their principles were just and good, invariably triumph. And he was firmly persuaded, that the principles which the noble Lord advocated, in reference to this subject, were founded in reason and justice, and he did not apprehend, whatever might be the result of the division on the present occasion, that in the end those principles would prevail, and would receive the sanction of the Legislature and the country. The right hon. Gentleman had observed at some length upon the mischief of frequent changes in the law upon a question of this nature, and he (Mr. Labouchere) entirely concurred in those observations. But entertaining this opinion, and recollecting that in such a measure, much of evil must be mingled with the advantages which were sought to be attained, he deeply regretted that the Government had not adopted a course of procedure in this case which would have prevented the infliction of that evil which was complained of—that they had not adopted a measure more in accordance with sound policy and with justice than that which they had carried; for he thought that the very step which they had induced the House to take, being inadequate to meet the circumstances of the case, would only produce constant agitation and uncertainty, and all that train of evils which the right hon. Gentleman had admitted must follow from the existing unsettled position of this question. He should have regretted under any circumstances that a Corn-law of this nature should have been proposed by the right hon. Baronet at the head of her Majesty's Government; but the circumstances under which it has been proposed made it of greater importance than it would have been had it been brought forward at any other time. It had been proposed, not alone as an insulated measure—not as a measure affecting corn and the agricultural interests of the country merely, but as the corner stone of a great system of commercial reform. It was therefore utterly impossible but that every other interest should look to the manner in which the agricultural interests were treated, and the way in which their peculiar interests were treated by the right hon. Baronet, and the moment he had beard the law announced, he was thoroughly convinced that the commercial reforms which the right hon. Baronet proposed must be unsatisfactory to the country, because he saw that the right hon. Baronet must adopt a faulty principle of Corn-law, and apply it to other branches of commerce, or else must make a distinction between the agricultural and the various other interests of the country, and so produce discontent and dissatisfaction. If he was at all acquainted with the feelings of the commercial part of the community of this country, they were in accordance with those expressed by the noble Lord, and in the letter of Mr. Webster which had attracted so much attention. Nations might flourish, and commerce might arrive at a condition of great prosperity under very faulty legislation, but of this he was sure, that where there was constant change, no system of agriculture or commerce could arrive at any high degree of prosperity. And he therefore deeply regretted that, when the right hon. Baronet had last year proposed his Corn-law, he had not taken into consideration the great importance of throwing aside all peculiar considerations —of dealing with the landed interests, when the time came to deal with them at all, in the same manner as with the rest of their fellow citizens—of dealing with all persons alike, and the folly of giving to some a fixed duty, while to others the principle of a sliding-scale was accorded. The principle of a sliding-scale was not a mere principle of protection, but of protection in a form and shape which no other branch of commerce possessed, and which was intended only to secure certain prices to the agricultural interests. He contended that such was the object, and such would be the effect of the sliding-scale. There could be no other motive, except that vain chase after a remunerating price, which the right hon. Baronet had himself admitted to be a phantom which could never be secured. The right hon. Gentleman, the President of the Board of Trade, had complained of the intemperate language which had been addressed to the landed interests of this country. He begged to assure the House that he was far from advocating the use of any such language. But it was extremely probable that, considering that the other House of Parliament was composed altogether of landlords, and that that House was in a great degree composed of the same materials, and that they had adopted two totally distinct principles in legislating for the agricultural and the general interests of the country, such observations would be made. Human nature was but human nature, and it was only likely that they should be reminded, that their legislatorial efforts were confined to the adoption of measures favourable to their own interests. The right hon. Gentleman had said that it was impossible for that House to discuss a subject under a more serious position of things. The condition of this country rested on facts so notorious that he need not go into any consideration or description of them. He was not one of those who had ever taken a desponding view of the resources of the country. Let us have but fair play and honest legislation, and he saw nothing in the circumstances of this country to excite alarm in the mind of any man; but he must say, that it was incumbent on the Legislature to take care that they neglected nothing which could be done to avert the mischiefs which this country might have to contend with. What was the position of the country at this moment? We had a defective revenue, our exports were decreased, we had a rapidly increasing population, we had had a time of national distress, which in obstinacy, severity, and duration, was without parallel; they had had an avowal by the right hon. Baronet, when he came into office two years ago, which had led the House to suppose that he saw his way to the remedy for that distress which existed; he had now frankly acknowledged his disappointment, admitting that his hopes were but faint and dubious; and in this state of things he contended that it was the duty of Parliament to take care that they omitted nothing to lighten the burdens of the country. It might be that those who suffered from the existing distress exaggerated the power of that House to relieve them; but it was fit that they should see that they were anxious to relieve them; that they omitted no exertions towards relieving those distresses which they all joined in deploring. Therefore, under these circumstances, it indeed behoved the House to consider whether the corn trade of this country was not one of the causes of distress, by the alteration of which the House had the power, if not to remove, at all events to alleviate that distress. This they must admit, that a very great responsibility rested on that House, for there were persons in the country who believed that the protective duties were greatly injurious to the manufacturing and commercial interests of this country. Gentlemen talked of the Corn-law League, he was no member of the Corn-law League, nor did he share in all the opinions expressed at the meetings of that body; but still it could not be disguised that a very great body of the manufacturers of this country was connected with it. The right hon. Gentleman, the President of the Board of Trade, had ample opportunity of obtaining the opinions of the commercial men of this country—men who certainly did not take an active part in agitation—men who did not appear much at the meetings of the Anti-Corn-law League, or put themselves prominently forward to express their opinions; and he was sure, that the right hon. Gentleman would not deny that it was almost the universal feeling of the mercantile interests, not that there should be an immediate and total repeal of the Corn-laws, but that the present system was most injurious to the commerce of the country. Such was the general opinion of that most respectable important, and influential class, and he was sure that this would not be denied. The right hon. Gentleman said, that since the corn bill of last year passed, they had had such a short experience of its effect, that they were not warranted in condemning it. Perhaps he was not a fair judge on the subject, because, in his mind, the bill was condemned before it was a law. The experience of the past, in his mind, so completely demonstrated the inherent vices of a sliding-scale, and that there should be a high duty when prices were low, and a small duty when prices were high, that he wanted no further experience of the absurdity and mischievous tendency of its principle. It was true it had been stated by the right hon. Gentleman that the Corn-laws in this country were always framed on the principle of a sliding-scale; but what was the history of all these Corn-laws successively? Why, that they had all been condemned one after another. And it should be remembered that they had not been condemned because the circumstances of the country had altered, and that that state of things which led to their enactment no longer existed, and that they were no longer fitted to the exigencies of the country, as they were when they were first created, but that in the case of any one of them, their chief supporters and framers had come forward and declared that a great mistake had been made when they were enacted, and they were told that each one after the other had done a great deal of mischief to the country. Thus the shore was strewed with the wrecks of former Corn-laws, that were framed on the principle of the sliding-scale, but notwithstanding, the right hon. Gentlemen opposite still must launch their bark on this stormy ocean. Although the bill of last year might mitigate some of the evils of previous sliding-scales still it would go far to prove the mischievous effect of every measure founded on such a principle. They certainly had not had very long experience of the operation of the act of last year, but there could be no doubt that similar causes would produce similar effects. All, in point of fact, that the right hon. Gentleman said, in answer to his noble Friend was, that things had not been worse under the new sliding-scale, than under the former sliding-scale, and he had no doubt that experience would ultimately show that matters would be much better under it. The main assertion, however, of the right hon. Gentleman was, that things had not become worse in consequence of the new law, and that the right hon. Gentleman believed that there had not been so much fluctuation in the prices under its operation. Now, he believed that there had been more fluctuation than formerly. The right hon. Gentleman said, that the great effect that had been produced last year had arisen from the circumstance that corn did not come into the market as other mercantile produce, but that it came in in a large mass just before the harvest. Now it came into the market a little before the time that it usually did, for a reason which must be admitted by all, namely, because the harvest happened to be a very early one, and the speculators were therefore thwarted in their calculations, and were obliged to take out their corn at an eight shilling duty instead of waiting for a lower duty. The circumstance, however, of corn being brought out of bond at a higher duty was not in any manner owing to the measure of last year, but to the bounty of Providence in giving us an early harvest. One of the grounds that had been urged as to the superiority of the new sliding-scale over the old was the circumstance of its having put a large sum of money into the Treasury. He could not forget the appearance of horror with which Gentlemen opposite spoke of making the importation of corn a matter of taxation, although he was sure that the right hon. Baronet at the head of the Government would admit that the amount received for the corn-duties was very acceptable to him. He would avoid wearying the House with figures, as they had been so often quoted, and referred to in speeches and pamphlets on this subject; but he could not help making an observation on one matter which had been alluded to by the right hon. Gentleman. His noble Friend had referred to the admirable speech that had been made elsewhere, on the superiority of a fixed duty over a sliding scale, by his noble Friend Lord Monteagle. The right hon. Gentleman said, in a manner of which he could not altogether approve, that the figures and statements made on the occasion, referred to by Lord Monteagle ought not to have much importance attached to them as they could be easily answered. Now, he did not know how far he was in order to refer to what was supposed to have taken place elsewhere, but he might observe, that as far as he could understand from the usual records of the proceedings of another place, not one of the colleagues of the right hon. Gentleman had attempted any answer to the admirable address of Lord Monteagle. It was allowed to go forth to the country, and to produce its full effect on the public mind, and he could not find that any attempt had been made to reply to it. The right hon. Gentleman had commented upon the difference of opinion which confessedly existed on that (the Opposition) side of the House on the subject of the Corn-laws, and that some were for a total and immediate repeal of the Corn-laws, while others thought upon the whole a moderate fixed duty was best. Now he did not think that this admitted difference of opinion should prevent any Gentleman from voting for the motion. The objection of the right hon. Gentleman was one of that sort of arguments which was urged by every government, and who retorted on their opponents, " Oh, you are not agreed amongst yourselves;" but this was no answer to those who all agreed in objecting to this law. He had never disguised his own opinion on this subject in that House; that, looking to the long period during which they had afforded protection to agriculture, and looking to the enormous interests which had grown up under this system of protection, and considering also that even if the principle of a free trade in corn was a just principle, still caution should be used to prevent too sudden a change which would deeply involve a most important interest-—he never could bring his mind to the conclusion that he ought to vote for the immediate and total repeal of the Corn-laws. Feeling then, that this powerful interest had grown up under protection, he felt satisfied that the best course that they could adopt was to place it on the footing of a fixed duty. For his own part he always doubted whether any special burthens were imposed on the landed interest; and the circumstance which influenced his mind, was that fear which he entertained with respect to any sudden and great change, which affected not merely the landed, or the commercial, or any other great interest which had grown up under a long established principle of protection. This made him hesitate to apply precipitately principles which were sound in themselves. If they went into committee he should be inclined to follow the same course as his noble Friend, and would give his vote for a moderate fixed duty, and that corn should be treated as any other article of trade in the commercial regulations of this country. His noble Friend had been taunted with not naming the actual sum or amount of fixed duty which he would propose in committee. Now this was rather a singular objection, coming from the hon. Gentlemen opposite. It was not very long ago since his noble and right hon Friends occupied the seats which were now adorned by Gentlemen opposite, and then the right hon. Gentleman and his Friends were not so ready to communicate the course of policy which they would recommend in any emergency. The right hon. Member for Tamworth, when he occupied the Opposition bench, never would say whether the Corn-laws should be altered or not, but his [uniform observation was, " wait until 1 am in office, and then I will tell you what course I shall pursue; for it is not becoming a Government to call upon an Independent Member of Parliament for his advice, or the expression of his opinion." But when the right hon. Baronet made this declaration, he accompanied it with a remark, than which more unfortunate words never fell from the lips of a Statesman. He stated that, with respect to the Corn-laws, there was only one thing to which he would pledge himself, namely, the principle of a sliding-scale. This declaration he was satisfied had been productive of the most fatal results. There never could have been a more unfortunate declaration, for he was satisfied that when the right hon. Gentleman proceeded to deal with the other commercial interests of the country last year, that, but for this declaration, he would have looked to a fixed duty when he came to deal with the Corn-laws. He concurred that the principle of a Corn-law, founded on a sliding-scale, differed very materially from one founded on a fixed duty, and that it led to very different results. The right hon. Gentleman said, that the inducement to frame a Corn-law was that, if possible, the agriculture of this country should produce sufficient corn for the consumption of the country. This was altogether fallacious. He believed that the harvest of last year was an average one, if it was not even more than that. Certainly, no one could say that it was a bad one, but they had imported a larger quantity of corn into this country than had been imported in any previous year; the amount was nearly three millions of quarters. Under these circumstances, to legislate and impose duties, with the view of making this country independent of a foreign supply of corn, was one of the wildest and most mischievous schemes that could be adopted by a Parliament or a Government. He had said before that he was for a fixed duty, for this reason, amongst others, namely, that it would produce a steady trade. He would not enter into any calculations to prove this, for he thought that this could be sufficiently shown in the ordinary calculations of supply and demand, which would be created whenever you allowed a merchant to bring in his goods on a tolerably certain footing. This, he believed, was the only safe course that could be pursued. He could not help alluding to the offensive terms in which a certain body of persons were alluded to, who were called by the name of corn speculators, but whose interests, in the long run, he believed were mixed up with the best interests of the community. He thought that he had heard, on a former occasion, the right hon. Baronet express himself in a tone somewhat like that of rejoicing at the effect which he supposed the law of last year had had on this body of men. He did not wish to protect any man at the expense of other classes; but he was convinced that any evil falling upon that, or any other important interest, must ultimately prove injurious to ourselves. The very circumstance which made the corn trade a gambling trade, and which led Gentlemen to complain of the corn speculators, must recoil upon themselves, and must injure them most deeply in the long run. He was sure that there was no one at all acquainted with the commercial interests of the country, who must not be fully aware of the extensive and evil effect which an injury to those engaged in the corn trade would have on the general commerce of the country. It was well known that last year many merchants of the highest character were engaged in the corn trade, the state of which turned out to be most injurious to them, and he was sure that no one who was at all aware of the circumstances of the case but must deplore the ruin of some of the most respectable citizens of this country. There was only one point more to which he would refer. The right hon. Gentleman had asked how they could expect a fixed duty to be more secure and durable than a sliding-scale. Now he thought so much of the good sense and feeling of the people of England, that he believed that if they gave a moderate fixed duty that would work well, that it would become almost durable, as the public mind would be so much set at rest on the subject. Hon. Gentlemen complained of agitation on this subject prevailing throughout the country. He had never seen an agitation in this [country continue and go on increasing for any considerable time, if it did not proceed on some very good and just ground, and he believed that the circumstance which made Gentlemen opposite weak and impotent against the agitation for the repeal of the Corn-laws, was that they were unable to defend them on any principle of justice. If the Legislature passed a law on this subject, which was recommended to the good sense of the community, he did not see why it should not be as durable as any other trade law; and even if the law which was proposed was not the very best that could be devised, still if he thought it was tolerable and not contrary to common sense, and did not keep the country, as it were, on the verge of a precipice, as the present law did, he would support it, and give it a fair trial, because he believed that mischief attended these constant changes in the Corn-laws. He thought that they might just as well build a house on a quicksand as depend upon a sliding-scale, although, as he had just stated, he was fully aware of the evils of constant change in these laws; he therefore should give his hearty support to the motion of the noble Lord.

Mr. Hume

thought that many important observations that had been made by the right hon. Gentleman opposite had not been answered by the right hon. Gentleman who had just sat down. He felt, with respect to the right hon. Gentleman's speech, that if an utter disregard of facts and reasoning could justify the support of a law or a doctrine, the right hon. Gentleman was then entitled to great credit. The right hon. Gentleman had made a complaint as to the time that had been taken up in debating the subject of the Corn-laws, and that twenty-eight days had thus been occupied last Session, eighteen days this Session, and had adverted to it as if it had been a great loss of time. Now, in his mind, he did not believe that there was anything that could be discussed of more or of equal importance than a matter which tended to the settlement of the Corn-laws, and that there could be no expenditure of time or labour too great for the attainment of such an object. He had never heard any one connected with either of the three parties in that House on this question who did not say that it was desirable to settle the subject. The right hon. Baronet opposite, at the head of a very large party in that House, was in favour of a sliding scale. He would only refer the right hon Baronet to the opinion of the mercantile class, who certainly were the best judges as to what would be advantageous for the commerce of the country, and be would find that the sliding-scale was universally condemned by them. The sliding-scale had not secured one of the objects which the right hon. Baronet and the other supporters of it declared would result from it in 1828. It had not succeeded in keeping up prices, and it had not prevented the constant vacillation of prices, although certainly the latter object might have been limited to a small extent by the measure of last year. But comparing a fixed duty with a sliding scale the advantages were a thousand fold—indeed he might almost say that they were incalculably in favour of the former. He objected, however, to protection altogether. It was the duty of that House to place all interests on an equal footing, and not give one an advantage over another. The whole end and object of the Corn-laws was to protect the landed interest. [An hon. Member No ! no !] The right hon. Gentleman might say no, but he had heard several hon. Members many times in that House declare that this was the case. If the Corn-laws were not intended for the protection of the landed interest, they were utterly absurd and useless. Let the right hon. Gentleman explain what he wanted, if he did not require protection. If the laws were alike just to all, there could be no objection to them; but when you gave a protection to one class over another, you gave that class the right to take so. much from the pockets of the rest of the community, which would not otherwise be taken; therefore, he regarded the Corn laws as nothing more nor less than an act of spoliation and injustice. On this ground he entertained no doubt that that should not be allowed to be continued. The noble Lord had said that there were certain special burthens which land bore in contradistinction to other interests. Now, if any one could make this out, he would not object to give an equivalent. He had made a proposition to this effect more than eighteen years ago, and then said, let there be a fixed duty which should be reduced gradually, and as rapidly as they conveniently could, till they arrived at that point when they could show there were any special burthens. They then should proceed to remove those special burthens, or agriculture should have an equivalent. If the noble Lord was prepared to show the existence of any special burthens of this kind, he would vote with great pleasure for the motion to go into committee. The hon. Member for Sheffield, however, had already, in the course of the Session, given a fair challenge on the subject, and proposed a committee to inquire into the existence of those alleged special burthens; and although, he believed, the motion was supported by the noble Lord, yet it was opposed by hon. Gentlemen opposite who claimed protection for agriculture on the ground of the existence of those burthens. When that motion was made no one opposite attempted an answer to show that there was one single burthen that fell upon land which did not also fall upon other interests. Hon. Gentlemen had not the means of vindicating the principles they put forth, they, therefore, as in ordinary Cases, shrunk from all inquiry. He agreed with the right hon. Gentleman who had just sat down, that the commerce of the country could only be upheld by removing every obstacle in its way. He could not, however, tell how the right hon. Gentleman reconciled this doctrine with the conclusion of his speech, when he declared himself in favour of a fixed duty, which in his mind was a fixed impediment and a fixed injury to the progress of commerce. Under these circumstances the Tight hon. Gentlemen did not draw a just inference from the premises which he had laid down. He believed that a fixed duty was a fixed and cruel injustice to the people of Eng land, and he did not believe that anything like a permanent Corn-law could be framed on such a principle. Did the noble Lord, or any one else who voted for a fixed duty, sincerely and realty believe that under present circumstances anything of the kind would be a permanent settlement of the question. He was of opinion that of the three propositions on this subject, namely, the sliding-scale, the fixed duty, and a free trade in corn, the last was the only one that could be safely or advantageously carried out, as it was the only one that rested on a sound or healthy principle. For his own part he believed that the right hon Baronet was himself convinced of the soundness of the principle of free trade, and that the open avowal of it was with him only a question of time. He was fully aware of the great difficulties which the right hon. Baronet had to contend with in this respect. The right hon. Baronet might, at the present moment, be as anxious as himself for the establishment of a free trade in corn; and, perhaps, by taking the course which he had lately taken, the right hon. Baronet was anxious thus to bring it about. The noble Lord agreed that everything must be done by compromise. He protested against such a principle. He was against all compromise. It argued a want of confidence in the power of carrying out a principle. Compromise might sometimes indeed be unavoidable, but the principle that the corn trade ought to be free was one that he was certainly not willing to give up. With respect to a fixed duty, opinions had varied very much as to the amount at which it ought to be fixed. The hon. Member for Wiltshire, when asked what would be a sufficient fixed duty, said that no amount less than 24s. would do. The noble Lord ought to have been ready now to state whether or not he was willing to propose a lower fixed duty than 8s. He wished to see the noble Lord advance towards free trade, and therefore he would have been glad to hear whether the noble Lord intended now to advocate a duty of 8s., or one of 5s. If the noble Lord made a step towards free-trade, that fact would go far to secure to him the zealous support of those who wished to see the Corn-laws entirely abolished. The right hon. the President of the Board of Trade said he objected to legislating too often upon a subject of such great importance, and talked of the law of last year as a solemn decision, on the strength of which contracts had been made, and that therefore changes now would be improper. Why, the whole history of the Corn-laws had been a history of continual Changes, and there had never been anything permanent about them, except the desire of those who made those changes to promote their own interests? The landed interests, indeed, maintained that they were actuated by a solicitude for their labourers; but was it not a mockery to talk of the labourers being benefitted by the Corn-laws, when it was well known that the agricultural labourers had never been worse off than they were now? Could the right hon. Gentleman hold up the labourers as profiting by the Corn-laws, or likely to be injured by an alteration of those laws? The opinions expressed by the right hon. Gentleman, both in that House and out of it, were the very reverse of the arguments he had that evening advanced. The right hon. Gentleman asked whether they on that (the Opposition) side of the House were absurd enough to think the landlords could command what rent they pleased? And then the right hon. Gentleman went on to argue that the amount of rents must be regulated like every other price by demand and supply. But did the right hon. Gentleman not know that it had been admitted before a committee of that House that the rents of farms were regulated by the prices which it was expected could be obtained for corn. If then the Corn-laws were not maintained with a view to the raising of rents, he should like to know what they were maintained for? What had all the struggling of the landed interest been for? He would be glad to hear the hon. Member for Norfolk explain this. If the hon. Member could satisfy him that he had been mistaken, he would be most happy to retract any opinions that he had at any time held and advanced. He knew, however, that tenants were valued in according to the prices which it was expected corn would bring, and he would consent to have any land-valuer called to the bar and examined whether such had not been the practice ever since 1815. No doubt there had been individuals valued in since the passing of the right hon. Baronet's Corn-law of last year, and if so, he would undertake to say that he same principle had been acted on. The farmers ad too long been the victims of such a system, and on this ground, among others, he had been anxious to enter his protest against the system. The landowners themselves were injured by the system. It was for their interest that the commerce and manufactures of the country should be prosperous. Yet, under the existing system, distress went on increasing, and the hopes recently entertained, that a substantial improvement was going on, had of late very much fallen off. He believed that the only way really to increase the prices of agricultural produce was to promote the general prosperity of the population. The days of monopoly, such as had existed during the war had gone by. It was no longer in the power of England to command the commerce of the world. In every country her manufacturers encountered competitors, and it behoved Parliament under such an altered state of things, to see that British artisans had at least a fair field for the exercise of their industry. Let them have that, and, with the capital of England and the ingenuity of her people, he would have no apprehension of the result. If, on the contrary, they continued in the course they were now pursuing, they might bring the country into a position from which it might be extremely difficult to retrace their steps. At present, he believed there was still time for the country to recover itself, and if the House devoted itself to this subject, from this time to the close of the Session, he would maintain that the House could not be better occupied.

Mr. Wodehouse

said, that as the hon. Member for Montrose had made reference to him, he trusted the House would indulge him by permitting him to make a few observations. Before, however, he referred to what had fallen from the hon. Member, he was first desirous of noticing the speech of the noble Lord (Lord J. Russell), in which a much different tone was observable when speaking of the measure of 1815, than that which characterised the noble Lord at a former period. There was a remarkable change in the noble Lord's reasoning with respect to the action of the currency as connected with this subject. He thought that it was folly to enter into a consideration of this subject, without, at the same time, considering the question of money. It had been proved incontestably that the range of fluctuations in England was less than that of any other country, except Sweden. This he had again and again asserted, without fear of contradiction; but it appeared that all argument of this kind was lost upon the hon. Member for Montrose, who had an triplex that nothing could affect. In 1795, Mr. Claude Scott, in his examination before the Privy Council, stated that the King of Prussia had then laid a prohibition upon minor grains, and that it was his intention to lay also a prohibitory duty upon wheat. At that time their corn was excluded from several of the countries of Europe. Upon being asked what supply they could have from America, he replied by saying that American wheat could not then be had under 80s. a quarter. He was asked whether he advocated Corn-Laws for the sake of the landed interest? He had before denied this, and he now denied it again. He believed that great misery would inevitably fall upon the agricultural population if any such changes were made as were now called for. About two years ago he met Mr. Frankland Lewis, after the passing of the new Poor-law, who said to him, "You are one of our principal opponents." I said, " No such thing." I said, the time may come when the tide will turn, and the difficulty will arise when there is a failure of employment." " Oh," said Mr. Frankland Lewis, " Can any man suppose there will be any failure of employment for the next seven years to come? Now there was a failure of employment every where in less than six months. But that had been foretold as inevitable, before the agricultural committee of 1836. Two years after that, the precious Import Duties Committee was appointed, of which the hon. Member for Montrose was chairman—the order for which committee that hon. Gentleman kept in his pocket for six weeks, because some favourite Cocker of his was ill; and yet he had the audacity [Order, order.] he had the effrontery [_Order, order.]—well then, he had the coolness to assert, that the distress which prevailed was in no way attributable to the commercial embarrassments in America, but that it was solely and entirely attributable to the Corn-laws. Such was the conduct of the hon. Gentleman then. " But I have done with him for the present, as I have a long notice on the paper, and I will give him another turn on another occasion."

Sir W. Clay

said, the few observations with which he should trouble the House, Would have reference rather to the present condition of the question than strictly to its merits, which it appeared to him had been long since exhausted in argument; and, certainly, if he had not before thought so, that would have now been his opinion, after hearing the speeches of the noble Lord and the right hon. Gentleman near him. The right hon. Gentleman, the President of the Board of Trade, objected to the noble Lord's bringing forward a motion to disturb the existing Corn-law, while he admitted the importance of stability in the settlement of such questions. Why it was precisely because his noble Friend did not believe that the present settlement could be stable, that he brought forward his motion. In that belief he (Sir W. Clay) fully concurred. It appeared to him, that whether they looked at the course of events—at the condition of the country, and the all but universal admissions as to the cause of that condition—at the position of the Government, as regarded commercial policy, or the state of public opinion, it was impossible to come to any other conclusion than that the present Corn-law could not be maintained. Look, first, at the condition of the country, at the depression of the manufacturing and commercial interests—a depression unparalleled in extent, severity, and duration. Now, whatever might be the variety of opinion as to the minor proximate, or temporary causes of that depression, he thought he was justified in saying, that the all but universal opinion among those most competent to judge was, that its main—enduring and really fearful because enduring—cause, was to be found in the limited field of employment for capital and labour. It was not denied, that capital and skill were present in abundance, still less that in the capacity of patient and persevering toil the labouring classes of England were equal to, if they did not excel, any people on the face of the earth; but this great skill, this energetic industry, this overflowing capital, elements which in their combination had already been supposed capable of producing prosperity, had now, for a long and melancholy period, failed to produce such a result. What was the cause of the failure? Because an adequate field was wanting for their exertion. Whatever other reasons might be supposed to exist of sufficient validity to justify the maintenance of the Corn-laws, it would be scarcely denied, that these laws by crippling and embarrassing what would be the most important branch of the trade of the country, did limit, and that to a very great degree, the field for the employment of capital and labour Proofs, disastrous proofs of the effect of such limitation, met them at every step. Every trade was overdone—every opportunity for the use of capital contested by innumerable competitors—profits fell— smaller dealers and tradesmen were ruined, and even retail trades fell more and more into the hands of wealthy persons, whose large capital enabled them to endure exceedingly minute profits. The rate of interest of money had been for a long period unprecedentedly low. As a consequence, every scheme for a joint-stock company abroad or at home—every proposal for a foreign loan, found persons ready to subscribe, notwithstanding their recent and fatal experience; and this reminded him of a consideration with regard to their commercial intercourse with America of considerable importance, as bearing on that view of the subject. It was this, that not only then, but before the existing stagnation and depression in the trade with America, both countries were really labouring under the want, on the part of America, of sufficient commercial equivalents for the amount of manufactures which the people of the United States were quite ready and willing to take. During the most prosperous periods of our trade with America, and when the demand for our manufactures for the American markets was most active, how was that want supplied? By the sale in this country of stocks created by the different states of America, and by shares of banks and joint-stock companies of various descriptions in that country. These securities formed for several years available remittances in payment of the British manufactures exported to America. Circumstances had thrown discredit on such securities; they were no longer saleable in this market; they would no longer serve for remittances, and the House might be assured, that if they persisted in their present suicidal commercial policy, they would not again have such a demand from America for our manufactures, as was the case a few years since, until the inclination should arise in this country to invest money in the public stocks or companies of that country. And what was our present state of relations with America? Was it not perfectly char that nothing but the Corn-law stood in the way of a greatly-extended intercourse with the United States—an intercourse fraught with incalculable advantages to the people of both countries. The speech recently delivered at Baltimore, by Mr. Webster, one of the most eminent, if not the most eminent of American statesmen, and whose very recent connection with the Government gave peculiar weight and importance to his opinions, placed that matter beyond a doubt. It was perfectly clear, that if we would alter our Corn-laws. America would relax her tariff! Was it possible that the right hon. Gentleman would refuse to negotiate on such terms— that the House would support him in such refusal—that the country would endure such refusal. Vast numbers of their humbler countrymen had long suffered, were still suffering, intense distress. Their Table was loaded with petitions from industrious artisans, who say that they want alike employment and food; they had now the absolute certainty that the opportunity offered to relieve that distress, to procure that employment and food, for which the petitions languished. Would they—dared they—hesitate to avail themselves of it? He really did not know a subject of contemplation at once more afflicting and absurd— one better fitted to move, according to the mood of the observer, either laughter or tears, than to see the rulers of two great nations striving by common consent to prevent their subjects contributing to each other's happiness, and intercepting by absurd legislation the free interchange of blessings bestowed on both by Providence with lavish hand, although in diverse forms. Such, for a long period and to a melancholy extent, had been the character of the policy pursued by the Governments of England and the United States. Happily there appeared at length the dawn of a better day; it was clear, that by a large and influential party in the United States, any overtures on the part of this country to cultivate a more extended and freer commercial intercourse would be well received. It would become them to make such overtures, as, beyond all doubt, it was the selfish and unwise policy of England which had mainly led the nations of the world astray, so was it her duty and her interest to lead the way in the return to a sounder policy. He believed it to be absolutely certain, that an advantageous commercial treaty might be negociated with America. Such treaty could be negociated with mutual advantages, only on the basis of an abrogation of the Corn-Laws. It was true, Mr. Webster, despairing apparently of any Government being strong enough to repeal that law, talked only of the admission, on lower terms, of rice and Indian corn; but he did not believe, that the right hon. Gentleman would make any attempt to defeat the Corn-law by an evasion, but if he saw that an advantageous commercial treaty with America could be negociated, only, by opening our ports to the agricultural produce of America in the ordinary terms of commercial intercourse, he would not hesitate to take the fair, and manly, and wise course of asking Parliament to abrogate the sliding-scale of duties on the importation of corn. He repeated, that it was clear beyond all doubt, from the present condition of parties in America, and the temper of men's minds in that country, that there was the opportunity of reconsidering the state of commercial relations with incalculable advantage to both. It was equally clear, that the neglect of this opportunity by England would give the ascendancy to the party in America which advocated an exclusive policy of a high and protective tariff—and that a free and beneficial intercourse between the countries might be indefinitely postponed, perhaps for ever rendered impossible. Heavy would in his opinion, be the responsibility of any Government by whom such an opportunity was thrown away. He had dwelt thus long on our relations with America, and on the bearing of those relations on the question of the repeal of the Corn-law, because the case of America afforded the strongest instance of the prejudicial influence of that law on our commercial intercourse with foreign countries; but what was true with regard to America, was true more or less with regard to many other countries—to all the countries, for instance, of northern Europe; and he was quite sure that the right hon. Gentleman was well aware that an alteration of our Corn-law was the indispensable preliminary to restoring a sound state of commercial intercourse between ourselves and the corn growing countries of Europe. The right hon. Gentleman, too, could not but be aware that he had himself, and that the right hon. Gentleman, the President of the Board of Trade had greatly added to" the difficulty of maintaining such a system as the present Corn-law. They had both enunciated, in the most emphatic language, the soundest principles of free-trade; did they suppose those principles could be limited in their operation to the articles comprised in last year's tariff? Or that, setting aside the injustice of subjecting the artisan producing any article of home manufacture to foreign competition, while they maintained a monopoly price of the chief article of his subsistence, the people of England would never be persuaded that live oxen and salted beef, pigs, and pickled pork, might safely and advantageously be brought into this country at a fixed rate of duty, but that it would be ruinous for corn to be introduced on similar principles? No; the only chance of maintaining a restrictive system was to maintain it intact; it was too much to expect that in the most commercial country in the world, laws, if not expressly designed, yet inevitably tending to introduce uncertainty and danger into the most important branch of commerce, should be retained, when the whole code, of which they once formed an homogeneous part— should have been subjected to reform, and they stood alone in strong relief, in glaring inconsistency with all the other enactments of the commercial legislations of the country. But, above all, how could the right hon. Gentleman hope to retain the present Corn-law on the statute books after the Canada Corn Bill, now before them should have become law? To do so would be the very climax of inconsistency, the most striking of anomalies. After the passing of that bill, what would have become of the " great principle" of the sliding-scale? It was given to the winds, and the only other "great principle" that he could discover remaining in our legislation in the importation of com was, that it should be brought by a round-about road. What other "principle" was to be found in the Canada Corn Bill? The whole com grown in the United States might be imported into this country at a fixed duty of 4s. per quarter, provided only it came down the St. Lawrence and not down the Hudson or the Mississippi. Would it be denied that such was the true character of the Canada Corn Bill? Would it be said, that American corn could only be thus imported after having been ground in Canada? It was quite true, that it must en route be ground for the benefit of the millers of Canada, and it was likewise true, that of the 4s. duty it must pay before being consumed in England, 3*. must be paid not into the imperial but into the colonial treasury—both in his opinion very inexpedient provisions, but neither altering the real character of the measure. The measure remained a complete renunciation of the principle of the sliding-scale, as far as America was concerned, neutralized indeed by the forced diversion of the trade into a circuitous and unnatural track, and deprived of almost all its value by the perverse ingenuity, which, by making it a boon to Canada, not to the United States, deprived them of the power of deriving any advantage from the concession in negotiating with that country. He had alluded to the state of public opinion, as bearing on the question of the possibility of maintaining the present law; could they be indifferent to it? See bow great was the difference between that state now, and three years back, or even last year ! It would be scarcely saying too much to assert, that with the exception of the classes connected immediately with land, whether as holders or occupiers, or rather of a portion of those classes—almost the entire people were opposed to the present law; certainly an enormous majority. What philosophical or economical writer of any eminence— what commercial men, what manufacturers, what practical men of any class but farmers, what real amount of opinion among the classes or individuals who guide opinion—did the right hon. Gentleman believe to be in favour of the present law? And with regard to the real amount of adverse opinion, this circumstance should not be forgotten, that from peculiar causes two very important classes had either not come forward to declare their opinions, or had neutralised the effect of the declaration by adding to it the expression of irrelevant or dangerous doctrines. He alluded to classes very opposite in condition and character, but agreeing in the particular to which he was adverting—on the one hand the mercantile, on the other the operative classes. With regard to the former, two things would not admit of dispute (he alluded more particularly to London); first, that the majority of the wealthier of those classes were supporters of the present Government; but, secondly, that they were not friendly to the sliding-scale. Why had they not declared that opinion? Because the abolition of the present system of Com-laws having become a party question, they had kept back or been careless in avowing that opinion in the fear of weakening the influence of the party to which they mostly belonged. With regard to the operatives, it was yet better known that they had declined to take part in the agitation for the Repeal of the Corn-laws, not because they were not bitterly opposed to those laws, but because they fancied that by holding aloof, they might force the middle classes to join them in the pursuit of those visionary but dangerous objects which unhappily had taken so strong a hold of the imaginations of our imperfectly educated masses. Let the House again look at the systematic and incessant agitation of the Corn-law League. What had the Government—what had the House to oppose to it? The working of such a system- would be formidable, if directed against any laws or institutions, however wise, just, or defensible. Directed against laws like the Corn-laws, it was absolutely irresistible. Looking, then, to the points to which he had adverted; looking at the condition of England, at the stale of our relations with foreign countries, at the policy pursued by the Government, at the state of public opinion, it appeared to him impossible to arrive at any other conclusion than that the present Corn-law could not be maintained, and that the only question left for their consideration was, what enactment should be substituted in its place. Would they have a free trade, subject to no duty; or would they have a free trade, subject to a moderate fixed duty? He would, of these alternatives, prefer to see the importation of corn subjected to a moderate fixed duty. He believed that it would, at least, be the safest and best mode of arriving at a trade wholly free of duty. He did not advocate a fixed duty, in the belief that it would not raise the price of corn here, or that it would be borne by the foreign grower rather than by the English consumer; on the contrary, he was satisfied it could1 be shown by unanswerable reasoning, that it would raise the price generally of corn in this country, and would be borne by the consumers, and not by the foreign grower. Neither did he advocate a fixed duty on the ground of any exclusive burthen which could be shown to be borne by land—most assuredly not, because he believed that the malt tax was borne by the growers of barley, as was recently stated by one, whose opinions were entitled to the respectful consideration of the House. There might certainly be, and perhaps it could be so shown, some burthens falling more heavily on land than on other property, but certainly they would be more than covered by a lower duty than any one had yet proposed. Why then did he advocate a duty? On this ground simply, that the interests at stake were far too mighty not to render it wise to proceed with the utmost caution. Agriculture was not only the most important of the national interests, from the extent of capital and labour employed in it, but because with it was involved the question of the subsistence of the people. There could be no doubt but that the abrogation of the present Corn-law, and the substitution of a free-trade in corn, must produce some very considerable changes in the state of British agriculture, much less, he believed, than was supposed by the supporters of the present law, but still considerable. He and others had always contended, that the repeal of the law would not affect the value of land— that the land in which, under a system of free-trade, corn could not be advantageously grown, would be more profitably devoted to produce of a kind which could not be imported, and for which the increased prosperity of the country would furnish better markets. Yes, but this very argument implied derangement of the existing system of agriculture, and a derangement, the first effect of which he was willing to mitigate. A fixed duty would have the advantage of testing with greater safety the effect of a free-trade. It would, he was satisfied, dissipate many unfounded fears, on the one hand, and equally unfounded expectations on the other—as he felt perfectly satisfied it would demonstrate the impossibility of obtaining any considerable quantity of corn, at prices so low as seemed to be anticipated both by the advocates and opponents of a repeal of the existing law. If, with reference to the interests of British agriculture, he were content to see a moderate fixed duty imposed on the importation of foreign corn, he should not be deterred from imposing such duty, from any apprehension that he was thereby, in any sensible degree, diminishing to the manufacturing and commercial interests the inestimable value of the repeal of the present law. He knew that such was not the language held at meetings of the Anti Corn-law League. He knew that at these meetings a fixed duty of 5s. per quarter was looked on as little less objectionable than the present law; but he must be permitted to say that such language showed, on the part of those who used it, but a very imperfect acquaintance with the real character of the evils produced by the present law. Such language j was indeed the inevitable result of that fanaticism always engendered by the long agitation of any question which nearly touched the passions of the people, and for which, perhaps, those by whom necessary reforms were refused were more justly responsible than those by whom that fanaticism was felt or expressed. A moderate fixed duty on the import of corn, supposing the trade to be otherwise perfectly free, would not prevent that which we most wanted, namely, the restoration of a sound and wholesome state of commercial relations with all the corn-growing countries in the world, from all of which we could at all times, receive a return for the manufactures we should export; because at all times our ports would be open, on known and intelligible terms, to the commodity they had to offer as an equivalent. The only effect of such a duty would be, in some degree, to narrow the circle from which we could draw supplies, precisely in the same degree, and no other, than if the freight of every imported quarter of corn were enhanced to the extent of the duty. He would also confess, that feeling convinced that a free-trade in corn, subject to a moderate fixed duty, would give a vast impulse to commerce and manufactures, and afford that enlarged field for the employment of capital, under the want of which the country was languishing. He was not desirous of seeing the yet greater, perhaps wilder development, which a trade wholly without duty would give to those interests. It would be well, perhaps, to bear in mind the possible recurrence of a state of the country, in which it would be desirable to have some resource in reserve. Whatever might be, however, the demerits or inconveniences of a fixed duty, he felt assured that their only choice was between that and a trade perfectly free. The present state of the law could not endure. It was a question of time only. Every three years added at least one million of souls to the population of the country. In the very teeth of that fact did they still believe they could retain in shackles the trade by which the people were to be fed. As he had said, they had but the choice of the mode in which they would abrogate the existing law; but the time in which that choice would remain to them was fast passing away, and perhaps this might be the very last Session in which it was within their power. Already they might have seen, by the division on the motion of his hon. Friend the Member for Wolverhampton, that the ranks of those who advocated a fixed duty had become thinner, whilst those who would yet support the Government in obtaining such a protection for British agriculture, felt that day by day such a policy was losing its value, partly because the longer the substitution of a fixed duty for that of the present system was delayed, the less effect the concession would have in satisfying the minds of the people—a main element in judging of the policy of any change—and partly because the less confidence would be felt in the endurance of any such protection. Every motive tended, therefore, to urge the importance of the settlement proposed by the noble Lord; and if he might venture, and in no unfriendly spirit, to address one word of remonstrance to the great and powerful party on the opposite benches, who were more immediately the representatives of the agricultural interest, he would say that, beyond all other classes, the landholders of England were interested in the abrogation of the present law, because, beyond all other classes, they were interested in the permanent prosperity of the country. The fundholder, the merchant, the manufacturer, might resort to other lands—they must remain and share the fortunes of their country. To suppose that while this country was prosperous, while its trade and manufactures flourished—whilst it increased in wealth as well as population, the land of England could ever fall in value was the most chimerical fear that ever entered the mind of man. But if it should happen that trade and manufactures should decay—that the wealthy capitalist, the skilful artizan, should quit their shores, leaving unemployed and starving millions behind—then, indeed, the condition of an English landowner, instead of the most honourable and happy, might be the most wretched in the world. He thanked the House for its indulgence, and said that, for the reasons he had assigned he should vote for the motion of the noble Lord.

Colonel Wood

did not think, that the proposition of the hon. Gentleman who had just sat down promised much hope of a permanent settlement of the question. The hon. Member had said, that he was in favour of a moderate fixed duty, but he had not proceeded much further before he expressed his readiness to unfix that duty. He could not see why hon. Gentlemen opposite, who were favourable to total Repeal, and always strenuously opposed a fixed duty, should wish now to go into committee, unless they expected that this would tend to promote the abolition. Hon. Members opposite, studiously misrepresented the object of the Corn-laws. It was said, that the law of 1815 was passed, in order to keep the price at 80s., whereas, when it reached that price, grain was to come in duty free for three months. The true object of that law was to prevent corn from reaching the price of 80s. He should vote against a fixed duty, because he was satisfied it could not be maintained.

Mr. Aglionby

remarked, that a new intelligence was springing up among the farmers, which showed that they no longer believed the Corn-laws to be beneficial to their interests. In those districts where, a few years ago, the proposal of a fixed duty would have been received with astonishment and dread, the agriculturists were now rising up to petition for an alteration of the Corn-laws. He had petitions to this effect from several parts of Cumberland, and in particular one from the eminently agricultural district of Brompton, signed by a large number of freeholders and occupiers of land. They stated, that they were no longer, as formerly, advocates for a sliding-scale; that under the sliding-scale the farming interest was becoming daily more and more depressed, and the only hope they had of prosperity was the restoration of prosperity to the manufacturing classes. Connected as he was with the land, and having no other interest than in the welfare of the agriculturists, he would tell the right hon. Baronet it was his firm conviction, that nothing could save that interest but an alteration of the present Corn-law. Some of the petitions entrusted to him were for a moderate fixed duty others for a total repeal, but all prayed for alteration. Under the influence of the present laws, the yeomanry of Cumberland were fast disappearing, and unless they were altered, he believed the condition of the farmers would become worse from year to year.

Mr. Ewart

had felt himself obliged to postpone the motion he had placed on the paper, in the belief that the conduct of Ministers, in delaying the settlement of the question, was unjust to the manufacturing, the commercial, and, above all, the agricultural interests; but had not the noble Lord given notice of the present motion, he would certainly have brought it forward. There were three modes of settling this question; first, that of the fixed duty, which was advocated by the noble Lord; this he thought was no longer maintainable. The second was by the gradual expiry of the duty, to decline at. the rate of Is., or some fixed sum every year. This would involve uncertainty and agitation, as long as the reduction was in progress, would be injurious to the agricultural interest, and induce continual speculation in the corn trade. He was driven therefore to the alternative of total repeal, which he considered was now the only satisfactory way of settling the question. If any injustice should be wrought under existing contracts, that ought to become matter of settlement between landlord and tenant, but nothing would permanently settle the question, save the entire abolition of laws framed by injustice, and continued by impolicy.

Mr. Villiers

said, that observing the impatience of the House he would only say a few words, which, as the mover lately, himself of this committee, but with a different object, he desired to do, in order that he might not be misunderstood. He intended to vote for this committee, he felt no difficulty in doing so; it was the preliminary form required for the discussion of all subjects, connected with trade, and it was impossible to decide any measure of that kind, without it, and when, in former years, he had made the same motion, persons voted with him who did not agree with him fully in opinion, which was his case now as regarded the noble Lord. He thought the noble Lord had done the cause service by bringing it forward; the advocates of the repeal of these laws wish nothing better than they should be brought before the public as frequently as possible, and knowing the distaste this House had to the subject, and the offence that they took at its being introduced, it required some courage in Members with less authority of station to submit any motion upon it. The noble Lord had done good also by showing to the country that there was a powerful party including a considerable section of the aristocracy whom he might be said to represent, who were determined that the present law should be considered no settlement of the question. That they, at least, would use their best efforts to change it, and to shake the confidence of the agriculturists in its continuance. While it would also manifest, that those who were identified with a greater change than that proposed by the noble Lord were as determined as ever to leave no stone unturned to procure for the people the removal of every vestige of a law made distinctly against their subsistence. That is the determination of those who are leagued together, for that purpose, and they feel increasing confidence in their cause. And when he thus opposed himself to the plan of the noble Lord, let him not think there was anything unreasonable in it, for he must recollect, that when he proposed what he termed a compromise he was not backed by the power necessary to give it effect. His compromise, which was for the benefit of the landed interest, was not sanctioned by that interest, and they distinctly repudiate the principle on which he offered it. He is in a minority here, and he is not backed by any party that manifests itself out of doors. It is, therefore, an offer of a compromise, without a chance of its being accepted; and, and on this account he hoped, as it was not supported by any principle, and that it fell short of what the people expected, and that it did nothing towards a final settlement of the question, that he would well consider if it would not be more prudent, more just, and more politic to give his adhesion to the only principle, and the only measure which ought to satisfy the people, and would settle the question; and with regard to the principle on which his hon. Friend, the Member for Taunton, had recommended a fixed duty—namely, that of being cautious in dealing with great interests, he begged also to call his attention to the encouragement he got from those whose interests he would protect. Why, they tell him that they do not consider that his plan is calculated to effect that object —that it will be no protection and no settlement—and the hon. Member for Brecon said, again to-night what he had said before, that he would sooner have a total repeal than a fixed duty. He believed the gallant Member represented the agricultural interests faithfully in saying so—for he observed, at all the meetings which had been held in the agricultural districts, that of the three propositions which are made for altering the present law, the fixed duty and total repeal, while there is a great majority, or nearly unanimity for the total repeal, the fixed duty is supported by the smallest minority. These meetings are held in the agricultural districts. [Oh.'] The farmers are invited; if it is meant that they do not attend, it shows that they are not very eager for the support of the law, and that those who depend upon them have no scruple in declaring for the total repeal. But it is admitted by every candid person acquainted with this subject that their opinions have undergone great change, and that they are now in every direction calling out against the Corn-laws. So much for a fixed duty being wanted to allay the fears of the fanners, or being likely to conciliate those who are wedded to this law. But, Sir, a fixed duty is still, what all Corn-laws are, an impediment to the supply of the people with food, and I say, to treat that lightly could only be justified on the supposition that all that is said with regard to the present circumstances of the country is untrue, namely, that the people are not adequately supplied with food—that they are rapidly increasing in number—that they want more employment—and that they are necessarily dependent on foreign lands for food. If all these things were false, they might be haggling there about the nature of the impediment they would place in the way of more food being imported without danger—but he believed that they were all true—that the population has long been pressing on the means of subsistence, that it was continuing to do so every hour, and that a greater wrong, or greater injustice, could not be perpetrated than to throw any difficulty in the way of an industrious population like theirs, of whom millions were then suffering or destitute from not having the freest access to the means of life. The whole question was in this fact, the people are underfed, their numbers are increasing, and the measure is to let more food in. He said it was not safe to leave the people in this state; their discontent might be referred to other matters, but the inadequate supply of the necessaries of life was at the bottom of it. Yes, even in Ireland, though there were many abuses, like the Protestant Church, to irritate the people, the real grievance was that the people were destitute; it was this that made them so tenacious of occupying land, which was the cause of half the tumult and outrage there; and as long as such masses of the people were in want of food, property would be unsafe and the business of the country uncertain and unsteady; and it was in this state that they were then occupying themselves with the mode in which they would prevent the people being fed. It really was monstrous. He believed that, in the condition of the people, they would be much better occupied in devising a mode of giving a premium to the introduction of more food than of obstructing it; unless, indeed, they thought with the hon. Member for the Tower Hamlets, that the people were so little distressed, that they would reserve the relief for future occasions, to prevent their being too prosperous all at once. The hon. Member's constituents must be in a very different condition from his, who, he well knew, were in a state of the deepest distress and embarrassment from the state of the trade, he believed it was the state of the country at large. He hoped, also, while they were resisting free-trade in food with other countries, it would be remembered that there was no provision made by any other means of meeting the wants of an increasing population, and that in the opinion of the most intelligent agriculturists that, as long as this law lasted, or that the question was unsettled, there was not the most distant hope of those improvements in agriculture being adopted which would alone supply the people adequately with food from this country. Under all these circumstances, he did intreat those who saw that all compromise was hopeless with the party opposite, that they would join heartily in seeking to abolish for ever a law which existed only to enrich one class by the privations of others.

Sir R. Peel

said, I am sure the House will feel that it is equally painful for me on the one hand to permit a question of such great importance as this, and which has been brought forward by the noble Lord, to pass without comment; and, on the other, to enter on the discussion of a subject so perfectly familiar to the House as this, on which every argument hag been used, not once, or twice only, but innumerable times, and with respect to which not a single new fact or principle has been announced during the present debate. I shall follow the example set by the noble Lord as far as regards the spirit in which his speech was conceived, and the moderation and temperance with which he has discussed this question; and I shall confine myself to the single point, whether it would be for the public advantage to disturb the settlement of the question which was made last year, for the sake of adopting the principle advocated by the noble Lord? I leave the House to judge from the speeches of those who intend to vote with the noble Lord, whether it be probable that such a measure as the noble Lord's will meet with that general assent, even from those who will support him on the question of going into committee, which would alone afford any prospect of a permanent settlement of the question? Every gentleman says, " Settle the Corn-laws, make a permanent settlement of the question; the expectation of further change excites and agitates the country — the people are not satisfied with the present law— let us alter it." Now, for the preliminary motion to go into committee, in order to settle this question, those even who differ toto cælo from the noble Lord will vote, but once grant the committee, and the extent of their differences of opinion will immediately appear. Those who are for total repeal will separate from the noble Lord, and offer the most decided opposition to the proposal which, if he obtains his committee, he will make. What prospect then is there that the motion of the noble Lord would, or could bring about a final settlement of the Corn-law question. Sir, the noble Lord has repeated to-night very fairly the opinion he has often stated before with respect to the Corn-laws. He has admitted, that the proprietors and occupiers of land are subject to peculiar burthens, entitling them to protection. He also admits the force of that opinion which he has quoted from some of the greatest writers on political economy, that when a law, however abstractedly objectionable, has existed for a long time, and great interests have been formed under its protection, nothing can be more unwise or impolitic than by making great and sudden changes to disturb the capital and industry so called into employment. Applying these principles to the present question, the noble Lord proposes that there shall be a moderate fixed duty on the importation of foreign corn. What the amount of that duty is to be, the noble Lord did not distinctly explain; though, really, when we are so immediately on the point of deciding whether or not we should go into committee, I think it is a question whether it would not be an advantage to know the amount of the duty the noble Lord means to propose. But I will not quarrel with the noble Lord on that score. The noble Lord has concealed his intention, well knowing that to state the amount would have caused a sudden explosion amongst his own friends, and that the semblance of unanimity he now sees around him would immediately have disappeared; " Moderate," no doubt his duty would be, but " fixed" it never could be, according to his own showing, because not departing in the least from the principle which he had adopted, he foresees that he cannot maintain permanently a fixed duty, but must make provision for unfixing that fixed duty, and providing some authority by which that fixed duty may be removed. Really the noble Lord was, I think, somewhat unjust to the principle of a graduated duty, when he introduced that story about Regent-street —when he said, " that the sliding-scale, like Regent-street, could bear neither rain nor criticism." Why, that was the comment of some censorious critic on Regent-street; but the noble Lord appears in the character not of a critic, but of the architect, and he himself admits, that his own structure will not bear the rain. The noble Lord says, that if the rain should come, and there should be an unfavourable harvest in consequence of distrusting his own principle of a fixed duty, he would provide some convenient authority to unfix it. The noble Lord takes it for granted, that under a fixed duty there would be such a regular pouring in of foreign corn at convenient periods as to prevent prices ever rising to an undue height; but, foreseeing that there would be a great clamour against the law, if the protection should fail, he provides the means of doing away with it. I say then the noble Lord's application of the fastidious criticism about Regent-street was rather unfair, as applied exclusively to the sliding-scale. The noble Lord was followed by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Taunton, who supports the moderate fixed duty, but on principles totally different from those of the noble Lord. The right hon. Gentleman denies altogether the claims of the land on the score of special burthens, and rests his support of the fixed duty merely on its being unwise suddenly to disturb what has been so long in existence. The next advocate for the proposal of the noble Lord was the hon. Member for Montrose; that hon. Gentleman acquiesced in the proposal of a fixed duty, but announced his intention of proposing in the committee a plan which 1 cannot think would tend much to settle this question. The hon. Gentleman says, " I might be tempted to allow a fixed duty to be immediately applicable, and 1 will give you two years or a certain definite period for the purpose of enabling you to prove, if you can, that there are special burthens on land, and if in that period you cannot prove that those special burthens exist, the fixed duty shall be abolished." Was there ever such a way of settling a great question? A fixed duty is to be immediately applicable, time is to be given to the agricultural interest to produce proof that there are special burthens on agriculture, and if they fail in adducing that proof, then the fixed duty shall cease and determine, and the trade in corn shall be free. [A Cheer.] What! Does any hon. Gentleman cheer that proposal? I really did think, that the hon. Member for Montrose would have stood alone in such a proposition. The interval that would elapse would not, I think, lead to very great confidence in the permanence and security of the fixed duty. The next hon. Member that spoke on the other side of the House was the hon. Baronet, the Member for the Tower Hamlets (Sir W. Clay.) I own I was surprised at some of the positions he advanced. He says, he is unwilling to disturb so great an interest as the landed interest, on account of its close connexion with the subsistence of the people; and he fears that by unlimited free-trade the discouragement of domestic agriculture might make us repent that we had given a sudden check to the employment of capital and labour in land. There was another reason for imposing a fixed duty which I heard with the same surprise from the advocates of total repeal. The hon. Member says— I am so afraid of such an expansion of commerce, and such an extension of manufacturing industry, were we to consent to an immediate repeal of the Corn-laws; that, in order to take security against so great an evil, I must have a small fixed duty. The hon. Gentleman strongly presses upon me and the Government the policy of entering into immediate negotiations with the United States on the subject of the Corn-laws. He says we ought to make concessions with reference to the Corn-laws, as an equivalent for a modification of the tariff. I confess I do not exactly comprehend the proposition of the hon. Baronet. Would he advise us to deal exclusively with the United States, and take the agricultural produce of the United States on terms more favourable than those we should offer to other countries? He says the abrogation of the Corn-laws would be essential to any satis- factory negotiation with the United States, but if we are to abrogate the Corn-laws immediately by legislation, how is it possible to enter into negotiation with the United States, for the reduction of their tariff to be consequent on the alteration of our Corn-laws? If he thinks we ought to deal with the United States, and offer to them special privileges for the introduction of their produce, it is quite clear that he should vote for the continuance of the existing law, and not propose the immediate abrogation of the Corn-laws till we have obtained that reduction, which would give all the advantages to the United States, without any equivalent in return. I cannot understand the principle on which the hon. Baronet would negociate with the United States specially with respect to corn, while he advises us to adopt a course to-night which would offer to the United States every advantage they wished for their trade, without making any concession whatever in return. The two hon. Gentlemen who spoke last—the hon. Members for Dumfries and Wolverhampton—although I believe they intend to vote with the noble Lord on this preliminary step of going into committee, distinctly informed the noble Lord that they would be no parties to any settlement of the Corn-laws on the principles he proposed. The hon. Member for Dumfries says, that if you impose any duty, whether fixed or variable, on foreign corn, it partakes of the nature of a discriminating duty, and is liable to all its exceptions; and, therefore, although he will vote for going into committee now, he will be no party whatever to any modification of the Corn-laws on the principle stated by the noble Lord. The hon. Member for Wolverhapton holds precisely the same opinions; both those hon. Members are totally opposed to alterations of the Corn-laws on the principles proposed by the noble Lord, and they distinctly tell the noble Lord that, so far from considering his principle a settlement of the question, they will proceed in the agitation for total repeal, denying altogether the justice of any imposition of duty, on the subsistence of the people. This is the broad principle for which they contend, that there is no claim on the part of agriculture to protection, that interests, however long protected, are not now entitled to the continuance of that protection, that taxes on food are in themselves radically unjust, and that they will be no party to any settlement of the question on the noble Lord's plan. The hon. Gentleman the Member for Montrose says— That I stated it as my opinion that if you subjected corn to a fixed duty you raised the price of corn, the produce of this country, universally by the precise extent of that fixed duty; that, for instance, if you imposed a duty of 8s. per quarter on foreign corn, I calculated that every quarter of corn produced in this country would be raised in price 8s., and that the measure of the amount of the tax, and the extent of the burthen, would not be the duty levied on foreign corn, but it would be that increase of price which would effect every quarter of domestic corn. Now, I beg to assure the hon. Gentleman I never made use of any such argument. Nothing is more dangerous than arguing in the presence of the hon. Gentleman, because he immediately supposes when I refer to the argument of another, that this is an argument which I myself adopt. I was referring to the positive opinion of the hon. Member for Sheffield (Mr. Ward); it was that hon. Member who maintained the doctrine that by imposing a duty on foreign corn you raised the price of every quarter of domestic corn by the extent of the duty; and I said, if that principle were well-founded, and if the hon. Gentleman were sincere in the belief of it, it would be utterly impossible that he could acquiesce in a fixed duty on corn as a substitute for a graduated duty, because the amount of the tax would, probably, take 5,000,000l/. or 6,000,000l. from the people by raising the price of all the agricultural produce of this country. I did not adopt the argument, I only stated it as the argument of the hon. Member for Sheffield. Well, admitting that it might be desirable that there should be, if possible, a settlement of this question. I ask the House, if it be possible to effect that settlement by acceding to the proposal of the noble Lord and going into committee. The noble Lord says, " Let us have a compromise." The phrase has been objected to; and what say hon. Gentlemen behind him? They say, let there be no compromise of any principle whatever; let each party insist on their extreme opinions —let there be no compromise. I think with the noble Lord, if that course be taken, there is an end to all practical legislation; if every party contends for the maintenance of their extreme opinions, there is no possibility of coming to a settlement upon any question. The very groundwork of practical legislation is mutual concession and compromise—not of principle, but such a compromise as is essential to gain the greatest amount of good, and diminish as far as possible, the evil that may be inseparable from the adoption of any measure. Now, I thought last year a compromise on the general principle had been entered into — that is, the agricultural interest not approving of the extent of that reduction of protection which I proposed, yet in the hope that it would be assented to, and would be maintained until there should be manifest proof that the maintenance of it was inconsistent with the general welfare, gave their assent to the law brought in last year. The agricultural interests were not affected merely by the Corn-laws. Most extensive changes were made in the laws which affect the agricultural interest. Laws, which gave not merely protection as to the introduction of cattle and meat, but which established the prohibitions of foreign cattle were changed. Timber, another description of agricultural produce, was opened to a much greater extent of competition with foreign timber. On many articles of agricultural produce, speaking generally, there was a material reduction of that protection which had formerly subsisted. That arrangement was made last year. You say the present law was condemned before it was passed. The right hon. Gentleman says his objections to the law have not grown up since, they were inherent in the principle of the law—he was prepared to condemn the law before it was passed. But Parliament by a great majority assented to the law; and, I must repeat what I said before, that although you may object to the principle of the law, yet many of the objections you urged against it have not been confirmed by experience, and many of the predictions you uttered have not been verified. Of course there was a great fall of price immediately on the passing of the law. The price fell from an average of 61s. to an average of 52s., arising partly from the operation of the law, but much more from the abundance of the harvest with which unexpectedly we were blessed. Since the law has come fairly into operation, looking at the price of wheat, barley, and oats, I doubt whether at any period, if fixity of price be an advantage, there was ever less variation in the price of all descriptions of grain, taking the last six months, and making the comparison with any former period of the same extent. I think it is impossible to deny that with respect to wheat an equable price has been maintained since the law came into operation, and so of barley and oats. It was said last year that the new law would still interfere with the exchanges. That prediction has not been verified. A great import of foreign corn has taken place, and yet the circulation and monetary condition of the country have not been disturbed. I say, therefore, although you may maintain the objections you urged against the principle of the law last year, it does not appear to me that intervening experience has confirmed the objections you then uttered; and seeing no ground, therefore, to distrust the operation of this measure—believing it to have been not, as I have often said, an arrangement which was determinately and invariably to be adhered to, as you would adhere to great vital constitutional principles, but an arrangement to which you ought to adhere, until convinced by the evidence of facts that it ought to be departed from,—seeing that there is great and admitted inconvenience in disturbing the country by constant alterations of laws of this nature, and not foreseeing the probability that the measure proposed by the noble Lord can lead to a settlement,—believing, also, that a fixed duty cannot be maintained under the adverse circumstances which you may expect to arise, — upon these conjoint considerations I must avow my determination to adhere to the existing law, and to negative the proposal of the noble Lord, that we should go into a committee for the purpose of substituting a moderate fixed duty for the duties on corn which at present exist.

Lord J. Russell

replied. It would only be necessary for him to address a few observations to the House, some of them relating to what had been said of himself personally for the course he had thought fit to pursue. The President of the Board of Trade had thought fit to blame him for introducing this motion, when he knew that it would not be supported by a majority of the House. His experience bad not shown that a minority was on all occasions to remain silent because it was not a majority. Majorities might always be powerful, but they were not always right; and there were few great questions of right and justice which had not had, at one time or other, to make their way against superior numbers. At all events, such a doctrine did not come recommended to him. At different periods and in different forms he had frequently brought forward the question of a reform in the representation, and, although long in a minority, truth and reason had at length prevailed, and the measure had finally been carried. The same remark would apply to the question regarding Roman Catholic disabilities: that had long struggled upward against powerful majorities, but justice had finally triumphed, and the right hon. Baronet had himself been the instrument of its success. Therefore, although he might not be in a condition to propose what could now be practically carried into effect, he had reason to hope that the time would arrive when the principles he had advocated in a minority would be adopted by a majority. Some of those who sat on his side of the House, had stated that a fixed duty would not be satisfactory to the farming interest; but it was clear from what had been said by the hon. Member for Cock-ermouth that not a few of the statesmen of Cumberland were in favour of a total repeal. Others, and among them the manufacturing interest, were for extreme measures, but it did not follow that they would not be satisfied with less. Again, to refer to the progress of reform in Parliament; when he formerly advocated the cause, not a few of its friends were for universal suffrage, and seemed disposed not to be satisfied with anything short of it; but they afterwards took a more temperate and reasonable view of the matter, and the country having been brought to sift and examine the subject, the Reform Bill was passed without any such general and sweeping innovation. The right hon. Baronet had said that the effect of the present Corn-bill had been to produce a moderate price of corn. [Sir R. Peel: I said an equitable price.] He understood the right hon. Baronet to impute the low price of corn to the existing law. [Sir R. Peel: I said distinctly that it was mainly owing to the good harvest.] The usual course was to attribute to the law any consequence that was beneficial. If the price of corn were moderate, then the act was the cause of it; and if the farmers were discontented, then the law had no effect upon the price. If the majority of the House adopted the proposition he had submitted to it he was convinced that a moderate fixed duty would go far, if not all the way, to satisfy the country, and put an end to agitation. One hon. Member had stated to-night that he was for a total repeal, but when the House was in committee, and the alternative was presented to that hon. Member, he had little doubt that for the sake of settling the question he would be content with a fixed duty.

Sir R. Peel

expressed his surprise that he could have been misunderstood by the noble Lord. He had said that the low price of corn was partly owing to the operation of the law, but much more to the bountiful harvest. Those were, he believed, the very words he had employed. During the last six months there had been less variation than, he believed, in any preceding six months for many years.

The House divided—Ayes 145; Noes 244: Majority 99.

List of the AYES.
Aglionby, H. A. Duncan, Visct.
Ainsworth, P. Duncan, G.
Aldam, W. Duncombe, T.
Anson, hon. Col. Dundas, Adm.
Bannerman, A. Easthope, Sir J.
Barclay, D. Ebrington, Visct.
Baring, it. hon. F. T. Ellice, rt. hon. E.
Barnard, E. G. Ellice, E.
Bell, J. Ellis, W.
Berkeley, hon. C. 5 Evans, W.
Berkeley, hon. Capt. Ewart, W.
Berkeley, hon. G. F. Feilden, W.
Bernal, R. Ferguson, Col.
Bernal, Capt. Ferguson, Sir R. A.
Blewitt, R. J. Fitzroy, Lord C.
Bowring, Dr. Fitzwilliam, hn. G. W.
Brocklehurst, J. Fleetwood, Sir P. II.
Brotherton, J. Forster, M.
Browne, hon. W. Gibson, T. M.
Bulkeley, Sir R.B.W. Gill.T.
Busfeild, W. Gisborne, T.
Byng, G. Gore, hon. R.
Cavendish, hon. G. H. Granger, T. C.
Chapman, B. Grey, rt. hon. Sir G.
Childers, J. W. Hall, Sir B.
Christie, W. D. Hallyburton, Lord J.
Clay, Sir W. F. G.
Clements, Visct. Hanmer, Sir J.
Clive, E. B. Hastie, A.
Colborne, hn. W. N. R. Hatton, Capt. V.
Colebrooke, Sir T. E: Hawes, B.
Collett, J. Hay, Sir A. L.
Craig, W. G. Hayter, W. G.
Currie, R. Heathcoat, J.
Dalmeny, Lord Hindley, C.
Denison, W. J. Horsman, E.
Duff, J, Howard, hon. C.W.G.
Howard, P. H. Roche, Sir D.
Howick, Visct. Ross, D. R.
Hume, J. Russell, Lord J.
Hutt, W. Russell, Lord E.
James, W. Scholefield, J.
Jervis, J. Scott, R.
Labouchere, rt. hon. H. Scrope, G. P.
Lambton, H. Seale, Sir J. H.
Langston, J. H. Seymour, Lord
Lascelles, hon. W. S. Smith, B.
Lord Mayor of London Smith, rt. hon. R. V.
Mc Taggart, Sir J. Stansfield, W. R. C.
Marjoribanks, S. Stanton, W. H.
Marsland, H. Staunton, Sir G. T.
Mitcalfe, H. Stewart, P. M.
Mitchell, T. A. Stuart, W. V.
Morris, D. Strutt, E.
Morison, Gen. Tancred, H. W.
Muntz, G. F. Thorneley, T.
Norreys, Sir D. J. Traill, G.
O'Brien, J. Trelawny, J. S.
O'Brien, W. S. Tuite, H. M.
O'Ferrall, R. M. Villiers, hon. C.
Ogle, S. C.H. Vivian, J. H.
Ord, W. Wall, C. B.
Oswald, J. Wawn, J. T.
Paget, Col. Wemyss, Capt.
Palmerston, Visct. Wilde, Sir T.
Parker, J. Williams, W.
Pechell, Capt. Winnington, Sir T. E.
Philips, G. R. Wood, B.
Philipps, Sir R. B. P. Wood, C.
Plumridge, Capt. Wood, G. W.
Ponsonby, hn. C.F.A.C. Wrightson, W. B.
Ponsonby, hon. J. G. Yorke, H. R.
Protheroe, E. TELLERS.
Redington, T. N. Hill, Lord M.
Rice, E. R. Tufnell, H.
List of the NOES.
Ackers, J. Boyd, J.
Acland, Sir T. D. Bradshaw, J.
Acton, Col. Bramston, T. W.
Adare, Visct. Brownrigg, J. S.
Adderley, C. B. Bruce, Lord E.
Alford, Visct. Bruce, C. L. C.
Allix, J. P. Buck, L. W.
Antrobus, E. Buckley, E.
Arbuthnot, hon. H. Buller, Sir J. Y.
Archdall, Capt. M. Bunbury, T.
Arkwright, G. Burrell, Sir C. M.
Astell, W. Burroughes, H. N.
Attwood, M. Campbell, Sir H.
Bailey, J. jun. Cardwell, E.
Baillie, Col. Chapman, A.
Baillie, H. J. Charteris, hon. F.
Baird, W. Chelsea, Visct.
Bankes, G. Chetwode, Sir J.
Barneby, J. Cholmondeley, hn. H.
Baskerville, T. B. M. Christopher, R. A.
Bell, M. Chute, W. L. W.
Bernard, Visct. Clayton, R. R.
Blackburne, J. I. Clive, hon. R. H.
Blackstone, W. S. Codrington, Sir W.
Boldero, H. G. Colvile, C. R.
Borthwick, P. Connolly, Col.
Botfield, B. Corry, rt. hon. H.
Courtenay, Lord Hope, A;
Cresswell, B. Hope, G. W
Cripps, W. Hoskins, K,
Damer, hon. Col. Howard, hon. H.
Darby, G. Hughes, W. B.
Denison, E. B. Hussey, T.
Dick, Q. Ingestre, Visct.
Dickinson, F. H. Irton, S.
Douglas, Sir H. Jermyn, Earl
Douglas, Sir C. E. Jocelyn, Visct.
Douglas, J. D. S. Johnstone, Sir J.
Douro, Marq. of Jolliffe, Sir W. G. H
Dowdeswell, W. Jones, Capt.
Drummond, H. H. Kelburne, Visct.
Duncombe, hon. A. Kelly, F.
Dungannon, Visct. Kemble, H.
Du Pre, C. G. Knatchbull, rt. hn. Sir F:
East, J. B. Knight, H. G.
Eaton, R. J. Knight, F. W.
Egerton, W. T. Knightley, Sir C.
Egerton, Sir P. Lawson, A.
Eliot, Lord Legh, G. C.
Escott, B. Lemon, Sir C.
Estcourt, T. G. B. Leslie, C. P.
Farnham, E. B. Liddell, hon. H. T.
Fellowes, E. Lincoln, Earl of
Ferrand, W. B. Lockhart, W.
Filmer, Sir E. Lygon, hon. Gen.
Flower, Sir J. Mackenzie, T.
Follett, Sir W. W. Mackenzie, W. F.
Forbes, W. Mackinnon. W. A.
Forester, hon. G.C.W. Maclean, D.
Fox, S. L; Mahon, Visct.
Gaskell, J. Milnes Mainwaring, T.
Gladstone, rt. hn. W. E. Manners, Lord C. S.
Glynne, Sir S. R. Manners, Lord J.
Gordon, hon. Capt. Marsham, Visct.
Gore, M. Martin, C. W.
Gore, W. O. Martin, T. B.
Gore, W. R. O. Marton, G.
Graham, rt. hon. Sir J. Masterman, J.
Greenall, P. Maxwell, hon. J. P.
Greene, T. Meynell, Capt.
Gregory, W. H. Mildmay, H. St. J.
Grimston, Visct. Miles, P. W. S.
Grogan, E. Miles, W.
Halford, H. Milnes, R. M.
Hamilton, G. A. Mordaunt, Sir J.
Hamilton, W. J. Morgan, O.
Hamilton, Lord C. Murray, C. R. S.
Hampden, R. Neeld, J.
Harcourt, G. G. Neville, R.
Hardinge, rt. hon. Sir H. Newport, Visct.
Hardy, J. Newry, Visct.
Hayes, Sir E. Nicholl, rt. hon. J.
Heathcote, G. J. Norreys, Lord
Heathcote, Sir W. Northland, Visct.
Heneage, G. H. W. O'Brien, A. S.
Heneage, E. Owen, Sir J.
Henley, J. W. Packe, C. W.
Henniker, Lord Pakington, J. S.
Hepburn, Sir T. B. Palmer, G.
Herbert, hon. S. Patten, J. W.
Hervey, Lord A. Peel, rt. hon. Sir R.
Hinde, J. H. Pennant, hon. Col.
Hodgson, R. Pigot, Sir R.
Holmes, hon. W. A'C. Plumptre, J. P.
Polhill, F, Stewart, J.
Pollock, Sir F. Stuart, H.
Powell, Col. Sturt, H. C.
Praed, W. T. Sutton, hon. H. M.
Pringle, A. Talbot, C. R. M.
Pusey, P. Tennent, J. E.
Rashleigh, W. Thesiger, F.
Rendlesham, Lord Thornhill, G.
Rolleston, Col. Tollemache, hon. F.J.
Rose, rt. hon. Sir G. Tollemache, J.
Round, C. G. Tomline, G.
Round, J. Trench, Sir F. W.
Rushbrooke, Col. Trevor, hon. G. R.
Russell, C. Trollope, Sir J.
Ryder, hon. G. D. Turnor, C.
Sandon, Visct. Tyrell, Sir J. T.
Scarlett, hon. R. C. Verner, Col.
Seymour, Sir H. B. Vernon, G. H.
Shaw, rt. hon. F. Waddington, H. S.
Sheppard, T. Walsh, Sir J. B.
Shirley, E. J. Welby, G. E.
Sibthorp, Col. Wodehouse, E.
Smith, A. Wood, Col.
Smith, rt. hn. T. B. C. Wood, Col. T.
Smyth, Sir H. Wortley, hon. J. S.
Smollett, A. Yorke, hon. E. T.
Sotheron, T. H. S, Young, J.
Spry, Sir S. T. TELLERS.
Stanley, Lord Fremantle, Sir T.
Stanley, E. Clerk, Sir G.
Pairs (Non official.)
Acheson, Lord Eastnor, Visct.
Arundel, Earl Fitzroy, hon. H.
Bowes, J. Houldsworth, T.
Dawson, hon. T. Clive, Lord
Drax, J. S. W. Maunsell, T. P.
Divett, E. Emlyn, Visct.
Dundas, hon. J. C. Kerr, D.
Duke, Sir J. M'Geachy, F. A.
Elphinstone, H. Fuller, A. E.
Etwall, R. Rous, Capt.
Fox, C. R. Kirk, P.
French, F. Alexander, N.
Guest, Sir J. Miles,—
Heron, Sir R. Johnstone, H.
Hobhouse, Sir J. Davies, D. A. S.
Hollond, R. Barrington, Lord
Johnson, A. Lindsey, H.
Listowel, Lord Cartwright, W. R.
Loch, James Wilbraham, hon. B.
Maher, V. Palmer, R.
Mangles, R. D. Gladstone, Capt.
Marshall, W. Sanderson, R.
Martin, J. Bailey, J.
Napier, Sir C. Vivian, J. E.
Pendarves, E. W. Duffield, T.
Philips, M. Planta, J.
Phillpots, J. Godson, R.
Power, J. Scott, hon. F.
Pulsford, R. A'Court, Capt.
Rawdon, Col. Cole, hon. A.
Ramsbottom, J. Baldwin, C. B.
Rutherford, A. Ramsay, W. R.
Stuart, Lord J. Dodd, G.
AYES. Noes.
Standish, C. Repton, G.
Strickland, Sir G. Broadley, H.
Troubridge, Sir T. Forman, T.
Turner, E. Inglis, Sir R. H.
Ward, G. H. Lowther, J.
White, Col. Ashley, hon. H.
Wilshere, W. Broadwood, H.
Wyse, T. Somerset, Lord G,

The House adjourned at half-past twelve.