§ The Order of the Day for the resumption of the adjourned debate, on the Abolition of the Corn-laws was read,
§ Mr. Borthwick
expressed extreme surprise at the very thin attendance of Members on an occasion of so much importance. The present motion had been ushered in by an agitation unconstitutional in its nature and dangerous in its consequences. He protested against the transference of the debates of that House to the boards of Drury-lane theatre. He believed hon. Gentlemen opposite were impressed with the importance of this question; but they would better testify their sense of it by attending to their duties in the House than by taking part in an agitation which engendered a spirit of discontent and disaffection among the inhabitants of the towns, and also arrayed the tenantry against their landlords. The petitions which had been presented for the repeal of the Corn-laws could not be looked upon as the spontaneous and heartfelt expression of the sentiments of the people, but as the products of an agitation which had commenced in that House. A circular, addressed to the fears of the electors, had been forwarded to him from the Anti-Corn-law League which he could not too much condemn, and which, in effect, told the electors that if they refused to take a side on this party question, they could not be included within the limits of possible salvation. In another of the pamphlets issued by the League, which enumerated the authorities who were favourable to an alteration of the Corn-laws, the name of her Majesty was introduced, on the ground of the speech from the throne, delivered in the autumn of 1841. He said that the Anti-Corn-law League were, in thus deluding the people, practising a deceit on them in the name of religion, and in the name of their Queen, for the sake of inducing the people to side with them in a party and political contest. In his opinion, this question ought not to be argued by those who sat 207 on his side of the House as an exclusively agricultural question; nor by those on the other side, exclusively on the ground of its bearings on trade. Neither by his constituents nor himself had he any connection, directly or indirectly, with either of the two great interests of commerce on the one hand and agriculture on the other; and, therefore, if he was presumptuous in addressing the House on the subject, he was at least entirely disinterested. It had been said that the electors who returned a majority in favour of protection to agriculture, had been deceived by the right hon. Gentleman who was now prime minister; but at all events the right hon. Gentleman had not deceived him (Mr. Borthwick) nor his constituents; for, from the speech made by the right hon. Gentleman previous to his accession to office, he saw that one of the first measures proposed would be an alteration of the corn-law, and he warned his constituents to be prepared for such a change. But there could be no doubt, if the right hon. Gentleman did not deceive the country, that the country was deceived. Gentlemen told their constituents that they would maintain the sliding-scale as it then existed; and farmers, having contracted grave and serious obligations on that understanding, had a right to come to the House and say, " We have been deceived, and when a day of reckoning comes, we shall next time take the question into our own hands." This was stated clearly by the hon. Gentleman the Member for Wallingford (Mr. Blackstone), and nothing could more clearly show the impropriety of giving pledges. Hon. Gentlemen ought not to pledge themselves to individual questions, or if they did, they ought to abide by them; fiat justitia, ruat cœlum ought to be the motto of every man who gave a pledge to his constituents. He protested against judging this question in the spirit of party, or dealing with it in the fashion of political jockeyship, which might suit those whose object it was to obtain the gold of office. Party interests might be served by trickery, but the interests of nations were only to be served and promoted by truth. He wished hon. Gentlemen would reflect that they did not sit in that House merely as Members for Tamworth, Yorkshire, London, Stockport, Dublin, or Edinburgh, but as Members for the whole empire; and considering the immense extent of the empire, it might be said that a member of the British Par- 208 liament was a Member for the world. The question ought to be viewed in its bearing on the destinies of the empire, and through them on the destinies of mankind; and not as it was viewed by those Gentlemen,Who rave, recite, and madden through the land, Fire in each eye, and papers in each hand.They had argued this question with great eloquence, ingenuity, and also sincerity, in their attempts to produce conviction in the public mind; and as far as he had observed, they had succeeded in what they attempted to prove, but they had argued the question as a narrow and not of worldwide importance. The hon. Member for Wolverhampton in his speech the other evening, had laid down no proposition which he had not succeeded in proving. The noble Lord the Member for Sunderland, who spoke with great experience, and with all the weight of his high character on the question, had said nothing which he did not prove; and, as far as he had read the debates of the House, and the arguments of the respectable portion of the press, they had proved all the doctrines they maintained. They had proved that the doctrines of free-trade were those of abstract truth and justice; they had proved that we ought to buy in the cheapest market and sell in the dearest; they had proved that from one end of the globe to the other there ought to be no impediment to the mutual exchange between man and man; that the inhabitant of London and the inhabitant of Timbuctoo had a full abstract right to the free exchange of each other's productions, but they had omitted to prove the connecting proposition that because those abstract truths were capable of proof, ergo, the Corn-law ought to be abolished. He hoped some hon. Gentleman would attempt to prove that because these things were true, therefore protection to agriculture ought to be abandoned. His opinion was, that to give up protection would be ruinous to agriculture and destructive of the vital interests of this country. Hon. Gentlemen opposite leant on the abstract principles of free-trade, which they proclaimed as novel discoveries. They were not new —they were as old as truth itself—they were the doctrines of absolute verity; and in that abstract region he was with them the asserter of the doctrines of free-trade. Upon the application of the principles of free-trade professed by hon. Gentlemen— 209 namely, to buy in the cheapest and sell in the dearest markets—he contended that the very dearest market that Englishmen could buy in was the continent of Europe, which must have the effect of displacing the cultivation of the soil. The foundation of all prosperity was the riches of the soil, and it was absolutely necessary to give to the cultivators of the soil the advantage of that protection and that influence which the Gentlemen on the other side seemed to question. In a well known work upon this subject—he knew not whether the hon. Member for Montrose had read it—it was said, that England need now grow a peck of wheat if she were the workshop of the world; but he would say that it was absolutely necessary, if they meant to protect all the interests of the country, and to give stability to its commerce and strength to its prosperity, that they should give a preponderating protection to that agriculture which was the foundation of our greatness, and without which commerce must suffer, should this motion be prematurely and unfairly carried.
§ Mr. Wrightson
said, that an argument in favour of the Corn-law had been, that this country from time immemorial had been accustomed to a Corn-law, and that for the last 25 years the Government and the Ministers had been on the look out for some opportunity of relaxing the stringency of our commercial code. Though he would not deny that for a long time Corn-laws had existed, yet he could not see on what ground it was considered that anything like an improvement in their stringency had taken place during the last 25 years. The Corn-law of 1774 he considered the best Corn-law that ever stood upon our statute book, and the only one that worked in a satisfactory manner. All interests seemed to have flourished under it, and most particularly the agricultural interest. If any Gentleman entertained a doubt upon that point, it was easily removed by recalling to mind what had been said by the right hon. Gentleman the Vice-president of the Board of Trade, who quoted tables showing that from the year 1771 to the year 1791 the agriculturists enjoyed a higher price of corn than that which was enjoyed even at the present moment. Unfortunately, in 1791 there was a body of gentlemen who composed a third party in the House of Commons, to whom it occurred that the im- 210 port prices were not high enough, and who determined to raise the scale of prices from 44s., being the lowest on the scale by the act of 1774, to 50s., and the highest from 48s. to 54s. There was at that time a young nobleman who took an active part in supporting Mr. Pitt, and who had since filled many of the highest offices of the State, and who was still living—he meant the present Lord Harrowby. That nobleman at that day told them that the object of the law was to create artificial prices for the benefit of the landed interest. He wished he could see the son of that noble Lord (the Member for Liverpool, Lord Sandon) come forward now and advocate the same principles as those which his excellent father advocated nearly half a century ago. This was the first change made in the law of 1774. In 1804 the price had risen to 72s. a quarter; but even with that price the Legislature admitted corn at a duty of 8s. 6d. when the price was at 63s.; and when it reached 66s. a quarter, it was admitted without any duty at all. Would hon. Gentlemen opposite give the country such a Corn-law now? No; because the appetite for protection grew with what it fed on. The next change in the law was in the year 1815. The question was then attended with greater difficulties than had existed at any other time. It was considered that corn could not be grown in England at a remunerating price at less than 80s. a quarter; but as soon as the price reached 80s. freedom of trade was given. The real principle, then, upon which all these laws had been founded, was that of ascertaining the price at which corn could be grown in this country, and having secured that, then to admit foreign corn free of duty. If that was the true principle, then he must say that the law of 1815 was the last which was founded on that principle. When the Act of 1822 passed, the country possessed every advantage. There was profound peace, the currency (thanks to the Right hon. Baronet) had been adjusted, and there was also the advantage of the famous petition from the merchants of the city of London, which alone formed an era in the history of this question, and they had also the wise counsel of Mr. Huskisson, which was embodied in the well-known report of 1821. But all these advantages were thrown away, and the Administration proposed a Corn-law which he conceived to be totally novel in princi- 211 ple. What was the law then (in 1822) proposed? It was that a duty of 12s. should be paid upon the average price of 70s. a quarter, and, not content with that, they charged another duty of 5s. for the first three months over and above that. This showed the animus of the Legislature and of the Government at that time. That bill was repealed in 1828. In 1827 Mr. Canning introduced a measure to fix the duty of 16s. 8d. when corn should be at 65s. a quarter. Would not any human being consider that to be high enough? But no; the Bill was rejected in the Lords, and in 1828 the Duke of Wellington proposed a measure asking 6s. a quarter more duty; and a bill was finally passed at a duty of 22s. 8d. when corn should be at 65s. a quarter. Last year the right hon. Baronet now at the head of her Majesty's Government proposed and carried another law, altering the law of 1828. The average price of corn last year was 56s. a quarter, and that price was no doubt a fair basis for the act of last year. The right hon. Baronet, indeed, stated on that occasion, that he wished the prices to be between 54s. and 58s., which in other words was 56s. Fifty-six shillings was the basis of the tithe composition, therefore if that was not a proper price the Legislature had done great injustice. It was the price upon which the greatest part of the rents of the country were calculated. Yet what did the Government of last year do? They put a duty of 16s. upon corn when at 56s. a quarter. Had not the people a right to say that this was a most severe and unwarrantable law I Considering this to be a law intended for the first commercial country in the world, he was authorised in saying that it was based upon an entirely anti-commercial principle. Nothing could exceed the cruelty of such a law, except it was the blindness of those who supported it. It was difficult to understand how such a law could get upon our statute book under a representative Government. He believed the truth to be this (and why should he not state it?) that there had been for years and years a constant struggle kept up between those superior minds that rose to the management of the public affairs of this country, and the less able in intellect and ability but still superior classes with respect to the greatness of wealth and property, and who always must by the strength of that property and the respectability of their cha-, 212 racter, possess great influence in society. This struggle generally ended in the defeat of the former, and the triumph of the latter. He did not ascribe any bad legislation to the individual will of a Minister. He did not believe there was any Minister, let him be taken from either side of the House, who would not do justice to the public upon this subject, if those Gentlemen who constituted that dominant property party would only take off the pressure, and allow that Minister to follow the bent of his own counsels, and of his own impressions. He trusted that no such state of feeling would again exist in this country as was once described to exist when Mr. Canning ruled the destinies of this empire. In the Life of Mr. Canning he found a description of the feeling prevailing at that time in the Legislature. It was stated,—That the great landowners would all work together; they were all determined to adhere to prohibition; no compromise would please them; the Lords were more violent than the Commons, and they were all pledged to each other.He believed, that if the landowners would not make a march in advance, their own tenants would very soon be before them. Would they take a lesson in time, or would they follow the example of the privileged orders in France, and refuse a compliance till they were compelled? He hoped for better things: there was no reason why those excellent and influential Gentlemen who supported the Government or why the Members of the Government themselves, should be deprived and shut out from the benefit of experience; and having placed at the head of their great party a Gentleman who had given most unequivocal proofs that he would not be bound by any pre-conceived opinions when the real interests of the country might require a contrary line of conduct, he certainly looked forward to the time when, this being a country in which Statesmen did not confine themselves to any particular dogmas, but were always open to the effect of reasoning—he and those who agreed with him might hope that, as Lord Grenville had disavowed a delusion under which he had laboured for forty years upon the subject of the sinking fund —so the right hon. Baronet would speedily avow with equal candour, that he had been mistaken and misled by the delusive principle of the sliding-scale.
Mr. R. Palmer—
No one could for a moment suppose that the hon. Gentleman who had just sat down intended to attribute to those who differed from him improper motives as to the course which they might think proper to adopt on this occasion. He could assure him that, though he differed from the hon. Gentleman as to the conclusions to which he had come, he would not support protection to the agriculturists, if he did not think that protection to that interest was essential to the welfare of the country. The hon. Gentleman's speech referred chiefly to the different Corn-laws which had been passed by the Legislature, and the question was, not as to the degree of protection to be given to agriculture, but whether, upon the motion of the hon. Member for Wolverhampton, any protection at all was to be given. He therefore thought that the question at issue came within small compass, without the necessity of entering into the merits or demerits of the Corn-law. Whatever might be the opinion of Mr. Pitt, it was certain that all eminent statesmen since the year 1815 had adopted as a principle that protection to the agriculturists was their right and was necessary. But if hon. Gentlemen opposite quoted Mr. Pitt's authority he would quote that of the late Mr. Huskisson in the year 1814, which said,Let the bread which is eaten be the produce of our home growth. I care not how cheap it is—the cheaper it is the better—it is cheap now. I rejoice at it, because there is a sufficiency of our own corn; but to ensure the continuance of that sufficiency you must ensure to the home-grower a protection from the produce of the foreign grower.Had not Mr. Huskisson admitted the opinion here expressed? He was certain that Mr. Canning admitted that protection to the English agriculturist was necessary; and he was the more certain of this fact, because he recollected the speech of Lord Glenelg in the year 1828 in reference to this point. It was then admitted on all hands that a protection to the home-grower was necessary, and it was then merely a question of degree. He had quoted these opinions because protection was the principle on which these statesmen acted—and a very good rule too. At present the noble Lord the Member for London maintained the propriety of allowing the introduction of foreign corn into our ports at a moderate 214 duty. That noble Lord, in alluding to the agricultural report of 1822, and to the recommendation therein contained for an alteration of the Corn-law of 1815, declared that he was inclined to believe the framer of that report intended to subvert the principle of the law of 1815, and had determined on introducing foreign corn into the market at all times. And again, the noble Lord said, that the principle of admitting foreign corn when prices were low would be extremely difficult to maintain so as to counterbalance the taxes paid by the farmers; that a duty of 40s or 50s. a quarter could hardly be enacted, and if it were enacted it could not be maintained; and the noble Lord added,If foreign corn were admitted, and the farmer was even subject to scarcely any taxation, he would not be able, having to live in a certain state of respectability, to compete with the lords of Poland and Russia, whose vassals and serfs are unacquainted with the wants of civilised life.Now he found no fault with the noble Lord, or with any hon. Gentleman, who after due consideration, if they thought their former opinions were erroneous, should openly avow that fact. It had been contended over and over again that those who represented agriculture, and were interested in the land, had no right to protection. Now the agriculturists had asserted that they felt they had a right to protection. They certainly thought that there were heavy burthens which pressed upon the land—not absolutely or exclusively, but in a greater degree upon the land than upon the manufacturing interests; and this position was established by figures and correct data. It had often been stated that the land had to bear the burthen of poor rates, highway rates, county rates, and church rates; and this assertion was taken up as if the landed interest complained that they bore more than their share of those burthens. It was not so; but he repeated be thought the land bore a much larger portion of these taxes than the other interests. This fact was proved by returns made in the years 1826 and 1827, which showed the amount to be much the same as now under these heads (for he had not looked to more modern returns). The amount paid under these three heads in the two years was 18,954,000l.; and what portion of this was paid by the land? Why mills and factories out of this sum of 18,954,000l. 215 paid 259,565l. Another argument which had been used for the abolition of the Corn-laws by hon. Gentlemen who were connected with the manufacturing districts was, that they had created that distress which he, in common with other hon. Members, sincerely deplored; for foreigners, it was said, would not take our manufactured goods because we did not take their corn. But the returns made to the House of the quantity of exported goods and imports of foreign corn disproved this argument. In 1829, the number of quarters of wheat imported into this country was 1,340,000 quarters; the value of the manufactures exported from this country was about 20,000,000l. In 1833, the imports of wheat amounted to only 82,000 quarters, but the export of manufactures had increased to 27,000,000l.; and in 1835, when there was a still greater decrease in the importation of wheat to 28,000 quarters, the decrease in the export of manufactures was only to 26,897,000l. It therefore, did not follow, because we did not take their corn, that they would not take our goods. No one could fail to sympathize with the distresses described by the hon. Member for Sheffield; but when that hon. Member referred to the flourishing state of our manufactures six years ago, he begged to remind him that the old Corn-law was in force at that period. It was not, therefore, reasonable to attribute manufacturing distress to the operation of the Corn-laws. The hon. Member for Nottingham talked last night of the great want of improvement in agriculture. From his knowledge of that hon. Member he was fully convinced of his ability to master any subject to which he might think proper to devote his attention; but without pretending to oppose his authority as a practical man to that of the hon. Member, he would venture to assert, from his own knowledge and observation, in passing through the country, that a material improvement had taken place in the mode of cultivating land; an improvement which he thought likely to continue if the people could only be induced to lay out their capital, which they would only do on condition of receiving sufficient protection from Parliament to enable them to embark their property with safety in the experiment. But said the hon. Gentleman, the Corn-laws are doomed. Without pretending to the gift of prophecy, he ventured to dispute that prediction, be- 216 cause he would never believe that the Government of this country would ever forget that the support of British agriculture was one of its first duties. The effects of such a course had been too often pointed out to require any repetition from him on the present occasion. One of its first effects would be to diminish the value of land, and if land could not be cultivated with any degree of profit, it must be evident that labour would be thrown out of employment. The evil must ultimately fall on labour, which already felt the effects of depression; for he believed that more persons were out of employment now than at this time twelvemonth and the workhouses were fuller. The reason was, a man preferred reducing his expenditure, by diminishing the number of his labourers, rather than by lowering their wages, already at the lowest point. The hon. Member for Nottingham said he had heard nothing this Session about independence of foreign supply. But he apprehended, that although the danger might be distant, still the time might come when the disadvantages of such a state of thiags might be severely felt. In support of this opinion he begged to refer to a high authority, which was no other than that of the late President of the United States, Mr. Van Buren, who had pronounced an opinion that nothing could compensate a people for a dependence on their own resources, and that abundance on which their happiness so much depended, and which was to be looked for nowhere so much as from the industry of her agriculturists and the bounty of the earth. He was unwilling to detain the House, but he might be allowed to say a few words as to the course which had been adopted by her Majesty's Government, and by those who supported them, during the last Session, as to any alteration in the Corn-laws. In the course of the debate several allusions had been made to this subject; and hon. Gentlemen on that (the Ministerial) side of the House, connected with agricultural districts, had been taunted with having abandoned the interests of their constituents by supporting the Corn-law of last year. One hon. Gentleman had said that the farmers had been deceived by those in whom they had placed the utmost confidence. "With regard to himself-—and he believed he might answer for his hon. Colleague also—he begged to say, that 217 this charge was totally unfounded. So far from pledging himself to his constituents to support the former Corn-law, he had always told them that they might rest satisfied that some alteration in the scale of duties would be proposed, and that at no distant period. He contended that the only course a person of common prudence could take, in order to promote the interests of his constituents, was to support such a measure as that introduced on the subject of the Corn-laws by the right hon. Baronet at the head of the Government. That measure was opposed by one section of the House, because they did not approve the principle of a sliding-scale; and by another party because they wished for the entire abolition of the duty. Therefore, although he thought the right hon. Gentleman had carried his reduction of duty further than was advisable, he believed, that the only chance they had of maintaining such protection, was by accepting, or he would rather say, reluctantly acquiescing in the measure adopted last year. He must be allowed to refer for a few moments to a speech delivered last evening by the hon. Member for Wallingford (Mr. Blackstone). He regretted that the hon. Member was not now in his place; but as the hon. Gentleman had spoken on this subject with some degree of warmth, he might not, perhaps, deem it necessary to be present at the division. He had for a long period had the pleasure of knowing that hon. Gentleman, and entertained for him the greatest respect; but he regretted that the hon. Gentleman had indulged in observations which had been described in an organ supposed to represent the views of hon. Gentlemen opposite, as exhibiting " the recklessness of the Miltonic Satan." The hon. Member for Wallingford had said, that he agreed with the noble Member for Sunderland (Lord Howick) that the farmers were beginning to advocate the system of free-trade in corn,—not that they approved of free-trade, but they were so reckless of all consequences, so utterly in despair as to their future prospects, that they were willing to join in the cry for total repeal, and for free-trade in corn. Now, he must say, that he thought this was a libel upon the common sense of the farmers of England. But the hon. Member for Wallingford also said, that the farmers felt " that they had been deserted by those to whom they had naturally been accustomed 218 to look up whenever any measure was in progress that was calculated to injure their interests—namely, the resident nobility and gentry of the country, from whom they now met, in their hour of destitution not only with no support, but with every kind of hostility." He considered that this assertion of the hon. Member for Wallingford was a libel upon tae nobility and gentry of the country. He would like to be informed in what this hostility consisted, and how it had been exhibited. The hon. Member had stated, that he had presented a requisition to the high sheriff of Berkshire, requesting that a public meeting might be convened to promote the object of protection to agriculture, and that to that petition the signatures of only three magistrates were attached. He thought that instead of this fact showing any hostility to the interests of the farmers, it only proved that the magistrates placed very little confidence in the hon. Gentleman. The hon. Member could not expect that such observations as those to which he had referred, would be allowed to pass unnoticed. They were such observations as he (Mr. Palmer) might not have been surprised to hear from a political opponent, but he could not have anticipated that such remarks would have been made by a political Friend. In conclusion, he would again express his belief that if the Corn-laws were repealed, those evils to which he had alluded would follow; but if that law were doomed—if the hon. Member for Nottingham were a true prophet—it might be his fate to share in the consequences of that calamity, but it should never be said that he had added to that misfortune the disgrace of contributing to the result.
§ Mr. H. Marsland
said, he thought those who were favourable to the repeal of the Corn-laws had no reason for despondency. The mist of ignorance which for a long period had overspread the minds of those who were previously favourable to monopoly had been dispelled by the vast extent of information on this subject which had been disseminated throughout the country, and the principles of free-trade had been recognised by her Majesty's Government, by whom they were formerly repudiated. Every succeeding Session they went still further in their abandonment of their anti-free-trade principles, and that which was formerly a question of principle had now become merely a question of time. He 219 thought the assertion that the landed interest bore a larger proportion of the public burthens than was imposed upon other property, had been refuted by the rejection of the motion of the hon. Member for Sheffield (Mr, Ward). The Chancellor of the Exchequer had held out hopes to the House and to the country that trade was reviving; but he feared that this was not the case, and that these representations were only intended to lull the House into a fatal security. The right hon. Gentleman, the Vice-president of the Board of Trade, had deplored with great feeling the extensive distress which existed in the country; but he found consolation in the consideration, that though the people were not so happy as they might be, they were not so wretched as they were a century ago. They had been told that the consumption of animal food and of other necessaries of life was greater in this country than in any other country of Europe; but while many of the people were enjoying all the luxuries of life numbers were literally famishing. Was the country to be satisfied with an assurance that the number of deaths were less this year than in former years? It was true that numbers who could not find employment at home were leaving our shores for better climes; but it was no less true that numbers had fallen from want of that food which wicked legislation forbade them to procure in re-turn for their labour. Whatever might be said by Gentlemen opposite, he imagined that few of the manufacturing classes would not be better off from cheapening their food, and he was convinced that if Providence had, pot been beneficent as regarded the seasons, the misery of the manufacturing operatives would have been most appalling. If hon. Gentlemen were not able to look beyond the present scene, and anticipate what was likely to happen, yet they might draw inferences from the past, and they would find that the agricultural labourer had always been most prosperous when food was most abundant. It was said that all change was bad and ought to be deprecated; but the agricultural labourer was surely not so satisfied with his present state as that he should dread any change, however sudden it might be. Another class for whom the Corn-laws were said to be maintained were the farmers' class; but certainly if there were any class which derived no advantage from the Corn-laws it was that; 220 for they took their land at a fixed price when the price of everything else was unfixed and fluctuating, not from the nature of the case, but in consequence of unsound legislation. That which the farmer really wanted was to know on what he had to depend; if he were once assured of that he would then bestir himself, and apply the improvements of science to agricultural processes. Their rents were overwhelmingly too high; and that they were so, appeared from the deductions which were continually made at the rent-day with so much applause. This power of exacting high rents arose out of the Corn-laws, and of this truth the farmers, who were slow to learn, and only to be taught by sad experience, were beginning to be aware. But, supposing the Corn-laws were repealed, the landlords would not be so much affected as (hey would be by the destruction of manufactures, which, however, could be no longer carried on to their former extent under the existing system of restriction, for, though it had been said that manufactures had flourished under Corn-laws, it was certain that they would do so no longer. Now, if repeal of the Corn-laws was essential to the welfare of all classes, immediate repeal was no less desirable. In the present state of uncertainty all business was suspended; no leases were entered into, the agricultural labourer was thrown out of employment, and the whole nation was suffering injury, without any correspondent advantage. But, he believed that, in fact, the authors of the present law were already numbering its days; but what the House might be disposed to do with it was a different thing, for he believed that no feelings of humanity, no sense of justice, would compel them to do justice to those who had so long suffered wrong at their hands, and that nothing but a necessity arising from the distress of the agricultural districts or the falling-off of the revenue would prevail with the House to change its system. In former times they had heard much of the necessity of having an united Cabinet. How much more necessary was it that there should be unity and consistency in the individual Members of the Cabinet, and that they should not dread the idol that they had made, as the present Cabinet seemed to do 'for their acts were in opposition to the principles which they so eloquently announced, an instance of which was given the other night by the 221 right hon. Baronet (Sir J. Graham, who, while holding out as he said the olive branch, and breathing peace to all mankind, produced a measure which, although ushered in by all these honeyed words, was unequivocally calculated for nothing but to let forth the waters of strife.
§ Sir Edward Knatchbull
said, that the best claim he could prefer for the indulgence of the House, was to assure them his words should be but few; he rose only to declare his intention to vote in direct opposition to the motion of the hon. Member for Wolverhampton, and to give his unqualified support to the law as it now stood. But, before he addressed himself to the subject of debate, he might be allowed, indeed it would probably be expected of him, to offer an observation on what had fallen from the hon. Member for Wallingford last night respecting himself. Having been so pointedly referred to by the hon. Member, he should not be acting respectfully to the hon. Member if he neglected to reply to him; and the hon. Member must allow him (Sir E. Knatchbull) to express his unfeigned regret, that the hon. Member did not hear the able reply which had been made to him by the hon. Member for Berkshire (Mr. R. Palmer). The hon. Member for Wallingford had certainly used such terms with reference to the hon. Member for Berkshire, as he bad hardly ever heard used in that House by one Member to another, whom he professed to call his friend; but all that had been so fully answered by the hon. Member for Berkshire, that any remarks of his (Sir E. Knatchbull's) would be uncalled for. With respect to himself (Sir Edward Knatchbull) the hon. Member accused him of having deserted the cause he had heretofore supported, and added, that formerly he would not have taken that course. It was a matter of regret to him that the hon. Member had made that observation; he did not deny the hon. Member's influence in that part of the county with which he was connected, and where he took a decided lead; but he hoped that the hon. Member would not mislead those with whom he was now acting. He hoped that they would not be misled, for he appeared to be a convert to principles which he had hitherto opposed. [Mr. Blackstone: "No."] What the hon. Member had done had tended most to further the views of those to whom the hon. Member had been opposed. The 222 hon. Member now said, that he had not changed, and he rejoiced to hear it, though what the hon. Member had said, had given much pleasure to those to whom he had been hitherto opposed. The hon. Member, however, had stated most erroneously, and without any ground or foundation, that he had deserted the cause he had hitherto supported. He was not aware of any great difference, or of any difference at all, between the hon. Member and himself. On the question of principle, he took it, they were altogether agreed. He (Sir E. Knatchbull) was decidedly in favour of protection to the agricultural interest as a general rule, but if the hon. Gentleman thought that, because in a measure to be submitted to Parliament they happened to differ, he (Sir E. Knatchbull) had deserted the cause he had always supported, the hon. Member was wholly mistaken, and he could not but hope that the hon. Member would take no course which would lead to the serious injury of the cause they both wished to support. The noble Lord the Member for Sunderland (Viscount Howick) told the House that, though he was an advocate for a low fixed duty, he would vote for the present motion; but he did not suppose that the hon. Member for Wallingford would pursue the same course, for the purpose of uniting with a body to which ha and the hon. Member were alike opposed. Apologising for thus referring to the matter personal to himself, he would address his observations to the question directly before them. He had already intimated that he approved of the present law, and that he intended to give it his support. It had been said, that this law had been proposed preparatory to the entire abolition of the Corn-laws. He apprehended that this was not the case. When that bill was proposed the Ministers took all the great interests of the country into their consideration, and they submitted to Parliament a measure which they believed would be beneficial to the interests of the whole community. It was not intended as preparatory to a repeal of the Corn-laws, but to place on the surest foundation a law which he believed to be indispensably necessary, not only for the agricultural, but for all the interests of the community. He was told, that in passing it, they were acting from first to last on the principles of free-trade—that he denied. It was 223 said, that the landed interest were all powerful in that House, and that his right hon. Friend (Sir R. Peel) was the advocate of the principles of free-trade, and would carry them out if he were not controlled by the agricultural interest; if this were so, how was it that there was so much dissatisfaction throughout the country as had been described by the hon. Member for Wallingford? If this were so, how was it that his right hon. Friend did not use the power he possessed, and avail himself of this control to satisfy the agriculturists? It was asserted again and again, that this was a landlord's question, and this proposition also he decidedly denied. It was for the interest of the landlords, of the tenants, and of the labourers, that this protection should be given to agriculture; it was for the interest of the tenants. Let him take as an instance the case of the occupier of a farm, at a rent of 100l. a year, and let him assume that this farm returned five rents. It was said, that the object of the Corn-laws was to keep up prices, and that the object of the abolition was to reduce prices. Now in the case he had put, if prices were reduced 50 per cent., the interest of the landlord would be reduced from 100l. to 50l.; but how would stand the case of the tenant? He had to make four rents to the landlord's one, and at the same rate of loss per cent, the tenant's loss would be 200l. out of the 400l. If this were true, what would be the situation of the labourers? When the tenant had lost 50 per cent., it would be utterly out of his power to give such employment to the labourers, and to place them in that state of comfort and ease as the tenant would desire. The hon. and learned Member for Bath had stated that the House had refused all inquiry, that they were told that the people were in a most distressed condition, and yet that the House refused all relief. He was sure the hon. and learned Member would see that this was not a fair way of meeting this question. Let him ask what they had been doing during the last three nights, but enquiring into the necessity for a Corn-law, or whether it could be abolished? The only difference between this and the mode suggested by the hon. Member for Wolverhampton was whether the Speaker should be in the Chair or the House should be presided over by the Chairman of the committees and when the hon. and 224 learned Member for Bath said, in an invidious way, that the House would not go into an inquiry, he must reply that the House was actually discussing the question as fully as if it were in committee. They had been told that the farmers throughout the country were very desirous that the law should be changed, that free trade should be established, and that the Corn-laws should be abolished. He was sure, however, that the assertion would be contradicted by the united voice of the farmers in the county he represented; for their opinion was in favour of the view which he (Sir E. Knatchbull) took. Let him remind the House that the question they had to decide that night was, whether there should be a total repeal of the Corn-laws, and whether there should be any protection whatever given to the agricultural interest. Hon. Gentlemen opposite said that it would be expedient, and wise, and just, and that it would tend to relieve the difficulties under which too many people in this country were now labouring, if this law were abrogated. It appeared to him that if this were done the principle of free trade must be made of general and universal application. But though hon. Members opposite who supported the Anti-Corn-law League might be prepared to support that principle, it was one which, in the present state of the country, no man in his senses would advise the Parliament now to adopt. He was at a loss to understand how it would be possible to apply it. If they applied it to the agricultural interest, he prayed them to take into their consideration the exclusive burthens borne by the land. If he talked of the land-tax as a burthen, he should be told that it was an arrangement between the Crown and the landowners, and that the landowners gained a great deal by the arrangement; but the land-tax, the poor-rates, the highway-rates, and the Church-rates were undoubtedly taxes paid exclusively by the land. But he did not rely upon them alone in a question of this kind. There were other restrictions and liabilities. What did hon. Gentlemen say to the malt tax? What did they say to the duty on spirits? It might be said that these duties were paid by the consumer. Be it so; but they placed the agriculturists under restrictions, and prevented them carrying on the culture of the soil by the most beneficial system. He would be the last person to vote for a re- 225 peal of those taxes, but, so long as they continued, it would be impossible to place this country under a system of free trade. Suppose, however, they succeeded in repealing the Corn-laws, he wanted to know what the consequences would be. He remembered having a conversation two years ago with a gentleman, who told him, " If you do not repeal the Corn-laws you cannot carry on the Government for two years." He asked, if they repealed the Corn-laws what would be their state at the end of those two years? His friend replied, "God only knows; things will then be so bad that I cannot anticipate. any remedy." There were other liabilities to which the land was now subject—liabilities incurred since the law had been passed. There were pecuniary liabilities, charges created by family settlements—liabilities created under a system of protection, and which could not be met, if that protection was removed. [Opposition cheers.] Did hon. Gentlemen mean to say that a sweeping measure of the Corn-laws was to make no provision for those liabilities? Even those who supported a change did not object to a duty on corn. Lord Fitzwilliam had been often quoted as an advocate for a repeal of the Corn-laws; but in writing to the chairman of a meeting held some time since at Birmingham, he said, "You are probably aware that I consider corn as fit a commodity as any other to contribute to the national revenue, and this is consistent with perfect free trade." A duty on corn, therefore, was considered by that noble Lord as consistent with free trade, and yet if any one person supported a change more ardently than another it was Lord Fitzwilliam. They had been told by the hon. and learned Member for Bath that the best course to be pursued was to speak the truth in language which was courteous but not. offensive. This was good advice, but it was not that on which the hon. and learned Member and others acted. The hon. and learned Gentleman said that the repeal was advocated with a view to give relief to those who were suffering, and by that statement the hon. and learned Gentleman obtained a more ready ear than if they had told the whole of their reasons. It was his opinion that the operations of the Anti-Corn-law League were inconsistent as well as adverse to the principles of the Constitution, and he hoped that the good sense of the 226 people would not be led away by their proceedings. He must say, that he thought it would have been well if they had applied their large funds to relieve some of the distress that existed in the country.
§ Lord John Russell
observed, that he had upon many former occasions expressed his opinion that a duty ought to he imposed upon the importation of foreign corn, and yet, he must confess, entertaining that opinion, that he looked with considerable alarm upon the course that was taken in this debate, because he found that those who had. upon a former occasion, most strongly defended the Corn-law, had abandoned their former arguments, and had taken up a new and an unsafe position. He found, that Members who defended the imposition of a duty on foreign corn, and especially those Members who were the Ministers of the Crown, placed their defence upon grounds that were utterly untenable. The right hon. Gentleman who began this discussion on the part of the Government had described the landowners of this country, who hitherto had represented themselves, and were considered by many writers and speakers on this subject, as the great and central body upon whom mainly all other classes depended, and by whom, in a great degree, the welfare of the country was sustained, the right hon. Gentleman had described them as mere sinecurists, to whom a short time to turn themselves should be allowed, and to whom some compensation should be made when the advantages they possessed by law were done away with. And now, another Member of the Cabinet, the right hon. Baronet the Paymaster of the Forces, came forward and told them that one of the reasons for keeping up this law was to keep up prices in order to enable the landed gentry to provide for the obligations which they had entered into by their marriage settlements and by their settlements on the younger branches of their families. He certainly thought that there were different grounds for believing that a duty might be imposed upon corn, as upon other articles of raw produce, or manufacture, introduced into this country; that a fixed duty of a moderate amount might be imposed upon it, as upon other merchandise, that the importer might know what he had to pay, and that the trade in this article might not be unduly embarrassed by the imposition. He considered, that when they had made an amended tariff, imposing light duties on 227 various articles of produce and manufactures, that no difference should be made between foreign corn, and other foreign produce. On that ground, he thought a duty on corn defensible; but if this were to be the manner in which such duties were to be defended—if, on the one hand, all the landed gentlemen of this country were to be represented as no better than sinecurists, and if, on the other, it were said to be the duty of Parliament to provide for the obligations entered into by the marriage settlements of the gentry, then he must say, that really he should be unable—
§ Sir E. Knatchbull
rose, in explanation, and begged to say that all he had intended to affirm was this, that obligations were entered into under the existing law, that these obligations were sometimes in the form of marriage settlements, and that, undoubtedly, if they were now about to deprive those who had entered into such obligations of the means of fulfilling them, then they would do a great injustice, unless they accompanied the act of abolition, with some other measures.
§ Lord John Russell
continued to think, after the explanation of the right hon. Gentleman, that what he had already stated fully agreed with that explanation. It was the opinion of the right hon. Gentleman that after marriage settlements had been made by landowners, an injustice would be done to them, unless Parliament provided by its measures the means of fulfilling their obligations. He thought that what was meant by this was, not that the Corn-law ought to remain, but that if it were removed, then it would be the duty of Parliament to consider what was the amount of compensation to be given to the noblemen and gentlemen who were interested in maintaining the Corn-law. If the hon. Member for Wolverhampton should carry his motion, he supposed they would hear a similar proposition to that made in the great case of compensation to slaveholders, on the passing of the Slave Emancipation Bill, and that the right hon. Member would then state the amount at which he rated the compensation to be given to the landholders. There was, however, another question upon which the right hon. Gentleman had stated his opinion, and that was upon the speech of the hon. Member for Wallingford. Never had he heard advice given in a more impressive manner than by the right hon. Gentleman to the hon. Member for Wallingford. Never 228 had he heard anything more impressive except upon one occasion. It was this: A gentleman, who had unfortunately lost a great deal of money at. the gaming-table, addressed a young man, who showed a propensity to the passion for play; he assured the young man, that it was a vice in which he could not indulge with impunity, that it disquieted the mind, that it caused a total loss of power, that to abandon oneself to it, was for ever to give up all hopes of repose, and in short delivered a sermon, which was far more impressive, coming from such a man, than if it had come from the most virtuous of mankind; and so it was, when the right hon. Gentleman advised the hon. Member for Wallingford " not to mislead those with whom he was acting.'' Now, such advice, coming from him, could not but prove more impressive than coming from any other hon. Member of this House. " The hon. Member for Berkshire says (continued the noble Lord) whatever may be the course he pursues, there must be some change in the Corn-laws; and he told his constituents, that he would not oppose a reasonable modification of those laws. I have no doubt, that when he states this he states his own individual case; but with respect to the Members of the landed interest in this House, they are generally opposed to the proposition of a fixed duty of 8s. which was made in 1841; and I should say the right hon. Gentleman, the Member for Kent, as much so as any other hon. Member. The notion he inculcated was, that a change in the Corn-laws, and especially one which would reduce the price of provisions, would be a most calamitous proceeding. I have lately refreshed my memory by looking into the speech of the right hon. Gentleman; but I will not, upon this occasion, trouble the House with the various calculations into which he went; but upon the question of the sugar duties, and upon some other occasions, he pointed out the mischief that would result to the labourers if the price of corn were reduced, and stated that where they got wages of 6s. a-week, they would get only 4s., and, therefore, it was most desirable to oppose any change in the Corn-laws by which foreign corn would be introduced in large quantities, and the price of corn and bread be thereby considerably reduced; but what is his position at present? He is a supporter and a colleague of the First Lord of the Treasury, who told the 229 House repeatedly in the shape of a prediction, and this year spoke in confidence and triumph of that prediction having been accomplished, that his object was to reduce the cost of living, and to lower the price of provisions, and he rejoiced in that very consequence which the Paymaster of the Forces warned the House against, and on account of which he culled upon the country to oppose the late Ministers because he considered it a great calamity. With regard to a warning against misleading the country, I do not know that the hon. and learned Gentleman, the Member for Wallingford, has done anything to need such warning; but I am sure he will be impressed with the example as well as the words of the right hon. Gentleman. The hon. Gentleman, the Member for Wallingford, has brought testimony to what he states to be a fact, and which, from the various instances I have heard, seems to me to be not peculiar to that part of the country with which he is conversant— namely, that a great many tenant farmers of this country do now, as they did with regard to the tariff, desire not to be kept in a state of continual uncertainty; for if they are not to have any assurance that this law is not to be swept away, it is a question with them whether they can continue in their farms with any hope of profit. That is a very natural consequence of the course which has been pursued by the present Government, of expectations held out to the farmer that protection would be continued in its then state, of the complete disappointment of those expectations by the adoption of a contrary theory, of the uncertainty which still prevails with respect to the present Corn-law, and of the anonymous publication said to be written by a right hon. Gentleman (Mr. Gladstone), who tells the world, that the present law is to be mutable, according to times and circumstances. I think that with all these things going on, it is not wonderful that there should be an inclination on the part of many of the farmers of this country, to give up that protection altogether. Now, with respect to the question itself, which my hon. Friend, the Member for Wolverhampton, has proposed, I must, as I have said, maintain the doctrine I have hitherto held upon this subject. In stating now my opposition to that motion, there is no necessity for me to declare the exact amount of duty which would be a fair compromise between the various interests of the country. My 230 opinion, however, is that a moderate fixed duty should be imposed. I expect that would answer two objects, which it appears to me are perfectly consistent with the general doctrine of freedom of trade. Those who hold the doctrine of freedom of trade, whether as writers and philosophers, or as statesmen and politicians, have always said this:—In the first place, that if you were to make a change with regard to interests that had been long established, you should not rush from one extreme to another; but that you ought to make that change a gradual change. Such was the doctrine held by Mr.' Ricardo, a great theoretical philosopher. Such was the doctrine stated in few words by Lord Grenville, a great practical statesman, who said:—If the measures that had formerly been adopted for the protection of trade and manufactures were right, let them be continued; if wrong, let them be abrogated; not suddenly, but with that caution with which all practices, however erroneous, engrafted into our usages by time, should be changed.He then goes on to state that he is against protection as a general principle. There are other grounds upon which Mr. Ricardo rested a defence of some duties. It is the fashion now to say that there are no peculiar burthens upon the land; Mr. Ricardo maintained the opposite opinion. He said he would not advise, in the case of agricultural protection, an immediate abolition of the duty, and he thought there was a case for some duties, because he considered there were burthens which pressed exclusively upon the land, and he went on to state those burthens. Now, Mr. Ricardo may have been entirely mistaken in that opinion, but he has been followed by Mr. M'Culloch, another authority on this subject; and I do not think we ought, without the fullest inquiry, to condemn the opinions of men of their eminence. For my part, I concur in those opinions. I think I should have been able to maintain them if the committee which was moved for this year to inquire into those burdens had been granted. I think that inquiry would have made out that case. But had it made out the reverse, at all events the truth would have been known, and the facts would have been before the country; and I must say. that I think it is a great disadvantage to maintain the statements of Mr. Ricardo and Mr. M'Culloch, when the House re- 231 fuses any inquiry to show what those burthens on the land are. It shows an apparent weakness on the part of those who maintain the doctrine that there are any burthens on land. But when my hon. Friend, the Member for Wolverhampton, asks me to agree to go into a committee, with a view to the immediate abolition of the Customs' duties upon corn, I reply, that those words appear to me to be totally unnecessary. My hon. Friend has on former occasions proposed to go into committee of the whole House on the Corn-laws, and I have supported him. In 1839 and 1840, I voted with him upon that resolution. Now, when a Minister proposes any change of the Corn-laws, he proposes simply that the Mouse resolve itself into a committee on those duties. That is the Parliamentary mode of proceeding. What has induced my hon. Friend to vary from that usual form of the House, I imagine, is a desire to elicit from the House an opinion whether or no it is in favour of a total and immediate abolition of those duties. Taking the motion in that view, therefore, I should not think it a wise course to give a vote in support of that motion. My noble Friend, the Member for Sunderland says what is perfectly true in Parliamentary proceedings—that he will go into that committee, and that the resolution which he might support might be a resolution for a moderate fixed duty. It is perfectly true that he has the power of doing so. But when the motion is so framed, without any necessity, and put in this form, I should expect, if I gave my vote in its favour, to find the next day that it was generally understood I voted for the abolition of the Corn-laws. Though I certainly could act in the same way as my noble Friend, technically considered, I think it is far more intelligible to give my negative to the proposition of my hon. Friend. If anybody should hereafter move a resolution in the usual form, to go into committee of the whole House. [" Move, move."] Well, I should have no objection to make such a motion myself, if I saw that any public good were likely to arise from it. I certainly feel that the case of the sliding-scale of duties is more indefensible than ever it was before—so indefensible that it seems an unnecessary taking up the time of the House to say anything further to expose its defects. I consider, if nothing else showed that the speech published as an argument upon the subject, made in the House of Lords by Lord Monteagle, is un- 232 answerable, and until something like an answer is given to it, I hold it unnecessary to go into any further argument upon the subject. The general objection to the sliding-scale is this, that it keeps out corn during the time it might be usefully brought into this country; and, on a sudden, brings in corn in a flood when the consumer has less need of it, and the farmer is sure to suffer in consequence." The experience of last year, the noble Lord continued, had still more confirmed this view of the subject. It was not a new subject, as the right hon. the President of the Board of Trade, had endeavoured to argue. But, in fact, the evils of the present law during the past year had been exactly of the very same kind as those of former years under the former law, and were referable to the principle of the sliding-scale. The evils might have been mitigated, but still they were of exactly the same description, and would always remain so while the sliding-scale remained in force. One objection to a fixed duty on corn had been answered the other night by the Vice-President of the Board of Trade. It had been said, that a fixed duty must either be maintained in a time of scarcity, or, if the duty was allowed to fall to a nominal duty at very high prices, then the effect would be the same as under the sliding-scale, and scarcely any corn would be admitted. But the Government having made a small approach to a fixed duty, the Vice-President of the Board of Trade made a statement which went to show that the importer of corn did not wait until corn reached an extravagant price. If this was the case when a small change approaching to a fixed duty was introduced, it was quite clear that under a moderate fixed duty corn would be regularly admitted as it was required, and dealers in it would conduct their operations, not in the spirit of gambling, but would treat it as any other article of regular merchandise. These were his views with respect to the present state of the corn question. He certainly expected, that before long the present Corn-law would be altered; but he should hope that it would be altered in such time, and with such conditions as would enable them to assimilate it to other articles the produce of manufactures, and that such arrangements might be made as would not spread alarm and panic among the great body of the farmers of this country. He trusted, that they would arrange the question in such a manner as that the arrangement 233 might not appear a mere yielding to fear, but a wise settlement, founded on the principles of political economy, and a just regard to the welfare of all classes. But if they went on from year to year, and from debate to debate, allowing all the argument to preponderate on one side, and not attempting, in defence of the law, to rest it on any principle on which it was formerly defended, but supporting it merely with the air of apologizing for its continuance for two or three years longer—if this were the tone adopted, he was afraid that they would very soon have to make the settlement of this question in anger, instead of calmness and wisdom. Wishing to deprecate such a conclusion, he should be ready either to support or to make a motion for reconsidering the question of the Corn-law. He could not, however, vote for the proposition before the House, for he did not think his concurrence in such a motion would be an intelligible course, or consistent with the views he held.
§ Mr. Darby
observed, that the speeches of the two noble Lords, the Members for London and Sunderland, were full of inconsistencies and misrepresentations, and, as an example of this, the former had first proposed an 8s. duty, then an 8s. duty with the power to issue an Order in Council affecting its operation, and then he gave up the Order in Council. The noble Lord, the Member for Sunderland, now said he would vote for this motion, whilst the noble Lord the Member for London said he would not; but did the noble Lord the Member for Sunderland wish that in so voting he should be considered as desirous to vote for the repeal of the Corn-laws—a thing which the noble Lord the Member for London expressed a fear he would have been suspected of had he voted for this motion? The advocates of repeal had never yet been able, and they never would, to answer this case, that if we had a fixed duty we should be admitting corn at a time when we could supply it ourselves, and that, having it, it could not be maintained at a period of high prices. The inconsistencies he had heard on the opposite side were most extraordinary. One hon. Member said " Give us cheap bread," and another " It will make very little difference on that score;" one said it was a landlord's question, and another that it was a manufacturer's question. With reference to what the hon. Member for 234 Wallingford (Mr. Blackstone) had said about 900 signatures to a requisition containing the name of scarcely a single magistrate, and as to the desertion of the farmers by the landlords, he was astonished to hear this, having always heard the landlords accused by the opponents of the Corn-laws as advocates for protection of every kind, and as backing and supporting their tenantry. He contended that the agriculturists had done right in concurring in the Corn Bill of the Government, when he reflected on what was the state of the country at the time—the state to which the late Government had reduced it. The hon. Member for Wallingford could not have formed a Government at that time. But the past year was not a year from which to judge of the present law. They could not satisfactorily judge of the Corn-law at this time. He did not himself believe that the present depression in which the manufacturing interest found itself would be permanent. it was very well to talk of importing corn, so long as they could import it beneficially for the people; but if it was to be imported to an unnecessary extent, which would, no doubt, frequently be the case, they would thus be displacing a great portion of the home agricultural produce, and, consequently, a great part of the labour of the country. If they were to agree to this motion, he was satisfied it would so disarrange labour and capital, and all commercial and agricultural business, that every man who voted for it would have cause to regret the vote he had given in favour of it. A fixed duty could not be maintained, in his opinion, in case of a defective harvest; and considering this to be a true principle, and reflecting on the many other arguments that appeared to him convincing against this motion, he could not give his assent to it. He had never heard any such as sertion on the part of any Member of the Government, that this law was only to be maintained for a short time; all that he had heard was, that the right hon. Baronet would not pledge himself to maintain this or any other law of a mere commercial character at all times and under all circumstances and, certainly, this he would say, that if the Government, when they passed the present Corn-law, contemplated at the time they brought it forward as, professedly, the best which in their judgment they could introduce, any further change, they were guilty of 235 a great breach of faith, and one, would never give his support such a Government for another moment
§ Debate adjourned.
§ The House adjourned at ten minutes after twelve.