HC Deb 26 March 1844 vol 73 cc1552-74
Mr. Hutt

rose to move, pursuant to his notice, that— The House resolve itself into a Committee of the whole House on the Corn Laws, for the purpose of considering the following Resolution:—'That it is expedient that Corn imported into the United Kingdom from the British possessions in South Africa, India, and Australasia, be made subject to the same duty which is levied on Corn imported into the United Kingdom from Canada.' The hon. Member said he begged, in the first place, to present three Petitions in favour of his Motion—one from the merchants and shipowners of the City of London connected with the Australian trade, another from the merchants and others engaged in the trade with the Cape of Good Hope, and the last from parties interested in the prosperity of South Australia. He would proceed to lay before the House the subject of a grievance under which he conceived some of the most valuable and distant of the British Colonies were at present labouring. He hoped he should have the good fortune to enlist attention to this important subject. In the course of the last Session, a Bill had been introduced by Her Majesty's Government, and by the Government had been carried through Parliament, by which certain duties were taken off Corn and Flour imported from Canada, on that occasion the subject had been fully discussed, and on the part of the ordinary supporters of Her Majesty's Government, had received a great deal of unmerited censure. The Measure drew down upon the Government a good deal of what appeared to him unmerited censure on the part of their supporters. The opinions of these Gentlemen were somewhat remarkable. They considered that the welfare of the country depended on the importation of foreign grain being regulated by an ascending and descending scale of duties, and on this point the Government entirely agreed with their supporters. But there was another article in their creed in which he was happy to observe that the Government did not agree with them. He meant that we should always govern our colonies in sole subservience to our own advantage. The right hon. Baronet rejected this wild notion of the duties that attach to sovereign power. The right hon. Baronet had not thought it right to state to the people of Canada, when they came forward and pointed out the great advantage they would derive from a free-trade in Corn with this country, "True, all you state is perfectly correct, but it is the first duty of the Imperial Government to maintain a high price for Corn in this country, and the concession you demand is incompatible with that duty." Such was not the language which had been addressed to the people of Canada. On the contrary, the language used by the right hon. Baronet at the head of the Government, by the noble Lord, the Secretary for the Colonies, and by other Members of the Government, had been of a very different character when they severally recommended the Canada Corn Bill to the adoption of Parliament. The right hon. Baronet recommended that Bill by stating it was a measure which would give great encouragement to the agriculture of Canada—that it would augment Canadian commerce; and that, being just and reasonable, in itself, it would necessarily cement the union between the parent country and its Colony. It was on these grounds, following (as he was proud to do when he could with consistency) the right hon. Baronet, that he now came forward to ask for a relaxation of the Corn Laws in regard to the British Colonies in South Africa, India, and Australasia; and to place them on the same footing as Canada. It appeared to him, indeed, that those Colonies to which he referred had a far stronger claim to this indulgence than ever could have been made out for Canada. In the first place, these Colonies were separated from this country by a much wider distance, and were, therefore, more exposed to the vicissitudes of the sliding-scale of duty, they were further separated than Canada from any other Corn-producing country, and in addition to all these considerations, there was this further important fact—that Parliament had already applied the relaxation he contended for to one portion of the British colonial possessions. Why to one portion exclusively? Why should the people of Australasia and of the Cape of Good Hope and of India not have the same benefit dealt out by legislation as Canada. True, they had never risen against the authority of the mother country—but they were members of the same community—the subjects of the same Sovereign, and they were entitled to the same favour and protection. This was not like the case of Nova Scotia and New Brunswick, both of which Colonies had been perhaps properly excepted from the advantages given to Canada. They had been excepted because the Government contended that those two Colonies never produced sufficient Corn for their own subsistence, and consequently, if they could have derived any advantage from being included in the Canada Bill, it would be given to smuggling, and not to legitimate commerce. This, however, was not the case of the Eastern Colonies; on the contrary, he thought he should be able to show, that their circumstances in regard to Corn were precisely the same as those of Canada. The right hon. Baronet (Sir R. Peel) when recommending the Canada Corn Bill to the House, and the other members of the Government who took part in the debate, stated that Canada generally produced a larger quantity of Corn than was necessary for the subsistence of her own population, and was in a position to derive great advantages from the relaxation of the law. The whole case of the Government rested upon this fact. They said Canada was a Corn-producing country, and could afford to export Corn. He thought that it was in his power to establish that all the Colonies which were embraced in his Motion came within the denomination of Corn countries, and could export Corn. Australia was peculiarly adapted for the cultivation of Corn. It was true that the district round Sydney was in some degree an exception; but even in Sydney, Corn had occasionally been produced in sufficient abundance to be used in feeding cattle; and in the southern districts of New South Wales, it had always been a very successful article of cultivation, produced in great abundance and at small cost, and exported to other countries in that part of the world. But the great granary of the southern district was Van Diemen's Land and South Australia. It appeared by Papers which he had moved for, and which were on the Table of the House, that during last year a considerable portion of Corn had been imported into this country from Van Diemen's Land. A large portion of Corn had also been exported from the same place to Mauritius and the Islands in the Eastern Seas. A quantity of Corn, not less than 1,300 quarters, had been imported from Van Diemen's Land into our own ports for the first time last year. The event was a remarkable one in the annals of Australian commerce. If that experiment had failed, many years would have elapsed before it would have been tried again. But it quite succeeded. The wheat so imported had been examined by the corn factors of Mark Lane, and they had pronounced it to be excellent, both as to quality and condition. After deducting the duty which had been paid, a handsome profit had been left to the importers. Considering the state of the money-market, considering the difficulty which the large capitalists had of finding any new branch of commerce with which they could profitably engage, he need not remind the House, that the experiment to which he had referred would be repeated on a large scale. Having examined the wheat which had been imported, he must say, that he never saw Corn equal to it either in appearance or quality. The whole of the wheat imported into our ports last year from Van Diemen's Land paid a duty of 5s. The greater portion of this wheat sold at a price varying from 60s. to 62s. per quarter. Such was the purity of the Australian climate, that the whole of that Corn arrived in this country in a perfect state of preservation. It had not suffered any injury from the heat to which it had been exposed during the voyage, and when imported into the port of London it was found to be as good and perfect as when placed on board the ship in Australia. It appeared by a paper published in the colony, and which he held in his hand, that the expense of bringing a cargo of wheat to this country was as follows:—The cost of wheat in Van Diemen's Land was 38s. per quarter; the duty amounted to 5s., the freight was 10s. per quarter, making in the aggregate, including freight and all charges, 58s. per quarter. There was one fact in connexion with this subject to which he was desirous of calling the particular attention of the right hon. Gentleman the President of the Board of Trade. The alteration which had been made the year before last in the duties payable on all those articles which entered into the construction and victualling of a ship would have the effect of very touch diminishing the amount of freight, and thus remove some of the obstacles which before impeded the importation of Corn from distant countries. He trusted that the day was not very far distant when the condition of the ship-owner and the shipping interest would be very much improved; but freights, though profitable, would never again recover their former standard. He wished to direct the attention of the House to a letter which he had received from a cornfactor of Mark-lane, Mr. C. J. Heath, who pronounced the Australian wheat to be as good as any grown in the counties of Kent or Essex. That Gentleman also stated, that owing to the excellent order in which it was "got up," it was peculiarly suited to long voyages. This was fully confirmed by the experience of the past year, when many ships arrived in this country with wheat from Australia in very good condition. He felt certain that such wheat would find as ready a sale in the British markets as English wheat. He had another testimony to the same purport. Papers had been placed in his hand signed by various parties connected with the Australian colonies: they were signed by many highly respectable merchants of the city of London. They all affirmed that the Australian wheat was well fitted for importation. The only drawback was the high duty levied upon it in this country. If that duty were lowered it would produce a two-fold beneficial effect. It would lead to a large importation of Corn, arid in consequence of the increased demand, greater attention would be paid, and encouragement extended to the agriculture of these colonies. Such was the case he had to lay before the House with relation to Van Diemen's Land. He would then proceed to South Australia. It was an extraordinary circumstance that a colony which was founded only six years and a half back should now hold a conspicuous place among the colonial possessions of this country. Such a happy state of things was to be attributed to the spirit of its inhabitants, and to the wisdom of the principles upon which the colony had been originally established. Let the House recollect that only a few years back this colony was quite a wilderness—peopled by houseless savages. That colony was now the scat of a large British community, carrying on all the operations of productive industry. He was called upon to do his utmost to advance the interest of that colony from special and peculiar circumstances. He was with others among the first to recommend the formation of the South Australian colony. In addition to that he had for many years acted as one of the Commissioners connected with South Australia. All he asked for that colony was, that it should be placed on the same footing as our Canadian possessions. He found, by one of the journals published in that colony, that its agriculture was in a most prosperous state, the corn-fields were in a very promising condition; but it was stated that, unless they had fresh outlets for their agricultural produce, they would be compelled to discourage the growth of corn. All they wanted (the writer went on to say) was a new market. "What market," it was said, "could be so conducive to the interest of the colony as that to be found in their own native land?" "The markets of England invited the importation of corn from South Australia." The people of that colony were anxiously looking forward for that measure of justice which they had a right to expect from the Government of this country. It was said, in letters dated the 7th of May and the 28th of June, 1843, that a large quantity of Corn had been grown, much greater than last year. One letter referred to the great shipments of corn which had taken place; but there was one fact of great importance in relation to the subject, and that was, that large orders for corn had been sent out to South Australia, the execution of which was made contingent upon a reduction in the price of freight and the success of the motion then under the consideration of the House. He would next refer to South Africa, the state of which was not very different from that of Australia. With regard to India, strong as the case of South Australia was, the case of India was still stronger, and called more loudly upon the House for legislative interference. The great grievance of that country was the unceasing drain upon its resources arising from its connexion with Great Britain. The fortunes amassed by all who rule and by all who trade in India were remitted in order to be spent in England. The public tribute drew another three and-a-half millions of sterling money in order to pay debts contracted by our wars. Any nation would stagger under such de- teriorating influences, and it was clear that such injuries as we were inflicting could only be compensated for by good government. Should we then refuse to India the advantages we gave to Canada? It would be said, perhaps, that it would confer little benefit on India to give facilities for the admission of its corn. Those who were best acquainted with the country, however, were of a different opinion. There was scarcely a mail which came from India that did not bring some expression of opinion, through the public press or otherwise, upon a point which was considered of such consequence to the commerce of the country. It was represented that corn could be shipped to England from Bengal at a freight of from 15s. to 16s. per quarter. It was declared, too, that India had the capacity of supplying any demand that might be made upon her. A large extent of fertile territory might without difficulty be speedily adapted to the purposes of agriculture. So impressed were the members of the Agricultural Society of Bengal with these points that they appointed a Committee to negociate upon the subject with the Government at home. Nor was it wheat alone that could be exported. Flour might be, and had been, imported in considerable quantities. He had received a communication from Messrs. Rawson, Norton, and Co., merchants in this city, in which they told him that they imported from India from 2,000 to 3,000 tons of flour annually, and that a house in Liverpool was also largely engaged in the same trade. They added their firm conviction that from the preference lately given to Canada this trade would come to an end, and he had indeed seen a letter which Messrs. Rawson and Co. had written to their Bengal correspondent warning him that it was indiscreet to make large consignments of Indian flour, as the flour trade with India must, after the Act of last year, be considered at an end. These were facts, and having slated them he now came to the conclusion of his address. When they looked at the state of the country—at the misery and crime which were accumulating around them—they could not fail to arrive at the conclusion that this was not a time to repress commercial industry. Only a night or two ago they were told that such was the state of society at present, and so deranged was its general economy, that they were not only justified, but that it was essentially necessary to interfere with the free market of labour. Would they in such a state of things, so interfere with the operations of commerce as to prejudice that most important of their colonial possessions? There could be no doubt that the addition of a corn trade would be to our colonies a considerable advantage. Did they think those colonies of such little consequence that they could refuse them such advantage? If not, how, he should like to know, were his arguments to be met? Would they contend that, because only a small quantity would be exported, therefore no encouragement at all was to be given? Why, if only a small quantity was exported now, a larger might be exported when the benefits of the trade were duly appreciated. If the quantity likely to be exported had been large, too, there were not wanting those in that House who would instantly have declared their opposition to the motion on the ground that it would interfere with the consumption of home produce. Let them not, then, imitate the charlatan of Molierc, and say both "yes" and "no" to the same proposition. For his own part he considered it as an advantage that the importation was likely to be small at first. "Oh! but," somebody else would say, "you will disturb the Corn Laws." Why, had they not disturbed the Corn Laws already? It was, surely, not his fault that, in their anxiety to pacify Canada, they had overlooked the interests of the rest of their Colonial Empire. He was doing his duty in calling on the House to overlook those interests no longer, but to take a step which must inevitably serve them whilst it did no injury to others. There was, he knew, another section whose opposition he would have to meet—he meant that class of rich and comfortable persons who were worried by every anticipation of a change in the corn law. But, were they to be guided by the morbid apprehensions of a few vapouring individuals, when every consideration of justice, of equity, of policy, and of consistency called upon them to take a particular course? They must remember that it was possible by arbitrary and vexatious laws to alienate the British Colonies and to lose them—to convert them into quarrelsome and imperious States, delighting in thwarting the mother Government and barricading their shores against her commerce. On the other hand they possessed, if they pleased to employ it, the power of cementing the natural union of a common origin by a bond of reciprocal good will. Of this alternative they would do well to take advantage. "Deal with your Colonies," said the hon. member, "on the principle of a generous and liberal policy, and depend upon it nothing will estrange them from Great Britain; but make them the victims of your commercial monopolies, treat them with neglect, treat them with contumely, and they will one day throw your alliance to the winds, neither your laws nor your arms will maintain them."

Mr. Mangles

rose to second the motion, confining himself to that part of the question which related to the commerce of India. The claims of India were second to those of no colony of the British Empire, and there was no reason why she should not receive the benefit of all the concessions which were made to Canada. On no ground whatever ought we to deny every facility to the export of her produce, but yet the Government refused to accept her wheat and flour, which was a part of that produce. As this country had ruined the manufactures of India, they were bound at any rate to take her raw produce. She was now beginning to show how much she could consume of our manufactures. In the three years ending in 1838, the average of exports from this country to India was 3,800,017l. In 1839 the exports amounted to upwards of 5,000,000l. sterling; in 1840, the year of the latest returns, 6,000,000l. Then it must be remembered, India not only paid all the expenses of its own Government and the army maintained there, but remitted, without any return, about 4,000,000l. sterling. None but a country so fertile and rich by nature as India could have borne such a drain without any return. He did not say that the price she paid for her connection with this country was too high; on the contrary, he believed that connection was cheaply purchased, even at that price; but in common justice we were bound to afford her every facility for paying that price.

Mr. Gladstone

Although, Sir, I cannot agree to the proposition of the hon. Gentleman, I feel great satisfaction in commencing what I am about to say by acknowledging the temperate and fair manner in which the hon. Gentleman generally argues, and declaring that I fully concur in the principles he has laid down in advocacy of the policy of encouraging in every manner the trade between this country and India; and I have some gra- tification in thinking that the duties which he seeks to reduce are not so great as to prevent those experiments in the corn trade to which he refers. The argument from the difference between 5s. and the 1s. duty which the hon. Gentleman spoke of, only applies to particular states of the corn market in this country; but, at any rate, it cannot be stated that this duty of 5s. prevents experiments in the corn trade. The hon. Gentleman has undertaken to show that the situation of all the colonies whose cause he advocates is analogous to that of Canada; but, so far as regards the argumentum ad hominem, the appeal to the Government to follow out the principles we have adopted in the Measure of last Session with regard to Canada, I think it must be allowed that the hon. Gentleman has wholly failed. The proceedings of the House of last year will be found by those who will take the trouble to refer to them to contain repeated statements of the intentions of the Government with respect to the subject. It was urged again and again on the Government, that if they passed the Measure then before the House, they would do that which would be unwise and impolitic, in disturbing the law respecting Canadian Corn. We were repeatedly told this by some hon. Gentlemen who were advocates of the contrary line of policy, and the answer to that uniformly was not the announcement of the principle that wherever you can improve the existing law, you ought to come to Parliament to do it,—that was not the answer that was made; but the answer was made by a reference to pledges given some time before, and by recalling to the recollection of the House that the Canada Corn Bill was to be considered as properly a part of the Corn Bill of 1842. I think, therefore, it cannot reasonably be expected by the hon. Gentleman that he will succeed in fixing on the conduct of Government the imputation of inconsistency if they refuse to agree to his Motion. Having said thus much, I think I need not refer at any length to the repeated declaration of my noble Friend the Secretary for the Colonies in answer to repeated questions put to the Government, as to whether they intended to follow out the principle of that Measure to the other Colonies, in which he did not scruple to indicate (without binding up the Government in all circumstances which might occur) that the question was one which ought not to be lightly raised, and which the Government could not consent to raise again for the sake of the advantages which might be derived by New Brunswick and Nova Scotia, and the other colonies then alluded to. Then, Sir, are these colonies whose interests the hon. Gentleman advocates in the same position as Canada? I apprehend not; I apprehend none of them have petitioned through the medium of the same authority as Canada did. Canada petitioned by her public organ for many Sessions, indicating public opinion in that country so strongly that the House must, I think, agree with me that the petitions now on the Table, to which the hon. Gentleman referred, though proceeding from very respectable individuals—individuals probably many of them engaged in the Corn trade of the Colonies—are not entitled to be considered as saying so authoritatively what is the opinion of the people of those Colonies. The hon. Gentleman wishes to place the Colonies mentioned in his Motion on the same footing, in respect to the export of Corn, as Canada; but though he speaks of the same footing, he has omitted to propose the imposition of the duty on the importation of foreign Corn which obtains in Canada. The hon. Gentleman proposes a resolution—"that it is expedient that Corn imported into the United Kingdom from the British possessions in South Africa, India, and Australia, be made subject to the same duty which is levied on Corn imported into the United Kingdtan from Canada." But the hon. Gentleman wilt recollect that he founds his Motion mainly on the ground of fairness and equal dealing with the Colonies; the arrangement, however, with Canada was, that a duty should he imposed on the importation of foreign Corn into Canada, and that arrangement was an essential part of the Measure of last Session. Therefore, the hon. Gentleman would not put the Colonies to which his Motion refers on the same footing with Canada, if his Resolution were carried, because he does not impose a duty on all such Corn as shall be imported into those Colonies. The hon. Gentleman asks where is such Corn to come from? I will endeavour to tell him. The hon. Gentleman says that these are exporting Colonies. I apprehend scarcely one of them can be called so. One year they are exporting Colonies, the other they are im- porting. New South Wales may export occasionally, but manifestly it is an importing, not an exporting Colony. The Cape of Good Hope is becoming every year more and more an importing, and less and less an exporting Colony. But, as the hon. Gentleman, in asking that these Colonies should have the right to send their Corn here at a 1s. duty excludes the duty on the importation of foreign Corn, which we have imposed in the case of Canada, therefore I say that, before he can place his proposition on the same grounds as we legislated on with respect to Canada, he must impose in those Colonies the import duty on foreign corn now established in Canada. It is to be considered, that at the time of passing the measure with respect to Canada, there were expectations in Canada of establishing a regular trade in corn or flour from that country to this. Sir, there are other reasons which I may give against the Motion of the hon. Gentleman. A very considerable shock to trade was apprehended in Canada from the alterations made in 1842, and although the Government here did not participate in that apprehension, yet it was felt in Canada, and I consider that the panic which prevailed in Canada—I am not one of those who regard commercial panics as matters of light importance—did furnish no unimportant reason for passing the measure. I repeat that the hon. Gentleman has no reason to say that these Colonies are exporting Colonies. It is true, that in Van Diemen's Land, as the hon. Gentleman shows, it may answer very well at particular periods to send Corn here, but that, I apprehend, must be a rare occurrence; indeed, I think it is perfectly obvious from the circumstances of the Colonies in that quarter, that hon. Gentlemen have no right to calculate upon any supply of corn worth talking of being obtained from that quarter. The hon. Gentleman is as well aware, I dare say he is better aware than myself, that a very considerable importation of Corn takes place into those Colonies from South America; for it is worth while to carry Corn from very considerable distances into those Colonies. Then the circumstances of these Colonies differ materially in different years, but upon the whole, the range of prices shows that they are importing Colonies. Taking a series of years, from 1830 to 1842, we find that in some years the price of Corn in these Colonies is enormous; and in Van Diemen's Land which is more likely than New South Wales to export Corn to this country, in 1839 the price of Corn was 15s. a bushel; in 1840 the price was from 8s. to 12s. a bushel, or from 64s. to 96s. a quarter; in 1841 it ranged from 48s. to 80s. a quarter. These were the prices in those years in the Colony of Australia, which is most favourably situated for sending corn to this country. The hon. Gentleman has not paid attention to the returns on the Table of the House, or he would have been aware of this. We have on the Table a return showing the total number of quarters of Corn imported from all countries into this country, from 1828 to 1841; and also the number of quarters exported to all countries during the same period. If the hon. Gentleman will examine that return, he will find in the first place, that England sent to the Australian Colonies a much larger quantity of Corn and Flour than was received by this country from those Colonies; and in the second place, that while those Colonies sent, during the first seven years of that period, though not a large, yet a noticeable quantity of Corn and Flour to this country, yet during the second seven years of that term they sent nothing that could be named. During the first seven years, ending in 1836, the Australian Colonies exported 2,589 quarters of wheat to this country; and during the second seven years, they exported only 19 quarters. Now, during the first seven years, this country sent to those colonies 7,615 quarters of wheat, and of wheat in the form of flour; and during the second period it sent 19,000 quarters of wheat, and of wheat in the form of flour, annually. So that while, during the last seven years, the Colonies were sending nothing to this country, they were receiving from this country upwards of 20,000 quarters of wheat and flour annually. The hon. Gentleman spoke of the levity with which a portion of his remarks was received, as he said, by Members of the Government; perhaps he mistook incredulity for levity; but at any rate he now seems to exhibit incredulity at the statement I have made. I refer him, however, to the returns on the Table. Sir, among other objections, it appeals to me, that there is a valid one to the form of the Motion of the hon. Gentleman. The argument of the hon. Gentleman is, that having dealt in a certain manner with a particular product of a particular Colony, we ought to go on and do the same thing, so as to make the system uniform in all our Colonies. Now, it appears to me, that the hon. Gentleman would make more anomalies than he would remove. If he wishes to have the system uniform, why does he not begin and apply to Canada itself the remission of the duties imposed by the Corn-Law on exports of Canadian corn other than wheat? Perhaps he considers that to be insignificant. I am prepared to show that the whole subject matter of his Motion is insignificant. But what is the case with respect to Canada? Canada, on an average of the years 1841, 1842, and 1843, exported of corn other than wheat, 20,009 quarters; and the hon. Gentleman, who rests his case on the analogy to other colonies, has altogether overlooked these exports of Canadian corn other than wheat. Then, there are other points which must be taken into consideration. The circumstances in which these Colonies have an interest in sending Corn to England are of rare occurrence. Van Diemen's Land is an exporting colony, but to nearer countries than Great Britain, viz., to all the other Colonies of Australia with which they have a commerce; they export also to the East Indies; they export to the Mauritius; and I think it is extremely difficult to argue that, with other markets wanting Corn, and the Mauritius so near them, we can establish any trade in corn from Van Diemen's Land to this country. The hon. Gentleman has mentioned the Colony of the Cape of Good Hope. Now, the circumstances of the Cape are analogous to those of the Australian Colonies; it is not an exporting country. It is true that we have had a small quantity of wheat and flour sent here from the Cape of Good Hope at times; and I believe that the wheat of that Colony is as fine as any that is grown on the face of the earth; but I find we send a balance of Corn to the Cape. In the interval between 1828 and 1841, we received from the Cape of Good Hope 11,572 quarters of wheat and flour; but we sent there in that time 27,200 quarters; and if the hon. Gentleman will refer to the returns on the Table, he will find that the exports from the Cape are almost altogether confined to the first seven years, and that in the last seven they have sent here very little indeed. Therefore I meet the hon. Gentleman by saying that these Colonies are not exporting Colonies as far as the market of Great Britain is concerned. They are more importing than exporting Colonies. The hon. Gentleman consequently fails in establishing such a case as would warrant the House in re-opening the question of the Corn Laws, even though the reopening of that question should do no more than arouse the idle vapours and apprehensions of a few busy, fussy, and fidgetty persons, to quote the language of the hon. Gentleman opposite. When I look at the large number of persons connected with the agricultural interest of this country, I cannot subscribe to the description the hon. Gentleman has given of them, and I cannot think that a panic affecting their operations is an evil of slight magnitude, or one the chance of which ought to be incurred, except for strong and material interests. The hon. Gentleman has referred to the case of India, and I agree with him in thinking that it is desirable that the Legislature of this country should deal on the most liberal and favourable terms with the commerce of India. The hon. seconder of the present Motion has, indeed, justly observed that substantial indications of such a disposition have been given by my right hon. Friend at the head of the Government. I admit that the importations of wheat and flour from India—though they be very small—yet are of greater magnitude than those importations from Van Diemen's Land, which it almost requires a microscope to discover; but I think we have no right to say, under present circumstances, that we can expect a supply of corn or flour from India, except when prices are high in this country. The length of the transit, the changes of climate to which the corn would be subject, interpose material obstacles to bringing it to this country; in fact, the flour is apt to become sour. When the average price of wheat in this country reaches 58s. a quarter, the wheat and flour of India is admissible at 1s. duty; and I ask the House whether there is any probability of India sending in any quantity grain and flour to this country (taking into view the enormous expense of the transit) on an average of years, except when prices are high with us? The latest information supplied to the House on this subject confirms my views. On referring to a return moved for by the hon. Gentleman opposite, stating the quantity of grain and flour imported in 1841, 1842, and 1843, from each of the British Colonies, including India, I find that in 1841, which was a year of high prices, India sent us in wheat and flour, together 13,000 quarters. In 1842, which was also for the first six months a year of high prices, and would have continued so but for a revolution in the state of the weather, 20,000 quarters of wheat and flour were imported from India; being an annual average for these two years of 17,000 quarters. With regard to 1843, there was at the time every probability of its being a year of moderate prices. The actual prices at the end of 1842 were low, and the prospect for the crop of 1843 was excellent. The stock of foreign corn in the country, too, was large; and what effect had these circumstances on the trade with India? Why, that, whereas India sent to us 17,000 quarters of wheat and flour annually on an average in 1811 and 1842, the quantity India sent us in 1843 was no more than 4,200 quarters. If then it be admitted as a general principle, as I conceive it must, that when laws are passed by Parliament after long deliberation, and in the nature of a settlement of a great interest, upon which the application of great capital and the employment of a large amount of labour depended, such laws should not be disturbed, except for an object of considerable magnitude; I must say that the hon. Gentleman opposite has altogether failed in showing us that the object which he purposes to attain is one of sufficient magnitude. Indeed, I think I have shown the contrary. I therefore submit that there is no adequate reason why the House should accede to the motion of the hon. Gentleman, and I deprecate his tone in treating the apprehension of a panic on a subject of this kind as an idle matter, and as unworthy the consideration of the Government or Parliament. I, on the contrary, contend that panics, whether reasonable or unreasonable, which affect the application of capital and the employment of labour, and which may pervade large classes of the community, are not to be disregarded by Parliament, and the less so, of course, if they are reasonable; but they must and ought to be taken into consideration at a time when the House approached a question like the present, and endeavoured to give a decision on it according to the principle of balancing the advantages proposed to be obtained with the evils likely to be entailed.

Mr. Labouchere

was prepared to place the other colonies on the same footing as Canada. He had resisted the policy of the Government last session with respect to Canada, and he retained his opinions, but still he thought that they ought to deal with equal justice towards the whole of their Colonial Empire; and if other colonies required the same concession as Canada had received they ought not to be refused. The right hon. Gentleman opposite had resisted the present Motion on grounds singularly inconsistent. At one time he said that the practical effect of it would be so insignificant that it would not be worth the while of the House to consider the question; and at another moment he observed that it was attended with danger to the agricultural interest on account of its being calculated to create a panic. He was inclined to think with the right hon. Gentleman, that the nerves of the agricultural interest were not very strong; but he could not, like the right hon. Gentleman, suppose that the agriculturists would anticipate a deluge of colonial corn, if the present Motion should be carried. The great distance of the countries to which the Motion referred from England, of itself constituted a protection to home agriculture; and it was impossible that the importation of corn from those colonies could produce any great effect on the markets of this country. He did not see how the Government having made a concession to Canada could refuse a similar one to our other colonies, should they demand it. He was at a loss to understand what distinction could be drawn in such a matter between Canada and Prince Edward's Island, Van Diemen's Land, Australia, and India. However insignificant the export of grain might now be from those colonies, it was important that principle should be maintained, and on principle there should be equal justice for the different parts of their Colonial Empire. He did not mean to say that the same regulations should be applied to every colony, for the various circumstances under which they were placed ought to be taken into consideration. The only argument used by the right hon. Gentleman the President of the Board of Trade against the Motion was, that it would not do the Colonies any practical good. No possible harm, however, could result from it, if it were made optional for the Colonies to receive or refuse the concession, while, on the other hand, they might be galled by being excepted from the system which had been extended to Canada. Having heard no satisfactory declaration from the Minister, and no assurance that if any of these colonies should apply to be placed on the same footing as Canada, the Government would feel it their duty to consider the question, he should, for the reasons he had given, vote in favour of the Motion. Something had been sail of a panic in connection with the present Motion. He only hoped that this question of panic was not to be set up as a bugbear against all improvement. He agreed with the President of the Board of Trade that the Corn Laws ought not to be altered or modified except on good grounds. It was very foolish to tamper with a great law for the sake of slight or immaterial benefits. But this was not a proposition for altering the Corn Laws, but to give equal advantages (if advantages they be) to all our Colonies.

Lord Stanley

would not detain the House long, for he admitted the subject was exhausted by the speeches which had been delivered. The right hon. Gentleman had commented on the inconsistency of the course pursued by his right hon. Friend the President of the Board of Trade, in first contending that this matter was of slight importance, and then describing it as a measure which might create a panic among the agricultural interest. Now, however unreasonable the hon. Gentleman opposite might think this argument, it was the main one on which he rested his opposition to the proposition. He did not believe that the practical effect of acquiescing in the present Motion would be any serious injury to the agricultural interest, or lead to any large importation of corn from the Colonies; but still he thought it was generally admitted, that if there was one question which it was unwise, above all others, to tamper with, except on a great emergency, it was the question of the laws which regulated the importation of Corn, and exercised so great an influence over the agricultural and other classes. Was it desirable, he asked, to create uncertainty, alarm, and confusion, in the operations of those classes, for this object, comparatively insignificant, but which would be misrepresented as of great importance? The hon. Gentleman opposite said that the Ministers ought to have foreseen that the other Colonies would apply to be placed on the same footing as Canada (though, by-the-by, none had applied). It was not the case, however, that the Ministers had not foreseen this possibility, and in the course of last year, when he introduced the Canada Corn Bill, he distinctly stated that he introduced it as the fulfilment of an arrangement with this country through the Government entered into with the people and Legislature of Canada, mid in reliance on which the Legislature of Canada passed certain enactments: that this was an isolated case, and not applicable to other Colonies; and in answer to a question put by the hon. Member for Sussex he stated that The engagement of the Government was he repeated, with Canada, and Canada only. It had made none with any other colony, and had no intention of disturbing the principle of the Corn Laws by any further extension of the principle applied to Canada, On the same occasion the right hon. Gentleman opposite (Mr. Labouchere) rose and said, He wished to know whether he understood the noble Lord correctly in this,—that it was not the intention of the Government in this session to extend the boon given to Canada to Prince Edward's Island, Nova Scotia, and New Brunswick. His reply was as follows:— I wish it to be distinctly understood that the course the Government has taken is in accordance with the engagements entered into with Canada, and is not intended to justify other colonies in saying, 'We have complied with the same conditions, and we call on you to give us similar advantages.' It is our desire that we should not be called upon to disturb existing arrangements, on the ground of what we have done with respect to Canada; and it is our opinion that if we should be called upon, such a course would merely tend to disturb an extensive settlement for an unimportant object. Therefore the hon. Gentleman opposite could riot accuse the Government of not having foreseen the possibility of other colonies applying for the concession made to Canada. Was it, then, wise for this object, to disturb an extensive settlement; and was not the Corn Law an extensive settlement, and one which involved extensive interests—interests which were peculiarly sensitive, and with respect to which great uncertainty was productive of con- tinual inconvenience and loss? Was not the object contemplated by the Motion unimportant? Last year he treated, and the House granted as comparatively unimportant, the admission of Corn from Canada at the reduced rate of duty from 5s. to 1s. Now, with reference to the imports of Corn in this country, what was the case? It appeared that in the year 1841, out of 68,858 quarters of wheat imported into that country from all their Colonies, 68,854 were imported from the single colony of Canada; and out of 665,000 cwt. of wheat meal and flour similarly imported, no less than 594,000 cwt. came from the single colony of Canada. The proportion in the last year was not quite so great, but still it showed how largely Canada exceeded all their other colonies. Last year they had imported from Canada 207,000 quarters of Corn out of 225,600 quarters from all their colonies, and they had imported 325,900 cwt. of wheat meal and flour from Canada out of 339,000 cwt. imported from all their colonies put together. Now, deduct the importation from Canada, and he asked them whether, if Canada was in itself unimportant, the other colonies were not so in a far greater degree; and whether it would not he most unwise, and whether the argument was not most conclusive against disturbing the settlement of the Corn Laws, for securing such advantages as the hon. Gentleman had anticipated for the Australian colonies from his proposition? It had been observed by his right hon. Friend (Mr. Gladstone) that Australia was not an exporting country, and that it could not export Corn to this country excepting when Corn was dear here. Consequently, when Corn should rise to 58s. in this country the duty would be only 1s., and then practically the object of the present motion would be obtained; for if many of these colonies could export grain to this country at all it must be when prices were high, for below 58s. they could not. In such a case as he had stated the object of the Motion would be obtained without altering the laws, and without creating any panic. If hon. Gentlemen had proved that prices in this country would permanently rise to such a height that obviously the supply of the country was insufficient for its growing population—if they had proved that they might have from our own Colonies, without reference to other countries, a large and increasing supply to meet that deficiency, which could not be made up at home, he might admit that they had established some case for the motion; but when he considered that the Corn-Law had been adopted by that House only a year or two ago, and when last year he warned the Colonies not to expect a relaxation of that law, he did not think that the House would for a slight, almost an inappreciable, advantage to the Colonies, disturb a general system of laws of infinite importance, infinite delicacy, and watched with the deepest interest by the people of this country.

Mr. Hawes

remarked, that the very weakness of his hon. Friend's case was its strength, because the more it was shown that the importations of grain would he trifling the less ground there was for any alarm on the part of the agriculturists. He was willing to rest the case upon the smallness of the expected importation, which nobody could pretend would create a panic. The noble Lord overlooked the main ground on which the Motion rested, viz., that it was laying the foundation for a great trade. It was indisputable that the shipping interest of the country was much depressed, and if an importation of corn could be established from the Colonies, it was evident that it must be advantageous to the owners of our vessels. It seemed to matter little in what way the question of the Corn-Laws was touched: the moment a word was said regarding them, Ministers took the alarm, and reiterated their determination that no alteration should be made in them. [Cheers.] Those cheers afforded evidence of the determination, if not of Ministers, of their supporters, that the Corn-Laws should not be changed. This might be the resolution of those who sat at the back of the Treasury bench, but the noble Lord did not venture to say that in bad seasons a change should not be made. No Minister would dare to say that; and having set the example as respected Canada, what now was required was, that the same principle and the same justice should be extended to the other colonies.

Mr. Ewart

thought certain hon. Members of peculiar susceptibility on the subject of the Corn-Laws, could not have been insensible to the remarkable expression of the noble Lord, that the system must be changed in a case of emergency. If there were any motion that ought not to alarm farmers and their friends, it was that before the House, which it was admitted on all sides could introduce only a very small quantity of corn into the country. However, the smallest quantity was too much for the agricultural interest: and let the dose be as infinitesimal and as homœopathic as it might, the landed interest refused to swallow it. He contended that mere justice required that this Motion should be carried, and further went on to advocate the claims of India in particular, for which he had long and vainly sought equal justice. His conviction was, that the country had, in fact, out-grown such a Motion as that before the House; it was a step in the right direction, but far too short for the times in which we lived. The real question at this moment was, whether the market of this country ought not to be opened to the grain of the world? Upon this question the people had now farmed a mature judgment, thanks mainly to the agitation of that wise and formidable band of political philosophers, the leading Members of the Corn-law League. The people would only be satisfied with the total repeal of the existing Corn-Laws. He did not expect the landed Members would be inspired with such a sudden fit of generosity as to concede even what was now asked; and perhaps it was better for the general interest that they should reject the Motion, because possibly it might the sooner lead to the entire removal of the present impediments to the free importation of grain from all parts of the globe.

Mr. Hutt

said there were no just grounds for the alarm that had been expressed. It was his opinion that the first duty of a Colonial Minister was to provide for the welfare of the mother country, and the next to look at the interests of the colonies, but by no means to neglect the latter. He felt that he could not overcome the resistance to this Motion; but he entertained no doubt the time would come when Ministers would regard their present policy with bitter and unavailing regret.—House divided: Ayes 47; Noes 117: majority 70.

List of the AYES.
Aldam, W. Bowring, Dr.
Arundel and Surrey, Brotherton, J.
Earl of Busfeild, W.
Bannerman, A. Clay, Sir W.
Barclay, D. Colehrooke, Sir T. E.
Barnard, E. C. Divett, E.
Bernal, R. Ewart, W.
Bernal, Capt. Fielder, J.
Forster, M. Scrope, G. P.
Gibson, T. M. Stanton, W. H.
Gill, T. Staunton, Sir G. T.
Hastie, A. Stock, Mr. Sergt.
Batton, Capt. V. Strickland, Sir G.
Hayter, W. G. Strutt, E.
Bobhouse, rt. hn. Sir J. Thornely, T.
Howick, Visct. Trelawney, J. S.
Labouchere, rt. hn. H. Wall, C. B.
McTaggart, Sir J. Warburton, H.
Mangles, R. D. Ward, H. G.
Marjoribanks, S. Wawn, J. T.
Mitcalfe, H. Wyse, T.
Morison, Gen. Yorke, H. R.
Napier, Sir C.
Plumridge, Capt. TELLERS.
Rice, E. R. Hutt, W.
Russell, rt. hn. Lord J. Hawes, B.
List of the NOES.
A'Court, Capt. Gardner, J. D.
Allix, J. P. Gaskell, J. Milnes
Antrobus, E. Gisborne, T.
Arbuthnot, hon. H. Gladstone, rt. hn. W. E.
Arkwright, G. Gore, M.
Bailey, J. Gore, W. R. O.
Bailey, J., jun. Graham, rt. hn. Sir J.
Baring, hn. W. B. Greenall, P.
Barrington, Visct. Greene, T.
Baskerville, T. B. M. Milford, Sir H.
Bell, M. Harcourt, G. G.
Benett, J. Hardinge, rt. hn. Sir H.
Bentinck, Lord G. Hayes, Sir E.
Beresford, Major Heathcote, G. J.
Berkeley, hon. G. F. Henley, J. W.
Blakemore, R. Herbert, hn. S.
Boldero, H. G. Hervey, Lord A.
Borthwick, P. Hope, hon. C.
Botfield, B. Hope, G. W.
Bramston, T. W. Hussey, T.
Broadley, H. Jermyn, Earl
Bruce, Lord E. Jollifice, Sir W. G. H.
Bruges, W. H. L. Knatchbull, rt. hn. Sir E.
Buck, L. W. Lawson, A.
Buckley, E. Lincoln, Earl of
Burroughes, H. N. Lindsay, H. H.
Chetwode, Sir J. Lygon, hon. Gen.
Clayton, R. R. Mackenzie, T.
Clerk, Sir G. McNeill, D.
Cochrane, A. Manners, Lord J.
Colvile, C. R. Meynell, Capt.
Corry, rt. hn. H. Miles, P. W. S.
Cresswell, B. Neville, R.
Damer, hn. Col. Newdegate, C. N.
Darby, G. Nicholl, rt. hon. J.
Davies, D. A. S. Norreys, Lord
Dickinson, F. H. Northland, Visct.
Douro, Marquess of O'Brien, A. S.
Duffield, T. Packe, C. W.
Egerton, W. T. Palmer, G.
Eliot, Lord Patten, J. W.
Escott, B. Peel, rt. hon. Sir R.
Fellowes, E. Peel, J.
Ferrand, W. B. Plumptre, J. P.
Fitzmaurice, hn. W. Pollock, Sir F.
Flower, Sir J. Pringle, A.
Fuller, A. E. Pusey, P.
Round, C. G. Tollemache, John
Round, J. Tomline, G.
Rushbrooke, Col. Trench, Sir F. W.
Seymour, Sir H. B. Vivian, J. E.
Shaw, rt. hon. F. Waddington, H. S.
Sibthorp, Col. Wellesley, Lord C.
Smith, rt. hn. T. B. C Wodehouse, E.
Smythe, hon. G. Wood, Col.
Spry, Sir S. T. Wood, Col. T.
Stanley, Lord Yorke, hon. E. T.
Stewart, J. TELLERS.
Sutton, hon. H. M. Fremantle, Sir T.
Tennent, J. E. Baring, H.