HC Deb 10 June 1845 vol 81 cc285-381
Mr. Villiers

said, that in rising to bring under the consideration of the House the Motion of which he had given notice, he was happy to feel that amidst many disadvantages under which he was labouring, that there was one circumstance that he could not but consider as favourable; namely, a sort of general admission of the propriety of this Motion being made. At least, it was acknowledged, he thought, that such was the importance of its object, and such was the necessity of some settlement of the question it involved, that it was considered proper and expedient that the opinion of this House should each year be tested upon it. This had hitherto been unworthily done by himself; and such frequent reference had been made to his resuming the task, that he really believed that many on the opposite side would, for the first time, be disappointed, if he failed in bringing forward his usual Motion. The noble Lord the Member for London had said the other night—and he agreed with him—that there could not be a more favourable moment to legislate on the subject than the present; and he was happy to learn that many Members on the opposite side now agreed with the gallant Member for Brecon (Colonel Wood), that the next time it was thought expedient to alter the Corn Law, it would be far wiser to abolish it altogether. He trusted, then, that be should, at least on this occasion, escape the charge of bringing forward an extravagant measure at an inconvenient time, as had sometimes been said; for it seemed that no party was satisfied with the present law, and most men believed that it neither ought, or could, endure much longer. It was some matter of encouragement too, for him to observe that Her Majesty's Ministers were each year getting more confidence in the principles for which he was contending, and that they now saw that nothing was gained by a timid and partial application of them. The interests as- sailed were not less offended by a partial disturbance of them, while the satisfaction to the public was less than if their measures were complete. He thought he saw in the House too, a preference for measures that settled great questions, rather than small disturbances of them. His Friend the Member for Gateshead had hoped to conciliate the House the other day by a very moderate measure, on the subject of bringing corn from Australia; but he did not see that he was treated with more respect, or that he had more success, than if he had proposed the measure now before the House. He thought that his noble Friend the Member for London had not received much encouragement to reproduce the measure by which he had hoped to reconcile conflicting interests; and he thought that most people would say that he would not only be justified, but would be most wise, if on this account he never moved it again. He observed also, that in other measures, whenever the Government had acted with boldness, they had received the support of the House. Even the Member for Essex had given his approbation to a total and immediate repeal of the duty on cotton; and, though he objected to the same principle being applied to the more important subject of corn, others in the House would support it. He, indeed, hardly knew now, before a Corn Law debate was over, with whom he was differing on principle. Wherever any responsibility was felt for the consequence of this law, or any disinterestedness of opinion existed, there he observed there was either some apology made for its continuance, or unqualified condemnation was given to the law altogether. There had been, in the course of this Session, two or three noble Lords, who had before supported the law, severally avow in their places—one, that he wished it had never existed; the other, that he was sorry it was now necessary; and a third, that he was not afraid of its repeal. Indeed, he really believed that if the leading Members of the Government, and those of the last Government, and the leaders of the League, were to retire into a Committee to consult on the matter, they would find that they differed very little; and if they reported the result of their deliberations to the House, the Report, if not in the language, yet in substance, would be the same as what he asked the House to agree to, namely, that it was a law wholly unsuited to the present circumstances of the country; that it never had had a very laudable object in view; that it had been very injurious to the working classes; that the sooner it was abolished the better. If there was such a thing as the mind of the House, he should say that this was the impression that would be found upon it; but it was well known, unfortunately, that it was the vote, and not the mind of the House, that determined its legislation; and doubtless there would be yet great difficulty in repealing the Corn Laws. It was only last night, indeed, that he had heard that the Society for the Protection of Native Agriculture was yet living; and they knew that the interests and opinions that that society represented, preponderated in both Houses of Parliament: the majority in Parliament were, doubtless, in favour of the object of the Corn Law; and they were yet in doubt, perhaps, as to whether it had failed, and whether it could be yet safely or wisely maintained. With regard to this latter object, it was the purpose of that very useful body, the Anti-Corn Law League, to relieve their minds. What the purpose and object of this law was, he believed, now generally understood. It might be shortly and completely expressed as intending to make and to keep land dear. Such had been the original object, and all subsequent legislation had had this object in view; and it was curious to observe the decided character of the legislation on this subject, from the time that the proprietors of land became dominant in the State. He referred that period to the Revolution in 1688; and in that very year, when William III. accepted the Constitution, and was at the mercy of the proprietors, they began boldly to deal with the subject. In the month of May of that year, a Committee in Parliament was appointed for the simple purpose of inquiring into "the cause of a fall in rents;" and before even the Committee could make their Report, they imposed a tax upon the people to enable them to pay the costs of conveying the produce of their land to other countries, thereby raising the price at home. This they called a bounty upon exports; and this scheme lasted until the latter part of the last century, when, from the increase of the population, and the general discredit of the other tax, the most effectual way of raising the price was supposed to be in a tax imposed upon food coming into the country; and this policy has continued till the present hour—the same object of raising the value of land being always in view. Fortunately, however, though the constitution was the same, men's minds were not politically constituted as they were when the law passed. The people, in relation to their rulers, are numerically and intellectually far stronger than they were; and he did not believe that, when their opinion was strongly and clearly expressed against any grievance, it would long be maintained. This deference to opinion had been shown by the landlords on this subject, for they had spared no pains to influence opinion and delude the minds of the people on the matter; and he was bound to say that they had done so with considerable success. They had addressed themselves particularly to two classes, hoping by their concurrence to maintain the system—one were the tenants of the soil, and the other the working classes generally; and he admitted that they had, to a considerable extent, succeeded with regard to both these classes: they attempted to show that the law was necessary for their interest, and that it had generous and national objects in view. He was not sure that their task had been difficult hitherto, but he thought it would be less easy in future. They had heard this year, from the gallant Member for Sussex, a description of the farmers of the country. He had told them that they were men whose vision was so contracted, that they could hardly see more than one object at a time; that their whole attention was engrossed with the cattle that they reared, or the vegetables that they grew; and that they were apt to measure the world's affairs by the markets they got for those objects. He said he could not submit to learn from them how this country was to be governed. If this was a true picture of such men, it was not wonderful that they should be easily deceived by others, or that they had been deluded into confusing the effect of price with that of profit, and that, when they were assured that they would be secured a high price for their produce, it was the same thing as a high profit upon their capital; or that, having their eye only upon one thing, they should forget that, if there was to be a large profit obtained from the land, there would be many who would desire to have the land, and that the land would fetch a high price in consequence. This they overlooked in their bargains, for the use of the land, and they listened to men who called themselves their friends, and who told them, that if they would send them to Parliament, they would uphold the law that would give them a good price for their produce, and resist the men who told them that if they trusted to such a a law they would be deceived; that they would pay more for the land in proportion to this promise of price, and that if the price failed them they would be ruined. However, they believed their professed friends; and Members are sitting in this House now upon no other pledge than that of keeping up the law that would keep up the price, and thereby secure, as they assured him, a high profit to the farmer on his capital. He was in a position then to-night, to call the attention of the farmers to this circumstance, and to ask them to consider who were their friends and who were their enemies, and how far their supposed enemies had been wrong in advising them not to trust to this law; for that they would only be induced by it to give a high rent for the land, without having any security for a high price for their produce, or a high profit on their outlay? The Member for Somersetshire had said, that, thanks to the League, the farmers saw things much clearer than they did before. He trusted such was the case; for it would assist him in one of the objects he had in view in bringing forward his Motion, namely, to procure for the farmer some explanation from the leaders of the Protection Society of his present condition—how he came, with so many friends, to be in his present plight. He saw the Member for North Northamptonshire in his place. He had charge, he believed, of the library of the Protection Society; he knew, therefore, probably all that was known upon the matter, and perhaps he would be good enough to explain matters a little to them: he hoped he would tell them what the real relation of the farmer was to the landlord, and how it came to pass that it was to the farmer's interest to pay dearly for the raw material out of which he was to get his profit, while the rest of mankind considered it an advantage to pay as little as possible for the things they wanted. Would the hon. Member tell them how it was for the interest of the farmer to pay a high rent for land, and for the hon. Member himself to pay a low interest for money? He could not see the difference himself. If the land to the farmer was the material on which he employed his capital, it would appear at first that his object would be to get it as cheap as possible, as requiring less outlay; money was a thing that any capitalist might also require, and all men, he believed, considered it was fortunate when they paid a low rate for its use. He assured the hon. Gentleman that it was a farmer himself who had particularly requested him to endeavour to get the Gentlemen of the Protection Society to explain this matter to the House, for they knew that the Protection Society only cared for the farmer, and had closely studied his interest. He would only venture to put the hon. Member on his guard in one respect, which was, that he was precluded from alleging two things with respect to the matter—one was, that the farmer's position was occasioned by the late measures of the Government; the other was, that the landlords were suffering as well as the farmers, or were in the same boat with the farmers. The first they could not say, because the farmer's friends in the House had all supported the measures of the Government. But what was more important was, that this condition of the farmer was no novelty; that he had frequently been in the same state; and that under each of three laws passed for his particular protection, as it was called; and, what was curious was, he had been worse off when the land was most protected. He was worse in 1836 than he was in the present year; and, though he was told then it was owing to the Whigs being in power, be remembered that he was still worse in 1822, under the law of 1815 and when the Tories were in power, than at any other time. He begins to think, therefore, that there must be something wrong in the principle of the law itself. But the other thing that the hon. Member must not say was, that the landlords were badly off as well; for he believed that which was called the landed aristocracy were never better off; that they never made more display of their wealth; that they never were spending more money than they were now in London; and he was sure that the Protection Society could not prove that they had put down a dog or a horse, or turned off a groom or a footman, in consequence of the unparalleled distress, as they called it, of agriculture. Now, really it would be a great advantage if the protection leaders would explain the case of the farmer, and tell him and tell the House what was the matter with him, and how it came to pass that he had been so often indisposed in the same way. Lastly, whether it might not be that there was something that the landlord himself could do for him. Judging from the report of different meetings in the country, he could not help thinking that the agricultural interest, as it was called, was not altogether agreed upon this matter. He wished to call the attention of the hon. Member opposite to this subject. He had observed, in his endeavour to understand the case, that there were two kinds of meetings: one called meetings for the "Protection of Agriculture," and headed "Agricultural Distress;" and the others called "Farmers' Meetings," and held at the farmers' clubs, and where their interests were discussed. Now, he observed at these two meetings there were two very different sorts of topics broached. At the first, and where the nobility, gentry, and clergy assembled, he observed plenty of abuse of the Ministry, great complaints of protection withdrawn, threats of withdrawing confidence, and a desire that the Canada Act and the new Corn Law should be repealed, with the view to returning to the old form of restriction. But when he turned to the farmers' meetings, they seemed to be talking of something else that would set them all straight again: they seemed to be sure that they could do very well if rents were adjusted to prices, if they were rendered secure in their tenures, and if other things, like game-preserving and useless timber in their hedges, were to cease; in short, their hearts seemed to be full of something that the landlord could do for them; while the more respectable meetings—as they would be called—talked more of Ministerial treachery, and protection lost, and never alluded to their being any fault at home. I see the Member for Shropshire seems to doubt all this. Then let me give him some proof. I have a little evidence on the point. Here is a report from the Exeter Agricultural Association. The society met "for the purpose of considering the propriety of memorializing the county Members on the present depressed condition of the agricultural interest." The meeting is said to have been attended by a large body of tenant farmers—though the reporter judiciously abstains from mentioning the number—while a few squires and clergymen are specified by name. Sir R. W. Newman (in the chair) began the business by reading the excuses of the county Members for non-attendance. Wm. Porter, Esq., then opened the first fire, which was upon the county Members:— He did think, when they had occasion to ask their Representatives to give their strenuous support to the agricultural interest, it did look a little as if those Representatives had not given that strenuous support which they ought, and which they promised to give. [Cheers.] He recollected, at the last election, that many of them had come forward, and had stated certain measures which they were prepared and anxious to support; but it had been with them as it had been with many other Members, as soon as they had been elected they had ceased to recollect those measures—they had gone with their party, and had remembered only the men." [Cheers.] Mr. Porter, after making several observations to this effect, concluded by moving the following resolution:— That this meeting, viewing with serious alarm the great depreciation in the value of agricultural produce which has taken place within the last few years, respectfully, but firmly, call upon the Members for the county to urge on the Ministers the necessity of supporting the agricultural interest, and by every means in their power to place agriculture in a better position. This gentleman seemed to think that the fate of agriculture entirely depended on the county Members. Then J. Palk, Esq., addressed the meeting, and said— That, in the opinion of this meeting, land has to bear peculiar burdens (particularly the poor, highway, and county rates); and it would be a great relief to agriculture to make them a national charge. To accomplish this truly patriotic scheme, the idea seemed to strike him that The landlords and tenants must act together. Day by day they must strengthen the bonds which united them. ["Hear, hear."] It was folly to say that either could exist without the other; together they must rise, or together fall. It would never do for the tenant to be distrustful; and the tenant must have full confidence in him, if they would hope to force upon the Legislature those measures which were absolutely necessary to the existence of agriculture. This gentleman thought, that if land-owners could be relieved of the liability attaching to their properties, that that would set things straight. Then followed Mr. George Turner, who formed one of the deputation of the Central Protection Society to Sir Robert Peel, and bore testimony to the delusions under which the tenant farmers brought the present Ministry into power; and he ended with this notable bit of logic:— He had been an extensive practical farmer for a great number of years; and he declared to them that he had never paid so much upon his estate as he had done within the last three years, and he had never received so little income. If that was not a clear case for demanding some assistance from the Legislature, he did not know what was. Then came one Mr. Chapple, who said— Every man who was farming land at 20s. an acre at the present price was losing money. ["Hear, hear."] What, then, was to be done? It might be that the Members would say, 'Tell us what to do?' His answer to them would be—'Let them go to Sir Robert Peel, and tell him plainly that they will not support him to ruin us.'" ["Hear, hear."] He wound up with this peremptory resolution:— That the secretary be directed to forward a copy of these resolutions to each of the county Members, with a request that he will use his most strenuous exertion to force on the attention of Her Majesty's Ministers the principles contained in them. Now, at such a meeting, what was a matter was easily told; and if Members would only do their duty and speak properly to the Minister, British agriculture might be saved from ruin. He would now read what passed among farmers when they were really saying what they thought, and when they were amongst real friends. This was a meeting for a dinner given to a real friend in Herefordshire. The chairman, in giving the health of this gentleman, Mr. Powell, said that— This is not a meeting for any class of dependents to pay homage and respect which they do not feel, or to bend the knee to the rich aristocrat or grandee; but to show our worthy guest that his public utility, as well as his private worth, is not only felt but acknowledged by us. Mr. Powell said, in reply— The farmers in general look upon the newly-formed Protection Societies with a cautious eye. You will rarely see the name of a tenant farmer attached to either of their lists; they know their own position too well. The only protection they want is to be put in a position to be able to protect themselves [cheers]—and this they could easily do if farms were let on leases and corn rents. These were new ideas for the British Agricultural Protection Societies, not a whisper of which is ever uttered at the genteel, respectable meetings where more legislative protection is demanded. He would now read what occurred at a mixed sort of meeting, in which a Marquess had been in the chair, but where some farmers were present, and where one had been very bold, and had, after making very free remarks, said— Would the landlords help them in reality? Would they pledge themselves that they will not take advantage of improvements when they are made? Would they guarantee leases? Would they take care that the crops were not devoured by game? If so, then the landlords might come to these societies with sincerity, shake hands with the tenants, and go to help the labourer." [Cheers.] Here, the reporter says, the Lord, who had long been fidgetty, became furious, declared he would leave the chair, tried to stop the farmer's remarks — which seem to have been too much to the point — and called upon the meeting to support the chair. The majority of the meeting, however, seemed more disposed to support the farmer, who said— He bowed to the chair; but he would add, that if landlords were sincere they should give security to their tenants. [A voice: 'No politics,' and great noise.] He was sure that all thinking people must admit that a hopeless despair was not the thing to stimulate exertion. [More noise.] He could not be that hypocrite to support agriculture on any other than sound and just principles." [Cheers.] The noble chairman is said then to have rapidly given one or two complimentary toasts, and then made his escape, when of course all the rest of the landlords likewise departed. Now, he would read an extract again from a farmers' meeting at a place in Derbyshire, where one Mr. Binns discusses the condition of farmers:— Mr. Binns said, I am aware that, in most of the farmers' clubs which have been established in different parts of the country, great anxiety has been evinced by certain parties to exclude the discussion of what they call (and I believe them) 'obnoxious subjects'—such as rents, leases, and game. But somehow or other, in almost every club of whose proceedings I have seen any account, these 'obnoxious subjects' have crept in. The farmers ought to use every effort to improve their condition, considering the diminished price of corn and cattle. If landlords would come forward when tenants were in difficulties, and say, 'We will meet your case by reducing the rent,' their struggles would meet with some alleviation. But such was not the case. Instead of meeting them with sympathy, on a tenant's complaining, the answer, in a majority of cases, was, 'If you do not like to stay on the farm you may leave it; we have plenty waiting for it.' Let the farmers then, in future, depend more upon themselves. He knew there were some landlords who acted upon the principle, 'Live and let live,' but unfortunately they were few, comparatively. Now, from the manner in which these sentiments were received, it is manifest that all these matters were uppermost in the farmers' hearts; and they are worthy of attention as assisting us to learn what the real grievance is amongst agriculturists properly so called. He would now just refer to one more meeting convened especially, it appears, for the purpose of both parties, viz., landlords and tenants meeting on a friendly footing, but which seems to have been a failure, though in the county of Sussex, where such extraordinary unanimity is said to prevail—the hon. Member for Sussex presided; but the reporter says he could only count, including reporters and Mr. Darby, eleven persons; but one farmer among them, however, spoke to this effect:— No one can regret more than myself the absence of the influential men. Whether the landlords are ashamed to meet the tenants as a humble body, or whether they are afraid of hearing something that would not be palatable, I cannot say; but I can guess which works in their breast the most. The cause of their absence is, I suppose, that they consider the treatment they get on such occasions, anything but what it ought to be; but from what I hear in the market that is not astonishing, for when they attend these meetings there is nothing but recommendation of great landowners to set labourers to work, manure, drain your lands; but they omit one principal feature—they never tell tenants how they can afford to pay for it. These meetings, which are a sample of those now occurring throughout the country, he (Mr. Villiers) thought, bore out what he had said on this point—that farmers are complaining of one thing, while the landlords are complaining of, and wanting something else. This was, however, most important to those who complained of the present system. This had induced his Friend the Member for Stockport to move for inquiry, in order to prove that agriculture was suffering from this system itself; and that freedom and not restriction in this trade—like every other—was essential to its success, which success would only be shown by the people having a plentiful supply of food. But to this the Secretary—who was appointed to meet the complaints of all sides, and who seemed to speak with the authority of one whose judgment was superior to that of other people (though he had not yet learnt on what ground)—he told them that the remedy for all this was not to talk about it; that, if his own friends would be quiet, they would not suffer; and that, if they on that side would be silent also, they would see that they would have no reason to complain, which was all very convenient, no doubt, to those who had to answer for the suffering, but not very conclusive to those who suffered. The story was, that if every body was quiet, improvement would go on, and that there would be no scarcity; but unfortunately nobody was convinced of that; and though the country gentlemen might withdraw their confidence, the public would still urge their complaint. Now, he begged to draw attention to this matter of agricultural improvement, which was to feed them all better than they had been. This was how it stood. The farmers say, "We can do nothing without leases, or security for our capital, without rents being in some way adjusted to prices, without liberty to destroy game, without being more free in many respects than we have been." The landlords say they can do nothing unless they have more protection, or unless the protection is restored to them that they used to have; they say they cannot improve, unless favour is shown to them. Well, the landlords appeal to the Government in this House about this protection, and what do they say? Why, they tell them that protection never did them any good; that they should not get back what they had lost, and that it was possible that more might be taken from them. Then the farmers ask the landlords for what they consider is necessary to make the land more productive, and their business more profitable; but the landlords say—"If you understood your business you would not ask for these things; they can't be conceded, and there are plenty ready to take the land if you are not satisfied." And so it stands: certain things are necessary for these improvements to be made, by which more food is to be produced—according to the opinion of the only people who can give them effect—and these things have not a chance of being conceded; but they were told that, if they would hold their tongue, there would be plenty of food, and enough to meet the wants of an increasing population, owing to the vast improvements that would be made. He asked if they had any reason to expect that they should be satisfied with such a state of things? or whether they had not a right, as guardians of the interests of the public and the poor, to inquire particularly into all that affected the property of land, and to examine if there was a prospect, under present circumstances, of the community being adequately supplied with food. This inquiry had been made, and the result was, that numberless impediments exist in this country to the capital and skill that were required for the due culture of the soil being applied. Land was seen to be desired and possessed for many other reasons than that of producing food for the people. Land was valuable for pleasure, such as preserving game; for acquiring political influence by means of the franchise given to tenants at will; for acquiring consequence in a county by the estimation in which such property is held; and also for being especially made subservient to creating and perpetuating families: all of which may be very desirable objects, but they are all notoriously injurious to agriculture—all impediments in the way of progress and improvement, and opposed to what is essential to turn the land to the most account. They may answer the purpose of some owners; for tenants at will may pay better at contested elections than good crops of wheat. All these things the proprietor has naturally, under ordinary circumstances, a perfect right to do if he likes—he has a right, and should be allowed, as far as legislative interference went, to deal with or waste his property just as he likes; but let him acknowledge the same right to the industrious over their only property—namely, their labour. In one of the cases that he (Mr. Villiers) had mentioned, the importance was very great—he meant that of the mode of settling property, which was with the view to the custom of primogeniture. This led to the estate being held by the proprietor only for life: it was with the view to the eldest son being secured in the inheritance of the fee till the resettlement of the property was again made, that the existing owner was usually limited to a life interest in his estate. The importance, however, to agriculture was, that the owner being tenant for life, and having usually a large family besides the eldest, he felt little interest or inclination to lay out his income to improve the estate, feeling that he had other claims in the wants of his younger children for any money he possessed, and might be employed for improvements. In consequence of the discussion on these matters, a noble Duke, in the other House, had proposed an inquiry; and he believed a Bill had been introduced to enable the tenant for life to charge the estate with the money raised for the purpose of improvements. Still, he must be an ardent improver who would consent to pay the interest out of his life income for this purpose, though possibly, if he felt that he was increasing the value of an estate to be equally divided among his children, he would do all he could to improve the value of their inheritance. The general result of the system, however, as it was observed to exist throughout the country was, that the owner of the land was tenant for life, and the occupier was tenant at will, which were precisely the circumstances under which it was most unfavourable to good agriculture that the land should be held; and the consequence was, that there was not that skilful spirited employment of capital upon the soil, or that abundant, and certain supply of food for the people of this country that there might otherwise be. It was impossible to overrate the importance of this circumstance in the present state and progress of our population: for the whole thing would be seen through and understood far better than it ever had been before; for he asserted with confidence that the delusion under which the people had been silenced before on the subject of the Corn Laws, by means of mistaking the influence of the price of food on their condition, had, by the experience of the last two years, been completely explored. He considered that, after the official statement made by the right hon. Gentleman the other night on this subject, it was placed beyond all future dispute that the employment of the working classes was greatly and directly affected by the amount and cost of food in the country; it was impossible, therefore, in future that working men could be deceived by the silly fallacy that their condition was benefited by food being dear. He did, then, call upon Gentlemen opposite—especially those connected with the Protection Society—to acknowledge that either they had been in error themselves on this matter, or show the House and the country that they had not been parties to practising a cruel deception on the poor; for he wanted to know how it was that they justified themselves by deliberately circulating what was so foreign to the truth? He thought it a serious charge, considering the interest they had in doing so; and he thought they should be anxious to vindicate themselves if it was possible. To assert that to make food dear by Act of Parliament by which rents were raised was an advantage to the people, was a deception practised upon the humblest, the most defenceless, the poorest of their fellow creatures, for the purpose of augmenting their own pecuniary interest. He spoke of this seriously, because it had not heen lightly and casually done. It had been done coolly and purposely; and, he should suppose, at much cost. He had read the works that had been published by the Protection Society, issued with all the authority of men of rank, and wealth, and influence. He found this fallacy of dear bread improving the condition of the people, was the leading topic of all their speeches and pamphlets; and while it was endeavoured to be shown that the poor would benefit by food being dear, they sought to prove that the manufacturers had no object in injuring the working people by making trade in the great necessary free. ["Hear, hear," from the Member for Devonshire and others.] Was he to understand, then, that there were still some persons in that House who maintained the doctrine? Then he did deliberately call upon the Members for Devonshire and Lincolnshire, to prove in what way dear food was of advantage to the working classes. He asked them to stand forward to-night—as they ought to have done the other night — and reply to the statements of the Secretary of State, which established the fact that the employment of the people, and with it their whole well-being, depended upon, and was promoted by the abundance and cheapness of provisions. I ask them this night to vindicate the proposition which they have helped to circulate, and endeavoured to make the poor believe. They are bound—after acknowledging those views—to speak out on the subject this evening. He should watch well what they said on the subject; and the House would draw its own conclusion if they shrank when called upon from the proof of what they had said. Till they had spoken on the subject he would say no farther, and he would not make other observations which he had intended upon the conduct of persons in the highest station lending their names and authority to what he considered deceiving the poor and uninformed and unthinking portion of the people, with the full knowledge that the law that they were encouraging them to support, was subjecting them to the severest privations. He, however—knowing well that the truth was that, whenever food as the first necessary was abundant, there was an increased demand for labour, and when it became deficient, millions must become miserable — considered that too much attention could not be invited to the fact; for it would at least explain the variations which had taken place in the condition of the people before, and which might occur again. Let it only be remembered what was alleged on the other side during the period of severe distress, and when each man was taxing his brains to devise the cause for it, or rather to find an excuse other than the real one, the obvious one, the one assigned and proclaimed by the enemies of monopoly. If any one will turn to the debates, they will see that it was ascribed to machinery, to over-production, to over-population, to greedy capitalists, to joint-stock banks, to the want of emigration, and the want of reciprocity with other nations. These were the things alleged in 1842; when they on that side kept reiterating that it was owing to a deficient supply of food during four years together, and to obstructions placed by themselves on the trade with the countries from which they could draw their supplies. Now, then, let them deny the fact if they can, that all these supposed causes of distress have increased, or have not diminished of late, though the real cause, namely, scarcity of food, has, by God's blessing, been obviated; that there is much more machinery in use now than ever; that there are more people by a million than there was; that production is much greater than it was; that joint-stock banks are as they were; that money never was more plentiful; that credit is generally good; and that there is not one State with which we had important trade at that time that has not raised its tariff since against us. How is all this to be explained? The hon. Gentleman who seconded the Address this Session, remarked upon it, and said he should like to hear it accounted for in some way. The Ministers have had an opportunity of stating their views on the subject; and what are they? They solemnly announced them to the House the other night. They ascribe it to two circumstances; one is to the great fall in the price of food; the other is to the reduction in the protective duties, and chiefly on the articles of necessary consumption. The Government of the country are asked to explain the prosperity of the country; and they proclaim that England's recent prosperity has been occasioned by an abundant supply of the necessaries of life, and to a great reduction of the protective duties that had long existed. The First Minister is jealous of any cause being referred to but that of his own legislation especially, for this purpose. We might say it was owing to the seasons, if we pleased; but he said it happened together with his attack upon protective duties, and with his object, by so doing, of reducing the cost of living. Here, then, was the authority for what we assert as to the causes of our present improvement. Here was his (Mr. Villiers') justification for calling for the repeal of the law which yet existed, to obstruct the supply of food; the plentiful supply of which the Government asserts to be essential to peace and prosperity and contentment. Now, then, if the Gentlemen opposite thought that dear food was an advantage, and made the country prosperous, they had reason, he granted, for opposing him, but they had reason also for complaining of the right hon. Gentleman; and they should settle that matter with him to-night; they should show him how he was wrong, and attempt to prove themselves in the right. He, however, had the same right to condemn the Government, with their views and experience, for not going farther, and suffering a law having the purpose and effect of the present Corn Law, to remain another day on the Statute Book. Is it, however, a debateable matter? Is it possible that we are debating about the advantage of cheap food? Have they ever given if a thought, on the other side, what depended upon it, how far all the economical arrangements of society proceed upon it? Why, the division of labour, the source of all our wealth, depends upon it. Men only devote themselves to other employments than producing food when they feel sure that food will be provided. They only produce other articles than food upon the faith that other people will have the means of consuming what they produce, but which they cease to have immediately upon those means being absorbed by something of higher importance to life than comfort or luxury. Let food become scarce, or require great sacrifice to obtain it, and the means for consuming manufactures are absorbed, and the producers of manufactures are without employment; and they must either produce food directly for themselves, or become dependent as paupers upon the property of the country. And this it is that actually occurs immediately that the customers of those who produce other things than food are withdrawn or impoverished; and in the present state of the country this is a matter of the highest importance. It is the tendency of any progressive country, that fewer people should be employed in agriculture, and more people in manufactures than in the earlier stages, so that the only vent now for our increasing population is in manufacturing employment. The time is arrived when every additional soul born in this country must look to manufacture or employment other than agriculture, for the means of living. The market for their industry is in the consumption at home and abroad: impair either, by increasing the cost of food or obstructing the trade, and you throw people out of employment. You deprive the working classes of their customers with the same effect precisely to them, as if you deprived other men of the property on which they lived. They talk glibly here of producing this effect, because they suppose that the people do not starve, having the parish to go to; but the parish is not an inexhaustible fund; and, moreover, have hon. Gentlemen ever considered what is the effect of one of those crises in manufacturing industry which is produced by injuring the market either at home or abroad — what moral as well as physical ruin it brings, what loss of station, what temptations, what degradation are occasioned by those extreme depressions? Be assured that you are producing evils that you can never repair by your laws, when you occasion a deficiency in the supply of food. You have complete power over the people when you undertake to regulate the supply of food; you can give or take vitality from their business and their bodies by it as completely as you may from an animal in the receiver of the pump over which you have control. You may exhaust or restore life at pleasure, and that by depriving them of their employments. The right hon. Gentleman was indeed right when he said that scarcity was the greatest curse that could be inflicted upon us; what he questioned was, how far he had the right to ascribe that curse to Providence. He remembered hearing an eloquent Gentleman speaking on this matter during the scarcity, and he said that we should examine our own conduct first in the matter before we could consider ourselves qualified to blaspheme the Creator for what we called His curse upon us. Do they remember that, at the time that they were calling their distress for food a visitation of Providence, in one of the Atlantic cities a pestilence was raging, owing to the stores of provisions becoming putrid from remaining in the warehouses for want of a market; and that, had we not forbidden that food from entering our ports, we should have been properly supplied, and they would have been spared that visitation? With such laws as that which he was discussing, they should indeed pause before they ascribed their distress to anything but their own cupidity. Providence fills the earth with good things, and has endowed us with reason to enable us to obtain them. It was their own folly, then, and no want of God's beneficence, that caused us to suffer. But these things were all appreciated by the Ministers. After the speech of the right hon. Gentleman the other night, it was clear that they took the same view as he and his (Mr. Villiers') Friends did on that side, of the enormous advantages of having a regular plentiful supply of food: they differed from their Friends the Members for Lincolnshire and Devonshire, who consider that food should be restricted in its supply. But the Government are fully prepared for what must recur if again we are visited withscarcity—they are officially acquainted with what was endured, and what was apprehended, in the most populous parts of the country on the last occasion. They can hardly bring themselves to allude to what they know, for fear of shocking the feelings of that House. Then, he did ask, how they could reconcile it to themselves to suffer this moment to pass by, without taking some security against the recurrence of such evils? Why, it was the only thing in which they on his (Mr. Villiers') side differed with the Ministers about this matter—they do not deny a single principle that we maintained: they say that food ought to be abundant; that protection was an evil; that in every way you ought to open the field for commercial enterprise; that you ought to facilitate the means for manufacture; that the raw material and those which are essential for manufacture ought especially to be relieved. All this they agreed to, but they refuse to deal with the law which restricts the supply of food; for he contended that what alleviations were made in those laws were avowedly not for the purpose of relieving the distress of the people, or to increase the quantity of food — they were accompanied by arguments to show that that was not the purpose for which they were altered. There have been two alterations—one of the English Corn Law, the other of the Canada law. The right hon. Gentleman opposite did not refer the distress of the people to the Corn Law, and appeared to have in view only such an alteration as should be consistent with the interests of those for whose benefit it exists according to their own view of that interest; and the noble Lord the Secretary of the Colonies said distinctly, that whoever imagined it was his object to pass the Canada Act as a free-trade measure, or as a mode of diminishing the protection of landowners at home, would be grievously mistaken; and from all he (Mr. Villiers) had heard lately, he was not sure that he was in error. What, then, was his position in demanding now that we should proceed to legislate on this subject? The right hon. Gentleman opposite admits an annual exigency in providing for the increase of the population. Each year he says 380,000 persons are added to those that existed in the preceding year that must be fed. He tells them, also, that last year there were upwards of 1,500,000 paupers, which mean destitute persons, and that in England and Wales only—nearly one in nine of the populalation; and says that there are not many more only owing to the accident of good harvests, and what he and his Colleagues have done in reducing protective duties. He (Mr. Villiers) then asked that some fresh means, some wider field should be given to our people to exchange their skill and industry for food. If nothing is done while the exigency is admitted, and the means are obvious, what will be the inference wherever it is known, but that our people are impoverished by the selfishness of our legislation, and that though we have the means of improving them in our hands, we refuse to act? That is already the impression abroad wherever our circumstances are known. British wealth, British pauperism, and British Corn Laws, whenever this country is considered by reflecting men, these are topics of discussion, and are mentioned together with wonder and reproach. There is a general belief that the riches of our aristocracy, and the poverty of millions of our people, are connected with the Corn Laws; and it brings scandal on our name wherever it is known. He asked if any thing ever occurred in these debates to disabuse the minds of foreigners on this subject? What can be more calculated to confirm their impression than the right hon. Gentleman's speech the other night, and the probable result of this debate? He wished hon. Gentlemen could hear and know what is said abroad about the British aristocracy, owing to these Corn Laws: foreigners see that no intelligent man of independence defends them, and that all experience discredits them, and that they are maintained for no one earthly purpose but that of making men richer whose wealth is enormous already. If this law is to remain unaltered after the admissions of the Ministers upon all the material points connected with their mischief, their responsibility will be enormous, and that they must expect to meet—they cannot hope to escape it. They must, in the first place, remember that they cannot repair the mischief when it occurs by merely changing the law when it suits them; and whatever happens in future from not having altered the law now, they must then be deemed fully responsible for. In the next place, if a deficiency was to occur, they must know that there are circumstances likely to make the pressure much more severe at a future time than it has been. The surplus available for our use is likely to be much less on account of the greater consumption of wheat throughout Europe; within those few years, countries have become importing countries that used to export, and the population here and abroad have much increased. At this moment, Belgium is obliged to relax her Corn Law, and all the manufacturing districts are in a state of fever at the change not being sufficient to meet their wants. A petition to the Chambers has been sent to me from Liege, representing the feeling that exists upon the subject; and I find that it echoes every sentiment and opinion that is expressed against the Corn Law in this country, and shows to what an extent already they feel the increasing wants of their population. There is hardly an evil that has been felt in this country proceeding from the disturbance of every business occasioned by a deficient supply of food, that is not pointed out in that petition, and apprehended to prevail in that country as it has here, if the restriction on the import of food is continued. In Holland, they enacted a corn law in 1834 in imitation of ours, and under the same pretence as ours—for the benefit of agriculture; and a person who had been many years in the Consul's office at Amsterdam told him that every evil in every way that had been traced to our sliding scale, had been experienced under the Corn Law that they had—that it gave general dissatisfaction—that it made food scarce, and that the price was enormously high in consequence. In parts of France they do not grow enough for their own consumption; and he had been informed that the Canada Act, passed three years ago, had only added to the uncertainty felt with respect to our market in the corn-growing countries of Europe. He should also mention another circumstance that would cause the pressure to be more severe when large importations were required, which was the Banking Act of last year. He was not going to discuss the general merits of that measure—he was not going to deny that in some respects it might make banking establishments more careful in the conduct of their business; but he did conceive that it would be the means of causing greater sacrifices to be made, and to be made more suddenly, in order to export the only commodity, namely, bullion, which it was possible to export to coun- tries with whom we had not regular trade to procure the food we required; it would sooner and more suddenly cause that disturbance and distress in business which ended in a ruinous reduction of prices, by which manufactures alone could be exported for food. Taking all these circumstances into consideration, he did apprehend that, when a revulsion did occur from scarcity, it would be both more severe and hazardous than before. They certainly had the moment to avert it. What reason could they set against such ordinary prudence? Surely they were not to have that wretched plea of local taxation set up again this evening, as opposed to the enormous advantage consequent on the free exchange of their industry for food. Why, such a plea from the Government was quite inexcusable, with their eyes open to the evils of restricting food. In fact, that only shifts the responsibility of the law from the proprietors to the Government. They could do what they please; they have a majority for relieving themselves and their supporters if they are oppressed. If there is any injustice at present in the distribution of these local taxes, let them be borne more equally. He and others denied it altogether, and they knew opposite that they did not believe it, for they did not prove it, and they shrank from the inquiry that would ascertain it. When the Government announce that pauperism and crime are increased by dear food, what an excuse is it for the continuance of a law that makes food so very dear, that the charge for these misfortunes has to be borne to a certain extent by the property of those who have caused them? The fact was, that if the policy of making food scarce by law was abandoned, this charge upon property would be diminished. The right hon. Gentleman the Secretary of State has declared that this is the effect of the failure of the Corn Law. The remedy is therefore in their own hands; the remedy for the evil of local charges is not to spread poverty and crime throughout the country, in order to favour the property of the rich—to favour the idle and unproductive classes—moreover, the classes who, if they swarmed in the country, would never add to its wealth, deriving their livelihood from the sources they do. He did not impute that to them as a fault; they inherited their property, and did not acquire it for themselves; but they spend it usually unproductively—their expenditure is usually in consumption that has not reproduction in view. Nobody grudges it to them, nobody wishes to interfere with the disposition of property in this country; but, in the name of justice and common sense, do not sacrifice the industrious and useful to the idle and unproductive. This House does not act with the same carelessness in any other case that he knew of. What was it that had engaged so much of their time and attention this year? Why, providing for cheap and rapid communication throughout the country. Observe, first, the object had in view—the cheap transit of goods—to enable the consumer to have his goods cheap; very much to enable the produce grown at a distance to come into competition with the land, that hitherto had possessed a superior market, and to enable persons to live as well as travel cheaply. Observe the jealousy with which you regard monopoly in these cases. Where cheapness and convenience is your object, you admit competition in the first place; for you examine the merits of rival lines; and then, when you give privilege, you take security that they shall perform what they undertake; you restrict their charge, and retain a power of regulating their business. You do not trust them implicitly; you expect that they would attempt to serve themselves and neglect the public if you did: but how do you act with respect to the company that undertakes to perform the most important duty to the people and the State that can be fulfilled—to supply the markets adequately with food? Why, you do trust them implicitly; you expect that they will, of their own accord, increase the quantity at great outlay with the view to sell at the lowest price; and, when the people complain that they do as all monopolists ever have done, you have a Secretary at War who tells them to be silent, to say nothing, and that all will be well—to leave them alone, and there will be no cause to complain. Was this consistent, was it rational, or did it answer? Why, he (Mr. Villiers) told him that the experiment of leaving them alone had been made; it was made from 1834 to 1838, when nobody disturbed them; they were fully trusted, and we know the result. In the month of March, 1838, he brought this Motion forward, and he was little encouraged either in or out of the House to do so. He was told that he had better leave it alone—it did no good; and so much to this effect had been said to him privately, that he referred to it in his speech, and he said then, "I make this observation somewhat in anticipation of that reproof usually offered to those who incur the odium of meddling with this matter—that it is introduced at an unseasonable time—that there is no excitement on the subject—that the country is in a healthy state—and that it is mischievous to moot the subject at all; reasoning which, if I comprehend, I cannot admit. I do not understand the morality or the wisdom which would postpone the consideration of a difficult question, till we are precluded from entering upon it with calmness and caution. And, with regard to the want of excitement which appears necessary to procure interest and attention for this subject, I cannot help surmising that the day is not far distant when there may be more excitement attaching to it than may be convenient to those who now complain of its absence; for I cannot admit that exceeding healthiness of the country which is urged by some as conclusive against the discussion of this matter. When I look around and observe the numbers that are now dependent on the public relief for existence; when I see a Commission now commencing its inquiry into the cause of the distress pervading 600,000 or 700,000 of our fellow subjects; when I see that funds are being raised to assist our fellow subjects to emigrate from their country; I cannot help thinking there is some great fault in our public economy." He had made these observations, then, to guard against the confident tone with which it is usual, in the absence of pressing distress, to reject all warnings of the future. He was then followed by his Friend. Sir William Molesworth, a landed proprietor, but who was opposed to the Corn Laws, and he fully admitted the apparent prosperity of that year, and even improvements that had been carried out in agriculture. He said— Great improvements have taken place in agriculture in Ireland. Those improvements, together with abundant harvests, have produced, to a certain extent, nearly the same effect, in extending the field of production, as if the Corn Law had been repealed; hurtful competition has in some degree abated; wages and profits have risen; and the people have been more contented and peaceable. But this effect is only of a temporary kind—population and capital will again grow up to the field of employment; hurtful competition will again take place; wages and profits will fall; and the bulk of the community will be discontented and uneasy, unless the field of employment again increase in proportion to the addition to capital and population. Repeal the Corn Law; new markets will be created. With our perpetually increasing and inexhaustible means of purchase, our importations of food from other countries might go on increasing. This was said in 1838, and in about six months afterwards they had the melancholy satisfaction of seeing all that they had foretold verified early in the year of 1838. What followed before the end of that year is known; for before six months had expired all their predictions had been verified—all the consequences followed which must happen from depending upon the chance of one season, and the result of the harvest at home. He remembered that he was at Hamburgh at the time when the accounts came of the bad harvest in this country; and he was astonished to hear the confidence with which the distress we should have to experience was spoken of there; they had the account of all the grain then in the Baltic ports, and it was unusually small; and the price did, as they said it would, rise enormously as soon as they were informed of our harvest. There was but one feeling then, that this arose from not allowing the grower in Europe to look to England as a market. He knew of nothing that had altered the prospect of affairs since; and he was sorry to believe, that even the misery and suffering which had been seen to follow from our bad harvests, had apparently made no impression upon Gentlemen opposite. How long would they go on in this perilous course? It surely could not be contended that we were in a healthy state at this moment. There was a Bill before the House, forced upon it by the Reports officially made of the extreme destitution in parts of Scotland—a Bill to afford public relief upon a larger scale. A Report had been laid upon the Table, also, respecting Ireland, in which a most frightful picture had been drawn of the state of a large portion of that people. Surely there was distress enough to establish a case for further legislation in the direction pointed out by the Government, as being conducive to the employment of the people, and the diminution of crime and pauperism. The Government are not in a situation either to dispute the distress or the remedy which he was pressing upon their attention. He was urging their own views; and will anybody pretend that to restrict supply of food which comes to these shores as a customer for British industry can be a mode of benefiting those who want custom for labour, and are without food? Surely it is a natural right for the people of this or of any country to have the freest access to the means of subsistence which honest industry can offer to them. Sooner or later that must be conceded. Why delay it? Was it that he asked too much? How could that be said, when two measures in different degrees of moderation had been received with as little favour as any Motion that he ever had made. The noble Lord proposed a fixed duty: he did so to meet the scruples of those who might object to this measure. How was he treated? The Member for Gateshead asked you to add a little to the stock here, by bringing grain the produce of our own Colonies at the antipodes. He was told that he ought to deal with the general question. Well, here was the general question. How are you going to deal with it? Your experience recommends you strongly to abolish the law. Your only fear could be a reduction of price here; yet how had that operated? You expected that corn would be at 56s.: it has been at 45s. You say every advantage has followed from this circumstance, even in the agricultural districts. You say that our consumption is 20,000,000 quarters, and you tell us that 10s. a quarter has been saved upon it. Well, that is 10,000,000 sterling paid less out of the general means for one article, and has of course left so much more to be expended on the consumption of other articles the result of British industry. How would it have been otherwise than an additional blessing, had the price been reduced sufficiently as to cause another 10,000,000 to be saved? The whole financial policy of the hon. Gentleman is founded, if he understood it, on the ground of lowering the cost of living; he expects that we shall not feel additional taxation, if provisions essential to life are cheap. Considering what the taxes are in this country, how is it possible that the cost of living can be too low? The revenue chiefly depends upon that expenditure which takes place after the first necessary of life is provided for. A short time since the right hon. Gentleman was horrified at being informed that a body of great men in the north had combined to raise the price of an essential to the poor man's comfort, by making the article scarce. He reproved them publicly in the House; he called upon them, as good citizens, to cease to employ such unhallowed means for the oppression of the poor. This he said with respect to coals. How was it that he did not apply this to corn? The poor could procure fire without coal more easily than they could get nourishment without corn? He would only add one word more, which was as to the seasonableness of the time at which he made the proposition: it was rendered so peculiarly by the lowness of the price. He had been astonished that the Home Secretary the other night—so shrewd a reasoner in this matter—should have supposed that, when the price was low in this country, the landlord wanted high protection most; why, it was the time when he wanted it least; for the low price itself then made the market so much worse for the foreigner, that the slightest addition to the difficulty of bringing the grain so far was felt. It was, therefore, precisely at such a time that such a duty as 4s. would operate: it might keep out all American grain just by that amount, if the price here was very low; but when the price was very high, the duty might be double that amount, and the community here might not be worse off; for the high price here, if the price was low abroad, might make it worth the foreigner's while to pay the duty. It was the difference of price here and abroad that determined the operation of a duty; when the price here was low, this country was more on a level with foreign countries, and then the distance was a great protection. Now, if the law was changed, the price might fall a little here, and rise a little abroad, and there would be but little come in; at present there was but little wanted, which is usually the case when price is low—which is another reason why great importations are not to be expected at that time—there is less occasion for them; there is less food wanted. It would now be needless for him to detain the House longer. He had urged, however deficiently, all that had occurred to him as rendering this question peculiarly deserving their attention at this time, and enough, he thought, to satisfy them of the wisdom of losing no further time in legislating on the sub- ject. He had resorted to no declamation on the occasion, and should use none; the question had been too often mooted in this House to make any peculiar appeal to the interest favoured by this law, and who preponderate so greatly in the House, either useful or appropriate. Everything had been addressed to them by abler men that could touch their feelings of honour, honesty, justice, prudence, and humanity; and, if that was still unavailing, he was sure that he could add nothing that would have more effect. He would only say, that, if they resisted all concession now, he should regret it more than he had done at any other time, because never had the time been so fitting for the change, or would they ever in future regret more having neglected this moment so suited to the purpose. The hon. Member concluded by moving— That this House resolve itself into a Committee, for the purpose of considering the following Resolutions:— 'That the Corn Law restricts the supply of food, and prevents the free exchange of the products of labour; 'That it is, therefore, prejudicial to the welfare of the Country, especially to that of the working classes, and has proved delusive to those for whose benefit the Law was designed; 'That it is expedient that all restrictions on Corn should be now abolished.'

Mr. Oswald

seconded the Motion, and said the present Corn Laws acted only as an hindrance to the industry and commercial prosperity of the country. He reminded the House of an instance in proof. In the year 1815 the Americans said, "If you don't admit our corn, we will put a high duty upon your manufactures." But he need not mention single cases; the effect in all cases was an obstruction to our national commerce. There was at present before the House a Bill for making an assessment on property for the relief of the poor in Scotland, in consequence of the great destitution prevailing among the inhabitants of that country; and he thought the Scotch people had a right to call upon the Government to make food a little cheaper, instead of enacting such a measure as that. It appeared from the evidence collected by the recent Commission of Inquiry that in the agricultural districts and in the Highlands there was a large number of people who, though they were not actually starving, were next door to it. Those who were unable to work or to do anything for themselves, received allowances varying from 2s. to 12s. a year, and were otherwise supported by their neighbours or relatives. But he thought that Government should endeavour to relieve the distress of such persons by altering the present Corn Laws, and making bread cheaper. The effect of such an assessment would be most injurious to the tenant farmers, who were sufficiently encumbered with burdens, while their landlords were so much in debt that they were unable to make any reductions of rent. The noble Lord the Member for the city of London had said that protection was the bane of agriculture; therefore he ought in consistency to be in the front ranks of free trade. He had great pleasure in seconding the Motion, and hoped the House would agree to it.

Mr. Christopher

, in rising to oppose the Motion, should not apologize for attempting to reply to the argument of the hon. Member for Wolverhampton, though there had been nothing new adduced on the subject besides what had been urged over and over again for years. The hon. Gentleman's arguments were identical with those rehearsed so frequently at Covent Garden Theatre and elsewhere; although it was but justice to him to state that they had been put with more taste, and supported with less vituperation, than they usually were on that arena. The hon. Gentleman had urged that the present was the most auspicious-moment for the adoption of his Motion; but he differed altogether from that conclusion. In his opinion, on the contrary, no consideration should, under existing circumstances, induce the House to adopt it. For not only had the general principle of protection been fully and fairly discussed and settled within the last few years—at a period when prices were high, and manufacturing distress great—but new modifications of that principle, of an enlarged and liberal nature, had been adopted by the Legislature in connexion with the subject, for the purpose of regulating the import of corn into this country. It was on that ground chiefly — but likewise on the ground that, under the existing Corn Law, all kinds of agricultural produce were at this moment afforded to the consumer at a reasonable price, that he felt bound to give his opposition to the hon. Gentleman's Motion. There were no petitions complaining of the high price of food before that House, nor of the difficulty of procuring it. He firmly believed that if the working classes were consulted on the subject, they would be found perfectly satisfied with the Corn Law as it was at present. The hon. Gentleman had urged that protection to agriculture had a direct tendency to enhance the price of food to all classes. If he could bring himself to believe that assertion, he should be the last to oppose the Motion. But he believed that it was entirely otherwise. The object of the Corn Law as it now existed was, primarily, to afford to the consumer food at a reasonable rate, combined with a fair remuneration to the producer; it was likewise, in a secondary sense, intended to prevent those enormous fluctuations that had previously taken place in the price of corn. That it effected the two former objects he was not disposed to deny; but, whether it had effected the latter or not, one thing was certain, that under its operation there had been much less fluctuation than at any antecedent period. The Corn Law came into operation in April, 1842; but as the experience of that year could scarcely be considered a fair test, bearing in mind that agricultural matters were in a state of transition, he should take the returns of the next year and the two years succeeding as the bases of his argument. In 1843, the highest price of corn was in the first three weeks of the year, namely, 61s. 2d., while the lowest, which occurred about the 15th of April, was 45s. 2d. In 1844, the highest was 56s. 3d., the lowest 43s. 1d.; and, in 1845, they were respectively 45s. and 43s. 1d. As far, therefore, as fluctuation was concerned, the question was completely set at rest in favour of the Corn Laws. The hon. Gentleman had mentioned that the wages of labour would be increased if the Corn Law was repealed; but he (Mr. Christopher) altogether differed from that assertion. The people of this country required from some quarter or other, the home soil, or foreign countries, somewhere about 20,000,000 quarters of corn for their annual consumption. If that quantity was reduced by one-half as regarded the production of the English agriculturist, and the difference obtained from foreign countries, of course there would be a corresponding reduction effected in the rate of wages for agricultural labour in this country. Indeed, it would to a great extent be regulated by the wages of the foreign labourer. He had, however, a distinct knowledge of the fact that the labourers in the great corn-growing countries of Europe received no more on the average than 2s. 6d. or 3s. a week, or at that rate. Would the hon. Gentleman reduce the agricultural la- bourers of this country to the same amount of remuneration? That would clearly be the effect of his Motion. In fact, the landholder must either resort to that, or cease to employ labourers altogether—he would have no other alternative. A great deal had been said on the abstract principles of free trade; and he was free to admit that, if a perfect system to that effect could be established, protection either to agriculturists or manufacturers would be unjust. But there was not the slightest ground of hope that such a system of complete reciprocity could ever be established; on the contrary, every relaxation on the commercial code of this country was followed by restriction on the part of foreign countries; and in treaties, protocols, and the public press, there was a distinct aversion manifested to the admission of English manufactures. The hon. Member had stated that high wages would follow low prices. That might occur in the manufacturing operations of the country, but it could never occur in agriculture. In his own county wages were, on an average, from 12s. 6d. to 13s. per week when corn was 60s. the quarter. He had never maintained that the Corn Law could settle the price of labour; but he did maintain that, if it were wise and just to afford some protection to manufactures, the same causes, but on a higher ground, obtained in agriculture. The manufacturer could control his market by checking his operations—nay, if there was no demand for his produce, he could lock up his mill, and throw his hands upon the land for support; but the agriculturist was obliged to cultivate to the highest point possible; and, in addition to that, he was controlled by the influence of the seasons, and other causes. Under these circumstances, he maintained that, if manufacturers were protected at all, agriculture ought to be still more effectually protected; and yet hon. Members grumbled at the amount it now enjoyed, although manufactures were, in some cases, protected to the extent of 40 per cent. on their value. It had been urged by the hon. Member that the question of protection was a landlord's question alone, with which the farmer had nothing whatever to do; and, if that was once established, he admitted that no Corn Law could stand for a moment. But, notwithstanding all the agitation that prevailed on the subject about a year and a half since, it was found impossible to convince the farmers that their interest was separate from that of the landlords; and so the agitation, begun in Chelmsford and ended in Lincoln, totally failed in its object—the separation of these two important classes upon the subject of protection. The hon. Gentleman argued that farmers would be quite indifferent to protection if they had long leases instead of tenancies at will; but how was the fact? He was intimately connected with a part of the country where long leases were the rule, and tenancies at will the exception; and he could state from his own knowledge that the system of management and agriculture in those farms held under the latter tenure was quite as good, and altogether if not more profitable in point of produce than the former were. The condition of a farmer with a long lease was not so enviable as the hon. Gentleman imagined. In Scotland, when the system of leases prevailed, nothing was more common than to put up those farms which were to be let to the highest bidder. The result was frequently that a rackrent was obtained for the land, and that the tenant, unable to pay the rent out of his produce, and unable to get rid of his holding, had to encroach ultimately upon his capital, and in many cases thereby lay the foundation for his own ruin. Where leases, on the contrary, did not exist, as in the East Riding of Yorkshire, Lincolnshire, and other parts of the country, there subsisted the best feeling between landlord and tenant; farms were let below their value in general, and bankruptcy was of rare occurrence. The hon. Gentleman had stated that the Corn Law had a tendency to cause slovenly cultivation on the part of the landholder, and had referred, as a proof of his argument, to the skill and prosperity of the people of Manchester, as compared to those of neighbouring agricultural districts. It was not difficult to find a solution of that difficulty without adopting the solution suggested on the other side of the House. Was it wonderful that persons residing in the manufacturing districts, who had 3,000l. or 4,000l. to invest, should choose that mode of investment which returned the quickest profits? In trade and manufactures they constantly saw capitals doubled, and even trebled, in a few years, while in agriculture the return was slow and small. He would, however, affirm, there was just as much skill and industry applied to the improvement of agriculture as that of the manufactures of the country; and when hon. Gentlemen talked of the grievous state in which the agriculture of this country appeared, he begged them to compare it with the state of agriculture in other countries, where there was no such protection as here, and where they enjoyed the greatest advantages of soil and climate; and the superiority of this country would be found to be remarkable. But it was impossible to introduce foreign corn at a high rate of duty under the present law, and the result of the last few years proved that to be the fact. In the year 1843, when the average rate of duty was 14s. 3d., there were no less than 843,000 quarters of foreign wheat imported; and in 1844 the amount of foreign wheat imported was 791,385 quarters. He had not the average rate of duty imported for that year; but as the highest price of wheat was 57s., the duty at that rate would be 16s. a quarter. He, therefore, apprehended that there was under the present law no risk of the population suffering by privation, or the manufacturers suffering from a want of markets for their goods. Upon these grounds he objected to the present Motion. He was no advocate of class legislation; and he believed that the majority in that House were determined to consider these questions with a view to the benefit of all classes; but because he believed that this Motion, if carried, would be injurious not only to the agriculturist and the manufacturer, but also to the large body of consumers in this country, he was prepared to meet the Motion by a direct negative.

Mr. Mitchell

said, in reference to what the hon. Member who had just sat down had stated respecting the price of wages in Lincolnshire, that the reason of their being higher in that county was its vicinity to the manufacturing districts; and that the only place in Dorsetshire where labourers were well paid was Bridport, because it had trade. But to come to the Motion before the House. The first reason why he would give that Motion his most cordial support was, that it condemned emphatically the sliding scale. He thought, however, that the last alteration in the law had done more good to the consumers than either the Tariff or the Canada Corn Bill. The effect of the sliding scale had been to double the speculation in the corn trade, by adding 1s. in the duty, as a fluctuation to so much in the price, and to drive the most respectable merchants out of the market. He found, that under the old law, whenever the country suffered from a bad harvest, the screw was immediately put on the circulation, and the consequence was that the manufacturers were unable to pay their bills. He found that he was himself subjected to considerable losses, on account of inability of manufacturers to meet their engagements; and he was, in consequence, obliged to engage in the corn trade, as a hedge to counterbalance his losses arising from the bad debts of the manufacturers. The fact was indisputable, that this country could not grow enough corn to meet the consumption of the inhabitants. It was absolutely necessary to import corn from abroad, and owing to the state of the trade under the present law, nearly the entire import trade in corn was confined to London. The consequence was, that every corn factor in London, without exception, advocated the present law. The speculators were obliged, owing to the uncertain state of the market under the existing law, to have recourse in all cases to the nearest ports from which a supply could be obtained, and thus much higher prices were paid than would be necessary, if the more distant and plentiful markets could be resorted to. Parties connected with the corn trade in Prussia and the northern parts of Germany were thus enabled to make enormous fortunes, because no person could think of speculating in the more distant markets. They were obliged to go to the dearest markets, because they were the nearest markets; and it was not at the same time to be forgotten that these very countries — Prussia and Mecklenburg, for instance — were doing their very utmost to exclude English manufactures from amongst them. The consequence was, that whatever corn was got from these countries—forming as it did the greater portion of the foreign corn imported—was paid for to the last farthing in bullion. When a drain of bullion was thus created, the Bank of England put the screw on the circulation, and as it was absolutely necessary that the banks should have a command of bullion, the prices of goods were obliged to be depressed so low, that other countries became at length induced to take them. What he had described was the inevitable result of the sliding scale, and in all his experience he never saw any other effect produced by it. He had taken pains to collect information with respect to the state of the country at the present moment, and he was informed that as far as the season had gone, the crop had already experienced serious injury. The crop was, moreover, in a most backward state; and he need not remind the House of the dangers attendant on the securing of a harvest not setting in until the end of August or the beginning of September in England, and the end of September in Ireland and Scotland. The intention of the present law had been to render this country, as far as possible, independent of foreign countries for its supply of corn. Consequently but little was grown there with a view to it; and he had ascertained that there never was a period when the Continent was so thoroughly drained of corn as at the present moment. A gentleman fully acquainted with the subject, to whom he had been speaking a few days since, had told him that for every 3,000 quarters of wheat which we should attempt to procure from Germany, we should probably raise the price by one shilling; nor was this country likely to be the sole customer. He had ascertained that about six weeks ago the appearance of the crops in Belgium, Holland, and the north of France, had become unfavourable, and orders for grain had been in consequence poured into the northern parts of Europe, and he was convinced that no great quantity could be procured in those quarters. The shores of the Mediterranean did not hold out a better prospect; and as to the northern parts of Russia, there had been latterly a famine there. In fact, he did not know any part of Europe where a large quantity of corn could be procured; some might be got at Odessa; but when the great distance of that port was considered, was it likely that merchants would send their orders there, as the corn might probably arrive here at a time when the rate of duty would serve as an actual prohibition to its introduction? For the same reason they could not send their orders to the United States, where British manufactured goods would be taken in exchange, because the speculators could not tell what the state of the market might be when the corn would arrive. With symptoms of a small crop at home, and a certainty of an insufficient supply from the north of Europe, and with an increasing consumption in England, what, he asked, was likely to be the result? He did not allude to the labouring population only, but to the manufacturing and commercial classes also; and among them, he would ask, what would the result be if the screw were again put upon the circulation? What would be the effect of such a restriction under the new banking law of last Session? He was one of those who voted for that law, as he believed it to be a most excellent measure; but still it could not be denied that it would have the effect of rendering a general pressure on trade still more painful than even it had been before. Another point which he thought had not been sufficiently adverted to in respect to the sliding scale, was its unfairness in not carrying out the very object which it professed to effect. The crop of this country for the present year at first promised to be an abundant one; but it had been since damaged. He recollected that to have been precisely the case in 1841. He saw by the regular Mark-lane price current, that in the autumn of that year the price of wheat varied from 56s. to 70s. a quarter, being a variation of no less than 14s. Although good English was worth the latter price, and the duty therefore, according to the intention of the framers of the law, ought to have been very low, it remained at 24s. 8d. under the old scale; and would be nearly as high under the present, because the quantity of damaged wheat in the market kept the averages low. That was an effect of the sliding scale which he had not heard adverted to, though, whenever the crops were damaged, it must inevitably take place. His decided opinion was, that any protection to any interest in this country was nothing more nor less than robbery. He would, however, in 1841, have been willing to agree to a moderate fixed duty on corn, as the best measure that had been offered up to that time. But the time for that was now gone by. It was impossible to deny that, by the late Tariff, the duty on a great many articles, into the production of which manual labour most largely entered, had been much reduced. He would allude to one, which had also been referred to in a pamphlet recently published by a distinguished Member of that House—he meant cordage, the duty on which was fixed by the Tariff at 6l. per ton, or 20 per cent. on its price; but this was proposed to be taken off altogether. The parties engaged in its production wanted him to interfere to prevent this; but he refused to do so, as he objected on principle to all protective duties. These parties then went to some of the authorities of the Board of Trade, and by their representations got the duty fixed at 3l. per ton, or 10 per cent. Now this was an article into which manual labour most largely entered, and he found that no Gentleman opposite entertained or expressed any objection to the reduction of the duty. He knew that there were only two places in the country where cordage was made by machinery, and in all other places it was the result of manual labour. Therefore, when he found that they would sacrifice every other interest into which manual labour most largely entered, he was surprised to hear them say that the chief claim that existed for the protection of agriculture arose from the large amount of labour engaged in it. He did not believe that a complete repeal of the Corn Laws at the present day would produce the same effect or alarm on the agricultural interest that it would have done three or four years ago, as during that time sound principles had rapidly progressed. He did not wish to carry any measures which would be considered of a revolutionary nature; and certainly the immediate repeal of the Corn Laws would have been considered in that light three or four years ago, and it would have produced alarm and consternation; but he did not believe that the same danger would arise now from doing so. He would now proceed to another ground. Every year, for the last five or six years, there had been an increase in the production of flax, and it was largely grown in Scotland, and above all, in the north of Ireland. During the last fifty or sixty years they had been gradually going on with protection to agriculture by means of the Corn Laws; but it so happened that flax was the only article of agricultural produce which had escaped their operation. He understood that the annual value of the flax produced in Ireland exceeded 2,000,000l. sterling. For several years the quantity produced had increased until the last year, when there was a deficiency; but this arose from an accidental cause, namely, because the seed was bad. Now, taking this article of agricultural produce as regarded labour, it would be found that its production employed more labour than any other article of a similar character, and yet it was not protected by the Corn Laws. The price of flax in this country varied between 30l. and 200l. a ton. Now Irish flax came into direct competition in the English market with flax the produce of the low price labour market of Russia; for there there was no duty of any kind whatever. If, then, they could successfully compete with Russian flax, the produce of cheap labour, why could they not compete with Russian corn? Let hon. Gentlemen recollect that they were enabled to obtain almost everything besides corn cheaper here than they could elsewhere. They had the best markets for their agricultural produce, and the cheapest and best roads by which they could convey their produce to market; also the cheapest iron, coal, and clothing. And when they considered this let them reflect also on the cost of conveying corn from foreign markets to this country. It was the fashion to say that it could be shipped from the Continent to this country for 3s. or 4s. the quarter; now he did not believe that it could be shipped and conveyed here from any foreign port under 6s. or 7s. [An hon. Member: It will not cost nearly so much to convey it from Hamburg to Hull.] The hon. Member had evidently forgotten to charge for insurance and the risk of damage it incurred. But did the hon. Member believe that any great quantity of corn could be drawn from the immediate neighbourhood of Hamburg to this country? Where did the best portion of the wheat shipped at Hamburg come from? It came from Bohemia, and could not be brought down under 8s. or 10s. a quarter. There no doubt was some wheat grown in the neighbourhood of Hamburg, but this formed but a small portion of the wheat in that market; the charge, therefore, must be as great there as he had stated. The bulk of the wheat produced in Russia could not be sent to the ports of that country, under a charge of 7s., nor could the wheat of Poland be sent to Dantzic under a smaller charge. Hon. Gentlemen, then, should take into account the protection afforded them, by the great expenses attending the bringing the wheat from the place where it was produced, to the shipping places on the Continent, and from thence to this country, which together he could not on the average assume at less than 12s. or 15s. per quarter. This in itself was an enormous protection; of which none could deprive the agriculturists. Then there was another objection of the hon. Member for Lincolnshire, upon which he seemed to rely, namely, the comparison which he drew between the expense of labour on the Continent and in this country. The hon. Member complained that wages were much higher in this country than on the Continent; but did the hon. Gentleman mean to say that the value of the labour of the Russian serf, was to be compared to that of the English peasant? He would maintain, notwithstanding the apparent difference in wages in different countries, that English agricultural labour was the cheapest labour in Europe of the same description. He, therefore, would not admit this as an element of objection to the Motion. He would now proceed to tell hon. Gentlemen why the landed interest required protection. Corn was a delicate manufacture, and required the greatest care and skill in its manufacture. He believed that some improvements had taken place in agriculture; but it required may more than had hitherto been adopted. And why was this? It was because the agriculturists did not know their own business. Look to a merchant; if he was not perfectly master of his business, he could not expect to succeed. If he might speak of himself, he would observe that he had attended in his counting house, from the age of sixteen, at least six or seven hours a day. If he gave himself a holiday of a few weeks or months at a time, and if he did not constantly attend to his business, he should lose it in a very short time. Now, what was the case with a landed proprietor? He was sent to a public school in his youth, and at the age of eighteen he proceeded to the University. At the age of about twenty-one he formerly used to go what was called the grand tour; but now he went to Syria and Palestine and other distant countries, and at twenty-five he returned, and then amused himself with dancing the polka, and other similar pursuits. The truth was, that the landed proprietor did not stick to the manufacture of corn and other produce as the business of life, but considered himself above attending to the management of his own affairs. Hon. Gentlemen might depend upon it that if they wished to make the most of their estates, they should work the land themselves, or should look after the farms themselves. Landed proprietors neglected to do this; and this was the broad reason why they asked for protection. He recollected some time ago walking with an eminent West India merchant, and conversing on the state of the Colonies, and on asking the gentleman whether there was such a great want of labour in the West Indies, and whether this were the cause of the distress, he replied that there certainly was something in it; but that the real evil was, that the West Indian estates were managed by agents, and that the proprietors did not reside on them. Those landlords who chose to look after their own estates made a very good thing of it. For instance, in Scotland this was to a great extent the case, and he understood there in the best farmed districts they did not require protection; and he understood that a great portion of the farmers in that part of the Empire were in favour of the repeal of the Corn Laws. He believed that the chief reason which induced the English landowners to object to the repeal of these laws, arose from the circumstance that they did not attend to their own interest. In conclusion, he would suggest to Gentlemen behind the Treasury bench—he would not attempt to reason with the Gentlemen on the Treasury bench, because he was satisfied that they would go to any great extent for the repeal of the Corn Laws that the Gentlemen behind them would allow—whether any of them could say that they believed that that the time would not shortly come when these laws must be repealed, and whether at present they did not shrink from meeting the question boldly, as they wished to adhere to protecton as long as they could. He would, therefore, ask those hon. Gentlemen whether they could expect to meet a violent opposition to the continuance of those laws, in case of the recurrence of a bad harvest, which would convulse the whole mercantile world, and produce such serious consequences, by the effect that would be produced in the money market? In such a case the people would demand repeal in the same way that they formerly demanded reform, and when it was found impossible to resist the popular voice. Under such circumstances the House would be obliged to give way to threats, and not yield to reason: and was it not a revolutionary doctrine to say that the Legislature would give way to threats and not to reason? Such a result, under the circumstances which he had mentioned, would be productive of the greatest possible mischief, while a change could now be effected with the greatest possible safety.

Mr. Buck

agreed perfectly in an observation made a few nights ago by the right hon. the Vice President of the Board of Trade, that nothing could be more injurious to the agricultural interest than the constant agitation of this question. The country had again to thank the hon. Member for Wolverhampton for having brought forward this Motion; and he must say, with respect to the speech of the hon. Member, that more fallacious opinions on a great subject he had never heard in an enlightened assembly. He was sure in one respect his constituents felt grateful to the noble Lord the Member for the city of London for having brought forward his Resolutions the other evening; for the result had been that an individual who had hitherto supported the party of Gentlemen opposite, had declared, at a public meeting in Devonshire, that all connected with the agricultural interest should throw aside all differences of opinion on other subjects, and join in maintaining the present system. For the twelve years during which the late Government were in office they heard little or nothing with respect to the repeal of the Corn Laws; but almost immediately the present Government came into office, agitation was got up on the subject, and although the right hon. Baronet had by his measures materially reduced the price of a great many articles, yet hardly a night had passed for some considerable time, in which some notice or other affecting the agricultural interest was not placed on the Paper. Let them recollect what had been done in the last two or three Sessions. They had had the new Corn Bill, the Tariff, the Canada Corn Bill, and the Tariff of the present Session. They had also had the Income Tax; and, as his hon. Friend the Member for Somersetshire had shown, there had been a great increase in the indirect taxation of the country during the last two or three Sessions. Then there was a cry that there was a want of energy on the part of the agriculturists, and that they did not act like the manufacturers. He denied that the comparison was fair between the agriculturists and the manufacturers, or that there was any want of energy or aversion from improvement on the part of the former; but that interest felt that it was an imperative duty on their part to employ the labour of those around them, and the only means of employment depended on the cultivation of the soil. He would venture to say that lately hardly a shilling's worth of agricultural produce had been raised, in which tenpence in the payment of labour had not been expended. He believed that this country could produce sufficient corn to supply all the wants of the people, provided that there was due encouragement and protection. In consequence of the low prices during the last two or three seasons, he had reason to believe that many farmers had paid their taxes out of their capital, instead of from the sale of their produce. He need hardly say that he intended to vote with his hon. Friend the Member for Lincolnshire, and give a decided negative to this Motion; and in doing so, he knew that he only followed the wishes of his constituents, in offering every opposition to any measure which would destroy the agricultural interest in this country, the upholding of which he believed to be essential to the best interests and to the well-being of all classes in the country.

Mr. M. Philips

said, that the hon. Member for Lincolnshire had stated that the manufacturers, whenever they pleased, got rid of their labourers, and threw them back on the agricultural districts. Now, the hon. Member, in asserting this, had drawn a most mistaken opinion from some source or other. He could tell him, that if there was one interest more than another which was identified with the working classes, it was the owners of machinery in mills, and that they were tied down to employ them as much as they possibly could; for if for one moment they suspended the operation of their mills, they lost their connexion, which, if once lost to a manufacturer, it was not easily regained, as by the farmer, who could always take samples of his produce to market, and had not to depend almost on the same miller to purchase from him. He believed that no individuals suffered so much from the suspension of operations as the owners of machinery in mills. If they did not keep it in almost constant work it got out of order; and it was hardly possible to calculate the expense of putting it in repair again when the work was renewed. He merely wished to set the hon. Member right on this point, and he would not trouble the House by going further into this part of the subject. The hon. Member seemed to think that nothing could be easier than for manufacturers to expend money in the purchase of land for cultivation, in the neighbourhood of the towns with which they were connected, so that they might become practically acquainted with the necessity for agricultural protection. Now, the hon. Member forgot that there were many impediments in the way of this—for instance, the law of primogeniture, by which so much land was locked up, and the numerous impediments in the transference of landed property. He thought, however, that it was desirable that manufacturers, wherever they had the opportunity, should purchase landed property, and that they should, by the application of similar enterprise and skill which they manifested in their manufactures, carry out improvements in the cultivation of the land, and by doing so, they would produce the greatest good to the community. He believed that if the agricultural and manufacturing interests could be blended more together, that it would be most beneficial to every class of society. It had often been urged by the Corn Law League that the members of it should purchase small freeholds. Now, he had always expressed an opinion that those who had the means should purchase large farms and endeavour to adopt every practicable improvement in their cultivation. He confessed that he thought the agricultural interest was rather lax in its attention to the adoption of improvements in the cultivation of the soil, as they left so much to the farmers. With respect to agriculture, it must be known to hon. Gentlemen that it often happened that the owners of enormous estates had it not in their power to give any encouragement to good tenants, or hold out inducements to improvement, as all stood still in their vast domains, because their owners were tied down, as they had lived beyond their means. But were the people to starve—for they were increasing at the rate of between 300,000 and 400,000 a year—until a few men chose to become more prudent, and live within their incomes? The hon. Member for Bridport had pointed out most strikingly the disastrous effects that were produced on all classes by the withdrawal of bullion from this country in years of scarcity, through the operation of the Corn Laws; and he therefore need hardly do more on this point than say that he could confirm every part of the statement of the hon. Gentleman. The hon. Member for Lincolnshire talked of the rapid fortunes made by some of his (Mr. Philips') constituents. There was, however, considerable exaggeration in that statement; and he could state, without fear of contradiction, that he did not believe that there was one of his constituents who sent produce into a foreign market, and brought back corn as the article in exchange, although this was the chief article which they should look to. Was this a fair state of things, when they had to leave it to third parties to obtain the chief article of consumption? This was an important practical difficulty, with which the manufacturers had to contend. He had no wish to argue the question as a party question, as he was anxious to bind all interests together. The time had come when the policy of the country was decidedly in favour of free trade, and within a short period the result of the harvest would be known and would probably agitate the manufactures and commerce of the country to such an extent that these laws would be at once swept away. Sooner or later they must decide this important question, and the weal or woe of all classes depended on its being settled without delay. He believed that the best interests of all classes was involved in their taking a sound view of this subject, and by doing away with all protection, and allowing the free exercise of competition as regarded both the agricultural and manufacturing interests. On these grounds he should, as he had done on all previous occasions when the subject was before the House, give his cordial support to the Motion.

Sir J. Graham

Sir, the allusions which were made to me by the hon. Member for Wolverhampton, in the course of the speech which he has addressed to the House, were so frequent and so pointed that, however reluctant I may be to trespass upon your attention, I cannot but think it my duty to offer some observations to the House on the important subject now under discussion. Sir, in the course of the many years which I have occupied a seat in this House it has been my duty so frequently to speak upon this subject that I entirely despair of adducing any new arguments, or thowing any new light or illustration upon a matter which has been so often debated, and upon which I have stated my opinion to the best of my judgment. I entirely concur in many of the observations of the hon. Member for Manchester, who last addressed the House. I am as anxious as he is that this important question—for I agree with him that for the weal or the woe of the country a more important question cannot be discussed and cannot be decided—I agree with him in his earnest desire that our decison should not rest upon a vague desire of promoting any one interest in this country; but that our decision should be guided by a desire to promote the common interests of all classes — to promote the interests of the entire community. And, Sir, I shall not on account of any personal difficulty shrink from again repeating, on the present occasion, all those principles which, on former occasions, I have publicly avowed—the general principles to which the ber for Member for Wolverhampton has referred. It is decidedly my opinion that the prosperity of agriculture must always depend on the prosperity of the other branches of the native industry of this country, and that the public prosperity is on the whole best promoted by giving a fair and uninterrupted current to the natural flow of national industry. I will go further and say, that it is my opinion that, by safe, gradual, and cautious measures, it is expedient to bring our laws with reference to the trade in corn into a nearer relation with the sound principles which regulate our commercial policy with respect to every other branch of industry. I will go still further, and say, I am not satisfied with the plan, and can be no party to it, of setting up a separate interest for the landlord and the farmer of this country; I believe, that their prosperity will, in the main, be found to depend on the wealth, the comfort, and the ease of the great body of the people of this country. Now, Sir, having made this declaration, I am about to state, that it is my opinion, unshaken and unaltered, that suddenly—for that is the proposition which we are now discussing — that suddenly, and at once, to throw open the trade in corn in this country, is utterly inconsistent with the well-being of the community; for it would give such a shock to that great interest—the agricultural interest—as could not fail of injuring all the other interests of the Empire. In the first place, I would wish to advert to the observations made by the hon. Member for Wolverhampton, that two-thirds of the people of this country are otherwise employed than in raising food. I beg, Sir, altogether to dissent from that observation; and in arguing this question I always observe, that one-third of the community of the United Kingdom is never carried into the calculation of those hon. Gentlemen, who seek to exalt the manufacturing interest as contrasted with the agricultural interest. The sole produce of Ireland, containing a population of 8,000,000, is agricultural. Their sole occupation is the raising of food; their only means of subsistence depends on the demand for that article, which is the only article of produce which they are able to raise; and if you bring Ireland into account, to say that two-thirds of the population of the United Kingdom is employed in industry other than agricultural—with all respect for the statistical knowledge and general accuracy of the hon. Gentleman—is a statement resting on misapprehension. I will also correct another error into which the hon. Gentlemen fell, while it is fresh in my recollection. I stated on a former evening, that which I shall not hesitate again to state, that, without distinction of party, for the last twenty years the object of succeeding Governments has been, first, to substitute protective for prohibitory duties; and, again, when protective duties have been imposed, gradually and progressively to relax the extent of that protection. And, Sir, the protection given to agriculture is not an exception to the general rule. What was the object of the law of 1828? It was a decided relaxation and diminution of the protection given by the Corn Law of 1815. The hon. Gentleman has stated that avowedly it was not the object of the new Corn Law to diminish the extent of the protection given to the agricultural interest. Now, Sir, it is a matter of real importance that this should be properly understood. I have stated the principle by which not only the present but former Governments have been guided. I entirely approve of that principle, and I am satisfied that it is the principle upon which the policy of my right hon. Friend now at the head of the Government is wisely founded. And the Corn Law and the alteration made in the Corn Law in 1842, is no exception to the policy which I have mentioned. The assertion of the hon. Gentleman is, that avowedly it was not the object of the Corn Law of 1842 to diminish the protection given to the agricultural interest. I am now about to read to the House the words used by my right hon. Friend, on the 9th of February, 1842, when he introduced his plan to the notice of the House for altering the Corn Laws, and introduced the measure which we are now discussing. My right hon. Friend said:— It is impossible to deny, on comparing the duty which I propose, with that which exists at present, that it will cause a very considerable decrease of the protection which the present duty affords to the home grower, a decrease, however, which, in my opinion, can be made consistently with justice to all the interests concerned. If the agriculturist fairly compares the nominal amount of duty which exists at present with that which I propose, he must perceive that he will still be adequately protected, notwithstanding that the reduction which I propose is considerable. I certainly feel bound to say, that I think the agricultural interests of the country can afford to part with a portion of the protection they now receive, and that it is only just that that protection should be diminished. I might go much further. My right hon. Friend lays down in that speech the principles, both with reference to protection and the object of protection, to which I adhere; but I have quoted enough to show how inaccurate is the statement of the hon. Member for Wolverhampton, that avowedly the object of the alteration of the Corn Law, as modified in the year 1842, was not to diminish the protectiou which the former law had given to agriculture. Now, Sir, the hon. Member for Wolverhampton has traced the origin of this protection, and has traced it with great historical accuracy. He states, truly, that it bears date from, I believe, the accession of William III., at the time of the Revolution. At that time this country was not an importing country; but the avowed policy of the great men of that day, who presided over the administration of the affairs of this kingdom, their avowed policy was to give encouragement to native industry, and to make this country as independent as possible of foreign supply, in cases of emergency, arising from deficient seasons; and at that time there was a bounty on exportation. The policy of bounties remained, as has been accurately stated by the hon. Gentleman, from the year 1688 until about the year 1760. At that period, circumstances being altered, the population increasing, and the position of the country, with reference to the export of corn having materially varied, the policy still remained the same. It was considered an object of paramount importance to keep this country, with its increasing population, independent, in ordinary years, of foreign supply. I must say that, although I do not pretend to rely so much, in matters of this kind, on the experience even of the greatest men in past times, freely admitting that experience and discussion, and enlarged sources of knowledge, do throw great additional light on matters of this description; yet, I do say, that the highest authorities, throughout a century and a half have concurred in maintaining this policy as an object of paramount import- ance. The House will remember the admirable observations written by one of the wisest men who best understood all subjects connected with the policy of this country — I mean the reflections of Mr. Burke with reference to the causes of scarcity. Even looking at that publication now, with all the lights of enlarged experience, and a more minute knowledge of the subject, still I think that that publication will bear the test of the strictest scrutiny; and in that essay there is a passage, recommending this policy which, as I have cited it before, I will not weary the House by further alluding to. But, in the first of all authorities on political sciences — I allude to the authority of Adam Smith—there is a passage in which he distinctly points out that of all the sources of industry the most productive, the one most conducive to our national wealth and our national greatness, and the one to be regarded (if the various interests are to be weighed in the balance) as superior to all others, is the agricultural interest, in reference to its bearing on the wealth, the independence, and the happiness of the country at large. I say the policy which has been steadily pursued—which is sustained by such great authorities—which has obtained in this country for a century and a half, is a policy not hastily to be laid aside. The hon. Member for Wolverhampton spoke of the delusion which prevailed on this subject. The hon. Member will pardon me for saying that I conceive there can be no delusion greater than that which holds out to the expectations of the people of this country the hope that by an entire repeal of the Corn Laws in a series of years they would be the gainers either in the price of food—of bread, the first necessary of life—or in wages. I think it was truly observed by the hon. Member for Bridport, who addressed the House with great ability, that the price of grain has very little to do in any particular year with the rate of wages. I admit this proposition, so limited, to a single year; but I contend, in common with the greatest authority on the subject—I allude to Mr. Locke — that in a long series of year the price of bread corn will materially affect, if not regulate, the rate of wages. But the rate of wages is decided like the price of any other commodity, by the demand for that article and by the supply; and of course with our rapidly increasing population the supply of labour has a tendency to outstrip the demand. The hon. Member for Wolverhampton observed that it was a disgrace to our country that there should be so much pauperism; but he must bear in mind the unexampled artificial state in which we live. In these narrow islands there are 24,000,000 of individuals, and the competition for employment is therefore intense. But in dealing with such an artificial state of society, and looking at the difficulties to which I have adverted, and which he brought most prominently to our notice, I say you must use the utmost caution in touching any source of demand for labour so great and so general as the demand for agricultural labour. Sir, I am also prepared to combat the doctrine, that under the present system of protection, agricultural improvement to an immense and astonishing extent has not taken place. I contend, and I believe the fact is indisputable, that notwithstanding the doubling of the population within the last half century, the supply of food is, at this moment, more easily obtained in Great Britain and Ireland than it was at the former period for the whole of the inhabitants of these two islands. Sir, I speak from a personal knowledge of the county and the neighbourhood with which I am connected; and even in my own memory that county, which thirty years ago did not produce sufficient food for the maintenance of its own inhabitants, by enclosures, by improvements, and by successful industry, now exports largely in aid of the manufacturing population. I will state what I myself personally know with respect to enclosures. I remember a common which, in the year 1816, was covered with heath, over which I have myself sported, and on it I have shot moor game. I hope I shall not sink in the estimation of hon. Members, for having been a sportsman; for I see many first-rate free-traders who enjoy this amusement; and the hon. Member for Sheffield has sported upon the same ground, or upon ground immediately adjacent. I say in the year 1816, I knew of this common, which happened to be on a manor of my own, although I have no interest in it now. I received a small allotment of the common when it was divided; but I now no longer possess any portion of it. In the year 1816, about 2,000 acres were enclosed. The land was of a most inferior quality, and an outlay of about 6,000l. was made upon that enclosure. At the time it was enclosed, the annual rental did not exceed 88l. In consequence of that outlay of 6,000l. the improvement of the common has been so great that in the year 1840 the value of the gross produce amounted to between 2,000l. and 3,000l. Deducting the prime cost expended in improving the enclosure, and taking twenty-five years' purchase as the value in 1816 at 88l. a year, and contrasting that with twenty-five years' purchase now at the value of 900l. or 1,000l. a year, which would be the rental, after deducting two thirds for wages, interest of capital, and other outgoings, it will be found that upon that single transaction there has been added to the productive wealth and means of the country in that narrow sphere of 1800 acres of land, a capital that may be represented by at least 20,000l. So far with respect to the value. Now, how is this land occupied? Of course before it was enclosed it was uninhabited. But what is the position of affairs there now? This is not a possession held by great landowners; it is all held by little freeholders. There are nine freehold houses upon it, and eleven cottages; and in the year 1840 there was a population of 120 persons, living in ease and comfort upon this land, which was unoccupied and uncultivated twenty-five years ago. This is an illustration of what has occurred under the system which has been so much condemned. I say, not only has the population but the wealth of that, district increased to an enormous extent; and the comfort of that portion of the population which occupies small tenements of this description has been equally augmented. Sir, the hon. Gentleman has referred to the doctrine which has been advocated — that protection is necessary on account of local burdens. When that subject was mentioned it was received with derision by Gentlemen on the opposite side of the House. I am glad to see the noble Lord the Member for the city of London now present, because I am sure he will not deride that doctrine of local burdens. On the contrary, he is still the advocate for a fixed duty, as a protecting duty; and although he has somewhat repented of his offer of 8s. a quarter, still he feels that a protecting duty is necessary, and although he has not defined it, he intimates that it might probably be 5s. or 6s.; and the noble Lord says— I think that if a moderate fixed duty were imposed, and the present high protection re- duced, it would be most reasonable, simultaneously with such a reduction, to alter the Law of Settlement. And the noble Lord also says— The present Law of Settlement is most disadvantageous to the rural districts—that residence in the manufacturing districts should confer a settlement, and that there should be no power of removing to the Agricultural districts. The noble Lord does not define the extent of the peculiar burdens; but he admits them, and proposes to meet them by a protecting duty. Sir, as the hon. Member for Wolverhampton says, and says truly, an abundant supply of food for the labouring population is after all a matter of paramount legislative importance. I admit that, and the point at issue is what system of law will in a series of years yield with the greatest certainty this abundant supply of food to this large population. If the hon. Member for Wolverhampton will show me that the supply can best be procured by a system of importing corn free of all duty, I will at once confess that I am an advocate for open ports and an unrestricted trade. I am not attached to a 4s. duty, because as a protection I think it would be quite inadequate to its object. Then the question arises, will you retain the present system, or will you adopt the principle of a free trade in corn? I must say that I believe the quantity of corn which would be introduced with open ports by importation from abroad has been understated by hon. Members opposite. Great reliance may be placed upon the opinion of such a person as Mr. Tooke; and in 1838 he took the amount of probable import of wheat from foreign ports, under a system of free trade, to be about 2,000,000 quarters, for which we should pay on the average 45s. per quarter. I will assume that on account of the lower price there would be an increased demand; 16,000,000 quarters is estimated to be the present average annual consumption of wheat in the United Kingdom; but for the sake of argument let us suppose that one-eighth of the 16,000,000 quarters now grown in this country would be displaced by foreign supply, and I will ask the House to consider what the effect would be, and what land would be thrown out of cultivation? Clearly the land which is most costly in its cultivation for growing wheat would be the first thrown out of aration; and that is the land which requires the greatest quantity of manual labour. With reference to the demand for labour, I cannot conceive — if such were to be the immediate and sudden effect—anything more disastrous. The hon. Member for Wolverhampton said that it was impossible any injury could be greater than a sudden impediment to manufacturing industry; but I do not believe that so large a number of persons can be reduced from comparative comfort to indigence and destitution from any other cause as by the sudden displacement of so large a quantity of labour employed in producing wheat. The whole of our legislation for the last forty or fifty years has contemplated the difficulties that would attend such a displacement. Some observations were made in the course of the evening on a point which I am about to touch. The noble Lord the Member for London had introduced a measure with reference to tithes, and a most excellent measure it was, and highly conducive to the progress of agriculture. By that measure there was permanently attached a rent charge, calculated upon the basis of the past produce of the land. The most ancient land in England under cultivation was the very land of which he was speaking, and there was fixed upon it in perpetuity a rent charge. Let them remember that the land which was cultivated for the produce of wheat must be turned in the case supposed to the growth of grass. As grass land its produce would be of a most inferior description; and if thrown out of cultivation, the tithe fixed upon it in perpetuity would more than exhaust all the rental. I mention this as an illustration of the caution with which you ought to proceed in this matter. The noble Member for the city of London (Lord J. Russell) proposed, a short time ago, Resolutions on this subject, which, taken as premises, were almost identical with the First Resolution of the hon. Member for Wolverhampton. The premises were the same, but the conclusions were widely different. The noble Lord said that it is necessary to proceed with the utmost caution in making any change on this subject; he intimated that, in his opinion, the well-being of society requires not only cautious, but gradual progress towards an entire system of free trade: while the hon. Member for Wolverhampton proposes an immediate and entire change by throwing open our ports. I agree with the noble Lord in all the reasons he urged last year against the sudden and immediate change now proposed by the hon. Member for Wolverhampton. I have stated, that, in my opinion, such a change would excite well-grounded apprehension and fear; but in addition to that apprehension, the groundless panic which would prevail among the landlords and farmers, the employers and the labourers immediately connected with agriculture, would be such as to give a severe shock to the peace and the best interests of the community. As a consequence of such panic — as an immediate effect of its operation on such powerful and numerous classes—there would be a general suspension of the demand for labour. It may be said, that in a short time other branches of industry would absorb the labour so displaced; but I say again, that in a state of society so artificial as that in which we live, if you can suppose 500,000 or 800,000 persons suddenly thrown out of employment, there is no doubt that the whole machine—artificially constructed as it is—would come to a stand still, and that destitution, despair, and pauperism, would be the consequences of such a convulsive shock. The noble Lord (Lord J. Russell) stated last year, as I think most truly, in opposition to the Motion of the hon. Member for Wolverhampton, that, in addition to panic and suspension of employment, its effect would be to create a glut in the supply of corn, when, from the cessation of employment, there would be a diminished demand. I am unwilling to detain the House by going through the various other arguments against a sudden change of this nature, which I have so often brought under its notice. In discussing the Resolutions of the noble Lord opposite (Lord J. Russell), I stated what I considered to be the responsibilities of the Government, especially on this particular subject. I do not shrink from avowing that responsibility. I feel its full weight. But, I repeat, I am persuaded on the whole, that by the improvement of land—by the capital progressively devoted to its better cultivation, and by the skill applied to its management, a more sure and certain supply of food can be provided, even for an increased population, in a series of years, than by any other means. The hon. Member for Wolverhampton has condemned the system of past protection; but with reference to the future, the facts he discloses are not to be overlooked. He tells us that France is rapidly becoming a more and more importing country; that Belgium has followed our example, and protects her corn. If I mistake not, Bavaria and several of the Rhenish provinces have placed an export duty upon their corn, progressively increasing as the price of corn rises. It was stated by the hon. Member for Wolverhampton himself, that in consequence of the transition which has taken place in many of the corn-growing districts of Europe, from the condition of purely agricultural to that of mixed manufacturing countries, the consumption of corn is increasing, while the means of exporting are proportionally diminishing. The hon. Member shows you that your means of obtaining a supply of corn from Europe are gradually but progressively decreasing. Now, suppose the policy of that hon. Member were adopted, and that year by year we became dependent for a supply of 2,000,000 quarters of corn—even in seasons when there was no dearth—upon foreign countries. I believe the largest importation of foreign corn into this country ever known fell short of 3,000,000 quarters; and the effect of that demand in this country was to raise the price of corn throughout Europe, I think, nearly 100 per cent. Now, if we uniformly imported 2,000,000 quarters, we must still remain dependent in a great degree upon our home supply of corn to the extent of at least three-fourths of our whole consumption, and we should remain subject to variations of seasons and bad harvests. Suppose 2,000,000 quarters be your annual supply, you would have to meet bad harvests by a great increase of that supply, or your population must be reduced to a state of want and destitution. Now, your usual supply being 2,000,000 quarters annually, if it were necessary that you should import 2,000,000 quarters more, on account of dearth, where is your security arising from an uniform steady demand on the Continent, for a sure supply to meet your wants? With regard to a fixed duty, if you impose a high duty, in years of scarcity you prevent the importation of corn when you most require it; if you adopt a low duty, I must—notwithstanding what fell from the hon. Member for Wolverhampton—maintain my opinion that it would be no protection whatever. Now, I admit that the success or failure of the present law cannot be tested till we have a bad harvest; and I admit that, since that law was adopted, the seasons have, on the whole, been good. But, under this law, in 1843, 800,000 quarters of foreign wheat were imported into England, and in 1844 the imports were 700,000 quarters. Even during the present year, at low prices not ranging above 48s. a quarter, 60,000 quarters of foreign corn have been imported into this country in one week; and, with reference to barley, I stated before, and I repeat now, that it is impossible for any law to have worked more satisfactorily than the present with regard to barley. In the course of the present year, at least from April, 1844, to April, 1845, the amount of barley imported into this country was 1,200,000 quarters; and almost in every week the quantity brought into consumption has equalled the quantity imported. There has been a considerable duty levied upon barley, and at the same time the price to the consumer has averaged from 32s. to 33s. per quarter. I have admitted that the seasons have been favourable; but still, in 1843, when 800,000 quarters of wheat were imported, the average price of wheat to the consumer did not exceed 51s. a quarter; and in 1844, when 720,000 quarters were imported, the average price was 50s. a quarter; and since the last harvest the price has not exceeded 48s. If in 1843, when corn was imported into this country to the extent of 800,000 quarters, and in the next year, 1844, when 700,000 quarters were imported, the price only varied from 48s. to 50s. per quarter, the inference is just that with respect to steadiness of price the measure has been attended with great success; and steadiness of price is rightly stated by the hon. Member himself to be an object of the first importance. The hon. Member says he believes the alteration he proposes would give a less shock in respect to prices than was anticipated; and yet he admitted in a later part of his speech, that the change he proposed might have the effect of lowering prices much more than he himself hoped or expected. He assumed that the price of corn might be brought as low as perhaps 35s. per quarter. But if the House should agree to such a proposal, and the consequence should be a fall of price to the level of 35s. a quarter, is there not just reason to fear that the effect of such a depression of the price of produce upon those employed in agriculture, both in England and Ireland, would be fearful in the extreme? To any such change as this, I therefore am opposed, since, contrary to the expectations of the hon. Member, I anticipate the most disastrous consequences to the agricultural portion of society; and these fatal consequences must certainly, though, perhaps, indirectly, affect in the end the manufacturing interests of the country, and produce evils not anticipated by the commercial and manufacturing interests, whose welfare it is now attempted to promote without the consideration due to the agriculture of the United Kingdom, which is, after all, the staple of our national industry.

Mr. Villiers

explained: He had not expressed his opinion as to the price which a repeal of the Corn Law would produce, but he said that as the right hon. Baronet opposite had a few nights ago spoken of the advantage of an average of 45s. per quarter, would not greater advantages on that principle be derivable from the average of 35s. per quarter?

Mr. Bright

said, that from recent discussions both in that House and elsewhere, he could form but one conclusion as to the maintenance of protection. To a portion of the right hon. Gentleman's speech he gave his cordial assent; but he was at a loss to know whether another portion of it was intended to afford hope to his side of the House, or consolation to the other. The right hon. Baronet appeared, during the delivery of his speech, to have been endeavouring to say one thing at one portion of it, and to unsay it at another portion; so that it would have been impossible for any Member of that House, if he were not acquainted with the right hon. Baronet's opinions from former speeches and previous passages in his life, to ascertain to which side of the question he was most inclined to lean. The right hon. Baronet said, that the change in the Corn Laws ought to be gradual and easy—that they ought gradually to diminish protection, and advance towards free trade by bringing corn into a nearer relation with other articles which the Government had already interfered with; and after that he proceeded to show that, if there were any alteration made, it must amount to a repeal of the Corn Laws. He showed with great force that the opinions of the noble Lord the Member for London were utterly untenable, and he would have said absurd, but that, from the noble Lord's ability and acquaintance with public life, it was impossible he could apply that term with perfect appropriateness to any opinion of the noble Lord's. The right hon. Baronet, however, observed that there existed no arguments in favour of a fixed duty; so that having repudiated a fixed duty, and demonstrated that the next change in the Corn Laws should be repeal, he then fell back upon the fallacies of some of the supporters of the Government in that House (with which fallacies the right hon. Baronet notoriously did not agree); and he went on to speak as if he really thought that the statement of placing this country in dependence on foreigners for corn had really any weight. There was a note of exclamation from that the Opposition side of the House, when the right hon. Baronet referred to that argument; for they supposed that they would never have heard such an argument at this time of day, and from the Secretary of State for the Home Department, who had such long experience in Parliamentary life. They were astonished when they heard such an argument brought forward by a member of a Government whose policy had been characterized by such advances towards free trade, and whose principles were avowedly based on a gradual and steady approach towards that consummation. The right hon. Baronet, when he stated that they ought not suddenly to shock the agricultural interest, reminded him of something which he had seen in that clever paper Punch. It was an advice from an old lady to a young lady who had been recently married, and it recommended the young lady, in order to obtain a complete mastery over her husband, to cultivate her nerves. It appeared that the right hon. Baronet took a similar view of this question with that which the old lady took of matrimony — he encouraged the agriculturists to be sensitive, to be shrinking, to be afraid to be touched, and then he used that sensibility as an argument against the advocates of free trade in corn; and stated, that in consequence of it the present system of Corn Laws was not to be touched, although it starved thousands of the population of the country. The right hon. Baronet had asked the advocates of free trade in that House for some proof that free trade would give more food to the people; and he said that he felt with great force the responsibility of the question put to him, whether he, as a Minister of the Crown, would retain in existence a law which restricted the supply of food to a population which was increasing at the rate of 400,000 every year. Did the right hon. Baronet want any proof to convince him that the true source of a certain and unfailing abundance of supply in the article of corn was to permit the laws of nature to take their course with respect to it, and to repeal at once those restrictive laws which ignorant men had made in direct contradiction to the laws of nature? If the right hon. Baronet did not know that, then he must have studied the condition of this nation to little purpose indeed. How were the people of this great city fed? Here was a population of two millions, and during the last few weeks there was an addition of two or three hundred thousand persons to it, and all those individuals were supplied with provisions every day without the intervention of a Secretary of State, and without inconvenience or uncertainty. In the street in which he lived he was delighted every day with the song of a lark which sung as if it were not in a cage: a boy every day, for a halfpenny, brought that lark a piece of green turf, and that was the principle on which the Queen was supplied—on which the highest and the lowest received their supplies; and they might rest assured that there was no principle of supply so secure as that which was allowed to regulate itself by the wants of the community. The right hon. Baronet said that if our ports were opened, there would be a larger quantity of corn required than had been estimated by Mr. Tooke, and asked where was the security of a larger supply in years of deficiency? Was he not aware that in all those articles of consumption which we required and which were not protected, though the produce of other countries, there was usually a good stock on hand? Corn was the produce of most countries, and how could he suppose such a deficiency when we were enabled to have a stock on hand of commodities, some of which were the produce of only one country, such as cotton. There was more than six months' stock of cotton in Liverpool, although it was only produced in the United States; and there was a similarly large stock of everything which we required which the unhallowed finger of protection had not been laid upon: of all the articles which were not protected we had a large supply, and our experience on that head formed a conclusive argument as regarded the fears of the right hon. Baronet—an argument which was a thousand times more conclusive than the prophecies of the right hon. Baronet as to the dreadful effects which might be expected to follow the abolition of the monopoly in corn. The right hon. Baronet spoke of the results of a panic, and persons being thrown out of employment, until he (Mr. Bright) had begun almost to think that times were changed, and that the right hon. Baronet was sitting on the Opposition side of the House, and wanted to get to the opposite Benches. He spoke as if he believed that, in consequence of the abolition of the Corn Laws, there would be a suspension of labour. Did the right hon. Baronet know that the whole number of persons who were engaged in producing 2,000,000 quarters of corn was not as great as the number of persons who were thrown out of employment in one town in this country by the state of things caused by this monopoly, like Sheffield, Leeds, or Stockport? But he was certain he could name two towns at least, in which a number of the population were thrown out of employment in 1841 and 1842, greater than the whole number of individuals who were directly employed in producing 2,000,000 quarters of corn. They could not find 25,000 persons in any part of England employed in the cultivation of 2,000,000 quarters of wheat; and yet that number of persons had been thrown out of employment in one town in 1841. The right hon. Baronet talked of the improvement of agriculture; every one knew that improvement had been going on; but was it such an improvement as would go faster than an increase in the population of 380,000 every year? If it were not, then, should we be in a better position in a few years, through any effect of that improvement, than we are in at present, when it was notorious that there were three or four millions of persons in Great Britain and Ireland, who had not the means of obtaining bread as a common article of food? With respect, to the argument of the right hon. Baronet, founded on the assumption that an abolition of the Corn Law would make us dependent on foreigners, he did not feel it necessary to follow it; and he alluded to that portion of his speech, because it exhibited the right hon. Baronet in the most extraordinary position in which he could be placed, holding free-trade opinions, and defending Corn Laws like these. The right hon. Member for Newark had stated last year that the price of corn was steady under the present law. Well, it was steady for the last twelve months, and the parties for whose protection it had been established were disappointed. As regarded the steadiness of prices under this law, the prices of wheat were more steady, and for a longer period, in 1833 and 1834, under the former law, whilst the right hon. Baronet had admitted that the existing law had not yet been tested by a bad harvest, which was the only test of bad legislation on the subject of corn. He expected that the Motion of his hon. Friend the Member for Wolverhampton would have been resisted by the Government, not on grounds of principle, but on the ground that it was not expedient to take such a step at once; but that it would be better to advance only in such a degree as the country might be found prepared for; and when a Member of the Government came to address them, he directed himself a good deal towards his supporters, the agricultural Members at the lower part of the House, in order, as it appeared to him, to break their fall. As the right hon. Baronet had taken that course, perhaps he (Mr. Bright) might be permitted to address a few words to the Gentlemen who represented the agricultural interest in that House. The speeches of the hon. Members for Devonshire and Lincolnshire had resuscitated opinions which, he had begun to think, had altogether disappeared; and he would, therefore, apply himself to the argument which was based upon the fears of the landlords and farmers, as to the result which would be produced on their interests by the repeal of the Corn Laws. From the discussions which he had had with persons connected with agriculture, he found that they were rather willing to receive any arguments which went to show them that their fears had been greatly exaggerated. He would ask them, was not the article of wheat in its nature the same as any other article of consumption and legislative regulation, such as tobacco and cotton? Would not the same rules apply to wheat, as regarded competition, which applied to other articles of agricultural produce? The Legislature had already admitted a large number of articles into this country which competed with agricultural produce, and the result was, that the agriculturists had not suffered evil, but obtained good from those changes. Take bark, for example. It appeared by a Report presented to that House, that during the last ten years the importation of bark had been 7,130,626 cwts.; and yet, he would ask, had any grower of timber in this country suffered in consequence, by finding a difficulty in disposing of his bark; or had it varied in its price more than other articles? Then hides were another description of import which was permitted by the Legislature; and the imports of foreign hides for the last ten years were 3,811,759 cwts.; notwithstanding which, the graziers and butchers found no difficulty in disposing of their hides. Suppose that a contrary system had prevailed for the last ten years, and that foreign hides had not been allowed to be imported to this market, how would the people of this country have been supplied? They might be independent of foreigners in that case for their supply of hides, and they would also be independent for their boots and shoes. It was by carrying the principle of protection to its full extent that its advocates could best see how untenable it was. That was the way in which to judge of whether the advocates of free trade or protection were in the right, and he was satisfied to abide by such a trial. The next article which was admitted by the Legislature, and which might be supposed to interfere with agricultural produce, was tallow; and he found that in the period which he had mentioned, the quantity of tallow imported into this country was 12,054,257 cwts., all of which came into the country without any injury to the agricultural interest. The import of foreign flax in the last ten years was 12,057,286 cwts., and of wool 490,545,447lbs., notwithstanding which the price of wool had been most highly remunerative to the wool-growers of this country during that period, in fact, better than those given to the growers of wheat. The next articles to which he came were silk and cotton, which, though not articles of agricultural produce, might be supposed to interfere with the growers of wool; and the importation of those articles in the same period was, of silk 52,389,574lbs., and of cotton 4,300,721,655lbs. Who could suppose, in 1810, when the importation of cotton was so small, that within so short a period as had since elapsed, it would have arrived at such an extent that its consumption would be doubled and tripled within that period? The real article which came into competition with agricultural produce, and to which he would refer them, was rice—an article which would be admitted to enter into that competition, inasmuch as a rice pudding might fill the place of a bread pudding; and the amount of rice imported in the last ten years was 1,694,817 cwts. in a clean state, and 1,418,407 cwts. with the husks. Of other articles within the same period, the importation was—cloverseed, 971,382 cwts.; rye, 207,107 quarters; beans and peas, 1,821,143 quarters; barley, 2,011,602 quarters; oats, 2,376,343 quarters; wheat, 12,390,991 quarters; flour, 5,317,815 cwts.; grain of all kinds, upwards of 19,000,000 quarters; of butter, 2,070,696 cwts.; cheese, 1,939,568 cwts That was the amount of importation on articles which affected the agricultural interest, and it had not produced the slightest injury to them. The hon. Member for Lincolnshire talked of a famine price, and stated that there had not been a famine price in the country during the last twenty-five years. He could tell the hon. Member that they had famine prices, and they were relaxed when it was feared that they were stretched so much that they would break with any greater tension. The hon. Member, or Members, of the Cabinet might not, perhaps, know of a famine price; but to the poor man there was in this country still a famine and a starvation price of corn, as if God had visited the earth with sterility, and that this country had been afflicted with one of those terrible disasters which they read of as having taken place hundreds of years ago. But it was not a famine price of that nature: the famine was caused by that House by legislation, and it was high time that the extraordinary imposition which caused it should come to an end. The country now regarded it as such; for he and those who acted with him had not travelled through every county and most of the towns in England without sufficiently exposing it; and so long as it continued, there would be found to exist a soreness on the subject, "a foulness of breath," as Dr. Chalmers termed it, "non-acquiescence in the system, and a desire to have it repealed." There was no reason why the agriculturists should be afraid that evil consequences would arise to them from the importation of wheat, any more than from the importation of the other articles which he had named. If the price of 64s. a quarter was not able to cause a larger importation than 2,250,000 quarters of corn, how could 45s. or 35s. produce such an importation as they appeared to dread? There was a feeling in the country, that with respect to the subject of grease and butter, which had been fully discussed in that House, the magnanimous gentry and aristocracy had stooped themselves to obtain such a protection; but the question of protection now was one of time, and he was willing to score off the whole of the speech of the right hon. Baronet opposite after that part which contained his allusion to free trade. The right hon. Baronet admitted that the principle of free trade was the keystone of the policy of his right hon. Friend at the head of the Government. He hoped that the agricultural Members would remember that statement, and ponder on it, and that they would not tell the farmers that they could resist the principles of free trade; for they (the agricultural Members) were altogether in the hands of the right hon. Baronet at the head of the Government, and what he said must be law, and would be law, for they had no power to prevent it. The right hon. Baronet was from day to day doing something to break down the system of protection, and there were others strongly opposed to it, who would not relax their exertions. They were active, as hon. Members opposite knew—they were honest, as he knew—and they would do every thing in their power to break down a system which was so injurious to the industry of this country. The opponents of protection were determined to continue their exertions. They began with collecting 5,000l., they then got 7,000l., they then collected 10,000l., next they got 50,000l., and last year they had collected 100,000l., and the people of Lancashire and Cheshire were called on to adopt a means that would give them great influence in the return of Members of Parliament. He did not give this upon his own authority; but he would suggest to Gentlemen to ask publicly, or privately, the Gentleman who had been last elected for South Lancashire, what prospects he had, with his present principles, of again representing that county. There were other counties on the list to which the attention of the League would soon be turned. They had put out a project for holding what is called a bazaar, for want of a better name—it did not exactly describe the exhibition. Many Gentlemen opposite had visited it; and if any of them would give the House a short detail of what he saw there, he thought it would be a very good Anti-Corn Law speech. The amount of money taken at the door and from sales was more than 20,000l. The amount of money subscriptions sent up altogether, without solicitation, was between 4,000l. and 5,000l., and the amount of material left—valuable stock—made about 30,000l. Many persons had seen bazaars held under the aus- pices of Duchesses, Countesses, and Patronesses of high rank; but they had never heard of one tenth of the sum being collected. And this was a middle-class bazaar, supported by persons into whose hearts free-trade principles had sunk, and become, verily, a religious question. ["Oh, oh."] There was a passage in the Mahometan Bible which he recollected reading—the Koran, in which the man whom the world regarded as an imposter laid it down as a maxim that one hour of justice is worth seventy days of prayer. It would be well for those who ought to be familiar with the Christian maxim of "doing unto others as they would be done by," to abstain from depriving the poor of food in order to put money into their own pockets. It would be better for them to endeavour to make their opinions intelligible to the country, than object to the statement he had made. He was speaking of the bazaar and exhibition, and was about to say that there were ladies at it, many of whom, when at home, lived just as sumptuously, just as independently, and just as respectably in every way, as the bulk of those Gentlemen whom he saw opposite; and yet so firmly were they persuaded of the truth of the principles which the League held, and which the Gentlemen opposite affected but did not dare to despise, that they came up to this metropolis, and for three weeks performed the arduous duty—for it was an arduous duty—of attending at the exhibition and bazaar. [Ironical Cheers.] It was easy to sneer at these things; but there was one Member opposite who would not sneer at them, and that was the right hon. Baronet who led the party. He knew better than to sneer at the opinions of a vast body of the middle classes. He might not feel it right, with the responsibilities of his office, to do that which he or others wished; but, coming from that county from which he derived his birth, and knowing the feelings, the wants, and the condition of the middle classes, the right hon. Baronet would be the last man to sneer at the efforts they were making for the abolition of this law. An hon. Member opposite had lately given to the world a book in which he represented the Monarch of this country as reigning over two nations, the rich and the poor, and there was a great deal of truth in that. Others talked of the widening of the separation between the very rich and the very poor. The Corn Law created nothing, it blighted almost everything. There was an abundance of capital, of labour, and of material in this country, but there wanted an honest distribution of it; and that honest distribution could only be given upon those just, true, and immutable principles which the Great Creator had given for the regulation of the ordinary affairs of life. He knew that on going to a division his party would be in a minority of course, but he also knew that minorities in that House often became majorities; and if a man advocated a sound principle, and knew that millions out of doors supported it, let him not be deterred because the teller gave a majority against it, instead of in its favour. They had seen good principles growing, growing, growing, because everybody supported them; and bad principles fading away, and those who formerly adhered to them ashamed to recall them. If they wanted this law to be maintained on its principle, they should have prevented Caxton from erecting his press in Westminster Abbey, they should have placed an interdict upon Chambers, proscribed Knight's weekly volume, and put down all newspapers, and, above all, put a stop to those locomotive engines which came up from Manchester to the metropolis in four hours and a half.

Mr. S. O'Brien

said, he was not fortunate enough to hear the opening part of the speech of the hon. Member who had just sat down, nor, when he came into the House, was it his intention to take any part in the debate. For, although the hon. Member for Wolverhampton had challenged him to enter upon this discussion, and to criticise the various publications of the Anti-Corn Law League; yet he considered himself too old a fish to rise to a fly like that. But when the hon. Gentleman opposite challenged hon. Members at that (the Ministerial) side of the House to give a description of the free-trade bazaar, he (Mr. O'Brien) rose boldly to do so; first, lest it should be considered that he was afraid of acknowledging that he had been there; and, secondly, lest it should be supposed that he was unwilling to do justice to the great skill and power there displayed. He must confess that when he saw the productions displayed at that bazaar, he experienced a feeling totally distinct from any class, party, or political feeling—a sense of pride and exultation on account of what his countrymen had done. He felt something separate from and above any question of the Anti-Corn Law League or the Protection Society. He felt a pure, honest, and just satisfaction at seeing how nobly art and science did honour to the skill of the manufacturers of this country. But when the hon. Gentleman went from that subject, and assumed that all the evils that existed in this country were attributable to the Corn Laws, and that all the good was in spite of the Corn Laws, he must say that the hon. Gentleman's argument was altogether unfair and unfounded. When the hon. Gentleman insisted, as he always did, that the legislation of this country was mainly and solely in the hands of the landed aristocracy; when he charged them with having had, and still having, too much power in that House; it was rather illogical and unreasonable in him to turn round, and in the next breath say with honest pride, "See what that legislation has brought this country to." He was willing to let the legislation of this country stand or fall on its own merits; but that legislation should be judged of as a whole. No system of legislation, whether on free trade or protection principles, could of itself remove all the evils of a great empire and a complex state of society. And when the hon. Gentleman, not content with quoting from the Koran, should again refer to and quote texts from a sacred Book, he would remind him of the propriety of doing so in a milder and calmer spirit. He might quote many texts from that sacred book forbidding the imputation of motives to, and inculcating charity towards those who differed from us. Referring to sacred Scripture in such a spirit as that manifested by the hon. Member, reminded him of the expression—Tantæ ne animis cœlestibus iræ?" which though not a new quotation in that House, while hon. Gentlemen manifested the same irascibility in alluding to sacred subjects, could never be inapplicable. He still maintained the general principle of protection, for he had heard nothing to alter his sentiments on that point. As for the particular merits of the agricultural legislation of Her Majesty's Government, he must say they were not popular enough among farmers to induce county Members to support them. But whether we were to have free trade or not—whether the system of protection was to be abandoned or not, he must say that the last person the aristocracy of the country would have to blame, was the right hon. Gentleman at the head of Her Majesty's Government, for they had gone with him and supported him most thoroughly. Whether the farmers, the middle classes, or the agricultural labourers blamed him or not, the landed aris- tocracy could not find fault with him; for there could be no doubt that, partly from the fear of disturbing his Government, and partly from the laudable fear of interfering with the food of the people, they had supported him in all his measures. So that the last person they had to blame, was the right hon. Gentleman whom they had placed in office, and whom they were determined to support in office. He should vote against the Motion, perhaps, from motives different from those of Her Majesty's Government. He had never bound himself to the particular details of any law; and he considered the principle of protection maintained by the present laws was fairly modified. We had no right on the one side to insist that those laws should be final, any more than on the other there was a right to insist that they should be instantaneously repealed. It was by mutual concessions, and not by carrying out impracticable theories, that such a question could be decided in a manner conducive to the best interests of the country.

Dr. Bowring

said, the hon. Gentleman who had just addressed them had announced his intention of voting against the Motion of the hon. Member for Wolverhampton; yet he had not stated one reason why he should do so. It had been asked whether the peasants of this country were not better off than the peasantry of any other country—than any with whom they came into competition? The great majority of those who cultivated the corn in countries whose produce came into competition with this, such as Poland, Hungary, &c., were persons who received no wages at all. A good deal had been said on the other side of the House on the subject of reciprocity. Now the right hon. Baronet himself at the head of the Government had admitted that this was a delusion. It was a good principle to take from foreigners all they were able to give, and they could compel them to take from us, in return, that which we had to furnish. Much had been already done for the ruling few in the way of legislation, and it was now time that something should be done for the subject many. Whatever might be the amount of resistance offered to those principles, the time was not far distant in which the emancipation of the commerce of this country should have its effect, and the labouring population of this Empire receive the due reward of their industry.

Mr. Cavendish

concurred with the prin- ciple laid down by the hon. Member for Wolverhampton, for whose Motion he would vote; not only on account of its own merits, but because hon. Gentlemen opposite seemed always so determined to resist all sorts of reform. He believed, also, that protection was not productive of all those beneficial effects to the farmers of this country which it was supposed to afford; and it had also the effect of preventing them from relying as much as they might otherwise do on their own efforts. He thought the only claim landowners had to any protection was, that they had long been burdened with it, and were now living under a system which had sprung up under it. He thought, however, it would better become them if, instead of keeping up this delusive system, they would devise means of giving greater security to their tenants, and inducing them to exert their energies to render their labours more productive.

Viscount Ebrington

said, that he had formerly opposed this Motion, and had never before supported it. He opposed it in 1843, though he had then received a requisition in favour of it signed by many of his constituents, accompanied by a threat from some. On the present occasion, he had received no communication from them upon the subject; so that he came to his present conclusion unbiassed, at least, by any pressure from without. He had formerly opposed it, because he did not wish to render a compromise between two great parties whose interests wee identical, if they would but believe them to be so, impossible; but he regretted to say that, thanks to the shortsighted policy of the Government who conceded anything to clamour, and nothing to justice, and thanks to the obstinate blindness of those supporters who refused to read the signs of the times, he was beginning to despair of any compromise being effected. He had always said that if he had only to choose between no Corn Laws at all, and the present monstrous anomaly of a law opposed to the doctrines of all the political economists who had written upon the subject, and the opinions of all those who knew anything about it, he should have no hesitation in preferring the former alternative. Believing that to be the case now, he should give his hearty support to the Motion of his hon. Friend.

Mr. Cobden

would detain the House but a short time, but he was anxious to make a few remarks, in order to recall the attention of the House to the subject really before it, and to remind the House, and probably the country, that the question mooted by his hon. Friend the Member for Wolverhampton had not been met, but systematically evaded. The question was not as to the comparative cheapness or dearness of corn—it had nothing to do with the Tariff—it had nothing to do with agricultural or manufacturing prosperity. The question was simply whether it was just to impose a law to restrict the supply of food? That question had not been met. He said more — he said it never would be met. It was an argument that could not be answered, either there or anywhere else. The question was, whether there was fact and truth in the proposition of his hon. Friend, that we had a law restricting and diminishing the supply of food? He asked, if the Corn Law was not to effect that, what was its purpose? Gentlemen seemed to have forgotten—but the country did not forget—that their former pleas for protection, on the ground of exclusive burdens, admitted that restriction raised prices; and how could prices be raised but by restricting and diminishing the supply? All the secondary and subsidiary arguments which were resorted to, showed the country that the question could not be met. But it was asked, what proof there was that in this country the law restricted the supply of food—that the people were insufficiently fed? Would any agricultural Member say, that in the county from which he came, in the south of England, the labouring classes and their families were sufficiently and wholesomely fed? If the hon. Member for Wiltshire, for Dorsetshire, or for Somersetshire, would pledge his honour that in the county which he represented, as a general rule, the labouring classes and their families were sufficiently and wholesomely fed, he (Mr. Cobden) would give up the whole question of his hon. Friend's proposition. It was argued by the right hon. Secretary of State for the Home Department, that the people of this country were now in a sound and satisfactory state of prosperity. He (Mr. Cobden) denied that altogether. He said that the great mass of the labouring classes, the unskilled labouring class, were in a condition which permanently was one disgraceful to the Government of the country; and the House happened at that moment to be inundated with proofs from Commissioners and authorities describing the degraded state of the people. Look at Ireland: Gentlemen talked of Ireland as if it was not an integral part of the Empire; and when he mentioned that there were five millions of people in Ireland who never touched wheaten bread but as a luxury, he was answered, "Oh, if you include Ireland!" But still Ireland was a component part of the Empire, and there, as well as in England, the Corn Law restricted the supply of food. When three-fourths of the people were living upon roots, that was owing to the prohibitory law. Look at Scotland: the Commissioners stated that in the Highlands the condition of the people was almost as degraded as in Ireland. There was also a Report from the Midland Counties, where the people were employed in the hosiery trade, not a small district be it observed, a district seventy miles by sixty, and where the wages earned in framework knitting were 7s. a-week. That was not the result of political economy. Such a state of things was produced under their blessed system of protection—that system of which they boasted. Such a state of things was produced under the operation of those laws which they so benevolently and considerately passed for feeding the people of this country. The system of protection had produced nothing but misery to the labouring population of this country, and until it was removed misery would continue to be their inheritance. He would meet the opponents of free trade with this simple proposition—they could not benefit the condition of the mass of the people of this country but by the admission of more food. He did not talk then of prices—he wished prices were not mentioned in that House; but he would repeat it, that unless a greater quantity of food were introduced into this country, the condition of the mass of the people could not be benefited; because, as there was no other means by which to benefit it, so this was the simplest and the surest mode of effecting that desirable object. What the people of this country were in want of was more of wholesome nourishment. He cared not whether that nourishment came from foreign countries, or was procured at home—he cared not from what source it was procured; but unless the quantity of food for the supply of the country's wants were augmented greatly beyond what that quantity at present amounted to, all other devices—all the increase which they might be able to effect of the poor's rate—all the shiftings and changings of their plans and expedients could not have the effect of permanently raising the condition of the mass of the people. He cared not if they doubled the income of this country; he cared not if that doubling of income should take place from the Queen herself down to the meanest beggar in the land; all this might take place—but the condition of the people, relatively speaking, would be no better than it was at present if they did not introduce at the same time a greater quantity of food. And how was this additional food to be obtained—whence was it to come? That was a point on which parties and individuals in that House, as well as out of it, very widely differed. They (the protectionists) said that this additional food was to be procured by improvements in agriculture, consequent upon the maintenance and permanence of protection. But had they not already tried that expedient for thirty years? and was not the present condition of the people of this country the result of a thirty years' experiment? Was that result not yet sufficiently deplorable to shake the faith of hon. Gentlemen in their favourite expedient of protection? If they had not strong grounds indeed—and what were they?—to resist the simple and straightforward proposition of the free traders, why should they not now try the plan which that proposition embodied? They had failed in their own expedient, and they were compelled to admit it, and it was now high time—for the sake of the peace, to say nothing of the comfort and welfare of the country—that they should now try the plan which the free-trade party proposed to them, and which they had hitherto so obstinately slighted. In reference to this question, the House was favoured with a great many and very confident prophecies. The speech of the right hon. Gentleman the Secretary for the Home Department was altogether an argument in the future tense. The right hon. Gentleman said, that if they admitted 2,000,000 quarters of corn, this, that, and the other thing might follow. But he would say, let in these 2,000,000 of quarters; admit into the country the full quantity of wheat which it would consume; secure to the people their fair and proper supply of food, and he was confident that no consequences would follow which might alarm even the most timorous; at any rate, the country would not, and could not, be in a worse state than that in which it was under the present system. They had heard that evening, as well as on former occasions, a great deal about panic. But as regarded panic, do not let that be used as an argument, Both he and his hon. Friends around him, had done their best to dissipate that alarm. They never told the farmers that they had anything to fear from free trade, or from the commercial changes which they sought to introduce. If there was alarm in the minds of the farmers, it was to those sitting on the opposite benches that these fears were to be attributed. They might say, that farmers without protection could not carry on their business; and that deprived of that protection, land would be thrown out of cultivation. The right hon. Gentleman the Home Secretary spoke of clay lands; but he (Mr. Cobden) maintained that if heavy clay land was drained, it was the very description of land which for wheat culture, of all others, ran the least danger of successful competition. Tired of their old, the protectionists had now taken up with a new story. The old story was; that if they passed laws establishing free trade, they would throw the poorer soils—the light and chalky soils—out of cultivation. That argument the free-trade party had met. He had recently seen an eminent agricultural gentleman from the south, who told him that the farmers could not now cultivate their land unless a free trade were established in the inferior kinds of grain used in the rearing of cattle. As to land, especially good land, being thrown out of cultivation, he would venture to say that land of every quality would be better cultivated if the free-trade policy were adopted; for by the adoption of that policy they were likely to have much more land than at present put in cultivation. In reference to this point, he would put Lord Spencer, Lord Ducie, the late Lord Leicester, and other eminent men of their way of thinking, in competition with the right hon. Gentleman (Sir James Graham); and however much he respected the talents of the right hon. Gentleman, he could not take his convictions as worth one farthing more than the convictions of those eminent individuals whose names he had just introduced. They did not fear the same dismal consequences which the right hon. Gentleman anticipated, or which he affected to fear; nor were they apprehensive of that reduction of rent which was such a bugbear to many hon. Gentlemen, as the supposed necessary consequence of the introduction of free trade. His own belief was, that better rents could be paid under a system of unrestricted trade, than were paid under the present system of protection. Some hon. Gentlemen, in common with many agriculturists without, were afraid of their mortgages and marriage settlements. He could neither join with them in that panic. He believed that every mortgage and every settlement would be much safer and could be far more easily paid, had we a system of free trade in the room of our present system of restriction. The system which they at present tolerated, and which so many were desirous of perpetuating, was injurious to the community at large, and injuriously affected every portion of the community. The present moment was eminently suited to put an end to this system, and to put an end to it without inflicting injury upon any class or individual. If they abolished the Corn Law that night, provided the newspapers took no notice of the fact, the farmers would not feel the change, with the exception that, after a short time they would perceive it in the greatly increased comfort and prosperity of all classes around them. If this, then, were a suitable moment to select for making the change, how much had they to answer for who hesitated to take advantage of the occasion? The right hon. Gentleman talked of the free traders being rash. The same argument, if argument it might be called, had been used the last time that his hon. Friend (Mr. Villiers) brought forward his Motion. It was one of the stock arguments of hon. Gentlemen opposite. Was it rashness to propose the change now? Were they not rather the rash men, who were blindly passing over this opportunity of effecting it? They were themselves preparing by their present hesitancy to invest the free traders with an amount of moral power, of which they were extremely jealous. The time would yet come when they would have a recurrence of those scenes which had been witnessed within the memory of the youngest of them. When that time did arrive, who then would be regarded as the rash men? Would it be the men who, like his hon. Friend the Member for Wolverhampton, had the foresight to urge upon the Government to prepare for the inevitable revulsion; or would it be those who, had avowed themselves free traders, and who alleged that this was a question only of time, and yet who, because it did not suit those whom they professed to lead, and who are, at the same time, still disposed to follow, much to his surprise, were willing to put off this occasion, and to walk with their eyes open—not blindfolded—to the very brink of a precipice, and into that gulf, out of which ten thousand mischiefs and dangers might arise? There was every danger—there was great rashness in slighting the present opportunity. What was the danger which they had to fear from another scarcity? There were at this moment only 300,000 quarters of foreign corn in this country. This was bonded, and a pretty stock it was to hold. The next harvest would, in all probability, be perhaps some weeks later than previous ones, and before next harvest the people of this country would have eaten closer up to the amount of corn on hand than in former years, and yet there were only at the present moment 300,000 quarters of foreign corn in bond. Was there ever such rashness, as for twenty-seven millions of people, who could grasp the produce of the whole world, and who could mortgage it before it was grown, to leave themselves in this dilemma? Under a different system, what would have been the position of the country? Instead of having 300,000 quarters of foreign wheat in the country, they might have what it would well hold—four or five millions. That would be brought in not by the Government, but by the application of capital; and could the country more legitimately apply its capital, than for the purpose of supplying itself with food? The Dutch, at one time, held 700,000 quarters of foreign corn in their granaries. That was probably sufficient for a year's consumption. What were the Dutch as capitalists as compared with the capitalists of England? They might as easily hold 20,000,000 of quarters as the Dutch held 700,000 many years ago. Hon. Gentlemen opposite might think that the stock at present in hand in this country was a terrible thing—might think that it might be sold for nothing, and that, by its invasion, they would receive no adequate price for their corn. But what had happened in the case of wool? Had foreign competition reduced the price of wool to the producers of that article in this country? They were, then, the rash men who interposed to prevent the adoption of the proposition which emanated from that side of the House. The artificial system which was fostered and bolstered up had brought us, in this country, back to the barbarous position in which this country was placed five or six hundred years ago, with this sole difference, that then, from the bad state of the roads, and the want of the means of facile communication, counties used to suffer from famine; whereas now they were sitting at defiance all the lights of science, all the discoveries of modern times, and all the improvements founded upon these discoveries, and were bringing us into the same peril as a nation, as we formerly had to encounter only by counties. He did not ask them to store up their granaries for years. They were reluctant to interfere; but if they would not interfere, why then interfere to prevent others from storing up as capitalists? why prevent such a provision being thus made in the country as would guard against future famine? Was not this the time, of all others, in which to do this? Why were they making these amazing strides in physical science, uniting nations together, as provinces had been united before? Why were they to have railways and steamboats? Why were they to go on, uniting nations together by all the discoveries of modern times, if legislation was to lag behind, and prevent them from availing themselves of those advantages which it was the interest and the birthright of the people to derive from these discoveries, and the consequences to which they led? He would not allow the right hon. Baronet, with his proverbial caution, to take from the hon. Member for Wolverhampton what he considered his due. He (Mr. Villiers) was the man of cautious foresight. He was the man of prudence and forecast, who would make provision for future evils; and on the Government and on those who led them when they should lead their followers, on the Government rested the responsibility of anything which might happen from the present absurd and anomalous state of our law.

Mr. Bankes

rose amidst loud cries of "Divide." He said he was anxious to follow the hon. Member who had just sat down, because he, as well as the hon. Member for Wolverhampton, had fallen into historical errors which it was in his power to correct, and which had a material bearing on the question before them. When the hon. Member spoke of the degraded state of the agricultural population, and the low condition to which agricultural labourers had been reduced—these being relative terms—he begged to ask the hon. Member to point out that period in the history of this country, when those who worked for hire were in a different condition from that in which they were in at present. The hon. Member for Stockport said that the present Corn Law was but a thirty years' experiment, and that Corn Laws were unknown in the preceding period of our history. He would go to that period referred to by the hon. Member for Wolverhampton, namely, 1688, when he said King William, of glorious and immortal memory, introduced protection. This allegation was confirmatory of a passage in a book of fiction, attributed to the hon. Member for Shrewsbury, which stated that to King William, of glorious and immortal memory, we were indebted for the National Debt and the Corn Laws. But King William did not introduce the Corn Laws. He merely altered the import duty. Taking, however, that period when there was a perfect free trade in corn—the reign of James I.—a period of peace and prosperity, what was the state of things then? The French and the Dutch, with their supplies from Poland, supplied England with corn; and, according to Sir John Culpepper, though the rent of land was exceedingly low, the spade and the plough were forsaken, and the wages of labourers were extremely low. Now, as to prices and their fluctuation in that day. In 1621, corn in England was 30s. 4d. per quarter, and in the next year it was 52s. In ten years, that is, in 1631, it varied to 68s. per quarter, nearly three times the price. In 1648, wheat was 85s., having been two years before only 48s. These Returns were taken from those at the College of Eton. In King William's reign the Corn Laws were altered, by the giving of a bounty on exportation. It was a singular alteration, but it was completely successful. It kept the price of wheat more steady than it had been before. That bounty continued up to the reign of George the Second, when an import duty was imposed, which varied but little from that of the present day. With respect to the difference be- tween the exports and imports, from 1697 to 1765, there was an excess of exports over imports of upwards of 14,000,000 quarters. Let hon. Members opposite not tell him, therefore, that the Corn Law was an experiment of the last thirty years. It was an experiment of the last century and a half. In 1748, the whole of the south of France was supplied with corn from England. In 1764, the King of France took the alarm, and altered the Corn Law in that country. A subsequent alteration took place at the period of the Revolution, and though that calamity could not be ascribed to the alteration in the law which then took place, yet it was not prevented by it; and, therefore, as the experiment in France had so signally failed, he deprecated trying such another experiment in the country as urged by the hon. Member for Stockport. The burdens which were borne by the land in England were imposed for the protection and the extension of commerce throughout the world; and the landlords who consented to burden themselves for the protection of commerce had, in return, claims for protection which he hoped no Government would disregard. But if protection were removed from the landed interest, were hon. Gentlemen opposite willing to give up all other protection? [Mr. Cobden: We are.] Yes, that came well from hon. Members whose fortunes were made; who had large investments of money in railways, and had already invested some money in the purchase of land. But were they authorized to say so by those who had to live by their labour? Look at the report of the framework knitters — they who claimed protection. They gave no authority for the removal of that protection upon which their sustenance must depend. Hon. Gentlemen who possessed great property might disregard the condition of the operatives, but it was his duty to remind hon. Gentlemen of it. On referring to the report of the distress of the framework knitters, it would be found that in the years 1821, 1827, 1833, and 1837, when corn was cheap, they experienced the greatest distress. Their distress was aggravated in consequence of the sending machinery out of the country; for the machinery exported by this country was now used in Saxony, the consequence of which was that the framework knitters of this country were undersold in every market but the home. Only one thirteenth of the produce was consumed abroad, the rest was sold here. And those were the persons whose protection they were so ready to throw away! He could not agree in what had fallen from the right hon. Gentleman the Secretary of State for the Home Department, that the condition of the labouring classes of the country was an improving one. The Returns which the right hon. Gentleman referred to on that occasion were the Returns of 1844. He was afraid the Returns of the present year would show a different state of things, The greatest distress prevailed during the last severe winter in the agricultural districts, and the people were prevented from having recourse to the poorhouse only in consequence of private benevolence; and that was the reason why the amount of the Poor Law was less than it had been before. With regard to criminal offences, he could only say that the calendar for the assizes of the county of Dorset was heavier than he ever knew it to be before. He was of opinion that when corn was dear there was more employment for the people, and that the condition of the labourer was better in consequence. He would give his decided negative to the Resolutions of the hon. Member for Wolverhampton.

Lord J. Russell

Sir, I shall not at this time of the night detain the House by referring at any length to those curious specimens of historical erudition with which the hon. and learned Gentleman who has just sat down has favoured the House. He said that in the time of James I. there was free trade, when, as I believe, there was no great amount of commerce of any kind—for we certainly had not made any considerable progress—and that there was a very extensive fluctuation in the price of wheat. I will take the hon. and learned Gentleman's own showing, but I doubt whether any practical inference can be deduced from these curious specimens of historical knowledge. He has given us the further information that some changes in the Corn Law took place in France, but that these changes did not prevent the French Revolution. Undoubtedly, the hon. and learned Gentleman is well founded in facts; but I never before heard a statement that the French Revolution was likely to be prevented by a change in the Corn Laws, nor did I hear the hon. Member for Wolverhampton state in any part of his speech that the change he proposes will tend to prevent consequences at all resembling the French Revolution. The hon. and learned Gentleman went on to a more recent period. He told us that this country, and the agricultural interest especially, gladly bears the charge imposed on them; but with respect to a part of history in more modern times—on which he is, I think, a better authority—his statement was not so satisfactory as might be wished. Instead of showing that the agricultural labourers of his own part of the country are enjoying happiness and prosperity under the now existing state of the law, he laments their condition, he deplores their misfortunes, and insists that the right hon. Gentleman the Secretary for the Home Department drew too flattering a picture of their condition. If that be the case, the present state of the law has evidently not produced the contentment and happiness he supposes; and this, I think, is a more valuable fact than any which can be deduced from researches into the times of James I. and the French Revolution. The question before the House was brought forward by the hon. Member for Wolverhampton in a very able manner. The course which my hon. Friend proposes is to go into a Committee, and then to call on the House to consider of his Resolutions. I was curious to hear what course the right hon. Gentleman opposite, who I saw was about to speak as the organ of the Government, would take upon this Motion. The right hon. Gentleman at first declared the course most favourable to industry was to leave it to find its own level—to leave it to pursue its own course; and the right hon. Gentleman went on to say that this principle was applicable to corn. He then proceeded to observe that the restriction was not only injurious to the country, but to the landowners it professed to serve. [Sir James Graham: I did not say so.] I certainly understood the right hon. Gentleman to enunciate, first, the general maxim regarding the injury produced by restriction; and then I understood him to say that he would go further, and say that, even with respect to landowners themselves, restriction, or prohibition, at all events, was injurious. If I have made any mistake in this, the right hon. Gentleman will correct me. Then, I expected from this statement, if the right hon. Gentleman was not prepared, with my hon. Friend the Member for Woverhampton, at once to abolish the Corn Law; or, if the right hon. Gentleman was not prepared with me to adopt a moderate fixed duty, that he was prepared to diminish the protection at present given — that he was about to propose some scheme by which that protection was to be diminished—and that he was prepared to make this gradual approach, which he says is so desirable, towards free trade. There is nothing in the statement of the right hon. Gentleman to induce me to think this course impossible. There is nothing to render it impossible in the fact that the law has been so recently enacted; for we have seen that with respect to several matters the Government have altered the duties they themselves proposed in 1842. The duty, for example, which they proposed upon coffee in 1842, they altered in 1844. And, then, with respect to several articles upon which, in 1842, there was a low duty, there was no duty at all in 1844. But after this statement, the right hon. Gentleman started off in a course of argument directly opposite to that with which he commenced. He brought forward all those arguments which had been usually employed in favour of every system of Corn Law protection that had ever been enacted. The right hon. Gentleman told us that if the object were to have corn as cheap as possible, he conceived that in this country protection to agriculture was the mode by which this system of cheapness could best be produced. If that be so, it would be unwise in us to take into consideration the present state of the Corn Laws. But I submit to the House that the argument of the right hon. Gentleman is inconsistent with any system of free trade, or of political economy, which the right hon. Gen-man professes; the argument being, that native industry will do more for us than foreign nations will give; and if the right hon. Gentleman deny this, then the one part of his position is inconsistent with the other. The right hon. Gentleman went on to say—and it is a favourite argument with the friends of the old system—that if you abolish this system, you will have 1,500,000 quarters of wheat, now grown upon clay lands, that would no longer be produced. Is not that inconsistent with the argument which the right hon. Gentleman used to-night relative to the increase of population, which he told us was between 300,000 and 400,000; and that if you exclude foreign corn, the production of 1,500,000 quarters more wheat would be required? It would naturally result from the right hon. Gentleman's own statement, that if you had freer intercourse with foreign nations you would not destroy our native industry, but would have a more plentiful supply of corn for our population. This argument of the right hon. Gentleman would be very good for those who had always advocated the protection of native industry; but in the mouth of the right hon. Gentleman, it was an entire contradiction. Therefore, with respect to the speech of the right hon. Gentleman, I am at a loss to know upon what plan the Government mean to act. The right hon. Gentleman at the head of the Treasury told us he agreed that protection was in itself an evil; and the right hon. Baronet the Home Secretary, following up that expression, told us to-night that it was the system of the Government gradually to relax protection with as little injury to existing interests as possible. That is an intelligible proposition, but it is at variance with all that the right hon. Gentleman stated to be the advantages of the protective system, and the benefit of restriction. With respect to two of the Resolutions proposed by my hon. Friend the Member for Wolverhampton, namely— That the Corn Law restricts the supply of food, and prevents the free exchange of the products of labour;"— And That it is therefore prejudicial to the welfare of the country, especially to that of the working classes, and has proved delusive to those for whose benefit the law was designed, these are opinions in entire accordance with those which I had the honour to put before the House on a former evening. These are propositions to which I cannot refuse my assent; and when my hon. Friend proposes to go into Committee to consider these Resolutions, and proposes a third Resolution, "That it is expedient all restrictions on corn should be now abolished," I feel at liberty to vote for going into Committee with him; and I feel at liberty, if the House should go into that Committee, to consider in what way the relaxation of the Corn Law should be made. I will not now discuss that point; I have stated my opinions on a former occasion — opinions which I still hold. The hon. Member for Stockport has stated that great advantages would arise from making an immediate alteration. On the other hand there are great authorities, such as Adam Smith and Ricardo, and of Reports made to this House, such as that of Mr. Senior, which are in favour of a gradual change. Whether the one or the other of these opinions be the better, I do not think it necessary to discuss to-night; and I conceive that that discussion may be reserved until some practical measure be resolved upon by the Committee. Sir, upon the case the Government have put before us, I cannot refuse to my hon. Friend my vote for going into Committee. We have been going on since 1842 with a Corn Law which I consider entirely vicious in principle. The Government in general are against the system upon which it is founded. With respect to many articles of importance they have yielded, and admitted the evils of restriction; but with respect to the Corn Law they will not assent to the Motion of my hon. Friend, nor will they tell us that at any time they will take the matter into their consideration. Sir, I consider the state of the country as it stands at the present moment, in respect of this question. I do not look to the time of James I., or to the year 1791, when protection was continued only till the price reached 50s.; but I consider what have been the changes since 1791, when your law became far more restrictive, and you deny to the people a supply of food at far higher prices than in 1791, and while your population has gone on increasing to an enormous extent, and so giving an augmention of the number of people for whom to find employment and food. Look at any of the Reports upon the subject of the labouring population which have been presented to the House; look at any authentic statements that have been made regarding it—look, for example, to the Report of that Committee of which Mr. Senior and Mr. Jones Loyd were Members—look at the case of the French railroads, where we are told that English workmen are receiving one-third more wages than the French workmen, on account of the superior value of their labour—and I ask you, may you not with such men defy the world? I think my hon. Friend the Member for Wolverhampton, stated that there were great complaints made at the farmers' meetings, sometimes of the quantity of game, sometimes of the insecure tenure of the land, and sometimes of other grievances, as against the landlords. I believe that these complaints of grievances are kept up very much by this system of protection. By the freer importation of foreign corn the landlord and tenant would be brought more together, and would concert how the most could be got out of the soil for their mutual interest, for their interest in common, so that they might not be overtaken and surpassed by the foreign agriculturist. I believe that in this way the agriculturists would make great progress. If the right hon. Gentleman disapproves of my proposal of a moderate fixed duty, let him then diminish the sliding scale—let him diminish it to 10s., and from 10s. to 1s. Even that might be a great relief to the country. But what I do believe is, that the Corn Law, as it now stands, cannot be long maintained. I say, that is fully signified, not only by the ability of the attacks made on the law, but also by the manner in which it is defended in this House. I cannot conceive, unless it is better defended than it has been hitherto, that it can last for many years to come. And if that be the case, why should not the landed gentry take advantage of the present state of things, the present moment of calm and quiet, to make the necessary alteration with coolness and deliberation? If they are determined not to do so, they must run the risk in case of any inflammation of the popular mind, of being exposed to odium and reproach. No one can deny that the present Corn Law is intended to, and does in the opinion of political economists, add to the rent of the landlords. Only conceive the effect of this impression working on the minds of the people for many years. Here is a law which clearly adds to the income of those who legislate for the country. It is the business of those who legislate to prove that, though it adds to their income as legislators, it benefits the other classes of the community in the same proportion. Now, they cannot deny the effect of the law to be, that it adds to their rent; but they totally fail in proving that it confers a corresponding benefit on the rest of the community. Let them consider the consequences of such an argument going on for many years with the sharp and intelligent eyes of this community fixed upon them; and let them be wise in time.

Sir R. Peel

Sir, I have had so many opportunities of stating to the House my sentiments on this subject, that I feel reluctant again to express them; but, con- sidering the great importance of the subject, and the position in which I stand, I am unwilling to give a silent vote upon the immediate question before the House. The hon. Member for Wolverhampton has made on the present occasion a Motion similar to that which he proposed last year; they are in substance precisely the same. The hon. Gentleman last year made the following proposition:— That this House do resolve itself into a Committee, for the purpose of considering the following Resolutions:—'That it appears, by a recent census, that the people of this country are rapidly increasing in number; That it is in evidence before this House, that a large proportion of Her Majesty's subjects are insufficiently provided with the first necessaries of life; That, nevertheless, a Corn Law is in force which restricts the supply of food, and thereby lessens its abundance; That any such restriction having for its object to impede the free purchase of an article upon which depends the subsistence of the community is indefensible in principle, injurious in operation, and ought to be abolished; That it is, therefore, expedient that the Act 5 and 6 Victoria, c. 14, shall be repealed forthwith. Now, I voted against the Motion of the hon. Gentleman last year; and I am not able to concur in his present Motion. It is not my intention to deal out to the noble Lord that measure of injustice which he has dealt to others. The noble Lord was not enabled to support the Motion of the hon. Gentleman last year; but he is enabled to do so this year, though the proposal is identical with that of last year. I give the noble Lord entire credit for integrity of motive. He shall not hear from me any taunt because upon this occasion he supports the same Resolution which he could not support last year. But I think we must be fast approaching that period when the noble Lord will not only give his support to the first two parts of the Resolutions of the hon. Gentleman, but cordially concur with the others. But when the noble Lord says that the effect of the existing Corn Law is to increase the rents of the landlords, and advises them to consider what must be the invidious effect of that in the eyes of a scrutinizing and intelligent population, let me remind him that that objection applies with equal force to his own proposition. The hon. Member for Stockport said, that whatever was the amount of a fixed duty, there was a corresponding increase in the value of every quarter of corn, the domestic pro- duce of this country. Therefore, the hon. Gentleman and the noble Lord do not agree. The effect of his 4s. or 6s. duty is to make a corresponding increase of price in every quarter of corn sold and consumed in this country. The noble Lord says, that is a greatly exaggerated estimate, and I agree with him as to the effect of a fixed duty; and I think the hon. Member for Stockport has failed to establish that proposition against the noble Lord. But though I vote against the Motion of the hon. Gentleman, I cannot concur in some of the arguments I have heard to-night on this side of the House in opposition to it. I must say, that I think experience has shown that a high price of corn is not necessarily accompanied with a high rate of wages. But I believe it would be impossible to show that the rate of wages varies with the price of corn; and speaking generally of the industrious classes of this country, I think it impossible to demonstrate that it is to their advantage that there should be permanently a high price of corn. I own I cannot concur with my hon. Friend in speaking of the condition of the working classes, that whatever their condition might have been some few months ago, it is in some respects deteriorated, and that generally speaking the working classes at present are not in so comfortable a state as they were a few months ago. I should deeply regret it, if that were the case. I cannot speak of every district or parish. I know there are great vicissitudes of trade, and consequently of employment for them; but, speaking generally of the working classes, and particularly of the manufacturing classes, I do not believe that there is any deterioration in their condition as compared to that condition some few months ago. On the contrary, I do perceive in the increased consumption of many articles—of coffee, of tea, of sugar, continued even up to the present time, an effective proof that their condition now as compared with their condition some two or three years ago is greatly improved; and I cherish the hope that it continues, generally speaking, to improve. The hon. Member for Stockport blamed my right hon. Friend for dealing with future things. I muse say that the speech of the hon. Gentleman is exactly subject to the same objection; because the greater part of that speech consisted not of argument, but of confident predictions of what would be the consequences of a repeal of the Corn Laws. And, if I could believe that his predictions would be fully verified, my objections, even to a repeal of the Corn Laws, would be considerably weakened. But I think the hon. Gentleman and his friends greatly overrate the advantages of a repeal of the Corn Laws; he points out the great discrepancies that there are between the wealth of some portion of the community and the poverty of others, and he says, and says with truth—"You cannot say that the condition of this country is perfect, while there are 1,500,000 paupers in it." He speaks of the midland districts, and of the state of the manufacturing community; and he infers thence that you must proceed to the immediate repeal of the Corn Laws. It is my confident belief that, establish what system of Corn Laws you please, you must expect to find such differences in this country and in a state of society like this; you must expect to find those extremes of wealth and poverty. They exist, I believe, in every country on the face of the earth. I doubt, indeed, whether the more civilization and refinement increases, there be not a greater tendency towards those extremes. Suppose the hon. Gentleman to have succeeded in repealing the Corn Laws, he would find that he had done little towards preventing or curing the evil he points out; and we should then be again told, having failed to cure this great evil, having failed to improve the condition of the labouring classes, we must proceed to some other mode of relief, some other remedy for the evil. I wish, Sir, to reconcile the gradual approach towards sound principles, with a full and cautious consideration of the relations which have been established, and the interests that have grown up under a different system. The hon. Member for Wolverhampton tells us that the system of protection has endured since 1688—he admits that since the period of the Revolution, since the accession to the throne of this country of King William—protection has been given to agriculture, and it has been maintained up to the present time. Be it so—I ask, under that state of the law in this country and in Ireland, what peculiar and special relations have grown up? Is it then fit that these relations should be disturbed as the hon. Member proposes to disturb them, or is it not more for the general interest that in returning to what I admit to be a bet- ter condition of society and the establishment of better principles, we should proceed with caution and deliberation—that our steps should be taken, not hastily, but with the fullest consideration of the interests which have grown up under a state of law which has endured for 150 years? Now, what has been the course of our legislation for the last few years? Can it be said that we refused to recognise the soundness of these principles? Can it be said that we have contended that agriculture stands on some different footing with respect to them from other interests of this country. In 1842, we found a Corn Law existing, which gave very great protection to agriculture. The hon. Gentleman says that when I brought forward the present Corn Law, I avowed it was not my object to reduce that protection; but my right hon. Friend has truly stated that in bringing forward the present Corn Law, I did contemplate a material reduction in the amount of protection given by the last Corn Law. Where there is now a duty of 12s. per quarter on the import of foreign wheat, there was then, I think, a duty of 25s. or 30s.; and I might refer to the operation of the law since its passing to show that under the present law Corn has been brought in, and at such times, as under the former law could not have been introduced. In 1842, there was an absolute prohibition on the import of foreign cattle and foreign meat; that prohibition has been removed, and there has been substituted a moderate amount of duty on the import, both of foreign cattle and meat. The hon. Member for Durham has gone into a long detail of alterations in the law by which the protection given to agriculture has been gradually abated; he referred to the immense quantities of foreign bark which have been introduced, and asked the agriculturists whether they were not entirely satisfied with the existing price of bark? I believe many of them would, in reply, inform him that they were not satisfied, and that the import of foreign bark had materially reduced the price of that grown in this country. Again, timber is an article in which the agricultural interest is deeply concerned. By the Tariff of 1842, the monopoly of timber, the produce of this country, in the home market was materially abated by the law then introduced. Timber, the produce of the Baltic, is admitted at a much lower rate of duty than formerly; and timber, the produce of Canada, is admitted at a merely nominal duty; and I apprehend that the effect of these alterations is, that while there has been increased demand for foreign timber, that has been accompanied with a material reduction of the price of timber in this country. I mention these facts to show that the Government, in the laws they have passed, have not considered the agricultural interest as specially entitled to protection, or as exempted from the operation of those principles which have been applied to other classes. But the law of 1842 passed, and I am bound to say that it passed with the general concurrence of the agricultural Representatives in this House. I do not think hon. Gentlemen on the opposite side are justified in talking of the agricultural Members as having voted with any feeling of disinclination to promote the object of that law, or that those hon. Members in any way showed their dissent from any reduction of the protective duties which that measure involved. It may be true that, with respect to certain particular articles, objections were raised; but as against the measure generally, I do not believe it can be fairly said there was any strong opposition on the part of the agricultural Members. It was unquestionably felt at the time to be an important measure, and one effecting a very considerable reduction of protective duties. But I think the hon. Member for Northamptonshire has justly claimed for the agricultural interest a willing submission to a new state of things, a ready yielding up of the privileges which they have hitherto enjoyed, from the belief that they will derive an equal share of benefit with their fellow men, from a measure intended for the general good. What have been the other effects of the operation of the new Corn Law of 1842? We were told that the retention of that law would be inconsistent with the prosperity of the manufacturing interest of the country. But has that prediction been verified? Concurrently with that law you have seen a revival of industry, an extension of commerce and a degree of manufacturing activity, which we could hardly have hoped for or contemplated within so short a time. All this has existed concurrently with the new Corn Law of 1842. The hon. Member for Stockport (Mr. Cobden) has admitted these results; but he has contended that they might have been carried further. Of course, it is impossible not to extend our wishes for manufacturing prosperity, and I quite admit that it might be carried further than at present; but all I say is, that we have now arrived at a point which, in 1842, we hardly expected to reach in so limited a time, and which some persons thought was utterly inconsistent with the enactment of this new Corn Law. It was said that this new Corn Law gave no security against great fluctuations in price; but I must say that during its existence there has been greater steadiness of price than almost at any other period. I was looking at the price of wheat since September last, and I think that, during every week since then, the price of wheat has hardly varied more than 1s. 9d. a quarter. The lowest price during that period was 45s. 2d., and the highest 46s. 11d. In 1842, there was an expectation of a bad harvest; but taking the price from September or October, 1842, I must say that there has been less of fluctuation of price than at almost any similar period. But it would probably be said that this was the consequence of favourable harvests; but though the harvest last year was tolerably good for wheat, yet, as far as barley and oats were concerned, it was defective. It is impossible to deny that the produce of barley in the last two years was deficient; and I doubt whether the oat crop was very abundant. Therefore, as far as oats and barley are concerned, the law has been exposed to the operations of deficient harvests. Nevertheless there has been a gradual monthly importation, particularly of barley, under the existing law, and the prices have not materially varied. Then it has been said that the present law holds out expectations which are false, and which tend to check agricultural improvement. I must say, that I think that statement totally devoid of foundation. I doubt whether, during any period in the past history of this country, there has been more rapid progress in agricultural improvement than during the last three years. I think it therefore impossible to say that the existence of the present Corn Law is incompatible with the application of capital and science to the improvement of agriculture. Therefore, these defects, which have been charged on the existing law, are defects to which it is not justly liable. It cannot be said to be inconsistent with the extension of commerce, and the demand for manufacturing industry; nor can it be said to be incompatible with steadiness of price. It appears to me that you cannot take any effectual precaution against fluctuations in the value of an article like that of corn; that you cannot take perfect security against that which you consider one of the main defects of the existing law, namely, the uncertainty as to the future harvest. While there are great speculations in corn, great quantities of corn will be brought into the markets of this country. I believe that uncertainty as to the production of a future harvest will always exist. There will always be a degree of uncertainty as to whether a good harvest may not diminish the value of corn; and therefore those who hold foreign corn, if they think that the prices of domestic produce will be affected by the goodness or badness of a harvest, will conduct their speculations or transactions accordingly; and in the months of August and September, whether you have a fixed duty or no duty at all, you must expect that, on account of that uncertainty, considerable quantities of corn will be imported. But it would be wrong to suppose that these quantities of corn are thrown upon the market at once. They are retained for home consumption, but are not immediately thrown on the home market. Taking these facts into consideration, I do not think that the existing Corn Law is fairly liable to the charges brought against it, or that the predictions made as to its failure have been verified; and, therefore, I am not prepared to accept the proposition of the noble Lord opposite, and still less that of the hon. Member for Wolverhampton, in lieu of the present Corn Law. I do not defend the present Corn Law on the ground that it is for the especial advantage of any particular interest. I believe that it would be impossible to maintain any law that should be supposed to be founded on that consideration, which it had been said this law is founded on, namely, a desire to increase the rents of landlords. But this I do believe, that looking at the condition of the agricultural interest generally, and all those connected with it, looking at the obligations to which they are subject, I think that any such change in the Corn Law as that contemplated by the hon. Gentleman, might tell injuriously no doubt on the landlords and the proprietors of the soil; but I believe that the objection to it would be that it would tell more injuriously on the great class whose prosperity is involved with that of the proprietors. It has been said, that the law is required, because incumbrances on estates must be provided for. I say that it is impossible to found the defence of the law on such an idea, or upon the exclusive interests of any class. But I must say that there are social and moral relations, which it is impossible altogether to overlook. Under the state of the law, as existing, there has grown up a relation between landlord, tenant, and labourer, which does not rest merely on pecuniary considerations. The landlords and proprietors in this country—at least in great districts of it—do not look on land in the light of a mere commercial speculation. I believe that it would be a great evil if they did so. According to the principles for which the hon. Gentleman opposite contends, I apprehend that he would say, "let the landlord make as much of his land as he can—he has a right to do that;" on the same principle he has a right, commercially speaking, on the termination of a lease, to let his land for the utmost he can get for it. I will not say that this is not one of the modes, if you abolish the Corn Laws, by which the difficulties the landlord will have to meet will be met. Possibly it may be said, let the landlord—the principles of trade having been suddenly applied to the produce of the land—let him regard the land itself in the same light; let there be no reference to the relations that have existed, perhaps for centuries, between him and the family that occupies that land; let him have no regard for the labourer; let him take the man who can do most for his 10s. or 12s. a week; let the old and weak receive no consideration, because they cannot perform the labour the young, the healthy, and the active, can do; though the land may be so regarded, yet in everything but a purely commercial sense, in a social and moral point of view, I should deeply regret it. It would alter the character of the country, and be accompanied by social evils which no pecuniary gain, no strict application of a purely commercial principle, could compensate. I will not carry this too far; I will not—because I cannot—say that agriculture ought to be exempt from the gradual application of principles that have been applied to other interests. I fairly own that I doubt whether protection could be vindicated on the ground of being independent of foreign supply. I think it would be of very great importance—I should rejoice in the fact—I should rejoice in the result, that the greater portion of our supply was derived from our internal resources. In every point of view, commercially, morally, and socially, it would be an immense advantage if the agriculture of the country was in so improved a state that we could rely on our own internal resources for the greater part of our supply. But the hope to make ourselves entirely independent of foreign supply is out of the question. If that had been our view, we ought not to have relinquished the prohibition on the import of cattle and meat, and we ought to have established such a protection on corn as to have ensured the application of an amount of capital to the land which would have secured that independence. That would have been, I think, an erroneous policy; and though I still contend that it would be a great advantage for us to be independent of foreign supply, and that we should look to our own produce as the main source of our supply, yet it would be impossible to defend protection on the ground that we ought to be completely independent of all foreign countries. I have attempted to show, therefore, that during the three or four years the present Government have been in power, they have altered our commercial laws in a manner consistent with sound principles, and have not excepted the Corn Laws, and other laws which prohibited the importation of foreign agricultural products. In no respect, upon any article imported, have they increased protecting duties. You may think we have not carried the principle far enough; but, at any rate, every act we have done has been an act tending to establish, with respect to the import of every foreign article, that principle which I believe to be a sound one—the gradual abatement of purely protecting duties. I must also claim for them the liberty and the power of continuing, according to their judgment, the application of that principle. I am bound to say that the experience of the past, with respect to those articles on which high duties have been removed, confirms the impression founded on the general principle. But, Sir, with the strong opinion I entertain, that in the application of this principle it is necessary to exercise the utmost caution for the purpose of ensuring its general acceptance and stability, I cannot consent to give my vote for a proposition that implies the total disregard of every such consideration, in the application of the principle of free trade. If the doctrine is good for corn, it is good for everything else. The proposition of the hon. Gentleman, though confined to corn, applies to every other production, not only to every article of agricultural produce, but to every other you can name, because he contends that the duty on foreign importation restricts supply, impedes the free exchange of the products of labour, and, therefore, ought to be abolished. All our Colonial interest will then become subject to this principle; and I do believe that the instantaneous application of such a principle, either to the agricultural or Colonial interest, though it may be accompanied by some immediate fall of prices, would not be for the advantage of the whole community. It is upon that ground, because I believe it would be injurious to every interest, because I believe your Colonial relations could not coexist with the sudden application of such a law, because I believe the interest of Ireland would be prejudiced by a sudden importation of corn, and foreseeing in such a sudden importation no security for a permanent continuance of low prices, I shall give my decided vote against the proposition of the hon. Gentleman.

Viscount Howick

, amidst general calls of "divide," observed that neither in the speech of the right hon. Baronet, or of the right hon. Gentleman the Secretary of State for the Home Department, had there been one word uttered attempting to contradict the two first Resolutions of his hon. Friend the Member for Wolverhampton. Had the last Resolution been worded to the effect "that it was expedient that all restrictions on the importation of corn be gradually abolished," the right hon. Baronet's speech would have been an unanswerable speech in support of the hon. Member's Motion. The whole purport of the right hon. Gentleman's speech was, that he could not concur in the arguments of his supporters, that high prices did not produce high wages—that scarcity and dearness were not beneficial—and that plenty and cheapness were not evils. The right hon. Baronet's argument also was that his alteration in the Corn Laws had effected good—that this good was produced by a reduction of protection—and that, therefore, he claimed to act on principles which had produced so much benefit. This argument was consistent with the argument used by the right hon. Baronet the other evening, that all protecting duties were in themselves an evil. Let the House, therefore, observe, that the only difference between the right hon. Baronet and his side of the House was, as to the time when the change in the Corn Law system should take place. The right hon. Baronet proposed to keep the agriculturists under the harrow; he was desirous of keeping over them the impending change; and, at the same time, he acknowledged that the Corn Laws were vicious in principle, and must ultimately be abolished, though, at the same time, the right hon. Baronet did not attempt to urge the danger of delay. The hon. Member for Bridport pointed out the impossibility of finding a supply of food for the people if the harvest failed. The hon. Member for Sheffield followed up the same argument, but not the slightest attention was paid to the point by her Majesty's Government; with the danger before their eyes, with their eyes opened to the danger, Her Majesty's Ministers had apparently resolved to take on themselves the responsibility of maintaining the present state of things, and of following out the course they had laid down. This was all he wished to bring before the House. He wished the House to see that Government was as strong in favour of free-trade principles as the Opposition. The right hon. Baronet did not deny the necessity or the propriety of a change in the laws, but the right hon. Baronet would not consent to make the change, though no one who heard the right hon. Baronet's speech, could doubt that in their hearts the Government thought that the repeal of the Corn Laws was for the good of the country.

Mr. Villiers

said, he had been misrepresented on one or two points, and this induced him to trouble the House for a few minutes; for he felt he should be wrong if he allowed the debate to close without correcting these misrepresentations. He had been charged with having misrepresented the right hon. Baronet, in having said, that in his Motion on the Corn Laws, the right hon. Baronet stated that the proposed change was not intended as a measure of relief for the people. He would state what he did say—he did not say one word about the reduction of protection. This was his argument—he said the right hon. Baronet had not done anything, according to his own avowal, to mitigate the Corn Laws, with a view to meet the wants and exigencies of the country, and to benefit the people. He said the right hon. Baronet, in bringing forward his measure, had not brought it forward with the view of mitigating the distress which then existed. The right hon. Baronet's reason was, that some protection which the landowner then enjoyed, ought to be dispensed with. And this charge he repeated. The right hon. Baronet had done nothing to meet the wants of an increasing population, the consequent exigencies of the country. The right hon. Gentleman the Secretary of War had asserted that the free traders were inconsistent in their arguments, and seemingly did not know what they wanted; nor did anybody else. In reply to this, he begged the right hon. Gentleman to read the debate that night, with the speeches made by the free traders; and then to say whether he could discover any discrepancy in their views—nay, doubt as to their objects. He thought, that there was such a general agreement as to the evil policy of restrictions on food, that he wanted to know how Government reconciled their opposition to the present Motion with their previous professions. The right hon. Baronet admitted that if the Corn Laws were repealed, great benefit would be derived to the manufacturing districts; he should be glad to know why this benefit should not be experienced likewise by the agricultural districts? The right hon. Baronet said, if the Corn Laws were repealed, 800,000 labourers would be thrown out of employ. If 2,000,000 quarters of corn were imported, 2,000,000 quarters less would be produced here, and 800,000 men would be thrown out of employ. Who was to make anything of this sort of argument? He would make one further observation, in reference to those hon. Gentlemen who were interested in the Corn Laws. He had no other way of expressing his opinion of their conduct that night, than by saying that they had run away from—they had not faced—the question. He had asked the hon. Member at the head of the Protection Society, why the farmer was embarrassed — what was his state—and what he proposed to do to help him? He had asked him to state the condition of the labourer, and to take the present opportunity of telling the House how his condition was to be mended. Had there been a single Member who had given the House an account of the cause of the depression of the farmers?

The House divided:—Ayes 122; Noes 254: Majority 132.

List of the AYES.
Aglionby, H. A. Ferguson, Col.
Aldam, W. Fitzroy, Lord C.
Baine, W. Forster, M.
Bannerman, A. Gibson, T. M.
Barclay, D. Gore, hon. R.
Barnard, E. G. Granger, T. C.
Berkeley, hon. Capt. Grey, rt. hon. Sir G.
Berkeley, hon. H. F. Guest, Sir J.
Bernal, R. Hastie, A.
Blewitt, R. J. Hawes, B.
Bouverie, hon. E. P. Hayter, W. G.
Bowring, Dr. Hindley, C.
Bright, J. Hollond, R.
Brotherton, J. Howard, hn. C. W. G.
Buller, E. Howard, hon. J. K.
Busfeild, W. Howard, hon. E. G. G.
Byng, rt. hon. G. S. Howick, Visct.
Cavendish, hon. C. C. Hume, J.
Cavendish, hn. G. H. Hutt, W.
Chapman, B. Johnson, Gen.
Christie, W. D. Langston, J. H.
Cobden, R. Lascelles, hon. W. S.
Colborne, hn. W. N. R. Listowel, Earl of
Colebrooke, Sir T. E. Macaulay, rt. hon. T. B.
Collett, J. Marjoribanks, S.
Collins, W. Martin, J.
Cowper, hon. W. F. Matheson, J.
Craig, W. G. Maule, rt. hon. F.
Crawford, W. S. Mitcalfe, H.
Dalmeny, Lord Mitchell, T. A.
Dennistoun, J. Morison, Gen.
D'Eyncourt, rt. hn. C. T. Muntz, G. F.
Duff, J. Murray, A.
Duncan, Visct. Napier, Sir C.
Duncan, G. O'Connell, M. J.
Duncannon, Visct. Ord, W.
Duncombe, T. Osborne, R.
Dundas, F. Paget, Lord A.
Dundas, D. Parker, J.
Easthope, Sir J. Pattison, J.
Ebrington, Visct. Philips, G. R.
Ellice, rt. hon. E. Philips, M.
Ellice, E. Plumridge, Capt.
Ellis, W. Ponsonby, hn. C.F.C.
Elphinstone, H. Protheroe, E.
Etwall, R. Rawdon, Col.
Ewart, W. Ricardo, J. L.
Fielden, J. Rice, E. R.
Russell, Lord J. Turner, E.
Russell, Lord E. Vivian, J. H.
Scott, R. Wakley, T.
Scrope, G. P. Walker, R.
Seymour, Lord Warburton, H.
Shelburne, Earl of Ward, H. G.
Stansfield, W. R. C. Watson, W. H.
Strickland, Sir G. Wawn, J. T.
Strutt, E. Williams, W.
Stuart, Lord J. Wrightson, W. B.
Stuart, W. V. Yorke, H. R.
Tancred, H. W.
Trelawny, J. S. TELLERS.
Troubridge, Sir E. T. Villiers, C.
Tufnell, H. Oswald, J.
List of the NOES.
Acland, Sir T. D. Chetwode, Sir J.
Acland, T. D. Christopher, R. A.
A'Court, Capt. Clayton, R. R.
Acton, Col. Clements, Visct.
Adare, Visct. Clerk, rt. hn. Sir G.
Adderley, C. B. Clifton, J. T.
Alford, Visct. Clive, Visct.
Allix, J. P. Clive, hon. R. H.
Antrobus, E. Cockburn, rt. hn. Sir G.
Arbuthnott, hon. H. Codrington, Sir W.
Archdall, Capt. M. Cole, hon. H. A.
Arkwright, G. Colvile, C. R.
Ashley, Lord Compton, H. C.
Astell, W. Connolly, Col.
Austen, Col. Coote, Sir C. H.
Bagot, hon. W. Corry, rt. hon. H.
Bailey, J., jun. Courtenay, Lord
Balfour, J. M. Cripps, W.
Bankes, G. Curteis, H. B.
Barkly, H. Damer, hon. Col.
Barrington, Visct. Darby, G.
Baskerville, T. B. M. Davies, D. A. S.
Beckett, W. Dawnay, hon. W. H.
Bell, M. Deedes, W.
Beresford, Major Denison, W. J.
Bernard, Visct. Denison, E. B.
Blackstone, W. S. Dick, Q.
Bodkin, W. H. Dickinson, F. H.
Boldero, H. G. Douglas, Sir H.
Borthwick, P. Douglas, Sir C. E.
Botfield, B. Douglas, J. D. S.
Bowes, J. Dowdeswell, W.
Bowles, Adm. Drummond, H. H.
Boyd, J. Du Pre, C. G.
Bramston, T. W. East, J. B.
Brisco, M. Eaton, R. J.
Broadley, H. Egerton, W. T.
Broadwood, H. Egerton, Sir P.
Bruce, Lord E. Emlyn, Visct.
Bruce, C. L. C. Entwisle, W.
Bruges, W. H. L. Escott, B.
Buck, L. W. Farnham, E. B.
Buller, Sir J. Y. Fellowes, E.
Bunbury, T. Filmer, Sir E.
Burrell, Sir C. M. Fitzroy, hon. H.
Burroughes, H. N. Flower, Sir J.
Campbell, J. H. Fox, S. L.
Cardwell, E. Fremantle, rt. hn. SirT.
Carew, W. H. P. Fuller, A. E.
Chelsea, Visct. Gardner, J. D.
Gaskell, J. Milnes Manners, Lord C. S.
Glynne, Sir S. R. March, Earl of
Gordon, hon. Capt. Martin, C. W.
Gore, M. Martin, T. B.
Gore, W. O. Maunsell, T. P.
Goulburn, rt. hon. H. Maxwell, hon. J. P.
Graham, rt. hn. Sir J. Meynell, Capt.
Granby, Marq. of Mildmay, H. St. J.
Greenall, P. Miles, P. W. S.
Greene, T. Miles, W.
Grimsditch, T. Milnes, R. M.
Grimston, Visct. Mordaunt, Sir J.
Hale, R. B. Morgan, O.
Halford, Sir H. Mundy, E. M.
Hamilton, C. J. B. Neeld, J.
Hamilton, J. H. Neeld, J.
Hamilton, G. A. Newdegate, C. N.
Hamilton, W. J. Nicholl, rt. hn. J.
Hamilton, Lord C. Norreys, Lord
Hampden, R. Northland, Visct.
Hanmer, Sir J. O'Brien, A. S.
Harcourt, G. G. Ogle, S. C. H.
Harris, hon. Capt. Packe, C. W.
Hayes, Sir E. Palmer, R.
Heathcote, G. J. Palmer, G.
Heneage, E. Patten, J. W.
Heneage, G. H. W. Peel, rt. hn. Sir R.
Henley, J. W. Peel, J.
Henniker, Lord Pennant, hon. Col.
Hepburn, Sir T. B. Plumptre, J. P.
Herbert, rt. hn. S. Pollington, Visct.
Hervey, Lord A. Praed, W. T.
Hogg, J. W. Pringle, A.
Holmes, hn. W. A'C. Rashleigh, W.
Hope, hon. C. Redington, T.
Hope, G. W. Reid, Sir J. R.
Hornby, J. Repton, G. W. J.
Howard, P. H. Rolleston, Col.
Hughes, W. B. Round, C. G.
Hussey, A. Russell, J. D. W.
Hussey, T. Ryder, hon. G. D.
Ingestre, Visct. Sanderson, R.
Jermyn, Earl Sandon, Visct.
Jocelyn, Visct. Scott, hon. F.
Johnstone, Sir J. Seymour, Sir H. B.
Johnstone, H. Sheridan, R. B.
Jones, Capt. Sibthorp, Col.
Kemble, H. Smith, A.
Kirk, P. Smith, rt. hn. T. B. C.
Knight, F. W. Smythe, Sir H.
Knightley, Sir C. Smollett, A.
Lawson, A. Spooner, R.
Lefroy, A. Spry, Sir S. T.
Legh, G. C. Stewart, J.
Lemon, Sir C. Stuart, H.
Liddell, hon. H. T. Sutton, hon. H. M.
Lincoln, Earl of Taylor, E.
Lockhart, W. Taylor, J. A.
Loftus, Visct. Tennent, J. E.
Lopes, Sir R. Thesiger, Sir F.
Lowther, Sir J. H. Thompson, Ald.
Lygon, hon. Gen. Thornhill, G.
Mackenzie, T. Tollemache, J.
Mackenzie, W. F. Tower, C.
McGeachy, F. A. Trench, Sir F. W.
McNeill, D. Trevor, hon. G. R.
Mahon, Visct. Trollope, Sir J.
Trotter, J. Whitmore, T. C.
Turnor, C. Williams, T. P.
Tyrell, Sir J. T. Winnington, Sir T. E.
Vane, Lord H. Wodehouse, E.
Verner, Col. Wood, Col.
Vernon, G. H. Worsley, Lord
Villiers, Visct. Wortley, hon. J. S.
Vivian, J. E. Wortley, hon. J. S.
Waddington, H. S.
Walsh, Sir J. B. TELLERS.
Welby, G. E. Young, J.
Wellesley, Lord C. Baring, H.

Adjourned at half-past two o'clock.

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