HC Deb 10 February 1846 vol 83 cc642-726

The Order of the Day having been read for resuming the Adjourned Debate on the Customs and Corn Importation Acts,


presented several petitions from places in Devonshire, praying for an immediate repeal of the Corn Laws.


said, that his noble Friend the Member for Plymouth (Viscount Ebrington) had just presented some petitions which brought to his recollection a part of the speech delivered last night by the noble Lord the Member for London. His noble Friend had presented petitions praying that the repeal of the Corn Laws might be immediate. The noble Lord had stated last night that it had been the custom of Her Majesty's Ministers not to make up their minds as to the details of their measures before consulting those interests which might be chiefly af- fected; and the noble Lord had called upon the Ministers to take the question of immediate repeal into their consideration; as their proposed measure had been laid before the farmers, and, according to the noble Lord, the farmers had expressed a general opinion in favour of immediate repeal. Whether there had been such an opinion expressed by the farmers with whom the noble Lord had conversed, he would not take upon himself to say; and neither would he pronounce any opinion of his own as to the feelings of the farmers upon the point. But he would remark that, as regarded the Government, they had not taken the opinion of the agriculturists at all upon the question. And however much, therefore, other interests might feel obliged to the right hon. Baronet for the communications into which he had entered with them on the subject of his commercial measures, after they had been announced to the House—and there were obvious reasons why such communications should not be entered into until after these announcements had been made—he was not aware, during his Parliamentary experience, that the right hon. Gentleman had ever extended a similar courtesy to the agriculturists. In entering on the discussion of this great question, he had little hope of engaging the attention of the House by any novelty of argument. As far as he himself was personally concerned, he had little to say. He had nothing to regret—nothing to explain—nothing to retract. Whatever might have been the change of others, he had not changed his opinion. He would say now what, perhaps, he had often said before; and, if he had not had the advantage of consulting those tariffs which the hon. Member for Bolton thought so useful, he had, at any rate, the same prejudice and the same bigotry, as it would be called, which he had ever had. His right hon. Friend who spoke last night (Mr. Sidney Herbert) had not only felt it his duty to announce an alteration in his opinions, in reference to the present great question, but also to deliver himself of a sentence upon which, as it formed the salient point of his right hon. Friend's speech, he hoped to be permitted to comment. The purport of the sentence was, that the law of 1815 was the greatest error which the landlords had ever committed. That might be the case; but he turned to that side of the House, and begged to ask who the parties were that urged the landed interest of the country not to explain or retract that error, but to persevere in and maintain that law? If the right hon. Baronet at the head of the Government said, that he had now given an opportunity to hon. Members to retract their opinions as regarded that measure, he must say that although he felt much obliged to the right hon. Gentleman; yet he must add, that opportunities had not been previously wanting. The hon. Member for Wolverhampton had given them ample opportunity year after year; but they always refused to avail themselves of the opportunity; and the most able and eloquent reasons for continuing the error of 1815 had proceeded from the bench upon which the right hon. Gentleman was seated. This brought him to a question which might be slurred over, but on which he should feel himself called upon to make some remarks, which, he feared, would be extremely distasteful to his right hon. Friend (Mr. Sidney Herbert). His right hon. Friend said that if he had changed his opinions, he should be ashamed of himself if he did not rise and declare that change. He should have been ashamed also if his right hon. Friend had not made that declaration. But what he wanted to know was, upon what principles parties in this country were in future to be kept together? You might say, that all this was the old story; and that here they were attacking the right hon. Gentleman (Sir R. Peel), in support of a bad case, by personalities. He (Mr. S. O'Brien) distinctly denied that retort. It was not the case. He was as far as any man from imputing to the occupants of that bench where the Cabinet Ministers sat, any other than the purest and most patriotic motives. But it was notorious that this country had been governed by party. It might be an obsolete prejudice; but he was not ashamed to own himself a party man. It had been hitherto the custom in this country to believe that discussions of questions on party principles — that distinct enunciations of those principles, and a rigid adherence to them, formed, on the whole, notwithstaning all the imperfections of the system, and all its anomalies, the best mode of eliciting truth, and the best process for conducing to sound legislation. But not only had the Government changed the principles upon which it came into office; it had taught the lesson that, henceforth, practically, no principles were to bind a party together. He had not been long in the House before the present Government came into office; the first vote which he ever gave was to place them in their present position. But he could undertake to say that, if ever an Opposition was conducted upon party principles, marshalled by party tactics, and led with party views, that Opposition was that which was marshalled, headed, and led by the right hon. Baronet at the head of the Government. The disappointment had been too bitter—too great, and too general, at his change, to permit any feelings of personal friendship, any fears of giving offence, preventing him from giving a distinct reprobation of such conduct. His right hon. Friend (Mr. S. Herbert) had said—and that was the main substance of his speech—that as the law of 1842 had failed, he was, therefore, prepared to abandon the protection principles on which the Government had been formed. His right hon. Friend had said that the law of 1842 had failed; but that word "failure" was to be understood in two ways. When he remembered what his right hon. Friend had been in 1845, when he solicited and obtained the suffrages of the farmers of Wiltshire, and what he was in 1846 when he had become a convert to free trade, he wished to know whether the law of 1842 had failed to the Sidney Herbert of last year, or to the Sidney Herbert of this? He was quite sure that his right hon. Friend did not suppose that the ingenuity of man could frame a law agreeable to the wishes and opinions of both those Gentlemen. His right hon. Friend in 1845 would have found the measure a failure if it had admitted corn too freely. His right hon. Friend in 1846 would have found the measure a failure if it did not let corn in as freely as possible. Highly as he thought of the legislative powers of the right hon. Baronet, and sincerely as he might believe him capable of effecting anything—and the House had seen how much he was capable of effecting—still he could not conceive that the right hon. Gentleman could ever succeed in satisfying Gentlemen of such variable tempers and opinions. He could see nothing in what had been stated beyond an argument, perhaps, for the re-adjustment of the law. But it appeared that the question of the averages had been all that had disappointed his right hon. Friend. If this were so, it would be competent to him to open again that question, for then the dispute would still be, not as to the principle of protection, but as to the law by which that principle should be carried out. And if his right hon. Friend thought fit to give up the sliding scale, there was still a fixed duty left for him—he might still have rested upon a fixed duty—that halting-place between a sliding scale and a free trade. But, in his opinion, his right hon. Friend had judged too quickly of a law which had been only three years in existence, answered two years, and failed one. Two years' success and one year's failure, was surely a bad reason to induce him, not only to give up the measure, but even to abandon the principles of his whole life. His right hon. Friend had also stated, that this was not a question of pickings, or a question of delegates; but these words seemed contrary to the tenor and meaning of his right hon. Friend's speech. Surely, his right hon. Friend did not mean to charge any of those on the same side of the House, whatever their opinions on controverted questions might be, with being more desirous of pickings, or of becoming delegates, than was his right hon. Friend himself. But if he said that this was a question of pickings, or of delegates, or that the great Conservative party ought not to be bound together, or split asunder, by a mere question of imports, he would remind his right hon. Friend that that was not the way to talk of a great question like this. If it was merely a question as to the import duty on one article, why were such changes of opinion manifested—such propositions agitated—such points raised and discussed? It was not merely a question of import duty when they put out the Government of the noble Lord opposite. It was not merely a question of an import duty on one article of produce which sent that House, at the last dissolution, to the constituencies of the country. It was not merely a question of the duty on one article when the country returned a triumphant majority, nor when that majority placed the present Government on the Treasury bench below him. Whatever they did, if they had changed their opinions, let them say so fairly and manfully; and those who had not participated in that change would, while differing from them, respect their motives, though they might feel their confidence impaired. But let them not make it an insignificant question; let them not say that the Gentlemen opposite, who had worked so long to bring about the consummation now about to be achieved, had done this on a mere question of import, and by phraseology like that attempt to disguise the magnitude of the question. The change might be for good, or for evil: strong and antagonist opinions were entertained concerning it; but he had never heard until now, and he was sorry to hear it at all, that this was a light and unimportant question. His right hon. Friend had mentioned Ireland, and he had charged his hon. Friend the Member for the University of Oxford with saying that there was no ground for the present measure from the potato rot, in a particular parish in Ireland. He did not, he could assure the House, undervalue the imminent danger to which that country was exposed, and he was glad to find that the hon. and learned Member for the county of Cork, intended to bring the whole question before the House to-morrow. But he had almost said, that his right hon. Friend had (though he knew it would be impossible for his right hon. Friend to do so) unfairly represented his hon. Friend the Member for the University of Oxford. His hon. Friend had said, as he understood, that for a particular evil there should be a particular remedy; they were the last persons who would hesitate to open the ports in time of national distress to prevent the supply of food to starving people. But what his hon. Friend had said was, that a sufficient case had not been made out to alter the whole commercial legislation of the country—to introduce a new principle for a disaster they hoped would be casual; and withal, to announce that new principle without in the least tracing out how the Corn Laws had contributed to the famine of Ireland, or how the total abrogation of those laws was likely to alleviate that country's distress. And he would remark, that while the Government was bringing forward this question of free trade as a benefit to Ireland as well as to England, all the letters which he had received from Ireland—and the hon. Member for Limerick also, who in Ireland was only second in influence to the hon. and learned Member for Cork—had pronounced strongly against a repeal of those laws. They all asked for employment. They wished to have the railways forwarded, and they thought there would be great difficulty in obtaining seed for potatoes next year; but they said, if you wish to complete our ruin, destroy our agriculture. And he must remark, with reference to the potato disease, that his right hon. Friend (Mr. S. Herbert) had praised the Commissioners for not having given way to the panic in the first instance; and then, subsequently, for not having fallen into what he called the fool's paradise. In his opinion, neither course was correct. He had just arrived in England from Ireland, when he was called back by the frightful accounts which reached him of the failure of the potato crop; and if the disease had continued at the same rate of progress till the present time, he did not believe that a single vegetable would have been left. Anxious to ascertain the real extent of the evil, he carefully examined every field in the district around him, and found the disease rather diminishing than on the increase. He took all the precautions in his power for the protection of the poor in his neighbourhood, and went away in a fool's paradise as they might call it, thinking that no great cause existed for alarm. Unfortunately, however, the rot had again set in—owing either to the continuance of the wet weather, or to some mysterious dispensation which it was not given them to understand; and he believed that there never was a country which called for more urgent measures upon the part of a Government than Ireland, and that there had never been a Government more anxious for the welfare of that country than was the existing Government. But it was only fair to the hon. Baronet the Member for Oxford, to say that the case of the Irish farmer would not be met by this proposed change in our commercial system. He did not believe, if they passed the Government Bill tomorrow, that one more quarter of corn, or one more hundred-weight of meat, would be placed within the reach of the poor of Ireland, unless it were accompanied by other measures. His right hon. Friend said, that when he looked round Wiltshire, he wondered how the poor could live; and this he said after advising them not to allow their attention to be directed to particular spots, but to extend their view over the whole country. All he could say was, that he had always found the misery of agricultural districts greatly attributable to the conduct of those who owned the soil; and rural districts possessed this great advantage over manufacturing parts—that whenever you saw a parish destitute, cottages wretched, and families half starved and half clothed, you could inquire the name of the man, whether landlord or farmer, who was responsible for this state of things. He had conversed with some Wiltshire farmers that very morning, who bore most honourable testimony to the conduct of his right hon. Friend, and did him the justice to say that no part of the distress to be found in that county was attributable to him, or those who belonged to him. But on the other hand, if the right hon. Gentleman had succeeded in proving the existence of distress in Wiltshire, he had totally failed, as in the case of Ireland, to show how the repeal of the Corn Laws would remedy it. The right hon. Gentleman had read a letter from a Wiltshire farmer, the deduction from which was no more than this, that employment and the wages of employment tended to the happiness and morality of the labourer; but he should have followed up his argument, and have shown how the repeal of the Corn Laws would have secured this object, and he would then not only have made his reasoning complete, but would have offered an argument in favour of the abolition of the Corn Laws not yet given. But if the right hon. Gentleman was at liberty to select Wiltshire as an example, he might be permitted to refer to Northamptonshire, where the wages of labour were from 12s. to 14s. a week, and where he should be glad to show his right hon. Friend, if he would do him the favour of visiting that part of the country, specimens of cheerful cottages, comfort, and agricultural prosperity, which he was sure would gratify his benevolent heart, and show him that, at any rate, agricultural prosperity was consistent with the continuance of the present Corn Laws. But, in the course of their ramble, he should also have to show his right hon. Friend some bad heavy clay land—clay land which the noble Lord the Member for the city of London might describe as of so adhesive a nature as to affect the intellect of those who cultivated it. And as the noble Lord must be supposed to be well acquainted with the soil of the Bedford purlieus, he had no doubt alluded to its Representatives in Parliament, though the noble Lord had looked at the Member for Northamptonshire. But the noble Lord last night had laid down three propositions, the long and short of which were, that protection was no longer any benefit to those upon whom it was conferred, and that in the end it would be the wiser policy to leave the manufacturers or the agriculturists of the kingdom to flourish or to fade, according to the energies they themselves possessed, or the skill they employed. Now, he thought that it was not quoting the noble Lord opposite, and the right hon. Gentleman at the head of the Government, unfairly, if he assumed that that was the course of legislation which they intended to carry out for the future. But he, for himself, notwithstanding the imputations of bigotry, of prejudice, or of clayey intellect, which might be thrown out against him, would venture boldly and unequivocally to dissent from the propositions of the noble Lord, and from the course of legislation thereon to be founded. And he would add, that if even he admitted the truth of all the doctrines upon which political economists were agreed they must prove far more before he could assent to the proposed measure of the Government. Hon. Gentlemen opposite were too apt—nay, indeed, the literature of the day, and the habits of thought which prevailed among them all—were too apt to confound political economy with the science of legislation. He had always understood political economy to be the science which treated of the amassing and of the distribution of wealth. Now, if the accumulation and the distribution of wealth constituted the whole science of legislation, the terms would be—and might be fairly used as—synonymous. But the accumulation and distribution of wealth was one amongst the many elements of which the science of legislation consisted. And if hon. Gentlemen opposite, or the Government, could prove that wealth—in the modern sense of the word, in which it meant money—not in the old sense, in which it meant prosperity—would surely follow from a certain course, they would have established, not the whole, but not even a half of the case they were now setting up. He would take the case of protection to British industry generally. The noble Lord opposite had last night said that the cause of British industry, as a whole, had recently been interwoven with the cause of agricultural protection. This was not the case. The cause of British industry had always been allied with the cause of agricultural protection, and the farmers of England had always been desirous of protecting their manufacturing fellow countrymen. And here he might be permitted to remark to those hon. Members who were in the habit of throwing darts upon the Protection Societies, that he would be willing upon a future occasion to enter into their history, to explain their origin, and to defend their proceedings. He was in nowise ashamed of his connexion with them. But it was said, that "labour was the property of the poor man." Now, he did not know that it was quite correct or convenient to call different things by the same name. The noble Lord the Member for Lancashire, on the first night of the Session, had called the farmers manufacturers; but this mode of reasoning appeared to his mind too easy and showy to be logical or accurate. But he would take the proposition as it was laid down, that "labour was the property of the poor man." That was the dogma given out by the political economists, and supported by the right hon. Baronet and Her Majesty's Government. But, addressing such language to the poor labourers of England, unless he sadly misunderstood the consequences of such teaching, they must not stop there. They must not tell the poor man that his property was not to be protected. If they did tell the poor man so, would he not consider this—that whilst they were blessed with leisure, possessed of wealth, and armed with power, the property of the poor man must protect itself? He would not say that such would be the reflection or consideration of all; but that would be the effect upon the country at large. This question of protection, too, came most unfortunately from a country which boasted of employing the labour of children from seven or eight years old. Having found, however, that interference with labour was difficult, were they prepared to abandon their labouring follow countrymen, and watch in passive silence whether the Englishmen or the foreigner triumphed? He did not speak of the shopkeeper or the person who did possess some property. His interest was, soon to become a convert to that favourite maxim of buying in the cheapest and selling in the dearest market; but he would take the case of certain of the duties proposed to be reduced by the measure of the right hon. Baronet. They would not better illustrate his argument than any other case of a similar character, but they would be fresh in the the remembrance of the House. Supposing, then, that acting upon that axiom of buying in the cheapest and selling in the dearest market, he, a wealthy man in England, furnished his house with paper-hangings from Paris. Supposing that he travelled in a continental carriage, that he purchased all his hardware from Germany; supposing all this, when he looked out of the window of his gaudy house, or his foreign-built carriage, what would he see? A vast multitude of unemployed starving Englishmen. And what would they say to him? "We are poor English paper-stainers; we are Birmingham hardwaremen; our trade has been taken away from us — what are we to do?" And what could beh is reply? "My good fellows, I have done the best I could to make you idle—to take all employment out of your hands—to leave you starving; but, believe me, I did it not from a bad motive." What consolation would it afford them to be told, that all this happened; because, on the 27th of January, 1846, Sir R. Peel propounded a doctrine in which all political economists were agreed, that labour might protect itself, and that we must buy in the cheapest market and sell in the dearest; and that the Legislature in abolishing protection was actuated by no consideration of self-interest, but solely with a desire that the great truths of political economy should have fair play? Would any one venture to say, that the feelings in the hearts of these poor people would be the feelings of love, reverence, or attachment to our institutions, or that they could feel that they were living under a paternal government? But it was not only the wide-spread poverty which such a measure would produce which they had to consider. Let them not forget the amount of alienation and disaffection which would be the result. Equal neglect was not impartial kindness; and instead of propounding this hard clumsy dogma that the property of the poor might be left to protect itself, there never was a time when it behoved them more to reflect on the course pursued by their ancestors, sometimes wisely and sometimes unwisely, but always with the view of doing their best to protect the property of the poor from foreign competition, from domestic tyranny, from the oppression of the rich, and from their own madness. Sir (continued the hon. Gentleman) in this House, we are all rich men. More or less so, all at least assume that qualification. Members who have not got it will of course laugh at the notion of having it. [General laughter]. But, comparatively, we are all rich. We had a good breakfast this morning, and intend to have a good dinner this evening; and that, Sir, in the eyes of millions of our fellow countrymen, that is the distinction between rich and poor. For really, in the frightful contrasts which present themselves in the situation of those around us, to be able to get two good meals a day, is to be comparatively rich. Well, then, I assume that, in a degree, we are all of us rich. We have announced a doctrine which, whatever may be its ultimate effect, directly tends to our own benefit. It is assuredly the most selfish doctrine that could possibly be enunciated. It is not a question now between cotton and corn, or corn against cotton. On that question we can tear each other to pieces, and the poor can understand us; but upon the great question of "buying in the cheapest market, and selling in the dearest," how can we be consistent? Begin with the Poor Law. How can you explain upon that principle the taxing my industry for the relief of another person? I am not arguing against a Poor Law, but against the enunciation of a clumsy, a harsh, an impracticable dogma, which you can never act upon—which you dare not act upon—which to attempt to act upon would be to alienate the affections of the people, and to increase your danger in proportion to the extent of your riches; because it is an odious and selfish doctrine in the eyes of your poorer fellow countrymen. Sir, I have never been for excessive duties; nor have I ever contended that a Corn Law should be perpetual. I acknowledge the whole force of the arguments based upon the perpetual increase of population—in this and in foreign countries—and of that also which has not been so much adverted to—the extreme facility of transit in our own. But this is not the subject nor the season for enunciating stubborn dogmas. The poor have enough to bear already; and it were greatly better that we should set ourselves to inquire how best we can ameliorate the condition of our fellow countrymen, than advocate real selfishness (which all can understand) under the guise of so-called political economy, which few can appreciate; for such appears to be the effect of the doctrine to which I have alluded. Sir, we should all of us recollect that we cannot be called here the representatives of the poor man. You chose to do away with the particular constituencies whereby he might have acquired direct representation; but if you had not by your Reform Bill swept them away, I believe that by the action of public opinion and the combination of public bodies (men whose principles should be abhorred, but whose feelings I respect), we should have found in this House representatives of the feelings of the people. Because, however, you have chosen to do this—because your legislation has been hitherto, while you talk of your "respect for the rights of the people," practically directed to the destruction of those rights—taking away their commons—abridging their hours of amusement—prohibiting them from making their poverty known; all this should induce you to be careful how you, the Representatives of the people, who have property, announce that you are unable to protect the only property which millions can ever hope to possess in this world. Adam Smith even has made two exceptions, where other considerations, in his opinion, may enter, beyond those of mere political economy. And so many other exceptions ought to be made, so many other considerations should be embraced—so many qualifications introduced in the subject of free trade, that we ought to be careful how we propound that which it is dangerous ever to try to act upon. Even in this House, you cannot propound this principle of free trade without qualifications and exceptions; and will it not be unwise to announce it absolutely to those who have just intelligence enough to understand, but who have not education enough to appreciate, the exceptions and qualifications it is essential to introduce, and who will only comprehend it in its results as pressing hardly, harshly, and fiercely on them? Sir, one of the exceptions certainly is Agriculture. I am not going into the question of the Corn Laws. It is unnecessary. My opinions are well known, and are unalterable on that subject. But if a nation chooses to protect a particular occupation—considering its salubrity—its moral and social tendencies—and if the nation do not object to pay something towards the attainment of these great objects, surely such a policy is supportable in the case of agriculture. In reference to this, let us recollect the question of the amount of these duties is not a question of principle. When it is said the Corn Laws have constantly been tampered with, it is no proof that they have not all along attained their object. That which was protection ten years ago, may be a degree of protection at the present period neither requisite for the producer, nor justifiable for the consumer. I lay down no rule on this subject, except the absurdity of seeking to lay down rules in cases as complex as these. But I protest against any change in these duties so sudden and so sweeping as is now proposed to us; and I feel disposed to concur with the noble Lord opposite (J. Russell) in thinking that if such a change were to be carried out so suddenly, it would have been far better that the duties in 1842 should have been lower, that the transition might have been more easy, and the shock less abrupt. I have been no inattentive student on this subject during the last four years, and I cannot concur with those who consider the present protection excessive. I may say, however, that there is one change produced in my opinions on this subject. I began my consideration of it believing it a landlords' question. I did believe that the effect would be so great of a sudden and immediate repeal, that vast quantities of land would come into the market at once, and its value be greatly deteriorated. But, Sir, I greatly doubt if this can be called a "landlords' question;" or if so, it is certainly a question for small landed proprietors. It is not a question for the great landed proprietors—they who would be able to "weather the storm." It may be a question for the small landowner, who, on the faith of Parliament, even if in some sense indiscreetly, may have charged his estate to nearly its full value, and who may, therefore, find it difficult to meet a sudden and severe shock. But the more I consider this question, the more am I satisfied it is a tenant-farmers' question. And, far from thinking that a reason for underrating its importance, it is on that very account I resolve to make my stand against the measure. Apply the precepts of your new philosophy to the tenant-farmer. Suppose prices fall in consequence—partly, perhaps, of an inundation of foreign corn—the tenant-farmer says to his landlord, "I hope, Sir, you will allow me a small abatement in my rent? I may not know so much about draining as Mr. Smith of Deanston; I may not have all the patent implements, nor show the fattest pig; but my family has held under yours for many a generation; we have weathered hard years together; I have worn your colours—and I should be sorry to go elsewhere." The landlord may reply, "My good fellow, I am very sorry for you. You have invested your capital in these drainings and these soils; but so have I mine. You have invested the money—as I have—on the faith of the Legislature. But we are told now by the Prime Minister that we are 'to buy in the cheapest market, and sell in the dearest.' There is a gentleman from the manufactoring districts with more capital than you, ready to invest in your farm. I really must look to my own family arrangements. You talk of feudal times and days long gone by, but it is idle to conjure up old exploded notions—and as for 'colours,' God bless you, my good fellow, there is no 'true blue' now!" Yes! unless the landlord acts towards his tenant a better part and with kindlier feeling than you are now prepared to act towards the whole agricultural body, the tenant-farmer must leave his farm. The manufacturer— whoever he may be—with large capital and more "energy" (if you will), comes in, and the product is perhaps more per acre — and that is called "improvement of agriculture:" but the only men who will suffer—mark! — are the men whose misfortune it was to have been poor comparatively, and whose fatal fault was that they trusted you! A short simple story, Sir, sometimes does better to illustrate an argument than more formal reasoning. Some months ago a farmer told me, "I have had a fortune left me." "Well, then," replied I, "you had better leave these 'cold clays'—take a better sort of land—settle down to it, and make your fortune double." "Sir," replied he, "there are the gravestones of four generations of my family in this parish. My father, grandfather, and great-grandfather worked this farm—I will not go anywhere else. I will try what I can do at home. I will stick to the old farm till the plough breaks in the furrows." Sir, the heart of that man was worth volumes of political economy. And it is hundreds and thousands of men like him, without the same fortune indeed in their pockets—but with the same sort of heart in their bosoms—whom you are driving forth by your legislation with broken hearts and ruined fortunes; and I am sorry to be obliged to add, that when thus driven forth, their keenest associations, their bitterest recollections of ruined fortunes, blighted hopes, and broken hearts, will not be coupled with the name of Cobden! We will not aid you in your triumph over these poor men. We do not envy you the victory you seek to achieve over them. In that triumph we refuse to participate. We may be small in number and uninfluential in debate, but we will raise our voices against the injustice which we may be unable to avert. You may now prepare your measures against those poor men who petition in vain at your table, and who now see ruin staring them in the face—men moderate in prosperity—patient in adversity—and whose misfortune amidst all their virtues is that they trusted you! You may now prepare to conquer them (I can give it no milder name) in strange coalition with men who, true to their principles — can neither welcome you as friends, nor respect you as opponents — and of whom, I must say, in conclusion, that the best and most patriotic among them, will the least rejoice in the ruin and the downfall of a great constitutional party, and will most deplore the loss of public confidence in public men.


opposed the Amendment. He did not see how the agriculturists could raise the price of food unless they also raised the rate of wages. It was inhumanity to the poor if the one were done and not the other. By the old Poor Law, wages were raised so as to be in proportion to the price of food. Now, the election of 1841 turned on two points—first, the principle of protection; and, secondly, the restoration of the old Poor Law. The attempt had been made to keep up the prices of food; but had the other pledge been fulfilled? He was not a particular friend to the system of the old Poor Law; but if the one pledge had been carried out, it was the duty of the party which entered Parliament for the double purpose he had described to carry out the other, and declare their intention to do so. But he wished more particularly to touch on the question as it affected Ireland. He differed from the hon. Gentleman who had just spoken, as well as from the majority of Irish landlords. Instead of wishing protective duties on corn for the sake of Ireland, he thought dear corn and dear food the greatest curse that could be inflicted upon that country. It had been said, England was prosperous, why meddle with this law? But when applied to Ireland, the argument fell to the ground. Ireland had long enjoyed protection—had it promoted her prosperity? On the contrary, the greatest wretchedness prevailed; and, referring to landlords, tenants, and labourers alike, he would ask whether any of them had benefited from the system of protection? The Report of the Landlords and Tenants Commission, and also a recent Report of the Irish Poor Law Commissioners, showed that the agricultural population, or cottiers, were badly clothed, badly fed, and subjected to the most severe privations, their only food in many districts being potatoes, their only drink water, while a bed or a blanket was a rare luxury. The Report of the Land Commissioners also bore testimony to the misery of the tenants. In that report reference was made to subletting and middlemen. It was stated that the war with France had greatly raised farming profits, and consequently rents. Many middlemen, who during the long war had amassed much wealth, had become proprietors in fee; others, who had not been so successful, struggled in after years to maintain a position in society which their falling resources could not support—their sub-tenants were unable to pay "war-rents;" the middleman himself, who had come under rent during the same period, could not meet his engagements—all became impoverished; the middleman parted with his interest, or under-let the little land he had hitherto retained in his own hands—himself and family were involved rapidly in ruin. The landlord was, in many instances, obliged to look to the occupier for his rent, or at the expiration of the lease found the farm covered with a pauper, and in many cases superabundant, population. Hence the clearing system and other evils. The condition of the landlords was referred to by the Commissioners of Poor Law Inquiry in Ireland. Referring to the embarrassments of landlords, they stated they had reason to believe that the landed property of Ireland was so deeply encumbered, that a rate of any great extent would absorb the whole income of some of the nominal proprietors if it were to bear the entire charge; and they stated that from a reference to the Masters in Chancery, they had ascertained that the average rent of land in Ireland was under 12s. 6d. per Irish acre (about 14s. 2d. English)—that the gross landed rental was less than 10,000,000l.; that the expenses and losses were not less than 10 per cent., and the annuities and charges not less than 3,000,000l. per annum; so that the net income was less than 6,000,000l. per annum. The condition of the agricultural labourer was shown in the Report of the Commissioners of Land Inquiry. They said— A reference to the evidence of most of the witnesses will show that the agricultural labourer of Ireland continues to suffer the greatest privations and hardships; that he continues to depend upon casual and precarious employment for subsistence; that he is still badly housed, badly fed, badly clothed, and badly paid for his labour. The labouring classes live under sufferings greater, we believe, than the people of any other conntry in Europe have to sustain. Again, at page 35, referring to the condition of the labourers, they said— We noticed, with deep regret, the state of the cottiers and labourers in most parts of the country, from the want of certain employment. It would be impossible to describe adequately the privations which they and their families habitually endure. It will be seen in evidence, that in many districts their only food is the potato—their only beverage, water; that their cabins are seldom a protection against the weather; that a bed or a blanket is a rare luxury; and that, nearly in all, their pig and their manure-heap constitute their only property. The Commissioners of Poor Inquiry in 1836 described the condition of the agricultural labourers as follows:— A great portion of them are insufficiently provided with the commonest necessaries of life. Their habitations are wretched hovels. Several of the family sleep together upon straw, or upon the bare ground, sometimes with a blanket, sometimes without so much to cover them. Their food commonly consists of dry potatoes; and even with these they are obliged often to stint themselves to one spare meal in the day. There are even instances of persons being driven by hunger to seek sustenance in wild herbs. Under such circumstances he would ask, could they say that the country was benefited by this principle of protection? There was one part of Ireland which, however, was not altogether dependent upon agriculture—a part where the manufacturing interest was united to that of the agricultural. In this portion of the country the condition of the people was very prosperous—he referred to that part of Ireland in the neighbourhood of Belfast. The union of both interests made the people there both prosperous and happy, and every class was comfortable. He dreaded not the fall of prices. He was convinced that the increase of wages and employment would tend equally to the prosperity of the people and the landlords. Why should Ireland be solely an agricultural country? He wished it to cease to be so, and not to depend solely upon the profits arising from agriculture. He wished to see the landlords there encouraging manufactures, and there would be less of poverty and discontent in the country. It was said, that if the Corn Laws were repealed, Ireland would lose the benefit of the English markets. What were those benefits? He admitted that there were vast quantities of provisions sent from Ireland to England, and that there were millions of English money paid for them; but did Ireland benefit by this circumstance? No. The export of provisions from Ireland, instead of being a test of her wealth or prosperity, was, on the contrary, a test of her abject wretchedness and misery. These provisions were not exports of her superfluities, but exports of the very means of her existence, which the people required for themselves to support existence, and to lead a comfortable life. The Irish people were suffering, therefore, beyond any person's belief. The exports were even recently going out of the country as largely as at any former period. Was not this a proof that the protective system did not show any prosperity in that country, but absolute wretchedness, in the abstraction of these provisions from the actual wants of the people? The means of supporting life were thus taken from them. If they considered the number of acres there were in Ireland, and the amount of population that was to be fed, the quantity of land was much less in proportion to the number of people there was in England, and yet the land of England was found insufficient to support them. Why then should there be such exports of these provisions from Ireland, when the people were supposed to exist almost wholly by the labour connected with agriculture? The fact, however, was, that the people there were not generally employed, and had not the means of procuring food for themselves, although they assisted in producing plenty for exportation to this country. If, however, they went to the north of Ireland, they found the people there happy and obedient to the laws—the landlords living amongst their tenantry, and diffusing happiness and comfort around them. This state of things, which was produced by the happy union of the manufacturing and agricultural interests, presented a strong contrast to the other parts of Ireland, where no such advantages existed. Then he said they should give up their system of agricultural protection—they should abolish all laws having a tendency to make food dear and to produce high rents. Let landlords submit at once to the consequences; cheerfully employ the people, and confer a benefit on Ireland. For the sake of Ireland he wished to see every such tax abolished, that had a tendency to abridge the principle which he had advocated. One of the greatest misfortunes of Ireland was the obligation they lay under to subsist upon the potato — the lowest article of food. Immense evils had followed from this circumstance; but how were they to alter this state of things? Why by no other means than that of so cheapening corn that the people would then be able to substitute it for the other. They would not then be subject to such dreadful periodical famines as had been witnessed by the failure of the potato crop of late years. If the landlords looked for compensation for such a change in the law, they would soon find it in the improved system of cultivation that would then be practised, and in the increased incomes consequent thereupon. He was certain that even in the most agricultural parts of Ireland there were portions of land which did not yield half what they might be made to do if there was an im- proved system of cultivation introduced, and if the tenantry were enabled to enrich their farms. Such lands might be made to produce at least double what they yielded now. He should therefore wish to see them thus induced to improve their cultivation by the abolition of the present protective system. He would not be answerable for the responsibility he felt he should be incurring by affording his assistance to increasing the price of food in Ireland. He would not now recur to the extraordinary circumstances attending the present season in that country; he would but generally remark that there was no year or season of the year when there was not a great number of the population forced to subsist upon wretched and insufficient food, and were literally without the means of procuring the common necessaries of life. With regard to the present state of Ireland, and as to the scarcity of food there, he had no hesitation in saying that it was most alarming. He had only that day received a communication from that part of the country with which he was connected by property, conveying the dreadful information that there was not now one potato left, and the people were consequently obliged to recur to oatmeal and other means of supporting life. He should feel it his bounden duty to give his cordial support to the proposition of the right hon. Baronet opposite.


said, it was undoubtedly to be lamented that this question, in which the interests of the people were so deeply involved, should have been made the war-cry of a party; that such industrious efforts should have been made to excite popular feeling upon the subject, so that they could scarcely now approach the discussion without that acrimony and bitterness so inseparable from party feeling, and which was little calculated to lead them to a sound and dispassionate judgment upon one of the most difficult questions of political economy. If it were true, however, that upon the success and prosperity of the agriculture of this country the prosperity of all the other great branches of our national industry depended, we must all have an equal interest in arriving at a sound and satisfactory decision upon the subject. It seemed to be now generally assumed as an axiom, that free trade must, under any circumstances, prove beneficial to a nation: undoubtedly we had never been able to convince foreign nations of this truth, or to induce them to adopt the proposition. Foreign nations are well aware that Eng- land possesses peculiar advantages for the production of manufactures. They know that we possess in a greater abundance than any other country the two great elements of manufactures, viz., coal and iron; that the country abounds in fine harbours, rivers, canals, and railroads, by which the raw produce is brought to the doors of our manufacturers; that, possessed of those advantages, together with great mechanical skill, we are enabled to produce our goods at a cheaper rate than they can be produced in any other country. It is for this reason that they have erected barriers in every country of Europe against the introduction of our manufactures, in the shape of protective duties; and it is well known that, fostered and encouraged by these protecting duties, the cotton manufactures of France and Germany have risen into great importance, and have become the source of great wealth and prosperity to those countries. But, could any one doubt, if these protecting duties were withdrawn, that France and Germany would soon be inundated with British goods, and that their own manufactures would be undersold and supplanted in their own markets? If any one doubted that, let him only refer to the history of the the cotton manufactures of India. When first we arrived in that country, we found the population of that vast empire, consisting of not less than 160,000,000 of inhabitants, wholly and entirely clothed in their own beautiful domestic manufactures: by the great cheapness of our own, we had succeeded in supplanting and destroying them. Hundreds of thousands of people were, by these means, thrown out of employment, and reduced to misery and starvation. They had no one to fight their battle. They perished by famine and disease; the great and flourishing cities, the seats of these manufactures, had become desolate and depopulated. The most ruthless conqueror of India had not inflicted greater misery, or caused a greater destruction of human life, than we had done by the introduction of our cotton manufactures into that country. These are notorious facts. We may boast of having established an enlightened Government in India, a Government which gives protection to life and property, which encourages education, and seeks to elevate the condition of the people, but we cannot deny that from the date of our rule in India must also date the decline of the internal prosperity and material wealth amongst the mass of the people; gradually their condition deteriorated, as gradually we succeeded in destroying their domestic manufactures. Such had been the result of free trade to India. Can we be surprised that foreign Governments hesitate to allow their people to be submitted to chances of a similar fate? Having failed, therefore, in our endeavours to induce foreign nations to adopt the principles of free trade, the question is, shall we try the experiment upon our own people? We have only to refer to the occurrences of the last few years, in order to be convinced of the intimate connexion and relation which exists between our agriculture and our commerce, and how much the success and prosperity of the one depends upon that of the other. Indeed, we need go no further back than to the year 1841. We all remember what was the state and condition of the country at that period; the trade and commerce of the country were stagnant, the manufacturing interest in the deepest state of depression; thousands of our operatives were out of employment, subsisting upon public charity; and the revenue had fallen far below the expenditure of the country. To what was this state of things attributed? for, be it remembered, three years previously we were in a state of great prosperity. This disastrous state of things was attributed to four notoriously bad and deficient harvests in the four preceding years. In like manner, when we look at the prosperous state of the country at the present moment, when we know that every branch of our national industry is flourishing, that our operatives are in full employment upon good and sufficient wages, that our manufacturers have been making greater profits during the last two years than at any former period upon record; to what is this altered state of things to be attributed, unless to the three fine and abundant harvests of the years 1842, 1843, and 1844? But, if this were true, how clearly does it demonstrate to us the vast importance of our agriculture—how clearly does it point out to us that we should devote our attention to promote its prosperity and success! Well, the question is, then, which is the best way to promote the prosperity and success of agriculture?—whether by giving a moderate protection to the produce of our own country, or by leaving it to free and unrestricted competition with those foreign countries who possess as great and superior advantages over us for the production of wheat as we possess over them for the production of manufactures? It is not my intention upon the present occasion to enter into the discussion as to whether there are or not peculiar burdens upon land in this country which are not equally shared by all the other great branches of our national industry. I certainly believe that there are; but I will not enter into that discussion at present, because I think I shall be able to show that the agriculturists of this country labour under a much greater disadvantage in their competition with foreigners, than any that can be attributed to peculiar or exclusive burdens upon the land—to a disadvantage which certainly has never been sufficiently appreciated in these discussions, and one which no labour, or science, or skill on their part can ever enable them to surmount—I mean the disadvantage of the inferiority of the climate of this country, as compared with that of most foreign countries, for the production of the finest descriptions of grain. I do not know that we have any reason to believe that the farmers of this country are more skilful than those of other countries, especially in Belgium, and some parts of Germany. At all events, the general diffusion of knowledge and education will soon place them upon an equality in this respect. But I will suppose, for the sake of argument, that the wages of labour are not greater in this country than they are in Poland. I will also assume that the land in this country is of equal fertility with the land in Poland. The wheat produced in the latter country will nevertheless sell at from 10s. to 20s. per quarter more than the wheat produced in this country. I know that particular samples may be produced from Kent and Essex, and some of the southern counties of England, equal in quality to the finest Polish wheat; but I speak of that which constitutes the great bulk of the produce of this country, which is of inferior quality. It, of course, depends very much upon the season; this year I believe the difference is equal to 20s., but upon an average it may be calculated at 10s. per quarter: this difference arises from the greater heat of the climate, which brings the grain to a finer state of maturity; the skin of the grain is not so thick, and the produce of flour is consequently much greater than from that of our own, Here then is an advantage in favour of the foreign grower of not less than 20 per cent.; and I confess that I am somewhat alarmed at the prospect of a competition under such circumstances. It seems natural to conclude that a portion at least of our wheat lands will gradually be thrown out of cultivation, in proportion to the increased cultivation of the article that may take place upon the continent of Europe; and the question is, will that be a desirable consummation? It may be at once admitted that the climate of this country is better suited to the growth of pasture than to the production of wheat; and if this were simply a question of political economy—if it were simply a question of pounds, shillings, and pence—it might be at once admitted that it would be more advantageous for the people of this country to turn a portion of their wheat lands into pasture, and to purchase a greater quantity of grain from foreign countries. But this is not simply a question of political economy: it is a question of high national importance; it involves our dependence upon foreign countries, not as heretofore for a small portion of that which we may require; but for a large portion of that which constitutes the food of the people of this country. It may be at once assumed that our chief supply would come from Poland and the north of Germany; in the event of a free trade being established, those are the countries the best suited, both from position as well as the fertility of their soils, to supply the markets of this country. Can it be denied that those Governments would have it in their power to inflict great injury upon us, by closing their ports and stopping our supplies of food? We had an example even in the present year to a limited extent. In consequent of deficient harvests, the ports in Poland have been closed against the exportation of the inferior descriptions of grain which constitute the food of the people of that country. From Belgium they have prohibited the exportation of wheat; and we knew very well, if the Government had thought it necessary three months ago to open our ports by an Order in Council, that France and other countries would have immediately closed theirs, and that not out of any feeling of ill-will towards us, but simply as a matter of precaution, in order to save their own people from the consequences that would ensue were a great demand to be made upon their resources by the people of this country. Foreign nations would doubtless give us of their superfluities in abundant seasons; but their Governments are far too wise to allow their people to suffer inconvenience or privation, in order that the people of this country might obtain their provisions at a cheaper rate; and we should also calculate that the natural operation of free trade would be to increase our population on the one hand, and to decrease the national and natural means of subsistence upon the other. But if I am not one of those who indulge in golden dreams of universal prosperity as the result of these measures, so neither, on the other hand, do I entertain exaggerated fears of the evil consequences that will ensue from them. Unfortunately, the question can now no longer be decided upon its real merits. Before we come to a decision upon a question of this magnitude and importance, it is necessary that we should take into consideration all the circumstances of the country, and, above all, that we should take into consideration the evil consequences that would ensue, should a long and protracted struggle and agitation be maintained upon a question in which the interests of the great mass of the people, at least, appear to be opposed to that of the landed gentry and aristocracy of the country. We must also take into consideration the actual position which this question has assumed, not only in the country, but also in this House. In the country we find the community divided into two great classes, in determined hostility to each other; the one class resolved to have a total and immediate repeal of all protective laws; the other class equally resolved to admit of no compromise, but to maintain the existing law. Such is the position of the question in the country; and what is the position of the question in this House? Here we find all the great and leading statesmen on both sides, men of all parties, united in opinion that some great alteration in the existing law is necessary; and those who are anxious to maintain protection on its present footing, avowedly, have not the materials amongst them wherewith to form an Administration that will be likely to receive either the support or the confidence of the country. That being the case, it appears that we have but a choice of two alternatives, either to give our support to the measure that has been brought forward by Her Majesty's Government; or, by opposing that measure, to throw out the Government, and to make way for the Administration of the noble Lord opposite and his friends, who are equally pledged to a total and immediate repeal of all protective laws. And what are we to gain by such a change? Under these circumstances, I shall give my support to the Motion now before the House; and I feel persuaded that in so doing I am pursuing a course better calculated to promote the interests of the country than those who, either from a sense of duty, or from a feeling of consistency, think it necessary to give every opposition and resistance in their power to these measures; knowing, at the same time, as they well must know, that, although this opposition may possibly delay these measures for a time, though it may possibly throw the country into confusion, and bring still greater evils upon us, yet that ultimately, and under existing circumstances, it cannot prove successful.


, after referring to the advocacy of the measure by the hon. Member for Rochdale (Mr. S. Crawford), on the ground of the benefit it would confer upon Ireland, said, he was anxious to ask that hon. Gentleman in what way the support of such a measure would improve the condition of the lower orders in that country, or raise the circumstances of the Irish landlords? For his own part, though he was grateful to the Government for some measures which they had adopted in reference to that country, yet he could not give them his support in reference to the measure before the House. And he would state why he was opposed to this project of the Ministry, and particularly as he considered that it became every county Member from that part of the Empire to state his reasons for opposing this measure, and not to let it go forth that he was led to do so under any influence of private feelings. He did feel, then, that at this moment, when all the greater statesmen in that House had but one opinion upon the subject, and when those who were of equal weight, but not of equal official consequence, were compelled by the force of circumstances, and though opposed to the measure, to vote in favour of it—when men like the noble Lord the late Member for Dorsetshire (Lord Ashley), had rather relinquish their seat in that House than vote against the measure—under all these important circumstances, he did still feel that it was utterly impossible for him to vote in support of the proposal of the Government. It was time, indeed, for every man to put to himself the question—was it for the advantage of this country that the Corn Laws should be repealed? All those evils and dangerous consequences which his hon. Friend had argued would attend this measure in reference to this country, would of necessity fall with greater force upon Ireland. What would naturally be the consequence of such a measure? If the exports of Ireland, which were very great, were to be diminished, must not the landlords of that country be seriously affetced? Could rents be paid? And must not the agriculturists of Ireland turn those lands, which now gave employment to the people, into pasture lands, which would not afford the same extent of employment? And suppose that the results which were anticipated from this measure, by those who brought it forward, should fail of being realized, that those lands should be turned into grass, and the people deprived of employment, would not Ireland, let him ask the House, become, under such terrible circumstances, a land of trouble, sorrow, and destitution, beyond all that was ever heard or conceived? With respect to the merits of the measure itself, he considered it was a most hazardous and dangerous experiment. And why was he asked to give it his support? Was he appealed to for his support by the Gentlemen opposite, who had consistently supported measures of this character, and who had conscientiously pursued a free-trade policy? No; he was called upon by the right hon. Baronet, who, during the greater portion of his own political life, and for the whole of his (Mr. Lefroy's) had been leading him into error, except for the last two or three years. He must say that he thought there were questions which it particularly belonged to a man's own conscience and understanding to judge of; and, for his own part, he trusted he might truly say, that he had never followed a Minister, and given up, in doing so, his conscientious feeling. But if party was to be admitted to be for the benefit of the country—and he believed it was—he did believe that there were several great and important questions, beyond his own comprehension, perhaps, and for the consideration of which he had neither talent, nor time, nor opportunity, in regard to which it was the best course to look about among public men, and to follow him whose course of policy appeared the most salutary. It was on grounds such as this that he had given his humble support to the right hon. Baronet. But he must say, at the same time, that he should consider he resembled a bird ensnared by a whistle, if he allowed himself to be drawn into a support of the measure before the House, merely because the right hon. Gentleman had changed his opinion upon a question of such great importance, and without giving one solid reason for such change. The hon. Member then said that, if he were hereafter to be expected to follow a different line of policy from that which he had hitherto adopted on questions of this nature, it would be well to consider whether it would not be wiser to follow, on such measures, those as leaders, who had recommended such a course of policy as these questions involved, for the whole of their political lives. That, however, was not likely to be his own case. In reference to the right hon. Baronet, he still hoped that he would be found bringing forward measures in regard to Ireland which would tend to the benefit of Ireland, and in those measures he would give him his support. It had been said, that those who voted for free-trade measures should support those men who had honestly entertained free-trade principles, and who had hitherto advocated them with zeal, straightforwardness, and ability. He should, however, act in accordance with the views he had now stated. If the measure should turn out to be for the benefit of the country, he should be subjecting himself to some censure by having obstinately resisted it; but if it should prove dangerous and destructive to the interests of the country, he should have, at least, the satisfaction that, as an humble individual, he had entered his protest against the measure. But, however good it might turn out, the experiment must be admitted to be of a most perilous character.


said, it had been alleged that the proposed measure would be most injurious to the landlords of Ireland; he had not the least objection, as an Irish county Member, to meet that assertion; he trusted he should not for so doing be considered less the farmer's friend than any hon. Gentleman opposite. For the last six years he had earnestly endeavoured to improve the agriculture of his neighbourhood, and he had made himself intimately acquainted with the wants and condition of the farmers and the labouring classes of the county he had the honour to represent. He must own that some of the arguments of the hon. Member for North Northamptonshire had a little startled him: he had heard him state that ruin to agriculture would not only be the consequence of the policy of free trade; but also that the artisan, the coachmaker, and paper-stainer, would be found standing idle in the market-place, seeking employment and finding none. To this picture of distress and difficulty which he had drawn, he might have added the present state of the farmer and agricultural labourer in Ireland. He might there have found the market-places crowded with labourers, able and willing to work, seeking employment, but unable to find it, and he might there have found that corn was grown at the cheapest rate, and sold in the dearest market; yet did that produce happiness or advantage to that country? He believed it would be found from every inquiry into the state of Ireland, that nothing could be more melancholy, nothing more destitute or deplorable, than the condition of the labouring population. Their state was such that it was impossible for any one to imagine it, unless he had been an eye-witness of it, and cognizant himself of that misery and total destitution. That destitution had lately been most fully and usefully laid before the public by the enterprise of a leading publication in this country. The gentleman intrusted with the inquiry had depicted in strong and forcible language the total destitution of the poor in certain localities; and he (Lord Clements) was prepared to admit, that in no one single syllable written by the Commissioner employed by that publication had he in the slightest degree overstated the case. He believed, indeed, that if it were possible for language to draw the picture more forcibly, it might have been done without in the least deviating from the truth. He would turn to the evidence taken before Lord Devon's Commission, which appeared to him particularly relative to the present case. It was the evidence given by Mr. J. Duke, a medical gentleman who had charges of the fever hospital at Mohill:—

"What is the general description of the district?—It is principally tillage.

"Can you state the population of the district?—It is very great; I do not know the exact number. In the district which I am acquainted with there are nearly 40,000 persons, and there is scarcely a resident gentleman within twelve or thirteen miles in one way and twenty-five miles in the other direction.

"What are the most usual crops?—The only crops latterly are potatoes and oats: flax very little to what it used to be.

"What quantity of oats does the 30s. land produce?—Six sacks of twenty-eight stones are considered a fair produce by a farmer, because it soon runs out the land with them, and it does not produce as much as it would with me.

"How many sacks would you grow upon the same description of ground?—I should average two or three more than those who are around me.

"What is the produce of the potatoes?—That is very different indeed.

"What has your own produce averaged?—Thirty barrels, of eight stones, is considered a good crop for the best land, but the people have not half that. If they had a mode of tilling it properly, with sufficient manure, they could have as much as the best description of farmers; but they have not manure, and they generally till it very late in the season.

"Does the subletting or subdivision of farms still continue?—To a great extent.

"Is it permitted by the landlords?—The two landlords in the immediate neighbourhood, * do not permit it; but it is carried on in the parish of Cloone, where there is no resident landlord or agent to prevent it. It is a common practice; where a man has five acres he will subdivide it with three sons.

"With respect to the condition of the farming population, are the large farmers improving in their means?—There are very few large farmers in this country.

"Are the small tenantry improving in their condition, or otherwise?—They are 50 per cent. worse than they were twenty years ago.

"Are the labourers improving?—Quite the reverse; nothing ean be more wretched.

"What is the cause of their being so wretched?—The value of the commodity (labour) is so reduced in price they are not able to pay their rents, and they are lying naked and in such a state that it would hardly be believed. I am obliged to visit the people, being a medical man, and go in where no gentleman would go in. They have no bedstead; they are lying on a small quantity of straw—sometimes rushes; they have no covering over them, or one blanket among six. When fever sets in, in any particular case, the whole family generally take it. Latterly * has got up a fever hospital, and now they are brought into it immediately, and that saves the rest of the family; but it is not so extensive a thing, from want of funds, as would be desirable."

He could confirm every statement contained in this extract from the Report. He had seen as many individuals as a mother and four children lying on the earthen floor without anything but a rug to cover them, all in the fever, the neighbours afraid to go near them, and the filth so piled up at the door that it was with the greatest difficulty he was able to get in. He had witnessed scenes of wretchedness and distress in that neighbourhood which required the strongest nerves to be able to examine. The evidence thus continued:—

"Is the state you have mentioned of the poor people here a general description of the lower classes?—Yes, it is.

"With respect to food, what is their condition?—It is never better than potatoes and milk in summer, and in winter they have not the milk. Sometimes they get a herring, or stirabout is considered wholesome food; but latterly they have not been able to get that.

"If they get a halfpenny they buy a quart of butter-milk, or sometimes in charity the farmer gives it them. But in speaking of the wretched condition of the people, I speak of cottiers who work a certain number of days for the farmers.

"Is the condition of a farmer holding a farm of two or three acres better than you have described?—Yes, where he derives from the head landlord at a fair rent.

"Have farmers of that description usually bedstead and blankets?—The two-acre men I frequently find without bedsteads, but I generally see one for the old couple, and the rest of the family generally lie on the ground. It is lamentable to see their state, to which, above all other things, I attribute the fever that prevails to a frightful extent in this country.

"How many days' work in a week do they usually give for their house and garden?—Generally in this locality three days in a week, and some of the farmers give them work every day in the week.

"At what rate do they pay them; what are they paid when not working up their rent?—Generally 6d., when fed; but it is a common thing for a man to offer himself without any price, merely to be fed at this season of the year.—Some means should be devised to prevent the people lying on the ground with no more straw than you could put in your hand. In many cases of fever they are not able to get a pint of milk to make the gruel, and I have been round to the priests to get them to beg a few pounds of gentlemen to save lives in that way."

There was one more answer, which was so creditable to the poor people who gave it, that, though a little beside the subject, he would read it:—

"You have referred to the destitute state of the labouring population; do you conceive that many of them would be disposed to emigrate, if means were afforded?—Yes; those that are married, and those that are not married, would be glad to go. We have encouraged that to a certain extent by the loan funds, by parties getting bail from their relations; and if we had funds we could send out thousands, and particularly females, who invariably send back the money to those who have become bail for them, that they should not be processed by us. We give twelve months to enable those who go out to America to send back the money. Females generally do so; they are more frugal and more affectionate to relatives at home. The males may get married and leave the bail to pay."

Now, this was a lamentable state of things, but he felt perfectly satisfied of the truth of every syllable of the statement. He could say even more than this gentleman stated. He had hardly ever known a single summer pass without the occurrence of a scarcity. During the last summer the people were on the point of suffering a famine from the failure of the potato crop. Had that failure been as extensive in the neighbouring counties as in Leitrim, they would have had a most awful visitation. This year additional quantities of ground had been broken up; it was difficult exactly to ascertain the quantity of ground so brought into cultivation; it was also difficult to make any calculation as to the increase of produce in consequence of it, and equally so to estimate the quantity of potatoes which would be found in a state of disease and unfit to be used as food. But this he must say—the Commission recently appointed by the Government to inquire into the state of that disease had at least had this beneficial effect—it had forewarned the people, and had shown them that their neighbours were as badly off as themselves, and told them that they had nothing to depend upon but their own exertions. They could not, as during last summer, apply to the neighbouring counties for assistance. In many instances, persons had already laid in a large stock of oatmeal; but how many thousands were there who could not so provide means of subsistence in advance! Many in his neighbourhood had not yet paid for the food they were obliged to buy last summer: how could they get credit during the next? He might now inquire, had protection been of the slightest service to the farmers of Ireland? Had it fed the people, or prevented the agricultural labourers from "standing idle in the market-place," as the hon. Member North for Northamptonshire anticipated they would be compelled to do? But a clearer idea of the state of the people might be gained from a report of the trustees of "The Reproductive Loan Fund" in the county of Leitrim, in which they state as follows:— We are of opinion that it would be advisable that the accumulated interest of the capital in our care might now be very fairly and very properly laid out in a manner beneficial to those poor persons through whose means it has been so accumulated, and for whose sole benefit the capital placed in our care was originally intended. In arriving at this opinion, we are led to examine the actual state of the neighbourhood, and the condition of the people; and we find that the portion of the parish of Mohill within the county of Leitrim, comprises an area, 26,786 statute acres, including bog and water, which are very abundant, but of which we have no official record to enable us to deduct such parts as are unproductive, and do not assist in supporting the population, which consists of 16,581 individuals; or, 2,983 families, living in 2,810 houses. The annual valuation of those houses, including a market town—but deducting oue-third for repairs—amounts to 736l. 16s. In this parish there is one loan fund, one dispensary and fever hospital—the latter containing only three wards for fever patients. In the adjoining parish (Cloone) there is an area, including bog and water, of 41,516 statute acres, with a population of 21,225 individuals; or, 3,818 families, living in 3,669 houses. The annual valuation of which houses, including a market town — but deducting one-third for repairs—amounts to the sum of 221l. 18s. In this parish there is a loan fund; but there is no dispensary, or any charitable institution of any kind. The returns given of the Mohill Union were of a remarkable character, and showed the extensive subdivision of land there. The occupiers who did not pay rates, or rather those whose holdings were valued at 4l. and under, amounted to 6,169, and the land in their possession was no less than 24,346 statute acres—in the Carrick Union—a fact no less extraordinary—while the number of those paying rates was 4,522; those not paying rates were 5,730: and, from those returns it would be seen, as regarded the latter locality, that 27,109 acres were altogether in the occupation of persons who did not pay rates, the rates in such cases being chargeable on the immediate lessor. With reference to that portion of the measure introduced by the right hon. Baronet relating to an alteration in the system of paying the police and the public county officers in Ireland, he desired some further information. His own conviction was, that nothing could be more necessary than that each county should pay for its own police, although the Commission of which Lord Devon had been the head, appointed to inquire into the relations between landlord and tenant in Ireland, had recommended a very different plan; one similar to that now proposed by the right hon. Baronet. To this, however, he would not object, provided that there should be an annual vote of the House for their payment; the number of police in each county determined on, and in the event of its being found necessary to increase that number in any particular locality, on account of disturbances, the charge for such extra police should be placed on the particular locality requiring their immediate services, and that the payments should be enforced as a punishment for such disorders. Some alteration was also absolutely necessary in the appointment of officers to conduct the Crown business at assizes; at present, nothing could be worse than the system so long existing; and until steps were taken by the Administration to insure fit and proper persons taking charge of this important business, neither justice nor order would be thoroughly introduced. Nor could there be any security for life, and property; and he regretted to say that under the present system, the Crown gave very little protection to either. He was anxious that, before any great length of time elapsed, the right hon. Baronet at the head of the Government would turn his attention to this matter, with a view not only of relieving the counties of the burden of paying the salaries of public officers, but also for the purpose of putting the whole on a better footing, and placing men of talent and experience in the several offices. The general supposition in England was that Ireland was a lightly taxed country: the fact was that there was local taxation to an extent from 6 to 23 per cent.; and this, at all times a serious burden, was at this moment altogether insupportable, in consequence of the universal failure in the article of food having deprived the poorer part of the population of their usual means of meeting such taxation. He likewise trusted that in devising measures to allay that wide-spread evil, the right hon. Gentleman would not be unmindful of the many other funds from which relief might be derived, in addition to those which had already been mentioned on another night. There were large available resources in the guardianship of the Irish Reproductive Loan Society—a sum amounting, he believed, to upwards of 6,000l., but at present in hand and lying useless; and in seeing that such funds were properly applied and diverted into the channels for which, by charitable persons, they were originally intended, the Government would be doing a very essential service. The original amount of these funds was about 54,000l.; they were now upwards of 64,000l., and they might be made of infinitely greater service to the poor than in receiving them solely for loans. There were, it would be known, numerous other societies and associations, formed with similar praiseworthy objects, and similarly, for want of proper inspection, failing in their end; and in order to secure to the unfortunate people so lamentably visited with famine all the relief which could possibly be obtained from such quarters, he hoped that a Committee of Inquiry would be formed, and that every facility would be given to carry out whatever recommendation might be adopted. The noble Lord, in conclusion, stated that he would give his support, with great pleasure, to the measure of the right hon. Baronet, and with still greater pleasure, if the suggestion of the noble Lord the Member for the city of London induced the right hon. Baronet to propose an immediate, in place of a gradual, repeal of the Corn Laws.


said, that he rose under circumstances of very great and grave embarrassment, because he felt it to be his duty to oppose the course of those with whom he had generally acted. He must at the outset declare that he considered the question before them was one on which every one had a perfect right to change his opinion; and he would moreover say this, that he was sure that in the present course that was adopted by the right hon. Baronet he was actuated by the purest and most conscientious motives; but, at the same time, he must be allowed to say, that if the right hon. Gentleman had entertained these opinions in 1841, he did believe that though under such circumstances the right hon. Gentleman might have proposed the same measures which he now submitted to the House, with all the authority that his great talents gave him, still he would not have had the opportunity of proposing them with all the authority and influence of the Crown. Now, however, the right hon. Baronet felt it to be his duty to press these measures upon the House. He regretted that the right hon. Gentleman had done so; and he regretted it the more because, as far as they knew the opinions of the people of this country, their feelings and their wishes were against these measures. Measures were proposed to them, and they were called upon to meet the arguments by which such measures were supported. There was some difficulty in doing so, because they would find the propositions before the House sustained by the most contradictory arguments. The arguments themselves were as various as the persons to whom they were addressed; and there was some difficulty in knowing which argument should be encountered, and which fallacy first exposed. There was one argument which had lately prevailed very much, and seemed to have produced considerable effect throughout the country, and it was one which, if true in every respect, would, he admitted, have considerable effect upon himself. It was this: that if the Corn Laws were repealed the labourer could buy bread cheaper than he did at present. Now, this he did say, that if it were true that under such circumstances the labourer could get his bread and his subsistence cheaper, the Corn Laws could not be maintained. He thought, however, that this was not the question which a statesman should ask. The proper ques- tion was, would the labourer receive more bread and more of subsistence if the Corn Laws were repealed, than he had now? He thought that all experience and all sound argument told them it would not be so. He referred to the statistics of all the nations of the world, and he thought from these that it was self-evident that when subsistence was very cheap, the labourer was not well paid, and the condition of the people was worse than in those places where the price of provisions was high. The right hon. Gentleman the Secretary at War had last night told Members on that (the Ministerial) side of the House, that they deceived themselves on this question, because they alone judged of it from the inquiries that they made in their own neighbourhoods. In his mind, on the contrary, it appeared that this was the very best manner of obtaining an accurate estimate of public opinion and of the general judgment respecting them: for the Agricultural Members came from all parts of the country, and it seemed a strange argument to say that the opinions thus collected by them were not to be relied upon. They were, however, told, that all the experience they had had of the system of protection was to be set aside, and that the last three years' experience of the right hon. Gentleman's Tariff was that alone upon which they were to decide this great question. Three years' experience of the Tariff! Why, the Tariff was not a free-trade measure. As he understood that measure, its principle was to take off the duty on raw produce, for the purpose of benefiting our manufacturers, whilst it kept a moderate duty on all manufactured articles. He admitted there were two or three exceptions to this rule; but he thought the House would agree with him, that there were other causes in these cases operating to prevent a fall in the wages of labour than the right hon. Baronet's Tariff; and amongst them they could not but take into consideration the fact, that the extension of the railroad system had very much widened the labour market. With regard to the rise in the price of meat, that, he was of opinion, was more to be attributed to the disease in sheep than to the new Tariff; and he confessed he was somewhat surprised, after having heard the right hon. Baronet say that his Tariff proved that low prices and high wages were concomitant, that the right hon. Gentleman should tell his agricultural friends in this House that they had no occasion to be alarmed at the Tariff, inas- much as prices, instead of being lowered, were actually higher. He did not believe that "cheap bread" would confer the benefit on the labouring part of the community that was anticipated. It seemed to him that the arguments of the free traders came to this—we wish to put a shilling into every man's pocket, and in order to do so we propose to take two shillings out of the pockets of half the population. But let them mark who would be the sufferers. The sufferers would be the hardworking, industrious, producing classes of the community; whereas those who would gain, would be the rich, idle, unproducing consumers. Even supposing that the cheap loaf would be of the advantage it was represented, still he would ask if there were any probability, when the Corn Law was repealed, that the low price would continue? Having admitted foreign grain into competition, the English agriculturist would be driven from the market; and, that accomplished, supposing that foreign Governments permitted the exportation to this country, which was unlikely, would the foreign grower allow the price to continue low? Railways had not been so long in use in this country but that he remembered what continually took place on the old roads. He could recollect the high fares which were charged for travelling by the old stage coaches, and the reduction which ensued upon starting rival conveyances; but the moment that one compelled another to stop running, that moment did the cheap fares cease. They were also told that the greatest benefit would be conferred on the manufacturers of the country by the adoption of the right hon. Baronet's measure; that we should thereby be enabled to exchange our manufacturing produce for the corn of other countries. It would be a great relief to his mind if he thought that such would be the case; but he was sorry to observe that the right hon. Gentleman seemed to hold out very faint hopes that foreign nations would reduce their tariffs. But even if they did, what would be the effect? We might, perhaps, increase our exports abroad; but in the same ratio as we admitted foreign corn, would our own soil go out of cultivation, and our home market be contracted. Then he would ask whether the habits, tastes, or means of the foreign agriculturist would enable him to consume so large a quantity of our manufactures? The annual value of our home manufactures was computed to be 150,000,000l., whereas the exports amounted to only 50,000,000l. Were they prepared to extend our foreign trade at the risk of destroying the home market? They had last year spent 1,000,000l. on our fortifications, and it was considered necessary, and they would this year be asked, to grant increased estimates for the public service; and he (the Marquess of Granby) wished to know if it was prudent or wise at this particular juncture, when clouds were rising on all sides, to put ourselves in the power of foreign nations, so far as the supply of food for our population was concerned? It was no answer to say that if one nation refused to send in the requisite supply, other nations would be ready to meet our demands. He believed that we should derive most of the supply from one particular part of the Continent; but even if that were not so, we all knew how easy it was for those who were jealous of our greatness to combine against us. It was upon the ground, then, that he felt it to be his duty to support those principles which he thought had mainly conduced to the greatness, the happiness, the welfare, and the independence of England, that he should give his most strenuous opposition to the measure of Her Majesty's Ministers. Before he sat down he was anxious to say a few words to those hon. Members who might be doubtful as to the course they should pursue on this occasion. If there were any hon. Members who had their confidence in the truth of the protective principle shaken by the conversion of their friends, he would beg of them to pause before they were drawn into the vortex of this revolution. If they did not see their way clearly before them, he would entreat of them to give the benefit of the doubt in their minds to a system which had existed for the last 200 years: he would beg of them to give it in favour of a system under which this nation had risen to its present greatness and renown. If he was told that he was too late, and that protection was doomed, his answer was, that he believed the protection was just; and although talent, and eloquence, and agitation, and money had been expended to delude them, the people of this country would only pity the men who had so bad an opinion of them as to suppose that the principles which their arguments had not changed, would yield to such corruption. Let the result be what it would, of this he was sure, that posterity would regard them (the protectionists) with gratitude, and thank them for having struggled for protection, and would at all events acknowledge that they had not betrayed the trust which the nation had confided to them.


would give his support to the measure of the right hon. Baronet, which a very remarkable expression uttered some time previously by one high in authority had convinced him could not long be delayed. In the year 1843, it was asserted on the bench below him, that the principles of free trade were the principles of common sense. At that assertion, which conveyed to him a deep import, some hon. Gentlemen had shaken their hands, while others believed that the right hon. Secretary's words were to be taken in the words of Oxford theologians, in a non-natural sense. Common sense, however, appeared to him an ingredient that entered so largely into the reasoning of all the affairs of life, so mixed up and bound up with our slightest actions, as well as with our loftiest duties, so inseparable from what was just and right, that it became to him a subject of deep consideration, what could those causes be that prevented the principles of common sense from being fully carried out; and the more he examined the reasonings on either side of the question, the more satisfied and convinced was he that the right hon. Secretary was right in his assertion, and that those principles of free trade were, like common sense, no principle in the abstract, but principles which might and should be made applicable to immediate circumstances. Impressed with this conviction, he considered it his duty to vote with the hon. Member for Gateshead (Mr. Hutt) in his Motion for the free importation of Australian corn; a Motion which had for its object the free importation of grain from all British dominions, and which would certainly have opened the door to a freer trade in corn. He regretted the Bill did not originally pass the same year as the Canada Corn Bill, as, in addition to its being a concession to our colonists (not a very important one, it was true), the right hon. Baronet might have quoted the effects of the measure along with the other calculations he employed to quiet the apprehensions of the agriculturists. He certainly did not conceive in those days that a free trade in corn was so near, and conceived that a small fixed duty, for the sake of revenue if not of protection, would have been the transition state, a proposition to which he would have lent a willing concurrence, being a believer that corn, as well as other articles of consumption, should be subject to a slight taxation. As, however, from the harbour of the sliding-scale, we had at once put forth into the open sea of free trade, he saw no other inconvenience than the nausea which came upon the protection party at once, who would have had more time to prepare themselves for the sickness they considered inevitable, during a more gradual progress down the river. He expected, however, that they would find themselves better sailors than they imagined, and that their apprehensions, as in former instances of the Tariff and the Canada Corn Bill, would be their only source of suffering. He trusted it would not be imagined that, for an instant, he wished to employ the language of ridicule, which would be highly unbecoming towards what he must consider to be the most honest convictions. He believed that the situation of the labourer and the tenant-farmer, just as much as the rent, and what they conceived to be the honour of Parliament, entered deeply into the consideration of the opponents of this Bill; and how often had he been led to exclaim, was there not one Menenius Agrippa in the land to rebuke the angry and senseless recriminations that attended this discussion? Was there no friend of the manufacturer to speak to him of the English as well as of the foreign purchaser—of the home as well as of the foreign market—when he launched into invectives against the landed interest? And could no one in return remind the orators of protection meetings and agricultural societies, that commerce and manufactures had done more for agriculture, than agriculture for commerce and manufactures; and that England did not take her position among nations from her proficiency in subsoil draining and rotation crops, but from the wealth and greatness commerce and manufnctures had conferred upon her, which had enlarged her borders to the very corners of the earth, and preserved her integrity and independence when every hand was raised in hostility against her? He was anxious to detain the House as shortly as possible; but he thought it necessary, representing so large a constituency, to state briefly the reasons that induced him to give his support to the Government measure, and to show them that he was not merely influenced by the example of those with whom he had hitherto acted, or by any romantic notions of self-sacrifices or self-devotion. Seeing the daily and hourly conversions of men whose motives no insinuations could impugn, the more amply and dispassionately this question was discussed, the more clear would its necessity become, and it was most important for the efficiency of the measure and the honour of the House, that these Resolutions should appear in the eyes of the people of England a concession, not to clamour, but to reason. The grounds on which he gave his support to this measure were these—that he believed that agriculture had hitherto flourished, not through protection, but in spite of protection. He believed that with low prices there might be ample and equal remuneration. He believed that the present protective duties were an unjust tax upon the whole nation, a bounty on a particular manufacture, operating, as all bounties did, most perniciously to the interest of those for whom they were intended, creating and fostering supineness, and diverting capital from its legitimate channel by unnatural stimulus. He believed it to be a libel on the activity, intelligence, and skill of the British farmer to suppose him unable to compete with the foreigner in his particular manufacture. He believed the manufacturing and agricultural interests to be identical, and that restrictive laws on food were prejudicial to both. He believed that virtue and morality went hand in hand with plenty and prosperity; but that the attendants on scarcity were ignorance and crime. These were the positive reasons that induced him to support the measure, and he was not deterred by the arguments brought against it. He did not fear any more that England would be dependent on Foreign Powers for her food than she had hitherto been in years of scarcity, or that a general league would be made any more to starve her out, than that a general league would be formed for her invasion. He thought the argument of his noble Friend most important, which showed that even under the vigorous rule of Bonaparte, in the most desperate war that the nation was ever plunged in, so large an importation of corn was received from France; and he might add to that statement, that during that war, which was mainly concluded by the victories of the British navy, we were almost entirely dependent on the foreigner for the ropes and cordage of our vessels, for the hemp, in short, of Poland and of Russia, two hostile countries. It was said, again, that this was, and should not be, a concession to agitation. Now, he contended, that if ever there was a concession to reason, and not to agitation, this was of that nature. Look at the majority of the right hon. Baronet in Parliament, and what a position he might have continued to hold had he, at the coming dissolution, placed himself at the head of prejudice, and appealed to the country on protection principles. Much as the hon. Member for Stockport and the League had done, they could not have carried this measure for several years without the intervention of external circumstances; yet how fearful those external circumstances might have been! The right hon. Baronet might have held on for several years, blessed by his supporters, the farmer's joy, his portrait adorning the village inn, and lighted up annually, bright and ruddy, by the flames of the village bonfire which consumed the letter and effigy of Lord John. Instead of that, he had chosen a time of all others the most fitted for this measure—a time of general prosperity, when no great quantity of corn was hoarded up abroad, and likely to inundate the country; and all he hoped was, that such might be the case in 1849. On the other side of the water, however, much alarm was felt by the intention of the hon. Member for Cork (Mr. O'Connell) to support the measure. It was quite clear, said many of his (Mr. Gregory's) supporters, that Mr. O'Connell's object was to destroy the tie that connected Ireland with England, and thereby advance his great object of Repeal. Now, considering that were this to be the effect of the measure, which presupposed the destruction of the Irish trade—much poverty must ensue, in fact, that country would be on the verge of pauperism — did they consider that hon. Gentleman so devoid of all sagacity as not to perceive that the contributions of a grateful people to him who carried Emancipation would be diminished altogether, and that, probably, the Repeal rent would be shortly prorsus nil? Would that tally with the hon. Member's views? But he gave that hon. and learned Gentleman and those who acted with him, credit for voting on this occasion from humane and enlightened considerations. Let them see what a position that hon. Gentleman could at once have occupied had he chosen to oppose the measure. Could anything be easier than to persuade nine-tenths of the inhabitants of Ireland, that they were on the verge of ruin? See what an effect a few sophistries and adroit calculations would have had on every class of the population—shoemakers, hatters, tabinet weavers, handloom linen weavers, and farmers, above all. Why, hardly five Representatives throughout Ireland would have been able to with- stand the storm, and the fate of the measure would be easily conceived. It would have gained to the cause of Repeal, such a movement as this, more than half of Ireland, and not only that, but the ready and willing co-operation of all the free traders in this country, who would have been only too glad to have got rid, on any terms, of so many advocates of prejudice and protection. But it was said the present Bill was to displace capital, and throw land out of cultivation; let them, for one moment, deal with experience, and with those very stubborn things called facts. Let them see how the relaxation of protection in 1842 had affected land. Look at the prices of wheat for five years preceding the half year of 1842. What was the average? 65s. 2d.; since 1842 to 1845, 52s. 8d.; and what had been the result? You have been calculating at various times the remunerating price of corn to meet agricultural distress; in 1815, you placed it at 80s.; in 1827, Mr. Canning put it at 65s.; in 1842, Sir Robert Peel placed it at 56s.; and we find, since that period, 52s. 8d. the average price, and no general ruin. This was the scale:—

s. d. s. d.
1838 64 7 1842 57 3 half year.
1839 70 8 1843 50 1
1840 66 4 1844 51 4
1841 64 4 1845 52 0
1842 60 2 half year.
And what was the quantity of corn sold in the country markets?—
Year. s. d. Quarters.
1839 wheat at 70 8 3,174,680
1842 wheat at 57 3 4,091,234
1845 wheat at 52 0 6,470,469
And yet, with constantly decreasing prices, you find your increase of corn more than double within six years. He was aware they had been abundant years; but it proved that low prices had not thrown land out of cultivation, but instead, had given rise to increased care, activity, and science. But he (Mr. Gregory) would not even allow that they had any right to make use of such an argument, even supposing it to be true. If the inferior lands were not remunerative, it was wrong thus to call on the community at large to pay a heavy tax for this direction of capital into an improper channel, any more than that they should pay annually a large sum of money to breeders of silk worms, or manufacturers of British brandy—in short, to undertakings repugnant to the climate and natural resources of the country. Such a system as this was wrong, and opposed to the first principles of political economy. Let them look at France, and the wine trade of that country, for an example of the injurious effects of such a system of unnaturally diverting capital. Look at the enormous tax that country annually paid for her restrictive duties on hardware, iron, cotton, yarn, &c. Were she disposed to receive these articles from foreign countries, instead of unnaturally stimulating a dear and inferior home production, what a market would she at once open for her unrivalled wines, the cultivation of which annually occupied three millions of human beings, and might be correspondingly increased! He gave that as one instance out of a thousand to show the pernicious effects of stimulating that which was by nature unremunerative. Now he would again appeal to experience on another point which had excited very considerable alarm. He alluded to the impossibility of the English farmer being able to contend with foreign countries where taxation was light and labour cheap. On a very memorable occasion similar language was employed, and how had it been justified? In the year 1785, Mr. Pitt brought forward his noble and enlightened measure for commercial intercourse with Ireland. The same class of minds who now maintained that the English farmer could not contend against Danish boors and Polish serfs, maintained that English manufacturers would never be able to contend against Irish cheapness. Alarm rose high in the manufacturing districts: it was confidently asserted that it would be literally a transfer of English capital to Ireland. The manufacturers of Manchester remonstrated, but in vain; and we see how true was the quotation of the right hon. Baronet from Adam Smith, that the manufacturers had no objection even to monopoly. Mr. Wedgewood came from the Potteries, and remonstrated also. Sir W. Conyngham got up in that House, and stated that ruin stared Scotland in the face; for that the Irish would export their grain to the western parts of Scotland, undersell the Scotch farmer, and overthrow the landlord—and, not satisfied with ruining them on the land, the Irish fishermen would obtain dominion of the sea, by being allowed participation in the Scotch fishing trade. The Bill was defeated in the Irish House of Commons; but the Union was accomplished five years subsequently. The cheapness still remains, taxation was still comparatively light; but had one of these anticipations been verified? Had not skill, energy, and order prevailed over cheap labour and cheap food? And was it not only a few days since they were told that, in spite of Sir W. Conyngham's predictions, quantities of dried fish from Scotland were annually sent to Ireland, which was literally teeming with that gift of Providence. One of the great difficulties in the way of understanding this was the word "cheapness." Either the farmer must sell at low prices, and be ruined through cheap corn; or else, if corn was to remain high, why unsettle the question? Now with cheapness there might be equal remuneration. It should be recollected that the farmer and the landed interest were themselves paying a heavy price for these protective duties, the bread they daily consumed, provisions for their farm servants, grain for their cattle, oats for their horses. It was easy to perceive that not more than half the profit went into the pocket of the farmer. He was taxing himself heavily for that produce of which he was a great consumer. And as for the tenant farmer, of small capital, whose ruin was confidently predicted, he believed the steadiness of price and of demand would be more beneficial to him, than the present uncertain state of things. As these duties were now, he of all persons was least benefited by them. From want of capital he was obliged to sell his crops immediately on their being threshed out, whatever glut there might be in the market, while the real profits went into the pocket of the corn factor, and those who had the means to await the probable rise of prices in the fall of the year. Surely a fall of price, accompanied with greater steadiness of demand, and a more general cheapness of the articles of raiment, food, and luxury, would be more advantageous to the farmer than the present uncertain state of things, which at one moment buoyed him up into undertakings beyond his means; at another, reduced him to apathy and despair. Farming ought surely to be conducted on fixed principles of trade, instead of in the irregular manner by which it was now characterized. His belief, however, was, that prices would not be so very materially lowered, but that a more general knowledge would prevail abroad of the quantity that would be required for the English market, and that there would not be, as now, a glut, one year forcing ruinous and compulsory sales, at another time scarcity and high prices. On the whole, therefore, he looked on this measure, as far as man could effect, as calculated to produce a greater steadiness of price and cheapness of food, yet with equal remuneration to the producer. The case was now altered, since the farmer, to use the words of the right hon. Baronet, might complain that every article he wore, from the sole of his shoe to the crown of his hat, was heavily taxed for the purposes of protection; that his hat, buttons, gloves, handkerchief — in short, everything required for domestic use, was taxed for the purpose of protection to manufactures. The manufacturer, having given up so much of his protection, might fairly ask the farmer for a similar concession. And now a few words with respect to the apprehensions prevailing in Ireland. They all recollected the panic of 1842, and the terrible influx of foreign provisions that was to swamp the Irish producer. As usual, apprehension was the worst that happened. Never was a fairer demand for our produce, or the producer more amply remunerated than he had been since that fatal measure. He (Mr. Gregory) entirely coincided with the right hon. Baronet, that the prosperity or depression of trade in the manufacturing districts was the main cause of the rise or fall of the price of provisions; and he was confident that the same pulsation existed in Ireland as in Manchester and Liverpool. If there were a brisk demand there for English manufactured goods, there would be a brisk demand and steady price here for Irish agricultural produce; and were he (Mr. Gregory) an Irish peasant he would pray rather for fresh openings for our commerce and manufactures, and for measures likely to promote these objects, than for all the prohibitory enactments that the utmost stretch of monopolizing fancy could suggest, which might indeed keep foreign provisions from our shores, but at the same time render our produce unmarketable and valueless. He should now look at the several causes for apprehension: oats, bacon, salt pork, butter, five cattle, linen, were, as they heard, to be so depreciated in value, that the producers had but one year, if so much, to survive impending ruin. To begin with oats: he had taken some pains to arrive at correct conclusions upon the subject. He had gone through the consular reports, the accounts of trade and navigation, and the more closely he had investigated the matter, the more satisfied was he, that with a little more activity and a little less slovenliness we could throw down the gauntlet to the foreigner on the score of price. Now he would take, as a remunerative price for oats in Ireland, 9s. 6d. per barrel, the barrel containing 14 stone of 14 lb., or 196lb. According to the calculation, through the medium of the bushel, the quarter was one barrel and a half: that would render the price of oats remunerative at 14s. 3d. Now, even with the charge of carriage added to that, he denied that the foreigner could undersell the Irish farmer. He took the price abroad of oats from the consular returns, looking only at the chief places from which any considerable importation might be expected; these were St. Petersburgh, Dantzic, Hamburgh, and Elsinore. These consular returns were corroborated by Mr. Meek, and by the subsequent statements of Mr. M'Culloch. This was the table:—
Places. Price of Oats per quarter. Freight per quarter.
s. s. s. d. s. d.
Hamburgh 11 to 16 2 6 to 5 0
Elsinore 12 to 15 3 6 to 5 0
Dantzic 12 3 6 to 4 0
St. Petersburgh 12 to 5 4 5 to 5 0
Now he was aware that the freight of oats was somewhat less than this scale of freightage; but there was to be added to all this insurance, granary rent, commission on sale, and, above all, merchant's profit; and could it be conceived, that unless some ex-extraordinary change took place, which change, however, was not likely to verge towards cheapness of price, presuming increase of demand, that there was any chance of Ireland being swamped by the foreign producer? One word, and only one, for Odessa, which had long been a sad bugbear. The freight from that port amounted to from 10s. to 15s. per quarter. Was it likely that oats could be conveyed from the interior to that port, and shipped free on board, at 2s. or 3s. a quarter, with remuneration to the producer? Now he was quite aware of what would be said to him:—"If all these calculations of grain be correct, how comes it that oats have been imported into England, paying an average duty for the last three years of 6s.?" That was the very point at which he was anxious to arrive, as it would show the fallacies that were employed to raise apprehensions, and how easily they might be met. He did not deny but that oats might be imported by return vessels at almost nominal freights, such as in coal vessels from Den- mark, as instanced by his right hon. Friend the Recorder for Dublin, in the debate of 1842, or that some extraordinary cheap ship loads of wheat might occasionally arrive, as in one or two cases in 1837 from Odessa; but these very instances told against the general argument, proving that these low prices were extraordinary, and that the arrivals were so small as not in the slightest degree to affect the general market. Now, what had been the total amount of foreign oats imported at this average duty of 6s.? He would take the returns since April 29, 1842, to January 5, 1845, and he found this return:—Since the 29th of April, 1842, to the 5th of January, 1846, he found 578,462 quarters of foreign oats introduced, 2,875 quarters of colonial oats—581,387 quarters of foreign and colonial oats in all. Out of this, 348 quarters of colonial oats inundated the market, paying 1s. 6d. duty. This was the total amount of oats that had come into England during this period; and what had Ireland sent in the same time?—5,322,637 quarters. So much for figures; and he really thought such figures as these, and the returns of men whose reports were above suspicion, and who had passed their lives in continual intercourse with those best informed on the subject, ought to overbalance the statements of anonymous gentlemen who had lived in Poland. These anonymous gentlemen ought to reflect before they excited apprehensions, of which facts and experience were daily showing the utter groundlessness. Now, he would ask, was the foreigner, with these figures before him, likely to enter into what must be to him a most ruinous competition? Was it likely that he would at all, in any material degree, be able to send in such a quantity of oats as would swamp the Irish producer, when he was quite able to send in a more valuable and not more bulky commodity, far more remunerative, at nearly the same freightage and general expenses? Now for live stock:—he found, that from the 9th of January, 1842, to the 5th of January, 1845, the introduction of cattle amounted to 7,980 oxen and bulls, 3,645 sheep, and 1,042 pigs. So much for the threatened invasion of 300,000,000 of swine from one country. He was perfectly aware that of late the importation was much greater of oxen; but they should look at the immense—the really most unfair—price of meat at present. The prices at Balinasloe fair were unprecedented, and the demand far greater than the supply. He might be told that this arose not from increased consumption, but from the great mortality of late among cattle: but that told all the stronger in favour of his argument. If with these immense prices you ransack Europe to find cattle for the English market, and the quantity imported was a mere nothing in that market, what chance was there that, with a decreased price of meat, there would not be, as ever, the same call upon the Irish grazier? Could any remark be more rational than that of the right hon. Secretary for the Colonies, in his pamphlet on the Tariff, when he said— The new Tariff is responsible for the addition of 3,000 head to the supply (this was published in March, 1845), but commercial distress, affecting, perhaps, immediately 4,000,000 or 5,000,000 of people, nearly all of whom were consumers of animal food, is responsible for not extending the demand to an amount nearer 300,000 head than 3,000. These were very true words, and he wished Irish Members who opposed this measure would weigh them well; but if any fear remained, he would refer them to the price of meat in the different countries abroad visited by Mr. Meek, and ask if we could successfully compete with such prices. Now, for salt pork. By the Tariff of 1842, from being 12s. per cwt., it was admitted from British possessions at 2s. per cwt.; other parts 8s. per cwt. He had looked over the amount of this article imported during the last five years, and found, in spite of the relaxation of duty, and the greater consumption of animal food, a most insignificant increase. Salt pork imported in 1841, 45,000 cwt.; in 1842, 54,000 cwt.; in 1843, 27,000 cwt.; in 1844, 11,000 cwt. for seven months ending August 5; in 1845, 27,000 cwt. for seven months ending August 5; out of this portion the quantity entered for home consumption had decreased. He would take the first seven months of the last three years:—Salt pork entered for home consumption in 1843, 3,000 cwt.; in 1844, 600 cwt.; in 1845, 1,100 cwt.; showing that in spite of high prices there was no advantage taken of the relaxation. Hon. Members should also recollect what was all-important in the consideration of this subject, that the remaining quantity was taken out of bond for our shipping duty free, and that in that respect there could not and would not be the slightest change. We had had, as far as shipping was concerned, where salt meat was so largely required, a free trade for several years; and what a fraction of the whole quantity thus used was the produce of the foreigner! Next were bacon and hams; from 1l. 8s. per cwt., the duty was reduced by the Tariff of 1842 to 3s. 6d. from British possessions, other parts 14s. Just half was the immediate increase. Bacon and hams imported in 1841, 5,000 cwt.; 1842, 8,000 cwt.; 1843, 7,000 cwt. Bacon imported in the seven months ending the 5th of August, 1843, 354 cwt.; 1844, 20 cwt.; 1845, 18 cwt. Hams imported in the seven months ending the 5th of August, 1843, 4,313 cwt.; 1844, 4,212 cwt.; 1845, 3,363 cwt. This looked as if the pig would still pay the rent. The fact was, as long as the manufacturer had the money to pay, he would prefer a good and wholesome to an inferior article, which foreign salt meat had proved itself to be. Foreign beef—Seven months ending August 5:—Imported, 1843, 19,621 cwt.; 1844, 63,950 cwt.; 1845, 53,759 cwt. Entered for home consumption — 1843, 541 cwt.; 1844, 527 cwt.; 1845, 679 cwt. Now there was only butter remaining; and any one who had read Mr. Meek's statement, must see that the price of that commodity in exporting countries nearly equalled that which was considered a most remunerative price in Ireland; and that it was impossible that any quantities were likely to be imported calculated in any other way to affect the Irish dairy farmer than to encourage him to greater cleanliness and attention, the want of which at present deteriorated materially from the value of that article. And here he was glad to remark that the dairy farmer, instead of being ruined since the Tariff, had been able to increase his exports. He (Mr. Gregory) found exported—
Years. Butter & Cheese. Value.
Cwt. £
1841 55,000 223,000
1842 61,000 229,000
1843 71,000 253,000
Chiefly to Portugal and Brazil. Now, with all these accumulations of facts and figures, should he not be most unwise in joining in the general cry of apprehension? He knew he had trespassed sadly on the indulgence of the House; but it was a matter of such moment to let reason take the place of groundless fear, that he was confident he should not be blamed. Feeling then deeply that this was a highly beneficial measure, adding stimulus to commerce and to trade, having gone through every calculation most fairly to prove the groundlessness of agricultural apprehension in Ireland, should he be justified, as a Member for a great city—a city that should be a great commercial city—in withholding his support to a measure calculated, as he believed, eminently to increase the mercantile activity of Dublin? What a painful sight it was to him, crossing from Liverpool to Dublin, to see the contrast of the scene! On one side, all energy and life moving on the waters; wealth pouring in by 10,000 arteries into the great heart of England. On the other, the most noble bay in our possessions, free from shifting sands and natural obstructions, and yet only dotted by the sail of the fisherman or the pleasure boat. He confessed that, in addition to the reasons he had adduced, the character which the right hon. Baronet had hitherto maintained for great knowledge and abilities in financial and commercial matters, had had no small share, he would not say in bringing him to these opinions, but, at all events, in confirming them. There might be all the difference in the world as to his present measures: there could be no difference of opinion as to the success that had marked his previous schemes. Apprehensions of an untried future would not warrant their kicking down that edifice his past career had raised. They were bound to give him the credit he had received from an hon. Member most hostile to his measures, and consider him in his (Mr. Colquhoun's) words, "up to this time, as a Minister of Finance eminently deserving of public confidence, whose plans had been marked by indisputable success, the result of a conduct sagacious and prudent." Putting, then, all considerations of honour on one side, without entering into the question of the propriety or the impropriety of the right hon. Baronet being the Minister who introduced this measure, they were, at all events, in one sense, bound to listen with respect to his appeal to posterity. Had the concluding day of the last Session of Parliament been his last, what would have been the verdict of posterity? That he had found his country in a financial crisis—he had left her unembarrassed; that he had found a disaffected and almost pauper manufacturing population—he had left them loyal and employed. Could any reflecting man, however hostile to the right hon. Baronet, however indignant with his measure—imagine that, in order to avoid a temporary inconvenience, in order to put down a clamorous association, or even to hold the reins of government some short space longer, the right hon. Baronet could find it in his heart to throw to the winds all the debt his country owed him, and, by plunging her into a crude and dangerous scheme, forfeit all his credit as a statesman? But the right hon. Baronet was taunted with resisting these opinions for many years, and with at once yielding to them when there was the least apparent necessity for concession. It was perfectly true that, as far as argument went, there was nothing to prevent this measure from being carried in 1842. The à priori reasonings of the hon. Member for Stockport were even then, in his mind, perfectly irreristible; and he never heard or read a speech of that hon. Gentleman which received a satisfactory reply within the House or out of it. But they had then derived no benefit from experience: the great experiments of the last three years were then untried; the signal success that crowned them was undreamed of. The hon. Member for Stockport had unquestionably reaped imperishable fame from the talent and energy he had displayed in this controversy; but would it have been wise or right to yield to à priori arguments—interested à priori arguments—until those arguments had had their foundation based upon experience? The House well knew that à priori arguments were far from infallible; they might remember when arguments of that nature had been employed to prove the impossibility of steam traffic with America; and if those arguments and deductions of the mathematician were disproved by experience, how much less reliance could be placed on those employed by the politician, whose subject-matter was so infinitely more uncertain, so biassed by various and complex considerations? But they should look to the state of parties, and see how opinions were balanced on this subject. In the terms of the advocates of this measure they had a guarantee for its wisdom and necessity. Look what names on that side of the House had declared against protection. The right hon. Baronet, the introducer of the measure; the Secretary of State for the Home Department, himself no mean political economist, and who on the present occasion remarkably confirmed the old saying, that first thoughts were best; the Secretary for the Colonies. Look also to the other side—the noble Lord the Member for London; the Member for Edinburgh—all advocates for free trade. Look to the Upper House, where they found Lord Grey on one side; Lord Talbot, essentially Conservative, and the largest practical farmer in England, adopting the same conclusions. Look out of doors, and they had the concurrence of the greatest thinkers and writers on the subject. They could not resist such arguments as that. Even if the right hon. Baronet (Sir R. Peel) stood single and solitary, his opinion on a commercial and financial measure of that nature would be deserving of the deepest consideration. The opinions of men who had applied their minds to the study of these most intricate questions should be listened to with even more than deference. They were not so much questions of conscience, on which all should have a right of private judgment, but questions determinable by intellect and inquiry. Long habit gave men, in questions of that nature, almost an intuitive knowledge. That was the language of Galileo to the inquisitors who visited him in his prison, to reason with him on his adoption of a planetary system so repugnant to conceived notions. "You can see nothing," said he, "in this dark cell, while my eyes, accustomed to the gloom, can perceive the smallest object. Even so your minds cannot yet receive those great truths which, though veiled in darkness to you, are to me, from long and painful thought, clear as the daylight." Fortified by such authorities, backed and strengthened by the greatest thinkers of mankind, seeing fresh recruits daily pouring into the camp of liberty of commerce, which had, as yet, not to lament one solitary desertion, he confessed he was not terrified by the prophecy of a daily journal, that, before many years, the name of a free trader would be a byword and a shame, so disastrous would be the effects of the Government policy. He did think, without ascribing a long span of life to any then present, that the advocates of the Bill would outlive popular, ay, and even agricultural execration. He did not think they would hereafter wander to and fro in lone places, saying each man to himself— Throughout all Troy I see no friendly eye, And Trojans shudder as they pass me by! And now, let us look for one moment at this question apart from considerations of mere pounds, shillings, and pence. Look at the state of Ireland at this moment—on the very brink of famine! The inhabitants of that country had ever manifested a most extraordinary and happy contrast between the manner in which they received the ordinances of man, and the visitations of Providence. Meek, patient, and resigned, they had shared with one another their last handful of outmeal, and then bowed themselves humbly beneath the chastisement of Heaven. What had happened to the Irish might any day happen to them. But would the population of England preserve the same deportment? Remember 1842. Put no impossible or even improbable case; picture to themselves great commercial depression and great scarcity, arising at one and the same time. There might be far worse times in store for them than 1842. They might come as suddenly upon them as that plague that had invaded Ireland. What position would those be in who were in those days the Government of the country? Could the starving operative be told that all that a wise, enlightened, and humane Legislature could effect had been done? Pass this measure and they might say that to him. Preserve their restriction upon the people's food, and then preach resignation, if they dared, to an angry and terrified nation. They might lecture them from blue books and overwhelm them with figures; they might tell them undeniable truth, that corn-growing countries lay between the 45th and 55th degree of latitude, and that, subject as they were to the same variations of weather, the same scarcity prevailed elsewhere, and that Corn Laws added nothing to their hunger. That would not do. They would never drive it from them, but that, smitten as they were by the heavy hand of God, they had, in addition, crushed them with the iron hand of man. Do not imagine that because the machinery of Government now works easily, nothing can arise to jar or clog its movement. The mechanism might still run smooth, and all go well; but such smoothness was sometimes the smoothness of that which was worn out. As for himself, his humble but hearty support should be given to that measure in all its stages. He well knew the price he had to pay by so doing. He knew that he should alienate the confidence of many with whom he had hitherto been long and happily connected. He would not say he was regardless of these considerations; but he was fortified by the conviction that he was acting honestly and for the best; he thought he was doing what he ought to do; and he was not without hopes that the confidence of such friends as he might have alienated by his vote, would not be entirely and for ever lost; but though at present cast upon the waters, the results of this measure, being the increased happiness, prosperity, and virtue of the nation, might bring back that confi- dence to him again before the lapse of many days.


said, that, in rising to address a few words to the House upon this question, he might be permitted to ask for, and hope to obtain, that indulgence which the House was always ready to concede to any Member who addressed it for the first time. Still he could not but feel great diffidence in offering his own opinion in opposition to that of men so vastly his superiors in talent and in experience. He had formed, however, an honest and unbiassed opinion, which, as the Representative of a great and important constituency, he trusted, might have some weight in the House. He did not rise for the purpose of entering deeply into this great question: he would glance only at the general features of the discussion, and would briefly state the reasons which had influenced his vote upon the present occasion, and he would therefore pass over the details referred to by the hon. Member for Dublin. He confessed that he felt great regret, on entering Parliament, to find himself compelled to vote contrary to the right hon. Baronet at the head of Her Majesty's Ministers. Nothing would have given him greater satisfaction and pleasure than to have tendered to that right hon. Baronet his hearty support; but the change which had taken place in the right hon. Gentleman's opinion—and an honest change, he admitted it to be—would not permit him to follow the right hon. Gentleman in the course now adopted. Although he was willing to give credit to the right hon. Baronet, as well as to those who supported him, yet he felt that many of those supporters could not lay claim to the same straightforward course of action which he was willing to concede to the right hon. Baronet himself. The right hon. Baronet had been for some few years changing his principles; but he had taken care to keep from the House and from his own party a knowledge of that change. Those, however, who had followed him in this course had altered most suddenly, he might almost say miraculously; and the House might have been at a loss to account for that change, had they not heard the speech last night of the noble Lord the Member for Liverpool. There, indeed, they could find the reasons which had induced the right hon. Baronet's party to support him. They found that his supporters did not approve of the measure now before Parliament; but they feared they should lose his great talents and his high genius for conducting the Government of this country. But if any man were convinced that those measures were injurious to the interests of this country, no personal considerations ought to induce him to vote for those measures contrary to the pledges he had made to his constituents—contrary to the pledges he ought to have made to himself. The only excuse he could himself find for the right hon. Gentleman's followers was, that the present Parliament was near its dissolution. They all knew that when a man arrived at a great age he lost his faculties, and that his memory failed him. Here they had a sad example of the memory failing, and of the present Parliament forgetting the pledges of its youth and manhood, amidst the decrepitude of old age. Members were called upon by the right hon. Baronet to make their wills, to assign away their property and possessions, to give them to aliens and to foreigners, and so to defraud their rightful heirs. He would not say, that they were passing this measure with any good will, but they were forced on by the right hon. Baronet, who was thus dealing with an antiquated Parliament, because he knew that he could not so deal with a Parliament fresh from its pledges to the country. He would vote with the right hon. Baronet, if he thought that famine was overhanging the land, or if there was any great impending evil which this measure might avert; but he felt that there was no such threatening danger, and that the present enactment, instead of relieving, would do injury to the people. The most that they saw, were the evils arising from the state of the potato crop; but those evils might have been removed by opening the ports, instead of the sweeping measures now before them. They had heard of the great reductions which had been made in the import duties, and they had been told, that notwithstanding these reductions, there was no deficiency in the revenue. This of itself proved that an enormous increase of imports must have come into this land; and though they were told that the exports had been increasing, yet the change must have been injurious to native industry, unless the exports had increased in an equal or greater proportion than the imports. But even were this proved to be the case, he could conceive that great and important interests might still be injured, for it by no means followed that the same classes which were injured by the imports would be benefited by the exports. Another subject had been brought forward connected with this question, relative to the cultivation of the land; and the hon. Member who seconded the Address saw no limits to the resources of this country. He knew that in many parts of the country the produce, and the quantity of land cultivated, had increased, and might still increase; but not enough to enable us to cope with nations unprotected. The right hon. Member the Secretary at War had asked, "Where was the nation that could contend with us?" He could not believe that there were no countries to send us large supplies. If they crossed from the north of Europe into Spain, they would see countries on all sides who would be ready, if this measure were passed, to enter into a competition with us; and he must look on such competition with dread, as this was a system of free import, not free trade, and the right hon. Baronet had no guarantee from foreign nations of their co-operation. He also foresaw great danger likely to accrue to this country in time of war; he could conceive a position in which we might be placed, which, even if we were assisted by our enemies, would be most degrading. We ought not to be left to the generosity of an enemy to feed a starving population: that was a situation in which, as he conceived, no Englishman would wish to see his country placed. The right hon. Baronet had said, that the burdens on land were a matter of justice, and not of policy, and might be settled by some compensation; but the only promise of remuneration he could find, was in the speech of the noble Lord who moved the Address (Lord F. Egerton). That noble Lord said, that the agriculturists would reap such advantages from the adjustment of this great question, whatever it might be, that their remuneration would be ample; and this was the only compensation he could see in the present proposal. He and his friends were accused of being parties to the continuance of this agitation. He denied the charge which placed him on the same footing with the agitation of the Anti-Corn-Law League. His object was to preserve: theirs to pull down and destroy. If any one would look at the actions of the League, and saw how they carried on their proceedings, he could not but be struck with the chicanery, the bribery, and the perjury by which their designs were carried out. He would not enter into particulars upon these points; but he would say that, although these charges were strong, they could be proved. The Anti-Corn-Law League had also unduly interfered with the franchise of the people. The vote of an honest man (as good as that of any Member of that House) might be objected to by men paid for the purpose, and unless he came forward and defended his vote before the revising barrister, he would be struck off. The man so objected to had to leave his home, and to travel, perhaps, a great distance to defend his vote; and if the objection were of no avail, the compensation given by the barrister was so small, that it was no remuneration to the voter for his trouble and loss of time. The actions of the Anti-Corn-Law League could not, in his opinion, be supported. There was only one more point to which he wished to refer before he sat down. It was to that part of the address of the noble Lord the Member for London, which stated that the present system carried with it fever, disease, and mortality throughout the land; and in which he spoke of the rate of mortality increasing with the price of corn. By taking the years from 1780 to 1830, and ascertaining the average deaths in every million of the population, he found a very different result. By dividing that half century into periods of ten years, he found that in the first ten years, when the price of corn was low, there was an increase of 152 deaths above the average when corn was moderate. In the second period of ten years there were the same results, an increased mortality of 375 more when corn was at low price, than when it was moderate. In the third period there were 1,678 more deaths when corn was low in price, than when it was moderate; in the fourth period the numbers of deaths was 501 more when corn was low; and in the fifth period there were 109 deaths more when corn was low; so that during all that period of half a century there were 2,815 more deaths on the average with a low price of wheat, than with a moderate price. He would not longer detain the House; he had only to thank them for the kindness with which they had heard him, and to apologize for the very inefficient way in which he had performed his duty. He entertained honest and conscientious feelings upon this subject; he could not as the Member for a large constituency consent to give a silent vote, without expressing those feelings.


could assure the no- ble Lord who last spoke that he did not intentionally stand in his way when the noble Lord rose to address the House, as he was not aware, at the time, that he was a new Member; for, if he had been, he would instantly have given way. He was anxious to address the House on this question; for, although it had frequently engaged the attention of the House, it had never before assumed its present shape; for it was no longer to be treated as an abstract question, but as one brought forward by the Government on the ground of expediency, and not by them because they thought it right and just, but because, under the peculiar circumstances of the country, they thought it necessary. He would state shortly, with the permission of the House, why he thought they were wrong in the course which they had taken, and also what he believed to be the opinion of the agricultural districts, which had been induced to look to the present Government as composed of their friends. He thought that it could not be denied, that if one placard was seen more than another during the last election, it was, "Peel, the farmer's friend." If he mentioned this, he must be excused on the ground that, because he would not join in a vote of want of confidence directed against the last Administration, which proposed a fixed duty of 8s. on foreign wheat, a strong opposition was raised against him in the county which he represented, and his late Colleague (Mr. Handley) was ousted from his seat in consequence of its having been supposed that, from his having supported the late Government—although he had opposed their measures respecting corn — that he prevented the right hon. Baronet coming into power, who was regarded as the protector of the farmers. This was the opinion of a large portion of the constituency of the country, and he was not surprised at it, after the speeches made by the right hon. Baronet before he came into office. He was rather surprised at one part of the speech of his right hon. Friend (Mr. Sidney Herbert) last night. His right hon. Friend said— He thought the practical agriculturists of this country were not to be frightened from their propriety by alarms founded upon delusion and fear. Fear, he must say, was scarcely creditable to those who had the means of looking into this question, and who knew that with our spirit, skill, and capital, no country could compete with us. Now, when they were told that it was not creditable to fear that the skill and capital of the country could not successfully compete with other countries, his right hon. Friend should recollect that they had been excited to entertain these fears by the language of men of much greater experience than themselves in that House. What, he would ask, so lately as 1839, was the language which the right hon. Baronet at the head of the Government made use of, on a Motion being made in that House for a total repeal of the Corn Laws? The right hon. Baronet said— Could you prove to us that the true principles of mercantile dealing required us to purchase corn in the cheapest market, and to withdraw the capital which has fertilised the inferior soils of this country, for the purpose of applying it to the rich but unprofitable wastes of Poland—still we should hesitate. We should remember with pain the cheerful smiling prospects which were thus to be obscured. We should view with regret cultivation receding from the hill top, which it has climbed under the influence of protection, and from which it surveys with joy the progress of successful toil. If you convinced us that your most sanguine hopes would he realized—that this country would become the workshop of the world—would blight, through the cheapness of food, and the demand for foreign corn, the manufacturing industry of every other country—would present the dull succession of enormous manufacturing towns connected by railways, intersecting the abandoned tracts which it was no longer profitable to cultivate; we should not forget, amid all these resages of complete happiness, that it has been under the influence of protection to agriculture, continued for two hundred years, that the fen has been drained, the wild heath reclaimed, the health of a whole people improved, their life prolonged, and all this not at the expense of manufacturing prosperity, but concurrently with its wonderful advancement. If you had called on us to abandon this protection with all the authority of an united Administration, with the exhibition of superior sagacity and triumphant reasoning, we should have been deaf to your appeal; but when, inviting us to follow you, you present nothing but distracted Councils, conflicting Colleagues, statements of facts not to be reconciled, and arguments leading to opposite conclusions, then we peremptorily refuse to surrender our judgments to your guidance, and to throw the protection secured to agriculture by the existing law into the lottery of legislation, in the faint hope that we might by chance draw the prize of a better Corn Bill. This was the language of the right hon. Gentleman now at the head of a united Administration, and who asked them to support him for that very object. The right hon. Secretary for the Home Department stated also opinions which showed, to quote the language of my right hon. Friend, that "those fears, which were not creditable to us," were not confined to a small body, but that not long ago they were entertained by men of great experience, and who used such language as this, by which the people of this country were taught that there was something to fear. The right hon. Baronet on that occasion said— Oh! let the House well reflect before they took any step which directly or indirectly tended to these displacements of labour. Little did they know the suffering and the sorrow which lay hid beneath these quietly flowing waters. Little could they estimate the wretchedness which sprang from change of habit, of house, of manners, of the mode of life itself. What change more cruel could despotism itself inflict than a change from 'the breezy call of incense-breathing morn' to a painful and grievous obedience to the sad sound of the factory bell—the relinquishment of the thatched cottage, the blooming garden, and the village green, for the foul garret, or the dark cellar of the crowded city—the enjoyment of the rural walk of the innocent rustic Sabbath, for the debauchery, the temptations, the pestilence, the sorrows, and the sins of a congregated multitude? Where were their moralists, that their voices were not raised against the fearful consequences which the proposed change brought in its train? Talk to him of sending the Poles to Siberia, or the Hill Coolies from the Coromandel to the Mauritius; the authors of the intended change contemplated the perpetration, within the limits of their native land, of a cruelty far more atrocious. It was the first step towards making England, the workshop of the world, dependent for its daily food upon continental supplies. He hoped that the proposition would not be successful. Were it to succeed, he should say, with his Friend Lord Ashburton, that this was the last country which he should wish to inhabit. The evil itself was of the most fearful character; but the next worse thing to its actual infliction, was the apprehension of its advent—the fear of the change was almost as distressing as the actual change itself; he, therefore, could not hesitate to give his cordial and decided opposition to the Motion. [The reading of this passage produced continued cheers and great laughter throughout.] Perhaps it might be said, that it was not quite fair to take expressions uttered four or five years ago, when it was understood that the opinion of the right hon. Baronet at the head of the Government on this subject had not undergone change until about three years ago. When, however, they were told of this change of opinion three years ago, they should recollect, that about that period it was thought right by the right hon. Gentleman at the head of the Government to bring forward a measure, which he said was for the adjustment of the corn question. He brought forward his measure, which took the country by surprise; but then it was to settle the question. Parliament had been dissolved, and it was supposed that a majority of that House was composed of those who would resist all further change in the Corn Laws. Some of those who gained seats in the House did so, not perhaps by a positive pledge on the subject; but it was doubtless understood by those who returned them that they would resist all change; but they were so convinced by the arguments of the right hon. Baronet and his Colleagues that some modification of the Corn Laws should take place, so as to put a stop to the cry for a total repeal, that they supported him, and ran the risk of disobliging their constituents. The measure was successful; but what was the result? Why, it became an encouragement to the right hon. Baronet to proceed. The right hon. Gentlemen said the other day, that he thought it right to go on in the same direction; and he (Lord Worsley) understood him to say, in the speech which he made at the opening of the Session, that one of his reasons for doing so was, the encouragement he had met with before. He understood the right hon. Baronet, by this expression, to mean, that the support he had received in that House had worked upon him in such a manner as to encourage him to propose further changes. He understood the right hon. Gentleman, on the first day of the Session, to state, that three years ago his opinion on this subject was very much shaken; and he also understood his noble Friend (Lord Lincoln) to say, in his letter to the electors of Nottinghamshire, that about three years ago his opinion had been shaken. But, then, the speeches made induced Members to oppose any proposition for repeal; and he could not do better than ask the House to allow him to read extracts from the arguments used just three years ago, which would show that then it was not thought discreditable to entertain fears of the effects of a total repeal. But then it might be said, that compensation was proposed for total repeal. The right hon. Gentleman had said, that the arrangement which he proposed would give certain relief to agriculture; but he did not understand the right hon. Baronet to say that he proposed it in the shape of compensation, but that he proposed the change in consequence of the inequality of the taxation in the land: he therefore might have proposed it without having made any reference to a repeal of the Corn Laws. And he would beg to remark, that the alteration which they now proposed was not by any means likely to be a settlement of the question. They might say, that at the end of three years the present measure would produce a settlement of this question; but he would, with due submission, argue that such was not likely to be the case, because before three years came round—delay it as long as they wished—there must be a general election; and did they believe that the farmers of England, whom they told three years ago that it was not discreditable to fear the result of a total repeal of the Corn Laws, would not, from one end of the country to the other, ask those whom they selected to be their Representatives, not only to resist a total repeal of the Corn Laws in 1849, but to endeavour to get such relief from unequal taxation, independently of the question of Corn Laws altogether, and also to re-establish the protection which they had heretofore enjoyed under the Corn Law? The farmers would not, therefore, be likely to look upon the present measure as being at all a final settlement of the question. He thought it very unfortunate that Her Majesty's Ministers should have chosen the period which they had selected, for that very reason. If Parliament were required to alter the Corn Laws, let it be done in such a way as would not keep the country in this perpetual warfare. Let the House decide, ay or no, for an alteration, or else let them settle the question finally; but by leaving the matter in the state in which it would be placed by this measure, with a probability of having it again discussed in three years, they would keep up a hope on the part of the farmers, that before that time arrived a differently constituted Parliament might be elected, which would be disposed to do them justice. And was it unreasonable that the tenant-farmers should recollect the language used by the right hon. Baronet at the head of Her Majesty's Government in the debate of February, 1842? When the right hon. Baronet introduced his plan for an adjustment of the Corn Laws in that month, he expressed himself as follows:— The hon. and learned Gentleman would find it easy, it seems, to apply the great principle of free trade to this question; but I am compelled to look to the weighty interests that have grown up under the system of restriction. You the hon. and learned Member give me an estimate of the corn grown in this country; you tell me of 22,000,000 quarters of wheat, and in all 45,000,000 quarters of grain. Now, think of the amount of capital engaged in the production of that enormous quantity of 45,000,000 quarters of grain. Think what pecuniary interests must be involved in the production of sueh an amount of grain. Think, too, of the amount of social interests, connected with those pecuniary interests, which are also involved; how many families are depending for their subsistence and their comforts upon the means of giving employment to thousands, before you hastily disturb the laws whieh determine the application of capital. All these considerations you may disregard or overlook in your haste to apply the principles of free trade; but let me tell you, if you do so, you are the real enemies of the application of those principles. If you disregard those pecuniary and social interests which have grown up under that protection which has long been continued by law, then a sense of injustice will be aroused, which will revolt at your seheme of improvement, however conformable it may be to rigid principle. How many leases have been formed under the existing system—under the faith of these laws? Take the case, even of the tenant-at-will, and how can you instil into him the idea that it is a landlord's question, and not a tenant's question? His capital is embarked in agriculture. Do you think it possible not strongly to affect that capital by pouring in millions of quarters of corn duty-free, diminishing his means in the same degree that you diminish the price of corn in the home market? Do you think you can safely disregard the position in which the tenant-at-will even would be placed by the adoption of your free-trade principles? But, in the case of the farmer who is under a lease on the faith of the endurance of your Acts of Parliament, what would you do? If the laws have been defective, that is not his fault. If for 140 years you have continued the protection to agriculture, is it possible lightly to regard the interests whieh have grown up under it? When such language as that had been used so lately by a person of the high standing of the right hon. Baronet; when it was given out by the Prime Minister of this country, that there was such danger in free trade, and that the farmers of England would be so seriously injured by it, was it, he would ask, surprising that they should find his noble Friend the Member for Sussex, who moved the Address in that House when the right hon. Baronet first took office, and who then stated that it was his wish that the duty of settling the Corn Law should devolve on the right hon. Baronet, and not on the noble Lord the Member for the city of London, declaring, as he had done a few nights ago, that he would give his most persevering opposition to the measure of the right hon. Baronet? Was it surprising that they should find hon. Members on that (the Ministerial) side of the House, declaring that they considered the right hon. Gentleman had betrayed them? Now, there was no person in that House who had felt it to be his duty to oppose the measures of the right hon. Baronet more strenuously than he opposed them; but he trusted that he had always opposed them in a manner becoming the position which he occupied as a Member of that House. He had never made use of violent expressions, and he had never joined with those who were in the habit of using them; but this he must, notwithstanding, be allowed to say, that he thought it to be a most serious matter to see a person occupying the position of the right hon. Gentleman in that House, after using such language when he proposed a measure for the adjustment of the Corn Laws three years ago, now coming down and stating that, because there existed a temporary evil—an evil, the existence of which nobody could deny, and which no one could deplore more sincerely than he did, but which was still one merely of a temporary nature—that they were to have a free trade in corn for ever, because they happened to have a scarcity of potatoes in the country now. He believed that other measures might have been brought forward—that other remedies for the existing evil might have been proposed and carried, without resorting to such a sweeping alteration. They might be able to carry this measure; but, as he had before said, it could not be considered as a final settlement of the question. There would exist, until 1849, an expectation on the part of one party in the country, that they might alter the law, and an anxiety among the other party to get rid of it altogether. In the year 1842, the right hon. Baronet the Secretary of State for the Home Department took another line of argument with regard to the advantages of the Corn Law. He then declared that there was an advantage in the plan of having bonded corn—that it was a most advantageous system for this country to have public granaries in the hands of individuals. There would be no such system under the proposed law; and he was at a loss to know how the right hon. Baronet would attempt to reconcile his argument then with the cause which he now advocated. He knew of no person who had spoken more strongly against the total repeal of the Corn Laws, in the debate of 1842, than the hon. Member for Canterbury (Mr. Smythe), who had, notwithstanding, lately taken office under the right hon. Baronet. The hon. Gentleman, in the year 1842, stated— He had no doubt, as was alleged by some, that free trade in corn would benefit both the revenue and consnmer. If they put corn on the same footing as tobacco—if they discouraged or prohibited its culture in England, the consumer would benefit greatly, and so would the revenue. But what in that case would become of the agriculturists? Were they prepared to sacrifice one-third of the population—he was taking Mr. Babbage's calculation—to the other two-thirds? Such might be the scheme of a Minister of a party; such ought scheme of a not to be the Minister of a nation; such was not the plan of the right hon. Baronet. It appeared, however, that three years after that language had been used, the right hon. Baronet did actually propose the very measure which the hon. Gentleman then considered so injurious, and that the hon. Gentleman, notwithstanding, did not hesitate to take office under him. Several hon. Gentlemen had urged upon the right hon. Gentleman the propriety of having a dissolution of Parliament before the repeal of the Corn Law was proposed—that the present ought not to be the Parliament to judge of the matter. That proposition might be said to involve a constitutional question. They would, it was true, be justified on ordinary occasions in saying when a Parliament was elected for seven years that, therefore, any subject coming before it ought to be considered by the Members of that Parliament on its merits; but in the present instance, there was, he thought, some distinction to be made from ordinary cases. The present Parliament had been elected under the influence of the agitation of the Corn Law; and though the question immediately pending was as to the enactment of an 8s. duty on corn, still the view taken by the country at the time was, that the real question at issue was one of a Corn Law or no Corn Law. There could be no doubt whatever but that the opinion of the constituencies when taken at the last election was, that there ought to be no alteration of the then existing Corn Law. The electors who sent to Parliament the hon. Members now constituting that House, would be disappointed if their Representatives did not now vote in the same manner as they would have voted immediately after their return. The farmers believed if there were a dissolution of Parliament now, their next Representatives would entertain different opinions on the subject of the Corn Laws, from those now advocated by hon. Gentlemen who supported Her Majesty's Government. He did not know if right hon. Gentlemen opposite recollected the language used in '42 by a right hon. Gentleman who was then Vice-President of the Board of Trade, but who now filled the office of Secretary of State for the Colonies, and who, for some reason not known to the House, did not sit among the Members of Her Majesty's Government in Parliament. That right hon. Gentleman—Mr. Gladstone—stated in 1842, that this Parliament was pledged to protection. He said— But he did fervently trust and believe that the House, indicating and adhering to its wise and practical character, would adopt, and by a large majority, the measures which had been recommended by the Government as a great practical improvement, as a change considerable and beneficial to the entire community, while maintaining that great principle which the House was pledged to maintain, a reasonable protection to the agricultural interests of this country, and to that large, he would even say, that decidedly preponderating proportion of the population, which was, directly or indirectly, but essentially, connected with and dependent upon those interests. The right hon. Gentleman then believed that this Parliament was pledged to maintain protection, and such was still the opinion of agriculturists out of doors. They said to their Representatives, "Because you have altered your opinions you may perhaps persuade yourselves that some of your supporters have done so also; but we wish you, before you come to any such conclusion, to give us an opportunity of showing whether we have done so or not." He had himself presented some fifty or sixty petitions that day to the effect that the proposed alterations in the Customs' Duties ought not to be made, and also praying that the House would place no confidence in Her Majesty's Ministers. These petitions had been got up, he would beg leave to state, without any effort of his, and he never felt more surprised than when, on reading them over before attaching his signature to them, he found that second prayer set forth, because he recognised among the signatures those of many gentlemen who at the last election had declined to support him because he refused to express any confidence in the right hon. Gentleman (Sir R. Peel). It was to him extraordinary that the change now proposed by Her Majesty's Government had not been anticipated by some of their supporters. The noble Lord (his noble Friend the Member for the city of London) gave warning to the Members of that House that such a change might be expected. He held in his hand the answer of his noble Friend to an Address that was voted to him at Plymouth, in the year 1841, and in that answer his noble Friend said— If the people are united, prohibition, or prohibitory duties, will share the fate of civil disabilities on religious grounds, the slavery of our negro fellow subjects, and other works of darkness. Nor is it necessary for this purpose that the late Ministry should be restored to power—the men who surrendered what they deemed the essential bulwarks of the Church and the Constitution to the menaces of the Roman Catholic Association of Ireland, will be sure to yield the fortresses of commercial restriction when they shall be summoned to do so, by the peaceful but powerful voice of the people of England and Scotland. His noble Friend gave that warning to hon. Members opposite in 1841; but they would not profit by it. On the contrary, they went on supporting Her Majesty's Government under the belief, perhaps, that they would be able, when the danger approached, of averting it. It appeared, however, that such was not the case, and that they now found out their mistake. He could not suppose that if the case were different, the right hon. Baronet would refuse to listen to the advice of some of his supporters, in taking the sense of the country. His noble Friend the Member for the county of Leitrim (Lord Clements) had stated that in his part of Ireland corn was produced as cheaply as it possibly could, and that the people had the advantage of a good market; and he then asked of what use was protection to the farmers of Ireland? But it struck him that while there was protection, while there existed a duty to prevent the free importation of foreign corn into this country, whenever there was no great need of a supply from abroad, or at all events when the prices here were not extravagantly high, an opportunity was afforded to the Irish producers to send over to this country their surplus corn. Whereas, if no such duty on foreign-grown corn existed, they would clearly be unable to make so much of the produce of their land as they were now enabled to do. His right hon. Friend the Member for Wiltshire (Mr. Sidney Herbert) had stated on the preceding night that if the landlords took the view which he (Lord Worsley) supported on this question, they would subject themselves to the charge of doing so for their own gain. He trusted that such was not his motive for opposing this measure; and he did not know that he could give a better proof of the absence of all personal motive in adopting the course which he had taken, than to state that it was his intention to support the right hon. Baronet in his intended alteration of the timber duties. It might be said that these latter duties did not affect the landlords; but he could tell the House that such was not the case—that a reduction of the timber duties would affect the landlords, but would not in the same way affect the tenants. The farmers would not suffer, but, on the contrary, might gain considerable benefit by a reduction in the timber duties, because they would then be able to obtain good timber from abroad at a cheap rate. If he looked to his own individual interest, he should be anxious to keep up the high duty on timber; but he believed a reduction in these duties would be for the benefit of the country generally, and for that reason he was determined that the proposition of the right hon. Baronet should have his warm support. He feared he had wearied the House by reading such lengthened extracts, as they were, no doubt, not very palatable to the House; but he thought he was justified in showing that the right hon. Gentleman opposite did not, a short time ago, consider it necessary to entertain resolutions for a total repeal of the Corn Laws. He had stated elsewhere that he believed it would be for the interest of the country to have the question of the Corn Laws finally settled. There were only two ways of doing so—either by a vote against any alteration whatever in the Corn Laws, or by a measure which would settle them altogether. Settle them they would not by their present plan, because he felt quite satisfied the farmers would still entertain a hope that there might be some means of again getting the protection of the Corn Law; he trusted, therefore, that Her Majesty's Government would seriously consider, though they might now refuse to consent to a dissolution, the consequences likely to result from a want of confidence among the agriculturists in the present Parliament. By persevering with their present measure in this Parliament, Her Majesty's Government would keep themselves in pretty much the same position in which they formerly accused the noble Lord the Member for the city of London of being in when he was sitting on the other side of the House—namely, with being dependent on his opponents for support. He did not know anything more strongly or effectively urged against the Whig Government by means of the constant and persevering cry sent out from the Carlton Club through the country, that Lord Melbourne and his noble Friend the noble Lord the Member for the city of London, were kept in power by the support of the hon. and learned Member then representing the city of Dublin (Mr. O'Connell). They might, perhaps, live to see the day when Her Majesty's present Government would have to thank the same hon. and learned Member, and other Irish Members who usually acted with him, for preventing them from being beaten on their own measure, by their own supporters.


Sir, in rising to address the House, I beg leave to say that I have not forgotten the powerful speech of the hon. Member for Northamptonshire, nor the advice which he gave—that Her Majesty's Ministers should not allow this question to degenerate into a mere fiscal question. The hon. Member stated, that when a great party was dissolved, or on the point of being dissolved, the question on which it broke up, however insignificant in itself, became a great national question. Sir, I agree with the hon. Gentleman. I think that no leader of a party, such as that which has for so many years placed confidence in my right hon. Friend at the head of the Government, can be justified for one moment in treating this question except as one of immense national importance, and one which calls for frank explanations. But, Sir, if it is not to be treated as a mere fiscal question, I hope it is not to be treated as a question of mere personality. I cannot blame my noble Friend who has just sat down for the references and quotations which he has made. I say, I do not blame him. I fully admit that past declarations of opinions, made even by Members of the House who have subsequently arrived at power, or who aspire to power, much more the declarations made by the First Minister of the Crown, if at all at variance with the course which he has subsequently pursued, are subjects worthy of reference, and which call for explanation. The hon. Member for Northamptonshire made a direct appeal to the Government, and challenged us if we had changed our opinions, manfully to own it. I answer that challenge. I do frankly avow my change of opinion, and by that avowal I dispose of whole volumes of Hansard, and of all the speeches which have been made on the charge of inconsistency. Acting on the advice given by the hon. Member for Northampton, I now make the avowal, and I only ask the House to exercise patience, and extend its indulgence to me, while I point out the reasons of that change of opinion. And before I do so, that I may stand in the position of a man worthy of confidence, I will only glance at a few considerations in defence of my conduct, instead of leaving the matter to rest on the individual honour of the person who makes the avowal. Now what are the tests by which a change of opinion on the part of a particular Member must be tried. The first test which should be applied is this—does the change of opinion promote his personal interest? Perhaps, under the circumstances, I may be allowed to refer to my personal position. All that I possess is as a landlord. I have nothing to hope or to obtain except from the possession of landed property. I have inherited that property, and I may add, that it is a large tract of land of inferior quality; and I congratulate myself that, by my position as a landlord, if the proposed change be dangerous, it exposes me to as great risks as any landed proprietor in the three kingdoms. So much with respect to my personal position. Now, as a Minister of the Crown, allow me to ask you to apply a test equally conclusive. Does a change of opinion on the part of a Minister of the Crown increase his strength, or consolidate his power? Can there be a doubt, after the unhappy scene which we have witnessed during the two last evenings in the conduct of the debate on this side of the House, that my right hon. Friend, before the commencement of this Session, being (as is allowed) a leader of great talent, possessing the confidence of a great party, and immense influence out of the House, has lost that confidence—has, as it is now said, almost dissolved that party, by the conduct which he, from a sense of public duty, has pursued? I will try another test, and it shall be the last. Has the Minister, by a change of opinion, acted unfairly towards his political adversaries, and availed himself of that change of opinion to exclude them from office? I think it is not expedient, at this time, to touch further on the subject I am about to mention; but my right hon. Friend, with my entire concurrence, frankly tendered to Her Majesty the office which he held as the head of the Administration. I concurred in that resignation; and I can truly and sincerely say, it was my earnest desire that this measure should have been brought forward by the noble Lord opposite, in whose hands I think it would have been more properly placed. I state this opinion, un-feignedly and frankly; I thought, after all that has occurred, it would have been better for the public, better for public men, if what has been proposed, as it has become our duty now to propose it, had been brought forward by the noble Lord opposite; and I may say, and I am sure the noble Lord will bear testimony to the truth of what I am saying, that, both in writing and verbally, I assured the noble Lord, that if he, as a Minister, brought forward a measure such as was indicated in his letter to his constituents of London, I, as a private Member of Parliament, would give to that measure my frank and cordial support. Now having disposed of that part of the subject which more personally relates to myself, I may perhaps be permitted to refer to some of the points touched upon by the hon. Member for Northamptonshire (Mr. S. O'Brien), and the noble Lord (Lord Worsley). The noble Lord asks me—is this measure brought forward merely because we think it expedient? He appeared to doubt whether we thought it right. I say that we bring forward this measure, not only because we think it expedient, but because we think it right, and because we think it absolutely necessary. Then the noble Lord proceeded to state, that the time had arrived when this question must be settled. I perfectly agree with him, and I join in the alternative he put; he said it could only be settled in one of two ways: either by peremptorily refusing to go into Committee upon this question, and to entertain any further proposition in relation to agricultural protection; or else that you must proceed as the Government now advises you to proceed, to the total abolition of protection to agriculture. An hon. Member has put the question, as I think, shortly and fairly; he said, the question to be decided is, is the abolition of protective duties adverse to the real interests of the poor? The noble Lord the Member for Stamford (the Marquess of Granby), who addressed the House also with great ability, put it in terms equally distinct; he said, the question is—will this alteration in the Corn Laws, not only give cheap bread, but give a greater quantity of cheap bread, to the working classes? I must say that this is the issue which I think we have to try—this is the great question we have to determine. The hon. Member for Northamptonshire addressed the House with so much ability, that I really was surprised to hear him, even in a passing sentence, speak contemptuously of political economy: he said that the object of political economy, in his opinion, was the accumulation of wealth. I had always understood that the great object of political economy was the distribution of wealth. [Mr. S. O'BRIEN: I said the distribution of wealth.] Will the hon. Member allow me? In my humble view, the great object of political economy is not the accumulation, but the distribution of wealth, and the application of capital to industry on principles which science and experience shall have proved to be conducive to the happiness and welfare of the greatest number. The question, then, which we have to determine is—is the maintenance of the existing Corn Laws conducive to the interests of the greatest number of the community? Will it insure them an ample supply of food of the cheapest and best kind? The noble Lord who has just sat down, rather apologized for reading extracts from speeches, because he thought they were not very palatable to the House; I must say, that the extracts he read appeared to me by no means distasteful in certain quarters. Will he allow me also, in perfect fairness, to read just two extracts? The noble Lord imputed to my right hon. Friend that not intentionally, but accidentally, what had fallen from him on former occasions, had by no means prepared the House or the public for the course which he now takes; and he referred particularly to a speech made by my right hon. Friend in 1839. Allow me to read a short extract from that very speech. My right hon. Friend, then a leader in Opposition, and a candidate for power, said— I consider this statement, that the condition of the labourer has been rendered worse by the operation of the Corn Law, a most important one; and I have no hesitation in saying, that unless the existence of the Corn Law can be shown to be consistent, not only with the prosperity of agriculture and the maintenance of the landlord's interest, but also with the maintenance of the general interests of the country, and especially with the improvement of the condition of the labouring class, the Corn Law is practically at an end. That was the declaration of my right hon. Friend, as early as the year 1839. It may seem presumptuous in me to refer, in addressing the House, to what has fallen from myself in a former debate; but after what my noble Friend has stated, perhaps in fairness the House will not refuse me permission to do so. On the occasion when the hon. Member for Wolverhampton (Mr. Villiers) moved for going into Committee on the Corn Laws in June last, I said— 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. Those were the principles which I avowed upon that occasion. The House, I think, will also remember the memorable Motion of the noble Lord opposite, on the condition of the working classes. I then stated to the House many facts which had come be- fore me, which were, in my opinion, quite conclusive to prove that the comfort and well-being of the working classes in this country were mainly dependent upon abundance and cheapness, and their misery and distress were mainly occasioned by scarcity and high prices. I frankly avow, that if the course of events had not been interrupted by circumstances which it was impossible to foresee, I should very gladly have adhered to the policy of gradually and progressively diminishing the protection to agriculture, but steadily keeping in view that desirable period when the protection might altogether be removed. But this brings me to the point of the utmost importance in the consideration of this case, namely, the unforeseen circumstances which did occur after the termination of the last Session. First, with respect to the harvest of this country, It was a harvest, as was truly stated by my right hon. Friend the Secretary at War, of a peculiar character. In point of quantity, it was not a deficient harvest; in point of quality, I believe, in the experience of the oldest farmers, there never was so great a variety; and the effect of that has been to point out and to establish the great imperfection of the averages under the existing law. I will not press this further. It was distinctly stated last night, by my right hon. Friend, that in no former year, I believe, has there been such a variety of quality in the corn brought to market, the price varying from 40s. for the worst, I believe, up to 70s. or 75s. for the best. An alteration was made in the law in 1842, in regard to the averages, which had a very decisive effect in one respect: it altogether prevented fraud. By extending the period, and multiplying the towns, in respect to the taking of the averages, fraud was prevented; but as relates to the interest of the consumer, this change had a very adverse effect; for fraud, whenever it had been exercised, was always in favour of the consumer, and for the purpose of opening the ports; and, in my opinion, the general effect of the measure of 1842, though it was not so intended, was, that it rendered protection more stringent, and the law more favourable to the producer, and more adverse to the consumer, than before. This was demonstrated, I must say, by the operation of the scale regulating the duties in the course of last autumn. Prices were rising; the price of the quartern loaf in this metropolis was 9½d., and approaching to the war price. When the quartern loaf had so risen, the duty indicated by the sliding-scale was 14s. or 15s. per quarter. In point of fact, the sliding-scale would neither slide nor move. And that was its condemnation. I do not wish to go into an historical statement respecting the Corn Laws, or I might mention that from 1773 to 1792 the importation of corn was, in point of fact, free in this country; and it was a remarkable coincidence, which Adam Smith points out when, without marking the cause, he mentions this period as a time when there was a great start in our manufacturing and commercial prosperity—exactly that period, from 1773 to 1792, when the importation of corn was free. I will also observe that a change in our policy with respect to the importation of corn is not a change of any fundamental principle. The Corn Law has been changed and altered five or six times, and yet the avowed object of the framers and founders of the law had never been obtained. I will now return to the point from which I digressed. I was speaking of the imperfect operation of the sliding-scale; and I may add that, together with this deficient harvest, there did arise that which human foresight could not anticipate, the general failure of the potato crop throughout the United Kingdom. This failure was by no means limited to Ireland. The destruction of the potato crop began in the south of England, and I believe that it was more fatal in the southern part of England than in any part of Ireland. In many parts of the southern counties of England the working population, though not altogether subsisting on potatoes, yet are, in a great measure, dependent on that article for their daily food. With respect to Scotland we have the most accurate information; and from the parochial returns we know positively, that in the south of Scotland one-third of the potato crop was destroyed as early as the month of November last. I will not go through all the precise details as to the extent of the failure of the crop in Ireland. Suffice it to say, that, in November, the Government received the Report of Messrs. Lindley and Playfair, by which it appeared that one-half of the whole crop, though not greater than an average, had been destroyed; that one-eighth of that crop must be preserved for seed; and that, consequently, not more than three-eighths of the whole crop remained at that time for the consumption of the year in Ireland. I had been at that time resident in the north of England, and had almost daily communi- cations in writing, with my right hon. Friend at the head of the Government; and it did appear to me, that this matter of coming scarcity, if not of famine, to be apprehended in Ireland, had an immediate and indissoluble connexion with this question of the Corn Laws; and I stated this opinion very early and decidedly to my right hon. Friend. The noble Lord the Member for Liverpool said, last night, that he could not see that connexion; and the hon. Member for Northamptonshire, following the same track, has also said that he did not see the intimate connexion between the two questions. Will the House, then, allow me to state what was the effect produced upon my mind by this inevitable coming scarcity in Ireland? I foresaw—and I am afraid rightly — that it would be indispensably necessary to give to the suffering community in Ireland aid from the public purse of this country to meet this great calamity. Already some advance of the public money has been asked for; and I am afraid that further advances may still be necessary. Then this great question presents itself—can in fairness any Minister of the Crown propose to the people of Great Britain to take out of the taxes of Great Britain public money to aid in the sustenance of their fellow countrymen in Ireland, while artificially, by laws so designed, the price of the food of the people of Great Britain is enhanced? Other persons may be bold enough to make such a proposition; but I confess that no power on earth could have induced me to be responsible for such advice. I told my right hon. Friend, that if such aid should be necessary, I strongly advised the suspension of the existing Corn Law, and that suspension I find is now generally approved of on this side of the House. The humane, the generous feelings of the landlords of England could not tolerate for a moment that distress, such as that likely to visit Ireland, should not be met by liberal assistance from the public purse. But to give this aid to the Irish people, and at the same time to enhance the price of the food of the great community, who contribute towards the taxes of England, and who by their hard industry are only able to pay those taxes, living themselves in some instances, on potatoes—is a proposition which I never could have maintained as a Minister. But it has been intimated that, under these circumstances, hon. Members generally on this side of the House would have readily assented to the opening of the ports. Then arises the question — if you once suspend the present law, what is the proposition which, at the termination of that suspension, is to be made? I have told you that I am satisfied, that even when scarcity has arisen, when the price of the quartern loaf was high, and when high prices ought to have been counteracted by the self-operation of the scale, that scale does not operate. I have told you that I think the present an unsatisfactory law; and according to my present experience, I could not, after its suspension, have supported its reimposition. I have always stated that my objection to a fixed duty as a permanent fiscal measure is insuperable; because I think that if the duty should be high, it would be impossible, when prices rose, to exact it; and whenever prices fell, if the duty should be low, it would fail for the purposes of protection, and the agricultural interest would then incur all the obloquy of maintaining protection without deriving any advantages from it. We might have proposed some small remnant of the sliding-scale, with a reduction of protection, which it would have been unworthy of the agricultural interest to accept, and still more unworthy of the Government to offer. Under these circumstances, the early abolition of the Corn Laws, as it appeared to me, would be inevitable on its suspension. It was, in my judgment, absolutely necessary to suspend the operation of the law; and I foresaw the necessity, if we suspended the law, of abolishing it; and I again repeat that, in my humble view, our duty was, charged as we were with the responsibility of office, to meet this immediate necessity and to insist on suspension. Nothing could have more gratified me than to see the general arrangements of this question respecting the Corn Law conducted by the noble Lord opposite. The question has been asked, "Have you had any reason since 1842 for changing your opinion?" I say, that since 1842, those who were charged with the administration of affairs, and who watched the various circumstances which have occurred, have had experience, not to be mistaken, leading to conclusive consequences. We had, first of all, the painful and lamentable experience of 1842 itself—a year of the greatest distress, and, now that it is passed, I may say, of the utmost danger. What were the circumstances of 1842? Allow me just to glance at them. We had in this metropolis, at midnight, Chartist meetings assembled in Lincoln's Inn Fields. Almost for nearly three weeks there were assembled in all the environs of this metropolis, immense masses of people, greatly discontented, and acting in a spirit dangerous to the public peace. What was the condition of Lancashire, the seat of our great staple manufacture, depending for its prosperity on uninterrupted tranquillity and labour? Such was the madness of the people on that occasion, that a great combination existed to stop machinery, and to put an end to the means of employment on which they depended for their daily bread. What was the duty of the Government under these circumstances? It was my painful duty to consult with the Horse Guards almost daily as to the precautions that were necessary for the maintenance of the public peace; a large force of infantry and artillery was despatched to Manchester by railway; and for some time the troops were continually called on, in different parts of the manufacturing districts, to maintain public tranquillity. I can safely say that, for three months, the anxiety which I and my Colleagues experienced with reference to the public peace, was greater than we ever felt before with reference to public affairs. Those were days of high prices and scarcity, of low wages and diminished employment. I am certain, from what I have since observed, that that turbulent disposition, that dangerous disposition, mainly arose from the want of adequate sustenance, in consequence of the high price of food and low wages. What has been my experience for the last two years? I don't take credit to Her Majesty's Government for the altered circumstances. Our measures may, or may not, have conduced to that great end; but, by the bounty of Providence, we have had abundant harvests; with abundant harvests we have had cheapness and full employment; and what has occurred? I can safely say, that for the last twelve months I have not had a single interview with one of the Commissioners of Police with respect to the maintenance of the peace of this metropolis; I do not believe that for the last twelve months I have had one interview with the Horse Guards with respect to the movement of troops in aid of the civil power in any part of the country. Perfect tranquillity and comparative happiness have prevailed, and very different indeed has been the condition of the country from what it was in 1842. Never was the contrast between scarcity with discontent, and plenty with social comfort, more striking than that we have witnessed in these two periods. I will not trouble you with many statistics. The document I am about to read is short, but still, as an analysis with reference to crime, it is pregnant with instruction. I have taken the six counties which may be said to be the seat of our manufacturing industry; I have taken the county of York, the county of Lancaster, the county of Warwick, the county of Gloucester, Cheshire, and Staffordshire, and have compared the commitments for trial in these counties in 1840, 1841, and 1842, when the prices of wheat were 66s. 4d., 64s. 6d., 57s. 3d., with those which took place in 1843, '44, and '45, when the price of wheat was about 50s. Now, observe, in Yorkshire the committals were, in 1840, 1,867; 1841, 1895; 1842, 2,598. The scarcity then ceased, abundance with low prices begins; and there was committed for trial in 1843, 2,304; 1844, 1,691; 1845, 1,417; showing a decrease of commitments in the last as compared with the previous period of these years of 14.9 per cent. In Lancashire the commitments in those years were respectively 3,506, 3,987, 4,497, 3,677, 2,893, 2,852, exhibiting a diminution of 21.4 per cent. In Warwickshire the commitments were 1,001, 1,046, 1,003, 1,045, 894, 769, a decrease of 11.2 per cent. In Gloucestershire, including Bristol, the numbers were 1,045, 1,236, 1,252, 1,186, 1,071, 929, showing a decrease of 9.8 per cent. In Cheshire the commitments were 1,042, 943, 1,086, 1,018, 777, 688, a decrease of 19.1 per cent. In Staffordshire the numbers were 923, 1,059, 1,485, 1,175, 885, 717, a decrease of 19.9 per cent.; exhibiting an aggregate decrease of 17 per cent. Upon the whole of these six counties, comparing the years 1842 and 1845, there is a diminution on the aggregate of 18 per cent. I am convinced, with the right hon. Baronet the head of the Government, that it is a fallacy to contend that wages fall with falling prices, and rise with rising prices. It was my noble Friend the Member for Liverpool, I think, who last night contended that it was true in the agricultural districts that wages did rise with rising prices; but he admitted that the proportion was not always equal. Now, I beg you will observe, that to the labouring man the equal proportion between the price of food and the rise of wages is a matter of life and death. But it is also necessary, I must observe, that the proportion should be concurrent as well as equal. If the rise in wages should lag behind the rise of prices, life itself might be in danger. But I have the experience of Sir John Walsham, who had long the charge of the districts of Norfolk and Suffolk, as Assistant Poor Law Commissioner—who is himself an extensive landed proprietor in the county of Hereford, and who, in the West Riding of Yorkshire, assisted the Poor Law Commission—and he tells me that he has never known wages to have risen beyond from 8s. to 10s. and 11s. in certain counties, and from 9s. to 13s. in other counties; the utmost rise being 25 per cent.; while he has seen at the same time the price of corn rise from 45s. to 90s. It is unnecessary to say, in reference to this point, that the rise of wages in those districts is not at all commensurate with the rise in the price of articles of the first necessity. But, as truly stated by my right hon. Friend the Secretary at War, whatever may be the case in the agricultural districts, the converse of the assertion is true with respect to the manufacturing districts. Invariably in the manufacturing districts you will find low prices accompanied by high wages, and high prices by low wages. I mentioned some circumstances which occurred in the month of November last with reference to Ireland; but I have not stated the whole of the case with respect to that time. From a Report which I have received from Mr. Sanders with respect to the West Riding of Yorkshire, I find that at that time there was not merely a rise in prices, but a strong apprehension of still higher prices in several parts of the West Riding, particularly in Bradford, and that several works were put on short time. In several of the cotton districts, also, I had reason to apprehend that the mills were about to be put on short time. When, therefore, we looked to the circumstances of the whole country in the months of November and December, we had no option left, as the general guardians of the condition of the great body of the community, but to adopt the course which we have pursued. We have been told of the danger of being dependent on foreign States for the supply of food; but when we consider that the population of Great Britain in 1815 was 16,000,000, and that at the present moment it is 23,000,000, it seems to me that the time has arrived when it may well become a question, not whether Great Britain can alone supply the amount of food necessary for the population, but whether it will not be difficult at a moderate price to secure food for the whole of that population even with the aid of foreign countries. For myself, I have no apprehension of any great fall of prices from the abolition of the Corn Laws. I think that both the hopes and fears on the subject are greatly exaggerated. I do not believe that the abolition of protection, as matters now stand, will materially lower the price of corn; but I consider that to the great body of consumers it will be a security of inestimable value against the recurrence of high prices. That is my view with regard to supply. With regard to the commercial principle, there can be no doubt whatever. The hon. Member for Northamptonshire described a state of things when there shall be a brisk demand for French paper-hangings, for German hardware, and for Brussels carriages, while workmen are crowding the market with nobody to hire them. How does the hon. Gentleman think that this foreign furniture and those carriages are to be obtained? Whatever may be the form of the transaction by which they are obtained, that transaction of necessity resolves itself into barter. Directly or indirectly there must be an exchange of commodities, and you must in the long run export some of your home productions to pay for what you have got from abroad. I am quite satisfied, if you extend the sphere of your commerce, and import foreign corn into the country steadily and uniformly, not by fits and starts, that you will proportionably extend the amount of your exports and the sphere of your general commerce, promoting the prosperity of all classes. The hon. Member for Northampton (Mr. S. O'Brien) referred to the case of a farmer about to be expelled from the farm his family had cultivated for ages, whose fate he described in the most pathetic terms, for the purpose of illustrating the consequences which the hon. Gentleman presumes will flow from the measures of Her Majesty's Ministers. But another picture was given last night by the noble Lord the Member for Liverpool (Lord Sandon). The hon. Gentleman represented the farmer as petitioning his landlord in vain for a reduction of rent, when protection shall have been abolished, The noble Lord considered the condition of the farmer as peculiarly helpless and exposed, while protection was still maintained. He said this unhappy man had constantly held out to him the expectation of prices which were never realized—prices which were made the basis of calculation, when he agreed to pay a fixed rent; then he comes to the landlord with "bated breath" and most humble demeanour, seeking an abatement of rent. The landlord grants somewhat less than the farmer requires; an abatement of 10 per cent. which is found quite inadequate. The following year a further disappointment takes place; and the result, as described most accurately by my noble Friend, is, that under this system of protection and of constant disappointment, over-cropping of the farm takes place; ruin is the consequence; and the rent is not paid; so that protection and fixed rents lead to the most unfavourable results. [Marks of dissent from the agricultural Members.] I do not wish to state anything unfairly; but I think that that was the statement made last night by my noble Friend from the spot which the hon. Member for Northamptonshire now occupies. I do not, however, mean to pursue that part of the question further. I am satisfied that it is a fallacy to say that wages follow the prices of corn; and unless they follow the prices of corn, I feel convinced that the great bulk of the community must be deeply injured by this law. Then, again, I say I have no apprehension whatever that the abolition of this law will render this country dangerously dependent on foreigners for its supplies of corn. But I say as a landlord, that I am certain of this—and upon that point I agree with the noble Lord the Member for Lincolnshire (Lord Worsley)—I am certain that a settlement of this question is, with reference to the interests of the landlords, of paramount importance. Well then, how can we have a settlement of the question? With the present feeling of the bulk of the community upon this subject, there is but one settlement possible. Are there no new features observable with reference to this question? I say that there are several. I will not dwell upon the meeting in Wiltshire, which may have been spontaneous, or may have been suggested; but the fact of that meeting having been held is remarkable, and one not to be neglected. But I pass from that, and I challenge any Gentleman from the manufacturing districts to contradict me when I assert that until very lately the opinion of the operatives was, that low prices would infallibly lead to low wages. But I say that they have departed from that belief. I say they have changed their opinions. The experience of the last three years has not been thrown away upon them; and if that be so—if the masters and the men are quite of one mind on this point, they will settle—and I may tell the hon. Member for Knaresborough so—they will easily and amicably settle those questions with respect to the hours of labour which have hitherto divided them. I can very well understand how those working men should overtax their industry, and even call on their wives and daughters to work to excess, that they may obtain subsistence. Necessity might drive them to such resources. But if they can understand that by a change of your law they may be able, without working so long themselves, without requiring their wives or daughters to work as they do now, to live in greater comfort than they have ever known, I have not the smallest doubt that arrangements will be made between masters and men as to the period of labour, and so every ground or pretext for legislative interference on this point will be taken away. It will, I should say, be one of the most happy days that ever dawned in England, when, on account of an alteration in your corn and provision laws rendering a shorter time necessary to procure wages adequate to purchase the comforts of life, the masters and the men shall, without legislative interference, come to an agreement as to the hours of labour. I was rejoiced to learn that the noble Lord the Member for the West Riding of Yorkshire (Lord Morpeth), with whom I have often differed, but whose absence from this House I have never ceased to regret—for it deprived us of one of its brightest ornaments—I was rejoiced to learn that the noble Lord on the hustings of the West Riding, in the presence of the operatives, expressed sentiments similar to those which, in less perfect language, I have endeavoured to convey. I say with reference to the interests of the country gentlemen of England, let us have certainty in regard to the value of our land. You can, however, only obtain that certainty by a change of this law; and that certainty will compensate you for many disadvantages. But in addition to certainty, I say you will have peaceful enjoyment. You will have enjoyment without the jealousy of your poorer neighbours; you will have the inestimable blessing of their good-will without any abatement of their hereditary respect. And, Sir, if I may be allowed to refer to the sentiments of so humble a Member of the landed gentry as I am myself, I must say that I do not think the landlords will have to make any great pecuniary sacrifice; but, entertaining the opinions which I now entertain, founded on my present experi- ence, I say that if the sacrifice were ten times greater than, I believe, it will be, I, for one, sooner than it should be said of myself, or of any Member of that class to which I belong, that we had wrung from the sufferings of the poor a small increase of rent, or that our present position was inconsistent with the welfare and the happiness of the great body of the community—speaking for myself, I should rather descend to a low estate, and abrogate my inheritance, than submit patiently to such a charge, and be unable to say in my conscience that there was no truth in it. Sir, it has been said that a great party is broken up; it has been said that political ties are severed; it has been said that social relations are disturbed by this proposal; and it has been anticipated, and it is possible, that our Administration will, in consequence, be dissolved. But, Sir, although I should regret the former portion of these consequences, I have the consolation of believing in my conscience that this proposal will rescue a great and powerful nation from anarchy, from misery, and from ruin.


said, that he was of opinion that, whatever might be the abstract merits of the proposition before the House, it was one which ought not to pass without an appeal to the country. When he first entered Parliament, the present Corn Law was in full operation; and though he was returned free and unfettered and unpledged, yet he considered that there was an honourable understanding between him and the constituency with respect to certain measures. There were certain limits and landmarks by which he thought they were to guide their course. He confessed he did not anticipate the change which had taken place in the opinions of Her Majesty's Government. In 1841, the constituencies were the jury who tried the issue which was left to them, and the present Parliament was returned by their verdict, and now they were going to upset their decision without even asking for a new trial. The right hon. Gentleman the Secretary at War stated in his speech, in which he so fully and successfully vindicated the course which he felt it his duty to pursue, his full conviction that if it were shown to the gentry of the agricultural districts in England that by the abolition of the Corn Laws and by surrendering protection, they would administer to the necessities and wants of their fellow countrymen, they would cheerfully and wil- lingly abolish them. That was the very ground on which he stood. If the Government would show them, as they said they could, so galling and so overwhelming a necessity, if they (the Government) had confidence in their own conviction; if they did not think that their new faith was as faithless and as hollow as the old, at least let the Government give them, the agriculturists of England, an opportunity of enjoying, to use the words of the noble Lord the Member for London, the solid satisfaction of believing that they conceded this question to the wants and the necessities of their fellow subjects, and not to what had been forced on them by the dexterity of two discordant Cabinets. The course taken by the Government, he believed, would cause great excitement, great party conflict, and great struggling between parties, if a dissolution were the consequence; but they would be temporary—these evils would pass away; they would be less formidable than the total dislocation of political confidence. Such a course would, in his opinion, be pregnant with evil; and he would therefore give his hearty support to the Amendment of the hon. Member for Bristol. He should, he felt, have at least this satisfaction, that when he should appear before his constituents, they could not upbraid him with those words which the right hon. Baronet at the head of Her Majesty's Government, in the year 1840, used to the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Edinburgh, namely, "that he deserved that his classical constituents should say to him— 'Nusquam tuta fides.'

Debate adjourned to Thursday.