§ On the Order of the Day for the resumption of the Adjourned Debate on the Corn Laws,
§ SIR HOWARD DOUGLAS
said: I rise with a degree of pain which I shall not attempt to express, but which I am sure my right hon. Friend believes and understands, to make a few observations on the momentous subject which he has brought forward; and to explain and declare the vote which it is my intention to give, against withdrawing protection from British agriculture, and against the extinction of the protective principle. I was brought forward for the representation of Liverpool on the colonial, and consequently on the protective principle. I connect significantly these expressions, because I shall have occasion to revert to them hereafter. Although perfectly unfettered, and unpledged, I yet distinctly and explicitly avowed myself the advocate of that principle at my election, and I have supported it accordingly with my voice and vote in this House. I have opposed all the Motions that have been made for the repeal of the Corn Laws. I took part in the discussion, and opposed the Motion of the hon. Member for Stoke-on-Trent for the repeal of all Import Duties. I have carefully revised and reconsidered all I have said in this House and elsewhere upon these important subjects. I find nothing to regret, excepting the imperfect 840 manner in which I expressed myself; and at any rate, I find nothing to retract. I have bestowed the most calm and dispassionate consideration on this momentous question. I have listened with profound attention to all that has been said on both sides, in this protracted debate; and, far from being shaken, I find my opinions confirmed. I am very sensible of the difficulties of the present time, of the sad crisis to which this question has been precipitated, and of the changes which have taken place in others. But I am unchanged: my opinions have undergone no alteration, and my vote must conform with my opinion. I shall first request the indulgence of the House to make a few observations upon the commercial part of the question. I shall then offer a few, and but a very few, arguments, on the agricultural part of the question; for ably and manfully has that interest been defended. I shall lastly beg leave to make a few practical observations as to the effects of this measure on those great remote interests, the colonial interests, which are not represented, and which it appears to me are not altogether rightly understood in this House. I concur in the accuracy of the figures referred to by the right hon. Baronet, though I think they are not carried far enough back; but I cannot admit the conclusions which the right hon. Baronet draws from the prosperity of the last three years. The period was not of sufficient duration; the circumstances were peculiar, and did not altogether form a criterion by which it would be safe to make so mighty a change, in the commercial, fiscal, and financial system of this country. It is true that the value of British and Irish produce and manufactures exported to all parts of the world, rose from 47,381,000l. in 1842, to 58,584,000l. in 1844, showing an increase of 11,200,000l. But 1842 was a year of the greatest depression, and that depression was not occasioned by the Corn Laws, nor has the restored prosperity been unaccompanied by the Corn Laws. The distress of 1842 was attributed to a concurrence of causes sufficient to account for that depression. Facilities of credit; increase of manufacturing establishments; improvements in mechanical power; excitement and stimulus to production; depression in the United States; falling off in our exports to the United States; derangement in the monetary affairs of the United States; the China war; stagnation of general commerce during 841 the then recent alarm of war; and I believe I am correct in stating that the right hon. Baronet said "he could not excite a hope that any alteration in the Corn Laws would be a remedy for evils which, in a great manufacturing country like this, seem separable from that system." Now taking the year 1839 next before that depression commenced, the exports were 53,233,580l., so that the exports of 1844 were only 5,351,342l. above what they had been before that depression took place. If the recent, and still existing prosperity had been consequent to the repeal of protection, or to an experimental suspension of the Corn Laws, this question would stand on very different grounds. But the preceding distress was not attributed generally to the Corn Laws: these have accompanied the restoration of prosperity; and whilst it cannot be denied that this has been with the Corn Laws, many are of opinion that it is by the protecting policy and by the Corn Laws, that this restoration has been produced; and I am of that opinion. The Gentlemen opposite denied that this would ever be so, unless the Corn Laws were repealed. "Do what you like," did they oftentimes say, "prosperity will never more revisit these shores, will never more attend the manufactures and commerce of this country, until the Corn Laws shall have been repealed." But prosperity has returned, and yet the Corn Laws do exist. I admit that the relaxations in the Tariff of 1842 have in many respects, and upon the whole, been beneficial; and I voted for them, with that impression. But I am not disposed to admit that the success of a moderate and experimental alteration in the degrees of protection, warrants the utter repudiation of the principles on which this Empire has been constructed, and by which it yet holds together. I have compiled, with a good deal of care, a table of the declared value of British and Irish produce and manufactures exported, from a late period of the last century, to the present time, showing separately the exports to Foreign States and to British possessions abroad. I have inserted the quantity of foreign wheat, and wheat flour, imported, and the price of corn, in corresponding columns; and I find many important deductions and proofs in support of my opinions, are obtained from this table. With respect to the increase in the value of exports in 1844, it appears that 2,611,797l. was to British possessions, namely, to British India and British North 842 America; whilst, with few exceptions, the exports to foreign countries were in some cases not so great, and in others not greater than they had been at some previous time. The exports to Russia in 1844 were nearly as in 1837; to Portugal less than in 1827; to Spain less than in 1829; to the United States about what it was in 1838, and 4,000,000l. less than in 1836. Even to France the exports of British and Irish productions in 1844 (2,656,259l.), were less than in 1841 and 1842, which were 2,902,002l. and 3,193,939l.; and in the year 1844 we exported to France no less than 65,714,490 francs* to pay in hard money (numeraire) for her productions, in exchange for which, France does not coextensively take ours; and this is the way in which we shall have to pay for French carriages, silks, gloves, shoes, &c., which are to be let in upon our unprotected artisans; and the whole table shows that the colonial trade is less subject to vicissitude than the foreign trade, and that it increases, though with some fluctuations, steadily. I have never argued this question in terms of agricultural protection, in the abstract; I always took the enlarged and general question it involves, that the repeal of protection on agriculture must be followed by the repeal of protection on all other interests. But little did I think that they were to come together; suddenly and unexpectedly to burst upon us, like a clap of thunder. My advocacy of protection is for the interests of no particular class, and least of all for the interests of that class which I have the honour to address. My advocacy of protection is for the interests of all classes of artisans, mechanics, and operatives, employed in the several branches of British native industry. I shall not now discuss the difficult subject of the relation between the price of labour and that of food. Probably, no fixed relation subsists; but however this may be, the price of labour greatly depends on the state of the labour market. This, however, I am prepared to assert, that when labour is not in demand, when it is redundant, seeking employment, labour is incapable of competing with capital, even in internal competition. The extreme conditions in the social state of this country, abundantly establish this fact—capital accumulated at one end, depression and privation occasionally at the other. But when, moreover, the sphere of competition is extended, and unprotected* Tableau Général du Commerce de la France, 1844, Administration des Douanes.843 British labour is made to run against protected foreign labour, foreign competition must further beat down the efficacy and value of British industry, and of British labour its main element, in relation to foreign labour, not only to, but beneath, that level. The repeal of the Corn Laws would displace productions of British agriculture, in British markets, by the free importation of foreign corn; whilst the exporting countries would not admit British manufactured productions freely to displace foreign productions, in their markets; and thus British agriculture and the home market would be greatly injured and deadened. I shall not repeat what I have heretofore said on this part of the subject, further than to assert that the past depression, and the restoration of prosperity abundantly show, and I am prepared to prove this, that an increased importation of foreign corn does not produce a corresponding exportation of British manufactures. I refer now to the figures I have compiled to make a few observations upon that maxim of the economists, which affirms that the importation of foreign corn produces a contemporaneous and coextensive exportation of British manufactured productions. Was the year 1836 a prosperous year? The exports of that year were 53,368,572l. The importation of wheat and wheat flour was a minimum; it was 861,156 quarters, and the price was 48s. 9d. Were 1840, 1841, and 1842, prosperous years? The exports of British productions declined to 51,406,430l. in 1840, and to 47,381,023l. in 1842; but the importation of foreign wheat and wheat flour in those years was a maximum—namely, 2,526,645 quarters in 1840; 2,910,263 quarters in 1841; and 3,111,290 qrs. in 1842; and the prices 63s. 3d., 64s. 3d., and 70s. 3d. respectively; and by a maximum price, I mean, greater than the importation of foreign wheat had ever been since 1697. Were the years 1843 and 1844 unprosperous years? The wheat imported was 843,419 in the former year, and 1,145,833 in 1844, and the prices 50s. 1d. and 51s. 3d. Now, according to the theory of the economists, the prosperous years ought to have been unprosperous; and the years of depression the reverse. This establishes, I think, the truth of what I had the honour of saying in this House on a former occasion; that there is a great difference between that plenty and low price which are produced by abundance of home production, and that which is produced by unlimited 844 foreign importation—that the one quickens, the other deadens the home market—that England is England's best customer—and that the contemporaneous exportation from England in return for foreign corn, would be chiefly in British gold. Perfect free trade consists in the absence of restrictions on both sides. In this case there is a coextensive and contemporaneous exchange of the productions of each other. To the truth of this proposition, in the abstract, I entirely agree; and could we only prevail upon foreign nations to meet us fairly on such terms, I should not be here to oppose such an intercourse. But unreciprocated free trade consists in freedom at one hand, and prohibition at the other; liberality here, and the reverse there; an absence of import duties in the United Kingdom, an increase of them everywhere else, to countervail what we may do to get down the cost of production. We cannot combat rival Tariffs, directly or indirectly, without subjecting British industry to severe depressions in relation to foreign industry and foreign labour. Now, this is the disadvantageous condition of trade into which we are about to rush. The right hon. Baronet admits this disadvantage, but says he entertains the most confident belief that foreign nations will imitate our example, and meet us fairly on the basis of free trade. I wish my right hon. Friend may be right; but I feel very confident that such will not be the case. There may be a modification, or relaxation in the degrees of protection, but it will be chiefly on the raw articles; and unless foreign nations repeal altogether, not only the denomination, but extinguish the principle of protection, as we are about to do, we shall still be subject to the disadvantage which I endeavour to represent. We have for many years been setting the example of relaxing our protective system, in hopes that other nations would follow our example. We made these indications to France many years ago, by considerable reductions of duties on her productions; and the only alteration she has made, is to lower the duties on raw and wrought materials, that she may compete the better with our manufactured articles. No nation deserves less than France, any further relaxation on our part: for although our exports have greatly increased to that country since 1827, (but they have fallen off considerably since 1842,) yet this has rather been in articles necessary to her industry, than in British manufactured articles; and we exported in money 845 to France in 1844, no less than 65,714,490 francs value, to pay for articles which we take from her, and for which she does not take payment in British productions; and this is the way in which French carriages, silks, shoes, millinery, gloves, &c. with which unprotected British artisans are to be inundated, will be paid. Neither the German's Union, nor Belgium, nor any other foreign nation, will extinguish the principle or so relax the degrees of protection, as to meet us fairly in free trade; and whatever may be said of or expected from the United States of America, I feel entirely confident that, do what we may, they will never follow our example to this extent, nor to any extent that will withdraw substantial protection from their own interests—their native industry. I have shown this to be the settled policy of the United States, from the time of Washington downwards; and even Mr. Polk, the present President, has distinctly recommended, that a just and reasonable protection should be given to all interests, agricultural, manufacturing, commercial, and maritime. There may be some reductions of duties on imports, some revision of the Tariff; the new duties may be denominated revenue duties, but they will nevertheless be efficient protective and restrictive duties. It matters not to us practically whether these be called revenue duties, and reported to the committee of ways and means, or denominated protective duties, and reported to the committee of manufactures. What Mr. Polk denominates revenue duties, is that amount of duty which produces a maximum of revenue on that article. Probably the amount of duties may not be pushed so high, but however this may be they will be essentially and effectually, protective; and I do think it would be well that we should wait to ascertain, positively, what foreign nations, generally or severally will do, before we rush into this rash and, as it appears to me, gambling speculation. Import duties imposed upon one side, deprive the country against which they are adopted, of the increased market, and consequently of the increased productive industry, which international intercourse would create, if fairly reciprocated; and the due equilibrium can only be restored by imposing retaliatory duties. Smith expressly says, book iv., chap. 11—To impose duties upon foreign, for the encouragement of native industry, when burthens are laid upon it by foreign nations," (and what foreign nation does not lay burthens upon our industry?) 846 "is one of the cases in which it is advantageous to protect in this way the home productions.For to lay suitable duties upon the productions of the foreigner, who lays burthens upon yours, does not give the monopoly of the home market to the home producer, nor turn towards any particular employment more capital and labour than would naturally go there. It only hinders that amount of those actually engaged, from being turned away into a less natural direction, and leaves the competition between foreign and domestic industry upon the same footing as before the protecting duty so laid and retaliated. And I shall show hereafter that Huskisson seriously intended this with respect to the United States' Tariff of 1824, if the propositions held out to foreign nations by his Trade Acts of 1826 had not been fairly met. Adam Smith's observation is obviously true. Protecting duties on one side, destroy the equivalent expression; it is like expunging a value from one side of an equation, without compensating for it on the other. There cannot be two prices for the same article in the same market. The foreign consumer will not pay more for a British than for a domestic article of equal quality. The exporter cannot pay the rival duty, for, if so, he would sell at a loss, or be undersold by the foreign rival; and, therefore, to compete with foreign protected markets, British articles must be produced so much cheaper as to enter into this competition. The cost of production must therefore be reduced. This is most immediately and readily done by reducing the wages of labour, and it is most important to remark that it is precisely in times of pressure, when profits are most bare, and labour most in want of employment, that this takes place, and that mechanical labour is most extended: this not only displaces manual labour in times of pressure, but, by so much, precludes it from participating in future prosperity. In all these transactions in which the foreign exporter of goods, which we take from him, (corn to wit,) does not take payment in the productions of the United Kingdom, a direct loss is inflicted on the British shipowner, and that almost without compensation; for whatever be the effect of the circuitous transaction, in producing, through other countries, (third markets,) indirect demands for British productions, the benefit of the freight will go chiefly to the foreign shipowner. It is difficult to trace the various uses of the money produced by the bills drawn on Great Britain, by the exporters of 847 foreign productions, for which they will not take British produce in return. The economists say truly that foreigners do not send us theirs gratuitously, and that they must be paid for: but those who assert that the indirect transaction is, in the long run, equally beneficial with the contemporaneous exchange, very imperfectly understand the nature of the indirect transaction, and incorrectly trace it. That part of the remittance which is applied to pay for the productions of the United Kingdom, comes direct to this country, by bills, and the employment of that part is easily traced to that purpose. But a great number of the bills drawn by foreign exporters are negotiated abroad, not to pay for the export of British productions, but for that, say, of foreign and foreign colonial productions which may be imported into the United Kingdom from any place not being a British possession, in foreign ships, of any country, to be warehoused for exportation. Without attempting here to trace the particular investment in which the proceeds of these bills for the extension of foreign industry may be made, and without denying that a great part of the foreign productions, so transiting to foreign countries, through the United Kingdom, are paid for in British productions exported in return for the foreign productions, yet it is clear that this circuitous trade is chiefly carried on in foreign vessels. Observe, also, that a great part of the money produced by the bills drawn by the foreign exporter (of the bullion, for instance, remitted to pay for grain) is absorbed into the active and productive capital of the exporting countries, and laid out in extending that industry which thus competes so successfully with ours, and rather in promoting commercial intercourse between foreign nations, than with the United Kingdom. Thus whatever be the end of the circuitous transactions, the money payments made by us must first afford profitable investment to the rival interests of foreign nations, and employment of foreign labour, to the disadvantage of British productions and British labour; and the indirect transaction originating in a disadvantageous state of trade, and of navigation, can, by no sophistry, be shown to end in advantage. The noble Lord the Member for the West Riding observed forcibly, the increase of population requires additional means and sources of subsistence. It appears to me, that by maintaining the Corn Laws we shall best provide for this, by extending and improving the cultivation of 848 Great Britain and Ireland. It seems a strange proposition, and one contrary to all experience, that the way to encourage the production of articles of any kind, is, to expose that branch of industry to unequal competition. But can we not find, do we not possess, in our Colonies, unbounded sources—rich fields of virgin fertility, such as the noble Lord has depicted in the United States, from which we may derive unlimited supplies of British produced food? I had imagined a species of free trade among ourselves, by which we might acquire, freely, the agricultural productions, as well as others, of our Colonies, if we were really to treat them as if counties of the country. There was a right move made in that direction in the passing of the Canada Corn Bill, for which I voted with great pleasure; but this admirable principle is very imperfectly carried out. I heard with great pleasure the other night the hon. Members for Montrose, Stockport, and Cockermouth, express their wish to see this great principle extended to other Colonies; and their belief, or hope, that the time was now come when the Colonies, generally, were really to be incorporated with the United Kingdom as integral parts thereof, and that thus a new era of colonial management was about to commence. Why, Sir, from the moment that the protective principle shall unhappily be extinguished, not only will the Canada Corn Bill, though at present subsisting in the form of a solemn compact between the Imperial Parliament, which originated, and the Canadian Parliament which re-enacted that measure—not only from that moment will this compact be absolutely annulled, but the colonial system itself will be virtually dissolved. For the Canada Corn Bill will become wholly inoperative,—absolutely nullified. How much of grain do those hon. Members think will come from Canada, Prince Edward's Island, and Australia, when the ports of the United Kingdom shall have been opened to foreign corn? Not a particle of the United States' bread stuffs will transit through Canada, by the costly inland communications which are now opening for that purpose, to be taken down the St. Lawrence to Quebec to give the British shipowner the benefit of the freight home, and the British merchant the advantage of the transaction; and should this measure pass, the United States may well desist from the measures they have adopted (the recent Transit Act) to countervail and defeat the important advantages 849 which the Canada Corn Acts were intended to confer. What becomes then of the agricultural prosperity of Canada? Canada is, essentially, an agricultural Colony. I well remember that in 1826, when holding the government of one of the British North American provinces, under a distinguished and justly celebrated statesman, Mr. Huskisson, at a time when emigration to Canada was becoming brisk, and Canada corn was only admitted to the United Kingdom in limited quantity, and at a considerable duty—I think 5s., to have written to Mr. Huskisson, a Despatch* in which, referring to his Trade Acts and to the measures proposed by His Majesty's then Government to promote the permanent interests of the British possessions abroad, I endeavoured to represent the rapid progress then making in British North America in agricultural operations, and the necessity of improving inland communications and navigation throughout British North America, and to adopt a steady course of policy which should ensure to the Canadas, at all times, external markets for the consumption of their agricultural productions, in the markets of the United Kingdom, and in those their sister Colonies in the west. I represented that no distress can be so severe as that which must result from a population extending itself over unbounded fields of virgin fertility, peopled by emigrants from the mother country as a measure of relief to ourselves from the occasional pressure of unemployed labour, if at any time we should fail in ensuring them markets for the productions of their industry. And it does now become a matter of the very greatest importance to consider, what is to become of the Canadas, if we now fail in this duty to them by withdrawing protection from the interests we have created, and the industry we have cherished. The United States will not free trade with British North America; and if so, and we withdraw protection from the productions of the Canadas, as, by the extinction of the protective principle, and the repeal of the differential duties, we are asked to do, it is quite obvious what the tendency must be. I have often imagined—and it was for this that I moved for, and obtained the order of this House for, the extensive returns which are now preparing, namely, the various colonial tariffs and commercial relations at* Despatch, No. 8, 1st Feb. 1828.850 present subsisting between all the Colonies of the Empire and the mother country, and between the Colonies themselves—that it might really be possible to treat Colonies like counties of the country, not only in direct trade with the United Kingdom, but in commercial intercourse with each other, by free trade among ourselves, under a reasonable moderate degree of protection from without, and so resolve the United Kingdom, and all her Colonies and possessions, into a commercial union such as might defy all rivalry, and defeat all combinations. Then might colonization proceed on a gigantic scale—then might British capital animate British labour, on British soil, for British objects, throughout the extended dominions of the British Empire. Such an union is the United States of America—a confederation of sovereign States, leagued together for commercial and political purposes, with the most perfect free trade within, and a stringent protection from without; and signally, surely, has that commercial league succeeded and flourished. Such an union, too, is the German Customs' League; and it has succeeded to an extent that really is, in so short a time, miraculous. But free trade—the extinction of the protective principle—the repeal of the differential duties—would at once convert all our Colonies, in a commercial sense, into as many independent States. The colonial consumer of British productions would then be released from his part of the compact—that of dealing, in preference, with the British producer; and the British consumer of such articles as the Colonies produce, absolved from his; each party would be free to buy in the cheapest, and sell in the dearest market. I defy any hon. Member opposite to say, that this would not be a virtual dissolution of the colonial system. The British flag might still fly for a time, where sound British policy had raised it, in every part of the world. The colonists would regard it still with the veneration to which it is entitled. Our navies might still guard their coasts and waters, and our troops hold military possession of their lands; but then would come the question of the economists, in debates on the Navy, Army, and Ordnance Estimates, what is the use of Colonies? They consume not, as of old, the productions of the United Kingdom in any greater degree than if they were Foreign States; we no longer consider and treat the Colonies as domestic sources essential for the supply of the materials of our manufacturing industry, 851 and the elements of our maritime power; and it will be difficult to answer that economical argument, when, moreover, we shall have discarded our Colonies, for considerations of a wretched pecuniary economy, and sacrificed national objects, and high destinies, to the minor, and the comparatively mean, calculations of speculative wealth. I have said what the effect of free trade must be on the Canada Corn Bill. What will be the effect of the extinction of protection, when fully carried out, on the British North American timber trade? I am not speaking of the terms proposed in this new Tariff, but of the total abolition of all differential duties, which must be the result of this measure. When this is carried out with respect to sugars, what is to become of the British West Indies? How will they be affected by free trade in sugar? for the perfect extinction of protection must be carried out to the extent even of admitting slave-produced sugar, as already demanded, and as we have already done slave-produced cotton. What is to become of the coffees of Ceylon—and what of British India—that boundless space, in which, in the Valley of the Ganges alone, sugar sufficient for the supply of the whole world might be produced? And how have we treated British India? By the force of our manufacturing power, we have effectually destroyed their cotton manufacturing industry. The steam power of England has superseded the low rate of wages in India, triumphed over the workmen of that country; deprived them, by so much, of their means of subsistence; and whilst we have thus superseded their industry in manufacturing their own raw article, we, for many years, imposed heavy duties on it, and have recently again favoured the importation of that article from a foreign country, which takes not our manufactures in return. This is not free trade. In like manner the manufacturing industry of India in woollens, has been greatly injured. The difficulty now is, to find goods in India to be taken by us, in exchange for what she wants. But if the resources of India, and her capacities to consume British goods, were properly cultivated and developed, it would be enormous; but this cannot be, by the extinction of the protective principle. That the manufactures of India should have fallen into decay, was inevitable; the dear goods of India could not compete with the cheaper and better productions of England; this has necessarily converted the manufacturing industry of the Hindoo, into 852 that of the agriculturist. But this imposes upon us the obligation, of protecting that industry. The whole amount of manufactures exported to India does not at present exceed 8,000,000l. (in 1844, 7,695,666l. including Ceylon). If we were to encourage as we might the natural productions of British India, to enable her the better to pay for British goods, there is scarcely any assignable limit to the increase of that vast market of consumption for the productions of British industry. The demands for British cotton goods alone, if the population took but at the rate of 2d. per head, would amount to 50,000,000l. sterling; and the demand for woollens, silks, pottery, glass, plated wares, cutlery, iron, brass and copper implements, and an infinity of articles for domestic use, would be prodigiously increased. I fear, Sir, I have trespassed at unreasonable length on the indulgence of the House—indulgence which I have often experienced, and never more required than on this occasion, on which I could not give a silent vote. But before I sit down I request permission of the House to read a few extracts from the speeches of Mr. Huskisson, for the purpose of showing how incorrectly he has either been read or represented, by those, who cite him as favourable to perfect free trade, and to withdrawing protection from agriculture and from the Colonies. Previous to the year 1825, the colonial trade remained in a state of very considerable monopoly. The Acts of 1826 opened the commerce of the Colonies to all friendly States—free intercourse between them and Foreign States, either in British ships or theirs—allowing them to import all articles the growth, produce, or manufacture of the foreign country to which the ship belonged, and to export from such Colonies all articles the growth, produce, or manufacture either to the country from which the foreign vessel came, or to any other part of the world except the United Kingdom—but all intercourse between the mother country and the Colonies, direct or circuitous, was reserved strictly as a coasting trade. But British productions were protected in the colonial markets, by duties varying from 7½ to 30 per cent. Thus, Mr. Huskisson's policy approximated to free trade between the Colonies; but retained an efficient protection of the colonial trade. Thus he provided considerable revenue duties for the Colonies, under Imperial Acts of Parliament, without violating the Declaratory Act of the 18th George III., by paying over the gross 853 proceeds to be appropriated by the local Legislatures. These protecting duties have been greatly reduced by subsequent Acts of the Imperial Parliament; differential duties greatly relaxed, the colonial Legislatures prohibited from making any discrimination on importations whether from Foreign States, British possessions, or the United Kingdom. Hence revenue necessities compel the local Legislatures to impose duties on the productions and manufactures of the United Kingdom, equally with foreign productions, and even on the productions of each other. The Canadas impose a duty of 6 per cent. on the productions and manufactures of the United Kingdom; Nova Scotia 4 or 5 per cent.; New Brunswick the like. Whilst we have been taking off the duties on foreign timber, New Brunswick, for a revenue necessity, has imposed an export duty: so in Mauritius there is an export duty on sugar. The British North American provinces, as a class, impose duties on the productions of their sister Colonies in the west—the British West Indies; whilst these, as a class, are supplied by the United States of America, free, or at trifling duties—with just such articles as those in which British North America abounds; but which are by so much shut out from the markets of the British West Indies. Not only did Huskisson make stringent the principle of a protection, but he moreover intended seriously to retaliate, by imposing countervailing duties, unless the United States altered their Tariff of 1824. In the debate of May, 1825, (I think on Bonded Corn,) Mr. Huskisson said—Do not let us be in a hurry; let us look at all the bearings of the case. We are willing to throw open the trade of our Colonies to the United States, provided they meet fairly the propositions held out in our Acts. But if after such deliberation it were deemed necessary, or we should be forced, to retaliate, he would enjoin the House to adhere to it with firmness.And Canning practised in 1826 what Huskisson menaced, which obliged the United States to reduce their Tariff. The first extract I shall, with the permission of the House, read, is that in which Mr. Huskisson avows his opinion and policy with respect to free trade generally. In the debate of the 8th April, 1826, he said—Before I sit down, Sir, I must say, that some of the doctrines of my hon. Friend on the subject of our trade are not quite just or well founded. At least, they are not doctrines which I have ever entertained; certainly, they are very different from those which I have expressed in this House, and they are equally distinct from the principles upon 854 which His Majesty's Government have been guided in their recent measures with reference to our foreign policy. My hon. Friend has argued the question of free trade, as if it were the absolute removal of all restrictions thrown in the way of the supply of foreign productions to the people of this country. Now, Sir, this is not my view of the question.The next extract I shall ask the House to let me read, is that on agricultural protection. It has been partially quoted, but I entreat the attention of the House to the whole passage:—The history of this country," says Huskisson, in his letter to his constituents at Chichester, "proves that cheapness produced by foreign import is the sure forerunner of scarcity; and a steady home supply is the only safe foundation of steady moderate prices. During upwards of one hundred years to 1765, when the import of foreign corn was restrained by very high duties, our own growth of corn was ample for our own consumption in ordinary seasons, redundant in abundant seasons, and in bad seasons occasioned no apprehension of, or actual want. The price of corn seldom varied more than a few shillings per quarter; if there was no inordinate gain to the farmer, there was no starvation to the consumer; prices, instead of rising from year to year, gradually diminished: whereas since 1765, the supply has been unsteady and precarious, our dependence on foreign supplies gradually increasing till the war came, when, by the foreign supply being interrupted, the country became dependent on its rivals and its enemies for the food of its people. In the first eighteen years of this war, we were forced to pay sixty millions of money to nations every one of which has in the course of that war been our enemy, for a scanty and inadequate supply of foreign corn; and when, for this purpose, we parted with all our gold and even our silver currency, combined Europe shut its ports against us, and America co-operating, first laid an embargo, and then went to war. Shall I then," continued Huskisson, "be deterred from using my honest endeavours in Parliament to prevent the recurrence of such sufferings? I admit that if unlimited foreign import, which the war had suspended, were now again allowed, bread might be a little, though a very little, cheaper than it now is, for a year or two; but what would follow? The small farmers would be ruined; improvement would standstill; inferior lands now producing corn would return to a state of waste; the home consumption and brisk demands for all the various articles of the retail dealer would rapidly decline, to the great injury of our towns, especially those which are not connected with manufactures or commerce: farming servants, and all the trades which depend on agriculture, would be thrown out of work, and wages would fall even more rapidly than the price of corn. The great farmers and large capitalists might for a time bear up against foreign import, and, should they do so, will command extravagant prices to repay themselves; but in the mean time, the poorer, but not less industrious, small farmers, will have been ruined. To protect the small farmers is ultimately to protect the people.Lastly, Sir, I appeal to as splendid a passage as can be quoted from the speeches of any British statesman:— 855It is the first and paramount law of every State to provide for its own safety and defence; we will never listen to a theory which, by withdrawing protection from the colonial trade, would render insecure those possessions on which essentially depends the power of Great Britain, to retain that high station in the rank of nations which she owes to her commercial and colonial ascendancy; and least of all shall we listen to the representation of States which evince boundless jealousy of our navigation in peace, and of our maritime ascendancy in case of war; and who tell us distinctly, that they are steadily looking to the ulterior object, of one day disputing with us the dominion of the seas.And now, Sir, in conclusion: fervently do I hope, that, if this measure pass, the intentions and expectations of my right hon. Friend, honestly and faithfully devoted to the best of his judgment, to promote the real interest of his country, by this extensive measure, may be realized to the fullest extent: sincerely do I wish that my opinions may prove to have been erroneous, and my apprehensions groundless. But, under a strong conviction that such will not be the workings of this measure; believing that the value of British industry will be depressed; that the physical and social condition of the people will not be raised; that British agriculture will be checked and injured; and that consequently manufactures, commerce, and navigation, will suffer, and the great pillars of our maritime supremacy, and the elements of our naval power subverted;—I give a willing confident, conscientious, and consistent vote, however painful and reluctant in some respects, against this perilous and, as it appears to me, unnecessary experiment—an experiment from which there is no retreat; a movement in which there is no receding; an experiment, the success of which can scarcely add to the general well-being, the prosperity, the greatness and the glory of this country; but any failure in which must prove ruinous to Imperial Britain.
regretted that, in voting on the present occasion with the Government, he should differ from many of those friends with whom in political connexions he had so long been associated. In the course he was taking, however, he was actuated only by a desire to see such a policy adopted as would most speedily conduce to the general welfare of the community. When recently the consideration of the subject had been brought before the House, he had confessed himself in favour of protection; but it had been in favour of a protection which should be placed upon 856 such a basis as would give no partiality, would enable capital to flow in its legitimate channels, and effect those improvements in agricultural processes which, on all hands, were allowed to be so desirable. But he now wished to ask any Gentleman in the House, whether it could be pretended that protection was placed upon those terms? Were not all aware that the existing protection must always be the object of contention and the cause of mischief? Nor could he now seek, conscientiously, to maintain the assertion that such a state of things was favourable to those for whom protection was demanded, either to the farmer or to the agricultural labourer. He felt himself also bound to say that, whatever opinions he had entertained, the experience of the last three or four years had made him acquainted with facts beyond controversy or denial. One fact was, that the reductions of the duties on agricultural produce had not produced low prices; and a second fact was, that a reduction in other duties did not imply any falling-off in the revenue of the country. The result had been the reverse; for, by such a policy, the nation, from a gloomy and depressed state, had, in five years, recovered, nay, added to all its former prosperity, and in proportion to the reduction of duties, it had been found, was the increase in the revenue. With these considerations before his eyes—with the knowledge of what had happened—and with the anticipations, derived from that experience of what was to come from a further development of the like legislation—was he justified in risking the welfare of the people on the issue of a struggle entered into in the hope of maintaining agricultural protection? He considered that he was best discharging his duty, and best defending his own consistency, in doing what he believed best—by voting with the Government; and he trusted that from the final settlement of the question now about to take place, the whole Empire and the whole world would derive advantage.
§ MR. F. SCOTT
said, that when the measure was brought forward ten days ago, he came down to the House in the hope that he should be able to afford it a cordial support. Whenever he had addressed the House, he had always most readily given his voice and vote in support of the measures of the right hon. Baronet, and he need not now state the pain and regret with which he took an opposite course. He felt that his previous course of conduct, 857 both in the country and in the House, although he had given no distinct pledges, had been such as to induce the House to believe that the course which he would take in this year, 1846, would be that which he had taken in the year 1837, when as an unsuccessful candidate he addressed a large and independent constituency, composed of both agriculturists and manufacturers; and again, in 1841, when, with more success, he addressed them and obtained their support. Upon later occasions he had maintained the same course, both from conviction, and from a feeling that he could not act more safely than follow the right hon. Baronet, whose opinions, from his youth upwards, he had observed with respect. With these feelings of what was of importance to the country, and with these feelings of respect and admiration for the right hon. Baronet, what must be the stunning effect, of the suddenness with which he had turned round upon all his former opinions, deserting those who placed him upon that bench. He regretted to say that he had felt it his conscientious duty to change his course, to hoist another flag, and to trade under different colours. He felt that it was not necessary for him to deliberate as to what his course should be; he felt that, although he was miserable in comparison to the right hon. Baronet, as to intelligence and as to sagacity, yet that no man was to be the guide of what was his moral duty; and when he stated that he acted from his own convictions, the right hon. Baronet would give him credit for sincerity. He felt, likewise, that it was impossible for him in three days, or even three weeks, to take such a retrospect of three years, as to induce him to efface from his memory all that had passed, all that he had observed, and all that he had read during thirty years. He should not enter into Hansard, that thick jungle of disappointed promises and violated pledges. He would suppose a case. A gentleman of his acquaintance was possessed of a large estate, say, in the south of England; he had also large possessions in Scotland, and, withal, was largely engaged in a manufacturing business. He had very extensive dealings with a mercantile house on the Continent, and with that house he had a dispute; they claimed, inasmuch as they had already shared largely in the profits of the dealing, that they should become partners in the house in this country; but the plea was considered altogether untenable. The question was to be argued 858 in the country court, before a common jury; it was to be further argued in Westminster, before a special jury; and finally, it was to have a hearing in the House of Lords. The gentleman went on a visit to his estate in the south, where, possibly, he found it not so well managed, but still prosperous; he then proceeded to his possessions in Scotland, where he found them better cultivated, and still more prosperous; he also visited his manufactories, and found them in a state of great prosperity. The case was set down for a special hearing, which brought him up to town. On his arrival, he found, to his surprise, that the leading counsel who had been retained to conduct his case had, during his absence, returned the brief; but, on going into court, and seeing that same leading counsel pleading the cause of his opponent, his surprise knew no bounds, and he very naturally said, "God bless me! what does this mean? You are mistaken; you were retained for me, and were to lead on my side." But when the counsel said, "Oh, no, no mistake at all; I was engaged on your side, but I cannot argue it, I find it a rotten case, and I advise you to give it up. I have deliberated upon it during your absence; I have looked into the state of the case as regards the food of the people, and I find that a great part of the potatoes are rotten, therefore I could maintain your case no longer, and now counsel you to abandon it at once." He goes to the junior counsel, and they said, "We shall follow our leader. And, after all, it is but a mere fiscal regulation. What are you making this fuss about? You may consider it of vast importance, but we do not consider it of any importance, and you may, therefore, make the best you can of the affair; but we shall not advocate it any longer." This, perhaps, was trifling; and perhaps he owed an apology to the House for it. He should not ransack Hansard for the purpose of bringing forward charges of inconsistency against public men; but he should take the opinions uttered during the last three weeks on this subject by men of the greatest talent in the country, for the purpose of showing the shifts to which they were driven in order to justify a measure brought forward without necessity, and unsupported by reason. On the 27th of January, the right hon. Baronet at the head of Her Majesty's Government spoke of the increased comfort and contentment that resulted from the relaxation that took place in 1842; the right hon. the Secretary 859 at War, in the following week, stated that the Corn Law of 1842 was a signal failure. The right hon. the Secretary of State for the Home Department, at half-past ten o'clock on the evening of the 10th of February—
§ MR. E. BULLER
rose to order. He thought it was an understood rule of the House that no Member was at liberty to refer to the speech of another hon. Member on a preceding night's debate.
§ MR. SCOTT
resumed. He should be sorry to contravene the rules of the House; but if he were out of order the right hon. Gentleman in the Chair would set him right. At half-past ten at night on the 10th of February, the right hon. Baronet (Sir J. Graham) asked, "whether any Minister of the Crown could in fairness 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 was enhanced?" The same right hon. Baronet, the same night, at ten o'clock, said, "I do not believe that the abolition of protection will materially lower the price of corn." On the 22nd of January, the right hon. Baronet (Sir R. Peel) gave up the defence of the Corn Laws as no longer tenable. On the 27th of January, five days after, in replying to the noble Lord the Member for Lincolnshire, he stated that he was not prepared to assume that there would be any fall in the price of corn by the abolition of protection. The right hon. Gentleman the Secretary at War, on the 9th of February, confirmed this statement by declaring that the claptrap of cheap bread had completely exploded. "I tear up these documents," said the hon. Member, suiting the action to the word, "for what could be deduced from this series of contradictious?" It merely showed the great difficulty in which public men were placed, when they adopted what he would not call a crooked course, but a tortuous line of policy. He considered that, of all things, character in public men was that which was of most importance. Changes of policy might be necessary; but they should always be made in accordance with the times, and they must depend, too, upon the men, and the mode, and the manner in which the changes were made; for, if they were made by some men, and in some manner, they might lead to the most ruinous and disastrous consequences. In 1842, he had supported most 860 cordially the measure of the right hon. Baronet. There was great anxiety throughout the country at that time as to the result of that measure—["Hear, hear,"]—not only in the county represented by the hon. Member who had cheered, but in the county which he had the honour to represent, and he had done all he could to alleviate the alarm. He had satisfied himself that there was not such great cause for alarm, and he had given his cordial support to the measure of the right hon. Baronet. If the measure now brought forward in 1846 had been in accordance with that of 1842, as well as with the Speech from the Throne, and with the declaration made by the right hon. Baronet, that his measure would not injuriously affect agricultural interests—that it would afford adequate protection to those interests, and deal tenderly with them, he should have again supported him. The present measure was a wide one; but he doubted whether it was as wise as it was wide. There was this difference between the measures of 1842 and 1846: both were reductions of duty, both were removals of restrictions, and both were repeals of prohibitions—with this difference, that in 1842 the reductions and remissions were made upon articles of raw produce, productions of other lands and climes; whereas the reductions now were upon articles ready manufactured—articles which were also manufactured in this very country, and which therefore came into immediate competition with the industry of this land. He had always felt that it was right to take away restrictions upon articles of public consumption, that they ought not to desire to acquire the title of encouragers of monopoly or class legislation—benefiting one interest at the expense of another. Entertaining this opinion, it appeared to him that the amount of the tax upon foreign grain, the food of the people, ought to be merely so much as would give the greatest encouragement to the growth of grain to the greatest extent in this country. Living as he did in a country where the cultivation of grain was as well understood as in any part of the Empire, and that during the last ten years improvements had been made, notwithstanding the low prices, and especially during the last two years—notwithstanding, he repeated, the low prices which had prevailed, notwithstanding the distance of lime and manure, and notwithstanding hilly roads; notwithstanding this, not only had prices continued remunerative, but, during the last twenty 861 years, rents had advanced—he gave hon. Gentlemen the benefit of that fact—and, notwithstanding this, wages had continued high, and remunerative employment had been afforded to labourers; So he had felt prepared to go with the right hon. Baronet in reducing the amount of the existing protection to agriculture. He felt, that in consequence of the improvements which had been made in the cultivation of the soil, in consequence of the facilities of access to markets, in consequence of the improvements in husbandry, and the application of science and chymistry, the expense of farming would be so much reduced that grain might be raised at a cheaper rate. Entertaining these opinions, and considering that the only object of protection was to cause an increased amount of grain to be grown in this country—[Sir R. PEEL: For whom are you counsel?] "If the right hon. Baronet has any question to put to me, I am ready to answer it. I am the advocate of my own opinions?—I am no delegate—I am free to speak my own sentiments — I am counsel for no man—for no party—for no sect. I follow no party—no leader of a party. I did belong to a party, the party of the Constitution—the party of the right hon. Baronet; I served under his banner, and I would continue to serve under his banner now, if he continued to hoist it. But I speak too warmly; perhaps I misunderstood the question; I understood the right hon. Baronet to put it to me whether I was a retained advocate. [Sir R. PEEL: No, no.] I am not. I admit that the illustration I used in a preceding part of my speech may have suggested the question." He was going to say (the hon. Member continued), that his feeling was, that agriculture was to be protected only for the benefit of the consumers. He had hoped that the right hon. Baronet would have introduced a measure which would not have afforded to the foreigner such an advantage as the present did, and which threatened ruin, he feared, to the cultivators of this country. How opposite to what he (Mr. Scott) had expected was the measure of the right hon. Baronet, one which would most assuredly inflict "a heavy blow and great discouragement" upon agriculture; one which would drive money out of the country to purchase foreign grain, and which must assuredly increase seriously the fluctuations in prices, tend to diminish the food of the population, and grievously affect, at all events for a time, the labouring 862 class. As to the first, he had the high authority of Lord Melbourne and Mr. Van Buren, who had spoken of this subject in terms which must be too deeply impressed upon the minds of those who heard him to render it necessary for him to refer to them. As to the tendency of the measure to diminish the necessaries of life, he would refer to the words of the hon. Member for Bolton in 1842. He said—The command over the necessaries of life is smaller in foreign countries than in England. The consumption of sugar in France is 5 lb. per head, in the German League 2 lb. per head, and in England 17 lb. per head. The consumption of woollen cloth throughout the German League, was 2 1–6 ells per head, and in England 54.Baron Du Pin said the Frenchman would have to give four days' labour for the quantity of meat that the Englishman could obtain for three days' labour; and the bread that would require eight days' labour on the part of the Frenchman, the Englishman could purchase for seven days' labour. With respect to the amount of money that would be driven out of the country by the adoption of this measure, some idea might be formed from what had fallen from the hon. Member for Liverpool, who said that 30,000,000l. had left this country to purchase food during the war. But the fluctuation in price was the most material subject, and one which would be found to affect this country most grievously. During twenty-five years' peace, in no country, save Sweden, was the price of grain so steady as in Great Britain. In times of war, two-thirds of the countries represented in the book of tables of the Board of Trade, experienced greater fluctuations than Great Britain. He need not refer to a higher authority than that of the noble Lord the Member for London, as to the immediate suffering which would be consequent on passing this measure. The right hon. Baronet had alluded to a Gentleman on that (the Ministerial) side of the House, as being in a ferment on a measure for mere Customs regulation—on a mere fiscal affair. Why, it was little more than a mere fiscal affair that lost us the United States. He (Mr. Scott) knew not what could be more important than this measure—in fact, he considered it no less than a serious breach in the Constitution. The right hon. Baronet admitted that he had become a convert to the doctrine of free trade in the abstract. The noble Duke, in the other House, said he should be glad to know what any person meant by a free-trade Government? He should like to 863 ask the same question. He understood very well what was meant by free trade in the abstract. That was perfectly intelligible. All travellers from the time of Mentor and Telemachus down to the present day were in favour of free trade in the abstract. He was in favour of free trade in the abstract. But he was not for applying that principle to this country alone while a different principle was acted upon all over the globe. The trade of this country was in such a complex and artificial state, that he would defy any man to introduce absolute free trade here with success. Free trade meant the abolition of all Customs' duties—of all duties on imports and exports. Would the nation then abandon all those duties? Were we prepared to give up 22,000,000l. per annum of taxes, and 13,000,000l. of excise to carry out free-trade principles? How was the interest on the national debt to be paid if those 33,000,000l. were to be given up? Could that amount be replaced by direct taxation? Could it be done by a capitation tax, or by a property tax? By what means could that amount of taxation be levied? To talk, then, of absolute free trade as applicable to this country, was nothing else than nonsense. In making this statement, he did not wish to have it supposed he was in favour of high prohibitory duties. He was favourable to a removal of duties from the raw material, because he thought such removal would give a buoyancy to commerce, and increase the revenue. But it was absolutely impossible to adopt free trade in this country, burdened as it was with an amount of debt not less than 800,000,000l., to pay the interest of which it required 30,000,000l. of taxation. How could this country, with such a burden on it, enter into competition with foreigners? As well might you expect a man with one hundred weight on his back to enter the lists with a man carrying no weight whatever. But this was not the only important part of the question. The maintenance of the public faith was of the greatest importance. It should be remembered, too, that we had an extensive colonial empire. How were we to maintain our engagements with our Colonies consistently with the policy of the right hon. Gentleman? Mr. M'Culloch said, our intercourse with the Colonies ought to be conducted on the principle of the coasting trade. Far otherwise was the policy of Her Majesty's Government. They were for levying taxes on the produce of our Colonies, while they admitted foreign 864 productions duty free. The agriculturist in this country was told that he was not deserving of protection. Would the Government say the same to the Colonies? He would call upon honourable Gentlemen to consider the hazard of causing a dismemberment of our colonial empire, when we had established nearly fifty Colonies in every part of the globe. He must admit that those Colonies engaged very little of the attention of that House. There never was an allusion made to them in Speeches from the Throne. Bills relating to their Colonies met with less attention than those relating to their canals. They had nearly fifty settlements, with an extent of surface of 2,000,000 square miles, and a population of more than 100,000,000; and were those interests, he asked, to be gambled with in a measure like the present? Then, with regard to the maintenance of those Colonies, it was stated, in Mr. Montgomery Martin's work, that 456,000 troops, of whom 56,000 were Europeans, were required for that purpose. They required besides a large and increasing naval armament, and a civil establishment costing 2,000,000l., and in the face of those facts it was dangerous to do anything which might alienate their feelings with regard to this country, or the feelings of the mother country with regard to them. You continue your protection on sugar, on coffee, on rum, and on various articles of colonial produce, and yet you tell the home producer that it is for his interest that he should not be protected. If we imposed on the English grower in this country a disadvantage when he came to sell, surely he should not also be met with a disadvantage when he came to buy. We ought not, when he came to dispose of his grain, to tell him that he should sell it at the lowest possible price, but when he required to buy, that he should buy at the highest. Would it not be, then, unfair to meet his purchases with a high duty? And this was practically done by reducing the value of the produce he offered for sale. But the matter should not be confined to England—the subject regarded the Colonies also. As to the Englishman, when he came to buy his sugar, for the pound you make him pay 5d. instead of 2½d.; for coffee 9d. instead of 3d.; and also for colonial spirits 20s. instead of 5s. the gallon. It was true the whole of this was not to be looked upon as a protection duty, but still it was a duty which was paid by the poor man. Look, then, at the feelings which that would create in the breast of Englishmen, 865 as regarded the Colonies. Then they would begin to think of the impropriety of protecting colonial produce, when you did not protect them, while at the same time they were made to pay for colonial protection. But then there was another consideration: the Colonists would say, "Why, when you admit the corn of foreign countries free, why should you tax our produce? You may say you do it for the purpose of raising the revenue; but that is contrary to the principles of free trade: you have no right to deny us a free entrance to our produce into your ports, when you admit the produce of foreign countries free. If we are to have justice, let it be even-handed." Such would be, and justly, the argument of the colonist, and a very proper argument to those who would come with the profession of free trade on their lips, but who had not the principles of free trade in their hearts—who would come with the profession of a policy totally inconsistent—a policy not only inconsistent, but which, if persevered in by the present Government, must eventually lead to the dismemberment of the Empire. The question had been asked of him, whose counsel was he? His reply was, that he was an independent Member of that House. He was not counsel for the manufacturing interest — he was not counsel for the mercantile interest—nor exclusively for the agricultural interest; but he was sent there to represent the interests of Great Britain. Much had been said about free trade. He admitted that the abstract theory of free trade was an admirable theory. He admired it as he would a cobweb, which in the morn sparkled with dew-drops in the sun. Some thought he had been premature in criticising the measures which the right hon. Baronet had introduced; and in having pronounced his declaration that it was impossible to support the present measure; but the more he considered the subject, the more he was convinced of its dangerous consequences, both as affecting their own immediate interests, and the interests of the Colonies. The measure, he had no hesitation in saying, was one of hazard and alarm, which would shake the social relations of the country to their foundation; and, however dangerous and oppressive to the country, it would be ruinous to the character of public men. His firm opinion was, that the measure would lead to hazardous results in our colonial possessions: it was well calculated to excite disaffection, particularly at a time when they were likely to be engaged in a 866 hazardous strife with a warlike nation; to say the least, it was unfortunate to enter at that time upon the consideration of a question which would affect our colonial interests. Her Majesty, in Her Speech from the Throne, referred to what was at present a great question between England and the United States, the possession of the north-west coast. He would then ask—was this a time to enter upon a question which might render the solution of that problem more difficult? He would call the attention of the House to an extract from a paper drawn up by Mr. Isaac Buchanan, President of the Board of Trade in Canada, and Member for Toronto—a paper which excited the most anxious attention. Mr. Buchanan says—Take, for instance, the case of Canada. Can any one for a moment doubt that, as soon as it is known on the other side of the Atlantic, that Canadian wheat has no longer any protection in England, the Canadians will at once insist on the repeal of Mr. Gladstone's Act, which gives protection in the Colonies to British manufactures? Nine-tenths of the Canada trade will thereupon go to the markets of New York and Boston. The overburthened people of England will in their turn begin to feel that they are going to the expense of defending a Colony which has ceased to be of any use to the Empire, as consuming its manufactures, or employing its sailors and shipping. And any hint from England of a desire for separation will be cheerfully responded to by the people of Canada, who will be writhing under the feeling that England has dishonourably broken the promises of protection to Canadian wheat and timber made by every Ministry from the timber panic of 1808 downwards, and will have got their eyes open to the fact that, as there remains no longer any, the slightest, bond of interest between Canada and the mother country, no reason can be given why the Canadians should risk their lives and properties in defending nothing; or should allow Canada to be any longer used as the battle-field of monarchy and republicanism, or of European and American squabbles. The Canadians will moreover see, that as their wheat is practically excluded from the English markets, their only chance is to get it introduced into the markets of the United States. That republic, however, will not have free trade with Canada, and a political connection will have to be consummated between them to give Canada the American protection of 8s. sterling per quarter against British or other European corn. Whether, therefore, England wishes it or not, Canada will certainly cut her connection immediately. The Canadians, by joining the United States, will continue to enjoy all the English privileges which England's Colonies enjoy under a free trade system, and, into the bargain, secure a better market for their wheat than than of England; for instead of removing their protection to native wheat of 8s. sterling per quarter, the Americans will be prepared to increase the duty if found insufficient by their great western interest. America will be the more ready to do this when the result is shown, that English free trade will reduce the Liverpool below the New York grain market; our 867 wheat being drawn from countries where there is no credit or banking system to inflate the price above the specie standard, for England will get little or no grain in return for her manufactures, although the free traders delude the public with asserting that she will. In losing the British American Colonies England will lose employment for 30,000 sailors, and the finest naval nursery in the world, the amount of tonnage in the trade being greater than that of the trade to all India and China. But it is not a simple loss to England; the command of the St. Lawrence will give a gain to America equal in extent to our loss, thereby trebling her naval power, while it leaves her with no rival or enemy in the north.He called attention to this testimony, because he knew that it had had much influence on the minds of those who felt deeply for their colonial interests. Now, if one result of this system of legislation were the loss of Canada, for instance, did any hon. Gentleman suppose that our loss would stop there? It appeared that there was a large party in that Colony ready "at a hint" to separate from the mother country; and it was not likely that the many loyal inhabitants would be disposed to stand by us after we had abandoned them. The West Indies would soon follow their example, as well as the Australian Colonies, and all our extensive possessions in the eastern part of the world. Now, was the right hon. Baronet so much of the free trader that he was willing to abandon the whole of these vast and important Colonies? Though that right hon. Gentleman was a free trader "in the abstract," he (Mr. Scott) doubted if he were so much a free trader "in practice" as to adopt to that extent the principles promulgated by Mr. M'Gregor and Mr. M'Culloch, whom of late he had followed so closely. The noble Lord who was recently called to the Upper House—he alluded to Earl Grey—was a consistent politician in this matter: he was entirely for the abandonment of the Colonies, which he considered to be a great burden and charge to this country. If the right hon. Baronet were also of that opinion, let him avow it, but avow it in time. Don't let him go with his party up to a certain point, and then throw over the Colonies. In the summer of 1845 the right hon. Baronet opposed with success not only the measure of the hon. Member for Wolverhampton (Mr. C. Villiers), but also the measure of the hon. Member for Gateshead, for the introduction of corn from a Colony sixteen thousand miles off; yet in six months afterwards the right hon. Gentleman himself proposed a measure which had for its object the introduction of 868 corn into this country from places not 160 miles distant. But for what purpose was all this? It was to introduce the products of foreign Powers. Why, whenever we had lowered the duty on foreign produce, foreign Powers had always raised the duty upon ours. In 1837 and 1838 Prussia sent us one-half of the whole quantity of corn we imported, and in 1840 about one-third; whilst the exports of British manufactures to Prussia, in return, amounted to but a hundred and twenty-fifth part of the total exports from this eountry. Did the right hon. Baronet expect any reciprocity on the part of other countries? Did he anticipate that they would lower their duties on our manufactures? No such thing. On the contrary, he stated that he did not expect any immediate reciprocal benefit from Prussia in taking the duties off our goods. But he said, by diminishing protection we diminished the inducement to smuggling, encouraged lawful enterprise, and produced a considerable moral influence. The right hon. Gentleman also said that his object and expectations were by this measure to strengthen the bonds of amity with foreign Powers. But if he did not anticipate any reciprocity, or that our manufactures would be introduced into those countries by fair means, he wished to know by what means they would be admitted? Why, it could only be by carrying on a wide and comprehensive scheme of smuggling. That was the Prime Minister's avowed object. He happened to know that our exports to Gibraltar were to the extent of 1,200,000l. a year. Now, Gibraltar had a population, including its garrison, of not more than 4,000. What, then, became of all our goods? At gun-fire on a summer's morning, he had often seen boats steering under the batteries, and along the coast, and, despite the vigilance of the guarda costás, distributing our goods to the population on the shores. We were able to carry on the extensive contraband traffic in consequence of the weakness of the Peninsular Governments; but did the right hon. Baronet suppose that it would strengthen our influence with Continental Powers to introduce and extend such an immoral influence as he avowed it his desire to introduce? He held, therefore, that this measure of the Government, which was described as a stimulus to British industry, would prove, in fact, an irritating blister, creating a fever at home, and weakening the whole system of our commercial relations abroad. There was another point to which he would advert— 869 the manner in which the great interests of this country were dealt with. Capital may be invested to a large amount in a way which may be productive, but removable at pleasure, while capital may be invested and be irremovable; for instance, when sunk in land; but while the manufacturer was protected to the amount of 10 per cent., in common fairness the agricultural interest should at least be protected to a similar amount; but instead of that, there was the mockery of protection in the shape of compensation, which only added insult to injury. As to his own district, with which he was best acquainted, the tenants were intelligent and wealthy, and would not suffer as much as those tenants who resided on clayey lands, who, while equally honest and wealthy, but perhaps less intelligent, would be either swept off the face of the earth, or left to pine in misery. That would be the effect of the grand experiment which had been discovered within the last two or three years—that the bone-crushing experiment, which would drive multitudes of the honest and the industrious to beggary. While he was willing to give much credit to the right hon. Baronet for the success of many of his measures, he could not give him entire credit as regarded the prosperity of the country. There was an hon. Member lately introduced to the House, the Member for Sunderland, who, though not a Minister of the Crown, was the representative of a great system which contributed more to promote a prosperity for which the right hon. Baronet had taken some credit. That great system had circulated 23 millions of money throughout the country, and was the means to give employment to a vast number of the population; and it was a well-established fact that employment always diminished crime—so that those beneficial effects were attributable to the vast amount of money which was put into circulation in consequence of railway works. But the right hon. Baronet alluded to the success of late years, by comparing the tidal wave (the flood-tide) which had taken place since his accession to power with that of former years: in allusion to that fact, he stated that while the exports in 1842 were 47,000,000l. and wheat 52s., in 1844 they were 58,000,000l. and wheat 53s. He would not, however, enter into a comparison with former years except in one instance, and that was the year 1837, when wheat was at 55s. 10d. the quarter, and the exports numbered 42,000,000l.; but in two years after, the exports were 870 53,000,000l., showing an increase of 11,000,000l. between 1837 and 1839—and the price of wheat was 70s. 8d. He would not argue for wheat being 55s. a quarter; let it be as cheap as possible; but whatever its price, let it be of English produce; and he would also say, as regarded protection to agriculture, when the state of affairs would admit of a certain reduction, let it be extended, but to the produce of this country. It had been stated by a noble Lord last night, that the time was arrived to admit foreign corn, because the population outstripped the produce of the country; but so far from that being the case, it would be found that at the commencement of the present century, when the population was not half its present amount, 970 out of every 1,000 were fed on home-grown corn, and not more than thirty out of every 1,000 on foreign. And to take the last five years, or any series of years, it would be found that the production of the soil advanced with the increase of the population. Most cordially did he trust that the right hon. Baronet was right, and he (Mr. Scott) in the wrong. He was quite unable, however, at present, to bring himself to that conviction. He could not go with the right hon. Baronet at this sort of atmospheric railway speed in legislation, and in abandonment of all former declarations. He believed that the present measure would give an impetus to the spirit of revolution, and that it would be so considered by those foreign Powers with whom we might seek to strengthen the bonds of amity. The hon. Member for Finsbury, in speaking of this measure, said, that he valued less the abolition of the Corn Law on its own account, than as leading to ulterior results. And he was right. What reason was there that we should not next see a league against primogeniture, or against the Church? Why not a league against the Protestant succession? He lamented the measure of Her Majesty's Government on account of the consequences that would ensue from it, both at home and abroad, in our Colonies and among foreign Powers. He lamented it because of the effects it would be attended with in Ireland, and also because of the permanent, the irretrievable damage it would cause to the public character of our leading statesmen. An emiment individual once observed that the faults of public men had a double effect—they were committed not only against their own times, but against posterity; for when the evil consequences of their measures had 871 ceased, the consequence of their example still remained. On all these grounds he lamented the measure of the right hon. Gentleman, and felt himself bound by paramount considerations of duty to oppose it.
§ MR. H. G. WARD
said, the hon. Member who had just addressed the House was an exceedingly difficult man to follow. [A laugh.] "Oh, I don't mean difficult in your sense; but in another sense." The hon. Member had declared himself (Mr. Ward continued) counsel for the British Empire, and had taken the whole world within his wanderings; but for argument, one half of the hon. Member's speech might be safely left to dispose of the other. Not a single position had the hon. Gentleman taken up, which he had not effectually demolished in a subsequent sentence; not a single proposition had he announced which he had not contradicted five minutes afterwards. ["No!"] Why, had hon. Members attended to the speech? Had they marked, in the first place, the reproaches with which the hon. Gentleman had assailed the right hon. Baronet for errors, as the hon. Member had called them, which, up to a recent date, he had entirely concurred in? Did hon. Members who sat on the other side agree with the hon. Member in his approbation of the Canada Corn Bill? Why, last year that Bill was to be the inevitable destruction of British agriculture, yet the hon. Member had supported it. The hon. Member had supported every modification contained in the Tariff; and now he talked of the results, of the miserable wretched results, to the hardware and cutlery dealers, and other branches of British industry, of what he called the bone-crushing experiment of the last three years, which, up to the last three months, he had himself concurred in. The hon. Member said he did not contradict himself. Why, in one breath he said there was simply a question of degree in this matter of free trade; and in the next, he declared that free trade was a breach of the Constitution. And after that tedious comparison with which he favoured the House, between the right hon. Baronet and a Counsel retained for a party, what right had he to take offence when the term was retorted upon him, and the right hon. Baronet, with an eye to his inexplicable contradictions, asked him for what party he was engaged? The hon. Gentleman had talked of the devious course of the right hon. Baronet; but it appeared to him (Mr. Ward) that, for the last three years, the course of the Government had been remarkably 872 direct; for no one could doubt the conclusion it would arrive at; and those who supported the measure of 1842 had no sort of right to turn round upon the right hon. Baronet, and complain of a result which they themselves had rendered inevitable. For what had they done in 1842? They had the Government. They were a great party. They had an unassailable majority in that House. They had the game in their own hands. They had appealed to the country in favour of Protection. They beat their opponents. But what then happened? What was the very first step? Why, they admitted the absolute necessity of concession to what the right hon. Baronet now called the voice of truth and reason; and with every concession made, the necessity for their concessions became apparent. It became a mere question of degree as to what point they should stop at. Recollect, too, how the minor interests had been treated in the Tariff. They had been sacrificed. It would not do now, when defeat was staring hon. Gentlemen opposite in the face—[Mr. FERRAND: No, no!] Why, what had the hon. Member done in the West Riding of Yorkshire after all? After the opening speech of the right hon. Baronet, it was notorious that some Gentlemen were found in that House foolish or liberal enough to subscribe their two or three thousand pounds, to contest the West Riding with the noble Lord who had just taken his seat. The hon. Member opposite went into the Riding, and he certainly succeeded in that which appeared to be his peculiar mission—exciting the most hostile feelings between master and workman, and between capital and labour; but his own friends, the Tory manufacturers in the Riding, were so frightened at the doctrines of the hon. Gentleman, that they refused to take part in the contest. [Mr. FERRAND: That is not true!] If that were intended as a personal contradiction, it was not exactly the language which ought to be used in that House. [Mr. FERRAND: No, no!] He had the best authority for what he said; but however that might be, hon. Gentlemen opposite found themselves now in this position, that they were denouncing, as absolute treachery on the part of the Government, a step which was the inevitable result of their own acts; and their own advocates were forced to admit that they only differed from the right hon. Baronet, because he went further than they wished. Even the hon. Member, who had just spoken, admitted that legislation must be progressive, 873 that the laws of England were not immutable; but then he would rather have them altered at the desire of the landlords, than at the demand of the public. The public had waited long enough for the landlords to move on, and it was now time for the people to have something to say in the matter. The hon. Gentleman said, a tax upon corn was liable to be called a tax on bread. How was it possible to make a distinction between them? He had said he would protect corn in moderation; but he had proved that protection was not called for by any bodies or interests which he professed to represent; for he said that in Scotland, where agriculture was well understood, protection was not valued—and that in spite of the hilly and barren soil, the want of roads, of manure, of markets, and of those other facilities which existed in other parts of the country—in spite of the demoralizing measures of the right hon. Baronet, cultivation was still profitably carried on. As to the trash which the hon. Member had quoted in relation to the Colonies, it needed no answer, nor would it be necessary to reply to the absurd circular of Mr. Buchanan; but he would ask how it was possible that we could incur the risk of nine-tenths of the Canada trade being taken from us and going to supply New York, seeing that we now supplied the markets of New York ourselves against all competitors? What amount of the English export trade went to the English Colonies? He did not believe that they took one-fourth of the whole exports of this country. Where were the rest consumed? In the neutral ports, where we had not any advantage, and not the slightest preference over our continental neighbours. He must next go back to the speech of the hon. and gallant Member for Liverpool, who, he regretted to find, had left the House, though having made a very elaborate speech, he must have expected that some remarks would have been made upon what he had stated. The hon. and gallant Gentleman was peculiarly happy in his position, for he said that he had nothing to regret, and nothing to retract, since he had come into Parliament. Few Members in that House could make such a declaration. The town of Liverpool, however, was not so peculiarly happy in her Members at the present moment; for one, the noble Lord (Lord Sandon) found it utterly impossible to make his vote and his speech agree upon this occasion; and the other hon. and gallant Member had connected with the cause 874 of the narrowest and blindest monopoly the greatest commercial town in the Empire. The hon. and gallant Gentleman wished for protection to all; he would give protection to all; and he would give it above all to labour, because it was exposed to the competition of capital at home; but he seemed not to see the reply to his doctrine, in the question—"What would labour do without capital?" They had heard of the competition of flesh and blood with machinery. That had been made the most of in the West Riding by the hon. Member for Knaresborough, who had some extraordinary notions upon this subject; but the working men now scouted such a doctrine—they outstripped their leaders, and went beyond them; but he (Mr. Ward) confessed that he was indeed surprised to hear an hon. Member for Liverpool complain of the competition between English labour and English capital, and ask Parliament to protect labour against capital. Then the hon. Member said that reciprocity was hopeless; that it was all very well to talk about free trade here, but that we could not communicate it to other countries. We had tried negotiations, and we had failed; was it not then advisable to try the effect of example? Had not our trade with France quintupled, notwithstanding the most rigorous and severe restrictions imposed upon our imports? Then, it was asked, what would become of our Colonies, and what would be the effect on British interests in India? The hon. and gallant Member himself admitted, that if the Indian cotton manufacture had been interfered with, the people of India were supplied with cottons from this country, better and cheaper than they could be procured at home; and yet he said that this measure would be the ruin of India. He asked also how the people on the banks of the Ganges could enter into competition with those of other favoured countries? What did the people of the Brazils inherit by way of advantage over those who inhabited the same clime, and had the assistance of British science and British capital? He always thought it had been assumed, during the discussions on the Slavery Emancipation Bill, that free labour was better and cheaper than slave labour. How was it, then, that India could not enter into competition with any other country? The hon. and gallant Gentleman then appealed to the opinions of Mr. Huskisson. No man entertained a greater respect for the name of Mr. Huskisson—no man had a warmer appreciation of the great services he had rendered to his 875 country—than himself; but Mr. Huskisson, like the right hon. Baronet opposite, was obliged during his long career often to make sacrifices to party requirements; and if an appeal were made to the opinions of Mr. Huskisson in 1825, it would be right that an appeal should also be made to his opinions towards the close of his career, when he was free from the trammels of party, and ventured to speak his real sentiments. What did he say towards the close? On the 25th of March, 1830, two years after his sliding-scale had been in operation, and he had seen its defects, he said—It was his unalterable conviction that we could not uphold the Corn Laws now in existence, together with the taxation, and increase the national prosperity, or preserve public contentment. That these laws could be repealed without affecting the landed interest, whilst the people would be relieved from their distress, he never had any doubt whatever.It was easy to complain of bad faith and of the betrayal of constituencies; but the first thing a public man had to do, was to be right; and if he found that he was not right, he ought at once to return to what reason and experience showed to be most conducive to the real interests of the country. There was no question on which a public man had greater justification in exercising his right to change his opinion, than the Corn Laws. It had never been a party question. Many had lived to learn and to benefit by experience. Every day new lights and new facts broke in upon them, and warranted any man in changing his opinion. Mr. Huskisson had changed his opinion. The noble Lord the Member for the city of London had manfully come forward and declared, "What I did twenty years ago, when I was a young and inexperienced man, was erroneous, and I have seen good reason to change my opinions." He (Mr. Ward) himself admitted that the first vote he had given was with the right hon. Baronet the Secretary for the Home Department, in favour of the Corn Laws, and he had only altered his views since he had brought his mind to bear upon the subject, and since he had done what few, perhaps, did, looked honestly and fairly into the question, divested from all class, he would not say interests, for they had not so much effect upon an honest mind, but class prejudices and party ties, which were more difficult to shake off than considerations of personal interests. Men got hampered with party connexions, or they had made some hasty and ill-considered speech at a county meeting, and 876 they thought it only consistent with their honour to adhere to their opinions, till the whole country was united against the obstinate and blundering pursuit of a policy, which was as ruinous to their own interests as it was to those of the Empire. In the course of this debate there had been delivered many very able speeches. A speech had been delivered by the hon. Member for Northamptonshire, which he (Mr. Ward) had cheered as loudly and heard as attentively as any of the hon. Gentlemen on the opposite benches. He had never listened to a speech which pleased him more in point of delivery, tone, and feeling, in fact in everything excepting only the principle upon which it was founded. And yet, take that speech for what it was worth, strip it of its glare and glitter, and what was it? Insignificant beyond the power of language to depict. From first to last it was a petitio principii—from beginning to end a begging of the question. The whole fabric of its argument was constructed upon the absurd assumption, that not only could they, by means of an Act of Parliament, protect one class of men without injuring another, but that they could, through the same magical instrumentality, make every member of the community richer, better, and happier than he was before; and all this without injuring any other created being. If there could be any pretext of common sense or reason for this assumption—if it were indeed true that by an Act of Parliament that House could make men richer, more prosperous, or happier than at present, without working evil to any one—all he could say was, that the Members of that House were the blindest of men, and of all mortals the most neglectful of their high and sacred duties, since instead of wasting night after night in irksome discussion, they had not long ago introduced some such enactment as would have relieved themselves of an infinity of trouble, and put the whole human race in the enjoyment of unbounded felicity. But he denied that there was the slightest foundation in truth for any such assumption. He differed toto cœlo from the hon. Member. He denied that such results could ever flow from the protective system. That system was intolerable and indefensible, unless it could be shown that it was capable of universal application. It would not do to say that beneficial results would be the consequence to a certain class, if the protective system were applied in a particular quarter. 877 Unless it was capable of universal adaptation, it was a nuisance. Small and minute interests must be attended to under that system, as well as great and important ones. If they applied the principle to great interests, they were bound to bring it down to the smallest branches of the most unimportant manufactures. If this could not be done, away with the protective system! It was an absolute nuisance to the community. And who was there would say this could be done? A great injustice had been done to the farming interest when protection was taken off tares and clover-seed, at least so some hon. Gentlemen opposite were heard to say (though, indeed, much work had not been made about the matter); but the farmers themselves appeared to be of a very different opinion; and if he was not very much mistaken, the hon. Baronet opposite (Sir John Tyrrell) was himself present at a meeting in Essex, at which the farmers declared it to be their opinion that the protective duty on seed was, in fact, anything at all but a measure of protection, for that there were ninety-nine farmers who were ready to purchase the seed, for one who was ready to grow it. Unless, therefore, they could adapt their protective system—and that too with equally beneficial effect—to every branch of commerce and agriculture, it was a mockery—a delusion. Their great principle was a great humbug—a specious high-sounding thing, which it was all very well to make eloquent speeches about, but which, in point of fact, could never be worked out, never carried into practical operation. A noble Friend of his—he did not know whether the privilege of calling him friend might still be accorded to him, but he once had the honour of calling him his friend—Lord Dacre, had, at a meeting which was recently held in Hertfordshire, ceded so much to free-trade principles as to advocate the introduction of a description of cattle-food for the benefit of certain feeders; but he (Mr. Ward) would wish to know how that could be done without injury to those who raised that same description of food in Ireland, Scotland, and the north of England? If the measure which the hon. Gentleman the Member for Winchester (Mr. B. Escott) had originated, had been carried, and if maize had been introduced into this country duty free, there would, as a necessary consequence, be a lessened demand for oats and barley; and the farmers of Scotland and of the fens of Lincolnshire would 878 be the sufferers. All other interests might be benefited, but one would receive a great injury. The truth was, they could not work out the principle practically; and any attempt to do it would involve them in a labyrinth from which they would not be able to extricate themselves, even if hon. Members opposite had a Ministry of their own. Were they then to sacrifice to this principle the great interests connected with a large and cheap supply of food for this country? It was said, however, that we could not compete with foreigners, because we were so heavily taxed. This was a question which ought to be approached with peculiar delicacy by hon. Gentlemen opposite. For six years this had been constantly put forward as the reason for refusing a change; and he was now delighted to find, by the votes of another House, that a noble Lord had taken up the subject, and had adopted almost the exact words of his own rejected Motion. A corresponding notice he had given in that House, and for three years successively he had endeavoured to procure an inquiry. If the agricultural interests had any peculiar burdens, they ought to be ashamed if they could not prove them; yet for three years he had given them the opportunity, which they had declined. He had begged them to nominate their own Committee; he had told them that they might even have the hon. and gallant Member for Lincoln (Colonel Sibthorp) as their Chairman, if they so pleased; and that they might examine his witnesses, or he would examine theirs, so that they should arrive at a fair conclusion; but they had declined, and for the best of reasons. They had no case which they could prove before twelve intelligent men, and they would have nothing to do with it. [Sir J. TYRRELL: Hear, hear.] The hon. Baronet who cheered had not voted for it, and he well recollected the last time the subject was discussed the hon. Baronet did him the honour of sleeping through the whole of his speech in the gallery. There was not the least blame in that—it was the best use the hon. Gentleman could make of his time, for it was a very disagreeable subject; he did not know what to say, and so he thought it best to sleep through the whole of it. However, the party disagreed to the appointment of a Committee: they shuffled about, and as a great party they did not do themselves justice; there was much talking and bragging out of the House, but they did nothing in it; there never was a party that so shrunk 879 from a fair inquiry. [Sir J. TYRRELL: Hear, hear.] He supposed by that cheer there was some mystery behind, and that by the hon. Baronet the mystery would be cleared up. The hon. Baronet had at Chelmsford cleared away many mysteries. He had cleared up the mystery of the breaking up of the Cabinet, and had told his friends how all the Ministers voted; and if he could clear up the mystery that night, he trusted the opportunity would not be allowed to pass by. He had certainly assumed that as hon. Gentlemen never had proved their case or attempted it, so they never could. Were they, however, to shrink on grounds such as he had alluded to—grounds so contradictory and so inconsistent—from entertaining—and favourably entertaining he trusted the House would, and as the country had done—the propositions brought forward by Her Majesty's Government. He would give to those propositions his most cordial support as the salvation of the agricultural interest, because he believed the worst thing that could be done would be to leave those Gentlemen to themselves. Nothing could be more fatal than any attempt on their part to go without leading-strings. They never had known—they did not then know—their own interest. They had made the strangest mistakes whenever they had been enabled by courtesy or circumstances to try their hand in the Statute Book. He would not enter into details, but let them take the case of wool. [Mr. W. MILES: Hear.] Would the hon. Member meet him on that ground? [Mr. MILES: I will.] Well, if the hon. Member would meet him, he would state the case of wool. In 1817, he believed the agricultural interest, by way of raising the price of English wool, were induced to lay a duty of 6d. per pound on foreign wool. Would the hon. Member for Somerset deny, that at the end of five years from that time, the price of wool was lower in England than it had been for 200 years before? Would he deny, that when in 1825 the duty was lowered to 1d., the price instantly rose? Would the hon. Member deny, that now that the duty on foreign wool was taken off altogether, and that during the last year alone sixty-nine millions of pounds of foreign wool had been imported, the price of wool here was as high as it had been since the beginning of the present century? How would he meet that case? He should say, that the hon. Gentleman and his Friends were saved by Mr. Huskisson and the right 880 hon. Baronet from the consequences of their own blindness. The agricultural interests imagined that they could monopolize this branch of the market; but they now saw their mistake, and they at last found that their only remedy, their only source of safety, was to throw themselves into the arms of that monster of free trade, in their denunciations of which they were now so vehement. The hon. Member for Northamptonshire had declared that the repeal of the Corn Laws would destroy the tenants of the country. This might be the hon. Member's feeling, and it might be the feeling of many Gentlemen inside that House; but it was not the feeling of the tenant class in this country. That class viewed the quostion in a different light, and did not apprehend any frightful calamities as the consequence of the measure, provided only the landlords would discharge their duty towards them conscientiously, and meet them in a fair spirit. On the contrary, the tenants were most anxious that this question should be set at rest at once. They knew that they would not be able to do anything with their land until this question was settled; and they also knew that it could be only settled in one way. Hon. Gentlemen in "the agricultural interest," as the phrase went, might perhaps by a vexatious opposition delay the consummation of this great question for a few months—perhaps for twelve months; but in the long run they were sure to arrive at a final settlement of the Corn Laws, and that could be only effected by the total and unqualified abrogation of the protective duties. Let the tenants be met in a fair spirit by their landlords, and no evil consequences would be felt. Let the tillage of the land be put on a more rational and equitable basis — let the leases be remodelled, expunging the obsolete terms—and, above all, let not the tenants be obliged to support the game of their landlords (that was one of the burdens upon land), and all would eventually go on prosperously and smoothly. Two or three years of difficulty might perhaps have to be encountered; but had there been no difficulties during the existence of the protective system? Surely it must be admitted by all that difficulties numerous and distressing had resulted from the fluctuation of prices. In the years 1833 and 1835 the agricultural interests were in no very palmy condition. At those periods wheat was 39s. a quarter, notwithstanding that under the law of 1815, 80s. was promised to be insured 881 to the tenant. No doubt it was, as the Member for Northampton had pictured, a sad thing to remove a man from a spot of land to which he and his family were attached. To be sure it was. It was a hard thing for any man to sunder himself from old habits; but was legislation to be carried on under the influence of this feeling? Would they feel equally solicitous and equally tender about the shopkeeper? It was the general good of the entire community that should be regarded. Eventually, however, it would be found that the farmer would, under the new system, be as prosperous as ever. Let a proper relation be established between landlord and tenant; and let no tenant hold more land than he had capital to till, and stock it with, and all would be well. It was a false humanity to permit a feeling of sickly sentimentality of this kind to warp them in the consideration of a great national question, in which the best interests of the Empire were involved. Should not some feeling be evinced for the labouring man, three-fourths of whose yearly income, as had been calculated by the noble Lord the Member for the West Riding of Yorkshire, were absorbed in the purchase of food? They should look to that man, and take care that they did him no injustice. And could any one who heard the speech of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Wilts, the other night, when he said that on his own estates and in his own neighbourhood, whilst wheat was varying from 74s. to 40s., in the last ten years, the wages he paid during that time—and they all knew that the right hon, Gentleman was a man of a kind and liberal heart—were but 8s. or 9s.; could any one who heard that, say that the labourer did not suffer the most from the system of protection? Talk of wages equalizing themselves to the price of provisions! why, when they saw the labourer exposed to the keenest privations under the system of protection, could they turn round and invoke that House to continue those laws, not for the sake of the landlords, but for the sake of the labourers and the tenants? He recollected a passage in the writings of a gentleman who wrote in language peculiarly expressive, in which he called all those fallacies in which public men were in the habit of indulging, "political lies;" and he said that "there never was a lie yet, which was not brought, sooner or later, to Nature's bank for payment." So, too, was it with the lie respecting the 882 protective system. You might "pass it on," as Mr. Carlyle termed it, from rank to rank, so long as you had to deal only with the rich and the powerful; but you come at last to the "dumb, lowest class, which, with spade and mattock on its shoulder, stands face to face with reality, and can pass the lie on no farther." The people now thoroughly understood the protective system; and that they were thoroughly sick of it was attested by the meetings which had been recently held in Wiltshire and elsewhere. The landed Gentlemen had one resource: let them take the path now opened to them; let them look to the great development of the interests of this country, and the consequent increase of employment, as the only thing that would permanently improve the situation of all classes of the population; and when they had ascertained what was the right course to pursue, he hoped that no small or selfish interests would, upon calm consideration, have an influence on the great body of the English gentry now arrayed against these measures. It was a difficult task that they had undertaken, and he was sorry to see them committed to it; for never had an aristocracy stood higher than that of England in public estimation, and he should be grieved to see them forfeit one particle of their position. But when a class, however numerous, however powerful, raised themselves against the interests of a whole community, depend upon it it could not long command either the respect or the sympathy of the people. It was a question involving their personal interests: he said that with reference to himself, for every interest he had was in land; but he gave his support to the policy of his friends behind him, because he saw that it was the irresistible claim of justice. Already some of the brightest ornaments of that House had been driven from it by the honest admission of their altered convictions upon that subject, and others were upon the point of following their example. A noble Lord opposite had told them that his conviction was with them, though he did not think himself at liberty to act up to it. He felt sure, however, that the noble Lord would free himself from the trammels that embarrassed him, and would soon bring his vote and his opinions into unison. Could they honestly maintain a law which, as he thought, had been based upon false principles—upon grounds which they could not work out in detail when they came to try it, and which 883 was utterly at variance with the just demands of the country? He did not believe that they could. The hon. Member for Huntingdon had spoken of a compromise; he appeared to have in his mind some Ministry which was to qualify protection, and adjust this question by some new modification of the tax on food. Perhaps the hon. Member was himself to be a member of this juste milieu Government; but he assured the hon. Member that, so far as the sense of the country went, they thought that the only fault of this great scheme was, that it did not work out its principles far enough. There was no conceivable reason why the duty upon butter and cheese should be reduced one-half, and the duty upon corn taken off altogether; and as to any idea of a compromise, he could assure the hon. Gentleman that the attempt would only serve to protract the struggle, and involve all the interests connected with agriculture in inextricable confusion. There was a very small quantity of wheat now to come in, and delay would deprive them of the opportunity, which perhaps they might never have again, of admitting foreign corn without any check to the agricultural industry of the country. He sincerely trusted, therefore, that the majority with which the measure of the Government would be sanctioned in that House, might be large enough to insure to it such a reception elsewhere, as he was certain it would meet with from the country.
rose as one of that class which, the hon. Gentleman who had just spoken had said, sat there to promote their own interests: he thought that expression harsh, for as he had always done full justice to the opinions of hon. Gentlemen opposite, and thought that they had acted from zealous but mistaken motives, for the good of their country, so did he expect the same consideration in return. This was a great question; and although the hon. Member said that the hon. Member for Roxburghshire had wandered over the world in this discussion, yet when the magnitude of the subject was considered, they could not, in his opinion, look too far afield, or meditate too much upon the injuries likely to be inflicted, not only upon our home produce, but also upon that of our Colonies, and of every place now dependent on us. This was not an agricultural debate, though it had a good deal merged into one; but it was a debate involving every question, and those interests that were most dear to the whole population of the country. Scarcely an interest 884 was left untouched; and it would ill become hon. Members to take up this as an agricultural question, and to contend for what the hon. Member opposite had called their class interest; although he thought that the party opposed to the right hon. Baronet had the good wishes of the great body of the people of England with them. He knew not that the debate could have commenced better than with the speech of the hon. Baronet the Member for Liverpool, followed, as it was, by that of the hon. Member for Roxburghshire, because both touched upon a point of much vital importance, viz., the effect the proposed measures would have on the Colonies; and although they found that the hon. Member for Roxburghshire had supported the right hon. Baronet in his change of the Tariff in 1842, yet he was strenuously opposed to any further change; and, in his opinion, the longer this question was delayed, the longer time that might elapse before these minor interests which were affected were brought under discussion, the more would it appear necessary to oppose the measure as far as they were concerned. He thought the hon. Gentleman who had just spoken had put this question most fairly—that either protection must be defended as a principle, and as applicable to all classes; or if they abandoned it and took it away from one, then all protection must be withdrawn from every branch of our domestic industry. That was the best ground upon which this subject could be debated. The hon. Member for Huntingdon had talked of a compromise. This he (Mr. Miles) could never defend. He thought they must either stand precisely as they did, or must adopt the measure proposed by the right hon. Baronet or the hon. Gentlemen opposite. He conceived that the measures now proposed were brought forward against the experience of centuries; and he had now to ask whether the successful experiment of the short period of the last three years could be taken as an argument for the withdrawal of all protection, against the experience indeed of ages, during which this country had risen to a height of prosperity which no other country had ever yet attained. He would ask those hon. Gentlemen whether we were singular in the adoption of the principle of protection, or whether it was not of universal application? and whether it would not be an act of insanity to withdraw it, and to hope to maintain the artisan and labourer of this country in 885 direct competition with the foreigner? They had indeed but slender hopes that foreign countries would follow the example; since the effect of the Tariff of 1842 had caused several foreign States, instead of lowering, to increase their duties upon our produce. But he would ask them to look at the period at which this question was brought forward. Was it not one of most extraordinary prosperity? Look at the state of the public funds—of the labour market—of manufactures, and of the vast application of capital to commercial enterprise. These at once showed the immense prosperity of the present time, and he thought held up a warning to them not to tamper with their old commercial policy, but to leave well alone, and to be satisfied with that happiness which was now showered upon this country. What, then, was the reason why this measure was undertaken? It appeared to him extraordinary that an affection in one crop should have led to such a change in the minds of public men; for it seemed to him—and he had taken much trouble on the subject—that the fears about the potato crop had been very greatly exaggerated. He had done everything he could to procure returns, and had not been satisfied with his own individual research. But it would be in the recollection of the House that on the first night of the debate, when he thought reflections were cast upon the agricultural body by the noble Lord for not caring for the distress of the poor, he then told him, that, so far from it, very early in November a very large body of agriculturists, at a meeting in London, declared that if famine prevailed in Ireland, they were perfectly willing to throw open the ports. He thought, however, that that was too good an opportunity to lose to endeavour to obtain the very best statistical information in his power; and although he could not effect that in Ireland, he was enabled to do it in England, by means of those societies which were now established throughout the country in connexion with agriculture. Forms containing certain queries which it was advisable to have filled up were sent to each of these societies, and the consequence was that returns were made from twenty-six counties. These returns were signed, in many instances by the churchwardens and overseers of the parishes, and in other cases by individuals competent to supply the required information. Though the returns were not so fully given as they might be, still he was able from them to give such evidence as would dissipate all ideas and fears 886 of a coming scarcity. He had only that morning seen a friend of his, from the county which he had the honour to represent — a large potato grower, who had called upon an extensive potato salesman in the city, as he wished to dispose of his stock. That gentleman found, to his (Mr. Miles's) delight, that potatoes were now decreasing in price, and the salesman told him that if he wished to sell them, he should do so now, for his conviction was that in spring they would be cheaper. That was a statement which he was sure the House would be pleased to hear, as being the opinion of an eminent potato merchant. He would now refer to the returns in the shortest possible manner, and confine himself to as few of the details as was consistent with a fair statement of the case, omitting all allusion to the articles of grass, hay, and clover. The return, he might state, had reference to a breadth of land extending to 1,292,000 acres, and in quoting from it he would confine himself to wheat, barley, oats, and potatoes. Relating to potatoes, his wish was that the information should have been as full as possible. Observations were demanded from each district as to the actual state of the potato crop; and, although the replies were of course various, some stating the loss to be one-third, some one-half, and others having a full crop; yet all concurred, that, though there was disease, the crop was large, in consequence of their having been a greater breadth of land planted with potatoes than usual; and that though this increased breadth planted, did not make up entirely for the failure, yet, that it did so in a great measure, and would much alleviate the pressure that must otherwise have, fallen upon the lower classes. He found, that as to the wheat crop of this year, there was in favour of its being at or above an average crop, 3,092 returns. As to barley, the returns for its being at or above an average crop, were 2,750: below an average, 337; for oats, at or above an average, 2,634: below an average, 260; for beans and peas, at or above an average crop, 2,273; below an average, 466; turnips, &c., above an average, 2,750; below an average, 333; potatoes at or above an average, 1,898; below an average, 1,660. He trusted that so far as they could they had done everything in their power to disabuse the country of the idea that there was any danger of famine; for though the potatoes might have failed to some extent, yet in other kinds of produce there was abundance; and 887 they ought to thank Providence for thus remedying the loss of one article of food, by the abundance of another. But, in looking at this question, he should like as much as possible to follow the two different statements made by the right hon. Gentleman at the head of the Government; and he would make allusion first of all to his speech on the Address, because, with that admirable Parliamentary tact which the right hon. Gentlemen knew so well how to follow, he made that speech just the commencement of the one that afterwards followed, and which now formed the subject of the present debate. In that speech the right hon. Baronet stated that since taxes had been withdrawn from flax, meat, wool, and lard, the prices of those articles had greatly advanced. He would take the case of flax in the first instance. That was an article at one time much cultivated in the county he had the honour to represent; but since the repeal of the duty, the cultivation of flax was almost entirely given over; and such was the case in many other counties of England. It was true that flax was now grown in Ireland; and why? The flax that used to be grown in England was now cultivated there, because the soil was equally propitious for its culture, and the wages of labour were much smaller. He had in his hand a return from four parishes in the county of Somerset, which showed the amount lost by the labouring population from this measure. He would merely take the averages, pointing out what the amount of cultivation in flax was before the diminution of the duty, and what it was at the present time—what was the amount of labour which it called forth, and what the loss had been to the agricultural population by throwing this trade open. These parishes were Chiselborough, Odecomb, and East and West Coker, and the returns were to this effect. The number of acres annually laid down in the cultivation of flax, previous to the withdrawal of protection, and since that occurrence, were as follows:—
The expense of cultivating an acre of flax, dressing and preparing it for the market, was 5l.; and the cultivation of it afforded full labour for a large portion of the year to the whole of the industrial population of 888 these parishes. Since the withdrawal of protection and the abandonment of cultivation the loss to these parishes each year in labour was respectively—
Before. Since. Chiselborough 100 10 Odecomb 100 4 East Coker 150 12 West Coker 360 20 710 46
And all this by the operation of the principle of free trade. He (Mr. Miles) would next come to the subject of meat, regarding which the Member for Newcastle had left out one statement that he wished he had brought before the House. He attributed the high price of meat at the present time to various causes, chiefly to the murrain that had arisen of late years, and to the scarcity of provender and the failure of the green crops that had been experienced in the southern and western counties in 1844 and 1845. Now it was perfectly true that all those causes led to the high prices of meat; but the hon. Member did not follow up the matter sufficiently; he did not state the decrease that had taken place in the supply of Smithfield market—a decrease during the last six months of 1845, as compared with a similar period for the last three weeks of 1844, of 250,000. Nor did he state that there was a weekly decrease in sheep to the extent of 16,000, as compared with last year. All this would account for the high price of meat at the present time. The right hon. Baronet should also recollect that the animals brought into market in 1845 were not half so fat as those produced this year. The want of proper feeding in that and the preceding year lessened the animals in weight from seven to ten stones, and consequently there was a greater consumption of animals without the same quantity of meat as usual having been obtained. He would next come to the subject of wool; but before he did so he would take the liberty of suggesting to Gentlemen on the other side of the House that this article was a proof that the agriculturists could not be fairly charged with opposition to all abolition, even in matters affecting directly their own interests. The manufacturers wished the duty repealed, and the agriculturists, seeing that the import of the short wool from the Continent was advantageous to them, to mix with their own Southdown wool, at once acceded to their demand. The consequence had been a great increase in the amount of wool used by the manufacturers, and the price of the 889 article, from the goodness of trade, necessarily rose. In this case, as he believed it was in all others, the interests of manufacture and agriculture went together; when the one prospered, the other must; when one fell, the other would fall also. As to the subject of lard, it was impossible to state, from the information they possessed, what was the state of the trade; but he believed that when the proper return was before them it would be found that one great reason why the price of lard was so high, was the deficiency in the supply of oil. He felt strongly, and so must the House, that it was the duty of every Minister to promote the welfare, and to ensure the confidence, of all classes—agricultural, commercial, and manufacturing, in this great country; but he would ask if, notwithstanding the prosperity which had existed during the last three years, there was not a feeling in men's minds that they were not safe in the hands of the right hon. Baronet. The changes in the Tariff of 1842 were of such a character that they could not but look for further measures from the right hon. Baronet of a similar description; and it was natural that some degree of uneasiness should be experienced. The right hon. Baronet seemed to treat the home market as nothing: he had allied himself to the manufacturing interest, and would sacrifice our own manufactures to the foreign. He seemed to have thrown overboard the industrious energies of the nation, and left them to competition with the lightly taxed and low paid people of the Continent of Europe, and with the capitalists of the illimitable territory and lightly taxed Continent of America. Were we manufacturers? So were they. Were we producers of food? So were they. Our manufactures were in the greatest state of prosperity, and had reached the highest point of perfection. The skill of our people, it was said, was infinite; but the ingenuity of the mechanic was completely superseding the skill and labour of the artisan. Capital they would find always flowing into any kind of trade in which there was a chance of gain; so that, with capital abundant, and manufacturing ingenuity and skill great, the country might surely become, but for the restrictive policy of other nations, manufacturers for the world. But he would ask them to look at the commercial policy of France, of Russia, and of America. He was sorry to detain the House, but he felt it necessary to trouble them at some length by referring to statistical documents rather than to assertions of his own, in order to 890 make out his case fairly before the House. He begged, in the first place, to call their attention to the commercial policy of France; and he did not think that he could do better than quote from a book which was laid on the Table some time ago—he meant the Report on the Commercial Tariffs and Regulations of the several States of Europe and America, which the hon. Member for Bolton conceived that no one but a free trader ever looked into; but he for one, had certainly perused it, he trusted with some advantage. He found that Mr. Macgregor, in his statement on the commercial policy of France, said—
Chiselborough £1350 Odecomb 1440 East Coker 2070 West Coker 5100 Total 9960The soil and climate of France are adapted to the growth in perfection of almost every agricultural protection. All descriptions of corn, vegetables, and most fruits are, grown. Flax, hemp, oleaginous seeds, beetroot, various grasses, and plants yielding dyes, are cultivated extensively. The olive, the mulberry-tree, the rice, maize, wheat, and the potato, all find a natural soil, and flourish in this universally favoured country.France, of all countries in Europe, should produce so cheaply as to have no pretence for restricting the importation of foreign corn. Notwithstanding this undoubted fact, a Committee of the Deputies reported, in 1842, that—If we admitted the food and raiment and victuals, and colonial and other objects, which strangers would bring to our ports, we might, probably, gain some hundreds of millions. Should we be the richer in consequence? For the riches of a State are in the elements of labour, and when labour fails to find employment, misery is reproduced. And it is not only a question of comfort, but one of existence; for if wheat were introduced without duty from the Baltic or Black Sea, our Mauritius shores would remain uncultivated, and the effect of a ruinous competition would affect more and more nearly the whole of our agricultural population.Again, Mr. Macgregor says with respect to Russia—Russia may be said to prohibit the importation of every material like those which can be drawn by the labour of her serfs from her mines and forests; and of every foreign manufactured article, in order that the labour of their serfs, with the aid of machinery either imported or made in the country, and directed by skilful foreign artisans, shall be made to produce articles either similar to, or that may be substituted for, those of foreign manufacture.But what is the case with regard to manufactured goods? Is it not notorious that in common cotton goods, foreigners can successfully compete with us in neutral markets; and what then would be the result were they to be fully admitted into the home market? It should be remembered also that these foreign nations produce food as well as we do. But what was the 891 difference between them and this country? Our territory was limited, while the whole world, which was proposed to be thrown open to compete with it, was illimitable. He requested the House to bear in mind also the industrial skill which was daily developing itself in the agricultural districts, and which was going on to such an extent as to show that the remark of the right hon. Baronet Sir R. Peel, on the first night of the Session, viz.—that agriculture was yet in its infancy, was not borne out by facts; for to a casual observer it must be apparent that in the north, south, east, and west, within the last few years, a better system of husbandry had been gradually introduced; science and capital had been brought to bear upon the soil, which was now bringing forth fruits which showed that, with the increase of the population, increased crops had been produced to keep pace with it. But let them look at foreign nations, and what was their state? If they looked at Poland and Russia, they would find them almost uncultivated, without capital, and the serfs in the most abject condition, meanly clothed and badly fed; and here was a measure the effect of which was to encourage those countries to compete with us in our own markets, and to enrich them, and in the same proportion to impoverish us. Let them look, however, to what was laid down by Adam Smith on the subject—an authority always quoted on the other side when it served their purpose, but which when it did not was treated as an old almanac. He begged, therefore, to press that authority into his service, at any rate in this argument as to the relative position of the home and foreign market and the advantages to be derived from the former. But before reading the extract, he begged to express his astonishment at the remarks which fell from the right hon. Baronet the Home Secretary, in reply to the admirable speech of the hon. Member for Northamptonshire, who stated the difficulties in which the coachmakers, the papermakers, the shoemakers, and other traders, would be placed by the general importation of Brussels coaches, Parisian boots and shoes, and Saxon cloths; and he stated, that inasmuch as we did this, we should naturally throw the labour of our own people out of the market, unless the population was so great, or the demand so great, as to consume not only the produce of our own manufactures, but likewise that of other countries, with which we should be deluged. The right hon. Baronet talked of exchange; no doubt there would be exchange, but it 892 was an exchange which was not equally beneficial for English capital as for foreign goods; for if the transaction took place between an English gentleman and an English coachmaker, two capitals were reproduced, and the whole benefit accrued to England. But to revert to the quotation he was about to make from Adam Smith. That eminent authority says—The capital employed in the home trade of any country will generally give encouragement and support to a greater quantity of productive labour in that country, and increase the value of its annual produce, more than an equal capital employed in the foreign trade of consumption; and the capital employed in this latter trade has in both these respects a still greater advantage over an equal capital employed in the carrying trade.If he wanted any argument to support the cause which he advocated, he thought the statement made by Adam Smith was sufficient. He would now quote from memory the language of Mr. Gregg, of Manchester, who he believed, was a member of the League, as to the competition of foreign goods with our own in neutral markets. That Gentleman said, that the coarse cottons of Switzerland, the hardware of some parts of Germany, and the woollens of Saxony, were preferred to English produce in several foreign markets. He said also that Saxon hosiery, on which there was a duty of 20 per cent., successfully competed in our home market with the produce of our manufacturers. But if this duty was reduced 10 per cent. as proposed, he would just ask how our manufacturers could meet the competition? It could only be met in two ways: first, either by the improvement of machinery superseding manual labour—which improvements, Saxony, in the course of two or three years, would get possession of, and then by the aid of her lower wages be enabled to drive the manufacturer here out of his own market; or, in the second place, by the eventual reduction of the British labourers' wages. If there was any other way to meet the difficulty, he should be glad to have it shown. He had yet to learn there was any other way. He would ask them to look at the contests between master manufacturers and the labourers continually going on—the trades' unions, the strikes for wages—and then to say, if manufacturers desired to keep their profits, must they not do it by lowering the wages of the labourer? It was the determination on the part of the workmen not to submit to lower wages—that caused the contests and the strikes which occurred. A constant contest was waging between 893 labourers and employers; and he must say, that he found the price of labour eventually fell in these contests. He would now beg to direct the attention of the House to the arguments of the right hon. Baronet, founded on the amount of exports, taking three years of very great plenty, and then the three preceding years, which were adverse years; and founding thereupon an advantageous comparison. It struck him, however, that if he went back a little further than did the right hon. Baronet, when he made his statement; and if he adopted, with the triennial calculations of the right hon. Baronet, a cycle of twelve years divided into triennial averages, it would be found that the price of corn had nothing whatever to do with the amount of exports. He found, that though there was, on the whole period of twelve years, an increase in trade, yet that particular years exhibited a decrease as compared with each other. He did not find that the price of corn was affected in a simultaneous way. But, with the leave of the House, he would take the triennial calculations, and he would begin with 1834. In 1834, the average prices of wheat were 46s., the exports were 41,000,000l.; in 1835, wheat was 39s., the exports 47,000,000l.; in 1836, wheat was 48s. 9d., and the exports 47,000,000l.; so that he found the average prices of wheat were 44s. 8d., while he found the triennial average of exports to be 45,000,000l. And then, going into the next years, they would perceive, in 1837, that the average price of corn was 45s. 9d., the exports being 53,000,000l.; in the next year the average price of corn was 45s. 1d., the exports then being 42,000,000l.; in 1839, the average price of corn was 70s. 5d., and the exports were 50,000,000l., which made the average price of corn during that triennial period 63s. 9d., and the average amount of exports 48,000,000l. Then, going further into the years 1840, 1841, and 1842; in the first year, the average price of corn was 66s. 3d., whereas the exports were only 53,000,000l.; in the next year, the average price of corn was 64s. 3d., while the exports were 51,000,000l.; in 1842, the price of corn was 70s. 3d., the average amount of exports being 47,000,000l.; and they would from this see, that during this other triennial period the average exports were 50,000,000l., the average price of com appearing at 62s. 7d. And, taking the last years according to the figures furnished by the right hon. Baronet himself; 894 in 1843, the average price of corn was 50s. 1d., and the average amount of exports 52,000,000l.; in 1844, corn was at 51s. 3d., while the average exports were 58,000,000l.; in 1845, for which year there was an absence of any authentic calculations, they had wheat at 52s., and they had no falling-off, according to the right hon. Baronet's calculations, for the exports were 58,000,000l.; so that for this period the exports appeared as 56,000,000l., with an average price of corn of about 51s. They, therefore, found the exports gradually but progressively increasing; while they, in the same ratio, found the price of corn decreasing; they would find that the price of corn had no relative affinity whatever to the amount of exports; and they could not but come to the conclusion, so far as their exports in the foreign trade were concerned, that there naturally depended on the demand and supply, the prices of corn being no ingredient. From the consideration of this subject, he was led into the inquiry as to what was in reality the cause of our prosperity—an inquiry which had been already alluded to by several hon. Members. There would have been less difficulty in answering the question if the right hon. Baronet had been good enough to give to the country his speech on the second, instead of, as had been the case, on the first night of the Session; the people of the country would then have been able to distinguish what the prosperity consisted of. On the second night, as would be in the recollection of the House, the right hon. Baronet brought forward the question of railways; he then gave to them the number of Bills that were passed, the estimated expenses for the formation and completion of those railways; and he then made an assertion, which could not be controverted, that, computing each line to take three years in completing, during that period upwards of 23,000,000l. sterling, which had been before locked up, would be thrown directly into the labour market. Now, he (Mr. Miles) would leave it to a discerning public to judge which had been the greatest benefit to the country—the foreign trade so much upheld by the right hon. Baronet, or the expenditure of that immense mass of capital thus set afloat in the country and into the market, by railway construction. It was, therefore, palpable that that extraordinary prosperity made so much of by the right hon. Baronet, was to be attributed in a great measure, if not entirely, 895 to the capital let loose in the way he had mentioned. Under such circumstances, not only was there a greater demand, and a greater stimulus given to the supply of the common necessaries of life, but likewise a greatly increased consumption of what were termed common luxuries. In connexion with the railways being formed, an unprecedented prosperity, sudden in its origin, but lasting in its effects, had taken place in the iron trade. He held in his hand a document which showed, by the convincing aid of figures, the extraordinary depression in that trade in 1842; and showed further, the still more remarkable progress in prosperity and profits, not only with the ironmasters, but in the wages and the condition of the miners. In 1842 common bar-iron was quoted at from 4l. 10s. to 5l. per ton; in 1845 the same iron was quoted at 9l. to 9l. 10s. In 1842 the workmen were but half employed, and half the works were standing, the colliers getting 2s. per day, and having only in the week three days' work; in 1846 the colliers had 3s. 6d. a day, daily, for ten hours' work; in 1842, the miners' wages were 5s. 6d. per ton, and in 1846 they were 10s. 6d. per ton. In the latter period all the works were in full work, new works were being erected on all sides, shafts being sunk for coal and iron stone—workmen not to be had, and, for that reason, the masters at their mercy; so that if it were necessary to increase the supply it would be sinews rather than money which would be found to be wanting; consequently, it would not be possible to find iron for foreign demand. The masters were full of engagements, which would last for three years, with prices varying from 10l. to 13l. 10s. a ton, while in 1842 they made and sold at 5l. 5s., the delivery costing 10s. per ton. These were facts which would at once show the activity created by the capital alluded to being thus thrown into the labour market, and the benefit derived was strictly a home benefit, for it was known seven-eighths of the iron trade came into the British market. And how that activity had told upon the different articles of food and the different articles of consumption was shown by the circulars emanating from parties engaged in the several trades, and particularly by a circular relative to the fruit trade, and which he now held in his hand. It referred to the peculiar prosperity so often spoken of, experienced in the fruit as in every other trade, and stated that, although a continuance of prosperity to manufactures would 896 not alone secure such a result, a valuable and numerous class of consumers had presented themselves in the persons employed, in various ways, in the constructing of railways: these were a new class of consumers, having liberal wages, by those wages being enabled to indulge in luxuries beyond the reach of the agricultural labourer and the ordinary artisan, and at all times uninfluenced by the fluctuations to which these others were exposed of trade and of the seasons. He trusted that he had succeeded by evidence in proving his assertion as to the original cause of the recent progress in every branch of industry and of the country, and he would, therefore, now ask the public to pause before they gave in their support to the new measures of the right hon. Baronet, if, unaware of the truth, they deemed that their past fortunes were to be ascribed to the adoption of his similar preceding measures. He would also ask whether the state of the foreign markets was in so favourable a condition as represented? He would ask whether China was not overstocked, and all English manufactures there selling at below prime cost? and he would further ask if the Indian market was not in precisely the same situation? And it appeared to him that, if forgetting the experience of the past, they went on in England manufacturing in the same ratio, there would come about one of those cycles in the history of commerce which gradually, progressively, and more or less intensely, had, at certain times, overtaken, and, in overtaking, had ruined many manufacturers. It was an inevitable consequence, for overproduction in the present manufacturing system necessarily followed on an insane and uncalculating competition; depending as the manufacturers did on the action of machinery so scientifically applied, and so extraordinary in its result. With the permission of the House he would now, as briefly as he possibly could, make some allusions to the case of the agriculturists. In the first place, glancing at the Corn Law of 1842, he would ask, of what had they to complain? He had supported the right hon. Baronet in that measure, because he believed it to have been an improvement, with respect to the manner of taking the corn averages, on the law of 1828. Under the existing law, the return of consumption had been increased, because 130 additional towns had been added to the list from which the average was computed. A much greater quantity of corn would thus appear to be consumed; and the averages were consequently 897 kept in a more just and regular way. The right hon. Baronet the Secretary of State for the Home Department founded his opinion in reference to the relative prices of bread and wheat on the state of the London market. He had on more than one occasion endeavoured to draw the attention of the House to that subject, and to show that in the metropolis the prices of bread and flour bore no relative proportion whatever to the price of wheat; and that if blame were to be attached to any individuals for enhancing the price of food it was not to the farmer, but to the baker and miller. He recollected deducing a proof in support of this proposition from the comparative prices of bread and wheat in Paris. He showed that the prices of bread and flour in the Parisian market were much more nearly allied to the price of wheat than was the case in the British metropolis. As another instance of this fact he would beg to refer to the prices current in November last. On the first of that month the price of wheat was 62s., according to the averages—that was the sum claimed by the farmer; but at that very time the loaf of bread was, he was sorry to say, charged to the consumer at 10d. He had gone through a vast number of calculations, and he could assure the House that it was not only his own opinion, but the opinion of other persons competent to judge, that when the price of wheat averaged 62s., the price of bread, allowing a fair profit both to the miller and the baker, and also allowing for the chance of bad debts, ought to be no more than 7d. Therefore any blame in this matter should not rest with the farmer or the Corn Laws. His hon. Friend the Member for Warwickshire had put a question to the right hon. Baronet at the head of Her Majesty's Government, which he certainly thought had been answered in a most extraordinary manner. The question was whether he had calculated what the price of corn would be under the free-trade system; and the right hon. Baronet replied that that would depend on the seasons. That, indeed, would be the case, if they had only the climate of their own country to depend on. But when they recollected that they were hereafter to raise their supply of corn from the whole world, and when they bore in mind the various atmospheric peculiarities of different continents, it was evident that that answer was absurd. He trusted that the right hon. Baronet, who had proved himself to be so good a calculator with regard to the Corn Law of 898 1842, would endeavour to inform them of the probable prices, at least for the years 1849 and 1850. So true had been his calculations in 1842, that, ever since, prices had literally ranged between the two points upon which he had fixed; and, therefore, he thought they had a right to demand a similar prophecy from the right hon. Baronet on the present occasion. The proposed measure would seem to unite the different plans of both the right hon. Baronet and the noble Lord the Member for London; and, considering all they had heard about letters and interviews between these distinguished individuals on a late occasion—[An hon. MEMBER: There were no letters.] He might have been wrong in mentioning letters: he should have said, communications; but, considering all that had passed on that occasion, it was not too much to suppose that a sort of compromise had been entered into, and that one party expressed a willingness, if half the sliding-scale were continued, to adopt half of the noble Lord's fixed duty. Thus it was that they were to have a 10s. duty when corn averaged a certain amount; and that the scale was then to descend to 4s., or to half the former proposition of the noble Lord, from which, at the end of three years, it was to sink down to 1s., or a mere nominal duty. Now, on the part of the agriculturists, he would say this—he was not going to desert his principles; he would oppose the plan of the right hon. Baronet, and he would also oppose that of the noble Lord—that is, if the noble Lord showed fight, and persevered in pressing his view of the question; but from what had occurred some nights ago, when the noble Lord made his speech on the subject, he (Mr. Miles) very much doubted whether it was the noble Lord's intention to bring forward any Amendment for an immediate repeal of the Corn Laws. If, however, the question to be decided were between the proposition for immediate repeal and that of the right hon. Baronet, he would himself, and so, he had no doubt, would a large number of his hon. Friends behind him, feel it a duty to oppose both propositions. But at the same time he should say, on the part of the farmers, that in his mind the proposition of the noble Lord would be infinitely the better of the two. And he would tell them why. There was no chance whatever of any large access of corn into this market for the present year, neither was there any probability of any great surplus being available after the next harvest; because spring 899 wheat was not grown in Germany, nor in most parts of the Continent, and the usual crop had been sown in autumn last, which would come into consumption early in 1847. Therefore, no preparation was made for any unusual supply of the British market in foreign countries, because the plan of the right hon. Baronet was not known when the crop had been put into the ground. As far as 1847 was concerned, there would thus be no fresh land put into cultivation; neither could there be any extensive system of warehousing, both of which undoubtedly would be attempted by capitalists prior to the removal of all duty in 1849. Therefore, though much misery and wretchedness would inevitably be the lot of the agricultural popula-lation in this country, as the consequence of the transition—and in fact, the noble Lord the Member for the city of London had himself admitted that a transition could not take place without producing that misery and wretchedness—still, it was his conviction that less misery and less suffering would result from the proposition of the noble Lord, than must emanate from the measure of the right hon. Baronet. He would not go into the questions of local burdens. The returns moved for by the hon. Member for Sheffield, would, it was said, be of the fullest possible nature; and all he would say on the subject was, that he was ready to become a Member of any Committee that might be appointed to investigate those returns. With regard to the poor rates, they might not appear so hard when the Bill of the right hon. Baronet the Secretary of State for the Home Department would come into operation; because, under that Bill, what was refused as an act of justice, was proposed to be done as an act of compensation; He alluded to the proposal for giving a claim for relief to every person having an industrial residence of five years. But would not the other local charges be still severely felt? He would take the instance of an acre of land cultivated under the four-course system. A farm consisting of three-fourths arable, and one-fourth pasture land, would require, to be cultivated according to this system, at an average of from 30s. to 35s. an acre for labour. To that were to be added poor rates, highway rate, and church rate, making together from 4s. to 4s. 6d. per acre, which, added to the cost for labour, would give an average of 37s. an acre; and to what extent was it proposed that this charge was to be reduced? He had been astonished to hear the argument 900 of the right hon. Gentleman the Secretary at War, and confessed he could not understand his reasoning. That right hon. Gentleman had said we could not get a large quantity of corn from America, because the population there was large. This was one reason why they could send us large quantities; and as the population of America increased, they would be enabled to ship to this country such enormous masses of corn as would entirely overwhelm the production of Great Britain. But there was one part of the speech of the right hon. Baronet to which he wished particularly to refer, and more especially because they had been so many years his assistants in political life. He had said that this was a time for the agriculturists to lay aside all fears from foreign competition. Now, when he read an extract from what he held in his hand of the agricultural capabilities of America, he thought that would fully show that their alarm was not without some just cause. It was not alone to the quantity of corn now grown in that country that they should look. The cultivation of the teeming and fruitful land of the United States was rapidly advancing—the population was increasing at the most extraordinary rate, and that population, active and industrious, occupied a vast and boundless territory, containing some of the richest land in the world. They only wanted a profitable market for the excess of their produce to raise an infinitely greater quantity of grain than they had hitherto grown; and he had no doubt but that in a few years they would be found to throw in a mass of corn into this country which would completely overwhelm the British farmer. Passing aside all the corn that would come by the lakes and canals, and find its way to New York and other ports, he would instance the case of New Orleans alone. The products of nine vast States all went down by the Mississippi and its tributary streams to that port, and some idea of the vast quantities of grain that might be expected from thence could be formed from the fact, that while the whole area of the British islands amounted to 119,000 square miles, the superficies of those States which looked to New Orleans as an outport, contained no less than 450,000 square miles, inhabited by a population of 5,500,000 persons. He would ask any man who had been in America, or who knew these facts, whether the agriculturists of this country were not justified in looking with alarm to the immense import of corn which might be expected 901 from that quarter. Then there was Russia, too—a country whose capabilities were not well known, from which the competition with the agriculture of this country would be very great. He would trouble the House with a few statistical documents which he had prepared on this subject, showing the agricultural capacities of that great empire:—That part of Russia," said the Report compiled from the consular returns, "which lies west of the Ural Mountains, presents an immense plain, declining westward by an easy descent. This vast plain has a great variety of climates, soils, and
|* AGRICULTURE AND AGRICULTURAL PRODUCTIONS OF THE RUSSIAN EMPIRE.
|Name of Province.
|Good, generally fertile.
|Not adapted for growth of corn.
|Polish Provinces. (Exclusive of the Kingdom)
|Alluvial and sandy.
|Generally very fertile.
|Voroneje or Woronetz (18)
§ (1) 10,000,000 acres more are computed as re-claimable for agriculture and pasture.
§ (2) More grain, chiefly rye, barley, and oats, is raised than is sufficient for this thinly peopled province. The annual produce is about 3,500,000 chetwerts, of which upwards of 1,000,000 may be exported.
§ (3) Produces more corn, chiefly rye, than is sufficient for home consumption. Hemp, flax, tobacco, and hops, are cultivated.
§ (3) Agriculture the principal occupation of the people, especially along the banks of the large and navigable rivers. Average crops of corn are more than the usual consumption of the people.
§ (5) Agriculture is, however, the chief employment of the people, and they raise more corn than is sufficient for their own consumption.
§ (6) Principal agricultural product is rye, about 6,825,000 hectolitres are said to be produced annually:902
§ products. Its northern part, which declines towards the White and Frozen Seas, is covered with forests and marshes, and is but little fit for cultivation. The more southerly portion of this great plain includes the whole region along the Wolga, as far as the steppes or deserts between the Caspian and the Sea of Azof, and constitutes the most fertile part of Russia; generally, it has a productive soil, the arable and meadow lands exceeding the woods, marshes, and heaths."
§ [The hon. Member also read and referred to the document placed below*.] He would state to the House the capabilities of Tamboff. [Laughter.] He had no desire or intention to exaggerate the resources of Tamboof,
§ a third part of which is exported. Flax, hemp, and hops are grown in considerable quantities; exports consist of corn, flour, cattle, and wool.
§ (7) Though one of the poorest and worst cultivated parts of the empire, Minsk produces more corn, principally rye, than is required for home consumption. Hemp and flax are important products, as are potash and tar.
§ (8) Though agriculture is extremely backward, nearly 4,000,000 quarters of corn are annually grown, a quantity considerably exceeding the home demand. Rye, barley, oats, hemp, and flax, principal products; and in the gardens, hops, pulse, &c.
§ (9) Notwithstanding the soil is of medium fertility, and agriculture in a very backward state, more corn is produced than is required for consumption.903
§ and he could most sincerely state that his sole object was to put the House in possession of the best information. Tamboff, which embraced twenty-five millions of square miles—[Laughter.] He did not at all wonder at the laughter of the House, because it almost seemed an impossibility. He meant to say, not twenty-five millions of square miles, but twenty-five thousand. That, then, was the area; and even at the estimate of Mr. Macgregor the produce of it might be taken at twelve millions of bushels. These were no quotations of his. They were put before the country in a statistical work of authority to which all might refer; and if the hon. Member for Northamptonshire had found that in it even addition and subtraction were not understood, he could not be responsible for the information in these statistics not being comprehended. He had merely given the results as he had found them stated. He had stated the actual produce of the Russian and Polish provinces. [Laughter.] All he could say was, that there was an immense acreage in those provinces; they were known for their fine loamy rich soil, and for their vast production. He would now proceed to another district. The hon. Member referred to the capabilities of Novogorod and other Russian provinces, and said that the progress of Russia in agricultural production had been more extraordinary than that of North America. He would now mention the area of these different provinces. Upon a small computation, they produced quantities of corn a great deal too large for their own consumption; and he found that their fertile lands included an area of 911,186 square miles. He had thought it necessary to give as full an answer as possible
§ (10) All sorts of corn are produced, but principally rye, barley, and oats.
§ (11) Agriculture is almost the only employment of the people, and considerable quantities of corn (especially rye and wheat), with linseed, hops, and timber, are sent to Dantzic and Elbing.
§ (12) Produces, on an average, a considerable surplus of corn above the consumption.
§ (13) This and the surrounding governments constitute what may be called the granary of Russia. It is one of the best cultivated districts of the empire. The return of the corn crops is said to be as six to one, the total produce being about 6,506,000 chetwerts, of which about 1,500,000 are exported.
§ (14) Though agriculture be very indifferent, the soil is described as so fertile that the return in most sorts of grain is said to be 6 to 1.
§ (15) All sorts of corn are raised, produce in ordinary904
§ to the assertion of the right hon. Gentleman the Secretary at War (Mr. Sidney Herbert) of the needless alarm which he said was spreading through the agricultural ranks. He thought he had shown that immediately the markets of this country were thrown open to the different nations of the Continent, in that instant would all these vast and productive lands be cultivated; and by just so much as they were cultivated, would the fair lands of our own country be neglected. He could not conceive a prospect more dismal. He could not conceive anything more disheartening. Yet they were still told "cultivate, cultivate." "Spend more capital," it was said; "bring out more produce." But what was to be the result? When they had perilled their capital—when they had employed their labourers, and when the industrious peasantry had done everything to insure abundant crops, then would rush in all those millions of quarters from abroad, our markets would be immediately paralysed, and it would be found that our farms had been cultivated at a ruinous price. These were his reasons, on the part of the agricultural interest, for opposing the measures of Her Majesty's Ministers. It had been held as sound doctrine by political economists, and by the President of the United States, even with the boundless territory of that country, that it was of the utmost importance to obtain your own supplies of food from your own fields. He believed that by the proposed measure they would so alarm the country that not only would they paralyse the efforts of the farmer, but, as he had often before stated in that House, they would being irremediable distress on a large portion of the labouring population. Distress among the agricultural classes spread in exactly the
§ years amounting to about 5,000,000 chetwerts, of which 1,000,000 are exported. Hops and potatoes also grown.
§ (16) Climate healthy and mild enough for the vine and mulberry to flourish in the open air. Corn is produced in abundance; the produce of wheat in 1820 was estimated at 6,000,000 chetwerts, a quantity exceeding the home consumption by one-third.
§ (17) Produces a surplus of rye and some good wheat over the consumption of the inhabitants.
§ (18) Probably the most productive government in Russia. It is stated that a good crop of corn of all kinds will yield about 1,000,000 quarters over the consumption of the inhabitants. Wheat, rye, barley, peas, beans, poppies, tobacco, hemp, flax, apples, cherries, melons, are all grown.
§ (19) Agriculture is in a barbarous state; yet Hassel states that wheat and rye yield 9 to 1.905
§ inverse ratio of that which might be desired; for, instead of the landlord being the first to suffer, the tenant nest, and the labourer last, the labourer, in times of adversity, was sure to feel the first access of an unfavourable change, the smaller tenant next, and the landlord last. And let them recollect how numerous were the small tenants at present in this country. Let them recollect that they were much more numerous than farmers of capital; and that the position of the small tenant was a stepping-stone for the industrious labourer to more prosperous circumstances. That they would, by adopting the Government proposal, destroy that class, he could not entertain the slightest doubt. They might also depend upon it, that as they reduced the profits of the farmer, so would they reduce the wages of the labourer. The wages of the labourer were paid every Saturday night; and if they diminished the profits of the farmer, the wages paid by the farmer would of necessity be proportionably depressed; so that the very persons who were the least able to bear the evil would feel the first shock of distress. He would not trespass much longer on their time; he should have other opportunities of stating his views upon the question; but he could not help then adding, that he hoped and trusted that although the agricultural party were deprived of a leader, there existed among them sufficient talent to defend their own cause, although it might have become somewhat rusted from want of use. He believed that not only the farmers, but likewise the operatives, and the smaller tradesmen, were beginning to feel that in the maintenance of the protective system their best interests were involved. He would himself have to present a petition from the spirit-dealers of Scotland in reprobation of the right hon. Baronet's measure. There would be plenty of time and opportunity for him to say more on the subject; and after having so long detained the House, he would no longer trespass upon its attention; but he would say that this was a melancholy issue of all their battles, from 1835 up to the time when the right hon. Baronet had gained a majority. He was the last man in the world to accuse the right hon. Baronet of changing his opinions. Every man had a right to change for good and sufficient reasons; but he (Mr. Miles) had dared the right hon. Baronet to the issue of an appeal to the country. Whatever right hon. and hon. Members might 906 do, he was convinced the country was not prepared for these changes. He told the right hon. Baronet, moreover, that instead of gaining adherents, he was losing supporters. He told him, besides, that many of our trades were beginning to look with some degree of apprehension how their interests would be affected by these free-trade measures; and it was not impossible that petitions against the proposed Tariff would be laid upon the Table, long before it was carried through that House. Of this he was sure, that the operatives and the labourers, if they understood their own interests, would one and all rise against the proposition of the right hon. Baronet; for if any measure was likely to reduce their wages, that propounded by the right hon. Baronet was the very scheme. It might not, indeed, have that effect at first, nor for a time, but that would be the result. The right hon. Baronet, with his comprehensive mind, must surely have looked a little into the future as to the issues of his measure; and was it likely there would be a cessation of competition on the part of foreign countries? What then would become of the classes he had spoken of at the end of two or three years, when every duty was taken off, because he held there must be free trade in every thing, or in nothing? As to the manufactures retaining a protection of 10 per cent. upon their products after the Corn Laws were repealed, the idea was ridiculous. Her Majesty's Ministers might rely upon it they would eventually see not only the body of the people, the great consumers, but the great producers, rising up against them, and with curses execrating the time when a free-trade Minister first sat upon the Ministerial bench. He, for one, was ready, and had always been willing, to take his share in obtaining all reductions of duty; and he would never endeavour, should the present measure be passed, to excite discontent in the people against the right hon. Baronet, because he believed him to be actuated by conscientious motives. He believed that the right hon. Baronet acted from conscientious and honest motives; but he, nevertheless, believed that the course of policy which he hod adopted was perilous to the kingdom, and if he wanted a proof of the correctness of that opinion, he could refer to the speech of the noble Lord the Member for Liverpool. He had no doubt that if the people spoke out on this subject, and if there were a majority of fifty in the House of Commons, he had yet to learn that a Ministry—and a capable 907 Ministry—might not be formed on the principles of protection. He had always noticed the minds of politicians so framed, that when the people decidedly took any particular side, there was an efficient Ministry always to be found to support that view; and he therefore thought that if the people expressed themselves on this point so as to secure a proper majority in the House of Commons, a Ministry such as he had described, might be formed without that truckling between Ministers and Opposition, and that worst of all subterfuges, opposing a measure in terms, and supporting it by votes. Whatever might eventually become of that question, there was one fact of which every one must now be convinced; namely, that all those who wished their interests to be protected or defended, might look up for co-operation and assistance to those who were arrayed in opposition to the right hon. Baronet at the head of the Government. They would, he could assure those parties, stand by the protection of native industry so long as they continued in that House; they would, while they retained their seats, maintain in that House, by their votes, the principles of protection to agriculture, and not to agriculture alone, but to every other branch of native industrial exertion. He felt that in all he had said on that occasion, the county constituencies perfectly agreed with him—they had returned a majority to Parliament against the free-trade measures of the noble Lord the Member for the city of London; and they now saw in the same Parliament a measure brought forward to abolish the protection which agriculture enjoyed, whilst they had it intimated that the changes were not to stop there, but that the duties on sugar and timber were also to be obliterated. Could they, after such statements, ever again give their confidence to the right hon. Baronet, who had betrayed their interests, or at any rate the interests of a majority of that House? Should they not always look in future with suspicion on those who, from their intelligence, and capacity, and power of debating in Parliament, ought to stand at the head of that party? He could not conclude without stating that he admired the bold, the manly, and the upright bearing of the noble Lord the Member for London, and would much rather give such conduct his approbation, than blindly follow the steps of a cautious and temporizing Minister.
MR. H. BAILLIE
said, the hon. Member for Somersetshire (Mr. W. Miles) had wholly misrepresented what fell from him 908 on a former evening. What he had said on the occasion referred to, was, that he would support the right hon. Baronet's measure, because it would be most injurious to the best interests of the country to protract a struggle in which the interests of the people were opposed to those of the landed gentry.
§ MR. W. MILES
expressed his regret that he had put an erroneous construction on the hon. Gentleman's observations.
§ On the Speaker putting the Question of Adjournment,
§ LORD NORTHLAND
rose amidst loud cries of "Adjourn." He wished to offer a few observations to the House, and though the question was not likely to come to an issue that night, he felt it his imperative duty to address them, in consequence of the few observations he felt it his duty to make on the first night of the Session; and he felt that he was not likely to find a more convenient opportunity than the present in order to state the reasons for the course which he intended to pursue. His opinions were unchanged; he still thought that the measures proposed by the right hon. Baronet were unnecessary; but he agreed with his hon. Friend the Member for Inverness-shire, and the noble Lord the Member for Liverpool, that it was necessary for them to look before them. It must be evident to the House and to the country, that the Corn Laws were doomed—the fatal day might, perhaps, be postponed; but if it was, he feared that the agricultural interest might not be able to find at a future period so satisfactory an adjustment as was now offered to them. A crisis had arrived, and he felt that it was for the interests of the farmers of England, as well as for the interests of the landowners of England, that this momentous question should now be finally settled as speedily as possible. He had not come to this conclusion without due consideration. He had been led somewhat hastily to give an opinion on the first night of the Session. He would not say his opinions were changed; but he wished to state his reason for the vote he was about to give. If it came to this, if the question was whether the right hon. Gentleman the First Minister of the Crown, or the Noble Lord the Member for London, was to settle this question, then he must say that he had no confidence in the noble Lord. He said it, with the greatest respect for the noble Lord, that he had no confidence in him. 909 He hoped he was understood to mean nothing personal; but on the other hand, he had the greatest confidence in the right hon. Gentleman the First Minister of the Crown. He said it, and he repeated it, that the right hon. Gentleman who proposed this measure did so most conscientiously, in his opinion. Taking all these considerations into mind—knowing that the question must be settled—foreseeing that it would be settled by the right hon. Gentleman—feeling that the Corn Laws must necesarily be settled, he felt constrained to vote for the proposition. [The Noble Lord was constantly interrupted when speaking, and was only imperfectly heard.]
§ MR. FERRAND
I beg to ask the noble Lord what confidence he had in the right hon. Baronet, when he was dragged out of "the Coal-hole" to vote for him on a late occasion?
COLONEL T. WOOD
said, he had expressed, on the first night of the Session, his entire confidence and approbation of the measures of Her Majesty's Government, and he would now explain, as shortly as he could, the grounds of that confidence, and his reason for supporting the measures which were now before the country. He gave his support to these measures on the broad ground that they were based on the principle of free trade, which he believed to be a principle that was not only beneficial and founded in justice, but the application of which, in the various measures that came before them, would not only contribute to the general prosperity of the country, but which was absolutely and essentially necessary to the preservation of the manufacturing interest, and to the maintenance of that degree of prosperity to which they had now arrived. The hon. Member for Somersetshire, at the conclusion of his speech, had appealed to the operatives of this country to come forward and aid him and the landed interest in the maintenance of protection. But he believed that the operatives of this country, though many of their trades would be affected by the measure before the House, yet, when they saw that the application of the principle of free trade was based upon a large and general view of the good of the whole, would believe that the same measure of justice was meted out to them which was meted out to the great and governing interests of the country; and that, in consequence of this, they would 910 acquiesce in any temporary injuries which the different trades might be subjected to. On former alterations of the Tariff he had accompanied different deputations to the Board of Trade, requesting that their interests might be protected; and he found that they all said, "Let us all be treated alike, give us an open and a free competition, and we shall not fear." Unquestionably there was justice in this statement. The market gardeners of the neighbourhood of the metropolis had not suffered by the reduction in the duties on fruit, as they anticipated, and more potatoes were grown now than before, though the duty had been reduced from 2s. to 1s. per cwt. The noble Lord the Member for the city of London had said, that if Members on his side of the House, had given him the same candid and open support which he and his party were now prepared to give to the right hon. Baronet, the question might have been easily settled before this time. Now he certainly regretted the course which he took when in Opposition, and that he did oppose the measures which were brought forward by the noble Lord. He certainly regretted that, but he regretted it still less than the course he took on the subject of Ireland, because he felt that the course he and his party took when in Opposition, they were unable to maintain now that another Government was in power. The hon. Member for North Northamptonshire, in the course of his speech, said, that protection was intended to extend not only over the industry but over the labour of the country. If the hon. Gentleman travelled into the villages of the land, or even into his own neighbourhood, he must be aware that the agricultural labourers were at present subject to an intense and increasing competition. Was it not the case that, in the neighbourhood in which he resided, there was an increasing population? Was he able to employ them? Could he explain the reason why wages in Lincolnshire were 14s. a week, while in Buckinghamshire they were only 8s. a week? It thus appeared that, in certain districts of the country, there was a superabundance of population, and no employment for them; and, unless they could increase the manufacturing prosperity of the country, what chance had they of employment? It seemed to him that the main question before the House was as to the time and the manner of making the change. Were the exigencies of the country so great in November last, or now, as to demand a change in 911 their commercial policy? Every Member who had addressed the House admitted that the scarcity was intense, and that being intense, they were ready to consent to the Government taking the step of opening the ports. That, he maintained, was the whole question; for if that step had been taken, and Ministers had come before Parliament asking for an indemnity, the indemnity would certainly have been granted; but would the Parliament have done their duty unless they had at the same time taken this security against future contingencies? Even if the Government had been deceived, if the scarcity was not so intense as had been apprehended, they knew that in the course of years this country was subject to deficient crops, and that then an emergency would arise. His impression was, that the supply of food in this country was not adequate to the demand, and on this ground he advocated the policy of their realizing supplies from abroad. He felt no apprehension from adopting the measures of free trade; he believed that in the long run it would prove to be beneficial to the agricultural classes themselves. The real danger to be apprehended was in the creation of a panic in the mind of the farmers, which he was sure hon. Gentlemen on the other side of the question would deprecate as much as he did. He begged pardon for having detained the House so long; but he felt convinced that the adoption of free trade would materially tend to the happiness and prosperity of this country.
MR. S. O'BRIEN
rose, not for the purpose of answering the hon. Member, but to protest against the extreme inconvenience of speaking, which had been done a second time on the main question, while professing to speak to the question of adjournment. He put it to Members of all sides of the House, whether this was not a most inconvenient practice? Mark what the consequence might be. The hon. Gentleman alluded to him: and he, though he had spoken already on the Corn Laws, might speak again on the question of adjournment, occupying the House for hours with confuting his statements, and replying to all his arguments. But he would not do so: he rose only to protest against the inconvenience of this course; the consequence of which was, that three Irish Bills, all of great importance, were now to be brought before the House, when it was already twenty minutes past twelve o'clock.
§ Debate adjourned till Monday.