§ MR. CUMMING BRUCE
said the right hon. Gentleman the Paymaster General of the Forces, in his address to the House last night appealed to his (Mr. C. Bruce's) hon. Friend the Member for the county of Devon, and to other hon. Gentlemen who were opposed to Her Majesty's Government on this question, not to protract the present discussion; pointing out to them the great danger of keeping the country in a continual state of agitation upon so important a subject as that of a repeal of the Corn Laws. The right hon. Gentleman also intimated that if the measure of Government were at once acquiesced in, an end would at once be put to all agitation upon the subject. Now, certainly if the entire sacrifice of the interests and the opinions of one important class of the community to the demands of another class, could be designated a settlement of the question, then indeed he was willing to assent to the suggestion of the right hon. Gentleman; for if he thought that by acceding to the Motion he should succeed in putting an end to the agitation that was now prevailing, he confessed that many of his objections to the measure would be obviated. But he could not so persuade himself. He could not but apprehend that if this measure should be carried through Parliament, an agitation of a much more difficult description would ensue. He could not, therefore, look to the promised cessation of agitation as a reason to induce him to acquiesce in the measure now proposed. We could never expect to 1265 be long without seasons of great distress, whereby the masses of the people would be affected; and he feared, if this cause of agitation were removed, there would not be wanting those who would soon find other subjects for agitation, and other alleged causes for distress. There were other of our most valued institutions which might, in such a case, be exposed to the same danger from agitation. The existence of tithe, the existence of the Established Church, the existence of a powerful and honourable aristocracy, the existence of great masses of property in the hands of a few, the law of primogeniture, the becoming splendour of the Court, the necessary expenses of the monarchy, might all be made use of by designing persons as objects against which to direct an agitation as violent as that with which they had now to contend. But they would not have much to fear from such agitation if they had a strong and steady Government; because popular agitation always derived its principal force, as it had done in this instance, from the Government declaring in favour of the measure sought. He therefore could not attach such importance to the promised cessation of the Anti-Corn-Law agitation as to induce him to agree to the withdrawal of this protection. Frequent allusion had been made to experience in the course of this debate. Now, he should like to ask, what had been the experience of his right hon. Friend at the head of the Government, in past Sessions, as to putting an end to popular agitation? He would not refer to any particular measure; but surely the experience of the right hon. Baronet and of every Gentleman in that House, must prove to him that, enjoying free institutions as we did, and the country teeming with an active and energetic population, occasions of popular agitation would arise; and to concede things to that agitation when the reason and judgment were not convinced of the policy of the concession, was a sure means to create still further agitation. And it would generally be found that the advantage to be derived from any measure for which agitation was got up, was in an inverse ratio to the violence and strength of the agitation by which it was sought to be attained. He would not now detain the House by going into the question of the Corn Laws, or by following hon. Gentlemen who had taken part in the discussion; because, if the debate went on at its present pace, the probability was, they 1266 would arrive at the real question of the Corn Laws somewhere about Easter; and he should then be prepared to state his opinions on that question. He did not blame those hon. Gentlemen who had gone into a discussion of the Corn Laws; nothing was more natural than that they should do so. He meant not to assert that Gentlemen, who were swallowed up in the study of political economy, were very liable to have their cogitations disturbed by the events that were passing around them; those who were so absorbingly occupied in advancing the greatest possible happiness of the greatest possible number, and in taking an enlarged view of the destinies of nations, might be excused for overlooking the happiness of some few millions of their own fellow countrymen; and they might be pardoned for neglecting the happiness of the existing population, because their hearts were disposed to beat with a more extended philanthropism. But it was not so with Gentlemen on his (the Ministerial) side of the House. They were engaged in serious consideration of the interests of their constituencies and of their countrymen; and these feelings had found eloquent and impassioned advocacy in the speech of the hon. Member for Northamptonshire (Mr. S. O'Brien), on whose description of the imaginary conversation with some "good fellow" of a farmer, the right hon. Baronet (Sir R. Peel) had the other night committed the great unfairness of attributing the sentiments then expressed by the hon. Gentleman as if they had been his own, whereas they had been uttered in the character of a political economist; and had his hon. Friend spoken as in his own character, he would have used language quite as sensible and kind as that which the right hon. Baronet had imagined that he would have spoken in such a conversation. The noble Lord the Member for the city of London, had announced the other night a great truth. He had ventured to prophecy that the measure of the Government, if carried at all, would be carried not by the votes of those who had usually supported the Ministers, but by those of the noble Lord and others who voted with him. He was not prepared to offer a contradiction to that prophecy; and he must say that the speech of his right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for the Home Department was not likely to impair the certainty of its fulfilment. After that speech, very few Members on his (the Ministerial) side of the House, would be 1267 disposed to follow the example of the noble Lord the Member for Liverpool, who, after proving, by a course of irresistible argument, the danger and inexpediency of the measure of Government, had turned round and declared his intention of giving his vote in direct opposition to his judgment. The noble Lord had alleged as the reason, or rather consideration, which induced him to take that course, that the position of those who were desirous of maintaining the protection of native industry was so greatly weakened by the declared change of opinion in the Government, as to be now very difficult to maintain; that the noble Lord the Member for London having failed in his attempt to form a Government, and it appearing to him (Lord Sandon) extremely difficult—he believed impossible—to form a Government on the principles of protection; and seeing that the country must be governed, and not seeing that there was any other practical Government than the one now existing, the noble Lord had deemed that he should best consult his duty to his country by not giving his vote in such a way as might weaken or tend to displace that Government, thinking that thereby great danger and inconvenience might arise to the country. The hon. Member for Inverness-shire, on the other hand, had expressed his apprehension of the impossibility of opposing what the hon. Member conceived to have now become the Anti-Corn-Law opinions of the masses of the people. With neither of these hon. hon. Members was he disposed to agree. He was not at all prepared to think so poorly of his country as to imagine that it contained only some ten or twenty Gentlemen capable of conducting its affairs. That would be reducing it to the state of the Scottish Sovereign at the battle of Chevy Chase, when, upon the death of Douglas, he at once gave up the fight; whereas the jolly English King, when he heard Earl Percy was slain, said, that though he regretted the Earl's death, "he had five hundred men as good as he." Now it might be said, perhaps, that the people of England had not exactly so many as five hundred men capable of carrying on their Government. There were certainly some five or six as well capable of so doing as those who were at present in office. Then, as to the opinion of the majority of the people having turned towards free trade, it should be remembered that all the machinery of agitation had been long at work on their minds, and, by means of gratuitous 1268 publications and hired lecturers, they had been deluded and deceived; while the agricultural party, relying on their leaders, had been tame and quiescent, but had now discovered their fatal mistake, and perhaps before the projected measure had passed long — supposing it should pass—there would be an agitation against it as strong as that now excited in its favour. It might be that some honourable men should be sincerely influenced by the apparent hopelessness of the protection cause and the imagined opposition of the people; but there ought to exist an equal sense of the importance of the morality and principle of public men. For his own part, though he had not been pledged to protection, knowing that he had been elected on the understanding that his opinions were in favour of protection, he could not but feel the implied promise arising from that tacit understanding as all the more binding, on account of the absence of pledges; and he could not face his constituents after turning round upon opinions on which he thus had been elected. It was, in fact, extremely difficult to explain such sudden changes of opinion to common capacities and ordinary ideas of honesty; and he had always endeavoured to avoid occasion for such unpleasant explanations. He had succeeded in avoiding them hitherto, and he was not now about to expose himself to the awkward dilemma to which he alluded. The hon. Member for Bridport had spoken of the opinion of the farming tenantry of Scotland as favourable to the Ministerial measure, and had attributed this to leases. Now, he (Mr. Bruce) should certainly have imagined that the existence of leases made all the difference the other way; for surely a man who had, on the faith of a lease by which he was bound, invested capital, would regard a change in the law affecting the price of grain with more apprehension than one who was not bound to the farm in such a manner, and had not invested capital. It should be remembered that a large part of the lands of Scotland was under family provisions, in the hands of trustees, who could not alter the arrangements to meet altered circumstances, so that it might be imagined, as the fact was, that the farmers in Scotland were the reverse of favourable to the Ministerial scheme. Indeed he had recently received a letter from Scotland stating that the farmers had heard of the measure with great gloom and depression, and deprecated any material interference with the Corn Laws, as certain 1269 to be detrimental to the best interests of the country. The statement of the hon. Member, therefore, was exceedingly incorrect. One reason alone would render the recent speech of the right hon. the Secretary for the Home Department a great argument against adopting the Government measures — that reason being, that the right hon. Baronet had positively adopted to the full extent the letter of the noble Lord the Member for the city of London. He would not, like the hon. Member for Montrose, designate that letter as an advertisement for office; but certainly the gravity of its assumptions was only equalled by their monstrous extravagance, and the enormously erroneous inferences with which they were associated. "The blight of agriculture," "the bane of commerce," "the cause of misery, disease, and death;" such were the phrases applied to the Corn Laws in the letter adopted by the right hon. Baronet (Sir James Graham). Why, if the Corn Laws were all this, how was it that the noble Lord had not discovered it when in office, and at a time when wheat was at 70s.? Whereas more recently it had been no higher than 58s. And how was such a representation to be reconciled with the fact that in the last three or four years, under a policy preserving the Corn Laws, the commercial and manufacturing prosperity of the country had greatly increased? As to calling the Corn Laws "the cause of famine, disease, and death," such language was arrant nonsense, and nothing else. The simple fact was, that though the population of Great Britain had increased by ten millions during the last fifteen years, the price of corn had been little above the continental level, and importations had not been at all extensive. In 1833, 1834, and 1835, the price of wheat had averaged between 34s. or 40s. Surely, if we could raise the corn for ourselves, we had better do so than take it from foreigners! Without protection, so great an extent of production could never have been attained. And if agriculture were but allowed to go on undisturbed by alarm about the removal of protection, the Corn Laws—though always necessary to provide against contingencies — would soon become a dead letter, and practically inoperative, through the extent of our agricultural productiveness. Reduced prices, consequent on a plentiful harvest at home, were different from reduced prices produced by importations from abroad. The right hon. Baronet at the head of the Home 1270 Department had omitted to attempt to reconcile his present doctrines with his speech of 1839, from an admiring perusal of which he (Mr. Bruce) had just come, and which he well remembered he had cheered till he was hoarse, and certainly it had left upon his mind an impression not effaced by the right hon. Baronet's last speech on the subject. But there were other Gentlemen in the Cabinet whom the House would be anxious to hear—such as the Chancellor of the Exchequer, in whose province this question certainly was. A very important question, too, remained to be elucidated—whether those Members of the Cabinet who had originally dissented from the opinions of the Premier, had objected to the proposition of a suspension of the Corn Laws, per se, or as coupled with a proposition for repeal. Perhaps some of the Cabinet had followed the example of the noble Duke (Wellington) in yielding rather to their feelings than to their opinions, and had been influenced in their ultimate agreement with their Colleague, more by the desire to avoid embarrassment to Her Majesty's Administration, than by any conviction of their own. It was to be deeply lamented that the noble Duke, in whom loyalty and readiness to sacrifice personal predilections were such illustrious traits of character, should on this occasion have surrendered what seemed to have been his better judgment, and been content to follow where he best might have led. The right hon. Baronet at the head of the Government, in his speech the other night, had proved that manufacturing duties might, in many cases, be advantageously reduced, but had failed to show that the same principles would equally apply to corn, and had not attempted to establish the connexion—which in argument the right hon. Baronet had assumed — between a suspension and a repeal of the Corn Laws. The right hon. Baronet had not endeavoured to show that all practical purposes could not have been effected by some modification of the law, and had utterly failed to educe any reason for the proposition of a measure which reduced all his supporters to a position of such unexpected and such undeserved difficulty, and which inflicted such a deep wound on public confidence, on public men. The right hon. Baronet should recollect that he had not more honoured his party by his ability, than they had honoured him by their fidelity. He did not pretend to be a party man; he was willing to give all due weight to the 1271 obligations of conscience; but he considered when a leader was bound to a party, he lay under a certain obligation to those who had been accustomed to guide their actions by his, and to mature their judgments from a careful study of his opinions. Holding this belief, he was bound to say, he could not recognise the power of the right hon. Baronet (Sir Robert Peel) to demand the sacrifice of opinions conscientiously adopted. The Minister who changed his opinions might be called upon to resign—and the right hon. Baronet had resigned under such circumstances—but he could not bring against the right hon. Baronet the shadow of a shade of want of perfect integrity of purpose when he changed his opinions with respect to the repeal of the Corn Laws. This being his conviction, he would abstain from using any expression at variance with it. But looking to the measures proposed by the right hon. Baronet, he could see no justification for the crisis into which he had precipitated the Government, or for any alteration in the protective policy of the country. What were the circumstances under which the right hon. Baronet had changed his opinions? Had it pleased the great Disposer of events to visit Ireland with a calamity endangering the lives of four or five millions of the people? There were, he believed, statements made somewhat to that effect, and he considered to an extent exaggerated; but those representations, coming as they did from the Lord Lieutenant of Ireland, it obviously became the duty of the Government to receive them at their full value. If the corn harvest in Ireland had likewise been deficient, the circumstance might have justified the suspension of the Corn Laws; and he, for one, in common with many of the Gentlemen whom he saw around him, would have been most willing to concur in any measure which might have been brought forward by Her Majesty's advisers to suspend those laws. But he confessed he could see no connexion between the potato famine and the repeal of the Corn Laws. If the ports had been thrown open, potatoes would not have been brought in—nothing but a supply of corn would have resulted from such a proceeding. If corn had been deficient in Ireland, the natural operation of the Corn Laws would have brought it in cheap, because, when the price of home-grown corn reached a certain amount, the trade in the foreign article became a free trade. The true remedy for the distresses of Ireland would be to find employ- 1272 ment for the people, and thus afford them the means of either purchasing the food already in the country, or buying that which might be sent to it. What he complained of was, that the right hon. Baronet had not given his own law a fair trial. A factious and interested party, seeking for a reduction of wages by the instrumentality of "cheap bread," had taken advantage of a failure in the potato crop, to renew an agitation which had almost vanished, and the right hon. Baronet had yielded, and proposed to reverse, at the bidding of the League, the verdict of the Empire, which had been pronounced at the only legitimate tribunal, the hustings, on the occasion of the last general election. Was this the way the Reform Bill was to work? or was it to be supposed that a parcel of discontented individuals had only to assemble together, hire theatres; deliver lectures, hold a Parliament of their own, raise money by unconstitutional means (he would not say unlawful, though he would hope that shortly such measures might be made unlawful), in order to make the First Minister of the Crown yield to their importunities, and obey their dictates. It could not be denied for a moment, that the question at the last election was "Protection or no Protection." The majority of the national constituency had called upon the right hon. Baronet and his Colleagues to take the helm of affairs, and to make it traverse freely for the benefit of all; and they did so, relying upon the belief that he would steer the ship to the port to which he himself had taught them to look as a port of refuge. Had that been the case? The right hon. Baronet had never said he would get into the trade winds, and run before the wind to the very shoal his supporters had wished him to guard them against. What was his argument against the Corn Laws? Why, that the country had prospered for centuries under them, and that consequently they ought to be abolished. And what had been his argument against protection? Why, because the consumption and price of all articles from which he had removed protecting duties protection had increased. If such was the case, why would not the rule hold good in the case of corn itself? With respect to the success of the right hon. Baronet's late measures, whereby he had proved that prices had risen, he did not think his conclusions had been formed upon satisfactory grounds. Had no other circumstances conspired to make this prosperity? The imposition of the Income 1273 Tax, freely granted by an agricultural Parliament, restored the revenue to a prosperous condition, and had a tendency to give an impetus to speculation and trade. The mania for railways also caused a great demand for labour, and improved the prices of all commodities. To those causes he in a great degree attributed the flattering appearances of the Customs returns. But admitting that prices had risen and the consumption had increased, what guarantee was there that such a state of things would endure? And he would ask, was the probability of endurance such as to justify a total change in that protective policy under which this country had risen to be a Queen among the nations? He feared not; and he would not sacrifice his opinion, nor consent to embark with the right hon. Baronet on the boundless ocean of Free Trade, which no British trader had ever yet explored, and from which no British pilot had ever yet returned. He should hesitate to do so even if the breath of public approval promised to waft him to smooth waters, or woo with happy omen his extended canvass. They were told in glowing terms that their vessels would return laden with the rich produce of other climes; but those who supported Free Trade principles had failed to show that they might not return laden with impure exhalations under which the English Constitution could not exist. Instead of a smooth sea, he saw the breakers of self-interest, of severed political ties, of confidence impaired, and political respect shaken, and therefore it was he felt compelled to forbid the firing of that gun which booming over those turbid waters give the signal for sailing. His vote upon the present occasion would be given against Her Majesty's Ministers.
§ MR. POULETT SCROPE
said: Sir, the hon. Member for Berkshire, the other night, with a candour and honesty which did him honour, put this question on its right issue when he said:—"Either protection is right, or it is wrong; if right, maintain it—if wrong, abolish it without delay and without compensation. "This, Sir, seems to me the only true view of the question, and it disposes at once of almost all the endless speeches we have heard from the other side upon the conduct of the two right hon. Baronets opposite, and the contrast between their present and their past sayings and doings. Upon this point I have nothing to remark but this, that whatever I may think of the resistance heretofore offered by those right hon. 1274 Baronets to the freedom of trade when proposed on this side the House, I admire and respect the noble courage with which they now avow and act upon their present convictions of its immense importance to the national interests. Nor shall I say anything on the question of the potato rot, or the impending famine in Ireland. This, too, is a matter only relating to the justification of the Government for repealing the Corn Law a little sooner rather than a little later, and has no bearing on the real question whether those laws are in themselves wrong or right. Neither, Sir, shall I attempt any addition to the body of facts already brought forward to prove that every relaxation of the restriction on commerce has hitherto been productive of benefit, not only to consumers generally, but to the producers themselves of the very articles which were before protected by high duties. But I must, in passing, protest against the undue weight that I think has been attached by the right hon. Baronet, and especially in his introductory speech, to the experience of the last three years as decisive of the question at issue. I protest against its being supposed that our decision is to be determined by that limited experience. Because, if so, it is very possible that the experience of the next three years may be brought forward to reverse that decision, in case any combination of unfavourable circumstances, produced by the chapters of accidents, such as a series of bad harvests, war, or panic, should give rise to a cycle of unprosperous years. I very much agree, too, with hon. Members who have attributed the prosperity of those years to other causes than the Tariff. No, Sir, the real arguments for free trade were as strong in 1841 as they are now. They were as strong ten, twenty, nay, thirty years ago, when the Corn Law of 1815 was first imposed. Nay, I will venture to say, that no arguments have been or will be produced in its favour, in the course of this debate, more cogent or more complete than those contained in the celebrated petition of the merchants of London, presented by the present Lord Ashburton, in 1820—or than those which were vainly urged upon the House, exactly twenty years ago, by a lamented relative of my own. Therefore, Sir, I intend to confine my remarks to the narrow issue stated by the hon. Member for Berkshire, viz.—is protection right, or is it wrong? And I do earnestly request the attention of hon. Members opposite—of them especially—to a very brief form of 1275 the argument, which alone is quite conclusive to my mind, and which I defy them to refute. Either the Corn Laws do raise the price of corn, or they do not. This every one will concede. If they do not, then they cannot benefit the agriculturists, or any one; and they are a gratuitous interference with the freedom of trade—preventing the free exchange of our surplus manufactured produce, of which we so easily can produce more than we want, for the food of which we have too little by universal acknowledgment. But it is triumphantly said by some, if the repeal of the Corn Laws does not lower the price of bread, the manufacturers cannot profit by it. What! Is there no benefit in an increased supply, even though it may not cheapen the article? Is our entire population so well fed, so well supplied with the best wheaten bread, that it is not to be wished they should get more? Suppose the repeal of the Corn Laws had the effect of setting to work a portion of our population who are now too poor to get bread at all, or get very little (the millions who rejoice on potatoes), to work for the foreigner, to produce clothing for him, he feeding them with corn. Might not this take place without any fall in prices; and if it did, would it not be a great benefit and blessing to them, which your law now prevents and prohibits? Then, under this supposition, the Corn Law is an unmitigated evil and injustice. Well, now, take the other alternative—and one or other cannot but be true. Suppose the Corn Laws do raise the price of corn. How will you justify this? Primâ facie it is a grievous wrong. Cheapness and abundance of the first necessary of life ought to be the first object of legislation to create, not to prevent, if legislation can do either. "Why," say the protectionists, "we are a highly taxed people, we have a debt of 800,000,000l.; we cannot compete with untaxed Poles and Russians; we must have high prices to enable us to pay our high taxes." This would be all very well, if by your protective system you could make the Poles and Russians pay your high taxes for you. But is it so? You must have high prices to pay your high taxes with. Then those who pay your high prices are intentionally made to pay your high taxes. Who are these? The Poles and the Russians? Oh no! The British consumers. All you can do by your system of protection, if it succeeds, is to make some other classes of this country, other subjects of Her Ma- 1276 jesty, pay your share of taxation. But is this just?—is this right? or is it not wrong? "Oh, but," you say again, "we will not protect agriculture alone, but all classes of producers. All shall have high prices to enable them to pay their high taxes." Say you so? But how will you manage this? Can you raise the price of the great staple manufactures of the country by any system of protective duties? No! for they are already at the European or natural level. Well, then, with respect to this large proportion of the productive classes, comprehending a third, perhaps, of the whole, you can't raise the prices of their goods; and you therefore not only do not indemnify them for the high taxation, but you actually impose on them the burden of your own share of taxation in a higher price for their bread. Is this right, or is it wrong? But, moreover, there is another large class of persons—the monied interest, fundholders, annuitants, &c., who are not engaged in production at all, and whom, therefore, your protective system cannot benefit by any rise of prices, but whom, on the contrary, you compel to pay your share of the taxes in an enhanced price of the food they consume, without compensation either for their proper share of the taxes, or for the added amount you inflict upon them. Is this right? Sir, I am ashamed to hear this argument of our national debt repeated by men who should know better, like the hon. Member for Berkshire, the hon. Member for Sunderland, the hon. Member for Wiltshire, and the hon. Member for Devon. What! when, during the war, the gentlemen of England offered their fortunes to their country to defend it from invasion and a foreign foe, did they mean to indemnify themselves by a slice out of every poor man's loaf?—to pay the debt they then incurred by a bread tax? Was this in their bond? Is this right, or is it wrong? Look at the matter in detail. The manufacturing and commercial population pay high taxes on the beer they consume, in the malt tax; on their tea, their coffee, their sugar, their tobacco, and so on, towards the payment of the national debt. Can it make these burdens more easy in any way to them to make them pay you a heavy tax on their bread into the bargain. Really I ask hon. Members no longer to disgrace themselves by such arguments as these. It reminds me of a story told by Dr. M'Culloch (not the political economist, but the geologist and 1277 traveller), of his meeting in the Western Highlands a farmer who lived some miles inland, and was building a house. He had to fetch deals for the purpose from the seacoast, and having but one pony and no cart, there being no road but a mountain track, Dr. M'Culloch met him driving his pony along with a heavy deal slung on one side, and an equally heavy stone slung on the other, the only purpose of the stone being to balance the deal. But even the stupid Highland farmer, though he forgot that the addition of the stone doubled the burden of his poor animal, did not imagine that he thereby lightened the weight of the deal on the other side. Why, the protectionists really argue as if by adding a bread-tax to the other taxes borne by this country, they can lighten their weight to all classes. Sir, the plea of the weight of national taxation for a Corn Law appears to me not only a false, but a dishonest one. By no possible contrivance or juggle of protection can you fix the debt on the foreigner; it must still be paid by British subjects of some kind; and if you relieve yourselves from your share of it by any trickery of this kind, you can only do it by shifting the burden upon the rest of the community. Yon have chosen to place it on the most helpless of all the masses—the eaters of bread—who, by your law, must buy at your shop, at your artificial prices, and so pay the debt for you or starve. Is this right, or is it wrong? No, Sir, I repeat, if the Corn Laws do not raise the price of corn, they at least diminish its supply to a half-fed people. If they do, they can only benefit one class at the expense of every other. Sir, I have listened most attentively to this debate, in which the Corn Laws are put upon, I hope, their last trial, to discover whether their advocates in this, their extreme urgency, could produce any one argument, anything worthy of the name of a reason, in their favour. Certainly I have listened in vain. I take the speech of the hon. Member for Northamptonshire, who may be considered to represent the pure protectionists, from whom, therefore, if from any one, as the ablest speaker of that class, we might expect to hear the best defence that can be urged of the principle of the law. Now what was the real argument contained in that speech, under cover, I own, of very able and feeling oratory? I appeal to the recollection of the House if the main point of that speech was not an attack on what the hon. Member called a stern dogma of a cold and hard political 1278 economy, viz., that "we should buy as cheap and sell as dear as we can"—a maxim which I would venture to call, not a dogma of political economy, but the very first principle of all commerce, the A B C of trade. But perhaps the hon. Member despises trade and its shopkeeping maxims. Perhaps he thinks a trading community should act on the opposite principle of selling cheap and buying dear. But I am much mistaken if his friends and clients, the tenant-farmers, act on any other than this vulgar and cruel mercantile principle themselves. I have always understood that they were tolerably hard bargainers, at fair and market, for a profit, if any could be made, on their sales and purchases. They would not like to be compelled to act on the opposite principle of buying dear and selling cheap. No; what they really mean, and the hon. Member, too, in railing against the principle of buying cheap and selling dear, is, that the manufacturers should sell cheap to them, the farmers, while they sell dear to the manufacturers; and vice versâ, that the manufacturers should buy dear of the farmers, and the farmers buy cheap of the manufacturers; and this is in fact the object aimed at by the Corn Laws. But the hon. Member illustrated the cruelty of this flagitious dogma of a cold political economy by pathetic pictures, which were not without their effect on the feelings of the House. The first was that of a crowd of paper-stainers and silk weavers, thrown out of employment by the unpatriotic and anti-national preference of French silks and paper-hangings to those of British manufacture. Every picture has its reverse: and to the hon. Member's picture of an ideal scene resulting from the operation of our mercantile principle, I will oppose a picture of the result of his protective principle, not drawn from the imagination, but one of the real scenes which did occur, in hundreds of instances, but a few years ago, in Paisley, in Stockport, in Manchester, and other places. Let the hon. Member imagine a manufacturer at that time, his warehouses choked with goods which he could not dispose of, his foreign correspondents writing to him that the foreign market was equally glutted; imagine that, after putting his workpeople first on low wages, next on half work, he finally finds himself obliged to discharge them altogether, and to shut up his mill. They crowd in hundreds round him—a melancholy spectacle—men, women, and children, imploring him for work and food. What is 1279 his answer? "My friends, my heart bleeds for you. I employed you so long as I possessed the means of doing so; but those means can only be furnished by the sale of the produce of your labour. All my capital lies locked up in yonder warehouses, and I have exhausted my credit likewise. The foreigner can buy no more of the goods you make, because our laws prohibit his paying for them in the only thing he has to sell—his corn, the very food you want; nay, at this moment, while you are starving, there lie hundreds of thousands of quarters of corn in the Queen's warehouses a few miles off, consignments from foreign merchants, who would be glad to take any goods in exchange for it if the law did not interfere. This law, enacted by landowners for their own supposed interest, prevents your feeding on corn that you do not buy of them. Therefore you must starve, and I must be ruined by this unjust landlords' law." I ask the hon. Member what does he think would be, nay, what are the feelings of crowds of starving men, to whom this language—that of truth, be it observed—is necessarily addressed? The hon. Member does not seem to be aware of the fact that to buy anything from the foreigner we must sell to him something of equal value—that for every quarter of foreign corn, or every piece of foreign silk imported, we must expect to pay for it an equal value of goods the produce of our own manufactures,—and that British or native industry is just as much employed in the one case as in the other; the only difference being (and a great difference it is) that by the free exchange we get more of what we want, or of a better quality, in return for our native industry, than if we attempted to produce it at home. And this is just the benefit which commerce confers. The hon. Member does not seem to be aware that the principle he declaims against as a cold dogma of a stern political economy is the one sole vivifying principle of all commerce—the stimulus to all improvement—the mainspring of civilization—the principle, namely, of obtaining the largest and the best result at the least cost—in other words, to get the most you can of what you want for your money or your labour. But I can hardly wonder at the opinions held by the hon. Member, when I see him sitting on the same bench with the hon. Member for Knaresborough, who abhors machinery as the root of all evil. It is a fitting alliance—in fact, it is the same fallacy in a different form. In fact, the notion that it is 1280 better to buy dear than to buy cheap is the same as that it is better to spend much labour than little, to produce the same result. The idea is, that the more of labour and capital anything costs to obtain it the better. So stated, it seems incredible that any men should entertain the idea. And yet this is the notion which lies at the bottom of all the declamations against machinery, for economising labour—and against the mercantile principle, for economising capital. In both cases an increase of produce is obtained at a less cost, the very circumstance which alone raised the condition of the civilized man above that of the savage. But are hon. Members consistent? The hon. Member who spoke the other night so pathetically of the wrong done to British industry by the use of French silks and German carriages, does he himself practically act upon his own principles? Not in the least. I make no doubt that he himself that very morning breakfasted on Chinese tea, sweetened with Indian sugar, probably in a French tea-cup, and stirred it with a spoon of silver from Peru. I dare say he drinks at dinner a moderate glass of wine from Spain, or Portugal, or France, perhaps all three. Nay, if we were to strip the hon. Member at this moment of all he has about him that is not exclusively the produce of British industry—if we took from him all that is made of German wool, of Russian flax, of Italian silk, and American cotton, I believe he would appear in a condition very unfitted for an assembly like this, and much more fitted for that state of society to which his principles, if acted on, would reduce us—When wild in woods the naked savage ran.And as for the hon. Member for Knaresborough, if he were really consistent and faithful to his abhorrence of machinery and its results, he ought to come down here dressed in skins, he should live by the chase alone, knocking down his prey with a club, or rather his fists (for I doubt if a club be not an instrument for shortening labour), he should tear it with his teeth alone, and grub up the earth for roots with his finger nails. Will hon. Gentlemen but reflect seriously on the extremities to which their principles would lead them, if carried out fully and universally, as they ought to be by their own admission? Take our foreign commerce—suppose our exports to amount to a round fifty millions on the average of years—these must be paid for in imports of at least an equal value. Now, the principle 1281 of the hon. Member for Northamptonshire, and the hon. Member for Somersetshire, and the protectionists generally, is, that in purchasing any foreign article we expend so much of British capital which might be better laid out at home in the employment of British industry—that it abstracts so much from what would otherwise be laid out on our home trade. If consistent, therefore, they would think it desirable to stop all our imports, and of course all our exports, for they would not have us send them away for no return. Well then, here is an extinguisher put on all our foreign trade (out and in), to the amount of 100 millions and more. According to their principles we should be better off without it—better if it had never existed—better if Berkeley's famous wall of brass surrounded the island, instead of the sea—better if Britain, instead of being queen of the ocean, and making every corner of the globe tributary to her wants, had been confined to her own narrow limits, and to the consumption of what she can produce within herself. Now, not to speak of the utter annihilation of the acknowledged source of Great Britain's wealth, power, and greatness—her foreign commerce—I ask only, do hon. Members seriously believe that her home trade, their pet business, would be improved by such a state of things—that the ruin which would fall on the millions now employed in the foreign trade could be compensated by the employment of one more workman in the home trade? Do they not feel certain, on the contrary, that to put a stop to our foreign trade, would equally put a stop to an immense amount of the home trade which indirectly arises from the employment of our people in providing goods to meet the foreign demand? The home trade and the foreign trade are by these reasoners supposed to be antagonist to each other—that one must lose as the other gains. As justly in the human body might the arms grudge the nourishment that goes to the legs, and desire that the latter should be cut off to strengthen them. Our country, deprived of its foreign trade would be as feeble and helpless as a human frame deprived of the means of locomotion—of the members which fetch and carry for it everything beyond its immediate grasp. But the hon. Member drew another affecting picture. He exhibited another victim to the stern dogma of a cold political economy, in a farmer whose forefathers, for generations back, had occupied the same farm, which he still continued to 1282 cultivate in their antiquated fashion, and who is now to be turned out of his farm by his landlord acting on the cruel and hard principle of making the most of his property, in order to put in his place a capitalist of the Mechi school, who will raise five quarters of wheat where he only raises three. Sir, I do not undervalue the feelings which link an ancient tenantry to an hereditary race of landowners. I am as sensible as any one can be to the pain of dispossessing an old tenant of this class; but this, like all our best feelings, must always be controlled by our reason. Let the hon. Member consider if, by the indulgence of a very amiable feeling in this supposed case, he would not be doing a very cruel instead of a kind action. Let him recollect that a poor, unimproving race of farmers will always be surrounded by a wretched, ill-paid, discontented, and demoralized peasantry; that the new farmer, who produces fire quarters of wheat where his predecessor produced but three, will employ two labourers where the first employed but one, and pay them half as much again in wages. By the side of the hon. Member's picture of an ejected farmer of the old unimprovable school, I will place, as its necessary accompaniment, the crowd of Goatacre or Bremhill labourers, but half-paid, half-employed, half-fed, half-alive. Would it be really a sad thing to exchange a barren district, inhabited by slovenly and poor farmers and starving idle labourers, for one highly cultivated and farmed by intelligent capitalists, raising double the produce, and employing twice the number of well-paid and comfortable labourers? But this, though introduced by the hon. Member for Northamptonshire, is, after all, beside the question. If the landlord prefer bad tenants to good—if he persist in retaining on his farms the old race of farmers, who plough with six horses, waste half their manure, and let the rains which heaven sends to fertilize his fields lie upon them for want of drainage tiles, till his crops are rotted, and the ground produces nothing but weeds—he can do so as well after the Corn Law is repealed as before. All we ask is that we should not be compelled by law to pay for his indulgence of an amiable weakness; that if landlords and their tenants will not make the most of the soil of this country between them, so as to produce as much corn as we want, that we should be permitted to buy it where we can. In truth, it is not by an appeal to the feelings that this question is to 1283 be determined, but by sound reasoning and solid argument. I have placed before the House one form of this argument, and to me a convincing one, to show that whether Corn Laws raise the price of Corn or do not, they are an unjustifiable interference with the freedom of industry. Nor has there been, in my opinion, a single argument of the slightest weight produced in the course of this debate to show that we can be warranted in such interference by any considerations. The onus of proof, if proof there can be, rests upon you who would restrict and fetter the industry of the people. I call on you then no longer to maintain these laws—laws odious in character and questionable in motive. I call on you no longer to interfere between the people and their spontaneous supplies of food—no longer by unwise and unjust laws to prevent the industrious classes of this country from availing themselves of the ample means which God and nature have placed at their disposal for obtaining, by the exercise of their unrivalled skill and energy, an abundant supply of the first necessaries of life.
§ MR. NEWDEGATE
said, that, taking the argument of the hon. Member for Stroud against the "apparel" of the hon. Member for Northamptonshire for what it was worth, he had good right to defend the hon. Member for Northamptonshire from the charge of not adhering in his own person to the principle of protection. While protection existed on the articles he wore, he did not violate his principles in using them. The retaining of protection had been alluded to as a bar to agricultural improvement; but all he (Mr. Newdegate) could say was, that Northamptonshire was a most unlucky specimen of an unimproved county. Hon. Members opposite, generally for the purposes of free-trade argument, and in order to prove their own case, described the agriculturists as the advocates of prohibition, not of protection. His understanding of their doctrine of free-trade was, "buying in the cheapest market, and selling in the dearest." He acknowledged it as the true principle of trade; but he denied it to be the true principle of government. It was not the function of a Government merely to increase wealth; but its function was to secure the peace, happiness, and welfare of the people. He could not understand that a principle which was true when applied to trade, must necessarily be true when applied to government. If the Government were to proceed upon this 1284 principle of free trade, they would not be justified in their mode of conducting their national defence. In the case of their army, were they to adopt the principle of buying in the cheapest market, there could be no doubt but that they could hire men to act as soldiers cheaper elsewhere than in England; but then those soldiers would not have the spirit nor the feelings of Britons, and would be deficient in the qualities they required from them. As to the arguments on the other side, with respect to whether a repeal of the Corn Laws must or must not reduce the price of corn, hon. Gentlemen overlooked the consideration that these laws were enacted to ensure steadiness of price. Now, if they always tried to buy in the cheapest market, they must sometimes buy also very dearly; for hunger would not wait for the political economists to feed it. It was his opinion that 1842 was a most unlucky instance for the political economists; because, the derangement in their affairs was caused by their relations with America, which produced a reaction upon their monetary system. He begged of their political economists—of those who advocated an unlimitable extension of their foreign relations, to bear these facts in mind; because the years 1841 and 1842 afforded a frightful instance of the consequence of this country depending much upon foreigners. Hon. Gentlemen said, that it was very hard upon the manufacturers they should have the Corn Law taxes in addition to the other taxes. The manufacturers did not pay more taxes than the rest of the community. This was a question of justice. Could the political economists assert that manufacturers were the majority of the population? The evidence before that House proved the opposite to be the fact. The laws which they impugned gave protection to the majority; and laws which protected the interests of the majority were always considered to be those which were most for the benefit of the community. Having said thus much, he wished to address himself to the subject before the House—a subject on which Her Majesty's Ministers had abandoned their former principles, and forsaken their former opinions. For himself, he must say, that he was not so much surprised at this change as others had been. His opinion had been that some such change was likely to occur: he had seen that such a change was impending since 1844—he then foresaw, and then foretold, this lamentable change. He did so when 1285 he heard the arguments used—when he saw the anxiety manifested, by the right hon. Baronet, to make this country dependent in its monetary system upon foreign exchanges. The measures of the right hon. Baronet—the measure then, and that now before them—would make them doubly dependent upon foreigners: the first would make them dependent upon foreigners for the wherewithal to buy food; and the second would make them dependent upon foreigners for a very great part of their food. Seeing this, he had looked forward with the greatest apprehension to the measures to be proposed this Session. Some of the leading Members of Her Majesty's Government had now repudiated the arguments, the speeches, and the writings for which the country had been indebted to them during many years. They had, as he conceived, committed political suicide. Such was, such must be, the effect of this measure; still he had not heard the right hon. Baronet at the head of Her Majesty's Government repudiate some of the sentiments to which he had given utterance last Session upon this subject, and to which he (Mr. Newdegate) had listened with deep attention last July. In referring to that speech, he wished to show how suddenly this change had come upon the country — how perfectly unprepared the people must have been for any such change as that which had now occurred. The speech of the right hon. Gentleman at the head of the Government was an able argument for the maintenance of the Corn Law, to show that its tendency was to secure a steadiness of price; and he also proved that under it there had been a great increase and activity in the manufacturing system. He also proved that in September, 1844, the price of wheat was 45s. 2d.; and he then appealed to the manufacturing interest, whether that was an unreasonable price whilst the law kept a large stock in bond ready for consumption, an immense advantage he now proposed to abandon. The right hon. Baronet also then gave utterance to this sentiment, that "the landlords and proprietors in this country, at least in great districts of it, do not look on land in the light of a mere commercial speculation," and that he believed "that it would be a great evil if they did so." He also added, that "though the land may be so regarded, yet in every thing but a purely commercial sense, in a social and moral point of view, he should deeply regret it." How did the 1286 expression of such a feeling accord with the present measure? How was the landlord to confer such social benefits upon his poorer neighbours and tenants if the entire relations between them were to be conducted upon purely commercial principles? But the right hon. Gentleman went further when he said, that "if those principles of free trade were adopted, they would be extended to all their colonial relations." Now he must say, that he had heard nothing from the right hon. Baronet to justify a change in those opinions; and he thought the speech that had been made by the hon. and gallant Member for Liverpool (Sir H. Douglas) must have shown the evil effects to be anticipated from free trade upon our colonial system. He could not, for his part, conceive how it was possible that a great statesman, unless forced by an overwhelming necessity, should have abandoned a policy to which he was pledged by acts and professions for many years. He could not conceive how a policy so adhered to could be at once shaken off and opposed. This, he said, he could not conceive, though he feared there was one principle which might be detected in all these proceedings—it was one to which the right hon. Baronet would be found to have adhered through weal and through we, amidst the many principles he had abandoned. He was afraid it had much to do with the right hon. Baronet's strict adherence to his monetary policy. The right hon. Baronet had restricted the currency to the smallest amount possible; and, perhaps, the right hon. Baronet, by establishing a kind of barter with foreign countries, sought to compensate in some manner for that restriction. It seemed to him that some vain scheme of that kind had been entertained; but if they established large and wide relations with foreigners, on his principle of barter, still things must eventually find their level; and if an emergency occurred in either country—an emergency arising from the action of high prices in this country upon foreign exchanges, when our bullion would be exported—or arising from disturbances in those countries with which we had commercial relations; our monetary embarrassment must recur with this additional aggravation, that we, by the present measure, shall have removed the only barrier that stood between the people and dire distress, whilst their commercial and monetary embarrassments would remain the same. He trusted that the House would excuse him whilst he at- 1287 tempted to explain the basis upon which he formed his opinions. It was painful and disagreeable to him to differ from the right hon. Baronet. He was in some respects the representative of the right hon. Baronet, who possessed a very large property in that county for which he was returned. He could, however, allow no considerations of friendship, or recollections of former kindness, to stand between him and his duty to his constituents, nearly the whole of whom must suffer by the application to them of these measures. He had to remember that many of his constituents were engaged in agriculture—many in the ribbon and silk trade—many in the hatting trade, and many in hardware manufactures. If, then, they carried the present principles of Her Majesty's Government into effect, they would expose the whole of his constituents to a competition that must be deeply injurious to them; and he felt his first duty was, to represent and protect their interests. Could it, he asked, be just to apply this principle of free trade to every class, because it happened to suit some? Some trades did not need protection; in these the machinery had arrived to such perfection, that they could overbear the competition of foreigners; but in the great mass and variety of trades carried on in this country, it would be found that a large majority was to be injured by the application of this principle. Hon. Gentlemen admitted that they could not have a partial application of the principle; and if they began by withdrawing the Corn Law—the key-stone of protection—they would find that they would have to follow up the principle until they produced—which they must and would do—a state of almost universal distress. If we escaped a convulsion under such circumstances, it would only be by reverting to the policy under which this country had so long prospered. The right hon, Gentleman the Home Secretary (Sir J. Graham) said, in the course of last Session, that the object of successive Governments for the last twenty-five years had been, first, to substitute protective for prohibitory duties; and again, when protective duties had been imposed gradually and progressively, to relax the extent of that protection. But he had now undertaken a new step. Mr. Huskisson was an advocate of moderate protection, though not of prohibition. Hitherto, the right hon. Baronet also had been the advocate of moderate protection; but now, alas! he had changed his principles, and said, "nothing but ex- 1288 treme urgency shall justify the retention of protection—my principle is free trade, and if I grant protection to the extreme necessity of some suffering part of the population, it is a boon." Was this, he asked, a just or wise principle for the paternal Government of a great country, charged with the care of every individual in it? He thought it was scarcely deserving the name of a paternal Government. He came now to consider whether prices had been excessive in this country under the system of protection; whether the relaxations which had already taken place had not much depressed them; and whether we had not gone as far in that direction as the circumstances of the country justified? First, let them consider how stood the question with the protected class, and whether the landowners had grown rich and fat at the expense of the people, as it was said, upon the system of protection. Since the right hon. Baronet, in alluding to the years from 1815, had thought it necessary to make allowance for the depreciation of the currency—and the currency was depreciated on the average of ten years preceding 1820 about 10 per cent.—how much, he desired to know, had it been appreciated since? Mr. Ricardo, who was the advocate of that measure of 1819, confessed, before he died, that it had appreciated or raised the value of the currency to the extent of 14 per cent. The right hon. Gentleman the Home Secretary once thought, that the advantage which money had gained over labour since 1819 was somewhere about 35 per cent., an opinion of which he (Mr. Newdegate), could not divest himself. Without forgetting these considerations, however, he should not disturb the exposition he would endeavour to give the House by any further reference to them; suffice it then, that on the average of the ten years previous to 1820, the depreciation of the currency amounted to about 10 per cent. According to the Property Tax Returns, the rental of the land in England, Wales, and Scotland, in the year 1814, was 39,405,705l., and in 1843 it was 45,753,615l., showing an increase upon those thirty years of 6,347,910l. True: but this increase included 1,539,670l. of commuted tithes, and, therefore, the real increase was, in round numbers, about 4,813,945l. annual rental. Then what was the rental of houses, which were a class of property that did not require protection? In 1814, the value of house property, including factories, warehouses, and all other 1289 buildings used for the purposes of trade, was 16,259,399l.; and, in 1843, it was as much as 38,475,738l., showing an increase in that period of 22,216,339l. Thus, the fostered land—this land which it was said had been so unduly fostered by protection, had increased in value 12 per cent. in the 30 years, whilst the value of house property had increased more than 140 per cent., or nearly twelve times the amount of the former. How, then, could it be said, that the landowners had fattened and grown rich upon the distress of the country? In that period had the agricultural interest been idle? Had they not produced more? Had they not expended more capital in the enclosure and improved cultivation of land? And what was the result of their labours? Why, that the increase in the production of grain, taking the United Empire from 1814 up to 1841, amounted to 18,002,879 quarters; the increase in the population being 10,861,779; showing that the production of the land of England, in the last thirty years, had increased about 50 per cent. Was this a proof of sloth, of the want of enterprise, or the non-application of capital on the part of the agriculturists? The increase in population, in the period alluded to, was something more than 50 per cent.—he believed it was 57 per cent.; but these unjust laws, forsooth, without raising the price of corn to an inordinate degree had admitted 7½ per cent. on the whole consumption of the country at a price of about 56s. the quarter—that was leaving the price at 56s. or 57s. the quarter. Could they trace many periods of scarcity in which great suffering had occurred? Could they find the same fluctuations in price in this country that were to be found abroad? And had they any right to say the landlords had fattened upon the distresses of the country? Now, let the House consider whether no strain had been put upon the industry of the country. Let them consider whether capital had gained nothing in this period; and by capital he meant money in its exchangeable value. The observation of the right hon. Baronet as to the depreciation of 10 per cent. in the currency previous to the year 1820, applied as much to commodities as to house property and land, and to corn as much as to either. For the five years from 1815, upon the cessation of war, when the currency was recovering, the Corn Law inefficient, and a short harvest, to the year 1819 inclusive, the average price of wheat was 80s. 4d. the impe- 1290 rial quarter. The noble Lord the Member for the city of London having dealt in the argument that "protection was the bane of agriculture," and that all the evils of the country arose out of the existence of the Corn Laws, he (Mr. Newdegate) had deemed it proper to divide the period of thirty years at those times when the Corn Law had undergone alteration. In 1820 and 1821 the effects of the Bill of 1819, as the right hon. Baronet admitted the other night, were being experienced in the country. That measure overbore the Corn Laws; the harvests were abundant, and the result was that, with an average harvest, the price of wheat fell from 80s. 4d. to 44s. 7d. the quarter. The Corn Law was then found to be inefficient, and in 1822 it was again altered. The harvests were average, and the price of wheat, which for the two preceding years had been 61s. 11d. the quarter, was reduced again to 56s. 2d., which was the average of the years from 1822 to 1827. The average of the years from 1828 to 1841 was 58s. 11d. the quarter, and for the last four years—namely, from 1841 to 1845, it had been 52s. 8d. imperial quarter. This showed that since the peace, with an abundance which had been unknown in other countries, whilst the rental of land had increased but four millions sterling, or only 12 per cent., the price of corn had fallen 34 per cent. And what had been the case with trade? Let the House look to the manufacturer, and by taking the official value, which was a fixed value according to an ancient standard, and therefore a fair test, they could ascertain the depreciation on manufacturing industry. It was a singular fact that in the year 1819 the declared or real value, which had always, previously to that year, been greater than the official value, fell below it, and had never since recovered, showing very remarkably how our currency system operates to the depreciation of labour. What had been proved to be the amount of that depreciation? Why, that between 1819 and 1841, the official value exceeded the declared or actual value by 96 per cent.; that was to say, money, the value of which was fixed by law, had gained a command over manufactured produce, and all produce exported, to the extent of 96 per cent. Had they not, in the same degree, taxed the industry and labour of the people of this country? He had now shown the House how far the value of agricultural produce was depressed; how far, as proved by the test 1291 he had applied, (which they could not deny was a fair one), the value of our exports was depressed, and also to what extent the monied man had gained by the depreciation of labour. It was under the circumstances he had described that it was proposed to remove the protection which still remained to the industry of the people, whilst the currency was to be left in its present state. What had been the characteristics of the period to which his remarks had applied, and which had deservedly been termed "non-protective?" It had been decidedly a period marked by the unequal distribution of property, and the merging of the trade or profitable pursuits of those who employed their labour, joined with small capital, into the hands of those great capitalists who were urging the present changes. He would now allude to another point, which constituted a favourite argument of those who were anxious to abolish the protection enjoyed by agriculture. It was the denial of the existence of peculiar burdens on land. The hon. Member for Sheffield denied the existence of these burdens; whilst the noble Lord (Lord J. Russell) declared that, because the agricultural interest would not consent to the Committee which the hon. Member for Sheffield proposed, therefore they were not entitled, forsooth, to have those burdens considered in any adjustment of the corn question. So far from agreeing with the hon. Member for Sheffield, it was his (Mr. Newdegate's) firm belief that those burdens amounted to upwards of 12,000,000l. annually, in which sum he included tithes. It was commonly argued that tithes were not a burden on land; but he would produce the opinion of a competent authority, and one which the free traders could not question, upon the point. Mr. Ricardo most decidedly numbered tithes among the burdens upon agriculture; and surely hon. Gentleman opposite would not dispute his authority, if they left any authority undisputed. He would then take the instance selected by Mr. M'Culloch, a strenuous advocate for free trade. That gentleman quoted Dr. Paley, who, he said, could not be regarded as unfriendly to the real interests of the Church, and who had observed, "Of all institutions which were adverse to cultivation and improvement, none was so obnoxious as that of tithes." Yet this was represented to be no burden by some hon. Gentlemen. Dr. Smith said, "Tithe is always a great discouragement, both to the improvements of the landlord and the cultivation of the far- 1292 mers. They cannot venture to make the most important, which are generally the most expensive, improvements." Hon. Members opposite would not, he hoped, dispute these authorities. Free traders must admit that the authority of Mr. Ricardo, of Mr. M'Culloch, of Dr. Paley, and Dr. Smith, who were all likely to take different views of the subject, might justify the agricultural interest in regarding tithes as a burden. If so, how were the various burdens made up? The tithe uncommuted in 1843 amounted to 1,960,338l. per annum, and the tithe commuted to 1,539,670l.; together, 3,500,000l. The land-tax, after excluding for town property the sum of 550,000l., amounted in the same year to 1,308,924l. The county rate was 871,215l. The excess of poor rate paid by the land, over and above that paid by house property, amounted to 1,000,000l. The average malt tax for three years, previous to 1844, was 4,188,263l. The highway rate in 1839 amounted 1,169,891l.; and—let the House mark this item—the levy under Schedule B for the property-tax amounted in 1843 to 298,763l.! He included that item because the farmer was the only tradesman who was forbidden "to plead no profits." These various sums added together gave a gross total of 12,339,064l. He had laid these items before the House, because he knew that if anything were left unexplained, it was at once set down to the disadvantage of the agricultural interest. Hon. Members opposite might dispute the pressure of every one of these items, and he was ready to meet them on that point; but they must first disprove them. The onus of the case lay with them, and they had not yet been able to show by any returns they had procured, or by any arguments they had adduced, that those were not burdens borne by the land. It might be supposed, if he left his statement where it was, that he would willingly see all those burdens commuted, and that he was ready to give up protection, and take some money compensation for it. Now, in the first place, his opinion was, that compensation was impossible; and, in the next place, even if it were possible, it would not be advantageous to accept it. But the following quotation would express his sentiments upon this point better than any language of his own:—All those who value genuine piety, the pure offspring of the Established Church, and who, unprejudiced by the abuse of the Poor Laws, still venerate their human origin and appreciate their utility, when cautiously administered; all these (and they form the best part of the community) 1293 will strenuously resist any change of the security, any transfer of the charge from land to funds. The clergy and the landowners, the poor and the proprietors, are copartners in the soil; they must stand or fall together on their existing tenure; they may fall, indeed, but religion, mercy, and justice will fall with them; 'and they who are buried in these ruins are happier than they who survive them.'Now, these were the words of one of the authors of the measure under discussion; they were the words of the right hon. Baronet the Home Secretary, written some years ago—repudiated last week! He had often heard the effects of a relaxation in the silk duties referred to as an argument in favour of free trade. But was it true that the silk trade had not suffered from the removal of protection? and, he asked, were the goods now produced more valuable than they were; or were they as valuable, in comparison with their bulk and quality? The Government must know that they were not; and he wished to be informed why it was that the refuse now worked up by our industrious operatives, which came under the head of husks of silk, was included in the quantities imported, upon which the right hon. Baronet had founded his statement of the effects of relaxed protection; as though the material imported had been all of a nearly similar quality, whereas the quality of a great part was known to be incomparably inferior to real silk. Before he sat down, he wished to express what he understood by the term protection. By protection, he understood a principle which he upheld, not implying prohibition, but the regulation of trade. He considered the maintenance of protection as much a part of the functions and duty of Government as protection of the person; and he considered that the rule by which it should be regulated should be the good of the majority; that the limitation of it should be, that whilst the good of the majority was to be first consulted, the interests of the minority should not be unduly sacrificed. He considered the application of this principle was as much the function of Government as the administration of justice. He had endeavoured to express the reasons upon which he founded his opinions—opinions which he had not taken up lightly: and he could not conceive, if a vast majority of that House had maintained those opinions for years, that it was profitable, in a constitutional point of view, at the dictation of a Minister, who had proved himself the master and dictator of his Cabinet, that they 1294 should at once yield them up. Although the tone of the right hon. Baronet had been somewhat altered of late, yet he confessed that, coupling it with his expressions relating to the aristocracy and the monarchy, he could not, when he heard those expressions, help looking at that ensign of the authority of that House (the mace on the Table), and thinking that it was well that the Statute Books lay between the right hon. Baronet and that ensign of our authority: for he held that such conduct as that of the right hon. Baronet, overbearing the opinion of his Colleagues; concealing his principles, to take the country by surprise; working by force upon those who had long followed him, until he had overborne their better judgment; and then going over to their adversaries and adopting their policy—such conduct as that was not the conduct of a constitutional Minister; it was injurious to the freedom and liberties of the subject; and until the right hon. Baronet had subjected his change of conduct and principle to the decision of the constitutional tribunal, the constituency of the country, he had a right to assert that the right hon. Baronet was the Minister of Her Majesty's necessity, and not of Her choice—Her Majesty had indicated Her choice by calling in another—and he believed that he was also the Minister of the necessity of the country, and not of the people's choice. Although the right hon. Baronet might be the same man, he, was not now the same Minister; and he thought he held his present position by a tenure more than questionable in a constitutional point of view. It was true, that of late the Government had adopted a somewhat milder tone; but be must say, it was unusual in that House to hear a Member of the Government—he alluded to the right hon. Gentleman the Secretary of War (Mr. Sidney Herbert)—say that if they (the protectionists) did not yield now, they would have to yield to force. He was not surprised when he heard such language as that used by leaders of agitation; but when a Minister of the Crown thus turned round upon those who had faithfully supported him, it was as though he said to them with a threat, "Give up your principles, or yield to force." He really thought that phrase was, to say the least of it, an unwise expression. Such language, he thought, ill became an English Minister. It inclined one to look round and ask, "Where are these men who will subdue us?" He rejoiced to see the talent and determination 1295 which had been evinced by that which was now a broken party—a party which had been taken at a shameful disadvantage; but he told those hon. Gentlemen with whom he (Mr. Newdegate) acted, to persevere. They would yet need perseverance. They were charged with a great and a patriotic cause; and, unless he was greatly mistaken, their country would hereafter appreciate their conduct. He would allude to one other subject. It had been said to them, they were raising dissensions among the different classes of the community; and he had a right to appeal to the previous conduct of their party to ask whether such a thing was probable. They had been told that they were creating a War of the Roses; that they were setting classes one against the other; and the noble Lord the proposer of the Address (Lord F. Egerton) asked them not to do so. Now, he (Mr. Newdegate) asked whether the constitution of their party gave ground for such an accusation? Had they not a Plantagenet and a Baring amongst them? Had they not a Granby, a Miles, and an Arkwright—men derived from and connected with various and different classes? Such an accusation as that implied an utter want of knowledge of those of whom their accusers spoke—an utter want of knowleege of their character, their habits, and their pursuits.
§ MR. BARKLY
As one of those who have most recently obtained a seat in this House, I should have nothing to plead in justification of a reference to the exciting topics connected with the past history of these discussions, which has formed the chief staple of the speeches on this side. It is one of the few advantages which my inexperience in political life confers upon me, that I am able to approach the consideration of this question as calmly and deliberately as that of any other of equal magnitude and of equal importance to the social and commercial interests of this country. True, Sir, I belong to the protected classes; true, the constituents who have done me the honour to send me here, suppose themselves to be interested in maintaining protection; but this is only an additional reason why I should be careful not to allow my judgment to be biassed by self-interest or prejudice. I consider the question, therefore, simply to be, whether it will conduce more to the interests of the British Empire to carry into fuller effect those doctrines respecting freedom of commercial intercourse with foreign nations, which have so materially influenced the 1296 legislation of the last twenty years; or whether it will be wiser, once and for all, to make our stand upon those principles of protection to native industry, which have been interwoven with the social system of this country for centuries. I am not presumptuous enough to expect to throw any new light on so wide and complex a theme; one to be solved rather by facts and figures in the closet of the statesman, than by eloquence or invective in the arena of public debate. My own opinion has been, over since I was entitled to have one, that the leading doctrines of political economy with respect to trade, were as true and as capable of demonstration as the propositions of Euclid. But at the same time I have always held that it was necessary to apply those doctrines with great caution and due consideration for the complicated interests which have been created by a system of policy totally different; and that protection to agriculture, especially, was one of those points on which it was incumbent that the return to a sounder system should be made as gradual as possible. In spite of the taunts of hon. Members opposite, I still think that there is nothing irrational or impractical in that belief. If there be, I wonder how they can support the Resolutions of the right hon. Baronet. Sir, on this ground I gave my vote last year against the Motion of the hon. Member for Wolverhampton; on this ground, I must in candour admit, I should this Session have voted against any similar proposition emanating from the same quarter had circumstances remained unchanged. But, Sir, the case assumes a different aspect in my eyes when the leader of the Conservative party, at the head of a united Cabinet, brings forward not a lop-sided proposition for the abolition of protection to agriculture only, like that of the hon. Member, but a comprehensive scheme for the ultimate repeal of almost all restrictions on foreign trade; and though I may still be of opinion, that had the circumstances of the country permitted, it would have been better to accomplish so immense a revolution more gradually than we are forced to do—though I may regret, on party grounds, that the task has devolved on the present House of Commons—I, for one, dare not assume, for such trifling objections, the tremendous responsibility of declining to enter into a full examination of the effect which these protective duties have had upon the supply of food and the demand for the labour of 1297 the people of this country, while there is yet time for a peaceable settlement of the question. I do not mean to say by this that the change of one man's opinion, however eminent he may be, or the change of twenty men's opinions, should lead me to support measures which I considered wrong in principle; but looking at this question as I have described it, as one simply relating to our rate of progression towards free trade, I do maintain that the simultaneous advance in the views of the leaders of the two great parties in this House does materially affect both the feasibility and the policy of maintaining restrictions on the trade in corn. This fact affords in itself primâ facie evidence of an overruling necessity for the immediate settlement of the question. It is easy to assign unworthy motives for that advance in the views—I will not call it a change in the opinions—on either part: to ascribe it to the influence of agitation is no solution of the cause; for agitation, to be thus powerful and thus successful, it must surely be based on some great principle of truth. The real reason of that alteration of policy was the alarm of a bad harvest, the dread of an insufficient supply of food for the people of this country. That alarm may or may not have been well-founded. Time alone can prove that; but it served as an awful warning. It brought conviction to the minds not of Cabinet Ministers only, but of thousands who had before satisfied themselves with the belief that the distress of 1839 to 1841 was to be accounted for solely by the incapacity of the Ministry of that day; by overproduction of our manufactures; by a deranged system of currency; by any of those minor accessaries, which in times of political excitement are so easily magnified into all-sufficient causes. This alarm, and the agitation which preceded and no doubt inflamed it, is founded on causes of no temporary nature; it is of no evanescent description. It can be traced home only to those awful monitors, our Population Abstracts. When a stringent Corn Law was first imposed in 1791, we were then chiefly an agricultural people: even at the commencement of the present century, when our first census was taken, the number of persons in Great Britain dependent on agricultural employment, probably exceeded two-fifths of the whole population; in 1821 it had diminished to one-third, or 33 per cent; and in 1841 to 22 per cent, or less than one-fourth of the community. Meantime the skill of our 1298 manufacturers and the natural advantages they enjoy, have enabled them not only to supply the home market with goods of the cheapest description, but to increase their exports from 22,000,000l. in 1792, to 58,000,000l. in 1845; so that at least one-fourth of their workmen are dependent on foreign markets for their livelihood. Hence that protection, which in the infancy of the manufacturing system was so loudly clamoured for by the manufacturers, is now repudiated by them. The right hon. Baronet quoted the other night a well-known passage from the Wealth of Nations, to prove that the landed interest only followed the example of the manufacturers in applying for protective duties for their corn and cattle, as if any doubt were entertained of the accuracy of Adam Smith in this assertion: it is sufficient to look to the conduct of the manufacturers in the United States, or in France, or within the precincts of the Zollverein. In these countries it is the manufacturers who clamour for monopoly—the producers of agricultural produce who are in favour of free trade. It is absurd, therefore, and injurious to the cause of truth, for the Anti-Corn-Law League to plume themselves upon their superior enlightenment, and to boast an intelligence surpassing that of the agriculturists, since it is evidently self-interest alone that prompts their agitation. Still, even on this ground the manufacturers are entitled to a fair hearing, and to impartial justice at the hands of this House. They allege that the operation of the present Corn Law, is in the best of seasons, to limit the quantity of their manufactures which foreigners can take in exchange; and that when the harvest in this country is deficient, they are either excluded from competing in neutral markets by the comparatively high wages necessitated by the high price of food, or that they are involved in disputes with their workmen, because they cannot afford to pay them enough to maintain them in comfort. They allege further, that the example of Great Britain in establishing prohibitory and protective duties, has led other countries to impose and to maintain similar duties on articles of British manufacture; and that the demand for the produce of their skill and labour is thereby materially limited. Now, Sir, connected as I am, by interests and by sympathy, exclusively with the class which demands the continuance of protection, I can, nevertheless, not disguise from myself that these allegations of our manufacturers 1299 are founded in truth, and that however exaggerated the expectations they may entertain of the advantages which free trade in corn will confer upon them, they would be entitled, were it merely a question between themselves and the agricultural interest, to claim, in common justice, the restoration of trade to its natural and unrestricted state. Personally, from our tastes and habits, we may regret being accessary to the further extension which the removal of these restrictions must give to the manufacturing system. We may view its progress with alarm, because having no similar example before us in history we may well doubt whither it tends. But such regrets are unavailing here: our duty is to to legislate on principles of justice for the present as it is, not to arraign the wisdom of Providence, because it is not what we suppose it ought to be. We might as well propose to abandon agriculture, and become a nation of hunters or shepherds, as attempt to check the onward progress of our manufacturing system. Nor ought we to desire to do so. Nations, like individuals, are responsible for the due exercise of the advantages with which God has endowed them. When we are disposed to regret that we are no longer an agricultural people, let us remember that the vast treasures of mineral wealth which this country possesses—its coal and its iron—were not bestowed on it to lie idle; but were entrusted to it with the glorious mission of diffusing by their means commerce and civilization to the ends of the earth. Sir, I have stated that if this were merely a question between the interests of the manufacturers and the agriculturists, the latter must in fairness give way; but I am aware that these protective duties are defended by many on far higher grounds—that they are believed to be essential to the prosperity and independence of the nation at large. This argument, as to national independence, I must own has had great weight on my mind; though in proportion as I have investigated the grounds on which its rests, that weight has diminished. We are told that the British corngrower, not being able to stand the competition of the foreigner, a great quantity of land in this country will be thrown out of cultivation, and we shall become dependent on foreign nations for a great part of our supply of food. This presumed inability on our part to compete in the production of corn is referred to the greater taxation to which our farmers are subject. The hon. Member 1300 for Sunderland put the argument in the popular form, when he said we owe eight hundred millions: taxes to an enormous amount must be annually raised to pay the interest; and these taxes enhance the cost of all articles on which they are levied. I suppose the hon. Member did not intend to assert that other countries pay no taxes. He put the case of an English shoemaker, indeed, and asked how he could possibly compete with the French shoemaker; as if he thought that there were no taxes in France. Has he never heard of the octroi, or dues levied at the entrance of every town on provisions and fuel? Has he never heard of the foncier, that heavy tax upon the rent and profits of the farmer, which must of course ultimately fall on the consumer? Why, Sir, a Committee of this House reported in 1821, that the taxation of other countries, compared with their resources, was heavier than our own. Without going this length, let us take the case of Holland, the country most similarly situated to ourselves in regard to density of population and magnitude of debt. In that country, according to Mr. Macgregor, the annual taxation amounts to 26s. per head, or 6s. or 7s. less than our own, and yet it suffers under so mitigated a form of the sliding-scale, that wheat is admitted at a nominal duty of 1s. 3d., when the home price is 45s. per quarter. And what is the effect of this? Is Holland thereby rendered dependent on foreign countries for its daily bread? On the contrary, it grows nearly a quarter of wheat for every inhabitant; while at the same time an immense import and export corn trade is carried on, which would inevitably secure a steady price, were it not for the disturbing influence of our sliding-scale. I have alluded only to public taxation: the hon. Member for Warwickshire complained, however, of local taxation. Sir, all I can say is, that if that press, as is alleged, unfairly upon the land, the sooner the subject is investigated the better. If it can be shown that any excess of poor rate paid by land, any assessments borne by it which ought to be thrown on the Consolidated Fund, exceed the corresponding exemptions from legacy and probate duty, &c.; if it can be proved that the malt tax, the hop duty, the prohibition against growing tobacco—restrict the demand for the use of the soil, more than it is indemnified for by the differential duties on foreign and colonial spirits, by the exclusion of molasses from breweries and distilleries, by the protection still given 1301 to butter and cheese—these are very good reasons indeed for a revision of our whole fiscal system as soon as the Corn Laws are at an end; but they are not reasons to stand in the way of a change otherwise desirable. I see no reason, therefore, to fear that our taxation, either public or local, will necessarily disable our farmers from competing with the cheaply produced corn of the foreigner. But after all, where is this immense supply of cheap corn to come from? The hon. Member for Sunderland (Mr. Hudson) indeed told us, that he had laid down wheat in 1837 at 25s. per quarter; but he did not tell us what quantity; he did not tell us why with the enormous profit he must have realized, he did not, following the bent of his comprehensive mind, extend his operations to half a million quarters, and thus make a fortune faster than at mere railway speed. Why, is it not notorious, that however low the price may be when there are no orders from this country, the demand for a few hundred thousand quarters of wheat at Dantzic or Odessa, raises the price at once to the level of our own markets, and causes freights and every thing else to rise in proportion? And what is the probability of any great increase from these countries? Have we not the reports of our Consuls abroad—of Mr. Jacob and others—showing that from their social condition, this is very distant and improbable. The hon. Member for Newport (Mr. W. Martin) went so fully into this branch of the subject the other night, that I will not weary the House with statistical details. I will only say, that nothing that fell from the hon. Member for Somersetshire (Mr. Miles) in his geographical dissertation upon Poland and Russia refuted that speech, and as to his glowing description of the Valley of the Mississippi, I wonder he should refer to the imaginative De Tocqueville for his statements, when his hon. relative the Member for Bristol (Mr. P. Miles), who visited it about the same time as myself, could have so easily relieved his fears as to its becoming a great wheat-producing country, without millions of capital to drain and embank, and millions of population to cultivate it. Sir, if that authority were not enough, the hon. Member might have derived comfort from his hon. ally the Member for Roxburghshire (Mr. Scott), who stated that the great danger of free trade was, that Canada would dissolve her connexion with this country, in order to secure for her corn the better market of the United States. On a review of the whole question I think 1302 it is more to be apprehended, that we shall not continue to get foreign corn in as great quantities and as cheap as we now do, than that we shall draw any larger proportion of our supplies from abroad. For after all, Sir, what reason have we to flatter ourselves that we are at present independent of foreign supply. Have we not in the last five years—years generally of bountiful harvests — imported nearly 10,000,000 quarters of wheat, and never less than a million quarters in any one year? Are we not obliged to have recourse, whenever an unfavourable season occurs, to foreign countries, for at least 2,000,000 quarters, or about 20 per cent. of the produce of Great Britain? Is not, therefore, in fact a proportion of our population, varying from a fifth to a tenth, always dependent on imported food? This supposed independence of foreign supply, is really, after all, one of those political lies to which the hon. Member for Sheffield referred; and I cannot see that, in the event of the general war which is threatened, we should be worse off in respect of obtaining a foreign supply under a system of free trade, than we are now. At any rate it is only a question of degree; and, looking to the fact that we imported an annual average of 600,000 quarters throughout the last war, and that, as the noble mover of the Address reminded you, one and a half million quarters were imported in 1810, during the time when the Berlin and Milan decrees were most enforced; I think all experience justifies us in concluding that the danger on this score is much exaggerated. Besides, after all, a general war in both hemispheres can hardly burst upon us all at once; and a year or two, at most, would enable us to break up grass land, and to increase our production of wheat by other means even it were at the expense of a little cross cropping. Sir, on these grounds I conclude that there is no valid objection to a free trade in corn in a national point of view: it is certain that it must have a beneficial effect in many respects. But, Sir, desirable as free trade may be in a national point of view, I am bound, as the representative, of a constituency dependent on the prosperity of agriculture, to see that it be carried out in a manner as little injurious as possible to the interests of the three great classes engaged in it—labourers, farmers, and landowners. First, as to the effect of a change in the Corn Law upon the interests of the agricultural labourer: this involves a preliminary inquiry as to what is his present 1303 condition after thirty years of uninterrupted peace—thirty years of continued protection to agriculture. I have no disposition to exaggerate the hardships of that condition: sooner than be supposed to do so, I will simply assert what I believe no one will deny, that there is something altogether unsatisfactory in it, excepting, perhaps, in the neighbourhood of great towns and manufactories. I do not contend that it would necessarily have been otherwise if we had had a free trade in corn; I look for no permanent improvement from such a cause, since, even if any fall in the price of food thus produced were not eventually counterbalanced by a fall in wages, nothing is more certain than that the irresistible tendency of population to press upon the means of subsistence, would in a very few years reduce the labourer to his former condition. That condition can only be permanently improved by his moral elevation; and I do most fervently join in the hope expressed by the hon. and learned Member for Bath, that advantage will be taken of the opportunity which a temporary cheapness of food will afford us to improve the physical condition and to provide education for the poorer classes of this vast Empire. I do not, I repeat, attribute the present condition of the labourer to the Corn Laws: all I allege is, that that condition is not such that I can conscientiously make it a ground for resisting the abolition of the Corn Laws, if otherwise desirable. Bad, however, as it is, I still admit with thankfulness, that it is superior to that of the peasantry of most other countries in Europe; and when I hear it asserted, that by throwing these labourers into direct competition with the Russian serf or the Pomeranian boor, he will be inevitably reduced to the same standard of subsistence, the assertion certainly deserves investigation. There is something at first sight plausible enough in the argument, that the rate of wages in two countries competing with each other in the production of similar articles must be identical, and, cæteris paribus, they might be so; though even in this view it would be difficult to say why, by opening the corn trade, we have not at least as good a chance of conferring on our labourers the same command over the necessaries of life (for that really is the point, though hon. Gentlemen lose sight of it when they talk about money wages) as is enjoyed by those whose competition is so much dreaded on the banks of the Ohio, as of lowering them 1304 to the black bread which forms the common food on the banks of the Vistula or the Volga. But, in truth, the rate of wages in any particular country does not depend upon the amount paid for similar labour in competing countries, but, as has frequently been observed, upon the demand for labour in that country; and the demand for labour depends upon the wealth of that country in proportion to its population. If the surplus income of a country goes on accumulating faster than the population increases, the rate of wages is in no danger whatever of falling. This is no newfangled theory of political economy: we can appeal to every day's experience for its truth. In the United States, the most thriving community in the world, because the progressive increase of national capital is greater than in any other country, wages are 4s. or 5s. per day, while the price of a bushel of wheat is scarcely so much. If America be objected to, as not a corn-importing country, take Holland, to which I have already referred, and you will find wages are 1s. 3d. to 1s. 8d. per day, or very little below our own currency. But why look abroad, when we have sufficient proof under our very eyes to show how groundless is this alarm of lowering the condition of the peasantry of Great Britain by competition? For the last forty years they have been in unrestricted competition with a people as badly housed, as miserably clad, as wretchedly fed as any to be found in Europe, inhabiting a country, acre for acre, more fertile than Great Britain; where, in the words of an eminent writer, the land now cultivated might be made to yield three times the quantity it does, and where there exist millions of acres perfectly well adapted for cultivation, but which have never yet supplied a morsel of food for man. I refer, of course, to Ireland, which supplies us with three or four million quarters of grain and pulse, although our annual average importation of wheat and flour, notwithstanding all these inducements to British capitalists, still falls short of half a million quarters. Now, how has this wholesale competition affected our labourers' wages? I speak, not, of course, of the influx of Irish labourers into this country, which, no doubt, has had a lowering effect on the labour market—that is a separate question; but I ask, has this competition with Ireland reduced our labourer to the level of their Irish competitors in respect to food, clothing, and wages? 1s 8d. per day the rate of wages; and do thousands of able-bodied men re- 1305 main unemployed at that rate throughout the greater portion of the year? And if this is not the effect of a competition between England and Ireland under a free trade in corn, why should it be of that between England and Russia? Even admitting that a somewhat larger proportion of our food will be for a time grown abroad, and a somewhat smaller proportion at home, that would not necessarily influence wages; for if we import corn, we export manufactures to pay for it, so that the actual quantity of employment, the actual demand for labour, will be unaltered thereby. I know that there is an objection to this proposition, because it involves the transfer of labourers from agriculture to manufactures. I admit the force of it to a certain extent; for though Dukes have, I believe, subscribed to help the emigration of labour from Buckinghamshire to Lancashire, I am quite ready to allow that such an emigration would be attended with a snapping of ties, and a change of habits, productive of a certain degree of inconvenience and even suffering. Political economy is charged with estimating men as mere machines; I, at any rate, do not wish to do so; and I should certainly be averse to the transition to a state of free trade unaccompanied with greater precautions and safeguards on this head, if it had not pleased Providence to provide them ready to our hand at the present moment in the extension of the railway system. Sir, that extension has not been taken into account by the opponents of this measure in this point of view, though they have made the most of it as explaining the increased prosperity of the country during the last three years: another instance, it strikes me, of confusing cause and effect together—the construction of railways being rather the effect of national prosperity than the cause of it. The capital invested in them must either arise from an increase of the surplus income of the nation, which proves its previous prosperity, or it must be diverted from other channels in which it would equally have afforded employment to labour, and equally therefore have increased the consumption of taxable commodities. I turn, however, from this digression to consider how the proposed changes will affect the farmer. This is a point on which I do not feel qualified to go into detail, as I have little practical experience of agriculture. Hon. Gentlemen opposite have attempted to persuade the tenant-farmer that this is not a question that affects him; and no 1306 doubt, in the abstract, looking upon him as a mere manufacturer of food, the proposition is true; for, however much the price of corn may be lowered, the farmer must still get a remunerative return for the capital he applies to the land, either by giving a diminished proportion of its produce to the landlord, on the one hand, or to the labourer, on the other. The farmer's profit, as a mere agent in the cultivation of land, must be made up either from rent or wages, or he will cease to apply his capital to it. This is all true in the abstract; but it will be many years before it can become true in practice; and I am so far from thinking this merely a question of rent—I have already said I do not think it a question of wages—that I believe that, in fact, the farmer will have to bear the brunt of the effects of the change, whatever they may be. I believe that these effects will be worn off before the landlord's turn comes to be affected by them. I am quite aware, however, that a temporary drop of even a few shillings a quarter will be seriously felt by the farmers of England; and I have too high an opinion of the landlords of England to suppose that they will not make every allowance which the circumstances of their tenantry may require. At the same time it is a very shortsighted view to suppose that a decrease in the price of corn is so much dead loss to the farmer: of course, there must be a consequent decrease in farming charges; and though that decrease may have been exaggerated in the pamphlet of Trimmer and Moreton, upon the effects of protecting duties on agriculture, there is no doubt that the removal of the duty from maize, and its diminution on clover and other seeds, will be a very great boon to the farmer who has capital to take advantage of these relaxations; and I believe that the changes proposed on other points by Her Majesty's Government, in the Law of Settlement, and in the management of the highway rate, will be of material advantage to him. I say, the farmer who has capital, because the only anxiety I have is for that class of farmers which unfortunately has sprung up under the present system, and who do not possess a sufficient proportion of that requisite for the land which is entrusted to them—a class which has been much, I fear, sustained by the operation of the sliding-scale, by enabling them just to save their rents in unfavourable seasons by the high price of corn, and which, of course, without that 1307 support, must be extinguished. But, after all, will it not be for the benefit of all classes that such should be the case, and that the land should not be entrusted to men who, as the expression is, starve it. The landlord will undoubtedly benefit: he will be able, by and by, to grant leases as is done in Scotland, where we have a superior class of tenants possessing abundant skill and capital. The tenant-farmer will benefit, not only by these leases, but by the competition for farms being confined to those who are in a legitimate position to compete. Even the poorer class of farmers—I cannot say the small farmers, for a small farmer may be as able to do justice to his land as the large farmer—will themselves benefit by being released from a false position. Finally, with regard to the effect of the abolition of the Corn Laws on the position of the landowner, it is asserted, and I fear truly, that a large portion of the landed interest is deeply encumbered, partly, no doubt, owing to the effects of settlements made during the high prices of war, and the subsequent resumption of a sounder system of currency; and an apprehension is entertained that, in the event of any sudden change which should lower rents, and thus diminish the saleable value of land, many mortgages would be foreclosed, and many ancient families ruined. I have already stated why I expect that such will not be the case. I look for no material alteration in the value of land; I think that the settlement of this great question, which has been so long impending, will cause a sufficient flow of capital to the land to sustain its value, even if rents should at first somewhat fall from the temporary abandonment of inferior soils. I think rents, however, more likely eventually to rise than to fall, and I have no fears for the landed interest. Should it be otherwise, no one would regret it more deeply than myself. The importance of an ancient territorial aristocracy, as contributing to maintain the balance of power in our mixed Constitution, is, I believe, undervalued by political writers, and they are too apt to treat the transfer of property from this class to those beneath as a mere matter of debtor and creditor. I concur in no such view; I entertain no other feelings than those of respect and regard for the landed gentry of this country; and I should look with aversion to the repeal of the Corn Laws, if I thought there were any risk of their ancestral mansions and venerable trees falling a prey to the money- 1308 lender, or even being transferred by any unnatural revolution, or to any undue extent, to the cotton lord or the railway potentate. But, Sir, it is because I do value a landed aristocracy, that I will not abet them in an encounter with the people upon so exciting a point as the supply of their food. It is said, this is not a popular question. True, it has not been made one; but it is a question upon which the middle classes are almost unanimous—those middle classes—those tenpounders—upon whom the Reform Bill conferred the power which it took partly from the higher classes, the boroughholders, partly from the lower classes, the scot and lot voters, and the potwallopers, &c. Depend upon it the middle class is in earnest on this subject; and if they once get angered and excited by a contest, they will disregard the consequences, and call in the democracy to their aid, as they called it in to carry that very Reform Bill by the prospect of political privileges, which they afterwards took care not to secure. Another time, however, the fierce tide of democracy may not be so easily checked, and your nomination boroughs, nay, your hereditary peerage and law of primogeniture, may fall a sacrifice before it is arrested. I know you do not apprehend this danger from what you call an appeal to the country. You look at the result of the last general election, and flatter yourselves that the cause of protection is still as strong as ever it was; but you deceive yourselves egregiously if you imagine that it was to the agricultural interest alone that the majority on this side of the House, at the commencement of the present Parliament, was attributable. You forgot that the influence of the commercial class, which forms the connecting link between the manufacturers and the agriculturist, was on your side. That influence turned the scale in many of your wealthiest counties—Middlesex, Surrey, Kent. By it Conservative Members were returned in London, Liverpool, Bristol, and Hull—the great commercial emporiums—and a tone thus given to the whole representation of the Empire. The hon. Member for Huntingdon and the hon. Mover of the Amendment are of course fitter exponents of the views of that mercantile body than I can pretend to be; but this I do think—a tolerably extensive acquaintance with the feelings of that class warrants me in saying—that their confidence in the right hon. Baronet is still unshaken. That confidence was placed in 1309 him when they were yet scared at the democratic excesses which attended the passing of the Reform Bill; it united them to that great Conservative party which the right hon. Baronet created, in the belief that he would advocate a more tolerant policy in Church and State, than that which had proved the ruin of the old Tory party. That confidence grew stronger as the financial incapacity of the Melbourne Administration proved more and more apparent; and at the general election they supported the right hon. Baronet, not because they supposed him to be the opponent of free trade, but because they thought he would never have proposed a sweeping measure of financial change with a bankrupt Exchequer, and without a majority in either House of Parliament to support it. Sir, the commercial and mercantile body have at any rate not been disappointed in the right hon. Baronet; and I believe they will again rally round him in defence of national order and of national credit. If you do now desert him—if you hesitate to follow the enlarged and enlightened policy he has chalked out—in vain will you look to the mercantile class for aid. In vain will you call on the colonial interest to range itself with you in defence of the protection which they still receive. They will remember the marvellous facility with which you rescinded your vote on the Sugar Duties. They will remember your suicidal refusal, year after year, to put Australian corn on a footing with Canadian; and they will prefer to let their special claims for a gradual application of free-trade principles rest exclusively on the validity of the grounds they can adduce in their defence. Where then will your majority be? There are many among you who know all this—who believe the cause of protection to be desperate—but who fear that prompt concession will only lead to further and more democratic demands. They dread the power of the manufacturers: they urge that the League is but an incarnation of upstart democratic ambition—that it has ulterior objects—and, with a spirit worthy of a better cause, they are determined to resist this first inroad; and if they must fall, to fall, as the hon. Member for Cheshire expressed it, with honour. I regret that language should have been used by the hon. Member for Durham, and others both in and out of this House, calculated to give a colour to such fears. But I do not myself believe that any such spirit pre- 1310 vails among those who have upheld the League—dangerous as I think the permanent existence of such a body might become. I do not think such a spirit can exist in a country where the highest ranks and the greatest emoluments are open to all. If it did exist, it would be powerless; for I am sure it would in vain appeal to the lower orders against their natural protectors, the aristocracy, unless unhappily they should be set against them on a question of this exciting nature. But, Sir, if it be true that such a spirit is lurking in this movement; that we are on the eve, as some suppose, of a struggle between the aristocratic and democratic elements of our Constitution; let me ask you whether the chivalry of England can find no better cause to fall in, than an inglorious struggle for the perpetuation of a bread tax? If the contest is to come, let us join issue in defence of our Church; let us present an unflinching front in support of our Throne and our Peerage; but do not, with divided counsels and disunited ranks, rush into a contest with the people in an attempt to restrict the supply of their daily food, and the wages of their industry.
§ MR. P. BENNET
, JUN., said, he took that the first opportunity that presented itself, to offer a few brief observations to the notice of the House, and to advert to the astonishment and surprise caused in the whole country at the sudden change that had taken place in the opinions of the right hon. Baronet at the head of the Government. Admitting the able manner in which the right hon. Gentleman had conducted the financial affairs of this country, he could not help always feeling a degree of distrust, because of the way in which the right hon. Baronet had deserted his principles likewise on a former occasion, in respect to a much more important object than that now under consideration, namely, the integrity of the Protestant religion. When he (Mr. Bennet) saw the right hon. Genlteman repudiating all he had done, and unsaying all he had said on that point, as well as on the subject of protection to agriculture, he could not contemplate the next step which the right hon. Baronet might take without fear and apprehension, because of the danger with which such desertion of principle menaced the country at large. It grieved him to the heart to say so, but such were his convictions. He entirely disagreed with the able speech of his hon. Friend the Member for Leominster, who had in great measure used the 1311 arguments of the Member for Durham and the League—arguments which had been, in more able and more eloquent language, repeated to the House by the right hon. Baronet. Having heard the speech of the right hon. Baronet, and listened to it attentively, he could not forget those speeches eloquent in opposition to the principles the right hon. Baronet now contended for, and, forgetting, forego the opinions formed under his tuition. He (Mr. Bennet) represented an agricultural county; and seeing that their best interests were assailed by the course taken by the right hon. Baronet, he hoped the House would excuse him if he expressed himself too warmly upon the subject in debate. He had constantly resided in an agricultural district, and he had the best opportunities of perceiving the good feeling that subsisted between the three great classes into which the agricultural population was divisible—the labourer, the yeoman, and the landlord. The existence of this feeling to an extent which no one who had not lived among them for so long a period as he, could credit, he was prepared to bear witness to; and he could also aver, from his own knowledge, that no country gentleman with whom he was acquainted looked upon the question at issue as a matter of rent, but as a matter of kindly feeling for the yeoman, the tenant-farmer, and the labourer. Moreover, he was perfectly satisfied that their whole wish was to make the labourer as comfortable as he could be made by an increase of wages, and that they looked much less to their own interests in the question than to the advantages of their tenants. There had been a great competition latterly for labour, in consequence of the demand caused by railroad speculations, and the labourer consequently got more than he would for his labour under ordinary circumstances; but the labourer who was attached to his cottage and his residence would scarcely go into the depraved associations which he (Mr. Bennet) was sorry to say had been the concomitant of the railway system in this country. Having been returned lately for a part of the country where the excitement produced by the plan of the right hon. Baronet had not spread to any great extent, he believed that when that excitement was at its full height, a most striking result would be the consequence on a future appeal to the constitueneies. There had not been the least effort, however, on the part of the League, to prevent his return; nor had the adhesion of the Premier even to the 1312 League prevented the return of five protection Members to fill up so many county vacancies, without the League even venturing to interfere; which was significant as to the feeling of the agricultural districts. Being interested in the county of Cambridge, he was anxious to ask the Solicitor General, if he had been in his place, whether they were to have his assistance in maintaining protection? That hon. and learned Gentleman, in his speech at Cambridge on his election for the borough—his return for which was greatly owing to the country gentlemen of the neighbourhood—that hon. and learned Gentleman had stated that it was the greatest folly to attempt to introduce the principle of free trade into this country; and the hon. and learned Gentleman used upon that occasion the strongest language possible in favour of protection. He should not refer to the observations of the right hon. Baronet, who had pronounced himself wrong upon every former occasion, but he should content himself with expressing his most decided opposition to the measures of the Government.
§ MR. MUNTZ
said, the House was in rather an unfortunate state, and that he was the most fortunate man in it, except that he was not the most fashionable. He had no change to make in the opinion he had professed for the last thirty years. He had no speeches to retract, no principles to repudiate, and he had no cause of quarrel with the right hon. Baronet at the head of the Government. He differed with that right hon. Gentleman on the question before the House; he differed from the hon. Gentlemen who sat around him; and he differed from the hon. Gentlemen who sat on the other side of the House. But withal there was no man amongst them more anxious than he was for the passing of the measure by a triumphant majority. Its passing would be a national benefit, for it would tear away the veil of delusion which had obscured the common sense of the country for so long a period, and would remove for ever the perpetual excuse for political wrong—"the Corn Law did this, and the Corn Law did that, and the Corn Law did everything." He (Mr. Muntz) had repeatedly told the right hon. Baronet that he would ultimately have to reduce the price of everything to the continental level, or keep up prices and the wages of labour in this country nominally higher than at present. The right hon. Baronet had taken the former course on this occasion. 1313 He thought it was the wrong course; but the right hon. Baronet having taken it, he thought it was his duty to support him, and enable him to carry out his views. [Laughter.] Hon. Gentlemen might laugh; he was long enough in that House to know that laughter decided no question submitted for discussion; but he thought they would not laugh when they heard his reasons, which were, that any state of things was better than the uncertainty of the last thirty years. Now, as to the question before the House. Hon. Members on the opposite side of the House had done well to change their cry from "protection to agriculture," to that of "protection to native industry." He contended that all native industry ought to be protected against the untaxed industry of other countries. [Cheers.] He heard those cheers, but he advised those who cheered not to crow until they were out of the wood. Had they, he begged to ask them, protected all native industry? He denied that they had—they had protected a portion, to a certain extent; but not all the native industry of the country. The hon. Member for Newcastle (Mr. Colquhoun), a few nights ago, had referred to him, and stated that for certain manufactures he was not now paying the labourers one-sixth of the wages he paid them some thirty years ago; and the hon. Member had done him (Mr. Muntz) the justice to say that he was the supporter of the rights and interests of the poor. In and out of Parliament he had ever been the same, and why? Because the poor were unable to defend or protect themselves. The remark made by the hon. Member (Mr. Colquhoun) was correct, for at the present moment he was paying for one description of manufacture just one-sixth of the wages he paid to his workmen in the year 1816. This, however, did not apply to all his labourers; to some he paid one-half — to others one quarter of their former wages, according to the nature of the work, and according also to the manufacture having to be brought by exportation into competition with foreign manufactures. The variations in the wages of labour depended exactly upon the contiguity of the competition with foreign manufactures. He repeated, that only a portion of the labour of this country had been protected by the Legislature. True, that protection had been given to the home labourers, the carpenter, the blacksmith, the wheelwright, the smith; but they had not given protection to the labourers who carried on such trades 1314 as the Manchester, Leeds, and Birmingham trades, which came into competition with foreign manufacturers; and that was the reason why he objected to the Corn Laws, which were put forward as the means of protection to native industry. But he must add that he did not think the repeal of those laws would produce all the advantages which, in and out of the House, had been stated would be thereby achieved. The House had heard the speech of the right right hon. Baronet at the head of the Government—they had heard the speech of the right hon. Baronet the Secretary for the Home Department—and they had also heard the speech of the right hon. Gentleman the Secretary at War (Mr. S. Herbert); but he submitted that those speeches contradicted each other as to the positive effects of the change which was contemplated. What would be the use of repeal if it did not produce a reduction of prices?—if it would not be productive of a reduction, he would not vote for it; it was because the repeal ought, must, and would, reduce prices, that he should vote for it. If wages of labour could not be protected, then let all classes row in the same boat—let them swim together for their lives, and, if they must sink, let them sink together. Both sides of the House had lent themselves to the right hon. Baronet in all his monetary measures, which had necessarily reduced the value of all property, produce and labour: they had, in fact, sowed the wind, and they now reaped the whirlwind. Though the right hon. Baronet now said, to justify his cause, that famine in Ireland stared him and the country in the face, and therefore that further progress in the removal of restrictions affecting the importation of food must be made, and advances in the direction of free trade must be kept up with other nations; still the real conviction of the right hon. Baronet was, that he must carry out the principles of a reduction of prices in support of his monetary system. When his commercial property had been reduced, and his men and their families reduced to ruin and beggary, did they feel for their miseries, or do anything to relieve them? No, the Members of Parliament had not hesitated to take care of themselves. He spoke of both sides. The Whigs had done the same. They sneered at commercial distresses, but now retribution was come both upon them and the right hon. Baronet. It was impossible for them to deny the fact which stared them in the face, that for thirty 1315 years they had protected themselves at the expense of the people, and yet now they turned round and said, "We have been wrong all along—we are now going to become angels, for we are converted, convinced that, after all, honesty is the best policy." He (Mr. Muntz) had very little confidence in such sudden convictions, without any sufficient reasons being given. But he must say, that if any conduct was to be deprecated, it was that which knocked down the right hon. Baronet with one hand, and picked him up with the other. He himself could say hard things, for he was not mealy-mouthed, but he could not be fleecy on the one side, and dirty on the other. The right hon. Baronet had plainly said that he was convinced that, during the last three years, the rate of wages had nothing to do with the price of corn; and several Members, in support of his position, had quoted Adam Smith. Now he (Mr. Muntz) could not reject Adam Smith, because he had read him when a school-boy so often that he had committed him to memory; and if his memory had not been grievously injured by a recent fall, he remembered the writings of Adam Smith still. The right hon. Baronet had said that the rate of wages could not be affected by the price of corn, for that there had been three years of dear corn and low wages, and three years of cheap corn and high wages. He would quote a short extract from Adam Smith bearing upon that point; and he was the more anxious to do so because his constituents, a large and intelligent body, sometimes said he spoke sometimes on one side, and voted on the other. The extract was this:—Though the variations in the price of labour not only do not always correspond with those in the price of provisions, but are frequently quite opposite, we must not, upon this account, imagine that the price of provisions has no influence upon that of labour. The money price of labour is necessarily regulated by two circumstances—the demand for labour and the price of the necessaries and conveniences of life. The demand for labour, according as it happens to be increasing stationary, or declining, or to require an increasing, stationary, or declining population, determined the quantity of the necessaries and conveniences of life which must be given to the labourer; and the money price of labour is determined by what is requisite for purchasing this quantity. Though the money price of labour, therefore, is sometimes high where the price of provisions is low, it would be still higher, the demand continuing the same, if the price of provisions was high.The thing to be considered by the House in reference to the question was, whether 1316 the other circumstances for the last six years had been the same as laid down by Adam Smith, and whether these circumstances altered the condition of the case. The right hon. Baronet claimed credit for the whole of the improvements, and attributed them entirely to his Tariff. There he (Mr. Muntz) differed altogether from the right hon. Gentleman, although he freely admitted that the reduction of duties had done some good. The peculiar circumstances which occurred in the years from 1841 to 1845 ought to be considered. Before 1841 no alteration in the Tariff occurred to relieve trade. The year 1841 was the year of the lowest prices and the year of the greatest pressure in trade, within the memory of man: like all previous similar times, much should be allowed for the reaction. After this year it must be recollected that the revenue was increased by 4,000,000l. or 5,000,000l. of Property Tax, while a great amount of taxation was taken off the working classes. The right hon. Baronet put his hand in their pockets for 5,000,000l. of Income Tax, and then said, "Look at my increase of revenue." Then there was the termination of the Chinese and Indian wars—the Chinese money—and the settlement of the boundary question—all of which acted with more or less force in producing a favourable state of things; and next, there was the circumstance of the augmented circulation of the Bank of England. In 1841 the amount was 16,000,000l., in 1845 it was 22,000,000l. To these matters must be added the great advantage and effect of railway enterprise, which had had an immense effect upon prices and wages. He came from a central part of the kingdom, where the working of railways was deeply considered, and where a great part of the articles used in railways were manufactured; and he would undertake to say if railway speculation were checked or destroyed, labour and iron would be reduced 50 per cent. within six months. He knew from his own experience that railways had produced an enormous effect on the prices both of goods and of labour. It was, therefore, a bad argument on the part of the right hon. Baronet to attribute the prosperity which the country enjoyed during the last few years mainly to his measures, and to calculate and rely upon similar effects from the present proposed plans of proceeding. Now, there was one point more in the right hon. Baronet's speech to which he wished to direct the attention of the 1317 right hon. Baronet and the House. The right hon. Baronet said the other night that the trade in no article on which the duty had been altered, had been injured since the alteration. There was one article connected with his own manufacture which would prove the contrary. He referred to zinc. In 1815 the price of zinc was 75l. per ton; but soon the duty was reduced, and it fell to 45l. per ton: in 1825 it was reduced again, and the price fell from 45l. to 15l.; and the present price per ton for zinc was 20l., which afforded no profit in England. The effect of the last alteration in the duty had been to destroy every manufactory in this country but one, which was continued for some years, solely because the party was under contract to take a mine of coal at a very low rate, which must be paid for whether raised or not. Previously to the repeal of the duty, the whole of the zinc used in England was made in the country. He did not say this to show that they should not repeal the Corn Laws, because he wished to see them repealed; but he wished to show the right hon. Baronet how frail was the reed on which he leant. The article to which he had alluded could not now be made in this country, because the artisan here could not work at sixpence a day like the artisan of Silesia or Poland. In those countries they were obliged to burn wood, while we had coal in abundance; but the price of labour was so different that we could not manufacture it for less than 20l. per ton, while the foreigner could do it for 14l. This was one circumstance to show how easy it was to make declarations in the gross: he had not sought for this case, but there were many other things which were perhaps in the same predicament. There was another point. In 1815 the price of corn was 102s., in 1845 it was 52s.; but the change in the currency made it about the same in real amount. The right hon. Baronet said that 10 per cent should be deducted from 102s. on account of the alteration in the value of the currency; but he (Mr. Muntz) said that 50 per cent should deducted, which brought the 102s. to 51s. They were therefore at issue upon this point, and probably should continue so; but the right hon. Baronet must excuse his now saying that his position was entirely altered. He had had the reputation of being infallible; but he could hold the reputation no longer, seeing that, according to his own confession, he had, for forty 1318 years, been wrong in toto upon a most important subject, the Corn Laws. He would ask the House whether it were not possible that within the next two or three years the right hon. Gentleman, having seen the effects of his own recent proceedings, and after having seen, as he would soon see, the effects of the now proposed laws—was it not possible, he would ask, that the right hon. Gentleman might again change his mind upon one other subject, and come down to the House, and declare that it was impossible for him to hesitate, after some two or three years' experience, as to the wisdom and expediency of a great and radical measure being adopted, to rectify the evils springing from a vicious monetary system? There was nothing unreasonable in expecting this step on the part of the right hon. Gentleman, who, at the same time, would not fail to claim credit for honesty in acknowledging his own convictions. He would ask whether there was any improbability of such a thing taking place, after what they had already witnessed? His object was to get all parties into his boat. He made no secret of the matter. The poor deserved protection as well as the rich; and if he could but get the rich and the poor into one boat, and when they were rowing for their fortunes, and perhaps for their lives, he would answer for their discovering a place of safety to land upon at last.
§ MR. DISRAELI
I leave the right hon. Baronet the First Minister to settle the question of the currency with his new supporter, to whom we are indebted for a protection speech almost as effective as that delivered by the noble Lord the Member for Liverpool. The hon. Gentleman who has just addressed us seems to think that after the declaration of the Government all is doubtful; but there is at least one point on which no doubt can rest. Whatever may be the opinions of the two parties that now have entered into this great controversy on the main question before the House—however fervent may be our convictions of the advantages of protection—however sanguine may be the expectations of hon. Gentlemen opposite of the consequences of competition, there is one point on which we are all agreed, and with respect to which there can be no misunderstanding; and it is this—that Her Majesty's Ministers have changed their opinions. Whether the opinions they formerly pursued, or the opinions which they are now about to follow, are the right ones, the most expedient, and the 1319 most calculated to benefit this country—this I apprehend to be the real question before the House. This is the question which, with the indulgence of the House, I shall endeavour to consider; and on which I will offer some suggestions, which I hope may induce hon. Gentlemen to hesitate before they accede to the great change which is proposed. I shall endeavour to show that the system of protection is not that odious system which it has been so long assumed to be. I pledge myself to meet the question on its merits; and though I may not be equal to the argument, I will not shrink from it. But before I presume to offer any considerations to the House in support of that system, it will be more convenient to notice the arguments offered by Her Majesty's Government in favour of the change proposed. We have been addressed in support of the measure of the Government by three Cabinet Ministers. It is due to the right hon. Gentleman the First Minister—due to his position, and to the comprehensive statement which he made of the case of the Ministers, that I should, perhaps, in the first instance, notice what that right hon. Gentleman said. He seemed to complain that the greater part of this discussion had been wasted by observations on the conduct of party. I have no wish myself to enter into that subject; nor should I have noticed it, had not the right hon. Gentleman, by the use which he made of the word "party," then, as well as on other occasions, seemed to entertain on that point ideas very different from those which animate and influence Gentlemen on these benches. We have, indeed, heard from these benches many comments on the conduct of party; but we associate with that word very different ideas from those which the right hon. Gentleman seems to entertain. We do not understand that party is anything but public opinion embodied. We protest against the doctrine of the right hon. Gentleman, that there is a distinction between political party and public opinion. We maintain that party is public opinion embodied, whether it represent the opinion of a majority or a minority; it, at all events, represents the opinion of a great section of the community. In this country, where the nation is divided into parties, and where great results are brought about by public discussion, and by the organization also, no doubt, of material interests—in this country, by these two agencies, reason and property, we arrive in times of change at the solution of controversies the most diffi- 1320 cult. Such are the beneficial consequences of this system, that, however fierce the controversial strife—however violent the agitation of the nation—still you will always find that when a question is settled by the legitimate influence of what the right hon. Gentleman calls "party," but which is in fact national organization, the nation is content and satisfied with the decision; and you seldom see a question so settled reopened. We do not complain of the right hon. Baronet for having changed his opinion—opinion is not in the power of human will; but what we complain of is, not that he has deferred too much to public opinion, but that he has outraged public opinion—that he has prevented its legitimate action in the settlement of questions by the aid of party, or embodied public opinion—and that he has arrived at a conclusion, and probably will achieve a result, which will not be, on account of the mode in which it has been brought about, satisfactory to the community. We say, and say with reason, that by the aid of that great mass of public opinion which we represent, the right hon. Baronet was raised into power; and that a Parliament was elected to give effect to that opinion which we represent, and the right hon. Baronet has disregarded. If the noble Lord opposite, who represents another section of public opinion, had succeeded and been made Minister—if his side had succeeded in becoming the majority, and had settled those questions, we should then have yielded; because we should have felt that the solution of these questions had been brought about by constitutional means—by the legitimate operation of public opinion. But we feel that this question is not now settled, and cannot be settled, in a constitutional manner. It is not merely that we have the sad spectacle of the right hon. Baronet surrounded by a majority, who, while they give him their votes, protest in their speeches against his policy ["No, no!"]—is not that the fact? I thought there was no doubt about it; and that the illustrious converts that we have heard of, are converts to the policy and not to the principles of the right hon. Gentleman. There is not only the flagrant scandal of a Minister bringing forward under such circumstances a great measure, with, as he has announced himself, the majority of his Cabinet against him, but public opinion is not fairly dealt with; and when we complain of the right hon. Baronet not treating his party fairly, we do not speak of the 300 Gentle- 1321 men on these benches, but we speak of the great body of the community whose views they represent, and of that public opinion which is the result of their convictions. I have now made the only observations I shall offer in answer to what has fallen, on this head, from the right hon. Baronet. The right hon. Baronet then proceeded to indicate what he considered the proper subject of discussion; and I confess that he, in his description of what should be the proper subject of discussion, at once described and indicated the fallacy of his own position, and the fatal policy he would have us pursue. The right hon. Gentleman said, "I call on you not to discuss the party question, but"—to do what?—"to meet an emergency, and to construct a system." Now, if there, be any contrast more complete than another, it must be that between a system which should be permanent, and an emergency which, however managed, must to a certain degree, be temporary. This was, I think, at once, the blot of the position of the right hon. Baronet in his very first step. If we were considering the policy of the Minister of a foreign country, and if we brought to that consideration calmer spirits than now animate us, we should at once say that this was a great mistake. I say that it would be a great mistake in the noble Lord opposite, in dealing with a national emergency, were he to say, "I have measures to meet this emergency, but at the same time I ask you to reconstruct your commercial policy in accordance with the policy which I have always advocated, and for which, therefore, you are prepared." But what would you say to a Minister who, with an emergency, asks you to reconstruct your commercial system, and at the same time tells you that you must do this in total opposition to all he has before taught you as wise and politic? Now, Sir, as regards the emergency—namely, the state of Ireland—I must protest against any one in this House warning us not to speak of that country in a tone of levity. I am not conscious of ever having spoken of Ireland in a tone of levity, though I may speak in a tone of levity of a feeble policy with reference to Ireland. But before we touch upon this, there is one point which it would be well for some Member of the Cabinet to clear up. I believe there are no more free-trade Members of the Cabinet to speak; but perhaps we may be favoured with the opinion of a protection Member; for it is a remarkable characteristic of the present anomalous state of affairs, that we have at 1322 the same time a protection Cabinet and a free-trade Ministry. The right hon. Gentleman told us that he feels the difficulty under which he necessarily labours in himself proposing these changes in our commercial system; that he had wished these changes should be proposed by others; but at the same time time he informs us that he proposed these identical measures in Cabinet long before he meditated the rupture of that Cabinet, or perhaps anticipated the opposition he received in it. How, then, does he reconcile the two statements? How does he reconcile the fact that he did propose these measures to the Cabinet, which unexpected opposition to them ultimately broke up, with the statement, recently so often repeated, that he wished others had brought them forward? I proceed first to notice the emergency. I say, then, we are ready, as regards the emergency, to do all that any Minister entitled to the confidence of Parliament would recommend. We are prepared to do for Ireland—I do not say all that Ireland can desire, but all that human judgment can devise; but we don't exactly understand the position of the right hon. Gentleman with respect to this subject. It has been involved in great obscurity. The right hon. Gentleman says, "I was for opening the ports;" the statement was met by a cheer—a response of sympathy from these benches; and then, taking a rapid view of the economical history of the country, proving that the ports had often been opened, and beneficially opened, the right hon. Baronet turned round and said, "Yes, it is very well for you to cheer me; but although I was prepared to open the ports, I was not prepared to shut them again." Well, now, it seems from that, the difficulty of the right hon. Gentleman was not as to opening the ports; that, under the circumstances, he would have had no difficulty about. But the difficulty lay at the bottom of his policy: the right hon. Baronet had resolved that the present system of corn and provision laws should cease. Compare these facts with the declaration that has just been made by a Member of the Cabinet, not exactly on the hustings, but before a large body of his constituents in a midland county—the extraordinary declaration, which I dare say attracted the attention of many, made by the Chief Secretary for Ireland. He tells them, "We had wished that this communication should have been made to another Parliament;" that is to say, the present Parliament might have 1323 gone on—there might have been a renewal, another seven years' lease, of the Conservative majority; and when the general election had taken place, and we had just met, we should have received the announcement which, by peculiar circumstances, has been made too soon. Now I am making no charge; I am throwing out hints to the protective Members of the Cabinet who probably may rise in the course of this debate. These are points on which we wish to have information. We want to know whether it was a foregone conclusion, and whether the Secretary for Ireland was authorized in saying that it was not intended to propose these changes until a new Parliament had assembled. We want to know whether it is a fact that, although the right hon. Gentleman has more than once said he deplores that the task has fallen on him, and wished it had fallen to others, the right hon. Gentleman, before the idea could have been conceived by any other human being, had proposed these measures in Council, and insisted on their adoption? These are two circumstances that require elucidation. When the right hon. Gentleman first brought these measures before the notice of the House, he seemed to found them on the observation of the last three years; but in the last speech he made, he found fault with that expression, and the position he then laid down was this:—"I don't say that it was the experience of the last three years that induced me to adopt the measures I now recommend; but, taking a general view of the commercial history of this country for a long period, I had seen, with gradual and sometimes considerable relaxations of protective duties, and especially during the last three years, under the influence of my Tariff, a great simultaneous increase of exports and imports." I believe that is a fair statement of what the right hon. Gentleman said. Now, it is very agreeable to hear of a great increase of exports and imports; and if the right hon. Gentleman had been only opening his annual Budget, I would not have been captious. But when a great social revolution is proposed and recommended to us, and that great change recommended on the data afforded by our exports and imports, it becomes the House to be very cautious in their conduct, and analyse very severely the conclusions from those data. Now, Sir, there is one cause, with which I dare say the House, and particularly hon. Members opposite, are very familiar, but which has never been mentioned in this debate, which 1324 operates extremely, and has especially operated upon the exports and imports of this year. I am throwing overboard all consideration of exuberant harvests and magnificent public works—all those features of nature and of art—which the right hon. Baronet never referred to on the first occasion. I am not taking advantage of these omissions; I believe it is universally acknowledged by all persons, whatever opinion they may have upon the great question, that the basis of the right hon. Gentleman's argument was much too limited at first, and the data on which he built it utterly fallacious. I throw out of consideration all these circumstances, and I put my finger upon an important agency in this question, to which I call the attention of the House; there is nothing that affects imports especially so much as the state of the seasons. Now, I will show you a case, as a commercial transaction, both as regards the imports and exports, which illustrates the agency of this principle. If you look at the exports and imports this year, you will find a very great increase in both in the instance of sugar. It is impossible to suppose that the Tariff, the alteration in the sugar duties by the right hon. Gentleman, could have influenced to any extent the consignments of sugar that we received, particularly from the more distant ports, from the Mauritius, for instance, and from the East Indies; but there happened to be an abundant crop both in the Mauritius and in the East Indies, and owing to that circumstance our imports of sugar from those parts of the world were much greater than usual, and will no doubt figure in the table to be brought forward by the right hon. Baronet on some future day, in vindication of his commercial policy. Now, it is a curious circumstance that while there has been that abundant crop in the Mauritius and the East Indies, there has been a total deficiency of the crop at the Havannah. Trace, then, the influence of the seasons upon trade. All the great Russian refineries are entirely supplied by the Havannah; and what occurs? Why, Russia imported sugar from England; and thus you see, at the same time, the influence of a good season immensely increases the import of sugar from the Mauritius and India into this country; and the influence of a bad season in the Havannah produces a great increase in the export of sugar from England to Russia. No one will pretend that that is the consequence of the Tariff. I say it was the influence of the seasons; 1325 and the same influence may probably be traced in the exports and imports of all the great raw commodities which mainly make up our colonial transactions. I know this subject is dry and unpalatable to the House; but I feel myself bound to enter into it. I want to show the influence of the seasons upon exports and imports. Suppose, for example, you had had a very bad cotton crop in the United States, a crop as deficient as one I remember, to the extent of half a million of bales; do you mean to say that putting an end to the paltry duty you levied upon cotton wool, would have led to the great increase in the import this year? An exuberant crop has produced an immense import. If you will look into the wool trade, you will find a great increase from the same cause; and whether it be coffee, or sugar, or wool, or cotton—those four great staple articles—the influence of the seasons on their import must never be overlooked. Now, at the risk of wearying the House, I must venture to notice another statement of the right hon. Gentleman, one of those that he sometimes makes with his figures all ready, and with that felicitous manner that seems to augur a favourable result. The right hon. Gentleman has made a battlehorse of the unfortunate silk trade. I really should have thought that the memory of the handloom weavers might have prevented a Minister, although the most ardent votary of free trade, from putting forward the case of the silk trade. My hon. Friend the Member for Warwickshire has referred to that trade; and, without now alluding to details with which the House is familiar—throwing out of the calculation all that animal refuse which compared with real silk is in value as 2d. to 10d. is to 14s. to 25s. per pound—I beg the right hon. Gentleman to contrast the import of raw silk in 1844, with the import of what may be fairly considered the last year of a protected trade. In the last year of protected trade, if my memory serves me right, we imported 4,100,064 lb. of raw silk; that is exactly twenty-two years ago; and in 1844, after twenty years of the blessings of this relaxed protection, we imported 4,020,063 lb.; and yet it appeared from the statement of the right hon. Baronet, unless he is misreported, that the contrast he drew was between 3,000,000 lb. under protection, and an import of 6,000,000 lb. under a relaxed system. But suppose the increase had been such as the right hon. Gentleman stated, I cannot believe for a moment that you are to ascribe 1326 all the progress in a country like England, with the untiring energies of the English nation, to the principle that may regulate your commercial code. I know, that if the country is prosperous, we are ready to allege the advantage of protection; while hon. Gentlemen opposite are equally prompt to urge that the approximation we have made to liberal commerce has benefited the country. I believe, whether we had one system or the other, the country would to a certain degree flourish; though there may be much class suffering and much individual misery—the two things we wish to prevent. But the extraordinary circumstance connected with the silk trade is, that it has not thriven. It is the exception that is to prove the rule. If hon. Gentlemen doubt my statement, they will have ample opportunities to contradict me. The fact is not very material to my argument, however, and I will give you a good reason why. I made these observations, because I thought them deserving of the attention of the House, and especially the effect of the seasons upon imports; but I am perfectly willing to admit the principle which the right hon. Baronet has established in his last speech. Now, what is that principle? The right hon. Baronet, says, that we have been removing prohibition and relaxing protection for thirty years, and the country has been more flourishing than ever. Now that is my case. I say the country is flourishing because you have given to its trade a just, a judicious, and a moderate protection. But the right hon. Gentleman having proved, especially in his last exposition of the policy of Government, that by a just, judicious, and moderate protection, England has flourished, turns round very calmly to us, and says, "I am bound to acknowledge that I have changed my opinion upon this subject of protection; I am no longer in favour of it." His whole speech, after all, only proved the advantage of protection. It can prove nothing else but the advantage of the principle of a moderate protection. ["Oh!"] I am sorry, Sir, to have excited that groan from a free trader in distress. I want to ask the right hon. Gentleman a very important question—does he believe that he can fight hostile tariffs with free imports? That is the point. ["Hear!"] "Hear, hear," from the disciples of the school of Manchester! A most consistent cheer! They have always maintained they can; and if their principles are right, as they believe they are— 1327 as I believe they are not—I can easily understand, that their premises being assumed, they may arrive at that conclusion. They believe they can fight hostile tariffs with free imports, and they tell us very justly, "Let us take care of our imports, and every thing else will take care of itself." But is that the conviction of the right hon. Gentleman? We want to know that; because, if that be his conviction, why all these elegies over defunct diplomatic negotiations to procure commercial treaties? Why does the right hon. Gentleman speak with so much pity and with so much pique upon the question of his diplomatic intercourse on the subject of relaxed commerce? If he believe that we can meet hostile tariffs with free imports, he need not trouble himself about commercial treaties. But if the right hon. Gentleman does not believe that—if he has not the conviction of the school of Manchester—then he is not justified in offering this measure. But how can I believe that the right hon. Gentleman has this conviction, which he has never enunciated, when he tells you, as one of the recommendations of this measure, that he hopes great things from a good example? If he believes in that great principle to which I have just alluded, a good example is of no importance whatever. We must have a protection Minister speak upon this subject. We must have a clear declaration from the Cabinet upon this important point; it is the question upon which all hinges. I conclude from the language of the right hon. Gentleman that he is not quite satisfied on this head; how otherwise am I to explain his language? He tells you that Prussia already shakes; he reads to you the report of an American Minister in favour of what is really free trade — an equal interchange of the peculiar products of different countries; he makes what I must consider very extraordinary statements of opinions upon the subject in France, and to which my noble Friend the Member for Newark has very properly referred. I cannot presume to offer an opinion upon these high subjects of Cabinet secrets, after such declarations from the right hon. Gentleman. It may be because all things are possible—that the Americans are going to change their tariff—that Prussia already shakes—that the French are votaries of free trade; but I think it my duty, with permission of the House, to offer them some facts, from which I leave them to draw their own conclusion. In the first place, we have been referred to 1328 the report of Mr. Walker, the Secretary of the American Treasury. Mr. Walker is a very respectable man; I believe—I am so informed on authority — that Mr. Walker is not interested in the protection of native industry; and I am sorry to say that in America, for the last few years, the question what your material interest is, is almost the only line of demarcation between parties. But before you calculate upon any modification in the tariff of America, it is just as well that the House should clearly understand what is the power of the manufacturing interest—the protected interest—in America. I will not refer to that enormous volume which has already been the subject of criticism; but an American gentleman residing at Liverpool has sent me the last census of the American population. It was taken in 1840, and I believe it is the last; if there be a later one, it would be rather more in my favour. Now, what do you suppose is the number of manufacturing operatives in the United States? In 1840, and since 1840, under this tariff, there has been the greatest development of manufacturing industry yet known in America. In 1840, the number of the manufacturing operatives in the United States was 800,000—a population exceeding, I believe, the manufacturing population of our four great staple manufactures in England. The hon. gentleman, who is the Secretary of the Treasury there, says in his report that the only interests concerned are the interests of 10,000 manufacturers. Now, the importance of an interest is to be calculated from the amount of the population employed and of the capital invested. The number of the manufacturers may be of very secondary importance; but there are 10,000 manufacturers in the United States, and I want to know how many there are in England? I know, if you look to the Population Returns, which were drawn up by a pen not favourable to the agricultural interest, the number of manufacturers does not appear; probably it was not convenient to mention it; but I very much doubt whether there are 10,000. At any rate, see the importance of the interest you have to encounter. But that is not all. I need not dilate on the number of individuals in America, who are dependent upon these 800,000 operatives. But there is no agricultural State in the vicinity of these manufacturing establishments that is not in favour of protection; and for this reason—because protection gives them the benefit of a home market. Now, you 1329 have to encounter the best organized, and, probably, the most numerous interests in the United States; and unless you are aware of the special circumstances in respect to the industry of the United States, it is impossible to comprehend what is going on in that country. I will give an illustration of this. The other day I met a noble Lord who was once a Minister of the Crown, and a most distinguished man. He was in great trouble about the Oregon question, and said, with an expression of surprise—"Here is the venerable Adams, who was always the advocate of peace, who has made a furious war speech!" The noble Lord was astonished at this; but he was not aware that in proportion as free trade has become popular in England, has the manufacturing or protected interest in the United States become warlike. They have discovered that war — and I am quoting the argument of a most respectable literary organ of the party, which I only read last night—that, after all, war will be the only protection for the manufacturer. Now, let me pray the House to remember the arguments which have been employed in favour of reducing the Tariff for the American markets. It has always been considered a principal peacemaker — the proper way to remove the small cloud on the other side of the Atlantic. But remember that in exact proportion as you conciliate the Western settlements, you will lose the affections of the great Northern States, who are the most powerful part of the American community. I put this to the consideration of the noble Lord who has recently visited that country, and who so much interested us the other night with an account of it—I mean the noble Lord the Member for the West Riding of Yorkshire—who, I must say, I rejoice to see returned to us, even though it be as the Member for the West Riding. I listened to his speech with great interest: his descriptions of American landscape were admirable; all I wished was, that he would have entered a little more into certain social details, have given us, for instance, an authentic revision of that celebrated transatlantic melody which describes how statesmen may jump from one set of opinions to another. I have endeavoured to condense my observations on this subject; but I think they are worthy of calm consideration. I cannot say a word when I am told—oracularly told, that Prussia already shakes. I can only say that I read a book, just published, within this month, 1330 where there is no indication of this wonderful shaking. It is written by a man who, on the contrary, testifies to the most obstinate determination on the part of Prussia that this free-trade system must be uncompromisingly resisted. With respect to the Manchester people, he says that they can export at a loss; and he quotes the pamphlet of Mr. Baines, and a speech of the hon. Member for Durham, to that effect. He says they can go on exporting at a loss, and thus they will swamp our markets, so that these dangerous measures of the English Government render it necessary, we should make our Tariff, if possible, more stringent. We require a more detailed account of the shaking of Prussia; and till we receive it I, for one, shall be extremely sceptical. I have indeed read a most mournful representation from the little State of Mecklenburgh; they say they have been asked to join the Zollverein over and over again; but they have not joined it in consequence of the remonstrances of the English Minister, to their great injury; and they say—"After all the sacrifices we have made, if the Zollverein have free importation to England, we have no advantage whatever, and the best thing we can now do is to join the Zollverein, and see what measures can be best devised to advance the cause of native industry." Now, I come to France: and I admit that I never in my life listened to anything with more astonishment than to the prospects which the right hon. Gentleman held out as to France. Remember these are prospects held out by the Minister, not by Gentlemen of the Manchester school, who believe that they may fight hostile tariffs with free imports. He holds out these prospects; but I say without hesitation what is my conviction—and I speak with some knowledge of the public men of France—that, with the exception of an occasional statesman who attempts to humour and conciliate an English Minister, I do not believe there is a leading individual in France who is not in favour of a high restrictive policy. It is a most curious circumstance which the House should bear in mind—and my hon. Friend the Member for Newark has properly alluded to it—that although there is no country in the world where parties are so violent as in France—not looking merely to changes of Government, but pointing to changes that make an Englishman recoil—yet you find this curious circumstance, that not only what is called the Conservative party, that which 1331 sways the Chambers—the commercial feudality—and of course interested in all the great protected interests—but the republican party, the great object of whose struggles is not merely to get rid of a Sovereign or a Minister, but entirely to change the tenure of property—that party is opposed to what you call free trade as much as the commercial community. You have in France these two great interests, the politico-philosophical and the commercial, all working together against what they call the fatal principle of competition. There was but one way of ever gaining any relaxation of the mercantile system of France, and that was by diplomacy. The French Cabinet will do nothing without a treaty. An opportunity for some partial interchange once offered itself, which might have benefited the cutlery of Sheffield: but that is all past. You now propose to open your ports without condition, and France has no longer an object to negotiate for. I bring it, then, to this point, that if the right hon. Baronet is not prepared to meet hostile tariffs with free imports, he has no ground to stand upon. And now let us try fighting hostile tariffs with free imports. I will suppose that we have a great increase of importation from the shores of the Baltic; that, in addition to the commerce we have already with those countries, we import a great deal more. Supposing you import 5,000,000l. more from Russia than you ever did before, how will you make your payments if they take no more additional goods from you than they do now? Will you pay in gold? Can you? I know hon. Gentlemen opposite will reply, they manage these things by means of bills, and so on; but that will not improve the case. Suppose, when you have got the 5,000,000l. additional from Russia, you buy Russian bills on Brazil or New York to the amount of those 5,000,000l., and you thus complete your transaction. But you have already supplied the Brazilians and Americans with as much of your goods as they care to take, and if you want to sell still more to them, you must do so at a great sacrifice. Supposing, for instance, you send out to one of these countries 1,500,000l. of goods, and they only require 1,000,000l., then it is clear you must sell the other 500,000l. at an immense sacrifice. Prices fall, profits are reduced, wages are lowered. But the system of the Government, it appears, is a comprehensive system; this process is going on at the same time in several other markets. Are you prepared to meet 1332 the effect it will have on the general distribution of the precious metals? Every year, aud in every market, English labour will receive less in return of foreign articles. But gold and silver are foreign articles; and in every year, and in every market, English labour will have less command of gold and silver. If the precious metals become more valuable, prices must fall. But let me ask how you are to meet your taxation—how are you to meet the fixed burdens of the country, if you bring on a general fall of prices in England? I confess I see little chance of assistance in the new Banking Bill of the right hon. Baronet. That is a measure rather characterized by caution than security. Now, unless the right hon. Baronet is prepared to fight hostile tariffs with free imports, I repeat that he is not justified in bringing forward this measure. And now, Sir, before addressing myself to the principle of protection, I feel myself bound in courtesy to notice the speeches of two right hon. Gentlemen who addressed the House during the debate. The first is the speech of the right hon. Gentleman the Secretary at War; and I must say, the spirit of that speech surprised me; and it was—I do not use the term offensively—a League speech—a speech, which if made at the right time, and by the proper person, and under proper circumstances, might have been received with much applause. I can easily understand how some hon. Members, who are sitting opposite to me at this moment, who entered political life with a deep conviction of the truth of a great economical principle—who have traced, though in an exaggerated spirit, the many evils which, according to their view, have flowed from the system to which they are opposed; I can conceive how, acting under a profound and passionate conviction of these, which I believe animates many Gentlemen of the Anti-Corn-Law League—I can easily conceive them using such language. But I must say that the right hon. Gentleman the Secretary at War was not the person to address this House as a martyr, when he is only a convert. I was going to say a recent convert—forgetting that he has informed us that in 1841 he was in favour of the principles of free trade: he only objected then to the mode in which the principles were applied; the mode in which they were then applied was from the opposite side of the Table. The right hon. Gentleman the Secretary of War congratulated the House upon the fact that the 1333 fallacy of cheap bread was discarded by all parties; while the Secretary of State, in his address on the following night, in answer to an appeal from my noble Friend the Member for Stamford, stated, that unless the question before the House involved a cheaper and more abundant supply of food to the people, there was no question before them. How does the Secretary of State for the Home Department reconcile that with the speech of the Secretary at War? I am not surprised that there should be such distraction in their counsels, when there is such discordance in their speeches. The Secretary at War also, as respects a most important interest in this comprehensive scheme, which I do not wish now more particularly to advert to, except to say that it is, in my opinion, the most important interest—the right hon. Gentleman asks, what do you fear from free imports? Where are they to come from? Now, I want to avoid making a Corn Law speech—I shall have other opportunities of doing so; but at the same time, when an observation of this kind is made, I cannot allow it to pass unnoticed, for I observe that there is a coolness of assertion very prevalent on this subject. I read a speech to-day, from one whom we all respect, and who, I believe, we may now call a noble Parliamentary victim. Addressing the electors, he said—"What need you care about imports? Suppose there is an importation of 1,000,000 quarters, there will be a rise of 10s. in the price." Now, I beg to say that I have investigated the subject as much as I could, and that I have some personal experience of the corn-growing countries; and I have not the slightest doubt that when this system shall be established, you will get any quantity of corn from those countries that you like. It is ridiculous to tell us that they have no capital. The gentlemen of Manchester will soon lend them some. It is idle to say they have no roads. The Member for Sunderland will soon make them some. I will say, also, that there is no fallacy so great as to suppose that prices will rise as soon as there is an established market here, in proportion to the demand. This may be true is cases of an uncertain demand; but the moment you have a settled market, in exact proportion to the demand prices will fall. ["No, no!"] This is the inevitable rule. ["No, no!"] I am prepared to support my assertion with facts, if the House will allow me. Take the article of tea for example. The demand for 1334 tea has increased year after year, and year after year prices have fallen. Take the article of cotton as another example; for there is a great analogy between cotton and corn. I remember when there was the same discussion in America respecting the supply of cotton, as we have now respecting corn; and it was maintained in a pamphlet by a member of Congress, that, under no circumstances, could the price of cotton be less than twelve cents per pound. Well now, the fact has turned out that ever since a regular trade in cotton was established, with scarcely an interval the price of cotton has diminished, and diminished, and diminished, till it has fallen sometimes as low as three cents per pound. You may reject my reasoning as regards corn; but until you refute my examples respecting tea and cotton, you have no right to do so. Well, now, to return to the speech of the right hon. the Secretary at War: he asks us, what is the use of all this agitation about a mere question of the repeal of a duty on one article of import? The right hon. Gentleman forgets that last year the abolition of this article of import was a "social revolution." And then follows the consistent Secretary of State, and he tells us, that if we refuse to pass this measure, we shall bring upon England anarchy, misery, and ruin. The right hon. Baronet the Secretary of State was, it appears, very much alarmed at the end of last year in consequence of a deficiency of potatoes in Ireland. He told us so; he told us that he was also alarmed in consequence of an expected deficiency in the wheat harvest of England; and he also told us that he was particularly alarmed because it might possibly bring about a state of affairs such as we had in 1842, by which he assured us he was much more alarmed than was imagined at the time. Now I have observed that ever since the right hon. Baronet has been a Minister of a Conservative Cabinet, he has annually brought forward a very extensive measure, which has as regularly produced great alarm and excited great odium in the country; and that the right hon. Gentleman, alarmed at his own proceedings, has ended by withdrawing the measure. Bold in opposition—not too scrupulous—it seems a characteristic of the right hon. Gentleman, that the responsibilities of office should bring to him not prudence but panic. And these are the Ministers who turn round and say, "You are alarmed at our measure, but you will not suffer at all except from your own 1335 panic." Why, they are the children of panic; they are an alarmist Cabinet. I know not from what cause, but fright is stamped on their every forehead—whether it arises from a deficiency of food in Ireland, or a superabundance of suffrages in Lancashire. And now if the House will permit me, I will meet the question of protection. I have not deviated from my engagement. I was bound to answer the main arguments that were offered by the Government in favour of their new system; and now I would offer a few remarks in favour of that which they would abrogate. Sir, the noble Lord the Member for London, in his address the other night, the tone of which I am sure every one felt was alike equal to the occasion and to himself, touched on the question of protection in the abstract. He expressed in classic language the usual economical theories on the subject — very valuable, no doubt, in themselves, and very accurate, but theories which never influenced human conduct, and which are incapable of ever doing so. Therefore all we could admire in the address of the noble Lord was the evidence it afforded of his well-read mind. Now, Sir, I don't know what the noble Lord means, dealing as we are with England, and with practically existing circumstances, I don't know what he means by the protective system of this country. I don't find that in England the protective system has ever been what he described it to be—protective to every branch of native industry. I don't find that such a system as that ever existed. There was, Sir, once in England a commercial system, founded on principle, definite in its details, and, in a certain sense, beneficial in practice—I mean the colonial system. No doubt it involved some degree of protection to native industry, but it was always auxiliary to the colonial system. I am not, I assure the House, referring to these points as matters of historical curiosity, but in order to see whether it is not possible that we might come to some agreement as to what the principle of protection is. Now we always had in England in those good old days of which a noble Friend of mine has spoken, a very liberal system of commerce with the Continent. There were propositions made at Utrecht, which were not carried into effect for a general system of commercial communication at a very moderate duty — at 10 per cent. That was really the principle of free trade. In the middle of the eighteenth century our 1336 foreign trade was sacrificed to the upholding of our colonial system. There is no doubt whatever, that the range of our transactions in commerce was thereby curtailed; but the merchants of England were compensated by more secure markets and larger profits. But at length your colonial system deserted you. You lost your principal Colonies, and then you had to lay down a new principle. It fell to the lot of Mr. Pitt to do that. His speeches, at the end of the eighteenth century, which you all have read, are a development of the real principles of free trade — a large system of commercial intercourse on the principle of reciprocal advantage. He told the Members of this House, "You must no longer adhere to those old ideas derived from the colonial system, for we have no longer a colonial world to support that system. You must come forward — (he was speaking to the manufacturers especially; for the country Gentlemen, on commercial subjects, were far more docile and enlightened) — and give up your colonial system. What did Mr. Pitt do? He brought forward a new Tariff, as the right hon. Gentleman did. He came down to this House and said, "Here is my new Tariff; these are the terms of interchange with Europe. They are liberal terms. I want to have a free intercourse; and I have entered into commercial treaties with various Powers, and I have begun with France." Then came your revolutionary war, which upset all this system. But the moment it was over you returned again to the principles then laid down. Mr. Huskisson and Lord Liverpool pursued the same system further, and at last we again find it recurred to by the right hon. Baronet. For myself, I gave a conscientious vote for the Tariff of the right hon. Baronet, as embodying a system of moderate, just, and judicious protection, and which was in complete harmony with what I think are the true commercial principles of this country. We know what a contrary policy would have effected. We are not without examples. We know what a system of absolute prohibition will accomplish; for we have the example of Spain always before us; and we know, also, there is another country where there has been a complete application, for a long term, of the system of unmitigated competition—not, indeed, from any philosophical conviction of its policy, but rather from the haughty indifference with which a race of conquerors are too apt to consider commerce. There has been 1337 free trade in Turkey for a long time, and what has it produced? It has destroyed some of the finest manufactures in the world. As late as 1812 these manufactures had existed; but they have been destroyed. Now, that was the consequence of competition in Turkey, and its effects have been as pernicious as the effect of the contrary principle in Spain. You have had the same impossibility of aggregating capital—the same impoverishment of the people. And one of the great causes of the financial difficulties of the Porte has been, that there the effects of unbridled competition have been as pernicious as those of excessive protection in Spain. When a great Minister has to deal with the general arrangements of the commercial affairs of a country, he has two main objects to attain—first, how to employ the people; and, secondly, to secure them variety of employment, which, in case of the failure of any particular branch, may prevent their being left without resource. I think the right hon. Baronet said that there was a very great difficulty in arguing against the principles of free trade, because they had a primâ facie case in their favour. Sir, I never care much about primâ facie cases. It would be just as easy for me to say that there was a primâ facie case for protection, as for the right hon. Baronet to say that there was one in favour of free trade. To protect the industry of our fellow subjects is certainly, primâ facie, desirable. Well, now, the right hon. Baronet has announced, officially announced, that the principle of protection is for ever relinquished by his Cabinet. We think that principle a beneficial one. Mind, I don't say I am now proving it to be so. We might call on him to prove the contrary. That onus probandi lies on him. Nevertheless, on that ground, I will now meet the Gentlemen of the Anti-Corn-Law League. I heard the able speech of the hon. Member for Manchester; I unfortunately lost the speech of the hon. Member for Durham; but I have been careful to make myself acquainted with it, as, indeed, I was bound to do. I have considered those two speeches; and I must say I cannot extract from either of them a single principle which can guide me in this maze, or a single reasonable objection to the principle of protection. I admit, however, that as those hon. Gentlemen have made so many other speeches, it is not fair in me thus to single out an isolated one. Now, I declare that I wish to meet their case in the fairest manner possible. 1338 I confess I have great difficulty in doing so, because I find that the arguments of the League have perpetually changed. It is a curious fact, that although they have been working now for seven years, they commenced by promising cheap bread to the labourer, and have ended by promising high rents to the landlord. I am not stating this as a charge against the League. I can understand that if I were engaged in working out a great principle, and placed it in every possible light, I might constantly see contrary effects produced; and I willingly believe that the League all this time, when we thought they were instructing the people, have been only educating themselves. And I will tell the Gentlemen of the League another reason why I am able to trace this ingenuous development of their mind. I have in my possession a printed circular, a sort of manifesto, of the Chamber of Commerce at Manchester, issued in 1839, which gives a most melancholy account of the commercial condition of England at that time. I examined that document, and I found that the panacea proposed for all these evils was a change, not in the Corn Laws, but in the currency. But you say what is the Chamber of Commerce at Manchester to the Anti-Corn-Law League? Now it so happens that the gentlemen who drew up that circular are the principal members of the League. If you doubt it, look up-stairs, and you will see in a book which contains the evidence before your Committee on Joint-Stock Banks in 1840 or 1841—I forget the year — that of some of the most distinguished members of the League—some of them holding seats in this House—and you will find that they then had not an idea about repeal of the Corn Laws, but that they were the sworn friends of the Member for Birmingham. [Mr. MUNTZ: No, no!] Do you mean to say that Mr. Richard Cobden, now the Member for Stockport, did not give evidence before that Committee? That he did not then trace all the evils of the country to the currency? [Mr. MUNTZ: I do not mean to say that he never did, but I never did.] I always thought that the hon. Member was one of the school of Gemini. It seems, then, that the League have been well considering all the great questions. Having exhausted the currency, they then turned round on the landlords. Continue the agitation, and perhaps the next person they will attack will be the fundholder. Perhaps we are only a link in the chain; 1339 it will want a new victim; I think, therefore, we should promote the agitation, because, if we promote the agitation, it may attack a new interest. But now I am going to state the case of the League against the Protectionists; and I take it from the speeches delivered by Members of that body. They say, "Protection aims at two objects—to feed the people, and to employ the people. It has failed. It does not feed the people, because you are obliged to import corn. It does not employ the people, because you are obliged to send them to the towns, that they may earn their bread. Therefore, protection is a failure." Now, we say we can feed the people and employ the people. You may doubt our success; but though protection has failed, you must at least admit that free trade is untried. There are ancillary arguments; but can you deny that such is your main argument? No. Well, silence is consent. Now, in the first place, have we failed in feeding the people? We have no agricultural statistics, which I deplore; but we have what are called some great facts to guide us. We know that fifty years ago the population of this country was not half of what it is at present. We know that at that time we could not feed our people; that we imported as much as one-fifth part of the corn consumed. We know that now, in average years, we succeed in feeding the people, though their numbers are double what they they then were; and that we now supply them with food at a cheaper rate that we did then. That is a primâ facie case in our favour. It is said protection is the bane of agriculture. I don't see how protection can be the bane of agriculture, unless you mean to assert that the agriculture of England is inferior to that of any other country. Now, I want to know where are superior systems of agriculture to be found? You will not tell me that there is a superior system of agriculture in Russia. The agriculture of that country has been described by a graceful and graphic pen; and the passage must be so fresh in the recollection of the House that I need not repeat it. I believe the agriculture of Russia remains much in the same state as it was at the time of that description. Will you say that the agriculture of Germany is superior? I admit you may go over the world and take a small district, it may be in Flanders, or Tuscany, or Styria, in the south of Germany, where a system of agriculture may be pursued superior to the general cultivation of this country. I believe, 1340 however, that we have districts in Lincolnshire, in the Lothians, equal to any of these favoured spots. But what I want to know is, is there any breadth of land in the world capable of sustaining the population of a first-rate State, with an agriculture which can compare with that of Great Britain? You won't take me to the north of Germany. Take a rural town there with its one shop, perhaps that of an apothecary, who sells not only drugs, but everything else. Compare that rural town in the north of Germany with the rural towns of England — the smallest rural towns of England, with their many great shops, their six or seven large establishments abounding in Manchester goods. There you understand what is a home market. I will take a country very near this, the country of our rival and our friend—I will take France. That is a country blessed with great natural advantages—an exuberant soil, a fertile climate. It labours under none of the disadvantages which the Gentlemen of the League are perpetually reminding us agriculture is exposed to in this country. There is no primogeniture, no hereditary peerage, no law of entail, and no game. I ask is the agriculture of France to be compared with that of England? It seems then, that under the system of protection, the agriculture of England is not so very bad. Though the population has doubled within 50 years, it has contrived to feed the people at a lower rate. But you say there is no application of capital to the land in this country. I deplore the want of agricultural statistics. We must make researches, and from a number of facts deduce our inference. It is quite impossible to travel over England without being convinced that there is a greater application of capital to land in this country than in any other. It is quite impossible that the fact should be otherwise. There is not an Englishman working in any of our Colonies—there is not a resident at the court of an Indian prince—the great object of whose ambition is not to return to England, purchase land, and become a justice of the peace, or deputy lieutenant. Riding on elephants, surrounded by slaves, he is always dreaming of quarter-sessions. The laud of England is not only supported by the capitalist of England, but it is the land of that country which is the metropolis of the world. It receives the tribute of the world. You say there is a deficient application of capital to the land of England. Why, inquiries have been made, and 1341 statements, duly authenticated, are on record, which show that the imports of guano during the last two years amount, in value, to a million sterling, or a million and a quarter. No doubt, if you secured a mercantile profit, you might have a more organized application of capital to land. But the peculiarity is, that here, where wealth has so many channels of employment, land gives no more than a return of 3 per cent. I have often been asked by foreigners what is the reason why, when so many means are open for the employment of capital, people in this country should be so ready to invest their capital in land. It is what no foreigner can understand. It is your territorial Constitution that has invested the possession of land with an honour peculiar to itself, and, giving to the landowner a position which is superior to that of any other class, will always secure the investment of capital in the soil of England. Now, let me assume two events, both of which I fear are probable: I will assume in the first place that the present Corn Laws will be repealed; and in the second, that after the lapse of a few years we maybe involved in a European war. What will be our intention? The past may guide us. I want hon. Gentlemen to consider the position of England at the time of the rupture of the Treaty of Amiens. At the time of the rupture of the Treaty of Amiens we had a virtual free trade in corn; we had long been in the habit of receiving a large portion of our supply from the Continent, when that great war commenced which concluded with Waterloo. What was the consequence? You tell me now, what does it signify whether we are independent or not of a foreign supply—we obtained a supply even from France in time of war. I believe in 1812 we did receive some corn from Holland and France. But if you base your theory upon that isolated fact, you not only fall into error, but misapprehend the real circumstances. I affirm that you were long prevented by that war from having supplies from the Continent; and it was only by gradually obtaining the dominion of the seas that you were able to secure any. But was that all? From the absolute want of corn, England at the time offered the greatest possible inducement to investments in land. You had then all those thousands of Enclosure Acts of which we have so often heard. You had an enormous rise of prices; wheat was 110s. the quarter; you raised loans at 1342 110s. per quarter, and you had to pay the interest on those loans when wheat was at 55s. per quarter. Such were the unnatural excitement and subsequent depression which arose from your having neglected to secure a sufficient, or nearly sufficient, home supply of corn. Now, I want to know, remembering all these circumstances—remembering the state of England with respect to our means of subsistence, at the rupture of the Treaty of Amiens—remembering, at the commencement of that terrific struggle, that this country did receive a great portion of its supply from abroad—remembering that the importation of grain from foreign countries during that struggle was never secured till we had gained the dominion of the seas—a dominion which it would rather be a proof of our patriotic spirit than our political sagacity again to count upon—remembering that in this interval there were two occasions when absolute famine was impending over England, the quartern loaf in 1812 selling at 1s. 11d.—remembering all these circumstances, which ought to warn us against being dependent on foreign supply, and seeing that still, with all our immense increase of population, England has succeeded in mainly supporting herself: remembering all this, I want to know whether it would be politic again to incur such risks, and whether it can with truth be maintained that protection is the bane of agriculture, and has failed in its first office of sustaining the population of the country? And now I will meet the Gentlemen of the League on the second point of their allegation. They say this system has failed to employ the population. The right hon Gentleman the Secretary at War has touched upon this delicate subject. He said, only cultivate the hills of Wiltshire, and there will be sufficient employment for the whole population of that country. I ask the right hon. Gentleman why the hills of Wiltshire are not cultivated? It is a legitimate question to ask of one whose proud boast it is that he is the Representative of that county; still more it is a legitimate question to ask of one descended from an illustrious family that has been long planted in its soil; on him and his, among others, rests the responsibility of the want of cultivation in that county. You talk to me of Goatacre and Bremhill, you tell me of the miserable condition of the peasantry: it is not here alone that I have attempted, however weakly, to call public attention to the condition of the people; but when you come here 1343 with your cool assumptions and daring charges, when you say — "Look at the condition of the peasantry, and see what protection has done for them;" why, I call on you for facts and dates. I ask you what was the condition of the peasantry of England before the influence of this system of protection? I say, that, even with this accumumulated mass of population, it was worse then than at present. I have read details of the condition of the peasantry of England, especially in the western counties, during the last years of the revolutionary war, when we had a free importation of corn from France and Holland; I have seen descriptions of their state at that time, and in nothing was it less miserable than their present condition, except that there was then a wild and indiscriminate assistance given by irresponsible persons in the name of poor rate, which only sustained the wild and reckless, to the injury of the industrious and the orderly. You bring forward your Goat-acre meetings! The right hon. Baronet, the other night, compared an hon. Member on this side of the House to Anacharsis Cloots. That reminds me of a story I have read of that distinguished personage, who once announced to the French Convention that a deputation had arrived from all the nations of Europe, anxious to express their gratitude to that illustrious body for their visions of philanthropy, and their efforts in behalf of the human race. The Convention was impressed with awe at the solemnity of their position; the deputation appeared, introduced by Anacharsis Cloots, in appropriate costume, each one wearing the dress of his own country; the circumstance produced a great sensation throughout Paris; to the whole of Europe the wonderful event was announced; and after the deputation had been received, they dined together at the Café du Paris, and probably, at night, danced at the bal costume in the same carnival costumes. Now, I think the deputation from Goatacre comes from the same market. It is not because I advert to these hacknied acts of faction—that I wish to draw away your attention from the condition of Wiltshire and the western counties of England — let them be as miserable and wretched as you say; paint the wretch who lives in a hovel, badly fed and badly clothed: admit all—but when you turn round and say "Protection is the cause of this," I ask, why do you not go to the manufacturing districts? Enter with me into a factory at Stockport or Manches- 1344 ter, and I will show you human suffering—I will show you human degradation—I will bring you to a hovel where the exhausted slave curses the life which he cannot quit. I might say, "Competition has done this." Can I, could I do this? No; because I am too well acquainted with the noble industry of the manufacturing counties, to condescend to such a representation. I could point to a factory, where I believe you would find people in as wretched a condition as any of those in the villages to which you refer; but I know that the industry of Lancashire is a well-ordered and a noble industry—I know that this case, though not isolated, is in truth only one of the exceptional cases of a great and beneficial system; and I would not condescend to such vile arts of faction. If protection have given the peasant of Wiltshire 7s. a week, protection has equally given the peasant of Lincolnshire an ample remuneration for his toil. If you accept one case, you must take the other. They prove that the misery is in spite of protection, and infer therefore that its withdrawal might aggravate it. Well, then, we find the people employed, though not so well as we could wish; we find their condition, in many instances, bad, but superior generally, to that of the other nations of Europe; and we cannot assent to your bold assumption that you will improve their condition by introducing foreign labour into competition with theirs; or to your second proposition, that you will elevate their character by diminishing their wages. I know how you will respond to that; that you will tell me that the wages of labour do not depend on the price of corn: those are axioms of which we have heard to weariness. I am not going to enter into that now. ["Hear, hear!"] Well, then, I will enter into it. I had taken into consideration the hour of the night; but as the hon. Member taunts me, I will deal with that question. I will admit, then, for the purpose of the argument, that the wages of labour are not dependent on the price of corn, but that the price of corn, as was said by the right hon. Baronet, acts rather in an inverse ratio: how then can the price of corn injure the manufacturers? It can't increase the price of their article; the higher the price of corn the cheaper ought to be their article, because the lower are wages; but if the position which the right hon. Baronet takes—and yours, for he borrowed it from you—if that position be correct, and if it be true 1345 that the wages of labour do not depend on the price of corn; suppose you have four millions of quarters imported from the Baltic, but wages are not increased—and remember, they would not be increased, because the wages of labour do not depend on the price of corn—why should the consumption be greater? And if not greater, what then would be the effect of importing four millions of quarters from the Baltic? If the consumption were not greater, you must substitute the four millions of quarters from the Baltic, for four millions of English quarters, and at the same time you must have a proportionate displacement of the wages of labour; and then, the labour so displaced, must go and mix with manufacturing labour; and then, according to your own principle, that the rate of wages depends on the demand and supply of labour, wages must be reduced—wages must fall. That is the dilemma in which I leave you. Another point of great importance with reference to this question, is the effect of sudden importations on our monetary system. I will not at this late hour trace all the consequences of the contraction of our currency, which are familiar to us all. You attribute them to the Corn Laws; we, on the other hand, say that they are owing to your system of importing corn from abroad; and you rejoin, that if the trade were regular, the supply would be regular. I admit it; I will admit that if the trade were regular, the supply would be regular. In discussing this question throughout, I have en-endeavoured to admit as axioms the assumption on which you rest, and I admit this one; but suppose there is a great deficiency in England at any given time, you would still, under your new system, have to import an extra supply in addition to that ordinarily imported—you would require two or three millions of quarters more than was expected; and for that you must pay in gold, and your currency be subject to the same derangement. The only difference is, that under the present system you hold out a bonus to your granaries, while, generally speaking, as soon as you have a regular supply, it will never be more than sufficient for the average demand. So that the very argument on which you rest is fatal to your case. I have now nearly concluded the observations which I shall address to the House. I have omitted a great deal which I wished to urge upon the House; and I sincerely wish that what I have said had been urged 1346 with more ability; but I have endeavoured not to make a mere Corn Law speech; I have only taken corn as an illustration; but I don't like my friends here to enter upon that Corn Law debate which I suppose is impending, under a mistaken notion of the position in which they stand. I never did rest my defence of the Corn Laws on the burdens to which the land is subject. I believe that there are burdens, heavy burdens, on the land; but the land has great honours, and he who has great honours must have great burdens. But I wish them to bear in mind that their cause must be sustained by great principles. I venture feebly and slightly to indicate those principles, principles of high policy, on which their system ought to be sustained. First, without reference to England, looking at all countries, I say that it is the first duty of the Minister, and the first interest of the State, to maintain a balance between the two great branches of national industry; that is a principle which has been recognised by all great Ministers for the last two hundred years; and the reasons upon which it rests are so obvious, that it can hardly be necessary to mention them. Why we should maintain that balance between the two great branches of national industry, involves political considerations—social considerations, affecting the happiness, prosperity, and morality of the people, as well as the stability of the State. But I go further; I say that in England we are bound to do more—I repeat what I have repeated before, that in this country there are special reasons why we should not only maintain the balance between the two branches of our national industry, but why we should give a preponderance—I do not say a predominance, which was the word ascribed by the hon. Member for Manchester to the noble Lord the Member for London, but which he never used—why we should give a preponderance, for that is the proper and constitutional word, to the agricultural branch; and the reason is, because in England we have a territorial Constitution. We have thrown upon the land the revenues of the Church, the administration of justice, and the estate of the poor; and this has been done, not to gratify the pride, or pamper the luxury of the proprietors of the land, but because, in a territorial Constitution, you, and those whom you have succeeded, have found the only security for self-government—the only barrier against that centralising system which has taken root in 1347 other countries. I have always maintained these opinions: my constituents are not landlords; they are not aristocrats; they are not great capitalists; they are the children of industry and toil; and they believe, first, that their material interests are involved in a system which favours native industry, by insuring at the same time real competition; but they believe also that their social and political interests are involved in a system by which their rights and liberties have been guaranteed; and I agree with them—I have these old-fashioned notions. I know that we have been told, and by one who on this subject should be the highest authority, that we shall derive from this great struggle, not merely the repeal of the Corn Laws, but the transfer of power from one class to another—to one distinguished for its intelligence and wealth, the manufacturers of England. My conscience assures me that I have not been slow in doing justice to the intelligence of that class; certain I am, that I am not one of those who envy them their wide and deserved prosperity; but I must confess my deep mortification, that in an age of political regeneration, when all social evils are ascribed to the operation of class interests, it should be suggested that we are to be rescued from the alleged power of one class only to sink under the avowed dominion of another. I, for one, if this is to be the end of all our struggles—if this is to be the great result of this enlightened age—I, for one, protest against the ignominious catastrophe. I believe that the monarchy of England, its sovereignty mitigated by the acknowledged authority of the estates of the realm, has its root in the hearts of the people, and is capable of securing the happiness of the nation and the power of the State. But, Sir, if this be a worn-out dream—if, indeed, there is to be a change, I, for one, anxious as I am to maintain the present polity of this country, ready to make as many sacrifices as any man for that object—if there is to be this great change, I, for one, hope, that the foundations of it may be deep, the scheme comprehensive, and that instead of falling under such a thraldom, under the thraldom of Capital—under the thraldom of those, who, while they boast of their intelligence, are more proud of their wealth—if we must find a new force to maintain the ancient throne and immemorial monarchy of England, I, for one, hope, that we may find that novel power in the invigorating energies of an educated and enfranchised people.
§ Debate again adjourned.
§ House adjourned.